A movie on Sri Kumaré, the Guru

Sri Kumaré is an enlightened guru from the East who has come to America to spread his teachings. Kumaré sets off to Phoenix, Arizona to build a following. He takes with him two disciples — Kristen to teach yoga and Purva to book events — who will become Kumaré’s first followers and greatest public messengers.

At first it is easier than he imagined — everywhere he goes, people revere him because of how he looks and behaves, despite his lack of a substantive teaching. When people ask to be blessed, Kumaré tells them that when their foreheads are pressed against his, a blue light will shoot onto them from his head.  Then something amazing happens. People really start to feel the blue light. After three months in Phoenix, Kumaré has found a group of devoted students who embrace him as a true spiritual teacher.

More and more people begin showing up to his events, and soon a core group of devoted students emerge.  Kumaré builds his teaching around the one thing he feels strongly about: that his disciples don’t need a guru — that the guru is inside each of us. He calls his teaching The Mirror — Kumaré is only a mirror that people can use to gaze upon their own infinite potential, which is already deep inside themselves. Kumaré begins to proclaim this message, and all who hear it are receptive. At the same time, something happens which Kumaré could never have anticipated: for the first time he starts to feel the blue light himself.

Beneath his long beard, deep penetrating eyes, and his endless smile, Kumaré has a secret he is about to unveil to his disciples: he is not real. Kumaré is really Vikram Gandhi, an American filmmaker from New Jersey who wanted to see if he could transform himself into a guru and build a following of real people [1].

You can see a couple of clips from this recently released movie below.  The website he created while masquerading as a Guru is also still available : http://www.kumare.org

There is truth in Yoga. At the same time, it is also difficult to distinguish the real Guru from the fake one.  This movie brilliantly demonstrates how easy it is to masquerade as a Guru.  When you enter an atmosphere permeated with incense and devotional chanting, it disrupts the senses and triggers something deep within the emotional core.  In this vulnerable phase, the wall of rationality dissolves and you become awed by the Guru in front of you and eventually start attributing all kinds of magical powers to him or her.

Sri Aurobindo once observed that aspirants guard jealously many of the things that the Divine wanted them to surrender, but the one thing they did surrender with alacrity was common sense [2].

Exclusive clip

Official trailer

References

  1. The description of the movie comes from http://kumaremovie.com/synopsis
  2. Dilip Kumar Roy. Sri Aurobindo came to me, Appendix I.

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  2. Anandamayi Ma as the Guru
  3. How does a Guru act?
  4. Can I have more than one Guru?
  5. Handling Rejection by the Guru
  6. Obsessive-compulsive spirituality
  7. Explaining the Ascent-Descent in Integral Yoga
  8. Are Indians more spiritual?
  9. How an Egyptian discovered Sri Aurobindo
  10. The subtle sounds which indicate progress in Yoga
  11. Four austerities and four liberations
  12. Why does Yoga give you a “high”?
  13. Silviu Craciunas has a dream of Sri Aurobindo
  14. Sri Aurobindo’s interaction with an American soldier during World War II
  15. Summary of Savitri by Jyotipriya (Dr Judith Tyberg)
  16. Various ways in which the Kundalini rises

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19 thoughts on “A movie on Sri Kumaré, the Guru

  1. Gordana

    I said I would avoid to argue and debate, however, this time I will juggle a bit with some argumentation – but mainly from a mundane point of view not from the inner(spiritual).
    I watched Kumare a month ago and shared it among some friends.
    My congratulations to Vicram for his boldness and sincerity.
    He grew up in the USA and perhaps this is the reason of his escaping the common Hindu consciousness concerning the question of Gurus, or to be more precise: ‘the unquestionably of the question of Guru.”..;-))) funny..I apologies, I don’t mean to offend anyone, I wish it’s just my subjective impression but on Facebook many times I see confirmation of my impression (e.g. – two years ago a self-proclaimed celibate Guru was shot on a video tape in a quite a ‘not-celibate situation’ (;-)))) with his female disciple and this footage was broadcasted on TV…it’s been over two years after the incident but on Facebook I see some disciples from India (mostly females) who still follow him and defend the holiness of their Guru, even by re-definition of the word bramacharya to suit their beliefs….hm!?!.)
    I’ve tracked this topic for 2-3 years on internet ………oh, this is quite a hot and sensational topic and equally sad….
    I started to put the names of Gurus for whom there are suspicions, allegations, and mostly evidence of any form of abuse. The length of the list shocked me. Many names on the list, – including many famous names, including names of Gurus who undoubtedly had great positive inspirational impact to individuals, masses and humanity in general, Gurus from East and West but mostly Gurus from East who came to the West. Even if we sieve the chaff i.e. disregard the unproved allegation, the list is still shockingly long and my intuition tells me that much of it is true, plus I can only imagine how many stories are hidden and buried into oblivion.
    Gurus, disciples, seekers usually say that Guru’s ways are beyond comprehension of the ordinary human – probably it is so – well OK, but what belongs to the inner world will evolve according to the God’s Will, yet, as for the outer world – NO!!! – on this planet, dharma is precise codex and it is for everyone who lives on the planet Earth! And by the term ‘outer world’, I mainly and especially refer to the system which is based on the arbitrary grounds. The system shouldn’t regard the Gurus above the laws. Everybody should be equal to the laws. Gurus should be even leading examples. So far, my respect for treating this issue goes only to the USA. Unfortunately, it seems that the system of India has failed on this, even for quite disturbing cases of abuse.
    There are many documents, personal accounts, forums about this on internet. Professionals and others have been searching for answers and provided volumes of it. One could find psychological profiles of abusive Gurus, but according to me probably each case is different. If only it is a question of deliberate scam – oh, it would be much easier to handle such cases – but it is more complex. I often contemplate on something that the Mother said about sincerity – (I can’t find the reference now). She says that it is very hard to be totally sincere because it is pretty much connected with our subconscious. Of course we should always act out of sincerity but the point is that sincerity is a process, as the process unfolds we are also become conscious and able to be more sincere. And according to me this is never ending process (just as all spiritual processes). I’ve mentioned in regard to this problem, because I hint to the possibility of self-deception which might emerge on subtler and subtler levels…who knows?!?
    Regardless of everything, I feel hope that if dedication, aspiration, sincerity of disciples and seekers is genuine and ever-increasing – there is no problem for the disciples. A bit awareness about this issue is perhaps OK – especially if they notice someone dear to us who suffers from abuse of a Guru or Ashram institution or any religious authority or institution. We should all care for each other even if we have respect and our ideals – I am telling you this because I have witness things….oh, any of us can rise and slip, and do ridiculous and even harmful things within a spiritual community. someone may say ‘no not me, ..oh yes, you too, believe it or not this happens often, regardless of how intelligent, pure, good-hearted one is..
    My dear fellows of this planet, the poor people of the planet Earth are still waiting for the Budha Maitreya …Budha the Friend…when I consider all the above, I understand why….just like Arjuna and Krishna friendship ..poor Arjuna with his doubts, despondency, mistakes – OK – it’s just learning…as far as I read the text, Krishna was always friendly with his disciple.
    I hope that Buddha Maitreya will be the new collective consciousness. I hope in the future there will be no more need for Ashrams and individual authorities (some spiritual giants already paved the un-trodden paths) and I hope that the collective conspicuousness has already reached the critical mass and is more and more positive, and more and more enlightened which can help individual who seek to find their inner own Guru….
    In the next in-box I will post something from Evening Talks.

    Reply
    1. Gordana

      Sorry for the mistakes – I posted the comment this afternoon without re-reading it. I am reading it now and noticing the mistakes…;-) I still think that I manged to convey the gist and the main points, but if anyone doesn’t understand feel free to ask….

      Reply
    2. Sandeep Post author

      Gordana: two years ago a self-proclaimed celibate Guru was shot on a video tape in a quite a ‘not-celibate situation’ with his female disciple ….on Facebook I see some disciples from India (mostly females) who still follow him and defend the holiness of their Guru

      There can be a variety of reasons for those disciples defending that wily charlatan

      1) Sectarianism: They hail from the same region or sect as the charlatan. They desperately want one of their own to succeed! They may be exhibiting cognitive dissonance

      2) Conspiracy theories: They think some external agency is eager to pull down their Guru, so they persist in defending him despite all evidence to the contrary.

      3) Gullibility: Most of the followers are not psychologically ready for the spiritual path, but they turn to it because it provides a convenient escape from the hardships of life. Such people can’t tell right from wrong.

      4) Economic reasons: India does not have a government-run welfare system unlike Western countries. The followers need the Guru to succeed for their own survival. They are invested in the corrupt system spawned by the Guru.

      Gordana: So far, my respect for treating this issue goes only to the USA. Unfortunately, it seems that the system of India has failed on this, even for quite disturbing cases of abuse.

      The judicial system is working but it is just a little slow.

