Fake guru film director on ‘The Spiritual Placebo Effect’

We’ve mentioned the doucmentary “Kumare” a few times, and along with the Krishna Das doc that just premiered, it is on our non-blowing-everything-up-but-CGId films to see this summer list.

Now, the director of the move, Vikram Gandhi — yes, with a V — has a piece at the Huffington Post, tied to his movie’s release. In it, he discusses the “social experiment testing what we coined ‘The Spiritual Placebo Effect.’ Can a fake religion and religious leader have the same effect as a real one? If the facts are not real, does it make the experience any less real?”

A few excerpts:

The modern definition of yoga is convoluted as the postures yogis aspire to. Symbols, smells, words, icons, and religions of the East became an easy aesthetic for branding and marketing. Was the culture I grew up in becoming just a marketing scheme for a flourishing industry? In yoga class, was I the only one who wasn’t feeling the vibe of getting enlightened? And why were people all of a sudden bowing down to people in robes with expensive philosophies and the promises of happiness? I became skeptical of anyone who sold a spiritual product, anyone who claimed to be holier than anyone else, anyone who said they had the answer.


I’ve tried Iyengar, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Anusara, and met the founders, inventors, entrepreneurs, and gurus in many traditions.


It was not a matter of fooling people — everyone from the footsteps of the Himalayas to the Mexican Border believed in Kumaré. I suspect this is not because I am a great actor, but because Kumaré is a dream worth believing in. Being a fictional spiritual leader has a lot more rules than being a real a guru. No money can be earned. No temptation can be acted upon. My character only saw the highest in people, his ‘motivation’ was to make them happy — to trick people to be happy.

I’m tempted to say that the documentary is getting some decent publicity, but I suspect it is because I am paying attention to when “yoga” or “ashtanga” are in the news.

For those wavering on whether to see it, the first 10 minutes are online right here. Warning: Looks like it might cut a little painfully close to the bone for some.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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