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Hindu holy man Sathya Sai Baba dies aged 86

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  • medit8ionsociety
    PUTTAPARTI, India — Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba, worshipped as a god by millions of followers worldwide, died Sunday morning in a hospital near his southern
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24, 2011
      PUTTAPARTI, India — Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba,
      worshipped as a god by millions of followers
      worldwide, died Sunday morning in a hospital
      near his southern Indian ashram. He was 86.

      Sai Baba had spent nearly a month on breathing
      support and dialysis while struggling with
      multiple-organ failure after being admitted
      March 28 to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher
      Medical Sciences, near his ashram in Puttaparti
      village in Andhra Pradesh state.

      Women selling marigold garlands broke down in
      tears outside the ashram when the news of his
      death was announced, and followers began trickling
      into the temple complex where the guru's body
      would lie in state Sunday night through Tuesday.
      Hundreds of thousands of devotees are expected
      to pay last respects. A funeral with state honors
      is planned Wednesday morning.

      The saffron-robed Sathya Sai Baba had a huge
      following, with ashrams in over 126 countries
      and Indian devotees including high-placed politicians,
      movie stars, world-class athletes and industrialists.

      He was said to perform miracles, conjuring
      rings, watches and "vibhuti" — a sacred ash
      that his followers applied on their foreheads —
      from his overgrown and unkempt Afro-style hair.

      But rationalist critics led campaigns against
      him, calling him a charlatan and his miracles
      fake. Several news reports also alleged he committed
      sexual abuse against devotees — allegations he
      denied as vilification campaigns.

      Officials and celebrities expressed sadness at
      the guru's passing, remembering him as a "great
      pious personality" who worked selflessly to help others.

      "Sri Satya Sai Baba was a spiritual leader who
      inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful
      life, even as they followed the religion of their
      choice," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in
      a statement. His death is "an irreparable loss to
      all, and the nation deeply mourns his passing away."

      A heavy police deployment, in place for weeks as
      Sai Baba's condition worsened, was using barricades
      to restrict road traffic Sunday, while shopkeepers
      were told to close to limit the number of people in town.

      Andhra Pradesh state declared four days of mourning,
      with its top official calling Sai Baba "a symbol of love, affection and passion."

      "Sri Satya Sai Baba has given his great self to
      the service of humanity," Chief Minister N. Kiran
      Kumar Reddy said. "He will be remembered for ages
      to come by all sections of people all over the world."

      Born Nov. 23, 1926, as Sathyanarayana Raju, he was
      said as a child to display a tendency toward
      spirituality and unusual intelligence, which he
      expressed through music, dance and writing poetry and plays.

      In 1940, at the age of 14, he declared himself
      an "avatar," or reincarnation, of another Hindu
      holy man called the Sai Baba of Shirdi, a town in
      western Maharashtra state, who died in 1918.

      As the young guru attracted followers, his home
      of Puttaparti grew from a sleepy village into
      a vibrant town with the sprawling "Prasanthi Nilayam"
      ashram built in 1950, as well as a large hospital,
      a university and schools run by his Satya Sai Central
      Trust, set up in 1972 with donations from devotees.

      The trust — estimated to be worth at least $8.9 billion
      and possibly much more — also established spiritual
      centers in the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.
      It built another hospital in Bangalore, where
      Sai Baba had a summer home, and funded water
      supply projects in several southern states.

      Though no successor has been named to run the trust,
      it has assured "there is or will be no vacuum,"
      according to a recent statement released after the
      guru was hospitalized.

      Health woes over recent years had forced Sai Baba
      to cut down on public appearances. He survived a
      stroke and a series of heart attacks in 1963. In
      2005, he began using a wheelchair, and a year later
      he fractured his hip when a student fell from a
      stool onto the guru.

      Sai Baba was also mired in controversies, with
      several news reports about allegations of sexual
      abuse and fake miracles.

      A 2004 television program by the British Broadcasting
      Corporation called the "Secret Swami" featured
      interviews with at least two American male devotees
      claiming the guru had fondled their genitals and
      exposed himself to them while claiming it was part
      of a healing ritual.

      Though he denied the allegations and was never
      charged with any crime, the reports led some to
      break with the guru.

      The ashram also said Sai Baba had survived an
      attempt against his life, with six devotees
      including the guru's personal assistant killed
      in his bedroom in June 1993 after allegedly trying
      to attack him. Facts of the case still remain a mystery.

      Sai Baba was never married and has no children.
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