Spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba passed away a week ago on Apr 24, 2011, he had millions of followers across the world. But for our purposes he had many Jewish followers and was one of the leading gurus for Jews fleeing to India.
There is a famous story of the Jewish Mother and the Guru. She knocks on the monastery door, desperate to see the guru. Finally a monk answers, and she asks to see the guru. The monk allows her in, accompanies her through the monastery, and opens the shrine-room door to reveal a guru seated on a golden platform beside it. He will allow her to utter only five words to the guru. Parking her shoes, she ascends the long staircase to the golden throne, puts down her shopping bags, looks the guru in the eye and says: “Nu, Sheldon, come home already.”
In the 1960’s many American Jews ran to India seeking spirituality. To whom did they run? People know about the relationship of Baba Ram Das (Richard Alport ) and Neem Karoli Baba. But for many other Jews the destination was Sathya Sai Baba including Dr Michael Goldstein, the chairman of the international Sai Baba organization,
Sai Baba’s most famous follower among Orthodox rabbis was Rabbi David Zeller (1946-2007) of Jerusalem. David Zeller is another example of baby boomer who set out to the East and then ended his journey as an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem teaching healing mediations. His full story is set out in an autobiography and a memorial biography volume. Zeller submitted to many other gurus including Sri Pad and Mother. Zeller lived as an ascetic for a year. In 1982, Zeller brought Reb Shlomo Carlebach and Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi to a trans-personnel psychology conference to meet Sathya Sai Baba. Zeller was the Jewish representative for a Sri Baba conference in 2005 on love.
Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings were congenial to Westerners since he taught that there is one God and that there is a unity of all religions. He taught his followers that do not need to give up their original religion. The main objective of the Sathya Sai Organization, as Sathya Sai Baba himself says, “is to help you recognize the divinity inherent in you. So, your duty is to emphasize the One, to experience the One in all you do or speak. Do not give importance to differences of religion, sect, status, or color.
The principal objectives of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation are:
1. To help the individual
* To be aware of the Divinity that is inherent in him and to conduct himself accordingly;
* To translate into practice in daily life, divine love and perfection; and therefore
* To fill one’s life with joy, harmony, beauty, grace, human excellence and lasting happiness;
2. To ensure that all human relations are governed by the principles of Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Right Conduct), Shanthi (Peace), Prema (Love) and Ahimsa (Non-violence).
3. To make devotees more sincere and dedicated in the practice of their respective religions by understanding properly the true spirit of their religion.
Ont he other hand Sri Baba, like many Indian gurus, could not differentiate Judaism from Christianity and had only the most confused notions of Biblical religion.
Back to Rabbi David Zeller- in his autobiography wrote that “becoming an orthodox rabbi had not cut me off from the other traditions. He defended on the need to accept different religious traditions:
Rather, I understood that each people and tradition had been chosen to do a particular task for all of humanity. Just as each organ in our body must fulfill its “destiny” and function for the overall health of the whole body, so each religious tradition has its function in the body of humankind. (142-3)
While I was on stage singing and teaching about Jewish mysticism and meditation, Swami Vishnu chimed in. “Oh Rabbi, this is just like we teach in yoga philosophy. You see, we really are all one, and all the teachings are here in yoga!” 193
From Rabbi Zeller’s web page – we have a nice example of his Sai Baba in Jewish terms.
For the most part, we live in a world that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the Self, the Soul or of God.
My work is about bringing the soul from an intellectual concept to a personal and intimate experience. Haven’t we had enough focus about the soul? From a mental approach, yes. Now it’s time for one that speaks from the soul and to the soul and calls to and awakens the soul. It combines the religious, the spiritual, the psychological and the meditative.
The soul is not a divine or Godly spark flitting around the body like a fire fly. It is not the spiritual half of our physical body. It is not another name for Self or the archetype of God (with all due true respect and love for Jung).
The Soul, this Godly Presence, is all there is. It’s all we are.
Through teachings of the ultimate oneness of all energy/spirit and matter/body, through an understanding of the nature of Tree of Knowledge duality consciousness that cuts us off from that oneness, I try to present the teachings from the Tree of Life on how to get back to the Tree of Life. The Kabbalistic map of the Four Worlds can be taught linearly or holistically. We can learn it from the Tree of Life, seeing these worlds as simultaneous, overlapping, interpenetrating dimensions in our every day life.
This is the new education from the Tree of Life. This is the education of the Soul. Read more here
Nice interview with Zeller in a new age journal found here.
Video from India 1993