an excerpt from
Killing for Krishna
The Danger of Deranged Devotion

a book by
Henry Doktorski
Publication date: January 1, 2018.
© by Henry Doktorski

Kirtanananda Swami

Photo: from Back to Godhead, “The Things Christ Had to Keep Secret,” Interview, Kirtanananda Swami, Volume-12 Number-12 (Dec 1, 1977).

Kirtanananda Swami Ruled New Vrindaban with an Iron Fist
from the Introduction

HIS DIVINE GRACE SRILA KIRTANANANDA SWAMI BHAKTIPADA (Keith Gordon Ham), the son of a Baptist Minister and one of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s first disciples (and his first sannyasi), ruled the New Vrindaban community with an iron fist; residents had to willingly submit to his authority or get out. It had been that way since 1972 (if not earlier) when Kirtanananda had become the sole authority in the community. This cultish attitude increased when Bhaktipada became the initiating guru for New Vrindaban after Prabhupada passed away in 1977.

Rebellious blasphemers who had doubted or challenged his authority had been threatened (Subal dasa—the editor of the Brijabasi Spirit: 1981), beaten bloody (Jadurani devi dasi/Judy Koslovsky: 1980), or murdered (Chakradhari dasa/Charles Saint-Denis: 1983). Bhaktipada was not afraid to use violence against undesirable influences. During a New Vrindaban counselor’s meeting on June 13, 1984, Bhaktipada said that if community enforcers could “cut off a few hands, a few balls, and shoot a few people,” petty crime would be eliminated at New Vrindaban.

After the demise of Chakradhari, who was known as a “fringie”—a devotee who doesn’t strictly follow the regulative principles—some Brijabasis (New Vrindaban residents) began fearing for their lives. Would they be next? Bhaktipada had grown so powerful and ruthless that most thought only a madman would oppose the undisputed “king” of New Vrindaban, who boasted, “Not a blade of grass moves in New Vrindaban without my knowledge.”

Yet one such “madman,” a former New Vrindaban resident, had the guts to challenge the biggest and baddest guru in ISKCON. Sulochan dasa (Steven Bryant: 1952-1986) began a crusade against Bhaktipada and the other zonal acharyas (the eleven senior ISKCON leaders who had, in 1978, appointed themselves as successors to Srila Prabhupada) which eventually ended in his murder. However, his death instigated a formidable federal government investigation which eventually ended Bhaktipada’s 26-year reign at New Vrindaban.

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