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Winged Faith

Winged Faith: Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism through the Sathya Sai Movement

Tulasi Srinivas
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Winged Faith
    Book Description:

    The Sathya Sai global civil religious movement incorporates Hindu and Muslim practices, Buddhist, Christian, and Zoroastrian influences, and "New Age"-style rituals and beliefs. Shri Sathya Sai Baba, its charismatic and controversial leader, attracts several million adherents from various national, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. In a dynamic account of the Sathya Sai movement's explosive growth, Winged Faith argues for a rethinking of globalization and the politics of identity in a religiously plural world.

    This study considers a new kind of cosmopolitanism located in an alternate understanding of difference and contestation. It considers how acts of "sacred spectating" and illusion, "moral stakeholding" and the problems of community are debated and experienced. A thrilling study of a transcultural and transurban phenomenon that questions narratives of self and being, circuits of sacred mobility, and the politics of affect, Winged Faith suggests new methods for discussing religion in a globalizing world and introduces readers to an easily critiqued yet not fully understood community.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52052-2
    Subjects: Religion, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on Translation
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction: Toward Cultural Understanding
    (pp. 1-49)

    When I arrived in my hometown of Bangalore, on a warm February night in 1998, my intention was to study the economic forces of globalization and their impact on Indian religion, particularly temple Hinduism. Globalization was at that time seen by theorists as the dominance of the culture of the West (Euro-America) upon the rest of the world (Appadurai 1996; Berger 1997), the “center upon the periphery” (Hannerz 1990:i–x) as cultural flows were thought to move from the hegemonic West to the peripheral rest of the world. India had tentatively opened its economy to global market forces in 1989,...

  7. 1 Becoming God: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba
    (pp. 50-92)

    August 14, 1999. 11.00 a.m. Brindavan, Whitefield ashram. Gokulam canteen dining hall. Shanti (forty-three) from Bombay, Teresa (sixty-two) from London, and Joule (fifty-five) from Amsterdam, all devotees of over twenty years, are shelling beans in the dining room in preparation for the evening meal for the many thousands of devotees in residence. Usually this activity is completed in meditative silence or with whispered bouts of conversation, as per the rules of the ashram, but they are known as devout, so they can talk to me as they work. We talk about the miracles attendant to Shri Sathya Sai Baba’s life...

  8. 2 Deus Loci: Economies of Faith, Cultures of Travel, and the Building of a Moral Architecture
    (pp. 93-155)

    Boston. December 17, 2004. Frederyck (forty-nine) a Polish devotee currently living in Paris.

    India, I always wanted to go there. It was like a dream, a fantasy. One day I went to the Sai temple in Singapore. There was a sign, “A trip to Puttaparthi, India, is being organized from 8 to 16 Dec 1997. For trip details contact Brother Manoj” and a phone number. I was thinking of calling but I didn’t. That night I dreamt of Sai Baba. He was in front of me calling me by name. He said, “Frederyck, you must come to ’Parthi.” When I...

  9. 3 Illusion, Play, and Work in a Moral Community: Divine Darshan and the Practices of Transnational Devotion
    (pp. 156-200)

    Whitefield, Bangalore. February 20, 1998. Harini (forty-two) told me that she had heard (through the devotee’s grapevine) that Sathya Sai Baba had moved to Brindavan, his summer ashram some twelve miles outside Bangalore. She said she would accompany me for early-morning darshan. I was excited. This was the first time I would actually get to see Sathya Sai Baba in person. Darshan was between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and she said there would be huge crowds (which I did not believe). We left Bangalore at 3 a.m. and we arrived at 3:30 a.m. In spite of the total darkness...

  10. 4 Renegotiating the Body: Muscular Morality, Truancy, and the Satisfaction of Desire
    (pp. 201-231)

    November 18, 2001. I visited the Sai ashram in Puttaparthi for the first time. I wore loose salwar trousers and a long kurtalike shirt, similar in style to the salwar suits that north Indian women wore. No sooner had I entered the ashram then I was met with annoyed looks from all sides. Undeterred but discomfited, I joined the long queue for darshan with other women devotees. All around me the women devotees were completely covered, either in saris of white or long kaftans and robes with white duppatas (scarves). Soon after I sat down in the darshan queue, one...

  11. 5 Secrecy, Ambiguity, Truth, and Power: The Global Sai Organization and the Anti-Sai Network
    (pp. 232-281)

    On the night of June 6, 1993, all published accounts are unanimous that four young men were found dead in Sai Baba’s personal quarters at the ashram after midnight. The newspaper reports a Mr. Suresh Prabhu (thirty-five), a marine engineer; his elder brother, Vijay Prabhu (forty-five), head of the Sai Vocational Training Center in the ashram; N. Jaganathan (thirty-four), the ashram stationary supplier; and E. K. Suresh Kumar (twenty-three), a recent graduate of the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, entered Sathya Sai Baba’s inner chambers, and attacked four devotees they found there. They were N. Radhakrishna, Sathya Sai Baba’s...

  12. 6 Out of God’s Hands: Reframing Material Worlds
    (pp. 282-322)

    October 22, 2006. Bethesda, Mary land. The home of Mrs. Susan Ratner (fifty-seven).¹ The entire basement of this four-bedroom home had been converted into a Sai Baba shrine. In one corner stood an empty wooden thronelike chair draped with a bright red and gold sari. Behind it the entire wall (which ran forty feet) was covered in floor to ceiling mirrors, in the center of which a life-size photograph of Sai Baba hung. In front was a small altar with a bouquet of silk flowers and a bowl of fruit and an incense burner. The room smelt of the Nag...

  13. In Lieu of a Conclusion: Some Thoughts on Cultural Translation and Engaged Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 323-342)

    February 15, 2006, Boston, Massachusetts. I was watching, with a group of devotees, a prerecorded video of Sathya Sai Baba’s eightieth birthday celebration that I had been sent by a devotee group. It had been recorded by Sathya Sai Baba’s videographer. The eightieth birthday celebration promised to be the largest celebration Puttaparthi had ever seen. As usual, the crowd of Sathya Sai devotees from all parts of the world had begun arriving several weeks earlier. National newspapers had estimated that for this Sai birthday five hundred thousand people would be present to receive darshan of Sathya Sai Baba. The date,...

  14. Appendix Global Sathya Sai Centers
    (pp. 343-346)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 347-380)
  16. References
    (pp. 381-412)
  17. Index
    (pp. 413-430)