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The Wave of the Hand
Even as a child, Baba had the miraculous power of getting things from nowhere. He used to surprise his playmates by taking peppermints and sweets from empty bags. In spite of his requests to keep this as a secret, the news spread among the elders, and when they enquired about the way in which he got them, Baba kept silent, for long; later, when he was pressed by his own friends he said that a certain village deity, a Grama Sakthi, obeyed his slightest wish. This was, of course, to ward off further queries, because the villagers could be parried easily only by such an answer. They began to admire him as a boy, specially blessed, to be watched with care, and treated with respect. Even at school, Baba helped many classmates with a piece of rubber or pencil, which he 'materialised' by a wave of the hand. When any of them complained of any illness or pain, Baba 'got' green leaves 'from the Himalayas', as he told the boys, and made them chew and swallow the juice. Some elders called it 'magic' and even characterised it as 'black' and warned the children that they should not have any truck with Sathyanarayana but who could suppress God?
It was only after the Announcement, that Baba regularly 'took' Vibhuthi, or Sacred Ash, and began giving it for a variety of purpose to all who came to Him. Baba has often spoken of the significance of this Vibhuthi. Since it materialises out of nothing and since the Ash is specifically associated with Siva, it is reverentially called by devotees as Kailasa Vibhuthi. It is named Bhuthi or Vibhuthi since it endows one with prosperity; Bhasma because it burns away all sins; Bhasitam because it increases one's spiritual splendour; Ksharam since it removes danger; and, Raksha, for, it is an armour against the machinations of evil spirits. This is how the Vibhuthi is praised in the Brihad Jabala Uapanishad. Baba says it is also a constant reminder of the evanescence of the body, for ultimately, it is reduced, by cremation, to a pot full of ash!
From the day of Annunciation of this, thousands of devotees and visitors have witnessed this miracle of the Vibhuthi, which Baba does. It is indeed an inexplicable, ultra-scientific wonder! It is done so casually, so informally, so gracefully, so quietly, and so naturally that you might well miss the significance of the Blessing. The right palm held directly down or at a slight angle, a wave or two scarce noticeable, the fingers close to arrest the fall of the Vibhuthi which has already materialised and the wonder-product is handed on to you and applied to the forehead. At an average rate of a minimum of one pound per day the quantity of Vibhuthi thus produced 'out of the elements' by His Will must now have reached the astounding figure of full four tons!
Every idea, it is said, has an inherent tendency to manifest itself in physical form; what anybody thinks has some tendency to come about in fact. It all depends on the will, whether it is your will or mine or the will of a Divine Being. Baba wills; it is done! The Vibhuti that He gives to every one as token of His blessings is preserved carefully and worn on the forehead. It is placed on the tongue or mixed with water and drunk as a specific against illness. It is carried as a talisman. A devotee from South America had written that every night she sat for Dhyan with the packet of Vibhuti held in her palm and invariably, she has a vision that her palms were resting at the feet of Lord Krishna. In fact, it is difficult to enumerate all the curative and alleviatory purposes to which recipients put the Vibhuti which Baba takes by a 'wave' of the hand!
The Vibhuthi He gives is also of a hundred different kinds suited perhaps to the purposes for which He creates them. It is sometimes in the shape of a hard cube, or often as powder, fine or grainy, or flaky. It may be fragrant, or pungent-smelling; saltish in taste or sweet or tasteless; white or blackish, or of any of the intermediate shades. And, sometimes, when He waves the hand, it might emanate, container and all! When a person left for England for higher studies, Baba gave him the Vibhuthi in a silver container with the additional blessing, "The Vibhuthi in this will never get exhausted"! For, His will can hold sway thousands of miles away, on a silver container, which He replenishes, by a predated expression of His desire. Sometimes when the Vibhuthi is to be taken as medicine for a long period, as during pregnancy, Baba asks the party to bring an empty receptacle and, by a light tap on the outer surface, the vessel becomes full of Vibhuthi. When He gathers His devotees on the sands, as at Chithravathi or the river bed of Kaivalya at Venkatagiri, or on the beach at Kovalam in Kerala, or Kanyakumari in Tamil Nad, or on the Godavari, He digs into the sand playfully with His fingers and, lo, there is a huge cube of Vibhuthi there which He rescues and it is powdered and distributed to all present; or, He may take the sand itself in both His hands and pour it on to a plate, when, lo, the thing that falls on the plate is not sand, but, fine fragrant Vibhuthi!
