Wednesday, September 20, 2017


This posting is the first in a series intended to acquaint readers unfamiliar with the history of the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) movement to obtain a brief but thoroughly representative snapshot of some of its most prominent leaders. I know that most of my readers come to my blog curious about the cult after having received a mailed invitation to attend one of their temple celebrations. Others go directly to my essays to read topics of interest to them either through a recommendation or a web search. So far, however, most of my writings in this blog and its companion, have dealt with philosophical or doctrinal issues and my personal experiences during my 13 years as a Hare Krishna devotee

Now I would like to turn my attention to the most influential leaders within ISKCON, specifically those who were direct disciples (as was I) of its founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami ("Srila Prabhupada"). While vast troves of information (mostly critical) about these individuals exists on the web, going through it all and making the necessary connections between what they did and why can be a daunting task. (For a summary of the mindset behind the attraction of the hippie and New Age generations to ISKCON and similar cults, please go to

In addition, my intention is to refute the prevailing ISKCON propaganda that treats the crimes committed by most of these early disciple-miscreants as byproducts of immaturity and personal deviations from the pure and wonderful teachings of their guru. 

In fact, the worst of these deviant disciples were also among the best fund-raisers in the history of the Hare Krishna movement. Their charisma and sharp business sense coupled with their fanatical adherence to Srila Prabhupada's bare-bones expenditures for his disciples were responsible for the rapid openings of many new temples as well as grand temple projects. One of the best examples is the still-admired New Vrindavan temples and grounds that rose from its incongruous location near Wheeling, West Virginia under Kirtanananda Swami's leadership. 

His tenure in ISKCON dates from 1966, the year Srila Prabhupada arrived in New York from India. Judging from the information below, I think you might wonder why he was not apprehended and removed from his position before matters took such a tragic turn. Sad to say, the answer was obvious almost from the beginning: for our guru, the ends indeed justified the means. The price of what we believed was transcendental bliss was the abdication of our highest moral values. For Kirtanananda and his followers, moral cynicism and relativism were the rule of the day. Lost souls, all of them.
  • Kirtanananda, a childhood polio survivor, avid homosexual, and unrepentant pederast, was one the earliest disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami ("Prabhupada") and certainly one of the most infamous. A toad-like man in the grip of full-blown megalomania, he oversaw the construction of the New Vrindavan temple in Moundsville, West Virginia while assembling a rogue's gallery of violent, salacious peons.[i]
  • Along with his fellow homosexual and good friend Hayagriva (Howard Wheeler), Kirtanananda built a criminal empire in addition to the ornate temple and grounds. His devoted goons included the Sankirtan leader and sex abuser Dharmatma Das (Denis Gorrick), the murderer Tirtha Das (Thomas Drescher), another murderer, Daruka Dasa (Don Reid), and many others.
  • Nothing, however, compares to his offences to humanity than his role in allowing and perpetuating the horrible child abuse innocent children of devotees suffered at the Gurukula boarding school.  The infamous New Vrindavan gurukula was a nest of unimaginable cruelty and sexual abuse suffered by children dumped there by their parents. Imagine the misery endured by children who never had a family life (or toys of any kind) forced to take ice cold showers at four in the morning and fed a diet so meager that many appeared emaciated.[ii]
  • His criminal propensities—pedophilia, drug trafficking, stockpiling weapons and ammunition, to name a few--as well as his determination to usurp his guru's role in his community were widely condemned, but, like most narcissists, he still managed to attract a large and devoted following. Expelled from ISKCON in 1987.
  • In 1996, he was sentenced to twelve years in federal prison for racketeering and conspiracy in the murders of Steven Bryant and Chuck St. Denis. Released after serving eight years. Tirtha Das (Thomas Drescher): on orders from Kirtanananda, murdered Chuck St. Denis in 1983 and dissident Steven Bryant in 1986. Currently serving life in prison. 
  • Kuladri Das (Arthur Villa): Kirtanananda's henchman, now associated with Radhanath Swami. Alleged co-conspirator in Bryant's murder. Currently employed by ISKCON in life member drive targeting non-resident Indians. 
  • Radhanath Swami: both he and Gopal Krishna Goswami took sannyasa initiation from Kirtanananda in the early 1980's. After the fall of Kirtanananda, Radhanath took over his disciples. Sworn testimony of Dharmatma Das in the Sulocana murder trial implicated Radhanath as a co-conspirator. Although he stated that he "broke all ties once I came to know about the murder," both he and Gopal Krishna Goswami attended Kirtananada's funeral in 2011, where they were seen prostrating themselves before his garlanded corpse. 
Postscript: If you wonder why Radhanath Swami and Gopal Krishna Goswami were initiated into the sannyasa (renounced order) at a time when Kirtanananda's criminal activities were well-known throughout the ISKCON universe, you will find out shortly. 

[i]Hubner, John, and Lindsey Gruson. Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas. San Diego:  Harcourt, 1988.



Saturday, August 19, 2017


The other day I met five gentlemen (four elephants and a tortoise, actually) and asked them what they thought of Vedic cosmology in general and the idea that the world is a disc supported by them in particular. This was their reaction:

If I were still a Hare Krishna devotee, I would have been scandalized by their blasphemy and reported them to the cult's authorities for immediate corrective action. Imagine questioning the literal reading of Vedic literature promulgated by our guru and the founder/acharya of the ISKCON cult, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada! How offensive! What guru-aparadha!

As one of his earliest disciples, I remember hearing how a dear godbrother left the cult ("blooped") rather than accept Prabhupada's notion that the Sun is closer to the Earth than the moon. At the time, these cosmological beliefs of our guru were little known outside of his inner circle of followers. Had he informed the rest of us about this nonsense, few new disciples would have been recruited and many initiated devotees would have simply walked out the door. 

However, it soon became apparent that intellectual inquiry was actively discouraged as a condition of becoming a Hare Krishna devotee, with humility and sincerity equated with blindly following everything our guru taught us. This attitude so permeated our thinking that we were not in the least surprised when we heard that Prabhupada praised the submissive attitude of another one of his first disciples, an earnest young man, by stating that he would drink boiling ghee if he asked him to do so.

Today, under the impression that ISKCON is a bona fide Hindu religion, Indians throng to its grand temples throughout the world and provide crucial logistical and monetary support. Few know anything about the history of the cult nor of its philosophical underpinnings. This ignorance is exploited to the full and is the primary reason for the inroads the Hare Krishna leadership has made among many affluent and educated Hindus. Politicians have also fallen under its spell, with ISKCON aligning itself since the 1990’s with Hindu Nationalist nativist sentiments. A more foolhardy tactic by a cult that makes no secret of its contempt for Swami Vivekananda (whom the Hindutva movement has adopted as it spiritual godfather) is hard to imagine.


Before I continue with more on ISKCON's lunar lunacy and related matters, I would like to bring to your attention the demands Indian Prime Minister Modi made during his meetings with the Secretaries of Scientific Departments on Tuesday, July 18th in New Delhi. While admitting that he lacked the expertise to offer recommendations himself, he was disappointed with their progress in finding "solutions to societal problems."  Having just returned from visits to the U.S. and Israel  (in June and July, respectively), Modi's impatience  was understandable. So too was his example of the air pollution in New Delhi, a health menace that requires urgent remediation.

On the other hand, India has justly achieved renown in the scientific community with its Mars Orbital Mission ("Mangalyaan") launched on 6 November 2013, which has been orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. What you might not know is that just a month later, in his October 2014 inaugural address at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation in Mumbai, the newly elected PM declared that the elephant head on the human body of the god Ganesh is the work of an ancient plastic surgeon, whose successful grafting technique "started off plastic surgery." After you stop laughing, some context is necessary.

In common with politicians in general, Modi's priorities shift with the winds of party loyalties, strategic relationships, and inescapable social realities. A prime example is his appointing Yogi Adityanath as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh this past March. A saffron-clad priest and brazen fanatic known for his indiscriminate hatred of Muslims, he is a serious liability for the Modi administration. Keep in mind that India's 172 Muslims are the world's third-largest (after Pakistan and Indonesia) and are overwhelmingly moderate politically. Adityanath's governing ability seems limited to closing butcher shops and banning the use of tobacco, what to speak of his "anti-Romeo" squads. These practices have earned him more ridicule than respect.


