Who Is Radhanath Swami?

This article draws its information substantially from the work of Henry Doktorski, Killing for Krishna: The Danger of Deranged Devotion, a former member of ISKCON. He is currently working on his forthcoming book "11 Naked Emperors".1

Radhanath Swami is a very popular spiritual teacher and author of two autobiographical books, frequent guest on television and radio programs, ranging from secular to religious, and is a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a Gaudiya Vaishnava organization established in 1966, in New York City, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Before we get into our examination of the alleged past criminal activity of Radhanath Swami, it would be good to get a quick overview of the sordid history of ISKCON itself.

ISKCON grew very quickly in the Hippie subculture of the 60s to early 70s, and by 1978, had temples on every continent of the world, excepting only Antarctica. In July of 1970, Swami Prabhupada established a Governing Body Commission to oversee the society, giving him time to concentrate solely on writing and teaching, but by August of 1971, he was disappointed in the GBC and in the way things were running in ISKCON. The men he had trained to operate the society were instead prosecuting personal agendas. He wrote, "I set up the GBC with the hope that I shall get relief from administration of the mission, but on the contrary, I have become the center for receiving so many complaints." Many of these senior leaders were no longer keeping the principles of the religion he taught them, if indeed they ever had. They were engaging in illicit sexual activity, both heterosexual and homosexual, abusing women and children, stealing society money for their own purposes, buying and selling drugs, and a long list of other crimes. The elderly swami could scarcely know what was going on unless someone came to him, and had an even more difficult time in trying to stop the abuses, since this cadre had formed little cliques- their own cults of personality, who would defend them against any accusation that emerged. The swami wrote on December 22, 1972, "I do not think the leaders are themselves following, nor they are seeing the others are following strictly." One thread ran through each of these 11 men: they all wanted to take the swami's place. All of them wanted to be "spiritual masters", and as Doktorski makes clear, they would do anything it took to make that happen. 

Swami Prabhupada's Curious Death
On July 9th, 1977, shortly before Swami Prabhupada's death, he issued a statement appointing these 11 men to act as "ritvik" priests, a sort of intermediary who initiates disciples on behalf of the guru- in this case on the swami's behalf. This was necessary due to his sudden onset of illness. This illness itself is suspicious, since it came suddenly, and a few of these 11 men surrounded him during this period are alleged to have refused to allow potential life saving care from physicians qualified to do so. The only care they permitted him to receive was from an Ayurvedic practitioner, who was hardly qualified to diagnose and treat an elderly man with diabetes, who had previously suffered at least two heart attacks. (It didn't help that the elderly swami had a dislike for physicians anyway, complaining, "They only poke you with needles.")

At no time did Swami Prabhupada appoint them as gurus, nor say they would become such after his death. According to Doktorski's research however, they had already began discussing how to set themselves up as gurus and take over the society once he died. 

During his illness, on November 10, 1977, the swami complained in Bengali, his native tongue, to the Ayurvedic practitioner that, "Someone has poisoned me." The men surrounding the swami were quick to disregard and sweep the swami's complaint under the rug, but when the Ayurvedic practitioner asked him why he thought he had been poisoned, the swami replied, "Someone has said." This is important since, after the swami's death on November 14th, 1977, and only after a very difficult process of getting access to the recordings of his last days, it was discovered that the swami may indeed have heard someone say he was being poisoned. The Computer Audio Engineering Laboratory of Albequerque, New Mexico, conducted an analysis of the audio tapes, including forensic audio digital enhancements, and found evidence of whispers saying:
  • "The poison is going down."
  • "Poisoning for a long time."
  • "He's gonna die."
  • "Yes, heart attack time."
  • "The poison is in you, Srila Prabhupada."
Kirtanananda Swami
Soon after his death, just as these 11 men planned, they took over ISKCON as gurus, and anyone who objected or made waves was forced out of the organization completely. One of these 11 men, Kirtanananda Swami, was particularly manipulative and dangerous. Doktorski's book, "Killing for Krishna: The Danger of Deranged Devotion", explores the most heinous activities surrounding Kirtanananda Swami, of whom Radhanath Swami was an ardent follower and supporter, living in Kirtanananda's New Vrindaban community. To briefly explain this for those who have not read the book, nor my previous review of it, Kirtanananda Swami was anything but the advanced spiritual master his disciples believed him to be. In fact, as Doktorski proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, he was a child molester and active homosexual who craved cocaine and indulged in gay orgies in his private quarters at the ashram. Steve Bryant, who had a grudge against Kirtanananda regarding his having initiated Bryant's wife without his permission, as was the custom, and for then allowing his wife to marry another man, as well as helping to obstruct his access to his children, began to expose the various rumors he collected regarding Kirtanananda's very un-guru-like behavior. As Doktorski explains, ISKCON's theology renders any criticism of a guru as a major offense, as it is viewed as insulting a person who is considered to be "as good as God". As one might imagine, to those living in such a fanatical cult of personality atmosphere, Bryant's actions were taken as the gravest of grave offenses. In fact, they launched what became a systematic surveillance of his movements which finally resulted in his murder by Kirtanananda's "chief enforcer" at New Vrindaban, Tirtha dasa (Thomas Drescher), who is today serving a life sentence for the murder of Bryant and one other disciple of Kirtanananda who crossed the line.

In reading this book I found several things of interest. First, the cult dynamic that grew around Kirtanananda Swami to such an extent that he could literally do nothing wrong in the eyes of most of his disciples. If anyone simply questioned him, even innocently, he was likely to get a visit from the community "enforcers" who would either silence him, or force the person out of the community entirely, both through intimidation and threats of violence. Of course, these enforcers thought they were doing God's work in protecting their guru. Doktorski accurately calls this "deranged devotion". Another thing that struck me about the details of the plot to murder Bryant, was the lack of clear, definitive connections to Kirtanananda Swami himself. While it is abundantly clear that Kirtanananda was anything but what he professed to be, the murderer, who at first, refused to implicate the Swami directly in the plot, but about a decade later changed his testimony, directly implicating Kirtanananda in the plot, some years later said he really had no firsthand confirmation of any such directive coming from Kirtanananda. One is left with a tiny hint of doubt as to whether Kirtanananda was actually directing it or not, as he is reported by multiple sources as having made statements defiantly against the crime (though Kirtanananda was manipulative enough to make it appear that he was against it, in an effort to cover himself should the crime be revealed), but the same cannot be said for Radhanath Swami. The investigative work of Henry Doktorski, if accurate, leaves no room whatsoever to doubt that Radhanath Swami, easily the most popular guru in present day ISKCON, was neck deep in the plot to murder Bryant.

Radhanath Swami Involved?
If Radhanath Swami was involved, as multiple witnesses allege him to have been, he has done an excellent job of maintaining a clean image. An internet search of Radhanath Swami's name reveals a plethora of websites, all dedicated to promoting him as an enlightened master, dispensing timeless wisdom to his disciples, businesses, colleges, interfaith gatherings, etc. In addition, he is credited with spearheading social activist projects, such as a free food project dispensing 260,000 meals each day to the poor of Mumbai, hospitals, eye camps, schools, an orphanage, and numerous emergency relief programs. How could someone so seemingly altruistic be involved in something as heinous as conspiracy to murder?

Radhanath Swami was recognized as the second most respected spiritual authority at New Vrindaban, next to Kirtanananda, and held almost as much sway over the members of the community as Kirtanananda did. Despite his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to murder Bryant, Radhanath repeatedly claimed that he had no knowledge of the murder. However, as Doktorski (and others in various publications and websites) points out in his book, there is significant testimony from multiple sources to suggest otherwise.

For example, Kuladri dasa (Arthur Villa), New Vrindaban's then head manager/temple president, and recognized as the "number two" man under Kirtanananda in the community, stated under oath, "I know Tapahpunja, along with other swamis, were saying that the community had to do whatever is necessary to protect the swami." (Kirtanananda) 2 At this time there were only three swamis at New Vrindaban: Kirtanananda, Tapahpunja, and Radhanath Swami.

Kuladri was even more specific in stating, "Radhanath, Hayagriva, and Tapahpunja were pushing like crazy for this (Bryant's murder) to happen."

In a letter to one of the other corrupt gurus, a community member named Dharmatma wrote of Radhanath Swami, "...he was involved to some degree or had knowledge of Sulochan's (Bryant's) murder. I know this for a fact."4

Another of the conspirators in the murder is reported to have implicated Radhanath Swami as well. Janmashtami dasa, who assisted the murderer Thomas Drescher, in his surveillance and hunting down of Bryant, wrote, "In January of 1986, on my return to New Vrindaban, I was ordered by Radhanath...not Kirtanananda Swami, to terminate Sulochan." He goes on to say, "Radhanath sought me out and made arrangements for us to meet in his van, where he went through a prepared speech.."

Janmashtami's story was confirmed by Kirtanananda Swami's chauffeur, who is reported to have said in an interview on the topic, "I was privy to much behind the scenes action, and I was there when Radhanath told Janmashtami to 'destroy the demon'."6

The question naturally arises, why was Radhanath Swami (and several other individuals involved directly in the plot) seemingly never seriously investigated, never prosecuted? That is a good question, and one that remains largely unanswered. One of the theories proposed by many interested in this case is that his father, a fairly influential businessman, worked with his connections to keep his guru son out of hot water. I'm not so sure that's a very good answer, as it seems highly improbable that he could have wielded that level of influence.

We do know that some conspirators negotiated deals with the government, in exchange for their testimony against Kirtanananda Swami, such as Kuladri dasa at New Vrindaban, and Krishna Katha in Los Angeles (the murderer's sidekick there). Could it be that Radhanath Swami also negotiated a deal in return for his testimony against Kirtanananda, and had it sealed as part of the deal? If his alleged involvement is indeed true, then this seems very likely; and if so, his followers have a right to know.

There are also other troubling questions in the case. In my reading of Doktorski's "Killing For Krishna", I found the actions of the various law enforcement agencies quite suspicious. If what Doktorski details is accurate, then it leads one to suspect that the local law enforcement agency, and the FBI, were involved in, at the very least, a plot to remove Kirtanananda Swami from the picture by tossing him into prison, and likely a plot to put an end to the New Vrindaban community entirely. Whether these suspected plots are one and the same, or two separate agendas, is hard to discern without significantly more information, but the questions hang in the air, unresolved all these years later. There is indeed some indication that the FBI was interested in bringing down some of the higher profile cults in the 1990s, such as The Way International, The Unification Church, and others. Could it be that ISKCON was one of those on the list? It makes sense since ISKCON has had a very well documented history of drug sales, child abuse, racketeering, and murder. This would certainly have put them on the investigative radar.

Whatever the case may be, Doktorski's warning rings loud and true: beware the traps that lead to deranged devotion.

To stay current on the work of Henry Doktorski, please visit his website.

1. http://www.henrydoktorski.com/Killing4Krishna/Timeline.pdf
2. Kuladri dasa, cited by Halasz & Halasz, court reporters, "United States of America, Plaintiff, v. CR 90-87 Keith Gordon Ham, Terry Sheldon, Steven Fitzpatrick, New Vrindaban Community, Inc., Govardhan, Inc., Cathedral of Healing, Inc., Defendants, Before: Honorable Robert R. Merhige, Jr., United States District Judge and a Jury," Day III (March 13, 1991), Martinsburg, West Virginia, 475.
3. Kuladri, cited by Dharmatma, from Trial transcript, cited by Halasz & Halasz, court reporters, "United States of America, Plaintiff, v. CR 90-87 Keith Gordon Ham, Terry Sheldon, Steven Fitzpatrick, New Vrindaban Community, Inc., Govardhan, Inc., Cathedral of Healing, Inc., Defendants, Before: Honorable Robert R. Merhige, Jr., United States District Judge and a Jury," Day IV (March 14, 1991), Martinsburg, West Virginia, 832-837, 941
4. Letter to Hansadutta, August 26, 1994, quoted: http://www.iskcontimes.com/archive/radhanath-swami-helped-murder-sulochana-dasa
5. Article, "New Vrindaban History, For the Record", by Janmashtami dasa, Sampradaya Sun, Dec 22. 2006
6. http://www.iskcontimes.com/archive/radhanath-swami-helped-murder-sulochana-dasa


