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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre gets $489,300 provincial grant to build South Asian community centre

A community centre being expanded by a religious organization devoted to a recently deceased guru with millions of followers worldwide has received a big boost from the provincial government.

The Sai Baba Centre is an Indian-based operation organized around the teachings of Sathyanarayana Raju, aka Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who claimed to be the reincarnation of another spiritual leader who died 8 years before Raju was born.

The community centre, which received the $489,300 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation's Community Capital Fund, is meant to serve the South Asian community in Scarborough with health, youth and various other social services programs.

According to the centre's president, Mohana Thirukesan, the building at 5321 Finch Avenue will be expanded by about 40 per cent from its current 28,000 square feet. The centre has no payroll, relying on about 500 volunteers, doing good works such as providing hot meals to shelters, visiting the elderly and teaching youth "human values based on Baba's teachings," says Thirukesan. The expansion will allow the volume of these free services to increase, offering lessons to 900 youth, for instance, instead of the current 700.

Sai Baba's teachings took principles from Hinduism and Islam, and its logo, which includes the motto "Love all, serve all, help ever, hurt never", also includes the Star of David.

Upon his death in April, Sai Baba, whose miracles involving conjuring had recently been debunked, was found to have been in possession of, among other things, 500 pairs of shoes, 750 robes and hundreds of kilograms of gold, silver and gems.

Writer: Bert Archer

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