Note, 18 July 2010: This earlier article reports on a deeply upsetting, indeed, ugly experience in my early days at Whitefield. Now that so many allegations against Sathya Sai Baba have surfaced year after year, the situation depicted here takes on still more sombre resonances.
A correspondent, who has a noted role within the wider Hindu community, has just written to me:
“I visited Puttaparthi several times when I used to live in India and work at a nearby place called Anantapur, which was about 50 km from where Sai Baba lived. What I used to notice most during my visits was the rude behavior of the volunteers. I wondered why they were so rajassic and gross while the guru was preaching sattvic behavior and the canteen management took pride in serving sattvic food to enhance sattvic qualities”.
(Note: “Sattiwic” = Sanscrit; having a serene, harmonious, balanced mind or attitude. “Rajassic = Associated with animals and activity, emotions, desire, selfishness and passion. See any standard Sanscrit dictionary).
I should point out that, in my years at Puttaparthi and Whitefield, I have seen many volunteers do a splendid job; however, there is a nasty ‘underbelly’ which, to judge from continuing reports, has never been addressed. In some cases, Sai Baba and his authorities are complicit in monumental cover up, as in the case of the police killings in his bedroom in April 1993. See: Sathya Sai Baba – questions and his silence
The writer’s thoughts prompted my recollections of an incident at the time I was teaching in Sathya Sai Baba’s college. It involved one of the other long-stay devotees, who had come to Sathya Sai Baba in the sixties, an American man named Joseph. In 1979, in the Whitefield ashram crowd awaiting Sai Baba’s public appearance (darshan), Joseph, began to talk out aloud – quite audibly for those who sat near on the sand, as I did. (A large auditorium now stands in that area). He was distressed and expressed moral outrage – he repeated that some college hostel boys had told him that Sai Baba had asked a number of them (in Joseph’s words) to “line up and masturbate.”
On the third or so day of Joseph’s dark rumblings, six hefty Indian male service volunteers (seva dals) came and dragged him out, his arms and legs flailing. The head service volunteer, whom I knew quite well, told me that Joseph had been ordered not to return. One can never forget the struggle that the immensely powerful Joseph put up, shouting out the accusations – no doubt for all to hear. It was clear that the accounts of the students had pained him, and that he was at great odds to somehow get a message out. An hour afterwards, the afore-mentioned volunteer told me that his duty (which he clearly regretted) was “like wrestling a tiger.”
A very distressed Indian man who had witnessed the harrowing proceedings said to me, “If Sai Baba is God, why do they need to use all this violence against this man?”
For the next few days, Joseph climbed a tree outside the ashram wall, and cried forth the allegations for us all to hear. Then, he was gone. I heard from a close friend and local resident, who knew some of the officers, that the Kadugodi police had thrashed Joseph, and sent him on his way. A disturbing implication is that it is very well-known that the local police are firmly in control of Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram authorities. Here was a well-known figure who had lived long in the community.
Many of us have had ‘flags’ which we have, in our psychological denial state, ignored. We sleep on, but after slamming the alarm clock off. Older well-informed devotees will recall brutal, corrupt people like Kumar, the betel nut chewing stick wielding ex superintendent of police, who was Sai Baba’s gatekeeper at Puttaparthi for many years? A woman in the Sai center which I attended told me of a traumatic experience of seeing terrible violence perpetrated by some of Sai Baba’s assistants. She said it was too painful to talk about and that the incident had presented her with grave inner struggles about Sai Baba.
Sathya Sai Baba’s devotees need to be honest and admit candidly that many dreadful happenings have long taken place around Sathya Sai Baba. Some may eventually come to realise that, once revelations come out, the memories of many others are triggered, and that information, especially in the age of information technology, spreads exponentially. What pro Sathya Sai Baba apologists who constantly attack those who speak out seem to fail to recognize is that a great deal of corroboration of the facts does not end with the work of prominent former devotee writers and other critics. Many make their own discoveries altogether unreliant on the latter. Also, huge numbers read our articles and examine video footage, and discuss with family, friends, colleagues, fellow members of associations, travellers, and so on. They print out and examine content. They ask questions, and some investigate rigorously, turning up appalling and compelling evidence. Thus, the word gets out, and never stops at the point of this or that blog site or web site
In time, darkness has a hard job hiding itself from itself.
There is a Spanish version available: