Many years ago, a friend told me about a documentary called Kumare. It was about a man who wanted to examine and expose the concept of gurus. Is there truly something divine about gurus? Or are they merely self-aggrandizing people whose perception of reality is distorted in their own favor?
Vikram Ghandi, the creator of this documentary, decided that there was only one way to find out. He would try to become a guru, and if he could do it, then perhaps it would prove that gurus are in no way gifted with divine, god-like energy. They are just people who, for whatever reason, believe in their own ability to shine.
And it's this very thing - the ability to radiate so brightly from within that people are drawn to you - Vikram wanted to prove is within everyone. His intention wasn't so much to expose that gurus are fake, but to help everyone realize they are as spiritual, wise, and worthy as the gurus. The only difference is, the non-gurus haven't learned how to believe in themselves.
I wanted to prove to others who are looking for answers that no one is more spiritual than anyone else. That spiritual leaders are just illusions, and we are the ones who decide who and what is real.
When I first watched this movie, I was all in with what Vikram was doing. I was already feeling wary of the side of spirituality that can be dark and exlpoitative. I was aware of several current "gurus" who are really cult leaders, and also of a spiritual retreat that had ended in manslaughter charges due to the reckless and narcissistic behavior of the out of control leader.
I felt the film was thought provoking and did a good job of reinforcing the message it was trying to say. I left it feeling Vikram had done well, and that his work was an excellent contribution to the conversation around spirituality, healing, and faith work.
However, upon recent reflection, I began to feel different. I began to feel I hadn't been compassionate enough to the people who were conned by Vikram. In truth, I hadn't even seen them as being conned. I saw them more as accidental participants in a much needed experiment. I can see now how my need to feel an emotional distance from them sprang from my need not to see myself reflected in them.
The people who showed up to meet and interact with Vikram were in a vulnerable and trusting place. They were sometimes in great pain, and they were looking for a way out. They were not looking to feel duped, which in truth, would only increase their pain and sense of unworthiness.
And I myself was often drowning in deep, bottomless pain then. I couldn't get a hold on my anxiety. I hated everything I did and almost everything about myself. I often wanted to escape my own self, and this inability to be at peace with myself had led me to continuously seek relief and answers. I was constantly looking for answers outside of myself, whether that be in teachers, writers, speakers, or energy healers. I was desperate for someone to tell me my unhappiness could be resolved externally. In truth, all I needed, all I ever needed, was to look inside and just say, "I accept you as you are."
When I watched Kumare again, I could see how, at any given time in my life, I could be the person who was being set up for the "gotcha!" moment. Had I come across Vikram while I was desperately seeking relief, I very well could have been the person in the film that others were watching with disbelief at their gullibility.
And I would have been angry. I would have felt betrayed. I would not have responded with warmth and acceptance in support of the bigger picture. I think it would have torn me up inside, which is hard to admit, because I really do believe it's a good documentary.
How then do I reconcile my knowledge that I myself wouldn't want to be subject to this, while recognizing this film helped me and continues to help me?
I thought maybe by rewatching the film I'd find some clarity. However, when I got to the end, I did not have a clearer sense of yes, this was a good thing, or no, this was wrong. It's a complicated concept, made more nuanced as Kumare, or Vikram, begins to question what he's doing as the film progresses.
I will say, on this viewing I felt much more empathy for the people who became followers of Kumare. Whereas before, I felt almost snide about their need to feel special through a connection to him, this time I just felt that they were honest and kind people searching for a sense of purpose and belonging. I believe my compassion for them is a reflection of my growing compassion for myself. I don't judge them now because I don't judge myself as much. My evolving inner acceptance and self-love allowed me to see myself in these people, not in an embarrassing way where I had to self-consciously laugh at myself, but in a loving and humbling way.
At the same time, it's also a fascinating journey through the power of belief. If you can make people believe something works, and thereby help them to heal, is it wrong you know you made it up? Why is belief so powerful? What is the mind truly capable of?
All in all, I believe it's a film worth watching and discussing. It will give you a lot to think about. It's also a great film to watch with skeptics and non-believers, as you will probably feel both your sides are validated and have a lot to talk about. I know it did for me, considering I'm still thinking and writing about it all these years after I first saw it.
And for those that saw Kumare teach the "Blue Light" meditation in the film, I have made a version of it! I was so curious what I would feel, as it seemed to have a profound effect on people, that I couldn't resist exploring it for myself. Now that I've made a real meditation inspired by a fake guru, does that mean Kumare was actually a real guru? Who knows. I believe the answer is different for everyone. You can find out more about my Blue Light meditation here. And you can currently find the Kumare documentary on Tubi.
I am not who you think that I am. But I am only just a very simple man who had an idea, a dream, to show every person that I meet that they have some power for transformation, for happiness, inside. You are all great beings.
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