Saturday, April 25, 2015

My response to Ms. Terry Reis Kennedy's Facebook post on Muddenahalli subtle body communicator

Last updated on 3rd August 2015

Here is Ms. Terry Reis Kennedy's Facebook post, dated today (25th April 2015), which raises some questions about the Muddenahalli communicator who claims to communicate with subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Given below is the text of a comment I made on the above Facebook page:

I felt it necessary to weigh in on this sensitive matter as I am concerned about the degree of confusion among Sai devotees on this, including some friends and acquaintances of mine.

My view is that Bhagavan would first and foremost be concerned about His devotees, whether they believe in the Muddenahalli light body/subtle body communicator (referred to as M from now on) or not. In the quest for knowing the truth about M's claims one should bear in mind that devotees' sensitive feelings do not get hurt much as that, I think, would hurt Swami too.

Narasimha Murthy sir, from what I have read and viewed about his dream-instructions from Swami, comes across to me as an honest person in this dream-instructions regard. He got the dream-instructions from Swami and he is sharing it. Whether third-parties should believe in it or not is upto the third-parties. [I choose not to believe in it based on (physical form) Swami's instructions on such dream instructions given by others (as against dream instructions received directly by oneself from Swami).] BTW even when Swami was in physical form, in Puttaparthi itself there have been cases of people talking about Swami dream instructions for others, which were typically politely ignored by experienced Puttaparthi people.

However, M's claims are truly extraordinary! In mainstream science they say, "extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence" (quote attributed to famous American astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan). But then spirituality deals typically with subjective faith and so is not acceptable to mainstream science ...

I would not be surprised if M truly believes that he is communicating with subtle body of Bhagavan. But is that the truth or is that M's delusion? That's the vital question. The question becomes vital as this claim is impacting many Sai devotees around the world. If it was a local kind-of thing then one need not have bothered about it much.

What if M's belief that he is communicating with Bhagavan is false, even if M's intentions are noble? Will that lead to many Sai devotees getting misled? I think, at the spiritual level, there certainly is a danger of Sai devotees getting misled if M's belief turns out to be false. At the level of creating educational institutions and medicare institutions using donations from noble Sai devotees, perhaps there may not be any great issues, if the financial management part is decent. But at the spiritual core of these institutions, which may be the vital factor for ensuring vibrancy and longevity of these institutions, I think it is very important whether M's belief that he is communicating with Bhagavan is true or false.

Sathyannaasti Paro Dharmaha! There is no Dharma (ethical living/righteous living) higher than Sathyam (truth), is the teaching from the Vedas and from Bhagavan as well! If the close companions of M, who are all Sai devotees, truly believe that M is communicating with Bhagavan, fine. But if they do not, and are supporting/endorsing M as communicator with Bhagavan, only because the "business model" is working great, then I think they have swerved from Dharma, and Bhagavan would be unhappy with that.

That then is my humble take on the matter. And, of course, there may be some flaws in my analysis above.

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[3rd August 2015, Ravi: I have deleted some of the comments from the comment exchange below as I felt those comment-authors may have concerns about it being shared on this blog post. Readers can visit the concerned Facebook post directly to view all the comments.]

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I responded as follows (slightly edited to fix typos/grammar errors):
Noted your response, Ur Nandakumar. Thanks. I agree that it will be wonderful if brother M shares his view on what I wrote. BTW while I have not interacted with brother M in the past, I know his younger brother very well as I have taught him software lab. courses in the Prashanti Nilayam (Puttaparthi) campus of SSSIHL, and later he was a teacher colleague in the department. So I view brother M as the elder brother of my former student and former teacher-colleague. I am quite sure that brother M, like his younger brother, has noble intentions, and is doing this communicator activity in a committed spirit of service to our beloved Lord, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

However, could brother M have been over-enthusiastic? (Is) a deep longing for feeling Bhagavan's presence making him imagine some things? Or no, really it is Bhagavan's subtle body that is communicating with him and is visible to him (and him only, I presume, as I get the impression that others at Muddenahalli including Narasimhamurthy sir cannot see the subtle body)? And if the latter is really true, then it is a great boon to Sathya Sai devotees (at least those that believe in the M subtle body matter).

Besides the above being very vital questions in the quest for truth about the claims of brother M, the division this is bringing in the Sathya Sai fraternity worldwide is very troublesome and quite scary. The history of religions teaches us that such divisions, e.g. Sunni and Shia, Catholic and Protestant, Saivite and Vaishnavite, can be very damaging for the missions associated with these religions. I pray earnestly to Bhagavan to resolve this division among the Sathya Sai fraternity. I must also say that I have rather limited hopes about it being resolved given that almost with every passing day, the two groups are drifting further and further apart. Maybe the best we can hope for is a peaceful and harmonious co-existence between the two groups.

