What makes a guru a fake? Let me count the ways:
Expertise in aliening impressionable youth from family and friends and replacing them with cult sycophants whose initial welcome turns into a hell-hole of food and sleep deprivation as well as semi-slavery.
Initiating hordes of fanatic, ignorant disciples and using them as human pack mules to fool gullible truth-seekers with get-enlightened-quick fantasies?
Gang-related activities including harassment of and conspiracy to silence dissenters, whether by beatings, threats, or murder?[i]
Child abuse consisting of, but not limited to parental alienation, loss of childhood, rape and beatings, and abysmal educational quality.[ii]
Ridiculous, contrived belief system full of pseudo-scientific nonsense and vicious, bold-faced discrimination against women and minorities.
Fraudulent fund-raising tactics?[iii]
In the words of the group’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: “although posing as great scholars, ascetics, householders and swamis, the so-called followers of the Hindu religion are all useless, dried-up branches of the Vedic religion.”
Other practitioners of what Meera Nanda terms “neo-Hinduism”[vi]during the same period include Sathya Sai Baba and Sri Chinmoy, both of whom still have large groups of followers in
His modus operandi was to initiate as many Americans and other Westerners as his disciples and send them out to open temples where he and his followers would spread Chaitanya’s worship of Radha Krishna by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and dancing in front of opulently dressed murtis. Yes, superficially it appears to be based on the tiny Gaudiya Vaishnava sect, which worships the cowherd incarnation of Vishnu, Krishna, and claims that Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a 16th century Bengali proponent of Bhakti-Yoga, was an incarnation of Krishna and Radha combined. What sets the Hare Krishna movement apart at first glance is its aggressive marketing tactics and habit of actively seeking converts among non-Indians
Bhaktivedanta Swami, on the other hand, valued quantity far over quality in the choice of his disciples and thus quickly accepted as his disciples young men and women who knew next to nothing about his philosophy or personal history. These impressionable youths were simply entranced by the exoticism of Eastern religions that was one of the many escapist fantasies popular during the hippie era of the 60’s and 70’s. That he abused their trust and held them in low esteem was apparent from the beginning.
The hastily patched together arranged marriages the swami recommended soon began to fail miserably and the children born of these hellish relationships were taken away after a few years and dumped in gurukulas where their sufferings and abuse left many scarred for life.[ix] After he died in 1977, he left eleven of his disciples to manage ISKCON and initiate disciples on his behalf (a sure sign that he regarded those he so carefully trained as unfit to act as gurus). In short order, they and others sprang to action to take his place and all hell broke lose, with more mayhem and criminality than I can possibly treat in this essay.
Suffice to say, fraud reared its ugly head and infected the Hare Krishna movement from the schools (“gurukulas”), the abuse of government-provided welfare benefits to provide for housing, food, and medical care the cult would not provide, and a highly scripted method of “distributing books” which was nothing more than method to part fools from their cash. These books the ISKCON zombies peddled were advertised as the swami’s translations of puranic literature such as the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagwat Purana (“Srimad Bhagavatam”), but were in fact pastiches of plagiarized translations of other editions as well as the efforts of a few of his own disciples who self-taught themselves rudimentary Sanskrit.