Published on February 21st, 2017 | by Madhudvisa dasa | Full size image8
Children of Krishna — Life Magazine 1980
In April of 1980 the cover story of the United States magazine “Life” featured the life of the Hare Krishna children at New Vrindavan, a farming community in West Virginia headed by Kirtananda Swami. It gives a glimpse into life there. Kirtananda Swami was not properly situated in Krishna consciousness and the New Vrindavan community failed miserably because of his lack of Krishna consciousness and his poor leadership. The text below is extracted from the article but please click on the link below to view the whole article with the photos as a PDF file:
View Life 1980 Children of Krishna Article
The children with the outstretched hands have already begun their training as lifelong members of the sect of Hare Krishna, whose robed and tonsured followers have become familiar sights in U.S. cities.
Their schooling is taking place in New Vrindavan, an austere commune in the West Virginia Hills, and their principal teacher is Swami Bhaktipada (right), the community’s adored leader. It is his fond hope to build seven more temples just like the $500,000 palace (above) his people completed last year and to turn their 2.000-acre spread into a “spiritual Disneyland” where tourists can come and be amazed–and possibly converted.
The sect of a quarter million Americans has 52 temples and six other rural communes like this one. At New Vrindavan 99 children live among the 150 adults and are the first generation to be raised in the U.S. according to the ascetic practices of this ancient Hindu denomination. The elders hope to prevent their children’s “contamination” by the culture outside. “Their contemporaries have no idea what life is about,” the Swami says. “To them. it’s all TV and apple pie.”
As one of New Vrindavan’s holy men makes his way over the rutted landscape, lesser devotees pay homage. Almost everyone carries a cloth bag filled with a string of 108 beads. For each bead. they must say a mantra. The process can consume three or four hours a day. All men wear Hindu loincloths called dhotis that are imported from India. Celibates in this rigid social order are considered spiritually advanced and wear orange dhotis.
Boys study Sanskrit so they may read the Hindu scriptures in their original form. One teacher is learning the language along with the students. Before class children must chant and pray. Meals are eaten quietly while a tape of the swami’s latest lecture plays.
Krishnas believe that children raised in an ascetic environment are happier adults. To prevent the children’s “corruption” by the “material world” adults restrict the books, photos and television programs the children see. Here a child draws in a Krishna coloring book. What if the children question the process? “That’s okay. We think we have better answers than anybody else.”
Most of those at New Vrindavan, including the children, sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. “Beds? They are very expensive and impractical,” a devotee explains. Children are sent to sleep as early as 5 p.m, since they must rise at 3 a.m. to prepare for services.
Above. Boys listen to a classmate who reads from a sacred text. The teacher, one of four in the boys school, says that several boys here are better readers than their peers in public school. Some parents, who reside elsewhere, simply have left their children to live among the devotees.
THE STUDY OF SANSKRIT IN A CLIMATE OF FEW COMFORTS
When children are five they leave their parents’ care and move into the boys’ or girls’ boarding schools, ramshackle houses that the swami bought from the farmers who left when the Krishnas moved in 10 years ago. Toddlers and infants spend their days in a nursery above the cattle barn.
Sam Black, 13, has lived here one year. “In public school they just teach you how to drink, eat meat, lie and cheat. And they don’t teach you anything about God. I like this school better,” he says. According to Sam’s teacher. the children are taught “some history and geography–not that we feel this is so important–but so that they won’t be considered fools.”
West Virginia school officials seem unconcerned. “If the Hare Krishnas are in the business of education,” one says, “they must know what they’re doing:· And the swami asserts, “These children will be able to handle themselves anywhere.”
STRICT RULES TO SEPARATE THE SEXES
“In the beginning usually all women resent their status because they don’t understand it.” explains a woman, 28, who has adopted the Sanskrit name Katila. At New Vrindavan the virtue of chastity is repeatedly impressed upon the women and the sexes are segregated whenever possible. During worship services women and girls stand behind a balustrade (above).
In school girls receive less instruction than boys. “The girls are not as far along as the boys,” one teacher says, “but girls don’t have an inclination toward philosophic exploration.” At left a girl is taught sewing.
Although celibacy is considered the ideal state, marriages are allowed. But couples are expected to ask the swami’s permission to bear children. If they do not they may be “punished” by giving birth to a female baby. “Bhaktipada says that feminism is a trap,” one woman explains, “Women need men to protect them.”
The 14-year-old at right, caught in a reflective moment, was married recently. “She was developing a lot of crushes,” a devotee explained. Her sister, 16, is married and pregnant. “Some children produced here are very special,” the swami says. “The parents’ souls are pure and they attract a pure soul into the womb.” So far there are 34 toddlers and newborns at New Vrindavan.
I was a child when my moms bf took me here in the middle of the night. I have so many stories and they aren’t that great. I hope it is different now. I almost didn’t survive literally. They gave me Tuang nuts. Crazy stories. I was rescued when I was almost 10.
Is the girl on the right Mukunda Swami’s daughter? What’s her name?
Her parents were Kaladri and Katila. My sister is on the left
You mean Kuladri and Kutila, and this was Pritha on the cover of Life. Of course, I already knew that! I’m such a dummy. Hare Krsna!
Prabhu, Please explain your point in posting this old article that is so full of misinformation. Some of the most hideous abuses of the children and adults occurred at his place, and some of the most awful philosophical deviations. I’d like to know why you are presenting this, as I refer many people who are new to Krsna Consciousness to your site and don’t want them to be bewildered by the contents of the article. Thank you.
Hare Krishna Karen
Yes. You are correct. This article actually documents the time when the most hideous abuses of the children at New Vrindavan were going on. You can see it in the photos in this article if you look. Really this article is not an advertisement for New Vrindavan, it is an expose of what is going on there for the thoughtful person.
This is history. This was the cover story for Life Magazine which was one of the biggest magazines in US at the time. And thoughtful persons will be able to look at the photos and read between the lines and will be able to understand actually what Kirtananda and the gurukul teachers were doing to the students. It is horrible, I appreciate your point. But I did not publish this article to advertise New Vrindavan, but to expose the deviations…
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!
Hello, Madhudvisa Dasa.
I do appreciate and adore your honesty. I am happy to see a website that does not hide “crimes” because it bears the same name “Krishna” in their organizations and published works.
As of this article, it is horrible indeed. But it did confirm my attitude towards for example ISKCON that was already doubtful, mainly because I studied a lot of Lord Buddha and do meditate.
I am sure Lord Buddha would deny ISKCON as the way towards self-realization, simply because if one can’t find his directions dealing with himself here (where one is) with the appropriate teachings, then where will he find his way?
I believe sincerely that Lord Buddha is an authorized form of Krishna as his observation of the breath is the direct way leading to one’s development ending the life and death cycle. Actually, by reading about Lord Buddha, and learning about Krishna, I understand both better, especially when I practice meditation on Krishna because I start to see him also within me and without me. It also deepens my perception concerning what Prabhupada explained beautifully about devotional service, and how Krishna is situated in all our hearts and is the master of it.
However so, may it be clear that therefore ISKCON is not what is needed. In contrast to that, the work of Prabhupada, and the work of Lord Buddha and other accredited forms of Krishna are needed. And they do thrive forth through their legacy such as the work of Prabhupada. And do not flourish through unauthorized scholars like presented in this article.
Many thanks for bringing up this article! I truly welcomed it.
Yes. Today’s ISKCON has totally deviated from the true and pure teachings of Srila Prabhupada. It is nothing more that another bogus mundane religious organization now unfortunately.
Yes. Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Krishna. He appeared in India at a time when practically all the people in India were in a very fallen condition, eating meat and justifying the killing of animals by citing references to animal sacrifice in the Vedas.
So this animal killing and meat eating are very contaminating and these activities destroy the finer sentiments in the brain that are necessary to understand spiritual knowledge. So it is not possible for the animal killers to appreciate spiritual knowledge. So the incarnation of Krishna as Lord Buddha was for a specific purpose. As you probably know the central point of Lord Buddha’s preaching was ahimsa parama dharma, ‘non-violence is the supreme religious principle.’ So the whole of Buddhism is based on this principle of non-violence. So by his powerful preaching in India the whole country gave up animal killing and became vegetarians in a very short time.
To achieve this aim of getting the people in India to stop killing the animals Lord Buddha had to reject the Vedic scriptures. That is because the Vedas do authorize animal sacrifices in certain circumstances. So Lord Buddha could not make any progress without disregarding the Vedas. So he presented his own, more-or-less imaginary philosophy.
There is no knowledge about God in Buddhism. This is because Lord Buddha was preaching to Atheists. Any you may have experienced that if you speak of God to an atheist he gets angry… So Lord Buddha preached in very flowery language, pandering to the atheists, suggesting that there was no God, and encouraging them that they could also become the Buddha… So Lord Buddha is Krishna, and His mission is Krishna’s mission, but in the personality of Lord Buddha he is not able to distribute much transcendental knowledge at all because he was preaching to atheists who woudld get angry at him if he mentioned God…
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!