Sathya Sai Organization practices and problems - documented and with official and anecdotal evidence
Inflated statistics:Prof. V.K. Gokak’s book, "Sri Sathya Sai and the Culture of India and the World." (Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Dharmakshetra, Bombay, April 1990) has in Appendix 1 four pages listing Sathya Sai Organization groups/Centres/Study circles/Bal Vikas centres/Bal Vika students in all countries. For example, Norway was misrepresented as having 2 centres (it had none, but one functioning group and one pro forma group) plus 1 study circle (correct) and 1 Bal Vika Centre (complete fabrication - based on the fact that 3 persons out of the 4 members in the entire country then had been to one EHV seminar in India!). Though the Sathya Sai Organization centrally is almost obsessed with membership statistics and increased recruitment, oddly no statistics are kept of persons who left or why they did so.
Evidence of the preoccupation with membership numbers is widespread. A typical example is in “Conversations…” in the 1995 re-edited version (p. 232), Hislop tells Baba that the American Sai centres have slow growth.
“We should have 300 or 400 instead of just over 100.”Baba replies “One reason for the slow growth is that Hislop’s discipline is too harsh. The Sai Organisation works through softness, kindness, love and harmony. In American the people are outspoken with strong and often harsh ideas and opinions, and when they are confronted with an equally harsh ruling there is a confrontation and cessation of advancement and progress. Persuasion should be applied softly and with kindness.”
Hislop replied “Swamiji, I do months of soft persuasion without effect; then I have to act with firmness.”
The figure of 3 million visitors was frequently repeated, because it came from Sai Baba himself both before and after the event. Sai Baba claimed this to friends of mine (including Sai VIPs Robert and Rita Bruce in interview). I heard this repeated by a number of persons at the ashram before, during and after the birthday celebrations. A mere glance at any photo or video of the Hillview event shows how paltry the crowd was by comparison with the Pope' send-off. The ashram engineer Mr. Ashok at the time stated that the maximum the Hillview Stadium could hold was about 250,000 and an absolute maximum of 300,000 in the area at any one time, all estimated on a technical basis! Anyone who cares to follow the news on TV can see that the Pope's send-off from Poland was attended by an official count of three million people. The absolutely gigantic crowd this makes can only be seen in part on the screen, but even then it far, far exceeds the number of people in the Hillview Stadium for any of SSB's birthday parties so far. This fact can be verified by calculating the size of the Hillview Stadium, which was not even entirely full even at the main opening ceremony, as even official photos photos show clearly enough.The biggest foreign contingent, however, came from the USA – 750 persons in all. There were a total of about 8,000 foreign visitors from all countries actually registered as staying at the ashram, including everyone there, even mere tourists and inquisitive sceptics. The number of foreign visitors reported at big festivals reported often far exceeds the total number of airline seats available to South India for weeks before.
Besides, after nine visits to the ashrams, we have always seen a large number of familiar faces every time.The Poornachandra Auditorium is reported as having 5 times the number of devotees it can possibly hold at the maximum! So are the numbers in the darshan compound hugely inflated in reports, for I have often counted around 3000, which is then said to be 8000. The numbers at the large events like Baba’s birthdays are invariably multiplied by any factor up to 10, so that 300,000 became 3 million. As the former editor of Sai Baba’s monthly journal Sanathana Sarathi - V.K. Narasimhan - often pointed out to me, most devotees accept these hugely inflated figures without a second thought and repeat them anywhere, mainly because Sai Baba himself initiates them time and again. I have several sources of independent confirmation from interviews of this ‘divine multiplication’ of numbers of devotees. Narasimhan had no explanation as to why Sai Baba did this so persistently.Though 187 countries were represented by flag-bearers at the 70th birthday, many flags had to be carried by persons of different countries because those in question had no male representative present! This one typical example of the self-enhancing culture of the Sathya Sai Organization.This example is echoed, of course, in the statements of leading officials. For example, in a circular letter 18-9-01 , Indulal Shah exemplifies it when he states “We all know how the number of devotees of Bhagawan is increasing by the minute round the world.” But the question is, how could he know? Where is any evidence for such a sweeping emotive statement? It is all in the mind of the Sai believers, especially those who are so encircled by devotees that they are quite out of touch with the wider world!
