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]
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.”
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.
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.