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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
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It has been estimated that Sri Satya Sai Baba, India's biggest spiritual leader, has up to 30 million followers around the globe.

The self proclaimed "God-man" - a human being who declares himself divine - professes to be the reincarnation of a Hindu God-man from the 19th Century.

Powerful politicians, millionaires, movie stars and even the former president of India are among his many devotees.

Secret Swami
Thursday, 17 June, 2004
2100 BST on BBC Two (UK)

His organisation spreads from the USA and Canada to Japan and has received millions of dollars in donations from around the world.

But as the programme shows, an increasing number of followers have turned their back on Sai Baba amid allegations of sexual abuse. Has this "God-man" been wrongly accused or does his status mean he is immune to criticism?

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None of the great Hindu saints or gurus have ever claimed to be God
Anuradha Gupta, London

People believe because they want, and need, to believe. There is no such thing as a God-man! I understand that you need to believe, but rational thinking never hurt anyone. Well done to the BBC for saying what many Indians like me knew all along.
Rakhee Kanna, UK

If these allegations are true and there is enough evidence to prove that Sai Baba is a con artist, then he should be punished like any other criminal. I do not understand people's arguments that he has done a lot of good work, when the bottom line is that it does not make up for inhuman actions. It is just taking advantage of people's trust.
Suki, UK

I can't speak for his 30 million followers, but being an Indian and a Hindu, I can tell you that anyone who claims to be God has to be a fake. None of the great Hindu saints or gurus have ever claimed to be God. They merely claim to have realised the truth.
Anuradha Gupta, London

I thought this programme was great. I am an Indian and I know very well how desperately our politicians depend on these babas. Babas like these have been fooling the public for ages. Furthermore, I thought the response of the high-ranking Delhi minister was shameful. The sad part of all this is nothing would change. Well done Tanya, well done BBC.
Rajat, UK

It was extremely distressing watching the documentary about Sai Baba. The allegations made are, of course, extremely serious. If they are true, it is very disturbing. However, the allegations are difficult to prove and the BBC did not really offer any solid, objective evidence to back up such claims. Who is to say these people are not just making it up?
Kris, London

The Sai Organisation does not ask for money from devotees and has made massive improvements in health and education in India
Nicole Wise, Bristol

A great documentary - well done the BBC! I have never met Sai Baba, but I think part of the complexity of this issue is that people do have these very powerful mystical experiences in his presence and perhaps it blinds them to any flaws he may have.
John Anderson, London

I am extremely pleased that this programme was made. Many people have tried to expose this man.
A. Creedon, UK

What I saw on the programme has shattered my faith in the Hindu religion as a whole. As a young child I went to Sai Baba's Sunday kids classes when I used to live in Fiji. Now I do not know what to think. If he is guilty of the acts alleged by the victims from California, there should be a worldwide effort to investigate him.
Vinay Kumar, New Zealand

How about some positive press? The Sai Organisation does not ask for money from devotees and has made massive improvements in health and education in India.
Nicole Wise, Bristol

I applaud the BBC for exposing the self-proclaimed "God" as a fraud. I have always maintained that religion will be the downfall of modern society and this is a prime example of how a normal man can use religion to his advantage, especially to manipulate weak-minded individuals. I feel it is the obligation of governments worldwide to intervene, arrest and try him under crimes against humanity.
Vinny Patel, UK

At last people are beginning to realise just how much we are subjected to religious con artists
Michael Roll, Bristol

I think this programme was one-sided. Most of the coverage focused on two families. Equal coverage should have been given to the good and bad side of Sai Baba. Then the programme would have been objective and people could draw their own conclusions.
Manraj Kalsi, England

It seems to me the moral of this documentary is not to have a blind faith in anything.
Raj, UK

Congratulations to Tanya Datta. At last people are beginning to realise just how much we are subjected to religious con artists.
Michael Roll, Bristol

I have met Sri Satya Sai Baba twice in India. Those who find faults with him should simply listen to what he has to say see the health care facilities he has built for the poor, rather than worrying about the so-called miracles that he performs and about the alleged sexual exploits. I am not a great devotee of his or anything, but due credit must be given to his mission and for his efforts towards society.
Rajesh G Kulkarni, Malaysia

It appeared that the BBC investigation was well balanced and left the viewer to make their own decision
Alan Prosser, UK

I congratulate the BBC for this documentary. I think people should know more about such charlatans. No amount of good work would justify these actions.
S Johny, Ipswick

The programme was informative. If this man has comitted the offences mentioned in the programme then he must be brought to justice and he has no right to use the name of a truly holy man: 'Sai Baba'.
Giri, UK

The BBC should have made a documentary on what the good that Sai Baba has done: the schools, hospitals, water projects and so on, and compare this charity to the false accusations.
AL, England

Sai Baba has been and will always be a great spiritual leader. His thoughts and teachings are divine. But to proclaim himself as God is ridiculous. Only power hungry men would do such things.
Shreyas, Bath

It appeared that the BBC investigation was well balanced and left the viewer to make their own decision without too much coercion. However it did fail to bring out two important points:

Firstly in India the subject of spirituality and gurus is intimately interwoven into the psychology of the Indian people including the politicians and all those in high places.

