Kirtanananda Swami, also known as Swami Bhaktipada, is an American religious guru, former ISKCON guru and co-founder of the New Vrindaban Hare Krishna community in Marshall County, West Virginia. Born Keith Gordon Ham on September 6, 1937. At the modest storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue, Keith decided to accept Swamiji as his spiritual master, receiving initiation as "Kirtanananda das" ("the servant of one who takes pleasure in kirtan") on September 23, 1966.
Swamiji sometimes called him "Kitchen-ananda" because of his cooking expertise. On August 28, 1967, while travelling with Swamiji in India, Kirtanananda das became Prabhupada's first disciple to be initiated into the Vaishnava order of renunciation (sannyasa: a lifelong vow of celibacy in mind, word and body), and received the name Kirtanananda Swami. Shortly, however, Kirtanananda Swami returned to New York City against Prabhupada's wishes and attempted to add esoteric cultural elements of Christianity to Prabhupada's devotional bhakti system.
Kirtananda Swami was the son of a Southern Baptist minister he believed that the spreading of Krishna consciousness was hampered by the devotees’ odd appearance—by the traditional robes and sikha on the cleanly shaven head. In letters from India, Prabhupada soundly chastised him. At a festival at New Vrindaban on Janmastami 1970, Kirtananda Swami, along with other three leaders, Sudama, Brahmananda and Visnujana, had announced that by leaving America, Prabhupada had rejected his disciples for failing to recognise that Prabhupada was actually Krishna Himself. This is considered to be a sign of mayavada-impersonalism. Some note that "Kirtananda had previously failed to distinguish between the personal and impersonal" understandings of God, and at this point he was among the four who had failed to distinguish the guru from the God. All four were banned from preaching within ISKCON.
Starting New Vrindaban community Previous to this when on return from India Kirtananda Swami moved in with his friend Howard (now known as Hayagriva Dasa), who was at the time teaching English classes at a community college in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. In the San Francisco Oracle (an underground newspaper), Kirtanananda saw a letter from Richard Rose, Jr., who wanted to form an ashram on his land in Marshall County, West Virginia. "The conception is one of a non-profit, non-interfering, non-denominational retreat or refuge, where philosophers might come to work communally together, or independently, where a library and other facilities might be developed." Kirtanananda Swami and New Vrindaban Community president Kuladri das, c. mid-1970s On a weekend free of classes (March 30–31, 1968), Kirtanananda and Hayagriva visited the two properties owned by Rose. When Hayagriva returned to Wilkes Barre, Kirtanananda stayed on in Rose's backwoods farmhouse. In July 1968, after a few months of Kirtanananda's living in isolation, he and Hayagriva visited Prabhupada in Montreal.
Prabhupada “forgave his renegade disciples in Montreal with a garland of roses and a shower of tears.” Palace of Gold Late in 1972 Kirtanananda and sculptor-architect Bhagavatananda das decided to build a home for Prabhupada. In time, the plans for the house developed into an ornate memorial shrine of marble, gold and carved teakwood, dedicated posthumously during Labor Day weekend, on Sunday, September 2, 1979. The completion of the Palace of Gold catapulted New Vrindaban into mainstream respectability as tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands of tourists began visiting the Palace each year. A "Land of Krishna" theme park and a granite "Temple of Understanding" in classical South Indian style were designed to make New Vrindaban a "Spiritual Disneyland." The ground-breaking ceremony of the proposed temple on May 31, 1985, was attended by dozens of dignitaries, including a United States congressman from West Virginia. One publication called it "the most significant and memorable day in the history of New Vrindaban."
Upon Prabhupada's death on November 14, 1977, Kirtanananda was among eleven of Prabhupada's closest disciples who were selected to act as initiating gurus for ISKCON. Assault and ensuing expulsion from ISKCON Kirtanananda Swami under house arrest, 1992 On October 27, 1985, during a New Vrindaban bricklaying marathon, a crazed and distraught devotee bludgeoned Kirtanananda on the head with a heavy steel tamping tool. In 1985 after a temple president's meeting in New Vrindavana a number of changes to the authority of gurus and GBCs in ISKCON were proposed, Kirtanananda did not agree to reform.
Many scholars concur on identifying the major issues facing ISKCON at this point: "Who are the real inheritors of Prabhupada’s mantle? The new gurus? The GBC? All the disciples of Prabhupada who have the capacity to be gurus?" On March 16, 1987, during their annual meeting at Mayapur, India, the ISKCON Governing Body Commission expelled Kirtanananda from the society for "moral and theological deviations."
They claimed he had defied ISKCON policies and had claimed to be the sole spiritual heir to Prabhupada’s movement. Thirteen members voted for the resolution, two abstained, and one member, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, voted against the resolution. Criminal conviction and imprisonment In 1990 the US federal government indicted Kirtanananda on five counts of racketeering, six counts of mail fraud, and conspiracy to murder two of his opponents in the Hare Krishna movement (Chakradhari and Sulochan). In 1996, before Kirtanananda's retrial was completed, he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering (mail fraud). He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was released on June 16, 2004. Recent activities Kirtanananda Swami in New York City, March 4, 2008.
For four years after his release from prison and before leaving for India in 2008, Kirtanananda (now using a wheelchair) resided at the Radha Murlidhara Temple at 25 First Avenue in New York City. This temple was purchased in 1990  for $500,000 and was maintained by a small number of disciples and followers, although the temple board attempted to evict him. In 2008, Kirtanananda emigrated to India, saying he did not expect to return to the United States. "There is no sense in staying where I am not wanted," he said. Bibliography Kirtanananda Swami authored two dozen published books, some of which were translated and published in Gujarati, German, French and Spanish editions.
Books by Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada:
-The Song of God: A Summary Study of Bhagavad-gita As It Is (1984)
-Christ and Krishna: The Path of Pure Devotion (1985)
-L'amour de Dieu: Le Christianisme et La Tradition Bhakti (1985)
-Eternal Love: Conversations with the Lord in the Heart (1986)
-The Song of God: A Summary Study of Bhagavad-gita As It Is (c. 1986) Gujarati
-On His Order (1987) -The Illustrated Ramayana (1987)
-Lila in the Land of Illusion (1987)
-Bhaktipada Bullets (1988), compiled by Devamrita Swami
-A Devotee’s Journey to the City of God (1988)
-Joy of No Sex (1988) -Excerpts from The Bhaktipada Psalms (1988)
-Le pur amour de Dieu: Christ & Krishna (1988), French edition
-One God: The Essence of All Religions (1989), Indian publication
-Heart of the Gita: Always Think of Me (1990)
-How To Say No To Drugs (1990)
-Spiritual Warfare: How to Gain Victory in the Struggle for Spiritual Perfection (1990)
-How to Love God (1992), based on Saint Francis de Sales
-Sense Grataholics Anonymous: A Twelve Step Meeting Suggested Sharing Format
-The Answer to Every Problem: Krishna Consciousness (2004), Indian publication
-A Devotee's Handbook for Pure Devotion (2004)
-Humbler than a Blade of Grass (2008), Indian publication
Web site: http://www.kirtananandaswami.org/