Copyright © 2005 Brian Steel
(This lengthy article, which supersedes previous articles on this fascinating subject, includes many quotations from books and pamphlets published by the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust of Puttaparthi, India. These quotations, like others I have used in my writings, are necessary to illustrate research which I believe to be of public interest. A separate substantial Appendix of supplementary examples has also been prepared and can be made available, if necessary, to further support the findings of this article.(BR) For the past few years, the official translations of the Discourses of SSB have been available on the official website of the SSO, www.sathyasai.org, which was set up in 1999. Since mid-2004, with the snowballing Internet presence and output of the official SSB organisations, the Discourses are also available on www.sssbpt.org. The second of the official websites to be set up was www.srisathyasai.org.in)
A critical reading of the first 30 volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks in 1998-1999 turned up a small collection of irregularities in the editing of some of SSB's Discourses. After closer study of these anomalies (and others concerning SSB), I included a chapter and an Appendix on 'packaging' in the e-book published on this website in November 2001 (SSB: God or Guru?). My strong hypothesis at that time was that in the examples selected for study, the form of SSB's original Telugu Discourses seemed to be significantly different from the versions ultimately published by his organisation, the SSO, and read, studied, and widely quoted as 'Gospel' by hundreds of thousands of non-Telugu-speaking devotees all over the world. In the intervening two years, a great deal of further direct evidence (for comparison) has not only confirmed the hypothesis but raised questions concerning the perceived public image of SSB. (See the Historical Note at the end of this article.)
For my initial 2001 study of what I came to see as a packaging process, it was not easy to come across printed versions of the original Discourses (in English translation), but there were enough scattered about in the vast literature about SSB (much of which I had read in research for my two previous pro-SSB books in 1994-1998) to form very strong impressions. I was also able to examine a new form of evidence which had begun to trickle in during the late 1990s: preliminary reports of Discourses (in literal translation) posted on the rapidly expanding Internet for avid overseas devotees to access as soon after their delivery as possible (and before the edited printed version was released). (Such is the effort expended by the SSO on its information network since 1999 that the edited form of a Discourse can now be posted on its official websites within a few days of delivery, although eager local devotees in India still occasionally offer snatches of welcome literal translations on SSB chat groups.)
Thanks to immediate feedback at the end of 2001 from two ex-devotees, I was able to gain access to a much better and larger source of direct Internet evidence of the literal translations into English (and into several other languages). These translations had begun to be published in two or three languages by devotees anxious to preserve the 'poetic' quality of SSB's talks in late 1999. Other language translations (including English) were added in 2000. Their unofficial but highly professional-looking website was named www.internety.com/premsai. This source (of which I had been completely unaware while laboriously searching the SSB literature for my initial examples) already offered two years of examples (2000 and 2001) to compare with the official versions in the printed Sanathana Sarathi and Sathya Sai Speaks. The Premsai website was a researcher's treasure trove.
On the basis of comparisons made during the following months I was able to publish more convincing evidence of the packaging procedure. A few other researchers added their own contributions, which caused further public interest in this process. Dramatically and only a few months after these important Internet revelations, the flourishing devotee "Premsai'' multilingual website totally disappeared from the Internet in the second half of 2002. This abrupt disappearance of such primary material provoked the reasonable suspicion that such 'inside' evidence of the packaging of the words of 'God' was embarrassing to the SSO. The new insights into the Discourses also raised important questions outside devotee circles about the official image of SSB as projected for so many years by the SSO. (For a while the literal versions were still available for study and comparison on "The Wayback Machine" but they were later withdrawn. However, the Premsai literal English versions of these 40 Discourses are still on display here.)
Leaving aside for the moment the question of why an alleged Avatar's words and style need to be packaged in this way (mainly by attributing characteristics of style and sophistication not obvious in the originals, according to the other evidence available), a major result of a comparison of the literal translations (where available) and the final edited form is that they show more clearly than before that SSB's impromptu public preaching is rambling, not very well structured, and sometimes contains unclear or muddled statements as well as errors. For this reason, evidence of the packaging issue is also relevant when considering the claim of omniscience advanced by SSB and the SSO. (See also my article on 'Omniscience and Truth' and articles in www.exbaba.com : two on SSB and atoms (Robert Priddy, 11 and 17 September 2002: 'The 'Omniscient' SSB's massive ignorance of physics exposed', I and II, and Jorge Reyesvera,7 May 2003, titled 'Sai Baba's 'magnetism''.)
As the evidence which is to follow clearly indicates, by the time a Discourse is printed in English (and other languages), although the key concepts dealt with in the Discourses are presumably well recorded, SSB's actual words, sentences, and speaking style, have often been submerged in a heavily edited, polished and sophisticated written version. The difficulty for most of us lies in the fact that only SSB's local Telugu-speaking devotees in Andhra Pradesh know exactly what he said and how he expressed it. (Telugu is spoken by approximately 60 million of India's billion-plus inhabitants.) So the English Discourses (and the German, Spanish, Italian, etc.) published in the volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks and in the monthly issues of Sanathana Sarathi are not a totally authentic record of what Sai Baba has really said in Telugu because the original sentences and paragraphs have been packaged and presented by the SSO.
What follows below is a fuller, clearer, and I hope more convincing version of my previous scattered articles and notes and some of my more recent discoveries.
For the first years (1943-1950+), as early devotees have recorded in their memoirs, Sathya Sai Baba gave few set talks but merely chatted with his devotees in his native Telugu language. It was not until the late 1950s that a slow but dramatic increase in the use of sermons (known since those times as Discourses) as a simple vehicle of teaching, preaching, and publicity began to be visible. The growth was first noticed after the crucial recruitment of Professor Kasturi (the urbane academic, experienced writer and speaker) to head SSB's team of associates and helpers (1954-1987) and his launching of the SSB magazine Sanathana Sarathi. There was a further increase in the frequency and the diffusion of the Discourses in many languages following the formation of the SSO in 1965. Nowadays, SSB gives enough Discourses each year to fill a medium-sized book volume of Sathya Sai Speaks (available from his ashram and from national Sathya Sai Organisations).
The Discourses tend to last for about an hour. SSB's commentators and hagiographers often remark, in tones of awe, that he has no script and delivers his speeches extempore. This is quite true. But, for those who are present on the occasions of the speeches (and also those who hear recordings of them), the content is SO spontaneous that it is often difficult to catch the exact meaning or to detect a logical progression of ideas or topics. However, since the Discourses are much more widely read in (edited) translation than heard, most devotees tend to 'cherry pick' and benefit from the spiritual 'gems' and probably skip over or ignore the extraneous bits and, often, the frequent simple parables and homilies from Hindu scriptures.
For three decades, as SSB's chronicler and spokesperson (and even after his death in 1987), Kasturi's credibility factor among devotees has been very high, at least until recently. Whatever he wrote was taken and repeated unquestioningly as authentic. His description of a miracle (however extraordinary and from however far back in the past, before his arrival on the ashram scene) was believed as if it carried an official seal of approval.
Shortly before Professor N. Kasturi's death in 1987, Robert Priddy received answers to a series of questions he had asked Kasturi about his writing etc. "... Sri Kasturi told us that SSB had himself, almost invariably in Kasturi's presence, personally read and authenticated every one of his discourses published in the monthly journal Sanathana Sarathi since its inauguration by SSB on Shivaratri Day in 1968 ... If Baba was dissatisfied with any result of Kasturi's editing (or in later yrs, Sri Narasimhan's), he would indicate corrections and alterations." (Robert Priddy, p. 222)
"Until about the mid-1970s, Professor Kasturi's own notes, taken on the dais while simultaneously translating SSB's words during public discourses, were the versions for printed publication." (Priddy, p. 222) (SO the edited forms of the early Discourses were understandably quite basic.) In a few of the early volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, the reader is advised that the translated printed Discourses are "compiled from Notes taken by N. Kasturi, M.A., B.L." (Volume 3), but in most later volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, the Discourses are presented (with few exceptions) as being translations of SSB's actual words (and style). Later, says Priddy, transcripts and translations were made from recordings of the Discourses. (Many of these are still available on the official SSO websites, and on RadioSai, which broadcasts old Discourses every day.)
SSB's speaking style
As Kasturi indicated to Priddy, at some stage, certainly before 1980, audio recordings of both the Telugu and the English interpretation began to be taken and subsequent written versions were edited translations of these. On some important occasions (especially since the late 1990s), video recordings were also made, some of which are available for purchase (and study). In the 1990s an American company was allowed to record many important Discourses on videotape and these are still available for purchase. (www.saivideos.com , which also now offers DVDs - see my Bibliography: http://bdsteel.tripod.com/More/sbbib.htm )
Even without a knowledge of Telugu, and without understanding the full text of the English of the simultaneous translation (which has tended to be virtually incomprehensible anyway because of poor sound equipment or bad acoustics), attentive devotees who hear SSB's long Discourses are able to form a distinct impression of the speaker (even if they speak no Telugu!) from his short and simple sentence patterns and rhythms, addressed mainly to an unsophisticated local audience, or to his students. That is the way SSB speaks (or chooses to speak), his idiosyncratic oratorical style - and, for those overseas devotees present at Discourses, the English simultaneous translation, done rapidly, in the heat of the moment, even though they may feature some necessary compression of words and inevitable minor omissions, still seems (as a good interpretation should) to echo this simple spontaneous style.
For example, here is a brief extract from the Premsai literal English translation of the Discourse of May 26, 2002:
"... It is a big foolishness to develop attachment for foreign countries. The parents also have this craziness. The parents are ruining the children in this way. "They should be sent abroad, sent abroad." Why? Can't you beg here what you beg for there? (Applause) Though going to foreign countries, people are only begging."
"Since so long, even since 1972, they have tried a lot with Me: "Swami, You have to come to my country, You have to come to come to my country. You have to come to my country!" What is your country? No country is your country. Even this body is not yours. Then, what country is your country? I don't like to go anywhere. What for? ..."
Those sentences seem close to the Telugu rhythms (and to the speaker's strong delivery) which devotees present in the audience (or listening to an audiotape) can hear, whatever their native language. SSB's characteristic Telugu style (short and simple sentences, frequent repetitions of patterns, statements and questions) is reflected in them.
As an introductory example of what I am describing as 'packaging', consider carefully the final official printed English version of the above. This is the sort of treatment which the SSO editors give to SSB's Discourses for publication. I assume that similar differences can be detected in comparisons of other language translations by Premsai and by the SSO edited versions.
"The students of today go abroad for higher studies. It is a madness to go abroad with a desire to find something that is not here in our country. People go abroad spending lots of money and return empty handed. The parents encourage their children to go abroad by fanning the craze. They are actually misleading their children. You have to work hard in a foreign country to earn money. If you expend the same effort here you can earn enough money in India too. Some people go abroad and earn paapa (sin). Stay in your country and earn punya (mind) instead. There is an increasing desire in people to go abroad and earn money. But all of them don't succeed in earning money. Some people came back with empty hands.
"People have been trying to take me abroad. But Swami has not gone to any country. People say, "Swami come to my country." Which is your country? You do not belong to any country permanently. Nothing is permanent. Your body itself is not permanent. We must give up our desire to go abroad."
Also close to SSB's characteristic preaching style is the following, from the Premsai literal translation for 22 October 2001):
"That only is the embodiment of God. Such wisdom is the embodiment of God. Therefore, why go aside to have Darshan of God's form? You are everything. All is within you. Some moments ago, our Sanjay Sahani said, "With you, in you, around you." If you think of 'with you', it means that you are going towards Divinity. 'In you' means that you are making a study of it. 'From you' means that you are going about in the world.
"But these are not the correct meanings. These are the meanings in English. All wrong meanings are coming. We are spending our life in misunderstandings. Even if one wants the correct meaning, it is impossible. So we are entering into wrong meanings. The nature of the Atma has to be understood. 'P-u-t' is pronounced 'put' (poot). 'B-u-t' should be pronounced 'but' (boot); yet will they say 'but' (but). This is all only the phonetics of language. All in this world is Creation. We are only following this (man-made) creation, but we are not following the proper embodiment of Truth."
This latter piece of total confusion is dutifully and discreetly reduced to 3 lines in the edited version (www.eaisai.com/baba):
"Such wisdom is verily divine. When you are everything and everything is in you, why do you go in search of God elsewhere? As our Sanjay Sahni pointed out in his speech, God is in you, with you and around you."
That also is packaging, not standard editing, because it takes the reader further and further away from SSB's simple and natural 'preaching' style using the following techniques:
1. Change of sentence style from simple to more complex and sophisticated.
2. Condensation of the spoken original.
3. Enhancement or clarification of sentences or paragraphs
4. Relocation of information to an earlier or later paragraph, making the whole Discourse more cohesive and stylistically sophisticated.
5. Omission of words, sentences, pages, or facts.
6. Editor's additions and adornments.
After 30 volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, covering 1954-1997 (a total of approximately 2 million words in my rough estimate), SSB's basic approach to his spontaneous simple talks does not seem to have varied, except perhaps (with the acquisition of more knowledge and experience in public speaking) in length, breadth of topics, and wealth of detail on Hindu mythology. He usually begins with a short poem or song in Telugu and then speaks, in Telugu, for an hour or more on a variety of topics, including liberal doses of simple didactic stories (purportedly) from familiar Hindu scriptures, which exhort his listeners to examine themselves and endeavour to lead more spiritual lives. There is no script and he carries no notes. The result, although (notice!) never commented on in devotees' eulogistic books, is a rambling performance, whose thread is usually invisible.
When devotees quote any of these two million words by SSB, they and most of their readers or listeners naturally imagine that they are seeing or hearing SSB's words. They are probably aware that most of his Discourses are originally in Telugu with a simultaneous English translation. They quite naturally assume that what gets into print (firstly in the official Sai Magazine, Sanathana Sarathi and often MUCH later in Sathya Sai Speaks) are the closest English (or other language) equivalent of what their Swami actually said in Telugu. Therefore, by quoting what is printed in English (or another language) in Sanathana Sarathi or Sathya Sai Speaks, devotees naturally believe they are quoting SSB's words, as exactly as it is possible to do in the circumstances.
It is not therefore surprising that many (perhaps most) devotees seem to regard the volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks reverently as 'Gospel' truth. However, it may come as a surprise to them (they may even be offended) to be told that they are NOT being given a close translation of SSB's words in these official magazines and printed volumes, but a very highly edited version (with significant additions and omissions, as we shall see), produced by Organisation editors - initially Kasturi himself, later other equally erudite close associates of Baba. The result is that the packaged versions of SB's Discourses appear more sophisticated and incisive than they really are, while also concealing many of the less impressive and more erratic characteristics of the original Discourses.
To further complicate the task of the future chronicler and student of SSB's Mission, there are even some instances of two totally different printed edited versions of the same Discourse. Some of the variants are thrown up in the books by close associates of SSB like Kasturi, Gokak, Rao, and Hislop, or by old devotees like Smt. Vijayakumari. Other instances of variants are mainly to be found in the versions of Discourses given during some of the Summer Courses at Brindavan, as later published in both in Sathya Sai Speaks and in later separate publications. The Summer Course volumes for 1990 and 1993 are of most interest for our present purposes.
The question of Discourses given but missing from the official printed compilations remains to be investigated. However, in many, or most, cases the reason for the lack of a permanent printed (or website) record of some Discourses is quite possibly bureaucratic inefficiency in earlier years.)
When it is realised that the examples below only represent a tiny fraction of the approximately two million words which have been published in the thirty volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks alone, the possible extent of this remarkable and unacknowledged packaging phenomenon can begin to be glimpsed - raising many pertinent questions and projecting a rather different 'identikit' picture of SSB himself. Having established a strong prima facie case (below), I can only hope that expert Telugu-speaking researchers will conduct an extensive study of the composition of SSB's Discourses. The fact that most of my examples are from recent years is circumstantial; to ascribe the discrepancies, etc. to SSB's advancing age would not explain this phenomenon.
Now it is time for the reader to judge for himself/herself from a substantial selection of compared texts.
The first example is admittedly an extreme case, but it may also be taken as proof of the extent to which charisma and faith can anaesthetise devotees' judgement. They become 'charismatised'.
The Christmas Discourse for 1996, along with the simultaneous translation, was captured on videotape by James Redmond. Some extracts were transcribed and sent to me in early 2002 by an ex-devotee, Dhyani Jo (to whom I am very grateful). At that time I used this evidence in another Chapter as proof of SSB's lack of Omniscience, but it is also an important example of the packaging of SSB's Discourses: It shows how some discrepancies and errors of SSB (audible during the Discourse) can simply be left off the official record during the editing process.
Here are some of the statements which this amazing videotape registered:
1. "Three hundred and fifty years B.C., before Christ, Jews lived. However, among Jews, there were religions such as Islam and Christianity. People of that land, they are all Jews. That land is the birthplace of both the religions, Islam and Christianity. The Hebrew language was very prominent. This Hebrew language is more or less equal to our Sanskrit. ..."
2. "Christianity is not just 2,000 years in its origin. It was there even before Christ, 350 years. There the divinity is explained very clearly."
3. "The name and the fame of Jesus Christ have spread far and wide. Here, at this moment, there are two schools of thought. The first group of thought - Roman Catholics. There is another group that fought with this group. This group is called Protestants. As they protested, they are Protestants. So among Jews there are these two groups: Catholics and Protestants. The difference of opinion has increased day by day. This led to Jesus, whose life was in danger. Jews there in Jerusalem did not permit Jesus to go there. Like this, religious conflict and fighting was ever on the rise. There were 250 schools of thought, divisions there. They also monopolized certain countries."
"Because of so many groups there, they all attempted even to harm Jesus. Romans on one side. Catholics on the other side. Luther on another side. There were so many groups that went on changing. All these differences are based on violence, and that led to madness. Because of this attachment to group affiliations, naturally there was conflict and fighting."
"Religious affiliation leads to ego. This led to confusion among them as to what Jesus said right or wrong."
Doubtless, the editors saw that SSB had had a 'bad day'. They cast into oblivion SSB's extraordinary statements on Christian and Jewish history, but readers of their official printed version will never know that because all they will see in Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. XXIX is a brief editorial note on page 393:
"[Bhagavan gave a brief account of the Jewish concept of the creation of the cosmos and referred to the birth of Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph.]"
THAT, surely, is packaging. It is also clear evidence of devotees' unquestioning faith in SSB, which did not allow those who heard the original Discourse and the translation (or who saw the video, including me) to publicly question these ridiculous remarks in 1996, whatever they thought in private. Perhaps they (we) were mesmerised by the spectacular but brazen stunt by SSB after these strange remarks: the conjuring up (apparently from under the edge of the table) of what was instantly to become famous among devotees as the 'Bible', a miniature book, about which SSB made some of his customary extravagant and exclusive claims, which were believed, of course, especially with extra information and hype from spokespersons that the book had been teleported from, and later returned to, its safe haven on the Black Sea coast. (See Omnipotence?)
When one recovers from one's utter surprise, a reading of the above evidence shows quite clearly that the person capable of making such astonishingly inaccurate and clumsily expressed pronouncements can in no way be seen as 'omniscient'. The whole passage sounds uncannily like a parody of a young schoolboy's muddled history essay.
More seriously, perhaps, such idiosyncratic pronouncements cast a very heavy shadow over SSB's general credibility and even his thought processes - whatever his other powers and characteristics. (Incidentally, in the Chapter on 'Omniscience and Truth', we saw that around 1980, John Hislop had had to tell SSB that Jews and Christians were not of the same faith; and that by Christmas 1996, SSB had forgotten this.)
However, 1996 was not just an isolated bad day for SSB. The annual Christmas Discourses usually seem to excite his imagination and on many of those occasions he has produced a lot of strange or conflicting information about Jesus Christ. The Christmas Discourses literally translated in 2000 and 2001 by the PREMSAI group give an idea of the REAL extent of SSB's uncontrolled story telling and the editors' attempts at 'damage control'. Take the 2001 Christmas Discourse.
Throughout this lengthy speech, SSB's editors deal with his rambling, meandering style by consolidating his thoughts into longer, sophisticated paragraphs, and cutting out a lot of unnecessary bits, some doubtful remarks and a fair portion of nonsense. But, as with most recent Christmas discourses, SSB's capricious and vivid imagination and his seemingly weak grasp of the historical and theological realities of the Jesus period pose the greatest problems for his editors. Given the unbelievable revelations of the literal translations, the observer may be forgiven for assuming that other Christmas speeches may have contained equally preposterous sections cleaned up by the Discourse packagers.
Here is the 'original' literal translated section of PREMSAI
"The three Arabian kings came together when Jesus was born. They came to have darshan of him. One said: "The one you think you are." He said that, "He seems to be a Divine man." The second one said: "The one others think you are." It means this is a nature which pertains to society. This is not an individual; it is the form of society. The third king taught: "The One you really are." He said, "He is one who has that Divine nature."
"Due to each man having a different head and brain, their thoughts are also different. But we should not give any chance at all for these different thoughts. Regarding that, due to today's influences of Kali Yuga, man is aspiring for duality, but he doesn't relish unity at all. He is fragmenting unity into diversity, but the ancient ones had faith that there was unity in diversity."
Here, for comparison, is the carefully edited official version:
"When Jesus was born, three Arabian kings visited him to pay their respects. One of them felt that the child would be a lover of God. The second one said that he would be the beloved of God and the third one felt that he was verily God. Opinions vary from person to person as each is different from the other. Our ancients visualised unity in diversity, whereas the modern man, due to the impact of Kali Age, fragments unity into diversity."
Then, after a long meandering examination into Bhutakasha, Chitthakasha and Chidakasha, we are treated to some new characteristically imaginative dialogue between Jesus and His mother in the PREMSAI literal version:
"Jesus also said this. When all of the fishermen came, first and foremost they desired what appealed to them in the world. Peter said, "I want a lot of fish." Still, he was on Lokakasham (the physical world). This only is Bhutakasha. Jesus fulfilled all their desires relating to Bhutakasha. Finally Peter thought about Chidaakasha - Chidaakasha, meaning Atma. "This Chitthakasha is not what I should desire. I have to go beyond my Chitthakasha (mind)."
"Jesus also said that to everybody. 'Oh, people! Why this hatred? Why these agitations? Foster all with compassion. Love everyone. Wish well for everyone. Have faith in the unity in diversity.' Jesus also said this. There were no different teachings of his. Numerous disciples wrote just as they liked. When they put his body on the cross, an ethereal voice said:
'All are One, my dear son. Be alike to everyone.' What is this? As the Mother Mary was crying, Jesus said: Death is the dress of life. What is this? Death is only changing this dress. This dress is changed and another dress comes. Will human beings always have the same dress? One changes dresses every day. In that same way, these bodies change through numerous births. So it should not be called death just because it changes. This change is only related to the body."
The official packaged version reads thus:
"The fishermen wanted Jesus to fulfil their worldly desires. Peter wanted more fish. But ultimately, he realised the futility of worldly desires. He wanted to go beyond the level of body and the mind as per the teaching of Jesus. Jesus told them to give up hatred and to love all and serve all. He exhorted them to develop faith in the principle of unity. Many disciples of Jesus interpreted the teachings of Jesus in their own way.
"When he was being crucified, he heard an ethereal voice, 'All are one my dear son, be alike to everyone.' When the mother Mary was shedding tears, Jesus told her, 'Death is the dress of life.' Death is like changing of dress. Do you find anybody wearing the same dress every day? Just as you change your dress every day, you change the body from birth to birth. It is the body that dies, not the life principle. The Spirit is immortal and non-dual."
Then SSB stumbles momentarily over what he calls the 'Bible' and his hapless editors seem equally unaware of the existence and relevance to Christians of the 'New Testament'.
"Jesus was always teaching all of the fishermen. This Mathew wrote all of that. Mathew wrote all of it and he made it into a part of the Bible. Then the other disciples wrote all the rest, based on their own feelings."
According to the editors:
"Mathew noted down all his teachings and wrote the holy Bible. Later on, many others wrote the Bible based on their own feelings."
And, finally, there is a terrible combined mix-up as SSB invents another bit of Jesus dialogue, then rambles into yet another confusing and almost unbelievable reference to the Roman Catholics (does he mean the Romans? probably not). He then compounds the confusion with an idiosyncratic reference to the (later?) theological use of 'person':
"Jesus was the same way. Jesus also, even from the very beginning, never said that he was God. He only kept saying, 'Father, Father, Father, Father.' He pacified all the hostile people who came to him.
"There is only One God for me, for you and for everyone. There is only one Father for you, for me and for everyone. We are all children of this Father. Hence, we are the children of God." He also taught that.
"Finally, due to hostile people increasing, some of them went and caught hold of the head priest. He also knew the fault in their accusations. He knew that everything Jesus was saying was true. However, to protect his position, the head priest gave this kind of punishment to Jesus. He said to crucify him.
"The governor agreed to that, but he felt very badly. He said, 'Fie, fie, fie! Have I succumbed to such a sin?' The second day (after crucifixion), when Jesus rose again, the governor spread the fame that Jesus was a very great man.
