This article explores how charismatic building and grouping are made possible, and how charisma, as a specific type of social relational structure, determines collective religious actions. Through a case study of a lay Buddhist charismatic leader, Li Yuansong, and his reformist group, Modern Chan Society, in contemporary Taiwan, the author argues that charisma stems from social interactions focusing on the extraordinary and taking place between a leader and followers, during which three decisive socio-psychological dispositions——expectation, affection and responsibility——call for and reinforce each other. Forming and moving around these three axes, charisma paradoxically links reality and utopia, submission and autonomy, domination and sacrifice. It implies a continual circle, in which hope, care and trust circulate as gifts and counter-gifts.
- ©© 2008 by The Regents of the University of California