Full publicity by Sathya Sai Baba about 'His' good works
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On 11/8/2001, Sathya Sai Baba (SSB) held a discourse (published in Sanathana Sarathi, September 2001) where he detailed the running costs of the two hospitals, the colleges etc. and how much investment is needed to cover these. This sum - amounting to the interest from 600 crores of rupees (about $150 mill), is perhaps surprisingly little. Half the interest goes to the Bangalore hospital, 2/6th to the Puttaparthi hospital and 1/6th to all the educational institutions together. Sai Baba asks rhetorically, "Wherefrom does it all come?" And adds so self-deprecatingly, "However, I am giving it" (p. 264). This means he does have the money to give, and it is well-known that it is unearned income given to him as donations! It is also used for his direct benefit... many apartments, cars, chartered airplanes and yet more massive and costly birthday celebrations etc.
In a discourse, Sai Baba announced that he had received news that 600 crores of rupees (ca. $150 mill.) from a person in the US with whom he had no direct contact. This covered all expenses then incurred, so what about the other massive donations, often $100 million and more that have even been announced now and again? The kind of figures Hari Sampath worked out as an estimate of the entire Sai holdings to be at least $45 billion around 2000 yet - though appearing to be done in a quite rational way - it seems too incredible as an estimate. However, since all information everything about the Sai empire, including the secrets of its vast wealth and the many sources from which it comes, is protected by the courts and government, one certainly wonders where it all goes! Since 2000, donations from foreigners will have dropped off, except for the legacies certainly made by many rich elderly devotees - foreign and Indian - as they have died off.
Self-promotion on a large scale
In his infamous discourse on Christmas Day, 2000, hypocritically entitled "Overcome Jealousy With Love" in Prashanthi Nilayam temple, he abandoned love and attacks critics to damn them as demons, as well as wilfully making untrue and wholly unsubstantiated allegations about critics taking money to write about him. This was repeated in another form by him on March 7, 2007: ... "So I don't lose anything by their false propaganda. ... It would be far better if they follow Sathya Sai Baba instead and set an ideal to the rest of the world. I have no desires or ambition. Here is no trace of jealousy"
Speaking of 12,000 heart operations performed at the Puttaparthi hospital, he boasts, "I leave it to your imagination to appreciate who is responsible for saving so many lives." (p. 262)
Could Sai Baba mean the donors, the doctors, all the selfless hospital workers? He prefers one to imagine that this could not happen unless he somehow does it all! If he is saying it is all due to his ‘miraculous aid’, then why does he bother with the hospitals? The actual health workers and other staff whoare known to work voluntarily or for a very small remuneration are those who are actually responsible for saving any lives that saved. Not to forget the US multi-millionaire Isaac Tigrett, who donated the entire first Puttaparthi ‘super-specialty hospital’ plus all its equipment.
More to the point is who chooses the accepted candidates for treatment (for, in a country with crying needs like India there must be very many who cannot be accommodated?). It is known that numerous devotees, including visitors from abroad, have been accorded operations there. I have met devotees from abroad who applied through their local branches of the Sathya Sai Organization… and were accepted. I leave it to your imagination as to why this is so in a hospital that was supposedly dedicated to the truly poor and needy. The donors have no way of knowing the patient lists, nor therefore whether their money is being used for the reasons it was collected, or rather largely for promotion of the cult and its adherents.
It is striking how Sai Baba in discourse after discourse publicizes and praises himself in a way which one will be hard put to find elsewhere. He goes on, for the n`th time, “I have no personal desires or selfishness in Me at all. I have not asked anybody for help. Will anybody simply give hundreds of crores for the mere asking? None.” Does Sai Baba – who says he knows absolutely everything – not even know that there have been thousands of huge benefactors of mankind who have not been asked, and who have behaved with modesty – giving full credit to all those involved without whom their part would not have been possible?
Examples of vast donations to charitable works are plenty: they stretch from Robert Owen to Rockefeller, Washington Carver to Guggenheim, Warren Buffet, Getty, George Soros, Imran Khan and Bill Gates (a mere $33 billion given by him and Buffet so far)! Why would ‘God Incarnate – Creator of the Universe’ need to harp on about his own excellence, selfless purity, what he is giving (as if he was a big donor in the scheme of things? Why does he hardly ever mention all the others who contribute selflessly in various ways, not only though his (corrupt) Trust but all around the globe? Persons he no doubt regards as ‘ordinary unenlightened’ people (eg. Bob Geldoff, Warren Buffet, Imran Khan and countless other less famous figures in almost every country of the world) leading big charitable projects or relief work without making any such fuss about themselves.
