Julia Roberts Hindu? Who knew?! Who’s next?

Posted on August 8, 2010


Perhaps we should add some words to Julia Roberts’ new movie title and make it Eat, Pray, Love, Chant, Pose.

In her September Elle magazine cover story, Roberts anounces that since her film-making sojourn in India, she and her family now worship as Hindus and go together to a temple to “chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practicing Hindu.”

Roberts, who was brought up Christian, has already named her production company Red Om Films,” drawing on the mystical syllable Hindus say encompasses the universe.

Evidently, you don’t convert to Hinduism the way people adopt Judeo Christian faiths — by taking on a set of sanctioned teachings and practices. You take on Hinduism Nike-style — Just do it.

Julia Roberts, shown here filming Eat, Pray Love in India in 2009, now says she and her family are practicing Hindus.
Associated Press

Her children already have Hindu names, according to a 2009 Associated Press story relying on The Times of India newspaper. It quoted a Hindu priest, Swami Dharam Dev, as saying

I have named her twins Hazel and Phinnaeus as Laxmi and Ganesh, while Henry will be called Krishna Balram.

David Gibson at Disputations asked Suhag Shukla, managing director of the Hindu American Foundation who explains:

As a non-proselytizing, pluralistic faith, Hinduism does not seek converts nor does anyone need to ‘convert’ formally to become a practicing Hindu. (There are) countless examples of prominent people in the West who have drawn inspiration from Hindu philosophy, converted formally or for all intents and purposes could be considered practicing Hindus.

With that, Shukla claims a range from Henry David Thoreau to NFL running back Ricky Williams.

This May 2009 photo provided by
By Brian Adams, Associated Press

Yoga at Walden Pond? What about Wasilla, Alaska? After all, Sarah Palin does poses.

But stretching the body is only as spiritual as you make it, as Lisa Miller points out in Newsweek. And Palin, who grew up Pentecostal, shows no sign of twisting in a new religious direction. Still, she was photographed in the tree pose for Runners World.

The Yoga Dork blog says Palin mangled the pose but we have never been a nation of purists. Americans like philosophic mash-ups — such melding a belief in reincarnation with Christianity, which has a very different understanding of salvation — but we still identify overwhelmingly with name-brand Western religions. Surveys find only about 2 million Americans identify themselve as Hindu.

Yet, we have been doing Hindu-Lite for years, sampling of the flavor, images and style of a 6,000-year-old faith but with no actual theology involved. Anywhere you look you can find loose chatter about dharma (a way of living leading to spiritual advancement) and karma ( the “neutral, self-perpetuating law of the inner cosmos,” Hindu monk Sannyasin Arumugaswami, editor of Hinduism Today magazine, told me in 2006) .

Yoga Journal estimated at that time that nearly a third of folks who try the 5,000-year-old Hindu physical and meditative discipline, say they’re seeking “spiritual development.” I would bet that’s a higher percentage now than my four-year-old story..

If you want to actually learn something about Hinduism and self-realization, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, recommended to Julia and her fans …

… the Ancient Hindu scripture, Katha Upanishad, (which) points out that when the wise realize the Self, they go beyond sorrow. Self is supreme, and those who meditate on Self are freed from the cycle of birth and death. When one realizes Self, there is nothing else to be known.

Got that? Hmmm, maybe just strolling to temple and taking up chanting is easier.

Do you think this is a lasting choice for the Roberts clan or one that will fade with the next filming in some other culture? Have you been intrigued by the spiritual side of yoga?

Article in FAITH & REASON

Posted in: World