That Uttar Pradesh can ill afford such governmental hooliganism was on display just a few days ago when BBC News reported that 60 children died in a hospital in Gorakhpur “amid allegations that the oxygen supply was cut over unpaid bills.” Tragically, the majority of victims were babies in neonatal units or patients being treated for encephalitis. Despite the fact that 30 of the deaths occurred on Thursday and Friday (August 10 and 11th), hospital officials disputed the initial findings, claiming that the deaths were attributable to the poor health of many of their patients. This pattern of officials denying responsibility in the aftermath of preventable tragedies is a symptom of a society with a weak or, as in the case of India, an overburdened legal system riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

Like a tortoise that retreats into its shell when it senses danger, Modi has mastered the political art of avoiding conflict by denouncing terror and then ceding the criminal investigation to ill-trained police and a court system that moves at a snail’s pace. Case in point: this past February 27th marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Godhra train disaster, in which devotees of Lord Ram on their way to Ayodhya were attacked by a massive crowd of Muslim protestors while they sat helpless in the Sabarmati Express as it arrived at the Godhra station in the Gujarat. Fifty-nine were burnt alive in their railcar and many others were wounded.

Justice was long in coming for the survivors and their families, however. In this case, it took seven years for the case to go to trial and included the typical slew of violent rhetoric, unwarranted arrests, and botched physical evidence.[i] At the time of the attack, Modi had been Chief Minister of Gujarat (on a BJP ticket, no less) only since October 2001 and, like any newly-elected politician, took the issue of affiliated loyalties seriously. Among these are his ties to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (“VHP”), a Hindu nationalist group who organized the trip to Ayodhya that ended so tragically for the Kar Sevaks (devotees of Lord Rama), and who were also behind the destruction  in 1992 of the Babri Masjid mosque built over what was reputed to have been Rama’s actual birthplace.

These tragedies and many others between various religious factions could not have occurred without the complicity of elected officials and the BJP and VHP national organizations. As populist movements, they naturally appeal to the masses by applying a literal reading of the Vedas and Puranas, in the process reducing them to a series of comic books or the ancient equivalent of a long and typically overblown Bollywood crowd-pleaser. Forgotten in the rush to the lowest common denominator are philosophical considerations and other riches, as if locating and eradicating Muslim usurpers of various Hindu places of pilgrimage are deemed both acts of religious piety and Hindutva allegiance. These are political and fundraising tactics in a saffron guise. 


For the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) cultists, it has been a goldmine: their leaders have exploited Hindu sentiment to such an extent that its status as a marginal New Age cult has been forgotten in the presence of their opulent temples. This success, however, was built on a shoddy foundation of their guru’s literal reading of the literary epics such as the Bhagavad-Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam (the English translations of which he cheerfully plagiarized). In order to keep the whole ISKCON enterprise from toppling over from the simplistic, pseudo-scholarship of its founder—what to speak of the social disasters his experiments in communal living brought upon his followers—current disciples of his disciples turned gurus themselves have worked overtime to give his ideas a veneer of legitimacy. Although Prabhupada was reliably strident in his denunciation of Hinduism, today ISKCON temples market themselves as Hindu mandirs and observe festivals he never would have considered necessary.

Yet, for reasons perhaps due to the intellectual equivalent of group hysteria, ISKCON has taken a collective leap into the deep end of the pool of pseudo-science by dedicating two of their most ambitious projects to date, the $45 million Vrindavan Chandrodaya temple and the $60 million Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, West Bengal, to a celebration of Vedic and Puranic cosmological ideas that they insist are factual. That the public is so thoroughly ignorant of their intentions is showcased by PM Modi’s letter to them dated 30 March 2017, New Delhi, in which he extols ISKCON for building the Vrindavan Chandodraya Mandir, crediting it for “promoting ideals of compassion and brotherhood.” Explain to me how the ISKCON cult’s attempt to promote ignorance of basic science and treating mythology as true history is anything other than making fools of its donors and devotees.

Proponents of “Vedic Science” have gained respectability only by lecturing on their theories among Hindus who insist, as Meera Nanda puts it, on “accommodating science and Hindu beliefs.”[ii] For such believers, all scientific knowledge is in the Vedas and the Puranas, making all subsequent discoveries strictly derivative. If you persist in any delusions you might have about so-called “Vedic Science,” go to the source and see for yourself!

For the next installment on this topic, please go to:

DONATE TODAY! REMEMBER, SILENCE IS COMPLICITY. . . The elephants all have names!!!

If you still think the vimanas (flying machines of supposedly Vedic original) really flew about, pre-dating the Wright Brothers, please read: Deb, Siddhartha. “Those Mythological Men and Their Sacred, Supersonic Flying Machines.” 14 May 2015. The New Republic.

[i] Mitta, Manoj. “’Preplanned Inhuman Collective Violent Act  of Terrorism’” What Modi Got Away With In The Godhra Case.” 27 February 2017. Scroll India.
[ii] Nanda, Meera. “Saffronized Science: Rampant Pseudoscience in ‘Vedic’ Garb in the Indian Subcontinent.” 25 January 2016. SERRC: Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

For William.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016


If you suddenly had access to a time machine, where would you go? What would you do? I know I speak for many readers of my blogs when I say that I would go back to the first time I encountered the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) devotees and observe one of them preaching to a much younger version of myself. To see my face--I was just 14!--glowing with hope and wonder as I was subjected to a carefully scripted indoctrination process would be heart-breaking. Still, I know I (from the future) would never hesitate to confront the devotee and demolish each and every of the Hare Krishna cult’s repugnant and laughable beliefs.That would have been true enlightenment!I only wish someone had had the courage and knowledge to warn me and so many others. Today, that is my mission.


My blogs exist to supply the information the cult leaves out of their so-called preaching and to empower each and every one of you in the here and now.  If you hesitate, the friends or relatives you might otherwise have rescued from these pseudo-Hindu fanatics will waste their lives chasing laughable delusions and eventually find themselves wishing but unable to undo the past. Behind the promises of easy attainment of heavenly reward lies a trash heap of bigotry and pseudo-scientific nonsense most newcomers are kept from encountering until it is too late.

It has been a lonely road writing these essays for my blog during the past eleven years, but the thousands of readers from all over the world who visit it each month have convinced me that my task is worthy. I know these essays have changed lives and saved many families from losing a son or daughter to a cult that will alienate them. If I have helped save even one person from such a fate, my life is a success, no matter how much I have personally suffered.

Finally, a word for those who have escaped from ISKCON or another cult and find yourselves struggling to make up for lost time with family and friends. The time for apologies or trying to ingratiate yourselves with people who might have given up on you years ago is over. Stop blaming yourselves or beating yourselves up for having wasting so many precious years. Youthful idealism is not a crime. Waking up from your delusions is a personal victory, one you will savor more and more as time goes on. Instead of lamenting, re-discover your unique talents and regain your self-esteem by making a MISSION of your own design and one you feel restores your place in the universe. If no one else believes in you, I do.


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Sunday, November 27, 2016


What makes a guru a fake? Let me count the ways: 

Trashing the reputation of other gurus or religious figures with unsubstantiated lies and innuendo, while advancing himself as the most authentic and divinely inspired sadhu alive. 

Expertise in aliening impressionable youth from family and friends and replacing them with cult sycophants whose initial welcome turns into a hell-hole of food and sleep deprivation as well as semi-slavery.

Initiating hordes of fanatic, ignorant disciples and using them as human pack mules to fool gullible truth-seekers with get-enlightened-quick fantasies?

Gang-related activities including harassment of and conspiracy to silence dissenters, whether by beatings, threats, or murder?[i]

Child abuse consisting of, but not limited to parental alienation, loss of childhood, rape and beatings, and abysmal educational quality.[ii]

Ridiculous, contrived belief system full of pseudo-scientific nonsense and vicious, bold-faced discrimination against women and minorities. 

Fraudulent fund-raising tactics?[iii] 


If you think that any or all of these practices are acceptable so long as the guru’s followers give out free food to the poor[iv], WELCOME to ISKCON

Before you take out your checkbook or credit card, you might appreciate some background information about the grinning cultists who seem bent on convincing the public that they are “more Hindu than Hindus.”[v] 
In the words of the group’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “although posing as great scholars, ascetics, householders and swamis, the so-called followers of the Hindu religion are all useless, dried-up branches of the Vedic religion.”
This essay will establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it is ISKCON, not Hinduism, which misrepresents “Vedic religion.”

The proliferation of Indian gurus in the West and the rise of the cults of the 1960’s and 1970’s surged due to the hippie culture’s fascination with Eastern mysticism. The Beatles, for example, were initially entranced by the late founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (d. 2007), and out of them, George Harrison retained his interest in Hinduism, but transferred it from TM to the Hare Krishna sect also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). 

Other practitioners of what Meera Nanda terms “neo-Hinduism”[vi]during the same period include Sathya Sai Baba and Sri Chinmoy, both of whom still have large groups of followers in India and the West. The influence of all these groups waned considerably after the 1970’s and their international reputation also suffered, fueled in most cases by allegations of sexual impropriety. TM has been the most influential in popular culture: its practices of meditation as a religiously-neutral means of self-improvement largely fueled the West’s ongoing interest in New Age religion and disciples such as Deepak Chopra have lent it a veneer of legitimacy that continues to this day.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s coming to New York City in 1966 and founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. By registering his sect a religious nonprofit, the swami now had the means to accept tax-free donations and open temples as a means to proselytize to Westerners as well as the nonresident Indian population. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was an unusually charismatic preacher in an age of numerous competitors. This one-time Calcutta businessman used his marketing acumen and keen sense of the spiritual vacuum affecting Western youths in the hippie era to build in little more than a decade a world-wide organization consisting of thousands of disciples and many temples on a grand scale. 

However, few of the Hindus who throng ISKCON temples and support their programs know that the sect’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, never considered the Hare Krishna movement to be Hindu at all. The following are a number of statements Bhaktivedanta made in reference to Hinduism:

The Krishna consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion.... One should clearly understand that the Krishna consciousness movement is not preaching the so-called Hindu religion."[vii]

India, they have given up the real religious system, Sanatana Dharma. Fictitiously, they have accepted a hodgepodge thing which is called Hinduism. Therefore there is trouble.
Bhavan’s Journal. 28 June 1976.

We are not preaching Hindu religion. While registering the association, I purposely kept this name, 'Krishna Consciousness,' neither Hindu religion nor Christian nor Buddhist religion.
Lecture on Bhagavad Gita, Mumbai. 1974.

During the years following their guru’s demise in 1977, the disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (many now gurus themselves), reversed his position on Hinduism as they grew more and more dependent on the wealth of the Hindu community both in India and abroad. Instead of denouncing Hinduism, they used the affection the Hindu public tends to feel for the folklore of the butter-stealing, witch-killing, and gopi-loving Krishna and conflated it with the teachings of the philosopher-chariot driver of the Bhagavad Gita. The message was clear: Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism, with its Hare Krishna mantra chanting and world-wide presence, is what Hinduism should be.


Magnifying his own role as a self-proclaimed “pure devotee” in a lineage of Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnava gurus from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1584) to himself was Swami Bhaktivedanta’s chief public relations strategy. The term “Bhakti Yoga” led people to assume that the swami was popularizing just another strand of Hinduism as his predecessors had done. In fact, he intended to supplant them all. For Bhaktivedanta, this meant teaching his followers that he was the latest and greatest guru in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya, which he claimed was established by Chaitanya himself and consisted of "pure devotees."

His modus operandi was to initiate as many Americans and other Westerners as his disciples and send them out to open temples where he and his followers would spread Chaitanya’s worship of Radha Krishna by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and dancing in front of opulently dressed murtis. Yes, superficially it appears to be based on the tiny Gaudiya Vaishnava sect, which worships the cowherd incarnation of Vishnu, Krishna, and claims that Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a 16th century Bengali proponent of Bhakti-Yoga, was an incarnation of Krishna and Radha combined. What sets the Hare Krishna movement apart at first glance is its aggressive marketing tactics and habit of actively seeking converts among non-Indians

Visitors were soon thronging to ISKCON temples to be dazzled by the sheer spectacle of so many gorgeously dressed and decorated murtis of Radha and Krishna, along with the Jagganath idols of Puri and a grouping of five dhoti-clad men whom the devotees explained were murtis of the Bengali saint Chaitanya and his associates. Accustomed as they are to the profusion of murtis such as Durga, Shiva, Vishnu, and Hanuman in Hindu temples, few visitors to the Hare Krishna temples would have realized that Chaitanya, whose devotion to the Radha-Krishna legends and popularization of congregational chanting (“kirtan”) is undeniable, was also the cross-dressing leader of a cabal of Bengali Brahmins with similar practices and tendencies. If not for the reverence that Hindu culture still holds for high-born Brahmins, there is little chance of the Gaudiya Vaishnava contention that Chaitanya was the incarnation of Radha and Krishna together not having been greeted with laughter and derision as it is a transparent denial of his behavior as a gopi-bhava afflicted transvestite.[viii]


Furthermore, what would Indian political luminaries—the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi comes to mi nd-- if they knew how the founder of the Hare Krishna movement derided the achievements of the Hindu saints who traveled to the West many years before he set foot in New York in 1966. His hostile and ill-informed comments about Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda Swami are prime examples of Bhaktivedanta’s predilection to trash the reputation of the predecessors who cleared the way for him. For example, during one of his “Morning Walks” (08/01/1976), he claimed that the Ramakrishna Mission was “simply bogus propaganda” and “they picked up two American ladies, that’s all.”
A worse combination of envy and breath-taking ignorance is hard to imagine. Perhaps Bhaktivedanta Swami might have benefitted from reading the words of Dayananda Saraswati, who in the Ten Principles of the Arya Samaj wrote that “all actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefitting mankind.” As for his charge that Vivekananda “picked up two American ladies,” Bhaktivedanta could have learned from his example. In this regard, it is well-known that the initiates of the Ramakrishna Mission are all celibates, sanyasins as well women. Vivekananda Swami regarded celibacy highly and his example continues to inspire millions of Indians dedicated to a morally and militarily strong India, including Narendra Modi himself.


Bhaktivedanta Swami, on the other hand, valued quantity far over quality in the choice of his disciples and thus quickly accepted as his disciples young men and women who knew next to nothing about his philosophy or personal history. These impressionable youths were simply entranced by the exoticism of Eastern religions that was one of the many escapist fantasies popular during the hippie era of the 60’s and 70’s. That he abused their trust and held them in low esteem was apparent from the beginning.

I remember attending initiation ceremonies where mentally-ill individuals scarcely able to control themselves were initiated as disciples and was appalled at how quickly the dealings between men and women deteriorated due to the poisonous effects of our guru’s absurd and vacuous beliefs about the inferiority of women.

The hastily patched together arranged marriages the swami recommended soon began to fail miserably and the children born of these hellish relationships were taken away after a few years and dumped in gurukulas where their sufferings and abuse left many scarred for life.[ix] After he died in 1977, he left eleven of his disciples to manage ISKCON and initiate disciples on his behalf (a sure sign that he regarded those he so carefully trained as unfit to act as gurus). In short order, they and others sprang to action to take his place and all hell broke lose, with more mayhem and criminality than I can possibly treat in this essay.

Suffice to say, fraud reared its ugly head and infected the Hare Krishna movement from the schools (“gurukulas”), the abuse of government-provided welfare benefits to provide for housing, food, and medical care the cult would not provide, and a highly scripted method of “distributing books” which was nothing more than method to part fools from their cash. These books the ISKCON zombies peddled were advertised as the swami’s translations of puranic literature such as the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagwat Purana (“Srimad Bhagavatam”), but were in fact pastiches of plagiarized translations of other editions as well as the efforts of a few of his own disciples who self-taught themselves rudimentary Sanskrit.

Before long it became obvious that formal fund-raising techniques had to be employed and the main target, as I mentioned near the beginning of this essay, was and is the educated and prosperous Hindu community in India and abroad. However, this pattern of what I call “guru-faking” was not limited to ISKCON and has continued to grow, adapting itself to different conditions while the followers of these gurus have begun to appear more like nascent terrorists than the naïve thrill-seekers of my own generation.

[iv]  See also: Akshaya Patra is run by the ISKCON Bangalore faction of ISKCON, a dissident group that follows the Ritvik policy of initiating disciples on behalf of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, who died in 1977. This food relief program dwarfs the ISKCON Food Relief program headquartered and run by their enemies from Mumbai. Regarding ISKCON Food Relief, see:
[v] The issue of whether the ISKCON sect can be considered Hindu was decisively answered in the negative by its founder/acharya  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. For a useful summary of the supporting documentation, see the Hinduism Today Magazine  article entitled, “Can it be that the Hare Krishnas are not Hindu”?
[vi] Nanda, Meera. “Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism, and ‘Vedic Science’.”
[vii] The Science of Self-Realization. 1977 Chapter three.
[viii] See Sri Caitanya Mangala, 2.9 and the numerous description in the Caitanya Caritamrta (2.15-16; 2.18 112-119 and 203-208. Sri Caitanya’s associates appearing on his sides in the temple murtis are Advaita, Srinivasa, Nityananda Rama, and Gadadhara Pandit, each of whom Caitanya regarded as incarnations of various members of the Radha Krishna and gopi legends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


