Unity in Sathya Sai Baba’s Organisation: a Far Cry

One week ago, on a particularly rainy day in Prasanthi Nilayam, the Central Trust triumphantly declared the official inception of its so-called Sai Global Council. It came as no surprise (Peace Attempt within The Sathya Sai Organisation miserably failed, Ugly Turf War between Central Trust and International Organisation) the Central Trust pushed on and launched its unifying body on Guru Poornima Day, July 24, in front of a paucity of attendees, many wearing masks to protect them from COVID-19 infection.

The whole dreary, tedious ceremony was aired live, with some 30 plus minutes just seeing the tomb with the interred guru inside, followed by the ever busy Sri Naganand. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pK59LSfkcM, especially from 40 minutes onwards). He gave the particulars on the present state of the global council, which I will delve into some more later in this post.

Saibliss

In the days leading up to the grand occasion, rather pathetic declarations were issued, like the one by Saibliss, a Facebook group consisting of more than 40.000 devotees closely aligned to the Central Trust and professor Anil Kumar, in which the rumour is spread that ‘Australian office bearers resign enmass’ (from the SSSIO that is). Or the link to everyone in the USA to join the Global Council, a clear attempt to sow division. Or the congratulatory letter proving that the entire populace of Mauritius no less (a tiny island state) ‘made the right choice’ (leave the SSSIO) and decided to join the GC, signed by Chakravarthi himself.

‘Blessed the rain droplets’

In a ridiculously flowery post, Saibliss also announced that ‘Even the rain droplets must be blessed to fall in the holy abode of our beloved Lord’, the only understatement being the fact that it clearly was pouring with rain that day.

Naganand’s speech

Naganand then rewrote history in order to claim the Central Trust as the main executive of the Indian and foreign Sathya Sai Organisations after the death of their guru. He underpinned this rather vain claim by stating that the United Nations had after all given the Central Trust ‘special consultative status’ (meaning NOT the international organisation). Without delivering a shred of evidence he went on to state that 90 per cent of the centres worldwide had by then signed up to the Global Council (‘over 800’). After assuring everyone the Central Trust has no right of veto, and only has 3 members in the national and international executive bodies of the Global Council, Naganand stated that ‘… It (the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council) is truly a representative body of the entire Sai world, in India and abroad.'(049:36:00 ff).

‘The spirit of the Global Council is Unity, Unity, Unity’

‘The Global Council will provide a forum for all Sai organisations to come together, sit together, discuss in a spirit of cooperation, friendship, mutual respect and independence. The object of this body is to unify the entire Sai world, so that each will know what the other is doing, and policy decisions can be taken at the level of the Global Council, keeping in mind the partical differences among countries, regions and certain areas which require special treatment due to local conditions and regulations. The spirit of the Global Council is unity, unity, unity. I would like to conclude with the assurance that the Global Council will conduct itself in a free and fair manner. The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust has no intention or desire to controll either the All India sai Organisation nor the International Sai organisation, which is spread all over the world.’

Convocation by the ‘Big Shots’

Then the pivotal moment came when 3 of the members of the Central Trust, Naganand, Chakravarthi and Rathnakar, plus Nimish Pandya (leader of the SSSSO of India) offered the Global Council at the feet of the master’s tomb. In its typical childish, taudry way, a shiny, translucent globe of sorts was offered, with a cardboardlike figurine of Sathya Sai Baba in front of it and a bunch of flags, to seal the deal (no flag of the USA discernable).

Where does this leave the Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation? Chakravarthi speaks…

The speech by Naganand did not address the huge elephant in the room, namely the continued opposition by the Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation to join the Global Council, which I detailed in my previous 2 posts. Chakravarthi however, in his ‘welcoming the GC speech’, from 58 minutes onwards (until 1:04:41), deals with the topic as condescendingly as he deems effective.

