Sulocana's murder

The Murder of Sulocana, Our Real Hero
By Balavidya Das | Published 03/11/2007

Sulocana das - murdered by Tirtha

Sulocana Prabhu
murdered by Tirtha das

Sulocana Prabhu was murdered May 22nd, 1986, 1:00 a.m., Los Angeles, two days after publishing his book "THE GURU BUSINESS", which discribes how the Leaders of the Hare Krishna movement deviated from the pure path as taught and exemplified by its founder, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Sulocana was one of the first devotees to realize the complete hoax of the GBC policy to rubber-stamp eleven unqualified personalities as the exclusive 'diksa-guru' successors to Srila Prabhupada in 1977. Let us be quite clear that this policy was an unqualified lie as to the intentions of Srila Prabhupada post-samadhi 1977. As the eleven self-declared gurus "paramhamsa-parivakacaryas" established their zonal power centers by initiating anyone in sight and throwing out of ISKCON even the most slightly dissenting godbrothers, Sulocana researched Srila Prabhupada's statements and fearlessly wrote a book exposing this fraud in the name of disciplic succession.

From his research he also realized the trouble Kirtanananda had been causing Srila Prabhupada right from the time of his sannyasa. This was pertinent, as Sulocana had lost his wife when Kirtanananda had maniplulated her away, initiated her, and married her away to one of his money collectors at New Vrndavana. Sulocana also came to know of the sexual and otherwise corruption that was rife amongst practically all the "exclusive eleven". Moreover, Kirtanananda in New Vrndavana was living a hypocritical life as an active predatory homosexual pedophile, simultaneously taking worship as a paramahamsa. In fact, the former live-in apartment sexual partners of Kirtanananda, Hayagriva and Umapati, where still in Kirtananda's inner circle at New Vrndavana. Hayagriva was free to import homosexual partners from Mexico.

Murderer Thomas Drescher Tirtha das
Murderer Tirtha das
Thomas Dresher

"The Guru Business" was the first realistic and comprehensive view of the topic false gurus, based on quotes given by Srila Prabhupada. We may recall that Sulochana das was then [1985] depicted by the false guru camp as a "poison pen" [by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami] as a drug addict, and so on. However, just now one devotee from the East Coast told me he downloaded the book and he was surprised to see how clear and intelligently written it actually was, since in Satsvarupa’s zone they are still saying that it was good to have assassinated Sulochana das. Of course, then the question is, why wasn’t Satsvarupa swami and co. aware of the problems that were being noted in great detail by Sulochana das, since not only were all of his initial accusations correct, but a lot more criminal behavior, molestation, etc. was discovered later, after he was killed by them? In sum, Sulochana das was several light years ahead of the entire GBC in his realizations on the topic of guru, etc. So if he is "fallen," [as they claim] then they are, by their own definition, hundreds of times more fallen, since they could not understand much about "guru tattva" until he lighted the path for them.



Troubled Karma for the
The murder of a disgruntled disciple sparks a grand jury probe

Time Magazine - Monday, Sep. 01, 1986

The case of Steven Bryant (Sulocana das), who was found shot dead in his van in Los Angeles last May, might have slipped into oblivion were it not for the victim's reputation. Bryant, 33, was widely known as a longtime Hare Krishna who had turned against the sect in recent years. A bit of a crank, he bounced between West Virginia and California telling lawmen that the ever chanting, saffron- robed, pig-tailed, panhandling sect had turned corrupt.

Bryant accused the Hare Krishnas of child abuse, drug dealing and systematic violence. He charged that the Krishna temple near Moundsville, W. Va. -- a 4,000-acre community called New Vrindaban that features an Oz-like palace decorated with gold leaf -- was becoming like the Rev. Jim Jones' notorious People's Temple.

Sulochan das at Moundsville police department being interviewed by a reporter
Sulochan das at Moundsville police
department being interviewed by a reporter

Law officers like Sheriff Donald Bordenkircher of Marshall County, W. Va., decided that Bryant's stories contained everything but substance. They dismissed his fear of being on a Hare Krishna hit list -- until he was murdered. Now authorities are reconsidering some of Bryant's tales. California police have charged Thomas Dresher (Tirtha das), 37, a former Krishna devotee from New Vrindaban, with Bryant's slaying. Meanwhile, police in West Virginia have uncovered evidence to charge Dresher and an ex-sect member, Daniel Reid (Daruka das), 31, with murder in connection with the 1983 disappearance of yet another Krishna, Charles St. Denis (Chakradhara das).

Inquiries by the FBI and the state police are under way in West Virginia. William Kolibash, U.S. Attorney for northern West Virginia, will impanel a grand jury Sept. 15 to probe possible murder conspiracy and drug dealing at New Vrindaban. Said Kolibash: "The Bryant homicide triggered the inquiry."

Suspicions about the sect have circulated since 1979, when California Temple Leader Alexander Kulik was convicted of distributing heroin. He was also accused, with others, of laundering drug money through an investment company, Prasadam Distributors, controlled by sect members. The new questions could hardly have come at a worse time for the Hare Krishna movement in the U.S. (membership: about 3,000). Since the death in 1977 of Founder Srila Prabhupada, the sect has split into mutually hostile factions. The internal trouble was dramatized publicly last fall when a disillusioned devotee (Triyogi dasa, Michael Schockman) bludgeoned the leader of the West Virginia temple, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada. The assailant is serving a 15-month prison term in West Virginia.

Bhaktipada, 48, who was left partly deaf and slightly lame by the bludgeoning, dismisses the West Virginia investigations as "absurd." He claims that Bryant began attacking the sect because he thought it had caused his wife to leave him. "He was vindictive," says Bhaktipada. Is there dissension within the Krishna temples? The guru concedes, "We have differences of opinion."

Investigators admit that the Hare Krishnas' penchant for secrecy will make it hard to find out what goes on in the inner sanctum. Still, according to U.S. Attorney Kolibash, the authorities will have more leverage when the grand jury takes over the probe. He adds that he is determined to find out "who calls the shots." As Steve Bryant's end attests, that is not merely a figure of speech.

With reporting by Elizabeth Taylor / Moundsville


Charleston Newspapers The Charleston Gazette

Copyright 1996 Charleston Newspapers The Charleston Gazette

April 18, 1996, Thursday

SECTION: News; Pg. P5B LENGTH: 531 words


MARTINSBURG (AP)- A member of a Hare Krishna fringe group testified Wednesday that he tracked down a dissident in Michigan and attached a bumper sticker onto the man's van to let him know he was being watched weeks before the man's execution-style slaying.

Thomas Drescher (Tirtha das) said he placed the sticker, which said "Are we having fun yet?" on the van of Stephen Bryant (Sulocana das) before tracking him down in 1986 in Los Angeles, where he shot Bryant twice in the head.

Drescher testified he carried out the assassination at the wish of his spiritual leader, Swami Bhaktipada.(Keith Ham)

"You have to understand that in my mind, it wasn't murder. It was dispatching an undesirable element from the community," Drescher said.

Drescher is the prosecution's star witness against Bhaktipada, who is on trial on six counts of mail fraud, three counts of racketeering, and one count each of conspiracy and interstate travel to commit murder for hire.

In its indictment, the government said Bhaktipada used two murders, a kidnapping threats and beatings to maintain control of the illegal business scams that raised more than $ 10 million between 1981 and 1985 at the New Vrindaban community near Moundsville in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.

Also Wednesday, Terry Sheldon (Tapahpunja das ), leader of a Krishna temple in Cleveland, testified that Bryant had been spreading rumors that Bhaktipada was a homosexual and a child abuser.

Bryant threatened the life of Bhaktipada and others, Sheldon said.

Sulochan das at Moundsville police department being interviewed by a reporter
Sulochan das at Moundsville police
department being interviewed by a reporter

Another dissident, Charles St. Denis (Chakradara das ), was shot and stabbed in 1983, he said.

Drescher was convicted in both slayings and is serving a life sentence for murder.

Drescher testified that Bhaktipada was disgusted with St. Denis because he was a womanizer and drug pusher. St. Denis also was seeking the return of some of the $ 80,000 he had given Bhaktipada, he said.

But it was not until St. Denis was accused of raping a woman that Drescher heard the first talk of killing anyone, he testified. Drescher said he went directly to Bhaktipada and broached the subject.

"He became pensive and turned and said 'You can only offend the spiritual master so many times,'" Drescher said.

Drescher said he and another man (Daruka - Dan Reid) killed St. Denis, then buried the body beneath a stream bed near New Vrindaban. Drescher later poured acid on the grave site.

Drescher said he killed Bryant three years later for spreading the same rumors about Bhaktipada. He said he had asked Bhaktipada if he wanted Bryant killed.

