UPDATE: After 2days plus: BUT ‘The Hindu’ accepts e-mail letters about articles it has posted on-line I have written a brief e-mail, signed Robert Priddy, and awaited with interest to see whether The Hindu posted it. My mail was reasonable and factual (see here). That The Hindu has not so far posted my letter indicates that they are censoring it.
Watch this URL: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/article2024043.ece
Previously I wrote:-
After many years of virtual subservience to Sathya Sai Baba and his doctrines, combined with refusal to entertain the views of critics – not even answering our letters – and nothing but virtual promotional articles of Sathya Sai Baba as endorsers of his sainthood, ‘The Hindu’ has at last relented somewhat. It has allowed a critical article, which is important and deserves wide propagation. Having long kow-towed to that substantial elite in India which has long invested all its prestige in the worship of Sai Baba, the editors of The Hindu are probably beginning to realize that they have put their credibility on a knife-edge in the eyes of the world, because of the tremendous controversy about the illness and death of Sathya Sai Baba both in India and the world press. No one can now be fully unaware of the extreme secrecy and cover-up of the slightest facts about him – in this case his long-standing bad health condition, the physiological cause of his fatal organ failures, and the uncertainty about how he declared dead (no death certificate) plus suspicions about the timing of his death (why was he disconnected from life support just on Easter Sunday?). The tale of smoke and mirrors goes on… why did he not pass into mahasamadhi as a realised yogi is – in India at least – fully expected to do, but died unconscious and his body ravaged by a wasting illness and multiple organ failures? Was it not AIDS? Then there is the behind the scenes battle about control of the billions of dollars in the Sathya Sai Central Trust and its various flagship projects (prestigious in Andhra Pradesh, though minor charities within the larger picture)… the myth of Sathya Sai Baba and his as being the God Creator is unravelling at such a pace that even religiously inclined newspaper editors are getting cold feet.This is to be welcomed on behalf of all that is good and true in India, all those who are so enormously exploited and suppressed by the authorities, from the President, Prime Minister and on down through the ranks. This is what The Hindu – now deserving of some (rather tentative) congratulation – published:-
PUSHPA M. BHARGAVA
As the dust after the death of Satya Sai Baba has largely settled, it is time to evaluate him, his work and its implications, objectively and unemotionally, for there is a good deal to be learnt from his life and death.
His rise to fame from an ordinary, even humble background, was based on (i ) his claim that he was the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba ; (ii) his claim that he represented divinity, that is, God himself ; (iii) that, consequently, he had powers that no mortal man had ; (iv) that he could provide succour and mental peace to people who came to him with problems of various kinds ; and (v) that he engaged himself in charitable works like opening hospitals and providing potable water to villagers.
Let us examine his above claims and actions one by one. There is not a shred of evidence of rebirth; the very idea of rebirth goes against all of science. Every claimed case of rebirth that has been investigated has been shown to be fake.
As regards his being a reincarnation of God, the only proof he provided was that of performing miracles or miraculous acts. The fact is that he never performed a miracle. In fact, no miracle has ever been performed by any one. All miracles attributed to religious leaders are inventions of the clergy. An example would be that of Mother Teresa whom I met and who never claimed to have performed a miracle in her lifetime. But for her to be canonized after her death two miracles had to be — and were — invented and attributed to her. Every single act of Sai Baba that was a miracle in the public eye could be performed by ordinary magicians.
My colleague at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Hyderabad, Dr. M. W. Pandit, performed them publicly. So did the well-known rationalist, the late Premanand. Invite Dr. Narendra Nayak by sending an e.mail to and he will come and perform for you every miracle that Sai Baba ever claimed to have performed — be it producing a ring or a Japanese watch or sacred ash from nowhere, or his photograph shedding sacred ash.
As regards the miraculous cures he claimed to have performed, we never heard of his failures. A distant cousin of mine had her young son suffering from an incurable disease. Sai Baba who blessed him said he would be cured. When she went back to him after the child’s death, Sai Baba told her that he felt it was best for the child to come to him and that is what he caused to happen; so there was no reason for worry.
The cures that may have been effected were never established to be directly on account of Sai Baba’s ‘divine’ intervention. They were probably natural or psychosomatic, of which numerous examples are known. After all, what do neuropsychologists or psychiatrists do? That is why he never allowed rationalists like Professor Narasimhaiah, former Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University, or Premanand, to come anywhere near him. It is believed that it were his men who actually once beat up Narasimhaiah.
The late Dr. Y. Nayudamma, the former Director-General of CSIR, who died in an Air India crash near Canada years ago, told me of his visit to Sai Baba with a once ardent follower, Dr. S. Bhagavantam, a former Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister. Nayudamma stood in front of Sai Baba with folded hands and most respectfully, requested him to produce a blade of grass between his palms. That would have been a miracle. But, instead, Nayudamma had to leave.
As regards his acts of charity, there are innumerable people in the country who engage in such acts to avoid undue attention focussed on their ill-gotten wealth. Accounting of his enormous wealth has never been transparent.
Sai Baba’s unusual accomplishment was to recruit such a large number of the rich and the powerful, politicians and bureaucrats, law-makers, law-keepers, and law dispensers, amongst his followers. Perhaps this is more of a reflection on his followers than him!
Sai Baba’s death was not a national tragedy. The national tragedy was his being given a state funeral, a state of official mourning being declared, and the country’s political leaders — cutting across parties, including the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the NAC — spending precious time and resources to have his last darshan, relegating to the background the nation’s constitutional commitment to a scientific temper.
(The writer is a former Vice-Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, former member, National Security Advisory Board and former founder and Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. His email is: bhargava.pm @gmail.com)
The above article expressed a degree of skepticism seldom seen so widely in India. The facts of the matter have been investigated most thoroughly by former followers of professional standing who became disillusioned, as well as numbers of psychologists, sex abuse consultants, criminologists, social researchers, comparative religionist academics, philosophers and diverse other professionals from many countries – of course including many journalists and several world-class TV documentary makers. Their overall results bear out P.M. Bhargava in the main. Of course, the various investigators have come to somewhat different results on various claims and details and some more prominent issues as their basis and facilities for research will have differed in each case. The great difficulties of researching the controlling bodies and individuals in such clandestine inner circles of this guru cult are well-known and have been documented by independent but largely non-critical researchers, such as Tulasi Srinivas (in her work ‘Winged Faith’). Most of the relevant information can be found at Sathya Sai Baba in Word and Action