      Reply
  2. Gordana

    Evening Talks by Purani:
    * 22nd December 1938.
    —————————–
    Then Sri Aurobindo asked: Do you know anything about M.?
    Disciple: My impression was not favourable. I was not personally attracted by him.
    Sri Aurobindo: When I saw his photo I had an impression that he is a man with strong vital power. When I saw that he was advertising about himself as Messiah I began to doubt his genuineness. His sadhana seems to be in the vital and it is in these cases that the power descends and unfortunately people are attracted by these powers. In the spiritual and the psychics even in mental sadhana, power can come, but it comes automatically without one asking for it.
    Y. was another M. with a powerful vital being. At one time I had strong hopes about him. But people whose sadhana is on a vital basis pass into what I have called the Intermediate Zone and hardly go beyond the vital. It is like a jungle and it is comparatively much easy with those people who are weak and have no such power. He used to think that he had put himself in the Divine’s hand and the Divine is in him. We had to be severe with him to disillusion him of his idea. That is why he could not remain here. He went back and became a guru with about thirty or forty disciples around him. Gurugiri (Master-ship) comes very often to these people. He did all that in my name which I heartily disliked. Unfortunately his mind was not equally powerfully developed as his vital. He had the fighter’s mind not the thinker’s. We often put a strong force on him and as a result he used to become very lucid for a time and he could see his wrongs. But immediately his vital rushed back and took control of his mind, it all used to be wiped out. If his mind had been as developed perhaps he would have been able to retain the clarity. The intellect helps one to separate oneself from the vital and look at it dispassionately. The mind also can deceive but not so much. M. is another of this type.
    Disciple: Why did he go away from here?
    Sri Aurobindo: Because he wanted to be an Avatar and because he could not get rid of the attachment to his work. He is very unscrupulous.
    Disciple: Has he some power?
    Sri Aurobindo: Yes. But not an occult power like the others. Before that he was quite an ordinary man with some possibilities. When I came out of the jail, you know, I was staying in his house and I was full of certain force. He got a share of it.
    Disciple: How?
    Sri Aurobindo: He was doing some kind of yoga. I gave him some instructions. From them he got his power.
    Disciple: Was he working on your idea?
    Sri Aurobindo: When I was leaving Bengal I thought it might be possible to work through him on condition that he remained faithful to me. That he could never be. His own self came to the front though the original push was from me, now it is not my force that is working there. These things become easily unspiritualised.
    Disciple: In his “Jivan Sangini” he makes a lot of fuss over his wife.
    Sri Aurobindo: She struck me as a common-place woman though a good woman. She was a better woman than he as a man. I saw her only once by chance as she was not used to come out before people.
    Disciple: He had developed a powerful Bengali style.
    Sri Aurobindo: Is that so? He was once Translating the Veda in Bengali.
    Disciple: His Bengali, you know, was like Christian Missionary’s Bengali. You know what it is like.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author


      Y. was another M. with a powerful vital being. At one time I had strong hopes about him. …He went back and became a guru with about thirty or forty disciples around him. Gurugiri (Master-ship) comes very often to these people. He did all that in my name which I heartily disliked….Because he wanted to be an Avatar and because he could not get rid of the attachment to his work. He is very unscrupulous….When I came out of the jail, you know, I was staying in his house and I was full of certain force. He got a share of it….In his “Jivan Sangini” he makes a lot of fuss over his wife.

      Based on these remarks, one can deduce that the person “Y” being referred to is Motilal Roy. Sri Aurobindo stayed at his house in Chandernagore for a few months before moving to Pondicherry. It was Motilal who wrote the book “Amar Jivan Sangini”(My Life’s Partner) and founded the Pravartak group.

      Sri Aurobindo completely dissociated from Motilal in 1920. The above passage is of historical interest because it tells us why this dissociation occurred.

      Reply
    2. Sandeep Post author

      Do you know anything about M.?
      Disciple: My impression was not favourable. I was not personally attracted by him.
      Sri Aurobindo: When I saw his photo I had an impression that he is a man with strong vital power. When I saw that he was advertising about himself as Messiah I began to doubt his genuineness

      The person “M” is Meher Baba whose name is explicitly mentioned in Nirodbaran’s version of the Evening Talks (i.e. his book Talks with Sri Aurobindo)

