More evidence learned from one of

Sai Baba's closest favourites,

V. K. Narasimhan


Date: 07-06-02

By: Robert Priddy



My articles about V. K.Narasimhan tell about the legacy of facts and inside knowledge that I was left with by him, a burden of unspoken truth and facts that will be very unpalatable and extremely disturbing to many, as they were to me at the time. Let me state at the outset that I swear on all the scriptures and/or my personal honour that all I relate here is nothing but the truth to the very best of my understanding and recollection (which is based on copious notes made at the time). They are to be found at:

Some excerpts are given here:-

V. K. Narasimhan (or 'VKN') was a remarkable man in a number of ways. As I view him, he combined the best qualities of an Indian Brahmin with those of a world-travelled journalist of intelligence and not least enlightened social awareness. Many people have remarked on his erudition and wide knowledge both of British and Indian culture. At the age of 87, having lost his wife some years previously, dear old Narasimhan passed away on March 9th, 2000, after a lengthy period of suffering in hospital with water on the lungs. Enough time has passed for me to make public what he told me. These things could not be told in his lifetime due to the threat it would have represented to his security and existence in Sai Baba's ashrams, upon which he had become extremely dependent for various reasons, not least due to his old age and infirmity. Even his two surviving sons and daughter, I feel certain, were not fully aware of their father's position and his inside knowledge of key events that actually took place in the ashram in June 1993, when six devotees were murdered in SB's apartments.

No eye-cure for the favourite of SB: VKN was suffering from serious eye problems when first I saw him in 1985, and SB told him that he would arrange for an operation. A doctor at SB's Brindavan hospital did the operation on the right eye in 1992, which was successful at first. However, VKN ignored the instructions to keep it bandaged as long as instructed (so his wife told me) and went to Prashanthi Nilayam to edit the journal. The ubiquitous dust there got in and infected the eye, which turned red and swelled up very badly. He went straight to SB on the veranda, who made and applied vibhuthi to it and arranged for his airtight private car to take VKN back to the doctor at Brindavan. The eye was incurable and he lost the use of it completely... also losing some more faith in SB's healing powers, he told me. He related how the claims about healings by SB were, in his experience, very often largely unfounded and exaggerated. He told me he had seen so many of the same patients sit in the 'sick row' with all kinds of terrible ailments day in and day out, often for many years, with no sign of any improvement. One would have thought that so much devoted service would have qualified for a cure, if indeed SB can really cure anyone. The problem with the healing question is that SB never does it openly, and this is one area in human experience where many factors like placebo effect, misdiagnosis, inaccuracy of explanations, lack of knowledge about causes and cures and many other immesaurable factors like self-faith confuse the issue. Besides, the number of comparable cases not healed are never known or traced, but they surely exceed those apparently healed by a large factor. Narasimhan was aware of such questions, and we would discuss them. He did not deny that some person might have been healed by SB, but knew that there were cases of claims that were not substantiated by the facts. These often included people in wheel-chairs, whom Baba made walk out of the interview room with him. (Joy Thomas in her writings even described this being done to her). Their wheel-chairs were taken away, and - when they quickly relapsed and no longer could manage, it was not always an easy matter to get them back from the ashram staff!

On another occasion, however, I observed in May 1994 how SB more or less revived VKN's flagging spirits and energy. VKN was getting rather poorly and was leaning on his stick and on me after returning from Madras where he had attended the funeral of his daughter-in-law and tried to console his son. SB tapped him four or five times on the head during darshan at Brindavan. Later that day he seemed to be energised, needed little or no support, and stopped taking his stick along without realising it, until I mentioned it to him. This may have been largely psychological, of course, for there was no doubt that VKN liked and hoped for SB's frequent attention, which he had not then received for a month or more during his absence.

VKN's scepticism of omniscience, omnipotence: The first time I spoke to Narasimhan was after one of his lectures to ask him if he had received an article I had submitted to him as editor of Sanathana Sarathi. One of the first comments he made in a lecture he gave in 1988 surprised me, was that all the talk of Sai Baba (hereafter SB) as omniscient was exaggerated! Afterwards he shocked me further in private by saying that talk about SB being all-knowing or omnipotent was sheer absurdity! He embroidered this theme with some examples, even though he saw that I already believed in this. However, I did already realise that no one could actually know that SB could be omniscient - not without themselves being able to check all of his knowedge (thus also being omniscient themselves). At that time I eventually managed somehow to reason how the various facts he related about SB did not disprove his claim of omniscience, for he could be concealing his knowedge of many things which he appeared not to know or to be mistaken about. The more I got to know about SB, however, the more difficult it became to maintain these rationalisations. Eventually, Narasimhan and I could agree that SB was able to become aware of things - apparently almost anything in a person's mind or life - as soon as his attention was drawn to them, but that he certainly does not possess full knowledge in the normal, worldly sense of the word. This has been my experience and is my current conviction.

