Monday, March 30, 2015

PM Narendra Modi conveys thanks for book sent by differently-abled & spiritually-abled Puttaparthi Sai devotee author

I was very happy to see that Indian Prime Minister Hon'ble Shri Narendra Modi conveyed his thanks via a letter sent by his Private Secretary to Shri Sai Kaustav Dasgupta for sending him his book on his Swami experiences. The cover of the book and the letter is shown in pic below (note that Sai Kaustuv was OK with this pic being shared on the blog). [You may click on the pic to see it in high-resolution and click outside the high-resolution pic to get back to the blog post].



Sai Kaustuv is a differently-abled and spiritually-abled Sai devotee based in Puttaparthi whose Sai journey is a very inspiring experience, especially for people who are beset by difficulties. I think difficulties of most people, including mine, pale to almost nothingness in comparison to the challenges faced by Sai Kaustuv. And if Sai Kaustuv can overcome such challenges and be a great contributor to the Sathya Sai movement, why can't you and I with our typically much smaller challenges, take inspiration from him and try to contribute whatever little bit we can to the Sathya Sai movement or any other beneficial work for society?

Heartiest congratulations to Sai Kaustuv as well his parents and younger brother for this touching gesture from hon'ble PM. The support provided by Sai Kaustuv's family for his activities is vital, IMHO.

Given below is a slightly modified extract from a mail from him on his book and how to procure it:

MY LIFE, MY LOVE, MY DEAR SWAMI: The book contains my journey towards Bhagawan and my experiences, miracles and insightful thoughts on Bhagawan and His saga of selfless love towards me. The book carries His chosen Divine Droplets and my journey from Kaustuv to Sai’s Kaustuv. The book is His Miracle and I’m just an instrument to pen down this eternal journey. I have tried to spread His message of Love around the world through this book.

The book is available in my house at Puttaparthi and with my dad in his two wheeler. I have no intention to get profit from this book as it is a way to spread Bhagawan's message of love to more people. So I am taking only the printing charges for the book, so that we could reprint it again.

Each copy of MY LIFE, MY LOVE, MY DEAR SWAMI costs only Rs. 20.

There are three ways you could grab your own copy of “MY LIFE, MY LOVE, MY DEAR SWAMI”:

1. During your Puttaparthi Visit, just drop in to my house and get it directly from me. Just contact before coming and get the book​​ from my house.

2. If someone is visiting Puttaparthi from your place or from your nearby Sai Samithis/Centres, I could send your copies through them. In that case, pls tell them to contact me and visit my place to get your desired copy.

3. Third option is to courier the book to your postal address. Pls contact here for more details: 91 9490056253. dasguptasaikaustuv@gmail.com

My comment in favour of religious education in schools on Hindu article quite critical of it

Today's The Hindu carries this article quite critical of religious education in schools, Indoctrination in the guise of education, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/indoctrination-in-the-guise-of-education/article7045761.ece.

I added the following comment to the article web page above:

I am for religious education in schools but it should emphasize the common moral values along with the power of prayer to God/Divine power, that all religions mentioned by the author: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, etc., must be having. [I say, must be having, as I have not studied all these religions.] I think it should also include ethical values followed by humanist atheist and agnostic groups in India, however small their number may be.

Any divisive aspects of scripture of various religions should not be included in the school education syllabus.

--- end comment ---

The above comment has been accepted i.e. put up on the above mentioned webpage of The Hindu article.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Some Nature photos of Puttaparthi from Nov. 2014 to Jan. 2015

Here are a few Google+ Puttaparthi Nature photo albums (pics taken between Nov. 2014 and Jan. 2015), along with a sample pic from each album:


Orange Blaze Sunset in Puttaparthi, 4 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/+RaviSIyerSai/albums/6130133621518328769

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Manual Harvesting in Puttaparthi, 4 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109605005465092301005/albums/6130135439172218049

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White Birds in Puttaparthi field, 3 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109605005465092301005/albums/6130139819120451905

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Cloudy Sunset in Puttaparthi, 4 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109605005465092301005/albums/6130141792984751457

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Risen Moon - Puttaparthi, 7 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109605005465092301005/albums/6130140523084259537

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View of fields from KarnatakaNagapalli Road, 4 pics, https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109605005465092301005/albums/6130143087725471153

Sunday, March 22, 2015

MIT Alumnus Jeff Lieberman TEDx 2011 talk on Science and Spirituality - somewhat similar to Hindu scriptural view of existential reality

Last updated on 23rd March 2015

I came across this TEDx video from a Jeff Lieberman (holds two M.S. degrees from MIT),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Lieberman_(roboticist): "Science and spirituality: Jeff Lieberman at TEDxCambridge 2011", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0--_R6xThs, 14 min. 24 secs. This TEDx talk says something somewhat similar to what the Chandogya upanishad verses studied in my document says but in the language of modern science. [You may want to see my blog post, Some Shlokas from Chandogya Upanishad VI chapter including Tat tvam asi (You are That) Mahavakya, and comments on it.]

Here is a transcript of the above talk: http://bea.st/inevolution/?p=264.

Some extract from and comments on it [I have taken the liberty of copying large extracts of the transcript as I have presumed that the author would not mind extracts of this spiritual talk of his being shared on this not-for-profit and not-monetised spiritual blog]:

So who am I? I’m a human being, and I am 33 years old. But if you take a microscope and you look at any part of me, you see cells. I am a community of fifty trillion cells doing a magic dance, but if you look at any one of those cells with an even closer microscope, you see twenty trillion atoms. So I am also a community of a thousand trillion trillion atoms, but when you look at those atoms really up close they fade away, and all you see is energy. And 13.7 billion years ago, at the Big Bang, everything that we’ve ever found in the universe was was one infinitesimal, undifferentiated, pure energy.

All of us are energy. A human being is a very complex pattern of energy.

[Ravi: Quite interesting example even if the conclusion drawn that all of us are a very complex pattern of energy may not be accepted by leading scientists as a proper scientific one. I mean, there is the easily measured and objective reality of our bodies and the material world which cannot be wished away by scientists as just a projection of energy. Perhaps a more acceptable view would be a dual nature of our bodies (and the world) being both (easily measured) matter and (difficult to measure, I guess) energy.]

Take five seconds, and think about something that you are going to do tomorrow. What you just did is something that as far as we understand, no other organism in the entire universe can do. You just built an alternate reality inside your head. You just made a prediction about the future that has never happened in reality. This power for prediction, when you can compare alternate realities, allows you to plan for the future. From agriculture to your retirement, this has changed the face of the planet. It’s probably the most significant evolutionary step forward since walking upright.

[Ravi: Capacity of human being to plan for the future, which no other organism has (at least to significant extent) has "changed the face of the planet"! I think that is a great statement, and seems to have the ring of truth to it.]

I want to look at this tool in your head, because your mind is a thought generating machine, to make, proliferate predictions about the future, to guide and goal-orient your behavior. What does this machine look like in all of our heads in 2011?

Another experiment: take 10 seconds and stop thinking…

…Did anyone make it 10 seconds? I make it about two and then I start strategizing about how I’m going to stop thinking and then I think about that the whole time. What this means is you have such an evolutionarily advantageous tool that it’s become completely compulsive, but you’ve got to remember, no other organism does this at all. And the side effect of having the most evolutionarily advantageous tool in the entire universe sitting in your head is that you have no control over it, and when you have no control and you compulsively generate all these possible realities, you always compare them to where you are, to try and goal orient your behavior. This creates an entirely new class of human suffering. Things like jealousy, and regret about something that happened in the past, and anxiety about your future, no other organism can feel.

[Ravi: Great analysis, IMHO. Though I am not sure about jealousy being limited to human beings. Regret about the past and anxiety about the longer-term future may be confined to human beings. Immediate future issues like threats from other animals may be common to all animals.]

I want to understand if it’s possible to totally eliminate those sources of suffering from humanity.

This is just a brief list of all those possible sources of suffering. [A figure shows regret, longing, jealousy, worry, anxiety, tension, stress and guilt.]

In order to find out if it is possible to remove those sources, we have to take a kind of scientific experimental objective look at ourselves. We have to look at all the layers of our own experience and try to be as objective as possible about them. This is amazingly difficult because we’re so emotionally involved in our own lives. As any of you know, if you go to a movie and you are emotionally involved, two minutes into it you totally forget that you are at a movie, and the lights turn on at the end and you are shocked back into reality. So this is even more difficult because we have to look at our own movie, the movie inside our consciousness.

[Ravi: Hindu scripture typically uses the example of a dream instead of the movie mentioned above, and I think the effect is similar.]

...

Read this sentence twice, silently to yourself… [A figure has a title, "The Voice in your Head" and a sentence, "I can hear the voice in my head reading this sentence."]

…It’s weird, right? But you can get this very weird, subtle perspective that you can look at your own thought process objectively. You are actually listening to the soundtrack of thoughts inside your head; in your movie of consciousness.

Now imagine that I do this process for thousands of hours, and I just try to look as objectively as possible at my thoughts, my emotions, my perceptions, and even the way that my brain has modeled space and time. The more I pull the attention away from the thoughts and perceptions, the more I seem to notice myself noticing these things inside my consciousness. Eventually maybe I can pull all of the attention way from all of those layers of thoughts, perceptions, my body, my sensations – and there’s nothing left to perceive. There’s nothing left that I can consider myself because I have seen it all in front as not me. Yet the one thing that remains is this feeling of existence. I am remains. This feeling of I am. What I find when I sit in that state is that what my identity is, is beyond perception. It cannot be perceived, but it is still experienced. This I am is the root of our entire existence. I am is latent in every single aspect of our existence, but just like a fish might never notice the water that it swims in, we might never notice the I am, because it’s covered.

[Ravi: One Hindu word for this "I am" feeling of existence is Chaitanya. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaitanya_(consciousness), "The Sanskrit word, Chaitanya, means 'consciousness' or 'spirit' or 'intelligence' or 'sensation'.". Chaitanya is also roughly translated by some as awareness.]

I am is a completely empty experience. It’s devoid of any content, and when I experience it directly, on its own, there’s the possibility for a realization.

[Ravi: That may be the author's experience. But Hindu spiritual masters say that a deeper I am experience cannot be described as empty as in that experience one experiences oneself in all and all in oneself. So 'universal fullness' may be somewhat closer to describing that experience rather than emptiness.]

Maybe I’m not a human being that has consciousness. Maybe I’m consciousness that is shaped into a human being.

[Ravi: Well expressed!]

Einstein said that thoughts suffer from an optical illusion of consciousness. This illusion that there is a separate person inside an environment, when in reality there’s just energy in motion, everywhere. Just like an ocean is water in motion – we can call a certain part of that ocean a wave but that gives us the illusion that the wave is a separate entity in the ocean. A wave is not in the ocean, a wave is the ocean. Similarly we might not be waves, maybe we’re the ocean. Maybe all of us are energy and we can realize that directly.

This experience could never be reduced to words – because it makes words, but it could be experienced. I think that is such an important experience that people have been trying to name it for thousands of years. They call it spiritual enlightenment.

[Ravi: Hindu scripture quite often uses the wave and ocean/sea example to illustrate the relationship between individual (consciousness) and cosmic/universal consciousness.]

All of them say the same thing – it is the complete ending of human suffering. Of course it’s the end of human suffering! All suffering is based on the illusory separation that there’s an individual in the environment, that there’s a person that has to survive, that this specific collection of a thousand trillion trillion atoms has to hold itself together. However, if I realize directly that I am energy, and I realize that the body and the mind are a temporary manifestation of that energy, then I can fully accept that the death of the body and the mind was never something that happened to me, because I was always energy and I always will be.

[Ravi: Antah Maya! All is illusion. The only reality is the changeless self/Atma which projects this whole illusive existence.]

If I were to experience that directly, this voice in my head that tells me I have to do certain things in order to be fulfilled loses all of its power. At this very moment I never have to listen to that voice again. Everything in life becomes a game, for fun; a play. We’ve all experienced that, but it’s very hard to remember, because we were so young. Maybe we were at the beach building a sand castle and the entire world faded away because we were only building it to build it – and we weren’t trying to get somewhere else. We hadn’t even learned how to plan, so the only moment that mattered to us was right now. I think that this experience is so important and powerful that every religious tradition at its core has been trying to convince us of its importance, and if it’s true. – if the true end of all human psychological suffering is actually possible – it is the most important thing science could be studying.

[Ravi: Well, I am not so sure that the above is a well balanced view. For a detached spiritual aspirant such an attitude may be fine. But what about a person with family responsibilities, which is what the bulk of adult humanity falls into? What if such a person claims he/she is now self-realized and abdicates all responsibility towards his/her family? That will be a disaster for the family. Even after self-realization, IMHO, a person who has family responsibilities should fulfil those responsibilities by doing work in this illusory world. How to be engaged in such activity (karma) thereby fulfilling one's responsibilities but in a spiritually fulfilling manner is what the Hindu Nishkama karma (detached action) path teaches.]

When we look at monks and nuns who have meditated or prayed for thousands of hours we see remarkable shifts on their brain scans. Trillions of neural connections have changed configuration. Along with this quantifiable, objective change in the operating system of the brain, they describe a feeling of undifferentiated, infinite, oneness. To me that sounds like they are having the direct experience of being energy. Enlightenment science and enlightenment engineering would study these ancient technologies of prayer and meditation as data sets to understand what has to change in the structure of a human brain for a human being to understand that they are energy directly. We still have no idea how much modern technology could completely change our ability to understand that. Maybe it’s possible that within our lifetimes we could eradicate human suffering.

[Ravi: Interesting, especially the term, "enlightenment science and enlightenment engineering". However, "eradication of human suffering" within our lifetimes seems to me to be a case of wishful thinking taken to the extreme! Of course, I would be very happy to be proved wrong :-).]

When you let go of individual survival, all of your priorities change because you actually see the entire world as your body. You see the suffering of others as your own suffering and you want to help. What is the actual power of a human being to really benefit the world, when they are able to put the priorities of the whole system in front of themselves, even if that means they have to die in the process? How many of us can do that right now?

What if seven billion of us did that?

Maybe the one thing that keeps us from actually solving all of the other problems in the world is this persistent, flawed thought that we are separate from the world. Maybe it’s time we change our minds.

[Ravi: Well, I think such an attitude of letting go of individual survival and seeing the entire world as your body (or the body/family/brotherhood of God, Christ, Vasudeva, Allah ...) cannot easily be self-imposed and sustained over time, by simply accepting this attitude (or belief) as truth. Further, one may fail in fulfilling one's family responsibilities if one focuses on the entire world without paying importance to oneself and one's family. I think the attitude of seeing the entire world as oneself can be a well entrenched and sustained attitude in a person only if he/she has tasted that mystical experience, and is able to easily relive/stay in that experience. That is why mystics become a magnet which attracts devotees/followers. But such genuine mystics are very, very rare persons in the world, at any point of time. The highly accomplished mystics among them tend to become founders (intentionally or unintentionally) of religions, religious sects and/or spiritual movements.

Many of us (including me) may fall into the belief-but-no-experience group in this matter. For such people, an attitude of helping others whenever feasible viewing (believing) them as our own selves (you and I are one type of attitude), but without failing in family and other responsibilities, may be the right and safe way to go. Practice of such an attitude as well as activity over time may lead to some experience of oneness with others which may reinforce the attitude and activity, without disrupting the family and other responsibilities bit. One inescapable feature of this behaviour, IMHO, will be a self-imposed ceiling on material desires by the person and his/her family.

Perhaps if even 0.1 percent of seven billion of us do the above, it may be enough to inspire a good part of the rest of us to try to adopt such an attitude themselves, thereby bringing a lot of community happiness, peace and joy in the world.]

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Jeff Lieberman responded on March 23rd 2015, to the above post contents, over email as follows (and was OK with it being shared publicly here):

Thanks for watching and the feedback Ravi. I don’t necessarily agree with many of the things I said 4 years ago, but I do think that if we get into it there’s overlap, and disagreement. Much of it is semantic, as someone might use ‘emptiness' to describe another’s ‘fullness’, while someone else uses ‘God’ and another uses ‘communion with nature.’ Are any right or wrong?

The argument about energy and matter is a whole other rabbit hole. I would argue that you can’t prove any existence of matter, or energy - as they are both descriptions of experience, and anything I label as ‘matter’ is actually only a label on a perceptual experience; I can never prove that this ‘thing’ exists without it being perceived, which is one place where many of the QM and other physics arguments clash with consciousness ones.

Also, I don’t think family responsibilities are at conflict with what I’m saying at the end (though honestly I do not agree with what I said at the end!). Responsibilities are fine, activity to support a family can happen quite well without there being a perceived feeling of being a separate individual that needs to accomplish such tasks - that is all a mental manifestation. Does a dog need to know it’s a caretaker to give care to its pups, or is that a natural intuitive action of love? I think a lot of ‘spiritually fulfilling’ ideas are often just that, and I’ve yet to be convinced that many of those paths truly lead practitioners to liberation. I think mystics may appear rare at this moment but I think most of that is because of so many traditions not looking beyond their walls at the many ways toward liberation - there are so many useful pointers to share between traditions that I am hopeful that with more communication and openness between traditions, that many more people will be exposed to the mystical experience (which needn’t be a jarring unity-with-god experience but can present itself much more subtly), and will enable them to live lives in whatever way they currently are, while free from the psychological suffering that often accompanies these lives. Everything else feels like a conceptual understanding of liberation and leads to more mental attempts to achieve the freedom that is already present.

--- end Jeff Lieberman response ---

I wrote back on the same day (slightly edited):

Thanks a ton for your valuable response, Jeff....

I think there is a tremendous amount of overlap between what you are ultimately aiming at (more people getting self-realized) and whatever little I write about on the little bit I have understood and tasted of the Hindu Upanishadic path of enquiry (Who am I) to self-realization.

And when you bring stuff like prayer and loving attitude to rest of humanity/rest of life, into it then it fits in very well with a lot of the activities that our Sathya Sai movement is all about. What I have understood from my decades long exposure to the Sathya Sai movement is that most people in a deeply devout country like India can relate quite easily to prayer and selfless love, though it does not necessarily translate to people immediately making selfless love a key part of their lives (prayer to God is almost a given in deeply devout India even if the view of God varies slightly depending on the religion followed). Relating to Hindu Upanishadic stuff like self-enquiry (Who am I) appeals to only a few but usually these few are well educated and quite influential as well.

I wish you all the very best in your efforts to spread self-realization and selfless love in the world, with a scientific basis to your arguments for it. Today's materially rather unequal world both in the West and the East or in the North and the South, needs it pretty badly, IMHO.

--- end my response ---

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For spiritual aspirants, which is the lesser evil in an ashram system: spiritual fraud or material fraud?

Last updated on 20th March 2015

For novice (and even some experienced) spiritual aspirants today, perhaps one of the biggest challenges in figuring out which (Indian) ashram system is best suitable for them, is in dealing with the various allegations of fraud made against almost every ashram system. [This post is about Indian ashram systems. I don't have any direct exposure to non-Indian ashram systems but some parts of this post may apply to non-Indian ashram systems too.] Some sections of Indian television media revel in making sensationalist and wild allegations against Indian ashrams and god-men and god-women. I think that must be getting them a lot of eyeballs and so, advertisement revenue :-).

The reality is that ashram systems are also composed of people who have come from regular society, and bring with them the good and bad of regular society, even if their intention is to eventually eschew all the bad. So some level of corruption and fraud is inevitable, IMHO, in any decent-sized Indian ashram system.

Now from a spiritual ashram perspective, there are two types of corruption and fraud: spiritual and material. Material corruption and fraud is against the law of the land. However, until hard evidence is produced to prove material corruption and fraud before law enforcement and judicial authorities, mere allegations only serve to malign individuals. And, unfortunately, uncontrollable jealousy is one of the worst evils in ashram systems, which does lead some people to make wild and malicious allegations without clear supporting evidence, against others.

[I think most people (including me) certainly suffer from some jealousy but they try to keep it under control. It is when the jealousy is uncontrollable that it becomes very damaging in ashram systems. Perhaps the worst form of this jealousy is that which is directed towards wealthy ashram residents whose lifestyle reflects their wealth. In my considered opinion, a spiritual aspirant who is jealous of the wealth of an ashram resident has lots and lots of spiritual effort in front of him/her, as that kind of jealousy is a terrible spiritual flaw. How does another ashram resident being wealthy create a problem for one's spiritual journey? In fact, it may even help in that the wealthy ashram resident may even provide some financial help, when required, to the genuine spiritual aspirant.]

But then there is an issue of public perception. Repeated allegations from various sources, over time, creates a public perception, irrespective of whether it is true or false, about the extent of material corruption in an ashram system. Going in for audited books of accounts and publicly shared balance sheet for the ashram system, like in the case of commercial companies, does serve to reduce this public perception of corruption to some extent.

From an individual spiritual aspirant perspective, what matters is whether in his/her activities in an ashram, he/she is facing material corruption or fraud. If that is not there then the spiritual aspirant can happily pursue his/her spiritual efforts in the ashram ignoring any allegations of fraud/corruption elsewhere. If and when the aspirant starts facing some material corruption issues, he/she should immediately move out of that activity to ensure that his/her honest reputation in financial/material matters is not damaged. But there is no need, IMHO, to become an anti-material-corruption crusader as that may interfere with the spiritual goal with which one has come to the ashram. Simply move away from material corruption areas, and if one finds that too many areas in the ashram system have got infected with material corruption then it is time to move away from the entire ashram system and maybe look for another suitable one.

On the other hand, spiritual corruption and fraud are very disturbing to spiritual aspirants. Small levels of inconsistency between teachings and practice of ashram system leaders should not lead an aspirant to immediately jump to the conclusion of spiritual corruption and fraud. With some more maturity in the spiritual path, these small levels of inconsistencies become either very minor or one even understands them to be proper for that time, place and situation. However, if ashram system leaders project something which even some of them suspect to be false, but which allures followers, we get into what I consider to be spiritual fraud. In my humble view (some readers may disagree with it and that's fine), an example of it is attracting followers of a spiritual master who has somewhat recently given up his body by having mediums/communicators who claim to communicate/interact with the subtle body/form of that spiritual master, when that spiritual master had repeatedly in public discourses clarified that he never uses mediums/communicators and that his interactions with his followers/devotees is a direct relationship without the need for any intermediaries. The void/vacuum felt by followers due to the physical absence of the master, for some followers, now gets filled by the medium/communicator! They feel happy, spread the word and the following gathers strength.

Now, am I saying that all mediums are frauds? Well, I am not an expert on mediums. But in the history of great spiritual masters and avatars like Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Shirdi Sai Baba etc. we do not find any mediums who communicated to their subtle body forms, to have become well accepted by the community, and stood the test of time. I was told by somebody recently that after the passing away of Shirdi Sai Baba, his close servitor Abdul Baba tried to play the role of Shirdi Sai Baba for some time. But that did not seem to have worked/gone down well with the community over time, and so Abdul Baba was forced to discontinue that practice.

Mediums may be connecting to the spiritual force within themselves (and within each of us) and may be viewing that force as a form of a particular master. Due to their own spiritual ability these mediums may be providing great spiritual (and even material) advice to people who go to them. The mediums may attribute it to communications from the spiritual master. But, at least in the case of the great masters & avatars mentioned above, I think the mediums are imagining that those communications come from that spiritual master.

The fraud problem comes when the medium uses the name of the spiritual master to boost his/her following. The honourable and authentic approach, IMHO, would be for the medium to use his/her own name and may even attribute his/her spiritual powers to the Grace of the spiritual master, but not say that the spiritual master is communicating with him/her. And if the medium goes to the extent of claiming to be a special and only communicator to a special subtle body/form of a master based in a particular place, and points out to others where the subtle body is walking, is seated etc. so that others can reverentially bow down to the invisible-to-them subtle body/form of their master, then I think that it either gets into the territory of spiritual fraud OR it is something unique and unheard of in the history of all spiritual masters/messengers/prophets/founders of all the major religions & religious sects in the world! I am very skeptical of the latter possibility and so view such mediums as spiritual frauds. Of course, I may be wrong - I do not have any paranormal powers to know inner stuff about such mediums. So do take my words with a few pinches of salt :-).

Between spiritual fraud and material fraud, in an ashram system, which is the lesser evil for a spiritual aspirant?

In my considered view, for a spiritual aspirant, material fraud is the lesser evil. Spiritual fraud may deliver a shattering blow to the spiritual progress that an aspirant has made from which he/she may take years to recover. Material fraud, especially in India, is, very unfortunately, all too common, and so not a big problem to recover from, from a spiritual perspective for people familiar with India. [Though if one personally loses a lot of money in such material fraud it may leave a lot of psychological scars. I am talking about material fraud in the ashram system which does not directly involve/impact the spiritual aspirant.]

In my considered view, spiritual aspirants should stay away from spiritual frauds and ashram systems that promote spiritual frauds to gain a larger following.

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19th March 2015 Update:

An (international) online spiritual daily which seems to be an Internet blog content aggregator, http://paper.li/SpiritualBlog1/1337878098?edition_id=cb7a8220-cdd1-11e4-9626-0cc47a0d164b, has put up this blog post (link) as an article under POLITICS :-), in today's issue.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Subtle Swami (Sathya Sai Baba) controversy blog post search ranks and stats; Let us resolve this confusion NOW

Last updated on 17th March 2015

As of today (16th March 2015), these are the Google search rankings for my main blog post on claimed subtle body/form of Swami (Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) in Muddenahalli, "Radio Sai article on recent Swami (Sathya Sai Baba) subtle form appearance controversy", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2014/07/radio-sai-article-on-recent-swami.html, for the search terms given below (this ranking changes over time like 1st becoming 3rd or something like that but not a drastic change like 1st becoming 11th):

1st rank - Sathya Sai baba Muddenahalli subtle body
1st rank - Sathya Sai baba Muddenahalli subtle form
3rd rank - Sathya Sai Baba Muddenahalli light body
4th rank - Sathya Sai Baba subtle body
5th rank - Sathya Sai Baba subtle form
4th rank - Sathya Sai Baba light body
5th rank - Sathya Sai Baba light form

[Please note that Google search giving the above rankings was done in an incognito Chrome browser window to avoid any personalized search results/rankings.]

So my above post has become an important source of information for people searching on Google for this matter. That has brought me the rather unexpected, difficult and, frankly, quite unpleasant, burden of ensuring that I do my duty to Bhagavan and the Sathya Sai devotee fraternity/samajam as well as I can by conveying information on this currently very controversial matter in a truthful (as far as I know), sensitive and unbiased manner.

The above mentioned post has the anguished and rather aggressive plea of the veteran and very respected Sai fraternity/community leader Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju to the leaders of the Muddenahalli group (which includes the veteran and very respected Sai fraternity/community leader Shri B.N. Narasimha Murthy sir) to re-unite with the official Sai organization. It also has a set of comments exchanged between an Australia-based Muddenahalli group supporter and me, with Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju endorsing my views in this comment exchange.

The view count for this post since it was first published on July 11 2014 (slightly over 8 months ago) is 2852 (Stats. picture)

Last week saw a burst of viewing activity for this post. It had 1217 views from 9th March 2015 to today, 16th March 2015 (Stats. picture). The viewers are from various countries of the world. The top-ten audience countries for this week's visitors to my blog (top post is the above mentioned post) are (Stats, picture): India, United States, Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland.

Two important recent posts about this matter, which I have provided links to, in the above post are:
* How did the current divisive challenge to Sathya Sai fraternity come about? How to counter it?, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/03/how-did-current-divisive-challenge-to.html, dated March 5th 2015. Total views so far: 518 , Views this week: 470
* Medium(s) who tell you about some private incident/interaction between you and Sathya Sai Baba - What will you do?, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/03/mediums-who-tell-you-some-private.html, dated March 13th 2015. Views this week: 78

Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju has endorsed the contents of both the above posts.

Why am I doing all this? Am I being over-enthusiastic? Do I have an ulterior motive in putting up such posts, including this one?

The over-enthusiastic charge is something I have faced earlier in Puttaparthi. Perhaps my international software industry experience of nearly two decades has made me a person who raises questions and who decides to take the initiative at times. That may be viewed as being over-enthusiastic in some Puttaparthi circles. So be it.

My motive in putting up these posts is to just freely express my opinion to interested people on matters that may be of interest to them. I do not want to earn money by this effort (this blog is not monetised) nor am I interested in acquiring any position in any organization by this effort. Further, I am not against the Muddenahalli group in general.

What I am really bothered about is that some people of the Sai fraternity who are known to me, including past students of mine at the Sai university, are confused big-time about the supposed subtle body of Swami in Muddenahalli which interacts with a particular medium (and that medium only). I feel it is my duty to my friends in the Sai fraternity, as well as to Swami, to try to dispel this confusion. [It seems that the term used for this medium in Muddenahalli is "communicator". However, essentially the "communicator" seems to be playing the role of an intermediary/medium between devotees/people and the claimed subtle body of Swami at Muddenahalli. So whatever I have said in this post about the Muddenahalli medium applies to the Muddenahalli "communicator".] If the Muddenahalli medium is really interacting with subtle body of Swami in Muddenahalli then why does he not meet the leaders of the Sai organization in Puttaparthi and convince them of this by demonstrating subtle body Swami's omniscience/paranormal knowledge to them? If Puttaparthi Sai organization leaders are convinced then all or most of the Sai fraternity will follow suit. We will all be overjoyed that Swami is available for our leaders and devotees to interact with through the medium. The confusion will get resolved and there will be unity in the Sai fraternity.

But if the medium is not able to convince Sai organization leaders of subtle body Swami's omniscience/paranormal knowledge then the medium should stop this medium business. What a sorry figure the Sai fraternity is cutting when TV media channels are hinting at the unheard of in Hindu scriptural history of the Avatars (including Rama and Krishna) or in the history of Shirdi Sai Baba, subtle body/light body darshan, sparshan and sambhashan claims being made at Muddenahalli! And I don't think this was something that pleased official Sai organization people. I definitely felt very bad at the vicious attack that the TV media channel made on our brothers (and sisters) in the Muddenahalli group without mentioning any of their wonderful service activities.

As Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju asked in his recent talk (part-transcript provided in my main blog post mentioned above), "What is expected of us right now? To be witness to all this? To be silent (in) this situation?" After listening to these questions posed by Anilkumar sir, I felt that I should not be silent in this situation. We need to resolve this matter of supposed subtle body of Swami in Muddenahalli which communicates with a medium (and that medium only), one way or the other. That is MY ONLY MOTIVE in putting up these posts. NOTHING ELSE. I repeat I am NOT AGAINST Muddenahalli group or their wonderful service activities. Let us Sai devotees resolve this confusion NOW. It is really high time. If we don't do it now, God knows what further embarrassment we may face in future.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Medium(s) who tell you about some private incident/interaction between you and Sathya Sai Baba - What will you do?

Last updated on March 29th 2015

What if some medium told you about some private incident/interaction between you and physical form Swami - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

Will you then believe that the medium is really interacting with subtle form (sukshma sharira) of Bhagavan? Will you then start following advice/instructions given by this medium who says they are from subtle form/body of Bhagavan?

What if all the above happened with me? What would I do?

Well, firstly I may have some doubt about whether information about the private incident/interaction between (physical form) Swami and me, may have been passed on to the medium by somebody else in physical form. In other words, the medium found out this info. through normal means (and not paranormal means). For example, physical form Swami used pet-names, quite funny pet-names many times :-), to refer to Sai university students. This pet-name would become common knowledge among student peers during that batch's stint at the university. Now, if a medium refers to a former student by using the pet-name, I, for one, would seriously consider the possibility of this information having been passed on to the medium by other former Sai university students, who know about this pet-name. I would not immediately get convinced that the medium has demonstrated knowledge about a private matter between me and (physical form) Swami.

But what if the matter is really a private one between me and Swami, not known to anybody else, and the medium tells me that matter? Then I would accept that the medium has demonstrated some paranormal power. This power could be due to the medium himself having acquired spiritual powers to read the mind and memories of others. But it could also be that this knowledge is revealed to the medium by subtle form/body of Swami or some other spiritual power masquerading as subtle form of Swami. So I will then certainly be somewhat open to the possibility that the medium's claim of interacting with subtle form of Swami is really true. But I would still not be one hundred percent certain that the medium is really interacting with subtle form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, as it could be explained by other possibilities like the two other possibilities I mentioned above.

What will it take for me to get convinced that a medium is really interacting with subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba? 

Well, I don't have a crisp answer for this. But let me just share my current thoughts on it. I would expect that the way Swami's subtle body runs the mission will be similar to how physical form Swami ran the Puttaparthi based mission. I would have a lot of doubts if a claimed subtle body based mission gets involved in activities which were unheard of in the physical form mission at Puttaparthi, like:
a) The claimed subtle body along with the medium going abroad to well off countries
b) Approaching devotees and donors with messages communicated mainly through a medium instead of the subtle body, at least sometimes, directly interacting with devotees and donors
c) Having chairs in public functions for subtle bodies of Jesus, Shiva (Shirdi Sai) and Parvathi

I will not accept such a mission to be a mission that is being run by subtle body of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, OR I will say that the subtle body mission is very different from the physical body run mission, and that I would prefer to associate with the latter rather than the former.

Another key test for me would be the deep scriptural and spiritual messages that the medium conveys as Swami's messages. If a medium states that Swami is saying that when I came as Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Allah ... I did ..., then it fails the scriptural/religious test for me. Allah is the formless God in Islamic theology. How can a spiritual master conversant with Islam, which Shirdi Sai Baba certainly was and Sathya Sai seemed to have full knowledge of Shirdi Sai form, say that Allah took a form? I don't think physical form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has ever said something like: when I came as Allah. As Rama and Krishna are avatars and physical form Swami has told us that He was Rama and Krishna earlier, Swami saying, when I came as Rama and Krishna, is fine.

A medium providing discourses of Swami which are similar to what physical form Swami has given on countless occasions on spiritual/human values like Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema, can be simply attributed to an intense study by the medium of physical form Swami's discourses.

If a medium claims to "see" subtle body of Swami and points followers to where the subtle body is seated, and the medium claims to "hear" words of this subtle body seated physically separate from the medium, then when the medium gives discourses of subtle body of Swami I would expect the medium to "listen" for a few minutes to subtle body Swami, then convey what he heard to the audience, get back to "listening" to Swami and so on. This would be like how physical form Swami when giving discourses in Telugu would pause every few minutes (or less) for the English translator to say the English translation of what Swami said. If instead, such a medium who "sees" and "hears" subtle body of Swami which is physically separate from him, gives a continuous discourse as if it is Swami within the medium's body who is speaking now, then I would be confused and have some doubts about the medium.

Mission of such mediums may still flourish

Now even if I do not accept such claimed mediums to Swami subtle body like I mentioned above, I will not say that the medium is a fake. The medium may genuinely believe that he is seeing Swami's subtle body/form, and he may have acquired some spiritual powers, and his motives may be completely noble. So this medium may be a positive force for his followers, and the mission that the medium is deeply involved with may flourish.

Danger of mediums becoming Hitler or Stalin type megalomaniacs

The challenge for the mediums may be to avoid getting trapped into some power-craze/megalomania as he/they attract(s) more and more devotees, including famous people. [(Megalomania is) "A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence", http://www.thefreedictionary.com/megalomaniacs.] The craze to control people and through people, institutions, is, very unfortunately, quite a common human failing, which one sees even today in dictatorial organizations as well as authoritarian governments of some countries. Spiritual followings/movements are typically dictatorial with everybody expected to fall in line, in the name of discipline, with the orders of the top leader(s). So once a spiritual group leader(s) (medium(s) in this case) gets a critical size following, then he/she/they can easily fall into a Hitler or Stalin type of megalomania trap which can eventually lead the followers and the mission astray. One might think that such medium(s) may never become like that. But the history of megalomaniac dictators like Hitler and Stalin teaches us that once leaders of dictatorial setups achieve a critical-size following they can easily crush dissent even from original mentors as at that time even the original mentors can be easily dispensed with.

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Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju responded over email to the above blog post contents as follows:
"Wah!!! Very nice ,quite analytical ,to the point and convincing.!!!MAY BABA BLESS YOU !! GOOD JOB INDEED,
ANILKUMAR"

[Ravi: The word, "Wah!", or more commonly "Wah-Wah!", is a Hindi word which may be translated roughly as "Wow!" in English.]

I responded back, "Thank you so much, Prof. Anilkumar sir."

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I thought of also adding Abraham Lincoln's quote on power. Most readers may know the quote about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. But Lincoln's quote is a more discerning one, IMHO. Perhaps it is based on his experience with being in power and dealing with powerful people as the president of USA, especially during USA's civil war.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. - Abraham Lincoln. From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin101343.html.

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Swami's words on power craze:
Prashanti Nilayam thought for the day of 17th March 2015, http://www.radiosai.org/pages/calthought2.asp?mydate=3/17/2015:

People create and develop in themselves an abounding variety of selfish habits and attitudes, causing great discontent for themselves. The impulse for all this comes from the greed for accumulating authority, domination, and power. Greed for things can never be eternal and full; it is just impossible for anyone to be satiated in fulfilling greed. Omnipotence belongs only to the Lord of all (Sarveswara). You may feel elated to become the master of all arts, owner of wealth, possessor of all knowledge, or repository of all the scriptures, but where did these come from? You may claim that you earned this through your own efforts, labour, and toil. But surely, it was given to you by someone some way or other. The source from which all authority and all power originate is the Lord of all. Ignoring that omnipotence, and deluding yourself that the little power you acquired is your own — is indeed selfishness, conceit and pride (ahamkara). (Prema Vahini, Ch 14) - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Swami's words on "I know all" pride:
Prashanti Nilayam thought for the day of 29th March 2015, http://www.radiosai.org/pages/calthought2.asp?mydate=3/29/2015:

If the I-consciousness in you, produces the pride “I know all”, a fall is inevitable; the delusion causes death. The secret of salvation lies in the realisation of this danger. Rebirth is inevitable if this danger is not averted. Immerse yourself in spiritual practices, then the world and its worries will not affect you. It is only when you are far from this truth that you suffer, feel pain, and experience travail. At a distance from the bazaar, one hears only a huge indistinct uproar. But as you approach it, you can clearly distinguish the separate bargainings. So too, till you get to know the reality of the Supreme, you are overpowered and stunned by the uproar of the world; but once you enter deep into the realm of spiritual endeavour, everything becomes clear and the knowledge of the reality awakens within you. Until then, you will swirl in the meaningless noise of argumentation, disputation, and exhibitionist flamboyance. (Prema Vahini, Ch. 16) - Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Some Shlokas from Chandogya Upanishad VI chapter including Tat tvam asi (You are That) Mahavakya, and comments on it

Last updated on March 10th 2015

Some abstract/high-level but simple theological/philosophical Hindu scriptural view of existential reality

In June 2010 I had prepared a document of 12 pages on some largely abstract theology verses (shlokas) from a famous Hindu scripture, Chandogya Upanishad, VI chapter including Tat tvam asi (You are That) Mahavakya (Great Saying), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tat_Tvam_Asi, and comments on/interpretation of it by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Prof. Max Muller, and a few others. I also added some notes of mine to it. Given below are the links to the pdf and Word versions of the document.


Being a 'nominal'/by-name-only Sama Vedi Brahmin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaveda, I have been quite intrigued by this Upanishad, as it is from the Sama Veda, right from my childhood. [If I were a proper practising Sama Vedi Brahmin of old, like my paternal family ancestors over centuries and, quite surely, over millennia, I should have learned chanting (and perhaps understanding) the Sama Veda in my childhood, and have considered chanting, and perhaps further interpreting and also teaching Sama Veda, as the vital (God-ordained) activity for the rest of my life.]

Over the years I have re-read and re-studied Chapter VI of this Upanishad which perhaps is the most spiritually significant part of this Upanishad. The understanding of it has usually changed, most times for the better, over these re-reads.

I think it is a reflection of the immense power of holy scripture like the Upanishads and the deep truths they contain that our understanding of them improves with our maturity both in life and in spirituality. Swami Sivananda of Divine Life Society said, "There is no book in the whole world that is so thrilling, soul-stirring and inspiring as the Upanishad. The philosophy taught by the Upanishads has been the source of solace for many, both in the East and the West. The human intellect has not been able to conceive of anything more noble and sublime in the history of the world than the teachings of the Upanishads." [From http://www.dlshq.org/religions/upanishads.htm]

I am quite certain that a future re-read of this portion of Chandogya upanishad some years and perhaps some more spiritual experiences down the line will give me more insights. But right now I am quite pleased with my understanding :-).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Comment exchanges related to medium(s) claiming to interact with subtle form of Sathya Sai Baba

Last updated on 24th March 2015

I felt it appropriate to reproduce below the comment exchanges (as of 6th March 2015) on my post, Radio Sai article on recent Swami (Sathya Sai Baba) subtle form appearance controversy, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2014/07/radio-sai-article-on-recent-swami.html. I have made minor grammatical-type fixes to the copied comments below which do not really change the content.

Paul Kelly, February 26, 2015 at 6:18 AM

Narasimhamurthy wasn't presenting himself as an intermediary. He was simply sharing a dream.

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Ravi S. Iyer, February 27, 2015 at 8:13 PM

@PaulKelly: Here are my two bits on what you wrote. I could be just plain wrong. So do take my words with a pinch of salt.

Well, some of Shri Narasimhamurthy's dreams did have instructions from Swami for others besides him (including at least one then senior administrator in the Sai university), and so in these matters he has acted as a medium in the past, and probably continues to do so today. That is where it gets tricky as Swami, while in physical form, clearly and unambiguously discouraged following such others' Swami dream instructions. Swami dream instructions received directly by an individual in his/her dream is a different matter, of course.

Here I must also mention that the current well known medium in Muddenahalli may not have had the following that he has now if Shri Narasimhamurthy had not openly showed support for the medium. Shri Narasimhamurthy then had (and surely continues to have in some circles even today) very, very high respect in the Sathya Sai student and alumni fraternity as well as among dedicated servitors in Swami's mission, and I believe he had earned that respect from his dedication and devotion to (physical form) Swami's mission over four to five decades. So when Shri Narasimhamurthy endorsed the current medium in Muddenahalli, this medium got more easily accepted by some Sai devotees, and rose to fame.

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saiuvacha, March 2, 2015 at 1:14 AM

Sairam Ravi,

You raise lot of good points and being in the same situation few months back, I can fully understand what lot of Sai devotees are going through. By His grace, I was able to attend the Australian Retreat in Murwillumbah where lot of my doubts were put to rest. Do you really think people like Sri Narasimhamurthy (given 45 years of his life serving Him), Isaac Tigrett (donated more than 100 million US dollars), Sri Indulal Shah (whom Swami himself facilitated in Kulwant hall as a true devotee), Kumar Venkat etc. would stoop so low to raise money even for a noble cause? They are Tyagajivis as referred to by Bhagwan himself as the kind of sacrifices they have made in their lives, most people could not even match in many life times.

Do you really think everyone who believes in subtle form has suddenly gone mad or being scammed by some very clever con artists? Why don't you find out more or even visit Muddenahalli if possible instead of reading all the garbage on internet. If you want to read more about my experience, please visit my blog. I have laid out the reason for setting this blog in my about page.

http://saiuvacha.wordpress.com/about

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 3, 2015 at 1:25 AM

@saiuvacha: Thanks for your views. I am very comfortable living in Puttaparthi and trying to follow the teachings that Swami had given while in physical form, and also trying to connect to the inner Swami. I don't see any need for me to visit Muddenahalli unless Swami directly tells me to do so via a dream or vision.

I should also mention that I am not in a position as of now to accept intermediaries/mediums related to Swami as, while in physical form, Swami very clearly advised devotees not to believe in mediums. The intermediaries in Muddenahalli may say that Swami has changed his advice now but I cannot accept that view from the intermediaries. If Swami comes in my dream or gives me a vision where He states that He has changed his advice regarding mediums then I will seriously consider it.

If others like you do believe that subtle Swami is interacting through intermediaries, I do not have any issues regarding that in general. Their life, their choice, is my view.

But I am quite perturbed by reports from reliable sources of people from Sathya Sai organization or general Sai devotees being approached by Muddenahalli group persons with messages of "Swami is calling you to Muddenahalli". That sounds like poaching to me. Why not leave it to Swami to directly interact with such persons and call them to Muddenahalli? I think that would be a more ethical approach to staffing their mission.

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saiuvacha, March 3, 2015 at 5:38 PM

Sairam Ravi,

Thanks for publishing my comments. Many sites discussing this issue would not entertain any comments opposing their view hence I felt the need to share my experience with the subtle body in Australia by writing my own blog. I am glad that you are keeping an open mind and that is the need of the hour for all Sai devotees.

Probably it is more difficult for you living in Puttaparthi to accept the subtle body as you must be getting inundated daily with some or the other conflicting reports from different people. For me sitting in Australia, it is easier to be a neutral observer watching the events unfold from a distance. I visited Puttaparthi during Shivaratri in 2014 and stayed there for a week. My travel agent kept pushing me to go to Muddenahalli, saying that lot of miracles are happening there. I refused politely because to me, Swami was in Prashanthi and there was no need to go anywhere else. However all that changed when Swami's subtle body visit to Australia during new year's eve. Four of us decided to go from our centre with an open mind deciding to walk away if there was any talk of money or any attempt to start a new organisation. However no such thing happened and we came back convinced that Swami was present in the subtle body during the entire retreat and it was HE who spoke through Madhusudhan.

I am not sure who has been approached by whom, in Swami's name hence I can't comment on your last paragraph. But if I was called, I would definitely go and experience it myself. If I felt later that this whole thing is just a charade, I would say so openly and warn everyone about it. What one should not do is to have preconceived ideas about anything and dismiss the whole thing without even experiencing it.

No one can convince anyone about anything. As humans, we form our own opinions based on our own experiences. Just as Vivekananda said “Be an atheist if you want, but do not believe in anything unquestioningly.”

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 4:15 AM

Sairam Saiuvacha,

Though I live in Puttaparthi, I live outside the ashram, and rarely visit the ashram nowadays. So I write/blog quite independently of any fear or influence of Puttaparthi ashram system. But I must also say that I am a well-wisher of the Puttaparthi ashram system, and so may have some bias towards it.

I entirely agree with basing one's opinions on experience. If some people are having good experiences with Muddenahalli group in general, naturally they will want to continue to have those good experiences by associating with them. While I don't subscribe to subtle Swami based on teachings & directives of physical form Swami, if it works for you and others, who am I to judge or interfere?

My concerns are limited to expressing my view about what I see as unethical poaching of Sathya Sai organization members and Sai devotees by messages of "Swami is calling you to Muddenahalli" being delivered via mediums/intermediaries. However, you do not seem to find any ethical problems with such messages. Perhaps we should just politely agree to disagree on this matter and leave it at that.

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 7:56 AM

Edited version of saiuvacha comment made on March 2, 2015 at 1:53 AM:
I just watched the video. Anil Kumar is (completely wrong) to suggest that Muddenahalli camp is collecting funds by organising overseas trips. Similar rumours were spread by the Sai Organisation in Australia as well but after attending the Australian Retreat, I can assure you that there was no talk of money or any kind of donations. In fact, all participants were fed 3 times free of cost and not even registration free was charged which is normally the case in such retreats. [Deleted sentence.] It is (Prof. Anil Kumar) who invented or subscribed to the theory of Solar vs Lunar calendar to justify Swami's untimely departure. [Deleted sentence.] Sorry Professor, You lost me when you came to Australia and when asked about Vedam chanting, gave a cunning answer about cat in the box story. Very different from when you translated Swami's discourse in 2006 during Ati Rudra Maha Yagna, where you thundered from the podium that it is Swami's wish that Vedam should be chanted by one and all irrespective of country, caste, colour, race or religion. Truth remains the same irrespective of time and place. You only told us so Professor. Peace. Sairam

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 8:07 AM
Slightly edited version of original comment by Ravi S. Iyer on March 4, 2015 at 4:40 AM
The fund collection methods used by Muddenahalli group during overseas trips may be more subtle than registration fees for retreats. However, my view is that in this post-Mahasamadhi phase, fund collection for proposed service to man/society activities done in a transparent and accountable way, is OK. I mean, one needs funds to meet the expenses for service activities, especially large scale activities like free education institutions and free hospitals.

The problem for people like me is if and when subtle fund collection is done using claimed paranormal connections to subtle Swami, as while in physical form, Swami has very unambiguously warned devotees to stay away from such people.

Regarding your very strong criticism of Prof. Anil Kumar's view about Muddenahalli group fund collection from overseas trips: My view is that Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju would have made his comments based on information received from reliable sources. One should not forget that Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju is one of the most recognized and visible faces of the Sai fraternity over decades with huge level of contacts in the fraternity both in India and abroad. So his words, IMHO, should not be taken lightly.

Of course, Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju is also human and one may not agree with everything that he says. I do not know whether he invented the "theory of Solar vs Lunar calendar to justify Swami's untimely departure". But I do not subscribe to the lunar calendar theory. Like so many Sai devotees, I too was in shock for a few months when Swami gave up His physical body in April 2011 as I had no doubt whatsoever that He would be in His physical body till 96 years of (solar calendar) age. Today I have fully come to terms with His Mahasamadhi. I do not know why He gave up his body then. But neither is it very important for me to know why. He has given enough to us in the 85 years that He was amongst humanity. Now it is upto us to sincerely attempt to follow His teachings (even if we stray a little here and there, sometimes) and further His mission of spreading Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema in the world. Whether we do that as a member of the official Sathya Sai organization or as a member of an organization unrelated to the Sathya Sai organization or in an individual capacity, is upto us and what we are comfortable with, IMHO.

[For the past three years I have not been associated with any Sathya Sai organization even though I live in outside-ashram Puttaparthi, and do my service activities of blogging on spirituality & religion, and on improving the practice of software development in Indian Computer Science and Information Technology academia, in an individual capacity. I should also mention that I decided to opt for individual capacity service as I felt that after Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi the attitude & behaviour of some administrators in the Sai university (where I was offering free service as a teacher of software lab. courses and as a technical consultant for student software projects) had changed significantly and was not to my liking. So I felt it was time for me to get a move on.

I continue to have very friendly relations with many people working in the various Sathya Sai institutions in Puttaparthi and also benefit from the Puttaparthi Sathya Sai institutions/activities like the General Hospital, Radio Sai, Sanathana Sarathi, Prashanti Reporter etc. So, while I currently am not a member of the Puttaparthi based Sathya Sai institutions, I am a strong supporter of them.]

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 5:13 AM

@saiuvacha: I decided to put up an edited version of your last comment here as I have great respect for Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju. The edited comment (from saiuvacha) is as follows:
"My comments do sound a bit harsh on retrospect and you can edit/delete those offensive parts but the truth remains that either Prof Anil Kumar should put up the evidence that Muddenahalli camp is collecting money by deceit or (not talk about it). Swami does not require a letter of approval from (anybody) to do what he wants. Why is he trying to stop people from visiting Muddenahalli is beyond me as I see no one from Muddenahalli stopping anyone from going to Parthi. If he is afraid that people will stop coming to Parthi, then I can assure you that most people who visit Muddenahalli would also visit Puttaparthi. It is He who is seeing two where there is only one. Peace. Sairam" end-saiuvacha-edited-comment.

Ravi: @saiuvacha: I cannot edit your earlier blogger comment - only delete it (or provide an edited comment in my name like above). It's OK. We can leave it as it is. The first sentence of your comment above helps to make the debate/conversation more polite.

Jai Sairam!

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 8:14 AM

@saiuvacha: After some more thought on the matter I decided to put up an edited version of your earlier comment referencing Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju and the video with clips of his talk, and put up a slightly edited version of my response comment.

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saiuvacha, March 4, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Sairam Ravi, You have done a good job in capturing the essence of my thoughts. Those who wish to interact with me, can always do so by commenting on my blog at https://saiuvacha.wordpress.com/
thanks again. May Swami bless us all.

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 4, 2015 at 7:06 PM

Sairam saiuvacha, Thanks for your comments and co-operation with my editing of a couple of your comments. Amen to "May Swami bless us all".

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 5, 2015 at 8:55 PM

Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju responded to an email where I shared most of my above comment exchange with saiuvacha. His response was as follows:

"VERY VERY GOOD !!!
A most dispassionate, unbiased, open and balanced stand that you have taken is commendable.
I fully agree with your views expressed on every single point.
MAY BABA BLESS YOU."

I responded to Prof. Anilkumar sir as follows:
"Thank you so much for your encouragement and kind words, Prof. Anil Kumar sir. Thank you for your invocation of Baba's blessings on me."

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 11, 2015 at 1:47 AM

This youtube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbCTvS89msQ, 5 min. 59 secs., has an audio clip of one of the most dedicated and physically very close servitors of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba during the last decades of His physical presence amongst humanity, brother Satyajit Salian.

Satyajit speaks about how Swami intensely rebuked a long-time devotee who was, shockingly, trying to almost convince (physical form) Swami that Swami was speaking through a 14 year old boy in Bangalore who claimed to be a medium of Swami. Swami's words (I presume that Swami would have spoken in Telugu only), as per Satyajit in this video (at 2:25):

"You have been here close to me for so many years. How could you even bring this up in my presence? Buddhi unda leda Neeku? (Don't you have any common sense?) Naaku em pattindi vaalu (vaadu) paadu shariramulo cheradaniki? (What business (need) do I have to enter into that dirty body?) If I want to talk to somebody I can figure out a way. Nenu matlaadaalante nenu matlaadutaanu. Nenu nerega matlaadutaanu. (If I need to speak to somebody, I can speak directly.)"

The audio clip of this youtube video may have been taken from the (original) video of brother Satyajit Salian's talk at Santa Ana, California, USA on 22nd February 2014, which was put up on saicast.org. At 34 min. 35 secs (the actual matter starts after 40 min. 05 secs) in (first of the three videos listed) here: http://www.saicast.org/2014/2014FebSatyajit.html, Satyajit starts talking about claimed mediums to Swami.

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anonymous, March 22, 2015 at 8:48 PM

I have read this complete blog and wish to share few thoughts.
First of all I would like to congratulate Central trust Puttaparthi for efficiently continuing swami's mission to the best possible extent!
It is hard to satisfy everyone but they are trying their best to extend all facilities to public and Ashram is being run in a very efficient manner. Running a mission like Sathya Sai's is very (read infinite very) difficult task for central trust and it is bound to be have some frictions and criticism ....becoz after all the office bearers are human beings. Swami could run it with little finger because he is God and nothing is beyond his reach! It is very easy to criticise or find faults. Only if the critics run such Ashrams would they know of the heavy responsibilities day in and day out!

Reg. Muddenahalli, surely it is adding confusion to the Sai devotees especially the ones who have been recent or always had some element of doubt.
Mr.Narsimha murthy/Mr.Indulal Shah/MrTigreet are big well known names in Swami's circle .No doubt they have been for long associated with Swami ....But for Every devotee Swami /his teachings comes first and rest all are only secondary!

Swami has always been synonymous only with Puttaparthy Prashanthi Nilayam ...Swami has time and again told that He does not need any medium or intermediate person to speak to his devotees. The best part of Puttaparthy is there is no Hundi ...No charge for entry no special entrance tickets. Rich or poor easily can approach Bhagwan!
The real beauty of Sathya sai organisations is that Money is not collected in any form neither is begged for unless given voluntarily ..Swami has never asked for any money! If Tigrett had given donations .it is his conviction that Swami's mission deserves it !

Reg. Narasimha murthy/Indulal Shah/Isaac Tigrett endorsing Muddenahalli..Isaac has the dubious distinction of speaking unpleasant talks(read blatant lies) reg. Swami's activities with students. It is also perhaps Swami's leela that he made Isaac say such things so that Sai devotees are able to know the real person inside and don't trust anyone just becoz they are donors!

It is very unfortunate that these people chose to separate..It is a guess on the part of some long time devotees that perhaps Indulal/Tigrett etc wanted some important posts in Central trust and were not given perhaps due to their age or other factors and hence they chose to break apart!

If they say *Swami's calling* or mobilising donations then undoubtedly they are misusing Swami's name ..They might make umpteen proofs of dreams of talks subtle forms etc., Those might even have proofs//But if they do not follow Swami's warning of not to misuse his name in anyway ....then it is nothing worth!

This is nothing new ... Even during his life time he witnessed his image being tarnished through unpleasant talks /false claims ..After his Mahasamadhi media for some time spoke all blatant lies But slowly they understood the magnitude of Swami's mission and his self less service and now almost all media seem to speak in a revered manner! It seems Swami willingly does divine leelas and in the end all confusions are cleared themselves !!!Jai sai ram!

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 22, 2015 at 9:38 PM

@anonymous: Thanks for your comment.

I think your words about some people of the rival group are rather strong. I decided to retain your comment in this form (without replacing it with an edited version cutting out those strong words) as I think this massive confusion churn being caused, especially in some countries outside India, among the Sathya Sai devotee fraternity needs to be resolved, one way or the other. [Recently the rival group had been to Malaysia with supposed subtle Swami through medium/communicator making very big statements. E.g. "I will unite the whole world. Narasimhamurthy told just now, the last few years of mine is only for uniting the whole world." Given the lack of unity in quite a few parts of the world today where people are losing lives in civil war or insurgency kind-of situations, such a statement is really a very, very big one.] Stifling some strong opinions may delay resolution of this confusion.

I have given my views below as points:

1) Mr. Tigrett has been a great patron of the Sathya Sai fraternity. One should not forget all the good he has done for the fraternity.

2) The dedication and contribution of both Shri Indulal Shah and Shri Narasimha Murthy to the Sathya Sai movement till Swami's Mahasamadhi is enormous. Later generations of Sai devotees (including me) have to be very grateful to them for the platform they helped to create for us to know about Swami and His teachings, and a satsangh where we could attempt to practice those teachings together and learn from each other. I think Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju has got it spot-on when he asked a leader of the rival group to come out with a public statement on why they have separated from us (the mother organization which they themselves played a vital role in creating and shaping). Perhaps if Shri Indulal Shah, Shri Narasimha Murthy and Mr. Issac Tigrett give a joint public statement on the matter, including any divine experiences they have had via the Muddenahalli medium/communicator with supposed subtle Swami at Muddenahalli, then we Sai devotees will have a better picture. So far, all these matters seem to have been discussed behind closed doors by top leaders of the official organization and the Muddenahalli group. Devotees don't know what is happening. I think if the Muddenahalli group veteran leaders mentioned above share directly with Sai devotees their view of the matter (by putting it out on the Internet, say), this confusion can abate. I think they cannot be silent any more - they owe it to the very organization they played such a vital role in creating and growing and which nurtured later generations of Sai devotees like me, to publicly tell us what is happening and advise what we completely confused Sai devotees should do in this matter.

3) I agree that overall the Central Trust at Puttaparthi must be congratulated for continuing to run the Puttaparthi setup in the absence of Bhagavan's physical form. You wrote, "Only if the critics run such Ashrams would they know of the heavy (responsibilities) day in and day out!" I entirely agree.

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 23, 2015 at 10:38 PM

Slightly edited version of Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju's mail response to me on the above comment exchange with anonymous:

I am thankful and appreciate you for your valuable services in this area at this moment strongly reminding time and again the teachings of Bhagwan and thus help those that are confused and need clarity and timely reminder . It is here JNANA the Gospel of Sai/teachings of Swami support our faith so that it would be unwavering, steady and in a way develop CONSTANT INTEGRATED AWARENESS.
We may suggest every one to make copies with excerpts from Swamy's messages regarding this confusion and distribute emphasizing that He will never possess any one and that He does not need any medium and above all that He is totally against fund raising. If you need I can supply material. Let every one know authentically with references.
We may recommend devotees to think deep along these lines and take all possible measures to prevent people from further confusion dilemma and doubt.
We should think of UNITY based on purity leading to divinity.
Let people give up craze for positions in the organization.
Let every one sink differences like caste, region, language etc so that the world will know that we are a spiritual organization and not a social or political organization where these are common and expected.
In view of the present situation we need leaders who can spare more time who can work with vision in full understanding of the recent developments. More than resourceful they need to be more committed to mission of Sai.
Urgent need is to know the pulse/feelings/needs of devotees rather than meetings with pedantic thoughts and expressions.
It is essential to move freely & lovingly amongst devotees.
Come forward with innovative creative novel programs and activities in tune with the aspirations of youngsters/present generation.We should at the earliest come out of routine monotonous repetitive out dated programs .
Every speech /activity should reflect uniqueness of this AVATHAR and we should learn how to portray from Swamy's point of view whatever we say either upanishads or puranas or any spiritual subject.
We need committed people not political opportunists or non-committal, neutral, so called devotees that observe meaningless silence when there is a threat to the organization and mis-interpretation of His teachings.

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Ravi S. Iyer, March 23, 2015 at 10:45 PM

Sairam Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju sir!

Thank you so much for your kind words and your thoughts on this matter.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How did the current divisive challenge to Sathya Sai fraternity come about? How to counter it?

Last updated on 29th March 2015

This post was triggered by very anxious mails of an overseas devotee who was worried about the current divisive challenge breaking up UNITY of the Sathya Sai fraternity/organization(s).

My not-so-important take on the general situation now with reference to what I see as the divisive challenge that a rival group is threatening the Sai fraternity with, is as follows (Please note that I currently am not a member of any Sai organization):

The vacuum caused by Swami's physical absence has been traumatic to the Puttaparthi/Prashanti Nilayam ashram system. While the activities still go on in some fashion, the old atmosphere of sanctity, devotion to and, very importantly, fear of, Bhagavan seems to have come down significantly. In my considered view, fear of Bhagavan if one did not do one's job properly or did something improper, kept everybody in the ashram system - manual workers, technicians, teachers, doctors and even ashram administrators - in check (this includes me as I was then a teacher with the Sai university). Now that fear seems to have largely gone and the power structure has changed to a regular human management structure, with its attendant flaws. And this seems to be a common issue with most ashrams in the transition phase after the passing away of the founder. So, in my considered view, one can't really find fault with any particular person or group of persons. C'est la vie - that's life.

[The following four paragraphs have been significantly updated on 29th March 2015]

In this situation, I think some leaders of the Sai fraternity may have felt that something must be done. The initial phase, a few months after Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi (April 2011), was when one such leader started claiming that Bhagavan is giving instructions to him regarding the mission, in his dreams. Most people in Puttaparthi were not willing to accept it but some did, especially a senior administrator in the Sai university (who is no longer associated with it). The senior administrator accepting it, IMHO, seems to have then created what I see as a typical political party problem with those, especially other administrators in the Sai university, who were willing to go along with or not oppose the senior administrator (under the influence now of the Sai fraternity leader's claimed Swami dream instructions) being, in some sense, favoured for positions (teaching and non-teaching positions) in the university. I repeat that I have written , it seems, so I am not sure about the last sentence above. Further, I must also say that I believe that the senior administrator had the good of the university and its staff and teachers, at heart. I don't think he had any personal motive behind all this. He was doing it with noble and good intent but my view is that his belief in the claimed Swami dream (and perhaps other non-dream) instructions of the Sai fraternity leader, misled him into taking some actions which created significant problems for the Sai university and the top administrators of the ashram system, in the traumatic period following Swami's Mahasamadhi.

It must also be mentioned that a few months after Mahasamadhi, the salaries of regular staff (as against honorary and temporary kind of staff), first in the university, and other ashram institutions later on, was significantly hiked to quite well-paid levels (Indian sixth pay commission levels, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixth_Central_Pay_Commission). I personally feel that this move should have been delayed for some time (a year or so) after Mahasamadhi as it was unknown then what amount of donation and other funds would continue to come to the ashram system. I think most staff would have understood a freezing of salaries for a year or so, to overcome the traumatic period following the Mahasamadhi. I mean, one would expect gratitude from existing staff towards Swami being shown by them postponing salary increase for a year. IMHO, that would not have been too much to ask, especially of university staff including teaching staff, who were expected to be the models to be followed by others.

Note that almost all of the other administrators of the Sai university were well known to this (veteran) Sai fraternity leader (getting claimed Swami dream instructions). So I would not be surprised if many of the other administrators had direct interactions, at this time, with the claimed Swami dream instructions Sai fraternity leader. Outspoken veterans who questioned instructions of the new power structure/group in the university were forced/chose to part ways. While I certainly was not a veteran in the Sai university (I had offered around eight and a half years of free service in the university at that time, mainly as a teacher of software lab. courses and as a technical consultant for student project work), I too was not willing to follow instructions which I felt were not in keeping with how the university was being run earlier under the top leadership of physical form Swami. My work, along with students, for an online school education project which was very much favoured by Bhagavan in the last year or two of His physical form, was heavily opposed by the department head, and when things boiled over to the senior administrator, the senior administrator chose to support the department head instead of backing me for doing good work on this project, and that too done for free! [For more details on it, please see my blog post: My perception of senior ex-administrator of a spiritual-cum-secular university being sarcastic about bhajans (devotional songs/singing).] So I too was forced to eventually part ways with the Sai university.

But this confusion that reigned in the Sai university did not seem to have any big impact on the Sai fraternity in India and abroad. The other activities of the group under the Sai fraternity leader (with claimed Swami dream instructions) seems to have been mainly in the area of creating new schools following Swami's model of free value-based education. I felt that was a wonderful activity that this group was doing even though it involved formation of a new trust to fund and manage these activities. Yes, the funds gathering part under the name of Swami and sometimes, I am told, using the claimed Swami dream instructions as messages to devotee-donors who accepted/believed in these messages, did bother some leaders. But I don't think it really impacted the Sai fraternity in a big way, and so was not really getting viewed as a serious divisive threat to the Sai fraternity.

[End of the paragraphs that have been significantly updated on 29th March 2015]

It was in May 2014 that the bizarre claim of a medium that he (and he alone) could see and interact with a special subtle form of Swami based in a particular place, got publicized on the Internet and among Sai devotees in Puttaparthi and elsewhere. This claim was fully endorsed by some Sai fraternity leaders of the rival group, including, very importantly, the Sai fraternity leader mentioned above who had claimed to receive dream instructions from Swami, which lent significant weight to the medium's claim. Some months after this, the rival group activity, including foreign trips which seems to have got them more devotees & donors, has reached levels where it threatens to divide the Sai fraternity. [When a splinter group is a small one it can peacefully and quite harmoniously co-exist with the large parent body. It is when the splinter group assumes a significant size that it becomes a divisive challenge to the parent body, IMHO.]

Some supporters of the rival group may feel that there is no effort to divide the Sai fraternity. But I think it is an inescapable fact now that there are two divisions in the Sathya Sai fraternity: one that believes in medium(s) of the rival group who claim to interact with a special subtle Swami based in a particular place, and one that does not, with the official Sai organization being part of the latter. I too am part of the latter group i.e. I don't believe in medium(s) who claim paranormal connections with subtle form of Swami (different from inner voice/conscience/inner Swami), and this disbelief is based on advice/instructions given by physical form Swami.

But significant number of people now seem to believe in this medium(s). The group also seems to have done a good job in recreating the sanctified atmosphere of darshan of (and, I am told, interviews with) Bhagavan. So some people are getting attracted to it. Further, as they are a small start-up kind-of group they seem to show good material results in terms of beautiful buildings/facilities constructed, for the donations they receive. Perhaps they have many Tyagajeevi (persons willing to dedicate/sacrifice their entire life for a cause and who live a simple/inexpensive life) type volunteers which brings down the expenses of their service activities significantly as compared to other organizations who rely on reasonably well paid staff. So donors may feel that their donation money is being put to good and very effective use by this rival group. I see this as a positive feature of the rival spiritual group for which they should be appreciated, and other spiritual organizations may benefit by learning from them.

How does one counter the divisive influence of this rival group on the Sai fraternity? My view is that directives issued by the Sathya Sai organization heads are and will be heeded by most office bearers and paid officials/workers. Non-office-bearer devotees are not bound to follow such instructions and some may be curious to see what the medium experience is all about. So some will surely continue to go to the rival group centre to see and decide for themselves.

I think devotees should be provided clear information about the claims of this rival group and its means of attracting devotees based on reports from Sai devotees and organization members who have been there in the past. The notices already issued by organization heads on (physical form) Swami's instructions about such matters should be made easily available to devotees (also be put up on Sai organization websites perhaps) [- see updates of 14th and 15th March 2015 towards the bottom of this post]. Q&A sessions like the one Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju recently had with Malaysian and perhaps other overseas devotees (whose youtube video clips have the aggressive plea from him to the rival group leaders to come back and be united) may be very effective in letting devotees understand this matter.

Beyond that, I think nothing much can be done. I mean, if devotees still want to go there and are happy there, it is their life and their choice. The organization cannot dictate terms to non-office-bearer devotees. [Office-bearers who associate with the rival group should be asked to relinquish their position in the official Sathya Sai organization. Otherwise there will be no value for the words of the organization heads.]

That's my take on this matter. Hope it helps :-). But, I repeat, I am not part of the Sathya Sai organization now and so these views of mine are just a devotee's views, and so, not so important.

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Update on 6th March 2015
Prof. Anilkumar Kamaraju responded to the above blog post contents sent to him over email, as follows:
"Thanks for the information .Comments are very apt precise and to the point .
Quest for truth is noblest of all and the publication of it is one's own duty .
You are doing that sacred important duty and I fully endorse hundred percent your views ,"

I responded:
"Thank you so much for your encouraging words, sir."

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Update on March 7th 2015: What is the responsibility of us Sai devotees who have been blessed to have experienced (physical form) Swami directly and who choose to follow Swami's instructions/advice regarding mediums, when we are asked about the rival group by others (Sai devotees or non-Sai devotees)? Others may have heard about the activities of the rival group and may be asking us based on that info. BTW here is an article dated today from the Deccan Chronicle website, Karnataka ashram rivals Puttaparthi, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150307/nation-current-affairs/article/karnataka-ashram-rivals-puttaparthi. The info. in it is not accurate but certainly conveys the main issue about a Karnataka rival trust & ashram with a former Sai university student claiming to be (to have access to subtle form of) Swami, and doing things similar to what Swami did like receiving letters and giving interviews.

My view is that it is fine if one mentions that the activities of the rival group in terms of maintaining a sanctified atmosphere in their ashram, deep devotion to Swami, and establishment of free Sathya Sai system of education institutions and free Sathya Sai system hospital(s), are commendable and deserve praise and even emulation. But if one stops there and does not inform the inquirer about the vital aspect of the rival group which is about medium(s) claiming access to special subtle form of Swami (Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) based in a particular place, NOT being in accordance with instructions/advice of physical form Swami then one is failing in one's duty to Swami. One need not impose one's view on the inquirer. Just inform him/her that this is what physical form Swami has said on the matter (to NOT believe in such mediums) in various public discourses. After that, in my considered view, our job is done and our conscience can be clean in this matter. If the inquirer still chooses to go to the rival group, believes in the medium(s), and is happy there, maybe that is the path for him/her. Who are we to judge?

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Update on 14th & 15th March 2015:
Here is a note issued on this matter on 11th June 2014 by the chairman, Prashanti Council (International Sathya Sai organization head), http://www.sathyasai.org/files2014/20140610FollowtheDivineMaster.pdf.

Here is the "Cautionary Note" issued on this matter on Nov. 28th 2014 by the All India President of the official Sai organization, and this note states that it is approved by the Board of Trustees of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (Puttaparthi/PrashantiNilayam): http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/Pdf/Cautionary%20Note%20to%20Devotees.pdf.