Does Sathya Sai Baba really transform people? Sathya Sai Baba has said (to V.K. Narasimhan) that one thing he cannot do is make people be good. So the question as to whether Sai devotees undergo more sound or permanent self-transformation than usual at any ‘religious conversion’ or other types of life-altering event is worth pursuing.
These people are almost never looked at critically by anyone who is allowed to remain within the movement because of the vague but absolute Sai ‘commandment’ ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ and ‘see only the good in everyone’. These are self-defeating practices in real life and – taken too seriously – lead towards such states as undue self-love and self-hate, loss of proper touch with other people and the world. One problem is that the virtual impossibility of this sweeping decree in real life, for most of us who are not in some cocoon are faced with things we must – if we follow our consciences bravely – criticise, condemn (though we may choose not to speak out) and to act against. This is reflected in the selfish actions of many leaders in the Sai movement, the sheer inability to interact openly and fairly with other people or with voluntary movements having equally good or better aims. It comes out too in innumerable squabbles, let-downs, broken promises and all the detritus of life that persists in all Sai groups I know about and which I have repeatedly been told about from followers from many countries. These matters are even brought up sometimes at Sai conferences by speakers (some who deplore the standards of Sai devotees) trying to share the facts with ‘their brothers’ (and sometimes even their sisters too). This indicates that genuine transformations into good devotees are considerably less than is made out to be! Further, if one were to judge by the sheer venom in mails from diverse, always-hiding Sai ‘devotees’ that I and other critics of Sathya Sai Baba have received, one can wonder how much this movement is a refuge for what Sathya Sai Baba calls ‘bad men’ and worse.
Sai Baba’s supposed vastly loving nature?: As to the ‘amazing compassionate love’ and so on that Sathya Sai Baba drums into people as his chief quality and which is thereafter said to emanate from him, I have heard many talk about it, but it always seems so doubtful because the feeling is generated by the person describing it more than I can detect anything from Sathya Sai Baba. He can smile very charmingly, but many people can do that. He can flatter people, and does so when it suits him. It is easy – after waiting possibly for months or years – to regard his first friendly glance as an outpouring of divine love, for by that time many have been reduced to a feeling of minimum self worth, and the relief of his notice is like a huge boost. This is what some people have testified.
Sai Baba claims that he tests devotees through sending them hardships, through withholding his grace and other sufferings. These test are described by many writers, and some have told me of the wholly unreasonable tests they have had to face. However, they were no doubt untoward things that happened which Sai Baba could always say, if asked, that they were tests of faith. See some of these described here.
Looking back in a balance and reflective mood, I can recall that I never simply felt real warmth from him – even in long interviews or private interviews… nor in several hundred darshans. Attention, smiles, soft words etc. yes, but I noticed how his undoubted ability to charm and give the appearances of being caring and loving (mostly without actually doing anything) are used very cleverly by him to attract followers (and especially likely donors). Most psychopaths have great abilities to make others feel love for them… there are many famous examples of admired charmers who have been exposed and have fallen from their pedestals.
Poor verbal communication skills: I have also observed how Sathya Sai Baba is most definitely not very insightful or full of genuine understanding or openness when talking to people even, in my experience, because he invariably answers obliquely or even fails to understand what he is being asked. Most of what he says are phrases heard many times by many others, whether nice or nasty ones (i.e. I have heard him tell various clients: “you argue a lot”, “you fight your wife/husband”; “you have a (mad) monkey-mind”; “you’re a mad girl; crazy man”; “I will see you”; “you are (very) depressed”; “where is your husband/wife/daughter/son?”;”when did you come”; “when are you leaving?”; “Very happy” and many another well-known Sai phrasebook-like saying. Meanwhile, all this is interpreted in terms of his great cosmic pretensions and is twisted and turned in the hope of getting some clue as it its ‘divine’ meaning or import. This becomes an obsession among the more frequent interviewees, while those who get little or no interviews do just the same with daily events in their lives… attributing them to Sathya Sai Baba ‘s hidden influence and stretching their own credibility far beyond what could possibly be so or even can accord with what Sathya Sai Baba has taught many times! A sad scenario!
Cheap trinkets as panaceas Sathya Sai Baba has a fall-back to use when people seem disappointed (as so many eventually confide they were some time after interviews, because they learned almost nothing and got no real response that helped them). It is to give some trinket – whether perhaps manifested – or more likely palmed! Oh such love, they all say! But I can’t see it. Trickery is hardly genuine love, I’d say… and I have established beyond all conceivable doubt that the ‘green diamond’ he claimed to materialise and gave me was an almost worthless fake with silver paper behind it! Even when Sathya Sai Baba does listen a bit to someone, I have often seen him brush the questioner or the concerns aside with some quip or some facial expression that tells one nothing (except that it tells he then gives nothing). Is all this love, then? To pretend it is anything special or at best anything more than usual among people, one must doubtless become a complete human chameleon, or a ‘mental ‘boneless wonder’ contortionist’. It is truly remarkable how many people achieve this!
Healing as a sign of love? The many alleged healings by Sathya Sai Baba cannot ever be satisfactorily proven as being his doing. Improvements that take place (or seem to, often temporarily) can be due entirely to the person involved, the intense desire for release from pain and suffering which seems to be granted by at long last meeting “God Incarnate’. It is only natural to compare this undoubted phenomenon to the same in other sects like the evangelicals, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Pentecostals and hundreds like them where ‘miraculous healings’ are supposedly regular occurrences and are attributed to whoever is seen as the instruments of God (Jesus, Allah etc.) – and add to this African healers and Latin American voodoo, shamans around the world etc. etc. All this shows how little importance need be attached to the person involved, or to which ‘ishta’, ‘ikon’ (idol?) one appeals. One can project one’s energies towards anyone and even anything – it appears – and genuine results can be achieved in some cases. It is in this context I see Sathya Sai Baba ‘s alleged ‘miracles of healing’, along with all healings that are attributed to people of both the profane and sacred sort.
The whole construction of a ‘spiritual dispensation’, so widely claimed yet reported by so many and so credibly to be built on the sands of sexual abuse will most certainly topple over like a tower struck by lightning in the glare of any future world opinion.Much of Sai baba’s carefully guarded reputation is already ruined, and he certainly continues to wreck it with a bogus lingam session on BBC TV, stating that an an egg-sized golden lingam claimed he brought from his stomach weighed three tons, and numerous other preposterous statements and failed prophesies… a comedy of errors and a tragedy of misplaced trust.
Please go to the Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization