Eat, Pray, Love: Hindu Friendly, Though Not Explicitly Hindu

Washington, D.C. (August 16, 2010)  - After months of pressure from the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), Columbia Pictures invited HAF to a pre-screening of the film “Eat, Pray, Love,” which hit the big screen last Friday. Twenty of HAF’s DC area members viewed the film last Tuesday and completed a survey provided by HAF for feedback on the film’s potential portrayal of Hindu belief and practice. Survey results were unanimous in the opinion that the film did not represent Hinduism negatively, but many expressed that any overt connections to Hinduism, despite a Hindu backdrop, were muted at best.
“Much of the movie focused on meditation, devotion, inward reflection and finding the divine within -- all integral aspects of Hindu philosophy and practice,” said HAF Executive Council Member, Sachi Lamb. “But I only remember hearing the word ‘Hindu’ once, and I don’t think it was very clear that the techniques Gilbert embraced on her spiritual journey were Hindu despite her being at an obviously Hindu ashram meeting Hindu spiritual guides.”  
Another area of concern for HAF viewers was the film’s representation of yoga.  Last year, the Foundation launched its Take Back Yoga campaign, highlighting the Hindu roots of yoga.  “Eat, Pray, Love” included several scenes of meditation and chanting, both yogic practices, but avoided linking them with what is commonly known as yoga in the West.
“Most Hindus and Yogis would easily recognize the meditations and kirtan shown in the film as part of the practice of yoga, but since most Americans associate only asanas, or physical postures, with yoga, the connection was weak, if at all,” said one HAF pre-screener.
Overall, pre-screeners enjoyed the film and were grateful that Columbia Pictures involved a prominent Hindu advocacy organization in the pre-screening process.
“It’s a big step for the Hindu American community that we’re participating in events like these,” added Lamb.  “In fact, this is HAF’s second film pre-screening.  In 2008, the Foundation pre-screened the Love Guru.  So similar to other faith groups, such as Christians and Jews who were offered pre-screenings of “The Passion of the Christ” a few years ago to assess it for religious sensitivities, HAF is pleased to provide a Hindu American voice appraising the way Hinduism is represented in popular culture.”
The film is an adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Eat, Pray, Love” which was first published in 2006 and recounts the authors personal travels through Italy, India, and Indonesia.  During Gilbert’s time in India, she resides in an ashram and attempts to master the art of meditation and self reflection.