10 Things we can Learn from the Bizarre Case of Sai Baba (A Manifesto On Reality-Based Spiritual Empowerment!)

Via on Apr 28, 2011

Sai Baba, the man heralded as “god on earth” by millions of followers died at 84 years old this week. Unlike many conventional  spiritual teachers, the guru taught no spiritual practices and preached a very simple message of universal love and the unity of all religions in God. He was most famous for his supposed ability to manifest holy ash or “vibuti” as well as watches, rings and necklaces out of thin air as gifts for devotees. He was most infamous for the many claims of sexual molestation of young boys who later wrote books, were interviewed for documentaries and even committed suicide over their trauma. More on all this here.

Sai Baba lived in the extreme opulence one would unfortunately expect given the history of famous charismatic gurus like Maharaji, Osho, Adi Da, Muktananda and others (all of whom he eclipsed) while those around him starved in squalor. To be fair, his organization did a lot of humanitarian work; opening hospitals and schools and providing drinking water to poor regions of India – but his death leaves  an estate worth over $9 Billion.

There are also allegations that a group of young men (presumably abuse survivors) who attempted to assassinate Sai Baba were killed in his inner sanctum and that because of his power and influence, counting even the Indian Prime Minister as a devotee, this case (as with the accusations of pedophilia) was never fully investigated.

For me this all strikes a chord in terms of my passion for integrating psychological and rational awareness with spirituality. Having read and responded to the various pieces posted on Elephant Journal about his death – I thought to offer my list of 10 Things We Can Learn From The Bizarre Case of Sai Baba.

Here they are:

1)    We are suckers for a good magic trick.

Come on, you remember! We are about 5 years old at a birthday party. A hired magician pulls rabbits out of hats, makes pieces of fruit magically appear under coconut shells and removes a beautiful shiny necklace from within the ear of the birthday girl, before presenting it to her as a gift!

Cognitive  psychology tells us that before we develop rational cause-and-effect thinking we are very prone to filling in the gaps with magical causality. It’s why you can get a child younger than about 7 to believe anything from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny to being a parent who can see through walls, to magicians performing impossible tricks.

At this age we are often inculcated with literal religious beliefs as well. Even as we get older and start to (hopefully) relinquish Santa and the Tooth Fairy (I mean we all look kinda funny at a teenager who is excited that the Easter Bunny is coming, right?) many of us are still very well trained to maintain a reason-free compartment for belief in Jesus or other magical religious figures.

There is a child in all of us that WANTS to believe,  a child that is enchanted by the possibilities of magic – and when spirituality taps into this vulnerable,  gullible,  innocent  self we have faith again in the impossible, and we believe we have found a special loophole in an otherwise difficult and challenging world.

Sai Baba exploited this innocent, regressive need to the hilt. He was not alone in this – but you have to take your (rabbit-manifesting) hat off to him; he was the best.

2)    Everyone  is looking for the perfect daddy (or mommy.)

More psychology here – when we are very young we believe our parents are perfect. Daddy is the strongest and most kind man in the world, Mommy the most beautiful and intelligent woman in the world, right? This is part of our normal development. Self-Psychology theorist Heinz Kohut says we have natural “idealization needs” – it is part of how we form our sense of self.

When these needs are derailed by trauma, disappointment, harsh reality, they often lie dormant in us, waiting to be satisfied by charismatic lovers, rock stars, actors, teachers, and, yes – enlightenment-claiming gurus. This too can be within reasonable limits, or powerfully imbalanced and obsessive.

We all know what it is like to deeply admire someone and feel a strong emotional attachment to our idealization of them – and perhaps you have seen or experienced how this can also be dramatically out of proportion in some people. Kohut would say these folks have a vulnerability driven by very intense unmet idealization needs.

The other side of this equation is that often people who seek out positions of power and fame in which they will be intensely idealized are acting out of what Kohut calls unmet Narcissistic needs. Here our natural, child-like need to be the center of attention and to be told how wonderful we are has morphed into a grandiose and inflated expectation to be treated like – well, a god.

Combine someone with powerful unmet Narcissistic needs with someone with powerful unmet idealization needs and you not only have a seemingly perfect fit, but a recipe for disaster!

3)    We will fight anyone who criticizes our perfect magic daddy (or mommy.)

Now, remember those childhood  moments when someone challenged your parents perfection? They better not say THAT about yo’ mama, right?! And your Daddy can kick their Daddy’s ass any day of the week…

If as adults we are taken in by the magical claims and projected/idealized  perfection of a guru figure, we become very attached to this fantasy because it is meeting deep needs and soothing painful wounds we suffered at a very early stage of our development. Anyone who does not have this kind of psychological profile will find it hard to understand why someone else could get involved in something that seems so weird.

Once taken in, we cannot be talked out of it rationally and we will fight with passion to protect what has now become a part of our psychological identity. We believe that we have found the true god, real holy man/woman, the answer to all  our longings or fears. We may say “you don’t understand because you haven’t had the mind-blowing, heart-opening experience of the guru’s grace and perfection.”

Maharaji arrives in a Rolls Royce as ecstatic devotees look on.

Of course we may experience strong emotions, powerful altered states, deep reverence, awe, ecstasy – and we take these as “proof” of our interpretation that we are in the presence of something divine. It might just be proof that we are in a shared state of mania and emotional uproar, in the presence of someone who knows how to push those buttons.

We also  become trapped in a cul de sac of spiritual growth because we are not conscious of the needs we are fulfilling, nor are we consciously engaging the wounds/fears they represent because the magical parent fantasy is a kind of drug that keeps us high on our belief. We also now have a community, which serves as a substitute family, in which we really feel a sense of belonging and shared belief/purpose.

