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  Sathya Sai Baba – Holy Ash Exposed or Slandering the Divinity  

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Sathya Sai Baba, Divine Holy Ash Vibhuti Satya Expose

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By: Sundara Krishnaswami
July 07, 2007
iews expressed here are author"s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


(The author is vice-president in an international management consulting company and is an avid student of Sanatana Dharma.)

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This article is written in response to the recent video clipping titled “Sathya Sai Baba – Holy Ash Exposed?” from Youtube Video posted on this site.

The video"s message was that Baba carries a white salt pellet hidden between his fingers, brings it out when he wants to materialize vibhuti, crushes it with his thumb and fingers, and distributes the resultant powder as vibhuti. The video also alleges that sometimes Baba transfers the salt pellet from his left hand to the right hand, as needed. The main allegation is that Baba practices deception and hence the title of the video, “Holy Ash Exposed?” I wish to say humbly and categorically that this video and the message it purports to portray are misleading the readers.

My grandmother used to say, "The dog barks at the moon - what does the dog know? What harm to the moon?" In this sense, and in the larger scheme of things, the video and its misinformation really do not matter. They do no harm to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The misinformation and slander they spread will disappear much as the dog"s bark fades away in time and space. However, now that I have come across this video posting, I wish to not keep quiet but to share the Truth that I have experienced.

The message of the video, and numerous other similar ones on the internet, disparages Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a charlatan, dismisses these “materializations” as mere hoodwink and denigrades the believers as gullible and naďve nit-wits – all in the garb of rationality and intellectualism! I humbly submit that rationality and intellectualism of this kind that purport to “excavate the truth” (by exposing untruth and deception) without the required scientific or spiritual sincerity are in fact nothing but pseudo-rationality and bourgeois intellectualism.

The inquisitiveness about Baba materializing vibhuti is quite understandable. We are curious to know how this is done, is it really true etc. Let me share my enquiry into this “issue” of Sri Sathya Sai Baba materializing vibhuti and address a few questions that come up in the process.

1. Is the sacred ash really salt pellet (or some other compacted-powder pellet) that is hidden and then crushed, as the video posting depicts it?

a) Diane Baskin of California, in her book “Divine Memories”, writes that her husband had exactly the same question but did not ask it to Baba. Though unasked, Baba knew it and during a discussion, mischievously looked at Diane Baskin"s husband, lifted his sleeves up his elbow, showed there was nothing hidden and then materialized sacred ashes (vibhuti). Baba then told Diane Baskin"s husband that this was neither magic nor miracle. He Wills it and It Happens – that"s all.

b) Late Dr. Abdul Razak Baburao Korbu, a teacher and college principal at Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India, writes in his book “Sai Sathya Sakha (Sai-My True Friend)”:

“After a few minutes, Baba said "Abdul, look up," and I raised my head slightly. Baba moved his right hand, palm facing downward, around my head and I noticed white vibhuti appearing in the centre of his palm.”

c) Dr. G.Venkataraman, an eminent and well respected scientist and former vice-chancellor of the Sathya Sai University in Puttaparthi, A.P.,India, writes in his article, “God, Avatar and the Doubting Thomas”:

“I have witnessed vibhuti materializations on many occasions, in all sorts of places. I have also been personally given materialized vibhuti on many occasions. And I have tasted it on all these occasions. IT IS NOT SALT POWDER BY ANY STRETCH OF IMAGINATION… I have seen vibhuti materialized in the most unexpected circumstances. Here is an example. In March 1999, Swami (Sri Sathya Sai Baba) went to Bombay and I was included in the party. Over there, He went to the houses of many, and one afternoon, He visited the house of Mr. Sunil Gavsakar in Worli. Swami was seated in a large room, full of Bombay celebrities, many, of course, drawn from the sports world and some from the film world. The room was packed and as per our unwritten code, we the members of the party sat outside. There were first Bhajans, and then a lot of small talk, after which Baba was led to a Dining Hall for being served some snacks. People were giving Him letters and all that. As He came near the door, I could see Him clearly. Seated there were Polly Umrigar and G.S.Ramchand, cricketing heroes of my era. While Gavaskar was introducing them, Swami asked them casually as He often does, “Do you like vibhuti?” Without waiting for their reply, He materialized it on the spot. I can"t see how anyone could have anticipated that and carried salt pellets hidden between the fingers all the way during a long ride from Andheri to Worli, gone up a lift, sat for one hour and so forth….There are many such occasions…”

d) Capt Oberoi, a retired pilot and executive from Indian Airlines was diagnosed with throat cancer and was traveling on the same plane with Sri Sathya Sai Baba from Bangalore to Hyderabad. He narrates his experience on Radio Sai, a 24-hr per day radio broadcast on WorldSpace:

“During the flight, Swami called me and asked me to sit next to Him. When I was seated, Swami asked me about my health. I replied, “Swami is Antaryamin (the In-dweller), and He knows my problem.”

