White Hinduism Case Study- Kumare the Movie

A fake or a genius? A skeptic of Eastern religion and Indian American, Vikram Gandhi takes on a social experiment by becoming a “fake guru” and builds a following (mostly of white Americans in Arizona) with made up teachings. He exposes blind adoption of fad religion, and cultural misappropriation, but somehow discovers true teachings and real relationships through it all.

His followers varied from yoga teachers, unemployed adults in transition, college students, recovered drug addicts, and working mothers. Vikram became Kumare by making up his own religion and passing it off as “spiritual teachings from the East.” He grew his following to about 15 people who took him to be a spiritual teacher from India, a rishi, a yogi, an enlightened person who was far from the troubles of an individualistic, capitalistic, Western society.

kumare_Hinduism_America

Vikram takes his teachings  to the extreme and builds a whole persona around Kumare, spending months giving teachings and advising his followers how to do different meditations and chants which he completely made up, pawning them off as ancient practices. People share their lives with him, share their problems, and ask his advice as they begin to trust him. Vikram begins to feel tension of his disguise as he builds authentic relationships with his followers.

The amazing part is that through the experience Kumare helps a number of people realize who they really are, and what they want to become in life. In the process Vikram (Kumare) changes as well, and actually becomes more and more like Kumare than his old self.

When Vikram exposes his American identity, something amazing happens. Instead of being angry, hurt, or feeling stupid, a few of the followers accept him wholeheartedly, and see it as all part of the teaching. They didn’t care if their “guru” was from Rishikesh or New York City. They were looking for peace, a friend, and someone they could trust, and they found all of that in Vikram/Kumare.

Those who were looking for a religious fad, a new meditative tactic that they could use in their own teachings, or something impressive to tell their friends, all rejected Vikram, and felt stupid for getting sucked into a scheme of this sorts. They threw his teachings out, and moved on looking for the next fad.

Those who were really searching, found what they were looking for, and didn’t care where it came from. In the end, these were the real disciples.

 

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3 thoughts on “White Hinduism Case Study- Kumare the Movie

  1. So many people are enamored with traditions that come from “spiritual cultures” and will believe anything they are told as long as it’s “Indian” or “Tibetan” or “Native American” (which tribe?) or what have you. But this is a very Orientalist way of thinking and it is not healthy to reduce entire cultures to these stereotypes, good or bad — either for one’s spiritual life or for society in general.

    I do think that there is room for individual spiritual search, but questioning is so necessary. If “truth is one,” as they say, then asking questions is not bad and should not undermine one’s faith. Blind faith is potentially dangerous. There are many people out there blown by the wind, searching for enlightenment, and many a fake religious leader willing to sell it to them. These people were lucky that Vikram/Kumare was not a Nithyananda or Jim Jones.

  2. I liked this movie. I liked the way he went about starting the fad, the way he talked about it and the ending of it. He made it interesting to watch the whole process of fake religion and I think hr covered it well how people respond so blindly.

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