Pseudoscience & Religion

Two Eulogies To The Deceased Living God – Sathya Sai Baba


A moment of reflection

To the tidings arriving from Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh, a universally fitting response is Silence: a solemn and reverential silence by the community of the devout that considers itself bereaved; and by those who do not share this reverence, a thoughtful silence, out of sensitivity to the human condition that is subject to the sort of unenviable turmoil undergone by the devout at this hour. Today, decency counsels obeying ‘nil nisi bonum‘ and according  respect to the departed, by with-holding undue aspersions and allowing the process of Law to render the justice due to the them, a respect which one wishes was not cruelly and remorselessly denied to six silenced and maligned human beings in 1993, by the very same devout that mourn today in the very same Puttaparthi so beloved to them. An offering of condolences is a social communion belonging wholly to human realms and about the clutching of human bonds, and therefore even the most sensitive words one may offer will be neither adequate nor appropriate for the devout who are convinced that the object of today’s mourning is not contained in human realms but enjoys mastery of a superhuman one. It will be undeniable by both, however, that the recent events mark the end of a chapter, which the devout will treat as a symbolic passage with cosmic significance, and which those devoted to Reason will treat as a cautionary tale which they must strive to stop turning into a repeating history. It could mark the end of a chapter of generations of shared delusion which could history could have easily been spared the embarrassment of, if only affordable mental health facilities were accessible to troubled adolescents in the witch-doctor-infested country-side in pre-Independence India. We seem to be at a critical historical juncture where we might be able to turn the page on the seemingly interminable chapter of incompetent governance and apathetic citizenship in post-Independence India which abdicated and ceded civic responsibility to extra-Constitutional demagogic authorities, leading to a form of rural indebtedness both materially and mentally. This moment of shared reflection is an apt one for us to renew our commitment to together script a new and redeeming chapter in the history of India, which is not a narrative of passive waits for messianic deliverance, but of the emergence of a society awakened by Reason, enlivened by Compassion, founded on integrity in personal conduct and sustained by probity in public life.

Arvind Iyer
Doctoral Student
University of Southern California


As the news breaks that Sathya Sai Baba, the popular Indian godman and guru, has passed away at the age of 85, many of his devotees are wondering if we in the rationalist community are cackling with glee. We are not. We mourn the passing of anyone and take no pleasure in death, even of those with whom we disagree.

Whatever our feelings of Sai Baba may be, he meant a lot to millions across the globe, including our own friends and family, and it is to them that our hearts go out. Many of us know what it feels like to have loved so deeply and to have lost it all in an instant. We hope all of Sai Baba’s devotees find some form of consolation and we would like them to know that we feel their loss.

For us in the rationalist community, this is not a seminal event. We hate to see so many lives wasted on superstition and belief. We will continue to work hard to spread the truth and to fight ignorance. We will continue to promote the use of science-based medicine, which Sai Baba relied upon in his last moments. We will continue to promote science, which has saved countless lives and pushed us forward. We will continue to promote rational thinking, because it is the only thing which we can count on.

However, we are also human. We sympathize, Sai devotees. We really do.

Sundeep Peswani
Technical Coordinator, Nirmukta
Former Sai Devotee


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46 Comments

    • Me neither. I hated the guy and have no sympathy for him whatsoever. But I don’t think the two eulogies above were sympathizing for the scoundrel. They were sympathizing with the plight for many of his true believers. I personally find it hard to do even this, but its true that many of them are so deluded that this is very painful to them.

