A LETTER CONCERNING CUTTING TIES TO SATHYA SAI BABA
Greg Gerson, USA. (MA in East /West Psychology)
Email to Robert Priddy showing Gerson's valid concern about the dishonest 'brainwashing' methods of Sathya Sai Baba and about yet another a fraudulent 'green diamond'
Even though I have cut ties with Sathya Sai Baba, I am still interested in following the progress of the exposure of the negative side of the Sai Baba movement. As a result of this interest I have been reading the exbaba.com website for some time. Recently I discovered that my former professor who introduced me to Sathya Sai Baba has signed the public petition. (Arlene Mazak Ph.D. No 474 on the petition). In the summer of 1993, she led a study tour of South India that I attended with nine other students. During this tour we visited her guru, Sathya Sai Baba at his ashram near Bangalore. It was then that she and her devotee male companion (I don't know if he is still a devotee) gave me a laminated photo mounted on wood of Sai Baba and extolled his miraculous powers, thus the brain washing of me began.
I remember once during this study tour, Arlene Mazak, her companion, Bill Watson and I were in their hotel room in India. Arlene had a candle burning on a wooden dresser in front of Sathya Sai Baba's picture. Arlene was in the bathroom and Bill went downstairs. The candle was very low, almost to the point of burning the dresser, so I put out the flame. A short time later Arlene came into the room and noticed the candle was extinguished. She immediately said, "thank you Baba," inferring that it was some sort of miracle performed by Sai Baba which prevented a fire. I informed her that I had put out the candle and she disappointedly said "oh....."
I relay this simple story because, looking back, it was the first time I observed the phenomenon of intelligent accomplished people, once they have given themselves over to the Sai Baba movement and all of its brain-washing, begin to see everything in their world as miraculously influenced by Sathya Sai Baba.
This Sai Baba influenced world view creates a false sense of special ness, that is very pervasive among devotees and is one of the most difficult barriers to seeing through the brain washing created by the Sai Baba organization. Actually, this false special ness is a main form the brainwashing takes. By special ness I mean the notion devotees have that they are the special few who have the karmic good fortune of becoming followers of Sathya Sai Baba, who they believe is God on Earth, possessing omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, that he knows everything about them, has been watching them all their lives (and past lives) protects them from harm, and has a special purpose for them.
I think this is one of the main reasons why, over the years, so many books have written about Sathya Sai Baba. The authors believe that it is their special duty to tell others about Sai Baba. I also think that to a certain extent, writing a book about ones personal experiences with Baba or Swami, as he is often called by his devotees, is a form of ego aggrandizement and bragging on the part of these authors. So many people visit Sai baba (the numbers are lessening because of the accusations of sex abuse) that only a small percent have close contact with Sai Baba. As a result of this, those devotees who have had close contact with him, even if it was 20 or30 years ago, are held in high esteem by many followers who have not had the opportunity. Many devotees are very eager to read books and hear stories about Sai Baba and his supposed miraculous powers. I believe this is a major source of both intentional and unintentional brainwashing in the Sathya Sai Baba organization.
Brainwashing is defined here as indoctrination into new attitudes, beliefs, and values in such a way that the person is unwilling or unable to look critically at his or her new mindset. In my view there are two basic types of brain washing occurring in the Sathya Sai Baba movement: unintentional and intentional.
Unintentional brainwashing, which is milder than intentional, is of the kind carried out by my former professor when she introduced me to Sathya Sai Baba. At the time, she was unaware of any negative aspects of Sai Baba such as accusations of molestation of young men and fake materializations. She simply told me stories about Sai Baba and that he had the miraculous ability to know my thoughts visit me in dreams, protect me from harm and more. This is brainwashing because it altered my view of reality as well as my beliefs and values. Because it was my professor, who was an authority figure, I was more likely to take in these claims about Sai Baba and give them merit. This type of brainwashing is unintentional because my professor believed the things she was telling me and had no ulterior motives such as power, money, and fame. This is also the type of brainwashing that occurs in the books written by devotees as well as in Sai Babas ashram and in the Sai Baba centers around the world when devotees tell new people about Sai Baba.
Intentional brainwashing is much more dangerous and malicious. This is the type waged by Sathya Sai Baba and his close leaders as well as anyone else who knows the truth about the negative side of Sai Baba and is using the brainwashing for personal gain (more on this later).
A personal example of my own false sense of special ness due to brainwashing relates to the two rings Sai Baba materialized for me. In August of 1994 on my second visit to Sathya Sai Babas ashram I had an interview during which he materialized (see exbaba.com for how he fakes materializations) a silver ring with his bust in gold on the top. I received the ring in 1994 and yet I wanted to break ties with Sai Baba and remove it as early as 1995 (more on why later). I stopped wearing the green gem ring Sai Baba materialized for me in November of 1996 on my third visit after discovering its being fake. But to be honest, my brainwashing was so strong; I still sometimes wore it on a chain around my neck as recently as 2000.
A main reason I was so reluctant to remove the rings Sai Baba gave me, especially the silver ring with his face was that I had read and was told many times by devotees that rings (and other "materialized" objects) given by Sai Baba were talismans which would protect the wearer from harm. I very much wanted this to be true, that Sai Baba was watching over me and protecting me from harm. In addition, Sai Baba told me that the green gem ring would give me "peace of mind".
This type of "special ness" is hard to give up. If I broke ties with Sai Baba and took off the rings I would have to face the anxiety of becoming "normal" again, a regular person, vulnerable to the dangers of this world. I remember that whenever I contemplated breaking ties with Sai Baba (long before any of the negative internet sites) I would feel guilty and nervous and instinctively touch my ring with my thumb. I also used to look at it all the time. It was a constant reminder of my connection to Sai Baba. It was only when I began reading an anti Sai Baba website which I stumbled upon looking for a pro Sai web site that I permanently removed my Sai Baba rings and packed away my Sai Baba books and pictures.
It was like a spell was broken. Questions I had about the Sai Baba organization and Sai Baba himself that had bothered me for several years became clearer. For example, I never understood why he had armed guards with bayonets on their rifles in front of his home in the evenings. And why he had two men with semi-automatic pistols clearly visible under their white shirts accompanying him during darshan. One of the most essential teachings of Hinduism is nonviolence, yet here was supposedly the greatest spiritual teacher of recent times with dangerous guns right under his nose in his ashram. I also found it bothersome that Sai Baba had so many ultra luxury European automobiles that he was chauffeured around in. I could perhaps understand having one Mercedes Benz, BMW or Jaguar, but why five or more? I also did not understand why while we were alone during one interview in the summer of 1994, Sai Baba told me to pull down my pants. He then materialized a small amount of oil, pulled down my underwear and applied it to my lower abdomen. If he were God on Earth why would he have to use such crude and inappropriate means to give me some mysterious blessing, which he did not even bother to explain to me?
Many other things concern me about the Sai Baba movement, but returning to my rings for a moment, why did Sai Baba give me a fake gem? At one point, I accidentally injured it so I took it to a jeweler in Houston who confirmed that it was of no value. It was only after examining the exbaba.com web site and learning about the negative side of the Sai Baba movement such as how Sai Baba fakes his materializations, and seeing it captured on film that some of my questions and concerns were answered. The primary answer was both troubling and a big relief, one that I had expected for years.
This answer is a difficult one for many, many brainwashed devotees to face. It is this: Sathya Sai Baba is not God on Earth. He is most likely not even a genuine holy man and his organization is corrupt. He is a cult figure who sometimes uses his power over devotees to take advantage of them. When I realized this I no longer felt anxious over removing my supposedly special rings. I knew they had no mystical power and, that I am not some sort of special devotee.
In another, earlier version of the above credo, Greg Gerson also wrote:-
I am finished with gurus, organized religions and fanatical spiritual practices.. During my stays at Sai Baba's ashrams, I encountered a number of people who were as fanatical or more fanactial than me. I personally know three young men who became so fanatical with activities such as fasting, extreme meditation, vows of silence, limited sleep, etc, that they were seriously risking their mental and physical health and could easily have been instituionalized.
One of the very important negative aspects of the Sai Baba movement which I have not encountered on the anti Sai Baba sites is the total lack of guidance regarding sadhana and spiritual issues for novice as well as intermediate and long term devotees not just in their home contries but at the ashrams as well.
A different young man from the three mentioned above who I knew quite well, took the notion that Sai Baba was his personal guide so literally he was unable to make even the smallest descisions such as what to eat, what to do during the day, or even what to think or feel. He was miserable, almost paralized, unable to do anything for himself. He had no one to guide him and tell him that he was not even properly following Sai Baba's teachings let alone healthy mature spiritual instructions such as the ones at the Buddhist monastary I mentioned.
Of course, this is attributed to relying only on Sai Baba and his mystical teachings through telepathy, dreams, visions, as well as his books and discourses. Yet, if these methods were enough, why are so many devotees, including the extreme examples I mentioned, still stuggling with simple things like living healthy balanced lives, not to mention negative qualities such as greed, impatience, anger, etc.
The excuse I have heard to many times is that Prashanthinilayam is Sai Baba's "mental hospital" and all of our flaws are magnified and are being cleaned up at an excellerated rate. This also is supposed to be occuring at home. Now I feel that this is just more brain-washing to help devotees rationalize all the negative behavior and emotions that they experience and have not addressed properly. A good psychologist and a better spiritual path would defininitely help.