Very often this group identity includes a strong injunction against thinking for yourself or speaking out against the power structure – usually based in the notion that the guru knows best, and who are we to argue?

Welcome to the cult.


4)    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

Power is a difficult thing. We are instinctive creatures with a rich social evolutionary history. It is good to be King, because the king gets what he wants. With power, you can satisfy your needs and desires without anyone obstructing you. In cults organized around a charismatic leader who claims supernatural abilities or divine identity, democracy is out the window, accountability (for the guru) is over-looked, and there is a kind of implicit dictatorship, in which the fallible (and usually unstable and a little crazy) human being who has stepped into the role of guru is now held in the position of divine perfection.

This is bad for the community, AND bad for the guru. It creates an environment in which what Carl Jung called “the shadow” is completely ignored and so can flourish like a cancer. It is no accident that in most organizations founded with the best intentions to be spiritual and pure, the power abuse and shadow manifestation of very dark secret behavior is usually rampant. If you are curious, do some research into the organizations around Maharaji, Osho, Adi Da, Muktananda, Chogyam Trungpa, Hare Krishna, Yogi Bhajan… The list is long and the tales sordid and tragic. (I know you may be offended to find out that your favorite guru had a pretty dark shadow and that actually a lot of people were hurt by it – but wouldn’t you rather know the truth?)

Carl Jung

Absolute power centered in one idealized individual  is a recipe for disaster. For examples of how to avoid this – look at Jack Kornfield and others like John Welwood who have researched cult dynamics and created spiritual organizations that have built-in methods for maintaining accountability and ethics.

5)    Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Though the stories of Sai baba molesting young boys are rampant, and many long-term high-up members of the organization confirm it – there is a typically widespread denial. Even when confronted with testimony of grown men and their families who have suffered the trauma and devastation of these violations, many followers and even uninvolved,  but spiritually-minded people will use some combination of denial and rationalization  in response.

This usually follows some predictable variations:

Even if he did it, it was probably a way of helping them to become more enlightened, we cannot judge him from our unenlightened consciousness.

 

How could that be possible, he is a holy man – they must be making it up.

 

Perhaps he did it, perhaps he was a pedophile, but we must separate the man from the divine spirit he embodied, or we must separate the teacher from the teachings.

All of this, I offer, stems from an unwillingness to face the truth, out of a desire to protect magical fantasies, and ironically perpetuates the dark and seedy underbelly of criminal corruption and soul-destroying trauma.

Something has gone wrong when we do not hold holy men accountable to the same basic standards of behavior we expect from ordinary citizens.

As an aside, in the yoga world, I even have encountered this kind of denial and rationalization in response to the photograph of revered Ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois engaged in an outrageously lecherous crotch “adjustment” of two young women in happy baby pose.

6)    Extreme relativism  kills critical thinking and authentic spirituality.

Have you noticed that extreme relativism is the lingua franca, the unacknowledged dogma, the popular religion of our community?

There are (I am told again and again) no facts, no objective truths,  science is out of style, everything is a relative perspective, your thoughts create your reality, who is to say what is healthy or unhealthy, true or false, and what constitutes psychological trauma or abuse, hasn’t quantum physics proven that this is an illusion?

While there are some important and valid truths speckled though this nonsensical worldview – it is mostly overblown,  rationalized nonsense. It makes us unable to look at something like the bizarre and tragic legacy of Sai Baba with reasonable, grounded spiritual honesty.

Here’s the deal people: There is a such a thing as truth. There actually are facts. Whatever your “perspective,” being suddenly (and then repeatedly) made to perform fellatio or lingam worship via oil massage on the man you (however erroneously) believe  is god constitutes a trauma that will fuck with your head (if you’ll excuse the metaphor) for the rest of your life.

Furthermore – there is no such thing as “god on earth,” no-one has ever had real magical powers and there are no “perfect” human beings.

These are not statements of relative truth dependent on perspective, context and cultural conditioning – they are facts, and we deny them at our peril!

7)    Letting go of the fake magic opens us to the magic of reality.

So, here’s the good news: the more we relinquish the magical fantasies of childhood, the more we can be enraptured by, appreciative of, and grounded in the real grown-up magic of the universe, the world around us, our humanity, love, creativity, reason, genuine spiritual practice, science, art and the vulnerability of being mortal creatures who’s life dance across the world stage is fleeting.

The more we heal from our early wounds, and relinquish our unreasonable childhood needs – the more our spirituality can be an expression of growth, health, grounding and integration.

Take the leap, let go of the plastic baubles, real jewels are all around you!

8)    Part of true empowerment is facing our powerlessness.

We are vulnerable to manipulation. We have complex and deep psychological patterns. We do not and will never have power over everything,  nor should this be our goal, nor should we seek out magical figures who we believe have attained this goal through some magical or divine means. Its just not part of being human.

Accepting that we are powerless before tsunamis, earthquakes, certain illnesses, accidents, genetics, economic and political forces, random violence from crazy people and the inevitability of our own demise allows us to humbly and honestly look for ways in which we can reasonably and effectively be more empowered in our lives – AND frees us from giving away our power to manipulative charlatans who promise the impossible.

9)    Behind all of this is our deep-seated fear of death.

If there was one practice that I think could take humanity’s spiritual development to the next level it would simply be this: sit daily with the reality of your certain death.

Try this as a meditation: Consider the fact that you will without doubt one day die. Soften around it, accept it, give love to the part of you that fears it. Even if only for a moment, let go of all consoling metaphysical attempts at believing you might find the immunizing loophole – and simply be present with death.

 

Flowers die, insects die, you probably have had pets that died. Human beings die too. Why should we be any different, because our brains are more complex? Because we have told ourselves stories about other worlds and disembodied beings?

 

It’s ok. It’s part of life. It will happen to us all. Believe what you want – but spend a little time sitting with the possibility that all we have is right here, right now, in this one precious body, with this one heart and mind, experiencing this one life with its specific gifts and challenges.

 

What if there is no escape – and life is still filled with meaning and beauty and possibility anyway?

 

Spend some time wondering where we would locate the sacred if this was true, how would we treat one another if we carried this awareness with us in the world, what would the implications be for our choices, our emotions, our relationship to life itself?

My sense is that human beings who have spent some time making peace with death are much more grounded, more open to life, and less vulnerable to fantasy-based, destructive or at the very least unskillful and fragmenting spirituality.

10) Contemporary integrated grown-up spirituality can learn from this and move forward.

We really can create a new paradigm. We really can learn from the past and move this spiritual developmental line to a new level /stage. We really can learn from the mistakes and madness of old world religion that still has so much of the planet in its grips, from the failed experiment of the “enlightened guru” trip, from the pseudoscience extreme relativism of the new age zeitgeist that creates a multicultural smorgasbord of the most superficial and superstitious aspects of every tradition and turns it into a narcissistic, materialistic I-am-the-center-of-the-universe mind game.

We can learn from Sai Baba and all the other corrupt gurus, we can learn from the Catholic Church and it’s legacy of pedophile priests and broken, victimized  altar boys. We can learn from the crusades and the inquisition, from sexually repressive, body-hating, dualistic beliefs in every tradition.

We can learn from the understandable pre-scientific confusion of mental illness for prophecy or having a direct line to some supernatural realm. We can learn from the unreasonable projection of the sacred into impossible feats, invisible beings and non-existent realms, and reclaim it instead as being here and now in the world, in ourselves, evidenced by reality, not fantasy.

We can learn about ourselves and our complex layered psyches and the ways in which we even use spirituality to lie to ourselves about what, who and where we are…

And maybe, just maybe, we can stop the madness, sit still, use our powerful capacities for critical thinking and genuine compassion, curiosity and courage, to forge a healthy, grounded, embodied, psychologically aware, practice-based spirituality that is truly healing, nurtures growth and integrates well with what we know about inner and outer reality at this juncture in our marvelous dance across the stage of time and space.

As for Sai Baba – with all the spiritual honesty and compassion in the world I have only one thing to say: good riddance!

About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is the founder of http://www.yogateachergradschool.com/ where he supports new and established yoga teachers in living their dreams through business development. He is a writer who has been teaching yoga since 1994, and co-teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training in LA with Hala Khouri.Julian's writing is featured in the book 21st Century Yoga available on Amazon.com. www.julianwalkeryoga.com

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90 Responses to “10 Things we can Learn from the Bizarre Case of Sai Baba (A Manifesto On Reality-Based Spiritual Empowerment!)”

  1. dan says:

    hah, anger claims rationality and uses the cheap tricks of quasi-science (guessy psychology), “modernity” (as if we’re so much more advanced, our economy based on slave-labor, I mean, bottom-lines as it is), and emotional language (sheesh, whatever indeed)- you sway no one! You anger many! I’ve seen this repeatedly on other blogs- it doesn’t work! Really! You have some good stuff in this post, gone to waste! Get ready for your credentials, qualifications and fees to be questioned!

    Repent!!!!

  2. lauren says:

    yes yes yes. stop the madness, spiritual world dwellers! It is time to ask for accountability from all of our leaders.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    And the world keeps turning…everday millions die along the wayside..after just moments…even their families will no longer remember them, you, me. Refreshing..isn't it?

  4. I think one important thing to learn from Sai Baba is that starting your own cult can earn you "9 billion dollars that we know of".

  5. Sebastian Stark says:

    Cool article, thanks. I especially liked the bravery about giving "non-relative" truth, very nice shot. I noticed sth. In this articles, I would like to have sth more: I would like to have a postive articulation of what an Integrated postmodern Sangha could look like. Myself I am in EnlightenNext( I am 26 and there since a few months), and as everybody knows, it was a messy ride up to this point, so this is very interesting to me. Remeining in the criticism is one thing, but coming to the positive pointing out is another. F.Ex. Tradition: Guru good, modern Postmodern: Guru sometimes weirdly good(like Sai baba), sometimes totally bad(inner Guru), Now, in Post-Postmodern context, what do we do? i have answers, but I would like a discourse here, because by now I feel that while these contributions like yours , Julian, are great and for most parts of the crowd fundamentally important, a lot of people already want to step beyond simply discrminating and build new structures. What is radicallity, submission, hierarchy, collective and so on on higher stages? We dont know, but we could discuss this, discriminating keeps it clean, but I wanna get messy again . Best wishes

  6. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    "Letting go of the fake magic opens us to the magic of reality" Amen to that! I'm preparing a post on that topic right now; when it's ready, I'll give you a heads-up.

  7. Andy J says:

    Nice one Julian. Last summer some friends and I were entertained by a street magician in Soho, London. What he showed us was absolutely incredible, really astounding. We stood their with open mouths, all of us. Maybe if he was wearing orange robes we'd have followed him home, given him all our cash and camped out in his garden…

    Some people will believe anything and some people know how to take advantage of them.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      yes andy i have had the same experience with street magician's – the trained hand is quicker than the eye and any of these guys could have made sai baba look like a mere chai-walla in comparison to their god-like abilities! :)

  8. Jonathan says:

    so many errors and anger on this article… i don't know where to start with… maybe you expecting him to be a saint as you think saint should be is the real idealization of the perfect daddy (or mommy)?

    … its kind of surprising that elephantjournal allows such a cheap shot like that… [-1] maybe its taking a tabloidish turn?

