Spirituality as Parody

May 12, 2012|10:33 am

What’s true of New York is true of large cities all around the country. The number of Americans practicing yoga quintupled between 2001 and 2011: from four to twenty million.

Yoga has become so commonplace that the “U.K. Telegraph” recently ran a story that, only a few years ago, would have only run in the satirical publication “The Onion.” The link to the story read “How yoga with snakes cured my phobia.” In it, a woman told readers about a “Kumara Serpent Healing Class,” which she summed up as being “a bit like traditional yoga but . . . you get to handle real snakes at the end of the class.”

As the “Weekly Standard” likes to say: “not a parody.”

Between stories like this one and a recent “New York Times” article about the rising number of yoga-related emergency room visits, there’s plenty of comic fodder in the West’s love affair with Yoga.

But you know who isn’t smiling: the Hindu American Foundation. A year or so ago, the group launched a “Take Yoga Back” campaign. Its leaders got tired of seeing advertisers and business use words like “yoga,” “Vedic,” and other Hindu words in yoga publications without any acknowledgement that they were, well, Hindu.

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One of the publications justified the omission by saying that the word “Hindu” has “a lot of baggage.” The understandable reply was “Excuse me?”

It is isn’t only Hindus: Many Buddhists are also fed up with the way their religion is being “dumbed down” and marketed as a lifestyle. They are especially annoyed at the way the word “Zen” has been transformed into an interior decorating concept.

While I sympathize with their complaints, it’s not hard to understand why this is happening. First of all, contrary to what some noisy atheists would have you believe, America is not becoming a more “disbelieving” society, at least not as many define “disbelieving.”

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Spirituality as Parody

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