New Vrindaban Marks Passing of Ex-Leader

Kirtanananda Swami, Former Leader Expelled from Krishna Community, Dies

Moundsville, West Virginia – On Sunday, October 23, 2011, Kirtanananda Swami, a controversial former leader of the New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community passed away. He was expelled from the parent organization, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in 1987, and removed from New Vrindavban leadership in 1994.

“We express our sincere condolences to Kirtanananda’s family and well-wishers,” said Jaya Krsna, President of New Vrindaban. “He was a historical figure in the early days of the New Vrindaban community.”

Born Keith Ham in 1937 in Peekskill, New York, as the son of a Baptist minister, Kirtanananda was one of the first Americans to become a disciple of Hare Krishna movement founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who brought the Krishnas’ brand of monotheistic devotional Hinduism, or Vaishnavism, to the west in 1965.

Kirtanananda was best known for helping to found and being an early leader of New Vrindaban, an expansive Hare Krishna community in rural West Virginia whose ornate Palace of Gold, award winning gardens, large temple and organic farm today draw thousands of visitors and pilgrims each year.

Kirtanananda maintained a relatively low profile in the last few years and made no efforts to reconcile with the New Vrindaban community and ISKCON. He was 74 at the time of his death.

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Reader Comments

I am just wondering why no substantial mention has been made in the site of Isckon. There was just a memo link which said something like, “FYI, Bhaktipada is dead” It doesn’t seem resepectful to avoid making his passing public considering he was a orginal GBC member and a powerful part of Iskcon from the beginning. Much smaller devotees seem to get much bigger mentions for their passing on Dandavats. Are you planning to submit this or some other article? maybe Radhanath Swami could be so kind to do the honors.

Many people feel there were wronged by Kirtanananda and still feel some pain over it. Sensitivity to that suffering of others may have played a part in their lack of coverage.

Dandavats’ decision to not print our press release or any other press release is their editorial decision.

It is easier to forgive the dead than the living, and so after some time they may be more open, but to err on the side of not aggravating pain for victims is understandable.