TOWARDS PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY AND DUE INVESTIGATION:
A FORMAL OPEN APPEAL TO 'THE PRASHANTHI COUNCIL'
The JuST group (Just Seekers of Truth), representing the 32 original signatories of the Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organisation, has always been open for discussion of its contentions with any officials of the Sathya Sai Organisation or other accredited representatives of Sathya Sai Baba. In this connection, the recently-extended working committee of the international JuST group - most of whom appear among the 32 original signatories - would draw attention to the recent formation of ‘The Prashanthi Council’.
The official Australian Sathya Sai Organisation website announces the formation of this ‘Prashanthi Council’, which sidelines Indulal Shah from exerting further influence over the overseas branches. In a letter there, Dr. Michael Goldstein announces that he is the international leader of the ‘Prashanthi Council’, which will control all Sai Organisation matters outside India. Dr. M. Goldstein proclaims “… the Council will be a resource for intervention in difficult circumstances where the sanctity of the Divine Name or the welfare of the Sai Organisation can be affected".
The "divine name" and its protection
Dr. M. Goldstein has made implicitly clear that "the sanctity of the Divine name" has been affected. Dr. Goldstein wrote in 1997, after seeking SSB’s guidance: “... On matters regarding misuse and abuse of His Name, Swami said, 'the greatest devotion is protection of the Name'". (Sanathana Sarathi, Sept. 1997, p. 248). While 'protection of the Name' is a vague direction, it was then uttered in the context of exposing imitators of SSB and those who claimed special authorities or powers as mediums or 'channels' of SSB or who tried to collect money using his name. However, Sathya Sai has many times boasted that his name cannot be impugned and is the guarantee of success in all undertakings, while its sanctity could never be affected! For example, in 1993 (before the exposé by former devotees began in earnest), he said: "In the world today, Sai's name and achievements are getting known the world over. To counteract this and to diminish it by some means or other, envious persons are resorting to certain types of propaganda. These propaganda campaigns will not affect My reputation in any manner. My purity is the root cause of the glory of My name" (p. 257 - Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 26). Since 1993, these words have come to sound hollow now that he evidently permits and needs the ‘Prashanthi Council’ to protect his name.
Now, however, the ‘Prashanthi Council’ is to "intervene" so as to protect SSB's name. The word 'intervene' has the connotation of interference, or to interpose in a lawsuit etc., and is conceivably intended as a veiled threat to critics of SSB. Intervention aimed at stopping the documentary film 'Seduced by Sai Baba' was tried three times recently in a Danish court by the businessman devotee, Jørgen Trygved, without any success and subsequently he tried through Denmark’s top lawyer to pressure the head of Danish Broadcasting into a retreat, with resounding failure. Dr. Goldstein and his collaborators are also worried about the "welfare of the Sai organisation," since their ‘Lord God Sathya Sai Baba’ cannot single-handedly protect his organisation from its faults.
The above-mentioned International Petition was issued just over one year ago to support alleged victims of sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba and to request official investigation into murders in his quarters while he stood by, declining to exert his undoubted authority. The Sathya Sai Organisation response was to make serious counter-accusations and verbal attacks upon the various injured parties. In substance, JuST petition signatories ask that he and they observe the ethics embodied in his 10 principles and 9-point ‘code of conduct’ and adhere to his advice that all should live in accordance with the law of their own country.
