- MONKEY ON A STICK -
MURDER, MADNESS, AND THE HARE KRISHNAS
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The symbolic meaning of the book title "MONKEY ON A STICK" becomes that of the impaled sinner, a symbolic warning used by Kirtanananda when a devotee was to be cast from the fold. It refers to the practice of Indian banana planters, who impale the carcass of a banana-thieving monkey on a stick and use it to warn other transgressors. In India, when a monkey is found on a banana plantation he is captured and impaled on a stick and the other end stuck in the ground on the outskirts of the plantation as a warning to all other monkeys not to enter, so in short it means to make an example out of someone. Jadurani was "Monkey on a Stick" number one. Sulocana (Steve Bryant) was "Monkey on a Stick" number two.
"They fell upon Jadurani and severely beat her, kicking her in the face and not stopping until she was literally drenched in blood. Then, they attempted to take her bloody sari to hang on a post as a warning to anyone else who would "dare to blaspheme Kirtanananda."-- When ex-Krishna devotee Sulocana (Steve Bryant) launched a one-man holy war against the West Virgina Krishna cult, his body was found murdered. It was Kirtanananda's response to make Bryant a "monkey on a stick", a gruesome warning to all other Krishna's that death was in store for those with dreams of defection.
Dear Nori - I took your advice and through the internet found some used book stores and a number had a copy of "Monkey on a Stick". Couple of questions-- Do you think that book was an accurate portrayal?Dear B - Monkey on a Stick validated rumors of chauvinism, guns, child abuse, drug use and drug dealing, dishonest gurus, death threats and murder in ISKCON. When I was a member, I ignored these rumors, but in researching Betrayal of the Spirit I learned that most ISKCON rumors are basically true. Betrayal of the Spirit mentions practically every ISKCON rumor, covering some of the same area as "Monkey on a Stick". The guru of New Vrindaban, Kirtanananda aka Bhaktipada, was fined $250,000 and is serving the third year of a twenty-year federal prison sentence for racketeering and conspiracy in two murders (described in Monkey on a Stick). According to Hinduism Today, he denied complicity in the murders, despite pleading guilty. The only hyped thing about "Monkey" is the writing style, it sounds like a cops & robbers novel.
Authors' Note on Methodology
This book is based on hundreds of hours of taped interviews with present and former devotees, hundreds of newspaper stories and magazine articles, and thousands of pages of trial transcripts. For two years, the authors have had unprecedented access to the movement's internal documents and have benefited from the close cooperation of federal, state, and local law-enforcement officials.
Most of the scenes depicted in this book are taken directly from the recollections of eyewitnesses and participants as recounted in interviews and trial transcripts. In addition, while conducting interviews and going through documents, the authors strove to discover what players in the drama were thinking and feeling. Dialogue, thoughts, and feelings have been re-created based on this research in an attempt to establish the essence of what occurred. In general, the reader is encouraged to consult the supplementary information and documentation offered in the back of the book for the credentials of devotees names- and interviews.
by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson, published in 1989, tells the tale of the time period in the mid-to-late eighties, after the death of Prabhupada, when eleven Western "gurus" ruled the International Society for Krishna Consciousness empire, giving them power over hundreds of thousands of individuals. The book recounts in its first chapter a chilling murder completed at the direction of Kirtanananda, the head of the West Virginia temple called New Vrindaban.
Kirtanananda was a New York homosexual named Keith Ham who dropped out of the Columbia grad school religious department to become an early devotee of Prabhupada. His gay partner Howard Wheeler joined at the same time, and also rose high in the Krishna hierarchy, availing himself of the pedophile pleasures of operating a temple in Ensenada, Mexico near the flesh markets of Tijuana. Kirtanananda shielded a teacher who publicly sodomized many young Krishna children from prosecution, shipping him to India as the police were closing in with an arrest warrant. Kirtanananda collected millions from drug dealing and money laundering, and directed rings of scam-operators who solicited donations in the name of Vietnam veterans, hungry children, etc. -- virtually anyone but Krishna. The official name for the platoons of urban change-scavengers was "sankirtan groups," but they were colloquially referred to as "scam-kirtan." Armies of young women, bullied by cynical pimpish fellows, wrang innumerable dollars from the pocketbooks of tired Americans, meeting a usual quota of $300 a day, or getting a beating to cover the difference. These young women were also often sexual playthings for the heterosexual appetites of the more plebeian devotees who went for that sort of thing.
