As an update to Julia Roberts Converts to Hinduism, Further Complicates Yoga and Hinduism Debate…
in which we asked: Did Julia Roberts just launch the next biggest trend in Hollywood since Scientology and Kabbalah? Are we all destined to be Hindu converts?
Suhag Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation, responds with an editorial in the Washington Post/Newsweek the same venue where Deepak and Aseem duked out their beef. According to Mr. Shukla, this celeb religion swapping should be old hat by now: Richard Gere is Buddhist, Tom Cruise turned scientologist! So Shukla responds to the Julia Roberts-Hindu news with a shrug and a “been there, done that”, because hey, isn’t America a salad bowl of religious flip-floppers who’ve already been swimming in Hindu-flavored dressing? Huh? Strange imagery aside, he points out some valid recipes for Hindu-American infusion:
Whether Americans know it or not, we’ve been embracing Hinduism for longer than most would guess. Remember that revolt against the “establishment” called the American transcendentalist movement? Yes, the one sparked by the American philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau? What inspired them? You guessed it: Hinduism. One of the earliest Hindu centers of worship in the U.S. — the Vedanta Society — was established in 1894 by Caucasian American disciples of Indian Hindu, Swami Vivekananda, after he took the first-ever World Parliament of Religions by storm. The Vedanta Society continues to have a strong “convert” and “born” Hindu following with centers across the 50 states. Let’s not forget Martin Luther King Junior and his non-violent civil disobedience movement, a movement which affords each and every one of us dignity and equal rights regardless of the color of our skin — a movement which I am also proud to know was strongly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, a practicing Hindu, and his interpretation of the Hindu concept of ahimsa or non-violence. And how about the example of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? He may be better known as the Indian guru of the Beatles, but in the late 60s and early 70s, he boasted some one million meditation followers.
Umm…we’re not 100% with you, but we’re picking up what you’re putting down. And now the YOGA bit:
Fast forward to 2010. Is there a city left in the United States that does not have at least one yoga class or a spa that doesn’t have ayurvedic offerings? And one would be remiss to leave out Oprah — streaming into some 7.4 million households daily and using her monthly magazine as well social networks to promote the teachings of Eckhart Tolle — teachings he has said are influenced, in part, by Hindu saints Ramana Maharshi and Krishnamurthy. From the practical — yoga, meditation, vegetarianism and ayurveda to the more esoteric — belief in karma and reincarnation as well as an adherence to the trademark Hindu world view that multiple paths to the Truth can exist, core concepts of Hinduism are not only being embraced by Americans but are slowly being assimilated into the American collective conscience just as Judeo-Christian values were generations before.
Crap, here we go again. Granted this man has a total Hindu bias, he founded the foundation! We can probably all agree that there is influence, sure, but religion is individual prerogative, so you can have your yoga with or without the croutons, right?
(we’re on a roll with that salad analogy. sorry.)
Julia Roberts Converts to Hinduism, Further Complicates Yoga and Hinduism Debate
This is all about language, not substance. I can’t find any factual errors in Shukla’s account. The only question is whether to label as “Hindu” anything that was ever in the same room with Hinduism.
I think it right and interesting and fair to remind people of all these connections. But mere association, with something, even a strong association, does not make it that thing!
Y’know, if Hindus believe in reincarnation then who’s to say that people who were Indian by birth in a previous life didn’t then go to the west for t their next birth?
And if that’s true, then being derisive to white westerners for their interest in another culture seems to be… a little flawed, doncha think?
I know in my own experience and that of many of my fellow yoga students – from a very early age we felt disenfranchised within our own culture. Christianity has never been for me, which I knew from around the time I was 10 or so. But spirituality WAS.
I spent a long time looking for things that resonated with me – that would be yoga and Hinduism. I love it all, the puja, all of the ceremony, the chanting, meditation, asana, social service etc.
I have no idea if reincarnation is real or not but hey, if it IS, then perhaps some of my previous births were eastern. Who knows? But giving me a hard time because I feel more Hindu than Christian seems a little pointless really…
I think it might be a good idea to be very wary of lauding film stars religious convictions, whether devout or no, as something to be emulated. More often than not such persons become the most monumental of embarrassments (due to their rather excessive lifestyles and professions), or have a tendency to trivialize whatever they have attached their names to. So it might a good rule of thumb for religious institutions and their periodicals, newspapers, websites, etc., to mention such things only in the most casual of ways or not at all.