Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I Kept My Book Private for Three Years

Austin is a wonderful community with so many activities going on all of the time. People talk about its famous music scene (it's nickname is "The Music Capital of the World"). But there is so much more to Austin than just music. There is also great theater, fabulous museums, art in all mediums, educational events, superb restaurants — and an active and involved community of book readers and writers.

One year ago this month, I attended an annual event sponsored by the Texas Writers League of Austin: a Literary Agent Conference. This is a place where writers can come to meet literary agents and gain their wisdom about the book publishing industry. Up until that point, I had only spoken about my book to a very small group of ex-devotee friends. And I swore them all to secrecy for two years.

I had two reasons to stay silent about my book. One is, I did not want word of my book to reach the people at Barsana Dham (renamed Radha Madhav Dham after the criminal trial). I didn't want to give them a head's up that a potentially damaging book about the ashram and its gurus was in the works. Also, I believed they would start attacking me publicly, and I was still deeply in the recovery stages of leaving a cult. I could not have withstood the public bloodletting.

The second reason I did not talk to anyone about the book was embarrassment. Once I was out of the cult and breathing free air and seeing the world without the cult’s twisted filters, I was mortified that I had ever been in this cult in the first place. The stronger I became during my healing years, the worse I felt for having made such a horrible misstep in my life. I had denied myself all of the normal experiences and pleasures of living in the world as a human being, because I had believed a man who told me that I needed to give up those things to find God.

When I arrived at the Agent Conference last year in June, I knew that I now had to tell other people about my book. At first, I was tongue tied and awkward. I would relay a little bit of information to a fellow writer over coffee or lunch and wait for their horrified judgment of me.

But an interesting thing happened at that conference — no one judged me. They all thought I was smart for telling my story and they encouraged me to get it out there. They said the book would be both an interesting read and a cautionary tale for others. When I described my book to agents, they also did not judge me — they just wanted to know that it was a good story that other people would want to read.

After three days of support and encouragement from my fellow writers, I came away feeling much more confident about my book and its subject matter — and about myself. It took me one more year to publicly announce my book via this blog. But that timeframe was not due to irrational fear. It was due to practical circumstances. I was waiting for the ending of my book — which was the trial of Prakashanand Saraswati.

Little did I know what a stranger-than-fiction ending he would provide me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Story — In Seven Parts

As I developed the outline of my new book, I realized that the story of my journey into and out of a wicked cult fell into the following seven parts:

1. In the Beginning — For the Love of God

2. In the Ashram — The Razor’s Edge

3. In the Dark — Curiouser and Curiouser

4. In the Cult — Losing My Religion

5. In the World — Divine Intervention

6. In the Trial — Truth and Consequences

7. In Hindsight — Deconstructing the Guru Congame

The book has 128 chapters, each one providing a piece of the puzzle to a life lived only for God within the gates of an insular and abnormal world that was created only to satisfy the gurus’ insatiable lust for women, girls, and money.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome to My New Blog About My New Book — Rishika Xcult!

Follow me here on my journey as I work to publish a book for the first time — and continue to explore the concepts of recovering from being conned by two sociopaths and creating a new life in the beautiful world, after living 15 years in the insular unnatural world of a cult. This is the start of something very good.

Two More Old Scammijis In the News: Kreepalu and PrakashakaBOOM

From April 25th 2009, until March 10, 2010., I reported on the Prakashanand Saraswati trial for the blog: I am reposting the series of five articles here as an archive. The following was my fifth article for that blog.

March 10th, 2010 — Is it karma, or kaliyug, or simply the tipping point of a growing intolerance for the overabundance of fake Hindu gurus?

My bet — and hope — is that it is the tipping point: And that the intelligent people of the world will rise up and kick these fake holy men to the curb — that is if the cowards don’t run into hiding first, as is the case with the dastardly duo: Kripalu Maharaj and Prakashanand Saraswati.

Along with all the other intriguing scammiji scandals making the headlines these days, it’s interesting to find that these two partners in crime hit the news within hours of each other (Kreepalu in a BIG way). We’ll start with Prakasha-boom.

Prakasha-Boom Gets Criminal Trial in Texas Delayed — Again
It was never a question of IF Prakashanand would pull a last-minute health crisis to evade justice for 20 counts of indecency with children in Texas: It was always a question of WHICH “health crisis” he would choose. Now we know. “Back surgery.” As reported by the Austin American-Stateman, a “doctor” in India claims that Prakashanand “shouldn’t sit for more than a half-hour at a time.”

As such, his lawyers asked the Hays criminal court for a delay, which was granted Wed.

Awwwwww. Poor guy. Darn the luck. And all he’s ever wanted was his day in court.

But, seriously, I don’t understand the problem. It’s not like he ever SAT for very long anyway. He does most of his work lying down (if you get my drift). Also, the guy flies first-class. I never have, but I’ve seen photos. Don’t you like get a bed and five-star treatment in first-class? Sounds pretty comfortable to me. Also, I’m sure the Hays County Court would have no problem bringing a bed into the courtroom. I’m just saying, there are ways around this “health problem” if you just think outside the box a little.

Curiously, for 20 years Prakashanand received the vast majority of his medical care in the United States — from dental care to treatment for prostrate cancer. Call me skeptical, but it just seems a tad strange that now, at this time, he would receive such major medical care in India. I mean, his “doctor” didn’t even have the wherewithal to say it was “emergency” surgery. Hmmmmmmm.

The fact is, this guy is never coming back to U.S. soil. I know it. You know it. He knows it. So let’s just end the farce: Let the Hays county court collect its $10 million bond, let Prakashanand be labeled a fugitive from justice, and let the world know he’s a lying coward. (Update: as we now know, Prakash DID return to the U.S., got caught, and had to attend his trial after all!!)

Kripalu Shows the World His True Colors — He’s an Orange-Bellied Coward, Too
Speaking of cowards, they must run in packs: Because Kripalu showed himself to be the jagadguru of pathetic cowards.

This is actually a very sad story. If you haven’t heard, approximately 65 people died and dozens more were injured in Kripalu’s main ashram in Mangarh India this past week. They were all women and children who had gone to receive free food and handouts. The ashram had announced the event to all villagers in the surrounding area. The turnout was huge, as expected. News reports conflict a bit, but the bottomline is that Kripalu and his people did not plan for proper crowd control. Something happened to scare the crowd (either the gate collapsed or an electrical wire fell), creating a stampede. Dozens of people were crushed and some killed.

While the world’s heart was breaking for the innocent victims, Kripalu and his organization, Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP), were blaming the victims. JKP-Barana Dham in Austin Texas released a statement on Friday saying: “unruly crowd causes injuries and death.” One word: Pathetic!

Interestingly, Kripalu went into hiding two hours after the disaster, according to several news reports: “Kripalu Maharaj, whose ashram witnessed a stampede killing 63 people, fled from the complex two hours after the tragedy and is untraceable, a district official said today.”

In a telephone statement from an “undisclosed location” (who is he? former Vice President Cheney?), Kripalu tried to say that he never invited any of the people to his ashram. Which is, of course, ludicrous.

The ashram has claimed it is going to give some money to the victims: But it’s a pittance compared to how much they spend on cars, homes, food, and other luxuries for their own comfort and desires. It’s a disgrace that they have the nerve to call themselves a charitable organization.

The local police are hoping to lodge an FIR against Kripalu or his organization under Section 304 (A) of the IPC that covers charges of causing death due to negligence.

In a press conference yesterday Kripalu finally appeared, but said nothing: “Claiming he was ill, Maharaj appeared before mediapersons but did not answer questions fielded by them.” This is a man who normally will not shut up.

Meanwhile, his ashram spokesperson admitted Kripalu was guilty: “The spokesman of the hospital at the ashram, K.P. Singh, said God was responsible for the deaths.” Ummm, hello … Kripalu says that he himself is God!

