The young Sai Baba was getting more and more reluctant to be bound by routine, the time to declare Himself and to renounce the family had come. On the 20th October, 1940, Sathya started off to school as usual. That day Sri Anjaneyalu, the Excise Inspector of Uravakonda who was very attached to Sathya accompanied Him as far as the school gate for he had seen a brilliant halo around Sathya’s head. As usual Sathya stepped into the dais to sing the school prayer at the morning assembly. After the prayer Sathya suddenly announced, “I do not belong to you, hence forth I belong to those who need me and call me.” Sathya came down the steps even before the assembly realized the significance of what He had declared. He then walked home.
Standing on the door step Sathya cast aside his school books and called out, “I am no longer your Sathya, I am Sai.” Hearing these words the sister-in-law came from the kitchen and looked out. She was almost blinded by the splendor of the halo over the young boy’s head. She closed her eyes and shrieked. Sathya told her, “I am going. I don’t belong to you. Maya (illusion) has gone. My devotees are calling me. I have My work. I cannot stay any longer.” He turned and left in spite of her pleading. Hearing of this Seshama hurried home. Sathya merely said, “Give up your efforts to cure me. I am Sai. I don’t consider myself related to you.” A neighbor Sri Narayana Sastri, hearing voices came to see what was the matter, he saw the halo and fell at Sathya’s feet. Seshama did not know what to do. As Sathya has been entrusted to his care by the parents, he felt Sathya should remain in his house until he could inform the parents of what was happening.
But Sathya would not step into the house again. He moved in to the garden of Sri Anjaneyalu’s bungalow and sat down on a rock under the trees. People came from all directions bringing flowers and fruit. The first teaching Baba gave them was:
“Manasa Bhajare Guru charanam Dustara Bhava sagara tharanam”
Meditate in your mind on the feet of the Guru. They will take you across the difficult ocean of life. People sang the lines in chorus and the grove resounded with the voices of hundreds. Sathya’s classmates wept when they heard that He would no longer attend the school and that He was much beyond their reach.
Three days passed in that garden-they were days of worship. A photographer came there and asked Baba to remove a big stone that was right in front of Him. So that he would take a nice picture. Baba did not pay any heed to his request. The picture was taken nevertheless and in the photograph the stone had become an image of Sai baba of Shirdi!
One evening when Bhajans were being sung, Baba suddenly said, “Maya (Illusion) has come!” He pointed out to Easwaramma who had just come from Puttaparthi. When the parents pleaded with Him to come home, He asked, “Who belongs to whom?” He kept saying, “It is all an illusion—–untrue.”
At last He asked the mother to serve Him some food. She placed some dishes before Him. Baba mixed them all up and made the whole lot into a few balls. The mother handed Him three of these. Swallowing them He said, “Now false appearance has disappeared. There is no need to worry.”
Easwaramma asked Sathya for a boon. “Give me your word that you will remain at Puttaparthi. Don’t go away from us.” She pleaded, “We will welcome and look after your devotees in Puttaparthi.” Now came Sathya’s momentous answer, “I have chosen Puttaparthi as my ‘kshetra’. The boon is granted not just to you, but to the village and to the world itself. I shall come there on Thursday.”
Easwaramma was speechless with delight; her face beamed the good news to all around. Now she was assured that she could witness her son’s glory all her life; and that she, her daughters and the adoring Subbamma could care for Him at least as far as His food was concerned!
The news spread like lightning that Sathya was to go to Puttaparthi and would perhaps not return. People from all walks of life rushed to the garden. Baba gave Vibhuti to his teachers seated in front. Today Baba calls Vibhuti as His visiting card! It is a mark of His loving grace. And a reminder that everything in this world is one day turn into ash.
The day Sathya was to leave Uravakonda, the townsmen arranged a procession. Sathya sat on a decorated cart drawn by caparisoned bullocks. Seshama Raju and the youngest brother Janakiram were right in front. Easwaramma, her daughters and daughter- in- law were among the hundreds of women in the throng. A band of drums, bagpipes, clarionets and jingles played at the head of the moving mass of devotion.
When the limits of the town were reached, people were gently asked to turn back; but few had the heart to return to dreariness without their dear Sathya. Many had decided to follow Him and be at Puttaparthi at least for a week.
Easwamma was bringing back Sai Baba to Puttaparthi. He was no longer Sathya Narayana Raju, a student of the High School at Uravakonda. He was now SaiBaba the teacher of Truth.