The Danger of Deranged Devotion
a book by
© 2018 by Henry Doktorski
Purchase Killing for Krishna
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:
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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 Vrindaban-Chandra Swami), former ISKCON member and former disciple of Hamsadutta Maharaja, Moab, Utah, from a Customer Review at Amazon
5 stars. 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), from a Customer Review at Amazon
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
(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
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
5 Stars. Detailed Journey to the Past.
Killing for Krishna tells the story of the most notorious crime in the history of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON): the murder of Steven Bryant, aka Sulochan, on May 22, 1986. The murder conspiracy grew out of a culture of violence in New Vrindaban, the largest ISKCON center in America, located in the back hills of West Virginia. The guru and king of New Vrindaban was Kirtanananda Swami, also known as Bhaktipada, and whose real name was Keith Ham. Over the twenty-six years of Kirtanananda’s reign, none of the ISKCON leaders anywhere in the world could stand up to him.
ISKCON has had a half-dozen murders and other crimes, but the Sulochan murder stands out because it was a carefully planned crime, for which the gunman, the guru Kirtanananda, and others served time in prison. The gunman is still serving a life sentence.
Doktorski traces every thread of the murder conspiracy, beginning when Sulochan joined ISKCON, to when he is murdered, on to how the conspirators fared in court, and ending with the aftermath up to the present day. Much of the later history, as cited in e-mails and other online exchanges, describes the internal bickering over who was the most to blame for the murder.
Doktorski concludes the book with a warning about deranged devotion, citing tape-recorded conversations and published statements, where the ISKCON founder explained why it was okay to kill for Krishna. He never advocated killing anyone, but in his teachings, he compared it to soldiers killing for a country’s military. If killing is authorized, it’s okay. That leaves the question, who can authorize a murder for Krishna? Fundamentalist religious cults often adopt twisted understandings of their own dogma, and given a deranged leader like Kirtanananda, and blindly devoted followers like he had up to the end of his life, the Sulochan murder makes perfect sense.
Doktorski concludes: “the tragic yet heroic saga of Sulochan serves to enlighten us as to why we should not encourage nor participate in those charismatic cults. Instead, to whatever extent possible, we can work to curtail those cults from ever again gaining the momentum they did in the nineteen-eighties.”
Killing for Krishna is just a slice of the ISKCON history Doktorski plans to document. He published this story first, since it answers a lot of questions about ISKCON’s controversial past. Unfortunately, the murder, and the culture behind it, remain taboo subjects within the ISKCON organization. By maintaining silence, they risk their reputation because the truth has its way of coming out. For one thing, books like Doktorski’s will not let ISKCON completely forget.
Killing for Krishna relies on court records, media accounts, interviews, and the author’s own memory, since he lived through that era as a Kirtanananda disciple in New Vrindaban. The book includes a sixteen-page, detailed New Vrindaban timeline that covers the years 1974 to 2018. People who grew up in New Vrindaban or lived there during the seventies and eighties would gain new insights into their own experience from reading this book, and studying the timeline.
—Nori J. Muster, former associate editor of ISKCON World Review and author of Betrayal of the Spirit, from a Customer Review at Amazon
5 Stars. Filled in many gaps!
Well researched, written and better than most fictional crime thrillers. Authenticated testimonies leave no doubts. Filled in many gaps and exposes just how many were aware of, or were actually involved with this and other crimes. The irony is that now many of these criminals are controlling the Hare Krishna society.
—Bala, from a Customer Review at Amazon
5 stars. Thanks for writing this book! I look forward to reading your next books on the Zonal Acharya System and the full biography of Kirtanananda Swami. Actually, despite the difficult truths, Killing For Krishna increased my love for Krishna, ISKCON, Prabhupada, even Sulochan dasa, Tirtha Swami, Radhanath Swami and Kirtanananda Swami.
As Prabhupada said most of his initiates were 3rd & 4th class people, this book glorifies Prabhupada’s ability to take all sorts of people, bring us together and try to make devotees out of us. This process of Bhakti Yoga is the hidden theme all throughout this book.
