Re: Chris Butler, Jagad Guru, Science of Identity
Date: March 16, 2019 02:13AM
Here we go:
My mother joined Chris Butler's group (SIF) in 1988 in New York City. I was 10 in 1989. A polish devotee named Vishnu Das had started to talk to her about mantra meditation and vegetarianism and some light philosophy about not being the body and karma etc. It was not too long after that we adopted the lifestyle and were chanting on the famous little black half round beads. We offered our food and read Gita daily. Needless to say the family separatism started right away. I was kept away from my father as much as possible and told that he was a materialist, demon, and so forth. The same applied to all others outside the group. The big effort at that point was to try to convert/convince others of the superiority of our lifestyle. Our family was not religious before this, so this was the first time I was exposed to the concert of a blue god who was manifest in various incarnations as half man half lion, boar, turtle etc. As a child I ate it up. It was a fascinating concept of divinity.
It became apparent early on though butlers videos and lecture tapes that the following he had was small and very private. Even going to other Hare Krishna temples was strictly forbidden and association with other devotee families with different guru's was not allowed. Butler at the time lived in Malibu and it was not too long after that my mother sat me down and gave me two options: I could stay with my demon father or I can go with her and follow Chris Butler in Malibu. I was 10. Being away form my mother and staying with my so-called demon father did not sound appetizing. So without telling my father, she packed us up and we moved to LA.
In LA, we did not have place to stay immediately so we stayed with Patrick Bishop, or Purushattam Das and his wife and kids. They had regular programs at their house and a woman named Katyayni often visited and was touted as a "pure devotee". She had some cooking show in Hawaii years back and somehow Butler had deemed her a pure devotee, so we all followed suit and gave her the respect of a Guru. But it was clear that she was not as pure as Butler and was not to be esteemed as much as him. Another male devoteee names Tusta Krishna das was also touted as a "Pure Devotee". We were told that their eternal spiritual forms were that of a cowheard front of Krishna and a Mother helper of Yosoda—Krishnas mom in the myths.
We were all told that Butler was Gods representing on earth and that if we wanted a connection with God—in this case the blue god Krishna—it was only going to happen through Butler. Butler was called Srila Prabhupada or Jagad Guru. He also had the title Paramahamsa. He was married to Wai Lana who was named Vaishnava Dasi.
We regularly went to Sunday beach gatherings in Malibu where butler would walk down the beach to where we were chanting. He often wore white clothes and a turtleneck. His wife walked with him and everyone would swoon and cry out "Jaya Gurudev", "Jaya Srila Prabhupada" as he took his seat on the Vyasasana throne. Everyone would bow in the sand at his feet one by one and offer him garlands, fruit, money etc. Butler would chant a little and then give a talk/lecture. Some questions were asked and then more chanting and then he would leave with his wife. Sometimes he asked some devotees to walk back to his beach house residents with him.
Woman were generally not allowed to offer him garlands and all the women were not he right side and men on the left. Butler would throw treats into the audience and everyone would jump to try to get it. If you did get it it was something special and you bowed down. People cried, swooned and were in general very emotional and vulnerable.
Butler always had an elaborate set up with his microphone being wrapped in cloth. Many devotees who were his personal servants wore surgical masks to not breathe on him. Sometimes Butler wold wear a mask too or his wife.
The odd stuff abounded: Butler would sometimes not come to the gathering and a message was spoken by a senior disciple that he was displeased with his devotees or personal care. We would listen to tape lecture at those times. We were often informed that Butler was displeased or angry with some devotee and until something was rectified he would not speak to us all. Usually the issues were related to his personal care which was very colocated as he seemed to be allergic to everything or was trying to avoid germs etc. There would be issues with either food he was made by his kitchen devotees, or some money issue, or air filters at his home/laundry/clothing etc.
It was at this time that we started to hear lectures both in person or on tape or a transcript where he would be expressing his anger to some devotee. Often this was done by swearing, demeaning them and giving ultimatums and so forth. His hair or toenail clippings were often distributed to devotees and we would eat them or keep them in some safe place as a "Maha Prasadam", or "Great Mercy".
Butler had produced a music tape called Mantra Electric which was to be used to attract newcomers. The tape featured soothing guitar leads and drums as butler subtly chanted in the background mantras like "Gopala Govind Rama" and "Nitai Gaur Haribol". We were forbidden to listen to this tape ourselves for some reason.
Preaching was a big thing. Butler wanted all his devotees who had families to have regular programs at their house to attract newcomers. He had a series of booklets that were called the Life Force Series and they were short excerpts form his talks made into booklet form. The topics were usually on social issues like Divorce, Homosexuality (It was called Homosexuality: An Identity Crisis), Reincarnation, Mantra Meditation and so froth. Butler had instructed that we do not chant "Hare Krishna Mantra" in public but rather "Gopala Govind Rama" so as to not be associated with ISKCON, which he was very critical of and bashed in many lectures. We were always wary of other Hare Krishna devotees coming around to our chants and gatherings as they were touted as dangerous influence and bad association unless they came to worship Butler.
We were all asked to give 10-50% of our income to Butler. Butler also had devotees who ran businesses for him like Down to Earth Natural Foods and several others in various places like New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines. Eventually there was centers opened also in Poland.
At some point a friend of mine, Narottam Das—Purushottam Das' oldest son, had left to the Philippines to one of Butlers schools in Baguio. I had heard that several other boys went as well and was introduced to the idea of Brahmachari—or celebrate student of Butler. It was not long after this that I was sent to a home in Oxnard CA where several other boys were living. It was a preparatory home for us to go live in the Philippines. We were asked to wake up at 4am, chant, listen to tape lectures, read Gita and Butlers books and basically get used to the strict life we would be living in the Philippines. Shortly after we flew out to the Philippines.
My mother was asked to go to Poland and help with the new center there, while I was in the Philippines for 4 years.
The basic set up of the Baguio school for boys (Brahmacaris) was an old mansion owned by Toby Tamayo's family. Toby was a disciple of Butler names Tapasya Das. He was ex-military and rang the school very strictly. We woke up at 4, took cold bucket showers and were in the temple room by 4:30 AM to chant on our beads, have a mandala artik ceremony with the deities on the alter while we chanted loudly and then we listened to a taped lecture of Butler and wrote an essay about it. Then there was some reading of scriptures and verse memorization and then we would do Tai Kwon Do, eat, chores and then studies like writing, maths, and other random subjects. We were taught Vedic cosmology and myths and ended our day with some more chanting, food offerings on the later, eating, chores and then bedtime.
At the school I was fondled by other classmates. Many boys were bullied by older boys by either punching, teasing, and even using a taser to wake us up in the morning. There were no counselors or qualified people to talk to or resolve issues. Often the concept of Karma was used to justify bad things happening or injustices. Boys were ridiculed and kicked out for masturbating privately or not "fitting in". We listened to countless lectures where Butler would go on rants against scientists, other religions, homosexuals, and politicians. We were pretty much afraid of the outside world. We often went to cemeteries to distribute Butlers books oboe reincarnation and so forth as it was a place to find grieving people who may be interested in the teachings of Butler. We talked to our parents by phone once or twice a month. Many boys had psychological problems and were visibly not doing OK. These boys were often teased or in some way made to feel like outcasts. Some of the older boys would throw cats out of top story windows and kick dogs and other cruel behavior. At some point Butler's wife some began to visit prostitutes and caught a STD. He would show us younger boys ages 10, 12, 14 his penis and point out that there was stuff coming out of it. We were made to watch a video that was produced by Mike Gabbard (Krishna Katha Das) for his Stop Promoting Homosexuality Hawaii campaign. It featured graphic scenes of men having sex in the streets at some gay festival and eventually weaved the whole story to a man in a wheel chair dying of aids—basically stating that gay life equals aids and is a grave sin etc.
I find my time in the PI to have been a very stressful experience. form the waking at 4AM, the cold bucket showers, teasing, heavy handed lectures of Butler or the teachers, the feeling that everyone around us were demons, materialists or bad association. The bullying, lack of support form counselors. Having to lie to my father about what the school was about. Feeling isolated and alone. We were all taught that sex, women and family life was a big trap and were taught detachment and avoidance of thinking about sex, women and family. We were taught that worshiping and caring for Butler were our only life goals. If we were to learn anything or start any business and so froth it was to be all for Butler.
I became increasingly disgruntled and was less and less inspired to write essays on the same lectures we heard many many times over and over. I was also very affected by homophobia. If a student expressed gay proclivity I was very much on alert and scared. I became more and more disengaged from activities and agitated by my puberty and the constant effort to subjugate and suppress my feelings. After leaving the school I returned to Hawaii where my mother lived by then.
In Maui we still followed Butler, but because we never saw him and had no more lectures to really listen to or books to read, we started to associate wit another Krishna group. When Butler heard about this he was at first critical and angry. Then he allowed it and we eventually even went to India with the other Guru on pilgrimage to Vrndavan and so forth. Eventually Butler became agitated and angry at a group of us who were visiting this other Guru's temple (Butler at this time was living in New Zealand—he eventually came to Honolulu). We were visiting the temple because we felt inspired and had a personal connection with someone who was actively teaching us and giving us some instruction.
At this time there was big blow out with Butler and him basically rejecting this other guru and telling us all that we either serve him alone or we are cut off from his group. This obviously came with the baggage of losing family, friends and possibly Gods grace and mercy. We all felt emotionally shattered and conflicted. On one had we were receiving such great company from this other group and felt spiritually inspired, energized and connected—and on the other hand we felt a complete loss of many years of following Butler and his group. Many of us were affected by Butlers overt anger, his highly demanding style of teaching, his odd germaphobic behavior and the feeling that we were locked to simply listening to his same old taped lectures. We left the group and lost all of our fiends there. It took a while to recover and feel safe/sane and OK about it all.
This incident led to a sort of reform in Butlers group (Butler wanted recognition from other Krishna Groups). Tusta Krishna was sent as an envoy to a newly formed group called the World Vaishnava Association. Against all odds and much opposition from other Guru members of the organization, Butler was allowed to be a member—though he never made a personal appearance. Through further lobbying and donations, he eventually was added to the list of founding members.
This above incident was the first time in history of the Butler group where there was any sort of mention of the group being a "Hindu" organization or in some way broadly associated with any of the other groups.
It was a well known fact by this time that Butler had fallen out of good grace with his own Godbrothers and Guru, AC Bhaktivedanta Swamni, due to usurping some land and temple in Hawaii and New Zealand and eventually fighting with godbrothers for various reasons. It was also well known that he broke his Sanyasi vows by marrying one of his disciples who also happened to be a successful yoga teacher personality in Asia. Basically, it became apparent that Butler always tried to follow the Money. The houses on the beach wherever he lived, the boats, the ski trips, the elaborate home ventilation systems and many other things. He had his disciples start many businesses that funneled money to his "non-profits" and always showed a temper and judging hand in his preaching and dealings with others. This is not even mentioning the direct connection his businesses have with questionable personalities like Patrick Bowler and Allan Tibby and many others who are involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, politics and so forth. Butler had always had disciples working for him in political positions, from Rick Reed, Wayne Kishiki and Mike Gabbard and Now Tulsi Gabbard.
The effect of this group is a tightly nit web of a family-like structure. Using the religious teachings and myths of Vaishnavism mixed with a lot of fear mongering, rules and restrictions, the followers either give up or leave families and friends to surrender to Butler and his organization or are afraid to leave because they now are psychologically bound up in the lifestyle they have invested so much trust in and have formed new connections or started families. Businesses are started and run by the devotees and that also locks people in with financial situations that can also get tricky to extricate from.
There is a bunch more others know who were there form the beginning or were older than I was. I was young but I was clearly the effects butler had on his followers, families, kids and others. This is not about psychic sleep or some hocus pocus mind control. This is a man who has charisma, knows how to manipulate the media, impressionable people and mixes his brand of quasi-spiriutual vaishnavaism to weave a pseudo scientific ideology that preys on people. They are also a highly secretive cult. They have many publications and audio tapes that are no longer available. Why? Has their stance changed so much since I was young? You can still see some of these booklets being distributed in the Philippines at various gatherings they post on Facebook. But you cannot order these booklets or listen to thee tapes. It was not until just this last year or so that an image of Butler was available that showed him as an aging man. The imager they have and continue to use has always been his 1980's more charismatic looking image. What other vaushnava group does this with their guru image and publications?
Butler and his group have always hid their direct connection to ISKCON and distanced themselves in their link to them. Why? They preach exactly the same thing. They follow the same guru line, same scriptures, same chants etc. It was not until it seemed politically savvy and beneficial that they started to play the "Hindu" card. How could have an entire generation of youth in this group grown up without once hearing the words "hindu" in association with what they were taught to believe and there all of a sudden a legion of them is crying "Hinduphobia"? The answer is plain and simple" Politics, diplomacy, hypocrisy.
The youth schools of this group are still being operated int he Philippines. Though now they are not divided between girls and boys. They are run as quasi-christian/hindu schools, with images of mother Mary and Jesus hung on walls and quotes of Butler sprinkled in between. Butler has always played this mixed card of Christianity and Hare Krishna. He has also always played the "karma yoga" card when it suited him even though he is very blunt follower of the Bhakti movement/style of hindu faith. We did not focus much energy as kids learning about the karma kanda. Our focus was on pure surrender and devotion to butler. The only folks to receive that type of preaching were folks on the fringe who worked for one of his companies or new-bee prospective devotees.
Over the years I have seen the fallout of the schools in the Philippines—grown men and women who have yet to find their bearings regarding their life, worth and self esteem. When you are raised with the totalitarian notion that your life success and meaning is hinged upon full surrender to Butler, it throws off a lot of critical thinking. When all you knew as a child was to sit and repeatedly chant, read myths and memorize verses and suppress any personal ideas, hopes, and dreams to give your life over cent per cent to Butler and live in fear, guilt and paranoia of displeasing him, you definitely blunt your ability to think deeply about your self, ironically. You are taught to dissolve your concept of self unless it's in direct connection with Butler.
I knew so many hardcore devotees who Butler would refuse to initiate and take as disciples. They groveled and kept their head down while listening to him basically tell them that unless they had a direct connection with him, they would never achieve spiritual favor/fulfillment. Generations of kids grow up and are now growing up feeling that their goal is to get to be a disciple of Butler. Not sure how many will realize that goal. Butler was known for hanging the carrot out in this regard and many would approach him over and over and he would reject them, but still keep them around. You know what a mind fuck that is? To not know what you are doing wrong or meant to be doing differently and never receive the initiation/connection you are being told you absolutely need to make progress spiritually? You're never good enough, you're always second guessing yourself and in a state of mental limbo. Butler did this to many followers—for YEARS.
Aside from this, Butler did many things completely unorthodox and against his Guru's wishes and instructions—not to mention against the teachings of his own lineage. From how he set up temples and deity worship, to the lack of any formal initiating ceremony, no regular instruction to countless devotees, no expounding on scripture beyond very cursory surface explanations etc. His devotees were not allowed to visit holy places for pilgrimage, find alternate association in a wider support network that provided them with a service outlet and some variegated friendships etc. I had joined many groups since I left Butlers and gained a 100-fold insight into the Krishna religion as a result. Butler left his devotees hankering for more without any outlet to find further guidance or instruction. Trying to seek this out—which you would think is a natural, progressive desire—was forbidden and many devotees were slammed and harshly dealt with for trying.
To this day, no person from their group will explain to you the final goal of the Gaudiya Vaishnva Sect: To realize ones eternal spiritual form as a a 12 year old milk-maiden girl mistress of Krishna. That's the goal. They will tell you some stuff about "self-realization" and "love of god", but they will never admit the heart of the matter. Many of them barely know their own sampradaya history beyond their own guru who is in a "long, unbroken line going back to God himself". They are a shallow personality cult at best and a broken group of mindless followers at worst.
As far as Tulsi's motives or her best intentions etc, I cannot say. I am not her and I am not going to speculate. I know one thing is for sure: She has never rejected this fraud or spoke truthfully about him in light of others testimony.