Eleven Naked Emperors
The Crisis of Charismatic Succession in the Hare Krishna Movement (1977-1987)
a book by
Henry Doktorski
© 2020 by Henry Doktorski

Publication Date: January 31, 2020

The eleven ISKCON zonal acharyas

Cover image: The eleven ISKCON zonal acharyas with a painting of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder/Acharya of ISKCON (Mayapur, India, c. August 1978). From left to right: Harikesh Swami Vishnupada, Jayatirtha dasa Tirthapada, Hamsadutta Swami Krishna Kirtan Thakur, Hrdayananda Goswami Acharyapada, Ramesvara Swami, Bhagavan Maharaja Gurudeva, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, Tamal-Krishna Goswami Gurudeva, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami Gurupada, Bhavananda Goswami Vishnupada, Jayapataka Swami Acharyapada.

Eleven Naked Emperors: The Crisis of Charismatic Succession in the Hare Krishna Movement (1977-1987), by Henry Doktorski (2020). 480 pages. 6 x 9 inches.

Number one in History of Hinduism

Amazon announces Eleven Naked Emperors NUMBER ONE NEW RELEASE in their History of Hinduism category, even before the book is published, due to pre-order sales of the Kindle version.

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Eleven Naked Emperors is quite masterful, and extremely important. The story is a long and complicated one, but Doktorski has done an outstanding job putting the entire drama into a very well documented and highly readable account. His tone is remarkably non-partisan, non-polemical and he has tried sincerely to be fair and impartial. I might add, for those who feel that dirty laundry should not be displayed in public, that there is nothing in Doktorski’s work that seeks to undermine the faith of the devotees in Krishna or, for that matter, in the institution of ISKCON. Those assuming the role of gurus, most especially, should read this book carefully. And this is also a book for the tens of thousands of devotees driven away from ISKCON with their spiritual ideals in tatters; this is their story too. The author has risen to the dharma of the historian in documenting a defining period in the history of the Hare Krishna movement.

Edwin Bryant
Professor of Hindu Philosophy and Religion
Rutgers University


DURING A DISPUTATIOUS DECADE, after they had buried the saintly Founder of the institution, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)—more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement—appointed eleven senior men as successors to the Founder in a political move which one disciple called “a bloodless coup.” Each of the eleven ruled their own geographic regions (zones), where they were erroneously regarded as pure and perfect beings (acharyas). They were considered beyond criticism and worshiped “as good as God.”

The eleven, however, pretended to be something they were not (like the main character in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale: The Emperor’s New Clothes), and within a few short years insurmountable problems afflicted some of the ISKCON “gurus,” such as falling down into prohibited activities, like illicit sex and intoxication. Unfortunately, the astute and dedicated disciples who criticized the zonal “acharyas” were shunned, expelled, beaten, or (in one extreme case) assassinated. Hundreds, if not thousands of formerly-loyal members defected, were blacklisted, or (in two cases) committed suicide.

This reign of self-aggrandizement and political intrigue by the leaders appointed by the GBC, periodically characterized by strong-armed tactics, tainted the Society which had been painstakingly cultivated for more than a decade by the ISKCON Founder and spiritual preceptor, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977). Fortunately, the system of succession that the GBC established eventually collapsed like a house built upon sand. This book chronicles the ISKCON era of the zonal “acharyas” from their first appearance in 1978, through their meteoric rise to power, their ten-year reign, their fall in 1987, and beyond.

For fifteen years (1978-1993), the author served as a faithful disciple of one of the zonal “acharyas,” and he lived through many of the events described in this book. Recently, he has interviewed major players in this drama, who have contributed important inside information to help everyone interested more fully understand this controversial and little-documented chapter in the history of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Gaudiya Vaishnavism Comes West
Chapter 2: Krishna Gave Me Only Second- and Third-Class Men
Chapter 3: Senior Disciples Question Their Master
Chapter 4: Eleven Ritvik Priests
Chapter 5: A Take-Over Conspiracy
Chapter 6: The Rise of the Zonal Acharyas
Chapter 7: Two Architects of Evil
Chapter 8: Crushing the Opposition
Chapter 9: ISKCON Gurus Begin to Deviate
Chapter 10: Exposed by a Woman
Chapter 11: The Guru Reform Movement
Chapter 12: Preparing for Battle
Chapter 13: The Fall of the Zonal Acharyas
Chapter 14: The Neo-Gaudiya Math
Chapter 15: The Ritvik Question
Chapter 16: The Buck Stops Here
About the Author

Excerpts from Eleven Naked Emperors

Foreword by Professor Edwin Bryant
Preface by the Author

Back to: Henry Doktorski: Author