Ray Cappo was on the east coast getting Shelter ready for the hordes of Youth of Today fans. I was on the west coast doing Inside Out and Enquirer zine. Between the two of us, and a few others like Kalki of Razor’s Edge, Krishna was pushing into the hardcore scene in a huge way. But in December of ’89 the scene pushed back for the first time. Maximum Rocknroll, the biggest zine in hardcore punk, delivered an issue called “Inside Ray Cappo and the Krishnas” with a creepy infinity-mirror photo of Ray on the cover and 15 no-line-spacing-tiny-font packed pages tearing Hare Krishna to shreds and then shredding those shreds.
I bought a copy while at a show at the Gilman Street Project in Berkley. There was a five page interview with Ray called, “Ray of Yesterday Meets Ray of Tomorrow: It’s Enough to Make me Start Drinking!!!!!” followed by a ten page article called, “The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth, So Help Me Krishna?”
The more I read, the more I wanted to fall into a crack into the earth.
Compared to the “Whole Truth…” article, Ray’s interview wasn’t too bad. It was basically just an argument between him and Tim Yo. Usually Tim sounded a lot smarter than Ray, but Ray had his moments too – especially considering that his expertise in Krishna consciousness was the result of hardly a year of familiarity with it. The worst part was where Tim embarrassed Ray for thinking that his body was completely different from the body he had been in as a child.
The “Whole Truth…” article was more like several articles and interviews stitched together in a rambling frankenstein of nausea. It started off with a woman’s story of intrigue about how her husband Ed had become brainwashed by the Krishna cult and how she turned to ex-Hare Krishna’s to successfully get him out. Then MRR interviewed Ed and the ex-Hare Krishna’s who had helped him “exit” ISKCON. These guys convincingly depicted ISKCON as a deviant and dangerous branch of an otherwise admirable religious and philosophical movement.
Then we heard about the deceitful fund-raising practices pervasive in ISKCON, called saṁkīrtan (making it a deception not only of the public, but of ISKCON members as well – since actual saṁkīrtan was nothing of the sort). This was followed by a long list of serious crimes the Krishna’s and their leaders had been convicted for: huge drug rings, illegal possession of firearms, murder, and child molestation, to name a few.
Next the ex-Krishnas talked about the sexism rampant in ISKCON, saying there was a hierarchy considering cows more important than women: “Man-Cow-Woman-Dog.” They explained that ISKCON leaders encouraged physical “discipline” of women, quoting the former ISKCON guru Bhaktipāda who said, “There are three things that get better when you beat them — your dog, your wife, and your drum.”
Finally – there was a section on how mind-control and brainwashing work, and how deprogramming worked.
I felt like I was in the vortex of a black hole as I stood on the sidewalk outside Gilman, flipping from one emotion to the next with exhausting speed. One moment I was fucking furious at MRR for giving such a “one-sided story.” The next moment I was pitifully embarrassed to be a a spokesman for such a freak-show circus of lunatics. How the fuck would I manage to explain all this shit to all these kids who were getting interested in Hare Krishna because of me? Then I felt like vomiting or crying because I didn’t even know how much of what I read was true, or to what extent – maybe it was bad enough that I myself would have to get the fuck out? By the time we were heading for the car to go home, I had wound up feeling less like a human being and more like a growling wolf backed into a corner, bearing his fangs and posed for a battle to the death.
Over the next few weeks, though, I realized that nobody in the straightedge crowd seemed to really cared much about what Maximum Rocknroll had printed. I think MRR was just too fucking hard to read – disorganized, rambling, and way too unpackaged – the underbelly side effect of crust-punk ideals of anarchy and anti-capitalism. And straightedge kids didn’t really seem to care much what the crusty Berkley punks had to say, anyway. After all, they were just crust-punks with their constant bitching and moaning. Yeah, the issue phased people – but not half as much as it phased me. The thing that disturbed them the most, I noticed, was the sexism. More than the drug-running, abject exploitation and mind-tyranny, straightedge kids were disgusted by the sexism MRR depicted in Hare Krishna.
As for me, the whole thing set me off balance. Devotees assured me the people behind MRR were “envious demons,” and the ex-Krishnas interviewed were just “too weak to make it at devotees” and came up with all these things as excuses to justify their weakness.
I wasn’t dumb enough to believe any of that crap.
Instead I just steeled myself to the ugly reality that a good percentage of ISKCON was really fucked up in a big way. But even if a diamond is covered in shit, I reasoned… just wash off the shit and take the diamond. Devotees assured me that the vast majority of all the insanity MRR revealed was a thing of the past, and ISKCON was now making strides forward to reform themselves and represent Krishna and Prabhupāda more purely.
I could buy that, it seemed true.
I decided I would be one of the guys helping the reforms.
– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
by Vraja Kishor