Sai Baba's religious values vs. universal human rights

Sai Baba's clearly stated overalll aim has been to see the reestablishment of ancient Indian values - a fundamental kind of religious life (sanathana dharma)- which he points out must includes unselfish service to others and the community, due respect and care for all living beings and nature, and non-discrimination as to race, colour, and faith and the exercise of individual moral conscience. He also promotes the historically quite recent addition to Indian value system - Gandhian non-violence in all walks of life - though he presents this as part of the perennial Indian philosophy (despite the widespread and often institutionalised violence that historical India from ancient time of the Mahabharata war until today has always been part of and party to). His values do specifically not include human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, public accountability (i.e. in his own case), reliance on human justice alone, women's rights, gender liberation (taboo for Sai Baba) and much else that constitutes progressive human values today. Whether these ancient values were much practiced in India at any time is a matter open to question too, and what historical evidence there is does not seem to support it. These values have very largely been lost very long ago in most of India , as current religious clashes and many other proofs of corrupted morals keep demonstrating to the world. One can but hope that a world renaissance of values will take place, and as soon as possible, though only signed-up devotees can believe (with difficulty) that Sathya Sai Baba is the motivating force of it all, as he claims to be. Comparative studies and statistical overviews do not indicate that the situation in India as a whole has improved very greatly since World War II, rather to the contrary (if one allows for improved material standards, matters which Sathya Sai Baba is ever telling us have little or no import anyhow).

Sathya Sais' antipathy to human rights is evident, unfortunately, as he never has a good word to say about them, only but criticises that movement on the grounds that what people need to have is a better sense of their duties. This is truly black-and-white, semi-reactionary talk, for human rights ought to go hand in hand with duties, and not be seen as opposing values. Thus, he never speaks in support of the moderating influence that the activities of the educated and intellectuals can have on social injustice, rigid ideologies and rabid religious dogmas, nor of their analysis and criticisms that help to uncover beliefs, policies and doctrines of all kinds - religious or secular - that can and do wreak major psychological and social damage. In short, Sathya Sai Baba's traditionalism negates many progressive egalitarian reforms arising from improved science and well-informed educated people in the understanding of society, and the many benefits of democratic systems. This is really and truly a backward-looking traditionalism. It is seen also in his ambivalence towards women and his preference for the traditional female role which has always been bound up with their suppression through the ages. (See A Few of Sathya Sai Baba's Confused and Traditional Views on Women)

A constructive or passive agenda?

Sathya Sai Baba puts education high on his agenda for world change, more especially moral and spiritual education. He repeatedly derides any kind of intellectualism that is without adequate practical benefit and is scornful of academics as being book-learned fools. He constantly rejects many scientific proofs and claims and attacks the sciences for not being able to tell us anything of what he claims is the inherent meaning of all human life. This alone places the Sai Baba doctrine outside the pale of accepted human values. Further, his teaching diverges from universalism by insisting on his Hindu theory of karma and liberation, which conflicts strongly with other religious doctrines. Sathya Sai Baba insists life has an inherent spiritual goal besides which the entire scientific enterprise as worthless, except as a provider of material comforts and technology (which he also characterises as 'tricknology'). He shows no understanding whatever that science has progressively removed countless baseless superstitions in favour of controllable explanations - especially invalidating many scripture based and now totally out-dated religious beliefs and superstitions - in the fields of medicine, individual and group psychology, social life, biology, physics, cosmology and so on and on. Sathya Sai Baba has also shown his grasp of much science to be second-hand and frequently grossly mistaken.

In many negative judgements of the world and its leaders in his constant repetitive discourses, Sathya Sai Baba rejects and ignores many benefits of modern civilising influence, from the human rights movement to the defense of workers' rights through strike action, from the movement against casteism to the struggle for elemental women's rights. He remains silent on most of the deplorable practices in India today, a catalogue of calamitous social conditions, criminal behaviour, extreme forms of repression and the horrific treatment of outcasts and the defenceless.

Despite his much publicised teaching of non-discrimination due to colour, creed, caste & religion Sai Baba speaks favourably of the four-caste system (as it was in ancient India at least) and does not publicly criticise any specific caste discrimination which is still a major scourge in India. This illustrates the frequent divergence of his preaching and practice. Both in his discourses and actions, he tends strongly to support the basic religious ideas underpinning even the present caste system.. While he supports all religions, but has not a word to say against the bestial Sharea law, as it is practiced in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc., nor does he take issue with the major Hindu-supported aberrations such as the thousands of Hindu temple dancers who are prostituted, Brahmins who maintain very repressive 'caste hygiene' (actually a kind of 'racial hygiene'). So, though he is not in favour of discriminatory practices, he does not follow this up by any active or broad-based defense of the persecuted. This is just another example of his Janus-faced approach to many dilemmas, to agree with both side. In this respect note that he has often stated, "Sai says 'yes, yes, yes' to everything!" This is a simplistic approach which seeks applause as 'positive', but ignores everything that is truly wrong and worthy of criticism and more.

Sathya Sai Baba has often criticised political leaders and corruption in general and sweeping terms, he clearly avoids provoking by naming anyone or interfering with specific vested interests In India. Again, he actually praises the corrupt when they are in power, invites them to visit him in public and even intervenes on their behalf through his followers in the judiciary when they have been convicted (eg. former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who ran with thanks to His Holy Feet' when the damning convictions against him were quashed). In all his many negative judgements of the world and its leaders, he also virtually rejects much of what is best about it too, from the human rights movement to the defense of workers' rights through strike action. These omissions are reinforced by his complete avoidance of mentioning the major and widespread social horrors in India, such as bonded labour (i.e. lifelong unpaid, enforced slavery), child labour servitude, the selling of children and women as slaves into prostitution (and almost certain AIDS infection), all of which are practiced on a large scale in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Nor does Sathya Sai Baba speak in public clearly against of the suppression of women, the widespread dispossessing and discriminating against widows or the massive injustice of wives being burnt by Sathya Sai Baba and or their families in supposed 'home accidents', usually merely for financial gain. All this avoids confrontation with any oppressive and evil social systems in favour of placing the burden on individuals to change themselves... of whom he most often says have no free will whatever (but at other times says that they do have some).

A conflict between secular human values and 'divine justice'

This conflict arises quite often in Sathya Sai Baba's ashrams, where justice for anyone who claims to be an injured party is denied a hearing and - if they persist - are blacklisted ostracised and forbidden to enter the ashram again. They can also be harassed, physically threatened or even killed. (Witness the horrific 1993 murders in Sathya Sai Baba's bedroom episode). Further, Sathya Sai Baba insists that one should not and cannot "bargain with God". (see Sanathana Sarathi 11-89, p.297 or Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 4, p. 386 or Vol. 22, p. 213, and E. Fanibunda 's Vision of the Divine, p. 70). According to his own previous close official, Dr. Bhatia, this was exactly what Sathya Sai Baba said him in anger when he tried to defend an injured party - an extremely upset 8th grade child whom he had examined in his capacity as a doctor and reportedly found to have been anally raped by Sathya Sai Baba.