Dr. John Hislop - 'Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba' (ISBN 81-7208-049-2) and 'My Baba and I' examined in some detail
by Robert Priddy - former leader in Norway in the Sathya Sai Organization for 18 years
”Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba” (1978) was written partly from recordings of interviews with Sai Baba, partly from notes and memory. This book soon became more or less the Bible of nearly all Sathya Sai Baba devotees. This came about despite the fact that numerous books Sai Baba’s own discourses were available. In 2010 all of 41 volumes of his discourses are available, plus numerous other books he has either written or transcribed. The reason for the popularity of ”Conversations…”is no doubt the informality and relative simplicity of Sai Baba’s answers to questions which are not answered elsewhere in the literature, and not last also the surprising and unprecedented – and directly absurd - nature of some of Sai Baba’s claims made there. The contents are more like brief questions and long answers or largely one-way conversations. Dr.John Hislop tends naively to accept with enthusiasm everything that Sai Baba says, only seldom allowing a somewhat critical request for clarification enter into it. It is very evident that Hislop is already a fully convinced believer in Sathya Sai Baba as God Incarnate, omniscient and omnipresent, an infallible miracle maker and healer and much else besides. He arrived at Sai Baba’s feet after a long so-called ’spiritual search’ from guru to guru from age 18... a process Sai Baba has elsewhere described as ”spiritual prostitution”.
John Hislop's lifelong wanderings from guru to guru: It is instructive to note how many attempts at finding salvation from the ills of existence Hislop underwent, and how many times he was disappointed or let down and so ’moved on’. Aged 16 he was an Episcopal follower, but – disillusioned – at 18 he joined the Theosophical Society and worked for Annie Besant and Jiddu Krishnamurti, who famously rejected the entire Society started to present him as Maitreya, the new Messiah! Hislop eventually moved on to Swami Yogananda’s Self-realization Fellowship, but – clearly unfulfilled by that - visited diverse other supposed yogic masters like Dr. Roman Ostoya (the Russian ”White Yogi”). Her moved on to the fraudulent Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and became a Transcendental meditation initiate and teacher, ending as the President of the Mahesh Yogi American organization and tried to found a Maharishi Academy in India. He resigned from Maharishi’s organization and moved on to study vipassana meditation with Thray Situ U Ba Khin in Burma, also visited Swami Shivananda at Rishikesh. He visited the Dalai Lama in India, then the Tibetan monk Trungpa Rinpoche in Scotland (a womanizing drunkard who died of AIDS). In early 1968 he visited Sathya Sai Baba and continued as a follower until his own death. It is clear that he could not learn from his many disappointments with supposed ’spiritual masters’ and himself, so when he came to Sai Baba he was evidently still ready to accept anything that might help him feel his life had not been largely wasted following mirages of promised bliss and eternal peace. (See his chapter ’From Age 16 – Happenings’ in his book ”My Baba and I” ISBN 0-960-0958-8-8) 1979, Birthday Publishing, San Diego, Ca.)
Some major and crucial events disrupted Hislop's relative peace of mind and he handled them in an extremely biased and unfair manner. The most important of these were the letters he wrote to leaders in the Sathya Sai Organization after he had been written to about sexual abuses by Sathya Sai Baba by Mrs. Diana Payne (formerly Diane Scott). Perhaps the second most important personal shock for him was when the Swedish film actor and author Conny Larsson - who has been the Maharishi's private secretary for years but migrated over to Sai Baba some time after Hislop did so - told him how Sathya Sai baba had engaged in oral sex with him. This infamous episode has also been covered here. Hislop accepted Sai Baba's denial of it all immediately without further questioning and built up a denial narrative for himself and never did the right thing, that is - to investigate and exercise duty of care and mandatory reporting.
Some short excerpts from 'Conversations...' with comments:
In the 1995 re-edited version of "Conversations…" (p. 232), John Hislop tells Sathya Sai Baba that the American Sai centres have slow growth. "We should have 300 or 400 instead of just over 100."
Baba replied: "One reason for the slow growth is that Hislop’s discipline is too harsh. The Sai Organization works through softness, kindness, love and harmony. In America 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."
Comment: The credulous Dr. Hislop did not always see eye to eye with Sathya Sai Baba’s "omniscient truths". But he had to bow and scrape nonetheless, so spellbound he was. In contrast to SB’s harsh opinion of Americans, my experiences during nine very long visits to India proved that people holding office in his ashrams are the ones who often have ‘harsh ideas and opinions’. The ashram gives Westerners introduction to how little helpful and directly unpleasant, overbearing and patronizing some of its officials and residents can be with their opinions and ideas. I need not expand on this in detail, for habitués of Baba ashrams who do not know what I mean are most certainly very few and far between!
In conversation with Dr. John Hislop (7/11/1980), Sathya Sai Baba said:-"Were it not for the mind change of Sai devotees the world would already have fallen into complete chaos. The deterioration of mind and man has been very rapid and abrupt, even precipitous during the last fifteen years. That the world is not in total destruction is due to the change of mind of Sai devotees and to Sai's grace. You are not aware of it, just as you are not aware of your eyes until they are lost. In the same way, the world is not aware of Sai's grace."
Comment: Hislop no doubt loved this... if really believed it gave meaning to his life he had been searching for constantly? The statement is preposterous, but Sai Baba will say ANYthing to enhance his own importance.