I would also like to add that whatever happens, I pray that Bhagavan showers His grace on our Sai brothers and sisters associated with the Muddenahalli group worldwide. The institutions they have founded serve humanity in spheres of sustaining and spreading devotion to God, educational service and medical service, and it is this service that, in my considered opinion based on what I have directly experienced in the close to a decade of service in Puttaparthi in the physical presence of Swami, would melt the heart of our beloved Lord Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Seva, Seva, Seva - that is what Bhagavan has exhorted us to do so many times in His discourses in Sai Kulwant Hall. For Bhagavan, my view is that, Seva with Prema is the vital thing - the organizational part, ego issues within the organizations, money issues, power/control issues etc. are secondary. 'Padi Mandiki sahayamu cheeyi' Help some (ten) people (in whatever way one can, organization or no organization) - that's the bottom line message for me, from our beloved Lord Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

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I wrote back:

Thanks brother Ur Nandakumar. Nice to know that you too were with SSSIHL.

To prevent any possible confusion, I would like to clarify that I am not an academic. I am a retired-from-commercial-work international software consultant, i.e. software industry guy, who served (free service) in DMACS, SSSIHL, Prashanti Nilayam campus from Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2012 with official designations of Honorary Staff, Honorary Faculty and Visiting Faculty. The primary part of my service activity in DMACS, SSSIHL was teaching software lab. courses and being a technical consultant for student project work. So technically speaking, I was a faculty in SSSIHL but not a proper academic with a regular academic designation. I think teacher is the safe and appropriate term for my stint in SSSIHL.

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I wrote back:

I agree brother Ur Nandakumar. Swami was very, very particular about who was allowed to be associated with SSSIHL. I am deeply grateful to Swami for giving me the opportunity to associate with the many noble souls in SSSIHL in my service activity as a teacher there, and thereby progress spiritually.

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I wrote back:

Dear brother Sai Keshav, Thanks for the kind words. But let me clarify my stand. Yes, I do have an open mind in the sense that I do not rule out the possiblity, based on whatever reliable info. I have received so far, that brother M may be really interacting with subtle body of Bhagavan. However, to me the probability of something like that being true is very low, as it has been unheard of in the history of Hindu scripture as well as scripture of other religions, as far as I know. In the case of Rama, Krishna as well as Shirdi Sai Baba we do not know of any such communicator to subtle body of theirs in mainstream scripture/literature associated with them. But, yes, there can always be something new and unheard of - one cannot discount the possibility.

Now I tend to think it may be brother M's imagination based on his deep devotion to Swami, and brother M may be motivated by the noble purpose of furthering Swami's mission.

If others believe in M's communicator role and are happy, who am I to judge?

However, I also have a duty towards the Sai fraternity from which I gained a lot. And that duty prompts me to raise the concerns I have about the possibility of devotees getting (unintentionally) misled by brother M. I have directly experienced Bhagavan's spiritual master role as He demonstrated very early on in my SSSIHL teacher role, that he could read my mind, and later that he knew everything that I did. Further, as a spiritual master, he would clearly indicate (via facial and other gestures) his approval or disapproval. That played a very vital role in my spiritual progress, and I am very, very deeply grateful to Bhagawan for that. Now I should also say that I still have some flaws and am not perfect. But I do try very hard to follow the spirit of Swami's teachings, even if my interpretation of some of his teachings may be a little modern.

Whether brother M intends it or not, many people coming to him will start viewing him as Bhagavan/Swami. Over time they will ask advise from him for all sorts of things, material and spiritual. If it is M's imagination that he is interacting with Swami, then M's advise in such matters may actually be M's though M may think it is coming from Swami. And, in this case, Sai devotees taking advise from M may get misled. That is the big, big issue in my view.

If brother M were to give advise in his name then there would be no confusion. But the advise and instructions are, I am informed, being given in Bhagavan's name!

I must also mention that it is really strange that only M can see this subtle body of Bhagavan. Given what I have experienced of Bhagavan in Puttaparthi during my years of service stint in SSSIHL, this does not jell with what I saw of and heard about physical form Bhagavan. Yes, private matters would be dealt with privately. But public matters would be shared openly with the public and Bhagavan would, in a way, give Himself to the public. My view is that surely such subtle body of Bhagavan, if present in Muddenahalli, would be visible to the veteran and deeply trusted servitor of Bhagavan in Muddenahalli, i.e. Narasimhamurthy sir, and not brother M alone.

So, given all this background, I feel it is my duty to raise my concerns about brother M's communicator role, with the Sai fraternity publicly (mainly via my spiritual blog, but now with these Facebook comments too). After that, if some Sai devotees would still like to see for themselves what brother M and others are doing, my view is that it is their life and so it is their choice. Further, if they are happy with brother M and company, maybe that's the spiritual path for them. Who am I to judge?

And then, as I mentioned earlier, there is the difficult part of the distinct possibility of the fraternity worldwide getting divided on this. That really bothers me given the history of how religious communities have split due to such differences (we are not exactly a religious community but similar). The Sunni and Shia split in Islam was about succession - the Shias believed that Ali, cousin & son-in-law of the prophet, and his descendants were divinely ordained as the leaders (caliph) whereas the Sunnis believed that the community should elect the leader (caliph). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia%E2%80%93Sunni_relations#Successors_of_Muhammad.

Hope the above gives some clarity about my current views on this matter. Of course, you and others may have some differences with me. That's fine, we can always politely agree to disagree. Jai Sairam!

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I wrote back:

Thanks for yr comments, Ur Nandakumar, Sai Keshav, Gautham Narendran. [snipped this part of the message as it deals with a minor aside not related to this discussion.]

Regarding the personal issues related to spiritual leaders being aired, I think it is an inescapable part of the life of spiritual leaders as well as political leaders. The issue is that the impact of both spiritual and political leaders is that some people get drawn to them, and this puts off some friends of theirs who are convinced that they are getting misled. The USA political process for top government posts is horrifying! I think only very committed individuals would be willing to go through the torturous media glare and opposition verbal attacks. But it does have the benefit that a person gets thoroughly vetted before taking up top government posts which have incredible power associated with them and which affects millions of people. Perhaps there may be some similar benefit in the vetting by the public & media of spiritual leaders too. That may reduce the possibility of people getting easily misled by spiritual leaders who do not have a strong record of honesty. I mean, if one wants to become a spiritual leader today, one must be willing to face this kind of glare and opposition - it is part of the deal .

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I wrote back:
Gautham Narendran "Your life would now become my message" and "I should be known because of my devotees" are very important directives of Swami to the Sai fraternity, especially after His Mahasamadhi. Even if we slip here and there at times (I do), we should strive in whatever way we can to lead our lives in conformance with Swami's teachings, at least in spirit. That said, we also should lead relatively free lives within the Lakshman Rekha of Dharma, and not be subjected to control by Sai fraternity elders for every small thing we do or don't, by quoting Swami on this or that. I personally prefer to try hard to follow the spirit of Swami's teachings and not bother about the other trappings like white-and-white dress, vibhuti on the forehead etc. Sometimes people focus more on appearances like the dress code without paying much attention to the actions code which is the vital code.

Regarding the "One fine day you all should turn into Sai Babas", I was not aware that (physical form) Swami said this. I tried to look it up in Google to get the discourse or other literature where Swami is recorded as having said this, but did not get it. If you have the reference could you please provide it to me so that I can look up the context in which this is said?

It will be great if people can truly become like Sathya Sai Baba. But that can be a very, very, very difficult, if not impossible proposition, in my considered opinion. On a personal note, an immature understanding of Upanishad Mahavakyas like Tat Twam Asi (You are God, or to be more precise using the context of the Mahavakya verse in Chandogya Upanishad, your essence is God) which was reinforced by Swami's discourses on the same lines, led me to do some foolish things in 2010, which I have captured in this blog post, "I am just a beggar at your door, Swami (Sathya Sai Baba)", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/04/i-am-just-beggar-at-your-door-swami.html. Now that's my view of the matter based on my experience and my limited spiritual evolution. Others may have a different view, as they could be highly spiritually evolved, may have intense faith in God/Swami etc. - they are fully entitled to their view.

But one can surely be inspired by Swami and try to emulate Him in some activities in part, especially in His awesome service activities in the educational and medicare sectors. Even at a spiritual level, perhaps some Sai devotees may acquire some powers that Swami had like materialization and healing, besides mind-reading.

As an aside, the apostles of Jesus Christ also performed miracles (inspired by Jesus Christ, I presume). From https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1197-miracles-in-the-book-of-acts, (Book of Acts) "Many miracles were performed by the apostles (2:43). Peter healed the lame man at the Temple (3:7-11). God answered Peter in a miraculous earthquake (4:31). Ananias and Sapphira were slain by the Lord (5:5-10). Signs and wonders continued to be done by the apostles (5:12). Peter healed many from various cities (5:12-16). The prison doors were opened by an angel (5:19). Stephen wrought great wonders and signs (6:8). In Samaria, Philip did great miracles and signs (8:6,7,13).

The Lord appeared to Saul, but Saul is unsaved until he responds to the preaching of the gospel by Ananias (9:3-9). Ananias healed Saul’s blindness (9:17-18). Peter healed Aeneas (9:32-35). In Joppa, Peter raised Dorcus from the dead (9:39-42)."

So perhaps some inspired Sai devotees may acquire powers like the apostles acquired. But the apostles were not considered to have become Jesus Christ. They did their miracles based on their faith in God & Jesus Christ. Similarly I think some inspired devotees who acquire miraculous powers cannot be considered to have become Sathya Sai Baba. They may perform miracles based on their faith in Sathya Sai Baba.

Being enthusiastic, even a little overenthusiastic, in Swami's mission, in my considered opinion, is wonderful. It is only such enthusiastic people who can act as leaders of Swami's mission to spread Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in the world. Further, I think the Sai mission (whatever be the organization including no organization) is very much in need of such enthusiastic and committed leaders in the spiritual as well as service fronts.

But if somebody does interpret Swami's statement (if He did say that), "One fine day you all should turn into Sai Babas", to mean that some Sai devotees should imagine themselves to be Sathya Sai Baba (or to imagine and force oneself to believe that they are seeing and communicating with his subtle body), I don't think that is the correct interpretation. Spiritual powers are not easy to come by for ordinary human beings like you and me and most Sai devotees, IMHO. A lot of sadhana has to be done and/or one has to have intense faith in God (like the apostles of Jesus who are said to have performed miracles) to acquire even small spiritual siddhis let alone the awesome spiritual powers that Swami demonstrated to us while in His physical form.

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I wrote back:

Very well expressed brother Gautham Narendran.

Undoubtedly the Muddenahalli group has accomplished jaw-dropping advances in Bhagavan's mission via the free and (relatively) new hospital in Chattisgarh and the free and (relatively) new educational institutions. I personally am very happy to see such achievements and the service rendered to humanity and Bhagavan's mission.

Very interesting that others too claim to have seen Bhagavan's subtle body besides brother M. I was not aware of it. Thanks for your offer to share their contact details privately with me but I prefer to wait till they go public with their having viewed the subtle body of Bhagavan. I think the more public information we have on the claimed subtle body of Bhagavan in Muddenahalli matter, the more quickly the confusion about it will get resolved, one way or the other.

Had read earlier about the statement that only those whose minds are pure & calm, or something like that, can see subtle form of Swami. Thanks for confirming it.

Agree with Bhagavan's unpredictability part. Completely unpredictable, at least from our limited human perspective.

My view is that the achievements of the Muddenahalli group may be due to the deep devotion and missionary zeal of the group. I think it is a common experience of Sathya Sai samithi people (who do not have so much interaction with physical form including me earlier as prior to shifting to Puttaparthi in late 2002, I was actively associated with Sathya Sai samithi of Dombivli, Thane district, Maharashtra for nearly a decade), that even while Swami was in physical form, deep devotion and missionary zeal among some Sathya Sai samithi members resulted in tremendous service activities. And some members felt the presence of Swami, had dreams of Swami, saw intractable problems get solved mysteriously and so attributed it to Swami (all this was while Swami was in physical form but in Puttaparthi or Brindavan/Bangalore etc. away from the samithis referred to above).

Brother M's claims may have increased the zeal even further, and also attracted noble and service minded Sai devotees. I have seen the videos of brother M & (claimed) subtle Swami darshan and have been struck by the reverential and devotional atmosphere there.

That then is my view.

However, I respect your faith in brother M's claims, and I accept the possibility that I could be wrong and you could be right.

Interesting info. about the link to Swami's well known declaration of many centres in India which would be managed by alumni.

I am moved by the transparent genuineness in your detailed response, and wish you and your colleagues in the Muddenahalli group all the very best in your service and spiritual endeavours. Thanks again for spelling it out for me.

Yes, we still are on two different sides on this matter :-). But I think these exchanges have given me a better perspective of the Muddenahalli group. Even if we are on different sides on this matter as of now, we certainly can interact in a friendly and harmonious way, even helping each other wherever there is no disagreement.

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I wrote additionally:
So far I think my comments have been intellectually analyzing the claimed subtle Swami matter in an effort to arrive at the truth of the matter. I have tried my level best to be impartial in this quest for the truth and I think that allowed me to get some useful responses from believers of MDH subtle Swami.

But now I felt it appropriate to comment on the banning from mother organization reference in a comment, which I view as a political/organizational aspect of this matter. Well, let's understand clearly that the mother organization leaders and its supporters (including me - a supporter) do not accept the claimed MDH subtle Swami. Another set of people believes in MDH subtle Swami but some from this set would also like to associate with the mother organization. That is a serious problem, isn't it? I mean, how can the mother organization people trust persons who believe in MDH subtle Swami to be loyal to the mother organization? There is a clear case of conflict of interest. Naturally the mother organization will consider such people to be persons who are drawing people away from the mother organization and into the other organization. Naturally the mother organization will not want such persons to be holding any office bearer or responsible positions in it. They may permit them to come as visitors and stop it at that.

Whether one likes it or not, it has become a choice of this organization or that organization. I simply cannot see any possibility whatsoever of the mother organization leaders ever acknowledging the claimed MDH subtle Swami. It has not happened in these four years after Mahasamadhi and I don't think it will happen in forty years after Mahasamadhi. Please excuse my strong words but I felt it appropriate to let this community know my considered view of the ground reality on this sensitive and troublesome matter.

And if the MDH subtle Swami believers try to put themselves in the shoes of the mother organization they will understand the tough stand that they are taking in this matter. I agree with their tough stand as the mother organization is taking quite a hit due to some devotees and donors who were earlier associated with it now being drawn by the other organization. These are the plain and inescapable political/organizational facts of life in this matter and there is no escaping them, IMHO.

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I wrote back (while I was responding to the above, Sai Keshav put up additional comments on the same lines):

Dear Sai Keshav, this is really a heart-wrenching thing to discuss. But as I have taken the lead in commenting on the organizational/political aspect I guess I have to follow through with my views, even if it is not really a pleasant thing to discuss.

Before I give my view, I request your (and other MDH subtle Swami believers) kind indulgence. BTW these are my views as a supporter of the mother organization but who is not associated in any capacity with the mother organization over the past three years or so.

The mother organization leaders simply cannot be expected to visit another place/person who claims to have contact with subtle Swami. Perhaps if Swami appears in a vision or dream to all the leaders asking them to visit MDH, they may consider it. It has to be a direct heart-to-heart message from Swami to them. That is what all supporters of the mother organization, including me, will expect the leaders to do.

BTW there are many, many people who claim to be able to interact with Swami, after Mahasamadhi, all over the world, I am told.

And this is a common phenomenon that happens after the passing away of great spiritual masters. Here is a partial, I repeat, partial list of maybe forty to fifty people who have claimed or are considered by their followers to be Jesus or reincarnation of Jesus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_claimed_to_be_Jesus. One cannot expect that leaders of the Vatican (Roman Catholic Church HQ) would have gone and met all these people to verify the claim! That's just not done, brother.

Now you and others who believe in claimed MDH subtle Swami are convinced of its truth, and are deeply inspired by it. In particular your statement, "We should not forget the fact that MDH is guided by the same lord" is something that the mother organization people, and me, do not accept! I respect your and others' (like brother Gautham's) faith but I do not subscribe to the same faith. We have to learn to harmoniously live with each other given these disturbing but inescapable realities, at least as of now.

Perhaps this is like some Shirdi Sai devotees not believing in Sathya Sai - sometime in the 90s in Bombay/Mumbai, if I recall correctly, I was introduced to a relative of Kakasaheb Dixit (famous devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba) who told me bluntly and quite aggressively that she does not believe in Sathya Sai Baba (but was an ardent believer in Shirdi Sai Baba). I was taken aback a little then but I kept quiet and our discussion turned to other more peaceful topics .

I am pained to know that well known MDH subtle Swami believers and supporters are not allowed to participate in mother organization service activities and Parthi music albums. And, of course, the MDH organization would have gone through huge difficulties in the past close to four years or so of its existence. That is inescapable for a set that breaks away in its beliefs, from the main organization. These are the horrible pains of division in a spiritual fraternity. And that is why I am so troubled by the confusion and would like it to get resolved, one way or the other. Otherwise this pain will go on. I mean, the mother organization will get more and more strict on these matters as the MDH subtle Swami believers visit more and more countries, and draw some of the mother organization members to its fold. I believe USA is one of the countries to be visited in the near future by claimed subtle Swami. That, in all probability, will be one big tremor resulting in real hardening of position by the mother organization. I simply can't see any other possibility.

I earnestly pray to Bhagavan to do something to bring back unity in the Sathya Sai fraternity, and prevent this pain of division and ostracization.

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Terry Reis Kennedy wrote:

I am reading these comments with attention and interest. All of you know my position. Please, remember that we are a Sai Family and not only a Sai Fraternity. And I thank you brother Ravi S. Iyer for calming down the roaring flames of emotion and bringing the discussion to the level of a discussion rather than what it was at first...a lashing out at me. [snipped remaining part as it is related to some other aspects of the discussion.]

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I wrote (slightly edited to fix typo):

Thank you sister Terry Reis Kennedy for your kind words. Brother Sai Keshav, I had read (claimed) subtle Swami's Tokyo Q&A earlier but I re-read it in your comment. I prefer not to comment on the Q&A as I don't think my comments will help in our current discussion, and may get us into an argumentative mode.

Also I request the kind indulgence of readers to tolerate my longish comments . I have got direct knowledge/exposure in 2011-12 itself, sometime after July 2011, of the confusion & trauma (yes, trauma is the word) caused among some people in Parthi by the impact of Swami dream instructions of an MDH leader. That led me to part ways in March 2012 with the institution that I was serving then in Parthi. Now I see it as my duty to Swami to do my bit in reducing confusion and trauma caused to some parts of the Sai fraternity by the claimed subtle Swami activities. So my comments can be longish.

One thing that is slowly dawning on me from these exchanges is that the MDH subtle Swami believers seem to think that eventually Puttaparthi leaders & supporters will also start believing in claimed MDH subtle Swami! If that is the case, I think they are surely entitled to their view & belief.

However, I would like to share my Puttaparthi based view of the Puttaparthi ashram political/organizational ground realities on this matter. This is just my view which could have mistakes, so do take it with a few pinches of salt . From what I have gathered from reliable sources, Puttaparthi ashram leaders have no belief whatsoever in the claimed MDH subtle Swami. In fact, some of these leaders have very strongly critical words about the matter. Therefore, I think the probability of Puttaparthi ashram leaders ever accepting MDH subtle Swami is virtually ZERO. I mean, it will take a mega-mega miracle for all the Puttaparthi ashram leaders to do a sudden turn-around and start believing in MDH subtle Swami.

So, while some MDH subtle Swami believers may not want to view MDH subtle Swami foreign tour activities as divisive to Sai fraternity activities, from the Puttaparthi ashram system leaders' and supporters' viewpoint it is certainly viewed as divisive. Devotees and donors are the lifeblood of a spiritual-cum-charitable organization. As MDH subtle Swami makes more and more foreign trips and draws more and more Sai devotees and donors to them, I think the mother organization leaders' will have no choice but to take stricter and stricter measures to prevent or reduce this loss of devotees and donors. I am really worried about the fallout of the planned USA trip of claimed MDH subtle Swami, in this regard. Note that after India, I think that USA was and continues to be the most influential country for the Sathya Sai movement.

In this scenario, what do we Sai devotees, both believers in MDH subtle Swami and non-believers in MDH subtle Swami, do? From the mother organization side perspective, I think that leaders and office-bearers may introduce tough measures, which will have to be followed. But mother organization devotees can ensure that there is a heart-to-heart compassionate relationship with sympathizers/supporters of MDH subtle Swami.

