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

Archive for February, 2008

World Gallup Poll. Muslim Project

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 28, 2008

One of the great attractions to Sathya Sai Baba felt by people from many countries has been his evangel of respect for the various faiths.

Has Sai Baba Kept Promise of Reaching Through to World Faiths?

One can search in vain for any decently researched examples that show any capacity by him or his global Sathya Sai Organization to succeed in interfaith outcomes. See my articles:  Muslim Leaders Initiative Bold. Sai Baba’s Efforts Fail and Will World Accept Sai Baba? He Says Yes. Very Soon).

From time to time, when Sai Baba attracts a prestigious Moslem, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, etc., this individual is keynoted and the impression given to audiences that to a significant degree Sai Baba’s “divine love” is making a significant impact around the world. It is not, as the media or anyone else can readily determine by asking the major international interfaith groups or the spokespersons of any of the world’s great faiths.

One naturally queries, then:  Where, if anywhere, is Sai Baba in the interfaith equation?  What, if any, distinctive contribution to interfaith conferences have Sai Baba and his Sathya Sai Organization made?

The Gallup Poll Project Among World Populations

One vast undertaking to obtain facts about the attitudes and values of people around the world is being undertaken by the Gallup Poll organization. Even one project such as this makes Sai Baba’s statements about creating understanding and unity among the various faiths pale by comparison. It is about practicality, not about preachments. It is also about letting people speak for themselves, instead of being dictated to, which is endemic to the authoritarian, unaccountable, Soviet-style Sathya Sai Baba cult.

“In the largest undertaking of its kind, Gallup will
measure the well-being of the world for the next
100 years, annually polling 95% of the Earth’s adult population. The Gallup World Poll is the largest available source of key world data, providing access to the voices, hearts, and minds of citizens in more than 130 countries and territories”. Source: The Gallup World Poll

Gallup Poll Muslim Project

Here, for example, are its aims for its project on Muslims:

“Gallup’s self-funded Poll of the Muslim World is conducted in 40 predominantly Muslim nations and among significant Muslim populations in the West. It is the first set of unified and scientifically representative views from 1.3 billion Muslims globally, and will provide the basis for the Center’s unique analytical perspective. The Poll of the Muslim World is part of Gallup’s larger World Poll, a self-funded effort aimed at consistently measuring the well-being of 6 billion world citizens (a sample representing 95% of the Earth’s population) on a wide range of topics for the next 100 years”.

Solvents For Dangerous Misconceptions

Here are but a few findings in relation to Muslim attitudes to 9/11, which should assist in clearing away a great deal of misunderstanding, a result that should obtain, too, as other major faith groups are polled:

“What we have here is the ability to get beyond the battle of the experts” and let “the data lead the discourse” on beliefs in the Muslim world” Source: John L. Esposito, a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies,  Georgetown University

  • 93 percent – condemned the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Substantial majorities in all Muslim countries said they supported bringing democratic principles to their own countries
  • 7% saw the Sep 11 attacks as “completely justified”. The results indicate that none in this group employed a religious justification. The view was based on fear of US plans for occupation and domination of the Muslim world
  • There were strong Muslims concerns about a perceived “moral decay” in the US and the West. However, these were typical of those widely shared in the West.
Further Reading
Islam-West rift widens, poll says. BBC News Report, Monday, 21 January 2008
World Economic Forum Report Ranks Islam and West Relations.  WEF, Geneva, Switzerland, 21 January 2008
Who Speaks for Islam?
What a Billion Muslims Really Think
. This excellent, succinct outline of the book by John Esposito Ph.D, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, and Dalia Mogahed, a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, is at the Gallup website
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Posted in New Age, Religion, Sai Baba, September 11, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | Leave a Comment »

William Aitken’s Book Fails to Answer Sai Baba Critics

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 21, 2008

Today’s blog continues my small series on aspects of Brian Steel’s impressive opus, specifically at:  Bill Aitken and Sathya Sai Baba. A Writer’s Dilemma,  on William Aitken’s book, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006).

Steel’s Meticulous Work Invaluable

Brian Steel’s approach in this piece is scholarly, but his writing has long been appreciated by a wider readership. All who are in search of detailed evidence will find Steel’s meticulous, painstakingly researched work (from 2001 on) indispensable. It is vast, and has been groundbreaking from the very first. I think that there will be no independent scholars or other investigators of merit who will be able to find serious fault with his project. He will nevertheless be targeted, I think, by fervent pro Sai Baba polemicists, who will increasingly undo themselves wherever there are attentive, critical and sober readers. Of Aitken’s attempts at demolishing Sathya Sai Baba critics, Steel says:

“Aitken’s preoccupation with the sensational, headline-grabbing sexual allegations (by Tal Brooke, or David Bailey, for example) does not leave him time to deal with more serious aspects of past and present critical research on Sathya Sai Baba, like recurring demonstrations by magicians (and video evidence too, especially of recent Mahasivaratri lingam productions) that some of Sathya Sai Baba’s commonest materialisations are easily replicated by others. As for the counter-evidence his claims of Divinity, it is just possible that Aitken may not have bothered to read them”.

The Supreme Preposterousness of Avataraic Claims

Sathya Sai Baba can be documented by any conscientious reader as having made contradictory statements and egregious historical and scientific blunders. These include his remarks on Jesus Christ and Martin Luther . For Steel’s detailed and sharply contextualized discussion, see: Sai Baba and Christianity. Some Observations (2002). Steel remarks here the alarming “extent of Sai Baba’s inventiveness”.  This can be instructively read in concert with his Basic Notes On Sai Baba’s Credibility Problem (2004). Also on the acuteness of the credibility problem, Jorje Reysvera and Robert Priddy have written engagingly on Sai Baba and Magnetism, about his prescientific comments on the nature of magnetism. I have written in the article Huge Sai Baba Gaffes how these stunning inanities in Sai Baba’s discourses are preserved in video materials but quickly expunged by nervy Sai editors from the written records, and of my own first-hand observations of the weeding process when I was editing an internationally distributed Sai Baba magazine and books by Sai Baba devotees. This was at Sai Towers in Puttaparthi, and I saw how those such as Professor Anil Kumar and my late friend V.K.Narasimhan, one of India’s pre-eminent, historic and courageous newspaper editors, did such doctoring. I had a hand in the process myself when Sai Baba’s talk about his mother’s ghost would have raised a few eyebrows if allowed to circulate any further than a public discourse. The extraordinary blunders are excised before they get into publications that go worldwide like Sanathana Sarathi and Spiritual Impressions.

Steel quotes Aitken’s own amazement at Sathya Sai Baba’s well-known pronouncement that “Sanskrit is the parent and core of all languages,” which no respectable language scholar holds. And, indeed, to be amazed by disgrace is appropriate.

Posted in New Age, Rationalism, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | Leave a Comment »

Australia Says ‘Sorry’. A Lesson For Sai Baba And Followers

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 14, 2008

A great day occurred in Australia yesterday, which the global Sathya Sai Organization may do well to note.

There is a strong lesson about admitting mistakes of the past, and responding with heart to the sorrow that one’s actions or one’s group’s actions have caused.

The rest of the Australian nation via its Federal Parliament said a vastly overdue “Sorry” to the first Australians, her indigenous people, for the tragic way in which their families were uprooted down many generations.

The proviso is, of course, that the noble sentiments and concurrence by most in the Federal Parliament and Australia at large are followed up by the appropriate practical actions that lead to true reconciliation between the first Australians and the rest of the nation.

A Genuine ‘Sorry’ Begets A Genuine ‘Thank You’, and Preludes Healing

The ‘Thank You’ message emblazoned on the tee-shirts of some the thousands of indigenous people who came to the national capital Canberra for the profoundly moving ceremonies should not escape notice. When we say sorry, and mean it, there springs a connection of the heart between people who have been at odds with each other. It is the prelude to a healing. It is the first breakage in the walls of sorrowful division.

The standing ovations for the recently elected Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, were accompanied by thunderous applause. There were deep and unconstrained flows of weeping.  For some, it was as members of an afflicted race of a proud and ancient people so long traduced.

Other tears came from those of many other Australian communities who are capable of seeing the all-important connection – but too often missed when a heart connected imagination fails – between benefits long received, and still daily received, that profoundly stem from the defeat of our original inhabitants, leaving many of them, to this day, in appaling conditions that no nation can with any honor sustain.

The Sathya Sai Organization Needs to Learn to ‘Say Sorry’

The Bernie Taupin words to the Elton John song go to the heart of the matter – “sorry seems to be the hardest word”. Those who have tried to “talk it over” with Sai Baba’s key leaders have been everywhere greeted by authoritarian obfuscation and the most shocking psychological states of denial, something of which, caught by hidden camera, was seen by millions who viewed BBC’s The Secret Swami (2004).

 mcenroe-couldnt-match-sai-baba-chief.jpgSai Baba world head, Dr Michael Goldstein of Covina California USA, manifesting sublime love

The Taupin lyrics do great justice to the situation:

Its sad, so sad
Its a sad, sad situation
And its getting more and more absurd
Its sad, so sad
Why cant we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

A History Denied Maintains The Wounds Into The Future

The leaders and many in the Sathya Sai Organization know very well that many decent, highly regarded individuals and families around the world have left it because of the seriousness of the allegations, which are far from confined to the serial sexual molestation of boys and young men, but contain many other issues of great substance.

What the core leaders know, above all, is that there have been genuine attempts by former followers to raise their concerns in a responsible way. They know that those in dissent are not – as with great untruthfulness they have told their rank-and-file members – a ‘mere handful of disgruntled followers’. As the head of one of Australia’s leading private schools, Christ Church Grammar School Perth, Garth Wynne, informs me that he told the 2004 Sai National Conference (I rely on my carefully taken notes):  When serious allegations keep coming over years, they need to be dealt with properly. Unlike other major institutions in Australia and elsewhere who have broken off afflialiation with the Sathya Sai Organization, the school did not cancel the Sai Baba national conference booked at its prestigious venue. However, the message to the conference of Garth Wynne, the Principal (who acted in handling the Sai Baba matter on behalf of the then Anglican Archbishop of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley) was this – as he himself told me:  The accusations against your founder have kept on coming year after year. It puts an institution like ours, as well as your own organization, in a difficult position if you do not follow the appropriate procedures of investigation and accountability

Further Reading

For full text of Mr Kevin Rudd’s ‘sorry speech’,  National Nine News, Wednesday February 13, 2008.

Quote from recently elected Australian Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd:

“We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country”.

Video Footage of Prime Minister Rudd’s speech

Barry Pittard article, Truth Commission Model May Assist Sai Baba Devotees

Posted in Morality, Religion, Social and Politics, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Issues | 1 Comment »

William Aitken Fails on Prof. E. Haraldsson and Dr K. Osis

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 9, 2008

As promised, I shall take some further looks at the work of Brian Steel. See my articles: 

In this blogging and some upcoming ones, I shall be looking at Brian Steel’s article: Bill Aitken and Sathya Sai Baba. A Writer’s Dilemma,  on Aitken’s book, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006).

 

Aitken speaks of his book as a counterweight to “excesses of hagiography”. Steel’s textual analysis, however, reveals beyond any dispute that the book is strongly, despite its claims to the contrary, hagiographical. It isolates “headline grabbing” and superficial views contra Sai Baba, while ignoring the large body of serious criticism by former devotees and other critics that has been taken seriously by many third parties. For example, see below for clickable video material from the BBC’s The Secret Swami and DR’s Seduced. See also, my fairly extensive resource compilation, Exposure of Sai Baba: Media Source List.

 

Brian Steel criticises Bill Aitken’s work for carelessly elevating a minor player, the US parapsychologist Dr Karlis Osis, to major importance and yet leaving out of account Osis’s more relevant and well known research partner, Professor Erlandur (other spelling=Elendur)Haraldsson, author of Miracles Are My Visiting Cards. USA Title, (1988). Modern Miracles. An investigative report on psychic phenomena associated with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. New York: Ballantine Books, 304 pp. This is a work, sold in the many thousands, which Sai Baba devotees commonly – and very mistakenly – hail as ‘proving’ that his so-called miracles are all real.

 

Steel says:

“The author’s preference for Murphet’s quote about the minor participant (Osis) and his inexplicable lack of curiosity about one of the most influential books in the SSB literature is an important flaw in the research for this book, especially since Aitken fleetingly mentions Haraldsson’s book (on p. 220), but merely to recommend its coverage of miracle stories”. 

dr-elendur-haraldsson-sai-baba-investigator.jpgDr E. Haraldsson, Emeritus Professor of the University of Iceland, Reykjavík, a leading academic parapsychology researcher. Incorrectly and widely cited by Sai Baba devotees as having ‘proved’ Sai Baba’s claims to have extraordinary psychic powers. 

 

Professor Haraldsson’s careful and exhaustive investigations discredited Sai Baba’s claim to have ‘resurrected’ Walter Cowan, which the crypto-/ virtual devotee Aitken fails to note. Morover, Osis is promoted as an expert in Kirlian photography. In fact, ‘photographs of auras’ have been shown to be explainable by physics other than by any supposed ‘aura’. There is an interesting Wikipedia article which notes how Kirlian photography has been discredited in the scientific community.

 

To be continued shortly

For Viewing

See The Secret Swami HERE. Available in broadband and modem

Seduced (DR, Danish Broadcasting, Denmark’s national television and radio broadcaster):
(80 MB, Broadband)

Seduced

(21 MB, Modem)

Further References

Posted in New Age, Psychiatry, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

A Host of Sai Baba Hagiographers

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 3, 2008

In the heyday of Sathya Sai Baba’s mission, some devotee writers with various professional backgrounds influenced many, particularly his more educated followers.

These included Professor N. Kasturi, Howard Murphet, Dr John Hislop, Dr Samuel Sandweiss, Ra. Ganapati, Dr Satya Pal Ruhela, V, Balu, Shukuntala Balu, Robert Lowenburg, etc.

Where Hagiography Fails Ethically

The name of William ‘Bill’ Aitken has now to be added to the list of these hagiographical writers on Sai Baba. In coming days I shall be looking at Bill Aitken and Sathya Sai Baba. A Writer’s Dilemma, by the Australian scholar Brian Steel  writing on Aitken’s book, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006).

The Blind Misleading of Blind Yearning

The willingness of those searching, often with a great and aching longing, for peace of mind can conceal from their readers, even well-educated ones, just how hagiographic these works really are.  The role of educated writers who forsake time-honoured principles of rigorous questioning of phenomena needs to be looked at in relation to Sai Baba and his hagiographers. They bear a tremendous responsibility, and I think that history will treat them harshly. They have been, in effect, among the prime recruiting agents for Sai Baba, commanding many thousands of readers, and show no sign of the same careful investigation of the allegations that many former devotees and other critics, as well as major institutions such as the BBC and UNESCO, have made. These writers have profoundly failed in their duty of care – in standards of critical research, and in bringing any accountability to Sai Baba or his global Sathya Sai Organization. Our worldwide network shows no sign that they have attempted to meet or in any way engage with our former devotees, who number many who are honored in all their walks of life, and were so honored when they were so very dedicated in their work in various programs of the Sathya Sai Organization. The scale of the shunning of those in dissent has been simply enormous. 

Spurious ‘Appeals to Authority’ Rampant Among Sai Devotees

A professional standing (e.g., teacher, journalist, psychiatrist and so forth) imparts, quite spuriously, an added aura of authority. In the Sathya Sai Baba movement, this logical fallacy of ‘appeal to authority’ has long served as high octane fuel in the promotion of this guru. There is the appearance of urbane reason but in reality an abandonment of questioning. The guru – especially in regard to his own self-concept – is unchallenged and a myriad of inconsistencies are typically explained away in phrases common to devotees, such as: “Baba’s little leela (guru’s sport)”, his “unfathomable mystery”, his “testing of the devotee’s faith, spiritual progress”, his “wiping clean the devotee’s karmic slate”, etc.

Further Reading

Bill Aitken and Sathya Sai Baba. A Writer’s Dilemma

William Aitken’s Sai Baba Book. Major Flaws Says Scholar
Sai Baba Researchers’ Huge Debt To Scholar Brian D. Steel

Posted in New Age, Opinion, Religion, Sai Baba, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | 1 Comment »

UK Law Lords’ Landmark Ruling On Sex Abuse

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 1, 2008

Breaking 400 years of precedents, Great Britain’s law Lords have ruled that it possible for those alleging sexual abuse to take legal action even years later.

One wonders whether the Manmohan Singh Government in India has the will or the capability of making such major changes in India. Certainly, it has made a beginning with its major study of child abuse in India. See my articles: Child Abuse. Landmark Indian Government Study. Abuse of Indian children ‘common’ and Child Abuse in India. Will Minister Renuka Chowdhury Act? and Dr Naresh Bhatia. Silenced Now In Indian Child Abuse Scourge

Whilst it is true – as activists (see below) make a point of urging – that such legal remedies are far too often the province of those who can afford it, nonetheless the existence of strong laws surrounding sexual abuse can help to influence further social reform. There has to be a strong constellation of responses. It is the case that, for example, many Nazi war criminals escaped the reach of formal justice. But this does not mean the the Nuremburg trials did not send powerful signals and highlight some very great evils.

Those who would attempt to somehow ‘wish’ evil away by averting the gaze and so-called ‘moving on’ help to perpetuate the very evils which they think they have little or no relationship to or responsibility for.

Especially among those who deem themselves ‘spiritual’, there is a lot of confusion about the significant differences between forgiving and forgetting. See my articles: Bernie Banton Case. Mega Poor Can Fight Mega Rich and Dalai Lama: Forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness

The following are excepts from the BBC report Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 13:10 GMT 

bbc_logo.gif

Lords issue landmark abuse ruling
“Victims of sexual abuse may be able to sue their attackers after many years, following a ruling by the Law Lords. 
(Quote from Baroness Hale):
“A fair trial can be possible long after the event and sometimes the law has no choice”  
Leading child abuse lawyer Tracey Storey, of solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said the decision ended the “bizarre situation” which meant child abuse victims over the age of 24 could not sue their abusers.
David Greenwood of Jordans Solicitors, which also represents victims of child abuse, agreed that the ruling would “empower” people to come forward.
“Victims of sexual and physical abuse in care establishments can now be confident that even after many years they will be treated seriously and sympathetically by lawyers and the courts,” he said.
But Victim Support said that while it welcomed the ruling, it believed it would help only a small number of people.
“It’s very good news for her but the wider significance is questionable because the vast majority of offenders don’t have assets to chase,” said spokesman Paul Fawcett.

Posted in Religion, Sai Baba, Sex | Leave a Comment »