INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
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David Christopher LaneDavid Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).

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The Shadow
of a God-Man

Exposing Sathya Sai Baba

David Lane

Introduction

Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Sri Sathya Sai Baba

I first heard of Sathya Sai Baba when I was 15 years old. We were on a family summer vacation in Idyllwild, California, and on one lazy afternoon I walked into the local library which was then situated in Fern Valley a short distance away from our cabin. I picked up a book by Arnold Schulman simply titled Baba, which described in colorful details the miraculous exploits of Sathya Sai Baba, who had become renowned throughout India for both his extraordinary powers and for his teachings on love. Although I enjoyed the narrative immensely, I felt even then that something rang false about Schulman's narrative. Simply put, Sai Baba's miracles looked suspiciously like magic tricks. Years later, my gut reaction turned out to be correct, as overwhelming photographic evidence emerged which indeed demonstrated that Sai Baba faked his miracles by doing some very amateurish magic tricks—tricks, by the way, that even a child could reproduce given enough practice.

Understanding Cults and Spiritual Movements

My Baba and I

In the 1980s, Brian Walsh and I founded a journal called Understanding Cults and Spiritual Movements (UCSM) which was designed to critically analyze a number of gurus and masters in America, Europe, and India. In the second to last issue of that journal, I wrote a review of an affirmative Sai Baba book entitled My Baba and I, which was written by Jack Hislop, who at the time was the President of the North American Sai Baba organization. While I enjoyed the book, I found some of Hislop's claims to be deeply questionable. Jack Hislop didn't take too much offense at my pointed review and we began a friendly correspondence that lasted over a year or so. Ultimately, this led to a serious discussion on whether or not Sathya Sai Baba had actually raised one of his disciples, Walter Cowan, from the dead. Since Hislop was very close to Sathya Sai Baba at that time, he served more or less as a vocal spokesperson for Sai Baba who claimed that he actually did raise the Walter Cowan, a former Kirpal Singh initiate and group representative, from the dead.

In the early 1990s, I created a website called The Neural Surfer. Several sections of that website were devoted to shedding light on the hidden exploits of a number of nefarious spiritual leaders, including Thakar Singh, John-Roger Hinkins, and Sathya Sai Baba. Eventually, a number of devotees of Sai Baba contacted me about how they were duped by their guru, primarily because they felt they had been sexually exploited by their leader under false pretenses. Several of these devotees described in vivid detail about how Sai Baba had sexually seduced them. After these reports appeared on my website, I started getting attacked from various Sai factions worldwide, which eventually led to letters being written to UCSD and MSAC demanding that my website be taken off the internet. In addition, several websites were created attempting to cast doubts on Sai's sexual exploits as well as attacking the veracity of my research on him and the integrity of those who claimed abuse. One very highly placed politician in India contacted UCSD about my website and I was politely asked by the Webmaster at UCSD to take down my site to avoid further political turmoil. I then transferred my site to MSAC, but even here the President of the college was asked to shut down The Neural Surfer. Thankfully, the President of the college refused to do so on the grounds of academic freedom.

Because of this, I felt it would be important to create an open discussion forum on Yahoo groups where interested participants could voice their experiences and opinions (positively or negatively) on Sai Baba. For many years this became a focal point for airing many grievances about Sathya Sai Baba, particularly his sexual relations with a number of disciples from around the world. Unfortunately, however, it also became a haven for a tremendous amount of spam generated posting. I also started to receive a number of disturbing personal threats from varying quarters because I was the founder of the forum. Finally, I had to shut down the group due to these continuing and unrelenting threats.

In 1999/2000 I was contacted by a couple of highly placed Sai Baba devotees who wanted to present their “findings” to the world about the hidden side of Sai Baba. We had discussions about putting their material on my website and other portals. Eventually, they decided to create a separate site singularly devoted to the manipulative exploits of India's most famous guru. Their findings caused a worldwide uproar in the Sai Baba community and led to the cover story in India Today about Sai Baba's exploits. BBC even commissioned a documentary entitled The Secret Swami which went into lurid detail about the guru's hidden life.

