The Power of Place: the Transfer of Charismatic Authority to an American Ashram

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It has largely been assumed that when an intentional community loses its charismatic leader for one reason or another, the group will most likely disband unless that individual’s charisma has become routinized. The Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida, is a spiritual community that was established, thanks to the vision of their Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. Her students were so devoted to her that her physical death in 2012 could have initiated a crisis in the community. Although bureaucratic offices had been established to carry out some of the necessary functions of the Ashram, no one came close to filling her role as a spiritual teacher. And yet, more than 6 years later, new members are still joining the community and the way they describe Ma’s presence in their lives is little different from how older members that knew Ma in this lifetime talk about her. While I do not disagree that the routinization of charisma is an important step in ensuring the longevity of new religious movements, in this paper, I argue that an individual’s charisma may be transferred to a geographic place such that the Ashram becomes an active agent in the attraction and retention of new members.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-111
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Dharma Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Ashram
  • Charisma
  • Hinduism
  • Intentional community


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