After seeing trailers and promotional material for the upcoming Mike Myers film "The Love Guru," some Hindus have expressed concerns about the movie's portrayal of Hinduism and Hindu gurus. In the article below, various Hindu leaders, publications and groups, including Hindu Janajagruti Samiti explain their feelings about the movie.
Religious and spiritual organizations and leaders have gathered around acclaimed Hindu and Indo-American leader Rajan Zed, expressing deep concern about "The Love Guru" movie. If the trailer of the movie is an indicator, this movie is likely to hurt the sentiments of spiritual seekers and Hindus worldwide, who hold the "guru-disciple" relationship as sacred.
Examples of denigration of Hindu concepts in "The Love Guru" trailer include:
- The character of Guru Pitka is shown as a self-proclaimed guru after money and sex. These are actually tell-tale signs of fake gurus!
- Statements like "His [Guru Pitka's] karma is huge" trivialize concepts like karma, which are fundamental to Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) that have won respect even in scientific circles.
- Claims such as "Guru Pitka is the second best guru from India" disregard facts like India being home to illustrious gurus, such as Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharshi, to name a few.
- The character of Guru Pitka is shown in ochre/saffron robes, which symbolize renunciation, sacred to Hindus.
- Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. "The Love Guru" parodies it in a repugnant way and names some of the yoga poses as "no shoes, no shirt, no nirvana," "ass, gas, and grass," etc., on the movie site.
- Guru Pitka chants a so-called mantra resembling the name of a woman (Mariska Hargitay), ridiculing the revered concept of mantras or holy chants. Mantras are given to mankind by ancient sages, who were spiritual scientists par excellence, after much research into the spiritual dimension. Each syllable and pronunciation of mantras spiritually empowers the person reciting it with its underlying sankalpa (resolve).
- A guru is totally free from selfish motives (unlike as in "The Love Guru") and works for the welfare of humanity.
- While Hindus venerate their gurus, the occupation of Mike Myer’s Guru Pitka was listed as "Guru/life guide/Bikini inspector," on MySpace.com (linked to the official site of the movie).
Significance of True Gurus or Spiritually Evolved Masters
As per the Hindu scripture "Guru Gita" (authored by the Sage Vyasa), in the Sanskrit term "guru," "gu" refers to darkness of ignorance about God and "ru" refers to radiance of spiritual knowledge that dispels the spiritual ignorance. Thus, the guru is one, who with his radiance of spiritual knowledge, dispels the darkness of ignorance in his disciple. The guru is the manifest form of the unmanifest teaching principle of God to guide the spiritual seeker towards self/god realization and to grace the seeker's progress on the spiritual path. The need for the guru, a spiritual preceptor who imparts spiritual knowledge, is dictated by several considerations. Important truths do not come through the study of books or independent intellectual reflection alone, but many times are the result of inherited wisdom handed down from enlightened leaders.
The importance of spiritual progress of the individual and society as a whole is clear to any socially conscious individual, as the present era of materialism has produced enough misery for mankind. With so much suffering that we all are witness to, spirituality is the only ray of hope to get rid of the various problems that plague society today, and achieve bliss or perpetual supreme happiness.
In spirituality, the "guru-disciple" relationship is an important system that imparts spiritual knowledge and is very important for spiritual awakening. As we know, there are many who have benefited through this system, from the East and West alike. The benefits of the guidance and grace of a true guru, who is a spiritually evolved master through whom the unmanifest God principle guides and uplifts the seeker of God on the spiritual path, cannot be described in words alone, but have to be experienced through actual spiritual practice.
The Blissful True Guru-Disciple Relationship
By following progressive spiritual practice as per the principles of spirituality, the seeker eventually progresses to the level of a disciple. A true disciple is spiritually mature enough to understand and follow the high level guidance of the guru. Hence, a true guru (in manifest/human form) will automatically come into the disciple's life to uplift him to his ultimate destination of God-realization. The blissful guru-disciple relationship, which is glorified in Hindu scriptures and by saints of many paths, is a spiritual phenomenon. It can be experienced only with actual spiritual practice.
To be a true guru, the person has to have realized God to a high degree. "The Love Guru" seems to perpetrate misconceptions about gurus, even as most viewers lack exposure to understand and experience the significance of true gurus. Misconceptions already abound especially in the West about Hinduism and the concept of the guru. For this reason, Hindu leaders have urged Paramount Pictures and Viacom to issue to the viewers of this movie a study guide about Hinduism and the sacred role of the guru.
Paramount to Pre-Screen Movie for Hindu Leaders in U.S.
The trailer of "The Love Guru" itself is so denigrating, religious and spiritual leaders have raised their concerns well before the release of the movie. Heeding this, Paramount Pictures have agreed to pre-screen their final print of "The Love Guru" to Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders in the U.S.
All the concerns and recommendations from the spiritual and religious leaders will be known only after the pre-screening, to suggest appropriate changes to the movie, and to ensure that it does not denigrate Hinduism. Paramount should be positively responsive to the concerns that Hindu leaders point out after watching the movie at the pre-screening event and be prepared to make amends if requested.
Support to the Protests from All Quarters
Religious groups have been urging filmmakers to be more responsible when handling faith-related subjects. They have contacted film distributors associations, exhibitors groups, theater owners, etc., in various parts of the world, urging them not to distribute/screen the movie tunil Paramount makes necessary changes.
The protests against "The Love Guru" have won the support of many leaders and organizations of various faiths, such as: Documentary filmmaker, Bryan D. Hall; Sean Clarke, editor of Spiritual Science Research Foundation; Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, a Jewish leader well-known in parts of California and Nevada; Natalie Kaharick, a leader of International Association for Human Values; Andrea Forman, founder of Shanti Shanti, the only Sanskrit rock band in the world; Father Charles T. Durante, a Catholic priest well-respected in northern Nevada for his various community outreach efforts; Reverend John J. Auer, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Reno. Many others have issued statements in support of this protest.
A Bit about Protests and Freedom of Expression
Seekers on any spiritual path of Hindu origin respect freedom of expression. It reflects the extent of denigration in this movie’s trailer, that even the tolerant Hindu and spiritual community is registering their protest against it!
Poking fun is one thing, but if it creates a sense of belittling others' faith, then it is wrong. Those who claim such protest movements as marring the tolerant spirit of Hinduism seem to be ignorant about the basic tradition of Hinduism that encourages peaceful debates, won on their intellectual merit.