VKN's ridicule of miracles: VKN was generally reticent about conversations he had recently held with SB, which was evidently due to SB's wish, not to say 'divine demand'. However, in course of time I heard some interesting things, but also gradually more and more disturbing things too. When first I knew him, VKN distrusted - and in private actually ridiculed - all talk of miracles! He minimised their significance, despite his having seen SB in action for about 15 years by then and having received a large number of accounts from devotees writing to him as editor and his having already experienced many of SB’s ‘manifestations’ of ash, amrit, rings, lingams, jewels. He wore a ring with three white diamonds given him thus by SB. His reserved attitude to the miraculous nature of many observable events around SB seemed extraordinary to me. We discussed the issues for all sides a lot and his view gradually shifted and softened, for I was always an eager proponent of faith in SB, as my articles in Sanathana Sarathi bear witness. He read my book Source of the Dream for the second time in 1994, where I tried to analyse and describe with accuracy these manifestations, what significance they can have and so on. When I saw him at the time of its publication, he had surprisingly about-turned his view of miracles and said that he had come to consider them a very important factor in awakening the spiritual impulse, comparing them to their role in Jesus' ministry as it is believed to have been.

Unlike all the many who actually cringe around SB, Narasimhan was the only one I saw who was able to buttonhole or actually say things that amounted to contradicting him. He is also the only person I know has been seen to go up and interrupt SB while sacred arathi was being offered to him... and also get an answer. I always had the feeling that SB was so dependent upon Narasimhan's good name and offices that he could not afford to try to get him to bow and scrape. I have several times heard him relate how he reacted against SB's repeated discourse claims for the advaitic doctrine that nothing is real, the world is as a passing cloud, there are no differences of any kind and so forth. VKN argued with this, saying that he considered this doctrine of advaitic otherworldliness was the bane of India's history, for it had engendered and sustained insensibility and passivity on all social questions and was even used by ordinary people to justify the acceptance of the terrible ills that India still suffers on a huge scale. Moreover, he told SB that, since he says he created this world and is immanent in it everywhere, then to assert that it is not real, an illusion, is to deny himself too, asking that, if the world has to be saved by an avatar, is not the avatar also therefore unreal, saving something that is unreal? The very next day, SB held a discourse in which he said: "Do not tell students that the world is an 'illusion' (mithya). It is real, intensely real so long as we are present here. Let people live lives with an intense interest in the process." ( Sathya Sai Speaks new. ed. Vol. 15, p 112). SB even also later claimed it was 'sinful' to call the world unreal! I defended Advaita, pointing out that arguments from analogy are not logically valid, and 'unreal' can mean various things, such as simply 'impermanent'. VKN held SB's oft-repeated analogy about the 'real' screen and the 'unreal' images on it to be absurd, for "if there are no images, what is the screen for?" He felt that advaitism had made too many Indians too otherworldly and that this has led to passivity and an unworthy neglect of real worldly problems, in which India still abounds.

Editorial freedom but only to conform to SB's wishes: By becoming a follower of SB, he had in fact resigned his right to publish whatever facts he thought fit, if such facts were unacceptable to SB, his claims and his teachings. That he accepted this, despite doubts, I can only explain by VKN's intense desire to see the Indian populace lifted from its social degradations and economic ills and endemic corruption. I often heard VKN tell how strongly he felt that, after the many depressing worldly experiences as a journalist and the cynical attitude it engenders, Sai had around 1980 changed his life and given it meaning that it would otherwise have lacked. Though VKN harboured doubts about many of SB's various claims, he was certainly charmed, enthused and heartened by the person, his teaching and works. He was not least sceptical as to whether SB's work really was leading to the actual improvement of corrupt practices or to a better educational system... he had little enthusiasm from the standards of SBs college graduates.

I asked VKN what had occurred when SB announced, sometime around mid-1996, that he would hold one discourse every day for an entire year... and why the discourses had stopped. He replied that he had been sure that SB would not be able to keep it up and would run dry, which proved correct. The daily discourses lasted for only about 3 months and SB scarcely said anything that he had not often said before time and again. One may well ask why VKN sometimes spoke in such glowing terms about SB in his public talks before SB, while being more reserved in his lectures for devotees and very much more so in private, to me at least. He had been known for considerable verbal care and preference for reserving judgement, and ashramites and many visitors also noted this. Even then, I do not recall VKN ever telling the public that SB regularly made many simple mistakes of fact and confused incidents in his discourses, all of which VKN had to eliminate or correct. However, anyone who knows the prevailing atmosphere of reverence and sometimes sanctimonious Besserwissen among many residents and visitors will excuse VKN from provoking them. He was - after all - bothered, bewildered and bewitched.