Sunday, December 10, 2017

Even though Sathya Sai spoke against mediums, medium practice among Sai devotees is 50 years old! My view on this

Last updated on 10th Dec. 2017

This post is based on a recent comment exchange I had with a person on Facebook. Given below are my comments (slightly edited) from that exchange. Those who want to view the full exchange may view the original exchange on my Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2032164650333435.
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In my view, Sathya Sai has given us clear unambiguous (hard) statements about not accepting mediums and communicators. Somebody can choose to ignore those statements of Sathya Sai. But that does not change the reality that Sathya Sai did make those clear statements. And, as far I can recall, Sathya Sai has made NO STATEMENT about having a chosen communicator after he gave up the body.
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Well, I am bothered by Madhusudan's words being conveyed as Sathya Sai's words, and his so called "discourses" being printed and distributed as Sathya Sai discourses. They are NOT Sathya Sai discourses. They are Madhu Baba discourses. I am deeply concerned about many people reading such discourses of Madhu Baba given in the name of Sathya Sai, getting a wrong impression of Sathya Sai teachings.
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Yes, I agree that it is common for people in Hinduism to claim that a particular God or Goddess had come into them and then speak as that God/Goddess. It is a very well established practice.

But Sathya Sai went out of his way to explain that he does not use this method and on multiple occasions publicly told devotees in very strong terms NOT to believe in such mediums or communicators when it came to their claims of mediumship about him! I think Sathya Sai may have done this, as during his lifetime itself there were many who made such claims and attracted Sathya Sai devotees. So Bhagavan told us publicly that we should not accept such claims.

Mind you, when I was offering free service (Seva) in the Sai university as a teacher (designations of Honorary Staff/Honorary Faculty/ Visiting Faculty) from Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2012, even during Bhagavan's physical journey (till April 2011), I was warned by student-staff of the Sai university about one senior faculty in Prasanthi Nilayam campus who would go around telling people about his frequent dream interactions with Swami! I repeat this was while Bhagavan was in physical form.

So I had polite interactions with the senior faculty concerned but did not allow myself to get sucked into viewing him as a special channel of Swami because of his claimed many dream interactions with Swami. Instead, my focus was on teachings of Swami and darshan gesture interactions with physical form Swami in Sai Kulwant Hall, even if Swami spoke to me only once. Though I must also say here that I did not desire or pray that Swami speak to me. I prayed only for spiritual guidance which Swami gave me, far more than I had "dreamed" of, through his discourses heard live by me in Sai Kulwant hall and his gesture interactions with me. I stress the live hearing of discourses as I had the experience that Bhagavan would answer key doubts and questions that I had, through his public discourses! I now staunchly believe that Bhagavan would know about even my doubts and questions in some divine way as he would do his darshan round - sense it among people assembled in Sai Kulwant Hall, especially staff (including me) who were blessed to be seated in places where Bhagavan could easily see them and interact with them. And then he would answer these doubts and questions, typically in a general way without referring to particular people by name, publicly via discourses! Thus his discourses have the answers to so many common and uncommon doubts and questions of spiritual aspirants!

So the point is that as Sathya Sai devotees we should follow, or try hard to follow, Sathya Sai teachings including his vital and repeated public teachings about him not communicating to his devotees through mediums. Madhu Baba may have some powers (siddhis) which enable him to know about past interactions of some Sathya Sai devotees with Swami. But those may be only siddhi powers which seem to be possible to acquire through some particular training - which Bhagavan did not publicly ever recommend, as far as I know. So Madhu Baba is NOT saying Sathya Sai's words. It is of some other power which is MASQUERADING as Sathya Sai. Now you and others may not agree with my analysis here. Fine, that's your and others' wish and choice. I have done my duty to my beloved and revered spiritual master by explaining my stand, and so my conscience is at ease.

Here is Sathya Sai in HIS OWN WORDS explaining his direct connection between Him and His devotees: Sathya Sai Baba: Direct connection between you & me, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rp-4N2W3S8c, 1 min. 12 secs.

An extract from the transcript:
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (in Telugu):
"Naaku Meeku Direct Connection Untundaadhi. Mana sannihitha sambandha baandhavyam evvaroo thenchadaainiki veelu kaadhu. Meeru ekkadikainaa pondi. Akkada, ikkada, ekkada choochina okkade Sai makkuvaiyunnaadu."

English translation:
"There is Direct connection between you and me. No one can break the intimate relation and relationship that we two have. Go anywhere. Here, there, wherever you see, there is only ONE SAI that you love, everywhere."
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Ravi: I am not a grihasta (grihasta means house-holder/married family man) as of now (I could get married in future; that's my choice and decision). Swami came not only for grihastas though as society has a majority of grihastas and grihastas are the vital support for sannyasis and brahmacharis, and spiritual/religious missions, Swami had, and still has, a majority of grihastas as his devotees. But Swami has had non-grihasta devotees too, of which Narasimhamurthy is one and Alike's Gangadhar Bhat sir (who has denounced Madhu Baba as fake) is another. My spiritual quest in the physical form presence of Bhagavan in Puttaparthi during the period of Oct. 2002 to April 2011 (when Bhagavan gave up his physical form) was as a non-grihasta though I do not claim to be a sannyasi. I joke that I am a semi-sannyasi :-).

Swami has answered very deep spiritual questions for me, in my spiritual quest as a non-grihasta devotee. Swami's teachings are not limited to Love All Serve All and Help Ever Hurt Never. Swami has spoken and written on Upanishads (Upanishad Vahini), Brahma Sutra (Sutra Vahini), Bhagavad Gita (Gita Vahini) as well as on Karma Kanda of Vedas (Samhita and Brahmana part of Vedas). People like me were very powerfully attracted to Swami by these discourses and writings of His on core spiritual philosophy of Hindus. Now many Sathya Sai devotees may not read or study these deep philosophical writings and commentaries of Sathya Sai, and instead focus on simple teachings of Swami. That's their choice. But if they have the view that Swami's teachings are meant only for simple Grihastas and do not cover deep Hindu spiritual philosophy topics then they are very much mistaken.

About your comment of medium practice of Sai devotees being 50 year old: Perhaps you are right. In my samithi in Dombivli (Maharashtra state) in the 1990s there was one person who claimed that Swami would write letter responses to those who place letters to Swami in his home's altar. Many samithi people went there but the official Sai orgn. Samithi view as per the convener, which was based on Swami instructions on these matters, was that we should not believe such claims. I chose to follow the official Sai orgn. Samithi view based on Swami instructions, and so did not believe in those claims. However, I was friendly with the person who had made those claims.

In this matter, what I see as my duty to Bhagavan is to point out to readers what Swami has said about mediumship (that we should not believe in it). If people want to keep aside this aspect of Swami's teachings and follow mediums then that is their choice - their life, their choice. But I will not accept that what they are doing is right or that what they are doing is according to Swami teachings and instructions.

The BIG PROBLEM is that some people, including Muddenahalli group, are distorting Swami's teachings and instructions in this regard, to convey a FALSE VIEW that Swami approved of mediums and communicators. That is Asathyam and Adharmam. And those who do such Asathya and Adharma against their Guru with whom they have had many interactions at physical form level, are betraying their Guru and are traitors to their Guru. That's my considered view.

If they feel that they have a superior spiritual philosophy than Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, let them make that claim and spread their teachings and spiritual philosophy in their own name! Then there is no distortion of Sathya Sai legacy. Let Narasimhamurthy, Sashidhara Prasad, C. Srinivas and Madhusudan Naidu give their spiritual discourses as Narasimhamurthy Baba, Sashidhara Prasad Baba, C. Srinivas Baba and Madhu Baba. India's freedom of religion laws allows them to proclaim their new cult and spread their new cult's teachings but in their own names and NOT by stealing their Guru's name and distorting their Guru's legacy as a way to cash in on the popularity of their Guru and tap his wealthy devotees for donation money.
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I should like to add that Narasimhamurthy, Sashidhara Prasad, C. Srinivas and Madhusudan Naidu's strategy to steal their Guru's name for their cult group's philosophy and practice, and attract donation money from wealthy Sathya Sai devotees who fall for their false belief claims, CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED simply because they have created, and will be creating more of, free schools, colleges (a private/deemed university is planned for the near future, I believe) and super-speciality hospitals (in one medical area alone - pediatric cardiology) in India. All that wonderful free Seva that is done with such donation money and with people who work hard in such institutions whom I respect for their hard work and service to society, does not wipe out the BIG SIN they (leaders of Muddenahalli group) have done by distorting the teachings of their own Guru with respect to mediumship even though they have had many direct physical form level interactions with their Guru, and by misguiding thousands of their own Guru's devotees using their own Guru's name (and NOT their name like Narasimhamurthy Baba, Sashidhara Prasad Baba, C. Srinivas Baba and Madhu Baba). If these fellows had spiritual guts they would have spread their spiritual philosophy and practices under their own name and not stolen Sathya Sai Baba's name for their WARPED and FALSE teachings and practice with respect to mediumship claims related to Sathya Sai.
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What Swami did not do, in his physical form, based on what I personally know during my Sai university stint from Jan. 2003 till a little after Swami Mahasamadhi, and what I have heard from ashram people about earlier times, was instruct people in paths to gain siddhis. You have mentioned Dasha Maha Vidya upasana. I do not know of that upasana in particular. But I have read about other such upasanas to be done under guidance of masters experienced in such things, which enable people to gain siddhis (paranormal powers like mind reading and small level of materialization or object transference from another place). Kerala is supposed to have some tantra schools in this matter. I am told that there are also Muslim schools dealing with such siddhis in Kerala.