Bhaktipada replied, "Under the circumstances, it would be best," he testified.

Drescher said he tracked Bryant's movement to Los Angeles, where he found Bryant in his parked van near the home of a friend.

"I checked my weapon, walked up to the van, and killed him," he said.

Sheldon testified Bhaktipada's security was a concern after the leader was beaten with an iron bar in October 1985 (by Triyogi - Michael Schockman).

The attacker was suspected to be under the influence of Bryant, Sheldon said.

Sheldon said he participated in the surveillance of Bryant with Drescher and told Bhaktipada of the plot to kill Bryant.

New Vrindaban: It's All Over Now, Bar the Cover-up


Dec 30, 2007 USA (SUN) — The Truth, as we are assured by sastra, has finally come out into the open and somewhat bumpy fields of 'New Vrindaban'.

Tirtha brutally murdered Chakranadi, and a short while later Chakranadi's infant son was suffocated in an abandoned fridge.

old picture of Chakradhari das
old picture of Chakradhari das

Later, Triyogi dasa bashed in the head of Kirtanananda with a heavy pipe, enraged by the realization that the exclusive eleven paramahamsas were never appointed 'to be gurus' by Srila Prabhupada; his anger was compounded by the fact that Kirtanananda was currently an active homosexual pedophile presenting himself as a 'guru'.

Sulocana Prabhu, who had had his wife and children taken away by Kirtanananda's nasty manipulations, was blamed for this head-bashing by Triyogi dasa. Sulocana had written the ground-breaking expose "The Guru Business" (still available on line) and was known as the sworn enemy of Kirtanananda. In "The Guru Business", the guru-fraud perpetrated by the GBC post November 1977 is documented along with Kirtanananda's deep-seated sexual predilections. Triyogi's attack was thought to have been inspired by Sulocana Prabhu.

While Kirtanananda lay recovering in hospital, Radhanatha decided to murder Sulocana. Tapa Punj would oversee the murder. Tirtha, with Janmastami as assistant/driver, would be the killer. Tirtha had proven himself with his murder of Chakranadi, and Janmastami had military experience in Vietnam. This plan went up the line to Kirtanananda in hospital who gave approval. Kuladri at the bedside of Kirtanananda had already consulted with Radhanatha and through Kuladri news of the plan reached the other leaders of New Vrindaban: Malati, Devamrita, Candramauli, and Umapati. However, at the same time, Tirtha was letting the cat out of the bag by informing various persons, such as Yudhistra in L.A., of the coming murder. Tirtha's line was that the murder was bona fide as Kirtanananda was a pure devotee and it would be a devotional plus to assist.

Chakradhari das murdered by Tirtha, Thomas Dresher
Chakradhari das murdered
by Tirtha, Thomas Dresher

Tirtha's stupid mouthing about the coming murder and requests for assistance only served to advertise further the murder plan back to practically all residents of New Vrindaban. In fact, the plan quickly went all over the ISKCON grapevine. Hence, when Radhanatha was to be approved as a guru to wear the shoes of the incarcerated Kirtanananda, one of the conditions of the well-informed GBC was that he should not be charged as conspirator murderer. (At this point, it is interesting to note that the GBC condition was not that Radhanatha should have had nothing to do with the murder, only that he not be charged with the murder. All the GBC members knew, then as now, that Radhanatha was involved. Apparently, this is a secret GBC standard: to be rubber-stamped an ISKCON 'guru', one can be a murderer of devotees, but not a publicly known murderer of devotees.)

Interestingly, the police were feeding the murder plotters in New Vrindaban information about the whereabouts of Sulocana Prabhu from his captured diary. The police were knowingly encouraging the murder, hoping that this would give them the excuse to charge into New Vrindaban and bust Kirtanananda, thus hopefully bringing down the whole commune. The police, "to protect and serve", cared little about Sulocana - he was just a pawn to them. This activity by the police of knowingly encouraging Sulocana's murder is of course illegal. So, after the murder there was an unwritten and understood pact between the police and Radhanath: Radhanath keeps quite about the police role, and the police keep quite about Radhanath's role - providing of course Radhanath helps them put Kirtanananda away. Radhanath complied.

One night in L.A., Tirtha, with Janmastami as driver, found Sulocana Prabhu parked up in his mobile home. Sulocana was shot in the head through a window while sitting at his word processor (we are informed).