All I can say is that the real God will bless the poor women and children — who are only the latest, and most visible, victims of this particular fake Hindu holy man. And now, at least, the world is seeing Kripalu’s true colors.

[Ed.note: Our sincere thanks to our correspondent for taking the time to put this hard-edged piece together. It's just the way we like it.]

See original post here:

PrakashakaBOOM!'s Latest Legal Bust

From April 25th 2009, until March 10, 2010., I reported on the Prakashanand Saraswati trial for the blog: I am reposting the series of five articles here as an archive. The following was my fourth article for that blog.

[Ed.note: Once again, our valiant Austin correspondent has the scoop on the continuing legal saga of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati of the Barsana Dham ashram and temple in Texas, who is accused of molesting underage females in his room.]

November 19th, 2009 — At the junction of Darden Hills Road and Rural Route 1826, you can see the 90-foot high tower of the 35,000-square-foot temple built by Swami Prakashanand Saraswati (not with his own hands — or money — of course: it’s just an expression) rising above the hills and trees two miles away to the east.

Less than a mile to the west of this intersection, Mr. Saraswati resides in a home that looks to be about 2,000 or 3,000 square-feet on maybe one acre of land. To get to Austin and all points east, he has to be driven right past his 220-or-so-acre Barsana Dham ashram, which abuts RR 1826. By Texas law he has not been allowed to enter his ashram since May of 2008.

Despite multiple requests made by his lawyers on his behalf to return him to his kingdom, Saraswati has been told “no,” not just once, but a total of four times — twice by a Hays County judge, once by the Texas Third Court of Appeals, and Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. You KNOW that has got to bite the big one for him.

If you’ve ever followed a “guru,” you understand that “No” is not a word he or she hears very often. Certainly not from his or her groveling minions.

Having lived in his ashram for one and half decades, I'm pretty sure I can guess the party-line Prakashanand and his inner circle are feeding the others to explain his inability to bend Texas criminal courts to his will. Terms like “kaliyug,” “evil,” and “demons” have likely been thrown around like cheap pieces of candy at a celebration.

And lest you think that the State of Texas is just being mean spirited or simply doesn’t like his face, please note that the reason Prakashanand is not allowed back into this ashram is that he AGREED to this condition at his first hearing after his arrest on April 24, 2008, on 20 counts of indecency with a child. All he wanted then was his passport back so he could return to India. He got what he wanted. He said he agreed. He signed on the dotted line. And he happily flew back to India to make love to or whatever he does with his master, Kripalu Maharaj (aka, Ram Tripathi).

That was fine and dandy until he flew back to the U.S. a few months later and realized (ooops!) he might have been a bit hasty in giving up his freedom to enter Barsana Dham. Unfortunately for him he signed a contract with the State of Texas, and in this state they expect you to uphold your agreements.

But, as the experienced historical recreationist that he is, he set out to make up a big bogus legal case about “religious freedom,” which his lawyers claimed he was “being denied.” Luckily, Texas State legal officials were not born yesterday, nor are they stupid enough to be conned by a fake guru. So he has been SOL on convincing them to adopt his warped worldview.

I know it’s hard, Prakash; but it’s time to face the facts: The answer to your request to return to Barsana Dham (the scene of your accused criminal acts of children molestation) have been and are always going to be, not just “No,” but “Hell, NO!”

It’s time for you to take it like a man! (Get used to it — you’ll be in jail soon enough!)

[Ed.note: two updates soon followed this dispatch:] Late breaking development -- JUST learned that Prak's trial date has been changed from January 11th to April 4th. Also, just learned today that he bolted back to India yesterday.

See the original post here:

The Criminal Trial Of Prakashanand Saraswati Delayed — What A Surprise!!

From April 25th 2009, until March 10, 2010., I reported on the Prakashanand Saraswati trial for the blog: I am reposting the series of five articles here as an archive. The following was my third article for that blog.

[Ed.note: Our Austin correspondent and former member of the tainted temple in Texas where little girls allegedly got groped and diddled, comes through with another fine report on the ongoing legal saga of the God-faking Kreepalu protegé, Swami Prakashanand, known fauxfectionately to us as Swami Prakashaka BOOM!]

October 6th, 2009 — As Eric Cartman on “South Park” might say: “Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well” — if he heard that the trial has been delayed in the case of The State of Texas vs. Prakashanand Saraswati on 20 counts of indecency with a child. Originally set to start on November 2, 2009, the trial was reset today to commence on January 11, 2010, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Truth be told, many who know Prakashanand are not surprised. We expected the trial would be delayed all along.

I’m mean, after all, if you were an 80-year-old man who has had hundreds of people licking your heels and kissing another body part for the past several decades, would you be looking forward to standing trial for crimes you knew you were 100 percent guilty of committing?

Before you answer, consider the fact that you most likely would have squirreled away a significant amount of cash in places law-abiding citizens would never think to look in a country half a world away. I know that I would much rather live off-the-map in some remote village in India for the rest of my days on earth than in the Texas State prison system (where, if I were a “guru,” the other inmates might not treat me with the respect to which I’ve become accustomed).

A great deal of legal paper filing occurred over the past couple of weeks preceding today’s notice of the trial delay as stated in the Statesman. Here’s a little more insight:

  • Prakashanand’s high-priced lawyers motioned for, and were granted, discovery evidence in the form of the testimonies of the two female witnesses in the case. This, presumably, is the first time his legal counsel has had a clear view of the victims’ side of the case. I can only imagine the laundry bill after that shoe dropped.

  • Next Prakashanand’s lawyers requested to subpoena another person whom they claim “is material to the pending criminal prosecution” and without whom they claim “the Defendant in this pending criminal prosecution will in all reasonable likelihood be denied his rights of compulsory process.” Meanwhile, the lawyers had not yet seen this particular person’s personal report to the Hays County Sherriff’s office. Once they did read that report I can only imagine it was another “spit-hit-the-fan” moment.

  • Finally, yesterday the Hays County Public Access Website reported that the District Attorney for the case filed an application for 14 (yes, that’s fourteen! subpoenas). The motion cited eight people from the Barsana Dham ashram, located southwest of Austin, including four members of the five-member JKP-Barsana Dham management team.

The only member of the management team not on the subpoena request list is Prakashanand himself. After all, he doesn’t need to be subpoenaed. He’s the Defendant. He’ll be there on January 11th, 2010, to have his day in court and prove to the world that he is innocent of child molestation. Right? I mean he will, won’t he? (I kind of like the reporter’s commentary: “If the trial does get underway then …”)

Perhaps Prakashanand will even perform a few divine miracles for those of us in the courtroom to prove once and for all that he really is a God-realized Saint. Lord knows, he hasn’t performed any miracles yet surrounding his arrest and the nearly year-and-a-half drawn out legal battle!

See original article here:

The Latest Blow to Prakashanand Saraswati's Status as Ruler of Maya

From April 25th 2009, until March 10, 2010., I reported on the Prakashanand Saraswati trial for the blog: I am reposting the series of five articles here as an archive. The following was my second article for that blog.

[Guruphiliac Ed.note: We just love it when an insider comes through with the straight skinny. All are invited to fill us in on the shenanigans of their present or former gurus. Much thanks to the soul who's provided today's tasty treat covering a Gp fave, Swami Prakashaka BOOM!]

June 25th, 2009 — How much does it cost to have some highfaluting lawyers appeal a judge's ruling in the Texas Court of Appeals? Estimates range from $75,000 and $100,000. For that kind of money you would think that maya would bend a little to a swami's demands. But no such luck. On Wednesday June 24th, Prakashanand Saraswati was thwarted for the third time in his efforts to return to his 250-some-acre, multi-million-dollar ashram southwest of Austin.

He's been blocked from entering his former sanctuary since May 3rd, 2008, by his own agreement with the court after he was arrested on 20 counts of indecency with two children who grew up there.

On the day Prakashanand's legal "team" made their plea to the Texas Court of Appeals, they repeated one mantra over and over to the three judges: "Barsana Dham has 54 adult residents and no children." (I wonder if they were using japa beads?)

What an odd refrain. And an obvious stretch of the truth. While it's true that no children "live" there, plenty visit and stay overnight in the ashram's many guest quarters. Plus, one regular teenage visitor sleeps in the temple in a room roughly 100 yards from Prakashanand's bedroom door. What's more, Barsana Dham holds "Family Camps" a couple of times a year -- during which many families, including their children, spend several nights. And there are children running around the place on any given day of the week and during holidays. The place is a kid magnet!

Is that why an accused pedophile wants back inside his ashram? I don't know the answer to that (though I can guess). But one has to wonder why he would spend so much time and money trying to get back into this particular piece of God's green earth before his trial—where he can allegedly prove his innocence and get on with his life.

After all, the man has multiple other homes around the world. He's got three suites in three ashrams in India, one in New Zealand, and one in LA. He can stay in any devotee's home anywhere he travels. Why, oh why, does he need so desperately to be back in Barsana Dham?

There is only one reason: Keeping the myth alive.

I mean, come on: How must it look that a God-realized Saint cannot control maya? How must it appear to those 54 residents that their Lord and master is so powerless? How must it look to new people that the guru can't even appear in the flesh in his own ashram?

In the motion to the Court of Appeals, filed in January 2009, Prakashanand's lawyers claimed that by not allowing him into Barsana Dham, the court "violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." They cried that he was deprived of practicing his faith. Oh. My. God.

Hey, Prakashanand, I thought you taught us to practice titiksha and do our devotions every second of every day no matter if we are hungry, cold, hot, sick, or whatever. Come on, buddy. A little practice-what-you-preach would be nice.

Oh and I love that this man is suddenly so keen on his own rights under U.S. law—meanwhile, has no qualms about breaking them to suit his, uh, needs.

Meanwhile, back in May 2008, at his first hearing, Prakashanand's lawyers asked the Hays County Judge to amend the conditions of his bond, asking for the return of his passport, the reduction of his bond, and for access back into Barsana Dham. They added: "We'd like to focus on the returning of the passport and travel to India as a change in conditions."

After a few minutes of deliberation in the judge's chambers, both parties agreed that he could have his passport back, but have no further access inside of Barsana Dham (because that's where the crimes allegedly occurred). When they returned to the courtroom, the judge stated clearly: "[J]ust for the record, the passport will be returned with the additional conditions that you have agreed on, including the new bond" (which was $10 million to ensure his return for the trial). Prakashanand's counsel responded, "That's correct, Your Honor."

Famous last words. By August 20th, his lawyers were back in the courtroom begging for their client's access to Barsana Dham. The judge said "no." They tried again on Sept. 29th. The judge again said "no." So it was off to the Court of Appeals. And the resulting third blow to Prakashanand's status as controller of maya.

My favorite line of the Texas Court of Appeals oral argument is this: "Appellant's (Prakashanand's) inability to return to Barsana Dham was no less a hindrance to his ability to practice his religion or associate with his followers in May than it was in August, or than it is today."

OH, BURN! Chief Justice of the Texas Court of Appeals, J. Woodfin Jones, do you know who you just smacked down? May I touch your feet?

What I really love, what really brings a smile to my face, what is truly a great practical joke by God—is that every time Prakashanand is driven to his way-more-modest Austin-area residence (in a devotee's home 2.5 miles down the road on RR 1826), he has to drive right past his resplendent Barsana Dham ashram.

Oh what a cruel, cruel world. ;-)

See original post here:

One-Year Arrest Update on Prakashanand — He Must Be Praying for a Miracle

From April 25th 2009, until March 10, 2010., I reported on the Prakashanand Saraswati trial for the blog: I am reposting the series of five articles here as an archive. The following was my first article for that blog.

[Guruphiliac Ed.note: This is the first of what we hope will be many stories written by the readers of this blog. This first piece about Prakashaka BOOM, longtime Gp target Kreepalu's agent in America, is excellent and sets the bar quite high at the onset.]

25 April 2009 — Last year on this day, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was cooling his heels in a prison in Alexandria, Virginia. Today he is obsessively compulsively flying back and forth from India to Austin; perhaps trying to shore up his life before he returns to jail — permanently.

Last year, on Thursday, April 24, 2008, after exiting an international flight at Washington Dulles International Airport, Prakashanand was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals from the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force and arrested on 20 counts of indecency with a child. From that afternoon until Saturday afternoon, he was in the custody of law enforcement officers. If justice is served, he will spend the rest of his life in their company.

However, for the past year he has been free on one million dollars bail for the case involving two female minors. He also has a $10 million bond posted by one of his wealthy followers to ensure that he shows up for pre-trial hearings and the trial. The bond was posted so that he could receive his passport back. One stipulation of his bond is that he cannot step one foot back into the multi-million dollar ashram he built southwest of Austin with followers’ money. When in Austin, he stays two miles down the road at a home owned by one of his followers.

He has spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to move heaven and earth to get back into his “magical kingdom.” But so far Hays Judge Charles R. Ramsay has said no way two times. Now Prakashanand is trying his luck with the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals.

He also appears to be fighting like hell to postpone the actual trial for as long as humanly possible. In fact, for the past year he has not had one single pre-trial hearing. In the past year, Prakashanand’s case has been set and reset eight times, according to an article published Friday by Eric Dexheimer, an Austin American-Statesman journalist following the case. He wrote: “Prakashanand’s case has been winding through the court system at an unusually slow pace.” The Hays DA said in an email to him: “It is true that cases typically are not reset or canceled this many times in my experience.”

Although the Hays County DA has not revealed why the hearings have been delayed, rumors indicate that the excuses include Prakashanand claiming illness and hiring new lawyers (who then need time to get up to speed on the case).

The main reason is likely that he is praying for miracle: Hoping that his bad karma will all just go away.

You can be sure that Prakashanand is sparing no expense (of his followers’ donations) for the most aggressive legal defense. On one recent document submitted to the 3rd Court for his appeal there were seven lawyers cited. One of his lawyers brags on his firm’s website about his history of keeping accused murders and child molesters out of jail.

Since Prakashanand’s arrest, Barsana Dham has propagated much misinformation. Most notably, they have been telling followers and new parishioners that the women in the indictment are claiming sexual abuse by Prakashanand, because “they are angry at their parents” and “mad that they had to grow up in Barsana Dham.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The two women are, in fact, among the bravest people on the planet. They stood up to this man and his criminal behavior when so many others have left the organization quietly or turned a blind eye to the truth.

But Barsana Dham’s preachers and other higher-ups have not only committed lies of commission regarding this case. They have also omitted sharing several salient points including:

The Hays County Sheriff’s office conducted a criminal investigation before they arrested Prakashanand.

The Hays DA presented the case to a 12-member Grand Jury. This means that 12 citizens of Hays County heard the state’s case and agreed that there was enough evidence to indict Prakashanand of 20 counts of indecency with a child.

Four branches of the law were involved in Prakashanand’s arrest — which could have occurred in Austin, Texas: But didn’t.

Barsana Dham’s leadership calls former members “demons,” because they are speaking out about Prakashanand’s (and Barsana Dham’s other guru, Kripalu Maharaj’s) criminal behavior. The organization forbids current members to have any contact with them. Barsana Dham prefers its ex-members to just go away quietly — and, of course, has profited from people doing just that for decades.

Prakashanand’s lawyers are bending the truth on his filings, including the brief to the 3rd Court of Appeals.

The irony is that Prakashanand’s followers treat him as if he is God. So, why aren’t they asking themselves: How could God get himself into such a mess — and, even more telling, why can’t he gracefully get himself out?


Anonymous: Thank you for writing this.

Anonymous: good luck to the women. and we need more judges like this man, he seems the decent sort. this is what happens when the blind lead the blind and the blind follow the blind. a huge circus!

