Hazra of the Art of Living. "Distances between people are decreasing, but without the sensitisation to other cultures, a different level of estrangement arises. America has the largest number of lonely people.They feel the need to reach out, and it has a certain amount of awkwardness to it. When the Beatles came to Maharishi, it was a fad, a form of escapism. Today, it is more need-driven and more serious."Is looking for religion outside your own culture more suspect, more discreditable then sticking with the religion of the culture you happen to have been born into? If you think it is, then what do you think religion is? Is there some notion that it is easier to adopt a foreign religion? But why? There are easier and harder forms of every religion. You may criticize people for taking the easy path -- and we instinctively assume that's what any pop star is doing -- but there is some difficulty to leaving home in search of religion. Are we critical because we think these foreign religion seekers are only looking for an exotic thrill? But to seek God inherently involves moving beyond your mundane surroundings.
And it's this kind of easy-to-digest spirituality that the West prefers. Says sociologist Nandini Sardesai, "By and large, people in the West prefer sermonisers, like Maharishi Yogi, Deepak Chopra and others who put forth spirituality in an attractive package. They sometimes prefer to hear it rather than read for themselves. All the spiritual leaders, Buddha, Christ or the Prophet Mohammed, have been from the East. That tells us something."
People like Britney who are liberal women are looking for a religion that's all-inclusive. There are people who want something new, something vibrant. Indians have been inculcated with it but for foreigners, it's exciting."
Theatre person Gary Richardson adds, "Religion in America has been taken over by a lot of ultra conservative people. A lot of Western people are not finding the answers that they are looking for.
January 22, 2006
On the occasion of Britney Spears having her son anointed at a Hindu temple, The Times of India asks why Americans are so taken with Indian religion: