My mother was just telling me yesterday... that when I was five months old in her womb, a miracle happened.
She was going from my father′s house to her father′s house; and it was the rainy season. It is customary in India for the first child to be born at the maternal father′s home, so although it was the rainy season and very difficult - no roads, and she had to go on a horse - the sooner she went, the better; if she waited longer then it would have become more difficult, so she went with one of her cousin-brothers.
In the middle of the journey was a big river, the Narmada. It was in flood. When they reached the boat, the boatman saw that my mother was pregnant, and he asked my mother′s cousin-brother, "What is your relationship?"
He was not aware that he would get into trouble so he simply said, "We are brother and sister."
The boatman refused; he said, "I cannot take you because your sister is pregnant - that means you are not two, you are three."
In India, this is a custom, an old custom - perhaps it started in the days of Krishna - that one should not travel on water, particularly in a boat, with one′s sister′s son. There is a danger of the boat sinking.
The boatman said, "What guarantee is there that the child in your sister′s womb is a girl and not a boy? If he is a boy I don′t want to take the risk - because it is not a question only of my life, sixty other people are going in the boat. Either you can come or your sister can come; both I won′t take."
On both sides there were hills and jungle, and the boat used to go only one time a day. In the morning it would go - and the river is really vast at that point - and then it would come back by the evening. The next morning it would go again, the same boat. So either my mother had to remain on this side, which was dangerous, or go on that side, which was just as dangerous. So for three days they continued to ask him, beg him, saying that she was pregnant and he should be kind.
He said, "I can′t help it - this is not done. If you can give me a guarantee that it is not a boy then I can take you; but how can you give me a guarantee?"
So for three days they had to stay in a temple there. In that temple lived a saint, very famous in those days in that area. Now, around that temple there has arisen a city in the memory of that saint, Saikheda. Saikheda means "the village of the saint." Sai means the saint; he was known as Sai Baba. It is not the same Sai Baba who became world-famous - Sai Baba of Shirdi - but they were contemporaries.
Sai Baba of Shirdi became world-famous because of the simple coincidence that Shirdi is near Bombay, and all the celebrities of Bombay and the rich people of Bombay started going to Sai Baba of Shirdi. And the richer you are, the more famous you are, the more successful you are, the more you are in need of something to give you fulfillment, because all your success, your riches, your fame has brought you nothing. These are the emptiest people in the world, the hollowest. And because of Bombay being a world center, soon Sai Baba of Shirdi′s name started reaching outside India, and so many miracles were created around him.
The same was the situation with this Sai Baba who lived in that temple. Finally my mother had to ask Sai Baba, "Can you do something? For three days we have been here. I am pregnant and my brother has told the boatman that he is my brother, and he won′t take us in the boat. Now, unless you do something, say something to that boatman, we are in a fix. What to do? My brother cannot leave me here alone; I cannot go alone to the other side. On both sides are wild jungles and forests, and for at least twenty-four hours I will have to wait alone."
I never met Sai Baba, but in a way I did meet him; I was five months old. He just touched my mother′s belly. My mother said, "What are your doing?"
He said, "I am touching the feet of your child."
The boatman saw this and said, "What are you doing, Baba? You have never touched anybody′s feet."
And Baba said, "This is not anybody; and you are a fool - you should take them to the other side. Don′t be worried. The soul that is within this womb is capable of saving thousands of people, so don′t be worried about your sixty people - take her."
So my mother was saying, "At that time I became aware that I was carrying someone special."
I said, "As far as I understand, Sai Baba was a wise man: he really befooled the boatman! There is no miracle, there is nothing. And boats don′t sink just because somebody is traveling with their sister′s son. There is no rationality in the idea, it is just absurd. Perhaps sometime accidentally it may have happened and then it became a routine idea."
My own understanding is that because in Krishna′s life his mother′s brother was told by the astrologers that "one of the children of your sister will kill YOU," he kept his sister and his brother-in-law in prison. She gave birth to seven children, seven boys, and he killed them all. The eighth was Krishna, and of course when God Himself was born, the locks of the prison opened up, and the guards fell fast asleep, and Krishna′s father took him out.
