Sai Baba And The Evils Of Television
"Television is Telepoison." (Attributed)"TV has, in fact, become a disease of modern times. So, it is not TV but TB (tuberculosis)." - 22 November 1999
"To let children watch the TV from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. is to make them forget all that they have learnt at school or college. In addition, they learn many evil things. If TV is used for teaching good things, it can serve a worthy purpose. But that is not the case. The younger generation is being ruined by undesirable films and TV programmes. Their minds are being poisoned. It is not a sign of parental love to let children be ruined in this manner. Even parents should avoid going to cinemas. All the crimes and violence we witness today are largely the result of the evil influence of films on young minds." - 5 February 1984
Whereas Sai Baba's views on television and films are extensively documented in his discourses, the above quotes show a side of him that'll certainly make him the darling of the religious right. If only they could get over his garish clothing and afro, not to mention the homosexual paedophilia and suspected involvement in murders, eh?
Although the Baba appears to be giving good advice out of concern for the moral upbringing of children, a simple discourse search for 'television' will reveal rather startling criticisms and outright condemnation, were it not for the fact that television does provide educational and informative programming such as news updates and Discovery Channel documentaries. Good for Sai, he does concede that television can be used for uplifting purposes, but his insinuations about television being responsible for just about every crime is stretching things a tad too far:
"From the moment television made its appearance, the mind of man has been polluted. Before the advent of T.V., men's minds were not so much polluted. Acts of violence were not so rampant previously. Today T.V. is installed in every hut. People watch the T.V. even while taking food. The result is that all the foul things seen on the T.V. are being consumed by the viewer. Concentration on the T.V. affects one's view of the world. The scenes, thoughts and actions displayed on the T.V. set fill the minds of the viewers. Unknowingly, agitations and illfeelings enter their minds. In due course they take root and grow in the minds ... Not Bhaarath alone, but the whole world is suffering from the consequences of T.V. The world is racked by disorder, discord and frustration." - 15 January 1996
"Avoid also films, for though they may be advertised as very educative and inspiring, the producers, in their greed for profits, smuggle in low vulgar debasing scenes in order to please raw untrained minds. Don't allow the virus of vice to infect your brains. If that happens you descend to levels worse than the beasts." - April 25, 2002
Because of TV? Come on!
Another angle of this issue is to understand the implications and consequences of not watching TV/movies for Sai Baba's own devotees, particularly the youth. Without a doubt and as everyone knows, discussions about the latest movies or last night's TV form a large chunk of typical everyday conversations. For a typical Bal Vikas or Youth Wing member not to indulge in the same with (devotee or nondevotee) peers is to deprive them of certain styles of social engagement.
Growing up as a 'youth' Sai devotee, television and movies was all my peers talked about as well as girls and music. Although I made efforts to observe Sai Baba's teachings in these matters, they were shortlived as I soon found that it became impossible to restrict my viewing to just educational programmes. Subsequent watching of movies that I knew Sai Baba would disapprove of (oh, those fantastic Die Hard Bruce Willis movies!) makes it very easy to have an intense guilt trip.
Whatever the situation may be with the contributions of televisual violence to crime figures, the essential issue at hand is that young Sai devotees are being unnecessarily guilt-tripped either by themselves or by their parents/peers when they watch movies that may be anything as harmless as The Lion King, all because it doesn't fit Sai Baba's idea of "educational TV". Tell that to your sobbing seven-year-old.
One of the recent movies, King Kong, features a ginormous ugly hairy beast who falls in love with a sexy blonde woman and then gets very angry when the nasty authorities prevent him from having his liberty. So much so that he climbs the Empire State Building (or whatever) and swats away those nasty helicopters who shoot all those bullets to kill him. Gosh, this will CORRUPT and DEGRADE your child even with a PG-13 certificate!
"I condemn frivolous talk, luxurious living, deleterious habits, addiction to films, horror comics, pen-friends, exotic dress, outlandish coiffures designed to draw attention to oneself, etc. By these means, boys and girls are slowly drawn into non-righteous and immoral ways." - Sai Baba (quoted in 'Vision of Sai', p. 210)
Yeah, whatever. Besides, who's to say that young Sai devotees don't watch TV or go to movies anyway? Why, when a new Warner cinema complex and bowling arena opened for business a few miles away from me, I was surprised to see a devotee friend of mine in their employment! And of course, like all good friends, he didn't mind offering to let me in for free. ;-)
Back to serious matters, it just occurred to me that it is practically impossible to be free from the influence of television or movies in this modern age. As a notable example, our Sai Youth group once put on a drama for an inter-centre performance. It was a typical moralistic tale of a boy who doesn't study well and disobeys his parents to go hang out with friends, and in the end sees the wisdom of parents' and God's advice after a few hair-raising near-death experiences. Go figure. But since boys will be boys especially with their toys, we did put on an amazing array of sound and special effects to enhance the performance.
One interesting thing is that while the lead was having his near-death experience, we combined the strobe light (oh, that strobe light was fun!) with ominous music which was, guess what? 'Ave Satani', the theme tune to The Omen. Well yes, of course we did experiment with other movie theme tunes in rehearsals but decided on 'Ave Satani' for it's decidedly satanic and foreboding tones. Check the lyrics and the translations. Such a nice song for Swami, huh? :-)
Sai Baba may have his heart in the right place with his exhortations on watching television and movies, but in the reality of the modern-day world such principles are unworkable and difficult to implement. Sai's humble attempt to stem the rising tide of televisual evil is broadcast three times a week on SANSKAR (Indian TV channel), but - thanks to my favourite critic, Gerald Moreno, recently pointing out a hypocritical aspect of Sai Baba's behaviour to me - I find this motion to be self-defeating when he allows movie shows to be displayed in his own ashram!
"Again, on December 15th, a similar thing happens. Out of the blue, one evening all students and staff are called inside the Poornachandra Hall. This time, they all watch a very poignant movie along with Swami. This is a recent Hindi movie titled ‘Iqbal’ and is about a deaf and dumb young man who is a great cricket fan. His cherished desire is to join the Indian cricket team. The movie beautifully tracks his relentless pursuit in achieving his goal. Swami sits for half the movie and then retires. The others continue to see the rest of it. " - December 25, 2005
A Bollywood film too, mind you!
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