APnj 11/10 1723 PA-Krishna Kamp ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna representative is se
APnj 11/10 1723 PA-Krishna Kamp
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna representative is searching the Lehigh
Valley for a 300-acre "City of God" site, which would be patterned after the
sect's gold-laden palatial headquarters in the Appalachian Mountains of West
Vishvaretah-das, who runs the sect's publishing company, said the Krishnas
plan to build 12 walled cities around the world and are looking at the Lehigh
Valley as a potential site.
"It may prove to be impractical, but we thought it was worth investigating,"
Vishvaretah-das had a meeting arranged with a sales representative from
Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate to look at several 300-acre tracts of
farmland within a 50-mile radius of Allentown.
But Raphael Ciesielczyk, the sales representative, said the meeting never
Ciesielczyk, who works out of the Sears Financial Center, said
Vishvaretah-das canceled a noon appointment. She said it was rescheduled for 5
p.m., but a mortgage closing in Easton prevented her from making the
appointment. When she returned about 6 p.m., she was told that Vishvaretah-das
had returned to West Virginia.
Ciesielczyk, who was contacted by the Krishnas about two weeks ago, said the
appointment was not rescheduled. She said the Krishnas had dealt with other
Coldwell Banker franchises in the past.
The Coldwell Banker agent said there are no 300-acre sites available in the
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area, but she had several sites near the Lehigh
Valley that might fit the sect's needs.
"A 50-mile radius of the Lehigh Valley is the ideal area," Vishvaretah said.
"We'd rather not have to go the other way toward Trenton."
Vishvaretah-das, whose non-religious name is Bill Walthall, visited the
Lehigh Valley in place of Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, leader of the Krishna
community of New Vrindaban, near Wheeling.
Vishvaretah-das said Swami Bhaktipada was unable to visit the area because
he is preparing for a landmark religious ceremony this week in which the
Krishnas will elevate three women to the highest levels of the sect -- a move
tantamount to the Catholic Church ordaining women priests.
The New Vrindaban community, a communal setting where about 600 Krishnas
live and work, came to national attention when a Swami Tirtha was convicted of
murder in the 1983 death of a fellow Krishna. There have been persistent
reports of murder and brutality in the sect.
Tirtha and Bhaktipada subsequently were indicted by a federal grand jury on
charges of malicious assault, arson and mail fraud.
Bhaktipada, who founded the New Vrindaban community in the late 1960s, has
Vishvaretah-das said Bhaktipada, a disciple of the Swami who brought Krishna
to the United States, built the lavish City of God with the help of volunteers.
The Palace of Gold, its centerpiece, has been called the Taj Mahal of the
United States. With a 2 1/2-ton dome of 24-carat gold, its marble walls are
lavishly adorned with gold ornamental work and intricate stained glass windows.
The grounds of the 300-acre complex include lakes, sculptured gardens and
wild animal sanctuaries. The community has begun construction of a second
major complex, known as the Temple of Understanding -- an ecumenical facility
with 16 sub-temples dedicated to major denominations.
Vishvaretah-das said the goal is to build 12 such communities around the
world, including one proposed for the ancient city of Kiev in the Soviet Union.
"The more the Iranian war heats up, the more the stock market fluctuates,
the more the AIDS epidemic increases, the better the chances of building these
communities," he said. "In times of crisis, people take shelter in God; they
gravitate toward religion."
APpa 11/10 0250 Krishna Home
By The Associated Press
A representative of a West Virginia-based Hare Krishna sect was in New
Jersey looking at possible sites for one of 12 walled "cities of God" the group
wants to build around the world, officials said.
"We have no immediate plans for New Jersey," group spokesman Gadadhar Das
said in a telephone interview Monday from his West Virginia office. "We're
looking at places all over the world and the visit to New Jersey doesn't mean
any deal is being made now or in the future."
Das said group representative William Henry was in Atlantic City on Monday
and planned to visit the Trenton area today.
Sect leader Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada originally planned to visit New
Jersey to survey the sites but wasn't feeling well and sent Henry instead, said
Henry said last week that the walled city would be home for 12,000 followers
and would include a temple.
About 600 members of the sect live in a compound called New Vrindaban near
the Appalachian Mountain community of Moundsville, W.Va.
Mercer County Executive Bill Mathesius said the county's growth management
plan does not include "a provision for a city of God, a suburb of God or a farm
Das said Monday that Henry had no plans to meet with government officials
during his trip.
The sect has been investigated on allegations of laundering drug money,
sexually abusing children and copyright infractions. Bhaktipada has denied any
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