By: Robert Priddy
My overall contention,
based on widespread sources plus 18 years of personal experience as
a national leader, is that the organisation fulfils four fairly
1) To regulate and
coordinate for its members their religious rituals, and their social
and educational service work.
2) To publicise and
proselytise about the divinity and teachings of Sathya Sai Baba,
whom all members must recognise as the Godhead.
3) To counteract all
negative criticism of anything connected with Sathya Sai Baba or the
organisation and to maintain a complete censorship and cover-up of
all facts giving rise to such criticism, plus complete secrecy on
all internal matters.
4) To provide and expand
a catchments area for financial donations and testaments both
voluntary and solicited.
The first of these seems
to have been the main concern in the early years of the
Organisation. This is always still given as its official sole
raison d'etre., and consequently is how most members and Sai
followers perceive it.
By the 1980s, however,
the second was being practiced increasingly - and has led to massive
efforts at propaganda today supported by the Organisation (websites,
world-wide radio, films, videos and many hundreds of books). The
Organisation exaggerates its membership, number of centres,
activities and importance - all in accordance with the frequent and
massive exaggerations by Sathya Sai both in private and in public of
his importance and consequently that of his organisation (which he
claims is saving the world from cataclysm), .
The third function was
confined mainly to the top leadership between 1975 and 1993 (when
the murders incident in SSB's bedroom took place), and became more
and more necessary thereafter. From 1999, when the latest wave of
sexual allegations broke in full force, due to the possibility of
communication between widespread defectors by the Internet, the
Organisation enforces a total internal and external 'blackout' on
even the mildest mention of the issues or criticism of any kind,
especially such that could reflect on the person of Sai.
The fourth function has
become steadily more important to the Sathya Sai Central Trust and
affiliated or dependent interests. The cash flow requirements of the
various Involvements of Sathya Sai Baba are now enormous. The
Organisation has to defer to the decisions of the Central Trust in
all matters of finance and property.
The total assets
controlled by the Central Trust and the various Sathya Sai
institutions is inestimable. Around 1990, The Economist had
a front page profile of SSB as being South India's greatest
entrepreneur, with gross assets of $2 billion. Since then, two
single donations of US $600 million dollars were made (one by Mr.
James Sinclair of the USA, the other announced by Sathya Sai Baba
came anonymously) and - at the 70th Birthday celebration in 1995 - a
long list of names of persons who had donated more than one crore of
rupees (ca. US $250,000) were read out to the assembled crowds.
Since the numbers and amounts from donations and testaments are for
the most part kept strictly secret, one can only estimate the actual
amounts. The Central Trust does not disclose any of its agendas or
minutes, nor details of its finances. It is registered in India
under a clause which makes its assets completely tax free and also
allows it to import and export goods duty-free. A financial summary
for charities and NGOs is published annually by the Indian
Government, which also lists the Sathya Sai Organisation's net
income. However, considering the massive extent of corruption that
has repeatedly been shown to permeate Indian Governments up to the
highest levels, these figures can almost certainly be regarded