|Refuting a 20 Year-Old Untruth With One Email|
|The Seiko Watch Miracle Investigation & Factual Discrepancies|
The investigation into an alleged materialization of a Seiko watch, by Sathya Sai Baba, had been published by Dr. Kavoor (a Rationalist in India) in his book, Begone Godmen, in 1976. The materialization story begins with a claim made by Dr. Bhagavantam about a "world famous Seiko watch manufacturer" who allegedly received a materialized watch, from Sathya Sai Baba, that was secured in the manufacturer's vault in Japan. James Randi claimed that he spoke to Sam Dalal (a Rationalist, Writer and Magician in India) and Mr. Dalal allegedly told him that he contacted Mr. Shoji Hattori (who is the President to Seiko, K. Hattori & Co. Ltd., Tokyo) and was given a serial number that was traced to a Seiko watch distributor near Sathya Sai Baba's Ashram in Puttaparthi. Mr. Randi related this story, about Sam Dalal, on his website and also related this story to Dale Beyerstein, in 1985, in a phone conversation.
The following is Dr. Kavoor and Dr. Beyerstein's investigation into this alleged Seiko watch miracle story:
The Seiko Watch Materialization & Investigation By Dr. Kavoor.
The story of materialization of a Seiko watch was originally authored by Dr. S. Bhagavantam in 1973 and published in a Malayalam weekly titled Malayalandadu. The editor S. K. Nair and his wife were Sai Baba devotees and to neutralise the publicity got by Abraham Kovoor, S. K. Nair started a debate in his weekly on the spiritual powers of Satya Sai Baba. He first published Kovoor's article explaining that Satya Sai Baba is a hoax and then published a series of articles by Sai Baba devotees, which included a High court Judge and other well known personalities like Dr. Bhagawantam.
B. Premanand, Indian Skeptic #11, p. 2
Dr. Bhagavantam's Response to Kovoor:
The wonderful experience some years ago, of the world famous Seiko watch manufacturer of Japan, while he was on a tour in India was awe-inspiring.
After completing the Seiko series of watches, he made the model of a more superior type and kept it in his safe for further tests. During his holiday in India he paid a visit to Puttaparti out of curiosity. On seeing the Japanese gentleman among the devotees, Sai Baba called him and gave him a small parcel materialised from the air. On opening the parcel he was astonished to see in it the new watch that was kept in his safe in Tokyo. When he saw, with the watch, the silk ribbon and the label with the name of the watch and its price marked on it, all his doubts about the divine powers of Sai Baba simply melted away. He fell prostrate at Sai Baba's feet and worshipped him. Since then he is an ardent devotee of the Bhagavan.
On his return to Tokyo, he was shocked to see that the watch he had kept in his safe was not there. What his personal secretary told him was still more startling. The secretary said that a divine-looking person with bushy hair walked into the office one day, opened the safe and walked away with the watch."
Excerpt of an article attributed to S. Bhagavantam, in Malayalanadu, ed. S.K. Nair, 1973, Engl. translation as quoted by A. Kovoor.
Abraham Kovoor's Investigation:
A few months ago the editor of a mass-circulating weekly of India wrote me a letter saying that the Editorial Board of his weekly has decided to publish a symposium on "SATHYA SAI BABA IS HE AN INCARNATION OF GOD OR A CHARLATAN?" and wanted me to be the first contributor to the series.
My article was serialised in three issues. It was then followed by two articles countering my thesis by Dr. S. Bhagavantham, M.Sc., D.Sc., Ph.D., a former scientific adviser to the Government of India.
Dr. Bhagavantham started his article by saying that in his youth he was a rationalist like me, but after witnessing some of the 'miracles' of Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba, he had to give up his rationalism!
He then continued to describe numerous 'miracles' said to have been performed by Sathya Sai Baba at various times in various places. There was absolutely no mention in the two articles of any one having conducted investigations to establish that they were all genuine miracles, and not conjurer's tricks. The two articles appeared to be clear examples of how unscientific even a good scientist can become if he is victim of religio-maniacal neurosis or avarice for lucre!
In the whole lot of the miracle stories mentioned by Dr. Bhagavantham, there was only one that was amenable to investigation. I quote below that story:...[as above ed.]...
