Blog continued from Puttaparthi report by former long-term devotee
Once very close to Sathya Sai Baba’s sisters, Venkamma and Parvatamma, the young US devotee ‘Divya’ recorded a number of her experiences at the ashram in letters to her parents who, at that time, were still devotees. In 2001 her parents rejected Sai Baba as a sexual abuser and more and started a web site to denounce him (see at foot of blog)… quite a brave action at that time since no one knew whether the super-rich Sai authorities would reacted with lawsuit harassment or worse. With the fervour of a typical Sai Baba zealot, ‘Divya’ then disregarded all her parents’ warnings (as she informed the exposé later on – see previous blog here). In recent times, ‘Divya’ has posted a number of the many letters she wrote, her motive in this being to give enjoyment to devotees, a few of whom have maintained contact and trust in her. At all events, the letters give a rare insight into the ashram, the nature of Venkamma and others and the exigencies of life as a self-denying and servile devotee within the narrow rules and custom-circumscribed semi-existence within the sphere of Sai Baba ashrams.
In order to appreciate the mindset of a sincere – but mentally vulnerable – young aspirant to the promised self-realization and liberation from all cares and problems forever, one can hardly do better than read some excerpts from Divya’s first letter to her parents after her first few days in India at Sai Baba’s Prashanthi Nilayam. The enthusiasm in her attitudes and sentiments were not at all uncommon among foreign devotees, especially many ladies my wife knew… though among the more hardened elderly residents it tended to wear down into a kind of patina of resignation to being neglected by Sai Baba. In the “honeymoon period” everything was made to look rosy, the ‘spiritual hormones’ were raging and hopes were not (yet) dashed by any circumstance in the blind faith that Sai Baba had personally arranged for every tiny detail of one’s life, good, bad and indifferent.
As the above exemplifies, in the Sai movement there were and still are those whose unfettered enthusiasm and zealotry knows no bounds. The surrender themselves without knowing what it is they are surrendering to, nor do they care… they have a mantra or a vision and it blots out everything else. The ashrams were often plagued by very unruly crowds pushing for places, unpredictable and often unreasonable ‘servitors’ who took no account of fairness (often uncouth recruits from any Sai group in India). Envy and jealousy were rife, as Sai Baba himself repeatedly complained in his discourses). The so-called ‘Abode of Supreme Peace’ was a cauldron of noise, building work, hammering, grinding, stones rattling on corrugated iron, mangy dog packs barking much of the night, monkeys visiting the accommodation and causing havoc. Constant problems with the imperious staff – too many little desk Napoleons harassing those seeking a room or the like with a few really kind and helpful among them. All this was well-known to every foreigner (except perhaps a few self-satisfied VIPs who could come and go as they wished and overstep the usual rules with impunity). Yet all this was blindly regarded as “Love just everywhere” and so on.
There are a hoard of well-worn ways of ‘explaining’ everything about Sathya Sai Baba, some ingenious rationalizations, many plain nuts. When these are too evidently inapplicable or wholly beside the point, the devotee falls back on: “We cannot understand his inscrutable, divine ways”, or other words to similar effect. One cannot understand, of course, if one has given up beforehand, and this ‘giving up’ is precisely ‘to surrender to his Divine will’ as he required. It is a most deleterious surrender of up one’s autonomy and a responsible persons, the suppression of common sense and natural reasoning in never questioning anything he says or does. He insisted that he was to be regarded as perfect and infallible in all things.
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