Sex, Lies and Video Tape


Retelling The Satya Sai Story

By Babu R.R. Gogineni,1996
Former General Secretary of Rationalist Association of India

The Sai Avatar

When a luminescent ball of light entered Easwaramma while she was bathing, little did she, or Pedda Venkappa Raju, her illiterate husband, realize that the Lord had chosen her surrogate womb for His next parthenocarpic incarnation. Official literature enlightens us that the Lord's coming was anticipated long ago by Jesus and Mohammed. For those who can not find the relevant passages in their version of the Bible or Koran, a more contemporary declaration was made by the Lord Himself. In 1918during His earlier incarnation as the Sai Baba of Shirdi, He had revealed that 8 years after leaving the Shirdi body, He would be reborn in Puttaparthi village of Andhra Pradesh as Satya Sai Baba. So in fulfillment of these predictions, the Lord grew in the womb of Easwaramma, "as the moon grows in the sky",and a male child was born on 23 November, 1926. To mark the momentous significance of the event, musical instruments in the house played by themselves at the time of the birth: the thambura twanged melodiously, the maddela accompanied it with a soft bet, a divine fragrance pervaded the air, and a cobra, lord of reptiles, waited in attendance to protect the Lord.It is fair to assume that just as with the birth of the Buddha, elephants trumpeted in joy, peacocks danced and the gods rejoiced.Despite His omniscience, Satyanarayana Raju (his given name) went to school where the playful display of his miraculous power was soon recognized by all. Friends came to love him for his magically created gifts, and teachers feared his chair, unless he begged for forgiveness and expressed remorse at ill treating the children! In 1940, after tortuous treatment by doctors for suspected mental illness, at the age of 15, Satyanarayana Raju revealed His Avatar hood to the world and identified Himself as Satya Sai Baba. As He was to reveal later to his disciples, "I, the Lord, incarnated at Puttaparthi, Buddha,Christ,Mohammed and others were not Avatars. They had some divine power... My power is infinite; My truth is inexplicable,even unfathomable. My task is the regeneration of humanity by Truth and Love. "we are reassured that when the present incarnation would be over at age 96 in the year 2022,He would be reborned as Prema Sai in Mandya district of Karnataka.

Man of Miracles

Satya Sai Baba would often say "miracles are my visiting cards", a phrase which is also the title of a largely hearsay, cock-and-bull account of Satya Sai Baba's paranormal powers, by Icelandic para-psychologist Errlelndur Haraldsson. Despite His insistence that His religious message was more important that the "tinsel" miracles He performed, the stupendous "powers" of Satya Sai Baba soon come to be know all over the world.

Based on the "most reliable information", but mistaking God for guru, the Reader's Digest book entitled "Strange Stories, Amazing Facts II" gives us this incredulous account:

"Sai Baba is an Indian guru blessed with extraordinary powers. He can produce gold rings and coins out of thin air, change rock into candy and flowers into jewels. He heals the sick with the aid of Vibhuti(sacred wood ash), which seems to appear from nowhere as he waves his hand. Perhaps the most astonishing display of Sai Baba's powers took place in 1953, when the blue and stiff body of Radhakrishna which was cold,shrunken and starting to be decompose, was brought back to life by Baba. In the 50 years that Sai Baba has been demonstrating his apparently miraculous powers, no one has found any evidence of trickery".

In addition of these reports, Dr. John Hislop, "American industrialist and management consultant", and also Chairman of the Central Committee of American Sai tells us earnestly how in 1971 Satya Sai Baba resurrected Walter Cowan, declared dead due to cardiac failure. The late Dr.Suri Bhagavantam, director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Scientific advisor to the Government of India, and also Baba's interpreter narrated how once Satya Sai Baba created out of nowhere a copy of the Bhagavadgita (alas even the Lord is not immune to orthographic error, as a skeptic pointed out!). In a contemporary enactment of New Testament miracles, He once converted water into petrol by dipping His finger into the water. HE relieves devotees' ailments by taking them onto Himself, conducts surgeries with psychic powers and plucks out-of-season mango fruit from tamarind trees. It is believed that Baba was responsible for repelling the Chinese army "invading India like locusts". Reports abound of His bi-location (having appeared in two places at the same time) appearance; He Himself claimed that He never sleeps.

In what can only be described as divine disapproval of capitalist claims on intellectual property rights, by the mere stayed to pray. "Noted" American psychologist Dr. Samuel Sandweiss was convinced when he was told "I am everything, everywhere, omniscient, omnipotent and so whatever I will, instantly happens". Dr.Hislop asks in tragically foolish wonder, "Baba has the inconceivably immense task of the Universe. How can He afford to spend time talking to people like us?" Baba reassures him: "Baba with his limitless bodies, is everywhere doing the tasks... that is Baba's omnipresence. God is not subject to any limitation". Dr.Hislop is delighted at this explanation.

The credit for polishing Baba's halting English and capturing his evident lyrical derangement goes to official biographer, the erudite Kasturi: "I am all that is , all that can be known, all that seeks fulfillment. Sunrise and Sunset keep repeating, for I have willed [them] to; the stars that lend sublime charm to the nocturnal sky hide their faces from human eyes during the day, in obedience to my desire; the wind blows with no respite in order to keep animate beings alive, since that is My wish; streams and rivulets giggle, laugh or roar along beds during their pilgrimages to the sea, for it pleases Me; mankind itself is molded into a million faces to present the variety I relish".

This has obviously enlightened the person from whom I borrowed some Satya Sai Baba literature: he had written down in pencil, in fervent devotion: "I, befitting and fortunate slave, carry out every Command of the master without any question of why and what... I am slave of the master who has released me from my ignorance, whatever my master does is of the greatest benefit to all concerned".

The confederacy of irrationality, gullibility and superstition establishes a kinship which transcends cultural and national barriers. Among the miracle-mongering Satya Sai followers are top Indian political leaders and Judges, Presidents and Prime Ministers of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Mauritius, several former Greek Prime Ministers, the Spanish Royal family, members of the International diplomatic corps, advocates, engineers, doctors and common folk. Perhaps because it is they who need the most spiritual advice, it is very common to see the pacific and teetotaler Satya Sai Baba in the company of power brokers, associates of international arms traders an liquor barons. Notable among Baba's international inner circle are Guilio Andreotti, former Prime Minister of Italy, currently on trial for murder of a journalist, former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, sentenced to 5 1/2 years of imprisonment for corruption and Princess Poihlavi, sister of the former Shah of Iran, caught in Switzerland in 1962 for carrying heroin illegally.

Begone Satya Sai!

Into such a community of God-fearing people came the late Srilankan Dr.Abraham T.Kovoor, Asian President of the World Union of Freethinkers and Dr.H.Narasimhaiah, India's best known rationalist and former vice chancellor of the Bangalore University, who together led the most animated attack on Satya Sai Baba and his world view.

Dr.Kovoor narrates in his book Begone Godmen! that in 1973,during a newspaper debate on Satya Sai Baba, Dr.Bhagavantam (Baba's interpreter from Telugu to English) wrote of the "awe-inspiring, wonderful experience of the Seiko watch manufacturer", who, when on a visit to Puttaparthi was presented by Sai Baba with the very watch prototype that the manufacturer had kept in a safe in Japan. With this materialization, all his doubts about the divine powers of Satya Sai Baba melted away. "He fell prostrate at Sai Baba's feet and worshiped him. Since then he is an ardent devotee of the Bhagavan". Since Dr.Bhagavantam was not forth coming with details, Dr.Kovoor, being suspicious, made inquiries with Shoji Hattori, President of Seiko Watch Company in Tokyo to Verify the facts. Mr.Hattori wrote back "....I am in no way able to further your knowledge as regards the man mentioned in your letter, Mr.Sai Baba. Neither I, nor any members of my staff have ever made the acquaintance of this individual. I am sure that these reports are completely unfounded". Bhagavantam remained silent when confronted with the response.

The national scandal that broke out when Dr.Kovoor released his correspondence to the press, describing Satya Sai Baba as a "sleight-of-hand" trickster and exposed one of India's brilliant scientists as a Satya Sai Agent. It was only surpassed by unclear scientist Dr.H.Narasimhaiah's crusade as Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University, when in 1976 he appointed a 12 member official committee "to investigate rationally and scientifically miracles and any other verifiable superstitions". Dr.Narasimhaiah's committee exposed Sai Krishna, a 7 year old child-protege of Satya Sai Baba, by pulling out the packet of Vibhuti hidden in Sai Krishna's underclothes. As a result of this exposure, and fearing investigation, several sun dry Godmen immediately confessed that they did not have any miraculous powers, including the now famous Ganapathi Satchidananda Swamy,(who has now picked up courage to practice his old-trade of spurious miracles). It was Satya Sai Baba's turn now and the committee requested Him to allow them an investigation. When they visited Him, a terrified Satya Sai Baba locked Himself up in His Whitefield residence, close to Bangalore. All He could do was spew helpless vitriol at the Narasimhaiah committee.

Avatar of the Night

As if these resounding rationalist responses and public humiliations were not enough, in 1976, another bomb shell was thrown at Him. Tal Brooke, born-again-Christian who spent 14 months with Satya Sai Baba, wrote the book avatar of the night (all three thousand copies of the book released in India were purchased and destroyed !) describing Satya Sai Baba"s homosexual lust (how can a good Christian accept that? and assaults on young boys. It is quite revealing of the submission and intelligence level of the Sai devotee that despite Sai Baba's enticement. "what is mine is yours, money, food, anything. Just ask!'',Tal Brooke said to himself "Lust contradicts Baba's nature;therefore it doesn't exist in him. Blind faith... Baba is innocent:. It took Tal Brooke three such consummate encounters and numerous similar accounts of pedophilia from friends to realize that Satya Sai Baba's nudging pelvis, pawing hands and intimate behaviour were not part of any soul-cleansing encounter,

With news of these events and later incidents, the seeds of doubts were sown in many minds. How is it that Sai Baba's own brother-in-law died of rabies? Why did Baba, Himself a psychic surgeon, have to be hospitalized for ruptured appendicitis and broken leg? And preaching simplicity, why does He travel in Mercedes cars and require heavy protection? Why did Sai Baba have to wave his hand in circles, before producing anything? Was it because of prestidigitation, as emphatically asserted by the renowned Indian stage magician P.C.Sorcar Jr. and skeptic E.Premanand? does His occasional transvestism and derision for women really illustrate the Male-female principle of the universe? why is it that some doctors have gone on record stating that post mortems of bodies of several women coming from Puttaparthi showed signs of torture? Is it true that some of the foreign nationals visiting Puttaparthi were disappearing after entire properties were bequeathed to Satya Sai Organistion? Is it true that Prashanti Nilayam (Satya Sai Baba's "abode of peace" at puttaparthi) was the campus of criminals? Is it not surprising that the police, in a routine security combing of Prashanti Nilayam before the visit of the Home Minister of I India, discover , apart form cyanide and land mines, the deadly plastic-explosive RDX used by Hindu-Muslim terrorists in Bombay? And why did Satya Sai Baba, whose religion officially also embraces the values of Islam,welcome the antiMuslim Hindu fundamentalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad's virulent campaign in favour of mosque demolition in Ayodhya?

Let There be a Necklace

But the most spectacular food for doubt for the believer was the unique birthday gift given to Satya Sai Baba by the Deccan Chronicle of 23 November,1992. This largely circulated,Hyderabad-based English daily published what the rationalist could only dream of! Splashed on the front page were pictures from a video recording of Satya Sai Baba's "creation" of a gold necklace, in the presence of the Prime Minister of India, Mr.P.V. Narasimha Rao. the video tape shows unambiguously Satya Sai Baba being passed clandestinely a necklace by his personal assistant Radhakrishna Menon, which later Satya Sai Baba "materializes" after a wave of his hand in the air. Filmed by a state television crew covering the Prime Minister, the cassette was suppressed. However, a copy was leaked and several copies of the cassette were distributed in India and abroad. A big meeting was organized by the rationalists, to felicitate the courageous journalist Venu Kodimela (who was told that his mother's cancer was due to his act), and playing this video tape became a necessary ritual of all our public meetings for a long time. Some were shown on local and district cable television too at a great bodily risk as some rationalists came to know. However, the publicity remarkably affected the number of devotees visiting Puttaparthi though some still insist that "miracles" are performed to attract people to the good work being done by Baba and that Baba never claimed any special powers!

Crime and karma: Murders in the Bedroom

Much worse was in store when on 6 June, 1993, six inmates of Prashanti Nilayam were murdered in Satya Sai Baba's bedroom. It is alleged that two were killed by the assailants and the police claimed to have shot dead in self defence four of the assailants, who were armed only with knives. Realizing the danger to his person, Baba Himself ran for His life, jumped out of an open window and started off a secret alarm whose existence even the inner core did not know of. Interestingly, all the people killed were part of the inner circle of Sai Baba, among whom Radha Krishna Menon,the personal assistant who was caught on video passing the necklace clandestinely to Baba.Baba Himself spoke of the murders in His Gurupoornima lecture and dealt with the question of whether the deaths of his near and dear were unavoidable: "Birth and death go together, One should realize that death is a natural phenomenon and avoid worrying about it... You must note that Swami's life is in His own hands and not in those of anyone else. If I will it,I can live as long as I please. Because He is the almighty, God cannot behave in any arbitrary manner. Not realizing this truth, men who are involved in worldly ways ask questions as to why in certain situations, God did not use his limitless powers to avert certain unwanted events..."

The police report was twice changed, from attempt to murder Baba, to internal squabbles in Prashanti Nilayam. Mysteriously, Shankar Dayal Sharma, the president of the Indian Republic deviated from protocol and propricty and said that the murders were "all about a girl". When asked why Satya Sai Baba, the head of the Institution in whose bedroom the murders took place,was not interrogated, Home Minister Chavan who visited Sai Baba twice immediately after the incident insisted that Sai Baba was not present at the time of murder, further compromising the investigation. Surprisingly, Prashanti Nilayam authorities themselves filed no police complaint. B.Premanand, magician, former devotee of Baba and today the most important Indian Skeptic and Sai Baba-baiter alive, however, refused to accept the interference into the investigation and hauled the government to court, accusing the police of having willfully destroyed evidence. Amusingly, in the past, premanand and K.N Balagopal, rationalist advocate in the Supreme Court of India,had dragged Satya Sai Baba to court for violation of the Gold Control Act which imposed restrictions on the"manufacture, possession, sale and transfer of gold" since Satya Sai Baba "materialized gold ornaments to be given to devotees. While rejecting the petition, the High Court Judge Justice Y.V. Anjaneyulu, a member of the Satya Sai innercircle, allowed the argument that an article materialized by spiritual powers cannot be said to have been manufactured, prepared or processed. Perhaps for the first time in jurisprudence, spiritual powers were recognized as valid defense in law!

In the present murder case, however, Premanand petitioned to the High court in a public interest petition that the case be transferred to an impartial investigative agency that justice might be done. In the High Court, while dismissing the plea, Premanand was admonished by Chief Justice Mishra, who even threatened to punish him the next time he "misused" the Court with such complaints, with the intention of defaming Satya Sai Baba. In January,the Supreme Court of India expunged all the remarks made by the High Court judge, boosting rationalists morale. Also, chastened by the Supreme Court of India, in the first week of May,the High Court of Andhra Pradesh State, admitted contempt of Court petition by Premanand against the government and the police. Premanand and Satya Sai Baba have been brought to the front pages of news papers again. The judicial mood in India was remarkably different since the past few months. what with the Indian Supreme Court taking up an "operation clean hands",arresting several corrupt politicians and also forcing the Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to arrest his favorite Godman and arms dealer-power broker, Chandraswami in the first week of May. Rationalists keep their fingers crossed.

