Dr. Abraham T. Kovoor was a free thinker, rationalist
and psychiatrist, from Kerala, South India, who later spent his life in Sri Lanka. He was
the president of the Rationalist Association of Sri Lanka and a very prominent skeptic
with whom I corresponded frequently back in pre-fax and pre-e-mail times. I never got to
meet the gentleman, unfortunately for me.
I reproduce here, from the Indian Skeptic journal of the Indian Committee for
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal with the kind permission of
the Committee an exchange of correspondence that examines a claimed miracle of
Sathya Sai Baba. This "miracle" is one that was brought up to me by an American
follower of Sai Baba a few months ago at one of my lectures. Now, thirty years after this
rather conclusive exposure of the miracle as a trumped-up story, one might think that
believers in this unlikely godman would have had serious doubts about his divinity, but
apparently not. The devotee who flouted this wonder before me as an example of proof,
relished his imagined victory....
Dr. Kovoor writes:
I was invited to give a lecture at the Indian Institute of technology at Guindy. During
a conversation before the lecture, one of the professors at the institute told me that the
majority of youths who take to the study of science and technology do so not because they
have any scientific attitude, nor aptitude, but just because such a course helps them to
get lucrative jobs. And the reason why some of the eminent scientists of India have given
up their science, and have become devotees of godmen of that country, is because they have
found that they can make more money by being in collusive devotion to such hoaxers, than
by continuing scientific pursuits.
A few months ago the editor of a mass circulation weekly of India wrote me a letter
saying that the Editorial Board of his weekly had decided a publish a symposium on
"Sathya Sai Baba Is He an Incarnation of God, or a Charlatan?" and wanted
me to be the first contributor to the series. My article was serialized in three issues,
then followed by two articles countering my thesis by Dr. S. Bhagavantham, M.Sc., D.Sc.,
Ph.D., a former scientific advisor to the Government of India.
[Dr. Suri Bhagavantham, described by an admirer as "an eminent nuclear
scientist," though he never earned any degree at a university, said to an audience
about Sai Baba that "He is a phenomenon, He is transcendental, He is divine, He is an
incarnation, He is our nearest kith and kin; turn to Him for the eternal message. That
alone can save us." Gee, then I wonder why, in the 1980's, this admirer suddenly left
the movement, without any explanation? Maybe he just got smart?]
Dr. Bhagavantham started his article by saying that in his youth he was a rationalist
like me, but after witnessing some of the miracles of Sai Baba, he had to give up his
rationalism. He then began to describe numerous "miracles" said to have been
performed by Sai Baba in various places. There was no mention in either of the two
articles of anyone having conducted investigations to establish that they were all genuine
miracles and not conjurer's tricks.
The two articles appeared to be clear examples of how unscientific even a good
scientist can become if he is a victim of religio-manic neurosis or avarice. In all the
miracle stories mentioned, there was only one that was amenable to investigation. I quote
that story below.
The wonderful experience, some years ago, of a world-famous watch manufacturer of
Japan, while he was on tour in India, was awe-inspiring. After completing the Seiko series
of watches he made a model of a more superior type, and kept it in his safe for further
tests. While touring India he paid a visit to Sai Baba's abode just out of curiosity. On
seeing the Japanese gentleman among the devotees Sai Baba materialized a small parcel from
the air and gave it to him. On opening the parcel he was astonished to see the same watch
that was kept in his safe.
When he saw along with the watch, the silk ribbon and label with the new name of the
watch and the price marked on it, all his doubts about the divine powers of Sai Baba
simply melted away. He fell prostrate at Sai Baba's feet and worshiped him, and since then
has been an ardent devotee.
On his return to Japan, he was shocked to see that the watch he had kept in his safe
was not there. What his personal secretary told him was even more startling. The secretary
said that a divine-looking person with bushy hair walked into the office one day, opened
the safe and walked away with the watch.
[Plucking watches out of the air rather clumsily, viewed from the magician's
point of view, but well enough to please the devotees is a favorite trick of Sai
Baba. It's only prosperous members of his audience that receive these; the others settle
for cheap gold-colored rings with badly-printed portraits of the godman. People from Seiko
apparently got into the habit of visiting Sai Baba's public performances. Sam Dalal was a
magician/writer living in Calcutta, India, back in the '70s. I lost contact with him long
ago. He told me that Sai Baba "materialized" a Seiko watch for a Seiko watch
company executive visiting India. Curious, Sam asked for the serial number from the
executive, and traced it to a distributor's warehouse not far from the site where the
"materialization" took place. And think about it: why would a
magically-conjured-up wristwatch have a serial number?]
Dr. Kovoor continues....
Does Dr. Bhagavantham, who is the holder of coveted qualifications in science, think
that a thesis of this nature to prove the miraculous powers of a man by any
scientist, will be accepted by an academic body of scientists if it is not backed by
scientific investigations and fool-proof evidence? As Dr. Bhagavantham was reluctant to
test the veracity of his godman's miraculous powers, I decided to do it myself. With this
aim in view I wrote the following letter to him:
Dear Dr. Bhagavantham,
I read your story about a Japanese watch manufacturer getting his own watch that was
kept in a safe in Japan, materialized in India from air by Sathya Sai Baba. My scientific
attitude does not permit me to accept this fantastic story as true without verification.
My doubt is enhanced by the reported statement by his personal secretary. The first
reaction of a responsible secretary when a stranger walks into the office and opens the
safe, would be to raise the alarm and to summon the police. As I feel it is unscientific
even for a scientist to believe this type of story without verification, I request you to
kindly let me know the name and address of this Japanese so that I may verify the truth
about it. Your failure to help me to conduct this investigation by withholding this
information, will lead me to suspect your sincerity and honesty, and to discard all that
you have said about Sathya Sai Baba as utter falsehood deliberately propagated with an
ulterior motive and vested interest.
Yours in search of Truth, Abraham T. Kovoor
When there was no response from Dr. Bhagavantham after two months, I decided to pursue
the matter myself. The Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka provided me with the name and address
of the proprietor of Seiko, the watch manufacturing firm. In my letter dated 30/10/73 to
Mr. Shoji Hattori, president of K. Hattori & Co. Ltd., the manufacturers of Seiko
watches, I reproduced Dr. Bhagavantham's story about the miracle and requested him to
provide me with the answers to the following questions:
1. Did you or any partners of yours visit Sathya Sai Baba of India at any time?
2. Did Sai Baba materialize a watch from air and present it to you or your partners?
3. Did your personal secretary tell you or any of your partners that a stranger opened
the safe and walked away with a watch?
4. Are you or any of your partners devotees of Sai Baba?
For the benefit of numerous innocent devotees of godmen of India, I reproduce below Mr.
Hattori's reply. This I do with the sincere hope that they will be sensible enough to
realize the truth that these charlatans who go about in the garb of holy men have numerous
agents like Dr. Bhagavantham, everywhere, working in collusion to propagate the huge hoax
and to profit materially.
Seiko-Japan (address given) 8/11/73
Dear Dr. Kovoor,
Thank you for your letter of October 30th. I can appreciate your interest in conducting
scientific research of paranormal claims, but I am in no way able to further your
knowledge as regards the man mentioned in your letter, Mr. Sai Baba. Neither I nor any
members of my staff have ever made the acquaintance of this individual. I am sure that
these reports are completely unfounded. I must therefore reply in the negative to all four
of your questions concerning this incident.
Signed, Shoji Hattori,
President K. Hattori & Co. Ltd.
On receipt of this letter I wrote to Dr. Bhagavantham, enclosing a photostat copy of
Mr. Shoji Hattori's letter, and said:
If Mr. Shoji Hattori is not the person concerned in your story, please let me know
about it, and provide me with the correct name and address. Absence of any reply from you
for this letter also, will confirm my firm belief that you are, an agent for Sathya Sai
Baba, doing propaganda for him with ulterior motives and a vested interest.
Yours in search of truth, Abraham T. Kovoor.
Since there has been no reply, it confirms my belief that Dr. Bhagavantham is in
collusion with Sai Baba.
We miss you, Dr. Kovoor. Your confrontational manner seems to remind me of another
skeptic, who is probably just as unloved as you were by the godmen he regularly calls to
account. I can't quite think of his name....
Note from the editors of www.exbaba.com:
An article concerning the same subject, written by Abraham Kovoor is available on our
site - Begone Godmen!