Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 6: The Guru Business

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

Purchase Gold, Guns and God: Vol. 6

Henry Doktorski’s landmark 520-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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REVIEWS AND READERS’ LETTERS

June 19, 2022

FIVE STARS: Riveting, Enthralling, and better than a True Crime Documentary on Netflix!

This volume of the Gold, Guns, and God opus by Henry Doktorski is riveting and enthralling, much like a true crime documentary on Netflix (Making a Murderer, anyone?). Two chapters in and like a magic act everything around me disappeared because I could not put this down or do anything else, but keep reading! The story itself of the conspiracy to kill Steve Bryant should be enough to capture anyone’s curiosity.

The author presents detail after detail of evidence of how many participated in the murder conspiracy and how it was carried out. The more one reads the more one may find themselves in this difficult place of what is reality vs. what we all wish was not. It’s not always easy to accept this unfortunate episode in Prabhupada’s movement and especially when it involved so many “higher ups.” However, it’s too important to trace the root of the problem and it is already well known—it started immediately after November 14, 1977 after Prabhupada’s passing ISKCON degraded down a dangerous road of clashing cults of eleven personalities, or better stated—“Eleven Naked Emperors.”

Volume 6 provides details that explain the beginning of the end of Keith Ham’s reign of sex abuse, corruption, deviations from Prabhupada’s teaching, and ego centric cult in West Virginia. It’s a fascinating read when one compares to other dangerous cults that puts a flawed human being in the center of a community as good as God and calls him ridiculous names like “King.” I say fascinating because the similarities are frightening—unquestioned authority/power over others, blind followers, scriptural inaccuracies of pure teachings, the easy justification of crimes, etc. Think Nxivm, Osho, People’s Temple—the examples out there are endless yet feels like an all too familiar story.

Refreshing that ISKCON and those who follow the path of Bhakti (non-ISKCON) that I have experienced in the present have taken note. Krishna and Prabhupada seem to be at the center again, not “show bottle gurus” exalted to the point they are as good as God. In this sense there is definitely a collective maturity and intentional effort to restore the purity of the movement. The lessons here are impossible to ignore for anyone who wants to learn from the painful lessons of the past in order to avoid an encore. You may ignore this history at your own risk.

Pedro Ramos
Atlanta, Georgia
From a review at Amazon.com.

SUMMARY: Volume 6—THE GURU BUSINESS

Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 6, subtitled The Guru Business, begins in November 1977 with the passing of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), the guiding light and Founder/Acharya for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The first two chapters describe the March 1978 appointment of eleven senior leaders as successor acharyas by the Society’s Governing Body Commission. Unfortunately the eleven, including Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, were not acharyas (self-realized souls on the highest level of God realization), but were pretenders who ran ISKCON like Mafia dons. Within a few short years, some of the so-called “acharyas” were becoming known for illicit connections with women (and men) and recreational drug use—activities regarded as mortal sins and prohibited to all Krishna devotees. Those few perceptive godbrothers who saw through the scam were blacklisted, forced to leave the Society, and even murdered.

Volume Six also reveals a never-before-released story on the plot to murder Richard “Rsi” Rose, the owner of the 132 acres of land which Hayagriva leased for 99 years in 1968 which became New Vrindaban, West Virginia.

The following ten chapters relate the story of Bhaktipada’s arch nemesis, Sulochan (Steven Bryant), a New Vrindaban resident who discovered many immoral and criminal activities at the “Holy Tirtha,” and began exposing the corruption in his book, The Guru Business, which detailed the faults of Bhaktipada (and some of the other ISKCON gurus) and described some of the criminal activities at New Vrindaban and in ISKCON. Senior leaders at New Vrindaban, Cleveland ISKCON and Los Angeles ISKCON hunted down Sulochan and assassinated him in Los Angeles on May 22, 1986.

The ISKCON West Virginia farm community, home of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, had become a criminal organization under the direction of the charismatic Bhaktipada, who was lauded as “King” by the New Vrindaban inmates. Did Sulochan die in vain to expose corruption? Would Bhaktipada be eventually charged, tried, and found guilty in a criminal court of law?

The author explains, “Much (but not all) of the material in this volume has already been covered in detail in my earlier-published books Killing For Krishna and Eleven Naked Emperors, but I decided to include a good portion of this information in this current volume of Gold, Guns and God because the decalogy would not be complete without including at least some of this story. For readers who want to understand the plot to murder Sulochan in greater detail and the zonal acharya era of ISKCON, please consult Killing For Krishna and Eleven Naked Emperors.”

TABLE OF CONTENTS—VOLUME 6: THE GURU BUSINESS

Chapter 56: The Zonal Acharyas Take Over ISKCON

    1978 GBC Meetings
    GBC consults with Bhakti-Raksak Sridhar Maharaja
    Eleven “acharyas” allegedly appointed by Prabhupada
    Zonal acharyas honored extravagantly
    Did Prabhupada appoint eleven successors?
    Kirtanananda Swami: the trend setter
    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, India
    The “debate”

Chapter 57: 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
    Jadurani leaves New Vrindaban
    Pittsburgh devotees threatened
    Richard Rose sues New Vrindaban
    The plot to murder Richard Rose
    Politics and corruption in the Ohio River Valley

Chapter 58: A Thorn in Bhaktipada’s Side

    Palace marketing manager boosts tourism
    Bhaktipada: equal to Prabhupada
    Palace manager defects
    New Vrindaban becomes a personality cult
    Bhaktipada and Sulochan
    The Gopi-Bhava Club
    Sulochan moves to India
    Sulochan moves to England
    Sulochan returns to India
    Sulochan returns to England
    Sulochan marries
    The wife must please her husband
    The husband must protect the wife
    Sulochan and Jane move to New Vrindaban
    Temple authories pressure Jane to take initiation
    California, here I come
    Sulochan abuses his wife and children
    Sulochan attempts to adopt the Brijabasi spirit
    Sulochan bullied by Kuladri and his thugs
    Sulochan leaves New Vrindaban for good
    Sons retrieved by mother and three enforcers
    A wife’s relationship with the spiritual master is eternal
    Jamuna divorces
    Sulochan acquires pirate copy of Prabhupada’s letters
    Sulochan hears reports of anomalies at New Vrindaban
    Sulochan’s editor
    Sulochan advocates violence against the ISKCON gurus
    Can a fallen devotee detect hypocrisy more clearly than a strict sannyasi?
    Subhas Chandra Bose: Indian patriot
    Corrupt regimes overthrown by violence

Chapter 59: The Kirtanananda Exposé

    Kirtanananda is a “crazy man”
    Sulochan made some incorrect and vicious accusations
    GBC concerned about Bhaktipada
    Prabhupada’s crown removed
    Radhanath Swami
    Sulochan challenges Bhaktipada to debate
    Bhaktipada threatens to resign from GBC if Sulochan is not silenced

Chapter 60: The Guru Reform Movement

    ISKCON temple presidents begin organizing against the zonal acharyas
    Ending the fratricidal war
    Many Prabhupada disciples disillusioned
    ISKCON gurus: above the law
    August 1985 emergency GBC meetings
    Brahmachari claims ISKCON “guru” attempted to seduce him
    Bhaktipada’s 48th birthday party
    North American GBC and temple presidents meeting
    “On His Order”

Chapter 61: Preaching From a Jail Cell

    “The Story of a Cheater”—the “real facts”about Sulochan
    GBC rules in “Sulochan vs. Bhaktipada”
    Bhaktipada erred by initiating Sulochan’s wife
    Sulochan excommunicated
    Puranjana intercedes on Sulochan’s behalf

Chapter 62: An Attack at the Heart of ISKCON

    Triyogi tries to kill Bhaktipada
    Triyogi restrained, arrested by the sheriff
    Jail break attempt
    Bhaktipada rushed to hospital
    Brijabasis devastated
    ISKCON leaders offer support
    Some want Bhaktipada to die
    Bhaktipada awakens from coma
    Bhaktipada returns home
    The joy of reunion
    Prabhupada’s crown returns

Chapter 63: He Was a Very, Very Different Person

    Bhaktipada’s brain damage
    Anterograde amnesia
    Narcissistic personality disorder
    The greatest disease: tasting absolute power
    Disciples paralyzed due to emotional investment
    Bhaktipada’s personality changed
    Head injury caused increased sexual desire?
    Foolish consistency

Chapter 64: Murder Conspiracy

    Sulochan praises Triyogi’s assault
    The alleged collaboration of Sulochan and Triyogi
    Secret meetings
    Tirtha recruited as hit man
    Gorby: government informant
    Federal government investigates the cults
    Tirtha begins searching for Sulochan
    Janmastami recruited as hit man
    Tirtha names seven conspirators
    Scriptural justification for murder
    “If the man who blasphemed . . . is killed, his sinful action may be atoned”
    “One should by force cut out the blasphemer’s tongue and kill the offender”
    Even a “meek and humble” devotee should “be as angry as fire”
    “Saintly persons . . . take pleasure in the killing of envious living entities”
    Killing for Krishna
    Ksatriyas confident

Chapter 65: The Keystone Cops Surveillance Team

    Janmastami dispatched to California
    Sulochan visits high school friends in Michigan
    Tapahpunja attempts to sub-contract the hit
    Radhanath Swami flies to Los Angeles to meet with Ramesvara
    Sulochan drives from Michigan to the Ohio Valley
    Sulochan threatens to destroy Kirtanananda and New Vrindaban
    Sulochan’s threats greatly exaggerated
    Kuladri requests assistance from local law enforcement
    Tapahpunja and Tirtha drive to Michigan
    Tapahpunja tricks Mrs. Bryant into revealing her son’s location
    Gorby’s story different from Tapahpunja’s story
    Sulochan meets with the FBI
    Tapahpunja’s story different
    Gaura-Shakti protects himself
    Sulochan eludes his pursuers a second time
    Tirtha flies to Los Angeles to rendevous with Janmastami
    Gorby reveals Sulochan’s hiding place
    Gorby’s miraculous tracking ability
    Warrant issued for Bryant’s arrest
    Sulochan telephones tax assessor

Chapter 66: The Demon Jailed

    Sulochan arrested
    Demon Discredited
    New Vrindaban examines Sulochan’s papers
    Tirtha and Janmastami remain in Los Angeles
    Sulochan and Ramesvara
    Ramesvara’s ksatriya disciple
    Sulochan’s disguises
    Southern California ISKCON mamagers aware of murder plot
    Tirtha needs constant encouragement
    Mr. T and Bhakta Barney meet Krishna-Katha and Premadatta
    Surveillance team examines mine shafts
    The two New Vrindaban hit men leave California

Chapter 67: A Real Pain

    Sulochan meets Triyogi
    Something fishy in the sheriff’s office and county jail
    Sulochan’s campaign loses steam
    Tirtha and Gorby spy on Sulochan in Michigan
    Sulochan returns to California
    New Vrindaban managers attempt to procure funding for Tirtha
    Bhaktipada allegedly authorizes $2,500
    Tirtha receives $2,500
    Tirtha flies to California
    Sulochan predicts murder as his destiny
    Tirtha and Krishna-Katha spy on Sulochan
    Sulochan gives up his crusade, more or less
    Radhanath Swami flies to Los Angeles
    Murder is “a nasty thing”
    Hiding in the shadows

Chapter 68: The Murder of Sulochan

    News of the murder spreads quickly: New Vrindaban all a-buzz
    Tirtha told to go to India
    Escape money denied to Tirtha
    Dharmatma refuses to give Tirtha any more money
    Tirtha speaks to Tapahpunja in Columbus
    Bhaktipada is notified of the murder
    Backlash
    ISKCON leaders denounce the murder
    Puranjana and Kailasa-Chandra fear for their lives
    Brijabasis cautioned not to speak to media or police
    A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Images

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

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the pavilion on the hill behind Bahulaban (September 1972).

The eleven ISKCON zonal acharyas with a painting of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder/Acharya of ISKCON (Mayapur, India, c. August 1978).

Pradyumna.

B. R. Sridhar Maharaja.

Jayatirtha.

Hansadutta Maharaja.

Tamal-Krishna Maharaja.

Jadurani devi dasi.

Steven Bryant as a young man in Royal Oak, Michigan (early 1970s).

Sulochan dasa Brahmacari (Steven Bryant) on the altar offering aroti to Sri-Sri Radha-Vrindaban Chandra at New Vrindaban (c. 1975).

Puranjana (Tim Lee), long-time critic of the zonal acharyas and Sulochan’s life-long best friend (passport photo, early 1980s).

