"A CRITICAL SITE ABOUT SAI BABA"
Specific issues # 2
Recoveries, resurrections, multiplications of food, transformation of water
Control over nature
The "miracles" of Sai Baba
One of the most frequent claims on the miracles theme, sounds like this: "by now thousands of peoples from all around the world have been witnesses of Sai Baba's powers and their authenticity etc. etc.". The typical Sai Baba's attitude about his manifestations has a tone like this: "don't try to understand me. I am beyond your undestanding capabilities. You will never succeed to explain my nature; all you can do is come to me and experience directly my presence... etc. etc." Now, what value could have an "experimentation" performed in non-controlled conditions, surrounded by Sai Baba's staff, and from peoples who:
This shows how the experience proposed by Sai Baba is quite not an example of objectiveness. It is worthy of note that SB denies any test executed under control (for example a materialization before a group of researchers, in a neutral ambient, free from any environmental factor which could make doubt of the authenticity of the phenomenon), alleging reasons of "divine" nature (see theBlitz Interview).
The "miracle bibliography" about Sai Baba is boundless, therefore if we want to read some stories, we'll have to look up in some book (either devotional or not) which tells some episode at this regard. These books are in a huge number, and they are findable in the series of the publishing houses indicated in the bibliography. On the Internet, one can take a look at "Gallery of Miracles" as a "miracle source" and the virtual book "Sai Baba's miracles: an overview" by dr. Dale Beyerstein as an alternate outlook. Always on this iste, at this page, we find other interesting informations on the "miracles" theme and more.
Let's begin with "materialization" miracles: Sai Baba always "materializes" small, non-perishable, manufactured objects... shortly, nothing that you would not find in a shop: rings, watches, pendants, bracelets, talismans, etc; ALL these "materializations" have been perfectly reproduced by magicians and prestidigitators; the same circular hand movement, performed by SB when he "creates", belongs to conjuring tricks and it is performed to do the so-called "palming". In some cases, there are stories of materializations performed by SB with sleeves lifted up, that would exclude any trick: but as usual, this doesn't happens in controlled conditions, but is told by a SB devotee... who is not the most objective person on the question. When he is asked to materialize very big, or very particular objects (not to be "created" by sleight of hand), Sai Baba denies in the usual way. It is interesting this passage of the "Blitz Interview" where the journalist, that is totally lined up with Sai Baba, asks him the reason why he doesn't perform materializations as such (very big or particular ones). Sai Baba answers invoking the unfathomability of the divine and spiritual field, he says that he could do it, but he doesn't, and then he "materializes"...a ring for the journalist!
There are two "miracles of materialization" which are different from those
above: the materialization of vibuthi from an empty vessel (apparently more vibuthi than
the vessel would contain) and the creation of the lingam, through
regurgitation from the mouth. Also these miracles have been reproduced in detail, so much
that Sai Baba stopped their performance. However recently, in February 1999 and after 20
years, SB "created" again the lingam: follow this link to know more on these
two phenomenons. But here are some words by Sai Baba on the "miracoles" theme:
"You must have heard people say that mine is all
magic. But the manifestation of divine power must not be interpreted in terms of magic.
Magicians play their tricks for earning their maintenance, worldly fame and wealth. They
are based on falsehood and they thrive on deceit, but this body [Sai Baba himself] could
never stoop to such a low level. This body has come through the Lord's resolve to
come.[...] Remember there is nothing that divine power cannot accomplish. It can transmute
earth into sky and sky into earth. To doubt this is to prove that you are too weak to
grasp great things, the grandeur of the universe."
"You must have heard people say that mine is all magic. But the manifestation of divine power must not be interpreted in terms of magic. Magicians play their tricks for earning their maintenance, worldly fame and wealth. They are based on falsehood and they thrive on deceit, but this body [Sai Baba himself] could never stoop to such a low level. This body has come through the Lord's resolve to come.[...] Remember there is nothing that divine power cannot accomplish. It can transmute earth into sky and sky into earth. To doubt this is to prove that you are too weak to grasp great things, the grandeur of the universe."