  1. As I am a ex disciple of one of the eleven fallen princez, I have less and less attraction for this shadowy institution, their shenanigans and hypocrite rituals. But my faith in Srila Prabhupada gains strength everyday

    1. Let me ask you something, Vrajananda. I ask this with respect for you as a person, and no malice is intended. If Bhaktivedanta Swami is truly trustworthy in the ways members of ISKCON claim, then why his choice of 11 of the most abusive men in his organization to be leaders? Even if we understand he didn't make them gurus, his failure to provide for stable leadership in the last several years of his life doesn't exactly speak well of his managerial skills, nor of his long term vision for the management of ISKCON. He clearly knew very well that there were severe problems well before his passing, and yet still did nothing to address it. He simply threw his hands up and said, "What can I do?" He could have done a lot, but chose not to. I don't say this without honest reflection on the history of the church, which has often been abused by bad leaders as well, but we Christians can say with absolute veracity that Christ didn't appoint these men, and as they had none of the fruits (or marks, if you prefer) of a true leader as explained in our Scriptures, even though other Christians appointed them, we know these men were imposters and deceivers. The problem I see with the followers of Bhaktivedanta Swami is that they ignore the glaring faults he displayed in his poor managerial choices, his lack of clarity on some issues, and some of his, frankly, bizarre statements regarding women, rape, and violence, which made all the abuse in ISKCON possible- perhaps even inevitable.

    2. Bizarre to you maybe as a libtard christian. These "faults" are your own.

    3. Well, first "Unknown", I'm not a liberal. I'm as far from that as one could get, as any reading of the metapolitical material on this website demonstrates. Second, you've not presented an argument or defense, you've merely engaged in name calling, which strongly implies you have no substantive defense to offer. In effect, you've proven my point, as well as the point of Doktorski's book. You exemplify "deranged devotion".

    4. JAD; You make assumptions based on limited knowledge and hearsay; ex "rape, sex " etc. satement of yours above, putting some emotionally-charged perjorative-intending together, with a clear agenda of malicious attack. You clearly misunderstand much. You also seem to forget that 95% of Srila Prabhupada's disciples are loyal and honest people, who did and are still doing saintly devotional service, but whom were run out of our own Movement by the CIA-led Satanist / Zionists and sannyasis, who together did the dirty deed of the world elites, just as they killed Jesus. ps how did Judas get in with the twelve? I guess Jesus goofed up...

    5. Tamohara,
      Thank you for your reply. My comments aren't based on assumptions, but on the factual content of Bhaktivedanta Swami's lectures and purports to various Vedic scriptures. You can find most of them in the following paper by a former ISKCON member:


      My intent isn't at all "malicious attack", but to point out that deranged devotion views the spiritual leader as being perfect in everything he/she undertakes, which is clearly fallacious, as evidenced in the swami's allowing men he knew for some time before his death weren't trustworthy to inherit the leadership of ISKCON. He had plenty of time to replace them, and plenty of (I assume) better men to place in those positions. Furthermore, he could have appointed someone to be his successor, but chose not to.

      Your comments about "Zionists" reads like rank anti-Semitism, and so I won't dignify them with any response.

      As for Judas: We can see in the final day of Jesus' earthly ministry that He sent Judas away due to His betrayal.

      Bhaktivedanta Swami can't say the same of the men he appointed, who went on to abuse everyone around them, though he knew of their proclivities well before hand and could have done so.

      No comparison, sir


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