ON SATHYA SAI BABA'S SECOND DISCOURSE AT THE INTERNATIONAL
SEVA CONFERENCE IN PRASANTHI NILAYAM, JULY 2002,
(Sanathana Sarathi, September 2002, p. 265-274).
SOME REACTIONS OF A FORMER OFFICE-BEARING DEVOTEE, REIDUN PRIDDY. (10-01-02)
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In this discourse Sathya Sai Baba directs massive criticism at devotees presumably in the Sai Organisation who "are unable to get rid of the foul smell of worldly desires". As he has done countless other times, he again holds up Prahlada as an example of steadfast devotion and purity in contrast to devotees today. Repeatedly he says that worldly desires should be got rid of, not even a shred should be left, they should be burned to ashes, they are the misfortune of man and the reason why he cant get close to God. "If one lacks purity of heart, one does not even deserve to chant the Divine Name of Rama." One might at this point ask oneself whether it would be possible for a human being to live in the world without a shred of worldly desire. He doesnt say that some desires are necessary or differentiate between them in any way.
When I read this I am glad I am no longer a devotee of Sai Baba, for I remember all the times I was filled with a sense of never being able to live up to the impossible ideals he set before us. But because of the inconsistencies and contradictions in his teachings one could all the time easily be swayed between hope and hopelessness, that is, if one took what he said seriously. So under such a teacher the devotee has to pick and choose in order to avoid a constant state of confusion. Who is to be ones guide if the teachings are like that? It opens the way for devotees to disregard that which is not to their taste or in accordance with their already held beliefs, whether they are right or not. This again is the cause of endless confusion, disagreement and strife in the Sai Organisation.
He goes on to criticise devotees for doing bhajans and other spiritual practices "with a view to fulfil their worldly desires," and, "Today people are wearing the mask of bhakti (devotion) and trying to cheat others." Further, "His actions do not match his words. He tries to deceive others by his lectures. In fact he deceives himself. . His heart is filled with untruth. His deeds are unrighteous," and, "He is a wicked person whose thoughts, words and deeds are at variance." Who is he really talking about here, himself or the devotees? I am reminded of the saying As above, so below.
After several repetitions of the above he really goes on the attack. He claims that in the world "the so-called devotees have increased in number, and some are doing business in the name of Sai." One gets the impression that there must be a lot of them, for he harps on and on about this and says that it goes on in different parts of India, in many villages and also abroad in " countries like America, England, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, etc." He claims they are "misusing the name of Sai for their own selfish gains", and "One may do what one likes for the maintenance of ones family, but nobody should do business using Sais name." Further he goes on, "Such people should not be respected. Better to perform their obituary rites!" Strong words indeed from one supposedly full of love?
He exhorts his listeners to keep away from these people and perform meritorious deeds day and night! Before he at least used to say that devotees could have six hours out of the twenty-four for their personal needs.
The he goes on to claim: "I do not ask for even a single paisa from others. I never approve of such business. . Do not allow business to enter the field of spirituality." This is simply not true. He has asked for money and there is a major fund raising behind all the buildings and his pet projects that he has boasted about and claimed all credit for so many times. Where does the money come from? Thin air? Oh no, it is all very mundane, and I have like my husband seen a big pile of cheques all signed by SB himself and shown us by the manager of the State Bank of India in Puttaparthi.
A bit later on the same page he again says, "We are undertaking so many social welfare activities, but I have never asked anybody for even a single paisa. You are all aware of this. I do not involve myself in money matters." Why does he keep repeating this, one wonders, not only here but in earlier discourses, too?
Then he tells about his latest service project for orphans: "One lakh of rupees would be deposited in the name of each child, which will take care of their needs. I have not asked anybody for any help in this regard." Again he hammers it in, but by telling everyone about his intentions without actually asking for donations outright is he not hinting heavily what he wants? Where is the money supposed to come from if not from devotees who give unasked because he has made it quite clear (on several occasions) that money is needed? Does he have private means or an income to provide the necessary funds?
Then we get to know something about the nature of the mystery business of those people he criticises again and again in this discourse for collecting money in his name. Apparently they say they are donating the money they collect to SB for the orphan project! "Some others are proclaiming that they have taken up the responsibility of looking after the children. Can there be a worse sin than this?"
