A post-participant observational study and analysis of its structure and management

By Robert C. Priddy
formerly researched at The Institute of Social Studies, Oslo, lectured in philosophy 1968-85 and sociology 1970-76, University of Oslo, Norway. Member & office-bearer in the Sathya Sai Organisation 1983-2000. Author of the book 'Source of the Dream - My Way to Sathya Sai Baba'

Summary of links to articles on the many failings and - deceptions of the Sathya Sai Organisation
See also articles on the Sathya Sai Organization by Serguei Badaev, ex-President of the Moscow Centre and ex-EHV leader in Russia,
Repeated  cover-ups by the Australian Sathya Sai Organisation

Here I summarise what it took many years to find out through participant experience, often disillusioning, about the Sathya Sai Organisation. May others benefit from knowing certain facts. I sympathise with all those for whom the Sathya Sai Organisation falls short of standards hoped for.

My contribution is to point out the definitive mistakes made in the organization, operation and goals of the Sathya Sai Organization. In addition to the internal problems constantly encountered when I was a leader trying to follow its rules and regulations (with increasing professional scepticism and reluctance). The Organisation now labours under the millstone of representing a person who is accused very widely of persistent sexual abuse plus complicity in murder cover-up.

What is worthwhile about the Sathya Sai Organization are those volunteers who lead by example in the real work of genuinely selfless service to the suffering and needy. These people may be described as the ground level volunteer workers and those who both share in and coordinate their practical activities.

What is problematical about the SSO
is that, all too often, the policies and directives encountered regularly from above within the organisation absorb much energy that could be employed better elsewhere. Not seldom, decisions made by VIP leaders, notably Indulal Shah & Michael Goldstein, fuel divisive practices in Sai groups... but these are seldom ever analysed or even mentioned by leaders, who are able to disregard or censure any matter they wish. This study aims to examine this unfortunate culture. Further, there is a cult of strict secrecy surrounding all matters that occur which are not regarded as good publicity and office-bearers are removed from office (and without explanation!) if they even try to discuss such things with anyone.

In order to aid the organisation of activities, a system of rules and leaders (higher office-bearers) has been developed. Much status is attached to higher office-bearers, who are not elected but selected by Sai Baba and/or the Overseas Chairman. They are treated as VIPs in the SSO, the ashram and elsewhere. They move in different circles to the working service volunteers, losing touch with and failing to listen to them properly. The differences of status, privilege and activity - which soon become permanent - hinder unity of spirit in the SSO. The organisation thus has a top-down structure and is impervious to change, frank constructivism or feedback from those with experience, conscience and other such qualities.

To detail & document the situation and to investigate the actual and potential causes that sustain it is the main task here. On the available evidence, tentative conclusions as to the actual functions the SSO serves, in addition to its declared aims, are outlined (see link 'Tentative Conclusions'). Readers of this may contribute to the data and evaluations... see in the right-hand linkbox 'feedback from/to/about the Sathya Sai Organization'.


The Sathya Sai Organisation intro Underlying values and aim of this study
Method & theory of this study
Access to data on SSO
Participant observation
Feedback from/to/about the SSO
Summary outline of SSO's aims
The SSO's projected self-image
SSO as a social institution
The 'Chain of Command'
Communication within the SSO
Control of members' communications
Central direction
Top-down management
Recruitment drives
Office-bearers under cross-pressures
Qualities of high office-bearers
Conflicts of teaching vs. behaviour
Conflicting expectations: 'role conflict'
Tentative Conclusions
The author & a disclaimer

The EHV programme - failures


Ex office-bearers/prominent devotees

Extravagance & wasteful showpieces?
Wasteful building projects?

Importance of 'Name and fame'
Money matters or 'power and pelf'
Advertisement and publicity?
Membership - quality vs. quantity?
Brothers and sisters?
Inflated statistics
Women treated as equals?
All-inclusive love of everyone?
Not hearing or speaking ill of others?
Security & 'Abode of Supreme Peace'?
Non-discrimination of creed & religion

Sai's exaggerations: The Numbers' Game
False SSO publicity
The SSO's media advertising

A religious personality cult
Soliciting donations

The illusion of democratic decisions
'Leadership culture'
VIP status & privileges


Control of Communication

'Spiritual doublethink'

The two charters (by S. Badaev)
The problematical Charter's history
Indulal Shah, International Chairman
Lucas Ralli on the SSO
Ron Laing on the SSO
John Hislop tells of Baba's 'fallibility'
Sociological theory/method
SB's Xmas discourse, 2000
Criticisms of the leadership
Former top VIP defector testimony
Ex-devotees cast off &/or maligned
SSO fund misused by Sai Central Trust
Untoward events at the ashram
Malaysia SSO & disunity
'Viewpoint' from 1990 (RP)
A typical Sai Org. circular studied

Feedback from/on the SSO
Prime example of a non-interactive panel
Australian Organization under criticism

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