The other day I met five gentlemen (four elephants and a tortoise, actually) and asked them what they thought of Vedic cosmology in general and the idea that the world is a disc supported by them in particular. This was their reaction:

If I were still a Hare Krishna devotee, I would have been scandalized by their blasphemy and reported them to the cult's authorities for immediate corrective action. Imagine questioning the literal reading of Vedic literature promulgated by our guru and the founder/acharya of the ISKCON cult, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada! How offensive! What guru-aparadha!

As one of his earliest disciples, I remember hearing how a dear godbrother left the cult ("blooped") rather than accept Prabhupada's notion that the Sun is closer to the Earth than the moon. At the time, these cosmological beliefs of our guru were little known outside of his inner circle of followers. Had he informed the rest of us about this nonsense, few new disciples would have been recruited and many initiated devotees would have simply walked out the door. 

However, it soon became apparent that intellectual inquiry was actively discouraged as a condition of becoming a Hare Krishna devotee, with humility and sincerity equated with blindly following everything our guru taught us. This attitude so permeated our thinking that we were not in the least surprised when we heard that Prabhupada praised the submissive attitude of another one of his first disciples, an earnest young man, by stating that he would drink boiling ghee if he asked him to do so.

Today, under the impression that ISKCON is a bona fide Hindu religion, Indians throng to its grand temples throughout the world and provide crucial logistical and monetary support. Few know anything about the history of the cult nor of its philosophical underpinnings. This ignorance is exploited to the full and is the primary reason for the inroads the Hare Krishna leadership has made among many affluent and educated Hindus. Politicians have also fallen under its spell, with ISKCON aligning itself since the 1990’s with Hindu Nationalist nativist sentiments. A more foolhardy tactic by a cult that makes no secret of its contempt for Swami Vivekananda (whom the Hindutva movement has adopted as it spiritual godfather) is hard to imagine.


Before I continue with more on ISKCON's lunar lunacy and related matters, I would like to bring to your attention the demands Indian Prime Minister Modi made during his meetings with the Secretaries of Scientific Departments on Tuesday, July 18th in New Delhi. While admitting that he lacked the expertise to offer recommendations himself, he was disappointed with their progress in finding "solutions to societal problems."  Having just returned from visits to the U.S. and Israel  (in June and July, respectively), Modi's impatience  was understandable. So too was his example of the air pollution in New Delhi, a health menace that requires urgent remediation.

Indian PM Modi’s on Religion and Science

On the other hand, India has justly achieved renown in the scientific community with its Mars Orbital Mission ("Mangalyaan") launched on 6 November 2013, which has been orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. What you might not know is that just a month later, in his October 2014 inaugural address at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation in Mumbai, the newly elected PM declared that the elephant head on the human body of the god Ganesh is the work of an ancient plastic surgeon, whose successful grafting technique "started off plastic surgery." After you stop laughing, some context is necessary.

In common with politicians in general, Modi's priorities shift with the winds of party loyalties, strategic relationships, and inescapable social realities. A prime example is his appointing Yogi Adityanath as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh this past March. A saffron-clad priest and brazen fanatic known for his indiscriminate hatred of Muslims, he is a serious liability for the Modi administration. Keep in mind that India's 172 Muslims are the world's third-largest (after Pakistan and Indonesia) and are overwhelmingly moderate politically. Adityanath's governing ability seems limited to closing butcher shops and banning the use of tobacco, what to speak of his "anti-Romeo" squads. These practices have earned him more ridicule than respect.


That Uttar Pradesh can ill afford such governmental hooliganism was on display just a few days ago when BBC News reported that 60 children died in a hospital in Gorakhpur “amid allegations that the oxygen supply was cut over unpaid bills.” Tragically, the majority of victims were babies in neonatal units or patients being treated for encephalitis. Despite the fact that 30 of the deaths occurred on Thursday and Friday (August 10 and 11th), hospital officials disputed the initial findings, claiming that the deaths were attributable to the poor health of many of their patients. This pattern of officials denying responsibility in the aftermath of preventable tragedies is a symptom of a society with a weak or, as in the case of India, an overburdened legal system riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

Like a tortoise that retreats into its shell when it senses danger, Modi has mastered the political art of avoiding conflict by denouncing terror and then ceding the criminal investigation to ill-trained police and a court system that moves at a snail’s pace. Case in point: this past February 27th marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Godhra train disaster, in which devotees of Lord Ram on their way to Ayodhya were attacked by a massive crowd of Muslim protestors while they sat helpless in the Sabarmati Express as it arrived at the Godhra station in the Gujarat. Fifty-nine were burnt alive in their railcar and many others were wounded.