False publicity: The Sathya Sai Organization does not correct wrong information circulated about it by itself or other that would seem to put it in a good light, nor does it ever present any negative news about projects that failed or were flawed. All is presented as being divine perfection itself! Facts about itself, some of its projects and events that take place are constantly misrepresented by the Organisation, while all information is clinically censored to cover-up all ills. I have received testimony for all this from V.K. Narasimhan, a one-time investigative journalist of great experience, who was highly percipient and frank in correcting some of my mistaken impressions and opinions of how the organisation is run and what has been done by.
Non-existent villages project publicised: One example of long-uncorrected publicity is about Sai Baba’s organisation having adopted 6000 villages (some quote it as 60,000 villages mentioned - perhaps only yet another unhappy Indian misprint?). In response to previous calls for village regeneration from Sai Baba, the project was instigated by Indulal Shah for the 60th birthday. No one I contacted in the Sathya Sai Organization had any information on the project beyond what is in the 1985 publication from the SSB Publications Trust bookshop, The Beacon - a book about Sai Baba and his doings consisting in brief texts with photos. About 1 1/2 pages of text make up the section entitled "All India Exhibition - Depicting Seva Activities in 4,200 Adopted Villages In Different States of India."
It shows the model village built for this exhibition at Prashanthi Nilayam. One picture is of Shah taking Baba around it. It was inaugurated in Nov. 1984 by S.B. Chavan, the Home Minister later behind the quashing of murder investigations at Prashanthi Nilayam in 1993.
"The programme planners had decided to adopt 6,000 villages, leaving the choice to the state units. They had all been cautioned earlier by Sri Baba what 'adoption' meant. The villages are to be regarded as near and dear as the child you adopt." The text claims "Nearly 5000 of the targeted 6000 villages have been brought under the welfare plan already. The rest are to be covered within the time set for them....”
This project would require a large staff to be at all effective or develop - even as a shoestring affair, but no such staff has ever been seen or heard of.
Therefore I asked V.K. Narasimhan about this. He told me that the project was “a washout and was dropped within the first year of its inception in 1985. The main event had been an invitation via the Sathya Sai Organization to send persons to visit Prashanti Nilayam and hear Baba give instructions on village improvement. At least several hundred persons came as village representatives from all around India, to whom the ashram offered free transport, free meals, darshans and other benefits. Laudable as this attempt to help India’s poverty-stricken and declining villages was, the activities dwindled rapidly down - after the small bonanza - to a handful of individuals here and there, as V.K. Narasimhan informed me and as the least investigative digging will bear out!
The project is even now sometimes referred to as if it were continuing in various SS Book Trust publications and brochures, since its demise has evidently been kept secret. Village uplift has continued on a much smaller scale locally since then, mainly by occasional Seva Dal or student village help projects, mainly within Sathya Sai Taluk close to Prashanthi Nilayam.
Exaggerations about 'EHV':In 1987, having heard at a Sai conference in Belgium a great deal from Victor Kanu about the success of EHV education in the UK, which he headed, I went to the UK for a long period intending to engage somehow in these activities, possibly even to try to start an EHV school there. There was plenty of publicity, a printed monthly tabloid newspaper edited by Kanu, with pictures of Sathya Sai Organization leaders conferencing here and there, and mostly of Kanu and his wife. Much was written about the successes of Kanu in getting EHV up and running in UK.
Victor Kanu was not very approachable, it turned out, but I got to know the deputy EHV leader, a young man called Chris Caine, well enough for him to tell me that, in fact, there were but two EHV classes in the whole of UK, one run by Kanu and his wife, the other for Indian immigrants by the then President of the UK Sathya Sai Organization, an Indian lady. I found that this was typical of the panache with which matters are presented by Sathya Sai Organization dignitaries.
The European Croatia Project
The impressive figures presented for the workings of the Sathya Sai Organization relief convoys to Croatia from 1992 onwards were doubtless correct. For example 2,600 tons of goods were donated and trucked to Croatia within a period of less than 2 years. However, the leaders of this project informed me at Prashanthi Nilayam in 1995 that, apart from themselves and a few very active Sai followers in Austria, the great majority of those who did the actual work involved were not involved with Sai Baba at all. Subsequently, UK’s Tony Budell joined and expanded the Croatia project further. The leader confided in me that it was exceptionally difficult to motivate Sathya Sai Organization members to work with the convoys. This is an unfortunate example of Sathya Sai Organization taking credit in the form of placards, published materials and other publicity for the freely given service of other people.
Some excerpts from a document circulated to groups and centres in 1985 by the Europe Group 1 Coordinating Committee show the peculiar self-contradiction that operated w.r.t. publicity in the Sathya Sai Organization generally:
“The question of public meetings with audio-visual aids (information-meetings) has been brought up time and time again by various centres and groups. We are all well aware that we are not to mission in any way, but rather to spread the Divine teachings through our example as an inspiration to others. However, rules are that we should conduct regular public meetings in our centres/groups… Such meetings should contain information on Sathya Sai Baba (who is He?), His teachings, the meaning of His miracles (inner significance), the Organisation (why an Organisation?) the activities and the work of the Organisation emphasizing Seva (esp. Group Community Sadhana), Bal Vikas and EHV.”
Then the text soon also declares:
“When others arrange public meetings or in connection with radio/TV, we should not participate, if other religious organisations participate, as we want to avoid discussions and polarization. However, in connection with radio/TV and other public media, we may participate, if we have separate features, where the sterling worth of the teachings/message can be safeguarded beforehand.”
And later “…but we should be prepared to go to schools, companies/firms, public institutions & the like when requested and if this locally is considered right.”
In short, after lip service to the way Sai Baba would “spread the Divine teachings through our example as an inspiration to others”, something close to a carte blanche is given for spreading publicity. The above example is but one of many such subsequent attempts to rationalize the increasingly organized publicity for Sai Baba, the Sathya Sai Organization etc.
Developments since 2000 include a world radio broadcasting station - Radio Sai - which constantly pours out Sai talks and whatever. There are now also official and semi-official Sathya Sai Organization websites en masse, despite what Sathya Sai Baba has said about the Internet and computers (see Sathya Sai Baba and the Internet click here)
One small example: Unprecedentedly, at Shivarathri 2004, Sathya Sai Baba allowed a live broadcast in the Indian subcontinent of his so-called 'lingodbhava' (bringing the egg-like ellipsoidal object out of his mouth after what looked like a painful process of regurgitation). However, one can most clearly see that NO lingam 'actually emerges' at all. Instead there is a small spurt of yellowish vomit, which was later claimed to be the lingam in liquid golden form! It is clear that most devotees will believe ANYTHING they are told by him or his cronies (eg. that he materialised two more in private after he collapsed and withdrew to his rooms). However, it is noteworthy that there have been a significantly increased number of defections from his movement in the period since then. Now he is trying to make up for the loss of followers by using TV on a large scale... so much for this fake avatar and his talk of 'needing no publicity, name or fame' etc.
Hislop tells of Baba’s fallibility: The top Sathya Sai Organization leader in the USA through three decades, J. Hislop, admitted that Baba is fallible and thought this to be a ‘wonderful’ fact demonstrating Baba’s human aspect. In this connection, Hislop said, “… there is this human side and in that human side there is some fallibility, up to a limit. It would be impossible for Him to do something that is wrong or destructive.” (“Seeking Divinity” Dr. J. S. Hislop, Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publications Trust. 1998, p. 210)
Previously, no Sai leader would remotely consider (in public at least) that Baba could be fallible at all, and even today there are many who insist this is not so. But how could Hislop tell that there is a limit to Baba’s fallibility, or where it can be drawn? The only possible answer is, he certainly did not know! As a letter to some Sathya Sai Organization leaders about homesexual/pedophile allegations against Baba in the early 1980s clearly demonstrated, he could simply not bring himself to believe in the evidence that Baba had misused young men sexually. One naturally asks, how should this many-times disappointed seeker who thought he had at last found God Himself, admit that he had been so wrong, yet once again?
Baba even told him he has to be reborn again, despite his seeing many lingams come out of Baba’s mouth, which is supposed to guarantee liberation according to several assurances to this effect by SSB. (See Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba New 1996 ed., p. 228). The poor man died before his wife, which SSB had assured him in 1990 would not occur. “You will not die first. Long, long life.” Hislop lived only 5 years after that, and died of cancer without treatment after a long period of suffering, (ibid., p. 231). It is not polite to ask whether his wife outlived him, one must assume.
Soliciting donations: Dr. John Hislop recorded in Seeking Divinity that Baba told him “that in regards to our Sai Organisation … do not get involved with money, with government, or with power….” (p. 214). Further, Sai Baba has repeatedly said that money collection is forbidden in the Organisation (see for example, Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 14 New ed. p.362.)
