Memories of Dharmatma (Dennis Gorrick)
by eight New Vrindaban sankirtan women from the ISKCON Child Protection Office case files (August 2005):
Nirmala (Nancy Eldredge),
Maharha (Mary Saint-John),
Viduttama (Janet Cleaver),
Vedamata (Barbara Wolff),
Sumati (Carol C. Bruck),
Harinama (Hedy Fried),
Gopalasyapriya (Diane Alpert-White), and
Nirmala devi dasi (Nancy Eldredge)
Initiated 1974, New Vrindaban. My intention in writing this is to record an important part of my history, especially what I have witnessed when I was a member of the New Vrindaban sankirtan party headed by Dharmatma dasa from 1974 1985. I have also collected the other testimonials included in this package. We as a group wish to document the injustices, abuses, and sexual crimes perpetrated by Dharmatma dasa so that he is never given any position of leadership or other such role in ISKCON again. To this day he has expressed neither remorse nor apology, and denies events we all witnessed.
The women’s sankirtan party started in 1974 when a few others and I went out to nearby cities to distribute Back To Godhead magazines. From there the party expanded, with women going to other parts of the country leading smaller parties. Everyone on these parties was under Dharmatma’s control, and what was in the beginning quite ecstatic and joyful turned strange and ugly as time went on. It will be hard for me to give specific dates, because I was one of the main women leaders and was constantly traveling throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Dharmatma was given the Pittsburgh temple as his base. As time passed, he became more possessive and violent toward the women on the party. He had to approve everything—what we wore, what we ate, and with whom we spoke (even when we spoke among ourselves). We worked hard and slept little. On the outside he always maintained the appearance of a Krishna conscious program (cleanliness, classes, puja, preaching, book distribution, etc.), so many of us were fooled and at least in the beginning, didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes.
In 1976, still in the Pittsburgh outpost, a young girl came named Shyama. She was thirteen at the time. What I personally remember is Dharmatma constantly telling me that she was a crazy black bitch. I would see her screaming and scared, but I didn’t know what was going on, as I was home so infrequently. He ridiculed her publicly. Shyama has now filed a case against Dharmatma with the ISKCON Child Protection Office (CPO). Here is the story she shared with me. Looking back, I believe it to be true.
Shyama was sent to New Vrindaban to attend gurukula in 1976 when she was thirteen years old. She was placed in Kanka devi dasi’s ashram. Dharmatma had his eye on her, and sent some of the women to befriend her and to tell her how wonderful the sankirtan party was. He then went to Kirtanananda and asked for her, receiving permission to take her to Pittsburgh without contacting her mother. Kanka objected, saying that Shyama needed her schooling, but Dharmatma said he would teach her. He brought her back to Pittsburgh. After a month or so of reading with her in his room alone at night, he started kissing her. She would cry and he would send her to bed. She said she hated it, but from there it got worse, moving on to her performing oral sex on him regularly for almost a year. Whenever she called her mother, Dharmatma stood over her to hear what she said. He constantly threatened to break both of her legs and kill her if she ever told anybody about their relationship. Each time after having her perform oral sex on him, he sent her away, telling her to go and chant Hare Krishna.
Dharmatma beat Shyama with a rubber hose from the washing machine in the basement on numerous occasions. These beatings came for any minor infraction. She said he also beat her between the legs, which made her feel like an animal in a cage. Dvijapriya was in Pittsburgh at this time, and in love with Dharmatma, and was already having sexual relations with him, although he was married to the woman with whom he had joined named Lakhima. Dvijapriya was extremely jealous of and vicious toward Shyama. Dharmatma played on this and appeared to think it funny. Shyama also witnessed Dvijapriya being beaten.
When the party was on the road and the other girls were around, Dharmatma would drop them off at different spots but keep Shyama back for sex.
Shyama remembers an incident that took place somewhere at a baseball or football game. The Berkeley ISKCON women’s sankirtan party, headed by Jiva dasa, happened to be there at the same game. Jiva was Dharmatma’s confidant and friend, and Dharmatma and Jiva were talking when Dharmatma called Shyama over and told Jiva something like, “Oh, this one is really, really good.” Shyama says they were laughing while Jiva looked her up and down. This terrified her, because she thought Dharmatma might send her to someone else for sex.
After about a year, Shyama became convinced that Dharmatma was going to kill her, so she planned an escape. When she knew Dharmatma had to go out, she caught a cab to the airport and returned to her mother. Her mother then saw her scars and bruises, and Kirtanananda, Kuladri, and later Rameshvara were told. Nothing was ever done. To this day, Shyama suffers from phobias, panic attacks, emotional and mental problems, lives like a recluse, and continues to live in great fear of Dharmatma.
A few years ago, in 2003, Shyama developed enough courage to file a case with the CPO. Since signing the papers to initiate the case, she has moved residences with her two sons several times, afraid that Dharmatma will find and kill her. She is also afraid to go to any temple, because someone might tell Dharmatma where she is. The fear is very real to her, since she was so severely hurt and threatened by him at an early age. She has a hard time trusting anyone now. Therefore, she is still hesitant to risk her life by coming forward.
Despite all this, she says that she still loves Krishna and Shrila Prabhupada and is able to differentiate Dharmatma’s behavior from real Krishna consciousness. She refused to be part of the Turley case, because she said nothing could take Krishna away from her. She also has good memories along with the bad. She said “I will never forget my Krishna.” At this point in the conversation, she repeated that the worst thing that happened to her was when he made her perform oral sex on him and then told her to chant Hare Krishna afterwards.
Around that same time in Pittsburgh, another girl came, this time from the Dallas gurukula. Her name was Brajamandala, and she was twelve years old. She was later named Maha Vishnu; her mother’s name is Shyamajna. Like Shyama, Brajamandala was African American.
What I remember about Brajamandala is that she was very pretty and that she was an excellent mrdanga player and kirtan leader. Dharmatma always kept her by his side, pretending to be protecting this young girl. She passed away at the young age of forty sometime in 2004, and only told her story to friends and family. She expressed that she wanted to bring forward a case. The following is from an elder in our movement with whom I spoke. Brajamandala confided in this devotee, who shared the following with me:
Basically it was an awful time in Brajamandala’s life, as she was being molested by Dharmatma and her baby brother drowned in New Vrindaban. About ten years back, she contacted a senior devotee and asked to talk because she felt she was going crazy. She said that after she had been in Pittsburgh for some time, Dharmatma began to force her to perform oral sex on him. This happened for quite some time, and she said he threatened her life if she ever told anybody. He punched and beat her in the temple basement. This devotee also said that in the recent past Brajamandala had made peace with everything and called Dharmatma to say that she had decided against bringing forward a case or writing anything against him. But she wanted, for her own healing, a personal apology from him. Dharmatma denied everything and therefore refused to apologize. Brajamandala died six months later.
On the other side, one of the women Dharmatma was close to told me that Dharmatma boasted to her that after he dropped all the women off at the Pittsburgh airport, he would have Brajamandala perform oral sex on him as he was driving home from the airport. Brajamandala was twelve years old at the time. The same woman also said that he would press his three-year-old daughter’s face into his lap and say, “We have to train them young.”
We heard that a young black girl actually became pregnant and that Dharmatma made her have an abortion. At the time, none of us knew or were aware of these atrocities except Dvijapriya and some of the farm women, to whom we were not allowed to speak. Kuladri and Kirtanananda knew, however. A few months ago, someone asked Kuladri about the abortion and who had it, but he said it was too long ago and he couldn’t remember.
We were always pushed to the max and heavily sleep deprived. In 1975, four of us were in a terrible car accident in which the car was totaled and we were in the hospital for a month with severe head injuries and many broken bones. The police told us it was a miracle that any of us had lived. I remember falling apart, crying and begging for more rest.
After the whole Pittsburgh episode, Kirtanananda moved Dharmatma to a house on New Vrindaban property. The remedy was to marry three of the women to Dharmatma: Dvijapriya, Pradhana-Gopika, and me. Kirtanananda asked why I was named, and Dharmatma said, “She will keep the peace between the others, and she is my right-hand man.” I had no idea at the time that he was having sexual relationships with anyone. I thought everyone followed the four regulative principles. I had no romantic interest in Dharmatma, but at that time I thought he was a good devotee.
After the marriage I was on the road a lot. Dharmatma’s children were born to his other two wives. These two wives fought constantly and hated one another. After this, whenever new women came along, Dharmatma would plan how to get them sexually. His main plan of action was to have them give him massage. He probably succeeded in having a sexual relationship with five to seven of the women during this period. Later, when I found out what was going on, I confronted him and he became enraged. He screamed at me to surrender to Krishna, to him, and to be a chaste wife. “Do your own duty and be Krishna conscious.” I said nothing more but tried to stay on the road as much as possible.
Pradhana-Gopika was the less-favored wife, and Dharmatma and Dvijapriya treated her awfully. She was beaten more than anyone else—repeatedly for many, many years. Dharmatma said that Pradhana-Gopika was like his mother—meaning, she always had to get the last word in. He said that his father had beaten his mother, and he beat Pradhana-Gopika for any offense.
I witnessed one such beating with my own eyes. It took place in the basement of the Sankirtan House. I walked down the steps and froze. Pradhana-Gopika was on the floor in her underwear while Dharmatma severely beat her with a rubber hose. When he saw me, he screamed at me to mind my own business. Pradhana was black and blue and covered in welts. I remember she was passing urine on the floor. After these beatings—and it happened this time as well—Dharmatma forced her to put on a sari, cover her head, and then scrub the floor on her hands and knees until he said enough. Before he discovered the value of using a rubber hose, Pradhana had been beaten with a cane, a wood file, and a wooden hanger—each of which had broken. After that, Dharmatma always used a piece of black rubber hose.
He also beat her while she was pregnant. Later, he beat her in front of one of the small children. After countless beatings over many years, along with threats to her life, Pradhana escaped, forced to leave her three children behind. Whenever he spoke to her on the phone after that, he would tell her he could find her and knew how to commit the perfect murder.
He lied to his children about Pradhana for years, denying everything she said about their relationship. Dharmatma made Pradhana out to be crazy, and his children believed him. The children now know the truth and love their mother. To this day in 2005, not only has he never apologized, but he still denies everything.
He now calls Christina (Pradhana) a “Christian meat-eater,” and he and Dvija criticize her severely. But Christina, as she now wants to be called, has undergone years of therapy, prayer, and suffered through nightmares. She has finally come to a peaceful place in her life and is a God-conscious person. None of us helped her because after she left, she went on national television to tell her story, and Dharmatma made us believe she was evil and crazy. While she was fighting him legally, emotionally, and mentally, trying to get her children back, we were off doing our own healing. Each of the women involved with Dharmatma has suffered with nervousness, nightmares, anxiety, and guilt about our not having known what was really going on and having been so helpless.