"In the very beginning, all the Roman Catholics did not say that he was God. They didn't say that he was a disciple. They didn't say that he was the servant of God. However, they gave him another name. They called him, "Persona." All the Roman Catholics called Jesus, "Persona, persona, persona."
"Persona" means 'sacred'. English people made that sacred word 'persona' into 'person'. So the word 'person' has come from 'persona'. This means that this sacred Divinity is present in every single human being. Therefore, they called everyone 'person, person, person'. (Applause) Hence, even I and even every human being is a form of the Divine.
I and you are One.
"Therefore, all are embodiments of the Divine. So there is the Divine Atma in everyone. They gave the name of 'persona' to this Atma. Hence, there is Divinity in every single human being. A human being devoid of God cannot be seen at all. A living being devoid of God cannot be seen at all. There is no life form devoid of God. There is Divinity in every living being."
For all of the above self-indulgent nonsense, which most devotees have not seen, the editors jump in to the rescue but offer this still rather odd condensed version:
"From the beginning, Jesus never said that he was God. He only said that God was his father. He taught people that there was only one God and all were his children. His critics complained to the head priest against Jesus. The priest knew that Jesus was speaking the truth. But they did not support Jesus in order to safeguard their own position. It was decided that Jesus should be crucified. The Governor issued the orders, but later he repented. When Jesus rose from the cross, he went on propagating the glory of Jesus.
"The Romans addressed Jesus as 'persona' 'meaning one of sacredness. The English word person has been derived from this. It means that there is divinity in everyone. That is why I address you as embodiments of divinity. I and you are one. There is divine spirit in everybody. The very Self is called 'persona'. There is no life principle without divinity. Sarvatah Panipadam Tat Sarvathokshi Siromukham, Sarvata Sruthimalloke Sarvamavruthya Thishthati (With hands, feet, eyes, heads, mouth and ears pervading everything, He permeates the entire universe). Divinity pervades all forms."
There is a little more Jesus dialogue later, but that is surely enough!
This is a passage from the PREMSAI literal version of the second Mahasivaratri Discourse of 2002:
"There are taste buds. How many taste buds do we have on the tongue? There are 3,000 taste buds. How many light rays are in the eye? There are two crores [20 million] of light rays. We can't see even one ray. You half close one eye (squint) and look. All of these lights shine with light. This is all its effect."
"So there is light in magnetism. There is power. There is taste. There is audition. There is sight. All is its effect. (All senses are the effect of the magnetism in the body.) It is circulating in the body as gold."
For this, the official edited version (taken from the unofficial 'www.eaisai.com/baba' website) offers this sanitised version:
|"There are thousands of taste buds in our tongue and lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of light rays in the eyes. The eyes, the tongue and other sense organs derive their strength from the magnetic power present within. The golden essence pervades the entire body as a shield of protection."|
Packaging not only changes the style of Discourses but also often dilutes another part of their authenticity: SSB's emotional intensity (enthusiasm, excitement, boasting, even annoyance and anger). Examples of this above will have already been noticed. Here are two more.
Concerning an SSO-sponsored initiative, according to the Premsai literal translation of the Yugadi Discourse on 13 April 2002, SSB made the following statements, some of them excited, jubilant, even boastful. The official edited translation, in a more subdued tone, is reproduced below and may be seen on the official SSB website, www.sathyasai.org .
"So in Madras, rich people gave some money and are they are drinking good water. But the poor people and beggars, not having money in hand, are drinking polluted and dirty water, and are succumbing to diseases. I have the desire and have resolved to give pure water to them, to sacredly protect and develop their health, generation after generation, so they can be happy.
"Only yesterday, the three, Secretary, Mr. Chakravarthy, Mr. Srinivas from Madras and Mr. Indulal Shah from Bombay, went together to the authorities of the World Bank. They went and explained our sacred seva. They said that this is not merely our (selfish) service. It is seva (selfless service) that we do. We won't experience any results (benefit personally). We won't aspire for results. It is seva that is done without desiring for the results. I told these three this, and they went to the World Bank authorities and repeated these words parrot-like.
"All the authorities of the World Bank came here. They declared, "We have not heard about and we have not seen, in any place or in any country, this kind of seva. (Applause) Sathya Sai Baba is giving water like this to Madras which is somewhere else (far from Puttaparthi)." Today a phone call came saying that the World Bank authorities had said, "We will give the entire cost of this." (the project to supply drinking water to Madras) (Applause)
"See! On Ugadi day! Sacred results will come when there are sacred feelings.
"The Bank authorities said, "You don't need to think anymore (worry) at all. You don't need to come to us again. We will give help to you. We will give any number of crores." (One crore is ten million rupees.)
"How great it is that such an enthusiastic feeling came! Twelve hours have not yet passed. They came last night at 7PM. The phone call came at 7AM in the morning when I was coming out. Do you see?"
This all sounds highly improbable, even on first sight. Consultation of the World Bank website (www.worldbank.org) provides the following helpful information:
"The World Bank is a lending institution whose aim is to help integrate countries into the wider world economy and promote long-term economic growth that reduces poverty in developing countries. ... It provides loans to member countries ... The World Bank lends only to developing or transition countries..."
So: the World Bank LENDS money to SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENTS, not to non-governmental institutions like the SSO.
For comparison, here is the official version of the 13 April 2002 Discourse:
"The World Bank people were very much impressed. They said that they had never heard about or seen such stupendous service activities undertaken by a charitable organisation anywhere else in the world. They were happy that Sathya Sai Baba was providing drinking water to a distant place like Madras. They have agreed to bear the expenditure involved in this project. On this sacred day of Ugadi before I came out to give Darshan, we received a telephone call at about 7 a.m. conveying this message. If the feelings are sacred, the result is bound to be sacred. They told us "You don't need to be concerned about the funds and you don't need to come to us again. We are prepared to give any number of crores to meet the expenditure." With broad-mindedness, they have come forward to extend their help."
Another emotional moment came when SSB obliquely referred to Internet rumours in the now famous 1999 Dasara Discourse (15 October). In the official version, the following clear condemnation is briefly recorded: "Swami has nothing to do with internet. Not only now, even in future also. You should not indulge in such wrong activities."
This was before the publication of the Premsai literal translations, of course, but, according to a contributor to the (now defunct) Sai devotees' message board SaiDISC (Message 2075), SSB's original opinion was more emotional. The devotee was quoting the detailed notes of another devotee on the audio recording of the English on-the-spot interpretation of what was actually said in Telugu. Here is what (s)he posted on SaiDISC:
"We are not having any relation with this internet or intergate. Don't have any type of relationship with that. If anybody calls you, asking for news, tell them, "Shut up!" And if they wag their tongues further, you can also [[missing]] ........ Why should they take to such wrong paths?"
The devotee's eyewitness account continues, later, with: "(Swami prompts the translator to say internet and the translator says "Internet".) "Swami has no connection with any internet. There is no connection between internet and Swami. Not only today, but forever. At no time there will be any connection."So it appears that, for this controversial topic, the editors have reduced six lines to two in the final printed version, somewhat softening SSB's irate tone for the international audience.
Ironically, since 1999, the SSO has supported three huge official Internet sites for spreading publicity and archival material about SSB, and the number of unofficial sites spreading the SSB story has mushroomed.
More Proof of Packaging
As the independent devotee PREMSAI website offered more and more evidence of what SSB actually says in Telugu, the gulf between what is offered to devotees in the official edited translations became more apparent. But, as already pointed out, it has ceased to produce these literal translations. Apart from scattered printed evidence for the years 1955 to 1999, we can only guess at the extent of this official packaging process until more evidence becomes available from existing tape recordings and printed sources. In the meantime, as further proof of the procedure, here are some more recent cases where SSB's confused thinking and speaking have either been totally omitted from the official printed or Internet translation, or edited into a more comprehensible and less embarrassing form.
For the Yugadi Discourse on 5 April 2000, the Premsai website gave the following literal translation of the first few paragraphs:
"Embodiments of Love!
"Therefore, every single man who wishes for the world to love him has to put ego, pomp-and-show distant. The man who is full of anger will not see happiness anywhere. He is always in sorrow. Both outside and inside, the fruit of anger is only sorrow. It cannot be anything else. Therefore, the main reason for the sorrow of man is anger only.
"Embodiments of Love!