It may be said here that Baba's entire physical frame seems to be suffused with Vibhuthi, for when He goes in procession on Vijayadasami and other Days, thousands have clearly seen fine Vibhuthi powder falling on His eyelids and cheeks from His forehead. Sometimes, when He leaves the body and goes out to give Darsan to devotees, Vibhuthi has emanated from His face, mouth, thumb, toe or forehead; often, when He wants to apply Vibhuthi to a devotee's forehead; He merely raises His thumb and makes a mark; and, lo, the Vibhuthi is there for all to see. Why, there have been cases in which devotees have dreamt that Baba came to them and applied Vibhuthi on their brows, only to find on awakening that the Vibhuthi was actually there! They dream that Baba put Vibhuthi in their mouths! Baba signifies His presence at the Residence of His devotees by scattering the telltale Vibhuthi on the floor of the shrine room before the place where His picture is kept, or by a solitary packet of the Sacred Ash left lying on the floor. When Baba vouchsafes a vision of Himself to save someone from some impending calamity, He invariably uses Vibhuthi to effect a cure.
During Dasara three years ago, a certain visitor from Telengana received an urgent wire from home, informing him that his father-in-law had a stroke and that his condition created anxiety. Baba asked him not to worry, but a similar wire came the next day too and so, Baba agreed to his going alone, leaving his wife to watch the festivities even though she was the daughter of the stricken man and so, most needed at his bedside. When the son-in-law left, He gave him Vibhuthi to apply to the forehead of the patient, of course, He had materialised it by a wave of the hand. The next day, however, about 8 o'clock in the evening Baba was discussing the timings of the trains by which the son-in-law was proceeding to the sick bed; quite suddenly, He sat up and said, "You were all wrong. The train won't take him so fast. He will not reach the place before 9 P.M. Oh! What a pity!"; and, within a wink of the eye, He had left the body and 'gone'. He was 'away' for about half an hour and when He 'returned,' He felt so happy that He could apply the Vibhuthi Himself to the sick man in Telangana. "Did you use the same Vibhuthi that the son-in-law was carrying with him?", He was asked. "Yes.", He said; "You will know that when he returns; ask him and he will say that the packet was empty, when he went to the sick man"... And, so it was. On return, he related the story of his discomfiture, how he was blamed for being careless, how they rubbed their fingers over the folded paper in order to collect at least the tracings of the holy Vibhuthi and how they failed even in that desperate endeavour!
Baba sometimes performs Abhisheka or ceremonial bath for the silver figure of His 'previous body' which is kept at the Mandir. A small wooden pot, artistically carved and painted, is filled with Vibhuthi for this purpose and keeping it overturned over the image Baba puts His hand into the vessel, and twirls It in order to ensure an even flow of sacred ash. But, by contact with His Hand, the flow or Vibhuthi continues long after the quantity originally filled is exhausted; twirl after brings down fresh showers of Vibhuthi from the receptacle, until the image is sunk in the fragrant powder, and the pile of 'Ash' mounts to unexpected heights and Baba keeps the wooden pot away, out of sheer physical exhaustion, so to say!
Talking of Vibhuthi, another incident occurs to the mind, though it is not exactly an illustration of the wave of the hand. Whenever a sincere devotee passes away, Baba gives His Darsan at the last moment and enables the person to enjoy eternal Peace. On such occasions, symbolic of death, destruction and the end of the temporary and the evanescent, there issues from the mouth of the body that Baba leaves behind, in order to proceed to the deathbed, sacred Vibhuthi! One such incident stands vividly before the mind of the present writer. It was a Saturday and the date was the 15th of November, 1958. Baba was reading out a letter to some persons around Him, at about 5-20 P.M. Suddenly, with a responding shout, 'Ha;' He fell on the floor, and was practically lifeless. After the lapse of exactly ten minutes, Baba moved a little and He could be heard to cough, three times. But, they were not coughs at all; they were three puffs which emanated from His mouth, bringing out quantities of Vibhuthi to a distance of more than a foot and a half! Five-minutes later, at 5-35 P.M. Baba got up and without any sign of exhaustion, or confusion, resumed the conversation from where He left off. When He was importuned to reveal where He had been during the previous quarter of an hour, He condescended to reply. He said, "I had been to Dehra Dun; you might know the mother of Dr. K. who comes to this place frequently; she passed away, at 5-30 P.M. Dr. K. was there at the beside; in fact, she had her fingers at the pulse and she announced to all, 'This is her last breath'; they are singing Bhajan songs in that room; she had a peaceful death; I gave her Darsan at her last moment." The next day was a Sunday, and on Tuesday, 18th November, when the postman came to the Prasanthi Nilayam, he had with him a letter from Dr. K. to Baba, which said, "My mother drew her last breath on Saturday, at 5-30 P.M. We were doing Bhajan, during her last hours, as per her wish. She was remembering You constantly!" 'What' a miracle this, Baba anticipating the moment of death, answering the prayers of a panting soul, describing the happenings in a Dehra Dun room within minutes and the emanation of Vibhuthi, symbolic of the destruction of the evanescent material of the physical body when the soul is freed from bondage!
