Is Iskcon a Cult?

By: gaurarader

You might see those people dressed in silly clothes singing and dancing on the street and think they are harmless but they are evil, they torture babies! Just kidding.

The problem with Krishna cults is not that they are a danger to society or dangerous to people outside of the cult. Although there have been incidents of cult members killing others based on the a cult leader’s instruction, however that is not really what makes the Krishna religions cults.

Krishna religions are cults because they are dangerous to the people that join them. If you join a Krishna cult your life will be forever changed in ways that are profound,  irreversible, and not good.

You will make massive changes to your life that will irreparably harm your career, likely permanently damage your relationship with your family and closest friends, and generally make you miss out on the best years of your life.

The standard reply given by Hare Krishnas when faced with accusations of being a cult is to claim that their religion is an ancient religion practiced by millions of people in India. But of course ISIS is a sect of an ancient religion practiced for nearly two thousand years. The vast majority of groups recognized as cults have some connection to older religious traditions. What ISKCON members usually mean is that their religious movement isn’t something that was just made up in the 60s in the United States, which is of course true but meaningless. The real question is whether the organization is dangerous, is it likely to harm people? And the answer to that question is that it absolutely is harmful to anyone who joins the cult and it is harmful to their children as well.

Keep in mind, if you visit a Hare Krishna temple, that the people you see there are only a tiny fraction of the people that have joined the organization. The vast majority have left. And many of the people you meet, especially the younger ones, will not be around in a few years.

In addition to the fact that you will be harmed if you join the cult. The other thing that makes it very much a cult is the emphasis on worship of and surrender to the guru. Bhaktivedanta Swami, usually called Prabhupada or Srila Prabhupada, is very much a cult leader in the organization despite having died in 1977. All religions have sacred teachings which are supposed to be followed to the

Bhaktivedanta Swami, usually called Prabhupada or Srila Prabhupada, is very much a cult leader in the organization despite having died in 1977. All religions have sacred teachings which are supposed to be followed to the letter but Krishna cults are different in that all of Prabhupada’s teachings are considered divine revelation and he lived a short time ago and all his words are recorded. He spoke on almost every topic imaginable so the guidelines for a follower of a Krishna cult are much more clear than those who Christians. Additionally, Prabhupada was a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic human being who was very much a product of growing up in India in the 19th century. To accept his teachings on these topics as divine revelation is deeply problematic.

But it gets worse than that in that in addition to Prabhupada being the cult leader each member is supposed to be initiated by a living guru. And the disciple is supposed to worship, bow down to, and follow every instruction of their guru. Some gurus are worse than others. Some blatantly abuse their power and position, but even with one of the “best” gurus, i.e. least exploitative, the entire institution of guru and disciple is utterly degrading, inhumane, immoral, unjust, and absolutely should have no place in the 21st century. It produces nothing but harm and psychological trauma for anyone subjected to this institution

The other thing that is worth noting is that although Krishna cult members generally haven’t used violence it is absolutely not beyond the realm of possibility. There was one incident where Prabhupada talks about how when the Hare Krishna movement is big enough it will put guns to peoples heads and tell the to convert and if they don’t they will be killed. Then he and his disciples have a good laugh about it. Was he joking? Hard to say, but its not hard to imagine that someone might think he was being serious. Especially given the larger textual context of using violence in the name of God which is pervasive throughout the scriptures of the tradition.

So, yes the Krishna religions is a cult. If you join a Krishna cult your life will end up significantly worse off than not joining. You will lose touch with your closest friends and alienate your family, which despite what the cult tells are actually the only people who will help you when the chips are down. The cult really just wants you as long as you are valuable to the cult. They will not be there for you when you are not. Your children will be worse off if you join a Krishna cult. You will accomplish much less in your career, if you are lucky enough to even have one at some point. You will earn far less money and likely end up in extreme poverty. And on top of all that you will make the world a worse place!

And on top of all that you will make the world a worse place! The world has real problems and religion hasn’t solved any of them. Secular humanism has. It works slowly but it does work. Look at the history of the world over the past five hundred years or so. The world needs passionate political advocates for the universal human rights humanity, not people who live in a fantasy world and imagine they are making the world a better place with their absurd religious rituals and beliefs.

27 Comments

  • Nam:

    Hey sir, finally got around to checking this out. Very courageous for you to do this.

    One minor point re: a typo/duplication of text. Specifically;

    “In addition to the fact that you will be harmed if you join the cult. The other thing that makes it very much a cult is the emphasis on worship of and surrender to the guru. Bhaktivedanta Swami, usually called Prabhupada or Srila Prabhupada, is very much a cult leader in the organization despite having died in 1977. All religions have sacred teachings which are supposed to be followed to the”

  • XQ:

    Wow, this post is nice, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, therefore I am going to inform her.

  • Charlotte Lee:

    People try to say it’s a Hindu religion, but the founder said they’re not Hindu, and said general Hinduism is inferior. He said that they can’t read translations of books apart from his, and that his explanations which ranted on about his misogynistic opinions are more important than the original writings. He said Gandhi’s Bhagavad Gita isn’t accurate because it promoted peace.
    He said women have half the brain size of men and it was a lie about Marie Curie discovering radioactivity, yet they get state money in England to run a school. They try to make out it’s a Hindu school, but first places go to children from parents at Bhaktivedanta Manor. He also made predictions about there being a nuclear war in the 80s where Krishna Consciousness would take over. The moon landings were fake because people live on the moon with a higher standard of living than Earth.

  • CedrickVSier:

    Many thanks for finally writing about >Is Iskcon a Cult?
    – Krishna Cult Awareness Foundation <Loved it!

  • Mark:

    This is an outright mistake or lie: “Although there have been incidents of cult members killing others based on the a cult leader’s instruction……”

    In one of the temples a TEMPLE leader did this. It happened in West Virginia by a very deranged man.

    • gaurarader:

      I think the sentence structure implies that it was not a common occurrence. I believe there were at least two incidents in the WV community, and at least one elsewhere.

      But just to be clear, that is not the reason why I think the Krishna religions are cults.

  • A real hindu:

    This article is just a piece of anti hindu writings…..you people dont call a terrorist a terrorist…like u dont call hitler or churchill a terrorist christian….just because they were christians….bht you wud talk against a good guru(although i believe when christian took over iskcon after prabhupada death they made iskcon a psuedo christian organisation…..than came era of maligning iskcon followers……whether they are russian or american christian or christians anywhere they persecute iskconites….just because it is influencing west to follow a peaceful religion……do you ppl know wat iskcon is doing is done in india from centuries….do you think india is far behind in technology???(please do consider india is comparable to china only not britain or others)even when it was destroyed by britishers….. It grow up signifacntly on all terms now……thats the power of real iskcon….from scientists to doctors all believe in krishna god from centuries in india……

    • Just Another Happy Humanist:

      Ahem, ‘A Real Hindu’…citations needed.

  • Ute:

    Thank you for writing this. I was involved with the HK got 7 tears and I am do happy to be free. It is a Cult

  • haribol:

    I took the time to read every article written with a open mind. I can only talk on my faith and love for krsna i take classes to learn but facts are facts and not one since i started practicing the hare krsna chantings have i felt that this is anything close to a cult.My personal thought is this follow what GOD you choose he calls us all in diffrent ways but being obient to the god you follow should come from your heart and it is hard to try to live by your faith , whichever faith you follow , BUT the indivuals who are strong enough to be as obient as they can should not get bashed or disrepected. The best thing i did was meet a devotee and start going to classes and leaning .. Devotes are all about peace and following krsna fully not just when they desire.

  • Milena:

    I am reading this post with an open mind, and I don’t belong to any religion whatsoever, but I respectfully disagree with this article, only based on the fact that it seems to be written by an extremely biased person who is clearly against Hare Krishna. Do you have any statistics or empirical evidence showing that Krishna followers have lower wages, more unstable households, and weaker relationships? When the author decides to give some REAL, CONCRETE and OBJECTIVE arguments I will consider agreeing with it, but I just can’t trust an article to be truthful when it starts with a line such as “They torture babies! Just kidding…”

    • gaurarader:

      Hi Milena, I appreciate your comment. I think it is important to not dismiss a person’s view just because they have a point of view. We all do. I certainly have a certain perspective. You can call that bias. I think I’ve been very fair in every critique I’ve ever made about the religion. There isn’ of data on the topic. I do social psychology and I’d be happy to study it but unfortunately that’s not the area I work in. Data on lots of questions is hard to come by. And data can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Make what you will of this but I can say that I hear from people regularly whose lives have been significantly harmed and are now in the process of leaving the religion/cult. That is a fact. You have to trust me on that.

      I’m not sure what you want as far as real, concreate and objective arguments. This is a relgion that says black people are sinful and less than white people/aryans. That says that women are less intelligent. That says that the only way to be happy is by joining the religion and surrendering to God and guru who you should obey and worship. A religion that says you should never try to be happy and only strive to make God happy. A religion that denies the science is the best way to understand the world and says that we should only trust things written thousands of years ago. That people will be tortured in hell for have sex or drinking alchohol. Etc. Etc.

      Talk to people who have joined the religion. Read the things that are in the books of the religion. Don’t dismiss what I’ve written so blithely. This post isn’t intended to be stand alone proof that the religion is a cult. If you do some research I suspect you may come to understand what is written here. That is, if you are willing to be open minded and considered that it might actually be a cult.

  • Vichal:

    I would like to respond. I think the author is against Vedic philosophy and bases this on the Hare Krishna Movement leaders, post-Srila Prabhupada period but also by quoting Srila Prabhupada purports. To follow Brahmacari rules is a science. The moment you try to talk that down, it is proven, that author has something against Vedic philosophy. Please know that Srila Prabhupada was poisened and then GBC leaders took over and changed alot. So I am of the opinion that ISKCON today and since perhaps 1976 (when the disobedience of Srila Prabhupada started and when the poisoning started) is derailed. I to am a sympatiser of Srila Prabhupada’s Words, NOT ISKCON GBC. There are rules to follow: No meat, fish, egg, union and garlic eating, no intoxication (coffee, tea, Tobacco, drugs), no illicit sex (no sex outside of marriage and not for pleasure), no gambling. When you do not follow these rules in Western Society, how will the people treat you? All problems in Western Society today comes because of breaking these 4 rules. Maybe author should look into that.

    • Authentic Vaishnavism:

      I don’t feel he is against Vedic or any indian philosophy. he is not aware of the authentic Vaishnava lines in india and his only exposure is this iskcon group which is not taken seriously in india by traditional orthodox gaudiya vaishnavas. I feel bad for people who’s only exposure to gaudiya Vaishnavism, or any type of Vaishnavism, is through iskcon. there is a big world of authentic Vaishnavism in india, and none of it takes iskcon seriously.

  • Inquisitive Character:

    Authentic Vaishnavism. Please intantiate some evidence about these alternative non-compromised and merciful lineages, please. Actually a bigger deviation in the authentic Vaishnava philsophy is one which involves the acceptance of wolves into the Vaishnava circle allows for devitation. Any serious yoga practitioner can notice the character/heart of someone almost immediate upon their entry into their association. There are plenty of Guru Narratives to support this. The fact that Prabhupada did not act to save his disciples from even the potential of these abuses shows just how misinformed he actually was about himself. He acted like a pompous king, but his effort to liberate others ended in hardcore failure and disturbed the flow of Grace into the world. If he really was what he said was, namely someone who has a spiritual connection of communion/communication with the all loving and all knowing God that same God would have simply told him. His grace was to give the mahamantra a bad reputation simply because of his ambition to rule over others, which is oft apparent in his attitutes towards disciples even. He selected those 11 at least as ritiviks, but could not see their potential scope for major failings in advance of their occurence, which proves that he had no real vision at all, merely book knowledge which was applied too fast for the worlds overall welfare. Be very suspicious of those who self-appoint themselves to such a high level and watch them very carefully. Very quickly you will see what’s really going on.

    • Vichal Gajapersad:

      Hari Bol, Please accept my pranams, All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
      I am not an ISKCON member, altough I did joined them before slowly disassociating with them after discovering some deviations. Now that I am not a devotee, but new to Vaisnava philosophy after I lost my job, shelter and everything else in this great materialistic western “civilisation”.
      Indeed it is so, that after reading Original non-modified Prabhupada books and listening to his lectures, you can easily see that ISKCON today has been infiltrated by sense gratifyers. So after gaining knowledge from Srila Prabhupada who got his knowledge from his guru al the way back to the Six Gosvamis, one easily sees that there is defiation from Vaisnava philosophy. Now another problem arise with people like you, who then blame Srila Prabhupada for all this. Do you know that we are in Kali Yuga? Do you know that there are constant attacks from the four types of people (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 7, Verse 15) who will do everything (even pretend to be a devotee and pretend to follow Vaisnava rules and regulations to make a show? Do you know that these types of people always have sabotaged devotional service? That is the test! Srila Prabhupada may have known or not, his job was to spread Krishna Consiousness in Western Countries. Now another question: Did that succeed? How on earth did he manage to do what he did in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s? Ever think about that? How come people from all kinds of cultures, languages etc come to Krishna Consiousness, even today?
      Did you ever follow the rules and regulations? Did you chant Hare Krishna mantra? In Materialistic Western society, ones plannes to gratify senses fails miserably. Temporary happines can be achieved but thereafter only unhappiness prevails. What is the solution? I myself, born and raised in a top materialistic western country have undergone this the past 2 years. I could have easily become a criminal but Srila Prabhupada explains Vaisnava philosophy so perfectly, that I am forced to accept the results of my karma and try to perform devotional service. This means, now in western society, ones has to adopt the lifestyle. Ideally a Krishna Consiouss Farm Community would be the way to go but since that is being sabotaged, one can get a job and try his best. Isn’t this better then becoming a criminal? Do these western materialistic sense gratifying institutions have any answer on how to help one get a job and room to live in? Is there an alternative? The only thing people like you can do is critise. Why do you not come up with a solution for World Peace? Srila Prabhupada physically left in 1977.
      In 2011!! I got to know him through his books and lectures and THAT saved me for becoming a criminal. Somehow I also got into contact with those who appoint themselves as Guru’s. I managed to keep away because of intelligence and knowledge of Srila Prabbupada’s original books. How about that? So yes, ISKCON today, since 1977, has been compromised, still Srila Prabhupada is here trhough his speech and books. Now even those are being modified! Why? Ask your self this question before insulting. What happens after death? Can you explain that? You have such a big mouth. Insulting a devotee of Krishna (one who has given his life to preach Krishna Consiousness) is the gravest insult. After death, the Yama-dutas will present you the bill. Just wait, mister big mouth. Where do you live? In a western country? There are people on this planet who owe alot to Srila Prabhupada’s troubles, be carefull when you insult. Also, the fact that those 11 ritviks deviated, proves that devotional service is not ment for everyone afterall, while it does look like it is easily done. This also proves that followers should be cent percent knowledgeble about the Vaisnava philosophy (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Isopanisad, Nectar of Devotion and Nectar of Instruction, unchanged from before 1977). Then one easily exposes the ones who appoint themselves. But do these “devotees” of ISKCON do that? Answer: NO!! So the fault lies with lazy sense gratifyers who want to cheat and who do not want to follow 100% Srila Prabhupada orders. Think about this very carefully. People should be suspisous indeed but no way does that mean that one should not become a devotee of Krishna (God as the Supreme Person)
      Jaya Prabhupada unchanged books and lectures! Hare Krishna!!

  • Marilyn:

    My brother joined this HK cult and has cut off all contact with his family, and we have had no contact with him or his children for the past 15 years. His wife who introduced him to the cult refused to even let him come and visit our father on his deathbed, as we are unclean and a “bad influence” and therefore we must not be associated with. I think this religion is extremely harmful. My brother has now disappeared and gone to live on the streets, and even his wife does not know where he is. We do not know if he is even still alive. I cannot say one positive thing about this cult.

    • gaurarader:

      I’m sorry to hear that, and thanks for sharing. You’re certainly not alone.

      • Marilyn:

        Thank you Gaurarader. The more I research this, the more evidence I see for the suffering this kind of religion causes to families and individuals. I was very hurt by this behaviour from my brother for many years, but now I see that it is happening to many other people, and it has allowed me to stop taking it personally and, to some extent, find peace and accept what has happened. I am very grateful for websites like this one, which has helped me see that I am not alone!

    • Vichal Gajapersad:

      I understand that when a loved one chooses to go in this direction, that it can be painful. But he should have explained the Vaisnava philosophy. Why did he join? And didn’t he ask to you and your family to atleast read some books explaining why he does what he does? It is also possible to work and life with your family and show what Krishna Consiousness is all about. I to wanted to leave everything and join but since I discovered the deviation, I decided te again keep in touch with family and friends, get a job and my own rented room and from there on live in Krishna Consiousness. The explanation it that we are a Soul and not the body. This means that “your” familiy are those Souls in the bodies to whom you are related by blood and birthplace. But since it turns out that we, the living entities, are Souls, this means that all living creatures on this planet are family of eachother. So the formula for world peace is here, readily available. The reason why most people do not want to associate with their family (by bodily relation) is because these “family” members absolutely refuse to show even respect to Krishna Consiousness. This is why alot do not want to associate with family anymore. Also, did you have a perfect relationship in your youth with your brother? People also look at the past and think: I have been humiliated, insulted, people who are suppose to be my own “family” treated me like garbage. So now I can leave and be happy, still these “family” members have to mingle. Alot of people like you think you are perfect and that you have done no wrong. But look at your history, people were extremely unhappy with their lives, that’s why they were looking for a way out. And that way out is Srila Prabhupada. Unfortunately, the enemies of this movement have infiltrated and sabotaged. Very soon, Mother Nature will present the bill. No worries, you people are such nice and perfect people, you never hurted any living being in your current lives didn’t you?

      • Marilyn:

        If he was so happy in this religion, why did he now walk out on his wife and family and disappear to live on the street? I was happy to accept his choices and respect his beliefs as long as he was happy but this is surely not the actions of a content, happy person who is at peace.

        • Vichal Gajapersad:

          When I mention, knowing the Vaisnava philosophy, I do mean that you must understand it. Alot of people do not take the trouble to understand why someone takes the decision. First of all, Krishna Consiousness is NOT a religion. Second of all, every person comes alone on the planet. One is born alone, one dies alone.
          What is the definition of being happy? Your definition is different compared to others. You are under the illusion that having a wife and family results in happiness. I posted more questions and I see that you are not answering them. Only thing you can do is juggle with words using terms like happy and peace as if people in western society know what happiness and being in peace means. I will then repeat: Didn’t your brother explain the Vaisnava philosophy? And if he didn’t, why didn’t you or your familymembers who obviously love your brother so much, try to get to the bottom of this cult? This means you must investigate their way of living and come with counter arguments. Explain, from you great western materialistic viewpoint, that joining this sect is pure evil and that he was way better of working like an ass for ungratefull wive, children, familymembers and other members of the great western materialistic society. Why didn’t you, or your family do that?

          • Marilyn:

            Thank you for providing a perfect example of how this cult brainwashes people.

          • Vichal Gajapersad:

            And thank you for proving that most on this planet belong to the four types of Souls in human bodies who do not surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Easy isn’t it? To say that I am brainwashed but you cannot come with logical counter arguments. I am talking English, don’t you or your familymembers speak and understand English? Now I understand why your brother left you, you simply can’t talk with people like you. Instead of answering you come with such a dumb remark. I thank you again and again for the opportunity to expose “humans” like you. Have fun watching television and believing everything your democratic government tells you. Very soon you will discover if that was the truth.

  • Vichal Gajapersad:

    How is it to eat meat, fish and eggs? How is it to have illicit sex? How is it to gamble? How is it to drink tea and coffee or to take drugs?

    All the above is now being done in current great western society which is full of people brainwashed with television, sports and all kinds of western nonesense.

    Then these people say that the Veda’s are superstitious books, yet in the same Veda’s it is stated how the material universe was created, How Great God is and that He loves us and wants us back. One has to not gratify the senses and perform devotional service.

    It is stated that your own familymembers will want to pose themselfes as saviours yet they cannot help provide one with meaningful work, shelter and education which fill make a person eternal happy.

    In the same Veda’s the punishment is described what happens when one deviates from the rules. Is this the reason why atheists come with such lame excuses? Why can’t these “people” answer questions and come with counter-arguments?
    How does a cult brainwash people? How does a democratic government in western society does not do that? Can you explain? Wern’t you brainwashed in western society schools that all are equal, that the West is for peace and prosperity around the globe? That woman and man are equal? All this is not true! So who is being brainwashed here? Come with logical counter-arguments, I challenge all you impersonalists and atheists! I am here all alone (with Krishna in my heart) and you all are 9 billion (also with Krishna in your hearts). Come on! Take some chemicals and produce life randomly. That’s what you believe right? We all are descendants of monkeys right? We all can go to the Moon planet right? We went there in the 60s but after that there was no need right? Yeah that is so true. And now we go to Mars, keep paying taxes for this, western society dumbass.

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