Much blessings, and certainly there are many people more interested in the other forthcoming books, than the unfortunately events in this book, but possibly by separating these unfortunate events into a separate book, the other two books can focus on more positive aspects, without seeming fake and ignoring the truth, and we can remember Kirtanananda as Prahbupada’s top disciple.
As an American I never believed the “Pure Devotee” theory, but did not let that get in my way from the amazing accomplishments of devotees, and considering the state of consciousness of the world, we should try to objectively look at the facts, the good and bad. For those who believe in the process of Harinam Sankirtan and the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and will still see the overwhelming greatness of these fallen people who committed great crimes, but at the same time were able to accomplish spiritual miracles through the belief in Krishna and the teachings of Lord Chaitanya! Hare Krishna!
—David A. Carlton, Detroit, Michigan, from a review at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
5 Stars. An insider’s view into a strange place and time.
Extremely well researched and well paced, this book offers an insider’s view of one of the more bizarre chapters in the story of the Hare Krishnas. The author maintains a “professional distance,” so this is no lurid hit piece nor common true crime thriller. Rather, it’s a focused, yet engaging history of the Hare Krishna’s New Vrindaban community that tells the full story of what was covered in the more sensational Monkey on a Stick of the late-1980s. Even if your only recollection of the Krishnas is their omnipresence in airports decades back, this book is worth diving into as the story is representative of the fallout of the social and religious commune experimentation that began in the 1960s, flourished in the 1970s, and largely came to an end in the 1980s.
—HonestJoe, from a Customer Review at Amazon
This book reveals some of the personality cult dynamics within the Hare Krishna movement and how these dynamics lead to the murder of the Hare Krishna dissident, Steven Byrant. The book recounts how Byrant’s death leads to the fall of Bhaktipada (Keith Ham) who was a leading superstar and charismatic leader within the Hare Krishna cult. Bhaktipada, a paedophile, is a fascinating and clearly deranged character. However, more fascinating are the descriptions of his followers’ insane devotion to him. The level of fundamentalism described in this book are frightening. Even after it is revealed that the emperor has no clothes, the level of devotion given to Bhaktipada and his associates is staggering.
Bhaktipada’s associate Radhanath Swami, currently a leader within the cult, is possibly the most intriguing character in this story. His Machiavellian ascent to power is remarkable. . . . Bhaktipada clearly uses A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s teaching to con his deluded followers. Bhaktipada’s power and abuse stem from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s endorsement. . . . I hope the people behind the incredible Netflix series Wild Wild Country, about the Rajaneeshi cult, read this book and make a series about the characters and events in this book. The betrayals, lies, delusion, fundamentalism and cover ups are laid to bear in this book.
—Noddy, from a Customer Review at Amazon.UK
I would seriously recommend everyone to read this book. Packed full of factual references. Mr. Doktorski has put a heck of a lot of research, time and effort. A real eye opener.
—Michael Kieth Powell, from a Customer Review at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
I’m a former devotee myself and couldn’t put this book down. I hope I hear about your next book when it comes out. I would like to preorder it.
—Joshualee Guillim, from a Customer Review at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
The book was well-written and engaging throughout. More than just reporting on the conspiracy to murder Sulocana, this book describes the culture of Kirtanananda’s New Vrindavan during the 1980s. It is eye-opening and clarifying to get a clear account of the dysfunction in that corner of space and time. It is a must-read for ISKCON members who want to learn from the past so there is no repetition of the deranged devotion under Kirtanananda and the Zonal Acharya system.
—Makhana Cora Das, from a Customer Review at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
The somewhat recent publication of the book . . . [Killing For Krishna], has both sides talking. And boy can they talk!
—Priitaa devi dasi, from a review at Bhakti Yoga at Home.
Until I read the book by Henry, I wasn’t sure that Radhanath had a hand in it [the murder of Sulochan]. I trust Henry. I have communicated with Henry. I trust his sincerity. I trust his research. He is a very brave soul. He was a member of the New Vrindaban Community from 1978 to 1993. He gave fifteen years of his life. He has absolutely no interest in lying or deceiving people. As far as I can see, he is telling the truth. And as he mentioned in the Introduction to his book, the most important [factor] is the truth. . . .
