For and Against Sathya Sai Baba on the Internet
Alexandra H.M. Nagel
The Netherlands, August 2001
Since the publication of a document titled The Findings, March 2000, quite a few devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba have become ex-devotees. The accusations against the Indian guru are enormous: deceit, fraud, murder, undesired sexual intimacies with men, even minors. Prior to The Findings, and afterwards, the Internet has been the primary communication vehicle.
Anyone surfing the Internet who types in the hyperlink http://www.sathyasai.org
is led to the official, international website of the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation. When typing in http://www.srisathyasai.org.in, the official site of Sai Baba’s ashram Prasanthi Nilayam lights up the screen. Both sites show pictures, a logo, and pieces of text to inform the surfer what it is about: a guru born in 1926 and living in Puttaparthi, South India, whose teachings can be summarised in five Sanskrit words. Sathya, or truth, dharma, right conduct, shanthi, peace, prema love and ahimsa non violence, are five ‘human values’.
It is said that this guru has millions of followers all over the world. Hundreds, even thousands turn up daily for his darshan to receive his blessing, and see the ‘materialisation’ of vibuthi (sacred ashes) for which he has become famous. There are at least 500 books and articles in English about him, some of which are translated into several other languages. Many countries also offer devotee books written in the native language.
The first mentioned website lists the regions where Sai Baba organisations are physically located. The site offers links to the countries that have official national athya Sai Baba websites. The Netherlands, for instance, http://www.sathyasai.nl, or Greece http://www.sathyasai.org/organize/z1reg03/Greece/index.html. Also these offer an overview of Sai Baba’s teachings, a list of Sai Centers in the country, email addresses, as well as the books, videos and music cassettes available. The Dutch site carries an introduction to Sai Spiritual Education (education that integrates the five human values), and Baba’s ‘message for the day’, given on http://www.sathyasai.org, can be easily traced through a link.
Internet, websites, links, e-mail addresses, surfing are words belonging to the communication medium that over the last few years has grown in importance. Internet is nowadays the means to globally gather and spread information, and to seek contact with like-minded persons. This fact, combined with the global popularity of Sai Baba, makes it reasonable to assume that besides the official (inter-)national websites, there might be more sites on the Internet on Sathya Sai Baba. This assumption is indeed true. Yet, it might still be surprising for many people to learn that the number of sites exceeds a hundred. Many of these present general information about the guru’s teachings, pictures, meeting places and links to other sites.
Naturally, it is through this very same medium that the beloved Sai Baba has been accused. He is said to be a fraud, fake, charlatan, liar, and above all, a homo-paedophile molesting innocent children. In the year 2000, quite a few, often very loyal, devotees, some of them for over 20 years, have become ex-devotees. Many of their questions, much of their search for truth and the results of their actions against Sai Baba, can also be found on the Internet. Letters, for example, written by former Sai-organisation officials explaining why they resigned from their functions, have been placed on Sai-critical websites. They are meant to let others know that something very fundamental is wrong with Sathya Sai Baba and the organisation.
In short: the Internet is used by devotees to spread Sai Baba’s teachings, and at the same time it is used by ex-devotees to inform and warn people about Sai Baba. Counter measures from devotees against the negative publicity on the Internet were not long in appearing. On open message boards devotees vehemently argued with ex-devotees about the matter, even though Sai Baba on October 15, 1999 said in a sermon:
“Some of the elders sitting at the Verandah are indulging in gossip; it is finding its way into the internet. (…) Swami has nothing to do with the internet. Not only now, even in future also. You should not indulge in such wrong activities.”
A message he repeated on September 26, 2000 by saying “Internet is like a waste paper basket”, followed three days later, on September 29, by
I have already told you about internet, radio, video etc. We have seen so many people who have been exposed to these media. But, what is their effect? All transient, passing clouds that come and go. It is an utter waste of time. It is all business oriented. That is not our aim. Do not hanker after internet: turn to the innernet. Concentrate on inner vision.
