Friday, May 24, 2019

Sathya Sai Aug. 1998 interview with Mumbai mediapersons in Prasanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi): Transcript, pics and corroboration from three participant mediapersons

First, I (Ravi S. Iyer) would like to thank Shri Sudhir Joshi, the transcript author who was present in this meeting, for his valuable contribution to documenting Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's 1998 interview with Mumbai mediapersons and preserving and sharing that documentation with others in Sathya Sai fraternity.

Source of transcript and pics given below: https://www.facebook.com/notes/visvesh-baabu/bhagavans-interview-with-the-press-in-1998-transcript-of-the-interview/1117918538239219/ . Note that Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is also referred to as Bhagavan and Swami in the transcript below.

SWAMI Met Mumbai Media - 11 August 1998... Photos & Transcription Courtesy - Sudhir Joshi Brother, who was present during interview...

It was the dawn of the morning of Tuesday, August 11, 1998, when Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, out of His Infinite Divine Grace, met Shri Ramesh and Smt. Devi Narayan from Canco Advertising Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Shri Sudhir Joshi from Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Mumbai, and Editors and Chiefs of Bureaus from the most leading media houses from Mumbai viz. The Times of India, the Indian Express, Blitz, the Observer of Business and Politics, Mumbai Samachar (Gujarati), Loksatta (Marathi), Maharashtra Times (Marathi) and Navbharat Times (Hindi), inside the Interview Room at Prashanti Nilayam.

This was the first private interview given to the press after the September 1976 interview that Bhagavan had granted to Shri Rusi Karanjia. It was so fascinating to note that neither the media officials nor Bhagavan had any specific item in the agenda during the interview session.

The 75 minutes interview session started with Bhagavan asking everyone to introduce oneself and later requesting them to ask any question, they wished to ask.

Each and every individual was fortunate to have a photograph with Bhagavan besides Vibhuti Prasadam from His Divine Hands.

Transcript of Conversations at the Interview Session:

[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]


Above: Sri Sathya Sai Baba with Sri N K Raja Rao (Indian Express Group) and Sri Dinkar Raikar (Loksatta), inside interview room.

Questioner: Have you seen Sai Baba of Shirdi?

Swami: This body has not seen him.

Questioner: Indians are increasingly turning to god men and god women. Is this a sign of growing insecurity within them? Or is it something else?

Swami: This is basically a search for God. The Divine is there within each person. The search is for this divinity. God realisation cannot be seen as a sign of insecurity. It is a positive aspiration to be one with God. It is a good sign.

Questioner: Even as mankind is relentlessly searching for God, he finds himself engulfed by more and more misery. What is the reason for this state of affairs?

Swami: Attachment to the body is the root cause of all suffering and misery. Once this attachment ends, then one can experience divine Bliss. There is no doubt about that. Since God does not have any bodily attachment, he does not attach any importance to the suffering of His body.


Above: Sri Sathya Sai Baba with Sri Vishwanath Sachdev (Navbharat Times) and Sri Ashok Jain (Maharashtra Times) inside interview room.

Questioner: What is the best way to serve God?

Swami: Serve the poor, the weak, the downtrodden and the underprivileged. There is divinity in each of us, hence love and serve fellow human beings selflessly. Give those around you pure love. Religion can be best pursued through the axiom,
"Dil mein Ram, Haath mein Kaam."
There is only one Religion - The Religion of Love;
There is only one Caste - The Caste of Humanity;
There is only one Language - The Language of the Heart;
There is only one Law - The Law of Karma; and
There is only one God - He is omnipresent.
All of us should remember these simple yet profound truths. These truths lead us to God.

Questioner: Is there no escape from human misery?

Swami: It is all Karma. The need is to adopt the path of righteousness. One should surrender oneself to the Almighty.

Questioner: Why do you perform miracles like materializing a ring, a medallion, a necklace, Vibhuti and other objects? What are you trying to prove by performing these miracles?

Swami: Chamatkar or miracle is a cheap word for what I do. A magician performs his tricks to earn a livelihood and worldly fame. But, I materialize these talismans as my visiting cards, as evidence that divinity can transform earth into the sky and vice versa. To doubt this is to betray an inability to grasp the grandeur of the universe. I get lot of satisfaction while gifting these talismans to my devotees.


Above: Sri Sathya Sai Baba with  Sri Sarosh Bana (Blitz),  Sri S Balakrishnan (Times of India) and Sri Vishwanath Sachdev  (Navbharat Times)  inside interview room.

Questioner: The suffering millions flock to you. They want to pass on their problems and suffering to you. How much of these (this) suffering can you take on?

Swami: I am only performing a Divine mission.

Questioner: How do you spend your day?

