Saturday, August 31, 2013

Can the Skeptical Scientist Experience Spiritual Miracles/Divine Grace?

I think, as a "skeptical scientist" is expected to be skeptical about everything, the answer is, typically, No.

As I understand it, spiritual miracles like materialization, healing and visions need intense faith in a person/deity/formless Divinity (God) for the miracles to happen, usually. But the "skeptical scientist" is expected to be skeptical about everything! That, IMHO, would not allow him/her, usually, to develop intense faith in God. So the "skeptical scientist" will, usually, not experience spiritual miracles/Divine Grace.

The wiki page on scientific skepticism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_skepticism, states, 'Scientific skepticism ( also spelled scepticism) is the practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge".' It credits Carl Sagan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan, famous US astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist, with the term, 'scientific skepticism'. 

The wiki page further states "Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity."

If a scientist has faith in miraculous power of Divinity without having objective and extraordinary evidence of miraculous/supernatural/paranormal powers of Divinity, then, according to the above view of scientific skepticism, that person is not a skeptical scientist. You can't be both - a skeptical scientist and a person of faith in God (as there is no validated scientific evidence of Divine power)! Either you be a skeptical scientist OR you have faith in Divinity!

I beg to disagree with the above either-or choice arising out of the scientific skepticism wiki page views, though I am not a scientist, let alone a skeptical scientist (I am a software technologist who has a Physics graduate degree (1983)). IMHO, a person can wear multiple hats in his/her life. So while one is wearing the scientist hat one can be skeptical about the scientific area that one is investigating and demand reproducible and objective evidence for any scientific claims. But the same person, after he/she has finished the scientific area investigation, can remove the skeptical scientist hat and wear the hat of faith in God whose power encompasses the whole of human and non-human existence, as against the limited realm of science, and enjoy the wonderful benefits of such faith.

[Please note that I am not saying that such a scientist needs to be a disbeliever in God while doing scientific investigation. He/she may continue to actively have that faith in God while doing scientific investigation in the area of their work without that faith in God reducing their rigour for objectivity and reproducibility for any scientific work they are involved with.]

I think many scientists who came into the orbit of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (or highly evolved spiritual masters/mystics across the world from various religions/no-religion) were extremely fortunate that they had individual/subjective experience of his Divine/Godly paranormal powers, even when they were skeptical, sometimes deeply skeptical, of Bhagawan's Divine powers. I view these acts of Swami as acts of phenomenal Grace showered on these skeptical scientists. These acts would have 'cured' many such scientists of their skepticism about God and allowed them to wear both hats of a scientist as well as a devotee of/believer in God. 

I have been told that Swami was a mirror in which people could see their own reflections. In other words, as I understand it, a person with faith gets back a reflection of faith from Swami which would include Divine/paranormal experiences. But a person with doubt would (usually) get back doubts of his/her faith from Swami! I have heard Swami put this faith matter in a very simple but yet profoundly truthful way, in a discourse in Kulwanth Hall (sometime after Oct. 2002). He said if you say Yes (meaning you believe in him), Sai will respond Yes (shower Divine Grace on you). Here's a relevant quote from a 1968 Swami discourse, 'If you will accept me and say "Yes," I too will respond and say, "Yes, yes, yes." If you deny and say "No," I also echo "No." Come, examine, experience, have faith. This is the method of utilizing me.', http://www.sathyasai.org/discour/1968/d681123.htm. [Perhaps it is similar with other spiritual masters/mystics the world over.]

It is as simple as that! It doesn't need sophisticated science and technology; it just needs a "heart", in other words, emotional & intuitive part of mind, that believes in Him (or other forms of Divinity of various religions in the world or even formless aspect of Divinity) to experience Divine Grace/spiritual miracles.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Notes on Prof. Haraldsson's, Modern Miracles, July 2013, book on Sathya Sai Baba

Last updated on 6th November 2013

As I am reading Prof. Haraldsson's new/updated book on Swami I am making Notes of it. I have received permission, over email, from Prof. Haraldsson and the publisher, White Crow Books, to put up these Notes/Summary on this blog.

[Additional Info:
The post, "Review of Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet by Erlendur Haraldsson Ph. D.", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/09/review-of-modern-miracles-story-of.html, has my review of this book.

The post, 'Prof. Haraldsson's book, "Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet", Released', http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/08/prof-haraldssons-book-modern-miracles.html, covers the back page, preface and foreword of the book (available in Amazon preview of the book). I have also compared the book to Arthur Osborne's book on Shirdi Sai Baba. end-Additional-Info]

Before I get into the notes, I would like to say that Chapters 2 and 3 of the book are vital from a scientific view of Swami's materialization miracles. As I understand it, the field of parapsychology (psi phenomena), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parapsychology, is the scientific field that investigates paranormal phenomena like materialization and other miracles. As far as I know, in the career of the Sathya Sai Avatar, the best known parapsychology researchers of the world who have investigated him are Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson and Dr. Karlis Osis. Chapters 2 and 3 cover the interactions including materialization miracles that Haraldsson and Osis had with Swami in the 70's.

As Swami felt it inappropriate to demonstrate his paranormal powers in controlled experiments, Haraldsson and Osis may not have been able to publish ground-breaking papers on Swami's paranormal powers in top parapsychology journals. Even if some papers were published, the lack of scientific evidence from controlled experiments would have led some parapsychology scientists and most mainstream scientists to not treat such papers as ground-breaking.

But these chapters of the book capture their experience very well. Since it relates to direct paranormal experiences by them these accounts will carry far more value with parapsychology scientists/researchers and perhaps other scientists too than accounts of non-parapsychology-scientists.
----

The following are notes I made from my on-going reading of "Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet", published July 2013, http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/page/modern_miraclesthe_story_of_sathya_sai_baba_a_modern_day_prophet/http://www.amazon.com/dp/190873325X, by Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erlendur_Haraldssonhttps://notendur.hi.is/erlendur/english/). I have also included comments of mine in italics and prefixed by Ravi.

In the preface it is stated that Sathya Sai Baba had great influence on millions of people and for whom no match can be found in modern times. [Ravi: I think that captures the impact of Sathya Sai Baba on the world at large, at the current time, very well.]

Prof. Haraldsson has studied Sathya Sai Baba first-hand on many occasions and conducted extensive investigations regarding him including detailing interviews with many devotees, ex-devotees and critics.

The distinguished parapsychologist, Dr. Karlis Osis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlis_Osishttp://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/62, writes in the foreword about Haraldsson's study of miracles of a religious leader to be a first of its kind and that the book "describes paranormal phenomena of extraordinary variety and strength attributed to one of the most remarkable men of the (20th) century".

Prof. Haraldsson was accompanied by other parapsychologist researchers during some of his visits to investigate Sathya Sai Baba in India including Dr. Osis and Dr. Houtkooper.


Chapter 1 - WE ARE INTRIGUED - Notes

Haraldsson, while on a trip to India in 1972, met powerful and rich people like ex-Governor of Goa, Mr. Nakul Sen, who had personal encounters with Baba and were convinced that Baba performed genuine miracles and further, was a "godly person" who could know anything about anyone at any time!

Haraldsson first met Sai Baba in November 1973 - around forty years ago! His and his companion's visiting cards and a letter were passed on to a senior ashram functionary who may have shown it to Swami. It resulted in Swami arranging to meet Haraldsson. 


Chapter 2 - FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE MIRACLE WORKER - Notes

Swami called Haraldsson and his companion (Dr. Karlis Osis) for an interview the next day morning. Swami immediately created vibhuti for them and, a little later, a ring for Dr. Osis. Haraldsson and Osis explained to Swami about their interest in having such materialization miracles as well as Swami's out-of-body capabilities done under controlled conditions (as controlled conditions can eliminate trained magic tricks). Swami's response was that the methods of science could not explain such miraculous phenomena and that they were outside the realm of science. Haraldsson and Osis tried to put across to Swami that science had neglected studying such phenomena and that by Swami demonstrating his powers under controlled conditions, new knowledge about these mysterious phenomena could be added to science. Swami responded that he was not a showman and that "he could use his paranormal powers only for the good of his devotees".

Swami lectured them on how daily life and spiritual life should grow together and mentioned a double rudraksha in this context. Haraldsson did not understand the term rudraksha, let alone double rudraksha, and asked Swami for clarifications. Swami and the interpreter failed to explain it to him satisfactorily. Haraldsson continued to insist knowing about this term. That led to some irritation perhaps but then Swami materialized a double rudraksha so that Haraldsson could understand what it is! Later he added to this materialization miracle by having the rudraksha encased in golden shields and with a golden chain. [Ravi: This seems to be an awesome demonstration of materialization power personally to a scientist. The book also has a photograph of the materialized double rudraksha (later on in the book).]

Haraldsson asked Swami why Swami could do these materialization miracles but not they? Swami said that all (i.e. Swami, Haraldsson, Osis and everybody else) were like matches but that Swami's match(es) had fire! [Ravi: This fits in with what I have heard Swami speak or read in his writings. Each of us is God (and so has immense power including materialization power through Sankalpa Shakti). Swami knew and experienced his Godhood but we, or rather most of us, have not realized our Godhood (and Godly power).]

Haraldsson felt quite convinced that the double rudraksha materialization and its golden encasing materialization further on were spontaneous miracles i.e. not pre-planned.

However, for scientific investigation, controlled experiments were needed which Swami was not willing to participate in. As Haraldsson puts it Swami was a man of religion and not of science.

Haraldsson noted Swami's charisma and ruler-like presence and personality. [Ravi: I think that description is very apt for Swami.] He also noted that Swami spoke as one who knows as against one who has learned things from someone else. [Ravi: I think that is a very wise observation about Swami by Haraldsson. I agree, in general.] At the personal level he found Swami likeable and even jovial at times.

Haraldsson writes that Sai Baba's words to them on religion or philosophy did not have scholarly refinement but adds that this impression may have been caused by Sai Baba speaking to them in "somewhat broken" English. [Ravi: I would say that Sai Baba's Telugu discourses were quite literary, flowing like a powerful stream, and interspersed with many poems that he would sing. These Telugu discourses came across to me as quite scholarly besides having the vital force of getting directly to the point and being expressed in a way that was rather easily understood typically. However, I have learned some Telugu mainly after 2003, and am not a Telugu expert to comment on it authoritatively. Certainly his English, as I have heard in videos and a little in public, lacked sophistication - so I think Haraldsson's opinion that Sai Baba's words to them on religion or philosophy lacked scholarly refinement has been formed due to the fact that Swami spoke to them in a language quite foreign to him, i.e. English as against his native Telugu.]

Haraldsson and his companion met devotees at the ashram and recorded their miracle accounts. They also met Shri N. Kasturi, biographer of Sai Baba, who related some miracles to them. These miracles included materialization and other miracles like miraculous cure of cancer and an out-of-body visit by Sai Baba.

They had two other interviews with Sai Baba where they pressed for experiments again. Sai Baba promised a day for experiments in Bangalore in the presence of Dr. S. Bhagavantam, a distinguished Indian scientist, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suri_Bhagavantam, who was then abroad but expected to be back in India shortly. Unfortunately the experimental session got cancelled with the reason being given that Dr. Bhagavantam would not be back in time for Haraldsson and Osis (i.e. before they had to leave Bangalore). Haraldsson and Osis were really disappointed.


Chapter 3 - LOOK AT YOUR RING - Notes

Colleagues in the West found accounts of Sai Baba miracles of Haraldsson and Osis too extraordinary even for parapsychology researchers!

Haraldsson and Osis came back to India to do further research on Sai Baba. In an interview Swami created white rock candy for them. When asked how he did it Swami said, 'Mental creation. I think, imagine and then it is there.', but then Swami moved into spiritual philosophy, 'Spiritual love is central, miracles are small items. Love is giving and forgiving.' [Ravi: I think these three sentences attributed to Swami fit in very well with what I heard from him (discourses) and read from his writings. Simple statements but which, in my humble opinion, convey deep existential and universal truth(s).]

Haraldsson and Osis observed Swami creating vibhuti during Darshan at Brindavan from very close quarters and do not find any evidence of trickery. The incident is explained in quite some detail.

Haraldsson and Osis met devotees and heard their miraculous experiences. The devotees would emphasized that more important than the miracles was the beneficial impact of Sai Baba on their lives. [Ravi: Swami and Swami's teachings, I presume, would have been what caused the beneficial impact on the devotees.]

Haraldsson meets Prof V.K. Gokak, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._K._Gokak, (later first vice-chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) who described in great detail the materialization of a gold Krishna statue by Bhagawan in Dwaraka. Haraldsson verified the account by speaking to two other persons who had also seen that miracle. [Ravi: To see the statue you may visit: http://www.saibaba.ws/miracles/statue_of_krishna.htm] Interestingly Prof. Gokak mentioned that Swami said ‘let that image of Krishna which is traditionally present in the minds of all these people appear in the form of a golden statue.’ and that if Swami had created a statue depicting Krishna as he really looked people would not recognize him! [Ravi: I get awed by such statements from Swami. He simply knew all details about Krishna and Rama, the very widely worshiped figures in Hinduism today. He makes them historical reality for people like me instead of mythical figures that many academic scholars including many Indian academic scholars consider them to be.] Haraldsson also covers the matter of the police trying to claim the materialized statue as government property since it was taken out from the soil!

Haraldsson and Osis were invited to Dr. Bhagavantam's son's house in Bangalore where Swami gave them a discourse on the differences between scientific and spiritual approaches which is translated by Dr. Bhagavantam. [Ravi: So while Haraldsson and Osis missed meeting Bhagavantam and Swami together in their first visit, it happened in the second visit.] Swami said that science deals with physical realities whereas spirituality deals with controlling the mind and that "mind can potentially create anything".

However Swami refused to participate in experiments. He would allow them to observe him. On Haraldsson and Osis trying to impress upon Swami the need to advance scientific knowledge on such miracles, Swami responded that humanity can be helped by true knowledge which comes only from "purification and sublimation of the mind".

Swami told them that a spiritually purified mind can create anything. Swami said that he did not have to think about chemical composition of what he wants to produce - he simply gets it! [Ravi: Awesome explanation of the directness of Sankalpa Shakti of the spiritually purified mind without need to know physical/chemical/scientific details of item(s) to be materialized. Simply will it and it is there!]

Swami took Haraldsson aside and told him some matters about his personal life. The matters mentioned were true/correct but Haraldsson felt that they could have applied to many people and so the revelations were not "compellingly impressive".

Dr. Bhagavantam advised Haraldsson and Osis not to "pester Baba further with requests for experiments, since that might spoil our relationship with him".

Haraldsson and Osis go to Puttaparthi when Swami goes there. In an interview with them and others Swami performed more materialization miracles and also gave a spirited talk "attacking scientists" as not being able to understand the spiritual. Haraldsson and Osis again told Swami about "need for experimentation and empirical research on paranormal phenomena, of which he was allegedly a master". They showed Swami a few things they had brought to test his paranormal powers experimentally but Swami politely declined and said that exhibiting his powers that way would be black magic! [Ravi: I can easily imagine Swami feeling it way, way below his dignity to show his powers using paranormal experiment instruments/things!]

But Swami showed them his powers by making the stone and picture in the ring he had previously materialized for Dr. Osis, disappear and told them that was his experiment!

Later Dr. Osis while sitting for bhajans in the bhajan hall experienced "an altered state of consciousness" which was serene and pleasant. Baba had mentioned earlier that he would give them an "experience"! Dr. Osis had conducted experiments with/on meditative experiences in the past. [Ravi: Very interesting that Swami gave a 'spiritual' experience to Dr. Osis who perhaps was in a position to receive that experience due to his prior exposure/experience with meditation.]


Chapter 4 - HOW REAL? - Notes

Haraldsson makes a first attempt at critical evaluation of Sai Baba's miracles. He states that if the materialization miracles are genuine "then the theoretical implications are enormous, for physics and psychology alike".

The author explains the terms 'teleportation' and 'apport'. He gives some information on past investigations of such claimed phenomena by others (not Sai Baba) in the West.

Sai Baba allowed Haraldsson (and others then) to film him outdoors. Haraldsson filmed Sai Baba extensively (outdoors) but did not get close range and proper angle film of his materialization to be considered "to have some evidential value".

[Ravi: Today I think the ashram authorities may have at least a hundred videos capturing genuine materialization of Sathya Sai Baba with the proper angle as well as close range. A thought that struck me was that the ashram authorities, if they have such videos, could put them up on youtube or their own websites and invite forensic examination of these videos.

Even if ten of such materialization videos show no possibility of trickery and are certified by well established forensic experts from the world as such and that the videos have not been tampered, scientists then would have something to look at seriously. It may not become a universally accepted "violation of the laws of physics" as that would need real-life experiments I think, but, at least, it would show people including scientists and accomplished magicians that hey, such genuine materialization *may* not be impossible.]

Haraldsson then advances some hypotheses like hypnosis, help from accomplice, objects hidden in devices, sleight-of-hand etc. and on examining them finds them to be unlikely. However, he also states that the grounds were insufficient to conclude that the phenomena (materialization) were genuine. [Ravi: As there was no controlled experiment.]

He then advances five points which argue in favour of viewing the materialization miracles as genuine like lengthy history of materialization by Sai Baba "apparently without being detected in fraud", variety of circumstances where materialization happened (not limited to a magician's stage), materialization in response to need/demand, prominent Indian scientists being convinced of genuineness of the materialization miracles and a dental surgeon-cum-magician who was convinced of the materialization being genuine. Haraldsson also mentions about the view of at least one magician that reputed scientists can be deceived by magic tricks just like the general public.


Chapter 5 - NO ONE CAN COMPREHEND MY GLORY - Notes

This chapter covers the early years of Sathya Sai Baba including some description of Shirdi Sai Baba. It also has "a brief digression into Hinduism". The author gets tempted to "say that Hinduism is an elastic, free enterprise religion in spite of its strong, ancient historical roots". [Ravi: I find the elastic and free enterprise descriptions as very apt, especially for Hinduism as practiced now in the early 21st century.]


Chapter 6 - NO EXPERIMENTS ? WHAT NEXT? - Notes

Haraldsson gives an overview of how he interviewed various Sathya Sai devotees about their experiences with Swami, in various places in India and over multiple trips to India.


Chapter 7 - OBSERVATIONS BY INDIAN SCIENTISTS - Notes

Haraldsson interviewed Dr. D.K. Banerjee faculty in the Organic Chemistry department of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bangalore (and his friend Mr. G.D. Hazra, a pharmaceutical manufacturer), who, though a skeptic at the beginning, through close observation of many materializations by Baba and a personal experience involving his son where Baba demonstrated knowledge about matters happening at a distance, got convinced of Baba's paranormal powers. [Ravi: Dr. D.K. Banerjee is listed as the director of IISc from 1971-72 in its wiki page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Institute_of_Science. Perhaps he was playing that role as a stop-gap arrangement as the same page lists another name, S. Dhawan, as Director from 1962-81. Dr. D.K. Banerjee is also listed as past faculty in the IISc., Organic Chemistry department web page here: http://orgchem.iisc.ernet.in/faculty.html.]


Chapter 8 - THE MANGOES DID IT  & Chapter 9 - THE RAJA OF VENKATAGIRI - Notes

These have the interviews of Gopal Krishna Yachendra and V.V. Rajagopal Yachendra. The father of the above two gentleman, the Raja (king) of Venkatagiri who died in 1971, was an earnest devotee of Swami. The family had many interactions with Swami in the 50's and 60's which are described in detail. It also describes some visits of Swami to Venkatagiri in those days.

[Ravi: Here's some info. about Venkatagiri: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venkatagiri. Here's a conversation that Prof. G. Venkatraman of Radio Sai had with Gopal Krishna Yachendra: http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_03/11NOV01/venkatagiri.htm. Swami's words on the Raja of Venkatagiri, Gopal Krishna's father (above page has his photographs and this quotation) on 18th Feb. 1964, "Venkatagiri has been, for centuries, the seat of a Royal family dedicated to the support, protection, and the promotion of Dharma. Consider how many temples have been built or renovated and maintained by its munificence! Take count of the Vedic Pandits [scholars] the family has patronised so far, and the number of religious books its donations have helped to reach the masses. See the interest the family takes even now, for the uplift of temples and mutts [religious establishments], although their State and status have been overwhelmed by the storm of political change."

The above article also states, "The Rajah it was who used to organise festivals in Puttaparthi in those days (50's and early 60's perhaps?), and provide all the necessary arrangements. Swami often speaks nostalgically of the Rajah, describing him as a loyal devotee next only to Hanuman – that is extra-ordinarily high praise, coming from Bhagavan." ]



Chapter 10 - ASK FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT, Chapter 11 - HE VANISHED BEFORE HIS DEVOTEES’ VERY EYES, Chapter 12 - YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN IT & Chapter 13 - FIGS FROM ANY TREE - Notes

These have the interviews of the Kuppam Radhakrishna family. They have delightful accounts of the utterly mind-boggling miracles Swami, as a boy/young man, performed in the 40's and 50's. Chapter 12 has Baba answering in response to a request for a miracle, ‘I show you something, and you still do not believe in the miracle. What am I then to do? You should learn how to do this for yourself. It is possible. But even then you will not be able to explain it to others. You can only enjoy it.’

[Ravi: Here's a Radio Sai interview of Smt. Gayatri Gupta, the niece of Smt. Vijaya Hemchand, the person interviewed in Chapter 11 of the book, http://media.radiosai.org/journals/vol_10/01AUG12/04_gayatri_01.htm]


Chapter 14 - ENJOY THESE DAYS NOW & Chapter 15 - THE SINGERS - Notes

These have the interviews of Mrs. Kamala Sarathy and the famous Carnatic music singers B.V.Raman & B.V.Lakshmanan (http://tyagaraja-aradhana-calicut.org/programme/inaugurations-to-date/b-v-raman-and-b-v-lakshmanan/, http://www.hindu.com/fr/2006/12/01/stories/2006120102450600.htm). They mainly cover the period of late 40s, 50s and early 60s.

[Ravi: Here's a Radio Sai interview of Mrs. Prema Bose, daughter of Mrs. Kamala Sarathy, http://media.radiosai.org/journals/vol_09/01NOV11/05_prema_bose.htm.] 


Chapter 16 - AN EX-DEVOTEE & Chapter 17 - THE ABANDONED BROTHER - Notes

These chapters try to bring a balance to the book by having interviews of those who were close to Swami at one point of time but later moved away and had become somewhat critical of Swami. They have the interviews of Mr. Varadu and Mr. Krishna. They mainly cover the period of late 40s to early 50s. An important point to note is that both the critics, Varadu and Krishna, who had acted as Swami's personal attendants and so knew intimate details about Swami at physical level, considered his miraculous materialization of objects as genuine.


Chapter 18 - BABA’S SPIRITUAL DISCIPLE - Notes

This has the interview of Mr. Raja Reddy who was a personal attendant and close associate of Swami. He lived in Puttaparthi from 1956 to 1973 (after finishing his studies in Economics). Raja Reddy says that a (any) person's mind is an open book to Swami (i.e. Swami would know what is going on within the (any) person's mind). Raja Reddy then quotes Swami as saying, ‘I am just a reflection, reaction and resound’. If one thinks he (Swami) is big then he is big, if one thinks he is a child then he is a child, and if one thinks he is a naughty fellow then he is a naughty fellow!

Haraldsson asks Raja Reddy about cases when Swami said that a person will get cured but that did not happen. Reddy acknowledges such cases. He says that Swami would not like an anxious person to leave him in an unhappy state of mind. Reddy implied that Swami would want to make such a man happy even if (later) the "man misunderstands him, calls him something, does not believe in him and so on".

Mr. Reddy also suggests that "firmly rooted" faith may result in Swami's words about cure/healing come true whereas "a shaken faith" may result in the cure/healing not happening. 

[Ravi: Here's a Radio Sai interview of Raja Reddy: Part-1: http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_05/01OCT07/14-h2h_special.htm, Part-2: http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_05/01NOV07/14-h2h_special.htm. It is very noteworthy that Mr. Raja Reddy had such a strong spiritual inclination that after finishing his Economics studies from the prestigious Loyola college in Madras, http://www.loyolacollege.edu/ (a Jesuit institution), instead of taking up a regular well-paid job, he chose to stay with Swami for the next 17 to 18 years! I am quite sure, during those days, he would not have been receiving salary commensurate with his educational qualifications. I think Haraldsson has chosen a very appropriate title for the chapter by referring to Raja Reddy as Swami's spiritual disciple though I don't know whether Swami referred to him as such. Swami's standards in these matters seemed to be very, very, very high! 

It must also be noted that later Mr. Raja Reddy got married, had a son and lived in Bombay/Mumbai. Haraldsson writes that Mr. Raja Reddy passed away in 2010.]


Chapter 19 - A WESTERNER IN INDIA: DR ROERICH - Notes

This chapter has the interview with Dr. Svetaslov Roerich, a famous Russian painter settled in India, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svetoslav_Roerich. It includes details of Sai experiences of his wife, Devika Rani, movie star (1930s), who was awarded the Padma Shri as well as the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devika_Rani. Devika Rani was a co-founder of Bombay Talkies film studio, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombay_Talkies, along with her then husband Himanshu Rai, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himanshu_Rai.


This chapter is followed by 6 pages of photographs of Swami, Haraldsson and many of the persons interviewed or mentioned in the earlier chapters.


Chapter 20 - THE INDIAN CRITICS - Notes

This chapter describes in quite some detail the challenge to Swami issued by Dr. Narasimhaiah, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosur_Narasimhaiah, Nuclear Physicist, Fulbright scholar and vice-chancellor of Bangalore university when the challenge was issued in 1976 (and 1977). Swami seems to have ignored the challenge and mentioned to the Times of India that, "Narasimhaiah’s approach was improper, that is why I reject it. The formula that nothing can be created out of nothing is appropriate to the limited field and dimensions of science. It does not at all apply to the transcendental field and dimensions of spirituality".

This challenge seems to have resulted in "widely publicized controversy that raged in the newspapers for several months".

Haraldsson had two interviews with Narasimhaiah. Haraldsson states that Narasimhaiah had never observed Swami do any materialization but was still convinced that the materialization of Swami was not genuine!

This chapter also mentions the transformation of Blitz publisher (& editor), Mr. R.K. Karanjia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russi_Karanjia, from critic to believer after having an interview with Swami, about which he wrote in the Blitz in 1976. Interestingly, Haraldsson had an interview with Mr. Karanjia.

It also mentions two famous rationalist critics of Swami:
Neither of the above, Haraldsson writes, had actually met Swami (they may have tried to meet Swami but like in Narasimhaiah's case Swami may have declined to meet them due to improper approach) but were still strongly critical of his materializations!

Haraldsson concludes in this chapter that neither the Indian rationalist-challengers nor himself and Dr. Osis succeed in their wish to formally investigate Swami's miracles and so no formal experiments were conducted on Swami's miracles. Haraldsson writes further that, however, a "wealth of anecdotal evidence and observations" regarding Swami's miracles exists. [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/anecdotal gives the meaning of 'anecdotal' as "Based on casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis".]  

[Ravi: What I find striking in this chapter is the "science fundamentalism/science fanaticism" or "rationalist fundamentalism/rationalist fanaticism" of these three famous Indian "rationalist" critics of Swami - Narasimhaiah, Kovoor & Premanand (btw all three have passed away). They seem to have pronounced that the miracles were not genuine without having proved that they (taken as a whole) were not genuine! Their challenge not being accepted does not mean that the miracles were not genuine. I think it is the intellectual arrogance of these kind of scientists and rationalists that makes them jump to such wrong conclusions. In my humble opinion, what Narasimhaiah, Kovoor & Premanand could have truthfully stated is that they have no scientific evidence of Swami's miracles and hence they are not able to accept it as genuine, and that they are not in a position to state that these miracles (taken as a whole) are not genuine as they have not examined them, let alone proved them (taken as a whole) to be not genuine.]



Chapter 21 - SOME NOTEWORTHY NUMBERS - Notes

Haraldsson collected data systematically from most of the interviewees (including ex-devotees) of earlier chapters by having them answer a multiple-choice questionnaire of over 100 items. Most of the questions were about their specific experiences (number of times they have had experience) of Swami's miracles. The chapter has a kind of overview of various type of materialization and some other miracles of Swami.

Haraldsson reports that some respondents had told him that Baba's usual answer about where his materializations came from was, ‘It comes from Sai Stores.’ But to one person Baba said, ‘Sometimes it is created, sometimes it is brought (apported from somewhere).’ The term apport is explained by Haraldsson (and one respondent) as objects existing somewhere "and that through some paranormal power Baba was able to make them disappear at that place and suddenly appear in his hand or wherever he willed them to appear".


Chapter 22 - A FEW PARALLELS - Notes

Haraldsson draws some parallels between miracles of Jesus Christ and Baba. He then mentions psychic capabilities of mediums like D.D. Home, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Dunglas_Home and Indridi Indridason, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indridi Indridason, and comments that Baba's "physical phenomena" were different (had only a slight resemblance). Some other notable mediums of the West are also mentioned, some of whom could apport objects. He then mentions a report published in a Chinese scientific journal which claimed 'apport' of objects had been achieved but which also stated that its results were "preliminary".

Haraldsson concludes this chapter saying that a century of psychic research has not been able to provide solid evidence that objects can be created from nowhere and remain existing (for some significant amount of time). Many claims of apport and materialization have been found to be not genuine. But some, like those mentioned in this chapter, Haraldsson writes, "may be considered genuine".


Chapter 23 - MANIFESTATIONS OF RELIGIOUS MYTHS AND SYMBOLS - Notes

The manifestations of Hindu symbols like vibhuti on Swami's body as well as photographs of Swami is discussed. A comparison of some sort is made with Christian stigmatics. [Ravi: From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigmata: "Stigmata (singular stigma) is a term used by members of the Christian faith to describe body marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet."].

Sudden manifestation of fragrance associated with Baba is mentioned along with similar 'odour of sanctity' reportedly associated with Christian saints & mystics.


Chapter 24 - RAISING THE DEAD? - Notes

Claimed healing miracles of Baba, including raising of the dead, are mentioned but not really examined as Haraldsson was not medically trained and so felt it inappropriate to attempt a proper examination of these reported miracles.

Page 250 of the chapter mentions that Howard Murphet in his "Man of Miracles" book writes that Baba told Kasturi 'to put the word "dead" in inverted commas', when writing about Radhakrishna being brought back to life from death. Haraldsson writes that this indicates that Baba did not confirm the death of Radhakrishna.

[Ravi: I think a common Indian English practice, which seems to be erroneous, is to use quotation marks and inverted commas for emphasis. And it is not limited to India. The wiki on Quotation mark, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark, states, "Quotation marks are sometimes used to provide emphasis, although this is usually considered incorrect."

I think Baba would have wanted dead to be in quotes (inverted commas) for emphasis rather than casting doubt on the event. Baba would look upon doubt as anathema/poisonous and has, in many discourses, talked about the great danger of doubt in the spiritual/religious path. So, I for one, simply cannot accept that Baba would have asked Kasturi to bring an element of doubt in an account of a famous miracle of his. If he did not want people to believe in the raising from the dead miracle he would have simply asked Kasturi to omit the account.

I think most Indians who read Kasturi's account will view the quoted word, dead, as the emphasised word, dead, rather than doubt being cast on the person having been dead.

A relevant link: http://alt-usage-english.org/quotes_for_emphasis.html

A correspondent wrote in response to the above:

Your position is well taken. Another explanation could also be - "When is a person really dead? There is also a view in some ancient culture that real death happens only when the soul finds an alternate residence or merges with the infinite consciousness". Krishna talks about it extensively in the Bhagavat Gita when he says that "it is only the body that dies and not the soul".


--- end correspondent response ---


From around 09:40 till around 15:05 in the youtube video, "Man of Miracles? Rod Serling and Sai Baba - The Lost Investigation", http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJYgXXvRSec, 49 min. 30 sec, Walter Cowan speaks about his death and then re-entering his body. Seeing Walter Cowan himself relate it makes the revival-from-clinical-death/NDE (Near Death Experience) + Swami miracle far more believable, IMHO. Here's the account from John Hislop's book, My Baba and I, http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/pages/devotees_experiences/Resurrection_WalterCowan.htm. ]



Chapter 25 - THE DAZZLING LIGHT - Notes

This chapter deals with the dazzling light miracle of Swami in the 40s. It also mentions that Christian religious literature has many accounts of light shining from religious figures including Jesus Christ himself. Interestingly Haraldsson mentions a Russian (Orthodox church) saint who is credited with a similar light shining account, Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seraphim_of_Sarov. Some Catholic saints too are credited with such "luminous phenomena".

[Ravi: I found this sentence from the above wiki page of Seraphim of Sarov very interesting: 'Perhaps Seraphim's most popular quotation amongst Orthodox believers is "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."' end-wiki-extract. Not only the one who acquires a peaceful spirit but thousands around that person! I think these peaceful spirit persons are sorely lacking in the 21st century rush-rush world of today.]



Chapter 26 - TELEPORTATION, SWIFT MOVEMENTS OR WHAT? - Notes

This chapter discusses the "sudden or instantaneous movements from one place to another" of Baba mostly in the late 40s. It mentions that journals of psychical research have reported such teleportation by some mediums like Indridi Indridason. There are also reports of levitation (rising in the air) of some mediums as well as the Catholic saint, St. Joseph of Copertino (1603-1663).

[Ravi: I found St. Joseph of Cupertino, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_of_Cupertino, to be a very unusual saint. Here are some extracts from the wiki page:

"He was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping."
...
"Joseph began to experience ecstatic visions as a child, which were to continue throughout his life, and made him the object of scorn. His life was not helped by his frequent outbursts of anger."
...
"Feeling drawn to religious life, in 1620 he applied to the Conventual Franciscan friars, but was rejected by them due to his lack of education. He then applied to the Capuchin friars in Martino, near Taranto, by whom he was accepted in 1620 as a laybrother, but was soon dismissed as his continued ecstasies made him unfit for the duties required of him.

After Joseph returned to the scorn of his family, he pleaded with the Conventual friars near Copertino to be allowed to serve in their stables. After several years of working there, he had so impressed the friars with the devotion and simplicity of his life that he was admitted as to their Order, destined to become a Catholic priest, in 1625. He was ordained a priest on March 28, 1628.

After this point, the occasions of ecstasy in Joseph's life began to multiply. It was claimed that he begin to levitate while participating at the Mass or joining the community for the Liturgy of the Hours, thereby gaining a widespread reputation of holiness among the people of the region and beyond. He was deemed disruptive by his religious superiors and Church authorities, however, and eventually was confined to a small cell, forbidden from joining in any public gathering of the community. He passed the last 35 years of his life following this regimen."
...
"Joseph was beatified in 1753 and canonized in 1763. He has been declared the patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test takers, and poor students."

--- end wiki extracts ---

I think most spiritual geniuses/saints/mystics get widely misunderstood by society in general, and as they typically do not perform normal roles in society well, they earn the scorn of normal people. Many times they are not so intellectually smart which makes it easier for normal people to persecute them. St. Joseph was confined to a small cell for the last 35 years of his life! Why? Because his ecstasies and levitation miracles caused 'disruption'! Or was it jealousy among the church authorities who would have been far smarter than him with far better educational qualifications but lacked his piety, the vital spiritual/religious quality, and so did not experience ecstasies or perform levitation miracles? I wouldn't be surprised if jealousy was at least part of the reason.

Another interesting aspect for me is that his lack of education (as he was not so intellectually smart) prevented him from being accepted as a priest initially. He had to plead to be given some humble work (serving in their stables), and then impress the authorities with his work & devotion to be made a priest eventually.


I think, over time, spiritual organizations tend to fall in the trap of favouring worldly education over spiritual piety/calibre. The bigger the organization the more easily, perhaps, they get trapped into revering worldly/secular education instead of spiritual piety/calibre as the latter is not easy to appreciate let alone measure. The net result being that eventually such spiritual organizations may become very much like secular/worldly organizations and move far away from the spiritual organization founder's vision!]

Chapter 27 - BILOCATION? - Notes

The phenomenon of Baba appearing/being in two places at the same time is covered in this chapter. Mainly two cases in Kerala are discussed. Haraldsson also mentions that the Italian monk, Padre Pio, is reported to have shown bilocation capability.


Chapter 28 - EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION - Notes

This chapter mainly deals with the "mind-reading" and future prediction aspects of Baba.


This chapter is followed by 4 pages of photographs.



Chapter 29 - BABA´S REACTION - Notes

This chapter has the reaction of Baba and others to the first edition of this book published in 1987. Haraldsson visited Puttaparthi in end September 1988 and was able to hand Baba a copy of the book at Darshan time, saying that it was “A gift for Swami”. Haraldsson, very frankly, writes that Baba indicated that he did not like the emphasis on miracles and said loudly so that others could also hear, "some books, not right information".  

Haraldsson writes that in an interview Baba gave him (along with some others not associated with Haraldsson) a few days later (October 3rd 1988), Baba remarked that scientists did not believe in the importance of purity, or in mind, or divinity or atman. They only believed in bodies. Haraldsson acknowledges that Baba has a valid point as most scientists consider matter to be supreme and "consider mind an off spring of the brain´s activity which is hence extinguished at the moment of death". In other words, most scientists believe in bodies. [Ravi: This small exchange captures the essence of the spirituality vs. science debate very well, IMHO. Swami's teachings are focused on purifying the mind and improving the human values in the mind, with the body being just an instrument/vessel which would be discarded on death by the 'soul' (subtle body, rather) and this subtle body would usually take on a new gross body (unless the person gets liberated in which case there is no rebirth). (Current mainstream) science closes the chapter at death and is clueless about what happens to the individual's personality afterwards! Some scientists, including at least one very distinguished rationalist-type scientist, rather than accepting that they are clueless about it, foolishly and arrogantly declare that the personality also gets finished at death (and decay) of the body.]

In the same interview, Baba then commented on Haraldsson's book. He told Haraldsson that he (Haraldsson) "was a good and educated man, but had not spoken to the right people" and that he had been misinformed in some cases. Baba was critical of Varadu and Krishna, referring to them as rowdies. Very interestingly, Baba said that most people, especially Indians, come to him for some selfish purposes - which was OK; Baba did not complain about it - but if their selfish purposes do not get fulfilled they leave (the implication being that some of such people then become critical and provide misinformation about Baba). Baba "emphasised that he never asks anyone for anything". Baba also said that Westerners come to him usually for a spiritual purpose (as compared to most Indians coming to him).

Baba praised Kamala Sarathy and Kasturi, and asked Haraldsson to meet Narasimhan (then editor of Sanathana Sarathi).

Baba then told Haraldsson, “I am also human” but also added that we are all God. Baba mentioned his hip accident and told Haraldsson that it had been an accident - he had not taken on illness of a devotee. Baba then said, in spite of the pain, I still continue. [Ravi: So, right from the late 80s, Swami seems to have suffered physical-level pain but not talked about it openly. He suppressed and ignored his pain for the sake of his then and future devotees, one of them being me (I got drawn into the Sathya Sai orbit in the 90s)! How grateful we must be to Bhagavan for ceaselessly working for our social and spiritual uplift even when he was in physical pain which would have incapacitated ordinary persons! If ever one wanted a shining example of "Paropakarartham Idam Sareeram (This body is meant to serve others)", http://www.saidarshan.org/baba/docs/d010414.html, I think an outstanding example is particularly the last few decades of Baba's life when he valiantly fought his physical body challenges and ailments, simply to serve others. Of course, his whole life is a saga of service but I think his urge to serve humanity in the face of bodily challenges really comes to the fore in the last decades of his life.]

Haraldsson also writes about a blissful experience at Darshan time, a couple of days later. Baba gives him a warm friendly smile and moves on. Then Haraldsson felt something "like a wave of inner warmth that came over me with such sweetness, that I had to control myself not to shed tears".

Interestingly the chapter states that several Western scholarly journals published good reviews of the 1987 edition of this book. Two distinguished scientists of the field of psychology who published good reviews of this 1987 edition are:

1) Prof. Hans J. Eysenck, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Eysenck, "Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London (a constituent college of the federal University of London), from 1955 to 1983". The wiki page also states that "At the time of his death, Eysenck was the living psychologist most frequently cited in science journals" (he died in 1997). Prof. Eysenck wrote about the book, “Well worth reading for the interest of the topic, the man, and the puzzle it presents”.

2) Prof. Ian Stevenson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Stevenson, "Ian Pretyman Stevenson (October 31, 1918 – February 8, 2007) was a Canadian psychiatrist. He worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years, as chair of the department of psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death." Prof. Stevenson refers to the book as "the first book about Sai Baba that we can fairly characterize as scientific, because he has assembled evidence from eyewitnesses of the phenomena" and as a "grounding monograph".

The chapter concludes with the information that the book had, till February 2013, "been published in eleven languages and seventeen editions". [Ravi: I am quite certain that this new/updated book will also eventually get published in several languages and be widely distributed and read.]



Chapter 30 - WHAT DOES HE TEACH? - Notes

Swami himself as well as some readers of the 1987 edition of this book complained about lack of enough coverage of Swami's spiritual teachings in the book. Swami specifically told Haraldsson that "it was his message that mattered, not his miracles". Haraldsson's stand was that his focus was on Swami's miracles and that other books like the many volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks and the Vahini series cover Swami's message. However, this chapter seems to be a good effort to address the above complaint.

The chapter has quotations/aphorisms (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/aphorism: "A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion") of Swami on Love, Faith, God, Prayer, Discipline etc. Haraldsson also mentions the eclectic (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/eclectic: "Selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles") nature of Swami's teachings, "emphasizing the unity of the essence of religious faith, basically stating that it does not matter to which faith you belong as long as you are a good member of your religion".

One quotation of Swami that I found striking in this chapter, especially in the context of this book which is mainly about Swami's paranormal powers/miracles, is:
"Really, the power that man holds in himself is unsurpassed; no other created being has it. For, he is the living image of God, the precious casket enshrining the Divine itself. If you are weak, grief stricken and ignorant, the fault is yours; do not blame others; you have not tapped the spring of God within you. This is the sin, the turning of the blind eye to this patent fact. Diagnose the faults in the eye, and have the blind spots or the cataract cured. You can do it, by prayer or by resorting to a Guru.

The inner nature of man is nearest to the nature of God."

[Ravi: I am quite sure the "he" above is a generic term not limiting the quotation to males. I have heard/read many discourses of Swami where he has clearly said that women can also progress spiritually as much as men, and given instances of such spiritually evolved women from Hindu scriptural history.

BTW this is the discourse from which the first paragraph above seems to have been taken, 11th May 1971, http://askbaba.helloyou.ch/discourses/d1971/d19710511-1.html. I think it is very appropriate to mention the sentences prior to what has been quoted above. So here is the whole paragraph from the discourse:

Have you connected your act of service with the reservoir of love in the heart? Are you doing it with God-consciousness? Or is it merely a superficial ceremonial routine act, done for publicity or personal pride? Really, the power that man holds in himself is unsurpassed; no other created being has it. For he is the living image of God, the precious casket enshrining the divine Itself. If you are weak, grief-stricken and ignorant, the fault is yours; do not blame others: you have not tapped the spring of God within you. This is the sin - the turning of the blind eye to this patent fact. Diagnose the faults in the eye, and have the blind spots or cataract cured. You can do it, by prayer or by resorting to a Guru.
--- end discourse extract ---

I am not surprised to note that Swami connected the act of service done with love/god-consciousness with power of God! Service with love was *the* path that he exemplified and wanted his devotees to follow.]

Another aphorism of Swami mentioned in the book, of particular interest to me:

"Truth is not mere factual accuracy regarding any event or object. This is truth in the worldly sense. But Truth in the spiritual sense transcends the categories of time and space and remains unchanged always. This transcendental Truth has to be inscribed in the heart. It is in the light of this truth that man should pursue the journey of life in the world."

[Ravi: This is pure Vedanta (Upanishadic) philosophy from Swami, of which, IMHO, he demonstrated absolute mastery via his discourses and writings.

To the blessed few/some who observed and realised it, Swami demonstrated pure Vedanta/Advaita via the most important aspect of actual experience that Swami would have of feelings and thoughts of others. Advaita (I am in you and you are in me; I am in all and all are in me) was not only a philosophy to him but a matter of direct, every day experience! For the blessed few/some who experienced this aspect of Swami, he (Swami) was not just a teacher of Advaita, but the accomplished spiritual master of Advaita (like accomplished masters of the performing arts who demonstrate their expertise via live performances and not (only) published articles & books).

It needs a student (formal/informal) of Vedanta philosophy to get some understanding of Swami's mastery of Vedanta.

My understanding of Vedanta: The ultimate existential truth is the changeless is-ness (beingness/awareness) in each one of us. It is that same single changeless is-ness that projects this whole world (universe actually) of bewildering multiplicity (Maya/Mahamaya). Look outward and you get trapped into Maya. Calm the passions, still the thoughts and look inward to experience one's changeless existential truth (which is the same existential truth in all).

I think most intellectuals find such philosophy to be too ridiculously simple for them to accept that it could be the ultimate truth of existence! They perhaps are too much in love with their great minds to accept that the experience of ultimate existential reality comes from switching off their great mind, becoming thoughtless and plunging deep into their beingness (which is very, very difficult to do for most people, especially the intellectuals who are habituated to intense thinking, and may take years/decades/births of spiritual effort to achieve). They instead may be of the view that only a complex mental philosophy/science which only can be understood by great minds (like quantum physics or genetics) can lead them to the ultimate truth(s) of life. The mind, for them, it seems, holds the key to the truth, and they perhaps simply cannot come to terms with Vedanta philosophy which says that the outwardly attracted/directed mind is the problem, the thief, that has ensnared them and entangled them in the illusory and ever-changing cycle of worldly life and death (samsara). For the intellectual, it is the mind that gives him/her status, position and wealth in life. Giving up the mind would mean giving up status, position and wealth! That would be too terrifying and too absurd a proposition for most intellectuals, and so such intellectuals simply cannot accept, let alone experience, Advaita.]




Chapter 31 - THE HYDERABAD TELEVISION INCIDENT - Notes

This chapter covers the incident that Deccan Chronicle reported as "magic" i.e. not genuine materialization by Swami at a function in Hyderabad in August 1992. Haraldsson and a companion did a proper investigation of the matter and concluded that Deccan Chronicle's report is not "corroborated by the tape, or the picture they print".

Haraldsson and his companion published a scientific paper on the matter whose link is available in this post of this blog, "Scientific Paper that Debunks Deccan Chronicle 1992 Claim of Materialization Miracle Exposure", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/08/scientific-paper-that-debunks-deccan.html.


Chapter 32 - THE WESTERN CRITICS - Notes

This chapter has Haraldsson's views of the Western critics of Swami and Haraldsson's views of their criticism. Haraldsson mentions that his book (earlier editions) on Swami had attracted pro and anti Swami comments and this "controversy about Baba was far removed from a scientific discussion". Some critics of Baba gave a "one-sided and propagandistic" and "a distorted view of my book and my investigation of Baba".

Regarding one anti-Baba blogger Haraldsson writes that the blogger distorted Haraldsson's views "to suit his negative stance" and placed it "prominently on the internet".

Haraldsson writes that Sai Baba displayed the "the ability to awaken spiritual aspirations in other people" and "altruistic behavior" which are qualities that Western terminology uses for (expects in) saints. He writes that Sai Baba was a great fundraiser who "used the funds heaped upon him for the good of the general public". He also notes that Swami lived in a "small apartment" till the 1993 incident (i.e. had a very frugal lifestyle), was "highly dedicated to his work" and "was seeing devotees practically every day all his adult life".

About the crowd around Swami, Haraldsson writes, "Looking at it retrospectively, Sai Baba received his devotees as well as the curious dutifully, regularly and patiently." "Seen from outside he was almost like drowning in the ever-growing sea of devotees who all wanted something from him, many of them desperately."

Haraldsson mentions that Sai Baba had greatness and charisma "that made him rise from life in a remote primitive village in the middle of nowhere to an international celebrity". He had an enormous global following from the highest (Indian Presidents & Prime Ministers) to lowest strata (poor villagers) of society.

The chapter also covers some unproven allegations of a personal nature by some Western critics about Swami. Unfortunately Prof. Haraldsson and some others seem to have come under the sway of some Western media channels which sensationally publicised these unproven allegations. I strongly condemn some parts of this chapter. Sathya Sai devotees will find these unproven allegations to be very objectionable and hence will not want to read this chapter or perhaps even read the book. They will also not want to recommend this book to others.

Haraldsson writes that Swami's charisma and ability to awaken spiritual aspirations in people as well as his reported undiminished miraculous phenomena over seven decades made him an outstanding "world-known celebrity". He then mentions the grand scale of welfare and service activities involving awakening of large scale generosity. 


Chapter 33 - ATTEMPT ON SAI BABA´S LIFE? - Notes

This chapter describes the unfortunate 1993 incident. Haraldsson writes that a newspaper account mentioned that the assailants were "aggrieved" that they or related persons were not given jobs or influential positions.

Haraldsson writes that a newspaper mentioned that the DGP of Andhra Pradesh gave the view, based on investigations, “that it was not an attempt on the life of Sai Baba.” Haraldsson states that it is important to note that it was not an attempt on Sai Baba's life.

Haraldsson writes that Swami, in a discourse, nearly a month later, alluded "that it was all caused by jealousy".



Chapter 34 - THE SEARCH FOR NORMAL EXPLANATIONS - Notes

Haraldsson examines various normal explanations for Swami's miracles like hypnosis, accomplices, sleight of hand etc. and either rules them out or mentions that no solid evidence was found to support the "normal explanations".


Chapter 35 - THE PELLET THEORY - Notes

Haraldsson examines the view of some ex-student critic(s) of Swami who think that Swami would have used pellets of vibhuti. Haraldsson mentions instances where Swami materialized lots of vibhuti or other things like sweets which "refute the pellet theory". Haraldsson then mentions Baba's answer to a question on how he does his materialization: "I think and it is there."

Haraldsson mentions an experiment involving yeast growth where "intent of the mind (prayer or whatever)" increased the growth. He also talks about data available for the placebo effect. He then concludes, "Mind matters. How we think is indeed important."


Chapter 36 - PERPLEXING OBSERVATIONS - Notes

Haraldsson writes that he, along with a companion(s), has investigated two other Swamis (and one lady psychic) in India and "found clear evidence of sleight of hand and deception" in the two Swami cases, which was reported in scientific research papers they authored (in Journal of Scientific Exploration and Journal of the Society for Psychical Research).

Haraldsson followed up a claim by Rogo [Rogo, D.S. (1982). Miracles: A Parascientific Inquiry into Wondrous Phenomena. Dial Press, New York] that Sai Baba's materializations were not genuine "(When films taken of some of his exhibitions are slowed down, it is clear that he is quite an expert at sleight of hand.)", and found that Rogo's claim was not based on fact. Rogo himself had not seen any such film but based his views on comments from a Dr. May who told Haraldsson that he has not seen any film of/on Sai Baba!!! But Dr. May had filmed a woman in Bombay who he had shown to be clearly engaged in fraud. Haraldsson writes that Rogo "might have been referring" to the film of the woman in Bombay done by Dr. May. [Ravi: It is quite amazing how supposedly serious para-scientific literature has outlandish critical statements made about Sai Baba's materialization miracles without any factual basis!]

Mr. Doug Henning, famous Canadian magician, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Henning, and Dr. Karlis Osis, examined the films of Sai Baba (materializations) and concluded that "the films were too unclear to provide any evidence either for or against the sleight of hand hypothesis".

Haraldsson writes that Mr. Doug Henning stated that no magician can produce objects on demand. Haraldsson then gives cases where Sai Baba has produced objects on demand, and sometimes hot or sticky food items.


The chapter concludes that for bulk of the phenomena of Swami, natural explanations cannot be found and so, "Apparently, physical laws can be transcended by the human/spiritual mind."



Chapter 37 - DISTANT PHENOMENA - Notes

This chapter covers distant phenomena like vibhuti appearing (on photographs typically) at places far away from where Swami was physically, and devotees hearing Swami's voice when Swami physically was far away from them. It also mentions the vibhuti and amrith appearance currently (Feb. 2013) on some photographs in the shed used by Seva Dal for preparing and storing food to be distributed to poor villagers, which was seen by Haraldsson and his colleague when they visited Puttaparthi in Feb. 2013.


Chapter 38 - PASSING ON - Notes

This chapter describes the last period of Swami's life and the "passing on" (Mahasamadhi) of Swami.

Towards the bottom of Page 355 of the book Haraldsson writes that one observer told him that on 23rd Nov. 2010 (Swami's birthday), ‘he weeped (wept) like a child’. Haraldsson then tries to analyze why Swami did that. In this context, page 356 of the book has the following passage where a somewhat edited mail response of mine to Prof. Haraldsson is printed (anonymously):

When asked about this, one Indian who had spent much time with Baba, responded:
Swami was not a distant, dry, unemotional Upanishadic or Platonic God. He was an intensely emotional and hypersensitive God who would respond to the pull of a deeply emotional plea or prayer from a devotee. I think I can say that he gave far more importance to emotions than dry analytical thought. And sometimes he too become emotional, especially during the last years of his life, say the last decade.

--- end passage from Page 356 of the book ---

The email exchange from which the above edited response of mine is taken happened in March 2013. Here are the relevant email extracts:

Prof. Haraldsson wrote: Any thoughts about why Swami "cried like a (child)" at his last darshan? [Ravi: I have substituted the word 'child' instead of the actual word Prof. Haraldsson used in his question.]

I (Ravi) responded: I missed the last Sai Kulwant Hall Darshan (incidentally today is the 2nd anniversary of his last darshan, 25th March). So I don't know about his "crying" then. Neither have I heard about it.

But I have observed him being moved to tears quite often during the last years of his life. He had become very emotional, people told me, as compared to his earlier years.

If he did get moved to tears during his last darshan, I think it could be because he knew that it was the last darshan but felt it not proper to tell his assembled devotees about it. He had very deep love for his devotees, especially the long standing committed ones. He must have known how they were going to suffer emotionally in the coming days. He himself may have felt the pangs of physical separation from his devotees at physical level which he knew had to happen. These may have moved him to tears, if he did "cry" at the last Darshan.

He was very much a loving & doting mother to his assembled devotees during the last days. Any loving mother, if she knew that she would be parting ways with her beloved children, would have cried. Maybe that is why Swami was moved to tears (if he did "cry"). [IMHO, Swami was not a distant, dry, unemotional Upanishadic/Plantonic God. He was an intensely emotional and hypersensitive God who would respond to the pull of a deeply emotional plea/prayer from a devotee.]

[A day or two later I sent an update mail on this matter, relevant extract of which is given below]

Small update:

I checked with a couple of people today whether Swami "cried like a (child)" during his last darshan at Kulwant Hall. Both said that he did not cry that day. One said that his face seemed sad and tired (or something like that).

Another matter. I had written earlier:

"[IMHO, Swami was not a distant, dry, unemotional Upanishadic/Plantonic God. He was an intensely emotional and hypersensitive God who would respond to the pull of a deeply emotional plea/prayer from a devotee.]"

I would like to restate the intensely emotional part. He gave far more importance to feelings than thought. So I think I can say that he gave far more importance to emotions than dry analytical thought. And sometimes he too become emotional, especially during the last years of his life (say last decade). 

But he could also be a very calm judge like person when the occasion demanded it, and not get moved by desperate pleas made by a person whom he felt did not deserve his mercy/Grace. I was told today by a student-turned-staff who, I believe, has spent over two and a half decades in Puttaparhi and had numerous interactions with Swami, that in his earlier years (prior to last decade) he was less outwardly emotional than in the last decade. As I thought about what the student-turned-staff said I felt it blended well into what I have heard from others about earlier years of Swami.

--- end extract of mail exchange between Prof. Haraldsson and me in March 2013 ---

After examining the edited response of mine in Prof. Haraldsson's book I feel the following would be a better presentation of my view of the matter:

Swami was not a distant, dry, unemotional Upanishadic or Platonic God. He was a hypersensitive God who would respond to the pull of a deeply emotional plea or prayer from a devotee. I think I can say that he gave far more importance to emotions (feelings) than dry analytical thought. But he could also be a very calm judge like person when the occasion demanded it, and not get moved by desperate pleas made by a person whom he felt did not deserve his mercy/Grace. It should also be said that sometimes he too became very emotional, especially during the last years of his life, say the last decade.

--- end better presentation of my view ---

Haraldsson covers the full state honours accorded to Swami, and the dignitaries who paid their respects. He also mentions that Swami's passing away was covered by most of the top world media channels (print & TV).

Prof. Anantharaman's (SSSIHL faculty and now Media Co-ordinator, SSSCT) Padanamaskar account in March 2011 is given when Swami, while giving him permission to take Padanamaskar, told him, 'yes, this will be your last chance'. Prof. Anantharaman thought that Swami was hinting that something might happen to him (Prof. Anantharaman). But now we know that the hint was about Swami himself passing on!

Towards the end of the chapter, Prof. Haraldsson writes that he and a colleague (Dr. Joop Houtkooper) visited Prashanti Nilayam ashram in February 2013 and noted that the ashram "is still very much alive".



Chapter 39 - THE QUESTION OF PROOF - Notes

This chapter gives an overview of various observations by Haraldsson himself of Sai Baba's miracles and some miracles reported by a photographer of Baba from 1984 to 1991.

Then it moves to the interesting point about proof regarding such psychic phenomena. Science traditionally uses experiments to confirm that phenomena are genuine. As Sai Baba did not permit experiments that path was closed. However judicial systems "have evolved interrogation and corroboration of witnesses, investigating relevant contemporary documents and so on, as ways of accruing evidence". But human testimony does have weaknesses due to which courts "rely primarily on the quantity of testimony and on consensus of witnesses". That has been the approach taken, Haraldsson writes, by him and his colleagues (in this book).

Haraldsson states that numerous followers including ex-devotees who have extensively observed Sai Baba give a general consensus about the genuineness of materializations of Baba.


Chapter 40 - HOW TO EXPLAIN: A FINAL LOOK - Notes

Haraldsson attempts to give some explanations about Swami and Swami's miraculous phenomena. He quotes Kasturi on Swami, "divine he is but also very human". Haraldsson states that Swami had the spiritual uplift side and the miraculous phenomena side.

Haraldsson gives some details about the service rendered by Swami's two super speciality hospitals, the two general hospitals, educational institutions, Sri Sathya Sai central trust, drinking water project, huge Seva Dal organization and Easwaramma women's welfare trust. He also writes about huge donations made by many wealthy people to Sai Baba's organization and says that such donors would have been deeply impressed by their meetings with Sai Baba. Some donors experienced miraculous phenomena of Sai Baba.

Haraldsson writes that Swami had a "strong ruler/disciplinarian nature" and that Haraldsson was reminded of what he thought Napoleon would have been, when he saw Swami. He notes that there was "something herculean about him" due to which he (Swami) was considered as an Avatar by many followers.

Haraldsson puts forward a "a few speculative hypotheses regarding the causes and nature of the mysterious phenomena around Sai Baba" and examines their validity. Haraldsson writes that some of the phenomena could have a "normal explanation" but not the bulk of them. Haraldsson states that the hypothesis that Baba had psychic powers which allowed him to "produce various phenomena when he wants to" is supported by an "endless number of observations and experiences" and so has to be accepted for bulk of the phenomena.

One of the hypotheses is that psychic powers may be induced in devotees of Sai Baba by their faith in him and his (Sai Baba's) power to produce vibhuti which may result in vibhuti being produced on photographs of Sai Baba (in the devotees' houses/places).

Haraldsson concludes the chapter and book (regular text part) by stating that Sai Baba gave millions of people new ideals or restored their faith in old ideals. He then states that Sai Baba "left behind, particularly in India, a great legacy and large institutions which will serve its people for generations to come".


This chapter is followed by 3 pages of photographs. Then follows References and Index.


Chapters Most Sai Devotees May Not Want to Read

As part of the concluding notes, I must mention that Haraldsson's book has some interviews of critics of Swami, some Western unproven allegations etc. Swami did not like the critical content in the 1987 edition of the book but perhaps felt that the book overall was okay as he spoke to Haraldsson (after the book was published) and gave him interviews. 

I think even with this new/updated book Swami would not be happy with the critical part. However, I think the academic & intellectual community will treat work like this as serious academic work only if criticism is also covered.

In my view, most Sathya Sai devotees will be uncomfortable reading the Swami critics part and some other critical parts of the book, and so may want to skip reading the chapters covering such material (some may even not want to read the book). I have tried to put down from my memory & notes the chapters which most Sai devotees would want to skip:

Chapter 16 - AN EX-DEVOTEE
Chapter 17 - THE ABANDONED BROTHER
Chapter 20 - THE INDIAN CRITICS
Chapter 24 - RAISING THE DEAD?
Chapter 32 - THE WESTERN CRITICS [Most Sathya Sai devotees will surely want to skip this chapter.]
Chapter 35 - THE PELLET THEORY