Sathya Sai's behavior and teachings as a straitjacket
preventing spiritual and emotional growth.

by Åsa Samsioe, Sweden

When I first read about Sai Baba, it was his teachings that drew me to him and seduced me to put my faith in him.
It was also the first time that I really learned about Indian religion and philosophy. And Sai Baba's teachings were in an easily digested form, easy to masticate and easy to understand, even for an uninitiated Westerner. But the more I read, the more I learned, the more I felt awkward about his teachings.

Explaining contradictions, apparent or real? Firstly there are all those contradictions of his and also all those lies.
In their endeavour to defend their guru, Sai Baba's devotees try to explain those contradictions. It is said that his teachings have to be adjusted to all the devotees' different spiritual levels. I would have seen the point in this argument if Sai Baba was teaching his devotees on an individual basis. But he isn't. Most of his devotees get his teachings on a collectivistic basis. Where is the point then for one and the same devotee to hear one thing at one occasion and the opposite thing at the next occasion? And what are his devotees supposed to believe according to all those lies that they are fed with?

“People may think that Swami is having a number of servants to do his work. I do not need anybody to serve Me; I do not expect any service from others." (This is just one example of an obvious lie! Every devotee has seen with his/her own eyes and also read about how Sai Baba constantly gets and demands personal service from his devotees! Even his humble devotee Smt Vijaya Kumari writes that the slightest oversight with regard to arrangements for his meals would provoke Sai Baba into a fit of anger.) Surely no one believes that Sai Baba makes his own meals, does his own laundry, shops for anything, services his own cars or dozens of other tasks anyone else must carry out? "Since my childhood I have been respecting everybody. Today the whole world is respecting Me.” Sai Baba says. (Sanathana Sarathi Sept. 2003, p 267)
Still more lies, exaggerations and rough generalizations....Certainly all those sexually abused boys don´t feel that Sai Baba has given them their respect. And the whole world doesn't respect him! What a shameless statement! Actually there is today a growing crowd of people who don´t respect him at all. But the majority of the people in the world have not even heard about him....

Secondly there are all those banal platitudes of his like “help ever hurt never” and the like, which are relevant only in their correct context.
There are also all those moralistic and oversimplified statements, that are hardly applicable to a complicated reality. To feel angry is for example a very nasty thing in Sai Baba's world. Certainly it is important for all human beings to come to terms with their anger, especially in our troubled world of today.

Control of one's anger: Sathya Sai Baba also teaches his devotees various ways to control their anger, some of them more or less strange:

“The easiest way to control anger is this. The moment you become aware that anger is rising within you, just laugh very loudly. Or go to the bathroom and have a cool bath. You can also take a glass of cool water and relax in a cool place. The moment anger comes it is most helpful to leave the place where you are and go somewhere else. If with all these measures you still have not been able to control your anger, then stand in front of a mirror and examine your face. After seeing your appearance you will surely feel so much disgust that at once you will be able to control your anger.” (Sai Baba Gita, IX, p 90 internet version)

But it´s not enough for Sai Baba if his devotees control their angry actions. He also wants them to suppress their angry feelings:

“Once anger enters your heart, all other wicked qualities will follow” he says (Sanathana Sarathi - Sept. 2003, p 281).

“You must not permit even the least room in your heart for such bad traits. Once you let anger in, it will be impossible to get rid of it.” (Sai Baba Gita, X p 96 internet version)

“Even a moment of anger takes away our strength which we gather by eating good food for three months. Anger not only debilitates us and takes away the merit of our good deeds, but also enfeebles our condition.” (Whitefield, May 1972 Published by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust)

Everybody with just a little knowledge of psychology knows that this is an exaggeration. In the context of such a moralistic and person-controlling movement that surrounds Sai Baba, this can and does all to easily lead to the suppression of many feelings of anger – including naturally justified and righteous ones, such as when one discovers sexual abuse is taking place or when one has been radically deceived. This hardly leads to mental health. The important thing is not to suppress all aggressive feelings; but to examine and control them. If you are not even allowed to feel them, then you will probably sooner or later get sick either mentally or physically.

Many of those who have committed the most irrational and horrible crimes, are those who have suppressed their emotions for long periods. At last when the suppression doesn´t work any more their emotions burst into violent acts.

If you suppress – rather than learn to control and constructively channel - your emotions, you certainly run the risk of being a zombie without responsibility and real compassion for your fellow-beings.

To try to censor ones feelings before feeling and investigating them (before letting them rule your behaviour) is a recipe for emotional confusion and can often lead to mental instability. Besides, people who have not lost contact with their own emotions, which also would normally include a wide range of feelings from love to aggression, are usually filled with the joy of living and with a creative power. Why does Sai Baba want to deprive them of that? How is it at all possible for those who are not allowed to feel their own emotions to get emotional and spiritual development?

Jack Kornfield has a considerable more mature approach to the problem of anger, than has Sathya Sai Baba.

He writes in his book “A Path with Heart” (p 91):

“Many of us have been conditioned to hate our anger. As we try to observe it, we will find a tendency to judge and suppress it, to get rid of it, because it is “bad” and painful, or shameful and “unspiritual”.

We must be very careful to bring an open mind and heart to our practice, and let ourselves feel fully, even if it means touching the deepest wells of grief, sorrow, and rage within us. These forces move our lives, and we must feel them in order to come to terms with them. Meditation is not a process of getting rid of something, but one of opening and understanding. When we work with anger in meditation, it can be very strong. Initially, we may sense just a little anger, but for those who have learned to suppress it and hold it back, anger will then transform into rage..... When the demons become unmasked, you may feel you are going mad or doing something wrong, but in fact you have finally begun to face the forces that keep you from living in a loving and fully conscious way.”

Thirdly we have the inconsistency between Sai Baba's teachings and his own behavior. Even if you chose to shut your eyes to the sexual molestations, the lies and the faked materializations, you just need to take a close look at Sai Baba himself to realize the truth. Actually it ought to be enough to see his grim and uninterested face and to make a retrospective calculation of how many times he has talked about “My boys” compared with those times he talked about “My girls”. You would soon realize that it´s not love that Sai Baba radiates and that his interest in his devotees' spiritual development is just a question of gender.

What are Sathya Sai Baba's devotees supposed to learn? Are they supposed to learn that their teacher is rather confused and forgets from one occasion to another what he has said? Are they supposed to learn that the things that their guru teaches don't make an integrated whole but are only fragmentary parts? Are they supposed to notice that Sai Baba has stolen some quotations here and some quotations there from Indian masters like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Gandhi etc.... ? Are they supposed to learn that Sai Baba´s own teachings with their platitudes, oversimplifications and parrot-like repetitions probably are just the reflection of his incomplete education and his occasional state of mind? Are they supposed to notice that the teachers' grim face and eyes stand in stark contrast to his declaration that he is the embodiment of love? Of course not! That would be an awful blasphemy against their Swami-God!

What are they then supposed to learn? Above all they have to learn never to put the blame on Sai Baba as he is infallible. The only remaining alternative is then to take the blame onto them. That means that the more Sai Baba´s devotees learn and experience things that they are not supposed to learn and experience, the more they have to blame themselves. They have to realize that it is not Sai Baba who is the confused one. They are themselves confused because they use their head too much on the expense of their heart!

And it is not Sai Baba who radiates lovelessness; it's their own inability to draw the Lord´s love to themselves. They are indeed full of rust and dust and they don´t understand a thing of the wisdom of their Lord. Besides there must certainly be something wrong with their senses and with their perceptions to... but anyway these just reflect their own defect, loveless and confused inner being. Actually those devotees are "worse than beasts", as Sai Baba frequently says of some people! You may wonder with Sai Baba how such people can be called human beings and how any spiritual development at all is possible for those poor souls....

But what about those ideal devotees who have not learned or experienced things that they are not supposed to learn or experience?
Those devotees have closed and locked their heads and are just thinking with their hearts. They have been successful surrendering there everything to their Swami.... But sorry to say in this process they also lost their sense of discrimination.
Certainly Sai Baba encourages them to use discrimination, but only with his own definition of the word. He actually teaches them to strive to discard their judgment of all things, except to distinguish between what he lays down as being ‘divine’ and all else, which is only ‘wordly’ and to be considered valueless.

One should realize that there is an inherent antagonism between total surrender and the sense of genuine discrimination. You can´t have your cake and eat it! And how is it possible for people who have lost their sense of discrimination and have discarded their judgment to get any spiritual development at all?

It has been said that people who are stuck to a doctrine (like Sathya Sai Baba´s devotees are) are like houses without windows.

How is it possible for a person “without windows” to get spiritual realization?

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