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Religious Studies Review / 319

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

(James Walker)we find documentary evidence, as good as
we can get, of a Native American Mother Earth.
Raymond J. DeMallie's book The Sixth Grandfather hints
at another simpler "story" of Mother Earth in America, a
story in which scholars have played no substantive role. 2
DeMallie reports that Vine Deloria, Jr., suggested that Black
Elk Speaks has been "elevated . . . to the status of an American Indian Bible" (1984, xx). "Indeed," writes DeMallie,
"Black Elk's teachings appear to be evolving into a consensual American Indian theological canon" (1984, 80). Thus
Sam Gill is right, I think, to suspect that there has been some
Indian myth-making going on in the twentieth century, but
he has left out the most important episode in the story.
Largely because of the combined religious genius of
Black Elk and literary genius of J o h n G. Neihardt, many
contemporary American Indians and non-Indians, in search
of an ecologically resonant Native American portrait of the
relationship between human beings and nature, have gravitated toward the basic elements of the traditional Lakota
world view.
Black Elk Speaks faithfully, if artfully, records Black Elk's
teachings, and Black Elk's teachings are, on the whole, representative of the traditional Lakota world view. But for all
the spiritual and literary power of Black Elk Speaks, the Lakota concept of Mother Earth would not have been so broadly
adopted by contemporary non-Lakota American Indians
unless it struck a common chord, unless it captured, in an
especially vivid and direct metaphor, the relationship between people and the earth expressed in the narrative traditions of many other American Indian cultures.
Sam Gill has failed to show convincingly that the now familiar "Native American" Mother Earth is actually a European immigrant whose passage to America was sponsored
by religious studies scholars. Least convincing and most unbecoming is his insinuation that contemporary American
Indians are so out of touch with their own traditions that they
have naively (or worse, manipulatively) "appropriated" a
scholarly fiction. Mother Earth is, rather, truly native to the
North American Great Plains and has, by consensus, become emblematic of the intimate relationship felt by practically all native people with their natural environments and
expressed in traditional American Indian cultures in many
different ways.
1. One searches in vain not only through Gill's text, notes, and
bibliography, for a reference to Black Elk Speaks, but also through
his "Bibliographic Supplement" (181-91), which cites documents
not discussed in the text that make mention of Mother Earth in
connection with Indian myth and belief systems.
2. An ironic twist to this alternative American story of Mother
Earth is that "Black Elk saw himself as the 'sixth grandfather,' the
spiritual representative of the earth" (DeMallie, 1984, ix).


1984 The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given tofohn G.

Neihardt University of Nebraska Press.

1978 Keepers of the Game: Indian-Animal Relationships and the Fur

Trade. University of California Press.

1967 Wilderness and the American Mind. Yale University Press.


1932 Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. William Morrow.

1963 The Quiet Crisis. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.


1980 Lakota Belief and Ritual. Edited by R. J. DeMallie and E.

A. Jahner. University of Nebraska Press.
Edited by Karine S c h o m e r a n d W. H . McLeod
Berkeley Religious Studies Series
Columbia, M O : South Asia Books/Delhi: Motilal
Banarsidass, 1987
P p . ix + 4 7 2 + 1 color plate. $40.00/Rs. 3 2 5 .
By Daniel Gold
New York: Oxford University Press, 1987
P p . ix + 256. $29.95.
By Lawrence A. B a b b
C o m p a r a t i v e Studies in Religion a n d Society, 1
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987 ( c l 9 8 6 )
P p . xiv + 257. $29.25.
Edited by J o h n Stratton Hawley
C o m p a r a t i v e Studies in Religion a n d Society, 2
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987
P p . xxiv + 256. Cloth, $47.00; p a p e r , $12.95.
Reviewer: Monika Thiel-Horstmann
Indologisches Seminar
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt
D-5300 Bonn
West Germany

The Sants represent an Indian religious tradition belonging

to the bhakti (devotional) form of Vaishnava Hinduism,
though sometimes and to a varying degree the Vaishnavism
1963 "The Western Inscription." In Wing-Tsit Chan, ed. and is only nominal. Their heyday lies in the thirteenth to eighteenth centuries when their most important literature in the
trans. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University
Indian vernaculars was produced. T h e movement started in

320 / Religious Studies Review

Maharashtra (represented by figures such as Jnnesvar,
Nmdev, Eknth) and gained ground in North India in the
fourteenth/fifteenth centuries (among its main northern
exponents are Kabr, Guru Nnak, Dd). The latest representatives of the movement are the Radhasoamis, who
emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century. T h e
Sant groups would often develop into regular sects (or, to
use an indigenous term, panths) which continue to exist to
this day.
A Sant is a person who has realized his ontic being. This
is, broadly speaking, conceived of as identical with that of the
supreme. The word Sant is derived from Old Indian sant-/
sat-, "being" and hence means "[ontologically] being, true,
good." The Sants' supreme being has to be realized within
and is beyond qualities, that is, nirguria. This ineffable being
is also called the satguru, the "true guru," that is, the inner
voice of revelation whose most powerful symbolic condensation is the divine name. Hence, the Sants reject iconic worship. T h e Sants also reject (with some restrictions) the
authority of the Veda, the caste hierarchy with its brahmin
supremacy, and the notion that only the initiated "twiceborn" should be allowed access to the salvific avenues of religion. Thus the Sants, of whom many if not most hailed from
a low-caste or Muslim milieu, attracted all ranks of society,
including non-Hindus and women. Their religious inheritance is that of the theistic Upanishads, of Vaishnavism, of
the Tantra of the Nthyogs, and of Sufism, although Sufism acted more as a catalyst on the Sants rather than influencing their cosmologica! or theological worldview directly
(the exact historical dimensions of this relationship remain
Being directed towards a nirguria God, the Sants' bhakti
is thereby traditionally distinguished from the saguna bhakti
which worships an incarnate divine manifest in the icon of
the temple. How far this distinction holds true is one of the
variously discussed central topics of the volume edited by
Schomer and McLeod (1987).
The volume brings together research papers read as early
as 1978 for a conference held at the University of California
at Berkeley's Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies.
By that time Sant studies had been put on a remarkably
sound footing owing to early pioneer work by Indian scholars and to subsequent in-depth studies by non-Indian scholars, foremost among these Vaudeville (1969, 1974) and
McLeod (1975, 1976).
T h e first section of the volume explores the conceptual
background of the Sant tradition, the religious inheritance
of the Sants and their relationship with their sister tradition,
the saguna bhakti. Charlotte Vaudeville (21-40) delineates
the characteristic features of nirguria bhakti and emphasizes
the wide spectrum of the Sant tradition, a fact which is obscured by modern generic terms for it that suggest a uniform theological and organization concept. She also tackles
the pivotal conceptual problem of nirguna bhakti: its very
claim to rarguwa-ness (26-29). Her brief discussion is further highlighted in the contributions by Frits Staal (41-46),
Wendy D. O'Flaherty (47-52) and implicitly, with an approach from the saguna side, by J o h n S. Hawley (191-211).
Vaudeville states the obvious dilemma that "the very notion
of 'nirguna bhakti' seems to be a contradiction in terms. If it
signifies the abolition of all distinctions and the thorough

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

merging of the illusory jiva [i.e., the embodied, seemingly
individual soul] into the One Reality so that all identity is lost
forever, the 'nirguna bhakti' would bring about the abolition
of bhakti itself (27).
Staal, arguing partly logically, partly psychologically,
reaches the conclusion that nirguna brahman, the supreme
being beyond qualities, and nirguria bhakti are identical, for,
as Staal surmises, they are identical in their nirguna-ness and
in their being beyond the word. Here he refers to the practice of silent prayer in the Indian tradition which, as he boldly
speculates, may echo a pre-linguistic state of human development. "There is one thing that certainly does not lead to
the ineffable: talking.. . . T h e same holds for the nirguna
bhaktias all true bhaktas have always realized" (45). This
categoric statement forms the crucial point, for what Staal
says is only half the truth (see also Vaudeville, 29-31, on the
corpus of love poetry produced by the Sants). Bhakti does
not primarily mean simply "love," but "participation, communion," which relates the divine and the devotee in a mutually active mode. As a religious path, bhakti is thus
processual, and as a religious path it is also far from being
silent; in fact, it is verbose. At the end of the process there is
the goal, and only then may there be silence.
There are types of bhakti where the union between the
divine and the devotee has the quality of infinite participation (see Carman, 1983 for the dialectic of bhakti); in nirguna bhakti the philosophical concept is, indeed, that in
oneness "the abolition of bhakti itself is brought about. In
their religious practice, however, nirguria bhaktas occupy a
perpetually liminal position. Their liminality hinges on what
is called the "experience" (anubhava), which requires the dual
structure of a devotee and the object of his devotion. Anubhava is the emotional concomitant of bhakti. It pulls the
devotee towards (not into) the nirguria. As long as there is anubhava there cannot be nirguna; if nirguna prevails, anubhava is dead. This is precisely, however, what the devotee
shuns, and this is why nirguria bhaktas appear also as the detractors of final liberation (mutki). That is, nirguria bhakti is
an ever approximative process. As a religious quest in a persistent dual structure nirguna bhakti is, therefore, inherently saguna (thus also Staal, 41). This is one of the reasons
why a separation between the two forms of bhakti is not feasible, unless one argues within the confines of a philosophical
concept. In this connection Hawley's findings about the relatively late emerging dichotomy between saguna and nirguna bhakti in the growth of the Sr tradition is revealing
(197). Sr, in the early (pre-1700) strata ofthat textual tradition, appears rather nirgunt.
O'Flaherty (47-52) also applies herself to the overarching conceptual problem stated. She talks of the nirguna ideal
as something "force-fed to grass-root Hindus with a strictly
limited degree of success" and of nirguria bhakti as "a concoction of monistic scholars artificially imposed upon Sant
tradition" (47). But later she argues that "the Sants . . . choose
to mix nirguna and saguna; theirs is a free choice as they have
no canon or priesthood" (4950). These undocumented
statements are not very easy to reconcile, and they are not
consistently borne out by facts.
The Sants emerged as heirs to a mixed tradition and their
monistic outlook is cast in the language of an inherited poetic tradition. O'Flaherty feels that the nirguna ideal is not

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

Religious Studies Review / 321

well integrated into Epic and Puranic Hinduism (48, 49) and ness. Winand M. Callewaert (181-89) dwells on the growth
that the avatra concept is in conflict with the nirguria one. of Dd's hagiography (now superseded by Callewaert,
Then, turning to visual art, she explores the constant ten- 1988), thus enriching our data on which to base systematic
sion between the nirguria and the saguna in the example of studies of Sant hagiographies, of which an outstanding exthe Hindu temple. She describes how the beholder moves emplar is the historical research of McLeod, 1980 (for progfrom the outer "saguna" halls to the interior, where, in the ress in work taking into account the hagiographically
cella, he finds the "nirguria." Here she adduces the Mahesa informed lives of Indian religious men, see sections 2 and 3
of Elephanta who is, in fact, outside the cella and perhaps below).
not even a Mahesa (see Srinivasan, 1987 for Sadsiva). He is
The image, the self-image, and the historical ramificain any case a manifest aspect of Siva, whose formless aspect tions of Sant groups are treated in section three ("Move(niskala) is symbolized by the Unga in the cella. But even the ments"). Early in their history, it seems (see Vaudeville, 3 6 formless aspect cannot straightforwardly be identified with 40), the Sants did not set themselves much apart from the
the nirguria, for it is undifferentiated but, capable of differ- then prevalent, non-sect-specific model of the "good Vaishentiation, not devoid of quality. As long as there is an iconic nava" (which seems to be ultimately based on Bhgavata
representation, there is no nirguna, although the image or, Purna 11.45-55 and which has even been appropriated in
as at Elephanta, a sequence of images, may be interpreted modern popular Jaina books!). In the nineteenth century we
as an increasing approximation to the unfolded divine. T h e encounter the definite concept o a sant mat, a "Sant faith."
attempt to replace indigenous concepts by our own con- However, it is premature to conclude, as Schomer does, that
cepts requires more careful consideration of the original au- "The concept of 'nirguna bhakti' as a distinct devotional mode
thor's intention.
contrasting with 'saguna bhakti,' and the Sants constituting
O'Flaherty concludes her examination of the Hindu a separate devotional tradition, is relatively new" (. . . "not
temple by describing how the "nirguna" objects of shrines of . . . fully crystallized until the mid-nineteenth century)" (3).
the little tradition (unhewn icons, for example) are endowed The map of the distinct self-awareness of the Sants has so
with qualities by the devotees. Again: these objects are min- far too many blank spots as to allow for assumptions of this
imal representations, not nirguria. Despite its willful treat- kind. The increasingly distinct saguna outlook of the Sur trament of the data, O'Flaherty's misgivings about a somewhat dition after 1700 is an indicator that the orthodox concepts
hovering nirguna concept triggers a hitherto little-studied of this form of bhakti were gradually internalized by the verquestion: How well do ordinary devotees, not the theology nacular tradition (or their theologically trained compilers!).
of a given tradition, cope with the nirguria character of their T h e increasing dogmatic rallying of the two camps is evifaith? It is well known how elaborate rituals have accrued to dent in nirguria bhakti of the same time too. For example, as
