Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen – Kumara: The True Story Of A False Prophet
Jul 2012 31

Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen – Kumara: The True Story Of A False Prophet

Posted In Blog,Entertainment,Love,Movies,Relationships,Sex,Society

by Brad Warner

Last week I saw the movie Kumare. It’s a tremendously important film that I really hope gets a lot of notice. But it’s a movie that will be widely misunderstood. Take, for example, the review in the June 29th issue of Entertainment Weekly. They say:

American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi adopted the singsong Indian accent of his elders, grew his hair long, posed as a guru, and found followers in Phoenix. And while he was at it, he kept cameras rolling to make this dubious Borat-esque documentary. Gandhi tries to dodge criticism of his mocking scam by rationalizing that even a phony wise man can offer real solace. Besides, he says, he learned something about sincerity — not to mention the value of film festivals as fertile ground for publicity stunts.

Now, I like Entertainment Weekly. I’m even a subscriber. But I’m not at all surprised that they were unable to grasp the point of this movie. As they say, this is a movie about a guy of Indian descent who posed as a guru and filmed it. But what Vikram Gandhi did was not in any way a “mocking scam” nor is this film at all “Borat-esque.” As Borat, Sasha Baron Cohen played his character and the reactions it got for laughs. And while there are plenty of funny moments in Kumare, Vikram is dealing with a much more serious and important subject. But it’s a subject that I doubt the writers at Entertainment Weekly have much close contact with and so perhaps I can forgive them for completely missing the point.

As I’ve often written in this blog and in my books, I am highly uncomfortable in my Buddhist robes. Even though I am entitled to wear the golden colored sash (called an o-kesa) of a so-called “Zen Master,” I rarely take the damned thing out of the box it lives in, in the bottom of my closet. This is because as soon as you put something like that on a certain segment of the people you meet start reacting to you in ways that I find highly bizarre and off-putting.

Uniforms are powerful and significant. This is why the police, our “boys in blue,” dress in special clothes. It’s why the President of the United States always has a red tie. It’s why priests of all religions dress up in funny outfits. People really respond to that stuff.

Vikram had a serious interest in why certain well-heeled middle-class Americans are so easily drawn to pretty much anyone with a funny accent who puts on a set of robes. His first idea was to make a documentary film about actual gurus. But what he found disgusted and deeply disturbed him. He uses a few of the interviews he conducted for this unfinished project in the early part of the movie. And some of them are really chilling.

The one that bugged me most was Bhagavan Das who says, “If I was a twenty year old girl, I would love hanging out with me. What could be more fabulous than having sex with a really spiritual mystical person?” Vkram cuts this together with shots of a slightly spaced out but very attractive young blonde who says of Bhagavan Das, “He’s the new teacher of this age, of this world. He’s someone who has the answer, I believe.” Yep. And the answer is in his pants.

Bhagavan Das, in case you were wondering, is an old teacher of Ram Dass, the guy who wrote Be Here Now, and has been milking his association with Ram Dass for the past forty years (he even titled his own book It’s Here Now (Are You?)). He was a hippie who went to India and became a yogi then made a lot of famous friends including Jimi Hendrix. Which is fine. But I saw him in that video and it’s hard to imagine sex with a dude that hairy would be all that fabulous for a twenty-year old girl.

I don’t want to draw this into yet another of my rants about the matter of spiritual teachers who sleep with their students. I wrote two books that go deeply into that subject. But it’s just one of the things that drove Vkram to undertake the important social experiment he documents in this film.

By putting on some orange robes and imitating his grandmother’s Indian accent and mannerisms, Vkram discovered that there are people out there who are willing to believe just about any damned thing as long as it’s spoken by someone who appears to represent some kind of mystical spiritual tradition from the mysterious East. He has them doing air guitar moves and getting little penises drawn on their foreheads. Not only that, he tells them straight up that the thing he’s drawing on their foreheads is a dick and they still let him do it.

These are not dumb people either. They are intelligent, educated and sincere. Nor does Vkram try to make them look like fools. Over and over again he takes pains to point out that pretty much anyone could potentially fall for this kind of thing if they were seeking “The Answer” outside of themselves.

But as the guru Sri Kumare, Vkram has a message. And his message is that the answer is always within each of us. That we do not need to seek it in someone else. He intends to prove that by first luring his followers in with the scam of the guru Sri Kumare and then revealing to them that he’s really just a guy from New Jersey. I won’t give away the ending. But suffice it to say, it’s pretty intense.

The thing is, though, as Entertainment Weekly failed to understand in spite of saying it in their review, “even a phony wise man can offer real solace.” Sri Kumare, phony as he is, ends up doing his followers some actual good. That’s because Vikram, the man inside the Sri Kumare guise, is at heart a good guy who truly does want to help — even if that wasn’t what he initially set out to do. He’s not trying to scam these people. He’s trying to make a very important point. Sure he’s also trying to get a hit movie out of it. And I really hope his movie is a hit because a lot of people need to see this film.

It’s going to upset a certain segment of the audience who will see themselves in Sri Kumare’s followers and feel that they’re being played for fools. And you know what? It ought to upset them. That is precisely the point. But this is going to make it tough for Vkram to get the film seen by the people who most need to see it. It would be sad if the only people who get into the film are those who see Sri Kumare’s followers as a bunch of idiots and who mistakenly believe they’re above all that.

As for me, who very definitely is one of the people who needed to see this movie, it’s got me thinking again about the whole matter of spiritual uniforms and the role of the teacher in the spiritual quest. It’s true that the answer is within each and every one of us. But it’s also true that most of us need someone else to help us see that. The film Kumare demonstrates this in a very concrete — and highly entertaining — way.

The question it raises for me is this; Does it really even matter if the teacher has any sort of grounding? Can anyone at all put on some robes and, if he or she is at least a decent person, act as a guide for others? Why should I insist that anyone I would pass my lineage on to be extremely balanced before I give them the paperwork that lets them wear one of those silly golden colored sashes? My tentative answer is, on the one hand pretty much anyone who is even just a bit balanced can help others find balance. But such a person could only help their followers to a limited degree.

Also, as Vikram in the guise of the guru Kumare discovered, putting on those robe can make you act differently. When people start to trust in you, as they trusted in the phony Sri Kumare, any decent person will feel the need to try and be worthy of that trust. This may be why Dogen extolled the virtues of wearing the o-kesa, calling it “the great robe of liberation.”

But those robes can also be a dangerous weapon. Putting on the robe may make a decent person inclined to act more decently. But a less decent person can use its mojo to get all kinds of things like money and sex and power. The movie Kumare only hints at the extent to which one can abuse such power. But the real world provides plenty of examples.

Yeah. I’m talking to you, Bhagavan Das.

***

Brad Warner is the author of Sex, Sin and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between as well as Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up! and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He maintains a blog about Buddhist stuff that you can click here to see. You can also buy T-shirts and hoodies based on his books, and the new CD by his band Zero Defex now!

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Moment of Clarity: The Euro Was Designed To Fuck You 12 Ways Til Sunday
Jul 2012 31

Moment of Clarity: The Euro Was Designed To Fuck You 12 Ways Til Sunday

Posted In Activism,Blog,Politics

by Lee Camp

Could the European currency that looks like Monopoly money’s ugly cousin actually be a weapon designed to gut labor laws and environmental regulations?!? No?!? That would be a crazy conspiracy meant for a crazy man when he’s having one of his crazy conversations between him and a bewildered dog…Oh, except the dude who created the Euro said so…This probably sounds more confusing than it is. Watch the video, and it will all make sense. I use orgies as an analogy.

[Keep Reading...]

Tattoo Tuesday Roundup!
Jul 2012 31

Tattoo Tuesday Roundup!

Posted In Blog,Tattoo Tuesday,Tattoos

by Blogbot

Every week we ask the ladies and gentlemen of the web to show us their finest ink in celebration of #TattooTuesday.

Our favorite submission from Twitter wins a free 3 month membership to SuicideGirls.com.

Last week we had an army of awesome arm piece entrants so we’ve picked three #TattooTuesday winners: @harleykaos, @womaninprogress, and @SJVEEN – well they say good things come in threes!

Enter this week’s competition by replying to this tweet with a pic of your fav tattoo and the #tattootuesday hashtag.

Good luck!

A few things to remember:

  • You have to be 18 to qualify.
  • The tattoo has to be yours…that means permanently etched on your body.
  • On Twitter we search for your entries by looking up the hashtag #TattooTuesday, so make sure you include it in your tweet!

Check out the Tattoo Tuesday winners of weeks past!

NEW SG Interview: Alex Kurtzman – People Like Us
Jul 2012 31

NEW SG Interview: Alex Kurtzman – People Like Us

Posted In Blog,Entertainment,Interviews,Movies

by Fred Topel

“I often feel like my Los Angeles is never represented accurately onscreen.”
- Alex Kurtzman

This is one of the only times I’ve spoken to Alex Kurtzman by himself. He’s usually part of the screenwriting duo of Orci and Kurtzman. He and his partner Bob have written films like Transformers, Star Trek and Cowboys & Aliens. The duo also co-created TV’s Fringe. Forbes Magazine called them “Hollywood’s Secret Weapons” and considers them “the force behind $3 billion in box office.”

Not only was I getting Kurtzman solo, but he made time for me at a moment I couldn’t believe. He had just returned from a nationwide tour promoting his new movie, People Like Us, and as soon as he got home from the airport he called me. I know what it feels like to travel. I would not be coherent after a flight and a drive. I guess that’s why I’m not a screenwriter.

People Like Us is also Kurtzman’s directorial debut. It is the personal story of a debt-ridden investor (Chris Pine) who grudgingly returns home for his father’s funeral. When the will is read, he learns he has a sister (Elizabeth Banks) and nephew, whom he meets but doesn’t quite fully introduce himself to.

If you thought talking robots or space aliens were hard to explain, here’s a situation that would take a Hollywood mastermind to sort out. Luckily Kurtzman was on the case. He couldn’t keep his original title, which was Welcome to People, but Kurtzman explained how he dealt with a human drama. After we asked about all the other big movies he’s writing and producing, Kurtzman left us with some screenwriting theory advice too.

Read our exclusive interview with Alex Kurtzman on SuicideGirls.com.

Tease of the Day
Jul 2012 31

Tease of the Day

Posted In Blog,Tease

Stigmata Suicide in Believe In Yourself

  • INTO: Loving, respectful, empathic, funny people.
  • NOT INTO: Copycats, arrogant, cruel, fake, people.
  • MAKES ME HAPPY: Shopping, reading good stories, listening to melancholic songs, nature.
  • MAKES ME SAD: Animal cruelty, war, destroyed nature, the greed for power and money.
  • HOBBIES: Drawing.

Get to know Stigmata better over at SuicideGirls.com!


Back Row Perspective Part 3: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message To The Online Community
Jul 2012 30

Back Row Perspective Part 3: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message To The Online Community

Posted In Activism,Blog,Entertainment,Movies,Politics

by A.J. Focht

In the hours following the carnage that took place at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, there was a remarkable flood of moving reactions from across the internet. It’s been more than a week since that awful night, and online communities remain one of the greatest allies for the victims.

Seventy of the innocent movie goers that entered Theater 9 excited to enjoy The Dark Knight Rises, ended the tragic evening either spread out among seven local area hospitals or in the morgue because of wounds inflicted by gunfire. Many of the victims were in serious or critical condition, and a total of twelve didn’t survive that night. Doctors and surgeons scrambled to help all of the victims, but their efforts were hindered by a blood shortage. Websites such as Lets’s Be Friends Again helped promote an emergency call for blood in this time of need.

A well-intentioned, if somewhat misguided, viral post requesting that Christian Bale visit the victims also did the rounds on Facebook. With dozens hospitalized in need of blood, a celebrity appearance was what the city wanted, but not what the city needed. More groups rose up and made efforts online to promote blood donation. Social media kept the blood drives fresh on everyone’s mind as the feeds were filled with images and articles encouraging donations.

It wasn’t just blood the patients in the hospital were in dire need of though. Many of the injured were without health insurance. A local standup comedian, Caleb Medley, was shot in the face that night. His medical bills quickly rose well into six figures; all the while, his wife Katie was in labor with their baby, Hugo. The family doesn’t have insurance and they fear the bills the young couple could be facing will haunt them for the rest of their lives. CalebMedley.com was established to accept donations to help ease the couple’s medical bill burden. With the help of social media, the story was picked up by major news organizations.

Caleb isn’t the only victim accumulating mountains of medical debt. A week after the shootings, twelve people remained in hospital, five in critical condition. Three Colorado hospitals announced they would waive or help with the medical fees the victims accrued. The charities being established for the victims and the hospitals’ support has laid a strong foundation to service this crucial need.

The city also got what it wanted. On his own accord, without contacting his publicist, Christian Bale showed up in Denver to visit the victims. No one would have even known Bale made an appearance if it hadn’t been for people tweeting and posting to Facebook from the hospital. Bale also visited the memorial set up near the theater.

Amazing acts of generosity and kindness have come through the social media networks, but that isn’t to say that everyone is sympathetic and respectful. Amongst all the calls for blood donations and the thousands of well wishes, social media feeds were beset with posts politicizing the issue, most of these honed in on the issue of gun control. Now, I am not saying that this isn’t the time to talk about gun control, but both sides used this disaster as an excuse to further polarize the debate, when in fact an air of pragmatism and compromise is needed if we are to effect lasting change for the better. In the middle of the raging gun control debate, were those who complained that this wasn’t the time to discuss the issue. In reality, this is the perfect time to discuss all issues that tie into this catastrophe, and guns are part of that.

