Is the quality of a guru reflected in his devotees?
The test of genuineness of a guru is sometimes said to be seen in the behaviour and the quality of his devotees. His teaching and personal example is supposed to be some guarantee that the act in similar and acceptable ways. Having had long experience of the Sathya Sai Baba movement, the ashrams and hthe Sathya Sai Organization (two decades), I was forced more and more to the conviction that Sathya Sai Baba devotees are seldom any better in actual behaviour than your average person. As time went on I discovered that the majority of those I came acoss during many long visits to his ashrams, are frequently more ill-mannered and show fewer unselfish qualities than people who I have met otherwise in life. (I have lived almost entirely in Europe)
I did know both Indian and foreign Sathya Sai Baba devotees - even at least two so-called "Sai' VIPs" who were generous to a fault, friendly and with good qualities (but they are still deceived and deluded by him nonetheless). I knew many more lower profile followers who I found to be good through and through. From the start I was very postive and indeed quite blue-eyed, willing to accept everyone and see beyond their faults and shortcomings. Gradually but relentlessly this attitude was worn down to normal, common sense through continued contact with most - though not all - of them. I knew a favourite Danish devotee of Sai Baba, a VIP veranda person called Erik Henricksen, who I know without any doubt to be dishonest in business (refused to pay up on his signed commitments to another Danish friend of mine), and I have come across others who connive and manipulative under cover of an adopted verbal unction and outward piety. The most prominent among the ashramites and officials often demonstrate the more egocentrism and selfishness… so much so that it is hard to figure how they grew up to become like that. This is not merely my opinion, for numerousothers have spoken to me about the egoism and dishonesty of those in question. Some leaders who exemplify this are exposed here. I have broad and sound experience to support my view that Sathya Sai Baba followers are a very mixed bag and I find the social environment Sai Baba has nurtured is not particularly praiseworthy and in actual practice is neither particularly civil nor caring, let alone loving, which it is supposed above all to be. As indicated, there are exceptions to this, but they tend more to prove the rule. Even Sathya Sai Baba is of this opinion, and he expresses it much more forcefully when he harangues certain groups of his followers (especially in private group sessions and particularly Indians).
Established devotees at the ashram largely leave newcomers to fend for themselves. I have seldom seen residents go out of their way to help new arrivals, and invalids are often treated with less than compassion or understanding about their difficulties. Some residents behave and speak as if they ‘have arrived’ and are thuse due respect and privileges over others. They use their long familiarity with the system there to take advantage through it wherever they wll, and the so-called ‘selfless servers of the Seva Dal' (esp. the older women) are seen to manipulate things to their own ends, even down to push and shove. It is known to ashramites how vehemently Sai Baba occasionally used to harangue the Seva Dal in private sessions about their lack of good qualities, ridiculing them for storming forth like wild horses to obtain a front seat etc. However, improvements do not seem to have followed, and one naturally wonders why Sai Baba - as a supposedly all-powerful avatar - cannot at least attract more persons of a kinder and civil nature to work for him. Their behaviour certainly reflects on him, their great and supposedly infallible teacher!
Back problems I suffer from caused me to have to sit on a chair (and later on the new hard stone uncomfortable ‘torture-benches’ which replaced the chairs). There I came to meet many invalids of all kinds. They are definitely not usually accorded special attention by Sai Baba, and though they used to be allowed to sit in places where he fairly often went at darshan, that is in no longer the case at all. All invalids at Prashanthi Nilayam are put right at the back of the mantap, where Sai Baba very seldom goes near. This is particularly seldom on the ladies’ side, which always receives less attention from Sai baba in any case. At the Brindavan ashram in Whitefield, the female invalid section is visited more often, while the men are relegated to the very rear of the mantap. To obtain a place on the invalid chairs, one is forced to stand in a queue - wahtever one's ailment or condition, often for over an hour, before one can sit down. This is how Sai Baba enacts his ‘perfect example’ of compassion for the suffering in actual practice!
Very obvious invalids are, however, allowed to go to the front of food queues. So
are Sai Baba’s so-called ‘special guests’ or VIPs, who visibly take full advantage
of their privilege, however long the queue may be or however long it has been
standing. Prashanthi Nilayam is above all, a place of elbows.
Seekers of healing, and/or boons and powers Quite a lot of visitors to Sathya Sai Baba hope to derive one or another boon of personal power from him, some kind of psychic gift like 'clairvoyancy' or healing power. Many are probably well-meaning, though misguided in not accepting that Sai does not confirm anyone as a spiritual healer. He has deined that he confers any powers to anyone else and nor does he give any place to 'healing' activities in his discourses or in any of his hospitals or other institutions. He has also stated that he does not convey spiritual illumination, neither by 'shaktipat' or so-called kundalini awakening (desite the claims of many who were sexually molested and believed this to be a kind of sexual healing). Most religions have atrophied and become dry and largely irrelevant to modern life and society, so the remaining vacuum has been filled by spiritual ‘revivals’ of doubtful authenticity and not least by gurus and their cults. It is only to be expected that the much-publicised alleged powers of healing, clairvoyance, materialisation and miracles draw people to Prasanthi Nilayam like a spiritual magnet. Many go there with the idea of 'making it big' with God, and thus they mostly make it a difficult place for others to be in. It has become a for self-styled healers, psychics, mediums and clairvoyants... and copyists of Sai Baba's supposed materialization miracles too! The official Sai Baba journal Sanathana Sarathi has regularly published denouncements of such 'imitators' and claimants of special powers or boons from Sathya Sai Baba (not least by those whose activities have used the Sai Baba brand and so diverted funds from the Sai authorities).
It is claimed by devotees who are in denial of the true facts that – when he oils the genitals of boys and young men (and often more besides!) – it heals them of too strong lust or desires and channels their sexual urges, but none of those who have spoken out claim to have received any lasting benefit or illumination from it, which one would expect if there were any substance in their views! On the contrary, many of those who are free to inform the public because they live outside India (at least 30 separate young men) claim they were actually taken advantage of and were therefore sexually abused, and not healed of anything. Quite a few claim that Sathya Sai Baba has confirmed their having received powers to heal others from Sai Baba in interviews, but as far as I can judge from knowing some of these – and hearing about numerous others – it only amounts to wishful thinking and, at worst, to varying degrees of charlatanism. Some use Sai vibuthi or ‘nectar’ (sugar water with added tea rose essence), and water poured over a lingam given by Sai Baba supposedly to ‘heal’ people. Sai has frequently 'produced' so-called lingams of differing shapes, colours and sizes by various means (not least obvious sleight of hand), which he has given to devotees and told that they contain healing powers and can be used to help heal other people. In no case which I have studied - or others who have become skeptical - could one be sure that reported benefit was derived from those things, though a placebo affect may occur, of course. To cap it all, Sai Baba has said that healing always comes from God and occurs in the relationship between the sufferer and the Divine source. Almost anyone cured of a known serious illness by an operation or a medicine would know that God did not appear or otherwise actually enter into the equation – except through hope or wishful imagination). Otherwise, why then have hospitals, doctors, specialists, nurses? Despite all this, many devotees imitate their preceptor in pretending to possess special powers, selfless healing abilities and much else... invariably so as to boost their prestige and not seldom their means of income... and not least income or donations (for example, one more successful than most is the Jewish Cockney medium, Stephen Turoff of UK, who rakes in millions per annum for ‘psychic surgery’ and largely due to his use of Sai Baba's name.
Return to overview page