Last updated on 4th July 2017
I was sent a private message on Facebook as follows, "Mr Ravi s ayyar plz answer my two questions regarding sathyanarayan Raju a.k.a sathya Sai , that according to shirdi sai satcharit ,shirdi Sai used to cook mutton biryani n distribute it among devotees and also fond of smoking chillum but why sathyanarayan Raju was strictly against those practices".
The person was OK with sharing this on Facebook (anonymously). Let me try to answer his questions.
I think we need to put life & teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba in the context of their times. During Shirdi Sai Baba's times India was under foreign rule and medical knowledge in India about harmful health effects of smoking were not known well enough.
Shirdi Sai Baba perhaps did what was common to fakirs in and around Shirdi in those times, which may have included eating meat at times and also smoking the chillum.
In their lifetimes, Sathya Sai mission has been far, far bigger than Shirdi Sai's mission, if we can call it that. Sathya Sai had a very big organization of his devotees, was closely involved in the life of many of his devotees and gave instructions about many aspects of how to lead their lives. Sathya Sai set up schools, colleges and a university and was closely involved in instructing students of those institutions about how to lead their lives. Sathya Sai emphasized the Satthwic path in life.
Sathya Sai asking his devotees and students to not smoke was natural as it was well established in medical science during his times, that smoking is detrimental to health.
Sathya Sai asking his devotees and students not to eat meat, when Shirdi Sai ate meat, is a more complex question. I guess that Sathya Sai saw that meat eating was coming in the way of Satthwic path spiritual development of his devotees and so asked them to abstain from meat eating. Perhaps Shirdi Sai Baba was not that particular about his devotees following satthwic path.
These then are my thoughts about the questions posed to me. I don't claim that they are proper and definitive answers. They are just my thoughts and they could be wrong, partly or wholly. Thanks.
Given below are some comments from my Facebook post,
https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1932196906996877, associated with this blog post:
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped--, you seem to be an anti-Sathya Sai person. I don't have any issues with your not having belief in Sathya Sai. But I don't appreciate attacks on Sathya Sai on my posts. So I will be deleting your comments. I request you not to make comments on my post. All the best to you. Thanks.
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped--, as you have not gone by my polite request to you not to make comments on my post, I will have no option but to block you if you make further comments on my posts. Thanks.
Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Info. for interested readers: The person who posed the question was --name-snipped--. As he refused to stop making anti Sathya Sai comments (and attacking me as Sathya Sai devotee), I had no option but to block him.
Practical move to block irritants. Now to the main subject. My mother used to tell me, Characteristics of Shirdi Baba was different because he was Lord Shiva ( the male aspect ), hence rough & tough, cooked non-veg in one hand & veg in the other hand. As in those days, people who came to him were both veg & non-veg. This was his way of showing hospitality to them. Also in those days, environment was totally different, India was under foreign rule. So, even an Avatar makes adjustments according to the circumstances.
--Name-snipped-- wrote: It always depend on the circumstances... but for more than 99% of us these circumstances are the same... just a thought: what about the Inuit or people living in higher altitude? Could be different life, right?
Ravi S. Iyer responded:
--Name-snipped--, that's a tough question, I think. See I don't think (Bhagavan should forgive me here for having a different point of view) that meat eaters are demons or have demonic tendencies, when one interprets the words in the sense that most people interpret it as. I mean, most people would view those who kill and maim innocent people as demons. Somebody who is very envious or gets into temper tantrums quite often would NOT be viewed as a demon unless he/she gets so consumed by that envy or anger that he/she kills or mains or seriously impacts in a negative way, the life of other persons.
Sometimes I think Bhagavan used to get carried away in his desire to uplift his listeners/followers to higher levels of spirituality. [I may get blasted now by some critics of mine. But that's my view - right or wrong.] But when these instructions/words of Bhagavan are viewed from a perspective of somebody trying very hard to overcome his/her human weaknesses and experience more of divine feelings, then I think Bhagavan's words may be spot on.
So even among the Inuit, for survival they may eat meat but also imbibe some animal qualities as part of that, and so perhaps have more of a struggle if they want to experience more divine feelings/divinity.
I think we should never ever lose sight of Bhagavan's revelation that at no time in the past (human history) did the divine interact so freely with people and spend so much time instructing them about how to live life in a way that is conducive to experiencing divinity and knowing our existential reality. We have been very, very blessed to have experienced and received such teachings and revelations from this UNIQUE Avatar, Shiva-Shakti Swarupa, Kali Yuga Avatar, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited) in response to comment "We should not discuss on Avatars. We are nobody . Let us not discuss such things":
--Name-snipped--, I disagree with your view that we should not discuss on Avatars. I think that is a personal choice. If you prefer not to discuss Avatars then that's fine as your personal choice. But others including the people who Liked this post choose to be interested in such discussions. Thanks. Jai Sairam!
It's a healthy discussion between like-minded individuals.
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- sir, the following words of yours capture the matter very succinctly (I understand 'our faith' to be 'Hindu faith').
"The saving grace of our faith is our practices change with times and context. It is context that seems to give accurate meanings and explanations. So unlike faiths fixated by literal words recorded in ancient times and by personalities that have removed the bridge for further intermediaries for eternity."
I would add that God sends saints and Avatars from time to time to enable these changes in practices with changes in times. The core principles of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema do not change over time. But its interpretation changes as times and social norms change. Some actions that were viewed as Dharmic in Rama's time may not be viewed as Dharmic today, and similarly some actions in today's time would not have been viewed as Dharmic in Rama's times.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba used to teach in public discourses, "Daiva preeti, Paapa bheeti, Sangha neeti". I would translate that as Love of God/Love God, (Have) Fear of sin, (follow) moral code of society/social norms. I find this teaching of Bhagavan to be very vital for our times. The "sangha neeti" may vary from country to country in the world today, and perhaps from region to region, and community to community within countries. But when one is in a particular community (sangha) one should follow the moral code of conduct of that community, the social norms of that community.
In response to comment, "Our faith?
Hinduism is weighed down by caste, sectarian, ideological, spiritually divergent intellectual and emotional baggage.
Isn't Sanatana Dharma the essence of all the above, and more?", Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Oh! Hinduism surely has its flaws... I agree. By 'our faith' did you mean 'Sanathana Dharma'?
In response to comment, "SD as I understand it Sir", Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Hmm. "As you understand it" - that's the key here, sir. I think in the broader world of literature on religion and spiritual movements, including academic literature, they would not particularly know how to categorize 'Sanathana Dharma'. Bhagavan used that term. But what is viewed as Eternal Dharma by us Sai devotees may not be viewed that way by non-Sai devotees of various religions of the world, especially religions like Islam and Christianity which have huge followings in the world. Thanks for the clarification. Jai Sairam!