Dipak, Forum for Scientific Values, 6, Christopher Road, Calcutta 700 014. (West Bengal)
Q: Shortly, give the idea of planning and programming to publish "Indian Skeptic". What are the objectives?
A: The Indian Skeptic is being published for carrying out the objectives of the Indian Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of Paranormal which are:
1. To develop Scientific Temper, Humanism, Spirit of Inquiry and Reform.
2. To encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and to dissiminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the Scientific Community and the public.
To carry out these objectives the committee:
* Maintains a net work of people interested in critically examining claims of the Paranormal:
* Prepares bibliographies of published materials that carefully examine such claims:
* Encourages and commissions research by objective and impartial inquiry in areas where it is needed:
* Convenes conferences and meetings:
* Publishes articles, monographs, and books that examine claims of the paranormal:
* Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but rather examines them objectively and carefully.
The Committee is a non profit, scientific and educational organisation, "INDIAN SKEPTIC" is its official journal.
Q: Indian Committee for Scientific Investgiation of claims of the Paranormal - when was it founded? Who except you are other initiators of this committee? What were the real and exact inspiration to make such committee? What was the introductory investigative programme to inquire the claim of the definite paranormal? Give an example to understand the effectiveness of committee:
A: The Committee was first started by Prof. A.T.Kovoor in 1969 and I was one of his nominees. The Rationalist forums in India were co-operating with him. The inspiration was to educate people and make them fearless and start questioning things and find rational answers. In about 1976 or so, I was made the Convener of the Committee by the Kerala Rationalist Association: and in 1981 by the Indian Rationalist Association at their 50th year conference at Bombay. The investigations done under Kovoor's Committee are found in the yearly volumes published by him from Ceylon and some of the findings are published in his two English books, "Begone Godmen", and "Gods, Demons and Spirits" published by Jaico Publishing House, Bombay.
Q: Explain "Miracle" shortly and surely state the related specific social incidents of following miracles:
a) Short time death, stopping heart beat.
b) Making Vibhuti from air and coin.
c) Vibhuti produced from Satya Sai Baba's photographs.
d) Producing fire by mental power in the Yagna Kunda.
e) Transforming water into wine,honey, petrol etc.
f) Lifting heavy weight on finger tips by four persons.
g) making a heavy person climb on another who is made stiff and sleeping on two chairs at his head and feet.
h) levitaion in the air 5 or 6 feet.
i) Lifting a vessel filled with rice with a knife.
j) Sleeping on a sharp nail bed.
k) Piercing the tongue with a sharp trishul.
l) Walking on fire.
A: Miracle is something done by supernatural powers. Mysteires are "natural phenomena" about which we do not know anything. But we have been believing "Mysteries" as miracles as we did not know what was behind them.
a) A: One can stop heart beat by breathing air inside fully and trying to exhale the air without exhaling. What generally done by god-men is only to stop pulse at the wrist. This is done by stopping the flow of blood to the hands by keeping a lemon, or a small ball or a rolled hand kerchief in the arm pits and pressing. Doctors donot in the confusion check the heart beat but check the pulse and confirm that the pulse is stopped. The god-men show this trick to make people believe that by practising yoga and pranayama a person can stop the breath and heart beats and still be alive. This is to prove to the people that they are above normal human beings.
b) No one can create any matter from nothing or from air except by physical and chemical reactions of a matter which can only transform one matter into another. This phenomena of creating anything from nothing is against the theory of conservation, "That matter and energy are two sides of the same coin and they can neither be created nor destroyed." This theory is taught to us in the High School Classes. To get ash one has to burn firewood, or cowdung or paper. The ash so made has no smell unless perfume is added to it. The godmen like Satya Sai Baba claim to create anything from nothing. When they produce vibhuti or some other thing, it has to be hidden in their hands or the body, as they make the same movements of the hands and the body like a magician. No godman so far in the history of Mankind has created anything without the movements of hands and body and by clearly showing their hands empty and then create something without any movement. The godman's devotees argue as to how vibhuti which is in powder form can be hidden in the palms when the palm is kept down and moved in circles. They think that when the hands are kept palms down, the ash being powder would fall down and come to a wrong conclusion that the godman has really created vibhuti. What the godmen do is, that they mix perfume in the ash or purchase perfumed ash and make a dow by adding starch solution (Kanji water is the best) and then make small balls and dry them. These balls are hidden between the thumb and the pointing finger and after circling the hand palms down and while raising the hand to produce vibhuti, bring the vibhuti ball to the finger tips, powder the same and give it to the devotee.
