My concerns about Sathya Sai Baba
UPDATE NEWS: Heartfelt condolences to the millions of Sathya Sai Baba devotees on his passing from this world. Baba's heart stopped beating at 7:28 am (India time) on Easter Sunday morning, April 24, 2011. He had been on ventilator support under critical care at his "super-speciality" hospital, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Anantapur District, since he was admitted on March 28 with serious lung infection and chest congestion. Doctors confirmed that Sai Baba died of cardio-respiratory failure. He was 85½ years old by western count, 86½ years old by the Indian way of reckoning one's age. May his soul be eternally at peace.
In the aftermath of Sathya Sai's passing, certain further unsavory details about hoarded wealth, etc., have come to light. See the following two articles:
Indian guru's hoarded riches raise doubts over charitable works
Thousands of followers around the world believed the Indian guru Sai Baba was a god, but since his death it has emerged that the fortunes people donated to him were not all invested in good works.
By Gethin Chamberlain, July 4, 2011 The Telegraph (UK)
Sathya Sai Baba's death triggers fight for his £5.5 billion empire
The death of an Indian guru who built up a worldwide following of up to 50 million people has triggered an unholy scramble for control of his £5.5 billion empire.
By Gethin Chamberlain, April 24, 2011 The Telegraph (UK)
The rest of this page is from the last revision on Dec. 17, 2007.
Dear Reader: This is one of several very "critical" pages at this Enlightened Spirituality website. I invite anyone visiting here to read also the many, many other essays at this website—much more positive in tone— pertaining to authentic spirituality. You might want to see first the basic short paper, "Our Real Nature" at the Nondual Spirituality section; the "Criteria for Authentic Spiritual Realization" page at the Healthy Spirituality section, and the profiles of illustrious sages and saints like the Buddha, Milarepa, Jnaneshvar, Meister Eckhart, Bayazid Bistami, Rumi, Bankei, the Ba'al Shem Tov, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and so many other luminaries at the Nondual Spirituality section and, especially, the Religion & Spirituality section.
The eminent female Divine Incarnation or avatar of our day, Mata Amritanandamayi, or Amma / Ammachi, the "Hugging Mother," has said: "Watching an unrighteous act that you know is against dharma, while keeping your mouth shut, is the greatest form of unrighteousness. That is the conduct of a coward, not a person of courage." (Eternal Wisdom: Upadeshamritam, Vol. 2, p. 9) His Holiness the Dalai Lama has declared: "If there is any difference between who you are sitting on your throne, and who you are behind the scenes, then you should not be sitting on that throne." And on two-faced teachers who deny or rationalize their unwholesome hidden behavior, the Dalai Lama says to students of such teachers: "You get out. You let everybody know, you don't keep it secret." (Quoted in Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Into the Heart of Life, 2011, pp. 161-2)
It is a curious paradox in authentic spirituality that we do best always to see everyone in the most sublime light as embodiments of the One Divine Light, yet we must also be savvy and sharp about injustices, abuses of sentient beings, abuses of Truth, Virtue and Propriety. Jesus taught, "Judge not, lest you be judged." And yet Jesus himself could be quite "judgmental" and "critical," even in the most genuine earliest collection of his teachings, as carefully sifted by scholars (such as when he harshly rebuked the greedy money-lenders and threw them out of the temple). Hence, our mature spiritual intelligence needs to be a judge or a critic, that is, an evaluator, of proper and improper behavior occurring in ourselves (first and foremost, ourselves) and also in others, for the sake of the common good. Otherwise, "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" (a line famously attributed to Irish philosopher-statesman Edmund Burke, d.1797). We can criticize or judge our own behavior and the behavior of apparent "others" (the One Self in disguise) while fully loving them as the Beloved.
Bottom line: while critiquing unseemly and/or illegal, criminal behavior, we need not throw anyone out of our hearts!
Love to all beings, the One Divine.
+ + + + + + +
On Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Some people have wondered about my views concerning the amazingly enigmatic and controversial figure Sathya Narayana Raju, better known to his tens of millions of devotees in India and abroad as Sri Sathya Sai Baba (1926-2011), sometimes abbreviated here as SSB, and reverently called by these followers “Bhagavân” (“Lord, Divine One”), “Bâbâ” (“Father”), or “Swâmi” (a title for a Hindu renunciate). Sathya Sai is venerated by most of his devotees and in the huge amount of devotional literature on him not only as a God-man, but also as the Pûrna Avatâra, the fullest possible Incarnation of the Godhead, the fullest manifestation of the Divine since Lord Krishna lived in India thousands of years ago.
Alas, many of his former devotees or longtime critics (not including myself) view Sathya Sai as a "charlatan huckster," and/or "black magician," and/or "the very incarnation of evil." They base these charges not just on widespread revelations of faked "miraculous" materializations of artifacts and sacred ash (to go along with some evidently genuine paranormal capacities), but, more seriously, on numerous reported allegations of improper sexual contact with male youth. There are concerns over other serious matters as well, such as financial improprieties at the ashram, instances of plagiarism by Sathya Sai, and the apparent suppression of any meaningful investigation of the infamous six "bedroom murders" on the night of June 6-7, 1993 at Sathya Sai's main ashram, Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthi in South India.
For a growing number of the rest of us who've closely studied the extraordinary phenomenon of Sathya Sai, the reality about him is somewhere in between—a very gifted yet also deeply flawed human being. Perhaps he is just a highly adept but fallen yogi or an inter-dimensionally powerful but contaminated "channel" for the former Sai Baba of Shirdi (d.1918). Perhaps he is some unknown other type of being altogether! Whatever the reality, Sathya Sai, it would appear, is perhaps the most enigmatic case of "Jekyll and Hyde" split-personality in the entire known history of religion.
[UPDATE NOTE, 10/30/11: On Sathya Sai, a fascinating message was posted by Pratap Penumala to the internet board of the academic group RISA (Religion in South Asia) on April 24, 2011, the weekend of Sathya's passing. Note the implicit suggestion (as i read it) that the early teen-aged Sathya Sai might have been "gifted" with some paranormal powers by the postmortem spirit of "a certain mendicant" after the latter died... and that this could very well be the primary source of some of Sathya's powers. Here's the post:
I must say that I have never been a devotee of Sai Baba, but had the good fortune and privilege of being a student of his first cousin Shree Shankara Narayana Raju duing my undergraduate studies. He was a professor of Telugu at Bangalore University in the early 1970s where I studied with him. I was very close to him and he used to, now and then, relate things about his personal life with his cousin who later became renowned as Satya Sai Baba. He was a remarkable man with a remarkable memory. He never carried a book to the class room but could recite the entire MBH, Ramayana, and a whole range of Telugu poetic texts, including Sringaranaishadam without the aid of a text. I mention this little detail to indicate the intense religious background from which the Satya Sai Baba himself came. My teacher once told me that a certain mendicant visited their village (Puttaparti) and took ill and stayed at the temple shelter and apparently his cousin Satya Narayana Raju took care of him during that illness and three days later the mendicant passed away. It was a few days after that Satya (as he used to call him) began to display some 'unusual behaviour' and ever since began the story of what we today know as the Satya Sai Baba phenomenon. I have great regard for the work of the Sai organization, especially in the field of education for women in rural side of India. [...] --Pratap]
Regardless of one's feelings—pro, con, or mixed—about Sathya Sai, he is a hugely important figure on the Hindu and international religious scene these last 45 years. And, specifically for the field of "nondual spirituality," there are some challenging issues that the entire Sathya Sai controversy raises about the relationship between absolute-level "Truth" ("There's only God") and conventional-level, moral-ethical issues of "truth and justice." In other words, how do we reconcile the traditional nondual teaching that ultimately "everything is the perfect expression of God-Tao-Buddha-nature" with the ethical-moral realization that some things are right/appropriate and other things are wrong/inappropriate?
A summary point on this entire matter is something I learned in the 1980s from listening to and observing three eminent sages of nondual wisdom, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj of Bombay, Annamalai Swami of Tiruvannamalai, and Mata Amritanandamayi of Kerala, along with many other true sages and saints of different traditions whom I've had the good fortune to observe. The point is this: This manifest world is all a perfect Divine dream, yet one must aspire (by Divine Grace) to act impeccably, lovingly and with complete integrity within the dream.
I begin this very long webpage with an extensive revelation about my own involvement with the subject, since I actually participated for many years in some local Sathya Sai Baba centers, first sporadically at the Los Angeles SSB Center in 1978-80 after experiencing in Summer 1978 some powerful dreams of Baba (along with many vivid "high dreams" before and since then of other charismatic spiritual figures). I then quite frequently associated with the Sathya Sai movement in San Francisco from Fall 1979 to Fall 1987, for, after returning from my first trip to Asia in 1980-1981, I was invited to live with friends in the household that sponsored and ran the San Francisco SSB Center while I attended graduate school nearby. I also accepted an invitation to serve as a president of the S.F. chapter (a function rotated among members) from late 1981 to 1984, and from 1984-87 I served as an appointed “liason officer” for the Sathya Sai Baba Council of America for Northern California. After moving to Santa Barbara in Fall 1987 and returning from another trip to India over several early months of 1988, I participated at the Santa Barbara Sathya Sai Baba Center until I left the SSB movement in early Feb. 2001. During my time with the SSB Center in Santa Barbara I never served as an officer, since express guidelines by the Sathya Sai org forbid anyone serving as a spiritual teacher in the public eye from also serving as an officer in the SSB movement, to avoid any perceived conflict of interest. By 1988 I was perceived by a number of people as indeed functioning publicly as a spiritual teacher.
Sathya Sai was not and never was my primary spiritual connection—that honor belongs to the Divine One pure and simple, Who first awakened me to the God-Self in 1971. With respect to human Avatars/Incarnations, spiritual masters and preceptors, I felt very early, strong connections to Jesus (1971 on), Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Buddha (1972 on), Ramakrishna and the two Sai Babas (1978 on), Nisargadatta Maharaj (1979 on), Amma Amritanandamayi (1986 on), and a number of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Sufi saints.
Despite all my work in this field, and my love for so many spiritual leaders, I have never been interested to cling to the specific forms or personalities of spiritual masters, since my spirituality has always had more to do with the formless, transpersonal Divine Essence than a slavish devotion to any form. Nevertheless, I used to have framed photos of SSB around, just as I had framed photos and paintings of Jesus, Ramana Maharshi, the Buddha, Mother Mary, Anandamayi Ma, Amritanandamayi, Milarepa, Ramakrishna, Francis of Assisi, Seraphim of Sarov, and many, many others—my home-spaces have always tended to look more like religious shrines than ordinary living spaces! Whereas I still have on display some framed photos of the old, original Shirdi Sai Baba, my wife Laura threw out the Sathya Sai photos in Feb. 2001, with my assent.
I very much enjoyed my involvement with the SSB movement because I loved the emphasis on open-hearted, ecstatic bhajan-singing to the Divine One and the many charitable service projects to the wider community for which the SSB movement is justly famous. Also, I had a number of inner experiences of the Divine through the Sai Baba forms—both the Sathya Sai body and the original Shirdi Sai Baba form. And whereas the pure advaita/nondual spiritual teachings were never widely emphasized in the Sathya Sai movement, they were definitely there in the literature of writings, conversations and discourses by Sathya Sai, and often declared by Sathya Sai to be his essential teaching.
Moreover, for many years (until my discoveries in Feb. 2001) I felt that the SSB movement was, comparatively speaking, one of the "cleaner" spiritual groups around—all meetings were free, there was no pressure to raise funds, no pressure to gain recruits, no structured "levels of initiation," no emphasis on pushing untried or dubious meditation techniques, there was a lovely blend of nondual wisdom and nondual devotion teachings, tolerance of religious participation in other groups by members, and a mostly wonderful group of people with whom to associate. For anyone participating at the great majority of local SSB centers, there was a very low index of “dysfunction” compared to other traditional religious denominations and popular new religious movements on the scene in the 1970s and 80s (Scientology, est, TM, MSIA, Eckankar, SYDA Yoga, Free Daist Communion, ISKCON, Unification Church, Soka Gakkai, Chogyam Trungpa, Rajneesh, the fundamentalist Christian movements, etc.).
As for my own direct experience of Sathya Sai, I had many memorable dreams of him, along with dreams of other spiritual masters (on a few occasions two or more figures appeared in the same dream, such as Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sathya Sai). These very vivid dreams began the night after I first began to read of Baba in Sam Sandweiss' and Arnold Schulman's books on Baba in Summer of 1978, and occurred over the many years, even including a few dreams of SSB after I left his movement in early Feb. 2001. Such dreams almost always featured the personal form of Sathya Sai communicating a profound field of very loving, radiant, and blissful energy. Like it or not, this bodily form of Sathya Sai (along with the form of the old Shirdi Sai Baba) is used by the deep Self for millions of people worldwide as an archetypal image or instrument to communicate tremendous blessings, healings, and sense of well-being. (When I lived at the SSB Center household in S.F., we heard from many visitors and people calling on the phone how Sathya Sai had appeared to them in remarkable dreams and visions.)
Whether this power inheres in Sathya Sai or comes from beyond him—i.e., from the old Shirdi Sai Baba or from the Godhead ItSelf—is uncertain and debatable.
On three different trips to Asia, in 1980-81, 1988, and 1995-96, involving over 8 months of travel in India, I spent a total of 4 weeks at Sathya Sai's main ashram, Prashanti Nilayam (Abode of Peace) at Puttaparthi, south India (north of Bangalore). Most of the rest of the time was spent at the late Ramana Maharshi's Ramanashramam (total of 7 weeks) and Papa Ramdas' Anandashram (2 weeks) and visiting with Nisargadatta Maharaj in Bombay (2 weeks in Jan. 1981), Mata Amritanandamayi at her Kerala ashram (1988), and many other persons, ashrams and sacred places in India (Mother Teresa and Dadaji of Calcutta, the Shirdi Sai complex, the Meher Baba pilgrim center, Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Agra, Vrindavan, Sufi shrines, the Ajanta & Ellora cave temples, and numerous other impressive persons and places far less known).
During my four visits to Sathya Sai's Prashanti Nilayam ashram, my experience with him tended to be on a more transpersonal or even impersonal level. In 1980-1, I serendipitously wound up being able to sit in the "front lines" quite often during SSB's twice-daily darshans (wherein he comes out and walks past the assembled lines of visitors), but I was never called for the smaller group interview with him, let alone the private interview. I had no craving for such an interview, and figured that it was good that other people who wanted this kind of personal interaction with SSB would get it in place of myself. One day in 1980, sitting on the front line along with the vast crowd assembled for his darshan, I asked Sathya Sai the only question I ever felt moved to pose to him, a question about liberation for all beings. He responded by casting an affectionate glance my way, and then he produced some vibhuti-ash (probably not paranormally but with the pellets of ash now known to be surreptitiously kept in the fingers of his left hand), he annointed the head of the person next to me with a bit of this ash, and then he dumped the bulk of the ash into my open palm as if to nonverbally affirm that liberation comes when all selfish desire is reduced to ash.
In sum, I had a most enjoyable experience with the Sathya Sai movement and with my limited exposure to the actual personality of Sathya Sai on physical and psychic levels. My only caveat to my friends during all those years was that I felt the higher levels of the organization were rather dysfunctional. A top-down, non-democratic management style, and certain less-than-sterling personnel at top levels in the American wing of the SSB movement (I'll not mention any names), were the two factors that especially gave me pause. I had a minor in Organizational Development at the California Institute of Integral Studies during my graduate studies there in the 1980s, so I was concerned about a rather unenlightened management structure and communication style and a few disagreeable personalities I observed for a short period during the mid-1980s when I had some occasional contact with this higher level of the SSB organization.
But then, this critique could equally be aimed at almost every other religious organization—old or new—on the planet.
The really dark shadow side of Sathya Sai and of the higher levels of the movement's hierarchy was never really exposed to my view until February 2001, by which point I had not been an officer of any kind in the organization since 1987. There had been one early clue about SSB's homosexual orientation in an old book (Avatar of Night / Lord of the Air) by Tal Brooke, which I first lightly perused in the mid-1980s and fully read in 1987. But Tal was such an obviously biased messenger by the time he wrote his book in the early 1980s (a bigoted, fundamentalist evangelical Christian, adamantly anti-Hindu), and so megalomaniacal in his own descriptions of his time with Sathya Sai in the early 1970s (and in third-person accounts of Tal by a few friends who knew him back then), that Tal's message about SSB's shadow side, while noteworthy as an interesting "footnote" for all those years in the latter 1980s and 1990s, could not be reliably trusted. Moreover, there was no indication that Baba was sexually exploiting under-aged minors at the time for selfish pleasure. It was only when material emerged on Prof. David Christopher Lane's website in the late 1990s and then Britishers David & Faye Bailey stood up with their July 2000 revelations in "The Findings" (posted in various places online), that numerous persons began to realize that something was seriously wrong, and that lads under the age of 18 were being targeted by Sathya Sai.
And when we heard this information, we immediately responded by standing up for truth and justice. (NOTE: not having been an officer in the SSB movement for many years, I was "out of the information loop" and only discovered the extent of these revelations during one all-night research effort in February, 2001, after a three-year family health-crisis prevented my doing much research of any kind.)
Not getting any mature or satisfactory response from the leadership of the national SSB organization, most of us who took this stand promptly departed the SSB movement altogether.
What was especially telling and offensive was how thoroughly the leadership was ignoring and neglecting the question of the male youth's welfare and instead obsessively focusing solely on how to rationalize Sathya Sai's Divinity and "purity" in the matter.
I must pause here to acknowledge numerous persons who have done so much to bring this entire matter to the attention of SSB devotees as well as to the authorities and media contacts in many countries, including the late Glen Meloy (d.2005) of Southern California; the indefatigable Barry Pittard of Australia (see his blog at barrypittard.wordpress.com/); British author Robert Priddy, former researcher and lecturer in philosophy and sociology at Norway's University of Oslo (see his book End of the Dream and his websites on Sathya Sai at saibaba-x.org.uk/ and home.no.net/anir/Sai/); the UK's David & Faye Bailey (author/compilers of "The Findings") and journalist Mick Brown (see his article "Divine Downfall"); Al Rahm (head of the largest SSB commune in the USA, and his son Alaya), Mark Roche, Jed Geyerhahn, Afshin Khorramshagol ("Said"), Shirley Pike, Sharon Purcell (co-founder of the earliest SSB center in the USA), Lori Kaplowitz, Ella Evers, Rick Raines, Hari Sampath, Dennis Hanisch, Dave Lyons, Dave Brandt, and the late Elena Hartgering (d.2006) of the USA; in Sweden, Conny Larsson (former spiritual leader of Sweden's large SSB movement, author of the SSB expose book, Behind the Mask of the Clown, and website saibabaexpose.com), Britt-Marie Danielsson (former Swedish SSB organizational head), Alf Tidemann-Johannessen, and Annastina Vrethammar & husband Magnus; Holland's Alexandra Nagel, Matthijs van der Meer, Hans de Kraker (now in Australia), and Andries Krugers Dagneaux and Reinier van der Sandt (see their big www.exbaba.com website); Øjvind Kyrø (journalist and director of the documentary film, "Seduced (by Sai Baba)" for the Danish National Broadcasting network); Artur Wisniewski of Poland; Paul Holbach of Italy; Terry Gallagher (former central director of the Australian SSB Org), Stephen Carthew and researcher-author Brian Steel (see bdsteel.tripod.com/More/index.html) of Australia; Lionel Fernandez of Mexico (see his major critical site, saiguru.net); Alejandro Agostinelli of Argentina (journalist-author, and director of the documentary film, "¿Un dios pecador? [A Sinning God?]"); Jens Sethi and Ullrich Zimmermann of Germany; Marc-Andre St. Jean of Montreal, Canada; Serguei Badaev of Russia; and Dr. Naresh Bhatia, Meenakshi Srikanth, and Krishna Kumar of India—along with other former devotees unknown to me. Though I disagree strongly with his atheist philosophy and rationalist-skeptic approach, the Indian former SSB devotee (1968-74) turned India's most notorious "guru-buster," Basava Premanand, a decades-long critic of Sathya Sai in his periodical Indian Skeptic, also deserves acknowledgment here as one taking a firm and enduring stand for accountability and justice, not just in the case of SSB but with other problematic figures as well. (On the case against SSB, see Premanand's bulky books, including Murders in Sai Baba's Bed Room, 2004, and, most recently, Failed Sabotage by SSB through Gerald Moreno, 2007, etc., published by the author at 11/7, Chettipalayam Rd., Podanur 641 023, Tamil Nadu, India)
Many of these individuals have worked tirelessly and/or courageously in trying to bring Sathya Sai and his accomplices to accountability and justice. In most cases they have had much to lose (their friends, social-spiritual community and spiritual identity, positions and reputations within the SSB movement, time and energy invested previously in the movement, even financial revenues from certain books and projects created for SSB) and nothing to gain except a sense of trying to enact justice by raising questions and spreading the word. In the process, they have often had to endure considerable repudiation, gossip, name-calling, threats, lies, slander and calumny aimed at them by Sathya Sai Baba himself and by some of the SSB movement's self-appointed, vitriolic "attack dogs." In turn, it needs to be said that a very small number of the above-named critics have sometimes (a few persons much more often than others!) descended to putting out distortions and even the occasional calumny. This is especially true of a few critics of SSB whose names i have not even mentioned in the above list. In short, there has been misbehavior on all sides, though clearly more of it coming from the authoritarian-style defenders of SSB.
I also acknowledge here Jack Hawley, J. Jagadeesan, Ram Das Awle, G. Venkataraman, Bon Giovanni, and, more recently and most prominently, Gerald Joe Moreno for their attempts to defend Sathya Sai Baba, though, as will be obvious from the rest of this website (and my separate page on the Hislop letters), I find far too much to disagree with, in both content and style, to come over to their view of things. As representative of the "pro-Sathya Sai" side, and since his name has already been mentioned above in the case of Basava Premanand's most recent book, see Joe Moreno's relentlessly "critical of the critics" websitewww.saisathyasai.com—with its listing of numerous pro-SSB websites and its HUGE listing of more than 100 critical websites, and Joe's consistent attempts to refute numerous allegations (though he is silent about many other allegations).
Joe Moreno is an extremely controversial figure, and has been banned from any further contributions to Wikipedia on this topic for his one-sidedness and less than wholesome tactics, as have other persons on the side critical of SSB also been banned. Brian Steel, Alan Kazlev and Kevin Shepherd, the latter two gentlemen originally being "outsiders" on the SSB phenomenon (i.e., they were never devotees or ex-devotees) have all written relatively even-handed assessments and critiques of dear Joe Moreno's strangely vituperative pro-Sai activity, their essays available on the Internet at these sites:
--See Kevin R.D. Shepherd (a very long essay, including much discussion of the politics over the Wikipedia entry on SSB; Shepherd concludes, sadly, that Joe Moreno is indeed "an obsessive internet 'hit man'"): www.citizeninitiative.com/sathya_sai_and_wikipedia.htm
--See Alan Kazlev (initially a supporter of Moreno's efforts, this major Wikipedia scholar became a concerned critic of Moreno's overkill style of attacking and slandering people who disagree with him, such as ex-devotee Robert Priddy):www.kheper.net/topics/gurus/Joe_Moreno.html andwww.kheper.net/topics/gurus/Moreno_slander_against_Robert_Priddy.htm
--See Brian Steel (in the Endnote on Moreno toward the close of the third part of his huge online bibliography of all available print, video, and online materials about SSB, pro, con and mixed): http://bdsteel.tripod.com/More/sbresearchbib3.htm
Joe Moreno, in turn, has long critical assessments of each of these individuals at his website:
And so it goes. (For Joe Moreno's surprisingly much more positive, tender side, see his website on spirituality at www.geocities.com/www0db0www/index.html?20074.)
It must be clearly stated and admitted here that Joe Moreno's tireless efforts have in fact yielded greater precision in this entire matter, and I value some of his colossal output that I have read when he is sticking to facts and accepted rules of argument. He has, to my mind, quite successfully challenged some incorrect charges, half-truths, unreliable sources, misleading statements, faulty logic, exaggerations, and so forth occasionally put out by certain critics of SSB.
But just because Joe Moreno and some other SSB defenders have been able to point out certain inconsistencies and mis-statements by SSB's questioners and critics does NOT mean that the allegations of sexual impropriety, fraudulent materializations, the suspicious circumstances of the 1993 ashram murders, etc., must therefore all be summarily dismissed! Sometimes it seems that the incessant "gotcha!" game played by certain SSB's defenders is a colossal instance of losing the forest for the trees.
The fact that professional journalists, major news organizations, objective scholars, governments and NGOs have taken seriously the multi-faceted allegations of SSB's improprieties means that we, too, must not dismiss them without very, very good reason.
None of SSB's defenders have yet been able to make anything close to a persuasive case as to why objective-minded, values-upholding persons should dismiss all of these grievous allegations. Hence, the many questioners and critics of Sathya Sai Baba are not to be slandered as "envious," "greedy," "Anti-Sai" "Judases," "cawing crows," "demons," etc., engaged in a "smear campaign" based on "lies" and "gossipy rumors," as SSB and his defenders have charged. They are, instead, persons who are trying to genuinely stand up for truth, virtue, and accountability in a case of major importance.
* * * * * * * * *
For what it's worth, my preferred explanation for all that is good and not-good about Sathya Sai is this: the evidence indicates that the old Shirdi Sai Baba (d.1918) of Maharashtra state, an unbelievably powerful spiritual adept, possibly an avatâra (one who freely incarnates without karmic necessity), has worked through several channels, likely one of whom is the Sathya Narayana Raju / Sathya Sai personality (there are several other notable saints and healers who claim that Shirdi Sai Baba's holy and powerful influence is behind their ministry, most recently including figures such as Sree Chakravarti of Delhi and Sainathuni Sarath Babuji of Shirdi). But it seems that Sathya Narayana Raju has his own dark shadow side of lust for sex and power, etc., and this has "contaminated" Shirdi Sai's working through him. This could easily explain how so much good has happened around Sathya Sai—including deep experiences of God-realization for many devotees, while others have had such weird or even terrible and traumatic experiences with Sathya Sai. Again, I daresay this is a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" phenomenon of amazing proportions.
At this point, I would urge anyone interested in Sathya Sai Baba to make a deeper study of the old Shirdi Sai Baba and directly connect with the original purity and power itself. Yes, according to all the biographers, Shirdi Sai was himself a very strange Avadhûta-type figure (one often acting quite enigmatically beyond human conventions), but he never serially molested male youth, nor did he accuse his critics of being "demons" and "Judases," nor did he ride around in expensive vehicles, wear silks, etc., and fake materializations of objects. He was a true renunciate whose sole aim, as evidenced by countless tales of self-sacrifice, was helping, not hurting, his followers. And it is interesting to notice that over much of India, including South India (except for Sathya Sai's main bases at Puttaparthi and Bangalore) it is images of Shirdi Sai, not Sathya Sai, that one primarily sees since the SSB scandal fully emerged in 2000-1. On a recent (August 2007) journey through the several states of South India, I saw many new Shirdi Sai temples built or being built, and not one Sathya Sai temple in evidence. The people of India seem to have voted with their hearts on this matter.
* * * * * * * * *
Sathya Sai's alleged sexual contacts with male youth.
There are some specific points to address on the particular topic of Sathya Sai Baba and sex. For one thing, many of those still faithful to Sathya Sai and who accept as factually true that Sathya Sai has indeed acted in apparently sexual ways with male youth—persons like pro-SSB author Ram Das Awle—will rationalize all such contact with the idea that this is a case of SSB "raising the kundalini energy" of the lads and young men. Sathya Sai himself has openly expressed this idea in a few situations wherein he touched the genitals or erogenous zones of the male youth (e.g., with Conny Larsson, et al.). In 2002 I was asked to specifically address this point by one of the exposé leaders, Barry Pittard. Here was my response:
Dear Barry: Regarding this "kundalini raising" matter, there is NOTHING in the literature I've ever seen from the Hindu, Buddhist or Taoist tantric traditions or Hindu shaktipat guru traditions—and I have read widely and extensively in this literature—about "raising the kundalini" by sexually molesting male youth. It is a bald lie that Sri Ramakrishna initiated Narendranath (Swami Vivekananda) or anyone else in this manner. The accounts all state quite clearly that he would touch the disciples on the chest or head. He wasn't taking them off in private to massage or suck the penis or have male youth do the same to him. I have an extensive library of many rare Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu works (in addition to a huge collection of works from western mystical traditions) and I've NEVER read anything that would suggest that what SSB is doing to male youth has been done by ANY other spiritual master in any tradition. I wrote my M.A. thesis on the cross-cultural phenomenon of shaktipat or "energy empowerment" and I've never seen any document alleging that the "kundalini" or vital force or subtle energy could or should be awakened in this manner. The question exposing the faulty logic here is that, if the kundalini could be raised in this manner, why isn't SSB providing the same service for less attractive young men, or older men, or any females? Barry, please feel free to send this posting to anyone on your list who is either sympathetic or critical of SSB. It's time for the truth to be told about this matter of the kundalini and SSB. Best wishes to all,
—Timothy Conway, Santa Barbara, CA USA
* * * * * * * * *
I also take space here to further discuss the allegations of sexual contact by Sathya Sai Baba with certain named and unnamed male youth, legal issues involved in this matter, and the issue of the basic truthfulness and reliability of these accounts. Defenders of Sathya Sai Baba have adamantly and repeatedly charged that the ex-devotees and critics are being quite uncritical, careless, irresponsible and gullible in accepting as fact mere “gossipy rumors” about sexual contact between Sathya Sai and male youth. But the allegations that have been made about SSB are NOT mere “gossipy rumors.”
In the ideal scenario, we would have formally sworn, notarized affidavits presented in a court of law by a plaintiffs’ attorney, with explicit written statements and extensive oral testimony by those who claim to have had these strange sexual interactions initiated by SSB. Alas, no such court case has yet come to pass. And, unlike the notorious situation in the USA with certain archdioceses within the Roman Catholic Church targeted by lawsuits and forced by court decisions to pay large financial awards for sexual molestation by certain Catholic clergymen, such decisive legal action in the matter of Sathya Sai Baba may never occur.
There are several reasons for this lack of legal action (outside of the botched and self-dismissed Rahm case in the USA against a SSB organizational entity—see discussion in section VII near the end of this long webpage). One reason is certainly the great difficulty of European and American plaintiffs going after an Indian citizen either in a foreign court or even in an Indian court of law—especially a highly-acclaimed “Divine Incarnation,” a person of mega-celebrity status who has been publicly honored as the Divine Incarnation or “Purna Avatar” by large numbers of India’s leading politicians, judges, authors, film and music stars, financiers, and other VIPs. Beyond the various legal difficulties—such as extradition issues for bringing an Indian citizen to court in a foreign land, or non-Indian citizens trying to launch a lawsuit in India—and the realistic risks of reprisals for any plaintiffs living in India, a major reason why we may never see a court case is that most of those “experiencers” who have already spoken out simply want to move on with their lives and do not wish to get embroiled in a messy process consuming their time and energy. You see, they’re not nearly as “vindictive” as SSB’s defenders charge, nor, obviously, are they greedily seeking after money and financial awards (also contrary to what SSB and his defenders have charged!).
In any case, as pertains to the issue of financial compensation for molested victims, a friend with legal expertise wrote to me in early 2007 stating the following about legal issues in this matter of Sathya Sai Baba, and why no lawyers working on a contingency fee basis would ever be interested to pursue a case with virtually no financial compensation for their considerable efforts:
“The Sai Organization in the USA has no money. They collect money from US devotees who make their ‘donations’ to the Sai Central Trust in India. So no assets are held outside of India, hence no point in bringing a lawsuit anywhere other than in India, which is a difficult thing for any foreigner to do. It could be dismissed there for lack of jurisdiction, unless they were living in India. And they would likely get thrown out of India forthwith if they brought a lawsuit there. But those boys who were abused in India do have grounds to bring a lawsuit there against the Sai Central Trust. However, Baba removed himself as a signatory to the Trust some years ago when I was there, after the  killings and the stealing of funds from the Trust, so it is questionable whether the Trust could now be held liable, and with so much of its income going to fund charitable causes, they likely would argue that they only have money to cover the operating costs of the hospitals, water project, etc. (which may be true...but since Baba brings in so much money, that is unlikely).”
Perhaps paid attorneys for a governmental or NGO agency, or good-hearted lawyers willing to serve the public interest pro bono may someday become involved in a class-action lawsuit against one or more SSB organizational entities or against SSB himself, not for financial reward (as so lucratively occurred in the case of the Catholic Church and its victims), but simply for the sake of truth and justice. As for a direct lawsuit against Sathya Sai in India, Bon Giovanni in 2001 suggested that all molestees and/or critics of SSB are "hereby invited to the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Penukonda, Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh, India, to lay charges against Sathya Sai Baba. This appears to be the appropriate court of Law. Laying of Charges in other countries is not likely to have any effect. The matter more rightly belongs in the Penukonda Magistrates Court."
Alternatively, it has been suggested by staunch critic Basava Premanand and others that, logistically speaking, the far easier legal route in this situation would be for the tremendously wealthy Sathya Sai Baba empire to be the one to initiate a lawsuit, namely, a lawsuit against all those who have publicly engaged in “libel” or “calumny”—i.e., the male youth who have been willing to report their experiences either in print or on camera (or both) for the public, and so many journalists, reporters, writers, psychologists, schoolteachers and others who’ve alerted a wider public to the seriousness of these allegations. In such a lawsuit, the SSB Org would need to hear all the allegations from the defendants and then to prove that no sexual contacts have ever occurred and that all the allegations are specious.
As it is, none of the young men who’ve spoken out have had their specific stories meaningfully addressed (point by point) or refuted by either Sathya Sai or his organization’s top officers or lawyers.
So it is true that Sathya Sai Baba has never been indicted in a court of law for his crimes. But by the same token the many substantial allegations against him have likewise never been successfully refuted in a legal court.
And another big question here is this: If SSB has nothing to hide and is in fact quite "pure" and "Divine," why has his prominent spiritual organization, which supposedly exists to uphold the values of Satya-Dharma-Shanti-Prema-Ahimsa (Truth-Virtue-Peace-Love-Harmlessness) never held a simple fact-finding OPEN HEARING and/or MEDIATION PROCESS on this matter for the many thousands or millions of ex-devotees and devotees who would like to know the full truth of these allegations?
In other words, why does a mature approach to all of this require a major lawsuit or series of lawsuits??
Beyond the possibility of a lawsuit or mediation event, as a matter of public record, we do have first-hand, informally sworn testimonies (if not formally sworn and notarized affidavits) from numerous individuals who have openly reported that, when they were younger (ages vary from mid-teens to early twenties), Sathya Sai made ostensibly or blatantly sexual contact with them, contact that includes a range of behavior from the suggestive to the explicit:
1) A fairly typical contact, what in many cases was the “initial contact” in a series of escalating contacts—is the widespread and widely-known “oiling” by Sathya Sai of the male youth’s lower abdomen and/or pubic bone and/or perineum and/or scrotum and/or penis (with an oily substance that SSB may or may not have paranormally produced out of the air into his hand), after SSB has asked or demanded that the male youth drop his trousers (and often the underwear as well), or undone them himself; the youth’s genitals are usually partially or fully exposed when SSB touches any areas below the pubic bone. At the Puttaparthi ashram, Prashanthi Nilayam, this “oiling” procedure occurs only after the young male has been invited by SSB to depart the group interview room and has entered into the screened-off private interview room. There is also private interview space at the Whitefield ashram near Bangalore. It is estimated that many hundreds or thousands of male youth have experienced this “oiling,” and it has usually been rationalized by SSB defenders and by Sathya Sai himself as some kind of “kundalini raising” or “karma healing” procedure. Whereas international law indicates that any such contact in a non-medical or non-emergency context is illegal, most of those male youth who’ve experienced this activity have not been willing to call this “abuse,” given SSB’s worldwide reputation as “God Incarnate.”
2) Also fairly frequently it has occurred that young male Sai devotees, while fully dressed, have had their penis or groin area touched, played with, fondled, slapped, etc., by Sathya Sai Baba, not just in the "inner room" but outside this private interview room, such as entering or leaving the larger group-interview room at Puttaparthi. Notably, this behavior, often performed quickly and furtively by SSB when outside the private interview room, has in fact been witnessed on occasion by other devotees.
3) Far less frequently, within the private interview room SSB has asked a youth to drop his trousers, or undone them himself, and then proceeded to manually rub or orally suck on the penis of the male youth.
4) Also far less frequently, SSB has in the private interview room exposed his own genitals and asked the male youth to fondle or suck on his erect, partially erect, or non-erect penis.
5) In a number of cases it has been alleged that, within the private interview room, SSB kissed a young male on the mouth, sometimes for a long period of over 5 seconds, up to 30 seconds or more, and/or hugged a male youth close to him for a similar time-period.
People may wonder how so much sexual activity could occur for decades in the private interview room, which is immediately adjacent to the group interview room and for many years was only screened off by a curtain (from the mid-1990s onward by a wooden door), and yet not be heard. One reason for this is that an electric ceiling fan in the group interview room was usually turned on and operating at fairly high or very high speed, creating a humming sound that could, along with the curtain (and, later, the door), easily mask most sounds coming from within the private interview room. Moreover, there are ambient background sounds coming from the ashram (which usually has several thousand or more people in residence at any given time), loudly cawing crows often audible, and general background noise audible from the adjacent town of Puttaparthi. Beyond all this, i have heard reports from specific individuals sitting in the group interview room that they did in fact hear strange noises, complaints by the young male devotee, etc., emanating from within the private interview room. And many of these male youth have been observed to emerge from that private room visibly shaken and looking confused or conflicted. Most devotees, seeing these young men emerging from their "special time" with Sathya Sai, tend to conclude that SSB "told them things they didn't want to hear." Little did these devotees know that many of these young men actually saw and experienced things (namely, SSB's sexually oriented behaviors) that they never wanted to see. The problem was not with the male youth at all, it was with Sathya Sai Baba.
Some male individuals who have experienced these things, especially the more explicitly sexual behaviors (categories 3-4), have gone on record to tell their stories, either on the internet or in print (e.g., signed statements and/or newspaper and magazine stories), or on camera for documentary films, e.g., Alejandro Agostinelli’s “¿Un dios pecador?” (A Sinning God?), Azul TV (Buenos Aires, Argentina), August 5 & August 12, 2001; Øjvind Kyrø’s “Seduced (by Sai Baba),” Danish National Television, February 2002; and Eamon Hardy’s “Secret Swami,” Channel 2 series, This World, June 17, 2004, repeated later in many countries on the BBC TV World Service.
By the early 2000s, the following individuals had identified themselves (and most of them have sworn to the truth of their statements) about sexual advances initiated with them by Sathya Sai Baba: The India Today Dec. 4, 2000 article, "A God Accused," reproduced the statements from Hans de Kraker and Jens Sethi as "signed affidavits" (though it is not clear whether these were officially notarized affidavits). This India Today article and other news-media (print and internet) articles from 2000 onward have also mentioned by name several other "victims" or "experiencers" and/or reproduced part or all of their testimony: Conny Larsson, Alaya Rahm, Jed Geyerhahn, Keith Ord, Krishna Kumar, Marc-Andre St. Jean, Matthijs van der Meer, and “Said” Afshin Khorramshahgol, each of whom swore near the beginning or end of their statements to be telling the truth. We also have the report to David Bailey and to Mick Brown by Dr. Naresh Bhatia of ongoing, years-long sexual relations initiated by SSB in Bhatia's youth. Neptune Chapotin has had his diary report posted to the Internet by his mother (SSB defender Joe Moreno has tried to undermine its validity because of an allegation therein that SSB paranormally changed his own sex organs from male to female). Christian author Tal Brooke went on record with his and other male youths’ strange sexual experiences initiated by SSB in the early 1970s in his book published in India, Lord of the Air, a later edition of which was entitled Avatar of Night and published in the early 1980s. (Tal mentioned by first name several other individuals who had these kinds of experiences, including a "Patrick" who reported the same kind of genital gender-switch as told by Neptune Chapotin, which may be a paranormal ability or more simply a muscular maneuver by someone with a hermaphrodite physiology, which SSB has sometimes been alleged to possess.) Notably, Tal reproduces in his book the content of a written letter from a John Worldie about his sexual molestation experiences by SSB. (Joe Moreno has challenged the actuality of John Worldie and his account, but Worldie has openly identified himself to SSB's critics as the "Big John" in Howard Murphet's first book and as the one who took the photographs for Arnold Schulman's book, Baba; Brian Steel identifies him as the pseudonymously-named "Steve" in that latter book.)
Persons who've appeared on camera for the Danish and British documentary films "Seduced" and "Secret Swami," and also the Spanish language film by A. Agostinelli, "Un Dios Pecador?" include Conny Larsson, Alaya Rahm, Jed Geyerhahn, and Mark Roche. A more informal account is Alan Steinfeld’s filming in 2000 of Ullrich Zimmerman telling his story of sexual contact with SSB (though he does not himself consider it to be “abuse” but some kind of subtle-energy activity, yet an activity about which other young males should be pre-warned), in ‘Divine Sex or Earthly Abuse?’ Part 1, http://blip.tv/file/125164.
Count the names—that’s 16 males (de Kraker, Sethi, Bhatia, Larsson, Rahm, Geyerhahn, Ord, Kumar, St. Jean, van der Meer, Khorramshahgol, Roche, Zimmerman, Brooke, Worldie, and Chapotin) who’ve identified themselves by name and told with sufficient description their own stories of SSB’s activities with them when they were younger, including behaviors identified above as categories 3 and 4—i.e., not just the hard-to-interpret cases of SSB “oiling” their abdomen/pubic bone/perineum areas or kissing/hugging them, but much more explicitly “sexual” behavior involving the penis of SSB or the youth’s penis, or both.
Incidentally, it may not be the case that most of these sixteen individuals have signed an officially notarized sworn affidavit, which document is simply used to clearly eliminate any "hearsay evidence" or fabrications by outside persons alleging to be the person in question. But in all these sixteen cases there is perfectly good reason to believe that these persons are who they say they are, and sufficiently good reason to believe that their first-person stories or testimonies are most likely true as they have declared and often explicitly sworn them to be true.
Now, the list certainly does not end here with this set of publicly identified sources. There are well over a dozen more male youth, names fully or partially known to us, who have not yet come forward publicly to tell their stories of sexual contact, though they have certainly at some length told their stories privately to trusted family members or friends, including telling the stories to ex-devotees who were longtime center officers or national officers in the SSB Organization, as well as to certain public media personnel. Again, these male experiencers’ names and identities are known to critics of SSB (and to many devotees), but, for the sake of privacy and confidentiality, we are simply NOT at liberty to divulge their full names here. Several names have actually already been leaked into print, but I am not comfortable mentioning their names here because they have not publicly come forth on their own. I can perhaps mention one young man here, since he passed away many years ago: Uli/Ulli Steckenreuter (spelling?), a German man in his early twenties, well-known to many SSB devotees in the late 1970s, who was found dead, hanging from the ceiling (a likely suicide), in Bangalore in 1981 after earlier telling Don Heath (the late founder of the San Francisco SSB Center) of at least one incident in the late 1970s in which Baba wanted Uli to perform oral sex on him. As for the many other males in this set, some of them are in the public limelight (one is a multiple-award-winning actor) or else have positions in family or community making them vulnerable to unwanted attention if their names are exposed.
When we add the names of the individuals in this second set of "SSB sex experiencers" to the first set, we have over 30 individuals, approximately one-third of whom were minors (under age 18) when the alleged activities with SSB occurred.
There is a third set of experiencers, at least a dozen or a few dozen further cases where we do not have any specific names, but we have verbal and/or written reports from named individuals—their relatives, friends or acquaintances—who knew the experiencers and who were told by these usually unhappy or disgruntled persons to some extent about their sexual contacts from SSB. These experiencers fall into the category of “son of…,” “stepson of…,” “father of…,” “friend of…,” “acquaintance of…,” etc. The time-period and individual nationality reported strongly suggest in most cases that these are additional, unique cases, not merely cases that can be considered as a subset of cases already identified.
There is a fourth set of alleged experiencers, the signers of the JuST petition posted on the Internet. Some of these names (e.g., John Purnell, Australia; S.V.R. Ramesh, USA; David Juliano, USA; Michael Smith, USA; Iqbal Raaid, Pakistan) may be quite legitimate, others may not be (e.g., “John Bright” has been charged by Joe Moreno to be a fictitious name). It is not known to me whether one or more of the critics has been able to obtain a fuller, more descriptive story from these individuals who’ve signed the JuST petition and who have alleged to have been molested, though critic Robert Priddy, part of the JuST organizing group, claims to have indeed contacted and confirmed these person's identities and stories.
There is a fifth set of experiencers, the indiscriminately-labeled “many students in the Sathya Sai Baba schools,” primarily Indian students, referred to in writing or orally by people like David Bailey, Jed Geyerhahn, Krishna Kumar, Meenakshi Srikanth, Mary Garden, Mrs. Bitten Nelson, Andy Reimer, Dr. Naresh Bhatia, Basava Premanand, and Mr. Kamadhani, who were in a position to directly hear these stories from many students. Note that ineligible persons (i.e., persons who are neither teachers nor staff) are not allowed to venture onto the grounds of the SSB schools, and the students are kept on a regimented schedule and kept quite separate from the residents and visitors at the ashrams during SSB's darshans and the bhajan-singing, so it has been impossible to conduct any interviews of these students, unless they individually take the initiative to approach foreigners (such as the aforementioned persons). In any case, it has long been public knowledge in the SSB movement that SSB has one, two or more students spend the night with him almost every night for many decades in his private bedroom at Puttaparthi and at Whitefield, and when visiting his summer retreats at Kodaikanal or Ootacamund. If this is true, and there is no good reason to doubt it, this would offer an even easier opportunity for SSB to make improper sexual advances on the young males entrusted to his care. Numerous students have allegedly expressed fear to researchers about saying anything of SSB's sexual improprieties with them for reasons of shame and family situation (e.g., their parents and grandparents are devotees), and also considerable risk of reprisal or sudden termination of their subsidized educational opportunities with an ejection from school, which can direly affect their subsequent career and job prospects in an intensely competitive and harrowing economic environment in India.
Compiling all of the above, I have a long list of nearly 50 named and unnamed individuals from sets 1, 2 and 3, not including the fourth and fifth sets (i.e., JuST petition signers and the “many students in SSB’s schools”). And I am not even among the leading figures or contact persons in this movement concerned about Sathya Sai’s improprieties. So I am sure that the more active critics have even much longer lists of “SSB molestee/experiencers.”
Beyond my identification of five sets of male youth who were allegedly or evidently molested to some extent by Sathya Sai Baba, we also have a large sixth set or group of "suspected molestees," male youth who received notable attention from SSB in the form of one or more private interviews, but who at some point afterward (even very soon afterward) left the ashram and/or the SSB movement, never to be seen or heard again. These are the male youth about whom SSB devotees were so happy that they had obtained the highly-coveted interview with SSB, but who often emerged from such interviews with eyes downcast, looking depressed, confused, even shaken or agitated. Given all the explicit allegations and first-person testimonials of sexual impropriety, it is very probable that a sizeable fraction of these male youth who left SSB sometime after the private interview(s) were molested by him. The number of such "quite-likely-molested" male youth is hard to calculate, but likely comprises at least an additional few dozen individuals, if not many more.
In this category of suspected molestees, we could include here the late M. Krishna, SSB's by-far closest companion in the early years. He was known as SSB's "Radha" who shared SSB's room at night and was paraded around sitting next to SSB in devotional processions by day, but who later left the movement. Many years later (early 1980s) M. Krishna told Scandinavian parapsychology-investigator Erlendur Haraldsson that he looked back on his period with SSB as being a "nightmare." This, from the one person who was allowed to become far closer to SSB than anyone in the entire history of the movement. (See E. Haraldsson, Modern Miracles, a.k.a. Miracles Are My Calling Cards, various editions, chapter 17. The author apparently never followed up on specific stories of sexual behavior by SSB that he allegedly heard while prodigiously researching this book.)
Robert Priddy, the former prominent devotee of SSB turned trenchant critic, has concluded (in an email to scholar Kevin Shepherd): “The amount of evidence that has surfaced on the internet since 2000 from the sexually abused (by Sathya Sai Baba) is the tip of the iceberg. Nearly all who contact us want to remain completely anonymous... because the persons involved have to consider their family, friends, employers, etc.... I have pieced together the facts and am convinced from all my contacts (mostly confidential, many scared to be known about) that Sathya Sai Baba has molested many boys throughout many years.”
The interested reader can read more about various aspects of the sexual contact and molestation issue with Sathya Sai in Chapter VII of Robert Priddy’s long book, End of the Dream: The Sathya Sai Baba Enigma, 2004, pp. 271-324, and in David Bailey’s important collection of testimonies by various persons including himself, “The Findings,” 2000, posted at various internet sites.
In both these sources and in other works like the various website revelations and in books by other authors like B. Premanand and Conny Larsson, one can get the fuller story on the six bedroom murders of 1993, the faked materializations (not just vibhuti, but also the stash of rings and other cheap jewelry items hidden in the storage space under SSB's cushion in the grouup interview rooms, and the linga and other objects he hides under his handkerchief, etc.), the financial misconduct within the SSB organization relating to the SSSB Trust's non-transparent and unaccountable handling of the massive incoming donations, the various housing schemes and "time-share" apartment rentals, etc., and several other matters.
It is crucially important in the matter of SSB's sexual improprieties to note that, according to a
Jan. 18, 1981 covert memo by Jack Hislop
(d.1995), the lifetime head [since 1969] of the SSB Council of America, which memo I belatedly found in 2001 in my vast collection of SSB-org documents, if the allegations of sexual molestation of male youth and minors by Sathya Sai were ever to be adjudicated as true, then, suggests Hislop, people would be justified in thinking Baba "a hypocrite, a liar, and a criminal." Hislop fell ill and died in 1995, the year the internet came widely into usage. The Internet provided the open forum for more allegations to be made in the late 1990s. The buzz reached a crescendo pitch and broke open to the wider SSB community and then the public media from 2000 onward. Major print and online media outlets in India, Asia, Australia, Europe, North & South America, and then an Argentinian news team (in 2001), a Danish news team (in 2002), and Great Britain's BBC news team (in 2004), with their respective televised documentaries, all promoted these allegations against SSB as quite serious. The allegations I have read or heard about through my own network of contacts lead me to believe that the old adage, "Where there's smoke, there's fire" is, alas, only too true in the present case of Sathya Sai. There are simply far too many allegations corroborating each other on similar crucial details. One can read much more about these allegations of sexual impropriety and other matters at the websites www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net.
At these websites, see especially the following materials:
1) A very balanced article by Mick Brown from the widely-read British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, October 28, 2000. 2) A statement from UNESCO severing connection with the Sai organization in Sept. 2000. 3) A heartfelt resignation letter from longtime Santa Barbara devotees Richard & Terry Nelson, also from Sept. 2000. 4) A March 1997 letter to Dr. Michael Goldstein from a distraught mom (and his terribly inadequate response). 5) A message to fellow Sai devotees by Lori Kaplowitz emailed on Oct. 23, 2000. 6) A must-read letter to Sai devotees from a deeply concerned school psychologist and former Sai Center and Regional officer, Shirley Pike back on May 28, 2000. 7) An important letter of resignation on Nov. 8, 2000 by a woman psychotherapist (Elena Hartgering) who was serving as a vice-president of a Sai center, a longtime Sai devotee who began to feel the need to expose the "cultish, criminal behavior" of Sai and the Sai organization. 8) A formal statement in 2000 by leading Swedish devotees, including the legal adviser, urging (and accomplishing) the dissolution of the Swedish Sai organization. 9) An insightful statement in faltering English from former prominent devotee Conny Larsson of Sweden, and an open letter to Baba on Dec. 31, 2000 by Larsson. 10) The important compilation of eyewitness materials published in early 2000 by David Bailey, entitled "The Findings." 11) A newspaper article from Canada's The Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 19, 2000. 12) A couple of investigative articles about Baba in the popular periodical India Today (Dec. 4, 2000). And much, much more.
I have posted here at the rest of this webpage: questions for Dr. Michael Goldstein (current overseer of the Sathya Sai Baba movement in the Western hemisphere) about Sathya Sai's behavior and the behavior of Goldstein and the Sathya Sai Baba organization's hierarchy in response; four of the several long letters I wrote as part of my efforts to notify the SSB membership and general public about my serious concerns about Sathya Sai’s behavior. This letter-writing activity was certainly not vindictive, but simply part of an effort to fulfill the “mandatory reporting” laws (incumbent upon all those working in the helping and teaching professions) to notify the community about SSB’s evidently serial and quite illegal sexual exploitation of male minors and harassment of slightly older male youth. I also wanted to express to the SSB community my concerns about other dysfunctional aspects of Sathya Sai and his organization, and, finally, to point out the disturbingly misleading and harmful mis-use of language by certain defenders of SSB. These letters and other materials of mine have already been in greater-or-lesser circulation for years at different websites on the Internet. I have also added three short, private letters written in Oct. 2005 and Jan. 2007, never before circulated, written to a former devotee with a legal background who has been criticized by the "true believers" for her serious doubts about Sathya Sai Baba's stature.
Note that I have written two letters to the respected international organization Human Rights Watch about the SSB controversy. I have NOT uploaded these letters here because they simply duplicate content already included in the following letters. Nor have I uploaded here my initial open letter of early Feb. 2001 to the local Santa Barbara SSB Center members and wider international SSB community, which actually contained a rather more "balanced"-sounding and positive assessment of Sathya Sai, because my view of SSB's problematic complexity grew more serious and critical in the coming months, especially after reading in the Spring 2001 issue of the ashram journal, Sanathana Sarathi the venomous Christmas 2000 discourse by Sathya Sai, wherein he furiously lashed out at anyone who dared to question or criticize him and self-aggrandizingly promoted himself and his own works at some length. I and many other people found all of this quite strange and bizarre and quite unbecoming of the "Purna Avatar."
At this point in time, I have no interest (nor the time, such a precious and fleeting commodity) to pull all of my thoughts about Sathya Sai into one big, long article. Perhaps one day I will, and then submit it to a major publication. If anyone wants to edit the following materials to produce and submit such an article, feel free to contact me and I’ll be quite happy to cooperate.
Here below are:
1. My questions of Dr. Michael Goldstein;
2. A letter in 2001 to "Emily" (name changed for privacy), a longtime devotee of SSB and also a close friend;
3. An open letter I wrote in March 2001, commenting on a "damage control" propaganda piece written by Jack Hawley, a prominent author and devotee of Sathya Sai;
4. An open letter in March 2001, commenting on another propaganda piece written by Jagadeesan, a prominent SSB devotee, author, and overseer of the SSB movement in SE Asia (and ongoing advocate for virginity among the youth!);
5. A letter in 2001 to "Anne" (named changed for privacy), a longtime devotee of SSB;
6. A short letter from 2005 to "Sandy" (name changed), a doubting devotee, in which letter I comment on the pathological behavior of the "true believers" who criticized "Sandy" for her doubts about SSB.
7-8. Two more short letters, from Jan. 2007, to "Sandy" in response to her sharing with me a few questions and a long open letter [not reproduced here] written in late 2006 by G. Venkataraman, a scientist and "true believer" in Sathya Sai Baba, a high-ranking deputy in his organization. As part of these two letters I have added some scientific insights on how the incidence of the paranormal around SSB cannot be seen as sufficient evidence of his being "a Divine Incarnation." Very importantly, I have also added the statement by the Rahm family and their lawyer concerning their court case against the SSB org leadership in the USA, which was self-dismissed on a legal technicality (the SSB org is so fearful that it has structured itself to be unaccountable to the law), and yet that dismissal has been falsely interpreted by SSB org leaders like Venkataraman as an imagined "victory," when in fact the allegations still stand uncontested as true in the view of many national, international and media organizations.
I. Questions of Dr. Michael Goldstein (Sathya Sai's appointed overseer for the SSB movement in the Western hemisphere)
(A few years ago I was asked by a colleague to submit some questions for Dr. Michael Goldstein as part of the BBC's research-preparations for doing their documentary film on Sathya Sai Baba and interviewing Goldstein. Here are three big questions I would have asked Dr. Goldstein (for starters) and any other officers still participating in the organization about the Sathya Sai controversy:)
1) It has now been established by the retrieval, after many years, of a series of typed, xeroxed memos (dated January 18, 1981, February 21, 1981, and March 25, 1981), written by Dr. John "Jack" Hislop, the late head of the Sathya Sai Baba Council in America, that he and all the other board members at the time (yourself included) knew that a male minor from Northern California had recently come forth with serious complaints that Sathya Sai Baba had repeatedly molested him sexually. In the first of these memos, Dr. Hislop suggested to the directors, in his characteristically typed memo, dated January 18, 1981, that, if the allegations were proven true, devotees would (justifiably) regard Baba (in Hislop's words) as "a hypocrite, a liar, and a criminal. Why? (1) He [Sathya Sai] would be a hypocrite because He pretends that His life is above the senses; and because He told me in an interview (which you have seen) that a homosexual is denied Membership in a Center, that this person should be questioned closely and be admitted only if the person desires to change their life away from that of a homosexual, and that people were homosexuals because of weakness of mind. (2) He would be a liar because He told me, face to face, in the most serious way that the homosexual stories about Him were totally untrue. (3) He would be a criminal because the homosexual abuse of children under His care and protection is a criminal action and such people are punished by jail sentences.”
In these memos,* Hislop did not accuse the boy of lying, but he couldn't believe that the stories were true, and so he invented a theory of teen anxiety and projection to discount the stories. When more and more similar stories began to emerge later in the 1980s, and then especially from about 1997 on, with the advent of the Internet and direct first-person reports from numerous courageous former devotees, why did you, Dr. Goldstein, not call for an open hearing on the topic, instead of trying to suppress this information and maintain a policy of complicity?
[* Note: there has been some question on the Internet by Gerald Joe Moreno as to the authenticity of these three memos to the Directors (and an additional letter to the family in question) all typed up and sent out by John Hislop. (Read the fuller story
here at this separate webpage
.) In April 2004 I supplied my copies of the Hislop memos to David Savill and the BBC documentary film team, and these memos were never returned to me by this team, after repeated requests. I had made xerox copies of these copies before I gave them away to the BBC, and it is these second-generation copies that I now have in my possession. The first-generation copies had been given to me in the mid-1980s by a close friend who preceded me as a president of the S.F. Sai Center in the early 1980s and who had received these copies of the original memos by Hislop upon asking Hislop for more information about the allegations concerning SSB. I have sworn a notarized affidavit that these Hislop memos, which have been uploaded for viewing at different Internet sites run by former devotees, are indeed genuine, i.e., they were sent out to SSB Council of America directors and perhaps certain other SSB org officers by Hislop in the early 1980s.]
2) Dr. Goldstein, why, as a medical professional, have you not obeyed the "mandated reporting" rules of your profession and U.S. law, which hold that anyone aware of evidence indicating “reasonable suspicion” of inappropriate sexual contact by an adult toward a minor must report this adult, no matter what his/her position, to the proper child protection agencies and legal authorities?
3) Why did you never respond to the plea from the Oregon Sai center in 2000 (signed by some 75 members) for an open discussion about the case of yet another boy sexually molested by Swami? Instead, you had John Evan send a most inappropriate advaita (nondual spiritual) response to the center members, including a quote from Ramesh Balsekar, an Indian proponent of the nondual “Understanding,” who would likely never have sanctioned the use of his teachings to excuse sexual molestation behavior by Sathya Sai. [NB: Ramesh himself in the Winter of 2004/5 was exposed for his own chronic manipulative soliciting of sexual favors from numerous female students, several of whom turned on him publicly at one of his retreats and vociferously demanded amends; he gave only a semi-apology and tried to deploy his pseudo-advaita teachings to absolve himself of any real accountability.]
II. Letter to a Longtime Puttaparthi Resident
(This is my letter to a longtime friend, an elder woman resident who has lived for many years in the vicinity of the Puttaparthi and Whitefield ashrams of Sathya Sai Baba; we were close friends for several years in the mid-1980s while I lived in the large duplex apartment that sponsored the San Francisco Sai Baba Center.)
March 14, 2001
Dear "Emily" [name changed for privacy],
Greetings in God's Love!
I received yesterday your letter from India. I'm happy to hear the good news about you […]
Re: your big question… Yes, it's true -- after many years of rationalizing the old allegations I had heard [from Tal Brooke's book] of Baba's homosexual behavior with certain young men, I finally severed altogether the connection with Sathya Sai after finally, in early February 2001, hearing and reading evidence showing that the problem is FAR more serious than I had ever thought, on a scale and scope that is deeply disturbing.
For someone like yourself, who has left everything to follow Baba, what I am about to present might seem devastating. I would urge you, as a person I have always loved and respected --a mature, responsible, courageous, heartfelt, honest, caring, compassionate woman -- to not close your mind or heart at this crucial moment. Please don’t follow the shrinking herd of those who would pathologically deny, cover-up and rationalize in slavish “groupthink” what's going on merely to preserve their egoic identification with Baba and the Sai movement.
We now have trustworthy reports from over two dozen credible eye-witnesses (and sworn affidavits from many of them) indicating that probably hundreds of young men and boys have been molested (far beyond "touching the perineum") and/or forced to perform oral sex and masturbation on Baba over the last 30 years or more. Baba has masturbated them and sometimes performed oral sex on them, sometimes to the point of ejaculation. Baba has threatened to deny interviews to many of the boys' parents if the boys resist his sexual predatory behavior. He has paid or bribed most of these male youth for sexual favors and for their silence with money, rings, watches, etc.--up to $10,000 for one boy (an American youth well known to several former members of our Santa Barbara Sai Center). Baba has also evidently gotten angry at and berated those male youth who try to resist his molestations or who fail to become aroused when Baba is molesting them. He verbally manipulates and coerces them to engage in sex with him.
It's clear that Baba is not "detachedly" "raising the kundalini [spiritual energy]" or "healing old sexual karma" of these male youth. (If this were the true reason, why is he denying young women and girls, older men and nonpreferred younger men this "healing touch"?) Rather, Baba appears to be caught up in terrible lust and attachment: eyewitnesses describe him making "moaning" and "gurgling" sounds, thrusting his pelvis and erect organ toward the boys and young men, grabbing them when they try to move away, trying to persuade them how "lucky" they are to be having this "great opportunity."
Meanwhile, many (but not all!) of the leading Sai Organization officers are pathologically covering up for Baba, even trying to suppress the allegations altogether. They condemn the Internet, which is simply a neutral tool that allows for an egalitarian, "Town Hall" forum for presentation of views. These officers, like Baba himself in his Christmas 2000 discourse, are stooping to ad hominem name-calling, referring to the conscientious, concerned critics of Baba as so many “Judases,” “demons,” “cawing crows” and “grievous sinners.”
J. Jagadeesan of Malaysia has been circulating a vile letter full of condemnation, name-calling, and completely irrational rationalizations and mental gymnastics. Jack Hawley has written an evasive, misleading piece of pious-sounding propaganda ("It's about a Love so deep...") to distract attention away from Baba's ongoing sexual abuse. And one Ram Das Awle is now joining in the irresponsible defense of Baba. I was initially impressed, around Christmas time, reading his book excerpt defending Baba (the same essay you sent me a week ago), but then one long night in early February  I stayed up until 6 a.m. reading the extensive first-person accounts of molestation, along with the major media articles and the letters of resignation and warning from respectable longtime devotees, including some psychologists. I then wrote Ram Das a letter telling him that I thought he should read this same material and revise his book-manuscript as it pertains to Baba. Instead he wrote me an email letter which, in part, threatened me with serious karmic consequences for maligning the Purna Avatar—as if telling the truth about child molestation is a sinful act! His letter is filled with all sorts of silly mixing up of the absolute (paramarthika) and relative (vyavaharika) levels of truth.
I have written lengthy, point-by-point rebuttals of these writings by Awle, Hawley, and Jagadeesan. Their faulty logic, misleading propaganda, abandoning of universal ethics (and, yes, the five human values [so heavily promoted by the SSB organization]: Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, Ahimsa [Truth, Virtue, Peace, Love and Noninjury]), and, last but certainly not least, their callous unconcern for the anguish of the molested victims is mind-boggling and frightening. It appears that they and the many other prominent Sai devotees who engage in this rationalizing behavior have, along with Baba himself, transformed the Sathya Sai movement into a dangerously dysfunctional cult wherein anything and everything can be rationalized because "Baba is God"--a point that is now eminently debatable.
In Baba’s Christmas 2000 discourse, in addition to engaging in name-calling toward his critics (“Judases,” “demons,” “cawing crows”) and accusing them of engaging in “false propaganda” for the sake of money (a few have done this, but the vast majority of Baba’s critics have certainly not done this), Baba has declared, “Those that accuse the Divine Personalities and put them to suffering are committing the worst of the sins. If one cannot undertake meritorious deeds, it is better one keeps quiet instead of indulging in such sinful deeds.” He also advises devotees, “Do not react to any criticism leveled against Swami or any other elder for that matter. Just brush it aside, saying, you have nothing to do with it.”
But, "Emily," surely you must know that there are "MANDATED REPORTING" rules that require any adult, especially those in the mental health, teaching and clergy professions, to expose the SEXUAL MOLESTATION OF MINORS. In our law-based society (and Baba has always advocated that citizens abide by their nation’s laws), sexual molestation and forced sexual behavior is a prosecutable, criminal offense. The United Nations has established an international Convention on the Rights of the Child and Baba's behavior completely violates this UN law. It is ALWAYS INAPPROPRIATE for an adult to touch the genitals of a minor EXCEPT IN A LICENSED, CONSENSUAL MEDICAL SITUATION. A private interview with Baba is NOT such a situation.
For these reasons, since these more serious allegations about Baba came forth in mid-2000, reaching the level of major media coverage in Fall 2000 in the U.K., Australia, Canada, India, and a few European countries, many longtime devotees are now immediately severing all contact with the Sai movement and rejecting Baba as not being the "purest of the pure." I read these reports in early February of 2001 and now I must agree with the defectors that something has gone TERRIBLY WRONG with Baba—and with the Sai movement hierarchy for trying to cover it up.
Not all the longtime "VIP" devotees are covering up. Many have publicly resigned, including central coordinators of the Sai movement in Sweden (Conny Larsson, et al.), Australia (Terry Gallagher), Poland (Artur Wisniewski), and numerous regional directors/coordinators (seven in Quebec, several in the USA, etc.). The entire Swedish Sai movement has pretty much shut down, and the same may happen in many other countries. Meanwhile, here in the US, there has been a rash of defections by longtime senior devotees, many of whom I am now in direct contact with. Yes, your friend James Redmond has resigned (not just because of Baba’s sexual predatory behavior; Redmond has repeatedly caught Baba faking most of his “materializations” in his many videos of Baba) and the Arkansas Sai commune has severed connection with Baba (the founder's son is one of the multiply molested victims). [Update: Redmond apparently returned to the orbit of Satya Sai; evidently his former wife Jill, outraged by the revelations, was the main impetus for them both to leave. Obviously Redmond's SSB-video line of products brings him financial benefit.]
Despite all this, Michael Goldstein [primary supervisor of the Sathya Sai Baba movement in the Western hemisphere], Bob Bozzani, William Harvey, Jack Hawley [other high-ranking directors of the USA SSB movement], and others who should know better have abandoned all integrity and are acting most irresponsibly in trying to persistently reaffirm that "Baba is pure," consistently ignoring the serious, grievous trauma experienced by the male youth involved. Again, according the mandated reporting rules, these Sai officers are criminally guilty of covering up Baba's criminal behavior when he sexually molests minors.
Between the two opposing camps of those who, on the one hand, continue to try to deny, cover-up and rationalize Baba's sexual behavior as "Divine activity," and those who, on the other hand, think that Baba is an incarnation of evil, "the imposter God," there is a growing third camp of those of us who feel that, yes, much good has come through Baba's form and world mission, and yes, there are some paranormal and beautiful things that happen around him and in Sai Centers worldwide.
But as spiritual aspirants who adhere to a universal ethical system, we cannot condone this ongoing sexual predatory behavior, this seriously harmful molestation of boys and young men, which leaves such a residue of shame, betrayal, confusion, grief, fear, anger. In a few cases it appears that male youth have even committed suicide over not being able to psychologically handle their being molested by Baba.
At this point in time, I cannot agree that Baba is the “Purna Avatar [full incarnation of Divinity],” pure and simple. Anyone who tries to rationalize Baba's behavior by appealing to his Divinity and the corollary that "God [Baba] can do whatever he wants" has not sufficiently proven that Baba is, in fact, the pure expression of Divinity incarnate on this planet. It may be that the formless God or Absolute Spirit (the Infinite Brahman) is communicating something through the name/form of Sathya Sai and thus has intended that tens of millions of people connect with his mission, at least temporarily until they move beyond the form of Sathya Sai (and has not Baba himself often called for people not to get attached to his form?)
But it also seems very likely that the human personality of Sathya Narayana Raju [Sathya Sai's name in early childhood] is NOT fully enlightened and has a considerable shadow side of lust and trickery that is interfering with the transmission of the Divine through his form. Alternately, Sathya Sai could be a highly-accomplished siddha [psychic adept] who is now plummeting as a fallen yogi (yogabhrashta). Or, again, it could be that Shirdi Sai Baba is utilizing the name and form of Sathya Narayana Raju to accomplish certain wonders, but, again, the Sathya Narayana personality is complicating things terribly with its lust and sexual predatory behavior.
The bottom line is that, REGARDLESS of who/what Baba is, we, as mature, responsible aspirants endeavoring to live the values of Satya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa [Truth, Virtue, Peace, Love and Nonviolence] have A SERIOUS ETHICAL DUTY to rise up and speak out against the ongoing sexual molestation.
You should know that there are OTHER DEEPLY DISTURBING ALLEGATIONS about Baba and the Organization that are worth mentioning. For instance, the Super Speciality Hospital is not at all what it's hyped to be. David Bailey reports in his influential compilation of eye-witness reports, "The Findings": "A doctor I sat near on the mandir porch, who works in this hospital, told me never to let anyone I cared about go there as the sanitation is disgusting and the lack of aseptic technique, appalling. This allegation has been repeated numerous times in correspondence we have received, by people who have seen through the hospital."
The big water project is apparently a dismal failure in many areas. I've talked to one devotee who has worked on numerous water and sanitation projects worldwide for the World Bank and he was deeply disappointed in Baba's water project. In "The Findings" compilation by David Bailey, Bailey reports "seeing a Telugu newspaper with a front page feature article showing photos of villages with no water, broken pipes, no pipes, pipes and no tanks, and many with nothing at all. The headlines, translated, read ‘SAI BABA WHERE’S OUR WATER? YOU’VE CHEATED US AGAIN!’" (Bon Giovanni has tried to rebut this charge by saying that numerous villages have in fact gotten water and are quite pleased; he also charges that the responsibility for the failures in other villages is NOT due to Baba or the Sai organization, but rather due to corrupt contractors trying to cheat Baba by supplying inferior equipment, failing to do certain work, etc.)
There are numerous reports of financial improprieties, including countless devotees losing significant sums of money in fraudulent schemes run by the Sai organization at Prasanthi Nilayam involving the housing units. Now we hear that Goldstein and Shah are raising funds for a 7-story edifice for Baba, contradicting the idea that no devotees would ever be solicited for funds. (Remember that another case of fund-raising occurred to subsidize the building of the planetarium in the 1980s.) I have heard stories as far back as 1980 that Baba himself has manipulated and coerced people to obtain significant sums of money from them. Back then I could only rationalize Baba's behavior... But really, there's no excuse for this financial pressuring of devotees.
Finally, it now appears to videographer James Redmond and others that Baba has faked many or most of his materializations. The vibhuti [holy ash] "manifestations" are faked through crushing a vibhuti pellet that he carries between the third and fourth finger of the right hand, transferred from the left hand. Necklaces, rings, watches, etc. have been witnessed by numerous devotees, including Isaac Tigrett [original owner of the Hard Rock cafe chain and longtime SSB devotee] and others, to be brought surreptitiously by Baba from under the cushion of the chair in the private interview room. There do appear to be some cases of genuine materializations and teleportations, especially when Baba was younger, but there are now so many faked materializations seen by eyewitnesses and the video-camera that we must ask "why would a Purna Avatar (especially one named Truth/Sathya) need to engage in trickery and deception?"
The essential point is that I and many others are now calling for Sai Baba centers, if they continue holding meetings open to the public, to forthwith abandon the name/form of Sai and transform their groups into nonsectarian assemblies for the worship of the formless God, selfless service to the community, and study of the classic advaita vedanta teachings of India (as found in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, Shankara, Jnaneshvar, Yoga Vasishtha, Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Nisargadatta, Anandamayi Ma, Ammachi Amritanandamayi, et al.).
In our local Santa Barbara Sai group, several members of our group have left to start a new satsang with a non-Sai focus and format, tentatively named One Spirit Satsang.
As I wrote in my initial 3-page open letter to the Sai community, “it would be a colossal shame if this [worldwide] fellowship [of spiritual aspirants in the Sai movement] were to fall apart and cease to exist. Moreover, I believe it would be psychologically unwise for long-time Sai devotees to run away from their friends and isolate themselves in a dark prison of doubts and disillusionment. In short, then, I believe that those countless members of the international Sai movement can rise to the occasion and together create something very positive, good and lasting out of all of this—a profoundly deep and beneficial world spiritual movement focused on the formless transcendent/immanent God. But we must move beyond the Sai form."
Again, "Emily," I am aware that this news might seem devastating and just too much to hear. I would humbly beseech you— appealing to your innate sense of compassion and justice— to not immediately, like so many of the pious rationalizers, go into your head and begin to likewise rationalize what is happening. Don't go off into metaphysical limbo like the others but stay connected with what, in your heart, you know must be the ethical, moral truth: sexual molestation of young men and boys is WRONG and CANNOT BE TOLERATED. Trickery and fraud is WRONG and CANNOT BE CONDONED.
There is so much more we could talk about, but this email letter is already long enough.
If you want to read more, and I think we all have a duty to read this material, please visit the website www.saibabaguru.com [note: this site is no longer active; among the various excellent sites now operating, with much of the old materials and more, see www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net, and the work of Barry Pittard (who once taught in the SSB schools in south India) and Robert Priddy, a Scandinavian scholar, former devotee of SSB—and author of a widely read, favorable book on SSB—who turned into a leading critic and author of a major book exposing SSB] and read, especially, the following items:
1) A very balanced article by Mick Brown from the widely-read British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. 2) A statement from UNESCO severing connection with the Sai organization. 3) A heartfelt resignation letter from longtime Santa Barbara devotees Richard & Terry Nelson. 4) A letter to Dr. Michael Goldstein from a distraught mom (and his terribly inadequate response). 5) A message to fellow Sai devotees by Lori Kaplowitz. 6) A must-read letter to Sai devotees from a deeply concerned school psychologist and former Sai Center and Regional officer, Shirley Pike. 7) An important letter of resignation by a woman psychotherapist (Elena Hartgering) who was serving as a vice-president of a Sai center, a longtime Sai devotee who now feels the need to expose the "cultish, criminal behavior" of Sai and the Sai organization. 8) A formal statement by leading Swedish devotees, including the legal adviser, urging (and accomplishing) the dissolution of the Swedish Sai organization. 9) An insightful statement in faltering English from former devotee Conny Larsson of Sweden, and an open letter to Baba by Larsson. 10) The important compilation of eyewitness materials by David Bailey, entitled "The Findings." 11) A newspaper article from Ottowa, Canada. 12) A series of articles about Baba in the popular periodical India Today.
My dear friend "Emily," I look forward to hearing from you your thoughts and comments.
In Divine love, peace, joy and, yes, TRUTH,
III. Open Letter to Jack Hawley and to the SSB Community about the Hawley Propaganda Letter
An Open Letter Response to Sai Devotee Jack Hawley, by Timothy Conway (March 2001)
Dear Friends in God’s Love,
Jack Hawley, a prominent Sai devotee, acclaimed author and successful management consultant, in December 2000 drafted a cryptic essay entitled “WE DON’T KNOW!” while in Prashanti Nilayam, apparently in response to the serious allegations about Sathya Sai Baba’s sexual activities with male youth and perhaps also in response to allegations of trickery in Baba’s “materializations.” Mr. Hawley never reveals what, exactly, he is talking about, so it is hard to pin him down.
His essay is being distributed among certain Sai devotees in India and the West through printed copies and the Internet – I’m not sure how many persons have seen it. For all I know it may be quite widespread by now. I recently received a xerox copy of Mr. Hawley’s essay from a visitor to Prashanti Nilayam in December 2000.
On the face of it, this essay by Jack Hawley is a high-minded, tactful, and edifying call for us to see Baba’s activity in the most positive light. However, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Hawley’s person, I view his essay as being evasive, irresponsible, and laden with a certain conceit, as a close reading of his letter will clearly show. It also serves as dangerous propaganda at a time when the Sathya Sai Baba movement direly needs honesty, humility, and complete openness about empirical facts, victims’ rights and feelings, and the conventions of law and social justice. […]
I feel that someone needs to critique Hawley’s essay because this piece is being read by an increasing number of Sai devotees in India and abroad, and because Hawley is a prominent, respected devotee. (He spends half of each year living near Baba “and the other half consulting with top executives in Europe and the United States,” according to the brief biographical sketch in his book on Baba and business, “Reawakening the Spirit in Work: The Power of Dharmic Management” [SF: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1993], a book that received acclaim from many “notables” in the management field).
Therefore, given his prominence and the importance that many will attach to his words, I will reproduce below the entirety of Mr. Hawley’s essay, and then critique it on a point by point basis to expose its many fallacies.
I heartily salute Jack Hawley for his dedication as a spiritual aspirant and his eloquent attempts (e.g., with his book, Reawakening the Spirit in Work) to bring a deep spirituality into our lives. I also have nothing against him personally. If some of my critique seems harsh, it is because there is so very much at stake here. Mr. Hawley may be an expert on business management, but with my background in transpersonal psychology and religious studies, I know something about healthy and unhealthy spiritual movements and there are deeply disturbing signs that the Sai movement has turned into a dangerously dysfunctional cult.
[Jack Hawley essay:]
WE DON’T KNOW!
“Unless you brighten your vision with Love, you cannot see the Truth.” — Sathya Sai Baba
Every decade or so negative rumors arise here in Prasanthi. It seems to be a Western thing. Indians just ignore them. Many things arise here that shake spiritual aspirants to their roots. This latest round of hearsay seems more virulent because e-mail now transmits gossipy rumors to the whole world in the blink of an eye. Hysteria rises with the rumors. People face a crisis of faith. Some of them leave, some stay. How one fares in this crisis depends on one’s “capacity” (an important spiritual term for the strength of one’s faith and love).
The big question, of course, is “is it true?” And the truth is that we (all of us) don’t know! Many think they know, but they don’t really know. But I do — at least I know some things (as I’m sure many others do also). I will not talk about all I know, but I can say this: It is NOT what some minds have leaped to.
It is the worldly function of the mind to reach conclusions. When the mind doesn’t know the answer to a question it becomes psychologically distressed. Then it grabs at answers and stretches for concepts that might help it feel better. It readily accepts simplistic analogies, buzz words, and labels — anything that alleviates its puzzled state. Most of the “answers” it comes up with are wrong, but the mind doesn’t care! Worse yet, once it latches onto an “answer,” the mind stops receiving new information. In effect it says, “Sorry, this issue is closed. I will no longer accept anything that could upset my tenuous equilibrium.”
Regarding the recent rumors:
1. They are definitely not “the truth” as people so carelessly use the term truth (They may seem “true” to some, but they are not “The Truth.”)
2. They are also not any of the other modern, quick-stick labels aimed at grabbing our attention, frightening us, and disgusting us.
3. What is (or is not) happening at Prasanthi Nilayam is unrelated to current worldly level buzz words and ideas to which the mind so quickly leaps. This is not about a “character flaw” in a mere old man, for example; it has nothing to do with analysis or the so-called “medical model,” or with “scientific” thinking. (The mind sees, or even creates, what it looks for. In this sex and violence obsessed Kali Yuga [era] of today, the mind leaps to obsessive conclusions. Unable to truly understand, yet ever ready to leap, the mind shrouds Divinity with worldly illusions and comes up with wrong conclusions.)
4. What is happening here in Prasanthi is beyond the meager human mind and its ability to “figure out.” It is beyond maya (mind-created illusion). Many things happen here that involve deep, mysterious energies, far beyond what our minds can grasp.
We do have some quite clear hints about what’s happening here:
• It has to do with Love so deep, so Divine that nothing can stand in its way — not even the threat of misunderstanding or calumny.
• It has to do with healing, not harming.
• It has to do with the Avatar’s mission here on earth (which, of course, has to fit this crazy Kali age).
• It has to do with the purity of our own minds, not someone else’s. The impurity is not in the Avatar, who is purity itself, it’s in the world, in our minds. Few of us can see Divinity, and fewer yet understand it.
Those who go into their hearts for answers during these crises of faith fare better. Those who go into their minds and seek answers outside, struggle the hardest and ache most.
12/2000, Jack Hawley, Prasanthi Nilayam
[End of essay]
[Note from Timothy:]
Allow me here to critique Hawley’s fine-sounding essay on an extensive, point-by-point basis, because there are so many violations of logic and acceptable use of language, as well as problems with the specific content in what he states. I will identify his writing with “JH:” and italicize them, and preface my comments with “TC:” and use regular font, with occasional italicization and boldfacing for emphasis.
To begin with, Mr. Hawley’s opening quote from Baba implies that those who are authentically living in Divine Love will see the Truth as Hawley and Baba want people to see it. It is apparently inconceivable to Mr. Hawley that mature, longtime spiritual aspirants could be living in Love, aware of the Divine Truth (e.g., God is seated in the hearts of all beings; only God ultimately, nondually exists; etc.), and yet disagree with Hawley over the meaning and lawfulness of Baba’s sexual activities and other improprieties.
JH: Every decade or so negative rumors arise here in Prasanthi.
TC: This is typical of the obfuscation (fog) technique that Mr. Hawley perpetrates throughout his essay. The truth is that rumors [allegations] about sexual improprieties by Baba have been circulating among residents and visitors to the ashram since at least 1980, when I first got the most remote whiff of them. They began to come into clearer focus and wider distribution with the publication of Tal Brooke’s “Avatar of Night” book in 1982, reprinted in 1984. And the stories (“rumors”) have been circulating throughout the 1980s and 1990s, especially since 1995 with the widespread advent of the Internet. The stories undoubtedly go back in oral story-telling form and certain persons’ private notes to the early 1970s, when the alleged activities in Tal Brooke’s book are declared to have taken place.
JH: It seems to be a Western thing. Indians just ignore them.
TC: This is patently untrue. Yes, Westerners have talked more openly about these things, because of our more psychologized culture, influenced in recent decades by “truth-telling” approach of the Recovery movement, the Oprah Winfrey show, the John Bradshaw work, and also the “tell-all” approach of the tabloid newspapers, sensationalist celebrity autobiographies, Jerry Springer show, and other brutally explicit venues.
But India is now openly talking about Baba’s improprieties: just read the 3-part series published in Dec. 2000 in the widely read India Today newspaper, and read the several articles exposing Sai and the organization in other Indian newspapers and magazines. (Note: many of these articles are available at the website www.exbaba.com.)
Evidently Baba’s improprieties around sexual activity and faked materializations have been an “open secret” discussed among his college boys for some time, as related in “SATHYA SAI BABA: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY,” posted to the early Internet in 1993 on the discussion site soc.culture.tamil [see www.exbaba.com] by Meenakshi Srikanth, a former student at the Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Whitefield campus. (Meenakshi’s piece only became more widely known as part of “The Findings” compilation presented in July 2000 by David and Faye Bailey, posted at www.exbaba.com.)
JH: Many things arise here that shake spiritual aspirants to their roots.
TC: Aspirants need to be shaken at their roots. It’s called radical (“at the root”) transformation. We need to be shaken up so much at our egoic roots that these ego tendencies fall off and we are free in God, our original Identity as Spirit. Yes, this news about Sathya Sai is shattering, but we need to be shattered to a certain extent.
All sacred mystical traditions speak of this need for ego death, for undergoing what St. John of the Cross (Juan de al Cruz) called the “Dark Night of the Soul,” wherein, as Juan puts it, one is completely un-made and re-made in God. Zen and Vajrayana [Buddhist] masters speak all the time about the need for this ego-death. And for the illustrious Advaita Vedanta [Hindu] masters, this is none other than the “manonasa” or death of the egoic mind that is called for so that the Atman [God-Self] can shine clearly, without egocentric delusion.
Having one’s exclusive, one-sided views about Sathya Sai exploded with revelations that his behavior is not so seemly can have a most liberating effect, if not resulting in perfect “death of the ego-mind.” Some have even thought that the revelations about Baba are specifically, divinely intended to shake people up, to wean them from their attachment to the name and form of Sathya Sai.
JH: This latest round of hearsay seems more virulent because e-mail now transmits gossipy rumors to the whole world in the blink of an eye.
TC: The use of the word “hearsay” is strategically used to minimize the authenticity of molested victims’ accounts of what Baba has done to them. We should realize that, strictly speaking, everything you have ever heard about Baba outside your own direct experience is also “hearsay,” that is, second-hand information. This includes the official 4-volume biography by [Prof. N.] Kasturi, everything that is published in Sanathana Sarathi [the official journal of the SSB organization], everything that your friends tell you at Sai Centers after they return from India, etc.
Obviously, some forms of hearsay are more reliable, some are not. Many of Baba’s victims have been willing to sign legal affidavits about their unsavory experiences, giving their accounts much more reliability than many of the “beautiful” stories you’ve heard about Sai. [Clarification: it is uncertain just how many individuals have actually by this point created officially notarized documents; but well over a dozen have made first-person statements in print and/or on camera, swearing to the truth of the contents.]
Mr. Hawley also uses the phrase “gossipy rumors” — another tactic that, deliberately or not, marginalizes and minimizes the heart-wrenching accounts of Baba’s sexual abuse and deceitful manipulation told by victims or their anguished family members. Hawley is verging on the use of an ancient, sinister debate strategy employed by those of little integrity: attack the person, not the person’s legitimate viewpoint. Hence this low-level tactic is called “argumentum ad hominem” — attack the man (e.g., as a “gossip”) rather than address his legitimate concerns and grievances.
JH: Hysteria rises with the rumors.
TC: Yes, there is a tiny amount of “hysteria” with a few hysteria-prone devotees. But, again, we have here a strategy by Hawley to paint with a broad brush of “hysteria” all those who are deeply concerned about the ethics of Baba’s repeated acts of child molestation, rape, deceit, payment for sexual favors, etc. [Important clarification: By "child molestation" I mean any minors under age 18 who've been molested by SSB; by "rape" I mean any case of a male youth more-or-less unwillingly initiated by SSB into sexual contact; by "payment for sexual favors" I mean the reports by certain experiencers and external witnesses of SSB giving money, jewelry, and other gifts to male youth who have been targeted for sexual contact by SSB.]
This strategy [raising the issue of "hysteria"] is an affront to all decent people who want to know the truth about what is happening, and who have a compassionate empathy for those who are being traumatized by Baba’s behavior.
JH: People face a crisis of faith.
TC: In the present case, if people’s faith has become an idolatrous worship of the name and form of Sai (in the same manner that esteemed philosophers, theologians and religion historians like John Hick, John Cobb, Jr., and Wilfred Cantwell Smith have accused too many Christians of idolizing the historic person of Jesus of Nazareth), then this idolatrous faith needs to be smashed open in a “crisis” that will free such persons from their idolatry and liberate them into the worship of the true, transcendent, formless God.
Now, I am aware that the formless, transpersonal, transcendent God can take a personal form — this is India’s doctrine of the Avatar, and Christianity’s idea of the Divine Incarnation of the Son. And faith in the Avatar or Divine Incarnation can be legitimate if it does not descend into narrow-minded sectarianism (always a danger for those religious-spiritual groups that worship a specific form of the Divine).
But if Sathya Sai Baba is acting in ways that seriously violate traditionally accepted notions of Dharma, Ahimsa, Prema and Satya (Righteousness, Nonviolence, Love and Truth), then our faith in Baba as “the avatar [DIvine Incarnation] of the age” needs to go through a crisis and get undone and transformed, refocused onto the formless Divine.
JH: Some of them [those following Sai] leave, some stay.
TC: I would comment that there are any number of motives, some mature and some immature, why certain people leave Baba, and there are any number of motives, mature and immature, why certain people stay. We need to look at the maturity of the motive — not the bare fact that “some leave, some stay.”
So, for instance, someone who has sold all her possessions and bought or rented a home outside Prashanti Nilayam and is now 80 years old might not have the financial means to re-locate somewhere else. She might continue to spend time at the ashram canteen or darshan grounds simply because so many old friends are there and also in a spirit of gratitude for the many beautiful experiences brought by her association with Baba. Yet she might also feel the need to strongly critique Baba’s behavior among her acquaintances and call for realization of the Divine Inner Guru. In that respect, she might be staying at Prashanti yet will have maturely “left Baba.”
On the other hand, some persons may “stay” with Baba, either at Prashanti or at their local Sai Center, merely because they refuse to believe the accounts about Baba’s sexual improprieties or apologetically rationalize them away with high-flown mental gymnastics. These persons don’t have the requisite maturity to grow up and face the ethical implications of what Baba is doing to innocent youth.
Then again, there may be people who run away from Baba and become obsessive critics of Sai, because they suffer from a reactionary, immature sense of ego-betrayal, and act in puerile fashion like a jilted teen lover—filled with vitriolic rage.
JH: How one fares in this crisis depends on one’s “capacity” (an important spiritual term for the strength of one’s faith and love).
TC: I agree. But beware Hawley’s unstated implication that those who stay with Baba have some greater spiritual capacity than those who move beyond the name/form of Sathya Sai.
JH: The big question, of course, is “is it true?” And the truth is that we (all of us) don’t know! Many think they know, but they don’t really know. But I do — at least I know some things (as I’m sure many others do also). I will not talk about all I know, but I can say this: It is NOT what some minds have leaped to.
TC: Notice that Jack Hawley, in his characteristic evasiveness in this essay, never identifies the reference for “it” in his posed question, “is it true?” This is his way of covering up and keeping the lid on the serious allegations that are being made about Baba’s sexual behavior (and perhaps Baba’s alleged trickery is also referred to here — though I think the reference is primarily to Baba’s sexual activities). Nowhere in his essay does he mention any specific behavior about which the “rumors” are arising.
Next, Hawley engages us in some fancy-dancy epistemology: how do we ever know what we claim to know? Yes, epistemological concerns are valid in many areas of life, and ultimately one can make a great case for skepticism when it comes to existential truth claims. (See, for example, the ancient Buddhist master Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika Buddhist movement, basis for the Ch’an/Zen/Son Buddhist tradition of China/Japan/Korea — which urged that we refrain from fixed positions and rigid mental views, and instead abide in the “non-dwelling,” “no position,” “don’t-know” Zen mind. A similar position developed in certain Western schools of mysticism, such as advocated by the medieval British Christian author of the famous treatise “The Cloud of Unknowing.”)
But within our human society’s conventions, when we have signed affidavits [as gathered by India Today, Glen Meloy and others, though it is not certain how many of these have been sworn before a notary public or other official or are just "informally sworn, first-person statements"] by individuals who are willing to go on record and say (and be willing to say in a court of law) that Baba has molested them as minors, and inappropriately touched their genitals (it is ALWAYS INAPPROPRIATE for an adult to touch the genitals of a minor EXCEPT IN A LICENSED, CONSENSUAL MEDICAL SITUATION) — then this evasive epistemological smokescreen put up by Hawley is unconscionable behavior. It serves as part of a cover-up, an unlawful, prosecutable conspiracy of silence.
