Another Guru Bites the Dust
Bikram has been voted off our island but his ‘confederacy of dunces’ who are vulnerable to cults, amenable to false idols, await the next devilish messiah.
The Netflix film “Bikram, Yogi, Guru, Predator” about the rise and fall of Bikram Choudhury is aptly described as “provocative.” Having witnessed my fellow Americans, especially here in California, blindly follow cult after cult, I can’t say much of it shocked or surprised me.
I’m posting my reaction to the film because I have had a healthy forty-six-year relationship with yoga—never once drawn to a teacher who required guru worship or who exhibited any form of abusive behavior. All it takes is simple common sense. So I want to know who are these people who prop up the Rajneehses, Werner Earhards, Jim Joneses, Ramthas, and Bikrams?
I have taken at least a dozen Bikram yoga classes but preferred Iyengar style for a few reasons. The hot yoga salons (100 degrees) stink to high heavens of locker room sweat. No aromatherapy can mask that fetid smell. I respect the instructors (all women) but they did not inspire me. The last time I took a Bikram class, the instructor walked around narrating a story with numerous expletives about someone who had pissed her off. I had wanted to sink into serenity, not have to empathize with her side of a conflict.
She brought her anger to class, perhaps part of the DNA of the Bikram method. She was out of shape, overweight, did not do any pose with us. She called out the 26 poses in the required rote order, allotting the regimented time per pose. In Iyengar yoga classes, all instructors are trained in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology courses and we go deep and slow into poses, no time limit. Not so the Bikram instructors who never help individuals or make adjustments. They are more or less amiable boot-camp sergeants. Fortunately, I’ve had years of attentive yoga practice and other body work so I was not at risk for injury.
There was one startling revelation in the Bikram film. I learned that the training to be certified in his method was $10,000. Bikram must have heard Oscar Wilde’s quip, “Americans know the price of everything, the value of nothing.” The man knew his audience and how to work that Tinsel-Town crowd. The training is very short compared with that for Iyengar certification, which requires mentors, a lengthy process involving levels of readiness over a year or longer. The cost is much less than Bikram’s gouge.
My Real Concern
Bikram Choudhury is just another con artist, for the present disabled in this country—he’s still teaching around the world. More worrisome are the Americans who propped him up, who helped finance his fleet of expensive cars and profligate life style. They are too many. I am at a loss to understand their motivation or delusions about Bikram. What is their psychological makeup? Why can’t they smell a con job when it stinks like a locker room?
I have wondered if I am vaccinated against foisting guru-status on any one human, thanks to twelve solid years of Catholic indoctrination. When the curtain lifted in my early twenties, never again would I need to put my sense of truth in another human being. I turned the lamp inward and have not regretted it.
Interesting to note the similar influencing behavior between this elfin Indian man and a certain American politician I’ll call Tromp-l’oeil—French for “tricks the eye.” Both are inexorable narcissists, blatant power abusers, shameless predators of women. Both not only lie in the face of facts, but dig into the lie the more they are confronted. Both have trophy wives who turn a blind eye to their husbands, no doubt attached to the material comforts they provide. The scariest part: Both men are able to command a big enough starry-eyed following that allows them to continue in their crooked, self-serving, poisonous, ways.
Tell me how can the masses be so deluded. What Kool-Aid are they drinking?—an analogy that points to the fact that both men harm even their staunch supporters who imbibe their toxic philosophies. One female follower of Bikram interviewed in the film refused to censure him—rather was complicit in his denial. What didn’t she get about the rape and the assaults reported by many women, including those who agreed to be identified and those who wanted to remain private?
One male follower of Bikram interviewed in the film fell apart when he could no longer discount his guru’s abuse. It was a very sad moment for him. But when we look our fellow humans straight in the eye, no matter how skilled or talented they are in any discipline, we see them as humans with foibles, not infallible gods or gurus.
One last word. The yoga poses, which Bikram wanted to copyright, have been around and practiced for thousands of years. As we say in Zen, no matter how corrupt a teacher may be, the dharma is pure and untrammeled. So it is with the yoga asanas.