Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: patl ()
Date: July 06, 2004 09:43AM

Why I joined ISKCON
By Patrick Lansdowne

[i:291d2f262c](This little bit of writing I did for myself originally for the purpose of coming to terms and understanding my almost 10 year involvement in the Hare Krsna cult. I wanted to understand myself and my motives better and to reflect some on what that experience meant and still means to me and to be honest.)[/i:291d2f262c]

When I was 19 years old I became attracted to ISKCON. Why, I have asked myself, for that attraction did not endure.

When I was 19, I went out into the world on my own for the first time, away from my parents. I was immature, scared and needy and at the same time some what rebellious and desirous of proving myself. I don’t think I was really prepared to meet the challenges of living life on my own with out the support of family, but I wanted to be independent and seem grown up. But I was not ready to face the responsibilities of being an adult. I wanted to discover some easy way to get through life, with out having to go the “normal” route of getting an education developing a career, taking care of a family, paying bills, making money etc. I seemed to be bent on rejecting everything that was “normal”.

I was somewhat interested in spirituality. It seemed to me that there had to be some kind of deeper meaning to life. I had had some “spiritual” experiences when I was younger involving the Catholic religion which gave me some kind of faith in spirituality, God, and religion, but to become a Christian seemed just too “normal” for me who wanted to be "different". Plus I was an insecure person. I didn’t trust myself and wanted to find something outside of myself. I didn’t like myself much and wanted to become a different person, someone people looked up to and was accepted by others. Although I didn’t want to fit into what I considered “the norm”, I still had a desire to fit in somewhere.

When I was introduced to Krsna Consciousness it was basically through the hardcore music scene via the band Shelter (punk rock from the USA). I liked alternative music just for that reason, because it was “alternative”. Then some kids in the scene became Hare Krsna’s and that just seemed completely as alternative as one could be, which was attractive to me. I tried to read Bhagavad-Gita and found it silly and incomprehensible. I immediately had doubts about the philosophy and theology of Hare Krishna-ism. Soon after that I met the devotees and heard about more and more kids from the hardcore scene joining ISKCON.

I started going to the Sunday feasts at the Krsna temple. The Hare Krsna life style seemed attractive to me because everything the devotees did seemed really different and “alternative”, from the way they talked and dressed to the way they ate and slept and they were doing it in the name of spirituality. Plus, it seemed so easy to me, such an easy life style. No bills to pay. Do a little work at the temple and you get free food, shelter and clothing. It seemed like a close-knit little family environment with its own unique customs and culture. I wanted a group to fit into, a family to belong to, and the Hare Krsna’s seemed to have it. They seemed to have the ultimate alternative life style that was completely separate from everything I considered “normal”. It was the first thing I came across that offered an approach to the materialistic life I had grown up with.

I tried to read the books. The parts of the philosophy I had problems with I would just either brush over or try to force my mind into blind acceptance. I really wanted to fit into the/a group. Doubts were not discussed in ISKCON really, but blind faith was encouraged. Pretty soon I had myself convinced that this Krsna religion was really what I was into and the “best” way.

Prabhupada is constantly repeating through out his books how he considers the Krsna religion the “highest” and the superior way and how all other religions and philosophies are inferior. This always seemed sectarian and narrow minded to me, but because I wanted to belong to a group I always pushed these doubts down and many others down inside and tried to forget them.

After a short time, I decided to join the temple and become a full time member of ISKCON. I told people and myself I wanted to be a monk. I “renounced” my girl friend and all my old friends and never spoke to them again. I practically stopped talking to my family also. This was encouraged by ISKCON, to renounce “material association” and to associate only with devotees. (asat-sanga tyaga…) I see now that all I really wanted was to live an easy life and run away from the fears of growing up. I wanted to “renounce the world” and my whole monotonous “material” identity. I wanted to run away from the responsibilities of life and just be “blissful”. I wanted to be a part of the highest most superior alternative scene. I wanted to “chant, dance, and be happy”, which is one of the favorite ISKCON slogans. I wanted to experience the bliss the Hare Krsna’s guarantee one will experience just simply by joining ISKCON and living the “ultimate” spiritual life.

It was not long after joining the temple that I realized that this was all hype. I did not ever really meet many genuinely happy people in ISKCON. The majority of people who joined did not stay very long. Many of the ones who stayed were like me, and seemed to simply want to avoid growing up. Of the few students of Prabhupada left, many had become power hungry leaders who had become completely alienated from themselves and the other members who they were supposed to be guiding.

Also, in my travels from temple to temple, I met many people who would probably be considered literally “crazy”, or mentally disturbed. Some of these had come from mental institutions; some probably should have been sent to them.

Many of the members of temples were caught up in politics and talking about people behind their backs. People would come to the temple programs and dance chant and try to look happy, but afterwards they would spend their time being miserable and unhappy, and many times they would tell me about it. And many members would spend much of their time with-in ISKCON traveling from temple to temple out of restlessness, trying to discover the temple which they hoped might actually have that blissful life they were idealistically and naively seeking when they first joined ISKCON, because so far they had been hard pressed to find it.

And then I began to discover much of the horrible and many times criminal history of the organization. Rampant and wide spread child abuse and molestation in the Krsna schools was the worst of it. Some of the people who had committed these abuses were still allowed to live in the temples. I also found out quite soon upon joining, how many of the leaders I was “under” were quite manipulative, unfriendly, and authoritarian and down right discouraging.

I began to feel more unhappy than I had before joining, but I felt trapped. I had been fully indoctrinated; my free will had been compromised. After a short time I had fully swallowed the idea that if I went any where else besides within the walls of the ISKCON organization my soul would be lost for ever. To go back out into the “material world” meant certain spiritual suicide, I was taught. Many times I felt depressed and miserable under the thumb of dictatorial temple authorities and contemplated leaving. After about 6 years I was unceremoniously kicked out of the temple with no money or job or a place to go because of a disagreement with one of the temple leaders where I lived. (But that is a long story which I do not wish to tell right now.) Needless to say, I felt at that time that it was unjustified and heartless on the part of these temple authorities to simply throw me out on my ear with no support.

But really, this was just the push I needed to actually escape my programming and fear of the outside world and face up to the responsibilities of life. Actually I am thankful for it. But it took me close to five years after leaving ISKCON to feel completely comfortable about being on my own again, and to feel fully free from all the backwards Hare Krsna conditioning I had swallowed.

Now I feel free from that oppressive and non-progressive way of thinking and I feel happy to just be “normal” again or possibly for the first time ever. Sometimes I feel regret for wasting close to ten years of my life as a Hare Krsna, but I try to just see the lessons. I have some respect for the ancient Vaishnava tradition and feel like there is some amount of truth there, although I am not an adherent to it. Now I feel that ISKCON is a perverted and bastardized representation of the ancient and genuine Hindu tradition: started by fanatical and immature western hippy followers of Prabhupada.

I have to say that, while reading Prabhupada’s books, I now feel that he promoted and encouraged fanaticism and narrow mindedness too. I feel that he was sexist and denigrating towards the female gender or at least I can say he provided a great deal of fodder for westerners with a sexist mentality to pick up on and institute, and try to justify it based on his books. Also I feel that Prabhupada encouraged fanaticism and blind following in his writings.

Now in my life; I feel satisfied taking the spiritual search on my own terms and at my own pace. I do not believe that Krsna is God and I think that most of Hinduism is mythology. I think Prabhupada was just an ordinary person who felt like he was doing the right thing by teaching the religion he grew up with in his Bengali culture to others. I don’t hold any grudge against ISKCON for I chose to join and become indoctrinated by it. I chose to turn off my rational mind and become a blind follower. I did not experience bliss while there, only disappointment and depression, so I left for good. Now I do not push away my doubts about religion but confront them and deal with them. I do not accept anything blindly anymore. And I feel more free than I have ever felt before. I have an inexplicable and undefinable faith that there is a Supreme Intelligence God. This is a faith that I have felt intuitively since I was a small child. I am now endeavoring to seek out God in a genuine way, free from the desire to “belong” to any other group save sincere seekers. If anyone were to ever ask me about ISKCON as a viable path, I would tell them that I believe ISKCON a genuine cult. I thank God that he allowed me to escape from it eventually.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: Alexis ()
Date: July 06, 2004 11:54PM

Though I wasn't involved with a religious cult, I understand where you're coming from in many ways. I was also only 19 years old when I began my involvement with landmark education. I too loved alternative music and never really felt normal or belonged to any group or clique. I also had a good sense of spirituality, far more than anyone around me expect for my dad, maybe. I wanted to be the best person I thought I could be. They fully took advantage of my innocence.


I don't hold any grudge against ISKCON for I chose to join and become indoctrinated by it. I chose to turn off my rational mind and become a blind follower. I did not experience bliss while there, only disappointment and depression, so I left for good.

But don't be too hard on yourself. It's not your fault they lied to you about what really happens within the organization. If you saw at first what you know now, I'm sure you would have stayed away from them. It is difficult to make a truly informed choice when you don't know all the info.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: patl ()
Date: July 07, 2004 08:47AM

Dear Alexis,
Thanks for your reply. It is true; If I knew now what I knew then, I wouldn't have joined. But I still try to see the positive, i.e. I learned about my self alot and I learned about what I don't want in my life. I also learned how to stick up for myself, and to follow my intuition instead of being guided by others with questionable motives. It was a valuable lesson, and I feel on the "right track" again. I calk it all up to a part of my becomeing more mature.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: Dervish ()
Date: July 15, 2004 01:04AM

True, unfortunately some of the more traditional aspects of Sanatan Dharma and Vaishavism are misconstrued by misogynistic individuals bent on exploiting women. Take a look at this lecture excerpt from Narayan Maharaj's splinter sect (IMO, just as bad as ISKCON). He demonstrates hypocritical viewpoints and a very sparse understanding of some of Sri Bhagavan's lilas.

"Indian wives are always very chaste. They can give their lives for their husbands. Their husbands may give them up or divorce them, but these women will never give up their husbands. Rama left Sita, but Sita never left Rama. This is Indian Vedic culture, and we should try to follow this because Parama-pujyapada Srila Swami Maharaja wanted it. Both husband and wife should help each other. You should never think, “I will give up my husband.” First follow Varnasrama-dharma, and then bhakti will come. When you are matured, then you can choose to either give it up or not give it up; no harm. But now you should try to follow Varnasrama-dharma. Some of the devotees were not following, and Srila Swami Maharaja was worried. Males and females should both be like this – very chaste. You can give up your life, no harm, because your soul will never die. However, if given to anyone, be chaste like this. Otherwise you can also give up Lord Krsna. So practice here. Take a vow that, “In my life I will never divorce; I will never give up my husband (or wife).” Then you will be chaste and you will never give up Krsna. Nowadays it is very easy to give up Gurudeva and to take a new one – like western women. In a second, for nothing, they can change their husbands. Although it may be a problem for their children, they are accustomed to act in that way. We should try to change this habit."

Holland, July 3, 1997

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: warriorslave ()
Date: June 21, 2006 12:59AM

When I was 14/15, I began my spiritual journey with a Baptist church in the North of Scotland. I then went to university and came out as a Gay man. This caused me to turn away from God as I had the understanding that I was a “lost soul”. I moved to London when i was 19 and discovered the Hare Krishna movement. Their sense of community along with their absolute sincerity of belief really spoke to my heart and I joined them. Over the past 21 years, I have worked out my sexuality along with my spirituality resulting in the last 3 years of my receiving both first (Hari-nama) and 2nd(brahmin) initiations. Unfortunately, I have now reached a major crisis in my life.

The organisation and person I put my entire faith in have come up very short. I have become aware of certain things (child abuse, gun-running, drug-trafficking, murder) which I had thought had been openly dealt with in the past (maybe iI just didn't want to see the truth).This has turned out to be the opposite, with certain guilty parties remaining in, and being returned to, positions of authority and leadership despite having been convicted by the civil authorities and serving jail time. People are speaking out and challenging the leadership who appear to be supporting and shielding these individuals, but the dissenters are demonised “encouraged” to be quiet.

I am approaching my 40th birthday this August, and as I look back over my life, I am beginning to feel I have wasted so much of it. My faith in the Supreme Person is not diminished, but I feel like a rudderless boat being tossed around at the mercy of the wind and waves. The Scriptures that I have based my life on for 20 years are providing no hope for the future and that is leaving me kind of worried. Empty and hopeless is not a nice place to be in.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: June 21, 2006 01:33AM


See [www.culteducation.com]

There may be some information here that would benefit you.

Also see [www.culteducation.com]

This is a virtual library listing of helpful books.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: nondevotee ()
Date: August 06, 2006 10:09AM

For those 'devotees' who are faithful to the movement the conviction that ISKCON is flawless and that the fault must be with anybody who leaves is immoveable and frigthening. Here is an example of a response to my objection to being canvased into 'service' as a so-called congregant to make money for the temple.

"[i:5419ae8024]I am sorry if I disturbed you. That wasn't my intention. But to say, "I am not a devotee anymore" is a very incorrect statement. Even your latest analysis show a lack of philosophical understanding and practical realization.

You are criticizing Iskcon for something which it is not. In Iskcon we teach pure devotion to Krishna. How's anything else being taught in New Dvaraka?
Iskcon is an institution meant to heal people from lust, anger, greed, envy and their "relatives." Being a sort of a spiritual-medical institution most of it's members are in the process of healing, or in other words they are still diseased.

How is it that you are failing to see the many who have become pure and those that are rapidly marching towards Krishna? And why is it that you have not taken the advantage of the great facilities that this glorious society offers? Instead, dirty stuff that's not relevant to you, in an exaggerated manner, is taking your attention and energy away from Krishna. What is your problem?"[/i:5419ae8024]
This is a perfect case study just from the viewpoint of cult psychology.

The first point to note is the knee jerk dissociation from any 'dirty' doings.
The problem of course is mine, not his. I'm just supposed to ignore corruption and not identify it with the 'pure' movement.
This is just one of a list strategies and dodges from hard accountability.
The most effective one runs like this...
You left because you found fault, committed offenses, so you 'fell down' fell into illusion. Now if [b:5419ae8024]they[/b:5419ae8024] find fault with you and you object it's because you lack humility. You're just supposed to--again--ignore it.

What it never can be is this. You observe hypocrisy and corruption on a regular basis and conclude that the religion is bogus.
This is impossible because , being pure and spiritual, they are above reproach.
Scary isn't it? Now that I've left and have a less emotional perpective I find it hilarious.

Why did I join ISKCON?
Date: October 04, 2006 09:19PM

I have read all of your views regarding ISKCON. I quite agree with you and sympathize with you. May Lord Chaitnaya bestow his mercy on you people!

I am just like you people, in the beginning of my spiritual quest and a naive follower of ISKCON.

What I feel is that we should not believe in any organization or cult or sect, as these are worldly things, prone to material contamination. As these are made up of us the people who are intoxicated with vices for example, pride, ego, authority, envy, lust, among others.

Having these material intoxications is not something unnatural, because these intoxications are spontaneous, which begin with the very first breath, when a living organism is born, the very first time when consciousness appears in this world. In other words, these are inevitable.

ISKCON like any other organization is made up of these mundane people only, hungry for power, prestige pride and so on. If they relinquish these traits then, won’t they be equal to God. The God only is pure, the perfect, rest everything is impure, imperfect, full of flaws. We have to understand this.

I am having flaws. You are having. Everybody has these. We have to elevate to status of God if we want to become flawless, which I think it very difficult.

So, what I feel is that its quite natural for the people in any organization like ISKCON to behave like these. I feel ISKCON is still better than any other organization belonging to any other religions or sects. I can tell you this as I have tried so many organizations and sects belonging to many religions, including Christianity and Islam.

I think you should not look at the people in any organization, but the philosophy, the teaching behind the organization. If you look at people, you will only come across the discouraging irreparable vices. We have to understand the position of these struggling souls. They are still struggling to get elevated to higher spiritual status. They are under the clutches of this material energy, trying hard to come out. So, this is quite expected from them.

Please look at the philosophy of ISKCON. Please look at Lord Chaitanya. Please look at Lord Krisna. Please look at Srimad Bhagwat Gita. Please look at (rather chant) Mahamantra. BUT PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT THE PEOPLE (Because these struggling souls have not yet attained perfection (difficult!)).

Why did I join ISKCON?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: October 04, 2006 09:53PM

Please don't use the message board for preaching.

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