The vibhuti from coin is produced by chemical reaction. One Vilas Baba of Phelton Village in Maharashtra challenged me through newspapers in 1982 when I was touring Maharashtra, that if I prove that his miracle of producing vibhuti from coins is a trick he is prepared to pay me Rs.5 lakhs. I accepted the challenge and agreed to meet him on the last day of my tour, as my lecture programmes were already arranged at the rate of four programmes a day and in between we had to travel more than 200 km. every day and the schedule was so tight. But the godman replied saying that his soul is going to Himalayas for penance and will be back only the next day of the date fixed by me. As it was a matter of Rs.5 lakhs, I agreed to the next day by extending my stay in Maharashtra by another day. I went to Phelton on the day and time fixed, but the godman was missing. He had left the place bag and baggage and has not so far returned back.
One can produce ash like matter only from alluminium coins. You ask someone to give you 5, 10 or twenty paise coins and as if you are reciting mantra rub the coin with mercuric chloride solution and blowing on the coin. Then handover the coin to the person asking him to keep the hand closed with the coin. Send mental power to the hand and the coin would be hot (by chemical reaction). Then when he opens his fist, grey matter is seen appearing on the coin which has been produced by chemical reaction of mercuric chloride an alluminium and water. People believe that it is holy ash. The grey powder continuously forms on the coin for hours together according to the quantity of mercuric chloride used on the coin. Even when one removes the grey matter, still it start forming again.
c) Actually vibhuti does not fall constantly from the framed photographs of Satya Sai Baba. To know if really vibhuti forms on the glass, unless one removes a portion sticking to the glass it cannot be known. What is done is, ash is mixed in starch solution and sprayed on the glass except the face. The man in whose house vibhuti is forming on the photos does not permit any one to go near them or touch them. They say that if any one touches them with an intention to verify the truth the vibhuti stops forming! What is done is the top of the photo frame is hollow and is filled with vibhuti, while the glass is fitted loose. When the ceiling fan is switched on, the ash stored in the photo frame top flies and people think that really vibhuti is falling from the photos. This could be exposed by removing a part of the vibhuti pasted on the glass and see if it again forms there and by stopping the fan. In one house of an advocate at R.S.Puram, Coimbatore where this claim was made, I had to wait for more than two hours as there was power cut and only when power came, I was taken to the prayer room to see the vibhuti falling from the photos of the godman. When I came out the fan was put off, but I suddenly turned around to see if vibhuti was still comming from the photos, it had stopped!
d) It was Sadachari Sai Baba who produced fire in the Yagna Kunda by his mental power at Delhi in 1980 or 81. The Yagna was said to be conducted on behalf of our late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Wood scraping was in the Yagna Kunda and a spoon full of ghee poured over the wood. Then the swami sent his mental powers through his eyes, when smoke started comming and when he sent mental powers through his hands by circling his hands over the fire wood a fire came. What he had done was, he had hidden secretly pottassium permanganate below the wood scrapings and what he poured on the wood as ghee was glycerine. When pottassium permanganate and glycerine came together chemical reaction started, oxygen and heat was generated and smoke and fire was produced. But the people who attended the Yagna - they were scientists, Professors, judges, Ministers, politicians and government officials etc., - fully believed that the swami produced fire by his mental power and emptied their pockets, and within three days yagna, he made over eighty four lakhs of rupees. He had been recently arrested for murdering his first wife.
From time immemorial religious texts tell us about transformation of one matter into another by supernatural powers. In Bible, Christ is said to have transformed water into wine. The present godman like Satya Sai Baba also transform water into petrol, honey, amritha etc. One thing we should remember is these claims of transformations with their alleged supernatural power is done only in their own vessels. Read the bible story, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST.JOHN - Chapter 2.
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there:
2. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4. Jesus said into her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.
5. His mother saith unto the servant, Whatever he saith unto you, do it.
6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins a-piece.
7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them upt to the brim.
8. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew:) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom.
10. And saith unto him. Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine: and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine uptil now.
