Escaping the cult of Sathya Sai Baba
How I, Robert Priddy, finally discovered the nature and extent of Sai Baba's massive deceptions and abuse of faith
I spent my adult life studying most of the world's great known thinkers
past and present and a great deal of modern science – and not least eventually spiritual mystics. That is why I came to study Sai Baba’s teachings
very deeply and tried for about 20 years to follow some of the many alternative
practices he advises, throwing myself into this at the expense of most other things
in my life so as to test my learning through further personal experience. I have
read all Sathya Sai Baba discourses twice, and have cross-indexed them in much detail,
besides writing at least 23 articles about him and his teachings in his journal Sanathana Sarathi. That I am in 2000 stepped back to reconsider Sathya Sai Baba,
his teachings and actions - and examined the movement he generated very much more critically than previously, is due to Sathya Sai Baba's own actions and words, and partly also to the behaviour of those still around him.
The Sai Baba web of deceits and how I broke out of it
Once beliefs are adopted, they tend further to strengthen and establish themselves. My own strongly-held belief in Sathya Sai Baba for nearly two decades was not shaken, even as it was gradually being nibbled away at the edges all the time due to more and more disturbing incidents and fishy explanations of things that were covered up from most people. Eventually, I was fundamentally challenged by indubitable facts about the murders in 1993 in Sathya Sai Baba's bedroom and later by the massive evidence of his constant sexual abuses of young men and boys. Such activities are a total destruction of his credibility in preaching about chastity, truthfulness, non-violence and his own purity and total perfection.
It took four years for me slowly to come to
terms and investigate with the murders evidence, plus three more to examine
and follow-up enough sex abuse facts to be convinced
of Sathya Sai Baba's guilt!
My doubts were further reinforced as subsequent events have unfolded, not
least by the way Sathya Sai and many of his most keen followers have reacted,
in a manner quite contrary to his teaching and their proclaimed ethos, which
puts truth on a pinnacle (but actually only in word, not action). The rationalisations,
lies and often slurs and defamations - also from Sathya Sai Baba himself - speak loudly
for themselves. This is indeed a threadbare 'God Almighty'!
Having finally discovered that Sai Baba's claims - despite all I had experienced of him - were no longer acceptable even as thin hypothesis, I started to look more and more closely and with an unrestrained critical eye at
his many claims and teachings, which I knew extremely well from my more
intensive 20-year study than anyone else I happened to meet in the Sai movement.
While I had previously sought to explain away discrepancies and inaccuracies,
sweeping generalizations and wild ideas, I began to examine them in a much
more even-minded manner. I always felt uncomfortable and reserved judgement on many aspects of his ever-repeated claims that he is the long-predicted great Avatar of the
Age, with more and more fantastic corollaries. (Eg. that he is actually Vishnu, Rama
and Krishna come again, but also the Father of Jesus, God Incarnate and the Deity of all Deities).
Though I could not know many things about him until many years had passed and I happened to learn them from one of his closest servitors (V.K. Narasimhan), I was still somewhat amazed at how I could have been so effectively blinded by his whole doubtful set-up and the apparent light of what he 'teaches' (which are nevertheless standard Indian religious fare - often superficial - all taken from a rich tradition). The greatest possible abuse of others is abuse of their faith. This, above all else, I consider to be the most serious accusation I lay at the door of Sathya Sai Baba. What was embarrassing - yet even more intriguing - was how I could have for so long accepted Sai Baba as someone of superhuman capacities of some kind of 'divine' and purely good origin and so have remained involved with the Sai Organization until 2000. Since then I have taken up the often very unpleasant task of righting the account by investigating fairly and demonstrating my findings - that the Sai doctrine perpetrates a tremendous fraud and employs very subtle methods to induce self-programming. This applies especially as regards the continual conflict between what Sathya Sai Baba says and actually does, which has become so flagrant that he thinks he can get away with anything.
A person whose charisma and social power backed up by some apparently inexplicable psychic powers had overwhelmed me, as it still does at least a million people up to and including much of the Indian political, judicial, religious and scientific elite, has turned out to fit most of the characteristics of a narcissist, psychopath and sociopath. That Sai Baba projects megalomaniac delusions of grandeur and has a power complex (also apparently expressed also through homosexual abuses) is evident from what has come out since the Internet made such communications possible.
To escape from the subtle bonds of faith in a 'master' or a 'guru' with strong charismatic and psycho-social influence becomes the more difficult as the period and depth of involvement increases. My own experiences with the Sathya Sai Baba movement serve as an example of this kind of process, but also of liberation from its previous very appealing teachings and promises, but which gradually pressed me to become more and more divorced from the life and reality of a large sections of humanity. Much of what Sai Baba teaches is seen to produce as many problems as solutions, and his demands for perfect devotees are wholly impractical and unfulfillable. The virtual elimination in much of the West of religion by materialism, agnosticism and atheism during the 20th century created a desert of dry minds and souls that, like brushwood tinder, became ready to be set alight by any flame that would purge them. This is seen in the mushrooming of interest in 'spiritual masters' and Indian gurus here in recent decades. Sathya Sai Baba certainly seemed to provide that flame to those who were drawn into his circle, not seldom through paranormal contacts of an inexplicable and apparently 'miraculous' kind. I am no exception, until now - that is - since I have now learned so much about him that I have had no choice but to revoke the validity of many of Sai Baba's claims (and he makes many mega-extravagant claims), even though I cannot deny the paranormal and certain other facts of a sort foreign to science.
It is crucial to realise that the kinds of para-normal
contacts experienced in relation to Sathya Sai Baba's form and name are not exclusive
to him… very far from it! The slightest acquaintance with world spirituality
shows that all the kinds of 'miracle' witnessed from or in connection with
Sathya Sai Baba have been described countless times. Whether or not these are spiritual phenomena or have other more rational explanations is another question altogether. Even reports of specific events, such as the
production of lingams from the mouth, the materialisation of ash (vibuthi) and
other substances, the appearance of a person at great distances or in two
places at once and the manifestation of objects and events at a distance are
not at all exclusive to Sathya Sai Baba.
World literature shows that all phenomena we might class as ‘miraculous’, especially healings, appear to occur in connection with any number of quite other persons and images, wholly independently of Sathya Sai Baba, of course. The history of religions are packed with such incidents, while nowadays one can observe statues that (visibly, apparently) shed tears of blood, marble and even metal Ganesh statues that reportedly drank milk in gallons and so on. That many do not believe these can be facts does not affect those who have had such direct genuine experiences, whether they sought them or not. That mainstream 'modern science' is unable to cope with even the thought of such things - due to its underpinning physicalistic bias and method - does nothing whatever to explain away the incidence of these putative facts. One has to hope that science will eventually approach the study of these phenomena without unduly negative preconceptions which have prevailed widely until the present.