Secondly, in America many many people are still seeking to establish a national identity or tradition in the spiritual area of life.
Alan Prosser, UK

At the end of the day, there are many questions left unanswered. Why wasn't Sai Baba questioned? What substantial proof is there to justify these claims? The list goes on. We remain unsure. Nevertheless, a programme that had good insight and showed a fair balance between the accusations and Sai Baba's good deeds.
Ric, UK

I feel sad that people today have so little respect and faith in anything sacred and spiritual. One cannot use the tool of logic when talking of faith. Maybe if people actually stopped to listen to what Sai Baba says, and focus on the immense faith and love that surrounds him, they just might benefit from the experience.
Sara, Glasgow

I have met Sai Baba in person and I could not possibly see how he could do anything like this.
Vivek Bhurtun, England

Only one's conscience can guide one's conclusions
Kartik, UK
I have numerous friends in the media from India, who claim to have evidence against Sai Baba, but feel they cannot publish it due to pressure.
Bachu Joseph, USA

I do not think that Sai Baba is some divine entity, avatar or whatever you want to call him. I have yet to see this programme, but I know two things. 1. My parents follow Sai Baba and I have seen the various "miracles" first hand - thousands of miles away from him, I must add. 2. Any of these "miracles" could be achieved by - say - Derren Brown. Essentially, my point is that this is simply a case of a man who has learnt the ability to manipulate people, be it on large level or on an individual basis.
Anon, UK

It is basically difficult to judge the reality of a man as dynamic as Sai Baba. I think Mr Premanand is wasting his breath because Sai Baba will always remain a mystery and only one's conscience can guide one's conclusions. While many say that he is an impostor, many other millions have had mind boggling experiences with him. My own opinion is that he is too complex to judge with human laws.
Kartik, UK

Kudos and hats off to the BBC! Personally, I am also very sad that the Indian media has been quite silent on this issue. I can only imagine what BBC staff would have gone through to make and release this documentary. Three cheers to the BBC.
Venkatesh, France

What about the millions of poor people whose lives have been uplifted by Sai Baba's work, through educational institutions, free health care systems and water projects?. Have any of your reporters or staff spent even a few weeks in his physical presence? It is disturbing to note this is a BBC production.
Biren Patel, UK

Why does a spiritual leader have to have such an affluent life? The real culprit is the public, which lets people like Sai Baba come up so big as an international figure.
Ashok, India

The programme is only airing grievances people have about Sai Baba for whatever reason
Those unfounded and unfair accusations against Sai Baba are so infinitesimal when seen against the voluminous good that he has done for the village of Puttarparthi, the district of Ananthapur and all those millions whose lives have been transformed since coming into contact with this spiritual phenomenon.
Raghunandanan, Malaysia

One should practice religion but having blind faith in these God-men and their superstitious magical powers is ridiculous.
Bikram, Canada

I strongly disagree with this matter. I have been a follower of Swami since 1968 and I strictly practice the five human values of peace, truth, right conduct, non-violence and love. He has done lots of good things.
Shiva Maniam, Canada

How can any MAN declare himself to be the almighty GOD? He is an absolute farce! And if he is "supposed" to be God, then why act like the Devil by committing such inhumane acts? It is a disgrace and, like any other criminal, he should be punished.
Jay Patel, England

The programme is only airing grievances people have about Sai Baba for whatever reason. What about showing how millions of Indians are directly benefiting from his educational, service and medical programmes? I suppose sleaze attracts more audience than humanitarian work!

For every single negative claim aimed at Sai Baba, there are hundreds of positive ones in his favour. Why doesn't the BBC make more of an effort to investigate the latter?
Sam Vidas, United Kingdom

Even Jesus was criticised in his time. It is only with hindsight that we'll see the truth.
Saylor Podi, UK

Secret Swami
11 Jun 04 |  This World
Sai Baba: God-man or con man?
17 Jun 04 |  This World


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