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Pilgrimage to Colusa

von Carole Ashley

- Colusa, Kalifornien -
Colusa is an unlikely place for a miracle. It is a quiet farming town in the fertile Central Valley of California, about four hours north of San Francisco. As we approached the town, the smell of fertilizer permeated the air and a dusty haze filtered the sunshine. Our car turned onto a shady, tree-lined street with modest ranch houses.

We were greeted at the front door of the corner house by the owner, an immigrant from Fiji who has resided in the United States for more than 20
years. He is a long-time devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the famous Avatar or saint of southern India. Before his discovery of Sai Baba, our
host was a devout worshiper of the Lord Shiva, the “God the Father” aspect of the Hindu Trinity. We were invited to enter the shrine room,
where holy songs or bhajans are sung to Sai Baba in a service of worship.

The shrine room is just to the right of the entrance hall, and it is the most remarkable room I have ever seen.

The visual feast of pictures alone dazzles the eye. Every inch of wall-space is filled with holy images of all sizes and descriptions: Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai (the previous incarnation of Sai Baba), Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesh, and even the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A low platform stretches the full length of the room, covered with more pictures, sculptures of Shiva Nataraj in the dance of creation and the elephant-headed God Ganesh, a sacred lingam, abundant flowers, and a red-upholstered chair and ottoman
dedicated to the symbolic and living presence of Sai Baba. There is no other furniture in the room, since it is dedicated to worship. Pillows are scattered on the floor for seating.

What makes this room special, however, is the living miracle taking place within it. Pictures are oozing honey, or amrita, which accumulates on the pictures before dripping into trays and plastic bags below. Sacred ash, or vibhuti grows on many pictures, and some images are almost totally covered by the flower-scented, soft gray ash. Other pictures have
materialized fragrant sandalwood or red kumkum, the substance used by the priestly Brahmin caste of India to paint the symbolic sacred mark between the eyebrows. A four-inch layer of vibhuti has accumulated on the Sai Baba chair, and on one occasion the sacred OM symbol spontaneously formed on the chair’s surface. The symbol only disappeared when the sacred ash continued to grow and covered it.

More miracles were evident in a small room off the hallway. The Fijian devotee explained that the cup of water he offered to Sai Baba every day for many years suddenly began to generate its own water. Now the overflow pours into a huge punch bowl beneath the glass. Curiously, the water level in the glass is always higher than the top edge of the glass. The water also exudes a faint fragrance of jasmine.

I asked my host if I could leave two small crosses, gifts for friends, in the small room to be blessed. He graciously agreed, and I returned to the shrine room for a long evening of bhajans. This was a special evening
because it was the September celebration of Krishna’s birthday. Three hours of bhajans were followed by a break for fruit, tea, and a sweet almond-cereal dessert. Then after two more hours of bhajans, a refreshing
curry dinner was offered to all the guests.

Miracles also occurred that evening. I was told during the late evening dinner that the coconut placed on the altar before bhajans had been cracked wide open by the time the singing was ended. I went to look, and saw that it was true. Sai Baba had signaled His presence at the evening worship. Devotees in India often smash coconuts at Sai Baba’s feet as a sign of their devotion. This ritual symbolizes the death of the personality and new life as a spiritual being.

A second miracle involved the crosses I left to be blessed. Each cross had been placed in a small plastic cup with a lid, and when I went to retrieve them I discovered each had a small amount of honey-amrita beneath it.
Another miracle associated with this Colusa home, which had happened many months before, was recounted to me by one of my pilgrimage escorts during our journey from San Francisco to Colusa. According to her eyewitness account, Sai Baba miraculously appeared in a physical body inside the front door of this Colusa home in June 1995. The miracle was also witnessed by a busload of Sai Baba devotees from Los Angeles, who had just made a 14-hour pilgrimage to see the miraculous Colusa pictures.

According to her story, the Fijian devotee rushed to greet Sai Baba at the front door. Sai Baba asked him for a glass of water, and when he returned
with the water, the glass was slowly emptied before he reached Sai Baba. After thanking him for the water, Sai Baba walked into the devotee’s bedroom to give him a private interview, since he had never been to India to see Sai Baba. When Sai Baba subsequently disappeared, He left a trail
of vibhuti footprints behind Him as evidence of His visit.

My own Baba miracle took place during the break between bhajan sessions. I went into the living room and sat down on a couch to wait for the bathroom to become available. Seated across from me was an Indian woman with dark, blue-tinged skin dressed in traditional Indian clothing. I
noticed that she seemed autistic or empty of personality. Her eyes occasionally rolled upward, and her head lolled about, moving in slow motion from side to side.

Suddenly, she came alive. Vivid, joyful eyes looked at me, and she asked me: “Why have you come?” I was completely taken aback by this change
of persona, and I answered: “I’m waiting to use the bathroom.” An intensely joyous, playful look met my gaze, and she asked again: “Why are you here?” All of a sudden, without any logical reason, I just knew that this was Sai Baba. Not really trusting my intuitive recognition, I could only stare at her in disbelief. No thoughts came into my head, so I could not respond to her question. My one undying memory of that moment is an image of those beautiful dark eyes, full of intense life and joy.

A woman walked by at that moment, looked at the Indian lady, and in a graceful, loving gesture they both touched hands. This woman, a visiting healer from Brazil, was one of my escorts to Colusa. Later in the evening, when I was preparing to leave, I noticed that the Indian woman was still sitting on the couch. But once again she was just an empty shell, devoid of the playful personality and intensely vivid eyes of my brief encounter a few hours before.

When I related my pilgrimage adventure to a Sai Baba devotee in San Rafael, California, he commented: “Don’t you know? The two questions you were asked are the first questions Sai Baba asks of every newcomer to Prasanti Nilayam.” Sai Baba’s ashram, about 100 miles inland from Bangalore, India, is called Prasanti Nilayam, or “Abode of Supreme Peace”. My miracle seems real but unprovable — a tantalizing spiritual mystery. What I do know for certain is that those joyful eyes will be forever emblazoned upon my heart.

For information on pilgrimages to Colusa, contact the Sai Baba US headquarters in Tustin, California, tel: 714-669-0522. The Sai Baba internet address is: <>

Carole Ashley is a Share International co-worker from Las Vegas, USA.

from: Share International October 1999

Reprinted courtesy of © Share International

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