The Vibhuthi is but the continuation, in this Avathar, of the Udi or Ash which Shirdi Sai Baba was giving as His Boon to those who went to Him. Shirdi Sai Baba used to take the ash from the hearth that was always by His side, fed perpetually with fuel, "so that He can have live cinders for the Chillum," Says Baba.
Baba 'materialises' whatever He wills, by a wave of His hand. He says they are all ready in "Sai Stores" and that His 'workmen' are so quick they manufacture in the fraction of a moment even the most complicated artistry that He thinks of, and deliver them into His hand!
The writer remembers a peculiarly thrilling experience. Baba "took" a Gold Medal, a fair sized one, to be given to a reputed violinist, whose recital was just concluding. He showed the medal to those around Him and even as they were admiring its size and beauty and shine, He said, "O, the name has to be inscribed" and He closed His palm. Opening it immediately, He showed the medal to all. They were struck dumb at the miracle; the inscription, "Presented by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to Vidwan T. Chowdiah" was deeply engraved thereon, in English, complete with date and the name of the Day! Showing the Medal to us, Baba said, "See how quick are my workmen!"
Baba blesses artists, who perform at the Prasanthi Nilayam during festivals etc. with gifts taken by a wave of the Hand, rings, necklaces, medals, brooches and the like. And, there will be a special appropriateness in the gifts too. A Nadaswaram Vidwan was given a ring with an inset picture of Siva; on enquiry, it was found that he was, since many generations, the temple musician of Tiruvengadu, that his family had certain Inam lands in return for the hereditary services it had to perform, and that the form of the Lord worshipped in that temple was Aghoreswara, Siva 'the Un-terrible;' and so the Siva on the ring was a replica of the icon in his ancestral village!
A Mangalyam "taken" and given for a Vaisya bride had on it the figurine of Parameswari; another given to a Nadar bride had Venkataramana, instead! It seems that the bride and groom were to go to Tirupathi after the function here! "I shall give you a Ganesa; take it home and worship It," He told a visitor. It was the image of Ganesa in the standing posture! "This is the Ganesa that you have in your Puja room, is it not?" Baba asked, as He put it into his hand.
A person to whom He had given an image of Krishna was told by a priest that it is necessary for him to arrange a Rudrabhishekam, to ward off some impending calamity. He got it done, on strictly Sastraic lines. A month later, he came to Prasanthi Nilayam and when he was called for interview, Baba said, "I received the Puja you did." The Bhaktha did not recollect what Puja he had done to Baba and he blinked in doubt. Then Baba told him, "The Puja you got done through the priest" and with a wave of the hand, He materialised a Linga. While giving it, He said, quietly and without any anger, "The Krishna I gave you has come back to me! Do not worry."
It is not proper for the recipients to weigh or evaluate the gifts, for they are not of the Earth at all. Once a musician who got a necklace studded with precious stones started on his way home to discuss its value and deride its worth; it was lost mysteriously; it simply was not round his neck! Chastened by the experience, he returned immediately to Prasanthi Nilayam and, Baba chiding him gently, 'took' before his eyes the selfsame necklace and presented it again to him.
Things that Baba gives can never be lost, either. A devotee, while returning to Hyderabad from Puttaparthi, discovered that her trunk had been stolen at night, somewhere near Mahbubnagar; she reported to the Railway Police. Two days later, she was called upon to identify and verify her things, for the thief had been apprehended and the box recovered! Imagine her surprise when she found every article intact, except the Japamala that Baba had 'materialised' and given her! She sent a message to Baba by wire and Baba replied that the Japamala had come to His Possession, for no thief can steal it! Who can describe her joy at getting the same Japamala a second time from Baba's Hands?
