Sathya Sai Baba's much-quoted penny proverb: "Nature is the best teacher"
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Sathya Sai Baba often says that nature is the best teacher. He never says better than what (one may presume even this is better than his own vaporous and vapid teachings?). This aphorism is one of those plastered up here and there around his ashram, a sentimental platitude which denies all reasonable interpretation, as even a schoolboy can understand. However, Sathya Sai Baba never specifies what it is that nature supposedly teaches, but waffles on with vague analogies to the workings of the human, animal behaviour and other natural phenomena. Here is one typical example:
"All the limbs [of the body]... are carrying out their respective duties without any concern for their rewards. This is, indeed, the lesson to be learnt from the ways of nature It has been well said: Nature is the best teacher. Look at the way the heart functions; the impure blood comes through one channel, it is purified an pumped to all parts of the body through another channel. This is the process by which the body is kept hale and healthy. This is how the Divine works." (p. 69, Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 27)
Comment: It is laughably ridiculous to think of limbs having concern at all, let alone for rewards. To suggest they 'carry out duties' is absurdly to read human motive into natural phenomena - anthropomorphism taken to a hilarious degree. So the functioning heart is the model of purification! What of heart failure, then... is that not also natural? And why is it that human beings can carry out bypass surgery and even heart transplants without the slightest aid 'from the divine', but by entirely natural means and even by confirmed atheists?
Nature has many wonders, intricacies, beauties and events from which we can derive many good things, but it also has many horrors. If "Nature is the best teacher" then what of the fact that, in nature, everything is an endless battle for survival. 'Survival of the fittest' is 'the rule of the jungle'. What does the 'tooth and claw' aspect of nature teach, and how does it do so? The complete lack of compassion shown by the predator, the unrelenting nature of the struggle for survival is hardly educative. As David Attenborough has commented when accused of not referring to God as the Creator of Nature, those people always refer to the 'good' things we can see in or interpret from nature, but what of the five-year old boy who has a worm within his head, boring into his eye so he becomes blind? Is this God the Creator's work too? What is 'Nature' teaching us in this, and countless other of the horrific consequences of many natural events? Anyone who claims to be an "Universal Divine Teacher" should be able to do a whole lot better than this, which goes to prove at least that "Sai Baba is NOT the best teacher!"
"Learn lessons from the Sun, Moon, the clouds, the sea --- all are teachers of the prime importance of discharging one's duty, without complaint. Trees distribute their fruits and their shade to every one, even those who lay an axe with intention to destroy them.! Mountains suffer heat, rain and storm without demur, and are plunged in meditation for ages. Birds do not hoard for years together... [and so on]" (p. 137, Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 10)
Comment: We are taught by Sai Baba - i.e. and so not by Nature - that the mountains apparently invented meditation and taught it to mankind! What kind of 'illumined Universal Teaching' is this? Trees are made to appear as conscious, charitable, unselfish beings, which is fanciful in the extreme (only in fantasy stories like 'The Lord of the Rings' does this kind of primitive anthropomorphic superstition work). However, it must be admitted that the Sun, Moon, clouds and sea never complain, though many suns explode, moons collide, clouds cause floods and destruction and seas create tsunamis and more... they are surely not complaining. But what should we learn from that, one wonders? Don't trust them too much, is what most people would learn. If 'the Divine' is behind them, then don't trust that either, particularly when Sathya Sai Baba Himself claimed to be that very Divine Teacher. Sathya Sai Baba has proven his untrustworthiness to the n'th degree already in 'the message of his life', which is to deceive and spread untruths!
Birds are mostly predators who cannot hoard as they have no means to do so. How could, say, seabirds hoard their fish.. by freezing it, drying it, frying it... one has to chuckle. However, Sai Baba is over-generalisingly inaccurate as ever, because some very few exceptional species of bird DO hoard, the nuthatch as an example. Sai Baba uses crows as examples of unselfish creatures because they crow when they find food and so inform their 'brothers and sisters' so they can share in the meal! And the meal is often a not-yet-dead bird or animal! Vultures and many other birds have a stringent 'pecking order' and fight over the common meal. It seems from many other of his discourses that Sai Baba encourages mankind to learn that there is a pecking order and one must stick to one place and do one's duty! Sai Baba occasionally echoes the romantic notions that man (i.e.Adam or Manu) learned to weave from the spider or the weaver bird, to build dams from beavers and so on... extremely unlikely, a hypothesis with about the lowest likelihood of any in evolutionary theory. Did the birds teach how to create the Boeing 747, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station? Which animals teach about how to deal with zero gravity and its problems? None ever taught us anything as such and I can't see how I could evern be convinced otherwise.
