MAYAPUR, INDIA, Feb 20 (VNN) ? Violence erupted in the continuing saga of ex-Gurukula students and other second generation devotions. Dhanurdhara Swami, ex-headmaster of the Vrindavan Iskcon Gurukula, was beaten by one of his former students. Both he and his former student, Bhakta Visvareta, were present in Mayapura for the ISKCON annual meeting and pilgrimage.
Bhakta Visvareta Prabhu claims to have been beaten for years by Danurdhara Swami while at the Vrindavan Gurukula. When he saw Danurdhara standing on the balcony of the building from his room, he approached him and grabbed his heavy walking stick and started to give him a thrashing. Some witnesses say that had some of Dhanurdhara Swami's godbrothers not intervened, Visvareta may well have killed him.
When questioned later, Visvareta said that he felt greatly relieved afterward and felt that he could now close this chapter of his life. We are not able to report on Dhanurdhara Swami's current physical condition nor his comments.
The extent of Vrindavan Gurukula alumni bitterness can be ascertained by their reaction to the news of this beating. One devotee said, "In truth none of us shed a tear. In fact, we heard this news with relish."
Bhakta Visvareta had come to Mayapura as a member of a delegation from the Children of Krishna along with Jahnavi Dasi and Hara Prita Dasi. All three made a submission to the GBC in which they told of their personal experience of abuse in ISKCON schools. They also recounted other stories which they had heard from other Gurukula alumni. Two of them said they would never trust their children to an ISKCON ashram school, although Jahnavi has a child in an ISKCON day school.
Visvareta dasa has since made the following statement: "While I was in Mayapur I discovered an old acquaintance of mine and many of yours. Dhanurdhar was staying in an apartment directly across from me and I saw him on his balcony one day. A few hours later I went over to talk to him at the apartment which belonged to one of his disciples. I requested to speak privately and we went to Dhanurdhar's room. Alone together, I began telling him all the shit I'd wanted to tell him for years. How his actions toward us fomented a deep-seated hatred against him. How his actions were EVIL and by his own philosophy a person is judged by his actions, so that makes him an evil person. Allowing for the possibility that a person can change, he still has not adequately atoned for his actions in the past. I told him about the various ways in which he abused me directly and indirectly and how it continued to affect me to this day. Over all I was yelling at him for over an hour.
Then I brought up the subject of my sexual abuser. They found out that a brahmachari in Vrindavan was molesting me. Dhanurdhar and Niragadev came and confronted me with it. I refused at the time to admit to anything for fear of being beaten. Within a month, the guy was gone from Vrindavan. I hadn't known where he'd gone to until this trip. He'd been sent from Vrindavan where he'd molested at least one kid for over a year continuously to New Mayapur, France where he was made a teacher and continued to molest and rape children (girls and boys). Dhanurdhar treated this subject, which was a total surprise to him, with callousness. (My impression is that he had calculated responses to the various issues he expected to face and was delivering them at me with surprising effectiveness. I almost believed the guy was sincere until this.) I lost my temper, grabbed his walking stick (which was about the size of a kids baseball bat) and hit him with it. I hit him twice, once on each leg, all the while yelling at him. At this point, the guy in the other room comes running and opens the door and tries to intervene. I shoved him out of the room and kicked the door shut so hard it cracked the frame. I then hit Dhanurdhar one more time as hard as I could in the arm, threw the stick down and left in disgust.
I did not try to kill Dhanurdhar. I did not hit him in the head or face. I delivered to him as he'd done to me many times over the years. It was cathartic for me and now I feel that my business with him is finished. I wish you all the best in your lives."
In another statement he wrote: "The whole reason I posted as soon as I got home was because I knew someone would hash rumours without knowing the true story. There were only 2 people in the room, me and Dhanurdhara Swami. What I posted is exactly how it occurred. My vision may have been blurred by rage, but I certainly did not attempt to kill him: I didn't hit him anywhere vital, nor did I attempt to. A further point that I made before is that he would do that kind of beating to me and worse in a day. In Dallas, every kid would get beaten with a stick 10 whacks every day to help burn karma faster and punish us for the stuff we did and got away with. When I first got to Vrindavan, he would beat me every day because I wouldn't obey him fast enough. It turned out that I could barely function because I was suffering from an accute case of jaundice. Basically I got beaten every day by this guy because I was ill."
