By Anuttama dasa
On June 20, 2008, Paramount Pictures releases The Love Guru nationwide. The film tells the story of Guru Pitka (Mike Myers), a westerner raised at an Indian ashram, who grows up to be a high-profile and eccentric holy man come west.
While the level of humor contained in the film is crass, the comedy has drawn significant attention even before its official opening – both pro and con – and from Hindu-Americans concerned that it violates appropriate boundaries in dealing with a religious subject.
On behalf of the North American chapters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Vaishnava, or devotional Hindu organization with an ethnically diverse membership, we understand that many Hindus are concerned that the film may mock their faith. At the same time, having seen the film in its entirety, we find it to be a typical satire that does not intend to hurt religious sentiments.
While we respect the rights of others within the community to draw their own conclusions, we disagree with the calls to protest or boycott the film. We encourage the Hindu-American community to view the film in its context as a comedy, and to draw on the tolerance and broadmindedness that are hallmarks of our faith.
The Love Guru is a satire, a genre that typically replaces reality with contradictions and exaggerations. If however, some mistake satire for truth, then rather than be angered, we could take the opportunity to clarify misrepresentations and educate others about our authentic traditions. If approached in a constructive and proactive way, the film may even lead to increased tolerance, dialogue, and understanding between Hindus and non-Hindus.
We believe that pressuring filmmakers to censor , re-rate, or otherwise limit their artistic freedom is generally antithetical to the spirit of pluralism and tolerance within the Vedic, or Hindu culture. We recognize that, in certain cases, media depictions may so egregiously distort or maliciously denigrate our faith that boycotts, petitions, and other acts of protest are warranted. The Love Guru, however, is not such a case.
Members of most faith traditions are sensitive about aspects of their tradition being used as sources of humor. However, The Love Guru reminds us that it is wise for people of faith to also maintain a sense of humor-and to take the time to laugh (even at ourselves) once in a while.
ISKCON Minister of Communications