The Case of the Missing Kidney

In the Marathi language weekly, Lok Prabha, of 19 January,1996, was published a most shocking account concerning the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, set up at an expense of 2000 million Indian rupees, and where all medical treatment is done free. Triambak Karvande a peasant from Latur district of Maharastra, was to have received his son Balaji's kidney in a transplant operation. A week after the operation, a dying Triambak was informed that the transplant was failure and father and son were sent back home. Back in their town, two CT scans and a sonography done by Dr.Kastur of the Maharastra Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center revealed that Triambak was never operated for a kidney transplant; the scans also confirmed that Balaji's kidney was indeed , taken out of his body! So where did Balaji's kidney go? Is the hospital with a hitherto very good reputation, in fact a part of the international organ theft business? Initial complaints made by the victim went unheeded, but the Maharastra Superstition Eradication Committee, after its own independent investigation, is working on helping the Karvande family get legal aid. The Truth might be out soon.

Sai Empire and Philanthropy

B.Premanand, also advisor on miracle exposure to the Rationalist Association of India, member of the Indian Radical Humanist Association and editor of Indian Skeptic, estimates the Sai Empire to be worth 60,000 million rupees(1714 million USD). Puttaparthi now has an airport and 3000 small apartments are available for rentals to accommodate the cash-rich Americans, Scandinavians, Belgians, Germans, Dutch, Malaysians and Japanese. Prashanti Nilayam itself has adequate infrastructure to feed 10,000 people at one time. To have an idea of the scale of operations, consider the fact that in 1982, the target of the Satya Sai Organisation was adoption of 6000 villages, to "fulfill all the physical and spiritual needs of the community". There are 3000 Satya Sai centres in India and 400 centres abroad in 85 countries and they publicize and market the fact that more than 100,000 children are taught free in centres run by Sri Satya Sai Bal Vikas Trust and do propaganda about their social service activities. Union Bank of India, owned by the state, does not charge any fee for money transfer to Satya Sai Baba and the money keeps flowing.

When Satya Sai Baba celebrated his 70th birthday in November, 1995, the President and the Prime Minister of India were in attendance and applauded the Satya Sai Water Scheme meant to provide drinking water to every village of the dry district of Ananthapur. It is a matter of great concern that five months after the inauguration, water is yet to flow from village taps, as tanks have crashed and pipes burst because of inferior construction material used due to corruption. Importantly, this is an instance of how and when governments default in their duties, religious organizations occupy that space. On this single birthday, a little known foundation from America and another from Japan donated 1600 million Indian rupees(45 million US Dollars) for the Satya Sai charity work. Premanand is investigating whether this is in fact a money laundering operation.

A look into the world view of high-school dropout Satya Sai Baba should help clarify why His style of philanthropy and education must be combated: "At the centre (of the world), everything is liquid. Everything is melted. No temperature. Everything is liquid, like water. Gold, iron, silver all are liquid. Next there is solid. Then trees. Then human beings and animals. At the very centre is the divine. It is the support of everything. First is liquid chemistry. Then solid Physics. Then the trees, botany. Then man, the pinnacle of life. But at the centre, supporting all, is the divine. Without the divine, where is chemistry, physics and botany? Like this will be the teaching of all courses at the university". A few years ago, the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning has been declared a deemed University by Madhuri Shah, devotee and Chairperson of the University Grants Commission, on par with the rest of India's Centres of Higher Learning! Alas, news of philanthropy in poor countries drowns out rational discourse. Sadly, Indians are still racists and when pale-face comes and approves, there is little else to doubt. State Radio and Television carry out the propaganda for him. Journalists are either gullible or are on payroll. Judges are at times prone to decide based on personal beliefs: the situation is worsened by the political patronage received(Sai Baba's influence increased manifold ever since superstitious Narasimha Rao and his cabinet retire and President Sankar Dayal Sharma started visiting Him even in their official capacity). And in India, criminal and political identities overlap. Scientists, advocates and intellectuals mislead the others and set examples by their own mistaken devotion for this modern Tartuffe. Many well meaning people and there are many such among the Satya Sai Baba followers and admirers fail to realize that philanthropy is merely an investment in the Satya Sai Baba cult and empire and a way of evading tax. It is a great irony that the intellectuals and the common man's wilful suspension of disbelief and critical faculties, the Satya Sai octopus has been able to spread its tentacles far and wide with the lure of miracles.