The following articles, which date back to the late 1980s, provide a glimpse into some of the controversies surrounding Sathya Sai Baba during his lifetime.

MY BABA AND I by John S. Hislop
A Book Review

Dr. John S. Hislop is a remarkable person: intelligent, well-read, extremely open-minded, and a seasoned spiritual seeker. Thus, it is difficult not to be impressed with his personal account of his relationship with the renowned Avatar Sathya Sai Baba of India. It is an easy reading book, filled with fascinating vignettes of Sathya Sai Baba's alleged miraculous powers and intense love for his devotees.

However, there is a major problem with the book: the supposed evidence Hislop cites in support of Sai Baba's miracles (like materializing objects from thin air) has not been scientifically examined or tested. For instance, how do we know that Sathya Sai Baba is nothing more than a clever magician (as D. Scott Rogo, Amazing Randi, and others suggest)? Why doesn't Sai Baba materialize an object which is so totally beyond physical manipulation that even materialistic scientists would concede to its miraculous origins? Put bluntly, Sai Baba produces religious trinkets; he has never produced a billion dollars—money which could be used for thousands of starving Indians.

Why not? If we apply the principle of Occam's Razor and the suggestive accounts of Tal Brooke (author of the very controversial, Lord Of The Air) the answer is fairly obvious: Sai Baba is not a man of miracles, he is a man of shrewd magic tricks. Now there is nothing wrong with a magician preaching love for God, but there is something reprehensible about a stage artist claiming his sleight of hand tricks are Divinely ordained. Hislop writes at length about the most extraordinary object Sathya Sai Baba has ever created for the joy of his devotees—a small cross with a minaturized figure of Jesus Christ. According to Hislop, the object was constructed from the actual cross Jesus was nailed to. Sai Baba reconstituted the material from its disintegrated molecular parts. An incredible tale, no doubt, but where's the proof? The cross has never been thoroughly scrutinized by a team of qualified scientists. Moreover, even a cursory look at the cross (a photograph of it appears in Hislop's book) does not suggest a Divine origin; it looks like any other religious trinket—except that it is unusually small. The replication also has a major historical flaw in it as it depicts Jesus with nails in the palms of his hands. History tells us that people crucified in Jesus' time had nails driven in their wrists not their palms. Yet, despite the evidence to the contrary, Hislop waxes in eloquent prose about Sathya Sai Baba's amazing manifestations, forgetting in the process that "Amazing Randi"—the noted paranormal debunker—can also perform the same "miracles" Sathya Sai Baba can, although he does not claim Divine intervention.

This is not to suggest that Sathya Sai Baba doesn't have good things to say about spirituality (he does), but only that there is no positive proof whatsoever to substantiate Sai Baba's Avatar status, except for the (scientifically) untested faith and testimony of his earnest devotees. I personally welcome the day when Sai Baba performs his miracles under scientifically controlled circumstances; then, and only then, can we make some rational pronouncements about his divine powers.

Jack Hislop Correspondence

Dear David:

Thanks indeed for the current issue of your journal which is just now forwarded to me by my Birth Day Publishing Co., and for the kind words about the book, My Baba and I, and its author. From the writing to the editing to the printing to the expensive paper, your journal is a quality product and as such is aimed at and no doubt reaches influential people. You are certainly an intellectual man with a long background of sound, hard practical experience, and yourself and the people who read your words are most important in society because you are opinion makers, and your firm opinions influence the attitudes and thus the actions of people in general. This importance of opinion makers is well known, of course, and I respect the truism only to insure you that I take very seriously what you say about Sathya Sai Baba.

Sai Baba

I doubt if anyone who reads your words about Sathya Sai Baba could in justice say that your words are unreasonable. You are an experienced investigative reporter in the field of claims of spiritual power and spiritual leadership, and your findings certainly justify a skeptical kindly prove to me approach to even such a giant figure as Sathya Sai Baba, for to your own direct knowledge there are only the claims of some persons like me that Sathya Sai Baba is in fact what we say he is.

