The following excerpt from the website of Timothy Conway is made for ease of locating it quickly and easily among the many pages there.
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.
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