I clearly recall sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall listening to Bhagavan, in a discourse (sometime after 2003), stressing on Sahanamu (tolerance) as a great treasure of Bharatiyas (Indians). I had not appreciated it well then but still paid importance to it as I felt that my lack of appreciation came out of my spiritual immaturity. Today I have a far better appreciation of Swami's teaching about the tolerance of Bharatiyas being a great treasure, from a spiritual as well as general happiness point of view. I browsed the net to get the actual quotation and came across this Telugu line which Bhagavan is said to have sung many times: "Parama Paavanamainatti Bharataavaniyandu Sahanamu Annadhe Manaku Chakkadhanamu". My Telugu is not great but here is my possibly flawed translation of it - Tolerance is the great treasure of the pure/holy Bharatiyas (land of Bharatiyas).

I think the confusion that claims of MDH subtle Swami is creating not only in some parts of Indian Sai fraternity but in the fraternity in some other countries of the world too, is a great test for all Sai devotees. I think we should all try to imbibe deeply the teaching of Sahanamu/tolerance that Bhagavan has taught us, and somehow manage to focus on our journey with Sai despite this confusion, without getting caught up too much in an emotionally damaging war of words or war of banning type of actions.

Jai Sairam!

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I wrote back:
Very interesting Sai Keshav, and I am not surprised. When I first heard of brother M in May 2014 I too was greatly interested to know what it was all about. So most of the 90% Parthi teachers you mentioned would have come between May 2014 and Swami birthday 2014, out of a spirit of seeing for themselves what it was all about. I do not how many of the 90% you mentioned still believe in subtle MDH Swami. From my personal inquiries with some Parthi teachers as well as student-staff and other staff, my view is that initially a lot were keenly interested and had a view that it may be true. Later I think many changed their view.

However, some may still be having that belief but are not openly saying it, as they are paid staff and have to follow the instructions of the Parthi organization.

And, yes, I agree with the only time can (will) tell, part of your comment. Meanwhile, some people like me can wait and watch :-).

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I wrote:
Gautham Narendran Sai Keshav [Snipped part of comment related to some comments getting deleted.] Anyway, wish you guys well. Take care and may Bhagavan bless us all and lead us to living harmoniously with each other, irrespective of some aspects of our beliefs. I am sure Bhagavan will eventually judge us by and be happy/unhappy with us based on our actions and their inner motivations irrespective of whether we believe in MDH subtle Swami or not.

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I wrote back:
Sairam brother Gautham Narendran "All HE cares is a heart full of love and how we translate that heart full of love into selfless service" - I entirely agree and I have personally seen on so many occasions how He would melt and be so overjoyed when somebody did that. I will never ever forget that aspect of our dear Lord.

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I wrote back:
Gautham Narendran Well .... I think most Sai devotees who have some familiarity with physical Swami's discourses could say that. Anyway, I don't want to get into arguments about this aspect as I think that will not lead us to harmony & unity. You folks can follow physical Swami discourses & MDH subtle Swami discourses. We folks are happy with going by only physical Swami discourses :-).

And the big problem is not so much knowing about what physical Swami said; the core of those teachings must be known to millions of people across the globe today, I think. The big problem is translating that into action.

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I wrote back (slightly edited):
Sai Keshav. Hope you don't mind a frank comment from me on what you wrote. It is not a simple matter of anything good anybody says being followed. Spiritual masters speak from deep knowledge of ultimate existential reality. At a worldly level one may not be able to judge whether what the master is saying is good or bad. Physical Swami's discourses are extremely valuable because of generations of knowledgeable people in spiritual matters like say, interpretations of Upanishads & Bhagavad Gita, having acknowledged Swami to be a master in interpretation of these scriptures. So even if we don't understand easily whether some, usually mystical, words of physical Swami are good or not from our limited spiritual knowledge & wisdom, we value those words as trust Swami's higher spiritual knowledge.

There is also a danger of a sentence like "It would be best not to differentiate following between swami in physical or subtle body discourses" getting into the territory of bigotry, when mentioned in this neutral platform. From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bigotry "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own". You and other believers in MDH subtle Swami do not differentiate between physical Swami discourses and (claimed) MDH subtle Swami discourses. Fine. But people like me who do not believe in MDH subtle Swami will certainly differentiate between physical Swami discourses and (claimed) MDH subtle Swami discourses. I don't think you should use this Facebook page of Ms. Kennedy (a disbeliever in MDH subtle Swami) to declare your view as a certified truth (fact) and try to impose it on disbelievers of MDH subtle Swami. That sort of attitude borders on fanaticism.

Hope you don't mind the words I have used above. They are common in debates on religions today, as can be seen on youtube. I have seen many such debates (mainly hosted in Western countries) and feel that the above words quite accurately express my views. It is not meant to hurt you in any way.

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Pardha Saradhi Uppala wrote (slightly edited to fix a typo type error):
While Swami was in physical form, the most important topics for anyone were Swami's whereabouts, His Leelas, talks, interactions, teachings, and most of all one’s own Sadhana. Everyone bothered strictly about whether one is able to please Swami or not, rather than wondering if someone else believes in Swami or not. When Swami was in physical Form itself, the focus was never on the Form/Name of God. Why now? Swami Himself embraced people who did not believe in Him. Whether someone believes in a subtle form or not, can’t we focus on the teachings alone? How does it matter whether someone believes or does not believe in subtle form of Swami in MDH, if one is not striving every moment to implement His teachings?

I do not accept the “exclusivity” of “Formless God” of my Muslim friend and my Muslim friend does not accept my belief in the physical Form of God. But with very few, did I have such enlightening, inspiring Satsangs that I had with this Muslim friend, since we both are enchanted by love of God, though our beliefs about His manifestation varied.

Vaadhamu valana vairamu perugunu. Vaadhana Saadhanaku paniki raadhu (Arguments lead to animosity. Arguments are no way conducive for a spiritual Sadhaka) - Words uttered by the physical Form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

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I wrote (slightly edited to fix few typos and inaccuracies):
Pardha Saradhi Uppala: I tend to broadly agree with your comment. Some disagreement though. You wrote, "When Swami was in physical Form itself, the focus was never on the Form/Name of God." I don't think that holds for many Sai devotees, especially those people serving in Swami's institutions which were directly monitored by Swami as the topmost administrator. Swami was even referred to, in a lighter vein, as CEO of Puttaparthi ashram institutions.

After the divine shock of the Mahasamadhi subsided over time I have, many times, looked back on my years of being in the presence of physical form Swami usually in Sai Kulwant hall, and quite carefully observing the goings-on there, as a teacher in the Puttaparthi campus of the Sai university. I then realized that a good description of Swami in physical form, from a Puttaprathi ashram systems point of view, was as Maharaja/King of Puttaparthi ashram systems (including those institutions that were away from Puttaparthi but were operating under Parthi trust). The Maharaja's darbar (king's court) would meet everyday in Sai Kulwant Hall. And at the darbar, any person serving in the institutions, no matter how big or small, could try to offer a letter to Swami or try to speak to Swami, sometimes related to work problems (i.e. escalating the matter to the CEO :-)) or personal problems. Swami would many times accept the letter graciously and/or speak to the person about the matter. But, of course, there were many times when he would not take the letter and/or ignore the person's attempts to draw his attention :-).

I understood this aspect of Swami better as I read about the history of religions, (doing the reading) mostly after Mahasamadhi, including Karen Armstrong's excellent though rather inappropriately titled 'A History of God' (it is more a history of western (European/North American) and Western Asian religions and religious sects), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_History_of_God. In particular, Prophet Muhammed was not only a religious/spiritual head/leader but he was also a head of state. Whereas Jesus Christ was a religious/spiritual head/leader but not a head of state - Jerusalem, Galilee etc. were then under Roman rule. Jesus was sentenced to be crucified (quite unwillingly, they say) by Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, due to sedition charges made against Jesus by his religious opponents. Swami was both a religious head/leader and a head of Puttaparthi-trust managed institutions, and in that sense a 'head of state' too.

And, in this environment, who Swami preferred to interact with more was a major, major factor in life in this 'kingdom of Swami'. (Usually male) students with whom Swami chose to interact more were, as everybody knows, the "form boys", who carried immense clout in the system. Even teachers had to be careful in interactions with "form boys" even if they were students in their class! In this environment those people that Swami trusted and interacted heavily with, including some top administrators, were very, very powerful people in the system. Very few people dared to oppose such powerful people as such actions would lead to unpleasant consequences (related to position/influence in ashram institution(s) and/or even seating in mandir/Kulwant Hall).

The divine shock of the Mahasamadhi completely changed the power equations! Some of those who Swami had interacted with heavily in the past, quite suddenly found that they were being made unimportant people in the system! And some of such people, especially the top people, simply could not digest this big shot to almost-nobody change, and decided to go their own way in furthering Swami's mission. That I think led to the current state of affairs. Further, this is not unusual in the history of religions. Paul (formerly Saul) is regarded as one of the most important founding figures of the Christian religion as it is known today. But not only was Paul not one of the companions of Jesus - he got transformed from a persecutor to a staunch believer by miraculous incident(s) which is quite famously depicted by Michelangelo, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversion_of_Saul_(Michelangelo) - but Paul broke away from the other apostles like Peter, by deciding to preach to the Gentiles (non Jews), a major advance that seems to have been pivotal to the Roman empire, a few centuries later, after some horrible persecutions, making Christianity the empire's religion (or something like that)! And, fascinatingly, the early Christians had serious problems with these moves of Paul. There was a meeting in Jerusalem in 50 AD (roughly twenty years after crucifixion of Christ) to sort out the issues between the leaders, including Peter & Paul & the brother of Jesus, James the Just (if I recall correctly), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jerusalem.

The reason I mentioned the above, is to show that whatever divisive kind of friction is happening in the Sai fraternity now, is not unique in the history of religions, though some particular aspects of it (like claimed subtle body of Bhagavan) may be. Essentially I view the MDH folks & institutions as an alternative platform that some former leaders of the fraternity have created and which is attracting some Sai devotees from the main platform/mother organization. And that's very, very common in the history of religions.

