Talk:Sathya Sai Baba

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 Definition Controversial South Indian guru, religious leader, and orator, often described as a "godman" and miracle worker. [d] [e]
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The entry needs to be far more concise. Andries 22:10, 23 April 2007 (CDT)

Wait a bit before deletion, please. Andries 10:12, 19 May 2007 (CDT)

Trying for better readability

Let me preface my comments by saying I have no preformed opinion about the subject, but find the article hard enough to read that I can't form an opinion from it. As a result, I have tried to clean up some of the references, especially with embedded quotes that need to be seen in critics. I have, unless in a direct quote, tried to remove words such as "skeptic" and "follower", which we found to be needlessly polarizing in the ground rules on working on homeopathy.

There are far too many references; it is impossible to check which are anecdotal and which are authoritative.

So far, I'm simply trying to clean up. Whether a readable article can result is a good question; would Religion Editors please look at this? Howard C. Berkowitz 16:15, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

1. Sorry, but your attempt to clean up the reference did not make it better. Andries 21:21, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
2. I do not feel like removing references only because it is too much work for you to check each of them. (Howard Murphet should be removed as a reference, because his books are written from the view point of a gullible devotee) Andries 21:21, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
3 After re-reading it, I admit that readability is a problem and I will see what I can do. Andries 21:24, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
I didn't remove any actual references. I removed repetitions of the same reference, sometimes on every other line of a lists. If a reference is a good source, it is not necessary to have three or four supporting references on a single sentence.
Someone being a gullible devotee, under CZ: Neutrality Policy, is not reason to remove him. The devotees as well as the critics belong in a neutral article.
Most of what I did was get quotes out of references, and into the mainline text. It is extremely difficult to assess the significance of a quote if it's in a footnote, because it cannot easily be compared with associated text. If the quote is important enough to be in the article, it need not be in a footnote, unless it is purely a definition or other neutral supporting information. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:01, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
All what Murphet wrote is derived from Kasturi. Murphet did not try to check Kasturi's writing in contrast to Schulman. So I see no added value in using Murphet when all is already available in Kasturi. Andries 16:38, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Who is the Topic Informant? Why so much Wikipedia style still here?

I haven't gotten out all the FACT templates.

There is overwhelming micro-level citing, characteristic of WP. More synthesis is needed; it's very hard to follow this article. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:11, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

What is "micro-level citing"? What parts are hard to follow? The anthropologist Lawrence Babb made more generalized statements about SSB and the impossibility of a biography as we know it. I will add more by him. Andries 21:13, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
I can't yet say what parts are hard to follow, because right now, the article gives the impression of a massive block of text, with many quotations and little explanation. I suggest that the article will be improved by removing text, not adding it.
If there is significant additional detail, perhaps it belongs in a subarticle. The blocks of text here are huge; as it was, I inserted some paragraph breaks and some subheadings. Observe that the edit software is giving warnings about the size of the article — even if it doesn't actually break browsers, that's a good suggestion to consider splitting things into subarticles. I often start doing so when I see that warning.
Micro-level citing is having citations, or even worse multiple citations, at the sentence-by-sentence level. It is not have an explicit citation to Babb, without a page reference for virtually every other line of a list; Babb can be cited at the beginning and only the exceptions given.
If a biography is impossible, what is the article trying to accomplish? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:01, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
This biography though an impossibility as explicitly described by Babb is trying to accomplish the same as biographies for Jesus, and Buddha; a biography based on reliable sources as we know is impossible, but they still have entries in encyclopedias. Andries 07:14, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I converted the subsequent Babb/Redemption citations so the identical full citation doesn't appear every time. It doesn't look pretty in the formatted footnotes, but is it really necessary to cite Babb several times in individual lines of a list, rather than Babb for the list as a whole, which would make things look much better? Howard C. Berkowitz 23:18, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Some CZ technical citation information

We prefer the inline citation form, to which I am converting reference.

In such form, it isn't necessary to say "available online"; the existence of a URL establishes that.

There is a difference from Wikipedia: if you use the format <ref name=Blitz />, the <ref name=Blitz>{{citation... has to come before the former type of referencing, or you'll get blank citations. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:20, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

To Both Howard and Andries from a Constable

Hi, Gentlemen!

I see that there are have some major changes here in the numbers of bytes in the article, first one way and then the other, and then back again, and so forth. I know that both of you are acting in good faith, but before it goes any further, let me make a couple of points:

1.) This is not Wikipedia, we do not revert our versions of an article back and forth until one or the other quits from exhaustion.

2.) Any of us are free to edit without explanations to the others except for the courtesy of putting at least brief justifications in the Subject box.

3.) BUT, none of us are free to make MAJOR edits of a mass of material without first opening a discussion on this page to clearly outline just what he is going to do and why. And then WAITING for a response from the other party.

4.) I personally have never heard of Sathya Sai Baba, I have no interest at all in learning about him (or her, if that is the case), and I certainly do not intend to read this lengthy article with its copious footnotes in order to acquaint myself with the pros and cons of whatever editing conflicts are currently going on.

5.) Just for ease of editing, as per Occam's Razor, let's take the present version (by Howard), which is considerably shorter than the older one, and use that for the basis of further discussion.

6.) Andres -- if you feel that the 20,000 bytes that Howard deleted should be restored, kindly write a detailed explanation here in the Talk page about why this should be done. Please do not restore anything until you and Howard (and anyone else who is interested) have agreed on what should be done.

7.) Howard -- if you want to continue to make MINOR editing changes and formatting, go ahead. But be sure to put an adequate explanation in the Subject box for EACH edit. NOTE: just writing: "deleted footnote" is not an explanation. Tell us *why* you deleted that particular footnote.

Thanks! Hayford Peirce 23:18, 16 February 2009 (UTC) Constable

It appears the 20,000 bytes were primarily the External Links (see other) and Bibliography, which I had already moved to a subpage per CZ conventions.
Hayford, I am not actually deleting any content. I don't know anything about the subject; I have purely been copy editing and organizing so I can read about the subject.
What I am doing is when there are 10 or more identical full footnotes, I've been substituting the short form (i.e., rather than <ref>Smithxxx</ref>, <name ref=Smith>{{citation xxx}}</ref> followed by <name = Smith />.
In some cases, where Smith is cited three times in the same line of a bulleted list, are three cites really necessary? Indeed, if Smith (actually Babb) is the source for almost every item in the list, a simple Smith after the colon introducing the list would make it much easier to read.
Also, if a source is good, there isn't a need to put three sources on the same sentence — especially when those three sources repeat every few sentences.
I have been pulling quotations out of footnotes, which, in any event, were not in inline cite form, and converting them to blockquotes so they can be read in context. Again, I haven't been deleting other than redundant bibliographic information.
We aren't WP and it's not necessary to keep citing every few words. Right now, until I can format things more readably, I really don't have much opinion on content. Andres, if you aren't familiar with CZ formatting conventions, why not let me convert and edit, and take out the WP-specific/WP-convention material? Howard C. Berkowitz 00:18, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Hi, Howard, thanks for the very clear explanation of what you've been doing. It all sounds pretty reasonable to me -- and necessary, for that matter, to turn it into an acceptable article. Thanks for all the effort that goes into this tedious work! I'm glad that all the BIG deleted stuff was just redundancies.... Hayford Peirce 01:19, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
With regards to using several citations, sometimes a sentence contains information from several sources and then I see no possibility to avoid several citations for only one sentence. Andries 22:25, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, but, other than perhaps in extremely specialized language such as a legal document, a sentence that requires several citation is not good English writing style. If the sentence has that many distinct concepts, most editors would tell you to break it into several sentences.
Part of the reason for doing that is that while you, as the author, may understand what part of the sentence relates to what citation, there is no way for a reader to tell that. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:38, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
So information in one sentence is allowed to come only from one source? This sounds to me like a draconian restriction. Andries 22:45, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
It strikes me as reasonable English scholarly writing. I've written and edited a number of books, and I would have been allowed to use multiple citations for a sentence only in very specialized circumstances, as when a list of specific data were in a sentence: "Estimates of the attendance were 1,000 [ref 1], 5,000 [ref 2] and 100,000 [ref 3]. Note, that in this specific case, the reference clearly go with specific claims.
Were I writing about a historical incident, for example, I would never put multiple references at the end of a single sentence. If the references make different points, they deserve to be clarified in different sentences:
  • wrong: Pickett's charge, at the Battle of Gettysburg, failed not due to lack of valor by Confederate infantry, but due to both the failure of the Confederate artillery to suppress Union cannon and by weight of superior Union firepower from those cannon. [Freeman p.131], [Catton V. II p. 37], [Foote p. 288].
  • poor:: Pickett's charge, at the Battle of Gettysburg, failed not due to lack of valor by Confederate infantry, [Freeman p.131] but due to both the failure of the Confederate artillery to suppress Union cannon [Catton V. II p. 37], and by weight of superior Union firepower from those cannon. [Foote p. 288].
  • proper (if I need all the references): Pickett's charge did not fail due to lack of valor by the infantry; Brigadier Lewis Armistead died with his hand on a Union cannon. [Freeman, p. 131]. With their available technology, the Confederate artillery simply did not have the capability to put the Union artillery out of action. [Catton V. II p. 37] The volume of fire delivered by the Union cannon was far more than had been thought possible by Pickett, Longstreet or Lee.[Foote p. 288]
Howard C. Berkowitz 23:50, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Okay, I am convinced. Thanks for the explanation. I will do my best. Andries 17:12, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

a personal opinion about the lede paragraph

It's terrible. What a disjointed mess! Hayford Peirce 02:03, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, I don't really know what this article is trying to tell me. There's a huge amount of content, but without much context. There's some commentary about cults and controversy, but I can't extract significance. Speeches by people pro and con aren't quite the same thing as an article-style neutral presentation of positions.
I do have to note that there were comments about improvement from April 2007. It's not clear how much change there was from a Wikipedia article, and whether the article meets th retention requirements. Whether or not that can be clear after the citation cleanup (still unfinished) is not a call I want to make. Howard C. Berkowitz 02:24, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Apparently it was Andries who brought it in from WP a couple of years ago and essentially dumped it here. Now you, and maybe he, are doing a clean-up. There's no question but that it should be rewritten. En principe Andries ought to do it, since he's the person interested in this topic. But if *he* doesn't, then anyone else is free to edit it, and rewrite it, so that the thing makes sense and reads smoothly. And actually has a theme. Hayford Peirce 03:27, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I am motivated and have the sources (liteature) for a major rewrite. I can see the readability problems (lack of synthesis and lack of context). Andries 07:21, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
No, I don't think I'm interested enough in the subject to spend more time on it. Before, I couldn't even really get a sense what it was about. I cleaned it up enough to see that it's a possibly hostile article on a possible cult, but it's not a subject of much interest. The question is whether it has been sufficiently modified from WP to warrant keeping, given it's this old and has not been cleaned up. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:49, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I thought I had cleaned it up. Andries 07:37, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I looked through a couple of sections and saw a wikipedia {{merge}} template and a few {{fact}} templates, neither of which are used at citizendium. The references are also a problem. The reference list at the bottom has many repeats and there is an over referencing problem. One list I saw had a reference for every line and it was the same reference each time. One reference for the whole list is a better strategy. Likewise i saw two concurrent sentences with the same ref a few times; one is better. Chris Day 13:20, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Respectfully, Andries, this is a collaborative writing environment. It can't be your call only if an article is cleaned up. As Chris has mentioned, go through and cut back the references to when they are necessary; use a single reference for as section. Not every phrase or sentence needs a citation, and they certainly don't need multiple citations in support of the same point. This is, in part, a pure readability issue; when there are so many footnotes it's hard to read, especially when one looks down at the references are cleaned up/
Look at the level of relevance and detail. Why is it important that he uses a wheelchair? What is the key point of all the different recounting and arguments of a cobra at his birth? Perhaps some of that should go into a subarticle about cultural significance of cobras, but, on reading through all that, I get buried in detail about the different cobra stories, assume it means the birth was considered unusual, but am not sure in what way. This isn't a trial with disputing witnesses; an article puts the parties, not necessarily their detail, in context
There is much detail about legal actions, but it's rather hard to isolate what, if anything, was actually decided.
Less may be more. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:53, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Too much cobra, yes, I can understand your point. SSB said that he will die as a young man, so the wheelchair is relevant. (Babb) Andries 21:26, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Here is an example of too much detail. I removed a reference to him being the subject of newspaper articles. Why is that important? Respectfully, if he was not, why on earth would be writing about him at citizendium? Chris Day 19:34, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

(undent) More quick trimming. Judgmental comments about "critical formal followers", Salon's description of itself,

The text starting "According to the Sathya Sai Organization, there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 130 countries world-wide..." needs to be broken out, so the actual estimates are in the mainline text and have one, and only one, reference.

This is an English language encyclopedia. Be sure there are translations of all Dutch references; the Dutch version isn't needed.

I have taken out general information, such as Chennai formerly being known as Madras, and put that into a separate, linked "lemma" or minimal article. Obviously, the Chennai article should be expanded.

It isn't necessary to give the prior names of organizations, such as what Educare was previously called. In some cases, the "formerly" is confusing: Shivraj V. Patil (Member of Parliament, India; Formerly of the Lok Sabha & Union Minister); I have no idea what the Lok Sabha & Union Minister means, or if he was affiliated with something called Lok Sabha and also was a Union Minister for some government body.

