A letter From Dr.John S.Hislop
Thanks indeed for the current issue of your journal which is just now forwarded to me by my Birth Day Publishing Co., and for the kind words about the book, My Baba and I, and its author.
From the writing to the editing to the printing to the expensive paper, your journal is a quality product and as such is aimed at and no doubt reaches influential people. You are certainly an intellectual man with a long background of sound, hard practical experience, and yourself and the people who read your words are most important in society because you are opinion makers, and your firm opinions influence the attitudes and thus the actions of people in general. This importance of opinion makers is well known, of course, and I respect the truism only to assure you that I take very seriously what you say about Sathya Sai Baba.
I doubt if anyone who reads your words about Sathya Sai Baba could in justice say that your words are unreasonable. You are an experienced investigative reporter in the field of claims of spiritual power and spiritual leadership, and your findings certainly justify a skeptical kindly prove me approach to even such a giant figure as Sathya Sai Baba, for to your own direct knowledge there are only the claims of some persons like me that Sathya Sai Baba is in fact what we say he is.
One difficulty is inequating the validity of Sathya Sai Baba with the fact or fiction of the materialization of objects although I do understand the view point that false in one aspect, then suspect in all aspects. The materialization of objects is a very minor part of Baba's work in the world, and he attributes no proof of divine wisdom to these manifestations, simply saying the ability is natural to him whereas it is acquired by yogis after long practice and even then is not stable and permanent. As you well know, there are yogis in Burma and in India who have developed yogic or siddhi powers and the materialization of objects is one of these powers. I personally know three yogis who have siddhi powers and no doubt there are many other such yogis, and perhaps even some in the west. These powers are not proof of Divinity powers, but are powers within the capability of human persons. However, it is quite correct for a keen mind to require proof satisfactory to that mind that a particular person does indeed have an out-of-the-ordinary ability. Such proof is direct when the phenomena is directly encountered. For instance, when I am sitting against Baba's knee and see his hand extended well beyond body and clothing and from his open palm in front of my eyes and in front of the eyes of a roomful of sharp-witted university students springs a rosary of 108 perfectly matched pearls, which he then gives to one of the people there I know directly that I have witnessed an event in this relative world and that it would be unreasonable to demand that the event be repeated under laboratory controls. Over the 19 years that I have known Baba, although I have not kept count, I have witnessed well over 100 materializations with myself in close proximity to Baba, and some of these have been most extraordinary.
It would be benefit to everyone within the--I suspect--quite large circle of your influence if when you are next in India you would obey a visit to Sathya Sai Baba, witness materializations, and then say what would be necessary to validate the experience for you. If you care to send a note if and when you go, I will do what I can to help secure an interview with Baba - this is not the easiest thing in the world in that usually from 20,000 to 50,000 people are there, each hoping and praying for an interview.
Benefit to people living now arises from the world-wide social and educational work of Baba and from his profound spiritual wisdom. Even more direct is the deepening of one's understanding which comes with opening one's heart and ears to Baba. In one's mind there opens a perception of the distinction between appearance and reality, and in one's heart foolishness weakens and there is happiness instead.
David, if I may say to you, what if in actuality Sathya Sai Baba is even more than what his devotees claim, what if in fact there is an embodiment of Divinity that except for name and form is the indivisible Absolute Consciousness fully there, then would it not be a great pity to be alive without having cognized such a great wonder? Would it not be a great pity, David, to let such a happening remain unobserved by you, remain unknown to you because of intervening ideas and concepts?
You go to India frequently, I believe. Why not add a day or so to your itinerary and visit Sathya Sai Baba at Whitefield or Prasanthi Nilayam, and then make a judgement? Stop over in Bangalore and in twenty minutes a taxi will carry you to whitefield, or if Baba is in Prasanthi Nilayam, then in three hours the taxi will have you there.
With appreciation of your work, and with kindest regards to your goodself,
Hislop (Dr. John S.Hislop)
Although I did get a chance to go to India in March of 1988, my schedule did not allow me to visit with Sathya Sai Baba in South India. Dr.Hislop is right, however, in his insistence that a researcher see for himself (instead of relying on secondary accounts) whether or not a particular guru is genuine. Book knowledge is helpful, but not sufficient. Thus, it is vitally important to balance our rational skepticism with experiential interaction and observation.
I must say also that Sathya Sai Baba's disciples have been very open and outgoing about supplying information about their guru and his teachings. Indeed, I have Sai Baba devotees to be some of the nicest and friendliest people I have interviewed.
Thankfully, there is a new book on Sathya Sai Baba which goes a long way in trying to determine the relative authenticity of his miracles. Erlendur Haraldsson's Modern Miracles: An Investigative Report on Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba is the first book of its kind. Haraldsson, who has gone to India eight times, approaches the alleged miracles of Sai Baba with a critical, but open outlook. Although the Icelandic professor of psychology fails to get Sathya Sai Baba to undergo controlled experiments, he does nevertheless get to the truth behind many reported miracles. A number of them Haraldsson debunks, including the famous "resurrection of Walter Cowan," which turns out to be fairly exaggerated yarn. (Haraldsson interviewed the attending doctors and none of them ever reported Cowan dying: he was very sick, they reported, but that's it.) However, Haraldsson is quick to point out that there have not been any confirmed reports of Sai Baba using sleight of hand tricks to produce vibuti or other religious artifacts. Simply put, there's no scientific proof that Sai Baba's does miracles (only suggestive accounts and testimonies) but there is also no evidence at this stage of fraud. The paradox of Sai Baba remains.
I highly recommend Modern Miracles to all UCSM readers. It is now in a U.S.A. paperback edition (published by Fawcett Columbine) and retails for $8.95. Undoubtedly, Haraldsson's study is the most balanced book ever written on the miraculous work of Sathya Sai Baba.
Another book that touches upon the Sathya Sai baba controversy, at least from a skeptical perspective, is Tai Brooke's Lord of the Air which has been republished in India in a paper back version titled, Avathar of Night. Although Brooke's work is basically a polemic, it does provide the reader with an inside glympse (and a contrary interpretation) of the life and work of Sathya Sai Baba.
The University of Regensburg neither approves nor disapproves of the opinions expressed here. They are solely the responsibility of the person named below.Gerald_Huber@r.maus.de
Last update: 8 July 1998