|Kumare Promotional Poster|
To record the documentary, American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi transformed himself into Sri Kumaré, an enlightened guru from a fictional village in India, by adopting a fake Indian accent and growing out his hair and beard. In the film, Kumaré travels to Arizona to spread his made-up philosophy and gain sincere followers.Depending upon your point of view, the film could be considered a swindler's how-to instructional video, a cautionary tale for spiritual seekers, or more likely something in between--maybe even something with a spiritual message.
The film chronicles the developing relationships between several individuals open to accepting a spiritual guru, and a would-be "guru" who needs such followers for his experiment. In time, "Kumare" begins to question his role in giving spiritual advice to those who've placed their trust in him. As the story evolves before us on screen, instead of ending his relationship with his followers by disappearing back to his village in a faraway, mystical land, the filmmaker will reveal to them all his true identity...
In the end, the filmmaker will confide in us his wondering if he has actually become Kumare or maybe channels Kumare in some way. Also in the end, several of the seekers will be thrilled with the underlying revelation while others will storm out in disgust at having been duped.
There are many facets to examine here. From my own view as an individual who by day counsels clients in seeing through the smoke and mirrors of sales pitches and adversarial negotiations, keeping them rooted in their own objectives, my mind recalled several "They're drinking the Kool-Aid" moments from the conference room.
It also dredged up examples from my years moving through martial arts and spiritual circles...
Content I'd understood what I saw, I let it go and moved along to whatever was next in the queue... until an acquaintance on the internet I found in zen circles posted he'd watched the movie and enjoyed it. That prompted a friendly "I enjoyed that one too" from me. He asked me then if I had any idea about to what extent the movie had been scripted...
I told him, essentially, that my answer would surely depend upon--and reveal--who I believe this person to be in relation to me.
That was presumably a zennish answer since we've discussed zen before--you see the relationship revealed in the response--but it was also a reminder that we are only interacting voices on the internet, where we can create and present ourselves with any identity that we wish... just like in the movie.
But at face value, the question was interesting, no? What leads us to accept any assertion at face value?
In the end, some guy I never heard of said on film that he was making a film about this false guru experiment presented his film at the SXSW festival in 2011. where it received the festival's Feature Film Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature... well, at least according to Wikipedia. Maybe having burned himself as a guru he really has become accepted as a filmmaker--now with additional marketing buzz!
Fact or fiction, it's largely our stories that guide us. So, what's your story? Before you answer, keep in mind that it's wrong to lie! What did you see watching the movie?