Dharmatma has all the characteristics of an abusive misogynist—beating women and then having sex with them, having sex with young girls and a string of women, dominating women and using abusive language toward them. If we even glanced at the kirtan party, which was all male, for example, or committed any other small infraction, he would call us his pet names: prostitutes, douche bags, whores, cunts, sluts, witches, bitches, and snakes. The lesser of us were stupid, dumb, and of course unsubmissive. His wife told me that he always kept a full briefcase of Playboy and similar magazines. He created a sick and fearful atmosphere, and we all became ill from it in some way. In my opinion, he is a sick, twisted, and perverted person. Appearance is everything to him. The Vaishnava dress, tilak, his children appearing perfect, his wife’s head covered to her eyebrows, cleanliness, everything perfect and pukka . . . Yet behind closed doors he is critical, mean, and seething with anger. Although I no longer know about his life and what he’s doing, I can say that he has never expressed remorse or even acknowledgement of anything that happened on any level.
He did have good qualities as well: he is determined, organized, clean, and always able to provide money for the task at hand. But none of us have witnessed any change of heart; he continues to deny everything.
It was normal for the girls to be asked to shoplift in Krishna’s name. He requested special items for himself, Kirtanananda, or for his service. When the girls came home, there would be a show and tell, and he would praise the ones who did “well.” Of course, as with everything, when questioned, he told us that he was simply following Kirtanananda’s instructions.
Once when a new young woman joined the party, he told one of his wives, laughingly, “I’m going to take this one nice and easy.”
It had come to my knowledge sometime after we moved from Pittsburgh to New Vrindaban that Dvijapriya had a severe drinking problem. Her life was miserable most of the time—she had to put up with co-wives and Dharmatma’s multiple affairs. She was attached to him and quite possessive, and couldn’t deal with all of this. She also didn’t like sankirtan and mostly stayed home. I heard she was drinking a lot, and once when I was back, Dharmatma told me to fly to Philadelphia and rescue Dvija. When I got to her hotel, she was passed out on the floor next to an empty vodka bottle, her things strewn everywhere. I was mortified, and she was helpless. I told Dharmatma that she needed help, and that the only way I would help her was for me to take over her care. I meant that she should no longer associate with him and his illicit activities. I would take her to other temples and help her get on her feet by reintroducing her to a strong and sober Krishna conscious life. Dharmatma agreed, and Dvija improved. Still, she returned to him and things returned to what they were. Dvija struggled with alcoholism for years. She could be mean and abusive toward others, and Dharmatma also beat her. I am relaying this because she would sometimes drive or be responsible for others, but they were endangered by her behavior. She could be nice one minute and ugly and vicious the next. She has known for years about all of Dharmatma’s activities, but seems to support and defend him all the way. I do not profess to know what is in her heart now or whether she is still severely abused or has an alcohol problem.
Christina was there when Dharmatma handed a man [Radhanath Swami] $5,000 from our sankirtan money for one of the New Vrindaban murders.
I am sure anyone reading this would think that we were all crazy for staying as long as we did, but we must have been suffering our karma from previous lives. Perhaps we too were abusers. Therefore, ultimately I blame no one and take complete and full responsibility for my association and actions with Dharmatma. At the same time, Dharmatma was expert at hiding all of this, and most of us were on the road so constantly that things were simply not black and white to us at the time. We didn’t connect the dots. We slept little, traveled constantly, distributed hundreds of thousands of books, and collected millions of dollars. My mind was always on my service and caring for the devotees on my party. Also, we were brainwashed, as in those days everyone followed their authorities. Shrila Prabhupada used to visit New Vrindaban, and whenever he would say the Jaya Om Prayers, he would add, “Kirtanananda ki jaya!” Kirtanananda was our sannyasi leader, and he wanted me to stay with the New Vrindaban party. Toward the end I went and spoke with Kirtanananda. By then, things were more obvious to me. I told him what I knew. What I didn’t know was that Kirtanananda already knew about everything I told him and more. For example, he knew about the abortion. All he seemed interested in was whether Dharmatma was skimming from the sankirtan money. He forbade me to leave New Vrindaban and said that I must make sure the Lakshmi [money] was protected.
I stayed about a month more, then told Kirtanananda I was leaving the party. I could no longer be part of what was going on. Kirtanananda told me I could collect for him separately and leave Dharmatma’s party, but he would not back me and said that he would publicly side with Dharmatma. I didn’t accept his conditions, and a godsister and I planned our escape. We drove to Canada, fearful the whole way, and after twelve years of devotional service at New Vrindaban, begun when I was nineteen, I was finished there. I was deathly ill at the time, and it took me about ten years to get back on my feet.
Later, I worked with Radhanath Swami, cooking and preaching in Ohio. The Lord is infinitely kind, and his devotees are my salvation. We are telling these stories to uphold the integrity of Shrila Prabhupada’s movement. We want to protect the pure-hearted and innocent, and to help the victims be heard instead of living in fear, unable to visit Krishna’s temples.
What prompted me to write and collect these writings is that Dharmatma and Indradyumna Swami have begun an association. Devotees are wondering why Indradyumna Swami supports such a person, and there is a wide range of opinions on this topic. Some devotees think that Indradyumna Swami must already know about all these past events, but doesn’t care, because Dharmatma gives him large donations for his preaching in Poland. The same old ISKCON deal. Some people think the events are too far in the past and that Indradyumna Swami doesn’t really care about them or the devotees who suffered. But most of us think that Indradyumna Swami doesn’t know the extent of Dharmatma’s abuses. How can Maharaja, in good conscience, be so loving and caring toward our children, and then publicly praise Dharmatma? People are asking this question from Florida to British Columbia. Parents and gurukulis are bewildered and hurt by Indradyumna Swami’s behavior. Indradyumna Swami is enabling Dharmatma to become more prominent in ISKCON, and even looked up to by those who do not know of his past abuses. He is doing a disservice to Dharmatma and all of Dharmatma’s victims, his own godsisters, who have served for at least as long as he has.
I heard with my own ears during Indradyumna Swami’s 2005 Alachua visit Maharaja praising Dharmatma during Bhagavatam class. Maharaja called him “a very pure devotee.” Many devotees complain that he brings Dharmatma with him everywhere—into schools and people’s homes, placing the hosts in awkward circumstances. This support of Dharmatma also confuses Alachua’s young people, since Dharmatma publicly humiliated and shunned his own daughter because she was living with her devotee boyfriend, when they all know his past. Again, people are just plain sick of double standards. Now that Indradyumna Swami is fully informed of the allegations, we trust that he will deeply pray and meditate on this situation, asking the Lord for guidance on how to proceed with Dharmatma. We understand he is compassionate toward Dharmatma, and God knows Dharmatma needs compassion. We are not asking Indradyumna Swami to abandon his relationship with Dharmatma. We are simply asking him to stop the outward glorification, and to not bring him into people’s homes for programs, since his doing so is intolerable to so many.
There was also a situation in Alachua with Bhaktin Linda, Indradyumna Swami’s sister-in-law. I will not go into details here, but basically she does not have good feelings toward Dharmatma or Dvijapriya, and has reasons for her attitudes. However, Indradyumna Swami did not like her attitudes and asked her to apologize to Dvijapriya, who proceeded to yell at Linda for half an hour. This may sound petty, but the important point of this incident is that Linda’s instincts and intuition were clear and correct, but Indradyumna Swami overlooked her feelings. I firmly believe that when authorities override the instincts of parents, abuse can take place.
I also know that Dharmatma criticized Linda because she is friends with what he called the “women’s libbers.” Linda’s friends are Prabhupada disciples who have been serving wholeheartedly for thirty or more years. One woman Dharmatma criticized has personally helped more children in our community than anyone else. Linda has chosen good association for herself and should be commended for her choices, not put down for them.
We want to say that from Alachua to Vancouver and places in between, there are many devotees who would take the opportunity to host Indradyumna Swami or arrange for his visits. We wish him well in his deep prayers and are confident he will be given wonderful guidance. These reports are also being sent to the GBC.
Maharha devi dasi (Mary Saint-John)
Dharmatma started our sankirtan party at New Vrindaban. At our first meeting, he told us he would be in charge of us, on Kirtanananda’s order, and that we were to do what he said. He then said something mean about women, and that was that.
It was hard to get used to him. At that time, Dharmatma’s words and behavior communicated his belief that women were stupid, dumb servants, good collectors, and sex objects. According to Dharmatma’s former wife, Dharmatma worked as a pimp before becoming a devotee. She would assist him in the front room while he had sex in the back room with a number of women. I think he brought some of his habits to the movement.
While traveling in the early days, Dharmatma had us learning [Sanskrit] verses. I am thankful for that. I used to hate going out, and Dharmatma would have to coax me. One time I refused, and he hit me hard across the face.
We used to travel together and deliver books to various devotees doing sankirtan at different locations. Dharmatma was married at the time, but he would ask me to massage him. I didn’t want to, but thought the service would purify me and I could become a nice devotee like his wife, whom I considered a jewel. Unfortunately, Dharmatma was motivated by a desire to have sexual contact with me.
One time when we were delivering Back To Godhead magazines, we got a hotel room together. When I was going to lie down, he grabbed me and held me. I was scared and screamed, “No, no!” He said, “When a woman says no, it really means yes.” I tried to break away from his grip, but he wouldn’t let me go. I said “What about Prabhupada?” and he released me. No further words were exchanged that night.
The next day when we were driving, he told me that the women on the party were like his wives, and a wife should never say anything about what goes on between her and her husband. He spoke for a while, convincing me that I shouldn’t tell anyone what had happened between us the previous night. I maintained his confidence for the next twelve years, wondering if anything like this had ever happened to any of the other women.
Another time when I was massaging him, he was wearing a gamcha and lying on his stomach. At one point, he turned onto his back, exposing himself to me. He had an erection. At first I was bewildered, and I asked Krishna what I should do. I was shocked and disgusted. Somehow I received the guidance to stop massaging and leave. Although I never told anyone about this, I later discovered that this is what he did to the other women on the party. He would play out this scenario, the women would submit to having sex with him, and later he would blame them for the interaction.
There were two sides to Dharmatma’s personality. Sometimes he was nice, and at other times harsh and mean. At times he would ridicule and demean the women, calling them stupid and dumb. He would say things like, “All you women want is something between your legs.” It seemed impossible to meet his unrelenting demands and expectations to be more austere in our eating and sleeping. He would criticize our sadhana. Any devotee perceived as not following his authority would become an object of ridicule and condemnation.
Many times he would bring a devotee into the room with all the women present and publicly humiliate him or her. If any of the assembled women objected to his verbal abuse, they would be next to receive it.
As time went on, I became Dharmatma’s “right-hand man.” I was a robot, responding to his every wish except for his desire that I submit to having sex with him. He would tell me how to treat the women, and due to my own dysfunction, I would inflict pain on my godsisters. Not realizing the pain I was causing them, I would speak roughly. For example, if they were falling asleep at an inappropriate time, I would poke them with pins to keep them awake. This was so sinful that even though Dharmatma encouraged me to behave in this way, I have to take responsibility for my sins.
Because I had such a strong desire to please Dharmatma and to be the number one girl (in my mind), I would do whatever he said. It appeared that he used me as a pawn to do his “dirty work.” The girls would then go to him for comfort. In this way he could be the “good guy” while he provoked me to continue harassing them.
One time a lesbian devotee joined our party. She had a tendency to agitate the women by her behavior. Dharmatma said I should beat her with a frying pan and rolling pin. Regretfully, I followed through with this heinous action and almost killed her. She went to the hospital, and a few days later I saw her offering the Lord aroti. Her body was covered with massive bruises. Dharmatma looked at me and said, “She loved it.” I believed his sadomasochistic worldview.
