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  • This started out to be a fable about a trippy New Ager named Florafauna Moonscallop and her unenlightening misadventures. But no matter how many different ways I approached it, it quickly became snarky and I try my damnedest not to do snarky.

    I want to tell you instead about a remarkable documentary I recently saw called Kumare. The premise is simple: Vikram Gandhi, a young American filmmaker of Indian descent, tries to see if he can pass himself off as a guru. He accordingly grows his hair and beard long, adopts a heavy Indian accent and christens himself Kumare. But where’s a budding guru to find disciples? He makes his way to Phoenix, Arizona and starts making the local workshop scene. In very short time, Kumare has a growing band of adherents to shepherd.

    He makes up rituals and composes chants mostly containing nonsense words. Now, if the film had ended here, it would have merely been an exercise in cruelty. Kumare’s followers are, for the most part, very likable and intelligent people and they trust him implicitly. But, much to Gandhi/Kumare’s amazement, he starts doing them genuine good. They begin making tangible strides in their personal and professional lives as they pour their hearts out to this saintly man.

    Our filmmaker now anguishes over his deception. After much soul-searching, he agrees to come clean to his followers. I’ll quickly fade to black rather than describe what happens next. If you’re so inclined, you can find the film on Netflix. Suffice it to say that everyone emerges changed from the experience.

    Throughout the film Gandhi emphatically repeats the old Zen saying to his followers, “When you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” This implies that the only guru or master you’ll ever need is you. ‘’

    We all know what we’ve been taught. Does there exist within each of us a Kumare waiting to confirm the home truths or liberate us from them?

    Image: Vikram Gandhi as Kumare
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