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Letters written by John Hislop

"Attached three letters written by John Hislop in 1981. They come from the files of a former Sai Center president in the early 1980s. They were accompanied by a personal letter from Hislop to the previous president of this Center, who then turned them over to the subsequent president. The letters show how at the time a story of Sai Baba molesting boys was taken up very seriously and how it was dealt with the Sai Organisation's best intentions."


Alexandra Nagel

Comments on Dr. Hislop's Letters by Ernest C. Owen: Click Here


The following three letters were written by John Hislop to Directors in Sai Centers, as a result of information that had come out from an American family. The son of this family was in Sai Baba's College in the late 1970s. He and his friends were, according to the boy and his parents believed him, molested by Sai Baba. This story came out in 1980, and was discussed in the Sai Organization.

Jan. 18, 1981

Dear Directors:

By the time you receive this memo you will already have received the letter which Mrs. X has mailed to each of us. And we hear she is sending it to other people in addition to ourselves. No doubt this is a terrible letter which carries the potential of destroying Sri Bhagavan in the West, and destroying also the spiritual life and spiritual faith of many devotees.

What can be said by each of us to devotees and other who come to us to express their distress? Directors Bayer, Goldstein, Krystal and myself have been going over and over the problem as we were talking together this weekend. Let me first say what we are not able to explain. There are two ways for us to respond to these horrible stories about Sri Bhagavan. One is to believe Sri Bhagavan when He says the stories are totally untrue, and the other is to believe the stories.

If our decision is to not believe the stories, then the question arises as to what moves so many people to say these false stories? This question we are quite unable to answer. I have written urgently to Sri Bhagavan asking Him to kindly supply us with the correct answer. I pray that we will be able to know the correct thing to say in response when people raise this doubt. Now, what are we able to explain? First of all it can be said that Hislop went to Sri Bhagavan while in India this past December, told Him of the stories which were circulating, in clinical detail and withholding nothing.

Sri Baba listened carefully, and without anger but in a most serious voice replied that the stories were untrue and they were totally false. Second, the following can be explained. The person who believes the stories chooses to believe also that Sri Bhagavan is a hypocrite, a liar and a criminal. Why?

(1) He would be a hypocrite because He pretends that His life is above the senses; and because He told me in an interview (which you have seen) that a homosexual is denied Membership in a Center, that this person should be questioned closely and be admitted only if the person desires to change their life away from that of a homosexual, and that people were homosexuals because of weakness of mind.

(2) He would be a liar because He told me, face to face, in the most serious way that the homosexual stories about Him were totally untrue.

(3) He would be a criminal because the homosexual abuse of children under His care and protection is a criminal action and such people are punished by jail sentences.

Now, is the above portrait of Sri Baba the portrait that the person really sees and believes in? Because, that is the portrait of Sri Baba that the person who believes the stories is actually taking into their mind. If such is really their portrait of Sri Baba, then that person should seriously consider a clear break away from Him. With such a portrait of Sri Baba nagging at the back of the mind, the person will not find peace of mind, and life will be troubled and unhappy.

Most people who may tend to believe these horrible stories about Sri Bhagavan have not, I feel sure, carefully thought through the situation. If it is carefully explained what the person is actually saying about Sri Bhagavan when these stories are even partially accepted, I believe it would be of genuine help to the person. I urge that you yourself carefully think through the situation, carefully consider all aspects of it, and come to a very serious and firm conclusion, which will then be your strength when you have to talk about this to a troubled devotee.

Sai Ram,


P.S. We are also contacting people we know who lived and worked in the situation with the boys. We have already talked to Jack Hand, who taught Physical Ed. & Health at the College for two years. At no time did he hear even one of these stories. As far as he is concerned, such stories did not exist with the college students.

P.S.S. Another point: It is downright crazy to even conceive that such a situation could exist without indictment from parents & Government, whereas Gov. Leaders are Swami’s strong devotees.

Letter #2: 2-21-81

Dear Director:

Enclosed are copies of letters written by two friends, and a copy of my letter to the X family. Do not exhibit the letters - let us not escalate the trouble - it would please me better if you would destroy them after reading and digesting the contents. Why do I write to you at all about these matters? Because I conceive it my duty to do my best to present data to you that will convince you as strongly as I am convinced that Swami is innocent of the slanderous charges against Him.

