Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed

Exposing major deceits by guru Sathya Sai Baba in India, incl. murders cover-up & widely alleged sexual abuse

Archive for December, 2011

Time Magazine on Sathya Sai Baba

Posted by robertpriddy on December 29, 2011

At least this international news outlet got a rather larger number of the facts right, though its exposure is still very far from complete. His claim that the sexual abuse allegations were merely the “cawing of crows” cannot stand up against the massive sworn testimony by young men around around the world… he would have been convicted had he not been protected from the law by a series of Prime Ministers, Presidents and the Supreme Court Judge, P.N. Bhagwati – all having invested their prestige in supporting him long before the facts began to surface.

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Sathya Sai Baba lacked a true sense of humour and self-irony

Posted by robertpriddy on December 24, 2011

Excerpts from Peggy Mason's naive eulogy

Among the most uncritical of ‘blind’ devotees was Peggy Mason of the UK, ‘who wrote a book (The Embodiment of Love’) and ran a magazine devoted to Sathya Sai Baba. Before she found Sai Baba, she had been deeply involved as a contributor to the fringe magazine in UK called  ‘Psychic News’, which dealt with spirits, ghosts, mediums, spiritualism, contact with the dead… beliefs which she held onto right up to her last days. (My wife and I met her and her husband Ron Laing in their home and later again at a Sai get-together in London). She was always totally accepting of every word Sai Baba ever uttered, and further also repeated rumours about him in her magazine without ever checking their reliability (such as the infamous ‘miracle in the sky’ story).

In her first paragraph she decides that humour is a “divine attribute” (inadvertently she seemed to lend credence to ‘the devil’ as not being the source). Sathya Sai Baba claimed that everything and everyone is divine, so humour must come from divinity – but no mention can the be made of where the countless horrors of the world and humanity arise (other than caused by the sin of ‘man himself’… so one’s understanding is staggered!). Humour, I submit, is one of the ways human beings have managed to counter the ills of the world and make live more livable… despite the vast ills and tortures that the supposed invisible God Creator showers so liberally on mankind. 

The claim that Sai Baba “always uplifts our spirits” is very excessive. In her very few contacts with Sai Baba – considering her complete faith in him – she has felt something of that kind. Yet Sathya Sai Baba certainly did not uplift the spirits of very many people most of the time. Sitting for weeks and months at darshan without any notice from him is not uplifting, as many devotees could relate. This would then be put down to a ‘necessary process of ridding the aspirant of ego’. There is always a pat answer to any critical comment, provided by Sai Baba himself and parroted endlessly by followers to one another. The alleged ‘breath-taking aura’ is sheer subjective imagination, one to which those who are emotionally besotted such as with Sai Baba as being the Cosmic Christ (as was Peggy Mason) are committed. The assertion that Sathya Sai Baba was always in a state of bliss is wholly and entirely dependent on his own word… yet the appearance and behaviour he exhibited in his last years, especially on his 85th birthday until his disappearance behind the secret hospital doors spoke strongly to the contrary. During interviews and hundreds of darsans we never heard Sai Baba laugh outright. even when a couple of persons made jokes when talking to him (He failed to understand what they meant!)… nor did I hear reports of him ever doing so from others. Only a couple of photos show him apparently actually laughing. He would no doubt sometimes raise a laugh about others –  even laugh at people – but I never saw him laugh with anyone, even Kasturi!  

Note that his humor depended mostly on jokes made at the expense of others, ‘hanging people out to dry’ as apparently ignorant and ‘stupid’ (as Mason correctly noted). The way he treated the lady with the japamala is typical of his jibes at others. This is how he manages to raise a laugh… otherwise he was very unfunny, repetitive of the few puns in English he had learned (mostly from Kasturi) He could surely never stand a joke at his expense, for his self-importance was such that no one ever dared even gainsay him. People did become disempowered like children – more like sheep – in his presence due either to the awe in which he was held or to the intense group pressure always present in all Sai Baba connections to conform to the adulation and parrot how loving and amazing he was. One of his cheap jokes was about his so-called Sai VIPs… which he said equally meant ‘vipers’ and ‘very ignorant persons’. .. a very popular jibe with many members of the Organization, however! It also emerged that Sai Baba joked with very close confidantes like Col. Joga Rao about sex. Colonel Joga Rao was given to telling a constant stream of barrack room dirty stories, which V.K. Narasimhan complained to me on occasion, telling of the torture he had to endure when he was forced to share a room with Joga Rao on one occasion while visiting Kodaikanal.

The devoted follower believed that Sai Baba was masterfully “stripping away the ego” of aspiring seekers, making them “as children”. This doctrine of ego-removal is a typical cultish manipulation, the core of creating a docile and cowed following, seen in nearly all cults. As a ‘spiritual doctrine’ it is highly over-rated based in lacking basic insight into constructive psychology and how to help people change themselves. Followers love to talk about the pride, pomposity, envy and other such ‘bad qualities’ in others, and they could be said only to have been  following his shining example in so doing. Sai Baba used criticism to push people away when he had done with them… often permanently. It ‘tested’ the faith of the follower who, if constantly returning for more punishment (and hoping for praise and/or flattery), he knew they were properly indoctrinated (i.e. duped) and could be entrusted to some degree as organizers and officials.

Incidentally, Peggy Mason’s  husband – Ron Laing – was much incensed by the considerable slights and insults he had received from the then International Chairman of the Sathya Sai Organization, Indulal Shah. Ron Laing had been nominated as a member of the board of the International SSO  (See here). As a man of pragmatic spirit with the British sense of fair play and how decision-making should proceed (with consultation, feedback and even democratic input) he had come up against the autocratic (and extremely rude) Indulal Shah, who eventually succeeded in sacking him from the Organization.

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Sai Baba major catastrophe predictions (failed)

Posted by robertpriddy on December 22, 2011

Catastrophe predictions were reported as being made by Sathya Sai Baba on numerous occasions, of which a few were more well-known than other. In private interviews he would show people maps (allegedly ‘materialized’) – or globes which showed the earth after a major global catastrophe – land masses changed and partly disappeared etc.

Transcript of the scanned note from my Diary of 1996):
28th ordered taxi with Bhojapa for P.N. tomorrow. (Also we are taking Ramu’s manus. to Padmanabhan).

29’th Sai Sai a’noon darshan. Went off to R. and R. in evening ((R & R = Rita and Robert Bruce)) Stayed about 1 1/2 hrs. Heard about new ‘catastrophe’ warning by Sai to N. Zealanders.

This warning was made by Sai Baba to a group of N. Zealand devotees led by Arthur Hillcoat. See scan at foot of page.

Transcript (Cont.) Also that Katherine (salad auntie) knew (of) some of the boys who had the alleged interview with the 27 predictions. It was in Puttaparthi, not Ooty (that was another event)

Comment: The ‘salad auntie’, Katherine, was a regular at the Prashanthi Nilayam ashram where she was allowed to introduced a salad dish in the foreigners’ canteen, which she assiduously produced year after year. She knew many of the residents well and had access to much of the information (and much more gossip) that circulated among insiders at the ashrams. She circulated the list of 27 and/or 38 predictions that students claim to have been told by Sathya Sai Baba back in the late 1970s, which were (supposedly incorrectly) attributed to a visit by Sai Baba to 18 students under the tuition of Alvin Drucker at the Ootacamund Sai College (since disbanded).

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Sai Trust member K.R. Prasad spread untruth by Sai Baba

Posted by robertpriddy on December 19, 2011

The entire apparatus around Sathya Sai Baba always spread disinformation and presented a false picture of many projects and events while no Sai officials did (or still do) anything to correct proven false ‘information’, and especially the constant flow of rumours of every kind. Reported miracles and leelas are NEVER investigated or in any way contradicted, however far beyond the credibility of any sane person they may be. Worse than that, they are sometimes the source of such stories or provide supporting ‘testimony’, all of which depends entirely on their word (and not on any evidence).

Two preposterous miracle stories – walking through walls to the other side of the earth – were circulating in 1994 when I was present at the ashram. Firstly, an Australian was said to have been sent through a door drawn by Sai Baba on the interview room wall back to his dying wife in Australia… and his luggage arrived there too! Expecting that a denunciation of this embarrassing claim would be forthcoming, I asked my best and most trustworthy and close friend in the Sai set-up, V.K. Narasimhan (former editor of Sanathana Sarathi) to ask Sai Baba about it, which he did the same day. He came back and said that the only reply was ‘No Comment!’ In other words, no denial whatever, and later he actually confirmed that as far as he knew, the event had occurred! A member of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, Mr. Prasad, also spread endorsement of the story through IAS official V. Ramnath, as the scan from my notes show (made later in 1995). There can be no doubt that the Central Trust members spread disinformation of this kind to increase the number of credulous and naive donors to their coffers! And Sathya Sai Baba encouraged this, denying it was a miracle of his, but that the man’s faith did it! 

The details of this and the similar story (through the interview room wall to Mecca) like that – are found by clicking here

In the scan one also sees:- “Radhakrishnan’s driving Swami (with one or two others from P.N. to Madras) “Shut your eyes” etc. ” This story was that the driver and one or two students in the vehicle were told by Swami to shut their eyes shortly after leaving Puttaparthi. Then, when shortly told to open them, they found the were already on the outskirts of Madras. (Note: Radhakrishnan was later murdered in the interview room in 1993 by the four intruders). Such stories are credible only to the most ignorant and ill-educated, which is why there were so many of these – especially villagers.

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Sathya Sai Trust accounting ‘leela’?

Posted by robertpriddy on December 18, 2011

During the time of Sathya Sai Baba’s 70th birthday celebrations and thereafter, my wife and I met diverse devotees in Prashanthi Nilayam, Brindavan and Bangalore. Our host in Bangalore, Mr. V. Ramnath (‘Ramu’) of the IAS, was a friend of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, Mr., Prasad of Bangalore. He had been invited to a private dinner by Mr. Prasad and family at their home, at which they wanted Sai Baba to bless their son to begin his university education in the U.S.A. It was a sumptuous meal, Baba served by the son, and he ate heartily of all the dishes, according to Ramu. He blessed the son too, but only to take an education in India!

Mr. Prasad had told Ramu a number of stories about Sai Baba, which he relayed to us. A scan of some of my notes from those days recounts some interesting claims. At that time I believed Sai Baba’s assurances, that the Board Members of the Central Trust were impeccable servitors and totally honest person. Since then I have learned a great deal about several of them who are known to be as corrupt as the majority of Indian officials are.

The accountancy ‘miracle’:
Transcript: A friend of Ramu’s (Mr. Prasad) who didn’t want to be in the Org., (who Baba then sent to be a warden at Ooty for 3 years) had to do some odd jobs at P.N. later on. He got some accounts to do – but they didn’t tally at all – so he went to Swami and told him. Sai moved his hand across the page and all the figures changed so that it was all balanced!

Comment: I did not then suspect that all accountancy was probably of such a flukey nature, but it is easy to see that the figures were fiddled to fit! The miraculous nature of its achievement cannot be credited… otherwise Sathya Sai Baba would have been able to do the same or more still in 1993 when the Sai authorities were shown by inquisitive journalists to have been embezzling money from the Trust. They thronged the ashram to try to get to the bottom of the infamous murders in his bedroom and in the process found that the Convener of the Sathya Sai Book and Publications Trust, Mr. P. Suri, had been stashing away undeclared money in his private room (read more here) and also IAS official and Sai devotee V. Ramnath 

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Sathya Sai Baba Miracles reconsidered – part 1

Posted by robertpriddy on December 17, 2011

Many people who returned to visit Sathya Sai Baba at his ashrams, often regularly, will give accounts of miracles they claim to have witnessed, or at least the minor miracles usually known as ‘leelas’ (playful acts by the divinity). Not a few regard almost anything unusual as a miracle or interpret the most trivial everyday event as miraculous… say, because of when something occurred, or what they were ‘coincidentally’ thinking or feeling at the time.

The “Jula Leela” of 1958
From the 70th birthday to after New Year, we were in Bangalore (1995-6) on several occasions, staying with Mr. V. Ramnath (and IAS official), who introduced us to various devotees, and family members. Among them was Sri Kantalya, a middle-aged Indian who had taken to going around to hold talks about Sathya Sai Baba. With him and Ramnath, we spent the day visiting the Sai school/college at Muddenahalli (40 kms outside Bangalore) and met the teachers, the architect who designed the lingam-shaped mandir temple there and various Sai officials from Brindavan.

Transcript of scan on right: “1958 during the Birthday Juula, the power failed. Then it came on again – then failed and recovered each time the jula swung back and forth!! For a long time, this went on! (Srikantalya was there)”

Comment: In an excited atmosphere of devotion, Sri Kantalya’s telling of his perceptions of the wonders of Sai Baba, this incident assumed much more significance than it would in most other connections. What the spiritual significance was or could have been was totally unclear, as it very often is. Maybe his intended message was some esoteric wisdom like “Now you see me, now you don’t”

One might think that an electrical engineer would laugh and have a technical explanation, say, that the power contact was affected by the back and forth movement… a loose electrical plus even! Knowing the levels of deception exercised bySathya Sai Baba, his ‘officials’ and Trust members, however, the simpler answer to what devotees took as an ‘amazing leela’ is that someone hidden backstage turned the power on an off to coincide with the movements of the swing!

Another illustrative example of a reported miracle:-

A Swedish lady called Lena who I knew well was at Prashanthi Nilayam in early 1989 and met an Australian couple before they had yet had their first glimpse of Sai Baba. The man had dreamt of Sai Baba often and had come to see him with huge expectations. At their very first darshan, Baba went straight out towards the man, spoke to him and made him vibhuthi. But at the canteen afterwards the man was very disappointed indeed because, he claimed, it was not Sai Baba at all! He had been misled to believe that this person was Sai Baba and had travelled all the way from Australia for nothing etc. etc. But that evening he went for 15 mins. meditation and entered the temple for the first time. There he saw the life-size picture of his Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai, and began to realise that he had come to the right place after all! This incident finally convinced Lena herself of the Divinity of Sathya Sai Baba too!

Comment: So the man mistakenly thought he was visiting Shirdi Sai Baba. This alone indicates that he was confused and easily misled, since the two Sai Babas are easily distinguishable and their ashrams are in entirely different parts of India. Did he – and his wife too – just go to Prashanti Nilayam without ANY prior investigation of the issue? Leaving that aside now, one must wonder what on earth is so remarkable about seeing from the temple pictures that he was simply visiting another person also calling himself Sai Baba? Obviously the man was perplexed by his blunder but probably decided to make the best of his errors and stay on.

To be finally convinced of Sathya Sai Baba’s divinity (as Lena was) on such extremely weak grounds is, however, not atypical. As national coordinator for the Norwegian Sai Organization over nearly two decades – and also during visits to conferences and long stays the ashrams – I met a considerable number of persons who had decided as if by a whim that he must be God because of something they interpreted as a mystical message or sign from him, things which could easily be explained in other ways. But the inner and even outer pressures to want to be recognised by him, accepted by God and feel good etc. are very considerable, especially if a person has travelled so far and has built up hopes or expectations of experiencing the miracles which are so widely reported in countless ill-written hagiographic tracts, as well as in fanciful video interviews and films.

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Dr. Michael Nobel’s failed ‘new’ Nobel Prize

Posted by robertpriddy on December 15, 2011

In 2007 Dr Michael Nobel (born as Michael Oleinikoff), a great grand-nephew of Alfred Nobel, attempted to start a prize – the so-called ‘Dr. Michael Nobel Award’. Interesting that his name was changed to emphasize his distant relationship to the world-famous Alfred Nobel, a name on which Dr. Michael has repeatedly tried to capitalize since then – and most recently in a published attack on the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee. He evidently think his blood line makes him a person of considerable consequence and that his name puts him in a superior position to criticize, as well as having an axe to grind due to his removal from leadership of the Swedish Nobel Family Society, “mainly because of his unauthorized activities and involvement  in the name of the Nobel Family Society”. He is no longer even a member of that Family Society.

Michael Nobel is a great grand-nephew of Alfred Nobel, who would most likely not have felt too pleased about his distant descendant, who has been repudiated by the Nobel authorities. He is behind the setting up of one of Sathya Sai Baba’s many hugely expensive and major Sai propaganda efforts Sai Global Harmony via WorldSpace International Satellite Radio Service of which he is a director. Sai Radio broadcasts 24/7 to many countries. Contrary to long-uncorrected statements (in Wikipedia and in various promotions) by Sai Baba activists, Dr. M. Nobel is NOT the son of the Nobel Peace founder Alfed Nobel – who died in 1896!
Michael Nobel extended his international satellite broadcasting corporation to send Sathya Sai Baba propaganda across the air-waves of the world. Sai Radio broadcasts 24/7 to many countries. 

Referring to his ‘achievements’ in obtaining an (almost unused)  airport funded by the poor Indian taxpayer (from the Minister responsible, his devotee, Mr. Kaw), and a donated hospital, Sathya Sai Baba said concerning the Nobel Prize personnel and process:- “Aerodrome has come. Super Speciality Hospital has come. These things are not even in big towns. More, more, more, more will come. To show this to the whole world, it (Sai Global Harmony Channel, a satellite digital radio channel set up to broadcast Swami’s discourses, bhajans, etc.) begins within this month. To bring about these changes, numerous people will be involved. I am also telling you a few names.”

…things like these are seen, all sorts are coming here. No one has invited them at all. No one is giving them (a special) welcome. Yet they themselves are coming. What is the reason? That Chaitanya Jyothi (meaning Swami Himself) is here and It (He) is pulling them!” (Applause) [From Premsai translation of Discourse in 2001. The bracketed words are editorial clarifications made by the Premsai students]

See also Sathya Sai Baba’s hunger for international recognition – and the Nobel Peace Prize. Claiming to have incarnated to save humanity, Sai Baba claimed that he has instituted world peace, a fact of which Dr. Michael Nobel cannot be unaware. Considering his praise for Sai Baba and his works, would it be strange that he would like to have seen him so honoured, since he attacks the ‘politicians’ who are elected to award it for often giving it to the wrong people.

Contrary to long-uncorrected statements (in Wikipedia and in various promotions) by Sai Baba activists, Dr. M. Nobel is NOT the son of the Nobel Peace founder Alfred Nobel – who died in 1896! Dr. T. Nobel was badly misrepresented by Sai Baba and also by his official webmaster, Dr. G. Venkataraman, head of Radio Sai (which M.N. himself funded), to whom he wrote a request for correcting a serious error (see below). The supercilious Venkataraman has to this date not heeded the request!


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U.S. Astronaut O’Leary visited, then rejected Sathya Sai Baba

Posted by robertpriddy on December 14, 2011

First comes a mail sent to Paul Holbach about the U.S. former astronaut O’Leary who never actually went into space, but who trained and wrote many learned scientific articlesPaul Holbach is known for promoting Professor Dale Beyerstein’s deep investigations of Sathya Sai Baba’s claims (see here)

Here follows a transcript of notes I (Robert Priddy) made in 1995 of a report from an Indian participant in the same Brian O’Leary group interview with Sathya Sai Baba (in black) and comments (violet):-

Sri Kantalya told in detail about the 1987 visit of a U.S. astronaut Brian O’Leary, and his entourage. How he got an interview with them at Brindavan. Baba made O’Leary a gold and greenstone ring that was too large, then blew on it etc. Also made one for another person.

This account clashes with other accounts by person present as to the kind of ring Sai Baba made. This is not un typical when religious Indians tell of events, accuracy suffers and exaggeration and myth often edges in. We now know that Sathya Sai Baba has long training in this sleight-of-hand with rings which are too big or too small. He evidently does not know the finger size but estimates it and, when the first ring is tried on, he can then decide which of the two other he has behind him should fit more properly. The rings are chosen from his wide private collection – often having already got some information from his servitor spies about the person he will give to, size of fingers etc. The rings are then concealed in his chair behind him, most often under a cushion.  When he reaches for the rings  he simultaneously directs everyone’s attention to something else… maybe pointing to a person at the rear of the room (everyone turns around) or making other gestures with his free hand and/or saying something startling, or making fun of someone.

Then he made medicine for the lady who had asked for “that ash” – like a huge plum, which she swallowed whole “like a hippo” and which silenced her for the rest of the interview. Baba had told her of an illness she had.

She did not know she was ill! Typical Sai Baba ploy. He did the same with me, saying I had a stomach problem (when I did not at all). But those who believe him to be most or all of what he claims are impressed and imagine they have the illness, but that it has not shown itself yet, or that Sai has cured it already!

A lady whose legs were full of great pain – from the waist down – was cured by Swami within the day she was 80% cured.

The pressure to ‘get up an walk’ when Sai Baba tells one to do so, and even helps lift the person to his or her feet, is very strong. The mind tries to be positive and have faith that the pain is lessened etc. The ‘patient’ soon reverts back to the former state. The well-known devotee, Mrs. Joy Thomas, had her wheelchair was swept away by servitors as soon as they heard Sai Baba tell her to stand up! She wrote about this honestly in one of her many books. She later died in the Super-Speciality Hospital due to a doctor who refused her a blood transfusion – according to a report by her husband to friends of mine

The above account is one of several. Barry Pittard had an exchange of e-mails with O’Leary in which he rebuts various claims by Sai followers. Cult News posted an interesting account of O’Leary’s denunciation of false information about him visiting Sai Baba a second time (see thumbnail on right to zoom into)



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Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles – the veil lifted further

Posted by robertpriddy on December 12, 2011

As I have pointed out already in numerous connections,  all the collected techniques of attracting and exploiting followers in the guru and godman tradition in India have been handed on through millennia to successors. Probably to a greater extent than any other priesthood in human history, the Vedic tradition and its many subsequent branches and departures is the first doctrine leading to methods of control and manipulation, subjugation to gods, doctrines, gurus and so on. Whatever the actual beliefs and dogma involved, Indoctrinating and manipulating the perceptions of seekers, spiritual aspirants and followers through supposed ‘miracles’ or ‘leelas’ runs throughout this religious tradition (as others too), in this case starting from the fantastic mythology of the ancient scriptures and texts like the Ramayana, the Srimad Bhagavata and the Mahabharata. There are most diverse and subtle variants on the behavioural methods and psychic techniques of of dominating others and providing clever rationalizations for all untoward events or other anomalies that crop up (see some links at the foot of this page).

So sophisticated is this culture of deceiving appearances, deceptions and clever but outright criminality that even well-educated and scientifically-trained persons are quite easily hoodwinked, not seldom to the extent of giving over their entire life earnings and themselves to the service of these religious sects, cults and their impostors.  Need I mention who also throve on all this! There are many studies analyzing the sectarian cults and their practices, but few which go to the heart of the matter on the basis of inside experience of a most exacting kind. In the following collected and culled review materials on a most revealing book. In it one can read of predecessors who performed some of the most the famous alleged miracles of Sathya Sai Baba – the changing of water into petrol, psychic surgery, and not least the lingodbhava (i.e. swallowed lingam or egg-shaped object). His investigations led him far off the beaten track even of most spiritual seekers to discover aspects of life hidden within India that are even unparalleled in the fascinating exposure of India’s underbelly by Gregory David Roberts in his now famous (but somewhat fictionalized) ‘Shantaram’:-

‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ is the story of the author’s quest for, and initiation into, the brotherhood of Indian godmen. Learning along the way from sadhus, sages, avatars and sorcerers – it’s a journey which took him from Calcutta to Madras, from Bangalore to Bombay, in search of the miraculous.

As a child of Afghan parents in rural England, Tahir Shah first witnessed magic at age 11, when an Indian Pashtun named Hafiz Jan visited. He learned the first secrets of illusion from this magician. More than two decades later – on Hafiz’s instructions – he set out in search of this conjurer – one of India’s greatest practitioners, a mysterious fellow named Hakim Feroze. He was the ancestral guardian of Shah’s great grandfather’s tomb. Feroze subjected his new apprentice to tortuous physical and mental exercises before casting him out into the streets to make note of whatever oddities he encounters. This tyrannical master of illusion, who set out to crush his student’s spirit through grueling physical trials put him through his sorcery ‘boot camp’, which involved strange drills such as digging a deep hole with a dessert spoon, left-handed; separating dried rice and lentils blindfolded; and catching a dozen cockroaches at once in a small tin mug. Eventually, his pupil’s skin bruised and raw and his temper strained, the magician unlocked the door to his secret laboratory. The miracles of India’s godmen are at last revealed one by one: how to swallow stones, to stop one’s pulse, turn water into wine, and many more. Next, as a cryptic test, Shah is sent to ferret out the secrets of Calcutta’s Underworld – gaining the confidence of the city’s aging hangman, its baby-renters, and skeleton dealers.

Then, just as Shah is making headway, Feroze announces that he’s to pack his bags and set out at once, on a ‘Journey of Observation‘. Shah learned trade secrets of hangmen and gold scroungers, eats in a restaurant that serves dishes prepared from refuse, visits a skeleton-processing factory, watches a psychic surgeon “operate.” Then, accompanied by a 12-year-old scam artist he describes as “a walking crime wave,” he travelled through India meeting sages, sorcerers, astrologers, mystics, healers, miracle workers and other brokers of the supernatural, including a medium who reads fortunes in eyeballs, a chemist who turns drinking water into petrol and a guru named Sri Gobind who causes Easter eggs to emerge from his ear, candles to ignite spontaneously and flowers to bow to him. Unlike most magicians, Shah reveals the secrets chemicals, props, sleight-of-hand and dozens of tricks e.g., Sri Gobind’s flowers perform thanks to chloroform and his symbols of “new life and purity” are Safeway’s expired chocolate Easter eggs.

The Journey of Observation leads him to a cornucopia of characters. Illusionists all, some are immune to snake venom, others speak through oracles, and this lifts the veil on the East’s most puzzling miracles. Along the way Shah witnesses a ‘duel of miracles‘, crosses paths with an impoverished billionaire, and even meets a part-time god. Revealing confidence tricks and ingenious scams, Sorcerer’s Apprentice exposes a side of India that most writers never imagine to exist. India is famed as a land of miracles (supposed miracles), where godmen and mystics mesmerise audiences with wondrous feats of magic. In great cities and remote villages alike, these mortal incarnations of the divine turn rods into snakes, drink acid, eat glass, hibernate and even (appear to) levitate. Some live as kings, their devotees numbering hundreds of thousands; while others – virtually destitute – wander from village to village pledging to cure the sick, or bring rain in times of drought. Shah reveals a few professional secrets. For one, the Indian rope trick, that classic of conjuring, is effected not by legerdemain, but by the use of hallucinogenic smoke. And as to snake charming, well, 90 percent of India’s snakes are nonvenomous, and it’s easy enough to find a nonfatal variety that looks like one of the killer breeds.

With acknowledgements to Book on sale at


‘Spiritual Doublethink’ How perceptions of the guru begin Rumours and Delusions How traditional gurus operate
Confusion – the labyrinth trap Conformity to the core belief system The spiritual ‘mirror trap’ Hidden fear of the guru
What point in tests of faith? Psychology of belief and doubt How the form binds & stunts Reactions to a crisis of faith
More guru tests and trials False promises of health/protection Dreams and self-indoctrination Monkey Minds?
Realised persons’ qualities

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Kushwant Singh on prayer and meditation

Posted by robertpriddy on December 10, 2011

Kushwant Singh is one of India’s most astute observers of the religious pressures, superstitions and confusions that reign there – not least as regards the sexual satisfactions so widely testified as taken by the’ former Descended Godhead’ Sathya Sai Baba (now divinely deceased). Here is what he wrote recently about prayer and meditation… to which I also write some partly supportive, partly critical remarks:-

Click on image above to see full article source

Kushwant Singh is, in my opinion, quite right about prayer. Most children discover the futility of prayer early on. Theologians and god-botherers in general try to teach how to pray and even what to pray for (i.e. to change your mend for you), claiming that all depends on the right quality of prayer, or the right amount, or directing it to the right kind of God, incarnation or whatever… Scientific study of the possible effects of prayer and whether they are always merely subjective (i.e. or whether prayers are ‘answered’ – and in positive ways) holds out no hope whatever that prayer achieves any desired objective results. Studies that claim prayer does work are always flawed or conducted by believers who bias – consciously or unconsciously – towards the desired answers (just as they no doubt also do in the interpretation of their own prayers and their value).


Meditation, I would submit, is in a somewhat different category (though the dividing line between prayer and meditation is fuzzy). There exist scientifically measurable effects of meditation in controlled conditions, and a (modest) few of them are quite startling (slowing metabolic functions, almost stopping breathing, heartbeat and other functions beyond what one might suppose possible – notable first case was Swami Rama in the 1960s). Modern neuroscience is now investigating – with MRI technology and more – the complex relationships between the two sides of the brain, which relation can – in some few instances of very long-term meditation – can apparently be much affected. It is known (see the scanned excerpt on the right  from a major study by by a neuroscientist who also is an expert on different meditation techniques).  that some meditation can bring about similar – but temporary – effects (though with far more time and effort) to the use of psychotropic ‘medicines’ and/or drugs (from cannabis, psilocybin, mescaline, LSD-25, DMT, Ecstasy, to ketamine, morphine, heroin etc.) as well as the most unusual ‘ecstatic’ experiences that have sometimes arisen from accidents, not least brain seizures (neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor’s own major stroke being one of the clearest cases of this activation see here).

Yet Kushwant Singh may yet have a point about ‘peace of mind’, for the glorification of it by ‘spiritual seekers’, for it can easily become a self-pacification to escape from facing the real world when it is problematic and needs to be dealt with for longer term well being. It is also usually promoted in connection with some doctrine about God, which can be shown to be an unnecessary complication to attaining peace of mind and the low stress levels this involves. Nonetheless, to calm the emotions in difficult situations is valuable… and meditation – which varies enormously and individually in methods and effects – can surely sometimes prove valuable. More importantly, meditation – which need not have any religious content whatever – is scientifically proven to have effect in reducing stress levels, which is very widespread in the world and are a major cause of a range of illnesses. Meditation even has been shown to have effects on recovery from a range of physical illnesses and some research also shows that it also effects considerable changes in the genetic code.

See Benson Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine (Professor at Harvard Medical School) who shows that repetition of words is an effective method of mind-calming, used in almost all cultures (mostly with a religious connection, which – however – is experimentally shown to be an entirely unnecessary adjunct). See also Jon Kabat-Zinn, Massachusetts Medical University, who researched thousands who were suffering a range of illnesses, finding significant improvements of in of (non-religious) meditators over the control group which did not meditate. Thirdly, Professor B. Zachariae of Århus University researched a form of meditation known as ‘visualization’ which improved physical conditions remarkably in those who concentrated on positive body and organ visualizations. Stronger immune systems were observed in those who visualized while being subjected to ultra-violet lighting, compared to those who were only subjected to the ultra-violet light. Diverse other researches support the general tendency of the findings referred to here.

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Sai Baba’s death still under scrutiny

Posted by robertpriddy on December 8, 2011

One of the many unresolved, covered-up issues about Sathya Sai Baba’s last days and death is still in the minds of some Indian media people.

Sai officials’ secret collusion over the death of Sathya Sai Baba


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BBC on India’s anti-corruption activists & Anna Hazare

Posted by robertpriddy on December 6, 2011

The BBC reports on the popular anti-corruption campaigns in India:

“Indian democracy: one man, one bribe. Salman Rushdie’s famous quip has rarely been more apposite.

The scale of corruption in modern India is astounding. The size of bribes and kickbacks is enormous, the stories of corruption astonishing, and the audacity of corruption’s big players ever more apparent. India has become a great power, but it has done so without washing away the canker of corruption.” (BBC)

In yet another vain attempt to raise its plunging reputation among Indians, the Sathya Sai Organization and related bodies have publicised an unconfirmed report by a devotee saying that Anna Hazare, who has won so many hearts in India, had lost his heart to Sathya Sai Baba! This is another attempt at disinformation – the implication made is that Sathya Sai baba was behind the success of Anna Hazare. Such backward thinking is the hallmark of Sai Baba devotees, all in total denial of his criminality and failure to fulfil even a fraction of what he had constantly boasted he would. Anna Hazare has never cited Sai Baba in any public forum – though he probably did make positive comments to a Sai devotee who had declared himself to him. This kind of politeness to believers in other figures than one follow is most common in India. But Hazare is now known throughout India as a Gandhian… and one who put Gandhian action before mere words.

Though Sai Baba stole Gandhi’s famous words (as engraved on his tomb) that “My Life is My Message”, there is a world of difference between them. Unlike Gandhi or Hazare, Sathya Sai Baba never took the slightest action in defending against injustice or violence (other than words, which he constantly derided as empty if not acted upon). He never once stood forth in the protest against the massive and horrific injustices that plague his most calamitous land (as he himself once called it). He did nothing to change the corrupt culture, on the contrary – he overlooked(even including ‘liquor barons’ and known criminals) who are among the most corrupted and corrupt of the corrupt. Last but not least, he corrupted an inestimable number of male youth and boys by his sex abuses – as testified by so many upright persons around the world. Anna Hazare is most likely, as so many others in India, not aware of the documented facts about Sathya Sai Baba’s sexual abuses and involvements in murders and their cover-up, with the aid of corrupt PMs and Presidents. So far no Indian journalist (writing in English) appears to have asked Hazare if he was in any way a devotee of Sai Baba. Until such a time as he should declare his devotion in public, the Sathya Sai propagandists’ report and interpretative conclusions should certainly not be trusted.

Sai Global Harmony Radio International Broadcaster Uses Anna Hazare’s Name In Propaganda Efforts

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Indian Ex-Chief Justice Bhagwati – by a former contact

Posted by robertpriddy on December 3, 2011

A good friend of mine, a gentleman living in Europe, wrote to me after the exposure of Former Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati in the Indian press (my recent blog: Sathya Sai Baba’s bent judge, P.N. Bhagwati is shamed)

Corruption by an ordinary man  may have some impact on the whole but when a judge is corrupt he does much too much harm. Having met several supreme court judges and conversed with them I found most of them corrupt, confused and conceited. When I met them I just observed, listened and  suspended judgement; now, on hindsight, I can say that these are corrupt men. The following quotes help to substantiate my statement. Whenever I met Justice P.N.Bhagwathi  he always talked about Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, who I am convinced was a criminal and a psychopath. With judges and politicians in your pocket you could do anything in India, but apparently perhaps not anymore!

However, I met one truly upright, innocent and fearless judge : Justice H.R.Khanna, the man mentioned in the aforementioned article. He had only the money that RBI granted as travel allowance, when I noticed that he was upright I provided him chauffeur driven car for the whole day,  introduced him to the director of Indian Tourist Office and told that gentleman to take him to a good Indian restaurant that evening. I treated him with the respect I would offer my parents and my beloved teacher.

He was genuinely egalitarian and was free of cultivated modesty or that conceit which is a disease among our  judges.  He treated my chauffeur with respect, a very unusual thing for an Indian.

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Sathya Sai Power Brokers and Cover-up agents

Posted by robertpriddy on December 2, 2011

The following gallery of persons endorsing and who have variously conspired with Sathya Sai Baba in promoting misinformation, deceptions and crimes that have been covered up – from which they have used their influence to protect him – is not complete, but it contains come of the continuing supporters.




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Baby Sai Baba not rocked by cobra in cradle

Posted by robertpriddy on December 1, 2011


According to one of the official Sathya Sai Baba web sites, a cobra appeared under the cradle of the newborn baby but the child was untouched, as follows:-

“Soon after Satya’s birth the baby was placed on the floor on top of some bedclothes. The cloth around the baby began to move in a peculiar way. The women attending his mother immediately looked under the cloth — there was a live cobra! But the snake did not harm the child. Sai Baba of Shirdi (the previous incarnation of Satya Sai Baba) often appeared to his followers in the form of a cobra. The cobra also is one of the many symbols of Shiva.” Source-

This account was refuted by a report from Arnold Schulman, the Hollywood screenwriter who wrote in his 1971 book ‘Baba’ (Viking Press, New York,), see below.

In recent years I corresponded with an Indian ex-follower of Sathya Sai Baba who had gone to Puttaparti because he knew some Sai students from his country who had been sexually abused and he wanted to investigate the facts. He became completely convinced that it was true, which is also why he contacted me, though he did not wish to have his name publicised due to his position in that society. Many ex-followers do not wish their name to be connected (through the web, for example) with Sathya Sai Baba, whose name came to be a stigma in their eyes and a possible millstone around the neck in wider society. Thus a bogus name is inserted in the scan that follows, which is just one of his discoveries that deserves to go on record.



The elder brother of Sathya Narayana Raju aka Sathya Sai Baba. Sesham died in 1986

If this were not enough, Arnold Schulman, who visited Sathya Sai Baba to investigate if he could be what he claimed – and ultimately remained unconvinced – wrote a book in 1971 entitled ‘Baba’ (Viking Press, N.Y.) As Schulman noted:
“One of Baba’s two sisters, however, who claims to have been present at his birth, says that the cobra was not found under the blanket, butseveral hours after Baba was born a cobra was seen outside the house, a sight not uncommon in the village.”

This contradicts several “official” accounts of the cobra event in three very populatr books on Sai Baba’s birth and  early years: 1) ‘Baba Satya Sai’ by Ra. Ganapati. 2) ‘Easwaramma – The Chosen Mother’ by N. Kasturi, and 3) Volume I of ‘Sathyam Sivam Sundaram’, also by N. Kasturi. Schulman also wrote this revealing paragraph: “For every story of Baba’s childhood there are any number of conflicting versions and, at this point, the writer discovered, it is no longer possible to sift out the facts from the legend. For one thing Baba has forbidden his family and devotees to talk about his childhood and ‘they all live in terror of Baba,’ as one of his most devoted followers told the writer. ‘When they do something wrong,’ the devotee said, ‘he won’t look at them or speak to them for days and it’s agony for them …”

The following interesting comment from Cate Murray was received (click on 1 comment below):-
My mother, who died a Sai devotee, tried to publish a children’s book titled, “The Lonely Little Cobra” about a pariah cobra who finds love, companionship, and fulfillment with the baby Sai. Thank God she was unable to publish another book of Sai propaganda!

A very frank comment, generous to readers. This reminds me to point out the believe-anything mentality of most devotees I have known through the decades. The hagiography around Sai Baba is full of imagination and fantastic interpretations of the most commonplace events and statements etc.  Professor Kasturi, who I met on several occasions and interviewed, was evidently a very naive person without any known research qualifications, though he once held a teaching post as professor of history (without having a Ph.D). In his ‘official biography’ he hardly mentioned the elder brother – who was the only properly educated member of Sai Baba’s family and was well-placed to have known most of what happened. Kasturi only refers to him in passing in connection with Sai Baba’s schooling and the (among devotees) ‘famous’ letter ‘correcting’ his elder brother in which he boasted about himself. Most likely Sathya would have warned Kasturi not to listen to his elder brother, whose evidence would probably have destroyed the entire childhood mythology.

It is clear from all Kasturi wrote that he had no idea about research, historical or otherwise. He never even achieved an Indian Ph.D., nor did he publish a single research paper, though he was employed for years in a teaching post as ‘professor’ of history. He was instead a born believer in Indian mythology, having been a lifelong follower of the supposed ‘avatar’, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa before he found Sai Baba. The method of his information’ about the birth and childhood of Sai Baba shows an agenda to promote his every claim, never to question anything in the least. His flowery adulation in every other paragraph of the ‘official biography’ ‘Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram’ (Volume 1 being the source of the cobra story) shows his total belief dependency, as do the various incidents in which Sai Baba punished him relentlessly for mistakes of the most minor nature (as detailed in his autobiography ‘Loving God’). As my colleague Professor Erlendur Haraldsson expressed to me when first I met him in Bangalore in 1989 and referred to Kasturi’s writing in a positive way – one cannot rely on Kasturi for accuracy in anything. Haraldsson had then already properly researched the famous (or infamous) claim by Sai Baba of having resurrected Walter Cowan from the dead and had definitively shown from the doctors involved that no such thing had ever occurred and no death certificate had ever been issued. The ‘reporting’ by Kasturi on countless incidents are put in doubt by other sources, for example the incident when young Sai visited shepherds (who he called ‘dacoits’) and his gaping mind-boggled account of the alleged self-healing of Sai Baba in the ‘Shiva-Shakthi’ incident, to mention just two of many similar cases. One has to admire, if nothing else, the chutzpah in Sai Baba’s words to Kasturi when he wanted to publish the first volume of ‘Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram’ to the effect that the time was not ripe and that people would think that he and Kasturi had cooked it all up together. That is the most likely explanation indeed, as the world will also judge…  if it should ever become more widely known!

See Kasturi as chief subservient grinder of the Sai Baba rumour mill

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