Being In Denial. A Sai Baba Experience
Posted by Barry Pittard on March 5, 2007
There are many cases where followers of various gurus rationalize, justify and keep quiet about their teacher’s sexual behaviour.
Ironing Out The Kinks? Or Abuse Impure and Simple?
Spending some time with a ‘yogi’ with a small ashram on Chamundy in Mysore district in South India, I asked him about repeated accounts of the famous Swami Muktananda (who in 1972 had assisted me along my pilgrim way) being, although presenting himself to the world as a celibate monk, secretly sexually active among his female devotees. He replied, “You see, certain masters iron out the kinks in their devotees”.
I first heard stories relating Sathya Sai Baba to sexual misconduct in 1978. I had just started teaching at the Sathya Sai College, Whitefield, via Bangalore, South India, where I taught English in all three years of the degree Course. I was friendly with an Anglo-Indian gentleman and his wife in their sixties or early seventies who had lived for years near Sai Baba’s ashram and college campus in Whitefield. After I had known them for some time, the man said to me – with what I felt was his genuine concern for my spiritual welfare – that there were various reports that Sai Baba “had his way” with boys at his college in Whitefield. I then regaled him with a few Sai Baba-favourable personal stories (tending to the miraculous in nature), some of them of a type that I still think most scientists would have difficulty in grappling with. I felt that he was quite amazed but not convinced that his own information about sexual molestation of boys was incorrect.
Thieves and Fundamentalists Too Can Be Crime Victims
Around this same time, I spent many hours with Robert Lowenberg, a retired South African Clerk-at-law, assisting with the editing of his first book ‘At the Feet of Sai’. (For the titles of his four books on Sai Baba, see below). Bob Lowenberg had just investigated a story involving a young Anglo-Indian named Patrick, who alleged Sai Baba had acted sexually with him. Bob and his wife Naomi lived in Whitefield, within a few minute’s walk to Sai Baba’s ashram. He told me that his investigations around Whitefield, where he lived for several years, revealed that Patrick, who was I think then not much more than eighteen years, was known to be unreliable, and was a convicted thief. It did not occur to me then, as it does now with considerable force, that of course thieves and other miscreants can – vulnerable just like the rest of us – have crimes committed against them. It does not fit any quest for genuine justice to forget this fact. Indeed society – arguably now more than at any other time – is going to have to reckon with the terrible cost of denying equable, natural justice and human rights – promptly and effectively. The soaring growth of terrorism and of crime rates among the dispossessed or alienated are obvious examples.
The American author Tal Brooke reported Patrick’s story in his book ‘Lord of the Air’ (for details of which consult Brooke’s website at:
I looked at this book in a New Dehhi bookshop but casually a few years later, quickly tossing it aside with disdain and rejection. These reactions are most familiar ones experienced when information unfavourable to their spiritual teacher confronts adherents. Defense mechanisms trigger off with a speed akin to that of light. Indeed, if anyone is in a position to understand the refusal of devotees to come to terms with the allegations against their teacher, it is former followers, who themselves have, most shockingly, struggled with the issues! We went through it all ourselves – with heart and soul, mind and gut. My late dear friend Glen Meloy, who had been devoted to Sai Baba for twenty-six years, has called Brooke “the first whistleblower.” Because Brooke became a fundamentalist Christian, intellectually dishonest pro Sai Baba apologists have claimed that our Exposé is driven by evangelical Christians. Fundamentalists can get molested, too! These defenders of Sai Baba ignore the fact, which any truthful enquirer could quickly establish, that – overwhelmingly – former Sai Baba devotees have long been involved with Eastern spirituality.
The Dangers of Being Not Earthed
Above all, I will not deny myself to my many fellow human beings who have entrusted me with their painful stories of sexual and other forms of abuse by Sai Baba. Nor be silent in the face of the shameful dereliction of duty-of-care displayed by many leaders in the Sathya Sai Baba Organization. First, let us be sensible citizens and attend to the civic norms and duties which go with being that. Let us ‘name the parts’ correctly and unflinchingly – crimes are crimes, and we should not imagine ourselves as disembodied spirits, bobbing about in some sort of infinite dance, no matter what is happening right now.
Good Citizens are Good Angels in Disguise
One could not even get from one’s house to the airport to visit a spiritual teacher without all sorts of dependencies on the good will and rule-like behaviour of our fellow citizens. On our way, motorists abide by the road laws. Somebody planted traffic lights, even though they may not be as inspiring as trees. In the air, the pilot and crew are all very sensible – and rule-like. An issue to be taken for granted? No, it is a matter of life and death. Even when least conscious of it, we are profoundly entailed with our fellow citizens. No guru should be exempt from facing serious, responsibly-made allegations of committing crimes. If one person fails to report serious allegations against his or her guru, why should not others, who have other gurus, fail to report allegations about theirs? Do our laws exempt anyone? They do not. Do Sai Baba’s devotees who know of the genuineness of the allegations against him stand up and speak the truth? They do not. They speculate e.g., that he is assisting the passage of the Kundalini Shakti – even though there are no reports of him helping young girls in the same way. Do his leaders face the inevitable moral and ethical questions? They do not. Do they work for acceptance by mainstream respected religious and civic institutions, and invite Prime Ministers and Presidents and other public luminaries to their functions? They do. But do they inform the public of Sai Baba’s agenda to rule the earth? Or of his myriad of failed prophecies? Or of the financial and other types of fundamental unaccountability at the centre of his activities? Or of the allegations of decades of large-scale serial sexual abuse? Or implication in police killings in his bedroom in on June 6, 1993, and the ashram and local, state and central governments’ cover-up that went with these? They do not.
Rather, the Sathya Sai Organization promptly evicts those who ask the serious questions. For two articulate accounts where this occurred to much-loved and respected devotees in high positions in this organization, see the writings of Serguei Badaev (Russia) and Stephen Carthew (Australia):
Books by Robert Lowenberg:
1983: The Heart of Sai, Bombay, India Book House.
1985: The Grace of Sai, Bombay, India Book House.
1985: At the Feet of Sai, Bombay, India Book House.
1997: The Omnipresence of Sai, Prasanthi Nilayam, Sai Towers