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Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life Behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement [Paperback]

Nori Muster
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jun 2001
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 per cent 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (30 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252065662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252065668
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,547,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"An important insider critique of a disturbing era in ISKON's history." - Publisher's Weekly "Scholars of religion will find much of value in Muster's thoughtful and well written account. Anti-cultists will find ammunition for their crusade as well." -- Catherine Wessinger, Nova Religio

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The Hare Krishnas' Western world headquarters is on a residential street in West Los Angeles called Watseka Avenue, just off Venice Boulevard near Culver City. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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".
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Moving story but not insightful 8 Jan 1999
By A Customer
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.''
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A boring overdone, self-pitying story 31 July 1998
By A Customer
This book is lousy and boring. It absolutely pours into you with self pity. I would not reco- mmend 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.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another Devotees Opinion 23 July 2002
By A Customer
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The spiritual odyssey of a Krishna follower
The author was looking for a spiritual direction in her life, and she found that in the Hare Krishna movement. Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2011 by Rama Rao
1.0 out of 5 stars great example of what a true seeker should NOT do
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. Read more
Published on 3 July 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A disillusioned Krishna member's recollection
Nori J. Muster joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) - the Hare Krishnas - in 1978. Read more
Published on 14 Dec 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping page-turner
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.
Published on 9 Dec 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Cult followers wake up.
This well written book of life in a cult should be read by anyone contemplating joining any organization. Beware all naive "true believers"! Read more
Published on 6 Dec 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Accurate portrayal of the Hare Krishna cult in crisis
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... Read more
Published on 5 Dec 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opening insight into the hidden world of Hare Krishna
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... Read more
Published on 5 Dec 1998
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