11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Your will find that when water was brought Jesus could not transform it into wine, the water had to be poured in the 6 stone jars kept ready at the home. Why could he not transform water into wine in the same pots the water was brought for filling the stone jars? It was because these were special jars where the wine was already stored and the water poured in them did not come in contact with the wine. Though I was not present when Jesus Christ was said to have transformed water into wine, one could know that this transformation of water into wine was nothing but a trick. If I would have been present then, I would have asked Jesus to dip his finger into a well and transform the water in the well into wine, so that even now we could have gone there and tasted the wine and exclaimed that Jesus really had supernatural powers. This is what we also now ask godmen like Satya Sai Baba. Let them dip their fingers in the dry wells and tanks and let perennial supply of water sprout out from them. Instead of transforming water into petrol or honey or amrita or wine in their own vessels, let atleast one well water be transformed into petrol or honey, or amrita or wine. No godman can do this nor have any one done this so far.
f) A sandstone ball of about 14" diameter is lifted by five, seven or eleven men who sing the name of saint, Kamarali Darvesh who is buried in the durgah at Shivpuri about 25 kilometers from Poona. The saint had died 700 years ago and is said to be buried in that durgah. This was considered to be a miracle and we exposed the same by lifting such stones on finger tips with just four persons. Lifting a weight on finger tips by people is based on the fact that all people use their force at the same time and lift up. Then upto 150 kgs. can be lifted by four persons using 8 finger tips. They also do not feel the entire weight as it is equally distributed on their eight fingers. Another fact is that the raising of the weight is done on the principle of leverage.
g) The trick of taking a heavy person on the body while he remains stiff with his head and legs resting on stools and the middle portion without any support is also based on the body knowledge. Any one when he is stiff without any support in the middle can take a weight of about 250 kgs. without strain and collapsing. One leg of the person is on the thigh and the other on the stomach and the weight is balanced while the knee joints become stronger by the weight and there is no joint on the stomach. It is the fear which makes the person who is stiff to collapse. For this we have to give a suggestion to the person who is made stiff to keep his eyes closed and open them only when he is asked to open in which case you will take the responsibility as nothing would happen even if an elephant climbs on him and he will not feel the weight also. But if he opens his eyes if something happens you will not be responsible. If he keeps his eyes open and sees someone who is stout climbing on him, the fear in him makes him collapse even before the person climbs on him. If a person is fearless and lies down on two chairs without any support in the middle and becomes stiff by himself, he can take a weight of 250 kgs. on his body easily.
h) The trick of levitation done by godmen and street magicians is to prove that they have "Ashta Siddhis" practicing patanjali Yoga. They do not levitate visibly but hide their complete body with cloth except their head. If they are really levitating, why do they hide their body unless it is a trick? They hide two bamboos to the length of their body from neck to feet. These bamboos are held in their hands after their body is covered by a sufficiently big cloth, and their face is seen protruding through the hole made in the cloth which hides the body. At the time of showing the trick from the lying position, they sit and stand with the sticks in their hands in horizontal position which seems as if the body is floating in the air while the person really stands inside the cloth.
i) Lifting a vessel filled with rice by putting a knife inside the rice is done by Tantriks (Sorcerers) to remove the bad luck of their customers, and also in temples. In Draksharama, in Andhra Pradesh, there is a temple which has a six feet naked idol of the god Kalabhairava installed. Each temple publicises different miracles or supernatural powers to attract people. In this temple if married couples who have no children go and pray they beget children. More than 90% of the couples who had prayed there are said to have become pregnant and had children.
When the couples who have no children go there, the priest would look at them and tell that they did not get a child because of the "Shani Dasha" or bad luck. Then for removal of this bad luck they have to do Prayaschitta Puja which would cost them thousands of rupees according to how rich they are. After payment of agreed amount, the puja starts with a pot filled with rice and while chanting the mantras he inserts the knife into the rice dozens of times half way and then suddenly he presses it stright down and the pot rises up with the knife. The knife gets jammed in the rice. Then the lady has to have sex with the naked idol inside the sanctum sanctorium. With the doors closed it is utter darkness inside and sound proof. 90% of the ladies get pregnant after visiting the temple for about a fortnight. This was exposed in 1981 when a lady hit the person who came to the front from the back of the idol by the wooden plank used by the priest. He fell down and along with his falling, the sexual part of the idol also broke and fell down. The photo of the idol with the broken linga was taken and the trick exposed. What happens inside, the sanctum sanctorium is that a person rapes the lady and if she is healthy and fertile she gets pregnant.
