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of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

Archive for November 13th, 2007

Abuse Reportage. A Case for Caution, Not Inaction

Posted by Barry Pittard on November 13, 2007

From the point of view of those who would defend their guru figure, far better to react and attack than that their idol – on whom they are so powerfully fixated – be exposed to an unfavourable public estimate.

Self-fortifying of Psyches That May Crumble

Better it is to attack than for the psyche of the attacker – in which is held the profoundly attached image of the guru –  to be subject to crumbling.

Determined attackers tend to lack the quality of empathy. They do of course see their opponents as lacking in this, but even strong opponents can respect each other. In some cases, the one greater acceptance that those obsessively attached to a guru or other idol have had in life is with the cult of which they are a part. It is by no chance that many cult members describe themselves a “the family”. (Many Sai Baba devotees refer to each other as “the Sai family). This useage can create an “us” and “them” mentality and promote co-dependence. Their saviour may vouchsafe them a smile, a word or an interview, and the sincere devotees may do their best to put up with difficult people in their midst. But there is a sort of acceptance for the socially maladapted, which may not come too easily in the school or workplace.

When Precept and Practice Conflict 

Some cults, for example, set out, even though they will never achieve that end, to be very loving, kind, softly spoken, not criticize others and so on. These are worthy aims and disciplines in themselves, and far from the exclusive preserve of any one belief system. But when indriven, almost inbred, the high edicts –  sternly interiorized – can invite conflict. 

As diverse schools of psychology are agreed, the authoritarian model too easily degenerates into unhealthy suppression and repression, hypocrisy, fanaticism, and condemnation of others who do not share the cult’s ethos and commands. There can also be harshness of the individuals directed against themselves, which can in its own turn project outwards as well, involving harshness to, and lack of compassion for, others who are perceived not to be living up to the imperatives of the belief system. Not only “us” and “them” but also oneself and all or most others who don’t quite come up to the mark.

Demonization and Depersonalization of Dissenters

Demonization of those considered apostate is common. Sai Baba’s demonizing sermon on Christmas day 2000, had much to angrily condemn. Despite its name, it was not a “Christmas Discourse”. Christ hardly got a look in, and then only in the most glancing, generalizing way. This was consonant with Sai Baba’s habit – which is to affirm how he is bringing people of diverse faith together. If, for example, he has a Muslim theme, he will speak scarcely about the Prophet, and so on. Do Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, etc., flock to Puttaparthi? They do not. Sai Baba has had decades in which to succeed in his multi-faith mission, which has profoundly failed, as his devotees, were they to be other than blind, would have to concede. Christmas ‘Peace and Goodwill to All Men’ in this discourse Sai Baba certainly did not embrace. For example, in one moment he said:

“Love everyone. No matter who comes and criticizes, you say one namaskar (greet or salute them). Why? Because the Divinity in all is one. The quality of Love in everyone is one. We should not spoil our minds only due to temporary frenzy”

and in the next:

“Betrayal of God is the worst of all betrayals. It will not be atoned for no matter how many births are experienced”


“Can’t even these people with brains understand this? Why are they doing this propaganda? Even this bad propaganda is for money. All these bad thoughts are for money only. Even these bad thoughts are for money only”

But Sai Baba and his leaders around the world, and many in the rank-and-file, knew the facts perfectly well:  that those in many countries who have attempted to raise responsible questions about the various types of allegations against him are free of money or other cynical inducements. His and his leaders’ falsifications here are very great indeed, and in the long term will be – perhaps even far more than the words of his outspoken critics – the undoing of his religious empire among those capable of a probing mind and strong conscience. His ‘house’ is bound to become ever more divided against itself, and collapse under the weight of its own shame.

His discourse flatly contradicted countless instances where he has said, as so many teachers have said – and a few have wonderfully exemplified – to forebear in the face of criticism, no matter how harsh.

Unsilencable Pressures

Sai Baba was at last – after decades of almost entire blanket Indian media censorship of any substantive criticism against him – subjected to a major cover story in India Today, December 4, 2000 (See, link below). This was the result of the testimony of organized former devotees from various countries, who increasingly documented their adverse experiences of Sai Baba, including to major parts of the international media.  Many had been for years in leadership positions in the Sathya Sai Organization, and are still regarded as outstanding and unselfish contributers to the welfare of their wider communities, no less than they were when so deeply devoted and hardworking in his cause.

The pressure on Sai Baba and his servitors was considerable, and there was, at the same time, great pressure on them from devotees in consternation worldwide, and many left his organization. In the following example – amidst the spell cast by charisma and rhetoric – demonization can be observed to come quite dramatically together in both guru and the many thousands of devotees present. Sai Baba said:

“These types of publicity are shameless. Truly they are not human beings at all. The ones who put obstacles in the way of all sacred works are demons, not human beings. The determined vow of Sai will never change, even if demons like this may be all over the world. (Swami bangs his fist decisively on the table to emphasize His point. The audience applauds for long.)”

By Their Language Ye Shall Know Them

Too often the appearance in cult followers of happiness or joy or bliss can instead be euphoric, and the test of this is how quickly the state is lost when confronted with the simplest tests. Repeatedly, an attacker’s concern is to entrap, to demean, to slander, to intimidate and in some cases to terrify. One glance at their language is enough to see how often they employ curse words and phrases – like “liar”, “mentally aberrant”, “hallucinating”, “hypocritical”, “vengeful,” “disgruntled” because the guru didn’t give them what they wanted”, etc. There are other examples but here is a quotation from T. Sri Ramanathan, formerly head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization, one of Sai Baba’s closest leaders. This is the way he attempted to demean and intimidate those many former devotees and others around the world who have attempted to obtain independent, third party investigation of Sai Baba. T.Sri Ramanathan, as on other occasions (See links below), tried to defame former Sai Baba devotees to SBS, Australia’s great multicultural radio and television broadcaster. Fortunately, SBS acted like other reputed major media who have listened very carefully and rigorously to former devotee accounts, including the BBC, DR (Denmark) and CBC (Canada), whose top executives stood up to the leaders and other members of the Sathya Sai Organization.

The latter tried to stop the broadcasts (and also world top newspapers) and, in some cases, vie for equal time. SBS, refused to be intimidated by Ramanathan’s defamatory threats of sueing them. Well-informed Sai Baba devotees in Australia know that Ramanathan is a bully and an exponent of the art of bluff, and his approach to organized former devotees is no different to the autocratic high-handedness he has long meted out to those within the organization who have dared to question him :

“As for the anti Sai group, some of them subsist on the generous welfare handouts of government and exist on Disability Pensions (disability being physical or mental) have the time to conjure up situations. Some of the anti Sai group are eccentric, neurotic and their behaviour and attitude are equally bizarre”.

Further Resources

India Today, Test of Faith, A God Accused article: “As India’s most enduring god-man enters his 75th year, his spirituality rests uneasily with controversy”. By Amarnath K. Menon, Ashok Malik in Puttaparthi, and Vijay Thapa, et al

Sai Baba Cult Says it is ‘The’ Divine Organization In History (Links are given to various statements and actions of T.Sri Ramanathan, former head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization)

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