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 3 - "Sizing up likely donors, and diamond gifts to soften them?"
I think it likely now that I could have been sized up in advance by SB as a possible donor. I now know without doubt that SB is most interested in getting hold of people who are thought to have important roles or influence in society, or are wealthy, and I also know for a fact that he has used his staff to collect information on people. VKN was asked to make lists when SB was indisposed, and on request I provided VKN with a list and professional details of the group I was leading on that visit. The names were sifted and my wife and I were called to the interview, but not the rest of our group (who were not professionals. Incidentally, Narasimhan remarked in admiration of the democracy demonstrated by the fact that one member of the group was a hairdresser, because, he said, it would be unthinkable in India for an academic to be in the same group as a hairdresser!). VKN was used occasionally before for this, when he selected an Australian friend of ours. This removes some of the mystification about how SB chooses people and groups for interview (i.e. many devotees believe that he is acting out a preset cosmic plan about who to call and when).
Another Sai follower of about my age - a businessman from Austria - told Baba that he wanted to make a donation and he was also asked openly by SB while sitting at the front of the crowd at darshan how much money he would donate. He named a fairly large sum, and offered the cheque at darshan on his 50th birthday. SB took him in to an interview, where he eventually produced for him a standard silver and enamel ring with the SB face and torso. In another instance, I was asked by V.K. Narasimhan if I knew a Danish man, Mr. Kaufman, and whether he had arrived, because SB kept asking VKN if he had come. Probably SB had received a letter from Mr. Kaufman in advance, quite possibly also indicating a desire to donate. Later during that visit, Mr. Kaufman sat beside me at an interview where SB produced for him one of the standard smaller sized gold rings with an alleged 'white diamond'.(Apropos the monetary value of what SB gives to satisfy donors, that 'diamond' was virtually identical to the one Ron Laing had, which I once examined closely. Laing's 'diamond' was so worn that it reflected no light at all. But it is impossible for a diamond to be worn or scratched in that way, but I somehow rationalised away even that! Likewise with a very worn and dull green 'diamond' worn by Mrs. Ferguson, the wife of Maynard Ferguson the trumpet-player.)
The whole attitude expected of those given access to Sai Baba is one of 'lying flat at his feet', even literally (and kissing them too, if one should be granted such a boon!). This cult of humility is extended where possible to all persons apparently acting on Babas behalf and carrying out his divine instructions, whether or not one knows that such instructions were ever given. In his atmosphere, any signs of apparent 'grace of the Lord' are taken as marvelous boons. Many feel they have not earned these favours, and this creates the right attitude for wanting to compensate somehow. SB's many remarks about sacrifice as a prerequisite to 'realisation' and a righteous (dharmic) life, lead followers to think that they will gain spiritual benefits through shedding their excess properties and monies. After all SB's talk (on the lines of rich men not getting through the eye of the needle into heaven) saying how too much money is a burden, a millstone and how property is not a 'proper-tie', the blessed devotee is soon softened up to donate, the more the better (both from his/her viewpoint and that of SB too!). SB is clever enough to give boons before the money is offered, for he has a sharp eye for who is who and he doubtless knows more than he lets on! He certainly has all the means to invest with! In this way, no one connects their donations with the grace they feel they are receiving (and maybe even have justly earned)... and they are hurt to be told that they could be victims of an extremely clever and typically Eastern form of milking!
Many believe, with considerable justification, that donations can lead to interviews, being blessed by SB (i.e. qua God Almighty), to gaining good karma and even liberation from the wheel of life. The rich are always milling close around SB's feet and it is well-known how he gives much of his time to certain millionaire donors. To reinforce the feeling of the usefulness of contributing money, SB often underlines that there is absolutely zero waste of funds in his ashrams and his Central Trust. But this is definitively an untruth, as will be shown.
Westerners are often quite aware that most so-called voluntary charities have employment costs, publicity costs, and any amount of overheads and other drains on their funds. Often they deliver less than half of the money contributed to the actual projects for which money was given. SB claims that 100% is used, and that it is due to the wholly voluntary labour of his service organisations like the Seva Dal and the Sathya Sai Organisation. This is a tasty bait, but there is a hook too, as will be seen! There are admittedly doubtless many persons without large funds - or even much willingness to contribute anything financially or in kind - who get to interviews and who even receive materialisations from Baba, but this does not alter the observable drift of SB's affairs towards massive funding, great expenses to promote his person, plus wasteful projects and embezzlements which no one can gain full information about. One clearly observable fact supporting this is the ladies who usually occupy the first couple of front lines at darshans. They are preponderantly Indians, and are mainly dressed in very expensive silk saris and are loaded with jewelry, far more so than the average Indian can afford. Some are rich foreigners who adopt Indian fashions, such as the Iranian 'princess' and her various super-rich US relatives often seen there. Such persons can be seen to go up for interviews much more often than those in simple clothing. They are seated in the front lines well before those who have queued up for hours are allowed in to find a place.
Another very rich source of money for the Central Trust is testaments from devotees who have died. Several reports tell of millionaires who have left all they had to the Central Trust. My wife and I shared a car from Bangalore to the ashram with a long-term lady devotee from the US who was planning to will her properties to SB, and this was causing much anxiety to her family. (In Norway, fortunately, the offspring are guaranteed at least 2/3rds of their parents estates by law, which removes the cause of many frictions and injustices in family life). No one can estimate the income from these sources to SB, it is top secret! Since SB devotees boast of so many millions of followers world-wide, this would surely amount to a very vast sum?
Office-bearers of all kinds in Sai institutions may be said only to be following the example of their Lord and Master Divine. As one of Baba's closest companions ever - for seven years - the only person to be borne in ceremonial chariots together with Baba at religious festivals, M. Krishna stated the case: "Generally speaking there will be very few people who will continuously be with Swami after eight or ten years. Somehow or other they will fall off, but whatever their disappointment they will not want to talk about it out of respect for others. They will keep quiet. When we differ with someone, we often need courage to tell him. I mean healthy criticism, not backbiting. If we differ with Swami we must have the courage to tell him, and he, as well as the rest of us, should accept healthy criticism. In those days, as far as I knew, he never accepted any criticism. As far as I know him, he will all the more resent criticism now when he has become an international figure." ('The Abandoned Brother' Ch. 17 of Miracles Are My Visiting Cards by Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson, London 1987, p. 182).
Further, M. Krishna, who was often with Baba day and night for long periods, in explaining how he thought Baba had such power over people, said: "You lose your individuality. He will only like people who do. Again, according to Indian religious tradition you have to surrender yourself totally to the guru. Personally, I feel that Swami will only like to have around him 'yes-men'. It is the same in religion and politics." (ibid, p 184).
Under such conditions of unquestionability and unaccountability, the potentiality for despotism can easily be imagined.
Next posting will be:
Part 4 SB's hand stretched out for massive funds