A moment of reflection
To the tidings arriving from Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh, a universally fitting response is Silence: a solemn and reverential silence by the community of the devout that considers itself bereaved; and by those who do not share this reverence, a thoughtful silence, out of sensitivity to the human condition that is subject to the sort of unenviable turmoil undergone by the devout at this hour. Today, decency counsels obeying ‘nil nisi bonum‘ and according respect to the departed, by with-holding undue aspersions and allowing the process of Law to render the justice due to the them, a respect which one wishes was not cruelly and remorselessly denied to six silenced and maligned human beings in 1993, by the very same devout that mourn today in the very same Puttaparthi so beloved to them. An offering of condolences is a social communion belonging wholly to human realms and about the clutching of human bonds, and therefore even the most sensitive words one may offer will be neither adequate nor appropriate for the devout who are convinced that the object of today’s mourning is not contained in human realms but enjoys mastery of a superhuman one. It will be undeniable by both, however, that the recent events mark the end of a chapter, which the devout will treat as a symbolic passage with cosmic significance, and which those devoted to Reason will treat as a cautionary tale which they must strive to stop turning into a repeating history. It could mark the end of a chapter of generations of shared delusion which could history could have easily been spared the embarrassment of, if only affordable mental health facilities were accessible to troubled adolescents in the witch-doctor-infested country-side in pre-Independence India. We seem to be at a critical historical juncture where we might be able to turn the page on the seemingly interminable chapter of incompetent governance and apathetic citizenship in post-Independence India which abdicated and ceded civic responsibility to extra-Constitutional demagogic authorities, leading to a form of rural indebtedness both materially and mentally. This moment of shared reflection is an apt one for us to renew our commitment to together script a new and redeeming chapter in the history of India, which is not a narrative of passive waits for messianic deliverance, but of the emergence of a society awakened by Reason, enlivened by Compassion, founded on integrity in personal conduct and sustained by probity in public life.
University of Southern California
As the news breaks that Sathya Sai Baba, the popular Indian godman and guru, has passed away at the age of 85, many of his devotees are wondering if we in the rationalist community are cackling with glee. We are not. We mourn the passing of anyone and take no pleasure in death, even of those with whom we disagree.
Whatever our feelings of Sai Baba may be, he meant a lot to millions across the globe, including our own friends and family, and it is to them that our hearts go out. Many of us know what it feels like to have loved so deeply and to have lost it all in an instant. We hope all of Sai Baba’s devotees find some form of consolation and we would like them to know that we feel their loss.
For us in the rationalist community, this is not a seminal event. We hate to see so many lives wasted on superstition and belief. We will continue to work hard to spread the truth and to fight ignorance. We will continue to promote the use of science-based medicine, which Sai Baba relied upon in his last moments. We will continue to promote science, which has saved countless lives and pushed us forward. We will continue to promote rational thinking, because it is the only thing which we can count on.
However, we are also human. We sympathize, Sai devotees. We really do.
Technical Coordinator, Nirmukta
Former Sai Devotee