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In the Mailbox

In a message dated 7/3/98 7:06:09 PM, you wrote:


Can I still be a devotee privately at home without having to get involved with all of the politics?


Dear M., Please do! You can find a lot of fulfillment that way. Most Hindus practice at home, especially in America where there are hardly any temples. They go to holy people to take their blessings. Please hang onto your common sense and live your life as you want to live it.


In a message dated 6/27/98 5:02:24 AM, you wrote:

Dear Nori,

Since leaving iskcon, how do you think of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami? Do you ever look at any of his books or read any of his materials anymore? I just can't even open the books because of what I feel is a oppressive and separatist energy--them and us--especially toward women-bodied souls, and souls who might be at a different place on their path.


Dear GD

. . . and don't forget racism. Chauvinsim, judgmentalism and racism are part of Hinduism. I say "ism" because that's what humans do to perfectly good religions. In the pure sense, the Hindu religion is a collection of beliefs and practices that evolve to mirror the culture. There are some Hindu sects, such as the Devi sects, that place a high value on the feminine. I wish these schools were more prominent in the Hindu world, because they foster love and harmony with the Earth. I believe chauvinistic religions are responsible for the destruction of the earth. They denigrate the feminine. Their doctrine states that the feminine and nature are evil, mysterious forces to be conquered. Prabhupada had some chauvinistic and sectarian attitudes, cultural baggage from the patriarchal forms of the Hindu religion. For example, he said that women were less intelligent on account of having smaller brains. I see those attitudes in Prabhupada's books, but I usually I just skip the parts that bother me, or I study the Sanskrit and try to figure out what the verse is really saying in Sanskrit.

It bothers me that ISKCON people are narrow minded and dogmatic about their scriptures, like you'll go to hell if you question anything. If you criticize Srila Prabhupada in any way, they call you a heretic. Actually, the scriptures say to question a guru and question everything before you surrender.

Whatever comments about women Prabhupada made, I believe the BBT editors exaggerated even more. When Prabhupada used to plead with his disciples, "Don't change my books," i think he meant "Don't change the books I have dictated onto tape." Of course, the transcripts were heavily edited and the tapes destroyed.

I believe that certain GBCs, gurus and BBT Trustees had a vested interest in putting Prabhupada on a pedestal. First, they convince everyone that he's invicible and perfect; second, they change his books to suit themselves; and third, they inherit his power. In essence, some of Srila Prabhupada's most prominent disciples actually usurped his legacy.

In a message dated 6/27/98 2:24:35 AM, you wrote:


What do you think of Urmila dasi? In your book, you described her as preaching the subservience of women to men at a Vaishnava conference. On the other hand, in "Priti-laksanam," you described her as one of ISKCON's most accomplished women, and as someone who has been pushing for an expanded role for women.


Dear V,

That's a good observation, let me clear that up. I see myself as being fifty steps to the left of Urmila on the issue of women's rights, but she is about ten steps to the left of the dominant male iskcon leaders. ("Left" being liberal on the issue.) She is part of the structure of iskcon and over the years she has fought for better treatment for women and children.


Dear Nori,

Does the Krishna Movement still maintain a golden temple in West Virginia ?

-- Patrick C. Labbe, RN MSN


Good question. The Palace is still standing, devotees still live there, but is it part of ISKCON, the official organization? It depends on who you ask and when. In 1987 the GBC (governing board of ISKCON) excommunicated the guru, Kirtanananda Swami, and all of his followers and satellite temples. At that time, the devotees denounced the excommunication, declaring it null and void. Later Kirtanananda was convicted of conspiracy and rackateering charges and he is serving time in prison. In the meantime, the property has gone back and forth between being ISKCON and being independent. I believe there are people in the GBC who want to bring New Vrindaban back into the ISKCON fold, while others wish to disassociate from it because of possible legal and financial complications that might arise from the rampant criminal enterprise that once thrived there. See my book for details on that.

Dear Nori,

A year ago or so, a devotee told me that Mukunda had talked you into removing some parts of your book before it was published. I was hoping that you could clarify the matter for me. Please describe any influence that Mukunda or the GBC had on the final contents of the book. Did he, or they, visit you personally? Were their dealings with you in line with Vaishnava etiquette? What sort of pressure, guilt or intimidation did they use on you, if any? Were you threatened in any way?

-- Rdasa

Dear Rdasa,

I did rewrite sections of Betrayal of the Spirit based on feedback from devotees at BBTI (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Sweden) and ISKCON Communications (Mukunda Goswami's ministry in Potomac, Maryland). I'm glad to say that the devotees acted in a totally Vaishnava-like way, with the utmost integrity. I was grateful to have their critical input and I am totally satisfied with the way the book came out. We did our editing via email and fax.

The sections I reworked for BBTI were the first few pages of Chapter 10 ("The Guru Issue") and the first few pages of Chapter 13 ("The Revolution of Guru Reform").

Rewriting these sections gave me time to think some things over and explain them more clearly and honestly. Mukunda Goswami asked me to change the title because he thought the word 'betrayal' was too strong, but I decided to keep the title.

Dear Nori,

I just finished your book Betrayal of the Spirit and wanted to tell you how much I appreciated it. I am also a former member of ISKCON (for 16 years) and I found your book to be a very accurate portrayal of what life was like in the movement.


Dear CN,

Thank you. There are many more of us out here.

-- Nori

Letter from a devotee's mother

Your book was recommended as the most current and factual account of the ISKCON movement. My daughter is in another country and I have just found out that she is involved. I read your book overnight, and found it to be very enlightening and frightening. As a Mother searching for answers to provide my daughter on Thursday (I'm flying to see her), I would appreciate your input as to how I might be able to deter her from becoming more than a fringe player (I hope). I do know that she is involved with the temple president. I know how you valued your father's advice and I hope that I can show my daughter enough facts to have her come home both emotionally and physically. Thanking you in advance.

Nori's reply:

Hang in there & be her friend. Encourage her to practice Krishna consciousness at home (chant, eat veggie food, keep her own deities, 4-regs., etc., if she's attracted to Hinduism), but regarding ISKCON, keeping one's distance as a congregational member is good advice at this time, since the organization is still sorting out its problems. ISKCON's situation is a tangled family affair, so why barge in? There's a lot of mud slinging just now over issues the leaders have been covering it up for 20 years. Whether these rumors are true or not, what a terrible fight to put oneself in the middle of.

Often they get bright, productive people to join by "cultivating" them. That means setting up elaborate dinners, giving them special treatment, extra attention, introducing them to interesting members, etc. Once she joins & puts on a sari, however, she'll learn about austerity and chauvinism. I explained that in my book.

Dear Nori Muster,

I have read your book with great interest. Myself, I am the mother of a Krishna devotee in Sweden and I am very frustrated over the way the Hare Krishnas look at their women. I must say I admire your integrity and your courage to leave Iskcon when it did not correspond with your views. I am afraid that my daugther fully accepts what is being said about women. Before joining the Hare Krishnas she would never ever have accepted being less intelligent that the man.

I found on http://www.vnn.org/europe/9803/01-1513/index.html a conversation between Harikesa Swami [the guru for Sweden] and his disciple Mehru which scares me. Nothing seems to have improved within the movement as they say. Could you please comment on this conversation and give me your opinion. I would be much appreciated. I find it extremely difficult to accept the nine times more lust with women -- what about all the awful rapes and sexual abuses within Iskcon toward children they were all made by men and not lusty women!!!!!!!!

There is a Swedish ex-member of Iskcon who has also written a book in Swedish about the Hare Krishnas. Her name is Lotta Danielsson and she lived in the ashram around 1985 and tells similar stories as you do but in a different way she speaks a lot of her own feelings and she really felt fooled (she was kidnapped and deprogrammed -- what is your opinion about that?)

Looking forward to receiving your reply.

Best regards,


Dear G.G.,

Thank you for your letter. There are no easy answers. I hope some of the materials at this web site help. Yes, they are chauvinistic; yes, they will probably always be that way. I'm currently doing research on the child abuse, which was particularly severe in the decade following Srila Prabhupada's death. It seems that all their repression must surface somewhere, and unfortunately, children are the weakest and most defenseless members.

Thanks for the information about the VNN web site, that site is listed on the link page, and they are pretty good about printing controversial subject matter. Also, thanks for telling me about the book by Lotta Danielsson, i had not seen that. Regarding deprogramming. It may work for some families, but most of the devotees I knew who were deprogrammed just came back to the movement rejecting their families all the more. I appreciated my father's approach, which was to be supportive, rather than coercive.

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