A Word of Assurance
Events in the past thirty-fifty years
have given the word cult a very negative meaning (although
earlier, cult meant religious practice or worship and the
rites, ceremonies, and practices of a religion, as well as an
unorthodox or spurious religion).
Rest assured, dear reader, that the
Sai Organization is not a cult in that negative sense of the word!
Below, we give information that will help explain the differences
between a cult and the Sai Organization. The information is drawn from
two books on cults: Mindbending: Brainwashing, Cults, and
Deprogramming in the '80's (by Lowell Streiker, Doubleday, New
York, 1984) and Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (by
J. Melton, Garland Publishing, New York, 1986).
This material is a slight revision of
an article that appeared in The Sathya Sai Newsletter, USA.
Streiker indicates that a real cult
will lack the following characteristics:
- Genuine concern for members'
- Appreciation of constructive
criticism from non-believers, and
- Active encouragement of dialogue
between members and outside world.
Beyond that, there are nine major
characteristics of cults, as listed below. With each characteristic,
we show through direct quotes from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba that
the Sai Organization does not have these characteristics. In the
references for quotes from Sathya Sai Baba, "SSS'' stands for the old
editions of Sathya Sai Speaks.
1. Primary cult
activities are fund raising and recruiting new members.
I do not like your going about
collecting funds or raising donations. (SSS VI, 67, p. 325)
Fund collection is as much opposed
to this movement as fire is to water. (SSS VII, 5, p. 34)
Enough for us if there remain one
or two members where practice and preaching are correct and sincere.
Quality is accepted; quantity is of no consequence. (SSS VIII, 13,
I do not need any publicity. (SSS
IV, 23, p. 140)
Do not imagine that your task is to
propagate Baba and speak of Baba and his message. (SSS IX, 35, p.
2. Cult members are
encouraged to cut off communication with family and friends. They are
isolated from the outside world and any reality testing it could
Your primary task is to discharge
your duty. This does not mean renouncing worldly life or your
obligations to your family. (Sanathana Sarathi, February
1992, p. 37)
Use the opportunities confronting
you as a householder to develop detachment and self sacrifice. (SSS
IV 33, 191)
Don't keep yourself apart, working
on your own salvation through meditation; move among your sisters
looking for opportunities to help ... (SSS VII, 39, 194)
3. Cult members hand
over possessions and earnings and become totally dependent on group.
Whoever may ask, even if they say
that I have authorized them, do not give them a penny. (SSS VII, 57,
Where money is asked and offered, I
have no place. (SSS IV, 69, p. 392)
Do not lean on others; live on your
own earnings, your own resources. (SSS VIII, 44, p. 231)
4. The cult enforces
demands by peer pressure, embarrassment, and even violence.
Humility and tolerance must
characterize the behavior of Sai devotees. (SSS X, 10, p. 44)
Start the day with love, spend the
day with love; fill the day with love; end the day with love; that
is the way to God. (SSS VIII, 14, p. 88 )
Non-violence includes not causing
hurt even by a word, look, or gesture. (SSS X, 59, p. 307)
5. The cult is the
only possessor of truth --others are unsaved and hostile to truth.
Do not develop fanaticism or
sectarianism. (SSS VI, 7, p. 37)
All religions call upon the one,
omnipresent God. (SSS X, 44, p. 230)
Diversity of religion and faith is
conducive to the welfare of mankind. (SSS VIII, 25, p. 149)
Finding fault with another's faith
casts a slur on yours. (SSS V, 67, p. 333)
You have to teach the equal
validity of all faiths. (SSS X, 55, p. 283)
6. The cult feels
above the law --the ends justify means of lying, stealing, defrauding.
Dharma (right action) is
essentially social morality. (SSS IX, 2, 13)
Dharma (right action)
includes morality, truth, virtue, love, and a host of other
qualities that uphold communities of man and the individual. (SSS
VI, 38, p. 167)
Care of the country is as important
as care of the body. (SSS VII, 20, 98)
7. The cult may be
apocalyptic --members will be the only survivors of a world
Do not be upset at calamities; take
them as acts of grace. (SSS V, 32, 165)
No disaster is immanent for the
world. Over the vast globe, there may be some mishaps here and there,
from time to time. (Sanathana Sarathi, March 1991)
8. The cult is based
on the teachings of an authoritarian, corrupt leader who is the sole
source of what the group believes and of rules for daily behavior.
The scriptures lay down the lines
along which man has to direct his thoughts and activities. Sincere
adherence to those laws and limitations alone can guarantee wisdom.
(SSS IX, p. 151)
I have not come to set afoot a new
cult. (SSS VI, 46, p. 235)
Seek out chances to study and
substantiate the basic similarities in all religions. (SSS VIII, 14,
The Vedas are the
foundation of Indian culture. (Sanathana Sarathi Dec. '82,
Truth, right action, peace, and
love are the four pillars of the eternal wisdom. (SSS III, 25, 122)
9. The cult exists
for its own material survival and makes false promises to help
The organization is exclusively for
spiritual development. (SSS VII, 34, p. 164).
Service to man is the best form of
worship. (SSS IX, 46, p. 235).
Organizations bearing my name must
render service to the helpless, sick, distressed, illiterate, needy.
(SSS VI, 36, p. 158)