Former Hare Krishna leader Kirtanananda Swami dies at 74
Kirtananda Swami, former American Hare Krishna leader, died Monday in a hospital near Mumbai, India. According to his brother, Gerald Ham, he died of kidney failure at age 74.
Kirtananda Swami, was born September 6, 1937 New York. Given the name Keith Gordon Ham, he was the youngest child of a Baptist minister, Kirtananda was among the first Hare Krishna devotees in the United States. In 1968 he founded what eventually became the largest Hare Krishna community in the country. Despite having been excommunicated in 1987 by the leadership of the Hare Krishna movement, he presided over that community until 1994.
In a letter written to Janardana in 1968, Srila Prabhupada has this to say about Kirtananda Swami and to all those he has accepted as disciples…
Regarding Kirtanananda’s letter, I may inform you that I always think of him and pray to Krishna for his good sense. That is my duty. Anyone who comes to me for my help or wants advance in Krishna Consciousness, and whom I initiate and accept as my disciple, I must pray for him and his welfare always. So Kirtanananda personally served me, especially during my illness, which I always remember. But because somehow or other he has misunderstood our activities that does not mean that I am no longer his well wisher. I write at the end of my letters to my disciples, “Your ever well-wisher”, and as such, I cannot become otherwise than being ever well-wisher of my disciples, even though he may leave me. So I was praying to Krishna that He may save Kirtanananda from his misunderstanding and if ever he chanted Hare Krishna at least once in sincere heart, I am sure Krishna would not allow him to go out of his influence. Therefore, I believe that he can never forget the Form of Krishna, neither he can deny His Personality. It is good news that he is trying to establish a new Vrindaban, which I suggested through Hayagriva Brahmacari, and if he is successful, in his attempt, certainly it will be considered a great benediction upon him by Lord Krishna. When I offered him Sannyas, I expected such great achievements through him and if Krishna desires, he will come out successful in his great attempt. Yes, I expressed my desire to go there through Hayagriva Brahmacari, and if I am invited, to go there, by Kirtanananda Swami, it will be my great pleasure to see the place and enjoy his company.
For entire letter