ISKCON North America’s Official Statement on The Love Guru

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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.

Anuttama dasa
ISKCON Minister of Communications

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Comments • [comment feed]

1 Unregistered

Guru concept is a centre of Hindu tradition and showing Guru in low light itself is denigration of the faith. When some one utters a word Guru what ISKCON would like masses to visualize? Guru Pitka or Swami Prabhupada?

ISKCON, have you forgotten the message from Mahabharata, “Dharma eva hato hanti/ Dharmo rakshati rakshitah” (One who destroys Dharma is destroyed by Dharma/ One who protects Dharma is protected by Dharma) ?

Comment posted by sanatany on June 21st, 2008
2 nrsimhananda

Thank you, Annutama prabhu, for the wise perspective on “The Love Guru.” Though I haven’t seen the movie, I agree that good-natured humor, whenever employed, is not generally designed to antagonize or irritate its targets. If we were to react to every satire, we would might soon be liable to declaring “fatwahs” against the perpetrators! :) Usually, knee-jerk reactions to religious “insults” are motivated by insecurities on the part of the offended. A person who is secure in their faith doesn’t have problems when people poke fun at them, especially when they shave their head sans a small ponytail, dress in wrinkled robes, bang on a tamborine or drum in congested cities, and sing words foreign to most passerby’s. I recently updated the ITV release, “Hare Krishna in the Movies,” which includes (as far as we know) every film (worldwide) that included some encounter with the devotees (through 2006’s, “The Bee Season” with Richard Gere). The movies begin with Visnujana Swami in 1970 and the presentation progresses in chronological order to the present. (I omitted my commentary in our first and second editions so you don’t have to endure my pontificating mug again.) There is plenty to laugh and chuckle at in this montage of devotee/faux devotee appearances. Even the nondevotees find it entertaining - and it always encourages questions of a more serious nature - like, did Eliot Gould get prasadam or is Julia Roberts really nice? (available at www.itvproductions.net) Of course, we know who is the real “love guru,” he’s the one who started the “love feasts” and taught WHO to love forever, His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada - kijay!

Comment posted by nrsimhananda on June 21st, 2008

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