Like Sepia Mutiny, I find certain aspects of the Hindu fundamentalist campaign against the upcoming Mike Myers comedy, "The Love Guru," to be irresistibly hysterical. Call me heathen, call me insensitive, but the chart created by the Spiritual Science Research Foundation listing the various punishments for Love Guru-related sins is difficult for an unbeliever to take seriously.
The penalty for watching "The Love Guru" "for entertainment even after knowing the spiritual science/significance" of the Guru in Hindu culture? Five demerits and a 100-year stay in the 1st region of hell.
The penalty for making the movie in the first place? Thirty demerits and 1,000 years in the 2nd region of hell.
It could be worse -- there are seven total regions of hell, and they get nastier as they go along.
You can learn much more about the campaign against "The Love Guru" at the Web site for the Hindu right-wing group Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, under the sub-section: "News >> Denigrations >> Saints & Hindu Icons."
But after reflecting a little further, I find my smile fading. These groups don't just campaign against what they see as sacrilegious portraits of Hindu culture in the Western media. They also actively organize and celebrate book burnings, crusades against inter-faith marriage, riots and vandalism over what they regard as impious artistic representations, and constantly work to inflame Muslim-Hindu relations in India.
How the World Works has previously explored this topic, in the posts "In Karnataka, the Sword of Tipu Sultan Still Cuts Deep," "History and Hindu Nationalism: A Call to Arms," and "Letter to a Young American Hindu." And while I can't say I'm a fan of Mike Myers' particular brand of humor, I know which side I'm on if forced to choose between his sophomoric rudeness and Hindu fundamentalist intolerance.
I'm with Deepak Chopra, who argued that the filmmakers shouldn't have tried to "placate" Hindu religious leaders by inviting them to a screening of the film. Instead, "I would make fun of them (the Hindu groups). I would say your faith is so weak that a comedy can offend you."