But I tend to agree with most of your comment. The part about your interactions with your Muslim friend not accepting your belief in physical form of God, but you two still being friendly and benefiting from your common love of God, was very interesting. And I think both believers in MDH subtle Swami and disbelievers in MDH subtle Swami, should try to focus on the commonality of belief in physical form Swami, to ensure that the divisive aspects do not go out of control and create more & more pain to the Sai fraternity as a whole.

About avoiding arguments, my view is that we should avoid abusive and emotionally damaging arguments as much of the Vaad-vivaad (argument-counter-argument) in Indian religious history (Jains, Buddhists, various schools of Hindu belief & philosophy etc.) led to such not only emotionally damaging results but lots of violence & social upheaval, including palace coups. But polite discussions on this matter including polite expression of different views should be fine, as we then understand each other's viewpoint better and so can find better ways to peacefully and harmoniously co-exist.

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Pardha Saradhi Uppala wrote (slightly edited):
Ravi S. Iyer, I like your posts for the sheer depth of knowledge that you share along with your honest insights. I definitely agree that constructive debate is necessary. I see the point in the revered Professor Anil Kumar Sir's views - Bhagavan’s life is replete with instances which time and again show that his relationship with a devotee is heart-to-heart.

Among people who go to MDH, some might end up believing in the subtle form, some might not. Just going to MDH in itself will not sanction total and exclusive authority for someone to comment on the situation - one’s path to enlightenment does no way end up with going to a certain place or even interacting with a holy person. People who went to MDH cannot say those who do not go to MDH have no right to comment on it.

Source of true wisdom is always within, not outside. And if one has experienced Swami sincerely and practised his words, one can understand the truth from within.

The actual purpose of Avatar undoubtedly is to make us realize we are one with Him and it is no easy target. Whether there is a subtle form of Swami in MDH or not, unless one travels the arduous path of self-inquiry, one cannot reach the goal. Commenting in a silly tone, personal attacks, (even if A does a personal attack, that will NOT give the right to B to do a personal attack back), are plain signs of lack of seriousness and commitment to spiritual path. And when that commitment and one-pointed attention is lacking, whether X believes in PTP or MDH, it is of little consequence and benefit.

Going tit for tat and arguing endlessly with personal attacks may befit the regular theologians on Youtube who argue based on the books they crammed, quoting page numbers - definitely not us who have basked in the direct physical presence of God.

If we are attacking anyone personally, even when the other has done it, I must say we MUST BE ASHAMED of our life spent with Bhagavan. I cannot say more. It really pains me to see all this. I sincerely hope we do not turn ourselves into street dogs before the world. But who can control the fate except the Lord! The Yadavas who were regular recipients of His Love have fought with each other and died after He left His physical Form. The first few chapters of Bhagavatha Vaahini which describe the aftermath of Krishna’s return to Vaikuntha are a mystery to me.

I wonder what the purpose of the entire bloodshed of Mahabharata (was), when the Pandavas could only rule the kingdom for 50 years or so (not sure of the exact number). Kunti died immediately after hearing of Krishna’s departure - I wonder why I could not! She was the luckiest of all. All the Pandavas including Draupadi simply went without food and water and travelled north until their bodies dropped off. The rest of the world went into chaos as Kali yuga dawned and atrocities increased beyond measaure.

I wish we who had this greatest luck of being with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, meet with a destiny like that of Pandavas, who merged themselves in Krishna in word and deed, unable to live separately from Him, than face a destiny of that of Yadavas who killed each other forgetting all the compassion and Grace they received from Krishna.

May we sanctify our life immersed in the glory and beauty of Lord Sai Krishna that we have no time to see the differences between ourselves.

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I wrote back:

Wonderful words of wisdom and heart-felt devotion & emotion, Pardha Saradhi Uppala. "I sincerely hope we do not turn ourselves into street dogs before the world." That is a very important statement for all Sai devotees, whether believers in MDH subtle Swami or non-believers in MDH subtle Swami, to seriously bear in mind.

I came to know of a recent response of Narasimhamurthy sir, an extract of which I will share below. I hope Narasimhamurthy sir will not mind me sharing these non-controversial words.

"We don't want to react to negativity and create more negativity. We are always positive doing Swami's work silently and selflessly. That is what we have learnt and learning from Swami. We have not spoken a single word against anyone. That's Swami's way."

Even though I do not share his belief in MDH subtle Swami or Swami dream-instructions for third-parties, and do have some pretty strong feelings about what I see as the negative impact of claimed MDH subtle Swami and Swami dream-instructions for third-parties, on Puttaparthi in particular, and the mother organization in general, in terms of the confusion and even trauma that it created for some (including me), I admire the sentiments he has expressed in the above extract.

However, as you said, "I definitely agree that constructive debate is necessary. I see the point in the revered Professor Anil Kumar Sir's views - Bhagavan’s life is replete with instances which time and again show that his relationship with a devotee is heart-to-heart." I entirely agree with you. In particular, I feel expressing disagreements in a polite way on this matter is fine. And I consider it my duty to raise my concerns about claimed MDH subtle Swami publicly (mainly on my spiritual blog) so that those Sai devotees who want to know about such concerns can find it easily using Google (or other) search.

And thanks for the very kind words about my comments. I am just sharing the little that I have come to know through my experiences with Swami, readings of Swami discourses & utterances and readings on Swami & other spiritual masters as well as religions.

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