The Clay Feet Of The ‘God-Emperor’ – Sathya Sai Baba
Posted by Barry Pittard on August 25, 2011
It is fun to read to our children Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fable of the Emperor Without Clothes. We smile WITH the children at how we all ‘get’ the ‘morale de la fable’. And we smile AT the silliness of the emperor and at his subjects until they all began to wise up. But do we adults ever really ‘get it’? Do we ever wise up? And truly grow up? Is the Anderson tale to be kept for the bedtime story hour and phase or do we keep on learning its lesson life-long? Or never learning it.
Already, we see how – despite all the recent and glaring revelations – many Sathya Sai Baba followers clutch at irrational explanations for his illnesses, his long descent into physical and mental decrepitude, his secret hoarding, his repeatedly failed predictions and promises, his building up around him an imperial opulence in a land of tragic squalor and misery, his choice of so many leaders that Sai devotees well know to be egotistical bullies ….. and so on.
Sathya Sai Baba is the ‘emperor’ exposed.
But then, in our vulnerability to conmanship that knows how to manipulate using the power of mythology and religiosity, we too are exposed. We are hungry for leaders who can tell us what to do and what to think. An act of quiet heroism of which we may be capable is to look good and hard at ourselves and the way we reach out to, and cling to, external heroes, and find it hard to see that they – and ALL of us – because human, have feet of clay in one way or another. I do not suggest a long study – flipping through Freud and Jung and Adler, Fromm, and all the rest. For to do so can be but another way of spending those valuable seconds or minutes when we can, easily enough, catch ourselves out in our own silliness. The libraries of the world have not yet sufficed in wising us up in fundamental matters, for we search for books just as we search for gurus and belief systems. Anything but look at ourselves. It would be better simply to fetch a copy of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, and then keep driving the question: how does this story apply to me – in my craziness?!
But no, anything but work on the craziness-spotting and the corrections – both of which become so obvious. What happens when we stand back for a few moments, and realise that we have been banging our heads against a brick wall without knowing it? What? Need we rush out for a book? A guru? Why not start with the magnificent in situ opportunity to spot, and to change, the silliness? Of books and of gurus and of belief systems there is no end. But will we glance at the ‘book’ of ourselves. A few moments of introspection/self-correction will not perform anything like the number of flashy miracles attributed to Sathya Sai Baba. Only one now and then, but it is more than enough.
Of course, Sathya Sai Baba pretended to be God incarnate, and many of us fell for it, right down, face first, at his feet. At the clay feet of a human being, after all.
Do we, in fact, only appear to grow up? As our children increasingly understand the upshot of the Anderson fable, do we notice, from time to time, our children’s wry smiles at us? Which, unless we get wise, may one day turn to ridicule and alienation?
Blindness, naivety in the face of the increasingly obvious – namely that the emperor has tricked both himself and us – comes with the territory of belief. That belief-terrain seems so comforting, but its ‘safety’ is dangerous. It lulls and dulls and suppresses our life that could be far better lived.
Commonly, belief is found in our running after charismatic religious or political or other types of leaders. In our excitation – and in that of the leaders – we fail to see how these leaders exploit and manipulate. BUT – still more important – we fail to realise how we have given over our own minds to them, and to the beliefs. To the ideological systems that they embody.
Children are very obvious in their penchant for their heroes – splendid types who can do no wrong or if so can right that wrong. As you and I may flatteringly – and even alarmingly – have found, even we can be our children’s heroes – “You are the best Mummy/Daddy in the world”. But if we do not get over our hero-worship, and our clinging to the ‘heroic’ figures, what sort of human beings are we bound to become?
One of the great discomforts – AND, in a way, comforts – I felt when a follower of Sathya Sai Baba was that here I was with all these “Sai brothers and sisters”. What discomforted was the intrusive thought – but this elevates the importance of some human beings over the importance of one’s relationship with ALL human beings.
All being well, we grow out of infantilism to some manageable extent. However, it can appear – without our being aware of it – in the guise of the beliefs that human beings clingingly attach to this guru or that guru, this ism or that ism, this system or that system.
Where is the brotherhood or sisterhood in this?