  9. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  10. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    this is hardly an angry article. yes, good riddance to someone who lied to millions and devastated the lives of his vicitims and their families. he was a monster. simple.

    i was never a devotee of his.

    the anger is basic human outrage at atrocious abuse in a field i care about.

    sometimes compassion is direct in it's judgment of pathology.

    i feel qualified by being a human being with a heart.

    • Good article. And good answer to a commenter with the depth of a summer rain puddle. I am sick to death of people who, when you speak some truth, start blurting out bullshit like "anger issues" and "a chip on your shoulder." Meanwhile, this flake in saffron collected $9bn and was into pedophilia. Sick f#*@

  11. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i would hope most people would be angry at a man who LITERALLY claims to be god on the basis of cheap magic tricks and then molests innocent young boys turned over by their families for the great spiritual good fortune of an audience with their beloved guru.

    my question in return, what is the matter with you that you don't feel angry!!?!

    that said this is not a particularly angry article – i challenge you to cite quotations to the contrary…

    the ridiculous " even a saint isn't perfect" rationalization is something i deal with in the article – it is completely fallacious cultish double-speak and you should be ashamed to resort to it sir!

  12. mentaltrainer1 says:

    Life is a learning process! Thank you;-)

  13. Juliet says:

    P.S.: That's not to say that there are genuine spiritual adepts living among us…people whose spiritual gifts are deep and real. I guess if the adept lives a life a true service, that could be a benchmark to judge sincerity and authenticity. If he amasses a 9 billion dollar estate…well, no.

  14. timful says:

    Yet, I would bet that on balance these idealized guru relationships generate more good than harm. The universe is full of real magic, as you so eloquently say, but I think it often may be easiest to see that first in another human being, and I don't think that leaves less room to see it elsewhere. When we fall in love with another person, we do not usually find that we have less room left to love others, but rather it seems the opposite, that it becomes an example of how we might relate to everything that has now become more wonderful. Which is not to excuse the abuse that can also occur, only to question whether the dynamic itself is so fundamentally flawed as you suggest.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      hmmmm i think the dynamic is based in the erroneous notion that certain people are perfect as a result of being enlightened and have a special god-like quality (or connection with god) emanating from them. because this is untrue i fail to see how anything beneficial can come of it. but that's just me…

      now – there are teachers who don't claim anything of the sort (i mention some in the article) – and there are approaches to yoga, meditation, bodywork, ecstatic dance, psychotherapy etc that are not bought into these dynamcs even though there are teachers, facilitators, healers, therapists etc involved….. these can be very beneficial (and sometimes have problems too) – the KEY distinction is between teachers who claim magical powers, enlightened status, divine identity etc and those who do not.

      it is MASSIVE distinction that we should not downplay – and when any of this is being claimed i think it can only end poorly – simply because it is a delusional, inflated, bizarre dynamic, both for anyone to claim this and for anyone to believe it.

      • timful says:

        I suspect more people will attest to benefits they have gained from a guru than harm. It does not bother me that the guru is not perfect. If he claims he is, that is simply one of his imperfections.

        I don't dispute your point that we could probably do better. I am certain we could do worse. For me, it is mainly about recognizing the limits of reason. Is it delusion for a parent to see something in their child's smile that no one else will ever see? Science will tell us that most animals feel a special attachment to their offspring, it is just some hormonal process or something, but that would be a bizarre delusion, to dismiss your own experience that way, as if life is nothing more than we know objectively, a story you learned in school. Our ego wants to master its world with organization and explanation, but that is a tiny world indeed, as we most easily see when we engage with another.

  15. Ricardo das Neves Ricardo says:

    Fabulous article that hits every angle squarely. Thank you for your well-developed insights and eloquently gives voice to many of my thoughts about gurus, teachers, "enlightened beings," etc.

  16. luke says:

    Six things I learned reading this article:
    1. The author has some deep psychological issues he cares so deeply about he’ll project them onto any system competing with his for emotional satiety.
    2. Building and cornering the global incense market and building water distribution systems deserves less mention than pedophilia and “trick” magic.
    3. The author is going to write inflammatory things on the next several Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche video-posts so we all will finally live in the real reality, where he is.
    4. I need to go see a therapist NOW to deal with my mommy and daddy issues.
    5. Old = bad, new = good.
    6. Science has fixed everything.

  17. Roger says:

    The author should least be truthful and put the otherside of the story than the links hes posted where information has already been disputed to be false..

    Sathya Sai Controversies and the Art of Guru Bashing

    By Raj Sharma

    It is not uncommon now that for many Gurus, Rishis or Seers who have emerged from India, there has always been an unprecedented number of vicious attacks launched on them. These have come in the guise of slander, misquotes, false allegations and myriad smear campaigns….and more……Mr Walker lets see what you have to say instead of begging people to support your article
    http://www.chakranews.com/sathya-sai-controversie

    • robertpriddy says:

      An a large number of Indian swamis, gurus and mystics have been exposed as criminals for offenses ranging from multiple murder, rape, sexual molestation – not to mention illegal financial activities. India has since the 1960s increasing spread its bogus mysticism and false prophets to the West for the purpose of making money and gaining influence and power, not least over their own followers. Spirituality has become the happy hunting ground of charlatans and impostors claiming various supernatural powers in trying to batten onto human weaknesses and promote the irrational desire to tear away the veil from the Unseen. This is a red herring trail without end, a labyrinth where there are few who find their way out once having crossed the threshold.See The Dark Side of very prominent Indian Gurus at http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/600/

  18. Roger says:

    Priddy, Robert And His ‘Disempowerment In Worshipping Gurus’ Series:

    * Responses → 01 – 02 – 03 – 04 – 05 – 06

    Robert Priddy – Defamatory Attacks Against Me Addressed

    * Responses → 01 – 02 – 03

    E-mail Correspondence With Robert Priddy

    * → Correspondence With Robert Priddy Between October 2nd – 4th 2004

    Blogged Posts About Robin Robert Priddy:

    * ROBERT ROBIN PRIDDY BLOG (With Additional Articles Not Located On This Domain):
    * → Robert Priddy EXPOSED Blog

    o → Blogged Articles About Robert Priddy Through April 12th 2010

    Robert C. Priddy On WordPress, Sai-Fi.net & Vishvarupa.com:

    * → WordPress Tag For “Robert Priddy” → WordPress Category For “Robert Priddy”
    * → Vishvarupa.com: Robert Priddy – Oslo Norway
    * → Vishvarupa.com: Information About Kai Nicolai Priddy
    * → Sai-Fi.net: Profiling Robert Priddy

    * Various Misspellings: dobert eobert fobert orbert rbert rboert ribert rkbert rlbert robbert robdrt robedt robeert robeet robeft rober roberrt robet robetr robett robret robrrt robrt robsrt robwrt roebrt roert rogert rohert ronert roobert rovert rpbert rrobert tobert lriddy oriddy pdiddy peiddy pfiddy piddy pirddy ppriddy prddy prdidy pricdy pridcy pridd pridddy priddi pridey pridry pridsy pridxy pridy pridyd priedy prifdy priiddy prirdy prisdy prixdy prkddy proddy prriddy pruddy ptiddy rpiddy

    Not To Be Confused With Other Notable “Priddy” People:

    1. Robert S. Priddy (aka Bob Priddy): Baseball player.
    2. Robert T. Priddy: Trustee Emeritus for the prestigious Priddy Foundation.
    3. Robert L. Priddy: On the board of directors for Allegiant Air, former Chief Executive Officer for ValuJet and Director for CorVu Corporation.
    4. Robert R. Priddy Former Assistant Professor of Botany at Huntington College http://www.saisathyasai.com/baba/Ex-Baba.com/A-Pr

    • robertpriddy says:

      From the identifiable similarity of content and phrasing, this 'Roger' is without doubt yet another pseudonym for my constant libeler and hyper-active attacker on the Internet, Gerald Joe Moreno. He promotes his website – or gets other to do so – wherever he can make a backlink so as to compete with my postings of Google. Likewise Natasha (see next comment) has appeared on other websites and is most likely his female apprentice troll, Lisa de Witt… Search their names on Google and you can see the extent of their depredations, abuses, false contrivances and ad hominem attacks galore.
      The best was to get a proper overview of Sathya Sai Baba's enormous range of deceptions, abuses of faith and persons, fraudulent 'miracles' and money and power-seeking avidity under the cover of 'serving humanity' and such like mostly empty claims is found, I submit, at http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/

  19. Natasha says:

    Thanks Roger, this article by Sharma on Chakra News was very enlightening. And I agree with Luke, Mr Walker does suffer from some dysfunctional yet well-disguised messiah complex, projecting his issues onto others, while pretending to be 'rational'. Unfortunately for him he cant fool all of us with his psychological jargon and pseudo rationalism. None of his information has any evidence backed by it. Im surprised this website even posted these juvenile rantings of his.

    From ChakraNews (US):

    It is not uncommon now that for many Gurus, Rishis or Seers who have emerged from India, there has always been an unprecedented number of vicious attacks launched on them. These have come in the guise of slander, misquotes, false allegations and myriad smear campaigns.
    Moreover it is interesting to note that most of these attackers often turn out to be either individuals who have been suffering from dysfunctional complexes or personality disorders, or pseudo spiritualists, fundamentalists and Christian missionaries working at religions conversion of Hindus, or self-appointed- rationalist experts with highly opinionated, insular theories or dishonest television reporters and interviewers sensationalizing and tarnishing the image of Hinduism and Hindu Gurus, keeping with the trend of unprofessional, ignorant reporting and the highly biased- ‘paid news syndrome’.

    Over 90% of anti Sai allegations can be attributed to Tal Brook (Robert Taliaferro Brooke), who was often seen at Sai Baba’s ashram in the 1970s. He proclaimed he was Sai Baba’s number one western follower. He started the sexual allegations campaign, which initiated from him talking to an unidentified man Surya Das who was told by another unidentified man ‘Patrick’ who had apparently had physical relations with Sai Baba. No one else has met these individuals.

    Why did Tal Brooke go to India? He stated that spirit guides, and belief in “psychic stuff” brought him to India and to Sai Baba. Why did he suddenly stop his pro Sai Baba work whilst at the Ashram titled “The Amazing Advent”? Which incidentally Sai Baba refused to bless. Why did he leave the ashram & circulate his anti Sai Baba rumours soon afterwards? Because he stated he had demonic encounters, hearing voices of spirits, out of body experiences, but acknowledged that Sai Baba had Christ like powers that baffled top scientists.

    In 1976 Tal Brook published an anti Sai book titled “Lord of the Air”*. In the book and in subsequent years he has attacked Sai Baba & Hinduism, suggesting that enlightenment is an evil path to Satan and that God-Men and Gurus are in a state of perfect demonic possession. He believes that Sai Baba embodies a “timeless, demonic presence”. What does this say about the integrity and objectivity of his claims against Sai Baba? What is also missing is the story of his constant high usage of drugs while at university & India, and his drug induced hallucinations of being self-realized. Other Americans recognised him as a fanatic Christian at the ashram, which is contrary to his claim of becoming a Christian post Sai Baba. He was a member of the Neo-American Church founded by Arthur Kleps (a follower of LSD guru Timothy Leary). Kleps was alleged to be anti-Semitic by the Dutch police who expelled him from Holland. Tal Brooke has denounced Hollywood as being anti Christ, and his smear campaign has lasted 30 years with multiple books and now with expensive internet ad campaigns.

    Tal Brooke’s rumours and books led to many copy cat accusers, most of whom who had had a dubious past, but not once has there been any proof. The recent most famous example is of Alaya Rahm who in the 1990s as a young man said he had sexual encounters with Sai Baba. The western media jumped on this, and even the BBC produced a programme which effectively made Sai Baba appear guilty. However Alaya Rahm (and others) had many opportunities to file a police or court case anywhere in India, but this has never occurred.

    A lawsuit was created in the Superior Court of California on January 6, 2005 (Case No. 05cc01931). But realizing that the exposure was high Rahm eventually refused to go to court. No other alleged victim came forward to testify in support of his allegations, though anti-Sai activists claimed there were many alleged US victims. Many Hindus themselves have often blindly joined the anti sai crusade with enthusiasm without cross checking for factual evidence,which has often lead to more people accepting these false accusations..

    Moreover, recently in 2007 the same Alaya Rahm was trying to provide an alibi for a drug dealer friend, however despite his alibi his friend got convicted for thirty years, in return throwing light on Alaya Rahm’s dubious and questionable character.

    However, now, apart from the Sathya Sai trust, many other individuals and organizations have slowly been waking up to these anti-Hindu movements and agitations and have begun to contemplate taking legal action against media, reporters, editors, and others for defamation, perjury, slander and violation of their indigenous culture and religion.

    *For further expose on the Anti Sai Movement* http://www.saisathyasai.com/

  20. Natasha says:

    Reporter of the The Pioneer, Sandhya Jain, wrote in 2009 that “As usual, when false accusations are made against Hindu gurus, a high-decibel media campaign begins. But when the innocence of the accused is established, the cacophony melts into stoic silence… No alleged victim ever filed a police or court case against Baba in India for alleged improprieties, though former devotees kept chanting that ‘hundreds’, indeed ‘‘thousands’’ of ‘‘minors’’, ‘‘children’’ and ‘male youth’ were molested by Sathya Sai Baba. Who inspired these venomous former devotees to launch investigations into vile rumours? Devotees say the ‘Anti-Sai Movement’ is an extremist hate group which habitually makes wild allegations, including the laughable claim that the Baba is allied with terrorists!…The truth is that neither Sai Baba nor any organization associated with him has ever been charged or implicated for sexual abuse, either directly or indirectly, and that reputable media agencies and independent journalists have not been able to confirm a single instance of sexual abuse linked to Sai Baba or his organizations.”

    • robertpriddy says:

      This is simply NOT TRUE. The BBC exposed Sathya Sai Baba's sexual abuses and how they were covered up in the 1 hour documentary. The BBC also obtained direct confirmation from the US Embassy in Delhi that the Travel Advisory referring to a guru in Andhra Pradesh was none other than Sathya Sai Baba. Both the BC, the State Department and UNESCO investigated the claims through contacting numerous of those alleging abuses.
      See an overview – with transcripts and brief video clips- from the BBC's 'Secret Swami' at http://www.exbaba.com/comments_on/_the_secret_swa

  21. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i know someone personally very involved in the story who was themselves a victim of the guru. even if he also is lying and sai baba never molested anyone – which seems highly unlikely – he was still someone who *claimed to be god* and amassed a huge fortune while living like royalty on the strength of dimestore magic tricks and the whole article still stands as a manifesto of moving beyond such shameful charlatanism!

  22. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  23. Starman says:

    Julian, good article yet you are a little jaded. See Bro you are a pessimist and agnostic. You might be right about false gurus and prophets but that means according to your fucked up perspective there is no real place for mysticisim, magic, God, or even the eye for any possible miracles. You come from just intellect and your ego will defend what you say as THE TRUTH at all costs. Your ego says it is just mind, your fucked up ego, logical assumtions of trickery and mumbo jumbo false magicians. You write fairly well so i want to give you some credit for your keen intellect but your path leads you to a place of no soul, just big ass ego. So nay sayer, crawl your justifications and paint the world as black & white. Crawl in the muck of your rational mind with no pure wonderment of the Universe, only a logical answer for how the world works. You are missing something in your judgement asshole. How many hospital, orphanages, colleges and helping the poor have you created? No you teach yoga and scratch by selling a few articles a year. Put the mirror of you boy/man and take a good look.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      there is all the place in the world for wonder, beauty, love, creativity, genuine spiritual practice, compassion, awareness, and the real magic of love, consciousness, aliveness, and nature.

      i have no sense that there is anything supernatural but this does not make me a pessimist in the slightest! in fact it makes me optimistic that reality and the natural world are enough to live a fulfilling spiritual life – and seeing as there is nothing else, isn't that is a good thing!?

      one can have both reason and wonder, both the empathic and deep feeling heart and the rational adult truth, your message is given the lie by your insulting, demeaning and violent tone.

      give me reasonable, grounded spirituality any day over your brand of supernatural confusion and unintegrated emotional vomit.

  24. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    it is entirely unnecessary (and in fact i would argue a red herring) to believe in anything supernatural – including magical powers in order to have a meaningful spiritual life/practice.

    magical powers are a fantasy. period. show me real evidence to the contrary and you win the nobel prize and change the course of human knowledge for all time…. until then it is as hearsay as fairies, aliens, ghosts, goblins and unicorns.. :)

    in a forthcoming article i will roundly critique the gullible and pious teaching of the yoga sutras as gospel truth in our community.

    i am as convinced of patanjali's claims as i am of those involving jesus being born of a virgin and rising from the dead – which is to say not at all!

    i am an equal opportunity debunker.

    for me the distinction here is between old world, pre-rational, pre-scientific, superstitious supernaturalism that requires a fragmentation of our current knowledge in order to have "faith" – as opposed to integrated contemporary, grounded and honest spirituality that is not at odds with psychology and science… it is a simple distinction but for most in our community a very difficult and unappetizing one.

    it is however correct.

