Hinduism and globalization

Gurus, yoga and migration in northern Europe

Authored by: Knut A. Jacobsen

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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In the study of contemporary Hinduism, it has become increasingly difficult to treat India and the West apart. Not only has Hinduism become a ‘Western religion’, with millions of Hindus living in Europe and North America and the establishment of hundreds or perhaps thousands of Hindu temples, but influences from India and the West have been going back and forth for centuries in circular movements to create transcultural religious ideas and practices. Hindu gurus (see Jacobsen 2011a) 1 already more than 100 years ago adapted Hinduism to Western context (de Michelis 2004; Saha 2007: 489): Vivekananda promoted ‘a “Hindu spirituality” largely created by Orientalism and adopted in the anticlerical and anticolonial rhetorics of Theosophy’ (Van der Veer 2001: 73); European philological scholarship influenced the creations of written texts of oral Hindu traditions and critical editions of Hindu written textual traditions and innovative Hindu teachers adopted Western traditions of gymnastics and blended it with yoga philosophy. Already in the 1840s in Sri Lanka the Hindu intellectual Arumuga Navalar created a Hindu public by utilizing the methods of Western philology and Christian missionary teaching (Jacobsen 2013a). In India the incorporation into Hinduism of Western religious traditions had been important already under the leadership of Rammohun Roy (1772–1833). Such trans-cultural ideas and practices have been developed by both Indian and European actors and by movements of people and ideas, probably for centuries, but intensified during the last 300 years with the British presence in India (Van der Veer 2001). During that same period Hinduism expanded beyond South Asia and attained a global presence and today Hindus live in most countries in the world.

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