Comments on the Hislop letters
Ernest C. Owen
24 October 2001
Six comments on the letters by Dr. John Hislop in the early 1980s to Sai Org. leaders as published on the web.
(1) In allowing any mention of the sexual allegations to devotees, Hislop was more liberal and civil than present top Organisation leaders who exclude anyone from office who perplexedly asks honest questions about these matters, (eg. the dictatorial T. Meyer of Europe, for one, excluded the leader of EHV and deputy centre leader in Moscow, Serguei Badaev simply for asking him two or three questions about the matter).
But unfortunately Hislop gave up any proper pursuit of the allegations almost before he had begun. He asked Jack Hand, another Westerner, who was kept in the dark as are all non-Telugu-speakers in the tightly censoring Baba ashrams, is like the blind leading the blind. Can one imagine Sai Babas students under his very restrictive and moralistic discipline and ominous power freely questioning, Sir, why does God abuse me sexually?
Common sense and experience shout No! Another teacher at Babas college in Whitefield in the late 70s, Mr. Barry Pittard, was also unaware of such matters at the time, but is most certainly no longer so, as those who follow the exposé activities will know. Hislop should also have been aware that paedophiles are known always to deny their misdeeds and - when confronted - often to use threatening language or vague terms (viz. burning to ash, which one of the rishis was supposed to do to people with his eyes, according to Babas educative retelling of puranic stories).
Hislops shocked withdrawal from the alleged facts and non-pursuit of other leads (eg. the earlier Malaysian allegations, or approaching Tal Brooke for his personal witness account etc.) is psychologically understandable, but no more defensible for that. Why didnt he personally contact the boy to see for himself what kind of impression he could get from him?
A leader of a largish organisation purporting to convey moral values and defending the truth ought to have been less partisan, much more open to investigating properly. Instead, he managed to bury the matter very well for decades, I never even heard of it back in the 80s, but now the corpse has arisen! The allegations that Baba claimed he would burn to ashes have also shown a Phoenix-like nature, arising afresh time and again from new people and multiplying from all parts of the world!
(2) Hislop observably and understandably had strong motives - both personal and social - for rationalising the allegations by recourse to mere speculations about young people in general and the probable outline of the situation. Those 100% pro-Baba biased conceptions also caused him to go well beyond the facts when he claimed Swami is always surrounded by people, and everything He does is under intense scrutiny.
But Hislop conveniently overlooks the obvious, that there is no one who can observe Baba personally all the time, eg. Baba's nightly activities are said to be completely unknown to his closest attendants, as is what goes on in the privacy of the inner interview room. It is no use Hislop arguing, therefore, that, 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 Swamis life is exactly the same as His teaching... Not only does Baba change the company he keeps many times a day, so that no single person has an overview of his many activities, but he often takes long drives away from the ashram, the destination or purpose never being made known except to those actually with him. Further, anyone who knows anything about cases of paedophilia and incest, will know that even wives are usually unaware of their children being abused sexually by their husbands or other close relatives.
This shows how much it all depends on what one wishes to believe. As to exact correspondence between teaching and action, there are many areas where discrepancies are obvious to those who wish to look (to check simply see my article on the 1993 murders, A Bloody Shambles or look into Babas angry Xmas discourse of 2000).
(3) Hislop refers to kidnappers who became Babas devotees. More likely, they willingly accepted employment from him rather than rely on robbery. One of these, known to all in the 60s, 70s and early 80s as the Prashanthi gatekeeper Kumar, was brutally murdered in the ashram in early 1985 because of his really hateful behaviour to people there (esp. the cook at the main Indian canteen), his constant beating with his watchmans stick of devotee Indian villagers (I saw him use it on Indian villagers during nagarsankirtan who did no more than walk in the wrong place), and taking money from poor Indian peasants to let them enter the ashram (tens of thousands in small notes were found behind his picture of Baba in his 'hut' just inside the main gate gopuram when it was cleared after his death).
In the early 80s he once even imprisoned a young US lady in his concrete pillbox like hut for over 24 hours. So much for such dacoits turned devotees. Various sources (incl. an ashram resident) hold that the killer acted in self-defence and rushed to Babas feet for forgiveness and Baba gave him money and sent him away somewhere until things had cooled down. It was a hush-hush matter at the ashram and no one could find out anything as it remained uninvestigated. As to Indian law and avoiding it its the same story all over.
(4) Hislop remarks 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 Swamis strong devotees. This shows how naive and ignorant Hislop really was about legal justice and omnipresent corruption in India, as will be proven by any reading of the materials about the 1993 murders at Prashanthi Nilayam and the subsequent government cover up, the petitions that were rejected by judges who are Sai devotees and so on.
Even national Indian television Doordarsan destroyed materials showing an alleged faked materialisation that were considered to be injurious to Sai Babas image. The fact that Gov. Leaders are strong Sai devotees should have made it obvious to Hislop that they couldnt possibly be impartial. If you regard someone as God, can you find faults in that Being if you dont have very strong reasons that you just cannot dismiss by explaining it away somehow?
(5) Hislop's letters show his frequent inaccuracy as in the phrase, I am convinced that it is probably.... He was convinced of probability! It is well known that Hislop spent much of his life in a never-never land of gurus that proved false or useless, successively leaving them, from a Yogananda guru, then the tricky money-grabbing Maharishi Mahesh yogi to the unsatisfactory vipasana yogi U Ba Thin. This makes it rather surprising that he was still able, even after a string of disillusionments of faith, seriously to hold that, The Sai devotees who have direct knowledge of Him or faith equivalent to such knowledge are not a problem.
This demonstrates how Hislop still recognised no difference between strong faith and actual knowledge in judging whether worldly facts are the case or not. Poor, misguided seeker... he had swallowed a chunk too much of the vaguer, pseudo-intellectual parts of Sai Babas teachings.
(6) Hislop reported an unheard-of fact, that Baba, 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.
Now we know something never before explained in the Organisation, that Sai Baba instructed its leader in the West to ban homosexuals from the Organisation, and even from its centres. Well, would you believe it? One must wonder why this was so closely guarded for so long, why it was never prescribed in the Organisations directives. And which secret divine teaching will surface next?