A devotee, C. N. P. writes, "It was twelve years ago. That evening, Baba took all those who were at the old Mandir to the sands of the river, After Bhajan, He called me and, while talking to me consolingly about my personal problems He 'took' a Talisman or Raksha and handed it to me. He had already given me one, and I had kept it in a silver box in the shrine in my house. When He gave me another, I was alarmed that my situation had worsened, since He felt that I needed additional protection. So, I asked Him, 'Why, Swami, why a second Raksha for me?' Then He said, 'This is the one I gave you last! You left it at home in that silver box; it has been stolen yesterday. Here keep this Raksha safe!' And, it was true. When I went home, I found the house broken into and the silver box gone, along with some other silverware!"
Or, take the instance of the diamond ring. Srimathi Sakamma some fifteen years ago hurried to Puttaparthi for Dasara and, in the confusion of packing, misplaced a seven-stone-studded diamond ring. She discovered its absence too late for anything and she informed Baba about it. Baba simply made fun of the whole affair and cracked joke or two and heartily laughed at her loss. Months later, Baba was visiting her factory, and sipping coffee sitting in the kitchen of an outhouse behind it. Suddenly, He said, 'O, Sakamma, you want that diamond ring, isn't it? Well, here it is!" With those words, He patted the wall and, lo, the ring was there in that Hand! That Hand it certainly Divine!
If that Hand is dipped in water, the water becomes petrol, on which a car can be driven for miles, just like the authentic stuff. Once, while proceeding to Bangalore, the can became empty, somewhere near Chickballapur and He actually sent some one to a tank by the side of the road. He brought water, mere H2O! Baba dipped His hand, or rather His finger into the can and stirred it a bit. It was then emptied into the petrol tank and the car went merrily along mile after mile, the engine not recognising any difference at all. On another occasion when Diesel Oil supply ran short for the dynamo which produces electric power for illumination during festivals, and when it was too late to send any one to fetch it from Penukonda or Dharmavaram, both twenty miles away, the Hand was dipped in water and, lo, Diesel Oil of the correct chemical specification was ready!
Of the same nature is another miracle witnessed by the writer. It was at Horsley Hills, where a small party of devotees had the privilege of spending a few days in His august company. Every morning Baba used to move out into the jungle towards a flat-topped boulder, upon which He sat and discoursed to the Bhakthas who were with Him. One day, as He was walking to the place, He took up in His Hand a piece of rock of a peculiar geological formation; it looked more like a closely packed bundle of dry macaroni. He kept the stone in front of Him while the discourse was going on; then, when it conclude, He said, "I shall sweeten your tongues a bit," and took the stone in His Hand. Lo, it had become a lump of sugar-candy, a closely packed bundle of macaroni-like sugar-candy. It was as if every molecule of that stone had been transformed by His will into a molecule of sugar. No one has seen sugar crystallising in long threadlike bits! But, this was not chemistry! This was Divine Alchemistry!!
Srimathi Sakamma broke her eyeglasses once at Puttaparthi and was having great difficulty; so, Baba 'took' a pair of the same focal length (!) and gave it to her!
Sri Krishna's Birthday, it was. Since Baba was also with them at the time, the festival was considered specially auspicious. The devotees at Madras made elaborate preparations. The Hall was decorated, invitations were sent to the Bhakthas available near by; Baba came and sat on a special seat near the shrine, temporarily erected at one end of the Hall, during the Puja; then, just before Arathi, He got up, and everyone rose with Him. He lifted both His Hands well above His Head and the expectant throng of devotees was watching the Hands, for they had not seen Him in that pose, during any festival before. It appeared rather strange; but before they could even wonder, He held in His Hands, a huge glass bowl shimmering in the electric light, beautifully designed, with a bird spreading its wings executed at both ends. The bowl seemed rather heavy, and Baba placed it on the platform where the shrine was. "Special Prasadam from Brindavan," He announced! There were in that bowl forty three different varieties of sweets(!), all strange to the South Indian tongue.
One day Baba took two jeeps full of devotees across the river and beyond, into the reserve forest and when even the jeeps failed to negotiate the track, He walked for about six miles along the upper reaches of the river Chithravathi and at last the party came to a beauty spot, right in the midst of the forest, steep rocky banks on three sides a huge big flat slab of rock to sit upon and the river gurgling talkatively along. All partook of the eatables that were carried thither and drank the tea that was prepared there itself by some enterprising young men. Baba 'took' a big piece of sugar-candy to sweeten the mouths; then He waved His Hand, and all eyes opened wide to the miracle. He 'got' a packet of photographs of Himself and He proceeded to give one each to every one present. There were exactly 16 photos and 16 men there that day! There are occasions when He has taken bigger packets when there were bigger parties, but always the number will tally!