The ability of a cult to camouflage itself is an integral part of its survival. Controlling dissidents and blunting the effects of criticism are also priorities. Confronted with an uncomfortable truth, cult leaders often adopt the defense strategy of a poisonous blow fish that puffs itself up to appear bigger than it actually is. 


In addition to blending in and trying to appear disproportionately threatening, cults have infiltrated dissident websites in an effort to control, intimidate, and learn the identity of critics. From a practical viewpoint, dissidents who limit their criticism to chatting with other like-minded ex-cult members on a website will also be less likely to engage in actions that might prove embarrassing to the cult. In this way, even the therapeutic value of discussing one’s misfortunes becomes another tool of cult subversion.

Before I discuss some of the tactics the Hare Krishna/ISKCON cult uses in this regard, I would like to take a moment to discuss a similar pattern in two other major cults that arose to prominence during the 1960's and 1970's and have remained highly influential and controversial.

The UnificationChurch (“the Moonies”) has diligently worked to transform its image from a family of spiritual autocrats to all-American hyper-conservatives, founding the influential Washington Times newspaper and acquiring United Press International (UPI), among many other business interests. This is a far cry from a cult whose early enthusiasts were known for selling roses by the side of the road. The Church of Scientology, on the other hand, oversees a complex system of recruiting operations that are run as franchises by members whose sale of auditing software and courses for new recruits have made this business masquerading as a religion fabulously wealthy.  However, these public relation schemes are like a tight, gaudy costume worn by a fat exotic potentate: if he runs too fast, it rips off, exposing his hideous nakedness to the laughter of the general public. 

Examples abound: who can forget the Church of Scientology’s frenzied legal maneuvers during the brainwashing and deprogramming controversies that culminated in the bankruptcy of the (“old”) Cult Awareness Network and the filing of false Federal income tax returns and charges of conspiracy that led to the conviction and imprisonment of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1984? Given the literature and videos meticulously exposing the contrast between the practices and actual beliefs of these and other cults established during the mid-to late 20th century, why do they continue to attract new recruits and what can be done about it?

A few years ago I came upon a website that strongly criticized the Hare Krishna/ISKCON cult’s views about and treatment of women using direct quotations from the teachings of its founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. A few things about the website bothered me, however. For one thing, the graphics used were of an unusually high caliber and it also contained a number of direct links to a number of authorized ISKCON websites. What the hell? Apart from the quotations that were concentrated at the bottom of the webpage, most postings resembled Facebook entries written by a punk-rock addicted teenage girl. Before long, as the saying goes, I smelled a rat.


The clues soon began adding up: how else can you explain the bold-faced links to ISKCON temple along with the site’s obvious maintenance and graphics expenditures? Although I contributed a few comments myself, before long I had the distinct feeling that visitors to this site were being taken for fools. Not surprisingly, in short order I learned that the website host, whom we all thought was an ex-devotee woman, was in fact a man. The website soon disappeared and good riddance. However, it was just the beginning.
Why, you might ask, would leaders—most probably initiating gurus-- of the Hare Krishna cult engage in subverting the authority of its founder/acharya in such a brazen manner? The answer is two-fold: unlike the vast majority of ISKCON devotees and the mostly Hindu community that make up the bulk of its donors, the present-day gurus of the movement are well-versed in the lectures, speeches, and commentaries of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. They also know that his preposterous and ill-informed notions about race, women, and so-called "Vedic Science" cannot survive rational scrutiny. For instance, his notion of slavery as the ideal state for blacks and women:

19 March, 1976, Mayapura, India:
Prabhupāda:  And the women are declaring, “independent.” They are begging door to door to a man, “Please give me shelter. Give me a child,” and they’re independent. One American woman, was…. She was speaking that “In India, the woman are treated as slave. We don’t want.” So I told her that it is better to become slave of one person than to slave of become hundreds. (laughter) The woman must become a slave. So instead of becoming slaves of so many persons, it is better to remain satisfied, a slave of one person. . . . And our Vedic civilization says, narī-rūpa pati-vratam: “The woman is beautiful when she remains as a slave to the husband.” That is the beauty, not the personal beauty. How much she has learned to remain as a slave to the husband, that is Vedic civilization. 

