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 4 - SB's hand stretched out for massive funds
What is the difference between the accumulation of massive funds in Baba's case and those of other major Indian gurus? Is it that much money is visibly put to very good use? Admittedly, it seems indisputable to unbiased observers that some considerable amounts have been siphoned off by more or less corrupt persons (prime examples being the Convenor Mr. Suri, Ashram head Mr. Narayanan, and Head of Accommodation, Mr. Nataraj). It is literally taboo within the movement to suggest anything that goes against Baba's frequent declarations in discourses that "not a naia paise is wasted" (i.e. 'naia paise' = the smallest of Indian coins worth practically nothing at all today). One need hardly also mention the 20 kg. golden cup worth 10 million rupees presented to the winners of the Unity Cricket Cup arranged by Sai Baba at Puttaparthi, nor the more than 22 individual 2 kg. solid silver cups given to each player... there are many such luxury undertakings with donor money.Free education to the sons of some of the richest families in the land. The massively expensive showpiece buildings either to celebrate SB to enhance SB himself: The Eternal Heritage Museum, the Chaitanya Jyothi, the statues, his peculiar chariots of silver and gold, massive light and firework shows, flower decorations and extravagant thrones galore. Specially security-built buildings have been built for his housing (plus his constantly attendant boys, who act as valets etc.). There are well-appointed residences at Prashanthi Nilayam, Dharmakshetra, Trayee Brindavan, Sundaram, Kodaikanal, Muddenahalli and more besides. Everything has been funded, of course, by devotees' money.
In Sathya Sai Speaks (Vol. 27, p. 22), SB claims of the super-speciality hospital that it entails "no waste of money". Yet the head of the Blood Donor dept. was sent away in 2000 for misuse of its funds. This banishment was published in Sanathana Sarathi, where Dr. Bhatia was declared as having no connection with any SSB institutions. It is reported by reliable persons that he was selling blood that had been donated by devotees, and had made a fortune of more than $1 million. This may simply be mud-slinging to blacken him because of his lurid accounts of SB's sexual abuse of his students. In either case, it proves that SB backs the claim that money WAS wasted after all.
Money is frequently used on projects small and great that are a waste or that simply fail, such as is reliably reported to have occurred with a large part of the much-trumpeted Rayalaseema Water Project due to corrupt entrepreneurs, and led by a Mr. Chackravati - a former government worker who had been sacked for major embezzlement! Later he became head of the ashram at Puttaparthi. Uncalculated sums have been wasted on excellent new buildings that were demolished and/or entirely rebuilt within a few years (Whitefield's Sai Ramesh Hall of 1993, pulled down and rebuilt ) and also charming older buildings (such as the original mansion at Brindavan).or buildings replaced by others (eg. the Sai Ramesh Hall at Brindavan ), the library building inaugurated as the Kasturi Reading Room pulled down along with other buildings to give space for the ostentatiously luxurious VVIP building. Not least is the virtually unused airport (which stood as if deserted for years and is seldom used at more than 5% capacity) (See more details at 'Wasteful Projects')
By denying that he has any selfish desire whatever, and saying that he never "stretches out his hand" for money, SB effectively disarms those few who get near him and dare to suspect him of being mercenary, saying it is not for him personally but for his students, the poor etc. He has said that he "wishes no connection with money or property" (Sanathana Sarathi, 1-1998, p. 4); that money collection is forbidden in the Sai. Org (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 11, p. 50 and Vol. 14, p. 362); that money is not taken by real teachers of spirituality (Sanathana Sarathi 4-1999, p. 89 ) and he has often railed against "swamis and gurus" who make money out of spirituality and collect money for "committing heinous acts" (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 5, p. 101).
However, anyone with eyes to see can observe how much is lavished on celebrating him personally at endless festivals, all his birthdays and in building monumental museums etc. to honour him. He personally dispenses cash to many devotees, to some students, as any close reader of the massive literature by admirers also clearly reveals. Further, though he has sometimes insisted in discourses that he NEVER accepts ANY donations whatever, the fact is that he nevertheless accepts massive amounts all the time. He even sometimes asks directly for donations, both officially in Sanathana Sarathi (eg. for the hospitals, the water project and though admirably enough - various cyclone, flood and earthquake disaster relief funds) and he also shows clearly that he is most interested in individual devotees who he gets interested in donating through ambiguous talk and promises. His emphasis on selfless service and continuous claims of his own exemplary leadership in this, causes the number of trusting followers to increase and so does their desire to contribute, of which financial donations may be thought of by them a secondary matter (wholly unimportant in his view!), but which is in reality very important for those well-heeled contributors who may feel guilt about their wealth when seeing the poor of India etc. and seeing what SB apparently does and contributes (even though the actual work and contributing is all done by others).
All SB trust funds and social institutions are opaque. The claim that accounts are governmentally audited cannot be checked. Even so, most of the government is in the pocket of SB, and governmental corruption is proven again and again to be so all-encompassing that auditing by them would be like that of the proverbial goat set to count the oats. No one except the minions of SB has access to the data about them, their finances, their selection or admission criteria. The atmosphere of secrecy and 'unspoken answers' is quite claustrophobic to anyone who wants to find out or check anything about their activities. For most devotees it would be unthinkable to question the handling of money under SB's 'omniscient' rule, and those few who are forced by circumstances to ask critical questions are treated like dirt. Therefore, any general claims can be made, any statistics concocted, without there being any means to check - let alone cross-check or investigate independently - anything about the insiders' decision making. Any financial investigator would have little more to go on than what SB or his officials choose to say.
Who directs the soliciting of money for the Sai Org.? In this connection, when SB asked Central Coordinator for Japan, Hira, ' Who is your guru?' Hira answered 'You, Swami'. "No!" said SB "It is Indulal Shah!" (Hira reported this himself in some material which was circulated internally in the Sai Org.). Who is Indulal Shah to be a 'guru' for Hira? Well, he is the Chief Accountant of the Central Trust, a Maharastran ex-politician 'godfather' with sworn follower families throughout the international Maharastra diaspora, many of whom crave office as Sai Org. leaders, national chairmen, coordinators etc. (too often for the sake of status). Indulal Shah nominates his cronies - especially Maharastrans in foreign countries - to many posts. He scotched SB's attempt to disband the Sai Org. and sack him totally in 1989 or so by getting his many cronies to send reports to him, (not to Hejmadi at Central Office as SB laid down). T. Meyer of Denmark is Shah's right-hand man in Europe, as is Hira in Japan.
With Shah's signature and backing, Mr. Hira became the chief international promoter of the scandalous and ineptly-named 'currency of love' share investment scheme in the late 90s. He toured USA pressing leaders and devotees to buy in. (The VIP devotees Rita and Robert Bruce told me this and how they hated it!) The investors paid in foreign currency for investment in rupees on the Bombay Stock Exchange. They were guaranteed 5% return on their money, while the rest (supposedly 5% or more at the time) would go to the Central Trust. Not only did many investors lose through the regular devaluations of the rupees, but there were problems if one wanted to export the money from India due to their strict currency and anti-profit restrictions. It turned out to be a financial fiasco and devotees were then asked to sign over their shares to the Central Trust. Such a blatant swindle! Whether anyone ever got a refund of any money is not known. It is definitely 'not done' to mention - let alone complain about - such things in the Sai Organisation, of course, for it might reflect badly on the unstoppable, victorious Divine Mission!
Next posting will be:
Part 5 Ceiling on Desires?