More Betrayal reviews - click here
Publishers Weekly | Choice Magazine | Theology Digest | Nova Religio | Yoga Journal | Hinduism Today | India West | ISKCON Communications Journal | Cultic Studies Journal | New York Post | Boston Herald

Betrayal of the Spirit Reviews @

Amazon.com Book Description

Combining behind-the-scenes coverage of an often besieged religious group with a personal account of one woman's struggle to find meaning in it, Betrayal of the Spirit takes readers to the center of life in the Hare Krishna movement.

Nori J. Muster joined the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)—the Hare Krishnas—in 1978, shortly after the death of the movement's spiritual master, and worked for ten years as a public relations secretary and editor of the organization's newspaper, the ISKCON World Review. In this candid and critical account, Muster follows the inner workings of the movement and the Hare Krishnas' progressive decline.

Combining personal reminiscences, published articles, and internal documents, Betrayal of the Spirit details the scandals that beset the Krishnas—drug dealing, weapons stockpiling, deceptive fundraising, child abuse, and murder within ISKCON - as well as the dynamics of schisms that forced some 95 percent of the group's original members to leave. In the midst of this institutional disarray, Muster continued her personal search for truth and religious meaning as an ISKCON member until, disillusioned at last with the movement's internal divisions, she quit her job and left the organization.

In a new preface to the paperback edition, Muster discusses the personal circumstances that led her to ISKCON and kept her there as the movement's image worsened. She also talks about "the darkest secret" - child abuse in the ISKCON parochial schools - that was covered up by the public relations office where she worked.

Amazon Customer Reviews

Excellent description of ISKCON behind-the-scenes in the late 1970s-early 1980s
Reviewer: Henry Doktorski, August 5, 2019

Well-documented, well-written story about the illegal activities and cover up ordered by the top-ranking leaders of ISKCON, the Hare Krishna Movement, in the late 1970s-early 1980s by a member of the organization, a disciple of one of the zonal gurus, who worked in Public Relations and was intimately involved with the illegal activities and cover up. Highly recommended.- Henry Doktorski

An exercise in making peace turns into a historical document
Reviewer: Pedro Ramos, July 18, 2019

I truly appreciate the author's ability to articulate so honestly the dilemmas and issues facing a devotee while the institution is in crisis. Bringing light to so many issues that almost destroyed ISKCON in the eighties is the catalyst to a much needed healing process that so many need. This is one of the great contributions...the author was able to accomplish in this book what was denied to her while an editor for the ISKCON World Review. Additionally, one experiences and shares with the author the pain of disappointment, the despair of content censorship, and the sadness of leaders' failures to live up to Prabhupada's instructions. It's definitely a whirlwind of emotions, but inviting reflections on gender roles, leadership, succession and much more. Knowingly or not, this book turned into a timeline of sorts that chronicles the major events of ISKCON from 1966-1987. Thank you Nori, you are outstanding and I appreciate your contributions.

great great read ....
Reviewer Shantiq in the United Kingdom, August 21, 2017

First Prabhupada the guru passed away in 77 Nori became involved in 78 as the disciplic succession kicked in and serious mistakes were made by the new "gurus" She became a hugely useful PR person in the LA office and had access to info on all the shenanigans and all the main protagonists They really went off-piste there for a while in some quarters

She documents it all clinically impartially and yes beautifully with much compassion
The ship righted itself 3 years on and ISKCON in 2017 is healthy wealthy and wiser
She wrote the piece as a Mea Culpa although you will struggle to find a culpa in her case

Ace read for
1. Devotees
2. Casual chanters
3. Students of organisations cults any human group historians of religion historians
4. Absolutely anyone who likes a great story and a good read

Highly recommended

Haribol! Folks

Excellent, candid, ISKCON Hare Krishna from the inside. Loved this book!
Reviewer: Rabbi Goldstein in Canada, February 14, 2014

I absolutely loved this book. Personally, I was an initiated devotee of Srila Prabhupada who left the movement right after he died. I just couldn't stand the ego-strutting self-appointed new gurus and all their incestuous, self-serving behavior. It took me roughly 30 years to re-evaluate the whole Hare Krishna experience (reading books such as this helped so much to put things in perspective), before I could not (within the last few years), once again return to visiting my local (Toronto, Ontario) ISKCON temple and chanting rounds again. Nori's book shows her devotion to Krishna in a very touching and genuine way. She was (my opinion) a huge asset for ISKCON to ultimately lose; so much intelligence and talent to offer! Well, I'll just say "Thank You!" for writing this book. Although it exposes some of the ludicrous things that took place after A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami departed, it was the average devotees (like us) that made Iskcon tick. Wonderful, inspiring book. Get it!

An inside look at Hare Krishna movement
Reviewer: E. Johnson, June 17, 2008

I enjoy looking at other religions, including the Hare Krishnas as I take a class of students every year to the local temple to find out more about their beliefs and philosophy. Nori Muster was involved in the public relations part of the ISKCON and details a number of stories of corruption that took place in the leadership after the founder died. There were a number of moving places where the reader was able to experience the frustration that Nori must have felt. She was dedicated to her faith, regardless of how her leaders let her down. The book moves well and was a story that was well worth telling. The only frustration I had is that Nori did not let the reader into her personal life, especially her marriage with her husband (whom she is no longer married to). What was it like being married in this group? Did she abide by the teachings when it came to marriage (sex only for procreation)? What was it that caused the two of them to eventually split? And what does she hold today as truth? These were just a few issues that really could have used more explanation. Otherwise, this is an excellent book (I have the paperback edition, and I don't see that available for purchase) that ought to be considered by religion watchers everywhere.

I really enjoyed reading this book
Reviewer: jbird116, January 12, 2018

I really enjoyed reading this book. I knew some of the history of the Hare Krishnas because I had lived close to one of their centers which was in the news a lot in the 80s and 90s. What I especially liked about this was the perspective it was written from. You get to see what ISKCON's troubled times looked like to a devotee on the ground who had joined just as the chaos was really about to break out. If you have any interest in the Hare Krishna movement you'll love this book.

