Counter-Evidence to the Sathya Sai Baba Divinity Myth and Related Topics. A Basic Source Guide
Brian Steel March 2005
Copyright © 2005 Brian Steel
Turning aside from the necessarily muted hype about the 2005 Mahasivaratri celebrations in Puttaparthi, for which devotees were forewarned that SSB had acceded to their concerned pleas for him to look after his health by promising NOT to produce any lingams in public (following the fiasco captured on the BBC film of 2004), let us consider wider issues about SSB, including the reasons why Mahasivaratri in Puttaparthi has acquired such a special fame. This raises once again the questions of SSB's own claims, the contribution of the SSO, spokespersons and devotees to the Divine image and their steadfast denial of any criticism of this official image.
My recent visit to India made it abundantly clear to me that, in spite of all the controversy swirling around the name of SSB, the publication of misleading and erroneous information about him has not abated one iota. Spokespersons and over-zealous devotees keep on churning out the same sort of uncritical and unreliable eulogies of this increasingly controversial guru as in earlier times when there was no substantial evidence (or few people willing to heed the evidence and rumours that already existed) to challenge the myth of SSB's Divinity and the anecdotes on which much of his unique 'Divine' fame is based. The mass of counter-evidence, old and new, is simply being ignored, ostrich-like, by very influential longstanding devotees, some lazy journalists, a number of New Age practitioners, naive or malicious camp-followers and even by one or two professional writers who intermittently switch off their critical faculties when describing SSB.
A further stimulus for the compilation of this Guide was the surprise (indeed, shock!) discovery (in the SSO Centre in Mumbai in February 2005) of a glossily illustrated book officially published and distributed by the SSO way back in 2001: Chaitanya Jyoti. Experiencing the Divine. The Millennium Museum Depicting the Message and Mission of Sri Sathya Sai Avatar (Prashanti Nilayam, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation).
The exotic museum was inaugurated in November 2000, but by some freak chance - and to my regret - neither it nor this book about it had come to my attention until now. Having read the book and seen the coloured photos of the exhibits, I have no alternative but to belatedly bring their extraordinary nature and what I can only describe as their crude propagandistic excesses to public attention (briefly here; more extensively perhaps later). The fact is that the Museum and its singular exhibits show 'concretely' and beyond any doubt that the SSO is determined to project an unmistakable picture of SSB, at least in India, as THE indisputable Avatar of the Age, God on Earth. By contrast, it is well known that the International SSO has been quite busy of late projecting a self-image outside India as a large charitable institution headed by a charismatic and ecumenical spiritual leader. What needs to be stressed, then, in criticism of this Museum project is that the freely available counter-evidence shows that, whatever his other qualities and achievements, SSB is NOT the Divinity that he claims to be. Therefore it is a matter of great concern that such a flamboyant popular monument as the SSO's new Museum (and the book which closely describes it) officially sponsors and reinforces a misleading image in such a crude manner.
The book is a lavishly illustrated guide to the visually striking oriental-style building, which covers 65,000 square feet of space in the Hillview Stadium area of Puttaparthi and is dedicated in minute detail to a propagandistic portrayal of the long life and Mission of SSB. The Chaitanya Jyoti Museum and its exhibits (and the illustrated book based presenting it to those who may not be able to visit) loudly proclaim SSB's Divinity to the world. It illustrates (with models, illustrations, animations, graphics and the latest audio and visual technology) the known Divinity claims by SSB himself (Omniscientand Omnipotent Avatar), beginning with the anecdotes associated with his birth and early life. In addition,the Museum officially presents many OTHER extraordinary claims (some particularly unconvincing or flimsy, like the prophecies and some of the alleged miracles chosen for detailed re-creation) by SSB's spokespersons and over-enthusiastic devotees, which were not previously considered as official (as far as I am aware). Since this museum represents a major escalation of the public claims about SSB and his life, and since visitors attend museums to see representations of factual knowledge, it is to be regretted that the SSO has officially authorised, along with a presentation of SSB's character, charisma and major achievements in the field of service and charity, a lifelike representation of those aspects about SSB and his claims which are unsubstantiated or highly controversial as if they were the undisputed truth, especially by adding further polemical or misleading material to the exhibition. What posterity will make of such a self-indulgent exhibition is difficult to foresee.