Ostensibly, the Sathya Sai Organization is a selfless service organisation which does not distinguish between colour or creed and operates with the absolute minimum of expense, never soliciting donations or seeking publicity. The International (Overseas) Chairman and a Central Coordinator openly solicited funds for a share investment project to benefit the Sathya Sai Central Trust.
Various office-bearers, led by the Central Coordinator, Mr. Hira of Japan, tried to get devotees to invest US dollars in “Sai Seva Savings Certificates” – a kind of bond issue on Indian shares to help finance the running of the water project from any profits over 5%. What was NOT told was that, not only does the rupee tend repeatedly to fall in value against the dollar, and repayment can only be in Indian rupees, but one cannot take money out of India in excess of the amount registered as having been brought in! Therefore this was a peculiar kind of saving – in depreciating rupees available only for use in India!
Hira even went fund-raising around the USA, presumably invited by the leader M. Goldstein! This investment idea was officially accepted by Overseas Chairman Shah, who himself signed a circular letter to this effect, well knowing that devotees would never be able to take any of the promised 5% profits to be paid for by them in dollars out of the country because they would be paid out in rupees only, a currency that also was continuously falling in value. Devotees were told that profits over 5% would accrue to the Sathya Sai Organization, and that this was “a wonderful opportunity to do seva in “the currency of love”! In short, this sad but laughable travesty of SB’s teachings about true service appeals to devotees’ desire also to earn profits for themselves from India on their money! My wife wrote to the Central Coordinator of our region at the time, Mr. Bernhard Gruber, pointing out all this, but though he tried his best he was unable to get any proper response from the I. Shah and the project proceeded! After some time, due to falling share values and other vague reasons etc., devotees were requested to relinquish their holdings to the Sathya Sai Central Trust! It is certainly to be hoped that that SB himself did not bless this, though he obviously condones it. He has said, “Bhagavan does not expect anything. Other swamis camp at different places to generate funds. Swamis who have accumulated wealth can be seen. There is no connection between these and Sathya Sai organizations. We must not have any relationship with those beggars. Sathya Sai Organization will grow, nourish the spirit of sacrifice and reflect this spirit.” (from Sai Baba's 1999 Yugadi Discourse)
Wasteful building & other projects?View pictures of buildings
Eternal Heritage Spiritual Museum : This extremely expensive and rather superfluous and misleading 'museum' is no museum in any known sense of the word, and most of its artefacts are brand new ones! Many were solicited by the Sathya Sai Organization, which required a contribution from each country. SB's advent and teachings are the centrepiece of the Museum (somewhat peculiar in that he is not even dead yet), and it is all presented with pomp, tinsel and expense. In short, all SB has often deplored verbally, but which evidently impresses most Indians. Though the general intention of the heritage museum to illustrate what is universal in religion is good, the results are flawed. For example, when the museum was being installed, V.K. Narasimhan was visited by a foreign lady called Parvati (a middle-aged long-term ashram resident), who had been delegated the job of setting up the section on the Jewish faith. Not being a Jew herself and knowing very little about Judaism, she wanted N's information and advice.The Eternal Heritage Museum exhibit subsequently represented the Bible's Ten Commandments as eleven such, starting as follows: "No 1: I am the Lord, Thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." After that comes No. 2: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.... etc." No. 3: "Show mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep my commandments." The huge costs of the building included three human lives: three US devotes were killed in an avoidable accident when the concrete dome collapsed and crashed through three floors, crushing two ladies to death and 26-year old Michael Oliver, who lived 11 hours in great pain with nine fractures and internal injuries. The matter was hushed up immediately. That the parents of a daughter killed have received no proper explanation, not even an offer of compensation, is thought by some to augur ill for the inauguration of such a 'Spiritual' Museum.
The 2001 'Chaitanya Jyothi' showpiece: Indulal Shah proposed yet another large building project (tentatively named ‘Sai Darshan’) for the 75th birthday of SB, to be presented by overseas devotees. The decision to forward this proposal was evidently taken by him, but assigned to Overseas Organisation. It was circulated in a (typically undated) letter from him to all overseas Central Coordinators. It was a “commemorative building project assigned to Overseas Organisation and the International UNESCO Conference at Prashanthi Nilayam” as planned for Nov. 23rd 2000 (75th birthday). It was to be an “unique monument of its kind which will convey to the world the life, teachings and divine words of wisdom delivered by Bhagawan Sri Sai Baba over the last 60 years…” Shah wrote “As regards the final cost it cannot be ascertained now fully since it will depend on the international world quality which will have to be maintained for such a monument by the Overseas Devotees. However, the estimated cost was placed at $US5 million.”
Under the leadership of the Chairman, B.G. and T.M., it was noted in the minutes of the meeting of NCs of zone 4: “Monument. Most, yet not all, of the persons present feel that it may not be the right idea to install a monument like this. Rather we think that our transformation is the monument for Swami – inside, not outside. To make better use of the time, money and energy, these participants suggest to concentrate these resources on the new hospital in Bangalore ….
The devotees in zone 4 will be informed of the proposed monument and be invited to contribute on the personal level. T. and B. are asked to forward these thoughts to the Central Office.”
But the next circular states: “…we do indeed suggest that each NC in his/her capacity of chairperson of the legally registered Organisation or Trust evaluates the possibilities … If there are potential and positive donors, whom you believe would be pleased to donate the sum of minimum $1000.- then approach them discreetly and explain about this magnificent building that will be there for future generations to illustrate the Avatar, His teachings, His accomplishments and His Organisation.”
The building ‘Chaitanya Jyothi’ is a grand mix of Chinese, Gothic, Moorish and other architecture, with a symbolic number of 7 floors, was opened on SB’s 75th birthday in 2000 to house yet more exhibits depicting his life, mission and message and ‘glory’.
Very considerable expense has been incurred by a number of rich foreign devotees in designing and building rooms for SB in their home countries on his ‘promise’ to visit them with an entourage. This has been done in Divignano, Italy at ‘Mother Sai House’ (complete with special apartment with Indian bathroom/toilet for SB) and not least in California at Ojai. Sai Baba has never visited as he has said he would. So as to explain away this it is usually said by devotees to mean that SB has visited in other ways (‘astrally’ etc.). All these misplaced funds defeat the claim to any ‘ceiling on desires’ doctrine.
In India there are numerous places built especially for SB which he occasionally visits, but very seldom if ever stays at. A very luxurious oval-shaped temple very like the Prashanthi Nilayam mandir, with large apartments for SB and his entourage, was built for over 20 million rupees in the 90s at Muddenahalli, between Puttaparthi and Bangalore. He visits the adjoining school complex, but has not (yet) stayed in the apartment.
I have been advised by a correspondent that, “To understand how the Sai Org. functions we should not underestimate its financial part - Sathya Sai Central Trust. This is the body which accumulates all funds. But the information is very scarce. I haven't seen any document about (i) when it was established, (ii) rules and regulations of its work, (iii) its relations with the Sai Org., (iv) people who run it.”
In this connection, I quote one piece of typical material from the same letter from I. Shah as above, to Overseas Coordinators on how to obtain donations from devotees:
“Overseas co-ordinators finally approved the following methods:
1) To organise 100 donors for accommodation in Building No. 8 and 9 and for which each coordinator gave their quota for the region which they will fulfil before March 2000. Dr. Goldstein was requested to be in charge for follow up with the Coordinators in this regard.
2) Letters to be written to the Bond Holders by respective Chairmen of the Zone. It was also decided that Bro. Hira should be in-charge of all follow up on this matter.
3) It was suggested that we should not solicit any donation by way of appeal or writing letters or making any announcements, but that the coordinators in their personal capacity should get in touch with known personalities/Sai Devotees and talk about this project to meet with the minimum target of US$50,000- per region which was supposed to be remitted in two instalments viz. before 4th March and 6th May 2000. The simple calculation was to select 50 persons and request for US$ 1,000 from each. To meet this requirement, 50 devotees may be selected from the whole Region. Perhaps it may not be necessary to reach out to all the 50 since the requirement from a particular region could be fulfilled by just a few devotees. However, if any region can contribute more than US$ 50,000- it is welcome, to offset any shortfall from smaller region.”
Concerning the above letter, the President of the Moscow Centre at the time, Serguei Badaev, wrote: I would like to share a case when at the meeting of the coordinators in Germany (it was probably the year before the construction of a new museum of Spiritual Heritage in PN started) T. Meyer read aloud a letter from I. Shah to the audience. The letter stated that funds were necessary for the construction of a new museum in PN and they should be supplied by the world zones of the Sai Org. according to special quotas. For the world zone 4 ( Northern Europe ) it was stated as US$50 000- T. Meyer was reading a letter as if it was a complete surprise for him. He shrugged his shoulders and expressed his doubts that the world zone 4 including such poor countries as Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe could manage to contribute such amount. He suggested to look for some rich sponsors in Western Europe countries inside the zone and not to bother Eastern block with this matter. This implies at least two points. First, T. Meyer didn't take part in making the decision to build a new museum (unless it is a political game for public). Second, some schemes should exist to approach potential donors for fund contributions to the Sai Org. projects.
4) The Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital at Puttaparthi was originally thought by V.K. Narasimhan, a close servitor of Sai Baba and a veteran and prestigious Goenka prize-winning economic journalist, to be a huge waste of money, viewed as a serious contribution to the massive health problems of the peasant populace. The number of patients it can handle was and still is nowhere in the proximity of the number of deserving cases. The money could have been better employed as prophylactic medicine for huge numbers of the poor, such as in ensuring that all received necessary vitamins and simple medicines, rather than in performing a limited number of very high-tech. Operations. On the other hand, the signal effect of such a hospital environment in such a poor place, and the fact that it was possible to build it and run it, eventually won over Narasimhan from most of his original scepticism about it. There has, however, been some public controversy about its clinical cleanliness and claimed results. It is not open to independent health inspections by regulatory bodies.
5) An American friend of the author, a retired engineer, was at an interview where someone asked why the hospital accommodation had stood empty for nearly 2 years. SB had replied, 'It was to give time for the snakes and scorpions to leave'. This may make sense when we read what he said in a discourse, "Many sit here near to me. But are they dear? There are scorpions and snakes near to me in Puttaparthi. Are they dear? No!" (Sathya Sai Speaks new ed. Vol. 25. Ch 9, p. 94). One can imagine that there were many who wished to get some kind of work in the hospital so as to claim need for accommodation, but they probably would not have waited indefinitely for this. Nonetheless, in such a desperately poor State as Andhra Pradesh, it seems very wasteful, as did the airport beside it which stood unused for years and is still used less than ca. 5% of each week.
6) A strange fact remarked on by many visitors is how few people are usually seen in the two super-speciality hospitals (Puttaparthi and Bangalore). One would imagine that hospitals allegedly offering free medical services would be flooded with millions of applicants in this state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the poorest of the poor. Apparently, the selection procedure is not made public. It is known that Sai devotees often get treatment at the hospitals, so they certainly serve to expand and strengthen the movement in this way. Some foreign devotees, Like Joy and Ray Thomas, even moved from USA (where they had no good health insurance) to Indian partly due to the hospital facilities they could then rely upon as Sai devotees.
Sai Baba is reported as having said: “It will be brought by four boys in a trolley. It is very heavy. It cannot be lifted. It weighs 20 kgs. Pure gold.” A college teacher exclaimed; “1 Crore, Swami!” (i.e Rs.10 millions) SB: “Yes, yes.” Teacher: “Individual cup, Swami?” SB: Yes, yes. Each player one Cup. 1 Kg. of silver. Round cup, one side ball, one side bat. We can keep fruits on it. It can be used in daily life. Outside they give plate on which they write. After some days it becomes copper. This is pure silver, pure gold.” Teacher: “Swami, it is written in Suka Naadi that Avatar will hoist the Sarvadharma flag; and that will be the turning point for the unity of the world.” SB answered: “Time has come; time has come. Yes, in Suka Naadi it is there, in Sukha Naadi it is there.”
Only a few famous players came, including Sunil Gaveskar (a long-term devotee),G R Vishwanath, Viv Richards of West Indies and lesser-known Doug Brown (only UK player). Flags of 100 countries were carried past by students. The event was a media flop. The huge solid gold cup was given to the winning team and all players were presented with each their solid silver cup.
8) The Illuminations at the 70th birthday consisted in wasteful extravagance. Hundreds of moving tableaux/light shows made a kind of mini-Las Vegas or Blackpool , stretching the length of the main road in Puttaparthi, over one kilometre in all. These were erected, ran for some days and were then removed.
9) At the Hillview Stadium, Puttaparthi, there are a large number of extremely tall and massive statues representing, among others, Shiva, Buddha, Moses, Christ and a monster statue of Hanuman holding a mountain aloft. These are gaudily painted and look like overblown kitch.The Sathay Sai Organization may not have contributed financially, none can tell, but at what cost they were all erected one can but wonder. For many Western visitors these statues typify the usual Indian extravagence and waste among such enormous poverty and suffering.