After the murder, Tirtha and Janmastami split up. Tirtha under close police surveillance was soon picked up. Janmastami left for India, Vrindaban initially, and then after a few months settled in the less conspicuous Gurugoan project of Kirtanananda just south of Delhi. Soon at this time, Tapo-punja also turned up in India, following the route of Janmastami. In India, Janmastami started to have deep feelings of guilt and regret for his role and thus is now speaking the truth about the murder. He takes honest responsibility for his role, but feels that he was manipulated by Radhanath into the murder as he was a disciple of Kirtanananda, whom he now rejects.

Following the murder, the word quickly went out all over ISKCON. In North America to ensure silence, a number of devotees were threatened, beaten or had their property destroyed by mysterious fires. In just a few months, Sulocana's son was to drown mysteriously in New Vrindaban. The message was clear.

Immediately after the shooting, there was a sudden requirement for flight from justice money. Dharmatma, the moneyed sankirtana boss of New Vrindaban, was entreated by Radhanatha to supply funds, but Dharmatma, first of all, didn't want to release the large amount of cash, but also feared the legal implications of supplying money to murderers for their flight from justice. As Dharmatma had balked, Radhanath went to Kirtanananda and told him the situation. Radhanatha was particularly desperate at this time because the murderers if caught would implicate him as the mastermind. The solution was that Dharmatma would give the money directly to Kirtanananda, thereby he, Dharmatma, would not have given the money directly to Radhanatha, i.e., Dharmatma had plausible deniability. Thus Kirtanananda received the cash but made the mistake of putting his fingerprints all over it by counting it before passing it on to Kirtanananda. However at the subsequent trial this was not seen as ultimate proof of his complicit involvement in the murder.

With the darkening cloud of legal proceedings hanging over them, all the murder conspirators and leaders of New Vrindaban swore an oath of silence not to implicate one another in the murder and to support one another always. This oath has been followed to this day like a secret society within ISKCON and the GBC.

Subsequently, Kirtanananda and Tirtha dutifully took the fall for the murder. Radhanath who has attained the heights (or depths) as an ISKCON guru is now a protected kingpin with his societal power and influence, helpful to the New Vrindaban cabal, but he recognizes that he is beholding, especially to Tirtha and Kirtanananda; hence he has always kept good relations with these jailmates, knowing that they could really blow his cover. However Janmastami by speaking the truth has bravely put the cat amongst the pigeons. We must praise Janmastami for his honesty. Those that know him personally know that he is a sincere devotee that was badly manipulated by Radhanatha. He is now on the path of purification by telling the plain truth of the whole sordid affair and by living in a mood of repentance.

Can we expect the same truth, penance and repentance from Radhanath, Tirtha, Tapo-punj, Kuladri, Malati, Devamrita, Candramauli, Umapati, even the GBC, many of whom knew that Radhanath was the murder mastermind even as they were rubberstamping him 'guru'? Of course not. All the above New Vrindaban leaders stayed on for years at New Vrindaban knowing well that Kirtanananda and Radhanatha had been involved in the murder of their godbrother, Sulocana dasa. It suited them to keep quiet about the murder, homosexuality, abuse and pedophilia in New Vrindaban then, and it is highly unlikely that they are going to speak the truth now, especially when some have been rubber-stamped as ISKCON 'guru' and reached the GBC body with covert help from one another. Instead, we will get the usual personal denials and ad hominem attacks on Janmastami dasa and the attempts to sweep the matter under the carpet. But, as the lying, maneuverings, and denials go on for months and months, Radhanath, Tirtha, Tapo-punj, Kuladri, Malati, Devamrita, Candramauli, Umapati, and the GBC, should realize that it's too late: we all know the facts now and that by lying and denying they are only further straying from the truth and only serving to disgrace themselves. Better that they resign their positions within the society and go with just a little dignity.

"The Truth will Out" and is now out.

Your servant,
Krsnananda dasa


Factual Errors in the article of Krsnananda dasa


Jan 4, 2007 USA (SUN) — This is in reply to the recent article by Krsnananda dasa, "New Vrindaban: It's All Over Now, Bar the Cover-up", which contained certain errors.

Unfortunately, I know a whole lot more about this New Vrndavana murder case than I care to. I will point out what I know to be the inaccuracies in this article. Frankly some points are somewhat inconsequential, but if the writer is wrong on certain very public facts it lends some doubt to the overall presentation. Given the issue being discussed it is clear that every and all effort must be made to make sure the truth is being told and old scores not being revenged through the medium of the Sampradaya Sun using unsupported assertions or gossip.

Quoting from the article:

The first point of fact is that Tirtha was alone when the actual murder occurred. Tirtha was assisted prior to the murder by Los Angeles devotee, Krsna Katha dasa, and at various points that night he was in the company of this Krsna Katha fellow. Krsna Katha several months later was arrested and threatened with being charged as an accessory to the murder. Eventually he was granted immunity in exchange for quite damning testimony, which was instrumental in gaining Tirtha’s conviction.

Janamastami was involved at various points leading up the killing but was not present on the night of the actual murder. Secondly, Sulocana Prabhu was shot immediately upon getting into his van after having exited the home of a devotee he was visiting. I suppose his van could be considered a “mobile home” but it certainly gives the reader the impression Sulocana Prabhu was sitting in his trailer house and was shot through the window.

Third, Sulocana was not working on his computer. According to the homicide detectives who I was initially interviewed by, and eventually became friendly with, the evidence at the scene indicated Sulocana's murder was a classic ambush killing. They were quite certain that mere seconds elapsed between Sulocana getting into his van and Tirtha (who was laying in wait in a nearby rental car) rushing up and firing through the driver’s side window.

They could not have “split up”, again because Janamastami was not there.

Tirtha was never under close surveillance. He was a suspect in a first degree murder case who was being actively pursued by the police, thus the second Tirtha's whereabouts (which Tirtha was making quite the effort to conceal) became known to law enforcement, he was immediately arrested. Thankfully cops don't let suspected serial murderers run around loose so they can "surveillance" them.

Keith Ham did not even come close to taking any kind of a "fall". Quite to the contrary, Keith Ham made every effort to lie his way out of this legal disaster that had landed flat in the middle of his little kingdom, especially, of course, all the murders committed in connection with the criminal enterprise which was laughingly being referred to as "New Vrndavana". The guilty plea he made in his second trial was prompted when Tirtha unexpectedly got up on the stand for the prosecution and began being completely truthful about Mr. Ham's involvement in Sulocana's killing.

Originally Ham had been offered a quite generous plea agreement which called for a very light prison sentence, something around seven years in exchange for pleading guilty to some of the lesser fraud and copyright charges which the U.S. Attorney had him completely dead guilty on. The other charges, which were not supported by completely airtight evidence, would be dropped, including Sulocana’s murder.

Ham, fresh off having won the appeal which granted him the new trial must have thought he was at the start of a winning streak. After having his first conviction and the 77 year sentence that went with it thrown out, Ham, wallowing in over-confidence (amongst other things) quickly and unequivocally told the Prosecution to go to hell, clearly convinced that he was going to get out of this whole thing unscathed. He soon learned the huge difference between paying famed attorney Alan Dershowitz $300,000.00 to find some procedural flaw in the previous trial, and going forward with the new proceeding facing all of the previously presented evidence, with the addition of the convicted hit man hopping up on the stand and pointing the finger directly at him.

Tirtha began to testify on the morning of the fourth day of the second trial and by lunch break, Ham's attorneys approached the U.S. Attorney to let him know they would be happy to just go ahead and take that friendly little plea agreement that had been offered some weeks before the start of the new trial. This time it was the U.S. Attorney's turn to tell them to go to hell. He countered by saying he would allow Ham to plead guilty to one count, any count of his choosing, but that the judge would then be at liberty to take into account all the other charges and all the testimony that had been heard so far and would have no restriction when passing sentence. This is how Ham wound up with the sentence of 20 plus years for the relatively benign crime of a copyright infringement.

The U.S. Attorney and the FBI guys I spoke to were convinced there were other “fish” who escaped their nets in connection with this case, but exuded a kind of “It goes along with the job” attitude about it. This was clearly not their first case where guilty people had managed to avoid capture and punishment, nor of course would it be their last.

Those are the points I can confidently refute. There are other assertions made by the writer that seem a little too specific, unless he happened to have personally witnessed them. During the time leading up to and during both the trials of Tirtha and Ham, I had access to a pretty good narrative of events provided to me by both the Los Angeles homicide detectives, a couple of FBI agents and, to a small extent, the federal prosecutor Michael Stein. Some of the assertions made by this writer are things I’ve never even vaguely heard about.

