Ashram's ex-PR chief settles divorce case

Florida Today/March 22, 2002
By Billy Cox

A divorce squabble that threatened to drag a controversial Sebastian religious group into court ended Thursday morning when its former public relations director settled with one of its female monks.

Richard Rosenkranz, 60, agreed to pay 43-year-old Gina Rosenkranz $16,200 in annual alimony payments for the next 10 years.

Richard Rosenkranz was scheduled to begin an annulment hearing in Circuit Judge Paul Kanarek's courtroom in Vero Beach on Thursday morning, claiming he had been manipulated into a fraudulent, 18-year marriage by the founder of Kashi Ashram in rural Indian River County. But Rosenkranz said his out-of-court agreement was a victory over Ashram leader Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati.

"From my perspective, it's fabulous," said Rosenkranz, the self-employed president of the World Tibet Day Foundation. "Ma caved because she knew we were going to bring up damning evidence against her if this thing went to trial."

Gina Rosenkranz and her attorney, Russell Petersen, could not be reached for comment. Calls to Kashi Ashram went unreturned.

Richard Rosenkranz said he had tentatively agreed to pay his ex-wife $16,000 annually for the rest of her life when divorce negotiations began in 2000, but that she began to hold out for $42,000 a year. The divorce ultimately was granted.

He petitioned for an annulment last summer, claiming Bhagavati brainwashed him into marrying Gina Rosenkranz, a monk whose Ashram name is Krishnabai. Their marriage produced a 19-year-old son.

Although the annulment was scrapped, Rosenkranz said he was satisfied because "I refuse to support a cult for more than 10 years" under the terms.

Bhagavati, 61, established the Ashram near the St. Sebastian River in 1976. Dedicated to supporting interfaith tolerance, the Kashi commune has sponsored high-profile events such as World AIDS Day and the Indian River Festival.

But former members have also accused Bhagavati of gambling with nonprofit funds and sanctioning beatings as a form of discipline.

Bhagavati told Florida Today in an interview published in February that she doesn't take money, and that "never has there been one word of anyone ever being hit" on the Ashram.

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