      Reply
  3. mike

    lt was said a long time ago that you can find a Guru under every stone in lndia and l can well believe it lol.
    l’m of the opinion [after reading about some of the many charlatans out there] that there must be very few genuinely celibate guru’s in the world.
    l’m not sure about all the paedophile accusations levelled at guru’s like sai baba, though some are hard to ignore.
    lt’s strange that SA and Mother never mentioned sai baba considering he was born on 4th october 1929 [real birthday apparently], which is well within their time-period. ln all that time SA never seems to have been asked about him, and never uttered a word about him in 20 years. The Mother must obviously have been aware of his existence for a very long time [sai baba’s ashram isn’t that far from pondi either].
    l mean, sai baba is probably the most famous and well known guru around the world with millions of followers [apart from claiming to be no less than an Avatar of Sri Krishna and Jesus Christ etc etc..] and yet, SA and Mother never mention his name!!. He might be mentioned in the Agenda in some coded way, l suppose, but it would be extremely odd if he’s flown under their the radar all this time.
    The only info l have on him is that Udar Pinto, at the ashram, told me he thought sai baba was Self-Realised.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      You are referring to Sathya Sai Baba, not Sai Baba(of Shirdi). (this is sheer duplicity – capitalizing on the name recognition of some predecessor)

      The Mother was asked about him once, according to M.P. Pandit:

      A visitor from the West – a Professor – just returned from a visit to Satya Sai Baba’s place, took to Mother a bead which the Baba had ‘created’ and given him. He gave it to Mother and asked about the nature of the bead. She felt it with her palms and said it was a materialised object. Then he asked what she thought of the Baba. Mother told him : One Guru does not pronounce upon another.
      (M.P.Pandit. Sidelights on the Mother , p. 83)

      Reply
  4. mike

    Yes, sandeep l wasn’t referring to sai baba of shirdi [who sathya sai said he was an incarnation of]. From what l know of sai of shirdi he seems very genuine.

    “Then he asked what she thought of the Baba. Mother told him : One Guru does not pronounce upon another.”

    That’s strange. SA was always pronouncing on other guru’s [especially if He thought they were frauds].

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      That’s strange. SA was always pronouncing on other guru’s [especially if He thought they were frauds].

      I prefer to think that SA&M’s answers depend on
      1) the receptivity of the person being addressed and
      2) the nature of the information being disclosed.

      Why tell everything to everyone?

      Reply
  5. Sandeep Post author

    Article in the Hindu newspaper of India on Vikram Gandhi’s background

    So how did real and reel life juxtapose for Vikram Gandhi, who happens to be more familiar with the streets of Manhattan than with the caves of the Himalayas? Born in New York to Punjabi immigrant parents from Burma, he grew up around the tri-state area. His father, who worked at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Harlem, had never lived in India yet the family’s Hindu roots were very strong. In fact, his parents started an Arya Samaj Center in the basement of their home in Ridgewood, NJ., so Vikram’s childhood was peppered with holy visitors and he learned the sandhya and havan rituals as well as Vedic hymns and Sanskrit as a way of maintaining culture. He went to summer camp at the Arsh Vidya Gurukulam Ashram in Pennsylvania, and also grew up with the epic tales of Amar Chitra Katha comics and the Mahabharata TV serials. Religion was all around him.

    For more, read
    http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/society/article3580308.ece

    Reply
    1. Gordana

      “3. First, let me say, that the absorption of ideas and the remoulding of the mental aims and attitude is one thing and the remoulding of the inner life and consciousness and eventually also of the outer life, which is the aim of Yoga, is quite another. The first can be done to some extent by the method of dissemination you indicate. But as you rightly see, instructions in Yoga cannot be fruitfully given on the same lines. That can only be given successfully to a few, to each separately as an intimately personal thing which he must assimilate and make living and true in himself according to his own capacity and nature. That is why I am led to believe that the work of Swami Yogananda is not only elementary but can hardly be the true thing — Yoga cannot be taught in schools and classes. It has to be received personally, it has to be lived, the seeker, sadhaka, has to change by a difficult aspiration and endeavour his whole consciousness and nature, his mind, heart, life, every principle of his being and all their movements into a greater Truth than anything the normal life of man can imagine. Those who can do this are not yet many, but some are to be found everywhere, and I see no reason why those in America should be condemned to only an elementary “instruction”. The true Truth, the great Path has to be opened to them; how far they will go in it depends on their own personal capacity and the help they receive.”
      (CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > To People In America, 1926 – 1927 – pp. 388)

      Reply
      1. Sandeep Post author

        yes Gordana, this is a very important passage which I have read before. Sri Aurobindo is right on the mark, as usual.

        The traditional method of Yoga leading to Self-realization requires an intimate Guru-disciple relationship because each disciple is different. The Guru silently awakens the disciple by monitoring and illuminating the disciple’s consciousness at the appropriate time.

        The recent phenomenon of Gurus teaching Yoga to the masses through numerous courses via a network of trained teachers may spread the same ideas and help in stress reduction through Pranayama and Mantra chanting but it cannot replace the traditional method. More importantly, it cannot lead to Self-realization.

        Have you read a previous post: Can I have more than one Guru?

  6. Pingback: On Atheism and Agnosticism | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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