an excerpt from
Killing for Krishna
The Danger of Deranged Devotion

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

Sulochan on the altar
Sulochan dasa on the altar, perhaps at Detroit ISKCON (mid- or late-1970s)

Steven Becomes Sulochan
from Chapter 1: A Thorn in Bhaktipada’s Side

STEVEN LESLIE BRYANT (July 4, 1952-May 22, 1986) was the son of a United States Air Force officer and a German-born high school teacher (Jack W. and Helga L. Bryant). Although Steven was born in Laramie, a small town in southeastern Wyoming, he grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit about fifteen miles northwest from downtown. His hair was blond, his eyes were blue, he stood six feet tall and weighed about 170 lbs.

A newspaper reporter explained, “He [Steven Bryant] grew up in Royal Oak and graduated from Kimball High School. During his junior year of high school he attended a private military school in the South because there were ‘too many distractions in the way of cars here,’ said his mother, a retired high school teacher. He returned to Kimball for his senior year. Soon after leaving for college, Stephen became ‘infatuated’ with the Krishnas and quit school to join the community in Detroit, Jack Bryant said.” Sulochan’s father remembered, “He tried to convert us, but we would have none of that.”

At Detroit ISKCON, Steve met another novice: Bhakta Terry Ray Sheldon. The two often worked together, as Steve was a good carpenter and Terry a good mechanic. They became friends and shared a special camaraderie, as they both surrendered to Prabhupada around the same time. However after a few months, Terry left the city of Detroit for the rural ISKCON farm community in West Virginia; Steve remained at Detroit ISKCON. During July 1974, Steve accepted initiation from his spiritual master, the founder/acharya of ISKCON: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. At his initiation ceremony, Steve prophetically received the Sanskrit name: “Sulochan dasa” (in English: “Servant of Sulochan, the son of Dhritarashtra”). In the Mahabharata, Sulochan is mentioned as one of the one hundred sons of King Dhritarashtra and Queen Gandhari. The historical Sulochan battled against Krishna, Arjuna and the Pandavas, and was killed by Bhima during the battle of Kuruksetra some 5,000 years ago.

Three months after Steven became Sulochan, Bhakta Terry became Tapahpunja at an October 1974 fire sacrifice at New Vrindaban. In Sanskrit, tapah refers to “austerities and penances,” and punja means “heaps” or “volumes of pious activities.” The name “Tapahpunja,” therefore, means “One who serves the Lord, Who performs heaps, or volumes of austerities and pious activities.” Who at the time would have imagined that a decade later the two devotees would become mortal enemies, just like the historical Sulochan and Bhima (Arjuna’s powerful warrior brother). Tapahpunja was a key member of the conspiracy to assassinate Sulochan, and boasted, "I engineered it [the murder]. It was completely Vedic. He [Sulochan] had offended Bhaktipada." Sulochan was “dispatched to his next body,” and Tapahpunja Swami later served five years in prison for his involvement in the murder conspiracy.

Back to: Killing for Krishna Homepage