The Guru Persona

Charisma, Authority and the Guruography


  • Himani Kapoor Delhi University


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Jaggi Vasudev, The Art of Living Foundation, Isha Foundation, guruography, guru, charisma, samadhi


This article analyses the construction of the images of two contemporary Indian gurus—Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (SSRS) and Jaggi Vasudev (JV)—and their charismatic authority through a close study of their biographies. The genre, labelled “guruography” by Stephen Jacobs (2016, 61), serves as a useful tool to study the various elements that consolidate the guru’s public profile, enhancing his unique personal or charismatic authority. The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Isha Foundation (IF) headed by Jaggi Vasudev, are both guru-led faith based organizations that have managed to consolidate a significant following worldwide. The gurus serve as thriving examples of living founder-leaders of transnational groups with a specific focus on yoga, meditation, and pranayama (specialized breathing rhythms commonly practiced in yoga). This work analyses guru biographies in order to ascertain their role in influencing a favourable reading of guru charisma, and also to demonstrate the role played by these narratives in generating a shared understanding of the guru. It also discusses the various factors that have a bearing on the overall charismatic appeal of the leaders of faith based groups.


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International Journal for the Study of New Religions