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Archive for December, 2007

Sai Baba – Miraculous or Disastrous?

Posted by Barry Pittard on December 31, 2007

It may not necessarily be fun for religionists and rationalists to find themselves on roughly common ground. Especially when it comes to the topic of Sai Baba’s so-called ‘miracles.
The Disaster of the ‘Miraculous’
Many religious people place little or no importance on miracles. For example, the Buddha inveighed against them, viewing preoccupation with them as problematic for one’s spiritual growth. Likewise, Sri Ramakrishna and many spiritual teachers of various paths. No matter what Sai Baba may say about his (alleged) miracles being of the relative importance of a flea to an elephant, large numbers of his devotees are extensively concerned with them.
No rationalist will surely cede to a notion of the miraculous, and perhaps even if a shower of them occurred would not be too impressed. His or her likely position would be:  whatever the cause, there will be, if there is not in our present state of scientific knowledge already, a non-theistic, non-deistic explanation for the phenomena. Such touching trust – and again a certain likeness to so many religionists. Anyone, by the way, who has not met a fundamentalist rationalist, hindu, jew, christian, buddhist, etc., is missing out on one of the great treats of life – the resemblances are almost awe-inspiring! 
Some Devotees Silent On Miracle Topic
In reflecting on their personal experience of extraordinary phenomena that they would deem far from psychic or occultic, I think Sai Baba devotees and former followers would agree with the following statement:  it can be uncomfortable speaking with those who have not experienced like phenomena, including many fellow devotees. There is tension between those who perceive themselves to have experienced directly and those who have not. There can be odious comparison, which can be unhelpful when not all the experiences are of the same type. There can be jealousy from those ardent to experience but for whom no miracle has occurred. And, for experiencees, there can be a difficulty in quantifying in mere words something felt to be sublime. (Let us leave aside in what those phenomena may actually consist).
Devotee Intelligentsia Can Fear Professional Ridicule
The topic is more broad, and not confined to the Sai Baba fold. There are scientists and other usually hardnosed professionals who have experienced phenomena far beyond what can be readily explained – and they often shut up about it. This is not to say that sophisticated intellects are unabatingly sophisticated, and beyond gullibility. A clever, seasoned magician or a crafty scam artist can surely testify to that, if only we could afford to listen to them. 
In the Sai Baba cult (leave aside the question of elsewhere), there is no shortage of those in many professions, and of none, who have observed, and in some cases been the immediate recipients of what appear to be, supraphenomena in homes and other places around the world. There are various reasons for their silence – for example, not wanting to endanger terms of university employment or preferment, or simply not wanting to be embarrassed in social circles. A well-known example of professional and student ridicule that can be generated is referred to by Professor Samuel Sandweiss MD in his book The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist. Birthday Publishing Company, San Diego, Southern California. 1975.
samuel-sandweiss-md-sai-baba-worshipper.jpg 
Once it became known that Dr Sandweiss was partial to an Indian guru (Sathya Sai Baba), he suffered around his university no end of taunts, whispering campaigns and nastiness by colleagues.
India A Fast Breeder of Rationalists
In passing, I would note that in India (where I lived for several years) for a respectable Indian intellectual to hold that supraphenomena can exist is nowhere so difficult as in western countries. This fact makes India a fertile ground for rationalists. In my years there, I was struck by how aware were wide cross-sections of educated India of rationalists such as (late) A.T. Kovoor, (late) Professor H.Narasimhaiah, Basava Premanand, Professor Narendra Nayak, Prabir Ghosh, and others. This was no sleeping issue.
Silence Motivated by Spiritual Aspiration
Another reason for remaining quiet is a time-honored traditional one – when embarked on a spiritual path, an aspirant wants to eschew egotism. In experiencing phenomena that appear divine (let us imagine for the moment that the phenomena to which they refer is not the mere spooky or occult), the sense that oneself is somehow special, singled out and blessed by the divine is hard to avoid, and this may or may not manifest in crudely in blatant egotism. The mind, having its own rich complement of tricks, can manifest a subtle, but none the less still powerful, egotism, which cannot be wished away.
‘Miracles’ Are More Than Sai Baba’s ‘Visiting Cards’
Sai Baba makes a belated pretence at downplaying his so-called miracles, yet boasts of them constantly and performs these apparent feats often – although falling back on legerdemain. His very denial of the importance of the miraculous is lost in his behavioural performances, just as his very denial of sex is lost in his having of it with boys and young men, and his emphasis on not collecting funds by his Organization is lost in ‘backdoor’ methods of fundraising.
Sai Baba devotees tend generally to be very excitable about his ‘miracles’. Many revel in accounts (very poorly provenanced) such the supposedly 17th century Islamic Shi’a  Mehdi Moud prophecies from Iran, about which I shall shortly blog. This has become a part of Sai myth-making, along with so many other references to miracles and wonders, and is featured in the multi-million dollar Sai Baba Chaitanya Jyothi Museum, built to glorify him. Typically, when confronted by doubt, Sai devotees tend soon resort to telling what miracles they have received or others have received – including ‘miraculous’ occurrences often far beyond Sai Baba’s physical presence. A highly manufactured and managed ‘Glory of Puttaparthi’, ‘Advent of the Avatar’, ‘India’s National Treasure’, etc.
Endemic Devotee Exitability
No small demonstration of the mass devotee headlong rush towards the perceived miraculous occurred in October 2007. Thousands of Sai devotees tore from the ashram to Sai Baba’s airport (which, by the way, is up for sale), believing that Sai Baba would grant a vision of himself in the moon (variously termed ‘vishwa viraat roopa darshan’, vishwarupa darshana’, ‘viwa rupa’, etc. See Moon Mission of Sathya Sai Baba. Re Merinews Article and Sai Baba To Be Seen In Moon. But Where Was Moon?
Where Oh Where Without Miracles?
There can be little doubt that Sai Baba minus the ‘miracles and wonders’ aspect would exercise far less a grip. Especially is the grip powerful in a land of hoary and intense religiosity. He also appeals to that part of the world, profoundly lost to the old Christian or other religious ‘verities’ and full of desperation for something to fill the materialism-driven emptiness and the torn legacies of other ‘gods’ that have failed. 
But most pitiable is the case when human beings are not genuinely fed mind, heart and soul.  When they are betrayed. And subject instead to arguably history’s most powerful and controversial guru, now exposed on countless grounds as profoundly corrupt – whatever angelic processes may have found themselves mixed up with it all?
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Posted in Neglected/sidelined News, New Age, Rationalism, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

