Today I saw a lone Hare Krishna chanting the mantra and peddling copies of the Bhagavad Gita. He was a white man who looked to be in his 20s. And it got me wondering- what is the attraction of eastern religion to westerners, especially WASPs?
First of all, attraction to cultures outside one’s own is seen around the world. They are seen as exotic and something different and refreshing. WASPs are the default in British and American society. Even those of us not from WASP backgrounds have a “WASP affinity” for this reason. Anything outside the sphere of white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism is infinitely more attractive than a Christian background because a Christian background is the default- even if raised completely secular, most people will still celebrate or know of Christmas and Easter. Not to mention there is also a hint of rebellion against the “accept Jesus or go to hell” thinking of conservative/evangelical Protestants. The Bhagavad Gita has passages such as this:
“With whatever motive people worship Me, I fulfill their desires accordingly.”
Such a far cry from evangelical thinking and a perfect statement of the ultimate goal of all faiths.
I would like to finish by saying that this is not an attack on WASPs. I have many great friends who are WASPs and recognise that not every single WASP’s thinking falls into the discussion above. It just interested me that most ISKCON/Hare Krishna converts are WASPs and I set out to find out why.