Hindu chic? From the yoga craze to the movie ‘Eat Pray Love’

If Hindus haven’t replaced WASPs as the religious elite of America, they’re doing quite well for a relatively small (about 2 million) community of fairly recent arrivals to the United States. The movie Eat Pray Love has lovely scenes of India and Hindu practice, and star Julia Roberts says she is now a Hindu.

Moreover, yoga continues to be one of the most popular recreational and spiritual activities in America, while belief in reincarnation — a tenet of traditional Hinduism — is spreading.

Yet there are drawbacks to this growing popularity. Some purists say that yoga, for example, has been exploited by the fitness industry and corrupted beyond recognition as a spiritual practice, and others say movies like Eat Pray Love reinforce a kind of Western “spiritual tourism” in India that is superficial at best.

And of course many Christian leaders in particular are not happy about their flocks adopting aspects of a pluralistic faith like Hinduism. Evangelist Franklin Graham was openly scornful of Hinduism during a debate in May over how to mark the National Day of Prayer. “None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation,” he said.

This source guide provides resources to help journalists cover this trend.

Stories on Hinduism's popularity

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