Reviewer: AJDM, January 17, 2020

Very interesting look at the life of a Krishna devotee. This is not the story of someone who was brainwashed into a cult, but rather the story of a person who found a form of spirituality suitable for her, and wanted to defend the organization that, allegedly, was supporting it. That is, until the dissapointments were too much to handle. The book is quite enjoyable to read, also thought-provoking and/or sad at times. I guess people who know the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, either from the inside or as an interest from outside, will benefit more from reading this book than those who know nothing about this movement, but the author provides concise and sufficient explanations for the later kind of reader. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in religion and spirituality.

We can handle the truth...
Reviewer: Peter Jarrott, May 5, 2017

Very enlightening. Nori worked in ISKCON's P.R department , which was sort of like the Ministry of Information for Big Brother in 1984...
Nori tells the story of how all the controversial news was covered up in ISKCON ... I never knew that ISKCON Gurus ordered 14 year old girls to marry older men. I never knew that Prabhupada married an 11 year old girl... Even the shocking child abuse in ISKCON schools was kept covered up and they still try to cover it up today but the internet and good devotees like Nori make it much harder for bad management to do that these days...
Evil is victorious when good people say nothing...

Must Read
Reviewer: Amazon Customer, November 10, 2021

Thank you for Betrayal of the Spirit. Your memoir presents valuable information on the economic history of ISKCON, the sources of money that built ISKCON, and the impact of changing financial circumstances on its internal dynamics. Moreover, Betrayal of the Spirit provides much-needed context for other books on the Hare Krishna movement. For example, Nicole Karapanagiotis really should have cited Betrayal of the Spirit when she wrote Branding Bhakti. Nori Muster and Nicole Karapanagiotis both focus heavily on ISKCON’s public relations challenges, and yet the latter does not cite the former. Moreover, in Betrayal of the Spirit, Nori Muster thoroughly explains how drug smuggling and gun violence tarnished ISKCON’s public image. It seems to me that the bulk of Nori Muster’s public relations (P.R.) work was reactive, aimed at putting out fires and responding to scandals—the P.R. Office mostly played defense. ISKCON survived, but what kind of future does the Society want? It is not an easy question to answer. Firstly, ISKCON’s stated goals could differ from its true goals. Secondly, ISKCON is not a single unified entity. However, it is clear the organization would like to diversify its base. In North America, ISKCON knows it is in a vulnerable position because they acquire most of its funds from one demographic (Indians). If Indians unexpectedly sour on ISKCON, the organization could suddenly collapse. Hence, the adoption of western-focused marketing in which ISKCON goes on the offensive to expand its membership beyond Indian-bodied souls.

I was surprised to learn opposition and splinter groups emerged as early as 1980. So ISKCON has quite a bit of experience in dealing with dissenters. I am curious about the age profile or age pyramid of devotees who actively preach against ISKCON. Time favors ISKCON if anti-ISKCON devotees are elderly. Demographic factors are powerful. All other things equal, the group with the larger cohort of younger devotees is at an advantage. I was intrigued by your paragraph on Amogha-lila, who claimed to receive messages from Prabhupada through dreams, trances, and visions. I am interested in writing, self-hypnosis, and psychic practices, but I steer away from automatic writing!
Hare Krishna.Chand Prasad biodynamictheology.com

Well worth buying and reading.
Reviewer: Waldwinthir Elphias Hiedelphuns Gilliwater, May 21, 2018

A beautiful heart touching tale of one wonderful womans time in a very difficult time. I too was a former devotee and related to so many things in your book. Its a book i see myself reading again and again. Thank you for being so wonderful and brave and brilliant.

A Former Krishna Leader Tells the Story of the "Darkest" Time of the Group
Reviewer: Steven H Propp, January 15, 2014

Author Nori J. Muster joined ISKCON in 1977, lived in their western world headquarters, and worked for ten years as public relations secretary and editor of their newspaper, the ISKCON World Review. She has also written books such as Cult Survivors Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life,Child of the Cult,Learning to Flow with the Dao: The 64 Hexagrams of the I Ching, etc.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1997 book, "As a devotee of ISKCON... I wore a sari, studied the philosophy, and chanted every day. During the course of my work for the public relations department, I learned about many troubling organizational issues. This book focuses on my experiences in Southern California... Millions have found peace through chanting Hare Krishna, and I believe A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought genuine spirit to the West. The word 'betrayal' refers to the attitudes and event that betrayed the spirit." (Pg. xv)

She recalls, "After a lecture on the Bhagavad-gita, everyone sat in rows ... to wait for the feast... I asked [a senior devotee] why the Hindus didn't dance. He said they liked ot worship in a more subdued way, especially through ... the viewing of the deities. Hardly any Hindus gave up their jobs and homes to move into a temple, he said, but that was okay because they were 'householders,' and rules for householders were less strict... Prabhupada wanted the full-time devotees to uphold the most orthodox Vedic customs and monastic life-style in order to build a foundation for a Vedic social system that would last ten thousand years." (Pg. 21)

After Prabhupada's death, "The transition of power seemed to go smoothly, but Prabhupada's death and the resulting zonal guru system were devastating turns of fate. Behind-the-scenes politics were concealed from newcomers like me. I could hardly imagine that the Governing Body Commission's position paper amounted to a bloodless coup, but it did. The gurus claimed the mantle of power and called themselves the 'collective body' of Prabhupada. There were severe consequences for any Prabhupada disciple who disrespected the zonal guru system. A scholarly devotee in India... was silenced and forced out of the organization... They made an example of him, and the incident chilled the atmosphere for anyone else who wanted to speak out. All ISKCON temples became the gurus' territory. Many people were unhappy... but no one could do anything about it." (Pg. 31)

She states, "Considering [ashrams'] apparent prudishness, it's surprising that only months before the women lived with a male leader, and a different one slept with him each night. This scandalous form of management took place in several U.S. temples, but it did not come from Prabhupada, nor did he know about it. The GBC passed resolutions to ban it in 1977 and 1978." (Pg. 37)

She writes, "Over Labor Day weekend that year [1979], New Vrindaban's grand opening of Prabhupada's Place of Gold was the media's place to be... I believed that New Vrindaban was great, but devotees who came from there had strange tales to tell. One former resident said that lax attendance at the morning program meant no food in the communal dining room. Rumors of child abuse dated back to 1974... The place of women at New Vrindaban was low, possibly the lowest in all of ISKCON. Women who left ... told stories of physical and sexual abuse, and... they still slept with their male sankirtan leaders..." (Pg. 58-59)

