29 November 2005

The Mystery Of The 16,000 PART TWO

Continuing with the topic of Narakasura and his kidnapping of 16,000 princesses, Sai Baba continues relating the legend in another quote. But first, I seem to have discovered yet another anomaly in Sai Baba's presentation. Please observe:

4 - "God does not like to kill the wicked Himself. So, Krishna decided to weaken him gradually by subjecting him to fits of anger. The modus operandi was to provoke Narakasura and when he would come chasing in a fit of anger, Krishna would withdraw. Anger is the main cause for man to lose his physical and mental powers. If one gets angry, one loses energy obtained from the food partaken over a period of three months. When Narakasura lost all his strength due to his anger, Krishna made Satyabhama kill him. God has His own master plan for everything because He is the master of everything."

From this quote we can see a theme that Sai Baba has developed elsewhere about the debilitating effects of anger. Sai Baba has notably used the example of the battles between Krishna and Jarasandha, a demonic rival king. The same rationale is presented wherever he speaks about it; Krishna weakens Jarasandha by deliberately provoking him into battle and then deliberately retreating to anger him, his anger being so weakening that after 18 or so non-battles it became easier for Jarasandha to die. Have we just discovered yet another instance of Sai Baba's forgetfulness in regards to his habit of telling Puranic stories? So, according to Sai Baba, who was it that Krishna weakened - Jarasandha or Narakasura?
That aside, it wasn't Satyabhama who killed Narakasura, but Krishna Himself as evidenced by Section 10.59.21 of the Bhagavata Purana.

5 - "Narakasura committed many sins in his life. He imprisoned thousands of women and tortured them. They were the sixteen thousands Gopikas. They could neither live nor die. After Narakasura was killed, Krishna freed them from prison and asked them to return to their respective homes after being prisoners of Narakasura. They said, 'Krishna was their only refuge and prayed that he should take care of them. Krishna agreed to take responsibility of protecting them." - SS, 11/12-98, p. 290

The funny thing about this extract is that it almost exactly follows the version of the Bhagavata! Whereas Sai Baba has elsewhere proclaimed that the meaning and existence of the 16,000 damsels was strictly symbolic and that it is a libel to suggest that Krishna married all of them, here he completely contradicts himself by appearing to verify the story as laid in the holy Bhagavata. Just from this example it is easy to see how confusing Sai Baba can be when he wants to be. Since this story has been briefly explained in Part One of this blog, I'll say nothing more here except to observe how Sai Baba appears to agree that Krishna had to take responsibility for the damsels in some way, as their honour had been "tainted" by virtue of their contact with the demonic Narakasura.

6 - "Is it possible for any ordinary individual to make his appearance simultaneously in the homes of 16,000 Gopikas, not only will people today disbelieve it, but many will ridicule it. But this is the reaction of petty, unthinking people, who have no spirit of enquiry. If one enquires into the truth, it will be seen that even in the modern times such a phenomenon is taking place. The broadcast of a music programme from Delhi is heard in millions of homes in its completeness, all at the same time in myriad different places. A person, speaking on TV, can be seen in a million homes. If a man-made contrivance (Yantra) can have such a far-reaching power, why should it not possible for the power of Mantra to reach millions simultaneously? The image of Krishna could appear in the hearts of the Gopis, though they were far away from him. What is necessary is to purify the heart. The image of the Divine will not be reflected in an impure heart. There is no limit to the power of the Divine. Only the small-minded have limited power." - SS, 9/93, p. 228.

It is perfectly reasonable for an atheist or rationalist to dismiss all of these stories of Krishna's marriage to 16,000 damsels as pure fancy, but it is very surprising to hear this contention come from those who are favourable to Sai Baba. Some of those devotees and admirers who are obviously biased in Sai Baba's favour quickly jump to his defence, disbelieve and ridicule the story, and exhibit their agreement that such stories are either fancy or have a "sensible" inner meaning. As one admirer has noted: "When SSB said that Krsna's 16,000 wives were symbolic of nadis/kalas/deities, that is much more believable than Krsna LITERALLY manifesting 16,000 separate forms, marrying 16,000 separate wives and having sex with each and every one of them, populating the Earth."

After all, how can Krishna expand Himself into 16,000 (and more) forms in order to associate with each queen and engage in the responsibilities thereof, even if He is God? "Impossible!" - sayeth the critic. "Possible! - sayeth the average theist who may also assert that nothing - nothing - is beyond the omnipotence of God and as such, He can quite easily marry 16 billion wives (why even stop there?) and associate with all of them accordingly. Needless to say that the Bhagavata Purana contains several quotes to this effect and much more besides. Judging from the above quote, Sai Baba seems to agree completely.

"There is no limit to the power of the Divine" - indeed. How very inventive and modern of Sai Baba to illustrate the entire concept with comparisons to radio and televisual technology. Following on from this explanation, I find it very hard to comprehend how the typical disbelieving devotee or admirer may continue to declare the symbology of this story and also to continue worshipping and revering Sai Baba in good conscience.

At the very least, the discussion of this issue has only shown how Sai Baba contradicts himself several times on yet another topic. It has been interesting to observe his flip-flopping between symbolic and literal explanations, stating here that there were no marriages and then stating there that marriages took place, making careless mistakes in his relation of the stories at hand, and then finally undercutting the views of his own admirers.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

28 November 2005

The Meat Problem for Sai Baba's devotees

In some ongoing discussions, mention has been made of Sai Baba's exhortations to his followers to give up the practices of smoking, meat-eating and the consumption of alcohol. It is a reasonable assumption that those who consider themselves to be his devotees would make something of an effort to put these principles into practice. Here is the relevant text from the 69th birthday speech of Sai Baba (23/11/1994):

Today, let it be anyone, whether one deems himself a devotee or not, he should give up meat caring. Why? Meat eating promotes only animal qualities. It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one's thoughts. By caring the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed. How sinful is it to feed on animals, which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings! This leads to demonic tendencies, besides committing the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals. Hence, those who genuinely seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food. Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Raama and Krishna, they fatten on chicken. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee? Therefore, whether they are devotees in India or outside, they should give up from this instant meat eating.

Next, there is the question of drink. The water that one drinks is life-giving. It issues from the head of Shiva. It is sacred. Instead of such wholesome drink, it is wrong to drink intoxicants. It makes a man forget his true nature. Alcoholic drink is utterly obnoxious. It degrades the addict. It makes him forget God. The drink addict is not conscious of what he says or does. The very sight of such a person is revolting. The drink evil has ruined innumerable families. Alcoholics have caused misery to their wives and children by wasting all their money on liquor. Of what use to the world are such derelicts?

In addition to liquor, many are addicted to smoking tobacco. Today cigarette smoking is the cause of many diseases like asthma, lung cancer, cosonaphilia and heart ailments. The evil effects of smoking can be easily demonstrated. If a whiff of cigarette smoke is blown at a handkerchief, the cloth turns red at the spot. If smoke can cause such damage to a piece of cloth, how much damage will it not do when it gets into the blood stream? It ruins one's health and shortens one's life-span. Therefore, those who aspire to become true devotees of God have to give up meat, liquor and smoking.

Drink addiction is the cause of many evils. But no Government can stop this. The change must rake place at the individual level. This can take place only through a mental transformation and not as a result of preaching by others. Each one has to recognise the truth and reform himself.

Embodiments of Love! You are deeming this day as the sixty ninth birthday of Svaami. I have no desire to celebrate such birthdays. As I was coming I was greeted by many wishing Me "Happy Birthday" I am always happy Why should anyone wish "Happy Birthday" for Me? Be happy yourselves. Your happiness is My happiness.

Today, as an offering to Svaami, give up meat eating, consuming liquor and smoking. By renouncing these three, you will benefit yourselves as well as society and the nation. Svaami's sole aim is to promote the welfare of the family, the society and the nation. If you wish to carry out Svaami's aim, renounce from this moment itself these three bad practices. Do not put if off to tomorrow. Take the resolve from this moment. Expecting that you will carry out Svaami's wish and thereby promote the well being of your family and the nation, I bless all of you.

Whereas Sai Baba's opinion on the matter is quite clear, it is also reasonable to assume that there would be a uniformity of opinion among Sai's devotees. Unfortunately this is not the case, as several followers have problems accepting the totality of the implications contained above and even find ways of justifying their reluctance to accept Sai Baba's principles.

This is quite easy to sympathise with as even I was a meat-eater when I first became a devotee. I even continued to eat meat for at least two years afterwards. Although I cannot recall fully, I don't think that anyone in my circle of devotee-friends had any major problems with this as many of them were also meat-eaters. The President of my Sai Centre had both of his children studying in Sai Baba's schools, and he consumed eggs. Several other devotees related to me their problems with drug and alcohol dependency and cigarettes, and how they had found strength in Sai Baba to give those habits up even though many still continued to maintain such vices. As far as I could see there was no big deal attached to these issues as it was accepted that such vices had to be given up in their own time and that it was a question of the individual's motivation , although everyone knew that Sai Baba himself disapproved of these things.

The beginning of the end of my own problems with meat-eating occurred around 1991. I was so absorbed in the beauty of Sai Baba's 'Bhagavatha Vahini' that simply reading the text filled me with the firm resolve and conviction that I had to give up meat. Given the fact that I highly enjoyed consuming meat products since I was practically old enough to eat, this was quite a big deal for a 12-year-old kid to decide! Unfortunately I made the mistake of being economical; I decided that I would give up eating meat completely just as soon as the stocks ran out in our freezer. As we never stopped shopping I never gave up meat and continued eating it for at least another two years, although Bhagavatha Vahini had left a very strong impression in my mind and the conviction stayed with me.

It was only until the summer of 1993 when I spent a total of three months in Sai Baba's Whitefield and Prashanti Nilayam ashrams that I suddenly kicked the habit. I couldn't explain it. Three months of continuous canteen seva and eating of vegetarian food had somehow weaned me off the addictive meat. I began a vegetarian life and since then I have never looked back. This year I have successfully completed 12 years as a vegetarian. Even now, close friends and family are still amazed as they remember the shocking change.

So while I understand the "addiction" of meat and the reluctance to give it up, I can conclusively state that life is much better and healthy without meat. I also managed to give it up in my own time and didn't have Sai Baba breathing down my neck in a 69th Birthday speech unlike other devotees. You would think that such a statement of clear directions would convince followers to make a serious attempt to give such vices up, but no joy.

As can be seen from the ongoing discussions in some Sai-related forums, many devotees and defenders try to produce some obscure justifications for meat-eating in order to disguise or defend the practice. Here is one such statement from Lisa De Witt:

And don't forget about Jesus feeding the multitudes FISHES and loaves! Narrow-minded bigots like Tony [O'Clery] and Sanjay just DON'T GET that the message is about PREMA. They are so busy messaging their intellectual superiority complexes and minding everyone elses business and then wonder why they are so unhappy and not getting anywhere.

Regardless of my supposed unhappiness and inability to "get anywhere" (what kind of point is that to make anyway?), I cannot help but notice how queer it is to employ Jesus Christ as a way to endorse meat-eating. Anyone who makes a cursory study of the Gospels (John 6, Mark 6, Matt 14, Luke 9 for instance) is made aware that, in the famous 'five loaves and two fish' incident, Jesus simply accepts whatever is available to feed the large crowd. This is not an implicit or explicit go-ahead to eat meat products no matter however one twists it.

To those who would point to other incidents in the Gospels such as those where Jesus consumes lamb for the Passover feast as well as consuming fish in order to prove that his ressurected body was real and true, I would interpret the first as an example of Jesus' following of the Jewish tradition and the second to be another example of Jesus accepting whatever was near and available to prove himself. Even if it could be argued that these incidents support meat-eating, it would show a healthy disregard for the vehement urgings of Sai Baba. How interesting it is that devotees would choose to disregard the pleas of a figure who they revere as God Himself - the Father of Jesus Christ - and follow the bimillennial examples of the Son instead!


Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

26 November 2005

Sai Baba festival begins amid rows

Ashwin Aghor
Friday, November 25, 2005 22:18 IST

The foundation day celebrations of Sai Baba Temple at Vartak Nagar began on Friday amid allegations and counter-allegations.

But the controversies over the alleged misappropriation of funds have not deterred devotees from turning in large numbers at the three-day festival from Thursday to Saturday.

The charity commissioner has sealed the donation box and appointed an administrator following a complaint by Vikrant Chavhan about the misappropriation of donations to the temple. He had also alleged the temple itself was constructed illegally. It has also been ordered to verify the receipt books of the temple.

President of Sainath Seva Samiti and NCP corporator Balibhai Naibagkar said the annual programme would be held as per schedule.

When asked about the allegations of the temple being illegal, Naibagkar said the temple was constructed on MHADA land in 1985. He said MHADA and Konkan Board had allotted the land to the managing committee a year ago. Naibagkar said a proposal had been passed and the land would be transferred to the committee after completing the formalities with the Thane Municipal Corporation.

He said that special arrangements had been made to avoid inconvenience to devotees. Various programmes such as bhajan, abhishek, kirtan and pravachan will be organised.

A procession will be taken out in Vartak Nagar on the last day after Shri Ganesh yagya and other rituals. The procession taken out on the third day has always been a centre of attraction for devotees, who flock from all over the state.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

25 November 2005

More birthday reports

The newspaper reports really do report some interesting tidbits. Here's something from the Deccan Herald:

At a heavily guarded gate at the Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium, an elderly man is halted by the volunteers. “Sai Ram, this area is marked for VIPs. Who are you? VIP or delegate?” asks a volunteer. “I’m a VIP,” goes the man, deadpan. At 4.30 am, that’s not the kind of existential exchange you want to overhear.

True enough. The need for VIPs or delegates (to delegate what, exactly?) at an 80th birthday party is enough of a puzzle. Here's another one from Newindpress:

In the last few decades, he has built a vast empire worth billions of rupees transforming the small village of Puttaparthi, his birthplace into a modern town with a state-of the-art airport, education and health facilities.

At least here we have an editorial statement that acknowledges the billions that have been spent to construct a township. Later:

His birthday every year is an occasion for his devotees to seek blessings and shower costly gifts on him.

No kidding, I wonder what he got this year. A new Mercedes? Perhaps a Jaguar? A rare Ferrari Enzo?

Organisers claimed that a million people, a majority of them clad in white, participated in the celebrations.

What's a milion divided by 10? 100,000. Whispers from Prashanti indicate that the propaganda machine tends to bulk up the figures by multiplying them by ten.

He used to perform miracles like producing gold out of thin air but about a decade ago he stopped performing miracles in the wake of a controversy.

Rationalists have challenged him to prove his miracles in their presence and have accused him of cheating people.

We can be generous enough to acknowledge a journalistic error with regards to the statement of halting miracles a decade ago, without considering of the miracles were genuine in the first place. However, it is heartening to notice than even in an article that is a supposed celebration of a "public" life, the facts about controversy will always out and be present as a black mark on Sai Baba's white birthday robe. :-)

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

FEMALES not allowed in politics ?!

A small update to the earlier blog about Sai Baba's urging of his devotees to not enter politics. That Newindpress article was apparently dated the 24th November and referred to a speech given on "Women's Day" in Puttaparthi.

I now find that an article dated 19th November on AndhraCafe suggests that the precious advice was meant for women!

Sri Sathya Sai Baba today advised women not to enter politics and waste their precious lives. He said that politics today have become much debased and are ruining society.

He was speaking on the World women’s Day celebration at Prashanthi Nilayam at Puttaparthy. He said that women should take an active interest in welfare activities and work towards the betterment of society.

This is not the first time Sai Baba has communicated sexist rhetoric. A while ago Prof. Anil Kumar revealed that Sai Baba's advice for women was to simply cook and look after their husbands. More on that when I unearth the reference.

Judging from Sai Baba's sage advice, I guess he thinks little of the contributions of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Chandrika (Bandaranaike) Kumaratunga, Condoleezza Rice, Sonia Gandhi, and more recently, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It is actually unbelievable to think that an individual who did not even pass high school considers his advice to be worthy of due attention.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

Urging devotees not to enter politics?

I caught an interesting story on the News some days ago, reporting how Sai Baba is now apparently urging his devotees not to enter into politics. The reason for this is that it is bad for human relations (?) and is useless for promoting harmony among people?

This comes from the guy who has had plenty of devotees involved in the political arena over the decades, not to mention those who simply come for "spiritual guidance" or even just to impress a certain votebank. Dharma Vira, Nakul Sen, Narasimha Rao, A.B. Vajpayee, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Manm0han Singh; these are just a few of the governors, Prime Ministers and Presidents of India who have been involved in Sai's orbit. Even the current Indian President, Dr. A.J. Kalam, is openly a devotee and is even supposed to have taught as a lecturer in Sai Baba's Whitefield college in the 1970s!

Here is the article in full, courtesy of NewIndPress. I trust that it'll raise a few eyebrows.


Don’t enter politics, Baba tells devotees
Sunday November 20 2005 09:39 IST

HINDUPUR: Politics is having undesired effect on the human relations and are proving to be useless in promoting harmony between people, Satya Saibaba said.

Addressing a gathering at Sai Kulawanth Hall in Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthi today on the occasion of ‘Women’s Day’, he said that a person, who is ignorant of what finance means is entering politics and getting appointed to the key posts.

He advised his followers not to enter politics and urged them to know and understand what politics is all about.

To help others in a humanitarian approach is sufficient and a person needs to work hard in a rightful and honest way for the development of his family rather then resorting to dubious means, Baba explained.

Explaining about the progress of Satya Sai College to the University Level and the super specialty hospital, Baba said that it was possible only with love and affection for fellow humans.

He stressed the importance of human values.

Hundreds of Satya Saibaba devotees were present on the occasion.

ARRANGEMENTS: Elaborate arrangements are being made for the 80th birthday celebrations of Satya Saibaba at Puttaparthi.

Scores of followers of Satya Saibaba started arriving in the town from several parts of the State, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and other parts of the country.

District collector YV Anuradha is supervising the arrangements being made for the grand event to be held on November 23.

Satya Sai Samithi volunteers are ensuring that visiting devotees are provided with food.

A medical camp is also set up for the benefit of devotees.



Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

23 November 2005

Sai Baba and his Golden Age

Clicking on the title of this post will take you to a (long!) list of quotations from Sai Baba about the Golden Age, which he claims to have come in order to usher in.

Interestingly, the very last quote (dated Winter 1996-1997) states the following:

"When an airplane is about to take off, it must first approach the runway. When it reaches the runway, it must make a full turn in order to face the direction of takeoff. This turn is navigated slowly by the aircraft. After the turn has been completed, the airplane receives a signal from the tower and begins to accelerate rapidly for takeoff. When the craft has reached sufficient velocity, it leaves the ground. Swami's mission has made this turn to face the runway. The 70th birthday was the signal from the tower to accelerate. In the 75th birthday, the airplane will leave the ground." (Sri Sathya Sai Newsletter, USA, 31, Winter 1996-1997, 29.)

It is exactly five years to the date Sai Baba gave for the launch of his Golden Age, and nothing has happened. It is suffice to say that this 'Golden Age' theme has been a staple of Sai-mythology for years, with devotees avidly expecting and talking about it. It was widely expected to be, literally, a worldwide change in the world situation and consciousness that brings about complete peace and harmony.

When the date passed and nothing seemed to have happened, Sai devotees immediately started speculating, "Ahhhhh! It was not literal, and maybe Swami was all along referring to something subtle or metaphorical. Yes that's right, the Golden Age has started on a subtle plane!"

Remember how Sai Baba himself gave a date for this change and there was nothing metaphorical about that. It pains me to see devotees rationalise their beliefs like this; somehow they just cannot accept the fact that their master has been full of lies and inconsistencies all along.

When you have read up on other cults with charismatic founders, you'll realise that "millenial" predictions tend to be something of a common factor. Examples of these are the Children of God, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Divine Light Mission. It becomes pitiable to see people fall for such a con, if not horrific.

All in all, a nice list of quotes with burgeoning optimism that somehow manages to shoot itself in the foot.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

17 November 2005

PA to the Double BA

I had a strange dream last night of which I wanted to keep a record.

I dreamt that I was in Prashanti Nilayam back in the days when it was only the Prashanti Mandir there, and there was no Kulwant Hall or any of the fancy trappings. It was a very vivid dream where I found that I was Sai Baba's Personal Assistant. In those terms it meant that I had the job that any devotee would kill for. As a "disciple" I would be attending to Sai Baba's every need; being with him all the time, serving his food, eating with him, being his bodyguard, cleaning up after him, taking him to the bathroom, and so on and on.

The weird thing in all of that is that while I was aware and made aware of the great "honour" that had been bestowed upon me, I was in clear consciousness of the fact that I hated this guy. Despite having the "greatest job in the world", I was still very much an ex-devotee. I was wondering what in the world had led me here and into this position. I was mortified at how I would seemingly have to live here and take care of this guy for the rest of my life. Or, given his age and decrepitude, the rest of his life. My feelings were very much along the lines of "What the hell am I doing here?"

Although I don't know his name and never have, an old guy who I used to work with doing seva in the Whitefield Indian canteen (in real life) was in the dream. As in life, his job in the dreamy Nilayam was an attendant on the verandah and he was grinning and embracing me with great glee that I had been given this great honour. Although I was happy to meet and greet this man as well as reciprocate his affection accordingly, I was filled with a sinking feeling as I slowly absorbed what was happening. Everyone's eyes were on me; the ashram residents, the visiting devotees, the other close disciples, they were all gazing at me with envy.

I admit that I quite enjoyed the power that this position ensured. I had freedom to walk all over the ashram and even all over the darshan compound, which is quite a contrast from the position of an ordinary devotee getting shouted down by overenthusiastic sevadals. I was given my own room to stay which was in the bottom left of the mandir directly opposite the interview room. As I was checking out this room, I was aware of many pairs of eyes staring at me from outside. Being constantly watched was a very creepy feeling; perhaps this is also what Sai Baba has had to endure all of his life?

Then came the moment which defined my responsibilities, Sai Baba needed to be taken to the toilet. A weird job, but it was mine. So I took him to the toilet and left the door slightly ajar to make sure I'd see or hear if he slipped and fell or anything. He was taking quite some time to urinate, so I slightly opened the door to check if he was ok. There seemed to be three different types of toilet; two of your average sit-down Western type and one regular walled urinal. Sai Baba's robe was slightly lifted and his ankles were exposed, so it was obvious what he was still doing. As he finished and turned around, I quickly stepped back in order to pretend that I hadn't witnessed anything in order to give him some dignity. He then locked the door from inside and I got the feeling that he was about to have a shower, so I sat cross-legged on the floor and waited for a while, and then walked around the compound.

And then I woke up, having no idea what this dream was all about. I no longer subscribe to the idea that dreams of Sai Baba are direct visitations from him, although when you've been telling yourself that for about 10 years you start to wonder if it's true given the vividity. Even so, how odd it is to hold such a high position given my current feelings about him. I distinctly remember wondering how I would be able to carry the whole thing off. And then it hit me, what if I was having an insight into the mentality of many of the nondevotee lieutenants there? Given the many claims that some of the ashram staff are "all in on the con" and that I also know for a fact how many of his intimate advisors are not his devotees and do not believe in his divinity, I just wonder if I was one of those? This seems to be the only reasonable explanation.