Watch the use of "follower", "skeptic", and like terms; they can give a judgmental sense. I substituted "his organization" for "Sai Baba's followers ", which I consider more neutral. It is often unclear "followers", given as a source, refer to an official position or not. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:05, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

I appreciate your efforts, but, again, I will do a major rewrite (partially because I am frustrated by the incompetency of the editors at Wikipedia). So I do not think that it is a good idea to spend much effort improving this version. (Btw, I have major problems with the different citation style and I am not sure whether I agree. It has been my experience in Wikipedia again and again that there is good reason for microcitation and I think this is the case for any large collaborative encyclopedia. Nevertheless it may not matter much after the major rewrite. ) Andries 21:13, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, if you're going to do a "major rewrite", and don't think it's worth "improving this version", then why shouldn't we just delete it? In any case, CZ has its own way of doing some things, and Howard is pretty close to being our leading footnote expert, so I think we better do it his way, particularly if Chris is *also* cleaning up a lot of these citations. Hayford Peirce 21:33, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
(Edit conflict; not responding specifically to Hayford) One thought: there's no definition for this article. It would be useful to try to write 100 neutral words on the subject; it might help others. Frankly, I don't really have a sense of what the articl is telling me other than there is a controversial religious leader in India. The lede should make the key points, not leap into details.
Without making a formal statement of policy, I believe that there is a strong opposition to microcitation here, certainly repetitive microcitation. One of the assumptions of CZ is that things are at least reviewed by experts, but also that it is not necessary to cite detailed information in the field.
As an example, one of my most "micro-cited" articles in Ho Chi Minh, but you will find that most references eventually go to primary documents. In many cases, while I might have given, at first, a cite to Duiker or Quinn-Judge or other serious book, that was done when I had only Google Books access and thus no access to endnotes. As I get the specific books, I add primary source detail. This, however, is very different than citing journalistic accounts.
If you feel a major rewrite is needed, it may be wise to move this version to a sandbox in your userspace and make the corrections there. As long as it is in mainspace, it is fair for others to edit. Nevertheless, I am reasonably confident that other Citizens will remove microcitations. You may make suggestions and proposals about what you like, but no article is likely to be able to retain a different citation style because one person likes them. It's not "owned" by any one author when it's not in a sandbox.
As to the wheelchair, there is no particular correlation between longevity and mobility impairments. There are a great many active and elderly people who use wheelchairs who would be rather offended to say that wheelchair use implies anything more than a mobility impairment. Ever seen a wheelchair basketball game or competition wheelchair racing?
If there is relevant information that would affect his lifespan, include it, but there is no medical reason to assume wheelchair use, without details of why it is necessary and how the mobility impairment affects overall physical health, has anything to do with longevity. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:40, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
A local 60 year old advocate for the disabled died recently in a car accident. He had been in a wheel chair for 40 years. Chris Day 21:43, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Wheelchair is relevant because SSB said that he would die with the body of a young man at the age of 95 (96 according to Indian counting). Nevertheless, I can understand that the relevancy is not so clear for the average reader so I removed it. Andries 21:54, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
On the other hand, guys, let's be fair about this: Baba is apparently a prominent person in India. FDR was a prominent person in the USA. Raymond Burr was a prominent American actor for a while. Isn't is fair to note that the two latter people used wheelchairs for at least part of their lives? Not because it PROVES anything, just because MOST presidents and actors DON'T use wheelchairs, and that therefore it is a more interesting factoid that saying, for instance, that they had red hair or wore glasses. In fact, for Baba, all we have to say is, "In spite of being confined to a wheelchair for x number of years, he has blah blah blah...." Hayford Peirce 21:58, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
It all comes down to context. I think there are quite a few points in the article where they appear to be just thrown in. Almost a grab bag of information. It makes for chaotic reading and ruins the narrative. A rewrite would solve many of these issues, I'm sure. Chris Day 22:00, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I tried to add more context in the summary/intro. Almost all is sourced to Babb. I hope it makes things a lot clearer . Andries 22:16, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Let me say that I never heard of Baba before seeing this article, and have no opinion on him. Nevertheless, the lede gives the sense of an article critical of him. May I suggest you look at homeopathy? It's fair to say, I believe, that Chris and I have very little faith in the therapeutic efficacy of homeopathy, but we hammered at the lede until both the homeopaths and the medical scientists agreed it was reasonably neutral — neither are really happy with it, which often means something is fairly neutral.
If Babb is the primary source, why is Babb important and authoritative? Perhaps an article on Babb would add important context. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:28, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Both his books were published by university presses (oxford University press & University of California press). He wrote that the studied the movement personally in Delhi or new Delhi. I do not have enough information to write his biography. Andries 22:35, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Here is the lead as I wrote (I omitted the parts that were left over from cleaning up the references). I deny that it is overly critical. On the contrary, think that the lead should be more critical and more informative: it should mention why he is controversial i.e. allegations of false miracles and sexual abuse.
"Sathya Sai Baba (1926-), born Sathyanarayana,[1][2] with the family name of Ratnakaram and membership in the Raju caste [3]He is a controversial South Indian guru, religious leader, and orator, often described as a "godman".[4] and a miracle worker.[5] [6]
Sathya Sai Baba presents his teachings as universal, as is often the case in neo-Hindu movements, though they are deeply and authentically Hindu. He differs from most other gurus by his unambiguous and explicit claims of personal divinity, to be more precise, he claims to be a full avatar (incarnation) of the Hindu deities Shiva and Shakti with the aim of restoring dharma (righteousness). As a type, he is however not unique: there are many godmen who are far less famous and successful than he. In addition, his followers in India tend to come for the middle class and higher class and this added to his fame. Like other godmen his appeal comes from his charisma, his claims of miracles and paranormal capabilities and not so much from his parampara (guru lineage), though he has a lineage of sorts through his claim to a be a reincarnation the popular fakir Shirdi Sai Baba (1857?-1918) whose name he took. The populair and much revered Shirdi Sai Baba had both Muslim as well as Hindu traits and followers.
According to the Sathya Sai Organization, there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 130 countries world-wide.[11] The number of Sathya Sai Baba adherents is estimated sometimes as around 6 million, and followers cite "50 to 100 million".[12]"

Andries 22:42, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Neutrality in leads

I believe it is fair to say, under CZ: Neutrality Policy, not simply why he is criticized, but why his followers follow. Again, look at homeopathy.

May I suggest that your denying that it isn't critical doesn't change that someone with no exposure to the subject finds it critical, emphasizing allegations?

