Julia Roberts Converts to Hinduism, Further Complicates Yoga and Hinduism Debate

Via YogaDork
on Aug 10, 2010
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Did Julia Roberts just launch the next biggest trend in Hollywood since Scientology and Kabbalah?

Julia Roberts went to India and all she got was a little ‘Pray’ action for her starring role in a surefire summer blockbuster and a conversion to Hinduism! What? In the same interview for the September Elle magazine where America’s sweetheart eschews botox because she wants her kids to recognize her happy vs mad face, Ms. Roberts reveals that her entire family has embraced the Hindu religion and “chant and pray and celebrate” together at the temple, adding that she is “definitely a practicing Hindu.” News to us! Or is it? We got a clue last year when The Times of India reported that before shooting for Eat, Pray, Love in Delhi, Swami Daram Dev of Ashram Hari Mandir gave Julia’s three kidlets new names after Hindu Gods: twins Hazel and Phinnaeus as Laxmi and Ganesh, Henry as Krishna Balram. He also gave his blessing for the flick.

Are we yogis all destined to be Hindu converts? Let’s discuss.

EPL author Liz Gilbert (Julia’s role) goes to India and spends time meditating in an Ashram (in the Siddha Yoga tradition). Does this mean if you go to India as a person on a spiritual journey, or playing one in a movie, you’ll automatically go Hindu? No. Does this mean you have to buy into the Hindu religion to practice yoga? No. Will this throw a cloud of confusion over the already convoluted ‘yoga and Hinduism’ debate? You betcha! Somebody call Ganesh.

Surely, Hindu devas and devis tend to pop up in yoga class, especially in big poppa John Friend‘s Anusara style. Kali, Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, etc, are leading characters on the yoga stage, and also happen to be Hindu deities. Confusing? You tell us.

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16 Responses to “Julia Roberts Converts to Hinduism, Further Complicates Yoga and Hinduism Debate”

  1. Ramesh says:

    No, we are not destined to be Hindu converts. Hinduism is a foreign construct and not more than 1000 yeras old. Yoga, on the other hand, is much older. Before Hinduism, India was, and still is, a conglomerate of religions and spiritual paths—a colorful universe of belief systems and mystical practices.

    The two greatest and most influential traditions, the Vedic and the Tantric/Yogic, are what forms the backbone, flesh, heart and soul of India’s culture and heritage, not Hinduism.

    Indeed, Hinduism was a term invented by invaders and later adopted by the Indians themselves, under pressure to conform to nationalistic and cultural currents from the outside.

    Just ask Patanjali, who gave us the Yoga Sutras, just ask Krishna who gave us the Bhagavad Gita, just ask Kapila who gave us Samkhya philosophy, just ask Yudishtira who first taught pranayama on a large scale, just ask Asthavakra who wrote a Vedantic masterpiece, all great yogis, but no, none of them called themselves Hindus. Not a single one.

    Hinduism is largely a modern construct. Go to India and ask an old sadhu yourself what he calls himself. You’ll likely hear him say he belongs to such and such lineage and sect, a follower of Shiva, or Rama… He most likely won’t say anything about Hinduism.
    For more, please read:

  2. Fascinating question! I am a lifelong Christian, and taught at a Christian university for ten years. I began asana practice to address some specific physical problems, and gradually became interested in Yoga and Vendanta philosophy. And although I recognize the truth of what Ramesh has said above, I now think of myself as a "Christ-bhakta" as much as a Christian; that is, while I still a faithful communicant in the Episcopal Church, I have been developing a Yogic/Vedantic understanding of Jesus as my "ishta." I have been composing and performing kirtans blending Sanskrit mantras with Biblical texts in English. So in my case, no, yoga does not necessarily lead to conversion to Hinduism, though I can understand why someone without an understanding of the artificiality of the construct of "Hinduism" might see it that way.

  3. Ramesh says:

    I love your term Christ-bhakta and your having Jesus as your ishta. So, yes, yogis may be Christians or Hindus or Muslims, but Yoga is not Hindu, yoga is universal and beyond religion, it is spiritual. And while our chosen ishta–be it Jesus, Krishna, or Rama, or our guru–may have a religious or sectarian bent, the inner spirit of yoga is universal and beyond dogma. The ishta is the particular doorway we choose to walk to the beyond.

  4. Ramesh says:

    Also want to briefly add that "Ishta" is used in reference to one's istha chakra, the chakra used as part of "dharana" or concentration in yogic or tantric meditation, which is also one of the eight limbs of Asthanga Yoga. The mantra used during such meditation is thus called "istha mantra."

  5. Nichole says:

    One single human in this universe, of all space and time, who happens to be famous, makes a life changing decision to follow a new way of life. Who are we to judge? Good for her. The Buddha himself was said to have followed several ways before awakening. Good for us.

  6. Tricia Ptak says:

    For me my understanding of how yoga fits into my life is as a psychophilosophical construct that provides me a basis for cleansing my mind and body so that I may serve God more purely and completely. It is essentially a private connection and varies with each person's experience therefore there is no right answer! Metta

  7. Swami Param says:

    Lots of misinformation. It was the (H)indus who created the Sanskrit language and all the subsequent terms that define the religion of (H)induism (not Christianity, etc.). The Sanskrit/Hindu word "yoga" defines the lifestyle that is Hinduism. Not understanding religious boundaries is to be naive, at best. The notion that just because Patanjali or others did not say "I am a Hindu" is "proof" that they weren't Hindus is just absurd. In world scriptures, the religious identies of individuals is a logical assumption. Also, the missed point is that these sages were not out to make a name for theirself contrary to the modern "yoga."

    Swami Param
    Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

  8. Swami Param says:

    cont: Sw. Param__Real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion; taught by Hindus and not for a fee. This whole non-Hindu yoga exercise business is just another example of arrogant invaders capatalizing on others. Unfortunately many "Hindus" do not even realize they are being taken advantage of.

  9. Pal says:

    Juniper, i like your way; keep it up and spread the word. Thanks

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  11. grand says:

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  12. grand says:

    Hindu demoic religion. look Wahl talking another Hindu extolling the non existent quality of Hindu isma many Christians believe theat. Hindu ism just another cult Hindu make great case for the tall nice tale greatness of Hinduism Hinckley hidious religion /cult. the turth is however very much different hint. is very much cradle of heart of Satanism in the world everything about this clut is evil. satanic religion for same a pic canot find the filth and mud in wich is frolicking dirty.

    but those of us who are born and raised in ndia know how much Hinduism is dominated by te pawer of darkness

    when people see news report of the poverty suffering and violence in india few people take Romero stop and endless cycle of suffering while Western nations are blessed

    karma is bad and reincarnatetion. will improve their position but. for how long

    how many does it need to improve karma ?

  13. grand says:

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  14. Pawan Jain says:

    Yoga lot of controversy in west, Evan in India very few people knew about it ,including my self, it is basically hermit excercise, it is not mendotary for anybody, you want it learn and do it, no body enforcing it, it is all up to you .
    Youga and meditation is all for mental stress, there was no antidepressant in old time,these things did help people ,

    It is more of sanatan derma ,it is not a religion, it is way for practice of life or rules for life. Vedic and tantric way of practice of life, no body convert you, you have to follow the way of life, it does not enforce anything particular way, or if you do not practice go to hell.

  15. Pawan says:

    By practicing yoga ,you do not become Hindu , the Hindu god and goddess also did yoga ,that's why they are in posture.