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.