Along with his self-praise comes repeated talk of his supposedly being unaffected by praise or blame! “All that I do has a great ideal for humanity.” Does this include his having stood by without lifting a finger while his officials persuaded the police to shoot young men armed only with knives in cold blood? But, though he would not answer any questions the press put to him about this, he says, “There is nothing hidden in My actions”. (p. 266). The fact is, that almost everything is very systematically and carefully hidden from all but a few… excepting what can be seen when he gives his daily darshan walkabouts of around 1 hour per day, and discourses on special days. His person is guarded by cordons of servitors, security people who are mostly undercover.
Sathya Sai Baba regards himself as a major donor to Indian society… yet he has never earned a penny of the billions donated, which he claims are not even his! He always wants to eat his cake and still have it. In a speech in Oct 1999, he explained:- “To date I have never desired anything. I have not touched even a single paisa of anyone. Things come to Me on their own unasked whenever the necessity arises. I have never stretched My hand before anybody from My childhood till now and this will be the norm in the future also. I feel happy in giving and not in receiving.” His every single need is met by others, and I – and many others – know from personal experiences that he does “stretch out his hand for donations”. He pretends to materialize diamonds and other objects which he gives away. They are not genuine, and he even pretended to materialize watches donated to him by a UK Sathya Sai Organization group visiting his ashram. The recipients are almost always deluded into believing him, and they in turn donate real money, huge amounts of time and energy… this is indeed a scam of massive proportions.
Persons Sai Baba no doubt regards as ‘ordinary unenlightened’ people ( and countless other less famous figures in almost every country of the world) are major philanthropists leading charitable projects or relief work without making any such fuss about themselves. Yet in his Christmas Discourse 2000 he also said: “There are many millionaires in this world who are so mean and narrow-minded that they set their dogs on the persons, who beg for alms at their doorstep. It is shameful to consider them as human beings. These persons are unable to do even a thousandth of what Sathya Sai Baba is doing for society, but shamelessly indulge in false allegations.” Though there are no doubt millionaires who squander their money on themselves or selfish projects, his reckless and general accusation shows how disturbed he is when his boasts of purity and selfless poverty are shown to be empty. There are countless millionaire philanthropists and donors in the world, of whom some are listed on Wikipedia here.
Self-promotion takes a high ride
When donors gave sufficient money to the water project, they were publicly named and thanked on Baba's 70th birthday, the list included only those who had given over a very high amount (1 crore of rupees), without mention of any or all others who were not so rich but had also contributed. Along with his self-praise comes repeated talk of his supposedly being unaffected by praise or blame!
Of course, the hospital donor was Isaac Tigrett who made his money with the Hard Rock Cafe chain [which always served meat and alcohol under the Sai slogan "Love all, Serve all"!]. These latter are forbidden by Sathya Sai Baba, but he was happy to accept the proceeds, of which a large proportion was pocketed by officials in his ashram and/or Trust Fund.)
See/hear the testimony of a friend of his, David Bailey The exchange rate was around Rupees 30.- to the US $ in 1991, which would make the sum about $33 million. However, Tigrett told Bailey he gave $49 million, but only $34 million went to the hospital!
In the years since it began, the Puttaparthi SS hospital appears virtually deserted from outside. Armed armed military guards stand at the gate and check everyone. However, other health facilities in India - especially free ones - are constantly thronged by people seeking treatment. Sathya Sai Baba's hospitals are private hospitals, and are not open to public inspection. All its criteria for admission -and admission lists - are kept secret and no breakdown of accounts or reports on decisions or the minutes of any administrative meetings at any level are made available to investigators. It is run in a clandestine manner and is wholly unaccountable to the general public.
