So, your duty is to emphasise the One, to experience the One, In all that you do and speak. Do not give any importance to differences of religion or sect or status or colour. Have the feeling of oneness permeating every act of yours. Only those who do so have a place in this Organisation; the rest can best withdraw.
Sri Sathya Sai, 6-1-1975
To be honest, and as Sai Devotees we should always be honest, unless it hurts someone, all this debate of late about the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (CT), Sri Sathya Sai Global Council (GC) and the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSIO) is confusing, sad, annoying, draining, disturbing and utterly futile, not to say embarrassing. So, I will share my understanding of the issue coupled with my analysis and opinion. It is my opinion alone, I am not doing this on behalf of anyone.
Context: The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (CT) was founded by Bhagavan Baba himself in 1972 to operate and manage financial affairs of all the Sathya Sai institutions, namely schools, universities, hospitals and the ashram of course, not to forget water projects and other endeavors. Quite obviously, the CT rests at the heart of the Sai Mission or comprises the very foundation. In modern terms, one could call the CT the umbrella company or the core economic entity, last but not least because it owns all copyrights, logos and publications – Baba’s word and image. Being the “owner” (steward) of the Ashram at Prasanthi Nilayam, the CT is the nexus of it all, physically and spiritually. And of course for the Devotees worldwide, the Holy Abode of Sathya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi is second to none – it is our ashram/center, our home, our resting place, our refuge, our holy place.
In the late 1960ies Bhagavan Baba founded the Sathya Sai Organization, which later added the ‘international’ to the name, giving it the current acronym: SSIO. The primary function of the SSIO was to cater to the needs and projects of the international devotees, organize, support and supervise local canters and Bhajan groups as well as seva projects (inside India this is done by the Indian Sri Sathya Sai Organization, believe it or not…). So, it becomes clear that the SSIO had a specific function, performed a role and was part of a service structure in accordance and communication with Baba, who had been for many years the sole trustee of the CT. Interesting to note here is the trivial fact, that Bhagavan himself had never been a member or office bearer of the SSIO.It was “understood” that they would report to Him and follow his instructions, most notably Dr. Goldstein who was appointed as chair of the World Foundation by and reported to Bhagavan himself.
Source for some confusion is the entity called Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation with its official residence in California, USA. But there really is no confusion, because the World Foundation is a charitable trust, analogous to the Central Trust in Prasanthi, functioning as a legal body and registered charity under US law. The function of the World Foundation is to serve as legal (and financial) administrative body of the SSIO.
So far, so good – we know the players, now what’s the problem?
There is an ongoing debate in science about the primacy of form or function. In biology, this may be of some interest, in terms of human affairs and social structure, function dominates without a doubt.After all, we can change the form (structure) of an organization with relative ease, altering the form of your leg to improve its function may prove much more difficult.
Why am I saying this? Because the current debate and confusion is one of function, not form and especially not people (i.e. office bearers).
Enter Sri Sathya Sai Global Council (GC)
On the occasion of Bhagavan’s Birthday on Nov. 23, 2020, the Central Trust introduced the concept of a “global council”, something that had existed briefly in the past. It embodies a structure to unite, connect, strengthen and harmonize the SAI mission, reduce bureaucracy and streamline communication, in other words, improve the effectiveness of the entire SAI Family (form and function). Note: apparently there had been some issues around this in the past and modern technology and media make large scale communication worldwide easy, direct, transparent and cost-efficient. And, sadly enough, this idea was violently opposed by the SSIO leadership leading to very un-loving actions and exchanges on social media including ugly ad hominem attacks against managing members of the CT and other devotees who openly supported the establishment of the GC.
Seen with an analytical eye, it was obvious from the start that the opposition by SSIO office bearers was based in personal interest superseding the benefit of the whole structure, because some individuals would be reduced in their power and influence or would have to vacate their post after a specific term, which is perfectly normal in any organization. Even monarchs abdicate (or die) at some point in time, except for the British Queen who seems to rule Britannia forever. The Archimedean point of the issue appears to be the refusal of the SSIO to serve under the guidance of the CT and the ill-conceived notion of the SSIO being an “independent” entity without any connection or responsibility to the CT. Please, ask yourself, does that seem plausible in terms of form and function? The sole purpose and function of the SSIO is to serve devotees worldwide and share Swamis teachings. It was never meant to be a self-serving organization in which office bearers tell devotees (who do the work) what to do. Yet, mysteriously enough, some office bearers hold the view that the form (independent of the CT) is much more important than the function: serving Swami. Love all – serve all?
Now, if you take the CT as the core of Baba’s Mission and the SSIO more like the international marketing and distribution division, it becomes painfully obvious that the perceived conflict is based on a grave misunderstanding: the SSIO appears to believe and propagate that it is an autonomous and independent entity functioning outside the jurisdiction of the Central Trust, which is the official body (heir and steward) of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Life, Work and Mission. Discourses and quotation by Bhagavan Himself to this end are categorically denied and ignored by the SSIO. For your own verification and discernment please visit www.srisathyasai.info