An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Thoughts on Sathya Sai Baba: Nagendra Rao

(The Article has been written by Nagendra Rao, MBA from Wharton and a Corporate Finance and Planning executive. He is also an expert in Indian Spirituality Practices of every type).

I have been getting a raft of e-mail in the last few days about the whole Sathya Sai Baba sexual peccadillo allegations. I have not read the latest storm in a teacup, c.f. the Atanu Dey blog on the subject, nor am I going to do so any time soon.

These allegations against Sri Sathya Sai Baba are nothing new. They have been there for years. There were similar much more detailed ones about Swami Muktananda a couple of decades ago, involving young girls.

Before that, there were allegations in the last century about Swami Vivekananda as well. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who was a tantra siddha without peer asked his wife, Holy Mother, to dissociate herself from the Ghoshpara sect for potentially the same kind of problems. This is also why Thakur was very particular that Naren / Swami Vivekananda never practice, let alone master, the same vamachara (left handed tantric rites) and smashana sadhana of which he was a master. Or any of the hatha yoga siddhis for that matter. Naren had a very large role to play in reform, in a largely Christian influenced prudish, Mrs. Grundy Victorian world. We shall not take up in detail here the medieval Popes who slept with their sisters and daughters and one who did both, if memory serves me right. I am sure that at least some of you are watching the Borgias (and Camelot) series.

In fact, after Thakur died Swami Vivekananda dug up the munda simhasana / skull throne where Thakur used to practise, smashed the skulls and threw them into the Ganges. “The spot has become too powerful for the Kali Yuga”, Naren said giving the reason for his action.

With the conspiracy theory environment being rife, it will never be possible to completely quell such allegations about Sathya Sai Baba (or anyone else). This is assuming these are allegations and not really facts. And what if they are apparently facts? The ignorant or untrained see a throat being cut where a tracheotomy is being performed.

The only things wrong would be that the actions in the Indian Hindu socio-cultural context were performed by someone who had taken kashaya / sannyasa. It is precisely to avoid such issues that in Kerala and Kamrup – the great centers of tantra including vamachara tantra in India, the REAL vamachara tantra gurus are never sannyasins (FORBIDDEN) but householders / females / yogins wearing white. Bhairavi Brahmani the tantra guru of Thakur / Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is the celebrated example. The whole problem arose when sannyasins like Baba Muktananda / Swami Nithyananda / Sathya Sai Baba? ityadi got into the act after taking the ocher robes.

Frankly, I have grave doubts about the Sathya Sai Baba allegations. Having said that I must also state I am quite turned-off by this whole Sathya Sai Baba is God Incarnate business. This is from the days, 25+ years ago, when a Yale alumnus tried to force such ideas down people’s throats by having us reverentially touch Sai Baba’s dhoti – my opinion of Yale took a nose-dive.

Paradoxically, Bhagwan Rajneesh who created the greatest cause célèbre as the Sex Guru was OK since he had never taken sannyasa. He was done in by a bunch of prudes – in the US and India – and the great unwashed amongst the Christian right wing.

There is nothing wrong in participating in vamachara as a religious rite, provided you don’t say you have taken sannyasa, and you have the proper gurus. Acharyavan puruso Veda operates everywhere – I am using the Veda here in the sense of knowledge not the 4 books considered the revealed texts (rutis) of the Hindus.

But everyone has their limits as I found out in a personal context. (My old school values were deeply offended when I was in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon and I found even those fraternizing were prancing about in ocher. Even my left wing ultra liberality has its limits. In a somewhat cultish environment, I created a minor cause célèbre of my own by categorically refusing to wear ocher.)

Hinduism has no concept – unlike Buddhism– of a person becoming a sannyasin for a time. This is common amongst the Southern (Theravada) Buddhist sects of Burma / Thailand / Laos / Cambodia / Sri Lanka ityadi.

Of course anyday HAF and its cohorts may come up with nouvelle vague ideas on this. We do not care what the great unwashed, c.f. 2nd gen ABCD Hindus think. These have been brainwashed by western Ivy League academic experts on Hinduism. They produce meaningless chatter before they have properly learned to wipe their posteriors.

FYI, in case ye do not follow Tibetan Buddhist vajrachara gurus, there are similar allegations against some of the most prominent ones there as well.

My general policy is never to get involved in such public wrangles. The whole HAF business was a very notable exception since it struck at the very roots of Sanatana Dharma. HAF was / IS seeking to reform Hinduism in its distorted / incorrectly informed and superficial image – and it was trying to do this from within as professing Hindus.

Since HAF was decisively hammered on the head, it has now retreated into disavowing that it represents Hindu Dharma and that it is merely a human rights organization of Hindu origin. More power to them in their diminished new aspiration. I don’t think that they are going to try to reform Hinduism again, though there are going to be attempted cracks against traditional Hinduism by people of the ilk of the execrable Puja Deopura – she of the ‘delectable kooties’.

There are people of a serious, scholarly disposition with some personal sadhana under their belts who also are troubled by the Sathya Sai Baba allegations. I have given adequate answers, sotto voce, when such have personally approached me. I humbly suggest ye consider a similar policy. No, I am not going to publish what I have said for people’s edification or to satisfy dilettante intellectuals / academically curious people with nothing better to do and with no sadhana under their belts.

The Clear Light of Bliss, a very advanced work on Tibetan tantra and Mahamudra by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso specifically warns against such initiatives. (This is now available for free download, but for those people rushing to do so, ye will be severely disappointed at not finding any of the good stuff). As in the case of the Human Sexual Response by Masters and Johnson, you need a guide in less scholarly / technical language to understand it.

(Some) vamachara tantric rites -involve (amongst others) – corpses (aghora / kapalika sadhana) or the 5 Makaras- mamsa (meat), madhya (wine), matsya (fish), mudra (kidney beans), and mithuna (intercourse). That these are valid ways of sadhana have been PUBLICLY accepted even by people like the late saintly and unquestioned celibate Swami Chidananda, successor to Swami Sivananda, Founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. Though the learned swami made it a point not to encourage following vamachara. They were most certainly accepted by Thakur / Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, “Yes but why do you want to enter the house by the back entrance instead of the royal front entrance”. 1008 Sarvatantra, Svatantra, Sri Sri Akhandananda Saraswati of the 20th century has written about people / couples he knew who could not properly sit down for sadhana without first having mithuna.

Even the official Sringeri Shankaracharya paramapara accepts sringara rasa and mithuna, vide the Matha accepted version of the Samkara Dig Vijaya – the Madhaviya Samkara Digvijaya which gives the account of the ‘parakaya pravesa’ of Sri Bhagavadpada – before he can fully defeat in debate the learned Smt. Ubhaya Bharati, the spouse of Mandana Misra and supposedly an avatara of Saraswati herself. Akhandanandaji towards the end of his learned 3-volume commentary on the catuh sutri of the Brahma Sutras declares that ‘parakaya pravesa’ is a real siddhi and that even now (1960s – 70s) there are yogis living who had mastered it, but he was not about to tell us.

Brhadaranyaka Upanisad has the very explicit worship of the female yoni in the Rites on Birth, Conception and Fertility towards the end of the sixth section. The Chhandogya Upanisad has the celebrated Vamadevya Upasana. Therefore, these things are there in the Vedas as well.

In (some of) the vamachara rites of Matangi, one of the middle tier rajoguna dominant of the Dasha Maha Vidya devis of Adi Samkara Bhagavadpada, menstrual blood is considered sacred. She is the deity of music, poesy, song and dance, considered the reverse of which Saraswati is the obverse. While I am not willing to bet my life on the matter, I am reasonably sure the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) Deopura female with the delectable kooties has heard of neither Matangi or such rituals.

In such matters, I am like a library which is a repository of all the facts without taking sides. This is the credo of the great atiashramis who are my ideals.

For those able and willing to take public stances against the Sathya Sai Baba allegations, more power to ye, and may Iswaranugraham be with ye. Just remember the traditional adage about the exercise of spitting at the sun. Ye might want to ponder though before spending time, energy, and whatever little sadhana bala ye have accumulated (or not). Naren / Swami Vivekananda said that the world is like curly dog’s tail – you can straighten it by binding it to a stick, but it will immediately curl up on being released.

The question is always asked then why did Adi Samkara / the Christ / Buddha whoever spend so much time and energy jumping about to reform the world. The answer is subtle. From the standpoint of the individuals themselves, did they think they were really being messianic / evangelistic / world reforming? NO, THEY JUST WERE!!!

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…

William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act 2 Scene 7

The sun does not say I will shine and give light and heat to bless the world. It just does so, for that is its nature – svaroopa lakshana as opposed to adventitious attribute – tathastha lakshana, tapta pindavat the heat in the hot iron ball.

Let us reform ourselves first and develop some tapobala / anusthana bala- the ability to reform the world will naturally follow. People will spontaneously follow what we have to say. WE WILL NOT HAVE TO WASTE OUR BREATH OR COMPUTER TIME TRYING TO PERSUADE THEM. We have to cease being inveigled by this Abrahamic faiths influenced evangelist hysteria.

The principle of Advaita Vedanta is that this world is nothing but a reflection of your own mind. The more you purify your mind – develop antahkaranashuddhi – the less these things will trouble ye or even come into your realm of awareness. They have transactional validity but no fundamental reality.

The last two paras are not my words but those of His Holiness the late Shankaracharya of Sringeri to me in my early twenties, and the beloved Old Swami Nisreyasananda sometime of Trissur, Kerala. He started teaching me when he was in his late seventies and I was in my late twenties. Now my beard in turn is white and I am echoing the same refrain.

The mind is not within you – YOU ARE WITHIN THE MIND.

“Live long and prosper” in the words of Vulcan Science Officer Spock of the First Star Trek Series.

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