nirguria cults (for example to the Kabirpanth), and we also early as in the second generation of Dd's disciples (midknow of the freezing of the nirguria tradition into tangible seventeenth century) monastic rules are quite positive about
structures (for example the Radhasoamis, for whom see sec- their position in contrast to that of the saguns (see Thieltion 2 below). The saguna devotional strand in nirguna bhakti Horstmann, forthcoming b). It seems that much more work
may become either manifest in a syncretistic fashion or in a is necessary before we can offer safe results. In Maharashseparate strand of a devotee's religious life (here the exam- tra, the Saiva and Nth background influenced the Sants and,
ination of the family shrine and religious practice can be re- for that matter, also the Krishnaism of the Mahnubhvas,
vealing). T h e theoretical section of the volume ends in a so that their Vaishnavism is of a rather nominal type. This
phenomenological topology of bhakti charted by Andrew is pointed out by Vaudeville (21528), whose findings are
Rawlinson which, because of its extreme brevity and con- paralleled by evidence in other areas, such as Rajasthan,
sequently insufficient interpretation of the terms, fails to where Sant bhakti has espoused local Saiva cults and the
Hanumn cult.
T h e second section of the volume, devoted to the textual
Among the Sant traditions the one whose history has
sources, yields a host of results relevant to the student of re- been studied best is that of the Sikhs. The consolidation of
ligion. Schomer (61-90) carefully investigates the historical their Panth into the Khalsa was prompted by the dominant
and functional place of the distich (doh), which is one of the Jat element in their constituency who stamped its martial attwo important genres of Sant literature, the second being the titudes on the developing Panth. Thus the Sikhs developed
song (poda), and suggestively interprets it as similar to the a double loyalty: on the one hand, to the martially governed
classical philosophical stras in offering authoritative utter- tradition of the Khalsa with its precisely formulated codex
ances. Eleanor Zelliot (91-109) shows how Eknth, the of conduct and political orientation and, on the other, to the
brahmin reviver of bhakti in sixteenth-century Maharash- earlier religious inheritance of the Nnak-Panth. McLeod
tra, by taking on in his drama poems (bhruds) low-caste, investigates how these two loyalties are at work to this day
unorthodox, and female personae, exhibits a culturally in- (229-49). Apart from the very carefully evaluated results this
tegrating approach. From Linda Hess's study of the three paper presents, it (see also McLeod, 1975) is methodologiKabr collections (111-41) emerge two distinctly Kabrian cally exemplary for the study of other bhakti groups of whom
personalities, a result that exemplifies that the authors of distinct branches betray alignments on caste-lines, as for exSant bhakti in their overwhelming majority are exponents ample warrior-ascetics who emulate Rajput models by the
of traditions rather than individuals. In a further study (143- construction of lineages traced back to a Rajput founder and
65) Hess explores the "rough rhetoric" of the eastern Kabr by a distinct life-style. In cases such as these, the caste comtradition. In analyzing Tagore's reception of Kabr, Vijay C. position of those Panths as well as the ideological motives that
Mishra implicitly alerts us to more hermeneutical aware-

322 / Religious Studies Review

were momentous in that alignment need more historical investigation (Gold, forthcoming and Kolff, forthcoming are
expected to cover relevant aspects).
In one more paper McLeod (251-68) studies the image
of the Sant among modern Sikhs. Also in continuation of his
first contribution, he points out the dynamics of religious
change and attitude which lead to the development of several distinct types which at the same time exhibit ongoing attachment to inherited patterns of loyalty. Complementary
to this, Bruce LaBrack (265-79) investigates the role of the
travelling Sikh Sants in the U.S. as reinforcers of the assumed values of their native culture and thus serving the
immigrants' new identity.
Lorenzen (281-308) discusses the impact of the potential of social protest inherent in Kabir's work in the modern
Kabr-Panth and finds that this Panth, with its great tribal
and low-caste constituency, has not so much activated this
potential as it has sought social mobility within the caste system on the lines of a "pure Vaishnava" reference model
(vegetarianism, abstention from alcohol).
For two more studies, on the Radhasoamis, one by David
Gold and the other by Mark Juergensmeyer see section 2 below. The volume is rounded off by three papers on related
traditions. Bruce B. Lawrence (359-73), assessing the Sufi
element in Sant writing, points to the obvious problem that
the Sants do not emerge as historical individuals but are
shrouded in legend quite unlike the Sufis whose biographies are verifiable. This makes the verification of the assumed interaction of Sants and Sufis elusive. Lawrence finds
that the only valid basis to account for interaction is the investigation of the copious thematic correspondence between both traditions. Here also, however, similarities do not
allow us to establish historical dependency. Only in the case
of Sant hagiography does it seem indisputable that there was
Muslim influence. Edward C. Dimock (375-83) shows how
the Bul tradition forms a confluence of Sufi, Tantric, and
Vaishnava origins, while the measure of these influences and
the exact historical dependency of the Buls cannot be determined. K. Kailasapathy's sketch of the Tami Siddhas and
Elinor W. Gadon's art-historical comment on the frontispiece of the volume conclude the work.
T h e volumes edited by Schomer and McLeod and by Juergensmeyer and Barrier (1976) testify in a comprehensive
fashion to the attention increasingly given since the midseventies to the social manifestation of Sant traditions. Apart
from the Sikhs, a mid-nineteenth-century Sant offspring, the
Radhasoamis, is probably the group that has profitted most
from such attention. T h e Radhasoamis both continue and
transform the Sant tradition, which, by the time the Radhasoamis emerged, had become frozen. Early Sants (like Kabr) had broken open the conceptual system of Tantric Yoga
and revived it by transforming its fixed notions into fluid
metaphors of their religion. In these they often spoke of the
"ineffable." Gradually, however, their fluid metaphors and
concepts froze again. Metaphors became one-to-one related
symbols or mere poetic conventions. This development can
already be traced from the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

onwards (already Dd smacks a bit of it). With the Radhasoamis, finally, the "inaccessible mountain path" of the early
Sants became the exactly mapped and fairly safe road to salvation winding through a lovely landscape (see Moeller, 1956
for the Radhasoami cosmological system).
Juergensmeyer (in Schomer and McLeod, 1987, 329-55)
investigates how the Radhasoamis have transformed Santism.
He identifies a move towards the well-defined: be it the exact
mapping of the nirguria path, or the satguru who is now no
longer the inner voice of revelation but a living individual
linked in a genealogical chain with a human or divine original
ancestor, or the satsang, the company of the saints, which is now
a church with a fixed ritual. The existential adventure has become thoroughly socialized, and this is enhanced by a strong
element of a worldly asceticism of work in the interest of the
community. Theologically, Radhasoami doctrine owes much
to the esoteric ideas of the Kabrpanth Anurg-sgar.
That the Radhasoami focus has shifted from the interior
to the externally or socially tangible is a phenomenon that calls
for analysis. Such is offered by Daniel Gold (1987; for an earlier version of the pivotal theme of his research, see Schomer
and McLeod, 1987,305-27). Gold places his analysis in a comparative frame, which is very wide and hence tends to weaken
his approach on its periphery, 1 whereas his core analysis of the
position of the guru in the Radhasoami and related traditions
convincingly clears up the perspective in which the functioning of the guru-oriented religious forms can be interpreted.
Gold, in an anthropological perspective and in fruitful indebtedness to work by Inden (1976), distinguishes the positions of individual Sants as either a member of a clan with a
divine ancestor-satguru, whose salvific power is mediated by the
living guru, or as a member of a lineage-organization with a
historical Sant-ancestor. The clan-organization includes earlier Sants as clan-kin. Thus the oft-occurring cumulative reference to earlier Sants would be a reference to kin with whom
one shares the power-current coming down from the divine
and not a specific lineage. A case in point is the Beas (Punjab)
branch of the Radhasoamis. For them the historical founder
of the Radhasoamis is a most perfect Sant, whose remote clanancestor is the divine satguru; his salvific current becomes
manifest in every new incumbent of the seat of guru of the Beas
branch of the Radhasoamis. Against this, the Agra branches of
the Radhasoamis represent a lineage-model. They believe that
after the demise of a holder of the seat of guru his "current"
is still active in the group and will, eventually, become manifest in his successor. With Sant lineages the lineage-ancestor is
the historical founder of a tradition.
Gold casts his findings in Indian terms: "In this study a sant
lineage is called parampar as long as the dominant focus of
spiritual power within it resides in the figure of a living holy
man, and not in ritual forms recalling a sant of the past.. . . We
shall reserve the term panth to the final phase of a sant lineage,
when it has become a sectarian institution..." (85). This is acceptable as long as we keep in mind that the term panth has a
wider meaning in primary Sant sources and can, besides, also
refer to the interior religious path and to religious groups in
their incipient state. His findings encourage Gold to apply them
to the problem of the alleged "divine satguru" of Sants like Kabr. He also argues that because the absence of a guru is unusual for an Indian religious person, Kabr probably did have
a living guru too, whom he interpreted, however, as divine in

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

light of the monistic concept of his faith. As far as Kabr and
Dd, to whom Gold also extends this interpretation, are concerned, there are no data that verify his hypothesis. He summarizes the state of affairs for the case of Kabr (107). For Dd
he feels that a historical spiritual preceptor can be identified
with some probability (208). Here he follows Orr (146-52).
Orr's assumption is not plausible, however, for he locates a guru
in a town in Rajasthan to which Dd came at the age of 29,
whereas his mystic visions of a divine guru happened to him
in Gujarat one and two decades earlier. Moreover, the experiences of Dd are momentous visions, invisible to others,
hence phenomena different from the guru-disciple relationship. Instead of extrapolating from Radhasoami findings, I
would in the absence of more evidence assume that the two
Indo-Muslim artisans were unusually receptive satsangis who
interiorized the prevalent tradition of their times in interaction with other devotees.
T h e third contribution on the Radhasoamis is by Lawrence A. Babb (1987) and forms one of three case studies of
Hindu traditions brought together in his book (the Radhasoamis, the Brahmkumns, and the followers of Sathya Sai
Baba). These case studies are connected by a common methodological focus. Babb convincingly interprets the apparently
diffuse sum of commonalities in various traditions that add up
to form "Hinduism" from the point of view of their function.
Identical concepts may differ radically in function from one
tradition to another. He therefore approaches Hinduism as an
ordered diversity of (possibly) contrastive religious styles sharing constant Hindu themes, which they valorize divergently.
He does this by examining three traditions which form modern outposts rather than central traditions of the Hindu spectrum and finds that "extreme diversity gives us the clearest
possible contrast between varying externals and the constant
inner core" (5). Babb interprets the function of "images," basic
ideas arranged in divergent religious constructions (12), as
providing for the devotee's recovery of his identity.
Babb first applies his method to the Radhasoamis and
elaborates on the anthropological findings of Gold (1987) by
adding a religio-socio-psychological dimension to them. He
explores the central function of the guru in relation to the devotees. In Radhasoami faith the devotee is supposed to ascend
to the supreme goal in an interior process that is marked by
the experience of celestial sounds testifying to the divine, which
thus draws him towards the goal. This internal process is,
however, overlaid by the immediate, tactile relationship between the devotee and the guru, who is the vessel of the divine
current (see Gold, 1987), which the kin of previous gurus have
mediated to him. Consequently, the guru himself takes the
rank of the divine. The current is transmitted to the devotee
by the devotee's eating the guru's prasd (his food leavings) or
by drinking the fluid substance that is the guru's gaze. By ordinary Hindu standard, eating left-overs is defiling; divine
leavings, however, are salvific. This requires that the person
whose left-overs are eaten be defined as divine and that the
disciple can thereby define himself as a truly devout lover of
God and as a receptacle of the current streaming from the
guru. That is, by realizing one's identity as disciple one becomes part of the divine and one of the kin of the guru. Salvation is t h u s b r o u g h t a b o u t by p e r s o n a l i n t e r a c t i o n .
Radhasoami doctrine holds that man, enmeshed in the world,
has forgotten his identity with the divine which is a common

Religious Studies Review / 323

bhakti theme. His amnesia is remedied by the guru in whom
the devotee finds his identity.
The validity of Gold's and Babb's core-concept of the salvific flow is amply borne out by Sant poetry and hagiography.
Babb also examines the Brahmkumri movement, which was
founded at the end of the 1930s by one Lekhraj Kriplani, a
Sindhi jeweler of Pustimarg (Vallabhacarya) religious background (on the impact of this, see Barz, forthcoming). In the
case of the Brahmkumns, Babb lays bare common themes
of Hinduism that combine to form a doctrine claimed by its
members to be non-Hindu. It is a millenarian movement with
a strong missionary commitment inside and outside India. Its
millenarianism is brought about by the concept that the worldcycle of four ages, which against its common Hindu counterpart measures only 5000 years, is about to come to an end very
soon, for we live in the last phase of a transitional age after
which there will occur a great destruction that will usher in a
new cycle. Humans enmeshed in the cyclic round of the world
are again victims of amnesia, for they are forgetful of being
"pure souls" whose home is in the beyond in the abode of the
supreme self.
At the end of each cycle (everything in Brahmkumri history happens in exactly the same way in each cycle which makes
the salvation of the elect pure souls, once they are identified,
all the more certain) the supreme self enlightens a preceptor
(the founder of the movement) to restore die pure souls' recognition of their identity. This is brought about by "Raj Yoga,"
at the heart of which is the mediation of the flow of divine light
through the preceptor to the disciple by the contact of gaze.
The divine current emanates also in the flute sounds from
Lekhraj's or, after his death, from his single female "trance
medium's" mouth. The movement's millenarianism and its
emphasis on predestination make the urgency of the recovery
of one's true identity most pressing. Once true identity is realized, predestination is no threat but a beatific confirmation
of belonging to the elect.
Most striking is the movement's feminism in terms of the
history of its early constituency, in theology (thus echoing the
single man Krsna and the female souls of Vallabhan tradition), and in its leadership. This feminism is rooted in the
Hindu concept of the power of virginity as it is evidenced, for
example, in the Durgpj or the veneration of unmarried
girls, especially in northwestern India.
Babb's fundamentally important study illuminates aspects
also connected with overseas Brahmkumns. Their hermetic
group coherence is enhanced by factors of alienation from their
native culture by their quest for a spiritual Bhrat; by their new
identity as "pure souls," which invalidates their ordinary identity and is a potential for conflict in a post-Freudian society; by
their sense of sharing an unfathomable revelation, all the more
mysterious due to its not so rare cultural and linguistic incomprehensibility, for the "flute" revelations of their preceptor
sometimes become mystifying by having suffered several intermediate translations; by their sense of having knowledge
beyond religion, which is especially attractive to young intellectuals, with whom Babb's study helped to activate a latent
identity crisis.
Babb's last example are the followers of Sathya Sai Baba,
whose hagiographically informed life he studies in Hawley,
1987, 169-86. As Babb argues convincingly, the miracleworking avatar (ultimately he is going to be manifest as Siva)

324 / Religious Studies Review

satisfies by his miracles the longing of urban middle-class Indians, alienated, from the Hindu tradition that the law of rationality which reigns in their ordinary lives be reversed. Sathya
Sai Baba re-enchants them. He dispenses his divine current to
them by the miraculous objects he produces, by his sight, by
his voice. They grasp and drink his prasd. Divine parent, he
loves, helps, but demands nothing. One might conclude that,
reassured by their childlike partaking of his divine substance,
they are strengthened in their affirmative performance in the
adult world of rationality. This would imply that the identity
Sathya Sai Baba's followers acquire through contact with him
is not an integral one.
Saints and Virtues (Hawley, 1987) presents a collection of excellent papers that consistently dwell on the focus indicated by
the title. Read from the point of view of what the volume contributes to the study of Indian, especially bhakti, hagiography,
I find that one of its finest achievements lies in the field of a
functional typology in that the saintly life is seen, as Gelber puts
it in a different context, located at "the intersection of personality, role, and social context" (16). The theological issues of
hagiography have been increasingly investigated in recent
years, but typological and systematic issues, which also imply
historical ones, have not yet attracted adequate interest.
Hawley himself (52-72) studies four bhakti saints as they
emerge as exemplars of cardinal virtues in Nbhds' "Garland of Bhaktas." Striking here, as well as also, for example, in
the parcl genre of bhakti hagiographies (which unlike Nbhds' are texts devoted entirely to an individual saint), is how
the Buddhist pramit pattern has remained dominant, notwithstanding a Muslim streak which Lawrence recognizes in
Sant hagiography (Schomer and McLeod, 1987, 37 Iff). In
bhakti hagiography a saint may display the whole gamut of
cardinal virtues or, as in the examples analyzed by Hawley, individual ones in a special way so that different saints act complementarily. The saint in bhakti tradition does not appear as
an intercessor but as the model of one absorbed in the love of
God, withdrawing from the world, but by providing a model,
helping others to transform themselves by identifying with him.
This type of the behavior-transforming model is widely represented in various traditions. It can appear with the emphasis
that the saintly charisma is seen as the condensation of the
central "classical" values of a given society. This is shown by
Peter Brown for Late Antiquity (3-14), who sees the saint as
personifying the ideal of Paideia and as a "moral catalyst within
a community" (9). A similar case is the Confucian tradition
where the sage is the exemplar of true humanity realized by
the cultivation of the self (Tu Wei-ming, 73-86). Against this
the bhakti saint in the satsang occupies the liminal position of
one beyond the world but interacting with it. To characterize
a saint as a model need not imply that his model is emulable,
as argued by William M. Brinner for Muhammad, who is the
unattainable exemplar of man which then leads to the development of his cult as a semidivine figure and to that of other
interceding saints prefigured by antedating cults. If the model
is that of the ideal person in an egalitarian community religion, this need not be represented by a saint at all, as is the case
in rabbinic Judaism (Robert L. Cohn, 87-108).

