Kumaré — finding the inner guru

Do you see the inner guru or just the outer one?

Do you see the inner guru or just the outer one?

Kumaré is the fascinating documentary of Vikram Ghandi, a first-generation American, who made a film of his consciousness-raising experiment: could he pass himself off as an authentic Indian guru? Yes, it turns out, he could.

The film is a fascinating account of how people project their inner worlds into their outer reality. The people who ended up following the ersatz guru wanted a manifestation of a wise answer man to help them deal with the stresses and complexities of their lives.

Ostensibly the film is about Sri Kumare and his fraud, an elaborate prank (for a good cause) that reveals more than he expected how easy it is to fool people with his woo-woo impressions. (Ha-ha, look at them!) But as Vikram quickly discovered, which adds great intensity to the project, people opened up to him in astounding ways when they projected upon him with their goo-goo-guru eyes. Essentially the cosmic joke was on him as he encountered communication and intimacy at a much deeper level than if he were in his normal Vikram self. Kumare turned out to be the inner guru of Vikram, and he encouraged people to find their own inner guru.


While it’s tempting to laugh at the people who fell for Vikram’s disguise, the documentary reflects how many among us create everyone in our lives with our minds — with our imaginations, projections, desires. Say that you are wildly in love with someone. Bottom line is that you are making that person up in your mind. You are projecting the qualities you want to see in that person. Those qualities come from within. You may be ignoring other qualities that interfere with your projection of ooh, la-la, this one’s for me.

Similarly, imagine being on the down side of a relationship that was once hot, juicy, spectacular. As we go about gathering evidence to support our feelings of separation and disappointment, it’s not always obvious that we are still making that person up in our minds.  After all, we have evidence of how that person failed us! Now, though, we’re letting other projections and perceptions rule. We simply are not trained to look within at our own inner creep (or shadow side) to see how much of this evidence we created.

The film also points out (without actually bringing the subject up) that just as we project guru status onto someone who looks and acts the part, we do this across the board. How do you feel about your doctor? Your therapist? Your mailman? Your banker? Your insurance rep? Your business partner? Your go-to religious expert? Your favorite sports hero?

The message we often hear to “look within” is all about discovering our inner worlds from which all projections emanate. When you feel yourself influenced by someone in an intense way, either good or bad, look within to see what part of yourself that person is stimulating. See them as mirrors reflecting parts of you.


This is a movie filled with lessons for me. Even though I was never much for gurus, I did grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area with a fascination for psychics like Betty Bethards and Sylvia Browne. I would perceive them as being more connected to the universe than I am. They could see dead people or predict the future. Cool! Wowzers!

I see that I was heavily conditioned to look to the outside world for answers and that much of society sets itself up with authorities and salespeople to provide those answers, often for a price. Learning more about how we project seems to be a great tool for negotiating our journeys through life.

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