Painting oneself into a corner with

the Sai Baba belief system


Date: 05-18-02

By: Robert Priddy



It happens inevitably as soon as one ‘absolutises’ the SB belief system. This is done by adopting the belief that SB is the only God, omniscient, omni-benevolent etc. Even some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century did so, from H.G. Wells to Bernard Shaw, Arthur Koestler to... Some teachings and theories lend themselves to this more than others. It is well known how Marxism, Freudianism, fundamentalist theories and many another ideology entrap their followers in an almost unbreakable web of explanations and doctrinal rules. Some idea systems are looser than others, some more inclusive and flexible, yet almost all are based on some inviolable suppositions, axioms or beliefs. The same applies to the teachings of Sai Baba, which combine positive axioms about religious and social tolerance and respect, non violence and love-inspired thoughts, words and acts with a considerable number of fundamental prohibitions on fairly common ideas, speech and behaviour of kinds that are regarded as bad and even as 'evil' and 'demonic'. This teaching is really very demanding indeed on followers, setting up ideals that are so high and difficult to fulfil for most people that considerable guilt feelings are almost universally engendered in persons who are introspective and sensitive by nature.

The power of conformism, based in powerful subliminal pressure known in psychology as ‘group effect’, is the chief tool in covering up anything that might reflect on the reputation of religious communities and cults. This power is weaker on the periphery, making it all the harder for insiders to speak out or break out. Peripheral persons and newcomers may leave with negligible visible effect on the group as a whole, for they have no vested interests to forward and no organisation to forward any protests they may have.

It is well-known that many who go to see Baba, already convinced that he is a Divine being, are intent on taking everything they see or experience in the ashrams as having deep meaning, truth and goodness. Some very mistakenly believe that all events that can occur at the ashrams are a result of Baba's personal will. Some see the failed logic in this, but the extend this omnipotence to anything that happens anywhere!

At the ashrams and overwhelmingly in the Sai movement, the bottom line is how much personal attention a person gets from SB, either at darshan, in terms of interviews or other privileges and offices he grants. Because this is taken by the mass of followers as virtually the measure of a person’s degree of spirituality and/or place in the pecking order, it is literally visible at darshans how many followers are driven by the push-pull cocktail, hopeful faith alternating with pain and desperation. All this is the effect of the underpinning belief "He alone is God, knows all etc. etc."