The Sai Movement Closes Ranks Yet More
Author: Robert Priddy
Other efforts within the movement are underway to counteract the UNESCO advisory against Sai Baba (happily, it is nevertheless still on-line, click here). A posting by Dr. G. Venkataraman in Puttaparthi on a pro-Sai website consists of blatant misinformation about UNESCO, as well as testifying that Sai devotees within that organisation have worked very hard to get the web page removed. However, UNESCO were questioned repeatedly by the BBC and they would not back up a single word of Venkataraman's in public and fortunately they also deny any association whatsoever with Sai Baba. This issue will be exposed more fully in due course.
In the Sai movement, especially at Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan, all that is thought, spoken or done is supposed to be praise of the Great Example. This reminds in more ways than one of other personality cults in places like North Korea, China and the USSR. The great majority of followers are kept completely in the dark about what SSB does about 90% of the time, and he is accountable to no one. His close servitors are sworn to secrecy under threats of 'excommunication' and of much worse, to befall them soon or in the next life. The confusion, discontent and growing doubts that seethe throughout the Sai movement is all rationalised away as ' testing people', 'a process of burning off the dross of the ego', 'grinding down your ego to make a diamond of you' and numerous other such cynical ploys.
Sai devotees have to give all credit for what (they think) is good to SSB, while all blame is laid at other people's doors (and by SSB not least at their own). Yet they meanwhile hold SSB to be the omnipresent and omnipotent doer of all things.What pathetic confusion! SSB is even frequently said by devotees to 'run and rule the whole world'. As to the Sathya Sai organisation, it can hardly even qualify as an instrument of this omnipotent will, secretive, unaccountable, authoritarian, time-wasting and often largely existing mainly on paper as it is. I am in the good company of many others with experience of it who would hate to see it running anything of importance, so full it is of deaf, manipulative leaders and deluded persons who prefer not to know the truth which is virtually glaring them in the face. In reality, the whole undertaking has turned more and more to function as a means of funneling money to the SS Central Trust in India.
Further, Sai devotees are told and believe that persons who expose SSB are really his unwitting instruments, being used by him for some unknown and God-inscrutable end. This is backed up by his statements that not a blade of grass stirs without the will of God (meaning himself). Quite absurdly, those who accuse him of crimes should also be doers of his divine will too! (one small example: David Bailey was told this about his whistle-blowing in a vituperous e-mail circulated by a rich Australian donor woman, Millie Phillips). However, none of those who have spoken out originally wanted to expose Sai Baba, not until the facts had impressed themselves so deeply and were so blatantly obvious to us that we had no option but to renounce him, his claims and his works. One cannot with self-respect live in bad faith, pretending things are not what they are, as do devotees who turn black into white on 'orders from above'.
SSB advises: "Take all that happens is a gift from God". But he does not accept criticism of himself as a gift from God, nor do his followers. He and they conveniently forget his teaching that we are all God whenever it suits them. He has reacted against information that is not to his taste as being 'demonic', 'evil' and coming from persons who are Judases or are "without even a spark of divinity" etc., and these ideas are expressed widely by a number of his selected representatives. Doing this is commonly known as hypocrisy.
There is a threshold which devotees cross when they have visited and seen SSB and taken the step of believing he is God, because he insists that one should then put all doubts about him aside forever. In short, he extracts a silent vow from many people in this way, to put a sealed lid on themselves once and for all, though he also warns elsewhere that one should not take vows (he very often contradicts himself like that, when it suits him). His teaching about himself and all that follows from it is presented by him as a 'take it or leave it' offer, and it demands that one accepts it all - with him as the Godhead - or not at all. As soon as one accepts this - that his words are the ultimate truth of everything given by himself as the highest divinity of all time - then there is no way left open then to question or undermine any part of it. The teaching is such, however, that it is literally impossible to follow its inconsistencies, so personal confusion ensues, double-standards, hypocrisy, convenient neglect of unwanted facts. Anyone who takes the first step relinquishes the right to know anything better than SSB or even to have any opinion about his behaviour or even what he says, other than full acceptance.