Jack Hawley appears to be ignorant of the fact that in most civilized countries there are “mandated reporting” rules holding that adults who know of the sexual molestation of minors MUST report these allegations to the authorities and to any persons who might become victims of this molestation behavior. Hawley’s cover-up makes him an accomplice in the sexual molestation crimes committed by Baba.
Notice here, too, the presumptuous conceit displayed by Hawley in his assertion: “Many think they know, but they don’t really know. But I do — at least I know some things (as I’m sure many others do also). I will not talk about all I know, but I can say this: It is NOT what some minds have leaped to.”
In making this statement, Hawley presumes to know more than those who disagree with him — that is, he tacitly claims to know the real meaning of Baba’s behavior. And this presumptuous attitude he maintains throughout the rest of his essay.
On this point, we should remember that numerous longtime Sai devotees have left Sathya Sai, explicitly or ostensibly over the inappropriate sexual activity by Baba. These longtime close observers obviously perceived a different meaning for Baba’s behavior than the meaning Hawley attributes to this behavior. Hawley thinks Sai’s behavior is evidence of the Divine. Former devotees apparently think otherwise. In short, there are different interpretations for this sexual behavior, and Hawley presumes to have the only legitimate interpretation.
Incidentally, I am not presuming, in my critique of Sai’s sexual activities with children and unconsenting young men as “criminal,” to have the only legitimate interpretation, either. I have sometimes mused that Sai is lustfully “taking on” (on a psychic level) the lust of humanity to clear our sexual karma. But the conventions of our society’s laws must take precedence over our metaphysical rationalizations about Sai’s molesting of children [minors and slightly older male youth].
JH: It is the worldly function of the mind to reach conclusions.
TC: Notice that Baba in his many recorded and published speeches and conversations also frequently employs the mind to “reach conclusions.” So did the Buddha, Shankara, Ramana Maharshi, and other luminaries. Hawley wants to imply with his wording that only “worldly” people will come to conclusions--for instance, conclusions that Baba’s behavior is inappropriate. Hawley then follows with some standard insights about how the mind often needs to function:
JH: When the mind doesn’t know the answer to a question it becomes psychologically distressed. Then it grabs at answers and stretches for concepts that might help it feel better. It readily accepts simplistic analogies, buzz words, and labels — anything that alleviates its puzzled state. Most of the “answers” it comes up with are wrong, but the mind doesn’t care! Worse yet, once it latches onto an “answer,” the mind stops receiving new information. In effect it says, “Sorry, this issue is closed. I will no longer accept anything that could upset my tenuous equilibrium.”
TC: This is all quite true. But please notice that the syndrome of premature, inaccurate concluding is exactly typical of the many “true-believer” Sai devotees who, in their psychological attempt to alleviate anxiety in their “crisis of faith,” engage in pathological denial or rationalization that “Baba’s sexual activity is divine.” These devotees are engaging in the same “premature concluding” by the “worldly mind.”
It is just these true-believer Sai devotees who, to use Hawley’s own terminology, are terribly “distressed” by hearing the news of Baba’s molestation of children and promiscuous homosexual activities and deceit, and who are now “grabbing at answers” from people like Hawley and others who have written apologetic materials that rationalize away the serious moral and legal implications of Baba’s acts. These devotees are accepting the “simplistic analogies” (“Baba is raising the boys’ kundalini [spiritual energy],” “purifying their karma,” etc.) and “buzz words” (“Baba is the avatar, and everything the avatar does is for a greater purpose,” etc.) so as to alleviate these devotees’ “puzzled state.” And now these devotees, having “latched onto an answer,” “stop receiving new information” and, in effect, say: “Sorry this issue is closed. I will no longer accept anything that could upset my tenuous equilibrium [as a staunch Sai devotee].”
In short, Hawley’s critical analysis can be turned right back to apply to him and to other true-believer Sai devotees.
JH: Regarding the recent rumors…
TC: Again notice Hawley’s misuse of language here. He talks of “recent” rumors when these stories of sexual behavior (albeit nearly all of them involve young men; the stories about minors are more recent) have been around for at least 20 years in print [most prominently, Tal Brooke's book in its different editions], and at least another decade in oral story-telling form [i.e., among Brooke and his interviewees]. And his use of the term “rumors” can no longer apply when victims are swearing to signed affidavits [or else first-person statements] in print [notarized or not]. (For example, the India Today Dec. 4, 2000 article "A God Accused" has reproduced these "signed affidavits"). [NOTE: Joe Moreno has recently wondered just how many actual notarized affidavits have been made, not just "signed statements." However, the more important larger point is that these individuals have been identified as who they say they are and their stories are their own first-person accounts, and thus are not mere "hearsay." If a mediation event or a legal court case were ever instituted, most or all of these individuals would very likely sign such notarized statements.]
We have reached the stage wherein the controversial Sai activity is no longer a matter of “rumors,” but differing truth-claims, and these need to be adjudicated, either by a monumental mediation session or by legal proceedings in a court of law.
JH: 1. They are definitely not “the truth” as people so carelessly use the term truth (They may seem “true” to some, but they are not “The Truth.”)
TC: This is more epistemological fancy-dancing. The ultimate “Truth” with a capital “T” is, of course, what the Vedanta and Buddhist traditions refer to as pertaining to the level of paramartha (“supreme Truth” or “absolute Reality”). On this “absolute” or “ultimate” or “supreme” Truth level, we have mystical declarations like “God (Brahman, Dharmakaya) alone IS.” “Phenomena and selves are not real.” And so on.
In contrast, phenomena and personality-selves pertain to the conventional or relative or worldly level, called by Hindu Vedantins the vyavaharika level, what the Buddhists term the samvriti level. This is the level of conventional “truth” with a small-case “t.”
As I have repeatedly pointed out in my response to the views of Sai devotee Ram Das Awle [author of a manuscript for a book which, in part, contains an apology (formal justification, defense or excuse) for Baba’s behavior], all great spiritual masters urge us not to mix up these two levels. Yes, “it’s all one!” on the absolute paramartha level, but, as the enlightened Zen masters say, enlightenment is ultimately about “chopping wood, carrying water,” and, to quote a hadith of Muhammad: “Trust in God but tie up your camel!” When Hindu masters describe the need for observing the yamas and niyamas (the moral “do’s and don’ts”), they are talking on this conventional level.
Hawley apparently wants us to keep exclusively focused on the paramartha level that “God alone is” and to hold onto the lofty opinion that Sathya Sai Baba is the pure expression of God. But Mr. Hawley should be aware that we can operate from the ultimate Truth-context that God alone is while honoring the conventional ethical truth that molesting children and lying about sexual activity is completely inappropriate.
[Jack Hawley’s second point about the “recent rumors”]
JH: 2. They are also not any of the other modern, quick-stick labels aimed at grabbing our attention, frightening us, and disgusting us.
TC: I have no clear idea of what Hawley is talking about when he speaks of “modern, quick-stick labels.” Is he implying that the term “child molestation” or “sexual predatory behavior” is inappropriate for describing the acts by Baba told in the sworn affidavits [and unnotarized but sworn first-person statements]? If so, then Hawley needs to openly argue and prove his case. These vague words of his do not suffice.
JH: 3. What is (or is not) happening at Prasanthi Nilayam is unrelated to current worldly level buzz words and ideas to which the mind so quickly leaps. This is not about a “character flaw” in a mere old man, for example; it has nothing to do with analysis or the so-called “medical model,” or with “scientific” thinking. (The mind sees, or even creates, what it looks for. In this sex and violence obsessed Kali Yuga [era] of today, the mind leaps to obsessive conclusions. Unable to truly understand, yet ever ready to leap, the mind shrouds Divinity with worldly illusions and comes up with wrong conclusions.)
TC: Again, Jack Hawley is so terribly vague about the behavior to which he is referring. Basically, he seems to be criticizing any and all attempts to understand more fully what Baba is doing and why. And notice his use of the phrase “obsessive conclusions” as if those mature persons who are trying to uncover Baba’s and the Sai officers’ unethical activities are pathologically “obsessive.”
I would state that it is decades-long denial and rationalization about Sai that are indicative of pathological obsession on the part of senior Sai devotees, not the quest for truth concerning these inappropriate activities. The latter is commendable, the former is not.
JH: 4. What is happening here in Prasanthi is beyond the meager human mind and its ability to “figure out.” It is beyond maya (mind-created illusion). Many things happen here that involve deep, mysterious energies, far beyond what our minds can grasp.
TC: I am willing to grant that “what is happening here in Prasanthi,” specifically, the many beautiful deeds of Baba and the astounding synchronicities and healings that happen are, truly, “beyond the meager human mind and its ability to ‘figure out.’” I remain convinced that there are paranormal miracles (wondrous anomalies), and “deep, mysterious energies,” perhaps involving multi-dimensional physics and paranormal or supra-normal power, that are occurring around and through the personality of Sathya Sai Baba.
We should also be aware that these energies and powers could be coming from Sai Baba of Shirdi and/or the Divine Absolute, while the figure of Sathya Narayana Raju (born in 1926 in Andhra Pradesh state) is merely a vehicle or instrument for these powers and energies, and that the Sathya Narayana personality has an unfinished shadow side involving an addiction to sex with young men and boys, and is willing to use trickery to fake certain “materializations.” [His longtime centimillionaire VIP devotee, Isaac Tigrett, has witnessed and verbally confirmed this fakery of “materializations”; regarding the allegations of sexual molestation of male youth, Tigrett has told an interviewer, “I believe there is truth to the rumours.”]
Alternately, Sathya Sai could be an amazingly accomplished but fallen yogi (yogabhrashta) who represents a mixture of wonderful powers and altruistic intentions along with less savory aspects — such as lustful desire, fear of being exposed, etc.
JH: We do have some quite clear hints about what’s happening here: It has to do with Love so deep, so Divine that nothing can stand in its way — not even the threat of misunderstanding or calumny.
TC: Again, I grant that much or most of Baba’s spectacular mission has been about teaching and demonstrating Love. And I am aware that numerous great spiritual masters of different religious traditions, especially those who embody the “Divine Trickster” or “Holy Fool” archetype, have behaved in ways that are mystifying, shocking, and unconventional. Thus, such masters have been misunderstood and made the target for calumny.
But calumny means “false and malicious accusation,” and in the present case, with numerous accounts of Baba molesting male youth against their will, it would seem that the charges against Baba are neither false nor malicious. These charges are simply the cry of anguished devotees attempting to protect young men and boys from behavior that can have a deeply traumatic effect upon their sensitive psyches.
JH: It has to do with healing, not harming.
TC: In light of my comment in the previous paragraph, this claim by Jack Hawley and by other true-believing Sai devotees needs to be proven and not just presumptuously stated. HOW, SPECIFICALLY, HAS BABA HEALED ANYONE by touching their genitals, performing oral sex upon them, requiring them to perform oral sex upon him, masturbating them, having them masturbate him, threatening them or their parents to keep quiet, and, finally, paying them for sexual favors? Pray tell, HOW, EXACTLY, IS ANY OF THIS BEHAVIOR “HEALING”? Let’s hear specific, clear-cut explanations from Baba and accomplished holistic health practitioners on the dynamics of this “healing” activity, not vague statements and excuses.
But no, I submit that the deep feelings of shame, guilt, betrayal, confusion, anger, sadness, numbness, and fear reported by these young men and boys are clearcut evidence of psychological HARM, not healing.
They are being abused by an elder whom they and their parents have trusted as Guru, God, and spiritual Father-Mother Sai. And this terrible abuse and breaking of a sacred trust results in pain and trauma, not “healing.”
I find this particular statement by Jack Hawley to be unconscionably ill-informed, presumptuous, and just plain wrong-headed and cruel-hearted. Maybe he doesn’t intend to be cruel, but that is the psychological effect that his words will undoubtedly have upon the victims of Baba’s sexual predatory behavior.
I would respectfully hypothesize that if any of Jack Hawley’s children (I do not know whether, in fact, he has children) were being sexually abused by Baba, they would not appreciate hearing these words from their father. Mr. Hawley should empathetically put himself in the shoes of those hundreds of molested youth and their family members and he will see that such statements (“It has to do with healing, not harming,” etc.) are woefully inappropriate responses to the present crisis.
JH: It has to do with the Avatar’s [Divine Incarnation's] mission here on earth (which, of course, has to fit this crazy Kali age).
TC: This explanation by Hawley is no explanation at all. First, it begs the question of whether Sathya Sai Baba is truly an Avatar of the purely divine kind, not just an avatar in the sense that we are all avatars (Divine manifestations). [Elena Hartgering reminds us that this method of defending SSB by appealing to the idea that "Sai Baba is God" is guilty of the fallacy of presumption.]
Second, Hawley presumes to know something of what an avatar’s mission would be. Now, according Krishna’s alleged instructions in the Bhagavad Gita [an ancient, authoritative text of Hindu Vedanta], Vishnu’s avatar (God’s special Incarnation) occurs “from age to age” to “restore Dharma (righteousness or virtue) and destroy adharma (non-virtue).”
It has to be demonstrated that Sathya Sai’s sexual predatory behavior -- apparently involving hundreds, maybe even more than a thousand young men and boys -- is “restoring Dharma.” Rather, it strikes an increasing number of us worldwide as indicative of nonvirtuous, adharmic behavior by someone who is either not fully Divine (e.g., someone who is a blend of Divine light and dark energies) or else is a “fallen yogi.” (Some nasty naysayers want to say that Baba is actually nothing more than an evil force on the planet, a master of occult powers who masquerades, like the legendary Lucifer, as a being of light and goodness. I don’t accept this analysis of “Baba-as-consummate-evil.” I do believe that there has been an astonishing amount of genuine goodness, compassion and spiritual upliftment in and around Baba.)
Finally, I would remark that Ramakrishna, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Anandamayi Ma, Meher Baba, Anasuya Devi, Devaraha Baba, Ammachi Amritanandamayi and numerous other highly impressive Avatars/Mahatmas from India have lived out their mission in the modern “crazy Kali age” and have not needed to resort to such illegal/criminal behaviors to enlighten and edify millions of people.
JH: It has to do with the purity of our own minds, not someone else’s. The impurity is not in the Avatar, who is purity itself, it’s in the world, in our minds.
TC: This statement from Hawley sounds impressive, but is dangerous propaganda and heartlessly unfeeling as well. The Nazi movement arose with the conceit that it was a Divine movement to restore the “purity” of the human race and the homeland. The Nazis developed an elaborate metaphysics, theology and mythology to rationalize the decimation of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and other “undesirables” as a great good for the commonweal. Anyone who disagreed with the “purity” of Nazi intentions was considered an obstacle, someone to be re-educated with Nazi propaganda or else eliminated as another undesirable.
For Jack Hawley to suggest that anyone who has simple questions, ethical reservations or moral judgments about Baba’s sexual behavior is the one who is impure, not Baba, is being terribly disrespectful. Worse, his words serve as dangerous propaganda aiming (consciously or unconsciously) to manipulate people into compliant, obedient submission and “groupthink.” This is the type of slavish thinking that goes on in dysfunctional, dangerous cults like Scientology, the tragically-defunct People’s Temple sect headed by Jim Jones, and numerous other spiritual movements gone terribly wrong.
We must remember that, according to [Prof. N.] Kasturi’s biographical literature about Baba and translations of his discourses, Sathya Sai has himself long been a critic of impurity and hypocrisy and evil masquerading as good. Given that Baba has no qualms about preaching in moralist terms, we have every right to ask about his own morality when it comes to his sexual behavior with children and non-consenting young adults.
Again, notice that Hawley has presumptuously “begged the question” in implicitly identifying Sathya Sai Baba as the utterly pure, Divine Avatar. At this point in time, anyone who wishes to state this claim must back it up and demonstrate HOW/WHY AN AVATAR WOULD NEED TO MOLEST CHILDREN AND YOUNG MEN AGAINST THEIR WILL. A standard feature of dangerously dysfunctional cults is to allow the leader to get away with behaviors that are not allowed for the rank and file membership—in short, a double standard. Unless the Sai movement is advocating sex with children—something that I don’t ever recall being part of the guidelines for centers or the Ninefold Daily Conduct rules given by Baba—then sexual activity by Baba with children is not allowable by him or by anyone else.
We must remember, too, that, if Baba’s sexual activities with young men and boys is so “pure” and such a necessary part of his Divine mission, then WHY IN HEAVEN IS HE NOT ALSO ENGAGING IN THIS ACTIVITY WITH YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS? Why is the female sex being consistently deprived of his “healing Grace” in this form? Is this not misogynous prejudice against female devotees?
Incidentally, though I am strictly heterosexual, I am not homophobic, and I would have no problem with Sathya Sai if he were to come out of the closet, and, in an open manner (none of this terrible secrecy), commit himself to a homosexual lover in a monogamous relationship, perhaps even getting married in a beautiful ceremony at Prashanti Nilayam. [Unfortunately, homosexuality is by law illegal in India, any homosexual behavior, even between consenting adults, being considered a punishable crime.]
As it is, one day soon we are likely to see members of the international group Human Rights Watch or some other group, deeply concerned about ongoing violations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), demonstrating outside Prashanti with banners and signs saying: “STOP MOLESTING MINORS!” “WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON WITHIN THE PRIVATE INTTERVIEW ROOM?!”
At this point, I think that longtime Sai devotees should demand that the entry to Sai’s private interview room be kept open and that a chaperon be present on all occasions when Sai is in the company of male youth. I also think that Sai should stop wearing the ochre robe, symbol of celibate renunciation, and drop the renunciate title “Swami.” Given the serious allegations, these steps are not too much to ask.
JH: Few of us can see Divinity, and fewer yet understand it.
TC: I agree. But we can certainly see, understand, and agree that molesting children is, as most cultures have understood and agreed, WRONG and, in our society, criminal. Do I need to repeat it? It is ALWAYS INAPPROPRIATE for an adult to touch the genitals of a minor EXCEPT IN A LICENSED, CONSENSUAL MEDICAL SITUATION.
Yes, on some plane of existence and from a certain human spiritual viewpoint, Baba may be God. But his molesting of minors and deceitfully trying to cover it up is, within our conventions of Indian and American society, criminal activity. And cover-up behavior by longtime devotees in positions of authority within the Sai organization is also criminal activity.
JH: Those who go into their hearts for answers during these crises of faith fare better. Those who go into their minds and seek answers outside, struggle the hardest and ache most.
TC: Jack Hawley here shows his enslavement to “either-or” thinking conditioned by Aristotle’s ancient binary logic. He implies that genuinely mature devotees live (only) in their hearts and thereby find peace and “fare better,” while other devotees live (only) in their minds and are caught in the “seeking” syndrome, and therefore must “struggle” and ache.
I would submit that what the world needs today are spiritual practitioners who live from both their deeply-feeling hearts and their clearly-thinking minds. Lord save us from the heartless or the mindless.
As for Hawley’s comments about “struggle” and “ache,” I would remark that certainly a pseudo-bliss and false contentment can result from denial and rationalization about that which disturbs. And certainly many illustrious advocates of social justice, like Mohandas Gandhi and Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King and Archbishop Oscar Romero and Nelson Mandela (to name just a few 20th-century heroes), have “ached” deeply and “struggled” hard--and yes, even died--in their tireless quest to remedy wrongs and enact justice.
But which path would you prefer? “Ignorance is bliss” or “No pain, no gain”? In the present case, the latter path is far more indicative of a mature spirituality.
In closing, I reiterate my heartfelt salutations to Mr. Hawley for his dedication as a spiritual aspirant and his eloquent attempts (e.g., with his books and talks) to bring a deep spirituality into our lives. And, again, I have nothing against him personally.
But I do believe he should publicly revoke his “WE DON’T KNOW!” defense of Sai and join with those of us who ask for some kind of accountability and amends-making from Sathya Sai Baba and the Sai Organization leadership. Some straightforward explanations about Sai’s behavior and a policy of keeping the private interview room open would constitute a good start.
No matter how much time and energy Jack Hawley has invested in his position as a Sai devotee, he surely has the “capacity,” like many of us longtime devotees, to move beyond a public allegiance to the name and form of Sathya Sai into a deeper spirituality not mired in idolatrous identification, denials and rationalizations.
The true experience of God is so much more glorious and sublime…
May all beings be authentically happy, peaceful and liberated in awakening to the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of God.
IV. Letter of Response to J. Jagadeesan's Open Letter to Devotees of SSB
From: Timothy Conway, Ph.D.
Subject: Criticizing the irrational, malicious “defense” of Baba written by J. Jagadeesan
Date: Monday, March 12, 2001
J. Jagadeesan of Malaysia, a longtime Sai devotee and prominent Southeast Asian Sai organizational leader and author of Sai literature [and, of all things, an ongoing advocate for "virginity" among the youth-groups to whom he frequently speaks!], in October, 2000 issued a revised “Open Letter” to his Sai Brothers and Sisters. In this letter, he attacks those critics of Baba who are concerned about the extensive allegations of criminal sexual behavior. [Note that many of Jagadeesan’s same words and ideas are reiterated by Baba in his 2000 Christmas discourse.]
I have already written extensive critical analysis of the written views of prominent American Sai devotee Jack Hawley and author Ram Das Awle. Because Jagadeesan, like Hawley, is such a hugely prominent figure in the Sai movement, his views deserve to be carefully examined and challenged where they err. Hence I present the following critical response to his open letter to the Sai community.
From the desk of J. Jagadeesan (Malaysia)
Date : 30th October 2000
Open Letter - Revised Version!
a) All Malaysia Leaders of Sai Centres and Youth Coordinators
b) All Youth Coordinators and copied to all Central Coordinators / Zonal leaders
Re: The Sai Movement - The Future - The External Threat
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Recently, I sent an open letter to all Malaysian SAI leaders and youth coordinators on the subject of "The Internal Threat" of how behaviour among members, youth and/or leaders can undermine the work done by the organization and the good name of SAI. Subsequently, I addressed the issue of "The External Threat" to the SAI movement. Since this has been well received as useful, I am taking the liberty to send a Revised Version of this letter to all who may be interested.
The "INTERNET" has become both a curse and a blessing! A blessings for those who seek to advance the boundaries of knowledge and to communicate good and noble thoughts to all at the click of a button, and a curse to all who use this incredible technology to indulge in filth and negativity! I am specifically referring to the spread of negativity about Bhagawan Baba by forces that have their own agenda of Action!
Unfortunately, since youth are the ones who most extensively use the Internet, they are often both the perpetrators and victims of this insidious campaign to malign the name of one of the noblest beings, who has walked the earth -- nay -- a Being of Divine Majesty who walks this earth. Let me put this to you in the crudest terms possible, for I have no better way to demonstrate to you the grossness of the actions some are taking! If you see faeces on the ground, would you take it and hand it over to your friend? And after handling the dirt, even if you wash your hand the smell lingers on...at least in your memory!
[NOTE FROM TIMOTHY CONWAY (hereafter abbreviated as “TC”): notice how Jagadeesan, rather than address the serious charges made by a growing number of people willing to testify in a court of law to the truth of what has happened to them with Baba’s sexual predatory behavior, instead simply equates these people and other truth-seekers with “faeces-handlers.” This is an attempt to smear (no pun intended) the reputations of those who are trying to uphold Dharma and the laws of the land that would protect children and young adults from sexual abuse.]
[J. Jagadeesan, hereafter abbreviated as “JJ”:] That is why I urge all -- "do not read the filth that is being transmitted -- for even if you doubt and reject every word, the stain will remain and affect your peace if not your devotion". Just click "delete" or toss it into the waste bin!
[TC: In other words, says Jagadeesan, collectively stick your head into the sand and go into pathological denial in the face of the serious charges about Baba.]
[JJ:] If you hear someone hurling vile accusations about your father and mother would you pass this on to your friend?
[TC: What if your father or mother was a chronic child abuser? You are, under law, actually REQUIRED by the “MANDATED REPORTING” RULES to report such allegations of child molestation and abuse. Otherwise you are an accomplice to the crimes if/when they are prosecuted in a court of law.]
[JJ:] Yet this is what some adults and youth are doing! Some do it in mistaken innocence of a gossip monger, who even though he / she does not believe in the gossip, feels a sense of "self glorification" by being the one to pass on the gossip...with a conniving whisper "have you heard of this?"
[TC: None of the serious investigators is a “gossip monger.” (Update: at this point in time, 2006-7, persons on both sides of the controversy have been caught engaging in gossip, either occasionally or frequently.)]
[JJ:] There are yet others, whose faith is weak, who have been involved with SAI, at a superficial level even for a long time! Others having possibly been denied of a miracle or favour from SAI, or ignored by Him after considerable personal attention, eagerly take up this filth and pass it on to others -- hoping that others will also equally deny the Divine force and majesty of SAI!
[TC: Jagadeesan is basically charging that all who criticize Baba are suffering from a “sour grapes” syndrome, and this simply is not true. Mature, longtime aspirants who live by an ethics of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa instead believe that there are now far too many stories, many supported by sworn first-person statements, that something quite terrible has been occurring for at least 30 years -- a sustained pattern of sexual predatory behavior by Baba toward male youth. And I’m not merely talking about Baba’s “annointing the perineum” of males, either. No, we are hearing from trustworthy sources persistent allegations of pressure and manipulation by Baba to engage male youth, and have male youth engage him, in forced oral sex and masturbation, often to the point of ejaculation.]
[JJ:] This is the pathetic story of the fox that got its tail cut and is now trying to persuade others that a "cut tail" is the fashionable thing to have! In the story of the "fox that cut its tail" the other foxes saw through the insidious plan of the fox and chased him away! Unfortunately, in the case of SAI Centres and SAI devotees, some "SAI foxes" have unwittingly allowed their tails to be cut and they are thus depriving themselves of the greatest chance of a lifetime!
[TC: We have here merely more childish name-calling and misleading analogies given by Jagadeesan to put up a thick, obfuscating smokescreen of fog so that people will not think for themselves and have any empathy for the plight of those trying to conscientiously investigate and expose many dozens of allegations of serious crimes against male children and young men.]
[JJ:] I say all this with certainty, for I acclaim the Divine Force that SAI represents, from the point view of one who was at one time a strong anti-Sai! It is thus not a blind "herd mentality" that I follow -- but a firm conviction from not only my own experience, but that of many other devotees and even beings of the 4th dimension! I have written enough about these in my books "Journey to God" - Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 to warrant further elaboration.
[TC: This is, of course, no valid defense of Baba whatsoever. Jagadeesan is merely stating that he has a conviction about Sai, and that he “acclaims the Divine Force that SAI represents.” But he does not substantiate any of this. Yes, his books tell some wonderful stories about Baba. But Jagadeesan is begging the question about Baba’s shadow side when he simply wants to tell you about the good things regarding Baba. Please realize that criminal pedophiles usually have many wonderful personality characteristics and can accomplish good things, even great things, in the world. This should not distract us from the fact that pedophiles are also committing criminal behavior.]
[JJ:] It is an amazing frailty of the human mind, that those who have not transformed their lives despite for years hearing and reading the noble, elevating words of SAI, or reading / hearing noble and divine experience of others, are able in a trice to be affected by negativity and filth!! What a searing indictment on the human mind!
[TC: Jagadeesan engages here in more character-assassination of those who take seriously the serious allegations. What kind of “defense” of Baba is this by Jagadeesan -- merely engaging in a long-winded harangue of name-calling and character-assassination toward those who are deeply disturbed by stories from trustworthy sources?]
[JJ:] What Does Sai Say? Let me quote to all of you an extract of a letter from Sri Indulal Shah, the International Chairman! I quote. [Shah:] "Some time ago I had circulated a quotation from Bhagawan Baba's divine discourse. I reproduce the same below:-
[Baba:] "Many of you are pained by what some papers are indulging in, regarding me! Many are urging that something should be done about it. But, I am holding everyone back, for that is the best way to deal with both praise and blame. The ocean knows no overflowing or drying up. It is ever full, ever majestic and ever unconcerned."
[Shah:] In my 35 years of association with Bhagawan, on several occasions He explains such incidents as "fly on an ear of an Elephant" which is not necessary to be disturbed or Baba reminds us that people will throw stones towards trees only if there are fruits. Let us collectively ponder what is our duty? It is our test on the path of experiencing Divinity. What vigil and fences have to be built around our organization? Let us remember nothing happens or moves without His wish. Everything that happens is for good, provided we are conscious of our Duty and personal efforts that should follow."
[Jagadeesan:] If one asks me (i.e. Jega), who will be the one who will bend and break at the first adverse winds of allegations and filth: -- it will be those who have remained in the periphery of the organization and those who have lived on the periphery of the SAI message. Also, those who expect something from SAI, those who want His constant personal physical attention, those who live constantly on the margin of SAI's physical miracles, those who have not lived the message of SAI through Service for mankind and selfless love for all - these are the potential drop-outs!!
[TC: Jagadeesan resorts again to his only weapon, attacking the concerned, conscientious critics, accusing them of being “on the periphery,” implying that only those persons of inferior spirituality will listen to the stories about Baba’s sexual predatory behavior. But has it occurred to Jagadeesan, first, that many sincere Baba followers were so turned off by the shallow spirituality, ambitious conceit and lack of empathy among many of the senior Sai Organization leaders (like Goldstein, Jagadeesan, Shah, et al.) that these followers decided not to aspire toward greater organizational involvement?
Second, Jagadeesan seems to be accusing the concerned critics of not living Baba’s message of “Service for mankind and selfless love for all.” I would submit, on the contrary, that many of Baba’s critics formerly in the Sai movement were longtime, tireless sevakas and many spent hundreds or thousands of hours serving as Center presidents, vice-presidents, Regional officers and coordinators, etc.
Third, Jagadeesan should pose himself the question: What happened to the increasing number of formerly staunch devotees of Baba, some of them in his college and high school system, who have left over the last year or two because they could not ethically tolerate what they discovered about Baba’s behavior?]
[JJ:] Just examine silently those who have "dropped out" or turned against SAI, and you will discover this truth!
[TC: One does not discover any such “truth.” See the points made above.]
[JJ:] Do not condemn them! Do not vilify them - only pray that they find Peace and Love in their lives!
[TC: These words by Jagadeesan are so unbelievably hypocritical it boggles the mind. He has spent most of his entire letter thus far, and will continue to do so over the rest of his letter, condemning and vilifying the concerned critics with name-calling and character assassination, and yet here he tells his readers “Do not condemn them! Do not vilify them -- only pray that they find Peace and Love in their lives!” He doesn’t realize that the concerned critics are trying to bring some degree of Peace and Love and yes, HEALING, to the victims of Baba’s sexual molestation. The official Sai organization, by contrast, has not brought ANY Peace or Love or Healing to these victims; rather, it has repeatedly tried to cover up the horror and has had the gall to maliciously slander and attack the victims and those who would try to enact justice in this matter.]
[JJ:] Early this year, I released a book called "EVOLUTION - Science of Creation, Life and Living & Spirituality" - perhaps the most difficult challenge in all the books I have been motivated to write! In that book in examining the topic of the human mind, I touched unwittingly (or perhaps divinely guided) on this very topic that is causing so much pain and confusion in the minds of SAI devotees whose faith in yet to be fixed as firmly as the STAR to the crescent moon! I am attaching as an Appendix to this letter a brief extract from that book! For those who have the book, please refer to page 31, section 16 -- "The 3 Forces of the Mind" for a fuller elaboration on this subject of the Human Mind and how it causes turbulence in life!
[Excerpt from Jagadeesan’s Appendix reproduced here rather than at end of letter:]
THE 3 FORCES OF THE MIND--This maya which affects the human mind has actually got three forces, or pollutants. One is called MALA, which is dirt, "the pollution". The other one is the AVARANA SHAKTI, which can be called the cloak -- "that which (because of the dirt) covers or disguises", and the third is VIKSHEPA SHAKTI - what is projected, "the force of projection". So in the example of the rope and the snake therefore, what is the relevance of the rope and snake in real life? It is this! The darkness represents the mala, the dirt and this creates the AVARANA SHAKTI, the cloak (that blurs the vision). The cloak is our inability to see through the darkness. The rope is an innocent object, but the VIKSHEPA SHAKTI (the force of projection), projects a snake onto the rope:- the moment the mind projects, every emotion is aroused in the person, fear, everything for a non-existent object - only because of his VIKSHEPA SHAKTI - 'Projection'.
[TC: What Jagadeesan has done is simply bring out the classic analysis of primordial ignorance by Shankara and his followers in the line of Advaita Vedanta. It has no relevance to the discussion of the Sai controversy at hand. Jagadeesan is just as involved in Mala, Avarana Shakti, and Vikshepa Shakti as any of the critics who might not be perfectly realized Jnanis/Sages.]
[JJ:] If you read the attached -- you will see that this is the science of mind - the mind reflects onto external objects that which its nature -- it own perceptions! If you are aware as to who are the principle perpetrators of these vile accusations against SAI, (and the nature of their minds), you may come to your own conclusions! The other weaker minds only follow in innocence!
[TC: By this logic, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the heroic civil rights protestors were all “projecting” their own negativity in condemning racial prejudice and calling certain white supremacists “racist.” The French Resistance heroes and heroines were all “projecting” their own negativity in condemning Nazi atrocities and calling the Nazis “fascist.” And so on. Now, in the present case, those who are deeply concerned about the ethical improprieties inherent in Baba molesting children are “projecting” their own negativity by calling what is happening to Baba’s youthful victims “sexual molestation” and suggesting that Baba is, according to the conventions of human law, behaving criminally!
Note that, using Jagadeesan’s silly logic, he himself, by engaging in this long-winded, verbiose criticism of Baba’s critics, is “projecting” the entire thing out of his own negativity!]
[JJ:] "Close Devotees"
Some of you have been stunned by the fact that so called "close devotees" of SAI have dropped out because of this filth that is being spread through their ears and eyes and into their minds! Devotees who have had so many "interviews", those who have received Baba's divine manifestations (rings, pendants, etc) have dropped out and so our jaws drop in amazement! But, is this so unusual? Who betrayed Christ? Was it His enemies or those closest to Him?
[TC: Jagadeesan stoops even lower here, suggesting that Baba’s critics are like Judas. But the retort that we concerned critics would issue is this: Was Jesus alleged to have sexually molested hundreds of minors? Was Jesus telling children that, unless they had sex with him, then he would not see their parents? Was Jesus paying children for sexual favors? Of course not. Yet this is what is being alleged about Baba by credible eyewitnesses who claim to have experienced this unseemly side of Baba. So Jagadeesan’s analogy falls flat on its face.]
[JJ:] And did not Christ know who would deny and betray him and yet He treated them with love! Who dared wage a war against Krishna - those who were His enemies or those who went to Him seeking His help and to whom He gave His army to? Was not Ravana, the Asura who turned against Rama, close to Divinity, for was it not from the Divine that he received his powers? Was not Hiranyakasipu (the father of Prahlada), the Asura who turned against the Devas and even Narayana Himself, close to Divinity - for was it not Divinity who conferred on him the awesome powers he used, to deny Divinity!
[TC: Jagadeesan is trying to paint all concerned critics of Baba’s criminal pedophilia with the same brush, tarring them by associating them with Judas, the demon Ravana, the demon Hiranyakasipu, and the demonic enemies of Krishna. This attack strategy by Jagadeesan really stinks -- it is completely bereft of any integrity whatsoever. Rather than compassionately address the legitimate questions, concerns, and grievances of Baba’s critics, Jagadeesan, in knee-jerk fashion, can only lash out with A FURY OF NEGATIVITY THAT IS, ITSELF, “DEMONIC” in its lack of compassion, loving-kindness, and understanding. But rather than imply that Jagadeesan is a “demon” (I don’t like stooping to his level), I would simply invite him with all my heart to please try to look at this situation objectively and see that Baba’s critics aren’t the embodiment of some evil, demonic force. Rather, we are only trying to STOP AN ONGOING EVIL: the manipulative molestation of male youth by a guru who appears to have a colossal shadow side involving an insatiable sexual appetite.]
[JJ:] The Puranas and the history of all great souls are replete with stories of those who, once close, then turned against the Divinity they worshipped!
[TC: I could counter that history is also replete with stories of sycophantic “yes-men” who came to the defense of people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Pinochet, and many others involved in ongoing atrocities.]
[JJ:] How many of you are aware of the vile accusations hurled against the Buddha and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, during their respective lifetimes. And even on Jesus Christ even to this present day and age? How many are aware that like Bhagawan Baba (to avoid the chance of worse scandal) these great souls - (Buddha, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Jesus) surrounded themselves with only male devotees! And because of this, lower minds concocted their own filth and scandalized these great souls in the one area where no proof is possible, and no amount of denial can wash away the taint of evil, when once the accusation is made!
[TC: Jagadeesan again is speaking in a most irrational way. Jesus, the Buddha and Ramakrishna did not have dozens or hundreds of people stepping forth with persuasively similar allegations of sexual molestation.]
[JJ:] It is perhaps because of this that Islam requires 4 eyewitnesses before a person can be charged for behaviour against norms of morality!
[TC: Jagadeesan may not be aware that, at this point in time, a few dozen signed statements and/or affidavits have been made by a growing multitude of eyewitnesses -- young men and boys -- all willing to state their case in a court of law, that Baba has sexually abused them.]
[JJ:] But these great beings prevailed; for dirt cannot taint the purity of the sky! Dirt flung upwards will ultimately descend on the perpetrators of the filth and the sky continues unperturbed continuing to offer its beauty to the accusers!! Bhagawan Baba has declared as such (refer earlier quotation).
[TC: Jagadeesan is here merely issuing idle threats that “dirt” will come back upon those flinging it. As long as we’re talking about “karmuppance,” let’s compassionately remember that covering up criminal pedophilia brings its own terrible karmic retribution. We critics are actually trying to spare the Jagadeesans and Shahs and Goldsteins long, stiff jail sentences (and, ironically, possible sexual abuse from male inmates and prison guards!) for being accomplices in these ongoing crimes committed by Baba.]
[JJ:] If Jesus who had 11 disciples, had in his last moments, one who denied Him and another who betrayed Him, can one imagine what one can expect of the Sai phenomena, who has millions who revere Him! Only a little intelligence is required to ascertain the TRUTH.
[TC: Again, Jagadeesan is using juvenile, faulty logic here, and is also maliciously comparing Baba’s critics to so many Judases. Almost all of these critics want nothing to do with money or fame in exposing Baba’s ongoing molesting of children. They simply, compassionately want to SAVE THE CHILDREN AND YOUNG MEN!]
[JJ:] Has any living being on earth, in his own lifetime motivated so much good and godly work for the needy and manifested so much transformation in millions -- to go beyond self and to serve the poor, sick and the needy?
[TC: This point by Jagadeesan highlights the tragedy we have here: namely that Sathya Sai Baba HAS been a force for so much good. But, in what appears to be the most amazing “Jekyll and Hyde” story in the history of humanity, it now seems quite clear that Baba also has a raging sexual appetite, and he psychologically coerces and manipulates young men and boys to satisfy this sexual hunger.]
[JJ:] Would anyone need to set-up such a huge worldwide edifice of selfless service and human values, would anyone have to set up free Super Specialty Hospitals and free Universities and schools in India and around the world and give life saving water to the poor and the needy, to merely seek opportunities to indulge in the type of filth that is being passed around?
[TC: Jagadeesan’s structuring of his question, “Would anyone need to… Would anyone have to…” is misleading. Beyond Jagadeesan’s misdirection ploy, the simple fact, most unfortunately, is that Baba, regardless of his “needing” or “having to,” IS molesting boys and young men, according to their sworn statements.
Jagadeesan also does not address the serious charges made in “The Findings” written/compiled by David and Faye Bailey, charges also made in other writings and oral venues, that the Supere Specialty Hospital is NOT as “wonderful” as it has been hyped, nor has the water project been anywhere near as “successful” as claimed.]
[JJ:] Are the vibuthi manifestations occuring spontaneously in hundreds of homes around the world, outpouring of kum kum, honey etc, of people's illness being cured and lives being saved by merely an application of SAI Vibuthi, a touch of His hand, or a prayer to Him, so much a figment of the imagination OR is this not the greatest manifestation of Divine Power that the world has ever witnessed?
[TC: This is a false argument. I myself and numerous other concerned critics grant that amazing and beautiful things are happening around or through the name/form of Sathya Sai Baba. Jagadeesan sets up a false choice limited by the “either-or” Aristotelian logic: he’s trying to force us into thinking that just because amazing things are happening around Sai that THEREFORE Baba must be God and that none of the improprieties are happening. He and other Sai apologists also beg the question as to the source of the miracles around Baba. Is it the personality of the Divine avatar Sathya Narayana Raju doing all these things? Or is it the power of God utilizing the name/form of Sathya Sai? For that matter, it could be Sai Baba of Shirdi who is doing these things through Sathya Narayana Raju, and the latter personality has a shadow side of out-of-control sexual hunger.]
[JJ:] Use your own judgement! Has your life not changed?
[TC: Again, it is easily seen that millions of followers of Sai have undergone profoundly positive transformations by becoming dedicated aspirants and sevakas in the Sai movement. This still does not in any way offset what now appears to be an INCONTROVERTIBLE EMPIRICAL FACT: Sathya Sai Baba has criminally molested hundreds or thousands of male youth.]
[JJ:] Perhaps not, if you are still at the level of the SAI form, SAI miracles and SAI bhajans! But, if you are one who has plunged into making the SAI message a part of your life, your own experience, your own awe regarding what good work has been done and can be achieved to benefit all, will be the only witness you need to testify to the Divine grandeur and the transforming power of the Avarthar of the Kali Yuga!
[TC: More fluff. And Jagadeesan has not established for a fact that Baba is the “Avarthar” (sic, Avatar) of the Kali Yuga.]
[JJ:] In the Greek legend, Ulysses had to plug his ears and that of his fellow shipmates, so that the false and tempting voices of the "sirens" would not lead them to disaster, as they searched for the golden fleece! Now in our voyage for the "golden age", the voices of modern sirens are tempting devotees away from Faith, Belief, Goodness and Love, to hate and negativity! This is the Ying / Yang Phenomena, the eternal battle between good and evil and Divinity stands in the middle, blessing all to work out their own karma!
[TC: We’ve got yet more name-calling here: according to Jagadeesan, Baba’s critics are “modern sirens” trying to bring disaster and negativity to the dogmatic true-believer Sai devotees. Also, most unconscionable for a man living within the conspicuous Chinese culture of Malaysia, Jagadeesan completely flubs it when he speaks of “the Ying / Yang Phenomena.” For one thing, he mis-spells Yin as “Ying.” Much more seriously, he equates the ancient Chinese Taoist polarity idea of Yin / Yang with “good and evil,” which no Chinese Taoist would ever do. Jagadeesan is an example of many longtime senior Sai devotees who preach about the beauty and value of all the religions and yet don’t actually study any of these religions. Anyone acquainted with the most remedial level of Taoist study would get the Yin/Yang concept right, but Jagadeesan, who has lived his entire life in the region, surrounded by Taoist literature and temples, and who has taken pride that he can sing a number of bhajans in Chinese along with his fellow Sai devotees with a Chinese background, makes here a blunder of the worst kind.]
[JJ:] We do not have an ancient Ulysses to plug our ears! The modern Ulysseses are the selfless service and selfless love that SAI has motivated among those who follow His Teachings! These will be the earplugs that must help us to overcome these treacherous times!
[TC: Unbelievable, but true: Jagadeesan actually wants people to have earplugs so as not to hear the disturbing news that Sai is involved in criminal behavior. There is a psychological description for this attitude: PATHOLOGICAL DENIAL. Jagadeesan, like many apologizers for Baba, is so heavily, egocentrically invested in his role as a Sai devotee that he becomes like the stubborn little child who plugs his ears and makes lots of noise so that he can’t face the truth that would challenge him to grow up and become a person of true compassion and integrity.]
[JJ:] I pray to all! Do not transmit the filth to others! Do not allow the filth to contaminate your mind!
[TC: If Jagadeesan had lived in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, I wonder which side he would have taken? The side of truth, freedom, morality, virtue, love and nonviolence, or, rather, the side of the Nazis?
Jagadeesan is apparently unaware, like so many other Sai devotees in positions of great responsibility (Goldstein, Bozzani, Hawley, et al.) that there are MANDATED REPORTING RULES that REQUIRE all adults who have any suspicion of child molestation behavior to EXPOSE THIS BEHAVIOR, PROTECT CHILDREN FROM THIS BEHAVIOR, GET THERAPEUTIC HELP FOR THE VICTIMS OF THIS MOLESTATION BEHAVIOR, AND LEGALLY PROSECUTE THE WRONG-DOERS.]
[JJ:] If you feel you do not want to follow the SAI path, by all means step aside, but do not incur the sin of coming between God and His devotees, the message of every vahana (vehicle) in a Hindu temple.
[TC: Baba’s concerned critics now feel that they MUST come between BABA and his devotees, especially his young male devotees, so that they will not be molested by this sexual predator.]
[JJ:] For those who love SAI, let us do more! Let us manifest His miracles, His "Vibuthi" (Divine Glory) in society, by we ourselves becoming His Vibuthi, His Divine miracles, by transforming society to Love and Unity, through our own transformed selfless Love and selfless Service. By this means let us achieve inner Peace, Joy and Contentment that is the only promise for all who follow the Path Divine!
[TC: Baba has repeatedly declared that Sai devotees should live according to the laws and rules of their respective countries. Thus, concerned critics of Baba’s molesting of children have stepped forth, according to the mandated reporting rules, to expose Baba’s sexual improprieties.]
[JJ:] For those who ask "Why does He not stop them?" Baba's own words on Page 3 testify! However, let me ask also "Why should He?" Swami neither praises those who praise Him nor condemns those who demean Him - Divinity stands in the middle blessing all - those who perpetrate good and those who choose to do evil!
[TC: Actually, in recent discourses, Baba is strongly lashing out at his critics and praising those who defend him. What kind of behavior is this? Not the Sai whom Kasturi and Jagadeesan have described as standing equanimously and compassionately above the fray.]
[JJ:] Is this unusual? Is this not the way of Divinity? Did not Christ know He would be betrayed and crucified? Did not Rama know Sita would be captured? Did not Krishna know that His peace mission to the Kauravas would fail and did not Buddha know that the food offered to him with "false" love was poisoned? Yet those great beings allowed the drama to unfold acting as though they were helpless victims of circumstances! Why? Simply because Divinity has already established a Divine law of Karma - and this must take its course and because "Dharma will by itself destroy those who go against Dharma!" And so it was for Judas, so it was for Ravana and so it was for the Kauravas..and so it will be for all who manifest Evil!
[TC: I am tempted to retort, “and so it will be for all who manifest Evil in the form of molesting male youth and conspiring to cover-up this serious violation of the rights of children!”]
[JJ:] Let us all pray for them, let us not condemn them. Let us echo the words of a great being and pray - "Forgive them Oh Lord for they know not what they do!"
[TC: Right now it is Baba’s concerned critics who are praying “Forgive them Oh Lord for they (those conspiring to deny, cover-up and/or rationalize Baba’s behavior) know not what they do.”
Jagadeesan here again says “let us not condemn them” after he has spent so many words doing just this -- comparing Baba’s critics to “demons” and “Judases” and “hatefully destructive sirens.”]
[JJ:] Please reflect on this! Reject what I say if you so choose but first REFLECT and then circulate to whomever you want to and act accordingly.
[TC: Dear Jagadeesan, I must certainly REJECT what you have said because I have spent so many years in fact REFLECTING on all this and have come to the conclusion that it is simply criminal behavior for us NOT to stand up and demand accountability from Baba and from the Sai organization for stories of improprieties that can no longer be glossed over as mere “rumors” or “gossip.”]
JJ: Sai Ram and God bless!
Yours in service,
cc Sri Indulal Shah
P.S. - Bhagavan Baba does not need my advocacy or defense! I merely write this for the benefit of my SAI brothers and sisters and especially youth, who should not, like the people in the Middle East 2000 years ago, crucify a Divine Being, who in later times became a saviour for millions!!
[TC: It is terribly ironic – indeed, shameful -- that Jagadeesan especially mentions “youth” in his closing, since male youth are the ones who have been victimized by the dozens or hundreds in this terrible ongoing saga.
As for the idea that we are “crucifying a Divine Being,” none of Baba’s concerned critics want to “crucify” him. We simply want him to come out of the closet and stop sexually molesting male youth (minors and young men). We want accountability, apologies, and amends-making from Baba and from his longtime organizational accomplices.
We also want the entry to the private interview room left open, and we want a chaperon to be present on all occasions that Baba is in the company of male youth, especially minors. We would like to have a non-adversarial mediation session held at Puttaparthi or Bangalore to resolve this terrible ordeal. If Baba is operating from the truly Divine God-Self, this should be no problem. The illustrious Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), one of India’s most beloved sages, had to go before legal authorities to defend himself against a psychopathic accuser. If the Maharshi had to put up with this “indignity” on such a patently trumped-up charge, then surely Baba can step out from behind the shield created by his pathetic, sycophantic yes-men and answer the legitimate charges against him.
You see, this is really about Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Nonviolence -- Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa. In the end, these Divine characteristics will win out.]
V. Letter to a Longtime Devotee of Sathya Sai Baba
(I sent this response to “Anne” [name changed to protect identity], a western devotee of SSB, who had been living for some months or years in the vicinity of SSB's two main ashrams, the main one at Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, South India, and the other one at Whitefield outside Bangalore, Karnataka, South India. “Anne” had been very perturbed to hear that I had written a few open letters expressing my concern with the behavior of SSB and the SSB organization. Note that the following letter has been reproduced at a few different websites on the Internet, sometimes with a different alias to protect her real identity. For the version below, I have italicized "Anne's" comments and italicized most Sanskrit terms and given meanings in brackets [ ].)
Monday August 6, 2001
Namaskaram [I bow down to the Divine in/as you], in God's Love...
Thank you for your letter. Please convey my best wishes to “Emily” [a mutual friend, name changed to protect identity].
I read with an open mind and heart your passionate letter [conveyed by email, Saturday, August 4, 2001]. You wrote:
> Now to my reason for writing: It is ironic, if not absurd that a person who entertains his negative and gross qualities instead of learning and working to rise above them, leads a group calling it 'One Spirit'. It is usually the spiritually infantile, who make spirituality into a form of self-justified goodie-goodiness, who want to lead others.
Please be aware, [Anne], that while I am facilitating a Thursday night satsang of bhajans, meditation, and study of the non-dual teachings of great Mahatmas, I do NOT consider myself "the leader," and I have no desire to "lead" anybody. I greatly revere the all-pervasive Guru seated in the hearts of all beings and trust that this Divine will be the true leader.
> But spiritual vision is to accept everything, good and bad, and see it only as divine.
As I have repeatedly pointed out in early correspondence with our [mutual] friend Ram Das Awle and “Emily,” the greatest sages of India have long cautioned that enlightened spiritual vision must function on two levels: the absolute level of Truth (paramarthika satyam) and the conventional, "relatively real" level of truth (vyavaharika satyam).
Thus, the sages, when speaking from the absolute level of parlance, say that, indeed, everything is Divine, all is Brahman [Divine Reality], nothing is wrong (in fact, no-thing is really happening!), it's all the perfect lila [Divine play or sport] of the One.
But, on the relative or conventional level, the level of earthly conduct, these sages strongly uphold the Dharma of righteous action, ahimsa [nonviolence], purity, and so forth. Such sages thus say that, in the absolute view, everything is okay, but on the relative level they are quite adamant that certain behaviors are wrong, sinful, or just inappropriate and should be stopped.
For devotees of the Lord to sit back and just say that "everything is divine," which is certainly true on the absolute level, but then do nothing about evils and injustices that occur within the dream of earthly life because "it is all divine" --is a terrible avoidance of basic duty on behalf of Dharma [Virtue, Righteousness]. With this apathy and flawed attitude, none of the great evils of history would have ever been resisted and overcome. The abolitionist anti-slavery movements, Gandhi's satyagraha [Truth-force] movement, the political independence movements worldwide, the civil rights movement in America and other nations, the battles against fascism and totalitarian communism, the women's rights movement, the liberation theology struggles in Latin America, the consumer protection lawsuits, the ongoing fight for environmental justice and the rights of tribal persons, and so many other social advances never would have happened if everyone just sat around and "accepted everything and saw it as divine," to use your words.
In short, [Anne], one can in fact see everything as Divine lila [play], but still be quite active in an engaged spirituality on behalf of socio-economic justice issues. Sometimes this engaged spirituality must use terms that might seem "negative and gross," to use your opening phrase. Thus, evil, unjust conduct must be clearly identified, labeled, and resisted in no uncertain terms, sometimes using language that might seem very harsh, "negative and gross."
It is quite clear to a growing multitude of former Sathya Sai devotees that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been violated over a period of at least 30 years by Sathya Sai. This is, of course, a "criminal" violation, and criminal violations must be spoken of in harsh language.
The story you kindly sent me about the avadhuta [unconventional "free sage"] in Kerala cannot apply here to Sathya Sai because none of the leaders of the Sathya Sai organization have ever promoted him as an avadhuta (one who is utterly free in spirit, beyond all human conventions), but they certainly do promote him as an avatar, an incarnation of the purest Love, an embodiment of Truth, Ahimsa [Harmlessness], and all other exemplary qualities. None of the male youth or their parents are ever told that Sathya Sai is going to go after the lads sexually in private interviews. A very simple concern that many of us former Sathya Sai devotees have is that there has been no "truth in advertising" in the Sai organization. None of this would have been such a problem if young males and their parents were ever told by Center officers or official Sai literature, "Sathya Sai Baba is an avadhut, a being who behaves in wild and mysterious ways. If you are an attractive young male, it is likely that Baba may ask you to fondle or suck on his male organ, or he may come after your genitals and rub or suck on them. We do not know why he does this, but growing numbers of cases have been reported wherein he does this. Baba himself won't give a reason for this behavior, but we trust there is a higher purpose in it."
No such warning has been given. Instead, there is much secrecy, lying and pressuring others to keep quiet. I found an old set of correspondences from Jack Hislop [lifetime president of the SSB movement in the USA until his passing in 1995] to the Board of Directors of the Sai organization in the USA, dating from early 1981, wherein Jack basically calls for a policy of [what today we would call] "spin" and cover-up to keep a lid on the allegations of terrible sexual impropriety by Baba with a minor, a boy of 15 years old. The mother was told [by one of the Directors] that her deeply traumatized boy was a pathological liar and Jack [who took to heart SSB's denial of any such stories] implemented a policy of suppression and refused to pursue an honest investigation into what might really be going on. This has all the features of terribly dysfunctional cult behavior.
>Not an easy task, for sure, but if we are spiritually inclined we must start somewhere. And that starting somewhere is certainly not in defaming the great simply because their actions are misinterpreted by us, or because we lack the expanded perception to see something deeper.
Well, Ram Das Awle and I have debated via email on this very point. For those who staunchly defend the sexual activities of Sathya Sai, a simple [simplistic!] formula is consciously or unconsciously always used: "Sathya Sai Baba is God, therefore whatever he does is Divine activity."
But the simple fact is that many of us no longer see Sathya Sai Baba as the pure incarnation of Divinity. Now, I am certainly NOT in that camp of former devotees who see SSB as an incarnation of evil. I have had numerous experiences of the Divine coming through Baba. But there are too many aspects of his mission which have been revealed indicating to me that he is probably some kind of extremely high, powerful, usually beautiful, but seriously flawed "fallen yogi" (yogabrashta). Or perhaps he is a flawed instrument for [the old] Shirdi Baba [d.1918]. Thus, to use your terms, he is certainly no mere "ordinary man," but just because he has stupendous powers does not necessarily make him "God," except insofar as we are all Divine incarnations. Frankly, I think that many of ssb's devotees, in their pure-hearted love and complete dedication to seva, are much holier than ssb, even though they may not manifest tremendous siddhis [powers] like him.
> When it comes to Swami (Sai Baba) it is simply futile and ridiculous to try and interpret him as some ordinary man, or a pervert. Dying at will at any moment (as he did in 1997 when I was in Puttaparthi), is it not ridiculous to believe that he has no control of his sexual desires?
Please tell that to many of the young men and boys who have begged Baba to stop coming after them and molesting them. But because their parents are devotees, the boys must submit to Baba's advances.
>When someone mentioned it to him, he laughed so much.
This says nothing. Other serial sexual predators, and serial killers, for that matter, have also "laughed so much" when people tried to draw attention to their behaviors.
> You have written books and all, so you should know more than most people that certain siddhis [paranormal powers] cannot be obtained unless sexual desires are conquered completely.
This is a very debatable point. Hitler, for instance, had certain siddhis--such as his ability to mesmerize millions of people to do his will. But he was no celibate. There are numerous tales in the spiritual literature of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism, etc., of very high yogis who have lots of powers but who fall from grace through their unfinished sexual samskaras [selfish tendencies].
> In Swami's case I can briefly mention that I have spoken to most of the "victims" that the rumours refer to [...]
First, much of this is no longer at the level of "rumor." There are sworn statements and written testimony from eyewitness experiencers who are ready to state their complaints in a court of law against Baba.
Second, Anne, your letter at this point becomes very vague. You mention that you have spoken to "most" of the victims (let's call them the "experiencers"). "Most" would imply a majority of the experiencers. But how do you know how many people have had these experiences that you can say that you have spoken to "most" of them? Have you talked to Said/Afshin or Jed or Jens or Conny (among several who've come forth publicly) or to many of the youths who have not yet openly revealed their names? This is such a delicate issue: I cannot name many of my sources and I cannot ask you specifically to WHOM you have spoken, because many of these "experiencers" prefer to remain anonymous.
>and was even present in some of the interviews. First of all, most of them told me privately that they had severe sexual problems that would have landed them in jail would they not have been helped with it, and would it had come out in the open.
As far as I know, most of the experiencers whose cases I know would NOT say this at all.
>They don’t want to share with the public their problems, which is natural and which is why these stories are mostly pushed by third-hand persons.
Again, [Anne], you are incorrect here. These stories are mostly "pushed" by the experiencers themselves.
> Many of them also told me that what Swami had done to them helped them a great deal and reduced their sexualdesires drastically, and not what people portray out of it.
Well, you say "many"... What about the many other youths who don't say this? I have not heard anything along these lines that ssb "reduced their sexual desires drastically." If anything, we know from well-documented cases of sexual abuse that many if not most victims will find that their sexuality becomes psychologically very disturbed and complicated. For instance, male youth who are homosexually abused often turn around and become sexual abusers themselves.
>It seems to be mostly third-hand parties who are the most upset lot announcing this to all and sundry and not the persons concerned apart from a few cases (there are also some who have had no encounters and lied about it).
[Anne], in case you have not heard, there are LAWS in almost every civilized country REQUIRING people to expose the molestation of children and also expose the sexual harassment of adults by a powerful figure. These are called the "mandatory reporting rules." Certainly teachers and psychologists and medical professionals are strictly bound by these laws to report sexual abuse when there is "a reasonable suspicion." As someone who publicly teaches comparative religion and values, and who has openly promoted SSB in the past at Sai Centers, other spiritual gatherings, and occasionally in the classroom, I feel it is my civic duty to balance the presentation by saying that recent revelations indicate something disturbing going on.
>Some have been depressed, but people don’t know that they have suffered from depressions and suicidal tendencies long before their association with Sai Baba.
This sounds like mere rationalization to me, something that SSB's defenders are getting very good at doing. Rather than publicly demand a simple hearing about what is going on, Baba's defenders prefer to "blame the victim," gloss over everything Baba does as "divine activity," slander the good name of some of his critics (like maliciously and falsely claiming that David Bailey, author of "The Findings," has been incarcerated for homosexual behavior, which he has not been), saying and doing everything except face head-on the fact that Sathya Sai Baba appears to be obsessed with young males’ penises and his own.
Sathya Sai is certainly not doing his "sexual healing" or "raising the kundalini [spiritual energy]" with older males or females. No, in the pattern of a homosexual predator, he goes after male youth he finds attractive.
And then SSB has the audacity, in his Christmas 2000 discourse [which appeared in a Spring 2001 issue of the SSB ashram journal, Sanathana Sarathi], to use the very same words from J. Jagadeesan's October  letter in denouncing his conscientious, concerned critics as "demons," "Judases," "cawing crows," "grievous sinners," and threatening them with eternal dam-nation while egotistically trumpeting his own seva projects. This is the "purna Avatar" [full incarnation of Divinity]? Frankly, I don't think so. I will reiterate that I think Sathya Sai is a very high, powerful being, who has a talent for channeling beautiful "Divine" energies; but he also has a seriously flawed shadow side. On the conventional level, we must see him in a balanced way, the good and the bad tendencies. (On the absolute level, of course, Baba, like you and every other sentient being, is God incarnate.)
You will greatly benefit by reading the account of Sathya Sai Baba by M. Krishna in chapter 17 of Erlendur Haraldsson's excellent book on SSB, Modern Miracles. Krishna was closer to Sathya Sai Baba than any devotee has ever been allowed to get (Prof. Kasturi and Hislop included). Krishna was allowed to ride on the palanquin with Sathya Sai during devotional processions and have a huge amount of private time with SSB. And Krishna does NOT consider Sathya Sai Baba to be at all "Divine." In fact, he thinks Baba is deeply flawed, a manipulator of people's minds and hearts who shows no real compassion but likes to surround himself with sycophant "yes men." Krishna finally sums up his period with SSB as a "nightmare."
[Anne], you and other defenders of SSB have to sincerely ask yourself why so many long time devotees, among SSB's MOST DEVOTED devotees, all left. […] Why have so many center presidents and regional directors left? Because they are all ignorant and have giant egos? No. The simpler, more painful but honest truth is that they discovered too many unwholesome aspects to SSB's personality.
> Swami told us already in 80's and early 90's that the day would come when people would scandalize him and leave him. Amma [Mata Amritanandamayi] has said the same thing: crowds will grow and become real big around her and she will be respected everywhere - then comes to scandals and many will leave. It's the way of humanity. reading the lives of great masters, we cannot find one single case where they have not been a subject of hatred from the masses.
Now, [Anne], this is patently UNTRUE. Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, Ramakrishna, Amritanandamayi and many, many others have NOT been "a subject of hatred from the masses."
Also, please be aware that I and many other former devotees of Sathya Sai do NOT HATE HIM. We are simply, deeply concerned that [an ongoing] criminal behavior, the repeated molestation of minors against their better will, has been perpetrated by Baba and, in a conspiracy by the Sai organization leadership, been actively suppressed by those who should be doing the opposite: enquiring of Baba what is really going on. Baba recently told Phyllis Krystal, who weakly tried to ask Baba about the allegations, that the allegations were "Lies, Jealousy." This answer betrays Baba as someone who is accusing his victims of being liars. This is the pathological response of a serial sexual abuser.
> Swami has said that the forces of opposites cannot be avoided by anyone: if ten people love us, know that we have ten enemies as well. This law of nature is ineviatble and cannot be escaped.
Well, in the case of Ramana Maharshi and Anandamayi Ma and Ramakrishna and many other truly holy, spotlessly pure Mahatmas, this was simply NOT TRUE. Sathya Sai says this as a rationalization to excuse his own behavior. When you look at it objectively, such statements have the ring of paranoia to them. A paranoid schizophrenic is obsessed with his own delusions of grandeur and also obsessed that others are out to get him.
Let's look at something else here: Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, and Ramakrishna (like Ammachi [Amritanandamayi], et al.) have all had the beautiful power of being able to simply look at someone or touch them on the head or chest (like Ramakrishna and Ammachi) and put them into the deepest states of samadhi. Yet what is SSB doing in interview rooms with so many young men? Going after young men's genitals, apparently with lustful moans and manipulative language ("this is your great good chance," "don't pass up this great opportunity"). There are no reports by anyone I know that such behavior has put anyone into deep samadhi-states of God-absorption. And just how many truly enlightened disciples does SSB have? Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna had dozens of apparently fully enlightened disciples. SSB has many millions of "devotees," but I venture to say that a disappointingly small number are truly enlightened sages who've burnt up all their samskaras [selfish tendencies]. No, too many of the inner circle around SSB in India and abroad are petty, unenlightened persons (the "sycophant yes-men" that M. Krishna described), and most of his adoring hoards think only of getting some personal contact with Baba. Very few have actually gone deeply into the classic Advaita Vedanta teachings that SSB has given lip-service to as his main teaching, let alone fully realized these teachings in a trans-egoic way.
Incidentally, are you aware that SSB has plagiarized many of his most commonly known teachings? He has primarily stolen his well-known sayings ("Love All, Serve All," "There is only one religion, the religion of love; there is only one language, the language of the heart; there is only one caste, the caste of humanity; there is only one God, and he is omnipresent," etc.) from Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and from Vivekananda. Plagiarism, as you may know, is an act of intellectual dishonesty, using others' uncredited words to promote your own reputation as a great orator or writer.
> Whatever the details may be, and if one is upset about these issues, people should at least have enough humanity to allow those concerned to handle their own process - whether it is to keep their experiences to themselves, or even if they genuinely feel like filing criminal charges against Swami!
Well, [Anne], please know that the situation is more far complicated than this. The experiencers/victims have come forward begging for assistance from longtime devotees and former devotees because SSB has been operating with impunity above the law. With so many powerful VIPs on his side, the chances of launching a lawsuit against him are almost nil. Therefore, they have had to bring forth their stories to the court of public opinion, first via the democratic forum of the Internet, and, since then to several journalists, such as Mick Brown for the Daily Telegraph and Michelle Goldberg for the online Salon magazine published by Microsoft [and several other venues].
Remember, the campaign for social justice always involves people beyond the limited circle of victims working in solidarity to help end the evil. Thus, for instance, you had white persons marching with their oppressed black brothers in the American civil rights campaigns of the 1960s, and people in many nations fighting apartheid policies in South Africa through demonstrations, boycotts of corporations, etc. Similarly, many of us feel the need to be more or less involved in helping bring the lamp of investigation and clarity to what is happening around SSB.
So, [Anne], please do not tell us to mind our own business. Indeed, to use your word, it is our very "humanity" that is affirming this solidarity with the victims of SSB's sexual molestation activity. We simply want it to stop, and we want SSB to make amends to his victims, if only with a clear public statement as to why he has been behaving this way. No more excuses, deflection strategies, or accusing his critics of "sinful" behavior. Some of us would also like a chaperone to be present with SSB whenever he takes male youth into private interviews.
> It is not for people like yourself to go on a campaign, under the false pretence of spirituality, and defame Swami and turn people away from him who may find solace and comfort in his guidance.
I beg to differ. The duty to Dharma [Virtue, Morality] and Ahimsa [Nonviolence, Harmlessness] and, yes, Satya, truth, in fact DEMANDS that we go on some kind of "campaign" to try to bring light to what is happening. For many of us, this is simply not a "choice." We feel as inwardly called by the Divine to do this as we felt called to go to Prashanti Nilayam or to Ramanashram. It's all the lila [play] of the Lord.
Along this line, why should you or Ram Das Awle or Jagadeesan be so resentful of our activity? Is it not also all part of the Divine Play? I haven't thus far used this line of debate with Ram Das Awle or anyone else, but because you have adopted the same low-level strategy of accusing myself and others of being somehow less spiritual than yourself, I will ask you point blank (and please forgive the apparent harshness of my words): Why are you so spiritually immature and incapable of seeing our (the critics') behavior toward the SSB controversy as also "divine activity" if, in fact, "everything is divine"? You are willing to excuse Baba's behavior and your rationalizations of him as divine activity, but not the conscientious campaign of Baba's critics who are, after all, only seeking answers and clarity. Why such inconsistency on the part of you and Ram Das Awle and others who have been striking out so vehemently against the conscientious critics? Why are you so intent on seeing us as evil-doers?
We simply want to know why Baba should be so obsessed with the sexual organs of male youth, and so apparently unconcerned with the well-being of those whom he molests? Why is our humble request, motivated by compassion for the tormented victims, such a great sin?
> This is far more evil than anything.
Again, I beg to differ. And again, please notice your tendency to demonize those who disagree with you. This is not dharmic [virtuous] behavior.
> Over the years in Puttaparthi I have seen many people act like you: getting a fixed idea in their mind, they live and breath to destroy someone else.
[Anne], I do not "live and breathe to destroy someone else." You are raving here. In fact, your behavior, like so many of those who deny or rationalize Baba's behavior and lash out against his concerned critics, bears all the tragic hallmarks of those who suffer from the psychological condition of cognitive dissonance: having invested so much time and energy and emotion in SSB, and having completely identified with him, you now feel egocentrically threatened when people dare to question his divinity. Please, I humbly beg you, examine your own fears and vulnerabilities here. Some psychologist friends of mine, former devotees of Baba, have been greatly concerned by the narcissism that characterizes many of Baba's devotees who childishly identify with him and go ballistic now that Baba's divinity is questioned.
>What sort of truth and justice does such a person follow? I have seen many innocent people being victims of such people as well and it has been horrible to see the consequences of what evil people can do.
You are speaking so vaguely here, [Anne], trying to paint with one brush all of us as part of one big evil mass. Please carefully examine your thinking here, and your penchant for trashing other human beings. Again, I must humbly ask you (as I must always ask myself) to try to be more compassionate.
> In Swami's case it is most sad to see that his traitors and enemies are not outside people, but his own devotees.
Who else but longtime devotees should come forward to ask what is going on and request greater accountability and honesty and justice? The longtime devotees are the perfect persons to engage in this thankless and unpleasant task. Believe me, none of us WANTED to become critics of SSB.
>Irrespective what people will say of Sai Baba, his divinity is too obvious when one spends time in his presence (especially in close presence) that one cannot take heed to the opinion of others.
Well, [Anne], again I would only refer you to M. Krishna's eye-opening account of Baba in Haraldsson's book. Haraldsson, of course, is a longtime devotee of Baba, but he is also a fairly objective scholar, and so he responsibly included Krishna's observations of Baba, along with another former devotee of Baba in chapters 17 and 16. [And M. Krishna did NOT think Sathya Sai was "Divine"!]
> With regards -- [Anne]
[Anne], I sincerely wish you full God-realization, whether through the form of Sathya Sai or through the form of another Mahatma or through the Formless [Divine]. Let there be no hard feelings between us. Please be aware that many of us former devotees are well aware that multitudes of people come closer to God through their association with Sathya Sai, although we now feel it our clearcut sacred duty to also speak out about the sexual improprieties. Until SSB clearly speaks out and explains just how his sexual interactions with male youth are truly "healing their sexual energy" or "raising the kundalini [spiritual energy]," we can only surmise that nothing of the sort is happening and that, more realistically, SSB is not flawless.
Best wishes to you,
Om Tat Sat! [In praise of the One Divine Being/Truth]
P.S.--Please feel free to share this email with “Emily.”
VI. Letter to a former Sathya Sai devotee
(This was written in early Oct. 2005 to a then-devotee who at the time was being maligned by the "true believers" for expressing doubts about SSB.)
Hi Sandy [name changed to protect identity]
I hope this finds you well...
> I am very disturbed and upset by Swami molesting boys. And the more I read on cults, mind control and gurus the worse things look. I can't go back into my pure bhakti [devotional] love for Swami. Of course the Baba people say i am in the mind and the ego and "you can't understand Swami," so I feel guilty and that i am a failure as a devotee, which i am...
Sandy, it is one of the marks of dysfunctional systems that a perpetrator--or group of perpetrators--of an injustice insidiously try to turn the tables on anyone who would expose or counter their unjust behavior. They "blame the victim" of their crimes and also try to utilize character assassination against anyone who sympathizes with the victims ("experiencers" or "survivors" is a better term here) and stands in solidarity with them. [For instance, both David Bailey and Conny Larsson, who so notably tried to expose Sathya Sai's homosexual molestation of minors, have been slandered with the calumny that they are pedophiles. No evidence for these baseless charges has ever been presented.]
This nasty syndrome is playing out in a very dysfunctional, abusive way with the "true believers" who are now utterly locked in the "group-think" of the Sathya Sai movement. They are really showing their true colors as people of only mediocre spiritual attainment, at best. It seems that the people of most integrity in the movement left a few years ago when all the facts about Sathya Sai's criminal behavior began to emerge—not just the serial sexual abuse of male youth, but the lying, the financial improprieties, the great number of faked materializations, the longstanding cover-up of any meaningful investigation into the 1993 murders in his living quarters, and, more recently, the heavy "dirty tricks" campaign that SSB and his cronies have waged in trying to silence or intimidate any sincere critics who have entirely LEGITIMATE questions about the terrible things going on with SSB and this sick organization—the inner rotten core for too many years hidden behind what was a relatively healthy movement in the decentralized aspect of its organization (i.e., the local centers, which function autonomously in so many ways).
Trying to accuse you of being "in the mind and the ego" is a classic turn-the-tables attack rooted in the fact that these persons are simply not mature enough, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally, to face the facts about their terribly flawed, criminally abusive leader and the terribly dysfunctional movement and its crony leaders (Indulal Shah, M. Goldstein, Bob Bozzani, Ricard Bayer, J. Jagadeesan, Thorbjørn Meyer, et al.).
All the classic Freudian pathological/neurotic defense mechanisms are arising for these people: pathological identification with the "true and noble cause," denial, rationalization, reaction formation (excessive, irrational emotionality), and projection. When they accuse you of being in the mind and ego, this is their colossal projection of their own shadow material. It is THESE ACCUSERS who are absolutely stuck in mind and ego—with denials, rationalizations, narrow identification with the Sathya Sai movement, and projection-games against innocent members of the movement who simply have questions about what is going on.
The basic point that these "Sathya Sai fundamentalists" don't understand is that we have a spiritual, moral duty to expose criminal wrong-doing and to promote a situation (this may, of course, never happen) wherein 1) the victims are properly honored (not blamed as "liars," "disgruntled, failed devotees," etc. etc. ad nauseam), 2) heartfelt, sincere apologies are made, and, finally, 3) AMENDS are made to them and to all in the movement whose trust in Sathya Sai and the goodness of the leadership of his movement was massively BETRAYED for the sake of selfish gain.
This is the simple point. But the SSB fundamentalists don't get it—because they are pathologically locked in a mental-emotional prison of their own making. They are now furiously working overtime to keep out Satya (Truth), Dharma (Righteousness), Prema (Love) and Ahimsa (Non-injury). They're on a rampage against "the enemy," but they have the wrong enemy. The "enemy," you see, is not good-hearted people who are trying to uphold Dharma by asking questions and wanting accountability and justice— no, the real "enemy" here is the group of people, led by SSB and his sycophant (yes-men) followers, who have complicitly exploited the innocence of children, and repeatedly lied, evaded, and obfuscated, and who have deceived and maliciously slandered good people. This is not Dharma. This is asura/"demon" behavior. And there is major "karmuppance" these poor, confused, cowardly souls are creating for themselves by preferring to align with the dark shadow side of spirituality.
We must remember Jesus' teachings to "love thy enemy" [for starters, by not seeing any solid "enemy" "out there"]-- for wisdom and compassion is, truly, the only way to heal this situation.
So, Sandy, there's no need for you to feel either guilt/shame (which is what the SSB folks are trying to manipulate you into feeling), or animosity for these pathologically imprisoned souls. Let us see the shining goodness deep within them, try to express our viewpoint with love, compassion and patience (and a certain benevolent, heart-centered humor), and realize, clearly, THIS IS A DREAM, all made out of Divine Awareness.
Love to you and to all beings (the One Being).
VII. Another letter to "Sandy" (Jan. 9, 2007), my comments on a long open letter [not reproduced here] by scientist and high-ranking SSB org deputy, Dr. G. Venkataraman, a "true believer" in Sathya Sai's righteousness, reproduced in the online newsletter of the pro-Sathya Sai "Heart2Heart Team" (early Jan. 2007). (Note: I've added a bit of extra material to this letter for the online web version here.)
I enjoyed reading most of the piece you sent (Dr. G. Venkatarman's basic take on Consciousness, science, etc., also his report on the Sathya Sai hospital and water projects, which have been critiqued in other quarters—the rap on the water projects is that some govt. bureaucrats, not so much ssb's team, meddled with it and kept it from being as successful as the Sathya Sai advocates claim—at least, this is the info i have from an expert international consultant, husband of a staunch ssb devotee).
Venkataraman does the usual head-in-the-sand defense, though, about the serious allegations concerning Sathya Sai's homosexual molestation of minors [and doesn't seem aware of other improprieties—such as the financial scandals at the ashram, the continuing questions about the 1993 ashram murders, the faked materializations, and the widespread instances of plagiarism in Sathya Sai's teachings]. The court case with Alaya Rahm against the American SSB org is NOT so easily dismissed as Venkataraman makes it out to be.
[NB: the 2005-2006 court case in California by Alaya Rahm against the Sathya Sai Society of America was finally self-dismissed in April 2006 before any evidence was presented. A statement by the Rahm family and supportive international former Sai Baba devotees (JuST--Just Seekers of Truth) posted at saiguru.net/english/news/060730_Alaya_Rahm_lawsuit.htm is reproduced below. Note that this assessment of the case has been vehemently challenged on a number of points by staunch SSB defender Joe Moreno at saisathyasai.com/Rahm-Public-Court-Records/critics_alaya_rahm_failed_lawsuit.html, a challenge too long to reproduce here, though certain disputed points are noted (and be aware that a few of Moreno's points are misleading, such as his glib dismissal of the import of the Hislop letters). The statement by the Rahm family, et al., reads in part as follows:]
No court found Alaya's allegations to be false. Simply, the suit could not continue on a technicality [Moreno calls it a deliberate "strategy"], and the claims of sexual abuse stand irrefutably true, just as before…. [Moreno of course disputes this assessment of claims.] The Sathya Sai Organization has set itself up to avoid legal accountability and full public scrutiny. There is no legal entity in the United States against which a lawsuit demanding responsibility of Goldstein and other key directors of the Sathya Sai Society of America can be brought. The Organization’s leaders will not truly investigate or let the lower echelon leadership and the rank-and-file members know the nature and seriousness of the accusations against Sai Baba. These go well beyond sexual abuse of young males and include complicity in gigantic and wrongful deployment of funds garnered worldwide, and a cover-up of several killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom in June 6, 1993….
Because of the legalistic stumbling blocks, compelling testimony could not be presented [Moreno disputes this]. For example, evidence of: dereliction of duty of care by leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization [and further evidence] from other families and individuals [e.g., Mark Roche and Mrs. Diana Scott Payne about her son] who allege sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba. … Sai Baba has lied about former devotees who now expose him, and his leaders know that. He has called them “Judases”, “demons”, and has falsely and without giving a shred of evidence accused them of opposing him for money….
“It seems impossible to approach Sai Baba legally from abroad - not to mention the obstacles to bringing him to justice within India itself, where Supreme and High Court judges, government ministers and power brokers from many sections of Indian society are his devotees. Continuous efforts are made by the Sathya Sai Organization to cover up for its founder and to protect its own name….
“The lawsuit against Sai Baba (individually) was dropped because the judge indicated in the initial court appearance that he did not wish to see us pursue a case against an out-of-country defendant that is not a signatory to the Hague Treaty. Sai Baba lives in India. California does not have reciprocal jurisdiction rights against an out-of-country defendant and we cannot utilize California state subpoena powers against an out-of-country defendant not subject to the powers of the Hague Treaty without pursuing the Letters Rogatory process. That process takes several years to complete and there is no guarantee Sai Baba would even respond to service of a subpoena once a subpoena was served. Which complicates matters even more. And given Sai Baba's age, there is no guarantee he would even be alive at the time we finally could have perfected service of a complaint, let alone a deposition subpoena.” (--statement by Alaya’s pro-bono lawyer, William Brelsford)
Sai Baba’s organization dares not face public examination. In countries in all the Sai Organization ‘regions’, its prominent leaders were instructed to ensure the Organization was not registered in a way that would render it legally or financially liable. One point which exemplifies this policy is seen in The Sathya Sai Organization Charter Section (E) CENTRES (6) Rules and Regulations: “The Centre/Group will not ordinarily be registered under the local law relating to registration of societies, if such registration is not mandatory.” (p.24).
Compelling accounts of individuals from many countries and investigative documentation by former devotees and some of the world’s leading media attest that Sai Baba has sexually molested boys and young men for over 30 years….
The executives, research and legal staffs of major organizations have accepted the credibility of many witnesses from the USA and countries around the world (including those with sworn affidavits) who accuse Sathya Sai Baba of male sexual abuse over many years. These bodies include UNESCO (Paris), the US State Department, the BBC (“The Secret Swami”), AZUL TV (Argentina, “Zona de Investigación”), DR (Danish Broadcasting, “Seduced” - re-titled as “Seduced By Sai Baba” by Australia’s SBS - which, like DR, withstood Sai Organization threats to sue), and ABC Radio (Australia). Print media have likewise have accepted the credibility of former devotees and rejected Sai Organization attempts to kill the stories – e.g., India Today, The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, Salon.com, and many other newspapers in Scandinavia, Europe, Canada, and Australia.
Those who know Alaya and his family are satisfied that they have told the truth. Indeed, the penalty for lying to a court in the USA, a legal system which Alaya Rahm was every bit prepared to face, is severe!… That Alaya Rahm withdrew his case reflects on certain Sathya Sai Organization leaders and their bad faith, not on him. [Joe Moreno disputes this.]
[Timothy continues:] The essential point, Sandy, is that in no way did the SSB organization "win" a court case on the basis of directly refuting Alaya's allegations.]
Whereas that phony online letter about the [allegedly sexually abused] Indian students' names is easy to refute [by Venkataraman], there is SO MUCH in Alaya's and over 40 other young men's allegations reported to different people and periodicals that cannot be refuted. Simply saying "my eminent friends are close to Sathya Sai and they are not aware of anything unethical happening" is no excuse. All sorts of sexual abusers have circles of people around them at home and work and in friendship circles who know nothing of their friend/kinsman's illicit, unethical sexual behavior.
How can Venkataraman so easily dismiss "insiders" like David Bailey and Terry Gallagher, and Robert Priddy (head of Norway's SSB org) and all the other officers at local centers or in national or regional SSB org positions who've left? This would include the leadership of most of the Swedish Sai org (Conny Larsson, et al.); the heads of many centers in UK (Margaret Tottle-Smith, et al.), Germany (Jeremy Carstairs et al.), Holland (Stijntje Riemersma, et al.) and Canada; Terry Gallagher, Stephen Carthew, Brian Steel and Roy Pendragon of Australia; Al Rahm, Lori Kaplowitz, Sharon Purcell, Glen Meloy, Shirley Pike, Ella Evers, Jon Sutton, Lisa Trice, Dave Brandt, Elena & John Hartgering, Rick Raines, Dave Lyons, Dennis Hanisch, Richard Nelson, Steve Woolard, and others in the USA; Artur Wisniewski of Poland; Paul Holbach of Italy; Lionel Fernandez of Mexico; Octavio Escobar of Colombia; Jorge Arce of Peru; Isidro Cachadiña Gutiérrez of Spain; Serguei Badaev of Russia; and many, many others.
The bottom line Q is this: WHEN WILL WE EVER GET AN APPROPRIATE, MATURE, EMPATHETIC RESPONSE to some serious concerns and our "mandated reporting" professional obligation (and duty by law) to raise this question about Sathya Sai's evident serial sexual abuse of male youth for over 30 years? Instead, we only hear from Goldstein, Hawley, Jagadeesan and now Venkataraman vague references to the "rumors" and "allegations" and massive amount of black-&-white "you're with us or against us" paranoid thinking and summary dismissal of "the critics" as "evil," "sinful," "confused," etc.
This kind of response is no response at all. It is the mark of pathological immaturity and paranoia, pathological identification with a narrow cause, pathological denial, reaction formation, rationalization, and the pathological authoritarian personality--all these being syndromes that have been deeply studied by psychologists over the 20th century.
I am trained as a psychologist and have a minor from grad school in organizational development (OD). I also happen to be, through long training, an expert on important aspects of world religions and new religious movements. I know dysfunctional behavior when i see it. The SSB organization leadership's response to the allegations which surfaced in a major way in 1999-2000 has been quite dysfunctional and pathological.
I don't like to throw these labels around, but they are accurate diagnoses, based on the behavior that I and many others have witnessed.
It's important for Sathya Sai's "true believers" to realize that in the case of people like myself, I (we) never wanted to become a critic of SSB. To this day i retain a strong independence from those critics who've staked out an "anti-Sathya Sai" position, regarding him as largely or totally evil, and engaging to a certain extent in the same kind of name-calling and irrationality that has afflicted the pathological SSB org leadership (and Sathya Sai himself) that i've earlier indicated.
I, along with many other concerned, mature-and-rational-as-we-can-be persons, have simply had some questions that we would like to see addressed in a rational and spiritual way—in the sense of 1) not staking out hardline irrational/emotional positions, i.e., not being identified with an ego position, and 2) lovingly and empathetically being interested in the interlocutor's viewpoint and values.
Because of the SSB org's and Sathya Sai's own misbehavior in these matters—going back to J. Hislop's letters to the directors of the SSB Council of America in early 1981, and more recently Goldstein et al.'s responses and non-responses from 2000 onward— it has NEVER been possible to have an kind of rational, spiritual discussion or "group therapy" about these things.
What, then, is a concerned person to do?
Shall we simply accept the unproven assertion or assumption, "Sathya Sai is God, therefore whatever he does is perfect"? No way! This assertion has not been fully demonstrated on any kind of persuasive evidence. The Sathya Sai Baba organization leadership and rank-and-file "true believers" repeatedly fall into this fallacy of presumption.
Appealing to the incidence of the paranormal around Sathya Sai does not suffice, either. Physicist Michio Kaku, one of the early experts on superstring theory and its required postulate of extra dimensions, has written in his excellent book Hyperspace that a being who had access to at least one extra spatial dimension beyond the conventional 3 dimensions, would have "Godlike powers."
We know that from the 1860s onward, the Spiritualist movement in the USA that then spread rapidly to England, the European continent, and Latin American countries like Brazil, saw the incidence of many genuine paranormal phenomena--evidently resulting from "discarnate beings" on "the other side" (the subtle realms) having access to an extra spatial dimension or two and working all sorts of wonders through sensitive "mediums" such as the amazing Daniel Dunglas Home, widely studied by the skeptics and never found guilty of any kind of fraud. But these phenomena do not make such persons "God specially incarnate." There are all sorts of rogue figures in the history of religions who had various powers, derived from superior concentrative powers or help from subtle-plane figures (even "demonic" figures)--but these rogues were not "Divine incarnations." (Obviously, in the general metaphysical view, we are all incarnations/manifestations of the One Divine Being.)
Sathya Sai could easily be the human instrument, maybe even a very high yogi from other lives, for the subtle-plane activity of the very powerful avatar or siddha Sai Baba of Shirdi, who has access to all sorts of extra spatial dimensions, for working all sorts of ESP and PK paranormal wonders or miracles. BUT THIS DOES NOT PROVE THAT SSB IS GOD.
Love to all beings (including Sathya Sai and his true believer followers)... May all be awake to the true Divine glory!
VIII. Short response to a question from "Sandy" about criticizing one's teacher. (Jan. 26, 2007)
I hope you are well and happy, and feeling free and in love with the Living God, your Deep Self, the Self of all!
Going through some recent emails (huge number), i realized you'd had some Qs i'd not answered.
>They say that to speak badly of your teacher is also adharmic. What do you think?
When a teacher acts AGAINST DHARMA, it is proper and dharmic to stop this or at least to warn others about such behavior so that they can make up their minds whether they wish to continue to support such a teacher. This is not about "speaking badly of one's teacher," but simply following the mandatory reporting laws on sexual molestation of minors and also drawing attention to massive inconsistencies in Sathya Sai's own repeatedly iterated teachings about Satya [Truth], Dharma [Virtue], Prema [Love], Ahimsa [Non-injury], etc.
It's all so terribly ironic!
Recall that a great part of Sathya Sai's fame in his youth, which helped bring in more and more of a burgeoning following, was allegedly his "courageous stand" against inappropriate, adharmic behavior by the elders in his region of South India. He enacted morality plays, and spoke out publicly against corruption, hypocrisy, and harmful behavior by certain elders.
This, anyway, is what we were told in the official and unofficial biographical literature about Sathya Sai (some of which now seems to involve a certain amount of myth-making and even lying by Sathya Sai, the late Prof. N. Kasturi, and others--such as shifting his birthday from Oct. or Nov. 1929 to Nov. 23, 1926 to dovetail with Sri Aurobindo's well-known announcement that the Krishna Consciousness or Oversoul had incarnated on Nov. 24, 1926!).
And now, in this more recent era, we discover Sathya Sai's own extensive inappropriate sexual behavior with youth (based on many written or spoken public testimonials), his faking of materializations (openly admitted by Isaac Tigrett and a few other prominent devotees), his cover-up of any decent investigation into the 1993 ashram murders, his lies, his plagiarizing of many of his most well-known sayings, and so forth.
But when we put forth some simple questions about whether this is proper Dharma behavior, and when we remind Sathya Sai and his organization's leadership that there are laws in India and the USA, and international UN conventions against sexually molesting children, plagiarizing, covering up murders and financial misbehavior, etc.—then it is we who are the "evil sinners," "weak," "greedy for money," "liars," "grievous sinners," "Judases," "cawing crows," etc. in the name-calling and character assassination campaigns launched in late 2000 by J. Jagadeesan and others, and publicly repeated in his discourses by Sathya Sai himself (e.g., the 2000 Christmas discourse).
Isn't this plainly, patently hypocritical, inconsistent, and ridiculous?
Ultimately, true Love will prevail and all souls will come home to the One true Divine Being.
All the very best to you, "Sandy"! Here's wishing you everything wonderful...
My friend "Sandy" has asked that this correspondence be closed with the following two quotes. I completely agree with the noble Spirit expressed in these quotes. Alas, my candid words throughout this webpage have probably violated this Spirit, despite all attempts to keep the discussion on the highest possible plane of spiritual inquiry and truth-telling for the sake of keeping pure the Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way of Spiritual Truth. Mea culpa!
"He who treads the path in earnest sees not the mistakes of the world; if we find fault with others, we ourselves are also in the wrong. When other people are in the wrong, we should ignore it, for it is wrong for us to find fault. By getting rid of the habit of fault-finding, we cut off a source of defilement." (The Diamond Sutra of Hui Neng, the Platform Sutra by the Sixth [Ch'an Buddhist] Patriarch, p. 34.)
"When we continue to see the mistakes of others, denigrating and slandering them, we demonstrate that we are the most awkward and wanting of all, because our minds are still deluded...lacking in wisdom and compassion. We thus bring retribution on ourselves in the future.... We should learn from great men and let our minds be as clear and bright as a mirror.... If we have distracting thoughts... and speak words of scorn and blame, then internally our true nature becomes defiled and externally we bring rancor and disputes upon ourselves. This results in further errors and transgressions. For this reason, to achieve peace of mind and be free of afflictions, we should not comment on people's shortcomings". Urban Dharma Newsletter, 01/18/2007 www.urbandharma.org.
Final Note from Timothy (a repeat of the Prefatory Note near the outset of this webpage): It is a curious paradox in authentic spirituality that we do best always to see everyone in the most sublime light as embodiments of the One Divine Light, yet we must also be savvy and sharp about abuses of others, abuses of Truth, Virtue and Propriety. Jesus taught, "Judge not, lest you be judged." And yet Jesus himself could be quite "judgmental" and "critical" even in the most genuine layer of his teachings (as carefully sifted by scholars). Hence, our mature intelligence needs to be a judge or critic, that is, an evaluator, of proper and improper behavior occurring in ourselves (first and foremost, ourselves) and also in others, for the sake of the common good. Otherwise, "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" (a famous line attributed to Irish philosopher-statesman Edmund Burke, d.1797). We can criticize or judge our own behavior and the behavior of apparent "others" (the One Self in disguise) while fully loving them as the Beloved. Bottom line: while critiquing unseemly and/or illegal, criminal behavior, we need not throw anyone out of our hearts!