Another incident that illustrates the Divine Sakthi of Bhagavan happened at Kanyakumari in 1958. Sitting on the beach with the small group of devotees, Baba asked a person who had earlier in the day purchased and perused a book on the pilgrim centre what the book said about the temple. He related the story of the diamond which adorned, once upon a time, the nose-stud of the Goddess, which shone so brightly that pirates could see it from the sea. He described how it aroused the greed of the pirates and how they carried it off, during a raid. Baba asked the people around Him, "Do you want to see it? It is just a matter of minutes and I can send it back, before its absence is noticed." So saying, He patted the sand in front of Him, and lo, there was a huge big diamond in His Hand. It was shown to every one present and then, it just disappeared from the hand to which it came! It is all so easy, every Leela of His, done so unostentatiously, with a smile of surprise lighting up His own face, as the wanted thing materialises!
A devotee had a rupee note which he kept apart from the rest, because it contained the autograph of a friend but, it so happened that one day, through sheer carelessness, he mixed it up with the rest and did shopping with the whole lot. The discovery led to moroseness and sadness and a long face, and bewailing. When Baba came to know of this, a week later, He said, "Don't worry; it has now reached Bombay. I can see where it lies; I shall get it for you." The hand waved; the rupee note, the identical one, was handed over at Puttaparthi to the young man, who took the loss so disproportionately to heart!
To resume the list of various things that Baba materialises in His Hand, mention must be made of the Rudraksha Rosary that He presented to Swami Sivananda Saraswathi. He has given others too, Japamalas, either Rudraksha or Tulsi beads, for daily Nama recitation. For daily Parayanam, He has materialised copies of the Githa and given it to devotees. When He 'took' a copy for an old and short-sighted devotee, He said "See, it is printed specially for your sake in big bold letters;" and, strange to say, it was! Giving a D.Sc., a copy of the Githa ' from the sands', He said, "You do not know the Devanagari script and so, it is in Telugu script. Take it." He has given for daily Puja, Lingams and images of Sri Krishna in various poses, of Mahishasuramardini, of Dattatreya, of Rama, and of other forms usually worshipped in Hindu homes, Crucifixes, Vels, Saligrams, Rudrakshas, plates with Chakras, all iconologically and artistically perfect and all taken by a wave of the hand! He gave a devotee a pair of Silver sandals which 'materialised' miraculously in His Feet!
He gives photographs too of Himself, alone, or incorporated with Shirdi Sai Baba in various ways, or of the Ishtadevathas of His devotees. Some of these photographs are unique, because the pose is unprecedented. For example, there once materialised a photograph of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, with the form of Shirdi Sai Baba in the region of the heart and Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in the centre of that form.
Baba takes delight in giving as a boon to people their own Ishtam, or the Name and Form of the Lord which most appeals to them. He has come not to supplant or destroy but to implement and fulfil. So, when one evening on the sands a visitor was seen wearing a badge containing a representation of a saintly couple, He gave the Bhakthas a short account of the life of Kusuma and Haranath, who were represented thereon and said that they spread the message of Namasankirthan, Haranath being an incarnation of Gauranga. Even as He was speaking, He 'took' from out of the sands a lovely silver icon, Kusuma and Haranath standing on a coiled serpent, under its spreaded hood! There was also a dot of Kumkum on the brow of Kusuma, the wife! On another occasion, He gave a Bhaktha who worshipped Him as Sivasayi, Sayi the Siva, a big coloured shell with the word Sivasayi carved on it! Encouraging every one to march bravely on along the path he has chosen for himself, that is the way in which Baba expresses His Prema and Wisdom.
Sandalwood images, silver icons, Silver Padukkas, ivory figures, idols in Panchaloha, Sphatika Lingams, Lingams in blood-red stone, or soapstone, green or blue topaz or sapphire have all been taken and given. He has also given gem-set rings or lockets of a hundred different varieties, as the need or mood of the moment dictates. Very often, when He sees a devotee wearing a gem-set ring, He chides Him for the vanity and taking that ring into His hand, He strokes it with His palm and, lo, the gem is gone, leaving in its place a portrait of Shirdi Baba, or Sri Sathya Sai Baba or both or, of Sri Rama or Sri Krishna, or any of the other forms of God.
