Inside Buddhafield, The Dancer-Founded Sex Cult

At this point, the cult leader's playbook is well-known to the point of passé. Take a delusional egomaniac, give him a modicum of power over a flock of misguided disciples, toss in some mystical mumbo-jumbo and invented terminology about enlightenment or some such thing, invent some ritualistic behaviors, pass out some in-group clothing and other appearance markers, sever members' ties to their pasts, engage in some disturbing sexual manipulation, witness an eventual fallout and/or crackdown, and voila: instant entry in the ever-expanding spreadsheet of samey cults. 

The story of Jaime Gomez and the 1980s-founded cult, Buddhafield, follows every single one of those points to a tee. And yet, certain things about it stand out as particularly bizarre, exploitative, over-the-top, and dismissive of even the pretense of existing for some reason other than the deification and gratification of Michel, Andreas, the Teacher, or most recently Reyji ("god-king"), as Gomez has variously called himself over the decades. 

As sites like Vanity Fair and Austin Monthly outline, Gomez is a Venezuelan-born dancer who was big on pageantry, mascara, Speedos, plastic surgery, frolicking in the surf, receiving massages, eating farm-to-plate organic vegetables, and giving private "spiritual sessions," so to speak, to young men in his flock. In 2016, former cult member Will Allen attested to these happenings when he released his documentary "Holy Hell." Gomez, though, was never caught, never brought to justice, and as CNN reports, lives today as yet another incarnated stereotype: a beachside yoga teacher in Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii.  

A Hollywood acting, dancing, and porn reject

Could the tale of Jaime Gomez and Buddhafield really be as simple as a frail, attention-starved, career failure manipulating the vulnerable into giving him all the adoration he never otherwise got? Sadly enough, yes. But in every respect, Gomez went above and beyond, to the point where the reader has to wonder whether or not Gomez bought into his own lunacy, or if he was just driven by an insatiable need to be idolized.

Despite multiple documentaries like 2016's "Holy Hell," a recent episode of Netflix's 2023 "How to Be a Cult Leader," and numerous online exposés about Gomez, not much is known about his early life. By all accounts, he was the son of a "wealthy Venezuelan rancher," per CNN. He arrived in the U.S. with a typical dream of Hollywood fame and fortune and changed his name to Michel Rostand to pursue it. He claimed to have been a dancer with the Oakland Ballet and was particularly proud of his non-speaking role in the background in 1968's "Rosemary's Baby," of all films.

When he couldn't cut it as an actor or dancer, he took to doing porn. From there, as Ready Steady Cut says, he started his own business as an acting coach. In a position of such implied power, no matter how meager, he must have gotten his first taste of guru-dom. He got his West Hollywood cult and commune Buddhafield up and running during the 1980s.

Mystical vagueness meets bodily perfection

Jaime Gomez spouted mystical musings just as stock, vague, and unimaginative as his title: the Teacher. As former cult members said on the Netflix series "How to Be a Cult Leader," Gomez claimed to be "enveloped in God consciousness" and would summon members to his private tent to "see the light," which was actually him flickering a flashlight on and off while he pushed a thumb into members' foreheads. Then there was "The Knowing," another one of Gomez's invented and generically-named rituals which entailed glimpsing the divine through meditation. If someone was unable to do so, then they just weren't prepared and had to keep at it.

Meanwhile, cult members — which reached 100 to 120 by 1990, per Flux Hawaii — prepared and fed Gomez his daily meals, played in the surf with him while he wore a Speedo and blessed them, massaged him twice a day, read him bedtime stories for three hours a night, built him thrones, paid for his cars, landscaped his gardens, and had plastic surgery done on his behalf so he could examine the results and see if it was worth him getting the same procedure done. Men had to shave their chests, be extremely physically fit, and change their hair to look like him. All cult members had to adopt a no dairy, wheat, pork, beef, caffeine, alcohol, or sugar diet. Gomez wanted all physical blemishes gone and exerted absolute control over everyone's personal lives.

