A major failing of Sathya Sai Baba as a spiritual guide as pointed out by one of the US dissidents, Greg Gerson, referred to the lack of practical and realistic guidance to individuals on how to develop themselves towards self-realization while living in the material world. This was of course reflected entirely throughout his organization (which merely parrots his teaching and could add not a single original thought to the supposed all-knowing guru-God’s pronouncements). Here is an excerpt from A LETTER CONCERNING CUTTING TIES TO SATHYA SAI BABA by Greg Gerson, USA. (MA in spiritual philosophy and western psychology)
“I am finished with gurus, organized religions and fanatical spiritual practices.. During my stays at Sai Baba’s ashrams, I encountered a number of people who were as fanatical or more fanatial than me. I personally know three young men who became so fanatical with activities such as fasting, extreme meditation, vows of silence, limited sleep, etc, that they were seriously risking their mental and physical health and could easily have been institutionalized.
One of the very important negative aspects of the Sai Baba movement which I have not encountered on the anti Sai Baba sites is the total lack of guidance regarding sadhana and spiritual issues for novice as well as intermediate and long term devotees not just in their home countries but at the ashrams as well.
A different young man from the three mentioned above who I knew quite well, took the notion that Sai Baba was his personal guide so literally he was unable to make even the smallest decisions such as what to eat, what to do during the day, or even what to think or feel. He was miserable, almost paralyzed, unable to do anything for himself. He had no one to guide him and tell him that he was not even properly following Sai Baba’s teachings let alone healthy mature spiritual instructions such as the ones at the Buddhist monastery I mentioned.
Of course, this is attributed to relying only on Sai Baba and his mystical teachings through telepathy, dreams, visions, as well as his books and discourses. Yet, if these methods were enough, why are so many devotees, including the extreme examples I mentioned, still struggling with simple things like living healthy balanced lives, not to mention negative qualities such as greed, impatience, anger, etc.
The excuse I have heard to many times is that Prashanthinilayam is Sai Baba’s “mental hospital” and all of our flaws are magnified and are being cleaned up at an excellerated rate. This also is supposed to be occurring at home. Now I feel that this is just more brain-washing to help devotees rationalize all the negative behavior and emotions that they experience and have not addressed properly. A good psychologist and a better spiritual path would definitely help.”
The problem was rather not, as Gerson states it, a total lack of guidance, because continually Sai Baba spouted a lot of traditional generalized guru advice. He was however unable to give any person continuous guidance – spiritual or otherwise – on an individual basis. His ideas on how people should develop themselves were very traditional and far from being illumined by the discoveries of human culture in the modern age, being reiterative and imprecise mere phrases which were entirely free of real recognized psychological insight, such as his harping on the need for ‘character’, which he defined in unworldly and religious terms.
It is quite evident from all that is known about Sathya Sai Baba’s relationships to others that he did not sustain any proper close and continuous relationship with anyone, not at least since he shared his rooms with his ‘soul brother’ Krishna Kumar, who ended up rejecting him and his teaching fully. The nature of his interactions was such that he decided what could be said to him (not a hint of questioning of anything he had said or the slightest whiff of criticism). Sai Baba was famously incapable of any “give and take” because he was always handing it out, but was unable to take it himself. His bodyguarded position allowed him to determine the exact nature of any exchanges he had with people – always on his terms and without real open or frank exchanges (though he would be frankly rude or ridiculing whenever he chose). He would chop and change his favourites – or hold those who were around him (like Kasturi and others) at arm’s length for long periods… push and pull, reward and punishment… the trait of all psychopathic narcissists. He actually left everyone to themselves, which tended to lead to an ‘everyone for themselves’ environment.
Sai Baba said in almost every discourse that he had so much love. We have not observed it as anything exceptional. He implanted the idea that it was his love one experienced, when it was a projection of ones longings, beliefs and hopes which reminds of the warning ‘Love is blind’. This is a very clever ploy for getting name and fame. Sai Baba was mostly very rejecting of most people in reality. Note his glaring expressions!
Obviously, Sai Baba had no good advice on how to become an effective person in the worldly sphere, and his spiritual guidance was that devotees should only concentrate on God (i.e. himself) 24 hours a day, kill their own minds (“die mind”), eliminate all bodily feelings possible and strangle all bodily and worldly ‘desires’, ambitions and any number of other impossible demands (only serve others, not oneself, give up possessions, have no friends but God, detach oneself from family ties so as to liberate oneself!) It was a recipe for disaster and many are still caught up in its process.
It is amazing to ‘outsiders’ that anyone could swallow such a diet. However, the secret was that they all believed (or zealously hoped) that Sathya Sai Baba was guiding them by unseen all-powerful means, arranging the events around them so as to test their faith and instruct them personally. Any things he said or did, or even failed to say or do, would be interpreted in relation to their own thoughts and feelings, and any accidents or good luck was also taken as a sign from him. Of course, no such thing was true and they could have just as well thrown dice to decide what was what. Even now, devotees think they are getting cryptic messages from him beyond the grave in many different shapes and forms!
In Sai Baba’s case, he could not offer the slightest advice of any value on sexuality other than advise celibacy as the ideal. He avoided the subject of sexual education totally, never mentioned condoms, HIV infection, AIDS, the nature of homosexuality… and it is easy to understand why. The evidence is overwhelming that he was involved in lifelong illicit homosexual relations, abusing his students and foreign boys, and this was kept so secret that many devotees do not believe it even today. Likewise, Sai Baba was not a teacher but a preaching dilettante who picked up ideas from his servitors and foreign visitors and repeated them to his students (often incorrectly), for he had no education himself. This was evident from his constant and ill-informed railing against scholars, book-learning and the sciences. One of Sathya Sai Baba’s most quoted ‘aphorisms’ was “Silence is the language of the realized”. However, programmatic silence is the refuge of would-be teachers without answers, it is the escape of those who dare not speak out and act against wrongs and injustices. It is an outward manifestation of an inner state of confusion, a deaf and dumb charade at being so wise that one has no comment on anything! Thus Sai Baba advised many silent practices like inwardly repeating the names of God, mental chanting of mantras, meditating on God (hard to grasp an invisible, silent, absent non-entity), and he was against talking unless quite necessary! This was a central technique in how he controlled his following, deadening their minds to passive acceptance in their narrowing sphere of experience. Thereafter the years brought the stagnation of habitual non-renewal mixed with self-recrimination and guilt at never being able to meet up to his impossible minimum ‘spiritual’ demands to be considered a good devotee. In all of this he was far from original, as these methods are known and used to dominate and manipulate people by all manner of gurus, swamis, would-be masters, saints and avatars, especially (but not exclusively) in India.
The kind of ‘spirituality’ Sai Baba represented is not a reality. It is a self-enhancing prophecy without fulfillment, a self-deluding development of speculative dreaming, hopes contrived as real and an increasingly distorted mentality that even affects and creates subjective perceptions until one comes to inhabit something similar to an opium- or morphine-induced inner world. The human brain is capable of a vast range of contortions of reality – witness extreme forms of madness like schizophrenia, totally deranged minds – and it is also capable of the systematic and controlled investigation of nature and mankind, even of the brain itself. The vital choice is between fiction and fact, belief and knowledge, hopeful wishes and real achievement, deceitful illusion and the critical discovery of truth through tried, tested and demonstrable knowledge. Choosing belief and developing blind faith begins to programme the brain towards a fantasy reality, reinforcing the neural circuits that indoctrination creates… when the process had gone on too intensively for many years, it can be near-impossible to change.