'I survived a Krishna cult'

Timaru Herald, New Zealand/May 17, 2015

By Bevan Hurley

A Kiwi says he was brainwashed from birth after he was born into a secretive religious sect.

Rama das Ranson, 35, was brought up in the Science of Identity faith, and says he was instructed by his parents Robin and Allan Ranson to worship its reclusive leader Chris Butler 'like a God'.

Ranson, who has spoken for the first time, said he rejected the group's teachings, which he labels as a cult. 

Former member Rama Ranson describes The Science of Identity a religious sect which is believed to have hundreds of members in New Zealand.

He was later ex-communicated by his family after posting critical comments about the Science of Identity on an online forum run by the Cult Education Institute. He was told he would not be welcome to attend his father's funeral.

"Every kid is raised in this group, fully indoctrinated into every belief and made to worship Chris Butler.

"I prayed to him as I was taught by my parents until I was 15 or so, when I began to "deprogrammed" myself."

Ranson claims that Patrick Bowler, a drug smuggler who made tens of millions of dollars from trafficking hundreds of tonnes of marijuana, was also an adherent of the Science of Identity.

Ranson met Bowler, known within the group as Paramahansa Das, when he was growing up in the United States.

Last month Stuff.co.nz revealed how Bowler had run one of the world's biggest dope-smuggling rings. But he was arrested and gave evidence against his former criminal associates in return for a reduced prison sentence.

Bowler declined to speak about his involvement with the group. 

In a statement, Jeannie Bishop, President, Science of Identity Foundation, said: "Rama das Ranson has never been a member of the Foundation and we have respected his right not to follow the path of Vaishnava Hinduism. 

"Patrick Bowler is not a member of the Foundation, but to our knowledge, is now sincerely trying to practice Vaishnava Hinduism, which includes using his life to help others.

"We are aware of certain allegations but do not wish to dignify them with a response other than to say you should be very critical of the motivation of people making many of these allegations. 

"Chris Butler and the Foundation have worked to help many people get their lives back on track, including Patrick Bowler and will continue to do so."

However, Rama das Ranson said: "They can deny anyone is a member, they could deny my mother, brother and father are were members, but that would be untrue.

"They have total deniability, it is very very rare you will ever find a member who will tell you they are a member of a group who follows Chris Butler."  Ranson believes members of the group often try to conceal its existence or at least obscure it by denying they have anything to do with it.

Science of Identity is believed to have hundreds of members in New Zealand, and has maintained a presence in New Zealand since its leader, American Chris Butler aka Jagad Guru, moved here in the 1990s to make a martial arts film The Lost Prince.

The company behind the film, Ti Leaf Productions, gained national prominence after former National MP Alec Neill alleged in Parliament the company was a front for a religious cult.

The company later sued Neill for defamation, and he was forced to apologise and settle during a High Court trial.

Meanwhile, a senior member of another sect that follows the same Vaishnava Hinduism path as the Science of Identity is planning a major development on the banks of the Lake Pukaki, in the MacKenzie District.

New Zealander Allan Tibby, secretary general of the World Vaishnava Association, is a director and shareholder of two New Zealand companies that want to transform a large swathe of land on the western banks of Lake Pukaki in the South Island.

Tibby is seeking investors to build 40 homes as well as a 'wellness and eco retreat' on the site.

Chris Butler and other members of the Science of Identity lived in the same location as the proposed Lake Pukaki development in the mid 1990s while filming the martial arts film.

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