A Revealing Week in the Life of a SSB Devotee Group

 

Copyright Brian Steel 2003

Date: 28-12-03

By: Brian Steel

Email: ompukalani@hotmail.com

Website: http://bdsteel.tripod.com/index.html

On a small (open) SSB devotee chat group noted for its banalities and its strenuous avoidance of controversial postings, there has just been an unusual six-day flurry of pre-Christmas revelations and typical devotee reactions flying through the ether.

A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) devotee well known for his frequent contributions to devotee chat groups, posted a detailed account about his recent 2-day stay at SSB's ashram (on an 8 week trip to India, after 8 years of absence). In a bout of criticism unfamiliar to this sheltered group and quite unlike the usual euphoric accounts of visits to SSB's ashrams by overseas devotees, this chat group member dwelt at some length on the adverse physical conditions at the ashram, the diminished possibility of getting personal contact or an interview with SSB, and the devotee's unhappiness, sense of injustice, and physical discomfort (as a sufferer of Parkinson's disease) at having to sit cross-legged on the concrete for 4 hours for each 15-minute darshan. (Because of this he had only managed to attend 2 out of the 4 possible darshans during his short stay.)

The devotee went on to offer the following indiscreet observations for the benefit of overseas devotees and prospective visitors:

- that he saw few foreigners at the otherwise crowded birthday celebrations this year;
- and that, following his hip injuries, SSB is 9 pounds lighter than his seemingly perennial 108 pounds and practically unable to walk unaided ("with a seesaw waddling gait"). The visiting devotee also noted the very high level of security personnel around the village and the ashram and likened it to Kashmir. He also regretted that, for security reasons, neither water bottles nor pens or pencils are allowed to be taken into the darshan area.

In the context of this disciplined little devotee chat group, revelations of this type are almost equivalent to breaking wind in public. Not surprisingly, therefore, to disperse the unpleasant smell, one or two devotees quickly rallied to put a nice gloss on the report and to show that all is for the best in the best of all possible saiworlds. But this then stirred the original writer and others into contributing other diverse views and reactions on the matters broached.

One contributor offered her companions the explanation that SSB's continuing hip pain and noticeable physical disability proves that he has taken on a lot of the world's karma. Another gentle and simple soul commiserated with the suffering spiritual tourist but reminded him (at inordinate length) that it is all part of SSB's teaching that we should look within and not be concerned with the body. This prompted another admiring devotee to write to thank the gentle soul and to give everyone the benefit of her own experience of SSB's similar teachings.

The original grumbler then retaliated against one correspondent by arguing with two of his counter-arguments and making the interesting suggestion that unless benches and chairs are provided in the ashram for all sick or handicapped devotees, a notice banning all such people from the ashram should be posted in a prominent place. (Such a novel solution would of course at present exclude even SSB himself in view of his need for wheelchairs and support.)

By now, the (recently appointed) Editor's patience must have been exhausted with this unseemly debate by rank and file members, which obliged him to intervene with a lengthy rebuke to the uncomfortable and disgruntled devotee. He ended his stern message with the familiar finger-wagging reminder that complaints are not appropriate for this devotee forum.

That should have been the end of an already dramatic and revealing episode but a further note of mystery was added when the Editor's next brief message contained a short apology to the disgruntled devotee for the rebukes. The fact that the Editor did not share with other readers the details for the apology made it obvious that there had been private messages between the two, which the rest of the membership was not allowed to share. (As for the number of other private messages flying to and from members of this 'open' forum on these embarrassing - and virtually taboo - topics, it can only be guessed at.)

As a result of all this unusual activity, and also, perhaps, because of the apology to the offender by the authoritarian Editor, the members were then given the rare treat of the intervention of the lurking supervisor of this SSB group who almost immediately pulled rank on the hapless Editor and posted one of his brief, enigmatic pronouncements, apparently suggesting to the disgruntled man that his discomfort at the ashram was divinely ordained because of his poor attitude: instant karma, in fact. At which the disgruntled (temporary) black sheep miraculously became gruntled and returned to the fold with a brief and contrite posting to acknowledge the lesson so suddenly learnt and also to praise the lurking unofficial spokesperson's great wisdom and enviable blessedness.

End of story. The chat group resumed its safe banalities and bromides, just in time for the Christmas celebrations.

***

31 December 2003:

Additional note:

I stumbled on the above important information on Xmas Eve, and posted it 2 days later. Two days ago, a fellow seeker after the truth emailed me that this small open SSB chat group (a Yahoo group called Saiunity) was closing down, ostensibly because of lack of messages. The 60 members were invited to re-apply to a join a closed SSB group under the control of the "usual suspects", and with no alias addresses (hotmail, etc.) allowed - a strict new departure. The issue was "non-negotiable", according to this sudden fulminating message.

Well, coincidence or not, these information controllers do not waste time! Today (3 days after the sudden closure notice) there is no longer any trace of the group on the Internet, under Yahoo groups. If you try to find "saiunity", you will find the message "There is no group Saiunity". So after a very undistinguished 4 years of Internet existence, with the dwindling numbers of messages (mainly devotional and inspirational sai-texts) coinciding with the questions being publicly asked about SSB and the SSO, the few members of this open website have now been driven underground, where any potentially embarrassing messages like those referred to above in this note will not be seen by "outsai-ders".

Draw your own conclusions - and remember that the embarrassing literal translations of SSB's Discourses also disappeared from the Internet when attention was drawn to their content!

***