Sathya Sai Baba the ugly
(First of two parts)
by Prasad Golla
The previous article "Introduction to Sathya Sai Baba" in the March 2001 issue of The North Texas Skeptic told the story of Sai Baba the god. The facts show a different side.
Main page: http://members.aol.com/introsai
The fact is that there is no Sathya (Truth) in Sathya Sai Baba. He is a fraud thriving on the gullibility of the masses for more than half a century. Though he has not been able to permeate into the heart of the society in his region, he has been able to acquire millions of devotees from around the globe and to amass wealth and political muscle to ward off seemingly powerless skeptics and humanists.
His typical teachings are as follows: 1
"In all religions there are universal human values . . . the importance of prayer, the need for worship, the principle of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, and the cultivation of love for all beings. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews each have their own mode of prayer, but what all are seeking is the Grace of God."
Apart from all these niceties, other evidence indicates he is a crook and truly a ghomukavragryam (a tiger masquerading with a cow's face).
Sai Baba's miracles are third grade magician's tricks that have been exposed time and time again. For one such recent act caught on tape check "No more 'holy ash' Sai Baba exposed by Rationalists" by K Vasudevan.2
This challenge had been already put up back in 1965 by the famous rationalist Professor Abraham Kovoor, who was the first to expose Sai Baba's "miracles." Since then the Indian Rationalist Association has from time to time called upon Sai Baba in public forums and in letters to face up to this demand, but for more than thirty years the Baba has kept mum. Meantime the Asian Age quoted Sanal Edaramuku as saying Sai Baba was caught red-handed: During the celebration of his 69th birthday, he "materialized" a golden chain by plucking it away from the bottom of a plaque, where it had been pasted up. The scene was filmed by a cameraman of the national television Doordarshan. Though Doordarshan had blacked out this clipping, copies of a smuggled-out cassette from Doordarshan studios were circulated all over India and abroad. The famous British documentary Guru Busters on Indian Rationalists, which was originally telecast by Channel 4 in the UK in 1995, reproduced this clipping in slow motion. The documentation has by now been shown in twelve countries. Sai Baba or his institutions have been unable to deny its authenticity.
The challenge this excerpt mentions is similar to the skeptical challenge of NTS, and is valued at Indian Rupees 100,000. 3
There have been fantastic godly qualities attributed to Sathya Sai Baba and claims made about him by himself and his devotees. The claims run like this: 1) He is omnipotent and omniscient (which covers quite some ground in my opinion). 2) He can raise people from the dead, heal the sick and rescue his devotees when they are in dire circumstances. 3) He has complete telepathic knowledge. 4) He is well versed with the religious texts of all the religions because he was the one who delivered them. 5) He knows history and languages no less than what you can reasonably expect from God. 6) Of course, his famous materializations which would drop your jaw with awe.
Skeptical investigations of these claims are rather laborious and elusive. The debunking of these myths is documented in the form of a book available on the web. This text makes an interesting and amusing reading. Sai Baba's Miracles: An Overview edited by Dale Beyerstein and forms the crux of B. Premanand's work on Sathya Sai Baba. This book can be a good start for anyone who wants to investigate dubious religious figures in particular and skepticism in general. 4
When I was around ten years old I chanced upon a skit being played on a makeshift stage in a playground. Though I was too young to understand what was going on, my father later explained that it was about this Baba (holy man) who would supposedly materialize objects from thin air.
He told me that the Baba hides Seiko watches up his sleeve and materializes them for everyone's amazement. I remember wondering why on earth would God have to put Seiko stamps on a watch that he can create. You know what they say, young minds are easily influenced. Though to this day I don't know who arranged this skit, I would guess that it had been arranged by the Indian Skeptics. 5 For a rundown on the Seiko watch materialization claims check Beyerstein's book. 6
The Indian Skeptic is published by the chairman of Indian CSICOP, the famous "Anti-Guru" B. Premanand. For decades, B. Premanand has made it his job to bring Sathya Sai Baba to justice. He is still going strong with the case on Sathya Sai Baba about the kidney fraud in one of Sathya Sai Baba's Medical facilities in "The Case Of The Missing Kidney." 7 Premanand published a number of books on Sathya Sai Baba, one of the latest being Six Murders in Sai Baba's Bed Room. 8 The murders are related to an assassination attempt on his holiness, by some of the students of his educational institution for alleged sexual abuse of the institute's young boys.
There have been several allegations on Sathya Sai Baba about his sexual abuse of boys who were his former devotees. One such devotee is Conny Larsson of Sweden, who tells his story in "The Swami who deceived a whole world." 9
The story of the murders is available from the New Heaven New Earth Special Reports Web site: 10
Much worse was in store when on 6 June, 1993, six inmates of Prashanti Nilayam were murdered in Satya Sai Baba's bedroom. It is alleged that two were killed by the assailants and the police claimed to have shot dead in self defence four of the assailants, who were armed only with knives. Realizing the danger to his person, Baba Himself ran for His life, jumped out of an open window and started off a secret alarm, whose existence even the inner core did not know of. Interestingly, all the people killed were part of the inner circle of Sai Baba, among whom Radha Krishna Menon, the personal assistant who was caught on video passing the necklace clandestinely to Baba. Baba Himself spoke of the murders in His Gurupoornima lecture and dealt with the question of whether the deaths of his near and dear were unavoidable. "Birth and death go together. One should realize that death is a natural phenomenon and avoid worrying about it... You must note that Swami's life is in His own hands and not in those of anyone else. If I will it, I can live as long as I please. Because He is the almighty, God cannot behave in any arbitrary manner. Not realizing this truth, men who are involved in worldly ways ask questions as to why in certain situations, God did not use his limitless powers to avert certain untoward events..."
4 Dale Beyerstein: http://psg.com/~ted/bcskeptics/sbmir/db-book.html
5 Indian Skeptic: http://www.indian-skeptic.org/
7 NHNE Special Report: http://www.nhne.com/specialreports/srsaibaba.html
10 NHNE Special Report