Part Two - Three - Four
"The foes of the 'open society" (Sir Karl Popper's term) are those who use its very openness to achieve their closed and devious ends. Sai Baba and his highly authoritarian and cultist organisation have such ends, which critics have tried to make known. Its foremost leaders silence all those who question it- and never face substantive criticisms. For the first time - after six years of pained and guilty silence - since hundreds of long-term devotees left it in disgust - the Sathya Sai Organisation has found it necessary to try to defuse the debate about Sathya Sai Baba's alleged crimes, deceits and fraudulence. Dr. Venkataraman's tendentious cover-up article expresses untruths which have long circulated within the cult, giving an opportunity to confront him with facts and truth, as follows:-
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THE INEVITABLE COLLAPSE OF CALUMNY
[by Dr. G. Venkataraman]
[text in black from http://media.radiosai.org/Journals/Vol_04/01JUL06/collapse-of-calumny.htm
Radio Sai Listener's journal: Volume 4 - Issue 07 JULY 2006]
Readers might recall that sometime ago, we made a special
announcement over both Radio Sai and in Heart2Heart, entitled Truth Always
Triumphs. At that time, we promised we would give full details later. The
time has come to do that.
We hope you would take time off to study this article carefully, and encourage others whom you know to do so. Our main purpose in making this request is to enable you to appreciate how complex the Divine Drama is and how it always goes through ups and downs, all entirely by Divine design!
In the worldwide Sathya Sai
Organisation, Dr G. Venkataraman is second in command only to Dr Michael
Goldstein, Head of the Prashanthi Council. It is noteworthy that such a
high-ranking figure in an extremely publicity-shy organisation has twice
referred, in a newsletter read round the world, to Alaya Rahm's lawsuit
against the directors of the Sathya Sai Society of America. He is a "true believer"
- and nothing that Sai Baba ever does can be, for him, questioned or
other than pure and just!
In this context, it is well to remember that when the
Anantapur Drinking Water Project was in progress, the Central Trust which
was executing the Project, had to borrow money from banks, because it was
short of cash. On the face of it, this might appear very strange. God is the
source of all wealth; how come He has to borrow, when He comes down in human
form? Surely, there must have been a reason.
Comment: Despite Sai Baba and his worldwide organisation's constant claims to be extremely frugal with money, their extravagant promotions belie the truth of their claims. There are wasteful projects galore 2. For example, there are museums and other lavish buildings simply to glorify Sai Baba himself. See for yourself here 3. What Venkataraman cannot contemplate is that Sai Baba overestimated how much he could spend!
Obstacles, obstructions and oppositions there always will be even when one tries to do good. The Ramayana has many illustrations of that. But the same Ramayana also tells us that with purity any obstacle can be overcome. That is also the inner meaning of the folklore about Siva drinking the poison that emerged when the Devas and the Asuras churned the Cosmic Ocean looking for nectar.
Comment: This shows how ardent believers in Sai
Baba often operate within an ancient and subjective belief system from which
to interpret everything that happens today. Over six decades of Sai Baba's
preaching his doctrine and rituals remain essentially an adapted form of
Hinduism but one rejected by a wide cross-section of Hindus. Many speak of
Sai Baba's vast pomp and ceremony as, for example, "a national circus". His
perpetual focus on Hindu scriptures belies the much-promoted claim of his
mission's 'universality' (i.e. the 'Sarva dharma' 'message', which asserts
the equality of the world's major religions).
Now that it is all over, (Comment: What's all over, the Ramayana era?) we request that you reflect deeply, even as you read some of this historical material, which necessarily is influenced by the sentiments of the times. However, in a historical context, we must leave aside the background of momentary passions and look objectively at how the drama started, how it evolved and how it concluded. Such reflections can give us much food for thought!
Comment: Venkataraman and Sai Baba's other leaders have failed to look with even remotest objectivity at the reasons so many have left the Sathya Sai Organisation. Unconscionably and repeatedly, its leaders have refused a proper hearing to those anguished individuals and their families - or many former members - who have told them about Sai Baba's sexual and other abuses. These leaders have not been truthful about the integrity of those former devotees and their rightful - and righteous - claims. This cultic aspect of the Sathya Sai Organisation alerts third party investigators, such as the world's most responsible media, to the credibility of the former devotees' claims. Journalists and their research teams quickly notice the secretive, evasive nature of Sai Baba and his leaders.
Leading media and other organizations such as UNESCO and the U.S. State Department have been very stringent in their expectations of sound evidence from organised former devotees around the world. Those who have researched the worldwide allegations against Sathya Sai Baba include the BBC, DR (Denmark), ATUL (Argentina), SBS (Australia), ABC (Australia), and print media in India, the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Australia etc. They quickly discovered for themselves the dishonesty and elusiveness of Sai Baba and his leaders. For example, this was why the BBC's legal department permitted its 'The Secret Swami' team to clandestinely film DR Michael Goldstein, allowing millions in many countries to see him show no respect for the accountability and transparency that citizens and responsible organizations today expect. They also saw Goldstein act nastily 4 in a way that is the very antithesis of a spiritual leader.
It suits Venkataraman - who refers to Goldstein as "Brother" to suppress this telling aspect, as he also does with other self-damning statements by Sai Baba and Isaac Tigrett in 'The Secret Swami' 5. The BBC interviewer Tanya Datta says to Tigrett "But even if it was proven to you that Sai Baba was a paedophile and a serial sex abuser, you're saying it wouldn't change the fact that he is your guru". Tigrett replies, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. He could go out and murder someone tomorrow…"
We have made every endeavour to maintain high standards, and hope we have succeeded.
Comment: "High standards" would include acknowledging a fact of great ethical and moral importance. This is that many honourable devotees once in high standing in the Sathya Sai Organisation have done their best to see that those making the allegations are properly and fairly heard. Those who have investigated and spoken out include those who held prominent roles, such as Rick Raines, Richard Nelson, Al Rahm, Shirley Pike, Ella Evers, Dr. Timothy Conway, Glen Meloy, Serguei Badaev, Dave Lyons, William Lo, Hariram Jayaram, Terry Gallagher, Stephen Carthew, David Bailey, Britt-Marie Anden, Conny Larsson etc.
In the absence of proper and, these days,
typical standards of organisational openness and accountability, there has
been a large and principled exodus from the Sathya Sai Organization. Why do
Goldstein, Venkataraman and the other key leaders conceal this from their
congregations, and those political or religious leaders and the wider public
they try so hard to cultivate and fetch to their keynote events?
It is not surprising, then, that the unaccountable ashram authorities and International Chairman met their match when they ejected the BBC for asking reasonable questions after filming there. The result was a worldwide exposure of the cultist nature of it all. Every major British newspaper reviewed the documentary as being well-balanced and revealing journalism! 6
Comment: The fact that an organisation as secretive as Sai Baba's has now been forced to speak about the Alaya Rahm case on its international radio program and on its Heart2Heart website shows how heavily under siege it is. For years the leaders have failed to confront, or in any serious manner to refute, the many testimonies about Sai Baba's abusive sexual behaviour. They ignore cogent criticisms of his many published untruths and of his ignorance of basic facts in the history of religion, general and nuclear physics, astronomy, geology, medicine, etc 7
This picture of desperation intensifies when we
observe the enormously costly, and previously forbidden,
promotional/recruiting efforts the organisation conducts using donated funds
in various countries where they always play down all Sai Baba's many
unfortunate character traits and fraudulent statements. One may mention
their recruiting drives made at great expense in the hire of the most
prestigious venues - such as Cooper's Union, New York; La Mirada Theatre;
Los Angeles County, Hilton Ballroom; Sheraton Hotel & Towers, both Chicago;
Copley International Conference Center, San Diego; Town Hall, Melbourne;
Super Dome, Sydney, etc. 8
But Venkataraman, with back-up from the facile attorney Robert Baskin now dares come out into the open, mistakenly asserting that the Alaya Rahm's self-dismissal of his case against the Society is a triumphant vindication of the Sai forces.
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. I
presume that by now you would have either heard our special announcement
over Radio Sai or seen our special message sent via the Sai Inspires
service, about how Truth Always Triumphs. I am referring to the case filed
in a California Court based on false allegations against Swami that was
subsequently withdrawn by the plaintiff 'with prejudice', meaning that the
plaintiff cannot file that case again in any Court in America or in India.
Comment: In a statement by the Rahm family, their attorney and the International JuST Group 9, we read: "No court found Alaya's allegations to be false. Simply, the suit could not continue on a technicality, and the claims of sexual abuse stand irrefutably true, just as before". Dr. Venkataraman is himself making a false allegation! Attorney William Brelsford Esq., seeing formidable legal obstacles set by the defendants, and not least working against a statute of limitations deadline, advised Alaya Rahm to self-dismiss the case. Along with other difficulties encountered, his attorney has explained, June 29th, 2006, to Alaya Rahm and his family:
"We were successful at the demurrer stage in establishing that a duty would be owed by the Society in the event they sponsored and/or endorsed the trips that Alaya went on when he was abused by Sai Baba. As it turns out, the Society is not the "hub" of all of Sai Baba's corporate activities. Rather, the Society, pursuant to declarations under penalty of perjury, confirmed they are a bookstore... nothing more. Accordingly, we do not have the necessary factual requirements to establish liability on the Society/Book center."
Today, I would like to offer some reflections on this event. I feel this "closure" is required because in a sense, we owe this to many who have repeatedly written to us expressing their deep concern about attacks on Swami, and asking us to do something about it.
Comment: Criticisms, however sharp, are not 'attacks'! What Sai devotee does not know that the Sathya Sai Organisation in the USA is far more than a bookstore? Where is the truthfulness that they claim as one of their core values?
