The Mindful Bard – Kumare

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Film: Kumaré

Director: Vikram Gandhi

Genre: Documentary

?She’s a phony. But She’s a real phony. You know why? Because she honestly believes all this phony junk she believes in.?

from Breakfast at Tiffany?s

?And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ?May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.? (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)?

Acts 17: 19-21

How Humbling It Is When Our Dupes Become Our Teachers

A middle-aged lawyer is confidently informing the camera that when she first spoke with Kumaré, she knew he was the real McCoy. She senses purity and honesty in him, and her instincts tell her to make him her guru and to do everything he tells her.

But Kumaré isn’t real. He’s the guru persona invented by Vikram Gandhi, an American agnostic who’s just trying to find out what all the fuss is about. Having rejected the Hindu religion in which he’d been raised, he just doesn’t get why so many Americans are now embracing Eastern mysticism.

Vikram Gandhi decides to conduct an existential experiment; he deliberately sets out to hoodwink as many people as possible. His religious background and his filmmaking skills render him uniquely qualified to do so. Unlike the vast bulk of self-described ?gurus,? he’s not after money or sex. He’s just looking for answers, though his motive is less than pure. He really is a modern enlightened cynic who doesn’t see that religion fulfills any real human needs. He just wants to show people how dumb they are.

Gandhi grows his hair and beard very long and wears a loincloth, long robes, and pendants of doubtful significance, and carries a staff. Thanks to his parents, he has a large internal database of the lingo, practices, and concepts of Indian mysticism. And he adopts his grandmother’s broken English and Brahman accent.

He’s good to go. For some reason he chooses Phoenix, Arizona, just Western enough to be ever ready for the new, and already harbouring reams of ?seekers??a euphemism, apparently, for mostly white Americans who’ve worked so hard to purge themselves of traditional beliefs that they’ve became spiritual vacuums ready to suck up any balderdash that floats their way.

Gandhi is phenomenally successful, quickly developing a devoted following. He makes good eye contact, asks excellent questions, and listens intently to people, which right there is more than what most people can expect from churches, teachers, and psychoanalysts these days. He gives practical advice to those looking for someone to affirm their wisest instincts in this mad world. And even if he is taking these folks for a ride, It’s not like he doesn’t care; he helps his followers, and they in turn quickly grow to love him, attributing divine qualities to him.

Then comes the moment of reckoning?the time to abandon the charade, unmask, and let the people know they’ve been had.

But before that Vikram realizes he needs to do some serious soul-searching. He’s become attached to these ?followers? and doesn’t want to hurt them. They’ve taught him something he could never have otherwise learned.

Kumaré manifests seven of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for films well worth seeing: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it poses and admirably responds to questions that have a direct bearing on my view of existence; 3) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 4) it is about attainment of the true self; 5) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 6) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; and 7) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.