Last updated on March 29th 2015
What if some medium told you about some private incident/interaction between you and physical form Swami - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
Will you then believe that the medium is really interacting with subtle form (sukshma sharira) of Bhagavan? Will you then start following advice/instructions given by this medium who says they are from subtle form/body of Bhagavan?
What if all the above happened with me? What would I do?
Well, firstly I may have some doubt about whether information about the private incident/interaction between (physical form) Swami and me, may have been passed on to the medium by somebody else in physical form. In other words, the medium found out this info. through normal means (and not paranormal means). For example, physical form Swami used pet-names, quite funny pet-names many times :-), to refer to Sai university students. This pet-name would become common knowledge among student peers during that batch's stint at the university. Now, if a medium refers to a former student by using the pet-name, I, for one, would seriously consider the possibility of this information having been passed on to the medium by other former Sai university students, who know about this pet-name. I would not immediately get convinced that the medium has demonstrated knowledge about a private matter between me and (physical form) Swami.
But what if the matter is really a private one between me and Swami, not known to anybody else, and the medium tells me that matter? Then I would accept that the medium has demonstrated some paranormal power. This power could be due to the medium himself having acquired spiritual powers to read the mind and memories of others. But it could also be that this knowledge is revealed to the medium by subtle form/body of Swami or some other spiritual power masquerading as subtle form of Swami. So I will then certainly be somewhat open to the possibility that the medium's claim of interacting with subtle form of Swami is really true. But I would still not be one hundred percent certain that the medium is really interacting with subtle form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, as it could be explained by other possibilities like the two other possibilities I mentioned above.
What will it take for me to get convinced that a medium is really interacting with subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba?
Well, I don't have a crisp answer for this. But let me just share my current thoughts on it. I would expect that the way Swami's subtle body runs the mission will be similar to how physical form Swami ran the Puttaparthi based mission. I would have a lot of doubts if a claimed subtle body based mission gets involved in activities which were unheard of in the physical form mission at Puttaparthi, like:
a) The claimed subtle body along with the medium going abroad to well off countries
b) Approaching devotees and donors with messages communicated mainly through a medium instead of the subtle body, at least sometimes, directly interacting with devotees and donors
c) Having chairs in public functions for subtle bodies of Jesus, Shiva (Shirdi Sai) and Parvathi
I will not accept such a mission to be a mission that is being run by subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, OR I will say that the subtle body mission is very different from the physical body run mission, and that I would prefer to associate with the latter rather than the former.
Another key test for me would be the deep scriptural and spiritual messages that the medium conveys as Swami's messages. If a medium states that Swami is saying that when I came as Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Allah ... I did ..., then it fails the scriptural/religious test for me. Allah is the formless God in Islamic theology. How can a spiritual master conversant with Islam, which Shirdi Sai Baba certainly was and Sathya Sai seemed to have full knowledge of Shirdi Sai form, say that Allah took a form? I don't think physical form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has ever said something like: when I came as Allah. As Rama and Krishna are avatars and physical form Swami has told us that He was Rama and Krishna earlier, Swami saying, when I came as Rama and Krishna, is fine.
A medium providing discourses of Swami which are similar to what physical form Swami has given on countless occasions on spiritual/human values like Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema, can be simply attributed to an intense study by the medium of physical form Swami's discourses.
If a medium claims to "see" subtle body of Swami and points followers to where the subtle body is seated, and the medium claims to "hear" words of this subtle body seated physically separate from the medium, then when the medium gives discourses of subtle body of Swami I would expect the medium to "listen" for a few minutes to subtle body Swami, then convey what he heard to the audience, get back to "listening" to Swami and so on. This would be like how physical form Swami when giving discourses in Telugu would pause every few minutes (or less) for the English translator to say the English translation of what Swami said. If instead, such a medium who "sees" and "hears" subtle body of Swami which is physically separate from him, gives a continuous discourse as if it is Swami within the medium's body who is speaking now, then I would be confused and have some doubts about the medium.
