Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed

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

Are prayers to Sathya Sai Baba effective?

Posted by robertpriddy on January 20, 2012

Prayer plays a central role in the doctrine of Sathya Sai Baba, as one might expect. His overall claim regarding prayers is that all of them, by whoever and to whatever saint, prophet, deity or God, eventually arrives at his own feet. He has pronounced himself to be the Deity of Deities. Even deities and Gods pray to him! This must be the most enormous claim ever made, and the chutzpa is beyond all measure, even though India is full of person claiming to be Divine, one with God, and avatar, a reborn Rama, Krishna, Buddha, or whoever else among the limitless pantheon. One scan from his official biography should be sufficient to indicate the extent of his claims about his own status.

As the world knows, Hindus pray to a vast pantheon of Gods, divine figures, deities, saints, supposed ascended masters, gurus, idols and more. Sathya Sai Baba claims to be ‘omnipresent’, meaning his true being is (was?) the innermost reality in everything there is, in the ‘heart’ of every person and entity and not least every supposed divine being or Deity. He repeatedly claimed that prayers can be directed to all manner of deity, and that in essence and in the last instance, the object of prayer is himself. In Hindu religious parlance,

all prayers eventually arrive at His Feet”

where ‘feet’ represents the Lord to whom one pays obeisance by touching the feet or putting one’s head on the ground before them.

As in “All hands, feet, eyes, faces, mouths are His” Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 11, p. 128

We also read:-“… who has to take it up? It was said that I have taken up this Form in answer to the prayers of sadhus (noble souls) and others… I have come, because I felt I had to come. I resolved upon this… This campaign will succeed, it will not fail. The welfare of the world will be ensured through the fostering of the Godly everywhere, and more particularly of these ancient reservoirs of the ancient wisdom of this land.”

(Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 3, page 205)

Are prayers ever effective? It seems so to a great many people in the world. However, this is a matter of belief in a necessary (causal) connection between the prayer, its wording (or some possible interpretation of the words) or what the person who prayed thinks was in ‘his heart’ at the time. In short, the effectiveness of prayer is solely and purely a subjective judgement by the person or persons involved. Therefore, science cannot confirm that prayers are effective since the ‘source data’ – what was thought when praying – is dependent only on subjective testimony. There is also much subjective testimony to the effect that prayers are not answered, do not work or produce the results desired. Various pseudo-scientific studies – including statistical comparisons – have been carried out (overwhelmingly by prior believers in prayer, not least since one usually believes or thinks results possible before really making a genuine prayer), but none have stood up to genuine scientific investigation of the methods used. Among Sai Baba devotees, however, the belief in prayer is a sine qua non of being included in the movement. This is firstly because of Sai Baba’s pronouncements as to his answering heartfelt prayers – especially in extreme anguish. Secondly, there are literally countless reports of how Sai Baba has (apparently) answered prayers… often in incredible miraculous ways. However, many of the hagiographic accounts are naive (I have studied over a hundred in detail, sometimes interviewing the authors) and the text often unwittingly betrays how the answer and the prayer do not fit at all well, and that other explanations for healing events or ‘miraculous’ dreams and visions seem obvious or, at least, more likely.

There are also cases of fraudulent reports of divine answers to prayers by Baba, made either by persons wanting favours either from him or from officials in his organization (who invariably acted as an effective social barrier between their guru, his minions and ordinary devotees who they often treated suspiciously or even as the ‘hoi polloi’). There remain a considerably body of accounts which due to their allege ‘miraculous’ nature could not be disproven, nor could they be verified by any objectively reliable sources (i.e. scientific observations or controls) and are considered unrepeatable divine are also cases of fraudulent reports, made by persons wanting favours either from Sai Baba or from officials in his organization (who acted as an effective social barrier between their guru, his minions and ordinary devotees (often treated suspiciously or even as the ‘hoi polloi’). There remain a considerably body of accounts which due to their allege ‘miraculous’ nature could not be disproven, nor could they be verified by any objectively reliable sources (i.e. scientific observations or controls) and are considered unrepeatable divine events.

Prayers to Answer Questions or Clear Doubts There are those who get doubts about Sathya Sai Baba or what his teaching implies for them and the like. They often decide to ‘ask Swami himself’. But, since they almost invariably could not get to see him in person, or if they did were unable to put their question (or get an answer from him if they did so) they were prone to use some other method for
deriving his answer. There are many traditions among the dyed-in-the-wool aspirants on how to interpret a gesture, movement, overheard phrase and other observed behaviour in Sai Baba – including lack of certain usual behaviour – as applying to oneself and having a deep meaning which must be sought assiduously.

Flipping open a volume of Sai Baba’s discourses (like ‘consulting the Bible’) is a typical method. Whether one sticks to the first sentence one sees, or chooses another which lends itself better to a somewhat relevant meaning, probably depends on the level of desperation of the seeker. Much can be read out of very little… especially if a certain latitude in interpretation is allowed in one’s zeal for a certain answer. Those who get ‘the right answers’ are often unaware that this kind of phenomenon is by no means restricted to one name and form. It is a very common occurrence,and often works well when there has been greater investment of emotional and mental energy behind the question. In this way one can, however, sometimes even ask one’s cat, an imagined alien UFO, or the Director of the CIA and get most wonderful answers!

One common practice among Sathya Sai followers is to draw one of three prepared papers left on the shrine. One will have the word ‘yes’, another ‘no’ and a third ‘wait’. Some just spin coins or roll dice! Special coins (Umi and Tumi) are even on sale at some Sai shops for this purpose. Or the uncertain devotee may set up some other precondition, like “If I see an Indian today when I go shopping, then Baba is answering me positively.” If the person happens to see an India, then this event becomes a big ‘graceful leela of the Lord’, an evidence of Sai Baba’s omnipresence. If the desired result is not forthcoming, then one can always have another try with something else.

The psychologist C.G. Jung, who experienced many such ‘coincidences’ and investigated the question deeply, named them ‘synchronicity’. That they have to do with the power of projection of subconscious feelings or repressed energies seems very likely, and that there is a ‘collective unconscious’ or ‘astral plane’ whereby thoughts and symbols are transmitted, was occasionally Jung’s explanation of them. Some are thought by many ‘paranormally-inclined’ persons to operate through so-called ‘elementals’, which are powers that seem to exist without being embodied (i.e. deities, spirits, djinns, ‘fairies’, demons and the whole range of identities these forces have been given in different cultures and ages). The hypothesis of ‘souls of the dead’ communicating through such events is also common in Sai Baba circles. There is, of course, no guarantee of divinity being attached to any such phenomena. It is an area fraught with deceits, delusions, self-deceptions, fraud and potentially very serious psychic disturbances like uncontrollable apparent ‘psychic invasions’ and even full ‘possession’.

One Response to “Are prayers to Sathya Sai Baba effective?”

  1. The question raised by you in this post, whether praying to Sathya Sai Baba (or God for that matter) can be effective, is a highly interesting one, in my view.
    You deal with this subject in an astute manner, and have some notable remarks concerning the practices followed and testimonies given by Sai Baba devotees, to convince themselves and others of the miraculous nature of their personal God(man).

    In short, he who prays earnestly to the master gets his prayers answered. If not, it is through his own lack of faith or some karmic trouble.

    Because of the ever-increasing unavailability of direct contact with Sathya Sai Baba over the previous decades, which was the inevitable result of the sheer increase in numbers of visitors to the ashram and the very limited amount of time the master provided for interaction with them (twice a day for maybe twenty minutes darshan, plus the rare interview, accosted to the ‘happy’ few), large groups of devotees resorted more and more to indirect ‘proof’, whether through prayer, dreams, premonitions, contact with VIP-devotee-clearvoyants like Phyllis Krystal, and other, sometimes all-too-primitive supposed channelers and channelings of the master. The use of the three pieces of paper you refer to, which I too remember well, is a typical example of the latter: a crude form of divination.

    Being unavailable is one of the devices cult leaders use in order to gain an ever-increasing aura among their believers, by the way. Especially when their followers are cooped up in primitive dwellings, and are deprived of contact with the outside world their whole day revolves around the master. Not seeing him, not being able to come into close, personal contact with him, makes people anxious, which in turn serves as an incentive to listen to tall tales and boosting the master’s omnipotence through any number of stories heard through the grapevine. It also hides the master quite effectively from any altogether too inquisitive a view from people who are a bit more sceptical.

    If a master at all, Sathya Sai Baba certainly was one in this respect! He pulled off the most unlikely feat: not letting himself get caught for the massive fraud, deception and abuse he was involved in during sixty odd years. Instead, he managed to achieve an enormous following and influence the world over, culminating in a state funeral, with full honours and very few awkward questions asked even after his demise.

    The whole issue of whether praying to a personal God is even feasible, let alone effective, has been hotly debated inside and outside the scientific community for well over 140 years. In a debate/interview in Newsweek with Christian evangelical Rick Warren, atheist Sam Harris commented that most lay perceptions of the efficacy of prayer (personal impressions as opposed to empirical studies) were related to sampling error because “we know that humans have a terrible sense of probability.” That is, humans are more inclined to recognize confirmations of their faith than they are to recognize disconfirmations.

    Harris also criticized existing empirical studies for limiting themselves to prayers for relatively unmiraculous events, like recovery from heart surgery. He suggested a simple experiment to settle the issue:

    ‘Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God regrow that missing limb. This happens to salamanders every day, presumably without prayer; this is within the capacity of God. I find it interesting that people of faith only tend to pray for conditions that are self-limiting.’

    Another eloquent critic of the inefficacy of prayer is internationally renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. As it happens (and no, not by divine intervention!), Dawkins visited my alma mater, the University of Groningen, just a fortnight ago (January 12 and 13, 2012). He stayed here for two consecutive days, entering into public debate, giving lectures and appearing as the guest of honour for the opening of the new Biology Building of the University, named after famous Dutch botanist Carl Linnaeus.
    In his writings (of which the most controversial is his 2006 bestselling book ‘The God Delusion’), Dawkins claims the ‘God Hypothesis’ is fallacious. In fact, he depicts people who believe in a personal, compassionate God as being delusional.

    Whatever your outlook on this complex question, suffice it to say that I agree with you, mr. Priddy, that Sathya Sai Baba took advantage of many well-intentioned (but perhaps too gullible) people, people from the West and the East, the North and the South, people from all walks of life, from highly educated to illiterate.
    His staunch believers will, I am sure, always see some proof beyond doubt of the divinity of their late master, and of him answering prayers even from beyond the grave.
    It has ever been so: voluntary questioning your innermost belief system is rare. If you have allowed yourself to become brainwashed, it is even harder to acquaint yourself with opposing information. You’d rather vilify the messenger. Many who harbour doubts rationalize these thoughts away. I am afraid the bottom line is that many of them secretly think themselves unable to confront the harsh truth, and live another day.

    We so much like to be sure. We so much seem to need to be…

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