Does Dr. Bhagavantham, who is the holder of covetable qualifications in science, think that a thesis of this nature to prove the miraculous powers of a man, by any scientist, will be accepted by an academic body of scientists if it is not backed by scientific investigations and fool-proof evidence?
Although Dr. Bhagavantham is reluctant to test the veracity of his Godman's miraculous powers, I decided to do it myself. With this aim in view I wrote the following letter to Dr. Bhagavantham:--
Sept. 11 1973
Dear Dr. Bhagavantam,
I read your story about a Japanese watch manufacturer getting his own watch that was kept in a safe in Japan, materialised in India from air by Sathya Sai Baba.
My scientific attitude does not permit me to accept this fantastic story as true without verification. My doubt is enhanced by the reported statement of his personal Secretary. The first reaction of a responsible Secretary when a stranger walks into the office and opens the safe, would be to raise the alarm and to summon the police.
As I feel it is unscientific even for a scientist to believe this type of cock-and-bull story without verification, I request you to kindly let me know the name and address of this Japanese so that I may verify the truth about it.
Your failure to help me to conduct this investigation, by withholding this information, will lead me to suspect your sincerity and honesty, and discard all what you have said about Sathya Sai Baba as utter falsehood deliberately propagated with ulterior motive and vested interest.
Yours in search of Truth,
Abraham T. Kovoor
As there was no response from Dr. Bhagavantham even after two months, I decided to pursue the matter on my own. The Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka was kind enough to provide me with the name and address of the proprietor of the Seiko watch manufacturing firm.
In my letter dated 30th October, 1973 to Mr. Shoji Hattori, president of K. Hattori & Co. Ltd., the manufacturer's of Seiko watches, I reproduced Dr. Bhagavantham's story about the miracle, and requested him to provide me with answers to the following questions:--
Did you or any other partner of yours visit Sathya Sai Baba of India any time? Did Sai Baba materialise a watch from air and present it to you or to any of your partners? Did your personal Secretary tell you or any of your partners that a stranger opened the safe and walked away with a watch? Are you or any of your partners a devotee of Sai Baba? For the benefit of numerous innocent devotees of Godmen of India I reproduce below Mr. Hattori's reply. This I do with the sincere hope that they will be sensible enough to realise the truth that these charlatans who go about in the garb of holy men have numerous agents like Dr. Bhagavantham everywhere working in collusion to propagate the huge hoax and profit materially.
K. HATTORI & CO. LTD.
Nov. 8, 1973
Dear Dr. Kovoor,
Thank you for your letter of October 30th. I can appreciate your interest in conducting scientific research of paranormal claims, but I am in no way able to further your knowledge as regards the man mentioned in your letter, Mr. Sai Baba. Neither I nor any members of my staff have ever made the acquaintance of this individual. I am sure that these reports are completely unfounded I must therefore reply in the negative to all four of your questions concerning this incident.
K. HATTORI & CO. LTD.
On receipt of this letter I wrote the following letter to Dr. Bhagavantham enclosing a photostat copy of Mr. Shoji Hattori's letter.
Dear Dr. Bhagavantham,
Absence of any response from you to my request made over two months ago has made me suspect the veracity of your story about the Japanese watch manufacturer getting his own watch that was kept in his safe in Japan from Sai Baba. To pursue my investigation in the matter, I got the name and address of Seiko watch manufacturer from the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka.
In his reply to my enquiry, Mr. Shoji Hattori, President of K. Hattori & Co. Ltd., who are the manufacturers and proprietors of Seiko watches writes:--
"I can appreciate your interest in conducting scientific research of paranormal claims, but I am in no way able to further your knowledge as regards the man mentioned in your letter, Mr. Sai Baba. Neither I nor any members of my staff have ever made the acquaintance of this individual. I am sure that these reports are completely unfounded."
If Mr. Shoji Hattori is not the person concerned in your story, please let me know about it, and provide me with the correct name and address. Absence of any reply from you for this letter also, will only confirm my firm belief that you are an agent of Sathya Sai Baba doing propaganda for him with ulterior motive and vested interest.
Yours in search of Truth,
Abraham T. Kovoor
Since there was no reply so far to this letter also, I had to confirm my belief that Dr. Bhagavantham is in collusion with the charlatan Sathya Sai Baba to do false propaganda for him with ulterior motive and vested interest.
Abraham T. Kovoor
Begone Godmen! Chapter 3.
Source : Dale Beyerstein, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC Canada
Subject: In reply to a letter sent to him from Dr Elwndur Haraldsson, University of Iceland - October 1985.
(...) I certainly agree with the point you make at the end of your book that in the absence of agreement for controlled testing of claimed paranormal powers, we must make rough and ready judgements analogous (similar in certain respects) with judgements made in court house contexts. Analogous but not identical for obvious reasons.
On these sorts of grounds the evidence seems overwhelming against taking the materialisation claims seriously.
Sai Baba is caught out in self-puffery in so many instances - allowing omniscience claims when his language abilities are only average, and so on. And not only allowing them, but making them himself. And he speaks so loosely in so many ways that his denials that he uses sleight of hand cannot be given any real weight. The overwhelming evidence - given the film analysis, the loose anecdotal nature of the claims etc all point so definitely in this direction.
Moreover the widespread claims of sexual hanky panky and the evidence of association with the gold business - although not conclusive - must be seriously entered into the overall picture.
On the question you asked : 'Sam Dalal' is a name given by James Randi. Randi in a phone conversation said that Sai Baba 'materialised' a Seiko watch for a Seiko watch company executive visiting India. Sam Dalal asked for the serial number from the executive as I understood it, and got it. The number was then sent back to Japan for tracing. Turns out the number was a watch which was to have been stored in a warehouse not far from the site where the 'materialisation' took place.
B. Premanand (IRM) mentions Kasturi deleted the Seiko reference from his book after the investigation.(.....).
http://www.randi.org/jr/030802.html James Randi: "Plucking watches out of the air - rather clumsily, viewed from the magician's point of view, but well enough to please the devotees - is a favorite trick of Sai Baba. It's only prosperous members of his audience that receive these; the others settle for cheap gold-colored rings with badly-printed portraits of the godman. People from Seiko apparently got into the habit of visiting Sai Baba's public performances. Sam Dalal was a magician/writer living in Calcutta, India, back in the '70s. I lost contact with him long ago. He told me that Sai Baba "materialized" a Seiko watch for a Seiko watch company executive visiting India. Curious, Sam asked for the serial number from the executive, and traced it to a distributor's warehouse not far from the site where the "materialization" took place. And think about it: why would a magically-conjured-up wristwatch have a serial number?"
http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/is_v01/1-10-9.htm Dale Beyerstein: "On the questions you asked, 'Sam Dalal' is a name given by James Randi. Randi in a phone conversation said that Sai Baba 'materialized' a seiko watch for a Seiko watch company executive visiting India. Sam Dalal asked for the serial number from the executive as I understood it, and got it. The number was then sent back to Japan for tracing. Turns out the number was a watch which was to have been stored in a warehouse not far from the site where the 'materialization' took place. I have written an address given by Randi for Dalal, but received no reply. (Actually two addresses: PO Box 858 Calcutta 700 001 is the more permanent sounding of the two, but Randi wasn't sure whether they were current or not.)"
Click Here to view screencaptures to the above quotes.
I decided to do some research about Sam Dalal and found his email within one minute of searching on the internet. I emailed Mr. Dalal about the claim attributed to him, by James Randi, on the Indian Skeptic website. Click Here to view my email correspondence with Mr. Dalal (a very honest and forthcoming individual). Mr. Dalal said that the story ascribed to him was a "myth". Consequently, James Randi lied about Sam Dalal (whether intentionally or not, I am uncertain) and related this lie to Dale Beyerstein, who in turn related it to Dr. Haraldsson. Dale Beyerstein did not even care to confirm this allegation before disseminating it as the "truth".
Needless to say, all it took was one email to disprove a 20 year old lie that has been published on Anti-Sai, Rationalist and Skeptic Sites. Better the truth be known now, than never (even if it is 20 years after the fact). This once again goes to show how those inimical towards Sathya Sai Baba will not pause to verify the truth first-hand (which is the case with so many prominent Anti-Sai Activists), but rather seek stories with negative content and try to pass it off as the "truth" to the unsuspecting masses.
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