TEN QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SATHYA SAI ORGANISATION
by Serguei Badaev
I was a member of the Sai Organisation (S.O.) from 1995 till 2001 and I was the Deputy of the Central Council Chairman of the Russian speaking countries (region 16) and the National Coordinator for Education. All these years of involvement I was carefully observing the S.O. in order to realise the Divine plan behind the work of this earthly structure. I was aware that this organisation can't be perfect, as it consists of imperfect human beings. But at the same time I was sure that it had to be unique in a sense, it had to be an organisation of a new type, the organisation which could be a model and an example for the whole world. Otherwise, it is not different from other similar organisations of that sort which are not guided and inspired by Sathya Sai Baba, the Avatar of Kali Yuga.
A question may arise: how can the S.O. be a combination of inevitable imperfection of an earthly structure and perfection of the Divine guidance from Sai Baba? I thought that uniqueness of the S.O. would not be in a complete absence of any problems and shortcomings in it, but in a fact that the S.O. would have a different attitude to them and would solve and overcome them differently. And that all would be possible, I thought, because in the S.O. people's relationships would be based solely on the principle of brotherhood and on the values of Truth and Love.
Alas! The reality obstinately refused to satisfy my expectations. In my work in the S.O., I was confronted now and again with some strange and incomprehensible things. I could not find any explanations. Now, having left the S.O. in April 2001, I see lots of things much clearer, but lots of my questions still remain unanswered. Below I present my notes about the S.O., formulated as questions with comments. I hope they will help all whom it may concern, both devotees and ex-devotees, to understand the S.O. better, to re-evaluate some things and to see some things from a different angle. This approach will have some special significance if we take into account that questions like these never become an agenda for open discussion in the S.O.
(1) Why doesn't the Sai Organisation (S.O.) have any official periodical (newsletter/bulletin)?
The S.O. is world-wide, however there is no periodical publication, which could inform members about the news and progress in Sai work all over the world. This periodical could be a forum for an ideas exchange, official announcements, the possibility of asking questions to coordinators and the Central Office and to share negative and positive experience. ("Sanathana Sarathi" seems not to be an organ of the S.O. and additionally it was established long before the S.O. appeared.) This periodical could be in printed or in electronic form. The same may be considered about some specialised periodicals for SSEHV, Seva and so on.
(2) Why doesn't the S.O. publish financial reports?
For many NGO's and non-profit organisations it is an internationally accepted practice to publish financial reports from time to time. This allows anyone to see what kind of activities are being conducted by the S.O. and what the costs incurred are. Such a policy could provide transparency, enhance trust and prevent the circulation of rumours.
(3) Why doesn't the S.O. keep Sai literature quality?
Many books of the Vahini series have been published and sold for decades by Sathya Sai Books and Publication Trust with a lot of misprints and errors. Usually most of them have no appropriate glossaries, indices, footnotes and other supplements which can help a reader understand better Sai Baba's teachings. In general, it can be said that publication standards of Sathya Sai books do not correspond to the standards that are normally applied for the publishing of Scriptures.
(4) What are the rules for communication in the Sai Organisation?
Despite of the fact that the S.O. declares the principle of unity within the organisation, it seems that there are some special directives (not known widely) that strongly limit information exchange and communication by official channels according to the protocol of subordination. It may be reasonable for the decision making process or for official information distribution, but it seems that it concerns all kinds of communications, including personal ones. These regulations can't be found in any written form in the Charter or elsewhere.
(5) What is the status of the Sai World Conferences (SWC)?
It is not clear whether SWC is a body of the S.O. which has a highest authority and all boards and coordinators are accountable to it, or whether it is just a forum to meet each other to share views and ideas. Another point closely related to it is whether SWC's resolutions are points to reflect and meditate on or are actual directives for compulsory implementation by all centres and groups. If the latter is true, it is strange that the SWC's materials do not refer to the resolutions of the previous SWC and do not discuss if they had been fulfilled or not. The procedure for how delegates agree on resolutions is rather unclear (i.e. consensus, majority votes or some other).
(6) What is the real name of the S.O.?
In official documents different names are used for the organisation:
a) Sathya Sai Organisations (The Charter for Overseas countries);
b) Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation (The Charter for India);
c) Sathya Sai Seva Organisation (the official letter of Zone IV Chairman T. Meyer);
d) Sri Sathya Sai Organisation (the official letter of International Chairman I. Shah).
(7) Is there only one S.O. or two?
Below the level of the International Chairman and the Central Office, the organisation is divided into two parts: Indian and Overseas. Each one has its own structure, the Charters (which are very similar but nevertheless different) and Rules and Regulations.
(8) Has the S.O. got the status of an international organisation and what is its relationship with other official "Sai" organisations?
According to the established procedure, new centres and groups affiliate to the S.O. However, often those centres and groups overseas are not registered in their corresponding countries. Even if they are registered they are not registered as branches of the International S.O. It is not clear enough what relationships are between the S.O. and other "Sai" organisations like:
a) Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust;
b) Prashanthi Nilayam Ashram;
c) Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust;
d) Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning;
e) Super Speciality Hospital;
f) Sathya Sai Education Institute (Thailand);
(9) What are half-year reports in the S.O. for?
Every organisation has some sort of reporting procedure. Some statistics may be a necessity for registered organisations. It is unclear whether those reports are just for formal use or whether they are going to show some realistic picture of what is going on in the S.O. Futhermore, this "realistic picture" is never published openly. Some entries of the report form can hardly supply a realistic input for the whole situation. For example, one of the entries asks for a number of seva activities and a number of active participants with a comparison with the former period. This purely quantitative approach seems to have little to do with what Baba calls service. It is highly probable that, because of the formal and unclear nature of the entries of the report form, the data obtained from it can't be considered as reliable.
(10) Does the Charter of the S.O. mean what it really says?
a) The Charter is claimed to be granted by Baba though it is unclear whether Bhagavan wrote, commented, corrected the text (or its parts) or just blessed (approved) a draft prepared by some devotees.
b) "IT IS HEREBY DECLARED:
B. That all the office bearers and members of this organisation ... shall be one in Deed and Name, by the name of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation..."
It seems that the S.O. implies itself(!) as a basis of unity, not Bhagavan Baba or inner Divinity inherent in everyone.
c) "I. The Code of Conduct.
"The appropriate authority in the organisation may remove any such member from office and declare him disqualified to hold such office or to be an active member of the organisation without assigning any reason".
If this "authority" is not accountable in any way to anyone, it opens the way to voluntary solutions and egoistical motives. It is especially true with the office bearers at the level of National Council Chairman and higher, because according to the Overseas Charter they are nominated from above and are not accountable to any unit below that they guide.
d) "II. General Principles.
"... in the absence of such affiliation no person or body of persons, calling themselves Sai devotees, shall be entitled to use the name of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in any spiritual activities".
It seems that the S.O. tries to get a monopoly for Baba's name use. It seems more appropriate to read: "to use the name of Sathya Sai Organisation in any spiritual activities". For instance, in Puttaparthi there are a lot of businesses that carry Sai Baba's name. Also, there are some non-profit organisations that bear Sai Baba's name. For example, "Messengers of Sathya Sai", "Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust", etc.
e) It is not clear from the Charter how the Central Office is formed, who it is accountable to and what the tenure of its office bearers is.
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