I watched the documentary Kumare a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it despite some initial reservations. I had read positive reviews for this indie production, but the idea of a guy tricking strangers into believing that he was a guru sounded mean spirited. Mocking the spiritually inclined has become a popular sport in the media, and this documentary sounded like more of the same. Cynicism may have played some part in the motivation of the film makers, but Kumare is a surprisingly spiritual movie.
Vikram Gandhi is from the US, but he grew up in a traditionally Indian household. He seems to have become a bit disillusioned with what he saw as fake spiritual gurus coming to the west to make money. He traveled to India and decided that many of the gurus he met while there were just as fake as the ones who went to the US. These discoveries gave Vikram the idea for his documentary. He grew his hair, put on a fake Indian accent, and changed his name to Kumare. He set himself up as a guru visiting the US and soon began to accumulate followers. He filmed the whole thing.
The Teachings of Guru Kumare
There are many points during this movie when I felt myself cringing because of the actions of Kumare. He creates his own silly chants and yoga postures, and his followers are happy to follow his instructions. Some of them even claim on camera that he is the most genuine guru that they have ever met. What does this say about all those other gurus out there?
The most amazing thing about Kumare is when his teaching begins to benefit the lives of the people he comes in contact with. It is like by having a guru it gives them permission to begin improving their own lives. His success is probably due to the truth contained within his core teachings – he keeps telling his students that he is just a mirror and that the only guru they need is inside of them. He repeatedly tells these followers that he is not who they think he is, but they do not seem to even guess how much truth he is speaking at these times.
Despite being a complete fraud Kumare turns out to be a powerful teacher with a strong and meaningful message. I found three important teachings in this documentary:
• It is incredibly easy for somebody to pretend to be spiritual or enlightened.
• The fact that a guru is pretending does not prevent the people who are inspired by him or her from making real progress in their life.
• The only guru who fully deserves our trust is already inside of us now. We don’t really need any other guru.
These are teachings that have already become an important part of my thinking, but it was helpful to see them demonstrated in such a powerful way.
By the end of the movie Kumare appears to be as dependent on his students as they are on him. He struggles to reveal his true identity, and it is a bit upsetting to watch. It is this revelation though, that provides the most important spiritual lesson for his students. They learn that they were the real source of the positive changes in their lives. The final truth is that the only power that a guru has is the power that we give to them.