This article is based on a study of a sample of 481 member adherents across nine Indic faith-based organizations (IFBOs) in India. Findings revealed that higher socioeconomic status, socially privileged ethnicity grouping, and fairly higher end religiosity and spirituality scores characterize IFBO adherent profile. Adherence is a way to strike the tradition–modernity balance and fill in the moral spiritual vacuum. Engagement chronicles entail factors initiating association, duration of involvement, time devoted, nature and view of work, training, and factors motivating sustenance. In general ideology, teacher charisma, faith communitas, and familial connections serve to initiate and motivate. Levels of identification propel longer involvements, and work is of the nature of altruism–philanthropy–seva as also routine maintenance activities. Perceived self-implications are a combination of transcendental gains, faith orientations, and network–communitas formation. On a larger scale, member adherents perceive that in an environment of existential uncertainty, IFBOs’ message/epithets contain practical elements for social change/development.
- Indic faith-based organizations
- implications of engagement
Faiths in general and faith-based organizations (FBOs) in particular play a quintessential role in contemporary civil society (Sheth, 2001). Faith-based voluntary organizations through their ideological leanings seek to stabilize an otherwise amorphous religious experience into a harmonious symbolic order—by lending it an organizational face. They present themselves as enterprises representing a collection of beliefs and practices associated with a particular faith or syncretic tenets. There is a tacit and explicit permeation of faith and associations based on faith into multiple aspects of human life. At one level, it generates a faith-embedded social capital (Prakash & Selle, 2004). At another level, there is a crucial reinstatement of faith-based voluntary organizations as important actors of civil society and as a dimension of statecraft (Johnston & Sampson, 1994). A notable dimension herein is that although the existence of faith-based voluntary organizations is a historical phenomenon, it has not been an oft frequented area of inquiry (Berger, 2003). However, there is a certain degree of visibility due to the Charitable Choice Reform in the United States, through the Bush regime, recognizing the importance of FBOs and their contributions in civil society.
Among the distinctive typology of faith-based voluntary organizations in the Indian context are those aligning and adhering to tenets of Indic faiths and syncretic tenets therein. Indic faiths are systematized faiths that have their origin in the Indian subcontinent and constitute the core subject matter of Indological studies (Madan, 2004). In terms of Indic faith-based voluntary organizations, there is a further bifurcation—those aligning to tenets of the theistic Gnostic school drawing particularly from Vedic tenets, post- Vedic developments, and contemporary strands within the purview of Hinduism. The stances could be purist or syncretic depending on the orientation of the charismatic leader/teacher (Copley, 2000a). The other category belongs to those organizations adhering primarily to the atheistic agnostic school—the Indic pragmatists aligning to tenets of Jainism, Buddhism, and the multifarious sects and cults therein (Warder, 2000).These leanings are specified in their vision, mission, or organizational literature. Indic faith-based organizations (IFBOs) belonging to the theistic Gnostic school are characterized by a historical existence and role in the sociopolitical arena as also their social face. These faith-based voluntary organizations have also formed an integral aspect of voluntary action/initiatives in the area of welfare and development in the Indian context (Mukhopadhyay, 1995; Paul Chaudhary, 1971; Sen, 1998).
Adherence patterns in faith-based voluntary organizations emerge from a complex interplay of the organizations’ constitutive environment. Drawing from Hustinx and Lammertyn (2003), it can be said that there are objective-structural and subjective-motivational dimensions to adherence. That is, there is a structural IFBO context and adherents’ life course realities that influence association—both ontologically linked to one another. This study focuses on adherents to IFBOs in terms of their profiles, engagement chronicles, and perceived implications for self and society. Further owing to the elaborate social engagements of most of these IFBOs, the nature of engagements of the adherents in faith-oriented and social activities has been looked at. Eventually, the attempt is also to examine the perceived distinctiveness of IFBO social initiatives—all elements that contribute to faith-based social capital generation.
Some conceptual positions on IFBOs (within the theistic Gnostic tradition) can be discussed as follows. Copley (2000a) has proposed that most of these organizations are headed by teachers or gurus and/or their disciples, their ideological leanings basically translating into the ideology, vision, or mission of the organizations. Rustau (2003) has proposed that these are institutionalized religious structures that represent change of religion as a social institution over time. They question hegemony and yet remain traditional in many ways, thereby characterizing a soft revolution. Beckerlegge (2003) posited these organizations as signifying a simplification of traditional tenets. “Hindu India” herein is presented as an embodiment of the divine, and the focus is on “service” of the “Hindu nation.” Two elements that characterize these organizations are spiritual universalism and cultural nationalism, that is, universality of the spiritual reality or Brahman and the cultural importance of one India (Heehs, 2003). O’Toole (2003) has proposed that such organizations made possible the imagining of a Hindu nation in a variety of ways—through the semitization of Hinduism (that is, through the creation of a conceptually unified Hindu community with common doctrinal beliefs), the reform of antisocial practices (such as child marriage), and the posting of a past Hindu golden age with a vision of Hindu resurgence. Peter Van der Veer has further discussed that some symbols were also used as bridges between Hindu reformism and nationalism. Fischer-Tine (2003) proposed that these organizations answered to challenges posed by colonialism by “invention of tradition” and “translation of carefully selected elements of the indigenous cultural repertoire of the orient and the occident” (p. 112). However in doing so, they also ended up confirming the hegemonic claims of these alien categories.
They signify a creative indigenous response to the pressures of the colonial period—the telos of these contemporary institutions lying in a delimiting of traditional orthodoxy and orthopraxy. They package a normative brand of acceptable faith and cater to those who are rhetorically marginalized by traditional norms (Fuller, 2003). There is a certain element of polycentrality, heterogeneity, and a reforming of the traditional past. Guzy (2003) has discussed that there is a combination of tradition, its critique, and its reaffirmation in a syncretistic manner. The emancipatory aspects exist in salvatory forms of capital as a part of the sacred economy that is open to all castes. There is also the principle of soteriological reciprocity by which the sacred economy is structured; in an embodied internalized manner, laymen are on the path to renunciation. In the rich hagiographic tradition, culturally determined cannon of religious topics are followed such as miraculous birth, conversion, healing powers, and sagacity; supreme human qualities such as altruism or secular virtues such as the sense of social equality, national integration, and patriotism are other recurrent topics (Beltz, 2003). Warrier (2003) has further proposed that these organizations are in many ways “Hinduising agents” popularizing the nationalist ideology of Hindutva proponents. However, the contemporary phenomenon is that of avatar gurus—important element in whose endeavor to fulfill the earthly missions is the setting up of institutional organizations. There are elaborate mechanics of institutional building; ethics of seva are crucial to the spirit of institution building. Thus, seva is panegyric; that is, it constitutes an expression of the Hindu topography of the self where the prototypical act of worship is the glorification of the divine.
Review of Literature
There are several studies in the western context on adherence and volunteerism with FBOs, congregations, and churches (Becker & Pawan, 2001; Cnaan, 1993; Eckel & Grossman, 2004; Gronbjerg & Never, 2004; Johnson & Cornell, 1972; Wuthnow, 1990; Yeung, 2004). For this genre of studies, faith, measured as religiosity, is visualized as intimately connected to adherence. Studies in this vein have surveyed involvements/engagements in churches and congregations—revealing that teachings inherent in the evangelical and ecclesiastical traditions influence adherence/associations.
Studies on IFBOs have largely an ethnographic and organizational orientation. However, studies that have in some way examined the adherent/devotee profiles and engagements are as follows. Falling within the purview of discourses on the sociology of religion, case studies by Juergensmeyer (1991) on Radhasaomi Satsang, Taylor (1987) on the Satya SaiBaba Seva Mission, White (1992) on the SaiBaba Seva Sansthan, and Williams (1984) on the Swaminarayan Sansthan have focused on the stake of the organizations in civil society attributed further credence by the nature of people’s adherence to them.
Dieter Schmidtchen (2000; cited from Neubert, 2008) has given the view of religious movements as clubs in which all members co-operate toward a common goal of salvation. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) thus operates functionally like a company in which clergy employees sell salvation products to lay person customers—similar to market model approaches. Squarcini’s (2000) historical study of ISKCON proposed that as a religious institutional structure, ISKCON began in the late 1960s and eventually developed into a communitarian model demanding full commitment from believers. In connection with the idea of collective identity, it is considered how ISKCON, taking its first steps in the then fertile area of American counterculture, chose as its antagonist, a culture, which, with its threats, helped to strengthen the sense of group identity and the common sense of mission. This was a necessary step to overcome the difficult phases of the initial construction of a thought style, hence the need to provide a precise and peculiar sense of identity to the members. Thereafter, the notion of the sacred fortress arose—which then led to the structuralization, ratification, and recognition of the members’ identity; the value of one’s identity was proportional to one’s actions within the community and one’s willingness to contribute to the common good. Knott (2000) has studied the development of ISKCON and the Krishna consciousness movement since its arrival in England since 1968. Derived from the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and preached by the founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, the strategies have changed as ISKCON has increased its membership and support throughout the United Kingdom.
Warrier (2003) has, using the case study method, examined the mechanics of institution building within the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission. Devotees of the Mata tend to attribute the phenomenal growth and spread of this organization in the course of the last two decades to the miraculous power of their guru. She has further explored the ethic of seva or selfless service propagated by the Mata through interviews with her devotees and disciples. The ethics of seva, a vital component of spiritual striving among Mata’s devotees, is crucial to the spirit of institution building in the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission and indispensable to its success as a fast growing and increasingly popular guru organization in contemporary India. She has further elucidated the rationale for seva in the mission, the forms of seva rendered by devotees and disciples, and means by which their seva effectively contributes toward the organizations’ institutional expansion and growth.
Crnic (2009) has conducted a comparative study on Hare Krishna devotees and Catholics in Slovenia. The question that has been addressed is whether there are any notable differences between religiosity performed either within cults or within churches (as ideal types of religious organizations). Hence, the religious practices (and the influence on everyday lives of believers) of Slovene adherents of the Hare Krishna movement and Catholics were compared. The findings proved that Krishna adherents were considerably more active in their religious activities than Catholics and quite orthodox when it comes to the application of religious rules to everyday life. Two different types of religiosity surfaced—For ISKCON devotees, it was an extreme, intensive, and mystic religiosity, and for Catholics, it was belonging without believing. However, this extreme sense did not lead to noticeable exclusivism or extreme conservatism among its members. The studies with which findings have been compared are the Slovene Public Opinion 97/2—International Research on Religion and Attitudes to Church—and Slovene Public Opinion 98/1—International Research on Inequality in Religion. The aspects studied have been religious past, practices, orthodoxy, social and doctrinaire inclusiveness versus exclusiveness, and level of conservatism of adherents. Wood (2010) has undertaken a study on the Jalaram Bapa tradition in the United Kingdom, a 19th century Gujarati saint. This study has contributed by focusing on the beliefs and practices that Jalaram devotees have concerning festivals, the miraculous, and the evil eye. Hence, the studies on IFBOs either on home grounds or in the diaspora are largely of descriptive, historical, and ethnographic nature, mapping qualitatively the growth trajectories, follower profiles and strategies, and praxis that assume varied norms and forms. A cross-organizational understanding of IFBO adherents is a virgin area, so to speak, which this study has attempted to explore. Furthermore, this study attempts a quantitative analysis of adherent data through profile mapping, studying engagements and perceptions—aspects generally submerged under ethnographic and case study treatments in earlier works. Differences in Hindu-inspired FBOs are on account of era of origin, size, and teacher/charismatic leader interpretations and translations of tradition. However, common threads of Hindu leanings, subsequent propagation/proliferation in contemporary times, and a strong adherent base exist, which help situate these organizations under an epistemic umbrella for analysis. Particularly, who are the people who align to these organizations, their profiles, chronicles of their engagements, and implications they perceive for themselves, for IFBOs’ engagements with society/social initiatives and differences of these organizations vis-à-vis other social initiatives is the subject matter of the present study.
Study Objectives and Questions
The broad objective of the study is to view adherents to these Hindu-inspired IFBOs. Specifically, the background characteristics, engagement chronicles, perceived implications for self and society, and perceptions of differentials vis-à-vis other social initiatives have been looked at. Some extant literature on FBOs in the western context has provided cues to questions posed by this study. Weitzman, Jalandani, Lampkin, and Pollak (2002) and Ababou (2005) have proposed that generally new age alignments are by people in the higher socioeconomic strata and in the quest to fill the moral spiritual vacuum. In FBO literature, with respect to initiation, recruitment through kin is given prominence (Bird & Reimer, 1982, Leman, 2008). Faith and ideology endow consciousness and mitigate existential deprivation (Dein & Barlow, 1999; Strømsnes, 2008). Apart from that, this is a sense of disaffiliation with tradition/orthodoxy that promulgates engagements (Gussner & Berkowitz, 1988). Long-term affiliation lends a sense of identity (Pearce, 1993), and sustenance/staying (Scheitle & Adamczyk, 2009) is also due to perception of personal gains from the association—a sort of clubbiness (Bowman, 2004), thereby revealing traces of impure altruism. There is at once a charisma image veneration and a verticality in the sense of adherents’ self, connecting to transcendence (Newton & MacIntosh, 2009). Hence, inward–outward connections are seen as self-implications entailing a sense of well-being and resilience (Anand, 2009; Chang, 2009; Maltby, Lewis, & Day, 2008), life satisfaction (Dorahy et al., 1998), and positive health effects (Tiliouine, Cummins, & Davern, 2009). The other aspect would be morality and appropriate value orientation (Duriez, Luyten, Snauwaert, & Hutsebaut, 2002).
In the light of the above contentions, this study explores some questions specific to IFBOs as follows:
What is the general background profile of people who align to these IFBOs?
What motivates them to align/adhere, how much time is devoted, nature and view of work done, and training and factors motivating sustenance?
What is the perceived implication of this alignment/adherence for themselves?
How is the IFBO viewed by this adherent commune in terms of its place and contribution to society and distinctiveness vis-à-vis other social initiatives?
Faith has been conceptualized as encompassing theological, metaphysical, and praxis dimensions of religion; it is a combination of theism and experiential aspects of religious systems. There are norms and forms of praxis projected onto organizational and institutional manifestations—generating a faith-embedded social capital. IFBOs (within the theistic Gnostic tradition) for the study are institutionalized religious structures that represent change of religion as a social institution over time. Hindu India herein is presented as an embodiment of the divine, and the focus is on service of the Hindu nation. Ethics of seva is crucial to the spirit of institution building that is operationalized through the order-power and adherent groups.
Within the quantitative paradigm, across nine IFBOs, the survey method of investigation was adopted.
A two-stage sampling procedure was adopted wherein in the first stage, the universe of IFBOs (drawing from the theistic Gnostic school) was charted. With the core criteria of social engagements, the sampling frame was determined from which nine IFBOs were selected with the additional criteria of era of origin, core ideological orientation as in the vision-mission (primarily faith oriented and spiritual or primarily political), and size. Seven of the nine organizations selected qualify as faith-based movements with a global spread and two have intercountry branches and a different kind of translocal presence entailing a virtual export of the charisma. The nine organizations studied are Ramakrishna Math and Mission (RKMM), Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), Shree Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST), Prajapita Brahmakumari Ishwariya Vishwavidyalaya (PBIV), Chinmaya Mission (CM), Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS), Vivekananda Kendra (VK), Mata Amirtanandamayi Mission (MAM), and Art of Living (AOL). This ensured a coverage of time periods in terms of era of origin in early modern, modern, late modern, and contemporary periods; variations in perspectives within theistic Gnostic leanings; and range of social service/initiatives undertaken.
In the second stage, systematic sampling of active member adherents per organization was undertaken—1/25 of the active member adherents across nine organizations were sampled from the lists obtained (headquarters and Mumbai centers). Active member adherents meant those who visited the IFBO/regional center fairly regularly, subscribed to the periodical literature, and engaged in faith-based and social service activities of the IFBOs. Members only on the periodical subscription list or occasional visitors were not included in the universe. Across the nine IFBOs, a total of 12,055 active member adherents in the headquarters and Mumbai region center composed of the sampling universe. In all, 1 in every 25 from the lists was taken as systematically sampled for interview purposes. In case of nonresponse, the range of 24 to 28 was taken for sample identification and the transfer was accordingly done to the next in range. Across the nine IFBOs, there were 120 cases of nonresponse, and the average response rate was 74.76%. Hence, a total of 481 member adherents across IFBOs were interviewed.
Tools and Analysis
Interview schedule consisting of questions on profiles, engagement chronicles, and perceived implications was used. Two scales were also used—the Duke University Religiosity Index (DURI) scale and the Spirituality Assessment Scale (SpAS). DURI is a five-item measure of religious involvement and was developed for use in large cross-sectional and longitudinal observational studies. The instrument assesses the three major dimensions of religiosity that were identified during a consensus meeting sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. Those three dimensions are organizational religious activity, nonorganizational religious activity, and intrinsic religiosity (or subjective religiosity). The overall scale has high test–retest reliability (intraclass correlation = .91), high internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha = .78-.91), and high convergent validity with other measures of religiosity (r = .71-.86), and the factor structure of the index has now been demonstrated and confirmed in separate samples by other independent investigative teams. The index has been used in more than 100 published studies conducted throughout the world and is available in 10 languages. DURI has been suitably modified to suit the Indian context (Koenig & Bussing, 2010).
The SpAS developed by Liu and Robertson (2011) conceptualizes that the construct of spirituality is captured by three distinct, yet correlated, dimensions: interconnection with human beings, interconnection with nature and all living things, and interconnection with a higher power. Spirituality as a continuum composed of different self-identity levels is both a fixed trait and a flexible state. Religiousness corresponds to “interconnection with a higher power” and thus is a component of the spirituality construct. Spirituality is a broader construct that incorporates and transcends religiousness. A total of 16 items have been selected from four different spirituality scales (Cloninger, Svrakic, & Przybeck, 1993; Elkins, Hedstrom, Hughes, Leaf, & Saunders, 1988; Hatch, Burg, Naberhaus, & Hellmich, 1998; Piedmont, 1999). The spirituality construct is represented through the total disaggregation approach (Bagozzi & Edwards, 1998; Bagozzi & Heatherton, 1994). Reflective measures are used that represent reflections or manifestations of the spirituality construct. Spirituality is viewed as the cause of the measures—that is, variation in a construct leads to variation in its measures (Edwards & Bagozzi, 2000). The 16 items used to measure the three aspects of spirituality are anchored by a 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree Likert-type format. For this study, the SpAS has also been translated into Hindi for better comprehension.
The quantitative data on member adherents and beneficiaries have been analyzed using SPSS 15 software, through the relationships between the independent, intermediary, and dependent variables and constructs through cross-tables, chi-square test of significance, and regression analysis. As depicted in Figure 1, background characteristics served to be independent variables, engagement chronicles as intermediary variables, and finally, the perceived implications for self, society, and distinctiveness vis-à-vis other social initiatives as dependent variables.
Limitations have been primarily due to the fact that the study is restricted to the IFBO headquarters and Mumbai regional centers. Furthermore, the lists were obtained from the IFBO sources that weeded out any other kind of adherence patterns other than formal and registered memberships. Furthermore, as the sample is restricted to “active” member adherents, their commitment factors have influenced the findings on engagement and perceived implications.
Table 1 depicts the distribution of member adherent respondents across organizations, membership type, and background characteristics. Close to three fourths (76.9%) of the respondents were in the older adults age groups ranging from 40 to 69, and 12.3% were in the age group of 30 to 39. Hence, adherence/volunteerism of IFBOs is concentrated in the workforce age group. Majority (75.3%) of the respondents resided in urban areas, and 22% resided in semiurban areas. About 52.6% of the member adherents were women, and 47.4% were men. Majority (56.8%) were currently married, and close to one fifth each was never married (21.6 percent) and widowed (19.3 percent), respectively. Mostly (92.7%) respondents were Hindus followed by a smaller proportion of Zoroastrians (4.8%), Christians (1.9%), Jains (0.4%), and Buddhists (0.2%). Furthermore, most (87.9%) belonged to the general category followed by one tenth (10.6%) of other backward classes. Linguistic distribution of the respondents demonstrated a prominence of Gujarati, Marathi–Konkani, south Indian languages, and Bengali–Oriya. Majority of the respondents (65.7%) had graduate- and postgraduate-level qualifications, and about 11.4% had professional qualifications. Among those with less than graduate levels, close to two fifth (19.3%) had up to higher secondary-school-level education, and 2.3% and 1.2% had up to secondary- and primary-level education, respectively. Hence, by and large, member adherents of IFBOs were well qualified. In terms of occupational status, about 45.3% were currently employed followed by 38% of never employed and/or homemakers. About 14.6% of the respondents were retired. The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) estimate as an indicator of class showed an upward curve with majority (96.2%) in the MPCE bracket of INR 5,001 and above. The innate religiosity/spirituality leanings were higher, with close to half (47.2%) of the respondents having fairly high DURI and SpAS scores, respectively. Furthermore, average DURI ratings were attributed to 39.5% of the respondents and moderate SpAS ratings to 42.4% of the respondents, respectively. A negligible proportion had lower ratings (0.2% in DURI and 1% in SpAS, respectively).
As depicted in Table 2, the core factors that initiated association of the member adherents with the IFBOs were organizational ideology (17%), faith (16%), teachings of the guru/charismatic leader (15.8%), family links (13.5%) and propagation by the order (11.9%). Community links -friend networks, self-interest, enrichment feelings at first encounter, and opportunities for service were also initiating factors. Duration of involvement was generally higher with about one fourth (26.4%) of the respondents having 3 to 5 years of involvement and one third (33.7%) having 5 to 8 years of involvement. Close to two fifths (38%) of the respondents had about 8 years and more of consistent adherence to the IFBO. About 42.4% of the respondents gave time once a week, a fourth (25.6%) gave time twice to thrice a week, and about 16% devoted time daily. About 36% of adherents proposed that seva was the core nature of work that they performed. One fifth (20.4%) said that what they did was routine work, whereas 18.1% proposed coordination work as their forte. About 15.8% said that the work nature was ad hoc, with involvement in sporadic task-based activities as and when required, and one tenth proposed that they did specialized work. Specialized work basically meant medical service involvement, engineering- and technology-related services that were offered by the IFBOs and in which the member adherents contributed.
In terms of perspectives/views toward the work that they performed, about 17% viewed it as participation in the organizational mission, and 16% saw it as enhancing the spirit of faith-based communitas (a quintessential we feel with fellow IFBO adherents). Other perspectives included work as a moral imperative (14.3%), service inspired by organizational setup (13.3%), out of interest (12.9%), and divine work performed under the guidance of the teacher/seer (11.6%). Service was also viewed as an instrumentality to permeate faith-basedness in society (7.9%) and undertaken due to belief in the organization and its ideology (6.9%). Hence, what predominated in terms of work perspectives were faith, organizational ideology, and teacher charisma as also self-interest and innate moral drive. Majority of the member adherents/volunteers of IFBOs (73.2%) claimed to have undergone training. This was either in the form of life skills work, training in faith and organizational philosophy, or work-related specialized training. The factors that motivated sustenance of adherence/volunteerism in IFBOs under study were teachings of the teacher/seer (17.7%), experience of self-growth (17.7%), teacher charisma (14.6%), sense of identification with the organization (12.3%) as also individual faith (10.6%). Other factors in smaller proportions included sense of communitas, organizational ideology, social networks, derivation of normative satisfaction, and organizational scope to offer services.
On the Pearson’s chi-square test of significance, factors initiating association were significantly influenced by sex, age, marital status, education, occupation, and MPCE of the adherents. About 30.9% of the RKMM adherents perceived family links as the main factor. More than one fifth (22.2%) of the VK adherents perceived community links–friend networks as the key initiating factor. Close to one fifth of the MAM, SAS, and CM member adherents perceived faith as the key initiating factor. One fourth of the CM adherents as also close to one fifth of the PBIV, MAM, and SAS adherents perceived organizational ideology as the core initiating factor. One fifth of the PBIV members laid emphasis on teachings of the charismatic teacher as the core factor. About 18.2% of the RK member adherents felt that propagation by the order was the main aspect. Self-interest as the core factor was proposed by 11.7% of the BAPS and AOL member adherents as also 10.9% of the PBIV adherents. One tenth of the AOL adherents proposed that the core factor initiating association was the enrichment feeling at the first encounter.
Number of years of involvement significantly varied by organization and education of adherents. About 12.7% of the PBIV adherents had 1 to 3 years of involvement. This could be attributed to the current world affirming strategies of PBIV vis-à-vis its erstwhile world rejection. Close to two fifth of the BAPS and VK adherents had 3 to 5 years of engagement. One third of the respondents of most of the organizations had 5 to 8 years of engagement. Three fifths (61.8%) of the RKMM respondents had 8 years and above of association. This could be attributed to the historical presence of the organization. About half of the CM adherents and close to two fifths of SAS, SSST, and MAM adherents also had 8 years and above of association.
Time devoted was also significantly associated with organization type. About 12.7% of the RKMM adherents gave time once a month, and close to one third (30.9%) devoted time twice a month. More than one fourth (26.7%) of the SSST adherents and about one fifth of the BAPS and PBIV adherents devoted time twice a month. Majority (70%) of the AOL adherents gave time once a week. More frequent engagement in terms of twice to thrice a week was seen in two fifths of the MAM and CM adherents as also close to one fourth of the BAPS, SSST, PBIV, SAS, and VK adherents. Daily involvement was seen in one fourth of the AOL adherents and close to one fifth of the CM, BAPS, and PBV adherents. Members’ age, place of residence, sex, marital status, education, and occupation also influenced the same. Similarly, in terms of nature of work, significant differentials arose due to organization, place of residence, and education. More than three fifths (63.6%) of the RKMM adherents proposed that the core nature of work performed was seva. This was also so for more than two fifths of the VK adherents (42.2%) and about one third of the SSST, PBIV, CM, AOL, and MAM adherents. Close to one third of the BAPS, SAS, and AOL adherents proposed that they undertook routine activities, and close to one fourth of the AOL and BAPS adherents proposed that they undertook coordination activities. More than one fourth of the SAS adherents claimed undertaking sporadic task-based activities, and 15.6% of the SSST adherents and 17.6% of the MAM adherents undertook specialized work.
More than one fourth of the RKMM adherents (27.3%) perceived it as service inspired by the organizational setup. Close to one fifth of the BAPS adherents (21.7%) perceived it as a moral imperative and something that enhanced the spirit of faith-based communitas. About 17.8% of the SSST adherents, respectively, viewed it as divine work performed under the guidance of the teacher/seer and work done out of interest. Around 18.2% of the PBIV adherents viewed the work as enhancing the spirit of faith-based communitas and participation in organizational mission. Roughly one fifth of the CM and SAS adherents also viewed it as enhancing faith-based communitas as also work as a moral imperative, respectively. For 17.8% of the VK adherents, it was divine work performed under the guidance of the teacher and enhancing the communitas spirit based on faith. Close to one fifth of the MAM adherents, respectively, viewed it as service inspired by the organizational setup and instrumentality to permeate faith-basedness in society. For 18.3% of the AOL adherents, it was work done out of interest, and for 16.7% of them, it was service inspired by the organizational setup. Members’ age, language, MPCE, and education affected the differentials in views of work of adherents in the IFBOs.
Differentials in training existed organization wise as well as due to background characteristics of adherents such as marital status, age, place of residence, and occupation. All the BAPS, PBIV, CM, and AOL adherents had received some form of training, and this was so for a large proportion in other organizations also, except SAS where only 22% claimed having received formal training.
More than one fourth of the RKMM adherents (27.3%) proposed that the core factor motivating sustenance was the teachings of the teacher/seer, and close to one fourth of the BAPS adherents (23.3%) felt it was teacher charisma. For 13.3% of the SSST adherents, respectively, it was organizational ideology and experience of self-growth. For close to one fifth of the PBIV and SAS adherents, it was experience of self-growth that motivated sustenance. For approximately one fifth of the CM adherents, the core factor motivating sustenance was the teachings of the teacher/seer. For VK adherents, close to one tenth felt that teachings, self-growth experience, and social networks developed were the core factors. About 13.3% felt the faith and sense of communitas motivated sustenance. About one third of the MAM adherents felt that teachings of the teacher/seer was the core factor motivating sustenance as also about one fourth of the AOL adherents (26.7%). About 36.7% of the AOL adherents felt that experience of self-growth through association with the organization was the core factor motivating sustenance. Hence, as per the Pearson’s chi-square test of significance of association, the factors motivating sustenance were influenced by organizations per say as well as members’ background characteristics such as place of residence, sex, education, occupation, and MPCE.
Perceived implications for self, society, and differentials vis-à-vis other social initiatives
In terms of perceived implications on self, as depicted in Table 3, 16.8% proposed that it enabled promoting a perspective to work/service as inspired by faith. About 15.2% saw it as enabling a propagation of teachings. Individualistic implications in terms of personal gains, self-growth and actualization (12.5%), and enabling the strengthening of faith community base (12.3%) were also seen. Close to one tenth saw it as enabling the development of social networks, a spiritually productive leisure time activity, and enabling the exploration of self-identity and meaning. Communitas feeling as also sense of duty fulfillment was also viewed as implications for self. In terms of perceived implications on society, 21.8% proposed a spiritual path to development. Close to one fifth proposed a theistic existentialism of sorts (20.8%)—referring to this worldly spirituality and a perspective proving the imperative of divinity of all existence. About 17.7% proposed that it enabled spreading the message and hence effecting social change, and 12.3% proposed that it demonstrated a practical relevance of faith tenets. Other perceived implications for society included a contribution to welfare and development, a different approach to social interventions, and permeation of a sense of direction in a society writ by ennui in the absence of faith. Table 3 also depicts the perceptions of the member adherents on difference of the IFBO social initiatives from other social initiatives—the frame of reference being nonprofit and other charitable organizations. Close to half (51.8%) proposed that spirituality/faith was the defining factor. About 30.8% proposed that the vision of the charismatic teacher affected the difference. Furthermore, 17.5% also proposed that faith that was the summum bonum of the IFBO implied a moral and righteous functioning that distinguished it from other initiatives.
In the regression model depicted in Table 4, the adjusted R2 is 15%; that is, about 15% of the variability of the perceived implications on self (of involvement/association with IFBOs) is explained by background characteristics and intermediary variables/constructs. The standard error of the estimate or the unexplained variability is 2.08657. Furthe-rmore, model significance is through F test statistic = 5.030, p < .001, referring to the fact that at least one predictor is significantly influencing the dependent variable. Coefficient wise significance is depicted through the t-test values. The predictors that are significantly related to implications for self are age of the member adherents, place of residence, religion of origin of the adherents, occupational status, factors initiating association, and length/number of years of involvement with the IFBOs. Furthermore, the coefficient of variance for regression is greater than 10%, which means that this model is not useful for prediction purposes.
In the regression model depicted in Table 5, the adjusted R2 is 26.4%; that is, about 26.4% of the variability of the perceived implications for society is explained by background characteristics and intermediary variables/constructs. The standard error of the estimate or the unexplained variability is 1.46187. Furthermore, model significance is through F test statistic = 9.205, p < .001, referring to the fact that at least one predictor is significantly influencing the dependent variable. Coefficient wise significance is depicted through the t-test values. The predictors that are significantly related to perceived implications for society are place of residence, factors initiating association, view of work, and factors motivating sustenance. Furthermore, the coefficient of variance for regression is greater than 10%, which means that this model is not useful for prediction purposes.
