Sathya Sai Organisation
(One organisation with two charters)
by Serguei Badaev
In spite of the apparent oneness of the
Sathya Sai Organisation, with its common rules and structure, in fact, it contains
two essentially different parts (Indian and Overseas), which follow different
Charters and Rules and Regulations.
Below we present a comparative analysis of the Charter and Rules and Regulations for Indian and Overseas parts as they are fixed in the corresponding documents. For the Indian part it is "Rules and Regulations for Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, India", published soon after 6th World Conference (1995). For the Overseas part we have used a brochure under a title "Charter of the Sathya Sai Organisation and Rules and Regulations (For Overseas Countries)"
Unfortunately, the brochure is not dated. Further we will refer to them as to "Indian version" and "Overseas version" correspondingly. It is worth mentioning here that the Charter is supposed to be an unchangeable part though Rules and Regulations can be changed from time to time. Introduction for the Indian version written by the All India President reads: "Almost after every major conference, the Rules and Regulations (Manual of the Organisation) undergo modifications some major, some minor.... It is stated in the introduction that the current version is considered to be valid until next global conference and members are encouraged to send their proposals how to improve functioning of the Sai Organisation.
2. Content of the Charter.
It may sound strange but the texts of the Charter in the Indian and Overseas versions are different. In the Overseas version the Charter consists of the following sections (some titles are given ad hoc): (1) The Preamble, The Declaration; (2) The Code of Conduct; (3) General Principles; (4) Objectives of the Sai Organisation; (5) Activitites of the Organisation; (6) The Structure of the Organisation. In the Indian version the order and the titles of sections are as follows: (1) the Charter (it corresponds in content to the Preamble and the Declaration of the Overseas version); (2) The Code of Conduct; (3) General Principles; (4) The Structure of the Organisation; (5) Practice of Sadhana by Bhaktas; (6) Inner Significance and Objectives of Activities.
This obvious difference seems even stranger as both Indian and Overseas versions have the same opening words: "Permanent Charter granted by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, at the Third World Conference, dated 14th day of January, in the 55th year of His Advent, Anno Domini 1981." A logical question arises: which of two texts was actually granted by Bhagawan Baba?
3. The Structure of the Organisation.
Whereas in the Indian version this section describes the structure from the level of the All India President down to the centres ("samithi" in the Indian version) and groups, in the Overseas version this section describes so called the Central Organisation comprising the Central Office, the All India President and the International Chairman. According to the Overseas version it is this body that makes rules and regulations for the whole Organisation. However, it is left completely unclear what the Central Office is, its staff, tenure, etc. In the Indian version the Central Office is shown on the chart of the structure of the Organisation, but mentioned nowhere in the text. The Central Office is the only body common to both Indian and Overseas parts. Down from the All India President for the Indian part and International Chairman for the Overseas part both Indian and Overseas parts have their own structure and hierachy.
The structures of the Indian and Overseas parts differ in a respect that Indian part doesn't mention any collective bodies like Coordination Committees or Central Councils of the Overseas version. Instead of this there is a strict hierachy from top to down: centre president ("samithi convenor" in the Indian version) - state coordinator - state president - zonal coordinator/all India coordinator - all India president.
Another interesting feature of the Indian part of the Sai Organisation is existence of a special separate structure for women members. It is called Mahila Vibhag and consists only of women. Women belonging to Mahila Vibhag deal mostly with educational activities and at the same time take part in other activities of the centre (samithi). They have their own coordinators on the level of a state according to the 3 kinds of activities in the Sai Organisation (educational, devotional amd service) and report directly to a state president.
4. Office Bearers.
According to the Indian version all office bearers are appointed from above. State President appoints all office bearers from the level of state down to the level of centres and groups. At the same time, according to the Overseas version from the level of centres and groups there are elections (they are called "selections" in the text) by consensus up to the level of the Chairman of the Central Council, which is appointed from above. So, starting with the Chairman of the Central Council we have office bearers who are not elected and not accountable to the lower levels of the Organisation.
Significant differences between two versions concern the tenure of office bearers and their reselection. The Indian version reads that the All India President, National and Zonal Coordinators "shall hold office during the pleasure of Bhagawan Baba". For office bearers of lower level the tenure is 2 years with further re-nomination. In the Overseas version all office bearers from the level of central coordinators down hold their offices for a period of 2 years and can be re-nominated only one more period of 2 years. It is interesting fact that the Indian version doesn't give any limitations on the consequent re-nomination of office bearers, but at the same time mentions that office bearers can't hold office in more than one unit of the Organisation or in any other religious or spiritual organisation. This is a point which is omitted in the Overseas version.
5. The Status of Members.
The Rules and Regulations of the Indian and Overseas versions contain a lot of differences. For example, the membership. Below are the quotations concerning enrolment and status of the Sai Organisation members.
The Indian version: "Any person who is a spiritual aspirant, has faith in the teaching of Bhagawan Baba, and who signs a declaration that he is willing to abide by the 9-point Code of Conduct and the rules of the Organisation in force will be treated as a Member. Members who participate in the activities of the Organisation shall be treated as 'Workers'."
The Overseas version: "Any person who is a spiritual aspirant, has faith in the teaching of Bhagawan Baba, and who is willing to abide by the 9-point Code of Conduct and the rules and regulations of the Organisation in force will be treated as a Member. Such of the members as are in a position to devote at least four hours a week to activities of the Organisation shall be treated as Active Workers."
6. World Conferences.
World Conferences, which are held by the Sai Organisation every 5 years and considered to be most important events in the Sai Organisation life, are not mentioned at all neither in the Indian version, nor in the Overseas one. It means that those conferences cannot be legal collective bodies of the Sai Organisation and cannot pass any authoritative resolutions on behalf of the Organisation. Rather they are a sort of a forums for exchanging views and ideas. According to the Charters, the only authoritative resolutions for the Sai Organisation are directives and guidelines of the Central Organisation (the Central Office, the All India President and the International Chairman).
(1) Such significant discrepancies in the Indian and Overseas versions of the main documents of the Sai Organisation lead to the conclusion that the Sai Organisation should not be considered as a united body, but rather as two clearly distinct bodies under the common managing body.
(2) The vague structure and unclear places of both Indian and Overseas Charters and Rules and Regulations sections hardly make these documents appropriate for any legal registration.
(3) It is known that the text (texts?) of the Charter has been considered several times for possible improvements and modifications. However, it seems that the text of the Overseas version hasn't undergone any serious modifications. Even the establishment of the "youth wing" in 1997 and division of the Overseas part into zones (1999?) with subsequent introduction of the Zonal Coordinator position has not so far led to any modification of the Charter and Rules and Regulations.
(4) The leaders of the Sai Organisation often refer to Sathya Sai Baba' s words about significance of the Sai Organisation and its role in a future spiritual revival of the humanity. The Sai Organisation is expected by its members to become a model and an integral part of the human society and to exist for many centuries. ("The whole world itself will be transformed into Sathya Sai Organisation and Sathya Sai will be installed in the hearts of one and all." 20.11.1998, Sanathana Sarathi v.42, #1, p.21) However, the Sai Organisation is so strongly focused (from the point of view of its policy and ideology) on its charismatic leader, Sathya Sai Baba, that after Sai Baba leaving this physical realm, it will inevitably face a great shock and those Charters and Rules and Regulations, as they exist now, can hardly be a basis for effective and smooth functioning of the Sai Organisation.
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