Last modified on 23rd August 2016
Today, I was blasted on the phone by my elder sister, a (retired) medical doctor based in Mumbai, for having got involved with matters where I had become a target of a police/legal action threat against me by a Muddenahalli group supporter on Facebook (even if the Id is a fake Id).
BTW it is my elder sister who was supportive of my getting more deeply associated with the Sathya Sai movement/organization in the early 90s (Dombivli Samithi, Maharashtra) and taking an off-beat life path (staying single and eventually choosing to retire from commercial work at 40 years of age and moving to Puttaparthi for a "spiritual career").
In this phone call, she even said that she was wondering whether she did the right thing in supporting my taking up this off-beat spiritual aspirant path. She said that I had become a crusader now instead of a spiritual aspirant! I was deeply moved by her love for me and thanked her for the genuine concerns and worries she had about my well being, and gave a lengthy explanation of why I am doing what I do. She was not that convinced with my explanation.
I had to bow down to the love and concern expressed by my elder sister, and so have decided to follow her desire that I should tone down any aggressive language that I use when I am critical of Muddenahalli group FALSE BELIEF in a so called chosen communicator who says he can see, hear and talk with an invisible to others, so called subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I was able to convince her of why I have to state that it is a FALSE BELIEF publicly.
I have said to her that I will NOT POST or COMMENT on anything related to police interrogation of Muddenahalli group (if that happens again). I also told her that I will not respond to any verbal attacks on me by Muddenahalli group promoters/supporters.
A couple of my old software industry colleague friends had also expressed similar concerns out of their love for me. I was moved by that and thanked them for the same.
I thought I should also share with readers my thoughts about why I do what I do (wrt writings critical of Muddenahalli group belief).
The questions are whether I have peace of mind now? Is this what I had come to Puttaparthi for as a spiritual aspirant nearly one and a half decades ago? Aren't my current issues worse than corporate life challenges that I had to deal with prior to moving to Puttaparthi in Oct. 2002? I mean, have I become worse off by moving to Puttaparthi and getting involved in all these matters, than I would have been had I continued in my software industry career in Mumbai? Some of my close relatives and old friends seem to think so.
Let me try to share with you, dear readers, my response to above questions and my mind-set now.
Am I leading a spiritually serene and calm life over the past year or two (I started actively and publicly criticising and challenging Muddenahalli splinter group BELIEF in so called communicator and so called subtle body, from around March 2015)? No, not at all. It is more like being in the middle of a political campaign with nasty words being exchanged on social media, and I have received in the past some dirty looks too aimed at scaring me from writing whistle-blowing kind of stuff [that was over a year ago, if I recall correctly; not now]. I don't think I have ever been involved in such stuff in my entire life prior to March 2015. Even corporate politics that I had sometimes got entangled in, during my international software industry career, had never got to such lows.
So then why am I doing all this? Why don't I just get out of this whistle-blowing stuff and criticism of Muddenahalli splinter group stuff, and do traditional spiritual stuff focusing on Love, Joy and Peace?
To answer that question, I need to first give some short history of what happened with me after Sathya Sai's Mahasamadhi (April 2011) and then provide the answer.
1) In the short span of a few months after Sathya Sai's Mahasamadhi, the Puttaparthi ashram system, very unfortunately, but perhaps not unexpectedly given the great power vacuum that Sathya Sai bodily passing away created, got broken into small fiefdoms some of which were bossed over by some power monger or the other. Many old staff who were not willing to obey some such power-crazed bosses found themselves marginalized, and sometimes forced out (I was humiliated and my role was brutally marginalized).
2) As I saw all this happening with Sathya Sai's vision being pushed aside in some parts of the ashram system (including Sai university), and instead new/different vision of bosses being forced on the fiefdoms they had control of in the ashram system, I got pretty traumatized and sorrowful. When I saw that similar was the case with some veterans of the Sai university who were forced out or chose to quit in disgust, I got disconsolate first and then furious.
3) But I was a nobody in the system - a Visiting Faculty which was my designation then in the Sai university, is like a contractor (contract "employee") in a company. His/her services can be terminated without giving any reason. I decided to quit the Sai university after giving them privately (NOT publicly on social media), my harsh view that they had lost their way and were following untruth and unethical behaviour. This happened in the period, March to June 2012.
4) After this, say from around July 2012, I switched off from the Sai university stuff, and focused on a new life for me as an outside ashram Puttaparthi townsman who was blogging about Indian Computer Science & Information Technology academic reform and on spirituality & religion. Slowly and steadily the trauma of the succession war (without any violence, by God's grace) that I saw in the Sai university and the Puttaparthi ashram system, became something that I had got distant from. I began enjoying the peace of Puttaparthi rural town life and my new found hobby/vocation of writing on the above mentioned topics.
5) I slowly started making a name for myself as a blogger on Sathya Sai Baba and on spirituality & religion in general, in a small set of mainly Sathya Sai devotees in and around the year 2014. I was not blogging on any controversial stuff and had not done any whistle-blowing at all. So it was a peaceful and nice life.