Actually, these sayings contradict the blessing Sai Baba gave in July 1995 for starting the official international website (http://www.sathyasai.org) of the Sathya Sai Organisation. They also clash with the subsequent decision by the Sathya Sai Organisation to set up an attractive website for the ashram (http://www.srisathyasai.org.in). Moreover, the Computer Class Service Project of the Sathya Sai Baba Center in New York provides courses on Internet use, and many students in Sai Baba colleges and universities also use the Internet. And yet Sai Baba seems to feel threatened, (although his devotees will not agree with this view, as Sai Baba is believed to be above all human feelings and emotions) by the negative publicity that came out last year – due to the Internet? Why else would he make these fairly recent statements?
In another paper I have compiled, in as much detail as possible, a list of the accusations against Sai Baba over the last three decades. This paper focuses on the developments involving the religious movement inspired by this guru, which have taken place since January 2000. It shows how the Internet has been a major tool for ex-devotees to seek, find and present information critical of Sai. At the same time, it has to be made clear that although some of the material presented in the following pages may be disturbing, one ought to be very careful before judging Sai Baba to be a homo-paedophile, or his devotees as blind followers. Many more facets have to be taken into account before such an opinion can be formulated.
The research for this paper has mainly been carried out – how could it have been otherwise? – through rather intensive web surfing for 1 to 3 hours daily between June 2000 and February 2001, updated by a quick survey made in August 2001. The most important Sai Baba websites are listed and briefly described in the Appendix.
Background of the Sai-critical Websites
As stated above, during the past year a large amount of information critical of Sai Baba information has been posted on the Internet. This, of course, has a history. In the past some people have become very critical towards Sai Baba. Such persons and stories have been dismissed by many of his devotees as emanating from critical individuals, critical one time stories only – therefore not important. These persons apparently did not understand Sai Baba’s real message, and probably still had to learn how to come to terms with their private disappointed egos. The belief that ‘Guru Baba will never leave them, and such persons might over the years finally become aware of Baba’s greatness’, is a common rationalised devotee way to look upon critical non- or ex-devotees.
Some non-devotees are ‘sceptics’, people who are very suspicious and critical towards everything coming close to paranormal, superstitious, religious beliefs. One of these is Herman de Tollenaere, a sceptic in the Netherlands, who maintains a critical-towards-many-things website since 1997, of which a collection of critical Sai Baba material is a section. More important for the Sai Baba case is the Indian rationalist and magician Basava Premanand, the editor of the monthly magazine Indian Skeptic, in which he tries to expose all occult, magic and esoteric frauds and fakes. For over 30 years Premanand has been following Sai Baba’s moves, and whenever some (dubious) news item appears in an Indian newspaper, a copy appears in the Indian Skeptic. Examples: visits of Indian ministers to Prasanthi Nilayam, Sai Baba’s ashram, (to show Sai Baba’s involvement in politics), the still unresolved murders of six persons in the ashram in 1993 (four former students, Sai Baba’s personal assistant and driver, and a MBA student from Sri Lanka who was living in the room next to Sai Baba, were killed, but the case was never investigated), as well as the alleged disappearance without trace of devotees of Sai Baba. The contents and some of the articles of Indian Skeptic have been on the Internet since at least since 1995.
Linked to Premanand is Dale Beyerstein, a sceptic and philosopher from Canada. He compiled a large number of inconsistencies regarding Sai Baba’s teachings, and revealed some miracles Sai Baba is alleged to have performed as untrue. His book Sai Baba’s Miracles. An Overview is available via the Indian Skeptic, and turned up in full on the web.
The long-standing host of one special Sai-critical niche of its own is David C. Lane, Professor of Philosophy & Sociology at the Mt. San Antonio College, California. As far back as May 1997, Lane, who is referred to for further information in Beyerstein’s study, presented on his personal website correspondence with, among others, Jed Geyerhahn, USA, and Said Khoramshagol, born in Iran, now living in the USA. The correspondence, dated May 1997, concerns the sexual encounters both young men had with Sathya Sai Baba when invited by Sai Baba for private interviews.
Khoramshagol started his critical Sai Baba website in 1998. Paul Holbach, of Italy, presented, independently of others, his sceptical views on Baba on a site between April 1999 and fall 2000. On February 9, 1999 Lane opened a ‘message board’ on the Internet to create a platform for discussions between Sai Baba devotees and those critical of Sai Baba. Messages sent to this board are accessible for all surfers. It is here that gradually information exchanges began between people, logged in under their own name (like p_holbach) or a different name (like ‘Parvarti’, ‘saiblahblah’), about the problematic stories concerning Sai Baba.
