Academy Award winning Hollywood actor Julia Roberts, who recently converted to Hinduism, reconfirmed her faith in Hinduism while commenting that her “opting for Hinduism is not a religious gimmick”. Roberts says that she and husband Danny Moder and their three children, 5-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel and 3-year-old Henry, all go to temple to “chant and pray and celebrate.”
“I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father. That seems to make her the most famous convert since the late George Harrison, a member of the Beatles who embraced Indian mysticism in the 1960s.
On the other hand, “conversion” may not be the best term for someone who starts practicing Hinduism.
“As a non-proselytizing, pluralistic faith, Hinduism does not seek converts nor does anyone need to ‘convert’ formally to become a practicing Hindu,” said Suhag Shukla, managing director of the Hindu American Foundation, which advocates on behalf of the estimated two million Hindus in the United States.
Clarifying that actual spiritual satisfaction was the real reason behind her converting to Hinduism, Julia Roberts said: “I have no intention of demeaning any other religion simply because of my fondness for Hinduism. I don’t believe in comparing religions or human beings. A comparison is a very mean thing to do. I have received real spiritual satisfaction through Hinduism.”
According to reports, Roberts has been interested in yoga for quite some time. She was in the northern Indian state of Haryana (India) in September 2009 to shoot Eat, Pray, Love in an ‘ashram’ or hermitage. In January 2009, she was seen sporting a ‘bindi‘ on her forehead during her trip to India. Her film production company is called ‘Red Om Films,’ named after the Hindu symbol ‘Om‘ which is considered the mystical syllable containing the universe. There were reports that she was trying to adopt a child from India and her kids shaved their heads during her last visit to India.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, interpreting wisdom of ancient Hindu scriptures, suggested Roberts to realize the Self or pure consciousness through meditation. Hindus believe that real happiness comes from within, and God can be found within one’s heart through meditation.
Quoting Shvetashvatara Upanishad, Zed pointed out to Roberts to be always aware that “worldly life is the river of God, flowing from him and flowing back to him.” Stressing the importance of meditation, he quoted Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and pointed out that if one meditates upon the Self, and realizes it, they can come to understand the meaning of life.
Rajan Zed further said that seeing Roberts’ devotion, he would pray to lead her to the ‘eternal joy.’ If she needed any assistance in deeper Hinduism exploration, he or other Hindu scholars would be glad to help, Zed added.
This Diwali, Julia Roberts was in the news for her comment that ‘Diwali should be celebrated unanimously throughout the world as a gesture of goodwill’. Roberts equated Christmas with Diwali and said that both “are festivals of lights, good spirits and death of evil”. She further pointed out that Diwali “not only belongs to Hinduism but is universal in nature and in its essence too. Diwali ignites the values of self confidence, love for humanity, peace, prosperity and above all eternity which goes beyond all mortal factors… When I think of Diwali, I can never imagine a world broken into fragments by narrow feelings of communalism and religion which does not care for human benevolence.” Julia Roberts said: “Ever since I developed my liking and fondness for Hinduism, I have been attracted and deeply fascinated by many facets of the multi-dimensional Hinduism… spirituality in it transcends many barriers of mere religion”. Talking of India, she promised “to return to this sacred land again and again for the best of creativity.”