Sathya Sai Baba Discourse Evidence Disappears from Public View. The Latest Case
Recent blogs by Robert Priddy and Barry Pittard highlight the amazingly unomniscient prediction by Sathya Sai Baba about “No bombs for India” and, within days, the removal by the Sathya Sai Organisation and its satellite websites of the embarrassing remark from the recent Convocation discourse of 22 November 2008. (See the relevant postings at http://robertpriddy.wordpress.com and http://barrypittard.wordpress.com.)
The constant disappearance of embarrassing or incorrect utterances by Sathya Sai Baba is a well documented phenomenon, as seasoned observers of the Puttaparthi and Prasanthi Nilayam scenes are aware. Others may be unaware of this highly revealing custom and of its relevance to the Sathya Sai Baba story. Apart from revelations of the heavy editing often applied to SSB’s Telugu discourses before they are printed (of which more below), consider the following major disappearances within the past six years.
The new biographical information revealed in the first volume of the Sai Towers edition of Love is My Form (LIMF – October 2000) produced a barrage of critical comment. Within a year of the first comments on this well researched and illustrated devotee account of the years 1926-1950, the remaining 5 or 6 planned, advertised and partly researched volumes of Love is My Form were cancelled by the Sai Towers Publishing company, unexpectedly and without explanation. A year or two later, the Sathya Sai Organisation officially announced its own biographical project: to continue the series of four well known bestselling volumes written by SSB’s main hagiographer, N. Kasturi (Satyam, Sivam Sundaram). Two of these bland hagiographies have already been published by the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, as I have recently commented in another article on my SSB web page.
Shortly after this LIMF shock, following further critical observations based on close comparisons between a series of devotee literal translations of SSB’s discourses (into several languages) and the heavily edited official translations, this two year voluntary Internet seva (community service) by a polyglot devotee group called PREMSAI suddenly ceased (in mid-2002) and the precious evidence contained in the two year backlog of 60 literal translations was soon withdrawn from the Internet. Note, 2013: After many temporary Internet homes, copies have recently been made available here, with fresh evidence provided by Eileen Weed, via Robert Priddy’s website
As a reminder of the history of official control over some of the surprising statements and stories in SSB’s discourses, and more especially as a contribution for researchers, I enclose the first few paragraphs of my 2005 ‘Dossier on the Packaging of Sathya Sai Baba’s Discourses’. The full (lengthy) version is available at ‘Packaging’. htm
A critical reading of the first 30 volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks in 1998-1999 turned up a small collection of irregularities in the editing of some of Sathya Sai Baba’s Discourses. After closer study of these anomalies (and others concerning SSB), I included a chapter and an Appendix on ‘packaging’ in the e-book published on this website in November 2001 (Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru?). My strong hypothesis at that time was that in the examples selected for study, the form of SSB’s original Telugu Discourses seemed to be significantly different from the versions ultimately published by the Sathya Sai Organisation, and read, studied, and widely quoted as ‘Gospel’ by hundreds of thousands of non-Telugu-speaking devotees all over the world. In the intervening two years, a great deal of further direct evidence (for comparison) has not only confirmed the hypothesis but raised questions concerning the perceived public image of SSB. (See the Historical Note at the end of this article.)
For my initial 2001 study of what I came to see as a packaging process, it was not easy to come across printed versions of the original Discourses (in English translation), but there were enough scattered about in the vast literature about SSB (much of which I had read in research for my two previous pro-SSB books in 1994-1998) to form very strong impressions. I was also able to examine a new form of evidence which had begun to trickle in during the late 1990s: preliminary reports of Discourses (in literal translation) posted on the rapidly expanding Internet for avid overseas devotees to access as soon after their delivery as possible (and before the edited printed version was released). (Such is the effort expended by the SSO on its information network since 1999 that the edited form of a Discourse can now be posted on its official websites within a few days of delivery, although eager local devotees in India still occasionally used to offer snatches of welcome literal translations on SSB open chat groups.)
Thanks to immediate feedback at the end of 2001 from two ex-devotees, I was able to gain access to a much better and more extensive source of direct Internet evidence of the literal translations into English (and into several other languages). These translations had begun to be published in two or three languages by devotees anxious to preserve the poetic quality of SSB’s Telugu talks (a reference to his simple spontaneous speaking style) in late 1999. Other language translations (including English) were added in 2000. Their unofficial but highly professional-looking website was named http://www.internety.com/premsai. This source (of which I had been completely unaware while laboriously searching the SSB literature for my initial examples) already offered two years of examples (2000 and 2001) to compare with the official versions in the printed Sanathana Sarathi and Sathya Sai Speaks. The Premsai website was a researcher’s treasure trove because it offered clear proof, from devotees, of the extent of the official editing applied to the Telugu “Discourses” before their publication in many languages.
On the basis of comparisons made during the following months I was able to publish more convincing evidence of the packaging procedure. A few other researchers added their own contributions, which caused further public interest in this process. Dramatically and only a few months after these important Internet revelations had focussed the spotlight on SSB’s real speaking style, the flourishing devotee “Premsai” multilingual website totally disappeared from the Internet. This abrupt disappearance of such primary material (in the second half of 2002) provoked the reasonable suspicion that such ‘inside’ evidence of the packaging of the words of ‘God’ was deeply embarrassing to the SSO and harmful to SSB’s divine image. The new insights into the Discourses also raised important questions outside devotee circles about the official image of SSB as projected for so many years by the SSO.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of why an alleged Avatar’s words and style need to be packaged at all, a major result of a comparison of the literal translations (where available) and the final edited form is that they show more clearly than before that SSB’s impromptu public preaching in Telugu is rambling, not very well structured, and sometimes contains unclear or muddled statements, discrepancies and errors. For this reason, evidence of the ‘packaging’ issue is also of particular relevance when considering the claim of omniscience advanced by Sathya Sai Baba and promoted by the Sathya Sai Organisation. (See also my article on ‘Omniscience and Truth’ and articles at http://www.exbaba.com: two on SSB and atoms (Robert Priddy, 11 and 17 September 2002: ‘The ‘Omniscient’ SSB’s massive ignorance of physics exposed’, I and II, and Jorge Reyesvera,7 May 2003, titled ‘Sai Baba’s ‘magnetism’.)
[The above paragraphs are followed by many pages of intriguing comparisons of selected extracts from the official and PREMSAI versions of SSB’s discourses.]