Anonymous said: Many thanks to the author of this very concise and, I would precise piece. I echo the authors comments the two girls who took this action against Prakashanand are extremely brave and I hope that in the end justice is served and their effort is not in vain. On reading this article one question kept coming to mind, if Prakashanand is guilt free then why would he not be running into the courtroom to protest his innocence? I think this is a key question whilst considered in the context of Prakashanand's policy to continually delay the trial. x-devotees and objective observers alike might be forgiven to conclude that Prakashanand is hiding something, or many a lot? One can speculate that if he is proven guilty more women might be encouraged to come forward?  I don't live in the U.S. but having a good understanding of how the legal system works over there I am surprised that Prakashanand is not anxious to get on with the trail to prove his innocence. I can only concluded that he is way in over his head at this stage in the game and he is running scared. To Prakashanand's 'loyal' devotees I would recommend that at the very least you should step back from the organization at this point. Ok so you've invested a lot of money and time. Perhaps you have introduced a lot of people to the movement and maybe your kids have grown up with to be part of the movement? Take away the good things that you learned, the positive aspects of being associated with the organization. But right now the most rational thing to do is take a break. If Prakashanand is proven innocent you can always step back in and take up where you left off. If he is proven guilty and goes to jail then you won't feel like you have been completely fooled.  Finally, and again to current devotees, you can have a spiritual life away from Barsana Dahm. It's a big lie that God only exists for Prakashanand and the movement. I write as an exdevotee who is in no way angry about what is going on, I left the movement long before this all came to light. I still believe in the first lesson Prakashanand taught me - 'be good and do good' but I doubt that he really believes these words, which I heard him speak on many occasions.

See original post here:

Prakashanand Land USA (aka Barsana Dham) is Not Open to its Founding Overlord

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my thirteenth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

August 18th, 2008 —

Accused felon Prakashanand Saraswati is free to wander anywhere in the world — except for on a 200-acre patch of land in the Texas Hill Country.

As part of the stipulation of his $10 million bond agreement issued on May 15, 2008, he cannot enter the ashram over which he ruled with unquestioned authority for 18 years.

It has really got to chap his hide not to be allowed to step one slippered foot inside the eight-foot-high fence separating his property from the rest of the United States of America. Like all autocrats, Prakashanand made all the rules in his kingdom, called all the shots, and was the sole judge and jury of those on the inside.

Before the ink was even dry on the property deed in 1990, he christened the land “Barsana Dham” and wasted no time refashioning the natural rolling hill country property into a simulated holy land that suited his every desire. Before long he renamed a prominent hill on the property from Friday Mountain to Barsana Hill, and renamed the property’s stretch of a winding stream from Onion Creek to the Kalindi River. And that was just the beginning of the manufacturing of his particular reality.

Prakashanand tells people that he has been “recreating” Braj India on his 200-plus acres. But this is like the Epcot Center claiming it has recreated France, Spain, and Venice in Orlando, Florida. The resemblance is childish, commercial, and unfulfilling.

One of the first orders he decreed upon taking possession of his new property was installing a chain-link fence to separate his land from his surrounding neighbors — including the Transcendental Meditation (TM) community, called Radiance, located directly to the south.

This enclosure not only physically separates his province from the rest of the country, but it also psychologically creates a barrier that has made many devotees feel alternatively cosseted and imprisoned. Prakashanand has reinforced these feelings by telling followers that his creation offers the only hope for people seeking God and warning them that the world outside of the gates is “hell.”

Among Prakashanand’s many rules within his kingdom are simple, modest, and renounced living for all residents (including anywhere from 40 to 70 people). Unfortunately, he has not been an exemplary role model for the austere lifestyle he verbally imposed over the years. It has been more a case of “do what I say, not what I do.” For example, his personal quarters on the second floor of the ashram’s large temple include a whirlpool bathtub, sauna, steam room, marble-counter kitchen, fine china in the cupboards, multi-count sheets on his plush mattress, and a balcony overlooking the most ornate section of the property.

Nothing is too small to ensure his maximum comfort. A cadre of devotees are devoted to ensuring that his very whim is swiftly and unerringly catered to. Anything could be cause for a life-or-death style crisis — such as the less-than-perfect shape of a pillow or the undesired degree of light emitting through his bedroom curtains.

Over the years, many people have been curious about this peculiar place. Occasionally, inquiring minds attempted to peek inside of the abnormal world — thinking they could actually know the inner workings simply from a superficial view of the showy exterior. Of course, their lack of discovery of the underbelly of Prakashanand Land wasn’t their fault. From my multiple years of experience, I now know that the reality of Barsana Dham is a murky otherworld hidden by a carefully crafted hard, glossy exterior finish.

While I do not agree with the judge’s decision to let Prakashanand free to roam the world, I applaud his decision to keep him out of his ashram located on RR 1826, 15 miles southwest of Austin, Texas. Perhaps the judge realized that the greater punishment than not letting this professed swami — who is accused of 20 counts of indecency with a child — back to India, was not giving him the keys back into his insular, protected kingdom.

UPDATE (Aug. 20th, 2008) —

My Life was Interrupted by the Far-from-Wonderful Wicked Wizard of JKP Barsana Dham

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my twelfth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

August 11th, 2008 — It’s too bad I usually fell asleep before the end of “The Wizard of Oz.”

When I was a child, the annual airing of this epic movie was a highlight of my young life. However, typically I would fall sound asleep before Dorothy returned to Oz with the witch’s broomstick and before she realized that the “great and wonderful wizard of Oz” was just a short, fat, old, pathetic man frantically pushing buttons and pulling levers behind a curtain — all in a frenzied attempt to keep the secret of his grand façade from being revealed to the hoodwinked, brainwashed, robotic citizens of Oz.

Perhaps if I had watched the ending of the movie multiple times, the truth of the wizard’s con game would have been indelibly etched in my mind. Then maybe I would have been smarter about falling for conmen who sell fantastical illusions, tell bold-faced lies, and deliver nothing but shams.

I was reminded of this movie and its central message while listening to the director’s comments on another movie, “Girl, Interrupted.” He said: “In ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ the lead character, Dorothy, is continuously looking for a concrete answer: ‘I want to go home again.’ ‘Okay, go find the wizard.’ She finds the wizard. (The wizard) says, ‘Go get a broomstick.’ She goes and kills the witch and gets a broomstick. But the broomstick means nothing. The wizard is a fake. The fact is that she had the power to go home from the very beginning of the film.”

This correlates exactly with my experience on my spiritual journey.

Somewhere along the way someone told me that I needed a guru. Then the guru said I needed to live a renounced life, including spending hours a day in satsang, doing endless hours of physical seva, and giving uncountable amounts of money. I gave up my life and devoted it to God. And what did I find at the end of the road? I found out that the guru is a complete fraud — that he is an all-too mortal human being, who never had the power to give anyone anything.

It’s a sad fact of life that there is no end to the number of charlatans willing to pretend that they have the secret. Most of these swindlers are narcissists.

Eleanor Payson wrote a book on the subject, called, interestingly, “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.” These are people who care only for themselves, who will do and say anything necessary to take everything they can from others, and who will not be the least bit concerned about those whom they hurt along their paths of destruction.

Here is an excerpt: “Every day headlines are filled with examples of narcissistic individuals in positions of power who are nothing more than impostors plundering and wrecking havoc on the lives of others … we daily encounter narcissists and the self-serving systems that enable them. Using simple metaphors from the American classic, ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ Payson illustrates how Dorothy’s journey captures all the seductive illusions and challenges that occur when we encounter the narcissist.”

Narcissists fall into the same psychological category as sociopaths, psychopaths, masochists, and sadomasochists. All of these demented personality types prey on the innocent in their selfish missions of self-adulation.

Before you fall for the underhanded and cruel tactics of any of these tricksters posing as spiritual guides, please, I implore you — wake up.

