The Packaging of Sathya Sai Baba's Discourses (Revised)
Copyright © Brian Steel 2002
In view of the discovery of important recent evidence which corroborates my original suggestion a few months ago (in Chapter 3 of Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru?) that Sai Baba's Telugu Discourses become heavily packaged by the time they are released by the Sathya Sai Organisation as printed products (or Internet pages) for readers in many other languages, I am now able to offer the following condensed composite account.
It consists of a very brief edited extract from Chapter 3 of SSBGOG and the 3 subsequent articles I wrote in February and March 2002 after receiving much clearer (and publicly available) evidence on the SB Organisation editing process. The combined essays offer significant first-hand evidence of the results of the packaging process The references offered also shed new light on SB's style as a speaker and preacher.
(From Chapter 3 of SSBGOG:)
For the first years (1940-1950+), as early devotees have recorded in their memoirs, Sai Baba gave few set talks but merely chatted with his devotees in his native Telugu language.
Love is My Form (Vol. 1), the important recent biographical volume by R. Padmanaban and a team of researchers, claims that SB's first public Discourse was given at Karur, on 26 October, 1947. (LIMF. p.391) Vijayakumari, who was present, states that it was the 25th but, in a summary (Vijayakunmari, pp. 107-109) corroborates that Baba spoke of his childhood experiences and about his miracles. Both volumes (LIMF, p. 487 and Vijayakumari 150-152) also offer summaries of a 1949 Dassera Discourse on Vijayadasami Day by Baba. It is a simple, effective homily, dealing with compassion, satsang, Nishkama prema (unselfish live), with none of the spiritual stories so characteristic of the later Discourses.
It was not until the late 1950s that a slow but dramatic increase in the use of Discourses as a teaching and publicity vehicle began to be visible, after the crucial recruitment of Professor Kasturi (the urbane academic and experienced writer and speaker) to Baba's team of helpers. The first meetings were in 1948, then, at Baba's invitation, Kasturi became a full-time ashram resident from 1954 until his death in 1987.
The editing practices in annotating volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks are sometimes quite idiosyncratic, and at times misleading. In later volumes, the reader is occasionally informed when the Discourse has been abbreviated or summarised with the editorial indications: "from ..." or "Extracts from ...". In previous years, such editorial courtesies seem to have been lacking.
After the editing process, the Discourses were then published by the Sathya Sai Organisation in Sanathana Sarathi (in Telugu, Hindi, English, other Indian languages and eventually, as the devotees' numbers grew, in other European and non-Indian languages. Later still, the Discourses would be published in the individual volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, also in various languages.
At this juncture, it is worth repeating and emphasising the very important point that from 1953 to the present, Baba's Discourses have been given in TELUGU, with interpretation into English and (sometimes) into other languages.
After 30 volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, covering 1954-1997 (a total of approximately 2 million words in my rough estimate), Baba's basic approach to his spontaneous simple talks does not seem to have varied, except perhaps in length, breadth of topics and wealth of detail. 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' books, is a rambling performance, whose thread is usually invisible.
When devotees quote any of these 2 million words by SB (as I am now), they and most of their readers or listeners naturally imagine that they are seeing or hearing Baba'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 Baba'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 as reverently as Christians and Muslims view the contents of the Bible or the Quran. However, it may come as a surprise to them (they may even be offended) to be told that we are NOT given a close translation of Baba'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.
So why is this "packaging" process worth our attention? In my view, because of Sai Baba's claims to be Divine. Surely God's words and speaking style should not need very much, if any, editing and, even if they did, who "on earth" would be capable of doing this accurately and authoritatively? (One might ask, slightly more irreverently, why God would choose to carry out his world mission in such an inaccessible language as Telugu, which is only spoken by approximately 60 million people.)
For the rest of Chapter 3 of SSBGOG, see the Link in the next paragraph.
