Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating: Since January 29 of this year, Sri Ashutosh Maharaj, founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious sect, has been residing in a freezer in his ashram in Punjab. His followers claim he is in a "deep meditative state (samadhi)." Doctors, however, have declared Maharaj clinically dead and his family have sued to have his death be investigated and to have his body released for cremation. The guru's son also alleges that Maharaj was murdered and that his followers are trying to gain control of his estate, said to be worth $170 million. While traditional yogis have claimed extraordinary powers, including the power to stop one's heart, the evidence for these claims has been lacking.
"At PSFK Conference NYC, Vikram Gandhi spoke about his latest movie Kumaré - The True Story of A False Prophet. While he was born in New Jersey, the film director spoke about how he had been noticing how the Indian-heritage culture he had experienced as he grew up, was being used by Americans and other Westerners to help solve their emotional and spiritual issues. To explore this idea further he dressed up as a guru, created a backstory with YouTube video and website, spoke like his grandmother and recruited followers in Arizona. What's unique is that throughout the film is that he tells everyone he was an illusion and asks his followers to look in a mirror to solve their own problems." [more inside]
The Hostile New Age Takeover of Yoga [print version]. Standard "omg commoditization" rant, but has a delectable anecdote wherein someone mistakes clingy navel-gazing for reflection. ("What part of no don't you understand?" his note said. "I never want to hear from you again.")
Yoga Action Squad! Episode 1: Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Vibrations --- The Yoga Action Squad, an elite team of yogis and yoginis from Santa Monica, spring into action to stop the very negative Dr. Bad Vibes and his overpaid bitchy assistant, Lethargo.
From organically-farming Zen centers to celebrity-cultivating Scientology centresTM, California is a seedbed of the most earnest (and most frivolous or worse) branches of spiritual inquiry. What's in the water in the Golden State that has made it The Visionary State? In an interview with editor Geoff Manaugh of the excellent BLDGBLOG, author Erik Davis -- whose published passions have ranged from an analysis of Philip K. Dick's "divine invasions" to erudite musings on Led Zeppelin's fourth album to an ode to the joys of being a teenage bongeur -- talks about the formerly chic devil-worshipper Anton LaVey, Beat Zen, Aldous Huxley, the Watts Towers, and beyond, with great photos by Michael Rauner, who collaborated with Davis on the new book.