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9.4 Sai Baba according to Haraldsson

Psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson (a professor at the University of Iceland) has written about the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba (born November 23, 1926) in his book Modern Miracles.[122],[123] Haraldsson’s personal experience with Sai Baba included witnessing several materializations, which is the type of miracle for which Sai Baba is most famous. Haraldsson’s first interview with Sai Baba was in 1973:

We told him we were researchers of psychic phenomena and had heard many accounts of miracles occurring in his presence. As we were talking, he again made with his right hand the typical small, circular movements that last for two or three seconds, and lo!—there was a large, shiny golden ring in his palm. He put it on Dr. Osis’ ring finger and said it was for him. It fitted. ... [Haraldsson then argues with Sai Baba in a futile attempt to get Sai Baba to agree to controlled experiments, and in this argument Sai Baba uses an apparent Indian colloquialism: double rudraksha (referring to a rare malformation of the seed of a rudraksha plant). Haraldsson then becomes insistent as to what exactly is meant by double rudraksha, having been dissatisfied with Sai Baba’s initial explanatory attempts.] ... Sai Baba closed his fist and waved his hand for a second or two. As he opened it, he turned to me and said: ‘This is it’. In his palm was an acorn-like object about three centimeters at its widest point, brownish, and with a fine texture like an apricot stone. ... It had the particular freshness and cleanness that I later observed to be characteristic of the objects he produces. ... [After Haraldsson and Dr. Osis handle the object, Sai Baba takes it back for a moment, saying that he wants to give Haraldsson a present.] ... He enclosed the rudraksha in both his hands, blew on it, and opened his hands towards me. In his palm we saw a beautiful piece. The double rudraksha was now covered, on the top and on the bottom, by two tiny, oval-shaped, golden shields ....[124]

The potential explanation that Sai Baba is just a magician using sleight-of-hand to fool people, is dealt with at length by Haraldsson in his book, and the interested reader who doubts the validity of Sai Baba’s materialization ability is referred there.

As stated earlier (section 8.7) the Caretakers have subject to their conscious control learned programs that make them look like gods with marvelous psychic powers. Sai Baba’s materialization ability is probably due to the relevant learned programs having been copied from the mind of a Caretaker into the mind of Sai Baba.[125],[126]

The Hindus—at least some of them—call men like Sai Baba, god-men.[127] This is a good term, in the sense that such god-men, who are a great rarity, have at least a few of the powers attributed to the gods (the Caretakers). One reason for the rarity of these god-men, is probably that so few men can, in effect, be trusted with telekinetic, materialization, or dematerialization powers, because of the potential of such powers to harm and kill others, given the fragility of the human body. Each genuine god-man is more than a man, but less than a single Caretaker.[128],[129]

One problem with being a god-man, is that the Caretakers apparently do not enlighten the god-man as to exactly who and what they are; nor do they teach the god-man about their civilization and science. Thus, the god-man is ignorant and has no real understanding as to why he can do what he can do. For example, as Haraldsson says about his attempt during his first interview to get Sai Baba to explain how he could do such materializations: “It was dawning on us that the discourse of Sai Baba was in the realm of religion, not empirical science. Our sympathetic swami was not a man of science.”[130] To explain his abilities to himself, Sai Baba, who by all accounts is an intelligent man, has drawn from the Hindu religion into which he was born.

Although because of ignorance many Sai Baba devotees exaggerate his place in the scheme of things, Sai Baba himself is at least sometimes guilty of doing this. For example, Haraldsson quotes the experience of M. Krishna, who was close to Sai Baba during the mid 1950s (in this example, Sai Baba, roughly thirty years old at the time, wrongly imagines that he is competent to perform a minor surgical operation):

Once I had myself tonsillitis and a very sore throat. Then swami said he would operate upon my tonsils. ... He waved his hand, and a knife came seemingly out of nowhere. ... [Sai Baba then “operates,” causing some bleeding. That evening, after the operation, Krishna went to a friend who was a doctor, and Krishna told the doctor that Sai Baba had operated and removed his tonsils. Krishna then says what that doctor’s response was:] ... He remarked something like this: ‘What do you say? You are a fool and he is a liar.’ [Krishna still had his tonsils, and they were removed in a hospital a few years later.][131],[132]


[122] Haraldsson, Erlendur. Modern Miracles: An Investigative Report on Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba. Hastings House, Mamaroneck NY, 1997.

[123] Besides Haraldsson’s book, there is a large literature on Sai Baba, much of it in English.

[124] Ibid., pp. 25–27.

[125] Citing the Sathya Sai Baba biography written by Kasturi, Haraldsson gives the following sequence of events for Sai Baba: On March 8, 1940, at about 7 at night, at age 13, Sathya “gave a shriek and leaped up grasping his right toe as if he had been bitten! Although no scorpion or snake was discovered, he fell as though unconscious and became stiff.” (Ibid., p. 56; Haraldsson is quoting Kasturi). Sathya remained unconscious for the night, and began behaving strangely thereafter (his parents took him to a doctor, who declared the boy to be suffering from “fits” and “hysteria”). On May 20, about ten weeks after the beginning event of March 8, Sathya called his family together, and materialized candy and flowers for them, and then materialized more candy and flowers, and rice, for the neighbors who came. Sathya’s sister, Venkamma, told Haraldsson that the family had not seen any miracles from Sathya before that time. Besides doing the materializations that day, Sathya also declared that he was the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, a famous Indian guru who had died in 1918 (Ibid., pp. 56–57).

It seems likely that the assumed copying of learned programs from a Caretaker to Sathya, took place on March 8: The resulting unconsciousness, followed by the “fits” and “hysteria” that lasted for roughly ten weeks, were all part of the process of integrating those learned programs into the mind of Sathya. After the ten weeks, the integration was sufficiently complete, enabling Sathya to exercise conscious control over his new materialization ability and give his first public demonstration.

Since his first pronouncement, Sathya Sai Baba has consistently maintained that he is the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. And this past-life identity is reasonable, because the Caretakers are not going to give their learned programs for materialization and dematerialization (Sathya Sai Baba can also dematerialize small objects) to just anyone—instead, it seems that the recipient must be someone who will display the given abilities openly, and with minimal abuse of these abilities. Thus, it appears that with his previous life as Sai Baba of Shirdi, the Caretakers judged Sathya as someone who they could trust to use these abilities as they wanted them used.

Regarding possible abuse, note that besides simply materializing gold or money to directly enrich oneself, there is also the possibility of harming others. By materializing or dematerializing p-common particles in the amount that Sathya Sai Baba can do, and doing so in someone else’s body, that person can be killed or disabled in a moment. To date, there seems to be no evidence that Sathya Sai Baba has used his given abilities to directly enrich himself or harm anyone. Thus, it seems that the Caretakers chose wisely when they chose Sathya.

[126] Sai Baba’s materialization ability is limited to physical objects: there are no reports of Sai Baba having materialized a living plant or animal. And this inability is to be expected, because the underlying learned-program statements for materialization and dematerialization apply only to common particles.

That the computing-element program does not include learned-program statements for either materializing or dematerializing intelligent particles, is reasonable, because intelligent particles differ from one another based on their learned programs and associated data. Thus, for example, if a new intelligent particle were created, what would be its state information (learned programs, etc.), if not simply empty?

Given the potential complexity of intelligent particles, and given the degree to which they can differ from each other, any learned-program statements for either materializing or dematerializing intelligent particles would be unsafe. Thus, one can assume that such statements are not available in the computing-element program—and this assumption is consistent with the evidence.

Regarding Sai Baba’s materialization ability, his materialization ability is limited to small physical objects, and repetitions of small physical patterns. For example, Sai Baba has never materialized a car, nor a car engine, nor a car engine’s carburetor. To materialize with sufficient accuracy such a comparatively large and complex object, the relevant learned programs would have to have as their input data a similarly large and complex model of that object, presumably derived from a scan of the p-common particles composing an instance of that object (the scan would use the learned-program perceive statement). In general, the larger and more complex the model, the more memory needed to store that model. To minimize memory requirements for storing a model, one can assume that redundancy in the model is greatly reduced by compression algorithms.

Within the group of intelligent particles that is hosting the relevant learned programs for materialization, the available memory for storing model data is probably the limiting factor on the size of the objects that can be materialized. In other words, what probably limits the learned programs from materializing larger objects is insufficient memory to store the data that models those objects. Note that the data-storage requirement per object will be roughly proportional to the volume of that object, assuming roughly the same amount of modeled structural variation per unit volume.

The jewelry items that Sai Baba typically materializes are only a few cubic centimeters in volume. But the volume of a car is on the order of a million cubic centimeters. Thus, the memory needed to store the model of a single car is roughly the amount of memory needed to store the models of about a hundred-thousand completely different small objects, of the size that Sai Baba typically materializes (the number of object models that Sai Baba has in memory at any one time, from which he can base a materialization, is probably at least in the hundreds, if not thousands). Although a scan-store-copy algorithm is presumably at the core of the relevant learned programs, these learned programs are more sophisticated than being a mere copy machine, because, for example, Sai Baba can size rings to fit, and he can also include his likeness on materialized objects.

Besides materializing small objects, Sai Baba can continuously materialize repetitions from a single, small, physical pattern. For example, the vibhuti (ash from burned cow dung) that pours from Sai Baba’s hands, is his most common repetitious materialization. And the various foods that Sai Baba materializes are at least sometimes repetitious materializations. For example, Haraldsson recounts a number of cases in which Sai Baba materialized large quantities of food into various containers, from which many people were then served. For example, Haraldsson quotes Krishna Kumar as saying that he saw Sai Baba fill a number of food containers, one at a time, filling each container with food in a matter of seconds (Ibid., p. 118; Krishna Kumar says that he actually saw the food rising up in the containers, thereby filling them, which is consistent with repetitious materialization). From such accounts as these, it seems that Sai Baba was able to do repetitious materializations at a rate of no more than a few kilograms of p-common particles per second.

It is perhaps interesting to note that there are European legends of peasants having grain stores filled by fairies, so that, for example, the peasants can survive the winter. Given that the fairies of legend are the Caretakers, and given that Sai Baba has their learned programs for materialization, and given that Sai Baba was able to repetitiously materialize enough food to feed many people, these legends may well be based on actual happenings.

[127] Ibid., p. 211.

[128] Being a genuine god-man is not without its risks. In 1993, Sathya Sai Baba survived an apparent assassination attempt that left two of his personal attendants dead (four knife-armed men had killed the two attendants in an effort to gain access to the room in which Sai Baba slept; these apparent assassins were then killed by police who were called to the scene).

[129] For those familiar with the Christian religion and its New Testament which describes materializations and other miracles performed by Jesus, it would seem that Jesus was a god-man. However, many scholars have argued that Jesus is not a historical person. For example, Lars Adelskogh gives a good summary of this position:

Jesus Christ is the central figure of the Western civilisation, just as Muhammad is the central figure of the Arab civilisation, and Confucius, of the Chinese civilisation. These are trite observations. However, whereas we are quite positive that Muhammad and Confucius were historical figures, we are not in a position to say with certainty that Jesus Christ, as portrayed in the Gospels, ever existed.

Indeed, quite a number of scholars have come to the conclusion that Jesus is a mythical figure, no more real in any historical sense than Hercules or Dionysus, Sherlock Holmes or Donald Duck. … This revisionist school of Jesus research, if I may so call it, takes its stand on three basic facts:

  1. The complete absence of historical evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament. Contemporary authors, who ought to have heard and then written about him, if he was such a remarkable figure as the Gospels intimate, are silent.

  2. The complete, or almost complete, lack of originality of the teachings of Jesus as given in the Gospels. Essentially everything taught is found in the Old Testament, contemporary rabbinic literature, or so-called paganism, Hellenistic wisdom literature, pagan cults, etc.

  3. The many features that Jesus of the Gospels shares with several so-called pagan saviour gods, or godlike men, such as Asclepius, Hercules, Dionysus, Mithras, Krishna, and, of course, Gautama the Buddha.

[Referring to item 3:] These common features, or similarities, embrace so many essential aspects of the Jesus figure, his birth, his life, his actions, and his death, and often do so in such a striking manner, that you easily get the impression that Jesus of the Gospels, the new saviour god, is little more than a rehash of the older pagan saviour gods. [An address by Lars Adelskogh at the International Seminar “The Sanskrit and Buddhist Sources of the New Testament”, Klavreström, Sweden, September 11, 2003. At: http://www.jesusisbuddha.com/larsa.html]

Christian Lindtner, a Danish professor whose specialty is Buddhist studies, shows that much of the New Testament (its original written language is Greek) plagiarizes specific Buddhist texts that were written in Sanskrit. He describes his process of discovery:

In many ways this author agrees with the results arrived at by previous researchers in the field of CGS [Comparative Gospel Studies]. In general, however, these scholars have been satisfied if they could point out parallels, similar ideas, or similar motives.

This author asks for more. Parallels are not sufficient. To be on firm ground, we must “require close verbal similarity”—something that Derrett [a CGS scholar] … and virtually all other scholars, feel would be “to ask too much.”

When I insist that we must ask for close verbal similarity, I have a good reason for doing so. The main Buddhist source of the New Testament gospels is the bulky Sanskrit text of the Mulasarvastivadavinaya (MSV), and this text was simply not available to previous scholars, including Derrett—who was, as he writes, “shocked” when he received a copy of that text, first published in 1977, from me not long ago, after he had published his own book.

I had published a review of the MSV way back in 1983 in the journal Acta Orientalia, and, of course, read the Sanskrit text before preparing the brief review. Then I turned to other matters. Six or seven years ago, I turned to New Testament studies. One late evening it struck me that what I now was reading in Greek I had already read some years ago, but in Sanskrit. Could the MSV really be a source of passages in the New Testament? So I started comparing systematically the Greek with the Sanskrit. It was a thrill; I could hardly believe my own eyes.

Comparing, then, the two sources carefully word for word, sentence for sentence, motive for motive, for some years, I came to the firm conclusion that the New Testament gospels could be well described as ‘pirate copies’ of the MSV. Gradually it also became clear to me that other Buddhist texts had also been used by the otherwise unknown authors of the New Testament gospels. The most important source apart from the MSV, it is now clear to me, is the famous Lotus Sutra, known in Sanskrit as the Saddharmapundarikasutram. [Lindtner, Christian. “A New Buddhist-Christian Parable.” The Revisionist: Journal for Critical Historical Inquiry, volume 2, number 1 (February 2004): p. 13. See also Lindtner’s website on this subject, at: http://www.jesusisbuddha.com/]

[130] Haraldsson, op. cit., p. 27.

[131] Ibid., p. 176.

[132] Although it seems that Sai Baba has helped some people with physical ailments, he was unable to help the mentally ill. For example, Krishna Kumar, an early devotee, is quoted as saying: “Many mentally sick people came to Baba, but none of them were healed.” (Ibid., p. 123)

Assuming that the cause of many mental illnesses is within the learned programs and/or associated data, in the mind of the individual who is mentally ill, and not merely the result of some organic problem, this means that an inability to directly heal such mental illness is to be expected for any god-man, and for the Caretakers as well, because the learned programs and/or associated data, in the mind of another person, are not directly accessible.

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