Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sathya Sai University - some basic information

The Sathya Sai Baba educational programmes and institutions were and remain backward-looking, anti-modern and rigidly against originality, independent, and free-thinking or critical work.

Sathya Sai Baba was very keen to educate Indians on the lines of 'sanathana dharma', that is, the ancient religious Hindu value system. Since India is predominantly a Hindu nation with most of the population believing in the supposed glories of ancient India, this was widely appreciated, especially since all education there for students was announced as being free. Dued to donations from Sai Baba's one-time very wide international follower catchment, this was largely possible. Many of the rich Indian whose sons were admitted had no doubt donated sums in advance, partly to ensure their getting a place. All talk about other hidden costs, such as regular subscriptions demanded of students for diverse activities, especially festivals at Prashanthi Nilayam ashram, were strictly forbidden, though some have informed about these after the death of Sai Baba in 2011.

Various universities in India that have endorsed and taken the Sai Baba name, which is still revered by many in India despite his unpunished crimes and protection from indictment by  PMs and Presidents etc. who had compromised themselves as worshippers and endorsers before his crimes became more widely known. Unfortunately, the Sathya Sai (Deemed) University at Prashanthi Nilayam was a model of the most backward pedagogical and social kind.  It was far from being any 'gold standard' to aspire to was run on the lines of an unquestioned and deeply flawed 'spiritual doctrine' and unquestionable military discipline for the 'inmates' who were hardly allowed any normal freedoms, even home visits on any normal basis. 

The educational standards left graduates with remembered book knowledge and virtually no independence of thought or research. Research outside the recommended literature was restricted so heavily that even an Internet connection was forbidden. Many failings as introduced under the colonial British Macaulay system of education designed to produce only clerks, are sustained in the Sai Baba colleges. Not one of the Sai Baba universities has achieved any recognition whatever in international rankings of educational institutions of excellence. The worst aspect was no doubt the danger of being sexually abused by Sai Baba, his Warden or certain teachers and students and to become entrapped in Sai Baba's system of rewards for sexual favours, including Gold medals to the otherwise undeserving, the privileges and bribes given to such 'form boys' or 'Baba chics', including passes in examinations to the highest level.

"...going to this college is not worth the cost, intellectual and emotional. Years after graduating from this college, I’m still uncomfortable with people, distrustful of groups, and in general not as happy as I would be if I went to another college." Kartick Vaddadi (a former student at Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions whose incisive views give food for thought to anyone who has any hopes of receiving a rich intellectual, social and scientific development.)

Vaddadi's view reflects that of one of Sai Baba's very closest servitors, V.K. Narasimhan, who had an illustrious career as a top journalist of the Hindu and later the editor of the Indian Express group. He told me a lot about the colleges, university and students and bemoaned the fact that the instruction was sadly lacking in any attempt to awaken a questioning mind but only to enforce learning of a set syllabus, leaving graduates unable to answer any questions put to them other than with standard answers learned by heart. In short, a recipe for failure as researchers or independent thinkers in any sphere. I found this to be true when I discussed subjects with certain students of his university. 

Those chosen by Sathya Sai Baba for top offices in his organisation and institutions (for all the academic titles they flaunt) show themselves to be isolated from the entire world education research community and lacking in up-to-date in modern knowledge and intellectuality. Not a single one of them seems to have published a major serious work of impact on peers or the informed public in science, philosophy or other comparable serious literature, yet many are at the same time hagiographic writers about Sathya Sai Baba. Sai Baba himself is more or less unknown to – and unmentioned by – any major world thinker of high achievement. Incidentally, nor is he quoted or referred to by any important world religious leaders. From a scan of my notes made at the time, his comments about the Sai colleges and Sai Baba's uneducated views can be viewed here.

See also the analysis of certain  essential facts about Sathya Sai University here 'Sathya Sai University - All that Glitters is not gold - by Sergei Badaev

Eileen Weed first began to live there in 1984 - for years with Sai Baba's elder daughter Venkamma.  Referring to a long-standing Sai devotee friend who lived for decades in Prashanthi Nilayam, she wrote:-
“She said in the mid 1970s, soon after she arrived in India, there was an event like that, when many students just left the college in disgust. Another time that it happened was soon after I arrived in 1984; we had heard many boys walked out of college because of something which we never learned details of. That was when sb did not go to Whitefield for 18 months (waiting for the controversy to die down, no doubt). All of us, even those like me who were generally clueless in the early days, heard about the mass exodus of walk-outs in the Whitefield college in 1984.
The above refers to an episode that was well-known to persons involved at Brindavan College at the time, but about which all information was systematically suppressed by the entire Sai Baba movement, as indeed has been and continues to be the policy. Barry Pittard, who lectured in English for two years from 1978 at Sathya Sai Baba’s Whitefield College, wrote:- 
“When I returned from Australia to India in 1983, I heard that the Whitefield college had been closed down, and that a number of parents had withdrawn their boys from Whitefield college because of sexual abuse scandals, in which SSB was central.” This came after Barry had defected from his nearly 3 decades of service to Sathya Sai Baba’s mission, having finally been convinced of the sex abuses when the magazine Nexus published a damning article. Barry has written:-
“Until the NEXUS article, I dismissed for many years as absurd no fewer than nine accounts of sexual abuse by Sai Baba, five of which I had heard between 1978 and 1982, and two shortly before I read the article, the rest between 1997 and 2000… Between 1979 and 1982 I heard four stories relating Sai Baba to homosexuality: from Joseph (U.S.A.) in 1979 (see below); Donna (U.S.A.), perhaps in the same year; Connie Raadsma, a close neighbour of mine in Australia 1981; and an Australian woman who spoke to me at Puttaparthi Sai Baba’s chief residence, in 1982. Like myself, Joseph and Donna were of the tiny handful of long-stay Westerners Sai Baba then permitted to live around Sai Baba, mostly in Whitefield. Donna, who Sai Baba had long not permitted within ashram precincts, claimed that she had spoken to older Puttaparthi residents who said that Sai Baba had been homosexual even as a boy. It appears to me now that Donna may have opened her mouth a bit too widely. A very distressed Indian man said to me, "If Sai Baba is God, why do they need to use all this violence against this man?  I have begun to uncover the case of an admired and quite close teaching colleague of mine, P.K. Mohanti, at the Sathya Sai College at Whitefield. Sadly, he was instantly removed from the college before we could say our goodbyes. Again, it seems to relate to being ejected for speaking out against abuses."

A former Sai Baba student recently mailed me, asking for anonymity, and wrote:-
"...the 1983-4 batch defections at the Brindavan campus....this was always a hush-hush affair and many senior teacher know about it though they were uncomfortable talking about it. What angers me most is the mental stubborness of those professionals at parthi who know these things and still continue to work for the sake of money or whatever.How can they call themselves educated ....this reflects the very flawed status of the Indian are not what they can be but brainwashed to believe whatever they are told. It's a very unfortunate thing."

Two previous accounts of the Sathya Sai College etc. by 't.t' are found here:-

Also read accounts from 'Raman' here:-