Chakravarthi

´The arms of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council are waiting to embrace all those who have not yet registered, and are awaiting their homecoming’, he eulogizes.´Whereas´, he vilifies, ‘those who refer to this place as adharmic´ (1:00:44)’, ´they rile.´ ‘This place will make adharmic people be dharmic, not the other way around. All the lives of those who have taken the correct decision (i.e. choose to become members of the GC) will be purified by the pervading divinity here.’ ‘The Global Council by its very nature stands sanctified’. It is of course a little disheartening that all the Sri Sathya Sai Centres in all the countries have not yet formally joined, although they have a place in the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council by virtue of their being Sri Sathya Sai Centres in different parts of the world.’ ‘Possibly, with a varying period of maturation for these Sri Sathya Sai Centres to claim their rightful place in the hallowed Sri Sathya Sai Global Council.…’ On their way to join the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council a few countries and Sri Sathya Sai centres seem to be bedeviled by misconceptions borne out of fear (?) and error or deliberate falsification of the intent and objective behind the setting up of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council. As you are all aware, we have two seva organisations, one for India and another for the countries overseas. As such the identity of the two arms has not been disturbed. The Sri Sathya Sai Global Council is conceived as inclusive of both. And as such, there is no question of a choice being asked to be exercised between the Sri Sathya Sai organisations overseas and the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council, since the devotees are naturally part of Prasanthi Nilayam. It is pertinent to remark at this stage that when announcing the setting up of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council, it was made clear that all the functionaries at various levels will continue because all of them are seen as doing seva to Bhagawan. We take it that there is a time and hour for those that have not joined the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council to do so. It is my hope and prayer to Bhagawan that it will not take much time for them also to take their legitimate place in the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council. This body of the Sri Sathya Sai Global Council will, I hope and pray, become a common, divine platform for all those engaged in furthering and strenghthening the Sai mission across the globe. Wishing you all a happy and holy Guru Poornima, I am placing my reverential pranams at the holy lotus feet of Bhagawan. Jai Sai Ram, thank you.’

Nimish Pandya, the all India president and newly appointed vice-chairman of the Global Council, underpins Chakravarthi’s take

In a feverish and propagandistic tone of voice, Sri Nimish Pandya then took center stage to give his two cents. In short, he alleges it is a no-brainer to commit oneself to the Global Council. India, the nation bearing 95 per cent of all the devotees across the globe, chose from the heart. Half of the USA centres have done so also, like the UK, South Africa and Nepal, he went on. Without being rooted in Prasanthi Nilayam, there is no future or nourishment for whatever organisation.

Sri Nimish Pandya

A clever amalgam of Sathya Sai Baba’s discourses clinches the dedication

From roughly 1:19:00 onwards, a lengthy and convincing exposé is presented, copiously using direct quotes by Sai Baba himself from various discourses, in order to cast suspicion on the position of the SSSIO.

A few countries though? Really?

If we are to believe the ‘few countries’ that haven’t joined, and we turn to the website of the SSSIO, we come across a still very different narrative. It is that of a heavily besieged organisation, that has set up a Helpline for their member countries, centres and devotees. They also lay claim to still 107 countries that have not joined the Global Council: if correct, that’s not a few. The SSSIO also goes into great detail, earlier done by me in my previous posts, to underpin their point of view, including the different TOR’s and a masterclass by old hand, 43 years of service Californian lawyer Robert Baskin.

The SSSIO Helpline

The SSSIO Story

All the while the SSSIO is sticking to their guns. Reddy and the other ‘Western’ big wigs went even further in detailing the present state of events.

See: https://www.sathyasai.org/announcements/sssio-not-part-of-sssgc

Concluding remarks

The gloves are off. The now arisen power play between the SSSGC and the SSSIO seems to be turning in favour of the Indian based Global Council. The SSSIO has all the hallmarks of an organisation fighting an unwinnable rearguard action. A pity, but such are the age old rules of a political power struggle: divide and conquer. Although Pandya assures this is not Indian domination over the West, but inspiration, there is a not to be missed rift between an autocratic, Indian style of leadership, top down and expecting obedience, and a western style of leadership, open, democratic and more up for debate. In that vein, the global Sathya Sai Movement is in danger of loosing its universal acknowledgement. It’s in serious peril of reverting back to its Indic, Hindu roots, to the detriment of a worldwide appeal.