THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)


Date: 09-23-02

By: Robert Priddy

From the website: Sathya Sai Baba - Extensive Information and Viewpoints

Part 6 – Buying Into 'God's Time' - SB's favouring the wealthy

It is considered a great heresay among believers to point out that SB's time can be bought, for he is God who has all the time in the world etc. Unfortunately for this bent reasoning, all this time does not allow the earthbound SB to talk and give interviews to more than a small fraction of the very large and pressing personality cult around him. Considering this it is not surprising that people try to use the normal 'short cuts' like money, personal power and influence and numerous other ways of obtaining what is then treasured as 'grace from God'. But this is what often happens in fact, however rosily the transaction is described as 'receiving grace' or 'rewards for being a great Sai worker'. There is, of course, no deal and no exchange of the blatant sort. The transaction is much more subtle than that, and from the donors viewpoint there does not seem to be any connection between what they give and what SB 'donates' of his attention or time in return. However, one way to obtain donations from wealthy persons is to make much of them, praise and flatter, and give privileges, manifest so-called 'diamond' rings for them and give them free accommodation etc. If they have any decency, they will invariably respond with whatever they can contribute. This is just what occurs in case after case, and has done so since long before the famous Dr. N. Bhagavantam left SB around 1983 at least partly because he evidently detested this! To refuse a donation - as SB often does - only increases tenfold the fervour of many donors, who then wish to give much more. It supposedly helps one feel one is an acceptable person in God's eyes after all!  

I was finally convinced of the fact that the rich purchase time and favours when I saw a couple coming out of SB's rooms every morning before darshan for over a week while staying at Kodaikanal, having gone in at least half an hour beforehand each day. They were a Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair of USA, who are known as the donors of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Central Trust! Hundreds of millions is correct, it is no misprint, and their donation then (one of several multi-million dollar gifts they made!) were announced at SB's 70th birthday (without their permission) and other of their donations have been written about in Sanathana Sarathi. (Mr. Sinclair's own account of his relation to SB was also published in brief in its pages in the 1990s. His total donations alone run into several hundreds of millions of dollars!). The rich and very influential always get what is comparative to red carpet treatment from SB, which fact cannot be concealed. They may have to wait half an hour, but that is nothing by ashram standards. 

India's famous atomic scientist, Dr. N. Bhagavantam, who had been a simultaneous translator of Baba's discourses for years, left Sai Baba early in the 1980s after over 20 years of being close to SB and attending hundreds of interviews etc., and he reportedly told devotees that this was not least because far too much attention was given by SB to wealthy foreign and Indian devotees, powerful politicians and the like, and especially those willing to donate funds, to whom he said that Baba most often gave rings, amulets and suchlike. Critics of Sai Baba may take all this as proof that Bhagavantam was right about Baba mostly only making himself available to those who are likely to give money and rewarding them with more rings and the like than others. One cannot cross-check the facts here, for no one keeps any kind of register of who received what. Bhagavantam is on record saying that Baba's powers and materialisations were genuine (on the 'Who Is Sai Baba' video). However, defenders of SB spread the rumour that Bhagavantam left because of envy, or that he wanted to be Vice-Chancellor of the University when Gokak was chosen instead – or else because his son was by-passed for some envied position. This only sounded like an attempt to nullify Bhagavantam's valid critical attitude to SB's activities using the standard formula against defectors, namely, 'jealousy and envy due to not getting what they want'. I figure it is unlikely for a person of Bhagavantam's calibre would be above such considerations; a genuine VIP and semi-hero in India for successfully duplicating the atomic bomb for India, a very mature man with considerable national fame and self-confidence independently of SB followers. Voicing dissent is not a possible choice for otherwise confirmed devotees and was doubtless hard enough for the semi-sceptic Bhagavantam to do too after so many years of residence. Had he wanted to continue serving SB, he of all prestigious Indian public figures would surely not have left in an alleged fit of jealousy at not getting some Sai-prestigious post!  

A rich ship-owner who once had built up a company in Bombay, the Norwegian Alf Tidemann-Johannesen, was cultivated by SB during the 1970s. Nothing has been heard of him since Kasturi and others wrote up glowing accounts of his supposed devotion to SB. This person glows by his absence from all subsequent literature! In fact, he too became disillusioned and left SB quite early on, according to a lady in our Oslo group who knew him and last met him around 1988 when he visited Norway from Mexico. He was then writing a book denouncing SB, whom he claimed was a deceiver. He told that SB had failed in his promises, and had deceived him about the helicopter that Tidemann-Johannesen claims to have provided to SB for travel purposes and, not least, giving darshan at his 55th birthday. (A film showing this darshan was made and distributed by Richard Bock of California). Tidemann-Johannesen died in 2001. The 'official' Kasturi biography of SB has, of course, not been amended or commented on this in any way. The apparent myth of the great luck of this foreign devotee - and the doubtlessly overblown interpretations of events by the poetic Kasturi - all are left to live on unaltered! 

Next posting will be:

Part 7 – Flat 'donors' & Recruitment under False Pretenses!