Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 5: The Murder and the Mandir
Henry Doktorski’s landmark 346-page non-fiction book about Swami Bhaktipada and the West Virginia Hare Krishna commune called New Vrindaban, can be purchased in several ways:
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November 11, 2020
Oh, Henry. Oh my God. I was on my way to work at 1 am in the morning, and I saw your book, Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 5 sticking out of my mailbox. After my shift was finished, I began almost running back home, and I thought, “I’ll just glance through Henry’s new book, and have a coffee.” I was very anxious to “dive in” into this extraordinary blast-from-the-past story of the deranged devoted devotees of the New Vrindaban community.
The next thing I know, several hours had passed, and I finished reading 90 pages: until just after they killed Chakradhari. Oh my God, Henry, it’s such a detailed explanation and expresses the viewpoints of all the characters in this story. You’re taking this to the next level. You took it to the next level. You’re a truth seeker, exploring the truth, revealing the truth. I admire your cojones. I truly and deeply appreciate your detailed style of writing, dear friend. You definitely make sure that “no stone is left unturned,” with excellent documentation: references, letters, quotes, etc. You have no hidden agenda. You simply present the plain facts, which basically speak for themselves.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this enormous and absolutely vital historical biography of Swami Bhaktipada. I also hope that your books will help others to heal the wounds of deranged devotion, as they helped me. Om Shanti. Om Tat Sat.
Former ISKCON devotee and former disciple of Indradyumna “Swami”
PS I have all four of your books, as seen in the attached photo.
December 4, 2020
I finally finished reading your excellent Gold, Guns and God, Volume 5—The Murder and the Mandir. Again, a great read; enlightening and informative! Thank you so much for your first person perspective and information. Appreciate everything you’ve done to enlighten my knowledge of the “Black Sheep of the Ham Family!” Looking forward to future chapters!
Here’s a picture to share, and you can add my comments as well if you want to! I can’t wait to go to New Vrindaban again and really see for the first time the magnitude of the devotion, the extremely difficult and tumultuous times, and the dedication to survive and make the community what it is today. I not all is not perfect and never will be, but I find New Vrindaban to be a great place to visit, relax, and rejuvenate. I missed going to New Vrindaban in 2020. Here’s to a better 2021!!
Take care, Hare Krishna, God Bless, and Thank You!
December 5, 2020
Excellent and fascinating historical document!
This volume provides tremendous insight into the backstory of how the Palace of Gold came to be in West Virginia. The entire story of the New Vrindavan Community from start until Keith Ham’s incarceration in 1996 is nothing short of dramatic and full of the twists and turns of a great novel. I find the story, the community, the characters absolutely fascinating. At the same time it is quite revolting. The author accomplishes quite a historical document here. The reader gets to enjoy a front row seat of the details, planning, and financing of the famous Palace of Gold. There are plenty of facts that are well documented to paint an exciting picture of the better years of New Vrindavan.
Of course, the more important aspect of this story is that the author also embraces the unfortunate series of events that eventually led to the downfall and excommunication of its leader and community. From a historical perspective, I can’t thank and admire the author’s meticulous attention to detail. The amount of hard work to provide the reader with an accurate depiction of how New Vrindavan came to be is to be celebrated and recognized. Henry has my profound respect for this.
I’ve always been fascinated by the character that is Keith Ham. Amazing how such a flawed person (known even in the 26 Second Ave days) was welcome back to ISKCON after Prabhupada personally banned him. Even when the writing was on the wall (stealing the Gita and trying to get it printed as his own, disobeying Prabhupada after taking sannyasi vows, dressing in suit and tie) he was able to rise to be such a prominent “guru” within ISKCON. I’ve always wondered if this says more about Keith as a person or ISKCON as a spiritual institution. In any case, Keith Ham is definitely a complex character and aside from the generally known deviations about him (sexual, philosophical, religious), this book reveals there were more than I originally thought. Reading about them is somewhere between deeply disturbing and complete disbelief.
Today I finished this volume only to find out that the volume I’ve been anticipating the most—Volume One about the biography of Keith Ham was just released! Thanks Henry! You have single handedly made my free time disappear!
From a review at Amazon.
December 12, 2020
Henry’s books are fascinating. I think they’re important to American religious history, and I think they’re important to anybody interested in Christian apologetics, specifically with regards to the dynamics of cults.
Rev. Jack Davila-Ashcraft
From an interview with Henry about Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 5, at Expedition Truth Radio.
SUMMARY: Volume 5—THE MURDER AND THE MANDIR
Volume 5 of Gold, Guns and God covers a ten-year time span roughly from 1982 to 1992. During this period, especially in the early- to mid-1980s, New Vrindaban was becoming accepted by the mainstream media. Newspapers and television and radio shows often had something good to say about the Hare Krishnas for a change. Millions of dollars per year flowed into the community from New Vrindaban “pickers” (panhandlers), construction proceeded in high gear, and architectural plans were being drawn for the largest South Indian-style temple to be built, some claimed, in the last thousand years.
The Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Great Temple of Understanding, as Bhaktipada called it, to be constructed of millions of tons of solid, hand-carved, black granite blocks, was held in May 1985, and was attended by two ISKCON gurus, Marshall and Ohio County mayors, police chiefs, politicians in West Virginia state government, and a United States Congressman. The sun of good fortune was basking down on New Vrindaban, and all of ISKCON benefited from the positive publicity. Many ISKCON spiritual masters visited New Vrindaban and praised Bhaktipada’s vision with flowery words.
Unfortunately, also during this time, abominable anomalies of immoral and criminal activities were polluting the holy atmosphere, behind the scenes. And the saddest part of all: the most heinous aberrations were coming from the top. One former Brijabasi, during a telephone conversation with the author described in Chapter 47, relates how once he had walked unannounced into a Fringe devotee’s house and observed Bhaktipada drinking beer and preparing to shoot a line of cocaine. Bhaktipada left immediately without speaking.
The next day, as explained to the author, Bhaktipada took the Brijabasi on a ride in his vehicle up to a pond on New Vrindaban property. Bhaktipada stopped the vehicle, turned to him, and ordered him to leave New Vrindaban immediately, or else his body might wind up at the bottom of the pond, where, Bhaktipada claimed, a few others were already buried. Our friend promptly left the community. Unfortunately, in less than a year, another Brijabasi’s body would be buried under a creek not far from the pond; murdered with authorization from the top.
Chapters 48 and 49 discuss the New Vrindaban Fringe community, the plot to kill Charles Saint-Denis (Chakradhari), the June 1983 murder, and the banishment of the principal assassin from the community. Although the killing was carefully planned and executed in secret, many Brijabasis correctly guessed who was the killer: Thomas A. Drescher (Tirtha dasa), the community’s chief enforcer. Tirtha’s murder trial will be discussed in Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 7.
In the meantime, a new temple for the principal deities of New Vrindaban was constructed in record time behind the Palace, near the guest lodge. The deities were installed with great fanfare in July 1983, less than a month after the murder of Chakradhari. His body was buried under a creek on community property hardly three miles distant. Yet the installation festival was packed with residents, visiting ISKCON devotees, a visiting ISKCON guru, and thousands of tourists coming to visit Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. All were blissful, except a handful of people who were close friends to Chakradhari.
Plans for the Great Temple of Understanding were revealed, as well as plans to construct a spiritual theme park, something like Disneyland, called Land of Krishna. The dairy herd grew so rapidly that a new cow barn and state-of-the-art milking parlor were constructed. Bhaktipada began talking about building the largest carillon (bell tower) in the world at New Vrindaban. The steel frame for the massive Great Maha-Dvarum Gateway of the Holy Name, the first phase of construction for the Great Temple of Understanding, was completed on Krishna’s birthday in 1988. Six enormous computer-controlled bronze bells were installed in the gateway four years later.
To many, it seemed as if the sky was the limit regarding the expansion of New Vrindaban as an international place of pilgrimage for ISKCON devotees and Hindus in North America. Unfortunately, unknown to all except a select few, an undercurrent of evil permeated the atmosphere, and in time, karma would demand an eye for an eye. The “Golden Age” of New Vrindaban would not last for long.
TABLE OF CONTENTS—VOLUME 5: THE MURDER AND THE MANDIR
Chapter 47: Show-Bottle Guru
Prabhupada warns about showbottle “gurus”
Bhaktipada exhibits his “lingam”
The “Swami” enjoys intoxicants
Randall Gorby confirms Kirtanananda’s secret pleasures
Chapter 48: King of the Fringies
Ambhudara devi dasi
Sex and intoxication
Chakradhari had a temper
Nine Fringies “expelled”
Bhaktipada appreciates Chakradhari’s service
Chakradhari starts a nursery business
Tirtha builds a house
Murder met his personality
Tirtha incarcerated for manufacture of methaqualone
Tirtha becomes New Vrindaban’s chief enforcer
Tirtha protects the Brijabasis
Chakradhari requests a loan from the community
Daruka dasa’s troubles:
(1) An alleged attempted rape of Daruka’s wife
(2) The death of the sons of Chakradhari and Daruka
(3) The alleged rape of Daruka’s wife
Daruka decides to kill Chakradhari
Daruka informs Bhaktipada of his plan to murder Chakradhari
Vedic scriptures permit killing an aggressor
Tirtha’s alleged motive for killing Chakradhari
Tirtha becomes more and more violent
Bhaktipada’s motive for authorizing Chakradhari’s murder
Chapter 49: The Murder
Daruka has second thoughts about the murder
News of the murder spreads through New Vrindaban
The gravesite oozes fluid
Chakradhari’s house burned
Daruka leaves New Vrindaban
Tirtha leaves New Vrindaban
Tirtha banished from New Vrindaban
Chapter 50: The Mandir
A New temple for Radha-Vrindaban Chandra
Radha-Krishna, Gaura-Nitai, and Gopal Nathji
Procession to Guruban
Installation of the deities
Lord Nrisimhadeva installed
Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman installed
Lord Jagannath, Lady Subhadra and Lord Baladeva intalled
New Vrindaban North, South, East and West
Bathing ghat excavated
Giant Gaura-Nitai statues erected
The swan boat
Other gigantic sculptures at New Vrindaban
Malini the elephant
Jharikhanda Wildlife Sanctuary
Song of God
Christ and Krishna
Computers at New Vrindaban
Harassment of devotees by neighbors decreases
Assessor increases New Vrindaban taxes
Chapter 51: Cows, Calves and Bullshit
An agricultural community
The tractor controversy
Tractors at New Vrindaban
New Vrindaban goshalla expands
Chapter 52: The Temple of Understanding and Land of Krishna
Radha-Vrindaban Chandra’s proposed Palace
The proposed Great Temple of Understanding
New Vrindaban: a transcendental city
Land of Krishna
Stone quarry purchased
Excavating the proposed temple site
Ground-breaking ceremony for the proposed temple
U. S. congressman speaks at New Vrindaban
Installation of Ananta-Sesa
The Cities of God
New Vrindban patronized by local businesses, ISKCON gurus
Public opinion changes again
The Maha-Dvaram gateway
Chapter 53: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Bells in Vaishnava tradition
The bells of New Vrindaban
Verdin bell company contracted
Six bells installed in the Maha-Dvaram gateway
The bells malfunction
Bhaktipada praises Hindu culture
Success believed assured
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