Knowledge is Freedom — How to Know a Cult When You See One

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my eleventh blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

August 4th, 2008 — "Dear Mom and Dad, I no longer fear hell.”

Lisa Simpson wrote this poignant line in a letter home to her parents from a summer camp, which turned out to be a wicked scam. In this episode of “The Simpsons,” Lisa, Bart, and other children thought they were going to experience the time of their lives at a delightful kids’ camp. Instead they were deceptively lured into an evil con game, where the devilish camp leaders abused them in uncountable ways.

I know just how little Lisa felt. I also no longer fear hell — because I have already experienced it at a place called JKP-Barsana Dham. Like Lisa, I was duped into thinking I was entering an upstanding organization, only to learn I was involved in a cult headed by people with unwholesome ulterior motives.

When I finally learned many, many of the JKP’s unholy secrets, I also learned the definition of a cult. According to the 15th edition of “The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy” (the revered medical encyclopedia used by doctors and nurses since 1899), cults offer “father or god figures” to people needing such identification. Throughout history “each self-appointed messiah claimed a simple solution for the complex problems of life and called for commitment, sacrifice, and zeal."

There is a high price to pay for joining any cult — including sacrificing your time, money, innocence, and self-respect. One of the reasons people are lured into cults is that cults use extremely deceptive recruiting practices. Their sneaky methods ensure that “prospective members have no accurate knowledge of the cult and almost no understanding of what eventually will be expected of them as long-term members.”

My advice to you is to question everything you're told and listen to your gut instincts: If something feels or seems wrong, it probably is. Ask the leadership the hard questions — and don't take nonsense for answers.

If you’ve read this far in this blog post, then you are already ahead of the JKP con game — because I am giving you critical information that can save you from entering a cult and being sorry later.

If you need more proof, the “The Merck Manual” provides this handy checklist for identifying a cult:

1. A cult controls an individual’s social and psychological environment, especially the person’s time.

2. A cult places an individual in a position of powerlessness within a high-control, authoritarian system.

3. A cult relies on a closed system of logic, which permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by executive order.

4. A cult lures each person into the environment over time in increments that are sufficiently minor and, therefore, difficult to perceive.

5. A cult erodes a person’s confidence in his or her own opinions and perceptions.

6. A cult creates a system of rewards and punishments that promotes desired behavior and inhibits undesirable behavior.

While it took me several years to realize I was being scammed by a cult, it feels great now to finally be out of hell. However, I would highly advise my fellow spiritual seekers not to go there in the first place.

If You Have Blind Faith, Watch Your Step at JKP-Barsana Dham

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my tenth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

July 27, 2008 — There are countless stories about the power of blind faith in every religion. But sometimes you just have to open your eyes, take a good hard look at the facts, and decide if you are witnessing a test of your faith or just a scam.

In the weeks following the arrest of “Jagadguru” Kripalu Maharaj last year in Trinidad for rape — during which so many secrets came flooding through the cracks in the façade — I talked with several devotees in JKP-Barsana Dham about the unsettling news. I found that they fell into three basic categories:

1. The Blind Faithers. This group was comprised of people who seemed to ascribe to a “see no evil, hear no evil” philosophy. In other words, they appeared to believe that if they pretended nothing had happened, it would all just go away. Their point-of-view was bolstered by the gurus’ direct orders to “keep quiet” and “not read anything” about the arrest on the Internet. They did as they were told. Most likely, the Blind Faithers were afraid of angering their guru and purportedly losing the chance to receive his grace. My personal feeling is that the Blind Faithers actually feared looking too closely at reality. They feared seeing anything other than what they wanted to believe. They were afraid that if they looked too closely at the house of cards it would all collapse.

2. The Defenders. These people were comprised largely of “inner circle” JKP devotes. It appeared to be their job to see and hear all the evil: Then work as hard as they could to keep the truth hidden from the rest of us. You can recognize these people by the wide variety of custom-tailored defenses they spout such as: “This is all a leela.” “This is a smear campaign.” “This a test of devotees’ faith.” The problem with all of their excuses is that none of them fit reality — and they certainly don’t explain away the gurus’ bad behavior for members of the third group.

3. The Truth Seekers. From what I could tell this was the smallest group of devotees. After all, not too many followers have the guts to face the fact that their spiritual group is a cult. Admittedly, taking the road-less-traveled was, at times, a difficult journey. In those dark days, it was a breath of fresh air to find other seekers of truth.

I’ll never forget one conversation I had with a fellow Truth Seeker at Barsana Dham. That devotee said: “Think about this: Have you ever seen one single devotee of these two men achieve anything even close to God realization in all of our years on this path?” I had to admit that I had not.

How could it be that after years on this path I had not personally witnessed anyone who seemed to evolve beyond the person they already were in key areas that exemplify a higher state of consciousness — such as humbleness, kindness, simplicity, genuineness, fairness, and purity? Has anyone on this path ever actually been graced to enter the Divine world?

This is not a judgment on the sincere seekers of God who have involved themselves with JKP-Barsana Dham. This is a statement about the leaders that head up the organization. If people are not achieving their spiritual goals there — where the gurus say it is ALL based on their grace — there is a good reason: Namely, the leaders are not who they profess themselves to be.

A big problem for JKP-Barsana Dham’s leadership is that the three categories of devotees are not absolute. After all, any member of the Blind Faithers or even the Defenders today, could easily become a Truth Seeker tomorrow.

Thank God for the People Who are Speaking the Truth About JKP

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my ninth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

July 20, 2008 — The truth hurts, but being lied to and abused in a spiritual con game hurts worse.

Last year at this time I was in the throws learning so many dark truths about the organization I had joined several years before — Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP). After Kripalu Maharaj’s arrest in Trinidad in May 2007 people around the world exposed secrets about this organization in blog after blog and comment after comment. I read them all, becoming more shocked with every word.

The people speaking out must have held their secrets for a long time, apparently not knowing who to tell or how to tell them. Finally, they had a platform for sharing what they knew with the world — the Internet. Here are just a few of the many websites for which I am grateful, because they posted articles about JKP and allowed people to post their comments:

Of course, not everyone believes the stories about Kripalu’s and Prakashanand Saraswati’s abuse of power, sex, and money. Many people want to cling to their dream that this organization has the sole claim to God’s grace — and they will seemingly do anything to prevent their dream from turning into a nightmare. Such is the power of the mind to live in denial.

Despite having been well indoctrinated into this cult, the minute I started reading the stories online I knew they were true. How did I know? I knew because I could read between the lines and hear the sincerity and honesty of each person. I could tell they were not writing for any purpose other than the knowledge that they could possibly help expose a spiritual fraud and help save others from wasting their lives, money, and spiritual innocence.

I also knew they were speaking the truth, because I had stories of my own. Over the years I had experienced, heard, and seen many unsettling things. My gut instinct told me these things were not right and were in direct opposition to a pure path to God.

But my desire for God was so great that it usurped my judgment. This was exacerbated by the fact that the organization’s gurus and preachers repeatedly reminded followers that if we were not advancing spiritual toward union with Radha-Krishn it was due to our lack of surrender to the gurus. That’s a cruel message to tell a person who has given his or her life for God realization. But, as I learned firsthand, cruelty comes easy to JKP’s leaders.

I now know that I should have listened to my gut many years ago and saved myself from this cult. But at least I finally listened to the voices of people telling the truth about JKP — and I took action before I spent any more time serving conmen.

To every brave and honest person who has shared the truth about JKP — and to those who continue to speak out— I would like to say Thank You! The truth really does set you free.

Guru Poornima is a Sacred Hindu Holiday — Not an Opportunity for Propaganda

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my eighth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

July 13, 2008 — How do you explain to the world that one of your gurus has been arrested for “indecency with a child”?

