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).


VOLUME FOUR OF GOLD, GUNS AND GOD deals with a 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. Chapter 38 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.”

Chapters 39, 40 and 41 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.

Chapter 42 exposes the secret homosexual and/or 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 43 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 who were sometimes forced to place even their infants (two or three months of age) in the understaffed community nursery while they went out panhandling across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and the Far East to collect money to build New Vrindaban and spread Krishna consciousness.

Chapter 44 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 heinous 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 girls were given husbands sometimes twice or even thrice their age.

Chapter 45 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 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 revealed in this chapter.

Chapter 46 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 47 describes the Herculean efforts to rid New Vrindaban of the two notorious pedophile headmasters of the Nandagram School. Chapter 48 chronicles the Children of ISKCON vs. ISKCON class-action lawsuit which, according to the exaggeration of some, threatened to destroy ISKCON itself. Volume 4 concludes with an addendum chronicling the sad treatment of children throughout history, which in perspective, hopefully gives us reason to be optimistic for the future.

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