Fresh Light on Sai Baba's Discourses
In Chapter 3 of SSBGOG (The Packaging of Sathya Sai Baba's Discourses), I presented some strong circumstantial evidence which suggests that there is a very significant difference between the language of Sai Baba's frequent public Discourses (which are usually delivered in his native Telugu language) and the subsequently translated, edited, and printed form of those Discourses. By default, it is this edited form, the only one which is officially circulated by the Sai Baba Organisation, which is accepted by the majority of SB's overseas devotees (who are NOT Telugu speakers and many of whom may never be able to visit his ashram in India) as the authentic version of Baba's public teachings, and, indeed, as the true expression of his OWN WORDS and personality. But available evidence suggests that such a belief may need to be re-assessed.
My initial hypothesis was based not on a knowledge of Telugu but simply on hearing the sentence rhythms of a few Discourses and of the simultaneous translations into English which usually accompany them. After further research, I developed a strong impression that there was a significant (and unacknowledged) discrepancy in language and style between the simple, rambling repetitive-sounding Telugu speeches (aimed mainly at unsophisticated and uneducated listeners) and the heavily edited and more sophisticated form printed and distributed in many languages by SB's Organisation (in the monthly magazine, Sanathana Sarathi and the (more or less) annual volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks).
It became more and more apparent that the person who delivered the real Discourses was in fact rather different from the image projected to the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of readers of the printed words.
Even if this is true, why should it matter? Nowadays public figures are aided more and more by a staff of aides, advisers and speechwriters. No one criticises President Bush for reading speeches written mostly by other people, which often include clever sound-bites, 'spin', appealing phraseology and images, all intended to produce a particular effect on the audience.
Moreover, editors perform an important professional function in all forms of communication. For instance, a writer's work can benefit greatly from the editing process.
However, in the case of Sai Baba and his Discourses, the apparent packaging of his message takes place after he has delivered it in public. The resulting edited product is still labelled with the date of his original Discourse, with no warning that the form of those original words and sentences have been significantly amended. These enhanced versions of his lengthy speeches or informal 'chats' present quite a different picture of Sai Baba 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 significant this packaging becomes.
The concept of a more 'basic' Baba persona than that presented by the SSB Organisation would also fit in with other evidence of niggling discrepancies about his claimed Divine nature and abilities. Equally importantly, significant differences between the original and the edited Discourses would cast a heavy shadow of doubt over the millions of spoken and written quotations to be found in the vast Sai Baba literature.
Since I had already come across other evidence which suggested that not everything about Sathya (=Truth) Sai Baba rang true, I had to try to investigate further. Although it was very difficult to find corroborating written evidence of these discrepancies, I managed to find more than enough to prove the prima facie point that sophisticated associates and assistants in Sai Baba's entourage and Organisation have been presenting to the world a much more polished and literate image of their guru than the language reality appears to support. (Unless Sai Baba is his own editor, which seems unlikely in the face of the available evidence about his use of language.)
Since finishing that earlier study, it has been brought to my attention that at least for the past two years there has been an excellent (and completely reliable) Internet source of literal translations from the original Telugu recordings, not only into English but also into several European languages.
This priceless windfall for researchers comes to us from a very dedicated ashram-resident group of (youngish?) faithful devotees and translators who are so enamoured of their Swami that they wish to preserve what they describe as the original "Telugu poetic style" - which by implication suggests (interestingly) that they too have not only noticed but probably object to the heavy post-editing of Sai Baba's words in the official printed versions of his Discourses.
The latest surviving website on which this welcome bonanza can be inspected in English is to be found<"http://www.exbaba.com/premsai/premsai.html">here. Some of the translations offer this (or a similar) guarantee of the authenticity of the product:
"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."
What more could one ask for! With these serendipitous 'Premsai' translations we at last have the opportunity to appreciate the true nature of the original Telugu Discourses. They are like the answers to a researcher's dream and any interested, or puzzled, reader can now compare for himself or herself these translations of selected Discourses into English, French, Italian, etc. (mainly in 2000 and 2001, and continuing) with the official versions printed in Sanathana Sarathi and Internet sources of official translations, for example www.eaisai.com/baba , www.sathyasai.org/ , or the newer official site, www.srisathyasai.org.in
After examining some of these translations, I find my original suspicions of heavy editing amply confirmed. I strongly recommend that readers should see these translations for themselves. All I wish to add here, since these translations were not known to me when I wrote my book, is a brief new set of basic proofs of the sort of packaging of SB's words that appears to go on within the SB Organisation. The examples chosen may also contribute to the composition of a slightly different 'identikit' picture of Sai Baba himself.
