Tricycle Film Club

Buddhist films and discussion for the
Tricycle Community

March Film Club: Kumaré

Video Preview

To access this entire video and all other member-supported
content, join Tricycle as a Supporting or Sustaining Member

Welcome to the Tricycle film club!

In the half-documentary, half-social experiment Kumaré, now playing throughout March at the Tricycle Film Club, New Jersey-born filmmaker Vikram Gandhi poses as an Eastern guru and attracts a retinue of disciples in Arizona. Disturbed by the yoga and meditation craze in the US, Gandhi journeys to India to seek an authentic spiritual teacher, only to find the swamis there to be just as phony as those in America. Inspired to make a movie about fake teachers and those drawn to them, Vikram reinvents himself as the guru Kumaré, moving to Arizona and guest speaking at yoga studios around the state. Donning robes, walking barefoot, and spewing nonsense spiritual platitudes in a fake Indian accent, Kumaré lures in a number of devoted disciples almost immediately. It soon dawns on him, however, that he's bitten off more than he can chew. In the end, he must face his followers—to whom he is sympathetic—and reveal his true identity, potentially hurting those who have placed in him their complete trust and faith.

Throughout the month, director and star Vikram Gandhi will be available to answer any questions you have about the film. Post your questions and comments below, and he will get back to you soon.

 

PLEASE NOTE: If you are having technical difficulties watching the film, please do not leave a comment below. Instead, call our support services at 1-800-873-9871 or email them at support@tricycle.com. They will address your concerns promptly.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
sundesha's picture

More than anything else, this film showed me just how much people everywhere are hungry for something greater with more deep connections. People are lonely, separated, desperate for connection with others, and dare I say, with themselves. This is the latent intent of all religions, regardless of where or when it originated.

Vikram, thank you for daring to show your own questioning self, and thank you to the participants of this movie for sharing their own longings (even if it was scripted). The feeling of compassion I felt for all people who are suffering and hungry for connection remains the same.

mpoliver's picture

Caught this one on Netflix as well and I found it to be unique in that it is a documentary where I often found myself noticing my reaction to what was going on more than the finer points of the plot itself. I appreciate the film for what it has taught me about myself via my reactions towards the people/characters, and also for affirming why I tend to avoid so called gurus and masters.

davidscottlewis's picture

Vikram (if this is your real name), if your movie wasn't totally scripted, then you should have given it the subtitle, "Stupid White People (in the Southwest)."

My view: Your movie shows the power of faith, even if it's based on fallacies. And at another level, it demonstrates the enduring power of religion.

Question: I wonder how many Kumare clones there are among those who lead Tricycle Retreats? My guess is that most are fakes, either intentionally or through self-delusion (and probably aided by the consumption of way too much acid in their youth).

lmhnn's picture

VIkram:
I found this movie thought-provoking and moving. I saw it on NetFlix last week.
There are at least a couple of ways to come away from the viewing.
One way (not my first perception, but a possibility) is to see it as a totally scripted movie: a pseudo-documentary with everyone in the movie played by either actors or people that wanted to take part in the experience. In this way it could be seen as an experience of “Vikram Ghandi”, who is very much like the writer and actor in the movie. In this view, all of the effects of the film are created by the writing and editing, and the “narrative arc” and themes are actually much more deliberate than otherwise. The camera work, the coherence of the story, and the themes that come out would tend to support this viewpoint. And if one of the “themes” that’s being explored is “perception vs. reality” it might be that Vikram wanted to explore those on more than one level. Reality TV and the vile “Borat” are both called to mind.
Of course, the initial impression is that it’s a true documentary, with the participants not knowing much about the film, and the story being told in a pretty straightforward fashion. This is the perception that’s caused a lot of criticism about “ethics” and bad feelings about the deception that Kumare did. (I have found no evidence or interviews that indicate that this was other than what it purports to be, but it must be emphasized that I really don’t know, which is possibly part of the point of the movie - is it real or is it scripted?).
I tend to think that this is the more likely scenario, but either perception of the film allows (what I saw as) the themes to be pretty clear: FIrst, Ghandi realizes that he wants to explore the guru phenomenon, after seeking but failing to find a “true” guru, and becoming disillusioned about both the gurus and their followers. At the point where he starts to morph into Kumare, I was concerned that it would follow in the tasteless, offensive, and cruel steps of Borat. (I don’t think anyone can see this without thinking of the earlier film, if they have seen it - the concepts are similar, but the resolution and point of view are very different.)

At this point we think that this will be about how silly and gullible the followers will turn out to be - played for laughs and ridicule. Some of them do come off as foolish, especially the ones that purport to see things about Kumare’s aura, background, etc., which are all, as we are aware, totally false, and clearly either made up or in the eye of the beholder. But the ordinary people that seek counsel and guidance, it seems to me, are not ridiculed or portrayed as fools, and all of them seem to be sincere.
At about halfway through, Ghandi seems to realize that what he says, does, and how he deals with his followers really makes a difference - it may be a goof, in a way, for him, but for them, it’s important and they are invested in him. (Here is the point where it seems to me that real ethics violations could happen: he could have taken advantage of their belief in him and his message. But, as portrayed in the film anyway, he doesn’t abuse his power; he doesn’t take advantage of them sexually or financially. I think this is important, as I mention later). And it’s shown that he has a very difficult time admitting the deception to them, understanding the feelings that they will have towards him.
In the ultimate “unveiling” some of the followers “get it” or at least forgive him, perhaps understanding that this is the ultimate illustration of “be your own guru”. We are somewhat invited to feel bad for the ones that view it as a betrayal. And the final progress of the ten that stayed shows that they felt it had had a positive impact on their lives.

About the “ethics” issue: If Kumare is totally scripted as I describe above, there is, of course, no “ethics” issue - everyone in the movie is part of the deception, and the only deception is played on the viewers, which is the point of filmmaking. However, if the movie is as depicted (people really following who they thought was a guru from India, and putting their trust in him, confiding personal issues to him - on camera), somehow, if there are ethics issues, then it invites the question of “what do we know about our religious/spiritual leaders?” Read about the very influential Werner Erhard, the founder of “est” and “The Forum”, born Jack Rosenberg. Do the thousands of his followers know much about his prior life before he change his name? Or can we find many “real” Indian gurus who are what they seem, or whose teachings are really helpful and based in their own experience and culture? The whole idea of these leaders with feet of clay, sometimes abusing followers after changing their name and re-inventing themselves, is so common to our culture that perhaps we should ask, as Ghandi did, “can we find a charismatic spiritual leader that is really what he seems?”. Presumably, if he had never “unveiled” and not made a movie, there would be no criticism of his ethics. I’m not totally giving him a pass, if he really deceived the people in the film, and they were hurt by the deception, but what he did is almost trivial compared to the way that religious and spiritual seekers have been often exploited in much more hurtful ways. Perhaps the yoga teacher, Tish, felt betrayed by him, but that’s nothing to how she would have felt had she followed Bagwhan Rashneesh, or (in a different context) David Koresh. And maybe she might run into a future Jim Jones and look more closely at him before throwing in her lot with his followers.
Which, to me, is the final point of the movie - not that people are stupid and gullible and sheep-like, but that we (at least some of us) are so hungry for leadership, for that Moses to lead us out of our own personal wilderness, that we’re willing to pay a lot - with our money and our identity, our self-esteem and our obedience - when we think we have found him or her.

Maybe the whole thing should be summed up in the encounter with Buddha and the hot dog vendor: Buddha says “Make me one with everything”. (Pause for laughter). The second part isn’t as well known: He hands the vendor a five and waits, finally saying “Where’s my change?” to which the vendor says “Change must come from within”.

Hanny2's picture

well-done? inspiring? i can only think that those who are praising this film are much farther evolved than i, because i assume that they're saying had they been part of the "experiment", it would have been just fine, fine, fine. myself, i see no humor or creativity in publicly taking advantage of people's good hearts. and had i been in that meeting hall in the last scene, vikram, i would have been the one trying mightily to resist the temptation to kick you in the backside.

sunmoonlight's picture

"You are your own guru?" If these people were truly their own gurus, they would have seen through the flimsy newspeak from the start. No, they were people who needed to trust someone else to help them out of their own places of stuckness. Vikram acts as a motivational speaker, essentially, and then genuinely develops a relationship with them.

There are people who need gurus, apparently, and there are a whole host of actors willing to play the part. From politicians to celebrities to journalists to millionaires, there seems to be no end of people who want to lead others by the nose. This film is a demonstration of how it is possible to control certain people based on their need to trust. Or if they weren't controlled, precisely, then how to use the willingness to trust for one's own mission.

I think the real story is how we buy into various methods of control. We trust, and then we are betrayed. We make the best of it, saying we've learned some life lesson. But in reality, lives are lost or shattered (the controlling forces of greed and war), and we lose our way.

What we need is an illusion-shatterer, not a skilled cosmetician to blind us with another illusion.

larrycrunch's picture

1. The filmmaker says he is exploring the nature of faith.
2. The filmmaker deceives his subjects for the sake of this exploration. Having gotten them to sign a binding release, he films their deep feelings, revelations, and confessions.
3. The filmmaker suffers a "crisis of conscience," finding that he loves these people. He doesn't know what to do.
4. The filmmaker ultimately abuses the trust of these people and releases these deep confessions of others that were made under false pretenses. This makes his so-called crisis of conscience false, because the filmmaker fails to act on it in any meaningful way. In fact, it functions beautifully as just one more film device aimed at both advancing the story and making us think that the filmmaker is a good guy. He is not. He is an asshole.
5. The filmmaker ultimately controls the story. He talks about how many people he remains in contact with rather than the number who support him. He implies they support him. Does he really expect them to be honest with him after he has betrayed him?
In conclusion, while this film does explore interesting issues, it does so by lying to and abusing other human beings. The filmmaker is just one more opportunistic jerk in a world that's full of them -- meanwhile posing as a sensitive caring human being. Had he been a person of conscience, this would have been a very different film. But he is a "filmmaker", and the film came first. Shame on him.

mahakala's picture

Its fascinating what can be accomplished when you grab enough peoples attention, and get them all to work together on the greater good. Even if some of them dont get anything out of it, the end product speaks for itself. The end justified the means of production here, and look what happened! Everybody wins (except the losers that dont deserve to).

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

- Steve Jobs

iamjl's picture

All Gurus, priests, ministers, etc. are phony. Who appoints them? With all the scandals in organized religion just who do you trust and believe in? Most people want to believe in anything other than themselves and are more than willing to take the easy road and just follow whatever strikes their fancy. That is why you must kill the Buddha. Vikram wanted to show people that mostly as a goof but he found out what all good teachers do that if successful he learns the same lesson as his followers. To be really happy and spiritual and loved you must look in the mirror at the end of the road and like what you see. Be yourself, like yourself and pay attention.
Great film though hard to watch at times like many good films that speak the truth.

dipsydoo01's picture

Vikram...I thoroughly enjoyed watching this. You gave people time, eye contact, and they felt heard and cared for and loved. You taught them to see the Buddha spirit, the Christ spirit...in themselves. I could not help but think of Jesus and what the same simplicity that he was trying to teach and yet others were so intent on making him more. For thousands of years, kings, rulers, popes and others who needed a higher power to link their own unpowerful, selfish goals to...made him something different than what he was...and look where it is now. You and your movie are a gift. A great reminder that others can inspire us...to know ourselves. Thank you.

Debbie

jesselee's picture

Vikram,

A very moving, complex, and needed film! Thank you. I think that perhaps our understanding of it can be improved by having a familiarity with the social issues surrounding Hinduism as-it-actually-exists-for-Indians, and an ability to view American appropriations from that angle. This more realistic international perspective was *very* briefly shown at the start of the film, but it struck me as super-important and likely to be overlooked (as usual) by many American audiences. I think that considering the social problems of Hinduism as well as the history of orientalism might help some people to think more about what they see as the overly cynical nature of the experiment.

That being said, after watching the film and several of your commentaries and appearances I keep coming back to a sense of unease with the emphatic line that you draw between the Kumaré persona vs. your "real" self. This true/false distinction is very interesting to me, and it seems a bit too pat.

In my experience with education, I know that many, many teachers feel like "fakes" when they are in front of a classroom, especially at first, when people first start looking to them for information and guidance. These teachers feel like they don't have the background or personality for this -- even when they very much do have the correct background and personality. Some teachers respond to the stresses of teaching by becoming arrogant and manipulative. Certain other teachers, however, respond to this stress by going on a crusade to overemphasize to students the constructed nature of their teaching role and the (massive) problems of our education system. This can turn into too much of a good thing.

I also think that all teachers adopt a specific teaching-persona to one extent or another. I've known American academics who, with a complete lack of irony, pick up a strange British accent the moment they step into a classroom! But I wouldn't be eager to insist that they are phonies. In truth, their students *could* have just gone to the library, learned some research techniques, found people to engage in dialogue, and learned the course materials without any need of a designated teacher. And hopefully if they take their education far enough that is exactly what they will start doing. They will realize that what the teacher taught was only a small bit of what they can potentially learn, a syllabus thrown together -- "made up" out of the teacher's background and knowledge base -- not some kind of final understanding but an example of techniques and practices in the service of students becoming researchers and teachers in their own right. None of this means that the teacher is a fake, or that the journey is an illusion.

As a counterpoint to the truths that you show in the film, I might suggest that it can be a bit a of a disservice for teachers (even inexperienced or relatively unknowledgeable teachers) to overstate the artificiality of their role. Most teachers are not fakes, they simply realize that they are new at this, just starting out on their path of learning about this activity of teaching. Being honest about their own humanity and their constructed roles, and being transparent about their techniques, is not the same thing as aggressively identifying themselves as fakes. In your (legitimate) earnestness to debunk the veneration of gurus are you renouncing just a bit too much of your own capacity? Are there conceits that underlie this rejection?

Or, I don't know -- perhaps the the sequel to this film will be an exposé of the cynical "Vikram" persona, and how readily his debunking of the gurus was embraced by mainstream Americans!!! Do those materialistic, non-countercultural Westerners, embedded in the legacy of colonialism, want to seek out the cynical diasporic-Indian "Vikram" in whom they can see a reflection and justification of themselves? (This is all getting a bit too postmodern for me!)

However the journey works out, best wishes for your ongoing endeavors.

p.s. I completely love the staff that you carry around in this film! Never fails to crack me up.

Zane's picture

A great teaching.
And a greater learning.
Thank you!

louise0's picture

FOR ME, BOTH UNSETTLED AND MOVED. I CANNOT BELIEVE DECEPTION IS EVER ULTIMATELY GOOD, YET THE NEED TO QUESTION IS....GOOD. BRAVE BRAVE TRICYCLE. DAWKINS MEETS BUDDHA???

valiumisdead's picture

I cant bring myself to watch the rest of this film. I only got thru 15 minutes....This documentary feels fake in itself...Follow no one! Just follow your heart!:+)

pawtrees's picture

This is a wonderful experiment-a good lesson for one and all-a great film
Vikram is a wonderful individual who also learned from the people around him.....
and who has taught them much.....everyone comes away with deeper thoughts,
mindful living, and provoking lessons of life.
thank you for the opportunity to view such an undertaking
the paw

iggibson's picture

"If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!"

micko's picture

Namaste, guru.

catemarkey's picture

Hello Vikram,

This movie in interesting on so many levels. For some there was that great sense of betrayal that was too hurtful. My takeway was more like: how do I give my best vision of myself to the world (and to myself). The film for me was about community, and open hearts. Based on your data, the filming itself did much more good that harm based on this discussion made all of us feel something.

What was not so much explored was what happens when we put on a different face - as times when I have dressed as a clown - or as actors who put on their faces. It gives us freedom to relate to others freely - we put on one mask, and drop our other artifices. One is changed, if only for the moment - little bits remain I think, inside us and "out there" in the universe. Just like your grandmother while making puja.

This film felt like a gift. It will be interesting to see what you do next.

tinimaisberger's picture

Vikram, this is an arrogant movie. It was difficult for me watching and sometimes I was close to turn off my computer. The movie, in my opinion, doesnt have any depht and the message is trivial and doesnt worth in anyway the humiliation of those nice people.

sallyotter's picture

I must have totally missed the point. I had to turn off the film after about 10 minutes. Could not watch these people being duped, used. What Buddhist concept are we examining here? Yes, question everything. But the film is based on lying. What "Vikram" did was lie to people, use them for his own selfish ends. Reminded me of politics.
I was drawn to Buddhism because of compassion, lovingkindness, things not too evident in today's world. I certainly didn't find any in Kumare.

skydancer8888's picture

The search for truth and genuine spiritual contact can take many strange forms. The intent to do it is admirable. I always appreciate it and applaud it. It is not easy in the context of American society. So becoming what you seek is what happens in each of us as we move along a path of discovery. I am reminded of the Japanese film Kagamuskha. The king dies and they find a replacement and train him and in the end you see and the character sees, that the role begins to shape the one doing the acting. So to find the truth, that we all have access to the divine is a great truth. Some of us need external help ,to find the way. Others find their way with just their strong intention . It does seem that there is always someone who inspires us,in your case,your grandmother. She was authentically connecting :the way we all used to know how to do and where interested in doing. Perhaps on your path , the divine which is always present and part of us , inspired you. As you opnned yourself to it by ennacting the role of a teacher,you connected. May we all be inspired to persevere with learning from our own inner teacher the ever present divine. I wish you luck in continuing to live connected to your own inner teacher. That is true mastery. To live in accord with the knowledge that we are each not separate from the divine and from each other.
skydancer

Steve Kohn's picture

Dear skydancer,
I get so easily confused with words. You use the word "truth/true" four times and the word "divine" four times and I do not know your referents. I am happy to share your sense that we are not separate from one another. I share some form of that belief. You and I might enjoy parsing out with one another how our different understandings/beliefs lead to an end to suffering for each of us. It would be arrogant of me to state that this truth you mention, this divine you write of, does not exist just because I do not find any personal use for the terms, at least not on what seem to me to so highly conceptual a plane. I think I am referring to the difference between "My cup runneth over, " and "I'm working hard to empty my cup." May you and I and all beings be peaceful. And thank you for your offering.

frank vilaasa's picture

I am really surprised at the number of people applauding this show.
Is it really so surprising that there are gullible people out there?
Is it so clever to expose their gullibility?

What about the 1 billion Catholics in the world? The things they believe are far more incredible than anything put out in this documentary (the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Ghost, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead).
This is how many people are. It is no great achievement to be able to dupe another dozen or so people, as this documentary has done.
The fact is that most people are naïve and ignorant when it comes to spiritual matters, especially in our culture, where spirituality has no history or tradition.
Is this something to be made fun of? For what purpose?

This show works on the premise that Kumare/V Gandhi – along with the audience – are somehow superior to the people in the show that are being duped. That Kumare has a moral and ethical right to lie to them and mislead them, just to show up their gullibility.
Nobody has the right to do that. Firstly, it is painful to be on the receiving end of a bunch of lies and deceptions that you have been led to believe in good faith. And secondly, you are also messing with people’s karma and soul’s evolution in ways that you have no understanding about.
This documentary is a completely misguided attempt to bolster someone’s ego at the expense of some naïve and trusting people.

carozen's picture

Interesting experiment, but it would have been much better if you'd had the courage to fully come out at the end. Somehow you couldn't (which is understandable) ... or perhaps you didn't fully want to? You seemed to need to retain that last thin layer of deception in the end. Was it to protect them or rather yourself? You were not fully honest with them, but your moment of dishonesty was not the impersonation but that incomplete unveiling. Namasté.

singnbob's picture

Vikram, what an absolute delight! what is the metta prayer "may all beings be liberated"" i couldn't help but feel the depth you took on to be in character and yet maintain some thread of continuity and value for the folks who embraced your "vision" .. one heck of a dance.. i met many of the guru types in the 70's and gleaned little bits of value and appreciate their intent when it seemed genuine and moved on.. discovered how much is projection, mirror etc.. all of these qualities come into this exercise you put forth and again what a delight.. thank you and i will definitely share this film with friends asap..

shantit's picture

Namaste Vikram.
I loved your film and watched it thrice: I inflicted it on family and friends and watched along with them. We sing Kumare, Kumare at home while doing dishes. I imitate your fake yoga moves, laughing.
I have often joked about becoming a guru myself, a modern one who accepts plastic. It doesn't feel funny anymore.
Why can't we, as a species, trust our own impressions, use our common sense and intelligence. We are blessed with reason, we should use it.
Thank you so much.
Shanti

roshaven's picture

G-U-R-U (gee, you are you)

amano1940's picture

What an eye opener !! Loved the film......and also the message.....

recurvata's picture

This is an excellent, moving and inspiring film. Mr. Gandhi just demonstrated more openly what every real teacher must teach - that the teaching is in you. Perhaps he didn't realize it himself, but he was as authentic a teacher as any. How were his actions any different? His intentions? He wanted to show people that, as he said, the guru is in you. And he did. So he used a fake accent, wore robes, etc? The message is still the same. Thanks for bringing this movie to us.

Danzen's picture

As Siddhartha Gautama said Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

Alex Caring-Lobel's picture
gailalgeo's picture

My, my, my! What a film. I won't ever forget this,,,It is in my mind-space forever,,, just like you, Vikram told your followers. I felt connection with you and each one of your followers to some extent. I have compassion for each of them and hope they continue on with their journeys. And you, also. Just a side note.... I think you look very nice with some hair on your face,,, dashing, hansom. Loved seeing this film and thank you ,, thank you for a very interesting, thought provoking, touching film!

Bridey101's picture

So, Vikram, what do your parents think of the film? Or, for that matter, your grandmother?

johnpotts's picture

What a terrific and intense film... so filled with truth. Well Done!

allen2's picture

Human beings project their greatest aspirations onto those they trust. In that trust, they open their hearts and vulnerabilities to you.

When spiritual teachers present themselves and work very hard - like you did - to gain their trust, is it really so foreign to you that good-hearted, intelligent, and well meaning people give it?

You made a narcissistic movie out of an extreme breach of spiritual trust.

Well done.

katherinemasis's picture

Hi, Allen. Is that so different in its effects from the actions of "authentic" teachers of any tradition? No matter how many seals of approval they might have from their lineage, they know, deep inside, that they're not the superhuman heroes their students think they are. The more followers they accrue, the bigger and fancier their centers and temples, the more they convince themselves (but never completely) that they're the genuine article. Consciously or unconsciously, these "authentic" teachers encourage their students' transference and they themselves engage in counter-transference. Disillusioned, some of their long-time students will inevitably drop out. The only way out of this entanglement is to educate followers, students, sangha, parisa, etc. about transference and counter-transference.

allen2's picture

katherinemasis -

Thank you very much for the concept of "countertransference". I knew about transference, and when I first read your comment, I thought that meant I also knew about countertransference, as well.

I didn't.

It has since occurred to me that this is a very profound concept, and it explains the cult experience that I have had in my own past. It actually unlocks the whole problem of "why did that guy go so crazy when he used to be so wise?"

I see fully what you are saying now. I was only seeing one half of what you were saying before. This has made a profound change in my life.

Again, thank you.

allen2

katherinemasis's picture

Thank you for your kind words, allen2. Films like Kumare help to show, very clearly, what transference and countertransference look like in spiritual circles. I'm glad you found the terminology helpful. Best wishes.

allen2's picture

.

MNTIS's picture

Really interesting film Vikram, thanks for all the hard work put in to make this happen. If what we believe today isn't entirely or at all true, even with it being right in front of us, how can we believe wholeheartedly something that happened thousands of years ago (no matter what religion) was true in every sense without any dishonesty or exaggerations over the years.

Buddha was only a man, Jesus was only a man, and you were only a man.

Proof that not only the truth, but also that which is false can set you free, when told correctly and for the well-being of others.

Thank you again.

Levi

lucketttm's picture

A wonderful documentary. Others here have referenced Sacha Baron Cohen, but Mr. Gandhi's work reminds me more of James Randi's "Carlos" hoax, when he coached performance artist José Alvarez to pretend to channel a 2,000-year-old South American spirit. The idea that a pre-conquest Native American would have a Spanish name was the least of the absurdities in the dog-and-pony show that they performed to enthusiastic audiences in Australia. Robert Carroll of Skeptic's Dictionary points out, "The biggest clue was handed to them on a silver platter: 'Carlos' performed for free.... Every journalist should know that the first sign of an authentic fake guru is greed."

The film makes it clear that Mr. Gandhi did not take advantage of his authority as Kumaré to exploit his followers sexually. I suspect that his journalistic ethics (and evident sense of decency) also prevented him from exploiting them financially. If so, this may help to explain why his followers were so convinced that he was the real thing. How could he be a charlatan if he wasn't asking for money?

khenpo.drimed.dawa's picture

I have met several Tibetan teachers who came across as "fake" (inauthentic). They knew the talk, but did not seem to walk the walk. As Patrul Rinpoche says in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, "Charlatans pretending to be saints abound, skilled in the art of deception." Some sources say you should examine the teacher for as long as 12 years before making a commitment, which will likely reveal any shortcomings. Of course, the Buddha himself also said that our ultimate teacher is our own Buddhanature. It's not the same as Kumare's "self", but remarkably similar. Sometimes truth can be revealed, even in a lie.

Khenpo Drimed Dawa

mworobiec1's picture

An amazing film, and experiment. I was surprised, and pleased, that it should be highlighted on Tricycle's website. But after all, the Buddha said, “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

nicolavachon's picture

Absolutely amazing work. Fascinating movie. And you had the balls to go to the end. Bravo Vikram.

debaney's picture

Kumare - I feel your pain and your love. I think the joke was on you but the lesson is there for us all.

mralexander99's picture

I have always been fascinated by the "art of the con" and have been curious about "flim-flam" artists' from all walks of life --- politics, economics, science, sports, education, religion and the list goes on. Mr. Vikram has touched a "nerve" that resonates throughout human history --- who or what am I to believe in (put my faith in/on) that will quench the "thirst" --- that leads to lasting happiness.

"TRUTH" itself is the "culprit" that has confused and bewildered me the most...and this film has "opened" a clearing...into the heart of it. Which is "How To Live in the World" with all it's Shams (i.e. Bernie Madoff), Lies (i.e. Bush-Cheney Invasion of Iraq) & VideoTape (i.e. The Media itself e.g. Rupert Murdoch)...demonstrates that "TRUTH" can be FALSE!

.....and I was not expecting to be so surprised BUT by the end of the movie "Kumare" he shows how to live in this world by treating everyone he met in the film with a curious, sincere-kindness that when I carefully examined --- how that affected me --- as I was watching the film --- my heart "burst open" with a tenderness I had long forgotten was there....and there in "As the Bard" would say "Lies the Rub".

bodhimom's picture

I loved this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rlawrence's picture

Are we still all in Platos cave craving to get out? Maybe there is no out, or in, and therein lies the problem. Great films change how we see the world and ourselves, I feel changed...thank you.

clunine's picture

My preference (only that) is to think we, the viewers, are the "marks" in this experiment, and that the "followers of Kumare" will not need to re-live the deep embarrassment of being duped, every time someone they know watches the film, perhaps the permanent difficulty in trusting and becoming vulnerable to another. Along with the perennial wise teaching of not succumbing to illusion are the ethical mandates of speaking truth and sincerity--the perennial wisdom that teachers bear more responsibility for ethics than anyone else. To judge that it's OK to strip bare the illusions of every student, without their consent, assumes we are all equal in our ability to not be damaged by betrayal. Why was it, Vikram, that you did not reveal your original motive at the end? Do you think your students have been harmed or helped by this experience, compared to an alternate where the teacher was sincere from the beginning?

katherinemasis's picture

Hi, clunine. A far worse betrayal would be to prolong the illusion of being an authentic teacher. Vikram revealed himself, and in the video that he showed to his former "students," he shared his motive. Ten out of fourteen "students" accepted his revealing and took it well, all in the same day. The other four are processing whatever it is they have to process, at their own speed--which should be respected. I would recommend this video to anyone contemplating entering a spiritual organization or committing to a spiritual teacher.