May You Look At The Moon And See Santa In It

Posted by Barry Pittard on December 25, 2007

In the almost magical Christmassy spirit of those who have been merrily following the ‘moon miracle’ issue, I extend two almost Irish blessings:
May you look at the Moon and see Santa in it.
May the same Moon come down your chimney (if by some miracle you still have one!)
Response to Priddy and Pittard Blogsites
More seriously, I wish to express thanks for the  (virtually unimaginable number) of visits to https://barrypittard.wordpress.com . The same striking phenomenon is occurring with former head of the Norwegian Sathya Sai Baba Organization, Robert Priddy’s blogsite at: http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com (I note that he, too, has just posted a Christmas message)
It is a response that outweighs the (also almost unimaginable) libel, distortion, stalking both on and off the Internet, and other less than spiritual responses by pro Sai Baba antagonists. I would add, however, that apart from certain of his close servitors from several countries who have hidden the facts from their rank-and-file, very many of Sai Baba’s followers are distinctly decent individuals who do not stoop to the tactics espoused by those official (such as Dr G. Venkataraman), those closely allied to officials and those who are Sai Baba apologists in general.
The Decline of the Showman Empire
It is good that we didn’t have to wait for Christmas for such a response to our blogsites. Nor for the repeated reports of continued exit from Sai Baba centers. Nor news of considerable stoppage of numbers visiting Sai Baba. Nor information about Sai Baba’s deteriorating physical and mental condition.
Plugging Financial Haemorrhage
We learn that the Sathya Sai Organization is throwing considerable money into recruiting at very plush and costly venues, so that new waves of wealthy donors will emerge and prevent financial disaster. Among other measures, his airport, with its capacity to take even jumbo jets, has been put up for sale.
Source Handling Issues
Some of our information is far too sensitive to share publicly but some sources are happy to reveal to bona fide media, academics and other investigators so long as they have outstandingly good repute and proper ethical policy standards in place. Our informants include government personnel posted in situ with formal duties, ex-alumni in his institutions, travelers both partial and not partial to Sai Baba, and others too close up to mention.
Christmas Reading
None! Is it not better to go out now and enjoy the Joy of the Season – such as with those almost Heavenly angels, our children? May we keep them safe from harm …

Posted in Neglected/sidelined News, New Age, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | 4 Comments »

Timothy Conway Ph.D – On ‘The Hislop Letters’

Posted by Barry Pittard on December 18, 2007

Before resigning in February 2001 – following his investigation of allegations of Sai Baba’s multi-faceted abuse – Timothy Conway Ph.D had been a respected member of the US Sathya Sai Baba movement (president of the large San Francisco center and a liaison-consultant for Northern California in the early to mid-1980s), as well as a longtime member of Santa Barbara, CA, Sai Center since 1988 (in addition to hosting the local Ammachi satsang and his own spiritual groups). Timothy’s key interest has been comparative East-West spiritual traditions, not just emphasizing intellectual expertise but concerned with actual living of the insights and precepts. An independent scholar with a background in psychology, Timothy is a respected lecturer and author of several outstandingly well-reviewed books (Women of Power And Grace and the forthcoming two-volume India’s Sages and other works). See his well-written and wide-ranging Enlightened Spirituality website for much more, details below.

Timothy Conway has just released (December 2007) his clarification of points raised about very indicting letters that were circulated (see dates, etc., in the scans listed below) to peak leaders of the US Sathya Sai Organization by former head, the late Dr John Hislop. This December 2007 update is the first reference in the links below, listed under Resources.

timothy-conway-phd-2005.jpgTimothy Conway, Ph.D, 2005

Authenticity of The Hislop Letters

Assisted by trusted former devotee networks, many of whose members had long previous association with Sathya Sai Baba and his movement, Timothy Conway investigated some of the abuse allegations, most notably, serial sexual molestation of boys and young men, after which he resigned as a matter of principle, an action taken by many worldwide, and indeed, though the occasion was different, a repeat of history, except that after 2000 the exit was on a far larger scale, when members had earlier left because of the strong signs of a profound cover up by Sai Baba and his officials and Indian central and state governments at the time of the June 6, 1993 police killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom. 

The Hazards of Speaking Out

As invariably happens when speaking up about Sai Baba or his global cult, the Sathya Sai Organization, Timothy Conway has been attacked – but not of course by those who have respected him down many years as a man of integrity, love, and care for others. He has made public – including (in April 2004) to the BBC in its preparatory and intensive researches of several months for its documentary The Secret Swami (June 2004), what have become known as ‘The Hislop Letters’ (See links below). At my request, he also made a notarized sworn testimony as to the proper provenance of the letters, which had come into his possession via his precessor, see below)

Hislop Letters Further Evidence of Failure of Duty Of Care and Accountability By U.S. Heads of Sathya Sai Organization

Courteously and with great patience, Timothy Conway has recently responded to attacks on the authenticity of these letters, and on himself personally.

The letters indicate that foremost leaders of the Sathya Sai Baba Council of America, such as Dr Michael Goldstein, Bob Bozzani, Phyllis Kristal, Richard Bayer, Dr William Harvey and others have long known (at least since early 1981 when the memos were written) of the sexual abuse allegations, but not acted with duty of care and other forms of accountability. The wider membership in both the USA and other countries were kept in the dark. Still further, given that they have been told by Sai Baba not to look at dissenting views of him on the Internet, many remain in that dark.

Most Former Devotee Dissenters Do Not Respond To The Attacks

Most former devotees will not respond to attacks on themselves, and have spent years of spiritual practice aimed at rising above nastiness, vindictiveness and various type of falsity. Especially because of the extreme fanaticism of certain of pro Sai Baba apologists, they prefer to share their evidence with bona fide, third party investigators of repute, such as the world’s most responsible media, UNESCO, governments, law enforcement agencies such as Interpol and FBI, leading religious and civic institutions, academics researching the Sathya Sai Baba phenomenon, etc. The obstacles to getting convictions have been stupendous. Indeed, former members of other powerful groups have found the same difficulties – for example, patterns of denial, cover up, slander, libel, shunning, harassment, suppression of evidence, misrepresentation of the viewpoints of those who have spoken out about abuse by guru and cult, and so forth.

Around the world, the good name of many former devotees like Timothy Conway was not at stake when they were Sai Baba followers – often for decades of dedicated service – and is not indeed at stake in their professions, trades and wider communities.

Resources

Timothy Conway’s Update (referred to at beginning of this blogpost)

Earlier documents

Timothy Conway PH.D confirms the Hislop letters

Formal statement provided to Exbaba.com by Timothy Conway Ph. D. concerning the Hislop letters

Click here to access Timothy Conway’s websitetimothy-conway-website-banner.jpg‘Enlightened Spirituality’

An article in which Timothy Conway outlines many key issues, in historical perspective – including acute spiritual concerns and personal resolutions – relating to dissent from Sathya Sai Baba. I highly recommend this article as a mature, clear, very readable account.

The Sun Magazine Interview by Arnie Cooper, 2003, Issue 328

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Posted in Neglected/sidelined News, New Age, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

Renowned Indian Editor VKN. Diary and Letter Scans Reveal

Posted by Barry Pittard on December 3, 2007

Robert Priddy, former head of the Sathya Sai Organization in Sweden, and retired academic in Philosophy and Social Sciences at the University of Oslo, Norway, has just released scans of material relating to his close friendship with the famous Indian newspaper Editor, V.K.Narasimhan, who knew him closely for several years.

VKN as Narasimhan was affectionately known, with rare courage, stood up to Mrs Indira Gandhi and the Emergency rule she imposed on India, 1975-77. He succeeded Professor P.N. Kasturi as Editor of Sanathana Sarathi, Sai Baba’s official organ, which is distributed worldwide. VKN was well known among those close to Sai Baba as being an almost lone case of one who would regularly and forcefully stand up to him.

The committing of this material – a) scanned from the extensive Priddy diaries and notebooks relating specifically and often daily to the time, and b) including exchange of letters between the two men – is valuable.

First, it honors an intellectual and moral engagement between two men who have stood up for truth and justice in difficult times.

Second, it affirms and documents with primary material the mutual high respect of these two men and the warmth and frankness of their friendship.

Third – and significant to the attempt of pro Sai Baba forces to obliterate elements of the past unwelcome to them in a way somewhat analogous to that tendency memorably depicted by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and others – it gives researchers and other investigators documentary proof of the status of the Narasimhan-Priddy relationship. It is a history such as this which Sai Baba, his hagiographers, spin doctors and many devotees at large are fully bent on denying.

Robert Priddy writes:

That I knew Narasimhan very well and that he confided in me is shown by a new set of postings I have begun (see on Priddy’s notes/diary). He eventually told me in private pivotal secret facts about the 1993 murders in Sai Baba’s bedroom which, at the time, I would rather not have had to had to take on board (see V.K. Narasimhan’s faith-shaking revelations). I have scanned in excerpts from the many letters I received from VKN and also scans of some of the hundreds of pages of my diaries and notebooks from 9 visits to India with reports on my conversations with VKN and others, which are linked here. Scans of other notebook entries reporting on what V.K. Narasimhan told me will be added later. Many of the facts he told me I have included in my tribute to him, his life and his relationship to Sathya Sai Baba (see here).

Source:

V.K Narasimhan and facts about Sathya Sai Baba, December 2, 2007

Posted in Neglected/sidelined News, Religion, Sai Baba, Uncategorized, World Religions | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »