Followers Hold Vigil For Hare Krishna Leader
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) _ Hare Krishna believers from around the world gathered Wednesday at New Vrindaban’s Palace of Gold for a vigil for one of their top leaders beaten unconscious, allegedly by a member who told deputies he wanted ″to cleanse the church.″
Kirtanananda Bhaktipada, 48, was in critical but stable condition with severe head wounds and doctors were ″cautiously optimistic″ about his recovery, said Paul Burig, a spokesman for Ohio Valley Medical Center. Bhaktipada has not regained consciousness.
Members of the faith from Africa, Canada and India have come to West Virginia to conduct a 24-hour vigil of chants, songs and prayers, said New Vrindaban spokesman Dick Dezio.
″We are very concerned,″ Dezio said. ″We have gotten calls constantly, from Ireland, Nigeria, India.″
Hare Krishna member Mike Shockman, 28, is charged with malicious wounding in the incident in which Bhaktipada was beaten with an iron bar.
Dezio described Shockman as a loner who moved to New Vrindaban in September. Shockman told arresting officers that he acted ″to cleanse the church,″ said Marshall County Sheriff Donald Bordenkircher.
Shockman was being held on $50,000 bond in the county jail, officials said. Bhaktipada is credited with building the Palace of Gold, an ornate temple that attracts thousands of tourists and devotees to New Vrindaban each year. About 600 people live in the religious community.
In addition to the constant prayers and chanting at the temple, Dezio said, Krishna devotees are at Bhaktipada’s bedside, reading prayers.
The hospital was swamped with inquiries about Bhaktipada’s progress, said a hospital spokeswoman who asked not to be identified.
″Yesterday morning, I had 23 calls alone from people and they were all ’his brother.‴ she said.