THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
By: Robert Priddy
From the website: Sathya Sai Baba - Extensive Information and Viewpoints
Sai Baba claims that everything he does is for the best of all. To be accepted by him, one must have complete faith in him, and this leads to some extraordinary social conditions. Among those who frequent the ashrams it is customary to think they themselves know virtually nothing with certainty, certainly not Sai Baba’s inscrutable motives and plans. The very same persons will nevertheless claim to KNOW that Sai Baba is God, the Avatar Himself - which is a peculiar exception to their proclaimed cosmic ignorance. This same willful ignorance is applied to all questions involving money. Nothing can be questioned, one has no right to know anything about it, even in most cases where one is a donor oneself. It is said by believers that all is under the 'Divine Control' of him who knows everything.
The multi-billion dollar question about SB is, how much money is donated and how it is spent. The answer is not forthcoming from SB or his Central Trust which is a financially unaccountable organisation (with government-granted tax and import duty free status). The UK magazine The Economist had a front page notice about the 'Sai Baba Empire' back in early 1990, where they estimated his assets at over US$2 billion. They also reckoned him to be the No. 1 foreign exchange earner in India at that time! That estimate must have been based on known or visible assets, not on any hidden ones. Calculations based on known donations plus numbers of donors etc. put the current total figure far higher than two billion. How many billions there are, and to where they go (and evidently for a considerable part to where they appear to disappear), are never told and no one outside the inner circle of the Central Trust etc. can find out the answers. This total lack of accountability certainly does not raise the confidence of those who have the least real knowledge about Indian corruption, pay-offs, kick-backs and ingrained financial corruption. It is to examine and try to redress some of the cover-ups about money matters in the Sai mini-empire that I aim to do in the following. Firstly, I shall speak from personal experience.
In 1986, my wife and I had two interviews, two mornings running (22nd & 23rd December). During the first private interview with us two, SB said to her, "He worries about money." True enough, at times, I admit. Yet there are few indeed who do not at some time or other. I was not worrying at all at that time, however, for I replied, "Swami, I have so much money now, more than I ever had". This was so, for I had recently inherited some money from my mother, but rich by common Western standards we certainly were not. I added that I wanted to donate money. He said I could choose what for, the medical or educational trusts, "It is not for me, but for my students," he added. Shortly after, he pointed to me and told my wife, "Good, good... very good man"! Directly, he examined my hand and asked if not the ring I had was my wedding ring (it was on the right hand 3rd finger, but it was not the usual type - being of silver and gold with small inset malachite stones. A skeptic would say in retrospect that SB had been sizing up the thickness of my finger for the ring to be 'produced' next day. A minute later he said he would call us for another interview next day when he would give me a ring. Shortly after that he waved his hand before my wife as she exited from the private interview room and a silver amulet appeared, which he gave her. I have described the main part of that and the following day's interview at length in my book where I did not mention the financial aspect, for I had been led to believe that any talk about such matters involving SB was very wrong.
That I had already donated by post £3000.- was discreetly not mentioned by me, nor did SB mention it. In my desire to believe in his omniscience, I thought that he must already know! It seems likely to me now that he did not. If he did, he could have been informed by his staff that a person who donated this sum was presently at the ashram. In that case he could have given us interviews because he reckoned he might extract another donation. I do not say he did so, but that it is highly possible.
The leader of our Danish group, who sits on the veranda & spoke with SB several times before our first interview - a gullible and not very astute person who tends to swallow whole everything he is fed by SB - spoke to SB on the veranda a few times about our group and a possible interview before it took place. This leader was always very tight-lipped about what went on, and has since firmly proved his active engagement in the cover-up of scandals surrounding SB, having shown that he is a conniving, unreliable person (i.e. reliable for SB only). Therefore, I suspect that he may have provided information about me and my profession to SB (even unwittingly). In short, there is no evidence whatever to suggest that SB had any data from 'omniscience' in this instance.