One difficulty is in equating the validity of Sathya Sai Baba with the fact or fiction of the materialization of objects although I do understand the viewpoint that false in one aspect, then suspect in all aspects. The materialization of objects is a very minor part of Baba's work: in the world, and he attributes no proof of divine wisdom to these manifestations, simply saying the ability is natural to him whereas it is acquired by yogis after long practice and even then is not stable and permanent. As you well know, there are yogis in Burma and in India who have developed yogic or siddhi powers and the materialization of objects is one of these powers. I personally know three yogis who have siddhi powers and no doubt there are many other such yogis, and perhaps even some in the West. These powers are not proof of Divinity powers, but are powers within the capability of human persons. However, it is quite correct for a keen mind to require proof satisfactory to that mind that a particular person does indeed have an out-of-ordinary ability. Such proof is direct when the phenomena is directly encountered. For instance, when I am sitting against Baba's knee and see his hand extended well beyond body and clothing and from his open palm in front of my eyes and in front of the eyes of a roomful of sharp-witted university students springs a rosary of 108 perfectly matched pearls, which he then gives to one of the people there, I know directly that I have witnessed an event in this relative world and that it would be unreasonable to demand that the event be repeated under laboratory controls.

Sai Baba

Over the 19 years that I have known Baba, although I have not kept count, I have witnessed well over 100 materializations with myself in close proximity to Baba, and some of these have been most extraordinary. It would be of benefit to everyone within the—I suspect—quite large circle of your influence if when you are next in India you would pay a visit to Sathya Sai Baba, witness materializations, and then say what would be necessary to validate the experience for you. If you care to send a note if and when you go, I will do what I can to help secure an interview with Baba—this is not the easiest thing in the world in that usually from 20,000 to 50,000 people are there, each hoping and praying for an interview. Benefit to people living now arises from the world-wide social and educational work of Baba and from his profound spiritual wisdom. Even more direct is the deepening of one's understanding in which comes with opening one's heart and ears to Baba. In one's mind there opens a perception of the distinction between appearance and reality, and in one's heart foolishness weakens and there is happiness instead. David, if I may say to you, what if in actuality Sathya Sai Baba is even more than what his devotees claim, what if in fact there is an embodiment of Divinity that except for name and form is the indivisible Absolute Consciousness fully there, then would it not be a great pity to be alive without having cognized such a great wonder? Would it not be a great pity, David, to let such a happening remain unobserved by you, remain unknown to you because of intervening ideas and concepts? You go to India frequently, I believe. Why not add a day or so to your itinerary and visit Sathya Sai Baba at Whitefield or Prasanthi Nilayam, and then make a judgement? Stop over in Bangalore and in twenty minutes a taxi will carry you to Whitefield, or Baba is in Prasanthi Nilayam, then in three hours the taxi will have you there. With appreciation of your work, and kindest regards to your goodself,

Sincerely, Hislop [Dr. John S. Hislop]

[UCSM: 1988, Editor's Note]

Although I did get a chance to go to India in March of 1988, my schedule did not allow me to visit with Sathya Sai Baba in South India. Dr. Hislop is right, however, in his insistence that a researcher see for himself (instead of relying on secondary accounts) whether or not a particular guru is genuine. Book knowledge is helpful, but not sufficient. Thus, it is vitally important to balance our rational skepticism with experiential interaction and observation. I must say also that Sathya Sai Baba's disciples have been very open and outgoing about supplying information about their guru and his teachings. Indeed, I have found Sai Baba devotees to be some of the nicest and friendliest people I have interviewed.

Modern Miracles

Thankfully, there is a new book on Sathya Sai Baba which goes a long way in trying to determine the relative authenticity of his miracles. Erlendur Haraldsson's Modern Miracles: An Investigative Report on Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba is the first book of its kind. Haraldsson, who has gone to India eight times, approaches the alleged miracles of Sai Baba with a critical, but open outlook. Although the Icelandic professor of psychology fails to get Sathya Sai Baba to undergo controlled experiments, he does nevertheless get to the truth behind many reported miracles. A number of them Haraldsson debunks, including the famous "resurrection of Walter Cowan", it which turns out to be a fairly exaggerated yarn (Haraldsson interviewed the attending doctors and none of them ever reported Cowan dying; he was very sick, they reported, but that's it.) However, Haraldsson is quick to point out that there have not been any confirmed reports of Sai Baba using sleight of hand tricks to produce vibuti or other religious artifacts. Simply put, there's no scientific proof that Sai Baba's does miracles (only suggestive accounts and testimonies) but there is also no evidence at this stage of fraud. The paradox of Sai Baba remains. I highly recommend Modern Miracles to all UCSM readers. Undoubtedly, Haraldsson's study is the most balanced book ever written on the miraculous work of Sathya Sai Baba. Another book that touches upon the Sathya Sai Baba controversy, at least from a skeptical perspective, is Tal Brooke's Lord of the Air which has been republished in India in a paperback version titled, Avatar of Night. Although Brooke's work is basically a polemic, it does provide the reader with an inside glimpse (and a contrary interpretation) of the life and work of Sathya Sai Baba.

Walter Cowan's death and resurrection
(excerpted from BC Skeptics)

As I mentioned in the previous section, Hislop is the major proponent of this anecdote in North America. David Lane is a researcher and editor of the journal mentioned below in Hislop's letter. He is broadly sympathetic with religious aims and is concerned to separate the unreliable from the more reliable forms and claims of religion. When he read Haraldsson's book, he wrote Hislop, and Hislop gave this response.

Hislop's Explanation of Cowan's death and resurrection

It was very kind of you to send me the Research Issue of your most excellent Journal (UCSM). Many thanks... Dr. Heraldsson's conclusion is that the story is false because there is no objective evidence that Cowan died, and that statements made about the incident are themselves false. On the other hand, unless I am to be considered as either lying or in error when I quoted Sathya Sai Baba, there is the other side. Since I did quote Sathya Sai Baba correctly there being several conversations between us on the topic it really boils down to the issue of whether or not Sathya Sai Baba was lying. Dr. Heraldsson's conclusion has to be taken, I believe, that because of statements made by the hospital's doctor and by Judge Damadar Rao the proper conclusion is that Cowan did not die and therefore Baba lied when he told me (and others) that Cowan had died and had been brought back to life, not once only but on three occasions. I do not see how this inference can be escaped... Two points placed into emphasis by Dr. Heraldsson were the denials of the doctor at the hospital in Madras, and the denial of Judge Damadar Rao.

Mrs. Cowan told me that the doctor came to her at her hotel and demanded that she provide him with a ticket and with sponsorship to the USA. This she would not do and according to her, the doctor's denials arose thereafter. Judge Damadar Rao is a fine Indian gentleman, respected and admired by everyone who knows him. His son is the Principal of the Sathya Sai Men's College at Whitefield. The Judge and his wife, long-time devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, are now living their retirement years in Baba's Ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, at Puttaparthi. I do not see how Judge Damadar's statement and mine can ever be reconciled. When Dr. Heraldsson asked the Judge, some thirteen or fourteen years after the incident, the Judge's memory was as stated in Dr. Haraldsson's book. When I set forth my account, about a month after the event, my memory was that the Judge told me he had independently gone to the hospital the day following Cowan's death and verified the circumstances of his admittance to the hospital. How can I now deny my memory of that time, and how can the Judge deny his present memory? Neither is possible. Each of us is saying the truth to the best of his knowledge. Thus, I can see no end to the different stories about Walter Cowan's `resurrection'.... Thanks again for the Journal, and for our past communications.

—John S. Hislop

Sathya Sai Baba Exploits: Letter One

Hello Professor Lane, as we had talked, I am giving you a thorough account of my experiences with Sai Baba. I hope that this will be of interest to people and will help them to understand what Baba is all about. Thank you for giving me the chance to write this essay. I first got to know of Sai Baba in 1985 or 1986 through my brother.

