Monday, May 23, 2016

Child abuse and Jagat

The child abuse in ISKCON is once again a subject, with the release of Sanaka Rsi's film. I was told by one bhakta to my face that I should go to prison for my involvement in the Gurukula while abuses were going on, especially those of the leaders of Mayapur Chandroday Mandir while I was headmaster there, as well as of the teachers who worked under me.
I have publicly admitted that I was abusive. I used corporal punishment, as did nearly every other Gurukula teacher in Dallas or in Mayapur. When I was severely thrashed by the Miapore villagers in 1977, I took it as a direct sign from Mahaprabhu that I had done wrong and stopped.

I claim innocence and ignorance about the sexual abuse. It was beyond my comprehension that anyone could do such a thing. When the veil was uncovered, I saw how widespread the abuse was. I did not feel capable of changing things and felt it more important to pursue authentic bhakti, which in my view was no longer available in the ISKCON institution after Prabhupada had left.

I have had the good fortune of meeting some of my students in the 37 years since I left and all of them have been friendly and forgiving and even appreciative of my efforts as a teacher and headmaster despite the things that transpired in my tenure there. I have never failed to express to them personally my contrition for my actions.
Just now I said to the abovementioned devotee, let's blame Prabhupada shall we?

Of course, no one wants to blame Prabhupada and neither do I, but the king is responsible for his kingdom. Prabhupada thought it more important to build the movement quickly and to spread it at any cost. He was the one who recognized that in the war against Maya there would be casualties, but he pushed forward anyway, putting incompetent individuals in positions of authority and pushing them to perform at any cost. If they fell away it was sad, but that was the cost of doing things the way he did them. He took the risk.

We were incompetent. Ignorant. Foolish children. What did I know of child sexual abuse? It was outside my realm of experience entirely. Physical abuse in the sense of corporal punishment I had known in my home and in school in Canada. And in India, corporal punishment was socially accepted and approved. Even Prabhupada himself allowed for it on occasion, though he personally admonished me when he became aware of punishments I subjected students to in 1976. Even so, it took me some time to come to put it into practice,

So if I am to be held responsible for Bhavananda, for Tapomoy, for Nitai Chand, for Shatadhanya, for Venkat, for Ananta Rupa, for Srigalim, for Anirdeshya Vapu or any of the other Gurukula people with whom I worked who eventually became known for sometimes unspeakable and horrific acts of abuse, I accept. I did not see it and when I did, I did not stop them. I decided it was more important to save myself.

I was in touch with them all. I knew them, and I knew nothing of the abuses for which they were accused in later days. When I found out, I washed my hands of the problem rather than fighting to protect the children. That was a dereliction of duty and if there are hells I must go to for that, let it be so. I decided that I had other, higher duties. Let God, or if as the abovementioned bhakta says, the courts, be the judge.
I left ISKCON in December 1979. I have never regretted that decision. Prabhupada inspired me to seek out authentic Vaishnavism and authentic spirituality. I am sorry for the students who suffered and I sincerely hope that the good in their experience outweighs the bad. If they feel that blaming me is helpful to their personal progress, I cannot object.

Jai Radhe Shyam.

 

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