In the second episode of this installment of the How to Become series, the cult leaders’ tropes are discussed in detail. The second episode was about Jim Jones and how he converted his flock from mere three digits to five in a few years but ended up paying the price with his life. He killed himself and convinced his entire commune at Jonestown, Guyana, to do the same. How to Become a Cult Leader Episode 3 focuses on how the cult leader Jaime Gomez of Buddhafield managed to form a commune, claiming he would provide high consciousness and enlightenment to those who joined his group.
At one point, Jaime Gomez was so popular that many stars, models, and dancers joined his cult in the hope of achieving the same thing he promised. The only way to achieve this was to live the life of a celibate during their stay with Buddhafield. This only proves that Jaime started all this hogwash to get what he wanted. The stardom he never achieved during his brief stint with Hollywood. Through mind control, he thought he could achieve what every other cult leader wanted to: control people, become the most important part of their lives, and get them to embrace Buddhafield’s lifestyle as their own. Every cult leader has this uncontrollable need to control the people who join their group and make sure their grasp on them lasts forever. It is wishful thinking, but most leaders think they are omnipotent, and that this will allow them to live forever.
Jaime Gomez is a Venezuelan who moved to the United States of America to become a professional dancer and an actor in Hollywood. Jamie started an acting school, through which he began meeting people. The acting classes soon became spiritual, and this was probably when he figured he had the ability to grab the attention of people. A cult leader in the making always looks for avenues to make them feel relevant. This sense of importance allows them to gain confidence and claim that they could help the followers reach their final goal.
The followers, in this case, are mostly people who are done with a materialistic lifestyle and are seeking divine power to provide them with the enlightenment that Jaime promises. Jaime claims to have met a guru, which led him to reach a state of enlightenment. For viewers watching documentaries, it is easy to comprehend that his claims are hogwash, and there’s no way he would attain what he said he had achieved just in one sitting. Enlightenment is a highly complex state of mind that is said to have been achieved only by Lord Buddha, the namesake of Jaime’s cult. His claims he could help his followers achieve ultimate happiness along with enlightenment would only make sense in the grand scheme of things if the followers were allowed to be themselves and express their desires. But Buddhafield had followers being treated as unpaid labor, they would only serve his will and nothing else. His group members were not allowed to question his lifestyle and he expected everyone else in the commune to live as he did.
A typical cult leader’s trait is to alter the mindset of the people joining the cult, so they think his way of living is the right one. A materialistic lifestyle is what he wanted his followers to give up, including detaching from all relationships that could stop them from being happy. The inclusion of eastern spiritual terms such as “Shakti” and Karma,” which are used in the wrong context by Jaime, is cultural appropriation because he has no right to just use some random words to enhance his image, showcase his command over his field of meditation, and grab the attention of his target group, who have no idea of how enlightenment and state of consciousness work. This also proves how gullible the white population can be, as they have zero understanding of the culture that nests and nurtures meditation.
What we understood from Jim Jones’ and this episode of How to Become a Cult Leader is the availability of unpaid labor in the form of followers who are willing to do anything for their leader or guru. Their guru is a ‘know-it-all,’ and the members of the group are molded to serve the man who has promised them nirvana. Jaime did not have to lift a finger, and this was probably the power of mind control the episode focused on. Experts on the documentary, including some of the ex-Buddhafield members, speak about Jaime’s ability to convince them to indulge in activities, which also included making them spend money on the commune village he wanted to build for the group. Jaime also made the members of his group build a theater stage from scratch.
Jaime’s obsession with himself grew when he started performing plenty of plastic surgeries on himself, and he forced many men and women to do so, emphasizing the need to look perfect all the while. His idea was to propagate perfectionism, which seems bizarre because enlightenment has no connection with looking like a mannequin. This should have rung the warning bells to many of the followers in the commune, but it did not because they surrendered themselves to Jaime’s cause, and there was no turning back. Jaime’s lack of empathy is another added cult leader trait, which is to feel nothing for the other person even though they agree that they care and listen.
Jaime’s control over his Buddhafield suddenly faded when an ex-member sent an explosive email revealing Jaime’s lies about his past and his metaphysical training. There is also a history of him being a sexual predator, and one of the speakers in the documentary stated that he had physical relations with Jaime while he was very young, and the man manipulated him into doing so. Cult leaders such as Jaime Gomez and Jim Jones, who believed in celibacy and encouraged followers to give up the physical pleasures of life, were also the ones who were accused of assault and having relations with the followers themselves. The same followers were asked to remain silent for the sake of the cult and the final goal they were promised. The manipulation works in such subtle ways that one finds it difficult to draw the line as well. It is wrong to blame the victim at this point because their involvement was a result of them being promised something they could not achieve without their leader.
Scores of complaints against Jaime Gomez, followed by almost none of them achieving any enlightenment, led to the Buddhafield dying a slow death over time. There is no mention of Jaime Gomez being charged for any crime he committed while leading Buddhafield, but it is assumed that the man faded away into oblivion eventually. The celebrities who joined his cult should have known about the other life that Jaime led behind the doors of his room in the commune. The viewers only hope to get their take on how the man led the Buddhafield and his intentions with it. There is no mention of whether Buddhafield still exists or if it has disbanded over the years. I wish the makers had given more insight into what happened to Jaime Gomez as they spoke about the end of other cult leaders. The ending seems a bit ambiguous in this episode, but it perfectly speaks about how mind control has a dangerous effect on people.