THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
By: Robert Priddy
From the website: Sathya Sai Baba - Extensive Information and Viewpoints
Part 5 - Ceiling on desires?
Around 1990, SB made a great fuss about a programme he (or someone else) named "Ceiling on Desires". It was heralded as the programme that would more or less save the world and humanity from ruin. It consisted in a call to reduce four kinds of desire, those connected to the use of 1) money 2) time 3) energy and 4) food (not necessarily in any set order). (See Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 22, p. 4 & Summer Showers at Brindavan 1990, p.29).
The Sai Org. took this up and promulgated it. SB detailed the US-naturalised Phyllis Krystal (oddly, never a member of the SSO) to hold workshops on this Ceiling on Desires. It was curious to observe that, when she visited Copenhagen for this purpose, she stayed at the country's very most luxurious and expensive hotel. It was probably quite natural to her - as a millionairess - that only the best would do. When seen in the context of how VIPs are treated in SB's ashrams, the VIPs like her have special seats for darshans and all other arrangements and special accommodation of varying degrees according their relative importance. There is a special block of fully equipped flats or suites like a hotel with a receptionist reserved for the use of the specially chosen. Then there is the VIP palace, a truly luxurious looking building reserved, apparently, for the VVIPs. Why does SB, who proclaims "there is only one caste, the caste of humanity", give so much special treatment to VIPs of different standing? It seems that the Ceiling on Desires has different heights according to the status of the devotee in worldly society.
The great boon from practicing 'Ceiling on Desires', according to all reports, is all that is sacrificed gains extra spiritual merit for oneself! This kind of sacrifice is literally filling up one's 'savings account' (good karma) in the after-world, according to SB! Is this really a great boon, or a great con? Well, if you're not an investigator like me, you'll have to wait until after you're dead and hope to find out then (but you may not)! It is implicitly understood by many, that any financial proceeds of sacrifice can be made out to the Sai Central Trust!
Others who have preached the 'Ceiling on Desires' programme include many of the so-called Central Coordinating leaders of the SSO. Many of these men (no women among them) jet around regularly from country to country to hold talks (with never more than a few fresh points to mention, at best). They all visit India at least once a year (when they have to attend the Guru Purnima celebration in July) and many visit more often. The amount of money thus spent on airline fares and all the other costs of such travels mount up to huge figures. For example, Mr. T. Meyer announced on Danish TV in March 2002 that he had visited SB 29 times (since then at least once more). He has also been to numerous countries to attend Sai workshops etc. The sum he has spent on airline tickets to India alone - wherever it may come from - must therefore amount to at the very least more than the equivalent of $US 20,000.- before all the other expenses etc. are added. Charles Penn had visited about 30 times before he died, likewise a longish list of SB's favourite authors. Multiply this by the all those office bearers who roughly the same, i.e. those who should set an example in Ceiling on Desires. I knew a large number of lower office-bearers who visited very often, not to mention hundreds of regulars from all over the world who visit at least yearly. No wonder SB was pronounced India's major foreign currency earner by The Economist (London)!
One wonders why SB no longer refers to the admittedly high-minded 'Ceiling on Desires'. One can but observe that it has gone out of the window, both in theory and practice.
In my extensive sociological study of the Sathya Sai Organisation, written down chiefly in 2000, I concluded on the basis of the collected data and analyses of its various practices, that one of the main functions it actually fulfils, although in theory it should not, is to channel money from the widest possible catchment area of devotees in rich countries. In stark contrast to what SB says, his organisation contributes, indirectly and increasingly more directly, to the funnelling of donations in huge amounts into his account and under his control. Why does SB 'allow' this discrepancy? The simple answer would be because money is a necessary ingredient of improving education, health and living conditions for the poor. To support this, SB points to the institutions like colleges, hospitals and village projects he has instigated. But why then does he repeatedly deny that he has any connection whatever with money - saying, "Where money is present, there I am absent"? This is clearly but a very clever device that hides the real situation and serves to put him apart from other money collecting men of god to avoid awakening scepticism, especially in Westerners. It also plays on the dualism of the supposed mystery of the avatar, the divine aspect is pure without cash, the human one is a different matter! This might however also be a case of a personality split between an ordinary villager and a transcendent mediumism or possessive spirit, or even just plain two-facedness, because:-
Firstly, he has stated that he countersigns every donation cheque personally. On a visit to his nephew, who was manager of the State Bank of India in Puttaparthi in 1986, I was actually allowed to flip through a wad of about 200 cheques to the Central Trust all signed by SB in his recognisable hand.
Secondly, he claims to be omnipresent, so how can he ever be absent where money is, or anywhere else? The answer to this is straightforward, he speaks with two tongues and confounds himself, whether he realises it or not. Yet an omniscient God should realise everything and so avoid such revealing self-contradictions.
Thirdly, but above all, an increasingly obvious fact is how his sheer financial power exerts huge influence on SB's behalf in India, which is seen in the way all the rich and politically powerful flock to his throne, and with them come the corrupt and criminal elements. Anyone who follows events around him has seen how all are made welcome! No waiting (or less than an hour, at least for the sake of appearances) for the very wealthy or powerful! There can be no doubt that money, which alone oils the wheels of politics and privilege in India, buys many favours. That SB was able to escape scot-free from the investigations of the police and the CBI into the murders under his very nose, and that the many sworn affidavits of victims of sexual abuse by him can make no headway in India, speaks its own language. That language is the one that talks loudest in India!
The biggest change in SB's relation to money seems to be his open acceptance nowadays of donations from known criminals. Formerly he was offered huge sums from disreputable people like a famous Mr. Singh, a Calcutta racehorse owner, which he gently refused (I know this from V.K. Narasimhan who told me the details as he had to write the letter declining the donation). The change in this policy became fully evident since about 1990, for he is now giving interviews to Indian power-brokers, including embezzlers and Mafia-connected politicians. A reliable informant, a good and tried person of many years' ashram experience, related what Swami said to a lady at an interview. When asked why he allows so many bad persons to occupy positions and receive what seems to be or most people regard as 'Grace' (i.e. his physical presence) etc., he replied that at the foot of a lighted candle there is darkness.
On SB's 70th birthday, when the extensive Rayalaseema project to provide water in the local area was inaugurated, Mr. Srinivas of the Central Trust of the Sathya Sai Organisation read out from the podium in front of SB a long list of major donors and the sums given (but only of those giving 10 million rupees or more!) All this was duly recorded on film and soundtracks, also transcribed and printed afterwards.. These donations totalled many millions of dollars, large sums coming from various devotees from such countries as the USA (eg. Mr. Sinclair) and Japan. It was noticeable too that the names included the contributions of Bhangarappa, a Karnataka politician known for corruption, who gave ten million rupees (i.e. one crore), and two famous Indian 'liquor barons' - which means illegal operators - one of whom, Mr. Reddy, was murdered in Madras only a week or so later.
The morning that the news of Reddy being shot dead arrived, V.K. Narasimhan came over and told me about it, for earlier he had recounted for me how he had been taken by SB in his car to visit the same Mr. Reddy in his palatial residence some months previously. Reddy had told SB that he wanted to get out of politics and other (criminal) involvements, which wish was anyhow now fulfilled definitively!
Other money coming in to the Trust and being accepted is said by a well-informed lady in an important post with access to inside financial information in Delhi (a defector from SB whose identity obviously cannot be revealed for security reasons) had checked the Central Trust's transactions and found that sums of money come from 'laundering' of illegal funds; donors including the known Indian drug- and gun-runner Dawood Ibrahim, who is a known criminal in hiding somewhere in the Gulf region! Apparently it's a question of buying into prestige.
V.K. Narasimhan was disturbed that SB broke the rule set by Mahatma Gandhi (of whom VKN was an ardent follower) never to accept so-called 'blood money'. VKN made the best of it eventually, however, by hoping that tainted money was being laundered not only financially but also perhaps 'spiritually' in now going to the benefit of the really worthy and needy. Why SB accepts ill-gotten gains is a question devotees should seriously ask themselves. The aphorism that best answers this seems to be "When money comes, morality goes".
Timothy O'Cleary reported on the internet about the massive building project ('Chaitanya Jyothi') of which "the estimated cost was placed between US$3 million to US$5 million. Dr. Goldstein suggested the following methods for meeting the cost which were discussed and finally approved, and we quote: "To organize 100 donors for accommodation in Building No.8 and 9 and for which each coordinator gave their quota for the region which they will fulfil before March 2000. Dr. Goldstein was requested to be in charge for follow up with the Coordinators in this regard. The estimated cost was placed between US$3 million to US$5 million. Dr. Goldstein suggested the following methods for meeting the cost which were discussed and finally approved."
I still have full documentation of the above directives, sent me while I was still a Sai Org. 'emeritus member' and the contact coordinator for Norway, and presented on a separate http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/saiorg.htm
The multi-million dollar 7-storey building - devoted entirely to the adulation of SB himself - It the 7-floored Chaitanya Jyothi building exclusively to celebrate SB, was completed and opened by him (as if a child with a big parcel) at the 75th birthday celebrations.
Next posting will be:
Part 6 "Buying Into 'God's Time' - SB's favouring the wealthy"