All this also means that, despite much talk about acceptance of other religions and spiritual teachings, they are all (implicitly) regarded as wrong wherever they diverge from SSB's teaching! All the major religions diverge from Sai Baba's on many core beliefs. Since they part company on so many issues, it undermines greatly the its much-trumpeted supposed 'universality', and the result is that relatively very few followers of other religions actually follow SSB. Those who do soon find themselves at odds with their own religion. Religious leaders from the wide world of religions and sect - apart from some Indian swamis - are notable by their complete absence. One Roman Catholic priest of whom a great fuss was made, Mario Mazzoleni, was excommunicated by the Vatican, and he died early in his life (supposedly receiving Sai Baba's grace. What grace? (Most devotees otherwise talk of Sai's grace as healing and saving life).
The Sai movement lacks - almost exclusively - people of proven intellectual or literary ability (just see the low standards of the many hagiographic writings), and the professionals of which the movement boasts so much nearly all seem to be of the lower calibre when one examines their actual work. No world figures of acclaimed excellence in the sciences, scholarship or other demanding fields are among the followers, though a handful of film stars and TV personalities follow him, which does not count for much, if anything. The number of politician followers do not exactly enhance Sai Baba either, especially in India where they are nearly all corrupt manipulators.
SSB says he is here as a repairer of broken locks (i.e hearts) etc. Considering the followers I have met through many years, I can well believe that the majority fall into this category, not least those of a number of his VIPs. People with personal problems are met all the time at his ashrams, where they take refuge from the world in which their problems often seem too great for them.
SSB teaches that those who have faith in him will eventually get to what he presents as an unearthly paradise (i.e. 'liberation' from the wheel of life, whatever that may involve, which no one can possibly say). He has often told that those who fall away from him will have to be reborn again! This doctrine is an effective weapon against fearful believers and those confused and disturbed by the way SSB has turned out to be, especially Hindus who cannot free themselves from the near-automatic worship of supposed spiritual gurus and dread the awful karmic retribution they are told it brings down on them. SSB has sometimes put on the appearance of a 'raging lion' to keep those he least wished to lose firmly in line... most notably Prof. N. Kasturi, who told many in the lectures he gave that he was threatened thus for weeks by SSB at one time for no reason he could understand, and that he was literally terrified by him. It was all typically explained away as a necessary process to soften Kasturi and rid him of ego! SSB is not above threatening great earth catastrophes, as has been reported by many persons whom he has told such things in interviews, and which has been liberally documented. The underlying message is that only by following SSB can one be saved the sufferings of catastrophe. This is a well-known technique of cults to lock their followers in to the fold, and today seen most openly in the Seventh Day Adventists and various extreme modern and 'New Age' cults.
SSB has said we cannot fathom him and says we should leave him to himself. Instead we should examine ourselves. Very convenient, and a way to try to fend off scrutiny of his activities, doubtless. It works excellently with devotees... they are scared to read the massed evidence against him, for it is too crushing. He puts himself beyond any accountability to anyone, of course... as God the Father, Deity of Deities. Believe it if you don't care anything for anyone! Devotees have to admit that they can't understand him, because he will say one thing and do the opposite, say the opposite... and no one dare say 'boo'. His statements and predictions which prove to be wrong are seen as a part of his 'divine play', for no one can know whether many things he says refer to this world or the next or sky blue pink cloud-cuckoo land! He is said to have a completely different understanding of time to mortals - what are years to us can be as an hour to him... so how can one make sense of this divine mystery! This is how the credulous Dr. John Hislop reacted when SSB told him not to publish his book 'My Baba and I' for 10 years, but then was told to do so only two years later. When he reminded SSB of this, the reply was '10 years have already passed.' SSB can say whatever he likes, it makes no difference... anything can be 'explained' by the follower who has achieved the sought-after status of 'blind believer'. Sai Baba's discrepancies, glaring inconsistencies and even brazen lies become less and less important to such a person. If need be, they even set out to defend them by all means at their disposal...
Taking too much of what SSB claims literally has enormous mental, emotional and other consequences... and madness in one form or another is then just around the corner. I have seen more people in psychosis at his ashrams than anywhere else. No devotee can live up to the impossible demands of Sai Baba on others (not practiced by him), for some remaining common sense seems to preserve most of them from the worst excesses of the self-conflicting teaching. Yet the more it is taken to heart, the more energy is sucked out of a person as they abandon more of their autonomy and responsibility as independent beings. There are of course no completely egoless devotees, as SSB is always demanding his followers to be (while ever telling them that they are no good as devotees), because a healthy well-balanced ego (not to be confused with egoism or selfishness) is a basic requirement of a decent life and interaction within the world.