Princes of the Zonal Acarya Kings

BY: ROCANA DASA - 1.11 2018

This is a follow-up to my article, "The Roots of False Renunciation", in which I addressed the issue of ISKCON sannyasis flaunting wealth and totally disregarding sastra and the Sampradaya Acarya's teachings. I mentioned in that article that I would in future be offering 'ancestral charts' of the Zonal Acaryas, and today's article is the next in a series of editorials tracing their hierarchies.

Because these Zonal Acarya kings were preaching and operating under bogus philosophy, each one of them essentially started their own apasampradaya, out of which came a whole generation of leaders – the princes of the Zonal Acarya kings – who are propagating in ISKCON today the same mood and mentality of the Zonals who spawned them.

As I offer my personal experiences and remembrances of these personalities, I invite the readers who also took part in this era of ISKCON's history to share their stories with the rest of us. The Zonal Acarya phenomenon was worldwide, throughout many zones, and different devotees experienced different Zonal Acaryas, each from their own perspective as they tried to execute Krsna Consciousness under their jurisdiction. By their own design, the Zonal Acaryas made themselves bigger than life, bigger than reality, essentially competing with the Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. Ultimately they were succumbing to the tendency of all conditioned souls, wanting to be God rather than serve God.

The first personality I'd like to focus on is Kirtanananda, or Bhaktipada, who is today commonly known as Bhaktifraud. In my experience, many devotees who participated in ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada's departure erroneously place the lion's share of blame on Tamal Krishna Goswami, thinking that he was the architect who orchestrated the Zonal Acarya system. I don't personally share that understanding. Of course, all the Zonals are complicit, having eagerly participated, with no protests heard from any of them during the Zonal Acarya system's conception in the early part of 1978. But as I understand history, Kirtanananda was the personality who actually fathered the Zonal Acarya system. The reason I believe it was Kirtanananda who precipitated and planted the seed of Zonal Acarya-ism in the minds of his colleagues is the fact is that when Srila Prabhupada departed, none of the other leaders at that point were getting the same kind of awe and reverence that Kirtanananda was in his unique circumstances at New Vrindaban. But all of them wanted it.

The fact is that Kirtanananda was a Zonal Acarya well before Srila Prabhupada departed. He was the undisputed king of New Vrindaban, and no one dared penetrate his unique fortress-like mentality. The other GBCs who ended up participating as Zonal Acaryas were known to be envious of Kirtanananda. They wanted what he had – absolute obedience from their followers, with nobody criticizing or going against their dictates – exactly the kind of mood that prevailed at New Vrindaban. While posing as a sannyasi, Kirtanananda ruled with the authority of a monarch.

I didn't personally serve at New Vrindaban; I wouldn't, but that's another long story. As a Canadian serving in eastern Canada, we certainly got some interesting insights into Kirtanananda's pathology. His zone initially included Eastern Canada -- Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. There are many stories to be told from that time, and I'm hoping my godbrothers will share them – especially the temple presidents of Toronto and Montreal, Visvakarma dasa and Nandikesvara dasa, who could help enlighten the readers as to what it was like to have Kirtanananda as their Zonal Acarya.

Kirtanananda's ambitions and his opinions were very much different than Srila Prabhupada's, in many important aspects. He had conceived of the idea that New Vrindaban should be the center of all the temples – that all the North American temples should operate as satellites of New Vrindaban… which would make him the emperor. He had great visions of how New Vrindaban would evolve into a colossal city of Krsna Consciousness activity. But it was not Krsna Consciousness, really, it was Bhaktipada consciousness.

Kirtanananda was very calculating and intelligent, and I give him credit for having charisma, but he also had unrealistic visions of what he could achieve, and a contaminated opinion of his own potency, without having the blessings and potency of the real Sampradaya Acaryas.

We could get into a great deal of detail about how he ran his operation, from the Women's Party to roving Sankirtan parties who had no regard whatsoever for the arrangements that were already in place amongst all the other zones and temples -- even in the other Zonal Acarya's zones. He ignored all that. His parties, without coming to the local temple or informing them or cooperating, would take full advantage of sankirtana opportunities, ruthlessly so, focused solely and wholly on making money.

Like each one of the Zonal Acaryas, Kirtanananda was the chief, and he had an entourage of princes. Radhanath was one of, if not the most significant siksa disciple of Kirtanananda. Of course, in his recent book, "The Journey Home", Radhanath totally downplays this reality, although he does admit in the book that he didn't really ever surrender to Srila Prabhupada – he never got initiated by Srila Prabhupada when he had the opportunity, before leaving India. Instead he went to Kirtanananda, and through Kirtanananda he became initiated by Srila Prabhupada. But for all intents and purposes, he was a disciple of Kirtanananda, a prince of the Zonal Acarya king.

In recent years I've been very much surprised that my own godbrothers and others throughout ISKCON have had the same attitude as was prevalent back in the early days before Srila Prabhupada departed and during the Zonal Acarya period, in that their attitude towards Radhanath is very similar to what their attitude towards Kirtanananda was back then. You could not criticize Kirtanananda, regardless of how much negative impact New Vrindaban had on your preaching program. You didn't dare criticize him, because he was held in such awe and reverence by his blindly dedicated followers. If anyone did criticize, they just pointed to all Kirtanananda's successes at New Vrindaban, which was a thriving, bustling place with all sorts of seemingly positive results. Of course, looking back, history tells us just how false and ethereal all of it was.

It is exactly the same today with Radhanath and his followers. In Chowpatty he has gained access to great wealth and power, and he wields it like a king, just as Kirtanananda did. No one goes to Chowpatty and challenges him. No other gurus go there to initiate. He is the Zonal Acarya, and he does not allow anyone else to rule there. So his position is very similar to Kirtanananda's, which should not be surprising. Who did Radhanath train under? Who did he observe, and worship and emulate? His old friend, Kirtanananda. And it's apparent that he still has a fondness for Kirtanananda today.

Radhanath still visits with Kirtanananda, and still tries to help him, regardless of the fact that Kirtanananda appears to be up to the same old tricks. This time he's operating in the region of Pakistan. On a few occasions, the Sun has published photos of Kirtanananda, still wearing crowns and pompously audacious headgear, still having his feet rubbed by young males. More recently, we've seen photographs (which we declined to promote by publishing them) which depicted the 'great preaching' going on in Quetta. It was obviously Kirtanananda's sanga, bolstered by the presence of a group of Radhanath's young followers, who were helping Kirtanananda make a good showing there. It's very difficult to imagine what could motivate Radhanath to continue associating with Kirtanananda. Perhaps he thinks that if Kirtanananda's reputation can be somehow restored, it will help wash away the stigma attached to him, the king's princely son. This stigma includes the reputation that dogs Radhanath as a result of his implication in the murder of Sulocana dasa.

There have been numerous articles in the Sun which document the allegations about Radhanath's participation in some of the most heinous and illegal activities going on at New Vrindaban. A number of devotees were murdered there, Sulocana being the most prominent, but there was also Chakradari, whose body was dug up there. Of course, behind the scenes, Kirtanananda's nefarious activities, such as his proclivity for having homosex with young boys, was well known to the leaders. The GBC and Zonal Acaryas were fully aware of these things, as were Kirtanananda's closest associates, such as Radhanath, Kuladri, and Umapati.

When the so-called reform of ISKCON was taking place, interestingly enough, the momentum started in earnest at New Vrindaban, at a big meeting when we all got the word that there was now testimonial proof positive that Bhavananda was engaged in homosex in the holy dham of Vrindavan. This started bringing the whole house of cards down, but New Vrindaban didn't immediately change. Instead, Kirtanananda ramped up his great vision to become a quasi-Christian, and Radhanath went along with all of that asiddhantic nonsense, as well. Radhanath never actually left the contaminated environment of New Vrindaban by choice. Instead, he escaped to India, distancing himself from the FBI investigation into the murders and fraudulent dealings.

Radhanath eventually inherited Kirtanananda's congregation of Bombay disciples, while Kirtanananda went to prison. Bhakti Tirtha Swami took over Kirtanananda's African constituency, and his program during that period radically changed, also mirroring Kirtanananda's mood to a degree.

Although the history is now well documented, many devotees continue to be oblivious to the obvious parallels between Kirtanananda and Radhanath, and other senior members of the New Vrindaban community who are essentially part of Kirtanananda's sampradaya… a term I use loosely in this regard. Actually, I don't think that Kirtanananda was ever part of our sampradaya, and those who were involved with him have been very much contaminated. There are a few, perhaps, who've managed to rid themselves of Kirtanananda's influence, but one person who definitely has not is Radhanath. As late as 1991 -- well after the worst of Kirtanananda's falldowns were public knowledge -- Radhanath was still preaching Kirtanananda's glories ("When Kirtanananda Was King").

When Radhanath re-joined ISKCON, he negotiated with the GBC to bring all his friends and cohorts back, and between them they took over New Vrindaban again, proceeding to carry on with the legacy and mood Kirtanananda had set-up. Aside from any other damage control that was arranged as part of the deal, one of the GBC's primary reasons for negotiating with Radhanath was that they wanted to bring Kirtanananda's Bombay congregation back into the ISKCON fold. There were many wealthy individuals among the group, and as we can see, Radhanath has benefited greatly from their assistance. Unfortunately, ISKCON has not gotten so much benefit. Even now, the Chowpatty temple assets are not under GBC control.

