Since I began traveling out of North America in the last year and a half I’ve started to notice something profound: long hair, a beard, and sandals just screams “I am spiritual!” It’s hilarious to me because, as most of you know, I’ve never been very spiritual; I would categorize myself many ways but “spiritual” just isn’t one of them! My first experience with this was in southern India when kids on the street would walk up to me, tap me, point to my hair, and say “Sai Baba!” It wasn’t until I returned to the States when I realized what the heck they meant.
Apparently there are two Sai Babas, and I look like the guy who claims to be the reincarnate of the first one. The first guy, Sai Baba of Shirdi, has been dead since 1918. He was an interesting man who practiced a mix of Islam and Hinduism and promoted cooperation between all faiths; and I look nothing like him. Sathya Sai Baba has a massive afro and looks to be African. I’m pretty sure Sathya Sai Baba only practiced Hinduism, but his teaching of love and unity of all world religions picked up where Sai of Shirdi left off.
Jesus of Nazareth
Here in Kenya there is a Christian majority, and as you can guess… I get a lot of comments about looking like Jesus. Sometimes I will hear someone yell “Jesus!” as I’m walking around the streets of Nairobi. Just the other day I was boarding a bus in Tala and I heard someone whisper “Yesu” as I sat down; maybe they thought that if they used Swahili I wouldn’t realize they were talking about me! And it’s not just Jesus, apparently I resemble other hairy men of the book like Moses and Abraham, too!
On the topic of spirituality, here’s a little story about hanging out in India. Randi and I were standing in a train station near Agra minding our own business when a Hindu pilgrim walked up and asked me a question in Hindi. He looked very dedicated… barefoot, black robe, a walking stick, and a jar for donations. Some young kids translated that he wanted to know if I believed in god. Without thinking I responded, “Oh… nope!” and the pilgrim looked bewildered. I pictured the man whacking me with his stick, and then I remembered Sai Baba’s teaching that all religions are ok. I quickly said, “Sai Baba” and then the pilgrim looked pleased, pressed his hands, bowed slightly, and walked away.
Saved by Sai Baba!