(quoted from the discourse of 23 November 1968)
It's remarkable what SB says of magicians and prestidigitators: "They are based on falsehood and they thrive on deceit". Really, it's quite the contrary: the magician performs his tricks in front of an audience which is aware that they are exactly tricks; and the illusionist certainly doesn't claim to be God because of what he does. The various gurus, are the ones performing tricks selling them as miracles and divine powers, carrying out "falsehood and deceit".
Morever, here we find the usual "logical twisting": Sai Baba says that miracles are "his visiting card", they are at the purpose to convince people of his divinity. Therefore the miracles, to meet this requirement, would have to be convincing and demonstrated beyond any possible doubt. Yet, if we have doubts about these phenomenons, SB says that we are weak and limited, because divine power has not to be treated as magic... but this is quite what he would have to demonstrate, and he instead takes it as an ascertained thing! And more: are really to be considered as demonstrations of "divine power", miracles which have been all reproduced by a human being? And this when to Sai Baba would be enough the production of a single, unique, really unusual and inexplicable phenomenon, that he would be able to do, according to his words?
The suspect of trickery comes ahead... not a long time ago, some videos have been realized, which would have "stilled" the moment when SB performs tricks during materializations. Obviously, the doubt has been raised that these videos have been "edited" and manipulated by the producers, to discredit Sai Baba. But I ask myself: why then, it could not be the same for devotional videotapes, which tend to give us a gorgeous, divine and miracolous image of Sai Baba? However it may be, one of these videos, realized by B. Premanand, regards the materialization of a golden chain during a celebration; let's read a description of it:
"[...] Regarding the Sai Baba cassette, even children are able to see the trick. After the lecture, Sai Baba goes to the side of the stage when Radhakrishna (the aide of SSB / who was murdered on 6.6.1993 because of the mistake he had committed in handing over the gold necklace to the left hand instead of right hand of Sai Baba) brings a memento for presenting it to the chief of Larsen & Turbo who had built the Kalyanamandapam. While handing over the memento to Satya Sai Baba, Radhakrishna hands over the gold chain to SSB`s left hand instead of the right hand. After presenting the memento Sai Baba walks back to the centre of the stage, Shows his right hand empty while his left hand is closed, then walks again to the side of the stage, while, Srinivasan hands over the 2nd memento to Sai Baba. When the architect comes near to Sai Baba to receive the memento, watch Sai Baba`s right hand moving towards his left hand and transferring the gold chain to the right hand, then immediately after handing over the memento still keeping the right hand near left hand, he moves his right hand and produces the gold chain as if he had created it. [...]"
(B. Premanand, quoted from "Indian Skeptic" vol. 8, n.1, 15 May1995, p. 45)
And here is a comment on the video by dr. Erlendur Haraldsson:
"[...] The second case study centres around an allegation of fraud made against possibly the best known Indian religious leader; Sai Baba. An Indian national newspaper recently claimed to possess filmed evidence of Sai Baba engaging in sleight-of-hand. This film was obtained by the authors. Analysis of the film revealed that Sai Baba did carry out some suspicious hand movements prior to 'materialising' a gold chain, but the film does not contain direct evidence of trickery. [...]"
(Erlendur Haraldsson & Richard Wiseman, taken from the abstracts of the "37th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention", 7-10 August 1994, University of Amsterdam)
Dr. Haraldsson is a parapsicological researcher who has written a fairly famous book about Sai Baba's miracles, entitled "Miracles Are My Visiting Cards" (Century Paperbacks, Rider, London, 1987), also published with the title "Modern Miracles" (Fawcett Columbine, New York, l987. Haraldsson is often mentioned by Sai literature to show how scientists "with the right attitude" have been able to examine Sai Baba, drawing positive results from the investigation. It is interesting that:
A) although the researcher (by his own admission in the book) has not received any kind of collaboration from SB and his staff, as we can read here:
"Baba went into a spirited discourse, aimed at us, attacking scientists. He said that scientists could not understand the spiritual, and he insisted that the spiritual starts where science ends. We found ourselves back to our earlier discourse on the need for experimentation and empirical research on paranormal phenomena, of which he was allegedly a master. When we showed Baba the few things that we had brought with us to test the paranormality of his materializations experimentally, he politely put them aside. It would be black magic to exhibit his powers that way, he stated.".
(quoted from "Miracles are my visiting card" by dr. Erlendur Haraldsson)
B) although he has doubts about the production of somePK phenomenons;
C) although he has come to the conclusion that the episodes of resurrection of the deads are false,
dr. Haraldsson closes his book attesting the substantial genuineness of the phenomenon Sai Baba, and moreover giving thanks to him for the hospitality and the kind collaboration. This gives a clearer light on the real purport of the final judgement on the video: "Sai Baba did carry out some suspicious hand movements [...] but the film does not contain direct evidence of trickery.". If you want, you can download some stills from that video. Their quality is not so high, so take them as they are. CLICK HERE to download: what you get is an about 1.1 MB zip file, the best you can do is to unzip it into a folder, then view the stills with a slideshow software.
Again, on the argument it is intersting to read "Sai Baba's miracles: an overview", as well as a couple of articles by Massimo Polidoro and Piero Angela.
Finally, we must observe how Sai Baba's influence over his followers, makes them to justify even the evidence of the performing of tricks. In the following passage, takenform the site "THE NEURAL SURFER" by dr. David Lane (rich of controversies and debates on Sai Baba), Bon Giovanni (a devotee present on the Internet), answers to Jed (an SB's ex-devotee that has then become strongly critical, who affirms to have seen some SB's tricks) about the performance of sleight-of-hand by Sai Baba:
"[...] Sai does produce much more than a ring or a watch or a small object, and there is no sleight of hand, in that objects requested of him do sometimes appear a few inches over his open palm, and one can see it forming just before it falls into his grasp. That Jed did not experience that, is perhaps because he did not want to."
Remarkable, don't you think? Here we find another "logical loop" of "Sai-style" argumenting: if you desire something from Baba and this happens, it's him that granted it to you. If instead that thing doesn't happens, it's because of yourkarma, or because you really didn't wanted it to happen (obviously being unaware of this fact). Thus if Jed has seen tricks, instead of materializations like described by Bon Giovanni, it's his fault, and not of Sai Baba who did not show the materialization to him!!!
"However, Jed is correct in saying that Sai does palm objects. I hope no one is suprised at that, since among mature students `sleight-of-fumbled-hand' is well-known as Sai's sense of humour. He likes to palm objects and also likes to say he will change an item that then does not change. Where Jed is wrong (sorry- "where Jed mis-assumes") is in deducing that is all Sai does. As to why Sai creates as well as does sleight of hand, or why he lets himself be seen fumbling, is in my view due Sai Baba's method of teaching.[...]"
Notice how Bon Giovanni is keen on adding the adjective "fumble": then the only tricks are those performed "fumbly" by SB, so that it could be noticed that it's a funny trick... but then all the other SB's phenomena are genuine ones! Therefore, according to Bon Giovanni's words, Sai Baba performs tricks, or he says that he will do something and then he does not, but he acts this way only for sense of humour!!! He would perform "fumble sleights-of-hand" only as a teaching method...
The common point of these other kind of miracles, is the total lack of reliable testimony, proofs and objective comparisons, and of an although least demonstration of what is claimed. In the most part of cases, we deal with stories from the various books of devotees telling their experiences with "Swami". These "testimony" are from people who are Sai Baba's devotees, that consider him to be God and will never put him in discussion: how could they be considered reliable? In these cases infatuation, worship, auto-suggestion, and the desire to receive some "sign" from one's own guru, they play bad tricks... one can even see, hear, dream of something that really there is not. Regarding the specifical miracles, it's a good thing to put some "bound":
Regarding Sai Baba's real healing powers, it could be interesting to read this account, drwan form the book "Baba" by Arnold Schulman; for the sake of brevity, the initial part of the story has been summarized:
"[The protagonist of this story is called Asha, even if this is not her real name, the only daughter of an important indian diplomatists. At the time of this event she was 27 and her husband, after some diplomatical assignments abroad, was transferred back to New Delhi, and after one year he was assigned to the Middle East. At this point they discover that he has a cancer to the ears and throat, at such an advanced stage to be considered incurable. A friend of a friend of Dr. Bhagavantam (*), regarding this familiar tragedy talks about Sai Baba's unbelievable and unexplicable healings to Asha's aunt, and she talks about this to her nephew. Asha then leaves to Puttaparthi, hoping to save the husband.]
In the afternoon of the fourth day Asha was finally choosen for the interview. She entered the room along with about other twenty people and she sat down waiting [...] Baba beckoned Asha to get closer. The woman got up and reached him behind the curtain. Withou being aware of it, Asha was crying. "Don't cry", Baba said her and, before she could say a single word, he added: "I'll cure your husband of cancer". Then he waved the open hand's palm and gave an handful of vibuthi to the woman. In the exact moment Baba gave the vibuthi to Asha, the woman's husband stood up sitting in bed, at over 1700 km. of distance, and spoke for the first time in two weeks. "I can hear!" he said. [...] once back in New Delhi from Puttaparthi, the woman followed Baba's instructions and every three days she gave her husband some vibuthi with some water. In five weeks the man got totally recovered [...] Now, after one year and half from then, [...] Asha's husband was admitted to hospital for a cancer of the lungs. This time Asha didn't go to Baba. Three months later her hsuband died."
(drawn from "Baba" by Arnold Schulman, personal translation)
(*) Note: this Dr. Bhagavantam, ex Scientifical Advisor of Indian Government, was an intimate Sai Baba's attendant, as well as the author and divulgator of the story of the false Sai Baba's Seiko watch materialization. Click here to read the related page."
The end of this story is astonishing: notice how the death of Asha's husband is not attributed to the failure of Sai Baba's "miracolous healing", but rather to the fact that Asha didn't returned to Sai Baba! I think it's really tragic to speculate on the tragedies of those who believed that SB colud be able to solve their problem, in such a low anc cheap way and for devotional pusposes (i.e. seemingly to say: "see what happens to those who go away from Baba's protection?").
The truth is that SB hasn't done asbolutely nothing for Asha's husband (simply because he cannot do anything for nobody: it's the sick that, if persuaded and believeing that SB has healing powers, triggers where possible a placebo effect, even bound to vibuthi assumption. In these cases the improvement or the recovery of the sick is attributed to Sai Baba's "divine powers". Obvioulsy and very opportunely, SB is almost never linked to those cases (enormously greater in number, and unknown just because no propaganda talks about them) in which the sick doesn't recover, or even he get worse and/or dies; the rare times when it's talked about these cases, the failure is due to the sick's karma, or to his poor faith. All this in spite of SB's "boundless grace" and "abounding love" for all human kind.
Going back to Asha's story, notice that there's nothing prodigious in it: we must remember that Asha was the daughter of an important diplomatist, and she went to SB after the advice (even if through other people, since the didn't know each other directly) of Dr. Bhagavantam, a Sai Baba's intimate attendant and one of his propagandists. Asha was received by SB after four days, a more than abundant time for Bhagavantam to know form his friends that Asha had left, what was her husband's illness and in what conditions he was. Is wel known that Sai Baba takes always much care of VIPs (even if his devotees exhaust themselves denying it, this is as evident as sun's light): so Bhagavantam could have warned SB that the daughter of an important indian officer was in Puttaparthi, that her husband had cancer, etc. etc. And here it is that on the fourth day SB admits Asha and, without her to say a single word, he says her that he'll cure her husband from cancer: what miracle! Moreover, the temporary improvement of the conditions of Asha's husband is a normally known phenomena in the clinical enumeration of cases, maybe induced and helped by a placebo effect due to vibuthi assumption. This is confirmed by the fact that subsequently the cancer re-presented itself again elsewhere, and in a body zone (lungs) physiologically linked to the previous cancer's seat (ears and throat). And infact, unfortunately Asha's husband will die anyway, despite Sai Baba "miracolous powers". The reason is neither karma, nor poor faith, nor whatever else: the reason is that Sai Baba isn't able to cure anybody, and rather than hoping in his "divine help" (or in the help of many others like him), it's better to turn to the medical cures, which successes' percentage ratio (even if this is not pleasant to "spiritual people" or new age lovers) is far much greater than the one of any kind of healer or godman.
