As I predicted at the end of my latest blogpost, Ugly Turf War between Central Trust and International Organisation, the sworn peace between Sathya Sai Baba’s Central Trust, managed by the deceased guru’s nephew Rathnakar, and the Sathya Sai International branch (SSSIO), headed by Narendranath Reddy, was of short duration. It was in fact no peace at all, more a shortlived truce, as can be gleaned from below correspondence.
No love lost between Rathnakar and Reddy as International Organisation retracts its statement of intent to join the Global Council
This statement can be found on the main site of the SSSIO since little over a week (end of June):
The Stumbling Block? An irate letter by Rathnakar sent to Reddy on June 26 certainly did not help
As can be read below, the joint declaration of intent to join the Global Council, dated June 1, (see below and also in my earlier blog post), was to be finalised by a mutual, signed agreement on two conditions:
- No disruption in structure and function of the SSSIO
- Mutual acceptance of a so-called TOR, a document pertaining to Terms of Reference
According to the SSSIO, and the CT does not deny this, these terms were agreed upon in the cordial Zoom meeting on May 30, and put into writing following the joint statement. Then discussion, phone calls, mails with TORs et cetera were exchanged in order to reach a final agreement. Every semblance of concord ended when Rathnakar sent the following mail message to dr. Reddy on June 26, in reply to a mail by Reddy that I wasn’t able to retrieve. Note the tone and the frequent use of exclamation marks:
YOUR OWN ACTIONS SHAPE YOUR DESTINY”
– BABA –
Dr. Narendranath Reddy,
Received your mail rejecting the very main clauses of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council. It is important to mention that you are aware of these clauses right from 16th November 2020, day on which the concept note was circulated to you and Mr. Nimish Pandya. You are also aware that this Unifying initiative, SSSGC, was announced on the most auspicious occasion of Bhagawan’s 95th birthday celebrations.
Inspite of receiving uncivil and irrational letters from office bearers of SSSIO accusing SSSCT Trustees and several zoom calls you and your team conducted where vicious and venomous attacks were made, we from SSSCT confined only to giving clarifications to your accusations and tried to appeal to devotees in various centres across countries. We readily came forward for an online zoom meeting accepting your requests on 30th May 2021, putting aside all the innuendos that were made on SSSCT and personal attacks your team heaped on us.
Please understand that we are in the organisations bearing the divine name of “Sri Sathya Sai” where there is neither place for ego nor for self aggrandizement. This is a beautiful organisation created by the loving lord for the sake of devotees and to uplift the entire mankind. This is not our personal organisation where we can bring in our personal agendas and idiosyncrasies. There should not be any clamor for power and positions and endless greed to hold on to our chairs. The main purpose for which we come to the Lotus feet of Sai or join the Sai Organisation is to lose our identity into Him but not to create an identity for ourselves and revel in it.
Painstakingly we have clarified all your concerns and reiterated the position of SSSCT that SSSGC is a Unifying, Coordinating and Supervising body which will not interfere with the structure and functioning of SSSIO and SSSSO. How can we make it a mere superficial body as you are expecting? Please be assured that SSSCT did not initiate SSSGC either to disturb any organisation or to undermine any one of you. If you and your team have any prejudices, preconceived notions, mistrust and wrong opinions about individuals, then you need to deal with such perceptions yourselves, as they are concerned with individual personalities. They cannot be rubbed onto the institutions. Unfortunately you seem to place personal interests above the interests of these sacred and noble institutions started by the Avatar Himself!
In all our exchanges in several meetings, calls and emails, we could not find any logical reason in your unwillingness to accept SSSGC, except your often repeated excuse of ‘divine command’ as published by Dr. Michael Goldstein, in Sanathana Sarathi, 2006. Also, at times you made us feel that SSSIO was only trying to forestall SSSCT actions and was indulging in procrastination. Maybe you are being misguided by Ganguly , Sadanand and the likes!
Our intentions and actions determine the future, and not mere words. You bring up issues like jurisdictions, independence, etc. I wonder whether we understand and appreciate the good fortune of being in such a noble, Divine Sai mission? Swami always emphasised on “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and that is exactly the fundamental basis of SSSGC.
What jurisdiction can we give to Bhagawan? The whole universe is His jurisdiction!! All organisations bearing His name cannot and should not be divided in the name of jurisdiction. It goes against the very principles that Swami enunciated throughout His Avatarhood!
I feel sad to recollect that in one of your letters, you have mentioned “… removing, or replacing the jurisdictional duties of appointments and reporting of officers, means taking away one of the primal functions of the SSSIO…” The primal function of any Sri Sathya Sai organisation anywhere in the world should be following Bhagawan’s spiritual teachings, participating in community service activities, spreading love and bringing peace and harmony to the society! What have we made of these divine organisations? No point talking about ideals to others, ignoring them ourselves as though they don’t apply to us. You and the team flaunt authority and accuse us of being autocratic and authoritarian!!
