Some experiences from Kali Fi
From kali_fi on:
Sathya Sai Baba Discussion Club, message 331 and 332:
Date: 8/16/00 6:46 a.m.
I guess the way people are joining the SB movement can be very different in different parts of the world. But its true that the official teachings are that no missioning should be done. It is supposable Sai Baba himself who calls all the devotees to join. The organization was just to supply information for those interested. My experience is from the Stockholm center in Sweden and at least there we didn't have very active missioning. It was an issue to NOT mission. And even our 'information evenings' we didn't advertise very much, just a small note in a newspaper.
Its all very subtle, and I think I was on my watch in the start to be sure this wasn't a cult (did I fool myself yes). I think it is effective because the devotees there are true believers, good and honest people. No pulling you in, just listening and sharing of their fantastic experiences. A warm feeling of 'we have found the true GOD, but you just make up your own mind, you are very welcome but its OK if you don't join as God is everywhere, we will love you anyway'.
Typically people would ask how you heard of Sai Baba, and talking about it it would always seem like not just an odd coincidence but like Sai Baba through some means were personally answering your prayers. So you felt you were picked by God himself. In the Sai-family its very common to see everything as 'small miracles' or 'signs' or messages from Sai Baba himself.
I don't know if all this is done consciously to be effective, but I can see now that:
1. Because the missioning isn't very active there is never much of a confrontation with skeptics or people openly questioning Sai Baba as a fraud or cult leader.
2. The people coming to listen to meetings are already open to the possibility, are interested and feel they come of their own will and don't feel pulled in.
3. Once there its very friendly and open to any views, no one hitting dogmas down your truth, just a lot of people that seem to have found 'happiness'.
4. As no one tries to convert you, you put down your guards and subtle you start to see also how your own experiences are really *Sai Baba himself calling you* (who wouldn't like God to pick you out, and because you came there in the first place you probably were in a stage in your life where you needed God or something in your life).
5. Its effective as they are all very honest and good people only living in an illusion themselves.
6. From the start you are told not to try to convert others or to try to argue with non believers. You are told to practice not preach. I followed this and because of this I never was confronted with 'differing views'. So this way my new believes were never challenged.
More in next about family and friends...
Message 332Date: 8/16/00 7:04 a.m. Re: Recruiting and family
Again how devotees relate to old friends and family differs a lot. You are not told to leave your family but to love them and be a good example. There were some devotees where the whole family joined and others where only part or one in a family.
My personal experience was that my family (parents and sisters, as I'm single) was a bit curious and maybe on their guard. But as we are very much respecting personal choices in matters of belief in my family no one was trying to talk me out of it. They just checked I was doing fine. Part of it all was that I got to know Sai Baba at a time when I was very depressed and joining the movement made me feel much better. So they were all happy I was feeling good. And as I kept good contact with my family and never tried to convert them they never interfered but respected my choice. The same with my friends.
But I also know of devotees who had the urge to convert friends and family and always talk of Sai Baba to everyone, and in those cases sometimes it came to a distancing from family and friends.
I'm glad I had the kind of friends ad family that I have as they been there all the time and still are here for me as I found SB is a fraud.
As to what is best for worried non-believers, family or friends, to do when you see a near and dear one duped, I think there is no patent answer. You just have to feel in how much you can argue or how to supply alternative views as devotees are not all the same. Some might cut off all contact if you are too negative about Sai, some might just listen and smile and let it pass as they think its Sai Baba testing them and that their duty is just to continue loving you and be a good example of Sai Devotee.
Well these were just some experiences I have had as a devotee (and now an ex-devotee). I hope it is of some help for you being friends of devotees.