      • I draw a parallel to sympathizing with an addict being weaned away from a drug.
        I am sorry for their pain, but It is going to benefit them finally, for that we are glad 🙂

    • Gowri.. this is unfair that you comment on someone without having seen him or having been to him or having experienced him ! Check your facts before you comment

      • Vijaya sai, Do you know Robert P ? I hope you do because he worked for many years as head of “satya sai international division”. If you are really so close to baba then you should know him. Please go through his blogs and he will explain the dark side of baba. Robert is the one who neglected even his parents and served baba for 18 years and then realized all his tricks are simple magician tricks, baba is a murderer and child molester.
        http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com/

        • I know many people like vijayasai who have seen only one side of the coin (tips and tricks of baba). You should see the other side of the person also, to really judge the person. many devotees of baba that i knew used to argue the same way as vijaya sai is doing here but finally at the end of the day they will realize what baba is. However, they have to come out of their egoistic nature and self defence and see things on both side of the coin with both their eyes.

  • I had occasions to closely interact with some people who were devotees of Sai Baba. They were all people troubled in mind and were resorting to Sai Baba for solace.In one case, an elderly couple was aggrieved over the way their only daughter mistreated them. In another case a highly ambitious Central Minister became the target of Sanjay Gandhi’s intrigue. After losing election, he called Sai Baba on a daily basis asking him, “Baba, do you think Madam (Mrs. Gandhi) will ask me to rejoin her ministry?” Baba invariably told him whatever he wanted to hear, instead of telling him to accept his meteoric rise and fall as the reality of politics and move on with life. His disappointment was so great that he died of a massive heart attack at age 59.

    Baba served the same purpose for weak minds as the cast serves a broken bone. He won over mentally weak people by magic and other tricks. He wore saffron clothes and huge distinctive black mane. He was a master manipulator of people.

    The real problem is that these multitude of people have no coping skills.They are trapped in such serious problems of life, some of which are their own creations and others are imposed on them by the society (Eg: A wicked mother in law), that their only escape is Sai Baba. Now that he is dead, they will wait for another Baba to appear for them to focus their minds on to escape from the painful reality of their miserable life.

    • Dr. Kamath
      I enjoy reading your comments & articles on Nirmukta.

      I too have seen many weak minded people devoted to Babas and Matas. Some of my close relatives are devoted to a Mata/Devi in Udupi. Since last 4-5 years I have been trying to turn them away from this witch who is looting them (and in turn me too) regularly with poojas, homas jewellary for idol etc.

      I haven’t achieved any success so far. These people seem to agree with me when I put forward any argument, but do not loose their faith in that lady. Can you please suggest me something so that I can direct my efforts well?

      Regarding Sathya Sai Baba, Sachin Tendulkar, who is considered as mentally very strong when it comes to cricket, too was a great devotee. What would be the reason behind this?

      • The question of why individuals seemingly well-endowed and well-equipped to deal with life’s challenges end up resorting to religious crutches (whose appeal to less well-endowed and traumatized and people is more understandable)is a very pertinent one. Here is a hypothesis : ” On examining their success stories, successful people find that their accomplishments are not entirely of their own making and hence something which they alone cannot claim credit for. Since we are ‘pattern-seeking creatures’ it is hard for these people also to reconcile themselves to the explanation (or seeming non-explanation) that their success resulted in large part from chance. Following these two impulses i.e. avoiding taking all credit oneself for success and avoiding dismissing it as plan chance, these people give in to our Hyperactive Agent Detection Device (HADD)* and ‘over-infer agency’ to the nearest claimant of prophecy.”

        Here is a germane example of this kind of ‘patternicity’ and Hyperactive Agent Detection : http://sports.ndtv.com/cricket/news/item/172537-babas-vibhuti-healed-gavaskars-injury

        *More on HADD here: http://indianatheists.org/2011/01/30/why-agnosticism-is-not-an-option-in-our-time/

      • Suhas said: I haven’t achieved any success so far. These people seem to agree with me when I put forward any argument, but do not lose their faith in that lady. Can you please suggest me something so that I can direct my efforts well?

        My answer: If people’s belief systems could be changed that quickly this world would be a big mess, for people would keep on changing them every other day, depending on who washes their brain. Most of these people’s beliefs are very deep-rooted, beginning from their early childhood. They are in the deepest layers of their hidden mind (soda bottle). It is no different than telling a confirmed alcoholic, “Alcohol is bad for your health and finances.It will kill you. Quit it!” He would say, “I will drink to that!” That is why we have to admire people like Baba for his ability to bend so many millions of people to his will regardless how wickedly clever we think he is. He was able to tap into that deep-seated belief system and make them see and do things his way. Gandhi was able to do that to a great extent. Most changes we could bring about in people even if we try hard are superficial and cosmetic. The bottom line is that it is mighty hard to change other people’s belief system.

        Suhas said: Regarding Sathya Sai Baba, Sachin Tendulkar, who is considered as mentally very strong when it comes to cricket, too was a great devotee. What would be the reason behind this?

        My answer: Sachin is a master at the game of cricket. In all other respects he is no different than the deluded masses. He, too, was raised in an semi-orthodox family and was indoctrinated repeatedly to go after Baba for everything. He does not have what it takes to transcend early childhood indoctrination. It is pointless to argue with people like him, for they would say, “Look how much public service he is doing… water supply to villages, etc.” What they don’t ask is, “Why did the Andhra Pradesh government not provide these villages with water supply in the first place? Why did Baba not make them do it?” These questions are too complicated for simple-minded brains of cricket superstars such as Sachin. The answer is that this is how Baba won over simple-minded people, and concentrated power in his own hands. If he was an honorable man he would have empowered people to demand from the A. P. government proper water supply, which is theirs by right. That would mean losing popularity with politicians. By supplying water to the poor, he satisfied the poor people and won their allegiance. At the same time the money that was to go for that project could be eaten up by all the powers that be. This is how he killed two birds with one bullet and ate them both.

        • Dr. Kamath –> “That is why we have to admire people like Baba for his ability to bend so many millions of people to his will regardless how wickedly clever we think he is. He was able to tap into that deep-seated belief system and make them see and do things his way………….The bottom line is that it is mighty hard to change other people’s belief system.”

          Suhas –> I have seen some people(e.g. Muslims, who would not have deep routed beliefs in such things) devoted to these (Hindu) BABAs. Such people have developed their faith in BABAs over a short period of time.

          If a BABA can be so successful at brainwashing, why don’t we find any ‘anti-BABA’ who has achieved success of similar scale in turning people away from these BABAs? Following of such BABAs seems to be increasing day by day.

        • Tendulkar has had personal miraculous experience of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s divinity as with Sunil Gavaskar and thousands of others.

          Who is deluded? You or Sachin? This is very subjective.

          • Satish,

            While in a sense, this fallacy may be termed as ‘argument from authority’, looking at it differently would imply conferring authority on Sachin Tendulkar that he is not entitled to. For Sachin is no expert or authority on religious or cultural matters.

            Sachin’s is a case of a rise of a drop-out who bloomed into a cricket genius.
            Asking for or relying on Sachin’s views on religion and culture is like asking for his views on Capitalism, liberal democracy or Fabian socialism about which he would be equally clueless.

            The fallacy of Vijaysai would be a cross between ‘argument from his ignorance’ and ‘argument from delusion’ (I made that up). Why I say his ignorance is because devotional frenzy can subsist in its own world of ignorance different from general ignorance of things and phenomenon. Delusion can also be the source of many brash though faulty arguments.

          • @Vijaya

            I am under no delusion.

            I have seen how god-men/women loot people in the rural parts of India. And as I said I am trying to turm my relatives against such practices.

            I just wanted to have thoughts of experts on Babagiri. This may help me in my campaign.

            My only intention of questioning Dr. kamath, most respected member of Nirmukta, was to know more about what people think about these babas etc.

            I may not be very fluent in English, and hence might have not expressed myself correctly.

          • vijaya sai: sachin or sunny never said that they had miraculous experience of satya sai. They said that they treat him as god as service to humanity is service to god. Please do not mislead people here.

    • Very well said.
      Especially the part about coping skills, all godmen and other mystics thrive on people’s inability to cope with reality.
      Religion itself thrives because of that.

      • “coping with reality” – also in my eyes that’s the crucial point; and it really is no easy task…
        I, as a non-indian reader, am very pleased to see that in the beloved country of India there is a movement of freethought and rationalism as revealed in this blog.
        Best wishes from Germany!

  • If we are able to offer children and parents alternative ways of coping with life ( particularly how to deal with emotions), I can see how we can significantly reduce the grip of irrationality and perpetuation of abuse.

    Pressing Problem of child abuse:

    Looking at national Child abuse studies and the general challenges of living, we can see the need for coping mechanism (denial is part of it).
    When proper coping mechanism are not available, these abuses tend to be passed on to next generation.( The percentage of abused children in India,is very high and continues to be so, indicating that it is being passed on).
    Any situation in which children are exposed to adults without supervision will provide opportunities for abuse. Ashrams provides these opportunities.

    Need for Alternative coping mechanism:

    We need a working model of mind and some tool to manage and regulate emotions (particularly, fear, anger and anxiety).

    The series of article appearing on this website can help to develop a scientific model.

    Along with a conceptual model and the substitution of irrational thoughts with rational one, I would like your site to introduce and promote relaxation techniques (Deep breathing,Progressive Muscular Relaxation etc.)

    When a person is able to relax,he/she will find it easier to make the “change” ( and to conserve the gains) to reality based living.

    Regards

  • Like the two eulogies, it is important to sympathise and empathise with his devotees because our truth is not their truth.

    • Our reason to say what we said was not concession that ‘other truths’ maybe valid, but the acknowledgment that the human suffering caused by following certain falsehoods are all too real.

  • Isn’t it strange that a “god” who is essentially supposed to be without a material being is “buried” instead of cremated? Why this clinging to a the body which is supposed to be JUST a vessel for the eternal soul?

    • the majority of holy men, sadhus and religious leaders are not cremated – similarly nor are pregnant women, children and those with leprosy.

      Safe.

  • I have been born into a family of Sri Sathya Sai Baba devotees. I have then studied in his educational systems. I have physically been close to Baba and have served him. Whoever has written this blog has never come to Baba or experienced him. I have seen miracles happening in my presence. I have seen cancer waved off with “The cancer is cancelled” command. I have seen him making the crippled walk. I have seen much more. And Baba’s ashram is the only place where no one pays any money for any facility. The biggest miracle is the transformation of hearts of so many people.Transformed individuals of the middle class, lower middle class and lower class have joined his mission by physically serving in villages and other places doing social work in person. Transformed individuals of the Upper middle class, middle class and the High Networth Individuals have contributed money to the trust. All the other bad publicity is nonsense as I know him better as well as I know my parents. This article is hurtful, unfair, vindictive and written by a sick mind.

    • Yes. Miracles do happen. And pigs can also fly. Once you let your imagination run wild, anything is possible.

      • Vijaya sai definitely needs psycriatic treatment. Your imaginations have crossed the world. People like you are more dangerous than sai babas.

    • This Nirmukta post begins with a call for a silent pause and concludes with a reiteration of humanistic solidarity and hence the aspersions cast by the complainant on the authors seem misplaced and unwarranted. We can offer a pause and human solidarity, but a demand that the pause become a gag on all criticism and that solidarity must be funneled through certain cults, is not one that we are obliged to service.

    • VijayaSai said: I have been born into a family of Sri Sathya Sai Baba devotees. I have then studied in his educational systems. I have physically been close to Baba and have served him. Whoever has written this blog has never come to Baba or experienced him. I have seen miracles happening in my presence. I have seen cancer waved off with “The cancer is cancelled” command. I have seen him making the crippled walk. I have seen much more. And Baba’s ashram is the only place where no one pays any money for any facility.