Not long after this incident, Kirtanananda found out about it and was angry at Dharmatma for instructing me to commit this atrocity. Dharmatma defended himself, saying he had only been kidding. He then asked me if he had told me to jump off of a bridge, would I do it. The sad truth was I would have.
I was the first woman toward whom Dharmatma made sexual advances. After a while, an attractive woman joined the party and Dharmatma told me he had had sex with her to entice her to stay on the party. In an intoxicated moment, he related how wonderful the sexual encounter had been. As with other things, I maintained confidentiality. I now realize that I was desperate for his approval, a pattern I had established in my childhood with my rejecting mother.
Two thirteen-year-old girls lived at the Pittsburgh temple. I only remember Brajamandala, who was a bit chubby. Dharmatma was trying to get her to lose weight. Because she was not completely obedient to him, he told me to go downstairs and spank her in the basement. I don’t remember if I spanked her or not, but I do remember someone else was down there holding a rubber hose. Dharmatma came down and told me to go upstairs. I later heard that he beat Brajamandala with that hose. I also learned that he beat his wives with the hose.
Shyama was the other thirteen-year-old. Dharmatma raped and beat both these girls. After I left the party, Kuladri and Kirtanananda told me that Brajamandala had gotten pregnant and that Dharmatma had forced her to have an abortion.
After some time, sankirtan at the Pittsburgh airport became increasingly difficult and the party began to travel. We moved our Sankirtan House to New Vrindaban. Sometimes Dharmatma would travel with us, and often photographed non-devotee girls.
I found traveling sankirtan very difficult, because it meant being with only one other devotee for months at a time. Dharmatma encouraged us to steal our food and clothing. We were making at least $3000 a week, but still we had to steal. We slept in the van in extreme weather, and would sneak into hotels in the morning to shower. Despite some of the girls being arrested for theft and going to jail, Dharmatma had us continue to steal our necessities.
We were expected to collect large sums of money, so we were told to work spots that belonged to other ISKCON temples. In the process we ruined their permits and destroyed our relationships with both the temples and the devotees. We would travel all night and work all day.
One time one of the girls (Sukalina) told me that she had had sex with Dharmatma. I was shocked, and asked Dharmatma about it. He told me it was okay because she would have left the movement if he hadn’t had sex with her. To ensure that the incident was covered up, he reminded me that when we returned to New Vrindaban, we shouldn’t ask Kirtanananda any questions, as we were very stupid and would only make fools of ourselves.
At one point I was collecting money in Saint Thomas in the U. S. Virgin Islands, when two people hit me over the head and grabbed my purse, which contained $1600. Frightened, I called Dharmatma, who told me to buy another purse and keep working. The people who robbed me returned one morning, throwing me to the floor and placing a large knife to my throat. They wanted to know where my money was. Despite telling them I didn’t have any, they ransacked the apartment. They told me, “We will be back for you, Krishna, and we want more money.”
Petrified, I again called Dharmatma. He told me that I had to stay and that he would send someone to help. He sent his devotee girlfriend, who was having a “hard time.” I was convinced that my assailants would return and kill me, and I didn’t feel ready to die. Therefore I disobeyed Dharmatma’s instructions and took the next plane home. Dharmatma was upset and criticized me, saying I was in big Maya, etc.
By the time I turned twenty-eight, I was emotionally disturbed and anorexic. I felt like a failure, unable to please Dharmatma, and therefore never able to please Prabhupada or Krishna. My health deteriorated and I was diagnosed as a borderline diabetic. Dharmatma and Kirtanananda didn’t believe that I was ill. I began to have frequent crying episodes, but I didn’t know why. Kirtanananda would tell me, “Pride cometh before the fall.”
Due to being in so much denial, I didn’t believe that Dharmatma was having sex with a lot of the women. Even though I knew about Dvija and Sukalina, I would never let myself believe that it had happened more than once. I continued to believe he was pure. I guess that’s how I was able to keep going out.
But by then I could no longer travel, much to everyone’s disappointment. Dharmatma allowed me to sell records around the area. I could barely do it. I was a wreck.
One time I was home when Pradhana-Gopika, one of Dharmatma’s wives, had just had a baby. Dharmatma wanted her to go out. Her baby cried all day. When she came back Dharmatma said, “Just see, when you walk in, your baby starts crying.”
Until this time I would never speak against Dharmatma, but I was finally awakening to reality. I was tired of hearing him criticize everyone, and I didn’t like it that he lied to Pradhana. I decided to tell her the truth about her baby. She wanted to confide in me, but was afraid I would tell Dharmatma.
I convinced her that I would be confidential. She named all the women with whom he was having sex, and that he owned the book, The Joy of Sex. She also told me that in his briefcase he was carrying around a pair of Dvija’s sexy underwear. She then told me he had two guns upstairs, and if he knew we were speaking like this, he would probably shoot us. Although I don’t think he would have, at the time I thought it a realistic possibility, especially since he had recently told me he knew how to kill someone without anyone finding out.
Pradhana told me more. I was so shocked that I decided to sneak away during the night. Dharmatma heard me and came looking for me in his car. I climbed up the side of the ridge and hid as he drove by. From there I went to Bahulaban and called Kuladri and Kirtanananda. They were surprised that I hadn’t known about Dharmatma all along.
I stayed at the Bahulaban temple for two days, even though Dharmatma was upset. Kirtanananda told him I was in Maya, and then made me apologize to him. If I didn’t apologize, Kirtanananda said, it would affect Dharmatma’s performance during the Christmas marathon—less money would be collected.
Although I was afraid to approach Dharmatma, I obeyed Kirtanananda. He tried to make me feel guilty. In the past I would have felt terrible, but this time I knew the truth and felt a new inner strength. Despite his yelling and telling me how sorry I would be for leaving his party, I knew I was doing the right thing. Due to my past misdeeds I had been so covered and had had to experience hell in his association.
Because Dharmatma was angry with me, he refused to return my passport, birth certificate, and citizenship papers when I asked for them. Shortly after this I left New Vrindaban. For some time I struggled with bad habits and had difficulty relating to devotees. Then Krishna sent me a wonderful husband, who has helped me a lot. I’ve been through years of therapy and emotional release work. I have gone to as many devotees as I could find to apologize for my offenses. That I offended them is a pain I will carry for the rest of my life. Offending Vaishnavas is the most serious matter.
Although I have recalled all that I can remember about Dharmatma, I do not bear him ill will. He is a sincere soul. I pray that someday he will feel remorse for what he has done and make amends. I only write this information to help in the further protection of our movement.
About ten years ago I saw Dharmatma at Panihati. He was cordial, and I asked him to apologize to the women whom he hurt in the past. He said, “Why should I apologize? It was Krishna’s mercy.” He then added, “Okay, I’m sorry. Now are you satisfied?” His response left me feeling less than satisfied.
I saw him again about seven years later and asked him again if had apologized to the women. He said he had spoke with Indradyumna Maharaja about his past and was told to forget the past. I hope this isn’t true.
Viduttama devi dasi (Janet Cleaver)
In 1975 I was on the Pittsburgh sankirtan party. Dharmatma got angry at me and beat me with a leather belt with a brass buckle. It took place on the third floor of the temple located at 3626 Forbes Avenue. I left the movement for six months, not returning until July 1976. I can only pray that he is no longer as violent as he was then.
Viduttama (Janet Cleaver), August 17, 2005
Vedamata devi dasi (Barbara Wolff)
To Whom It May Concern: My name is Vedamata devi dasi, Barbara J. Wolff, M.Ed., L.L.D. I received my Masters Degree in Education in Language and Learning Disabilities in 1997. I joined the Hare Krishna movement in the spring of 1973, and eventually moved to New Vrindaban in 1974. I went to downtown Pittsburgh to distribute Shrila Prabhupada’s books with a few brahmacharis once a week that same year. Soon, I was going out four days a week, alone, in the Pittsburgh area. Then when Dharmatma’s newly formed traveling sankirtan party returned to New Vrindaban, I began to go out with them.
I remember being shocked, at first, because most of my experiences with devotees had been good ones. I thought devotees were peace-and-love intellectuals looking for “the answer.” But Dharmatma was a new adventure for sure, and a definite reality check. In the van he was extremely rude, demanding, and self-centered. I was shocked by the names he called us and the derogatory words he used to refer to us as women. I toughed it out, though, because I wanted to distribute Shrila Prabhupada’s books, and at that time, I also wanted to stay with Kirtanananda and New Vrindaban. (It had been made explicitly clear to me that working with the women’s party was the only way to accomplish my goal.)
I am a colonel’s daughter, so I was used to toughing things out to accomplish my goals. I had also been taught that there was no room for “quitters.” And being a girl, my father had taught me that I had to be even tougher, stronger, and smarter than the boys if I wanted to compete in today’s world. I still believe that everything he taught me is true for this day and age, time and circumstance. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t listen to him. I mean, how did I ever get so weak that I could be conned by such a sick man or join a cult, which is what New Vrindaban was at that time?
But I accepted the situation as if I were in brahmacharini boot camp. And boot camp it was. We slept little and often drove all night only to work all day. If we didn’t distribute enough books or gather enough “Lakshmi points,” prasadam would be sparse. If we gained weight, prasadam would be sparse. The peer pressure was horrific to see who could serve Dharmatma “Prabhu” the most, best, or in any weird way.
I rarely engaged in this competition, and instead kept my distance, because I didn’t like him and constantly had to remind him that we weren’t married. He was just a stranger, even if he was my sankirtan leader. This attitude usually made his behavior worse; he didn’t like it that one of us wasn’t infatuated with him. Over the years, I simply stayed on the road to avoid him. It wasn’t unusual for me to stay on the road for two or three months at a time. Once I even stayed out for six months (April until Janmastami). We weren’t allowed to visit other temples because we might become entangled in their morning program, so we (I generally had five or six girls with me) crisscrossed Canada and the northern United States collecting and distributing six-and-a-half days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. We lived for years on cottage cheese, V-8 juice, Triscuits, and “roadie subji.”
Once, I called Dulal-Chandra, a New Vrindaban businessman, to talk for five minutes about the Canadian business forms we needed to get Prabhupada’s books across the border. Dharmatma called me the most vile names imaginable. (My forms were correct, however, and the books finally got into the country after four or five failed attempts). By this time, I was pretty sick of Dharmatma’s nonsense, so I began to answer back—yell back, mouth off. I didn’t care, because I was ready to fight, walk out, whatever.
I never personally had an intimate relationship with Dharmatma, but for a while we became cordial, because my service of book distribution made him look good. For the most part he then left me alone. He had many other more attractive women to pursue, and I was not around much. I remember once finding myself alone in the van with him traveling for a night, and at that time he made a brief reference to sex. I can’t really remember what he was talking about. I think he wanted a massage, because he was tired and his back hurt. I remember laughing at him and telling him I wasn’t an on-call massage therapist. I also told him where to find such a girl. I was my father’s daughter—what can I say? He then told me we were all like that and that we all “wanted it.” He also said something like, “And after men give women what they really want, then they had to shoo them away so that the men could get on with real business.” I have never forgotten his stinging words, although nothing happened between us that night or was ever pursued again.
The one time I was really upset with him was after spending six months in the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport, basically without missing a day of distribution (which wasn’t easy because we were distributing with Tripurari Swami, Romapada dasa Brahmacari, and another boy, who weren’t nice to us. Some girls cried on a daily basis. And I wonder why I hate orange and still react to that color even when I see it at a Wal-Mart?). I had just returned to Pittsburgh.
I had been promised a trip to take Shrila Prabhupada back to the Pittsburgh airport in June 1976. However, I committed a crime: I ate the Sunday feast with the farm devotees, whom I hadn’t seen for over half a year, and not the sankirtan girls. I didn’t get to go, and I was devastated. (Instead, I was sent to some middle-of-the-week parking lot in Pittsburgh, but ended up doing a huge amount of books that day in front of a health food store. By coincidence, some new, groovy author was signing a new-age book, so lots of new age people just happened to be there. It’s a great story of vani and vapu, and when I told it at an istagosthi at New Vrindaban the next week, Dharmatma yelled out, “You’re a liar!” But I had the Lakshmi and the books were gone, and I got Kirtanananda’s gulabjamin. Dharmatma was mad. He didn’t like things not to go his way.)
Eventually, I went secretly to Kuladri and became one of the first girls to tell him what I was seeing and what I thought was really going on—sankirtan girls leaving Dharmatma’s room late at night, or them being in there if I came in during the night or during the early morning hours.
The person I feel the worst about was around eleven at the time—an African-American girl named Brajamandala. I often saw her leaving his room when I got back late at night. By often I mean almost nightly. I think around this time, a three-man panel that included Balavanta, Kuladri, and Vrikodara was established to keep an eye on him and the sankirtan party, but in reality, it did no good. He just used his charisma to work around it.
I left the party in 1979, but tried to stay at New Vrindaban. Times were hard, though, because I was the first girl to leave, so it looked to everyone like I was lying or simply unsubmissive. Some of the other girls were so brainwashed that they didn’t believe me.
When I was getting married in 1980, Dharmatma tried to break my marriage up or prevent it from taking place. A year later when I had my first son, we found out that the baby had two holes in his heart and would need two dangerous open-heart surgeries to correct the problem. I later heard that Dharmatma told everyone that this happened to me because I had been so offensive to him by leaving his party, and that’s what would happen to them too.
After leaving the party, I went on to distribute books at the Honolulu airport from 1980-1983 or ’84, and by that time I had three children. When I first arrived in Honolulu, I found I couldn’t distribute books to women. I would sometimes run after those women who had taken a book from me in the airport and say things like, “Look, if you go to a temple, don’t just move in and listen to the men. They might mislead you. Don’t give them all your money, your car, and don’t leave your children.” At some point I realized I couldn’t go on like that. Either I had to believe in what I was doing, trust that Shrila Prabhupada would guide them and take care of the movement’s problems, inconsistencies, etc., or quit going out. I prayed for the guidance to know what to do.
I decided to give myself some time to heal. I started to go out on full-time book distribution again in 1996, after my children had grown. I continue to distribute books in and around my career as a special education teacher. I now live and travel alone in my van whenever I like, and health providing, distribute Shrila Prabhupada’s teachings.
I recently visited Alachua, Florida and saw Dharmatma there. I tried to be cordial and visited him at his home. For the most part, he too was cordial and often appeared nice. I was pleased to see his wonderful family. But I was shocked when he began to make derogatory comments about Kunti devi dasi, who left her body in 1998 at New Vrindaban. She was such a saint—a mother to all of us—and a great distributor. And he had always been so mean to her. She left her newborn son and three-year-old daughter, Karnamrta, for months at a time in order to distribute books and collect money. It was incredibly hard for her to do that. It surprised me that he hadn’t changed his attitudes, because most of the rest of us have changed and grown so much. He even had [negative] comments to make about Radhanath Swami. Anyone who doesn’t agree with him or who crosses him in any way is at risk, at the least, to receive his criticism. Actually, his critical nature is the least of the problem.
I truly wish him the best in Krishna consciousness. However, knowing what I know about disabilities and mental illness, I doubt if he’s going to change without recognizing that he has problems and developing a willingness to do something about them. Otherwise, his attitudes will not go away on their own. Instead, they lay dormant and fester, like a disease, and then recur at an opportune time or under ideal circumstances and are acted upon again. The impure human psyche can be so deviant. I don’t know when the initial trauma happened that caused him to have such problems or at what age it occurred, but just because he appears to be “in remission” does not mean that he has healed himself.
At any rate, I think it would be good for ISKCON (certainly not for me, or I assume for any of us, since we’ve mostly all moved on and know full well that our relationship with guru has nothing to do with ISKCON—I used to tell to myself long ago, “I’m going to chant Hare Krishna and distribute my spiritual master’s books no matter what ISKCON men do”), to recognize that there is potential for a volatile problem here. I hope it can be avoided. It’s time for ISKCON to stop being a dumping ground for all these men with serious mental problems, whatever they may be. These problems often play out under the guise of disrespecting women, false renunciation, pedophilia, etc. If Dharmatma were to act out his problems again, it would be most damaging, because many people know about him and the tragic events of the past. As with the Catholic Church, we can’t just keep moving our ill “priests” from temple to temple and allowing them to take up positions of authority in their new locations. If this man is again given any type of position in ISKCON, even subtly, by associating with “big” devotees, and there is yet another calamity, there will be hell to pay, and I can imagine that hell will come in the form of legal action. Who knows what else might happen? Will we allow more rapes of innocent children? Which of our leaders wants to take on this responsibility? I beg you to please not let these abuses happen again.
Vedamata dd (Barbara J. Wolff, M.Ed., L.L.D.)
Sumati devi dasi (Carol C. Bruck)
June 11, 2005: My purpose in writing this exposé is to explain both my experiences and what I witnessed in relation to Dharmatma dasa from 1978 1984, with the hope that such events not be repeated in the future. I pray that I do not commit Vaishnava aparadha while writing or presenting this. I wish the best for Dharmatma, and hope that he can come closer to Krishna as time goes on. Yet history has a way of repeating itself, and unless persons who commit violence toward others feel heartfelt remorse for their wrongdoings, there is a chance that they will repeat their violence when conditions again become suitable.
The first time I met Dharmatma dasa happened to be his birthday in 1978 or ’79 in Pittsburgh. He was sitting in a decorated chair with his feet in a bowl of water, and some women were taking turns bathing and massaging his feet and legs while other women read their offerings to him from a Vyasa-puja book they had compiled for him. I did not want to be part of this sankirtan team, and managed to do book distribution and collection with others for a couple of years. Eventually, Kirtanananda sent me to the Sankirtan House, now moved from Pittsburgh to New Vrindaban. There I both experienced and witnessed the absolute dominance Dharmatma had over all aspects of the women sankirtan devotees’ lives. We were not even allowed to chant japa while sitting down. We had to walk back and forth in a room.
At some point, I became aware that Dharmatma was having sexual relations with some of the women who were not his wives. I also heard him yell horrible obscenities at many of the women. I heard him beat his wife, Pradhana-Gopika, with a rubber hose, and saw her welts, bruises, and black eyes. She told me he beat her like that often. I personally did not suffer any physical abuse from him, yet I felt his total lack of human compassion and consideration.
Dharmatma also instructed the women to steal to save Krishna’s Lakshmi. I was one of the women instructed to steal good quality clothing for the sankirtan devotees and whatever bhoga we needed, again, to “save Krishna Lakshmi.”
In 1982 I needed emergency surgery to remove my left ovary. The doctors then performed a full hysterectomy and appendectomy, and after six days in the hospital, I was sent back to the Sankirtan House to recuperate for at least six weeks. I was immediately given Dharmatma’s newborn baby to care for. The mother had left, unable to cope with the baby, who was born with a severe cleft palate. I was completely stressed, in a lot of pain, and unable to find the time or energy to heal from major surgery. Yet at the end of the six weeks I was sent back out on the road. A few weeks later I collapsed, unable to walk more than a few feet. I went to Canada to stay with Nirmala and come under the care of a naturopathic doctor. It was midwinter, very cold, and I was quite ill. Still, Dharmatma would call every day to see how much I had collected. He would yell at me, as some days I was unable to go out at all and other days I did not collect enough. After some time I felt stronger and was sent to San Francisco to collect.
In a short time, I again collapsed, and the acupuncturist I was seeing told me that whatever I was doing with my life was literally killing me. I then refused to perform traveling sankirtan any longer and was removed from Dharmatma’s control.
I take responsibility for allowing the abuses to go on and on and doing nothing to stop them. I forgive Dharmatma for the part he played in my karmic life, yet I write this with the hope that he will not be put into a position where tendencies toward old habits could arise again.
In Shrila Prabhupada’s service,
Sumati dasi (Carol C. Bruck)
Harinama dasi (Hedy Fried)
Stories of emotional and psychological abuse among leaders in various positions in our Society are legion. One could dismiss any number of them for different reasons: immaturity chronologically and spiritually, people coming together in extremely challenging situations with little or no coping skills, and the fact that we each come from a particular socio-economic background to name a few. Therefore, I am choosing not to go to great lengths about my own history, except to bear witness, after more than twenty years, to a scene that could move even the hardest heart to pity. Yet the perpetrator has continually denied his guilt, even two decades later, choosing instead to label his victims with ugly and demeaning epithets.
While selling candles at a table some of us traded a few for a solid wood, carved cane over an inch thick to offer as a gift to Kirtanananda. We watched in numb disbelief as it was used instead to beat our godsister, Pradhana-Gopika. She ran into the large front room, screaming, as Dharmatma ran after her, backing her into a corner, where she was reduced to the level of an animal begging for mercy and passing stool and urine in her pants. The cane broke during the beating. She was then ordered, bruised and aching, to clean the house and answer the door during the usual busy afternoon. We wondered what she possibly could have done to deserve such punishment. We were informed that Dharmatma hadn’t liked the way Pradhana had left his room and shut the door. May Lord Krishna please forgive me for not trying to come to my sister’s rescue.
There were so many strange ideas connected with the sankirtan party serving under Dharmatma. For example, being thin was synonymous with being Krishna conscious. Stealing “for Krishna” was encouraged. We were at a swap meet once, collecting, and we wondered why one of our partners was going to the different stalls as if looking for something. When we inquired, we were told that she wanted to find a specific Playboy in which Dharmatma had said the perfect body could be found.
We understand from Srimad-Bhagavatam that we are all receiving token punishment due to the reactions of our past misdeeds. Our concern here is for any women or children who may find themselves under his supervision. If a person capable of such violence can ask the question, “Do you think I have to apologize for my past?” then something must be terribly wrong.
We hope that by Krishna’s grace he can begin to face the magnitude of his actions and with remorse in his heart begin to make some sort of amends to those whom he has most grievously harmed.
Gopalasyapriya devi dasi (Diane Alpert-White)
My name is Gopalasyapriya, and I came to New Vrindaban in 1975 when I was twenty years old. I will try to describe my experience as much as I can remember it, working directly under Dharmatma as a full-time sankirtan devotee.
But let me begin by saying that my experience was not as negative or traumatic as I know many of the other girls experienced.
