The Titanic Taproots – The Finale
The Kirtanananda Swami expose

April, 2018

First of a Three-Part Series

by Kailäsa Candra däsa

At the end of 1977, Kértanänanda, unlike the ten other rittviks, decided that he would unilaterally become an initiating spiritual master. Whether or not he considered that his appointment as a rittvik (in July) augured an indirect recognition (that he would then become dékñä-guru after November 14th) is not an important consideration. Although he was present at the May 28th meeting in Prabhupäda’s quarters (where His Divine Grace stated “regular guru, that’s all”), it was clear in Kértanänanda’s mind that he would not act as one (a guru under vidhé sädhana regulations) after Prabhupäda left.

Kértanänanda had a different idea: He was going to imitate Prabhupäda, although His Divine Grace never authorized, empowered, or recognized any of his leading secretaries as either an uttama-adhikäré or his successor. Indeed, not only would Kértanänanda reject the concept of regular guru (a.k.a., monitor guru or madhyama-adhikäré) as being applicable to him, he would also reject anything that reined in the worship if it was placed upon him by the Governing Body Commission. At the fag end of December, 1977, a mere five weeks after Prabhupäda’s departure, Kértanänanda began initiating his own disciples.

In the process, he accepted the same exact exalted worship as Prabhupäda had received. However, Kértanänanda went a step further: He not only accepted glorious worship from his own newly-initiated disciples, he also accepted it from godbrothers and godsisters. A bit later, he even went to the extreme of wearing a crown on his own head while on his elevated seat, although this may have been a one off. The G.B.C. was never consulted about any of this, as Kirtananada ignored them, thus showcasing his contempt for the Commission.

All emphases added for your edification and realization

The don of the Moundsville compound thus set the stage for the zonal acarya imposition in the last week of March, 1978. If the G.B.C. had come down hard on Kértanänanda in late 1977 or early 1978, there would have been an immediate schism. If the Commish allowed him to continue being a dékñä-guru and accepting opulent worship as an Äcärya—in effect, as the successor to Prabhupäda—then, if the other ten rittviks accepted a lower status (although they were not even qualified for that), the newcomers coming into contact with the movement after Prabhupäda’s passing would soon make their way to “New Våndävan.”

Kértanänanda laid down the gauntlet and, in effect, laid the others to waste. The other ten, and the G.B.C. itself, was thus cast by him into the horns of a dilemma. There appeared to be no good solution to it, as they either had to accept what Prabhupäda said (and act as regular gurus) or follow Kértanänanda and pretend to be uttama-adhikärés. If not, a nasty schism in the immediate aftermath of the Acarya’s departure was a certainty.

The G.B.C. did not convene an emergency meeting in early 1978 to ponder this, although they most certainly should have done so. No good faith attempt was immediately made to find a solution, i.e., The Commish waited until its annual spring festival in Mayapur in order to consider the matter. During that time, over there on the other side of the river in Navadvipa, many ISKCON leading secretaries consulted Swämi B. R. Çrédhar. There is no record of Kértanänanda doing so, but some of the previously-appointed rittviks did. What went down in Navadvépa could not have been more propitious for “Bhaktipäda,” as Swämi B. R. Çrédhar informed his pliable visitors that they were duty-bound to imitate jagad-guru.

Competition Between God-men
(The Best of the Dog-men)

“ . . . there are men who are like crows and men like swans. That is a natural division. According to an old English proverb, birds of a feather flock together. Crows mix with crows, and swans mix with swans.”
Teachings of Lord Kapila, Chapter 7, verse 12, purport

“ . . . when he wants to imitate, he is immediately put into the clutches of mäyä: ‘All right. You enjoy. Try yourself. Try yourself to become God.’ So, this material world means everyone is trying to become God. I am trying to become God, you are trying to become God. So, there is competition between Gods. He has forgotten that he is dog . . .”
Platform Lecture at New Våndävan on Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 1.5.4, purport

You’re flying high in April, shot down in May.”
Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life”

All eleven pretender mahäbhägavats were heavily implicated in the devastation of Prabhupäda’s branch of the Hare Kåñëa movement, replacing it with a circus. They created something new, alright, but it was not, and is not, sanctioned by any genuine tradition in spiritual or devotional life. It was not sanctioned by their spiritual master, by the guru-paramparä, or by Vedic teachings or its essential scriptures. The eleven were not ordinary men, however, and they were thus enabled to accomplish, to create, by the grace of Kali-yuga, the worst manifestation of creative destruction in Vaiñëava history. In the eyes of their devoted disciples and followers, there was a kind of beauty to their show-bottle imposition; if there had not have been, it would never have gotten off the ground.

However, Kértanänanda Swämi and T.K.G. stood out from the others, especially considering the damage that each of these two covert Mäyävädés were able to inflict on the Hare Kåñëa movement. It is thus fitting here to compare them, although they were more dissimilar from each other than they were similar. They were the titanic taproots of the “ISKCON” tree (which is still alive despite their absences), but they were also competitors.

T.K.G. was born in a Jewish family, and his style was thus saturated with a kind of hierarchical, cryto-Talmudism, one which relied upon his controlling the governing body. Kértanänanda was born in a poor Baptist family and thus developed the Protestant attitude. This included independence in his preaching and disdain for the Commish.

Yet, both of them were institutional gurus. T.K.G. was forced to confront that fact twice, and, to some extent, he recognized and acquiesced to it, especially when the governing body came down on him in the early Eighties and mid-Nineties. Kértanänanda cared little about the institution as a whole, yet he made a major mistake by cooperating with the governing body in the spring of 1978. At that time, he accepted his status and his zone from, and at the behest of, the G.B.C., although he had, for all practical purposes, forced its hand. If he had the opportunity to do it over, he would have declared himself an independent uttama-adhikäré right from the gate after Prabhupäda disappeared.

Instead, and quite ironically, he also later utilized his canny and sly intelligence by pushing the G.B.C. card as a fallback position in order to save “ISKCON.” In 1980, when the shocking fact became known that none of Ocean’s Eleven were ever appointed by Prabhupäda (after they had already established momentum and populated the temples with their own people), the institution was on the verge of cratering. However, Kértanänanda came to the rescue with the bad logic that, yes, they were never appointed as gurus by Prabhupäda (although that was the cult propaganda for years), but he appointed the G.B.C. as the ultimate authority, and it appointed the eleven zonal acaryas on his behalf. There were a number of ironies in Kértanänanda’s post-1977 life as a cult leader, and this was one of the most glaring. Some of the others will be discussed subsequently.

Kértanänanda had quick wit and a biting, if not sarcastic, humor. One example of this was when the local sheriff came to see him, after the great man’s cranial damage in the fall of 1985. Out of standard courtesy, the lawman asked him how he was doing, to which Kértanänanda replied, “My vision has been impaired by the injury. I am seeing two of you now, and that’s two too many.” On the other hand, T.K.G. was humorless.

Both were cult leaders, and there is always a synchronicity in that. Only a certain kind of self-absorbed individual can have the audacity to accept worship as a fully realized guru or a pure devotee of God when, in point of fact, he is not. If the counter-argument is made that a Vaiñëava never declares himself to be God—and neither of these men made that declaration– that argument is of limited scope, since he is nevertheless worshiped as God.

Both of them accepted the exalted worship reserved for the uttama-adhikäré. The self-apotheosis of these men was off the charts, going well beyond megalomania. Mäyävädés claim that they have become Brahman, and it is superior to even becoming God-realized in their false paradigm. For Vaiñëavas, it is different, but ultimately not all that much. Both Kértanänanda and T.K.G. accepted uttama-adhikäré worship, and both were seen, by their devoted acolytes, as Successor Äcäryas in the line–and as good as God.

They played the imitation guru card in their own way, of course, but the principle was the same, viz., they were each big-time, heavy-hitting cult leaders. As long as the noun “guru” is applied generically, it is not wrong to call them by that title, since they imitated being guru. In post-modern lexicon, Western intellectuals are called “pandits,” although they are light years away from being pandits in the Vedic sense. Similarly, Kértanänanda and T.K.G., cutting the profiles that they did, and accepting the worship that they sought, can generically be called gurus—but not Vedic or Vaiñëava gurus according to actual qualification.

Kértanänanda did not like India and was instead attracted to cold places, such as northeastern Ohio and especially the Allegheny Plateau. He liked rugged environs, and he was also very austere in many ways. T.K.G., or “Hot Tamale,” on the other hand, gravitated as a teenager out of New York City to sunny and warm California, and he also spent many years in India. He never developed a reputation for austerity but, instead, very much liked the luxuries provided to him by his followers and disciples. Of course, so did Kértanänanda. You could say that Kértanänanda was a cold guru, and T.K.G. was a hot one, especially since Kértanänanda (before the head blow) always kept his cool in tough situations, whereas T.K.G. was well-known for spontaneous outbursts of anger when things went south.

Your author has only seen two pictures of these men together, i.e., they avoided one another. One of those pictures was, of course, the group photo of the eleven pretender mahäbhägavats (with a stern painting of Prabhupäda in the center), taken just after they were converted into zonal äcäryas by the G.B.C.. In terms of comparison, there is nothing to read from that one. However, there was another photo where the two men were standing next to one another looking at the camera, and you could cut the tension between them with a knife. These guys neither liked nor trusted one another, and their mutual disdain was palpable.

Kértanänanda was personally very charismatic. He was extremely confident (read, over-confident), but he also possessed a great deal of personal charisma. T.K.G. was mostly imbued with institutional charisma, which is par for the course relative to a man who measures spiritual stature via institutional hierarchy, ad nauseam.

His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda was a short Bengali man. Kértanänanda was also very short. Indeed, only two of the eleven pretenders were short, and the other one, Bhagavän, was also endowed with considerable personal charisma. The third who possessed it to a significant extent was the great kértan and bhajan man, Hansadutta, who was of average height. Many of the eleven zonals were big and/or tall men, so Kértanänanda was able to subliminally take advantage of his lack of height, since the Founder-Äcärya, who possessed immeasurable personal charisma and power, was barely over five feet tall.

T.K.G. was of average height and weight, but he made up for his lack of personal charisma by utilizing institutional charisma to the max, despite major fallouts with the Commish. T.K.G. possessed decent health until kidney cancer later in his life. Kértanänanda was afflicted with poor health (he had to walk with a cane due to childhood polio), he aged quickly, and his teeth were terrible. That Prabhupäda also utilized a cane helped Kértanänanda parlay off that particular fact, embellishing the imitatator’s charisma.

Both of these so-called God-men–allegedly the sum total of all the demigods–experienced radical ups and downs in what can be called, with a grain of salt, their devotional careers. They flew very high indeed when their biorhythms peaked, but, when the glide path pointed downward, they also suffered jaw-dropping low points and huge setbacks. They were alike in this way, but there was no synchronicity, in terms of timing, in these swings of good and bad fortune experienced by the two pretender mahäbhägavats.

Although the ways and means of their deaths were drastically different, they were both Americans who died in a foreign country, in locales having no redeeming features.

The First of the Worst

“If we live simply, engaging in Kåñëa’s service and not creating unnecessary demands, we will be able to reduce concerns for maintenance and enter the spirit of yoga-kñemaà tyajaté as recommended by Närada Muni.”
Närada Bhakti Sütra, Ch. 3, “The Means of Achievement”

“Sometimes penance and austerity are executed to attract people and receive honor, respect, and worship from others. Persons in the mode of passion arrange to be worshiped by subordinates and let them wash their feet and offer riches. Such arrangements artificially made by the performance of penances are considered to be in the mode of passion. The results are temporary; they can be continued for some time, but they are not permanent.”
Bhagavad-gétä, 17.18, purport

Çréla Prabhupäda said that I was the first in everything.”
“Brijbäsé Spirit,” magazine of New Våndävan, 11-20-87 edition

A life-long homosexual, Kértanänanda became the first sannyäsé, but he immediately disobeyed an essential order given to him by Prabhupäda (connected to an important sevä in England), and instead directly proceeded from India to New York City. There he created havoc and coaxed from the temple a senior devotee (his homosexual lover) to join in his deviation from the spiritual master. Kértanänanda was thus the first senior disciple to blatantly disobey the Founder-Äcärya.

He was the first to create a rural, forest hideaway, even though Prabhupäda, despite sending what could be interpreted as mixed signals, urged him not to do so:

“. . . if the people are backwards and suspicious, then how your scheme will be successful . . . if the place is infested with such suspicious men and backward class, then how you can develop a New Vrindaban there? The circumstances as you have described them (are) not very favorable. Therefore, I think the attempt will not be very successful.”
Letter to Kértanänanda, 6-30-68

Without authority and without consulting his godbrothers, Kértanänanda was the first (of the newly-appointed rittviks in 1977) to begin initiating disciples on his own volition just after Prabhupäda departed physical manifestation. He was the first to accept undeserved uttama-adhikäré worship on an imitation Vyasasan. He was the first to accept (if not coax) such worship of himself from his own godbrothers and godsisters.

In order to subsidize his super-project, Kértanänanda was the first “ISKCON” mis-leader to engage his followers in balls-to-the-wall collection schemes (so-called marathons), including deceptive Santa Claus imitation costumes at Christmas-time and the hawking of illegal paraphernalia, all of which had no connection whatsoever to Kåñëa consciousness. He was the first to dream up the idea of a palace dedicated to Prabhupäda. Word has it that His Divine Grace approved it during the formulation stage—perhaps even during some preliminary construction—but it turned into something else after Prabhupäda departed. He would never have approved of himself being worshiped as a monarch in a so-called Palace of Gold. This ultra-costly project, ostensibly for the glorification of Çréla Prabhupäda, morphed into a boondoggle, especially after a crown was placed on its Prabhupäda mürti.

A former austere Baptist from an impoverished family (before he morphed into an L.S.D. guru in New York City during the Sixties), Kértanänanda once again engaged in austerities at his jungle hideout, but all of his self-imposed hardships were motivated. And, as the actual center of attraction, power, and worship (despite the Prabhupäda mürti in the “Palace of Gold”), he was also able to conceal–and secretly get away with (for awhile)–homosexual, sensual enjoyment with boys, teenagers, and young adult men.

When you’re the first in so many dubious actions, there will be evanescent benefits in their wake. So many firsts, but, in due course of time, all the achievements slipped away and eventually came crashing down.

The Vanity Fair Despot

“The test of our actual dedication and sincerity to serve the spiritual master will be in this mutual cooperative spirit to push on this movement and not make factions and deviate.”
Letter to Babhru, 12-9-73

Nothing breaks off without leaving a trace of some kind.”
Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
William Shakespeare, “Henry VI”

At that Moundsville compound in the Allegheny Plateau, Kértanänanda ruled like a second Stalin. It was his project, and everyone there was meant to be his devotee. The inmates there were strongly encouraged to love him. Prabhupäda was little more than a figurehead, although Kértanänanda cashed in on his spiritual master’s legacy, placing his mürti in a prominent position in the temple room and especially in the Palace.

Although the man did show devotion to his Deities–especially when he moved Them, with opulent worship, to the Bahubalan temple–Kértanänanda also demanded that anyone living in his commune submit to his authority—and, better, if they lovingly did so. As such, many of the devotees at his camp concentrated upon his pleasure. This was not new, however, as that same mentality had become widespread. After Prabhupäda’s departure, it simply was more intense and widespread at “New Våndävan” than at the other centers, in no small part due to the existential isolation of that concentration camp.

He acquiesced to an uncomfortable toleration of the other ten zonal äcäryas, as per their appointment and empowerment by the G.B.C. in March, 1978. He did not have a very favorable view of them, however. After all, eleven successors really boils down to no successor at all. None of them called themselves successors to Prabhupäda in the beginning of their takeover (the conversion of ISKCON into “ISKCON”), but, a bit later, T.K.G. began calling himself the successor (and it got him punished with a suspension).

The inmates at the Moundsville compound all fully believed Kértanänanda to actually be Prabhupäda’s successor and the only really pure devotee after his departure; he did not have to state the claim. The Moundsville camp of true believers featured intense love, common in charismatic cults. Such love for “Bhaktipäda” transcended worldly concerns. It mitigated any and all human love developing between the inmates. It was ordinary life with a big twist, and the sole beloved could only be Kértanänanda. His followers and initiated disciples always sought his satisfaction, although, in a weird and warped way, some of them greased the wheels of their own desires and ambitions in the process.

For the ultra-dedicated, however, their own survival meant less to them than dedication to Kértanänanda. This not infrequently set them up for psycho-physical injury and deprivation, but, for those devotees, that hurt so good. After the departure of Çréla Prabhupäda, Kértanänanda converted the superficial ambiance of his place into a kind of carnival atmosphere, centered around a so-called Palace of Gold, but this was mostly for public relations, mostly for show. The actual quasi-prison operation was different, but visitors could rarely glean what went on below and behind the festive superficiality.

The man had a penchant for clever, sardonic humor. He would sometimes chant a familiar American refrain: “Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians.” Although it was integral to his mentality from the very beginning, this ditty would especially make the rounds after one of the other “new gurus” got in legal trouble and/or was punished by the G.B.C. The meaning of the song was not difficult to discern: There were ten others—who Kértanänanda considered to be far less than himself in spiritual power and legitimacy—and, since they were not really gurus (and he was allegedly Prabhupäda’s successor), Kåñëa would arrange for them, one by one, to fall down in some way that became known to all. As such, “Bhaktipäda” would eventually emerge as the sole successor to His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda.

If you even slightly challenged Kértanänanda’s totalitarian authority, it would get you in trouble, sooner or later. In 1981, the editor of “Brijbäsé Spirit,” the community newspaper of New Våndävan, expressed his doubts about the validity of the “new gurus” and wound up being threatened. Jaduräëé devi däsé, who joined the N.Y.C. temple in the very beginning (at the same time as Kértanänanda), had been badly beaten for speaking out against him just one year earlier. Cakradhäré, who allegedly ran drugs there—and sometimes for the benefit of Kértanänanda–was murdered by other inmates in 1983. And, of course, as most of you are now aware, Sulocana däs was assassinated in May, 1986. That very long, tragic, and disturbing saga was depicted in Monkey on a Stick two years after it went down.

In 1978, Kértanänanda–assisted by the sastric misinterpretation and rationalization of Swämi B. R. Çrédhar (Prabhupäda’s elder godbrother) and one fellow zonal (The Scholar)–led the charge for eleven unqualified men being viewed and worshiped as paramahaàsas. This diverted and degraded practically all of Prabhupäda’s initiated disciples (your author not being one of them). The acolytes at Moundsville believed that Kértanänanda was, by far, the most advanced of the lot and that he possessed mystic powers. They were convinced that he was the World Äcärya. These “Brijbäsés” further believed it impossible that Kértanänanda would ever fall down, but, little did they know, he was constantly in a fallen state.

Although a select few did know that, it was revealed later to everyone that Kértanänanda was enjoying homosexual pleasures with young boys and teenagers. In effect, his playground was a covert coven for homosexuality and pedophilia. There were also rumors that recreational drugs were involved, especially since Cakradhäré was implicated in their sale there. In other words, to whatever extent that was or was not the case, it does not matter. Kértanänanda was not anywhere near the status of a self-realized acarya, even at a preliminary stage. It was all a colossal hoax. Whistle-blower Sulocana, although he thought differently of him in the late Seventies and early Eighties, came to consider him nothing more than a sense-gratifier.

Yet, Kértanänanda loved his devotees, even when they were godbrothers or godsisters. He forged a strong bond with them at New Våndävan, and the exchange of love between them was intense in that setting. It may have appeared to be a “Temple of Doom” to outsiders. That, in due course, became the majority opinion, especially when the Palace of Gold lost its luster and fell into shocking disrepair. Kértanänanda’s devotees wanted to sacrifice for him, and sacrifice they did. Çréla Prabhupäda was, at most, always kept in distant second place.

The G.B.C. did not live up to its directive, i.e., it failed to be a watchdog. That was left to other individual devotees. They all, to greater or lesser extents, paid the price, especially if they were also whistle-blowers. They were appalled by the cult of Kértanänanda, and rightfully so. The atrocities that went down there or elsewhere—still directly connected to “ISKCON” but actuated in another location—proved the whistle-blowers right. Yet, we should not be so jaded as to not see why, for a very brief time, Kértanänanda enjoyed so much power and pleasure. There were many obvious reasons for it.

He was a gifted preacher and skilled at debate, e.g., he swung the whole G.B.C. into accepting his way in 1978. He rose early and took a cold shower despite weather conditions, which were often brutal in that part of America. He served Prabhupäda affectionately in the early days, before his drastic disobedience just after taking sannyäsa. He was magnetic and charismatic, possessing such talents, to some extent, from early youth.

He built his Moundsville compound from the ground up, with but minimal initial support. As the Vanity Fair Despot, he showcased New Våndävan via the Palace of Gold and its related amenities, which amounted to a massive undertaking. Although he did not go out on the pick himself, his devoted followers did, and he was the one who impelled them to do so. By the mid-Eighties, he had amassed thousands of loyal followers and “initiated” disciples all over the world, including hatchet men and enforcers who did his bidding. As such, he maintained strong order at his compound, and, in some cases, even strict discipline. These personal assets, combined with his accomplishments, should not be minimized.

For his austerities, efforts, will, and determination, Kértanänanda’s movement-wide adulation biorhythms trended upward from the early Seventies throughout the early Eighties. Then, ten years after, they peaked in 1983, as incubating major vikarmic reactions began making their appearance at that time. It would get worse, and insult would be added to injury. That he was never the successor to Prabhupäda in the guru-paramparä would become self-evident to an ever-growing number of devotees, both in and out of “ISKCON.” A descending octave took complete hold of both him and his operation in the mid-Eighties.

Prabhupäda REX
(The Ballast of Gold)

“The King gave away to the beggar (Kali) again something more, permitting him to live wherever there is gold, because there is found falsity, intoxication, lust, envy, and enmity.”
Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 1.17.39

“ . . . I think Krishna will not give us that opportunity, because as soon as we get large quantity of gold, we forget Krishna. That nature is incumbent in our character.”
Letter to Rüpänuga, 7-3-68

Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal.
Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

In order to distinguish himself as Successor Äcärya—as in, THE Successor Acarya—Kértanänanda needed more than just the “Bhaktipäda” brand name. He had to come up with something much better, something more tangible, something people could see and admire. And his fertile brain did concoct that something: A so-called palace-cum-crypto-mausoleum, which wound up being called “The Palace of Gold.”

This idea was not entirely new, of course, because the Taj Mahal is basically the same thing, and it is also a big-time tourist attraction in India. The Vanity Fair Despot wanted something similar, and he had the collectors who could and would go out and subsidize this massive and costly boondoggle, featuring a big-time gurv-aparädha within its confines.

You see, Kértanänanda had an advantage that most of the other zonals did not have: He had no attraction whatsoever to the opposite sex. Once the plainclothes pick was established in the movement in late 1973, that transformation elevated women to a much higher status. The reason for their change in their status is not difficult to ascertain, viz., they could “dovetail” the dry-hump out on the pick. They could flirt with their targets, and, with but a few exceptions, collect considerably more than their male counterparts. Since the flirting itself was deceptive, it fit in nicely with the other deceptions (such as the change-up) that most of these gold-plated grifters utilized in order to fleece the public.

The movement’s leaders–and that eventually included “new gurus”–would have to pay more attention to these female cash cows, as in personal attention with honors. In the late Seventies, the problem for the other zonals, of course, is that these extra dealings with women, which that profit strategy entailed, could wind up getting them in trouble.

Not Kértanänanda, however, because he was never enticed by them. He considered women “smelled like fish.” Instead, with his encouragement and sanction, he could have his male scam-kértan leader or leaders exploit the situation for their own sensual pleasures. They could be rewarded in this way and keep the women fired-up and “satisfied” after they worked a never-ending supply of easy-prey donors in malls, parking lots, and airport terminals. There was a kind of synergy in this tactic, and it went on at another American center, also.

Furthermore, by getting all of the female pickers from the Moundsville compound to weekly collect so many thousands of dollars, pressure was put on their male counterparts to keep up in order to also be recognized. If any of those men wanted one of the great ladies to become his wife, well, that fellow had better show that he deserved the privilege. He had better have some solid monetary results of his own to prove himself worthy.

Money would be no problem, so the question was: What would all of this revenue serve to subsidize? In West Virginia, it was determined that the cash would create a huge palace, wherein His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda–always the perfect Brähmin, always the perfect preacher–would now be converted into . . . wait for it . . . a perfect emperor! He would have an opulent crown adorning his head as he sat on a large, ornate throne. He would be wearing a colorful cape, and, in his hand, he would be holding the monarch’s scepter.

As we all know, emperors also must have kings to rule various provinces under them. There would have to be at least one king ruling “New Våndävan” under the newly-installed Emperor in his Palace of Gold. Why, that would be Kértanänanda, of course! In fact, on at least on one occasion, “Bhaktipäda” did don a crown while holding a scepter.

How unique, but it gets better! By creating the palace, he could then fleece tourists who came to witness and walk through it, i.e., the monies collected out on the pick to create it would similarly create their own revenue stream. At the very least, the enamored sightseers would gratefully make donations, sometimes hefty ones.

And it gets even better! The one-upmanship that the palace represented—no other zonal boasting anything like it—could double-dip, viz., it could be considered a kind of mausoleum substitute. Kértanänanda could intuit that his fellow pretenders (along with himself) would be utilizing their collection revenue for their own projects in their own zones. The samädhi (mausoleum) project in Våndävan at the Kåñëa-Balaräm temple would require selfless donations and work in order to come to fruition. Who would pay for it? Who would organize that expensive project? Revenue in India was hard to come by, and that marble Kåñëa-Balaräm temple itself required whatever rupees trickled in.

The G.B.C. resolutions had mandated the samädhi, but it wasn’t happening. That the construction of the samädhi in Uttara Pradesh would languish was not difficult to predict, and languish it did. This allowed Kértanänanda to play the card, a card that nobody else had in his deck, viz., he had created a shrine for Prabhupäda, while the rest of the movement combined could not even create a mausoleum to honor him in India.

And then there was the gold and marble . . . lots and lots and lots of gold and marble. Americans would be attracted to such opulence. At the very least, they would be curious to come and see the structure, what it represented, who it honored . . . and, most importantly, the one man who could claim all the credit for having brought it to fruition.

And that’s how things played out . . . for awhile. As fate would have it, the carnival atmosphere at the Moundsville compound was only an outer covering, one which hid darker elements and nasty characters underneath. Those began to become known by the mid-Eighties. Envy from his competitor zonals undoubtedly contributed to the scandals and crimes gradually being unearthed. More importantly, the foundation of almost everything that was going on in and at “New Våndävan” was flawed at its very foundation.

Once that descending glide-path gained momentum, “The Palace of Gold” was unable to survive the downwards spiral. After the gold rush, the palace went cold and dark, more or less neglected. Its upkeep was demanding, requiring dedicated maintenance from dedicated workers, but “New Våndävan” eventually degenerated to every-man-for-himself mode.

“Several hundred residents had defected between 1986 and 1994 . . . and the community was not making enough money to make ends meet. . . Prabhupäda’s Palace was cold and dark . . . and Palace tourism had decreased to next-to-nothing. . . There has been no electricity in the Palace of Gold for months.”
Henry Doktorski, Killing for Krishna, “The Dark Age of New Våndävan”

On Christmas Day, 1980, a bejeweled crown was placed atop the Prabhupäda mürti in the Palace of Gold. Along with a cape and a scepter, this new definition of the Founder-Äcärya actually dishonored him and the guru-paramparä. Yet, despite two of the Magnificent Eleven still being disciplined and on probation—a sign of things to come—Kértanänanda was flying high at the beginning of the decade. The Palace was his crown jewel, but not all of Prabhupäda’s disciples were enamored by it. A handful of them could hear the rolling thunder pealing and see the dark storm cloud gathering in the distant horizon. The Eighties started off with a bang for the great man, but they would not at all end well for him.

Proceed to Part Two


1 Raj Kotecha { 06.09.18 at 12:50 }

Kailasa Candra prabhu employs his expert journalistic skills in the service of the parampara by presenting a number of articles that philosophically edify the readership. He sets the standard of Vaishnava etiquette by philosophically pointing out the deviations.

2 Leslie { 07.03.18 at 11:51 }

Beautifully and expertly described! Reads like a script from a suspence thriller…truth stranger than fiction. Love what you are doing here – keep up the good work and the good fight! The truth will set us all free and keep us on the path that Srila Prabhupada set out for us all. Thank you…

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