Hindu-inspired Meditation Movements in Norway: TM, Acem and the Art of Living Foundation
Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen [+]
University of Tromsø, Norway
This chapter aims to present Indian inspiration in the New Age field in Norway, by example of the Art of Living Foundation (AoL), an Indian-oriented New Religious Movement (INRM). Based on survey data and supporting literature two aspects will be in focus, namely indigenization processes and gender/ health relations. Indigenization processes occur as a movement expands to a new country, away from its original cultural context. This chapter will examine some differences between the AoL organizations and AoL practitioners in Norway and India, both through observational and survey data, and highlight some aspects of AoL that may be particular in a Norwegian (or Western European) environment. Some Indian-inspired practices (like asana yoga) already are, or will soon be, an integral part of mainstream culture in Norway, while others (like guru devotion) still are quite ‘un-Norwegian’, even in AoL. AoL demographic data, although limited, may shed some light on who practitioners are, the importance of ‘Indianness’ to them, and the indigenization of Indian movements as they surface in a new context. However, the data also tells us about aspects of gender and health among the practitioners. A majority of AoL practitioners in Norway is female, as is the trend within the wider New Age-field. Recent scholarship indicates a correlation between gender and health-related issues, and NRM ‘conversion’ and practice. The Norwegian AoL survey data supports this correlation. The main findings of this chapter is that, one, there is indigenization processes at play in AoL Norway. Second, the engagement of (especially) the female majority in AoL seems to rely on a strong movement towards the improvement of physical and mental (and spiritual?) health.