Tulsi Gabbard Had a Very Strange Childhood - 2019-06-11
In 1970, the Honolulu Advertiser published a piece called "One Man Rules Haiku Krishnaites," with the subhead "Absolute power of devotees." In the photo beside the piece, Butler is seated shirtless and smoking, hair skimming his shoulders and a sarong around his waist, staring alluringly into the distance, a mischievous smile on his face. It is the expression of less a guru than a playboy, and this is how Advertiser reporter Janice Wolf depicts him, a handsome dictator with the ability to hypnotize the two dozen 18-to-22-year-olds who live with him in his Quonset hut. One of the girls, an 18-year-old who also happened to have the Sanskrit name Tulsi, says he arranged her marriage to another member of the group. She and another girl, who say they would kill for him, describe his teachings. Among them: "Flowers scream when they're picked. So do trees when they're trimmed." ("Tulsi and Boni were sitting on the lawn chewing blades of grass when they said this," notes Wolf.)
Butler taught vegetarianism, sexual conservatism, mind-body dualism, and disinterest in the material world. He taught a virulent homophobia, skepticism of science, and the dangers of public schools. He had been associated with Hare Krishna, and in fact claimed to have been given his Sanskrit name, Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, but by the time he encountered the Gabbards, he'd started his own group. His teachings revolved around worship of Krishna but differed from those of Hare Krishna, in that he instructed his followers to learn from only a single guru — himself — and did not require them to shave their heads or wear robes. The lack of formal dress allowed the group an anonymity he encouraged. He forbade them from visiting India, which is not typical of Hare Krishna, and, also against Hare Krishna practice, married. His wife was one of his followers, Wai Lana, a popular yoga instructor who later had a long-running instructional yoga series on public television. (Abraham, Tulsi's husband, has helped with filming Wai Lana's videos; his mother also works for her.) Whenever Butler traveled, he'd have the homes he stayed in lined with tinfoil, to protect against electromagnetic radiation.