'The Love Guru': Lessons for Hindus

With 'The Love Guru' about to hit American theaters, Hindus must ask themselves: How will we handle this film?

As anyone who has ever told a "How many _____ does it take to change a light bulb?" joke knows, humor can be tricky. Attempting religious humor can be downright dangerous. On the one hand, we fear offending people's cherished beliefs; on the other, spiritual growth seems to necessitate that--from time to time, we all learn to not take ourselves quite so seriously.



"

The Love Guru,"

a comedy starring funnyman Mike Myers in his first original character since the popular "Austin Powers" films, hits American theaters June 20, 2008. The movie tells the story of Pitka, a westerner raised at a Hindu ashram who grows up to be a high-profile and eccentric holy man come West.



As entertaining as the movie promises to be, the

film's trailer

and posters have many Hindu-Americans concerned that it will mock their faith. The saffron-colored cloth that the lecherous Pitka wears is supposed to signify a celibate monk or teacher in the Hindu faith and is analogous to the white collar of a Catholic priest. The relationship between guru and disciple is a central and sacred theme within Hinduism. Some Hindus worry that the silliness and bawdy humor of the movie will taint the tradition, especially in the eyes of Americans who may not have much other exposure to Hinduism.



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Already there are two divergent views gaining traction within the Hindu-American community. The first seems to assume the worst about the film. Those who subscribe to this view take the approach that a juvenile comedy that engages Hinduism as a topic is, on its face, sure to be offensive and hurtful to Hindus and must be protested in strong terms.



The second view, by contrast, seeks to avoid confrontation altogether. This view is sometimes couched in religious terminology. Hinduism, advocates of this view remind us, is all about tolerance, open-mindedness, and forgiveness: "Even if it is offensive, better to just ignore it," these proponents advise.



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