Gold, Guns and God
Vol. III, nearing publication

—A Forthcoming Biography of Swami Bhaktipada and a History of the West Virginia New Vrindaban Hare Krishna Community in Ten Volumes, by Henry Doktorski

Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada receives a birthday gift—a golden crown and mace, similar to the royal acouterments offered to the murti of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his Palace of Gold, expertly crafted by master jeweler Ishani dasi (Ellen Schramm), the head of the New Vrindaban Jewelry Department—during Bhaktipada’s vyasa-puja celebration commemorating his 49th birthday, at New Vrindaban, West Virginia (September 1, 1986)

SUMMARY: Volume III—The Glory Days of New Vrindaban

Volume III of Gold, Guns and God covers a ten-year span from 1973 until 1983. During this period, due to the construction and completion of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, the New Vrindaban community was dramatically transformed from a primitive, often unsanitary, rural farm village of a few dozen people who used horses and oxen for plowing and hauling firewood, into a bustling, wealthy and popular center of Hindu pilgrimage inhabited by several hundred devotees who used automobiles, tractors, bulldozers, dump trucks and computers. Hundreds of thousands of tourists reportedly visited the Palace each year, and this helped bring about an increase in revenue and renown.

Despite the inexorable progress of the community during this decade-long period, there were several unfortunate and serious setbacks. In June 1973, the temple was attacked by a small posse of men armed with a shotgun (some claimed the men also carried pistols and automatic weapons) who stormed the temple, wounded four residents with buckshot, and desecrated the deities in an effort to frighten the devotees into revealing the whereabouts of their leader’s underage runaway daughter who, they believed, had been hidden on the property. Two men were soon apprehended by law enforcement agents, but they never went to trial. The reason why justice was never served may be a surprise to many. After this incident, New Vrindaban management established a Ksatriya-training program to teach able-bodied residents the arts of fighting and shooting guns.

Another complication occurred when fifteen Marshall County residents sued New Vrindaban for $500,000 on charges ranging from trespassing on private property, to other “unlawful and despicable acts, including cutting trees, destroying fences, making threats of bodily harm, littering, urinating and defecating in full view of the plaintiffs.” The community was found guilty on one charge: trespassing.

The community was inconvenienced also in 1976, when a West Virginia college professor died from a virolent strain of hepatitis contracted at the community, and the state governor ordered the community quarantined to contain the spread of the infection. State police set up roadblocks which prevented travel to and from the community. In addition, when a dozen cows died after a severe winter snowstorm in February 1977, Kirtanananda Swami was arrested by Marshall County sheriff’s deputies on a charge of cruelty to animals and he spent a day in jail.

High points, on the other hand, during this period include the third and fourth visits of the ISKCON Founder/Acharya Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to the community, in 1974 and 1976 respectively. These visits were a source of great inspiration and pleasure for the Brijabasis (residents, or inmates) of New Vrindaban. During these visits Prabhupada encouraged the New Vrindaban inmates and expressed his approval regarding the progress of the construction of his Palace. He also bestowed liberal praise on his first sannyasi disciple, Kirtanananda Swami. Especially surprising during Prabhupada’s fourth visit were his instructions regarding eating meat and making wine from grapes.

A very sad and depressing time for all ISKCON devotees was the terminal illness and death in Vrindaban, India, on November 14, 1977, of their beloved spiritual master, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Kirtanananda Swami played an especially important role in the final pastimes of the ISKCON Founder/Acharya, during which his affection and love for his spiritual mater was revealed to all. After Prabhupada’s passing, the pace of Palace construction increased. For eight consecutive months, beginning in January 1979, the Brijabasis performed great austerities and sacrifices in order to more quickly complete Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold in time for the opening festival in September. Some residents willingly suffered the austerities, while others, such as the children and cows, suffered unwillingly.

The September 2nd dedication of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, an incredibly joyous event for all the Brijabasis, is described in detail, and the remainder of this volume delineates the rapid growth of the community and the establishment of a veritable Hindu place of pilgrimage complete with a guest house, restaurant, gift store, rose garden, and parks. The community hosted cultural events for Hindu pilgrims, such as theater, Indian classical music and traditional bhajans, bharat-nayyam dance, and film.

The coronation of the statue of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at his Palace of Gold as a king is discussed in Vol. III, as well as the pressure from Bhaktipada’s ISKCON godbrothers who criticized the crown and successfully lobbied to have the crown removed three years later. The preaching activities of the “Glory Days” of New Vrindaban are described, including Bhaktipada’s weekly radio show, Vrindaban Village estates (the timeshare cabin rental program for pilgrims), the summer camp for Indian children, Palace Press and the various publications (New Vrindaban Newsletter, Cintamani, Brijabasi Spirit, etc.) which promoted the community, and the Palace Charities food distribution program which delivered vegetarian meals to Marshall and Ohio County senior citizens.

The hasty departure from the community in 1983 of New Vrindaban’s preeminent architect, designer and sculptor, Bhagavatananda (Joseph Cappelletti), because of Bhaktipada’s refusal to discipline a former school headmaster who had sexually molested Bhagavatananda’s young son is also noted, with great regret. Finally, the posthumous revision of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is by the editors of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) is discussed, Bhaktipada’s condemnation of same, and his thundering (yet in retrospect, ironic) admonition, “I want to become known as the acharya who didn’t change anything!”


