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Timothy Conways Letter to a longtime friend,
an elder woman resident at Puttaparthi.
March 14, 2001
Dear ------- [name omitted for privacy],
Greetings in God's Love!
I received yesterday your letter from India. I'm happy to hear the good news about you [ ]
Re: your big question Yes, it's true -- after many years of rationalizing the allegations I had heard of Baba's homosexual behavior with certain young men, I finally severed altogether the connection with Sathya Sai after finally, in early February 2001, hearing and reading evidence showing that the problem is FAR more serious than I had ever thought, on a scale and scope that is deeply disturbing.
For someone like yourself, who has left everything to follow Baba, what I am about to present might seem devastating. I would urge you, as a person I have always loved and respected -- a mature, responsible, courageous, heartfelt, honest, caring, compassionate woman -- to not close your mind or heart at this crucial moment. Please dont follow the shrinking herd of those who would pathologically deny, cover-up and rationalize in slavish groupthink what's going on merely to preserve their egoic identification with Baba and the Sai movement.
We now have trustworthy reports from over two dozen credible eye-witnesses (and sworn affidavits from many of them) indicating that probably hundreds of young men and boys have been molested (far beyond "touching the perineum") and/or forced to perform oral sex and masturbation on Baba over the last 30 years or more. Baba has masturbated them and sometimes performed oral sex on them, sometimes to the point of ejaculation.
Baba has threatened to deny interviews to many of the boys' parents if the boys resist his sexual predatory behavior. He has paid or bribed most of these male youth for sexual favors and for their silence with money, rings, watches, etc.-- up to $10,000 for one boy (an American youth well known to several former members of our Santa Barbara Sai Center). Baba has also evidently gotten angry at and berated those male youth who try to resist his molestations or who fail to become aroused when Baba is molesting them. He verbally manipulates and coerces them to engage in sex with him.
It's clear that Baba is not "detachedly" "raising the kundalini" or "healing old sexual karma" of these male youth. (If this were the true reason, why is he denying young women and girls, older men and nonpreferred younger men this "healing touch"?) Rather, Baba appears to be caught up in terrible lust and attachment: eyewitnesses describe him making "moaning" and "gurgling" sounds, thrusting his pelvis and erect organ toward the boys and young men, grabbing them when they try to move away, trying to persuade them how "lucky" they are to be having this "great opportunity."
Meanwhile, many (but not all!) of the leading Sai Organization officers are pathologically covering up for Baba, even trying to suppress the allegations altogether. They condemn the Internet, which is simply a neutral tool that allows for an egalitarian, "Town Hall" forum for presentation of views. These officers, like Baba himself in his Christmas 2000 discourse, are stooping to ad hominem name-calling, referring to the conscientious, concerned critics of Baba as so many Judases, demons, cawing crows and grievous sinners.
J. Jagadeesan of Malaysia has been circulating a vile letter full of condemnation, name-calling, and completely irrational rationalizations and mental gymnastics. Jack Hawley has written an evasive, misleading piece of pious- sounding propaganda ("It's about a Love so deep...") to distract attention away from Baba's ongoing sexual abuse. And your neighbor Ram Das Awle is now joining in the irresponsible defense of Baba.
I was initially impressed, around Christmas time, reading his book excerpt defending Baba (the same essay you sent me a week ago), but then one long night in early February I stayed up until 6 a.m. reading the extensive first-person accounts of molestation, along with the major media articles and the letters of resignation and warning from respectable longtime devotees, including some psychologists. I then wrote Ram Das a letter telling him that I thought he should read this same material and revise his book-manuscript as it pertains to Baba.
Instead he wrote me an email letter which, in part, threatened me with serious karmic consequences for maligning the Purna Avatar-as if telling the truth about child molestation is a sinful act! His letter is filled with all sorts of silly mixing up of the absolute (paramarthika) and relative (vyavaharika) levels of truth.
I have written lengthy, point-by-point rebuttals of these writings by Awle, Hawley, and Jagadeesan. Their faulty logic, misleading propaganda, abandoning of universal ethics (and, yes, the five human values: Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, Ahimsa), and, last but certainly not least, their callous unconcern for the anguish of the molested victims is mind-boggling and frightening. It appears that they and the many other prominent Sai devotees who engage in this rationalizing behavior have, along with Baba himself, transformed the Sai movement into a dangerously dysfunctional cult wherein anything and everything can be rationalized because "Baba is God"--a point that is now eminently debatable.
In Babas Christmas 2000 discourse, in addition to engaging in name-calling toward his critics (Judases, demons, cawing crows) and accusing them of engaging in false propaganda for the sake of money (a few have done this, but the vast majority of Babas critics have certainly not done this), Baba has declared, Those that accuse the Divine Personalities and put them to suffering are committing the worst of the sins. If one cannot undertake meritorious deeds, it is better one keeps quiet instead of indulging in such sinful deeds. He also advises devotees, Do not react to any criticism leveled against Swami or any other elder for that matter. Just brush it aside, saying, you have nothing to do with it.
But, -------, surely you must know that there are "MANDATED REPORTING" rules that require any adult, especially those in the mental health, teaching and clergy professions, to expose the SEXUAL MOLESTATION OF MINORS. In our law-based society (and Baba has always advocated that citizens abide by their nations laws), sexual molestation and forced sexual behavior is a prosecutable, criminal offense. The United Nations has established an international Convention on the Rights of the Child and Baba's behavior completely violates this UN law. It is ALWAYS INAPPROPRIATE for an adult to touch the genitals of a minor EXCEPT IN A LICENSED, CONSENSUAL MEDICAL SITUATION. A private interview with Baba is NOT such a situation.
For these reasons, since these more serious allegations about Baba came forth in mid-2000, reaching the level of major media coverage in Fall 2000 in the U.K., Australia, Canada, India, and a few European countries, many longtime devotees are now immediately severing all contact with the Sai movement and rejecting Baba as not being the "purest of the pure." I read these reports in early February of 2001 and now I must agree with the defectors that something has gone TERRIBLY WRONG with Baba--and with the Sai movement hierarchy for trying to cover it up.
Not all the longtime "VIP" devotees are covering up. Many have publicly resigned, including central coordinators of the Sai movement in Sweden (Conny Larsson, et al.), Australia (Terry Gallagher), Poland (Artur Wisniewski), and numerous regional directors/coordinators (7 in Quebec, several in the USA, etc.). The entire Swedish Sai movement has pretty much shut down, and the same may happen in many other countries. Meanwhile, here in the US, there has been a rash of defections by longtime senior devotees, many of whom I am now in direct contact with. Yes, your friend James Redmond has resigned (not just because of Babas sexual predatory behavior; Redmond has repeatedly caught Baba faking most of his materializations in his many videos of Baba) and the Arkansas Sai commune has severed connection with Baba (the founder's son is one of the multiply molested victims).
Despite all this, Michael Goldstein, Bob Bozzani, William Harvey, Jack Hawley, and others who should know better have abandoned all integrity and are acting most irresponsibly in trying to persistently reaffirm that "Baba is pure," consistently ignoring the serious, grievous trauma experienced by the male youth involved. Again, according the "mandated reporting" rules, these Sai officers are criminally guilty of covering up Baba's criminal behavior when he sexually molests minors.
Between the two opposing camps of those who, on the one hand, continue to try to deny, cover-up and rationalize Baba's sexual behavior as "Divine activity," and those who, on the other hand, think that Baba is an incarnation of evil, "the imposter God," there is a growing third camp of those of us who feel that, yes, much good has come through Baba's form and world mission, and yes, there are some paranormal and beautiful things that happen around him and in Sai Centers worldwide.
But as spiritual aspirants who adhere to a universal ethical system, we cannot condone this ongoing sexual predatory behavior, this seriously harmful molestation of boys and young men, which leaves such a residue of shame, betrayal, confusion, grief, fear, anger. In a few cases it appears that male youth have even committed suicide over not being able to psychologically handle their being molested by Baba.
At this point in time, I cannot agree that Baba is the Purna Avatar, pure and simple. Anyone who tries to rationalize Baba's behavior by appealing to his Divinity and the corollary that "God [Baba] can do whatever he wants" has not sufficiently proven that Baba is, in fact, the pure expression of Divinity incarnate on this planet. It may be that the formless God or Absolute Spirit (the Infinite Atman/Brahman) is communicating something through the name/form of Sathya Sai and thus has intended that tens of millions of people connect with his mission, at least temporarily until they move beyond the form of Sathya Sai (and has not Baba himself often called for people not to get attached to his form?)
But it also seems very likely that the human personality of Sathya Narayana Raju is NOT fully enlightened and has a considerable shadow side of lust and trickery that is interfering with the transmission of the Divine through his form. Alternately, Sathya Sai could be a highly-accomplished siddha who is now plummeting as a fallen yogi (yogabhrashta). Or, again, it could be that Shirdi Sai Baba is utilizing the name and form of Sathya Narayana Raju to accomplish certain wonders, but, again, the Sathya Narayana personality is complicating things terribly with its lust and sexual predatory behavior.
The bottom line is that, REGARDLESS of who/what Baba is, we, as mature, responsible aspirants endeavoring to live the values of Satya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa have A SERIOUS ETHICAL DUTY to rise up and speak out against the ongoing sexual molestation.
You should know that there are OTHER DEEPLY DISTURBING ALLEGATIONS about Baba and the Organization that are worth mentioning. For instance, the Super Speciality Hospital is not at all what it's hyped to be. David Bailey reports in his influential compilation of eye-witness reports, "The Findings," "A doctor I sat near on the mandir porch, who works in this hospital, told me never to let anyone I cared about go there as the sanitation is disgusting and the lack of aseptic technique, appalling. This allegation has been repeated numerous times in correspondence we have received, by people who have seen through the hospital."
The big water project is apparently a dismal failure in many areas. I've talked to one devotee who has worked on numerous water and sanitation projects worldwide for the World Bank and he was deeply disappointed in Baba's water project. In "The Findings" compilation by David Bailey, Bailey reports "seeing a Telegu newspaper with a front page feature article showing photos of villages with no water, broken pipes, no pipes, pipes and no tanks, and many with nothing at all. The headlines, translated, read ?SAI BABA WHERES OUR WATER? YOUVE CHEATED US AGAIN!" (Bon Giovanni has rebutted this charge by saying that numerous villages have in fact gotten water and are quite pleased; he also charges that the responsibility for the failures in other villages is NOT due to Baba or the Sai organization, but rather due to corrupt contractors trying to cheat Baba by supplying inferior equipment, failing to do certain work, etc.)
There are numerous reports of financial improprieties, including countless devotees losing significant sums of money in fraudulent schemes run by the Sai organization at Prasanthi Nilayam involving the housing units. Now we hear that Goldstein and Shah are raising funds for a 7-story edifice for Baba, contradicting the idea that no devotees would ever be solicited for funds. (Remember that another case of fund-raising occurred to subsidize the building of the planetarium in the 1980s.) I have heard stories as far back as 1980 that Baba himself has manipulated and coerced people to obtain significant sums of money from them. Back then I could only rationalize Baba's behavior... But really, there's no excuse for this financial pressuring of devotees.
Finally, it now appears quite clear to videographer James Redmond and others that Baba has faked many or most of his materializations. The vibhuti "manifestations" are faked through crushing a vibhuti pellet that he carries between the third and fourth finger of the right hand, transferred from the left hand. Necklaces, rings, watches, etc. have been witnessed by numerous devotees, including Isaac Tigrett and others, to be brought surreptitiously by Baba from under the cushion of the chair in the private interview room. There do appear to be some cases of genuine materializations and teleportations, especially when Baba was younger, but there are now so many faked materializations seen by eyewitnesses and the video-camera that we must ask "why would a Purna Avatar (especially one named Truth/Sathya) need to engage in trickery and deception?"
The essential point is that I and many others are now calling for Sai Baba centers, if they continue holding meetings open to the public, to forthwith abandon the name/form of Sai and transform their groups into nonsectarian assemblies for the worship of the formless God, selfless service to the community, and study of the classic advaita vedanta teachings of India (as found in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, Shankara, Jnaneshvar, Yoga Vasishtha, Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Avadhuta Gita, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Nisargadatta, Anandamayi Ma, Ammachi Amritanandamayi, et al.).
In our local Santa Barbara Sai group, several members of our group have left to start a new satsang with a non-Sai focus and format, tentatively named One Spirit Satsang.
As I wrote in my 3-page open letter to the Sai community, it would be a colossal shame if this [worldwide] fellowship [of spiritual aspirants in the Sai movement] were to fall apart and cease to exist. Moreover, I believe it would be psychologically unwise for long-time Sai devotees to run away from their friends and isolate themselves in a dark prison of doubts and disillusionment. In short, then, I believe that those countless members of the international Sai movement can rise to the occasion and together create something very positive, good and lasting out of all of this-a profoundly deep and beneficial world spiritual movement focused on the formless transcendent/immanent God. But we must move beyond the Sai form."
Again, --------, I am aware that this news might seem devastating and just too much to hear. I would humbly beseech you -- appealing to your innate sense of compassion and justice -- to not immediately, like so many of the pious rationalizers, go into your head and begin to likewise rationalize what is happening. Don't go off into metaphysical limbo like the others but stay connected with what, in your heart, you know must be the ethical, moral truth: sexual molestation of young men and boys is WRONG and CANNOT BE TOLERATED. Trickery and fraud is WRONG and CANNOT BE CONDONED.
There is so much more we could talk about, but this email letter is already long enough.
If you want to read more, and I think we all have a duty to read this material, please visit the websites http://www.snowcrest.net/sunrise and http://www.sathyasaivictimrs.com and read, especially, the following items:
1) A very balanced article by Mick Brown from the widely-read British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.
2) A statement from UNESCO severing connection with the Sai organization.
3) A heartfelt resignation letter from longtime Santa Barbara devotees Richard & Terry Nelson.
4) A letter to Dr. Michael Goldstein from a distraught mom (and his terribly inadequate response).
5) A message to fellow Sai devotees by Lori Kaplowitz.
6) A must-read letter to Sai devotees from a deeply concerned school psychologist and former Sai Center and Regional officer, Shirley Pike.
7) An important letter of resignation by a woman psychotherapist (Elena Hartgering) who was serving as a vice-president of a Sai center, a longtime Sai devotee who now feels the need to expose the "cultish, criminal behavior" of Sai and the Sai organization.
8) A formal statement by leading Swedish devotees, including the legal adviser, urging (and accomplishing) the dissolution of the Swedish Sai organization.
9) An insightful statement in faltering English from former devotee Conny Larsson of Sweden, and an open letter to Baba by Larsson.
10) The important compilation of eyewitness materials by David Bailey, entitled "The Findings." http://www.snowcrest.net/sunrise
11) A newspaper article from Ottowa, Canada. 12) A series of articles about Baba in the popular periodical India Today.
My dear friend ---------, I look forward to hearing from you your thoughts and comments.
In Divine love, peace, joy and, yes, TRUTH,