Although there was a murder connected to ISKCON drug trafficking, she recalls, "At the time I didn't know that in the 1970s ISKCON accepted money from a number of different drug-dealing operations. I was unaware of these facts and defended ISKCON because I believed the overall organization was benign. Thousands of devotees in a hundred temples innocently worshipped Krishna and led a Vedic religious life-style. I was naive. Like many devotees, I believed that book distribution provided all the money that built ISKCON." (Pg. 64-65)

She admits, "Ramesvara's band of ... 'warriors' took to guarding the temple twenty-four hours a day... I didn't realize they were armed, but they were... To those of us who lived there and trusted the temple, the men were nothing more than private security guards... truth be told, the organization was in deeper trouble than anyone outside could know. Without Prabhupada, there was no accountability, no place for the buck to stop. An organization with no ultimate accountability is a dangerous thing..." (Pg. 85)

This is a fascinating account of the "darkest" time in the ISKCON movement, and this book [along with Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas will be of great interest to anyone wanting to know more about this period.

boring and unlikely
Reviewer: HRon, November 8, 2015

Disappointing book, expected more from it. The author expects the reader to believe that she was A. entrusted with tricky and complex responsibilites, and B. had no clue of what was going on. Her claims of naivete wear thin. the rest of the info is probably available in any newspaper archive or other accounts. book not worth the money or the time to read it.

A birds eye view of the challenges that hit a ...
Reviewer: williamogleon, April 22, 2015

A birds eye view of the challenges that hit a struggling modern religious movement following the passing away of the founder in times of social upheaval in America. Nori Muster is an honest and articulate witness reporting events in which she was a major player. What she has to say is important to everyone interested in Krishna Conscious but also to a larger audience interested in the cultural evolution of spirituality in America and the world.

Crushed by the Krishna's
Reviewer: janet kay shieldson, August 1, 2014

Almost impossible to put this book down. A writing style that draws you into the story, entrancing and compelling. There is interesting commentary as the the WHY young people were drawn into this belief system and sub-culture. Haven't gotten to the part about how Ms. Muster was personally impacted, know it will be worth the wait and sad reading of her let-down. I wish her well....

Swami Prabhupada is still worthwhile even if ISKCON has had its problems.
Reviewer: Hamza Philipon, September 14, 2012

I am not and have never been a part of the Hare Krishna movement, as it is popularly called, but my interest in comparative religion has led me to read books by Swami Prabhupada, and so I have some interest in ISKCON and the stories of those who stayed in the movement and those who left the movement. The author still considers herself a follower of the late Swami Prabhupada, which I believe is a good thing despite her experiences within ISKCON. In modern secular America, many movements are given the label "cult" because individuals have bad to horrific experiences while a part of a particular group, and the experience seems strange to those who may be part of a traditional religious movement with beliefs and practices that have been a part of their lives since childhood. I certainly believe there are groups that are very dangerous, but ISKCON is not one of them. That doesn't mean, however, that ISKCON hasn't had it problems. What Swami Prabhupada established in the USA beginning in 1965 was traditional religious movement with a long history in India. I doubt any traditional resident of India in 1965 would have considered the teachings and methods of Swami Prabhupada as being "cultist". I'm sure other sects who use some of the same scriptures might have considered Swami Prabhupada to have an ineffective religion, or to be a "wrangler" or even a heretic. Swami Prabhupada at times complains of other sects and other gurus who he believes have published faulty commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures. As one who has studied the history of both Christianity and Islam, criticism of competing movements is standard practice for both Christian and Muslim writers. In Evangelical Christianity, there are Christian ministers who make a living with a ministry solely dedicated to selling books and other media on cults. The largest religious organization in the World, the Roman Catholic Church, is considered to be a "cult" by many fundamentalist Evangelical Christian cult ministries. Because the "Hare Krishna" movement, as a very conservative non-Western religious movement, was considered a "cult" from the very beginning by fundamentalist Evangelical Christian "cult-hunters". When one thinks about it, what happens if a young person from the late 1960s counter-culture, who may come from a, say, Conservative Lutheran background suddenly writes home and tells his or her parents "I'm not doing drugs anymore, but I'm chanting Hare Krishna and the eating vegetarian and you should try it!" This is not the case in the book Betrayal of the Spirit, but other young people in this situation who were in their early 20s, so legally adults, found themselves held hostage by deprogrammers hired by their parents, who are attempting to force (not persuade) the young person to renounce this religion. What about their responsibility as adults? What about their Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen?

While the author of this book did not have that particular experience, when I see the word "cult" in a review of a book written by someone who left a new religious movement, it does make me think of television specials I saw as a teenager in the 1970s and makes me wonder who gets to decide if a religious movement (old or new) is a cult, or not? Someone in a religious movement that is established and considered part of the American religious scene? Is that even constitutional?

All in all, I do believe Betrayal of the Spirit gives a good critical look at ISKCON during the period the author was a part of the organization. However, just because an organization has the kinds of problems outlined in the book does not mean that it is a "cult". The Gaudiya Vaisnava school is a legitimate Hindu religious movement based on Vedic teachings. I believe that ISKCON, like any large organization, can develop problems and have corrupt leaders, yet the actual religious movement itself is not a cult, unless only politically correct (by modern Western standards) religious movements are the only ones allowed to exist in the USA. I'm not giving an opinion either way on whether or not the teachings of Swami Pradhupada are true. I am making the case that the religion propagated by ISKCON is not a cult, whatever problems the organization may have had in the past, or may have now.

