Details, a popular American men’s magazine, has published an article about ISKCON: The Return of a Cult Classic—The Hare Krishnas are Back. What follows is the comment I left below the article:
This sort of calculated misinformation used to be reviled as propaganda, now it’s celebrated as good marketing, if anyone notices it at all. DETAILS should be ashamed to have any part in ISKCON’s “re-branding.”
Forget this new-agey whitewash. Here’s what you need to know about ISKCON, because no Hare Krishna will tell you willingly: Their founder, Bhaktivedanta Swami “Prabhupada,” made an embarrassing, and embarrassingly long, list of statements that this article’s target demographic would undoubtedly consider racist, sexist, and homophobic, statements that would easily put him in the company of Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy, and the like. Don’t believe me? Give a Hare Krishna a $10 “donation” for a copy of their Bhagavad-gita, in which you’ll find the timeless spiritual wisdom that “women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy,” that they “should not be given freedom” because “they are like children,” and that they are categorically of “lower birth.” That’s just one example. Regarding “negroes,” Bhaktivedanta Swami remarked that it was “best to keep them under control as slaves.” And he referred to homosexuality as “demoniac” and “not for any sane male,” to him a clear sign of the degradation of human society. These are just a few out of a disturbing number of examples.
Aside from his outright bigotry, Bhaktivedanta Swami was anti-family, anti-education, and distinctly anti-science. He repeatedly denied that we had, or ever would, land on the moon. He believed that the sun was the only source of light in the universe. And he enlisted his disciples in a crusade to “debunk” evolution. Like all good cult leaders, he also erroneously predicted the imminent end of the world, in his case via nuclear armageddon.
The liberals in ISKCON would like to think these things are anomalies, overshadowed by the valuable and altruistic gifts their leader supposedly gave the world. At most they’ll refer to their guru’s back-catalog of backward views as “controversial” or “problematic.” Meanwhile, the conservatives in ISKCON embrace the same claptrap as divine. But the real trouble is that neither faction will ever denounce or even significantly question Prabhupada. They all worship him as infallible and, even when conscience tells them not to, consider everything he wrote and said and did to be flawless, inspired by god directly.
So, buyer beware! Read the volumes of fine print appended to this product. It’s way more cult than “cult classic.” All that stuff about vegetarianism and reincarnation and blissing out on mantra meditation may sound nice, but it comes at a high price. And despite this article’s intimations of cafeteria Hinduism and it’s guarantee that “with Hare Krishna…there is no commitment”—sure, they’re happy to have you volunteer your time, and they sure as hell will take your money if you offer it, without expecting too much else—if you want them to consider you one of them, you will absolutely have to revere Prabhupada “as good as god,” no a la carte option available.