Date: 11-05-02

By: Robert Priddy



A person who signs herself Stephanie Relfe B.Sc. (Syd.) with a website at published an article with the title "Sai Baba: A Comment on Recent Negative Media Stories: Why They're Not True" (Article not available anymore since a few days...) and on Yahoo with the title:

Possible truth behind 'yucky' stories

This B.Sc starts with sheer disinformation, presented without documentation or any critical sense as follows: "These stories were probably first started by Tal Brookes. Tal has lied about many things (e.g. That he was the No. 1 western follower of Baba). And it is worth noting that it has been said that he was an associate of Timothy Leary, a member of the CIA who helped to develop LSD." 

Lies by Brooke? I know of none! I think her note is worthless... being irrelevant from all points of view.  So the CIA is implicated? Anyhow, LSD was never developed by any American, it was produced by a Swiss biochemist, Albert Hoffman!

She continues "Second, regarding the stories that Baba has anointed some men with oil on their penis. From speaking with people who have had interviews, I understand that these stories are true. This does not totally surprise me."

It was a surprise to almost everyone else! This is a form of molestation which, also in India, when carried out even by a doctor without explicit permission from the person involved, is a serious offense. Mrs. Relfe rightly claims that 'India is so different' from the West etc. You can say that again, Stephanie!

She continued "I can only say, from my own experience that people who follow Baba's teachings seem to end up with a lot less lust than many other people." All is not as it seems, Stephanie... for there are strict taboos about behaviour in the ashram, which work as a strong pressure to outward conformity while there (and trying to get an interview and all the rest!). After 16 years of visiting, I can say that even a very close VIP devotee of SB tried his luck with my wife (He had no luck!). The wives of two current VIPs gave me the come on too... believe it or not! I had never thought... And I have come to know about various cases of strong sexual attractions etc., and have seen graffiti and other unpleasant things in some of the rooms we were allocated. So her experience of less seeming lust is certainly incomplete.

There are brothels in Puttaparthi which are visited by ashram staff... a fact I was most shocked to hear from an Indian IAS officer devotee who was undisturbed by these facts of Indian life - a claim that was confirmed independently to me on the Internet by residents of the area. Actually, all this is mostly irrelevant to the real issue, which is whether SB is the ringleader of male sexual abuse of students and foreigners. Note that such activities are virtually always covered up with great secrecy and other means by those in any group whose participants are implicated and many of whom themselves become abusers.

Here is what Stephanie was leading up to: "However, I have NO doubt that the stories regarding sexual abuse are false."

Very interesting, fascinating... such an objective witness!! What does she actually KNOW, though? (Note: a B.Sc does not imply one is omnipresent to observe everything at all times).

Then: "While ten, twenty thousand or more people are waiting for Baba outside!!! And the back room, where these incidents are supposed to take place, is divided by only a material curtain, which moves back and forwards in the breeze!!! With dozens of people in the adjoining room!"

Wrong again. While there is a curtain, there are also twin doors of teak or mahogany between the private and public interview rooms, and I have several times seen SB close them firmly. I have also noted how much longer he remained behind on several occasions them with young men from Denmark and Sweden and some of his students. There are very seldom 10,000 persons waiting outside, 20 thousand only at the traditional festivals. Some people can't even (bother to) count, despite having a B. Scs. Even the extended Kulwant Mantap holds far fewer than 20,000. The Poornachandra might hold ca. 8,000, at a pinch. I have counted heads several times! The ashram engineer Mr. Ashok should know, and he reckoned in 1996 that the maximum number of persons Puttaparthi could hold at the 70th birthday was 250,000... even including those who slept in tent camps and on the bare ground!

"There is one possibility which explains the numerous stories going around about Sai Baba and sexual abuse which no one seems to have thought of. It is surely relevant that these stories are only just now starting to get out - after all, Baba is SEVENTY FOUR years old. There are literally tens of thousands of stories about the good actions of Sai Baba. I used to wonder why we never heard any negative stories about him. After all, since there is organized evil on this planet, which is involved heavily in the occult etc., Sai Baba is the kind of person that they would want to attack. His positive effect on so many people's lives is huge."

That Stephanie never thought of this says more about her than anyone else... the allegations have sprung up regularly through the years since Tal Brooke first blew the whistle in print in English. Would Sai Baba at 70 be less physically vital than Picasso at his much older age? Or than countless other octogenerian lovers? Hislop had to deal with powerful accusations in the early 1980s. The Malaysian movement and organisation was split by the revelations of parents about their sons (and withdrawal from SB colleges) even before that. Prof. Haraldsson even recounted in his well-known book ('Miracles Are My Visiting Cards' - also called 'Modern Miracles') accusations of SB's homosexuality he met with while interviewing devotees (esp. those who had left SB), though this was not within the sphere of his interest at all (nor is it now). Greek devotees withdrew their sons and allegations were widespread in French-speaking countries around 1989-90. Additionally, there were numerous individuals who tried to get a hearing in various countries through all the years.  

Stephanie goes on with her received wisdom: "It is possible that the people who have created these stories are victims of mind control by the 'bad guys'." Well, I know some of them and this is not true of them. What is completely certain, however, is that those who refute these stories out of hand (without due investigation and gaining the confidence of victims) are the (only too willing) victims of mind control! 

Stephanie persists: "One piece of evidence in favour of Sai Baba is the fact that the people who are spreading these bad stories get some of their facts wrong. The miracles ARE real. The proof? No one else could afford to produce the things that Sai Baba has produced!"

But the things SB has produced have very little commercial value. Not one supposed SB-materialised object has been investigated by independent experts and properly documented as being worth more than a smallish sum. I have experience to the contrary, as I shall make documentably evident to the full satisfaction of the most stringent of critics in the coming months.

Stephanie was impressed by things that also impressed me at one time: "One way to experience Baba's energy for some people is to read some of the many books written by people who spent much time with Baba. His energy, teachings and guidance have softened thousands of hardened hearts and encouraged many, many people to live better lives. While at Puttaparthi I observed the action and faces of dozens of young boys in the presence of Baba on about 14 occasions. On every occasion the looks of radiant joy and happiness told their own story. I have seldom send western children look as happy as those boys did."

How can Stephanie know with any degree of empirical basis that so many people live better lives because of SB? What surveys has she seen about those who go off and become worse, who cheat and simulate healing powers, who make money from the Baba gravy train, who commit suicide because of him, and those who develop bigger egos and envy? (Remember, SB says these things about his devotees more and more strongly all the time!) How can one know with a reasonable degree of certainty that the good stories about one's improvements are not but words or cherished self-deceptions, or the desire to get on. In my experience at the ashrams and in the Sai Movement, which is fairly extensive, SB followers turn out to be no better than others - quite often worse when you have to eat salt with them... while many VIPs are definitely not models of civility, human values or selfless service to the poor and suffering!

The problem is that not all that glitters is gold! To reach conclusion on the basis of such subjective observations as Stephanie made - while evidently not knowing honest insiders or what they have to tell - is most enticing, but it is very unwise. That there are very many who have been taken in by this is hardly surprising. One can see much the same at many kinds of other meetings, non-conformist churches, evangelistic healings, Lourdes and so forth ad. inf. There are also the darshans by pop music and screen idols for their ecstatic fans, and even some such enthusiasm and pleasure in connection with athletics and football. Believe what you will...  

To be wiser is often to be sadder, but what can stand the open light of day is the real thing!