International actors take over from popular musicians like Beatles to explore religions across the world, especially those that originate from India.

The first time Indian religious elements cropped up in the international entertainment arena was when Beatles guitarist George Harrison evinced an interest in Hinduism. A believer of Krishna, he turned vegetarian and introduced the Hare Krishna mantra. Later, pop singers Madonna would explore the Sanskrit prayer Shanti/Ashtangi chant in her songs, besides exploring the Indian shringar with bindi, mehndi and the works. Androgynous singer Boy George, a Buddhist follower, teamed up with Indian songstress Asha Bhosle to render the popular Bow Down Mister with its predominant chants of Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

Julia Roberts

The pretty lady with the mega-watt smile took the entertainment industry by surprise when she revealed one day that she had converted. “I am a Hindu,” announced Julia Roberts, who, it’s believed, converted during the making of the film Eat, Pray and Love. It is said that she got drawn to the religion after seeing a picture of Hanuman. “‘I’m definitely a practising Hindu. Golly, I’ve been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life. Next time, I want to be just something quiet and supporting,” the actress said in an interview, adding that her entire family — husband, cameraman Daniel Moder and three children – Hazel, Phinnaeus and Henry — go to the temple regularly.

Hugh Jackman

Son of a born-again Christian, Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman recently revealed about dabbling in different forms of mysticism. He reportedly said , “The scriptures that we follow are a mixture between the West and the East and would be from Socrates to the Upanishads, to the Bhagavad Gita, to a number of different texts..”

Inclined to Vedic tradition, he says practical philosophy suits his sensibilities, as it is non-confrontational. “The basic philosophy is that if Buddha and Krishna and Jesus were all at a dinner table together, they wouldn’t be arguing,” he’s reported to have explained. The actor is known to carry a Sanskrit inscription on his wedding ring; it reads as : ‘Om paramar mainamar’ which means ‘We dedicate our union to a greater source’.

Russell Brand

British actor and comedian, Russsell Brand’s interest in Hinduism came to the fore when he would end a performance with a ‘Hare Krishna’. The invocation initially was seen as a publicity stunt given his track record to be frivolous. He then flaunted a Sanskrit tattoo, which read ‘Anugacchatu Pravaha’, which means: ‘Go with the flow’. Finally, when he tied the knot with his then pop singer girlfriend, Katy Perry, he chose to do so in the Hindu tradition in a palace in India. The marriage was short-lived, but his tryst with the religion is going strong. Brand feels indebted to the Hare Krishna movement as it helped him overcome his wild life of drugs and sex.

The Smith family

Will Smith and his family often find themselves in the eye of some serious spiritual speculation. Born a Christian, Smith distances himself from anything religious, and yet the whispers around him don’t stop. It’s been reported that the actor had converted to Islam — speculation triggered off when the actor said that after playing Muhammad Ali, his understanding of Islam and God had widened. Grapevine also stated that the actor-singer-producer used to keep a Quran and a praying cloth in his room. What is however known is that Smith has donated millions to Christian ministries and Scientology organisations. The latest development on the actor’s homefront is that his kids — Willow (15) and Jade (15) — are Osho followers. The siblings have posted online messages of the celebrated guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who was known for his liberal views on relationships and free sex.

Buddhism rules Hollywood

The glamouratti of Hollywood seems naturally inclined to adapt to Buddhism — a religion that propagates peace and detachment. A look at some of them:

Richard Gere

The actor is often credited to have pioneered the Buddhism movement in Hollywood.

Steven Seagal

A natural progression of his time spent in Japan to learn martial arts, he’s been a steadfast follower of Buddhism and acupuncture and is also recognised as an incarnate of a Tibetan lama by the disciples.


Angelina Jolie’s interest in Buddhism triggered off with the adoption of her son Maddox, who’s from Cambodia. She got a tattoo done in Khmer, which is part of Buddhist script. Her partner Brad Pitt too has shown keen interest in Buddhism.

Uma Thurman

The actress was brought up as a Buddhist by her dad, who was the first Westerner to be hailed as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Uma gets her name from the Tibetan name ‘Dbuma Chenpo’, which means ‘the great middle way’.

Robert Downey Jr

The Iron Man star is the latest entrant to the Buddhist bandwagon. He called himself a Jewish Buddhist (often referred to as JuBu) — that is, a person with a Jew background who practises Buddhism.

Sharon Stone

A former member of Scientology, Sharon Stone got introduced to Buddhism by her co-star Richard Gere; she then converted to Tibetan Buddhism.


Author: Priya Sugathan,

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