We fail to understand the circumstances in which you are in, due to which you are being indecisive. Maybe your team members who attacked SSSGC and SSSCT under your direction must be questioning your joining SSSGC! It was you and SSSIO which sought our meeting after about five months of animosity. We readily agreed and came forward for the sake of brotherhood and it was once again you who was in a hurry to release the Joint Statement and first to release the joint statement to Sai devotees worldover! You have also registered the entire SSSIO, including all the nations and centres en bloc on the SSSGC portal. Now you and the team are backtracking ! Inspite of the clarification and comfort, I and Sri Nimish Pandya gave you during the discussions, you are going back on your word, citing your team members unwillingness!! Only Swami can help to deal with this instability in thinking. I do not know how you will face the devotees? How embarrassed your national council presidents would be to go to centers and face devotees?!
Dr Narendranath Reddy, we have given our 100% and made all possible efforts sincerely to assure you and your team. It is clear to us that you understand our intent, but you appear to be not understanding. Being a reputed and respected organisation, SSSCT is not in a position to be part of any discussion wherein you are unable to come up with any clarity and we are unable to make any headway!! The responsibility of convincing the SSSIO team is entirely yours as we are not involved in that. Please do not blame SSSCT and Trustees or any one for that matter, for your wish to stay away from SSSGC and Prasanthi Nilayam!
Let me affirm that we gave our best to unite SSSIO with Prasanthi Nilayam but SSSIO did not come forward. Top leaders should have clear thinking and cannot be dilly dallying. Without clarity, leaders lose credibility. We have no right to take devotees for granted and think that the centers and devotees will follow us just because we have some positions in the organizations. Expecting devotees to swing to our tunes is not good. Swami will be deeply hurt when we cause confusion amongst devotees. Also, every office bearer should be here only for Swami and not for any of us. If they think they are for “leaders”, they don’t deserve to be part of the noble mission.
You need to appreciate our position that we will be moving forward on the SSSGC. We from SSSCT are committed to the SSSGC and that commitment is made to Bhagawan. We will abide by it. As far as SSSGC is concerned, all Sai organisations are already part of it. We will soon be communicating with all the countries and centers.
We, along with all those Sai children who joined Prasanthi Nilayam, will be making the offering of SSSGC at the Lotus Feet on Gurupoornima, 24th July 2021.
The doors of SSSGC will always be open for you and your team in future, but it will be without any dialogue, mails or calls and will be unconditional. Let me also affirm that SSSCT has initiated SSSGC as it is Bhagawan’s own directive and a safeguard for the future.
I am enclosing Bhagawan’s discourse clips for ready reference.
In Sai Service
R J Rathnakar
Strong stuff, to be sure, this letter by Managing Trustee Rathnakar. Worthy of his reputation as ‘the Don’ of Prasanthi Nilayam, some might think. Safe to say it is richly laden with serious, acerbic accusations towards Dr. Reddy, not unlike before but even more angrily phrased (not here for Swami, self-aggrandizing, unwilling, indecisive, egotistic, seeking personal interest, muddled thinker, flaunting authority). The only difference now is in the threat, or promise if you will, at the very end, where Rathnakar basically says: you shut up now, you and the SSSIO. We (i.e. the Central Trust) will be moving forward unilaterally. You can either sign at the dotted line or stew (… doors always open, but it will be without any dialogue, mails or calls and will be unconditional). On the other hand, I find it quite understandable that some devotees, especially from India (but not all), mainly found active on Facebook, agree with Rathnakar, as he and his trust members seem to make some valid points, not only in this ´tough-love´ letter but also in their Zoom calls I presented earlier. Was Reddy, in cohoots with his Prasanthi Council members Gutter and Harvey, stubbornly and stupidly stonewalling and sandbagging a perfectly sound idea to bring unity where it was lacking??
To further try and split the foreign countries up, this rather sweet-voiced message was put online by the CT after the decision of the SSSIO to remain independent after all was made public.
Reddy’s Convincing Rebuttal
As the initial statement at the top of this page by the SSSIO in response to this onesided step by the CT already makes clear, the SSSIO was quick to react. The SSSIO is NOT part of the Global Council, it firmly stated. In a new declaration of independence the International Organisation sums up 107 countries who jointly agree with this remarkable turn of events, and stick to the SSSIO. The above call to join the SSSGC by the CT evidently did not amount to much. The reason might well be a lengthy Teams-session posted online July 4 on the SSSIO website, showing Reddy, Gutter and Harvey, the leaders of the International Organisation, moderated by Malaysian SSSIO executive Dr. Suresh Govind, in a strong and enlightening rebuttal of the allegations flung at them by the Central Trust. The screenshot is telling as to the scope of subjects discussed by this panel of VIP-devotees and office bearers with a joint total of near 110 years of close, personal contact and experience with Sathya Sai Baba during the master’s lifetime, and another 30 in office after his demise.
Some decisive statements that caught my eye and ear: The CT was developed solely for the management of the ashram, schools, hospitals and institutions. It was never intended to have any purview outside India. Another one: The history of the SSSIO harks back decades, and was, by the master himself, in near-constant deliberations with Goldstein, but especially Reddy, often in the presence of Harvey and Gutter, put into place as is around 2004, a wholly independent body to ´spread the word´, not for 50 or 100 years but forever. Like the disciples of Jesus, men like Reddy were to see themselves as apostles in expanding the flock. Also, all the necessary laws and by-laws were drafted and after discussing them with Sai Baba approved by Sai Baba himself, both verbally and in writing (!), including a democratic process of replacing office bearers, up to the highest level. This process went on until Sai Baba’s death. So, to men like Reddy this was divine command, and still is. To come in between swami and his devotees, creating a divide between swami and Prashanti Nilayam for foreign devotees is unacceptable as it is the home for every devotee even before any organisation existed. To set conditions, as the MT does, is adharmic. So Reddy emphatically states: Do you want to follow Bhagawan’s teaching or the instruction of the MT? And at 1:10:37: The Global Council is manmade, the SSSIO and its guidelines were godmade and meant for all times. Gutter elaborates: They erased with the left hand what they have promised and written with the right hand. A salient detail in the video is Chakravarthi’s statement dating back to 2013, where he unequivocally affirms international matters are far beyond the scope or mandate of the CT, as it only has a domestic role (see below video from 1:14:30 onwards). By now however, Chakravarthi is an important member of the CT and appointed Global Council chair, and seems to embrace the totally opposite view. Up til 2015 the independent position of the Prasanthi Council and the International Organisation was not seriously contested. The organisatation’s organogram clearly showed that. See here:
Reddy went on: We only surrender to Swami, not to the Managing Trustee. Gutter specifically addressed the dispute regarding the differences in the two TORs. He says, in reference to Rathnakar’s letter, that he/the CT insisted on adding a supervisory role and the right to appoint office bearers at every level by the CT within the SSSIO. This is not in accordance with the procedure swami bestowed upon the SSSIO. It violates Bhagawan’s direct instructions. Another hot topic: Are the Prasanthi Council members powerhungry and do they want to cling to their seats? is rebuffed with valid arguments (Many came and went, even after swami’s demise. We have a democratic process for that). In a small but strong intersection, Harvey describes the announcement of the Global Council as a Trojan horse. In conclusion Reddy soothingly said: All is well. No one needs to worry. Even if they want to make us second rate visitors to Prasanthi Nilayam, it is of no consequence. The bond between swami and his devotees does not depend on that. It is eternal and of the heart.
I recommend all who doubt or are simply curious as to what has transpired to watch the whole video:
“You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
Now I personally am no devotee, and have no vested interest in a smooth, unaltered, unified Satyha Sai Baba Organisation remaining in place in whatever shape or form, as I do not share the sole premise these esteemed gentlemen from both sides of the isle DO share, a rocksolid belief in the divineness of their master. Still, it is of interest to see the very thing happen in this organisation that so many starting and even matured religions suffer or suffered from: fractioning, in-fighting, each faction surer than the other to know the will (?) of the (long) gone master. That being said, my sympathy is with the SSSIO, though their Zonal Leaders in my time were one of the reasons to step from the podium (they could be every bit as hideous as Rathnakar and co). I find the SSSIO´s version of events and their firm insistence on independence simply more humane and convincing. But then, is that not due to the mere fact that I am a westerner? Let’s not forget the Indian independent organisation (SSSSO) went along with Rathnakar in a jiffy… Then again, maybe it has something to do with very real, lasting differences between (the traditional religious part of) India and the rest of the world? Different mores and such? Anyhow, for now, the rift is near total.
Brilliant overview of the entire messy affair! The declaration of ‘privileges’ in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram is very telling. One wonders, if every single devotee, Indian and foreign, joins the GC, then where is the space enough to accommodate everyone with priority seating, etc? The idea that it would be “hassle free…without any bureaucracy” is ludicrous. The privileges are obviously for the express purpose of punishing the non-compliant IO, and for keeping the curious riffraff non-org devotees from enjoying any equal darshan rights. What a travesty!
Yes, I agree. It is punishing the non-compliant and the ‘memberless’ devotees and curious visitors. Extremely petty and autocratic behavior.