Guru Bawa and the making of a Transnational Sufi Family
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, also known more informally as Guru Bawa, was a Tamil Sufi saint from Sri Lanka who settled in Philadelphia, USA in 1971. He died and was buried near the city in 1986. In between these years, he traveled back and forth between the United States and Sri Lanka four times to service his communities in both places, He spent almost an equal amount of time in each place. This paper explores the life and legacy of Bawa within the context of emerging alternative spirituality in North America during the seventies and eighties. What is especially interesting is the way that the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship has continued to evolve after his death. Using Weberian sociology to understand the birth, development, growth, and institutionalization of the Fellowship, I wish to argue that it was Bawa’s charisma as a preacher and healer that has contributed most significantly to the making of a transnational Sufi family.
Frank J. Korom is Professor of Anthropology & Religion at Boston University and a Faculty Associate of Harvard University's Folklore & Mythology Program. He is the author and/or editor of ten books, most recently South Asian Folklore in Transition (2018). His areas of interest include South Asian culture and religions, Tibetan Studies, ritual & performance studies, and diaspora, globalization and transnationalism. He is currently working on a book about Guru Bawa.