Reasons why the Sai Movement has lost impetus, closed ranks and become yet more cultist
When I was Norway's national leader of the Sathya Sai organization, serving the crying needs of fellow devotees – some weak or often disturbed persons – who sought help and succour from the organization was repeatedly advised against by the Central Coordinators. The doctrine was that they should help themselves through doing service to other and that all efforts should rather be put into organization building and leadership of outward-directed projects to do social service to the community! I tried to strike the balance between these pronouncements and impossible requirements and the often desperate needs of the many weak, suffering and often disturbed persons who came to meetings. The contradictions between the teachings and the rules arose, as I analyzed it, from the manipulative and selfish Sai-VIPs who were jockeying for position in Sai Baba's organization and seeking his personal favour. [This was also the opinion of numerous other Western national leaders I knew well, such as Ron Laing, Peggy Mason, Lucas Ralli, Aime and Sandra Levy, Leo Boogaard and more]. Once the facts about Sai Baba emerged from 2000 onwards after the publication in Peggy Masons' magazine of 'The Findings' by David and Faye Bailey, the paradoxes between Sai Baba’s own words and actions became too much to manage and finally broke the back of all the best – most active and generous – people in the organization in various countries. These true leaders-by-example left in disgust and as wiser people. The doctrine behind it all soon looked more and more shabby and divorced from reality.
The Sai Movement Closes Ranks Yet More
Closing more and more in on itself as a rigorously self-protective cult, Sai VIPs are no longer allowed to discuss unrest, conflict or criticisms even within the ranks of the Sai Organisation and no one is supposed to go on the Internet to read anything critical of Sai Baba, let alone give press interviews (ref. Goldstein's 'very important' internal circular warning none to give media interviews, not least because of his own unintended revelations on the recent BBC documentary that will be going out world-wide). A further tightening of the censorship screws and a stepping up of propaganda efforts is underway. The most telling proof of this is the warning mail Dr. Michael Goldstein sent to office-bearers in the Sathya Sai Organisation, which was mistakenly leaked to a bulletin board by a naive member (see the mail at bottom of this page).
Other efforts within the movement are underway to counteract the UNESCO advisory against Sai Baba (an archive of it may still be 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba, while all blame is laid at other people's doors (and by Sathya Sai Baba not least at their own). Yet they meanwhile hold Sathya Sai Baba to be the omnipresent and omnipotent doer of all things.What pathetic confusion! Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 vituperative 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'.
Dr. Hislop on the 'slow growth' of the Organization: In "Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba…" in the 1995 re-edited version (p. 232), John Hislop tells Sathya Sai Baba that the American Sai centres have slow growth. "We should have 300 or 400 instead of just over 100."
Baba replies: "One reason for the slow growth is that Hislop’s discipline is too harsh. The Sai Organisation works through softness, kindness, love and harmony. In America the people are outspoken with strong and often harsh ideas and opinions, and when they are confronted with an equally harsh ruling there is a confrontation and cessation of advancement and progress. Persuasion should be applied softly and with kindness."
Hislop replied: "Swamiji, I do months of soft persuasion without effect; then I have to act with firmness."
Comment: The credulous Dr. Hislop did not always see eye to eye with Sathya Sai Baba’s "omniscient truths". But he had to bow and scrape nonetheless, so spellbound he was. In contrast to SB’s harsh opinion of Americans, my experiences during nine very long visits to India proved that people holding office in his ashrams are the ones who often have ‘harsh ideas and opinions’. The ashram gives Westerners introduction to how little helpful and directly unpleasant, overbearing and patronizing some of its officials and residents can be with their opinions and ideas. I need not expand on this in detail, for habitués of Baba ashrams who do not know what I mean are most certainly very few and far between!
My general experience of many Americans involved in the Sai Movement (at least, apart from the overall leaders) was that they did not have such harsh ideas, rulings and opinions. They could be amenable to open discussion and a free give and take of ideas - within certain limits, however. They are certainly more tolerant of other's opinions than those Indian devotees who are of a higher caste or status and tend to be presumptuous in their views (but there were some few very honourable exceptions). Americans are after all brought up under a non-authoritarian educational system which allows serious questions which can at least reckon on being answered civilly, whether affirmatively or not. Many of that kind of American follower left the Organization since 2000.
But the brush-offs one often gets at the ashrams from imperious officials are well-known and may often be seen to have the trademark of Sai Baba himself on them… he ignores, scowls, and – in the interview room - gives unpleasant answers and makes people the butt of his often cheap humour (‘You fight with your husband!’ General laughter from sycophantic devotees. ‘You are a mad girl!’ Much amusement among those not addressed). That the writers of endless and top-heavy praise of SB and everything he says hardly ever mention such glaring facts and blatant incidents that all have to deal with regularly is just another of the distortions made on the ‘cloud-cuckoo-land principle’. Unlike them, I exercise the same right as does SB in many discourses to express certain ‘harsh opinions’, because they are based on fact and are needed in order to help somewhat to right the unbalanced propaganda from mind-blindfolded believers.
How doubts and criticism are suppressed in the Sai cult: Sathya Sai Baba advises: "Take all that happens is a gift from God". But he does not accept criticism of himself as a gift from God, even though it happens (sic!) and 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba'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 Sathya Sai Baba. 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 general lack of educational excellence among Sai Baba followers: 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. V.K. Narasimhan frequently explained to me how Sai baba cannot find people as executives for his institutions who have genuine leadership qualities and are high achievers in education or administration. When one knows the ideology he preaches, this is far from surprising, as his discourses are replete with examples of how much he looks down on scholars, intellectuals, people with critical minds and so forth. Religiosity is his first requirement, and it is known that the religiously-minded are seldom forward-looking modernists capable of operating well and efficiently in the modern world.
Sathya Sai Baba 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. People who badly need the support of a guru in their lives are not those who have much self confidence, much get-up-and-go or have achievements behind them which sustain them in difficulty circumstances.
The promises are the bait, but one must not ask to have them explained: Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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. Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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! Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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.
Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba of this, the reply was '10 years have already passed.' Sathya Sai Baba 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 Sathya Sai Baba 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 ego less devotees, as Sathya Sai Baba 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.
An example of how the Sathya Sai Baba organization was closing down its contact with serious investigative media - the fear of being further exposed after the BBC were invited to make a documentary by the ashram and Dr. Goldstein... which resulted in 'The Secret Swami'