Controversial holy man's followers
gather near Grants Pass
By: Patricia Snyder
From: Grants Pass Daily Courier
Date: August 31, 2001
There are some mistakes in the article, nevertheless we have decided to publish it.
About 100 people are gathering in Josephine County this weekend, followers of an Indian man who claims to be God on earth and who has become the target of accusations leveled by former followers.
Sathya Sai Baba, who will not be present at Enchanted Acres Institute near Grants Pass, draws thousands of visitors each year to Puttaparthi, India, where he was born nearly 75 years ago. He claims to be, and many believe he is, an avatar - God come to earth in human form.
The Grants Pass gathering will include an unnamed speaker from Malaysia, said Bill Gaum, one of the event's organizers. Called a "family reunion," it will shine light on the philosophy of selfless giving, he said.
"It's a time of sharing with each other about various service projects that we're doing so we can do a better job next time," he said.
Followers feed the homeless, teach children to read, plant trees and clean beaches, Gaum said.
"There's just so much good and so many good people," he added.
Gaum was hesitant to be quoted, saying he and other members prefer to do good works in anonymity. However, he defended Sai Baba and the gathering against criticisms that the holy man uses his position for sexual gratification from those who come to him for blessings and guidance.
"The only person who can speak for Sathya Sai Baba is Sathya Sai Baba himself," Gaum said, but added that he doesn't believe the stories. Good people in history have had unkind things said about them, he said.
Among the stories is that of a 15-year-old California boy who goes by the name of Noah Colt. He said he was granted a rare private interview with Sai Baba in 1989, in which he claims the holy man fondled, hugged and kissed him and then gave him money and a gift.
The teenager's mother, who uses the name Karen Colt, left India when she found out and now hides her whereabouts because former Sai Baba followers she knows have been threatened, she said.
"To be afraid is not going to make any good, but I am aware and I am careful," she said.
She said she was devoted to Sai Baba for many years, but now calls him "a crook."
Author Al Drucker, a Sai Baba follower, said that he is the same God worshiped by many religions, including the Muslim Allah, the Native American Great Spirit and the Christian Divine Father.
"The one divinity takes on countless names and manifests itself in countless forms," he said. Sai Baba's goal is to restore righteousness to humanity.
"He can only be described as the personification of pure, selfless love, the embodiment of perfect peace and bliss, the essence of all goodness," Drucker wrote of Sai Baba. "He manifests every noble human quality that mankind admires and he incorporates every divine quality that is characteristic of the avatar."
Gaum said he can tell Sai Baba is an avatar by what he has done: founded a university and schools, built hospitals and clinics that offer free medical care, created a water project in a drought area.
"Jesus said: By their fruits they shall be known," Gaum said.
Good works cannot justify bad ones, said Ella Evers, an outspoken American critic of Sai Baba. Evers said she ran a Sai Baba center in Eugene for many years until she investigated allegations herself.
"In the end, you say, wait a minute, no crime is justified," she said. Like other critics, she claims Sai Baba is too powerful in India for authorities to investigate him. She said her own calls for an investigation have gone unanswered.
"If Sai Baba is the avatar, he will definitely welcome such a thorough investigation to clear him and his organization of these allegations," she said.
Evers became a follower in 1986 after reading a book about Sai Baba and feeling moved to believe he was God. She followed his teachings of peace, truth, righteousness, love and nonviolence.
"I had never been called for an interview, which is considered the highest honor and experience," she said, "After all it was understood to be coming face-to-face with God."
Evers claims that, during a trip to the India compound in 1989, she glimpsed Sai Baba unzipping the pants of a boy before the holy man jumped up and closed a gap in the interview curtain.
"Wanting so desperately to be a good devotee," she blamed her own impure thoughts and suppressed what she'd seen until she learned of other stories last year, she said.
Evers doesn't want to take away from the good works of Sai Baba followers, but she believes they have been slowly drawn in and discouraged from thinking for themselves.
"There are many wonderful people with this, but they are being misled," she said.