When I was a youngster on special occasions my father would pull out an envelope with gray powder and sprinkle it on my forehead. I must have not been a curious child as I never asked the origin of this ashy substance. I was young enough to not question this ritual any more than a trip to the dentist. Years later I heard the story of my parents’ visit to India where my father met the avatar Sathya Sai Baba who gifted him with this ash called, “vibhuti”.
It’s a hell of a story (one that I will try to transcribe and post in the next couple days). Once I heard it I would egg my father on to tell the story to anyone who would listen. When I introduced him to my love interest and he told the story she mentioned that by some strange cosmic coincidence she also had some of Sai Baba’s vibhuti. She works with the mentally ill and one of her clients gave her a bag as a gift.
On Sunday as she was cleaning her apartment she stumbled upon the zip-loc bag filled with the stuff. As I had just hurt my knee and was having trouble even sitting down, I took a little bit of the vibhuti and rubbed it around my knee. I woke up the next morning and got in front of the computer to discover two things that were either eerily connected or paired only by coincidence. My knee was bending without much pain and Sai Baba had died the night before.
It’s always hard to know what to believe. Especially when it came to Sai Baba, the star of some of the most spectacular stories I ever heard.
A couple years ago I was on an airplane sitting next to an Indian woman. She asked if I had ever been to India. I hadn’t but told her of my parents’ encounter with Sai Baba before I was born. She then told me she had some friends in Santa Barbara. They had a thirteen year old daughter with a tumor in her brain. The doctors were all in agreement that nothing save a miracle could be done about it. One night the girl had a dream where she saw a funny looking dark skinned man with bushy hair. He told her, “Everything will be OK if you come see me.”
These were the days before the internet, but she and the parents were grasping at straws, so they looked everywhere for pictures of this man. Eventually, the girl saw a picture of Sai Baba and recognized him as the man from her dream. The parents borrowed whatever they could to get to India. They waited outside his estate and Sai Baba walked right up to the girl. He gave her a big smile and told her, “I’m so glad you listened and came to see me.” He healed her tumor and the girl is now a woman living a happy, healthy life.
It sounds like a fairy tale, and maybe it is. Some have accused Sai Baba of being a charlatan and a fraud. I am unsure if his healing powers are any more real than that of a doctor or a shaman, but his passing makes the world a less magical place and for that if nothing else he will be missed.