The account of an ex-student
WARNING: this page contains material of sexual and explicit nature, which could hurt the sensibility of those reading here, and particularly the sensibility of those having faith in Sai Baba. This as a due warning: please refrain from reading this page, if you get hurted by this arguments, or if as a Sai Baba devoted person you couldn't bear this story.
Sathya Sai Baba:
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
The following article was posting on soc.culture.tamil by
Meenakshi Srikanth in 1993, entitled "Sri Sathya Sai Baba : The good, the bad and the
ugly". It was posted after some students apparently tried to kill SB but failed. The
troubles were put out with an iron hand by the police.
Be warned that if you are a devotee of SB, you will be offended. It is not for the faint-hearted. The article is long (almost 400 lines long).
This is your last chance to skip this post: do so now, or forever hold your peace... :-)
------------- begin article
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Meenakshi Srikanth)
This article is not in defence of what the students tried
to do (attempt to kill Baba) recently. I do not know anything about the incident other
than what I read in misc.news.southasia. Those students might have been motivated by
things other than in this article to do what they did.
The following is a chronicle of my experiences in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higer Learning. These happened a good 4 years ago. But not much has changed, can change in this place.
Strong reader discretion is advised. If you are a strong devotee of Baba Please desist from reading further. You have my word about the truth of this article and nothing further. All flames will be nuked (Tsk, tsk, Mixed metaphor, Scotty! :-))
Sri Sathya Sai Baba : The good, the bad and the ugly
Introduction : This is a brief intro to Baba. Those who know about him may skip this.
Sathya Narayana was born in Puttaparthi, a remote village in AP border (with Karnataka), 65 years ago. Legend has it that, he left home when he was eleven, proclaiming that he has a mission to fulfill in life. He declared himself the incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba (who had attained samadhi [i.e. he died] in late 1910's).
Today he commands an international devotional gathering that has more than a million people from all over the world in it. In India, the list includes P.V.Narasimha Rao, S.D.Sharma, R.Venkataraman,Chandrashekar CMs of AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Singers S.Janaki, P.Susheela, M.S.Subbulaxmi, artiste Lalgudi Jayaraman, Sportsmen Gavaskar, Shastri, Kapil Dev and a host of other illuminaries.
He runs the autonomous university, Sri Sathya Sai Inst. of Higher learning and the hospital Sri Sathya Sai Super specialities hospital. He has residential 'mandirs' in Ooty (Sathyam), Hyderabad (Shivam), Madras (Sundaram), Bombay and most importantly, Bangalore (Brindavan).
A word about SSSIHL: SSSIHL runs in three places: HQ in Puttaparthi (Boys only), a branch in Whitefield, Bangalore (Boys only) and a branch in Anantapur (Girls only). Courses are offered in Arts, Science and Commerce and the instritute offers Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees. There is also an MBA program. There are no professional courses (though there was a plan for a medical program).
I studied in the Whitefield branch. The college in Whitefield is a small structure of three important buildings. The college is at the west end of the campus and across a football field, in the center, is our hostel and in the east end is the Bungalow-cum-Mandir where Swami stays whenever he comes to Bangalore (about 5-7 times a year).
Sathya Sai Baba : The good.
Sathya Sai Baba is an excellent orator in Telugu and his speeches can be truely inspiring and motivating. He does not have a radically new philosophy or a style of religion. He preaches the age-old values of dharma, ahimsa, prema, sathya and shanthi (the five pillars of human values, as he calls them). However, he does them in so effective a way, that his devotees, atleast most of them, make a sincere attempt to follow the ideals and practice them in real life. It is this that makes the numerous charity programs and social activities organised by the Sathya Sai Organisations so popular and well attended.
'Seva Dals', as these organisations are called, are admirable units run by selfless and motivated individuals who do a lot of very good social work like organising medical camps for impoverished people (I have visited many of these and they are run in clean surroundings, by well qualified people and reach the poorest among the poor who come flocking there), food camps, adopting villages etc. There is very little propaganda element in all these activities. There is just a solitary decorated portrait of Swami in the center of the activities but other than this, no preaching goes on to those who are being served.
The Institute that is being run by Swami is entirely free. There is no tuition fee charged from any of the students at any level. I hear that the Hospital that was recently(two years ago) opened is also free for the patients.
I am not able to think of anything else that is important
to write here. I want the reader to just carry the impression that the women and men who
are sincerely devoted to Swami have their lives transformed. You will understand this if
you visit the house of any devotee. I have often been impressed by the quietness,
serenity, religious purity and solemnity that I found there. I have found that most of
these people talk softly, do not get angry easily and have a very peaceful life. If you go
to Prashanthi nilayam (Puttaparthi), you will find the whole place to be like this. I will
quote an incident that happened. In the mandir complex in Puttaparthi, one is not supposed
to smoke. Once, a sevadal member saw a person smoking and went and requested him not to.
The person got irritated and asked, "What will you do if I just continue
smoking?". To this the sevadal member quietly replied, "I will just keep on asking you not to smoke till you stop".
It is truely amazing how a single person can cause such a transformation in so many minds.
Sathya Sai Baba: The bad.
/* To those of you who jumped into this section straightaway - please go and read the above section and then come to this. */
It is not the intention of this article to pass any judgement about the personality under consideration. I will leave it to the reader to analyse the good and the bad in forming her/his own conclusion.
One may wonder as to how Swami has such a huge following (I gather that among all religious leaders, sans probably the Pope, Sathya Sai Baba is the one with the biggest following in the world). The answer is a single word: Miracles. The unbelievable happens as a day-to-day affair in Puttaparthi or Bangalore or wherever Swami happens to be on a given day. A mere circling of a palm and out comes, vibhuthi (sacred ash), watches, rings, necklaces, pendants and what not. He does this almost everyday and recipients of his bounty include common devotees in the darshan line and the VIP devotees in the interview rooms. In this section, I shall tell you how he does all these. He claims he is the God incarnate of the Kaliyuga ("Yuga Avathara...Sai Rama.." goes one of the bhajans). When this claim is coupled with his daily routines of materializations, it gives a staggering image of a super-human personality to which people fall a ready prey.
Before I tell you about these, a few words about the routine of Swami on a normal day would be needed. Swami wakes up at around 5:30am and gets ready for darshan which starts around 8:00am. We students gather outside his mandir (in the driveway) at about 7:45 am. He comes outside, talks to some of us, to some other VIPs who might have come (On a fine morning during the Reliance cup '87, the whole Indian Cricket Team (except Srikkanth :-( ) had come!) and proceeds to the place where the public are assembled. As a routine, he collects letters from his devotees, names newborn babies, blesses new couples etc. Then at around 9:15, he comes back and goes inside the mandir. After this, the interviews start. During his rounds, he would have (arbitrarily) selected from among the devotees a select few who would be given interviews on that day. He provides counsels to these people till about 11:30am. Again in the evening, the same thing happens (no interviews in the evening). After darshan, we have bhajans inside the mandir and occasionally Swami gives an address. Sometimes, some students give talks.
Miracles. A few days after I joined the college, during darshan time, Swami was casually talking about the power of meditation or some such thing when all of a sudden he waved his hands in the air and produced a pendant containing a beautiful picture of Lord Muruga as in Pazhani. I was stunned. I had not seen anything like that before. I was not a devotee when I joined the college (I joined because my father asked me to) but this was something which really shook me. I went back to the hostel and waxed eloquent about the power of Swami to some of my seniors. They nodded sagely and gave a cryptic smile. It was not very long when some of them called me aside and said, "Don't start believing all this stuff. It does not take much to become a devotee but it takes a lot to come out of it". Saying this, one of them waved his hand and produced vibhuthi and another produced a ring. Then they told me all. The simplicity of this thing is going to baffle you. So, be prepared for an exposition of gullibility of the common man.
Swami produces things out of 'thin air' by turning his right palm facing the ground and rotating it (parallel to the ground) a few times. He then makes a sudden motion upwards (as if he is plucking a low lying fruit) and gives out whatever he has produced. The mechanism of doing this is simple. When he comes out of the mandir, his left hand will be holding a kerchief or a letter or his flowing robe. Don't look at his smiling face or his swirling right hand or his overflowing hair. Look at his left hand: clutched in the palm with (mostly) the middle finger, ring finger and the little finger is whatever he is going to give out that session. Vibhuthi pellets (those of you who have seen him give out vibhuthi will recollect that he makes a powdering action with his fingers when he is actually delivering), rings or whatever. Just keep looking at this hand. There will be a time when a devotee will fall at his feet or when he will lean forward. At that time the stuff would get transfered to between the fingers in his right hand. This would be visible too (if you are looking for it). Very soon thereafter, the 'materialization' would take place.
Right, so you think this method is so stoooopid that even a goat would have found it out by now. Let me tell you something, just practice this a few times. And try it out on your friends. You will be surprised by their surprise. I can do this easily now and have fooled many of my friends. Only I don't call myself god or have VIPs fall at my feet.
I have seen these things happen hundreds of times. I have received vibhuti, laddu (a sweet) and stuff like these myself. In our hostel there was a coterie who knew about all these tricks. We used to have a ball of a time in the darshan line and used to share the hilarious experiences after the show is over. A couple of experiences would be in place.
Once, Swami was out of the mandir and was collecting letters. He had a small silver pendant in his hand which we had all seen when he had gone past us in the line. He had transfered it to his right hand and was just waiting for someone to give it to, when a devotee from a back row extended a letter. Swami bent forward and out stretched his right palm to receive it. It was a fine Bangalore morning, the sun was out and the pendant in his hand was gleaming for all to see! We went black and blue for a second and suppressing a threatening-to-explode laugh, looked away. Swami went ahead, unperturbed, and gave the pendant to some important looking guy down the line. We were talking about this for a whole week and even thought of writing a letter to Swami asking him to be more careful.
In another occasion, a singer had come to Brindavan and we were inside the mandir listening to him sing. Swami wanted to give him a watch and it was in readiness beneath his left thigh in the sofa on which he was sitting. I was sitting in the third row from Swami and was keeping a 'close' watch. The song got over and Swami shifted in his seat a slight bit and the watch was now in his left hand. He bent forward and moved the watch to his right hand. I saw this and looked up and saw that Swami was watching me! I turned red but so did Swami! He started shifting around a lot, asked one of the students to change the direction of the table fan and when the audience was looking away put the watch back into his left hand. Now, the student who was changing the fan was a nervous wreck with everyone watching him and whatever happened, there were sparks flying out of the socket! Soon a few other students went there to set it alright. By now the watch had gone back to below the thigh. That singer never got it that day (I really felt sorry for him). The next day morning, in the darshan line, Swami came near me and opened his right palm before my eyes and said, "Hmm..Namasivayah! (He called me this since I used to give talks in Tamil and started all my talks with "Namasivayah vaazhga! Naadhan thaaL vaazhga!"), nEthu ennannavO ninaichaachu! raathiri ennannavO swapnam kandaachu! paarthukkO! oNNum illa! Doubting Thomas! Doubting Thomas!". I wish I could have asked him to open the left palm then since, I knew he had something there! Well, now this seems funny, but at that time I got very scared and wrote a very apologetic letter to him!
Note from the author of the site: some images commenting what has been written by the articles's author. Click on the images to enlarge them.
OK, right hand is empty, we can see it... but the left is quite in a "strange" posture, to hold letters.
This photo was evidently taken in posture, but hands' position may give an idea of the passing of items from one hand to another.
Again left hand, always in a non-natural posture. There are better ways to hold letters in hand... this one has to be quite uncomfortable.
Finally this old photo: notice the absolutely innatural way by which Sai Baba holds letters. What there's inside closed fists?
There are a couple of other standard tricks that he does. During Dussehra, he does a Vibhuthi abhishek of Shirdi Sai Baba. He gets a small pot and turns it upside down and shows there is nothing in it. After this, he puts his hands inside the pot and vibhuthi starts flowing out. Even a goat with a rational mind would figure out what he is doing. Take a pot, fill it with vibuthi and solidify it with some water and let it stand. Till you disturb it, nothing will fall out.
Another thing that he used to do was materialize linga. He does this by regurgitation (yes!). He makes motions as if he is trying to get it out of his nabhi and soon enough, has it out of his mouth. You will find plenty of these if you visit the museum in Puttaparthi. The way he does this is also simple. There is always a queue of trusted lieutenants(sp?) who stand beside him and pass him white hand kerchiefs on which he would eventually place the linga that 'comes out'. In one of these kerchiefs, the linga itself will come and all he has to do is to take it close to his mouth and make a motion as if the linga just dropped into the kerchief. I have not seen this myself (he no longer does this) but I have seen videos of this. My point is, once you have proved that one of his miracles is magic, the rest don't need any proof.
Some students in the college always know these and live a life of forced devotion and false pretense. They have to, for if they don't life can get very unpleasant. The parents of most of these students are very ardent devotees whose lives have been defined by their devotion to Swami. It would be impossible to convince them that Swami is not what they think he is but only a cheap charlatan doing popular tricks. The lives of these students are truely pitiable. They live a constant Jeckyll and Hyde life from which there is no reprieve.
But lives of some students are more horrible.
Originally, I had divided this article into two parts - the first part about things in which I had a first-hand experience and the second part about things in which I do not have first-hand experience. But the first part got so big that I decided to post it in two parts. So this is the part about which I do not have any personal experience (thank holy heavens for that!)
This article is more sensitive than the previous two. I
would advise extreme reader discretion before proceeding ahead. Do not read ahead if you
have anything to do with Sathya Sai Baba. DO NOT FLAME ME. You have been warned.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba: The ugly.
Yes, I do not have personal experiences in these. But I know what I am going to write is 100% true because I have heard first-hand accounts of these bizarre things. I have looked at enough circumstantial evidences along with these witness' accounts that I have no hesitation in telling that the following is true.
How do I start telling this to you, gentle reader?
In my very first few days in our hostel, I had the distinct impression that something ugly was going on in the hostel about which everone knew but no one wanted to talk. Whenever Swami came to Bangalore, there always used to be a few students who got interviews every other day. These students were often referred to as those who are 'in form' (a cricket analogy) with Swami. These students were among the most privileged in the hostel. They could go outside the hostel (a student is allowed to go outside the hostel only during vacations) as and when they like and behave specially. The wardens and the lecturers used to consult them before anything significant was done in the hostel. These students kept within themselves for most of the time.
I was preoccupied with my own troubles and did not keep any close look at these, though I was curious. When I got to know about Swami from my seniors, they asked me if I noticed anything strange about the hostel. I told them. They smiled and asked me to keep an open eye, promising that they would tell me all about it soon.
It did not take me very long to find out what was different about these students. They were all gay. Now, kindly bring down those raised eyebrows, my dear reader. All the indications, body languages, special jokes about husband and wives etc were there and it did not take a sleuth's effort to divine what was going on. I told about this to my seniors and the fact they told me was startling to say the least.
Many of these students were made gay ('sodomized' would be an unrefined word) by Swami, who himself is a gay.
I did not believe it when they told me this. But not long after, I heard the experiences as narrated by the students who had undergone the trauma themselves. Now, it so happened that a couple of these students were Tamils with whom I became friendly quite soon. One of them used to tell me harrowing stories. When Swami was in Brindavan, he used to get the call for interview at least once in three days. Whereas a student when he gets an interview is usually so elated and pleased that Swami has recognized his devotion etc. this boy, lets call him Nandan, always have a grim face as he walked into the bungalow. He never attended classes those days in which he got an interview. I have often seen him show marks in his chest and chin and say things like, "innikku kadichtaarudaa!", followed by a flow of choice words of slang. Nandan often used to get covers from Swami in public and sometimes he would be asked to open it. It would contain crisp hundred rupee notes. There is another word for giving money for such acts.
Nandan was helpless. He could not go home and complain. His family and parents were devotees for 30 years and their very lives have been defined around Baba. Nandan since he knew the world has been knowing Swami and none else as god. He was first initiated into doing this by Swami when he was in school. Swami told him that he (Swami) was the only purusha in the world and the whole world was his wife. Nandan was asked to think of himself as Radha devoted to the Krishna. Nandan's whole attitude towards life is now irrevocably changed.
There was this another guy, Kumar(say), who was called for interview for the first time. He was so elated. That afternoon, a bunch of us went up to him (he was our junior) and asked him what happened. He had a blissful look in his face when he said this. "Swami asked me if I had Stomach ache. I said that by Swami's grace I don't. Swami laughed and said 'why do you have to hide it from me? tell me do you have a stomach ache?'. I don't know why but I said yes. Swami said he will cure it and produced Sandalwood oil from thin air and rubbed it on my stomach and below. I will never forget the experience".
We did not need such proofs, however. It was always obvious. Jokes with double meaning (yes!), pattings on the cheek, pinching students (He had the horrible habit of putting the hand inside the shirt pocket and pinching the chest) and such crap. Students who entered this quicksand of destruction, whether willingly or otherwise, lead an unspeakable life. Devoted students held them in awe and the students who knew the 'stuff' either despised them or pitied them. And they had no recourse.
There were students who went dangerously close to such a fate and escaped. My friend, Ramanan (say), was high in the hit list when, he smartly realised this and moved out of sight by not attending Bhajans or hiding in the back rows etc. That was a time when I was in the hit list too, but our guardian angels intervened in the form of a summer vacation.
Towards the end of my stay in the place, the disease was only spreading. I was in Bangalore. In Puttaparthi (where we used to go some 5 times a year) things were far worse in numbers. I have heard that one out of every 10 students are gay either directly by the big man or transitively. The atmosphere, an all-boys place with zero outer-world exposure for a prolonged period during adolescence is only conducive to such a thing.
This, in my opinion, is the ugliest part of Swami. We used to divulge the information about Swami to our juniors ('baptisation') and many times have had, among ourselves, whether it is advisable or not. I had always said that it should be done if only to make them realise about this ugly part.
Epilogue: Writing this whole series, even the last part, was incredibly easy since all the incidents are so indelibly impressed in my mind. Not that I want to look back to it. Apart from this aspect we had a great time, great fun in Bangalore. More the restrictions, more the fun in breaking them :-). I made some of my best friends in Bangalore.
Suffice to say, it was an experience of a lifetime.
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