In the regression model depicted in Table 6, the adjusted R2 is 7%; that is, only about 7% of the variability of the perceived difference vis-à-vis other social initiatives is explained by background characteristics and intermediary variables/constructs. The standard error of the estimate or the unexplained variability is 0.73185. Furthermore, model significance is through F test statistic = 2.717, p < .001, referring to the fact that at least one predictor is significantly influencing the dependent variable. Coefficient wise significance is depicted through the t-test values. The predictors that are significantly related to perceived difference vis-à-vis other social initiatives are age, place of residence, sex, language spoken, MPCE, and view of work. Furthermore, the coefficient of variance for regression is greater than 10%, which means that this model is not useful for prediction purposes.
Discussion and Conclusion
IFBOs’ member adherents were generally middle and older adults in the working ages, residing in urban areas. The proportion of women adherents was slightly higher, and majority of the respondents were currently married followed by never married and widowed respondents. IFBOs had a large majority of Hindu adherents. In general, the education levels were high and adherents were either currently employed, retired, or homemakers. The MPCE levels as a class indicator showed an upward curve. Religiosity and spirituality scores were on the higher end; that is, mostly respondents had average to high DURI scores and fairly high SpAS scores.
Adherent profiles provide an ecological sense of the IFBO collectivity—wherein the faith environment is defined by the structural features of profile and the cultural content of IFBO traditions (see also Blanchard, Bartkowski, Matthews, & Kerley, 2008). The class superiority as also the generational peculiarities of IFBO adherents finds certain parallels to “new age” adherents/aligners. Parallels can be drawn to Ababou’s (2005) study (on Moroccans in Fez, seeking to measure the impact of age, generation, and sex variables on religious beliefs and practices) wherein new age alignment is a peculiarity of the older and younger adult groups with interest in neo-institutional religious revitalization.
Adherence of the adult groups is also a signifier of a generational nostalgic temptation to return to “lost” community identities. Thus, they become potential recipients of the faith transmission that takes place through the IFBOs, thereby redefining their identities. Education, age, and gender influence adherence patterns, and drawing from Niemela’s (2007) study of church employees in Finland, age enables individuals to distance from traditional authorities and reconstruct worldviews based on reason and one’s own critical reflection. In terms of higher end education levels of IFBOs, “education” as a social characteristic compounded with divinity perceptions influences adherence (Caro & Bass, 1997; Chambre, 1984). The other bourgeoisie dimension of member adherents in the IFBOs of the study is the “Hindu” religious leanings as also “higher” ethnic leanings. Majority of Hindu adherents depict a link to the underlying dimension of volunteering in the commune—the structural setup of the faith itself promoting the likelihood of engagements.
With respect to gender in particular, IFBOs function as enclave communities where women are able to reproduce faith norms (see also Caro & Bass, 1997 and Chambre, 1984). Higher proportion of women alignment is also due to their historical conformism with Indic eschatology, ritualizations, and interdictions—which now take the form of contemporary yet traditionally rooted spiritual alignments. However, a more in-depth analysis of the gender lens is required to understand the feelings of belonging, the real respect of women for the IFBO obligations, and the ensuing creations of subjective/objective identities vis-à-vis their male counterparts. The higher end DURI and SpAS scores provide testimony to the religiosity–altruism link—a kind of demonstration of faith and values in action. The focus in IFBO determined religiosity–spirituality shifts from tradition-defined religiosity to self-orientation.
The prominent factors initiating association are organizational ideology, faith, teachings of the charismatic teacher, and order propagation as also family connection, community links, and specific aspects of self-interest and enrichment. Generally, longer involvements and higher end frequency of time devoted were also characteristics. Seva was the prominent proclaimed nature of work as also routine, coordination, sporadic, and specialized work. Work was viewed as participation in IFBO mission, enhancing communitas spirit, as a moral imperative, divinely guided work and an instrumentality to permeate faith-basedness in the society. Some forms of training included life skills work, training in faith and organizational philosophy, or work-related specialized training. Teachings, self-growth experience, teacher charisma, sense of identification with the IFBO, faith, and communitas/network formation are the factors motivating sustenance.
One of the core factors initiating association in IFBOs is family links or recruitment through kin as a means of entry inside the coterie. Through the IFBO anchor points, there are value orientations and normative frameworks constructed, which combine elements of familial and IFBO role systems. This then is seen as facilitating a rapprochement with institutions of larger society. This also corroborates findings of studies that see a link between faith patterns of parents and children, and the way faith is expressed and developed in the familial milieu (Erricker, 2007). Faith and IFBO ideology as initiating factors demonstrate the social capital formation potential through aspects of social trust and tolerance. Community link networks as an aspect of factors initiating association in IFBOs is a response to tectonic shifts in the social landscape (Meyers, 2000): new religions and faith movements being core anchor points. Sociologically, this source of joining can be understood as a response to the cultural upheaval and a decline in symbolic integration. This upheaval creates disaffiliation to traditions/orthodoxy, thereby leading to needs out of which IFBO associateship arises.
The length and frequency of involvement attain stimulus through a combination of initiating and sustaining factors. Adherence/involvement in IFBOs is generally long term and regular, and spans across the life continuum of individuals due to a strong sense of identification therein. Strong group-based identities and behavioral imperatives ensure a continuum and predictable life course. The close association between service group affiliation and identity affirmation further reinforces these quasi-lifelong efforts (see also Pearce, 1993).