Justice was long in coming for the survivors and their families, however. In this case, it took seven years for the case to go to trial and included the typical slew of violent rhetoric, unwarranted arrests, and botched physical evidence.[i] At the time of the attack, Modi had been Chief Minister of Gujarat (on a BJP ticket, no less) only since October 2001 and, like any newly-elected politician, took the issue of affiliated loyalties seriously. Among these are his ties to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (“VHP”), a Hindu nationalist group who organized the trip to Ayodhya that ended so tragically for the Kar Sevaks (devotees of Lord Rama), and who were also behind the destruction  in 1992 of the Babri Masjid mosque built over what was reputed to have been Rama’s actual birthplace.

These tragedies and many others between various religious factions could not have occurred without the complicity of elected officials and the BJP and VHP national organizations. As populist movements, they naturally appeal to the masses by applying a literal reading of the Vedas and Puranas, in the process reducing them to a series of comic books or the ancient equivalent of a long and typically overblown Bollywood crowd-pleaser. Forgotten in the rush to the lowest common denominator are philosophical considerations and other riches, as if locating and eradicating Muslim usurpers of various Hindu places of pilgrimage are deemed both acts of religious piety and Hindutva allegiance. These are political and fundraising tactics in a saffron guise. 


For the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) cultists, it has been a goldmine: their leaders have exploited Hindu sentiment to such an extent that its status as a marginal New Age cult has been forgotten in the presence of their opulent temples. This success, however, was built on a shoddy foundation of their guru’s literal reading of the literary epics such as the Bhagavad-Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam (the English translations of which he cheerfully plagiarized). In order to keep the whole ISKCON enterprise from toppling over from the simplistic, pseudo-scholarship of its founder—what to speak of the social disasters his experiments in communal living brought upon his followers—current disciples of his disciples turned gurus themselves have worked overtime to give his ideas a veneer of legitimacy. Although Prabhupada was reliably strident in his denunciation of Hinduism, today ISKCON temples market themselves as Hindu mandirs and observe festivals he never would have considered necessary.

Yet, for reasons perhaps due to the intellectual equivalent of group hysteria, ISKCON has taken a collective leap into the deep end of the pool of pseudo-science by dedicating two of their most ambitious projects to date, the $45 million Vrindavan Chandrodaya temple and the $60 million Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, West Bengal, to a celebration of Vedic and Puranic cosmological ideas that they insist are factual. That the public is so thoroughly ignorant of their intentions is showcased by PM Modi’s letter to them dated 30 March 2017, New Delhi, in which he extols ISKCON for building the Vrindavan Chandodraya Mandir, crediting it for “promoting ideals of compassion and brotherhood.” Explain to me how the ISKCON cult’s attempt to promote ignorance of basic science and treating mythology as true history is anything other than making fools of its donors and devotees.

Proponents of “Vedic Science” have gained respectability only by lecturing on their theories among Hindus who insist, as Meera Nanda puts it, on “accommodating science and Hindu beliefs.”[ii] For such believers, all scientific knowledge is in the Vedas and the Puranas, making all subsequent discoveries strictly derivative. If you persist in any delusions you might have about so-called “Vedic Science,” go to the source and see for yourself!

For the next installment on this topic, please go to: The elephants all have names!!!

If you still think the vimanas (flying machines of supposedly Vedic original) really flew about, pre-dating the Wright Brothers, please read: Deb, Siddhartha. “Those Mythological Men and Their Sacred, Supersonic Flying Machines.” 14 May 2015. The New Republic.

[i] Mitta, Manoj. “’Preplanned Inhuman Collective Violent Act  of Terrorism’” What Modi Got Away With In The Godhra Case.” 27 February 2017. Scroll India.
[ii] Nanda, Meera. “Saffronized Science: Rampant Pseudoscience in ‘Vedic’ Garb in the Indian Subcontinent.” 25 January 2016. SERRC: Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

For William.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this essay can be reproduced in any medium without the express written consent of the author.


Anonymous said...
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Paul T. Harrison said...

Yeah it is like the 100 million dollar super stupid Noah's ark museum which is a total failure in every way......

Humans are imaginative, and after we developed words, we could start lying... now we also lie to ourselves.... this is why science and reality is so important.... we DO live in a real reality that can be counted on...

Anonymous said...

In one of his books, “life comes from life” (if I remember correctly) Prabhupada also called Darwin and his followers “rascals” and that evolution is a lie fabricated by him. Though in the very same book his own arguments against Evolution were enough to expose his own ignorance of evolutionary science;( all thanks to his allegiance to Srimad Bhagavata Purana). I guess he(and his followers) seriously believed that there was some time in the past where a Humongous dark boar(Vishnu’s Varaha Avatara) protected the earth from “sinking” in waters by hoisting it on his tusks! I have heard that in recent times, ISKCONITES have even started allying themselves with discredited creationists such as Michael Behe] and publishing books] by him. .. Don’t know how further these buffoons are going to go now…

Paul T. Harrison said...

wow... it is a heavy thought that some in the movement actually believe blatant conspiracy theories and vedic poetry as literal. In general it is hard to believe how uneducated even many college graduates are these days. Jay Leno on the Tonight Show used to have segment called "jaywalking" where he simply asks basic questions to pedestrians and it is super funny because they knew NOTHING. We certainly do not need religious leaders actively de-educating people on top of it.

Anonymous said...

@Paul T. Harrison.
As an Indian, It is indeed disheartening for me to see that students from even the most prestigious colleges of India – like The IITs(Indian Institute of Technology) are falling for the Hare Krishna delusion.( .

Mind You! IITians are some of the brightest minds of the country who make it to that position by cracking one of the toughest entrance examinations of the world. ( ).

If the modus operandi of The Hare Krishnas is successful in brainwashing even them, what to speak of ordinary graduates then? Instead of being top notch scientists, engineers and freethinkers , they are all reduced to being puerile evangelists of the gaudiya vaishnava theology.

All thanks to the widespread approval of the naïve hindu public which ISKCON has gained by marketing itself as a ‘genuine’ proponent of the sanatana dharma and conducting the so-called feed-the – poor programs, and crowd attracting Rathyatras; these views of mine if indeed are expressed in some public forum would very likely be berated and bashed as the outpourings of a jealous ‘anti-hindu’ or maybe as a “material monger”( who is ‘deluded’ by Krishna’s “maya”) .  . All the while the Hare Krishna apologists are gleefully going turn a Nelson’s eye to all the misogynistic, casteist and anti-science crap uttered by the great ‘rishi’ Known as Srila Prabhupada.

Moreover, If you indeed interpret their puranic/vedic stories allegorically, instead of accepting them on face value, they will label you outright as an atheistic demon for considering "transcendental pastimes of the lord" as fiction . which according to them are "beyond" the comprehension of "material mongers" . (This is actually one of the criticisms, which Iskcon books hurl on the Mayavadis).

Is it any wonder that apart from being the foremost “hindu” creationists, they are also the foremost historical revisionists? Meet Stephen Knapp aka Sri Nandanandana Dasa. ( )

planetaryeyes said...

Thank you Mr. Harrison and “Anonymous” for your incisive comments on this essay. I’m in the process of writing a blog essay on the ISKCON brainwashing technique, so I don’t want to give everything away here, but I will say that it damages the integral humanity of its targets, replacing it with a diametrically opposed body/soul relationship. It begins by inducing a gross and immature revulsion for normal bodily functions and replaces it with an idealized spiritual state which can only be achieved by blindly following the dictates of an all-knowing guru. Consequently, it treats all relationships between family and friends as outgrowths of “material attachment” that need to be discarded in favor of a “spiritual” relationship with other devotees, who effectively replace the discarded family. I have witnessed generations of youths lured into the Hare Krishna trap and have often wondered why even those who have long since left ISKCON rarely openly criticize the cult. The answer seems to be found in the brainwashing technique itself, particularly in the way it damages early childhood conditioning such as what normally occurs when toddlers realize that some unpleasant aspects of life such as cleaning up after yourself after going to the bathroom are mere inconveniences and nothing to focus on. There is no body/soul dichotomy as the ISKCON cultists would have you believe, but simply our uniquely endowed brains developing the willpower and decision making that will gradually lead us into productive adult lives. Unfortunately, some people take the easy way out when confronted with the challenges and risk-taking that are part of life. Cults step into this situation and like an addictive drug that initially provides relief and proceeds to overwhelm your reasoning powers, soon everything and every relationship is reduced to what you are told are their elemental components: love doesn’t exist, just animal lust, the body is shit because your food causes you to defecate, and your love for family is a bodily snare that must be overcome. A spiritual fantasyland of after death frolicking with the blue Krishna and his cows and girlfriends
Is proffered as the ideal substitute. Newcomers are assured that this can be easily achieved by repetitive chanting and frantic group singing as well as by adhering to a literal reading of the preposterous cosmology and other fantasies of the books by Bhaktivedanta Swami. In other words, they now live in an alternate universe where the human faculty of reason has been suspended in favor of a Krishna and Radha-themed fairytale universe.

It’s also terrible to hear about the top-notch university students who achieved so much and then threw it all away to join a stupid cult. As far as I can tell and judging from the many people who have contacted me regarding the fate of their children, it appears to me that these brilliant Indian youths are targeted by ISKCON management to use as props for their high stakes fundraising operations that in turn target wealthy Indian donors. Tragically, those once promising scholars will walk away from the cult in a few years, their hopes and dreams blasted by a bunch of opportunistic thugs.

Paul T. Harrison said...

Thank you for the post Planetaryeyes. :-) I agree that it is important to speak out as cultism is running rampant is many areas of society now, where alternative facts are becoming popular.

Iskcon is in the identity theft business.
The idea is that you are not who you think you are, but you are actually someone else, a soul in an original eternal body, who made a bad decision to leave your body and pursue different temporary bodies while also deciding to live in constant amnesia.

Incidentally, you and also your bodies and money do not belong to you. Nothing about you, including you, belongs to you but to the Person I represent, so I will hold it for you in the meantime and use it properly so you don't have to suffer the hell consequences of trying to be the "owner" and the "doer". I am doing you a big favor by taking your money and having you work for free because this way you will not be incurring karma. As far as Iskcon's bad karma for taking your money, do not worry because Iskcon is authorized by Krishna and Krishna is above karma or responsibility.

Paul T. Harrison said...

Question: If you (soul) were in an original permanent spiritual body, they how could you leave it? Sounds like our destination and original body is also temporary.

Rudra said...

Reading this essay ,I remember that Hare Krishnas also consider the Moon Landings to be a Hoax because according to their Vedic scriptures, the moon is a 'planet'which exists further away than the sun, and in order for a human to exist on another world, they have to leave their body and adopt one made for that world. Therefore (according to them) the astronauts could not have landed on the moon.

Paul T. Harrison said...

I think the literal approach is not only phony, but it is a form of bullying in itself. Why would anyone want to make modern people believe in nonsense? The same reason why con men do most of their con right in plain view. They are literally challenging your suspension of disbelief and trying to eradicate your critical thinking so they can control you. ......Planetaryeyes is so right that had we thought, except for the ones still on LSD, lol that the idea was to go literal fundamentalist we would all have left immediately.

Paul T. Harrison said...

Thanks again, planetaryeyes :-) As the puzzle of Krishna consciousness is starting to fill the whole jigsaw with only a few last pieces remaining, I can already start seeing the picture coming together. :-) I notice that the philosophy is based on the idea that truth is somehow connected to ego and to intelligence. It is provably not.......... It is interesting that like a 3d chess game or algebraic equation that the sub context of iskcon, is quite interestingly the opposite of what they say. They say the original sin was to take God's worship, but they are the only ones having people worship them here. LOL They say to be humble and their greatness multiplies their humility. lol They say that God is the cause of everything but He takes zero responsibility, so who caused responsibility? lol .................
Another point that makes devotees feel "above it" is because their entire premise is based on a false and very unequal equivalency. Imagine scheduling a debate where one side has to stick to facts and references, and the other can simply make stuff up and be waived of any accountability for logic or reality? LOL

Hades said...

Had a debate with an ISKCONite lately.
When I questioned him on this Puranic conception of the world being held up four elephants and a turtle, the guy literally defended it claiming those elephants and turtles to be fourth dimensional entities undetectable to human senses.