"Nature (Prakrithi) is your school, your laboratory, the gateway to liberation, and the panorama of God's manifold majesty. Seek to know the lessons it is ready to teach; all things are as Brahman as you are." (p. 137, Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 10).
Did the sun teach how to make the super-destructive hydrogen bomb? Or did mankind learn this through his own struggles to understand the universe? Now, to say that 'Nature' taught mankind all these things is to pretend that inorganic, inanimate nature teaches just by being there. This is patently the extreme of absurdity.
At the top of the food chain, the human being is certainly far and away the biggest and most selfish predator in nature. Nature does not teach "Love all, Serve all", which Sathya Sai Baba would teach. This shows how empty and deceptive his constantly-quoted penny proverb 'Nature is the best teacher' actually is.
The nature of animals as perverted by mankind
The following account of his encounter with wild animals in East Africa was delivered to an adult audience 22-8-2007.
"I have never visited any foreign country except East Africa. Even in East Africa, I spent most of My time seeing wild life in the forests and observing the good qualities of wild animals. There I saw large hordes of elephants; that looked very beautiful and majestic. I offered bananas to some elephants, which they accepted very gladly and wanted more of them. Their ears were as big as a winnowing pan. When they swished their ears, mosquitoes sitting even at a long distance would fly away. There were many zebras and giraffes also. They were happily moving in the forest. "
How did he observe 'good qualities' and 'happiness' in animals in his brief encounter with them. Here is how he saw lions:-
"I saw a group of lions sitting at one place with their young ones. Even when we were very close to them, they did not show any feeling of enmity. In this way, all the wild animals behaved in a very gentle manner." Anyone who studies nature at all will know that, in the wild life reservations such as he visited, lions are commonly unconcerned by humans. Besides, lions do not hunt all the time, and often mainly at night (except in drought), while male lions are seldom the hunters. But Sai Baba drew far-reaching conclusions from his uninformed and highly-coloured perception of them as essentially harmless creatures:-
"None of these wild animals causes any harm to man. They will be inimical toward us only when we approach them with the intention of harming them. Otherwise, they will be friendly with us and follow us like pets." and "Your evil qualities are reflected in the animals. If your feelings are good, the snakes will also not harm you even if you were to lie down by their side. Otherwise, your own pet cow may gore you with its horns. If a person is angry with you, what is the reason? It is only reaction, reflection, and resound of your own feelings. It is only the evil qualities of man that bring about a change in the gentle nature of animals, birds and beasts. Today, there is hatred and conflict even between two sons of the same mother! What is the reason for this mutual hatred? Their evil qualities are responsible for this."
His view was that of a protected visitor - and his “gentle" pets were 'on their best behaviour', evidently. He neglects the instructive phrase that predators are naturally 'red in tooth and claw'. So much for his vaunted 'divine omniscience'. His view on the cause of mutual hatred between mother and son shows near zero psychological insight... it is futile old-time moralism and nothing more. Darwin himself once aspired to be a country parson and held similar ideas about the 'harmony of nature and its animals', but he came face to face with nature in the raw and found the life of most animals t eb a struggle of survival, suffering and death... a brutal reality, which followed inexorable laws like those of econonics' 'supply and demand'. Those were among the many empirical facts in many areas he investigated which caused him to stand up for the theory of evolution, a theory which has triumphed in a gigantic collection of evidence of the origin of species, including - of course - human kind. The sheer vastness of the evidence, constantly being filled out further and supplements in the most amazing ways must convince anyone of the basic truth of evolution from the earlies organisms who has an intelligence brain which is actually being employed frutifully. Interestingly, Sathya Sai Baba has never referred to dinosaurs in any publishedf discourse or writing. The predators were most certainly not gentle, and ther were no human beings around then to influence them one way or the othere.
How far he is from modern scientific understanding of aggression can be seen by referring even to Wikipedia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggression):- “Aggression is a perplexing phenomenon. Why are people motivated to hurt each other? How does violence help organisms to survive and reproduce? After two centuries of theories and technological advances, psychologists and other scientists have been able to look deeply into aggression’s biological and evolutionary roots, as well as its consequences in society: “
Wikipedia classifies seven main types of aggression, the first being: “Predatory aggression: attack on prey by a predator." Sai Baba’s much publicised aphorism, “Nature is the best teacher” is also one of the vaguest and most fanciful he has managed so far! Here at least we learn that Sathya Sai Baba is surely not the best teacher about nature or its animals.
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