Though I spend some time pursuing my psychology studies I haven't paid much attention to the neurological and emotional processes of dreaming beyond the well-known idea that dreams are the surfacing of what lurks in the subconscious. I can't conceive of aspiring for such a job at this stage in my life given my current feelings for Sai Baba, and so I can only guess it is the surfacing of past desires that I may have held in the past. Desires that almost every devotee has and probably fantasizes about.

In any case I'm glad that I've got it out of my system. Interesting how having this dream coincided with the night I decided to temporarily withdraw from forum discussions in order to work on upcoming Expose projects. Also, I'm grateful for having an insight into the mentality of those undevotees, who I've wondered about from time to time. How do they live their lives day-in and day-out, proclaiming false devotion to a mortal man who they pretend to deify just to get by and make a living? I cannot even conceive of the horrible prospect of living such a life.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

12 November 2005

The Mystery of the 16,000 PART ONE

I was recently challenged by an SB adherent to post quotes from Sai Baba showing the latter's mention of 16,000 gopikas in order to prove that SB has actually referred to them. Incidentally, this is the very same adherent mentioned in previous blogs who prefers poorly-informed online magazine articles by SB devotees over and above SB's own words, never mind the verdict of the Vedic scriptures which mention all of these things.

Why I should even have to engage myself in such meaningless research is beyond me, since it would be natural to assume that a devotee would be interested in researching his or her guru's words. However, I quickly grasped the fact that this could be a useful issue to reference in the future. Add to that Sai Baba's love of attaching higher meanings and inner significances to a large number of scriptural stories, I thought that this subject would be interesting to peruse as I will show how even this concept of 16,000 is not free from SB's eagerness for symbolism! We must also remember that we are dealing with pastimes that occurred in Krishna's youth, where He dallied with the gopis of Vrindavana, and we will show Sai Baba's mistakes on this matter in due course.

I distinctly remember SB stating this figure in a discourse given on or before 1994 as I also recall telling this to a fellow group member in Whitefield while I was there. I'll have to check the back issues of Sanathana Sarathi (SB's ashram magazine) to be sure, but I'm sure that quotes on this subject that were obtained courtesy of Google will suffice for now.

1 - "Gopikas are cowherdesses only in physical form. In the human head, there is Lotus with thousand petals. Each of these petals has sixteen Kalas (aspects) As the Lord of Sahasrara (thousand-petalled Lotus), He presides over the 16000 Kalas, which are present in Lotus. The Lord is described as the embodiment of 16 Kalas . The Kundalini Shakthi (Serpent Power) which starts at the bottom of spinal column (Mooladhara) rises and merges with the 16000 entities in the Sahasrara. Thus, it is stated that Krishna was wedded to 16000 gopikas."

Excusing the obvious problems relating to the presence of a thousand-petalled lotus in the human head which has escaped the attention of esteemed neurosurgeons, we can see that Sai Baba is trying to draw a comparison between Krishna's dalliances and Kundalini-yoga. I wont go into this much here as Sai Baba explains himself more fully in following quotes, except to note that Kundalini-yoga, just like any other kind of yoga, is a way and means for aspirants to shake off material shackles and attain nearness (or "union") with God. It would then naturally follow that a person who succeeds in the sadhana of Kundalini-yoga attains perfection when his Kundalini-shakti rises and permanently 'merges' with the Sahasrara-chakra, which is believed to be located in the medulla oblongata area of the brain.

Thus, when this is an issue for us ordinary souls, why does Sai Baba draw a comparison with Krishna's supposed marriages to 16,000 gopis? Is Sai Baba comparing the ordinary soul to Krishna, or vice versa?

2 - "This is the inner secret of how the Divine works. In the life of Krishna, there are many incidents which have an esoteric meaning, but which have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by scholars and commentators. Such misunderstandings have been caused by stories that Krishna had eight wives and that He dallied with 16,000 gopikas. In the spinal column, there are six chakras, of which two are important- the Sahasraaara chakra in the brain and the the Hridayachakra in the middle of the spinal column. The Hridayachakra is a flower-like chakra with eight petals. The eight petals are symbols of the eight parts of the earth, whose master is the Lord Himself ... God is the Lord of this thousand-petalled Sahasraara. The inner significance of the reference to 16,000 gopikas should be understood in this manner. Few attempt to understand the spiritual significance of many episodes in the Bhagavatham. Young men may easily be misled by references to Krishna's 16,000 gopikas. The real meaning is that each one should awaken the sixteen thousand potencies within him."

Apart from the rather elaborate description of Kundalini philosophy, it is not known if this incident from Krishna's life is truly compatible with the same. Why then, does Sai Baba insist that we should see it in that way?

First of all the idea of Krishna having eight wives is an untruth, although to be fair to SB he is merely referring to "stories" that circulate. The layout of his presentation, though, exhibits an utterly fanciful view of Krishna's pastimes. Within the same breath he mentions Krishna's supposed marriage to eight wives and dalliances with 16,000 gopis! Anyone who is unfamiliar with these issues would doubtlessly receive the wrong impression, for which they cannot be blamed!

Sai Baba also appears to have made a mistake in regards to Kundalini philosophy. There are supposedly seven chakras in the body, not six.

3 - "The following day is Amavasya (New Moon Day). Krishna freed from prison 16,000 women and asked them to go back to their respective homes. But all the gopikas fell at Krishna's feet and pleaded that it would not be possible for them to live in dignity in their old homes after having been prisoners of Narakasura and they would prefer to end their lives at His feet rather than to go back. "You are the Protector of the Universe, can't you protect us?" they pleaded. Krishna agreed to protect them. Because of the pledge He gave to them that He would bear the responsibility for protecting them, He was called their Bhartha (Supporter). This has been wrongly interpreted as a meaning that He was their husband. It is a libel on Krishna to say that He married 16000 gopikas."

According to the previous quotes, Sai Baba has all along been arguing that the existence of th 16,000 'gopikas' is allegorical; their existence is esoteric, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and any attempt to interpret in another way is 'misled'. But here we see Sai Baba doing the very same thing, forwarding yet another explanation!

This time he reveals a more germane description of the incident, and this just happens to be the version that the scriptures tell. The above quote describes the story of how Narakasura kidnapped 16,000 damsels and who, upon the release by Krishna after the killing of Narakasura, appealed to Him to be their husband. This whole event is described in Section 10.59.33-45 of the Bhagavata Purana, with far too much detail for it to be considered strictly allegorical. In fact, a verse from the Vishnu Purana states that the number of damsels was 16,100.

In any case, even with a reasonable explanation, why does Sai Baba still insist that it is a "libel" on Krishna to suggest that he married those 16,000 gopikas? First of all they were not gopikas, they were kanyas. 'Kanya' is the term for 'virgin girl', although it can also be taken to refer to a young unmarried girl. A 'gopika' is a reference to a cowherd milkmaid, whereas Bhagavata Purana 10.59.33 clearly states 'bhaumAhRtAnAM vikramya rAjabhyo dadRze hariH', which basically means that Bhauma [Narakasura] had taken the damsels by force from a number of kings. The earlier portion of the verse mentions the term 'rAjanya-kanyAnAM', which refers to maidens of the royal order. This shows that the 16,000 damsels were virginal princesses who had been kidnapped from their kingly fathers, not gopis who by any account were village milkmaids. Considering this, we can see how Sai Baba constantly refers to them as 'gopikas' showing clearly that he has no idea what he is talking about.

Then, considering the fact that since they had no other shelter on account of their being tainted by the association of Narakasura, is it any wonder that they then surrendered unto Krishna? The concept of being 'tainted' in this manner occurs frequently in Vedic literature; the issue was broached in the Ramayana also, where Rama subjected His wife Sita to the test of fire in order to determine her "purity" on account of her kidnap by the demonic Ravana. Even in modern Indian culture, it is often the case that men might refuse to marry a girl on account of past associations with other males, even if no romantic or sexual activity had taken place.

Despite this, Sai Baba still insists that it is a "libel" to say that Krishna married all of the 16,000 princesses. It is a mystery as to why this could be, considering that this is stated as such in Bhagavata Purana 10.59.42:

atho muhUrta ekasmin
nAnAgAreSu tAH striyaH
yathopayeme bhagavAn
tAvad-rUpa-dharo 'vyayaH

Then the imperishable Bhagavan [Krishna], assuming a separate form for each bride, duly married all the princesses simultaneously, each in her own palace.

To be continued.

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10 November 2005

A Bracelet Story

I'd like to relate an incident about one of Sai Baba's materialisations. I was personally present when this happened in an interview that took place on the morning of Sunday, 31st January 1993, at Prashanti Nilayam. I've related this story several times here and there, but I'd like to keep a record here for posterity.

During said interview, Sai Baba materialised a copper bracelet for a male devotee, of whose country of origin I am unsure. Much has also been said about Sai Baba's capability for materialisation of various objects. I cannot say for sure whether this was a genuine materialisation of a reach-behind-the-cushion event as I was too much in awe of his presence to observe properly, so for the sake of argument we will refer to it here as a 'materialisation'. However, what happened next took place in full view of the interview room.

For some reason, this bracelet did not fit around the recipient's wrist. Sai Baba was desperately trying to squeeze it onto the recipient's wrist and made several attempts to enlarge it by pulling the open ends apart in order to make it wider, but to no avail. The room was in silence as everyone waited for Sai Baba to finish his ritual of benediction.

Finally, Sai Baba gave up and dismissively threw it into the devotee's lap and carried on with the interview by talking to other people. I can admit to being guilty of having the devotee mentality and interpreting this entire incident as a 'leela', even though I was quite surprised at watching all of this take place.

As I walked along with my group the next morning to darshan, we happened to meet that fellow again as he sat with a couple of his group members on the steps leading to the Poornachandra hall. Somebody observed how he was wearing his copper bracelet on a string around his neck, and we all laughed at Sai Baba's leela of being "incapable" of changing the bracelet's size and continued to discuss the other events of the interview. I have no idea where this devotee is now, nor do I know if he is still in possession of the bracelet. Goodness alone knows if he still wears it on a string around his neck!

For all the stories we hear about rings and watches being a perfect fit; for all the stories we hear about them not being a perfect fit but were subsequently resized by Sai Baba's blowing on them; for all the stories we hear (from Sai Baba, incidentally) of how he has "magic spirits" from "Sai Stores" working for him and providing him with all these trinkets, here is at least one story that highlights his complete incapability of changing a bracelet size even by manual handling. Not to mention the fact of how this was witnessed by an entire room full of devotees. Let this story go on the record to serve as a curious example of Sai Baba's materialising capabilities.

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08 November 2005

Baba continues with the boo-boos

In his discourse dated 09/10/05, Sai Baba declared:
"Sage Narada affirmed that God could be realised through the nine forms of devotion, namely, Sravanam (listening), Kirtanam (singing), Vishnusmaranam (contemplating on Vishnu), Padasevanam (serving His lotus feet), Vandanam (salutation), Archanam (worship), Dasyam (servitude), Sneham (friendship) and Atmanivedanam (self-surrender)."
This is not strictly true. This verse is actually spoken by the boy Prahlada, who provided the famous catalyst for the descent of God in His form as Nara-Simha, the half-man half-lion. This is a very famous verse from the Bhagavata Purana (7.5.23) yet I decided to give Sai Baba the benefit of the doubt and checked out the text of the Narada Bhakti Sutra, a treatise on devotion that was supposedly authored by Narada. Unfortunately there was nothing there to confirm Sai Baba's statement.

In all fairness, the flow of the Bhagavata narration presents the entire story of Prahlada as a conversation between Narada Muni and Maharaja Yudhistira. However as far as the interpretive context of the situation is concerned, as well as for all intents and purposes, this verse was not spoken by Narada and thus it is incorrect of Sai Baba to say so.

Other points relate to Sai Baba's famous coupling of "Vishnu" and "smaranam" together to make "Vishnu smaranam", remembrance of Vishnu. Although there is no strict philosophical objection to this, it should be noted that the meter and grammar of Sanskrit verses are there for a reason. 'Vishnu' is referred to in the context of hearing and chanting rather than smaranam per se. Grammatically speaking of course and not spiritually, since there is no real objecton to remembrance of Vishnu.

It is also a mystery why Sai Baba replaces 'sakhyam' with 'sneham'. Although both words mean the same, why does Sai Baba replace Sanskrit words arbitrarily? In other places, SB states that Sanskrit verses (due to having a Vedic origin) contain great power when chanted with correct pronunciation and intonation, what to speak of getting the words correct. In this way, what effect is being achieved by a unnecessary replacement of one word in this verse?

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07 November 2005

Baa-baa on Baba's boo-boo

Continuing with the topic of my recent blogs, 'Sai Baba makes another boo-boo' and 'Baba's Bhagavata Boo-Boo continued', the responses from SB devotees has proven to be highly amusing indeed. One adherent in particular seems to believe that the biographies of Krishna as recorded in scriptural accounts is somehow redundant in the face of Internet articles. In order to refute my point about gopikas residing in Dvaraka, she posted an extract from an article at ChennaiOnline:

"At the same time, 1,108 Gopikas were longing for the grace of Krishna in Dwaraka. Krishna simultaneously entered the houses of all the 1,108 Gopikas. It is in this context that he taught them that all the forms which exist everywhere are the forms of God."

Given that I've provided scriptural references for my arguments in the aforementioned blogs, as well as selected quotes from Bhagavata Vahini, it still amazes me how anyone can consider a poorly-informed website as evidence. And when we see who is the author of this article, it appears to be none other than Venkatachalam 'Bombay' Srinivasan! Srinivasan happens to be a longtime devotee of Sai Baba and had made frequent contributions to the old Sai-Net in the form of discourse publication, anecdotal reportings and general discussion. Last I heard, he is the All-India Seva Convenor for the SSSO in India although his ChennaiOnline profile states that he is an active member of the Sri Sai Padhuga Trust, founded by Srinivasan Chettiar. In any case, this serves as an example of dismissing scriptural evidence and even Sai Baba's own words in favour of a online magazine article penned by a Sai devotee! How curious.

When I presented this point, I also made a mention of how Krishna was reputed to be the husband of 16,108 wives, and not 1,108 as reported by Srinivasan. This, of course, is confirmed in most scriptural accounts. Unfortunately the adherent who posted a magazine article as evidence took exception to this large figure by stating:

"Where to start with such a dunderhead. Krishna wasn't married to 16,108 people literally idiot. It's a SPIRITUAL marriage (to the diety). It's obvious from listening to you that you have NO clue what you are talking about."

Hmmm. So in one sense this adherent seems to be agreeing that Srinivasan's figure of 1,108 is a fiction, and yet in another sense the scriptural references to 16,108 is symbolic and not literal?Unfortunately for this adherent, and for all other adherents, we are all too aware of how they love to interpret just about every account has having a "deep underlying spiritual significance" that sometimes has nothing to do with the intent and purpose of the story at all. Sometimes it seems as if one can be driven mad by contemplating all of these inner significances all the time!If one wishes to argue that this incidence of Krishna's marrying of 16,108 wives is symbolic of some higher significance, then the onus is on them to provide the meaning of this significance and explain it's relation to the broader narration. One who has spent some time studying the story of Krishna from various scriptural accounts would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing symbolic about this episode and that it is quite literal. The role of the 16,108 wives figures prominently in other later episodes of Krishna's story; what is the "inner significance" of those stories?

We should also note here that Sai Baba has remarked about the "16,108 wives" concept on several occasions within his discourses, although in all fairness he presents the rounded figure of 16,000 wives. Considering this, where did V. Srinivasan get his figure of 1,108? And where did this adherent get the queer idea that this "symbolic" marriage between Krishna and 16,108 damsels involved a deity?

As for having no clue what I am talking about - I can only say that, in my vast ignorance, I refer to universally-accepted source material to provide information in order to help me and other people make their conclusions. The same cannot be said of regarding poorly-informed online magazine articles written by SB devotees as any kind of authority.
The adherent further stated:

"And since Krishna was considered the Lord of Gopikas, and FOUNDED the city of Dwaraka, Why wouldn't there be gopikas living there? Cowherders are confined to living ONLY were you the clown designate they can live?"

In response; it isn't really a question of where we clowns decide they can live, but the question of their respective residences is a matter of record in the scriptural accounts. In order to make any sense of the story we must analyse the scriptural accounts.

That said, I must point at the extremely fallacious logic that has been employed here. Just because Krishna was considered to the Lord of the gopis and then founded the city of Dvaraka, it doesn't automatically follow that the gopis should live there. As previously noted, anybody who has actually read the story of Krishna would know that the gopis and cowherds are the residents of Vrindavana. The departure of Krishna for Mathura (and subsequent founding of Dvaraka etc) is a major component of His story, which entails the profound and undending grief of the residents of Vraja (Vrajavasis) and their mournful pleas for Him to come back. When Krishna goes to Dvaraka and marries His wives, Dvaraka then became the residence of Krishna and His Queens, not the gopis who are the residents of Vrindavana. Krishna supposedly meets the Vrajavasis again years later when both parties are on a pilgrimage on the battlefield of Kurukshetra in order to witness an auspicious solar eclipse.

Again, it would be proper for any challenger(s) to fully apprise themselves of the events of Krishna's life before attempting to debate about it. Such a half-baked approach does no one any favours except to highlight the ignorance of such a poor objection. Just like sheep, the devotees do not engage in any form of research and rational thinking, but invariably follow Baba blindly with their agreeable bleating of of 'Baa Baa'.

Copyright © Sai Baba EXPOSED! 2005-2007. Discuss this post!

New Wine in Old Bottles?

I remembered something last night. I own the 'old' edition of Sathya Sai Speals Vols 1-11. I know now that the ashram has recently republished the entire set some years back as a 'Revised and Enlarged' edition or so, which includes newer discourses.

What was suprising is that as I perused the edition which contained the famous "I will fly in the sky" quote (given on 21/10/61), I noticed another interesting discourse in the very same volume entitled 'Madhura Nagara' (given on ??/11/61), which does NOT appear in my edition!

What does this say about the addition of "old" discourses into newer editions that were never published before? Who can say if SB even gave the discourse? Where have these discourses been hiding all this time? Who can say how many more "old-new" discourses have been published in the latest volumes? I will have to go through them!

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03 November 2005

Baba's Bhagavata Boo-Boo continued

Continuing on the theme of my last blog, I recalled reading a more complete version of the story in SB's 'Bhagavata Vahini'. I decided to read through the specific section and I noticed that there is also no mention of any gopikas at all!

Rather, there is copious mention of the queens, children and other citizens whom Arjuna was requested to save from the coming disaster. Some quotes:
  • [Arjuna reading from Krishna's letter:] "Therefore, you have to take to Indraprastha City the queens and other women who survive, along with the children and babies and the old and decrepit."
  • Arjuna: "We collected the jewels and valuables of all the women and kept them in a secure place; the queens alighted from the palanquins and the maids scattered themselves for rest."
  • Arjuna: "Before my very eyes, the robber bands dragged away the queens, the maids and others."
  • Arjuna: "And the queens - those who were living in golden palaces in the height of luxury! When I contemplate their fate in the hands of those fierce savages, my heart is reduced to ashes."

It seems that, yet again, Sai Baba continues to contradict himself in matters of mythology. Whereas it is typical of Sai Baba to differ from the version of the scriptures (under the excuse of claiming to be the self-same Krishna re-telling his own story!), it is very surprising how he has contradicted himself. Referring to the ladies of Dvaraka as queens in his authored text and then as gopikas in a discourse some decades later can of course be attributed to a memory lapse, but this reasonable explanation will not sit well with his devotees who have fervent faith in his divinity and claims of omniscience et al. If Sai Baba were indeed Krishna, the least one could expect of him is to present a consistent recollection of his "previous" incarnation! If anything, this issue brings a highlight to Sai Baba's other boo-boos in regards to Krishna's story.

Another troubling inconsistency is the concept of the letter which, according to Sai Baba, was authored by Krishna and delivered to Arjuna as a final message. As I perused through the relevant sections of the Bhagavata Purana I found no mention of such a letter. Section 1.15.20 of the Purana simply makes a mention of Arjuna's protection of Krishna's wives. It is unclear whether Arjuna took on this responsibility on Krishna's order (if you believe Sai Baba) or on his own initiative. Section 11.31.25 mentions Arjuna's escorting of the women, children and elders to Indraprastha, again no mention of whether he did this on the order of Krishna.

Given that the Bhagavata Purana's primary subject matter is all about the activities and glories of Krishna, we can confidently say that Sai Baba has presented an inventive embellishment in his version of this story. However, it is also possible that this 'letter' incident may be described in other Puranas and thus it could also be possible that Sai Baba is referencing such descriptions in his text. This explanation would present a textual fallacy in that Sai's Bhagavata Vahini is supposed to be his free rendition of the Bhagavata Purana.

A devotee responds.

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02 November 2005

Sai Baba makes another boo-boo

In his Dasara Discourse dated 07/10/05, Sai Baba says:

The city of Dwaraka presented a scene of total destruction. The entire Yadava clan had perished. Arjuna did not know what to do in those circumstances. He remembered the possibility of his mother Kunthi enquiring about the welfare of Lord Krishna and the Yadavas. A hundred and one questions cropped up in his mind, but he had no answers for any of them. Finally, Arjuna collected all the Gopikas and started on his march out of Dwaraka, as per the Divine command. Suddenly Arjuna and the Gopikas were surrounded by a horde of forest dwelling nomads. But, to his utter dismay, Arjuna could not even lift his bow, the Gandiva; strange indeed! The great warrior Arjuna who tore the opposing army lines into pieces with utter ease in the Kurukshetra war, could not even lift his Gandiva now. He lamented at his helplessness and prayed to Krishna “Oh! Lord Krishna! What has happened to all my strength? Where is it gone now?” Again, he answered to himself: “He who had granted this power to me has now taken it back.”

At last, in utter helplessness and agony, he prayed to Lord Krishna “Oh! Lord! You have to protect your Gopikas yourself. I am helpless.” Finally Arjuna reached Hasthinapura along with some of the Gopikas who could be saved from the clutches of the barbarians by the divine grace of Krishna. There, Arjuna found the people in great despair. He could not understand the reason for their sorrow.

Noting his continous references to Gopikas, I decided to check this out in the original sources like the Bhagavata Purana where this story is related. Since I was already familiar with this story, the reference to 'gopikas' surprised me since there were no gopikas living in Dvaraka.

To my surprise, I discovered that I was right. The Gopikas are the cowherd maidens of Vrindavana and were Krishna's youthful paramours. The permanent residence of the Gopikas is in Vrindavana and not Dvaraka, which is where Krishna spent much of His time in His adult life. Rather, the females referred to in the above story seem more likely to be Krishna's wives, or rather, queens. The collective name of the queens is 'mahishis' just like the cowherd maidens of Vrindavana are collectively referred to as 'gopikas'. The only reference I was able to find for this is contained in Bhagavata Purana 1.15.20, where the Sanskrit word 'parigraham' is taken to refer to as wives.

In any case, anyone who would know anything of Krishna's avataric career would know without a doubt that there were no gopis living in Dvaraka, but only the wives of Krishna. The very idea of gopis being present in Dvaraka would cause a considerable disturbance to certain theological and philosophical concepts held by certain Vaishnava schools, which I could go into with considerable detail. One thing for sure is that since no gopis lived in Dvaraka, it is a mystery as to where Sai Baba got this queer idea from.

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