As a separate but similar point, the recent Navadipchandra Prabhu article implicating Malati in this mess, he initially refers to the prosecutor as Michael Stein but then erroneously proceeds to refer to as him as Mr. Michael Smith through the balance of the article.

I hope this helps out. This truly was and continues to be an exceptionally low point, not just for devotees, but amongst human beings in general. Simply recalling this handful of details has me feeling quite disgusted and also a bit nauseated.

Your fallen friend and servant,
… dasa


Sulocana's Murder - For the Record


Jan 3, 2007 PENNSYLVANIA, USA (SUN) [Revised]— Although I had originally intended the following information to be revealed only after my book " New Vrindaban: The Black Sheep of ISKCON" is published, I think--considering the current circumstances with new information being admitted by eyewitnesses practically daily to the Sampradaya Sun--interested Vaishnavas may appreciate reading the parts of my book dealing with Sulochan's murder in installments. To the best of my knowledge, the information below is not conjecture, but documented fact, and may shed some light on what actually transpired in New Vrindaban in the 1980s. Materials in quotation marks are actual quotations from published or unpublished writings or interviews, and reflect the opinions (accurate or inaccurate) of the individuals quoted.

Sincerely Your Servant,
Hrishikesh dasa (Henry Doktorski)

Excerpt from New Vrindaban: The Black Sheep of ISKCON

by Henry Doktorski (Hrishikesh dasa) Copyright 2002-2007 by Henry Doktorski

Chapter 24: Trials and Tribulations

"Although Bhaktipada and the New Vrindaban Community had faced trials and tribulations since the community’s inception in 1968, nothing (with the exception perhaps of the gang attack and shooting on June 5, 1973) had remotely approached the magnitude of the difficulties which beset the community in the mid-1980s and early-1990s."

Glory days of New Vrindaban: seven-year wave of good fortune.

As described in Part One, the community had been riding a seven-year wave of good fortune since the opening of Prabhupada’s Palace in September 1979. In 1981, based on the number of bus tours, Prabhupada’s Palace was rated the fifth most popular tourist attraction in West Virginia. In 1982 it jumped to third, superseded only by the Wheeling Jamboree country music festival and the Ramada Inn in South Charleston. During the 1982 Labor Day festival, so many tourists came that the community hired two local policemen to direct traffic in front of the Palace. One year, some 500,000 tourists reportedly visited the Palace. (1)

Many ISKCON devotees, excited by the temple building projects and preaching opportunities, moved to New Vrindaban, until the population (including children and employees) approached 700. (2)

Several dozen full-time sankirtan fund-raisers (sometimes over one hundred devotees would be sent out during periodic sankirtan marathons) developed and utilized innovative and creative techniques to obtain donations which brought in up to five million dollars per year. (3)

The community employed 187 local Marshall County residents to work as secretaries, gardeners and construction workers. Because of the community’s rising political clout, New Vrindaban appeared as an unincorporated village on the official 1983-84 West Virginia state map, and the government actually re-paved the rutted access road.

Everyone loves a winner.

In April 1979, Bhaktipada announced plans to build the largest Radha-Krishna temple in the world at New Vrindaban, the Shri Shri Radha-Vrindaban Chandra Temple of Understanding and the adjacent Land of Krishna theme park: a spiritual Disneyland. In 1983, a “temporary” temple was built for the deities which dwarfed most temples in ISKCON in beauty, size and craftsmanship. In 1985, Bhaktipada finished writing his first three books: Song of God, Christ and Krishna and Eternal Love. Also in 1985 was the groundbreaking ceremeony for the Temple of Understanding, which was attended by local and state politicians, and a United States Congressman from West Viriginia.

Sulochan, a fanatical whistle blower.

Soon however, Bhaktipada’s luck would take a turn for the worse. One New Vrindaban resident, who was initiated by Prabhupada in Detroit during July 1974, and--according to the Palace Manager--happened to be one of the top tour guides at the Palace, (4) Sulochan Das (Steve Bryant), had serious disagreements with the community management as well as marital discord with his wife, Yamuna Dasi, who had taken initiation from Bhaktipada on December 25, 1980 without her husband’s permission. He blamed Bhaktipada for ruining his marriage, “I had been living a rather disheartened married life. My wife had been devoting her heart to another man (5) and so, naturally, this killed any chance of our having a meaningful relationship.” (6)