I visited Sai Baba three times, on three straight summers. Once I stayed there one and half months, another time I stayed two and half months and the last time I was there for three and half. My first two trips I had seven interviews and a total of seven private interviews, with just me and Baba in the private interview room. Baba had materialized a gold ring with three stones which he told me were diamonds. The ring did not fit the finger on which Baba had placed it but I left it there regardless, as that was the finger Baba had chosen to put it on. Here I would like to mention that of the four rings which Baba has "materialized" for my family and myself, none of them fit correctly. In all the books regarding the "miracles" of Sai Baba you will read that ALL such rings fit the person perfectly. I have never read a book were it was told that almost all rings fit perfectly. And also, later I found out that the stones were not diamonds. The stones after a while got black and two of the three fell out. I took this to mean that Baba is angry at me for not being good, for not practicing his teachings as well as I COULD, for trying and not doing. Another thing that was interesting was that Baba would not be able to tell things correctly. In one instance I was told by him that the night before I had fever. I didn't, neither was I in any kind of heat. :o ) Perhaps he wanted me to, but I wasn't. I just let it go, destroyed it right there and then, that very instant. No doubts were allowed.

In my first private interview, Baba did a ceremony which is supposed to be sacred in Hinduism and is done to all the followers by their gurus. This practice involves the guru putting oil on his hand and pushing his hand upward between the front testicle and the back area. That area is supposed to be a special area which is very important to spiritual practice of the devotee. This action is supposed to awaken this area, which is supposedly full of energy, which will then play an important role in the thought of the devotees. In my case, it was more of the opposite and my thoughts were never changed for the better. I was getting worst as time passed.

In every private interview after that Baba would ask me to put down my pants while he massaged my testicle. I would reason that Baba perhaps is passing some energy to that area. Perhaps I had damaged that area or something in that area by playing with myself. I had found reasons in order to destroy any doubts that might come to mind. In one occasion, Baba was not just massaging it, he was trying to give me a hard on. The thought that he is doing so came to my mind then, but of course I destroyed it. Now, as an ex-devotee, I am able to see and think about what he was doing, rather than destroy it. At this interview, as he was pushing his hand back and forth on my testicle, I was telling him about many different things on my mind. Of course, I was so sure that he is doing the best thing for me that I was thinking of something else. I was telling him about the problems in my country of Iran, how the people are suffering, the problems of my family and my own problems. He couldn't get me hard so all of a sudden with anger and an angry face he threw my thing up against my stomach and with an angry face he turned his back to me. I thought he is probably angry at me because I should have more faith in him, he already knows all my problems, everything in my mind, and he will help me in whatever way he can. Actually, he was angry that I didn't get hard and so when he turned towards me he told me to put my pants up again. This was the only occasion which he kept some distance between me and him while he was playing with me. Every other time, he would hug me and do it. My question to those who believe that Baba's intentions in playing with me was pure is that if Baba says not a blade of grass moves without his will, then why does he have to touch me in that way to perform whatever pure intention or will he had in mind? Or is it that when he was playing with me, he was being good to me by giving me the privilege of being close to him and interact with him? For those who are not following, Sai followers believe that Baba knows all our inner thoughts and the reason why he talks to us is because he is trying to talk to us for our own enjoyment. He really doesn't have to talk at all or ask us questions regarding our lives since he is the All-knowing. He does so for our sake, so that we can talk to him and interact with him. Could it be that Sai Baba was playing with me in order to satisfy my needs to interact with him? And what kind of satisfaction did he - or do you - think I would get from that kind of interaction?

In almost all of such interviews, Baba would breath harder and sometimes he would make noises too. Something I forgot to tell you about the private interview above was that while I was telling Baba about these problems, his face was getting uneasy while he constantly, the whole time was looking down at my testicle. His eyebrows got twisted and his face got more and more upset as he was trying to play with me. I wonder why? He sometimes would tell me that I was weak there, there was too much being wasted from there, etc. Why then did he touch it? Was he fixing things? Why did he have to fix things by touching and rubbing and going back and forth?

In one interview, he stood up while I was kneeling on my knees. With his right hand, took my head and put it against his stomach. With his left hand he took my right hand and put it against his testicle. He rubbed my hand there for a short while and this time he was making loud noises of .... I tried to look up to his face to see it, but he pushed my head hard against his stomach and did not allow me to look up. So, I didn't try again. While he took my hand there, I felt his testicle, although I didn't grab it, I just let him direct my hand and do whatever he wants. At the same time, I would touch him by the outside part of my hand. As I said before, he was making loud voices while he was doing that. This took about two minutes before he let go of me and my hand and said "This is God"!!! Whatever!!! It was his way of putting a controlled mind to think and find many answers to what that whole situation was all about. It was his way of covering the sick idea of having me touch him, and also covering his loud, wild voices. Anyhow, those of you who have a clear and logical mind understand me.

I had these experiences and still it took me over six months to deal with the movie that I mentioned before. After dealing with this movie, I went to look over some of the movies which we had about Baba. These movies are movies which are prevalent within Sai devotees. The very first movie which I watched is called "God lives in India". In that movie they showed about four or five instances which Baba cheats the "materialization" of ash - ash is supposedly holy and is supposedly being created by Baba from thin air. One of these instances is a very close, clear shot which shows Baba take something with his right hand from underneath of some letters in his left hand while bending over a bit to talk to someone. He then takes the letters by his right hand and cleans his left hand. Then he takes the letters from the right hand and immediately starts to motion his right hand in circular motion which is a "sign" that he is going to create something out of thin air. This shot is a close-up and very clear. After seeing this first movie, I knew the truth and didn't watch any other movies. I am sure if the other movies have segments that show Baba's actions twenty seconds prior to each "creation" of ash or whatever, you can see him cheating.

More recently, there was a movie on cable TV here in the US which showed Baba cheat on materialization of a ring or necklace, I don't remember. There was much argument about it on the internet newsgroups. Bon Govani, a Sai devotee, defended his opinion of what the movie showed by saying each person saw a different thing. What everyone, including Bon agree on is that Baba does some weird thing with his hand under a plate before he brings down his hand and starts to circle his hand. Sai devotees have their own way of thinking and so their own reasons and answers. It will be impossible to convince these people on anything. The more you use your reasons to find something or some way to prove your points, the more they will use their twisted reasoning to counter attack your ideas. Their counter attack is 99% illogical since they are used to twisting things around. Besides what good is a logical path which starts with "Baba is God..."? Baba is God, therefore, he couldn't have cheated on that movie, therefore, everyone sees a different thing when they see that movie. They don't think that what kind of motion is Baba making? Why is he making that motion? Why is he making it under the plate? Why the need of that motion? Etc.

So, I am looking forward to getting a lot of illogical responses to this essay. I welcome them and look forward to disproving any illogical ideas. I hope that their responses and my replies will give all of you a hint of how brainwashed the Sai devotees are and what a sorry state of mind they have. Hopefully, those Sai devotees who still have some reason left can benefit substantially from this and can overcome all mind control tricks that have been imposed on them. And, hopefully, all those who are considering Sai Baba, would have the luck to see these postings and can benefit from them too. I really hope so.

One thing that I forgot to say is that on my last trip to India, there were about 20 American and Indian American college students which came to attend Baba's summer classes which mainly concentrate on spirituality. Some of these students considered themselves devotees, others had come to see and judge Baba for themselves. In an interview Baba "materialized" a ring or something else for either all of those students or majority of them. At least half of those students say that they saw Baba CHEAT. They reported that they saw Baba take and put things from the sides or back - I don't remember which one they said - of the chair that he was seating on. When I say the sides or the back I mean the sides of the cushion of the chair or the backside of the cushion. These students were firm in what they saw. After this interview, some four days later, Baba was out giving darshan - walking around, sometimes stopping to talk to some individuals, sometimes choosing individuals or groups of individuals for an interview. He stopped in front of the American students which were sitting in an area that was designated to them. He made the circular motion, and supposedly created some ash and threw it on one of the student's face. During this time, his back was to me. When he turned around I saw his face was very angry. He was pissed! As usual, as you know why, I didn't give importance to this. Later, one of the boys in the American group, with whom I had become very close told me that this student who was thrown ash to face and eyes was very vocal about what they had seen in the interview room, namely, Baba taking things from the chair on which he sat on. Now, if Baba's life is his message as he says so, then is it right that we act in this way when someone criticizes us? I am sure I'll get a few reasons as to why Baba did such a thing. Or at best, I might get something like Baba's intentions are not known to us and that I can't say why he did that. I'll be looking forward to reading the reasons.