You are Swami’s representatives to the world, and you have got to be in a position of maximum strength when facing devotees. I hope this mailing will be sufficient to conclude the matter, and I do not intend to write about it again unless something very much unforseen happens. About X. I am not a psycholgist that I can diagnose the specific problems of the boy. But any person who has reached our ages can see the probable outline of the situation.

At a young age, the tendencies and desires are strong, and discrimination and discipline are weak. Note in crime reports how the young predominate in acts of impulsive violence. The animal heritage has its remnants in us, and the primitive heritage of cunning and violence in order to survive a hostile environment is also there. In order to survive, mind and body must use the most deadly weapons available.

In modern society, the most deadly weapon that anyone can use to destroy the enemy, the one who threatens security, is to accuse that person of degenerative sexual crimes. Our direct experience is limited, but this method of attack is often reported in the news and it can be observed in operation at all levels of society.

I am convinced that it is probably the primitive survival reaction described that is responsible for the accusations of X. There are also other people who accuse Swami, and we have heard of some of them. In these cases the individual may feel threatened by his own homosexual tendency, and by projecting that tendency on to another person it can be attacked.

No doubt there are many devices the psyche uses to survive stress and strain, and if you are interested we can ask Sam Sandweiss to tell us about them. The central point is that it is folly to accept such stories as being factually and objectively real. Such stories about Sri Baba are fiction, novels, and the seeming reality they project depends on the artistic talent of the story teller. Let us be awake and very very skeptical of such stories.

You have heard that Swami wrote to me. The significant part of the letter is this: “Sai is millions of miles away from the devilish passion attributed to Him … As fire consumes all materials, these false stories and false allegations are reduced to ashes by My Divinity … Rest assures that Sai’s fame can never be diminished by these false stories … good and pious people will never care for them.”

As I previously mentioned in another letter, the trouble is not with the condemnation of the alleged acts, not in the decision that one who does such action is a false teacher of spiritual life. The fault lies in the conclusion that Sri Baba is guilty of such actions. This a grave error in reason and judgement. As Directors, we must be able to correct this error whenever someone says it to us.

Sai Ram,


Letter #3: 3-25-81

Dear Director:

Both you and members of Sai Centers in your region have learned from trips to India, or from other people in the U.S. that Swami is often the target of attacks which range from physical harm to verbal abuse. For example, not only was there a poison attempt on Him not long ago, but in earlier years He is reported to have been a kidnap victim. That the kidnapers then became His devotees is beside the point.

Some five years ago a gang of robbers (dacoits) came to Prasanthi Nilayam with the stated purpose of killing Swami; the police intelligence unit caught them but Swami refused to prosecute. There have been other incidents of a physical nature. Verbal abuse of Swami is more common than physical attack. The abusers live in foreign countries as well as in India. Probably you received a leaflet from Malaysia claiming that Swami “fakes” vibhuthi and materializations. The “fraudulent magic tricks” allegation was in great favor a few years ago and even had some university scientists as participants. In time these accusations subsided.

The attacks seem to come in waves and in series of waves. A few years back Swami was labelled “Romeo”, a great “lady’s man”. Numerous women claimed that Swami came to their apartments at night and took them to bed. Next came the accusations that He was a homosexual. It seems especially difficult for the attackers to keep life in the homosexual accusation and the current attack appears to be already falling away.

The latest allegation to surface, and I do not know if it will become strong enough to be a wave, is the accusation that Swami is in it for the money and is busy misappropriating money for His personal fortune. I have been receiving some letters asking about this. What the nature of the next attack will be, I do not know. Because of the continuing nature of attacks upon Swami it is important that we know something of the background of this situation in addition to having our strong personal faith in Him. Swami is always surrounded by people, and everything He does is under intense scrutiny.

Many people still living have been close observers of Swami for thirty years and more. I am fairly recent - 12 years now, but I have spent considerable time in His company. We who are able to be inside His house and who are vitally interested observers see that Swami’s life is exactly the same as His teaching and that He does nothing for Himself, but spends all of His time and energy in work for the benefit of mankind. So, how and why do these waves of attack arise? It is really very strange, is it not?