Kirtanananda, who thought himself very witty, was unquestionably a woman-hater. He counseled men to beat their wives like their prayer drums, to improve them, and despised audiences with women devotees, describing the occasion as "fish night," when extra incense had to be burned to counter the odor of women. According to the authors, the entire Krishna empire became a haven for homosexuals with a lust for power after Prabhupada, disenchanted with the 80% divorce-rate that afflicted the numerous marriages between devotees that he had arranged by edict, decided that only sannyasins, (male) "renunciates," could take leadership positions in the organization. While celibacy was enjoined upon sannyasins, staying in the closet was no problem for these skirt-wearing, chanting, dancing worshippers of Vishnu. Kirtanananda was reportedly inseparable from a young boy called Samba, who sat at his side at all times, and with whom he often slept.
The greed and prissy arrogance of a guy like Kirtanananda is understandable. He's like Leona Helmsley playing the Pope. The little people sometimes get hurt when God goes about His business. So there's a shallow grave here or there on the property. Big deal. The temple roof is leafed with gold and the floors are pure marble. It overawes with splendor, lifting the mind to God. Lots of people have felt very peaceful and divine there. It is a substantial achievement, and he gets a kick out of it.
What's hard to understand is his followers. The horrifying murder of Chuck St. Denis that's described in the first chapter was carried out under Kirtanananda's express direction, in order to make an example of him, like impaling "a monkey on a stick" to frighten other monkeys. This last was apparently a reference to one of Prabhupada's quaint little Indian sayings. The frightening thing is that it worked. Everyone in New Vrindaban knew that St. Denis had been killed, by whom, and that Kirtanananda approved it. No one dared to speak out because the murderer lived right there in New Vrindaban, and was under the express protection of Kirtanananda. The local West Virginia police had been undermined by Kirtanananda's financial influence and the murderer wasn't prosecuted until he murdered a second young man, Steve Bryant, in LA, again at Kirtanananda's direction. The ensuing flap resulted in a prosecution for the murder of St. Denis, and the killer, Tom Drescher, was convicted and is serving a life sentence in prison. Even in his cell, however, Drescher has been elevated by his service to Krishna as a destroyer of unbelievers. In a special ceremony conducted by Kirtanananda, he was given authority to initiate prisoners in the Hare Krishna path. He has followers already.
Kirtanananda got his reaction when a deranged devotee bashed in his skull with a three-foot steel rod. He lived, but barely and ever after walked with a cane, suffering headaches and double vision. Even in his debilitated state, however, he was still able to direct the murder of Steve Bryant, the New Vrindaban exile who considered it his mission from Krishna to expose Kirtanananda's abuses, and had been publishing the embarrassing truth.
Chuck St. Denis, as you can read in the chapter below, did not die easy. Two gunmen pumped twelve .22 caliber rounds into him. He was stabbed repeatedly in the chest with a kitchen knife and a screwdriver. As the life fled from him he howled like a dog. His cranium was fractured with a hammer. He opened his eyes and spoke to his killers after they were sure he was finally dead. His killers buried him under a stream, which is probably a good way to make a spirit unquiet, if such a thing can be done. His cries, which vanished into the West Virginia night, unheard by anyone who chose to care or help, were never silenced. They kept people up at night, caused rage to burn in the hearts of the injured, and destroyed the sleep of the idiot mice-like devotees who hid themselves in the warm darkness of oblivion, chanting and surrendering their souls to Krishna.
Chuck St. Denis screamed and screamed and screamed until finally the cops found his body, dug it up, and put the horror to rest. Or so they say ...
BOOK REVIEWS: Booknews, Inc. , August 1, 1989
MONKEY ON A STICK - Bestseller and Novel, describing dishonest gurus, death threats, abuse and murder in ISKCON "a must for every devotee who want's to know the truth". The history of the movement in America based on taped interviews with present and former devotees, newspaper stories, magazine articles, and trial transcripts. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. This book is a very truthful account of what occurred in new vrindaban. As a young child growing up in the Ashram in New Vrindaban, West Virginia I can verify that the accounts describe in this book are true. I know a large amount of people in the book including the family of Chuck St. Dennis and the son of Bryant. This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys realistic horror, murder, and deceit. Unfortunately this book does not tell of the aftermath of "The Swami's" reign and the devastation it left so many families in. So many families have to start form scratch, penniless, picking up the loose ends and finding their way back into society after being remove from reality for ten or twenty years. John Hubner should write a sequel containing the stories of the children in the Hare Krsna movement and the abuse (physical, mental, and sexual) and the neglect they endured due to "The Swami's" direct orders. I believe that a sequel would become a best seller. Anyone interested in cults and the chaos they bring to the unsuspecting person should read this book because Monkey on a Stick will outrage you as well as keep you on the edge of your seat wanting to know more of what went on. (A reader from Moundsville, WV)
email@example.com from India , September 24, 1998 Comments: EXCELLENT EXPOSURE OF BLOODY TRUTH ..... Monkey on a Stick is a classic...... It's an acknowledgement of the hard work done by the authors. It thoroughly exposes the crime & politics in the ISKCON Movement in the most sensational way....aaah crime in the name of Lord Krishna.....he oughta punish all such creatures....
A reader from Madison, Wisconsin , December 6, 1998 Comments: True story of the dark side of saffron in WV hills. About 1981, I stumbled onto to grounds of the emerging palace the Krishnas were building in the West Virginia hills to honor Swami Prahupada. The Swami developed his following while living on 2nd Avenue in New York. Monkey on a Stick tells the utterly fascinating story of the Swami and his followers and how, after his death, the devotees built the grandiose and goldleafed palace that grew above the tree tops east of Moundsville, WV. Hubner and Gruson capture the power trips and plays that becomes a first rate murder mystery. My guess is that the book's grotesque title may have cost it some readers. Too bad. Highly recommended.
A reader from Chicago , October 15, 1998 Comments: Rarely circulated expose. I am surprised just how rare this material is! The Book describes a lot of the evil things that happend to ISKCON after the death of Prabhupada. Men raised to the rank of gods, while still seeking the pleasures of this world. Seems to be very carefully researched, but rarely reviewed.
ESCAPED WITH HIS LIFE? An ex-devotee from New Vrindavana says that in the mid-1980s he came across a scene in the woods where "a big temple authority" was smoking pot with a group of young (gurukuli?) boys, and the leader had the children open their robes to expose their genitals. When the devotee was found out by the leader he said "I did not see anything" --fearing for his safety.
Yet, that night he heard a number of men in the grass outside his window. He jumped out of the window and ran, hearing several people chasing him. He ran through brambles, bushes, branches, he ran up ravines, fell down ravines, and got cuts all over his body. He ran until the next morning. He finally got to a highway and flagged down a car and escaped. This is why many of the molesters went on, it was perhaps, deadly to object. This devotee said there was a rumor, "there are bodies buried on the property." God only knows what they would have done to him if he had been caught....
Not since Helter Skelter or In Cold Blood has there
been such a terrifying story about multiple horrors
"Shoot him!" Drescher screamed at Reid. "Shoot him!"
St. Denis was hit twelve times. He crumpled and went down. But then, almost immediately, as Reid and Drescher watched in amazement, he struggled back onto his feet and half staggered, half ran back down the path toward the Blazer.
Drescher dropped his gun, ran after St. Denis, and dove into him, hitting him behind the knees. The big man went down. Drescher rolled him over and climbed onto his heaving chest.
"Get a knife!" Drescher yelled at Reid.
Reid felt like he was going to vomit. For an instant he thought about running away, but he was afraid if he did, Drescher would come after him and kill him, too. He ran into the cabin and came out with a kitchen knife.
"Chant!" Drescher was screaming. "Start chanting!"
Drescher thought he was doing St. Denis one last favor. Krishna had preached, "Those who remember me at the time of death will come to me. Do not doubt this." By forcing St. Denis to chant, Drescher thought he was guaranteeing him a more spiritual life in his next incarnation.
Drescher grabbed the knife and stabbed St. Denis. Again and again. Hard and deep. Finally, the blade hit a rib and snapped.
St. Denis fought on, shrieking in agony, coughing blood, and gasping for breath. Reid found a hammer and Drescher hit him with that, punching a one-inch hole in his skull. St. Denis went limp.
Drescher and Reid dragged St. Denis down the logging road to the dammed-up stream. They dumped the body on the swampy ground. Reid picked up one end of a plastic sheet, about to wrap St. Denis's head in it, when the big man opened his eyes.
"Don't do that, you'll smother me," he said.
Reid screamed—a long, piercing scream of pure terror.....
Authors' Note on Methodology ix
Krishna Names xv
1 • BLOOD FEUD 1
The Planting Party 3, Dig a Hole 21
2 • BLIND FAITH 43
The Messiah and the Mott Street Gang 45, Drop Out, Fall In, Sing Out 63, Ambitious Pupil 76
3 • WINDS OF WAR 87
A Guru Defects, the Beatles Enlist 89, The Pretender's Throne 104, Clouds of Change 118, Stocking God's Treasury 137
4 • THE PRIMROSE PATH 151
Marriage and Murder Made In Godhead 153, Conning for Krishna 170, Krishna's Mules 189, The Chosen 198
5 • CHAOS 203
Plundering the Legacy 205, Hansadutta: Secretary for God 212, Krishna's Arsenal 227, Sex, Pigs, and Husbands 247
6 • SHADOWS OF TERROR 265
Black and Blue 267, A Fork in the Path 277, A Messianic Mission 289, Jonestown in Moundsville 302
7 • HOLY WAR 313
Monkey on a Stick 315, The Executioner's Trail 321, Revenge from the Grave 330
8 • GHOSTS 341
Sex Is Sex 343, Expecting the Barbarians 351, Going Fishing 355, Epilogue 363
Notes 371, Acknowledgments 401, Index 403
The Story of Jadurani
Jadurani, Judy Koslofsky, an art student in New York City in the mid-sixties, was the first brahmacharini (unmarried female) to join the movement. She was living in the Los Angeles temple and working as an illustrator for the BBT when Prabhupada died and the gurus took over. Like most devotees she was convinced that, since Krishna had appointed the new gurus through Prabhupada, they were infallible.
One of Prabhupada’s disciples who had become disaffected since his death changed her mind about that. He read her transcripts of the tapes that were made when Prabhupada was on his deathbed and named his successors and explained the difference between a rtvik guru and an acharya.
Jadurani was enraged. The gurus were bogus; they had stolen Prabhupada’s movement. She began preaching revolution, telling Los Angeles devotees that ISKCON’s only hope was to excommunicate the gurus. Ramesvara quickly sent her into exile. She took a bus to Pittsburgh and joined up with Yuvati’s mother, who was also trying to ignite an insurrection against the gurus. Jadurani went on welfare and started banging out pamphlets calling for a revolution to overthrow the gurus.
When Kirtanananda heard Jadurani was in Pittsburgh, he called and asked her to come down to New Vrindaban to paint some pictures for the Palace of Gold. Jadurani arrived and immediately began preaching revolution. She told devotees that Kirtanananda was bogus and that anyone who accepted him as Prabhupada’s successor was a fool. Two female devotees, Parayani and Isani, ran to Kirtanananda and told him what Jadurani was saying.
“We think she should be beaten,” Parayani said. “We think she should be made an example of what happens to someone who blasphemes a pure devotee.”
“Sounds like a good idea, but I don’t want to hear about it,” Kirtanananda replied.
The two women went to Kanka, Susan Hebel, and asked her to help them beat up Jadurani.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Hebel said, “Jadurani’s a tweety bird, she’s no threat to anyone.”
“She must be taught a lesson,” Isani had said.
The next day the two women attacked Jadurani without warning behind the Temple of Understanding and knocked her down. They kicked her in the head, shattering her glasses. Then they jumped on her chest and beat her in the face with their fists.
Steven Hebel was walking past the temple when he heard screams. He ran around to the back and saw that two women were beating Jadurani, an old friend since their days together in the New York temple. He rushed over and pulled off the attackers. Blood was pouring down Jadurani’s face, blinding her. Hebel was wiping the blood away with his sleeve when the two women once again attacked.
Hebel fought them off.
“We want her sari!” Isani screamed. “Tear it off her and give it to us!”
“What the hell do you want with that?” Hebel asked. He looked at Jadurani and saw that her sari was streaked with blood and grime.
“We want to run it up the flagpole,” Parayani said.
“We want to show people what happens when you speak against Kirtanananda!”