“Tears came to my eyes; I was moved. Swami wiped my tears and said, “I know, but I want you to tell Me. It would lighten your burden when you talk about it.” I then told Him that ENT specialist had diagnosed my problem as Throat Cancer.

“Swami called for a glass of drinking water. He then materialized a blackish powder, dropped the powder in the glass, stirred the water with a spoon, and then gave the water to me to drink. The taste was very bitter but I drank it all. Swami then rubbed whatever was left of the black powder on His finger-tips on my throat.

“It was very soothing. The pain disappeared immediately, and the hitherto uncontrollable cough was almost gone. Swami then asked me to consult Dr. Kameshwar in Madras and get a second opinion about my problem. I pleaded that since I now was better, why go through another painful physical examination? Swami insisted and said, “Apne Swami ka agya palan karo aur second opinion lo (Listen to the command of your Swami and seek a second opinion)”

Prof. G. Venkatraman, who interviewed Capt Oberoi on Radio Sai, continues, “Dr. Kamleshwar was different from the specialist who had done the detailed tests earlier and diagnosed the cancer. Capt Oberoi returned to Madras and consulted Dr. Kameshwar as advised by Swami. Dr. Kameshwar took a look at the test reports brought by Capt Oberoi and asked him why he wanted another opinion, especially since some of the tests were quite painful and since the tests were done barely ten days back. What great miraculous recovery could happen in such a short period? Oberoi told the doctor that he had come to consult with him and to repeat the tests in such a short period of elapsed time, as advised by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Reluctantly Dr. Kameshwar went through the testing. When he was through, he did a double take – there was absolutely no trace of cancer – Swami had already cancelled it. Oberoi explained to me why He wanted him to go to Dr. Kameshwar instead of the doctor who originally examined him. Dr. Kameshwar did not believe in Swami and after this incident, he completely changed!... (Some) may declare this also to be a farce, although I do not know how black and bitter salt powder can cure cancer in one go. May be Baba knew Oberoi was going to come to Him with a problem, and He therefore carried a black tablet in advance!”

2. If it is not a hidden salt (or any other) pellet that gets crushed when Sathya Sai Baba materializes vibhuti, then where do the ashes come from?

To answer this question, we need to really look at where the universe itself came from. If we believe our universe indeed had a beginning - and we do believe our universe was born about an estimated 13.7 billion years ago (Big Bang theory, Explosion in a Black Hole theory), or possibly even earlier than that (Ekpyrotic theory) - then from where was this universe born when it did?

Several luminaries in the field of science have wrestled with this question and have provided answers that fall in the realm of speculation, although some of the answers have convincing possibilities. The truth of the matter is, as Swami Vivekananda said in Chicago, “I really do not know”.

But, in seeking to know, let us postulate that the “initial deposit of energy” that gave “birth” to our universe came from an “entity” and let us term this entity as “Consciousness”. Our universe is bound in the knowledge related to space and time. But the Consciousness, since it defies our ability to know it in the realm of space and time, pervades the space and time envelope and necessarily transcends it also.

Prof Venkataraman writes in the article referenced earlier, “Many modern physicists have reluctantly come to the conclusion that material reality did indeed flow from Universal Consciousness… No less a person than Freeman Dyson, a brilliant physicist and holder of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, and who provided so much insight into quantum electrodynamics in the early days, went so far as to write a serious paper in the prestigious journal “Reviews of Modern Physics” on life without flesh and blood. Dyson speculated that even if the planet earth became inhospitable to life as we know it, life could serve in a primordial form in the Universe as cloud of Consciousness”

If our universe was born from Consciousness, then aspect of this Consciousness must be present, in an inter-connecting way, in everything in this Universe, much the same way we carry the genes of whom we are born to, isn"t it? In fact, such an inter-connectivity was discovered, albeit accidentally, in 1935, in an experiment conducted by Einstein, Podosky and Rosen. The results of this experiment have since come to be known as the “EPR Paradox”. The experiment set out to delineate the limitations of the principles of quantum mechanics that explainss the behavior of matter at atomic and sub-atomic levels. The hypothesis of the experiment was that different entities when separated by sufficient distance in space where they do not “influence” each other should behave independently of each other. In fact, the results of the experiment showed the opposite to be true. Behavior of one entity affected the behavior of the other. Einstein disagreed with the findings because his postulation was that “different entities had separate existence”. Prof Venkataraman says, “There is a hidden Cosmic connectivity, as a result of which all become one! And it is because of this, there is an apparent violation of the theory of Special Relativity!”

