Suddenly the Birds Stopped Singing and Then He Appeared the Legend Known as 'The Living God'

Daily Mail (London), December 22, 1997 | Go to article overview

Suddenly the Birds Stopped Singing and Then He Appeared the Legend Known as 'The Living God'


Byline: SARAH MILES

CHRISTMAS has always been a time of dread for me, even when I was little. It meant Mummy in a state, and therefore Daddy in a state because Mummy was in a state. Christmas equalled 'states'.

I dreaded the useless presents because all I ever wanted was animals, and Mummy didn't like animals mucking up her home, nor me denting the cushions. I loved her nonetheless.

I grew up and found that my husband, Robert Bolt, had always dreaded Christmas, too, so we stopped celebrating it. This solution should have been fine, but the continual pressure from the media, friends and family to join the materialistic rat race was unrelenting.

It was only last year that I finally celebrated the Christmas I always knew was out there somewhere, a Christmas of love.

I took myself to Puttaparthi in southern India for six weeks to study with a chap called Sri Sathya Sai Baba, whom millions claim is the Avatar (the living god) of our age.

He does not belong to one faith but embraces all religions and creeds. I first heard of him 23 years ago, but because of my abhorrence of gurus (my philosophy is all about contacting one's own guru within), I ignored the unbelievable Sai Baba stories I had heard over the years.

Living a quiet life in the country as I do, I found the sudden contrast of the huge crowds of people in Puttaparthi overwhelming. The horror of being submerged among the hundreds of thousands of devotees made me very negative about everything and everybody.

STILL, determined to give this Sai Baba a fair crack of the whip, I put all reservations aside and 'went for it' in an attempt to experience the love Sai Baba apparently inspires.

I didn't have to wait long. On that first day I arrived in the temple at 3.30am (if you want to be close to where Sai Baba walks, you have to rise at that hour). Even so, I found myself right at the back. How could I check out this guy if I couldn't see him?

As I sat there, cross-legged, on my humble cushion, doing some deep breathing to calm my frustration, I noticed a mass of birds building their nests in the temple's rafters (the Man-dir temple is open to the elements, giving the local bird life a perfect sanctuary.) I was entranced, mesmerised even, by the birds' activities; in fact, I learned so much about nest-building, I'm pretty confident I could build one myself.

It was during this nest-building episode that I had my first taste of what this Christmas would be like.

Quite suddenly, nine-tenths of the birds stopped their work and, in unison, turned their heads in one direction, while remaining uncommonly still. …

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