Someone Has Poisoned Me - Part 6
BY: NITYANANDA DAS
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The Facts About Srila Prabhupada's Poisoning by Arsenic
Part 6 - - Chapter 1 to Chapter 6
"So as Krishna was attempted to be killed... And Lord Jesus Christ was killed.
So they may kill me also." (Srila Prabhupada, May 3, l976, Honolulu)
"my only request is , that at the last stage don't torture me, and put me to death"
(from SPC Vol. 36, November 3, 1977 tape recorded Room Conversation)
SOMEONE HAS POISONED ME
CHAPTER 1 TO CHAPTER 6
POISON BECOMES AN ISSUE
Rumors about a poisoning of Srila Prabhupada have been circulating around the world of devotees ever since Srila Prabhupada's departure over 20 years ago. Rupanuga Prabhu remembers the subject arose in 1980 and Rupa Vilas Prabhu and this author heard about it in 1990. A few years ago, Satyaraj Prabhu asked his friend Tamal Krishna Goswami about the matter, and was told that these persistent rumors come back to life every so often, much to Tamal's dismay. Abhinanda Prabhu was recently disturbed by these rumors, as well as many others. Paritrikananda Prabhu in California began to research the rumors and assemble evidence and leads out of his own need for finding the truth. A list of notes in this regard is included as Appendix 9. In early 1996 Paritrikananda Prabhu tried to interest this reporter in the matter, but at the time there did not seem to be any way to convert the rumors into facts. Puranjana Prabhu, a well-known, controversial and vitriolic critic of ISKCON policies, amplified the issue in mid 1997, publishing on the internet information and questions on the subject. At the 1997 Los Angeles Rathayatra, Puranjana was picketing with a large sign which stated that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned, referring to Srila Prabhupada's own statements to that effect in the Conversations Books.
When Isha Prabhu in Miami heard of the poison issue, he became disturbed, disbelieving all of it as nonsense. He had been Satsvarupa Maharaj's secretary in Dallas in late 1977. When Satsvarupa Maharaj returned from Vrindaban just after Srila Prabhupada's departure, Isha was given 20 tapes with instructions to make 10 sets of copies to send to various ISKCON leaders before forwarding the original tapes to the BBT Archives in Los Angeles. Isha Prabhu did this, but kept an extra set for himself. He dug out these tapes after 20 years of storage and made copies for Mahabuddhi Prabhu's birthday. Isha asked Mahabuddhi to listen to the tapes carefully, as he himself also did, in hopes of finding an answer to the question: was Srila Prabhupada poisoned? These 20 tapes of Srila Prabhupada's last conversations, although the English portions were transcribed in the Conversations books, had never been released or advertised by the BBT Archives tape ministry. Thus, only a very few devotees had ever listened to them. However, copies are available upon special request from the Archives.
POISON WHISPERS DISCOVERED
Almost simultaneously, Isha, Mahabuddhi and Balavanta Prabhus found and focused on several whispers on a tape labeled T-46, the third from the last known recording of Srila Prabhupada, and dated November 10 & 11, 1977. Isha Prabhu, a devotee since 1974 and long-time supporter of the Miami ISKCON temple, stated:
"When I first heard of the poisoning issue I became concerned and investigated by listening carefully to the twenty tapes in my library from Oct-Nov 1977. After thoroughly listening to them I concluded that if Srila Prabhupada was poisoned it was the result of accidental overdose or misuse of his medications. That same day Mahabuddhi called and told me of suspicious whispers he had found on the same tapes of November 1977. I examined the whispers carefully using sophisticated electronic equipment, and had enhancements done on the tapes by FBI approved laboratories. My conclusion after hundreds of hours of analysis is that it is possible that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned. I called Balavanta and asked him if we could form an investigation committee. He agreed that Mahabuddhi, Jagajivan and myself would be on it and that we could create a forum on ISKCON's COM so we could communicate privately about these issues."
This reporter also interviewed Mahabuddhi Prabhu, former temple president, former promoter of Prabhupada's Palace bus tours in New Vrindaban, and founder of the Florida Vedic College:
"We listened to Srila Prabhupada's tape of November 10-11. My son Mahasimha, when I was out of the room, had heard a whisper, so he called me back and we played this whisper again. We enhanced it and listened to it, and it really sounded strange. We became a little bit shocked, because we thought we had heard something like: LETS POISON IN THE MILK, and the more we heard it, the more we listened to it, about 100 times that night, the more it sounded that way."
WHISPERS ALARM DEVOTEES
Mahabuddhi Prabhu e-mailed his discovery to Balavanta and phoned Isha. Apparently Balavanta and associates in Alachua were already aware of the whisper, because the next day, November 11, 1997, the Vaishnava News Network, or VNN, posted not only Mahabuddhi Prabhu's letter on the internet, but also a statement from Balavanta as the newly appointed "GBC special investigator." Apparently the GBC Executive Committee and the GBC Chairman, Madhusevita Prabhu, acted quickly, without full approval of the GBC, by immediately arranging for Balavanta Prabhu to investigate "independently" the alleged poisoning of Srila Prabhupada, beginning with research into the validity and nature of the alarming whispers.
Balavanta's report stated, regarding the November 10-11 tape (T-46 or #18 out of the last 20):
"…it contains a whisper which refers to poison. This tape was digitally processed for clarity by an independent laboratory in Gainesville, Florida. According to the laboratory technician the following is the probable contents of the whispered statement. Either:
1. "Lets not poison him and go" or
2. "Lets now poison him and go."
We are currently sending the tape to another laboratory with more advanced equipment for further investigation. We will report the results of that study as available."
It is noted here that, to the best of our knowledge, this was the first and last public statement made by Balavanta as GBC Special Investigator. Since then, however, Balavanta Prabhu has spoken with others about the investigation unofficially. He, Mahabuddhi and Isha discussed arranging for more testing on the whispers, and Balavanta disclosed that he had sent the T-46 "poison tape" to the National Audio Video Forensic Laboratory in California, headed by a Mr. Norman Perle. Just two months prior, Mrigendra Prabhu, a devotee attorney and former temple president of Los Angeles ISKCON, had sent the famous so-called "appointment tape" of May 28, 1977, to Perle's lab to test for evidence of alleged tampering or editing. The appointment tape forensic test results will be discussed later on in Chapter 11 and Appendix 1.
Meanwhile, Isha and Mahabuddhi were finding more incriminating-sounding whispers on the same "poison tape." In total, as reported on VNN, they were:
1. "Lets poison him and go," or perhaps, "Put poison in the milk"
2. " poison ishvarya rasa…get ready to go",
3. "the poison's going down, the poison's going down"
4. "put poison in different containers."
The level of concern and fear amongst devotees became greatly heightened. On November 30, Isha, very expert in manipulation of computer and sound recording equipment, reported on VNN his own personal findings in regards to the poison whispers on the "poison tape." They were:
The audio clips including the above whispers were posted on VNN on December 5, 1997. It is difficult for many to make out the whispers due to so much of the quality lost in that means of transmission. Dozens upon dozens of devotees have been taken by Naveen Krishna Prabhu in Alachua to a local sound studio to listen to the enhanced and "cleaned up" whispers. Most agree, after listening carefully a few times, and there is no doubt in their minds, what the whispers are about: Srila Prabhupada was poisoned in a conspiracy by His own closest disciples. The number of devotees with this experience in Naveen Krishna's sound studio continues to grow as time goes on.
POISON INVESTIGATIONS BEGIN
While Perle was analyzing the poison tape as per Balavanta's instructions, Isha called Perle and discussed the whispers' locations on the tape. Perle stated that he had been asked to study only one whisper, and to do it on a shoestring budget. It has been unofficially learned that the report Balavanta received from Perle soon thereafter did NOT verify the whispers, and the report has never been made public. Surprised to hear this, Isha called Norman Perle to discuss his findings. Isha relates his talk with Perle:
"I had discussed with Perle about several locations of the tape which contained whispers but when Balavanta received his report there was a great deal of confusion about what Perle had actually analyzed. I called Perle the day after my conversations with Balavanta to discuss my concerns about which sections of the tape he was listening to. I could not get a clear answer from him but he did make a statement which raised my suspicions even higher. He said that conversations and events on the tape did not represent the actual events taking place. He said that he was 95% convinced of that."