"As long as there are desires, man cannot see happiness. The day man destroys desires, that day every happiness will be experienced by him. As long as greed is there, man cannot be happy. Only when greed is lost, every happiness will be attained. Therefore, by having desire, anger, greed and infatuation, man will get sorrow, grief, and lack of peace." (www.internety.com/premsai)
In these 3 paragraphs, there are 14 sentences and 176 words. The style is noticeably extremely simple, with many repetitions. The thoughts are obviously spontaneous, but somewhat long-winded.
In the later official translated English version, we are offered a single paragraph with 7 sentences and a total of only 99 words, a reduction to just over half of the original length.
|"A person having ego and pomp will not be loved by anybody, not even by his own wife and children. Only when he gives up these evil qualities, he will be loved by one and all. Anger is one of the main causes of man's misery. A man filled with anger can never experience happiness in his life; he will always be drowned in misery. So long as one is filled with desires, one can never attain peace. A greedy man can never be happy. Therefore, ego, anger, desire and greed are mainly responsible for man's misery, anxiety and restlessness." (Sanskrit Verse) (www.eaisai.com/baba)|
It is still a simple message and the concepts of the original have been preserved. But the meaning is more easily grasped and retained because the style, the personal character of the passage, is now very different. It is no longer SSB's repetitive and rambling style but that of the editors, who have improved significantly on the original, making it clearer and more effective; Sai SSB's words have been packaged.
Another editing characteristic involves the editing of SSB's IDEAS either by the systematic deletion of material presumably seen as superfluous or inappropriate, or (less often) the apparent insertion of material or details by the editor(s).
In the Guru Purnima Discourse for 16 July 2000, a section of the Telugu original was translated on the Premsai website as:
"Love is the natural name that you were born with. Love is the name given to that with which you were born. The Love given to this body is already given, whereas other names are later christened. So, the names that have been given may be changed. They are that which changes. But the nature of Love does not change. God's Love will never change.
"We have to love that kind of Love whose nature is changeless and does not waver. We have to love that kind of Love. That is true devotion. Devotion is a synonym of Love.
Bhakthi or Devotion.
"From this devotion you will develop many kinds of Shakthi (powers): Out of this Love many types of Yukthi (discrimination, the knowledge of how to love all) will come. Many kinds of Rakthi (affection or attachment; likes or preferences) will also develop from this devotion and many sorts of Virakthi (cessation of desires; detachment) will also develop.
"Rakthi, Virakthi, Yukthi, Shakthi, all of these come from the one Bhakthi. In all of these the letter 'kthi' is common." (www.internety.com/premsai)
In the official printed version, this is whittled down to:
"The names given are bound to change, but love is changeless. You should aspire for that love. That is true Bhakti (devotion). Bhakti confers on you Yukti (discrimination), Virakti(detachment) and Mukti(liberation)." (In other words, two and a half lines replace eleven of SSB's original words. We 'lose' nine lines of his words, but they do not seem necessary.) (www.eaisai.com/baba)
The reader will have observed that in the original paragraphs, SSB is simply rambling on and presenting a rather muddled set of concepts. (The whole Discourse is worth studying.)
The following passage from the Discourse for 20 October 2001 is very difficult to comprehend even in print. First, the Premsai literal version:
"Today no man is doing sacred works like this. Even though beholding and consulting elders, the answers that come from them (those elders) to us are not right at all. Yet, when one does not have any satisfaction, what can one teach to others? So, first and foremost, when Jesus came to the Roman country (Empire), all of the Roman population recognized him as 'persona'. They recognized the Truth that Divinity fully exists within every man." (20 October 2001)
The official edited version makes a little more sense (www.eaisai.com/baba) but it is a bureaucratic product rather than a sample of what SSB really said.
"The true meaning of morality lies in cognising and manifesting the latent divinity in humanity and propagating the same to the entire world. The English word 'person' has its origin in the Roman word 'persona'. The Romans used this word to describe Jesus as he manifested his divinity and attracted everyone. The word 'persona' symbolises the divinity latent in man."
23 November 2001 (SSB's 76th Birthday)
In this 2001 Birthday Discourse, the editors corrected an etymological error of SSB's, and spent a great deal of effort on condensing the second half of the rambling and insecure Discourse into a readable version. A curious feature of the muddle is (and this paragraph is NOT included in the official version) that before wandering off into the superfluous second half of the Birthday speech, SSB had obviously been winding up for closure
"I didn't think it was necessary to speak a lot today. I didn't think to speak. All of you be well today. Not only the welfare of the country of Bharath; you should also hope for the welfare of all countries also."Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.May all the beings in all the worlds be happy." (Sanskrit sloka)(Applause) (PREMSAI)
But SSB changed his mind and meandered along familiar byways for another three pages, (part of which deals with how well loved he is by so many people. The editors reduced these three pages to a single consolidated (summary) page - mercifully for both the reader and SSB's reputation. (But, once again, they did not label it as a summary.)
From the same Discourse, note the following long self-promotional passage:
"I did not send anyone an invitation today. I will never have invitations printed. Yet, if so many people have arrived here today, it means that the main cause for that is Love for Me. (Applause) It is a matter of great bliss that I am deserving of so many people's Love. Some people do not even deserve the love of their parents in the house. However, it is (shows) true Divinity that I deserve the Love so many people in the world." (Applause)
"Ratih, Loko Ratih. Loved, loved by the world. (Sanskrit sloka)
"The whole world loves this (Avatar), not only the people who have come here. There are so many crores (tens of millions) of people. To be deserving of the Love of so many people, that only is the main reason for (proving) great Divinity.
"There is only one Love, from small children to elders and from youth to aged people. There has been complete clamor (describing the crowd coming in for the Birthday function) from early morning 3 o'clock, (keen) to enter inside. They were ready with such eagerness.
"Will they have such eagerness for anything else? They won't. If you want to see some cinema, you will stand in a queue. If you want to go in some bus, you will wait in a queue for a bus. Yet for Swami's darshan, they won't even pay attention to a queue. They will come pushing! (Applause) They won't even pay attention to their life. You are in so much haste, wanting to have darshan of this (Divinity) and wanting to come forward with such Love."
"Such a Love cannot be obtained no matter how many austerities are done."
The official version is much shorter and far less 'personal'.
"I never invited anyone here for this function; in fact, no invitation was printed. If so many people have gathered here, the reason is their love for Me. It is a matter of great bliss to be loved by so many. There are many who cannot even win the love of parents. To win over the hearts of so many is itself a sign of Divinity. I love everyone and everyone loves Me. Those who love Me are not only the ones present here but there are crores of people spread all over the world. Young and old love Me alike. This morning devotees gathered in large numbers even at 3 o'clock seeking entry into Sai Kulwant Hall. Their enthusiasm was boundless. There may be people who queue up to enter a theatre or to get into a bus. But here, their love and attraction for Swami is so much that they do not bother about any hardships and inconveniences, to have the darshan of Swami. This type of love cannot be earned even by many years of penance."
Also interesting as a sample of SSB's characteristic simple preaching style is the following, from the literal translation for 22 October 2001:
"That only is the embodiment of God. Such wisdom is the embodiment of God. Therefore, why go aside to have Darshan of God's form? You are everything. All is within you. Some moments ago, our Sanjay Sahani said, "With you, in you, around you." If you think of 'with you', it means that you are going towards Divinity. 'In you' means that you are making a study of it. 'From you' means that you are going about in the world.
"But these are not the correct meanings. These are the meanings in English. All wrong meanings are coming. We are spending our life in misunderstandings. Even if one wants the correct meaning, it is impossible. So we are entering into wrong meanings. The nature of the Atma has to be understood. 'P-u-t' is pronounced 'put' (poot). 'B-u-t' should be pronounced 'but' (boot), yet will they say 'but' (but). This is all only the phonetics of language. All in this world is Creation. We are only following this (man-made) creation, but we are not following the proper embodiment of Truth."
This self-indulgent ramble around a point is dutifully and discreetly reduced to a mere three lines in the officially edited translation, thereby again concealing evidence of SSB's real nature:
"Such wisdom is verily divine. When you are everything and everything is in you, why do you go in search of God elsewhere? As our Sanjay Sahni pointed out in his speech, God is in you, with you and around you." (www.eaisai.com/baba)
Equally confused was a rambling story told by SSB about a Shirdi Sai devotee named Nana (24 October 2001). At the end of the literal translation by the PREMSAI devotee translators, they felt it necessary to make the necessary revealing editorial comments:
"(NOTE: The details in the above story are slightly different than what Swami has said on previous occasions. According to the book on the life of Shirdi Sai, entitled "Sai Satcharitra", the tonga came only on the last leg of the journey, not from Shirdi itself. The devotee sent by Baba took a train up to Jamner, then the tonga to Nana's remote village. The tonga and driver disappeared, but not the devotee who brought the prasad. The devotee who brought the prasad was named Ram Giri Baba, not Shyam.)"