Concerning alleged "propaganda campaigns"
In actual fact, many of his critics do not use ''propaganda'' but ask the great majority of pertinent questions that he and his secretive collaborators ignore and fail to answer. Leaders in the Sathya Sai Organisation do not reply to mails addressed to them by people with critical questions or complaints about the organisation or its leadership. This organisation always publishes exclusively positive information about itself and Sathya Sai Baba. Criticisms of him are neither addressed nor refuted, but suppressed. The ‘Prashanthi Council’ does not invite any form of correspondence or contact by anyone (unless perhaps by certain high office-bearers or other leaders in the Sai movement to whom their email addresses or home addresses may be given). The policy is to withhold from ex-followers, as far as is feasible, office-bearers' e-mail addresses. Among the various countries or regions of the organisation, many office bearers’ and members’ addresses are kept secret. The SSO has never had a publicly open channel for communication. Outsiders, and even the SSO members, can hardly find a way to ask the SSO a question or write a letter and hope to get any official answer. Even official web-sites of the SSO seldom give the option of feedback, except to a webmaster who is not accountable for the SSO's actions. The channels of contact are few even for members and many can attest that answers to any serious questions from those lower down the chain of command to those directly above are frequently either ignored or, when answers are actually forthcoming, they are usually either evasive, irrelevant or direct the questioner to carry out self-examination, etc.
Interventions by the ‘Prashanthi Council’
M. Goldstein proposes "intervention in difficult circumstances". The action of Mr. T. Ramanathan, Central Coordinator in Australia, who on the Australian website has issued defamatory threats (click here to view example) on provably wholly trumped-up grounds against Mr. Barry Pittard, is obviously known to the ‘Prashanthi Council’. Unless or until they publish a denial, the JuST group will presume that this threat represents one such “intervention” and takes place under the auspices of the ‘Prashanthi Council’. Of course, Mr. Ramanathan cannot proceed with any threatened litigation for he has based his case on sheer guesswork and false assumptions and so lacks any evidence of any wrong-doing by Mr. Pittard. On the contrary, Mr. Ramanathan is guilty of unwarranted defamation of character by his published allegations. Let him and the ‘Prashanthi Council’ beware, for JuST has ascertained that these have now been recorded by a justarius publicus as formal evidence.
In fact, public and media scrutiny of the Sathya Sai Organisation’s handling of the allegations that Sathya Sai Baba is a serial paedophile and is implicated in a number of other crimes, and scrutiny by the organisation’s rank and file membership, are exactly what the apex leaders have laboured for so many years to prevent. Therefore, in any modern nation where an unbiased judiciary and freedom of speech prevail, public litigation by any Sathya Sai Organisation officials would serve to open the Sathya Sai movement to the greatest scandal. “Difficult circumstances” for them indeed. Writings about SSB on the Internet will be impossible to expunge, for - if removed from one place - the same sites will simply reappear in total elsewhere. One lesson the Internet teaches is that no one can any longer suppress or control information and points of view that have already entered the public sphere, for anyone who wishes to copy and republish entire websites will do so in response to any attempted censorship measures. Such open, investigative interchange as we suggest should be welcomed – otherwise, the Sai movement will remain in the secretive cultish position into which it has withdrawn thus far and so will never be able convincingly to refute the onerous evidence.
The need for openness and truthfulness
So far, neither the 'omniscient' Sathya Sai Baba nor any of his leaders in the Sathya Sai Organisation nor the ‘Prashanthi Council’ has been willing or able to provide a shred of evidence to prove the falsity of any of the allegations. Nor have they answered any of the hundreds of serious, critical views put forward on SSB's teachings, behaviour and the many glaringly obvious discrepancies between his words and actions. The openness we suggest would be the only possible way of reinstating Sathya Sai Baba's name in the eyes of the world... but we frankly doubt that any such attempt will ever occur. The more publicity officials would give to those of us who ask pertinent questions and advance undisputed facts, the more evident their predicament would become to themselves and the world. Should not the ‘Prashanthi Council’ be informed by the civilised and truth-supportive principle enunciated by Voltaire: "I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it"? Having pointed this out, we formally invite the ‘Prashanthi Council’ to open up to honest and decent, but basically uncensored, public discussion and investigation of the issues raised by us.
The JuST group would point out that the current closed character of all SSB institutions and organisation wholly contradicts their good intentions and declarations about reforming and improving society. In the open and pluralistic world, as opposed to a soviet-style control of all information from the top, organisations without a two-way and sincere interface with the public cannot have notable success in the long term.
Approved and signed by the expanded JuST Working Committee
(Names and means of contact to the various members of this Committee will be provided on application as required)