Vice

Inside the World of Alleged Cult Leader, Guru Jagat

When the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology first opened in Venice Beach in 2013, LA’s New Age glitterati flocked to its doors. Every morning, from roughly 8:30 onward, a parade of mostly white women would stream into the studio on Lincoln Avenue, often with reishi cappuccinos from Erewhon in tow. At their teacher’s urging, the students wore all white outfits with head wraps or turbans. Hypnotic mantras by White Sun, a Grammy award winning band formed by RA MA teachers Harijiwan Khalsa and Gurujas Khalsa, blasted from the speakers. Beneath cascading rainbow prayer flags, they would sit on sheepskin rugs and wait patiently for their Kundalini yoga class to start. 

Among the cross-legged disciples of Hollywood housewives and aspiring actresses were head-turning celebrities, like Alicia Keys, Kate Hudson, and Kelly Rutherford, as well as rising beauty entrepreneurs like the Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon and Shiva Rose, whose products were sold in RA MA’s artisanal boutique, near the studio’s entry. Here, students could browse through a treasure trove of spiritual nicknacks and clothing that aligned with RA MA’s Instagrammable aesthetic. Glittering crystals lay next to “sacred adornments” (otherwise known as jewelry) and “altar offerings.” The latter included items like palo santo, sage, printed photos of now-infamous yoga teacher Yogi Bhajan—who introduced Kundalini yoga to Americans in the late 60s—and, most importantly, Guru Jagat, RA MA Institute’s founder. 

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