Actress Julia Roberts embraces Hinduism
NEW DELHI: Her parents were Baptist and Catholic and she was born in Georgia, part of the US Bible Belt. But Hollywood superstar Julia Roberts says she is now a practising Hindu. Speaking to the September issue of Elle magazine, Roberts said she goes to the temple to “chant, pray and celebrate.”
Swami Dharamdev of Hari Mandir, Pataudi, where `Eat, Pray and Love’ was shot for three weeks in September-October last year, said it is good news if someone accepts Hinduism from the heart. 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.
Swami Dharamdev recalled the actress also requested him, through her private assistant, to pray for her mother who was ill. “Before she left I told her, `you may choose not to eat or love. But don’t forget to pray. Make that a part of your life, not just acting in this film’. She smiled and nodded affirmatively,” he said.
In a statement, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism in the US, also said he and his fellow practitioners welcome Roberts into the fold.
Julia’s move to Hinduism has sparked off a torrent of online response. Some are highly critical of her; others the opposite. “Another confused celebrity trying on the religion “flavour” of the month. Hindu? Does she even know what that means? How can you convert to another religion after making a film? Next thing you know she’ll be wearing a Kabbalah bracelet after going to a Madonna concert!,” was a comment posted on The Daily Mail’s website. However, Anne, Leicester, wrote, “I like Julie Roberts, admire her work on screen and her commitment to her beliefs. If she’s living her life to the ideals of Hinduism, that’s all to the good. I look forward to seeing her latest film.
Julia Roberts is Hindu: Is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?
By Elizabeth Tenety
Julia Roberts has long been called America’s sweetheart.
But is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?
The star of the upcoming movie Eat, Pray, Love revealed in an interview in Elle magazine that she, along with her family, is a practicing Hindu.
“You make these people and you love them and you want them around for a thousand years,” she says about her three kids – 3-year-old Henry and 5-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel – with cameraman Danny Moder. “And you want to be there for them for a thousand years.”
“In their public remonstrations of their parent’s faiths, Jindal and Haley tell well over three million Hindu and Sikh Americans that their time has not yet come as people of faith.”
The entire Roberts-Moder family, she reveals, goes to temple together to “chant and pray and celebrate. I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father.
And since in Hindu cosmology souls can be reincarnated in other bodies, where does she see herself in the next life? “Golly, I’ve been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life,” she says. “Next time I want to be just something quiet and supporting.”
But is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?
Roberts’ embrace of the faith that inspired the enlightenment of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert puts her far outside the American mainstream in terms of religious affiliation: 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian; only .4 percent define themselves as Hindu. But Roberts’ seek-and-ye-shall-find spirituality is actually quite reflective of American religious practice: 44 percent of Americans currently identify with a different religious tradition than the one in which they were raised.
Still, recent events indicate that Americans may not be ready to fully embrace the Hinduism already in their midst.
t to the examples of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (both converts to Christianity –Jindal from Hinduism, Haley from Sikhism) as evidence that association with Dharma traditions is a public liability.
“Haley endured ludicrous, unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity, and she and Jindal both faced down racial slurs and epithets on their road to victory. But listen to the buzz around Haley’s improbable rise and Jindal’s electoral success, and what is abundantly clear is that a politically post-racial America does not mean that a pluralistic America has emerged.”
What do you think? Is America ready to embrace Hinduism? Why or why not?
Question: “What is Hinduism and what do Hindus believe?”
Answer: Hinduism is one of the oldest known organized religions—its sacred writings date as far back as 1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods. Hindus have a wide variety of core beliefs and exist in many different sects. Although it is the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism exists primarily in India and Nepal.
The main texts of Hinduism are the Vedas (considered most important), Upanishadas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. These writings contain hymns, incantations, philosophies, rituals, poems, and stories from which Hindus base their beliefs. Other texts used in Hinduism include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.
Though Hinduism is often understood as being polytheistic, supposedly recognizing as many as 330 million gods, it also has one “god” that is supreme—Brahma. Brahma is an entity believed to inhabit every portion of reality and existence throughout the entire universe. Brahma is both impersonal and unknowable and is often believed to exist in three separate forms: Brahma—Creator; Vishnu—Preserver; and Shiva—Destroyer. These “facets” of Brahma are also known through the many other incarnations of each. It is difficult to summarize Hindu theology since the various Hindu schools contain elements of almost every theological system. Hinduism can be:
1) Monistic—Only one thing exists; Sankara’s school
2) Pantheistic—Only one divine thing exists so that God is identical to the world; Brahmanism
3) Panentheistic—The world is part of God; Ramanuja’s School
4) Theistic—Only one God, distinct from Creation; Bhakti Hinduism.
Observing other schools, Hinduism can also be atheistic, deistic, or even nihilistic. With such diversity included under the title “Hindu,” one may wonder what makes them “Hindu” in the first place? About the only real issue is whether or not a belief system recognizes the Vedas as sacred. If it does, then it is Hindu. If not, then it is not Hindu.
The Vedas are more than theology books. They contain a rich and colorful “theo-mythology,” that is, a religious mythology which deliberately interweaves myth, theology, and history to achieve a story-form religious root. This “theo-mythology” is so deeply rooted in India’s history and culture that to reject the Vedas is viewed as opposing India. Therefore, a belief system is rejected by Hinduism if it does not embrace Indian culture to some extent. If the system accepts Indian culture and its theo-mythical history, then it can be embraced as “Hindu” even if its theology is theistic, nihilistic, or atheistic. This openness to contradiction can be a headache for Westerners who seek logical consistency and rational defensibility in their religious views. But, to be fair, Christians are no more logical when they claim belief in Yahweh yet live life as practical atheists, denying Christ with their lives. For the Hindu the conflict is genuine logical contradiction. For the Christian, the conflict is more likely simple hypocrisy.
Hinduism views mankind as divine. Because Brahma is everything, Hinduism asserts that everyone is divine. Atman, or self, is one with Brahman. All of reality outside of Brahman is considered mere illusion. The spiritual goal of a Hindu is to become one with Brahma, thus ceasing to exist in its illusory form of “individual self.” This freedom is referred to as “moksha.” Until moksha is achieved, a Hindu believes that he/she will be repeatedly reincarnated in order that he/she may work towards self-realization of the truth (the truth being that only Brahman exists, nothing else). How a person is reincarnated is determined by karma, which is a principle of cause and effect governed by nature’s balance. What one did in the past affects and corresponds with what happens in the future, past and future lives included.
Although this is just a brief synopsis, it is readily seen that Hinduism is in opposition to biblical Christianity on almost every count of its belief system. Christianity has one God who is both personal and knowable (; ); has one set of Scriptures; teaches that God created the earth and all who live upon it (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3); believes that man is created in God’s image and lives only once (Genesis 1:27; Hebrews 9:27-28); and teaches that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; 6:44; 14:6; ). Hinduism as a religious system fails because it fails to recognize Jesus as the uniquely incarnated God-Man and Savior, the one solely sufficient source of salvation for humanity.