Gold, Guns and God: Vol. 4—Deviations in the Dhama

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

Cover photo: Swami Bhaktipada affectionately pets his German shepherd guard dog while devoted gurukula boys massage him in the RVC temple room (c. 1986).

Preface to Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 4

INTRODUCTION

Volume Four of Gold, Guns and God deals with a very sad period in the history of New Vrindaban in particular and ISKCON in general: the time in the 1970s and ’80s when abuse seemed to be the predominating mode of operation throughout the Hare Krishna movement. Although the focus of Gold, Guns and God is on Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada and the New Vrindaban Community, events in the worldwide Hare Krishna Society, ISKCON, also affected events at New Vrindaban, and vice versa. New Vrindaban was part of ISKCON, and Kirtanananda was a GBC representative as well as an ISKCON guru. Therefore this volume contains a good deal of ISKCON history, which is needed to more fully understand New Vrindaban history.

Chapters 38 and 39 describe the takeover of ISKCON by eleven so-called “zonal acharyas” who were appointed by the GBC after the November 1977 passing of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder/Acharya of ISKCON. Although the zonal acharyas were unqualified to act as acharyas (they should have continued acting simply as ritvik priests, or at the most, as “regular gurus” who do not demand worship from their godbrothers nor extravagant thrones), they nonetheless pretended to be something they were not: uttama-adhikari self-realized pure devotees of Krishna on the highest level of Bhakti.

In previous lives, their disciples were taught, the eleven had been maidservants of Radharani and eternal associates of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Because of this falsehood, many zonal acharyas became drunk with power and unable to control their senses. They abused their sacred positions of authority and exploited the hapless subjects who had the misfortune of serving under their rule. (For more about the history of the zonal-acharya era of ISKCON, see the author’s 2020 book, Eleven Naked Emperors: The Crisis of Charismatic Succession in the Hare Krishna Movement.)

Chapter 40 recounts the unfortunate plight of women at New Vrindaban—and within ISKCON—as third-class citizens not even treated by most of the men with the same respect that the men awarded to the cows. One of Kirtanananda and Hayagriva’s non-devotee friends noted, “The female [at New Vrindaban] has a position somewhere below that of the cow.”

Chapter 41 exposes the secret homosexual/pedophile society which had quietly infested the Marshall County commune since the earliest days of its establishment in 1968. When one Columbus, Ohio mother saw her seven-year-old son for the first time after he had been enrolled in the gurukula six months earlier, the boy proudly exclaimed, “Did you know that I had a great honor when I first came here!? Kirtanananda Maharaja selected me out of all the kids to be his personal servant and live with him for a whole week. Do you know what he did? He fondled my genitals!”

This was too much for the devoted mother to bear. Her mind was spinning. She could not comprehend her son’s frank admission. She chastised her son, “Don’t make up stories like that! Kirtanananda Maharaja is a pure devotee. I don’t ever want to hear you say nonsense things like that again!”

Chapter 42 presents the history of the gurukula at New Vrindaban as well as the Dallas, Texas school. The New Vrindaban Varnashram College for older boys, the school for younger boys at Nandagram and later the upgraded school at New Nandagram are discussed. The notorious nursery is presented, as well as (perhaps the saddest section of this book) the poignant plight of the sankirtan mothers (and children) who were sometimes forced to place even their very young infants (three months of age) in the understaffed community nursery while they went out panhandling across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean to collect money to build New Vrindaban and spread Krishna consciousness.

Chapter 43 continues to uncover the horrible plight of many children at ISKCON’s “Holy Tirtha.” The sexual molestation of some boys by headmaster Shri-Galim (Gary Gardner) is presented, in addition to the activities of Manihar (Matthew Norton), the headmaster of the Varnashram College. One of his young female victims explained, “He touched me all over. I was nine. He was thirty-eight.” The Vrindaban, India gurukula is discussed, as many New Vrindaban boys were sent there in the early 1980s. Headmaster Shukhavak (Brian D. Marvin) is presented, along with the husband and wife team of Chakravarti and Dinasharana (Peter and Dietlinde Kaufmann). Finally, the story of the child brides at New Vrindaban is presented, wherein many girls were given husbands sometimes twice or even thrice their age.