An inside look at Hare Krishna movement
Reviewer: E. Johnsonon June 17, 2008

I enjoy looking at other religions, including the Hare Krishnas as I take a class of students every year to the local temple to find out more about their beliefs and philosophy. Nori Muster was involved in the public relations part of the ISKCON and details a number of stories of corruption that took place in the leadership after the founder died. There were a number of moving places where the reader was able to experience the frustration that Nori must have felt. She was dedicated to her faith, regardless of how her leaders let her down. The book moves well and was a story that was well worth telling. The only frustration I had is that Nori did not let the reader into her personal life, especially her marriage with her husband (whom she is no longer married to). What was it like being married in this group? Did she abide by the teachings when it came to marriage (sex only for procreation)? What was it that caused the two of them to eventually split? And what does she hold today as truth? These were just a few issues that really could have used more explanation. Otherwise, this is an excellent book (I have the paperback edition, and I don't see that available for purchase) that ought to be considered by religion watchers everywhere.

everything is a tradeoff
Reviewer: Hari Sujathan "Hari" (Cochin, India), February 16, 2009

u need to chant Hare Krishna. Just ignore iskcon teachings. you are architect of your destiny

Well done
Reviewer: A Customer, March 13, 2001

I am an iniated member of ISKCON - have been for the last 10 years or so. Still, I rate this book with 5 stars. Why? Because I know that what Nori writes is the sad truth. And we need more books like this. Readers who do not know ISKCON (the hare-krsna-movement) should and just read this book in order get their prejudices confirmed should keep one thing in mind: We are a young movement in the West, and yes, we make all kind of mistakes. Yet - we talk about it. Many ISKCON-members: leaders, rank-and-file-devotees, friends are trying to change ISKCON, to make it, as Srila Prabhupada put it: a house where the whole world can live in. Nori's book is wonderful; I like the style, I like her personal realizations about ISKCON, and I can only congratulate her. There is one sad part to it, though: We need people like Nori *in* ISKCON, not out of it. On the other hand - who if not people like her will make things happen? Thanks, Nori, I love your book! Hare Krsna!

An excellent book detailing the life of a betrayed follower
Reviewer: A reader from Ames, IA, August 16, 1999

Nori Muster had great spirit when she entered a life as a Hari Krishna devotee and that spirit was obviously broken by the betrayal of the sect's leadership. Cults and indeed any religion that sitfles thoughts and freedom tends to destroy the follower. In looking at other customer comments I could see that some followers wrote disparaging remarks and for me, a non devotee, I think that illustrates some of the walls that Nori encountered. We are creatures of God and not simple possessions of religious leaders. This is a very good book and an important one for anyone who wants to abandon themselves to the total control of other human beings. I wish she could have said more about what drives Americans to such zeal and submission. —This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

an illuminating picture of a young woman's struggle
Reviewer: Melody Fahey, Salem, Oregon, December 4, 1998

I loved Nori Muster's book, Betrayal of the Spirit. It took me back to the old days in Los Angeles when I lived near the Hare Krishna Temple with my ex husband, guitarist John Fahey. John loved this book so much that he has bought it twice (after losing it once on the road). I remember John taking me over to the temple, to what he called "Little India" and introducing me to the chanting, drumming, and the free vegetarian Sunday feasts. We were given the royal treatment, with tours and (I'm sure) people assigned to us to try to convert us. Although neither of us ever became devotees we were always made welcome at the temple and I bought John a drum and he bought me a sari.

Betrayal of the Spirit has all of the color and drama of a vivid memory. I could smell the incense, hear the music, feel the emotions of the devotees. The costumes, the makeup, the deities in the temple, they were all there. Even an elephant. What more could a seeker after the exotic want? Nori's intimate description of the inside workings of ISKON satisfied quite a bit of my curiosity about how the organization was run in those days and I found that she portrayed the characters with an attention to detail that really brought them to life for me. I was able to appreciate the conflicts not only between various factions within ISKON, but within each individual. The goal of spirituality was often endangered by the temptation of power.

One of the themes that ran throughout the book was the relationship between father and daughter, and how Nori managed within the context of ISKON to follow in her father's footsteps by becoming a Public Relations worker. Her father's advice and support throughout despite her choice of a very different way of life was touching, and Nori's acceptance of his terminal illness was proof of her spiritual outlook.

Betrayal of the Spirit is an illuminating picture of a young woman's struggle to find peace, fulfillment, and structure in a materialistic world where "woman's place" has not yet been decided and men (and women) often long for enlightenment, but settle for money. - Melody Fahey

Reviewer: Jamie Velasquez (long island, ny), September 19, 2006

I am not a hare krishna but am interested in the belief system. knowing that there is/can be scam and politics of all sorts in any organized religion/belief system, i wanted to make sure i dident just focus on the one sided view you get from the devotees on the street.

this book is well written and easy to read. i read it non-stop until i finished it.she def set the image in your head as you were readnig.

some of the responses below from prior/current devotees/followers seem to show they are one sided with their view and dident get her point. nori's view was more on the organized portion of the system, not so much the belief portion, even though she did touch base with why women are so low on the bottom... in the end she is still a follower which shows she did get the point. her heart is still open to krishna himself.

she did touch briefly on the child abuse, but this is common all over now. no different if it is a priest or a monk molesting a child. just because they performed the act doesent mean the "religion" itself is warped, just the individuals who performed the act.

the "religion" doesent teach to beat/molest children and women, these are the actions of those who obviously dident get the point..with somethings, she pointed out how some of the higher level people would twist the "Religions" rules, to fit there own needs, again this is the action of the individual, not the "Religion"

i dont see it as she was knocking the whole system because of the individuals and their acts, but when you are a "leading part" of the system and you see that what you are being told to do is just masking the problems, its hard to want to stay a part of running things, especially if your heart is pure and open to your beliefs.

I don't see this book knocking the religion or keeping people from wanting to take interest in visiting a temple or learning more about

People just needs to remember that just because the belief's of a "religion" are pure, it doesent mean the organization running/promoting it is also pure. we also need to remember that the people running the system are still people and are subjected to the same errors as the rest of us. Sometimes errors are made and things can be fixed over time..i think this is what she was getting at. It was a shame to see her leave, but I guess she was weak in that area, but it has to be hard after dealing with the same thing for 20 years..

Her story is starting from back in the 70s. Hopefully there have been many changes since. I don't think her writing this book was an act of violence at all. By pointing out errors and things that need to be changed will only help in the end. She was not putting things down, just pointing them out.what do you think if Prabhupada would have done if he was still around and saw the mistakes..he would work to fix them..not hide them.


An eye opening insight into the hidden world of Hare Krishna
Reviewer: Rick Stoff from California, December 4, 1998

Ms. Muster takes us into a world we never see, much the way Jim Bouton once took us behind baseball, and others have taken us into political campaigns, cinema and many other "businesses" that can only be seen from the inside.

The true hero of the book, and the constant voice of reason and fairness, is her father. Ms. Muster allows us to travel the twists and turns of a true believer becoming disillusioned, and she lets us lean on her father,s strength during those confusing days just as she did. To my reading, this is the most touching part of the story.

Missing the point
Reviewer: A reader from Los Angeles, March 26, 2001

Miss Nori has written an interesting account of her less than happy experiences within the Hare Krishna movement. Amazingly, she says she still believes the Hare Krishna philosophy and considers herself to be a devotee of Krishna. She blames the leaders of the organization for all of the problems she describes in the book. By doing so, she fails to see the connection between the philosophy being propounded and its inevitable results.

The organization of the Hare Krishna's, known as ISKCON, is an attempt to institute what is known as the Hindu Caste System onto the rest of the world in the name of spirituality and devotion. That's why the Hare Krishna members dress in Indian clothes and have shaved heads with their little pony tails. They think they have become Hindu Caste Brahmins (priests) and are now the heads of society and are therefore solely qualified to tell everyone else in the entire world how to correctly lead their lives. This attitude is spread throughout all of their teachings. The 5,000 year old Hindu Caste System is one of total male dominance and female subordination, so how can Miss Nori complain about the leader's all being men and women being kept subordinate? Did it really take her ten years to figure all of this out? Perhaps she never read the part in the Hare Krishna philosophy wherein it is stated that females only have 60% of the brain substance of men, never mature emotionally beyond the age of 11 and therefore all have to have arranged marriages.

The fact that Miss Nori says she still believes and follows the teachings of Hare Krishna, in spite of her experiences, is a testimonial to the incredible brainwashing techniques she was exposed to for ten years. She has missed the entire point. The problem with ISKCON is not the corrupt leaders. It is the absurd attempt to impose the Vedic Hindu Caste System onto the rest of the world, which she apparently still wants to participate in.

no point missed!
Reviewer: An Amazon.com Customer from Detroit, October 30, 2002

To the unfortunate person whose review is titled "Missing the Point"- i'm afraid it is you, my friend. Hare Krsnas are NOT about spreading the Hindu caste system throught the world , nor are they trying to create some elite class of MALE Brahmins.

Actually, ISKCON founder Srila Prabhuada constantly spoke out against the Hindu caste system- which places people in caste BY BIRTH. Meaning, the son of a Brahmin is automatically considered a Brahmin. Prabhupada practised genuine Vedic dharma in granting devotees Brahmin initiation based on QUALIFICATION—and to women too!

Youll be surprised to know that the base of Krsna Conscious philosophy is "Aham Brahmasmi"- I AM SPIRIT.

There is no distiction based on temporary bodily distinctions such as sex, race, or even species!

Hence the fact that devotees practice Ahimsa "nonviolence" to ALL living beings. Yes, i lived in Krsna temple for 2 years and have been a devotee for almost 10. There are inumerable women devotess who are Brahmins, Priests, and temple leaders. And as a male devotee, one of my many services involved cooking and cleaning in the temple. There is no "woman's work" predjudice. We are all spirit-souls serving Sri Krsna. The movement is not perfect- but the philosophy of Vedic culture and the devotion of Srila Prabhupada will inspire the heart of any open minded person!

I just cannot see lies spread about my culture. Please forgive me if i have made any offenses. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!*

There Are No Victims, Only Volunteers
Reviewer: Gaura Dasa "Gaura," December 14, 2005

As a 31 year member of the Hare Krishna Movement, I apologize on behalf of the angst and disappointment Nori has experienced, as expressed in Betrayal of the Spirit. I empathize with her, as I have experienced similar, but I am also eternally greatful for all the devotees within the movement that invested their time in me, to help me shape my character, and give up a materialistic life for genuine spiritual life. This is something that is lacking in her book.

As Nori knows, the founder, Srila Prabhupada, described that there are two types of mentalities, that of the fly, and that of the bee. The fly looks for the toxins and the bee for the nectar. Is this book a meditation on toxins or on nectar ? I have had my share of disappointments with various leaders, and have been a leader myself in the Krishna movement. I am sure I let many people down as well, but with my limitations , I tried to overcome my lower nature. I don't think that the well-wishing founder of the Hare Krishna Movement would approve of this book, as it gives a very distorted view of what the Hare Krishna Movement was not intended to be, and actually is not.

Srila Prabhupada, who she still claims to be a follower of, would say that there may be spots on the moon, but it does not effect the illumination. I remember meeting Nori and her husband in their offices one time, to thank and commend them on the movements newspaper that they were editing, and how they called it the Whitewash Review. It was then that I realized they were writing things that were "politically correct" because there probably was some pressure to do so.

I am not currently very active within the mainstream Hare Krishna movement, but I don't see the value in scaring people away from visiting a Hare Krishna temple. I think is is actually a disservice, and an act of violence in itself. The greatest decision I ever made in this lifetime was to visit a Hare Krishna temple, and the incredible effect the lifestyle has had on my development as a human being. Even Lord Krishna showed us the example of sucking the poison out of the witch Putana, but delivering her back to the spiritual world because of acting like a nurse to Him. I could also try to cash in on a percentage of $13.00 by writing about all the faults I experienced in the Hare Krishna Movement, but better I write volumes about my own short-comings and improve them, but who would want to read it ? We become what we meditate upon.

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the purest and most profound author of spiritual literature that anyone could read. His books are available online, or at any Hare Krishna temple. He said that he too was a member of ISKCON, and "ISKCON with all thy faults, I love thee". Does this mean that Nori's standrards are higher than his ? I hope Nori and her husband will bury their hatchet and continue to participate in a way superior to cashing checks from hanging out the dirty laundry known as Betrayal of the Spirit. I think she has betrayed her own spirit by publishing it. I am also trying to learn to take responsibility for my own decisions and to give up the "victim" role, otherwise how will I ever grow ? The saints within ISKCON far exceed the deceivers.

Not impressed
Reviewer Nadia (Oxfordshire, UK), March 12, 2005

Self-pitying, weak-minded and unbalanced account of one woman's involvement in the Hare Krishna movement. I would have admired her more, if she had taken responsibility for her own mistake in getting involved in something which she later regretted, rather than blaming others. And I thought it a shame that she should vent her spleen in a way damaging to an organisation, which has helped so many.

After ten years, realisation ? hmmm
Reviewer Trancer108 "En-trancer" (London), May 30, 2007

after ten years in the movement, the penny dropped. 'This is a cult, I must leave'

This is an excellent and well written book, riveting. However things are not black and white in life. Surely there is some good in the movement, and when a book is written in a one sided manner, it makes my critical mind itch.

you may wonder why one would not leave after a week, one month, one year, five years, but after a decade, and yet come out with an imbalanced view of the movement.she left after the second decade in the movement. Given that there were a lot of relevant events that happened. But ten years, My mind needs more justification.

I will also add that often, those following a regulated spiritual discipline appear very strange tothe outside world, and often it is in these very people that the world takes solace. Systems are corrupt, as are goverments, some argue even the present governments. Critics abound, we still live for we cannot escape being under some kind of authority. Some may argue that we are under the ultimate authority of God. Now looking from this context, ascribing a magnamous amount of ills to one movement may seem naive. Is it then the movement or the people that this individual has encountered.

Her website is of excellent quality, showing that Art therapy can help break the shackles of a cult. After reading we may wonder does Krishna conciousness fit the bill of a 'cult'. would it be possible that those who are not brought up in a eastern culture may find things within that culture abusive. I am not however discrediting her experience of abuse. I respect her life journey. certainly food for thought, not sure if we can go beyond thought though.

Loving the Good or Hating the Bad are NOT the same
Reviewer Kaunteya "Kaunteya" (Ireland), March 27, 2006

I went to a Kumbha mela in India in 1965 at 18 years old and experienced many of the sincere Holy sadhus of India. In the same year Srila Prabhupada went to America with a message of How to get Back to God. Drugs and sex were not the way.

I joined iskcon in 1978 as well and left iskcon in 1984 for pretty much the same reasons as Nori. However, I have never left the love of Srila Prabhupada.

The danger Nori has here is by focusing on hating the bad our consciousness becomes very stained. I decided to simply Love the Good in all that passed through my life, including iskcon.

The study of human nature is fascinating. I went to the big Mayapur festival in 1980 and there were 11 "holy thrones" for the 11 American holy young men who staged a coup after their leader left his body. To them their spiritual Dad had died and it was case of getting into a position of power in iskcon. They just did what came natural to ambitious americans. Take control of the iskcon world.

I looked at this with some amusement and immediately said to a devotee next to me, "Eleven green bottles sitting on a wall, and if one green bottle should accidently fall there'd be ten green bottles left hanging on the wall."

It was just so obvious to anyone that these young American boys were no sadhus. But they were connected to one.

Over the past 26 years nearly all the green bottles have indeed fallen, but they were never supposed to be on the holy thrones anyway.

My young son who attended the school in vrindavan had a dream where Srila Prabhupada was trying to get onto his throne but was unable as there were too many american kids sitting on it. He turned to my son and just said, "What have I done"?

Radha and Krishna are a sweet loving and divine couple. Loving consciousness is their message. By focusing on the good we become sweet. By focusing on the bad we become sour. I say, focus on the sweet and good. It will all work out fine ...in the end. Haribol!

iskcon truth or silence
Reviewer: A reader, November 19, 2000

the iskcon movement is about truth and kindness. Simple words as a chant can be powerful tools is achieving goals. This book illustrates an organization grown from fear,drugs and theives. To produce a gentler world is not easy but to work with worst of society and create perfection. But it does happen

sour grapes
Reviewer: Tim Mullen, from San Diego,Ca. United States of America, February 24, 2000

It is sad to me to see the woesome tale of the author and her experience with the Hare Krishna movement,especially with so much time invested.What is even more upsetting is that after all that time in the movement and with the knowledge that in this day and age we are surrounded by hypocrisy and people with a cheating mentality,the author didn't strive to work for,and be a shining beacon of the good people involved in administration.Instead,it seems prevalent that these days everyone has resorted to becoming a complainer.Anyone with any information at all in regards to the essence of what Srila Prabhupada was bringing to America knows that these problems are to be expected in the world we live in today.It goes on everywhere. It's all about Lord Krishna,pure love of God,and it is unforgiveable of this woman in my opinion to scare people with this nonsensical work of self pity.There is no reason on this earth that such a beautiful and timeless practice of honoring God and His followers, what to speak of His ambassadors cannot be an "organized"effort.There will always be and there have always been the bad apples in every facet of human society and it will never change the truth.I suggest you, and anyone you can get to go with you,go to a Hare Krishna temple for a feast and rejoice that one of those living angels that give "tours" or try and "convert" have given their time and energy for your own spiritual advancement.Of course that is if you are interested or receptive enough to see through the fact that in any path you take,some of the people in the past, and probably the future too,will not be up to par due to their own inner demons. - This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

great example of what a true seeker should NOT do
Reviewer: A reader from TX, July 2, 1999

This is a great book for teaching by example what one should NOT do if they wish to see Lord Krishna's smiling face behind His material nature's bewildering veil. A word of advice to any true seeker-which the author could not follow due to whatever excuses she makes here- is never quit, never quit, never, never, never quit!. :)

An example of those who follow and those who don't.
Reviewer: A reader from USA, June 10, 1999

This book is an account of what happens when those who claim to follow the world's oldest scriptures (the Veda's) are actually acting to the contrary. I am sure there are many good Hare Krishna and other Hindu devotees who are sincere, but in all religions there seem to be a group of people who are hypocrites. No religion should be condemmed because of these people, or all religions would be victims. The book tells about those who are good and strict devotees who don't strive to do sinful things and also accounts those who don't exemplify a real Hare Krishna and are not following the Vedic scripture, but just claim to be. This is account that could be applied to all religious paths and their followers. It draws a picture of both sides of a coin and looks at what scholars call the "world's oldest religion" and what other people call a "cult".

Moving story but not insightful
Reviewer: A reader from Oakland, California, January 8, 1999

The book narrates a moving story which shows from a personal point of view how difficult it is not to conform to mainstream culture. But it is not insightful about the larger Vaishnava movement in America or in India. For that read Klostermaier's "Hindu and Christian in Vrindavan" or his newer "A Short Introduction to Hinduism."

Clearly a Masterful Retelling of Challenging Times
Reviewer: Gati-devi Moore, December 25, 1998

Nori Muster's book, Betrayal of the Spirit, can help other people to understand their own journey better. Throughout, she has acknowledged what happened when certain souls took free rein with C & M, control and manipulation, and the high prices paid by the many when these abuses took place. The fact that she was able to grow in relationship with her father during this time is a tribute to them both, and those parts of her story make the reading well worth the price of the book. For anyone who ever wonders about life in ANY heirarchal spiritual organization, PLEASE read this book. You will gain information to help you keep both your eyes and hearts open for the rest of your days. Whilst some people will do darn near anything in the name of adoration and their own glorification, we also learn about the deep essential goodness which other souls will always support. Thank you, Ms. Muster, for doing this world a favor and bringing this book to life. The seeds which you have planted will reap a strong harvest on the side of Truth for long, long time to come. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

A disillusioned Krishna member's recollection
Reviewer: A reader from Tempe, AZ, December 14, 1998

Nori J. Muster joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) - the Hare Krishnas - in 1978. She lived in the Krishnas' western world headquarters in Los Angeles and worked for 10 years as a public relations secretary and editor of the organization's newspaper, the ISKCON World Review.

Her book, Betrayal of the Spirit, discusses international drug smuggling, arms caches, airport fundraising, child abuse, and assassinations within the mysterious group, as well as the dynamics that forced most of the grou's original members to leave.

Muster's book is about the public relations nightmare of the decade following Founder Swami Prabhupada's death. Disillusioned over continuing internal strife, in 1988 Muster left the world of saris, brass cymbals and institutional male chauvinism to come back into mainstream American life.

Her story reads like a non-fiction suspense novel while she shows how an organization can quickly fall into dishonesty, deceit and hypocrisy. Her story is intensely personal, touching - and a great read.

Publishers Weekly called it "nothing less than mesmerizing." I enjoyed reading it.

A gripping page-turner
Reviewer: A reader from Santa Rosa CA, December 9, 1998

Ms. Muster's book is a compelling read. Her personal accounts of life inside the Hare Krishna movement draw us in, leaving us wanting more. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Cult followers wake up.
Reviewer: A reader from Los Angeles, California, December 6, 1998

This well written book of life in a cult should be read by anyone contemplating joining any organization. Beware all naive "true believers"! This book is must reading for all people seeking the freedom to evolve to their highest potential without being manipulated or lied to by their leaders.

This book is a facinating look at the Krishna movement.
Reviewer: A reader from Tucson, AZ, December 5, 1998

Betrayal of the Spirit was a riveting, well written look at the Krishna movement. I enjoyed the way the author wove the history of the movement with her own personal experience as a Krishna. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Krishna movement.

Accurate portrayal of the Hare Krishna cult in crisis
Reviewer: A reader from Canada, December 5, 1998

An unusual insider account of the Hare Krishna cult by someone who survived the experience. Muster, initially naive, finds herself at the center of a maelstrom as the organization falls into disarray and corruption after the death of its founder, an elderly holy man from India. The author credits her father with helping her grow through the experience, soul intact. A strong, well-documented book, and the author can be forgiven for a bit of self-indulgence. If you want to know about the Hare Krishnas, this book is a must!

A boring overdone, self-pitying story
Reviewer: A reader from Australia, July 31, 1998

This book is lousy and boring. It absolutely pours into you with self pity. I would not recommend this book to anybody. What a joke... I mean those Krishna's have helped the world. And all this lady does is complain, complain. Definetly not a book for those interested in elightment. Infact this book not only bored me but made my day worse.

Excellent insider testimonial of the Hare Krishna people.
Reviewer: A reader, May 2, 1997

Nori's book at times brought tears and at others, buried rage, because I lived it too. She speaks the truth about the lies and corruption that tore away at a spiritual movement when the founder passed away. Only time will tell if the truth and inner purity of this ancient yoga system will be reborn

Another Devotees Opinion
Reviewer: anonymous

I am a practacing devotee of the Hare Krishna movement, and have been so for the past six years or so. I would just like to say that I can relate to a lot of things that have been described in this account. These things indeed happened in the past and I have personaly experienced a lot of the situations described by the author. I have experienced this for myself practicaly. However, there have been many people who have described this book as an unbiased inside account of what the Hare Krishna movement is all about. Well I would just like to say that I have been a member of this movement for a similar amount of time as the author and I must say that this account is far from balanced account.

I personally sympathize with the author of this book, and I am upset that she was treated in this way. These things should simply not be going on in the movement. But I must say that I have too experienced these negative attitudes of some devotees in the movement. But what about the sincere genuine devotees who are nothing like this. What about the positive side, the actual real side of what the movement is all about. For example, Nelson Mandella has praised the Hare Krishna Food For Life effort in Africa. What about the devotees who are selfless and sincere. This book does not serve justice for them or the actual essence of the movement. I feel hurt when I read this book because it only shows a negative highly biased side of the movement as do many anti-cult books have done in the past, which simply focus on the horror stories which happened in the past. Sure these things happened but there will sadly always be bad apples in any organisation. I find it highly un-inteligent that someone can judge the whole society based on the activities of a small percentage of members. I heard the other day that one Christian Priest in America would engage in beating young girls as they where tied up in order to discipline them. Would you condemn the whole of Christianity by this individuals behaviour? Would you condem the whole of Islam because of the September the 11th atrosities? Of course not, but I have found people doing the same by condeming this movement due to the behaviour of certain criminals which have nothing to do with and completely contradict the whole Vaisnava philosophy.

I as a practicing member of this movement I would just like to say that I feel very sad and hurt that people in this day and age are condeming this movement because of some of the negative incidents that have happened in the past and some of the problems that are occuring at the present time. Surely there are problems in the movement, and maybe this book will help address them, but I find it unbelievable that inteligent people write off the whole society, while having no real knowledge of what the movement is all about. I am refering to people who have read this book and have concluded that this movement is some sort of evil sick cult. I find this very ignorant.

This movement is a genuine spiritual culture which goes back thousands of years and I think that modern society will surely benefit by embracing it instead of moving further and further down the road of materialism, which im sure is not the right direcion.

A portrait of mounting corruption and its concealment.
Reviewer: Gordon Neufeld (Calgary, Alberta), January 12, 2005

This well-written book provides a good account of how a religious organization can become increasingly corrupt yet seek to conceal and deny this corruption at every turn. Muster recounts her own role in this deception. For much of her time in ISKCON, she was an editor and writer for a sect newspaper that tried to balance journalism with its purpose to put a positive spin on whatever was happening within the organization. Finally, the evidence of corrupt behavior became too great to ignore, and when Muster attempted to publish interviews and stories that mildly touched upon controversial events, she was thwarted by the cult authorities. Eventually, Muster had no choice but to leave the group. In the author's view, ISKCON's problems began with the death of the supreme guru, Srila Prabhupada, in 1977. This resulted in the devolution of authority to eleven "zonal gurus" who lacked the charisma and Vedic scholarship of the cult's founder. Inevitably, some of these gurus went completely overboard, spurred on by the cult's practice of worshipping—in effect, deifying—them. The new introduction to the book, written later than the original introduction by Larry Shinn, implies that the author no longer categorically rejects the mind control/manipulation model that Shinn seems so eager to discard. While this book offers a good overview of the decline of ISKCON in America, it does not provide a lot of insight into the lifestyle of ordinary members of ISKCON, such as those who went to airports tirelessly for years to raise money for the cult. I found myself wanting to know more about the private thoughts and feelings of the person Nori Muster and not just about the series of scandals that swept through the cult in the 1980s.

not happy with the criticism
Reviewer: A reader, July 3, 1999

I think the author's disatisfaction is understandable, but if she is so unhappy with ISKCON, why doesn't she work to improve it? What good does complaining do? Why air out our dirty laundry for any fool or rascal to see? What good will that do to help our movement? I've been a full time member over 23 years, and overall I've had a good experience. ISKCON is like a hospitable. Fools and rascals will come and go, but some do become spiritually healthy and are therefore eternally grateful, despite the faults that are present within ISKCON and, by-the-way, everywhere else in the world. Those who corrupt ISKCON will eventually hang themselves with their own rope. And don't forget - they are a product of the surrounding materialistic culture - not ISKCON. Don't lump us in with them. There still are some very pious souls within the movement, working for its good. I think Nori should come back and help.

The spiritual odyssey of a Krishna follower
By Rama Rao "Rama" (Annandale, VA, USA), February 12, 2011

The author was looking for a spiritual direction in her life, and she found that in the Hare Krishna movement. In the beginning, she found ISKCON was filled with joy, happiness, and peace, but when she left the organization after a decade; she found it scarred with scandals, enmity, and descended in disgrace. The death of the founder Prabhupada brought changes and years of confusion which was tumultuous. No one in the organization comprehended what would be the fate of the organization at this critical period of its life. Many followers left in disgust or disappointment. The Governing body council (GBC) made of 11 men enforced its rules, but for believers, the rigid patriarchal structure was too hard to bear and some henchmen including the gurus, and local temple leaders took advantage of their political might and subjected their followers, especially women and children to abuse. The taste of money and power corrupted many leaders.

Many people think that this book is similar to John Hubner's scandal filled book "Monkey on a Stick," but actually this is different from it in its narrative style and the story. This is partly an autobiography where the author discusses the spiritual joy of Krishna consciousness she experienced in the beginning and her father's positive influence in her personal, professional and spiritual life. This book in some way is similar to Mukunda Goswami's "Inside Hare Krishna Movement," which focused on ISKCON global communication strategies. Likewise this book also focuses mainly on issues surrounding the governing body and the dissemination of information through the organization's publicity wing, the "The ISKCON World Review." One of the responsibilities of the author was to disseminate the ISKCON news as it happened and also ensure that it creates positive image for the organization.

This book does not get into details of the scandals as John Hubner does in his book "Monkey on a stick," but discusses the issues and the steps the PR department has to take to minimize the damage and correct the erroneous ways of the individual or the group involved. Issues like women raising more money than men in sankirtan program but they never had any say in the managing the organization or sankirtan parties. The PR department urged temple leaders to change their ways of doing their business. The Los Angles temple took steps to change this practice and set an example for other temples. The 1973 attack on deities at New Vrindaban by a group of motor bikers discusses the bad media publicity on the organization and the subsequent investigations that lead to the detection of stockpiling of assault weapons. The Rishabdev of Laguna Beach temple was explosive news since his connection to drug dealers in Southern California to raise money for temple projects caused concern for the principles on which the organization was found. The biggest challenge to the PR department, the author recalls is the 1980 raid in San Francisco and the large cache of weapons found on the temple property. Guru Hansadatta strongly believed that the war between United States and Soviet Union was inevitable and he thought they had to defend ISKCON organization in an armed struggle. It was getting harder to keep the organization from media assault and the crippling effect it had on ISKCON. Other problems for PR department were GBC unity, guru reform, initiation by suspended guru's and stealing of devotes from another guru. Certain media coverage helped the organization such as Life magazine's cover page picture of Hare Krishna girls in saris and the gopi makeup provided a positive image of ISKCON. Chapter 9 entitled "The gurus start world war III" is an interesting account of the evolution of several splinter groups around the country by ex-ISKCON members.

Bill Muster, the author's father had experience as a PR person in the "Save the Delta Queen" campaign to win congressional exemptions from legislation. He guides the author in her publicity/marketing of the movement, and provides positive impact on her professional life. He is even positive about her joining the ISKCON movement and not pleased when she leaves it. One of the touching parts of her personal story involving her father is in the last few pages when he is dying of cancer. He finds peace in God and the faith that his soul would continue after death. His last wish was to be cremated after his death and ashes dispersed in the southeastern part of India amid chanting of sacred hymns by a Viashnava priest at a remote Hindu temple on the edge of Bay of Bengal.

Even though many have fallen and left Krishna life entirely, some are spiritually compelled to go back to the movement because of its metaphysics, the rituals and Krishna consciousness. Reincarnation, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, chanting, and meditation have become common to many in the West, partly because of the determination and courage of Prabhupada to come to United Sates to save thousands of souls which otherwise would have been lost to drugs, sex and alcohol.

1. Hare Krishna Transformed (The New and Alternative Religions Series)
2. Hare Krishna in America
3. Inside the Hare Krishna Movement: An Ancient Eastern Religious Tradition Comes of Age in the Western World
4. The Dark Lord: Cult Images and the Hare Krishnas in America
5. Monkey on a Stick (Onyx)
6. The Hare Krishna explosion: The birth of Krishna consciousness in America, 1966-1969
7. Inside the Hare Krishna Movement: An Ancient Eastern Religious Tradition Comes of Age in the Western World

other reviews