The Long Journey: Exposing Sathya Sai Baba (1)
Posted by Barry Pittard on September 23, 2011
The present writer was deeply devoted to Sai Baba for twenty-five years and taught for two years at one of his leading institutions, the Sathya Sai College at Whitefield, via Bangalore, South India. He greatly enjoyed this work, teaching many boys and young men in their three years’ degree course. He lived around Sai Baba for several years while engaged in various voluntary social service activities, of which the college teaching was one.
It is not the Sathya Sai Organization’s good works that we contest. Many of former devotees gave hugely of their time and money in the belief that they served one who was the divine incarnate. Rather, the target of the critique is the long history of wrongdoing, and of its cover-up. And this by arguably India’s most historically powerful and influential guru, and, of course, those of his servitors who have been in-the-know, and aided and abetted him. That is to say, who have known of the Sai Baba’s serial sexual and other abuses, of the cover up of the circumstances surrounding the 1993 police killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom, and scams such as misappropriation of funds donated from around the world (e.g., the apartments and water scandals), the faking of miracles, the expert cultivation of wealthy people, the squandering of huge resources in lavish buildings, adornments, general panoply – all of this opulence in a tragically poor country – and so on.
The years since late 1999 saw the rise of that intense activism which knowledgeable former devotees tend to refer to as ‘The Exposé’. It furnished opportunity to learn much about strike satisfying balances between other life calls, such as family, profession, studies, and so on. The fact that almost all foremost activists in exposing Sai Baba are retired professionals should not surprise. That is, those of us like (the late) Glen Meloy, Robert Priddy and Brian Steel and myself. Or should I say – refreshed!
Exposing Sai Baba and the core leadership of the Sathya Sai Organization was far from being a purely Internet affair. In approaching governments and other influential institutions, we planned and coördinated activities that show the concerns of former devotees in many countries. Many have deep roots in their own wider communities, which assisted us when we needed contact with skilled well-connected, skilled professionals. One is most thankful to them.
For the Sathya Sai apparatchiks have long had great influence in high places. They played dirty, as is well-known to noted scholars, journalists and other investigators who have come to know us well. Historians will never find other than that we played hard but clean. The only way to succeed against bullies like Sai Baba and his henchmen is never to give in. They expect you to do so. They think threats and underhand tactics will do the trick. Sadly, their cynical estimate is, in the case of many, often right. One of the joys of facing ‘goddams’ (as George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan called them) is that the company of those who fight on, within integrity, is the best company anyone can keep.
Any genuine privilege that we have is ours because someone faced bullies who did not want others to have it. To take the proceeds but not pass on the legacy of those who worked to stop the rot is base ingratitude.
The exposure of Sathya Sai Baba and his organization sprang from the keenest wish, and indeed civil duty, to warn of many and terrible abuses. A particularly demanding part of the work was processing the accounts of the abuses and spiritual betrayals. This was emotionally akin, so to speak, to the situation in which paramedics have to learn to handle the sight of blood and guts.
We – i.e., those such as Glen Meloy, Robert Priddy , Hari Sampath, Shirley Pike, Elena Hargering, Åsa Samsioe, Conny Larsson – wanted to see the Sai Baba’s survivor’s in strong, supportive situations – e.g., access to qualified, experienced mental health professionals. Too often, survivors of sexual and other severe forms of abuse do not avail themselves of such services, preferring, as it were, to ‘tough’ things out. Failure to reach out for professional help in dealing with the inner stuffs is, I think, sheer folly.
The BBC’s term ‘the Secret Swami’ is most apt. The more our international outreach increased the more we discovered cases of profound corruption in the organization and its leader. Sai Baba and his henchmen practised their deceptions with great secrecy.
However, although many devotees in the international Sathya Sai Organization are ignorant of the evils perpetrated, they bear, nonetheless, some of the culpability. This is because they have allowed themselves to become part of a highly unaccountable, authoritarian organization. They have ignored proper transparency and accountability practices available their own workplaces. Still more, any sense of fairness and decency deserted a great many Sai devotees. Their sense of natural justice is as a filthy rag. For years, they knew and honored the goodness and integrity of those who, as the terrible revelations unfolded, left Sai Baba, and who spoke out. And indeed those who tried to raise issues within the Sathya Sai Organization.
That those who talk so much about truth, right conduct, peace and love deserted the core principles of their faith is the most singular of ironies. Especially to those members or leave-takers who think seriously about these issues, I suggest careful, honest reading of the following articles:
Badaev’s account is found in his:
Alaya Rahm’s Lawsuit vs Sathya Sai Society of America. Joint Statement by the International JuST Group and the Rahm family (Al Rahm was one of the foremost of top leaders in the SS Org.) and:
Searing true testimony about Sathya Sai Baba abuse (the case of Hans de Kraker, Australia, for years the manager of the Western Canteen at Puttaparthi. Article by Robert Priddy)
Sathya Sai Baba Organization’s Betrayal of Love and Compassion (including Terry Gallagher case – Gallagher investigated extensively, and, in consequence, resigned as leader of the Sathya Sai Organization, Australia)
Guru Sex Abuse Testimony To BBC – After Years of Silence (Mark Roche story)
(Note: You may prefer to go straight to the Petition): Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization