Sathya Sai Baba hands out many personal promises to people in private interviews. Such promises are reported in many books about him. One standard format of his is, "I will look after everything", another is, "I give you a long life, healthy life, happy life!". (Unasked, he made both of these 'promises to me'- yet I can hardly be said to have a healthy life since then, having still suffered chronic back and neck problems that have kept me away from work for nearly 20 years). Other assurances he gives are, "I shall protect you"; "I will build an iron wall around you!" and "I give you liberation, you will not have to take on another body!"
To what extent does the evidence back up these 'divine assurances'? This is a moot question, and it is one that people long to believe is always fulfilled. But this is certainly not the case! Even the adulatory literature contains references to instances of this, but experience has taught me that many instances are not talked about in the strongly self-censored books about Sathya Sai Baba.
To start with the simpler promises like "I will give interview tomorrow", "I will visit your home" etc. When Sathya Sai Baba does not follow up as promised, it is said by the faithful that Sathya Sai Baba has divine sense of time which differs from ours -so when he says 'yes, interview tomorrow' he may mean any time in the future etc. A thousand years is as nothing to him! This sounds crazy - but if one believes that Sathya Sai Baba is God Almighty Himself, then it seems just about credible. But then it is literally a simple deception, for God would have to know how each person understands what he promises them. It is now common knowledge that there have been a considerable number of suicides due to Sathya Sai Baba's not keeping his word. A whole family of five was poisoned by the father (and few survived) after Sathya Sai's broken assurances. These he makes very freely and often sweepingly in interviews and also in discourses about protecting all who put their faith in him.
One argument frequently heard
among devotees is based on what the long-term and very close follower and chosen by SB to be the head of his Organization in the USA,
Dr. John Hislop, wrote in his book 'My Baba and I'. Hislop asked for
permission to publish it, but was told by Sathya Sai Baba he must wait
20 years. However, after 2 years, Hislop received a message from Sathya
Sai Baba saying he should publish straight away. The credulous Hislop
had searched for one guru after another, including Yogananda, Krishnamurthi,
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and U Ba Thin leaving each in disappointment.
He became a keen rationalised of Sathya Sai Baba's often impenetrably
unclear or fantastic assertions, and puts it down to Sai Baba
having a cosmic perspective and eternal sense of time that no one can
understand (as Sai Baba had asserted). Hislop died of brain cancer having refused any operation or chemotherapy (a strange way to express faith in Sai Baba) This became standard doctrine
among the majority of disappointed, bemused and betrayed followers so
as to save what faith they can after years of major involvement and
personal commitment etc.
One could make a very long list of Sai devotees who have been let down by Sathya Sai Baba utterly. Mrs. Joy Thomas who – despite SB’s assurance of no cancer – died of cancer after being flown back to US from the Sai Super Specialty Hospital,where she had been denied blood transfusion by a prominent Sai doctor (reportedly a Dr. Singh). The wife of a major Sai-VIP, Datuk Jegathesan, Mrs. Jegathesan, died mysteriously in her bathroom and later her son – who was a Sai favourite in private interviews - committed suicide by jumbing from a 5-storey building in Kuala Lumpur. How can one rationalise this as ‘His Grace’, and not to mention the sheer horror gone through which the King and Queen of Nepal – close devotees who visited Sathya Sai Baba? Both shot down and killed by their son along with others in a regular bloodbath!
Sathya Sai Baba capitalises on people's uncertainty and ignorance of anything to do with real truth by ever reaffirming to people that they are uncertain and ignorant. Sathya Sai Baba has insisted that he alone knows the right timing for everything and acts accordingly. When, in so many instances, he does not keep his word, he puts the blame on the person he made promises to for not having asked from the heart or that something about them was not genuine, or that they were simply not ready or worthy to receive his grace etc. A good headmaster of a school is just in his judgments and equal-handed in his rewards and punishments. An experienced master uses the carrot and backs it up when it fails to work by the stick. Sathya Sai Baba's visible and invisible rewards (i.e. as promised for the future) are supposed exceed the punishments he is thought eventually to mete out to those who accept positions of trust then seriously let him down. So all his promises have to be taken in the context of this unintelligible cosmic plan which he claims alone to know and effect... and this actually makes them as unreliable in terms of human experience as anything can be. He can't lose and you can't win, as long as you accept his vast claims at face value!
Dominic Kennedy wrote in The Times (27/8/01) of three British followers of Sathya Sai Baba who took their own lives: "an investigation by The Times today discloses that three British men have apparently taken their own lives after becoming followers of the miracle worker. Two of them were encouraged to believe that he could cure their medical problems. One of those also said that he had been touched intimately by the Sai Baba." In 1990, two US ladies killed outright and one young American – Michael Oliver – crushed by falling dome in Eternal Heritage Museum in 1992, with 11 hours hell in taxi to Bangalore with 9 fractures and broken cranium before dying en route after great suffering.
We may take as a further example of Sathya Sai Baba's failed promises, the constantly ill and suffering Mrs. Phyllis Krystal, an elderly lady devotee for decades from the US, who has written about some of her experiences of Sathya Sai Baba. She described her chronic and terrible headaches, which Sai Baba diagnosed as due to five different kinds of headache (see 'The Ultimate Experience'- publ. Samuel Weiser Inc.). She went through some kind of intensification of her symptoms while with Sathya Sai Baba, which she interpreted as being a part of the treatment in removing one or more of these several headaches. She was a speaker at the Sathya Sai Hamburg Conference in 1992 and was asked point blank from the audience whether Sathya Sai Baba had now cured her of all her headaches. She hesitated for some time, and eventually said that he had. However, later I was in London talking to Lucas Ralli, (Central Coordinator for UK & Ireland until unceremoniously kicked out) and a close friend of Mrs. Krystal, who stayed with him and his wife sometime during a UK visit. He came to mention that she was in constant need of pain killers for her headaches and I was taken aback. So I asked if she had not been cured, but he confirmed that she still suffered greatly from this. This incident typifies the kind of thinking one meets among Sai devotees.
Perhaps a kind of self-deceit to protect one's faith, partly a desire not to admit doubts to oneself or others and thereby publicly embarrass the guru, whose promises are supposed to be as cast in iron and whose healings are infallible etc. Later, Mrs. Krystal's house was shattered by the Californian earthquake in the 90s, making her homeless, along with her deceased huband's lifelong collection of crystal glass reportedly worth much more than $1 million. As she describes in detail in her book 'The Ultimate Experience', Sathya Sai Baba had himself told her to move to that house, after she had prayed constantly for a very long time and repeatedly asked him whether she could move house! Eventually he had given the go-ahead verbally to her. Devotees, in their great wisdom, regard such things as a boon from Sathya Sai Baba! It helps one to detach from worldly things and prepare for the final detachment! This reasoning, when taken to its conclusion means it is a boon when anything is destroyed, relatives are lost etc., because it prepares one for death! All very acceptable and faith-inducing, no doubt!
Two of Sathya Sai Baba's closest
collaborators, Prof. N. Kasturi (his official biographer and servitor
for over 40 years) and V.K. Narasimhan, who followed Kasturi into the
editor's chair of Sanathana Sarathi and worked continuously for Sathya
Sai Baba in that and other capacities for over two decades, both suffered
horrible and long illnesses before they died. Kasturi was in a terrible
state for 6 weeks before his release (this would not have been known
to me had not Narasimhan told me so) and Narasimhan himself had lost an
eye (Sathya Sai Baba having claimed he would look after him and applied
vibuthi etc. when it got infected). Then VKN suffered up to 3 months
with his lungs filling with water before dying in March 2000. Such vastly
selfless servers were not exactly eased in any way by the supposedly
'omnipotent and grace-giving' avatar. All kinds of weird and fantastic
explanations can be invented to explain away such things, but the gruelling
facts and harsh neglect remain. (Sathya Sai Baba also made VKN write
a lie in the press about the Central Trust before his illness, which
can't have been all that helpful for the poor man whose former life
had been in defence of the truth).
The former close devotee, Eileen Weed (known as 'Divya') who lived in Prashanthi Nilayam with Sai Baba's own elder sister Venkamma for years until her death and knew his family wrote about the boast of 'cancelled cancer' ( e-mail May 11, 2013). Eileen attended Venkamma on her deathbead (alone) and Sai Baba only visited once some time previously and said to the family 'But What can I do?'
These are far from being all
the instances of which I know or have heard about from reliable sources.
After long observation of those who go to Sai Baba (including while leading several groups to Puttaparthi) expecting some help, physical or spiritual ‘healing’ and the like – it was eventually forced into my attention that any improvement is hardly ever noted, other than a temporary lift of spirits. The number of disappointed people I met during 18 years far outweighed those who benefitted – such as half a dozen blind people hoping for their sight back, and many people from the whole world surviving in the most terrible physical conditions sitting year after year on the hard chairs provided for sufferers and gradually getting worse. Sai Baba preys on people who are emotionally and psychologically wrecked and uses them to further his agenda.
Mrs. Tor Fotland, the wife in a family in our Oslo centre had breast cancer and prayed continuously to Sai Baba for help over several years. Sometimes she thought it was receding, but eventually she was convinced to have chemotherapy. It did not help. I was given packets of vibuthi by Sai Baba at an interview in 1994 for 'the patient' (obviously that lady as this was foremost in our minds at that interview). The lady, Mrs. F. Fotland, ate all the vibuti and then firmly refused an operation, which her specialist said was her last chance. She died not long afterwards, having refused an operation in the forlorn hope that Sai Baba would intrvene miraculously.
At Kodaikanal in 1991, I daily observed that Mr. James Sinclair, the precious metals magnate and donor of well over a billion dollars in all to Sathya Sai, had unheard-of daily half-hour private interviews before darshan for over a week 4 (his wife included). Money talks! Interestingly, Mr. Sinclair has published (in the U.S. Sathya Sai Newsletter – 80th Birthday Commemoration edition) the fact that his wife was personally called by Sathya Sai Baba and she was killed on her way to Puttaparthi in a massive taxi accident! This he saw as a blessing to her and wrote the following amazing words: “thank you, beloved Swami, for having such compassion to your totally devoted child, Barbara, to have cured her of the most insidious disease, ‘I am the body'” One cannot but wonder how much money Barbara Sinclair left by testament to the Sathya Sai Central Trust and where it now is. (The poor taxi driver was killed too… presumably a double blessing and cure of the alleged disease of life?)
So what are Sathya Sai Baba's famous "divine guarantees" worth? Let a Dutch lady correspondent of mine of impeccable insight answer this query:
Mr. Y.V. Kutumb Rao, a former Indian High Court judge and head of the ashram for many years until the mid-80s is said to have served Sathya Sai Baba with devoted selflessness etc. He is written about in a number of the earlier Sathya Sai Baba books. Even though he was the first official to speak to Sathya Sai Baba every morning, he was never given an interview during 20 years of service. He had longed for this, for he had never been given any such private attention for himself by Sathya Sai Baba before, which was a known fact to ashramites too! Shortly after he was at last called for the treasured interview, I was told shortly by his colleague, the elderly Head of the Administration Building, Mr. Kanheia Jee, who with his Seva Dal wife Mrs. Kavery, became charming friends of ours. K. Jee said that Baba had not spoken to him until the private interview, when he had taken him alone into the small room and told him simply that a man was on his way to murder K. Rao and he had best make himself scarce for some months. He was told to leave his post to the deputy head of ashram, Mr. Chiranjia Rao, and go to a certain village and lie low there until Sathya Sai Baba sent word. That was that!
This occurred while I was present at PN, when Chiranjia Rao became head of ashram during early 1987 for a period of some months. Well before 1989, Kutumb Rao was back at his post, but suffering from internal cancers. He was sent to Madras and opened up, but closed again as a hopeless case beyond surgery. He suffered much for a long period altogether and died around 29/3/1989. Sathya Sai Baba apparently did nothing to help him. But devotees speculate nonetheless that surely Sathya Sai Baba helped him through his karma, or will give him a better new body and life, or already granted him liberation? How can they be so confident, so easily be taken in? The above instances are but a few among numerous others of which I know.Back to main page