The Sathya Sai Organisation
and the interfaith movement
At the first glance the Sathya Sai Organisation (the SSO) should have a broad interfaith character. Its spiritual leader, Sathya Sai Baba, often repeats the principle of Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man. His famous saying which originally comes from Swami Shivananda of Ramakrishna Order (see Sai Baba's Borrowed Wisdom about Sai Baba and plagiarism) reads:
There is only one religion,
the religion of Love.
There is only one language,
the language of Heart.
There is only one caste,
the caste of Humanity.
There is only one God,
And He is Omnipresent.
In the Charter of the SSO among the objectives we can find the following statement: “to make devotees of the religions more sincere and dedicated in the practice of their respective religions” (ch.III, p.9) or we can read that attaining the objectives should be “by underlying the essential unity of all religions and securing a proper understanding of all religions as based on Love”(p.9).
Assuming that these noble ideals are real objectives of the SSO, one can expect the SSO to be rather active in an international interfaith movement aimed at interreligious dialogue and harmony and elimination of religious violence. The global interfaith movement is gaining an impetus now and below there are some of the most important events and initiatives that have taken place in this field for the last decade.
(1) 1993 - Chicago, the USA. Parliament of the World’s Religions.
(2) 1995 - the UK Summit on religion and the environment.
(3) 1998 - London, the UK World Dialogue About Religion And Development (together with the World Bank).
(4) 1999 - Capetown, South Africa. Parliament of the World’s Religions.
(5) 2000 - New York, the USA. Summit of religious and spiritual leaders of the world (in anticipation of the UN Millennium Summit).
It may sound strange but the SSO and Sai Baba himself, despite of claiming to play a key role in a future transformation of our planet into a better world, did not take part in any of those forums and have never mentioned them to their members and followers. We can summarise this lack of activity of Sathya Sai Baba and the SSO in the interfaith movement as follows:
· no initiatives or participation in the interfaith movement;
· no association with UN or its institutions;
· no networking or cooperation with other NGO’s;
· no mediation of interreligious conflicts (neither globally, nor in India).
The SSO has an unwritten policy to restrain from participation in any kind of forums and even charity projects with other non-governmental organisations. For example, one of the original resolutions of the VI World Conference of the SSO (1995) stated that the SSO should initiate joint service projects to play a leading role and to be an example for the other movements and organisations (see materials of the VI World Conference, clause 4 under the caption ‘Service’, p.11). However after presenting these resolutions for Sai Baba blessing this resolution was corrected according to the directions given by Sai Baba: “The Sri Sathya Sai Organisation should not take help of any other religious or spiritual organisation in conducting the activities of the Sai Organisation. In view of this, Clause ‘4’ under the caption ‘SERVICE’ on page 11 of the Decisions and Recommendations shall be deleted.”
Excuses for this non-cooperation usually explain that Sai charity projects have a much deeper spiritual background (service itself is equaled to spiritual practice or sadhana) and much stricter regulations. So they can be spoiled through the association with other charity organisations which often have money and publicity as their hidden motives. Non-participation in international forums and conferences is usually explained as an impossibility for such a unique organisation (the SSO) and its divine leader (Sai Baba) to be just one of the participants in the row of others without due respect and homage. It is believed could misrepresent and diminish the divine status of Sai Baba and his global spiritual mission. As a matter of fact, one of the possible reasons seems to be a concern of a scope of negative information (including allegations in sexual abuse and its cover-ups) leveled against Sathya Sai Baba and the SSO, which inevitably would be revealed during wide international contacts.
So far Sathya Sai Baba and the SSO have been restraining from contribution to and participation in the global interfaith movement. Up to now the so called Sai movement has been functioning as an isolated, sectarian organisation following its own agenda and escaping any cooperation with any non-governmental organisations.