Revealing Materials On Sai Baba Of India
Posted by Barry Pittard on December 21, 2008
In a surprise visit to Puttaparthi and other official Sathya Sai Baba locales in late 2008, Brian Steel acquired a series of books and audio materials.
There are several notable scholarly and other strengths observable in Brian Steel’s vast opus on the Sathya Sai phenomenon.
Yet again, these qualities come into play in his most recent offering: Recent books about Sathya Sai Baba. Part 2. Different Types of Hagiography Brian Steel, December 2008
By Their Documents We Shall Know Them
One of these strengths is his persistent use of, and great familiarity with, the large load (and, from a critical point of view, lode) of official and other public devotee documents. Through his emphasis on these sources – as distinct from other sources of information – Steel has been able to expose Sai Baba’s astounding array of self-generated myths, failed predictions, incorrect scientific and historical references, and, all in all, a seemingly endless series of contradictions and anomalies, as well as a great deal of highly flawed hagiography. See my article:
in which I noted:
It is by reference to the conflicted words and actions of Sathya Sai Baba’s leaders that the profound failure of intellectual and moral integrity of his operation at large is made manifest to honest enquirers. Indeed Robert Priddy’s main website is entitled: Sathya Sai Baba In Word And Action
Steel’s Emphasis On SS Org Documents Complements Other Forms Of Analysis
An example of the ‘other sources of information’ to which I just referred are those accounts from many parts of the world where subjects have reported their direct experiences of sexual abuse of boys and young men, of the cover up by the ashram and local, state and central government organs in India of circumstances surrounding the killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom on April 6, 1993, various ashram scams – e.g., those relating to the sale of apartments at the Prashanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi, and Brindavan, Kadugodi – and so forth.
It is not that Brian Steel gainsays the significance of these other accounts, although I have long thought that he likes to be on the more solid empirical ground, where the often self-exposing, officially recorded words of the so-called God, and of his apostles, can hardly be swallowed back. Steel has, in fact, continued – although without the fetters of a blind belief which he, like others of us were once weighed down by – in a line of expertise which was his, as an important published writer within the Sai literary canon especially in the Sai bibliographical area, when he was a follower for twelve years of Sathya Sai Baba.
Recently, Brian Steel returned from a surprise visit to Puttaparthi bearing a swag of documents and audiovisual material that, under his critical scrutiny, reveal far more mischief than their devotion-blinded authors surely ever dreamed would be perceptible to commonsense and reason. Their works taken uncritically by devotees will, of course, only reinforce persistent Sai mythmaking, but, if exposed to the world at large, will not be likely to win friends and influence people.
Official Sai Audiovisuals Show Steadily Ageing Sai Baba (Who Said He Would Not Age After His 60th Birthday!)
In his fascinating article looking at some of the material he brought back with him, under the subheading ‘Official Promotion of Sathya Sai Baba – Audiovisual’
Brian Steel says:
I have viewed four of these 60-minute $2 DVDs (purchased at a SSO Centre in India). Three of them, in a series called Spiritual Blossoms (possibly produced for the guru’s 80 th Birthday in 2005), offer DVD versions of short archival clips from many old videos from the 1960s to the 1990s (with an added background bhajan accompaniment – in Part 2 of Volume 3, SSB sings bhajans himself).
The fourth DVD which I purchased in India was With the LORD in the Mountains (www.sssbpt.org, April 2006) This is the official record of SSB’s 2006 visit to his summer centre, Sai Sruti, in Kodaikanal, with his entourage, his students and some devotees (including some foreigners). The footage gives graphic evidence of the steady physical 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 several students constantly hovering in attendance, particularly to support him if he attempts to stand up or move about. His conversation and personal contact with devotees is much more limited and less spontaneous than in his heyday but the DVD shows that in 2006 he was still able to accept many letters and to exchange some words from his custom-built 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.
Select writings of Brian Steel
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)
Brian Steel Indexes
Barry Pittard On Brian Steel
For Brian Steel’s detailed exposure of severe inadequacies of a formost Sai Baba hagiographer mentioned in this article refer to Steel’s:
on William Aitken’s book, ‘Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books, India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006)
Robert Priddy. Similar themes