Brian Steel November 2002 (and May 2004)
Copyright Brian Steel 2002 & 2004
Something important, insidious, and deliberate is going on. People should be aware. If you compare and contrast the following two items taken from one of the two official SSB websites (<www.sathyasai.org>), one, a direct ashram posting, the second, a direct link to an item on the The Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of United States of America's website, you will see that a not very subtle change of emphasis is well under way during these times of duress and damage control, at least in this overseas SSB Organisation. The first extract is proudly displayed by the SSO at the head of its very comprehensive section of (downloadable) Discourses. The fact that all published volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks and most subsequent Discourses are available on this website testifies to the considerable amount of time, money and effort lavished in the last three years on the content, presentation and efficiency of the official SSB websites to publicise to the world SSB and SSO activities - as befits a very large corporation. (The days when SSB's reported preference was for no advertising - on the grounds that he didn't need it because of his Divine plan - seem long gone. The website currently registers about 1.3 million hits over three years - many repeats by regular visitors, of course, but that is still a respectable number.)
Official Item 1:
Discourses by Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Four important discourses by Sri Sathya Sai Baba:Shiva Shakthi (6 July 1963)
The revelation (17 May 1968)
This is the last part of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's discourse at the "World Conference of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations" in Bombay, 17 May 1968. Sathya Sai Baba states plainly and directly that he has come as an incarnation of God to restore righteousness (dharma).
Forty-Third birthday discourse (23 November 1968)
Swami speaks about his being the Avathar for almost the first time in a major speech and proclaims his mission on earth: the establishment of righteousness.
Who is Sai? (9 June 1974)
"In this discourse from 1974, Sathya Sai Baba talks about God, the Religion of Love, and his Avathar-hood. He explains why he materializes rings, etc., and gives them to people, and he explains what "Sai Baba" means."
(from <www.sathyasai.org>, under the heading "Discourses")
These specially selected Discourses (all from a much earlier phase of SSB's Mission) deal with and emphasise SSB's explicit Claims of Divinity: reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, Avatar, "Incarnation of God" , and even a (rarely mentioned) foreshadowing of the later reincarnation as Prema Sai Baba. All of this corresponds with the image tirelessly and clearly projected by SSB in the early phase of his mission and devoutly believed in by most devotees; all that is missing from the four abstracts given above is a reflection of his equally early insistence on his Divine attributes of omniscience, etc.
In short, in their choice of these four special Discourses (out of the many hundreds so far given) and in their references to them, the SSO is still confidently re-affirming to the world its belief in SSB's Divinity - as one would expect. The only coy aspect (or oversight?) is the dropping here of the initial Divine capital letters for 'his', 'he', etc. which are usually standard in SSO publications.
The second series of short extracts (taken from a link in the "What's New?" section of the sathyasai.org website) presents a striking and meaningful contrast with the above picture of a Divine SSB. They also are officially sanctioned, but by the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of United States of America, in an Introductory booklet about SSB for newcomers and members, which extends to 13 comprehensive pages of information (including spiritual information, The Nine-Point Code of Conduct, the Ten Guiding Principles, and Service activities carried out by the SSO.
"We offer this information to introduce you to Sathya Sai Baba, His teachings, and the programs of Sathya Sai Baba Centers. Since this is only a brief overview, we encourage you to explore further the content and intent of the Center programs with any of your local Sathya Sai Baba Center officers or members."
"This is an html version of a document that was originally printed by the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of the USA. The original printed booklet can be obtained from the official USA Sathya Sai Baba Book Center. Here is the address, phone and fax of the Book Center. The content of this document below this notice has not been altered from its original version.
"The Divine directives and teachings of Sathya Sai Baba presented in this booklet are either displayed indented or written in italics, within quotation marks. Sanskrit terms or names have been included in the text in parenthesis preceded by their English equivalent word(s).
"Sathya Sai Baba is one of the most revered spiritual teachers in the world today. He is quietly transforming the world by reestablishing the eternal values of Truth (Sathya), Right Conduct (Dharma), Peace (Shanti), Love (Prema) and Nonviolence (Ahimsa) in everyday living. He is also known as Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Sai Baba, Swami, Bhagavan, or simply as Baba to millions of people in the world. His followers come from all faiths and races and meet regularly for devotional singing, to study His teachings, and to engage in service activities in order to practice His message of Love and Peace to unite all mankind. Sathya Sai Baba was born on November 23, 1926, in Puttaparthi, a remote village in the state of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India. He is the fourth child of a humble and pious couple, who named Him Sathya Narayana Raju. As a child, He demonstrated exceptional qualities of wisdom, compassion, and generosity. When He was seven years old, He composed devotional songs that were sung in religious festivals. At the age of fourteen, He announced that His name was Sathya Sai Baba and proclaimed His mission: to bring about the spiritual regeneration of humanity by demonstrating and teaching the highest principles of Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love and Nonviolence. With that announcement, He left His childhood home and began His mission. From an early age, Sathya Sai Baba began demonstrating extraordinary powers. He quickly became known for the miracles that He performed such as materializing objects, especially a holy ash called vibhuti, assisting people in distress, and letting those who came to Him for advice know that He was aware of even the most intimate details of their lives. Yet, He has always maintained that His miracles are to be treated only as His calling cards. They are for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging people to begin their own spiritual journey of personal transformation. In 1950, His devotees built a temple and residential quarters about a mile away from His birthplace in the village. He named this ashram 'Prashanti Nilayam' (Abode of Peace). Today, this ashram can accommodate and feed many thousands of devotees who come to see and hear Sathya Sai Baba. Under His care and guidance, Puttaparthi has evolved to have high quality schools, an accredited university, a spiritual museum, a well-equipped modern hospital, and a jet airport. Sathya Sai Baba's followers regard Him as an incarnation of God in human form (Avatar). He is the ideal of goodness: One who manifests all human virtues in their purity and perfection; One who shows power, wisdom and knowledge beyond the comprehension of humans; and One in whom immense powers lie at His will. You are welcome to ask questions about Him, read His books, and attend Center activities. A list of books and publications is included at the end of this booklet."
Well! Quite a different 'spin' there. What is almost totally and deliberately downplayed by the cautious American SSO leaders is the characteristic most closely associated with SSB: his "Divinity". The only nods in that direction are: the consistent use of the capitalised forms He, His, Him and One, the initial reference to "Divine directives and teachings", and the very subdued references to miracles. As if to underline (subtly) that it is not SSB himself who claims to be the (current) Avatar, we are told the half-truth that "Sathya Sai Baba's followers regard Him as an incarnation of God in human form (Avatar)." As they do - but mainly because SSB and the SSO told them so first!
This latest and clearest example of an emerging recent trend in some official SSB circles to put a new protectionist 'spin' on SSB's biography and on the history and nature of the SSB Mission should be seen for what it is: rewriting history. It appears certain that we can expect more of the same. The embarrassing question is: Why is it thought to be necessary?
I suppose those devotees who notice what is going on will just accept this mild dose of brainwashing as another of those leelas?
It would be interesting to check other overseas SSO Introductory booklets and leaflets to see how far the process has advanced. I would hazard a guess that there could be some interesting contrasts in presentations. If readers would care to send me relevant details (especially for other English-speaking countries, Spanish-speaking ones, Russia, and other European nations; and English translations for other language versions), I would be pleased to add an update to this note.
Addendum: I have already begun the checking process for a few European national SSO Organisations and the results are quite revealing. Please see Further National Variants of "Who is SB?"
UPDATE, May 2004: The Official Relabelling Process Continues.
In publicity for various public meetings in Europe and USA, the official SSO website (www.sathyasai.org/news/2004/la2004.pdf) gives information which describes SSB as "a highly revered spiritual leader and world teacher" who, as a child, "was brilliant in his studies but what made him unique was his extraordinary wisdom and compassion." (There is no mention of the alleged Immaculate Conception, or about the usually alleged juvenile miracles for his school companions or of SSB's 1943 Declaration of being the Reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, or of his frequent and vociferous early claims to be no less than the Purna Avatar. Not a word about the countless alleged miracles and healings which gained SSB his initial - and ongoing - 'Divine' fame.)
Amazingly, not a word in this official publicity announcement identifies this spiritual leader with the widely-touted 'God on Earth' (Avatar) described on that same website over the eight years of its existence and vociferously proclaimed over six decades by the SSO and in hundreds of books by associates and devotees.
If I were a devotee, I would be deeply shocked and offended by such official cynicism and opportunism. It is anybody's guess what SSB thinks about this new move, assuming he is aware of it. More independent observers will draw the obvious conclusions. Meanwhile we await the rumoured BBC programme on SSB while wondering to what extent it has triggered this extraordinary corporate move.
Promoting Sathya Sai Baba in Today's Spiritual Marketplace
Chapter 1 - Sathya Sai Baba's Claims of Divinity: Avatar and Triple Avatar
Sathya Sai Baba's Fluctuating Claims of Divinity
SSB's Claim to be the Reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba