Sai Baba And The Sarvadharma Imbroglio
Afshin, as a born Muslim who now appears to have relinquished his faith, would be reasonably knowledgeable about these affairs. I can also testify that, by virtue of my own readings into Islam over a period of around three years, that such sayings and historical incidences do exist in the Islamic scriptures as well as a lot more shocking material. I will not list examples of them here to prevent this blog from being too long, but interested people can easily research for themselves via Google.
In defence of Sathya Sai Baba, who else could make a reply but our old pal Gerald Moreno:
"SSB affirms the unity of all faiths and focuses on the unifying elements that will make his devotees (who belong to different faiths) mindful of other's diverse beliefs. SSB does not focus on divisive or controversial aspects to different faiths because that is counter-productive to his teachings on unity.
Is SSB to disavow the Islam faith because of distasteful quotes and stories? Why stop at Islam? Why not proceed to the Jewish and Christian faiths that believe in the Old Testament where there are NUMEROUS atrocities commanded by God. These atrocities have sparked valid reactions from atheists and non-believers. For example:
The list goes on and on. So now, according to La_Quake [Afshin], SSB is not only supposed to disavow Islam, he is supposed to disavow Judaism and Christianity."
Unfortunately for Gerald it's not quite so simple as that. Whereas Sai Baba tries very hard to place emphasis on the unity of all religions is his well-known strategy to look and sound appealing to as many different classes of people as possible. It's a very well-known business strategy called mass-marketing. However, it is undeniable that deeper study of said religions will reveal that divisive mechanisms are in place. Being "mindful of other's diverse beliefs" would naturally entail a working knowledge of the theological mechanics of each religion, especially those mechanics that engender an extreme discriminatory view against people of other religions. For example:
- Few people know about the Jewish concept of Herem, which is akin to Jihad.
- Christianity is well known for the infamous Crusades as well as the Spanish Inquisition.
- The Islamic concept of Jihad is well known thanks to the current political climate in regards to terrorism issues.
- A recent blog of mine briefly discussed the Islamic invasion of India, which was described by Sai Baba as "ravaging".
For those of us who are no longer Sai's devotees this is not a problem for us; this is an issue that has to be mulled over by those devotees who are still held captive by a ridiculous belief system of their own making. The argument that Sai Baba teaches to emulate only the common qualities of all religions (such as love, compassion, forgiveness and all of that) and "discard" the rest does not hold water, considering that Sai Baba is also insistent that followers of other religions do not convert from their religions in order to become his followers. Furthermore, he teaches that followers of other religions should stay within their respective fields and become better practitioners thereof. Consequently, a Sai follower of another religion is required to know everything about his own religion in order to practice it better, good and bad elements. The fact that Sai Baba insists on full practice of religion logically leads to the practice of divisive beliefs, which is what has been going on all these centuries anyway. :-)
All of these well-documented issues leave Sai Baba and his devotees looking rather confused and bewildered about their respective roles.
"Now, let's move on to Hinduism and the Kurukshetra War that Lord Krsna ALLOWED to happen, in which MILLIONS of people died. Of course, those indoctrinated with these beliefs will explain it away in terms of their own belief system and say that Lord Krsna allowed this "righteous war" (Krsna's words) to happen because it rid the Earth of wikedness (which is ironic considering that the world was rid of wickedness at the dawning of the Kali Yuga, which is marked by wickedness)! Lord Krsna even allowed the Yadava Clan to slaughter themselves in an orgy of bloodlust as a result of a curse.
"So now, according to La_Quake, SSB is to disavow Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism."