Taped conversation of  Srila Prabhupada and disciples (14 February, 1977, Mayapur, India):
Prabhupada: Sudra is to be controlled only. They are never given to be freedom. Just like in America
. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal right? That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied.

Of course, the swami's endorsement of slavery for blacks and women is bold-faced nonsense, good only for belly laughs and informing would-be Hare Krishna followers. If that were not enough, here's what he has to say about the brains of women:

3 February, 1975, Hawaii, (Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam)

Prabhupada: To understand Brahman is not the business of tiny brain. Alpha-medhasan. There are two Sanskrit words, alpa-medhasa and sumedhasa. Alpa-medhasa means having little brain substance. Physiologically, within the brain there are brain substance. It is found that the brain substance in man is found up to 64 ounce. They are very highly intellectual persons. And in woman the brain substance is not found more than 34 ounce. You’ll find, therefore, that there is no very great scientist, mathematician, philosopher, among women. You’ll never find because their brain substance cannot go. Artificially do not try to become equal with men. That is not allowed in the Vedic sastra. Na striyam svatantratam arhati. That is called sastra. You have to understand that woman is never given to be independence.

So much for "Vedic science"! Srila Prabhupada followers! Next time you become seriously ill, what will you do? I bet you will run for your pitiable life to the best modern hospital you can find and eagerly submit yourself to the hands of a specialist, who very possibly will be a woman and whose medicines and therapies were developed using modern research techniques in laboratories where men and women work side by side. Mantras, Deity-worship, and other means of selectively denying reality won't help you, what to speak of your literal scripture readings. Time to wake up and clear the cobwebs off your underutilized "brain substance"! 

If the swami's views about brain size were true, the sperm whale, a mammal possessing, at 7.8kg, the largest brain on the planet, would enslave all of us as one gigantic, jagad-guru:

Sripada Whale-ji giving underwater SB lecture
Secondly, many of these gurus have amassed more disciples than their guru ever had and have also become experts at manipulating donors to enrich their coffers and fund the building of elaborate temples. In short, they have turned into self-deluded, dhoti-clad megalomaniacs bent on supplanting their guru. They want to be him:


These puffed-up charlatans are fully aware that they have wasted their lives chasing delusions. Like video-game addicts who have lost touch with reality, many senior ISKCON devotees in leadership positions live like petty tyrants drunk with power surrounded by hordes of their fawning acolytes. Most of all, they fear critics who would expose their candy-coated fake Hinduism to the public (especially the genuine Hindu organizations and politicians whose support is essential to their mission).

Aware that donors continue to be cultivated almost entirely by personal contacts, fancy events, as well as invitations and newsletters sent by ordinary mail, these cultists show little concern about criticism in blogs or other kinds of social media. However, if even a few of the influential people ISKCON has spent years cultivating finds an impassioned, impeccably researched diatribe written by an ex-cult member sitting in their mailboxes, it might spark an angry confrontation with significant financial repercussions.[1] Spending a relatively insignificant amount of money covertly funding a fake anti-ISKCON website is a small price to pay for avoiding such a disaster.

However, it is a bitter and uncomfortable truth that avoidance is the coward’s reaction to confrontation and informed argument. So is abusing the trust of others, especially when you know that they are turning to you for comfort and healing from extremely traumatic experiences. Remember that the term con artist refers to people who extract confidences from other people and then use the information for their own nefarious purposes.To exploit people who suffered in a cult and managed to extricate themselves is a grim, diabolical business.

The cold war strategy of containment is used by these so-called anti-ISKCON websites to herd dissidents together and thus keep them from disturbing the cult’s donor relations. Most of the few that operate with any form of sophistication are rife with signs that they are both funded and maintained by the cult itself. Apparently the idiots who believe that the sun is closer to the Earth than the moon have so little respect for the rest of us that they frequently overreach and engage in preposterous exaggerations that give themselves away almost immediately. 

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[1] Ironic, isn’t it? Yet, after many years of experience in not-for-profit fundraising, I can tell you it is the truth.