The article below is reproduced in the hope that more readers will get its benefit… this is modern India talking, unlike the mainline India press which regurgitates the basic Sathya Sai Baba propaganda without a thought for investigative journalism (not even using Google search, it seems!) Some few mentions of the controversy are made, but most Indian newspapers ignores or mostly underplays the number and quality of almost every one of the countless allegations against him. I add one comment at the foot of the article.
God On A Phone Line
by Sheela Reddy from Outlook India
It was the last miracle by the man who flew in the face of reason and defied the sceptics for seven decades. As 85-year-old Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s emaciated body was lowered into his grave in a spectacle worthy of a rock star on Wednesday, April 27, hundreds of thousands of his devotees—including politicians, judges, bureaucrats, military officials, sports stars, scientists, professionals—stood patiently in line for a last glimpse of the man they believed was God. Their faith in his divinity had withstood everything—from charges of homosexuality, a cover-up of murders in the ashram, exposes of his magic tricks, not to speak of the fabulous wealth controlled by his trust.
He was, as Katharina Kakar puts it, “India’s Godman of the Twentieth Century.” An anthropologist who taught comparative religion in Germany before she married Indian psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar and settled down in Goa, Katharina is one of a long series of scholars who were so fascinated with the godman’s charisma that she visited his ashram in Puttaparthi for a closer look. This was in 1995, when, according to her, Sai Baba was already “past his peak”, but his aura was unmistakable. And indescribable: “He knew how to play with the psychology of the devotees—the way he made the crowd wait in suspense, and then made a grand entrance, collecting from the frantic devotees the letters of prayers addressed to him.” Then suddenly he would stop and talk to someone, looking deep into their eyes, creating a certain mesmerising moment. “You can’t train or learn this—either you have it or you don’t,” she explains. And Sai Baba certainly had it: the quality of a rock star.
By the 1990s, according to Katharina, he had so assiduously cultivated high-profile devotees as well as tapped into a rising middle class’s yearning for a short-cut to spirituality that his organisation had grown into a vast spiritual empire, with centres in over 130 countries. He had turned from a mere miracle-performing godman into a carefully managed spectacle. His birthdays, for example, were celebrated in a large stadium built in the ashram which could accommodate over 50,000 devotees, and became big shows designed to strike awe and reverence: “big miracles, music, spectacle.”
Khushwant Singh, a well-known godman-buster throughout his long journalistic career, knows only too well how adept the godman was at cultivating high-profile devotees. There was his friend, the late jurist famed for his sharp mind and scepticism, Nani Palkhivala. In the last two years of his life, Palkhivala kept a portrait of Sai Baba on his desk. When Khushwant grilled him about it, the jurist who struck fear in the court refused to respond. It was a pattern Khushwant began noticing among the dozens of his friends and acquaintances who eventually succumbed to Sai Baba’s spell. “It was like a crutch. If you tried to talk to them about it, they got angry.”
Khushwant was baffled: why did otherwise sensible and modern men and women turn into devotees of godmen like Sai Baba? He eventually got a chance to find out. He received a letter from Sai Baba’s manager, asking him if he would like a private meeting with the godman. “Yes,” he replied promptly. But when it came closer to the appointed day, another letter arrived, saying brusquely: “Sai Baba feels you are not yet ready to receive him.”
It’s this ingenious blend of active pursuit and playing hard to get that probably won Sai Baba his impressively long list of high-profile devotees, ranging from presidents, prime ministers and central ministers to top bureaucrats, scientists and other professionals. They undoubtedly came in useful when Sai Baba was battling the charges against him by several former bhakts, feels Katharina. “These were serious charges, some of them probably with a grain of truth. But he had good contacts and there was possibly a cover-up,” she explains. “And the charges never stuck, because the devotees didn’t want to believe them..
Not only was Sai Baba the pioneer godman-as-social worker, he had the power to ‘appear’ in people’s dreams.
Like Dr Prabhakar Korada, a psychiatrist and professor in Mediciti Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. Dr Korada, who started off like the bulk of Sai Baba’s professional and modern-day devotees as a sceptic, dismisses the various charges against Sai Baba as “organised anti-propaganda”. The journey of the psychiatrist from sceptic to believer is typical of the miracle that Sai Baba performed on countless souls over the coming decades: the doctor was going through a severe emotional and professional crisis in his life, when Sai Baba appeared in his dreams. “Even in my dream, I questioned him about his magic,” recounts the doctor. Sai Baba responded by placing a foot on his chest, “as if to feel my heartbeat”.
(above article found at http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?271618)
Comment: As to the dream which this (ill-informed and currently deluded) psychiatrist took as a real event can perhaps even best be refuted by Sathya Sai Baba’s own words:-
In fact, dream experience itself is not real. It is only an illusion. They are deluded to think that way. You say that Swami appeared in your dream last night. This is not correct. I do not appear in anybody’s dream. When you intensely desire that Swami must appear in your dream and constantly think of the same, that intense desire will assume a form in your dream. God does not assume a form or change into another form. You have witnessed something in your dream. What is it? It is your own self, nothing other than that. You are visualising your own self in the dream state.
Do not be under the illusion “Rama has appeared in my dream, Krishna has appeared in my dream, Swami has appeared in my dream”. This is a sign of ignorance. All these are dreams only. (ref. http://sssbpt.org/Pages/Prasanthi_Nilayam/25-10-04_Discourse.htm)
Further, that I and my various associates, as well as countless other independent persons of consequence are writing “organised anti-propaganda” is an interesting claim- We are definitely anti propaganda, namely – the propaganda the zealous fanatics of the Sathya Sai Organization spew forth without compunction. We are only trying to set the record straight and nothing I have written has ever been shown to be false and nothing I have said about Sai baba or any supporter has been challenged legally… with the good reason that I am very careful how I state my case and am willing to correct any errors that can be proven to me.