To face all the countless covered-up negative facts about Sathya Sai Baba which disturb faith in him, some may find some succour in the latest book of a once wholly unquestioning Sathya Sai Baba devotee. A Sri Lankan former lawyer, Nandini Ranasingha (Samarasinghe), has published a book ‘My Rama, My Swami’ to describe her troubled relationship with (now-deceased) Sathya Sai Baba. Being a Buddhist and having become a full-blown ‘true believer’ in Sai Baba’s self-professed divinity for up to 2 decades, she at long last came to realise that all was not as it should be, not least that Sai Baba was a sexual abuser and had far exceeded the bounds of reasonability in his claims and self-glorification. At the time of writing, she still believed in ‘Swami’s special love’ and that he had spiritual powers but says she had still to fight to preserve her faith and a ‘glimmer of hope’.
After being close to Sai Baba for so long, a so-called ‘VIP devotee’, she was unable to free herself from doubts arising directly from her experience of him and what she learned from someone even closer. One such female – Geetha Reddy, ex- Industries Minister in the Indian Government – she knew well (though she only gave her a pseudonym) claimed and fully believed that she was actually married to Sai Baba (having got a mangala sutra from his hand), or so the author says. This minister also allegedly told the author she’d had protracted sexual relations with him. Sex with females too? Because by then, Ranasingha. This minister said that she’ d had protracted sexual relations with him. However, Ranasingha had come to realise that the allegations of major sexual abuse on males by Sai Baba were true. She writes that he was secretly engrossed in fear and sense gratification and asks how this could lead anyone ‘infinite perfection’, which he indeed always unashamedly claimed. Because of the importance of truthfulness, she had to write about unspeakable matters concerning Sathya Sai Baba and ‘unholy things’ about his ashram.
In ‘My Rama, My Swami’ she relates how in 1978 she first visited Sathya Sai Baba at an ashram near Pune and, when the family got an interview, she was given exceptional attention by him, which seemed auspicious to her – itself not surprising in that overheated environment of personality cult worship. She claimed she had never seen such penetrating eyes as Sai Baba. He obviously gave the young lady his ‘charismatic stare’, one of his frequent deceptive techniques. He was known to single out persons of high standing and their offspring… his registration office having always got all the details for him in advance on who was who. She began two weeks of intensive Buddhist meditation. She describes the first darsan of Sai Baba she attended, as if it was some mythological scene in ‘holy precincts’, with ‘crystal chandeliers splintering the light’ on the ‘heads of devotees without number’ and she fondly imagined that all present were reminded of what she calls the great event that happened in Ayodhya ‘once upon a time’. (Most unlikely as I constantly experienced all kinds of whispering chatter there, not about Ayodhya… and undisciplined followers were constantly struggling to get a better seat or view whether by hook or crook). She writes fancifully about Swami’s realm and named him the most elevated of beings who she came to love and follow. She tells that had to wrestle with both angels and demons – both human and divine’ at the ashram thereafter. To believe in divine angels and demons shows how prone she is to inculcated superstitions. Seven years after a dreadful marriage of convenience to a very prominent Sri Lankan, she married well to a man who became a cabinet minister. This opened her eyes to the power seeking and corruption in Sri Lankan politics. Aged 44 she found Sathya Sai Baba.
The book would have benefitted from a proper editor (and spell checking). One would expect a legal professional to be able to do far better, but it maunders along in vaguely disjointed fashion, dwelling at length in detail on her upbringing and family connections in high Sri Lankan society, her personal life and times, plus numerous devious political goings on and Sri Lankan corruption, all of which rather detracts from her central theme, the struggle between faith and more and more overwhelming doubts about ‘Swami’.
In referring to what she experienced through many years at Sai Baba’s ashrams, her disillusion comes to expression in that she asks (apparently rhetorically?) whether there exist places anywhere in the world free from scheming and corruption. It therefore seems that her ‘world’ seems to have been limited to the South Asian cultures of corruption, bribery and moral decadence. But she wanted a place to ‘live in ancient spiritual truths’, as if the ancient world was a kind of paradise. This belief is, of course, a well-known delusion shared by many cultures and constantly preached by Sai Baba, but there is no shred of reliable evidence to support it, rather to the contrary. Consequently she has withdrawn into seclusion from worldly activities to contemplate, hoping to rediscover her spiritual faith. It is evident that she has feared persecution by those who will not tolerate the slightest dissent over Sai Baba, which is understandable when one knows well the atmosphere of the ashrams with constant threatening reactions and banning and worse against those who question anything concerning Sathya Sai Baba. It is therefore admirable that she, alone among most devotees from the sub-continent, has denounced his crimes in her way, though going public is now – after his demise – one way of virtually ensuring safety from serious persecution.
She states that she wrote only in response to the voice of Lord Rama himself (she claims she venerates and converses with the Hindu gods), who asked her to write down her life story, experiences to which he would give her answers. This is enough to prove that she is trapped in subjectivity… hearing voices (a condition now explained by the latest neurological experiments as the brain interpreting its own ‘internal’ noise or interference from its vast subconscious store of memories and thoughts). These beliefs in a paradise of disembodied existence persist in many cultures imbued by naive faith, superstition and delusions far more than where sound realism and/or the scientific temper pertain. The inertia of religions and out-dated cultural traditions – the incompatible tenets and attitudes for which they fight – is at the root of the problem. Especially in educationally backward countries – the religiously indoctrinated fail to appreciate what advanced civilisation has shown. Namely, that within the conditions set by the natural world, human beings are themselves – either individually or collectively – entirely the cause of all the ills of the world, as well as all the good.
The basis of her belief, though now under great pressure due to realisation that Sai Baba was not at all what he claimed, is seen in her earlier book ‘The Transcendental Truth – A Buddhist Perspective of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba‘ (Sathya Sai Publications) Ranasingha wrote: “Dedicated to Sitha – The dignity of women and to My Swami – may you reach the eternal bliss of Nirvana (Nandini Samarasinghe). “My dear reader, your choice to read this book is the compelling power of truth which gave me the strength to pen the following pages. May that truth fill you and the world with love and peace!” “As a born Buddhist I certainly do not find any difference of Sathya Sai Baba’s Philosophy from that of Buddha’s other than the practical guidance and assistance I have personally received from Sathya Sai Baba to be a better Buddhist.”
The book’s first five chapters are nothing but preaching of her Buddhist religious faith with all the usual trappings, including the speculative doctrines of rebirth and karma from lifetime to lifetime and the many pretensions of Indian ‘spirituality’. Her confusion will awake the sympathy of those who are or were in a similar plight, constantly trying to come to terms with all the fishy events and let-downs, the bribery and corruption of many – if not most – of Sai Baba’s chosen servitors. Her attempt for an understanding of it all, after being so completely cocooned in the speculative spiritual beliefs of Sai Baba, has unfortunately not got far at all. She tried hard to reconcile his words and acts to her brand of Buddhism, but it does not require a genius to see that this is not really possible without overlooking many central tenets not forgetting that the Buddha taught the rejection of many Hindu beliefs and even the existence of God, for a start (despite the Sri Lankan theist variant).
Some Indian academic admirer of hers wrote a foreword proclaiming, “She is a lawyer by profession attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with professional experience at International, Regional & National Level, and as such, able to give to this study the needed objectivity”. Not so! her ‘study’ rather springs from her highly subjective experiences and deep Sai Baba indoctrination as a ‘spiritual seeker’, starting from her conviction as a ‘born Buddhist’. She wrote: “Whatever we choose to believe becomes truth for us. But spiritual truths are Transcendental and Eternal; Pure Indisputable; Perfect and Whole.” This alone proclaims the author’s how out-of-touch she is with her naive religious mentality. Her otherworldly attitude is typical of ‘spiritual seekers’ who are usually already culturally entrapped (often since childhood onwards) in subjective certainty about their particular pseudo-theology, with heads in the clouds and in the sand all at once.
To maintain a cherished belief in Hindu religion, aspirants to the ever-receding eternal bliss of liberation (while in fear of after-death events and reincarnation) certainly requires a lot of rationalising selectivity, avoidance of facts, juggling of doctrine and blind faith. The world evolves and the exponential growth and reach of the sciences explain more and more of what humanity could not understand since the earliest times.
Ranasinga claims that Sai Baba prioritised the expansion of his empire and unfortunately himself got entangled in the process, proving thereby that “man can never act God!” She imagines fondly that her ‘Swami’ will “not see the light if he does not get the understanding and help of his loving devotees”. Her ‘Epilogue’ contains a regurgitation of much of the myths about Sai Baba and false propaganda. This includes a totally wrong view of the 1993 murders (executions of devotees who did not intend to kill him, as he said himself, even though he ordered their deaths) about number of followers (totally undocumentable guesswork at 30 million!), his amazing works (not having discovered that they were mostly deeply flawed, some entirely failed like the big Rayalaseema water project). She needs to do massively more investigation rather than navel-gazing contemplation.
The book concludes with her praying, not to Swami, but for him that God may intervene and enlighten devotees of Sai Baba as to who he actually was. This is her prescription for saving Sai Baba ‘and ourselves’. To maintain a cherished belief in Hindu religion, aspirants to the ever-receding eternal bliss of liberation (while in fear of after-death events and reincarnation) certainly requires a lot of rationalising selectivity, avoidance of facts, juggling of doctrine and blind faith. Meanwhile, the world evolves with the exponential growth and reach of the sciences to make sense of more and more of what could not be understood since the earliest times. Humanity has waited in vain for millennia for the intervention of an imagined higher power to appear to them (whether man, woman, beast or even alien superpower), with no arguably proven result, so Ranasingha’s pitifully confused prayer will also doubtless remain unfulfilled.
Disclaimer as to fair use of references to the text under copyright law. ‘My Rama, My Swami‘ can be bought as a e-book from amazon.com
See also The brain and the mind ‘create’ God and miracles