SATHYA SAI BABA’S REPUTATION – AS A RAMA OR A RAVANA?
by Reidun Priddy
(ex-Sathya Sai Organization Coordinator for 16 years, Oslo Centre. Former translator of Sai discourses and books to Norwegian.)
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In his many, repetitive discourses Sathya Sai Baba uses the same examples again and again, and so, predictably, in his Ladies’ Day discourse on 19.11.02, he mentions among others, Sita, as an example to present day women. Since the Ramayana, like the Bhagavad Gita, hold such a central position for Hindus it is, of course, natural that an Indian would use material from these epic works to teach his devotees how to lead their lives. Indeed, Sathya Sai Baba has even written his own version of the Ramayana and among his many other gigantic claims, Sai Baba repeatedly says he is the incarnation of the famous Hindu God-king Rama.
The part from the Ramayana which is relevant here is that Sita, the wife of god-king Rama, was captured by Ravana, who lusted after her. Ravana was king of Lanka, and according to Sathya Sai Baba, a very highly evolved being with many extraordinary powers who could also have been great like Rama, were it not for lack of control over his lust, which led to his final downfall. The Rama – Ravana constellation is one very often used by Sathya Sai Baba as an example to show how important it is to rid oneself of bad qualities for in the end it means either glory and victory or utter ruin and death as in the case of Rama and Ravana.Pure, chivalrous Rama made an innocent woman go through fire!
After Rama’s victory over Ravana in the final battle, Sita was freed from her captivity and brought back to Rama, but she had to publicly prove her chastity by passing through fire unscathed. One would have thought that Rama, the avatar, would have known this, but his word was obviously not sufficient to convince the people! According to Sathya Sai Baba the reason for the test was that there must be no blemish attached to the name, fame and kingship of the ruler and his wife. This is another theme in which Sathya Sai Baba puts great emphasis on the purity of one’s name. To have a good reputation is also one of the criteria stated in the Charter for being a member of the Sai Organisation.Despite passing the trial by fire, in the end poor Sita was banished to the forest anyway, as two villagers were overheard still speculating about her innocence, so Rama sacrificed her for the sake of his name, to keep himself above the reach of slander. And he is regarded and upheld by Sathya Sai Baba as the topmost ideal of how to live in perfect harmony with dharma! Sathya Sai Baba also sees himself as he does Rama, and his main message used to be: “My life is my message”, a saying which used to be one of the most frequently quoted, but which is not seen or heard so often anymore….
In his Ladies’ Day discourse Sathya Sai Baba said: “Truth, righteousness, morality and integrity are nowhere to be seen today. In olden days, people gave topmost priority to truth and righteousness.” … “The women of Bharat sacrificed their lives for the sake of truth.” … (There is also a story that Sathya Sai Baba has often told, of a man who sacrificed his wife and children for the sake of truth.) “Sita proved her chastity by coming out of blazing fire unscathed.” (Sanathana Sarathi, Jan. 2003, p. 16). I used to believe in Sathya Sai Baba, but luckily I don’t anymore, for I actually think that truth, righteousness, morality and integrity can be found in the world today. There are plenty of people with integrity and morals, even though they might keep low profiles and don’t advertise themselves. (I used to think Sathya Sai Baba was like that.) So when Sathya Sai Baba says those virtues are nowhere to be seen today, his vision must either be impaired or limited, and if not, then it must reflect back on himself and the company he keeps. I am not thinking of the mass of devotees who are mostly at a distance, but of those close up to him.
Why will Sai Baba not also face the test of investigation?
With the reputation he has earned through his sexual exploitation of young male devotees, he would not in fact now qualify for membership in his own organisation, unless he was able to clear his name. Unlike the case of Sita, Sathya Sai Baba’s is not just a whispered doubt among a couple of villagers, but many, very serious public accusations in many countries. This is not just a matter of chastity either, but allegations of sexual abuse of young boys and men from many parts of the world who trusted Sathya Sai Baba as God himself. While extolling Sita and her ordeal to prove her chastity, Sathya Sai Baba does not allow any proper investigation into these serious allegations of sexual abuse, nor into the horrific killings in his rooms in Prashanthi Nilayam ashram. He is unable to free himself from these charges because he is unwilling even to explain himself, while he hides behind the worldly power of his followers in the Indian Government, which stopped the 1993 murder investigation by government order, and the Indian courts, which have covered up for him in all possible ways. So he has demonstrated fully in action that he is most definitively not of the caliber of the fabled Rama! Sathya Sai Baba just expects everyone to believe him when he claims to be completely pure and selfless. Anyone can say that.
In addition he accuses people who say otherwise, of being Judases, jealous and out to make money, and even condemns them to eternal rebirths (in his Christmas discourse 2000 and not exactly in the spirit of Christmas, one might say). To me, such hypocrisy seemed to be the hallmark of organized religion (Christianity) and the main reason I would have nothing to do with it after the age of 11 or 12. Once, I would never have thought that Sathya Sai Baba would turn out to join the ranks of that long line of hypocrites. However, his life is his message, and the saying “As above, so below” is ever true, and the full results of Sathya Sai Baba’s message will doubtless manifest accordingly.