Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 3
Henry Doktorski’s landmark 480-page non-fiction book about the building of the gold and marble palace—billed as “America’s Taj Mahal”—for the Founder/Acharya of the Hare Krishna movement, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, at the West Virginia Hare Krishna commune called New Vrindaban, can be purchased in several ways:
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SUMMARY: Volume 3—Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold
Volume 3 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.
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 some time in jail.
High points, on the other hand, during this period include the third and fourth visits of the ISKCON Founder/Acharya His Divine Grace A. C. 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, saying “Just follow Kirtanananda Swami. He will take you back to Godhead.” Especially surprising during Prabhupada’s fourth visit were his instructions regarding eating meat and making wine from grapes. In addition, he claimed that a potent Ayurvedic medicine to cure tuberculosis could be made by putting a live goat into a vat of boiling ghee with other ingredients. The goat is boiled alive, he explained, in order to cure hundreds of people.
A very sad and depressing time for all ISKCON devotees was the terminal illness during the summer of 1977 and the death in Vrindaban, India, on November 14th, of their beloved spiritual master, A. C. 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. 3, 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!”
On the surface, Swami Bhaktipada’s leadership at New Vrindaban seemed remarkably successful, but underneath something was eating at its roots, and this would be exposed in due course.
TABLE OF CONTENTS—VOLUME 3: PRABHUPADA’S PALACE OF GOLD
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
A shotgun discharges
Kirtanananda and Dharmatma ordered to climb the hill and dig their own graves
The gunmen depart
Wounded devotees taken to hospital
Kirtanananda Swami television interview
Devotees’ reports inconsistent
Chapter 26: Our Men Should Be Trained to Kill
Arsenal, shooting range established
Deities repaired and returned to the altar
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
The Vrindaban farm
Kirtanananda visits Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in India
Chapter 29: New Vrindaban Under Lockdown
College professor dies from hepatitis contracted at New Vrindaban
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
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
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: We Had Been Waiting For Such a Long, Long Time
Building Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s throne
The Palace dedication
Ten prominent people who built the Palace
Funding for the Palace: the official explanation
Legacy of Prabhupada’s Palace
Chapter 34: The “Spiritual Master”
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 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”
The Royal Prabhupada
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
The Brijabasi Spirit
The BBT revises Bhagavad-gita
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