During the first interview, SB had said to me twice, "Be Ready!" I did not know to what he was referring, but later realised that it must have been about the money he was then expecting. Next day in the private interview, Baba soon asked me "How much money are you going to donate?" I had not thought of this at all in the interval! A sum came to my mind - "£6,000, Swami," I said, knowing that this would make £9,000.- in all. This amounted to well over half of my inheritance. I added that the money came from my mother. He asked what her name was and I told him. He said, "I will build an indoor sports hall for the students and hers and your name will be put up on the wall." I then believed SB's claim that - due to his being omnipresent in the inner heart of everyone - he knew (or could know) all things. I did not think that he could not have known her name, but that seems fairly obvious to me now that I am convinced of his fallibility. The typical devotee will assume that SB was just pretending that he didn't know her name. This is one of SB's smartest ways of duping people, to pretend that he knows all, but behaves as if he does not! But the problem is that he pretends so much about so many things so often that he loses all credibility. There is no reasoning with a person who is ensnared in the system of excuses that surrounds SB and absolves him of everything imaginable in advance! (I was once rather like that too.) Of course, SB never did put my name or my mother's up anywhere, and I have never regretted it. I was not at all keen on the idea anyhow but would have accepted it 'if Swami wanted it'! I have always disliked boasting and telling what good things one has done... as SB used to teach and once almost followed himself. Now he has demonstrated firmly that he is the biggest braggart in the world!
Incidentally, in the second day's interview, SB simply took a ring with a white (clear) stone from somewhere - it was between 1 and 3 carats (the SB standard 'smaller diamond ring') and proved to be too small for my finger. "Never mind", he said. My wife and I were then taken into the private room again with SB. When we came out, he produced the white stone ring again and sent it around to some ladies. He asked an Indian lady to describe it. She said it was a diamond set in a gold lotus ring. He confirmed both points. He then asked what I wanted and I said I did not know, so he said, "I will make you a better ring". He blew three times into his closed fist - in which he had been holding the white stone ring - and when he opened his fist, another ring with a larger green stone was there (about 5 or 6 carats). Whether this ring is a genuine diamond or not has not yet been confirmed, but it will be tested when I manage to arrange this with recognised diamond experts, and get this filmed by an independent media company. No such test of a stone alleged to be better than a white diamond has been done under expert and public scrutiny so far. These green stones in SB rings are believed by the great majority of devotees to be extremely rare and valuable diamonds.
Though it crossed my mind at the time that SB seemed so eager to draw me into donating and so perhaps the whole set-up was another extremely clever Indian way of deceiving people into giving money, I immediately rejected the thought as sinful! After all, does not SB do so much for the poor, his students etc. (Since then, I have come to know that his students are mostly from well-to-do middle-class, and often power-broking rich, families, not least sons of 'top people' from abroad). No, I put all my trust in SB and his assurances that "not a single naya paise is ever wasted", unquestionably a lie, (and one repeated brazenly even after the Central Trust was found sadly wanting in its incomplete accounts in 1993). Later during this visit which lasted for 3 months until March 1987, I came to know quite well a genuinely honest elderly gentleman of the Seva Dal who was working in the ashram. He told me how various workmen (e.g. those who were re-painting the temple (mandir), easily swindle sums from the ashram through overpricing materials used etc., which my friend was ever trying to stop and therefore he went to Bangalore to buy paint for the temple himself eventually. How naive I was, misled by all the books and fine talk to think that the massive corruption and dishonesty that marks India out among big nations were magically absent from anything to do with SB!
Having received by post from my bank in Norway the cheque for £6000 for SB I brought it with me to darshans to 'be ready' whenever there would be a chance to hand it over. By accident I left the cheque in a plain envelope behind at darshan one day. It was collected up and delivered to the public relations office as lost property where it was returned to me when I went there searching for it.
There was a follow-up to this. I went to check with the head of the ashram (Kutumb Rao) on whether my former donation of £3000 had been received. I had received no confirmation by post, no receipt. He told me that they did not issue receipts, but to come back later and he would tell me if the money had been registered! He borrowed my own bank's receipt for in payment of this previously-sent cheque to help him see whether the donation was registered. When I came to check this, he told me he had lost my bank's receipt. But I produced another (which he had evidently not suspected could exist). This he also borrowed and 'lost' before I finally got a positive (verbal) reply. He had most likely been hoping he had destroyed my evidence of having sent that cheque. (But unknown to him, my Norwegian bank would supply any further copies I may request).
Before we left the ashram in March 1987 I was given a chit by the public relations office to sit in the front row (they knew, of course, about the present cheque that was still to be delivered). SB came straight over to me that day and took the letter, but as he took it he had one of those quite ugly facial expressions that is often seen.
A few days later I inquired whether the latest cheque was in fact cashable by SB, since it was actually made out to me and countersigned by me, (I admit that I had been rather amused by his fumbling and unconvincing behaviour), whereupon he reacted most angrily and half-shouted that my current donation cheque would not be accepted but he did not give me the cheque back when I asked for it either, but waved me off just like he would do to a troublesome coolie. But I persisted and asked, "Did Swami say so?". "'Yes!" he blurted, apparently taken aback at my impertinence for asking this (I felt he was lying.)! I do not believe SB actually did reject it, for there was another problem: the cheque was made out to me, not Sai Baba or the Central Trust, and - though I had countersigned it - it was probably not cashable into another account!
My bankers in Oslo became very agitated about the irregularity when I told them I no longer had the cheque (Mr. Kutumb Rao had refused point blank to return it, even though he would not accept it either (Probably, SB still had it!). Such good manners from the head of the ashram called 'The Abode of Supreme Peace'!). My Oslo bank set about investigating, and - more to their relief than mine - got the money refunded and changed back from sterling to Norwegian kroners again. Incidentally, the exchange rate had improved and I received back the sum plus the equivalent of the interest I would have lost otherwise. This was registered by me then as a typical SB leela. It may have been, yet now I am no longer quite so convinced. However, the fact that my money had been returned made me the more keen to donate it later, which we did! It has been alleged by a person who was employed in ashram security to be a standard practice there, to refuse money first... thus increasing the eagerness to contribute (and usually more too!). This kind of 'double-bottomed' scam is typical of clever crooks in India, where on outsider can fathom the depths of deceit that are common in this place of a constant often desperate struggle for survival.
As to where our money actually went I could never get an answer. Even if you have sound reasons for suspecting that officials have embezzled your donation – such as by avoiding or – if asked – refusing to give a receipt or in other ways you are supposed to accept it as “part of Baba’s plan. He knows.” In short, if you feel reason to question almost anything said or done by officials (not to speak of by SB himself), you will often be put off with a gruff affront or a threatening hiss (as if from a snake).
Only in recent years were any kind of receipts issued for donations received. Incidentally, it was said by SB in discourses that receipts are always given for donations, but we did not get any until in 1998, when we registered as flat-donors and received proof by receipt from the European Sai Org., which by then solicited for and handled all such donations!
Some time after the incidents described at length above, we re-donated the £6000.- by sending it from Norway, but did not get any note of receipt from the ashram. However, since I thought it wrong not to follow up whether the money actually arrived where it should, I asked the new Head of the Ashram, Mr. Narayanan, about it several times during our next visit there. At length he gave me a verbal confirmation. Apropos, when years later I asked V.K. Narasimhan why Narayanan was not any longer head of the ashram, he told me of his being 'sacked' from his post and from the Central Trust in 1994 by SB due to having built a luxury villa for himself in Bangalore with undisclosed funds. This was also told me independently by a VIP, the honest and decent Robert Bruce, whose word I do not doubt, and who knew this from top US leaders 'in the know', such as John Hislop or Michael Goldstein.
In 1994 we donated 900 copies of the first edition of my book to the Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, but could not ensure that the money was delivered to the Central Trust this time either, despite having written to them on the advice of V.K. Narasimhan to avoid embezzlement by The Convenor. Shortly thereafter, when the press descended on Prashanthi Nilayam after the murders in the ashram and began to dig into things, The Convenor, Mr. Suri, was caught with the equivalent sum in his rooms to that taken in the sales of my books (mainly sold 'under-the-counter')! He could present no accounts for the Publications Trust whatever! Still not having learned, my wife and I in 1998 donated a further US$6,000.- for the 2 month-per-annum use of a room at the ashram. It took such a long time before the meaning of what I had found out sank in!
I only hope that at least some reasonable proportion of what we and uncounted others have donated actually does go to the needy and suffering in India. Some evidently does... but no one can estimate the wastage in the form of paying for useless buildings, statues, solid gold and silver cricket cups, free education for sons of very rich Indians and all the other underhanded 'overheads' that have become more and more a feature of the ashrams and the Central Trust.
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 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 Baba’s 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 are 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 parent's 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.
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-specialty 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 (e.g. 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 Santayana Marathi (e.g. 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). 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!.
Around 1990, SB made a great fuss about a program he (or someone else) named "Ceiling on Desires". It was heralded as the program 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 millionair - 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' program 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 funneling 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 skepticism, 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 totaled many millions of dollars, large sums coming from various devotees from such countries as the USA (e.g. Mr. Sinclair) and Japan. It was noticeable too that the names included the contributions of Bhangarappa, a known corrupt Karnataka politician, 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 web page (click to link in). 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.
It is considered a great heresy among believers to point out that SB's time can be bought, for he is God who has all the time in the world etc. Unfortunately for this bent reasoning, all this time does not allow the earthbound SB to talk and give interviews to more than a small fraction of the very large and pressing personality cult around him. Considering this it is not surprising that people try to use the normal 'short cuts' like money, personal power and influence and numerous other ways of obtaining what is then treasured as 'grace from God'. But this is what often happens in fact, however rosily the transaction is described as 'receiving grace' or 'rewards for being a great Sai worker'. There is, of course, no deal and no exchange of the blatant sort. The transaction is much more subtle than that, and from the donors viewpoint there does not seem to be any connection between what they give and what SB 'donates' of his attention or time in return. However, one way to obtain donations from wealthy persons is to make much of them, praise and flatter, and give privileges, manifest so-called 'diamond' rings for them and give them free accommodation etc. If they have any decency, they will invariably respond with whatever they can contribute. This is just what occurs in case after case, and has done so since long before the famous Dr. N. Bhagavantam left SB around 1983 at least partly because he evidently detested this! To refuse a donation - as SB often does - only increases tenfold the fervour of many donors, who then wish to give much more. It supposedly helps one feel one is an acceptable person in God's eyes after all!
I was finally convinced of the fact that the rich purchase time and favours when I saw a couple coming out of SB's rooms every morning before darshan for over a week while staying at Kodaikanal, having gone in at least half an hour beforehand each day. They were a Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair of USA, who are known as the donors of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Central Trust! Hundreds of millions is correct, it is no misprint, and their donation then (one of several multi-million dollar gifts they made!) were announced at SB's 70th birthday (without their permission) and other of their donations have been written about in Sanathana Sarathi. (Mr. Sinclair's own account of his relation to SB was also published in brief in its pages in the 1990s. His total donations alone run into several hundreds of millions of dollars!). The rich and very influential always get what is comparative to red carpet treatment from SB, which fact cannot be concealed. They may have to wait half an hour, but that is nothing by ashram standards.
India's famous atomic scientist, Dr. N. Bhagavantam, who had been a simultaneous translator of Baba's discourses for years, left Sai Baba early in the 1980s after over 20 years of being close to SB and attending hundreds of interviews etc., and he reportedly told devotees that this was not least because far too much attention was given by SB to wealthy foreign and Indian devotees, powerful politicians and the like, and especially those willing to donate funds, to whom he said that Baba most often gave rings, amulets and suchlike. Critics of Sai Baba may take all this as proof that Bhagavantam was right about Baba mostly only making himself available to those who are likely to give money and rewarding them with more rings and the like than others. One cannot cross-check the facts here, for no one keeps any kind of register of who received what. Bhagavantam is on record saying that Baba's powers and materialisations were genuine (on the 'Who Is Sai Baba' video). However, defenders of SB spread the rumour that Bhagavantam left because of envy, or that he wanted to be Vice-Chancellor of the University when Gokak was chosen instead – or else because his son was by-passed for some envied position. This only sounded like an attempt to nullify Bhagavantam's valid critical attitude to SB's activities using the standard formula against defectors, namely, 'jealousy and envy due to not getting what they want'. I figure it is unlikely for a person of Bhagavantam's caliber would be above such considerations; a genuine VIP and semi-hero in India for successfully duplicating the atomic bomb for India, a very mature man with considerable national fame and self-confidence independently of SB followers. Voicing dissent is not a possible choice for otherwise confirmed devotees and was doubtless hard enough for the semi-skeptic Bhagavantam to do too after so many years of residence. Had he wanted to continue serving SB, he of all prestigious Indian public figures would surely not have left in an alleged fit of jealousy at not getting some Sai-prestigious post!