Swami: My day begins with granting Darshan to my devotees, interviews to people, bhajans, attending to all projects taken up for human welfare. Same cycle is repeated from post noon till evening. Although I know the contents of all letters which I receive, I read all of them for the Trupti or satisfaction of my devotees.

I avoid milk, green fruits, dry fruits, sweets, ghee, butter, tea, coffee, etc. I take a skimpy meal of ragi and green grams. For the past 60 years my weight has remained unchanged at 108 pounds. When the world sleeps, I go to my devotees, give them my vision, comfort them, console them and solve their problems. I willingly take on the sufferings of my devotees on myself.


Above: Sri Sathya Sai Baba with Smt. Devi and Sri Ramesh Narayan (Canco Advertising, Mumbai), Smt. Pinki Dalal (Mumbai Samachar) and Ms. Shalini Sharma (The Observer of Business & Politics)),  inside interview room.

Questioner: Have you gone abroad any time?

Swami: Yes, only once - to East Africa, that too because of the pure love of a devotee, who is no more now. I did not go at the invitation of the government.

Questioner: Do you have any plans to visit foreign nations and spread your message?

Swami: No. Where there is sugar, the ants come there; the sugar does not go chasing after the ants. My first task is to clean up our own country first, then go to other countries.


Above: Sri Sathya Sai Baba with  Sri Sudhir Joshi (SSSO, Mumbai, Bharat) and Sri N K Raja Rao  (Indian Express Group) inside the interview room.

Questioner: You wield enormous influence over the top politicians of the country. Why don't you impress on them the need to inculcate values in public life? If this is done, India will be a much better place.

Swami: Politicians have a choice to pursue good or bad governance; they do covet power with frenzy. But I tell them that:

Politics without Principles,
Science without Humanity,
Education without Character, and
Commerce without Morality,
are not only useless, but can prove to be positively dangerous,
and harm people at large.

Questioner: Do you read newspapers?

Swami: I never read them. Even though I do not read any newspaper, I am aware about everything that is happening round the globe. What is necessary today is that the newspapers should be more careful and responsible in their reporting. Publishing of sensational and baseless news must be avoided. No negative and baseless reporting, especially of those at the helm of affairs of the country, should be done since it has lot of repercussions abroad. If there are any doubts, then they should be cleared after free and frank discussions with the persons concerned. Truth should not be compromised under any circumstance.

Questioner: You are the chancellor of the Sathya Sai University and you attach tremendous importance to education. Why do you think that education in India has now become a mechanical exercise?

Swami: This is because [that] education has been divorced from values. Education bereft of values is meaningless. The need is to restore values to education.

Questioner: What are your views on different political parties in India?

Swami: All parties do good work as well as bad; the problem lies with us. We should insist on principles.

Questioner: Who will lead the Sathya Sai movement after you?

Swami: My devotees. God will continue to guide them.

Questioner: There are so many in India, who sully the image of God(.) (W)hat is your view?

Swami: It is their choice what they do or say; I do not think about this. Freedom of speech exists.

Questioner: What is future of India?

Swami: The time is good from the year 2000.

Questioner: How do you generate funds for [a] multi crore rupees projects that various trusts of yours take up from time to time?

Swami: Whenever intentions are pure, determination (Sankalp) is strong the money comes on its own. I've never thought of money in my Life. Money comes & goes, Morality comes & grows.

Questioner: How to eliminate desire?

Swami: It is rather most difficult to develop the desire. It is very easy to cut down the desire, just decide - if you have two pens - what is the necessity of a third?

Questioner: How to get rid of ego?

Swami: Earth is a small planet in the universe. Countries are rooms in the earth. City is one of the rooms in the country. Locality is one room in the city; building is one room in the locality. Floor is one room in the Building. Flat is a room in the floor. Drawing Room is one of the rooms in the flat & in that you are. Just think this. In this vast universe, how small you are? This is the way to get rid of ego.

Questioner: What is your role on earth?

Swami: You will witness this Puttaparti becoming Mathura Nagari and a time will come when whole world will stand converted into Sathya Sai Organisation. No one can stop this development or delay it(.) I will not give you up nor can any of you give me up.
Even if you lose faith you will repent and come to this refuge very soon, clamouring for admission... your lives are intervened with my earthly career. Act always in accordance with that great privilege.

--- seems to be end of transcript ---

LOVE ALL..! SERVE ALL...!!
HELP EVER..! HURT NEVER…!

Photos & Transcription Courtesy - Sudhir Joshi Brother, who was present during interview.