Sulochan’s attorney, David Gold, remembered him, “There was definitely something different about him. I had talked with a lot of disgruntled Krishna devotees over the years, all of whom had tossed out various insults and accusations about the Swami. But regardless of how angry or disillusioned they were, they still referred to Kirtanananda in tones of respect, even awe. In contrast, Bryant spoke without fear or reservation.” (7)

Sulochan leaves New Vrindaban; his wife and children remain

During June 1984, after heated arguments with Bhaktipada and community leaders, Sulochan decided to leave New Vrindaban for good. It was very difficult for him to live at the community as only devotees who professed (or pretended to profess) absolute allegiance to Bhaktipada were welcomed to live there. Sulochan ordered his wife to join him in exile. She refused and later explained: (8)

Within a year or so, Yamuna had been remarried to one of Bhaktipada’s loyal followers (Raghunath Das), and became pregnant with his child. Sulochan told the story from his perspective, (9)

Searching for dirt on Kirtanananda.

old picture of Sulochan das together with kis kids
old picture of Sulochan das
happily with his kids

After returning to Los Angeles, Sulochan acquired, with much difficulty, a pirated microfiche set of copies of the complete letters of Prabhupada (the original letters were carefully guarded at the Los Angeles-based Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) from a sympathetic devotee, which gave him the inside story of the history of ISKCON, a revealing perspective which had been hidden from nearly all the rank-and-file devotees by the leaders of ISKCON. Sulochan wrote, “As I started to read through Shrila Prabhupada’s personal letters to his disciples, I was primarily looking for quotes on marriage. At the time I was desperate to try and save my own marriage. Although that was my main motive, I also knew it was my moral duty to try and save my wife and children from possible danger [from Kirtanananda]. In this way, I began my research with the blessings of the Lord of morality, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Since I was approaching His topmost representative, Shrila Prabhupada, for guidance and inspiration, I knew the outcome would be auspicious, whatever it was. I had no idea where my research would lead me. I only knew that something was going to burst, and I didn’t want it to be me. I was not especially concerned with the broader ‘guru-issue’ facing ISKCON’s ‘leaders’ today. Mainly, I wanted to save my own family, hoping that was part of the Lord’s plan.” (10)

Sulochan began meticulously studying the voluminous archive of Prabhupada’s letters to see if he could find anything about Kirtanananda Swami which might convince his wife to lose her faith in him, leave New Vrindaban and return to him. He wrote:

When Sulochan began showing these letters from Prabhupada to his friends, he discovered that many former New Vrindaban residents had their own horror stories to tell about abuse, child molestation, drug dealing and even murder. “You’ve got to understand, Kirtanananda is considered to be like a God. Infallible. Above reproach. Nobody questions him. People are in awe of his power. But when I started showing this stuff to other devotees I found out everybody had their own story to tell. Everybody had some dirt on Kirtanananda. It’s just that they were either too scared or worshipped him too much to talk about it before. Drugs, people getting killed, kids getting molested.

David Gold examined the letters from disgruntled devotees which Sulochan had collected, “I picked up the first letter and began reading. It testified to Bryant’s good character, then it went on to say that the writer was aware of numerous women who had been beaten at the commune. The next letter contained similar testaments to Steve’s sound mind and strong moral character, then the author, a woman, told how Kirtanananda had intentionally destroyed a number of families so that he could use the women for the street begging operation. The next letter was from a man whose daughter was molested at the ashram school. Another man said Kirtanananda had encouraged him to beat his wife. Another writer, who remained anonymous, said he was ordered to smuggle heroin from Thailand and turn over the proceeds to Kirtanananda. Someone else reported that they knew who the killer was in an unsolved murder at New Vrindaban.” (12)

“The Kirtanananda Exposé: A Crazy Man”

Sulochan compiled his research into a book, The Guru Business: How the Leaders of the Hare Krishna Movement Deviated from the Pure Path as Taught and Exemplified by its Founder: His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder/Acharya ISKCON. This book, essentially consisting of Sulochan Das’ candid (and sometimes inaccurate) commentary on excerpts from Prabhupada’s letters, was intended to expose the corrupt activities of the ISKCON gurus, whom, he believed, had usurped their positions of power within ISKCON. It was first real hard-hitting collection of essays exposing the corruption within the movement. One devotee accurately assessed it, “The Guru Business ranged from goofy to manic, from paranoid to deadly accurate.” (13)

Sulochan wrote about his mortal enemy in chapter ten: “The Kirtanananda Exposé: A Crazy Man”:

Sulochan made lots of allegations, but were they necessarily true? The answer to this question may come as a surprise to some.

. . . To be Continued

End Notes

1. Accurate figures of numbers of tourists are not available. The figure quoted in the Brijabasi Spirit article, “Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold,” which appeared in the March 1983 issue (p. 18) was certainly exaggerated, as nowhere near that number came in 1982. However, Mahabuddhi Das, the former Palace manager, thought that 500,000 people might have come in 1985, the busiest year for tourism.

The New Vrindaban Community Income Statement for the Year 1984 stated that Palace donations generated $745,315.21, or 18% of the total annual income of $4,012,224.02. For the record, membership subscriptions were $310,453.57 or 7.7%.

2. This figure of 700 was most certainly an exaggeration. The author examined fifteen census reports dated from September 1976 and July 1991 in the New Vrindaban archives and found that the October 1986 report listed the high point of the community’s population at 377 adults (213 men and 164 women). If we add 136 children and 187 employees to this number we arrive at 700.

3. The ISKCON New Vrindaban Community Financial Status Report for the week ending Sunday, December 8, 1985, stated that the community grossed $210,047.34 in income during that week. More than two thirds of that amount ($141,681.94) was from sankirtan pickers. The Palace gate earned only $2,536.50 that week (1.2%) as it was during the winter season. The 1985 Sankirtan Marathon Final Compilation stated that $971,160 was collected between November 21, 1985 and January 4, 1986. The New Vrindaban Community Income Statement for the Year 1984 stated that sankirtan devotees collected $2,853,899.94, or 71% of the total income that year.

William A. Kolibash, the United States prosecutor for Bhaktipada’s 1991 racketeering trial, claimed that New Vrindaban sankirtan revenues were substantially higher. According to his figures, the community collected $17,871,000 between 1981 and 1985.

4. The director of Palace operations and marketing from 1980 to 1985 wrote, “The top tour guides [at the Palace] were: Krishna Katha prabhu, Lajjavati Dasi, Jalakolahari prabhu, Rasavihari Devi Dasi, Damodar Das and Kanka Dasi, Sulochan Das along with Puru prabhu. There were others, but these were the best. They were given training and customer service training as well. Not just thrown out on the floor.” Mahabuddhi Das, from an e-mail letter to the author dated March 30, 2003.

5. In this sentence it is not exactly clear who Sulochan is referring to. The man who he believed stole his wife's heart could have been Bhaktipada, as evidenced by statements in subsequent paragraphs, or it could have been Raghunath, as Yamuna reportedly began her relationship with Raghunath while her husband was still living at the community. Sulochan knew about his wife's affair and reported it to Bhaktipada, who dismissed his complaints.

One former gurukula boy reported: "One of the gurukulis accidentally observed Raghu and Yamuna together while Sulochan was still at New Vrindaban, and told it to me. Later while I was sitting in Bhaktipada's blazer, Sulochan walked up to the driver's window and I heard him complain to Bhaktipada about this, but Bhaktipada was not interested in doing anything about it, in disciplining Yamuna and Raghu. Bhaktipada said something like: 'Sulochan, you're just not my man.' Another time at Bahulaban I saw Sulochan wearing a pistol around his neck and I asked him why he was wearing it. He replied: 'To kill faggots.'" --From conversation with former gurukuli and the author, January 9, 2007.

6. Sulochan Das, The Guru Business (unpublished manuscript: 1985), 1.

7. David Gold, After the Absolute: Real Life Adventures With a Backwoods Buddha (Writer’s Club Press: 2002), chapter 17.

8. Yamuna Dasi, The Story of a Cheater-The Real Facts on the Sulochan Story (unpublished manuscript: September 18, 1985), 5.

9. Sulochan Das, The Guru Business, 2, 3.

10. Sulochan was unsuccessful in his attempt to entice his family to rejoin him as New Vrindaban temple authorities had helped his wife get a divorce and simultaneously allowed her to marry a new husband, who was loyal to Bhaktipada. Later Sulochan’s three-year-old son Nimai drowned in a New Vrindaban lake while playing with other youths on November 23, 1986. Bhaktipada said, “From a philosophical point of view, we could say that there was some bad karma in the family.”

11. Sulochan Das, quoted by David Gold, After the Absolute, chapter 17.

12. David Gold, After the Absolute, chapter 17.

13. Nori Muster, Betrayal of the Spirit, (University of Illinois Press, Urbana: 1997), 124.