A rich ship-owner who once had built up a company in Bombay, the Norwegian Alf Tidemann-Johannesen, was cultivated by SB during the 1970s. Nothing has been heard of him since Kasturi and others wrote up glowing accounts of his supposed devotion to SB. This person glows by his absence from all subsequent literature! In fact, he too became disillusioned and left SB quite early on, according to a lady in our Oslo group who knew him and last met him around 1988 when he visited Norway from Mexico. He was then writing a book denouncing SB, whom he claimed was a deceiver. He told that SB had failed in his promises, and had deceived him about the helicopter that Tidemann-Johannesen claims to have provided to SB for travel purposes and, not least, giving darshan at his 55th birthday. (A film showing this darshan was made and distributed by Richard Bock of California). Tidemann-Johannesen died in 2001. The 'official' Kasturi biography of SB has, of course, not been amended or commented on this in any way. The apparent myth of the great luck of this foreign devotee - and the doubtlessly overblown interpretations of events by the poetic Kasturi - all are left to live on unaltered!
Flat donors at the Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan ashrams once used to become 'owners', usually after some years, by paying an additional moderate sum (by Western standards) to be given the use of a small unfurnished concrete-block flat consisting of one room, a bathroom and a kitchen - which last room they were allowed to use a permanent lock-up for their possessions while they were not in India. The right to be such an 'owner' was far from automatic... one had to wait for Sai Baba's personal blessing for this before being allowed to 'buy in'... and many waited for years, and some without getting permission even when others 'behind them' did. The right to use the flat could - and still can - be terminated by the ashram authorities without recourse to any hearing, so 'owner' is a highly misleading term. A more accurate way to say it would be 'lease-holder without any ownership rights'. The idea was that Sai Baba granted the grace of tenancy of his property until such time as he saw fit to terminate this, whether due to misdemeanour or for any other reason. The term donor - in the sense of flat donor - does not mean one gets to have one specific room or 'flat', but usually gets whatever is free, but there are no guarantees in this case either.
There are two entirely different perceptions of the situation. Devotees used to see the hard-won tenant’s privilege as major grace from the Lord of the Universe... yes, perhaps as the monopoly contractor and overall owner of the universe! But one can also lose one's flat if ashram officials see their way to accuse you of some breach of the rules - for which they are the main executives. Some devotees have simply had their flats taken away from them for some misdemeanour in the eyes of the accommodation office. In one case of which I know the details from the owner, a man with serious heart problems, the head of accommodation took over his ground floor flat which he had furbished at considerable expense - without any compensation whatever - and it was given to an official of the ashram. He was given temporary flat use on the third floor, to which he could not climb because of his heart condition. No amount of pleading, talking with Col. Joga Rao, the Sathya Sai Org. leaders, or letters to SB etc. had any effect whatsoever.
If one saw fit to donate money to Sai Baba for his various educational or social projects – or for the building of a flat at the ashram which one may occupy occasionally oneself – one was supposed to pray hard for the opportunity, as well as eagerly take any action one could to bring this to SB's attention at darshan and - with tremendous luck and his grace, finally get the donation accepted! (To neutral observers, it is clearly an amazing set-up for complete suckers!) Yet it was seen as a great blessing to oneself to be allowed to donate! Perhaps partial investment even, in a place in heaven or, failing that perhaps, in recognition at the ashram (and for some, even a veranda seat!). One example among many, the leader of the SSO in Denmark was reputed to have donated the proceeds from the sale of his second home, and he was allocated a better-class top floor flat with a view of the temple, plus a veranda seat shortly afterwards.
A middle-aged Scandinavian lady we know very well was living for long periods in India hoping for help from SB - having to live mostly outside the SB ashrams, due to the time restrictions for visitors to stay in ashram rooms. She donated what was a considerable sum for her - ca. $10,000.- in the early '90s in the hope that she would be allowed a flat. However, she as not told that - when paying the cheque in - one has to specify that it is for a flat. Otherwise it is sent to the general coffers of the Central Trust. Like others I have met there, she donated while praying to SB that he would arrange it all (him being supposedly benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent etc.). When, after many months, she decided to ask if she would be allocated a flat, she was told by Joga Rao himself that she would NEVER be allowed a flat. They had been watching her, he told her, and she lived outside the ashram etc., but they gave not details as to why she was treated in this way! We know this lady to be a genuine spiritual seeker and of high principles of honesty and decency. However, she mostly stayed away from people (according to the instructions of SB) and so was too socially isolated there to get any support or be able to pursue the matter further. Besides, being a believer, she tended to accept the decision as her karma, though she was obviously hurt by the completely uncalled-for and exceptionally nasty treatment she received. After all, she freely gave so much money too!
A mature American lady who left SB about 30 years ago after very long and close association contacted me after gaining confidence in me from some of my many postings on the Internet to help those who have been the victims of SB's duplicities and treatment of women devotees etc. She said that she once had properties in the US, all of which she sold to be near to SB, donating for rooms in Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan. She sees that now as 'a devastating loss'. SB cut her off suddenly for a reason he gave, but it had nothing to do with her. She soon realised he had simply confused her with another lady. This is just one of a number of similar accounts of SB's betrayal or ignoring someone (note: when he had got the money) that I have been told at first hand through the years since I met SB.
The price of these flats (i.e. of insecure tenancies) spiraled, and by 1990 they cost far more than their building cost. By this time, donors were welcomed with open arms and were recruited actively by the Sai organisation. No more waiting for the Lord to select you personally! However, the office bureaucracy has to be negotiated to obtain a key to a flat. If one abuses the rules in any way - such as by trying to misinform to keep the flat for a few days more than 2 months per annum, all rights can be lost permanently by the mere rubber stamp by an accommodation official! Also, one does not get the chance to become 'owners' of a permanent flat anymore if one is not among the specially privileged.
What can be wrong about people giving money of their own free will to projects that Baba runs, such as educational, medical and many other social facilities? They have to be financed and why should not Baba give interviews to those who are able and willing to contribute? The only problem with this is that SB has time and again said that he has nothing whatever to do with money.
I received the following letter from a mature and evidently very sensible lady in the Netherlands:
"There is something I wanted to let you know for a long time. It is not that important as the sexual behaviour of the s.b. But it fits into the criminal organisation - as always: if there is something wrong, there are a lot of things wrong. The financial situation: SB always said: come to me with empty hands etc..... In 1994/95 our chairman- Mrs. Anne Marcelle van Weereldt- told us very excitedly, as if she were giving us a huge present, We have an opportunity to set up a Holland House in the ashram in PN. -Location: the stinking sheds on the North side of the ashram. We need as many participants as possible. And we can stay there for 6 months every year! It looked very good for elderly people. Minimum donation HFL.13.500 which was about US$ 6.000.-
Lots of us -including me- participated in the "Holland House". The only thing we got was a short note - and the bank statement of course - which said that we had paid the sum necessary for a room in a North building under a certain number. Later on we got a plastic card with our photo, with the amount of the donation on it. After a few months we were told: It is not a Holland House, it is a Holland/Switzerland House. This sounded very good, people from Switzerland are also clean and quiet. When the first buildings were finished, we got the message: You can only stay for 6 WEEKS every year. Well, this is a very clever concept; there are 4 levels in every building. Each level has about 25 rooms. Which makes the whole building good for 100 rooms. Each room is good for about 6.500.- US dollars x 100 = US dollars 6.500.00.- BUT: if we can stay only 6 weeks a year, it means that every room has several 'owners' because 52 weeks shared by 6 is at least 8 possibilities to give out to someone somewhere in the world a certificate that says that he/she has given a donation under a certain number... This gives only the right to have a private room - not to be shared with others, during only 6 weeks a year, and that is always possible. But the concept is so very very clever, because there is no limit in getting donations this way. And by now the TENTH -10th- North building has been finished!!" (Stijntje Riemersma)
The above is quite correct! Many other foreigners who paid the full sum - already US$6,000 by 1996 - were shortly afterwards informed that they were not to have the prospective grace and privilege of a flat of their own, but instead the right to stay for up to two months per year in one of the new kitchenless one-room/one shower room flats, all having an absolute minimum of (metal or plastic) furniture and virtually no fittings. A number of devotees from the USA and other countries complained about this sudden change in rules of which they were informed AFTER they had paid their donations, but they were powerless to change anything. One has to accept divine commands, even though it was actually Col. Joga Rao and Indulal Shah who instituted this regime. The amount of money that the ashram could thus obtain per flat was multiplied by at least six! In addition, the donor also has to pay a constantly increasing sum of 'rent' while occupying them. Flat donors can actually outnumber the several thousand flats at PN by anything up to ten to one, for many do not use their full quota (which can be calculated on average). Donors have not always been guaranteed flats at all times (esp. not during festivals or conferences). For 10 blocks of 100 rooms each (= 1000 rooms), giving at least 6,000 donors and US$6000.-, the capital gained amounted to income in all up to US$ 36 million! The total cost of construction was but a small fraction of this sum. So at last, one can say that donors really are making large donations, no longer just buying fairly cheap rights to two rooms!
I have been informed that in 1991 there were 8,000 would-be apartment donors on the waiting list. Even if we use the price per donor family from 1996 (US$6,000.-), the total potential donation resource this represents is US$ 48 million. But the number of rooms actually required at the maximum would be 1/6th of 8,000 = 1330. Hence the ashram stands to make very large profits indeed. It will be argued that the excess goes to good works, the water project etc. But the fact remains that these figures are never presented to the donors or made public. One cannot but wonder why the secrecy. Those who know the state of India and corruption there today have some idea of what can be siphoned off.
As if to ensure maximum benefit for ashram/Trust finances, the authorities run a constant campaign to hinder foreigners buying property of any kind outside the ashrams, such as within Sathya Sai Taluk near Puttaparthi or in Whitefield. Since the mid-1980s, at least, ashram officials tell newcomers at information lectures about the many pitfalls of buying property in India. The information is certainly not all incorrect, for few without deep local knowledge and the language can negotiate a secure purchase! The lecturers emphasise that only by donating for an ashram accommodation is one secure, a direct deception, as seen from the above! Further, many 'owners and donors' have left their flats permanently for one and another reason, not least due to the continuing exposé. However, there are no refunds! All know this, and I too, because my wife and I also further willingly donated in full for this vastly over-priced accommodation offer before we became convinced of the truth of the many allegations.
Prashanthi Nilayam has one golden rule that is never broken by its officials: there can never be a cash refund! This is taken to such lengths that, if one pays in too much for books or other goods by error (whether your error or theirs!), no cash will be returned - however large the sum - but it will in time (and if fully documented) be added to one's credit on a personal account. Money cannot ever be taken out of an account to close it, it must be used! This is how SB's proclamation of neither needing nor ever taking anything from his devotees is followed up in practice! Or doesn't the omniscient God notice or know that this is happening under his nose?
The multi-billion dollar question is not really so much how SB has generated so much wealth - this is after all not so uncommon with Indian swamis and temples. Reputedly the fabulously richest of all temples in Tirupathi, and not far behind it the Jagannath Temple in Puri may perhaps compete for No. 1 spot with SB still. Self-styled 'Baghwan' Sri Rajneesh was the possessor of similar undeclared riches before he was indicted on so many charges in the USA (and sold off his 84 Rolls Royces in Texas in one cheap lot to a dealer, but remained super-rich even after that). The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sect is also rich beyond reckoning, apparently having virtually the economy of a small African country.
No, the priceless question remains why SB, who so disdains money and property, through the trust he rules over should be one of the richest persons and biggest property owners in that land of such poverties and sufferings? That he claims to own nothing is a way to disarm gullible believers in him , but is merely a technicality of bookkeeping. Even so, it is all beyond public inspection. One asks whether the money has been truly well-employed, or wasted on too great a scale to build yet more temples and to erect other white elephants, mostly to enhance the fame of SB himself. Questions about the misuse of huge funds expended in building an isolated Super-Specialty Hospital is cogently discussed in Serguei Badaev's overview of the SB Super Specialty Hospitals' wastefulness. If this had not been so, the answer would have been clear and acceptable. Yet the putative fact remains, SB's wealth is used for gaining influence and political power, without any visible beneficial effects on politics or politicians, and rather to the contrary if the current decline of political honesty at all levels in India is considered. It seems unavoidable to conclude that those who think they 'know' the answer - that SB has divinely good plans that no one can fathom - are foundering in flight from the facts, falsehoods and foolishly placed faith.