This page began simply enough - I wanted to present the other side of the argument to the anti-Sai case; i.e. the argument in favour of Sathya Sai Baba, who at the time I still thought highly of. The page began when I innocently and perhaps naively uploaded an email letter that was more controversial then I realised. As a result I found myself embroiled in a war I never realised existed, between ex-devotees who have broken with Sai Baba over the sexual abuse claims, and two pro-Sai Baba ex-devotee critics, with each side attacking the other. I have in the course of this war, been accused (perhaps rightly) first by one side, then the other, of belonging to the enemy camp! I also do not claim that my account here is in any way that this is a definitive coverage, as I have only corresponded with a few people on each side, but really the whole affair is so ugly and has such a feeling of dirtiness about it that I was and am put off. You read things that are said, and things that have been reported to have been done, and you feel unclean. Literally.
Also, in the process of writing and revising this page, my initial high regard and strong sympathy for the two pro-Sai people came to be diminished by several things. Warning bells were first raised by excessive paranoia regarding Wikipedia, which they regard as completely biased against Sai Baba. Interestingly I have seen one guru critic, Geoff Falk, who has a chapter critical of Sai Baba in his on-line book, make a complaint in his blog about Wikipedia being too sympathetically biased towards gurus. (Geoff and I have since made up our differences, I am pleased to say. We still disagree, but no antagonism.)
Then as my understanding and personal research in this field developed, I began to be seriously put off by an excessively antagonistic attitude among both pro-Sai Baba sympathisers and ex-devotees; reading some of the of the archives one comes away with a sense of angry children yelling insults at each other; too often this is what these sort of things degenerate into, and I always avoid those forums. At the same time, my correspondence with ex-devotees provided a very different view on things than that of the two Sai Baba supporters described here. And this made me seriously consider what I had been told, because if one only hears one side of an argument it is easy to go along with it, but if one hears both sides then it is necessary to begfin thinking for oneself.
Once the Sai devotees saw that I was no longer just accepting their line, they became much more antagonistic towards me. And as my investigation continued, I noticed a quite astonishing attitude of slanderous behaviour on their part, in which genuine debate is replaced by muck raking and ad hominem attack, and extreme shadow project.
At the same time, I still constantly, even when criticising their position in a civilized manner, tried always to see the best in these people, and even in one case several times made spiritual and empathic overtures, which were rebuffed with anger and rage on his part.
For a long time I wanted to sit on the fence regarding this whole issue, much as I wanted to with Da Free John, another ambiguous guru with whom I have a long, if not as strong connection with.
But I came to realise, in both cases, that eventually one must come down from the fence and make a stand on the side that one's conscience dictates is right, yet at the same time maintaining sincerity towards both sides and avoiding any sort of shadow projection.
This page is my report on the Sai war. No doubt many other very similar stories could be told regarding the antagonistism between devotees and ex-devotees of any abusive guru.
Before progressing, a few words. Although I speak about a "war" here, but it is important to understand that most ex-devotees are not interested in entering into the sport of antagonistic and hostile environment described here. And some who I have mentioned are involved not because they choose to, but because they were slandered and only seek to make the true facts known. There are a very rare few on the ex-devotee side who relish combat, like Sanjay Dadlani (who I would only later discover to be a very decent guy) and Tony O'Clery. But by far the greatest majority of ex-Sai devotees are peace-loving souls with no interest in attacking anyone, not even pro Sai slanderous devotees.
The following is from correspondence with Lisa de Witt (representing the Sathya Sai Baba Controversy website. She suggests that the situation regarding Sai Baba may not be as simple as it seems. I am not saying that what Lisa says is either correct or not correct, however I feel it is important to give both sides of the story, so that the reader can make up their own mind on this.
Original update: since the above was posted, I have been undertaking my own research on this matter. The current page is therefore still provisional, pending further rewrites
"Glad to see you are trusting your own feelings about Sai Baba [note by ed. - at this time I was still much more positive towards SSB]. I have done almost three years of research into the allegations and they do not add up. In other words, 99% of the claims seem to be lies [note by ed. - my own inquiries into this matter do not indicate that at all).
The contradictions are overwhelming. People who wrote positive books about Baba's miracles are now denouncing him as a fraud because they heard some negative things and apparently believed them. However, it turns out, four of the supposedly most credible accusers (Tal Brooke, Alaya Rahm, Keith Ord and the anonymous 15 yo all claimed in testimonies (both written and verbal) that Sai Baba's genitals supernaturally "morphed" from male to female. Yet now they are all claiming he is a fraud magician! This doesn't make sense. And what's even more funny is that the so-called skeptics writing about this controversy never noticed this huge discrepancy in the accuser's stories."
note by MAK: re genital morphing, see Sai Baba as Shiva-Shakti: a Created Myth? Or? by Alexandra H.M. Nagel
"There's a lot more than this. Like for example, three of the anti-Sai Baba sites were being covertly run by evangelical Christians until Joe and I outed them on his site. One of the other evangelicals stumping against Baba is wanted in California for jumping his parole and fleeing to the Netherlands. He spent six months in jail for committing a "lewd act upon a child"
note by MAK: I was advised to remove the above paragraph as it can be considered libelous. However, Joe Moreno (the webmaster of Saisathyasai.com) sent me material indicating that is indeed factual. Here is the link to the page in question - scroll down to section on Anton Hein and Janet Hein-Hudson. From this it appears that the webmasters ( a husband and wife team) of a major Anti-Sai Baba website (apologeticsindex.org) are not only Fundamentalist Christians, but the husband was actually convicted of child molestation! However, my own enquiries reveal that no-one in the ex--devotee movement have heard of these two. The ex-Baba collective is not a unified movement, but consists of diverse individuals who all share in common either experiences of being molested by Sai Baba, or else knowing friends or aquaintances who have reported this happening to them.
The tactic of the above page seems to be a slur by association, because Hein is a paedophile, a fundamentalist, and manages an anti-SSB website, therefore all ex-devotees must either fall under this category, or be dupes of people who are like that.
Sathya Sai Baba Controversy
original note (slightky modified) by MAK:- this very comprehensively researched and referenced, obsessively maintained site, by Joe Moreno, contains a great deal of information, and is popular with those who wish to hear the pro-Sai Baba side of argument. However what origionally caused conccern to me was that it also includes assertions regarding Barry Pittard, a man who I have met and regarding whose integrity I can totally and completely vouch for, that can only be considered slanderous. Barry's statement regarding this here). As for other people addressed on Joe's site, I originally could not say one way or the other; not having met them (Once having came to know them however I came to see the other side of the argument). The claim that fundamentalist Christians are behind the attacks on Sai Baba, and that all the ex-devotees are just fundamentalist (or according to Lisa, CIA) dupes I now consider ludicrous. Sure there are some fundamentalists involved ,Tal Brooke for one is a fundamentalist Christian and vocal critic of Sathya Sai Baba. But, however big Tal Brooke may be in the wider anti-cult scene, he is no one of any great importance among the ex-devotees. And to say that all ex-devotees are like this is ludicrous, since there are many who come from Hindu backgrounds, Moslem backgrounds, agnostic or atheist backgrounds, and so on. The ex-devotees are such a diverse assemblage that they cannot be called a movement; they are collection of very different people who have either experienced sexual abuse first hand or, more often, heard stories of such and as a result undergone a crisis of faith and rejected Sathya Sai Baba. But, as always in the murky world of gurus and sects, it is upto the individual to look at the evidence on both sides of the argument, trust their own sincerity, and be guided by their own Spiritual Light, in arriving at the truth of things.