On the cover of the book, is a photograph of the Museum facade and entrance. Of one of the huge outside constructions, a tall gaudily ornate stupa (pillar) with a hand and arm holding up a blue globe shown on the cover, we are told (p. 17) that it represents SSB's hand and arm holding up the universe and that when shown an early model of the hand and a globe of the EARTH, SSB had remarked (not untypically) "not world but universe" and his eager assistants (also not untypically) had taken him literally and changed the design to suit his apparent wishes.
The large building consists of 7 main sections or stages. In Stage 1, the exhibits of "Avatars in Bharat and Other World Incarnations" (including Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Zarathustra and Shankaracharya as 'partial Avatars') obviously reinforce for unquestioning visitors the Divine status and antecedents of SSB. (No mention of Shirdi Sai in this section, though pictures of the two Sai Babas stand side by side at the entrance.) Jesus is described as "A Messenger of Love and Sacrifice" rather than as the Son of God, as is SSB's custom in his Christmas Discourses.
Stage 2 (pp. 46-55) deals in detail with the SSO's version of The Coming of Sai, beginning with an extraordinary collection of unsubstantiated or flimsy myths about the prophecies of SSB's Advent by, in this order: The Bible (The Book of Revelations), Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, "Mahdi Mou'd", the Shuka Nadi Palm Leaves, Shirdi Sai, and Sri Aurobindo. In other words, all the old 'chestnuts' from the SSB literature and gossip, which is surely where they belong, rather than under the very provocative official label, "Fulfilled Prophecies". Interestingly, there is no mention of the most preposterous prophecy of all, SSB's own indiscreet claim in 1968 that Jesus had pointed to a lamb and also prophesied the coming of "Ba-Ba". (Yet that same claim is boldly featured, without any embarrassment, on one of the SSO official websites.) (Incidentally, a further criticism of the official printed guide to the museum is its unpleasant smell, which is presumably due to the vast quantity of coloured metallic inks used in depicting the succession of garish displays.)
In essence, the populist Chaitanya Jyoti Museum (together with other exotic buildings in Puttaparthi), unequivocally designed to appeal to the cultural background, expectations and aspirations of SSB's large local constituency of Hindu devotees, underlines the important inherent tensions between SSB's populist characteristics and his and the SSO's global ambitions.
For all the above reasons, I feel that it is time to present a list showing where to locate the accumulating counter-evidence to all such Divine claims, and other controversial topics about SSB anf the SSO, so that in future, writers and spokespersons who do not bother to take notice of the evidence may be held more responsible for repeating unsupported hearsay, claims and myths - unless, of course, they can successfully refute the evidence (rather than loftily or maliciously dismissing it, as has tended to be the case hitherto). Most of the items listed below have surfaced during the last five years (2000-2005), but there is also a substantial number dating back to the 1960s, which are now deservedly receiving more attention than when they first appeared.
Here then, to weigh against the hundreds of uncritical and repetitive books about SSB by spokespersons and devotees, which have contributed so much to the strength of the SSB myth, now defiantly embodied in this Museum, is the main counter-evidence, amounting to many hundreds of pages.
(A composite annotated collection of critical bibliography is also available.)
* Denotes authors or sites where many more articles and references may be found.
1. Books and Articles
(I am especially indebted to Professor S.P.Ruhela for the data in his book on SSB and the Press, listed below.)
Abbas, K.A., 'What is it about? Blitz and the Baba', Blitz, 9 October 1976.
*Badaev, Serguei, Many relevant articles and notes on www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net, 2002-
Bailey, David & Faye The Findings, Conwy, North Wales: private publication, 2000. (See also www.snowcrest.net/sunrise/links.htm and www.exbaba.com)
The single most influential stimulus to the research undertaken over the past five years.)
Balakrishnan, S., 'The Plot to Kill Sai Baba', The Illustrated Weekly of India, 19 June 1993.
*Beyerstein, Dale, Sai Baba's Miracles. An Overview,
http://seercom.com/bcs/ (originally 1992, now listed anonymously)
c 1979: Sai Baba. Lord of the Air, Delhi, Vikas.
1984: Avatar of Night. The Hidden Side of Sai Baba, New Delhi: Tarang Paperbacks.
1986: Riders of the Cosmic Circuit. Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda Gods of the New Age, Herts, UK: Lion Publishing.
2000: Avatar of Night. Special Millennial Edition, Berkeley: End Run Publishing.
1999: The Spiritual Tourist. A Personal Odyssey through the Outer Reaches of Belief, London, Bloomsbury, 1998.
2000: 'Divine Downfall', in The Telegraph Magazine and The Electronic Telegraph, 28 October 2000. [Also in The Sunday Age, Melbourne, 12 November 2000]
Chaitanya Jyoti. The Millennium Museum depicting the Message and Mission of Sri Sathya Sai Avatar, Prasanthi Nilayam, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, 2001.
Chari, C.T.K., 'Regurgitation, Mediumship and Yoga', Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 47, No. 757, September 1973, pp. 156-172.
Christopher, M., Search for the Soul, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979. [pp. 114-116]
Conway, Timothy, 'A Letter to SSB Devotee "Selena"', http://users.snowcrest.net/sunrise/Dv-tim1.htm [6 August 2001]
See also: www.exbaba.com (on Plagiarism)
Dadlani, Sanjay, 'Sai Baba: Shiva or Sadhaka?'
Dynes, Michael and Kennedy Dominic, 'I sought peace and couldn't find it',The Times, London, 27 August 2001.
Falk, Geoffrey D., Stripping the Gurus. Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment, e-book, www.millionmonkeyspress.com, 2005.
Garden, Mary, The Serpent Rising, Melbourne, Sid Harta, 2003.
Gogineni, Babu R. R., 'Sex, Lies and Videotape. Retelling the Satya Sai Story', www.iheu.org, 1996.
'Going after godmen with feet of clay', The Hindustan Times, 21 August 1995.
Hanisch, D. and E. Hartgering, 'Sai Baba's Borrowed Wisdom',
Haraldsson, Erlendur: (One of the most interesting and most widely read writers on SSB, basically seen by devotees as a 'pro-SSB' academic writer, but Professor Haraldsson offers occasional seeds of criticism and glimpses that further investigation is needed. He has not commented publicly on recent research and controversy.)
1987 'Miracles Are My Visiting Cards'. An Investigative Report on the Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba, London, Century Paperbacks. (Also marketed for sale in India only by Prasanthi Publications of New Delhi.)
1996 Modern Miracles, Norwalk, CT, Hastings House. (The latter has the same content as the new Indian edition: personal communication.)
Hartgering. Elena, See www.exbaba.com (on Plagiarism and other topics)
*Holbach, Paul, Various penetrating critical articles written during the late 1990s: http://www.geocities.com/p_holbach/eng/main_e.htm or:
The Indian Skeptic, See www.indian-skeptic.org/html
(See also Premanand, B.)
Karanjia, R.K., God Lives in India, Puttaparthi, Saindra, 1994.
(NOT a critical work but a rare and important media interview with SSB in 1976.)
'Three die after placing their hope in guru,'The Times, London, 27 August 2001.
'Suicide, sex and the guru,'The Times, London, 27 August 2001.
Kodimela, Venu K., 'DD Tape Unveils Baba Magic despite Cover-up', Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad, 23 November 1992.
Kovoor, Abraham: (The original Indian Rationalist SSB Critic)
1976: Begone Godmen! Encounters with Spiritual Frauds, Bombay, JAICO. (8th impression, 2000)
1980: Gods, Demons and Spirits, Bombay, JAICO. (6th impression 1998)
2000: Exposing Paranormal Claims, Podanur, Indian CSICOP.