Public works done with full publicity: All publicity about the service works of the various Sathya Sai organizations or institutions is specifically formulated so as to try to enhance his name and fame. This reveals the sheer hypocrisy of Sathya Sai Baba in instructing all followers to 'Give Help Without Publicity' (because he says one should not do service to impress (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 28, p. 341) and he also deplores "the egoism and poisons the Seva of even veterans in the field, who go about extolling themselves as founders and promoters" (p.97). This is exactly what he does constantly!
It is unusual for a hospital to have such massive and constant police protection, which can be seen in the photo from recent times (around 2006). One has to wonder why
The hospital in Puttaparthi, about which he spoke in the most glowing terms on many occasions, has been publicized for all it is worth in every video allowed by the Sai authorities for years. One is left without a shred of doubt as to who is the benefactor, for huge God-sized portraits of Sai Baba are seen everywhere and the commentaries drip with condensed sugar water when mentioning him. (The US owner of Hard Rock Café, Isaac Tigrett - whose donation made it all possible, is now not mentioned officially. Doubtless due to the intense jealousy he has described from Indian Sai officials when he was put in charge of hospital planning by Sai Baba, Tigrett's name has even been completely removed from the reprinted discourses in the Sathya Sai Speaks series, though his name was included when published in Sanathana Sarathi).
there should be no publicity, why do so many officially blessed
and widely advertised Sai videos contain long sequences of Sai Baba
feeding the poor, marrying off poor people, giving away hand-driven
tricycles to the handicapped and sewing machines to women. (The Sai-propaganda
video 'Song of Service' is one example and another such is the film 'Sai
Baba as in a mirror'). These are sold world-wide and, from the central
leadership, efforts are urged from devotees to bring such public
works to the attention of broadcasters and the media.
In 2001, the Sai Central Trust took a double page spread in a Bangalore newspaper to promote the Sathya Sai Specialty Hospital there. (The hospital was not even mentioned editorially, however). Sai Baba's teaching that service (seva) is of no spiritual value if it seeks the limelight just does not fit with such publicity. In Jnana Vahini, Sai Baba criticises "self-aggrandisement; when self holds sway over the heart, no deed worthy to be styled Service can emanate." (p.34). So what about Sai Baba's self-aggrandisement?
Compare the unlimited self-centeredness of what Sai Baba called 'My' water projects and his repeated detailing of how 'He' did it with, say, Bob Geldof's world-famous Food for Ethiopia projects. and Geldof's praise of all the donors and taking no credit other than 'it was my good luck to be there at the right time and place'! Did it become 'The' God avatar constantly to have put himself on a mighty pedestal and take all the credit for everything good, while denying any of his demonstrable failings?
Sathya Sai's continual declarations and clear directives insisted that the Sathya Sai Organization was not to seek publicity other than through the example of the good behaviour and selfless work done by the devotees who are its members. Time and again he insisted that any kind of self-advertising was entirely foreign to the true spirit of selfless service. He repeated this in 1999: “Sathya Sai Organization abhors campaigns and advertisements. It does not function for the sake of advertisement. It is only Love that should bind us as one. It is our service activity that will broadcast our ideals, not advertisements.” (from Sai Baba’s 1999 Yugadi Discourse).
Despite Sai Baba's words, Sathya Sai Organization (SSO) leaders exert increasing pressure on members to contribute to spreading news of the SSO via the media. That true service of mankind is a private concern between oneself and God is evidently no longer to be much observed.
For example, photos of service work are frequently called for to mount exhibitions at the ashram for various festivals and conferences, or travelling showpieces of the Sai Organizations's work! In 2000, each country was instructed by the leaders of the International Sathya Sai Organization to “take action to project awareness” of Sai Baba by organizing publication of articles, special supplements in the local press, talks, shows on local TV etc., in which Sai Baba’s service activity and his contributions to society were to be prominent.
Perhaps one should not be surprised at the Sathya Sai Organization, for they are but following Sai’s actual example (See more documentation here)! In discourse after discourse, however, Sai himself praised to the skies the various projects that bear his name (schools, colleges, hospitals, water scheme etc.), saying that no one does one thousandth of what he does and there is nothing like his free schools & hospitals anywhere else in the world! In his demonstrated ignorance of Western society, welfare state education and healthand voluntary non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), he claimed that his projects are unique in human experience because they offer free education and free health services! In that, he demonstrably follows a different ideal of publicity to what he preaches.