Gurubusting Sathya Sai Baba
Posted by Barry Pittard on August 10, 2007
Basava Premanand and Professor Narendra Nayak, the courageous Indian Rationalists and tenacious ‘guru busters,’ travel India revealing how tricksters like Sai Baba appear to materialize sacred ash, called vibhuthi, or manifest, as Sai Baba pretends to do, a golden lingam or Shiva lingam, called Lingodhbhava or sometimes Brahmananda lingam.
Premanand has told the BBC he has investigated Sai Baba since 1968, at first “as a hobby”, then speaking out in public from 1976 to this day. In the BBC television documentary The Secret Swami, Premanand demonstrates how, by sleight-of-hand, magicians perform the same ‘miracles’ as Sai Baba – e.g. materializing ash, rings, pendants, etc. Footage showed Narendra Nayak demonstrating to BBC presenter Tanya Datta – who realizes that it takes practice – how to secrete a vibhuti (ash) pellet between the thumb and base of the forefinger, and then to crush it into a powder. Nayak says that Sai Baba’s rotations of the hand when producing the ash is the method used by all ‘godmen’ who ‘materialize’ this ash, and this ploy obscures the act of crumbling the pellet. (Various people, such as the former leader of the Australian Sai Organization, Terry Gallagher, a scientist and businessman, have reported seeing Sai Baba inadvertently drop these pellets. See Here).
At first, I thought that, to convince the most critical, it might have been useful for the BBC to use a top magician such as Derren Brown, Noah Kelly, David Copperfield etc. Certainly, Denmark’s national broadcaster, in its television documentary Seduced (DR, 2003) that exposes Sai Baba (renamed in Australia in its English version as Seduced by Sai Baba, a copy of which we made sure that the BBC possessed), used a renowned Danish magician Nils Krøjgaard to expose some types of fakery Sai Baba uses. This documentary, with an over dubbed English commentary by an acquaintance of the producer, is viewable in a 21 Megabyte download HERE.
Sai Baba Far From Being Top Magician
However, critical close observers of Sai Baba do not regard him as a top magician, and indeed a rather poor one, who sometimes fouls his tricks by carelessness or absent-mindedness, so perhaps the use of amateur magicians to expose his tricks is indeed appropriate. A fair to middling amateur can still trick educated audiences, although not of course experts.
I was recently sitting in a restaurant and got chatting with a local magician. He was a rather touchingly simple man, largely self-taught in his lovely passion for magic, and he was functionally illiterate and had to learn by the kindness of fellow magicians and friends, who would read for him descriptions in magic manuals and magazines. For the next hour he blithely regaled me with a whole range of tricks, deftly employing sleight-of-hand. Except for some very common tricks, he would not, as is the case with principled magicians the world over, disclose the method of these, but some he kindly did, after I had told him of Sai Baba, and he immediately improvised compelling demonstrations of how he thought Sai Baba would fake his miracles. His notions were in a line with those such as Krøjgaard, Premanand, Nayak, et al.
For both modem and broadband viewing of The Secret Swami, you may go Here
Sai Baba: God-man or con man? By Tanya Datta, Reporter, Secret Swami. BBC News 24.