6) I heard about the Muddenahalli splinter group activities from time to time (them opening some new schools, and a super speciality kind of hospital, all offering free service). It was a much smaller setup then, I guess. I felt nice that some people who could not get along with the bosses of Puttaparthi ashram had parted ways and done their own service to society thing. I mean, instead of more infighting here, they chose to move out and do their separate thing. I also had done something similar, except I was doing it at an individual level.
7) May 2014 was a watershed month in the post Mahasamadhi Sathya Sai movement. While the Muddenahalli group channel/medium/communicator Madhusudan Rao Naidu was doing the channelling/medium stuff in the name of Sathya Sai earlier on too, it was not known publicly (I did not know of it prior to May 2014, if I recall correctly). But in May 2014 they went public, and had a host of top people from the Sathya Sai fratenity with them in their public meetings whose videos were put out on the Internet! It was a sensation but I and perhaps many others did not treat them that seriously then.
8) In July 2014, one of the official media outlets of Puttaparthi ashram, Radio Sai, had an article strongly critical of the claims made by Madhusudan Rao Naidu of being a medium of Sathya Sai. In the same month I put out a blog post referencing this article of Radio Sai, but, if I recall correctly, I took a balanced view of the matter where I praised their social service work but disputed the outlandish claim of Madhusudan Rao Naidu of being able to see, hear and talk with an invisible to others so called subtle body of Sathya Sai.
9) Over the next few months I was pleasantly surprised (more of a pleasant shock really) to see significant traffic to my above mentioned blog post (at that time I was not on Facebook). I did not realize that that significant traffic (mostly driven by Google search or other search engines, I guess) was an indication of how much interest there was in this claim of Madhusudan Rao Naidu among Sathya Sai devotees worldwide. As my post was balanced, I did not get any hate comments at all. Even disagreement was pretty polite.
10) If I recall correctly, in March 2015, one of the leading speakers/preachers of Puttaparthi ashram, Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju (AK) who has extensively travelled worldwide and still travels worldwide speaking about Sathya Sai and his teachings, got very emotional when a foreign devotee asked him in one of his talks at Puttaparthi ashram, about Muddenahalli. She asked whether it was OK to go or not? AK poured his heart out on this matter at the meeting, whose video was put on the Internet and which was viewed by me. He asked quite emotionally whether there is nobody else who will help him to counter these claims made by Muddenahalli group which went against the teachings of Sathya Sai. [Sathya Sai has repeatedly said that he never uses a medium to communicate with his devotees.]
11) This emotional appeal from AK sir (an elderly, 70s man) pricked me very deep. As I saw the video, I had to ask myself whether it was right of me to be a spectator watching the Muddenahalli splinter group make tremendous inroads into the Sathya Sai orgn. worldwide and essentially divide the Sathya Sai movement worldwide. Further, it was slowly and steadily becoming clear to me that Madhusudan Rao Naidu's claims had serious flaws in it.
12) This was my turning point. I decided I cannot ignore this emotional appeal of AK sir. By that time (March 2015), I had already acquired some visibility in Sathya Sai circles as a blogger. Further, my post on this matter referred earlier, Radio Sai article on recent Swami (Sathya Sai Baba) subtle form appearance controversy, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2014/07/radio-sai-article-on-recent-swami.html, authored on July 11th 2014, last updated on Aug. 11th 2015, was becoming an important Internet resource for Sathya Sai devotees searching for information on this claimed medium of Sathya Sai. So I was in a position to provide right information and my views on the matter to Sathya Sai devotees searching for such stuff on the Internet.
13) Around March 2015, I started posting my posts to both my blog and Facebook. I started participating in conversations on this Muddenahalli claim matter on Facebook. Very shortly, within a matter of months, perhaps due to my having been a faculty at the Sai university in the past, my views were becoming important and were drawing fire from Muddenahalli group supporters on Facebook. This sort of fire being directed at me on Facebook (no police threats but strong comments) by Muddenahalli group supporters was my first taste of how social media could disturb me. I could have beaten a hasty retreat by stopping my Facebook stuff and limiting myself to my blog where the conversation was far more polite. But the reader numbers and so impact, were on Facebook!
So the question was should I back off from the debate and leave it to AK sir and others to battle it out. Given the great benefits that I have received from my beloved Gurudev Sri Sathya Sai Baba, as well as from the Sathya Sai fraternity, over two decades then, I felt it was my duty to both Sathya Sai and the fraternity, to engage in the debate and expose the false claims of Madhusudan Rao Naidu and the Muddenahalli group backing him.
As I was in a position to gather information about them, slowly and steadily it became clear that while the medium/channel may have some paranormal powers of mind and memory reading, he was NOT preaching and doing things the Sathya Sai way! He was diluting and distorting the teachings of Sathya Sai and that many Sai devotees were swallowing it hook, line and sinker!
By then I had read a lot about the history of religions like Christianity and Islam about whom we have a lot of material from somewhat reliable sources. After the passing away of the prophet/messiah, a very important duty of his followers is to ensure that the prophet/messiah's teachings are preserved as properly as possible. I realized how damaging this Muddenahalli group's endorsement of its medium and printing books having his discourses as that of Sathya Sai Baba, could be to the legacy of Sathya Sai.
So I decided that I should become a missionary type of person, ready to even lay down my life to preserve authentically the teachings of my beloved Gurudev, Sathya Sai Baba, and opposing strongly, within the law of the land, any efforts to dilute and corrupt his teachings which is what Muddenahalli group is doing.
During the period Jesus got crucified, Peter denied knowing Jesus as he was so terrified of the horrible worldly fate that Jesus was subjected to bodily. However, Peter recovered and became a leader of the apostles. The first Christian martyr, if I recall correctly, was St. Stephen. He was stoned to death in Jerusalem because he was speaking publicly about and trying to spread, the teachings of Jesus. Similar group of people to those who crucified Jesus seem to have stoned Stephen to death.
I take inspiration from such early apostles and preachers of the Christian faith who battled extraordinary and life-threatening odds to spread the teachings of Jesus. The risks that I face in publicly criticizing Muddenahalli group, and questioning their false claims, is minor as compared to what these apostles faced.
So I am, partially (an activity I do, among other activities I engage in), a kind of self-motivated Internet disseminator of Sathya Sai teachings type of person now (with some flaws; I don't claim to be perfect), and not a spiritual aspirant who seeks only love, peace and joy. Further, I am willing to face any challenges from those who dilute and corrupt the teachings of Sathya Sai, when I criticize them for it (using my writings within the freedom of speech laws of India).
Hope that gives readers a decent picture of my position now.
An old software industry colleague and friend wrote (slightly edited) and was OK with public sharing:
Dear Ravi - I can fully appreciate how the love and genuine concern of a loved one (your elder sister, in this case) may force you to rethink and tone down your criticism of the splinter group. Love has that power!
Additionally, I have heard/read, and you may have heard/read/experienced that:
(1) for a common/worldly person, the sorrows/sufferings/happiness etc. result from some combination of his/her past/present purushaarth/praarabdha, that is via the classic Theory of Karma!
(2) for a spiritual aspirant (a saadhak striving to progress (in) his/her journey to ultimate goal of merging with the Supreme), the sorrows/sufferings/happiness also comes as a God-sent, in addition to the classic purushaarth/praarabdha factor. God sends deliberate and measured quantum of sorrows/sufferings/happiness to test how firm is the aspirant or even to make him/her firmer in his/her path of spiritual progress. It's said to be His way of making an aspirant firmer on the spiritual development (path). (H)istory is full of such incidents in the lives of spiritually enlightened persons from all faiths, including Hinduism, just the way you have pointed out the Christianity examples of St. Peter and St. Stephen.
The Bhagvad Geeta mentions that there is only one in thousands (manushyanam sahashreshu kashchit yatati siddhaye), who is on the firmer path towards Him! Ravi - I believe, you are one of them!!
I (Ravi) responded:
Thank you so much for your valuable thoughts and kind words on this matter. As you are associated for decades with another spiritual organization that is very well versed in Sanathana Dharma (Hinduism), your responses to me on such matters, over the years since we reestablished contact perhaps around 2008, after our prior close association in the software industry, have been very helpful to me.
I don't know about how firm I am in my path towards Him but I (and some others in Prasanthi Nilayam/Puttaparthi ashram) have been through some serious FIRE TESTS in the years after Sathya Sai's Mahasamadhi.
Here's a Facebook chat interaction I had with a Facebook friend (FF)
FF: Sairam Ravi, will you be less involved in the MDH stuff from now?
Ravi: I guess so.
FF: You are the articulate, vigorous, passionate voice of this side of the issue, Ravi
Is this the beginning of the end for the resistance?
Ravi: I have no idea. I owe my elder sister a lot. I have to respect her wishes in this regard. I am bound by the duty of (springing from) my love and respect for her. ... Even when I was brutally marginalized and humiliated in the Sai university, NOT A SINGLE PERSON in the Sai university where I offered FREE SERVICE for 9 years came forward to support me!!! NOT ONE!!! It was my elder sister & family, and my elder brother and family (all of whom are not Sai devotees) and my old software industry colleagues (all of whom are not Sai devotees) who came to my aid then.
If there is one thing I have learned from the ****FIRE**** that I have been put through by Swami after His Mahasamadhi it is that I need to be loyal and faithful to those who have been loyal and faithful to me.
Ravi: Of course, mine is only one voice now in this matter. There are many other voices which are active in this regard. Perhaps as I have now withdrawn from publicly posting/commenting on some aspects of this Muddenahalli group matter, others may come forward to take my place. Thanks.