One main problem in worshipping a person as God, as devotees worship their gurus, is that one invests one's own energies and identity in that person (as if further to empower that supposed ' God' and forward his interests) and so drains oneself of autonomy. This is a special form of disempowering oneself, which often goes under the name of 'surrender' or 'giving up of ego' or even 'destruction of ego'.
At first, it may seem to be an empowering relationship, because of the experience of newness, a surge of faith to ride, new people and engagements... new opportunities for self-expression and so on. This seems to be a gift of grace from the guru, even though the changes are actually made by oneself in the belief that the guru is guiding and enhancing this. It may be that the guru actually does contribute something too. Nonetheless, the largest contributions over time, in whatever form they take, are always made by the disciple.
Depending upon the personal history and relative maturity of the person involved, what begin as attempts at self-improvement through serving the guru's (apparent) wishes and reducing unnecessary desires so as to improve the quality of life etc., can soon turn into unhealthy kinds of self-effacement and even self-elimination. The process - what is actually happening to oneself - often goes quite unremarked by those involved, for there are many tricks of thought provided which help one to ignore negative consequences of all kinds and turn them into apparent plusses. All this applies the more forcibly to people who have not already developed a sound personal autonomy in having liberated themselves from various forms of self-oppression experienced during early years and/or from other social pressures which have kept them under and denied any fuller self-discovery and self-affirmation.
I have met a huge number of devotees believing that one or another person is God Himself. Most of my experiences of this were in connection with the Sathya Sai Baba movement, where I too came to embrace this 'bottom line belief' required of any 'genuine follower'. Sai Baba insists both that he is "all Gods rolled into one" to whom all prayers to any God eventually reach. But also - with his typical duplicity - he says that he only represents but one of the forms of Divinity (the human form of Sai Baba). He extends this mind-puzzling conundrum by holding at one and the same time that every human actually is Divine too, being made in the same image of God.
This implies that the progress possible towards self-realisation derivable directly from Sathya Sai Baba in his physical presence has limits. He accepts this, while also repeatedly teaching that only by his divine will can anyone reach God! He says he does not wish to be worshipped, but accepts massive personal worship and tells people to repeat his name constantly and concentrate ceaseless on his form!
Admittedly, I was drawn to visit Sai Baba through a number of indisputable para-normal events, so I have passed through the devotee mentality myself. It led to realisations I had not expected, mostly about the mentality and the spectrum of ways in which it works. I therefore have sympathy with those still under its sway and wish them well on the next steps of the process of self-realisation, doing my utmost to provide all the information needed to shake off the illusions inculcated in them by Satha Sai Baba. However, since the factual evidence about Sathya Sai Baba's covered-up activities is now available, I take issue with anyone who tries 'automatically' to defend Sai Baba and thereby quails from investigating the matter thoroughly.
The 'overnight conversion' Many devotees have told how they were suddenly 'converted' to believe he is what he claims he is, often through some paranormal event like synchronous coincidences, dreams of Sai Baba, auditory and visual perceptions of him or substances and objects connected with him etc. These 'miraculous' experiences, which Sai Baba calls his 'visiting cards' are intended mainly as an introduction to his doctrine and to following him and his advice and commandments. Not all followers converted quickly, many came by the slow road... by gradual steps. The 'end results' are frequently indistinguishable.
The so-called 'eternal teachings' of Sathya Sai Baba affect his followers in much the same way over time. They are so designed that - once one puts faith in Sai Baba and initially accepts the more feasible and morally attractive part of his teachings, one begins to reinterpret all one's personal experiences in ways which develop an illusory view of people and the world. The teaching rejects any views that conflict with itself (unless they too are part of the teaching!). All questioning of their divine truth is to be avoided as an expression of ignorance, sine or often also evil. In this way devotees create interpretations of everything, which amounts to nothing short of a delusional system that takes over and virtually "thinks the believer" . The delusion expands, and sucks in all that can support it. In many instances this rooted inner mental and emotional condition becomes an insurmountable hindrance to authentic experience and living. It takes a strong personality with considerable inner resources not to give in to the wilder parts of the teaching. It requires a yet more healthy character structure and self-knowledge for one eventually to break with this self-reproducing delusion and the social and other connections which reinforce it and increasingly cut one off from alternatives and ways of retreat.
Many adherents of Sathya Sai Baba will retort that his teaching leads to good experiences, a more 'spiritual' and useful life and moreover, that they are entirely positive and in line with the best spirit of most religions. These positive experiences are usually - if not invariably - mostly felt in the initial phase, often described (nostalgically) by devotees as 'the honeymoon period', when everything is novel and fresh and one's life seems to have taken a final, radical turn for the better... a promise of blessings, fulfillment, even personal salvation.
positive attraction that Sai Baba and his teaching have initially (before penetrating
to the depths) is very considerable, as is seen in the hyperbole and exaggerated
eulogies of hundreds of followers who have written books or otherwise told
about their miraculous experiences.
hat is on offer is a refuge, an escape,
from the 'hard reality' of one's former life. The accuracy of following
succinct and accurate quotation cannot be overemphasized:-
"...many of Sai Baba's miracles are carefully calculated in terms of their timing and psychology and, therefore, aim to stun the potential disciple to put him or her off balance and, in that way, win over his or her doubt and resistance. They are part of the aforementioned puzzling games and the building of a personal relationship in which Sai Baba holds all the strings in his hand. It is important to see through Sai Baba's purpose in making people defenseless through his demonstrations of power." (from "Guru, Miracle Worker, Religious Founder: Sathya Sai Baba" by Dr. Reinhart Hummel)
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