Such is the unconditional and unquestioning worship by most of SSB's devotees of what they perceive as his divine perfection that there is never a hint of criticism of the style or content of his Discourses, in spite of the sorts of anomalies documented above.
Consequently, any analysis which suggests weaknesses or redundancies in the original Discourses and any critical stylistic comments on them may strike many devotees as being tantamount to sacrilege. But why? If the idiosyncrasies are so self-evident, and, with SSB's advancing age, perhaps becoming more frequent or obvious, why should they NOT be pointed out, particularly if they seem so oddly inappropriate for a being who claims to be (and is widely accepted as being) super- and supra-human? Sooner or later, SSB's devotees will need to face these inconvenient realities.
Pause for Digestion and Reflection
The above examples of discrepancies and others make it appear that the person who delivered the real Discourses was in fact rather different from the image projected to the hundreds of thousands of readers of the words published by the SSO.
Unlike the practice of politicians using speechwriters to project their message, SSB delivers his own Discourses and the packaging of his message takes place after he has delivered it in public but the edited product is still labelled with the date of his original Discourse, with no warning that the content and style of the original has (in varying degrees) been amended. (Labels like 'Excerpts from ...', or 'Adapted from ...' would be more accurate.) These enhanced versions of his lengthy speeches or informal 'chats' present quite a different picture of SSB from that which might be glimpsed if we were able to penetrate the barrier of the unfamiliar Telugu language and understand the original speeches. In fact, it has only become clear to me recently that the more one looks for and at the available evidence, the more striking and cumulatively significant this packaging procedure becomes.
Moreover, the concept of a more 'basic' SSB persona than that presented by the SSB Organisation would also fit in with other recent evidence of niggling discrepancies about his claimed Divine nature and his alleged omniscience and other abilities. Equally importantly, significant differences between the original and the edited Discourses cast a heavy shadow of doubt over the accuracy of spoken and written quotations to be found in the vast Sai Baba literature.
In a full investigation of the extent and effects of packaging, the recent Premsai evidence will be especially weighty because it comes from a devotee group rather than from the imaginary group of evil critics working for undisclosed 'vested interests' whom SSB's spokespersons (including, at one stage, the Indian Prime Minister) and damage controllers have tried in vain to discredit. Although the truth would have emerged at some time, the Premsai translators' loving initiative was a priceless windfall for researchers. It is worth recording for posterity a few more basic facts about their contribution.
From late 1999 on until they abruptly ceased their labour of love in late 2002, this very dedicated ashram-resident group of (youngish?) faithful devotees and translators (of several nationalities) were so enamoured of their Swami that they wished to preserve what they described as the original "Telugu poetic style". By implication this suggests that they too had not only noticed but probably objected to the excessive post-editing of SSB's words in the official printed versions of his Discourses.
These are the statements with which the Premsai team proudly justified their effort:
"The following translations were made from Swami's Telugu Discourses which were taken from the audio-cassettes available at the ashram. All efforts have been made to keep Swami's Telugu poetical style as much as possible."
"The following discourse has been translated into English from Bhagavan's Telugu speech as heard on this festival's ashram audiocassette. It is a complete, literal translation made with the objective of preserving Bhagavan's precious original poetic style as much as possible. The words spoken by Bhagavan in English are highlighted in bold black."
Because of the dedication of this handful of polygot devotees, for just over two years it was possible for anyone to read their literal translations into several languages and, if one wished, to compare them with the official translations. Such comparisons reveal the obvious: that SSB's real speaking style is different in many important aspects from the heavily edited and more sophisticated official texts. (For more evidence, see, Omniscience and Truth , SSB and Christianity. Some Observations , and 'The 'Omniscient' SB's Massive Ignorance of Physics Exposed' I and II, on www.exbaba.com, 11 and 17 September 2002.)
The disappearance in 2002 of this website with its invaluable first-hand evidence of the clear differences between what SSB says and what is printed for devotees is to be remembered, questioned, and deplored. Objective observers will draw an inevitable conclusion from this silencing of one important aspect of the truth about SSB: that SSB's real words and speaking style are, in fact, an embarrassment to the Organisation which supports him and bears his name. Which prompts the equally unavoidable question: Why are the Discourses in their original form embarrassing for the SSO? Examples already given should provide the answers to that question but readers are also invited to take a careful look at the resuscitated literal translations (see list at the end of this article) and make their own comparisons with the official packaged versions). Because of these observable differences (which vary in number and importance from Discourse to Discourse), unless the SSO changes its editing policy and practices, all SSB's Discourses should carry a label stating "A free adaptation (or summary) of the Discourse given on ..."
In the face of evidence like that offered in this article and by other researchers between 2001 and 2003, and with the certainty that more packaging will eventually be revealed (with or without the Premsai team of translator-devotees), spokespersons like a well-known self-appointed mentor for overseas devotees (muttering in his secluded background), and, much more importantly, the new Chairman of the Prasanthi Council, the indefatigable Dr Goldstein, have blandly reassured fretting groups of devotees that there is nothing unusual in the editing of SSB's Discourses.
According to a 23 June 2003 message posted on the hitherto open Saiunity Yahoo Group (also recently closed down), Dr Goldstein addressed a regional gathering of SSB devotees in USA and made some statements which deserve much wider publicity and attention, including this one relevant to the editing controversy:
"Regarding discrepancies in discourses, sometimes there are people who take notes during discourses and are eager to be the first to send them out by computer. Be aware that the only official copies of discourses are the ones available after major festivals in the bookstore or in official publications, or those put on the official Sai Website by David Gries, who has excellent computer knowledge. Also, sometimes Swami omits some of what He has said when He approves an official translation, so it may in fact be different from what was heard." (Bold type added)
Whatever input SSB has these days on the final translated and edited version of his Discourses (in many foreign languages), the bland statement that any discrepancies in the official version printed for public consumption are simply due to SSB choosing to OMIT some of what he said from the original version of his Discourses fails (totally) to explain the stylistic differences between the original version and the simultaneous English translation (or the a literal Premsai translation on the Internet) and the subsequent printed edited versions, the "only official versions".
This kind of avuncular or Big Brotherly "Don't worry. Nothing is wrong" message to SSB's devotees by official and unofficial spokespersons, quoted and parroted (especially on the Internet) by writers and other devotees, has become more frequent within the SSB Movement at this time of deep controversies about the guru, his Organisation, and even about his garrulous spokespersons. In effect, devotees, especially those from outside India, are being told what to read, what not to read, and sometimes what to think, rather than to make their own decisions on the basis of the emerging evidence.
Goldstein's recent exalted status as head of the five-man Prashanti Council (with overall responsible for all overseas branches of the SSO), and his unrivalled access to SSO monitoring of current criticisms of SSB, represents an open invitation to devotees not to consider the matter any further: to accept the "party line" unquestioningly. How can Goldstein ignore the cogent evidence presented by the Premsai translators? Does he deny that their versions reflect what his guru says? (He and his advisors might plead occasional mistranslations of words or phrases by the foreign polyglot devotees, but that could NOT cover the whole style of the Discourses.) Here, then, for Chairman Goldstein's overdue study, is a further clear example of packaging (enthusiastically contributed and approved by the SSO itself). Perhaps it is time for him and his flock to regain touch with the realities concerning SSB's Discourses.
Through the diligent research of Serguei Badaev, I became aware of this gem, found in an impeccable official source. (Will this rare publication now have a reduced shelf life?)
In November 1995, the Central Office of the SSO prepared and issued special booklets of eight of SSB's November Discourses, compiled by Dr S. Muralidhara Rao. In Booklet Two, readers are informed that these are special literal translations because "It is not possible to capture the beauty and grandeur of the Divine Message as spoken in Telugu, but every effort has been made to translate and bring to the devotees nearly every word spoken on this occasion." (In other words, an endeavour and a reason identical to those of the later Premsai volunteers on the Internet, whose work devotees, investigators, and others curious to see the truth are no longer able to consult directly.)
Glib spokespersons and devotees-in-denial should compare these 8 official literal translations with the official packaged versions to get further evidence of the degree of packaging of their guru's words.
For now, let us take just two samples from the first of these eight Discourses (in the special official booklet of 1995), the one given on 17 November 1995. The literal translation will be followed in each case by the final SSO printed edited version. The discrepancies and major stylistic differences are clearly visible.
a) (the simple literal version in the special SSO booklet):
"A true human being is one who knows about himself and also others. So every man should know his action, his temperament and his nature. All faculties are present in man. The energy waves are in him. The light waves are also in man as also the infinite magnetic waves. The laser is also present in man. They are not separate from him. It is a matter of fact that man is weak even though he is highly powerful and energetic.
"Energy and matter are not different. Energy is one. Matter is a part and parcel of that energy. Energy is present in matter as latent. Both are present like a tree latent in a seed."
Not an easy spoken passage to understand, but fairly typical of SSB's rapid and rambling Telugu delivery, in short basic sentences and clauses.
b) as translated edited and printed in Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol XXVIII, Chapter 29, or on the SSB official website at www.sathyasai.org
"Everyone should seek to know his true nature, his motives and his consciousness. Man is endowed with all potencies and all forms of energy. Man has limitless magnetic energy in him. Possessing all these powers, it is a pity that man regards himself as weak. Energy and matter are not different. They are present like the tree that is latent in a seed."
Although the major obscurities of the original have been resolved, the topic still sounds a little odd. Nevertheless, the important point is that the style and sentence organisation of the words has been transformed into something much more sophisticated and impressive-sounding, very different in FORM from the original ramble.
a) from the literal booklet:
(Incidentally, given the subsequent nuclear developments in India, this passage now sounds politically incorrect, or at least embarrassing.)
"Bharat is the very form of Dharma. It is not proper on our part to make the bomb. You should make the bomb if you want to hurt or harm anybody. Why do you need to fear if you don't have such ideas? Others may make bombs; it is dangerous for them alone. Our Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, in his foreign tour made the same statement. Any country for that matter making atom bomb, hydrogen bomb or nitrogen bomb will ruin that country. Anyone may manufacture but it will put the whole world in danger. The Prime Minister argued that no one should make bombs. Swami accepts his view. This is the noblest idea. If others make, it may harm us too. We have a very great weapon - the weapon of righteousness. We should achieve it. It is Dharma that protects the country." (142 words, 14 sentences)
b) The official version in Sathya Sai Speaks and on the official website reduces the nine lines above to the following three lines:
"Atomic weapons should be given up. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao has been pleading for the abolition of atomic weapons. I agree with him. Bhaaraath's most powerful weapon is Dharma-asthra. Let us adhere to Dharma. That will protect us." (38 words, 6 sentences.)The reduction of the equivalent of 142 words to 38 (a mere third of the original) is NOT ordinary editing; it is sophisticated summary-writing, giving the basic ideas and concealing the rambling repetitiousness and the lack of clarity of SSB's Telugu original. Therefore, to prepare, publish, and promote the latter version as being SSB's 'words' or speaking style can only be described as a form of packaging, as seems to happen, in differing degrees, with all his translated Discourses.On evidence like this, SSB's spokespersons' facile explanations of the Discourse editing discrepancies must be rejected as woefully inadequate as well as misleading to those who have not seen (or heard) evidence of packaging (which, I assume, given the strong hierarchical structure of the SSO, and devotees' general docility, must be a majority of devotees).
Reminders, lessons, and questionsThe major revelations of the Premsai literal translations are of the following important categories of editing changes, which convert the chats or sermons into 'Discourses' and in so doing take the reader further and further away from SSB's simple and natural preaching style, which has always been so effective with his local devotees in the state of Andhra Pradesh but seems less effective for more sophisticated audiences both in India and overseas.
1. Change of sentence style from simple to more complex and sophisticated.
2. Condensation of the spoken original.
3. Enhancement or clarification of sentences or paragraphs.
4. Relocation of information to an earlier or later paragraph, making the whole Discourse more cohesive and stylistically sophisticated.
5. Omission of words, sentences, pages, or facts.
6. Editor's additions and adornments.
The solid evidence of the packaging of SSB's Discourses points to the reasonable conclusion that not only are SSB's Discourses far less impressive stylistically than they have been made out to be,but that his devotees have been mesmerised and bamboozled for decades by the printed word about fundamental aspects of his basic nature, like his exaggerations, careless discrepancies, and elementary errors of fact, as well as a language style so basic that, if the Discourses were heard directly in English, SSB's charisma rating and impact might be much lower for many of his overseas devotees. In this respect, the published Discourses, like the Claims of Divinity, serve to highlight the major mirage aspects of the SSB phenomenon.
Intriguing relevant questions spring to mind (and are reinforced by the examples which follow):
1. Have the printed Discourses always been so distant from the original spoken versions in both style and content?
2. How did the SSB Organisation (and SSB himself) imagine that they could get away with such a smokescreen INDEFINITELY? (Doesn't this display a contempt for the average devotee's intelligence?)
3. What was the reason for the closing down of the Premsai website? Was it due to official pressure?
4. Why did SSB and his Organisation allow James Redmond to videotape so many Discourses, some with potentially damaging information, like the Christmas 1996 Discourse? These are now freely available (and beyond the Organisation's control) for anyone (including later scholars) to study?
5. Why didn't WE (i.e. former devotees like myself) and others (particularly SSB's small band of persistent critics, like the Indian Rationalists and a few other pioneering individuals) spot, study, and reveal this glaringly obvious and important fact earlier?
6. Why do today's devotees continue not only to tolerate and swallow the not infrequent passages of SSB's rambling improvisations but also to revere them as uniformly profound and edifying?
7. In view of the minute attention accorded by devotees to all of SSB's words and actions, we may ask once more: How is it possible for SSB's "words" - as opposed to his teachings - to be quoted with any accuracy?
Over the years, Sathya Sai Baba has basked in the total adoration and uncritical indulgence of his devotees. (See 4 DEVS ) During the delivery of each Telugu Discourse, his personal charisma carries him along as he freely improvises his rambling spiritual teachings. It is not certain whether SSB himself substantially contributes to the pre-publication editing process but what seems to have become standard practice within the Organisation is for his associates to tidy up ("package") each speech in their usual professional way. For their part, his editors are used to SSB's oratorical modus operandi and, although (as educated persons) they may cringe slightly here and there in temporary embarrassment when SSB delivers another tediously repetitive (or 'rambling') paragraph or another confusing remark or reference, they are probably secure in the knowledge that they have carte blanche to expunge the undesirable bits and to condense the repetitions into a reasonably clear message.
However, as we are now beginning to see, particularly with the ephemeral 'Premsai' evidence, what is eventually printed for wide circulation really becomes more of a hybrid form, a condensation (and sometimes a selection) of SSB's words, ideas and concepts, significantly enhanced by the editors' language and stylistic skills.
Because of the Premsai 'literal' translations, and other scattered evidence, anyone can now do his/her own basic research on SSB's real style and personality as a preacher by freely choosing any of the recoverable literal translations in his/her preferred language and matching them with the official printed versions. I recommend to readers the Christmas 2000 Discourse to start with (as well as the full versions of others we have just sampled). If readers have not been faced with this sort of direct evidence before, they may be in for a bit of a surprise.
The Premsai literalEnglish translations of these 60 Discourses are still available here.
(American readers, please adjust the European day and month notation to your preferred format, for example, 05-04 >> 04-05; 25-12 >>12-25.)
05-04-2000; 09-04-2000; 12-04-2000; 13-04-2000; 14-04-2000; 06-05-2000; 16-07-2000; 11-08-2000; 30-09-2000; 25-12-2000.
19-01-2001; 22-02-2001; 26-03-2001; 02-04-2001; 14-04-2001; 06-05-2001; 07-05-2001; 10-06-2001; 04-07-2001; 05-07-2001; 16-07-2001; 17-07-2001; 11-08-2001; 22-08-2001; 31-08-2001; 09-10-2001; 20-10-2001; 21-10-2001; 22-10-2001; 23-10-2001; 24-10-2001; 25-10-2001; 26-10-2001; 18-11-2001; 23-11-2001; 25-12-2001.
14-01-2002; 19-01-2002; 28-02-2002; 12-03-2002; 13-03-2002; 13-04-2002; 21-04-2002; 16-05-2002 (A.M.); 16-05-2002 (P.M.); 18-05-2002; 19-05-2002; 20-05-2002; 21-05-2002; 22-05-2002; 23-05-2002; 24-05-2002; 26-05-2002; 27-05-2002; 29-05-2002; 21-07-2002; 22-07-2002; 23-07-2002; 24-07-2002; 10-09-2002.
