A review of "The Shadow of a God-Man: Exposing Sathya Sai Baba, India´s Most Famous Guru"
David C Lane is a cult-watcher, cult-buster, skeptic and former supporter of the Radhasoami tradition within Hinduism. His most interesting book is “The Unknowing Sage” and deals with the life and teachings of Baba Faqir Chand, a somewhat unusual Indian guru. Otherwise, I think Lane is mostly known for his polemics against Radhasoami and its American off-shots Eckankar and MSIA, and his interactions with Ken Wilber.
This little e-book deals with another Indian spiritual teacher whom Lane has been heavily involved in exposing: Sathya Sai Baba. The material is badly edited, but could be useful if you never heard of Sai Baba before, or if the only thing you ever read about him was uncritically positive. Sai Baba, based in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, claimed to be a genuine divine incarnation and had millions of devotees. For some reason, Sai Baba was also popular in the Western world, with the media often mentioning his “miracles”, which included materializations of sacred ash, wristwatches and rings for the benefit of his disciples. Naturally, he was accused of cheating by the skeptics. An Icelandic parapsychologist wrote an entire book discussing the pros and cons of the god-man's miracles.
Later, more serious allegations were made. Many ex-devotees accused Sai Baba of being a pedophile and pederast. In India, Sai Baba was supported by rich families and had political contacts with both presidents and prime ministers. This web of corruption shielded him from all prosecution. When Lane began exposing the rogue guru on the web, a prominent Indian politician managed to get one of his websites removed. Lane was eventually forced to drop out of the baba-bashing business due to serious death threats. However, both India Today and the BBC have run exposés on Sai Baba since then, so today nobody with access to the web can plead ignorance concerning the grave allegations against the man. Besides, he died at the age of 84, rather than 96 as he had constantly prophesized. Some believe that Sai Baba was 81 at the time of his passing, having lied about the year of his birth to align it with a prophecy about the return of Krishna.
In the end, it doesn't really matter whether or not Sathya Sai Baba could materialize diamond rings for his devotees or foresee his own death. Even if this was true, we must reject him anyway due to his moral failings and the corruption of his organization. A bad man doesn't become better just because he has some supernatural powers…