Regarding the miracle of the pot of rice rising along with the knife, the pot has to be curved at the neck and when the rice is jammed by the hitting of the knife a few times to the half of the pot, and then suddenly pushed down straight, the knife gets jammed and the pot can be raised along with the knife. In earlier days Satya Sai Baba also have blessed dozens of married women with children.
j) Sleeping on the sharp nailed bed of nails is also done by Yogis to show to people that by practice of Yoga nothing can harm their body. They also sleep on thorns and glass pieces. What is done is that 3" nails are fixed on a plank 1/2" apart and the godman sleeps on the nail bed slowly without giving much pressure to the sides of the bed. The nails being very near will naturally act as a bed and will not enter the flesh as the body weight is equally distributed on the nail bed. Unless there is strong sudden pressure the nails cannot enter the body. Another nail bed prepared in the same manner is placed above the body and any one from the audience is asked to climb on the top of the nail bed while the godman is lying in between the two nail beds. The person who shows this trick takes the weight of the person on the top nail bed, on his elbow joints which is pressed on the ground, while he holds the top nail bed on his palms. If a person suddenly with a jerk climbs on the nail bed by pressing on the side of the nail bed, the person in between the nail beds is sure to get hurt.
k) Pricking the tongue and cheeks are done as a propitiation to the god Subrahmanya, son of Shiva, of the trinity. Where ever there are no bones and if one could bear the pain knowingly can pierce his tongue or cheeks with sharp Trishuls which are well sterilized and if one takes the precaution of getting oneself injected with Tetanus Toxoide. The pain is bearable if one is fearless. Otherwise the ladies would not have pricked their ears and nose to beautify themselves with gold ornaments. There are also tricksters who use gimmicked Trishuls to pierce their tongue and cheeks, but no one can pierce their neck or heart or stomach which is generally done by muslims and they use only gimmicks for these feats.
l) Walking on hot coal bed is based on several factors. The first factor is the time taken for getting our skin burnt in a particular heat, the atmosphere i.e. the breeze, coolness, and the dampness. One way is to put rock salt on the hot coal bed which attracts moisture and so there is no sudden burns if one walks within 3 seconds. The other which is generally done in places of worship is that they wash their feet and body with lots of water in front of the hot coal bed and goes around the hot bed praying many times when their feet get a coating of wet clay and until the water in the clay gets evaporated, they won't get burnt. If one is afraid and tries to jump or run on the hot coal he is sure to get burnt as the red hot coal would then stick to his feet.
Q: What is the latest position of your case against Satya Sai Baba?
A: The Single Judge of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh dismissed the Civil Writ Petition No.9796/1986 by order dated 8-8-1986 on the following grounds:
i) The respondent No.1 materialised gold and the said act of his did not constitute an infringement of section 11 and 16 of the Gold Control Act. (Here the court has erroneously assumed that the case of the petitioner was that the respondent No.1 materialised gold.)
ii) An article or an ornament materialised from air in a split second by the use of spiritual powers or otherwise cannot be said to be made, manufactured, prepared or processed within the meaning of section 11 of the Gold Control Act.
iii) What is prohibited by section 11 is only the manufacturing, making, preparing or processing etc., of golden articles or ornaments and not materialising instantly articles or ornaments from air without having rcourse to any operation connected with the making, manufacturing, preparing or processing of any article or ornament.
iv) There was no obligation to make a declaration under section 16 of the Gold Control Act of gold and gold ornaments when they are brought into existence by materialisation.
v) The article or ornaments containing gold is materialised for the sole and specific purpose of giving it away as blessing to the devotees, and therefore the terms of section 16 of the Act have no application.
vi) It cannot be said that respondent No.1 has acquired any ownership or possession, custody or control of any such article/ornament.
Aggrieved by this order, I preferred Writ Appeal No.1255/1986 which was dismissed by the Division Bench of the Andhra High Court vide order dated 31-10-1986 on the following grounds:
a) The ordinary connotation of the word making does not take in production of article from thin air in the split record.
b) The gold produced by the first respondent was by materialisation and not by making or manufacture.
c) When articles were materialised and passed on immediately it cannot be assumed that the person has acquired any ownership, possession, custody or control. The articles are not materialised for acquiring ownership of for keeping them in his possession.
The application of the petitioner for grant of certificate of fitness to appeal to the Supreme Court was also rejected.
They also directed the petitioner as follows:
The appellant who claims to be a Rationalist and the Convener of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal in India, can spend his time more usefully than indulging in this wasteful litigation.