To put this simply, the Consciousness from which we are born connects us all in a genetic, inherent way, much the same way the electric current connects the bulbs. For example, the inter-connectivity between us and the trees goes beyond the mere oxygen/carbon-di-oxide exchange. It is the inherent compulsion in both us and the trees to support each other"s welfare. The inter-connectivity between a person who is helping a stranger suddenly tripping down in front of him on the street is more than the physical act of help. It is the natural compulsion for mutual welfare.

This inter-connectivity, the cosmic substratum, does not “connect” in the sense of physically joining two distinct objects. The “connection” is the play of the genetic sameness or the fundamental essence of the distinctly different objects, much the same way the quality of sweetness of the different desserts on the table is the same.

This cosmic connectivity exists between Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the vibhuti He materializes. It exists between us and the vibhuti too; it exists between us and Baba also; it exists between you and me too.

3. Does Baba materialize the vibhuti based on this inter-connectivity? If the inter-connectivity is pervasive and enables Baba to materialize the vibhuti, then why can I not do it?

To answer the first question, we need to turn to an experiment conducted by Robert Jahn, Professor of Aerosciences at Princeton University. He conducted a series of scientific experiments on Mind-matter relationship, and repeated them several times for results validation. The results were published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal IEEE, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers of America. Prof G. Venkataraman writes in his article mentioned earlier,

“Jahn became fascinated by the research and himself plunged into it fully. He made strange discoveries – basically that Mind could influence matter. At first, he did not believe his findings; and so he tightened and tightened the controls; but he kept on finding that the Mind could influence matter! Jahn then came to the conclusion that the Consciousness latent in humans was able to influence inert machines because they too were pervaded by the same Consciousness, though in a passive form. This led Jahn to write down a mathematical theory of Consciousness as a field, rather like the fields that form the basis of quantum electro-dynamics and quantum chromo-dynamics. I am not too sure I agree with the details of Jahn"s mathematical formulation, but about the basic premise, I have no doubts whatsoever.

“Now, what exactly is it that Jahn did? ... (In one of the experiments) Jahn had an electronic machine called the Random Number Generator (RNG). Left to itself, this machine would keep on generating random numbers. There are very precise tests to check if the numbers generated do follow the distribution expected of purely random numbers. Jahn now had volunteers sit before the machine for hours and concentrate on the machine, almost telling it mentally, “O machine! I am asking you to deviate from the random distribution.” On the face of it, such an experiment would be deemed crazy and a total waste of time. Jahn himself started with such a view. But he told himself, “I shall not be prejudiced about the outcome. I do not expect anything to come out of this, but let me try anyway.” And when he did, he found the people were in fact able to influence the machine!... He started developing a theory of Mind-matter interactions, mediated by the field of Consciousness…”

If the Consciousness indeed has provided such inter-connectivity and such common substratum for us, then it is conceivable that we can tap into it and materialize objects, isn"t it? We can then will various things to happen. The catch here is to tap into the underlying Consciousness. This requires training. With proper training to dwell on the Consciousness, each one of us can do it. The Vedantic term for this ability is Siddhi power. This power of Consciousness has been known throughout history. There are stories of saints and prophets from all religions who have performed miracles, who have brought the dead alive, who have cured illnesses etc. Yes, charlatans can take people for a ride in matters of exhibiting siddhi powers, magicians can do sleight of hand and move the mind, but just because charlatans and magicians exist does not mean all are charlatans or magicians.

Baba says, when a person who is pure at heart, wills, it simply happens. Baba Wills and It Happens. He does it because He is Purity personified. He is Pure because He is Selflessness personified. And I know that He is this Consciousness personified. I am unable to do what He does today because my heart is not pure today.

Creation is an unsolved mystery. Dr. Razak says in his book mentioned earlier, “Right from the beginning of the world-of-science to today"s modern science, no scientist has been able to give true explanation of creation, i.e. how and why? He is able to describe it only. For example, a child is conceived by mating a male and female. Perhaps this can be explained more with the help of science. But no one is able to answer "Why?". Let us consider another example. Water is formed by mixing two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen – H2O. But this process needs a catalyst. One cannot make water just by merely keeping two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen in a bottle. In what manner the catalyst acts is a mystery of nature. In breath, after inhaling we absorb oxygen and exhale carbon-di-oxide; in plants and trees it is the reverse, thus maintaining a balance in the atmosphere. Who controls, manages and maintains this balance?”

