|Despite past difficulties, Kirtanananda Swami still attracts a following|
Kirtanananda Swami was one of the first disciples of ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, and following Prabhupada’s passing away he became one of the Society’s foremost leaders. However, in 1987, following ‘numerous, serious illegal acts’ and philosophical deviations he was officially expelled from ISKCON.
In 1990, the US federal government indicted Kirtanananda Swami on five counts of racketeering, six counts of mail fraud, and conspiracy to murder two of his opponents in the Hare Krishna movement. The government claimed that he illegally amassed a profit of more than $10.5 million over four years. It also charged that he ordered the killings because the victims threatened to reveal that he sexually abused minors.
The swami was convicted on nine of the eleven charges in 1991, but the Court of Appeals threw out the convictions, saying that child molestation evidence had unfairly prejudiced the jury against Kirtanananda Swami who was not charged with those crimes.
In 1996, before
Kirtanananda Swami's retrial was completed, he pleaded guilty to one count of
[Note: In 1996 Kirtananda began serving a 12-year prison sentence for raketeering/murder, but was released after 8-years]
Immediately following his release, ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, issued a statement reminding members that Kirtanananda Swami is prohibited from visiting any ISKCON temple or centre.
Undeterred, the 66-year-old swami is resuming his ministry, the Interfaith League of Devotees, in New York City.
At his centre, one woman who gave her name as Eternal Love said, 'It's like having your father back'.
Kirtanananda Swami who because of the lingering effects of childhood polio now uses a wheelchair, took to the microphone to answer questions from his disciples.
When a young man asked about confronting persecution, Kirtanananda Swami told him not to worry, because true devotees exist on a 'platform above good and evil'. Only God can truly judge their worthiness, he said.
'If the Lord wants to kick me, he kicks me', he said. 'If the Lord wants to embrace me, he embraces me.'
Kirtanananda's Interfaith League of Devotees