At Venkatagiri, there is a sheet of postage stamps which underwent this miraculous transformation, many years ago. Seeing the sheet with the picture of the earthly emperor, Baba said in fun, "Why do you have a set of such things?" Even as He was making the remark, His hand gently passed over the paper, and as He lifted it, it was found that every figure had miraculously changed; the denomination and the price had vanished; the picture of Baba was imprinted on every stamp and the inscription was "Sri Sathya Sai". If He gets the idea of initiating some aspirant with a sacred Manthra, He just rolls any piece of paper that comes handy at the moment into a sharp pointed needle-like thing and, in a second, it is transformed into silver or ivory, with the added decoration of the image of the Adhistanadevatha of the Manthra on top. He then proceeds to write on the tongue of the aspirant the mystic syllables and even presents the Instrument to be kept as a reminder of the Grace of the Guru!
His hands have another miraculous power, too, to increase and multiply by mere contact whatever He wants. Therefore, Baba takes up the distribution of anything, not of sufficient quantity for the people present. He wills; He contacts; it is done. The vessel becomes full. One such scene witnessed by the present writer may be described here. It was Vijayadasami Day, 1950. Some devotees from Ananthapur had brought with them two baskets of freshly plucked Tulsi leaves and they were squatting round the baskets, making long thick garlands for decorating the place. Baba happened to pass that way, when their work was almost over and the containers were almost empty. He asked the party, half in fun and half in earnest, "Exhausted? Are you game for another two baskets of Tulsi?" and when they jumped at the idea, He placed His hands, one at the bottom of each basket and rose. When He stood erect as before, the baskets were filled to overflow, with fresh green Tulsi leaves! Now, it becomes clear why Baba Himself serves sweets etc. to the poor, on those occasions on which they are fed at the Prasanthi Nilayam. He pours them out in plenty to the thousands who come, and there is always enough and to spare!
In fact, plenty is the hallmark of that Hand. During the Vijayadasami and Sivarathri processions, Baba seated on the flower-bedecked palanquin or jeep takes in His hand the petals of the flowers from the garlands offered to Him and, throws the petals over the heads of the throng of devotees; and, what do you think, falls on the ground below? Peppermints, once; coins, another time; portraits of Shirdi Baba or Sathya Sai Baba or both, another time; we cannot predict what or when! Such is the mystery of that Hand. A number of devotees still have with them the articles they collected in this manner on 23rd November, 1950, during the procession from the Old Mandir to the Prasanthi Nilayam which was inaugurated that day. They can keep them unsullied and bright for generations, since they are as substantial as any other material object!
It might be of some interest to mention here the experience of Swami Amrithananda, (a Nambudiri Brahmin by birth, who was given Sanyas by His Holiness Narasimha Bharthi Swami, Sankaracharya of Sarada Peetam Sringeri) as related by him to the writer. He was suffering from chronic asthma, an illness which Baba diagnosed as produced and aggravated by incorrect practice of Hatha Yoga at Tiruvannamalai. During the months that he remained at Puttaparthi, the drugs that Baba gave him kept away the spasms and the Swami left practically free from the dread affliction. About these drugs, Swami Amrithananda said, "The first two days, He gave me the Vibhuthi that He 'took' by a wave of the hand; on the third day, there came into it a golden-coloured heavy powder which He put Himself into my mouth. Then He turned to the four quarters and with each wave of the Hand, He got quantities of a copper-coloured powder which He applied to my back and chest. Afterwards, He 'took' Vibhuthi also and gave it into my hand, asking me to swallow a little when the spasm came on. Another day, He 'took' the tender soft hairy roots of some plant and asked me to chew and swallow them. On other days, He gave me a tiny midget-version of hill-plantain, which I had never before seen, in India, Ceylon, Malaya or the Himalayas. He gave me a Kharjura fruit, without seed(!); He 'got' a handful of leaves which He squeezed before me and, collecting the juice in a vessel that materialised, He commanded me to drink it.
"Another day, He waved His hand and there, I could see a bundle of small greenish leaves. He asked me to eat the whole lot, about 3 to 4 oz in weight, and passed the stuff on to me, with a twinkle in His eye. I was shocked to find that the leaves had underneath them, small sharp thorns and, when I looked at Him imploringly, saying, 'Do you really want me to eat all this thorns included?' He melted a little and stretched out His hand, with the words, 'Give it back to me.' I placed it in His hand; He gave it back to me; and, lo there was not a single thorn! No, not even a vestige or indication that the plant was of such species; so, I ate it all in glee. A few days afterwards, He called me into His room and 'took' a sizeable quantity of green leaves. 'A very good specific,' He said, 'coming straight from the Himalayas.' Keeping half of it in reserve with Him, He placed the rest in my hand and said, 'Come on! Chew and swallow.' It was terribly bitter in taste and I had to draw upon all my Tapas, to perform the task allotted to me. Oh, how I prayed in my heart that He should stop with that and not force me to eat the horrible half portion He had kept in reserve!
