An Annotated Bibliography for Research on Sathya Sai Baba
(in Three Parts)
(For the Introduction to the 3 Bibliographies (from Part 1), see Here.)
Alternative Sources of Information and Opinion
about Sathya Sai Baba and his Mission
Brian Steel December 2007
Copyright © 2007 Brian Steel
This expanded and updated bibliographical survey is offered as a supplement to the huge quantity of hagiographical information by and about Sathya Sai Baba which has appeared in the past 50 years. A representative selection of titles from this huge output of ‘Sathya Sai Baba literature’, which has propagated the image of Sathya Sai Baba and his Mission around the world, is offered in Part 3. For academic and scholarly work about Sathya Sai Baba, and for Reference Book entries on him and his Mission, see Part 1 of this Bibliography. Some scholarly or academic work is included in Part 2 or repeated from Part 1 in view of its openly ‘alternative’ or critical stance.
The pioneering 1990s group of Sathya Sai Baba investigators and critics have almost all left the scene now, passing the baton to a new group (mainly of ex-devotees) which began to publish in 2000. One very special exception is the Indian Rationalist, B. Premanand, who in old age continues the vigorous denunciations of Sathya Sai Baba he began to make public in India over thirty years ago. The other most important pioneer investigator of Sathya Sai Baba's paranomal claims is Professor Dale Beyerstein (1992 and 1996).
Although researchers may be slowed up by having to pick their way carefully through this very mixed collection of investigative and critical work, they can no longer afford to ignore it – especially the Internet content (which constitutes a major part of the evidence to be sifted).
In connection with the study of NRMs, one influential school of academic thought (particularly identified with the late Dr Bryan Wilson, Professor J. Gordon Melton, Emeritus Professor Eileen Barker and other colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic) has stressed that, in the description of an NRM, evidence from ex-followers should not be accepted without careful cross-examination of independent evidence. In fact, such examination should be made equally to the writings listed in all three Parts of this Bibliography. Independent researchers should surely be free to pursue a full and fair assessment of the claims and assertions of Sathya Sai Baba, the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation, and his devotees, as well as those of anyone who writes about him, whether they be ex-devotees, academics, or other commentators.
Note: Some critical entries in Part 1 are repeated here.
Websites on which many critical articles and references may be found
www.exbaba.com [The main critical site with an impressive archive of personal postings, media articles and links to documentaries and other video material]
Sathya Sai Baba in Word and Action
Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed
Sathya Sai Baba and His Cult – stories, myths and deceits
Call for Media and Government Investigation of Sathya Sai Baba (Barry Pittard)
Sai Baba Exposed! (Sanjay Dadlani)
Sai Baba Exposé - Revealing Hidden Facts About India's Biggest Guru (Connie Larsson)
Allegations Concerning Sathya Sai Baba [This site, in 4 languages, offers copies of many media items whose original URLs are no longer operable.]
Indian Skeptic Pages (especially for the writings of B. Premanand). Formerly: www.indian-skeptic.org/html.
Recent Research on the Claims of Sathya Sai Baba
Discontinued but still to be found on the Internet:
Postings and debates by David Lane in his ‘Neural Surfer’ archives: mainly 1994 to 1997.
Sai Baba and the Field of Righteousness [This site published regular critical and background information from 2000 to 2002.]
Sai Baba - A Critical Site [See under Paul Holbach in the alphabetical list below. Formerly located at www.geocities.com/ p_holbach/eng/main_e.htm, but discontinued]
Sathya Sai Victims Hari Sampath’s highly active site in 2000-2002.
Discontinued and removed from the Internet:
For a period of just over two years, 'Premsai' (an ashram-based volunteer devotee group of multilingual translators who preferred Sathya Sai Baba’s spontaneous Telugu style to the official edited versions) ran a large website (www.internety.com/Premsai) in several languages. This site offered a treasure trove of rare and revealing literal translations of Sathya Sai Baba’s Telugu Discourses. These were made available in several languages by the devotee-translators between the end of 2000 and mid-2002, when the translations were abruptly discontinued (quite possibly at the behest of associates of Sathya Sai Baba following substantial critical Internet discussion of the multiple discrepancies between the literal and the official translations). [That discussion is still available online to researchers and others for study.] For a time most of the Premsai website material remained available for study, comparison and research on "The Wayback Machine" at http://web.archive.org/web/20030216111817/www.internety.com/premsai/ but it is no longer to be found there. However, the English versions of the literal Premsai Discourse translations are still on display.
Television Documentaries and Videos
BBC Channel 4, Guru Busters, 10 September 1995. Producer: Robert Eagle.
This exposé deals mainly with the ongoing campaign by the Indian Rationalists to unmask fraudulent gurus and healers who prey on gullible villagers and the uneducated in Indian towns and cities. It also has some footage of Sathya Sai Baba performing various alleged materialisations, including the controversial TV incident in 1992, which is here asserted to be a case of sleight-of-hand. (See also S. P. Ruhela, 1997, p.143.) The documentary aroused a great deal of controversy, especially (for a a minority) on Internet Bulletin Boards, where devotee Bon Giovanni conducted one half of a vigorous and well-argued debate.
Agostinelli, Alejandro, ¿Un dios pecador? (A Sinning God?), Buenos Aires, Azul TV, 5 and 12 August 2001.
DR TV (Danish National Television, Seduced, February 2002. Producer, Øjvind Kyrø. See 'Official English transcript'.
The release notice by DR TV (taken from www.exbaba.com) is as follows:
“DR-Dokumentar zooms in on the Indian guru Sai Baba. The now 76-year old Sai Baba claims himself that he is God – and that he can raise the dead and cure cancer.
“The Guru has millions of followers across the world. In Denmark, the Sai Organisation is expanding. The organisation has been state-recognized as a legitimate faith society by the Danish authorities and has recently purchased Arresødal Castle in Nordsjælland for more than 15 million Danish Kroner. The purpose is to establish a Danish Sai Baba highschool at the castle.
“DR-Dokumentar has followed a number of Danish followers on their journey to Sai Baba’s headquarters in the southern part of India, where the Danes through their own eyes experience the guru’s “miracles”.
“Out of Sai Baba’s hand comes watches and jewelry as well as “holy ash”, which the guru claims has curative effects. Many of Sai Baba’s followers see these “miracles” as evidence of his divinity.
“However, in several countries the Sai Baba organisation has come under the scrutiny of authorities because of perpetuating rumours, that the guru abuses his disciples sexually, young men and boys – including minors.
“The charges have consistently been rejected by the Sai Baba organization as a malicious campaign based on secondhand rumours.
“DR-Dokumentar has visited three continents in an attempt to investigate the charges and go beyond the impressive sets of Sai Baba’s worldwide empire.
“The show’s producer, Øjvind Kyrø, has spoken with several witnesses, who have belonged to the inner circle around Sai Baba. The documentary “SEDUCED” shows that there are more to the charges than just secondhand rumours.
“DR TV has furthermore examined a lot of footage of the Indian guru to analyze the so-called “miracles”. The result can be seen in the documentary.
“Seduced” has already before its showing caused considerable debate in the national media, as Danish Sai Baba followers have threatened with judicial attempts to stop DR from showing the programme.”
The documentary, which created much publicity in devotee and ex-devotee circles, illustrates how much emphasis is placed, as a matter of habit, by devotees on impressing listeners with stories of miracles (including implausible folkloric ones, with no references to real people, places or dates) and (estimated) statistics, for example the number of devotees worldwide, how many thousand attend every day and “over a million” on special feast days. On the darker side, there are interviews with “Sam” and his father, Connie Larsson and Jed Geyerhahn concerning the alleged sexual abuse. SSO officials interviewed prove to be unhelpful. Some of these themes were reinvestigated 2 years later by the BBC team which produced Secret Swami. There “Sam’s” real name is revealed.
BBC TV, Secret Swami, 17 June 2004. Channel 2 series, This World. Director / Producer: Eamon Hardy [Repeated later in many countries on the BBC TV World Service] See here for excerpts and a full transcript. Additional reference: here.
Towards the end of 2003 the BBC decided to pursue the trail of critical work which had been appearing on the Internet and in the print media since 2000 – most notably the investigative article by Mick Brown – and in the 2002 Danish documentary Seduced. A team under the leadership of Producer / Director Eamon Hardy worked with some of the leaders of the “Exposé” and the male protagonists to capture a lot of varied material on SSB. They finally chose to cut the film down to the sensational aspects (mainly the sexual allegations) and the result was a disturbing but unbalanced picture, both of SSB and of the various sorts of controversies surrounding his name and that of the SSO. Secret Swami was basically dumbed down into a capsule of infotainment – leaving untouched the major (less graphic) aspects concerning, for example, Sathya Sai Baba’s Divine claims and the storytelling threads in his frequent Discourses. Predictably, the film received both a succès de scandale with the general public and SSB critics and angry complaints from the SSO and devotees, not least because some of the sequences shot at the ashram revealed far more than the SSO would have wished, including SSB’s patently fake regurgitation of a lingam at Mahasivaratri (2004), followed by his temporary collapse. Statements made in interviews by major spokespersons Dr Goldstein and Isaac Tigrett may also have given some viewers a less than favourable impression of the guru.
This is one of the pre-screening publicity descriptions issued by the BBC (on 12 June 2004):
“The most popular of all Indian Godmen, Sai Baba has always been the Teflon God, the untouchable, charismatic man worshipped by Indian prime ministers, presidents and peasants. His power over both the influential and the downtrodden goes to the heart of Indian society and raises serious questions about the social health of the world’s fastest-emerging economy.
“Sai Baba claims to be a living God and, to millions, his word is truth; his ability to bring clean water and healthcare to thousands, proof of divinity. In a programme that explores the nature of belief, This World travels from India to California, where the generation whose devotion and donations helped Sai Baba to power is unravelling at the seams.
Hard Rock Café owner Isaac Tigrett sent Sai Baba’s message around the world by making the Godman’s Love All Serve All mantra the corporate slogan of his multimillion-dollar empire. He now has to confront the fact that his God may have been a sexual abuser.
“This World features the story of a family who gave their entire lives to a man they believed was God, only to discover he was exacting a terrible price: the sexual innocence of their son. In an intimate and powerful portrait a family talk openly about their betrayal and the man who controlled their lives.
“The being which I called Sai Baba, the living God that I had taken into my heart, had been truly abusing my son, for so long. I felt completely betrayed,” says Marissa, a former devotee.Another, Alaya, says: “I remember him saying, ‘If you don’t do what I say, your life will be filled with pain and suffering’.”
“This programme is the first to film inside Sai Baba’s Ashram for a number of years and aims to come closer to the true “face of God” than ever before.” (http://www.exbaba.com/comments_on/_the_secret_swami/_sai_baba.htm)) (See also: Datta, Tanya)
A number of reviews in the British Press contained cheap sneers against Sathya Sai Baba and devotees, reflecting an acceptance of the BBC’s somewhat simplistic treatment of the subject.
(See, for example, Billen, Andrew, The New Statesman , 21 June 21, 2004. ‘Laying on of hands. The Guru who thinks he’s God is Exposed as far from Divine’ and Smith, Rupert, ‘Spiritual Depths’, The Guardian, June 18, 2004.)
Internet Forum postings in UK and India were more varied, not only praising or denouncing the documentary but also pointing out the lack of overall balance and asking questions about SSB’s teachings, etc. This BBC programme certainly brought the subject of Sathya Sai Baba to wider attention, but it is doubtful whether many viewers will have been prompted to investigate any further.
Blip TV, ‘Divine Sex or Earthly Abuse?’ Part 1, http://blip.tv/file/125164
“Alan Steinfeld interviews Ullrich Zimmermann who as a student at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment was called up during a wine ceremony to face past sexual encounters (blessing or abuse) with Satya Sai Baba, India's most popular and powerful guru but some claim pedophile.”
(For a substantial visual record of Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission, lectures by spokespersons, celebrities, SSO officials and prominent devotees, see also the large series of videotapes by James Redmond, www.saivideos.com – now no longer listed on the Internet. See also Part 3.)
Articles and Books
Many of the short media articles listed tend to recycle or rehash already known evidence or criticisms. (The same observation is valid for many of the books written by devotees. See Part 3.)
Adair, Tom, ‘Guru who gives us no answers’, The Scotsman, June 18, 2004. www.rickross.com/reference/saibaba/saibaba19.html
This review of the BBC documentary, The Secret Swami suggests that it “might have veered towards the amusing – in an “Oh my God, how gullible can you be?” kind of way – had it not been for the repeated allegations of sex abuse.”
Ahmed, Rashmee, Z. , ‘British Law against Sai Baba Sought’, The Times News Network, 27 August, 2001. www.saiguru.net/english/media/021004timesofindia.htm
Anonymous, ‘Report of an anonymous devotee’, www.exbaba.com, 4 February 2002.
A long report on the sexual allegations propagated in The Findings, early reactions to them, and their impact on the writer, an ex-devotee and former office-holder in the Australian SSO.
The Asian News, ‘Living Gods Facing Purge’, 24 January, 2006. www.theasiannews.co.uk/heritage/s/208/208463_living_gods_facing_purge.html
One of several recent critical articles by the younger generation of Indian and NRI journalists about Indian gurus and public gullibility. “At the apex of this holy pyramid are self-styled godmen including Chandsraswami, Sai Baba, Kalki and Premananda who have all generated vast fortunes from their holy antics and preaching. Baba is seen by his numerous followers as a full-on living god.” The writer also announces that the Asian Rationalist Society of Britain has offered a prize of ₤2,000 to anyone “who can prove he or she has magical powers”.
Badaev, an ex-official of the Russian Sathya Sai Organisation, has made a special study of the structure and organisational aspects of the SSO, discrepancies in Sathya Sai Baba’s Discourses and other anomalies.
Badaev's articles are published on www.exbaba.com and, in Russian and English, on www.saiguru.net. Some of his titles:
‘The Story of My Disqualification’
‘Ten Questions about the Sai Organisation’
‘Contradictions and confusions concerning Jesus Christ and Christianity (taken from Sathya Sai Baba’s Discourses)’
‘Sathya Sai Baba and the Sai Organisation. Critical Overview’ (August 2001)
‘Sathya Sai Organisation (One organisation with two charters)’ (December 2001)
‘Can we Trust the Central Trust?’ (March 2002)
‘An Enlarged List of Discrepancies in Sai Baba’s Words’ (April 2002)
‘Sai Baba’s Linguistic Leelas’ (May 2002)
‘The Sathya Sai Organisation and the Interfaith Movement’ (June 2002)
‘Is Sai Baba’s Coming Predicted in Scriptures?’ (June 2002)
‘Sathya Sai Organisation. Divine Tool or Side Effect?’ (July 2002)
‘Sai Baba’s Mission: Words and Facts’ (August 2002)
‘Sai Baba and Materialisation’ (March 2003)
‘Sathya Sai Baba and the Bible. Unknown Facts or Lapses?’ (July 2003)
‘Water Scarcity and its Cause according to Sathya Sai Baba’ (August 2003)
‘Sathya Sai Baba and the Development of India’ (September 2003)
‘Mission Corrupted’ (February 2004)
‘Sathya Sai Baba and betel’ (September 2004)
‘The Questionability of the SSEHV Statistics’ (January 2005).
‘Allegations concerning Sathya Sai Baba and how his Devotees tend to Relate to them’ (September 2005)
Bailey, David and Faye , The Findings, Conwy, North Wales: private publication, 2000. (See also http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/engels/findings.html, www.saiguru.net and http://saibaba-invigilator.blogspot.com)
The single most influential stimulus to the critical research, protest and lobbying undertaken over the past five years. Written by two very prominent ex-devotees, it presents allegations of sexual abuse and of faked materialisations by Sathya Sai Baba.
Balakrishnan, S., ‘The Plot to Kill Sai Baba’, The Illustrated Weekly of India, 19 June 1993, 6-12.
One of many articles on the ashram killings of June 1993. This one suggests the incident was caused by a power struggle over real estate within the SSO. It also hints at jealousy between Sathya Sai Baba’s servants as a possible motive.
Balgopal, K, N., ‘Godmen are Middlemen’, The Hindustan Times, 24 September 1995.
Balse, Mayah, Men of Miracles in India, New Delhi, Heritage Publishers, 1976.
Sathya Sai Baba is one of the gurus Balse visited for her survey in the early 1970s. (See especially pp. 34-52.) Although impressed by the stories about his powers, she does not believe the Divine claims and gets on extremely badly in conversation with a highly suspicious Professor Kasturi, who blurts out this categorical divine assertion: “He is neither a mystic, nor a magician. He is God. He has done neither meditation nor Yoga. He has had no guru, all his superpowers have come to him overnight. There was no travail of the spirit or struggle as there is with a great number of Yogis.” (pp. 37-38) (Balse appears unaware that Sathya Sai Baba himself made Divine claims, which indicates that, like many other observers, she probably did not listen to or read his Discourses.)
The writer sums up her impressions thus: “He definitely is a superman possessing some psychic powers, heads above the other wonder workers. But his hangers-on, which include the officious volunteers with their narrow vision, religious obsession and emphasis on external mores, have made a travesty of spiritualism.”(p. 52)
Beyerstein, Dale (Repeated from Part 1)
1992: Sai Baba’s Miracles. An Overview.
A hundred page study, originally published under this Canadian academic’s name in Podanur, India (1994) and later on the Internet at:
http://psg.com/~ted/bcskeptics/sbmir/. [link broken]
2003: Republished anonymously on the website of the British Columbia Skeptics ( Canada) at http://seercom.com/bcs/. [link broken]
2007: Currently to be found on the following page of the same organisation’s website with the simple title ‘sai baba : godman?’ : http://www.bcskeptics.info/resources/papers/saibaba
This is a detailed and important early critical study by a Canadian philosopher of major paranormal characteristics attributed to Sathya Sai Baba. It offers the first substantial body of evidence to refute the strident claims made for some of SSB’s psychic and paranormal powers. Unlike many academic studies of Sathya Sai Baba, it is based on a close examination of a sizeable body of written evidence: the translated and edited Discourses of Sathya Sai Baba.
Although Professor Beyerstein is not professionally interested in the dogma of Sathya Sai Baba’s religious teaching, his research into the paranormal claims and his subsequent findings constitute the basis of his rebuttal of Sathya Sai Baba’s major claims of Divine powers. In the chapters of his book, the sceptical author presents multiple factual examples to disprove Sathya Sai Baba’s Omniscience and Omnipotence, as claimed by him and his Organisation and as accepted unquestioningly by his devotees. A major part of the proof offered is taken from what Sathya Sai Baba is recorded as having said in public (according to the edited translations published by the SSO).
1996: ‘Sai Baba’, in Gordon Stein (ed.), The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, New York, Prometheus Books, pp. 653-657.
Both the Foreword (by Carl Sagan) and the Introduction to this work set it apart as a product of sceptical academic analysis.
“ Almost every entry represents an assessment by an expert with skeptical credentials.” (Sagan, p. xii)
“This is the first scientifically based encyclopedia to deal with the paranormal. … The word here means anything that is put forth as an explanation of the natural world using as a part of that explanation elements that appear to violate what has already been offered and accepted as a scientific explanation of the given phenomenon.” (Stein, xxi)
“To keep the tone of this book both scientific and balanced I have tried to use scientists as authors of most of the articles, including those who have publicly supported and discredited research on the paranormal. Other contributors have included science writers, historians, philosophers and theologians.” (xxii)
Beyerstein’s 3,000 word essay pulls no punches. After a very succinct biographical introduction of 150 words, in which he notes the claim of Sathya Narayana Raju to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba and Jesus Christ “as well as other avatars (reincarnations of God)”, Beyerstein sums up Sathya Sai Baba’s ecumenical theology as a “unification of Hindu, Muslim and Christian faiths under his own religion.” Apart from the inadvertent exclusion of Judaism, this seems to be a reasonable description of SSB’s self-appointed Mission.
The author attributes a modest six million followers to Sathya Sai Baba, including many wealthy Indians and prominent politicians and many devotees in North America and Europe “who make annual pilgrimages to his headquarters in Puttaparthi, where Sai Baba runs a school, hospital and other facilities.” (p. 653)
The remaining 95% of the article offers a judicious and compelling selection of evidence taken from the virtually unimpeachable (but not widely disseminated) research presented in Beyerstein’s original 1992 study, Sai Baba’s Miracles. An Overview. The important subjects covered are:
The concluding paragraph of this summary includes an oblique comment on the research difficulties experienced by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson: “Sai Baba has nothing to gain by being tested under scientifically controlled conditions, and he has nothing to lose by refusing such conditions, so long as the public’s view remains that it is sacrilegious not only to perform such tests, but even to request them.”
[In spite of a number of serious critical observations made in Haraldsson's book, it has been loudly trumpeted by devotee writers and commentators as "scientific proof" of Sathya Sai Baba's omnipotent powers (which may explain the recent Wikipedia claim that Haraldsson is a Sathya Sai Baba follower). (See the entry under Haraldsson.)]
Brooke, Tal c1976 / 1979: Sai Baba. Lord of the Air, Delhi, Vikas.
And various other versions of the same story, including:
1984: Avatar of Night. The Hidden Side of Sai Baba, New Delhi, Tarang Paperbacks.
1990: Lord of the Air. Tales of a Modern Antichrist, New York, Harvest House.
2000: Avatar of Night. Special Millennial Edition, Berkeley, CA, End Run Publishing.
An important figure frequently quoted in the debate over sexual allegations against Sathya Sai Baba. As a young man, Brooke went to the ashram in 1970, had close contact with Sathya Sai Baba, like all overseas visitors at that time. He subsequently wrote of his experiences, including accusations of sexual overtures and activities. The book, which created a temporary stir in India (but was dismissed by ashram spokespersons) when first published, has only been taken seriously in recent years. It has been revised several times under these different titles but Brooke has taken no public part in the SSB debate since the 1970s. He has pursued a writing career as a dedicated Christian apologist on spiritual and religious topics and is easily locatable via a Google search.
[For a different perspective of ashram life at that time, see also the two pro-Sathya Sai Baba books by H. Levin in Part 3. Levin was a fellow member of the privileged band of young Western devotees. See also V.Mangalwadi, pp. 186-190.]
1986: Riders of the Cosmic Circuit. Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda. Gods of the New Age, Herts, London, Lion Publishing.
See especially pp. 11-38 and 165-173.
1998: The Spiritual Tourist. A Personal Odyssey through the Outer Reaches of Belief, London, Bloomsbury. (See especially pp. 25-94.)
Twenty years after Peter Brent’s classic study, this investigative survey of a sample of practising gurus by a contemporary writer and journalist offers impartial information and observations of interest to the student of NRMs and the general reader. In the long section devoted to Sathya Sai Baba and his devotees, Brown fills in the bare bones of the official Sathya Sai Baba story from some of the SSB literature and evidence from UK devotees. He adds his shrewd observations of a stay in Sathya Sai Baba’s Puttaparthi ashram in the mid-1990s. Brown is openly sceptical of the sweeping claim to Avatarhood and unimpressed by the Sathya Sai Baba literature: a “tortuous and labyrinthine mixture of historical fact, philosophical speculation, pious faith and blind devotion” (p. 44). His stay in the ashram and contact with devotees merely compounds his initial sceptical impressions of the hype surrounding Sathya Sai Baba.
2000: ‘Divine Downfall’, in The Telegraph Magazine and The Electronic Telegraph, 28 October 2000 : www.saiguru.net/english/media/001028divine.htm[Also in The Sunday Age, Melbourne, 12 November 2000]
Primed by his previous clear impressions of SSB and following up on the serious sexual allegations of early 2000, Brown undertook the broad research on which this penetrating investigative article is based. On the way to the conclusion expressed in the title of his article, he conducted interviews with one of the male complainants as well as with key devotee personalities like milllionaire businessman Isaac Tigrett, the elusive Dr N. Bhatia, and Sathya Sai Baba =s current interpreter and major ashram spokesperson, Anil Kumar, whose loyal and familiar explanation was that the (controversial) developments were “all part of Sathya Sai Baba’s divine plan”. Four years later, the BBC team would follow a very similar but lengthier trail of key interviews in the production of the TV documentary Secret Swami, whose main theme was the detailed sexual allegations against Sathya Sai Baba and official reactions to them.
Here is Brown’s succinct impression of darshan:
“The principal event in Prasanthi Nilayam is darshan, in which Sai Baba emerges twice daily from his quarters adjacent to the main temple and walks among the thousands of devotees seated on the hard marble floor. Hands reach forward to touch his feet or to pass him letters of supplication. Occasionally he pauses, to offer a blessing or to ‘materialise’ vibhuti in an outstretched hand. It is during darshan that Sai Baba, by some unseen criteria, chooses people from the crowd for private interviews. When I visited the ashram three years ago, researching a book on India, my application to the secretary to interview Sai Baba was politely refused; a formal letter of request to Baba himself went unacknowledged. For the next week I sat on the marble floor of the temple waiting to be chosen for interview. I never was. Some devotees might wait for years.
It is difficult to describe the atmosphere of fervent devotion that permeates the ashram. Devotees talk of having been ‘called’ by dreams, visions or curious flips of synchronicity, impossible to explain and too powerful to ignore. People jockey for favour and position, endlessly recycling stories of his miracles and powers. It is a catalyst for every imaginable emotion – piety, hope, desperation, jealousy and pride. One person described it as ‘like metals being smelted – all the crap comes up to the top’.”
Chaitanya Jyoti. The Millennium Museum depicting the Message and Mission of Sri Sathya Sai Avatar, Prasanthi Nilayam, SSSO, 2001.
This item is not critical of Sathya Sai Baba, but researchers need to take into consideration the extraordinary evidence it offers. This is an illustrated (official) guide to the lavish museum opened by Sathya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi in 2000. Designed as an official commemoration of the life and Divine Mission of Sathya Sai Baba, its exhibits, videos and working models present an extraordinary mixture of fact and unsubstantiated or discredited claims, including many flimsy assertions propagated by devotees which have entered the mythology surrounding Sathya Sai Baba (like the various alleged prophecies of his Advent by many celebrities and other sources, from Jesus to Edgar Cayce, including Muhammad and Nostradamus). Some of the illustrations in this guidebook are of exhibits obviously aimed at a relatively uneducated audience and can perhaps best be described as ‘kitsch’. But they also point to the strongly promotional and proselytising aim of this shrine and exotic tourist attraction.
Christopher, Milbourne, Search for the Soul, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979, pp. 114-116. [Repeated from Part 1]
In this fascinating attempt to distinguish between a century of credible and spurious evidence for the existence of a life after death, Christopher, a professional magician, devotes Chapter 11, ‘Into the Brightness’ (pp. 104-116), to the work of Dr Karlis Osis (1917-1997). After receiving his PhD from Munich University in 1950 (‘The Hypothesis of Extrasensory Perception’), Osis devoted his parapsychological career, at first as a research associate at Duke University under the legendary Dr Rhine, and later as research director of the American Society for Psychical Research (funded by many research grants), to investigating evidence for the life after death hypothesis. (Christopher points out that since the age of fifteen, when Osis felt a euphoric experience on the death of his aunt, he had felt drawn to such phenomena.)
By 1973 he had undertaken two research trips to India with a junior colleague, Dr Erlendur Haraldsson. As is well documented in parapsychological annals, this association was to last several years and to culminate in a co-authored academic study At the Hour of Death, which became a best-selling textbook for nurses and doctors, as well as parapsychologists. The two joint trips to Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram actually came about as a by-product of the Indian part of their afterlife research as they tried, largely unsuccessfully, to subject the paranormal claims made about and by Dadaji, Sathya Sai Baba and another Indian guru to scientific examination. After two funded trips, with requests for scientific examination refused by Sathya Sai Baba and without further research funds, Osis withdrew from the Sathya Sai Baba part of the joint research. Haraldsson sporadically continued his observations in Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram and in other parts of India for a few more years and eventually produced his best-selling study, which though of great interest and importance because of his thoroughness, is not counted by Haraldsson or his colleagues as a scientific parapsychological work.
Apart from that illuminating anecdotal background to the Haraldsson book, only two pages of Christopher’s chapter (pp. 114-116) are devoted to the two Osis-Haraldsson trips to Puttaparthi and to Dadaji’s ashram, but they are also important to Sathya Sai Baba research. (Christopher calls him “Sai Baba”.)
As a professional magician (and like several other magicians), Christopher is highly sceptical of the Haraldsson-Osis academic paper of 1977: “These and other feats described in the text have been exhibited by other “holy men” in India – and by conjurors!” The author goes on to dismiss as fake Sathya Sai Baba’s celebrated annual homage in the 1960s and 1970s to Shirdi Sai by producing quantities of vibhuti from an upended empty metal urn or canister, one of his most famous alleged miracles of the period. For Christopher, this is “a standard piece of magical apparatus. I could teach a six-year-old boy how to do this in a few minutes.” As for Sathya Sai Baba’s sleight-of-hand with vibhuti, Christopher is more professionally impressed, because of the polished way in which it is carried out. “Of course intelligent laypeople are fooled; that is the purpose of magic. Anyone thoroughly familiar with the principles of legerdemain can follow move for move how the ash is produced. The parapsychologists should have been alerted when Sai Baba refused to allow them to test him, that is, to do the feats under controlled conditions. It is strange that experienced investigators of alleged phenomena would travel halfway around the world and suggest that such hanky-panky hocus-pocus was “paranormal”, without having had an expert magician on the site as an observer” (p. 116).
This short chapter (as well as other evidence about Karlis Osis’s life) is vital for a clear assessment of the role played by Professor Haraldsson’s best-known book and his relevant academic papers in Sathya Sai Baba’s success in India and in the “West”.
2001: ‘Information on Sathya Sai Baba’s plagiarism’, www.exbaba.com,11 July 2001.
Dr Conway accuses Sathya Sai Baba of making some plagiarisms from Swami Sivananda's teachings.
2006: ‘My Concerns about Sathya Sai Baba’ (www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Sathya_Sai_Baba_my_concerns.html)
On a new but already well-stocked website, Dr Conway’s lifelong interest in “ truly healthy and enlightened Spirituality, God, sages and saints, mystical traditions, world religions” and much more are displayed in great detail. A major book on ‘ India’s Sages’ is due for publication in 2007. Although Sathya Sai Baba is only a minuscule part of these interests, Conway has assembled a draft collection of most of his Internet writings (2000-2006) about his former guru. The account begins with a brief summary of his involvement with Sathya Sai Baba and his tentative theory that Sathya Sai Baba may be a “fallen yogi or a contaminated channel” for Shirdi Sai Baba. (See also Mangalwadi.) The bulk of the 45-page text offers detailed critical rebuttals of propaganda pieces written by two prominent devotees (Hawley and Jagadeesan), a more recent rebuttal of propaganda by Dr Venkataraman, a vital contribution to the controversy about the 1980s Hislop / Goldstein letters, and Conway’s important email discussions with three distressed devotees, in which he offers “ some scientific insights on how the incidence of the paranormal around Sathya Sai Baba cannot be seen as sufficient evidence of his being ‘a Divine Incarnation. ’”
2007: 'The Crucial John Hislop Letters, Sathya Sai Baba, & Sathya's Defender Joe Moreno’, http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Sathya_Sai_Baba_Hislop_letters.html. [Also available on www.exbaba.com]
In this latest major contribution, Conway makes a firm re-assertion of his previous significant revelations on "the Hislop letters" and gives a detailed and restrained account of a lengthy and difficult correspondence with Joe (Gerald) Moreno. (An example of his commendable detachment from heated Sathya Sai Baba controversies is his realistic admission (and disapproval) of the harsh words that have been exchanged on both sides of the Sathya Sai Baba debate on different websites and Internet forums.)
The Current , [title unknown], 11 September 1976. [Cited by V. Mangalwadi, p. 197.]
A cover story containing claims from two Indian magicians, Niranjan Mathur and L. S. Rao, that Sathya Sai Baba’s materialisations have a prosaic sleight-of-hand explanation.
Dadlani, Sanjay (See also Bibliography, Part 1)
‘Sai Baba’s Contradictions on Jesus Christ’ (25 December 2005)
‘Sai Baba: ‘Demonising the Critics’ (7 March 2006)
‘Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Brainwashing’ (9 September 2006)
‘Sai Baba’s Shirdi Lies’ (20 September 2006)
(Some of Dadlani’s Blog postings denounce savage personal attacks on him by Joe Moreno.)
Other publications are on www.exbaba.com or www.saiguru.net, for example:
‘Sai Baba: Shiva or Sadhaka?’, www.saiguru.net/english/articles/48sbshivsadh.htm
An interesting speculation on the ‘missing months’ of the 1944-1945 period in Sathya Sai Baba’s life. Also relevant to the need for revising the official chronology of Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission.
Datta, Tanya, ‘Sai Baba: God-man or con man?’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/this_world/3813469.stm
According to evidence provided by Barry Pittard, this interview with Basava Premanand was “first broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 28 August 2003 under the title, ‘It’s My Story: The Indian Sceptic. Tanya Datta interviews B. Premanand, Convenor, Federation of Indian Rationalists, President, CSICP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), Editor of monthly journal, The Indian Sceptic’.” Its URL is www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/itsmystory_280803.shtml/http://web.archive.org/web/20050216051006/http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/itsmystory_280803.shtm>.
Further research indicates that the interview was re-issued on the day of the screening of the BBC TV documentary Secret Swami (17 June 2004) under the title (and with the URL) given above.
The interview gives important background for the general public on the long and combative career of septuagenarian Basava Premanand as “ India’s leading guru-buster” who “believes that the country’s biggest spiritual leader, Sri Satya Sai Baba, is a charlatan and must be exposed .”
Tanya Datta was the principal reporter in Secret Swami and Premanand was one of the interviewees.
de Kraker, Hans
(For details of his allegations, see D. and F. Bailey, The Findings, Seduced (DR TV, Denmark, 2002), Secret Swami (BBC TV, 2004), www.exbaba.com, www. saiguru.net, Robert Priddy's website, the entries for Hari Sampath and Barry Pittard and other Internet sources listed in this Part of the Bibliography.)
Dutt, Vijay , ‘Sai Baba could be put on UK Blacklist’, The Hindustan Times, 27 August, 2001. www.saiguru.net/english/media/010827blklist.htm
Dynes, Michael and Kennedy, Dominic, ‘I sought peace and couldn’t find it’, The Times, London, 27 August 2001: www.saiguru.net/english/media/010827soughtpeace.htm
This short article repeats an account by Keith Ord that his friend, Michael Pender, committed suicide after a trip to the Sathya Sai Baba ashram.
1996 (August): ‘Superstition and Politics in India’, http://www.iheu.org/modules/wfsection/article.php?page=1&articleid=251
In this short address, the General Secretary of the Indian Rationalist Association comments on and deplores the strong Indian nexus between politics and religion highlighted by the recent nomination of Deve Gowda as Prime Minister, a devotee of SSB. He also (prophetically) foreshadows a strengthening of this nexus if the BJP party gains more power (as it did) but points to an increased Rationalist presence in the media and pledges to continue the struggle against ‘fundamentalist tendencies’ in India and ‘the shroud of superstitions and blind beliefs’.
2000: ‘Now it is Sai Baba’s Turn’, in Rationalist International Bulletin, Number 53, 29 October 2000. (See www.skeptica.dk/2001/01_1.htm, or www.exbaba.com for 31 July 2001.)
The author rejoices that Sathya Sai Baba is the latest of a number of Indian gurus to be caught up in scandal – in this case, the sexual allegations.
2006: ‘ India deserves a (more) dignified and responsible President’, (http://indianrationalists.blogspot.com (4 December 2006)
The “Exposé” (For links, see Robert Priddy’s new website: www.saibaba-x.org.uk/ )
The following are major articles produced collectively:
‘An Overview of Main Pages in the Exposé of Sathya Sai Baba’,
‘Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba, etc.’ ….
(The Petition currently has 1200 Signatures)
‘BBC Documentary ‘The Secret Swami’ Showcased’.
Falk, Geoffrey D., Stripping the Gurus. Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment, e-book, www.strippingthegurus.com, 2005. See Chapter IX, ‘Scorpion Man (Satya Sai Baba)’, pp. 70-75.
A very brief series of notes on Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission, criticisms of Sathya Sai Baba’s materialisations and references to a few of those male ex-devotees who have made allegations of sexual advances by Sathya Sai Baba (Tal Brooke, Connie Larsson and Hans de Kraker). The bibliographical links at the end of the chapter point the way to more solid and up-to-date information on Sathya Sai Baba. The majority of the other chapters in this book are much more substantial.
Frontline, ‘Shock at Puttaparthi. The Bloodshed in Sai Baba’s Ashram’, 2 July 1993.
A more detailed journalistic account of the June 1993 killings. Reproduced in S.P. Ruhela, 1997, pp. 120-124
2003a: The Serpent Rising, Melbourne, Sid Harta, 2003.
The author describes her sudden compulsive dash to India to see Sathya Sai Baba in 1970, her three month stay in the ashram, her impressions of SSB and the ashram, and her disillusionment and flight from the ashram after hearing rumours of sexual impropriety.
2003b: ‘The Trouble with Gurus’, TheAustralian Financial Review, 21 November 2003, www.saiguru.net/english/media/031121thetroublewithgurus.htm
(For Geyerhahn’s allegations, see D. and F. Bailey, The Findings, Seduced (DK TV, Denmark, 2002), Secret Swami (BBC, 2004), www.exbaba.com, www. saiguru.net, Robert Priddy’s website, the entries for Hari Sampath and Barry Pittard and other Internet sources listed in this Part of the Bibliography.)
Gogineni, Babu R. R., ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’, www.iheu.org, 1996.
This important hard-hitting document by the Executive Director of the International Humanist Ethical Union (and formerly General Secretary of the Indian Rationalists Association) belongs to the sudden 1990s wave of criticism of Sathya Sai Baba to which Professors Dale Beyerstein and David Lane made significant contributions. It is a key piece in the history of the criticism directed at Sathya Sai Baba by his Organisation, his supporters (including Indian and foreign celebrities) and apologists (notably the foreigners, Hislop and Sandweiss; Kasturi’s contribution was overlooked). Also condemned by Gogineni are Sathya Sai Baba’s philosophy of education and the alleged failure of the much-vaunted free irrigation system for local villages.
The essay is pithily written, covers a great deal of territory, denounces a host of perceived discrepancies, myths and errors in the Sathya Sai Baba story – pouring heavy scorn on Sathya Sai Baba’s alleged miracles (“Why did Sai Baba have to wave his hand in circles before producing anything?”), and pointing to several possible skeletons in the closet, for example, that of the tantric conjuror uncle. [See also Padmanaban, R. (ed.), Love is My Form, Vol. 1.] He refers to the critical work by Indian Rationalists like Premanand and although writing long before the allegations of early 2000, Gogineni introduces the sexual allegations made in the 1970s by the American ex-devotee Tal Brooke. He, like others, also makes lengthy allegations about the sensational 1993 ashram killings (which may even have served to stimulate this concentrated critical analysis).
Although embarrassing, the two pages of detail with which the author acerbically and insistently accuses Professor Haraldsson of doing less than his duty in reporting on Sathya Sai Baba in his well known book (as well as in the later investigative article (with Wiseman) exonerating Sathya Sai Baba from media accusations of having palmed a necklace in 1992) demand to be taken into consideration, like many other topics dealt with in this article by Gogineni. (See below under Haraldsson for a direct reference to the book criticism.)
The difficulty in assessing this compelling and vehement piece of criticism begins with the title itself, ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’. The essay contains cleverly worded and mordant satire but this sometimes goes too far and it injudiciously includes one or two exaggerations and inaccuracies (of the sort Gogineni himself is condemning) – like listing, along with many prominent political an famous people “several former Greek Prime Ministers” and the Spanish Royal family as followers of SSB, which rather spoils his point that “The confederacy of irrationality, gullibility and supersition establishes a kinship which transcends cultural and national barriers”. The author also occasionally relies too much on old criticisms like “Bhagavantam and the Seiko watch”, or on isolated stories like that of the missing kidney. In spite of these negative aspects, the carefully assembled and fascinating diatribe cannot simply be dismissed in toto just because it is unpleasant in places and uses intemperate language or because it falls into occasional exaggeration and, perhaps, error on such a multi-faceted subject; the combined weight of prima facie evidence submitted is too heavy. If the charges were restricted to these convincing pieces and carefully rewritten in the more forensic academic style with which Gogineni is familiar (and with slightly better proof-reading), the indictment would probably attract a wider audience.
Goldberg, Michelle , ‘Untouchable?’, www. salon.com, 25 July, 2001.
As the allegations about Sathya Sai Baba swirled around the world, an Internet magazine reporter went to investigate. She offers a useful general introduction to SSB, his ashram and his devotees and their unshakeable faith in their guru as well as details about the accusations of sexual abuse. “Millions of people worship Sai Baba as God incarnate. More and more say the Indian guru is also a pedophile.”
Gopal, Kamal G., ‘Sai Baba’s Silent Birthday’, Rationalist International , Bulletin No. 26, 28 November 1999 www.rationalistinternational.net
The reference is to the 1995 birthday celebrations, which Gopal suggests were less well attended than previous occasions, as a result of longstanding denunciations from the Indian Rationalists and controversy over allegations of a faked materialisation captured on Doordarshan TV in 1992.
Guru Busters See Television: BBC Channel 4
Hanisch, Dennis and Elena Hartgering, ‘Sai Baba’s Borrowed Wisdom’,
See Part 1 for a fuller report on Haraldsson’s work and Part 3 for a short listing.
This well known academic is also listed here because, although his bestselling book on Sathya Sai Baba is basically a favorable report, it is demonstrably wrong to claim it as a scientific endorsement of the materialisations, as many spokespersons and devotees have done. There are also several dissenting opinions (see, for example, Gogineni’s reaction above and Premanand’s observations, as well as others listed in Part 1). Moreover, although devotees turn a blind eye to anything critical as they read this book, there are a few discreet but enlightening additions by Haraldsson to the official story and convincing research-based disagreements on one or two iconic ‘miracles’ of the earlier years, like the two highly publicised and best known alleged resurrections (of Walter Cowan and Mr Radhakrishna). With the benefit of hindsight it seems a pity that Professor Haraldsson did not give more weight to these disturbing discrepancies and others in his carefully researched report.
Postscript: the following recent blog posting reproduces a book review by Babu Gogineni which is extremely critical of Professor Haraldsson's work. How Not to Study Paranormal Phenomena
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 revised edition]
The latter has the same content as the new Indian edition listed as the next item: personal communication.
(?1997) ‘Miracles are my Visiting Cards.’ An Investigative Report on the Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba, Prashanti, New Delhi.
Although wrongly dated as 1987, this edition has two extra chapters, one of quotations on Sathya Sai Baba Teachings and the other on the subject of a 1992 controversy also dealt with in the paper listed in Part 1: Haraldsson and Wiseman: ‘Reactions to and an Assessment of a Videotape on Sathya Sai Baba’, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, April 1995, 60, pp. 203-213.
Harper, Tom , ‘Guru shrugs off sex Allegations’, Toronto Star, 14 January, 2001. http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/engels/shortnews/gurushrugs.html
[Toronto and Vancouver SSO Centres have shown strong support for Sathya Sai Baba during the controversy.]
This article follows does some Internet searching prompted by the Mick Brown Telegraph article two months previously and the Bailey Findings. He reproduces quotes from a few complainants and gives his impressions of parts of the Internet controversy. The only quotation to refer to Sathya Sai Baba’s “shrugging off” is, “ Never try to understand me.” On the whole, Harper seems more inclined to believe the allegations: “Browsing the Net recently, I found everything from Web sites with specious, unconvincing arguments – for example, that the whole affair was initiated by the omnipotent, omniscient guru as a kind of “divine game” to test the disciples’ faith – to a host of critical chatrooms, columns and letters.”
Hartgering, Elena, ‘Sai Baba’s Plagiarism’, www.exbaba.com, August 2001.
Two plagiarisms from Mahatma Gandhi, one of them being ‘My Life is My Message’.
Harvey, Bob, ‘The Man Believers Think is God’, in Ottawa Citizen, 19 December 2000.
[Reproduced on http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/engels/articles/believers.html,
Another short journalistic reverberation from The Findings.
The Hindustan Times
1993: 8, 9, 11, 13 and 20 June and 9 July
1995: 24 September
The author of various penetratingly critical articles about Sathya Sai Baba written during the late 1990s with the intent of providing balance to the SSB story. There are references to some of his work in the Bailey Findings and elsewhere on the Internet. In 2001, Holbach stopped posting articles and disappeared without trace from the Internet. He does not respond to emails. All I could find recently on both of the following URLS is a copy of his original Home Page Introduction and a partial list of his pieces:
http://www.exbaba.com/articles/p_holbach/eng/main_e.htm and on Fact Net: www.factnet.org/cults/Sai_Baba/Paul_Holbach_Sitemap.htm
A search on the Wayback Machine reveals that all has been withdrawn except for that same general introductory page. So, researchers cannot benefit from his insights – unless they find leftover copies of some of his pieces on sites like exbaba.com or from someone who has kept downloaded copies of his research. One such set of extracts has been published here:
Light Network, ‘Sai Baba. A Master of Love? A Master of Deception? Or Both?’, March 2001, http://home.iae.nl/users/lightnet.
For computer archival sleuths, these were some of Holbach’s URLS:
Hummel, Reinhart See Part 1
The Illustrated Weekly, 11 September 1976.
The Cover story is about claims by a prominent magician, Niranjan Mathur, and a well known Yogi, L. S. Rao, that Sathya Sai Baba’s materialisations are sleight-of-hand. Listed by Mangalwadi, p. 197.
The Illustrated Weekly of India, ‘The Godman Slippeth’, 12 December 1992, p. 16.
A reference to the controversial Doordarshan TV footage of presenting an award to an official, followed by a materialised gold chain, which this writer maintains was passed to SSB by the assistant who handed him the trophy.
The Indian Skeptic, www.indian-skeptic.org/html [See also Premanand, B.]
See also 10-year Index (1988-1998), ed. B. Premanand, Podanur, 1999.
This journal carries many articles critical of Sathya Sai Baba.
Jordison, Sam, 'Sathya Sai Baba', in The Joy of Sects. An A-Z of Cults, Cranks, and Religious Eccentrics, London, Robson Books, 2005, pp. 186-188.
Inconsequential but indicative of how popular opinions of Sathya Sai Baba overseas are being revised. Jordison gives a brief description of Sathya Sai Baba's alleged miracles and powers and a short listing of recent controversies, including the BBC documentary.
‘JuST’, ‘In the Shadow of Sathya Sai Baba. Overview of critical materials’, www.exbaba.com, December 2002.
Karanjia, R.K., God Lives in India, Puttaparthi, Saindra, 1994.
Not a critical work but a compilation of a rare and important media interview with Sathya Sai Baba and other articles in 1976. It offers useful pickings for researchers. The sceptical Karanjia, an experienced Indian journalist and Editor, is alleged to have been charmed by SSB during this long interview.
This virtuoso Wikipedian scholar has set up a labyrinthine website to investigate “a new scientific and esoteric evolutionary paradigm” and other topics, including spiritual ones. Although not a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, Kazlev was originally quite favourably disposed to Sathya Sai Baba. When he came across the ongoing controversy, he posted an independent opinion and, having belatedly discovered that Joe (or Gerald) Moreno (see Part 3) was less impartial than he had first thought, Kazlev felt compelled to write at length on the subject, including the following articles, which are now part of the critical debate on Sathya Sai Baba:
1. http://kheper.net/topics/gurus/allegations_against_Sai_Baba.html [basic references, 2006]
An account of his involuntary involvement in the Sathya Sai Baba debate and his change of opinion, December 2006
An even stronger denunciation of Moreno’s Internet behaviour.
4. A detailed view of a small section of the battles on Wikipedia over the article on SSB: www.kheper.net/topics/gurus/ Moreno _slander_against_Robert_Priddy.htm
‘Three die after placing their hope in guru,’ The Times, London, 27 August 2001.
This short article alleges that the suicides of three young men occurred after they became interested in SSB..
‘Suicide, sex and the guru,’ The Times, London, 27 August 2001.
The article mentions a few of Sathya Sai Baba’s celebrity followers, the 1993 ashram killings, some of the sensational allegations circulating about Sathya Sai Baba, and singles out his Organisation’s interest in promoting his Education in Human Values system in several countries.
For this ex-devotee’s allegations, see D. and F. Bailey, The Findings, Seduced (DK TV, Denmark, 2002), Secret Swami (BBC, 2004), www.exbaba.com, www. saiguru.net, Robert Priddy’s website, the entries for Hari Sampath and Barry Pittard and other Internet sources listed in this Part of the Bibliography.
Kodimela, Venu K., ‘Doordarshan Tape Unveils Baba Magic despite Cover-up’, Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad, 23 November 1992.
Contradicts the account by Haraldsson and Wiseman listed in Part 1. (www.exbaba.com offers videos of this famous incident among other videos of alleged materialisations.)
Kohn, Rachel , ‘Gurumania’, The ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], Radio National, ‘The World Today’, 25 June, 2004. www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s1136919.htm. One week after the screening of the BBC’s Secret Swami, Rachel Kohn interviewed Mick Brown and Mary Garden (separately).
(The first of several Indian Rationalist critics of Sathya Sai Baba)
1976: Begone Godmen! Encounters with Spiritual Frauds, Bombay, JAICO. (8th impression, 2000)
This includes a brief account of his polemic with Dr Bhagavantam in an Indian weekly magazine in 1972 on the subject ‘Sathya Sai Baba – Is he an Incarnation of God or a Charlatan?’ The account continues with his Seiko watch accusation and letters to Dr Bhagavantam which were not answered. This polemic was reproduced in Part 5 of The Findings by David and Faye Bailey. It is also to be found on www.exbaba.com.
1980: Gods, Demons and Spirits, Bombay, JAICO. (6th impression 1998)
A general account of his Rationalist campaigns in India. It includes a reference to Karanjia and SSB (pp. 83-87) and also some details (pp. 88-90) of how the 1976 Narasimhaiah Committee uncovered the fraud surrounding the famous ‘miracle baby’ Sai Krishna – which appears to be attributable to its parents’ (or their advisor’s) greed rather than to SSB. Nevertheless, the ‘Sai Krishna’ incident is relevant to the question of devotees’ expectations and gullibility.
2000: Exposing Paranormal Claims, Podanur, Indian CSICOP.
A compilation of a large number of the cases investigated by Kovoor throughout India. There is very little direct criticism of Sathya Sai Baba, except briefly by colleagues of Kovoor. On page 26, the writer reproduces his brief 1969 letter to SSB challenging him, as President of the Ceylon [as it then was] Rationalist Association to submit his miracles to scientific testing. There is also a reference to the 1976 Narasimhaiah Committee which unsuccessfully challenged Sathya Sai Baba to submit to testing.
Overall, Kovoor’s written criticisms of Sathya Sai Baba do not seem to be very solid. His successor, B. Premanand, has contributed far more to the Rationalist case against Sathya Sai Baba over the past three decades.
Krugers Dagneaux, Andries
‘Calumny confirmed’, www.saiguru.net/english/sai_org/15AKD.htm
Sai Baba, a deceptive guru’
Kumar, S. Nagesh, ‘Shock at Puttaparthi. The Bloodshed in Sai Baba’s Ashram’, Frontline, 2 July 1993. [Another report on the ashram killings]
Lane, David Christopher (Repeated from Part 1)
Professor Lane’s academic career serves as an example of how the two-way use of the Internet (for publishing and researching) became an essential part of academic activities during the 1990s.
David Lane, a Professor of Philosophy and Sociology, who had gained a popular reputation in New Age and student circles for exposing dubious activities and facts about some NRMs and gurus, focussed some of his critical attention on Sathya Sai Baba in the second half of the 1990s as host or moderator on his website for detailed criticisms of SSB and defensive debate by one or two unofficial spokespersons of Sathya Sai Baba. Following Dale Beyerstein’s Internet intervention in the early 1990s, Lane’s critical web page was an important contribution to basic materials for research on, even though the main emphasis was on unproven opinion and allegations. However, at first the discussions and revelations reached a relatively restricted section of the public since the Internet was still largely the preserve of the academic and student community. The audience grew rapidly as people flocked to the Web in the late 1990s. At that time, and until 2000, the few devotees who were Internet users tended to ignore or dismiss the whole debate.
Since those days his articles and postings on SSB have been much more widely read and have influenced the spread of criticism of the official story of Sathya Sai Baba. After the release of the Bailey ‘Findings’ in 2000 Prof. Lane set up a very vigorous popular Yahoo Discussion Group about alleged sexual interference by Sathya Sai Baba, which, by acting as an escape valve for the very strong conflicting emotions of the time, attracted violent and sometimes scurrilous exchanges from both pro- and ‘anti’-groups. Like most of the 1990s contributors to the debate on Sathya Sai Baba, Prof. Lane now seems to have abandoned the subject, judging by the outdated Bibliography and broken links offered on his current pages.
The following webpage, or its successor, lists Lane’s Sathya Sai Baba material for historians: http://vclass.mtsac.edu:940/dlane/saidebates.htm
On offer here are mainly annotated and lengthy correspondences between accusers and defenders of Sathya Sai Baba between 1996 and 1998. Lane’s basic function here is to facilitate debate. Two major features are the discussion of the killings in 1993 and the testimony of sexual interference made by ex-devotees Said Khorramshahgol and Jed Geyerhahn, accompanied by vigorous counter-argument by the prominent devotee, Bon Giovanni. Lane also posts pro- Sathya Sai Baba defensive statements by Bon Giovanni, and others.
This busy site also hosted ‘The SAI WARS’ in May 1997 and the ‘Sai Baba Debates’, in September 1997, as well as a series on ‘The Sai Baba Murder Mystery’.
Larsson, Connie, www.saibabaexpose.com [in Swedish, Danish and English]
The most prolific and persistently vocal of a number of ex-devotees who have made sexual allegations against Sathya Sai Baba. Larsson’s website presents many important documents, including authorised translated excerpts from his 2005 Swedish autobiography, Bakom Clownens Mask (‘Behind the Mask of the Clown’).
2007: Behind the Mask of the Clown, Podanur, India.
The English translation of Larsson's book includes memories as a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, with whom he claims to have shared sexual experiences. He now regrets not speaking out about SSB's alleged abuse of adolescent men.
Lewis, Paul, ‘The Indian living God, the Paedophilia Claims and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards’, The Guardian, 4 November 2006. www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,1939405,00.html
Love is My Form See under Padmanaban, R.
Macdonald, Sarah, Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure, Sydney, Bantam, 2002.
(See pp. 243-248 for this author’s unenthusiastic account of her fleeting experiences at the ashram with devotees and at a single darshan with Sathya Sai Baba.)
Mangalwadi, Vishal (Repeated from Part 1)
The World of Gurus, 2nd ed., New Delhi, Nivedit, 1987. [1977, Vikas]
[Also listed in Arweck and Clarke, p. 186, Item 1027. Later editions (according to Alexandra Nagel): The World of Gurus. A Critical Look at the Philosophies of India’s Influential Gurus and Mystics, Chicago, 1992 and New Delhi, 1997.]
On pages 175-197 of the 2nd Edition, the author (who is an Indian scholar with a Christian apologetic viewpoint) focusses on the paramount importance of miracles in attracting Sathya Sai Baba’s devotees and comes to the conclusion that Sathya Sai Baba can be neither the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba nor a Full Avatar (as claimed) because we “merely have his claim and his claim is against the weight of the entire Hindu tradition [where, for example, it is Vishnu who goes through reincarnation, not Shiva] and Christian scriptures.” (p. 191) Also: “... to believe that Sai Baba is an avatar, greater than Rama and Krishna, one has to go directly against classical Hinduism.” The author also quotes sexual allegations by Tal Brooke (noting that Brooke was not sued for defamation) and he adds a Post Script on the discovery of a fake ‘miracle vibuthi’ child by Professor Narasimhaiah's 1976 Committee which sought unsuccessfully to investigate Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles.
Some of the detail of Mangalwadi’s evidence for this interesting but not well known contribution to the Sathya Sai Baba debate is as follows:
“There are many “miracle-doers”in India today, as there have always been. [There] … are well-known gurus who claim to perform miracles of materialization, healing, etc. … Then there are any number of magicians in India who can “produce” vibuthi, sweets, rings, statues, watches, etc. from “nowhere”. If miracles prove avatarhood then all these would be avatars. In fact, some of them … do claim to be God. But Baba says he alone is the avatar in this age.”
“The Avatar is one only, and only this body is taken by the Avatar.” [Footnote18: Hislop, Conversations, 1976: 9]
“He claims to be the only avatar today and also the only true guru. [Op. cit, 12] If miracles do not prove divinity, as Baba himself acknowledges, then what proofs are there of his avatarhood? None at all! We merely have his claim and his claim is against the weight of the entire Hindu tradition and Christian scriptures.
Hinduism has traditionally believed (Bhagavata being an exception) that Vishnu (never Shiva) takes ten avatars … … Therefore Sai Baba’s claim to be an incarnation of Shiva-Shakti has no support in Hindu scriptures or traditions. The idea that any god (including Vishnu) will take three consecutive incarnations within a century, or two, has no parallel in Hindu history or mythology. Therefore to believe that Sai Baba is an avatar, greater than Rama and Krishna, one has to go directly against classical Hinduism.”
Mangalwadi continues on pp.192-3 to argue against Sathya Sai Baba’s claim to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba:
“If Sathya Sai Baba cannot be an avatar, could he possibly be a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi? This too is logically impossible. For liberation according to Sathya Sai Baba means merging of our soul into Brahman, just as a river merges into the ocean. If the Sai Baba of Shirdi had attained liberation, how could he be reincarnated? Can a river come back after merging into the ocean?” [The same might be asked in connection with those disciples of Sathya Sai Baba whom he has first accepted as merging with him at their death and later announced that they will return (or have returned) to attend to Prema Sai Baba, his next reincarnation, announced for 2022 or thereabouts.] The writer concludes: “If Sathya Sai Baba’s claims to be an avatar and a reincarnation of Shirdi Baba cannot be true then they must be false.” (p. 193)
Mindful of the siddhis mentioned by so many people, which he dismisses as insufficient reason for claiming avatarhood, Mangalwadi makes a serious suggestion that perhaps Sathya Narayana’s parents were right in the first place in assuming that the prolonged “scorpion” trauma of the boy’s youth (together with subsequent incidents, like the trances of the early years of his Mission) was a case of possession, which should be taken seriously:
“If he is not an avatar then who is he? Could it be that the initial diagnosis of his parents was right? Could it be that the spirit that had possessed Sai Baba of Shirdi, came into him on March 8, 1940 , and that, as he says, it wasn’t a scorpion that bit him, but that it was an experience of possession by a spirit?”
This has also been suggested by a few other commentators and is at least worthy of study, within Hindu traditions, however implausible it may seem to Western minds. If correct, the hypothesis might provide a partial explanation to the real (and vexed) question of Sathya Sai Baba’s vaunted paranormal powers (in those cases where sleight-of-hand is not a plausible explanation).
Manu Rao, B.S., ‘Sai Baba lashes out at detractors’, in Times of India, 26 December, 2000.
Meloy, Glen (See Barry Pittard, below.)
Menon, Amarnath K. & Ashok Malik, ‘Test of Faith’, India Today, 4 December, 2000: 38-43.
On the occasion of Sathya Sai Baba’s 75th Birthday, the reporters offer an introduction to his Mission and to the current controversies and allegations, including those of magician P. C. Sorcar, who accuses Sathya Sai Baba of palming and sleight-of-hand trickery (with an illustrated demonstration).
Murphy, Padraic, ‘Sex Claims Engulf Empire of ‘god guru’, in The Sunday Age, 12 November, 2000, Melbourne, Australia.
A short local extension to accompany the repeat of the November article by Mick Brown. Details of the allegations by Hans de Kracker, a young Australian, are given.
Nagarajan, T. M.,Satya Sai Baba. Godman or Fraud? Murder at the Ashram, New Delhi, Prime Books, 1993.
A crude booklet published just after the sensational events in the Puttaparthi ashram.
Nagel, Alexandra H. M. (See Part 1 for full listing)
1994: ‘ De Sai Paradox. Tegenstrijdigheden van en rondom Sathya Sai Baba’ in
Religieuze Bewegingen in Nederland , ‘Sekten’, 1994, nr. 29.
[Available at: http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/artikelen/paradox.html]
2001a (August): A Guru Accused. Sai Baba, from Avatar to Homo-paedophile, at www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net.
An early detailed commentary on the sexual allegations of 2000. See D. Bailey above.
2001b: For and Against Sathya Sai Baba on the Internet, on www.exbaba.com
Another useful early account of the new burst of critical activity in the late 1990s and, in particular, 2000. The bibliographical references are valuable.
2001c: Sai Baba as Shiva-Shakti: a Created Myth? Or?, on www.exbaba.com
An interesting prolongation and updating of Swallow’s study, especially relevant to the growth of the Sathya Sai Baba controversy.
2003: ‘Sai Baba. God of Goeroe?’, in Bres, No. 221, Aug-Sept. 2003, pp. 75-87.
This article reviews and comments on a book by Geesje Lunshof, Sai Baba, Vlam van levende liefde ['Flame of Living Love'], in which Lunshof comments on the 2000 Internet controversy about Sai Baba but professes her unwavering faith in SSB with whom she still has “inner conversations”. Nagel counters Lunshof’s charge that recent critics have defamed SSB with the suggestion that they have presented new facts which deserve to be examined.
2004: ‘Wolf Messing, an enigmatic ‘psychic entertainer’ whom Sathya Sai Baba claims to have encountered’, from an unpublished MA Thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2004. See www.exbaba.com for 10 November 2004.
Although linked to Sathya Sai Baba’s story-telling, this article is peripheral to this bibliographical list but it is a fascinating piece of academic detective work, which could lead to further discoveries about Wolf Messing, if elusive Russian sources can be traced and translated.
2005: ‘Een mysterieuze ontmoeting: Sri Sathya Sai Baba en Wolf Messing’ [A Mysterious Meeting: Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Wolf Messing], in Tijdschrift voor Parapsychologie / Journal for Parapsychology, Vol. 72 No. 4, Dec. 2005, pp. 14-17.
This short article in Dutch offers further background information and references for the subject of one of Sathya Sai Baba’s extraordinary repeated stories. A scan of this article is available on the Dutch section of exbaba : http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/dutch.html
Narasimhaiah, H. (Repeated from Part 1)
An early critic of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles. A nuclear physicist and for four years Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University. E. Haraldsson (pp. 199-205), who interviewed Professor Narasimhaiah, recounts the story of the Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University setting up a committee in 1976 to investigate miracles and other superstitions. Satya Sai Baba refused to answer their invitations and they were refused entry to SSB’s ashram. The newspaper controversy lasted for several months. (See also S. P. Ruhela, 1997)
“During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, he constituted and chaired The Committee to Investigate Miracles and Other Verifiable Superstitions, to scientifically investigate claims of miracles and paranormal phenomena. The committee challenged the claims of Sathya Sai Baba, one of the most prominent godmen of India, who said that he could materialize holy ash and gold chain from nothing. A public controversy ensued, causing some of the godman’s followers to desert him. The committee was also involved in a controversy with Sai Krishna of Pandavapura (a tiny village near Mysore), a mini-avatar and an alleged protégé of Sathya Sai Baba. In 1983, he was elected the President of Indian Rationalist Association.” (downloaded from Answers com: www.answers.com)
1976a: ‘Sathya Sai Baba: God or Fraud?’, The Illustrated Weekly of India, 3 [or 31] October, 1976, pp. 19, 21,and 23.
Reported in Ruhela, 1997, pp. 24-25:
“We are not asking for an explanation of this materialization. That explanation, if the act is true may be beyond the sphere of science. We would like to see it for ourselves and be convinced of its truth. … What we need is direct verification. Quoting from books written by his devotees and narration of their personal experience are no substitute for this.”
(See also V. Mangalwadi, World of Gurus, p. 197.)
1976b: Letters to Sathya Sai Baba published in Sunday on 2 June and in September 1976 as Chairman of the investigation committee. Sathya Sai Baba declined invitations to meet with them.
1987: (ed.) Science, Non-Science and Paranormal, Bangalore Science Forum.
This retired Professor of Biochemistry and veteran Indian Rationalist is the Secretary of the Dakshina Kannada Rationalist Association. Most of his articles are written in Kannada but in a 2-minute video sequence in the BBC's documentary, Secret Swami, he demonstrates his interpretation of how Sathya Sai Baba materialises vibhuti for devotees. (See the segment timed at 10.21.25-10.23.14 on the Secret Swami Transcript. See under BBC TV for the link with the documentary.)
Newbery, Beatrice , (Interview with B. Premanand, “ India’s chief fakir-buster”), The Independent, 24 December 2000.
Nexus See under Roads, Duncan
Padmanaban, R. et al , Love is My Form. Vol. 1 The Advent (1926-1950). Prasanthi Nilayam, Sai Towers, 2000. [Often referred to as LIMF]
Written by a team of devotees headed by a phenomenally successful Puttaparthi publisher of Sathya Sai Baba books, this is certainly not a book critical of Sathya Sai Baba . It was intended to be the first of a series of definitive biographies of SSB and although basically hagiographical (and derivative of Kasturi’s work), it is also well researched and contains some essential new information about Sathya Sai Baba, including photocopies and a wealth of old photographs. Some of this new material (including the photographs) contradicts or challenges official data, especially when taken in conjunction with other scraps of evidence available in the memoirs of early devotees of SSB and one or two other writers. Examples of these important new insights are: 1990s recorded interviews with (aged) early devotees; the years of Sathya Sai Baba ’s schooling; the date of the two Declarations of Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission before leaving school in Uravakonda (which turns out to be 1943, not 1940), the dating of some early photographs of SSB, local knowledge about Shirdi Sai Baba in the 1940s and a few other details from the remote early years of Sathya Sai Baba ’s Mission for which Kasturi’s first volume had hitherto been the main flimsy source (and much-quoted ‘Gospel’).
In spite of its archival importance, the book has so far received scant attention from academics, critics and devotees. (Some of the latter, aware of the new information, voiced disapproval of the volume in the ashram as soon as it was published. A recent SSB apologist and propagandist has even attempted to discredit LIMF (and its embarrassing evidence) on the feeble grounds that it is a ‘commercial’ publication with a scandalously high price). The ambitious project to publish five more volumes of this biographical series (one per decade of the guru’s life), which was well advanced, was abruptly abandoned a year or two after the publication of this sole volume, to the incalculable detriment of independent research on SSB.
Barry Pittard, a follower of Sathya Sai Baba for 25 years, was an English lecturer at Sathya Sai Baba ’s Whitefield College for two years (1978-79) and, since 1999, has been a prominent global coordinator of the active ‘Exposé’ campaign to publicise and to pursue the accusations and allegations against SSB and his associates. The published part of Pittard’s work, including some hard-hitting comments, reflects his strong commitment to this cause. Until January 2007, Pittard’s articles were usually published on exbaba.com or saiguru.net. Since then, he also publishes frequently on his easily accessible blog.
Some of his earlier articles:
Two annotated bibliographical surveys of and comments on critical activity about SSB:
2002: ‘Sai Baba – A Grace Disgraced. What shall we do?’ www.exbaba.com, October 2002. 2003: ‘Exposing Sai Baba: An Update’, Nexus, March 2003. [Also on www.saiguru.net/english/news/030925exposeupdate.htm, 25 September 2003 and http://home.hetnet.nl/ex_baba/engels/articles/barryexposeupdate.html, September 2003]
This is a 9-part series, published on www.exbaba.com between 21 September and 5 December 2003. It deals in detail with the sustained tactics of denial, dismissal and denigration utilised by SSO spokespersons and devotee apologists since 2000 in attempting to discredit mounting criticism of Sathya Sai Baba in the media and on the Internet.
‘BBC’s The Secret Swami – a Reflection’: http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex_baba/engels/articles/barryreflection.html, 30 July 2004.
A critical review of the BBC’s 2004 documentary The Secret Swami, which was shown on TV in many countries, thus propagating the controversies (notably the sexual allegations) and causing public discussion. Since much of the material collected by the BBC was not shown in the documentary, the author points out other aspects which need further publicity, as well as offering a good synopsis and commentary on the aspects covered by the BBC programme.
‘In Memoriam – Glen Meloy (‘Standing up for truth and goodness’)’ http://www.saiguru.net/english/articles/126in_memoriam.htm, January 2005.
Pittard’s eloquent tribute to the life and work of Sathya Sai Baba critic Glen Meloy.
‘Does UNESCO Really Protect the Young?’, http://www.saiguru.net/english/articles/124does_unesco_really_protect_the_y.htm, 2005.
A history of the UNESCO Media Advisory issued in September 2000, announcing its reasons for withdrawing from an announced Education Conference in Sathya Sai Baba ’s ashram. The Advisory was issued as a result of publicity and lobbying by Pittard and his associates, but was due in particular to the strong advocacy of the late Glen Meloy, one of the prominent early ex-devotee (‘Exposé’) activists from 2000 to 2004. The article also deals with the polemic in 2005 over the reasons for the withdrawal of the Advisory.
2007, January: ‘Dr Timothy Conway’s Summary of Ullrich Zimmermann Interview’,
February: ‘Sai Baba: A Degenerative Disease?’
Pittard, Barry and Priddy, Robert
2005 (12 April): ‘Sathya Sai Organisation Disinformation and Subterfuge,’ in four Parts, http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/10/sorg1.htm, 12 April 2005. (Follow links at the end of this article for the other three Parts.)
An important joint investigation of the SSO’s tactics in combatting the adverse criticisms of Sathya Sai Baba and the SSO, including its recent series of public meetings in USA, Europe, Singapore and Australia to promote Sathya Sai Baba as a worldwide spiritual teacher and philanthropist rather than as a self-professed Avatar.
2006 (September-October): ‘ The Sathya Sai Organisation’s Deception and Propaganda Exposed’, http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/10/venk1.htm
This is a paragraph by paragraph riposte to a triumphalist letter by the Deputy President of the Prasanthi Council, Dr G. Venkataraman (‘The Inevitable Collapse of Calumny’, see Part 3), published by the official Radio Sai. This strong reply centres on the sexual allegations against Sathya Sai Baba.
Prashad, Srinivasa, ‘God or Fraud?’ The Illustrated Weekly of India, 18 June 1993.
[Reproduced in S.P.Ruhela (1997), pp. 102-105]
During the intense media activity surrounding the ashram killings, this journalist presents the paradoxical aspects of Sathya Sai Baba. For Prashad, Sathya Sai Baba devotees’ complete faith in his “proclaimed divine status” and his miracles (even at this controversial time), and his Organisation’s undoubted charitable works outweigh the controversies surrounding his materialisations.
Premanand, B. [= Basava]
(Premanand is the President of the Indian Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), an indefatigable public speaker, and an expert magician. He succeeded Dr. Kovoor in this position and has been Sathya Sai Baba ’s principal critic and implacable debunker in India for over three decades. His energetic and wide-ranging criticisms of Sathya Sai Baba have only recently begun to be seriously examined by Westerners.)