Coming to Krishna consciousness was a great relief for me. One of the things I appreciated so much about my new life was the regulative principle, especially the prohibition against sex. My experiences as a teenager had left me with a bad taste in relation to sex, and I was happy to live a life free from its entanglements. This, I suppose, and the fact that I did not have an irresistible material body, kept my relationship with Dharmatma centered on devotional service.
I had been living at New Vrindaban for about six months, working in the outdoor kitchen and fire pit area (the Pits). When the sankirtan girls came through with Dharmatma, I was attracted to their enthusiasm for chanting and dancing. They always looked clean and fresh, and they seemed happy. They were very friendly, and encouraged me to come out with them to distribute Prabhupada’s books. One day out of the blue, Dharmatma’s then and first wife said to me, “Pack your bags. You’re going out on sankirtan!” I took this as coming from Krishna (and the management), as it was obvious my enthusiasm for working in the Pits was starting to wane.
Dharmatma was in charge in the van, and he had one of the women on the party also giving orders to newer people like me. He was organized, and he more or less demanded that we all become efficient, keep things in order, and take care of what Krishna had provided for us. I was not disturbed by these instructions. I had never really had anyone telling me what to do, and I welcomed it now, because I thought it would help me learn and improve myself.
I remember often being reprimanded for things with the idea that he was trying to help me become a better, more “fixed up” devotee. Although I struggled with my mind, however, I tried to follow Dharmatma’s instructions and not create unnecessary anxiety for my authorities. I took my service and sadhana seriously, and spent every day approaching people with books. In the mornings, I chanted and participated in whatever program we had.
Not too long after I joined the party, the party moved to the Pittsburgh temple, and our traveling group of six or seven girls expanded. We found spots in the airport, and otherwise worked downtown or on campus. We were also responsible for maintaining the temple, which had small deities, cooking the Sunday feast, etc. More girls came. Dharmatma had a way of keeping things in order and making sure everyone was engaged in service. The temple was always clean and nice. He always wanted everything to be first class.
As time went on, however, I began to notice that he constantly criticized almost all devotees who were not a part of our group. He did not like us to spend time with the “farm devotees,” and even when we went to New Vrindaban, we were expected to keep our distance from them, stick together, and always engage in service. If we talked to anyone from the farm, it was assumed we were gossiping. We were instructed never to look at men! We must keep our heads covered at all times! (We wore our saris almost over our eyes.) We were to dance in kirtan, and to look and act our best for Krishna and for Dharmatma. So many things were drilled into our heads, and as always, a few of the girls enforced these instructions. These girls took Dharmatma very seriously, and were constantly reminding us to behave as he desired. Some of the girls even expressed that they thought he was a pure devotee. I silently disagreed with this assessment, but continued to appreciate how he kept everything and everyone organized.
I knew that some of the girls were sometimes massaging him in his office. They seemed to think of it a great honor to be allowed to offer this massage and serve him in such a personal way. One night, a devotee named Sukalina told me that Dharmatma wanted me to give him a massage. She thought I was fortunate to have been chosen for this service. I did give him a massage, trying to be both careful and chaste, and it was for me a completely nonsexual experience. Still, I didn’t appreciate being asked to do the massage, because it made me think of sex, and I thought we were trying to stay away from sex as much as possible. Thank Krishna I was never invited back into the office to offer a massage again!
He seemed to care about all of us and our devotional lives. I guess that’s why we continued to work under him. He took a lot of time to encourage us to work hard for Krishna and to perform the austerities that went along with our lifestyle—rising early, chanting sixteen rounds, learning [Sanskrit] verses, etc.
Sometimes he could be cruel and make comments about the way we looked, especially if we were gaining weight and not looking attractive. When he would comment on my ̴fat ass,” I tried to take it as an incentive to help me control my tongue and be more austere in my eating, something with which I had always struggled. It seemed that everyone was confiding in him about their personal struggles, and he seemed to genuinely care. He took his time to talk to and “preach” to each of us.
Some of the girls seemed attracted to him and went out of their way to serve him. There was almost a competition to cook for him and then serve him prasada, do his laundry, iron his clothes, clean and keep his office just so. Some of them tried to outdo one another to impress and please him with their domestic abilities. I concentrated on trying to “do big” on sankirtan every day.
New devotees were coming onto the scene regularly, and Dharmatma gained a reputation for being able to train girls to become fixed-up sankirtan devotees.
At one point, a young girl, about twelve years old, named Brajamandala came to live with us. Her mother lived at New Vrindaban. She had beautiful green eyes and played the mrdanga and sang well. She was also outspoken and obstinate, and the idea was that Dharmatma would train her to behave properly and become a nice devotee. I heard later that he took the opportunity to train her in satisfying his lust as well.
I also heard that he used to beat her, and that he later raped her. I ran into her at a Rathayatra festival in San Francisco in 2001. She told me about some of these things, and was thinking about bringing a child abuse lawsuit against him. She told me about the beatings and the sex, and wanted to know if I knew where Dharmatma was. She wanted very much to do something about the abuse. I felt bad, but did not know what I could do other than to let her know where he was living. She called me once more after that to get his phone number. She seemed to have suffered a lot in her life due to her association with him, and I wished I would not have been so covered over and in the dark as to what was actually going on back then. Of course, I knew that he was sometimes criticized and accused of things, but I had absolutely no idea that he was actually hurting anyone. I was naive. I thought all devotees followed the four regulative principles. Dharmatma’s main instructions to us were to remain chaste, keep our heads covered, and not be like those “prostitutes” on the farm. “DON’T LOOK AT THE MEN!” and on and on along those lines. I could not imagine that he or any devotee would do what I have since heard he has done. Another young girl named Shyama had a similar experience to Brajamandala, but I did not know her well.
Since I was busy on sankirtan every day, I did not see what the other devotees saw. I ended up working the airports in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Columbus. Then we started to travel to big events around the country. I began to spend very little time in Pittsburgh, so was not around to witness any physical or sexual abuse.
Most of the time Dharmatma was quite kind to me, and he always took special care of my parents when they came for their annual visits. But my parents picked up on the sexual vibes between him and some of the girls. I assured them that devotees weren’t like that. I even got upset with them for talking how they did about him.
But then it seemed a lot of people were talking about him—including the sankirtan devotees. It was then decided that we needed to relocate the sankirtan base back to New Vrindaban. Dharmatma would live there and actually marry some of the girls. I was quite innocent at the time, and I truly believed this arrangement was being made so that people would have no further reason to find fault and criticize him for being with women all the time. One of the girls, who became one of his wives, even asked me if I would consider marrying him too. When I told her I thought it might be kind of weird, she seemed surprised and even offended by my response. Dharmatma married three of the girls and continued to oversee our traveling sankirtan activities.
Coming home to New Vrindaban and staying at the Sankirtan House with his wives and their growing families was not always pleasant. Two of the wives began to hate each other. The other one seemed to regret that she had become involved with him. He and his wives were constantly reprimanding us. When the new temple was built, I remember how afraid we were to ask him if we could stay down there on our breaks. He seemed to think we were his girls and that we belonged to him.
He totally controlled us, sometimes through fear and intimidation, but also by providing us with whatever it was we needed—that is, making us feel indebted to him. He made sure we had new, reliable vehicles for travel. Being a good carpenter, he fixed them up perfectly to fit our needs. He came up with great (unfortunately illegal) ideas for fund-raising, and made sure we had ideal (also illegal) paraphernalia for our service. It appeared that he was materially together in all respects, and he was an advocate (in his own way) for us women. If we worked hard and got good results, he made sure we got to do things like go to India. In the earlier years, we were able to travel to see Shrila Prabhupada when he was in America.
I definitely can’t say he was all bad, but he has done some truly terrible things during his devotional career. One of his wives, Pradhana-Gopika, was probably not as humble and submissive as she could have been. I heard he used to beat her with a rubber hose. I remember someone showing me the hose, which he kept in the file cabinet next to his desk. I was bewildered by it, but knowing how unpleasant and uncooperative she could be, didn’t find it completely unbelievable. I remember when she finally left, he made it appear as if she had completely lost her mind and become a demon. My understanding is that because of her horrific experience with him, and she being quite sharp and so involved in all the behind-the-scenes details, knowing all the criminal implications of our fund-raising activities, etc., which at that time were bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars, reported him and everything else to the FBI. That is why they came and raided the Sankirtan House in January of 1987 (just after the Christmas marathon). I have heard that he threatened to kill her.
I’ve never known anyone quite like Dharmatma. He could be so kind and caring, providing good guidance and shelter. I actually felt safe and secure all those years, fully engaged in Krishna’s service. On the other hand, he could be rough, vulgar, and almost criminal. He really liked it when we would steal things rather than spend Krishna’s money. He encouraged shoplifting, even putting in requests for special items. He would glorify the best shoplifters (I am not proud to say I was among them) only to condemn them if they got caught. I have also heard from a former accounting assistant that it was discovered that he had transferred money numbering in the six digits from New Vrindaban sankirtan funds into his own personal accounts and business just as he was about to leave in 1988.
I think I have cited enough examples to give anyone an idea of what he was like. I guess the point of this is to describe the type of person Dharmatma was/is. From the outside he appears to be a determined, hard-working, well-meaning, strict devotee, and I’m sure he has outgrown a lot of the wild behaviors of his past.
I have my regrets, as do other devotees. He has raised some nice children, which says a lot. However, he quite clearly displayed a sense of entitlement, and seemed to feel justified in fulfilling many insane and lusty desires. Neither did he consider who he hurt along the way, and this also says a lot.
Should a person who has created such havoc in the lives of so many devotees, been a major and key factor in forever tainting the good name of New Vrindaban, and engaged in a lot of illicit and even perverted sexual activity with a number of individuals supposedly under his care be again given a position of prominence or authority in this movement? I know he spent time in prison, but apparently he maintains an attitude quite like the one he’s always had. And he does not seem to feel or express remorse or regret for his past deeds.
I do not wish to create problems for or hurt Dharmatma. I am simply writing honestly, without exaggeration. Still, I have stated what I have seen and heard from those past days.
I’m sorry to say this, but with devotees like Dharmatma, who have a history of abusing and mistreating devotees, and many of our other “prominent” Vaishnavas who have done the same, it’s not hard to understand why an increasing number of older devotees and gurukulis find it difficult to be enthused about identifying with or pushing on—or even being seriously involved in—our movement. Hare Krishna.
When I was a child, I remember there were beings called “demons” from the stories we read in Krishna Book and the Bhagavatam. I remember being afraid of men, and being the lesser of the sexes. I remember being intimidated by all males, gurus, and boys; they were able to tell us what to do, and we had to follow it. But there was no male more feared in New Vrindaban than Dharmatma. Not even Bhaktipada scared me that much.
Dharmatma was the “leader” of the women’s party, making sure they stayed in line, stayed covered and quiet. I remember seeing all his “women” as a troop, with their heads always bent low and their sari veils pulled way beyond their chins so that no one could see any part of their faces. Dharmatma had a strict rule of “chastity” for the women he ruled.
