Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trouble brewing at Hare Krishna group in Adelaide

Vivianne Kharel, with husband Gour-Gopinath, said she was unfairly expelled from her job at the Krishna office in Kilburn. Picture: Tait Schmaal Source: Sunday Mail (SA)

BENEATH the mysterious singing, dancing world of the Hare Krishna, there is trouble brewing.
It is a society normally associated with love, peace and harmony, but several Krishna's insiders say they are unhappy with the way the religion is being run.
A former high-ranking Krishna at the Adelaide Temple has taken the leaders of the national congregation to court over claims she was unfairly dismissed from her role.
There are at least 50 full-time initiated devotees - people who have taken specific vows - in Adelaide, plus a congregation of at least 4000 followers who attend major festivals.
The Krishnas have just finished celebrating the biggest two days on their calender, the appearance day of their late leader, Srila Prabhupada, on Tuesday, and the appearance day of Sri Krsna, Supreme Personality of Godhead, on Monday.
Worshippers erupted into readings, homages and eventual fasting as they paid tribute to their late leader, Prabhupada, who founded the religion in the 1960s, and their spiritual God.
The congregation, which assembles at the Krishna Temple in Kilburn, is made up of mostly Indians who are seeking worship after relocating to Australia.
After a boom period sparked by a society craving for alternative thought in the 1970s, numbers have declined and there are now very few worshippers in SA who are westerners.
The Immigration Department confirmed it was aware of claims some priests from poor countries such as India have been used in Australia as collectors rather than leading congregations.
Priests are required to be paid about $40,000-$50,000 annually under federal immigration laws.
An Immigration Department spokesman said they were aware of the allegations against the Krishnas.
"The department takes all allegations of this nature very seriously and investigates where appropriate. However it is not appropriate for us to discuss matters which we may be investigating," he said.
Vivianne Kharel, who was until recently a public officer with the society, said she had been expelled from the Kilburn Temple following her fallout with the Krishna's national president and treasurer, Andrew Marsh.
However, Mr Marsh said they were forced to remove Mrs Kharel from the temple because of inadequate leadership.
"The (Kilburn) temple was not being run properly, they did not have any money and I had a lot of complaints from members about her (Mrs Kharel's) management," he said.
"It was a very difficult time and unpleasant situation, the temple was quite workable, we appointed a new manager and things are moving forward and working quite nicely now."
The two warring parties have been unable to resolve their differences as yet, and the matter has been listed for a magistrate's hearing next month.
Mr Marsh also denied any culpability for any of the alleged immigration scams, claiming they were an Adelaide problem.
"It is quite ironic that those accusations are being levelled at us when it was one of the things which was concerning us about management in Adelaide."
Mrs Kharel's husband, Gour-Gopinath, has also taken the congregation to the Adelaide Magistrates Court over claims it is withholding more than $10,000 he lent it to pay the Kilburn temple's power bills.
"My husband has been through so much and he is a gentle kind man yet still they choose to treat him like this," Mrs Kharel said.
Melbourne-based devotee, David, said he was let down by the Krishna hierarchy when the society became embroiled in a child sex scandal in 2006.
"My daughter had been solicited by one of the priests and when I found out I assaulted him," he said. "Instead of counselling my family, . . . (Krishna management) bailed the guy out of jail after he was arrested and gave him refuge at the temple."
However, Mr Marsh said the Krishnas were lawfully required to support the priest before he was sent back to India following the court trial.
"You really have to be careful in that particular situation. When we sponsor people we have a legal responsibility to keep shelter over their heads," he said.
The priest was eventually found guilty of sex offences and deported to India after being given a suspended sentence.

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