Although the Premsai literal translations were a godsend to researchers, there had already been enough scattered evidence to support a hypothesis that SSB's Discourses tended not only to be translated and edited, but to be virtually re-written before being published for the majority of his devotees who were not able to be present to hear them. Given other evidence of muddled, contradictory or erroneous statements in some of the officially edited Discourses, it seemed reasonable to assume that SSB's Organisation might have a good reason to rephrase some of the erratic or unimpressive spontaneous words and thoughts of an alleged Avatar. Below are some of my early 'finds'. They show the same sorts of 'packaging' characteristics as the later examples offered by the Premsai Telugu-speaking devotee translators. (Check, in particular, the relative lengths of the extracts and especially sentence lengths, and important differences of style and expression.) It therefore does not seem fanciful to assume that future serious research on the audiocassettes will reveal much more evidence of a similar kind.
24 March 1974.
[Bold type added]
"SHRI N. Kasturi has translated many of Baba's discourses and these have been published in the seven volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks. More volumes are yet to follow.
"I happened to translate Bhagavan's speech on Ugadi Day, 24-3-1974. The speech and translation were taped by Shri R.R. Kamani. I have reproduced the translation here as a specimen of such discourses... It will, of course, be included in the appropriate volume of speeches."
[But it was not, as can be seen in the official version printed after Gokak's version, and so it allows us an early glimpse at different Discourse versions.]
"Speaking on Ugadi or Telugu New Year Day on 24-3-1974, Bhagavan said that
'The names of the years of the Calendar are deceptive. This samvatsara or year is named Ananda or Delight. But this year will be full of monstrosities. Delight springs within ourselves. It does not come from the names of calendar years.'" (In V. K. Gokak, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Man and the Avatar, 2nd ed, New Delhi, Abhinav, 1983)
The official edited translation is not only very different from the Gokak "original", but it is abridged, particularly in the second half. There is no editor's note that these are, in effect, edited excerpts. Nevertheless, there are also passages which seem to have been ADDED. (It is, of course, possible that they were added later at SSB's request or that Gokak left pieces out of his version.)
"The Name of the New Year that begins today is inspiring and auspicious. It is called Aanandha --- Spiritual Bliss, inner joy, unshakable calm. That name is a clarion call, which must ring in your ears all the 365 days of the New Year --- earn Aanandha, be Aanandha, become Aanandha." (Sathya Sai Speaks,Vol. XII, 1973-74, pp. 36-42) (The 'monstrosities' have been deleted. Yet Gokak heard him predict them.)
"There are many insects of fame in this world who wish to acquire a reputation. When they see that the name, Sathya Sai, has caught up in all the four corners of the world, they wish to affix this name to their own, in the hope that they may be famous. It is my name, after all, that they affix to theirs and they feel happy. Their happiness makes me happy.
"It is my mission on earth to make every one happy. If a person finds happiness in blaming me, let him be happy that way. There are some who say 'yes' to Sai and others who say 'no'. Some may describe Sai as good; others as bad. This has no reference to me whatsoever. The good or the filth of it proceeds from their mouth. not me.
"I am a witness both to the praise and the blame. In all these matters I am like a fan at work in summer. It gives comfort if it is switched on. It makes one uncomfortable in the heat, if switched off. But heat and coolness are relative terms. They have little to do with the fan itself. But in the way of this world, good and evil are a tangled yarn. Clear as well as muddy water flow together in the running stream.
"Always it is the fruit-tree in the orchard that attracts stones thrown by little children. The fruit-bearing trees have to remember this fact. To be subjected to a stone throw is evidence of fruitfulness, of goodness.
"Pursuing the path of Love, lot us act fearlessly, regardless of any consequence because, ultimately, the Truth will prevail. In fact, Truth will not be Truth and Love, unless there are some obstacles in their path."
2. Sathya Sai Speaks reduces and substantially rewrites this as:
"In fact, I am the Witness of activity, not a participant. I am like the electric fan; switch it on, it gives cool breeze. Switch it off, it allows you to swelter in the heat. I have no likes or dislikes. Those who talk ill of Me are also remembering My name and deriving joy therefrom and perhaps earning a few paise thereby. They are happy when they write falsehood; you are happy singing the truth. I am unconcerned with either. I have come on a task which I imposed on Myself. That task will go on, from victory to victory, irrespective of praise or blame. It can neither be halted or hindered.
Truth knows no defeat, nor fear. No trace of fear can tarnish the purity of the heart that is shining in the splendour of Truth."
1 October 1976
Both of the following are official edited translations, but only the second one is the official SSO version. There are observable differences. The first version sounds more spontaneous but it is the second which will go down as SSB's official words.
"All of you who have entered the SSO, if anyone asks you what is the religion of Sathya Sai and of Sathya Sai Organization, you must have the courage and the determination to say with one voice, that the essence of all religions is the religion of the Sathya Sai Organization." (E.Fanibunda: p. 109)
"That is the Sai religion, the religion that feeds and fosters all religions and emphasises their common Greatness. Take up this religion, boldly and joyfully." (p. 148) (Sathya Sai Speaks, XIII, 139-148. The Chapter Title is given as: 'The Sai Religion'.)
"Christ made many attempts to demonstrate and propagate this infinite divine Love. Having lost his father at the tender age of ten, he sought the permission of his mother, and set out to begin his mission of serving the society. Bathing in the sacred waters of the river Jordan, he went to his Guru then and took three vows:
1: "I will experience divine Love and propagate and exemplify it to mankind under all circumstances. This is the objective of my life."
2: "I will not be elated by praise nor be dismayed when criticized. I will maintain equanimity."
3: "I will recognize Love, the inherent divinity in each man, and share Love with all men."
(A free-ranging unofficial version posted by devotees on SaiNET.)
The official tidied up version available in .pdf form from www.sssbpc.org. Chapter title: 'The Mission of Jesus':
"It was to teach mankind the greatness of divine love that Jesus came. His father passed away when Jesus was ten years old. Thereafter, with the permission of his mother, he embarked on his ministry of service to the people. He resolved on three tasks: one, to be filled with Divine love and to share it with others was the main purpose of his life; two, he should not succumb to praise or censure in carrying out his mission; three, to inspire in others the conviction that the Divinity within is omnipresent."
What is particularly interesting here is that the literal version also offers the following novel information from SSB, of which there is not a sign in the official version. The unofficial translators cannot have made this up.
"The season of Christmas is associated with Christmas Grandpa or Santa Claus. Tokovan was his original name. He was born in Turkey. He began his career as a priest and gradually began to attain spiritual heights. How did he become a spiritual giant? By the spirit of sacrifice. He used to give a chocolate or a doll or a gift to any child he met. All his life he kept on giving continuously. When Christmas was approaching, all the children used to run behind Santa Claus. He used to carry all the gifts in a bag and distribute to all the children. In what manner did he distribute? He said, "Here is a token of God's Love. Here is a token of God's Love," and thus distributed them. Eventually he came to be called Christmas Grandpa, and his original name was forgotten."
April 1999 (Yugadi)
An Indian devotee contributed to a SSB devotee Internet forum the full version of the 1999 Yugadi Discourse as translated into English from the Tamil version printed in Sanathana Sarathi for April 1999. When compared with the official version (obtained from Sai Darshan), there are very interesting differences of editing according to the respective audiences: local (in Tamil Nadu) and, from the Indian devotee, for a more international audience (including, of course, the majority of Indian devotees, who do not speak Telugu). (Some allowances must also be made for the fact that the simpler version has been translated twice: from Telugu to Tamil, and then into English)
"I said to Vajpayee that not only India but other countries also will unite and live in peace and security very soon. 'Vajpayee, you are a good man. You take good efforts. Be friends with Pakistan and China. When India, China and Pakistan unite together, there will be no equal to that unity.' I mentioned this in the evening of the 11th. Vajpayee came on the 13th. He said, 'Swami, I am very happy. The leaders of Pakistan and China are going to visit India.' Because of his good thoughts, he has obtained such good friendship."
(Simple, with no personal claims)
The official version:
"I told Vajpayee, 'Vajpayee, you are a good person, making efforts in the right direction. But, develop friendship with Pakistan and China. If India, Pakistan and China become united, they will make a formidable force.' I told this on 11th evening. Vajpayee again came on 13th and informed that he was happy that both Pakistan and China had responded positively to his invitation. He said, 'It is Swami's Divine Will that has made it possible.'"
(The editors appear to have put the Divine claim in the Prime Minister's mouth.)
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