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The telepathic claims are made about Sai Baba's `knowledge', which comes in three varieties: (1) Scientific, historical and technical expertise purportedly had by Sai Baba that he could not have come by in normal ways; (2) religious knowledge; and (3) apparently telepathic knowledge of the doings of Sai Baba's devotees. The first is hard for lay people to assess; and so if Sai Baba gets away with a few bloopers from time to time, the explanation may be twofold: either that the followers do not themselves know the facts, or that they don't care. However, while this explanation will work for many of Sai Baba's devotees, it strains credibility when applied to some very well educated followers. On the other hand, some readers may think that science according to Sai Baba would strain credibility even more.
Of course, all followers, even the best-educated ones, put their religion above other worldly concerns, so we should expect both Sai Baba and his followers to be specially on their toes when it comes to these claims. Now it will not do to criticise Sai Baba's religious pronouncements from the standpoint of a rival religion--this would simply beg the question. So in the section devoted to religion below, I concentrate on occasions where Sai Baba quotes or paraphrases from the Christian Bible, in order to examine how accurate he is about the passages themselves. It is, to be sure, possible that Sai Baba knows better than the scribes and translators of this document. I am not interested whether this is so. I am merely interested in whether he shows any awareness that his interpretation differs from the usual one. After all, this is an item of knowledge of which an omniscient being would be aware!
I should make it clear why I dwell on the truth or falsity of the claims when telepathy is supposed to be the issue under consideration. The claim that Sai Baba displays telepathic powers in his display of `knowledge' of any of the three sorts listed above, as made by his devotees, in turn consists of two sub-claims: First, that he has knowledge in these matters, and second that he gains this knowledge through means other than the way people normally gain knowledge i.e., other than through asking questions, reading others' accounts, one's own observation, inference, guessing, etc. Actually, Sai Baba's defenders never propose an account of how Sai Baba gains the knowledge he is said to have. Nowhere in the literature do we find an hypothesis of how Sai Baba's telepathy works. Nor do we find a systematic discussion of what Sai Baba's telepathic powers really amount to. So the evidence presented by Sai Baba's defenders for Sai Baba's telepathic powers has to be inferred from the always fulsome, and often incoherent reports of his putatively miraculous pronouncements. If I understand the logic of these accounts, what they are purporting to show is (a) that Sai Baba knows intimate details of his followers' lives, and historical facts--such as details about the life of Jesus of Nazareth--that could not have been discerned through normal means; and (b) that Sai Baba knows so much about so many different things that no one would have time to learn these things through normal channels; and (c) that Sai Baba has such a `deep understanding' of such things as science and religion that he must have access to ways of knowing that are denied mere mortals. In other words, their evidence for telepathy rests on their analysis of the knowledge itself.
Since we do not have an argument from devotees about how Sai Baba gets his claimed knowledge we have nothing to speculate on here about this. In what follows, I concentrate on the supposed knowledge itself. In the selections which follow, I quote devotees' reports of Sai Baba's pronouncements on a range of topics, and various responses and data from which the reader can judge for herself whether Sai Baba's statements really do constitute knowledge, and whether they are so profound and accurate. If the reader decides that Sai Baba's knowledge is not so impressive after all, perhaps she will not feel the lack of accounts of how these items could have been got by telepathy.
I also quote passages where Sai Baba reports his knowledge about his followers' lives, and the reader can judge how intimate Sai Baba's knowledge is. The purpose of these illustrations is to allow the reader to entertain an alternative hypothesis about where Sai Baba's `knowledge' of these matters comes from.
I will not attempt to be systematic here, but will simply exhibit some of the obvious problems even a cursory examination of Sai Baba's speeches will reveal for any attempt to make good claims that Sai Baba has complete telepathic knowledge. If the reader thinks I am pushing over a straw man in this chapter, I remind him of the claims made by some of his most influential followers:
Baba demonstrates again and again that nothing is concealed from him, that in fact he can give an immediate true answer to any question in any field of knowledge--spiritual or mundane. Even specialists bow to him because of his superior knowledge in their fields of expertise.
John Hislop, My Baba & I, p. 74.
You have to learn from the example of Churchill, who though he did not fare well at school, through sheer self-confidence and self-education, became the Prime Minister of England. He enlisted in the army at a young age. When he later entered politics, he trained himself to become an effective public speaker. Before going to a meeting, he would practise before a mirror how he would address the meeting and what kind of impression he would make on the audience by his gestures and movements. By correcting himself in this way, he developed great self-confidence and acquired an impressive public personality.
He became a master in the art of repartee. At an election meeting he was railing against the opposition without mincing words. A woman in the audience, who was greatly provoked by Churchill's attack, got up and shouted: `Shut up.' She remarked: `If I had been your wife I would have administered poison to put an end to your life.' Churchill coolly replied: `If I had been your husband, I would have thrust the cup of poison down your throat.' The woman was put to shame and remained silent thereafter.`
Sai Baba, quoted in the official organ of the Sai Baba organization, Sanathana Sarathi, February 1989, p. 32.
At a weekend party given by the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace, Churchill found himself seated next to Lady Astor. The beautiful American born Nancy had been angered at some of Churchill's savage attacks on the Baldwin government and had fought him in House of Commons debates. When coffee was served, the acid-tongued Nancy said, `Winston, if I were your wife, I'd put poison in your coffee.' `Nancy,' Churchill replied to the acid-tongued lady member of Parliament, `If I were your husband, I'd drink it.'
James Humes, Churchill: Speaker Of The Century, Stein & Day, N. Y. 1980, p. 284.
Lady Astor: Winston, if I were your wife, I'd put poison in your coffee.
W.S.C.: If I were your husband, Nancy, I'd take it.
Kay Halle, Irrepressible Churchill, World Publishing, 1966 N.Y., p. 85.
Lady Astor neither gave nor asked for quarter, and she got none from him. At a dinner party she told him: `Winston, if I were your wife I'd poison your soup.' He replied, `Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it.'
W. Manchester, Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions Of Glory, Little Brown and Co. Boston 1983, p. 34.
...Lady Astor said, `Winston, if I were married to you, I'd put poison in your coffee.' Churchill responded, `And if you were my wife, I'd drink it.'
C. Fadiman, ed., Little Brown Book Of Anecdotes, Little Brown, Boston, 1985, p. 122.
The battles between Winston and Lady Astor were long and furious. `If I were your wife,' Lady Astor roared at him, `I would put poison in your coffee'. To which Churchill replied with dignity, `And if I were your husband I would drink it.'
Bocca, G., The Adventurous Life of Winston Churchill, Quoted in Man Of The Century, Little Brown Boston 1965, p. 130.
In Britain, there was a poor lad who used to make a living by writing addresses on covers for illiterate persons and to give tuitions to children. Each time he wrote an address, he used to say: "May God bless you." He used to tell the young children before they went back to their homes after their lessons: "May God shower His grace on you." He had firm faith that some day God would raise him to a position where he would be able to render service to the people. He always told his young students: "Have faith in God." He himself had firm faith in God.
