During his 60-year career as a “guru,” Kripalu Majaraj turned a bunch of ordinary followers into a bunch of preachers — who scoured the earth looking to poach devotees, collect money, and lure young girls into his bedroom. Naturally, all of his preachers were all Indian.
When Prakashanand Saraswati started his own splinter group in the 1980s, he decided to start turning ordinary people into preachers, too. At his peak, he had ordained nine humans as orange-wearing preachers. Only two of them were Indian. The other seven were Westerners.
Kripalu once famously asked: “Why is he making so many preachers with white faces?”
Well, as luck would have it for Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, all but two of the “white faces” are gone from the organization. Some voluntarily. Some not. Meanwhile, two only of the original nine people are still active preachers.
Occasionally, I get asked: What happened to the missing seven former preachers of Prakashanand? To make it easier for me to answer, I’ve created a brief round up of their histories. (If anyone knows anything more about any of them, please let me know and I’ll update the information.)
Note: Some of Prakashanand’s preachers have two different names. That’s because Kripalu renamed all of the existing preachers once he was back in charge of Prakashanand. He outright named the others.
Irony of all ironies, we were forced to treat all of the preachers as if they were already divine. I think you'll soon see that they were far from divine. I don't know as much about all of Kripalu's preachers, but what I do know is they are also very very far from divine.
I don't have photos of all of them. Here are some of them when they were really young. This is from the early 1990s.
Sureshwari Devi (aka Meera Devi)
Sureshwari Devi was once the most beloved of all of Prakashanand’s preachers (or even all of his devotees). She was the epitome of an ideal devotee. She seemed extremely religious and uber dedicated to the guru. Many of us looked up to her as a role model and looked to her for guidance on the often-difficult journey of living in a guru’s ashram. She was Prakashanand’s main narcissistic supplier for years. He ever made her president of his whole organization at one point. Then she fell from the top position and was replaced by Prabhakari. This all occurred at a time when Barsana Dham (aka Radha Madhav Dham) was growing at a brisk pace. It was also at a time when computers were becoming more of a thing. Prakabhakari had computer skills and Sureshwari did not. Also, Prabhakari was far more ambitious than Sureshwari, and pushed her way to the top, walking over anyone who stood in her way, like Sureshwari.
Sureshwari is the only preacher of Prakashanand’s to keep up an actual preaching schedule. She tried her best to be the perfect preacher. And she was. Until she started keeping quiet about the child sex abuse. Then she began going downhill. I suspect she was losing it, because at some level she finally accepted that JKP was an evil sex cult. On one trip to India, the gurus made her go to a mental hospital and have very harsh and invasive psychiatric treatment. In other words, they tried to fry her brain. Why? So she couldn’t report on all of their secrets if she ever left. And she did leave. One day she and escaped. Prakashanand tried his damndest to get her back. She came back once, then finally left for good. (Note: We were told after she left that she “is crazy and has been crazy for a long time.”)
The worst part of her escape is that she left with all of her secrets and never told them to the world. That is a big loss, because many people joined the organization and stayed because of her. She started her life over from scratch in her home country of New Zealand just living the life a (fairly) normal married person. JKP is likely a distant (and bad) memory for her.
Prabhakari Devi (aka Priya Dasi)
This woman grew from a fairly sane young woman who wanted to live a spiritual life to a major tyrant and sex cult supporter in the matter of a few short years. The transformation was astounding to witness and terrible for her enemies. She became ravenous for power and control, and had no compunction about walking over anyone standing in her way. At one point, Prakashanand made Sureshwari president and her vice president. After Sureshwari left, Prabhakari was promoted to president. No surprise there, since she fashioned herself into the guru’s favorite and ideal sycophant. It worked, because she spent more time by Prakashanand’s side than any other person. For many years, she was his right-hand man, involved in every single decision he made in the ashram. She learned to lie like a pro and become the ultimate con woman. He was definitely grooming her to take over the whole place. Boy, did that plan backfire on the both of them.
After Prakashanand’s arrest for 20 counts of child molestation, Prabhakari was the lead person in charge of planning the whole trial. That was clearly a chaotic mess considering that they went through about a half dozen lawyers that I know of before the trial started. What’s more, it also turns out that Prabhakari was the defense’s “star witness.” She cooked up a whole scenario that allegedly explained why the three women “lied about Prakashanand molesting them.” It backfired on her big time and Prashanand lost — he was found guilty as charged. He escaped into Mexico the night before sentencing with the help of about a dozen devotees. He traveled with his long-time assistant Rangana and a western woman renamed Chittra (he took her despite the fact that she was a western woman because she spoke Spanish fluently). Notably, he did not take Prabhakari. Somehow Prakashanand eventually got out of Mexico and made it back to India.
In the meantime, Kripalu kicked out Prabhakari and her whole family (see Akhilanand below). Prabhakari never again returned to preaching (not that she did much of it anyway). As far as I know, she has traveled and lived with her family ever since—including stints in New Jersey, Colorado, and eventually Idaho (her family’s home state). For some reason, I envision her working in some out-of-the-way bar in the sticks of Idaho, slinging beers, getting drunk every night, and dreaming of making a comeback as the Queen of the ashram.
Janeshwari Devi (aka Krishna Dasi)
This woman was a piece of work. She was a terrible preacher. She seemed to be in it for the status and perfection which she as always striving to exude. Early in her preaching career she got kicked out of some devotees’ home for her arrogant and impossible-to-deal-with attitude. She was exiled by Prakashanand to the old Philadelphia center for a long time. But she clearly didn’t learn her lesson, because she came back as arrogant as ever. But she never returned to preaching. She continued to wear orange, but just did odd jobs around the ashram and continued to be a holier-than-thou busy body (ironically). Then she got a promotion after Prakashanand’s arrest. Kripalu had her doing PR for the Prem Mandir temple’s grand opening in Vrindaban, India (she had a tendency to oversell her skills!). However, she bungled it so badly he told her to go out preaching and earn some money. She went to Ireland and it was such a disaster that Kripalu kicked her out of the entire organization. I also suspect that something untoward happened, because to make sure she was really out, JKP sent letters to all its center managers saying: “This woman is not a part of our organization anymore.” I have no idea where she scurried off to after that. She was originally from Florida, so maybe that’s where she’s hiding out. (Note: I received an updated from a very informed person that she may be living and working in Austin at the business of an ex-devotee.) Interestingly, once when I was feeling down, she told me, “I know that swamiji is always going to take care of.” Like a lot of things, she sure got that wrong.
I met this woman before she was a preacher while she was living with her parents in the Seattle area. She was a complete spoiled brat, an attitude she inherited from her arrogant mother, a die-hard Prakashanand devotee. The mother was beside herself with joy when the daughter was chosen to be a preacher. However, that was short-lived. After studying forever, she finally became a preacher. An awful one. It turns out that she preferred having devotees in California spend their money on taking her to Disneyland and movies rather than actually preaching anything to anyone. Prakashanand put her on video service under Prabhakari to at least make some use of her. Ironically, this put her in contact with Indian men who were on video service in India. Low and behold, she fell in love with one of them and they left the organization together. The most interesting thing is that her mother dumped her like a rotten potato, choosing the gurus over her own flesh and blood (she was not the first parent in this organization to do that). I heard that, after spending many years living in India, the couple moved to Texas with their two kids. Let’s hope she’s a less spoiled prima donna now.
One of only two men (the other is a person named Nikhilananda) that Prakashanand turned into preachers. Akhilananda had a shaky start that all came to a rather abrupt crash and burn. In fact, his “preaching career” never really got off the ground. It seemed to me that he liked the idea of being a preacher, but not the practice of it. That’s likely because it also seemed like he decided to become a preacher to escape from the world (I certainly don’t think he’s the only one to do this). After college and experiencing the personal tragedy of losing a friend to a drowning, he probably just wanted a nice soft landing. He got one — for a while. Nothing could be a cushier life than the years these people spent “training to be preachers” — think: relaxed schedule, reading, memorizing already-written speeches, and taking long naps. Then he got the rug pulled out from under him.
The story I heard is that he was getting a bit too friendly with a young female member of a devotee family on one of his preaching trips. (This is ironic considering that Kripalu ran his own 60-year sex factory.) Somehow Kripalu decided that he was crazy (I saw signs that indicated he may actually have had emotional problems). Kripalu told his family to put him in a mental hospital. It was at the same time that he kicked the whole Tonnessen family out of the Austin ashram, including Prabhakari. He wanted them to go to New Jersey and run a center there with Prabhakari preaching. But really he just wanted the family gone, because two of Prakashanand’s accusers were their daughters. Somehow they went from New Jersey to Colorado, then to Idaho. As far as I can guess, the whole family is now living somewhere near Boise. I can’t imagine that the former Akhilananda is any more gainfully employed than he ever was.
One of the two Indian preachers, this little lady didn’t last very long as a preacher. I suspect she was only put in orange because her brother is one of the lead money collectors for JKP in India. I’d heard she had a mental breakdown shortly after becoming a preacher. One time, several people had to strap her down during a psychotic episode. The last time I saw her in India she was given busy work to do. She seemed very angry and treated others poorly. Clearly, she didn’t want to be there, but was likely kept there against her will. I’m not sure if she’s still around or has been locked up somewhere else.
Nikhileshwari Devi (aka Hari Dasi)
Nikhileshwari was never a great preacher, but she had the best voice of all of them. She was a bit reserved and paid the most attention to her favorites. One of those favorites was a young girl from India who came with Kripalu on his second world tour. The two women spent a lot of time together, since they were both lead singers. However, I would never have guessed that they struck up more than a friendship — they ended up in a full-on physical relationship. Shocking, I know. Kripalu found out and worked to break them up. Nikhileshwari tried to spend as much time as she could in India, but he sent her home. Then he exiled her. At some point prior to that, she switched her allegiance from Prakashanand to Kripalu 100 percent. When Prakashanand found out they fought — literally, they had a full-on physical knock-down-drag-out fight, throwing punches at each other. Wonder who won that? An online search shows that she during her years of exile she spent time in California, Iowa, and Colorado. She apparently tried a few ways to earn money, like planning trips to India for groups and running a “Kripalu resource center.” At some point, she was allowed back in the group because I found her image on the JKP preacher web page. In her photo she looks to be in very bad shape. Something is off. Maybe physically. Maybe mentally. I’m guessing she’s not actually a preacher anymore, because nothing shows up in a Google search for her since 2011. My guess is they took her back so she wouldn’t speak out and all she does is chant.
Prakashanand Preachers Still Active in JKP
One of the two Indian preachers, Diwakari’s mother was a long-time devotee of Prakashanand since the days when he first went to Fiji in the 1970s. From the time she was a young girl she was basically railroaded into becoming a preacher by her mother, and didn’t seem to have her heart or brain in it at first. The organization tolerated her and eventually she gathered up a bunch of people to support her on her speaking engagements, especially in California. At one point, Kripalu made her president of Barsana Dham (Radha Madhav Dham) and demoted Prabhakari. However, it was in name only, because Prabhakari would not relinquish her presidential duties. Diwakari was not without ambition, but she was no match for the Terminator. Even though Prabhakari is gone, Diwakari is still just president in name only—as two men now run Radha Madhav Dham, while Diwakari just goes out gathering up souls and money. I’ve heard some stories about her recently, including about her spoiled, cutthroat, and selfish antics. She’s a great example of the old axiom: You can put a person in orange, but you can’t take the world out of them.
Apparently, this dude really got the hang of being the perfect JKP preacher — in other words, he brings in the money and the warm bodies that JKP craves. As long as he does that, it seems they will tolerate his white face.
NOTE – If you take a look at this webpage, you’ll see that the whole lot of JKP preachers are looking a bit long in the tooth. There doesn’t seem to be much young blood among them. Will this organization finally die out after these people are finally gone?
Thanks for posting this.ReplyDelete