VIEWPOINT - On the International Sathya Sai Organization and the Scandinavian situation (1990)
Concerning Sathya Sai Organisation practices and problems with documental and/or anecdotal evidence
Here I reproduce the following "Viewpoint...” which I wrote before our recent Coordinating Committee meeting. Though I had it with me at the time, I wanted mainly to listen and question before circulating it, if appropriate. It so happens that some persons expressed comparable views before I mentioned any points. For example, Thomas held that
Swedenneeds the Scandinavian Sathya Sai Coordinating Committee as a forum for experiences and ideas. (To contribute just to this, I circulate these thoughts). Also, Britt-Marie Andén repeatedly asked that local co-ordinators be trusted to judge their groups' situation themselves and do what is best. I sense that 'top-downward' organisational tendencies could be further discussed fruitfully with all who may be interested in doing so.
If 'our' organisation is really going to give room for Sai followers of various backgrounds, nationalities, religions or cultures, should it be so rigid or Pietistic in its insistence on formalities like rules, officially-organised activities and so on... almost as if it were some sort of limited company with strong management and productivity goals. We accept the standards/rules set down in the Charter as useful and sometimes as necessary to guide us, but too much weight on organisational requirements (including some not required by the Charter) can already have alienated some very good Sai followers, and others. Having a Charter and knowing the limits it sets is natural for any organisation. If, for example, members see studying the Charter thoroughly together as a priority, they can easily do so on their own adult initiative. Yet some members may still prefer to leave this function mainly to coordinators.
Oslo members generally feel that the practice of the spiritual teachings that Swami gives concern us more than what Sathya Sai Central Office etc. have decided... and seem much more crucial to us and for the use of our time and energy...at least as far as our situation is concerned. This does not mean that one cannot live wholeheartedly for reaching the goals which the Organisation is there to aid us in. If Swami sends us many people and the tasks that this implies, we are only too glad to try our best in that too. If we try to recruit, to what extent will people whose hearts are in Sai work come to us? It seems that one eventually gets whatever one truly aims and plans for. Where there is a genuine basis for attracting many members, as eg. apparently in Copenhagen, obviously one may feel good about that. Yet that is not crucial.
Our vision for the organisation in Oslo is primarily to improve our own qualities first; we still need to work mainly on ourselves inwardly and outwardly, generating more light, joy and selfless attitudes etc. rather than work so much at organisational expansion. Swami never emphasises quantity as a chief part of His Vision, yet it still seems that within parts of the Organisation that this is a top concern and one which is sent down to everyone at regular intervals. A good motto for us all was given to Joy Thomas by Baba (see Life is a Game, Play it) "Spiritual path is not pressure, it is pleasure."
ON ORGANISATIONAL BUREAUCRACY
The organisation surely has the aim of showing the way for individuals who want to do sadhana in its various forms. Yet Sadhana has its own value in the individual's relation to the God within and without and is not done to provide a basis for making directives and committees, swelling of statistics or for increased publicity for recruitment to the Sathya Sai Organisation, let alone publicity for Baba Himself.
The Organisation is in reality nothing more than the active working individuals who comprise it. Office-bearers are there to do the service of helping co-ordinate these hearts, heads and hands. Hierarchical-bureaucratic organisations are known to suffer from an inherent tendency to grow bigger heads than hands or feet and to become 'top-heavy'. Directives start coming that ignore the culture or situations to which they apply and that bear little or no relation to the groundwork or even to some important ideals that the Organisation must embody. Baba has repeatedly commented on the illusory reports of the Organisation, that much of what's reported is only on paper, that there's too much paperwork, that there are too many committees and too little cooperation. He even abolished all office-bearers in 1988... with what result probably only He knows. One consequence seems at least to be the clearer, more flexible and more internationally-applicable Charter than previously.
Is it not a mistake to create Centres that do not function as such i.e. that remain spread to the geographical winds, and have either little to co-ordinate or much difficulty in communicating due to distance etc.? Do we really need to establish fictive national Co-ordinating Committees where there is no real basis for them, such as in Norway?
Swami has very clearly and directly advised against trying to publicise and advertise to get new members. Maximising membership figures also creates an unnatural situation and even goes against unity of thought, word and deed. (Eg: Norway, which had 3 active organised members in 1988, was represented by official statistics (see Prof. Gokak's Sri Sathya Sai & the Culture of India & the World 1990) - statistics not supplied from Norway - as having 2 groups/Centres and one EHV centre!).
Shall we not have faith that people come to Baba precisely because they want to live his teaching? Also that they are capable, with His intimate help, of finding the way. We should aim to help provide the means to do this without imposing requirements that are premature and irrelevant to that actual work. Plans to expand and norms to change activities according to new ideas instituted somewhere else that others make for us and wish to see enforced - without their knowing our group or the nature of our efforts etc. can, when repeatedly pressed on us, have a definite negative effect. This makes for a bad atmosphere in a group of always falling short, a group which will already be struggling to realise some of the ideals they hold dear according to their own circumstances and objective limitations.
Over-organisation evidently causes insensitivity and contributes strongly to a lack of proper two-way communication. If needed, we should shield members - and especially visitors and new guests - from those pressures and politics coming from 'above' that are actually ill-conceived or at odds with what Swami repeatedly says. Instead we can then concentrate 100% on our own sadhana and on developing the group or Centre we belong to in harmony with its members etc. As Bernhard Gruber wrote about unity in "Sathya Sai - The Eternal Charioteer": The number of people in the centre or group is not important.
"Five people working together like the fingers of one hand, quality not quantity" (Baba).The smaller the unit allowed a degree of autonomy, the easier it is to reach consensus with practical consequences. The role of elected and appointed leaders in cultural integration is presumably not to restrict initiatives that differ from their personal approach, but to see that they accord with the Charter generally. As "servants of servants" we try to smooth the way for people to grow spiritually at their own pace and from their own assumptions. See "My Baba & I" p. 186. Where Baba rejects all advertising & announcements and where Hislop concludes: "The small Centres will need to just patiently wait for membership increases?", to which Sai answered "Yes". (Ref. also taped interview session.) (Signed) Robert Priddy, Norwegian National and Oslo Centre leader.
Note: Though the above was sent to all representatives of Scandinavian countries and centres who had attended a coordinators’ meeting in Copenhagen under the chairmanship of T. Meyer, no acknowledgement of receipt or comment was received from anyone.