Chapter 25: The Shooting Affair

    Five fire sacrifices in one weekend
    Devotees meet a runaway Kentucky girl
    The girl asks to come to New Vrindaban
    The girl’s father comes to New Vrindaban in search of his daughter
    The girl’s father searches the community with State Police
    Did the girl come to New Vrindaban?
    The girl’s father comes to New Vrindaban a third time
    The attack
    A shotgun discharges
    Devotees terrorized
    Kirtanananda and Dharmatma ordered to climb the hill and dig their own graves
    Deities desecrated
    The gunmen depart
    Wounded devotees taken to hospital
    Police arrive
    Kirtanananda Swami television interview
    Devotees’ reports inconsistent

Chapter 26: Our Men Should Be Trained to Kill

    Arsenal, shooting range established
    Devotees depressed
    Deities repaired and returned to the altar
    Brijabasis rejoice
    Two men arrested, jailed for five months and released
    Demons vs. devotees
    Why the men were relased: Kirtanananda refused to cooperate
    The “Cult of Kirtanananda” deepens
    Who were the“demons” and who were the “devotees”
    Devotees: above the law
    Kirtanananda propagates “self-serving baloney”
    Kirtanananda accidentally reveals the truth?

Chapter 27: These Devotees Are My Jewels

    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s house evolves into a palace
    Palace construction begins
    New Vrindaban residents celebrate Kirtanananda’s birthday
    New Vrindaban sued for 1/2 million dollars
    The case is closed
    Vrindaban farm property transferred to New Vrindaban, Inc.
    Make New Vrindaban like Tirupati, India
    Palace construction grinds on
    First Palace lotus arch cast
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s third visit: “These devotees are my jewels”
    Kirtanananda stuns devotees with electric cattle prod
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada displays confidence in Kirtanananda
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada becomes ill
    1974 Janmastami festival
    A turning point
    GBC members criticize “Kirtanananda’s Folly”

Chapter 28: A Labor of Love

    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada inquires about his Palace-under-construction
    The first Christmas marathon
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada chastises Kirtanananda Swami
    Only a “great fool” would not like the Palace
    Pace of Palace construction quickens
    Maharaja orders Radhanath dasa Brahmachari to never leave the Vrindaban farm
    Marble cutting machine
    Prabhupada’s Palace: a labor of love
    Accidents happen
    The Vrindaban farm
    Kirtanananda visits Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in India

Chapter 29: New Vrindaban Under Lockdown

    Kirtanananda minimizes the seriousness of the situation
    State police enforce the quarantine
    Disobedient devotee severely beaten
    Kirtanananda protests “religious persecution”
    New Vrindaban daily life little changed by quarantine

Chapter 30: I Am Already Living Here

    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s fourth visit to New Vrindaban
    Animal eating
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada visits the Vrindaban farm
    Palace construction continues
    Pace of construction increases
    The first community-wide Christmas marathon
    Kirtanananda arrested and jailed
    Shalagram-Shilas appear at New Vrindaban

Chapter 31: The Passing of Prabhupada

    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada becomes seriously ill
    Kirtanananda offers his youth to his master
    Who will carry on when Prabhupada passes away?
    Disunity in ISKCON widespread
    United we stand; divided we fall
    Disciples discuss future initations with Prabhupada
    Prabhupada appoints eleven ritvik priests to initiate on his behalf
    Prabhupada enjoys reading the Brijabasi Spirit
    Prabhupada decides to depart; Kirtanananda begs his master to stay
    Prabhupada leaves the planet
    Prabhupada’s Palace becomes a memorial shrine

Chapter 32: The Palace Marathon

    Mexican laborers arrive
    Talented artists arrive
    Nectar from Maharaja
    The author arrives at New Vrindaban
    Gopashtami festival
    Kirtanananda Maharaja becomes “Bhaktipada”
    Unconventional sources of funding for Prabhupada’s Palace
    Passing counterfeit notes
    Burglary of “Moonie” van
    Recreational drug sales
    Quaalude manufacturing laboratory established
    Other smugglers for New Vrindaban
    “We may take money for Krishna using any method of beg, borrow and steal”
    Cheating on the concrete
    Devotees sacrificed to build the Palace
    Working conditions unsafe
    Children and cows also sacrificed to build the Palace

Chapter 33: The Palace Dedication

    Building Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s throne
    Ten prominent people who built the Palace
    Palace publicity
    Funding for the Palace: the official explanation
    Legacy of Prabhupada’s Palace

Chapter 34: Glory Days

Representative of Vyasa
Bhaktipada praised daily in song at temple services
The Bhaktipadastakam Prayers

Chapter 35: A Tourist Magnet

    Palace rose garden
    Guest lodge, Palace restaurant, gift store open
    Palace marketing
    Palace book distribution
    Dignitaries visit Palace
    “They’re always talking about the Krishnas”
    Fine arts at New Vrindaban
    Classical Indian dance
    Bhagavatananda leaves New Vrindaban

Chapter 36: Prabhupada Rex

    “There is no restriction in worship”
    Prabhupada Rex
    Bhaktipada visits Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
    The crown is removed

Chapter 37: Spend Your Summer In Heaven

    Bhaktipada’s radio show
    New Vrindaban: Mecca for Indians
    Vrindaban Village Estates
    Camp Gopal
    The Brijabasi Spirit
    Palace Charities
    The BBT revises Bhagavad-gita

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