How I eventually became a dissident
Posted by robertpriddy on March 6, 2016
I was a frequent visitor to Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan from 1984 until 1998. I resigned from the Sathya Sai Organisation in 2000 after the deepest consideration, having discovered the immense deceptions of Sai Baba, outright fraud and crimes covered-up by his coterie, including High Chief Justice Bhagwati and with the backing of a series of prime ministers and presidents of India and many other rich and prominent figures.
The process of disillusionment took two decades as many untoward and unfortunate events constantly took place in those ashrams but were almost never reported anywhere. The immoral and deceiving behaviour of Sai Baba himself, about which followers who wrote books and articles never mentioned a word, eventually become gradually known but were considered by followers only to be ‘tests of faith’. Decent people I spoke with felt that knowing the likely explanations of some such facts would be more than welcome, but really only if this would help them to dispel the doubts that were repeatedly arising.
The published Sai Baba literature shows that there are many events and circumstances known to Sai Baba’s more frequent and well-informed followers of which all devotee writers steered clear. I was long unable to eliminate these matters from my mind, and it would often have been much easier if I had been able simply to overlook them. I was made aware by many other persons that they laboured under much the same difficulties.
Originally, I tried to sort out the doubts by re-interpreting matters in a positive light, literally to find ways to ‘write them off’ in Sai Baba’s journal by sorting out the issues creatively in a positive light. I wrote many articles in Sai Baba’s monthly journal Sanathana Sarathi, often to explain discrepancies and contradictions in his discourses by subtle interpretation and speculation. I dealt with events and experiences that caused some perplexing questions through which my faith and that of others I knew well had been tested through the years, without thereby claiming to have fully resolved issues raised by them. The editor, V.K. Narasimhan, kept asking me for more and more material from me because it was popular among many Westerner devotees. In 1994 I published a book (Source of the Dream) about my experiences with Sai Baba and at his ashrams. Rather than write nothing but the standard self-censored eulogy of everything to do with Sai Baba, I tried to represent a somewhat fuller picture with careful as it presented itself to me at the time. Though Narasimhan said it was the most objective book about Sai Baba to date, little did I know that it was very, very far from being that. Like nearly all other devotees, I had been kept in the dark about countless untoward events and crimes by the ultimate organised secrecy and deception by his inner circle.
It is said that the truth will out, even though many may fear to speak it. Sai Baba insisted that the truth will always win though, but that is a belief and hence an unsupportable claim. Experience shows that truth is easily subverted and hidden, whether from very many people or for extremely long periods of time from everyone. Despite my keen desire to clear doubts, chance discoveries, reasons for great suspicion mounting evidence and eventual intensive investigation led me to hidden facts and truths about the supposed divine avatar and all around him which at last completely ended my trust.
However sublime and beyond worldly matters the ultimate truth of existence may be, it still has to be consistent with freedom of thought and indisputable evidence in the mundane sphere. Doubts that arise and will not go away can be examined as carefully and with as much healthy scepticism as can beliefs. To employ critical understanding and adhere rigorously to the truth as far as it can be substantiated was ultimately both instructive and positively constructive.
Critical or outright negative writings about Sathya Sai Baba himself are only possible by persons who are neither under any outside pressure (from the cult, close relations etc.) or from their own inner attachments, needs and fears which they feel unable to overcome. The independent world media, however, is very largely free of such pressures, even though Sai Baba positive propaganda fooled many for a long time.
So at last, information about Sai Baba’s actual secretive life and unbridled corruption and unchallenged criminality including massive sexual abuse and involvement in murders became so overwhelmingly strong that I had to begin the mammoth task of reviewing my entire faith and experience with a renewed critical faculties and demanding inquiries. That is when I summoned up my spirits to publish about the many and horrific emerging scandals and crimes that continued to emerge on a regular basis until his ignominious premature death and the aftermath of finding his massive hoarded riches.