Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 8: The City of God

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

Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 8 front cover

Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 8 front and back cover


Volume eight of Gold, Guns and God tells the story of Swami Bhaktipada and his vision to de-Indianize, or Westernize, Krishna consciousness in an effort to make it more palatable to westerners. He incorporated various aspects of western and Christian culture into the temple liturgies and daily life of New Vrindaban residents, such as translating the Sanskrit and Bengali prayers into English for temple services, and asking disciples and followers to wear unisex orange-colored garments, something like Franciscan monks’ robes, not shaving the head nor beard for men. He also commissioned new tunes in a Western classical style for the English Vaishnava prayers, which were sung daily at temple services. A pipe organ was purchased, and a choir and temple orchestra was created, as well as a children’s choir, Gospel band, folk music ensembles, and even a rock band.

Bhaktipada advocated chanting the mahamantra in English and chanting silently in the dark. Women were initiated into the renounced order of sannyasa, an honor and responsibility previously only accorded to men. A life-size statue of Jesus Christ sitting in a lotus posture was commissioned and installed next to the murti of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the temple on Christmas Day 1988.

Bhaktipada also envisioned an interfaith City of God at New Vrindaban, and at eleven other locations around the world, in which all religions would be recognized and respected. For a few years New Vrindaban included about a dozen interfaith residents: Marion Catholics, a Unitarian minister, and others, who wanted to help build a City of God in West Virginia. The design of the Temple of Understanding also changed from a traditional South-Indian Dravidian style (1985) to a modernistic edifice with Native American influences (1990). In November 1990, a giant forty-foot tall statue of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wearing a turban and sitting in the lotus position was constructed in the proposed “Garden of the Spiritual Masters” behind the Palace.

Bhaktipada’s liturgical reforms and emphasis on interfaith preaching attracted some people to come and live at New Vrindaban, but they also alienated some residents and visitors who were attached to the Bengali-style which Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada advocated. The Interfaith Era at New Vrindaban lasted about eight years, from 1986 to 1994. The reasons for its dissolution will be described in detail in Gold, Guns and God, Vol. 9.


Chapter 77: The Great Experiment

    Indian culture reigned supreme at New Vrindaban from 1968-1985
    Uniting East and West
    A 19-point plan for uniting East and West
    Precedents for Bhaktipada’s reforms
    Early attempts to Christian-ize Krishna consciousness
    The Love Feast
    Interfaith preaching
    Prabhupada’s crown
    Christ and Krishna
    Krishna-izing the classics
    Shakespeare Krishna-ized
    Conversation with Tamal-Krishna Goswami about Krishna-izing the classics
    Vyasa-puja Gloria

Chapter 78: Uniting East and West

    Cultural conquest
    Music “must be related to God”
    Music in ISKCON
    Apple Record’s Govindam Prayers

Chapter 79: Krishna-izing the Classics

    (1) Bhaktipada was an expert preacher of Vaishnava philosophy
    (2) Bhaktipada was well-versed in Christianity
    (3) Bhaktipada appreciated music and the fine arts
    (4) Bhaktipada had an army of workers to help manifest his vision
    Krishna-izing the classics: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms

Chapter 80: The Krishna Chorale

    Vaishnava instrumental music: an oxymoron
    Bhaktipada speaks to me about starting a New Vrindaban choir and orchestra
    Birth of the New Vrindaban choir
    Jagad Guru
    Bhaktipada’s crown
    Choir rehearsals begin
    Handel’s Krishna-ized Messiah
    The choir’s first public performance
    Merry Christmas From Krishna
    First full-length concert
    “I can see your future, all bright and full of hope”
    Bhaktipada’s 50th Birthday Party
    Krishna-ized hymns
    Vyasa-puja celebration, September 1987
    “I want a chamber music concert at my house every Sunday!”
    The Krishna Chorale cassettes
    Moundsville Daily Echo review

Chapter 81: The Advent of Jesus Christ in the Temple

    Bhakti common to many religions
    The Aquarian Gospel
    Prabhupada said Christ could be worshiped in an ISKCON temple
    Jesus Christ appears at New Vrindaban
    New initiates receive English names
    New Vrindaban singers debut with Wheeling Symphony and Chorus
    Hayagriva’s hymn: “Holy Father, Holy Mother”

Chapter 82: Accordions, Organs and Music at the Palace

    Accordions debut at the Wheeling City of Lights parade
    Accordions on tour
    The organs
    The organ and ISKCON
    “I’m going to build the largest pipe organ in the world!”
    The first organ: electronic “home” model
    The second organ: Möller pipe organ
    The third organ: Allen electronic church organ
    The Möller organ is finally installed properly
    Organ specifications
    Placement of Möller organ made it sound sluggish and muddy
    The first Music at the Palace season
    The second Music at the Palace season
    Dasanudas Babaji, flutist
    Baroque trip plays Bach “Polka”

