The Declaration of Mission by Sai
Baba - 1943, not 1940.
By: Brian Steel
[This is a revised update of a short section of Chapter 7 of Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru? - Brian Steel]
This has always been dated in the SB literature and in SSO celebrations and references as 20 October 1940 (when SB was allegedly one month from his 14th birthday). The Golden Jubilee was officially celebrated by the SSO in 1990. Because of the new documentary evidence presented in the following paragraphs, this serious official error by the SSO should be corrected.
However, the publication in October 2000 of the meticulously researched first volume of a planned definitive 6-volume biography of SB by the well-known Puttaparthi publisher Sai Towers, Love is My Form, shows the quoted 1940 to be three years premature. In fact, SB spent the school years 1936-1940 in the Elementary School in Puttaparthi, and the year 1940-1941, not engaged on his Mission, as we have always been told, but in Form One of the Middle School at Kamalapuram, some 200 kilometres from Puttaparthi, where his elder brother, Seshama, had begun his teaching career.
The compilers of LIMF offer photostats from School registers in Bukkapatnam and Uravakonda (pp. 68-69 and p. 132 and a table on pp. 128-129) to show clearly that Sathya Narayana Raju (whose date of birth is given as 4-10-1929) entered the Bukkapatnam school (17 kilometres from Puttaparthi) on 5 July 1941 and left on 6 April 1942 - apparently without taking the E.S.L.C. Examination. The other Register records Sathya's arrival at the distant Uravakonda High School (at which brother Seshama was then teaching) over a year later, on 1 July 1943, but it shows no leaving date. (Incidentally, for future researchers, on this second photostat, Sathya's date of birth is given as 4-10-39 - an obvious mistake, corrected to 4-10-29, but with a signed clarification, "fourth October Nineteen Twentynine" dated, as far as the writing is legible, 11-8-76. However, before too much is made of the 1929 date 'discrepancy', we have been informed, in LIMF, and by other experts on India that such errors were quite common in rural India in those days.)
LIMF also offers some chronological evidence from interviews with SB's contemporaries and from the Kasturi biography to show that it was on 20 October 1943 (and NOT in 1940, as has always been claimed) that SB threw down his school books and made the famous declaration: "Maya has left; I am going; my work is waiting." (LIMF, 147; Kasturi, Vol 2, pp. 42-43)
Also dealt with in detail by LIMF is the famous, and highly significant, incident in early 1943 of SB's long and traumatic physical and emotional/mental affliction. Although LIMF is not able to clarify for us the whole of the 14-month gap between schools (except to suggest that maybe Sathya was given special coaching by his elder brother, the teacher, Seshama) they seem to situate the illness between March and May 1943. (The authors speculate that he was a bit of an embarrassment to the elders of Bukkapatnam because of his boisterous nature and his idiosyncratic activities.) (See LIMF, pp. 95-121)
The compilers of LIMF also state that the preliminary declaration: "I am Sai Baba." "I am of the Bharadwaja Gothra", took place at the end of this illness, on 23 May 1943, a few months before the other more dramatic Declaration in October.
We are told that the strange illness that overcame Sathya Narayana (and which was initially said to be the result of a scorpion bite) in March 1943 involved fever, delirium, reciting Telugu poetry which Sathya had never read, hallucinations, medical examinations, and a general diagnosis as a 'mental' problem. This was followed by medication, more delirium and strange behaviour, herbal medicine, and finally, when the family was convinced that the boy was possessed by a spirit, a violent 2-day period of exorcism, which involved 4 knife marks on the boy's skull and herbal treatment. The idea that such traumatic experiences could have contained a mystical element surely cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Although the editors are at pains (on p. 149) to deny that the 3 year discrepancy in the new date for the Declaration is of any importance, their argument is unconvincing: "Indian spirituality tends to discourage numerous debates on scholarly details relating to time and space. Sri Sathya Sai Baba also disapproves of such debates. ..."
So it would seem that the compilers of this book are trying to rewrite history more correctly, but without criticising Baba or the Sai Baba Organisation for misleading devotees for so many years. The Golden Jubilee was officially commemorated on 20 October 1990 (Sathya Sai Speaks, XXIII, 29:246-256 - 'The Day that wrought the great change'). Interestingly, in that printed account, the year is in parentheses, suggesting that Baba did not state it in his speech, but that an editor added it! "It was the 20th of October (1940) - a Monday. This is what I declared on that day:
"Know I am verily Sai.
Give up your attachments and attempts;
The old relationships are at an end...
No one, however eminent, can alter my resolve."
In this endlessly convoluted story, it is to be regretted that even in LIMF there is a discrepancy on the matter of SB's attendance at the ESLC exam (which is also dealt with elsewhere in this study).
In addition to the very clear statement on p. 129 (apparently corroborated by an unsourced quotation from SB himself, which appears elsewhere in this analysis) that SB did not take the examination and the Register annotation on p. 69, on p. 76, the compilers state that although SB did not have the minimum attendance to take the qualifying exam at Bukkapatnam [in 1942?], "he appeared for the examination (probably as a private student) the following year." For this, they say, he had to go to Penukonda, and they give a lengthy quotation from SB (also unsourced) saying that he and seven others went from Bukkapatnam to Penukonda to take the exam. Curiously, neither SB's alleged statement nor LIMF mentions passing the exam and on p. 87, LIMF states that in the following year, when his brother took him to Uravakonda High School, SB was "not actually academically eligible for such a transfer of institution and class" but had a transfer certificate from Bukkapatnam School. Therefore, one of these statements in LIMF and ONE of the stories attributed to SB must be wrong. (But when could this visit to Penukonda have taken place, if SB left Bukkapatnam school in June 1942?)
Yet another set of contradictions in need of clarification.