Document date: 11-14-02
By: Robert Priddy
From: Sathya Sai Baba - Extensive information and Viewpoints
Part Five: - Half-truth and Untruth: a "Divine Dispensation"?
Again, all who have spent more than a week or so at SB ashrams know the sense of having to tread very carefully. The conspiracies of silence and secrecy cover up injustices by making for a kind of 'double-accounting' in which two versions of the facts exist, one closer to reality for insiders and another one that hides or else hushes up all potentially destructive information for everyone else. To cover up facts is one thing, but to censure those who do not concur is hardly the way to communicate ideals of truth, love and non-violence. Those who are not confirmed devotees will be put off questioning for evidence of wrongdoing. Any community that fails to allow for healthy feedback will eventually run into difficulties of credibility and in fulfilling its aims. This is what increasingly occurs at SB's ashrams and in his various organisations.
The inexpressible 'Truth' of which SB talks so often is one thing. But any so-called 'Truth" that flies in the face of facts actually hides the greater truth is of no value at all to genuine seekers. Such claims abound in SB's own discourses and in the 'positive propaganda machine' that SB institutions are all geared up to. The result is that rumours fly all the faster and the one incredible positive story and fanciful invention after the other becomes as if factual to many devotees just because they are left to flourish, are never refuted by SB or his staff... except in the most embarrassing or unavoidable extreme circumstances. SB actually condones and even loves the rumour mill, as long as it is about his miraculous acts and omniscient and total divine power. Left alone untruth festers. Well-investigated, undeniable 'negative' facts need to be brought into the light of day.
The staff at SB's ashrams do offer a minimum of neutral, fact-based guidance to visitors which, if followed to the letter, would go some way in protecting them from unfortunate experiences while staying there. They warn that one should look carefully after one's personal property at all times, for thieves cannot be kept out of the ashram. They also repeat SB's advice not go outside to Puttaparti village to shop or socialise. Had they told the details of some previous incidents, visitors would surely take this advice much more seriously than they mostly do. But this, including major thefts, a number of murders of foreign devotees both in the village and inside the ashram, would surely lead to much discussion which leads to doubts about the supposed 'divine protection' of SB! This would surely deter many new visitors and mar what good experiences might befall one from visiting the ashram and SB. (Young men, unsurprisingly, are never told what behaviour like oiling of genitals or sexual advances it is possible they will meet from SB in the privacy of the interview room).
SB warns his followers not to enter into arguments with others about spiritual matters or about his nature and mission. This surely functions too as is part of the clamp-down on talk that can give away facts that are to be kept under wraps. He minimises the importance of facts, scientific or scholarly investigation etc. as mere passing phenomena, He emphasizes personal self-investigation and improvement, mainly on an inner level through repeating his name and visualising him. Yet educated people today rightly often expect open debate with a free exchange of opinions and frank critical evaluations. No one can live in a complete social vacuum solely with one's own thoughts... not even a hermit, not SB either, for they carry with them the culture and memories of others that nurtured them.
As SB has pointed out and complained mightily about many times, despite some selfless achievements by his followers, many problems still beset and even dominate his movement. Ashrams led by a guru usually function best when they are not too large. The apparatus around SB has grown to huge proportions and he has long since delegated most of its daily running to others. All reports from organisation conferences, and also from interviews SB has given to his office-bearers, indicate that SB gives very few definite answers on specifics of organisational activity, confining himself mainly to general directives, usually aphorisms concerning the kind of 'spiritual life' he recommends. This is also his well-known indirect or elliptical style in discourses and most interviews. Therefore, much is left to persons appointed by SB, who seem to have a free hand to ignore or overrule when it suits them. If it is found out that they criticise him or his directives, express any serious doubts or leak sensitive information, however, they are expelled without further ado.
Observant persons find official versions of events full of convenient omissions, and find it hard to tell what comes from SB and what is merely someone's interpretation. This lack of clarity is taken advantage of by many of the leaders and officials who wish to impose their own views or manipulate people for their personal reasons. How, in such circumstances, to distinguish even SB's teaching from the many distorted interpretations of it also becomes a real problem. How to interpret his living message, which he says is his life, is difficult when he is not easily distinguished from what occurs around and even close to him. Add to this the much more challenging problem of reconciling an increasingly large number of SB's words with his actions, as is now being demonstrated widely on this website and several others!
