When Elizabeth Gilbert went to India as part of her journey which was to become the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, she liked it but had many reservations about her experience at the Ashrams and India itself.
Then came the movie. And Julia Roberts traced her footsteps. This time to be sucked into the mysticism of India. Now, she says she has “converted” to Hinduism and she is a “practising” Hindu, because she goes to the temple regularly.
During the film’s shooting, he said, a makeshift temple had been constructed nearby where unit members would light lamps and burn incense sticks. “Julia too would pray there, run her hands over the lamp and her hair as we all do,” he recalled. “She also got her three kids here. I tied the sacred red thread on their wrists and applied the tilak on their foreheads,” he said.
The Hindus, meanwhile, are happy that such a celebrity has endorsed the religion in such a way. Rajan Zed, the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism in US, has even “welcomed” her into the fold. He is urging her to go deeper.
Hinduism to me represents an Open Source approach to Spiritual exploration and advancement. Many ways have been explored and many techniques and methods been fine tuned and all have been contributed back to the large “database” of consciousness such that its available to all. Some come along, take a piece of that large pie and often start their own brand. Not that it is bad but such attempts miss out on the larger reservoir of knowledge and “case studies” that could have been available had they not constructed artificial walls of branding around them.
But behind the structural sense, is the deep and uncompromising focus on realizing the Truth of life. Everything is a tool or a means to that from eating to breathing to rituals to taking care of the body to even looking at the concept of God.
The ritualistic or day to day practices were institutionalized to create ways to move people a bit from their regular status quo into taking on more focused exploration. It was like a Dummies Guide to spiritual movement. Many people did not understand why they were doing something, but someone would come and explain to them its significance. Gradually, things began changing as the invasions occured and slowly those who knew the intracacies and the science behind things in a deeper manner either receded or disappeared.
But Hinduism remained a laboratory where many experiments occured and were accepted as valid even when antagonistic. As long as the endeavor promoted the move to the Truth, it was always welcomed.
The openness and the unrelenting focus on getting to the truth is the most defining feature of Hinduism as a whole.
When Julia Roberts puts the temple, the tilak etc upfront as the most defining features of Hinduism, she may actually be doing a disservice to those who genuinely seek spiritual growth. Yes, those things have their importance, but not in the way that most Hindus believe they do. We have made a mess of our temples and we use God as merely a restaurant waiter – who is there to get what we order him to. If he doesn’t he gets admonished and we are ready to go to the next restaurant!
Those who call themselves Hindus are probably the worst culprits in desecrating the very core of what was the most advanced and beautiful experiment in knowing self.
It is important that Julia Roberts knows the core of the entire foundation. But one won’t be surprised if she doesn’t. Because in today’s terms, she would be living like the average Hindu lives. She would have to be so brutal and so uncompromising of so many things that we do as normal Hindu practices.
If as a result of her “converting”, most of the current Hindus make a better attempt to understand and evaluate their own belief system and practices, that would probably be the greatest boon!!