But Swami did not do any teaching of such siddhi powers to his devotees and, in particular, to his students of Sai university, to the best of my knowledge. Instead Swami has discouraged students who acquire such powers from misusing them! The entire short contents from my blog post: https://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/08/sathya-sai-to-students-about-famous.html, dated Aug. 2015, is given below:

Sathya Sai to students about a famous Indian tantrik

The following was recently conveyed to me by somebody over email. I find it to be quite plausible. However, I cannot verify it, neither do I personally know the original source. Swami is Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the sentences below (slightly edited):

What Swami once told his students about [famous-tantrik-name-snipped] who was with Narasimha Rao in the darshan: "He has powers of the Devi Shakti and is misusing them. My dear students, you do not do that please."

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Ravi: I think this is a clear statement from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to Sai university students and alumni which I am sure would apply even more to teachers, wardens, senior administrators etc. (both current and former), that they SHOULD NOT misuse any siddhis (paranormal powers) they may acquire or somehow come to possess.
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Firstly thanks for politely engaging with me on this topic and sharing your views. We may agree on some matters and disagree on some matters but it is important for me that such disagreement is polite, as far as possible. Once the disagreement descends into harsh name-calling without logic to defend the usage of that name, then that's when I tend to switch off from the conversation. I have to say here that I use words like traitor and hypocrite in some posts but I usually provide a logic to such usage. In the case where I don't provide the logic, usually it is to warn the person that if he wants I am in a position to provide details of why I call him hypocrite. Then it is upto the person to either stay quiet or challenge me. If he challenges me then I am ready to provide the details and logic about why I called him a hypocrite.

In our exchange here, we have been able to keep the areas where we disagree within the realm of polite conversation. Thanks for that politeness.

1) Regarding lots of money being pumped into Muddenahalli group charity works and related comments: Whatever donation money that Muddenahalli group has acquired through their promotion of FALSE BELIEF of so called communicator (Madhusudan Rao Naidu) and so called dream-instruction medium (Narasimhamurthy) of Sathya Sai, from devotess of Sathya Sai is, in my considered view, money collected by Asathya-Adharma means (untruthful and unethical means). That money being used to provide wonderful and laudable free service in area of education and health especially to poor and needy people does NOT change the FACT that they collected money through Asathya and Adharma. Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai was very, very particular as expressed in public discourses, and through the Sathya Sai organization, about NOT SOLICITING MONEY for service activities. Muddenahalli group has clearly broken those instructions and guidelines of Bhagavan for their service activities as they rather blatantly appeal to and encourage people to donate money. I am told but I have not been able to verify its truth that at times they even spiritually pressure people who are under Madhu Baba sway for donation money.

But I have never, as far as I can recall, said that Muddenahalli group are running an illegal business let alone anything as lowly as a brothel. While I have been very, very critical of Narasimhamurthy for his betrayal of Bhagavan's teachings and instructions with respect to mediums and communicators, I have not got one credible report about Narasimhamurthy being financially corrupt. Not one such credible report! Further, I have not received any report whatsoever that Narasimhamurthy has transgressed his celibacy status (perhaps vow). Celibacy is not an easy thing to achieve for a man. It is undoubtedly a great achievement in the Hindu tradition spiritual path for a man to be celibate so as to dedicate himself to spirituality and Hindu religion. Irrespective of all my criticism of Narasimhamurthy, I respect him for his great achievement of celibacy and dedication to Hindu spiritual life. He has also provided inspiration for others to lead such celibate lives dedicated to a spiritual mission, including some faculty who serve today in senior positions in Bhagavan's Sai university.

