Kumare: An Unwitting Guru

Guru and self are no different. What you seek is within you.

What you see outside of you, including me, could well be all an illusion.

So said Kumare the “false Guru” to his students, as shown in the movie of the same name.


This movie shows a real-life story where the protagonist, having found many religious and spiritual leaders who weren’t really walking a spiritual path themselves, decides to masquerade as a Guru from India. He wanted to prove that anyone, even a charlatan like him with seemingly no training in Vedic spirituality, could do it. The movie shows how he develops a following of students over time, and how these students interact with their master.

When I read the blurb for this movie, I braced myself for a one-sided cynical approach that heaped criticism on spiritual leaders and Gurus. The movie I saw surprised and moved me. Hats off to Vikram Gandhi for his courage to live the Guru experience. This is no ordinary documentary. Anyone can criticize and talk. Few have the courage to experiment, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Dressed in saffron robes, all he had to do as Kumare was to be happy and love those who came in front of him.

“My name is Vikram Gandhi, and Kumare is my ideal self,” was how he put it after the fact.

Which begs the question: what keeps us from being our ideal self in the first place?

The way the experiment progressed and ended was surprising even to him and his crew, says Gandhi in an interview on YouTube. I don’t think they could have planned it this way even if they had wanted to, particularly the day of “the unveiling”.

My own views on the subject? Having benefited tremendously from my own practice of yoga, kriya, and meditation, I was a tad disturbed by the fake spiritual techniques being taught to the students in this movie, some of whom continue to practice them. I have a Guru and do look up to him, and I do recognize the role that he has had in shaping my life. As he has shared during Guru Poornima gatherings more than once, having a Guru and being a Guru are both important. Being a Guru to someone else does not mean preaching; it only means giving them our unconditional love. So on the surface, I’m not aligned with the core conclusion this movie appears to present, that one does not need a Guru. However there’s more to it than meets the eye. Some of the things Kumare taught his students (like the first few lines of this post) are unwittingly rooted in Vedanta, and the transformations that Kumare brought about in his students were quite real. There’s so much that this movie leaves unsaid.

If you have a spiritual practice or a Guru of your own, watch this movie. You will not be disappointed. (It is available now on a whole range of streaming services in the US including Netflix, iTunes and Amazon Prime.)

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