Here is an interesting tale of how art imitates life. Kumare is a story about what happened when Vikram Gandhi decided to be a ‘guru’ for a while – and managed to attract a following of sincere devotees. And his friend filmed the whole thing with three cameras.
Vikram is an American of Indian parentage who knew a little about religion, Hinduism and yoga. He wanted to see how readily he would be accepted by spiritual seekers if he adopted the appearance, speech and mannerisms of a ‘guru.’ So he went back to yoga classes, grew his hair and beard for the genuine guru look, created an online identity – then ‘came to America.’
The result is a sad indictment of our times – when the external appearances of a ‘guru’ coupled with the spiritual longings of under-informed and easily-pleased seekers can produce an ardent following of would-be disciples in just a short time.
‘Kumare’ made up his own Sanskrit slogans and chants – even translating the motto of the U.S. Marines: ‘Be all that you can be’ – so that it sounded like an ancient Upanishadic aphorism.
The problem is that most people do not know the symptoms of a guru, his external and internal characteristics. They consequently tend to project their spiritual aspirations onto someone who matches their prior notions of what such a spiritual person should be.
Some have said that even making this film would have destroyed the fledgling faith of those who fell for their ‘guru.’ That once caught out – and caught out on film before the eyes of the world – they would be much less likely to repose their trust in anyone else. I can understand that objection, and I have decades of personal experience of it. However, I feel that the merit of this successful duping of the American public will ultimately be that western culture itself becomes more circumspect about trusting someone because of exotic appearances only. Hopefully people who want to know about gurus will turn to the source literature on the subject and become able to discern genuine manifestations of spirituality from superficial appearances.
Below: Film teaser and interview