Being a donor or an owner at Prashanthi Nilayam
Posted by robertpriddy on March 18, 2009
If one saw fit to donate money to Sai Baba for his various educational or social projects – or for the building of a flat at the ashram which one may occupy occasionally oneself – one was supposed to pray hard for the opportunity, as well as eagerly take any action one could to bring this to Sai Baba’s attention at darshan and – with tremendous luck and his grace, finally get the donation accepted! (To neutral observers, it is clearly an amazing set-up for beguiling the innocent and trusting foreigners!). Yet it was seen as a great blessing to oneself to be allowed to donate! THAT is surely the ultimate in marketing cleverness?
Sai Baba devotees think of donations as spiritual investments, most of them no doubt hope that the promise of a place in heaven or better if they are “good devotees” and “offer everything to God”. Failing that, there are som worldly advantages in getting recognition at the ashram (and for some, even a veranda seat or a temporary flat of their own!). One example among many, the leader of the Sathya Sai Organization in Denmark, Mr. Thorbjorn Meyer, told me he had donated the proceeds from the sale of his second home, and he was allocated a much better-class top floor flat with a view of the temple, plus a veranda seat shortly afterwards.
A middle-aged Scandinavian lady we know very well was living for long periods in India hoping for help from Sathya Sai Baba – having to live mostly outside the Sai Baba ashrams, due to the time restrictions for visitors to stay in ashram rooms. She donated what was a considerable sum for her – ca. $10,000.- in the early ’90s in the hope that she would be allowed a flat. However, she as not told that – when paying the cheque in – one has to specify that it is for a flat. Otherwise it is sent to the general coffers of the Sathya Sai Central Trust. Like others I have met there, she donated while praying to Sai Baba that he would arrange it all (he being supposedly benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent etc.). When, after many months, she decided to ask if she would be allocated a flat, she was told by Colonel Joga Rao himself that she would NEVER be allowed a flat. They had been watching her, he told her, and she lived outside the ashram etc., but they gave no details as to why she was treated in this way! We know this lady to be a genuine spiritual seeker and of high principles of honesty and decency. However, she mostly stayed away from people (according to the instructions of Sai Baba) and so was too socially isolated there to get any support or be able to pursue the matter further. Besides, being a believer, she tended to accept the decision as her karma, though she was obviously hurt by the completely uncalled-for and exceptionally nasty treatment she received. After all, she freely gave so much money too!
A mature American lady who left Sai Baba about 30 years ago after very long and close association contacted me after gaining confidence in me from some of my many postings on the Internet to help those who have been the victims of Sai Baba’s duplicities and treatment of women devotees etc. She said that she once had properties in the US, all of which she sold to be near to Sai Baba, donating for rooms in Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan. She sees that now as ‘a devastating loss’. Sai Baba cut her off suddenly for a reason he gave, but it had nothing to do with her. She soon realised he had simply confused her with another lady. This is just one of a number of similar accounts of Sai Baba’s betrayal or ignoring someone (note: when he had got the money) that I have been told at first hand through the years since I met Sai Baba.
The price of these flats (i.e. of insecure tenancies) spiralled, and by 1990 they cost far more than their building cost. By this time, donors were welcomed with open arms and were recruited actively by the Sai organisation. No more waiting for the Lord to select you personally! However, the office bureaucracy has to be negotiated with to obtain a key to a flat. If one abuses the rules in any way – such as by trying to misinform to keep the flat for a few days more than 2 months per annum, all rights can be lost permanently by the mere rubber stamp by an accommodation official! Also, one does not get the chance to become ‘owners’ of a permanent flat anymore if one is not among the specially privileged.
What can be wrong about people giving money of their own free will to projects that Baba runs, such as educational, medical and many other social facilities? They have to be financed and why should not Sai Baba give interviews to those who are able and willing to contribute? The only problem with this is that Sai Baba has time and again said that he has nothing whatever to do with money.
I also received a letter from a mature and evidently very sensible lady in the Netherlands, see here.