The Tiger Skin Story From Prasanthi Nilayam

When He walked the Earth as Sri Sathya Sai, every moment with Him turned out to be a lesson, lesson in watching Him ‘walking His talk’, making His Life His Message for everyone to follow. Long ago during His teen days, Bhagawan encountered an English hunter at Uravakonda, who sought after Him for His magical help in starting his stranded vehicle in the forest. …And Bhagawan left him ‘enlightened’ asking him not to shoot any more wild beasts, advising him to shoot them with his camera. …And thus the story of Bhagawan’s tiger mat in the bhajan hall in Prasanthi Nilayam, as narrated by Prof Kasturi in ‘Sathyam Sivam Sundaram’. While reading this, one need to understand the inner significance of the tiger skin in spirituality. Tiger skin is symbolic of conquering animal, beastial tendecies or vasanas in man. 

One day a jeep-driver crossed the river bed and walked the streets of Puttaparthi, trying to locate Swami. His master, a young English sub-divisional officer, had gone for Shikar (hunting) to the forest on the other side of the Chitravathi, and while returning to Anantapur the vehicle had stopped right opposite Puttaparthi village.

The driver did his best, as did the officer, to get the vehicle moving, but failed. The driver suggested that there was a ‘Boy’ at Puttaparthi who could materialise Vibhuti (sacred ash). Yes, “create, by a circular movement of His palm, the very panacea for all ills, even for the jeep!” Stranded halfway, the Englishman agreed and let the driver go to the village, while he himself sat in the jeep.

The driver bumped into the Boy at last, but was astounded to hear Baba say, “I Am coming, myself, to the jeep.” He walked across the sandy bed, and on reaching the road, peeped into the vehicle and saw the carcass of a tiger that the officer had shot barely two hours ago.

Swami’s deep love for all beings could not tolerate animals being killed or tortured. He said, “I stopped the jeep at this place, for it is a mother, whose three small cubs are at this very time loudly wailing and calling out to her, that you are carrying. Go back! Recover those cubs and gift them to some zoo where they will be well looked after. And do not shoot wild beasts again, for they have caused you no harm. Why do you kill them, surround them and lay traps to catch them. Shoot them instead with a more superior weapon, your camera. That won’t maim or kill them.”

The Englishman was at once enlightened, and he never carried a firearm again. Shooting wild beasts armed with a camera, he discovered, was far more adventurous and sathwic (pure). He presented the orphaned cubs to the zoo, and when the tiger skin came back from the taxidermist, he brought it to Puttaparthi. Prasanthi Mandir was then under construction. He met Baba and placed the skin at His Feet. Sakamma of Coorg pleaded with Him to sit on it in Yogic fashion, with a rosary between His fingers. She had a photographer ready. And Baba obliged, though He has never sat in Dhyana (meditation) or held a rosary!

(PS: Tiger skin in Indian spirituality signifies overcoming animal, beastial tendencies, vasanas.)

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II