Trisha Paytas is known for their bizarre content online. They wield sensationalism as a powerful marketing tool, collecting millions of views with every stunt, each more outlandish than the last. 

This time, Trisha claims to be a follower of the Hare Krishna movement, formally known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Their recent fixation has translated into a barrage of TikTok videos of them chanting, meditating, and providing followers with manifestation ‘mantras’. 

One of my personal favourites is this laughably horrifying video of Trisha taking a selfie video while a Hare Krishna chant plays in the background, inexplicably captioned ‘I have a third eye’. 

Trisha also graced us with a vlog of them at an ISKCON temple, titled ‘Visiting Hare Krishna Temple for the First Time + TEMPLE HAUL!’

They whipped out an evil-eye bracelet (to ward off the ‘stink-eye’, as they so eloquently put it), copies of the Bhagavad Gita (comically mispronounced), an idol of Krishna, (while hilariously commenting,‘I still don’t know his name’), and a set of bindis (the absolute gall). 

At the rate Trisha’s being dragged on Brown TikTok, they’re really, really going to need those bracelets.

Trisha’s ‘devotion’ to the Hare Krishnas is a far cry from cultural appreciation.The vlog makes it painfully clear that their understanding of Hinduism is superficial, and at best, fueled by an almost patronizing fascination. 

After merely days of following the Hare Krishnas, Trisha had no qualms taking to the Internet, distributing their half-baked gyaan all the while, raking in views.

It goes without saying that their antics are Problematic™, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. 

Neither Trisha nor ISKCON is free from controversy -- however, this is not the first time that a white person is co-opting South Asian spirituality, and it certainly won’t be the last.

But watching Trisha confidently spewing utter nonsense about Hinduism online had me marveling at the ease and comfort with which white folks latch on to Indian culture.

Beneath all the nuanced discourse about cultural appropriation, the unspoken truth is that goras aren’t the only ones profiting off of it.

Although South Asians online are growing tired of the annoyingly widespread Eat Pray Love trope, the Indian tourism industry definitely isn’t. 

The ever-growing tide of Westerners using spirituality and mysticism -- specifically Hinduism -- as an accessory has only fueled  the mainland’s economy. Trisha’s ‘TEMPLE HAUL!’, while somewhat laughable and frankly, disrespectful, points to a much larger phenomenon in India: the capitalization of its sacred practices by India itself. 

Growing up in Mumbai, the sight of a white tourist roaming the streets in this exact outfit was pretty familiar. It was common knowledge that the ‘hippie-types’, as they were referred to, were frequently overcharged in baazaars and lured by charlatans posing as Hindu priests. Yoga retreats and overpriced stints at ashrams, too, relied on the soul-searching white tourist. 

Even the bands of Hare Krishna followers dancing barefoot in the streets of Mumbai were often, you guessed it, white. 

This cliche has been around for decades in India. While we attempt to cancel the foolishness that is cultural appropriation, the fact remains that this Western fantasy is promoted by the mainland. 

This conveniently whittled-down version of Hinduism - yoga, mindfulness, chanting, vegetarianism - is neatly packaged and sold to Western tourists. More often than not, these tourists are white, and are almost never informed about the power dynamics of cultural appropriation.

I guess nuance is bad for the economy. 

Nevertheless, the complex issue of cultural and spiritual appropriation, despite its apparent profitability, remains harmful. By promoting a rose-tinted version of an ancient, intricate and deeply flawed religion, the community shirks its responsibility in favour of financial gain. 

So, what do we do when we find out we’re complicit? How do we check an entire industry bent on keeping this fantasy alive? Is it even possible?

While this additional layer to the debate invites more questions than answers, it is a crucial and unspoken one. If we really are setting out to deconstruct cultural appropriation in the West, the fight begins at home.

About the author

Anuja Bhatt/@bhattcheeks_

Anuja is an international student at the University of British Columbia, with a concentration in mental health and interpersonal development. When she isn’t having an existential crisis, you may find her dancing, taking pictures of her cat or yelling at unclejis. When she is having an existential crisis, you’ll probably find her in a window seat on the 99, listening to Mohammed Rafi and pretending she’s in a movie.

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