Perpetually physical and psychological health care has witnessed significant advancement while the spiritual component - the oldest and most cultured one has been a subject to chronic neglect 8,12. In recent times concerns over health research equity are gathering momentum. The exponents are in favour of empirical exploration of other dimensions of health, including ‘spiritual health’ 13,14.
Like the different determinants of health, spiritual health is also subjected to multiple impetuses. Among them, sociocultural factors are important ones. Though we have studies on the commoner and sick populace the big fish (spiritual exponents) has seldom been caught. In them, the study of spirituality in general and its’ different determinants, in particular, are sparse. In this regard, Indian Saints are no exception. Studies exploring their spiritual demure are far and few, so also its’ different determinants, especially the sociocultural ones 8. This reported study is most probably the first of its kind in exploring this knowledge gap.
20 sociocultural variables were explored under component extraction and linear regression modelling. We were able to extract 6 valid components (PCs) and they cumulatively contributed to 66.2% of the variance. The loaded components under them demonstrated high factor loading (>0.5). For ease of interpretation, components were suitably named.
The 1st PC was named ‘Emancipation’ – That means freedom from Bondage/family attachment. It was justified by its social conjunctive’s namely; unmarried participants, participants with no or a smaller number of children and saints hailing from a joint(traditional) family system. Of them, the family of origin appeared as a strong predictor of spirituality. Researchers like Coyle J, Nelson-Becker H et al and Mishra et al opined in favour of the personalized nature of spirituality where individual family background and freedom are the essences for ‘transcendence of self’ 8,15-17.
The 2nd PC was named ‘Family heritage/cultural’. This included cultural components like the performance of religious activities in the family of origin and religiousness’ of the family of origin. Both the factors have very high component loading (>.9). The significance of cultural factors in spiritual grooming is long noted. Jenkins (1992), Sherkat and Ellison (1999), Mahoney et al (2001), Lucchetti G, Lucchetti, AL, Kirmayer LJ and Koenig H.G. strongly advocated the role of religiousness in spiritual development 18- 23.
The 3rd PC was named Stimuli (for spiritual life and its enhancement). This included variables like, the pretext (social factors) under which one was prompted to adopt sainthood, what was the aim for doing so and what one does as a routine to stay focused on the chosen path. The most influential predictor among them was the ‘routine’ one adopts to achieve the set goal. Mokuau N (2001), Weathers E (2016) found that daily spiritual experiences are especially associated with the need to find meaning in life 24,25.
‘Faith’ the fourth PC, included cultural variables like belief and respect for own and other’s religion. It was observed that most of the participants had respect for other religions and it was a significant contributor to spiritual growth. There was also a strong desire to study scriptures from other religions to enhance ones’ awareness. The proverbial saying ’faith can move mountains’’ is apt in the case of spirituality. In spirituality, faith is defined as ‘a congruence of belief, trust, and obedience to God or the divine’26. The healing power of faith is also substantiated through control trials in psychoneuroimmunology and contemporary psychology. The role of transcendental experience in health and healing is also well documented 27. The cultural values associated with faith and belief also enhances one’s religiosity and spirituality 28, 29.
The 5th PC was named ‘Education’ and included both ‘spiritual’ and ‘formal’ education of the participants. In recent times the significance of spiritual education besides the conventional formal one is being increasingly emphasized for whole-person care 30. As per Mounaghi HK, the spiritual faculty of preachers and teachers can enhance learning per se in their students 31. Even the domain of spiritual learning doesn’t get affected by the level of formal education thus, increasing its access for commoners 8.
Self-hegemony the 6th and the last (but not the least) component induced two variables. They are the participant's designation in the clan and the role of motivator in adopting spiritual life. Of this self-motivation was a significant influencing variable of spirituality. Ellison CW, in his study, observed that the inner resources and strength; and ability to adapt to adversity ensures an individual’s affirmation in his spiritual journey 32. Bredle JM, Salsman JM, Debb SM, et al (2011) also had a similar view emphasizing personal beliefs and motivation are key elements to overcome adversity and are the core elements of spiritual health and personal wellness 33.