At times, though Sai Baba was extremely ambiguous about whether or not there is any kind of ‘free will’, he always ended up denyhing that human beings really possess any real freedom of thought and action. Her often stated ‘there is no free will’, and - rather contradictorily also that ‘only God has free will’. Many devotees simplistically accept that free will can only be exercised by him (claiming to be the Godhead). This despite that he was often telling people, ‘You are God. You ARE God!’ (I heard him say just this to a devotee at one of my interviews with him). This last cannot can have any real practical meaning, it is about as unhelpful as saying such things as ‘the cosmos exists’, ‘the cosmos does not exist’, ‘all is truth’ or ‘all is illusion’. ‘all is energy’, ‘everything is everything’ etc. (See here for a fuller elucidation of the circularity and hence illogicality of this pantheistic claim). Contradictorily, he also speaks of us having free will only in our choosing either to do good or bad! Then again he also repeatedly says elsewhere there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ etc., that good vs.bad is an illusion (i.e. maya). If this were not enough he also says that everything is good since everything comes from God! What a confusion he creates, both in his own mind and that of his followers!

Yet it is the complete absence of any free will that generally predominates in Sai Baba’s ‘teaching’. Ironically, a follower who is kept in confusion is much more likely to cling to a master! To assert that humans are mere puppets, “sugar dolls”, as Sai Baba had frequently done, is blatantly absurd. But it is his way of convincing people to submit and surrender themselves to him as the only Doer. The effect on believers in this is to become less motivated, less constructive or vital, it amounts to loss of self-respect and sense of self worth and amounts to inauthenticity and existential alienation from ones living reality.

Some devotees accept without though Sai Baba’s words, ‘there is no free will’ and recirculate then almost as if it were a holy mantra. Philosophically wholly unschooled devotees - which means the majority - are without understanding of what this vast generalization implies for human life. If entirely trur, it would make everyone into automatons without any responsibility whatever for anythin Despite this, Sai Baba sometimes speaks of human beings having some small degree of free will only. No doubt many Westerners would reject his ‘teaching’ if he did not confirm what most people hold to be the case. Sai Baba even proclaims that he does everything, not even a blade of grass can move without his will etc. He proclaims that he alone is the Doer! He follows up by boasting that it is he who builds his colleges and hospitals, and does all “good” works in the world but definitely nothing bad!). This peculiar megalomaniac notion can be seen operating in full force on his followers, especially in his ashrams. One shall ‘See, hear, think, do only what is “good” – no “evil”… despite these being illusory ideas! Devotees praise him endlessly and totally uncritically for everything… some get so confused that they think he causes every tiny thing that occurs and also that anything that ‘goes wrong’ or does not occur as hoped or expected is “a divine lesson from the guru”. These facts also proclaim his movement as an indoctrinating cult of a most authoritarian and unaccountable nature.
The meaning of the words ‘free will’ vary enormously. Some people fall back on fatalism to explain to themselves their own failings and failures, or to avoid responsibility for themselves or for having to take moral standpoints that may prove uncomfortable because they are unpopular, even when right and true. Others accept there is a measure of free will and try to employ it positively. Without faith in human will power and freedom, the world would be a meaningless round, a sorry place where people go through ‘predetermined motions’, believing wrongly that they have no choice to do otherwise. Democratic freedom of choice could not exist, only the tyranny of unavoidable events. This benefits despotic, totalitarian and authoritarian systems. It engenders fatalism where all social freedoms and human rights become like a mere legend, as among most of India’s religious and crushingly poor villagers and town slum dwellers. This applies very much in India, where the oppressive caste system is hardly changed since Independence, still making most of the 160 million ‘untouchable’ Dalits (95% still only in low-caste trades) no better than serfs to the other castes.

The big confusion can very largely be cleared up, but only by a proper exposition of the subject, one which takes account of the entire range of human thought (and misunderstanding) on the subject.
There can be no doubt that Sathya Sai Baba wished to remove the very idea of free will and thus reduce the possibility of his devotees exercising what freedom they had. He constantly demanded that they did only his will… in short, he was a guru who wanted a totally obedient following who saw him as God Almighty and the only entity which can truly exercise freedom of will.

The dangers to ones personal autonomy, destiny and freedoms from not understanding the nature of human free will and willpower but believing in Sai Baba’s main world view are considerable, and - for one who believes - the liberating alternative of regaining one's true selfhood and self-chosen destiny is an unknown quantity which the false belief excludes from their sphere of experience.

For a deep analysis of the issues of fate, freedom, destiny, predestination see TREATISE ON FREEDOM AND FATE, CAUSE AND CHOICE

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