Reply to Well Known Sai Devotee

Posted: Barry Pittard, Australia, March 20, 2003


Sent to:

The following is my reply to a prominent Sai devotee, whose wife has spoken very disparagingly of former devotee dissent. Unfortunately, I am obliged to suppress their names. 

In this, as in other contacts by Sai devotees who write sincere letters to former devotees, a pattern emerges of frank admission of seeing fraudulence practised by Sathya Sai Baba, and of having experienced grave doubts in the face of his clear mistakes and duplicity.

My respondent's comments are in blue. 

Dear X,

I trust that you and I can enter that space - too rare - where love can flow across the great divide of opinion about Sathya Sai Baba.

I have read most of the negative articles about Sai Baba and I am sure that some of the incidents described in them probably did happen. 

Having been personally in touch with the victims of his homo-paedophilia, their families and closest supporters around the world, I can assure you that there is no 'probably.'  He has committed vast-scale serial sexual abuse, and of a nature that is particularly appalling.

In countless accounts, there is the same pattern - there is no love there. All the signs are of lust and exploitive self-serving. He uses threats, promises, bribery. Theists, whatever their culture or socio-educational status, do not worship God in terms like this. Any worship of such a God would clearly be a form of devil worship, and conducted from fear than from love.

My only concern is that nothing has yet been proven in a court of law, either in India or in any other country, and it is so difficult to separate fact from fiction, truth from hearsay.

Have you tried speaking to any of the young males who have been sexually molested by Sai Baba, or their parents, or close friends they shared their experiences with? Do we always have to rely on courts of law to decide on whether we believe a person's account, especially when they are not given to exaggeration or lying? 

Have you considered, for one moment, the immense obstacles to getting our story into the lawcourts?  As one of those who have having tried to build a legal response, let me assure you  -  the problems are formidable. One difficulty is that the Indian police, judiciary and government are incredibly corrupt. They bury our submissions, refuse to even respond, and are clearly out to protect Sai Baba and his immensely powerful organisation, along with the countless politicians from many parties who are partial to him.

Can you imagine what it takes to get anywhere near a court?  If your "only concern" is deep and genuine enough, then I should not be asking too much of you to support us - in ways small or great - to establish a fund to hire competent lawyers to represent those victims who are ready to go public so long as we can ensure a properly accountable justice process for them, or assist us in getting together pro bono lawyers if we cannot sufficiently fund paid ones. Will you do it, and therefore substantiate your "concern" with the warm, living flesh of deeds?

Perhaps you may believe what Sai Baba has said about those of us who dissent. In his 2000 Christmas discourse, he says that we  - "Judases," "cawing crows," and "demons" who face the most terrible future karmas  -  are doing it all for money. Nearly all of the former devotees I know (and my contact with them is extensive) are either pensioners or struggling to support their families. Many former devotees, when better off, gave very substantial amounts to support the work of Sathya Sai Baba. His unloving, joyless discourse is yet further stark testimony of how he lies so blatantly, and not least in a discourse that is heard and read by many thousands of people. 

Most Indian victims and their families are terrified of repercussions. For example, of terrible ostracism by other family members who remain Sai devotees; of diminishing prospects for arranging a 'good' marriage; of social stigma in workplace and wider community; of loss of job opportunity, and so on.

In the West, Interpol, the FBI, the Australian Federal Police, the German Chief Prosecutor's Office and other police forces, and a number of governments have informed former devotees that they themselves have a difficulty in proceeding against Sai Baba, because the crimes alleged occurred in India.

Of the lack of police prosecution, you say "or in any other country." In the light of what I have just said, please tell me how on earth we are supposed to get into the courts? Should we then, as the Sai officials have done, shut our ears to the testimony of young males from all round the world - or even one of them? 

You say "it is so difficult to separate fact from fiction, truth from hearsay."

It takes work, I shall grant you that. Conscience always takes work. The easy life is for those who do not care, and deeply. However, the difficulty is not so great as you may imagine. For example, it is not so difficult for former devotee sexual abuse experts who have had contact with the victims. It is not so difficult for former office bearers of the Sai Organisation, when they courageously bucked the organisation culture (read CULTure), and carefully investigated the claims of those accusing Sai Baba of sexually molesting them. In this they showed what, elsewhere, where proper accountability procedures are in place, is regarded as normative Duty-of-Care, what to speak of compassion. Now see how revelations are tearing whole church institutions apart, much less costing them vast fortunes after being sued, and in private settlements. You say that Sai Baba and his organisation can defend themselves. But have those, whether they are affiliated with the organisation or not, who display his picture and praise his name no responsibility?