One of the most interesting parts of the book Killing For Krishna, is when Henry, in 1993, finally went and asked Kirtanananda if it was true that he was molesting boys at New Vrindaban. Was it true that he was a pedophile? And Kirtanananda said he had never broken any principle of being a monk since he had joined the Krishna movement in 1966. But Henry had done his research, and he knew for sure that his guru was lying. So that was the end of accepting Kirtanananda as his guru.
—Henri Jolicoeur (formerly Hanuman Swami—ACBSP), from a review (part 2) at YouTube.
Do not follow anyone because someone is telling you that this guy, or this lady, is a very spiritually-advanced person. You have to use your heart; you have to use your brain. You have to investigate. You have to ask questions. Otherwise, it is easier than you think to be brainwashed by a cult. . . .
I really recommend people to read the book by Henry, Killing For Krishna. Henry was in the Hare Krishna New Vrindaban Community for fifteen years, and I sincerely believe that writing this book, researching this book, has been a great therapy for him. It might be a deep therapy and a deprogramming process [for others also], if you feel that you are following some sort of spiritual authority, some sort of a guru, that is telling you that you should obey because he knows better than you do.
So pick up the book and get informed. There’s no better way to learn about brainwashing than from someone who admits that he was brainwashed for fifteen years.
—Henri Jolicoeur (formerly Hanuman Swami—ACBSP), from a review (part 4) at YouTube.
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.
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
Timeline of Important Events
Excerpts from Killing For Krishna
The author reads the Dedication and Preface
The author reads the Introduction
The author reads Chapter One, Part One
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
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).
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 no doubt difficult trying to extract information from persons who had to avoid veracity for various reasons, including maintaining their standing in secular or Vaisnava 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.
—New Vrindaban resident and godbrother
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
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 Vrindaban-Chandra Swami), former ISKCON member and former disciple of Hamsadutta Maharaja, Moab, Utah
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 living in Germany
Hello Henry, I just got to Chapter 2 in your book, and it is an interesting read so far. It’s pretty well explained even for people who never were in the Hare Krishna movement, so I don’t have any major questions right now. I keep a bookmark in the back too so I can check each footnote. Anyhow, I like what I’ve read so far, and I’ll eventually get through the whole book and likely have more to discuss with you about it as well.
Pretty well explained, and neither Sulochan nor Kirtanananda really look like the “good guy” here, and even though I can understand why Sulochan was upset and wanted to take down the corrupt Swami Kirtanananda, the violent threats on the Swami’s life seem a bit extreme and over-the-top, though Sulochan obviously knew he would be in danger by making such accusations anyway, though I can also understand why people at New Vrindaban thought their Swami was in peril because of the threats and, not knowing the extent of the Swami’s corruption, they were interested in protecting him and dealing with the threats that Sulochan had made against their Swami.
So far, your book does a good job of highlighting the obvious problems of blind faith and, as you said, “deranged devotion.” I’m looking forward to eventually reading through the rest of your large and detailed book, and when I do, I’m sure I’ll have more to comment on and discuss with you then.
—Gene Isner, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania
I have not been able to read your entire book yet, but I’m working on it. So far, so gripping and insightful! You have done an amazing job at presenting a complex time and place in all of our lives. You have done such a wonderful job. It’s inspiring.
—Former New Vrindaban resident living in Long Beach, California
Hare Krishna! I feel privileged to write to you and hope we can keep in touch. I pray to Lord Krishna to keep you safe, not that I’m a paranoic person but the miscreants within our movement are capable of anything in order to keep and fulfill their crooked agenda. I wish all of us in the movement were sincere and had a affinity towards truthfulness. You are an asset and you are setting the bar quite high. I guess sincere devotees are looking up to you and will follow your example. I am, to a certain extent. I convey my best wishes to you, dear Prabhu. I am your humble servant.
—ISKCON devotee in Sweden
I wrote to you years ago when I had just graduated from university and was very puffed up thinking I was some kind of scholar! You sent me your manuscript about New Vrindaban that you were working on at the time and I read it and commented and sent it back to you.
