In our consumer capitalist society, it should surprise no one that religion is for sale as never before. From jewellery to meditation pillows to tourist retreats, Eastern religious traditions are imitated, rebranded as ‘new age’ or ‘spiritual’, and marketed as an answer to suffering in the modern world. For the secular individual, the ‘mystical’ and ‘exotic’ East is offered as a path to enlightenment and inner peace.
In Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi, Sophia Arjana asks what happens when different cultures and religious traditions are turned into products to be sold for profit. How does it affect our conception of the peoples and places these ideas are taken from? And can we ever reconcile the individual’s virtuous pursuit of self-improvement with the lucrative colonial project that is the commercialisation of mysticism?