Sai Baba

The Man

Sai Baba or to give him his full title, Sri Satya Sai Baba was named Satyanarayana Rajuin at birth, meaning, ‘true all-pervading God’. He was born in Andra Pradesh, India on November 23 1926. However, this is the official date but as with much of his life there is controversy because his school record shows (search for school records on this site) his date of birth as October 4 1929. This of course poses the question, why bother over these 3 years. The web site linked above suggests,

“If Sai Baba was born on October 4th 1929, as indicated by records, then we are led to question what must have been the motivation for fraudulently choosing the date of November 23rd 1926 specifically. Obviously, it could have been any date, since it was bogus anyway, but the ‘choice’ of the birthday in later years, probably in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, must have been prompted by a specific reason which would have been necessary for the ‘avatar theory’ to flourish. It is well known publicly that Sri Aurobindo declared on November 24th 1926, that ‘Krishna consciousness had descended into the physical’.”

In other words it was to seek to fulfil this prophecy and so give more credence to his later claims. For more investigation into this issue see here.

Anyway in 1940, when he was 14(?) he had a series of strange ‘visitations’, which some believed to be demonic possession. On October 29 1940, after one of these experiences, or some would say, after falling into a trance brought on by a scorpion sting, that he declared that the spirit of a guru, Shirdi Sai Baba, who had died in 1918, had come into him.

This guru, Shirdi Sai Baba, lived from 1856 to 1918 and was known for his austere lifestyle and miracles. But towards the end of his life, he started to claim that he was God and indeed many of his followers worshipped him as such.

The present-day, Satya Sai Baba, also claims to be God; indeed an avatar or ‘incarnation’ of God. As such, he claims to be greater than Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed, saying that they had some divine power but that his power is infinite. He also performs miracles to support his claim; including ‘materialising’ various objects and healing the sick; some of his followers have even claimed that Sai Baba has raised the dead.

These ‘miracles’ are seen as proof of Sai Baba’s divinity, especially the ability to ‘create’ something out of nothing. However, they have been the subject of much investigation and we will discuss this later.

Sai Baba in a statement that obviously shows his claim to be God said,

“It is beyond you to know how or why I create things… the objects that I create, I create them by My Will, the same way I created the universe.”

Sai Baba sees his mission as to restore the heart of all genuine religion and as such his logo contains the symbols of the Cross, Crescent and Star, Star of David as well as the Hindu Aum and the Buddhist Wheel.

On the 6 July 1963, we find the first mention of his belief that when he leaves this body in 2022, at age 96, he will be reborn, probably within a year, for a third time, as Prema Sai Baba.

The Movement

Today, Sai Baba, has an estimated thirty million followers, most of whom are in India. However, the organisation has spread to over 137 countries including most European countries and claims to have over 30,000 centres worldwide. The main centre for the work today is his home village of Puttaparthi which, is a substantial town with an ashram called Prashanti Nilayam (‘abode of great peace’). There is even an airport for the tens of thousands of devotees who come annually to worship the guru.

Between 14-23 November 1995, his followers celebrated Sai Baba’s 70th birthday and over one million people, including the President and Prime Minister of India, assembled in Prashanthi Nilayam to pay him homage.

Today the movement publishes a wide range of books and pamphlets as well as a number of visual presentations. They also have an active web site to propagate Baba’s teaching

Main Teachings

It is difficult to sum up Sai Baba’s teaching but David Burnett in his article in Encyclopaedia of New Religions identifies four main strands.

“Sai Baba has given four important principles in his teaching. First is satya (truth), not in the sense of an ethical principle, but an understanding of the world. Ordinary mortals are said to be born in accordance with their karma, and should give selfless service in order to achieve a better rebirth and, eventually, liberation. Certain holy figures, such as Sai Baba, are freed from their karma, and manifest themselves to dispense grace and perform miracles.

“The second principle is dharma (duty). Sai Baba rejects caste, and teaches the equality of all regardless of caste, creed, race or gender. To gain liberation requires a combination of good deeds, wisdom and devotion. Most Sais are vegetarian, as they seek not to harm any living being. Shanti (peace) is the third principle. Sai Baba claims he can help humanity to attain peace in the sense of absence of war, and harmony with other people and the environment. Finally, prema (divine love) should be expressed to one’s fellow human beings and especially to Sai Baba himself.” – pp.179/180.

Others would add a fifth strand, that of Ahimsa (Non-violence). These have been developed into a system of education called Education in Human Values (EHV).

“Love as thought is Truth; Love as action is Right Conduct; Love as understanding is Peace; Love, as feeling is Non-Violence”

There is also a nine point code of conduct,

“Daily meditation and prayer.
Group devotional singing or prayers with family members once a week.
Participation in Sai Spiritual Education by children of the family.
Participation in community service work and other programmes of the organisation.
Regular attendance at the Centre’s devotional meetings.
Regular study of Sathya Sai literature.
The use of soft, loving speech with everyone.
Not speaking ill of others, especially in their absence.
Practicing ceiling on desires “consciously and continuously striving to eliminate the tendency to waste time, money, food, and energy” and utilising the savings for the service of mankind.”

And ten principles

“Love and serve your country. Do not be critical of other countries.
Honour and respect all religions as pathways of God.
Love humanity as a part of your family.
Keep home and surroundings clean.
Help the needy with food, clothing, and shelter.
Help them become self-reliant when possible.
Be examples of honesty. Do not participate in any corruption such as bribery.
Curb jealousy, hatred and envy.
Develop self-reliance; Observe your country’s laws as exemplary citizens.
Adore God, abhor sin.”

Whereas much of what is said is ‘good’ it is centring on the man because he is God. Here, of course, is the major problem. If Sai Baba is not who he says he is, then whatever he teaches cannot be relied on. The future life is only attained by having good ‘karma’ and many rebirths. We have dealt elsewhere with the error of relying on such beliefs. Man is not good enough to attain an eternal reward by himself and without the true God he cannot make it. Let us examine the life and claims of Sai Baba to see if he can be relied upon and whether his teaching holds out any worthwhile future.

Miracles Contested

The authenticity of Sai Baba’s miracles has long been questioned and there have been several investigations into his claims.

A Hyderabad-based English daily newspaper entitled The Deccan Chronicle ran a front page article on 23 November, 1992 and reproduced stills from a video recording of Satya Sai Baba’s ‘creation’ of a gold necklace, in the presence of the Prime Minister of India. The video tape seems to clearly show Satya Sai Baba being passed a necklace by his personal assistant.

>More information concerning various investigations and still pictures from a video taken are available.

Many Questions – Few Answers

Murder

It is reported that on 6 June, 1993, six devotees of Prashanti Nilayam died violently. All were part of the inner circle and included Radha Krishna Menon, Sai Baba’s personal assistant who had been caught on video passing the necklace described above. This was not the first time that there had been a murder investigation surrounding Sai Baba; there appears to be evidence of several others.

However, on this occasion it was alleged that two were killed by assailants in an attempted murder of Baba and the police claimed to have shot dead – in self defence – four of the assailants, who were armed only with knives. However, there is much evidence of a cover up in this case and probably the whole truth will never come out.

A BBC correspondent, Jaswinder Singh’s, who was in Puttaparthi at the time, reported that the four alleged assailants were not killed by the police, but by the Baba’s own people. The BBC also quoted the mother of E.K. Sureshkumar, one of the Dead “Assassins”, as saying that her son, for a long time, had been afraid of being murdered and it had finally happened.

Sexual Accusations

There have been numerous allegations against Sai Baba of sexual misconduct with teenage boys. A number of the testimonies (some very frank and open) can be read. This has even cause UNESCO to become involved.

UNESCO

The Danish Sceptical siteearly in 2001 wrote,

“In the face of overwhelming proof, Sai Baba stands accused of consistent child abuse and homosexual abuse of young disciples in numerous cases. London’s Daily Telegraph, in a cover story, has pieced together a shocking dossier of his crimes. In the center of the report stands the case of the now twenty-year-old American Sam Young, son of two ardent devotees of Sai Baba and frequent visitors of his ashram over the last twenty years. Sam, sixteen when he came to Puttaparthi for the first time, was picked up and granted many private audiences with Sai Baba, during which the godman regularly kissed and fondled him, tried to rape him and successfully silenced him. He used to ‘produce’ holy oil out of thin air and to rub the boy’s genitals with that. And he produced watches, golden rings and money to keep him silent. After four years, Sam gathered courage to reveal his plight to his parents. Once Sai Baba was publicly accused, the dam of silence broke and hundreds of similar cases came to light. Devotees left Sai Baba centers abroad in hundreds, some of the centers have already closed down.

“The charges against Sai Baba were mounting for last several months before they became public. Last month UNESCO washed its hands off Sai Baba by deciding neither to sponsor nor take part in a conference it had been planning to organize alongwith the Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE, Thailand) and The Flinders University Institute of International Education (Australia), in Puttaparthi, India, from September 25 to 29.

“The decision meant UNESCO was no longer associated in any way – through sponsorship, organization or participation of any kind – with the conference on ‘Strengthening Values’. UNESCO’s withdrawal was prompted by several factors. The organization was deeply concerned about the widely reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youths and children that have been leveled against Sai Baba. Though it was not for UNESCO to pronounce itself in this regard, it restated its firm moral and practical commitment to combating the sexual exploitation of children, in application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires States to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and violence.”

The latest investigation into Sai Baba’s world was on British television (BBC2 – 17 June 2004). A full transcript can be downloaded.

Part of the trailer written for the programme ran,

“But as the This World team discovers as they travel from India to California, there are a number of former devotees who have turned away from his teachings, claiming he has ruined their lives.

“Alaya, a former follower who claims he was sexually abused by the swami, says in the programme: ‘I remember him saying, if you don’t do what I say, your life will be filled with pain and suffering.’
“In an intimate and powerful portrait, Alaya’s family talks openly about how they feel they were betrayed.
“Back in India, there are serious questions to be asked of politicians, who seem to have continuously ignored the problem. Indeed, some would say, the correct position for these politicians appears to be at the feet of Sai Baba.

“He certainly has friends in high places, and throughout the scandal, his popularity has remained intact.

“Has this ‘God-man’ been wrongly accused or does his status mean he is immune to criticism?”

The conclusions were once again clearly that there is a case to answer.

Conclusions

The claims of Sai Baba, even on the level of being a holy man with a prophetic message, are clearly contested by many, despite some 30 million followers. Before a decision is made to follow such a man it is vital that all the evidence is checked out.

The claim to be God and greater than Jesus clearly puts him at odds with the central teachings of Christianity and the true Christ.

The ‘hope’ that Sai Baba teaches, is no hope according to the fundamental tenets of Christianity. He is seeking to rely on reincarnation whereas the Bible clearly teaches one life, one death and one judgement. See our article to be aware of the differences between reincarnation and resurrection and our conclusions as to which one is more reliable.

Categories: Apologetics

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