(1) We provide a statement of the point of view taken by Albert Barelds of South Australia in regard to the recent SBS Broadcast. It is appended below.
Need to recognise that different issues need different responses.
Swami has said for many years that he does not need us or the organization to publicise or to defend him or his mission. `Who are you to talk about Me?' Meaning, it is our job to investigate who we really are and what our purpose is in this physical body.
No need for action as we do not and never will fully understand the divine actions and Swami is perfectly capable to look after himself. He has assured us numerous times that his mission cannot fail.
Although we are secured of the protection by Swami of his organization and his sacred name, we do have a spiritual and worldly responsibility to defend goodness. It is our dharma and in doing so we will be protected by dharma as the scriptures assure us.
It does not necessarily mean addressing the specific allegations that are made as we do not have the ability to defend Swami nor to defend his actions. We do know that the allegations are not tested in court nor is it likely that it ever will. We also know that other Godmen have been accused and discredited throughout human history.
What we do have is the experience of our own actions in relation to Sai and the Sai mission. We cannot afford to be seen as hiding and protecting illegal behaviour, to be acting as a sect by not being open and transparent about the matters on hand. The fact that the Sai organization nationally and internationally has not acted on the allegations, or where it has attempted to act [letter from Sri Ramanathan to SBS], is perceived by the wider community as sect behaviour as our response has been that such behaviour as alleged can not be true and is not possible. We have not used the opportunity to explain that human beings cannot understand nor explain the behaviour of Avatars.
The negative publicity has given Swami and his name more exposure to the world community than any previous action. The opportunity it provides us with is to give credit to the enormous positive actions undertaken by Swami and his organization over many years across the globe. There is interest and curiosity in the community and in the media as negativity creates attention and we can satisfy that curiosity with positive actions. We can engage in positive media stories, encourage documentaries like for example God lives in India that demonstrate the power of Sai and extent of his name and mission through the work of the Sai organization.
In order to do this successfully, we will - as individuals and as Sai organization - need to accept that we do not and cannot understand and are not able to explain the behaviour and actions of the Sai Avatar. All we can do is share and inspire with our own experiences and actions. It will allow us to be fearless and accepting - including accepting and loving the roles being played by those presently attacking Swami!
The Sai organization and its leaders have to date not been able to provide support and care to individuals being badly affected by the allegations. There has been no open discussion in the organization and it has hardly been mentioned at official Sai functions in Australia, for example at the national conference in Adelaide last year it was hardly mentioned. Devotees have been left to their own devices and the organization, to my taste, has not played the role it could and should have played - being a shepherd for devotees in crisis and giving service to those in need.
It appears that the organization and its leaders were in a state of shock and unable to grasp the opportunity given to them by Swami. In my opinion the Sai organization has not taken the opportunity to develop an effective 'sanga' or 'fellowship' as nurtured by the Buddhist or Christian communities. Although we talk about Sai brothers and sisters, we have not acted in that spirit. It is important to recognize that the Sai organization since it inception has been focused on the spiritual development of the individual with unquestioning devotion to Swami and has not yet matured to a state where it accepts that Swami is serious when he states, 'Come and investigate.' Unquestioning devotion can lead to absolute behaviour, knowing what is right or wrong whilst investigation allows for questioning, doubt and growing knowledge. It also allows for acceptance of differences, recognizing that a whole is being made up of many parts. The recent debate and controversy in SA about how office bearers should behave and what is ethical and what not is an example how numerous Sai devotees have become absolute about what is morally right and wrong. Scary and, to Sri Ramanathan's credit, quickly addressed by a national policy. The point should be made however that this policy too has not been debated widely and still unacceptable to many devotees.
Although the controversy and allegations about Swami's alleged sexual behaviour is not new, the recent SBS documentary has forced many devotees to face the issue. For the last few years it was not uncommon for devotees to deny that the allegations were serious or that it had any impact on them. Where individual people were affected, they had no or little opportunity to discuss the issues in the organization. `A real Sai devotee would not listen to such slander and how could anyone ever question the purity of our beloved Sai'. It left many Sai devotees in a very difficult position as it implied that investigating and listening to the accusations meant that they didn't have real faith or devotion. One of the results has been that many devotees dropped out of the organization as they had nowhere to turn. It does not mean that those have left Swami or lack commitment to contribute to the Sai ideals, it means that they felt that there was no place for them in the Sai organization whilst coming to grips with the challenge of taking Swami serious when he asks us to `Come and investigate'.
The recent SBS documentary has made it much more difficult for Sai devotees to live in denial that the world is seriously looking at the allegations. Friends, family, neighbours, colleagues are all of sudden aware what is happening and many are asking questions of our Sai brothers and sisters. Are we as an organization and as leaders now ready to support them and be with them in their hours of doubt and questioning. Are we willing to share our own doubts and question our absoluteness in order to grow as devotees? Or are we still in denial and only willing to accuse the accusers of foul play and lack of faith?
Are we ready for Swami's test of our resolve to be a real Sai devotee?
Albert Barelds March 2004
sgd. T. Sri Ramanathan Regional Central Coordinator Sathya Sai Organisation Australia & Papua New Guinea 43/84, St. Georges Crescent Drummoyne NSW 2047 Tel: 02 9181 3223 Fax: 02 9181 1247 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 4th of April 2004
ęSathya Sai Baba Organisation of Australia and PNG
See also information from 'Our man in Canberra' on the Sathya Sai Organization of Australia
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