Last updated on 15th March 2016
Update note on 15th March 2016: On request by the person who had put up the open letter, I have snipped out the person's name, blog post url as well as extracts from that blog post that I had put up on this post.
Here's the blog post, "An Open Letter To Sai Devotees - Action Group, Supporters of Sri.Rathnakar and Muddenhalli" by --- (name snipped), --- (URL snipped)
I have given below some extracts from the above post and my comments on the same.
---: ---snip---[Ravi: I agree with the above comments in the context of recent Facebook posts and mails by the main correspondent of Action Group.]
---: ---snip---[Ravi: Thank you for this contribution which gives a woman's perspective of the matter. Very well said, IMHO.]
---: ---snip---[Ravi: I am one of the open critics of the FALSE BELIEF aspect of Muddenahalli group. Specifically, I believe it to be my duty to Bhagavan and the Sathya Sai fraternity to PUBLICLY WRITE against Madhusudhan Rao Naidu's actions of being a so called communicator giving his Darshan, Interviews and Discourses in the HOLY NAME of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and diluting and corrupting the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Quite a few Sai devotees have thanked me for this work as they wrote that it helped them understand the matter better. Please note that I have nothing against the social service work of Muddenahalli group neither do I oppose their fund collection methods. My opposition is only to Madhusudhan Rao Naidu going against the teachings of Swami by acting as a so called communicator, and misguiding thousands of innocent Sai devotees.
So here, ---, I think we will have to POLITELY agree to disagree :-).]
---: ---snip---[Ravi: Jealousy of wealth that others have acquired is a TERRIBLE PROBLEM in Prasanthi Nilayam and Puttaparthi. That seems to me to be the root cause of the rivalry faced by some persons in Prasanthi Nilayam and Puttaparthi.]
[In Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/notes/vr-ganti/opportunity-to-rathnakar-to-end-mhalli-saga/10205869867290499, Shri Ap Ramesh wrote in a comment:]
sairam sir, i am resident of puttaparthy . sir all of you dont know the real problem. we all in puttaparthi know about it and support sri sri sri Ratnakar sir . it is problem most Indians are facing today. Sir, Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba was born in a backward class community. because of divine powers no body challenged him and all upper caste community people worked under him. he said he hads no religion and caste and PM and President coming to see him, every body shutting their mouths. After he is no more, upper caste community is wanting to throw out sri sri sri Ratnakar sir, who belongs to backward class community. uopper caste community is not able to tolerate a Backward class leader in the trust. all of you see sir, except sri sri sri Ratnakar sir, all in the trust are from upper caste community. secretary is from upper caste community. publishing books shop headed by upper caste person. shopping head is a upper caste person. accomodation incharge is upper class person. hospital director who made allegation on sri sri sri Ratnakar sir also a upper caste person. sai ram sir it is these people want to take over trust and throw out backward caste leader sri sri sri Ratnakar sir. sir, entire backward caste in India is there for sri sri sri Ratnakar sir, we have CMs and PM also from backward class community. no one can remove or touch sri sri sri Ratnakar sir. Lacs of backward class youth and supporters will join him if he calls from all over India. sir, please dont blame after wards. sri sri sri Ratnakar sir is back ward class community leader . He is our TIGER. please sir remember sir dont forget sir. Namaskarams to Baba.
--- end comment of Shri Ap Ramesh ---
---: ---snip---[Ravi: Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in my considered opinion based on both my study of his life & teachings and some DIRECT EXPERIENCES I have had of his Divine Powers, was (and in formless state, is) Shiva-Shakti Swarupa and Kali Yuga Avatar. Hindu scripture does not have any religious figure (including Rama & Krishna) who has done so much in His lifetime, for re-inforcing faith in God and in re-inforcing Sanathana Dharma values of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti & Prema.
Having said that, it must also be noted that Bhagavan took a human form in a PARTICULAR FAMILY (Ratnakara family) IN RESPONSE TO FERVENT PRAYERS OF THAT FAMILY'S ANCESTOR (Sage Venkavadhoota), and in a particular place (Puttaparthi). Some relevant extracts from http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/Pages/SriSathyaSaiBaba/LifeHistory.htm are given below:
The Ratnakaram Raju Family
The Raju family of Puttaparthi was noted for its piety since the days of the renowned sage, Venkavadhootha, a saintly ancestor who was looked upon as a Guru in hundreds of villages around. Not only did the family build and endow the Gopalaswami Temple (dedicated to Lord Krishna), but Sri Ratnakaram Kondama Raju, the grandfather of Bhagawan's physical frame, dedicated a temple to Sathyabhama, consort of Lord Krishna, a deity to whom this type of homage is seldom offered in any part of India. Peasants by vocation, they were known for their musical and dramatic talent and were much involved in the propagation of the sacred scriptures through village plays and musicals. Consequently, the family was given the name ‘Bhat Raju’ (Bhat – priest).