Balavanta Prabhu also could not clearly identify for Isha which sections of the tape or which whispers Perle had examined. Thus it was speculated that Perle had analyzed the wrong whispers on the tape, as there are many throughout the tape, and did not examine the ones referring to poison. Interestingly, though, Perle had alluded to fraudulent tampering of the tape, a subject we address later. Suffice it to say at this point that Perle mistakenly thought that the stop-start routine of recording was evidence of tampering. Mahabuddhi and Isha were disturbed that Perle's report was not made available to them to verify or contradict their suspicion that the wrong whispers were examined. The credibility, accurateness and value of Perle's report to Balavanta was thus deemed highly questionable.
Also, at this time, Balavanta Prabhu now would no longer take a personal position on the whisper issue as he had at the start. He had become private, grave, and attorney-like in his behavior. Further, what had begun as a cooperative effort had now effectively split into two groups: the secretive, "independent" GBC investigation and the work done by an entity called the Independent Vaishnava Council, with Mahabuddhi and Isha Prabhus' participation. Isha explains his disappointment with Balavanta:
"Balavanta informed me that there was no longer an investigation committee and that he was going to act alone based on the GBC's instruction. I had already shared with him all the information I had gathered from the tapes and became further disturbed because of his breaking our agreement. Over the next several days I sent out several more e-mails detailing the results from the sound labs I had worked with in Miami. The VNN website (vnn.org) agreed to publish my findings. The CHAKRA website (chakra.org), which was created later, has refused to post my reports, however."
Mahabuddhi also states: "…we had cleaned some tapes and made some enhancements on some segments …we actually delivered these tapes to Balavanta who came to West Palm Beach to meet with us. We were always very cooperative, and at that point we thought we were working as a group or a team, but then he told me that actually he's now the only investigator."
Mahabuddhi and Isha then decided to continue with their audio forensics investigation on their own. At this point this reporter became intimately involved in their investigation. The whispers were digitally enhanced and cleaned for clarity by prominent and first-class sound studios, one of which was Soundtrack, Inc of Miami, headed by George Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell, who does a lot of work for law enforcement agencies, reported in early December, 1997:
"First of all, what I remember hearing on his tape after cleanup was "It's not poison in the milk" or, allowing for an unusual speech pattern by the speaker, "It's not poisoned milk." As in handwriting analysis, one calls upon other skills besides engineering for this type of work. At this point I relied heavily upon my 25 years of experience in musical training and in recording voices for commercials and narrations."
George Blackwell then describes how he adjusted the pitch, filters and equalizer to obtain a variety of listening conditions. His conclusions, it must be noted, however, were based ultimately upon listening with the human ear and did not include more sophisticated analytical methods.
Harikesh Maharaj, then the GBC for much of Europe and the principal guru-power/broker in ISKCON, reported on the internet that by listening to the whispers with the equipment used for his tape ministry, he and his aides could not hear anywhere the word "poison" being whispered. He did admit, though, that it remained a big mystery to him as to why Srila Prabhupada would say that he was being poisoned.
Bir Krishna Maharaj (GBC vice-chairman at the time), Bhakticharu Swami (ISKCON guru), and Rabindra Swarup Prabhu (GBC and ISKCON spokesman), made a joint statement on the internet on January 17, 1998 that they also had listened to the poison tape, and in their opinion, the whisper about "poison in different containers" was actually "posing different opinions." They also had several Bengalis translate the whisper "poison ishvarya rasa" as a Bengali term meaning "in a few days time." It should be clarified, however, that the whispered poison phrase comes right after the Bengali phrase so translated. This attempted sweeping aside of one of the four whispers is the same kind of error likely made by Norman Perle analyzing a non-poison whisper and then saying there is no poison word. One wonders whether these GBC's were doing shabby or dishonest reporting; it is quite obvious to anyone who listens to the tape that the poison whispers comes after the Bengali speaker.
News of the poison issue circulated quickly and was featured on the internet by the VNN and, later, by the "ISKCON-friendly" CHAKRA websites. Visits to VNN's site tripled as thousands checked in every day for "poison issue" news, showing that devotees worldwide were very interested and concerned about the poison issue. It was clearly not a non-issue.
Given the seriousness of the matter, it is surprising that for many weeks no official statement was issued by ISKCON. Finally, on December 7, 1997 it came, composed by Bir Krishna Maharaj and, as he put it, "stiffened-up" by Rabindra Swarup Prabhu and Mukunda Maharaj. It read:
"Certain conspiracy theorists have been propagating of late the allegation that the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON met his demise on November 14, 1977 due to intentional poisoning at the hands of his own disciples. The GBC of ISKCON considers this charge both absurd and offensive. Based on considerable testimony from those present at the time, and on its own preliminary internal study, the GBC is convinced that no such evil deed or even intention existed at the time. The GBC is certain that Srila Prabhupada's passing away was due to entirely natural causes, as his doctors stated.
Some persons have claimed that they heard the word "poison" whispered on a tape said to have been made in Srila Prabhupada's room. Many others, however, find the whispers indecipherable. In other words, one can read into the whisper almost anything one chooses. Nonetheless, some persons are bent on establishing the false and malicious theory that some of Prabhupada's own disciples conspired to poison him.
To refute this charge beyond the slightest doubt, the GBC has given the original tape over to independent forensic experts for detailed analysis. The singular purpose is to lay to rest malevolently motivated theories about Srila Prabhupada's passing. According to Balavanta das, head of independent investigation, "Initial reports from two of the forensic laboratories, both of which used equipment more sophisticated than any previously applied, do not find the word poison on the tape and do not support allegations of any wrongdoing."
It is now clear to the GBC that the report of taped whispering conspirators is a false alarm. The GBC is confident that the final forensic report will confirm these preliminary findings."
This official statement, one of only two issued by ISKCON at the time this publication went to press (the other is Appendix 21), has dismayed many devotees who had hoped ISKCON would lead the search for the truth. Now, anyone who would feel or express justifiable and legitimate concern over the circumstances of Srila Prabhupada's departure from this mortal world, has been condemned as a virtual enemy of ISKCON. It is perhaps this blatant shunning of efforts of cooperative goodwill offered by those outside the institutional walls that feeds the perception of a dishonest GBC, who many feel has become expert in keeping closed a Pandora's box of gruesome ghosts collected over 22 years of embarrassing history.
The GBC says they are "convinced and certain that Srila Prabhupada was not poisoned." Yet at least some of the GBC'sarranged for Balavanta's investigation to research the matter, indicating that even they have some doubts. Suspicions arose in the minds of many about the GBC's honesty and the supposed independent investigation they initiated. Does the apparent half-hearted and non-aggressive nature of Balavanta's investigation have to do with the GBC's influence, who, in a state of denial, hopes this issue will fade away? Does this look like an open and honest attempt to satisfy natural and obvious questions raised by the evidence itself?
Has Balavanta Prabhu decided to maintain silence until he can accumulate enough evidence to make a complete report? Are Balavanta and Naveen Krishna Prabhus, past and former GBC members, compromised by their past political allegiances, or are they truly concerned in uncovering the truth of the poison issue?
What are the findings of the "considerable testimony and preliminary internal study"? What in this material has so thoroughly convinced the writers of the ISKCON statement that there is no cause for concern- why not share this with the Vaishnava community? Where are the doctors' statements verifying natural causes to Srila Prabhupada's passing away? (There is no indication that such a thing ever existed!)
If ISKCON is really to refute the supposed charges of poisoning beyond the slightest doubt, as they say, then they should immediately enlighten everyone with full disclosure of all their findings, such as their audio lab reports, interviews, if any, and a full explanation and answering of questions by Srila Prabhupada's secretary and primary caretaker for most of 1977: Tamal Krishna Goswami. When contacted by Dhaneshwar on behalf of this author, Tamal refused to discuss the issue or answer questions, saying that there was already an ongoing investigation. Tamal previously told Satyaraj Prabhu that if he answers one question, there will be hundreds more (Yes! and all should be answered! Why not?)