Persecutors of Sathya Sai Baba Yahoo egroups. Despite the name this is a pro Sai Baba forum. Description:
"This message board is a forum for gathering factual background information on the persecutors of the famous holy man, Sathya Sai Baba. Another purpose of this forum is to give voice to those devotees who have not been able to give background information without being attacked."
note by MAK: I found this forum much too intense, reflecting as it does De Witt's highly agressive and antagonistic attitude. While the information may or may not be correct (i haven't followed it up so I cannot say), there is a sense of paranoia and that everyone is out to get you. e.g. when the pro- and anti- devotee war spilled over to Wikipedia and the Sai Baba wiki page was becoming biased towards the anti-Sai perspective, instead of going onto Wikipedia to change things, the attitude was "see, even Wikipedia is like this!". However this is most certainly not how Wikipedia works, and shows a paranoid attitude. While some wikipedians may have biases, the strength of a massively multi-authored project like Wikipedia is that eventually it balances out. In this case it was simple for me to go over to Wikipedia and address the issues in question. All of which shows how a pragmatic attitude is always far more constructive than a paranoid one
Sathya Sai Baba 2 Yahoo egroups forum to allow views (both positive and critical) on the life and work of Sathya Sai Baba. There was until recently a lot of really abusive flaming which greatly degraded and cheapened this forum, but it is now moderated, and so the posts are now more reasonable. From the little I have seen of it, this list now gives a much more balanced look at both sides of the equation.
As a result of my innocently and perhaps naively publishing the above email from Lisa and writing this page, I have found myself enmeshed in a very dirty internet flamewar between devotees and ex-devotees of Sathya Sai Baba. It was always my intention to remain neutral on this, but it seems that a certain Reinier van der Sandt (who I had never heard of before all this blew up) who maintains one of the chief anti-Sai Baba websites (www.exbaba.com) decided to launch a personal attack on me (albeit a very mild one compared to his ongoing war with Sai Baba supporters Joe Moreno and Lisa de Witt), along with a critique of this page (in which he has included all the previous versions). However, following mediation by Barry, Reinier removed the page in question, so i've removed the no longer current link, as well as revising this page.
Original statement: For the record, I am not aligned with either Barry Pittard (ex-devotee) or Joe Moreno (Pro Sai Baba). Like neutral Switzerland, I am not trying to look sympathetically at both sides in the pro versus anti Sai camp. However, the more enquiries I make, the more I find myself agreeing with the ex-Baba people.
Current statement: my concern at the excessive slander by the Sai campe - see e.g. slander against Robert Priddy, and slander against Barry Pittard) is what caused me to come down on the side of the ex-devotees. As mentioned earlier, one has to come down from sitting on the fence and make a stand, if people are being done wrong by.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention the detailed research Barry Pittard has undertaken into gathering testimonies from ex-devotees who have been abused:
note regarding the last link mentioned above - In an email, Joe presents a refutation:
However, following correspondence with Robert Priddy, I was pointed at the following page, regarding the Westminster Cathedral issue, which in turn counter-refutes Joe's claims:
The Sathya Sai Organisation falsity, evasiveness and attempted ensnarement
If the reader is getting a little confused by all this, I don't blame them! Ultimately it is upto the individual to examine evidence like this and make up their own mind.
Joe rejects the Barry's claims (and those of others) partly on the grounds that Barry has not produced any affidavits by the victims (despite referring to such), and partly because he believes (and argues the case on his site) that Barry has exaggerated the numbers and has purposely withheld vital information that would undermine his arguments against Sathya Sai Baba.
I cannot speak for Barry personally, but my own position on the affidavits (replying to Joe's concerns here) is this: Assuming such affidavits do exist, then surely these are confidential court documents! If these charges of sexual abuse do one day come to court, it would surely be very prejudicial to any impartial trial have had these documents for many years splashed across the internet!
As for Joe's request for names of victims, this (while understandable from his purely mental (obsessive) point of view) shows a lack of empathy. It is well known that many women who have suffered sexual assault report the experience of being cross-examined in court as "like being raped a second time." Likewise if young and susceptible men really have suffered sexual abuse from Sai Baba (as these many ex-devotees assert), then for them to have slurs or innuendo put upon them on public websites, their credibility called into question, or questioned via antagonistic email (check Joe's website for his style of email, although this is a lot milder than Lisa's style) would be a very traumatic and demeaning experience for people already coping with much. I myself have seen a copy of an email which gives an example of this. One can understand why the more public ex-devotee activists wish to protect the privacy of those concerned.
