Much is made by Sathya Sai Baba and his followers of those of his supporters who are ‘scientists’ and ‘educationalists’, and not a few of them – especially the Indians who predominate among them. However, what can one say of the standard of an educational system which exists in TOTAL isolation from the world research community. Very few of those chosen by Sathya Sai Baba for top offices in his organisation and institutions (for all the academic titles they flaunt) show themselves to be progressively intellectual or up-to-date in modern knowledge. Not a single one of them seems to have published a major serious work of impact on peers or the informed public in science, philosophy or other comparable serious literature, yet many are at the same time hagiographic writers about Sathya Sai Baba. Sai Baba himself is more or less unknown to – and unmentioned by – any major world thinker of high achievement. Incidentally, nor is he quoted or referred to by any important world religious leaders.
Why is there a total absence of international peer review or scientific or pedagogic discussion at anything approaching a world professional standard in any of the publications by these known followers of Sathya Sai Baba? The primary reason is that the whole Sathya Sai Baba undertaking is clinically isolated from the wider world of non-believers and his university, though now recognised as such through his political pull, is way below the standards of the best Indian education, science and research. This is a shame, really, for at least it does provide an education to many in a state where there are so many illiterates.
Further, why are there virtually no names of educationalists involved with Sathya Sai Baba’s institutions who are genuinely well-known outside the circle of Sai Baba devotees? There is a total absence of internationally-recognised scientists and researchers and no discussion with such through any known professional or public media either. Not one Nobel laureate (there have been well over a thousand of them) has proclaimed to be a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, as far as can be discovered. [One former Nobel Laureate from Texas was inducted into viewing the hospital in Puttaparthi and thanks Sai Baba for it, but he is otherwise not declaring himself as a follower.] It is not possible for a mature scholar to work in an environment such as that at the Sathya Sai University, because the methods of learning are far too traditional and – according to the famous editor V.K. Narasimhan, who knew most of the students there – those who graduate were very largely as yet incapable of any intellectual discussion outside the parameters of their textbook learning. Add to this the constant indoctrination about the Chancelleor (Sathya Sai Baba) being omniscient and infallible, and the scene is set for a torpid mentality and stagnating research.
One name brandished as a ‘great scientist’ by Sai followers was a Dr. S. Bhagavantam, because he was a developer of the Indian atomic bomb who successfully copied US nuclear technology (good in physics but what about non-violent values?). He was a noted figure in Indian (but not world) science. Well before his death, Dr. Bhagavantam resigned from the Sathya Sai Central Trust and the World Council of the Sathya Sai Organization and left Sathya Sai Baba of his own accord around 1983, it having taken him 20 years to see through enough of his excessive claims and even his constant proven sleight of hand.
The only other remotely known physicist around Sathya Sai Baba is Dr. G. Venkataraman, who firmly believes Sathya Sai Baba is the creator of the universe, despite him knowing full well that Sai Baba’s ‘knowledge’ of physics, astronomy, geophysics and related scientific issues has been shown to be outright ignorant and laughable! Venkataraman should know better! He publishes web pages which present standard accounts of physics and astronomy in complete contradiction to what Sathya Sai Baba has proclaimed in many discourse! Not one head of any independent University can be found who has endorsed Sathya Sai Baba’s educational programmes like Education in Human Values or Educare, and – as is well known – a branch of UNESCO withdrew from a planned educational conference under the auspices of Sai Baba once they had investigated what this involved. Since then no UN body has been willing to enter into any kind of cooperation in education or other projects with Sathya Sai Baba or his institutions.
One should not be misled by the titles and long and near-incomprehensible strings of letters graduates and others around Sai Baba attach after their names (a must-have in status-conscious India). There are many millions of graduates in the world, and some countries have educational systems using unpedagogical methods, especially India – though the top universities are reportedly state-of-the-art and their graduates are most successful internationally. Unfortunately, here in Norway at the University of Oslo, the standard of 90% of applicants from India I was involved in assessing (all supposedly having already some kind of higher educational graduation from India) was such that they needed quite elementary training before they could hope to enter for the obligatory philosophy and logic-semantic preliminary examination. I know from my academic contacts that much the same applies in UK and other West European countries. The Indian authorities are really trying to modernise the low-standard educational system of Lord Macaulay with its learning-by-rote to create nothing but clerks, not scientists, as left by the British. Admirably, they struggle to make it more egalitarian with quotas for Dalits, because since Independence it was virtually the birthright of higher caste Indians to receive – not only an education – but also a degree, whatever their academic standard. Many newspapers used to report on repeated disturbances where students would demonstrate violently and threatened professors until granted their degrees. In fact, many of supposed graduates of Indian universities who applied to the board on which I sat proved to have counterfeit degrees.