It is my theory that the force of creation is outward-going into manifestation, experience and change; whereas the balancing force of discrimination and detachment is inward-going to silence, peace and eternity. Creation is violent; inward stability is peaceful. That which resists a violent current can expect to be battered. He who leads His family or followers upstream, against the tremendous power of a swift-flowing river, seeking to guide them to the source, will seem to be under attack by the current, the wave, the rapids and the whirlpools.

Swami says something the same. He points out that the Divine person throughout history has been abused and that enemies arise determined to destroy Him. In a lighter vein swami has mentioned that people do not throw stones at a barren tree but do throw stones at trees laden with fruit. I recently wrote some letters to Swami telling Him in detail about the verbal attacks mounted against Him. I asked if He would graciously send His comment. Swami did reply, and in summary said,

“Sai is millions of miles away from the devilish passion attributed to Him … As fire consumes all materials, these false stories and false allegations are reduced to ashes by My Divinity … In all ages Divinity was attempted to be discredited with false allegations, but these merely give better shining to the Divinity of the Incarnation as a Diamond gets more lustre with each cutting … Rest assures that Sai’s fame can never be diminished by these false stories. Only birds of the same feather will give credence to the false allegations … good and pious people will never care for them.”

Since a few people abuse their own essential Divinity with beastly attitudes and activities, how can we expect them to refrain from also abusing the Divinity of Sri Baba? Those individuals who participate in attacks upon Swami’s person and His Name are in effect saying that they do not believe Swami is a “Divine Embodiment” of stainless love and purity. Instead, they regard Him as a person of low character and bad tendencies. These people are few in number but they certainly make some waves at least temporarily.

The Sai devotees who have direct knowledge of Him or faith equivalent to such knowledge are not a problem. Nor are those individuals who believe the gossip about Swami much of a problem for they quite properly run away, and it is not often possible or practical to attempt to bridge the distance to them for they have made their own choice and their own decision. Our problem (as office holders in the Sai organization) is with those devotees who are not well acquainted with Swami and who are wavering in their minds about the series of allegations against Him.

These latter devotees should have someone available with whom they can talk out the situation and their doubts. Who can this be? Because of time and distance factor it can only be the Officers of a Center. Thus, dear Director, if you agree that this suggestion is correct then you must educate and provide a good background briefing to the Officers of the Centers in your Region. How? One way to start would be to call the President of each of your Centers during the reduced-rate evening and week-end hours and read this letter to him or her and answer questions that might follow. As you will know, the reduced-rate phone charges are very reasonable and inexpensive.

You could also tell the President that the other Officers are welcome to phone you whenever they find it convenient. As Council President, I urge you to give strength to the Center Officers in this matter. Should not Sai devotees have an understanding of the situation? The possibility certainly exists that we have not seen the last attack. The only way to estimate the future course of events, and we all do it, is to weigh the probabilities and act in terms of that which is most probable. As Swami Becomes more and more a world-wide personality, those people who find in themselves love and veneration for the Person and the Divinity will multiply in numbers.

At the same time Swami will come to the notice of some minds that are “anti-Avathar”, or that are disturbed for one reason or another. For this reason is it not probable that attacks upon Swami are more likely to continue than to diminish? I believe it essential hat our Center Officers have the benefit of the your conversation and instruction to help them maintain balance in the Center Membership. Letters to devotees will not do, since letters are likely to “escape” and float in every direction without control.

I believe you must establish a verbal relationship with the Center Officers in order to properly inform them and educate them about this situation. The Indian Officers can take care of the situation in India, but it is ourselves who must take care of the American situation. I risk yourselves with written communications which you can study and work over, but I dare not enlarge the circle; someplace amongst people I do not know, there would be a weak link. If you find yourself of the opinion that my thinking in this matter is wrong, please write to me immediately and tell me what you believe would be correct .If you are in agreement, please tell me the results of your conversations with Center Officers, as they are consumated.

Sai Ram,


Comments on Dr. Hislop's Letters by Ernest C. Owen: Click Here