I can honestly say to you that my relationship with Sai Baba over the past twenty years has helped a great deal in my spiritual awakening and my understanding of the path of advaita.

But this is to say no more than what the vast majority of former devotees would say. Where, it seems to me, their concept differs from yours is that they take "spiritual awakening" to include concepts of ethical and moral responsibility that surpass the private to embrace citizenship and community.

I heard him make wrong statements of fact about certain people and saw him palming objects he was supposed to have manifested, etc.

I have many such accounts, and find them worth documenting. One day, I shall make a proper study of the patterns, or, perhaps even better, turn the task over to someone far better equipped for such a demanding task. In the meantime, I shall be glad for you to share with me what were those 'wrong statements of fact,' and the specific cases of palming of objects that you mention, too. So long as we document accurately, our researches will assist people far in the future. Otherwise, they will be reading devotee's accounts only, of which I have (in the Sai Towers library in 1998), counted some six hundred. 

But the Super Sai has always been present most strongly in our lives and constantly appears to us, helps us and guides us.  

I am wondering if, at some deeper level, you may be afraid that were you to go public with your doubts and negative experiences of Sai Baba, these helps and guidances may abruptly halt.  If so, I want to assure you that many former devotees feel themselves to be most wonderfully in touch with wondrous love, compassion, help and guidance, albeit that it now does not manifest with the Sathya Sai Baba iconography.

My wife has very vivid dreams about and with him. 

If (your wife) were to regularly see in these vivid dreams what, with the most shocking and convincing detail, young males from many parts of the world report of his cruel mistreatment of them, perhaps she would feel differently. This is where compassion for the terrible cries of the afflicted is significant. If (your wife) listens to her dreams but will not listen to the victims and their families and close friends, then I am minded to question whether she is missing a tremendously important dimension in her overall development as an intelligent, human being.

The two most powerful words I have ever heard are these:  "Jesus wept."  And tears spring from my eyes right now, as I think of those who will love their God, but not heed the cries of his children. How can it be?

No-one can deny but that he is a very special person.

His victims are very special persons, too. Innocence outraged is very special.

Look what he has achieved as a peasant boy from a small village in a Third  World country. 

There have been many remarkable stories of great achievement by those born in the most straitening circumstances. It does not matter how towering the achievement - a crime is a crime. We are all accountable, or need to be made so.

Who else could have built the Super Specialty Hospital in one year? 

Along with the possession of unusual intelligence, once great, inexplicable powers (whether they are siddhis or something still more) are unleashed, or appear to be performed, the leader's gathering of great talents to perform great works will surely be even more effective than some of the colossal human achievements, such as the pyramids ... So what if, in one year, he (or was it rather his highly talented crew?) get the Super Specialty Hospital into being, if, in a few minutes, he damages for the rest of their lives the psyches of boys and young men?

Who else can produce lingams in public out of his physical being? 

Whether he fakes these or some of these productions is not really the point. The difficulty really relates to the whole bewitching effect of miracles or supposed miracles. Although Sai Baba refers to the warnings of Lord Buddha and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (the Sage Patanjali was another) against performance of miracles, we need not take him at his word (which has so often been clearly false). We need not jump to the conclusion that his 'miracles, leelas and mahimas' are necessarily unmixed with what is less than divine. There could be a gigantic deception of human beings going on by forces little understood by intellect or science, which uses reference points that we regard as purely divine, but which do not operate on the side of goodness.

Who else can cure cancer with a wave of his hand and the statement 'Cancer cancelled' .  

Hang on. This does not prove that he is God or Avatar. And if he is so powerful as to wave his hand and banish cancer, please tell me how he cannot, with the same wave of his hand, tame a young man's raging hormones or raise his kundalini, without having to put his erect penis into the poor astonished young males' mouths, or by tongue-kissing them, or masturbating them or getting them to masturbate him.

We have to be sure that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Actually, we have to be sure of something far more practical:  namely, that we apply proper moral and ethical procedures when complaints of sexual abuse are made, (not to mention other and terrible allegations, such as Sai Baba's complicity in the 1993 murders and the vast cover-up by people like Indulal Shah and the Home Minister of the time, the very powerful S. B. Chavan, that ensued).