Those around the world - victims, families, and their supporters - also want closure. But, in dereliction of its duty of care, the Sathya Sai Organization has refused fair and reasonable treatment of those who have come to them and given shocking accounts of various forms of abuse at the hands of Sai Baba and some of those around him. Many more victims have held back, realizing the futility of finding support from the organization.
Before I start, I think I should say something about my own views on the matter. There are many who have always wondered why we are not responding when Swami is being tarnished. On the other hand, there is a small minority that has always felt: "Let the dogs bark. Why bother?" I take a slightly different view of the matter; my own feeling is that we here can neither remain completely aloof nor be continually belligerent and go on the counter offensive at the drop of a hat. We are of the opinion that depending on the circumstances, different responses are needed at different times, to suit the occasion.
Comment: Former devotees are not "dogs" that "bark". Sai Baba and his leaders know this well. That they do not disclose key facts to devotees is reprehensible. The allegations come from many who are held in high esteem for their integrity, skill and human decency, and who have given many years of devoted service and financial contributions to the ideals which Sai Baba has preached but betrayed.
It is not a matter of being "aloof" or
"belligerent" or anywhere in between. It is about listening with commonsense
and common decency to those many decent persons in many countries who have
made the allegations. Refusal to have proper mechanisms in place for the
hearing of complaints has put the Sai Organization in the rear guard in
today's demand for accountability. On April 3, 2003, the then Australian
head of the Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia, T. Sri Ramanathan, phoned
to threaten dire legal consequences for me (all bluff and bullying, of
course) if I did not "cease and desist". I suggested that any organisation,
including his, is wise to have a workable complaints mechanism, otherwise
unaddressed grievances are bound to create problems. He said I was "clouding
the issue" and that the only issue was "Swami's glory". There was no need,
he said, for such a mechanism in the Sai Organisation, which is "special and
different to any other organisation." It was, he said, "a divine
Survivors of abuse will not share their stories with those who do not show them love, respect and understanding - or at least some degree of professionalism.
Former devotees have put in many years of devoted service and made financial contributions to the ideals that Sai Baba has preached but betrayed. That Sai devotees can relegate this knowledge to some penumbra of their conscience does not speak well for them. Naturally, Chapter 4 of George Orwell's "1984" will never be an item in a Sathya Sai Study Circle. It is about the stifling of conscience in a totalitarian milieu. As an antidote to the cultic grip, those leaving the Sai Organisation might well consider reading it.
Let me begin with the general observation that both the good and bad that
we see in this world are part of a ceaseless Cosmic Shadow Play. At the
objective and Spiritual level, we certainly must be detached, recognising
both good and evil as a part of this endless Divine Drama. Yet, at the
worldly level, we simply cannot march ahead ignoring the background noise.
We have a role to play, and play that role we must; only, we must take
proper care to ensure that whatever we do is done properly, as God would
want us to. In passing, I might add that we plan shortly, to offer
additional perspective about all this in H2H. So maybe you should look out
for that also.
Comment: Many Sai students, both Indian and foreign, went to David Bailey both during and after he taught Music at Sai Baba's Puttaparthi university. He has recorded that they related to him anguished stories of Sai Baba subjecting them to major homosexual abuses. Under conditions of great confidentiality, former students, staff and others contact former devotees, including ourselves, both in India and abroad, with their accounts.
There is repeated confirmation that most leading
Indian Sai officials and teachers know of the abuses. Some of them are
recorded as making statements such as, 'Svami can rape and kill if he likes,
he is God!' Isaac Tigrett has openly stated the same type of
Ram Das Awle
on his website 11
holds that Sai Baba is God and can rape as he sees
fit. He claims to be able to explain and justify the sexual abuses and to
have received Sai Baba's blessings for this! Though Ram Das Awle's text has been propagated
by e-mail widely throughout the Sai movement no official in the Sai
Organisation or ashram has ever seen fit to refute Awle's claim that Sai
does abuse homosexually. Venkataraman denies account alleging victim
accounts, but why not refute the still-devoted Awle too? His and his
colleagues' silence on such a vital issue supports our information that this
view is commonly held that Sai Baba qua God can do absolutely anything and
it must be for the best. There is e-mail and other evidence that influential
Sai devotees (including Sai 'VIPs' Dr. M. Goldstein, Yaani Drucker, Phyllis
Krystal and others) have expressed similar views.
Not least since the June 6, 1993 police, killings of four ex-students in Sai Baba's private quarters when he was nearby, none of them will any longer speak to any officials who still deny the facts, for obvious reasons. However, time heals and strengthens; therefore, the abuse survivors, and some of their families and supporters are contacting us with a view to the future.
signed Barry Pittard and Robert Priddy
Footnotes: active links to documentation, (click on any one):1) 'true believer'– definition from Wikipedia
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