What Does Tulsi Gabbard Believe? - 2017-10-30
Gabbard recalls her childhood as lively and freewheeling: she excelled at martial arts and developed a passion for gardening; she was a serious reader, encouraged by her parents. But a number of Butler's former disciples recall a harsher, more authoritarian atmosphere. Defectors tell stories of children discouraged by Butler from attending secular schools; of followers forbidden to speak publicly about the group; of returning travellers quarantined for days, lest they transmit a contagious disease to Butler; of devotees lying prostrate whenever he entered the room, or adding bits of his nail clippings to their food, or eating spoonfuls of sand that he had walked upon. Some former members portray themselves as survivors of an abusive cult. Butler denies these reports, and Gabbard says that she finds them hard to credit. "I've never heard him say anything hateful, or say anything mean about anybody," she says of Butler. "I can speak to my own personal experience and, frankly, my gratitude to him, for the gift of this wonderful spiritual practice that he has given to me, and to so many people."
A number of those people have businesses. One of Butler's followers is Wai Lana, a yoga entrepreneur who is also his wife. Her company, which produces yoga videos, has helped fund the Science of Identity Foundation. Another person who seems to be a follower is Joseph Bismark, the co-founder of a global multilevel-marketing company called QNET, whose products include a small disk meant to protect users from "the harmful effects of electrosmog." (A decade ago, Indonesian police, alerted by Interpol, reportedly arrested Bismark on charges of fraud; the charges were eventually withdrawn.)