Sathya Sai Baba

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Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Brindavan Ashram
Not to be confused with Shirdi Sai Baba
Thank my various Gods!
Icon om.svg

Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011) was India's most famous magician miracle monger.[1] He was the founder of the Sathya Sai Organization, which has 1,200 centers in 114 countries. He claimed to be a reincarnation of the Shirdi Sai Baba (18??–1918). Unlike most other gurus, his claims of divinity are unambiguous and explicit.[2]

The Sathya Sai Baba movement has approximately 6 to 100 million adherents. The broad range of the estimate may stem from the tendency of the movement to inflate numbers to increase its perceived importance, but also because the movement has no clear boundaries.

In spite of his popularity, no serious biography of Baba exists, though his late secretary N. Kasturi wrote a hagiography of him. This is a hagiography in the original, literal sense of the word, i.e. not just an uncritical biography. Most writings about Baba are based on this hagiography.


Sathya Sai at 14

Born as Sathya Narayana Raju in a poor and remote Indian village, he claimed to be a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba in 1940 and subsequently used Sai Baba's name. He used his cleverness to fool the people and became a guru and fraudster. In spite of that, he may have been sincere about certain aspects of his many teachings. Apart from the fraud allegations, Baba has also been accused of sexual abuse and pedophilia.[3][4]


See the main article on this topic: Miracle

Baba's followers claimed that he performed the following miracles:

  • Materialise vibuthi, or holy ash.[5]
  • Materialise rings, gold statues, necklaces, and watches. (WOW! Why people bother buying expensive necklaces and watches. Just ask Baba for a necklace or watch when you need one. And why is there poverty? All governments should contact Baba for gold statues to give those to the poor)
  • Levitation
  • Bilocation
  • Controlling the weather.
  • Resurrection
  • Heal sick people.[6]
  • Changing water into petrol

The sleight of the hand tricks by Sai Baba had the indirect effect that miracles seemed a more plausible explanation for other events to devotees.

However, Sai Baba stated that he refused to make grand changes in the world, claiming that this would disrupt the karmic flow of events though he claims that he has the power to do so.

Skeptics argue that the burden of proof for the miracles is on Sathya Sai Baba because he claims to break natural law. Devotees reply that no deity has ever subjected himself or can reasonably expect to subject himself to testing in a controlled environment.[7]

The ashrams where he stayed during his life time (Prashanti Nilayam in Puttarpathi and Brindavan, in Whitefied/Kadugodi) still have thousands of visitors during festivals and hundreds of visitors during ordinary days. A very important activity there used to be darshan (seeing of the guru) which included hours of waiting before he shows up. Since Baba's demise in 2011, darshan consists of going near his grave to pray and pay respects.

His miracles have been studied by the parapsychologist Erlendur Haraldsson, based on interviews with witnesses because Sathya Sai Baba did not allow Haraldsson to investigate him from nearby. This has been likened by Hari Sampath, a former member of the security department of Sai Baba's main ashram, to a doctor who is not allowed to come near his patient, in other words, one cannot come to an informed opinion in such a way. Nevertheless, Haraldsson's study gave Sai Baba some credibility.

Sathya Sai Baba stated that the seeker should test the guru before accepting him. However as former follower Paul Holbach pointed out, the setting in the ashram was such that no real test was possible. Sathya Sai Baba also said that the disciple should remain loyal to the guru after accepting him.[8][9]

The philosophy professor Dale Beyerstein compared Sai Baba's claims with a lengthy literature study of Sai Baba's miracles. His personal conclusion based on the statement that exceptional claims need exceptional evidence was that Sai Baba did not provide sufficient evidence for his exceptional claims.[10]

Other prominent persons who have exposed Sathya Sai Baba include David C. Lane (a noted figure in the anti-cult movement), Indian rationalist Abraham Kovoor, physicist H. Narasimhaiah, and above all rationalist Basava Premanand who was the founder of the Indian Skeptic. Apart from that, he has also been criticized by the former follower Tal Brooke who became a conservative Christian and many other former followers. Brooke continued to believe fully in his ability for perform miracles and considered him the Antichrist.