What to say then of food multiplication and water changing? Also here we don't have any affordable testimony, but second or third hand accounts, which almost always date back to "many years ago, when Baba still was not so well known abroad..."; really, the most part of these "exceptional" miracles (resurrections, multiplications, etc.) would have happened right in the period of time when Sai Baba was nearly unknown in the west (from about 1950 to 1970). These stories reported today have just a few more value than fables: who has been present? What the precise circumstances? Who are the witnesses? With regard to this, at this page, we can find some typical stories of Sai Baba's "exciting miracles".
The truth is that these "miracles" are perfect to attract the western peoples, for the most part christians and/or catholics, remembering that Jesus Christ:
A) resuscitated Lazarus, and Sai Baba would have resuscitated even two deads;
B) multiplied bread and fishes, and Sai Baba various times would have multiplied food;
C) cured the sick, and Sai Baba also would do it;
D) at the Canaan wedding transformed water into wine, and Sai Baba would have changed it into gasoline.
Reaction: the same miracolous signs ...but then Jesus has returned! [...or not?]
This aspect is confirmed by Sai Baba's same words, let's read:
Q: Is it true that Swamiji comes into the mind of a person during the dream state, only if Swamiji desires it?
Sai Baba: O yes, No person can dream of Swami unless Swami Himself desires it to be so.
(from a dialogue between Sai Baba and Eruch Fanibunda, 1976)
[Sai Baba answers a question raised by the audience]
"Why does Swami appear in the dreams of only few and why not in all?"
[...] Dreams are the reflection, reaction and resound of that which is within you. The same does not apply to the dreams in which Swami appears. Swami appears in dreams only when HE wills it and not when you want to.[...]"
(quoted from the discourse of 24 November 1998)
Although just a moment before, in the same discourse, he has said the exact contrary (we'll see ahead), this is what Sai Baba says. This "dream question" seems to be made on purpose, to keep calm the devotees: since are very few those who obtain an interview when they go to him, and since certain and unequivocal "signs" by SB usually hardly come, here's that the guru could come through dreams, but only if he wants so. The devotee, sincerely infatuated and enthusiastic, very easily will dream of him: and please let me say that by now, about dreams, is much more certain what has to say psychoanalysis and psychology, than what does say Sai Baba... well I was saying, the devotee will dream of Sai Baba, and he will consider the dream as a direct message from the Avatar, who gave him thedarshan in the dream.
Should not be more probable that someone who wishes to have a contact with SB dreams of him, and in the dream realizes his desire? And if the dream contains a reproach, couldn't it derive from the deep unconscious of the dreamer? Freud and colleagues really lived in vain?
At this point the objection is raised: "OK, it could be, but then how do you explain that often someone who strongly desires it, doesn't dreams of Baba? This is the proof that it's him who decides it". The objection is baseless: we don't know what our unconscious does hold and what it does not, and what censorship processes (oneiric, vigilant and of other kinds) could act within ourselves. Certainly, they exist; decades of psychological sciences demonstrate it. In effects, for long time I myself have desired and asked Baba to come into my dreams to "enlighten" me, but it didn't happen; on the other hand, in the same lapse of time I've never dreamed of, let's say... Frank Sinatra (rest in peace): can I perhaps deduce from this that Frank Sinatra had the power to enter or not in my dreams at his will?
Regarding the other powers (bilocation, telepathy, etc.), are valid the same considerations as above about the kind of testimonies and its reliability: the stories are countless, but the many personal psychological factors of those who lived or told these accounts, the expectations, the distorsions, the time passed by, the atmosphere in which many stories take place, do invalidate its reliability as "proofs" of anything. One must always consider that for the most part of Sai Baba's followers and devotees (the ones who then write the books to tell the "miracles"), he is the one to whom they have surrendered themselves, he is the one who will take care of all their needs; thus they will tend to ascribe to him anything could happen or not, both good and bad things; and in this last case, they will search for "signs" from the master. From here to the various stories of bilocation, telepathic rescues, etc. there's really a short way.
Really? No one has still noticed this... we wait with patience. (see in the next
page when examining the omnipotence)
Really? No one has still noticed this... we wait with patience. (see in the next page when examining the omnipotence)
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