Will Turner

On the Effect of Guru Avatars as Forces Encouraging Social Welfare Activism

March 16th, 2015

Advisor: Doctor Lisa Crothers

This paper examines guru avatars and how they effect their devotees’ participation in social welfare activities. I posit that guru avatars encourage their devotees to be active in service through their example, teachings and status as guru avatars. I look at this by studying the 19th century guru avatar Sahajanand Swami, the major movements that are centered around him, and the modern guru avatar Sathya Sai Baba and the movement around him. I support my argument by analyzing how each is legitimated by their followers who do so by connecting them with gods and the divine, to established gurus and religious teachers, and Sahajanand and Sathya Sai’s experiences. Also, their religious teachings and how they are related to Hindu puja and prasad as well as the charitable services that both Sahajanand and Sathya Sai, and the movements around them participate in. Through this examination I hope to show how gurus due to their recently acquired authority and status push devotees to be active in social welfare activity.


Crothers, Lisa


Religious Studies


New Religious Movements

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Will Turner