Sathya Sai Baba Exploits: Letter Two

Dear Dave,

I was a Sai Devotee for about 4 years. In that time I had several interviews with Sai Baba. On my final trip to Sai Baba, I began to question his philosophy and powers. On that trip, among other things, I examined closely the process which he "materialized" objects. It soon became clear to me that he used sleight of hand. He hides rings between cushions, etc. It is not hard to recognize, if you want to see the truth in the situation. I soon left the organization. I am interested in finding more people like myself. Unfortunately I had experiences similar to those described by Tal Brooke. I have unsuccessfully tried to contact him. Do you have any advice for me?

Regards, [name redacted]

Sathya Sai Baba Exploits: Letter Three

Dear Dave,

My first witness account of sleight of hand was in Brindaven. I saw Baba come out of the personal interview room and sit down. As he was sitting there I noticed a large gold watch under his small hand, which he was unsuccessfully trying to hide. A moment later he made the familiar circular motion with his hand as if he were materializing the object, and then gave a student the watch. On another occasion I saw Sai Baba reach between the cushions of his chair for something, and then moments later he made the circular motion and showed everyone a small container filled with vibhuti, the gray ash. I then noticed that behind the cushion in his chair there was something shiny, and he paid careful attention to correct the position of the cushion to hide the object. Another time I saw him take a worn bracelet from a man, then with his hand cupped blew on it three times at the same time moving his hand up and down. On the final movement, he tossed the chain into the side of his chair so it slid down between the inside of the chairs large arm and his leg. He then discreetly took took something from his other hand and made the circular motion and gave the man a new bracelet. What is really funny about that situation is that Sai Baba forgot to take the old bracelet from his chair when he left, so when he got up, there it lay in plain view for everyone in the room. A student I was with, and who was very devoted to Baba, picked it up and looked at it, confirming that it was the old bracelet. When Baba returned and noticed his mistake, he scolded this student, who was sitting right at the foot of Baba's chair and could not miss the bracelet. Then Baba sat and in a flash picked up the bracelet and very discreetly tossed it into the outside upper corner of the arm of the chair. There were no visible pockets there, but there is a very large seem, and the arms of the chair are huge enough to store lots of things. The student, in the first account, who received the watch is an American who emigrated from India. He came from a very wealthy family in India who were big contributors to the Sai cause. What I came to realize, is there is a system in India similiar to our mafia. Very prominent families in India support gurus who have great political power, and this is how these families have their influence over political policy. Of course I don't have any evidence for all this, but in my conversations with students at Sai's University, this was explained to me. It is also well known that prominent figures in the Indian government make fairly frequent stops to visit with Sai Baba, including the president of India. (I was in India when the president came to visit Sai Baba. When this happens there is huge comotion and Indians crowd darshan to see the president, not Sai Baba). The students also know that Sai is a hoax, that he does not materialise a thing. However they are getting a very inexpensive education, so they keep their mouths shut. The student I talked with most, would not tell me other things that he knew, but I am sure that it had to do with the students who spent the night with Baba. I know this because this is where he would no longer answer my questions. Everyone knows that Sai Baba has students spend the night with him. They stay up to "serve" him at night. It's a very well-kept secret as to how they serve Sai Baba, but little will come out because no student wants to be kicked out of Sai Baba's school. As stated, they are receiving a very good educations there, very inexpensively. I say very inexpensively because many believe it to be free, but this is not the case. Students pay for room and board, which to many is rather expensive. The education part is free, but there are bills.

This brings me to my very questionable experiences with Sai Baba. On my second trip to Sai Baba I had four interviews. Each time I saw Baba, his hand would gradually make more prominent connections to my groin. The first interview was a slight swipe, the second a definite touch and the third time he grabbed me and with a very stern face looked me directly in the eye and said "you are very weak!" Needless to say, he scared and embarrassed me. I was guilt ridden to have sexual passion, though I was a healthy 16 year old boy, a testosterone machine. I was not going to talk to anyone about the experience. In the final interview he asked me to take my pants down. I was totally confused, so he took them down for me. He then made vibhutti and rubbed it on my genitals. On my third trip, he did the same thing, but rubbed oil on my genitals. Fortunately I was never taken advantage of any worse, but I was humiliated when I realised his true intentions, and I felt I had really lost an innocence that I would have cherished keeping.