Bala Sai Baba and the Real Avatar!

Disillusioned by the bedroom murders, exposes in newspapers, news of Premanand's court battles, power struggles in the Sai empire and reports like that of the disappearing kidney and the failed water project, and disappointed by birth day extravaganzas, many disciples are turning away from Satya Sai Baba. Their destination now is the Palghat(Kerala) born BALA SAI BABA(the child Sai Baba), who at 35 years of age is a bit overgrown for his name. He claims to be the real Sai Avatar, set up an ashram in Kurnool district of Andra Pradesh ( a State that breeds god-men!) and resembles Satya Sai Baba trait for trait. This till recently-unemployed youth also hints that Satya Sai Baba is an impostor! He dresses like Satya Sai Baba, performs the same tricks as Satya Sai Baba does and has been very successful in attracting as large number ofdevotees. He also recruits devotees from Europe and else where and seems to have hit at the right marketing mix.

Dr.Narasimhaiah said to me in Bangalore once that our work is like that of Sisyphus . It does not matter even if the Supreme Court of India puts Satya Sai Baba on trial. Our work has to continue: after working to expose Bala Sai Baba in the year 2022, we might still be busy with Prema Sai...

Lesson from Erlendur Haraldsson

Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Iceland, para psychologist Dr.Erlendur Haraldsson came to India several times (twice along with Karlish Osis,co-author of their book on near-death experiences:At the Hour of Death ) to investigate Satya Sai Baba's paranormal powers.The result of his efforts over ten years is the book "Miracles are My Visiting Cards; An Investigative Report on the Psychic Phenomena"associated with Satya Sai Baba,published in 1987.

Dr. Haraldsson's repeated requests for controlled experiments were firmly rejected by Satya Sai Baba and his team was asked "not to pester" Baba with more requests. Charmed by the charmed by the charisma of Baba and more predisposed to believe than to investigate, Dr. Haraldsson settles for his own inefficient and subjective personal - informal observation as well as hearsay accounts from devotees. Yet, in their article entitled as The Appearance and Disappearance of Objects in the Presence of Sri Satya Sai Baba in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research Vol. 71, January, 1977, Haraldsson and Karlis Osis express their gratitude to Sri satya Sai Baba "for his kind cooperation in their investigation"!

Dr. Haraldsson's book does not indicate that he is aware of Satya Sai Baba's father's brother being a tantrik-conjuror. He could perhaps have been Satya Sai,s teacher.Despite assuring us that he "tried his very best" to trace all "Critics" only Dr.H.Narasimhaiah is mentioned. No mention of Dr.Kovoor's whirlwind tours of Andhra,his challenges to Satya Sai Baba, his largely attended public meeting (30,000 people for instance) to the accompaniment of stupendous publicity! Contributors to the national debates in the then prestigious Illustrated Weekly of India, and the tabloids Blitz and Current Weekly are ignored. Interestingly, Dr.Haraldesson is unaware even of the Seiko watch controversy. Later, unconvincingly, he said that he was unwilling to take it up because of the various varsions of it! One has not heard of an "investigative" researcher shy away on such dubious grounds.

Nor does Haraldsson mention Satya Sai Baba specialist B.Premanand,whose first book in English on Baba,Lure of Miracles, was published in 1976. Dr.Haraldsson's excuse on 6 April, 1988 to Dale Bayerstein, editor of the excellent 1994 book, Sai Baba's Miracles: An Overview is that no one in India mentioned Premanand to him. Then again, Dr. Haraldsson writes in his letter of 21 October, 1988 to Dale Bayerstein that Dr.H.Narasimhaiah did not think it worthwhile for him to visit Premanand. When informed of this Dr.Narasimhaiah issued a issued a written clarification that he respected Premanand's work and could never have said what Haraldsson reported. This is not the only complaint of misquoting about Haraldsson.Two chapters of the book Miracles are My Visiting Cards are devoted to M.Krishna and Varadu (in no way critics,looking at the contents of the book), former personal assistants to Satya Sai Baba in the earlier days; Krishna converted to Cristianity later. Now,Krishna's son, a good friend of mine, insists that I report this, and in the manner in which some statements were transformed to suit Dr.Haraldsson purposes.In an interview with me and Premanand, P.V.N.Nair, editor of Deccan chronicle, whom Haraldsson accused of misquoting him as saying that he was "disappointed with Satya Sai Baba", regretted that out of good faith he had not tape recorded the interview. Premanand has shown how different version and sequences of the same event (production of ring for Karlis Osis) have been written by Haraldsson.When Premanand asked for clarification and explanation in an undoubtedly long questionnaire,the very prolific Dr.Haraldsson suddenly has no time to write!

Haraldsson is aware that propaganda of the claimed resurrection from death of Walter Cowan and Radhakrishna had the support of Satya Sai Baba. He is also aware that Dr.Fanibunda, himself a medical doctor, testified to the resurrection of Cowan. Haraldsson's own conclusion is that the stories of resurrections are false. Yet, to our scientist-investigator the role of Satya Sai Baba is not suspect. Nor that of Dr.Fanibunda, whose testimony he approvingly uses in another case. It also does not occur to this impartial investigator, forever solicitous of being scientific and objective that since he himself has found some stories to be false, he has necessarily to work under controlled conditions. This is how professional credentials become suspect. Some of the stories Haraldsson reports are not even amenable to verification by us. For example, he mentions how a burglar prowling in the house of a Satya Sai Baba devotee was scared away by Satya Sai's bilocation. He does not mention the name of the Devotee, nor the name of the police station which later caught the burglar.

In the April 1995 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Haraldsson and Richard Wiseman write an article Reactions To and An Assessment of a Videotape on Satya Sai Baba, where they make pathetic attempts to show that from the Deccan Chronicle Doordarshan tape, no evidence of fraud by Satya Sai Baba can be deduced. Haraldsson and co-author are invited to watch our copy of the tape, or watch one of the episodes of the British program, The Guru Busters, a television program on Rationalist work in India, which has quite clear visuals. They should also read the analysis of a Satya Sai Baba video tape by Dale Bayerstein, Leon Mandrake et al (ateam of professional magicians) where among others, they detect Satya Sai Baba "thumb palming" a necklace, before "materialisation" published in Bayerstein's book. Perhaps, Haraldsson is also unaware of Premanand's video cassette of Satya Sai Baba producing a gold necklace at a wedding in Balakrishna Eradi's family (a former judge from Kerala).

While waiting to watch this, the authors should find time to read the account of the Dutch author Piet Vroon who wrote an expanded version of his article Sinterklass in India (Santa Claus in India), published in De Volkskrant of 5 December, 1992. Piet Vroon was at Puttaparthi to film Baba at "work", and he and his partner detected Baba remove rings, necklaces and watches from behind flower vases and from pillows of his chair. They also detected Sai Baba holding Vibhuti balls in one hand, transferring them to the other hand, pulverising them and distributing them. Vibhuti is also hidden in the mouth and removed while wiping the face, which Baba does very often. Piet Vroon's conclusion is unambiguous: "we just think that he is a trickster and a cheat".

It is easy to see these things, especially when one's work, and perhaps livelihood, does not depend on funding from parapsychology foundations! The only lesson one can learn from ERLENDUR HARALDSSON is how not to study the paranormal events.

Please forward your comments to

Mr. Babu R.R. Gogineni Executive Director International Humanist and Ethical Union 47 Theobald's Road London WC1X 8SP United Kingdom Tel: +44 207 831 4817 Fax: + 44 207 404 8641 or + 430 1271 E Website: