THE FUNDAMENTALIST GURU TRAP EXPLOITATION
with Sathya Sai Baba and his devotional movement as an example
outlines part of a many-sided system of control over persons exercised
by gurus, swamis, godmen, masters, saints, avatars or whatever otherworldly
title certain individuals assume, with special reference to Sathya Sai
Baba. The main core of the system is the same for nearly all gurus,
both those who are well-intentioned and honest as well as all of the
deceitful and more or less fraudulent ones. The same goes for their
many techniques and refinements, though the actual roles adopted and
the social scenarios and personal stories developed to back them up
vary considerably. The likeness between all these many competing masters
and gurus, their teachings and methods of instruction, are often so
striking that there can be little doubt that they draw upon a common
culture which holds beliefs and skills which serve to control and exploit
people to the guru's advantage. This culture has been developed and
extended in certain religions over millennia, most often originating
in India, where the guru-chela relationship is so ancient and widespread.
Authoritarian power over the participants of groups of any size and spread requires a hierarchy through which the guru can operate. There always arises an inner circle and an outer one, whether formal with the organised rankings of followers or by informal or 'unofficial' rating as to who is most convinced, more active or important to the status of the group. This frequently takes the shape of some kind of 'spiritual class system' with a top-down system decision-making and communication. This is traditionally justified by the guru's wisdom in choosing his lieutenants and leading disciples or representatives, a wisdom which must never be questioned. To echo George Orwell, the dominant attitude in the ashrams and the organisations in theory and practice is, "All devotees are equal, but some are more equal than others." This pseudo-equality is a strong feature of the Sathya Sai Organisation, which has an un elected leadership (selected directly by Sai Baba) and a semi-military discipline embodied in its published rules and guarded and unpublicized inner directives. In his authoritarian role of self-proclaimed mother and father of all beings, Sai Baba insists that 'All are God', but says that only he is fully aware of this. Hence, he accepts being worshipped (as God) and insists on being obeyed implicitly in everything like the strictest of parents!
MONEY & POWER-SEEKING GURUS
For example, Sathya Sai Baba claims that he does many works of social service which he does not actually do at all, but for which he alone takes the credit. Like many other gurus before him, he claims that he is free of all human limitations. Such gurus must be observed most closely to see if they diverge in any way from their own teachings in actual personal behaviour. Scrutiny can be most difficult as it will mean penetrating through to their inner circle so as to get behind the facade of cleverly organised appearances and the barrage of teaching/propaganda. One would need to get to know their right-hand men to get to the true facts in any matter. It is hard enough for the vast majority of followers even to see beyond the many barriers set up by the already-established inner circle of believers. The lower echelon leaders and the rank-and-file followers are ill-informed, deceived and deluded through subtle ideological and social brainwashing into a protective gang for the guru. The larger the community and movement grows, the easier it is to manipulate through hearsay and stories of all kinds, as the majority are then easily kept at such a distance that the are unable to check anything out personally.
NATURE OF THE GURU
However, science is revealing ever more about the cosmos, both its physical and human aspects. The sciences have already reached far beyond the knowledge of ancient 'seers' or 'sages' as to the observable world and what causes what. As to truth, the theory of relativity, which covers the entire universe and even human reality, was never so much as dreamt of by any writer of any scripture, yet it represents the closest to certain, universal knowledge so far achieved. That a person can know the essential truth of all human life and the cosmos cannot be proven scientifically or in any other definitive way. What is not understood is termed 'God', or 'due to divine power' etc., and is therefore subject to the machinations of priest-craft or guru-craft. This cognitive difficulty arises also because everything is also relative to the subject's position and perspective, so claims as to matters beyond proper explanation will always remain in the sphere of speculation and belief.
BY ONE'S OWN COURT
The last person in the inner court of Sathya Sai Baba who could so much as mildly contradict him died on March 9, 2000. He was the famous and retired elderly journalist, V.K. Narasimhan. Even then, Sai Baba lived in a world of vast imaginings, which Narasimhan, as editor of the monthly journal "Sanathana Sarathi" (whose title implies that Sai Baba is Lord Krishna), tried to tone down and make more sensible. But the task was too great, for he could not censor everything, since Sai Baba was set on crowing how the whole world loves him and will soon come to his holy feet, nothing can harm his body or affect him and many another preposterous boast. In absurd discourses, he explained his former staggering (symptoms of his hip-joint degeneration) as being due to the magnetic pull of the earth which was attracted to him - the source of all magnetism in the whole universe. These discourses seem to have slipped under the guard of his editors and were actually published, which shows how far the rot had gone and how little aware Sai Baba is of physics and the educated world's understanding. When Sai Baba simply collapsed and had to have major hip surgery (from which he is visibly not properly recovered), the reason for his staggering could no longer be concealed. It must be highly embarrassing for anyone with even half an education who is associated with him.
Sai Baba's servitors turn themselves inside-out to conceal or explain away his confused doing and sayings. When he collapsed after failing to 'regurgitate' the annual 'golden Shiva lingam' in 2004 (as shown most clearly on the BBC documentary The Secret Swami), his servitors had to cart him off-stage. To save face it was announced that two more gold lingams had materialised from Sai Baba's mouth. When he recovered he announced ": "Out of the stomach emanated Shiva Lingas of the weight of three tonnes. That's the reason why some strain on the face and the body." This statement was captured on the BBC film and so could not be covered up as usual.
Most so-called masters or gurus demand that their followers practise self-sacrifice, do selfless service (which the guru also accepts and expects to receive). Followers must free themselves from ego and all worldly attachments. Yet the very person who preaches this can invariably be seen by any observant (i.e. non-confused) person to have the greatest attachment of anyone... narcissistic self-attachment. Many gurus soon surround themselves with pomp and splendour. Sai Baba takes this self-adulatory practice to new heights.
The guru has to insist on being the sole source of all decisions and assumes total authority. It becomes a case of 'the emperor's new clothes' and 'power corrupts'. The blind believer is a person who cannot (and will not) see the guru's attachments for what they are, rationalising them away by accepting the guru's and his warmest supporters' far-fetched explanations for his aberrant behaviour. The guru will usually take credit himself for all the service and sacrifice of his followers in the worldly sphere, as their teacher, their inspirer, without whom it will be claimed that they would never have achieved anything. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, the devotees become so dependent on the figurehead that they lose more and more autonomy of mind and action. Unknowingly they become the very 'puppets on a string' that Sai Baba says everyone is! This con - drawing everything to oneself - has been perfected by Sathya Sai Baba par excellence, and on a scale that those who have not seen the sheer extent of his influence will find hard to imagine. All the traits described in the above are easily observable in his behaviour and published discourses.
In his discourse, December 26, 2000, Sai Baba - defying the peace-and-goodwill meaning of Christmas - angrily berated his critics, saying that they were bought and how no one has done one thousandth of his good works. How odd that one who proclaims himself God fully incarnate, come to save the entire world within his own lifetime, should feel the need to compare himself to politicians!
Continue to 'THE GURU PAPERS' AND AUTHORITARIAN POWER