"But, no. He would not show any kindness that day; giving me the rest of the leaves, He commanded, 'Finish this also.' Reinforcing myself with all the courage I could collect, I put into my mouth the second instalment but, (would you believe it?) by longer contact with His Divine Hand, that half had become inexpressibly sweet, sweeter than sugarcane, or honey! He laughed at my joy and relief and I came to know that the ways of the Lord are truly inscrutable." ...This genuine report from an aged Sanyasin who was for long with Ramana Maharishi and who was learned in Veda and Vedantha is enough to instil faith in even the most hardened cynic.
Whenever Baba feels like giving some curative drug, He waves His hand and procures pills, or powders or bottles of mixtures or Lehyams or oils or fruits. He blesses devotees who importune for progeny, by materialising a fruit and asking them to eat the fruit, half for the wife and half for the husband. Some times out of sheer fun, He might throw one fruit towards one and when the happy recipient actually catches the gift, another type of fruit might rest in his hand! Or, He might make a gesture of throwing without anything actually in His hand, but, the person to whom the throw is directed must be wary, for, a fruit might be on the way! When a person was seized with a sneezing bout, He once called him to His side and 'took' a slice of sweets and gave it to him to swallow. When another was suffering from fever for quite a long time, Baba one day neared the bedside and by a wave of the hand took some thing which He deliberately placed in the hand of the patient, who had sat up reverentially to receive the Panacca; and, what do you think it was? It was a fairly big-sized bumble bee, which flew away!
When a devotee asked for permission to leave Puttaparthi early so that he might attend a convocation where he was to receive a Diploma, Baba said, "I shall give it to you now here!" and waved His hand. A miniature Diploma, exactly reproducing all the details of the actual one made ready for him at Madras was in His hand! A Mysore devotee had arranged for Puja of Baba at Puttaparthi on the day of the festival of Gowri, this year. He searched the village, as well as Bukkapatnam, for all the auspicious articles that Gowri Puja required; and , he was able to equip himself with everything, except black beads. These are considered very auspicious for wear by married women, but, the family had to go without. Baba came to their quarters for Puja and the overjoyed couple were so immersed in the worship that they did not notice a black big ant that ran over the heap of flowers round His feet; but, He saw it. He lifted it up gently, and held it between His fingers. "What! Are you offering Puja with ants, in addition to flowers?", He asked in fun. He handed over the ant to the mistress of the family; she held out her palm to receive it; but, what she got was not a big black ant; no, not at all; she received instead through His Grace, from that hand, two black beads!
Speaking of that Hand, I cannot desist from giving an astounding example of the Divinity, immanent in its every movement. One evening, some six months ago, Baba casually went up to a half-opened window of His room, and seeing an electric table lamp that was on the sill, He got an idea whose exact nature no one present knew. They only saw Him wave His hand, and when they rushed near to see what was emanating, He showed them His palm, where rested a colour-film portrait of Himself! Evidently He willed for something transparent to paste on that lamp shade. He held it up to the light and some around Him remarked that the background of the picture could have been a little more prominent; some said that the hair was a little awry; one collected enough courage to remark that the face was not freshly shaven! But, He silenced all such comments by declaring, "My dear fellows, you just see, it is my photo, just as I am now, with this dress, this background, this half opened window, this door, this door curtain, this switch." And as we watched, the wonder grew! Yes! It was as if in the millionth of a second, some one had come with a camera, focussed and snapped, and taken a colour film photograph, and developed it and washed it and dried it and delivered it into the hands of Baba! That Hand is indeed Marvellous, Divine!
One evening at the Prasanthi Nilayam while talking about the kinship between man and other animals, and about the various theories of the origin of man, Baba said that the human animal is more related to the tree-dwelling ape than to the ground-dwelling varieties. He spoke of a tail-less, hairless, tree-dwelling Simian and, when the interested listener, who was a Professor of Anthropology could not quite grasp the type, He waved His Hand, and (!) there was a tiny little model of the monkey, He was referring to. The miniature, a gem of art and scientific accuracy, is now with him, 'a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.'