In course of time, he became the Prime Minister of Britain. He was James Ramsay Macdonald. From a poor address writer to the Prime Ministership of Great Britain what a change in fortune wrought by the grace of God!
Quoted in Sanathana Sarathi, August 1986 from a Discourse given 21-7-1986.
What was Ramsay Macdonald's job? Sai Baba suggests that address writing was a principal source of employment for the young Ramsay Macdonald, and that the reason he was addressing covers was because the letters were being sent on behalf of illiterate persons who could not write their own envelopes. Here is the information from two biographies which make clear that the envelope addressing was very brief, and in any case, the members of a Cyclists' Touring Club were not illiterate senders of mail whom Ramsay Macdonald would be kind enough to bless! Since Ramsay Macdonald was doing stenographic work for the Cycling Society he would not have had any opportunity to offer the blessings with which Sai Baba so colourfully and generously embellishes the story. Here is what two biographers of Ramsay Macdonald have to say about the same time in his life.
...He tramped the streets of London in search of work, eking out the few pounds he had somehow contrived to save at Bristol, living on oatmeal sent from home, an occasional threepenny beefsteak pudding, and hot water in place of tea or coffee. When he was almost at the end of his meagre resources he found a job addressing envelopes at the National Cyclists' Union in Fleet Street, at 10s. a week. But this was only a temporary refuge, and another period of unemployment followed, until he found a post as an invoice clerk in the city at 12s. 6d. a week, rising to 15s.
David Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald, Jonathan Cape, London, 1977, p. 19.
It is said that it was on the afternoon of the last day on which it was possible to keep the struggle going that he found employment. It was the addressing of envelopes at ten shillings a week, for the newly formed Cyclist Touring Club. And so, though he had been within a few hours of failure, he had survived. He had not been driven back from the gates of opportunity. Ten shillings a week and the envelopes of the Cyclists' Touring Club had ensured him a political career. Not that the Cyclists afforded an economic anchorage for long. It was temporary work, and there was another trying hiatus before he was taken on, this time at fifteen shillings a week, as invoice-clerk in a warehouse.
Lord Elton, The Life Of J. Ramsay Macdonald, Collins 1939, London, p. 53.
The Example of Edison
Students need both faith in God and determination (deeksha) for success in life. There is the example of the great American scientist, Thomas Alva Edison. He was born in a poor family on February 11, 1847, in the State of Ohio. Although he made no progress in his studies, he became a great inventor, thanks to his supreme self-confidence and his perseverance and determination in the pursuit of his experiments. His early experiments had untoward results, which provoked his parents to punish him and ultimately to send him out of the home. For a time he earned a living by selling sweets in trains. Once, a guard slapped him for causing an explosion in the closet of a train. His hearing was affected thereby. A benefactor came into his life after he had saved a child from being run over by a train. He got a job in a telegraph company and was free to carry on his experiments...
Satya Sai Baba, quoted in Sanathana Sarathi, February 1989. The subtitle was given by the editor of the journal.
The earlier stories of his (Edison's) boyhood done long ago in the Horatio Alger style, have much pathos but are misleading. From the symptoms of his deafness, as described by himself and others as well, it seems to have been traceable to the aftereffects of scarlatina suffered in childhood, and to have developed through periodic infection of the middle ear that was unattended.
In the earlier tales of how his deafness arose he is described as having been busy one day in his baggage-car laboratory. In those times the iron-plated tracks were so unpredictable that they sometimes curled up and pierced the floors --and seats!-- of passing cars. At all events, the train suddenly gave a violent lurch, and a jar holding some sticks of phosphorus in water fell from the shelves to the floor; on being uncovered and exposed to the air the phosphorus soon ignited with a startling white light and burst into flames. The wooden floor of the car took fire, while the boy struggled vainly to smother the flames. The conductor, one Alexander Stevenson, sometimes described as a `dour Scot', came forward in time to douse the little fire. Then, it is related, he lost his head, `cursed Edison roundly and boxed his ears' with such `brutal blows' that the boy soon afterward became deaf. `When a few minutes later the train stopped at Smith's Creek station, the conductor threw the boy overboard, and after him his whole laboratory and printing press.' Tom Edison was left weeping beside the railroad track, and permanently injured as well.
The details of this story, however--and it has become a legend--are broadly inaccurate. Edison himself tried to recapitulate things toward the end of his life, so as to correct the more romanticized accounts of his boyhood misfortunes. According to these later recollections, he was delayed in getting to the train one morning; it was already leaving the station. `I was trying to climb into the freight car with both arms full of heavy bundles of papers...I ran after it and caught the rear step, hardly able to lift myself. A trainman reached over and grabbed me by the ears and lifted me...I felt something snap inside my head, and the deafness started from that time and has progressed ever since.' He remembered that at first he could hear only `a few words now and then,' after which he `settled down to a steady deafness.'
In retelling the story to his intimates of later years, he also roundly declared that the ear-boxing incident never happened. `If it was that man who lifted me by the ears who injured me, he did it to save my life.'
Matthew Josephson, Edison, A Biography, McGraw Hill, NY 1959, pp. 30- 31
In the ward in which Einstein was living, there was a girl who was weak in mathematics and was repeatedly failing in that subject. A friend suggested to her that if she went to Einstein, the greatest living mathematician, he would help her to learn the subject well. The girl approached Einstein and he readily agreed to give her tuition everyday. The girl was immensely grateful and gained confidence from Einstein's offer. The girl's mother, who had observed her daughter going to the great mathematician for tuition everyday, felt that the little girl was wasting Einstein's time by asking him to teach her elementary mathematics. She went one day to Einstein and apologized to him for her daughter's intrusion on his valuable time. Einstein told her: "Do not think I am just teaching mathematics to her. I am learning as many things from her as I am teaching her."
Sai Baba, discourse of Aug. 16 1987, published in Sanathana Sarathi, September 1987, quoted from reprint in Soham, (Vancouver B.C. Sai Baba newsletter) p. 17, Nov. 1987.
With the `great stir' [Einstein's sudden fame--ed.] there started the Einstein mythology, the complex structure of story and half-story, half-truth, quarter-truth, adorned exaggeration, and plain lie, which from now onwards increasingly surrounded his activities. ...There were many reasons for the mythology which developed from 1920 onwards. One was that inventions had good ground to grow in. Immersed in his work in Berlin, Einstein did on one occasion use a check as a bookmark; it was therefore pardonable that the story would surface as the account of how he had placed a $1,500 check into a book and then lost the book. ... His character was kindly and gentle, and he was at least once asked by a neighbor's small girl to help with her sums; after that, small girls all over the world had Einstein doing their homework despite the fact that he had refused the request on the grounds that it would not be fair. The legends themselves, melting in the harsh light of investigation, show not so much what sort of man he really was as what kind of man the world thought him.
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein, The Life and Times, (Avon books, N.Y., 1972 p. 310.
Einstein attached great importance to the kind of associates with whom one moved. He used to say: `Tell me what company you keep and I shall tell you what you are.' If you associate with good persons you become good; if you move with wicked persons, you become bad.
Sai Baba, same discourse as above, Sanathana Sarathi, Sept. 1987, quoted from p. 17, Soham, November 1987.
This quotation bears no resemblance to the well documented quotations of Einstein on such matters. Einstein was a fierce individualist, and this quotation appears to be entirely fictitious without even any pretext or half-truth to justify it! As in the previous quote, Sai Baba appears to be far more interested in the moral of the story than the morality of telling the story inaccurately. For Einstein's attitudes on these matters, see Clark, ibid, throughout.
Of course it is no reflection on Sai Baba's intelligence that he appears to be ignorant of customs and habits of a foreign country, or of biographical details about foreigners. What I am suggesting is that the above items, cited by supporters of Sai Baba, seem to indicate beliefs picked up from casual reading and misremembered many years later, or from anecdotes heard swapped by people in casual conversation in the past, already garbled and subject to worse garbling once memory plays its normal tricks. Of course we are all subject to these flaws--however, most of us do not claim to be omniscient, with telepathic powers! Most of us do better when the items in question concern important incidents in our own country's history. Let us see how Sai Baba does with such an item.
India Then and Now
...By following the advice of one country or other India has made a hash of its economy and finances. In ancient times, India served as an example to other countries. A king from Greece came to India to study the conditions here, especially in regard to education and religion, after visiting other countries in Asia. He was impressed by the gurukula system of education and the kind of relations that existed between the guru and the sishyas. The ashram of every guru was a veritable university, without any of the paraphernalia of modern universities. The students were prepared for all kinds of hardship to acquire knowledge from the gurus. He noted also the discipline and high character of the students. He collected books like the Upanishads and the Gita and realised what values Indians attached to truth and integrity. He made a study of the Bible, the Quran and Buddhist texts and found that all of them laid emphasis on Truth. He noted that the Bible declared: "Righteousness exalteth a nation." In the Quran he found that only by adherence to Truth can one be a real man. He noted the essential truth which was common to all faiths and recognised that in Bharat there was religious toleration and harmony as part of the people's code of ethics. He decided to follow India's example in Greece. Alexander the Great, who came to India at the behest of his teacher, on his way back to Greece took with him a lump of Indian earth, a vessel full of Ganges water, copies of the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata and the blessings of an Indian sage.
Quoted from a Discourse given 21-8-1986, in Sanathana Sarathi September 1986. (The subtitle, "India Then and Now" was given by the editor of the journal.)
The University Of British Columbia
Department Of Classics
February 3, 1990
I have read the section from ``India Then and Now'' relating to Alexander the Great.
While it is true that Alexander reached India, and would have taken an interest in the life and customs there, I am aware of no ancient documentary evidence to support the claims made about him in the text. In my opinion the allusions to the study of the bible and Buddhist texts and to the copies of sacred Indian texts are inherently implausible. The allusion to the Quran (no earlier than 7th Century AD) having been studied by Alexander the Great (4th century BC) is clearly erroneous.
Anthony A. Barrett
Mary and Joseph made their way along the road toward Bethlehem. Mary was with child. The pains began. They knew no one nearby, so they took refuge in a cow shed. Joseph made a space between two cows. It was midnight. He went out to find a woman who could help. Then he heard a baby cry. Christ was born. A huge aura of splendour filled the sky with light...
Sai Baba, quoted in Eastern View Of Jesus Christ, Sai Publications, London, 1982, p. 6.
However during his Christmas discourse of 1979, Sai Baba said that Jesus was born at 3:15 am, rather than within minutes of midnight:
Jesus was born early in the morning at 3:15 a.m. on December 24th one thousand nine hundred and eighty years ago. It was Sunday.
Sai Baba, Eastern View Of Jesus Christ, p. 156.
These two statements about the time of Jesus' birth do not appear to be consistent. However, it might be said that `midnight' in the first passage quoted simply means `the middle of the night'. It is the second passage which provides truly specific details, and so it is the information contained in that passage which we must look at for possible accuracy.
Sai Baba says that Jesus was born on December 24th. Here is a quotation of the earliest recorded comments on the subject of Jesus' birthday.
...there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of Pachon. And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, passing the night before in readings. And they say that it was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, the fifteenth day of the month of Tubi, and some say that it was the 11th of the same month.
Quoted in Bond, J.J., Handy-book Of Rules and Tables For Verifying Dates, George Bell & Sons, London, 1889, p. 22
The same source explains that the 25th of Pachon works out to the 20th of May, the fifteenth of Tubi works out to the 10th of January, and the 11th of Tubi works out to the 6th of January. (Ibid., p. 22.) The consensus among scholars is that the celebration of the birth of Jesus at the time of the winter solstice was an accommodation to pagan custom.
Sai Baba's statement that Jesus was born "on December 24th one thousand nine hundred and eighty years ago" was spoken in December 1979. There being no ` 0' year between the year 1 B.C. and the year 1 A.D., Sai Baba is referring to the year which is known as 2 B.C. (See Handy-book For Verifying Dates p. 321 with regard to the absence of the `0' year.) Let us turn to scholarly opinion on this matter. We know that there is disagreement on this question; but there are some dates for Jesus's birth which many scholars agree, even if there is no date on which all agree. Thus, any plausible date would be one on which at least one reputable scholar who is aware of the recent literature has argued for. Let us see to see if anyone agrees with Sai Baba on the date of ` his' birth:
The University Of British Columbia
Department Of Classics
I find the statement, apparently unsupported, placing Jesus' birth in 2 B.C. difficult. It would mean that King Herod was already dead, and hence the story that connects Herod with the Three Wise Men would have to be rejected.
This story, incidentally, seems to be a transplant from Magian propaganda, for if Magi in the east saw a star in the east and followed it, it would not bring them to Bethlehem which was west of their starting-point. It would, however, bring them to Persepolis. But the part of the story which places Jesus' birth within the reign of Herod the Great may be a nugget of historical truth.
Professor and Head
Although the `divine discourses' of Sathya Sai Baba entitled An Eastern View of Jesus Christ are largely composed of instruction and exhortation concerning ethics, prayer, etc., they do occasionally venture into the historical realm. And whatever one may think of Sai Baba's advice in spiritual matters, his assertions regarding historical events are of questionable value. A few examples must suffice.
I. On page 6, Sai Baba's account of the birth of Jesus opens with the claim that "King Herod ordered a census." This is at best a misleading statement. According to Luke's Gospel (2:1), Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken; and it is implied that the decree was transmitted through the Roman legate in Syria. We still lack any independent evidence for such a decree, and the accuracy of the Lucan claim has not gone unchallenged. But for an Augustan census we at least have on ancient witness however unreliable Luke. For a census ordered by Herod we have no evidence whatsoever. The Jewish historian Josephus has left us two detailed accounts of Herod's reign (Book I of the Jewish War and Books XV-XVII of the Jewish Antiquities). Neither even hints at such a census, nor does any other ancient source.
II. If the statement on page 6 is inaccurate regarding the census, at least it is probably right to date the birth of Jesus to Herod's reign (compare Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1) It is, therefore, quite surprising to find that page 156, #172 (from the 1979 Christmas discourse) unwittingly contradicts the assertion of page 6. The 1979 discourse claims that Jesus was born "one thousand nine hundred and eighty years ago" (i.e., in 2 B.C.). Not only did Herod order the census; he did so from beyond the grave! For it is clear from Josephus' accounts that Herod died in March/April of 4 B.C., 1982 years before the 1979 Christmas discourse.
Excerpt of letter by Dr. Paul Mosca of 13 September 1990, original with the editor.
The consensus amongst scholars is that Jesus was in all likelihood born before, or at the latest, during, the year 4 B.C. (See also, Michael Grant, Jesus, An Historian's Review Of The Gospels, Scribner's New York, p. 71; Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence; etc.)
We also can examine the correspondence between the day of the week and the year, month, and day of the month presupposed by Sai Baba's pronouncement. Although Sai Baba may not have realized it when he made his statement concerning the precise time of day, day of the week, day of the month, month, and year of birth of Jesus, there are tables listing correspondences between day of the week and the month, day of the month, and year. Was the December 24th of 2 B.C. a Sunday, as Sai Baba says it was?
... [In the Eastern View Of Jesus Christ collection of Sai Baba discourses--ed.] on page 156, #'s 172-173, December 24 of 2 B.C. is identified as a Sunday. According to John J. Bond's Handy-Book of Rules and Tables for verifying Dates with the Christian Era, it was a Thursday, in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars! (December 24 fell on a Sunday in 6 B.C., and not again until 2 A.D.)
Dr. Paul Mosca, letter of September 13 l990
The reader may wish to consult Bond's Handy-Book directly. The book should be readily available through any good university library or inter-library loan system. The reader who checks it out will find that p. 34, gives us the information that the pattern of the calendar of 2 B.C. is given in the table of the "D" year. The calendar for the "D" year is given on p. 58 of the same work, and indicates that December 24th of that year was a Thursday, not a Sunday.
The confusions do not end here. Next we examine Sai Baba's interpretation(s) of the Star of Bethlehem story: There are two accounts concerning the Star of Bethlehem given by Sathya Sai Baba in the Eastern View collection of his discourses:
Christ was born. A huge aura of splendour filled the sky with light. This was a sign that He had overcome the darkness of evil and ignorance. The light of Love had come into the world. it was the dawn of the era of Divine Guidance.
Sai Baba, quoted in Eastern View, p. 6.
The bright star that appeared on His Birthday was the same bright star which appears once every 800 years. The bright star appeared because of its own natural pattern, not because of Jesus. Emotional people say this star appeared for Jesus. There is no rule that bright stars must appear when divine energies or Divine Incarnations descend to earth. In their emotion about God devotees spread sentimental stories.
Eastern View, p. 156.
Was Jesus opposed to the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem temple? In his 1977 Christmas discourse, Sathya Sai Baba depicts Jesus as a revolutionary out to abolish the animal sacrifice system of the Jerusalem Temple:
At that time in Jerusalem Jewish religious custom routinely involved blood sacrifices of goats or other living animals...Jesus Christ saw pigeons and other animals being sold inside the temple. Money-lenders shared their profits with the priests. Every worshipper was forced to bring or buy animals and join in the slaughter. No one was spared. Jesus announced that bloodshed, money-lending, and corruption have no place in a temple built in God's name.
Sai Baba, quoted in Eastern View p. 98.
According to Sathya Sai Baba, Jesus held that `bloodshed', that is, animal sacrifice, had no place in the Temple. However the idea that Jesus was opposed not only to the money-changers in the Temple courts, but also to the very practice of sacrifice is not supported by any ancient materials at all. It is, rather, contradicted by the ancient materials. However opposed Jesus may have been to the commercialization of the Temple courts, he is quoted several times in the Gospels instructing disciples to offer sacrifice. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is depicted as instructing a leper to bring the animal sacrifice offering as required by Mosaic law to the Temple:
Jesus said to him: See to it that you tell no one. Go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses prescribed.
Gospel According To Matthew 8:4. (See also Mark 1:44 and Luke 5:14)
In the middle of his ministry, Jesus also endorsed the Temple sacrifice system:
If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Gospel According To Matthew, 5:23,24.
As for his attitude at the end of his ministry, the Gospels depict Jesus as instructing his disciples to make sure that the Passover sacrifice is performed on his behalf. The Passover sacrifice was performed in the city of Jerusalem at the Temple precincts so as to associate the sacrifice with the Temple.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the paschal lamb, his disciples said to him, Where do you wish us to go to prepare the Passover supper for you? He sent two of his disciples with these instructions: Go into the city and you will come upon a man carrying a water jar. Follow him. Whatever house he enters, say to the owner, The teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? Then he will show you an upstairs room, spacious, furnished, and all in order. That is the place you are to get ready for us. The disciples went off. When they reached the city they found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover supper.
Gospel According To Mark, 14:12-16. (see also Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22: 7-13).
...Nor do the remarks on pages 98-99 regarding Jesus' opposition to animal sacrifice have any greater claim to accuracy. Whatever else he may have been, Jesus was a Jew. That both he and his family participated in the sacrificial system demanded by the Mosaic code is clear from such passages as Luke 2:22-24; Matthew 5:23-24; and Matthew 8:4//Mark 1:44//Luke 5: 14.
Excerpt from Dr. Mosca's Sept. 13 l990 letter.
In §46, Sai Baba talks about ` money lenders':
Money-lenders shared their profits with the priests. (ibid)
This is a minor point perhaps, but Sathya Sai Baba seems to be confusing `money changers' with `money lenders'. The two activities are quite distinct, especially in the context of Jewish law of the time. Here is what Mark reports about Jesus's activities:
When they reached Jerusalem he entered the temple precincts and began to drive out those who were engaged in buying and selling. He overturned the money-changers' tables, and the stalls of the men selling doves. Moreover, he would not permit anyone to carry things through the temple area.
Gospel According To Mark, 11:15-16
Sathya Sai Baba seems to be under the erroneous impression that Judea at the time had many temples, just as India in ancient and modern times has many temples. The following two passages show this:
In a temple in Jerusalem, pigeons were being sold. Jesus entered the temple and objected to the traffic in birds in a sacred temple. The priests jointly questioned Jesus about his authority to raise such an objection...' Priests and teachers are proclaiming that they are adhering to the injunctions of the scriptures, but in actual practice are not following them...' declared Jesus. The priests got angry and levelled a number of charges against Jesus.
Sathya Sai Baba, quoted in Sanathana Sarathi, Aug. 1989, p. 206.
Due to the efforts of selfish egoistic men who dedicated their lives to atrocities and lawbreaking, evil crept into the holy temples in Jerusalem. Businesses and impure practices sprang up.
Sai Baba, quoted in Eastern View p. 141.
The businesses and impure practices which Sathya Sai Baba is referring to are those of the money changers in connection with the animal sacrifices. Judean synagogues, which might incorrectly be referred to as `temples' by someone ignorant of the difference between the Jerusalem Temple and the synagogue (a house of study, a school, essentially) cannot be the reference Sathya Sai Baba is making. No ritual sacrifices could be brought except to the one Jerusalem Temple. It follows clearly that Sathya Sai Baba has in mind that there were many temples in Jerusalem where "businesses and impure practices sprang up" in conjunction with animal sacrifice. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance of the situation in Judea at the time knows that there were no such "holy temples in Jerusalem" but only the one Jerusalem Temple.
The reference to `the holy temples in Jerusalem" (page 141, #47) is simply wrong. There was only one temple in Jerusalem, the one rebuilt after the Babylonian exile, embellished by Herod, and destroyed (in 70 A.D.) by the Romans.
Dr. Mosca, letter of Sept. 13 l990.
Sai Baba's reference to impure business practices occurring in "the holy temples in Jerusalem" shows an astonishing ignorance of the Jewish religion at the time. Does he do any better on the events surrounding Jesus's crucifixion?
The personal name of the betrayer of Jesus is very widely known: Judas. But what was his second name, or the name which singled him out among the many Judas' of his time? Anyone familiar with the Christian literature knows that he is referred to as Judas Iscariot.
Sathya Sai Baba, however, refers to him as `Judas Simon':
Judas Simon is well known today as the disciple who was treacherous to his spiritual guide and guardian.
Sai Baba, quoted in Eastern View, p. 111
Once again, Sai Baba's sloppiness with basic elements of the Jesus narratives is cause for astonishment. No one today knows Judas Iscariot as `Judas Simon', and so the statement is plain wrong that "Judas Simon is well known today as the disciple who was treacherous..." Equally important, in Gospel materials, the betrayer of Jesus is referred to simply as `Judas', or as `Judas Iscariot', or as the son of a man named `Simon Iscariot'. Ancient materials do not recognize Judas Iscariot as `Judas Simon' any more than people today do. Another disciple of Jesus, however, was named Peter Simon (see for example, Mark 14: 37) and it appears that Sai Baba has gotten these various names confused. In any case the erroneous reference to `Judas Simon' as the betrayer of Jesus is not just a single slip. Prior to the passage quoted, Sai Baba says:
Jesus Christ had twelve foremost disciples. Among the twelve only Judas Simon would injure Jesus, their teacher and spiritual saviour.
Sai Baba, Eastern View, p. 111
Sai Baba's notions of what happened at the time of Jesus's crucifixion are in conflict with the reports in the New Testament. Believers, however, may simply prefer Sai Baba's account, on the grounds the he (in some sense) was really there. In any event, Sai Baba's remarks here occur in the context of his `materializing' a crucifix, supposedly out of thin air. Materializations are Sai Baba's stock in trade, and I provide more on this in §§85 and 93-105. But our present concern is with Sai Baba's knowledge of the crucifixion, as demonstrated by the crucifix he `created' and what he says about it.
This shows Christ as he really was at the time he left his body, not as artists have imagined him or as historians have told about him. His stomach is pulled in and his ribs are all showing. He had no food for eight days.
Sai Baba, quoted in John Hislop, My Baba & I, p. 19
However the Gospels not only make no mention of this eight day fast of Jesus prior to the crucifixion, but also they positively inform us that Jesus instructed his disciples to prepare the Passover meal for him, and that Jesus participated in the ritual feast universally known as the Last Supper the night before his crucifixion!
In 1973, Sai Baba produced a small crucifix, gave it to his disciple named Dr. Hislop, and, according to Dr. Hislop, said, "this shows Christ as He really was at the time when He left his body. No writer or artist has imagined him this way before."
Eastern View, p. 7
As for the claim Sai Baba makes that the crucifix "shows Christ as he really was at the time he left his body, not as artists have imagined him or as historians have told about him", and "no writer or artist has imagined him this way before," the following are comments from Uno Langmann, a highly reputable art, antique, and curio dealer headquartered in Vancouver B.C., and Dr. William S. Dale, Professor Emeritus in Fine Arts at the University of Western Ontario, upon inspection of the full page magnified colour photograph of the crucifix reproduced at p. xi (Plate 2) of Dr. Hislop's book, My Baba & I:
Judging from the photograph, the sculpture would be an ordinary inexpensive crucifixion depiction. The material of the Christ figure would probably be of soft metal such as pewter or lead. Of course this is hard to tell from a photograph. It might be bronze or conceivably silver, but neither of these is likely. The casting is cheap and not very skillful, which supports the idea that the material would be lead perhaps. You can see little air bubbles around the feet which indicates that it was made by cheap plaster of Paris mold. The sculpture is affixed to the wood by small manufactured nails. The rendering of the feet and toes is especially coarse, which also indicates the cheapness of the piece. The wood appears to be low-grade hardwood of some sort. Finally, as to the image itself, it is a typical artistic conception of the crucifixion. I believe I have seen this sculpture image before. I would guess that it's a medieval European representation originally perhaps 12th or 13th century. At least that would be a period to check. In this miniature reproduction form it would not be a particularly interesting piece.
Uno Langmann, personal communication, 1988
Your letter of February 8, enclosing the material on Sai Baba and the miraculously-produced crucifix, has arrived, and I have studied it with great interest.
From the photograph it is quite clear that the metal figure closely resembles those on crucifixes of the 19th and early 20th centuries (As is normal with these, the suppedaneum is cast in one piece with the figure.) Its small scale suggests that it may once have been attached to a rosary.
Contrary to Sai Baba's claim, there is nothing unusual about the iconography of the piece. The representation of the dead Christ, his body sagging, his head drooping onto his right shoulder, and his eyes closed, is frequently found in monumental crucifixes after the 10th century. From the late 12th century one foot is placed over the other, and a single nail is used to fasten both to the cross, instead of one for each foot. By the middle of the 13th century the braided crown of thorns becomes a prominent feature, and in some examples the stomach is drawn in, showing the ribs.
As for the statement that this crucifix "shows Christ as he really was at the time he left his body", it has been demonstrated that nails through the palms of the hands, as in the artistic convention followed here, could not have supported the weight of Jesus' body on the cross. Instead, it has been suggested that the nails would have to go through the wrists, as the image on the Holy Shroud of Turin seems to indicate.
With mass-produced objects such as this it would be impossible to pin down any single source of inspiration, since it draws on such a long and rich tradition. In any case it seems unnecessary.
William S.A. Dale, Ph.D.,
P.S. A good basic reference for the iconography of the crucifix is Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art (Lund Humphries, 1972) Vol. 2.
William S. Dale, personal communication
The crucifix given to John Hislop was supposed to have been materialized by the paranormal powers of Sai Baba. The question might also be raised as to the plausibility of a true materialization which reproduces such details as air bubbles identical with those caused by techniques of inexpensive mass reproduction, and standard but historically inaccurate iconographic features such as nails through palms.
Sai Baba's claim is that he knows Indian Classical music since he is the author and composer of all the pieces:
When I first came to Puttaparti, Swami used to sing many songs of classical Indian music as an experienced, trained singer. Our family and the Kuppam family were both trained in music, but still Swami would sometimes correct us, also on the text of the songs and the timing of the music. He was a very good singer. My late music teacher, Mr. Chidambara Iyer, who was a violinist with All India Radio in Delhi and once went with me to Swami, was much impressed with his outstanding knowledge of music, although he had never had a music teacher. Sometimes he would sing some rare compositions of Thyagaraja that only learned musicians would know.
Now they no longer sing classical songs at bhajans, only popular bhajan songs. In the evenings when my music teacher used to massage Swamiji's legs, Baba would often sing some rare compositions of Thyagaraja. So my music teacher asked him: `Where did you learn these songs?' Baba then answered: 'Thyagaraja had these songs from me, Thyagaraja was inspired by Rama', meaning that Swami was the origin of Thyagaraja's music.
Quoted in Haraldsson, Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, p. 150.
Where did Sai Baba learn this music? An hypothesis suggests itself when we read the previous page of Haraldsson:
Mrs Kamala Sarathy...first met Swami in l949...
Haraldsson, ibid., p. 149.
This information, along with the following, makes Sai Baba's feats seem much less remarkable.
The twin brothers Mr. B. V. Lakshmanan and Mr. B. V. Raman are by profession singers of classical Indian music. They came to know Sai Baba in February 1948 when they were asked to sing at the inauguration of a temple by Sai Baba in Guindy Madras. After the inauguration Baba came to them and asked if they would come to Puttaparti for the Sivaratri festival...`We stayed for a while around Sivaratri and were frequently in Puttaparti after that.'...The singers became very close to Baba and served as personal attendants of a kind. From 1949 to 1963, they stayed with him several months a year and led the singing of the bhajans. When Baba went on visits, for example, to Madras or Venkatagiri, then they, especially Raman, would accompany him.
Haraldsson, ibid. p. 156.
Mrs. Sarathy's music teacher, Mr. Iyer `once went for a visit'. It is obvious that if Mrs Sarathy began visiting Sai Baba in 1949, then Mr. Iyer's visit must have been no earlier than that. Yet beginning in l948 the classical musicians were spending prolonged periods of time playing music together with Sai Baba. Plainly, Sai Baba had plenty of opportunity to learn classical Indian music from Laskshmanan and Raman, if not from others even earlier. In investigations of supposedly paranormal feats or abilities, one should always be cautious of claims like, "He couldn't have learned it through normal means." People who believe these claims without investigating them will themselves learn very little through normal means; and one hopes for their sakes that there are paranormal ways of acquiring knowledge--otherwise they will be very ignorant!
SAI: At the center everything is liquid.
RB: Does Swami mean the world?
SAI: Yes, everything is melted. No temperature.
RB: No heat, Swami?
SAI: No temperature. Everything is liquid. Like water. Gold, iron, silver, gems, all are liquid. Next there is solid. Then trees.
JH: Trees, Swami? Trees like we see around us?
SAI: Yes, trees. Then human beings and animals. At the very center is the Divine. It is the support of everything. First is liquid, chemistry. Then solid, physics. Then trees, botany. Then man, the pinnacle of life. But at the center, supporting all, is the Divine. Without the Divine, where is chemistry, physics, botany? Like this will be the teaching of all courses at the University. The students will understand the full picture.
Sai Baba, quoted (as Sai) in Hislop, My Baba & I, p. 197.
Mine is no escapism but the fundamental and eternal truth. I say so not because I am unsure of my own divinity. It is my confidence in its absolute and total authenticity that makes me affirm this fact. It is the scientists who are so unsure of themselves that they indulge in escapist theories.
For example, they say that the moon is lifeless. Simultaneously, they maintain that all matter consists of moving atoms. Now isn't the moon also a conglomerate of the same moving atoms? Then how can it be lifeless? There is no matter which does not consist of atoms, electrons, neutrons and protons, which are all constantly moving. This energy, too, is God."
Sai Baba, quoted in Sandweiss, Spirit And Mind, p. 254.
Sai Baba is well known for his materializations of watches. This will be the subject of §§93 - 99. However, our immediate concern is with Sai Baba's understanding of the legality of what he is doing.
BABA: Most people desire talismans symbolic of my protection. So I provide them. When they are in trouble they feel the grip of the ring, bracelet or watch to remember me, and call me to their rescue so that I can help them. On the other hand, if I give them something that they cannot wear, they are likely to store it and forget about it.
The main thing is that these trinkets or talismans, by whatever name you call them, give people a sense of security and protection they need in time of trouble or crisis and create a symbolic link covering the long distances between them and myself. When the devotees need me, these objects flash the message as if by wireless and I instantly come to their rescue.
Q: I am sorry to be so persistent, Swamiji, but isn't the gift of an Omega or HMT watch an act of cheating the company or breach of its patent?
BABA: I assure you there is no such thing. It would be cheating the company or breaching the patent if it were a case of transfer of the watch from one place or the other. But I do not transfer; I totally create. Whatever I will, instantly materializes. I know of no company that has complained about any breach of patent.
Quoted in Samuel Sandweiss, Spirit And Mind, Birth Day Publishing, San Diego l985, p. 241. (The Questioner is Mr. R. K. Karanjia of Blitz magazine. The interview was originally published in 1976 in that Indian journal.)
I told him, "The godman you mentioned had given a Swiss watch, allegedly produced from thin air by waving his apparently empty hands, to one of my brothers. Any dispute on this?
"No", he replied.
"Then let us go into the facts about the watch so produced." I said. "One of the possibilities explained is that, prior to giving this watch, the godman transforms himself into another form and appears in Switzerland, Hongkong, Japan or such other place, lands in a watch shop, buys the watch and then reappears in his original form before his devotee and presents the watch. Mind you all this is supposed to have happened in a split of a second."
I added, "Granting this was true, then the godman did not go through customs and immigrations before he left his country. He purchased a watch paying foreign currency not released by the reserve Bank of India and again returned without the knowledge of customs and immigration authorities. This would amount to smuggling the watch. It is not only to my brother that he had presented the watch. He had given to thousands of others. Would this not lead to the fact that your godman is involved in a smuggling racket?"
"If this is not the version, the second possibility explained is that on account of his divine powers, he is able to move things from one place to another. If this be so, I added, "You all say that your god man does not accept anything from any one and if he has no other business or occupation, he could not possibly have any possessions, and so it should be concluded that this watch did not belong to him. Still he has managed to produce it, and it amounts to stealing the same from somewhere."
"The third possibility is that as he has claimed to be the Creator himself, he has the power to materialise this watch from thin air! If this is true," I said, "had he created his own brand, possibly we could not have said anything. But he has created duplicate watches of well known foreign companies with their monogram, serial number etc., without their knowledge, consent or license to produce. This amounts to infringement of their patent rights."
"The only possibility I can think of," I said, "is that some devotee like you might have presented him one watch which he hid somewhere in his person and brought it out mysteriously as a magician would do. But you all deny he would do so. If his production is not like that of a magician, the other methods, if true, would amount to a fraud! That is all, your honour", I said.
The lawyer, not being able to give me any logical explanations to the questions posed by me, left the place, remarking, "You are incorrigible."
From an article by T. Ganesh U. Pai, in Indian Skeptic #1 May 1988 pp. 23-25.
Sathya Sai Baba is, among other things, a teacher. He is a frequent giver of discourses, now compiled in several volumes. He usually speaks in Telugu, and before a Hindi-speaking audience an interpreter is required. One of his most characteristic rhetorical devices is the ad hoc (and often false) etymology. For example, he has stated that Hindu means `one who is nonviolent' by the combination of hinsa (violence) and dur (distant).
Lawrence A. Babb, Redemptive Encounters P. 171.
There were rules of correct conduct for every being. These form the Dharma.
The word Dharma is derived from the root, Dhr, meaning `wear'; Dharma is that which is worn...As clothes maintain the dignity of the person who wears them, so, Dharma is the measure of the dignity of a people.
Sathya Sai Baba, Gita Vahini, Shri Sathya Sai Education and Publication Foundation, l974, p. 56.
The noun dharma is from a verbal root dhri ("to hold, to bear, to support").
Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches, Harper and Row l988, p. 39.
The guru is called so because the `gu' signifies one who has transcended the three qualities in nature, and `ru' signifies one who has graphed the formless aspect of the Godhead.
Sai Baba, quoted in Teachings of Sri Satya Sai Baba, Sri Satya Sai Baba Book Centre Of America, 1974, p. 101.
Dr. Bhagavantam is a keen observer, and does not brush aside facts just because they do not fit into the current framework of science...Another fact: `It's common knowledge that Baba's formal schooling did not extend beyond the first grade of high school yet with great acumen he advises the scientists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen who come to him for counsel on their practical affairs. Furthermore, though he never reads--never, indeed has time to read, the Indian and world scriptures, he quotes from all of them.'
Murphet, Avatar, Sai Books Birth Day Publishing 1977, pp. 55-56.
Indeed he does--but does he quote accurately? The above quotes demonstrate that he doesn't. But Murphet's quote is revealing, not because it points out that Sai Baba has no intellectual love of literature, a prerequisite for caring about accurate citation. Nor is it revealing to be told that Sai Baba has no formal education. What is important in this passage is that Sai Baba followers hold up these facts about Sai Baba as if they were virtues. The tone of this passage captures the attitude of so many Western devotees: they have stereotypes of the uneducated Indian; and when they meet one that is a lot more intelligent than they bargained for, they are so impressed that they ignore the howlers presented in this chapter. But there is another reason: Sai Baba's devotees are not, by a long shot, as interested in physics or Hindu theology as they are in themselves. So, when Sai Baba talks about them, this overshadows all else. So I now turn to Sai Baba's knowledge of the details of his devotees' and of visitors' lives.
Sai Baba....knows the past, present, and future of every soul living on the earthly plane...He reveals the life history of those who go to him, and he shapes their future.
Kanu, Sai Baba, God Incarnate, p. 47
Also, we have noted Hislop making similar extreme claims. How do these claims stack up against others' assessments?
26 of 29 interviewees had observed Baba exercise mind-reading on themselves. 19 reported he had done so fully correctly, 5 only partially correctly whereas 2 ex-devotees considered his endeavours sheer clever guessing.
There is no reason to doubt that Baba sometimes goes wrong in his statements when exercising his mind-reading. I recall one Australian lady, probably in her late thirties, who I met in Puttaparti a few years ago. One day at darshan time Baba briefly spoke to her. "You should get married", he said. In fact she was married, and as I met her just after that darshan she was walking towards the bus to Bangalore to receive her husband at the airport as he was flying in from Australia. Baba did not know this woman, and had only seen her a few times.
Haraldsson, Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, pp. 285-286.
Predictions are not a prominent feature with Sai Baba. Only to half of the 29 interviewees of our survey had he made predictions about their future. To 9 of these interviewees Baba's statements were reported as fully correct but with 4 of them he proved either partially or fully wrong. To one lady devotee hoping for a baby he had predicted that she would have one but she never did. He advised a close devotee to let his brother go to Delhi for a job interview. Contrary to Baba's predictions the brother did not get the job, only costly travel expenses.
Haraldsson, ibid. p. 287.
Baba spoke to [Ramaswamy, editor of the Indian weekly journal, Nasthikam] in Telugu. It is said that Baba would speak to each person in their own [Indian--ed.] language by knowing with his divine powers what the mother tongue of the person interviewed was. Ramaswamy did not speak a word till the end. When Baba stopped talking, he said that he did not know Telugu! With a finger on his nose and a stare at him, he talked in Tamil.
Premanand, Lure of Miracles, p. 92.
Premanand continues in this passage to relate how Sai Baba repeated back to Ramaswamy information about his situation which Ramaswamy had divulged to Baba's attendants. Sai Baba, however, failed to touch upon the actual reason for Ramaswamy's visit to the ashram, information which Ramaswamy had not divulged to the attendants. This fact will not be lost on those who have studied the ways of faith healers and psychics, who unashamedly use confederates to gather evidence about their clients before having an audience with them. Those trusting souls who doubt that this practice is widespread should consult James Randi, The Faith Healers (especially Chapter 9) about American faith healers, and Randi's The Truth About Uri Geller, and M. Lamar Keene's The Psychic Mafia about psychics and spiritualist mediums respectively.
However, getting information through confederates is not the only way of seeming to know a lot about someone else. The following passages unwittingly illustrate another method at work:
He then called me inside. I first requested His permission to touch His Lotusfeet which He granted. He then sat down in His chair and I placed myself at His Feet.
He allowed me to ask questions.
"Swami, how can I serve you?" I asked.
Swami (with great earnestness): "Open a centre."
Delhi being already a big centre, I did not understand why He wanted me to open a centre. And so I said: "But, Swami, I live in Delhi."
Swami (His face lit up): "Delhi! I shall come to Delhi in March. I shall see you there. I shall come to your house in March. Very soon I shall come to your house, very soon." He repeated this five times.
I: "Oh Swami, really! Will you come?"
Swami: "Yes, I shall come."
I said--a little sad: "But how can I meet you in Delhi. There are so many people and all the VIP's will surround you. In Delhi you are very distant."
Swami: "Why? I will call and will give you an interview and I shall give lockets to the children. How many children?"
I: "Swami, two."
Swami: "Yes, I know, a little girl. I will give locket."...
Then I remembered the mantra.
"Swami, you said that you would give me a mantra?" I asked.
Swami: "You got mantra from...Tell me your mantra."
I repeated the mantra and Swami was repeating it with me. Then He said: "But it's a beautiful mantra! Why do you want to change? You know there is no difference at all."
I said: "Yes, Swami, I know but...
Swami cut in and said: "I know what you mean." Then He changed the mantra slightly by adding His name. He laid His hand on my head and I fell at His Lotusfeet. He blessed me profusely, and I knew that He had accepted me formally. What a moment!"
Annemarie Marwah, And The Greatest Is Love, Published by Author l985, pp. 63, 64
At 4 P.M. we were sitting in the darshan line when a lady volunteer called me and asked me to take from her the books. At the same time she told me to go and sit in the verandah of the temple since Baba would be seeing me. I could not believe my ears and started crying with joy. Was it really true that Swami had again answered my most earnest prayers?
I held the books in my hand and he did not realize that they were already signed....
Sitting now in the verandah of the temple--with Swami still inside His quarters--I was engulfed in a cloud of jasmine smell. Shortly afterwards there was very strong vibhuti smell. I inhaled both, being conscious of the grace of Swami. Then Baba appeared and made His round in the darshan circle. He called some more devotees for interview. There was a group of twenty Swedes (all men) and a mother with her two sons, a foreign lady and I. When Swami came back into the temple verandah He asked me what I was holding in my hand and smiled mischievously. I held up my parcel to Him and said:
"Baba, please sign these books."
He said: "Give me--only one book."
"Only one? Can't you sign all three?" I pleaded. "Only one," He said firmly. I gave Him one book: He opened it as if He did not know, then closed it and gave it back to me saying "already signed". Only then I looked at the books properly, finding on the first page with big letters written WITH LOVE Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the date.
He then ushered us into the interview room....I was sitting on Baba's left side just next to His chair at His Lotusfeet. He asked:
"Do you do any jappa?"
I said: "Yes Swami".
He asked: "What name?"
I answered: "Swami, you have given me a mantra."
Then He asked me "What do you want?" And quickly answered His own question: "Jappamala?"
I quickly said: "Oh yes, Swami, I want a jappamala."
He waved His hand and there appeared a jappamala...
Annemarie Marwah, ibid. p. 79
In the room I had endless arguments with my husband who had returned to his negative mood and he was blaming and accusing me [for staying with Baba instead of staying in Delhi with her husband--ed.] I was very miserable and cried a lot. The next morning at darshan I could give Swami a letter which He took willingly. In this I had written to Him that I had to know what He wanted me to do. I said in it that `if He wanted me to stay I would gladly do so. I said that I had burnt my boats and that I would only go back to Delhi and to my family if He would tell me to do so. I was keen to do what He wanted me to, but I was being so much attacked with accusations that I could not judge what I should do. I begged Him to show to my husband some of His Divinity so that he could understand me.
Swami must have read this letter very carefully, because in the evening darshan He called me for interview. With this my husband got an interview automatically. Was I glad!
When Swami came into the verandah after making His round, He started another Leela of His...!
He saw my husband come into the verandah and asked, "Hare! Ye pakora kaun hai?" (Who is this Pfannkuchen?) My husband said that He had called his wife for interview. Swami asked: "Are you from Madras?"
Husband: "No, Swami, from Delhi".
Swami: "Delhi?" (and looked at me.)
I made sign to Swami that he was connected with me.
So Swami asked him: "Tumhara naam kya?" (What is your name?)
My husband told his name.
Swami (inquiringly looking at me) asked: "What is your name?"
I told him my name.
Then Swami led us all into the interview room. I sat down next to Swami's chair. ...Then Swami sat down in His chair and looking at me searchingly asked: "You are fighting?" I just looked at Swami with an open face and He said very softly and lovingly, "No, you are not fighting. He is fighting with you." And then turning to my husband He asked: "Why, why are you fighting with her? She is very good, you know." My husband did not say anything. After the first batch of devotees had come out of the second interview room, Swami called us inside. He sat in His chair and both of us kneeled down in front of Him. He again said to my husband: "Why are you fighting with her? Why are you troubling her? She is very good!"
My husband said: "Yes, Swami, but she does not come home whenever she comes here. She always comes back late. She must come back in time!" Then pleading with Swami he said: "Please, Swami, send her back with me, we need her job."
Swami asked him: "What about your work?"
Husband: "Not very good."
Swami: "Not very good, but not very bad either. Lot of money coming and lot of money going, coming, going coming, going. Nevermind, I shall bless your work."
Husband: "Please Swami send her back, I give both my hands."
Swami: "(snaps): "I don't want anything, I want only love."
Husband: "Please send her back, I love her so much and the children are crying."
Swami: "Malum hai, malum hai baccha rota." (I know, I know, Baby is crying.)
Husband: "Swami, please send my wife back with me. Let all her bad karma come upon me."
Swami: (quickly) "I know, you are a very good man," and turning to me, Swami said pleadingly: "You go with him."
At that moment my husband fell down at Swami's Lotusfeet seemingly moved and repeating three times: "Swami, you have saved my family."
Swami looked at me and smilingly pointing to my husband at His charan as if to say, `see , see what I have done.'..
Swami: "I bless you both, be happy." and with these words He laid His hands on our heads blessing us. Then He turned once more to my husband and said: "You know, your health is not so good. Your liver is bad."...It was the 12th of April l983..
After the interview my husband was in no way peaceful, but argued with me about Swami's ability to know everything. He was very sarcastic and the next few days were very difficult for me....
The coming months showed us the value of ...surrender. Our financial situation deteriorated considerably. My husband repeatedly remarked sarcastically: "Well, Swami has blessed my work, he is responsible."
Not only did all our efforts fail to recover from the continuing financial loss but we also received notice from our bank requesting us to repay the loan which had been granted over the years, and its interest which had amounted to a substantial sum. They threatened to go to court against us...
My husband, outwardly calm, must have had sleepless nights. The situation was not at all good. Something had to happen, but I could not imagine from which quarter help would come.
On the 1st October 1983--six months after the interview with Swami--my husband started his new job as executive engineer with a large company. (It was a newly created job.) We all knew that this was the outcome of Swami `blessing his work'...
Ten days later, however, he fell ill. It was later diagnosed as an attack caused by gallbladder stones.
Again we remembered Swami's words. "Your health is not good. Your liver is bad."
He recovered from this attack and went back to work after about ten days....
Marwah, ibid. p. 120-124
The reader can easily assess the amount of information Sai Baba requests, and the number of errors he makes as he goes, from the above.
Magicians and self-styled psychics are familiar with the techniques of gathering information from a subject and feeding it back later, when the subject has forgotten that she said it, asking questions disguised as statements, or simply nodding sagely when the subject tells them something, so as to leave the impression that they knew it all along. One wouldn't think that such techniques, along with vague statements which could apply to anything, would leave the impression of having psychic powers with anyone with an IQ above 50. But these techniques, collectively called cold reading, have impressed many very intelligent people that have witnessed a psychic perform. Two readily available sources on this technique are Ray Hyman, "Cold Reading: How to Convince Strangers You Know All About Them", and Ronald Schwartz, "Slight of Tongue", both to be found in Kendrick Frazier (ed.), Paranormal Borderlands of Science, Buffalo, Prometheus Press, 1981.
Sai Baba's ability to follow the information given by his devotees, while covering for mistakes or impressions the devotee is unwilling to accept, is shown in many devotee accounts. A typical example from another devotee follows:
I was feeling more and more embarrassed and would have like nothing better than to become invisible but since I could not hide from Baba I would have to hear him out. Then without warning he swung around abruptly to face me, and wagging his forefinger like a school teacher said with mock anger `You are lazy.' I promptly burst into tears...now his accusation of laziness [was] the last straw. I blurted out, `Oh Baba! No, not lazy! You yourself say I am a hard worker'. When he saw my distress he smiled and with immense love and gentleness like a mother comforting a troubled child, he almost crooned, `That was only my joke. Don't cry. You must have self control.' I quickly pulled myself together.
Phyllis Krystal, The Ultimate Experience, Sawbridge Enterprises, 1985, p. 155.
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