For the Yugadi Discourse on 5 April 2000, the Premsai website gives the following literal translation of the first few paragraphs:
"Embodiments of Love!
"As long as man has ego and pomp, no one will love him. His own children and his own wife will not love him. Ego and pomp-and-show make love distant from man. The day that this ego and pomp-and-show is gone from man, the whole world will love him.
"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."
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 Baba's words have been packaged.
In a second example, I wish to draw attention to another editing characteristic which I mentioned in my original book: the editing of Baba'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 is 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 Baba'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, Baba is simply rambling on and presenting a rather muddled set of concepts. Finally he indulges in another of his favorite, but occasionally inaccurate or inventive, pastimes: the derivation of Sanskrit words (See Chapter 2). The editors have decided to improve on both of these communication deficiencies in their efficient, pragmatic way, but by doing so they have suppressed, or camouflaged, SB's real spoken style.
The editors continue in the same professional way by totally DELETING the following self-indulgent and inventive passage (of fourteen lines) which is in the Premsai (literal) version:
Name of Krishna
"Now, here is a small example of Divinity. Krishna. Many people have different kinds of Asha (expectations), different kinds of Love. How many letters are there in the word 'Krishna'? Most people would say that 'Krishna' has two letters ('Kri' and 'shna' of all Indian languages including Sanskrit and Telugu). But no! There are five letters in the word 'Krishna.'
"We have the sound of ka, rru, a, sha, and a. Krishna. Ka - rru. Do you see? What does 'ka' stand for? 'Ka' is the name of Rama Devi (Goddess of Wealth). 'Ka' means Rama Devi. 'Rru' is Sita. Therefore, each letter has a meaning. 'Sha' is for 'Shanti' (Peace). Then, this 'a' is for 'Adi Shakti' (the Primordial Power).
"If you look at it like this, the five elements and the five senses are contained in the name of Krishna. They defined the name of Krishna as Karasha Teeti Krishnah. Karasha means 'ploughing the land'. So it means the one who ploughs the field of our heart is God. When the field becomes soft, the one who sows the seed of Love is only God. Therefore, Karash Teeti Krishanah. Kushu Teeti Krishnah. (The one who makes the effort also is Krishna.) Aakaarsha Teeti Krishnah. (The one who attracts is Krishna)." (www.internety.com/premsai)
And who can really blame them for concealing SB's self-indulgent garrulousness? Baba seems to be talking carelessly, to put it mildly, and, by censoring these ill-considered remarks, the editors are simply attempting to protect his august and 'divine' reputation. But surely a person who claims to be GOD should neither give cause for nor condone such severe censorship! To put it slightly differently, when one sees the full extent of the editors' actions (in this Discourse and in others), is one not tempted to begin to question the judgement and the knowledge of the original speaker?
According to the valuable Premsai evidence available, this sort of editorial intervention happens constantly, with the frequent effect (as with this Discourse) that the official version is much shorter than the original. So what readers often see in print is a very condensed version of what Sai Baba chose to say.
In the passage immediately following the one above, the final official version reported on www.eaisai.com/baba has simply:
"Human heart is full of love. Many students write to Me, "Swami, I love You." They use the symbol of Hridaya to denote love. This means Hridaya is that which is filled with love and compassion. Hridaya is the very form of God." (3 lines)
But the original (Premsai) translated version contains the following seven and a half lines (in the original):
Heart and God One
"The heart in everyone is the form of Love. Many children write, "I love you." They put 'I', then they draw the shape of a heart like this. (Swami draws a heart shape.) Then they put 'you'. What is the meaning of drawing like this (with the heart shape)? They write 'I', then the heart shape, then 'you.' This is Hridaya (heart). "I love you" means Love is the heart. Love is the heart only. The heart is the Love of God.
