Posted by robertpriddy on June 1, 2007
Manipulation of people: flattery is a powerful tool.
Those who cannot resist it are probably a majority of Sai devotees. Those who take flattery completely at face value, and seek more of it, will surely suffer from other character weaknesses. Such persons are easily handled by the method of repeated attraction/repulsion, the psychological ‘push-pull’ treatment which keeps them uncertain but still attached in hope of greater things. If such things very seldom – if ever – actually come about, they can be rationalised away by self-deprecation. This occurs to the great majority of Sai devotees I have met, and that is a lot. Due to his intuitive powers, Sathya Sai is very clever at manipulating what a person’s condition is, what he can be shown and what not. In this he is capable of the kind of manipulations of people’s minds and perceptions as is the extraordinary Derren Brown of UK’s Channel Four, who claims there are no psychic powers involved, but only highly developed techniques of mind control.
One should be warned of the unknown dangers of visiting Prashanthi Nilayam.
The number of foreign devotees who have died there in accidents, taken their own lives there or have literally been murdered (within the ashram itself) is difficult to know, due to the tightest secrecy and cover-ups (both by the ashram staff and all Sathya Sai Baba’s foreign officials in the Sai Org.), but it unquestionably is a considerable number. Nor are any records kept or made public about those who commit suicide (a considerable number), or die of natural causes or illnesses contracted there. There are various serious hazards that are never explained to visitors. Pickpockets are mentions, for obvious reasons, but threats to security are never explained and none are told that there are numerous armed plainclothes guards mingling with ordinary visitors, in addition to the highly visible armed guards and security persons who are there to protect Sai Baba (by Indian Government order).
One very malignant cult tried to infiltrate Sai ashrams To an outside observer it must have been interesting indeed – and somewhat scary too – to have seen the arrival of the undercover envoys of the Japanese ‘guru’ Shoko Asahara of the Aum Shinrikyo cult (aka Aum Shinri Ko, Aleph and Aum Supreme Truth) when they tried to force entrance to the Prashanthi Nilayam ashram. Remember that the head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that poisoned Japanese subways with lethal sarin gas was also believed to have godlike paranormal abilities as well.] A group of these Japanese were sent sometime in the 1990s by Shoko Asahara to Puttaparthi, where they bought some premises and set up an Aum Shinrikyo office there (with fax machines etc.). Then they contacted Sai officials with a view to meeting Sai Baba, who Shoko claimed to be one with, but when they were given the bum’s rush. Later a gang of several of them tried to force their way in to the enclosure for ‘darshan’ using martial arts… but were eventually fought down by numerous Seva Dals. They packed their bags and left, all within a couple of weeks. The matter was hushed up completely by the ashram and Organization, of course.
The following comments were also made concerning this cult by Barry Pittard: “By the way, my recollections go back to late 1997 when I think an Aum Shinrikyo team was stopped by Indian police at Bombay airport. (Although the matter bears all the signs of being suppressed by the Government of India and Puttaparthi authorities. Remember, by the way, how effectively the latter damage-controlled information about deaths and maimings in the crowd swarming for a glance at the Indian cricket team going past in their bus outside the ashram). Aum Shinrikyo, my information goes, were linked to a consignment of very high explosives destined for Puttaparthi. Apparent target: sathya sai baba, scheduled to attend his sponsored International Cricket Match on December 30th at his Puttaparthi ashram, filmed by Doordarshan for consumption of India and other countries. Certainly, there is a whole colony of Japanese living at Puttaparthi. Since the time of the cricket match, they have been under strong accountability to Puttaparthi authorities – signing in and out between ashram and village, etc. Certainly, many beggars have been used by ashram authorities in surveillance activities, etc. “
Posted in New Age, Propaganda | Tagged: ashram | 1 Comment »
Posted by robertpriddy on June 1, 2007
Why do foreigners visit Sai Baba’s ashrams?