Chapter 44 exposes the misguided attempt to cover-up the molestation of children at New Vrindaban, which was spearheaded by the supreme leader and founder of the community himself: “His Divine Grace” Kirtanananda Swami “Bhaktipada,” who infamously retorted, “Sex is sex. How much sex have YOU had?” when addressed by a distraught mother who complained that her thirteen-year-old son had been sexually molested for years in the gurukula. Two members of the New Vrindaban school, former headmaster Shri-Galim and a teenage ashram aide were charged with sex crimes.

The ashram aide pleaded guilty and served time in an Ohio juvenile detention center but Shri-Galim fled the country for India and Malaysia, later returning and turning himself over to law-enforcement authorities. Before his trial, however, the charges were dropped by the district attorney. The abused boy’s mother was livid. “There was plenty of evidence; we even had other gurukula boys lined up to testify,” she exclaimed. Some of the sexual crimes of another former headmaster, Gopinath dasa (Ronald Nay/Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami) are also exposed in this chapter.

Chapter 45 chronicles some of Bhaktipada’s own perverted sexual molestations of boys and teenagers, including testimony from two boys. His October 1985 head injury is discussed, and the consequent loss of his ability to control his passions. The Winnebago Incident is presented, and Bhaktipada’s further continued man/boy sexual activities at his cabin at Silent Mountain.

Chapter 46 describes the Herculean efforts needed to rid New Vrindaban of the two notorious pedophile headmasters of the Nandagram School. Chapter 47 chronicles the Children of ISKCON vs. ISKCON class-action lawsuit which, according to some, threatened to destroy ISKCON itself.

The last three chapters deal with New Vrindaban’s immoral and illegal panhandling fundraising enterprise which generated twelve-and-a-half million dollars for the community from 1981 to 1985, and the “Cult Within a Cult”—the Dharmettes—which also was a great source of suffering for the women who were involved in this elite “Green Berets” of the New Vrindaban “sankirtan” panhandlers. Volume Four concludes with an Addendum which chronicles the sad treatment of children throughout history, which in perspective, hopefully gives us reason to be optimistic for the future of children.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 38: The Zonal Acharyas Take Over ISKCON

    1978 GBC meetings
    GBC consults with Bhakti-Raksak Shridhar Maharaja
    Eleven “acharyas” allegedly appointed by Prabhupada
    Zonal acharyas honored extravagantly
    Prabhupada did not appoint eleven successors
    Kirtanananda Swami: the driving force
    Guru must be authorized
    “He becomes regular guru, that’s all”
    ISKCON “gurus” pretend to be acharyas
    GBC should have reprimanded Kirtanananda
    Doubts and questions
    Zonal acharyas challenged in Vrindaban
    The “debate“

Chapter 39: ISKCON gurus begin to deviate

    Guru cannot be rubber stamped
    Jayatirtha
    Hansadutta Swami
    Police confiscate weapons at Mount Kailasa
    Hansadutta punished
    The Pyramid House talks
    Deviant “gurus” reinstated
    Hansadutta goes berserk
    Tamal-Krishna Goswami
    Bhavananda Goswami
    Bhavananda reinstated as guru
    Exposed by a woman
    Jadurani rejects the zonal acharyas
    Jadurani is beaten bloody

Chapter 40: Three Things Improve with a Good Beating

    A negative perspective?
    Women at New Vrindaban
    Some women were happy at New Vrindaban
    Wife beating at New Vrindaban
    Five things improve with a good beating
    Women are less intelligent
    Women are not to be trusted
    Women are nine times lustier than men
    Women are dangerous
    The “dark well” of married life
    Fish night
    One should spit at the thought of sex with a woman
    Women are spiritually equal to men
    Mismatched arranged marriages
    Vedic matchmaking: boy and girl must be similar in “character and taste”
    Marriage is a curse

Chapter 41: The Secret Inner Sanctum

    Kirtanananda orders a kshatriya to kill Cheryl Wheeler
    Cheryl secures a court order to retrieve her son
    Kirtanananda and Hayagriva backslide
    The inner sanctum
    Kirtanananda Swami bathes naked boys
    Kirtanananda Swami attempts to seduce a godbrother
    Kirtanananda’s boy servants
    Young boys massage Bhaktipada in the temple
    “Just as I love boys, they love me”
    Few suspected
    Bhaktipada’s personal favorite: adolescents
    Parties with the Mexican laborers
    Rumors are ignored

Chapter 42: Suffer Little Children

    Dallas gurukula established, abandoned
    New Vrindaban gurukula opens
    1974: Varnashram College at New Vrindaban established; abandoned
    1976: Nandagram School established
    Children isolated
    The notorious nursery
    Cults and mass movements undermine the family
    Sankirtan mothers and children especially suffer
    Gurukula faculty untrained
    Parents are the problem?
    Academics inferior
    Institutionalized brutality
    The girls at New Vrindaban
    One girl’s story

Chapter 43: He touched me all over. I was nine. He was thirty-eight.

    The penis/lotion incident
    An agitated brahmachari
    1981: Varnashram College re-established
    1981: New Nandagram
    Children isolated from their parents
    Headmaster Manihar
    Manihar molests nine-year-old girl
    Manihar establishes his own orphanage in India
    Unbridled passion reigned supreme
    Vrindaban India gurukula
    Shukhavak becomes New Vrindaban headmaster
    Gurukula ashrams under new management
    Arranged marriages with teenage girls
    The reason the marriages failed (according to Bhaktipada)

Chapter 44: Child Molestation Cover-Up

    The story of KK
    “Sex is sex.”
    Investigation ordered
    New Vrindaban headmaster and teacher’s aide charged with sex crimes
    Kanka reunited with her adopted daughter
    Ashram aide arrested; Shri-Galim flees
    Charges against Shri-Galim dropped
    Dharmatma’s estranged wife files custody suit
    Former headmaster molests boys
    Gopinath dasa becomes Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami

Chapter 45: Bhaktipada’s Boys

    Head injuries often affect sexual behavior
    Bhaktipada loses control
    The boys return from India
    Bhaktipada’s “dream house”
    The story of CM
    Bhaktipada molests other teenage boys
    Middle-age brahmachari “seduced” by six-year-old girl?
    The Winnebago Incident
    News of Bhaktipada’s sexual activity spreads throughout the community
    Bhaktipada insists, “None of it [the rumor] is true!”
    Bhaktipada: “I am completely innocent!”
    Kirtanananda dasa: confirmed pedophile
    Bhaktipada: word juggler
    Gurukula children break silence
    Perverted sex at New Vrindaban: one explanation
    Punishment

Chapter 46: Former Headmasters Evicted

    ISKCON pressures New Vrindaban to expel Shri-Galim
    Shri-Galim leaves New Vrindaban
    Shri-Galim, post-New Vrindaban
    Former headmaster asks for forgiveness
    Shri-Galim takes sannyasa

Chapter 47: Children of Krishna vs. ISKCON

    Former gurukula students find their voices
    Former gurukulis speak at the 1996 North American GBC meeting
    ISKCON commissions study on gurukulam
    The Turley lawsuit
    ISKCON pledges $1,000,000
    Case filed
    Case dismissed
    Case re-filed
    ISKCON temples file for bankruptcy
    Nirmal-Chandra’s story
    A mother’s lament
    Was Prabhupada aware of the abuse to the children?
    Did Prabhupada effectively deal with the abuse?

Chapter 48: Scam-Kirtan

    Money is the honey
    Vehicle insurance scam
    The “pick”
    The “Citation Line”
    Transcendental trickery
    Bhaktipada preaches in Pakistan
    Bhaktipada arrested, charged with smuggling
    Copyright issues
    Some loved the “pick”
    Some hated the “pick”
    Children on the “pick”

Chapter 49: The “Dharmattes,” Part One

    Dharmatma’s personal “assets”
    Two thirteen-year-old girls join the Pittsburgh Sankirtan House
    Sankirtan House moves to New Vrindaban

Chapter 50: The “Dharmattes,” Part Two

    Polygamy
    Prostitution in Krishna’s service
    “Pickers” weakened from overwork
    Mother Maharha: New Vrindaban’s biggest “picker”
    Brijabasis blinded by deranged devotion

Images

U. S. Geological Survey topographic map of McCreary Ridge showing location of principle sites of New Vrindaban.

Eleven ISKCON zonal acharyas in Mayapur, India (c. August 1978).

Jayatirtha Tirthapada (James Edward Immel).

Hansadutta Swami Krishna Kirtan Thakur (Hans Kary).

Tamal-Krishna Goswami Gurudeva (Thomas G. Herzig).

Bhavananda Goswami Vishnupada (Charles Bacis).

Jadurani devi dasi (Judy Koslovsky).

Kirtanananda Swami samples his Sunday feast plate at Bahulaban, while his seven-year-old protégé, the first-born son of Hayagriva and Shama dasi, patiently waits for remnants (c. 1977). The shirtless devotee behind Kirtanananda is rendering devotional service by fanning the “pure devotee” with a peacock feather fan.

Two New Vrindaban girls on the cover of Life magazine (April 1980). Photo by Ethan Hoffman.

Former Nandagram headmaster Gopinath dasa (Ronald Nay), who is himself learning Sanskrit, attempts to teach the language to the older boys at the Nandagram school. (c. January 1980). Photo by Ethan Hoffman from Life magazine.

Nandagram ashram moderator Aravinda dasa (Alex Georgiadis) reads the boys a bedtime story from Krishna Book (c. January 1980). Photo by Ethan Hoffman from Life magazine.

Three boys request Swami Bhaktipada to give them a sacred flower during early morning services at the Bahulaban temple (c. January 1980). Only one boy will get the flower. Photo by Ethan Hoffman from Life magazine.

Boy offers Tulsi puja at the Bahulaban temple.

Boys resting on a fallen log in the woods near Old Nandagram.

Boy hangs on grape vine in the woods near Old Nandagram.

Another boy swings on grape vine in the woods near Old Nandagram.

Swami Bhaktipada, teachers—including headmaster Shri-Galim (Gary Gardner)—and students at the gala open house festival at New Nandagram (c. November 1982).

Students at New Nandagram (c. 1982).

Teachers and students pose with a photo of Swami Bhaktipada at New Nandagram (c. 1982).

Nine boys in the New Nandagram temple room.

Four boys sitting on a log outside New Nandagram.

Sleeping boy with baby bottle. It appears that one of the boy’s ashram-mates placed the bottle by his lips as a joke.

Thoughtful boy holding a pencil.

Smiling boy.

Boy playing with shaving cream. It seems that he is pretending to be a bearded, long-haired sage with Vaishnava tilak as depicted in paintings in Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Srimad-bhagavatam.

Boy diving into Wheeling Creek (New Yamuna River) at New Nandagram.

“That was fun!”

New Nandagram headmaster Shri-Galim (Gary Gardner) with student.

Two boys and a tricycle.

Swami Bhaktipada, teachers—including New Nandagram headmaster Shukavak dasa (Brian D. Marvin) and former headmaster Shri-Galim dasa (Gary Gardner)—and students (boys and girls) pose for a formal photograph on the front steps of Prabhupada’s Palace (c. 1986).

Ten boys relax after school in their ashram on the first floor of the New Vrindaban Guest Lodge.

Ten boys chant japa at the RVC temple while ashram moderator Raghunath dasa (Ralph Seward) maintains discipline.

Letter to Jayapataka Swami from Bhaktipada’s housemaid (January 12, 1986), Part 1.

Letter to Jayapataka Swami from Bhaktipada’s housemaid (January 12, 1986), Part 2.

Letter from Jayapataka Swami to Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada (April 23, 1986).

Boy under a table massages Swami Bhaktipada’s feet while the “spiritual master” eats lunch in the RVC temple men’s prasadam room.

Bhaktipada pets his German shepherd guard dog, Gudakesh, while nine-year-old gurukula boys massage the “spiritual master” in the RVC temple room (c. December 1985 or early 1986).

A girl plays with a balloon during a cart festival as the deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Lady Subhadra journey along Palace Road (McCreary’s Ridge Road) from Bahulaban to the RVC temple. To the right can be seen New Vrindaban’s stained glass studio and Meghamala’s general store (c. mid-1980s).

Girls and women are “protected” and segregated from the men and boys during worship services by standing behind the balustrade in the rear of the Bahulaban temple (c. January 1980). They must enter and exit the temple by the back door. Photo by Ethan Hoffman from Life magazine (April 1980).

The 14-year-old [above] caught in a reflective moment, was married recently. “She was developing a lot of crushes,” a devotee explained. Her sister, 16, is married and pregnant. “Some children produced here are very special,” the swami says. “The parents’ souls are pure and they attract a pure soul into the womb.” Text by Hillary Johnson; photo by Ethan Hoffman, from Life magazine (April 1980).

What is this pensive girl thinking? Could she be wondering, “I heard the temple authorities have picked a husband for me. Oh crap! Not me! I don't want to marry some gross old coot twice my age. This is horrid!”?

Women in the sewing room.

Four New Vrindaban women in the lobby of the Palace Gift Store (1987 or later).

Citation pad used by New Vrindaban traveling sankirtan “pickers.”

Bumper stickers printed at Palace Press featuring Peanut’s cartoon characters Snoopy and Woodstock.

Back to: Gold, Guns and God