Monday, April 25, 2011

Who's the Guy with the Fro?

When you first come to Nepal there are a lot of things that at first seem a little strange. Cows in the road, skin whitening creams and the liberal application of reverse swastikas to gates, buildings and even pins on mens lapels all stand out as something you just wouldn't see back home. Another thing that started to stand out that I saw all over the place was pictures of some guy with a big fro in an orange robe. I had no idea who this guy was, turns out it was the very popular Indian guru Sri Satya Sai Baba.

Guru Satya Sai Baba

Turns out Sai Baba was quite popular in Nepal. The house owners of our first apartment had a big picture of him as you went up the stairs, and they gave Kim a video that showed "proved" he was divine. What? Yeah, see this guy with the fro is supposedly a living God, an Avatar, the reincarnation of a former Sai Baba. As proof he coughs up golden lingams (normally phallic symbols, but in this case eggs) and produces ash from nothing among countless other "miracles". If you're a God apparently these are the kind of things you like to do, but to be honest I wasn't all that convinced. When confronted with preforming his miraculous abilities under the watch of scientists to confirm his divine power he stated that; "Science must confine its inquiry only to things belonging to the human senses, while spiritualism transcends the senses. If you want to understand the nature of spiritual power you can do so only through the path of spirituality and not science." I couldn't disagree more. Sai Baba appears to me to be no different than the televangelists back home who prey on the week minds and desperate hopes of others in order to elevate themselves in some fantasy world they've created in theirs and their followers minds.

While it would be easy to write a post ripping into the man that was Sai Baba, it's not really called for. People can observe his life and make up their own minds. Sai Baba passed away yesterday, and I'm sure for many people this was a day of great mourning. For the people who had allegedly experienced sexual abuse at his hands, or for the families of four boys that were murdered in his compound, perhaps it's a day of closure. Regardless it often seems that things we designate as sacred walk hand in hand with the profane, as if the elevation of that beyond question is to cover for the depravity that it usually conceals. 

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