All these criticisms hardly made a dent in Sathya Sai Baba's following until a Welsh former follower called David Bailey who was an editor of a small UK magazine dedicated to Sathya Sai Baba compiled all these criticisms and his personal experiences in a document called "The Findings" in the year 2000.

Teachings, ashrams and organizations[edit]

He teaches the unity of religions and claims that all religions lead to God. His teachings are an eclectic form of Hinduism. The anthropologist Lawrence Babb noted that his followers in New Delhi tend to come from the modern, educated, cosmopolitan middle and higher classes.[11] Babb also noticed that devotees tend to see Sai Baba's hands everywhere in their lives, in a reversal of Max Webers's disenchantment of the world. For Indians the personal relationship with Sai Baba makes a person a follower, believing in Sai Baba's miracles is a necessary but insufficient condition: some Indians dismiss Baba's miracles as mere siddhis, acquired magical powers which they do not see as proof of divinity. He is somewhat unusual among gurus because of his explicit claims to be omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and to be an incarnation of Shiva and Shakti. In addition to that he claimed to be God himself, the father who sent Jesus to Earth.

His ashrams are in Kadugodi near Bangalore, Karnataka and adjacent to the village Puttaparthi where he was born in Andhra Pradesh.

The most important organizations in the Sathya Sai Baba movement are the Sathya Sai Central Trust and the Sathya Sai organization. Not all adherents of the movement are involved in the organizations. The Sathya Sai Central Trust is involved in large scale charity works in India. The local Sathya Sai Baba groups study religious texts, sing religious songs, educate children, and are involved in small-scale charity.

Old age and death[edit]

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh with Sai Baba at the 29th Convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, on November 22, 2010

Sathya Sai Baba and his followers claimed that he would die after the age of 90. After he passed away when he was only 84 years old, followers claimed that Sathya Sai Baba meant lunar years instead of calendar years and that hence the prediction turned out to be correct anyway. Sathya Sai Baba always used calendar years in his discourses and his birthday was always celebrated on the 23rd of November. He received a state funeral.

Some time after his death many valuables were found in his private living quarters.

After his death[edit]

Many spiritual seekers came to him because they were looking for a living master. As a consequence, the movement seems to be in decline after the guru's death. As of 2014, there is no sign of a revitalization of the movement. There have been disputes about the huge material heritage of the Sathya Sai Central Trust.

External links[edit]


  1. From the Montreal Gazette, Miracles by 'Godman' just simple tricks
  2. [1]
  4. Pictures Inside the Ashram, notice the humour used by the author Baba is just very fond of young boys in the caption of this image
  5. See this to know the trick behind this. Also, see this where a rationalist is doing the same.
  6. full English text available online
    • Hummel, Reinhart German article published in Materialdienst der Evangelische_Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, 47 Jahrgang, 1 February 1984, Translation by Linda W. Duddy and is reprinted by their permission, available online on the website of the Dialog Center, a Christian Anti-Cult Site: "[…] Sai Baba has an unrivaled reputation as a miracle worker. He »materializes« watches, talismans, sweets, flowers, crucifixes, books, photographs, and, above all, holy ashes (vibhuti) with a wave of the hand. Miraculous cures with help from the ashes, or from Baba himself as the surgeon, and even the resurrecting of the dead are attributed to him."
  7. Bowen, David The Sathya Sai Baba Community in Bradford: Its origins and development, religious beliefs and practices. Leeds: University Press. (1988), based on his dissertation of 1985, page 256-257 "The nub of the crucial problem for those who apply themselves to theology lies in the fact that the gods, by definition, have not been subject themselves to testing under controlled conditions. […] To be subject to laboratorial testing is to be accessible, to be manipulable, to be no more than an extension, if not of man himself then of the pnysical[sic] world of which he is the steward. It would be to abdicate the from the concept of deity as that on which all else is contingent.[ ..]" page 257 "Sceptics might argue that the onus of proof must rest on the believers, since it is their claim that the observed laws of science are being transcended. The believers, however, will counter that there are factors involved which by definition, are not amenable to such proving."
  8. Sandeha Nivarini Satya Sai Baba published by Sri Sathya Sai books & publications trust ISBN 81-7208-309-2 pages 5,6
  11. Babb, Redemptive Encounters' 1986, pages 160, 167, 174