Anyway, many years later I came across your new book Killing for Krishna on Amazon and immediately purchased it for my Kindle. Having recently finished it, I just want to thank you immensely for your hard work in writing and publishing this fantastic book. The style of writing and the balanced approach to the subject is so good and perfect for what you are trying to achieve. It makes me sad that so many of those involved are still high up in ISKCON and unable to admit to their roles in the Sulochan murder (Radhanath in particular) and the other unsavoury activities of New Vrindaban. To think that so much of the place was built with drug money and illegal merchandising is completely mind blowing.
I would love to pass the book on to the devotees of Wellington who are totally under the spell of one Devamrita Swami but I know there would be no point as they would refuse to either read it or discount all the information contained therein, as you are obviously a huge “demon.” (Hahahaha.)
All these so-called “renounced” men, flying around the world in business class, with I-pads, apartments around the world, Apple watches, credit cards, property investments and who knows what else are an absolute joke and a complete mockery of what a Sannyasa/Sadhu is meant to be. I can only hope that many read your book before they get sucked into that world.
So once again, thank you so much for writing the book, I really enjoyed it and look forward to the full New Vrindaban history!
—Rory Nelson Moores, Wellington, New Zealand
Correspondence with a former New Vrindaban resident:
August 18, 2010: Hare Krishna, Hrishikesh prabhu. Regarding your recent Sampradaya Sun article, Radhanath Swami's Alleged Involvement in Sulochan's Murder, it appears to be 100% on. I was there, on the fringes of management and all the details you so meticulously corroborate fit into my memories like a glove. Ever since the murder happened we all knew Kuladri & Radhanath were involved. I remember the following morning well. I was shocked that they finally did it.
When I was back at New Vrindaban for those few years around 2004, Tapahpunja cornered me & for some reason chose to recount his involvement in the whole sordid mess in detail. I did not prompt him. His account does not fit the evidence, but it certainly protects Radhanath Swami. I was confused about his account because it didn’t fit in with what I knew (which was all second hand info). I implicitly trust Dharmatma and think Janmastami is probably being honest too. Their accounts line up with each other’s and with what we do know. TP’s account is contradictory, I do not believe him.
And last, not that it really matters, but I remember you & I having a conversation in front of Prabhupada’s Palace some years ago and you asked me why I left New Vrindaban. I answered that I really didn’t know; I just kind of drifted away. Well I can tell you that when the drain got plugged and all the sewage started coming to the surface, I was praying to Krishna to take me away from New Vrindaban. When the accusations of child molestation and other criminal activity started surfacing I just wanted out, but I could not give up my service. Very soon after that (was it in 1989?), Srila Bhaktipada sent me out on the traveling sankirtan “pick” with Rama-Chandra and I ended up at the Minneapolis center with Krishna-Katha (Carl Carlson). I never moved back after that.
Over the years, I have had one lingering, unanswered question that nagged me even when I knew the murder was in the planning stage, and during the stalking of Sulochan. WHAT IF Bhaktipada was really Jagat Guru? You see, I was and am a Prabhupada disciple first, I never bought into the Bhaktipada Jagat-Guru propaganda. But what if? Would the murder then be justifiable? Would Radhanath’s involvement have been justified?
I suppose this talk won’t go away as long as Radhanath is a leader in ISKCON; but personally, I am neutral in the whole finger-pointing, hate-mongering, envy-filled arguing. I am simply trying to chant Hare Krishna. If we just sincerely try to serve Srila Prabhupada, everything will take care of itself. If we can just get back to that simple goal, trying to satisfy Srila Prabhupada, then our lives would be perfect. When death comes our devotional service will be all that matters.
March 27, 2018: Hare Krishna Hrshikesh prabhu, I just downloaded Killing for Krishna for my Kindle Fire and started reading it. It’s OK so far, I’ll let you know as I progress reading it; just wanted to let you know that as long as it is accurate I do not have a problem with it. I heard some negative speech about you and the book while I was visiting New Vrindaban recently, but so far I do not share the opinion.
