Excerpt from correspondence between Marianne Warren and myself about the first edition of her published monograph, in which she was very conservative about the connection between Shirdi and Sathya Sai Baba. Here is an excerpt from her later thinking:-
[From: M. Warren To: firstname.lastname@example.org Sent: Monday, February 17,
2003 3:27 AM Subject: Greetings from Mexico]
In my book on Shirdi Sai Baba I felt I could not use much of what Sathya Sai Baba had said because none of it was verifiable, (although I was a devotee at the time) but it is amazing how much of what he has said has become an integral part of the accepted hagiography. Even Rigopoulos was not discriminating enough in his book on Shirdi Sai, accepting Sathya Sai's pronouncements as gospel. As this was my Ph.D. Thesis I could not use the material as Sathya Sai was still living. So yes my book was an academic book, rewritten for a general audience from the Ph.D thesis. I did say, however, in my Preface that I would write a further book exploring what Sathya Sai Baba had said about Shirdi. Now of course I think he just used the Maharashtran miracle worker Shirdi Sai 's name as a jump start to his own claim to Guruhood or to being an avatar. Shirdi Sai never said he was an avatar or part of a triple incarnation. In fact he would not even declare a successor as he himself would be subtly present to help devotees. This was common in Sufi saints who were said to be still present in their dargahs (tombs). Shirdi Sai was, as I discovered, a sufi saint pursuing the renunciate path to god-realization. My observations of the Shirdi/Sathya Sai connection or non-connection would form a large segment of my book.
I have quite a lot of material other than the Shirdi material,
myself for an anti-sai book as I was involved in Toronto Sai Centres
in Canada for 20 years and the Sathya Sai Baba Book & Information
Centre for 10 years. There were many things that occurred during
those years that made one entertain doubts. I also have no personal
experience with all the sexual allegations, although it was very
obvious that Sathya was not interested in women! The trouble is
one did not think in terms of homosexuality with a spiritual presumably
celibate leader, never mind divinity!
While my husband and I were devotees we would have been upset to think that we had been caught in a 'Cult', but now we have 'escaped' so to speak, I now think that that's what the Sai Baba movement is, with the charismatic Sathya Sai pulling the strings.
What gave me the first clue that things were not as they seem, was the change from the position on Banks and money from 1980. At that time we had wanted to give money to help in the service work, but there seemed to be no way we could give - 'All I want is your love" said Sai Baba. When we went back in the late 1990s, a Bank was established in the ashram grounds and I was rudely asked by a sevadal which line I was in. Amazed I asked what the lines were for - and found out that one was to withdraw money or change traveller's cheques and one was to donate to Sai Baba. The Sai Baba donation line was very long!
For two years after "The Findings" my husband and I were devastated. We got rid of all the pictures and altar and we decided to retire early to Mexico. It's the best decision we ever made and now we have largely cut ourselves off from the Sai community in Toronto. There are many Sri Lankans who have emigrated there and there are huge Sri Lankan and Indian Sai Baba Centres there supporting a Sai School. Western (i.e. non-Indian or Sri Lankan) Canadians were relatively few. After two years getting ourselves established on Lake Chapala in Mexico, I began to look again at the ex-baba material on the internet and was horrified at all the revelations. These I feel need to be widely publicised.
I find worth quoting for the record from Marianne's other mails,
an excerpt warning against the many amateurish and error-filled
pro-Sai writings by the dilettante Dr. Satya Paul Ruhela:
"I came across Prof. Ruhela quite a few years ago and I would strongly advise you to steer clear of him. I met him in Puttaparthi and I think he publishes his own books, which now number in the dozens. What I found in my Shirdi research is that he is a very sloppy researcher, and is not careful enough on checking facts. He did not bother with investigating sources, and uses all material indiscriminately etc. He's more interesting in publishing than in content in my opinion. Therefore I did not include his material at all for my book."
The following comment about Shirdi Sai baba's name being misused was posted on a Times of India article in 2011 (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-04-26/hyderabad/29474241_1_sai-baba-prasanthi-nilayam-sources-sathya-sai-central-trust)