The recent past has been witness to the passing away of two very “news worthy” yet very dissimilar individuals – we are of course talking about sathya sai baba and osama bin laden. The story of their lives – and their death – are so far apart that it would take great creativity to stitch a blog together; and yet perhaps, the fact that two such men graced the earth around the same time is a telling example of the paradoxical nature of our times.

Osama we hear was rich but had a troubled childhood. Grown to man’s estate, he lived a life of conspiracy and terror. His destiny was shaped by a belief in retribution, a cause for which he lived a life of exile and hardship and indeed gave up his life for. His call to fame among other incidents was the destruction of two towering beauties – a symbol of pride of the country he loathed. He lived by the sword and died by it too. He travelled the earth often alone, under cover and in secret. When the earth called him into her fold, he was buried at sea by the men he fought against; a burial that was attended to by very few of the populace devoted to his cause. Anger simmered in the hearts of his people.

Sai Baba on the other hand was born poor, indeed impoverished, but to a family of pious folks. His romance with God began at a very tender age, and legends abounded of his “magical moments” and divine encounters. He decided that he’d rather live with his god than with man, and gave up all of man’s riches in his quest for a higher power. Destiny embraced him for her own – and to this man, who shunned her riches, showered on him everything he wanted and more. Sai Baba who by now had offered his life to god in entirety, cared little for himself but somehow cared very much for the teeming thousands and millions who came his way. They in turn somehow transmuted their anger, sloth and pride into a profound love in his presence and the movement grew…and grew. The man who had decided he wouldn’t demand of life, helped fulfill the needs of millions. Hospitals, educational institutes, spiritual centers, aids for the needy – mushroomed all over. At the time of his mahasamadhi, heads of state, sportsmen of repute and icons of the world converged to take his blessings and thank God for sending such a man to their world. Gratitude overflowed.

There are a few interesting parallels. One fought war on the outside, the other waged war and conquered his internal demons. One was alone, but never lonely – the other was often alone amidst millions. Both had their share of followers and indeed leave behind a legacy. Which is ours – identifying with the god within or identifying with a cause without? Inner peace or outer war – a choice we all need make.

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