Do you believe that critical equates to neutral? Howard C. Berkowitz 23:19, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

The only mentioning of allegations in the lead is that SSB is controversial, (the rest does not belong in the lead but is left over from an attempt to clean up the references) so no, I do not think that it will be found critical. Also, it tries to explain why followers follow SSB "his appeal comes from his charisma, his claims of miracles and paranormal capabilities and not so much from his parampara (guru lineage)", though this is a complex (often subconcious) mix of motives and considerations. (See theories of religion), so this cannot be explained in the lead. Third, the press (BBC, Times) has predominantly reported critical to extremely critical about SSB and if this is not reflected in the lead then the reader may be misled. As an analogy Holocaust denial should be treated critically, even in the lead, because the reputable sources have treated Holocaust denial very critically. Andries 21:40, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
Given I had never heard of SSB before this article, I hardly think that Holocaust denial is a fair analogy. On the one hand, we have international demonstrations such as that of the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg) of Holocaustic genocide; the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the International Criminal Court proceedings for Rwanda and other countries. Several countries have criminalized Holocaust denial.
Are you suggesting that a similar standard of evidence exists for SSB? The BBC and the Times are not, when last I looked, judicial organizations, and, while reputable news organizations, are far different in authority than a formal legal proceeding. What international tribunal has made such a determination? If not, I suggest that this is not a reasonable analogy and you cannot justify writing a critical article about this person. Frankly, I haven't even figured out if he has been convicted of anything. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:57, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
The lead should reflect what reputable sources have stated and they reported about him critically to extremely critical. Andries 22:03, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
Palmer W., Norris Baba's World: A Global Guru and his Movement in the book Gurus in America edited by Thomas A. Forsthoefel & Cynthia Ann Humes, published by SUNY Press, 2005 ISBN 079146573X, 9780791465738, page 117 "As observers also report, given the strong following Baba has among prominent and national civic leaders in India, it is extremely unlikely that a case against Baba would be heard there or that he wouold be extradited to face charges elsewhere."Andries 22:06, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
Palmer W., Norris Baba's World: A Global Guru and his Movement in the book Gurus in America edited by Thomas A. Forsthoefel & Cynthia Ann Humes, published by SUNY Press, 2005 ISBN 079146573X, 9780791465738, page 119 "Many prominent persons in India are devotees of Satya Sai Baba and he is also instrumental to many politicians in securing votes, Baba is accordingly largely left alone by the government and, therefore, relatively free from prosecution for any alleged offense related over the Internet, which has the twin effects of leaving his detractors angry about the lack of due process and his proponents angry about unsubstantiated libel without recourse."Andries 22:06, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
I repeat: books and newspapers are not legal proceedings. It is not the responsibility of Citizendium to take up a cause that is not taken up in a country. As with homeopathy, the lead should reflect, fairly, the position of the proponents and opponents of the position. There are times that I find the CZ neutrality policy being a bit idealistic, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. "Observers" and "many prominent persons", cited by a third party are not witnesses under oath. In the case of alternative medicine, there are at least observational studies by reasonably impartial observers. Do consider that your presentation may be coming across as representing one side.
Are there no reputable sources that have anything positive to say about Baba? Howard C. Berkowitz 22:13, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
It is true that the Sathya Sai Baba movement is involved in a lot of charity~projects, though, I think unfairly belittled by many critics and skeptics. The BBC reported about this too. Andries 22:16, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
Again, I strongly disagree that the lead in its present form (after the left overs from the references are cleaned up) is overly negative and critical. (I am not talking about the article as a whole). It is also a matter of taste and we could debate about this endlessly and most probably fruitlessly. Andries 22:21, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

(undent) Well, one thing about CZ is that we don't debate endlessly. Paging a religion editor! (also putting note on Workgroup page and forum) Howard C. Berkowitz 22:23, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

what is the guy's real name?

The first line of the first paragraph says one thing, the first line of the second paragraph says another thing. Moreover, once you agree on a name, then it shouldn't be repeated twice in two paragraphs -- once is plenty. We don't start an article about Babe Ruth by saying "George Herman ("Babe") Ruth (1892-1947), was an American baseball player who blah blah blah for the rest" of the paragraph. And then in the *second* paragraph of the article, called "Life", start that by "George Herman ("Babe") Ruth was born of rich but dishonest parents in the city of Baltimore, etc. etc. and so forth." Time must have stop, even for long-winded writers about religious figures. Hayford Peirce 00:06, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

He is only very rarely called with his real name Sathyanarayana Raju Ratnakaram. I replaced Sathya Sai Baba with SSB, because all other names would be either strange, unusual, confusing or incorrect. Andries 22:06, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, no one seems to clear up the redundancies and contradictions in these two paragraphs, so I've moved all of the opening stuff from the first sentence down to the second paragraph, where I will let you rewrite it a little in order to remove the redundancies and make it read more smoothly. Hayford Peirce 23:47, 19 February 2009 (UTC)


Does anyone except Andries call him SSB? Like George Bernard Shaw being GBS or Dwight David Eisenhower being DDE? If so, then SSB can be used in the article (occasionally, at any rate). If not, if it's just an invention by Andries to make it easier for the reader, we really can't do this in an encyclopedia, even for ease of use: his real name, whatever it is, must be used. Hayford Peirce 23:56, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

I absolutely agree - Ro Thorpe 00:16, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it my invention, but as I had already written, we cannot use his real name Sathyanarayana Raju Ratnakaram, because highly unusual. Andries 07:04, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I do not agree with using the name "Sai Baba" instead of "SSB" or "Sathya Sai Baba" because of the potential confusion with the other Sai Baba i.e. Shirdi Sai Baba. It is however not a major issue for me. Andries 22:31, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
As long as the article does not refer to "Sathya Sai Baba" as Sai Baba too, it will be fine. We have to use something relatively short but SSB is extreme. Chris Day 22:53, 20 February 2009 (UTC)


This amount of detail really doesn't help the main narrative. Perhaps a subarticle about cobras in the culture, using this as an example? Howard C. Berkowitz 00:05, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Kasturi wrote in his biography that a cobra was found in the bedclothes of the baby shortly after SSB was born.[1]

Indeed the village which bears the name, "Anthill Prosperity" gave the child an appropriate welcome! A snake was there in the lying-in room! The women did not notice it for long; but, when the baby, laid on a bed of clothes, was being moved up and down in a peculiar way by something underneath, they watched with bated breath and when at last they searched, they found a cobra below the bed! The snake was acting the role of Sesha to the Seshasayi! [2]

The Hollywood screenwriter Arnold Schulman wrote in his 1971 book that Kasturi's story was denied by SSB's sister: "the cobra was not found under the blanket, but several hours after Baba was born a cobra was seen outside the house." One of Baba's two sisters, however, who claims to have been present at his birth, says that the cobra was not found under the blanket, but several hours after Baba was born a cobra was seen outside the house, a sight not uncommon in the village.[3] Schulman further stated that "for any episode of Baba's childhood, there are countless contrasting versions and, at this point, the author discovered that it was no longer possible to separate the facts from the legend".

