Thursday, April 17, 2008

Indian Editor Vir Sanghvi Is Game But Is He Game Enough?

Recently, one of India's top editors, Vir Sanghvi of Hindustan Times, has written against Sathya Sai Baba.

However, his article lacks weighty arguments, and is far too impressionistic. He seems to have ducked out of sight of both Sai Baba protagonists and former devotee activists. Unlike Indian Today (and its courageous journalists like Vijay Thapa), the BBC, The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and other leading media in the world who have contacted key witnesses and closely examined crucial documentation, Vir Sanghvi has failed to consult with those best able to provide evidence of the sheer extent and good provenance of the allegations against Sai Baba. For security and because of the painful sensitivity for many witnesses, the great bulk of these cannot be broadcast in the public domain - e.g., via the Internet. 

Why do not Sanghvi and other Indian editors research and write something rigorously researched on Sai Baba and the myriad of allegations facing him? - that is to say, like Paul Lewis in The Guardian, or Dominic Kennedy and his team in The Times of London, or Mick Brown in The Daily Telegraph, or Michelle Goldberg for, the ABC (Australia), television broadcasters DR (Denmark) and AZUL (Argentina), and other top journalists in several countries to whom we have been glad to provide access to victims, their families and other compelling witnesses. Sathya Sai Organization leaders like Indulal Shah (Mumbai), Dr Michael Goldstein (the Sai Baba cult's world head, a physician of Covena, California, USA, who so thoroughly disgraced himself in angry displays caught by BBC hidden camera in 'The Secret Swami', 2004), Dr G. Venkataraman (deputy world head, Puttaparthi, India), J. Jagadeesan (Malaysia) etc., who attempt to characterize media articles and documentaries as ‘sensational’ untruths.


Many former devotees have given the utmost dedicated service - both in 
and far beyond the Sathya Sai Baba fold. 

They are happy to assist properly qualified investigators from the best quality media, Interpol, academic institutions, law courts, and so on.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Confronting One of History's Most Powerful Cults

Sathya Sai Baba is arguably history's most powerful guru - Indian or otherwise. Some, like me, speak of his infamy.

He has not traveled out of India - despite decades of promises to do so - except for a brief stay in Uganda in 1968, about which he has since warmly reminisced, along with his deputy world head of his cult, Dr G. Venkataraman. The sheer power of his influence on many power brokers cannot be apparent to any but those who have seen him in action, surrounded by them, courted by them, fawned over by them as they sink, literally, at his feet. There is far more that yields to close investigation of the 'secret swami' and his increasingly highly regimented global organization.

Great Expectations

Thinking him one of those great spiritual beings who appear but rarely, I became deeply devoted to Sai Baba - for 25 years. At his behest, and in unpaid service, I taught all three years intake in the Humanities degree course at the Sathya Sai College at Whitefield, via Bangalore, Karnataka, South India for 1977-1978. My first contacts with the students, many of them remarkable, was a series of drama events, and then, marveling at the responsibility with which I was being entrusted, I was given Principal Narendra's own lecturing duties in English Literature, including the third year students in the three year degree course. I was also permitted to innovate, which put me in touch not only with students from very urban and often highly privileged backgrounds from many parts of India and a little beyond but close up contact too with students from the rural areas. It was a great way of, in a sense, 'seeing' India.

It was also a great way of starting teaching, fairly soon after I had finished my Combined Honors Arts degree in English Literature and Philosophy, a teaching diploma and a post-graduate course in theatre direction. I was to spend a number of very happy years in India, a wonderful culture, with never ending vistas of incredible cultural variety and unplumbed depths. India can thrive in the future if only the corrupt leaderships can be overcome, and provided she does not succumb to the hollow materialistic dazzle of Westernization.

The Dashing of Great Dreams

In October 1999, I read the accounts of Terry Gallagher, first head of Australian Sathya Sai Organization and others who resigned from the global Sathya Sai Organization on the basis of ethical principle. These spoke of Sai Baba having sex with boys and young men, and of other disturbing anomalies. Making extensive investigations globally by email, and sometimes by phone, as other were, with great concern, also doing I found much corroboration from families and individual survivors themselves - many of whom did not know each other. In no way could there have been collusion and, in any case these were individuals who, along with their supporters, well known for their decency and intelligence when members of Sai Baba's fold.

There was no doubting their excellent standing in their professions, trades and wider communities. The accounts were heartrending. They were typical of many decent, law abiding and caring seekers, from various cultures who have sought spiritual guidance from Sai Baba or other teachers. There was, of course, a major social trend of Westerners seeking out Eastern teachers, escalating from the sixties onwards. Towards end of 1999, I became a member of an international network of former Sai Baba followers, which included a broad cross-section of educational and cultural backgrounds. This was a highly active pepper group, and, after its demise those who were in it have respected its needs for secrecy, given the formidableness of the adversary. There was some extraordinarily dynamic leadership, notably by the later Glen Meloy and Hari Sampath.

Former Devotees Work To Bring Shocking Allegations To World Attention

Among this number were some outstanding mental health professionals familiar with the various cases, and we campaigned - even as others, mainly in the USA, had attempted a little before us, to get the allegations out into the open as much as possible, although strongly safeguarding the details of the vast majority who wished their harrowing accounts not to be made public - or in some cases not unless there were bona fide court or governmental or institutional investigations.

Glen Meloy, of southern California, USA, who had been a follower of Sai Baba for 26 years and who died in 2005, and I worked closely on many initiatives, as have more recently Robert Priddy, former head of the Sathya Sai Organization, Norway, and I. It is unfortunate that many of these activities have often to be conducted on a need-to-know basis (as in the case of sworn statements/affidavits, and the details of most of the former devotees who have dissented), but the extreme sensitivity of the issues, including (especially in India) the physical or mental safety of survivors and their families, enforce this. Many in the Sathya Sai Organization are decent and good, and for many years, before some of us became aware of the leaders’ dereliction of duty of care, and of accountability and transparency. Among remaining followers are many who were our dearest and closest friends and colleagues for decades. Losing them was not the least of the shocks.

Big Smokescreens and Dereliction of Sai Organization's Duty of Care

However, there are some among the leadership in the Sathya Sai Organization who are engaged in extreme cover-up, and who have proven unaccountable to the media, the public and to their own rank and file. Hence the BBC’s term, The Secret Swami, which is the title of its 2004 searing account of but a small number of the many and serious allegations from around the world that face Sai Baba and his core servitors. The international Sathya Sai Organization is very wealthy, influential and powerful, providing Sai Baba's Central Trust with an exchequer rated in the billions, and has become ever more of an authoritarian cult over the years. Former devotee activists have often displayed a great willingness to verify and to share information with well-reputed bona fide investigators from media, government, civic and academic institutions, and so on. My contact email is: bpittard (at) . If you email me so that I can ensure my computer is on, you can contact me via voice and/or video on Skype: therange999. Barry Pittard

My main blogsite is

Citizen Initiative
Recent Research on the Claims of Sathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed
Sathya Sai Baba In Word And Action

General former devotee websites, being the most extensive

For Updates on News, Click on the News tab at -
Various languages but Spanish is particularly well-served -

Public Petition
for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Songs The Smiths Build Right Up

The British composer Gavin Bryars

talks movingly of the development of his 1971 piece 'Jesus Blood Never Failed Me' - using a recording tape of a homeless old man singing a hymn in a rough side of London. The song appeared only after long gestation. While working on it, Bryars accidentally left the tape to loop away, going briefly out of his recording room, and later commented,

"When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping".

Suppose the tramp had sung e.g., 'Incey Wincy Spider', doubtless the song would have gone the way of all spider webs, instead of becoming a classic, causing millions to weep with deeply touched heart. Would the composer have been even moved to surround the tramp's hymn-singing with gradual building of strings, brass etc until the tramp is somehow universalised, like Charles Chaplin's tramp, and becomes almost a star performer? (Sadly, the old homeless man died before the work was finished). What would have been common, as with so many fine songs (and okay even awful ones, too), was melodic simplicity, but the emotional-cultural dimension would have been absent.

Compare the Gavin Bryars piece with two, also well-crafted but 'commercial', crowd-pleasers of tunefulness: 'Taller Stronger Better' sung by the Australian Guy Sebastian and 'Breakfast at Eight' by the American singer-composer Rufus Wainwright. Melodic simplicity plays against (relative) orchestral complexity, and a certain power of repetition is present in all three songs. A repetition unsurprising in Bryars case because he was right into minimalism. (His song first surfaced on the minimalist Brian Eno's Obscure record label, 1975). The meticulous building of all three songs is maximally at the service of the capable performer, who is liberated along with the singer - and we 'singers' along with the artist, because we are all singers, most of us rather stealthily.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Pearly Tunes, In-transit To Heaven

These I selected for my today's Playlist in the background.

Let's imagine there's a Heaven. If the following are the sort of things that are playing, I won't be shy about dancing through the gates to these pearly tunes: Karl Jenkins's 'Hymn To The Dance', Jai Uttal's 'Pahari'. The rest of the tunes here are for the in-transit flight. I should mention another excellent version of 'Music For A Found Harmonium' - that of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Luka Bloom does a sweet, guitar-accompanied version of 'I'll Walk Beside you'. My favourite all-time classical female singer Janet Baker does a heart-rending version of 'Dido's Lament'. Sample Jeff Buckley - not of the earth earthly - doing it finely. (By the way, Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC, last week came out with the results of its 'all-time-greatest albums' poll, where Jeff Buckley's 'Grace' came second on the list. I think he would have made a gorgeous version of Ivor Novello's 'The Land of Might Have Been'. Here are the Australians in action - or at least the ones who weren't out looking for forbidden fruits, or buying new albums or at the beach:

Pink Floyd — Dark Side of the Moon
Jeff Buckley — Grace
Radiohead — OK Computer
The Beatles — Abbey Road
The Beatles — Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Nirvana — Nevermind
Led Zeppelin — Four
Red Hot Chili Peppers — Blood Sugar Sex Majik
Meat Loaf — Bat Out of Hell
U2 — Joshua Tree

Burton Lane Song Bounces Back

Song: One More Walk Around The Garden
T'smith: Burton lane
W'smith: Jay Lerner
Source: Forgotten Broadway show, Carmelina (1979).

Versions that I know: 1. Original cast. 2. Sarah Brightman

My preference: 1. Several chaps sing it, full of verve, and could, I think, survive singing it, unplugged even, in a workingmen's club. Sometimes not being 'divine' like Sarah is actually believably human, a far better thing.

Jay Lerner's lyrics are available at:
On this page, there's a note by Lyle Fletcher, who comments on the Julie Andrews version, which he prefers, a comment interesting because though I think Julie, at any stage of her career was not 'the great voice' but rather the great and warm - yes human - talent.