Kumar, S. Nagesh, 'Shock at Puttaparthi. The Bloodshed in Sai Baba's Ashram', Frontline, 2 July 1993.
Love is My Form: See under Padmanaban, R.
Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure, Sydney, Bantam, 2002.
Manu Rao, B.S. 'Sai Baba lashes out at detractors', in Times of India 26 December, 2000. Also on http://www.saibabaguru.com.
Menon, Amarnath K. and Ashok Malik 'Test of Faith', India Today 4 December, 2000: 38-46.
Murphy, Padraic, 'Sex Claims Engulf Empire of 'god' guru', in The Sunday Age, 12 November, 2000, Melbourne, Australia.
Nagarajan, T.M. Satya Sai Baba: Godman or Fraud? Murder at the Ashram, New Delhi, Prime Books, 1993.
Nagel, Alexandra H.M.:
1994: 'The Sai-paradox: tegenstrijdigheden van en rondom Sathya Sai Baba', in Religieuze Bewegingen in Nederland, nr. 29, 1994: 123-153.
*2001: A Guru Accused. Sai Baba, from Avatar to Homo-paedophile, at http://www.exbaba.com
*For and Against Sathya Sai Baba on the Internet, at http://www.exbaba.com
*Sai Baba as Shiva-Shakti: a Created Myth? Or?, at http://www.exbaba.com
*2003: 'Sai Baba, God of goeroe? Een verschil in perspectief', in BRES No. 221, Aug.-Sept. 2003, pp. 79-87.
2004: 'Wolf Messing, an enigmatic 'psychic entertainer' whom Sathya Sai Baba claims to have encountered', from an unpublished MA Thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2004.
Narasimhaiah, H., 'Sathya Sai Baba - God or Fraud?' The Illustrated Weekly of India 3 October 1976
Also: Letters to SSB published in Sunday, 5 September 1976.
Newbery, Beatrice, Interview with B.Premanand, The Independent, London, 24 December 2000.
Nexus, 'Sai Baba Exposed', Australia, Aug-Sept 2000, 61-65.
Padmanaban, R. et al, Love is My Form. Vol. 1 The Advent (1926-1950). Prasanthi Nilayam, Sai Towers, 2000.
[NOT a critical book but contains ESSENTIAL new information about SSB which contradicts official data.]
*Pittard, Barry, 'In the Shadow of Sathya Sai Baba', www.saiguru.net and www.exbaba.com, 2003.
Prashad, Srinivasa, 'God or Fraud?' The Illustrated Weekly of India, 18 June 1993.
1977: Divine Octopus, Podanur.
1994: Science versus Miracles, Vol. 1, Podanur, Indian CSICOP
*2001: Murders in Sai Baba's Bedroom, Podanur, Indian CSICOP.
See also: http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/index.html
website *http://home.no.net/anir/Sai/ [See also www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net]
*2004: End of the Dream, India.
Radhakrishna, G.S., 'Brushed under the carpet', Sunday, 10 December 1993.
Rajgbatta, Chidanand, 'Sai of Belief', The Times of India, 13 June 1993.
Randi, James: www.randi.org . See especially:
Commentary, 8 December 2000
Newsletter, 3 May 2002, and 13 July 2003
Rao, Malleswara, 'Shroud of Mystery', Frontline, 2 July 1993.
Riti, M. D. and Theodore, Stanley, 'High Intrigue: Deadly Power Struggle in Puttaparthi', The Week , India, 20 June 1993, 25-33.
Roads, Duncan M. et al, 'Sai Baba Exposed: Fraud, Fakery & Molestation', in Nexus, 7(5), 2000:56-61
*Ruhela, S.P., Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Press (1972-1996), New Delhi, UMANG Paperbacks, 1997.
(The only collection of critical (and a few other) press articles and summaries to date.)
Schulman, Arnold, Baba, New York, Viking Press, 1971. (an early basically favourable account but it contains important clues for researchers)
Shah, Tahir, Sorcerer's Apprentice, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998.
(for an entertaining description of many miracle techniques)
Singh, Khushwant, 'God Save us from godmen', The Hindustan Times, 19 June 1993.
Singh, Rahul, 'Magic Realism'. The Times of India', 27 August 1995.
Singh, Suneet Vir and Das Gupta, Sunita, 'Sai Baba in eye of storm', The Tribune, 5 December 1992.
Sorcar, P.C., 'Baba's a bad trickster', India Today 4 December 2000, 42-43.
Spiritual Impressions, 1996-, Prashanti Nilayam, Sai Towers, Bimonthly Sai Magazine.
See *http://bdsteel.tripod.com/More/ , www.exbaba.com, and www.saiguru.net (the English, Spanish and Russian sections)
2001: *Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru? On website, November 2001 - May 2002; superseded by following revised research, including
2002: *The Guru from Puttaparthi. An Alternative View of Sathya Sai Baba (on website: ongoing)
Thakur, Janardan, 'Challenge to Sai Baba: Is He God?' Sunday, 6 September 1976, pp. 6-14.
Thalbourne, M.A., 'The Supposed Paranormal Abilities of Sri Sathya Sai Baba', Journal of Religion and Psychical Studies, 5 (1982), 62-4
Thapa, Vijay Jung et al, 'A God Accused', in India Today, 4 December, 2000:44-46.
The Hindustan Times, 1993: 8 (B.S.Sandhya), 9, 11, 13 and 20 June and 9 July.
1995: 21 August and 24 September.
'The Godman Slippeth', The Illustrated Weekly of India, 2 December 1992, p. 16.
The Indian Express, 26 June 1993.
The Week, 20 June 1993.
Vroon, Piet, 'Santa Claus in India', in Indian Skeptic 6(4): 8-16, August 1993.
Wilcock, David (compiler), 'Clinical Diagnosis of Satya Sai Baba's Sexual Offences', http://ascension2000.com/baba1.htm
Agostinelli, Alejandro, ¿Un dios pecador? Buenos Aires, Azul TV, 5 and 12 August 2001.
BBC, Secret Swami, 2004.
DR TV, Denmark, Seduced, January 2002.
For important circumstantial evidence, see also the following videotape by James Redmond, December 25, 1996: 'Christmas Discourse' (www.saivideos.com)
* Denotes sites where many articles and references may be found.
*http://home.no.net/anir/Sai/ (Robert Priddy)
*www.indian-skeptic.org/html/index.html (especially, B. Premanand)
Postings of literal translations of SSB's Telugu Discourses were available in several languages on a volunteer devotee website (www.internety.com/Premsai) between the end of 2000 and mid-2002, when they were suddenly withdrawn following critical Internet attention. (Most of the literal English versions are still available for study and comparison on "The Wayback Machine" at http://web.archive.org/web/20030216111817/www.internety.com/premsai/ .
*http://seercom.com/bcs/ (Dale Beyerstein, 1992, now anonymously posted)
*http://vclass.mtsac.edu:940/dlane/forums.htm (Postings and debates by David Lane in his 'Neural Surfer' archives: early to mid-1990s.)
*www.geocities.com/p_holbach/index.htm (P.Holbach) or: www.geocities.com/ p_holbach/eng/main_e.htm
*www.sathyasaivictims.com (May be recoverable via www.archive.org - The Wayback Machine)
Bulletin Boards for devotees and critics
Of varying quality. They occasionally offer useful material. Try Google searches, especially of Yahoo SSB Groups.
For updated information, please click HERE
Note: For a devotee description of the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum, see: www.sathyasai.org.jp/english/informtn.html#chaitanya, and, for a 7 minute film of its inauguration in 2000: www.saicast.org/prasanthinilayam.htm or www.saibabafilms.com .
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