Education in Human Values: Sathya Sai Baba's religious fundamentalism

Eduation in human values is the misnomer Sathya Sai Baba gave to his ideas on moral education. It is a misnomer because the so-called 'human' values are really Sai Baba's religious values as ordained by God Himself, not by any human agency. While human values both in theory and practice are flexible, under development and improvement all the time, the EHV values are defined as five ultimate general (and vaguely defined) ideas supposedly set in stone for all eternity. They express a particular kind of religious or spiritual 'fundamentalism. Fundamentalism today is often based on the belief and fear that modern secular society is wiping out religion and to deny the existence or authority of God. Fundamentalists not only struggle against a godless world but also against the beliefs which they regard as heretical. Fundamentalism is not only violent agitation and terrorism, but intolerance of the idea that other faiths can be valid. In one way or another, fundamentalists hold to the 'fundamental scriptures' of this particular religion as God-given and superior to any other evidence. It has now been demonstrated how Sai Baba preaches this superiority for his 'dispensation' as the World Saviour, though in a non-violent way, just as the Vatican proselytizes peacefully for its doctrine. Many elements of anti-secular and anti-democratic values are present, because in essence such religions are authoritarian, with God as either a the top level ruler, saviour, or despot. Justice is something only God can dispense, so human justice would be disregarded whenever a conflict between the two arose. This is seen very clearly in the attempts at introduction in some Muslim countries of fundamentalist Sharea law, where human values and Sharea justice are too often tremendously at odds.

Religious fundamentalism always harps back to early texts, and therefore to out-dated theories about nature and causation, or dangerous superstitions now totally disproved by the sciences. For example, Sathya Sai Baba teaching contains many errors in his descriptions and explanations of events, how the world works, and on what human health, social welfare and the like depend. His language is more often than not vague and unspecific, always packed with sweeping generalisations that are misleading and intellectually primitive (from the viewpoint of balanced thinking, linguistic-empirical and philosophical analysis).

Dawkins' definition of 'fundamentalism'
(above: Professor Richard Dawkins' definition of fundamentalism)

Fundamentalist criticism of 'Human Rights' by Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba's rigid doctrine, based on scripture and supposedly also on his omniscient and all-powerful Divine Will, puts himself and his "universal religion" or spirituality firmly among religious fundamentalism, also as regards human rights.

In the modern secular world, the second half of the C20'th has seen the growth and spread of international consensus about the validity of basic human rights. Human rights have thus been based on legal and other agreements within and between states. In turn, these rights have been ratified by most governments of states throughout the world. Since the 2nd World War, their general validity as fundamental principles has been accepted as the rationale for international human rights conventions and activities.

Sathya Sai Baba, however, argued on various occasions that human rights are derived from the duties of the human towards God, which are pre-eminent. However, countless centuries of religion have never produced such a wide-ranging and humanitarian protection of the individual as the secular human rights movement has done.

Human rights and human values express the same humanitarian impulses. They are not dependent on any religion, and are actually contrary to – or at odds with - various teaching and practices in several mainstream religions (especially as regards punishments, the equality of women and much more.

Human values are not an expression of man's duty to God, but of human duties to humanity. This duty is NOT concretised through prayer and meditation, as Sathya Sai Baba insists.:-

"... A citizen has, first of all, to grasp the Dharma of citizenship, his responsibilities as well as duties as a citizen. It is only then that he has a right to his privileges as a citizen. No citizen has the right to pressurize others for his own selfish ends."
[ p. 18, Quotation of Sathya Sai Baba in Vision of the Divine by Eruch B. Fanibunda (1976), sold by Shri Satya Sai Books and Publications, the official outlet for fully approved books on Sai Baba]

Comment: So Sai Baba implies that even the rights declared in the Geneva Convention of 1948 to be Universal Rights, inalienable to human beings, are not universal or inalienable... but can only be claimed if one has done "his responsibilities as well as duties as a citizen". Of course, this is a very vague generalization and - were it to be made the basis of exceptions to the laws of human rights - would lead to a complete breakdown of the legal system and the whole ideal of human rights. Sai baba's view is the simplistic thinking of a person with a very limited and narrow view of the law and human rights - let alone their abrogation in many countries. Exerting one's rights as a human being is not "pressurizing others for his own selfish ends" as Sai Baba sees it. On the contrary, to stand up for human rights is a noble act of citizenly duty and shows a responsibility for one's fellow citizens.

"The attitudes of the Westerners and our countrymen differ widely. In the West, they are more keen on the rights of the individual. Immediately on birth, the child acquires a right. Father, mother, society and government each has a right, the ruler has a right. While in the West, they were concerned about rights the people of Bharath had been laying stress on Dharma or the duty of everyone." (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol 26, p. 28-9) and "No one has any inherent claim to any right" (ibid p. 400)

Comment: This means that a religious concept of duty (towards God and fellowman) is supposed to be predominant in India (Bharath). One can see where this has brought India - hundreds of millions without any rights they can exert al all! Despotism combined with the religiously-based caste system (and its attendant range of discriminations) has suppressed the masses, In the West, though class differences are always present and often strong, they are not based on revanchist religious doctrine. Progressive movements in India join most other countries in favouring basic universal, inalienable human rights. The right to live, to work, to believe what one will... and these rights are continually being extended as civilization improves human conditions and possibilities. Sathya Sai Baba is a staunch defender of the Indian caste system as originally instituted, whereby rights are delegated and not universal by any means - many being casteless and having had no rights until Mahatma Gandhi began a process of recognizing their common humanity. At Sathya Sai Baba ashrams, one can see the caste system at work - to pick up manure dropped by oxen etc. can only be done by the casteless - no other Indians there will touch it (or frequently even touch the casteless people - 'untouchables'). This, of course, is an almost trivial expression of the caste system, which still has a stranglehold on most Indians, especially the religious ones and not least many of the educated officials and rulers. This Eastern fundamentalism is so-called because it is based on Hindu religious concepts. Sathya Sai continues:-

"If you discharge your duty with responsibility result will take care of itself. This is what everyone should clearly understand today. If everyone does his duty there will be no trouble in the world. It is because people claim their rights without doing their duty there is chaos and confusion. Man is immersed in self-conflict because he is keen on exercising his right without discharging his responsibility."
(Sathya Sai Speaks Vol 26, p. 30)

Comment: Were it only all so simple! Does Sathya Sai really believe that people will in the foreseeable future find out just what their real duties are, and perform them without claiming their rights, but waiting for them to fall on them as from heaven (like manna or good karma)? In the meantime, the most fundamental of human rights are denied and abused - particularly in India with its ca. 800 million on the breadline or below and its constant suppression of most non-Hindu minorities, its religious fanatics regularly killing one another and innocent people. But Sathya Sai Baba is against the human rights movement, that is very clear. He is therefore for the status quo and caste society on rights, which is despicable. This is closely bound up with the fundamentalist aspect of Hinduism which Sathya Sai Baba actually encourages in denial of human rights' campaigns.

"The Vedas declare that the four castes have four complementary functions, like the head, the hands, the thighs and the feet; the safety and security, the strength and efficiency of one depends on those of the other three! Each caste is in charge of some beneficial task and ideal. Each caste... is dedicated to some useful way of life, which is essential for society as a whole; each has rights as well as obligations. The rights are based on and are proportionate to the discharge of the obligations." and "People argue that religions and the system of communities and castes have to go; but, so lon as man has variegated aptitudes and skills, and capacity to learn and grow, they are inevitable." (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol 11, p. 158-9)

Another illumining quotation from Sathya Sai Baba's fund of superstitions and extremely misguided beliefs about how human rights are achieved:-

"In reality there is no such thing as a "right". In fact, what they have is a responsibility.... How can you hope for water when there is no rain? Hence, you have to pray at the outset for rain. Only then you can enjoy the flow of water in the rivers. Similarly, you have to discharge your duties and then you will secure your rights." (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol 30, p. 242)

Comment: Not only does Sathya Sai claim that rain only come if prayed for (a very primitive superstition to anyone who knows the least thing about meteorology) but he assumes that doing one's duty will secure one's rights. But this is historically disproved time and again. Countless people have discharged countless duties only to be denied any right at all. If one does not recognize that, civilization cannot advance. Were women's rights achieved (in the West) because they did their duties? No, in England, the suffragettes took up the huge struggle for women's right to vote, and more besides. That kind of agitation and social action alone led to the achievements they made.

Sai Baba's fundamentalist views - one deadly sins'

Let's take a brief look again at the supposed 'wisdom' of the self-acclaimed 'universal world teacher and avatar'. Sathya Sai Baba talks of envy and hatred as robber twins, insect pests and characterizes them as evil (Golden Age 1980, p. vii), and characterizes these as more tremendous sins than anything else (One immediately asks, but what of cunning lies, power madness, premeditated murder, violent torture, genocide, abusive sex?). No, he simply loses all sense of proportion when he is riding his hobby-horse. For example:-

"Anger and hatred are demonic qualities Asooya (envy) is worse than either of them. You must get rid of these demonic qualities and attune your life to divinity." Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 18, p. 40

"The greatest single cause for darkness in the world today is envy. When one is happy and contented, others envy him and strive to ruin his peace of mind. When anyone is acclaimed as great, malice moves others to invent calumny, in order to tarnish his reputation." Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 8, p. 226

"Egoism is accompanied by another dire disease called Asurya (envy). There are cures for all kinds of diseases in the world,. But there are no remedies for egoism and envy. Total ruin is the only cure for these two diseases." (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 30, p.213f.)

"There are two types of persons, the one with "animal-human" qualities always show hatred, jealousy, greed, and anger. The other type with "human-divine" qualities will always be happy, peaceful and full of love. They will always adhere to truth." (Sai Echoes from Kodai Hills, 1998, p. 18.)

This last is typical Sathya Sai Baba... a sheer parody of psychological insight... it is sheer black-white kindergarten mentality. This is odious cult belief material par excellence! There are no remedies at all... but we must get rid of these 'demonic qualities' nonetheless. What sheer patronizing twaddle is this? I just do not experience envy from every other because I am happy, or attempts to "ruin my peace of mind" (excluding certain 'Sai devotees' who have posted against me, though in vain). All the Sathya Sai Baba sermonizing above is wild exaggeration and, moreover, is a destructive way of thinking altogether. Shame on you, Sathya Sai, you ought to know better!

Sathya Sai Baba preaches constantly on a considerable number of different sins. His various lists of deadly sins include anything from one or two up to an including dozens. Remarkably, each sin is presented in a self-defeating and authoritarian way by him as being the greatest, most heinous or most damning of all sins! These include, as one would expect 'hatred', 'violence', 'anger', 'untruth', 'gossip' etc.. Yet less convincing is the mortal sin of 'lack of faith' (especially in him as the one pure and perfect avatar); 'back-biting' (especially about him, one soon realises), 'ingratitude', (esp. towards him, God in person); 'egoism' (which includes any kind of self-interest whatever); 'impeding the divine purpose' (i.e. stating negative facts about him), criticizing others (especially him, who criticizes literally everyone), 'desire and lust' (esp. when attributed to him, no doubt) and so on as per usual! (especially, he often implies by the context, of those who Sathya Sai Baba likes and attends to). Except that he never ever calls himself a sinner, admittedly!

So Sathya Sai Baba's "universal" preaching lists all the traditional sins of fundamentalist religionists! Contradictorily, he has also has said that it is a "direct sin to call oneself a sinner" (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 2, Ch. 22, p. 116). I am not, or course, advocating hate, jealousy or envy (as I know that some witless Sai devotees believe)... but just pointing out the rabid nature of Sathya Sai Baba's proclamations.

Anyone who so much as questions his many questionable words and deeds, is regarded as a sinner by his followers, at best as a poor deluded soul condemned to terrible rebirths and retroactive karma etc. Such persons are automatically excluded (compassionately?) from his organizations and ashrams, for his teaching is implemented throughout the authoritarian and top-down social institutions, which unempower those who join them. This is what makes the Sathya Sai movement a genuine exclusive and self-defensive cult.

The Sathya Sai Organization even requires that one signs up to a regime which formally and explicitly grants no privileges of any kind to its members... and this is practiced too, for one has not even the privilege of being heard nor being able to question openly and frankly anything whatever that is decided from above, however irrelevant, senseless or contrary to genuine human values it turns out to be (i.e. covering up facts and spreading untruths). To join the SSO is to agree to accept very strict limitations on what one can do or say altogether... and these limitations are not made clear from the outset, they become evident only as time goes on and one meets the brick wall of being ignored or rejected. Intelligent people are soon reduced to parroting the most inane moralisms...

The moralistic and sin-oriented part of Sathya Sai Baba's teaching is as strict and restrictive as any religious sect and it gives a classical recipe for repression of individuality. The lack of understanding of the many concomitant causes and personal reasons for whatever he chooses to condemn as bad and evil is really quite remarkable. In fact, anyone who examines the discourses closely and thoroughly - and critically investigates the available facts about the actual behaviour plus the hidden life of Sathya Sai Baba - finds inalienable proof that Sathya Sai Baba himself commits all these 'heinous sins' himself! What a 'Divine example'!

1) Print this Page      2) To translate page: use right click on this text, select 'Open page in new window' and choose languages