On 23rd May 1940, Sathya rose from bed as usual, but after some time, He called the members of the household around Him, gave them sugar candy and flowers taken from nowhere. At this, the neighbours too rushed in. He gave them each a ball of rice cooked in milk, flowers and sugar candy concretised by a mere wave of the hand. Meanwhile, Sri Venkama Raju came and he was incensed by what he thought was a trick, hiding things somewhere and producing them by sleight of hand. He wanted the chapter to be closed before it lengthened into a tragedy.
So, arming himself with a stick, he accosted Sathya and asked, "Are you a God, a ghost or a madcap? Tell me!" Prompt came the answer, the Announcement, that had been held back so long, “I am Sai Baba."
At this, Venkama Raju was stunned into silence; the stick slid from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya trying to grasp the implications of that announcement - “I am Sai Baba." But, Sathya continued, “I belong to Apasthamba Sutra; I am of the Bharadwaja Gothra; I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure."
The elder brother, Seshama Raju went near Him, and asked, "What do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only said this much - "Your Venkavadhootha prayed that I be born in your family. So, I came."
--- end short extracts from srisathyasai.org.in ---
Ravi: What must never be forgotten in the context of Sri R.J.Rathnakar having been chosen as trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Himself, is that Bhagavan chose to take birth in Sri R.J. Rathnkar's family due to the earnest devotion and prayers of that family's ancestors including Sage Venkavadhootha. Other Sathya Sai devotees (like me) as well as Action Group members, have benefited from Sri R.J. Rathnakar's family ancestors' earnest devotion which led to Swami taking birth in their family and which DIVINE ADVENT has been of HUGE BENEFIT to all of us Sathya Sai devotees.
Now regarding the caste within which Bhagavan took human form, the Bhatrajus: From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhatraju:
Bhatturaju is an Indian caste found in southern states of the country be it bhatt,bhatti, bhatia, bhattarika, barot, brahmbhatt,bhatta, bhattu, bhattacharya are all the same. They are brahmins who follow kshatriya dharma. (T)hey lost all (their) name and fame in the muslim rulers period. (I)n (M)ahabharatam (D)harmaraju changed his name to kanku bhattu this denote some of the known ancestral origins of this community raju is added to them because they follow kshatriya dharma bhattu = scholar, raju = king .They are considered as Kshatriya for Kshatriyas & Brahmin for Brahmins.Their legends relate them to the north Indian Bhattu communities. (S)ince ages their profession has been poetry, performing puja, kshatriya dharma, and teachings about divinity god and education.
--- end extract ---
Ravi: So it seems that the Bhatraju caste in Andhra Pradesh has a mix of Kshatriya and Brahmin background. However, they seem to have suffered from great marginalization under Muslim rulers of Andhra Pradesh in past centuries. This marginalization perhaps resulted in them being viewed as economically backward when the Backward Caste categorization work was done (perhaps sometime in the 20th century). And so, as of now, Bhatraju caste is part of the designated BC castes (and so, eligible for BC reservation quota benefits), http://backwardcaste.hpage.co.in/ap-bc-list_30609994.html. Note that this BC categorization includes economically backward castes.
There is another angle to Shri A.P. Ramesh's comment. After Mahasamadhi, there are very strong feelings among outside ashram Puttaparthi locals that they are looked down upon and discriminated against by those in power within Prasanthi Nilayam ashram. Mind you, many of the salaried people in Prasanthi Nilayam system (sixth pay commission salaries paid out of devotee contributions to SSSCT corpus fund), lead far more materially comfortable lives than many of the Puttaparthi locals (especially the vegetable & fruit vendors, the push-cart sellers, the Auto Drivers and rickshaw pullers, manual labourers etc. as well as shopkeepers) most of whom have seen a huge drop in their earnings after Mahasamadhi.
The only top person in Prasanthi Nilayam system that locals can approach is Shri R.J. Rathnakar. Rest of the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram bosses are, I am told, not easily approachable to locals when it comes to raising their problems. So I think Shri A.P. Ramesh's comment is simply a reality-check to Action Group that there is no way Action Group or any of its supporters, including those within Prasanthi Nilayam or Puttaparthi, will be able to budge Shri R.J. Rathnakar from his position as trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust.
The huge wealth and income inequalities between various groups in India are a reality that simply cannot be ignored. And that wealth and income inequality is huge even in Prasanthi Nilayam and outside ashram Puttaparthi. Caste, very unfortunately, is a significant factor in this huge wealth and income inequality in India in general and in particular in Puttaparthi. So, one cannot wish away caste realities of India (and Puttaparthi). Further, in early 21st century democratic India, the poor and marginalized including locals in Puttaparthi know the power of their VOTE and so will surely AGITATE POLITICALLY if Prasanthi Nilayam ashram bosses try to marginalize locals further by attempting to cut down the powers of, or marginalize in some other fashion, the ONLY TRUSTEE in Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust who is in touch with Puttaparthi local populace. Shri A.P. Ramesh's comment is reflective of these realities which simply cannot be ignored by anybody involving themselves with Prasanthi Nilayam Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust power politics like what Action Group is attempting to do.]
[I thank Shri A.P. Ramesh, Wikipedia and srisathyasai.org.in and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]