How amusing that the ideas Gerald Moreno dismisses as "indoctrination" have been affirmed as real and true by none other than his own guru, Sai Baba himself. To get an idea of the Baba's own views regarding the Mahabharatha war, please consider the following quotes:
"When the righteous Pandavas were harassed by wicked Kauravas, the beauteous Krishna appeared and saved them. The Lord can never design violence and blood shed. Love is His instrument, non-violence His Message. He achieves the correction of the evil-minded through education and example. But it may be asked, why did Kurukshetra happen? It was a surgical operation and therefore cannot be described as an act of violence. The Surgeon saves life through the beneficial use of His Knife." - VirtueScience
"Let me tell you that emphatic declarations of the truth by Avathars were made so clearly and so unmistakably only by Krishna. In spite of the declaration, you will notice in the career of the same Krishna that he underwent defeat in his efforts and endeavors, on a few occasions; you must also note that those defeats too were part of the drama that he had planned and that he himself directed. For example, when many kings pleaded with him to avert the war with the Kauravas, he confessed that his mission to the Kaurava Court for ensuring peace had 'failed'! But, he had not willed that it should succeed! He had decided that war would be waged! His mission was intended to publish the greed and iniquity of the Kauravas and to condemn them before the whole world." - Discourse, 9th June 1974
It seems that the guru-disciple relationship that exists between Gerald Moreno and Sai Baba has gone awry, where Sai Baba clearly believes and preaches the idea that the Mahabharatha war was the very will of Krishna no matter what Moreno says. As for the destruction of the Yadava clan, this is also another incident that Sai Baba describes in terms of divine will and judgment as is evidenced from Chapter 10 of Bhagavatha Vahini, a text authored by the Baba. A sample quote follows:
"We cannot sense the mystery of His play. We have failed to understand it. There is no profit in worrying over that failure, now. With that deluding human form, He moved with us, mixed with us, dined with us, behaved as if He was our kinsman and well-wisher, our friend and guide, and saved us from many a calamity that threatened to overwhelm us."
We would appreciate it very much if Gerald Moreno could sit down and deeply absorb himself in the teachings of his master before attempting to speak on subjects that he clearly knows very little about. Mind you, this is not the first time that this disciple has clashed with his guru; Moreno previously disagreed with Sai Baba's views on the matter of Krishna's 16,000 wives. Be that as it may, these are issues for Moreno to consult with Sai Baba in order to attain the correct understanding.
However, he continued:
"And then there is the Russian Dictator Stalin, who was an atheist and instituted a terrorist-like police state marked by oppression and murder that brought suffering to MILLIONS of people. So even Atheism has to be tossed out of the window as well.
"So what is La_Quakes point? He doesn't have one. He is simply grasping for straws because straws are all he has to grasp."
In this way the discussion relates to a fundamental aspect of Sai Baba's message: the unity of all religions. This Sarvadharma ('all religion') symbol was sketched by the Baba himself. As N. Kasturi wrote in the official hagiography:
"When I approached Him for directions about a cover design for the 1967 Sivarathri Special Number of the Sanathana Sarathi Magazine, Baba seized His pen and drew on a piece of paper a five disked design, with petals in between, enclosing a circle, inside which I could print His own portrait. On the disks, He Himself drew the symbols of the major religions of mankind: The Pranava or Om to indicate the Hindu faith; the Wheel to symbolize the religion taught by the Buddha; A sheaf of flames, the Sacred Fire, which the Zoroastrians worship; the Crescent and the Star, as a reminder of Islam, and the Cross as the symbol of Christianity!"
Given that disagreements exist in regards to Christianity, Hinduism and Islam's respective inclusions in Sai Baba's 'Sarvadharma' symbol, what of the other two? Buddhism doesn't even acknowledge the existence of God (so why is it included?), whereas Zoroastrianism is very much a minority religion. Zoroastrianism is something of a puzzlement; Sai Baba allegedly stated that he included this religion in his sarvadharma symbol precisely because of it's minority status and that he wanted to revive awareness of it's ancient principles and not let it lie forgotten. Fair enough, but what about other religions such as Sikhism? The 2001 Indian Census registered a total of 69,601 Parsees (alternative name for Zoroastrians) whereas there are a total of 19.3 million Sikhs!
Another strange fact relates to the later addition of Judaism as a sixth religion to cater to the sensibilities of Western Sai devotees. On the face of it this appears to be a reasonable addition to satisfy the Jewish diaspora, especially when a significant amount of Western Sai devotees are Jews. However, you have to consider the difference between the Sai Organisation in India and that of the US; they are different. Jews number around 5200 in today's India and are very much a minority whereas the 19.3 million Sikhs are still waiting patiently for their inclusion.
And then there is Sai Baba's famous saying:
"Let the different faiths exist. Let them flourish. Let the glory of God be sung in all languages and in a variety of tunes. That should be the ideal. Respect the differences between the faiths and recognise them as valid so long as they do not extinguish the flame of unity."
In the light of what I've discussed above vis-a-vis the inherently divisive mechanisms within each religion, doesn't Sai Baba's last sentence pose a logical contradiction? How can you simultaneously respect the divisive and hateful differences whilst contemplating on and affirming the unity thereof?
This is an issue that highlights exactly what is wrong with Sai Baba's whole philosophy and it is also something that his devotees will have to wrestle with for many years to come.
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