When I finally did talk about what happened to me, the first two reactions were to never speak of it with others because the whole thing would be taken out of context and misconstrued. Then I talked to others my own age and they told me of similar experiences. I even heard terrible stories of children who would meet with Sai Baba twice a week to play "sex games" and the like. Oral sex and masturbation were common in these meetings. Many of my own friends told me about attempts by Sai Baba to touch them, but they wouldn't let him.

The Death of Sai Baba
NEWS REPORT: Bloomberg Newswire

Cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar joined tens of thousands of devotees to pay homage to Sathya Sai Baba, the Indian spiritual guru whose charities and claimed miracles won him both devotion and scorn.
“He is going to live in our hearts permanently,” former Indian cricket captain Gavaskar told reporters in the southern town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state where Sai Baba, who died yesterday aged 84, built his ashram. “He will still continue to inspire us,” Gavaskar said in a televised address. Politicians and film stars were also among followers who queued for a last glimpse of the preacher, taking turns to kneel besides his saffron-robed body placed in a glass casket at the town's Sai Kulwant Hall. A state funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
“At least 200,000 devotees have paid their respects. Schools and other establishments are closed,” senior police official B. Narasimhalu said in a phone interview. Hard Rock Café founder Isaac Tigrett sold his stake in the restaurant chain and donated the entire proceeds of $108 million to Sai Baba for a specialty hospital in Puttaparthi to provide free health care to the rural poor, the Open magazine reported in April. Sai Baba, who sported afro-style hair reminiscent of rock musician Jimi Hendrix, died after his heart and respiratory organs failed, A.N. Safaya, director at the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, said in a statement on the hospital's website. Sai Baba “endeared himself to the people through various institutions,” Prime MinisterManmohan Singh said in a statement yesterday. “He believed that it is the duty of every person to ensure that all people have access to the basic requirements for sustenance of life.”
Sai Baba's trust has set up schools, universities and hospitals, with various Indian political leaders providing support for his charities. Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and ex-president Shankar Dayal Sharma were present during the opening of a water project in 1995 in Andhra Pradesh state, while former premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated a hospital in Bangalore.
At the age of 14, the guru told his family that he would be known as “Sai Baba,” the title of a past Indian ascetic of whom he claimed to be a reincarnation, according to a statement on his website. In 1960, he told his followers he would “leave his body” in 2019.
While devotees believe in his miracles, including acts of producing holy ash, rings and necklaces, fruits, sugar candy and watches out of thin air, critics have dismissed them as tricks.
They “remained controversial to others and he shied away from scientific tests that would have settled forever the issue of their genuineness,” said Erlendur Haraldsso, professor emeritus, faculty of social sciences at the University of Iceland, who did research on Indian “miracle-makers.” Allegations by some former devotees that Sathya Sai Baba had sexually abused them tarnished his image. K. Chakravarty, secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust didn't answer calls made to his office yesterday.
“We don't regard him as a genuine miracle worker,” said David C. Lane, a professor of sociology and philosophy at San Antonio College in Texas. “I have a number of reports from former disciples that they were molested under the guise of spiritual unfoldment.” Sai Baba denied all charges against him and has not been charged with any offenses in India.

When Prophecy Fails
Sai Baba's devotees believe he will live for 96 years
NEWS REPORT: The Times of India

HYDERABAD: Though the condition of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba is worsening, some of his devotees are confident he will recover and live for 96 years as he had once predicted. A group of eminent devotees, including former judges, police officers and physicians, believe that the 85-year-old Sathya Sai Baba's present condition is because he has taken on himself the sufferings of one of his devotees. As the guru battles for life at the Sathya Sai super speciality hospital at Puttaparthi town in Anantapur district, a group of devotees on Thursday held a press conference here to say he would recover and appeal to the media to respect their sentiments.

Postscript

Sathya Sai Baba died at the age of 84 on April 24th, 2011






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