Pageantry and hypnotherapy in Austin

In 1992 Gomez and his approximately 120 followers moved from West Hollywood to Austin for unknown reasons and settled in the city's forested west side, per Austin Monthly. Will Allen, creator of the 2016 documentary "Holy Hell," says in another Austin Monthly article that Buddhafield members had to "throw people off the scent" regarding their cult when traveling in public.

Meanwhile, Gomez set his followers to work building a community theater for him to put on performances. As part-and-parcel of Buddhafield's cult activities, Gomez staged entire, elaborate theater performances where he forced members to dance, wear costumes, sing, etc., preparing for years to put on one single performance for the cult, per Austin Monthly. This theater, the 300-seat One World Theater, still exists to this day, although its website mentions nothing of its Buddhafield origins and instead frames itself as a multicultural arts center founded by an "education outreach program."

It's during this time that Gomez, as the Buddhafield Netflix documentary says, upped the manipulative ante. He started charging his followers $100 per hypnotherapy session, which he would secretly record and use as blackmail to keep members divided and focused solely on worshipping him. These sessions, per Vulture, also became another way for Gomez to sexually abuse his followers. CNN says that Gomez reserved certain nights a week for specific "concubines:" All were male but not all were gay. 

Exposed as a predator

Buddhafield came crashing down in 2007 after over two decades of operation. The Netflix documentary "How to Be a Cult Leader" says that it took only one unnamed member — just one — to take the initiative. This individual fled the group one day and sent a mass email to every other Buddhafield member. In that email he said directly what others had likely been pondering for years: Jaime Gomez was a maniacal sex predator who needed to be shut down. 

The email also exposed lies Gomez had made about his past, including claims that Gomez had made about having "metaphysical training" with Indian gurus, Gomez' issues with tax evasion, and more. On top of all this, over the duration of the cult's existence Gomez had presented himself as celibate, i.e. too spiritually enlightened for sex. Buddafield members confronted Gomez, who denied everything. Six months later Buddahfield was no more and Gomez disappeared.

To this day former Buddahfield members wrestle with the years of their lives they spent as a "modern-day slave" to Gomez, per Vanity Fair says. "Holy Hell" creator Will Allen, who spent 22 years as a thrall of Gomez, "cried every day" while working on his documentary, which was produced by actor-musician Jared Leto, who himself has been suspected of starting his own cult on Mars Island off of Croatia. On Vulture, Allen describes screening "Holy Hell" to other former cult members who sought support before releasing the film to the public. 

The god-king of Lanikai Beach

Lest the reader think the end of Buddhafield meant the end of Jaime Gomez, think again. Gomez never faced any charges and fled to Kailua, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu where he lives and teaches yoga to this day under the moniker "Reyji," meaning "god-king." As CNN explains, Gomez hit out at "Holy Hell" when it released, saying in an email that he was "saddened by this attempt to obscure the message of universal love and spiritual awakening." He called out his former members' "disharmony," said he didn't understand what made them "so angry," and that he "hold[s] each one close to my heart." Meanwhile, Gomez representative and loyalist Jentry Petzold publicly harassed the "Holy Hell" team at a screening.

Gomez' yoga studio, Aloha Yoga Kula, has since rebranded itself as Blue Lotus Kailua and mentions nothing of Gomez, but retains its old Facebook and Instagram profiles. Meanwhile, Gomez' presence haunts Kailua like a goblin, whose extensive yoga-and-wellness community eyes each other in public and wonders who, exactly, is a disciple of the newest face of the "Teacher." 

And make no mistake, Gomez still operates and collects followers under a looser, less obviously cultish banner. A very disturbing 2016 post on Facebook from a marine stationed at Kaneohe Bay describes how his wife got roped into Gomez' latest cult after giving birth to their son in 2014. She went from pre-natal yoga classes to live-in resident with Gomez, and vanished from the marine's life along with their son.