I dont know who might be properly qualified to answer that question, but I can easily think of worse sins, although cheating people is undoubtedly bad and cheating people in matters relating to God is really bad
When I still believed Sai Babas words to be true and in accordance with his actions I was very pleased about the fact that he warned us not to mix money matters into spiritual activities. When planning seva projects or centre activities we should not plan beyond our financial means. There should be no pressure in money matters and members could contribute anonymously what they could or would for centre or other expenses. If we did not act according to this we would only bring a lot of problems onto ourselves. So maybe Sai Baba should follow his own teachings? Instead, his latest project has apparently caused people to be cheated, and the cheaters to be tempted to commit the "worst sin".
He goes on to criticise some young ex-students who want to start up village schools where there are none for wanting to do things too fast. Well, he is their prime example there, for project after project has had to be finished in record time, people working like mad to get it done in record time according to his demands and Sai Baba takes the credit at the end of it. Not only that, but SB also gets the credit for giving everyone the energy they needed to work as hard as they did!
He repeats several times that help should be sought from him only, not from others. He will provide all that is needed and no collection of donations should be done. So it seems that he wants all donations to be sluiced through him, although yet again he sees the need to repeat that he solicits no donations from anyone. He also said he doesnt need temples and big buildings. He might not need them, but then why did he have them built and larger than life statues of himself as well? Maybe he just likes it. It certainly looks as if he loves pomp and show, so then it is handy to have a teaching which says that it only appears to be so and nothing in the world is real except God.
It is impossible to know exactly what he is complaining about so much in this discourse, but from careful reading one gets the impression that temples and big buildings/centres are being built here and there and certain leaders in the organisation rule there, creating their own mini Prasanthis around about, right down to the collection of donations. Again: As above, so below. Whatever is going on, it must be serious for SB to say he is "highly distressed" and: "The amount of anguish I undergo because of this is beyond your imagination." (On account of news he gets from "the so-called temples".) Oh yes, we can easily imagine what it is like, for how didnt we feel about the news we received about the disgusting activities in his so-called temples. This is the same Sai Baba who elsewhere repeatedly claims total equanimity, that nothing ever touches him, that he is above all emotions and everything, that nothing can cause him anything other than bliss and that he does not even understand what suffering is! Would not someone who is so confusing have to be confused himself?
He says (p. 272) that almost 90 per cent of those who today call themselves his devotees are false devotees!
He finishes off with yet another round of heavy criticism of devotees in Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad saying that these days he has no inclination to go anywhere because many places like these are overcrowded with wicked people who should be got rid of (presumably from the organisation). Further on, however, he says that God never abandons anybody or observes any differences. But since he so blatantly does, we can safely conclude that his claim to Godhood is false. He says he is also deeply anguished over the current state of affairs in the organisation. Could a divine being be deeply anguished about anything or is this supposed to be another case of appearances and underneath he is really full of bliss? No, I dont believe in such pat theories anymore.
A last quote: "I do all My work Myself. I do not seek others help. If only I will it, the whole world will help Me (loud applause). I do not need your help." (p. 274). How can he do all the work himself? It is simply not true. What about the thousands who has worked on the ashram buildings, the temples, halls, the water project, the hospitals, and all the schools, as well as the staff in all those places. Without saying so directly he speaks as if he were God Almighty. If this is supposed to be God speaking, then why the talk of Me, My and Myself? (He defined ego as the feeling of me and mine). Why the loud applause from devotees? Because they are delighted to be told that the world themselves included is subject to his will and that he has the power to get whatever he wants?
Would God impose his will upon the world to get whatever help he wants? If so, why doesnt he will the world to be a better place, and if man has no free will, how come he is free to be led astray by worldly desires into supposedly sinful misuse of Sais name?
Comment by Robert Priddy:
This discourse and my wifes analysis add further weight to my recent article series on Sai Baba and money (see The Multi-billion dollar question). It also solves the riddle as to what Mr. Ramanathan, the Sai Org. leader in Australia, was referring when he sent out a rambling and confused circular in a somewhat desperate attempt to whitewash himself and his subordinates from the powerful accusations that SB throws out willy-nilly and threateningly. Were it not for SBs declining grasp on reality in his grand court of yea-sayers - and patently from his discourse, also his grasp on donations from devotees at all levels - one would suspect him of well-calculated vagueness to cow and scare as many as possible of those still in his movement. This was a pitiful showing and the change in SBs grasp of things is evident to all who are in a position to compare former and present discourses. Were he not still so crafty at turning things back to front and black to white for his short-sighted believers, one would say he is cracking up mentally.