April 7, 2018: Haribol Hrishikesh! So I’m about halfway through the book. So far I find it brutally honest and accurate (as far as I can tell). I can see why some don’t like it and some are calling it an exposé. To me, if nothing inappropriate happened then there would be nothing to expose. Personally I think it is a wonderful service to tell the entire story. It is sometimes painful and embarrassing to remember that I was there. As I read, scores of forgotten memories and feelings gush from my being. I would like to share some of my feelings with you because I as everybody else, had my own experiences with events. If you are inclined hear them, do you have an email address that I can send some written memories to? I can understand how difficult it was for you to push on with this project. I never really did understand it all, when I first left I was obsessed with finding out what happened but as the years went on, I gave up and put it away in my archival memories. Glories to Srila Prabhupada.
—JD (ACBSP), former New Vrindaban resident
I just received your book in today’s mail. Your writing is spectacular, erudite, balanced, and above all else: couth! I sat down to glance through it, and found that in a remarkably short period of time I had read almost 100 pages! One thing I like is your narrative which weaves the story together. Your consummately sane and balanced viewpoint further offsets the essential horror that builds as the deluded murder plot develops in the restricted narrow minds of the perpetrators who start off with the incredibly flawed “credo” of the perfection of Kirtanananda Swami.
—Naranarayan dasa Visvakarma (Nathan Zakheim) (ACBSP), initiated in San Francisco in 1968
Best book I have ever read from a devotee who lived amongst the fanatics of New Vrindaban. I have been reading the letters to Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and he (Srila Prabhupada) repeated countless times that his devotees must strictly follow all the regulative principles, chant 16 rounds without fail and avoid the ten offenses to the Holy Names. Seems like these fools in the garb of Vaishnavas forgot to adhere to these instructions. Don’t be a fool. Always look deeper, don’t accept the external form of so-called devotees.
—Martin Davidson, from a post at Killing For Krishna on YouTube.
Just received your new book, Killing For Krishna, yesterday and have started to read and look through it today. I was a good friend of Chakradhari. I knew him in California in 1972 before moving to New Vrindavana with my family in 1973. . . . Chakradhari and I were friends. He followed me after a year or so from California to New Vrindavana. . . . Then disappeared. He would have said goodbye [if he had left on his own accord]. . . . I moved away from New Vrindavana in 1981. . . . I remember seeing Kirtanananda Swami with his crew of about five men at The Higher Taste restaurant in San Francisco in 198, after I had been gone from New Vrindavana for a [couple] year[s]. I only spoke with them for five minutes. It was awkward and I left. At that time I was working with Atreya Rsi. . . . You’re a fine, talented writer and you’ve successfully put down a parcel of rascals. Good for you. . . . You’ve done a very nice job of exposing the rascals and destroying their credibility.
—Janahlada dasa (ACBSP) (Gene Braeger), former New Vrindaban resident (1973-1981)
Thank you for writing this [book: Killing For Krishna]! I’m over halfway done and can’t put it down. I lived in New Vrindaban and the Cincinnati temple when they were outside of ISKCON. This is such a compelling read and the story needs to be told. You avoid the sensationalism of Monkey On a Stick and let the facts speak for themselves. Your endnotes are phenomenal. Again, thank you, Henry. Your years of research has turned out a stellar work for the annals of history. God bless you!
—Giuseppe Gingricharoni, from a Visitor Post at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
Killing for Krishna is amazing in its detail and documentation. In my opinion it treats all characters fairly. The 1,300+ endnotes make it a credible history. Paid $7 on Kindle for Smart Phone which makes searches simple.
—Hamsagati Das, from a comment at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
I bought Killing for Krishna. Wow. What an eye opener.
—John Gennaro, from a comment at Killing For Krishna on Facebook
Hey Henry, I really appreciate your book, Killing for Krishna. The subject matter is simply interesting from my days associating with ISKCON. However, it was very unexpected to read in the Introduction your premise of revisiting this unfortunate incident to help heal. I’ve spent a great deal of time (last 7 years) doing the same thing for my own healing within my own family and related to past events. I’ve often felt alone and misunderstood in my attempts to discover facts surrounding so many facts of my history or family history. It’s plain for me to see that most people want to forget a painful past. But I’ve found so much comfort and peace in knowing the facts, the truth, and the issues surrounding my painful past that I felt an immediate connection to your book. This with no relation whatsoever between the book contents and my story. So, I’m so grateful to have read this premise for the book as confronting these difficulties head on has been so significantly life changing for me. I sincerely hope that it has helped you even more as I believe your pain runs deep after living these experiences in New Vrindavan. Best wishes always.
