Brian Steel’s Surprise Visit To Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram
Posted by Barry Pittard on November 12, 2008
With a scholar’s eye for detail, Brian Steel, former follower of Sathya Sai Baba and author of significant books related to him, has just returned from a brief visit to Puttaparthi.
For busy readers who may not have time to read the lengthy, although crisply written, article, I shall digest portions, along with a few comments and links to further resources; otherwise you may wish to go straight to the article itself at: Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in October 2008.
Sathya Sai Dizzyland
Note: For more pictorial evidence of the vast lavishness of Puttparthi – much of it achieved via the influx of foreign funds in the scores of millions (to put the matter conservatively!) – see my article: Sai Baba, Kubla Khan, Citizen Kane, Bill Gates et alia
Brian Steel writes:
“In mid-October 2008, during a three week visit to India, I made a 5-hour visit to Puttaparthi and Prasanthi Nilayam. My visit was timed to avoid the festivals of Navaratri, Dassera / Vijayadashami, so moving around the township and the ashram would be comfortable”.
Where Have All The Foreigners Gone?
“At Prasanthi and Puttaparthi I only saw a handful of foreign visitors, mainly middle-aged and post-middle-aged women. I saw no foreigner of either sex under about 40 in the ashram, in the cafés or in the shops”.
“The mandir was empty and closed. Photographs were forbidden and loitering (even to peer inside the mandir, where ramps for the ailing Sathya Sai Baba’s chair were clearly visible) was discouraged by Seva Dal volunteers posted around the perimeter. The number of items prohibited in the mandir has now reached about 20, including books and pens … From the tall surrounding township buildings, for example the Sai Heritage Hotel just past the ornate main entrance to the ashram, photographs were strictly prohibited
Sai Towers bookshop offered up a few purchases of typical recent publications but most of the Sai Towers shelves are now stocked with books by other publishers on other gurus and on general spiritual topics”.
Puttaparthi Airport A ‘White Elephant”
Steel confirms the demise of the airport at Puttaparthi. Many devotees who felt (myself among them when still a follower) felt, with the excitement of anticipation, that the airport symbolised the imminent appearance of Sathya Sai Baba on the world stage – he taking off from the airport, and the leaders of the world flying in at other times to be guided by him. (See relevant article links below). Steel writes:
“Apart from its convenience for visiting VIPs with their own jets (especially before elections) and apart from special charters on big festivals like the 23 November birthday and Christmas, it is rarely used, as taxi drivers confirmed. Nevertheless, for the present at least, Sathya Sai Baba’s expensive airport is still featured on the Indian Airlines map of routes in India (see the in-flight magazine Swagat – Welcome)”.
The massive new airport at Bengaluru (an unpopular politically imposed new name), inaugurated only a few months ago along with its 3,000 acres of land and gardens, will be a blessing (godsend?) for Sathya Sai’s dwindling foreign devotees, especially those from countries in financial turmoil”.
Failure of Promised Moon Miracle Ignored. Myth-making Continues
Brian Steel further confirms information about failure of Sathya Sai Baba’s promised moon miracle contained in Priddy and Pittard articles (see Urls below), pointing to the sale of unreferenced postcards of “Saibaba on Moon” in the roadside shops of Puttaparthi:
“And in a special glossy 15 Rupee booklet of postcards of Puttaparthi Sightseeing (another local website offers ‘Puttaparthi shopping’), the same card, which shows Sathya Sai Baba’s head superimposed on the Moon is dated as 22 October 2007 and is sourced to Richard Margolin of the Manhattan Sai Baba Center”.
Steel also observed the presence of the same type of postcards depicting the hugely-funded projects such as the Indoor Sports Stadium, the Music building and the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum. He comments:
“So the rural town of Puttaparthi (with its 10,000 residents) seems set to become a huge Sathya Sai Baba Memorial venue, perhaps even on the Tirupati circuit”
Evidence of Marked Decline in Sai Baba’s Health
Elsewhere in India Brian Steel was able to acquire an official DVD issued by the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust of SSB’s 2006 visit to the guru’s summer retreat (Sai Sruti) in Kodaikanal, on the southern crest of the upper Palani Hills near Madurai, Tamil Nadu, one of India’s the jewel-like ‘hill stations’ (resorts) so beloved of the British colonisers and many others who can afford to retreat there.
Brian Steel says:
“The footage is of research interest because it offers official evidence of the steady physical (and perhaps mental) decline of Sathya Sai Baba in the past four or five years. This has brought about major changes in his former flamboyant darshan style, which now consists mainly of wheelchair-bound appearances with many students constantly hovering in attendance, particularly to support him if he attempts to stands up or move about. His conversation and personal contact with devotees is more limited than in his heyday but the DVD shows that in 2006 he was still able to accept many letters from his chair and exchange some words from his wheelchair. Recent 2008 official website footage (especially from http://www.saicast.org) shows how his physical condition has continued to decline in the past two years and how painful it seems for him to make discourses. His face now remains expressionless for most of the time or seems to display something akin to disorientation”.
Retired academic Brian Steel’s extensive website Recent Research on the Claims of Sathya Sai Baba – with his long-established, incisive and well-researched articles on the Sathya Sai Baba phenomenon. His blogsite, which contains a variety of themes, some related to Sathya Sai Baba – is at: http://briansteel.wordpress.com/
A Brian Steel Sampler: Undermining of the Sai Mythos
For a detailed, critical examination of the Medhi Moud prophecy countless Sai Baba devotees place great but sorely unfounded faith in, see The “Mehdi Moud” Prophecy Revisited
Robert Priddy’s blogsite
On Sai Baba’s Failed Moon Darshan
On Sai Baba’s Failed Airport
At this blogsite: Call For Media and Government Investigation of Sathya Sai Baba –
On The Failed Moon Darshan
On Sai Baba’s Failed Airport At Puttaparthi