Sulochan dasa Adhikari with his two sons, Nimai and Sarva, probably at his parents’ home in Royal Oak, Michigan (c. 1983)

Sulochan’s divorced wife, Jamuna dasi (Jane Seward), holding her first child by her new husband, Raghunath (Ralph Seward) (c. 1988).

Kailasa-Chandra, Sulochan’s editor

Cover of Sulochan’s book, The Guru Business. Notice the three images on the cover representing: money bag, official ISKCON guru rubber-stamp, dhoti-clad ksatriya bearing an automatic weapon. Sulochan selected the title The Guru Business from a passage by Prabhupada: “Sri Isopanisad confirms that these pseudo-religionists [so-called acharyas] are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe after completion of their spiritual master business.”

His Divine Grace” Kirtanananda Swami “Bhaktipada” (Keith Gordon Ham), the ISKCON zonal acharya at New Vrindaban, known as “Number One.” Here on his vyasasana (throne) at the newly-dedicated RVC temple at New Vrindaban. Publicity photo (1983).

Bhaktipada supervises a road-building brick-laying marathon near New Vrindaban’s RVC temple complex (summer 1985).

Triyogi (Michael Shockman), the mentally disturbed visiting devotee who tried to kill Bhaktipada on October 27, 1985, by smashing his skull with a three-foot-long steel rod reported to weigh twenty pounds. Here at the Marshall County Jail in Moundsville, West Virginia.

The MRI image of a cross section of Bhaktipada’s brain, which, when turned upside down, resembles a ghastly face. The devotees believed it to be Lord Nrisimhadeva.

Bhaktipada returned to New Vrindaban on Friday, November 22, 1985, after four long weeks in the hospital.

Emotions were intense. Tears flooded the eyes of the Brijabasis and the eyes of their beloved master during the emotional reunion.

The New Vrindaban temple president, Kuladri, feeds Bhaktipada in bed.

Bhaktipada, surrounded by followers and disciples, rests in his bedroom.

Umapati, Kuladri and Bhaktipada at the temple (c. late-November or early-December 1985).

Bhaktipada, ambulating with great difficulty using a walker, in the temple room at his home (December 4, 1985). He had been ten days in a coma, three weeks on the critical list, and 26 days in the hospital.

Steven Bryant (Sulochan). Photo taken during a television interview with WTRF Channel 7 (Wheeling, West Virginia) at the Marshall County Jail in Moundsville, West Virginia (September 1985).

Hayagriva (Howard Wheeler), Keith Ham’s college roomate, lover, best friend, and co-founder of New Vrindaban. Here with his life-long buddy at a Labor Day Festival at New Vrindaban (September 1984).

Kuladri (Arthur Villa), New Vrindaban’s temple president, known as “Number Two.” Here officiating as a priest at a New Vrindaban fire sacrifice (1984).

His Holiness Tapahpunja Swami (Terry Sheldon), the president of Cleveland ISKCON, at New Vrindaban.

Tirtha (Thomas A. Drescher), New Vrindaban’s chief “enforcer” and hit man, in court.

Janmastami (John Sinkowski), Tirtha’s partner in crime, chanting japa on the sidewalk in the front of the RVC temple (September 1991).

Russell “Randall” Clark Gorby, retired steel worker, longtime “friend” of New Vrindaban, vocal advocate for the murder of Sulochan, and government informant.

His Holiness Radhanath Swami (Richard Slavin), “gentle and humble” sannyasi dearly loved by the Brijabasis.

Dharmatma (Dennis Gorrick), Director of New Vrindaban’s multi-million dollar “Scam-Kirtan” panhandling operation. Image from Brijabasi Spirit (January-February 1977).

His Divine Grace” Ramesvara Maharaja (Robert Grant), the ISKCON zonal acharya for Southern California and head of the North American BBT, during a rare visit to New Vrindaban. Photo from Brijabasi Spirit (summer 1985).

Krishna-Katha (Jeffrey Breier), head of security at Los Angeles ISKCON and Tirtha’s assistant. Breier helped hunt down Sulochan and was with Tirtha until moments before the murder. Some say he witnessed the murder. (Undated Linkedin photo, c. 2010)

Sulochan

Sulochan’s lifeless body at the Los Angeles morgue (May 22, 1986).

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