Winter 2005/6


Previously, we described the phenomenon of the “green card devotee” – someone who joins ISKCON from a “third world” country primarily as a means to escape poverty, attracted by the opulence of the bogus gurus.

We showed how these devotees then leave having tasted a higher standard of material living, a fact confirmed by H. H. Indradyumna Swami (pictured left) in his diary during his fundraising trip to Russia:

“it seems that the opulence of present-day Moscow has bewildered some devotees, and they have compromised or even given up their Krsna consciousness. “It’s true,” I thought. “It’s happened elsewhere as well.”

This is proof positive that the current guru system in ISKCON has no potency, since during Srila Prabhupada’s time the reverse phenomenon occurred, with Westerners giving up their materially opulent lifestyles to dedicate their lives to ISKCON when Srila Prabhupada was the only initiating guru:

"They are coming from respectable, rich parents, nation, but they have given up their home, their father’s opulence, mother’s opulence. That I have seen practically. Practically all my students.”
(Srila Prabhupada Room conversation, September 21st, 1973)

Further evidence of the “Western emigration” from ISKCON was recently published in the ISKCON Communications Journal (ICJ):

“Since its founding by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has undergone dramatic changes. In its formative stages, ISKCON was primarily a monastic movement comprised of Western converts who became well-known for enthusiastic proselytising. In the past twenty years, monasticism in North American ISKCON has dwindled and the organisation has become congregation-based. The face of these congregations has grown increasingly Indian. The asramas (monastic quarters) have been weakened further by a dearth of Canadian and American recruits. Temples now regularly sponsor priests from other countries to perform basic functions. Some people believe ISKCON is maturing, finding its niche as a chaplain to the Indian diaspora.”
(‘Bhakti Vedanta Mission Conference’, ICJ , Vol. 11, 2005)

ISKCON’s removal of Srila Prabhupada as the initiating guru and its implementation of an unauthorised guru system has naturally alienated intelligent Westerners from joining the mission in the same numbers as they were before. This alienation is further completed by ISKCON’s increasing dependence on local Hindu communities at the expense of other communities. As a result, ISKCON has deviated from its original spiritual mission and adopted commercial practices that are increasingly following new age philosophies and the Hindu dollar than they are Srila Prabhupada’s original teachings. We highlight some of these below.

Mantra for sale
The mixing of “Hindu” and “new age” philosophies with Krishna consciousness seems to be a growing phenomenon in ISKCON. This is particularly noticeable in the UK, where two temples are selling these ideas as business ventures. Bhaktivedanta Manor (pictured left), the headquarters of ISKCON UK, runs an enterprise called “Veda Lifestyle”. Its courses include ‘Art of Henna’, ‘Ayurvedic Head Massage’ and ‘Indian Feng Shui’. As far as we can tell, these are not subjects Srila Prabhupada recommended should be taught within his temples, for they have absolutely nothing to do with developing Krishna consciousness.

Fortunately however, “Veda Lifestyle” also runs a one-day course on ‘Mantra Meditation’.
There is, though, a drawback: the course costs US$165 per person, and the mantra meditation is marketed as also offering the following mundane benefits:

Peaceful contemplation • Focus and alertness • Decreasing stress • Reducing anxiety

Thus the sacred maha-mantra is being prostituted as some mental technique in order to generate money.
Srila Prabhupada, however, had different ideas about preaching mantra meditation:

”So here is no cheating process. We say that this mahamantra can save you, we are distributing publicly, no. Free, without any charge…And if you charge something, if you bluff, if you cheat, oh, people will follow.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, February 18th, 1969)

Soul mate yoga

Over at ISKCON Newcastle in the north-east of England, they are teaching a course on “Soul mate yoga” and “Visnu Tattva Tantra” specifically for “partners”.
These partners are offered “advanced prana exchange”, asked to dress “romantic casual”, and told that “you and your loved one” can take their “relationship to a new dimension”.
And of course all this is offered for SALE - $70 per couple for a 3 hour session.

Again one must ask if such money-making “yoga” courses are authorised by Srila Prabhupada as bona fide practises to be offered by ISKCON in ISKCON temples.

(pictured right, Bhakti Rasa Temple President of ISKCON Newcastle)

Wine and dharma

Bhaktivedanta College based at the ISKCON Radhadesh temple in Belgium features a variety of courses which are, in the words of the College itself, “hallmarks of academic and practical training in ISKCON today”.  Akhandadhi Das, who was the first Temple President of Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK to ban devotees from the temple simply for supporting Srila Prabhupada’s signed, July 9th 1977 directive on initiations, is one of the College’s Faculty members and teaches a course on “Character Development”. His module is called “Truth and Dharma”.

Srila Prabhupada describes truth, dharma and character development thus:

“But at the present moment, in the Kali-yuga, dharma is practically nil. (...)
It is stated in the Kali-yuga about eighty per cent people, they are sinful, all sinful. The sinful list we have given, the four principles, illicit sex life, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.8.30, purport)

“We generally take bad character on the basis of illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling.”
(Srila Prabhupada Conversation, July 4th, 1975)

According to Bhaktivedanta College, Akhandadhi also manages Buckland Hall (pictured above), a retreat centre in Wales. The website of this same Buckland Hall states:

“A bar serving fresh juices or alcoholic beverages is available to your request.”

We are then offered an extensive

Celebration Wine List”:

”Buckland Hall specialises in serving Organic wines chosen for their excellence and value.”

A wide range of white, red and sparkling wines, and champagnes costing over $50 a bottle, are then presented. One could therefore reasonably ask:

given that Srila Prabhupada has stated that intoxication is one of the four sinful activities which destroys dharma and good character, what is ISKCON doing employing someone who actively sells intoxication as part of his livelihood as a teacher at its college, on a course that is supposed to teach character development, truth and dharma?
(Akhandadhi dasa pictured right)

Demigod worship

Above we read how ISKCON has lost its missionary outreach spirit and has comfortably settled into a “niche as a chaplain to the Indian diaspora”. Some observers have labeled this trend as the “Hinduisation” of ISKCON. Essentially, this means that ISKCON is more concerned with maintaining its Hindu funding than preaching to the world. This is evident from the following.

A new temple project in San Diego, run by GBC member Badrinarayan Das, will include:
“Shrine for Ganesh; Shrine for Shiva, Murties of Shri Parvati (Amba), Linga, Nandi Murti.”

Srila Prabhupada has repeatedly stated that the worship of demigods is not meant for Vaishnavas who are only meant to engage in pure devotional service to Lord Krishna:

"Thus by worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead one can satisfy all the demigods, but by worshiping all the demigods one does not completely worship the Supreme Lord. Therefore worship of the demigods is irregular, and it is disrespectful to the scriptural injunctions.”
(Srimad-Bhagavtam 4.2.35, purport)

Given these clear instructions from Srila Prabhupada, it is therefore very surprising that the GBC itself should be establishing a temple dedicated to demigod worship. Such demigod worship in Krishna’s temple is also promoted in other ISKCON centres, such as in Spanish Fork, Utah, where we are told that the appearance day of Lord Siva will be celebrated by the “chanting of Lord Shiva’s 108 names”. Yet Srila Prabhupada states:

“This is clearly stated. Sravanam kirtanam visnoh: one should chant about and glorify Lord Visnu, not any demigod.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.15.72, purport)


What is interesting also about both these temples is that though the one in San Diego is run by a GBC member, Badrinarayan Das (pictured left), and the one in Utah is run by a GBC voted-in-guru, Caru Das (pictured right), neither are registered in the names of ISKCON, as mandated by Srila Prabhupada in his last Will and Testament:

“Each temple will be an ISKCON property and will be managed by three executive directors.”
(Clause 2, Srila Prabhupada’s Last Will and Testament)


This opening of “ISKCON” temples which are not actually in the name of ISKCON seems to be a trend, as we learn from the $61 million “Sedona Center of Vedic Culture” to be constructed in Arizona. According to the project’s press statement,

“the project will not be officially operating under the name of Iskcon, it will be structured and based on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and vision, and will be “Iskcon friendly.”

This is highly ironic, for whilst it is the IRM which is mistakenly criticised as being “anti-ISKCON”, it is actually the GBC and ISKCON gurus who no longer have any faith in ISKCON! The IRM is the only organisation which wishes to make ISKCON glorious again – not run away from using its name!

The Arizona project recognises that:

"America seems to be left in the dust, seemingly struggling in most cases of trying to maintain temples, with a lack of laxmi and devotees, projects which were started more than 30 years ago!”

Project director, ISKCON GBC voted-in guru HH Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Swami, stated:

“America needs one very big project to come about to raise the hope and enthusiasm of the Vaishnavas in America, and I think that this may be the one.”

It seems that since ISKCON in the US is struggling to maintain temples, finances and most importantly devotees, they have thrown in the towel and have decided instead that only way to survive is to ditch Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, and operate as semi-Hindu pseudo-ISKCON temples. Yet it was only due to ditching Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, in particular his instruction to keep him as the diksa guru for ISKCON, that all the problems began in the first place!


A recent ISKCON-inspired initiative is the “I-Foundation” in the UK. The Foundation’s Advisory board includes several ISKCON devotees, including GBC elected gurus Bhakti Caru Swami, Radhanath Swami and Sivarama Swami. The first main project of the I-Foundation is establishing a Hindu primary school in the UK in affiliation with ISKCON as a “faith partner”, funded by the Government. This is another activity not approved by Srila Prabhupada, since he specifically wanted the creation of bona fide gurukulas within ISKCON to train students in Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada never authorised the opening of Government schools, where the Government ordained curriculum must be taught. Throwing in a “Hindu assembly” and some token classes on “Hinduism” cannot change the essential nature of the school, which is to produce academic scholars, rather than devotees of Krishna, which was the purpose of the gurukulas, which Prabhupada authorised.

Bad Karma

The February 2005 issue of ISKCON UK’s Bhaktivedanta Manor Newsletter began with a quotation from Srila Prabhupada which stated:

“Therefore one should not practice religion with the aim of improving one’s economic welfare...”
(Mukunda-Mala-Stotra, Text 5)

Right underneath this quotation and a photo of Srila Prabhupada, we find the following news item:

Good Karma for Karma Cars

On January 22nd, ITV’s “London Tonight” featured devotees blessing the new Watford car company “Karma Cars”. The programme included footage of devotees scattering Ganges water and rice as well as blowing a conch to bring auspiciousness.
Srutidharma das of Bhaktivedanta Manor was interviewed as was the Sales Manager of Karma Cars (wearing a garland and decorated with tilak on the forehead).
During the news bulletin a local Catholic lady proclaimed that she “loved the Hare Krishnas” and thought the ceremony was a great idea, adding that everyone should have their businesses and houses blessed. That weekend Karma Cars declared a 60% increase in car sales!”

(Bhaktivedanta Manor Newsletter, February 2005)

Highlighting the Vice-President of Bhaktivedanta Manor (Srutidharma das pictured middle above) “blessing a new car company” whose sales rose by 60% over a weekend is not exactly congruous with Srila Prabhupada’s statement that “one should not practice religion with the aim of improving one’s economic welfare”.

In any case it seems the “economic blessing” did not work, for just 2 months later, Karma Cars was forced to close:

Results for the six months ended 30 June 2005 […]
Significant loss for the period, principally due to trading losses and closure of Karma Cars

Chairman’s Statement

With the closure of the motor retailing venture Karma Cars behind us (it only remains for us to dispose of the leasehold premises in Watford), the rebuilding of the Group is now well underway […]
The net loss of £2,036,000 (2004: loss £482,000) is principally due to the trading losses and subsequent closure costs of Karma Cars.
(Private & Commercial Finance Group Plc)

We would humbly suggest that the Manor’s management sincerely practise what Srila Prabhupada preaches, and not ban those who wish to do so themselves.

Sannyasis and business

We have reported above, on the ISKCON-inspired initiative in the UK called the “I-Foundation”, whose Advisory board includes several ISKCON sannyasis, including GBC-elected gurus HH Bhakti Caru Swami, HH Radhanath Swami and HH Sivarama Swami.
According to the Foundation, its objectives include:

“flagship initiatives, grounded in Vedic philosophy and culture, in areas such as education, retail, media, performing arts and professional services” and “a venture capital investment subsidiary for promoting on-mission and for profit initiatives”.

Indeed, Bhakti Caru Swami justifies his involvement as a sannyasi in business by saying:

“Referring to making arrangements for economic development, Guru Maharaja said, “Why do I do it? Because YOU are not doing it. Since nobody is doing it, then I’ll do it. And is it important? Yes it is important.
And that is the meaning of Sankirtana, ‘do whatever is required.”
(BCS Istagosthi, 22/4/2006)

Srila Prabhupada however states:

“Business must be done by the grhasthas, not by the
or brahmacaris.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, January 22nd, 1976)

“The brahmacaris and sannyasis must stick to the temple activities.”
(SP Letter, 4/9/75)

Bingo for hire

One of our readers from New York City has also informed us that the ISKCON temple in Brooklyn hires out rooms in the temple building for Bingo (which is a gambling activity), for thousands of dollars a month. In this connection, Srila Prabhupada states:

“Bingo. Yes. So this is maya. And our declaration of war with maya [...]
no bingo”
(Srila Prabhupada Conversation, 6th April, 1975)

IT Park and Flight School

Media coverage of the opening of a new ISKCON temple in Ujjain, India by GBC-elected guru HH Bhakti Caru Swami has reported that the 50 million rupee project plans to include a:

“cowshed, Vedic library, biofarming and ayurvedic college, Varahmihira IT Park and flying training academy.”

If this media report is correct, then we can identify two of these activities that definitely do not fall within Srila Prabhupada’s plans for a Hare Krishna temple project: an IT park and a flying training academy.


Selling mantras, selling “soul mate yoga” courses, opening non-ISKCON temples, promoting demigod worship, opening Government schools etc. It seems with the passing of time, and the failure of ISKCON at all levels due to its unauthorised guru system, ISKCON is responding by deviating even more from Srila Prabhupada’s directives, seeing its financial health and popularity with the Hindu community as the new measures of success. We are not condemning these activities per se, and they may have value in their own right; our only point is that ISKCON was not painstakingly established by Srila Prabhupada for it and its devotees to be involved in such activities.

There was a time, long ago, when there was only one measure of success for ISKCON – fidelity to Srila Prabhupada. However, having thrown Srila Prabhupada out as the Guru of his own society, anything goes, and we should not at all be surprised at the deviations which will follow. Rather, such deviations should actually be expected as a natural progression. Watch this space for further deviations occuring in the name of “innovative preaching”, and keeping the “money coming in”.
The dilution, de-spiritualisation and commercialisation of ISKCON will only continue until we restore Srila Prabhupada to his rightful position as the diksa guru. That will be a start in following his instructions and rebuilding the mission he so carefully and precisely created for the benefit of mankind.