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Sunday, November 27, 2016

THE ISKCON GURU-FAKING BUSINESS

What makes a guru a fake? Let me count the ways: 


Trashing the reputation of other gurus or religious figures with unsubstantiated lies and innuendo, while advancing himself as the most authentic and divinely inspired sadhu alive. 

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] 


INTRODUCTION
If you think that any or all of these practices are acceptable so long as the guru’s followers give out free food to the poor[iv], WELCOME to ISKCON

Before you take out your checkbook or credit card, you might appreciate some background information about the grinning cultists who seem bent on convincing the public that they are “more Hindu than Hindus.”[v] 
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.”
This essay will establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it is ISKCON, not Hinduism, which misrepresents “Vedic religion.”

The proliferation of Indian gurus in the West and the rise of the cults of the 1960’s and 1970’s surged due to the hippie culture’s fascination with Eastern mysticism. The Beatles, for example, were initially entranced by the late founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (d. 2007), and out of them, George Harrison retained his interest in Hinduism, but transferred it from TM to the Hare Krishna sect also known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). 

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 India and the West. The influence of all these groups waned considerably after the 1970’s and their international reputation also suffered, fueled in most cases by allegations of sexual impropriety. TM has been the most influential in popular culture: its practices of meditation as a religiously-neutral means of self-improvement largely fueled the West’s ongoing interest in New Age religion and disciples such as Deepak Chopra have lent it a veneer of legitimacy that continues to this day.

ANTI-HINDU SCAM ARTISTS

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Swami’s coming to New York City in 1966 and founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. By registering his sect a religious nonprofit, the swami now had the means to accept tax-free donations and open temples as a means to proselytize to Westerners as well as the nonresident Indian population. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was an unusually charismatic preacher in an age of numerous competitors. This one-time Calcutta businessman used his marketing acumen and keen sense of the spiritual vacuum affecting Western youths in the hippie era to build in little more than a decade a world-wide organization consisting of thousands of disciples and many temples on a grand scale. 

However, few of the Hindus who throng ISKCON temples and support their programs know that the sect’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, never considered the Hare Krishna movement to be Hindu at all. The following are a number of statements Bhaktivedanta made in reference to Hinduism:

The Krishna consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion.... One should clearly understand that the Krishna consciousness movement is not preaching the so-called Hindu religion."[vii]

India, they have given up the real religious system, Sanatana Dharma. Fictitiously, they have accepted a hodgepodge thing which is called Hinduism. Therefore there is trouble.
Bhavan’s Journal. 28 June 1976.

We are not preaching Hindu religion. While registering the association, I purposely kept this name, 'Krishna Consciousness,' neither Hindu religion nor Christian nor Buddhist religion.
Lecture on Bhagavad Gita, Mumbai. 1974.

During the years following their guru’s demise in 1977, the disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (many now gurus themselves), reversed his position on Hinduism as they grew more and more dependent on the wealth of the Hindu community both in India and abroad. Instead of denouncing Hinduism, they used the affection the Hindu public tends to feel for the folklore of the butter-stealing, witch-killing, and gopi-loving Krishna and conflated it with the teachings of the philosopher-chariot driver of the Bhagavad Gita. The message was clear: Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism, with its Hare Krishna mantra chanting and world-wide presence, is what Hinduism should be.

 CROSS-DRESSING BENGALI BRAHMIN AS RADHA/KRISHNA COMBINED?

Magnifying his own role as a self-proclaimed “pure devotee” in a lineage of Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnava gurus from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1584) to himself was Swami Bhaktivedanta’s chief public relations strategy. The term “Bhakti Yoga” led people to assume that the swami was popularizing just another strand of Hinduism as his predecessors had done. In fact, he intended to supplant them all. For Bhaktivedanta, this meant teaching his followers that he was the latest and greatest guru in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya, which he claimed was established by Chaitanya himself and consisted of "pure devotees."

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

Visitors were soon thronging to ISKCON temples to be dazzled by the sheer spectacle of so many gorgeously dressed and decorated murtis of Radha and Krishna, along with the Jagganath idols of Puri and a grouping of five dhoti-clad men whom the devotees explained were murtis of the Bengali saint Chaitanya and his associates. Accustomed as they are to the profusion of murtis such as Durga, Shiva, Vishnu, and Hanuman in Hindu temples, few visitors to the Hare Krishna temples would have realized that Chaitanya, whose devotion to the Radha-Krishna legends and popularization of congregational chanting (“kirtan”) is undeniable, was also the cross-dressing leader of a cabal of Bengali Brahmins with similar practices and tendencies. If not for the reverence that Hindu culture still holds for high-born Brahmins, there is little chance of the Gaudiya Vaishnava contention that Chaitanya was the incarnation of Radha and Krishna together not having been greeted with laughter and derision as it is a transparent denial of his behavior as a gopi-bhava afflicted transvestite.[viii]

INSULTS TO RAMAKRISHNA PARAMHAMSA & SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

Furthermore, what would Indian political luminaries—the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi comes to mi nd-- if they knew how the founder of the Hare Krishna movement derided the achievements of the Hindu saints who traveled to the West many years before he set foot in New York in 1966. His hostile and ill-informed comments about Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda Swami are prime examples of Bhaktivedanta’s predilection to trash the reputation of the predecessors who cleared the way for him. For example, during one of his “Morning Walks” (08/01/1976), he claimed that the Ramakrishna Mission was “simply bogus propaganda” and “they picked up two American ladies, that’s all.”
 
A worse combination of envy and breath-taking ignorance is hard to imagine. Perhaps Bhaktivedanta Swami might have benefitted from reading the words of Dayananda Saraswati, who in the Ten Principles of the Arya Samaj wrote that “all actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefitting mankind.” As for his charge that Vivekananda “picked up two American ladies,” Bhaktivedanta could have learned from his example. In this regard, it is well-known that the initiates of the Ramakrishna Mission are all celibates, sanyasins as well women. Vivekananda Swami regarded celibacy highly and his example continues to inspire millions of Indians dedicated to a morally and militarily strong India, including Narendra Modi himself.

FRAUD AND FALSE PROMISES: MAKING "THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS"

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.

I remember attending initiation ceremonies where mentally-ill individuals scarcely able to control themselves were initiated as disciples and was appalled at how quickly the dealings between men and women deteriorated due to the poisonous effects of our guru’s absurd and vacuous beliefs about the inferiority of women.

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.

Before long it became obvious that formal fund-raising techniques had to be employed and the main target, as I mentioned near the beginning of this essay, was and is the educated and prosperous Hindu community in India and abroad. However, this pattern of what I call “guru-faking” was not limited to ISKCON and has continued to grow, adapting itself to different conditions while the followers of these gurus have begun to appear more like nascent terrorists than the naïve thrill-seekers of my own generation.




[i] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/30/us/religious-leader-convicted-of-us-charges.html.



[iv] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2763798/Up-35-students-hospitalised-Bangalore-DEAD-LIZARD-mid-day-meals-causes-food-poisoning.html. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/it-was-not-the-dead-lizard/article6439198.ece.  See also: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/64-students-fall-sick-after-consuming-mid-day-meal-in-up. Akshaya Patra is run by the ISKCON Bangalore faction of ISKCON, a dissident group that follows the Ritvik policy of initiating disciples on behalf of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, who died in 1977. This food relief program dwarfs the ISKCON Food Relief program headquartered and run by their enemies from Mumbai. Regarding ISKCON Food Relief, see: http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-iskcon-to-face-inquiry-into-food-poisoning-vinod-tawde-2189331.

[v] The issue of whether the ISKCON sect can be considered Hindu was decisively answered in the negative by its founder/acharya  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. For a useful summary of the supporting documentation, see the Hinduism Today Magazine  article entitled, “Can it be that the Hare Krishnas are not Hindu”?  http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=4499.

[vi] Nanda, Meera. “Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism, and ‘Vedic Science’.” http://frontlineonnet.com/fl2026/stories/20040102000607800.htm.
[vii] The Science of Self-Realization. 1977 Chapter three.
[viii] See Sri Caitanya Mangala, 2.9 and the numerous description in the Caitanya Caritamrta (2.15-16; 2.18 112-119 and 203-208. Sri Caitanya’s associates appearing on his sides in the temple murtis are Advaita, Srinivasa, Nityananda Rama, and Gadadhara Pandit, each of whom Caitanya regarded as incarnations of various members of the Radha Krishna and gopi legends.

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