A New Celebrity Endorsement of SSB's Alleged Divinity?

Brian Steel  January 2006

Copyright © 2006 Brian Steel

On the occasion of SSB's 80th Birthday in November 2005, and in spite of the obviously extreme frailty of the honoured guest, his Organisation and his devotees celebrated the big party they had been planning for two years. The SSO used their vast resources to try to share this expensive extravanganza with the rest of the world via several powerful websites and their own Radio station. SSB's frailty and limited mobility and interaction, which was also shared visually on official websites, was in such sharp contrast to the vigorous guru of old that independent observers might have wondered why the expensive event took place at all. Many eulogies were published in Indian newpapers and magazines, and in a glossy special number of the U.S. Sathya Sai Newsletter, with major stress on SSB's charitable accomplishments, as has been the official emphasis for several years now when dealing with the wider public. (However, the US Newsletter also made several very specific, nostalgic and unequivocal references to the traditional Divine claims.) On the wider-reaching Internet, devotees were treated to a very long list of resounding endorsements of the guru from prominent Indian politicians, scientists and other well known SSB associates and supporters (as well as a couple of veteran "Western" devotees).
See the following official site:
www.srisathyasaipublications.org/Voice.htm
OR: www.srisathyasaipublications.org/home.htm (Then click on "Voices".) (Note: 9 January 2006. The original second reference given here is no longer valid.)


Among these eulogies on the much-hyped 80th Birthday is one which particularly catches the eye since the author, although very eminent, is not one of the known unconditional Indian celebrity supporters of SSB. The alleged signatory of the "Divine character reference" is Dr Sunny Anand, a U.S. resident. I recently managed to establish initial contact in order to ascertain whether he did in fact make and authorise the extraordinary statement reproduced below. At first Dr Anand stated he was happy to clarify the as yet unidentified statement, but when I quoted it to him, he declined to answer by email, inviting me, instead, to his home for a friendly chat. With equal bonhomie, he added that any further emails from me would be automatically routed to the Junk box of his professional email address. Since he did not see any reason to offer me his private email address, I instantly concluded it would be a waste of my time and money to fly 10,000 miles for the promised chat.

Although my initial question has still not been categorically answered, all I can - and must - do for the moment is to publish the alleged comments, because they are a part of a very powerful promotional public statement by the SSO (or, to be more exact, the SSSBPT, which is the publishing wing of the Organisation - just one of the network of official websites which have sprung up since 1999 to promote the guru who originally became famous for stating (rather disingenuously) that he needed no advertising).

This is how Dr Anand's alleged contribution to the festivities is introduced by the Sathya Sai Organisation, proudly (but perhaps insensitively) preceded by the scientists's exalted official position and even his prestigious academic working address - which is how I initially contacted him. (The bold type is mine. These are the specific but contentious (SSO propaganda) claims on which I (vainly) hoped Dr Anand would comment.)


"Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand, MBBS, D.Phil., FAAP, FCCM, FRCPCH
Pediatrician of repute from United States...
Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences UAMS College of Medicine; Board of Directors, Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute."

[And, following this attention-grabbing "Intro" comes a resounding endorsement of SSB as God on Earth, whose Advent was allegedly prophesied by the Bible, the Qu'ran and other sources.]

"All of Humanity is beholden that Sri Sathya Sai Baba has taken a human form that lives in Puttaparthi, in the Southern part of India. He was born on Nov 23, 1926 and announced his Divine Mission in May, 1940. Millions and millions of instances have proven to the world that God Almighty, the Absolute Reality, the Divine Cosmic Being, the Creator of the Universe has set aside His difficult to grasp Immanence and manifested in the form of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. HE has assumed a human form to guide humankind towards their own Divinity within and to save humanity from its own annihilation.

"The Advent of this Divine Form is referenced in the Book of Revelations of the Bible, in the Holy Koran, in the Vedas and Jaimini Mahabharatha, in the Guru Granth Sahib, and in all of the major religious texts of the world. Currently, Sri Sathya Sai Baba is worshipped by more than 100 million people from more than 200 countries in the world, but most of the world remains oblivious of His Presence. For many decades, any advertisement about His Presence or His Activities was strictly forbidden by Him. His Great Benevolence was that He allowed His Message of Love to be spread by word of mouth, which allowed each listener to experience a glimpse of the ecstasy and bliss that the one who came in contact with Him. This Blissful experience would urge each one to directly experience His Divinity rather than believing in the experiences of other people. Any attempt to describe Him or understand Him is guaranteed to fall far short of its target!! How can a small fish measure or map the ocean? Similarly, therefore, how can a human being who is a tiny part of this Cosmic Being, understand HIM? All I can say is that I was the complete skeptic and initially very sarcastic about His Divinity, His Activities, His Message portrayed through every moment of His Life, until the time came when He called me finally to Puttaparthi to see Him (obtain a Darshan of Him) in October, 1996. That was the one event that has changed the entire course of my life. Many subsequent visits over the past few years and personal contact with Him in interviews and elsewhere, have combined to secure a permanent place for Him in my heart. He is TOTAL and ABSOLUTE LOVE, which He gives generously and unconditionally to the millions of people who flock to Him. Sri Sathya Sai Baba has certainly transformed my life to be infinitely better than it was before His Touch, as He has transformed the lives of the thousands of people that I have personally met - who are as inspired by His Loving Example as I am. With Divine Grace, I have personally met the greatest of scientists, industrialists, politicians, world leaders, or members of the Royalty in several countries, but to compare all of these great personalities with Sri Sathya Sai Baba is like holding a candle to the Sun."

(See the above Internet URL or the following specific one: www.srisathyasaipublications.org/anand.htm


Commentary
(This assumes that Dr. Anand did in fact write the endorsement as the SSO alleged on its website. If he did not, then the commentary is addressed to the SSO itself.)

Excluding Dr Anand's references to his personal experiences and thoughts, the rest, including the deifying capital initial letters for His and Him, appears to be a naive repetition of Organization propaganda, including many familiar misleading points and some errors, which a little Internet research could have avoided. (See the sections outlined above in bold type.) Even the famous statement about advertising is only technically correct: At no stage of the last 40 years did SSB condemn the several hundred books written (and often self-published) in English about him which were instrumental in attracting many new devotees to him, nor his own (early) frequent and explicit Divine claims and boasts, nor the publication and diffusion of Sanathana Sarathi, the monthly magazine in many languages about his Mission. No advertising?

Most (if not all) of the prophecies referred to by Dr Anand, propagated for decades by the SSO and devotee writers, are exaggerated (and can be checked by anyone with a modicum of independence, energy and interest in the truth). The incorrect reference to the Qu'ran is most unfortunate, to say the least. To expand just a little on this specfic alleged prophecy, even the Shi'ite Hadith referred to (though not described as such) for many years by some over-zealous SSB devotees and writers does not say what they claim. Moreover, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the OFFICIAL Chaitanya Jyoti Museum built in 2000 to commemorate SSB's life and Mission used to (and may still) exhibit as proof of the theologically impossible claim of an official Muslim endorsement of the Hindu SSB as the promised Muslim Mahdi an impressive-looking quotation from a venerable Persian book. Alas, when translated, this exhibited "proof" is totally irrelevant to this crucial claim.

The observer is left wondering why such a public international scientific celebrity as Dr Anand would offer a contentious (and propagandistic) public announcement to an increasingly controversial spiritual organisation (irrespective of its publicised charitable endeavours)?

The observer might also wonder, now as always, why a God on Earth would need such mundane endorsements.


Endnote

As it happens, Dr Anand is an eminent scientist and an expert on foetuses. In 2004 he gave crucial expert evidence on the feelings of pain by foetuses to an important and controversial national inquiry in USA. The guru he apparently divinises has made many idiosyncratic statements on scientific matters. He also made the following statement: shortly after he met Dr Anand. Was Dr Anand his source?

"What is the origin of man? At the beginning there is garbha (space). In this garbha (womb or space) human life originates and has the form of a bubble on the seventh day. On the 15th day it takes the form of the embryo. On the 30th day it becomes foetus. On the 60th day, the head starts taking shape. On the 210th day, the foetus quickens with life. On the 240th day, the full body is formed. On the 270th day the child comes out into the world. The Vedha declared that space and Time are essential factors in human birth." (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 30, Chapter 6, p.46, and in Sanathana Sarathi, April 1997, p. 86. The quotation comes from a Discourse on 7 March 1997 where SSB also (ramblingly) lectured his audience at some length (in Telugu) on the atom and the Vedas.)

(12 January) The Editors of www.exbaba.com have added a posting referring to TWO conflicting statements by SSB on the subject of foetuses (US: fetuses).


References:

1. http://bdsteel.tripod.com/More/index.html
On that site, see (at least) the 4 Dossiers, the 3 Bibliographies, and the article on Omniscience and Truth.

2. For more on the highly inappropriate SSO references to the Prophet Muhammad, see here

3. [email 20 December 2005]
Dear Dr Anand
Thank you for your prompt reply.
The statement reproduced below was recently published by an official website of the Sathya Sai Organization in India. May I ask if you really endorse all that it claims, especially the piece I have put in bold type about the alleged Prophecies?
Do you also endorse the Avatar and Divinity claims?

I will expand further, if necessary, when I hear that this statement does indeed come from you and with the authority of your medical position.

Thank you,
Namaste,
Brian Steel


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