Chapter 83: The Temple Orchestra and Music Theater

    Brass, woodwinds, percussion
    Bhaktipada’s 53rd birthday party
    Music Theater
    Devotee's Journey to the City of God
    The Journey to America

Chapter 84: The Liturgies

    Bhaktipada preferred vernacular languages
    Bhaktivinoda Thakur recommended modifying forms of worship
    Vaishnavas historically preferred vernacular languages
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada approved of prayers in English
    Chanting the mahamantra in English
    Using clickers instead of beads to count mantras
    “The teacher has to consider time, candidate, and country”
    The morning service is translated into English
    Mudhakari devi dasi revises translation
    Hayagriva and Umapati Swami: master poets
    Hayagriva’s Gurudev Song
    Cathedral hymnals
    The morning service
    The noon service
    Bhoga-aroti: Krishna’s lunchtime pastimes
    All Creatures of Our God and King
    Siksastaka Prayers
    Krishna-ized hymns
    I Surrender All
    The evening service
    The Aroti of Sri Gaur Hari
    Blest Be the Tie that Binds
    English prayers chanted in all Bhaktipada’s temples
    English liturgies: “celestial and uplifting”
    The passing of Hayagriva Swami

Chapter 85: Ideational Music

    Three cyclical ages of humankind
    Bhagavad-gita: the three modes
    Ideational music darshan
    Ideational music choir commissioned

Chapter 86: Christian-Style Robes and Women sannyasis

    1987 Freedom Tour impresses on Bhaktipada the need for more acceptable garb
    “The garments we wear is a detail”
    The first Christian-style robe
    “Women’s day” at the temple
    Women can become gurus
    Bhaktipada’s first female sannyasa disciple
    Sannyasa for women
    First women’s sannyasi initiations
    ISKCON criticizes women sannyasa initiations
    Sannyasinis inspired

Chapter 87: Silent Meditation

    Three types of japa: oral, whispered and mental
    Silent japa difficult for beginners
    Vrindaban babajis chant silently
    Bhaktipada defends silent chanting
    Guided meditation
    Spiritual ecology

Chapter 88: Interfaith Preaching

    Rabbi Gelberman
    Brother Daniel
    Bhaktipada preaches interfaith
    Darshan on interfaith
    Interfaith in India
    Tapahpunja preaches interfaith in prison
    Native American influence at New Vrindaban
    Native American sacred rock lodge
    Marathon monks
    Seven principles of interfaith
    Prabhupada and interfaith
    Interfaith living
    New Vrindaban interfaith residents

Chapter 89: The Proposed Cathedral of the Holy Name

    Granite out, bronze in
    New design: “An unbelievable out-of-this-world temple”
    Cathedral of Healing: temple, hospital and health spa—all under one roof
    Cathedral of the Holy Name: Native American influence prominent

Chapter 90: The Interfaith Cities of God

    Bhaktipada’s dream of the City of God
    Millenarianism at New Vrindaban
    Official announcement sent to media
    County officials skeptical
    New Vrindaban holds sacrifice to stop alleged forthcoming earthquake
    New Vrindaban announces wall construction
    The “de-motorization” of New Vrindaban
    Three stages of purification
    Prabhupada instilled the millenarianism spirit in his disciples
    The twelve proposed Cities of God

Chapter 91: The City of God Media Circus

    The proposed Palace of God in Atlantic City
    The proposed City of God near Trenton, New Jersey
    Donald Trump invited
    The proposed City of God in the Poconos
    Press conference
    Overflow crowd attends town meeting
    Members of Cult Awareness Network speak
    Ku Klux Klansmen rally against the Krishnas
    Proposed Jim Thorpe City of God abandoned
    Bhaktipada’s real reason for coming to Jim Thorpe
    ISKCON leaders saw through Bhaktipada’s ruse
    Proposed Cities of God in Minnesota, Scranton Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona
    Scranton amusement park
    Proposed West Virginia State Penitentiary purchase
    Proposed Golden Gate Bridge purchase
    Promoting the City of God
    The City of God hardly peaceful
    New York City Sanctuary
    Brooklyn League of Devotees
    The Interfaith Sanctuary

Chapter 92: Bhaktipada’s Rule

    Concept of the Rule
    Devotees’ daily schedule
    40-foot-tall giant Prabhupada statue erected behind the Palace
    Monumental Jesus Christ statue planned
    Marriages of State
    Gay marriage?
    Bhaktipada’s reforms inspire New Vrindaban residents
    Bhaktipada’s reforms inspire Western guests
    Bhaktipada’s reforms inspire some Indian guests
    Bhaktipada’s reforms inspire at least one ISKCON devotee
    Bhaktipada’s reforms inspire interfaith visitors
    Uniting East and West


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).

