News coverage of Srila Prabhupada and his movement.
This article, "DEVOTION AND BANK BOOKS - New cults attracting thousands," was published in The Muncie Evening Press, December 22, 1975, in Muncie, Indiana.
Editor's Note: The Moonies with their flowers and pamphlets, the Hare Krishna devotees chanting on streetcorners, the Children of God and their free love version of the Bible.
They are members of religious commune groups which demand total devotion and sometimes bank books from their flocks. Part one of a series of three articles examines these groups and why their leaders, "The New Messiahs," have attracted so many youthful converts.
By VICTORIA GRAHAM
(First in a series)
NEW YORK (AP) - New messiahs are arising across America, idolized by young converts who seek the truth and reviled by parents who accuse them of brainwashing.
Teachers or preachers, they offer the truth, the way, the light. Holy men or hucksters, they hold out a promise of knowledge, happiness and the path to God.
They offer love and warmth and community. In return, some demand not only souls, but also total devotion and savings accounts. Some call them withdrawal groups.
So tight is the grip on many young recruits that critics accuse them of mind control. Distraught parents have kidnaped their zealous children from groups and "deprogrammed" them.
There are hundreds of groups, but the best known are the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Children of God sect, the Divine Light Mission of 17-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji and the Hare Krishna movement.
"It's a unified family of brothers and sisters," says Ron Johnson, a 19-year-old Moonie from Austin, Tex. "We'll go around and meet people and try to help them out. The whole purpose is to train people to be missionaries."
"I've never before felt God's presence so strongly," says Diane Hunt, 26, a former clerk who found Moonism. "I felt it was either go or stay. I felt it was God's will."
Some, like the Unification Church and Hare Krishna movement, are big business, and young idealistic converts relinquish their possessions to hawk flowers, candles and candy to finance their way to God.
"Extreme groups demand total commitment and some provide a total life, completely set off from the mainstream of society," says Robert Ellwood, professor of religious sociology at the University of Southern California.
Many recruits to the new cult scene stepped out of the counterculture of the 1960s and the psychedelic experience.
Here is a rundown of the major groups:
UNIFICATION CHURCH: Its leader is the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a 54-year-old Korean evangelist who claims a world-wide church and an American following of 30,000, including a core of 7,000. He teaches that Christ will come again, take a bride and father a blessed human race. He is strongly anti-Communist.
"Rev. Moon comes as a spiritual father," says Nell A. Salonen, U.S. president of the group. "He is the individual through whom God speaks" - once at Madison Square Garden.
Moon himself is a millionaire with extensive Korean holdings that include gun and tea manufacturing. The church has $10 million in property in two New York estates.
He demands total devotion from his clean cut disciples, known as "Moonies" who regard him as a father. The most devoted live in communes, relinquish their savings and personal property to the church and even permit Moon to select their marriage partners. They proseletyze on streetcorners and sell flowers and candles to raise money.
The group is strongly opposed to free love, alcohol and drugs. The Unification Church has been vigorously criticized by parents who claim their children have been brainwashed and programmed.
"I'm ecstatic, I'm going to be a pioneer," says Debbie Dobson, a 20-year-old Moonie from Massachusetts.
CHILDREN OF GOD: The Children of God is a secretive Christian sect with an estimated 100 communes in North America and Europe. It is a fundamentalist group that sprang from the hippie and Jesus movements and applies a sexual interpretation to the Bible.
Like the Unification Church, it requires total devotion from its members who regard themselves as the enlightened "children of God." Many members have renounced their families and material possessions and many parents have accused the group of imprisoning and brainwashing their children.
They take Bibical names and follow strict schedules, study the Bible and learn a trade.
The sect was founded in 1968 by David Moses Berg, now in Europe. Berg wrote a series of letters giving his views on everything from international politics to sexual mores and techniques.
DIVINE LIGHT MISSION: The Divine Light Mission is an Indian sect led by Guru Maharaj Ji, a plump, high-living 17-year-old compared by his followers with Jesus, Buddha and Krishna. He is called the Perfect Master of the mission founded by his father in India.
The mission claims 500,000 American followers and eight million in India. It keeps track of its disciples with a computer, employes a public relations staff and has wide business interests including a janitorial service.