Now that is not to say that he is God manifest or even an avatar, but that he does have powers that are usually associated with the great Masters.

Please tell me which great Masters you have in mind, and whether homo-paedophilia and other major crimes were 'usually associated' with them. If you have the same names in mind as I have, you will have to reply that NONE of them did these terrible things.

Two long time devotees, whose opinions I respect, feel that all of this furore is designed to throw people off his form and back to the formless God. 

I respect the cries of young men who are clearly, and most painfully, telling the truth.  I respect a great many long time and short term devotees, and their opinions, and their refusal to seek any other explanation or rationale than their most fundamental accountability to the law, and to their utmost duty to protect the young from sexual abuse as it has been very clearly defined in countless cultures and legal systems. 

In a note to me, the former devotee and the senior office bearer at the Santa Barbara Sai centre in the USA, Timothy Conway, Ph.D., has well clarified an appallingly common confusion of truth levels. He says:  “In the classic Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions, the great sages commonly distinguish between the absolute, non-dual level of truth (paramarthika satyam) and the conventional human level of truth (vyavaharika satyam). The sages warn about confusing these two levels so that, for instance, one inappropriately undermines the conventional level of morality and ethics by saying ‘there is neither good nor bad, only the One.’ Without distinguishing these levels, we would never have any criteria by which to judge certain behaviours and policies as unjust or evil, and movements such as those led by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, et al., would never have any rationale for getting started.”

Imagine what kind of a religion will be created after his death, and what his devotees will do with it, if he was to die with his reputation intact so to speak.

If God can manifest, and sexually abuse hundreds of young boys, and stand by while police execute his students, and cannot, except out of the most terrible generation of fear and loathing for the form, guide humankind away from attachment to the form, then God must be weaker than the wave of a hand that you so handsomely credit Sai Baba with.

So I am still sitting on the fence, trying to make sense of all of this.  I have been wavering since I first met David Bailey some ten years ago and heard all of his evidence first hand! 

Wavering is condition common to those too fearful of making a mistake. They mistake a fence for a pillar of truth. Wavering is like blood without the color red. Wavering is really trembling but in a half comfortable way, that refuses to go out and comfort the comfortless. It is not the way of truthfulness, which is strong of heart, clear of mind, and bold of hand. We learn by going where we have to go, and by fencesitting how to warm a fence but not innocent victims in a chill night, or to yeild our heart to the dangers where alone meaningful love can be found.

Many have sought out victims. Sai devotees keep mentioning David Bailey, as if the allegations stand or fall by what he has said. But there are very many others who have investigated, and with far greater depth and intellectual and professional capability.  What is more, victims of Sai Baba are not all that hard to find. Just ask around. Most of them respond to our own sincerity, compassion, and sense of trustworthiness and responsibility.

My head says 'go, you've been deceived', but my heart still wants to hang on.  I don't know why. 

Is it not because of the human tendency to attachment or clinging? No-one learns the joy of parachuting if they experience only the fear of clinging to the airplane. Hence the strictures of a Jiddu Krishnamurthi and others who have exposed the nature of attachment to concepts, persons and objects.

It is just an inner feeling. 

What may we conceive to be the inner feeling of the boys and young men Sai Baba has so frequently defiled for so long? That is a more important matter.

Maybe I am in denial. I don't know.  But I respect your point of understanding and your desire for justice, as you see it. I personally believe that everything that manifests on the Earth is God's Will, has purpose and design, even the most horrible massacre or the rape of a child.  

We absolutely cannot make this assumption in the practical realm of ethics and morality.  People like Al Drucker violate this concept very seriously. Referring to his wife Janni's rape in a Sai centre, he told a large gathering (I have the transcript somewhere) that Janni was not raped because Janni was not her body.  Believe this, act on it, and the world will be given over to the utterest anarchy. Do not call for a policeman - just for a convenient experience of the formless.

Sai Baba once said to us 'Everything is just karma playing itself out'.  I wonder what Sai Baba's karma will be and who are we to judge.

We are our conscience, and our conscience must judge between right and wrong.  Yes, as we see it. No former devotee I know of says that we are to judge of Sai Baba's karmas. We can be sure that not one of us would ever claim to see anyone's karmas, so judgement is not even a question.

With Love Across the Great Divide,

Barry Pittard, Australia