MORE TESTS AND TRIALS - SELF-TRANSFORMATION
Continued from 'What is the point of a test of faith?'
There are those who say that persons can learn much about themselves - their limitations and real potentials - from some of the painful experiences handed out by Sathya Sai Baba. Asking him for his advice and then following it, however much it clashes with present longings and wants, is supposed to be the best way of self-development.
The big problem with this belief is that there is no sound way of testing the validity of such claims, for all that happens is viewed exclusively on the ingrained assumption that Sai Baba is the best and only all-knowing 'spiritual' teacher. Almost any problem that arises is taken as a 'challenge from the guru to become more detached from everything'. If the outcome of following his supposed or imagined 'will' or 'inner advice' is personal loss, suffering, unhappiness or even death, it is said to be the best that could have happened, while much worse could have taken place without Sai Baba's guidance!
This is all sheer conjecture and rationalization, of course… but the convinced devotee will invariably ignore all other interpretations. This kind of dependency of thought and action is DEFINITELY NOT what most of the great spiritual teachers of all traditions indicate to be a sign of personal or 'spiritual' development, but one of a static condition of self-delusion. It is inculcated by the guru for obvious reasons of his self-enhancement and control of others.
From where does all this talk about 'test of faith in the guru' come? It is a timeless Indian tradition, but in Sai Baba's case it has been one of his stated methods... and an explanation he has sometimes given for great unpleasantness and trials to which his behaviour has put persons close to him. He has frequently spoken of the need for people to have the impurities burn away, like gold in a crucible, or to be worn down like a diamond to be made into a jewel. Some say that this process is stronger and faster when one gets closer to Sai Baba's person. They use this to explain anything Sai Baba does that seems wrong and heartless, and lies he tells or promises he breaks. All these common qualities observable in him are excused as a necessary part of his divine plan... no one dares to point out that they could possibly be fault and impurities in Sai Baba.
A number of close followers, especially Indians, have written - and some have privately told me - that is becomes very difficult indeed when one gets close to Sai Baba. What they are led to believe are 'spiritual tests' and 'tests of faith in Sai Baba' can be intolerably hard. I shall recount some of these tests shortly. Instead of viewing these incidents in the way that committed believers do, as well-intentioned and consciously-designed circumstances for their eventual 'spiritual growth' by an all-knowing and wholly benevolent holy person, I shall instead carry out the test of viewing them as mere ordinary occurrences, much in the way that anyone would tend to, and also to regard them with a more critical eye as possible manipulations to further interests and purposes quite other than the good of the devotees who are thus 'tested'.
An example of 'testing' of a close devotee
The person who led and developed the ladies' Brindavan Mandali (bhajan singing group), Sridharan Prabha, was in many people's opinion the best bhajan leader in the whole Sai movement. She had in the beginning been instructed - often note for note - in long lessons at very frequent interviews by Sai Baba, who had sung along with her. Thereafter she regularly offered the public arathi flame (an ancient Hindu act of worship) to Sai Baba after bhajans at Brindavan for many years. She had, as have all devotees have, a number of stories about Sai Baba's graces and powers to relate.
Once, she was invited to lead the bhajans at the wedding of a prominent devotee, which Sai Baba had said he would attend. She was the natural choice, for she alone was able to urge the bhajan singers to work together in duo etc. so as to produce a truly harmonious, fully audible and tuneful result. When the bhajans were over, she sat at the rear among the guests who were all served a rich meal. While she was eating this, Sai Baba came wandering past and, in the hearing of all around her said, "Fat pig. Why are you here? For eating!" She replied to Baba there and then that this was not so, and he knew it to be untrue and she would not eat another bite! He just walked on. She was severely criticized by other devotees for not accepting his judgment and answering back to Sai Baba! She was shocked and offended, naturally, for she had in fact been prevailed upon to come to lead the bhajans, not always an easy task with the competing singers and the egos sometimes involved. As a result she ate nothing. After some time, Sai Baba came over and said "Why are you not eating?" She replied "No, Swami, I don't want to" and continued her fast. Twice more he came round and said she should eat something, at least. But she would not.
All this she told us herself when we visited her and her
family at their apartment in
Worse tests yet
Ms. Prabha had much worse than this to tell. On one occasion, at some time before a World Conference in the 1970s, Prof. N. Kasturi had been asked by Sai Baba privately to solicit donations for some purpose from people he met. Kasturi asked her whether she, being a lady able to talk to ladies as men were not, could help him out by making some approaches too. This she willingly did, until - one day at darshan in Brindavan - Sai Baba stood in front of her and said loudly that she had been illegally soliciting donations and that this was a sin! She answered back in a loud voice that she had been asked by Kasturi, but she was emotionally and mentally shattered. Sai Baba even repeated this libellous accusation at another darshan shortly afterwards. This went on for the whole of three months! Soon there was hardly anyone of all those who had been her friends before who would even speak to her. She became a kind of pariah in the ashram. Sai Baba ignored her and all her pleas for an explanation etc. sent through various persons. At last she was gruffly called to an interview, where she was answered by Sai Baba: "It was just to test you". That was all... no other explanation.