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

The saint as transformer is another widely current type,
such as Thai Buddhist arahant who besides being teacher to the
monks acts as a transforming transmitter of a charismatic current when interacting with lay devotees. Transformation by
interaction in a field of which the power-focus is the saint is
strongly evident in the Vodou ritual (Karen M. Brown, 14467) and in the Sathya Sai Baba cult (Babb, 16&-86), where the
priestess and the holy man, respectively, help their clientele in
finding their identity.
Two papers show a diametrically different dialectic between a saint's true identity and the role which he enacts. Hester G. Gelber (15-35), in a paper perhaps too positive about
psychological male/female universale that might be applied to
(hagiographical!) life-accounts of St. Francis of Assisi, however convincingly suggests that in taking on dramatic roles St.
Francis taught the world that he did not consider himself to be
the perfect saint the world thought he was. In his dramatic acts
he publicly expiated the sins he suffered from as only a saint
can. Mark Juergensmeyer writing on M. K. Gandhi (187-203)
presents a contrastive case, a man on whom a role styled by his
Western admirers was thrust, behind which Gandhi's complex
individuality as a person was obscured and who thus became
a remote and inemulable figure.
1. His translations of Sant texts contain mistakes in other than
marginal points; a greater familiarity with Ddpanth thought would
have helped him to avoid misrepresentations; given a mere 22 pages,
the ambition for comprehensiveness in chapter 7 had to remain unfulfilled.

forthcoming "A Reinterpretation of Bhakti Theology: From the

Pustimrg to the Brahma Kumaris." Paper presented at the Fourth
Conference on Devotional Literature in New Indo-Aryan Languages, University of Cambridge, 1988.

1988 The Hindi Biography of Dd Dayl. Delhi: Moulai Banarsidass.


1983 "Conceiving Hindu 'Bhakti' as Theistic Mysticism." In Steven T. Katz (ed.), Mysticism and Religious Traditions. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

forthcoming "The Dadupanth and Princely Power in Rajasthan." In Karine Schomer, et al. (eds.), Rajasthan: The Making of a
Regional Identity.

1976 Marriage and Rank in Bengali Culture: A History of Caste and

Clan in Middle Period Bengal. University of California Press.


1979 Sikh Studies: Comparative Perspectives on a Changing Tradition.

Berkeley: Berkeley Religious Studies Series.


1975 The Evolution of the Sikh Community: Five Essays. Delhi: Ox

ford University Press.
1976 Gur Nnak and the Sikh Religion. Delhi: Oxford University

Volume 15, Number 4 / October 1989

Religious Studies Review / 325

1978 "On the Wonl Panth : A Problem of Terminology and Definition," Contributions to Indian Sociology 12/2, 287-95.

1956 "Der Rdhsvmi-Satsang und die Mystik der Gottestne. "

Phil. Diss., Tbingen.

New Resources for Research

in Religion in the South


forthcoming An Armed Peasantry and Its Alliances: Rajput Traditions

and State Formation in Hindustan, 14501850.

1947 A Sixteenth-Century Mystic: Dadu and His Followers. London:

Lutterworth Press.

1987 "Saiva Temple Forms: Loci of God's Unfolding Body," in

M. Yaldiz and Wibke Lobo (eds.), Investigating Indian Art, 335-^7.
Verffentlichungen des Museums fr Indische Kunst, 8. Berlin:
Museum fr Indische Kunst.

forthcoming a "An Oral Theology: Ddpanthi Homilies." Paper presented at the Fourth Conference on Devotional Literature
in New Indo-Aryan Languages, University of Cambridge, 1988.
forthcoming b "Treatises on Ddpanthi Monastic Discipline."
In C. Singh et al. (eds.) Gopl Nryan Bahur Abhinandan Granth.
Jaipur: M. S. Man Singh II Museum

1969 L'Invocation: le Haripth de Dndev. Publications de l'Ecole

Franaise d'Extrme-Orient, LXXII. Paris: Ecole Franaise d'Extrme-Orient.
1974 Kabr. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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