About 3,000 followers are actively involved and about 1,000 live in ashrams - communes for celibate living and meditation.
Maharaj Ji lives with his wife and child in a Malibu, Calif., mansion and has two airplanes, a Rolls Royce and three Mercedes Benz autos.
His mother has denounced him as a "playboy" who leads a "despicable, nonspiritual way of life" while espousing an aescetic, vegetarian lifestyle.
He has promised to reveal God and establish world peace. Disciples must meditate in order to receive knowledge and practice tongue contortion and eyeball pressure to taste "divine nectar" and see "divine light."
HARE KRISHNA: The Hare Krishna movement is part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and claims thousands of saffron-robed followers in temples across the U.S.
"Krishna" means Supreme Being in Sanskrit and followers believe they can achieve ecstasy by leading an aescetic life, swaying and chanting "Hare Krishna."
The followers with shaven heads and pigtails are a familiar sight on many streetcorners, in airports and subways where they sell candy and flowers and seek donations for good works.
To lead the righteous life, devotees are required to give up alcohol, drugs, coffee, tea, meat, fish and eggs. Gambling and illicit sex are prohibited.
Many have given up their possessions to serve the movement which has spread to communes in most major American cities and maintains some farms.
Concern over youthful converts is widespread, especially for the Moonies, Children of God and Hare Krishna devotees.
The Citizens Engaged in Reuniting Families, is a nationwide anti-Moon organization which advises parents:
- Do answer all communications from your child in sincere, firm but unrecriminating language.
- Do not send money to your child or to the group; without economic support the group cannot survive.
Deprogramming is gaining momentum.
The process may involve kidnaping the convert and requires hours or days of argument and reason to wear down the new religious beliefs. Deprogrammers call on family and friends. They hammer away, laughing, scoffing, listening, always reassuring the young person of their love.
Lee Roth, 26, of Freeport, N.Y., was taken away and deprogrammed last summer after four years in the Hare Krishna movement.
"I hated the deprogramining at the time, and I hated my parents for it," Roth says.
"I realize now I was brainwashed and I intend to discourage any young people from getting involved in any cults."
Photo: SOULS AND CASH ... New messiahs are arising across America, offering young converts love and warmth and community. In return, some demand not only souls, but also total devotion and savings accounts. - AP Wire-photo.
Reference: The Muncie Evening Press, Unknown Location, USA, 1975-12-22
This article, "Chain-Gang Hero of Hare Krishna" was published in Pensacola News Journal, December 11, 1976, in Pensacola, Florida.
By GEORGE W. CORNELL
AP Religion Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - He sat cross-legged on a throne of pillows, an aging swami, clad in saffron dhoti and tunic, a garland of flowers and tulsi beads about his neck, his brown brow daubed with gold-colored sandalwood pulp. Devotees, on entering, knelt and bowed to the floor before him.
To his Hare Krishna followers, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada represents and speaks for God.
"Generally people are working on the bodily concept of life," he said in one of his rare interviews. "We are working on the spiritual platform ... those working on the bodily platform are working on the dead platform ... We are working on the platform of life."
This disjunction of spirit-life from matter, a dualism characteristic of eastern religions which see the physical world as a binding prison from which the soul seeks escape, ran through the circuitous discourse of two hours, laden with earthy analogies.
He described the material existence of most people as like being in jail, hammering bricks, while he and his followers are trying to teach the others that "jail life is no good," that to live in the jail is not desirable.
"We are trying to educate the prisoners," he said. "They are such fools and rascals that they cannot understand that without jail one can live."
They are "working hard ... hammering bricks," he added, and are envious because his disciples are not also "hammering bricks" and participating in "jail life," but his disciples know it is not "good business" - that it is "punishment. This is real knowledge."
Asked if that wasn't a negative view of earthly existence, he said it "is a fact ... a positive understanding."
Told that traditional western religions, Judaism and Christianity, cherish the physical world itself as good, he said, "That is ignorance."
In connection with questions about whether the Hare Krishna view didn't tend to cut followers off from concerns in this world, he was asked what he thought of Jimmy Carter.
"I do not know of him, nor do I care," he said. Told who Carter is, "What improvements have been made by having this president and that president? The world has had so many hundreds and thousands of presidents. What is the improvement in spiritual knowledge? ... We are more for the spirit-soul than the body."
When he said he personally never voted in elections, he was asked if his disciples followed his example. "I do not know," he said, adding that voting for this man or that man offered no "spiritual benefit," which "is our concern."
His movement is called the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, which he founded here in 1966.
It has about 10,000 fulltime communal members in about 100 temples across the country, and claims 50,000 to 100,000 part-time supporters.
General secretary Bali Mardan, 28, said it took in more than $2 million last year in sales of its magazine, "Back to Godhead" and 55 books of Vedic scripture which Swami Prabhupada translated from Sanskrit into English.
The swami, who turned 80 this fall, was asked about criticism from parents and ex-members who say the group uses "brainwashing" in its heavy indoctrination of hours of daily chanting of 1,728 Hare Krishna rounds.
"It is due to misunderstanding," he said. "They do not understand what kind of education we are giving. We are giving education on how to become free of the hammering in the jail ... They do not understand that we are talking on the spiritual platform and they are on the material bodily platform."
He explained, in the typically oriental religious view, that the objective is for the spirit to get free of the body - the jail. "That is the ideal life," he said. "That is the goal. When the soul lives without this material body, then it is liberated."
However, he said, most people "cannot understand that life can be lived without hammering bricks."
This reporter, taking his leave after the long session, himself seated on the floor, barefoot as was required, said, "Well, I have to go hack and hammer a few bricks."
Photo: To his Hare Krishna followers, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Pradhupada represents and speaks for God. Founder and leader of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, he says, "Generally people are working on the bodily concept of life. We are working on the spiritual platform."
Reference: Pensacola News Journal, Unknown Location, USA, 1976-12-11
This article, "Krishna Temple Rites," was published in The San Francisco Examiner, November 8, 1971, in San Francisco, California.
The official opening of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple yesterday was accompanied by the kind of intense enthusiasm that's usually generated by a fundamentalist Christian revival.
More than 50 Hare Krishna devotees, clad in saffron robes, danced, chanted, clapped and explained the four principles of spiritual advancement to some 200 guests.
The principles are vegetarianism, celibacy and the abstention from gambling and all intoxicating stimulants, excepting religion of course.
To illustrate the merits of one of the principles, a 15 course vegetarian meal was served.
The temple has been in operation for several months, but a Krishna spokesman said the official ceremony due to the campaign commitments of Mayor Alioto, who was to be the guest of honor.
The Mayor, however, was still a no-show. He is in Vancouver, Washington to testify in his controversial fee - spliting civil trial.
Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas gave the dedication address to the Hare Krishna devotees and friends in front of the newly remodeled temple at 455 Valencia St.
"I am always happy to congratulate those who are dedicated to doing good," said Mrs. Douglas.
Those in attendance at yesterday's service included the parents of several members of the cult was to invest the building with the highest spirit of God.
The grand opening was previously scheduled for Oct. 31.
Photo: HARE KRISHNA DEVOTEES HAIL OPENING OF NEW TEMPLE. Jubilation accompanies cutting of ribbon by Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas
Reference: The San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, USA, 1971-11-08
This article, "Hare Krishna, religion and way of life" was published in The Journal Herald, October 4, 1975, in Dayton, Ohio.
By Carrie LaBriola
Journal Herald Religion Writer
It might have been the Berkeley Quad or Harvard Square, except it was McKinley Park behind the Dayton-Montgomery County Public Library.
A van pulled up Tuesday afternoon and six members of the Hare Krishna movement piled out. A few passersby paused to watch while they unloaded a portable altar and an assortment of instruments.
All had shaved heads, save for a long strand at the middle back, called a flag, representative of their belief in God, explained their spokesman Brahma Das - Servant of God.
They were dressed in loose trousers and simple cotton shirts. All wore necklaces of beads and several had strips of paint down the forehead and nose. All are symbols of renunciation and devotion to God, Brahma explained.
"IF YOU walk down the street of a city, there is nothing to remind you of God," he said. "They show people we are cultivating spiritual knowledge. The social norm is not like this. Within modern, materialistic society, we are deviants. But, within our society, modern materialistic society is deviant."
