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Wednesday, March 23

Playing stupid coin tricks with Shirdi Sai Baba

A few weeks ago Sai Baba 'appeared' to me in his Sathya form. Under ordinary conditions I would have found this visitation remarkable because the last time it had happened was a few days before his death in 2011 and before that it had been about ten years. But I was so upset at the moment that if he'd given me time to speak I think my only reaction to his appearance would have been an impatient, "Yes??"

But he wasn't there to chit-chat. He said with quiet concern, "Think of me" then the vision vanished.

The expression on his face had matched the concern in his voice. Never when I'd known him had he looked at me with concern and never before had he asked me to think of him.

It didn't take much reflection to understand the cause for his concern. I'd been increasingly upset as I'd learned more about my government's role in the Syrian tragedy. Part of the upset was just an erratic sleep schedule for months on end; I was living on Syria time half the time and the other half on Washington, DC time. But the revelations about what was really going on in Syria were the final straw for me after Afghanistan, Libya, and Ukraine. 
How many more countries did the American government intend to reduce to ruins in this decade? 

Without realizing it I was drifting toward hatred. 

Okay, think of Sathya Sai Baba. But it was like the reverse of trying not to think of a pink elephant. The harder I tried to think about him, the more my thoughts scattered in a hundred directions. 

Finally I went to YouTube and watched a couple of his lectures but my attention kept flagging. Then I tried listening to a few of his bhajan songs and singing along. Then I tried chanting along with a video of him chanting the Gayatri mantra. But I couldn't concentrate on the mantra, much less Sai Baba. All I wanted to do was get back to Syrian war reports.

I returned to clicking at random through bhajan videos. Then I spied a video on the YouTube sidebar about a vaunted miracle filmed by some devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba. 

(Sathya Sai Baba had always claimed that Shirdi Baba, who'd died in 1918, was his previous incarnation, although many devotees of Shirdi Baba, who still has a large following among both Hindus and Muslims, disputed the claim. I myself believe that Shirdi Baba was indeed the previous emanation of the Sathya Sai form.)  

I quickly discovered that there was an entire genre of Shirdi Sai Baba 'miracle' films on YouTube; e.g., someone swore that an image of him had appeared on a wall, or that he'd been seen walking into a temple, and so on, and filmed the supposed miracle.

There was one video, taken by a security camera, of an empty darkened room in a Shirdi Sai Baba temple, obviously at night, which was illuminated only by two tall oil lamps. The supposed miracle was a little blob of bright light appearing a few times and jerking around part of the room.

One commenter at YouTube wrote in exasperation that the 'miracle' was actually an insect walking across the CCTV lens. Another snapped, "It's a rat." 

Another viewer wrote that the only miracle was that he'd actually sat through the entire video.

My interest piqued, I looked at the video, which went on and on, with the changing time stamp on the CCTV footage the only thing to relieve the boredom. Finally a little bright blob appeared and jerked around, then jerked out of camera range. 
Then, more of watching nothing but the time stamp. 

I began cheating -- fast-forwarding through the video, trying to get another sight of the blob. Then I reversed, trying to find the first appearance of the blob.

Suddenly I blurted, "Wait a minute. One of the lamps is extinguished. When did that happen?"

There could have been a reasonable explanation for the lamp going out. Maybe the temple caretaker hadn't added enough oil to the receptacle before he left for the night. Or maybe a strong breeze had extinguished the flame.  

But what was completely clear is that I'd been so busy looking for the little blob that initially I'd completely missed what was a rather mysterious event. The other viewers at YouTube were in the same boat, from their comments. We'd been focused on the blob, and assumed its appearance was the vaunted miracle.
By then I was hooked. I went looking for more Shirdi Baba miracle videos. That was how I ended up studying an 11:50 minute video at YouTube titled Coin miracles at [Shirdi] Sai Baba Mandir at Unn, (Navsari, Gujarat, India) - 2nd June 2011 posted by Travels in India, London & the UK. The poster's comment:
"Having seen this several times on previous visits I was really hoping that I would see this happen whilst videoing - the video I took is in one take & unedited. Pilgrims having said their prayers at the front of the statue of Sai Baba then walk round to the rear of the statue & make a wish or prayer, and if it's done with real heartfelt intention then the coin they place at Sai Baba's back will stick to the wall."
Several of the responses to the coin miracle footage were quite negative. One of the YouTube viewers complained that he'd spent 11:50 minutes watching [expletive deleted]. 

Another viewer proposed an obvious explanation for the miracle:
"bubble gum???????????/ lol idiots"
Then there were the magnet theorists:
"Law of Magnetism! One rupee and many coins are attracted with magnetic force. Try it and observe it... They placed a huge electromagnet right behind the wall. You can clearly see that the wall was broken into to place the high power electromagnet, which is operated by the Pujari [temple caretaker]."
And the wall-paint theorists:
"If I press a coin into the paint on any of the walls of my apartment, it will stick. Did any of these believers notice that the coin would not stick to the part of the wall that had no paint. And the reason that part of the wall had no paint is because credulous people have stuck coins to it and when whoever designed this petty racket relocates the coins to his greedy pockets, the paint comes with them. How could ANYONE think THIS is a violation of natural laws?
"don't wish 2 insult your superstitious blind-sided faith as I respect Sai Baba; but here is no miracle. I myself stuck coins on walls when I was a kid; it's due to the "wrinkled paint wall." apparently you need 2 stick coin on the smoother plain cemented wall which eventually no one was able to do. So they stuck coin on the painted wall which had cracks and uneven surface. Or even a mere spit on the coin can do the trick.
For miracle I prefer stuck coin on smooth cemented wall not on edges."
I noted that the coin miracles video was like the darkened temple video in that it went on and on while the viewer waited for something to happen. In this case one waited for a person to walk by and try his luck with a coin.

It reminded me of what life was like at Sathya Sai Baba's ashram. It was mostly waiting around for something to happen, such as Sai Baba putting in an appearance. But if you fogged out while waiting, often that was when something did happen (such as Sai Baba making a brief unannounced appearance) and you'd missed it, as you learned from others who'd been paying attention.

I straightened up, restarted the video, and this time I stayed focused. That was when I noticed a possible challenge to all the theories: Actually, only a few coins stick to the wall.


And so the 'meta-message' I got from Sai Baba's remark to think of him turned out to be a reminder. A problem with strong emotions such as hatred is that they can divert our attention from what is happening right in front of us. 

To be human is to fall prey to distracting emotions, but with a little determination we can at least remember once in a while to muster focus.  


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