AoL East and West - A Study of the Art of Living Foundation - Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen

Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen [+-]
University of Tromsø.
Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen is currently a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø. Her research interests include new religious movements (especially Indian-oriented movements) and the New Age, religion and gender, and religion and nature. She has published a number of articles (including on Art of Living) and book reviews in international academic journals, and has several articles forthcoming. Additionally she is co-editor of the forthcoming Nordic New Religions (Brill),
Milda Alisauskiene [+-]
Vytautas Magnus University
Associate professor at Department of Sociology, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania Director of New Religions Research and Information Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania
James R. Lewis [+-]
Wuhan University
James R. Lewis is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University. He is well-published in the field of new religious movements. His publications and edited volumes include The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, Controversial New Religions (with Jesper Petersen), Scientology, Children of Jesus and Mary (with Nicholas Levine), and, most recently, Violence and New Religious Movements.


The question of how imported religions adapt to Western culture is a question of ‘indigenization,’ an area of study traditionally focused on Christianity’s adaptation to the cultures of missionized societies. In her fieldwork, Tøllefsen observed that strong guru devotion (guru puja: literally, guru ‘worship’) – which is an important component of AoL in India – is quite muted in Norway, and is not a part of most Norwegian adherents’ practice. AoL has successfully presented Sudarshan Kriya as a ‘scientific’ technique (Tøllefsen 2011), stripped clean of most of its original Hindu religious associations. With respect to gender issues in particular, we will seek to understand how AoL has adapted to Western – and more specifically Nordic – norms of gender equality. Have women been able to rise to positions of leadership in the Art of Living Foundation or have they been expected to assume traditional roles? The top leadership of AoL India appears to be all male while the leadership in Norway is more balanced. Does this pattern carry over to other European countries?

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Bårdsen Tøllefsen, Inga; Ališauskienė, Milda; Lewis, James R.. Indigenization. AoL East and West - A Study of the Art of Living Foundation. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2024. ISBN 9781781791332. Date accessed: 28 Jan 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.22338. Oct 2024

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