In March 2000 a manuscript titled The Findings was published in England. Soon after its physical appearance, in April or May, it was posted on the websites of Khoramshagol and Holbach. To be blunt, the document looks like a loose collection of e-mail messages, bundled together with an introduction and epilogue written by David and Faye Bailey. Much of its information, but not all, does stem from the Internet; the lay-out of the writings adds to the appearance of it being Internet messages only. The manuscript shows no date nor name or city of publisher. It contains approximately 40 pages (the amount varies depending on the version downloaded). At first sight, only one sentence on the Contents page, “This document has been perused for libel [,] by a lawyer in London” seems to dignify The Findings with some credentials. Nevertheless, the document has created havoc among Sai Baba devotees.
David Bailey, a British musician and teacher, became a follower of Sathya Sai Baba in 1994. Sai Baba paid him a lot of attention and Bailey became a so called ‘verandah man’, one of Baba’s chosen people who, during darshan, are privileged to sit near Sai Baba’s interview room. For six years Bailey made visits of a few weeks to Puttaparthi, once, twice, or when possible, three times yearly. He became involved with musical performances in the ashram, and taught music to the students of the Sai Baba schools.
After introducing them to one another in 1996, Sai Baba married David Bailey and Faye, a longtime devotee from Australia, in January 1997. Barely knowing one another, they married afterwards according to the law and in church in England. They did so as a result of their belief that Baba was guiding them this way. Both their experiences with Sai Baba are compiled in three books, clearly showing their devotion for him.
As a result of their close connections with Sai Baba, their books and David’s music performances and lectures, the Baileys became extremely well known as prominent devotees, who travelled around the world to spread Baba’s glory. Everywhere they went, they were confronted with questions from fellow devotees, including awkward questions of a sexual nature. This did not shake their faith; they kept believing in Sai Baba, and explained all away with ‘Swami is only love’. Whatever Swami did, it had to be divine. Until one day when the Baileys were approached in the ashram by a student of one of the Sai Baba schools, who pleaded with David: “Please Sir, do something to stop him sexually abusing us!” From then on Bailey carefully began to listen to and search for critical stories. One of the places he turned to was the Internet, where some information could already be found. A long period of intensifying doubt, in which stories were collected and verified, led to the publication of The Findings.
Astonishingly, the manuscript contains the stories of a few former Sai Baba students. They openly confessed to preparing Baba’s chair in the interview room with ‘planted’ rings and other trinkets. They also revealed that when Sai Baba leaves for darshan, he squeezes small tablets of vibuthi (made from ashes of cow dung) between the middle and ring finger of his hand holding his robe. When accepting letters of devotees, he simply shifts a tablet from this hand to the other. So when ‘materialising the holy ashes,’ Swami simply crushes a small tablet into powder. Anyone, it is said, who carefully watches Sai Baba’s hands instead of his face, can discover the trick quickly. The same is said to be true for the materialisations of jewellery. It often appears to be an ordinary handiness of sleight of hand. Other than this, The Findings refer to some alleged malpractices in the Sathya Sai hospital (kidney-theft), the murders in 1993 are mentioned, as are some anomalies in Sai Baba’s teachings. Particularly shocking is a brief section on Dr Naresh Bhatia, who for six years was the head of the blood bank of the Sai Super Specialty hospital:
Three young students from Sai Baba’s junior male college were called for interview. One of them, a seven year old boy student, came out of the interview room crying. He continued to cry for two days, and was unable to eat or study.
That evening Dr Bhatia, on duty in the children’s canteen, was asked to find the cause of the child’s distress. He questioned and then examined the child, and found that he had been sexually penetrated, via his anus. The child was taken to Bangalore and re-examined. A second medical opinion confirmed sexual abuse.
Dr Bhatia had been involved in sexual activity with Sai Baba for six years, believing that he was serving divinity. He went to Sai Baba: “Why do you do this to such a young child when you have all of us adults and the older students to play with?”
Sai Baba’s reply: “Don’t bargain with God!”
Soon after, five men went to Dr Bhatia’s home, threatening his life with knives. He made his escape by car, fleeing to Delhi.
The spreading of The Findings started mainly through an announcement in The Quarterly, a three monthly magazine founded in England by Peggy Mason, a long time Sai Baba devotee. After Peggy Mason passed away, Faye Bailey had taken over the editorship. The March 2000 issue of The Quarterly indicated that David and Faye Bailey were not Sai Baba devotees any more. Those interested to know why could order The Findings. Devotees who ordered and read The Findings and believed the stories to be true, passed it on to others. This time they were not individual cases from disappointed egos, but many different cases, and even children were involved!
Many people who read The Findings and were affected by the document, went on the Internet and surfed to sites containing information critical of Sai Baba. The message-board created by David Lane had already become the meeting place to post and read bits and pieces of Sai-critical information. The interaction increased after The Findings had come out. Discussions flared up. New data surfaced. For instance the sexual encounter Hans de Kraker had with Sai Baba in 1997 was mailed to the Baileys, and was added to The Findings. Someone offered the information that a particular building close to the ashram gate, the one having the sign ‘Ayurvedic Massage Institute’ on the outside, was a brothel. When entering for a massage, this person found that a visitor was offered all kind of services by young boys and girls, depending on how much the visitor was willing to pay. The building is said to be owned by a younger brother of Sai Baba (named Jankiramaiah) and the doctor running the business often sits on Baba’s verandah.
Delta_108, the Internet name for Hari Sampath from India – nowadays living in the USA – explained that he had left the organisation sickened after getting to know inside information. He was a volunteer member of the intelligence and inner security wing of the ashram between 1992 and 1995, in which period he cultivated relationships with persons he considers to be members of the ‘second ring’ of Sai devotees. Belonging to the ‘first ring’ are the members of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and family members of Sai Baba. Members of the first ‘inner coterie’ are often of high social status and they stay in the Sai Organisation for a long time. All these, according to Sampath, know that Sai Baba is not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent, the qualities believed to be attributes of an avatar, a God-in-human-form, as Baba claims he is and his devotees believe. The ring behind this inner coterie, the second ring, is built up of presidents of national Sai Organisations, and presidents of States in India. These people manage the money streams towards the Central Trust, and they have ample opportunity to personally gain from it – as a fee for their loyalty. Not all members of this second ring are aware of the huge sums of money involved, and some are convinced Sai Baba is the avatar, says Sampath.
When information like this began to grow like a snowball, and more and more people began to meet in cyberspace, things changed, naturally. Devotees became ex-devotees. They had to cope with anger, and feelings of betrayal (spiritual rape) by Sai Baba. Some of them posted rude, and accusing notes on the message board. Devotees staying loyal to Sai Baba began to post just as upset or angry messages. An impression:
July 24, 2000 message # 6963, by aoclery, ‘It’s time for the dirty gritty
“S.B. sucks boy’s penises and penetrates anuses from 7 to 30 yr olds. Lots of vice a versa and sexual orgies in groups at Kodai. S.B. likes to watch boys having sex in front of him also. He is a voyeur as well as a varied pervert it seems.
There is a pedophile brothel at P.N.
There are some drugs involved, perhaps ganja and more.
He is an embezzler, a murderer, a liar and a cheat.
He is a hypocrite for approving meat eating and alcohol consumption in HRC and HOBs against his published teachings.
Om Nama Sivaya, Tony. Sorry about this but too much crap is getting from the point.”
[Abbreviations: Kodai: residence of Sai Baba in Kodaikanal, P.N.: Prasanthi Nilayam, HRC: Hard Rock Café, HOBs: House of Blues. The last two are set up by Isaac Tigrett, who when he sold the Hard Rock Cafés, donated US$20 million for the Sathya Sai Super Special hospital.]
September 3, 2000 message # 7820, by rkmsr, a reply to delta_108, ‘Re: Filthy>> Hmm ?? Now you k’:
“(…) We hindus and Indians are proud of our culture, and heritage. I don’t need any advice from pigs and hyenas. If you are hungry, i will throw shit at your face, eat it and keep quiet, RKMSR”
October 18, 2000 message # 9085, by aoclery, ‘Re: what about this ????’:
“sb says nothing most ghost written, he is not a swami, he is a molestor and anal penetrator of
October 19, 2000 message # 9104, by dark_knight_9, replying to aoclery, ‘Re: what about this ????’:
“Oh would you just shut up and say something different instead of saying the same thing over and over and over againnnnnnnnn …..”