    • Anneke_Lucas says:

      How do you know? Modern science breaks down the physical realm, and what is left? Einstein reduced time and space to mere dimensions, leaving nothing standing but the velocity of light. You don't know what you are and barely know what you are made of. What is reality? Do you claim to know? Is the physical world substantial? Are things what they appear to be? It's interesting that you are defensive about being correct here, and not open.

      • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

        anneke dont confuse to issues! :)

        let's keep this really neat and clean: just because we don't know everything about the universe doesn't make it anything goes to fill in those gaps!

        does that make sense?

        all of your questions are valid – none of them make supernaturalism more likely. most people in our worldview think they do. but if you really think it through they don't!

        do you get the distinction?

        • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

          philosophicaly (if you are interested and curious) there are two things you might look up that really helped me to clarify this question:

          1) the fallacious argument referred to as "the god of the gaps" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

          and

          2) the understanding of "burden of proof" summed up by carl sagan's famous statement "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic_burden_o

          just because we don't know for example all the details yet about how the brain produces consciousness does not make it any more likely that it is produced by an invisible siamese twin deity that lives in an invisible realm between raindrops.

          i am being humorous but i hope the example shines through…..if i claim that consciousness is caused by a siamese twin deity who lives in an invisible relam between raindrops then in order for you to believe me i must provide evidence of this extraordinary claim.

          until then you are well within your philosophical integrity to say this is not a true claim.

          if my next move is to say –

          well how do you know?!

          and i start quoting how quantum physics & string theory show that we don't really know anything and going on a rant about how science is reductionist – i still have not gotten any further toward proving my claim BECAUSE the two issues have in actual fact nothing to do with eachother….

          the burden of proof is on me – and i cannot just fill in the GAP i am proposing in scientific knowledge with whatever belief/theory i want without backing it up…

  25. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    the simple but revolutionary shift is this:

    recognize all unrealistic supernatural claims as being either a) metaphorical/symbolic a la joseph campbell or simply b) the product of manipulated delusional fantasy or c) born of our fear of death or d) perhaps more powerfully, various brain pathologies – among them temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar mania or schizophrenia.

    these explanations are far better evidenced than the ever elusive claim that anything supernatural is real.

    on the other side of this shift we are free to enact a reality-based spirituality that has cut ties with pre-rational superstition and craziness.

    surely this is a positive step?

    with regard to spiritual experience – i suggest that we should be most careful not to confuse interior experience (which has a metaphorical, symbolic, emotive quality) with evidence for external claims of literal supernaturalism.

    i think once we are clear on this distinction the whole puzzle solves itself.

    interior experience is valid as long as it doesn't claim external literal truth.

    the inner life is valuable in it's own right without blatantly demanding that we deny physics, biology, cosmology and common sense!

  26. Anneke_Lucas says:

    Surely, supernatural phenomena have their physical correlary, but who is to say which informs which? Again, what do you think yoga is, or meant to be? And why do you practice it?

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      yoga is an awareness practice that activates process we can now understand via neuroplasticity and various somatic psychology processes… there is nothing supernatural. :)

      • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

        i have as little allegiance to hundu metaphysics as to christian notions of heaven and hell – again this is to say none whatsoever, including the caste system based reincarnation model or the dualistic philosophy of patanjali.

        i have never practiced yoga in the hope it would grant me good karma or communion with some literal hindu deity!

        for me it is a mind/body practice that is about strength, flexibility, embodied awareness, emotional healing and neuroplastic self-transformation.

        it is not necessary to believe improbable nonsense in order to engage in an awareness practice – in fact i would argue that there are stages of the practice itself – in the interest of viveka – that demand asking tough questions and moving beyond superstition!

        separating out the old world superstition from the actual, verifiable benefits of the practice seems essential, no?

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      ALSO: show me a single example of supernatural claims having ANY physical correlary and again – you WIN the nobel prize. don't underestimate what a massive statement this is!

      think it through carefully ad you will find you have no answer to this… :)

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      the thing is – it is PRECISELY because no one has ever had magical powers that we can run a sword right through the heart of the entire sai baba fiasco and move forward in a way that prevents future charlatans from enacting the same scandalous ruse – it is central to the realization i am proposing! :)

      take the leap – if only for a moment anneke and see how it feels to be liberated a) of superstition and b) of thinking that reality in and of itself is not magical enough without unrealistic claims and impossible assertions…

  27. Roger says:

    Julien thats like me saying i know someone 'personally' who has been molested by aliens and that Obama is has four legs but till theres no evidence its pure fantasy.Every critic ive come across of baba always claims they know someone "personally " abused by Sai baba but upto now not even one has proven the fact apart from rumour mongering. U think all those millions of Sai Baba followers have been duped by some magic tricks .U can fool people for a few months but not for decades.All social work hes done has benifited many millions of Indias poor and you want to malaign that man as fraudster.Go to India and tell all those who have had free medical treatment,education and access to clean water that Sai Baba is a con artist.All all arguments are not objective but seem of a person who has a lot of hate and frustration within themselves but want to reflect it against Sai Baba .U have given links to people like Robert Priddy how has been exposed many times as a liar and a nutcase who thinks that Hindus backward.Hes comments and his views can be checked at the site..U want to associate with nutters and liars then go ahead but dont blame people later when your own reputation is finished which its going to be because already ive seen your name been mentioned as Sai Baba hater on many forums recently …

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      roger – have you seen the videos online that debunk the magic tricks? the tricks are laughable – people are fooled because they want to be and have no access to better models of spiritual awareness.

      • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

        first of all let's make the distinction between aliens and abuse by a human being – ok? second of all the accounts of sai baba's pedophiliac history are not only plausible but numerous and have been confirmed by insiders very high up in the organization.

        however – of course you are correct this does not amount to legal or scientific evidence….. my article though is about the problem of ungrounded spirituality based in claims of magical powers and divine identity – even without conclusive proof of his perversions, these points stand.

  28. luke says:

    lol, “one can have both reason and wonder, both the empathic and deep feeling heart and the rational adult truth, your message is given the lie by your insulting, demeaning and violent tone. give me reasonable, grounded spirituality any day over your brand of supernatural confusion and unintegrated emotional vomit.” -yogijulian, demonstrating the calm, clear, real nature of an adult: intolerant, arrogant, hypocrite.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      what would be interesting is if you made a case based on the quote for the conclusion you offer afterwards – the two do not appear to be connected…. let me know when you have written an article explaining your position and i will be sure to read it…. so far your argument is incoherent and reactive.

  29. Swami O says:

    So Julian what you did not cover in your judgement is a man who did not come from royalty, who had tremendous personal power. creates hospitals, universities, orphanges, feed the poor, had many wounded westerners who came for inspiration and love. You see Julian you are just a yoga worm who had no personal power. just another new age dweeb who casts your judgement. Grow up boy/man!!!!

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  32. [...] 10 Things we can Learn from the Bizarre Case of Sai Baba (A Manifesto On Reality-Based Spiritual Emp… [...]

  33. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    you are a bit confused if you would justify lying about convincing others you are god on earth by doing magic tricks and then molesting their sons by saying "he inspired people!"

    think this through…

    if you do you might wonder if maybe it is not worse to use inspiring messages AND lies to get people in all sincerity to trust you when you are really a cynical hustler and a pedophile.

    think about it.

  34. Julian, I am grateful for your clarity and insight on the spiritual journey. I've especially enjoyed your article on the 10 obstacles to sane spirituality.
    Being Indian living in India, and finding a happy balance between the Guru culture and the individual quest has been an interesting journey and promises to continue in that vein. I would have it no other way for myself :) – there is beauty in both and I am fortunate to be able to see it and partake of the gifts of both.
    I will always be grateful for the many gifts (none of them material) that Sai Baba has blessed me with – the most important, for me has been the strength to deal with and accept death – I am 31, but have seen plenty of death at close quarters in my adolescence.

    The grace of the Guru, as I have seen it manifest has got nothing to do with magic, materialisation or money. It is a transformation of the inner being… I have had to face my shadow – there is no running away from it – the Guru does not molly coddle you into complacency… but the Guru does not walk the journey for you either – you have to do it yourself. My experience with Sai Baba has been anything but what you describe here, and I thought I would share that.

    Peace and love.

  35. steven gouws says:

    dear author, i appreciate your strong feelings of needing to protect and make the vulnerable newbie spiritual seekers aware of the pitfalls on the path, as there are many. This is very much needed and personally i thank you for this. i do feel that however if you have never been in the presence of Sai Baba as any follower will attest too, and felt the waves of pure divine love flowing from the man like an overwhelming river of cleansing upliftment and deep divine love, as strong as any physical force, then your right to criticize is somewhat diminished of it's true nature by true experience ( filtered or not).JUDGEMENT in any form is not positive practice, esp when all you will do is invoke a neg response from millions of devotees, as an non added value to the collective consciousness, one needs to consider these things, if your true intent is for positive effect. if so diff wording and communication is needed. To all who have posted here, attacking anothers blindspot or weakness, is attacking, how would unconditional love have treated the others failing( from your point of view, and remember it is your point of view – as is this mine), with healing and love and a feeling for their growth through your best effort to positively contribute to a way of helping to enlighten them, even if they don't agree or accept this. Think of a wound on your body – do you shout at it for giving you pain, or do you treat it as best you can for it to heal. WE ARE ALL ONE , HOW SHALL WE TREAT OUR WOUNDS, WITH ANGER OR WITH LOVE……….. I wish you all love on your path to the moment of your reconnection to the divine source of all pervading love ..

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  39. Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:

    Hi Julian,

    Enjoyed reading. Sometimes orthe other a change of taste tells you the taste of your pudding, "How good a cook you are. You certainly are but must get to your neighbour to try his also to discover the difference. When you are a Yoga teacher, I hope you save yourself the trouble of loosing track.

    However, I don't know your dimension, but if you are calling Yoga to Asanas only, then it might help yourself a refresher course. Yoga is far beyond the Asanas. Keep it but do help your own "Self" before it gets rid of our own "Self" without realising it.

  40. [...] Sai Baba’s $9B estate and career long preoccupation with molesting young boys in between doing dime store [...]

  41. [...] Along these lines, some gurus claim to be “avatars” or manifestations of deities come down to earth from the celestial realms. The idea of an avatar has also been popularized as meaning a “world teacher” sent to enlighten us or as “god on earth” as in the case of someone like Sai Baba. [...]

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  43. [...] The death last year of perhaps the world’s most famous guru, Sai Baba. He called himself a god-man, proved it by doing cheap magic tricks that were exposed by running [...]

  44. Ronnie Chanderjith says:

    Hi Julian Walker

    Thank you for your opinion. But it begs the question what have u done for humanity.

    Have u built free hospitals 4 the sick?
    Have u built free schools 4 the poor?
    Have u fed the poor throught the world?
    Have u provided millions with clean drinking water?
    Have u spread your love and given people hope and comfort throughout the world?
    I could go on. If the answer to any of these questions is NO then in your quiet moments reflect on your actions to bring harm to an individual who has given so much to humanity. I prey that Swami removes the darkness within u and fill u light.
    Ronnie Chanderjith

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