HOW I REALISED THE SAI MOVEMENT IS TRULY A CULT
HOW I REALISED THE SAI MOVEMENT IS TRULY A CULT
By David J. Lyons (Sai Baba follower from 1981 to 2000. Ex-President of the Center of Greater New Orleans).
No one wants to believe that an organization he/she was an integral part of is a cult. I could not have been basking more in the glory of the avatar with such vigor, such pride, such enthusiasm as I was in those last five years, 1995-2000. Not only did I believe all the stories coming out of Puttaparthi, I actually repeated them to my colleagues, friends and relatives. The only thing I did not do was try to recruit new members for the Sathya Sai Organization. I believed that SSB was calling devotees at his pleasure, at their karmic level, and, most importantly, at his omniscience. I believed that a majority of the world's population would come to honor him as avatar before his passing in 2022. I was happy that I was one of the early ones. Such was my position and feelings and beliefs--until it all came crashing down.
From April, 2000, until early July, 2000, I was sending emails, and snail mail to those who did not have computers--all pertaining to the sexual crimes and the murders at the ashram on June 6, 1993. All I wanted was for them to take an objective look at the mounting evidence, to talk to some of the victims of SSB's sexual molestations. In this time period many were coming forward with their stories. The posting of THE FINDINGS on the internet was the triggering mechanism for creating courage among many molested ones, and a personal hand-written letter from a teen victim, sent to all the presidents of U.S. Centers, was devatating. When I saw that most of our devotees, the majority who were from India, would not even contemplate taking even so much as a peek at anything negative regarding SSB's criminal actions, I was astounded. The term "cult" had not entered my mind until much later in the year of 2000.
In July, 2000, Al Rahm and wife Marisa came to New Orleans for a convention. We renewed our friendship, I showed them the town, and we had heart to heart talks. There was another devotee couple here who had defected and we all had dinner together. Al had then introduced me to Glen Meloy, via email, who was forming a support group. I was happy to become part of this group as I felt like the Lone Ranger battling the likes of Michael Goldstein et al. During this time period I was gratified to hear of the resignation of Shirley Pike, who had been the president of the North Central Region of USA. We (myself and a few other devotees from the New Orleans Center) had begun making trips to St. Louis for the Memorial Day retreats when the North and South Central Regions did a combined retreat just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. When the new South Central Region was carved from the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma (1997), some members of our Center still made the trip to St. Louis, and to Texas for our regular Labor Day retreat. As for as I know, I was the only Center president to resign and defect, and Shirley and Rick Raines were the only Regional presidents to resign and defect--both from the North and South Central Regions.
The impetus for this Revisited and Revised Spiritual Odyssey was the memory of Glen Meloy, who died on New Year's Day, 2005. I had spoken to Glen for the last time just after Thanksgiving of 2004. He was in terrible pain. Glen's contact for updates was the other worldwide leader of the Expose`, Barry Pittard. Glen and I had spoke many times since that initial contact in July, 2000. He gave his last ounce of energy and courage in a superlative effort to protect children and teens from being molested by SSB, and he was making great progress in several areas of the Exposť. Barry's efforts have been marvelous also. It was Barry who carried the sad news to me and many other former devotees--all who had devoloped a network to bring justice for the crimes of SSB.
Glen Meloy was a devotee of SSB for 26 years, and during that time he gave freely of his time in many categories, managing the book center for America in Tustin, California, among many other volunteered seva (service). We had long conversations about the ones who remained loyal to SSB, and we were especially shocked at the complicity of Jack Hislop, who had been on the receiving end of so many hand-written letters from SSB. Jack had known since the 1970s of the molestations. Jack Hislop was the most-liked of the highest-ranking devotees of the planet. I sure liked him a lot, so when I discovered he had known all along (note: he died before the big scandal broke open) I was filled with chagrin. We were incredulous about many other high-ranking office bearers here in USA not willing to look at any evidence, not willing to talk to some of the victims, not willing to admit that these sexual molestations were crimes--all because they believed that the avatar could do what he wanted to, that he was above the laws--and morality. Very soon we realized we were part of a very subtle cult, a cult of personality involving a very charismatic guru who had, at least in part and in the past, powerful paranormal attributes.