Like most cults, ISKCON is two-faced: it has a private side that it reveals to its adherents and another is reserved for the public. Exposing the truth about both aspects of the Hare Krishna movement is vital for a number of reasons that I will summarize shortly. Before I continue, however, let me introduce myself.
Back in 1967, my sister and I (we were 16 and 14 years old, respectively) saw a group of Hare Krishna devotees dancing and singing at one of the famous Central Park “Be-In” hippie events in the “Summer of Love.” One of the devotees approached me and invited me to the group’s “love feast” that they held every Sunday. (For more details about our actual visit, please see my blog essay, “Reductive Thinking and Cult Propaganda: the Case of ISKCON.”) I began high school that September and in December, my sister and I were initiated by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (also called “Srila Prabhupada”).
Our guru had come to New York only the year before, so I became at that time both one of the earliest and youngest initiated devotees. We certainly were sincere and stalwart devotees, going to school during the week and worshipping our deities at home and living for the weekends when we would take the subway train to the temple and help prepare the Sunday love feast. We also carefully read all of the scriptures our guru translated (or so we thought) and for which he also prepared commentaries (“purports”), such as The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is and the multi-volume Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagwat Purana). We also created oil paintings of various scenes in the Krishna legend in our spare time.
After two years, my elder sister married a devotee and moved to St. Louis to start a temple there. Her loss left me to pursue my devotional service in near total isolation, but I persevered. Tragically, just after I graduated from high school, I was told by my sister, her husband, and Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary that our guru had ordered me to marry one Gopal Krishna dasa, an Indian (now the guru Gopal Krishna Goswami) then living at the Montreal temple. I was only 17 years old. (As it turns out, Srila Prabhupada told me himself that he had never given such an order.) For me, that horrific event ended the honeymoon phase of my involvement with the Hare Krishna movement.
But I digress. I do, however, want to make it perfectly clear that I knew the founder-acharya of the Hare Krishna movement personally (in fact, he never failed to greet me whenever we met, even when there was a crowd of other devotees present). I also wrote many letters to him, all of which he answered, sometimes at length (see one very influential photocopy of one at the end of this blog page). Critics of my views, all absolute strangers who never met me or my guru, think their fanatic adherence to his now-thoroughly discredited views entitles them to diagnose me as an insane person and recommend that I seek professional help. Such persons are themselves delusional and, should they ever find the fortitude to reject the nonsensical beliefs they slavishly follow, will find themselves on a therapist’s coach for years to come.
It is a daunting task to summarize the truly bizarre beliefs that our guru held and that he insisted we accept without any investigation on our part. As I and many others have written elsewhere, the problem seems to have its source in his belief that Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism is the ultimate expression of devotion to Lord Krishna, despite the fact that the philosophy of the character of Bhagwan Sri Krishna in the Gita and the Indian folk stories about the antics of Krishna and his cowherd gopis cannot be compared. He also held that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a Bengali Krishna enthusiast, was an incarnation of both Radha and Krishna together, ignoring the obvious: read the Chaitanya Charitamrita and a picture emerges of a cross-dressing Brahmin whose ”devotional” proclivities are better left unstated.
How could I, a woman who, after leaving ISKCON after wasting 13 years of life there, manage to earn a B.A. and M.A. while raising my son alone and working a demanding, full-time job (I have worked for a total of 33 years), if, as Srila Prabhupada insisted, women have half the brains of men and (I quote) “there is no very great scientist, mathematician, philosopher among woman.” In these and other laughably ignorant comments about so-called Vedic science— coming from a one-time chemist who, by his own admission, never read the Vedas—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami proved that he lacked the authority by education and common sense to represent the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to the West. How could we naively sit by and listen to this man state that the moon is farther away than the sun and the astronauts could never have gone to the moon since it is a “heavenly” planet and they never worshipped the moon-god Chandra in the first place?
Rather than continuing to hide their fundamental beliefs under a cloak of secrecy, ISKCON leaders and members should adopt a full disclosure policy immediately. Your lives--your souls--deserve no less. We are all reminded from the lethal building collapses in the news that to live in a building with a faulty foundation is to court disaster.
Before ending, I want to restate that my writings are intended solely to educate and inform. Furthermore, I strongly believe in freedom of religion, but still insist that children, who, as the gurukula tragedy taught the public are helpless in such an irrational and abusive world view, are educated in public or private schools with a state-approved curriculum. I also despise and disavow any kind of discriminatory views, whether they concern women, ethnic groups of any kind, races, or religion. Lastly, I want to make it clear that the views expressed in this blog are mine alone and that I labor on them without assistance and have never received any financial help of any kind to support my efforts.
Select Essays on Various Topics in This Blog
Abuse of the Legacy of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda:
ISKCON Pretends to be an Ambassador of India's Cultural Heritage:
Using the Bhagavad-Gita to Advance ISKCON's Ambitions in Russia:
Female Infanticide and Selective Abortion:
Evils of Arranged Marriage and Treatment of Widows in India:
Child Abuse in ISKCON and Organized Religion:
Link between Cultural Intrusions in Russia and Terrorism: