In the mind-expanding mood of the 1960s, ISKCON looked like a harmless hippie fad. However, as the organization grew, the material world became less and less immaterial. After Prabhupada’s disappearance in 1977, ISKCON descended into chaos and scandal. The Hare Krishna world was carved up among 11 gurus, and in each guru’s zone, his authority was absolute. Some of the 11 became corrupted absolutely.
In 1998, ISKCON opened a six-million-dollar temple in India, complete with nine animatronic Deities. The “Glory of India” seemed to show how far the group had come. However, a $400 million lawsuit, filed in the US pointed to a darker side. Nevertheless, it was not the last chapter of the story: a story of power struggles, drugs, and murders.
For a small organization, ISKCON has had more than its share of bad publicity, and most of it was well deserved. When Prabhupada “departed” in 1977, there was a deep power struggle, over who would lead the movement. The 11 gurus who carved the World, made up the “Governing Body Commission,” which Prabhupada set up before he passed away.
One thing that is certain is that their unchecked power, was too much for most. 90 to 96 percent of Prabhupada’s initiated disciples, either left, or were ostracized, kicked-out, pushed-out of ISKCON, so the GBC could rule unquestioned, more significant, “to make room, in Temple’s services, for the disciples of these 11 gurus. These 11 simply took over the property, and wealth, that once belonged to Srila Prabhupada, and which provided devotional service activity for his disciples.
Let us look at the character, and morals, of a few of these unfaithful 11 disciples of Srila Prabhupada.
Hansadutta, the West Coast guru, started stockpiling weapons, and became addicted to heroin.
Kirtanananda, at the “Palace of Gold” in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia, operated an illegal, multi-million-dollar, racketeering operation. He also engaged in acts of pedophilia with young boys. In the end he was charged with Federal RICO violations, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The New Vrindavan commune in West Virginia was at the center of a raging controversy, following charges of murder, child molestation, kidnapping, copyright violations and tax evasion.
Bhavananda, was a verified and notorious, practicing homosexual.
Jayatirtha, was a constant user of LSD, (he was a disciple of Timothy Leary in the 1960’S). He was also having sexual relationships with the wives of his disciples; until one such disciple, in an LSD craze, took a knife, and cut Jayatirtha’s head off.
Rameshwar, was having illicit relationships with young girls.
There was rampant physical and sexual abuse in the many of the gurukulas, (boarding schools.
At least two dissident ISKCON members were murdered, and there was talk of others disappearing in India.
All along, there was activity of organized Precious Jewels, and Drug Smuggling. It sometimes looked like “Machiavelli and The Prince”, had replaced “Krishna and the Bhagavad Gita.”
The “Prince” is a 16th-century political treatise written by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccole Machiavelli, as an instruction guide for new princes and royals. The general theme of The Prince is of accepting that the aims of princes – such as glory and survival – can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends.
Therefore, this 269-page Treatise, is simply an attempt to “shed light” on the two most consequential issues that ISKCON is faced with. Fix these two problems, and in the due course of time, Srila Prabhupada’s mission will have been restored, or reconstituted.
In the mid-1980s, some people went to jail for the murders, eventually 9 of the 11 gurus quit, and subsequent appointed gurus, fell from grace as well, while others broke away to form splinter groups. For a while, it looked like ISKCON was self-destructing, because “too many gurus did not want to spread Prabhupada’s teachings, they wanted to be Prabhupada.”
ISKCON teetered for a while, and there was talk of reform, but little came from these talks. ISKCON’s solution to these reform efforts, was to appoint the leaders of the reform effort, gurus themselves.
In the mid-1990s, the president of the New Orleans temple was found tied to a chair with his throat slit.
Today, membership in the USA, is a fraction of what it was.
Nori Muster, worked for 10 years as ISKCON’s publicist, before quitting in disgust. She thought that the group is beyond hope. She said of ISKCON’s leadership,
“They do not like, to let people know, that there is really as much chaos as there is.”
In 1997-Muster published her book, “Betrayal of Spirit”, about her 10 years in ISKCON’s publicity department. She wrote,
“What you have now is just a dying thing that’s kind of lingering,”
“It would take a lot, for them to turn it around at this point. Moreover, that would involve being more honest about their history, opening up more about their finances, and where they get their money from, which still is a enigma. They, the leaders, have access to lots of money, and they channel it where they want it.”
For Muster, it is a matter of the corruption, and narrow-mindedness of the GBC, especially the core group of gurus. She further writes,
“They took over the organization in about 1970, and they have run it ever since. And they have run it with an iron fist.”
If this “nutshell”, of a history, were to be completely researched and documented, one would wind up with a book 1,000, maybe 2,000 pages in length.