A spiritual journey marred by controversy and allegations of abuse under the guise of enlightenment.
Buddhafield emerged as a new religious movement in the 1980s in West Hollywood, California, and has continued to operate, with its presence now also in Hawaii. Founded by Jaime Gomez, also known as Michel Rostan among other names, Buddhafield distinguishes itself through a blend of New Age beliefs, intense devotion to its leader, and a unique combination of spiritual practices that include yoga, meditation, and group activities aimed at personal transformation and enlightenment.
Origin and Development
The origins of Buddhafield trace back to the charismatic leadership of Jaime Gomez, who started the group in Hollywood before relocating to Austin, Texas, in 1992, and eventually to Oahu, Hawaii. The group, often recruiting through yoga studios, has been described as a cult by some former members due to its controlling practices and the charismatic authority of its leader. Buddhafield espouses New Age ideas, with Gomez presenting himself as a divine figure and promoting celibacy among his followers, despite allegations of sexual relations with various members.
Practices and Beliefs
Buddhafield’s practices revolve around New Age spirituality, incorporating elements such as the Sanskrit concept of shakti, or power, which Gomez claimed to transfer to his followers. The group also engaged in regular ballet practices, which were a significant part of their activities, emphasizing discipline and devotion. Despite promoting a lifestyle free from drugs and alcohol, allegations have surfaced regarding Gomez’s control over the personal lives of his followers, including aspects of their health and relationships.
Controversies and Allegations
The group has faced numerous allegations, particularly regarding the sexual abuse of male followers by Jaime Gomez. Victims reported that their confessions during hypnotherapy sessions were used against them, and the AIDS crisis was exploited to instill fear and prevent members from leaving. Former members have described their experiences as brainwashing, with Gomez allegedly using threats and manipulation to maintain control.
Public Exposure and Reaction
The documentary “Holy Hell,” directed by former member Will Allen, provides an inside look at the cult’s practices and the impact on its members. Released in 2016, the documentary showcases footage collected over 22 years, highlighting the experiences of those within Buddhafield and their journey towards realization and departure. The film’s release at the Sundance Film Festival and its subsequent airing on CNN brought significant attention to the group, sparking discussions on the nature of cults and the fine line between spiritual communities and exploitative practices.