So if anybody finds anything in my public writings where I have made allegations about Muddenahalli group running an illegal business or anything even remotely related to a brothel, I am willing to publicly apologize and seek forgiveness from those that I wronged by making such allegations. It will be a ghor paap karma (grave sinful act) to allege anything about sexual impropriety related to Narasimhamurthy and his role as a mentor of Muddenahalli group educational institutions, without having strong evidence that supports those allegations. I certainly will not want to be associated in any way with such ghor paap karma (grave sinful act) as that will have severe negative impact on my own spiritual quest and journey.

2) I wrote in my earlier comment, "But I have read about other such upasanas to be done under guidance of masters experienced in such things, which enable people to gain siddhis (paranormal powers like mind reading and small level of materialization or object transference from another place). Kerala is supposed to have some tantra schools in this matter."

I did not say that Tantra is black magic. I believe, there are safe Tantric paths and unsafe and very dangerous Tantric paths. Every now and then we read reports even today in India of horrible human sacrifice (usually a child) done or advised by some person referred to as Tantrik. Though I must also say that I don't recall such reports from Kerala. So one cannot escape the fact that some tantrik practices even today are horrible and dangerous.

I think siddhis being acquired seems to be part of both safe and unsafe Tantra. And yes, rigorous training would be needed to acquire those siddhis. But the main point here is that Sathya Sai encouraged sadhana like Namasmarna and Veda chanting for spiritual progress of individuals and community, and not sadhana to acquire siddhis. Whereas some tantra schools in Kerala seem to provide a path for siddhis through rigorous training.

Now tantra may also lead to self-realization which may be the focus of some tantra schools. But it seems to me based on reports I have got, that there are tantra teachers and practitioners in India today, including Kerala, who are into using their siddhi power for financial or other gain, and teach their disciples/students about how to acquire such siddhis. Their students/disciples, after acquiring those siddhis, would also tend to use those powers for financial and other gain - I mean, that's how they would be earning their living.

And thanks for the kind words about me not being a fanatic spiritual guy :-).
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Well, the newspaper articles report the REALITY that some unsafe tantrik practitioners are into horrible child sacrifice stuff even today in India. I think that is undeniable. Now they may be bad tantriks but they do follow some tantrik traditions.

The good tantra schools may stay away from such things today. That's good. But I think we should view them as safe and good tantra schools and not deny that bad tantra exists in India today.

You said, "... swami is supporting it". I did not follow.

About Lord Krishna being a tantric practitioner, I have not read of such claims. Lord Krishna went to a traditional (vedic, I guess) guru to do his schooling-equivalent.
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Noted that you meant Swami is NOT supporting it.

About Vaidikam in practice being Thantrikam: That is something that I find hard to accept but I do not know enough about Thantrikam (tantra) to, as of now, argue why I find it hard to accept. Note that I was following Vedic (Vaidikam) practices in my home till I was around 40 years old even though I was not very devout about it when I was in my late teens and twenties. I have also done a fair amount of reading or browse-reading of English translations of Vedic texts like popular versions of RigVeda samhita, brahmana, SamaVeda Samhita, YajurVeda brahmana (Shatapatha Brahmana), and some Aranyakas, and many Upanishads.

Having said that, let me be very clear that I am very respectful of non-Vedic Hindu religious traditions as well. I am not a Vedic superiority kind of fellow. Veda, Tantra and so many other Hindu traditions are all ways to the same Brahman (God in absolute form).

I am all for safe Tantra traditions to flourish, and good Tantra schools ensuring that any misunderstood or bad Tantra, as viewed from our early 21st century lens in India, is consigned to oblivion. Note that Vedic sacrifices involved animal sacrifices in the past. Those traditions seem to have been removed from current Vedic practices as taught in various Vedic schools. I think something similar should happen for Tantra so that safe Tantra gets viewed in society as a whole as a respectable path towards spiritual progress.
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