I remember their fanatical behavior, and sometimes was the recipient (along with my friends) of some of that behavior. If any of us fell asleep during Bhagavatam class, these women would stick sewing needles or pins into our knees. But really, being afraid of them was about being afraid of a needle—of physical pain. My fear of Dharmatma was like being afraid of a poisonous gas you couldn’t smell or see. If you tried to prove its existence, you once again felt like you were proving the statement, “Women are less intelligent, more emotional, and don’t make any sense.”
So my girlfriends and I stayed away from Dharmatma and the “Dharmettes,” as we called them, as much as we could. We felt sorry for the cool warm mothers that we had once associated in our minds as mother figures. There was Sumati, Lajjavati, Lilamrta, and my own mother, Kunti, to name but a few.
I didn’t feel like Dharmatma had any direct hold on my life other than that my mother’s emotions were so changed toward me because of her association with him. Once she joined his party, she began to preach to me and tell me that we were not really connected, not really family, but were connected only to Krishna. This philosophy may be true, but to a young girl who needed her mother’s guidance and love, it was difficult to hear. There was absolutely no allowance for any sign of affection between a child and his or her parents if you were a Dharmette.
Then my life changed. I hit puberty and everything at the farm changed for me. I was assigned to a 30-year old man as his wife, someone whom I had never met. I was 11 years old. Life went on for a while in some sort of chaotic organization, until I went out to talk to my “boyfriend.” Of course there was punishment for this, and it was handed down to each of us girls as we hit puberty. The punishment was that we all had to join Dharmatma’s team for weekend “sankirtan.”
In those months that I went out as a child and collected money at the Kentucky Derby and Kmart shopping plazas, I got to fear a much bigger man than the one I had previously known as Dharmatma. Sometimes he would come along to the big events, and I used to hear the constant abuse and shouting at the women in the van. The profanities and sexual slander was thrown all over us, so that we went out to work out of fear of him.
At that time, I had not known that such language or sexual innuendoes existed. When we were alone (I was eleven) sometimes, Dharmatma used to sit and tell me that if I had enough sex in my life, I wouldn’t be overweight. He used to tell me for long periods of time what great exercise sex was. I was uncomfortable with his talks, and afraid. We were alone; I didn’t know if I should run or simply pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about. But in those conversations, he was clearly trying to see if he could make me agree with him. Luckily, I was spared his sexual touches and dirty ideas. A few of my friends were not so lucky.
Dharmatma used to talk about women as if they were cheap, pointing out and teaching me how important it was to use my sexuality to get stupid men to give us money. He tried to teach me to sell myself by appearing sexual, so as to collect donations for Krishna.
When I would go to the Sankirtan House to prepare for the sankirtan weekends, I often walked downstairs to Dharmatma’s wives’ rooms to use the bathroom. One time I went down when he and his wife were in the middle of a fight. I saw this woman lying on the floor, curled up, while Dharmatma beat her with a rubber hose. I had never seen such violence toward anyone. I ran upstairs to tell someone, but realized that all the women knew what was going on and had chosen not to say anything.
Every one knew! I was horrified. I went home to tell my friends, and as we sat and talked, the oldest girl in the ashram joined us. She asked us to remember one of our old schoolmates who had left years ago. She was referring to a black girl who used to wet her bed and then be beaten by our teacher for it. She hadn’t had any family at New Vrindaban to look out for her, so we had taken their part. Then one day we found out that she was pregnant. She had to leave the farm. Later we found out that she had been raped by Dharmatma and forced to have an abortion.
Many years later, while visiting England, I ran into her mother and confirmed this information. I was shocked that a man who promoted violence toward women, who disrespected women, and who abused his own wives was allowed to stay in a position of respect and management at New Vrindaban. Dharmatma was one of the men to whom we were expected to offer obeisances when he walked by. You can see evidence of this in [the April 1980 issue of] Life magazine.
Dharmatma felt like someone we needed protection from. When I finally left New Vrindaban at age 15, I was heartbroken to be leaving a community I called family. It was like a divorce. Years later, however, as I came to understand and remember my Bhagavad-gita shlokas, I saw what New Vrindaban’s ultimate falldown was: “When women are not protected, there are serious consequences for the whole society.” With the combination of Bhaktipada and Dharmatma, it finally became clear to me why New Vrindaban fell. Krishna does not allow such abuses to go on.
To this day, Dharmatma has not admitted or apologized for his behavior. Whatever he touches from those days forward without the forgiveness of those beautiful women that served in Krishna’s name will bring with it a curse and poison. Just watch and see. I have already witnessed it.
A few years ago, when we were hosting a festival at New Vrindaban, Malati had gone searching for her old friend, Shilavati. Miraculously, we found her in an assisted living home in Moundsville, West Virginia, six miles from the temple. Yet she had been “missing from anyone’s knowledge” for over fifteen years!
I got to know her over the course of that weekend, and during many other times when I visited her in her apartment. But I noticed that time and again she was too shy to come to the temple. I finally asked her why. She looked at me gravely and said, “The true success of a society can be seen in how the children, elderly, and women are cared for.” She went on to tell me that she didn’t see any progression in the way women were being treated, and that it truly disturbed and disappointed her. She mentioned over and over again that Shrila Prabhupada would have been disturbed. She made many references to the disturbance that Dharmatma had caused in so many women’s lives.
I dared not tell her that the Society was planning to again put him in an honorary position of management. It was clear to me that with the support of an elderly woman among Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples (and there are so few of them), tolerance of men like Dharmatma and his demoniac behavior would not be tolerated. I feel thankful for Shilavati’s words.
I am aware that ISKCON’s grown children have brought a lawsuit against the Society to express their pain and the need for the abuses they suffered to be recognized. More than that, these devotees are seeking apologies from the Society and its abusers. I am here to say that if Dharmatma is put in a place of power in our movement, there will be no telling how painful this will be to the women. Moreover, what message does this send our next generation of temple devotees who will learn his behavior? I have seen him over the years and he has not changed. Even in the passing of my own mother he did not have the courage to call her and thank her for her years of service, what to speak of making an apology.
While visiting Alachua I ran into a friend who had recently been to a devotee boy’s funeral. The boy was a devotee child and had hung himself. At that time, Dharmatma’s daughter was dating a black devotee (Krishna-Avatar), and Dharmatma had thrown her out of the house because of that relationship. He disowned his own daughter. Things became ugly in how he treated her, and the community came to know of it. While leaving the funeral, Dharmatma came up beside Krishna-Avatar and said with a smirk, “Why don’t you try that? I have some rope at home.” I heard this from one of the women who overheard Dharmatma’s comment directly. I was shocked! I went to tell one of the senior women there, and the woman told me clearly. “Please, please do not go and speak with Dharmatma alone. If he knows you are speaking badly about him, or writing about it, he will hurt you. I would not put it past him to have you physically hurt or endangered. He will send others to do it, and he will always look clean in the end. Just stay away from him.” This was a direct warning from Lakshmimoni dasi.
I am therefore asking whoever reads this to be aware of what a risk we are taking to be truthful. I beg you to please deal with this letter confidentially and to protect us. I am afraid right now, and do not want to live with such fear. I want to speak for my mother, for the girl child, who was my friend, whom he raped, for the silent women who learned that it is okay for men to treat women the way Dharmatma treated them. Dharmatma is as demoniac as Bhaktipada in many ways. They should have been tried together for their hate and disrespect toward women. But I am counting on the elders of our Society to make this decision and to protect us.
Just before my mother died, I sat down with her and went over some very painful questions regarding her decisions to leave me and my brother and to go out for eleven years on the pick. As she opened up more and more, she revealed things to me I had never known. She told me how hard it was to leave me in the ashram at age 3, but when she had to leave my little brother at three months of age, it was the most painful thing she had ever felt. She told me she used to cry every day when she thought of my three-month-old brother, who didn’t recognize her when she came home once a month. She was visibly shaking while she told me this story. With such tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “I tried to be strong, but I cried sometimes. But even crying was nonsense. One time while I was at a festival doing the pick, I started to cry. Dharmatma was there. He came up behind me and gave me a hard kick. He said with disgust, “Why are you crying? Only animals lament for their young. Don’t be like a dog.’” I couldn’t believe that my own mother allowed her self-esteem to go that low! That was the effect Dharmatma had on all the women under his “care.”
So, the last days of my mother’s life—of she who gave the majority of her faith and life to Krishna—were spent trying to explain to me why she was not allowed to shed tears of pain for her children. I couldn’t believe someone could kick my mother. And even more, I couldn’t believe that Dharmatma had ever apologized to her. And why shouldn’t he apologize, considering he’s still calling himself a devotee and living in a temple community? But neither could I ask him to ask for her forgiveness. An apology should come from his own heart. I never asked that he be “forced” to accept his abuses toward so many women, who were Shrila Prabhupada’s property. I never even raised my voice to tell my mother that he lived in Alachua among the devotees and was being respected as if he were not guilty of all this pain. But I will not stand here and tolerate or quietly accept that he again be a leader or manager of any sort in our movement. To me, to make a person like this a manager is a kind of sickness that has grown in our Society for many years. This sickness has grown, gone unnoticed, and finally become “normal” behavior. I will not be silent now.
It’s been my mother and her dear godsisters who have remained silent, tolerant, patient, and humble. Now I ask for the men and leaders of our Society to come forward and truly protect us in this matter. Do not allow this man into our lives again. I do not wish another child to be raped or to face having an abortion. I do not wish another mother to be called a dog when she cries for her children. I do not wish another generation to grow up seeing this man’s behavior as acceptable. He represents only one thing to me in every way: a man who has money, who allows sannyasis to visit his home, who wants to climb the male ladder of social importance, and who with all these votes, sidelines the darkness he actually represents. Be aware! Be aware! Beware!
And let it be said that the women of our Society who have had a long-term relationship with him beg you not to put him in any position of any sort.
Epilogue: Selected statements by Dharmatma dasa and a rebuttal by Dvijapriya devi dasi
When called as a witness in the March 1991 trial of Kirtanananda Swami in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Dharmatma explained, “Kirtanananda authorized me to have three [official] wives. . . . Regarding sex with the sankirtan women, Bhaktipada gave me facility and encouraged me to do whatever necessary to look after these girls. The fifteen-year-old girl was very mature, like an eighteen-year-old. It was voluntary [not coerced, on her part].”—Trial Transcript, Day 4 (March 14, 1991), 948
Dharmatma later claimed he never had intercourse with a minor. “Some inappropriate touching. That’s all! So many rumors by vicious women.”—Facebook message to Henry Doktorski (February 3, 2018).
Regarding the beating of women, Dharmatma admitted: “The mood at the [New Vrindaban] community . . . was that women could be struck. On many occasions, Bhaktipada told husbands to beat their wives. He personally told me to beat my wives, to keep them in order. . . . I was encouraged by Bhaktipada to hit the sankirtan women if they did not surrender. . . . Prior to that time, I had never struck a woman in my life, but the mood was to get them to surrender, to do the things that the husband or leader wanted, that it was okay to do that.”—Trial Transcript, Day 4 (March 14, 1991), 890
Dvijapriya dasi (Diane Gorrick)
Dear Tamohara prabhu: Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Shrila Prabhupada.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in defense of my husband, Dharmatma dasa Prabhu, and to dispute many of these allegations levied against him. Although my testimony may be considered prejudiced, because I am his wife, I want to assure you, unlike some of the other women who have presented their versions of the past, I WILL NOT LIE. I also wish to state, that, I can no longer stand by and watch while self-motivated, malicious women are unfairly, and without basis in FACT, adding a lot of misleading, embellished half-truths, thereby giving a false impression of what my husband is really like. I simply ask all of you to impartially hear my side of the story.