—Pedro Ramos, Atlanta, Georgia, from a Facebook message to the author.
I just finished reading in it’s entirety your book Killing for Krishna. I do appreciate all your research and as you said in the Introduction, this book for you is also a healing process, having served Keith Ham for so many years and then realizing what a cheat he was, and how much time and energy you had invested in believing that KEITH was your spiritual master: your guide to go back to Godhead. Then finding out that this guy was a sex addict before coming to the Hare Krishna movement (even having sex with strangers in the New York subway), on top of having Howard Wheeler as his primary lover and then having all kinds of hush hush sex even as a sanyasin, with men and boys. He was not only a homosexual, but also a prolific pedophile. This was supposed to be a BHAKTI YOGA path to God: a love path, a heart path, and it was twisted to the maximum by a psychopath full of LUST and hungry for powers and money.
The Hare Krishna movement was until 1977 a ONE MAN SHOW. Swami Bhaktivedanta was the supreme authority; his words were as good as God (he even said so himself) and as you rightly noted he did affirm that KEITH HAM was a pure devotee; that he was pleased when people were serving KEITH HAM. The regular simple devotee had to rely on the words and visions of Swami Bhaktivedanta, and OBVIOUSLY he made a big mistake in assessing the qualifications of KEITH HAM, and he is partly to blame, in my view, for misleading hundreds of devotees to believe that seving KEITH HAM was what he wanted. Your book is very well-researched, but all this knowledge should, in my view, be warning to all the little gurus of now ISKCON and the multitude of Hare Krishna sects that are now working on the planet. If you do not learn by theses experiences, the same mistakes might repeat themselves.
Number one: to have blind faith in a guru because he just says “HEY, I AM A PURE DEVOTEE!” is extremely dangerous, as we have seen in all the blind followers of the so called 11 Ritviks that took over ISKCON after Swami Bhaktivedanta left the planet. May your book be a warning that absolute demands of blind following should be avoided at all cost. Every guru and all that he says and do must be questioned at all time. Bhakti Yoga must also be Jnana Yoga, as you said in your Introduction. THE TRUTH, THE TRUTH, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, devoid of BULLSHIT, LIES AND DECEITS.
I am looking forward to your next book.
—Henri Jolicoeur (ACBSP) (formerly Hanuman Swami), Montreal, Quebec, from an e-mail to the author.
Hare Krishna. Wow, just received your book in the mail today. Started reading it this afternoon and it’s honestly been really hard to put down! The storytelling is so riveting, exciting and palpable. I really appreciate your voice as a writer and your amazing ability to write from a place of such objectivity, which I would imagine took a long time and lots of healing due to your intimate and direct involvement with Kirtanananda & all the other New Vrindaban residents and concomitant dramas. Congrats on this big achievement and I look forward to your subsequent publications.
Hoping to get through all or most of it on my upcoming road trip. I think it’s of utmost importance for devotees to know the factual history of the ISKCON movement in general, including the “dark stuff,” otherwise we’re simply living in a grand lie and completely wasting this ephemeral & precious life on dead end “spirituality.” Unfortunately the majority will not be interested in knowing or hearing about the facts because of the heavy indoctrination into the cult of personality, that Srila Prabhupada’s precious mission has now become. However, there are many others who desire truth and transparency. I have friends and acquaintances on both sides of that spectrum, I will most definitely share this book with the level-headed sincere ones.
—Name withheld by request, Southern California.
Hare Krishna, Dear Prabhu! I’ve finished reading Killing For Krishna, your masterpiece. It’s a mind blowing book. I’m not so good with words to express fully my appreciation. I saw the interviews on YouTube as well. I really like that some devotees gathered and had a Sulochan memorial service. I guess things slowly but surely go in the right direction. If you write the other books I would like to order them as well. Thank you kindly!
Best regards & my humble pranams! Your Servant.
—Ananta das (Edward Contis), Vällingby, Sweden
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