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June 15, 1999
The Darker Side of ISKCON
Two of the books on the Hare Krishna movement stand out for their detailed narration of the power struggle and corruption in some chapters of the movement. The sordid events -- child abuse, sexual corruption and murders at New Vrindaban are the subject of the book Monkey on a Stick by John Hubner and Lindsay Gruson.
The controversial Hare Krishna leader, Kirtanananda, aka Bhaktipada, was fined $ 250,000 and slapped with a 20-year-old federal prison sentence for racketeering and conspiracy in two murders about four years ago. He was expelled from the Hare Krishna movement much before he was found guilty.
Nori J Muster joined ISKCON in 1978. She lived in the Krishnas' western world headquarters in Los Angeles and worked for 10 years as a public relations secretary and editor of the organization's newspaper, the ISKCON World Review.
Her book, Betrayal of the Spirit, discusses international drug smuggling, arms caches, airport fundraising, child abuse, and assassinations within the mysterious group, as well as the dynamics that forced most of the group's original members to leave.
Muster's book is about the public relations nightmare of the decade following founder Swami Prabhupada's death. Disillusioned over continuing internal strife, in 1988 Muster left the world of saris, brass cymbals and institutional male chauvinism and returned to mainstream American life.
Her story reads like a non-fiction suspense novel while she shows how an organization can quickly fall into dishonesty, deceit and hypocrisy.
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