My quick note on guns: While I don’t agree with absolute gun control, I can’t fathom why civilians are allowed to legally purchase military grade weapons, like the assault rifle that was firing at my friends and I. As for those who’ve posted comments along the line of “if only someone else in the theater had been armed,” your logic is flawed and misinformed. The coward in question opened fire on a crowd of unsuspecting moviegoers in a dark and confined space, dressed in full combat armor, neck and head covering included. More people firing guns would have only added to the confusion and senseless violence.

My final message to everyone on the internet is to just do the best you can with the resources available to you. This event has proven the power of social media networking. This is a power that each of us exercise every day. Whenever you ‘like’ or repost an article for your friends to see, that message gets passed a little further and becomes a bit louder. All I ask is that you start watching what messages you pass. As I asked of the media in my first post, please stop posting or reposting pictures of the shooter, or articles specifically about him. Stop giving him the attention and infamy he craves, and stop helping to write his name into the history books.

My personal challenge to everyone using social media: Convince Steam and the creators of the Batman Arkham series to put all affiliated games on sale for one day with proceeds going to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund.

Related Posts:
Back Row Perspective Part 2: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message To The Politicians
Back Row Perspective Part 1: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message To The Media

***

A.J. Focht is a student, writer, and self-identifying geek. He has a BA in English, and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Denver. He is a regular contributor to SuicideGirls. His work is also featured in Kush Magazine.

Got Problems? Sex, Love and Relationship Advice From SuicideGirls’ Team Agony
Jul 2012 30

Got Problems? Sex, Love and Relationship Advice From SuicideGirls’ Team Agony

Posted In All Things SG,Blog,Love,Relationships,Sex,Society

by SG’s Team Agony feat. Rin

Let us answer life’s questions – because great advice is even better when it comes from SuicideGirls.


[Rin in Voyeur]

Q: I’ll just jump right into it. I’m 24 and single, have been my entire life. It’s definitely not by choice, just a long running series of me being an idiot, and saying the wrong thing at the right time.

Given, I am a nerd, always have been and always will be. But unlike the stereotype, I do have social graces. I can get along with pretty much anyone, short of them just generally being an asshole. It’s not the fear of rejection either, I’ve overcome that a while ago. I just have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’m too impatient and can be over-bearing at times, which I’m trying to work on. I’m not an ugly guy by any means, I’m fairly average, and have a pretty awesome beard. I guess my question is: How do I garner interest? How do I get a girl to be interested in me?

The overwhelming lack of response most of the time is disheartening (does that even make sense?). I won’t whine about the “friend zone” either, because it doesn’t really exist; I believe if something’s there it could still happen, it’s just another meek, nerd stereotype that doesn’t lend itself to me. What do I do, hell, where should I even be looking? I appreciate any advice you can give me.

A: It sounds like you’re doing okay in some aspects of dating –– you’re not afraid of rejection, you get along with lots of different types of people, and you’ve got a beard (extra points!). It also really helps that you’re self aware enough to realize some stuff about you that might be a barrier to getting close to the ladies.

Sure, some people like intense dudes, but for many of us it’s a huge turnoff, so working really hard on improving your patience and intensity level should really help you connect with the girls you’re interested in. Ladies generally like to be pursued, but if you push too hard it’s easy for us to get scared off. Take it easy, and trust that your natural charm & good qualities are shining through.

How often do you meet new people? Are you often exposed to new ladies at friends’ parties, work, sports clubs or anywhere else? If not, you may want to try internet dating? It’s kind of nutty, on one hand, but I’ve found it an incredible way to meet people and practice my social skills. I’ve had the best and worst dates because of random dating sites! I definitely recommend this. You may not meet your dream girl, but you will probably have a lot of experiences that help hone your romantic senses. Internet dating is also great because you can find people who you connect with (on paper) and display yourself in a very straightforward way that makes it clear what you’re into.

When you’re interested in a lady, ask her questions about her likes and life. Don’t go on and on about yourself, and remember, coming on hard with too many compliments can seem insincere/strange. Cultivate a wide variety of interests. Not only does that help when you’re feeling bummed about not having a ladyfriend (it keeps you busy with things you’re really into), but it helps to give you avenues to meet new people. If you’re super boring, it’s more difficult to attract people to you.

Ask her out on a date, but not something typical like dinner and a movie. Some ideas: visit an aquarium, play bingo, go for a walk/hike somewhere nice, go to a botanical garden, plan a picnic, play darts/pool/bowling/laser tag, go to an old-school arcade, visit a planetarium, go to an author reading or lecture series at a bookstore, library or university, etc.

Hopefully this helps and you soon find yourself having lots of fun dates!

Best wishes on your quest for love.

Rin

***

Got Problems? Let SuicideGirls’ team of Agony Aunts provide solutions. Email questions to: gotproblems@suicidegirls.com