Apart from tourists who go to see but not understand, spiritual seekers go in the hope that being near to the self-proclaimed avatar will confer boons and blessing, there are other attractions of visiting an Indian ashram. One is the great change of culture, climate, food habits etc. involved (until it becomes too familiar). There is often (not always) a lack of hurry and stress. Life there is still more communal and closer to pre-industrialized life. It can be also a relief to be cut off from the wider world, its media bad TV and bad news, something many Western adults have not experienced for decades! Part of it all is simply the closer encounter with the country and its inhabitants than mere conducted or standard tourism can offer, stimulating to those who have not crossed cultural boundaries much before. Despite the vast material and social problems India faces – like child slavery, bonded labour, infanticide, zero health care for millions, destitution, religious pogroms, wife burning and much more – in many respects just as bad as they were when India gained Independence – one still sees smiling, happy faces among many ‘ordinary’ Indians (i.e. the poor). That always impresses foreigners!
Sathya Sai’s declares one task to be to improve society through transformation of individuals and this means he must allow all kinds of person to come there, not only those who act well and for the good. Well, there are plenty of crooks around him… he even allows some of them privileged status as VIPs – to sit on his veranda – such as the man who runs a prostitution service from his ayurvedic clinic in Puttaparthi (see here scroll down to 22 August 2006 – under Prostitution in Puttaparthi!
Embezzlement, corruption and worse
Many of his servitors have embezzled funds (e.g. members he put on the Sathya Sai Central Trust like Col. Joga Rao, Narayanen, Mr. Nataraj and he retains them for ages – until it becomes too widely known, when he finally throws them out. Sai gives interviews both to known criminals in India and accepts their money (such as Bhangarappa, a known corrupt Karnataka politician and Mr. Reddy, the Madras ‘liquor baron’ who was murdered shortly afterwards) but also to foreign leaders who were major criminals (e.g. , Bettino Craxi, former President of Italy). Sai Baba also emphasizes that physical proximity is no guarantee of a person’s character and nor is long residence in the ashram either. He has even stated when cornered about the behaviour of some servitors that some are ‘demons’ who he keeps close to him so they can do less damage!
The leap in the cost of ashram living
Decades ago, there were few charges for staying there, but no longer. The prices of hiring rooms have multiplied perhaps a hundredfold and so has the price of a small bare 1-room-plus-bathroom ‘donor’s ashram apartment’ (now around US $ 10,000.- which one must pay in full yet oneself can only occupy for one month per year!). Westerners who bought most of those constructed are now given a back seat in all ways to the advantage of the crowds of Indians now arriving in hordes by bus and train. Many former long-term residents have had to leave due to worsening conditions, and all without any recompense. No foreigner has ever been allowed any papers guaranteeing ownership of ‘donated apartments’ in the ashrams and have to relinquish all legal rights vis-à-vis the ashram.
The tricky ‘tests of faith’ – or catch 22
Visitors to Sai Baba’s ashrams have to face many problems, which they soon learn to take as ‘tests of faith’. If you do not get a place anywhere near Sai Baba at the twice daily ‘darshans’ where he struts his stuff before the assembled thousands, it is because ‘Swami is not pleased with you’ or ‘Swami is testing you to see if you have patience’ or ‘Swami is thinking you will go away soon, so please stay!’… or many another such inane delusion. If a bird drops it’s dropping on you, that is significant… but then, what does it actually MEAN? You are free to guess, but always remain aware that Swami Himself is in everything and everyone, so he knows that the bird did its thing on just you then! Take it as a lesson, as a spiritual penance to be tolerated in the spirit of divine wisdom! Yes, this is the kind of thing one has to listen to daily from devotees, for virtually ALL of them you will meet there think like this at one time or other, you can take it from me! You will frequently hear residents repeating Sai Baba’s claim: “Swami is the Doer of everything! Not a blade of grass moves without Him knowing!”
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