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A main issue is whether Sathya Sai Baba (born Sathya Narayana Raju) is has performed major miracles attributed to him through the past 70 years. These incidents do have some real basis in experience, as I have testified in my book 'Source of the Dream' and there remain many more incredible claims by him to which any follower has eventually to relate, whether to accept or reject them. However, amazingly many persons soon surrender all wit and reason and believe literally anything Sai Baba says, however contradictory, however unlikely or totally impossible. One even believes most of the hearsay about him without taking any trouble to investigate it... and certainly not with a critical idea in mind.

See the 'vibuti' holy ash "materialisation" performed and explained in detail (download brief video in mpeg - 2.7Mb) (and another video clip showing the scam again here (1.15 mbs quicktime mov) (or m4v video 4-7mbs) There are other videos available under 'Movies' at

Vibuti is one of the great attractions of the Sai Baba movement: The belief in miracles is said by Baba not to be central or of real importance. However, he insists on performing his apparent miracles and they come as an unavoidable part of the baggage. The most common of these is his alleged 'materialization from thin air' of so-called 'holy ash' ('vibuthi' or 'vibuti', also 'oodi' or 'i'), which is a substance originally made from burning cow dung [with or without addition of rice husks, sandal wood etc.]. This "holy vibuthi" is a kind of talisman, believed by many to heal almost any physical or mental illness. Sai Baba has given it to people every day for most of his life! Followers struggle to obtain it - even if it is not even claimed to be 'materialized' by him... then at least from his hand. He gives away many small bags of it at interviews - grasping a large handful of them for each interviewee from a plastic basket in which they are invariably kept.
In the past he did an annual showpiece in which he supposedly 'materialized' vibuthi within a large upturned wooden bowl over a statue of Shirdi Sai Baba [who he claims to have been in his previous incarnation] This was the vibuti-abishek, which can be seen on film and which lasts over a minute where he puts his hand up into the bowl, rotates it vigorously, and vibnuti stream out and creates a cloud of particles over the Shirdi statue. Much is made by the commentator on some of the films of the fact that, when Sai Baba withdraws his hand temporarily from the bowl for a rest, the vibuti stops falling, but recommences when he again twirls his hand in the bowl. This is taken as proof that it is materialized by his hand! However, this is not mysterious at all, it is in fact the best proof that the vibuti is hardened and set inside the bowl beforehand and only comes out when his hand is rotated to loosen it!

Is vibuthi a medicine, can it heal? The key beliefs and hopes that help attach more than a million people to him are for personal salvation, 'healing', and liberation in the afterlife. It cannot be denied that Sai Baba is credited by personal testimonies with inexplicable healings, 'miraculous' interventions and inspiring people to a lot of good works and service of others... However, this is still the very deceptive bright side of his other more than unfortunate activities, the deceptions and abuses at the core of the legend about him and his mission, which has many appealing aspects for many people.All the talk about the healing power of 'Sai Baba vibuthi' and other substances he hands out may cause belief in healing, and this may help... but the actual curative/medicinal properties are zero, according to analyses of this vibuthi made in laboratories here and there. The apparent cure due to this substance (actually the ash from burning such materials as cow dung, rice husks or sandalwood etc.) is often called the 'placebo effect' in medical research. Another term used is 'spontaneous regeneration', which refers to unknown aspects of the body's self-regenerative powers. The 'placebo effect' is obviously a psychic phenomenon and remains largely (but not entirely) unexplained.... but it is very common.This is almost indubitably the key element in so-called 'faith' healings. One will find no record of the overwhelming number of cases where vibuti is applied but no cure whatever arises. I have documented on well-known instance (see ref. to widely-known fact among residents and VIPs: V.K. Narasimhan's loss of an eye after application fo vibuti by Sai Baba himself!). I witnessed the dying days of a Norwegian devotee - Mrs. Fotland - to whom I had brought a handful of packets of vibuthi given me especially for her at an interview by Sai Baba. Further, as leader of the Sathya Sai Centre in Oslo, I have seen vibuti applied countless times without the desired result, also in the ashrams and elsewhere.

Prashanti Nilayam is supplied regularly with cow-dung ash 'vibuthy' manufactured in a Palani factory
It is known that tons of vibuti are ordered by Prashanthi Nilayam from Palani (near the foot of the Kodai mountain in Tamil Nadu) where 'vibuty' is manufactired in quantity. I was friends with a former Seva Dal servitor, Krishna Panjwani of Bombay - a very sweet elderly gentleman - who annually travelled around and bought supplies for the Prashanthi Nilayam shop he supervised - in the heat of summer when Sai Baba was away on holiday in Kodai. He used to go to Palani to get vibuti, and an invoice published by Basava Premanand showed the details of one such purchase of a huge amount. See the invoice of 9 tons of it sent to Prashanthi Nilayam from Palani here:-

Invoice for 7 tons of vibuthy

Various film clips are available on the web and in TV programmes showing and explaining how Sai Baba apparently carries out sleight of hand while producing allegedly 'materialised' holy ash (vibuthi). When he waves his hand in the air and then lets vibuti fall into the hands of a devotee, sceptics claim that he conceals small pellets of vibuthi - usually in his left hand - and transfers this to his right some time before appearing to grasp it from mid air and pouring it into waiting hands. This can be seen very clearly on videos where the run-up to the hand-waving is included. I am not pre-judging the issue, but I have become convinced at the very least that Sathya Sai Baba does use legardemain and appears to do so in certain productions of vibuthi. If the ash is compacted into a pellet, it has to be crushed to be delivered. This crushing is visibly done every time in Sathya Sai Baba 's right hand, between his thumb and first two fingers. This is supported by the following small selection of many such pictures:-


If the vibuthi is not in pellet form, there is not reasonable explanation as to how else he would be able to hold it back and control exactly when it shall drop from his fingers. Further, my wife has noted how vibuthi she has received from him in interviews was not entirely smooth, it usually contained large grains or small lumps.

One clip from the Danish film 'Seduced' shows a fairly clear view of his use of such a pellet under Sathya Sai Baba 's upraised hand before he 'creates' it. Moreover, the former 'veranda person' and Central Coordinator, Terry Gallagher, reports having seen Sathya Sai Baba drop three such pellets by mistake in front of him on the veranda!

The concealment can also be done in a handkerchief, such as he very frequently holds or handles, not least after each 'materialisation'. In most photos of Sathya Sai Baba in his various thrones and chairs, it will be seen that his left hand is infrequently holding or is very close to a handkerchief (much less often than his right hand is). For many years at his twice-daily darsan 'walkabout', Colonel Joga Rao used to hand him the handkerchief and carry the letters when required. Since Joga Rao is know never to have believed in Sai Baba's miracles but to have agreed to help him nonetheless, there is all reason to suspect he was a willing accomplice. Sathya Sai Baba can obviously most easily find willing accomplices among his servitors and students... the massive cover-up of his sexual abuses and secrecy about his involvement in the killings episode prove this beyond any reasonable doubt.

The concealment can easily occur in other ways: when an interview begins he is known always to switch on the room lights and - as required, also the fan, reaching high up to a switch-box on the wall inside and to the left the door of the Prashanti interview room. I have seen him do just this on four occasions. He is known invariably to 'make' vibuthi just after this action, only for all the ladies in the interview. This requires a fairly large pellet, of course, and that can be concealed on top of the switch box, which is not visible to a standing person. Of course, since he is also in and out of his smaller 'private' interview room, he could easily replenish his supply of pellets from there, where there is some furniture etc. where such could easily be kept. A friend of mine, now-deceased Leo Boogaard (formerly National Coordinator of the SSO in the Netherlands,) one received vibuthi in the darshan lines at Puttaparthi when I was with him, which was literally wet. It slopped into his palm. This tends to support the claim made by some magicians who have studied Sathya Sai Baba 's methods, that he also sometimes conceals pellets in his mouth!

Those who cannot believe that Sathya Sai Baba fakes the vibuthi may prefer to think that he is given vibuthi in pellet form by the 'helpers' he has sometimes said he has (and sometimes denied). Or that he has a big store of pellets in some astral realm, or (for those who can't quite credit this) that he apports them from a worldly store somewhere where they are manufactured. The regular supplies from Palani (near the foot of the Kodai mountain) in huge quantities to Prashanthi Nilayam, as the published invoice clearly shows, makes it easy to conclude that his pellet makers work in the ashram. One former student - now safe in the USA - who contacted me and allowed me to check his identity, told me that he has actually see that Sai Baba has a small machine in his inner interview room for compressing (damp) vibuti into pellets!

Read the account of how Sathya Sai Baba does his 'materialisations' by an ex-student of Sai Baba's College

See an insightful account of this issue by former President of the Moscow Sathya Sai Centre

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