cult recovery 101

Prakashanand Saraswati

Kripalu Maharaj and Prakashanand Saraswati in Barsana Dham in 2007

OCTOBER 23, 2012′

Partners in Crime for 60 Years

Photo taken of Kripalu Maharaj and Prakashanand Saraswati when Kripalu visited Barsana Dham in 2007. Prakashanand built the ashram, renamed Radha Madhav Dham after his escape from justice, for Kripalu, his guru for 60 years.
Prakashanand Saraswati is a notorious person among members of the transcendental meditation community who were in Fairfield, Iowa, in the 1980s. That’s when he arrived in the U.S., and tried to recruit followers away from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of TM. In one infamous advertisement, Prakashanand even equated the Maharishi to Satan and in lectures claimed he was “bringing people into darkness.”
It was a curious comment, since he and the Maharisihi briefly shared a guru in the 1950s — the Jagadguru Shankaracharya Brahmanand Saraswati, known as Guru Dev. He was the Shankarcharya of Jyotirmath, a very prestigious religious seat in India. The Maharishi was his secretary for many years, until Guru Dev died in 1952.
As for Prakashanand, according to his official biography, he claims he was offered the guru’s official seat, even though he was only 22 and had known him for less than two years. What’s more, there were several official successors to the seat. Nonetheless, here’s how Prakashanand stated his version of history in his bio:
“At the age of twenty-one, in 1950, he (Prakashanand) renounced the world and went to Jyotirmath in the Himalayas. In 1951 he took the order of sanyas. Seeing his esteem of renunciation and deep feeling of God consciousness, in 1952, he was offered to be the successor of Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath which is one of the most renowned religious thrones of India. He very politely refused by saying, ‘My final desire is to go to Vrindaban. I have given my life for the service of Radha Rani, so I cannot live forever in the math.’”
Four years later, Prakashanand met Kripalu Maharaj and instantly became his devotee. Kripalu welcomed Prakashanand into his fledgling “spiritual” organization, recognizing a fellow conman when he saw one. The two had a love-hate relationship over the next 60 years as they both struggled to build a following. But it was all love between them when Prakashanand began bringing his devotees to Kripalu in late 1999.
Prakashanand had a relatively small following compared to many gurus who come to the U.S. However, most of his “devotees” were ready to hand over large sums of money to Kripalu, who was billed as “God incarnate,” specifically “the incarnation of Radha-Krishna,” but who cared a lot about cold hard cash — as well as the warm bodies of women and girl. Kripalu was nearly salivating as so much Western money began flowing into his coffers (India-based trusts) and helping him build massive temples, along with the many new women and underage girls he welcomed into his bed.
Notable among the most wealthy of Prakashanand’s small group of Western followers were a handful of former TMers, three of whom were minting money in the infomercial trade and giving large sums of it to the gurus: Peter Spiegel, Katie Williams, and Marsha Kent.
The two conmen’s business partnership flourished in the 2000s, culminating with the completion of the largest temple in Vrindaban, India, built by Prakashanand to glorify Kripalu. They spared no expense for the massive structure, importing marble from Italy and emerald pearl from China, among two of the many extravagances. The total bill for the building is estimated to be one billion dollars — all which was collected from followers who were told the money was going to “build hospitals.”
However, their illicit partnership was overshadowed by Prakashanand’s arrest in 2008 for molesting children who lived in is U.S. ashram, formerly called Barsana Dham (the name was changed to Radha Madhav Dham in April 2011). In March 2011, Prakashanand was convicted of his crimes, but before he could be sentenced, he ran for the border into Mexico and escaped from justice with the help of several of his followers.
A recent article in the Austin American-Statesman announced a report filed by the U.S. Marshals in September 2012 about Prakashanand’s escape into India. The details of the report were published on this blog.
Twenty days after the article was published, Kripalu’s organization in India, called Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, issued a press release denouncing all association with Prakashanand. The news article stated the following:
Jagadguru Kripalu Denies Link with Wanted Godman Prakashanand Saraswati
New Delhi, Oct.14 (ANI): A trust founded by Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj issued a statement over the weekend, refuting and rejecting suggestions and allegations of his link with wanted godman Swami Prakashanand Saraswati.
Saraswati has been declared a criminal in America, and a spokesman for the Jagadguru said that the spiritual leader was not in the habit of accepting or making disciples.
‘It is to be noted that Prakashanand Saraswati is a disciple of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Brahmanand Saraswati (a sanyasi). Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj is a family man and is a Vaishnava,’ the statement said.
According to the trust, several people in India and abroad claim to be their guru’s disciples, impressed by his actions and his ‘irrefutable devotion towards god.’
‘Under such circumstances, creating a misconception, and thereby, deluding the public by saying that a wanted criminal is his disciple or associated with any of the trusts functioning under his guidance, is definitely a condemnable action,’ the trust statement said.
This proclamation is, of course, a complete lie — easily refutable by anyone with an Internet connection. For example, use the Wayback Machine to find all the old website content such as this page.
The only person “deluding the public” is Kripalu himself, who has a very dark history, chronicled in my memoir, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus — How I Was Conned by a Dangerous Cult — and Why I Will Not Keep Their Secrets.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, at the same time as the release of the U.S. Marshal’s statement, the Radha Madhav Dham website deleted the last remaining evidence that Prakashanand had founded the ashram, including removing his books from the online bookstore.
Kripalu and Prakashanand are notorious historical recreationists — spouting whatever nonsense fits there needs at the moment. What Prakashanand’s devotees think of this latest fraud perpetrated by Kripalu is anyone’s guess. They’ve shown a history of being in lockstep with the utterances of both deceptive and dangerous con men.
And, in fact, they’ve swallowed the new lie hook, line, and sinker as shown on a childish Facebook page where they *suddenly* started announcing that Guru Dev was actually Prakashanand’s guru. This cult would be a complete joke if it wasn’t so dangerous.
Learn more about the truth of Kripalu and Prakashanand — partners in crime for 60 years — in my book.

Jagadguru Kripalu denies link with wanted godman Prakashanand Saraswati

New Delhi, Oct.14 (ANI): A trust founded by Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj issued a statement over the weekend, refuting and rejecting suggestions and allegations of his link with wanted godman Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. Saraswati has been declared a criminal in America, and a spokesman for the Jagadguru said that the…

Wanted Hindu guru escaped to India, officials say

By Eric Dexheimer

Austin Statesman

Two days after a Hays County jury convicted Prakashanand Saraswati of 20 counts of indecency with a child for groping two teenagers who lived at the Hindu ashram he’d founded, newly filed court documents say his followers met in a devotee’s home a mile up the road in Driftwood to plan how to spirit him out of the country before his sentencing.

Later that night of March 6, 2011, or early the next morning, at least one of them accompanied the guru, who uses a wheelchair, over the Mexican border to Nuevo Laredo, according to the documents. After secretly moving just south of Tijuana in mid-2011, Prakashanand — who’d shaved his long white beard and cut his shoulder-length hair — then used a fake passport to escape to India in November.

The information, as well as other details of how Prakashanand’s followers in Texas and across the country clandestinely moved the spiritual leader while evading law enforcement, is included in court documents filed in Hays County. An affidavit in support of a search warrant signed last week by a Hays County judge seeks access to Yahoo email accounts of a preacher and close associate of the guru’s who lives in India.

Although many of the assertions in the document came from law enforcement interviews with devotees, much also was obtained from cellphone records and private emails written between Prakashanand’s followers.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Marcum, who has been leading the effort to track down the 83-year-old guru known to his followers as Shree Swamiji, confirmed details of the agency’s efforts to monitor and track Prakashanand during the past year and a half.

The operation planned and carried out by Prakashanand’s followers to keep him hidden from police and move him among the three countries involved his spiritual devotees from Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Texas and Mexico, according to the court filing.

Individual tasks were divided among the devotees so that each could minimize his or her culpability, Marcum said. “It is the most sophisticated scheme I’ve seen as far as fugitive investigations go,” he said. “They were very smart about what they did.”

Still, he added, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating several of the guru’s supporters, and it is likely some will be charged with harboring a fugitive, aiding and abetting an escape or making false statements to a government agent. Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the Western District of Texas’s United States Attorney’s Office, which would bring any such charges, declined to comment.

The news that Prakashanand was able to sneak into India almost certainly decreases the likelihood he will be captured and returned to San Marcos, where a state district judge on March 7, 2011, sentenced him to 14 years in prison on each of the 20 counts.
He also forfeited $1.2 million in bonds and promissory notes when he went on the lam.

Although both countries have extradition treaties with the United States, the U.S. Marshals doesn’t have an active office in India, as it does in Mexico. That means Prakashanand would have to be apprehended and adjudicated by Indian authorities.

Meanwhile, Marcum said, all indications are the spiritual leader is being protected and cared for in India by Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat — JKP — the large and wealthy umbrella organization of which Barsana Dham, the ashram he founded in 1990, was a part. The ashram, located on 200 acres in South Austin, was renamed Radha Madhav Dham a month after the trial. Shyama Rose, one of the girls who was kissed and groped by the guru, said his escape to India effectively ends the case against him. “I feel the door is closed on it,” she said. “There’s nothing more to be done.”

She added: “I’m sure we’d all sleep better if he were locked up. But he’s in his own little prison.”
Karen Jonson, who this year published “Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus,” a book about her life at the ashram, said: “While a measure of justice was served by his conviction, it would still be the right thing for Prakashanand to have to endure the result of his crimes against children, to serve his punishment as determined by the courts of this country.” Still, she added, “As long as he is
alive, there will always be hope for his capture and return to Texas.”

According to the affidavit, three days after Prakashanand disappeared, marshals interviewed a Florida devotee, who said that he had been contacted by a temple employee in Nuevo Laredo “pleading for him to come to Mexico to assist her in helping Saraswati evade law enforcement.”

The man, Ethan DeMitchell, said he also had been instructed to “purchase a fake passport so that Saraswati could flee Mexico to India,” and to start contacting private charter jet companies to explore how to hire a plane to fly the guru out of Mexico. DeMitchell, who according to the affidavit also told marshals he spoke with Prakashanand on the phone from Mexico, didn’t immediately return phone calls.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection records, various ashram employees crossed the Texas-Mexico border numerous times throughout 2011, the affidavit said. When contacted by marshals investigators, most either declined to be interviewed in detail, or “stated that they did not believe Saraswati was guilty of the convicted offenses, and they hoped he would evade capture and never go to prison.”

One of the devotees named in the affidavit, Jenifer Deutsch, also called Vrinda Devi, has been a spokeswoman for Radha Madhav Dham. She traveled from Austin to Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana a half-dozen times between March and November 2011, according to the court filing.

Deutsch didn’t return a phone message left at the ashram. But Chirag Patel, the ashram’s managing member, said, “We have no knowledge of anyone at the ashram supporting (Prakashanand’s) escape.”

Late last year, federal investigators began to receive hints that Prakashanand was no longer in Mexico, the court filing shows. In December 2011, for example, marshals learned that his personal aide, Vishwambhari Devi, who seldom left his side, “had recently activated a life insurance policy in India,” the affidavit said.

Six months later, Marcum said he heard from two confidential sources that Prakashanand had made it safely to India. Over the following months, the affidavit said, two other sources confirmed that the spiritual leader had successfully fled Mexico sometime in November.

“We were about a week behind him” when he escaped, Marcum said. “We were pretty close.”