If you are JKP-Barsana Dham you seemingly make an attempt to compare him to great historical Saints. In Barsana Dham’s recent promotion for an upcoming Guru Poornima celebration, the organization appears to be trying to draw a parallel between legendary spiritual beings and its own questionable gurus: Prakashanand Saraswati and Kripalu Maharaj. It’s not the first time.

The problem for discerning readers is that the comparison just does not correlate — whatsoever. Here is the key line from its promotion:

“History tells us that Tulsidas was robbed and harassed because he showed a simple way of God realization and condemned religious imposters, Meera was nicknamed and defamed because she sang the glory of Krishn, and Haridas was nearly killed because he openly distributed the Bliss of the Divine name of Krishn.”

Imagine a scale. On one side are acts of being persecuted for showing a simple path to God and singing the glory of Krishn. On the other side of the scale is being arrested for illegal sex acts. There is NO comparison.

I can't help but believe that JKP-Barsana Dham is attempting to use Hindu scripture and devotional stories as a shield to cover up the questionable actions of its “gurus.” What’s more, the organization seems to be arrogantly assuming the public is gullible enough to believe this scheme. The sad thing is that the tactics will likely trick many unsuspecting and innocent lovers of God. It will not be the first time.

While it is customary for Hindu organizations to spend some time paying respect to gurus, in my personal experience in JKP the exaltation of the gurus is nearly to the exclusion of worshiping God. Kripalu often speaks for hours on the greatness of guru (in other words, the greatness of himself). And he cites dozens of scriptures to prove his point.

In fact, at Barsana Dham last summer (2007), just 43 days after he was arrested in Trinidad for rape, Kripalu gave a talk on the occasion of Guru Poornima that included the recitation of about 60 scriptures. This greatly impressed people. They believe that his ability to cite so many scriptural passages is one of the things that proves he is God. I don’t know about you, but I have known many people who can recite extensive volumes of poetry, legal passages, biblical chapters, or other text. Many people have great memories — that does not make them God.

But his speech did not end there. He spent several minutes telling us not to question him or his actions. His exact words were: “Just keep quiet.” It’s not the first time devotees were told some form of shut up.

No doubt it would be very convenient for him if people who doubted him did just keep quiet; if they didn’t use their God-given minds to question his questionable actions; and if God-loving people worshiped him instead of God. These are all key elements of any cult.

It’s my fate that I had to learn the lesson of false gurus the hard way. Now, I can hopefully help others learn this lesson the easy way.

The important lesson is simply this: There is only one true guru and He is God.

Happy Guru Poornima to our gracious, loving, and truly pure Radha-Krishna.

The Weather was Cooler, But the Heat was on Last Summer at JKP-Barsana Dham

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my seventh blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

July 4, 2008 — This summer in Austin is extremely hot. We are stuck under a ridge of high pressure that is keeping the place like an oven. It’s the kind of heat in which the shade offers little relief.

Last summer in Austin the weather was much different. It was rainy and wet, with temperatures cooler than normal. But that doesn’t mean that life was anymore bearable at JKP-Barsana Dham. The ashram was under its own “ridge of high pressure” of a different sort: Kripalu Maharaj (aka Ram Tripathi) was staying there for several weeks.

He had arrived in Barsana Dham on April 1st, 2007, a few weeks ahead of schedule for reasons never explained to most of us — but which would become clear later. The minute he stepped out of the Mercedes and his sneakered foot hit the pavement under the temple’s porte-cochere, the world became his and we just lived in it. And he likes his world to run a particular way down to the kind of milk he’ll drink (only fresh squeezed) and the television access he expects (all possible channels).

The devotees and guests had to work like demons to keep him, his family members, and hundreds of guests fed and housed. They also had to spend countless hours in the prayer hall each day from 5:00 AM until 10:00 PM chanting songs written by Kripalu in Hindi. And they were encouraged to spend their money everyday on everything from shawls ($50 each) to photos taken with him (up to $2,500 a pop).

We were told we had one year to pay off whatever debt (called “seva”) we accumulated. Then he left on May 14th for Trinidad.

Upon his departure, there was a palpable sigh of relief after a long and tiring month-and-a-half long whirlwind of activity and demands. But that respite was short-lived when we learned on May 25th that he had been arrested for rape. The arrest resulted in a significant change in his “world tour” plans, including canceling his visit to Canada (another unexplained mystery). Instead, he returned to Barsana Dham for two-and-a-half weeks from June 18th until the early morning of July 4th.

Despite the fact that serving Kripalu is supposed to be “the gift of a lifetime for a soul,” I don’t remember anybody seeming to be particularly happy about his return. By that time most people seemed to be out of energy and enthusiasm. But it wasn’t as if we had a choice — the chaos resumed whether we liked it or not.

One of the most notable aspects of his return was the sudden pressure to collect the money devotees owed him, despite the original 12-month payment plan. Everyday, at nearly every satsang session someone was standing up and announcing that devotees should pay as much as they could of the money they owed — in cash. For their convenience, an ATM machine was available just outside the temple doors.

I, for one, found it suspicious that the money collection had heated up to such a level. But mostly I just felt sorry for all of the people who were still willing to believe that such a person was anything other than just another human being with a scheme to keep himself and his family members living in the lap of luxury.

It may be hotter than Hades here in Austin this summer, but I am happy to be independent again and free from a fraudulent spiritual pressure cooker.

I’m counting my blessings this Fourth of July for the independence afforded me as a citizen of the U.S.A. and as a lover of God who is free from the stifling choke hold of a cult.

Happy Fourth of July to all lovers of freedom.

Is the Pen Mightier than a Double-Edged Sword? I Wrote and JKP-Barsana Dham Listened.

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my sixth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

Last week, I learned that pointing out the possible fallacies in JKP-Barsana Dham’s self-promotion is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, the information helps give unsuspecting spiritual seekers a reality check regarding the organization’s excessively hyped image: But on the other hand, my thoughts give Barsana Dham information it can use to clean up its act — which is exactly what the organization did last week almost the minute I published my post about the Barsana Dham Wikipedia page’s multiple problems with content being “factual, notable, verifiable with external sources, and neutrally presented, with external sources cited.”

Actually, to be completely accurate, I should say, Barsana Dham almost cleaned up the Wikipedia article. While it did make some changes based on the specific information I wrote about and it did get Wikipedia to remove the disclaimer at the top of the page, which stated that the page may not meet the online encyclopedia’s content guidelines, I’m still not convinced that the Barsana Dham page meets the encyclopedia’s high standards.

What I find particularly unsettling is how Barsana Dham may still be stretching the verifiability of many of its citations. Wikipedia demands citations to help ensure that the content on its pages is not merely just published by some self-aggrandizing organization or person using the open medium for its own self-promotion.

While many of the citations on the Barsana Dham page appear to be generated either directly or indirectly via self-promotional materials and information taken out of context, here are a few of the more questionable citations in my opinion:

  • Citation #2 — Barsana Dham added a new line of text related to this citation: “According to an article in the ‘International Journal of Humanities and Peace,’ Barsana Dham is one of the largest Hindu Temple complexes in North America.” It seems highly suspicious to me that this journal would make this claim. I will be contacting the publication to see if this is true. What’s more, as I mentioned last week, this citation is from the review of a book written by Prakashanand Saraswati, and as such is most likely indirectly from Barsana Dham’s own promotional material.

  • Citation #3 — As hard as I searched, I could not find this article cited on the Internet.

  • Citation #11 — Barsana Dham pulled one line out of context from a rather negative article published in the Austin American-Statesman in 1992, entitled “Swami’s planned Hindu temple is center of speculation.” Among other things, the article cited comments by ex-members who’d had negative experiences with Prakashanand and his organization.

  • Citation #13 — Barsana Dham cites a book written by Prakashanand Saraswati.

  • Citation #19 — This citation is questionable, because Barsana Dham makes this claim in the body of the Wikipedia article: “Barsana Dham opened its doors to Hurricane Katrina evacuees, and executed a fundraising drive in its wake.” Not only could I not find the India Abroad article cited on the Internet, but also the article’s title infers that it’s about Hurricane Rita victims (“Community rallies to help Rita victims,” October 7, 2005). What’s more, I for one would like proof that Barsana Dham actually did open its doors to Hurricane Katrina victims and that it did actually raise any money at all for them.

Now let’s watch and see if JKP-Barsana Dham starts slicing and dicing the Wikipedia page again based on my efforts to shine the light of truth on information that I feel might be skewed. If you are interested, you can track edits made on the Barsana Dham Wikipedia article on this Web page:

Let’s be clear about one thing — this is not JKP-Barsana Dham’s own personal Wikipedia page. Wikipedia is open for anyone to write and edit any page on its encyclopedia. This means that anyone with knowledge of the organization has every right to contribute factual content on this page according to the content guidelines, which include being able to back up what you say with verifiable citations — hopefully citations less debatable than several of the ones currently posted there.

And you can quote me on that.

Best to all lovers of truth,

UPDATE — June 23, 2008, 10 AM — A few hours after I published this post, the edits had begun. Already Citation #11 listed above has been removed. Darn that double-edged sword! Note that Citation #13 is now #12 and Citation #19 is now #18 on the current Wikipedia page. Stand by for more changes.

UPDATE 2 — That Wikipedia page was eventually removed completely.

Is JKP-Barsana Dham All Hype? Wikipedia Wants to Know.

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my fifth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

June 15, 2011 — There’s a saying in Texas about fake cowboys that could just as easily describe JKP-Barsana Dham: He’s all hat and no cattle.

The colloquialism refers to a cowboy who has the outward appearance of a cattle rancher (right down to an authentic cowboy hat), but in actuality has no cattle to back up his swagger.

I’m reminded of this adage when I read any of JKP-Barsana Dham’s copious amounts of self-promotion — which it seems to be self-generating on a daily basis these days (could this be to bury some particularly unsavory news on the Internet?).

It seems that I’m not alone in my skepticism regarding Barsana Dham’s claims to fame. These days even Wikipedia is wondering how much of Barsana Dham’s spiel is real and how much is sheer PR puffery.

I found what I consider to be a couple of very revealing behind-the-scenes Wikipedia Web pages this week. One of them cites that in early June 2008 Barsana Dham’s Wikipedia article was one of the Top 25 most edited articles on the Web site. In fact, since Prakashanand’s arrest on April 24, 2008, there have been over 50 edits to the Barsana Dham Wiki article by multiple sources.

Top 25! Wow — that’s huge considering there are currently 10 million articles posted on the online free encyclopedia. I’ll bet that’s one accolade Barsana Dham won’t be promoting.

Barsana Dham seems to exist in an insular world of its own making and may not be used to other entities telling it that it’s over the top. Perhaps it finds Wikipedia’s content rules to be too confining.

Wikipedia’s content guidelines are fairly simple: “content is intended to be factual, notable, verifiable with external sources, and neutrally presented, with external sources cited.” Since March 2006, a number of independent contributors and Wiki editors have been editing or proposing edits to the Barsana Dham Wiki article along these guidelines.

However, even with all the edits in the past two months, I’m still concerned that Barsana Dham may not be posting content within Wikipedia’s guidelines. Here are just three points (out of many) regarding citations that have me wondering about their neutrality:

  • “It is one of the largest Hindu Temple complexes in North America” (Barsana Dham cites a person who wrote a review of one of Prakashanand’s book and who is a holistic health researcher)

  • “Barsana Dham has become a place of pilgrimage for millions of Hindus living in North America” (Barsana Dham cites an article from “Hinduism Today,” even though the content appears to be from Barsana Dham’s own press release)

  • “Shree Radha Rani has many names” (Barsana Dham cites one of Prakashanand’s books as the source)

Due to its questionable content, Barsana Dham’s Wiki article was almost deleted all together in April 2008. Now Wikipedia notes at the top of the page that the article has multiple issues including:

  • Its tone or style may not be appropriate for Wikipedia.

  • It reads like an advertisement and needs to be rewritten from a neutral point of view.

  • It may need copyediting for grammar, style, cohesion, tone or spelling.

Barsana Dham will have to clean up its act soon — or go the way of three other Wikipedia articles that where recently deleted:

  1. Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat

  2. Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj

  3. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati

I can only guess that on these three pages JKP-Barsana Dham either didn’t even try to ratchet back the blatant self-promotion or it had no way to describe these entities without using hyperbole.

If we cannot even trust the JKP organization to post Wikipedia content that meets the online encyclopedia’s egalitarian rules for truth, notability, and neutrality, what information can we trust from JKP-Barsana Dham?

I Was Desperately Seeking God — Not a Guru

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my fourth blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

June 8, 2008 — “You need a living saint to find God.” That was the line that hooked me.

I had been searching for God for over a decade. Then suddenly one day a person dressed from head to toe in bright orange made this statement to me with utmost confidence. I’ll admit I was in a vulnerable place in an otherwise self-assured life. I was also in desperation mode, needing an answer to an eternal question: How does a human being find God in this world?

With some skepticism, but also great hope, I entered a path led by a guru named Prakashanand Saraswati. Over the years, he stressed several points over and over again such as:

  • A guru is the medium between a soul and God.

  • A soul must surrender 100 percent to a guru to receive entrance into the divine world.

  • A soul must never question any action or instruction from a guru.

However, I also learned from other sources that in Hinduism the guru-disciple relationship is a sacred bond of trust, where the guru gives spiritual wisdom out of his or her benevolent nature (heavy with God’s love), and the disciple receives this gift with a feeling of extreme humbleness and gratitude. In this exchange, the guru stands out of the way so God can grace each soul.

If I had experienced that guru-disciple relationship at JKP-Barsana Dham, I would have cherished it with my complete heart and soul until my dying day. But I experienced something very different, including a guru’s ego, anger, lust, lies, desire, abuse, and more.

Later this month a movie will be released in the U.S. that lampoons the notion of gurus in America. Even with my bad experience at the hands of a guru, I cringe when watching the movie’s previews. I’ve read that some Hindu groups are angry and trying to censor the movie.

But, like Freedom of Religion, the U.S. guarantees its citizens Freedom of Speech. So the movie will likely go on as planned by Hollywood. I think that it will slightly skew the average American’s view of gurus, because, like myself so many years ago, most citizens of this country have no understanding of the role of gurus in Hinduism.

Actually, I envy their innocence. While it’s true that they may never understand what a truly pure guru-disciple relationship offers a soul, they also will never know what it’s like to be utterly taken advantage of in uncountable ways by fake gurus. Mercifully, they will be spared that pain.

Today I am seeking God directly without the interference of any phony spiritual teachers — and I feel now that I am closer than ever to the divine world.

Best to all seekers of God’s omnipresent love.

Only God Knows Why I Joined a Cult

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called “My Life in a Cult” using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my third blog post on “My Life in a Cult.”

June 1, 2008 — In the weeks and months I spent trying to wrap my mind around the awful truth that I had joined a cult, I found spiritual guidance in the most unexpected places — like popular music.

One day while trying to make sense of my new reality, I heard a song on the radio that spoke to my confusion and pain. It was Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.” These lyrics, in particular, stood out:

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody’s got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

At JKP-Barsana Dham, they taught us that we are in a boat in the middle of the vast ocean of maya. And unless we let the guru become our captain and steer our boats, we could not make it to the Divine shore. It might be true that you need a guru: But, if it is, you most certainly do not need one who lies to you.

Not too long after that I heard one of Bob Dylan’s classic songs, “Things Have Changed.” A part of the lyrics spoke directly to my present situation (still inside, but planning to get out) and my new attitude (empowered in the face of the crushing truth) about this organization:

(I’m) Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose
People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

An interesting — and telling — thing about these lyrics is that one day I recited one of the lines while among a group of devotees. Everyone was complaining about some difficult and conflicting aspect of our lives in the ashram. I said, “I used to care, but things have changed.” I was surprised when everyone within earshot seemed to understand exactly what I meant. This confirmed to me that, indeed, almost everyone did know “that the captain lied.”