The river Yamuna was the boundary of Kansa′s kingdom. Kansa was the person who was killing his sister′s sons in the fear that one of the sons was going to kill him. The Yamuna was in flood - and it is one of the biggest rivers in India. The father of Krishna was very much afraid, but somehow the child had to be taken to the other side, to a friend′s house whose wife had given birth to a girl so he could exchange them. He could bring the girl back with him because the next morning Kansa would be there asking, "Where is the child?" and planning to kill him. A girl he wouldn′t kill - it had to be a boy.
But how to cross this river? There was no boat in the night, but it had to be crossed. But when God can open locks without keys, without anybody opening them - they simply opened up, the doors opened up, the guards fell asleep - God would do something.
So he put the child in a bucket on his head and passed through the river - something like what happened to Moses when the ocean parted. This time it happened in an Indian way. It could not have happened to Moses because that ocean was not Indian, but this river was.
As he entered the river, the river started rising higher. He was very much afraid: what was happening? He was hoping the river would subside, but it started rising. It went to the point where it touched the feet of Krishna, then it receded. This is the Indian way, it cannot happen anywhere else. How can the river miss such a point? When God is born and passing through her, just giving way is not enough, not mannerly.
Since that time there has been this idea that there is a certain antagonism between a person and his sister′s son, because Krishna killed Kansa. The river was crossed, it subsided; it favored the child. Since then rivers are angry against maternal uncles - all the rivers of India. And that superstition is carried even today.
I told my mother, "One thing is certain - that Sai Baba must have been a wise man and had some sense of humor." But she wouldn′t listen. And it became known in the village what had happened, and to support it, after one month another thing happened which.... In life there are so many coincidences out of which you can make miracles. Once you are bent upon making a miracle then any coincidence can be turned into a miracle.
After one month there was a very great flood, and in front of my mother′s house in the rainy season it was almost like a river. There was a lake, and a small road between the lake and the house, but in the rainy season so much water came that the road was completely like a river, and the lake and the road became merged into one. It was almost oceanic; as far as you could see it was all water. And that year perhaps India had the biggest floods ever.
Floods ordinarily happen every year in India, but that year a strange thing was noted, that floods started reversing the rivers′ flow of water. The rains were so heavy that the ocean was not able to take the water as quickly as it was coming, so the water at the ocean front was stuck; it started flowing backwards. Where small rivers fall into big rivers, the big rivers refused to take the water, because they were not able even to contain their own water. The small rivers started moving backwards.
I have never seen it - that one also I missed - but my mother says that it was a strange phenomenon to see the water moving backwards. And it started entering houses; it entered my mother′s house. It was a double-storied house, and the first story was completely full of water. Then it started entering the second story. Now, there was nowhere to go, so they were all sitting on the beds, the highest place that was possible there. But my mother said, "If Sai Baba was right, then something will happen." And it must have been a coincidence that the water came up to my mother′s stomach and then receded!
These two miracles happened before I was born, so I have nothing to do with them. But they became known; when I was born I was almost a saint in the village! Everybody was so respectful; people were touching my feet, even old people. I was told later on that "the whole village has accepted you as a saint."
When I must have been nearabout four I was the only child in the house - nothing to do, no school, no place to go. My maternal grandfather had a multipurpose shop, of all kinds of things. That was the only shop in the village so every kind of thing... a very miniature market it was rather than a shop. So I started playing with sweets and things, and I don′t know how it occurred to me... but soon people were continually coming who were sick; and there was no doctor, no physician, no hospital, even for hundreds of miles, no hospital.
Somehow it came to me that if people think of me as a saint, and they touch my feet, I would start giving them medicines. And the medicines were nothing but mixtures of a few sweets, ground well, powdered, and kept in bottles of different colors. And of course, people who get fever or headache or a stomachache don′t die. And they started getting cured. They were going to be cured anyway - that was not a miracle, but it became a miracle.
My nana, my maternal grandfather, started saying, "You will spoil my shop - now it is a hospital! The whole day people are coming and sometimes I even have to give your medicines, and I have no idea what those medicines are! You are destroying my sweets and my shop. But they are getting cured, so no harm, you continue."
When I moved after seven years to my father′s house I dropped that business of giving medicines, but people from that village, whenever they used to come, would remind me. They had already started calling me Doctor Sahib, and I would say, "Please don′t use that word here, because I have stopped that profession completely. In the first place there are no sweets here; my father has a shop of cloth, I cannot make medicines out of cloth. And here nobody knows that I can do miracles. First people have to know, then you can do them; otherwise you cannot."