She "passed the test", evidently, and thereafter could be presumably be relied on to take the greatest of care not to offend Sai Baba in any remote way, however indirectly. This is evidently what Sai Baba's tests achieve, seen from his point of view... a person's ego crushed and spirit cowed!
A further incident of Sai Baba's "testing"
A very close young friend of my wife and I (Anne-Irene) spent long periods at Sai Baba ashrams and worked for months in the foreigner canteens etc. She came to know a student of one of Sai Baba's colleges, a young prince who lived at Brindavan. This 'prince' called Gopal lives in palatial residence at Whitefield which is next door to the Brindavan ashram on the same side of the road. It is owned by his family, who were royals – his grandmother was the Queen in some northern state (Gujarat?) and she was the recipient of the famous large golden Krishna statue that Baba reportedly materialised red hot from the sands long ago on the northern coast of Andhra Pradesh (A famous black-and-white photo shows him surrounded by devotees just after this, and another one in colour shows him holding it against his chest).
Prince Gopal, now working as a
This description - noted exactly by me at the time - would probably have brought out all kinds of guilt feelings in the boys. That this kind of intimidation by Sai Baba is widely practiced, and has been since his early days, is becoming more and more evident. That he is not subject to human emotions is disproved again and again by his actual behaviour.
Sathya Sai Baba's fits of intense anger
In her book, Other than You refuge there is none (Anyatha Saranam Nasthi) the elderly Indian woman devotee, Smt. Vijaya Kumari, who was with Sai Baba already in the 40s when Sai Baba was in his teens, we read:
Swami shows as much intense affection as anger. The slightest oversight with regard to arrangements for his meals would provoke Him into a fit of anger. Sometimes He would fling His plate at the wall opposite Him with such force that it would rebound and come back to Him. Sometimes that anger was unleashed on us. He would box our ears. Due to pinches from His nails, our ears would always be red. Boys would be pinched on their thighs, while to the girls, he gave ‘Prasadam of raps on their heads. Do you find it hard to believe? When He looked the picture of wrath, verily like Lord Parama Siva, we would hide behind doors like so many scared rabbits...." (p. 68-9)
These seem much more like classic symptoms of psychopathic disorder than divine grace, behaviour which is intended to dominate and control others! This is backed up by the author's own description of Sai Baba's treatment of her own three year old son. A photograph of this boy sitting on a bed beside a harsh and arrogant-looking Sai Baba, is a favorite illustration on websites that expose Sai Baba as a sexual deviant.
used to call him 'Chota Baba' (little Baba). He had a full head of crinkled
hair. Swami made the boy sit in His lap and asked him, "What is your
name? - Have you drunk milk - Would you like to eat rice? - Do you want
to be naughty?" The boy gave
replies in a cute way. Everyone was laughing.
The boy was then three years old. Suddenly, Swami made him lie face down in His lap and began beating him hard on the back. None of us knew what to make of it. We were all stunned, and staring at Swami. Who among us had the courage to go near Swami and question Him? The boy's face looked jaded. He was yelling and crying. "Go, go away from here." Saying so, Swami pushed the boy away from Him. The poor little boy! He came running to me sobbing. The sobs did not subside even after one hour. Every week, Swami would treat the boy like this, three or four times. The minute I took him out of the cradle my son would say pathetically, "Don't take me to Swami, mother", and break into tears. I would feel very pained. But when Swami ordered me to bring the boy, how could I say no? Further I had full faith and confidence in Swami... On the days when Venkamma garu happened to be with us, she would take my son from Swamis lap, saying "That is enough, Swami". My son was by no means mischievous. He was so quiet that none was aware of his presence in a room. But we do not know which Devil power Swami had to drive away from him."
(see review of Smt. Vijayamma's book)
So Sai Baba was very clearly a violent physical molester of children... of a mere baby! No one dared to intervene on behalf of a helpless baby, not even his own mother! Did Sai Baba also demonstrate his "mother love" in this too, the compassion of which he so often boasts? He even made the defenceless child the helpless butt of his 'humour', raising laughs for his own benefit. He gave no reason for his relentless beatings either, because he has never been made to answer to anybody. The Sai movement's ba-ba-ing chorus of sheep will reply: "Ah, but he is God, you see and has a right to be inscrutable!" But this was done by a human being to another human being - (unless the famous Sai Baba is only a mere empty apparition). When will he be held to answer for his worst crimes by Indian lawmakers, who have until now are still been acting as lawbreakers in his favour? This is a 'test of faith' for the Indian judiciary and government... will they pass it or go down in history with their current record!