Then I heard one of Kid Rock’s ballads on the radio: “Only God Knows Why.” This song instantly became the theme song of my life at that time. I logged into the YouTube video and listen to it over and over. These lyrics rang remarkably true for me:

It's been so long since I've been home
I've been gone, I've been gone for way too long
Maybe I forgot all the things I miss
Somehow I know there's more to life than this

I've been giving, just ain't been getting
I've been walking that there line
So I think I'll keep on walking
With my head held high
I'll keep moving on and only God knows why

These lyrics not only spoke to my life at that time, but also soothed my aching soul. They spoke to the fact that I had been out of the relatively safe world and in this unsafe cult for far too long; that I had been giving and giving to this organization, but receiving nothing in return (namely, the divine love the gurus promised); and that I had finally come to my senses and was moving on.

But this song also spoke to the fact that I still didn’t understand why I had to go through the experience of living in a cult — in fact, it made me realize that only God knows why.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can find spiritual guidance in so many places — except where you are looking for it?


rajabd: Thank you , so much for sharing your stories and opening your heart. We all have pretty much same experience and gone through a lot. Some souls suffered more then others. I admire Freedom writer to come forward and share these heart broken stories. We were with this mission for 16 years, and got nothing except agony and pain. I learned with my personal experiences that how this guru is hungry for money, women and power. His dictatorship nature controls everyone, and put fear on everyone's mind, this is the first sign of cult. It had been year and half since we left this organization and never missed anything. I feel free now and also feel free of their dirty tricks. I will request Freedom writer, to give some thoughts, if we all submit our experiences and publish a book on this Cult—- Our eyes are open and now we can see through the dark clouds which was covered by pollution.

FreedomWriter: Rajabd, I like your idea of a book a lot. If we could get a dozen or so people to contribute stories of their bad experiences. I think the starting point is to find the people ready and willing to share how they were mistreated in this cult. Do you have ideas on who would contribute? Then we can plan from there how to pull the project together. Thanks so much and let me know your thoughts. People could also send me short stories and I can post them here as well.

rajabd: Freedomwriter, I have people want to say so much. But some doesn’t want to open their mouth till the settlement of this case. Yes, we can easily get more than dozen. Book don’t need to be thick and big, but we can write about what goes there what had happened everyone's experience, and to educate people how to avoid and don’t get trapped on the name of religion or gurus. God is within us we don’t need to search for GOD any where. Also big lesson God cannot be Human. Take care one day we will all meet with each other. Have any idea when is the court date? I will let others know too so they can post their stories. take care.

How I Learned I Was in a Cult — It’s My Anniversary!

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called "My Life in a Cult" using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of the blog posts here as an archive. The following was my second blog post on "My Life in a Cult."

May 25th, 2008 — It was exactly one year ago today (Friday, May 25th, 2007) that I learned I was in a cult.

After years of believing I was on a pure and true spiritual path, it was a huge blow to learn the truth.

It all started when devotees of JKP-Barsana Dham were gathered together for a meeting and told that the main guru on the path, who was in the middle of his second “world tour,” had been arrested in Trinidad one week ago on May 18th. The word we were told was “assault.” We were told very few details. And we were told not to talk about the event or go on the Internet to learn more.

Although, according to them, to be a good devotee and attain God realization you have to follow the leaders every instruction without question, this time I decided I had to know more. I just knew there was a lot they were not telling us and, clearly, did not want us to know. After the meeting I went straight to my computer and Googled “Kripalu Maharaj” and “arrest.” The first thing that popped up was an article stating that he’d been arrested for “rape.” Can you imagine the shock?

Why they used the word “assault” instead of “rape” makes no sense to me. After all, according to the FBI, an assault is a crime that technically means “an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury.” Both assault and rape are listed in the same crime category: violent crimes. They might as well just have been honest with us and told us the truth.

But from that day forward I learned that truth was not a strong suit of JKP-Barsana Dham. Along with over one dozen news reports on the rape, I read thousands of comments from people telling shocking stories about this organization that you don’t read about in its vast range of promotional materials or hear about from its spokespeople.

Among the things I learned are that Kripalu had been arrested for rape charges in India in the early 1990s. Also many women were saying they have known about his behind-closed-doors activities for decades. And people were revealing that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati also has his own secrets to hide. I had a few of my own experiences and had heard several stories over the years. But because I was sincerely seeking God realization above anything else, I pushed disturbing information out of my mind and lived in denial.

After learning of the rape, I spent some time trying to give the organization the benefit of the doubt. But the crack in the façade started to reveal other secrets about disturbing, non-spiritual things that had been going on for years. All of these revelations confirmed for me that this organization is not what it claims to be publicly.

I’ll report on the truths that I have learned about the JKP organization in upcoming posts on this blog.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences about the other side of this organization. This blog is going to be at least one safe place for us to finally speak out.


yojimbosanjuro: You had your senses to look on the internet. How many people didn’t do that I wonder? Everyone else? This power of suggestion is frightening.

FreedomWriter: Thank you Yojimbo, You are 100% right on ALL points! Thanks for sharing. Keep in touch.

rajabd. I agree with FreedomWriter this place is a cult. We were involed with this org. long time. It took us little time to realized it. It stated after coming back from their India center. We got letters and calls from different people in the country warning not to get involved and warning us about the rape and money laundering by this org. The both claimed Masters are doing this openly after brainwashing the devotees. The Master in Barsana Dham is very eogistic and angry man. As long his ego is fed by money and women. He is OKed, otherwise he goes ballistic. They are trying to cover up the mess they created but the truth has to come since the can of worm is open. This is the sign of the cult. We got hurt we want other people not to get involed in this org. and regret later on.

Every Person Deserves to Have a Voice — Speak Out Here

On May 23rd, 2008, I started my first blog called "My Life in a Cult" using the nom de plume, Freedom Writer. It was my first time being completely free to speak out about my years inside the cult. After making 13 posts, I decided to block the blog until after the criminal trial of Prakashanand Saraswati. I will repost all of these blog posts here as an archive. The following was my first blog post on "My Life in a Cult."

May 23, 2008 — Many people have been hurt by a professed spiritual organization known as JKP-Barsana Dham. JKP stands for Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat. Many of us have tried to tell our stories and share our thoughts on other blogs recently, but have been abused, ridiculed, and drowned out by the JKP damage-control machine.

This will be one place that we can tell the other side of the story of this organization — the one it doesn't promote in its brochures or on its many Web sites. This will also be a place for people who didn't experience the dark side of JKP, but who have doubts or thoughts to share. It will not be a place to merely badmouth the organization: But to share real experiences, constructive criticism, and helpful advice to recovering abuse victims.

I was inspired to start this blog by the people who recently tried to share their thoughts about the other side of the JKP-Barsana Dham story on other blogs. Some of us were discouraged when a couple of the blogs (but not all) were shut down. I will regularly post my thoughts and knowledge about JKP-Barsana Dham and any news that is out there. I will manage all comments and keep out all of the abusive comments,  JKP self-promotions, and JKP blind defenders — after all, we've all heard enough of that.

Please share here. You deserve to have a voice — and we owe it to ourselves and the world to tell them the other side of this story.


yojimbosanjuro: I’d like to hear more of your story if you feel you can post it.

FreedomWriter: Hello Yojimbo, Thank you for visiting my new blog — and for your interest in hearing more. Yes, I will definitely be posting more insights in the weeks and months ahead. In fact, May 25th, 2008 is the anniversary of a very important day in my life — it was the day I knew for sure that I was in a cult. It’s an interesting coincidence that I have started this blog so close to this event. Send me your questions knowing that we are free to talk here without interference — thank God almighty, we are free at last!