?1976: Lure of Miracles, Podanur.
A series of early critical articles about Sathya Sai Baba.
1976: Divine Octopus, Podanur.
A complex correspondence concerning a family property dispute with the Sathya Sai Trust dating back to the 1960s.
1977: Dr Kovoor, Octogenary [sic] Souvenir, Trichur, Kerala, Rationalist Study Centre.
1984: Satya Sai Greed, Podanur.
More property litigation against the Sathya Sai Trust in the 1970s.
1986: Satya Sai Baba and Gold Control Act, Calicut.
A legal writ presented against Sathya Sai Baba . (It was eventually dismissed.)
1987: Satya Sai Baba and Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963, Podanur.
An affidavit by Premanand as Respondent in a property dispute with the Sathya Sai Trust.
1988-1989: (The) Indian Skeptic, Vols 1-2, 1988-1989.
See www.indian-skeptic.org/html (or the 10 Year Index) for details of a lengthy correspondence on Sathya Sai Baba between Premanand and the academic, Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, whose thwarted attempts to make scientific parapsychological studies of Sathya Sai Baba resulted in his well-known book and other academic papers, listed in Part 1 of this Bibliography. These volumes of the journal also contain some related correspondence from Professor Beyerstein to Haraldsson.
1990- Many articles in The Indian Skeptic.
1994: Science versus Miracles, Vol. 1, Podanur, Indian CSICOP.
The prominent Indian Rationalist, who has given many public demonstrations to Indian audiences, offers instructions on how to perform a large number of ‘miracles’ that are not uncommon in India. He devotes a whole chapter to ‘Satya Sai Baba’s Miracles (pp. 58-64) and offers this method of producing a lingam through the mouth:
“On the night of Shivarathri, while the devotees are engaged in singing bhajans, Satya Sai Baba goes into labour. He squirms with pain, his right hand pressing on his stomach, heart and neck. While wiping the tears, sweat and saliva with a towel, he suddenly "gives birth" to an oval gold or stone linga from his mouth.”
“PROPS: An oval stone, one bath towel, well starched, and a flower pot.
“METHOD: The oval stone is hidden inside the towel and placed in the flower vase as a decoration. While the right hand presses your body, to the sound of groans, you take the towel and start wiping the sweat and tears. When your hand reaches your neck, saliva flows from your mouth. Under the pretence of wiping the saliva, the towel is applied to the mouth. The oval stone is placed half inside your mouth and when you lower the towel, it appears as if the oval stone is emerging from your mouth.” (p. 62)
1995: ‘Sai Baba Caught Faking a Video’, Indian Skeptic, Vol. 8/1.
1999: ‘Betrayal by Sai Baba’, The Indian Skeptic, Vol 12/4, August 1999, pp. 18-28.
[A copy is available from: http://sekty.net/Data/Materialy/Baba/e-27txt.php]
An extraordinarily strong series of explicit allegations of Sathya Sai Baba ’s sexual abuse of some of his school pupils.
2001: Murders in Sai Baba’s Bedroom, Podanur, Indian CSICOP. See also: http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/index.html
A very complex series of accusations concerning the ashram killings. Some short excerpts from the book were quoted on www.exbaba.com (12 August 2002). For more information on the events of June 1993, see Robert Priddy’s Sathya Sai Baba webpage and his book, End of the Dream. For Indian Press reports and other documents, see www.exbaba.com, June 1993 and May 1994.
(For more notes on Premanand, see also the ‘Electronic Newsletter’ of the Georgia Skeptics, Vol. 7/1, Winter 1994 and The Skeptic (Australia), Vol. 11/4, 1995.)
Priddy, Robert See also Part 3
A retired academic and ex-devotee, Priddy is the most outspoken and by far the most prolific of the post-2000 group of critics of Sathya Sai Baba and the SSO, collectively known as ‘The Exposé’. He was founder member and office-bearer of the Oslo Sathya Sai Centre in 1983, Chairman from 1987 and acted as national contact-person of the Sathya Sai Organisation of Norway 1987-2000, when he left the Organisation. In early 2002 Priddy set up his first critical website:
2004: End of the Dream. The Sathya Sai Baba Enigma, Podanur, India .
In this volume of 600 pages, many of Priddy’s Internet articles from 2002 to early 2004 are collected. Major sections: the SSO, pp. 494-533; the 1993 killings, 107-118; Sathya Sai Baba and the Culture of Rumour, pp. 185-240; Criticisms of Sathya Sai Baba ’s Teachings, pp. 430-485; the sexual allegations, pp. 271-323; ‘Shocking Revelations by V. K. Narasimhan’, pp. 40-83. And a listing of several website references to allegations against Sathya Sai Baba by young men.
2007 (October): Priddy’s new principal website is www.saibaba-x.org.uk/
In this major new compilation, the reader will find a cornucopia of detailed information, with many links to “Exposé” websites, other critical websites, and to specific important documents.
“SATHYA SAI BABA IN WORD AND ACTION”
“Self-proclaimed ‘Man of Miracles’, God Incarnate, and Saviour of All Mankind, Indian holy man, and the most influential Indian ‘holy man’ of the era, whose following is claimed to be in the millions.”
“INVESTIGATIVE STUDIES, REPORTS AND VIEWPOINTS ON ALL SERIOUS ISSUES CONNECTED TO THE SELF-APPOINTED ‘AVATAR OF THE AGE’”
“The writings of Robert and Reidun Priddy, Serguei Badaev, Barry Pittard, Jorge Reyesvera, Åsa Samsioe, & others.”
“ www.saibaba-x.org.uk showcases the views of a large group of former Sai Organisation members and ex-devotees.”
In particular, sub-groups of Priddy’s collected critical articles are accessible:
Sathya Sai Quotes about Himself, Prophesies and Predictions
Miraculous Claims of Sai Baba on his Avatarhood
More Bogus and Absurd Claims of Avatarhood and Miracles
On ‘Miraculous Healing’ or Cures by Faith (in Sai Baba)
On Sathya Sai Baba’s Failed and Fundamentalist ‘teachings’
Disempowerment by Worshipping Sai Baba (6 Parts)
“Green diamond” in Gold Ring ‘materialised (?)’by Sai Baba Exposed by Royal Jeweller (Photos)
The Sai Enigma Reconsidered (Numerous pages revealing and documentings ‘taboo’ facts)
World Exposé of Sexual Abuse by Sai Baba (Major Overview)
Concerning the Question of Touching Male Genitals by Sathya Sai Baba
The 1993 Executions in Sai Baba’s Bedroom
The 1993 Executions in Sai Baba’s Bedroom Revisited
The Sathya Sai Organisation Examined. Documented Analysis of its Aims and Functions
Most Shocking Revelations from Sai's Close Servitor, V. K. Narasimhan
Sathya Sai Organisation’s Deceptive Propaganda Exposed
Extraordinary Rationalisations of Sathya Sai Baba’s Reported Sexual Activities
Letters by Dr. John Hislop to Cover up Sexual Abuse Claims against Sai Baba
4. On “Exposé” activities:
Defecting Sathya Sai Organisation Office-bearers / Prominent Devotees
2007 (February-), Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed, http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com
A blogsite offering Priddy's latest prolific writings about Sathya Sai Baba, the SSO and related issues.
‘The Despot Idi Amin – the Myth of Sai Baba's Influence over him’, http://home.chello.no/~reirob/idi/amin.htm
‘Devotees’ Fear of public Association with Sathya Sai Baba. The authoritarian cultist ‘fortress mentality’ and anonymous Attacks on Critics’, www.exbaba.com, 12 December 2006.
(See www.exbaba.com for other contributions by Priddy and Part 3 of this Bibliography for his earlier hagiographical study of Sathya Sai Baba, Source of the Dream.)
Radhakrishna, G.S., ‘Brushed under the carpet. The Probe into the Attempt on Sai Baba’s Life has been Abandoned’, Sunday, 10 December 1995, p. 20. (See S. P. Ruhela, 1997, pp 161-165)
Two and a half years after the ashram killings, following an unsatisfactory and controversial investigation, the case has been abandoned, leaving an unresolved mystery.
Quoting the two surviving members of the group which launched some form of attack or protest at the ashram in June 1993 (V.S.Prabhu and B. Ravindra), the reporter alleges that the incident in which four of the “attackers” were shot dead by police was motivated by a desire to bring about a change in the administration of the ashram which was afflicted by faction struggles for control of the Central Trust, financial irregularities, and undue power in the hands of Sathya Sai Baba's brother, Janakiramaiah.
(See D. and F. Bailey, The Findings, Seduced (DK TV, Denmark, 2002), Secret Swami (BBC, 2004), www.exbaba.com, www. saiguru.net, Robert Priddy’s website, the entries for Hari Sampath and Barry Pittard and other Internet sources listed in this Part of the Bibliography.)
1985: ‘Is Sai Baba on his way out?’, Sunday, Madras, 8 September 1985.
Not seen, but according to references to it by D. Taylor (see Part 1), the article contains some dubious or incorrect information.
1993: ‘Sai of Belief’, The Times of India, 13 June 1993.
[Reproduced in S.P.Ruhela, Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Press (1972-1996), pp. 128-133.]
A week after the ashram killings, this journalist presented a strongly worded potted history of criticism of Sathya Sai Baba in India. Two samples:
“Few godmen in the country arouse such strong feeling as Sathya Sai Baba ...”
“His early life is wrapped in the usual quota of unconfirmed, unverified and apocryphal stories, all of which have been amplified and exaggerated with the passage of time.”
Ranawana, Arjuna, ‘A Test of Faith’, www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/97/0404/is1.html 4 April 1997.
“India’s ‘godmen and godwomen’ wield astonishing power. Some people want to take it away from them.”
A famous American magician, rationalist and dedicated debunker of occult and supernatural claims.
1995a: The Supernatural A-Z. The Truth and the Lies, London, Headline.
On p. 270: two paragraphs on Sathya Sai Baba’s claimed miracles and materialisations including Randi’s conclusion as a qualified magician that “… examination of films and videotapes of Sathya Sai Baba's actual performances show them to be simple sleight-of-hand ...”
On p. 231, Randi cites the rule of parsimony as one of his guiding principles: “... this rule states that if there exist two answers to a problem or a question, and if for one answer to be true, well-established laws of logic and science must be re-written, ignored or suspended in order to allow it to be true and for the other answer to be true no such accommodation need be made, then the simpler – the second – of the two answers is much more likely to be correct. Parsimony applies here.”
1995b: An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural , New York, St Martin’s Press, 1995 and on www.randi.org/encyclopedia/Sai%20Baba.html
This short 3-paragraph entry includes the claim that “Examination of films and videotapes of Sai Baba's actual performances show them to be simple sleight of hand, exactly the same as the sort used by the other Indian jaduwallahs, or “street conjurors.” Sai Baba has never submitted to an examination of his abilities under controls, so his claims are totally unproven. ”
His website: www.randi.org
Of his regular commentaries, see especially the one for 8 December 2000 and the Newsletters for 3 May 2002, and 13 July 2003. Although Randi has written about Sathya Sai Baba on several occasions and, more recently, posted a number of videos on YouTube he feels that “exposures have not made a whit of difference in the Baba’s income or his comfort. He’s just too well protected by money and the ignorance of his dupes.”
The Reachout Trust, ‘Sai Baba’ [sic], www.reachouttrust.org/articles/othergrp/saibaba.htm
One of the stated aims of the Reachout Trust is to “ Examine in the light of the Christian gospel the beliefs and spirituality of people within the cults, occults, new age and all not upholding to biblical truth.” At the end of their brief presentation of “Sai Baba”, in which the sexual allegations are mentioned and a link to the BBC documentary on Sathya Sai Baba is provided, these openly partisan conclusions are offered:
“The claims of Sai Baba, even on the level of being a holy man with a prophetic message, are clearly contested by many, despite some 30 million followers. Before a decision is made to follow such a man it is vital that all the evidence is checked out.
“The claim to be God and greater than Jesus clearly puts him at odds with the central teachings of Christianity and the true Christ.
“The ‘hope’ that Sai Baba teaches is no hope according to the fundamental tenets of Christianity. He is seeking to rely on reincarnation whereas the Bible clearly teaches one life, one death and one judgement. See our article to be aware of the differences between reincarnation and resurrection and our conclusions as to which one is more reliable.”
Rao, Malleswara, ‘Shroud of Mystery’ , Frontline, 2 July 1993.
Speculation about the ashram killings. (See S.P.Ruhela, 1997: 125-126.)
Riemersma, Stijn , ‘ Devotee becomes anti-Sai Baba activist’, www.saiguru.net/english/media/001209riemersma.htm and www.exbaba.com, 5 March 2001, translated from the original Dutch in Noordhollands Dagblad, 9 December 2000 by Arthur de Mijttenaere.
The story of a devotee of 20 years who became an activist after reading about the sexual allegations in The Findings (by D. and F. Bailey).
Riti, M. D. and Theodore, Stanley, ‘High Intrigue: Deadly Power Struggle in Puttaparthi’, The Week, India, 20 June 1993, 25-33.
Days after the sensational killings in the ashram, speculation is rife about why they took place. These reporters favour the theory of an internal power struggle within the SSO.
Roads, Duncan M. et al, ‘Sai Baba Exposed: Fraud, Fakery & Molestation’, in Nexus, 7(5), 2000: 56-61. (See also Nexus)
Roy, A., ‘Sai Baba under Investigation’, in R. Karanjia, pp. 91-100.
Ruhela, S. P. See also Part 3
Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Press (1972-1996), New Delhi, UMANG Paperbacks, 1997.
The only collection of critical (and a few other) Indian press articles and summaries to date. The bulk of the articles are from the period 1976-1996. I have found Ruhela's compilation invaluable. Of special interest:
B. Premanand’s challenges over the claimed ‘resurrection’ of Walter Cowan.
The correspondence and accounts concerning the unsuccessful 1976 attempt by a scientific committee chaired by theVice-Chancellor of Bangalore University (Professor H. Narasimhaiah) to get Sathya Sai Baba to present himself to be examined by them.
References to the lengthy interviews by Karanjia, also in 1976.
Coverage of the 1993 killings (40 pages of media articles) and of the controversial TV sequence of 1992 where it was alleged that the camera had caught Sathya Sai Baba performing sleight-of-hand in materialising a gold chain.
A robust critic and activist, whose main activity was carried out between 2000 and 2002 on his website www.sathyasaivictims, which has since been discontinued. Some of his articles were reproduced on www.exbaba.com in 2000 and 2001, for example:
‘Myths Promoted by the Organisation’, 17 July 2000 (originally at http://www.sathyasaivictims.com/lie_Hari_myths.htm).
‘Account by Hari Sampath about the working of the Sai Baba scam’, www.exbaba.com, August 2001 (from http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/sathyasaibabadiscussionclub, Messages 22, 106, 107, 108, 126, 127, 350, 352, 353, 356)
‘Criminal Complaint against Sathya Sai Baba, www.exbaba.com, 1 August 2001.
‘More lies from Sai Baba’, www.exbaba.com, 11 August 2001 (from: Sai Baba – Anti Christ? Quick Topic Discussion Board, message 1048: http://www.quicktopic.com/7/H/uVTiRX8McBie, 28 July 2001. [site closed]
Sampath's main themes were: the detailed sexual allegations, the 1993 killings, and the SSO in general, for whom he had worked as a security officer between 1992 and 1995. His articles also dealt with discrepancies in Sathya Sai Baba 's words and actions, and the possibility of charging Sathya Sai Baba with alleged crimes. One of his articles deals with his lengthy letter of complaint to the Indian CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).
Sandhya, B. S., ‘Going after godmen with feet of clay’, The Hindustan Times, 21 August 1995.
Sanghvi, Vir, ‘The Truth about Sathya Sai Baba’, The Hindustan Times (Counterpoint), 25 November 2006.
A highly critical article on the occasion of Sathya Sai Baba’s 80th birthday.
Schulman, Arnold, Baba, New York, Viking Press, 1971.
Arnold Schulman, a successful American scriptwriter, tells us he was irresistibly attracted by Sathya Sai Baba’s reputation in 1969. His book, which bears the shortest title of all the hundreds of books on SSB, has long been out of print and virtually forgotten. Published in the same year as Howard Murphet’s first book (which is still in print), this well written book is important as an early basically favourable account of Sathya Sai Baba by a Westerner. These were the first two books by “Western” writers (both experienced in different fields and used to research methods). It is probably fair (as well as relevant) to add that the majority of pro-Sathya Sai Baba books since then have been written with far less attention to careful research. The book is listed here as well as in Part 3 of the Bibliography because, unlike devotee literature, it shows the writer’s independent stance and contains important clues for researchers. Also because, as the following examples illustrate, Schulman is erroneously claimed by both devotees (who may not have read the book) and Wikipedia to be a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba.
1. When Dr. Gokak tells him on his arrival for his carefully planned second visit in 1970 that Baba is an avatar and says so, Schulman is surprised and alarmed. He accepts the miracle stories he hears but only as special yogic powers. “That was the biggest assumption the writer was prepared to accept.” Then Gokak continues, ‘For a man to say such a thing he must either be mad or else ... He is God.’
“A third alternative immediately occurred to the writer: Suppose Baba were neither mad nor God but simply a very talented charlatan cleverly utilizing the Indian readiness to accept the idea of living avatars?” (p.14)
2. After his six weeks of efficient research at the ashrams and in Bangalore, and contact with Kasturi, Gokak (both as spokespersons and interpreters) and Sathya Sai Baba, Schulman seems convinced “that there was nothing the writer could think of that would allow him to accept the idea that this person with the Afro hairdo and the orange dress could actually, literally, be God.” (171)
3. While gathering his research material, the writer became suspicious of some devotees “who seemed to be repeating monologues they had perfected years ago. Others gave the impression they were improvising the stories as they went along.” (p. 21)
4. Unlike virtually all other Sathya Sai Baba writers, Schulman observed that: “In trying to discover what Sathya’s childhood was like, the writer ran across every possible variation from “he was an ordinary child, like the rest of us” to stories of precocious saintliness which told of how, when he was only five years old, he frequently went without food so that he could sneak it out of the house and give it to the beggars and blind men of the village.” (p. 125)
5. Other frank observations by Schulman further underline why his (plausible) version never became the accepted truth about young Sathya Narayana. For example, “It was not possible to document with certifiable evidence much of Baba’s biography” (p. 123). And: “For every story about Baba’s childhood there are any number of conflicting stories and, at this point, the writer discovered, it is no longer possible to sift out the facts from the legend. For one thing Baba has forbidden his family and devotees to talk about his childhood ...” and “ ‘they all live in terror of Baba,’ as one of his most devoted followers told the writer.” (p. 122) Their fear is of Sathya Sai Baba’s usual punishment for those who make mistakes: ignoring them totally.
6. Also, instead of swallowing and regurgitating Kasturi’s cobra incident (which was already one of the accepted myths), Schulman reports that one of Sathya Sai Baba’s sisters had told him (presumably through an interpreter) that there was no cobra under the blanket after Sathya Narayana's birth but that some hours later a cobra was seen outside the house – a sight not uncommon in the remote village. On such differences are myths based. (There seems to be absolutely no reason for Schulman to invent this, nor for the translation to be wrong.) The difference between the Kasturi and Schulman versions of the event neatly encapsulates the serious problems posed by the official biography of Sathya Sai Baba.
7. Further food for thought and research is presented in the case of his interviews with one of Sathya Sai Baba’s sisters when Schulman had to use two interpreters, one from her Telugu into Hindi and the other from the first interpreter’s Hindi into English. The writer shrewdly observes that during this time-consuming process, “what the writer was told the sister said might very well have been something quite different from what she actually said” (p. 124).
8. Equally untypical of devotee accounts is Schulman’s suspicion of Sathya Sai Baba’s propensity for enigmatic or sententious pronouncements which often sound meaningless. In an interview reported on pages 108-110, during most of which Gokak is interpreting for SSB, the latter comments in English, “Far is not important. No far, no near, no near. Dear, only dear is important” (p.110). In the final interview Schulman tells Sathya Sai Baba, “I don’t understand anything I’ve seen.” “Baba laughed. ‘Appearance is not different from emptiness,’ Baba said struggling for the words in English, ‘Yet within emptiness there is no appearance.’” Not surprisingly, Schulman informs his readers that “The writer ... did not understand and he resisted the temptation to pretend that he did” (p. 168). On another occasion, Schulman has this politically incorrect thought about Sathya Sai Baba’s alleged omniscience: “... if he’s God, didn’t he know how undeveloped I was spiritually when he agreed to let me write the book in the first place?” (p. 106)
Secret Swami See under BBC TV
Seduced See under DR TV
See D. and F. Bailey, The Findings, Seduced (DK TV, Denmark, 2002), Secret Swami (BBC, 2004), www.exbaba.com, www. saiguru.net, Robert Priddy’s website, the entries for Hari Sampath and Barry Pittard, and other Internet sources listed in this Part of the Bibliography.
Shah, Tahir, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998.
A highly entertaining and imaginative travel-cum-adventure book which includes a description of the author’s brief apprenticeship to a master (whom he calls Feroze) in miracle techniques, like going into a trance, materialising vibhuti and regurgitating lingams.
In much of Shah’s description of “Feroze’s” teachings, it is difficult for the reader not to suspect that the author is satirising many Indian gurus but in particular Sathya Sai Baba.
Shah is fearful when his newly-found master suddenly goes from meditation into a trance. When he returns to consciousness, the teacher explains that it is done with a walnut: “The illusion is elementary. ... First, stick the walnut in your armpit, and pretend you’re going into a state of samadhi. Next, gently press down on the nut. The trembling of meditation masks the contraction of one’s shoulder muscles. Soon, as you saw, the nut reduces the pulse, by pressing on the axillary artery.” (p. 98)
“Feroze insisted that mastering vibhuti would develop my sleight-of-hand abilities. Adept conjurors, he said, can eat, drink tea, and write with one or two of the pellets – hidden in position – lodged in the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger. With a single circling movement of the hand, they can withdraw the pellet and crush it with the fingertips.
“Feroze demonstrated how to make the tiny pellets. A quantity of perfume and ash is mixed in a pan with a few drops of kanji, a starchy water in which rice has been washed. Stir in enough ash and one gets a form of dough. Pea-sized beads of the preparation are dried, ready for use.” (p. 101)
To produce the lingams, Shah describes how he graduated from swallowing small potatoes and provoking a violent regurgitation with a powerful emetic to stage 2 where he was able to produce the same effect with pebbles by control of internal muscles (pp. 104-108). He quotes his master as commenting: “Houdini claimed to be nothing more that an illusionist. But here, in India, godmen have taken these feats a stage further: they are passing them off as actual magic.” And (on p.110): “Houdini understood that without mystery there was no magic. He knew also that without publicity, word of one’s skill would not travel.”
Shailaja, M. Seetha
1. ‘Is the Sai Baba’s empire beginning to disintegrate?’, 29 November 2000, www.saiguru.net/english/media/001129tehelka.htm
The preamble to the article inspired by Sathya Sai Baba’s lavish 75 th Birthday celebrations states: “There is no doubt that the low turnout at his birthday celebrations were an indication of the Sai Baba’s falling clout as a result of charges of child sexual abuse and the inexorable flaking away of his worldwide empire.” Other instances of journalistic hype include a reference to 37 million followers and “It is common knowledge that … mafia dons alike are given immediate audience with the Sai Baba and move around freely within the ashram even when the police are around.”
Note: This and another two articles by the same author have been archived on Steven Hassan’s website:
1. www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/s/sathya/, under the Link ‘Sathya Sai Baba: The Avatar Impostor’.
2. ‘Sathya Sai Central Trust: Grab as grab can’. [Recovered from: http://web.archive.org/web/20050910004228/http://www.saiguru.net/english/media/001129grab.htm] This short article alleges that “The principal architects of the trust are now reportedly worried about the plummeting devotee numbers and even more desultory recruitment rate (see Is the Sai Baba's empire beginning to disintegrate? ). They have suggested to the Sai Baba that he should travel abroad and hold sessions with devotees to kill rumours and counter increasingly murky publicity. (The Sai Baba has been abroad only once, to Uganda).”
Shepherd, Kevin R.D. (See also Part 1 of this Bibliography for his scholarly work on Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai.)
2005: Investigating the Sai Baba Movement. A Clarification of Misrepresented Saints and Opportunism, Dorset, Citizen Initiative. (ISBN 09525089 3)
This is a revised and extended version of the author's 1986 work (Gurus Rediscovered), which dealt with Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasni Maharaj of Sakori. As well as critical revisions of the original two sections, Shepherd adds a related new section on Meher Baba (pp. 105-161) and follows this with three vigorous Appendices on Sathya Sai Baba (pp. 269-300), including brief commentaries on and specific references to recent Internet controversies and allegations concerning SSB, whom the author characterises as "an exploitative intruder" in relationship to the other three Indian saints studied. The three Appendices are titled:
'Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi – an Abuser of Devotees' (pp. 269-282).
'The International Cause to Expose Satya Sai Baba' (283-292)
'The Extent of Abuse achieved by Satya Sai Baba' (293-300).]
2007a: ‘The Sathya Sai Baba Cordon in Wikipedia’, http://citizeninitiative.com/sathya_sai_and_wikipedia.htm
A substantial and informative Internet article (originally of 30 pages) which meanders far beyond its arcane title referring to the acrimonious 2006 controversy which engulfed the Wikipedia article on Sathya Sai Baba and, at one point, cast malicious aspersions on Shepherd’s scholarly status. The author covers several topics related to Sathya Sai Baba criticism and also offers an explanation and defence of his long-term status as an amateur scholar and as a self-publisher of several books which have attracted academic attention. He also describes and strongly condemns some of the crude tactics of the aggressive pro-Sathya Sai Baba activist and propagandist, Joe Moreno, defends Robert Priddy (and later, himself) from reckless assertions and unfounded ad hominem disparagement, and offers a glimpse of fellow scholar Alan Kazlev’s spirited reaction to a belated discovery of Moreno’s true colours. He also weighs in heavily in support of Sathya Sai Baba’s critics who have promoted allegations of sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba, singling out the critical work of Robert Priddy and Basava Premanand and also citing the also relevant disillusionment with Sathya Sai Baba of the late Dr Marianne Warren, a fellow Shirdi Baba scholar.
The original 30 pages consist of four parts, plus Notes and References. (The Internet references and end links given by Shepherd will guide researchers to much of the critical work on Sathya Sai Baba.)
Part 1: Gerald Moreno’s Bias against Robert Priddy and Kevin R.D. Shepherd, and how Dr Marianne Warren became an ex-devotee.
Part 2: Profile of Gerald (Joe) Moreno and the Testimonies to strongly alleged sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba.
Part 3: Wikipedia, the rival Citizendium, and the Wikipedia ban on Gerald (Joe) Moreno.
Part 4: F.A.I.R. queries the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, and Prof. Dvorkin repudiates Prof. Barker’s I.N.F.O.R.M. policy.
A few months later (in November 2007), Shepherd responded to further disparagement and provocation by Moreno on the Internet by appending a substantial (18-page) 'Response' to the above article. Since this complex addendum was later issued for separate consultation, it is listed below.
2007b: 'Kevin R.D. Shepherd in response to Gerald Joe Moreno',
As well as cogently expressing his personal grievances against Moreno’s unsupported assertions and verdict, Shepherd comes to the aid of many other victims of the activist’s relentless campaign to disparage and discredit all critics of Sathya Sai Baba. In doing so, Shepherd draws special attention to the extraordinary technological component of Moreno’s aggressive strategy: exploiting the current primitive Search Engine system in order to weight Internet search results for critics’ names (including Shepherd’s) against the critics and in favour of Moreno’s own enormous accumulated stock of questionable articles disparaging them.
A reasonable conclusion one may draw from such a disturbing revelation is that it is now the Search Engines’ responsibility to take note of this serious systemic weakness and improve their service to the public.
(For more on the ubiquitous Internet activities of pro-Sathya Sai Baba activist, Gerald (‘Joe’) Moreno, see elsewhere in Part 2 and in Part 3.)
Singh, Khushwant, ‘God Save us from godmen’, The Hindustan Times, 19 June 1993.
In relation to the ashram killings, Singh muses on the usefulness of godmen, while recognising that some like Sathya Sai Baba do charitable works. He goes on to suggest that the killings may have a connection with older rumours about Sathya Sai Baba, first published in a book by Tal Brooke in the early 1980s: Lord of the Air. He adds, as Brooke has asserted, that all copies were bought, and probably destroyed, within a week of publication.
Singh, Rahul, ‘Magic Realism’, The Times of India, 27 August 1995.
This article is reproduced in S.P.Ruhela (1997: 140-142). It praises the patient efforts of the Indian Rationalists Kovoor and his successor, Premanand (and briefly mentions Beyerstein as well) in unmasking trickery and false claims by gurus and godmen, with particular emphasis on their attention to Sathya Sai Baba. In referring to the controversial 1992 TV incident, the journalist asserts that “it was found that an aide had surreptitiously handed Sai Baba the object which he then produced out of thin air.” (Ruhela, p. 141)
Singh, Suneet Vir and Das Gupta, Sunita, ‘Sai Baba in Eye of Storm’, The Tribune, 5 December 1992.
A suggestion of an official attempt to cover up the embarrassing incident filmed on Doordarshan TV in August 1992.
Smith, Rupert, ‘Spiritual Depths’, The Guardian , 18 June, 2004. Posted on:
This review reflects the infotainment content of the 2004 BBC documentary. “It’s difficult to write about religion without offending someone, but mercifully we’re reviewing a television programme here, and not the mixture of wishful thinking and wilful credulity that leads people to worship soi-disant gurus such as Swami Sai Baba. BBC2’s ThisWorld strand last night gave us The Secret Swami, an entertaining hour that made a compelling case against Sai Baba, portraying him as a charlatan and an abuser.”
Sorcar, P.C., ‘Baba’s a bad trickster’, India Today, 4 December 2000, 42-43. (Reproduced by www.exbaba.com on 6 August 2001. See also under Menon, Amarnath K.)
A step by step demonstration by a prominent Indian professional magician of how Sathya Sai Baba allegedly performs his materialisations.
[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 subsequent research, including:
2002: ‘The Guru from Puttaparthi. An Alternative View of Sathya Sai Baba’ (on webpage, ongoing).
The ongoing research is based on a careful and comparative reading of much of the vast Sathya Sai Baba literature in English, and the cumulative discovery of more and more discrepancies and errors, overlooked, ignored or rationalised as Sathya Sai Baba’s ‘leelas’ by devotees (and previously also by this ex-devotee writer: mea culpa), principally because of an unquestioning acceptance of the mass of claims made by and on behalf of Sathya Sai Baba.
Principal areas of study:
Sathya Sai Baba’s compulsive storytelling habit and boastfulness and his (fluctuating) Divine claims; the claimed reincarnation as Shirdi Sai Baba; omniscience; aspects of the official Sathya Sai Baba biography (e.g. evidence for the Declarations having taken place in 1943, rather than in 1940); the substantial difference between the original unscripted rambling Telugu Discourses of Sathya Sai Baba and the heavily edited more stylistically sophisticated official translations made and published by the SSO (and read by devotees); the heavy responsibilities of associates, spokespersons, writers and devotees in making and promoting unsupported assertions, rumours and gossip about Sathya Sai Baba; discrepancies in the Sathya Sai Baba literature; defensive reflexes of denial, rationalisation of inconvenient information and unfounded accusations in the face of criticism of Sathya Sai Baba or the Sathya Sai Organisation.
The 3 Parts of this Bibliography on Sathya Sai Baba;
'New Factors for Researchers to Consider'
‘Dossier 1: ‘Sathya Sai Baba as Storyteller’
‘Dossier 2: ‘Sathya Sai Baba’s Claims of Divinity and Divine Powers’
‘Dossier 3: ‘The Packaging of Sathya Sai Baba’s Telugu Discourses. A Stronger Case’
‘Dossier 4. ‘Discrepancies in the Official Sathya Sai Baba Story: The Early Years’
‘Sathya Sai Baba’s Language and its Perception by Devotees’
‘The Year 2000: Major New Evidence about Sathya Sai Baba from four Sources’
‘Cherished Sathya Sai Baba Myth further discredited by SSSO Evidence’
‘Brief Notes on a Recent Visit to India’
‘Sathya Sai Baba’s Illnesses, Afflictions, and Injuries – a Significant Pattern?’
‘Sathya Sai Baba's Latest Story Discrepancy’
‘The University Chancellor and His Schoolboy Stories’
‘Sathya Sai Baba’s Wolf Messing Stories Revisited’
‘Devotees’ Expectations and Sathya Sai Baba’s Lingam Production’
‘Downgrading Divinity (An Update)’
‘An Interesting New Development in the Sathya Sai Organisation: The Prasanthi Council’
‘The Latest Example of His Master's Voice’
'Diversionary Tactics by an Internet Demagogue'
and, from 2001, ‘Personal Statement’.
Szandorowska, Barbara, Escape from the Guru, Eastbourne, Sussex, MARC, Publications, 1991. [Quoted by A. Nagel in ‘A Guru Accused’]
A negligible contribution to the subject.
Tehelka.com, ‘News’, 3 March 2006.
In a news item, this Indian magazine (“The People’s Paper”, motto “Free, Fair, Fearless”) offers observations on a new trend in spiritual worship and a rating of the most popular contemporary gurus in India:
“There has been a massive spiritual revival globally with India at its centre. Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation has centres in over 141 countries. A good indicator of AOL’s following is the composition of the congregation. Until a few years ago, spiritualism was a refuge for the retired. At Jakkur, nearly 60 percent of the attendees were youngsters. The stress of daily life – at work, at home, in relationships – is affecting the young more and more.
“Exercises like Sudarshan Kriya help ‘detoxify’ the mind and the body of negative emotions; they help release stress and rejuvenate the individual. Wellness is the mantra here, not gods and goddesses. Which is why, perhaps, a great many AOL volunteers come from the upper strata of society, with a generous sprinkling of the Page-3 type, who are not attracted to religion but take hugely to emotional repair.
“So there are art dealers, bankers, financial consultants, journalists and CEOs. Ravi Shankar’s following is so large that he has taken a whole hill 40 kilometres from Bangalore on a 99-year lease from the Karnataka government. A sprawling, three-storeyed modern Ashram is situated there. There’s a lake, a helipad, dining halls, a cyber cafe, a bookshop and residential quarters. There are so many people milling around that it seems like the whole world is around. People from more than 125 countries attended AOL’s silver jubilee celebrations. Ravi Shankar has a dedicated channel on Worldspace radio, and plans to start an online university soon to teach Vedic math. And Ravi Shankar doesn’t come cheap: delegates had to pay Rs 5,000 each to attend the AOL celebrations. The fee for a basic AOL course is Rs 200 if it is part of a special promotion drive, and Rs 1,000 for a full-fledged course. At a rough enrolment estimate of about five lakh, the total fee amount would come to Rs 50 crore.
“Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh has long attracted devotees from all over the world. He has an even bigger set-up in Puttaparthi; he runs a university and hospitals. To his followers Sai Baba is divine, with miraculous powers. He commands several lakh devotees worldwide. When it comes to popular following today, Swami Ramdev of Hardwar, comes closest to Ravi Shankar. Ramdev is a television star, and his yoga and pranayam lessons have an audience running into millions in the 10 countries that receive broadcasts from the Aastha television channel.
“Then there’s Mata Amrithanandamayi, the ‘hugging saint’ of Kerala. She’s the lone woman among the top seers in India. More remarkably, despite her low-caste origins, she too has a huge following among the elites. She runs her own Amritha television channel, and has assets running into crores of rupees. The two famous Bapus – Asaram Bapu and Murari Bapu – are also television stars, known for their discourses, but their following though massive, is less than that of Swami Ramdev and Ravi Shankar.”
Thakur, Janardan, ‘Challenge to Sai Baba: Is He God?’ Sunday, 5 September 1976, pp. 6-14.
This refers to the challenge from the Committee chaired by Professor Narasimhaiah.
Thapa, Vijay Jung et al, ‘A God Accused’, in India Today, 4 December, 2000: 44-46.
Following up on the November Daily Telegraph report by Mick Brown (unnamed), the authors briefly describe or quote allegations of sexual abuse by young devotees “Sam Young”, Hans de Kraker, Jens Sethi and Conny Larsson.
The Times of India, ‘No Miracles’, 25 July 1976. [Listed in Haraldsson 1987]
The Times of India, ‘Sai of Belief’, 13 June 1993.
Reproduced in S.P.Ruhela, Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Press (1972-1996), pp. 128-133.
A week after the ashram killings, this journalist presented a strongly worded potted history of criticism of Sathya Sai Baba in India. Two samples:
“Few godmen in the country arouse such strong feeling as Sathya Sai Baba...”
“His early life is wrapped in the usual quota of unconfirmed, unverified and apocryphal stories, all of which have been amplified and exaggerated with the passage of time.”
Todd, Douglas, ‘Holy man? Sex abuser? Both?’, Vancouver Sun, 27 February 2001.
“His followers say Sai Baba is a God on Earth, and they generously support his multi-billion-dollar religious empire. But some former adherents are coming forward with dark tales of the guru sexually molesting young men.”
Todd outlines the allegations against Sathya Sai Baba and interviews Canadian devotees (especially those from the prominent Vancouver Sathya Sai Baba Temple) about their response. In one case, the response is that Sathya Sai Baba ’s acts are performed for sexual healing.
van der Meer, Matthijs, ‘The truth will prevail ... A Sai-devotee’s Struggle for Disenchantment’, by Matthijs van der Meer, www.saiguru.net/english/media/0010spiegelbeeld.htm
This is a (slightly blemished) English translation of the original Dutch version (‘Sai Baba en de Waarheid’ – Sai Baba and Truth), published in Spiegelbeeld, October 2000. pp. 18-21. van der Meer’s brief account of his disillusionment includes references to his interview with ‘Keith’ (1995) and a brief exchange with Phyliss Krystal (1996) over the sexual allegations.
Vroon, Piet, ‘Santa Claus in India’, in Indian Skeptic, 6, No. 4, pp. 8-16, August 1993
and at www.saiguru.net/english/media/930804vroon.htm
A translation by J.W. Nienhuys of an article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant on 5 December, 1992 (‘Sinterklaas in India’). It is available at : www.saiguru.net/english/media/930804vroon.htm
This is a highly critical article by a Professor of Experimental Psychology, whose attempt to film Sathya Sai Baba for a Dutch Christian organisation had to be abandoned. (The translation was made by J. W. Nienhuys as a present for the author of ‘Sai Baba’s Miracles: an Overview’, the Canadian philosopher Dale Beyerstein.)
The Week, ‘A Plethora of Possibilities’, 20 June 1993.
Listed by S.P.Ruhela (1997, pp.118-119). It offers the various possible reasons for the ashram killings two weeks previously (and their degree of probability): Naxalites; the jobless; love, money or power; power struggle; intervention by the RSS.
Wikipedia (Repeated from Part 1)
Vox Populi: The Internet Wikipedia article on Sathya Sai Baba (2005-2007)
Wikipedia’s controversial offering on Sathya Sai Baba turned into a series of battles of wills, where veteran Wikipedians and a motley group of agents provocateurs and bystanders argued endlessly, not so much about evidence as about procedural points of order, like NPOV [Neutral Point of View], ‘reliable sources’, and other restrictive practices which ensure that the content of this and many other controversial topics on the shifting sands of Wikipedia are institutionally predestined to be incomplete and unreliable for researchers and the general public. After three or four voluminous Archives of ‘Talk’ (= Discussion) about these tactical exchanges had been bundled up and preserved for posterity, there was a final bitter fight which led to a call for an Arbitration Committee of Wikipedians to intervene and pronounce judgement on the situation. Eventually, two activists and – in an act of bureaucratic ineptitude – the beleaguered hard-working Wikipedian main author, were banished and another Wikipedian was selected to oversee the improvement and balancing of the article (although original research will still be banned, as demanded by Wikipedia’s arcane rules).
(Anecdotically, this Wikipedia Sathya Sai Baba controversy has had further ramifications: the hapless Wikipedia refugee has decamped with his old Wikipedia materials and is preparing new articles on the Sai Baba Movement and on Sathya Sai Baba on the new Citizendium website, while his main adversary, a pro-SSB propagandist has set up a large website vigorously denouncing Wikipedia in retaliation for his expulsion.)
Following the judgement in March 2007 there was a lull in the communal editing of this Sathya Sai Baba article until November 2007, when the disputation was resumed.
References to Sathya Sai Baba on “anti-cult” and cult study websites
Most of those listed below offer older references, mainly those printed in magazines or books.
Apologetics Index , http://www.apologeticsindex.org/s11.html
Under Sathya Sai Baba, this site only lists magazine articles and books up to 2002. Although this includes Tal Brooke and Dale Beyerstein, the latter link has not been updated.
F.A.C.T. Net, www.factnet.org/cults/Sai_Baba/Bhagavan_Sri_Sathya_Sai_Baba.htm
(“We are to destructive cults, fundamentalism, mind control, and mental coercion/torture what Amnesty International is to physical torture.” )
FACTnet offers a large number of references to Sathya Sai Baba. The links are divided into groups for Allegations (26 items), Contra (7 items), Official Site (1 item) and Pro (1 item). Amongst the allegations is a link to a .pdf document of the Bailey Findings posted by the (unlisted here) pro-Sathya Sai Baba website “The Sai Critic” – See Part 3 of this Bibliography.
Freedom of Mind Center (Steven Hassan), www.freedomofmind.com/reseourcecenter/groups/s/sathya
A Cult Information website which offers valuable links to www.exbaba.com and other sources of information, including some which has now been withdrawn from the Internet, like most of the content of the defunct critical site www.saibabaguru.com, including the three www.tehelka.com (also defunct) articles of 29 November 2000 by M. Seetha Shailaja. There is a direct link to the www.exbaba.com offering of the BBC documentary Secret Swami: http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/groups/s/sathya/the-secret-swami/
I.C.S.A. (International Cultic Studies Association)
This parallel academic organisation, which exists on subscriptions and donations, runs an extensive website offering information to members and the public on New Religious Movements and cults. Subscribers also have access to an e-library and receive a scholarly journal (Cultic Studies Review) and e-newsletters (abridged versions of which are available online for non-members to consult). Annual conferences offer academic papers on a very wide range of topics.
ICSA’s eclectic (but mainly critical) list of materials on Sathya Sai Baba is available at: www.icsahome.com/infoserv_grp/grp_saibaba.asp
The Rick A. Ross Institute, www.rickross.com/groups/saibaba.html
This website offers a small collection of articles and references on Sathya Sai Baba, not up to date. The site also offers high quality forum discussions on spiritual matters at: http://board.rickross.com/