Spiritual Journey

Background:  In life’s journey you meet people, from time to time, who are unique and special, but occasionally you meet someone who is carrying a message and needs to deliver it to you.
In theater there’s a term, suspension of disbelief. It makes it possible to participate in the magic about to happen on stage or on screen. Without that conscious effort, coming from within each audience member, much of the opportunity to enjoy or understand the meaning, or feel the power of the performance, is lost. It’s like that in real life, not just in theatrical situations. Sometimes it’s important to suspend disbelief, not blindly believe, but to just suspend your cynical side for a few minutes and simply listen to a story.
About 15 or 20 years years ago I met a spiritual woman, she was recommended to me specifically. I was told I should meet her. She had been going to India every Summer for years. She had just returned. She explained that she had to tell me a story. She told of an American who had built a hospital for the people of India in a tiny town, Puttaparthi, he had taken all his wealth and done this, she explained. She shared her wonder at being there and that she was to tell me about it. No one told her to tell me, she had not met the American, she just knew she must tell this story to me. At the end of the story she said the American’s name was Isaac Tigrett. She didn’t know him.  She had no idea I knew Isaac. She didn’t know why I needed to know. She gave me a tiny framed picture of Sathya Sai Baba, the holy man she went to see.

A Spiritual Journey:  Isaac Burton Tigrett

Even from a distance, a close look at Isaac Tigrett’s efforts have always held clues to a deep spiritual journey. The Hard Rock Cafe, his first business he opened in London in 1971, had a very public, very spiritual, vision… Love All, Serve All.

His House of Blues logo was a sacred heart shape with a crown of thorns, and a flame. This is not a man who is casual about spirituality. In fact he began a spiritual quest long before he could vote. He knew there was a holy man that was calling him, he just didn’t know who. He searched for years and in 1974 he met Sathya Sai Baba in India. The holy man, the second reincarnation of Sri Shiridi Sai Baba, who died in 1913 is part of a triple incarnation that will end with Prema Sai Baba several years from now.

Isaac had been coming to India searching for understanding. When he finally met Sathya Sai Baba, Isaac says the holy man said, “You’ve come at last, we are not new friends we are old friends, wait here.”

Isaac continued to return ten or more times each year to Puttaparthi, India for the next 15 years. (To put that in perspective, the last part of the journey involved many miles and many hours from the airport on very bad roads.)  During that almost 15 years, for almost 200 round trips to India, Sai Baba  said nothing to Isaac. Isaac continued to make these trips to India, but since Isaac was being ignored, Isaac read Sai Baba’s writings and meditated. In 1989 Sai Baba explained to Isaac that the 15 years was to help him prepare and to shield Isaac from the distraction of being in Sai Baba’s physical presence. In order for Isaac to be useful, Isaac needed to understand his own divinity, the divinity in every living being.

(It’s important to understand that Sai Baba was not advocating a particular religion, he was not a Messiah.  He spoke of the value of all religions and the divinity within each of us.  He had followers who built ashrams in 126 countries and tens of millions traveled to India each year to be close to him, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, every faith found resonance in his message.)

Sai Baba asked Isaac to build a huge hospital there in Puttaparthi. Isaac immediately met with the World Health Organization who has extensive experience in building hospitals worldwide. They cautioned that the impoverished people of that region in India might be unwilling to come to an imposing western style hospital, and in any event, the environment, the dust, bad water, non existent infrastructure, could not support a hospital the size that Sai Baba had envisioned. At the close of the meeting with the World Health Organization panel, a participant who arrived late to the meeting, joined the panel and asked who was behind this project. Isaac answered, Sai Baba. That panel member smiled and said if this hospital could be successful anywhere it would be possible only with the support of a Holy man like Sai Baba.

Isaac was in charge of the entire project, chose the architect, builder and opened the 500 bed hospital, on Sai Baba’s schedule, with the Prime Minister of India on hand for two open heart surgeries on opening day.

In 2007 Sai Baba asked Isaac to live out the remainder of his life at his ashram, Prashanthi Nilayam. An honor that a spiritual man like Isaac would understand.  He has been living there since.

Sai Baba died in 2011. But before that, through a series of interviews Isaac was given drawings and plans for the future. At Sai Baba’s request, the plans could be made public only after Sai Baba’s death. Isaac has met with the Sai Organization and shared the plans and drawings.

(Update January 2015:  Puttaparthi, India)  After Sai Baba died he began to appear to a handful of his followers including Isaac.  They shared their experiences with one another.  They had received updates and direction on existing projects as well as instructions to start new ones, but his followers assumed that these meetings would be private.

(At the beginning of this article I mentioned the concept of suspension of disbelief, and for a short time ignoring your own cynicism.  Now is a good time to invoke that concept.)

Late in 2014 Sai Baba began inviting specific groups to come to his home on a weekly basis.  Mostly young people have been invited, graduates of his colleges and high schools. At these meetings he speaks through a young man who he chose, and then through an interpreter in English.  These meetings have been taking place for several months.  I attended one.  It’s real.

The meetings produce a kind of message or discourse that lasts less than an hour and then the students get to ask questions, which he answers.  The discourses are taped and transcribed into the 20 dialects within India and all the rest of the world’s languages.  These discourses are being printed for distribution and will be available for downloading on the internet.  There are more than 50 people working on the various translations.

Cliff Notes:  India is about 20 provinces who speak similar but languages.   They hate each other.  If you think the U.S. is polarized with the liberal media and Fox News, or red states and blue states, we are pikers when it comes to getting nothing done for anyone in our nation’s capital. The government of India has apparently built nearly nothing for hundreds of years.  However, Sai Baba became nationally recognized for building water projects, universities, public schools and hospitals over the last 30 years.  These are not small projects they are TVA-sized mega projects, critical to the safety and well being of the people, that should have been created by a responsive government but they weren’t.  The point is that Sai Baba was and is the most important name in India.

A few years ago Sai Baba made news by predicting that a little known, obscure political figure and devotee of his, Narendra Modi would become prime minister.  This was dismissed by everyone in the know…. Well,  that guy you saw hugging President Obama last year, yep that was their new Prime Minister Modi.  He was not only elected, but his party has the majority in both houses of the legislature, he enjoys almost universal support and he is launching projects that the government should have done years ago.  Prime Minister Modi has acknowledged his devotion to Sai Baba.

So, stay tuned.

John Reitzammer

New Bridge Bio Films

2 Responses to Spiritual Journey

  1. Rebecca Ellens says:

    Hi John, Thank you for sharing this with me. It leaves me feeling I want to travel again to India….soon. I am grateful that you are who you are….doing what you are doing. I would love to hear about your experience in Muddenahali. Say hello to Beth for me….Lovingly, Rebecca

  2. Pingback: Isaac Tigrett | Southern Music Experience at the Carnegie - Jackson, TN

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