When CIA kept tabs on Puttaparthi’s Sathya Sai Baba
Among the 13 million declassified documents by the Central Intelligence Agency is one relating to philanthropist and guru, Sathya Sai Baba. One report titled Cultural Trends Study: India's Sai Baba Movement was marked as 'secret' and was not meant to be released to any foreign national.
The 16-page report says that the Sai Baba movement would have helped provide stability to a troubled country and his influence could also counterbalance the appeal of Hindu chauvinists and ethnic separatists. "Sai Baba's well organised and financed movement probably will continue to grow and even become another worldwide religion," the report states.
Referring to the Baba's claim that he was Kalki (the 10th avatar of Lord Vishnu), the CIA likens it to the messianic return of Jesus Christ in Christianity or the Mahdi in Islam. "In fact, he says he is the Biblical second coming. While such claims may be incredible, most of his devotees believe him," the report says.
The report also speaks about the miracles by the Baba. It speaks about his ability to change his shape, read minds among other miracles. "Such claims have not been scientifically verified in a laboratory, although a team of western parapsychologists observed some of these events in a field study. While the scientific paradigm may reject the possibility of such capabilities, traditional Hindus accept them as entirely plausible," the report states.
The CIA does go into the various allegations made against the Baba. However it also adds that he has the potential widespread appeal in a society driven by communal violence. "Since Sai Baba's message supports the concept of a harmonious, multi-religious and multi-ethnic India, it has the potential to counterbalance the appeal of Hindu chauvinists and ethnic separatists," it says.
The report concludes thus, "The Sai Baba movement is likely to eventually become another worldwide religion with its ample wealth, free healthcare and political influence allowing it to expand even after the guru's death.". The author of the report however adds that there is always a possibility that the movement will collapse if the Baba is convincingly demonstrated as a fraud.