Work or service for IFBO adherents precipitates from faith, and the view is that it is a sort of life dedication and prayer commitment. It is inspired by strong IFBO-oriented identities that include rich symbols and moral standards. Generally confined to people and groups associated with the IFBO community as socially constructed, in this context, entry into a particular field of action is not only dependent on individual decisions but also typically initiated and supervised by others—charisma and senior adherents (see also Eckstein, 2001; Putnam, 2000; Wuthnow, 1998). Training for IFBO adherents is a three pronged exercise in transcendence, attainment, and lifelong security of divine/charisma grace. Hence, it is more of a philosophical-ideational socialization than unadulterated skill inculcation.
In terms of factors motivating sustenance in IFBOs, apart from faith, ideology, and teacher charisma, there are also aspects of communitas/network formation that sustain, which, drawing from Bowman (2004), is a form of impure altruism as it entails consuming “clubbiness” as a private good along with philanthropy as public good. In addition, IFBO adherents claim a personal gain in terms of becoming “wiser from the experience” (see also Wright, 1984) that propels them to continue. It becomes their way of responding to God and to the needs of others: Beneficial relationships with others and other personal gains such as subjective-psychological well-being motivate sustenance. Deriving from social identity theory (which posits linkages between social categories, individuals’ identities, and psychological well-being), the motivational trajectory of IFBOs demonstrates links between IFBOs normative-ideational stance, individual drive for associateship, and personal well-being salience. These “stayers” of the IFBOs and the way they define personal gains for sustenance motivation probably imply a sense of coherence and secure attachment to the guru. Networks are then intentional forms of relationships based on a sort of homophily and embeddedness that promotes faith-oriented bonding capital (Scheitle & Adamczyk, 2009).
Particularly, IFBO adherents saw certain implications for self of the nature of engagement as promoting a perspective to work/service as inspired by faith; enabling a propagation of teachings; individualistic implications in terms of personal gains, self-growth, and actualization; strengthening of faith community base; development of social networks; spiritually productive leisure time activity; enabling the exploration of self-identity and meaning; communitas feeling; and sense of duty fulfillment.
Perceived self-implications of adherents can be grouped into self-growth and identity formation, faith community–communitas development, teachings propagation– internalization, and spiritual networks–productive leisure time activity–moral duty fulfillment. Drawing from Newton and MacIntosh (2009), it can be said that there is a simultaneously charisma image and veneration and a verticality—with adherent self-centeredness connected to transcendence orientation. So the perceived implications are not only inward but also outward and more importantly ascending. Sense of well-being and resilience is the first premium gained through the association. Specifically, drawing from van Dierendonck and Mohan (2006), it can be said that what is experienced is a sense of eudaimonic well-being with a focus on inner resources and the self or true self. Life satisfaction is the second premium because it is compounded with factors such as religiosity and God orientation (see also Dorahy et al., 1998, Lazar & Bjorck, 2008). Third, the premium is tangible positive health effects as there is an emphasis on supernatural intervention, activation of latent energies, a certain unity of consciousness, and spiritual connectedness, that is, the awareness of a bond that exists among fellow adherents (term drawn from Krause & Bastida, 2009).
Morality and appropriate value orientation is an essential outcome, and a further treatment is required in terms of how it influences sociopolitical attitudes (see also Duriez et al., 2002) and the literal and symbolic processing of the altruistic impulse (see also Duriez, 2004).The corollary outcome is an existential chauvinism of sorts (term proposed by Ladd & MacIntosh, 2008) that serves as a basis for network formation and viewing those networks as IFBO tradition- continuity points. IFBOs traditionally also serve as social support for members, and drawing from Krause and Wulff (2005), positive social support has corresponding positive implications for adherents and enhanced the IFBO social capital through their increased sense of belongingness. Drawing from Valanciute and Thampy (2011), it can be said that they claim a mothering of spiritual maturation through the association. There are also indications of God consciousness and spiritual openness/quest orientation as perceived to be derived from the association. Furthermore, this transcendence is not in agreement with doctrines/dogma but an intrinsic orientation toward belief in and reliance on a higher power that then influences well-being. Akin to Mathew’s (2008) study, the range of perceived existential-social implications of IFBO order-power demonstrates traditional orthodox views, psychologistic/positive psychology explanations, and organic/transcendental/mystical visions.
Member adherents’ perceived implications or IFBOs presence for society and differentials vis-à-vis other social initiatives emerge in a way from a sense that IFBOs provide instruments to deal with existential uncertainties at one level and the cultural facts of ennui, evil, and temporality on the other, which accompany the contemporary individualizing cultures (see Harskamp, 2008). The moral tone dominates, refracting a sense of a constituted habitus among the adherents and ingressing then onto the wider social field (see also Dawson, 2006). This patterning is akin to a metaphorical reflection of a faith-oriented cultural field of the IFBOs on to a perceived technologized and depersonalized cosmos, wanting of change—a direction that IFBOs are perceived as capable of scripting. What is seen is a collective recognition of the IFBO theosophy as a sort of symbolic as well as real counterculture to the extant norms and dispositions of the voluntary sector. The hermeneutics of projected change encompass a suspicion toward the profane–prosaic in favor of the mystical–spiritual.
The author acknowledges the financial support received from Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi, India, under the general postdoctoral fellowship, 2010, for the study.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: The author acknowledges the financial support received from the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, India (ICSSR) under the General Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2010 for the study, a part of which has been presented in this article.
- © The Author(s) 2012
Samta P. Pandya is an assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. Her areas of interest include faith, spirituality, and social work and aging issues.