Now, I met Barry some 25 years ago, and felt him to be a very sincere person. I find that same sincerity in his recent emails, but it is upto the reader to make up their own mind regarding all this. I also, from my email correspondence, find Joe to be equally sincere in his own way, which is another reason why I have no wish to take sides.
Following Reinier's removing of the page against me, and my modifying this page accordingly, Reinier removed all his pages attacking Joe and Lisa. At the time of writing, Joe has yet to take down his pages attacking Reinier. In fact he refuses to do so, and when I wrote to him suggesting it would be a good idea he replied with a tirade against me (he has been honest or polemical enough to post the relevant correspondence on his website). Joe claims that Reinier has taken down his attack pages three times previously, then posted them again. Well, we'll see what happens this time. As it is (from what I have seen), I find that Reinier has shown far greater maturity in this matter.
It is rather ironic that I began with very strong sympathy and respect for Joe, but, while I do still consider that he is following his own conscience and doing the right thing inasmuch as he understands things, this does not excuse a slanderous or vindictive attitude.
A number of things brought me, very reluctantly, to this position.
The first was Joe's unwillingness to let go of his attack on Reinier (after all, he can always put the pages up later if need be). It is a sign of spiritual greatness to let go of hatred. I am not saying that all the ex-baba people are spotless mind you; I have seen puerile statements by ex-devotees too, and that there are admirable and less than admirable individuals on both sides. However Joe's claim that Reinier took down these pages because he was "exposed" on Wikipedia is false, because I know from personal correspondence (with Barry and also received from Reinier) that he took them down after Barry suggested he take down the page attacking me, which he did. I in turn modified this page, and he in turn stopped attacking Joe and Lisa.
The second is his and Lisa's wikipedia paranoia, already referred to (including posting long complaints on Wikipedia, but not actually doing something regarding editing the page in question in a Neutral Point of View manner, because they believe that Wikipedia (or at least the Sai Baba pages) are under the control of an ex-baba and anti-cult activist, Andries Krugers Dagneaux. I have however found Andries to be very willing to present a neutral point of view, and where criticised he acknowledges and tries to improve the content (see e.g. this discussion). This shows an admirable openness). In fact Wikipedia is the creation of many people, and I have seen, for example, a very strong physicalist bias among some wikipedians, but that doesn't mean I moan and complain and cry foul and write pages and pages on egroups and my own website. What it does mean is that I roll up my sleeves and argue the case for the opposite point of view, in an objective and unbiased manner, so that wikipedia can realise it's full potential as an encyclopaedia that honours all perspectives, not just one. Each time I have done this, I have found my contribution accepted.
The third is his response to Barry Pittard's position regarding anti-semite claims. Joe posted his reply here, as if Barry was writing only for him only and it is Joe's job to disprove it. When it fact Barry was simply stating how this misunderstanding came about for the public record. The astute reader will notice that Joe fails to address the heart and soul of Barry's reply, preferring to look for little points of detail to attack and criticise. Regarding his debunking of the existence of Barry's "Collective Spirit" radio programme, I have made your own careful enquiries and satisfied myself as to the authenticity of the facts.
When I mentioned the above radio show on an earlier version of this page, and in an email to Joe, I naturally assumed that he would look at this subject from the Heart, the way I do. i.e. how can someone who has been involved for some time in a radio show which sympathetically and consistently features Jews and other cultures in a positive light, possibly in any way condone neo-nazism? But instead Joe set out to test (and when he couldn't find results to his satisfaction) debunk the above claim, with the assumption that Barry invented the whole thing (for someone like myself who has come to know Barry fairly well, that claim is ludicrious). What this shows is not that Joe is deliberately seeking to mislead, or is consciously lying - indeed I have never seen evidence of him doing either (those ex-devotees that accuse him of deliberately lying are in error) - but rather that he approaches this whole matter in such a way that he is all head and no heart, all analytical physical mental faculty and no empathic emotional feeling. It is this one-sidedness that results in an obsessive and paranoid approach to things in general. This is because the Mental faculty lacking the balance of Heart or Divine Soul empathy (the basis of every spiritual path) automatically becomes subject to the powers and beings of the Affective Universe; resulting in paranoia. This problem in human nature is actually a universal one, I only mention it here because it is a major factor in this ex-devotee - anti-ex-devotee war (just as it is a major factor in so much of human society and interaction). The only cure for this problem is to come from the Heart, otherwise you will trapped by suspicion and paranoia and incorrect analysis of facts forever. And I have found precious little in the way of Heart or Empathy in the anti-ex-devotee forum or website, only an attitude that sees the other side as the Enemy. Hence my criticism here.
This is not to deny the sacrifices Joe has made in his life to maintain his site, the monumental detail, the continual updating, and so on, to present and maintain the pro-Sai position. But what then is one to make of his adolescent childishness, such as his referring to Robert Priddy as "Mr Priddles". This is certainly not the sort of attitude one would expect from a supposedly serious website. And while the website claims to be scrupulously neutral, bias is evident in the way that some important documents (e.g. an email which shows that Hislop, a very senior western devotee, was aware of reports of sexual abuse in the early 1980s, but chose to ignore them to avoid a crisis of faith, are classified as "fluff"
Joe informed me (in an email dated 29 Jun 2005) that
when I first started my research into the Sathya Sai Baba debate, I totally believed only two people: Barry Pittard and Robert Priddy. After my research, I no longer believe either of them.
The problem may have come about in part because Barry, Robert, and other ex-devotees respect the confidentiality and privacy of those who have been abused, (and I have already explained why I agree with this stance) while Joe wants everything public so he can scrutunise it. Moreover he likes to make every statement and detail and minor blooper (and god knows, i've made enough bloopers in my time too) public forever. Add to that a tendency to obsessively analyse every fact and come to paranoid conclusions (e.g. if names are not forthcoming, that doesn't mean that the victim's privacy needs safeguarding, it means that the ex-devotees are making it all up as part of a grand (CIA / fundamentalist backed?) conspiracy.
Although I, like Joe, am interested in making facts public, if someone asks me to respect confidentiality, I will respect their feelings and abide by those conditions. Like Barry, I look at the heart and soul of things, rather than murdering to dissect.
I am also very wary of jumping to sweeping conclusions; or of anyone who fails to look at both sides of any argument.
And as for Sai Baba himself, I think this is a very complex matter, and that a lot of what both sides assert has truth, but conversely that neither one side nor the other is 100% correct.
Perhaps it was my fault for being too honest and blabby, but still I found it ironic that in the original version (since reworded somewhat) of the above paragraphs, which I specifically wrote in a scrupulously unbiased manner, with nothing but good will to both parties concerned, and only trying to honestly explain the reason for my "turn around" from an originally more sympathetic position re the anti-ex-devotee camp, was considered an attack page by Joe, who felt he had to respond as such. Here is his reply to this page (along with the original version of this part of the page). He has also included some of our correspondence, which may be of interest to the reader who would like more background on where I am coming from regarding this "war" and the importance of following the spiritual Heart in all things.
I cannot leave this story without an account of the last episode in it. Yes, Joe Moreno, infuriated by the fact that I supported Robert Priddy on Wikipedia, now calls himself "the Equiliser" and has set up a blog dedicated to discrediting me. I have to admit that reading it gave me a good laugh! So I am not mentioning it here to try to defend myself (for no defense is necessary), or rebuke or attack Moreno. I am mentioning it because, in my own experience in understanding where Sai Baba and his devotees are at, and the later's criticism of ex-devotees, it truly brought home to me the nature of Moreno's claims. That is, if what he says about me is so ridiculous, how can what he says about anyone else be any better? I have in previous edits said some complimentary words about Joe in this page, and I have retained that to give some sense of the continuity and development of my understanding in this area. But I can see now that, in my desire to only see the best in someone, and my resonance with Sai Baba's energy on the subtle levels, I was giving Joe compliments where none had been earned, and none were deserved. But, as with most naive and gullible people, I needed to see these things applied to myself, before I could make a real judgment.
Only one thing worth mentioning about his blog; I find it amusing that Moreno doesn't have the guts to provide an active link to my pages on him on my website. He gives the url but you have to copy n paste. Tsk tsk Joe, you're not frightened of me benefiting from google ratings from your blog now are you?
Truly things have come totally about face now. I started this adventure as a devotee of Sai Baba, I ended it discovering how truly negative and indeed truly facile and superficial some of Sai Baba's devotees are. And this to me is if anything an even greater argument against Sai Baba's claims then the sexual allegations. Because who knows, there is an infinitesimal chance that maybe the sexual allegations have been misinterpreted. But with the antics of Moreno and his friends, everything is public and obvious for all the world to see, and one realises that - along with Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard, and perhaps others like - Sai Baba is one of the very few gurus who brings out a truly offensive attitude among his followers. What greater disproof of a guru or teacher's supposed claims of enlightenment or avatarhood or whatever could there be than this?!
I have also felt, and still do feel, a genuine shakti from Sathya Sai Baba. Even after all the above evidence. Assuming that even if only some of the evidence of abuse by Sai Baba is genuine, how to reconcile all these contradictions?
This is my explanation: that one has to distinguish between the flawed and it would seem sexually abusing person, the human guru, on the one hand, and the powerful occult force that flows through him. And there is no doubting the reality of this power; I have experienced it myself when Sai Baba (the spiritual-occult Sai Baba, on the Affective / Astral Plane) healed me of a bad cold remotely, on the astral plane. Accounts of such miracles (not the sleight of hand rubbish that the human Sai Baba engages in) are common among ex-devotees. The following is from an email written in 2002 by Andries Krugers Dagneaux.
But even after hearing this shocking story which confirmed the 'calumny' [hearing of a serious case about sexual abuse from a very reliable source] I stayed a devotee for some months until May 2001. The main reason was that in the night following the confirmation I had a dream in which SSB gave me the perfect spiritual advice regarding my sadhana (spiritual exercises)...
However, as Andries pointed out in an email, "there is no proof that it was SSB who gave me that dream."
Devotees (like Hislop) ignore the evidence of sexual abuse. Ex-devotees either swing the other way and completely deny the real psychic and spiritual experiences and miracles associated with Sai Baba, or else acknowledge the cognitive paradox, but still follow their conscience and leave Sai Baba. But I think the best way to explain this is by recognising it in terms of the Intermediate Zone. Like other Intermediate Zone gurus such as Adi Da, Osho, Ken Wilber, etc, and even less important gurus like Andrew Cohen, Eli Jaxon-Bear, and many others, Sai Baba is a powerful, ambigious, paradoxical personality, healing some, harming many others, representing a Light that is a combination and Truth and Falsehood.
My foray into the underworld of certain Sai devotees has left me with a feeling of something pretty yuck. Originally I was put off by what I felt to be charges and counter charges made by both devotee vs ex-devotee. As I became more embroiled in the whole thing, and got to know the people on both sides better, I began to realise that all the ugliness was on one side. What I saw from Moreno especially (who I got to know most of all) was and is a degree of shadow projection that I have not seen associated with any other guru movement I have investigated - not with Da and ex-Da community (despite some similarities of circumstance and claims), not with Andrew Cohen or Ken Wilber, not even with Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. And certainly no-one from any of these other communities has responded with the toxic attitude that Moreno has. This is despite the fact that I have criticised their gurus far more than I have Sai Baba (with Sai Baba I am just relating what others have said). There seems to be a truly adverse element involved in the Sai phenomenon. The only currenlt active "new religion" movement so far with anything similar that I know of is Scientology (but most likely there are others).
Sai Baba Deceptions? Or Anti-Sai Baba Deceptions? It is upto you, the reader, (if you really want to immerse yourself in this world, which I wouldn't recommend), to look at what ex-devotees say, what Moreno and De Witt say, at what whoever else says. And come to your own decision.
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