New Vrindavan and ISKCON
New Vrindavan was started by Kirtanananda Swami and Hayagriva as part of
ISKCON under Srila Prabhupada's instructions and blessings.
Externally, ISKCON temples across America touted the glories of New
Vrindavan as a self sufficient farm community in lectures to guests.
However, temple management was often cautious of visitors from the farm,
afraid that they would lure away local devotees. Of course, when the city
temples had problems with lazy or uncooperative devotees, they would be
happy when New Vrindavan took them.
There was a strange dynamics at play and an underlining rift between New
Vrndavan and the rest of ISKCON. On one hand, everyone viewed
Kirtanananda Swami as a senior leader and advanced devotee. On the other
hand, some were leery of his charismatic nature and how he commanded a
loyal following of his own within ISKCON.
Curiously enough, the rift broadened when many ISKCON leaders and
managers began to criticize his efforts in concentrating New
Vrindavan's resources and manpower on the construction of the Palace Of
Gold. Around the movement, Prabhupada had always urged the printing and
the distribution of his books, and the preaching efforts, as the main
focus. Many viewed the construction at the community as reclusive and not
being in the same preaching mood as the rest of the Society. But any
complaint was muted with the positive media attention the Palace
received during and after its grand opening, along with the steady stream
of tourists wanting to find out more about the Hare Krishna's.
In 1987, Kirtanananda was excommunicated from ISKCON due to improprieties
and his seeming lack of interest in cooperating with the International
ISKCON leadership. The majority of New Vrindavan devotees initially
remained loyal to Kirtanananda, and consequentially the whole community
was excommunicated. Anyone who did not agree with him left the community.
During this time he established a vision for an Interfaith City of God
and a Cathedral of The Holy Name. He had grandiose ideas for the
community and his departure from his promise to build a traditional Vedic
(Indian) temple alienated many Hindu supporters who stopped donating
funds and stopped visiting. Tourism dropped dramatically. The ISKCON
temples also began to discourage their congregations from visiting the
By 1993 a rift had developed within New Vrindavan. Some saw Kirtanananda
as an infallible guru, while others felt that he and his City of God
"experiment" were coming apart at the seams. He was asked to step down by
a large group of senior devotees of the community. Kirtanananda
admitted to deviations unfitting his position as a guru. Eventually he
was found guilty of criminal (RICO charges) behavior by a court of law
and was sent to prison. Many of those who considered Kirtanananda as
infallible became discouraged and left altogether.
After Kirtanananda's departure, the community was managed by an ad hoc
governing board of senior devotees. By 1997 New Vrindavan was welcomed
back into ISKCON.
Starting January 2001, the community Manager/President became a paid
position held by one individual who is assisted by a staff of community