Sometimes on Vijayadasami Day, Abhishekam is done to the silver image of Shirdi Baba; Baba 'takes' a Linga and places it on the head before the Vibhuthi is poured over it. This is sometimes done on Sivarathri Day also. In fact, Baba has often taken various types of Lingams by the 'wave of the hand' and given them for worship. I remember one such dramatic moment. The scene was Thippegondanahalli, near Bangalore. Some devotees who desired to have a quiet morning with Baba whisked Him away to that place (after first getting His Gracious consent, of course). There, after a discussion on Karma, Rebirth and the Nature of the Soul, Baba 'took' a small silver Kooja full of Amritha and distributed it to the eight or ten people who were present. He then gave the container to a person who was shortly to leave for England, with his wife; when He noticed the disappointment on the faces of the couple, at getting only an empty vessel He got back the Kooja and gave it back, without even the wave of the hand! And the Kooja was again full of the precious nectar!
Afterwards, the party went to the Reservoir which supplies water to the city of Bangalore. While the Engineer was describing the history of the project and pointing out the original beds of the two rivers which joined at the spot and the pinnacle of the temple of Sangameswara, which had been flooded by the tank created by the dam, Baba was listening, standing, with His feet on the water's edge. Suddenly, He dipped His hand in the tank and held up His palm with a little water, towards a Veerasaiva member of the party. Every one then saw to his surprise that Baba's palm held a Sphatika Lingam, shining in the sun, with sandal paste and Bilva leaf, as if He had lifted it straight from a shrine when Puja was being offered to it! He told him, "Take this and do Puja to this every day. You worship, Kudala Sangameswara, is it not?" and, indeed he was!
When Baba blesses His devotees and agrees to their arranging the marriage of their children at the Prasanthi Nilayam, in His immediate Presence, He sometimes 'takes' the Mangalyam and gives it to the bridegroom to be tied auspiciously round the neck of the fortunate bride. A wave of the hand, and the 'Thali' or 'Bottu' complete with saffron-coloured string is there in a moment. Sometimes, when the ear-piercing ceremony is performed, Baba materialises a sharp pointed contraption, with which the earlobe is pierced and which itself is bent and serves as an earring for the child. It is impossible to enumerate all the capabilities of the 'wave of that hand'! when Baba decides upon resorting to surgery Himself, to cure some person of his illness or defect, He just waves His hand and the instruments needed are there in His palm. When He desires to express His Love and Affection, the hand brings forth sweets, even out of sand or the atmosphere.
Ever chapter must have an end, so, this too has now to be concluded perforce, I believe, with the narration of another incident, to show how the wave of the hand can transmit this miraculous Divine Sakthi to another hand, too! It happened some sixteen years ago, when Baba was, as the saying goes, in His 'teens.' Baba and a large number of devotees had gone across the river to a garden near Saheb Tank; food was cooked and eaten there itself; and the party was returning to the village when darkness was fast on river banks. Suddenly, while they were passing a bush, Baba foremost, the others at a respectful distance behind, something sizzled across and coiled itself round Baba's right foot! "A snake, a snake," rose the cry. The serpent stung the right toe, uncoiled itself in an instant and sped like an arrow along the sands. Baba said, "Let it go," but, people who were angry at the cobra pursued it and wanted to catch and kill it; so, Baba shouted "Go" in a commanding tone and the snake fled into the dark and was seen no more. Meanwhile, the effects of the bite were becoming apparent; Baba appeared to faint and fall; some men ran to the village to inform Peddavenkapa Raju; a volunteer who knew the address of a magician residing a mile away ran in that direction. Baba, however made some gestures to one of the two devotees who were trying to render first aid, bandaging etc. to wave his hand likewise. He did so, and lo, he felt "a piston like thrust inside my palm" as he said to me; and there emerged a 'talisman'; Baba signed to him to apply it, along with the froth from His lips to the wound; he did as ordered; and, lo, within a matter of seconds, Baba got up, to the intense relief of every one; in fact, every one came to life, when Baba began to talk as if nothing had happened to break the bliss of that happy day.
Just then, the parents and others came running in with a huge armoury of drugs, magic rites, roots, broken gramophone records, bottles of specifics sold in village fairs and last, but not the least, the celebrated magician who lived a mile away. Baba greeted them by walking towards them and cracking jokes at their expense.
Later Baba explained that He could have himself 'taken' the talisman, but, since. He never uses for His own benefit anything that He 'takes' out of His own hand, He had to convey His Grace to another hand.
Hemadpant has said about Shirdi Sai Baba, "While the devotees took leave, Baba gave Udi as Prasad, besmeared some of it on the foreheads of the Bhaktas and placed His boon-conferring hand on their heads." Sri Sathya Sai Baba also does the same. His hands confer the boons the devotees deserve. That hand has the healing touch; it can wipe out disease, ward off evil, exorcise the Devil and rewrite Destiny!