Also, what was the second audio forensic lab report obtained by Balavanta Prabhu? One report was the Norman Perle report, which may be of dubious value, as we will see later herein when reporting on Perle's appointment tape analysis. Was the other lab the sound studio in Gainesville? What other audio forensics had Balavanta Prabhu done, if any?
This reporter interviewed Balavanta Prabhu in mid January 1998, learning that he was receiving very limited funding for investigative work from the GBC, and that he was donating his time, as it may be available, to work on the investigation. Balavanta flatly stated that unless there is some new evidence or major breakthrough, such as a witness coming forward, that his poison investigation might soon close down with an inconclusive report. As this book goes to print, it is understood that Balavanta has not yet conducted any interviews, and may never, with possible suspects such as Tamal Krishna Maharaj, Jayapataka Maharaj, Bhavananda, Hansadutta, Satadhanya, Bhakticharu Swami and others. He did say that he was making arrangements for the chemical analysis of a sample of Srila Prabhupada's hair and fingernail clippings from October-November 1977. He was in the process of locating a suitable testing laboratory.
It was also understood that Balavanta had retrieved various containers left in Srila Prabhupada's Vrindaban quarters since 1977. In accordance with the whisper about putting poison in different containers, apparently he was going to test those containers for traces of poison. A long shot, indeed.
In October 1997, an entity called the Independent Vaishnava Council, or IVC, had been formed with Balavanta as the chairman, but who then, very soon afterwards, resigned when he became the "GBC investigator." The leadership of the IVC was taken up by Rochan Prabhu, former temple president of Seattle, who explained the development and purpose of the IVC:
"In September 1997, the VNN announced that an Independent Vaishnava Council was forming, headed by former GBC chairman Balavanta das, who practices as an attorney in Florida under the name William Ogle. The Council was formed for the purpose of investigating recorded statements uttered during Srila Prabhupada's final days, which indicated that he was being poisoned. A few weeks later, after the poison whispers surfaced, Balavanta announced his appointment by the GBC as their special independent investigator into these allegations. He made it clear that his activities on the GBC's behalf disqualified him from working with the independent Council, which was then at risk of dissolving. I was asked to take responsibility for moving the Council forward, primarily because I had already developed a comprehensive Internet website -harekrishna.com We launched this pioneer attempt at facilitating a virtual investigative council by creating interactive meeting areas for the Council.
"From day one, the volume of e-mail and incoming calls was overwhelming. We were approached by a number of individuals who offered financing, audio engineering skills, technical and legal support for the investigation. There was a common sense of urgency to compile and distribute a comprehensive summary of all available facts. So, the founding members of the Council began the process of discussing investigative protocol, the philosophical implications, administrative issues, etc. Meanwhile, individual members launched an audio CD project, a series of forensic tape analyses, and various legal and investigative inquiries. We were all moving forward, and making every attempt to cooperate together to pursue the truth."
Mahabuddhi Prabhu, an early IVC member, stated:
" it was a pretty difficult kind of jump to think that one of our godbrothers would even consider doing something like this to Prabhupada. We did not want to be so bold as to accuse anyone, so we thought that, having heard these strange whispers, we had better continue the investigation. Some people clearly heard the word poison, and some didn't. However, we weren't really interested in arguing over who heard what, as we felt that there would always be different opinions. We concluded that the way to resolve this matter was to have the tape analyzed by a forensic laboratory who had the technical expertise to give a definitive statement. We hoped the lab results would disprove that the whispers had anything to do with the poisoning of Srila Prabhupada, which is a totally detestable idea. It is very disturbing to think that any of our godbrothers could do such a thing."
Will be continued on Part 7
Srila Prabhupada left this mortal world on November 14, 1977.
But He lives forever in His instructions, and His followers will always live with Him.
"He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die
While thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the Holy Name around"
(Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura)
HARE KṚṢṆA HARE KṚṢṆA KṚṢṆA KṚṢṆA HARE HARE
HARE RĀMA HARE RĀMA RĀMA RĀMA HARE HARE
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