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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

ISKCON AND THE SIN OF GREED, Pt. 2

Although the whole “Maharani” episode was ridiculous from start to finish, one incident has remained fresh in my memory. It happened on the occasion of a reception I held for Taittiriya (Maharani’s initiated name) and her husband Bali Mardan at our apartment at the corner of Kane and Henry Streets. At the time she sported a fair-sized bulge in her abdomen, which she asserted was a multiple pregnancy. This claim was highly disputed:how could this hag (she could have been anywhere between 40-55, but to me, a 20-year old mother, the thought of anyone her age pregnant or claiming to be pregnant was simply—no pun intended—inconceivable) with her veiny hands and seamed face be slated to become the mother of a bunch of babies? Maybe, I thought, she is wearing a pillow under her sari or has bunched up the part one tucks in to resemble a belly? So, imagine my raised eyebrows when she told me matter-of-factly that our guru Prabhupada told her that the four fetuses she was allegedly carrying were four incarnations of Vishnu, each with four arms. The thought of sixteen arms waving about inside of her was funny beyond words, but I kept a rapt facial expression once I heard that it was Prabhupada who told her that bit of lunacy. Crazily enough, I never doubted the veracity of her account; however, I also knew beyond question that the old bird had been taken for a ride.

Before long it was clear to us that Taittiriya had been initiated by Prabhupada (in Los Angeles in 12/73) and married shortly thereafter by the scheming hypocrite Bali Mardan for the express purpose of getting at her money. Remember, those were the days when ISKCON devotees were ubiquitous in airports, conniving the public into buying literature that was in most cases almost immediately thrown into the trash. So the prospect of tolerating the antics of this shriveled brown monkey--whose effrontery and hauteur were driving most of us into the trees ourselves—was really no big deal. Yet something was profoundly wrong in the monkey house:there were no babies and, you guessed it, no money. How Prabhupada reacted to this state of affairs is clear from his letters. Here’s an excerpt from a letter he wrote to Taittiriya shortly before her ruse was discovered:

I have got very good respect for Japanese people. So far I have met the Japanese boys and girls in our temple here, they are so well behaved that I was astonished that they were more respectful than my direct disciples. (September 15, 1974)

But after it became plain that she was penniless, his reaction was quite different. Here is an excerpt of a letter dated November 28, 1974 that Prabhupada wrote to my spineless ex-“husband” Gopal Krishna in response to letter he wrote acting as if he had discovered Taittireya’s ruse:

She is old, like great grandmother. Because you are a devotee you could not tolerate the nonsense.

In fact, it was only after my continual urging to do something about the scandal at the temple and after the scandal was common knowledge that Gopal—a black-hearted villain if there ever was one—wrote to Prabhupada acting as if the discovery was his. Regardless, you can draw your own conclusions about this account of a cult’s greed and immorality without my pointing out the obvious. One thing is certain: Maharani was clearly an example of one who, to paraphrase Shakespeare, was more sinned against than sinning.

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