THE ORDERS OF THE SINGLE JUDGE AND THE DIVISIONAL BENCH HAS RAISED THE FOLLOWING SUBSTANTIAL QUESTIONS OF LAW, CONSTITUTIONAL OR OTHERWISE OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE:
A) Whether in Indian Criminal Jurisprudence and under the gold Control Act the standard of proof of guilt of violation of the statute differ in case of persons accused being godmen, sadhus or swamis on the one hand and when such persons are agnostics, believers or non-believers on the other.
B) Whether under the G.C. Act a person accused of its violation namely of production of unaccounted/undeclared gold ornaments can escape his statutory liability by contending that he "materialised" the same.
C) Whether the executive and Courts in India can at all countenance any grounds of defence based on the theory of materialisation of gold or gold ornaments when Gold Control Act imposes restrictions on making, manufacturing, preparing or processing etc., of gold ornaments?
D) Whether there are any legally recognised standards which the Executive or the Courts in India can come to the conclusion that in a given instance Gold and Gold ornaments materialised or distinct from other instances where gold and gold articles were made, manufactured, prepared or processed.
E) Whether there was any evidence on record of the proceedings justifying the conclusion that respondent No.1 "materialised gold or gold ornaments" and that he did not make, manufacture, prepare or produce such gold ornaments in question?
F) Whether in respect of the gold and gold ornaments distributed by respondent No.1 he was under a statutary liability to have made or caused to be made the various statutory declaration prescribed by Gold Control Authorities?
G) Whether a person accused of processing unaccounted and undeclared gold and gold ornaments is entitled to a ground of defence that he produced the same out of nothing and by using his spiritual power.
The special leave petition filed at the Supreme Court of India on 2-5-1987 has not yet been taken up for admission.
Q: Give some important examples where known scientists, doctors, technologists act and believe irrationally, illogically.
A: Many scientists, doctors and technologists believe and act irrationally and illogically. Dr. S.Bhagavantam, Dr. V.K.Gokak, Dr. D.K.Banerjee, Dr. P.K.Bhattacharya, Dr. K.Venkatessan, Dr. Mukunda, Dr. Sudarshan, Dr. K.Bhaskaran Nair and many other wellknown scientists believed that Satya Sai Baba was the god and could create anything from nothing, forgetting the theory of conservation, the theory of relativity and Dr. Khorana's research in manufacturing 'genes' from Methane Gas in a laboratory. There is no need to pin point them, any one can see them in Science Institutes, Research Laboratories, Hospitals and in public places who break coconuts, when a rocket is launched, or a steamer is launched or when they undertake surgery. There are also many who are clear in mind and have the courage to practice. You might have read about the Scientists in TIFR and BARC practicing superstitions at the time of eclipse.
Q: Give some examples where political leaders use and promote superstitions amongst the people?
A: The ruling class and the priest class of every country has to use superstitions, astrology, palmistry and other so called pseudo sciences to exploit people and to keep them under control making them believe in FATE and keep them waiting for a better tomorrow forgetting today. Lots of astrological and psychic predictions are published in the news papers by each party to confuse people to vote for their members. At the time of the Kerala assembly election, the pro Kerala Congress newspaper published a prediction about the then chief minister Karunakaran (Congress I, candidate), that he will fail in the election but the rightist group would win. Karunakaran won in the election, but the rightist group led by Congress I lost. The ruling class and the priest class want these superstitions and blind beliefs to remain and they try their best in propagating them, though our Constitution directs every Indian Citizen to develop scientific temper, humanism, spirit of inquiry and reform. Just see what is being propagated by the All India Radio, and the T.V. Whenever I am on my "Vignan Yatra" tours I find that the pro-religious newspapers, AIR and TV confuse the people with the stories of miracles, psychic phenomenas, re-incarnation stories etc., with the help of the scientists.
Q: Give some examples as to how you expose the claims of paranormal exactly
A: The way in which I expose miracles, is by collecting as much as information on the miracle, then observe the miracle once, twice or many times and find out the trick behind it. By watching me constantly you have been able to find out one of the ways of creating again the same burnt note. I am happy that with your intelligence you will be able to expose any miracle. The thing is to watch and reason out why they do each thing each move, and you get the answer. I am also happy that my visiting West Bengal has helped hundreds of youths to start thinking.
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Last update: 29 August 1998