(Conversations... p. 190 old ed., page 173 new. ed) In reply to Dr. John Hislop, Sathya Sai Baba said:- "It is as you say. Swami holds the universe in His Hand. But devotees learn of the glory and majesty, through Swami's attention to each one, personally. That Swami holds the universe yet at the same time fully cares for the lives of His devotees even to the smallest details is a measure of His glory that the devotee can understand." (Conversations with... Sathya Sai Baba by Dr. J. Hislop, page 173 *old ed. & page 144 new ed.)
Comment: Cares for his devotees to the smallest detail? The evidence is totally at variance with that. I knew dozens of followers with complete faith and who prayed and meditated to distraction but were never healed or had their prayers answered. know a number who died of avoidable illnesses (had they not put their faith in him). Even the Sai literature is full of incidents where Swami does not fulfil the heartfelt wished of followers.
Dr. Hislop asked: "Swami once mentioned that if we could see Rama today we would be much surprised at His appearance." Sai replied "In the age prior to that of Rama, people were accustomed to measure the distance from the fingertips to the elbow. At that time, the norm for the height of a person was 14 times the measurement... In the Threta Yuga, the age of Rama, the norm for height had reduced to seven times the distance of fingertip to elbow. For the Kali Yuga, the multiple is three and one half." (page 129f)
Comment: Sathya Sai Baba believes the mythical stories as 'scriptures' that are literally true! He is asserting that there was a race of giants in India then!
Dr. Hislop also asked: "In those days they had aeroplanes, did they not?" Sai answered:
"The first was 'Pushpak'. The one Ravana used to kidnap Sita."
Hislop asked: "Did they use atomic energy for power?" Sai answered: "No. By the power of mantra the plane would fly. Mantras were used to shoot arrows. The arrows were worshipped to make them effective. When Arjuna heard of Krishna's death, he forgot all mantras and was powerless." (Conversations... page 130f)
Comment: Hislop is all too willing to believe in these early aeroplanes and wonders if they were atomic powered. Show how far away from technical reality this Dr. had come! Sai Baba will confirm any rubbish if it suits him, as he has proven to the hilt both before and since that interview.
Sai: "In the school, there were two boys who sat with Swami in the same seat. It was for three. When Swami declared that He would no longer go to school, one boy committed suicide. The other boy went mad. He would call, ‘Raju, Raju,’ all the time. At length he died."
Hislop: It is very strange. A great mystery. But his death was a good death because his mind was fixed on Swami and constantly calling Swami’s name?
Sai: "He merged with me." (p. 125, edition after 1995)
Comment: Is that how 'Swami' cared for his devotees in every detail? However, whet he told Hislop he has frequently contradicted in telling how the two boys - Suresh and Ramesh - were reborn as pi-dogs in his ashram! (See here)
Sai Baba: "Swami never sleeps. At the middle of the night, he turns off the light and rest in the bed because if light is on devotees gather." ( Conversations.. as edited after 1995, ch. XIX, p. 72)
Comment: He would say that... it increases his mystery to believers. But he has never subjected himself to any test to prove it... or any other supposed 'miraculous power'. Wonder why?
H: Is it wrong to criticize a person?
Sai: It is not wrong to criticize a person if the evaluation has been arrived at slowly and carefully. (Conversations p. 145, ed. after 1995)
Comment: My critical evaluation of Sathya Sai Baba and Hislop more than fulfils even this unrealistically narrow requirement. I was an active follower from 1983 until 2000, during which time I gradually came to hold critical views, despite myself, until the dam broke in 2000 and I began to look with fresh eyes at much that I had formerly been led - though Sathya Sai Baba's deceptions - to believe in or rationalize with the countless tools for self-deception about 'the Lord' provided by the writings. (See here)
Dr. John Hislop asked about life beyond the earth and Sathya Sai Baba replied,
H: "Science says there are many planets where there will be much the same life." Sai: "In all the universe there is no other planet that has human life, or a similar life form." (Conversations... page 164).
Later, in 'My Baba and I' by Dr. John Hislop (p.225-6 - Birth Day Publishing, San Diego 1985), we read the exact opposite: Sai Baba said "All life may flow toward God. Even frogs in a pond and insects."
J.H: "But Swami, that is life in this world. I mean life elsewhere in the universe." Sai: "... The question about life in the universe arises because you project your own particular circumstances. You feel that other ways of life would be intolerable for you. In the hot, blazing Sun, for instance, beings are livinhis life exists in circumstances considered to be intolerable by you. Elsewhere in the Universe, life feels it is Divinity, is one with Divinity, and is quite happy, and feeling all is right."
Comment: As here, Sathya Sai Baba often contradicts himself on many major issues (whether there is free will or not, whether there is a divine spark in every being or not etc. etc.). This helps satisfy each party – they read only which version they want to believe and then deceive themselves that he knows and is telling them the truth! Now, that some form of life will be found to exist outside earth is highly likely, according to one of the world's recognised most foremost geneticists, Prof. Richard Dawkins of Oxford University. Dawkins makes a calculation of the chances of the same basic conditions for life as exist on earth to show, in summary, that "...my earlier calculation demonstrated that even a chemical model with odds of success as low as one in a billion, would still predict that life would arise on a billion planets in the universe." He also points out that "a chemical model need only predict that life will arise on one planet in a billion billion to give us a good and entirely satisfying explanation for the presence of life here.
Review of 'My Baba and I ' by Dr. John Hislop
Review of 'Seeking Divinity' by Dr, John Hislop
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