--- end contents of Facebook post ---

Corroboration of interview transcript by few mediapersons present then

Ravi: I find this article based on 1998 interview of Swami to leading media persons from Mumbai, to have the potential to be an important historical event in the career of Sathya Sai Avatar. Top media persons from Mumbai are very powerful and influential people. The pics that are put up on this event are evidence that the interview did take place. But I felt that the transcript of the interview needs to be corroborated by some of the media persons who were present then (the pics give their names), for it to be accepted as historical fact by current and future historians of Sathya Sai. So I attempted to contact some of them whose contact information I was able to find on the Internet.

Two of the Mumbai media persons who were part of the media team then, responded to me confirming the authenticity of the transcript. I have copy-pasted the screenshots and some text in them, below. A third Mumbai media person spoke to me over telephone about it. I have provided the key input he gave on the phone in this post. This becomes clear corroboration of the interview transcript by some participant media persons and therefore becomes historical evidence.

Ms. Shalini Sharma, now Editor of Hi! BLITZ magazine (as per her Twitter profile), who was one of the media persons in the 1998 media interaction with Sathya Sai, confirmed the authenticity of the transcript of the interaction, on Twitter. See https://twitter.com/ShaliniSharma_/status/1129843274024284161, dated 19th May 2019. I have given below a pic of the Tweet exchange.



The text of my Tweet on 18th May 2019 to her was: "@ShaliniSharma_ I believe u r mentioned in this transcript of Mumbai media interview of Sathya Sai in 1998, put up on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/visvesh-baabu/bhagavans-interview-with-the-press-in-1998-transcript-of-the-interview/1117918538239219/ …

Can u confirm authenticity of transcript to make it more acceptable to current and future historians of Sathya Sai? Thnks"

Ms. Shalini Sharma responded by tweet on 19th May 2019 (early morning): "Yes. Almost two decades back".

I thanked Ms. Shalini Sharma for her response by a tweet response.

Pics below capture my email interaction with Ms. Pinki Dalal.



The key text of my mail sent to her on 20th May 2019 (as shown in above pic) is:

Dear Smt. Pinki Dalal,

I believe you, madam, are mentioned in this transcript of Mumbai media interview of Sathya Sai in 1998, put up on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/visvesh-baabu/bhagavans-interview-with-the-press-in-1998-transcript-of-the-interview/1117918538239219/ . If you are not able to access this public Facebook post for any reason, please let me know. I will provide the transcript via a PDF printout of that post.

I wonder whether you can confirm authenticity of the transcript thereby contributing to making it more acceptable to current and future historians of Sathya Sai as historical fact (transcript). Please note that Shalini Sharma who was one of persons attending the interview/interaction, and who is now Editor of Hi! BLITZ magazine, confirmed it via a Twitter response, https://twitter.com/ShaliniSharma_/status/1129843274024284161, to my tweet query to her a few days ago.

Please note, madam, that I try to contribute to truthful, and where possible verifiable, recording/chronicling of life and events in life of my beloved and revered Gurudev, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

BTW I had also sent a similar Direct Message on Twitter to your twitter account @pinkidalal on 18th May 2019 which you perhaps may not have read.

Thanks & Regards

Ravi S. Iyer
Social media writer on spirituality, religion and miscellaneous topics
Retired international software consultant
Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India
----

Ms. Pinki Dalal confirmed authenticity of transcript in her email response on 20th May 2019 (above pic), saying, "Dear Mr. Iyer
I ve visited with other editors and disciple. It is absolutely verbatim interview taken by the team of the editors.
Best Regards
Pinki Dalal
Director ,
ORIOR IT CONSULTING PVT LTD,
127, Parekh Market,
Opera House
Mumbai
India "
----

I thanked Smt. Pinki Dalal in an email response to her.
-----

I was able to speak to Shri Vishwanath Sachdev who was with Navbharat Times in 1998, as per the transcript-note, and is now Editor of Navneet, http://www.navneethindi.com/, on the phone on 24th May 2019. I had earlier sent him a mail about my request to confirm authenticity of transcript which Mr. Sachdev had kindly read. Mr Sachdev kindly spoke to me on phone.

He said that as the interview was long ago, he does not recall all the interview details. But he said that most of the transcript seems to be correct (as per his recollection). [Note that he did not point out anything that he felt to be inaccurate in the transcript - it is just that he was not able to recall all the interview details as it was quite long back.] He also said that there were some other matters touched upon in the interview - it was a long one, he said - which does not seem to be mentioned in the transcript.

He said it was a frank conversation with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and that he himself asked some frank questions to Bhagavan which Bhagavan responded to (and he referred to the chamatkar/miracle question that is mentioned in the transcript).

I thanked Shri Vishwanath Sachdev for spending his valuable time on reading my mail and then speaking with me on phone on this matter.
-----

[Note that this post is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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