One of Bhaktipada’s first attempts to “Christianize” Krishna consciousness was giving the statue of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at the Palace a crown and mace (December 1980). Crowns are sometimes placed on the heads of statues of Christian saints.

Cover of Bhaktipada’s second book, Christ and Krishna (1985), which attempted to show the similarities between Gaudiya-Vaishnavism and Christianity.

Cover of Bhaktipada’s third book, Eternal Love (1986), a Krishna-ization of Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471).

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada loved Apple Records’ 45-RPM record: Radha Krishna Temple, although it was arranged mostly in a western rock style, with only hints of traditional Indian instruments. The song for Greeting of the Deities is actually in a soft rock style, yet it brought tears to Prabhupada’s eyes. Prabhupada ordered that this record be played in ISKCON temples during Greeting of the Deities. This strongly suggests that Prabhupada did not mind if Western music was played during temple services.

Bhaktipada reads from his Vyasa-Puja book at his 49th birthday celebration (September 1, 1986).

In 1986, western-style classical music began to become more prominent in the community. Here Hrishikesh leads the newly-formed New Vrindaban choir from the electronic keyboard during Bhaktipada’s 49th birthday celebration held behind his new house on the hill between McCreary Ridge Road and the Old Vrindaban Farm (September 1, 1986).

Hrishikesh speaks through the microphone at Bhaktipada’s 49th birthday celebration (September 1, 1986).

Bhaktipada received a beautiful crown and scepter crafted by Ishani devi dasi on his 49th birthday celebration (September 1, 1986).

Mother Ishani (Ellen Schramm) working in the Jewelry Room (undated).

In the summer of 1986, Bhaktipada’s siksa musician disciple from Montreal, Mahavirya dasa (Robert Lafond), came with his family to live at New Vrindaban to start a gurukula choir and a western music program, although his endeavor was short lived.

Members of the New Vrindaban choir: Dhananjaya, Japa-Ananda, Dhruva.

The first full-length New Vrindaban choir concert. Front row: Ragamathani, Giri-Suta, Madhurya-Lila, Sumati. Choirmaster Hrishikesh directs from the electronic keyboard (January 5, 1987).

Members of the New Vrindaban choir: Janesvari, Shyama, Janaki, Bhavisya, Ragamathani.

Brihat-Mrdanga dasi sings He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands at Bhaktipada’s 50th birthday party (September 7, 1987).

Visiting flutist Miranda Krenzer, Hrishikesh on piano, and soprano Ragamathani perform a Krishna-ized version of Mozart’s motet Exsultate, jubilate at Bhaktipada’s 50th birthday party (September 7, 1987).

Hrishikesh performs pada-puja and bathes his spiritual master’s feet with yogurt, while Bhaktipada’s German shepherd guard dog Gudakesh enjoys affectionate petting from gurukula boys during Bhaktipada’s 50th birthday party (September 7, 1987).

The cover of the cassette tape Jagad-Guru by the Krishna Chorale (1988).

The cover of the cassette tape Blessed Assurance by the Krishna Chorale (1988).

New Vrindaban’s Minister of Music from 1986 to 1993, Hrishikesh dasa (1988).

The City of God Children’s Choir—with director Hrishikesh—visits Washington D. C. and sings on the front steps of the Capitol (1988).

The City of God Children’s Choir, formal portrait behind Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold (1989). Adults include Hrishikesh (director) and assistants: Dhirodatta, unknown Bhaktin, and Bhavisya.

Gaura-Shakti and Mahaprasad carry the murti of Jesus Christ to his vyasasana in the New Vrindaban temple (Christmas Day, 1988).

The advent of the murti of Jesus Christ in the New Vrindaban temple (Christmas Day, 1988).

Jesus Christ in the New Vrindaban temple (undated).

For New Vrindaban’s first twenty years, traditional Bengali-style music was the norm. Here Hrishikesh accompanies kirtan on the accordion with a visiting Indian devotee on the mrdanga at New Vrindaban (c. 1984-85).

The first performance of the City of God Accordion Ensemble, at the Wheeling City of Lights Parade (November 17, 1989). The accordionists and bass drum player led, followed by a Jeep pulling a float with the Swan Boat. The temperature was cold and it began drizzling. Our fingers grew cold and stiff and we could barely move our fingers on the keys, but we plodded on to the end of the parade route.