Editorializing/noncited opinion

From the lede, I removed and wrote around:Howard C. Berkowitz 00:08, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

As a type, he is however not unique: there are many several godmen who achieved local fame. who are far less famous and successful than he. In addition, his followers in India tend to come from the middle class and higher class and this added to his fame. Like other godmen his appeal comes from his charisma, his claims of miracles and paranormal capabilities and not so much from his parampara (guru lineage), though he has a lineage of sorts through his claim ...

I thought and think that it informative because adding context. It is not just my opinion, but can be sourced to Babb and Lochtefeld. See also Will add citations. Andries 07:35, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Again, Babb and Lochtefeld appear to be not completely neutral sources, which doesn't preclude them — but also would be helped in the language about them were more neutral. "As a type, he is not unique: there are many godment who are famous and successful than he" comes across, in colloquial English, as condescending. It's problematic because it never defines "fame" or "success", so we keep falling to the subjective opinions of the authors.
Everything, at some level, adds context, but do you see how readers, not steeped in the culture, are finding all the contextual material to being overwhelming, and making the amount of data hard to read? Howard C. Berkowitz 11:27, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Babb wrote local fame for other godmen. I corrected this. I do not feel that what Babb wrote is condescending. Andries 20:58, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the article as a whole has to much detailed data to digest for the average reader, but I think the intro/summary is okay. Andries 22:16, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
First, the reaction of other readers, in a collaborative writing environment, is important. Your opinion alone is not authoritative on how your writing comes across — no author can be a totally impartial judge of their own writing. Now, there are times when an author could and should make clear if words are being used in a discipline-specific way, but, even then, and especially in an introduction, serious consideration shuld be given to making the usage more standard, with details later on.
Also, as a native English reader, I find the term "godman" very jarring, and having a flavor of deprecation. It is not a generally accepted word in English. Merriam-Webster dictionary does not use it; the online Rand-McNally uses it in hyphenated form to refer to a demigod, and the Urban Dictionary does define it, but as "A nadsat slang word from Clockwork Orange, meaning priest." There may be no standard English equivalent without disturbing connotations; perhaps a Hindi or Telugu word, with a footnoted explanation, would be preferable.
I literally can't parse "Babb wrote local fame for other godmen".
Several people here, I believe, are trying to offer constructive criticism. Especially if you are not a native English speaker, please take the comments seriously. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:48, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Babb wrote that other holy men had achieved mere local fame. This in contrast to SSB who achieved national and even international fame. Babb does not use the term godman. Lochtefeld and others use it as a technical term, pointing to SSB as the most prominent example. I will see if I can limit the use of the term godman. (It should not be completely removed.) I do take the comments seriously; my edits try to incorporate most of your criticisms and complaints Andries 22:57, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I am not a native speaker, so I admit that I sometimes make mistakes. On the other hand, I am not exactly impressed by the language abilities of some native speakers (I do not mean the people here). Andries 23:01, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
LOL, we know what you mean. I'm going to step back and give you time to redevelop. Remember there are subpages too. I already set up a catalog to shunt off a side discussion about how many adherents there really are. Chris Day 23:05, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
The term "godman" is explained to some extent in the introduction/summary in the following sentence. "Like other godmen his appeal comes from his charisma, his claims of miracles and paranormal capabilities and not so much from his parampara (guru lineage) ... " See also Andries 23:25, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I understand that it is a specialized term used by Babb, but it is not common English usage, is not in English dictionaries, and may be jarring to readers not familiar to the usage. Surely there is a synonym that is more common, or, if it has a very specific cultural meaning, use a non-English word so that it doesn't carry expectations of meaning. Do you expect that the reader of the lede will be familiar with Hindu usage? Howard C. Berkowitz 23:50, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
It is not a Hindu term. It is more Indian English plus (in this case) a technical term for a type of religious figure in India. Andries 23:58, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

(undent) It's one thing to have alternate English spellings, but using idioms from a dialect is rarely good practice in introductory material. Introductory material, rather by definition, is being read by someone not familiar with the subject or context; our rough rule of thumb is a college freshman. If, for example, I were to be writing about commercial fishing in my area, would it be more informative if I spoke of a dragger or hooker, or of a scallop fisherman or tuna fisherman? From everything you've told me, I have yet to understand why "charismatic religious leader" would not do. I can think of American Christian evangelists that boast of healing powers and direct lines to the Almighty; I don't need special terms for that unless I want to be disparaging or showing awe. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:13, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Take a look at one of the biggest and best online dictionaries (the same one that is sold in hardback by the millions), and here is what you get when you type in "godman": ie, nothing. The word doesn't exist in standard English. Being somewhat of a English-language purist, and amateur guru of the language, if I may be so bold, I am doing to take it upon myself to get rid of this word from the article. If you like, Andries, I suggest that you can make a footnote, referencing my substitution, and say that in Indian English the word "godman" is sometimes used. Hayford Peirce 01:21, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

oiling and sexual abuse

Let's not overlook this, hehe....

The Findings

Is this link useful (The Findings)? There is a whole paragraph discussing this text but no link or citation to the original document. Chris Day 06:45, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

I think it is useful, though omission was intentional. The Findings is a highly negative document that has not been published in reputable sources, so it was omitted from Wikipedia because potentially libelous. Personally I hold the opinion that a document that is described by several reputable sources as important and is linked to by reputable sources should be linked to in an encyclopedia too. Andries 07:32, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Distinguish between useful and critical. A serious problem with this article is the length. Other biographical articles are as long, but spread over a longer period of time and do not overwhelm the reader in details; they do not have three or more consecutive testimonies of miracles or hospitals. More tightly written descriptions, perhaps tabular or other definitions of numbers, and one source per allegation would help readability. Please take these in the context of the response of a native reader of Western English. Howard C. Berkowitz 11:32, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
So far all I have really done is move things around and fix the references. However, the more I read the article the more I see it is very redundant and also disjointed. The main reason is that there is too much trivial stuff being packed into the article. This is not a full length biography and i think the article needs to jettison quite a bit to make it an interesting read. Chris Day 16:03, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Babb, etc.

Babb clearly disapproves of Baba, which is his privilege. I have no way of knowing Babb's credibility, but I'll assume he has some.

Nevertheless, there need to be, under the Neutrality Policy, statements from supporters. No, you can't deprecate them by calling them hagiographies, statements of followers (or skeptics), or anything else judgmental.

What appear to be pasted lists of tourist attractions from the SSO website are not balanced statements of position. For that matter, if I read one more water project, I was tempted to scream. Why is it needed to itemize each hospital, water project, etc.? It's a simple matter to summarize and say the organization does public works and health programs.

It isn't necessary to hear every detailed thing he materialized or didn't materialized.

I agree with Chris; I can't really read it because I'm lost in trivia, either because there's so much detail on a straightforward point. Distinguished people visited; fine. A few examples serve.

The flow needs to be cleaned up for readability.

At that point, I can't even give a strong opinion on neutrality because it's so hard to sort out who is saying what.

Please try to do the definition and see what are the appropriate points to fit into 100 words. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:15, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Howard, please note that I have already written a definition. Hayford Peirce 21:26, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Already much better than Wikipedia

I think the article is already much better and clearer than Wikipedia Thanks for your efforts, though I do not agree with every change, at the least the colloboration here is constructive. Andries 23:39, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Two of three suicides removed

I removed two of the three suicides because there no clear indication that SSB was involved. I admit that it had been well sourced. With the remaining one by Michael Pender it is a different matter, because Pender claimed to have been repeatedly sexually abused and he was extremely confused about this. See also the 2000 article by Matthijs van der Meer "The truth will prevail: a Sai-devotee’s struggle for disenchantment" on the internet. Andries 19:41, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Tightened section about life

In the introduction, I removed, arbitrarily, one of two consecutive, not online references about his name at birth. <ref name=Lewis2002>{{citation | title = The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions | edition = Second Edition | editor = James R. Lewis| year = 2002 | ISBN=1-57392-88-7}} </ref> Surely this doesn't need two reference books supporting it? Either would do. The next reference speaks of his caste and does add information.

I removed "It was said that instruments played on their own accord in his household when he was born.[4]:; I can't see how this adds substantive information.

Rather than keep the text inline, I moved Shirdi Sai Baba to a minimal definition that can be linked (i.e., a lemma).

What does seem important, rather than the details of his education, which I have shortened, are the symbolisms associated with his birth and early mysticism, and with the competing views about his reincarnation.

Rather than repeat the cited quote, I paraphrased and linked, then contrasted with what Kasturi and others said.

Finally, Prema Sai, the third Avathar will promote the evangel news that not only does God reside in everybody, but everybody is God. That will be the final wisdom which will enable every man and woman to go to God. The three Avathars carry the triple message of work, worship and wisdom."

These changes do not lose the key meaning, and the details are still available in citations or links. The flow, with the use of subheads, is more clear. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:20, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

May be the following quotes will help. I do not know who to integrated them quickly in the article but some of it must be integrated.
“[Kasturi's biography shows] an almost complete elision of individual personhood. What looks at first like life-history turns out to be something quite different: a suppression of unique life-history, and a removal of the life in question from history. At virtually every turn individuating details are subordinated to one timeless mythic paradigm or another. His birth was not a particular birth but the birth of a deity-infant, as evidenced by the resounding of the tambùrã and the cobra under the bedding. His childhood was not a particular childhood but the childhood of a juvenile god, for which the ruling paradigm in India is the early life of Krishna. With the first of the two great disclosures, the image of the magical child is superseded by another – that of the archetypal holy man, as represented by Sai Baba of Shirdi. In the second disclosure this identity, in turn is encompassed within yet another, which is not only wider, but universal. Now he is revealed to be Shiva and Shakti, who together represent the Absolute.”
from Babb, Lawrence A. “Sathya Sai Baba’s Saintly Play”, in Saints and Virtues, John Stratton Hawley (ed.), Berkeley, CA: California University Press, 1987:168-186. The quotation is from p. 173.
“The strict fact of his personal biography and manner of life are buried beneath layer upon layer of hagiography. (see esp. the works of Kasturi; also Gokak 1975). As far as I am aware no objective account of Sathya Sai Baba’s life has been written by anyone close to him. Indeed such an account may be an inherent impossibility: it unlikely that anyone who is allowed in to his inner circles would want to write in such a vein. [..]
Thus Sathya Sai Baba himself cannot be the actual subject of an account of his cult. For now, so supposedly ‘real’ Sathya Sai Baba’ can be anymore real than an imagined character in fiction.”
from Babb, Lawrence A. Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in the Hindu Tradition, (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society, chapter Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles, published by Waveland press 2000 (original publisher is by Oxford University Press 1987) ISBN 577661532, page 160
Andries 20:53, 21 February 2009 (UTC)
(I've tried to clean up indentation)Some of the information may indeed be appropriate to include, but these certainly are critical. Babb may be absolutely correct and Sathya Sai Baba is a total fraud, but, merely because he says that, CZ: Neutrality Policy does not allow us to synthesize an article that draws that conclusion. Wording such as "cult", as used, are decidedly non-neutral. "Hagiography" is used in a deprecatory manner. By analogy, there are forms of alternate medicine that cannot be justified by any scientific mechanism, and don't necessarily have statistically strong observational support. Still, there is a requirement to state, neutrally, the position of their supporters as well as opponents. Read homeopathy. Personally, I don't think it is likely to be doing anything, but I can also accept that the article is reasonably neutral: it presents what the advocates think, and then compares and contrasts it with sources that question its efficacy.
Babb, for example, saying "it [is] unlikely that anyone who is allowed in to his inner circles would want to write in such a vein." cannot be anything but supposition. In political histories of totalitarian regimes, we have better evidence, because we can point variously to people that were purged, or statements of doctrine — but even so, we really don't know what happened in the Politburo meeting where Lavrenti Beria was purged. Even for such a major historical figure, with many witnesses, there are still stories ranging from his being shot on the spot, by different people, to shot in the hallway, to executed in a prison varying times later. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:23, 21 February 2009 (UTC)
Howard, sorry, but I think you are largely mistaken. Babb did not write that SSB is a fraud. Cult has a neutral meaning too. About the word hagiography. There can be reasonably no other word for Kasturi's writing. If Kasturi's writing are not a hagiography then nothing is. Andries 07:14, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Babb wrote that he believes in SSB's sincerity. Andries 07:21, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
In modern English, what is the neutral meaning of a cult? Was it Clemenceau who described a language as a dialect with an army?
A hagiography, literally, is the life of a saint. If Kasturi believes he is a saint, then hagiography is a neutral term. As written, however, to me as a native English speaker, Babb seems very hostile to SSB, while "biography" would be far more neutral than "hagiography". Hagiography seems to be used, from my perspective, in a deprecating way. Howard C. Berkowitz 07:22, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Cult: devotion to a person. Babb explained very well why the word hagiography is more accurate and appropraite in this case than biography. Andries 07:25, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
I disagree. Spouses are devoted to one another. There is a normal implication that a cult leader has a superior relationship to a cultist and the follower will obey with little question. I don't care how well Babb justifies his terminology, biography is a more neutral term than hagiography. One can write a biography of a saint. Might I suggest you consider how this reads to a native English reader? I have some familiarity with other languages, but I miss nuances even in other dialects of English. CZ has large articles on different British and American usages. Howard C. Berkowitz 07:34, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Cult of Mary is a neutral term. Do not forget that Babb is an anthropologist. My english is good enough to know that hagiography and cult may have negative connotations for readers who are not familiar with neutral meanings of the words. Andries 07:48, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Howard, do you think that in the cult of Mary in the Roman Catholic church the follower will obey with little question to the cult leader who has a superior relationship to the cultist? Andries 08:07, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Fundamental mistake

I think the initial version of this article copied from Wikipedia suffered from the fundamental mistake that it tries to assess far too much the veracity of the claims, charity projects, and allegations. That is why it went (and to some extent still goes) into so much detail. These details may be interesting for (former) devotees but they are not for all other people. The latter are more interested in synthesis. Andries 21:09, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

One-word translations

Just as examples, it bothers me to see such one-word translations as

(Note that I put dharma) into a link. Dharma, for example, is also used in Buddhism, and that's not a clean explanation.

This is a general issue in the article. Words, either Indian English or a non-English language, are given one-word explanations, which, in least some cases, do not fully explain the context, especially when other cultures use it. I'd get rid of all one-word explanations and, where appropriate, link, even if it's to a lemma/definition only (i.e., write word/definition, then create an article (word) that has only the string {{subpages}}) in it. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:52, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, please do it! Thanks! Hayford Peirce 22:16, 21 February 2009 (UTC)
I'll do it. At the same time, I'm going to delink things that were probably WP links, such as the names of towns, that really aren't significant to the article. Yes, red links have their role in encouraging new articles, but with our staffing, I think we need to concentrate on the red links that add content. Red links about theological topics are important here; geography is not necessarily so if it's just a birthplace. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:22, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Universal, but not universal

"Sai Baba presents his teachings as being universal, as is often the case in neo-Hindu movements, but they are actually deeply and authentically Hindu". Not totally sure what this is supposed to mean: in most contemporary religious discourse, "universal" tends to identify religious practice and belief that is intended for anybody, rather than just a select few. It makes little sense to say that teachings are presented as universal, but they are actually deeply and authentically X. The two are not opposed, as far as I'm concerned. Could I get some explanation of this, and perhaps some correction? --Tom Morris 13:05, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

SSB presents his teachings as the true core of all religions. SSB says that he will make Christians better Christians. Muslims better Muslims etc. This is what I meant with 'universal'. I will try to see if I can this clearer. This is not just my opinion, but can be sourced to several reputable sources. Andries 13:15, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Schulman why was this removed?

Why was the following sentence removed? I think this is very important. Schulman is one of the very few who tried to verify Kasturi's biography/hagiography, so completely omitting him makes the article significantly worse.

"Schulman further stated that "for any episode of Baba's childhood, there are countless contrasting versions and, at this point, the author discovered that it was no longer possible to separate the facts from the legend"."

Andries 16:44, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

It wasn't clear that Schulman was specifically analyzing Kasturi's work. The statement above reads as one more general observation about SSB. If it's a critical analysis of a specific book, say so. Did you make it clear he tried to verify? Was that verification process described, as opposed to comments, inherent in any multi-language interview, about translation problems?
I'll again inquire why you are so insistent on using hagiography rather than biography, when questions have been raised about the neutrality of that term in this context. How is substituting biography going to change the fundamental meaning, unless it is to deprecate Kasturi and others? Howard C. Berkowitz 16:50, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Again, Kasturi's writings "Sathyam, Sivam Sundaram (literally Truth, Goodness, Beauty) are a nearly prototypical hagiography, as Babb explained very clearly and as even the title strongly indicates. This is not just my opinion. Did you read Kasturi's writings? They are available online. I read them and I do not think that it comes anything close to a serious biography. . Andries 17:17, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
No, I don't think we are in agreement about the meaning English word hagiography. Further, could you share the definitive definition of biography? Even, however, if Kasturi's is utterly a hagiography, I believe CZ: Neutrality Policy requires that highly supportive writings be listed alongside critical ones. In one controversial article, in the spirit of neutrality and civility, the word skeptic, for example, was banned. Hagiography is needlessly inflammatory in this context; I suspect Kasturi could comfortably call it a biography, and supportive view must be included alongside critical views. We do not judge which is correct. We can cite majority opinions, but an assortment of university press books do not necessarily equate to a majority, say, of medical efficacy research studies. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:07, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
A serious biography does not accept uncritically the extraordinary or boastful claims from the person in question. It tries to verify facts and claims from various independent sources. It is not dominated by the world view of the author. It does not try to fit in the biographical facts in a hagiographic framework. Hagiographic is not needlessly inflammatory because it is a very accurate term.Andries 21:21, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

(undent) It is not the role of Citizendium to determine if biographies are "serious" or not. A biography is a description of a person. There are a great many satirical, popular culture, politically motivated, or other biographies that are not "serious", yet are still biographies, and, in appropriate cases, quite relevant to articles. It would, indeed, be difficult to write political history without working from what may well be less than objective biographies; such biographies are, indeed, dominated by the world view of the author. Autobiographies, almost by definition, are dominated by the world view of the author.

I regret that I find "hagiography" to be, in my opinion, a needless violation of the neutrality policy. The neutrality policy, I believe, requires if biased biographies exist, and have received significant distribution, they need to be identified, but they can simply be called biased biographies. Certainly, the 2008 U.S. presidential election was full of them. At least in American English, hagiography, unless a formal work in a theological context, is deprecatory. CZ authors are expected to do their best to remove potentially inflammatory terminology, not insist on it. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:53, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

With hagiography I do not mean an uncritical or biased biography. I meant hagiography in the original sense of the word. I insist on using accurate terms that inform the readers. Andries 21:57, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Your (or my) opinion) does not matter. What matters is what reputable sources have written. Andries 21:59, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Of course, it is the task of editors of citizendium to assess the quality of sources. If you do not then every article will become a mess. Andries 22:04, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
The Neutrality policies says that more weight should be given to experts. Babb is one of them. Kasturi is not. He is a devotee and not an academically respected biographer of SSB. He is only important here because a serious biography is not available. If there was a serious biography available then Kasturi should not be used here. On the other hand, Kasturi's view are important to describe the beliefs and practices of the Sathya Sai Baba Movement.Andries 22:15, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Not all authoritative sources need to be academic. As you say, "Kasturi's views are important to describe the beliefs and practices of the Sathya Sai Baba Movement". That, in my opinion, makes him an expert — an expert whose views you dislike, but an expert. At the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg), the writings of many war criminals established them as experts on very unpleasant practices; that expertise, in many cases, resulted in their death by hanging. It was still expertise.
This is a collaborative project. Many of my objections are to the choice of the word "hagiography". "Biography by a member of the organization" would be perfectly fine and non-inflammatory, although "follower", "skeptic" or "devotee", have generally been frowned upon, at CZ, as needlessly inflammatory. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:24, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
I think we need dispute resolution regarding the word hagiography, because we are not coming closer. Andries 07:01, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Yesterday I did a couple of Searches for "Hagiography" and couldn't find it, even in some previous versions in the History. Where, precisely, is/was it? Lemme take a look at it and I will give you my impartial opinion based on my half-dozen dictionaries, my many thousands of hours of writing books in English, and last, and least important, my diploma from Harvard, where I majored in English. It shouldn't be hard to figure out whether its use here is correct or not.... Hayford Peirce 16:25, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Various references to the late Kasturi's [story of SSB's life]. There is no dispute that Kasturi, who was SSB's personal assistant, is highly complimentary. Other authors, both ex-followers and independent writers, are highly critical. Kasturi might, indeed, have believed SSB was a "saint", if that more Western term is accurate in this religion.
Babb's use in a quote of "The strict fact of his personal biography and manner of life are buried beneath layer upon layer of hagiography." (see above) is appropriate, as a quote. I believe, however, that having the article refer to what is, in fact, a biography is non-neutral. Andries says "He is a devotee and not an academically respected biographer of SSB. He is only important here because a serious biography is not available. If there was a serious biography available then Kasturi should not be used here." Under CZ: Neutrality Policy, I do not think that it is the article's role to say if a biography is serious, hagiographic, or satirical. It is not inappropriate to identify the author's relationship, but "biography" is neutral; "hagiography" is not. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:49, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Okay, apparently, you, Howard, have removed the offending phrase "he is a devotee and not etc." from the main article. Is that correct? And Andries believes that it should be restored? Is that correct?
Andres, please tell me *exactly* what you think should be restored. Thanks! Hayford Peirce 17:02, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Not quite, Hayford.
  • Main specific issue: "hagiography" should not be used, other than in a direct quote, to refer to [story of a life]. "Bbiography" is neutral and does not automatically mean "serious biography". Hagiography in a direct quote is fine.
  • Issue #2: as with the homeopathy ground rules, "skeptic", "follower", "devotee", etc. are non-neutral outside direct quotes. I have removed such things as "devotee" outside sourced quotes.
  • Issue #3: It is not the role of CZ to decide if biographies are "serious", if organizations are "cults", etc. It is appropriate to provide a reasonable number of sourced references to both sides. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:33, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Howard C. Berkowitz 17:33, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Howard, as I understand it, you have *removed* all of the offending stuff and rewritten it? And Andries objects to your edits? If that is the case, I will wait until he tells me specifically which edits of yours he doesn't like. Hayford Peirce 17:59, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Hayford, No, I do not think that the word hagiography was ever in the article, but I plan to make a section about Kasturi's writing in which at least the word hagiography/hagiographical is mentioned. So, yes, it would be better to wait a bit to see if there is a dispute and if a compromise is possible. If the term is completely taboo then I see a dispute with no compromise in sight. Andries 21:15, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Hi, Andries, fine, I'll wait and see what turns up. In any case, I have no official standing here, but I am, I think, pretty neutral about what's going on in this article. Best, Hayford Peirce 21:30, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
At one point, the word was in general text. As I've said, I have no problem with a sourced reference calling Kasturi's work hagiographic. The Schulman material I removed was removed not for that reason, but variously that it was run-on and repetitive of other sources, and yet went into even more detail about cobras and difficulties of translation. If Babb or Schulman specifically say that Kasturi is hagiographic, that's fine. I object to the term being used outside a quote.
As with other controversial subjects, homeopathy being an example, I believe that CZ: Neutrality Policy would have a problem if there were principally negative quotes; if Kasturi is criticized, then there also needs to be some direct material from Kasturi. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:55, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) I think that it would be permissible for someone in CZ to write something like: "Bob Jones, who wrote the definite biography of Jimmy Johnson, is somewhat uncritical in his approach to...." or "Bob Jones, the biographer of Jane Austen is mostly adulatory rather than even-handed in dealing with...." Tricky, sure, but possible, I would say. Without seeing its actual usage, I would think off-hand that "hagiography" is going to be hard to use unless it's in direct quotes -- or so obvious and well-known to everyone that there is no question about using it: "Young George Washington is depicted in Parson Weems' hagiography of the first president as being...." Or perhaps, "Ann Coulter's hagiographic biography of Ronald Reagan...." But even here, I'd be leery of using it. Hayford Peirce 22:45, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

(moved into proper time sequence) Babb is not the only reputable source that calls Kasturi's writing hagiographic. Journalist Mick Brown in the Telegraph (October 28, 2000) Divine Downfall available online did the same "According to the four-volume hagiography written by his late secretary and disciple, Professor N Kasturi, [..]"Andries 07:08, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
It's perfectly fine to quote Babb or Brown as calling Kasturi's writing hagiographic. My objection is for the main article text, without sourcing, to call it a hagiography or hagiographic. Is my distinction clear? It is neutral to cite Babb or Brown, at least if Kasturi's position is, in a manner that Kasturi would recognize, is also cited. It is non-neutral for the article text, written by CZ authors, to conclude anything is a hagiography, other than a theological work about the life of a saint.
CZ is not here to judge the rightness of one side, although it certainly can give more weight to a majority opinion. As in some other articles, majority is a bit complex: does it refer to majority of authoritative sources, or majority of public opinion? Presumably, both need to be explained. Howard C. Berkowitz 09:28, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Kasturi wrote a theological work about a person he considers a saint. Andries 21:51, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Does he use that specific word? Do you have a quote from Kasturi, "SSB is a saint"? Does "saint" have a generally accepted meaning in Hinduism? Do they go through veneration, beatification, and canonization?
Again and again, I have said that it's perfectly acceptable to have a sourced quote about Kasturi's work being hagiographic. Again and again, I have said "hagiographic" is a sufficiently emotional term, to a native speaker of English, that it cannot be considered neutral in non-sourced article text. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:35, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Babb also considers SSB a saint and wrote this explicilty using a neutral definition. See Andries 06:59, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Content of Catalogue subpage is not a catalogue

I don't know what to call it, but the current content of the Catalog subpage is definitely not a catalogue and it should be removed from the Catalogue subpage. Milton Beychok 19:35, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

I removed it to that page since I was not sure what to do with it. A discussion of the various estimates for the number of devotee's seemed tangential to the article. I was thinking it might be a good catalog style table with sources, estimates and comments. But i agree it is weak with regard to sources and data. Chris Day 19:40, 23 February 2009 (UTC)


I do not know any reputable source that denies that SSB has Hindu teaching. Kent, Kelly, Nagel, Babb all describe SSB as Hindu. Andries 19:49, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

  1. Kent, page 37
    "The birth was symbolically marked by a cobra in the bedclothes [..]"
  2. , Chapter 3 Balagopala, Sathyam Sivam Sundaram Vol. 1
  3. Schulman, Arnold (1971), Baba
  4. Chennai Online, "Sri Sathya Sai Baba: A living Legend" by Ramakrishnan R, [1]