'Hri' plus 'daya' equals Hridaya, meaning that which is full of compassion is the Hridaya or heart. That which has Love is the heart. Therefore, Love is the heart and the heart is Love. Therefore, that heart is the very form of God. So, God only is the form in the heart." (www.internety.com/premsai)
Again, Sai Baba in expansive, rambling, repetitive mode, with a few confusing elements thrown in. In fact, the more one sees of the original Telugu content of the Discourses, the more surprise one is likely to feel at the frequent evidence of Baba's repetitions, confusing sequences, inventions, and lack of coherence or organisation. The enraptured translators' phrase "poetic style" would surely not be the description that most people would associate with such characteristics.
Such is the unconditional and unquestioning worship by most of Baba'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. As we have seen, the group of translators at the Premsai website worship what they see as Baba's "poetic style" and they are making strenuous efforts to make it known to other devotees.
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 Baba's advancing age, perhaps more blatant, 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, Sai Baba's devotees may need to face these inconvenient realities.
The Discourses tend to last for about an hour. Sai Baba'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 as we have seen, for those who are present on the occasions of the speeches, the content is SO spontaneous and repetitive 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 pick out and benefit from the spiritual 'gems' and probably 'skip' or ignore the extraneous bits and, often, the frequent simple parables and homilies from Hindu scriptures.
Over the years, Sathya Sai Baba appears to have basked in the total adoration and uncritical indulgence of his devotees. (See Chapter 4 of Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru?) 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 Baba himself contributes to the subsequent editing process but what seems to have become standard practice within the Organisation is that his associates will thoroughly tidy up ("package") each speech in their usual professional way. For their part, his editors are used to Baba's oratorical modus operandi and, although they may cringe slightly here and there in temporary embarrassment as Baba 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 with this new 'Premsai' evidence, what is eventually printed for wide circulation really becomes more of a hybrid form, a condensation (and sometimes a selection) of SB's words, ideas and concepts, significantly enhanced by the editors' language and stylistic skills.
SO HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR "SAI BABA'S WORDS" TO BE ACCURATELY QUOTED?
Because of the Premsai 'literal' translations, anyone can now do his/her own basic research on SB's real personality as a preacher by freely choosing any of the available literal translations in his/her preferred language and matching them with the official written versions. I recommend the Christmas 2000 Discourse to start with (as well as the full versions of the two we have just sampled). If she/he has not been faced with this sort of evidence before, she/he may be in for a bit of a surprise.
SB's Discourses. More Nonsense (24 February 2002)
The more one digs ...
My recent posting of 'Fresh Light on SB's Discourses' showed clearly (and with evidence posted by devotees) that the hypotheses and suggestions put forward in my Web-book 'SSB - God or Guru?' are well founded: That SB's discourses are carefully packaged by the publishing branch of SB's Organisation and often bear little resemblance to what he actually said (in Telugu).
That posting was prompted by correspondence from two readers of SSBGOG, to whom I am grateful. I have now had time to sift through other evidence sent to me in the past 3 months by correspondents and I wish to share that too, because it seems to indicate that, although we have all been mesmerised and bamboozled over the years, some individuals have managed (at least recently) to extract bits and pieces of evidence of the real TRUTH about SSB but they have tended to keep it to themselves (for a variety of reasons) even though they would have liked to reveal their discoveries. I also hope to expand on this one day in another short paper on the unseen bulk of this particular iceberg of information.
One of my aims in offering this new and important information is that all individuals who have managed to glean clues to the TRUTH about SSB should be encouraged to share it with the rest of us - and with those current SB devotees who are sufficiently open to take such important evidence into serious consideration.
What I present below is further strong evidence that the Telugu Discourses as given by SB (often or always) contain alarming elementary errors of fact and confused thinking, as well as a language style so basic that, if heard in English, it might be much less impressive than Baba's charisma and devotees' total acceptance of all his actions seem to make it.
Even though we have all been far too mesmerised by SB's persona and charisma and by the mountain of hagiographical books written about him by adoring and well-meaning devotees (mea culpa too!) for so many years, the mounting evidence, which has been spilling out in the past two years (and there seems to be plenty more for others to dig out and reveal!) is that the edited and printed Discourses are no more than a mirage.
Intriguing and extremely 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 SB Organisation (and SB 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. Why did SB and his Organisation allow James Redmond to video so many Discourses, some with such potentially damaging information as that contained in example 1 below, which is now freely available (beyond the Organisation's control) for us (and later scholars) to study?
4. Since the 'discrepancies' appear to be increasing nowadays, is there any possibility that Sai Baba is suffering from a degenerative ageing disease which might have an effect on his thinking and speaking?
5. Why didn't WE and others (particularly SB's critics, like the Indian Rationalists and a few other pioneering individuals) spot ALL THIS EARLIER?
6. Why do today's devotees continue not only to tolerate and swallow this sort of rambling gobbledegook but also to revere it as profound and edifying (or even 'poetic')?
TWO MORE EXAMPLES
1. Christmas 1996
What follows is a series of short extracts from the simultaneous English translation of the Christmas Discourse, 1996, as captured on the James Redmond Video (See Bibliography).
The extracts were transcribed and sent to me by a friend, Dhyani Jo. Although I have not yet been able to locate a copy of the video, I have implicit trust in this friend. Moreover, it is a sad fact that the extracts now fit in very convincingly with the pattern of my previous revelations (and of others which will follow if other people can now be persuaded to take a close look at the evidence available).
NONE of this astonishingly confused information was finally printed in the official version in Sathya Sai Speaks, XXIX, but in a note on page 393 we learn that:
"[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.]"
Doubtless, the editors saw that SB had had a 'bad day', but readers of their version will never know that.
Here, then, are my excerpts from the longer text sent by Dhyani Jo, to whom I am also grateful for some expert editing advice:
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."
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 SB's general credibility and even his thought processes - whatever his other powers and characteristics. (Incidentally, in Chapter 5, we shall see that around 1980, John Hislop had had to tell SB that Jews and Christians were not of the same faith. By Christmas 1996, Baba had forgotten this.)
2. Ladies' Day Discourse, 19-11-01
Please pay special critical attention to this example. This is NOT just a funny bedtime story. All is NOT as it SEEMS!
This recent example was brought to my notice by a fellow researcher. The following italicised piece of an official EDITED version of Sai Baba's 'Ladies' Day discourse on 19 November 2001 contains additional padding which appears to be utter NONSENSE! The extract from the official versions is so astonishing that it raises even more questions:
1. Why did the SB Organisation, which, as we have seen, amends much of what SB says without any qualms, allow this extraordinarily damaging evidence of totally muddled thinking to appear (in slightly different versions) in print (Sanathana Sarathi, January 2002), and on the Internet, www.eaisai.com/baba?
2. What were Baba's original words? Could they have been even more nonsensical? How can we tell? By checking with the 'Premsai' Internet version!
(A propos of Premsai and its valuable literal versions of recent Discourses, my fear is that perhaps with the unwelcome publicity, the whole site may be closed down, by order from above. So, please copy as many of the Premsai discourses now available - in several languages - for later study and comparison with the official versions! http://www.internety.com/premsai)
(Addendum 9 years later: Those fears were well-founded. Within months of my publishing these analyses in 2002, the voluntary group of SSB Devotees stopped doing their translating seva into several languages and the literal translations were removed from the website. Further commentary has been made in other later articles on the "packaging" of SSB. However, copies of the English translations are still available to researchers and other seekers of truth here.)
This is the short passage from the Ladies' Day Discourse (first in the www.eaisai.com/baba version).
"So be happy in the present. Swami expects all parents to achieve fulfilment in their lives by moulding their children into virtuous persons. They should always aspire for the goodness and well-being of their children. It is a good boy who becomes a god boy.
"How did the term good boy get modified? During the British regime, they used to say good boy. Later it became good-bye. Thereafter, the word 'good' vanished and 'bye' has remained. In this way, with the passage of time, various words have become perverted. But what we should accomplish is being a good boy. Give up selfishness and become selfless. Self is lovelessness and love is selflessness." [Italics added.]
For comparison, here is the very slightly different version printed in Sanathana Sarathi, for January 2002 (p. 22).
"It is a good boy who becomes a god boy. A bad boy can never become a god boy. How did the term good boy get modified? During British times, they used to say good boy. Later it became goodbye. Thereafter the word 'good' disappeared and 'bye' has remained. In this way, with the passage of time, changes occur in words and their meanings. But what you should accomplish is to become a good boy. From good boy you will gradually become a god boy."
So, any reader will immediately see what is wrong here and point an accusing finger: "Aha! Nonsensical!" Right? WRONG!
Here is the literal translation from the Telugu original by 'Premsai', just released in the last few days (of February 2002):
"Good boy, good boy, good boy. Only that good boy will become a God boy. But a bad boy will not become a God boy. Others should think of your child as a good boy, good boy. How did it come in the past? In the past, when all the British people were here, they all used to say, "Good boy!" But afterwards they said, "Good-bye." Afterwards, this 'good' went away and only 'Bye-bye, bye-bye' was said. (Laughter) Due to time changing in this way, all words have changed. But what we should achieve is good boy. Become a good boy and I am hoping that finally you will take the form, of a God boy."
What has happened, and we can only tell because of this Premsai literal version (which most devotees may not see), is that Baba's characteristically feeble pun on the English (good boy and good-bye) has not even been understood by his EDITORS, who have interpreted his padding, or 'waffle', if I may use that term, as yet another factual error of his! If you look at the italicised bits above, you will see that they are NOT in the (Premsai) original. They are characteristic ADDITIONS or 'enhancements' by Baba's editors. Except that this time they have got him INTO trouble, not OUT of it! It is the editors who have made this section of the Discourse sound like nonsense! Red faces all round, I guess, and some more recipients of SB's famous wrath.
(NEW) April Postscript:
Even more ironic is that fact that I have just come across a PREVIOUS version of this same muddled playing with words. (Another example of SB repeating his simple Telugu stories.) For interest and completeness, but also to underline that neither SB nor his SSO advisors and editors seem to care overmuch about the content or impact of what he says or they print, here is SB's version (only available in the packaged version) of 11 September, 1998 , a Discourse to students - 3 years prior to the Discourse just commented on. This earlier version sounds even more muddled!
"They should develop good qualities. Good qualities will become God qualities. During the British rule, children were addressed as 'God boys'. Later on due to the effect of Macaulay's system of education, 'God boy' became 'Good boy'. After sometime 'Good boy' became 'Good-bye'. Later on, even 'Good' was removed, only 'Bye-bye' remained. 'God boy' has come down to the level of 'Bye-bye' due to the effect of modern education. You should remain as 'God boys' and 'Good boys', and never come down to the level of 'Bye-bye'." (www.eaisai.com/baba )
The Packaging of SB's Discourses - An Update (March 2002)
Between mid-February when I last reported to you all and mid-March, four new Premsai literal versions of SB's Discourses have appeared, but the scene has changed somewhat - to the advantage of those who wish to see the truth and for any present or future researchers into the history of SB's Mission.
A reminder. The Premsai original translations are prefaced by this announcement:
"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."
As we saw previously, the impressively and attractively designed Premsai Website was set up by translator devotees who wanted to recapture the original flavour of SB's simple and 'poetic' Telugu Discourses with a literal translation into several languages. The radical NEW element is that since late 2001 we are offered a CHOICE between "SAITRAD"versions, which are those of the OFFICIAL "booklet", and the usual PREMSAI literal translations of the audiocassette of the Telugu Discourse. (There is also an AUDIO option with which one may hear the original Discourse - again excellent material for researchers as well as the devotees it is intended for. See http://www.internety.com/premsai for all this.)
So, suddenly, discerning consumers are being offered a convenient two-flavour 'one-stop' website where both (conflicting) versions may be compared. The SAITRAD (edited) offerings are in fact the same as those presented unofficially by http://www.eaisai.com/baba and later printed by the SSO. These highly edited versions are therefore those which readers of Sai literature will be offered (NOT the more authentic Premsai originals) in the Organisation magazine and published books. Without wasting time on futile speculation, it has to be pointed out that, on a site which proudly proclaimed itself as not an official one (in spite of the Anil Kumar Satsang which has also been on offer), the expansion seems a strange innovation for this devoted group of aficionados of SB's Telugu poetic style.
Why make it SO easy for us all to see the embarrassing difference between the rambling style and discrepancies and confusion of the original and the more polished and packaged product? However, after so much earlier hard work tracking down a few scattered original versions of Discourses, I am not complaining - except at the great difficulty in matching up the various pieces of the disparate versions, and seeing exactly what has been deleted and which additions are present.
In this intervening month, four new Discourses have been offered in PREMSAI (original) versions. The SAITRAD official pages (like www. eaisai.com/baba) offer many more, including the latest two Mahasivaratri Discourses - with photos, which, by the way, are inconclusive either way (true /fake). The four SAITRAD/PREMSAI Discourses which can be compared are those of the 76th Birthday on 23 November 2001, the Christmas day Discourse, and the first two PREMSAI versions for 2002: 14 and 19 January.
Originally I had intended to analyse and report on all four of these 'windfalls', but after ploughing laboriously through the two vastly different versions of the Christmas and Birthday Discourses, I have had a surfeit and I must leave the rest to you. At a later date, I may have something to add about the forthcoming PREMSAI Mahasivaratri versions, if this seems helpful.
Before presenting my brief analysis and comments on the differing versions of SB's speeches, let me clarify an important point and a possible source of misunderstanding: I have absolutely NO criticism to make of SB for choosing a particular content and spoken style to give his teachings to his audiences. That is literally his business. In view of the fact that those who are actually present to listen to the Discourses are, in the majority, simple Indian people, a simple style (like that of SB's Telugu - although most non-local Indians do NOT understand this language), with colloquial quotations and simple stories, would seem a very appropriate vehicle for a spiritual teacher. For all we know, SB may be capable of other styles of address as well, but this is NOT apparent from his Telugu Discourses.
What ANYONE has the right to judge is the fact that what is subsequently presented in written form to the rest of SB's devotees, in India and all over the world, as SB's oral "teachings", is the product of a sophisticated editing process, presumably by other people within the SSO. This different printed product projects an image which does not correspond to the reality of SB's Discourse persona, and, as we have slowly been finding out recently, it often conceals important details which clearly reflect quite adversely on his claims to Divinity and in particular to Omniscience. And it is on this 'improved', packaged version that so many devotees all over the world base their image of SB.
For many people, the most worrying aspect of all this is that the editors of the official Discourses, who are part of the SSO, fail to make any specific comment on the fact that what they are issuing is NOT the real original Discourse. The reader is not made aware of this crucial fact. Why?
Returning to the recent PREMSAI and SAITRAD versions, the first general observation is, as usual, on the obvious difference in length between the two versions. The SAITRAD translated and edited versions are invariably shorter, often MUCH shorter, than the "original" translation. This in itself is a clear indication that something or other must have been condensed or left out.
Now, at last, to deal with the lengthy Christmas 2001 Discourse. Throughout the speech, SB's editors deal with his rambling, meandering style by consolidating his thoughts into longer, sophisticated paragraphs, and cutting out a lot of unnecessary bits and some doubtful remarks. But, as with most recent Christmas discourses, SB'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.
For example, the following 'original' 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."
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."
comes out in the carefully edited version as:
"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 packaged SAITRAD version reads:
"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 SB stumbles momentarily over the 'Bible' and his hapless editors seem equally unaware of the existence and relevance to Christians of the 'New Testament'. Really!
"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 (SAITRAD):
"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 SB 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), and 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 which the editors jump in and 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 I've had enough! I don't think I want to go on with this at the moment. I feel sickened, and a little sad. Revealing this sort of unwelcome truth has now become a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.
WHY on earth do the SSO and SB seem oblivious or unconcerned that the packaging has become SO obvious? And why, why ,why, aren't these embarrassing details more widely noticed and discussed by devotees and critics?
For those of you who are now going to study these Premsai translations for yourselves (and for those who prefer an incentive), you may like to know that in the 2001 Birthday Discourse, the packagers correct an etymological error of SB's, and spend a great deal of effort on condensing the second half into a readable version. A curious feature is (and this is NOT included in the SAITRAD version) that before wandering off into the rather superfluous second half of the Birthday speech, SB had obviously been "winding up" for closure (PREMSAI):
"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)
But SB changed his mind and meandered along familiar byways for another three pages, which the editors reduced to a single consolidated page - mercifully perhaps.
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