The Truth Resuscitated: Suppressed Evidence Reappears
(A Brief Update on the Packaging of SSB's Discourses)
Brian Steel February 2004
Copyright © Brian Steel 2004
From 1953 to the present, the vast majority of SSB's Discourses have been given in his native TELUGU language, with on the spot interpretation into English (and sometimes into other languages) by one of his ubiquitous spokespersons. The official printed versions studied and quoted by most devotees and writers are edited translations into English and many other languages.
1. What impressions would you draw about the speaker of the following statements?
"This Bhutakasha is very vast. These mountains, these mounds, these forests, these oceans, all of these are in Bhutakasha. This part of Bhutakasha (earth) is a vast area. Its length is 800,000. [800,000 what?] However, the sun is greater than this. This sun is so many times bigger than the earth. However, due to our being 9 crore miles away, it is seen as small. So how much is its dimension? Its dimension is 8,000 crore. (Note: One crore is equal to ten million.) [So, 80 billion what?] Even such a vast sun as that also is a part of this Bhutakasha."
"... In only one second, in the time it takes just to open the eyelids, the light from the stars makes a journey of 160,000 miles per second."
"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."
"Today our Vajpayee undertook so much trouble and came here. Even when it is like that, a leader like that is very necessary in the world. He will give a lot of enthusiasm and encouragement to do good works like this. Ministers who give that type of enthusiasm and encouragement are also very necessary. If the country has to be upheld, good feelings should come to those Ministers."
2. Would the following statements seem to you to be made by the same person?
"The Bhutakasha, which consists of the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars, is very vast. The sun is much bigger than the planet earth, having a diameter of over 8 lakh miles. But it looks small to our eyes, as it is at a distance of 9 crore miles from the earth."
"Light travels at a speed of 180 thousand miles per second." ***
"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."
"Our Prime Minister Vajpayee took great pains to come here. Leaders like him are very essential for this world. He is a leader who supports and encourages noble causes like this. Ministers who extend their cooperation for good causes are very much necessary for the nation to progress. "
Those brief extracts from Discourses by SSB illustrate the essence and the extent of the official packaging of SSB's Discourses. The first extracts are literal translations of SSB's native Telugu, while the second extracts are taken from the official SSO edited translations into English. (The Discourses from which they come are 21 February 2001 (Mahasivaratri 1), 17 November 1995, and 19 Jan 2001.)
For much of SSB's life as a guru, the printed form of his Discourses has reached most of his devotees (the non-Telugu-speaking ones) through the filter of a translator and editor. Although the spoken Discourses are mainly directed at the level of SSB's simple local followers, the subsequent editing process for a more diverse audience, of which we have just seen three examples, goes so far beyond what is normally considered to be 'editing' that the finished product (the 'package') appears to be the work of a person with a totally different style and personality. It is this printed adaptation that is quoted as the word of SSB and submitted to minute sentence by sentence study in weekly 'Study Circles' in SSB Centres in many countries.
Since his first recorded Discourses in the 1950s, SSB has been able to offer many hundreds of his long rambling improvised speeches in the knowledge that his staff will tidy up not only the stylistic expression but many of the inconsistencies, errors, and language infelicities (like those visible in the first extracts above). His early spokesperson and hagiographer, Kasturi, recorded in his biography that for some years SSB himself inspected the edited versions and suggested corrections or amendments but there is no evidence of SSB possessing the sort of sophisticated grasp of written English that woiuld produce passages like those offered above. (It is also relevant to add here that SSB's numerous extempore stories about his childhood and youth and his different versions of the Jesus story are phrased in the same simple style and sometimes show the same sorts of discrepancies as those visible in the first set of extracts.) For more than forty years, part of the impression of SSB's personality formed by devotees has been based on reading these relatively sophisticated packaged translations by his associates rather than the rambling originals.
In several notes and articles posted between 2001 and 2003, I began an examination of the packaging which I had detected in some of SSB's Discourses. In these postings, I first cited a few examples available in books and pamphlets, and, after information received as a result of my preliminary study, I was able to reinforce these with many other examples freely available at the time from the unofficial devotee website, PREMSAI (www.internety.com/premsai). Between 2000 and late 2002 the PREMSAI site volunteers offered fellow devotees LITERAL translations into several languages of SSB's Telugu Discourses. The purpose of this arduous voluntary work by the group of devotee translators (fluent in Telugu and resident in Puttaparthi) was to share with other devotees the simple poetic quality which they felt was completely lost in the official printed translations into their native languages. (In other words, the devotees were unwittingly confirming something never officially admitted: that many, if not most, of SSB's translated Telugu Discourses are subjected to such an intensive packaging process before they are printed that their original style is transformed.)
SSB's Speaking Style
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), devotees who hear SSB give his long Discourses (with no script or written notes) are able to form a distinct impression of the speaker from his short and simple sentence patterns and rhythms. That is the way SSB speaks, his idiosyncratic speaking style - and the English simultaneous translation, done rapidly, in the heat of the moment, although with some necessary compression of words, still seems (as a good interpretation should) to echo this very simple spontaneous style - which is what the PREMSAI translators were endeavouring to recapture.
In a comparison between the PREMSAI literal translations and the later edited translations (and in the other comparisons offered in my previous articles and notes), the alert (and open-minded) reader will notice constant examples of the following important categories of editing changes, which take us further and further away from SSB's simple and natural 'preaching' style, thus giving the reader the different impression of the speaker's speaking style.
1. Change of sentence style from simple to more complex and sophisticated.
2. Condensation of the spoken original.
3. Enhancement, clarification, or correction of sentences or paragraphs
4. Omission of words, sentences, paragraphs, or facts.
5. Other editorial additions and embellishments.
Several months after a critical barrage of Internet postings had drawn public attention to the discrepancies visible (for those willing to read and compare) between these literal translations of SSB's actual words and the official printed versions of the Discourses, the whole PREMSAI volunteer website was suddenly withdrawn from the Internet. This abrupt disappearance of most of the best evidence of Discourse packaging made it virtually impossible for others to verify a lot of the examples which we had previously offered as proof of the extent and regularity of these substantial discrepancies. Meanwhile, the official SSO spin doctors went around soothing the flock with their usual evasive or inaccurate comments, without a word to explain why the literal words of a guru acclaimed as God incarnate and omniscient needed not only to be enhanced but hidden from sight.
In view of the loss of the valuable evidence provided by the Premsai volunteer devotees, it is now very encouraging to be able to report the discovery of a new website where many of these vital pieces of historical evidence are preserved. At this site, we are now able not only to check all those earlier references to PREMSAI translations but also to compare for ourselves the complete literal versions in English with the official versions available in print and on the SSO official websites. There are 60 Discourses available in English here, so present and future researchers have been handed a fairly important treasure trove of the raw evidence which some people (presumably) did not want to remain on public view.
For languages other than English, I assume that there are still copies of the original literal translations available in many scattered private archives. For further research into the packaging question, it is to be hoped that these French, Spanish, German (etc.) literal translations will also resurface to enable those who wish to make the necessary comparisons with the corresponding official translated versions in Sanathana Sarathi, Sathya Sai Speaks, and on the official SSO websites (and unofficial devotee sites).
Here is a chronological list of the 60 literal English translations now available on the new website. (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.
The whole PREMSAI website disappeared in October of that year.
The second example offered above (about the 'bomb') comes not from the Premsai site but from an OFFICIAL SSO booklet issued in November 1995 by the Central Office of the SSO. (I am deeply grateful to my friend, Serguei Badaev not only for bringing the booklet to my attention but for sending me a copy - before it disappears?) In fact, the SSO prepared and issued special booklets of eight of SSB's November Discourses, compiled by Dr S. Muralidhara Rao. 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 were no longer able to consult directly until recently with the new website offering the Premsai literal versions.)
Given nuclear developments in India after 1995, SSB's original spontaneous remarks could have proved highly embarrassing, but for most devotees, all that remains of the original 142 (equivalent) words are the 38 politically correct ones chosen by the official editors and printed in Sathya Sai Speaks, XXVIII, Chapter 29.)
If any proof were still needed, this 'sanitised' reduction of the equivalent of 142 words to 38 (a mere third of the original) is NOT ordinary editing, whatever SSB's spokespersons and apologists declare in public addresses and letters; it is sophisticated re-writing, in a style very different from SSB's spontaneous and carefree expression.
For further reference:
Chapter 2 - The Packaging of SSB's Discourses
Fresh Light on Sai Baba's Discourses
The Packaging of SSB's Discourses - an Update
For earlier evidence:
Chapter 3: 'The Packaging of Sai Baba's Discourses'
(Original) Appendix: 'More Discourse Comparisons'
See also www.exbaba.com and www.saiguru.net , especially for articles dealing with 'atoms' and 'magnetism'.
Sathya Sai Baba Page
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