I will begin with some basic facts pertinent to this case. First, I joined the movement in 1972, and I am initiated by Shrila Prabhupada. I was in Pittsburgh from 1975 until the sankirtan party was moved to New Vrindaban in 1977. Then I resided in the Sankirtan House, with the other sankirtan mothers, until my husband and our six children moved in 1988. I was married to Dharmatma Prabhu, along with Nirmala and Pradhana-Gopika, in 1978. I feel that I am uniquely qualified to know Dharmatma, his good and bad sides, as we have gone through a LOT TOGETHER, so, I can speak with authority about what kind of person he WAS back in the high-pressure sankirtan days, and what he is like now. I won’t apologize for loving and respecting my husband, nor should that be a reason to disqualify me or my testimony. I also resent the implication of some that I am an abused, neglected, or wimpy woman. I am not, nor do I need my husband to tell me to stand up for him and what is right.
Now, I ask you to consider, that Dharmatma’s actions as women’s sankirtan leader, were motivated, not, as some would have you believe, by a desire to exploit and abuse devotees, but, rather due to the fact he was responsible for running, in an organized an efficient manner, the sankirtan party, and deal with at times close to 100 women and MEN. I think all of us, at that time, felt we were sincerely trying to build New Vrindaban, and especially, Shrila Prabhupada’s Palace. Somehow or other, we went astray, not being careful to follow our sadhana, and having been mislead by corrupt authorities. This is not an excuse, rather an explanation.
Although he MAY HAVE been strict, and at times harsh, but it was NOT due to any so-called “HISTORY” of abusiveness, instead had more to do with the intense pressures imposed on him and the sankirtan party, thus creating an environment where many of us, including these women that are pointing the finger at just him, did things which we shouldn’t have. Unlike his accusers, however, my husband is quite willing to accept responsibility for his actions, even spending time in prison, for printing stickers, although he did not take a penny from the millions of dollars we all collected for New Vrindaban. I do not feel he should be held accountable for things he DID NOT DO.
I also have to stress, that in an attempt to make their stories more dramatic, these women have added much inaccurate and slanderous information, like the statement about him having been a “pimp” before he became a devotee, this is a COMPLETE LIE. The evidence that this is erroneous comes from the fact that the “ex-wife” who supposedly gave this information was his vindictive ex-wife, Pradhana-Gopika, who DID NOT know him as a karmi, and to whom he NEVER SAID such a thing. She also lied about this when they were in court, and was exposed, and loudly chastised by the judge for it. Dharmatma was never friends with Jiva. He didn’t “lobby” for Shyama to join the party. Only AFTER she was expelled from the school in New Vrindaban was he instructed by Kirtanananda to pick her up to do sankirtan. Then she was given a choice to leave or go to Pittsburgh, which she chose. She, like myself and other women, were sent to Pittsburgh because we would or could NOT handle living at the farm. We WERE NOT told by Dharmatma to prostitute ourselves to make money, and ANYONE who says that is a liar! The last thing I wish to mention, is that AT NO TIME were we given, or did Dharmatma EVER encourage us to take “drugs” to do better on sankirtan. Some women, most notably, Maharha, took things like dextrin, or caffeine, because she was anorexic, and because she was motivated to be number one at all costs.
I feel it is also important for you to know, that Dharmatma was recruited for that “position” due to the fact that he had lead a sankirtan traveling men’s party from Vancouver successfully. It is interesting to note, that not one of the fifty or so men that he was in charge of, either in Vancouver or New Vrindaban, has come forward with any complaints of ill treatment by him, nor the OTHER close to 45 WOMEN, neither does his first wife, Lakhima, say that he EVER abused her in any way. We have lived here in Alachua for over 18 years, yet you will not find ONE SINGLE instance of Dharmatma EVEN ONCE being violent, abusive, or acting in an inappropriate manner toward ANY lady. Even when his only daughter, whom he was very close to, was seduced and taken from our house by a disreputable, immoral gurukuli, and, although this person bragged to many that he “waited until she was 18, so her father can’t do anything,” in his effort to provoke a confrontation with Dharmatma, still, against the advice of some senior members in this community, he would NOT go after him, neither would he allow his older sons to, though they furiously wanted to, hearing he had introduced her to smoking, drinking, drugs, and illicit sex. He has NEVER physically abused any of our six children. This is hardly indicative of any kind of PATTERN of abusive behavior.
I also find it very when Tamohara Prabhu says, he has “at least twelve other accounts, but THEY ALL SAY THE SAME THING,” I find that rather odd, that they could have ALL had EXACTLY the SAME experiences with Dharmatma??? And, if they DID all “say the same things” wouldn't they ALSO have some recollection of the two girls?
Again, I want to make it clear to the judges, that I am not presenting these factual accounts out of spite, or to be hurtful to anyone, but I want you to see that some of these ladies’ stories simply are NOT TRUE.
I was there when Shyama came to Pittsburgh temple, and my memory of her is still very vivid, as she was a cause of much disturbance and anxiety for all there. When she came there, she had just been kicked out of the school in New Vrindaban, because of repeated bad behavior, the breaking point being her hitting a teacher. She came there quite troubled and obstinate, because of her past of being subjected to physical and sexual abuse, according to mother Bhaja-Govinda, who has known her family since she was a baby. She made life there hellish for not just Dharmatma Prabhu, but everyone else. I remember many of the mothers tried to be very loving and tolerant of her, as she was young, but it never seemed to have much of an impression on her. I recall her having temper tantrums during programs, screaming and yelling obscenities when asked only to chant japa, yelling at me and others ladies, without provocation, and creating a disturbance often for all around her. I recall having to go to look for her several times when she would just “disappear” and then come back bragging about having been out with “guys.” I was not, as I have been charged, “vicious to her” but was intimidated and bullied by her. She would go to Dharmatma and complain, then we would be chastised for offenses that she had committed, and we had to put up with a lot, as she was “younger.” I was becoming attached to my husband then, so I would have noticed if there was something going on with Shyama. At no time did I, or anyone else, according to their own testimony, witness Shyama and Dharmatma having a sexual relationship, therefore, I really question the motivations of the secondhand “evidence” presented by witnesses that will not even reveal their names!
Also, the question of why she waited for so long to bring forward these charges arises. I know that you recently stated that Shyama’s condition PRIOR to her coming to the Pittsburgh temple is not relevant, but I think it CLEARLY is important to her state of mind, or motivations in bringing what may be false charges against my husband. If, as is a fact, she had been molested before her having been in Pittsburgh, she may be using my husband as a scapegoat to unleash her anger as has happened in cases of abuse. I also wonder, as do some of the judges, why you do not feel it important to get testimony from people who have had direct contact with her in an intimate way, such as her mother, Bhaja-Govinda, etc. Only recently, due to being prompted by her brother, who is retaliating as a result of my husband speaking out regarding him leading kirtan. (This came about only because I had seen him buying alcohol at grocery store, and was told by a close friend of the family that he is known to be a drug pusher) so, I asked my husband to question whether such a person should be leading Janmastami aroti! Now, with much prodding from Nirmala, who poses herself as a champion of abused girls, but, who, herself was abusive to many of us when she was one of the leaders of New Vrindaban sankirtan parties, now has become self-righteous and vindictive due to her own motivations, which I will address in this letter.
The first “evidence” that I wish to strongly challenge are the statements coming from Maharha. Most obviously, where she alleges that, in reference to Brajamandala, I quote, “Because she was not completely obedient to him, he told me to go downstairs and spank her in the basement. I DON’T REMEMBER if I spanked her or not, but I do remember ‘SOMEONE ELSE???’ was down there holding a rubber hose. Dharmatma came down and told me to go upstairs.”
First of all, the question is how she CAN remember going down to the basement, but NOT whether or not SHE spanked her? Then she states “someone” but does not say WHO, was down there holding a rubber hose, which brings into question her actual memory of this “incident.” Finally, she finishes it with a statement that is CLEARLY hearsay, that she “later HEARD that he beat Brajamandala with that hose.” It doesn’t make sense that HER part in these events are so blurry
As far as I can recall, it WAS Maharha that was down in the basement and punished Shyama, as she did the same thing to me once, when I was not being totally “surrendered.” I request you to ask some of the other sankirtan mothers how they feel she treated them, and you will discover that she generally was very fanatical and abusive toward us. We were all at one time or another bullied by, or witness to the many trips she was on. Although she tries to minimize her responsibility for her actions by blaming Dharmatma, I can say I was there, and many things she did were due to her OWN mental problems and physical addictions, making her a very volatile personality.
Factually, before she “blooped” and when I had to travel with her to make sure she wasn’t eating weird, and after so many years of abusing her OWN body in an insane attempt to be number one no matter what, she personally said to me tearfully was; “I just can’t do it anymore (sankirtan) I can’t stand not being considered the best.”
I can tell you another strong motivation of Maharha’s in offering this so-called “testimony” as I was there to witness her disappointment and anger towards Dharmatma because she wasn’t “chosen” to be one of his wives. She admitted as much, and therefore she is not a credible witness against him, being a “woman scorned.”
The FACT that she presents one incident (AND I STRESS ONLY ONE) that occurred between her and him, wherein he did NOT force himself on her, is further evidence in his favor, and I don’t understand why you dismiss it, by saying “What is the point?” when questioned about it? THE POINT being, in Maharha’s, and EVEN Shyama’s case, they both said that HE STOPPED.
The other strong reason to discount her testimony, is that everything she alleges comes from rumor or secondhand hearsay, such as in the statement; “Dharmatma raped and beat both these girls.” Clearly she has no knowledge of this being a fact, as made clear by her previous statement; “I ONLY REMEMBER BRAJAMANDALA.” Therefore, not even remembering Shyama, HOW can she make such a statement?
The most heinous and libelous statement she made, as far as I am concerned, is the one about Brajamandala being forced to have an abortion. First of all, this is totally UNTRUE. I have known my husband better then anyone else, and he NEVER, never would do OR encourage such a horrible thing, for any reason. Have the judges questioned either Kuladri or Kirtanananda regarding this? Or was this ever stated by Brajamandala herself? I can tell you for sure she did not, because it never happened.
In regard to the character of Maharha, I have to raise the question of her credibility, as she was considered the “enforcer” by many of us in the party, meaning, she was quite heavy-handed and mean toward a lot of the girls. I personally remember her, after all of us being at the airport for twelve hours, and then having to get up at three in the morning, attend the entire morning program, then go out all day again, that, she would stick 3-inch straight pins in our behind, if we DARED to fall asleep in class, and that was NOT an instruction from Dharmatma, but we were too scared of her to say anything to him about it. Also, SHE is the one, who, in some perverted way, thought it was okay to beat Krishnamayi almost to death, only because she “bugged” Maharha! Because she would starve herself, eat only oranges or grapefruit at a time, sometimes overeat then throw up, she would INSIST on that anyone who had to travel with her practically starve, too. One time, when I was deathly sick, she forced me to go out, anyway, though I could hardly see straight, and had a 104 fever. She was quite abusive, and never personally hit or abused by Dharmatma.
The next so-called testimony I would like to refute is the one from “WITNESS number two.” Or, Nirmala. I know it is from her, but she is too duplicitous to give her name. Again, I strongly object to her giving information, as her motivation is her animosity and vindictiveness, rather then any actual proof or evidence she has to offer in this case.
In the interest of truth, I need to say that because of her having been dismissed as his wife, because of her numerous affairs and indiscretions, and because she is envious of our family’s efforts in regard to hosting Indradyumna Swami and others, that she is pursuing this “crusade” against my husband.
I do not accept her excuse that she is “afraid” of my husband, nor does that make sense, as she was NEVER abused by, rather she was put on a pedestal by him while she lived with the sankirtan ladies. What to speak of the FACT that she has come to our HOME for programs, clearly not the kind of behavior one would expect from someone who is “clearly afraid” of him.
In regard to HER past wrongdoing, I feel it is necessary to show that her value as a “witness” here is quite dubious. As with Maharha, her credibility comes strongly into question.
The first, probably most important fact of her being ill-motivated, is, that after giving her many chances to be a good wife, Dharmatma finally had to tell her that he could no longer consider her his wife. The FACTS that led up to this decision were numerous, beginning with, while she was SUPPOSED to be married to him, she was carrying on a lesbian affair with another girl, freely admitted by her, then, after that was exposed, she would work truck stops, and have sex with truckers, and after all of this, she managed to connive to go to India for a period of time, for “treatment” of a dubious illness, during which time, she had an affair with the doctor who treated her. An important fact for the judges to think about, is if Dharmatma was SO violent toward ALL the women, why then didn’t he beat her to a pulp when she “confessed” that she had been unfaithful to him?
So, she is another example of a “woman scorned” though I have to say, she is the one that was very hurtful, because Dharmatma Prabhu considered her as one of his closest and trustworthy sankirtan leaders, always putting her forward as an example for the rest of us to emulate, and he loved her as a chaste wife.
I personally had to go with her and her lover on sankirtan, to make sure there was nothing going on, but they would drop me off for hours at a time, and continue with their illicit relationship. Her partner confided as much to me, when I discovered a hidden stash of marijuana in the van we were traveling in. I never considered her as a well-wisher of mine, though she tries to portray herself as such, but was impersonal, and only concerned with her position, portraying herself as an advanced sankirtan mother, all the while keeping these secrets, so she would be respected and given so much praise for her “unselfish” service. After New Vrindaban fell apart, she, just like Maharha, went out and lived a karmi life for years, before coming back to become a born-again, self-righteous, “devotee.” Unlike my husband, who, through all the trials and troubles our family has had to endure because of his service in New Vrindaban, has Never left Shrila Prabhupada, or lost his faith in the process of Krishna consciousness.
Another thing about him which has been widely spread, is that he shows no remorse or refuses to apologize for offenses and abuses he committed in the past. Again, this isn’t true. Nirmala, one of the biggest critics, as NEVER tried to talk to US directly or honestly about anything. I was there when he apologized sincerely to Maharha, but it wasn’t good enough for her, and he DID NOT grudgingly concede his faults, as she tries to portray. (We went to her home in Sandy Ridge, where we had a long, what we THOUGHT was a very heartfelt talk about everything.) Sumati came to our house, and Vedamata also came to visit us at our home, and had a frank discussion about her feelings, plus, several other sankirtan women we’ve come in contact with. He’s expressed his regrets for their sufferings, we even offered solace and our support to Kunti, whose daughter has falsely said he has criticized, and he would be more than willing to talk to, and apologize to anyone who feels they were treated badly. Instead this back-stabbing, vindictive behavior is the way they prefer to deal with it. I can also swear that we NEVER got a phone call from Brajamandala, and definitely NEVER talked to her on the phone. Nirmala is a LIAR when she states; “SHE (Brajamandala) WANTED, FOR HER OWN HEALING, A PERSONAL APOLOGY FROM HIM. DHARMATMA DENIED EVERYTHING AND THEREFORE REFUSED TO APOLOGIZE.” We spoke to Brajamandala in 1996, when we saw he at the Los Angeles Rathayatra, and she never brought up anything to do with her stay in Pittsburgh, but had a very friendly discussion with us both. Again, it brings in to question, if she can fabricate something like this, just to make him look more guilty, then what else is she not being truthful about?
The only DIRECT testimony was from Shyama, and the other “testimony” of Brajamandala cannot be verified, as she is no longer alive, besides, her story had nothing to do with what happened when Shyama was there, so why present it? Her statements must be brought in to question because; number one—In her testimony under “Sexual Abuse” she claims; (No. Two: “I constantly saw and heard other children being physically and sexually abused by Dharmatma.”) Again, NOT ONE NAME is given for these alleged victims! When, in truth, there WERE NO OTHER CHILDREN at the Pittsburgh temple when she lived there, nor do any other “children” come forward to allege he was abusing them (besides Shyama, who was NOT there at the same time as Brajamandala). There were, however, numerous young girls that lived at the sankirtan house in New Vrindaban at different times, looking after our children when we went out on sankirtan, and there has been NO EVIDENCE or testimony from any of them against Dharmatma. So far as the so-called “corroborating” evidence, I also have problems seeing how any two stories from the witnesses don’t contradict each other. The “eyewitness” has not been identified to the judges, and, if it IS Nirmala, she cannot be relied upon, as she HERSELF says she WAS NOT AROUND most of the time, so how could she “see her leaving his room . . . almost nightly?” Another very troubling fact is that in statements made by Nirmala, Shyama was “performing oral sex on him regularly for almost a year.” She wasn’t even there for a year, and she HERSELF mentions this happened ONCE. Clearly, the most you have as EVIDENCE is the secondhand rumors made to sound like facts, but in actuality are not so.
There are too many examples of how unreliable the eyewitness or “corroborating evidence” that it is literally mind-boggling to think they can be accepted as “FACTS.” To quote from their own words; WITNESS No. 2 (NIRMALA): “I didn't know what was going on, as I was home so infrequently.” “Looking back, I BELIEVE IT to be true.” “She (Shyama) refused to be part of the Turley case.” (NOT SO.) “She is also afraid to go to a temple, because someone might tell Dharmatma where she is.” We saw Shyama at a festival some time ago, and she sat right in front of us, and talked to both my husband and I. “She (Brajamandala) expressed that she wanted to bring forward a case.” (to whom?) “The following is from an elder (again, WHO?) in our movement with whom I spoke. Brajamandala confided in this devotee, who shared the following with me.” Again, testimony is presented based entirely on hearsay, and the person is again “anonymous” that makes the statements! Also, included in this “confidential” person’s account of events is the aforementioned lie about Brajamandala calling and speaking to my husband, along with a complete paragraph BEGINNING with the words “WE HEARD that a young black girl actually became pregnant and that Dharmatma made her have an abortion.”
Again, no source for this so-called “information” is named, and it is important to note that NEITHER Shyama NOR Brajamandala made this accusation against Dharmatma.
Also included in this same person’s writing is the allegation from “one of the women who Dharmatma was close to” claiming he “boasted to her that after he dropped all the women off at the Pittsburgh airport, he would have Brajamandala perform oral sex on him as he was driving home from the airport.” The same “close” person said “he would press his three-year-old daughter’s face into his lap and say, ‘We have to train them young.’” Both of these comments were made by his vindictive, bitter ex-wife, Pradhana-Gopika, while she was fighting a custody battle with him over the three children she deserted to go live with a college guy in Texas, and which allegations, along with many others, were thrown out of court, resulting in custody of all three being awarded to Dharmatma.
Witness No. 4 states; “I LATER HEARD he took the opportunity to train her to satisfy his lust as well.” “I also HEARD that he used to beat her.” “I KNEW that he was sometimes criticized and accused of ‘things’ but, I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that he was actually hurting anyone.” “I could not imagine that he or any devotee would do what I have since HEARD he has done.” “Another girl named Shyama had a similar experience to Brajamandala, but I DID NOT KNOW HER WELL.” Again, if she did not even know her, how did she KNOW she had a similar experience?
I have to reiterate my questions of where is the corroborating evidence? From the many conflicting statements made by these people, it appears that the charges are based on what many “HEARD” from some mysterious source, rather then what they actually can bear witness to themselves. Factually, out of all the women who offer accounts, I was the only one who was there, and actually saw what was going on during this time, and, I REPEAT, I NEVER WITNESSED any sexual activities between my husband and Shyama. One last point to be considered; there is NOT ONE person who states that they SAW Dharmatma fondling, hugging, or touching Shyama in any inappropriate way!
Another thing, that I found quite troubling is how, in the NAME of making a point, you add some damaging information, which the judges may or may not have been aware of previously. I am referring to your statement about; “were I to bring up every legal issue, such as Dharmatma spending years in prison for illegal activities in New Vrindaban, I would then be accused of introducing irrelevant, character-damaging information.” WHICH IS WHAT YOU JUST DID. You present a half-truth in a manner that IS character-damaging. My husband spent one year in Federal Prison, but you FAIL to mention the “illegal ACTIVITY” (NOT PLURAL) was PRINTING SNOOPY STICKERS and HATS!!! So, simply by the way you presented it, he looks more guilty to those who read it.
What is glaringly apparent from my careful study of all the documents at hand, is that there was a concerted effort on the part of both Nirmala and Shyama’s brother to exploit the psychosis of this poor, disturbed girl, in order to get revenge on Dharmatma for imagined slights against THEM. So, I ask, who is the abuser, then?
Based upon the evidence at hand, I cannot see how you can come to a consensus in regard to Dharmatma having been guilty of; “NEGLECT AND PHYSICAL ABUSE.”
As to his being guilty of “NEGLECT,” my husband and I have responded to that, and I again stress, that it was not because of HIM that Shyama was sent to Pittsburgh, and therefore he should NOT be held responsible for her lack of schooling.
Clearly, unless there is OTHER evidence we are not privy to, the statements of Shyama, and your other “witnesses” have not proven either. First, the alleged “physical abuse” of Shyama; i.e., her being beaten in the basement, was not corroborated by ANYONE. (Dharmatma admitted he spanked her! There IS a BIG difference!) Except for the “beating” mentioned by Maharha, of which I witnessed her as the perpetrator, but which incident she seems to have a convenient memory lapse about, and so far as the allegation of Brajamandala, about being made to stand on a ledge with her hands tied, as well as her being beaten, the same question is there as to why there is not ONE single witness to either event, though there were at least a dozen women living there? What has been condemned by you as; “the gravest offense Dharmatma committed” being “HIS PHYSICAL ABUSE OF ALL THOSE AROUND HIM,” has not been substantiated in any way. How, I ask, could there have been such pervasive horrors occurring in Pittsburgh, and no one saw them?
Maharha and Nirmala were not ever physically abused, nor can they name one example from their personal experience of psychological abuse. THEY again were not victims themselves, rather, they were the two most abusive LEADERS on our sankirtan party.
I thank you all again for your attention in this matter. I also ask you to please consider that, unless you can feel sure that Dharmatma prabhu is guilty of such heinous activities, BEYOND a shadow of a doubt, do not pass a judgment of guilt upon him. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have about my statements.