Date: 01-08-02

By: Robert Priddy


Website: http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/

Due to my having been virtually forced by facts, against all my hopes and beliefs, to realise that Sai Baba has been involved in criminal actions, I have also become increasingly sceptical about the supposed good done by SB. This is not surprising. It culminates not least after long experience and observations in Sai circles through over 20 years.

Writings by and about SB are full of constantly repeated talk of 'self-transformation. (I have read the entire extant literature, not only all available texts recording what Sai Baba has said in public twice thoroughly, but over 300 other books, pamphlets and many more article in English). The disparity between the 'great changes' most books describe and what one encounters in practice in all Sai circles eventually led me to conclude that most of the talk of personal transformation on a mass scale and 'bringing people to God' is mostly either self-hypnotic conviction, self-enhancing belief or pure and simple personal propaganda. I unfortunately was also drawn into supporting these claims in my book about my experiences with Sai Baba, attributing things to his imagined influence and desired 'spiritual guidance' (which never really came) that either simply occurred or which I in fact brought about myself. Not that I have made such large claims of 'self-transformation', for I had already believed and acted upon the values and precepts that the good and sensible parts of SB teachings convey. Not that I am claiming to be near perfect or a saint... but SB underrates most people in his condemnations and harangues against almost everyone anyhow. He seems to judge everyone in the world as like the populace around him in India. I was once too keen to give any credit I could to Sai Baba, because I then had faith in his authenticity and that his actions were completely good and selfless. I saw him as a focus in truth and goodness, an exceptional ally. At the age of 66, after learning more than I wished at the time, I now know without doubt that this does not to apply to many of his actions. One learns that one has been deeply deceived! So I now work to help people avoid his snares.

People do change when they 'convert' to a new belief, but it seldom implies deep or real personality changes - beliefs about things and behavioural patterns can alter, yes, but the latter tend to remain very largely as before, I have noticed. The process of (often quite sudden) rejection of one's past identifications and acceptance of a new package is a very interesting psychological phenomena about which little has been researched in any systematic ways with long-term follow-up. In my experience, Sai devotees have not convinced me that much of their transformation is very substantial. I am aware that these matters cannot be estimated other than simple observation, life experience and intelligent investigations. However, the alleged good done by SB to people is overwhelmingly based on anecdotal evidence, which is notoriously subjective, personally slanted towards idealistic ideas and desires, and involves all kinds of wishful hopes, wanting to make the best out of things, 'see only the good' and rosy self-evaluations. I have seen a cross-section of those who make such claims and have found most of them to be either out for themselves or disturbed socially, emotionally or mentally from the outset. Many who have such sufferings hardly ever report getting much attention or any direct, important help from SB. The stories of miraculous aid supposedly from SB are many, but literally none are properly researched or documented in any public, serious fashion, many get exaggerated over time beyond recognition, some are almost certainly 'planted' by interests around SB and also in interviews by SB himself (SB never sets the record straight, confirms or denies the fabulous or false in public... nor denies the most absurd fables. And why do you think?)

The question as to whether Sai devotees undergo more sound or  permanent self-transformation than usual at any 'religious conversion' or other types of life-altering event is worth pursuing. These people are almost never looked at critically by anyone who is allowed to remain within the movement because of the vague but absolute Sai 'commandment' 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' and 'see only the good in everyone'. These are self-defeating practices in real life and - taken too seriously - lead towards such states as undue self-love and self-hate, loss of proper touch with other people and the world. One problem is that the virtual impossibility of this sweeping decree in real life, for most of us who are not in some cocoon are faced with things we must - if we follow our consciences bravely - criticise, condemn (though we may choose not to speak out) and to act against. This is reflected in the selfish actions of many leaders in the Sai movement, the sheer inability to interact openly and fairly with other people or with voluntary movements having equally good or better aims. It comes out too in innumerable squabbles, let-downs, broken promises and all the detritus of life that persists in all Sai groups I know about and which I have repeatedly been told about from followers from many countries. These matters are even brought up sometimes at Sai conferences by speakers (some who deplore the standards of Sai devotees) trying to share the facts with 'their brothers' (and sometimes even their sisters too). This indicates that genuine transformations into good devotees are considerably less than is made out to be! Further, if one were to judge by the sheer venom in mails from diverse,  always-hiding Sai "devotees" that I and other critics of SB have received, one can wonder how much this movement is a refuge for what SB calls “bad men” and worse.  

As to the love SB is said to emanate and dispense, I have heard many talk about it, but it always seems so doubtful because the feeling is generated by the person describing it more than I can detect anything from SB. Actually, I never simply FELT real warmth from him - even in long interviews or private interviews... nor in several hundred darshans. Attention, smiles, soft words etc. yes.. but I noticed how his undoubted ability to charm and give the appearances of being caring and loving (mostly without actually doing anything) are used very cleverly by him to attract followers (and especially likely donors). I have also observed how SB is most definitely not very insightful or full of genuine understanding when talking to people even, in my experience, because he invariably answers obliquely or even fails to understand what he is being asked. Most of what he says are phrases heard many times by many others, whether nice or nasty ones (i.e. I have heard him tell various clients: you argue a lot, you fight your wife/husband; you have a (mad) monkey-mind; you're a mad girl; crazy man; I will see you, you are (very) depressed; where is your husband/wife/daughter/son?; when are you leaving? and many another well-known Sai phrasebook-like saying. Meanwhile, all this is interpreted in terms of his great cosmic pretensions and is twisted and turned in the hope of getting some clue as it its 'divine' meaning or import. This becomes obsessional among the more frequent interviewees, while those who get little or no interviews do just the same with daily events in their lives... attributing them to SB's hidden influence and stretching their own credibility far beyond what could possibly be so or even can accord with what SB has taught many times! A sad scenario!

SB has a fall-back to use when people seem disappointed (as so  many eventually confide they were some time after interviews, because they learned almost nothing and got no real response that helped them). It is to give some trinket - whether manifested or palmed! Oh such love, they all say! But I can't see it. Trickery is hardly genuine love, I'd say... and I have established beyond all conceivable doubt that the 'green diamond' he gave me was an almost worthless fake with silver paper behind it! Even when SB does listen a bit to someone, I have often seen him brush the questioner or the concerns aside with some quip or some facial expression that tells one nothing (except that it tells he then gives nothing). Is all this love, then? To pretend it is, one must doubtless become a complete human chameleon, or a 'mental 'boneless wonder' contortionist'!   

The alleged healings by SB cannot ever be satisfactorily proven. It is only natural to compare this undoubted phenomenon to the same in other sects like the evangelicals, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Pentecostals and hundreds like them where 'miraculous healings' are supposedly regular occurrences and are attributed to whoever is seen as the instruments of God (Jesus, Allah etc.) - and add to this African healers and Latin American voodoo, shamans around the world etc. etc. All this shows how little importance need be attached to the person involved, or to which 'ishta', 'ikon' (idol?) one appeals. One can project one's energies towards anyone and even anything - it appears - and genuine results can be achieved in some cases. It is in this context I see Sai Baba's alleged 'miracles of healing'. This subject is too complex and far-reaching to deal with more than by mention in this article. Later.