When the altar is arranged, with two oriental rugs on the grass in front, it is unveiled and the six bow to the ground in reverence, then begin the concert. Two play small cymbals, one a harmonium, another a a long-necked stringed instrument, the fifth claps and Brahma plays a drum.
As they play, they sing the familiar chant - "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." Both are names of God - Krishna means "the all-attractive person" and Rama means "the supreme enjoyer."
THREE YOUTHS stop to watch and listen. A drunk recalls being on the Burma Road in '42, "so I know what it's like." He says when they are finished playing, he plans to cut their hair, then laughs and says he is "only kidding."
Another youth and an older man also pause to observe, then two women with shopping bags. An older woman crosses the street, listens for awhile, then asks, "What next?"
Brahma, formerly Robert Jancula, 23, is a native of Pittsburgh. He was a student at the University of California at Berkeley when he met some disciples of the movement playing music. He notes that "chanting has hypnotic effects," indicating a pair of well-dressed businessmen who have paused to listen.
"I FELT the philosophy they were giving me was more complete than anything than any other I had heard in life," he says. That philosophy was "the convincing understanding of the existence of God and our relationship with him."
Brahma says he dropped out of Berkeley after two years and joined the movement, because "real knowledge isn't just a matter of data. Education comes from the Latin word educare, to lead out. Real knowledge leads out of unhappiness and the problems of life and gives a realizaton of a higher nature. University education is only data. Most of them only forget it when class is over," Brahma laughs.
And he laughs often. He is not at all solemn or pious, but spritely and very outgoing and enthusiastic. He was given his Indian name by his guru when he was initiated.
HIS MOTHER likes to chant and dance, he says, and is pleased with his choice. But his father isn't sure; he's disappointed. Brahma points out that "he can't go down to the bar and tell his friends his son has joined a crazy group that shaves their heads. He's a nice man, but he's set in his ways." Everytime he calls home, his father asks when he will leave the movement.
A long-haired youth has joined the small band sitting on the rugs. As they play, he listens raptly. At last, one of the monks takes him aside to a bench and talks to him about the philosophy. This is the spider, a role usually played by Brahma.
"The chanting is like a web," he says. "People get caught in it. The spider goes out from the web and takes the tastiest morsel, the juiciest, the most likely suspect."
LATER, Pete Houvouras, 17, who was on his way to visit a friend when he stopped to listen to the chanting, says he has "read all about this" before. "I guess you could say I'm into it." The philosophy appeals to him "very much," he says, but he goes on his way rather than joining the group. A couple of people came back to Ghetto's Palace Yoga Institute, where their bus is parked, after an appearance Thursday afternoon, but Brahma says they may not move on to Columbus with the group.
A Dayton Fire Dept. crew stops at the curb, watching. Brahma says they rarely have trouble with the police, although they occasionally run into some restrictions.
Members of the movement are vegetarian and follow the Bhagavad Gita. They believe that "chanting helps develop spiritual consciousness," Brahma says. When they are not singing and playing the instruments, they chant silently on beads in a small pouch slung over the shoulder.
THE TRAVELING program was started a year ago with one bus and 17 men. There are now six buses and 125 men. Brahma is leader of a group of 15 who are visiting college campuses. They spent two days lecturing and chanting in philosophy classes at the University of Dayton. Yesterday they left for Columbus, where they will spend about a week. They came to Dayton from a week in Cincinnati.
As they go, they invite people who are interested in their philosophy to travel with them. The others at McKinley Park Tuesday were from Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Kansas City.
They tell their listeners that "the goal of human life is not simply economic advancement," says Brahma, "but they're conditioned to that by the media and the aristocracy."
Their bus, a converted Greyhound, is outfitted with an altar. The monks sleep on the floor.
"YOGA MEANS to only accept what is necessary for maintenance," Brahma explains. They receive donations from bystanders and sell literature and incense. Sometimes they may give a concert for a well-to-do man, who will give a donations to show his appreciation.
"We are dependent on God," says Brahma. "The point is we're trying to preach a spiritual philosophy of self-realization. If we worked in the factories, how could we preach?"
One of Brahma's companions, Dirshta Das - Servant of the Opulent One - is a political science graduate of Amherst College. Formerly David Maclachlan, 23, of Erie, Pa., Dirshta joined the group in Portland, where he was doing social work with alcoholics on skid row. He had been looking for "a philosophy I could plug into," he recalls.
"FOR SO long, I thought philosophy was very dry; religion was very unbelievable to me. I was ripe for a philosophy which embraced religious ideas, but not sentimental religious ideas, that could be backed up by philosophy."
Photo: Hare Krishna members chanting
Reference: The Journal Herald, Unknown Location, USA, 1975-10-04
This article, "Krishna singers brighten city" was published in The Sydney Morning Herald, November 13, 1972, in Sydney, Australia.
By NORMAN EDWARDS, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, University of Sydney
For some months, groups of saffron-robed, chanting, jingling Hare-Krishna devotees have been enlivening Sydney's otherwise unatmospheric footpaths.
Call this a gay scene, colorful and swinging or dismiss them as a bunch of nuisances, they are in any case fundamental to the Sydney City Council's new Strategic Plan.
This plan sets out to make the center again a place for people, to revive its once rich quality, to bring back atmosphere. In the light of this, it is sad that the continued activities of these people are threatened.
The Krishna singers, the newspaper boys, and a few fruit barrows are the only signs remaining in Sydney of a life-pattern traditionally rich in human variety. Pushing these people out of the way would seem to me to be a product of (a) puritanical beliefs (clean the place up); (b) a business mentality (they get in your way, these people, it's inefficient), and (c) a distinctively Australian intolerance of outsiders and of non-conformists.
Tidy attitudes like these underly the nature of many of our so-called civic improvement schemes: impressive buildings set in plazas, grand boulevards (Sydney's tower-lined William Street, hardly another Champs-Elysees), zoning of "undesirable" uses away from "desirable" ones. A tidy, homogeneous, artificially ordered ideology, finally boring and vapid, and nothing at all to do with the real order of life.
The best cities are the most vital, not those with the most in beautiful monuments. James Boswell in 1791 gave a good definition of cities; in speaking of London, and of those whp possessed attitudes such as these: "... whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium ... But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible."
City centres which lack the variety and the rich, dense diversity of different people doing different things are indeed cold affairs. In Sydney, which is no exception, there are no sounds, only the noise of cars and construction sites in action, and few sights apart from the merchandise in the shop windows of a diminishing retail area steadily being displaced by more and more vertical acres of glass and concrete.
Where is the swinging set and where are the eccentrics? Where is the special flavour that makes London such a beaut place? Locally, this sort of behaviour is seen as intrusive.
The interesting fact is that the more dense and diversified are the public footpaths, the more crowded they are, the more people will want to walk there. The notion of wide spacious boulevards and of generous plazas may be fine visually but is a myth if one is talking about quality of life in downtown areas.
Sydney and Melbourne in the 1800s had the right quality. Life then was a pageant, with bootblacks and fruitos and pimps and pickpockets and clerics all jostling one another along the crowded footpaths. No doubt it had its seedy side, but it worked.
Isadore Brodsky paints the scene in "The Streets of Sydney": "The old sounds have gone - such sounds as the tramp, tramp of redcoats, the hum of the (tramway) cable beneath the road ... the precise whirring rhythm of the printing machines, the snorting of the horses over the nosebags, the loud 'Fisho! Fisho! Alivo!', the thin pipings of the penny whistle outside the public houses, the chatter of children going off (to school)..."
Even the smells (in Rome, smells are an acceptable part of the atmosphere; here, we are far too puritanical about such things): "... of hot tar in the woodblock, of curries and spices, of scented tobaccos, of peppermint sweets, of chaff, of fresh printer's inks, of water from the watercart spouting on the hot road and conjuring little stream eddies, of John Chinaman's vegetables and fruit baskets ..."
It would seem that this rich quality can no longer be, that economic forces which are too big to handle are going to go on changing the nature of the city centres from intricate human little worlds into one of giant filing cabinets, devoid of love. If in such a world there are still a few gay and innocent individuals left to lend a little sparkle to the scene, let them stay.
Reference: The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, 1972-11-13