Killing for Krishna
The Danger of Deranged Devotion
a book by
Henry Doktorski
© 2018 by Henry Doktorski

One Star Model P .45 hand gun
Cover image: a One Star Model P .45 hand gun, the same gun that killed Sulochan.

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Acclamations
Summary
Contents
Excerpts
Images

Purchase Killing for Krishna

Henry Doktorski’s landmark 660-page non-fiction book about the 1986 murder of the former New Vrindaban resident and Hare Krishna member Steven Bryant (Sulochan dasa) can be purchased in several ways:

(1) Save money and purchase directly from the author: Send a check or money order for $19.99 (includes shipping to anywhere in the United States) to the author at PO Box 893343, Temecula, California, 92589. Credit card payments must go through PayPal. Send PayPal payment to the author at the e-mail address listed below. Canadian and overseas customers can pay with Western Union and must inquire directly from the author regarding shipping prices.

(2) In USA, purchase from Amazon.com.

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(5) In France, purchase from Amazon.fr.

(5) In Spain, purchase from Amazon.es.

(6) In Germany, purchase from Amazon.de.

(7) Kindle readers, purchase from Amazon Kindle.

(8) In India, purchase the Kindle version from Amazon.in.

Acclamations

Killing for Krishna—The Danger of Deranged Devotion by Henry Doktorski is a nuanced, intelligent, and impeccably researched work on events and developments which continue to haunt ISKCON to this very day. The author writes from a unique perspective: he has methodically studied the Keith Gordon Ham/Swami Bhaktipada Archive for fifteen years, and as a former inhabitant of the New Vrindaban Community, he is both personal witness and chronologist of most of the events described in this book. Additionally, and in contrast to former accounts of the decline of the New Vrindaban Community, Doktorski refrains from oversimplifying an inherently complex narrative. Rather, he acknowledges ambiguity where appropriate and clarity where it is possible. The outcome, then, is an extremely well written, and important and timely work—and while it is foreseeable that its publication may not be welcome by everyone within ISKCON, one would hope that it nonetheless will be instrumental in opening an honest and unbiased reflection within a movement which so far has been somewhat reluctant to meet up to its past and responsibility.

—Professor Dr. Alexander Batthyany, the Viktor Frankl Chair for Philosophy and Psychology at the International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein


Killing for Krishna—The Danger of Deranged Devotion will go a long way to reconcile ISKCON’s most notorious crime, the murder of Sulochan dasa (Steven Bryant). Henry Doktorski bases his treatise on years of research. In the spirit of the biblical quote, “The truth will set you free,” Killing for Krishna offers ISKCON followers the truth about their organization’s dark history.

—Nori J. Muster (Nandini devi dasi), former disciple of Ramesvara Maharaja, executive secretary to Mukunda Goswami in the ISKCON Public Affairs Office, associate editor for ISKCON World Review, and author of Betrayal of the Spirit (University of Illinois Press)


5 stars. Want the truth about perhaps the most pivotal event in the latter day history of the Hare Krishna movement? Researched to a degree that defies the imagination and painfully objective, as well as completely free from mudslinging and sectarian agenda! This account goes miles beyond Monkey On a Stick in regard to the facts and strenuously avoids its sensationalism. Equally interesting to Krishna devotees and non-devotees. Despite the grisly subject matter, the book presents Krishna consciousness as it is. The book is as independent as anyone could want—it was not filtered through any institutional leadership and represents no one’s vested interest. All my respects to all the devotees who contributed. Srila Prabhupada said that brahmanas adhere to truth. This book cannot, therefore, be displeasing to him.

—Bhakta Eric Johanson (formerly Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami), former ISKCON member and former disciple of Hamsadutta Maharaja, Moab, Utah, from a Customer Review at Amazon


Primarily Killing for Krishna—The Danger of Deranged Devotion is based upon meticulous observation, research, and reporting. Henry Doktorski has kept his eyes on the evildoers for just what they were (and probably still are), and he exposes them by hitting his targets smack dab on the sweet spot. As formerly an insider within that cult, he knew all of those good fellas. He thus makes such deranged practitioners of pseudo-bhakti uncomfortable in his book, a discomfort they all most fully deserve. The manuscript is cross-referenced and presents different possible explanations for many secondary but related events from different perspectives, but without losing sight of the chief thread, viz., the ruthless assassination of a dissident who was ultimately proven right. This voluminous work is a real page-turner, as there is enough tension created in each sub-header (of each chapter) to keep the reader interested and intrigued. How could it be otherwise? The whole account is loaded with deadly accurate descriptions of a peculiar cult combination of intrigue, treachery, and betrayal—the worse variety of the triad. This great book has multi-episode television series written all over it.

—Kailasa Candra dasa, ACBSP (Mark Goodwin), Vaishnava intellectual, thinker, sidereal astrologer, author and founder of The Vaishnava Foundation. (Jasper, Arkansas)


5 stars. The missing years of Radhanath Swami in [his autobiography] The Journey Home exposed. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Superbly researched and well documented sequel to Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas, by Henry Doktorski (Hrishikesh dasa). The involvement of insidious Radhanath Swami, the author of semi-fictional The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami in Sulochan dasa’s murder laid threadbare. Turns out that the Swami is well and truly a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and should prepare for his “Journey to the Penitentiary” (preferably in a cell next to killer Thomas Drescher’s) in this lifetime and to purgatory in the next. Count on Radhanath Swami’s brain-dead bots (not unlike Kirtanananda’s) to swamp this page with 1 stars without even procuring or reading this book.

—G, from a Customer Review at Amazon


Hrish, I have finished your remarkable book and I have to say it is a job well done, sir. It appears you have left no stone unturned. For someone such as myself who not only indirectly lived through those times but has heard much of the information before, it really puts the pieces of the puzzle together effectively. I found it to be thorough, objective, and compelling. It was obviously no small task extracting info from people who were/are criminally insane, chronic liars, would often change their stories, would be jacked-up on some stimulant(s), and who desperately wished to maintain some image or reputation either in the secular or Vaishnava society. The only term I can think of for your effort to compile 108 chapters of this sort of info in your forthcoming biography of Kirtanananda Swami and history of New Vrindaban is MONUMENTAL. Keep up the good work. I think many people will very much enjoy your book as I did.

—Anonymous godbrother of the author and New Vrindaban resident


Dear Henry, Your book speaks for itself. It is a cleansing mechanism for anyone who has been associated with Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Because you have been so strenuously objective, it is completely non-sectarian. I see this as perhaps its greatest strength. It is very hard to associate it with one camp or another, although I can think of some who will seize on it for their self-interest. Anyway, devotees need to again become cleansed of the misapplications of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings that lead them to consider such bare truths as offensive. Many are so blind or ignorantly attached to some misplaced idea of anything hinting of criticism as blasphemy that they will be fearful of the book. Truth thus becomes the enemy of such people. How they can consider themselves fixed up devotees is a great feat of mental gymnastics. Unfortunately deviant leaders of so-called Krishna consciousness have driven many into such a ‘spiritual’ cul-de-sac. Srila Prabhupada used to use the example of the owl being afraid of the sunshine. Those who would fear the book thus practice an owl-like form of something that is only so-called Krishna consciousness.

    adharmam dharmam iti ya
    manyate tamasavrta
    sarvarthan viparitams ca
    buddhih sa partha tamasi

    That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion,
    under the spell of illusion and darkness,
    and strives always in the wrong direction,
    O Partha, is in the mode of ignorance. (Bhagavad-gita 18.32)

—Bhakta Eric Johanson (formerly Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Swami), former ISKCON member and former disciple of Hamsadutta Maharaja, Moab, Utah


(1) Is this book relevant? (2) Should ISKCON devotees read this book? (3) Are the conclusions presented in this book truth or reality?

(1) Although the events described in the book happened thirty years ago, the book is very relevant because it talks about a current leader of ISKCON, one of the most popular gurus in ISKCON. I heard about this murder many years ago. I knew there was a devotee, Sulochan, who was killed. I knew he was killed by Tirtha dasa, who is currently in jail. This information is available on the Internet. What makes this book different? This book describes the whole background, the whole arena, in which this murder happened. It describes the people who were involved. It describes the way of thinking of devotees at that time. It describes the arguments presented by the conspirators of this murder. It’s a very detailed account of one very important event in the history of the Krishna consciousness movement. . . . I think this book is very relevant.

(2) Is this book good to read? Should we read it? Is there anything we can learn from it? Sure. There is one very prominent deviation that is currently still present in ISKCON and that deviation is called [the] “Guru-List” theory. . . . The origins of this “Guru-List” theory—which is currently still present in ISKCON—and the consequences that you can have with this kind of crazy blind following; these consequences are described in this book. . . . The same principles are present even today in ISKCON. So it’s a very good book to read.

(3) Now, let’s talk about the conclusions of the book. Basically, in a subtle way, [the] author of the book claims that Radhanath Swami was actively involved in Sulochan’s murder, and that he’s criminally implicated up to his neck. . . . You should read this book and get yourself educated.

—Hanuman dasa (Hrvoje Marjanovic), Zagreb, Croatia, from Review of book Killing for Krishna by Henry Doktorski on YouTube


5 stars. Excellent, important, timely. This book is an incredibly well researched, nuanced and intelligent treatise on one of the more notorious chapters of ISKCON’s history. In contrast to earlier accounts (such as Monkey on a Stick), this book offers an insider’s view on ISKCON, New Vrindavan and Swami Bhaktipada. Indeed, Doktorski references sources only an insider can have access to (he had access to the Keith Gordon Ham/Swami Bhaktipada Archives), and the story he tells is a story to be heard. All of this, and the lucid style of the author, adds up to a highly recommended book—for both devotees, former devotees, anyone ever touched by, or interested in ISKCON, and, above all, for researchers. A new standard work on ISKCON and its history. Perhaps, just perhaps, this book will ignite the open dialogue the movement so sorely needs. Let’s hope.

—Zinnober, from a Customer Review at Amazon Germany


Respected pranams from ex-ISKCON member.

Sir, I received diksa from Bhagavan’s “Prince,” Brian Tibbits (Indradyumna Swami). Was personal secretary to Indradyumna Swami. Left in 2000. I’m half-way through your amazing book, Killing for Krishna. I have to honestly tell you that I’m on page 242; in 10 hours almost straight reading. You sir, do certainly have cojones. I really appreciate your work and already feeling like it’s healing; not only my wounds but many, many more souls across our planet.

Perhaps I could assist with your upcoming work in any way. I can help your mission by distributing your book in Europe. I was very good sankirtan devotee. We need to cover Poland first, Germany since I’m here presently and then Russia. I speak fluent Russian. It’s my great honour to be at your side on this quest. I have no wife or children. Single warrior, on your side. You have awoken your sleeping soldiers, prabhu. Again, I’m by your side. Will recruit more sincere soldiers soon. Already spread message to ex-ISKCON members in Poland. However, on a serious matter, please take care of yourself. You are most welcome to come here to North Germany. I’m surrounded by very few good friends. Deep regards and please kindly keep in touch. Om shanti.

—Former disciple of Indradyumna Swami


5 stars. Fair, balanced and very thorough.

You would think this is a screenplay for a murder mystery or mafia movie, but sadly it is all real-life. There is so much on the Internet describing this time in the Hare Krishna movement that it is nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction. This book does the best job so far. All sides are covered; no one is short-changed. Everyone’s story is heard and the reader is left to make up their own mind. As far as criticisms, some aspects should have more details given, such as the murders prior to the main character, but the author did a very good job nonetheless. Really eye-opening stuff about the people who inherited and almost squandered the legacy of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.

—KingSonal, from a Customer Review at Amazon


5 stars. Informative, accurate, well written, and powerful book! Beware of false gurus! And false book reviews too!

Informative, accurate, well written, and powerful book! Many accolades to Henry Doktorski for the courage to do this work. Definitely worth reading, especially if you have anything to do with the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON). Unfortunately one high level Krishna leader will likely spend upwards of $250,000 to slander this book in various ways (on Amazon and Google) as he has thousands of disciples who will leave poor reviews. This same person launched a similar campaign to boost sales of his own book(s) so that they would reach the best sellers lists. That being said, take each single 5 star review to count for about 500, just to level the playing field to some degree.

What’s even more interesting is that I’ve heard this man in question lecture and he states, “I have no money.” This is further dishonesty, to add to what is in the book. He has millions but the rationalization of institution gurus alongside him is that the money is Krishna’s (God’s) money. Therefore they can claim that they have no money. Meanwhile some of them have well over a million in the bank, which is against many scriptural injunctions for sannyasis (renounced monks).

Anyway, this is a wonderful book accounting the details of the famous New Vrindavan murder. I hope it will lead to a further level of institutional integrity and honesty among the leaders of ISKCON. When it comes to ‘preaching’ or education, Srila Prabhupada, the guru of the Hare Krishnas once explained that “preaching is like throwing a brick into a pack of dogs. The one who gets hit yelps the loudest.” What this analogy means is that the person whom truth hurts the most is most likely the one to go on a campaign against it.

—Vaishnava Dasa, from a Customer Review at Amazon


Summary

The 1986 murder of Steven Bryant (Sulochan dasa) was arguably the darkest moment in the fifty-two year history of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—a new branch of the Chaitanya-Bengali-Vaishnava religion founded in New York City in 1966 by an Indian spiritual teacher and guru, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977). A mere nine years after the disappearance of this beloved spiritual father, one of their own was hunted down and assassinated. This brutal killing was achieved through a cooperative effort by “spiritual” leaders, senior managers and hit men enforcers from West Virginia, Ohio, and Southern California ISKCON temples.

The murdered whistle-blower had discovered many secrets and threatened to reveal to the world the immoral acts and criminal dealings of a set of self-appointed, illegitimate successors to Swami Prabhupada: a corrupt oligarchy of new ISKCON “gurus.” He had also, perhaps foolishly, advocated using violence against the gurus to evict them from their posts. ISKCON leaders took his threats seriously, and they hunted down and assassinated the passionate reformer. How did the peaceful, shaven-headed, saffron-clad Hare Krishna devotees regress from their blissful activities of chanting, dancing, and selling incense in the streets to this?

The author, himself a former ISKCON devotee, probes deeply into the disturbing direction of a new religious movement. In this book, he exposes the danger of philosophical errors and deranged devotion that practically ensured that bloody tragedy would eventually occur. The author has engaged in years of painstaking research by poring over tens of thousands of pages of trial transcripts, newspaper and magazine articles, ISKCON publications, and confidential ISKCON documents, while also interviewing dozens of eyewitnesses. His effort culminates in a thoroughly-engaging and extremely well-documented thesis exposing the hidden inside story of the conspiracy to murder Steven Bryant, including its genesis, development, blunders involved in it, execution, cover up, as well as a stunning aftermath after the deed was done.

The reader may wonder, “Can this happen again in ISKCON?” The answer, unfortunately, must be in the affirmative unless measures are immediately instituted to discourage the abuses and atrocities connected to mindless worship of unworthy, bogus gurus, which often characterizes charismatic cults.

Contents

Dedication
Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Thorn in Bhaktipada’s Side
Chapter 2: The Kirtanananda Exposé
Chapter 3: The Guru Reform Movement
Chapter 4: Preaching from the Protection of a Jail Cell
Chapter 5: An Attack at the Heart of ISKCON
Chapter 6: He Was a Very, Very Different Person
Chapter 7: The Cast of Characters
Chapter 8: Murder Conspiracy
Chapter 9: The Keystone Cops Surveillance Team
Chapter 10: The Demon Jailed
Chapter 11: The Murder
Chapter 12: The Cavalry Comes to the Rescue
Chapter 13: The Rats Jump Off the Sinking Ship
Chapter 14: It’s Persecution, Pure and Simple
Chapter 15: Trials and Tribulations
Chapter 16: The Cover Up Continues
Acknowledgments
Timeline of Important Events
References
Endnotes

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Excerpts from Killing For Krishna

Bhaktipada: A Star in ISKCON
Kirtanananda Swami Ruled New Vrindaban with an Iron Fist
Steven Becomes Sulochan
Subhas Chandra Bose: Indian Patriot
Janmastami and Tulsi
Ksatriyas Confident
The Murder

Images from Killing for Krishna

“These rogues [so-called acharyas] are the most dangerous elements in human society. . . . These pseudo-religionists are heading toward the most obnoxious place in the universe [hell] after completion of their spiritual master business, which they conduct simply for sense gratification.”—His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), the Founder/Acharya of ISKCON. Photo taken during his fourth and final visit to New Vrindaban (June 1976).

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

“Since I was approaching Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s topmost representative, Srila Prabhupada, for guidance and inspiration, I knew the outcome would be auspicious, whatever it was.”—Sulochan dasa Brahmacari (Steven Bryant) on the altar offering aroti, perhaps at Detroit ISKCON (late 1970s).

“We just became friends. Everybody liked him [Sulochan]. He was just a very affable kind of guy.”—Puranjana (Tim Lee), long-time critic of the zonal acharyas and Sulochan’s life-long best friend (passport photo, early 1980s).

“Look at me now. My heart is devoid of life, and I’m simply the servant of my tongue, belly and genitals—literally a dead body flapping.”—Sulochan dasa Adhikari with his two sons, Nimai and Sarva (c. 1983)

“We [Sulochan and I] were ill matched. Definitely no attraction on my side of the equation. I had no idea what a fiasco it [our marriage] would turn into.”—Sulochan’s divorced wife, Jamuna dasi (Jane Seward), holding her first child by her new husband, Raghunath (Ralph Seward) (c. 1988).

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.”

“If Tirtha [Thomas Drescher] takes the whole thing, and no other boys get caught, then he’ll go back to Godhead at the end of this lifetime.”—“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).

“I felt I had to either kill myself, kill Bhaktipada, or leave.”—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 (undated).

“Every doctor that I talked to said it [the blow on my head] was enough to kill a hundred men. When I was attacked, Krishna absolutely incarnated to protect me. The brain scan, the X-ray, taken just after the accident, showed an unmistakable image of [the half-man/half-lion avatar] Lord Nrsimhadeva [the Great Protector of the devotees]. Krishna incarnated to protect me from the blows of that man.”—Swami Bhaktipada, speaking of the MRI image of a cross section of his brain, which, when turned upside down, resembles a ghastly face.

“The assailant [Triyogi] was a crazy madman . . . who had been influenced by Sulochan.”—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.

“Mark my words! I’m going to ruin Ham’s reputation, and if that doesn’t work, I'll use a high-powered rifle! And I wouldn’t mind going to prison for it.”—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).

“This guy [Sulochan] is getting out of control. It would be nice if someone would silence him once and for all.”—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).

“We have to finish this thing. As long as that guy [Sulochan] is walking around, he’s a threat to Bhaktipada. He won’t be thinking anyone’s after him out in California. At least no one from New Vrindaban. If something happens out there, there won’t be as much heat on us. In time the whole thing will blow over. If everything runs smoothly, they won’t be able to prove anything.”—Kuladri (Arthur Villa), New Vrindaban’s temple president, known as “Number Two.” Here officiating as a priest at a New Vrindaban fire sacrifice (1984).

When asked if he had been “involved with the killing of Sulochan,” Tapahpunja Swami boasted, “I engineered it. It was completely Vedic. He offended Bhaktipada.”—His Holiness Tapahpunja Swami (Terry Sheldon), the president of Cleveland ISKCON, at New Vrindaban (undated).

“That son of a bitch [Sulochan] is . . . going to have to be killed, and I am the one that is going to do it.”—Tirtha (Thomas A. Drescher), New Vrindaban’s chief “enforcer” and hit man, in court (undated).

“Even if Kirtanananda Swami had . . . full sex with ten thousand children, he’s still the guru of the universe, and if you don’t accept that, you’re going to hell.”—Janmastami (John Sinkowski), Tirtha’s partner in crime, chanting japa on the sidewalk in the front of the RVC temple (September 1991).

“Gorby was more fired up to destroy Sulochan than any of the devotees.” Russell “Randall” Clark Gorby, retired steel worker, longtime “friend” of New Vrindaban, vocal advocate for the murder of Sulochan, and government informant (undated).

“What was I supposed to do under those circumstances? We were convinced that Bhaktipada was a pure devotee and that Sulochan was determined to murder him, so we thought we were obligated to stop some demon from killing a pure devotee by any means possible.”—His Holiness Radhanath Swami (Richard Slavin), “gentle and humble” sannyasi dearly loved by the Brijabasis (undated).

“Radhanath Swami won’t like all this coming out. Too bad. I had to be responsible for my transgressions [and go to prison]. He should do the same.”—Dharmatma (Dennis Gorrick), Director of New Vrindaban’s multi-million dollar “Scam-Kirtan” panhandling operation. Image from Brijabasi Spirit (January-February 1977).

“He [Sulochan] should be transmigrated to his next body.”—“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).

“My guru, Ramesvara, said: ‘K. K., if you ever see Sulochan, call New Vrindaban.’ And because I heard that Sulochan may frequent the area, I kept an eye out for his vehicle.”—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)

“They are constantly watching me. I know some morning I will go to sleep and not wake up.”—Sulochan (undated)

“Upon my death, that’s when everything will unfold. When I die, then everyone will see.” Sulochan’s lifeless body at the Los Angeles morgue (May 22, 1986).

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