As our philosophy tells us, we're all individuals, and certainly there's an individual component to this theory that the persons who worked under Kirtanananda for years still carry his mood and mentality. Each individual's personality makes it appear that they're different, but in so many cases, the underlying philosophy and mood is still the same as Kirtanananda's. As conditioned souls, these devotees were conditioned by Kirtanananda, and getting free of that kind of contamination requires a great deal of purging. And the fact is that the GBC allowed all this to take place. They allowed the re-introduction into New Vrindaban of persons like Umapati, a homosexual who's been having sex with his own disciples – yet the GBC allowed him to remain as a guru and sannyasi for so long. Kuladri was allowed to come back, and is now the top manager, with a very significant salary. Malati join the team, although she had a very dark history, pre-New Vrindaban. Still she is now one of ISKCON's women GBC's, even though she had accepted sannyasa, which is another concoction Kirtanananda instituted during his reign. Regardless, she was included at New Vrindaban on the insistence of Radhanath.

Aside from all the other aspects of his past and current history, there remains a great deal of blindness to the fact that Radhanath does not preach at all in the way Srila Prabhupada preached. Even though his persona is somewhat different than Kirtanananda's, he still has the same personality and operates on many of the same principles. For example, the way he goes about endearing himself to people is the very same mood Kirtanananda used to exhibit.

From these Zonal Acarya kings, many such princes were introduced into ISKCON. And despite the very dramatic ways in which Krsna exposed the Zonal Acaryas, nobody ever pays attention to the fact that their mood is still very much prevalent in ISKCON today through their protégés. Kirtanananda, the most prominent Zonal, is still present in ISKCON through the person of Radhanath Swami. I've become very unpopular locally, and around the world for this opinion. Some of my friends still defend Radhanath, believing that he is what he presents his image to be, even though the same phenomenon is taking place that occurred with Kirtanananda. There are many dark secrets in Radhanath's activities and behaviors, which are being covered up by the GBC. These things are known to those at the top, which of course means that they also leak out. But because Radhanath is so powerful, because he's insulated himself, because he projects this false image that he's so pure, no action is ever taken against him. The spiritual wellbeing of thousands of followers who have placed their trust in Radhanath is being callously put at risk by the GBC – just as they put Kirtanananda's followers at risk for so many years by hiding the truth they knew about his aberrant behaviour.

Kirtanananda used the very same techniques that Radhanath does to protect himself. One of the ways Kirtanananda insulated himself is that he maintained the appearance of a strict sadhana program. He got everyone up and into the temple every morning, where he himself was visibly chanting his rounds. Likewise, we hear that Radhanath goes into the temple and chants his rounds, unlike many of the other sannyasis and gurus. Radhanath knows very well that a public sadhana presence insulates him from criticism, because he watched Kirtanananda using the same ploy. Both of them are very much aware that devotees will not challenge or criticize you so long as you do these basic programs. Of course, following the regulative principles strictly, that's another matter. There is proof positive that Radhanath is not doing that, regardless of how much he tries to project the image that he's pure and strict. The fact is, he's not. Those in the know, those privy to the inside information – including essentially all members of the GBC -- know this to be a fact, and some of them talk openly about it with their close associates.

Meanwhile, Radhanath has exposed himself through his writings, along with his continued association with Kirtanananda, and most recently with a number of Mayavadis he's kept company with during his travels. This is the way Maya is trying to inform people about who Radhanath is, but few devotees seem to be listening. So, I'm going to make my position clear once again. Obviously Krsna has decided to keep Radhanath in his illusory bubble, allowing his programs to continue, in the same way Kirtanananda's programs went on at New Vrindaban far longer than we anticipated. But it is my prediction that this will all come crashing down sooner or later, because it is false. And those who supported him will be implicated and hurt.

I have friends who've had their sons and daughters initiated by Radhanath, friends who've had their wives initiated by him. Some of them are compromised financially, because they're getting some monetary benefit through their relationship with Radhanath. This is also reminiscent of the early Kirtanananda days. Kirtanananda had a lot of money, and he bought people's allegiance it. Radhanath is now doing the very same thing, on an even grander scale. During Kirtanananda's reign, one of the things that helped insulate him from criticism, and was a big draw for devotees to come to New Vrindaban, was that Kirtanananda engaged and supported the sudras. So many devotees stayed on at New Vrindaban because he supported them to perform their art, or whatever skill they loved doing. Many devotees depended on Kirtanananda for their livelihood, and who in their right mind would ruin their golden opportunity at New Vrindaban by criticizing the king? The same thing is going on with Radhanath. Many who are close to him will not call a spade a spade, because they don't wish to disrupt their service.

During his heyday, no one ever dreamt that Kirtanananda would fall as hard as he did. The devotees today are thinking the same thing about Radhanath. But there's no guarantee that history won't repeat itself, and every indication that it will. For anyone who needs convincing about Kirtanananda there is ample history, and it speaks for itself. Radhanath, I believe, is going to be the sequel. And thanks to the impotent GBC, he will cause far more damage than even Kirtanananda did, because so many blind followers are taking him at face value.