The City of God Accordion Ensemble—back row: Purity Swami, Dhirodatta, Thakur, Kripamaya, Hrishikesh, Dhruva; first row: Jamini, Dutiful Rama, Sanat-Kumar, Vishvareta, True Peace (c. 1989).

The City of God Accordion Quintet in Prabhupada’s Palace: Bhavisya, Dutiful Rama, Thakur, Hrishikesh and Dhruva (c. 1990).

Spontaneous kirtan in front of the RVC temple (c. late 1980s).

Cellist Susan Kemper performed several times for Music at the Palace.

World-famous cellist Cecylia Barczyk performs at New Vrindaban (June 9, 1991).

Flutist Tessa Brinckman, harpsichordist Henry Doktorski, and cellist Susan Kemper perform at Music at the Palace (October 13, 1991).

Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami practices on the Allen electronic organ, Bhaktipada’s house (Spring 1988).

The Möller organ console, various pipes, windchests and blowers lie helter-skelter in the RVC temple room (c. November 1990).

Organ builder Joseph Humpe and his assistant assemble the Möller organ in the RVC temple room (c. November 1990).

New Vrindaban’s Minister of Music, Hrishikesh dasa, at the Allen organ console (1990). Photo by Kumar (Craig Thompson).

New Vrindaban Minister of Music Hrishikesh, cantor and harpist Bhavisya, and accordionist and timpanist Dutiful-Rama at the console of the Allen electronic organ. Photo from New Vrindaban World, Vol. 1, No. 1 (February 1990).

The City of God Temple Orchestra (c. 1990).

Cantors Adi-Purusha Swami and Chaitanya devi dasi lead the singing, accompanied by the City of God Temple Orchestra (c. 1990).

The brass section of the City of God Temple Orchestra: Gaura-Shakti plays baritone horn, and Vishvatamukha and Sudhana play trumpets. Also: Santa-Kumar and Bhavisya play accordions, Hari-Kirtan plays orchestra bells (c. 1990).

Bhavisya devi dasi plays harp and Dhirodatta plays double bass (c. 1990).

Dhruva plays accordion (c. 1990).

Bhakti-Joy plays accordion (c. 1990).

Sita-Love plays cello (c. 1990).

Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami plays harpsichord (c. 1990).

Brihan-Naradiya-Purana plays harp (c. 1990).

Hera-Panchami plays double bass and Dutiful-Rama plays accordion (c. 1990).

Hari-Kirtan plays chimes (c. 1990).

Gita-Govinda plays orchestra bells (c. 1990).

As a rule, traditional Bengali-style kirtan was never prohibited, and was in fact prominently featured during Vaishnava festivals such as Janmastami when hundreds of Indian Hindu visitors packed the temple. Here Hrishikesh leads kirtan from the harmonium while Rupanuga plays mrdanga at the RVC temple (c. 1990).

The Prince of Evil (played by Krishna Truthful) attacks our hero Devotee (played by Rupa-Vilas) in the musical by Hrishikesh titled Devotee’s Journey to the City of God (October 6, 1990).

After enduring all hardships and remaining true to the straight and narrow path, Devotee finally reaches the City of God while the City of God residents—Sikhi-Mahiti devi dasi, Chaitanya devi dasi and Ariel—joyfully welcome him (October 6, 1990).

Curtain calls—Sikhi-Mahiti devi dasi, Chaitanya devi dasi, Rupa-Vilasa, Ariel, Bhavisya devi dasi and Brihan-Naradiya-Purana devi dasi (October 6, 1990).

Rupa-Vilas plays Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the second musical by Hrishikesh titled The Journey to America (November 14 1990).

Hayagriva proofreading in his office (undated). Hayagriva wrote several excellent poetic English translations of Sanskrit and Bengali prayers. He also wrote or Krishna-ized several original hymns, such as Holy Father, Holy Mother and Hare Krishna über alles.

Hayagriva began wasting away from bone cancer, I think early in 1989. At this time he lived in the temple room at Bhaktipada’s house, as I recall. Whenever I came up to Bhaktipada’s house to see my spiritual master, a few times a week, I used to visit with Hayagriva as he lay on a hospital bed. In this photo, we see Hayagriva in wheelchair, Steve (his caretaker), Bhaktipada and myself. Hayagriva passed away on August 31, 1989, two days before his 50th birthday.

Umapati wrote several excellent poetic English translations of Sanskrit hymns. Here he and Kuladri take Bhaktipada to the RVC temple room soon after he was attacked by a deranged devotee in October 1985 (photo c. November 1985).

Cover of the “Cathedral of Understanding Hymnal.”

New Vrindaban residents chant and dance enthusiastically during the noon service to the accompaniment of organ and timpani.

Premarnava and Bhavisya lead the Gospel Band, performing Krishna-ized gospel music at New Vrindaban festivals.

Chakravarti Swami enjoyed singing and playing the electronic keyboard. Here he leads a kirtan on the driveway at Bhaktipada’s new house.

Guitarist/singer/song-writer Peaceful Swami often performed at festivals.

Guitarist/singer/song-writer Kripa-Maya also performed at festivals. Years later he got a music degree from West Liberty State College and wrote, directed and produced a musical based on the Ramayana, which was performed in Wheeling.

New Vrindaban’s rock band “Life Force” performs on an outdoor stage at a summer festival while a four-armed Vishnu deity watches from behind. Band founder, Chakravarti Swami (with beard), stands at right (November 2, 1992).

Dutiful-Rama plays electric guitar in New Vrindaban’s rock band (November 2, 1992).

Bhaktipada said he wanted to root out all sources of passion and ignorance in New Vrindaban and replace them with goodness. He asked devotees to give up driving their cars in the community and ride bicycles or horses instead. He purchased a horse-drawn buggy which he used for a time (until he got in a bad accident) to ride around the community. Here he gives his horse a tasty treat (undated).

Bhaktipada first wore a Franciscan-style monk’s robe during his 50th birthday celebration on September 7, 1987. Soon many New Vrindaban residents began wearing the robes, such as Dhirodatta dasa (David Soliday) and his ashram of five gurukula boys.

New Vrindaban’s first female sannyasis: Ishvara Swami (Ilavati devi dasi/Evelyne Sheffey) and Ananta Swami (Adhara devi dasi/Elba Noriega) (November 16, 1987). In time, Bhaktipada initiated about a dozen women into the renounced order.

Artist’s painting of the proposed Great Temple of Understanding at New Vrindaban in South-Indian Dravidian style (c. 1985).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed Cathedral of Healing in mixed style (partly South-Indian, partly modernistic) with glass spire and glass base: temple, hospital and health spa—all under one roof (1988).

The temple design evolves further and incorporates organic and Native-American design elements: Artist’s rendition of the proposed Cathedral of the Holy Name (c. 1989).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed Cathedral of the Holy Name (c. 1990).

Painting of Bhaktipada and the proposed Cathedral of the Holy Name (c. 1990).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Artist’s rendition of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (c. 1988).

Model of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (April 25, 1988).

Model of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (April 25, 1988).

Model of the proposed City of God at New Vrindaban (April 25, 1988).

Paramahansa-Krishna Swami served as a primary spokesman for New Vrindaban during the interfaith City of God era.

Rabbi Gelberman speaks to New Vrindaban residents (including Radhanath Swami and Ananta Swami) and visitors on the lawn near the New Vrindaban temple (undated).

Bhaktipada with Rabbi Gelberman and Sheik Din at a New Vrindaban interfaith conference (undated).

Brother Daniel Wright visits from the Padanaram Community in Indiana.

Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha visits from her rural retreat “Friendship Village” near Summerfield, Ohio.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the founder of Church Universal and Triumphant at the Royal Teton Ranch outside of Yellowstone National Park, near Gardiner, Montana, also spoke at New Vrindaban. Bhaktipada and I especially liked her theory about styles of music and their relative effects on people according to the modes of nature.

Imama Al-Hajj Talib ’Abdur-Rashid, the founding Amir of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Inc. visits New Vrindaban.

Lakota Chief Charles Chipps led sacred rock lodges at New Vrindaban.

Bhaktipada’s Indian disciple Pradyumna dresses as Lord Krishna and massages Bhaktipada’s feet during his 53rd birthday celebration (September 3, 1990).

Hrishikesh’s official “New Vrindaban League of Devotees Interfaith Cities of God International” certificate in which he vows to follow The Rule of the Order of the Holy Name and is therefore duly authorized as a Member of the New Vrindaban City of God; signed by President Devamrita Swami and Acharya Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada (Gaura Purnima—March 21, 1989).

The dedication of the giant statue of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, with Bhaktipada front and center, surrounded by his disciples and followers, on the 23rd anniversary of Prabhupada’s disappearance (November 14, 1990).

Hrishikesh and Shyama dasi were married on June 4, 1986. I believe Bhaktipada arranged this marriage in part because he wanted to unite the east and the west by getting his American and Indian disciples married to each other. Pradyumna from India and Lilavati from the United States were also married about the same time and serve as another example of an international interracial arranged marriage.

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