Unofficial Addendum to the Wikipedia article on Sathya Sai Baba
Brian Steel August 2005
Copyright © 2005 Brian Steel
(Barrack-room lawyers, please note: This is NOT the beginning of a Counter-Wiki movement.)
On the Internet, the Australian ex-devotee and writer, Brian Steel, has published the results of an extensive text-based investigation into the Divine claims made by Sathya Sai Baba and promoted over several decades by his Organisation. Relying on a close study of the SSB literature, translations of Sathya Sai Baba=s Telugu Discourses, and on new material which has become available since 2000, Steel presents his case for the following claims:
That Sathya Sai Baba's extensive storytelling is a significant part of his teaching (particularly for his Indian devotees).
That his Divine claims (notably that of Omniscience) are not supported by available evidence.
That, in addition to his personal charisma, the main tenets of his teaching, and his psychic gifts, the spread of his fame has relied heavily on his Divine claims, fervent proselytising by his associates, spokespersons and devotees, the expectation of miracles, and on subjective interpretations of many of his comments in basic English to overseas devotees.
That, before distribution to devotees in many languages, his Telugu Discourses are heavily edited after translation; and that a number of revealing literal translations by devotees, published on the Internet in 2000-2002, have been withdrawn since critical attention began to focus on significant differences between them and the official edited versions of the Discourses transmitted in magazines, books and on the Internet.
That the appreciable number of discrepancies, exaggerations and errors to be found in the Discourses, as well as in much of the extensive hagiographical literature written about the guru, underline the need for closer study of the evidence and a less partisan account of some central aspects of the 60-year mission of this famous spiritual leader and initiator of charitable works.
As an introduction to the ongoing media and Internet controversies, and in view of the need for a comprehensive independent study of the life and work of Sathya Sai Baba by scholars and students of New Religious Movements (NRMs - or Charismatic Religious Movements, as Professor Zablocki has termed them), Steel has recently published an annotated research Bibliography on Sathya Sai Baba in three parts, dealing with academic and scholarly writing, miscellaneous critical work, and a guide to the Sathya Sai Baba literature by devotees.
Postscript, December 2007: The main disruptive influence on the Wikipedia article on Sathya Sai Baba was finally penalised in March 2007 and banished from the page. See Diversionary Tactics by an Internet Demagogue. The Wikipedia article is still not a balanced one but perhaps it eventually will be if the (non-expert) contributors take the trouble to read the increasingly abundant evidence and exercise their judgement and critical faculties.
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