It is not exactly pleasant to mention unpleasant facts, but since the full truth is bound to come out eventually somehow (so they say, and SB had to agree with this too), someone has to do it. I am reminded of SB's words when inaugurating the Venkatagiri Girls' High School many years ago, "Speak the truth always, for falsehood is the result of cowardice" (Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram Vol. I. p.79). His present mendacity and despicable hypocrisy in covering up his misdeeds belies his words as mere lip service. However many efforts are made to cover up significant facts, they will not succeed in the long run, especially if or when the SB mission really sometimes should become known about very widely. Penetrating investigations are already being made about many hitherto concealed matters and those who are beginning to speak out find that they have a forum and an exposť movement to support them. If, as SB insists, the truth will ultimately raise SB's public reputation, why does he not correct the one-sided propaganda of his followers, dispel the countless 'positive' rumours and excessive miracle stories that circulate through the Sai movement and instead offer a balanced presentation of facts? Can the answer conceivable be anything but 'there is far too much that will not stand the light of day'?
A proportion of visitors to the ashrams quite evidently have rewarding experiences there and are impressed by the para-psychological powers of SB, which are admittedly strong. Yet I also know from many conversations and letters that some good people and keen devotees do suffer unduly at the ashrams, sometimes very badly - especially mentally and spiritually - due to the ignorance, antagonism and injustice of certain of the staff - and often from other devotees. Believing as some do that SB is always the ever-present doer of all deeds, the sufferers imagine that they are being punished or corrected for some unknown fault by SB through his staff or in other mystical ways! All this misunderstanding about almost anyone with a badge or an office being 'SB's instrument' makes the manipulation of others easier.
Just as we always appreciate and remember helpfulness, openness and concern, we are all free to make our own observations and note when fine words about truthfulness, compassion and service are not followed up in actual behaviour. Reluctance to speak straight has led an unknown number of people - both Indian and foreign followers - into serious problems and even death, as discussed previously. The activities that permit (and cover up) this cannot be said exactly to have the stamp of Divine protection, compassion or service! SB's words, "Why fear when I am here?" is shown to an empty vanity. Even though SB is there, I know how much some of them still fear... and most of them fear him most of all! One should fear sinning, but surely not anyone purporting to be divine? All important staff at Prashanti Nilayam and the Central Trust are under duress to inform nothing that can harm SB's image, even to non-devotee relatives and dependents of persons killed.
Censorship is so rigorously applied that exclusion from the ashrams for ever is a frequent event, and some are taken into police custody. Beatings of unrepentant devotees have occurred, even in the darshan lines! In trying to contain the situation and keep everyone ignorant of the true state of affairs, a draconian regime is enforced at times of crisis, sending all foreign visitors out with less than a days' notice and without any explanation. This has occurred at least a dozen times in the last two decades, several times due to separate incidents of killings of visiting devotees, not least from abroad.
The same applies to problems devotees experience due to financial irregularities connected with donations. Not least also to money problems with the Sai Books and Publications Trust, concerning which I know five reliable persons involved in transactions with Mr. Suri, the previous Convenor, who have told in detail from personal experience in these affairs, not least by the senior Indian journalist V.K. Narasimhan, for two decades the editor of SB's monthly journal. The Convenor was found by investigating journalists during the 1993 incident with an unregistered sum of Rs. 2 lakhs (i.e. 200,000) in his apartment, taken from the ashram's publishing trust. SB then spoke out in a July 1993 discourse in defence of all his officials as being beyond any suspicion of misusing funds! Months later he quietly dismissed several Central Trust and ashram officials from their positions, including at long last also Mr. Suri.
The extreme secrecy of persons around SB about what goes on, what he does when not visible at darshan etc. is part of this, and it may sometimes be a result of SB's using paranormal abilities to influence the minds of people - even manipulate their sensory perceptions. Nonetheless, it is also remarkable how so many matters that SB and his minions evidently thought were safely covered-up have surfaced through unexpected channels and how the evidence that backs this up begins to accumulate from here and there. One must at least agree (also with SB) that "the truth will out"!