Chakra Discussions

New Vrindaban History, for the Record

by Ravindra Svarupa dasa

Posted January 5, 2007

[Editors' note: Chakra has chosen not to publish the recent accusations against Radhanath Swami, Malati Prabhu and others, as cyberspace is not a productive place to conduct a "trial". Instead, we encourage anyone who thinks that s/he has new information to turn this over to the appropriate authorities. They have access to all the necessary resources, including forensic experts, detectives, psychologists, juries and judges. ISKCON does not. We also would like to note that several individuals, whose names have been mentioned in the numerous texts, are either innocent bystanders or victims, and that they and their loved ones are being hurt every time these stories are rehashed on the web. Since the original events happened, many of these people have had children, who are now old enough to use the internet and google their parents. We are concerned about the effect that these texts are having on them.]

I wish to offer a few remarks in regard to some emails concerning H.H. Radhanatha Swami, Tirtha prabhu and others.

As some of you may recall, in 1987 the North American GBC decided that, for the protection of Srila Prabhupada's movement, it should cooperate with the government in its case against Kirtanananda Swami and others. On three occasions, I myself testified in court as a prosecution witness. And I spent some time in consultation with the lead federal prosecutor, Michael Stein.

On several occasions, I was able to observe at first hand the thorough and systematic way the team of prosecution lawyers and FBI agents made their cases not only against Kirtanananda but against many of his lieutenants and foot-soldiers. Some of them, to protect themselves, eventually testified against Kirtanananda. So far as I could see, the government was thorough and relentless.

(At the same time, it became clear that the government had no antagonisms toward Krishna consciousness, toward ISKCON, and toward the many mislead New Vrindavan devotees. Michael Stein told me that in his view, Kirtanananda had taken a genuine religion of sincere people and perverted it into a criminal enterprise.)

At one point, Michael Stein talked to me about Radhanatha Swami. "Everyone says Radhanatha is a saintly person-not like Bhaktipad," Michael said, "yet still he supports Bhaktipad. Why is that?" It was clear that Stein suspected that Radhanatha Swami had been compromised in some way. I answered, "I don't know. Why don't you ask him?" I was curious myself. Michael said, "I'm going to do just that."

He had some difficulty getting ahold of Maharaja, who of course spent much time in India. But finally Radhanatha Swami came in, voluntarily, for a meeting (or maybe an interrogation. Some time later, Michael Stein told me that he had concluded -- from his talk with Maharaja and whatever else he'd gathered from the government's investigation -- that Radhanatha Swami was not implicated in any of the criminal activities in New Vrindavan.

I accepted his judgment, and in spite of these recent belated allegations, I still do. I think the federal prosecution had better judgment and more disinterested intentions than anyone now calling its decisions into question.

The government is not going to reopen its case. I am certain that any investigation of our own will serve only to cause distress, agitation, doubts and so on, without getting us one millimeter closer to a firmer resolution. Since it takes only a little common sense to recognize this fact, I conclude that the real intention of those calling for such an investigation is, in fact, to bring about distress, agitation, and misgivings.

Concerning Tirtha prabhu: Shortly after the "Winnebago incident" in 1993 had undeniably disclosed Kirtanananda's sexual transgressions and shattered his façade for good, I happened to be at a former New Vrindavan center in Ohio. I was told that Tirtha was on the phone, and he wanted to talk to me. Speaking from jail, Tirtha told me that now he understood that Kirtanananda was not a pure devotee, and therefore that he himself, who had killed two devotees on Kirtanananda's order, was guilty of murder. Tirtha asked me: "Now what should I do?" He said the government had been pressuring him to talk, but he had never opened his mouth: he didn't want to side against devotees, and he did not want to become a snitch. Now, however, he was wondering what to do.

I said to him at once that truth is the best prayascitta. He should go on record, answer all the government's questions truthfully, and he should ask for nothing in exchange. Tirtha said that other devotees had told him the exact same thing. "That's the best confirmation," I said. Tirtha also noted that this course would be dangerous for him. New Vrindavan conducted a ministry in that prison, and when word got out, his life would be in danger.

Kirtanananda's first conviction having been overturned on appeal, "the Swami" underwent a second trial, in which Tirtha's testimony was crucial. I was in the court room for Tirtha's cross-examination, and Kirtanananda's very expensive, skillful criminal-defense lawyer could not discredit him nor undermine his testimony. After that, Kirtanananda and his lawyers were granted a recess, during which they hammered out a deal with the government to present the judge. For some time the prosecution had had a plea-bargan offer open to Kirtanananda, but he'd refused it. But now, after Tirtha's time in the witness stand, the defense clearly wanted to avoid at all costs sending the decision to the jury. So a guilty plea was accepted, and a sentence handed down. (The prosecution had an interest in settling because they were concerned with another appeal and possible reversal: Kirtanananda had hired America's best appeal lawyers.)

I saw Tirtha later. His forearms were deeply scoured with newly healed knife wounds: he had been attacked in jail by an inmate loyal to "Bhaktipad."

In jail, Tirtha told me: "I belong in here."

With this statement, we see the process of Krishna consciousness. If some little purification has begun, we will soon become clearly aware of the depth and breadth of the ocean of our own sins and offenses. They will become profoundly abhorrent to us, and with tears in our eyes we will beg Krishna for forgiveness, being ready, at the same time, to accept without protest any punishment He gives us. We think no punishment will actually be enough. We know that of our own will we turned our face from the Supreme Personality of God and came to this material work to embark on a crime spree against God and His creation.

When there is full acknowledgment of sins and deep regret, Krishna accepts his fallen servant back, for which undeserved mercy the servant feels unlimited and unending gratitude. In this way the fallen soul goes back to Godhead.

If, however, a devotee becomes unwilling or unable to acknowledge his sins and offenses, his progress stops. He does not know why; he certainly did not do anything wrong! Inwardly miserable and unhappy from lack of Krishna consciousness, he directs his anger toward others, and he decides it is really their fault he is not Krishna conscious. It's them! Those other devotees! It's the gurus! The GBC! In this way, he becomes a full-time faultfinder.

Or he decides that actually he is advanced in Krishna consciousness. The evidence is that he can see with such superior lucidity the shortcomings and failures of others. Joining the Ramacandra Puri sampradaya, he also becomes a full-time faultfinder. Such unfortunate souls, who try to rectify others as a substitute for rectifying themselves, only sink deeper into offenses and sins. If we wish to make progress in Krishna consciousness we must take up the culture of the Holy Name. We must chant while diligently trying to give up offenses. Otherwise, chant as we may, the potency of the Holy Name will not act. We must follow this process.

In my experience, Tirtha prabhu, in jail, shows much evidence of sincerely cultivating the Holy Name. I have had much more association with H. H. Radhanatha Swami. In my experience, he clearly exhibits the symptoms of one advanced in sincerely cultivating the Holy Name.

I am seriously concerned, on the other hand, about Janmastami prabhu and Giri-Nayaka prabhu. From the evidence of these emails, it seems that they have wandered from the path into the quicksand swamp of fault-finding. If so, I pray to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna to send one of their agents to help these two devotees before they fall further and further into mortal danger.