      My reply: Once a person raised in Sai Baba culture becomes totally indoctrinated into becoming a devotee (Bhakta) of Sai Baba, he becomes a slave incapable of independent thinking. He would then do anything to please the man. This was exactly what happened in German people’s relationship with Hitler. By means of his hysterical speeches Hitler convinced Germans that he made Germany a great nation and six million Jews were more useful dead than alive. Anyone questioning Hitler was declared as a traitor and sick person, and was murdered in cold blood. In Communist Russia, dissenters were routinely confined to mental hospitals because Communist authorities said their comments were, as VijayaSai said, “hurtful, unfair, vindictive and written by sick minds.”

      VijayaSai said: The biggest miracle is the transformation of hearts of so many people. Transformed individuals of the middle class, lower middle class and lower class have joined his mission by physically serving in villages and other places doing social work in person. Transformed individuals of the Upper middle class, middle class and the High Networth Individuals have contributed money to the trust. All the other bad publicity is nonsense as I know him better as well as I know my parents. This article is hurtful, unfair, vindictive and written by a sick mind.

      My response: You need to ask yourself these questions, “Why were these Bhaktas of Baba not capable of investing their wealth or energy in public service without Sai Baba telling them to do so? Does that not mean that these were weak-minded people who needed someone to transform them? If they were permanently transformed, why would they need Sai Baba any more? Transformed people are empowered to act on their own without needing Sai Baba as their crutch, and they could do public service on their own. Why did they keep giving Sai Baba more money when he already had so much surplus wealth, which could have been invested in the service of the poor? On the other hand, if they were temporarily transformed, as is the case with every one of them, why was Sai Baba not able to transform them permanently? Since they needed Sai Baba in their life to stay transformed, does not that lead us to believe that once Sai Baba dies, they would crumble down like fragments of unhealed bones without the cast?

      The bottom line is this: If one needs Sai Baba to change them and guide them as to how to live their life, they are weak-minded people. Christians are more open about this phenomenon. They call their followers lambs and their leaders pastors. We call these people Bakras and their leaders Babas.

    • VijayaSai wrote
      >> “I have seen miracles happening in my presence. I have seen cancer waved off with “The cancer is cancelled” command. I have seen him making the crippled walk. I have seen much more.”

      Cult followers have amazing capacity for the self-deception. By the way if you have so much confidence in divine miracles then you got to explain not just to skeptics here but to yourself and to others who share your beliefs as to why your much hyped ‘healing campaign’ for Sai Baba finally did not work. Wishing a sick person a healthy and quick recovery is certainly a noble thing. All humans do that in good faith. But your main stake was on miraculous healing. So read your own post below and explain.

      http://healersocean.ning.com/profile/VijayaSaiBS

      • Also note that sai baba did not live for 96 years as he claimed. He was dead fighting to be alive for more than a month in ICU and could not cure his own disease. Thanks to satya sai trust who made him mentally upset. I am glad that satya sai is dead and his fake miracles are no more. No more murders in puttaparthi as it happended in 1993. No more lazy indians pondering to serve him.

  • 1. Kumar International, Malleswaram, Bangalore, who are specialists in embalming/casket/undertaker funeral services got a request on or around the 29th March, for a special casket. The caller was one “Rajendra Reddy”…and he wanted to buy an air conditioned casket with embalming facility.

    2. Ms Lakshmi, a middle aged lady, the owner of the service was surprised as most orders were only rentals for 2-3 days, mostly catering to the needs of people who die and whose relatives have to come from USA/UK etc ( of which there are plenty, given the thousands of Indian software professionals in South India who had migrated to the West ). The caller wanted a quotation and an email was sent to him.

    3. The price quoted was Rs 57,000 plus Rs 5700 for transportation, the caller first said it should be delivered to Coimbatore city, and then said Mysore later. The price and details wee sent by Kumar International by email to “Rajendra Reddy”….who asked how long it would take to make one.

    4. RR was informed it may take minimum a week , as per the specifications he had given, or alternatively, he could take a look at what they had in store.RR said he needed one within 3-4 days and had no time. He also asked how long the body would be preserved, to which Ms Lakshmi had said ” about 8-10 days,depending on the diseases/medication the deceased had been receiving. She was also asked about formaldehyde and she had replied that the doctors would be able to advise better, but yes, formaldehyde would be a good option.

    5.Either RR or one of his agents had come to her office and paid a cash advance to her staff next day. And insisted that as they wanted a special casket immediately, they would choose one of those already in store.

    6. Lakshmi’s staff started getting frantic phone calls by 3 AM on April 4th/5th….they had sent a complete price quotation for the special casket chosen by 4.41 pm April 4th ( the email was shown on TV ).

    7. The casket was asked to be delivered to Puttaparthi hospital, which Lakshmi’s service did immediately.

    8. Lakshmi, meanwhile ( although not a Sai baba follower ), started getting suspicious , as she had been following the Sai Baba news on TV.

    9. But as nothing developed, she put it out of her mind…till Sai Baba was announced dead on April 24th morning. And by evening 6pm, when she saw the coffin/casket on TV, she was shocked to see it was the one she had sold and delivered to Puttaparthi on April 4th/5th. Even the name “Kumar International ” with contact numbers on the casket was seen on TV ( after the burial today morning, when the casket was kept to one side)…but even by Monday ( 25th) she was so concerned about what she should do, she consulted her family guruji and appraised him of the situation, and that this may involve the powerful Sai Baba.. The guruji simply asked her not to be afraid and advised her to speak the truth , irrespective of what it involved, as truth was the greatest protector.

    10. Lakshmi, called TV channels in Andhra and went live on air, telling her full story, along with complete records to back up everything.

  • Religions of this world including the Gurus,ponitiff,mulla or any ism or formula has made the world what we are today. We have to understand most of the intellectuals /scientist/noble lauretes do not belive in the exisitence of some spirts or God.

    The Reason is important that is the way cause and effect works , if we do not understand the basic of the human anotomy works with cosmic systems and this sourrounding — i think we are fooling ourself and the world .

    We have to Reason be skeptic and Free thought is important that is the way the world around us is there.

    • sathya sai baba is satan and his body is anti-christ. i saw it with my spiritual eyes. The Lord God showed me. Please we have to save ourselves from him and his people. Please believe me.

      please do anything,please save the innocent people locked up,raped and being tortured in his ashram. they are both indian and foreign origin. he said he is god and millions believed me,you wouldnt want to see what I saw in spirit.

      • The concerns of the rationalist and humanist community here are confined to the accusations against the deceased which are admissible under Indian law and are demonstrable causes of human suffering, and we do not see how it is useful to equate the accused to certain apparitions of Bronze Age myths from Palestine, which are nothing more than the phantasms of ‘spiritual eyes’.

  • A believer in God needs religion. A non believer needs Nirmukti…!
    Both need a platform to share their views. Both need a support network..!
    An atheist will discard God. A believer will discard an atheist. Both end up discarding.
    Whoever you are whatever you believe in, you need it to be shared and consented to by peer group, else you become weak again! Science has some answers, Religion has some answers. But non have all the answers. Weak are those who need a platform to believe in something. You waste time debating, denouncing, debunking each other. Rather than taking a better look inside your own life, weakness and lies, you want to point fingers at the other faction. Both wings shall bark at each other. And both shall remain in dark.

    • **Here’s an engagingly written case-study of how abdication by the state administration in the area of essential services, leads to the centre-staging of messianic alternatives.**

      Disappointing that the article is not critical enough of this Amma cult. But your assessment is entirely in line with all those mega churches in all those red states (in US) where people vote against states being involved in welfare.

      **“I am connected to the eternal energy source, so I am not like a battery that gets used up.”**

      Yeah, right. Stop feeding her for a week and see if she can tap into the eternal energy source.

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