October 19, 2000 message # 9113, by aoclery:
“Heis an arse bandit in pn molesting kids.”
When the discussion on the board got clogged with off-topic pro-Sai postings, (only on rare occasions will Lane, the webmaster, delete a message), out of sheer frustration a new board was opened, promising to maintain a friendlier atmosphere and delete off-topic messages. Also new critical websites got set up – in the foreign languages Spanish, French, Polish and Dutch, carrying translations of The Findings, letters and testimonies. One message-board was initiated for people to share the grief of having lost the dearly loved Sathya Sai Baba. Another impression:
November 19, 2000 message # 11, by phoenixboy28, ‘Feeling the sadness’:
I am at that point now. I thought It didnt matter anymore that I was really getting over it. I even tried to justify it by telling people to get over it and move on. Thats not where I am today. I am feeling really sad and abandoned by god. You know I still have his pictures sitting down off the walls in a pile next to me as I write. Im finding it hard to let go, but Im just stalling the inevitable.
I was listening to Jewel singing one of her songs yesterday and I just burst into tears. It felt great to cry and I sang along with her.
I think theres heaps more crying to do. I feel it well up in my heart and I know I have to release it, but its like letting go of sb and im still finding it hard.
Maybe one day we can all cry together, and then I know we will laugh and heal our hearts.
November 21, 2000 message # 35, by lisabeth59840, ‘Re: Necessary Loss’:
I feel this way as well. How could I have been so self-deceiving, ignoring little things that should have “stood out like a sore thumb”… One that troubles me still is remembering how when my first child was a baby, I placed a picture of SB near his crib where he could see it, thinking of course that it would be a blessing to him. I remember very well how emphatically he said to me one day “No like Baba! No like him!”
I could go on and on but my daughter’s calling me!”
November 23, 2000 message # 57, by contessa92000, ‘Re: more signs along the way’:
“I am wondering where my head was at that I was so impressed with this “God” who had, or so I thought, the great capacity to manifest cow dung? My. My. My. What an accomplishment.
I am also wondering where my head was at when I gratefully received and ate it. My My. My.
What a fool.”
Ex-devotees who wanted to stay up to date could contact Glen Meloy, a retired management consultant in California, who after 26 years of devotion, could not deny the authenticity of a hand-written account of a 15-year old boy he knew personally. That document, in a rather detached tone, describes how he, the boy, had been sexually approached by Sai Baba in two private interviews. Having become an ex-devotee, Meloy became the co-ordinator of an email group that had formed itself in Spring 2000, and had become rather active in the exposure of the guru’s ‘dark’ side. When this group became too large – having grown from a handful in the early summer 2000 to a list of 500 names by November – and people on the list notified him they preferred to remain anonymous for the others, he blindcopied the mailings to the large list.
The e-mail Meloy sent out in June consisted of several messages per day. It diminished to one message per week in November and from January 2001 onwards the activity of mailing the complete list changed into sporadically messages on changing intervals. The information varied from a forwarded e-mail letter written by illusionist Enrique Marquez from Argentina (saying that he, Marquez, can perform the same tricks as Sai Baba), to the news item that the book The Naked Sai Baba, written by a Japanese living in the United States, had been published in Japan. The book contains material gathered from interviews held, among others, with several men who attest to having been sexually abused by Sai Baba. Some mailings concerned persons who shared their writings with Sai officials who were still into denial, or believed Baba’s divinity. For example, the story of a mother whose son had told her in 1980 that Sai Baba was a homosexual and tried to have oral sex with him (the son). The case was at the time, in 1980, discussed among Sai officials (Phyllis Krystal, John Hislop, Michael Goldstein, three Sai VIPs). They decided to believe Sai Baba to be God, ergo, the boy and his mother had to be lying.
Also calls for protest letters to be sent to journalists or government officials were made by Meloy. For instance, it became known that two Sathya Sai Baba schools would open, one in the US (Hartford, Connecticut), the other one in Canada (Toronto). Since such schools integrate Sai Baba’s teachings, and it is believed that this same Sai Baba is using (young) boys for his personal gratification, should ex-devotees not try to stop such events? So, through Meloy’s efforts, letters got mailed and faxed to newspapers to inform journalists on Sai Baba, and – hopefully – to prevent the schools from opening.
A major success of this ‘e-bombing’ method has been the withdrawal by UNESCO of its participation in the conference on “Strengthening Values Education: Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding”. Sai devotees had been officially informed that the Institute for Sathya Sai Baba Education had been invited by UNESCO and Flinders University in Australia to participate in organising this conference, to be held from 25-29 September in Puttaparthi. However, nowhere in the UNESCO calendar was the conference listed as a UNESCO activity. The same held for Flinders University. It turned out to be an initiative of the Institute for Sathya Sai Eduction. When both UNESCO and Flinders University had withdrawn their official participation in the conference, based upon the information they had received (among the material being The Findings) this, according to some ex-devotees, was not enough. UNESCO ought to explicitly state why it had withdrawn. Only when the announcement came out on September 15, “The Organization is deeply concerned about widely-reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youths and children that have been levelled at the leader of the movement in question, Sathya Sai Baba”, was it time for celebration. This message immediately found its way to Meloy’s subscribers, and the various Sai-critical websites.
Websites and Regular Media
The UNESCO affair is typical of the exposé activities which took place during the second half of the year 2000, and which in a more sporadic manner continue today. Relatively small groups of ex-devotees are not only active in helping others with their grieving process, and adding information to the disturbing Findings, they also seek to place publicity in regular news media. They consider it important for devotees and non-devotees to really know what has been happening around and with Sathya Sai Baba. Therefore, they believe that newspapers ought to carry articles, radio and television should offer programs, and (legal) institutes ought to look into this matter. Information on websites only is not enough because not all people are reached and somehow regular news media seem to have more credentials.
However, what journalists want and need besides hard proof, is news. Subjective stories and opinions found on the Internet are not sufficient. Only first hand accounts of a ‘victim’ and official complaints are newsworthy. So far, just a minority of (young) men have been willing to openly talk about their experiences, and, as far as publicly known, only one, Jens Sethi of Germany, has filed an official complaint against Sai Baba. Based on names and stories found on the Internet, a list of twenty accounts can be compiled, some of which are second-hand, and some only concern Sai Baba massaging the young man’s genitals with oil. In reality the list of victims of young men who have been sexually abused, must run into the hundreds, if not thousands.
Against this background it becomes understandable that ex-devotees consider all publications having appeared in Canada, Australia, Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands important. Often, as soon as something appeared in a newspaper or magazine, it was quickly posted on a website for all ex-devotees to see. Two stand out in the exposé efforts: the publication by Mick Brown in the English Daily Telegraph on October 27, 2000, and the article in India Today by Vijay Thapa on November 25, 2000. The Brown article is important for the new case of ‘Sam Young’, and the second article is especially valuable because India Today is a rather conservative magazine distributed in six different languages over the whole of India. The article reported on the massive celebration of the guru’s 75th birthday on November 23, (although less people showed up than expected – due to the Internet rumours?) and, more importantly, some testimonies of the abused men are mentioned. Before the end of the week the issue had sold out, and a second edition was printed. The last time this happened with an issue of India Today was after the murder on Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. The article attracted the attention of members of the Indian parliament and personnel at foreign embassies in New Delhi. As a result, the case has been discussed at these high political levels.
What the effect might be on Sai Baba, the villagers around his ashram, or his devotees around the world is difficult to ascertain. On the devotee side only three websites have discussed and/or commented on The Findings, the article in India Today and the other critical material. Other pro Sai Baba sites simply ignore the repercussions. When it is talked about it is an internal affair, it is not openly reflected upon on the Internet.
There was a great commotion raised in the State of Andrah Pradesh when on December 14, 2000 a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against the humanist and rationalist editor of Vijaya Viharam, Ramana Murthy, and two of his employees were arrested and held in prison for two days. The December issue of this new Telugu language magazine had been released as a special number on the sexual allegations about Sathya Sai Baba, the eleventh in the series “How did this Charlatan become God?”. The cover had carried a picture of Sai Baba. The issue also reported critical comments about the prophet Mohammed made by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883), founder of the Hindu reformist group Arya Samaj, a group that rejects idol worship, opposes caste, and calls for equality for women. The official reason for the police action was the article on Dayanand Saraswati. This is untenable, according to Murthy, because Saraswati is considered to be great preacher of nationalism, who influenced leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, and on whose work there has never been a ban. The real reason therefore, had to be the article on Sai Baba since many followers of Sai Baba occupy high political and administrative positions in the country.
Contrary to his custom, Sai Baba himself seemed to react to the publication in his Christmas discourse given on December 25, in Brindavan, his ashram at Whitefield, near Bangalore. Speaking of Jesus, he said:
Many people could not bear this popularity of Jesus Christ. They created a lot of problems for Jesus and put him to suffering. They even attempted to take his life.
In the attempts on his life his disciples were also associated. Jesus had 12 disciples. The 12th disciple was Judas. In those days there was only one Judas, but today there are many Judases. Because of the rise in number of such Judases we find unsacredness developing all over the world. 
Shortly after the appearance of an article on Swami’s discourse in the Times of India, the newspaper text dropped in the e-mailboxes of ex-devotees, who responded immediately on the message boards with remarks like: “Who’s paying?” “Shall I buy a Jaguar?” “If I’m getting paid for my expose efforts, perhaps they sent the money to the wrong address!”
As if nothing had happened, a few weeks later, on January 19th, Sai Baba attended the opening of a new Super Specialty hospital in Whitefield. The prime minister of India, A.B. Vajpayee, and three chief ministers praised Sai Baba’s latest project.
Having followed the Sai Baba developments on the Internet for nine months, it is my clear impression that the websites and message boards are mainly a tool for information and communication for (ex-)Sai Baba devotees. The discussions concerning Baba’s ‘dark’, ‘criminal’ deeds take place among ex-devotees, and between devotees and ex-devotees. Only rarely do non-devotees join in, and for reasons of their own.
Besides a few informative, or generally critical websites, the Sai Baba information stems from and stays within the group of people (formerly) inspired by Sathya Sai Baba. There are no attacks from ‘anti-cult warriors’ on the Sai Baba websites, and so-called ‘flame wars’, the verbal fight on an increasingly loud tone, take place within the (ex-) devotee group itself. In retrospect, some ex-devotees do consider the Sai Baba movement to be a cult, and express feelings of having been brainwashed – although they participated of their own free will and were not forced, it was the group dynamic that made you do things – through reading Baba books, singing bhajans (devotional songs), meditations on his name, seeing in all events his divine guidance, etcetera. The official site of the international Sathya Sai Baba Organisation and http://www.geocities.com/the_sai_critic carry sections explaining why the organisation is not a cult; the critical websites offer links to cult-informative websites.
At first sight, especially for those surfing to the sites now, an information overload may make it difficult to sift the grain from the chaff. After a while it will not be so difficult to see that the most important document is The Findings, and much of the same material is posted on several message boards, the most informative currently being http://www.snowcrest.com/sunrise, http://www.exbaba.com and http://www.sathyasaivictims.com. No really new information has surfaced after the publication in India Today, and the discussions on the boards are merely repetitions of previous ones.
What stands out in the activities of the ex-devotees is the urge for publications in the regular media and the lobbying for raising public awareness of the matter in society in general. Many ex-devotees have experienced the sweetness and even the miracles of once being a devotee, yet they cannot deny the sexual abuse stories and they consider it their duty to prevent more happening. Therefore, the major desire of ex-devotees is a thorough investigation on Sai Baba concerning the accusations of sexual abuse especially, carried out by some independent international governmental institution. Their activities are mainly a plea for further investigation.
Time will tell what the outcome will be. In the meantime, most probably, more devotees will become ex-devotees, those ex-devotees having come to terms with their loss of Sai Baba will go on with their lives, and a core group will remain active until the Sai Baba case is finally properly investigated.
This paper could not have been written without the information received from Glen Meloy, Hari Sampath, David Bailey and many other former Sai-devotees. Thanks to them, and the ones daring to speak about their sometimes really troublesome experiences. Yet, thanks are also due to those devotees who posted opinions on Internet message boards, as the picture of Sai Baba would have become really one-sided had they not spoken out too.
Further thanks to the many friends and acquaintances interested in the recent Sai developments and in my involvement in the matter, as all communications helped me to explore the matter more thoroughly. I am particularly grateful to Paul W. Roberts for the brief, but to me very important, private email correspondence last April, Mick Brown for moral support to stay down to earth, and Brian Steel for editing the English grammar in this text.