Mission of such mediums may still flourish
Now even if I do not accept such claimed mediums to Swami subtle body like I mentioned above, I will not say that the medium is a fake. The medium may genuinely believe that he is seeing Swami's subtle body/form, and he may have acquired some spiritual powers, and his motives may be completely noble. So this medium may be a positive force for his followers, and the mission that the medium is deeply involved with may flourish.
Danger of mediums becoming Hitler or Stalin type megalomaniacs
The challenge for the mediums may be to avoid getting trapped into some power-craze/megalomania as he/they attract(s) more and more devotees, including famous people. [(Megalomania is) "A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence", http://www.thefreedictionary.com/megalomaniacs.] The craze to control people and through people, institutions, is, very unfortunately, quite a common human failing, which one sees even today in dictatorial organizations as well as authoritarian governments of some countries. Spiritual followings/movements are typically dictatorial with everybody expected to fall in line, in the name of discipline, with the orders of the top leader(s). So once a spiritual group leader(s) (medium(s) in this case) gets a critical size following, then he/she/they can easily fall into a Hitler or Stalin type of megalomania trap which can eventually lead the followers and the mission astray. One might think that such medium(s) may never become like that. But the history of megalomaniac dictators like Hitler and Stalin teaches us that once leaders of dictatorial setups achieve a critical-size following they can easily crush dissent even from original mentors as at that time even the original mentors can be easily dispensed with.
Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju responded over email to the above blog post contents as follows:
"Wah!!! Very nice ,quite analytical ,to the point and convincing.!!!MAY BABA BLESS YOU !! GOOD JOB INDEED,
[Ravi: The word, "Wah!", or more commonly "Wah-Wah!", is a Hindi word which may be translated roughly as "Wow!" in English.]
I responded back, "Thank you so much, Prof. Anilkumar sir."
I thought of also adding Abraham Lincoln's quote on power. Most readers may know the quote about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. But Lincoln's quote is a more discerning one, IMHO. Perhaps it is based on his experience with being in power and dealing with powerful people as the president of USA, especially during USA's civil war.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln. From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin101343.html.
Swami's words on power craze:
Prashanti Nilayam thought for the day of 17th March 2015, http://www.radiosai.org/pages/calthought2.asp?mydate=3/17/2015:
People create and develop in themselves an abounding variety of selfish habits and attitudes, causing great discontent for themselves. The impulse for all this comes from the greed for accumulating authority, domination, and power. Greed for things can never be eternal and full; it is just impossible for anyone to be satiated in fulfilling greed. Omnipotence belongs only to the Lord of all (Sarveswara). You may feel elated to become the master of all arts, owner of wealth, possessor of all knowledge, or repository of all the scriptures, but where did these come from? You may claim that you earned this through your own efforts, labour, and toil. But surely, it was given to you by someone some way or other. The source from which all authority and all power originate is the Lord of all. Ignoring that omnipotence, and deluding yourself that the little power you acquired is your own — is indeed selfishness, conceit and pride (ahamkara). (Prema Vahini, Ch 14) - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Swami's words on "I know all" pride:
Prashanti Nilayam thought for the day of 29th March 2015, http://www.radiosai.org/pages/calthought2.asp?mydate=3/29/2015:
If the I-consciousness in you, produces the pride “I know all”, a fall is inevitable; the delusion causes death. The secret of salvation lies in the realisation of this danger. Rebirth is inevitable if this danger is not averted. Immerse yourself in spiritual practices, then the world and its worries will not affect you. It is only when you are far from this truth that you suffer, feel pain, and experience travail. At a distance from the bazaar, one hears only a huge indistinct uproar. But as you approach it, you can clearly distinguish the separate bargainings. So too, till you get to know the reality of the Supreme, you are overpowered and stunned by the uproar of the world; but once you enter deep into the realm of spiritual endeavour, everything becomes clear and the knowledge of the reality awakens within you. Until then, you will swirl in the meaningless noise of argumentation, disputation, and exhibitionist flamboyance. (Prema Vahini, Ch. 16) - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba