"A CRITICAL SITE ABOUT SAI BABA"
General issues: what is this about?
The first thing that is useful to know, for those who don't know him, is:WHO IS SAI BABA ?
Sathya Sai Baba (his real name is Sathya Narayana Raju) was born in the remote village of Puttaparthi, in south-central India, on November 23, 1926. His conceivement would have been "immaculate", that is to say by direct divine intervention on the mother, Ishvaramma; his birth would have been underlined by various supernatural phenomenons.
His official biography, compiled byN. Kasturi, tells that already when baby he would have exhibited the signs of his "ultramundane" origin: at school he would have materialized out of nothing fruits, sweets, pencils, etc. for his little friends, and he would have teached and advised his teachers about various subjects (namely the spiritual ones), which he would have not been able to learn "normally". At the age of 13/14, after a kind of "crisis" (which made his relatives thinking about some mental disease or demonical possession, that he was subjected to cruel treatments), he left the family proclaiming to be Sai Baba, reincarnation of a previous Sai Baba (Shirdi Sai Baba, a muslim saint who lived at Shirdi, another little village); stating to have a precise mission, and that his devotees were waiting for him. Many years later, he will add that he will leave volountarily his body at the age of 96, and he will reincarnate 8 years later in the third and last manifestation, Prema Sai Baba, in a village of Kerala.
On the left: Shirdi Sai Baba, the fakir of which Sathya Sai Baba claims to be the reincarnation. On the right: how it would have to appear Prema Sai Baba, the third and last incarnation of the Sai Avatar. The aspect is that general of a young indian ascetist, and it won't be hard to find in Kerala, within some years, some little boy resembling Prema Sai... and make him grow in the convintion of being Prema Sai Baba. Or at least persuading of this the devotees of Sathya Sai Baba.
Regarding this point, it's important to underline this: about Sathya Sai Baba being the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, there is mention only in Sathya Sai Baba's official and devotional literature. The devotees of the old Shirdi Baba neither worship the present Sathya Sai Baba nor they consider him as a reincarnation of their own master; and in the Shirdi's devotional literature, or in the web sites devoted to him, there's no trace of his "promise" to reincarnate 8 years after his own death, and Sathya is not considered. These anecdotes are solely reported by Sathya Sai Baba, by his official biographies, and by the authors of devotional books devoted to him. It is a totally unverifiable story, since there are no more living witnesses, and Sai Baba knows it well; here's what he was saying already in 1976:
"Q: Did Shirdi Baba actually claim that he would be born eight years after his death in 1918?
Baba: Yes, he did. This has been recorded by Kaka Dikshit as well as a number of other devotees who were with Shirdi Baba.
Q: What makes you so sure that you are Shirdi Baba incarnate?
Baba: The knowledge of my own authentic experience, of course. Since no one who knew Shirdi Baba is alive today, there is no evidence except my own knowledge and experience. The very fact that I announced that I am Shirdi Baba 40 years ago, when I was only 10 and when nobody in this part of the South had known or even heard of Shirdi Baba, proves this fact."
(from the 1976 "Blitz Interview")
Kaka Dikshit really was a devotee of Shirdi Baba, but the anecdote regarding him doesn't have a comparison in Shirdi Sai Baba's "official" faith and biographies and so, as however innocently Sathya tells us, we have to "trust him on the word"... of course! Anyway, Sathya was 14 and not 10 when he announced to be Shirdi reincarnate, and about this fact and the statement that nobody had known about it before, take a look at this page, which is based on elements taken from the book "Baba" by Arnold Schulman.
But now let's go on.
Puttaparthi, [ ] people is different for an extremely important reason. The 20th century has come at its gates. Prosperity has returned, not under the form of livestock, but thanks to Sathya Sai Baba. [ ] For Puttaparthi's people, Sai Baba has become, however, a prosperous industry and, while at the eyes of a middle-class american there are no visible signs of wealth, if you ask any villager, he will answer you, with uncovered envy, that his own neighbour is growing rich."
It's interesting to note how the stories about Sai Baba's youth presents a strong parallelism with the ones about the youth of Jesus: the immaculate conceivement, the birth with supernatural signs, the teaching to his own masters (just like Jesus in the temple), the age of the declaration of his own divinity or mission (Jesus at the age of 12, Sai Baba at the age of 13/14)... considering that Sai Baba has great influence over the Western and Christian people, this all seem to be indicating a real "divine" birth... or the deification of an otherwise normal birth! It is not possible to gather some sure and objective informations: the parents and the biographer died a long time ago, and none of his relatives or fellow citizens would be doubtful about him, for at least two good reasons:
1) some more, some less, they live thanks to the tremendous economic stimulation that Sai Baba's presence has given to their village, thanks to the incoming of foreign money. Let's read this passage, published in 1972 but resulting from even older testimonies:
(taken and translated from Arnold Schulman's "Baba",1972)
2) in India, especially for the simplest and poorest layers of people, the persons like Sai Baba are "divine", without neither doubt nor criticism; this is inherent their popular culture.
Anyway, in the above mentioned Schulman's book it's possible to draw some interesting hint and information. Click here to go to the related page, and read an extract from that book.
From the beginning of his mission, the number of devotees has constantly grown; first between the indian people, then also between people from the West and all the continents. Thus Sai Baba built up his ashram, Prashanti Nilayam (that is to say "abode of the supreme peace"), which in the years (and thanks to the donations of the most wealthy devotees) has become a modern, well equipped autonomous village, for the indian standards). Moreover, with the purpose of fulfilling his mission, Sai Baba founded an organization carrying his own name, that by now is spread all around the world. In brief, Sai Baba claims to have this task: the human kind actually is in a dark age (called Kali Yuga), where the evil has overwhelmed the good, the materialism has crushed the spirituality, etc; he has "come" to restore the supremacy of spirituality and Dharma, that means right living and right action; doing so, he will raise the consciousness of the human kind, and he will take it back on the right path. To learn more, you can visit the site of Sai Baba organization.
The work and the word of Sai Baba are spread all over the world through various means: books, periodical magazines, audiovisuals, Internet. The practical aspect of his mission lies, in India, in programs of aid to the poor villages, in schools of many order and grade, in a modern hospital where treatements are free, and other. In the West, on the other hand, there are no activities or initiatives of public interest promoted by Sai Baba, in spite of the "universality" of his mission.
The teaching he proposes, by one side, is sincretistic, and tends to derive materials and concepts from the existing religions, and to unify them: very emphasized is the fact that he doesn't want to create any new religion, and that anyone could remain into his own. By the other side, one of Sai Baba's maxims says: "it's a good thing to be born inside a religion, but it's no good to stay there", so pointing out the intention of shaking the old religious convinctions. Moreover, he states that he doesn't want and doesn't expect adoration for his person. His public speaking activity is tireless: the discourses are his primary source of teaching.
The other aspect of his doctrine is utterly indian and hindu: he speaks with the language of Vedas, of Vedanta(the Upanishad), of Bhagavad Gita, of indian mythology. His metaphores, his religious chants (or bhajans, another basic ingredient of his discipline), his tales and speeches are drawn with plenty from these traditional sources. In particular, his teaching belongs to the philosophical school that goes under the name of Advaita Vedanta, or "school of the non-dualism". So it's necessary that following Sai Baba, it could happen to give up old spiritual-religious habits, but on the other hand it could also happen to acquire some new other habit, strongly hindu (there's absolutely nothing bad in this), quite traditional and not innovative at all.
Well, why to concern ourselves with this matter? The reason is because about Sai Baba are made (by himself and by his devotees) allegations of absolute importance, but also carrying a big burden:
He would be nothing less than GOD himself
as Sai Baba states in this passage, quoted from the discourse of 17 May 1968, also called "the revelation" (in this speech Sai Baba "reveals" explicitely to the world for the first time both his "divine nature" and his "mission"):
"[ ] In truth, you cannot understand the nature of My Reality either today, or even after a thousand years of steady austerity or ardent inquiry even if all mankind joins in that effort. But, in a short time, you will become cognizant of the Bliss showered by the Divine Principle, which has taken upon itself this sacred body and this sacred Name. Your good fortune which will provide you this chance is greater than what was available for anchorites, monks, sages, saints and even personalities embodying facets of Divine Glory!
Since I move about with you, eat like you, and talk with you, you are deluded into the belief that this is but an instance of common humanity. Be warned against this mistake. I am also deluding you by My singing with you, talking with you, and engaging Myself in activities with you. But, any moment, My Divinity may be revealed to you; you have to be ready, prepared for that moment. Since Divinity is enveloped by humanness you must endeavor to overcome the Maya (Delusion) that hides it from your eyes[ ]"
Here you can find the complete discourse.
And in this passage, quoted from the discourse "Who is Sai?", 9 June 1974:
"[ ] The optical sense cannot visualize the truth. It gives only false and fogged information. For example, there are many who observe my actions and start declaring that my nature is such and such. They are unable to gauge the sanctity, the majesty, and the eternal reality that is me. The power of Sai is limitless; It manifests for ever. All forms of 'power' are resident in this Sai palm.[ ]"
or in this another one, taken from the famous "Blitz Interview" given in 1976 (reading the complete interview, one can note how much detachement and impartiality the reporter used in analizing Sai Baba, especially when he thinks that Sai Baba has "defeated" his detractors with, in truth, generic and/or dogmatic statements, or even of clear incompetence):
"[ ]Yes, I incarnate from age to age, time to time, to save dharma from anti-dharma. Whenever strife, discord and disharmony overwhelm the world, God incarnates in human form to show mankind the way to love, harmony and peace.[ ] There is no need for me to command invisible spirits since my own divine will materializes the objects. I am everything, everywhere, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; and so whatever I will, instantly happens.[ ]"
Again, here you can find the complete interview. Sai Baba has stated in an eqaully explicit way his own alleged divinity, in the opening of a 1985 speech:
"The attributes and qualities which were assumed When, to save Prahlada, the Supreme Person came;
The attributes and qualities which were assumed When, to save the elephant, the Lotus-eyed came;
The attributes and qualities which were assumed When, to save the poor Kuchela, the Lord of Veda came;
The attributes and qualities which were assumed When, to save the boy, Dhruva, He came from Heaven;
Now, with all the attributes, all the qualities has come, He whom the gods adore, the Refuge of the Rejected
The Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Infinite Glory As all Existence, as all Knowledge and
All Bliss in one Form embodied
As Puttaparthi Sathya Sai, the Over-lord of all that Is.
(from the opening of the speech of November 23, 1985)
Finally, Sai Baba has recently (october 1999) further on confirmed the concept:
"[Sai Baba has just finished telling a little story from his own childhood]. The reason for which I am telling you all this, is to make you able to understand the nature of My equanimity, of My Love, of My Divinity and My affection (cheers). Despite that, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR YOU, TO UNDERSTAND NOT EVEN A MILLESIMAL OF MY OWN DIVINITY. My Love is boundless and whatever word you may use to describe it, it fails."
(from a speech of 18 october 1999, personal translation)
(A brief thought: one of the Sai Baba's preferred sayings is "my life is my message"; on the oher hand, he asks his devotees for the maximum humbleness, a quality that he considers supremely auspicios for the entire human kind. From his words, however, it doesn't appears so much humbleness )
More specifically, he defines himself as an Avatar, that is to say a divine incarnation; moreover, he would be a Purnavatar, or an incarnation of God with all his complete powers. In this aspect he defines himself to be superior to Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.; in one discourse, for instance, Sai Baba said that Jesus in reality was not even an Avatar, but just a man who became aware of his own divinity; in another passage (we'll see it ahead) he states to be the one who sent Christ into the world.
But many are the sensational allegations made by Sai Baba, by his devotees and
Well, keeping apart the good things that Sai Baba and his organization do on the practical level (you will find very wide descriptions, sometimes apologetical, of this aspect, in the various links at which I refer you), the basic consequence of what said above is this: if I accept Sai Baba as master, and his allegations and his phenomenons as genuine, I must also accept his divinity, and the consequential autorithy. The result (noticed by direct experience) is an almost total dependence on what he says (or doesn't say); on what he does (or does not); on the way he interprets or explains some facts, opinions, sacred scriptures, etc. He is God, and the devotee literally "pends on his lips": no matter if he contradicts himself, or if he goes against the good sense and the acquired and undisputable knowledges (we'll see ahead what Sai Baba says a propos of this point).
A further consequence of this all is the giving up one's own judgement capability, stated by Baba as faulty since it is human. Two possible objections, however quite right, may be raised a propos of this point by the supporters of Sai Baba:
On this aspect it is interesting to read part of a correspondence, coming from the "Indian Skeptic", between B. Premanand and Erlendur Haraldsson, author of the famous book "Modern Miracles"; in this letter, Premanand answers Haraldsson on some points, drawing the answers from Haraldsson's book itself:
Indian Skeptic Volume 1, Number 7 - Cover
Sai Baba: "Come! See! Examine! Experience! Believe! Be Saved!" From "SANATHANA SARATHI"
HARALDSSON - B.PREMANAND Controversy: on MODERN MIRACLES - REPLY TO HARALDSSON - SATYA SAI BABA IS A FRAUD!
[ ] You will agree with me that you have not cared to reply any of my questions put forward by me in the disguise of NO TIME!
[ ] Though I share a deep interest in the question whether SSB's phenomena is or not of paranormal origin, I defer from your reasoning that if not all, whether some of SSB's phenomena may be of paranormal origin. Based on the declaration of N.Kasturi in Sanathana Sarathi Vol.2 No.2 March 1959 that every article dealing with the experience of devotees passes through the hand of Sathya Sai Baba and even the tiniest chaff of untruth is winnowed out in the process, (Read page 17 of the book "Sai Baba and his Message", edited by Dr. S.P.Ruhela and Dr. Duane Robinson which proclaims as follows:
NOTHING IS DONE THERE OR IN OTHER PLACES WHERE ORGANISATIONS FUNCTION IN HIS NAME, WITHOUT HIS EXPRESS PERMISSION AND BLESSINGS)
all the paranormal phenomena of SSB published in Sanathana Sarathi should either be of paranormal origin or they should be tricks or deceptions.
[ ] Another strong fact which leads to question SSB's paranormal origin is SSB's unwillingness to undergo experimental tests under controlled conditions. Please see the picture of SSB with the caption:
"Come! See! Examine! Experience! Believe! Be Saved! in Sanathana Sarathi Vol.13 No.6, July 1970.
Now answer me: "Does SSB allow anyone to examine him? Did he allow you to examine him? I am giving the answers from your own book "Modern Miracles":
Page 10 (Dr. Karlis Osis): "Neither Haraldsson nor I were able to persuade Baba to participate in experiments. Nothing would have clinched the matter so well as, say, a week or two in the best parapsychological laboratories in the world, and that we offered."
Page 15 (Haraldsson): "The first visit led to another a year later. This time we were equipped for laboratory experiments. We had long discussions on the importance of science and research: but the swami's final words were that his powers were not for display."
IF IT WAS NOT FOR DISPLAY WHY THE CAPTION MENTIONED ABOVE?
Page 31: "We had two further interviews with Sai Baba and continued to insist on experiments. He promised to give us a day for experiments in Bangalore, where he would be going in a few days. This would take place in the presence of Dr. S.Bhagavantam, a distinguished Indian Nuclear Scientist and former head of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore."
Page 32: "After a few days in Puttaparthi we went to Bangalore as we were running out of time. Dr. Bhagavantam did not return from his trip on the date Sai Baba had indicated. We managed to send a message to the swami through a close devotee and were told that our experimental session had to be cancelled as Dr. Bhagavantam would not be returning in time for us. That was a real disappointment. We could understand that Sai Baba wanted to have an Indian Scientist present. But was this a real excuse or a polite Indian way of saying no?"
The answer to the question of yours is given by you yourself on page 41:
"Dr. Bhagavantam advised us not to pester Baba further with requests for experiments, since that might spoil our relationship with him." !
Page 49: "Sai Baba rejected our request that he participate in experiments where we could have imposed rigorous controls and made instrumental observations. Hence a decisive test of the paranormality of his phenomena was not possible."
What do these prove? On one side he is inviting non-believers to come and examine him and on the other rejecting the request to examine him. Answer me whether he is a big fraud?
More over on page 45 you write that "unfortunately we were unable to tape record our interviews. I think it was on the first interview on this trip that I brought with me a bag with a tape recorder and a camera. Baba told me not to take it into the interview room. 'This is not a market place'. "
(From "Indian Skeptic" vol. 1 n. 7)
It seems to me, to end this part, that this is an important question: Sai Baba does a lot of valuable practical things (in India), but the truth is that he HAS POWER on a great number of people, and they DEPEND ON HIM. This is confirmed by the words of Sai Baba himself, words which are in antithesis with the two points above mentioned:
"Trust in My wisdom: I do not make mistakes. Love My uncertainty! For it is not a mistake. It is My Intent and Will. Remember, nothing happens without My Will. Be still. Do not want to understand; do not ask to understand. Relinquish understanding. Relinquish the imperative that demands understanding."
(from "Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram")
You will admit that is difficult to make an objective analysis of a guru who requires this kind of attitude and faith. Moreover, many of his devotees are people who have public powers and offices in India, and also someone abroad; and also business men, billionaires, etc.: therefore in some way he has influence also on the ranks of the public and financial power.
One of the most important steps approaching Sai Baba, is the travel to India, to hisashram Prashanti Nilayam, where one would "experiment" the genuine divinity of the master and, as said by the most part of his devotees, a whole series of experiences that changes the life of whom goes there. In the next page therefore we'll see this aspect, and I will tell my personal experience with Sai Baba.
Go to the Next page, go back to the Opening page, or choose another page:
General issues: what is this about?
The travel to Sai Baba, and my personal experience
Specific issues # 1
Specific issues # 2
Specific issues # 3
Specific issues # 4
Glossary of terms
Related links (pro and con !!!)
The "Golden Age" of Sai
Sai Baba - the "Bad Side"
Links to the thematic pages