Sathya Sai Baba proclaimed himself as ‘the master of maya’, which means a master of delusive appearances, and that he is entirely beyond its illusion as an avatar of God. That nothing was as it seemed to be was doubly true in that he exercised massive deceptions on his following and much of the elite of India, and most successfully, though many decades. Now, there is more than sufficient evidence – even from some devotees – that Sathya Sai Baba employed sleight of hand when seeming to produce objects from thin air. I also know two persons who have experienced him making mistakes in this, though I have not seen a clear instance of it myself. On the contrary, in 1986 I saw at close quarters him manifest a laddu sweets underneath his hand, and all present ate some of the warm, sticky product! The only explanation I have of this is that it was a most subtle form of mass hypnosis, though it seemed as real as anything else at the time. However, there are many others who can create such appearances through hypnosis and other means – perhaps the most convincing and extraordinary current practitioner being Derren Brown of UK whose abilities are legion, but are – on his own account - not psychic, spiritual or anything of that nature. Yet, IF it were true that Sai Baba could – as so widely reported – materialize small objects and foodstuffs – why would he therefore ever have cheated? The study of mediumism and related phenomena shows us that many mediums assessed as genuine, later began to lose their powers and took to cheating due to the pressure to go on producing results. Madame Blavatsky is one such famous instance, and there are many more. Sathya Sai Baba has nevertheless been exposed widely as faking ‘materalization’ – even by currently believing followers. Notably, he was never put to the test as he refused to allow any investigative scientific or technological study validating his alleged ‘miracles’.
Anything Sathya Sai Baba did that caused doubts was said to be one of his inscrutable ways of testing people so as to teach them to trust him rather than their own (supposedly fallible) perceptions and minds! That is the entire aim of ’a test of faith’. So in what does the alleged ‘test’ consist? Is it to see whether one’s faith in Sathya Sai Baba and all he says and does is sound enough for one to continue to be a follower? Is makes clear who is reliably gullible enough to depend on, and hence how well you can be used for various tasks. Had there been more than a very few percipient skeptics like V.K. Narasimhan around (even though he did not speak out his real doubts in public) Sathya Sai Baba’s reputation for ‘genuine miracles’ would surely have collapsed long ago. As it is, the exposé has done the job instead, so that few but zealous believer in his divinity and that miracles (surpassing any Jesus is accredited with) really occurred.
Taking the first baits until hooked and landed, the true believer became almost entirely in his power in the sense of losing a will of one’s own to assert anything whatever that went against him. Such confounded followers are ideal for spreading the word – that is, the countless stories, rumours and conveying his deceptions and lies to anyone who will give them a hearing. Their mentality amounts to a kind of cognitive trance into which only the most severe shocks can penetrate. Even then the loss of one’s cherished beliefs and self-image is evidently so powerfully felt that the person concerned retracts into the former cocoon of blindness and tries to salvage faith. Sathya Sai Baba has also used people repeatedly for conveying his lies to others since his teenage days is fully described by one of his most servile of devotees, Smt. Vijayamma (in her autobiographical book ‘Refuge there is none’ see Sathya Sai thrashed a 3-year old boy regularly in his mother’s presence!) who was subjected to extreme tests by him when her baby son was repeatedly beaten ‘mercilessly’ by Sai Baba before her own eyes. This was rationalized in the usual way: ‘The Lord knows what is best for each one of us’ and the bad karma from an imagined previous life of that baby was blamed, and Sai Baba revered as a corrective saviour of his soul!
Of course, many of the apparent tests of faith that arise were not designed as such at all by Sai Baba, but were simply disturbing observations or compromising facts that occurred. In the ashrams it was widely believed that every smallest event was under his cognizance and direction, hence even trivial matters were often taken as corrections by the guru, or tests he was setting up. Such as losing one’s place in a food queue, being told to move back at darsan by some imperious ‘servant’ (Seva Dal) or even more minor annoyances (leaving one’s spectacles behind when one needed them… just name it!) Sai Baba’s insistence that he was omnipresent in every heart constituted a catch-all advance precaution against all the unfortunate facts that could arise, which was reinforced yet further by his insisting on total, unquestioning faith at all times, never ‘seeing or hearing evil’, thinking and saying only good things… and so on.