In conclusion, let me share with you another interesting peek into the creation of matter, through Dr. Razak"s own words in the referenced book:

“ Baba – "I know that you have faith in me, but you do not believe in my power with which I create articles. Is it not so?"

“ By this question, Baba captured me fully. I could not think of anything to say. In a way, I was happy that finally this topic has surfaced as I was still not fully satisfied on this account. I wanted to see and experience it myself. During the past five years, I spoke of Baba and about Baba to scientists, doctors and other learned persons. I could not answer their questions on creation of objects from air. I felt it may be because I did not experience it or I had no adequate knowledge about it because of my half-hearted efforts.

“ I was not keen on knowing the methodology of creating material objects from nothing. I wanted to witness it to know if it is a natural phenomenon or magic. Baba has given me an opportunity today.

“ I – "Forgive me Baba. It is so."

“ Baba – "Your absence of belief in my power of creation is genuine and inquisitive also. I like your frankness and love you. It is very good that you do not take anything for granted. Your faith in me is not blind. Very good. Now I am telling you to ask me for anything and I shall give it to you here and now. Take your time and ask for anything you desire."

“ Now I had a break. I had seen a number of objects created by Baba and handled them also. I was convinced about the genuineness of the articles, but I was not sure whether Baba himself created them. After thinking for a while, knowing very well that there were very few Muslims among Baba"s devotees, I decided to ask for an impossible article no one has seen so far!

“ I – "Baba please give me such a thing which embodies in it the entire universe and only my own religion is shown on it."

“ Baba – With a sweet smile "Abdul, do you really think that you have put an impossible request before me?"

“ Without a reply, I only kept on staring at Baba.

“ Baba – "Look at my palm. Do you see anything in it? Nothing is in my palm or behind it. You can verify it."

“ Baba turned his palm upside down, his cape was above the elbow. I could not dare to hold his hand. Then Baba caught my wrist forcefully and moved my palm from around his palm to his elbow.

“ Baba – "Now, go on looking at the centre of my palm for some time."

“ Within seven to eight seconds, the skin in the centre of His palm opened up and I saw a roundish large sized object coming out of it, soon the skin became normal as before and there was a beautiful luminous ring there.

“ Baba – (In Hindi) "You pick it up and give it in my hand. Before that have a careful look at it."
“ As ordered by Baba, I picked up the ring and inspected it very carefully. It had a crescent moon and a star engraved in gold. I put it back in Baba"s palm.

“ I – "Baba I cannot understand anything about this ring. Please explain."

“ Baba – "You are only born as a muslim. You do not understand anything about Islam."

“ That was the truth. Earlier I mentioned my religion to Baba to take his test. I am not a religious person in the true sense.

“ Baba – "I have made this gold ring in Asta konas (Octangular), embedded Nava-ratnas (nine gems), both represent the universe, and in the middle of the navaratnas I have put the Islamic symbol of the star and crescent in emeralds (green gem stones.)"

“ I – "Baba where is the Muslim religion on this ring".

“ Baba – "Look at these green stones. That is your religion. Now I will put this ring on the fourth finger of your left hand as your right hand finger is disfigured."

“ As I came into the darsan hall, a very large number of devotees surrounded me, amongst them many foreigners were also there. One of them was a bearded American devotee. He came near me, saw the ring closely, took my hand with the ring, put it on his chest and said "All Hum do Allah! (Oh! God, your pastime is fathomless)."

“ I was astonished by this and asked him to tell me more. He answered "I am a Muslim. The ring reveals that you too are a Muslim." I asked him again "How did you make this out". He said "Can you read Arabic?" When I answered in the negative, he clarified "It is inscribed in the middle all in green." I further asked "What is the meaning of the inscription?" He answered "It is Allah in Arabic."

“ Only at that time I came to know that Baba has inscribed the word "Allah" in the centre of the green emerald stone. I had asked Baba for my religion, and Baba blessed me in this wonderful manner! Then only to my surprise I realized that Baba spoke of the disfigured fourth finger of the right hand without ever seeing or touching it!”

With all this said, and considering the unfulfilled but progressively revealing rational and scientific answers and keeping in view peoples" knowledge gained from personal first-hand experiences, I believe the correct way to find the answer to the question, “How does Sri Sathya Sai Baba materialize Vibhuti?” is to ask Him. He is the one who does it and therefore, He is the one who knows how it is done.

Enquiries into unknown subjects such as creation of matter are best done with sincerity and with an honest thirst to know. It does no good to anybody to slander or cast aspersions on a person with a pure heart such as Sri Sathya Sai Baba who has done, and is doing even today at His advanced age, exemplary and monumental service to the society.

Sundara Krishnaswami

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