Wonderland or Disneyland? Paradise or Purgatory? Life or death?
All is not as it seems to be to the wannabe spiritual persons who visit, and – if one hopes to be accepted by Sai Baba and his minions – one may not tell things as they are.Unlike those who – knowing no better – paint wholly unrealistic and imaginative pictures of the place and what goes on there (such as the present author unfortunately was guilty of to a considerable extent in one of the books he has published), those of us who have happened to get behind the scenes or have penetrated the many deceptive appearances and calculated disinformation, many a sad fate, and all manner of untoward incidents, covered-up crimes and deceptions. For example, who knows that the great Sai Baba has been made to fall full length on the concrete by a male devotee who flung his arms around his ankles while he was moving? The man who did it got his head beaten severely against the concrete by Sai Baba’s attendants, the cowards! Who tells that a foreign lady made a scene of herself by running out of the ordered lines and lying down on her back and heaving her body while shouting “I will give birth to the next avatar!” Or that a young Danish lady daily stripped naked and ran around the ashram shouting ‘Love, love, love!’ while none of the servitors dared to go near her for days.”
Sathya Sai’s original and chief ashram, now the independent township of Prashanti Nilayam – a fiefdom over which he rules completely – is supposed to be “The Abode of Supreme Peace”… a sanctuary from worldly problems full of saintly people. The meaning of the Indian word ‘ashram’ is a place of ‘no hardship’ (‘a-shrama’). So it is should be a refuge from the cruel world. However, it is far from being any utopian retreat! The forceful, pushing crowds, the discriminatory culture (VIPs or nobodies and all in between), the physical, mental and emotional hardships one is made to suffer all help to ensure that. One elderly Indian devotee in the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) – Mr. V. Ramnath who wrote the excessively hagiographical book ‘Waiting for Baba’ – had long experience of the ashrams and many officials and residents (about which he carefully omitted any of the many negative facts he told me). He assured me it is “a snake pit of jealousy”. The former Head of Administration for over 20 years, Mr. Kanhaia Jee, also told me many such incidents and home truths about the ashrams – not least that the Prashanthi Nilayam (‘Abode of Peace’) staff “fight like dogs” when Swami’s back is turned!