Barry Pittard’s ashram experience
Posted by robertpriddy on January 28, 2015
The remarkable dissident and critic of Sai Baba, the former long-serving Barry Pittard, has written about how – after years of service there, and teaching English at the Brindavan College for Boys, he was exiled from the Sai Baba ashram many years ago, and the account is instructive of the whole mentality reigning at Sai Baba ashrams, past and present… and almost certainly in future too. One can see here the envy of foreigners who had found their guru-god and been accepted by him, and who received many interviews and prominence from Sai Baba, that was very widespread among the lower officials as the ashrams, and some of the VIP Indian ashram officials too. Even Western VIPs and busybodies were far from free of petty jealousy and helpfulness to others. This came to expression in various ways, petty harassments by office staff to to show their petty power, by the so-called Indian ‘voluntary service workers’ (Seva Dals) who gave what privileged they could to other Indians (even accepted bribes) and in other typical Indian chauvinistic traits. There was a hierarchy of snoopers who spied on foreign visitors to learn what they could of their their status in the organisation and their national groups, and above all what they could be overheard to say about Sai Baba, the ashram and its staff, and anything relevant to their concerns that could be reported to higher-ups in an effort to earn ‘brownie points’ for themselves. This was also practiced by most of the Sathya Sai Organisation VIPs (among whom, being the national leader in Norway, had to mix but whose selfish behaviour I would not copy). Here is his own story of how he was treated:-
There have been many stories of devotees being rejected or “cast out” from the ashram by Sai Baba and the Sai Organization. I have my own story which happened back in July 1982. Day after day, I was called up to the ashram office and confronted with the most ridiculous accusations – pathetic beyond imagining. The ashram manager was then (as many long-stay ashramites knew all too well) an awful fellow, an ex-judge of Andhra Pradesh, named Kutumb Rao.
Years later, I found through a beloved “Sai Sister” that I was supposed to be “on” with a western holy woman. No one who knows this magnificently courageous person, Om, would give the slightest credence to such arrant nonsense. I think a great many “Sai brothers” and certainly by my non-involvement with them, “Sai sisters,” will know of my great commitment to strict brahmacharya when I lived around ssb and taught at his Whitefield college. At least this ridiculous accusation was not voiced at that time.
However, it was charged that I was raising funds for the Sai Organization. In fact when back home in Australia for a brief time, I had told groups how non-fundraising was the very essence of the way ssb worked!
On another day, I was called up to the office, and Kutumb Rao reported that it had been said that I was giving discourses on ssb around the ashram. Anyone would have known the palpable untruth of such an assertion.
On another day, I was called up to the office, and Kutumb Rao reported that it had been said that I was giving discourses on ssb around the ashram. Anyone would have known the palpable untruth of such an assertion. And then within another day or two, Kutumb Rao called me up to the office yet again. Horror of horrors, came the charge that I had been seen talking to a woman!!!!!! As a matter of fact, I made a rare exception to listen to an Australian woman who was in a very upset state, as she had heard stories that ssb was a homosexual.
As she spoke, I noticed Kutumb Rao’s secretary watching me as he hurried past. Within a couple of hours or so, the same fellow came to my room and said I was to see Kutumb Rao immediately. Soon after the Australian woman had raised the allegations of ssb’s homosexuality, I thought it best to seek out the two most senior western devotees I knew to be present at the Puttaparthi ashram at the time: Howard Murphet and Richard Bayer.
Howard listened with the greatest courtesy, which I have always found to be typical of the man. However, Richard Bayer responded with a nasty rudeness.
Within almost no time at all, I was called up to the office. It was about 7 p.m. Kutumb Rao told me, “Baba has instructed me to send you out. You are never to return, either to Puttaparthi or to Whitefield!” He made me leave that very night, and I had to sleep on a flagstone seat in the Puttaparthi bus shelter, prey to God knows what dangers for a westerner.
Like so many others, I assumed that God (ssb) was putting me through difficulties meant to strengthen my resolve, and to “spin me through my bad karma’s.”
In the last 40 years or so, how many other devotees have accepted abuse and difficulties at the hands of sai baba in the name of “working off karma?” I know of many similar stories myself, and I can only imagine what the total number might be.
Barry Pittard, Australia – 2001
For full overview of postings about Prashanthi Nilayam, see here