Another Gurukuli leader commented: "This is what happened three days ago (on the GBC meetings): Speaking on behalf of gurukula students worldwide, Jahnavi, Hara Prita dasi and Bhakta Visvareta told stories of both their personal experiences and the experiences of others in ISKCON schools. Because of their experiences, two of them said they would never trust their children in an ISKCON ashram school, although Jahnavi has a child in an ISKCON day school.
Well the second part of the drama is that the next day it so happened that this Bhakta Visvareta Prabhu, who was beaten for years by Danudhara Swami, saw from his room that Danudhara Swami was standing on the other building's balcony. Visvareta went over and grabed Danudharas's very heavy walking stick and beat the hell out of him. Danudhara was saved by some Godbrothers as Visvareta would have killed him.
I tell you the truth no one of us wept a tear and people heard this second part of the development with relish. Good for both of them. Visvareta said later that he felt greatly relieved. It appears that he can now close this chapter."
Why are we Ganging Up on Dhanurdhara Swami?
Why is it that Dhanurdhara was allowed to remain in a position where he was able to abuse, beat and exploit Srila Prabhupada’s children for over 20 years?
In my eyes Dhanurdhara Maharaj is simply a small part of a big machine that has been and continues to abuse and exploit on many levels the sincere souls that come to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s movement. There is something fundamentally wrong at the very root of the values and morals of our society.
My intention in writing this paper is to raise the awareness of our society regarding the magnitude of the problem we have at hand. Although our leaders have made many mistakes, we cannot simply blame them; for we are also implicated, because we allowed them to make these very mistakes. If we are dissatisfied with what we have today we must endeavor to create what we want for the future. We must work to uplift the collective consciousness of our society. To ensure that in the future the same mistakes will not be repeated. I believe the first step is to define the problem. Once knowledge is made available, we can begin to take responsibility.
It is not the scope of this letter to assassinate the character of all the devotees mentioned here, I respect the dedication and service of some of the devotees I will be mentioning. My intent is to isolate and expose behaviors and incidents that I deem as unacceptable. I hope that the Vaisnava community has the wisdom, the maturity and the goodwill to use this information in constructive ways. I also hope that the benefits of posting this paper will outweigh the negative aspects. These devotees who in my eyes have committed mistakes must be made accountable.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against Dhanurdhara Swami very little has ever been done. Even after the recent uproar that Ananda’s death has created; Romapada Swami at the New Vrindavana Kuli Mela gathering had the audacity to propose two possible punishments suggested by the GBC; N.1, that Dhanurdharas’ ability to give classes be cut by 50%; or N.2 that he spend 50% of his time helping former Gurukula students. Where is the justice? Here is a man who is guilty beyond any possible doubt, yet the GBC is reluctant to punish him in a way that is fit, to the detriment of the credibility and respectability of the GBC body as a whole.
Lord Ramacandra made the inconceivable sacrifice of exiling His beloved wife Sita Devi, not because She was guilty, but because as a leader it was His duty to set the example for humanity, regardless of his personal interest. Some will argue that this is an unrealistic level of integrity to expect of humans; I feel that if our gurus are willing to accept a standard of worship worthy of the Supreme Lord they must also be able to exercise a similar level of integrity.
This reinforces in me what is already self evident: The welfare of the society at large is not sufficiently prioritized. The GBC has not taken a serious stance to punish Dhanurdhara Swami for his crimes. We have had to wait for the community of Vaisnavas to be outraged before anything was done. And even then the proposed punishments are insulting and demeaning to those who suffered at his hands. Until the Gurukuli law suit was filed, ISKCON did not accept responsibility nor offer help to its victims.
I believe that Dhanurdhara stayed because most of the people involved the in management of the Vridavana Gurukula, to some extent, share the blame, for which they have to this day failed to take responsibility. Below is a brief list of some of the people that have been involved.
List of some of the teachers who condoned Dhanurdharas’ behavior
Rupa Vilasa: Asram teacher, violently beat the boys on a regular basis.
Raghunatha (Swami): Asram teacher, used to beat the children more than Dhanurdhara himself, he is notorious for having been the most brutal and violent teacher in the history of the Vrindavana Gurukula.
Bhurijan: Gurukula teacher, minister of education, GBC and more recently Guru, long standing friend of Dhanurdhara, did not make a significant effort to protect the children from Dhanurdharas’ abuse. He used to regularly cane the children when he was a teacher in Gita Nagari.
Kurma Rupa: Was an Asram teacher for a few years, he used to beat the boys in random bursts of rage. One of his major mistakes was perhaps to allow Prahlad to be a monitor in his Asram. Prahlad had carte blanche under Kurma Rupa,; he was a boy from Nepal who had himself attended the Vrindavana Gurukula. Prahlad was extremely cruel and violent; he used to sexually, physically and emotionally victimize the boys. He also controlled the children with threats that he would put tantric curses on them if they didn’t do as he said.
Braj Bihari formerly Arjuna: “Stalwart protector of the children,” was one of the first to partake in the child protection team in ISKCON and still somewhat involved in the management of the Vrindavana Gurukula. On more than one occasion he failed his duty to protect the children, because the interest of the school as an institution was in conflict with the childrens’; to him the reputation of the school has had priority over the welfare of the boys. Some children went to report to him that Vaijantimala Mataji, one of the academic teachers was beating the boys with a stick. He instructed them to keep it to themselves and to stop complaining. Needless to say he did nothing to stop her. When he was teaching in Vrindavana I personally saw Braj Bihari beating the children with a stick in his classroom.
Gauri das formerly Gudakesa: Asram teacher, used to beat the kids with violent slaps and sticks. For over a year Gauri das, at the time a brahmacari, was sleeping in a room behind closed doors with his personal servant: a little Nepali gurukula boy. Although there is no evidence that he sexually abused the boy it was, to say the least, unacceptable practice, especially taking into consideration the history of abuse in Gurukulas.
Once one of Yasomatinandana’s sons complained to his father about Gauri’s inappropriate behavior, after being confronted by Yasomatinandana, Gauri somehow decided that it was a good idea to teach the boy a lesson by locking him up in a room for a week.
On a trip to Bombay a ten year old boy was throwing stones from the temple roof onto some huts workers lived in, Gauri had him put his hands on a window sill, while two boys were holding each of his hands down Gauri beat him repeatedly on his back with a wooden plank.
On one particular incident Madan Mohan das (gurukuli) brought an incident to the attention of the GBC. Gauri das had left bruises on the leg of one boy, whom he had repeatedly beaten with a stick. Photos of the injury were supplied to the GBC. The boy’s crime was that he had stolen some sweets from Vaijanti Mala Mataji. Funny (or sadly) enough the GBC commissioned a very biased person to investigate the incident: Braj Bihari. At the time he was very much involved with the management of the Gurukula, unfortunately as mentioned earlier, he was more interested in protecting Gauri than the children. Braj Bihari made no attempt to remove Gauri.
When Gauri was questioned, he justified his actions by saying that the boy had stolen from a brahmana; King Nrga had taken birth as a lizard for a similar crime. Gauri’s view was that he had done the boy a very selfless favor: he saved him a birth as a lizard……
After the enquiry, instead of deciding that such a man was unsuitable to care for the children, the GBC issued a mandate that he could no longer hit the children on his own, the temple president and the vice president now had to be present (note that the GBC did not forbid the beating of the children). In Gauri’s words he claimed the GBC made him swallow the sour pie, it seems he was disappointed that he could no longer whimsically beat the kids.
In a recent letter to a former student Gauri says: “Please name those from my asram who were maltreated? It may rather be a case of those who were not in my ashram who were largely misbehaved that didn’t like me. Indeed if there were cases of maltreatment I will with all sincerity accept full rectification and make heartfelt apologies”. I wish to remind to Gauri that the above incidents were far from isolated and all the children involved were, at the time of the incidents in his asram; they simply happened to be the most outrageous ones. It must be noted that while Gauri was a teacher he beat the boys regularly for all sorts of reasons. Some were beaten for talking back at him, some for playing at the wrong time, others for disobeying him and yet others because they had been recommended for punishment by his monitors. (a monitor was a boy put in charge of other boys) If you happened to be disliked by the monitor, you were in trouble.
Gauri das is now the temple president at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, one of the most prominent temples in ISKCON, he receives a wage of about US$ 60000 a year complete with and enviable pension scheme from Prabhupada’s money for his “service”. He is honored as a senior and respectable member of the community. He has a contract that when he leaves, for two years he will receive the full salary.
Let’s not forget the pedophiles: And then there was of course a host of pedophiles who were both teachers and monitors over the years in the Vrindavana Gurukula: Manihara, Shastra from Vancouver, Niragdeva, Anantarupa, Atmabhavana, Premnidhi and many more. Surely they were not going to fight a war for the children against Dhanurdhara’s ongoing abuse.
Over the years there have been some who attempted to expose and challenge the inappropriate behavior of Dhanurdhara and his supporters. Invariably they were expelled from service, often after having their character blemished. Any man with an ounce of integrity, who spoke up against the inappropriate behavior of the Gurukula authorities, found himself antagonized and quickly ostracized.
In the later years while Dhanurdhara was principle of the Vrindavana Gurukula the GBCs were; Jagadisha (Maharaj), Gopal Krisna Maharaj and Bhurijan, they were all too aware of the continuous abuse to the children, yet they seemed to have bigger and better things to dedicate their energies to for they did nothing to correct Dhanurdhara’s behavior.
I must confess that I am not impressed with Dhanurdhara’s letter of apology. I do not find his claims, that he will lead a life of repentance, very convincing. I find it hard to give him the benefit of the doubt that his motives are genuine seen as he did not apologize until he was forced to do so. He also states that he wishes to leave Prabhupada’s movement, but yet he makes no mention of giving up the adoration, worship and financial security that comes with being a Guru. That is too convenient; I don’t think he deserves the option to leave so as to avoid the consequences to his actions. He never gave his victims the possibility to leave when it was his turn to beat them. It would seem he thinks it is fare and just for him to choose his own punishment or perhaps that his karma will not find him outside ISKCON. Besides, he has not been actively involved in ISKCON in the recent years; he has been preaching away from the mainstream ISKCON projects, I don’t really see that it would be a sacrifice or much of a punishment for him to “leave” ISKCON, maintaining his position as a Guru, associating with his god brothers and with his disciples still in the movement. In my judgment it is not a punishment fit for his crimes.
I challenge Dhanurdhara to remain and offer his service in Prabhupada’s movement, begging for the forgiveness of the very devotees that he has hurt and abused; they are the only ones who can forgive him. He must be willing to accept whatever punishment they see appropriate, whether that be to give up Sannyas, Guru or something else. I Dare him to take responsibility for his past mistakes. If he can do this I will be the first to pay my respects to him. In my eyes that will prove his qualifications to be a leader in our society. If he can’t; he should question his motives for having been in this movement and doing what he does. I believe that if he is sincerely repentant, no price is too high to pay to attain the forgiveness of the vaisnavas.
The GBC at the time was Gopal Krisna Maharaja. The Chandigar Gurukula was a very useful preaching tool as were all the other Gurukulas in India. It was something Maharaj could show to Life Members and thus reassure them that their money was well spent in “training vaisnavas.”
The Chandigar Gurukula there was short lived in comparison to the ones in Vrindavana or Mayapur. The teachers were very young Indian brahmacharis, disciples of Gopal Krisna. The abuse that took place in the Chandigar Gurukula has not been as well publicized because most of the kids there were Indian or Russian. I cannot find it in me to give Gopal Krishna Maharaj the benefit of the doubt that he was unaware. It seems to me he was far too preoccupied with preaching and management, for if he was concerned then something would have been done. If a student in the Vrindavana Gurukula knows that abuse is taking place in Chandigar is it not fair to question how the GBC of that Gurukula could be ignorant. I am more inclined to think that the children’s welfare was less of a priority to him.
There was one boy, an orphan, ten or twelve years old. His mentors decided to send him there possibly because the fees were lower than in the Vrindavana Gurukula. This boy stayed in Vrindavana for a while before moving to Chandigar. I had the chance to get to know him a little, despite being an orphan he was a lively, happy and playful boy. Then he left for the Chandigar Gurukula. When I saw him a few months later; my heart cringed, there was no joy left in his eyes, once very talkative and active, he now did not have anything to say, he could not look at me in the eyes. In a short time he seemed to have aged far beyond his years. He was not a carefree, innocent child any longer. His spirit was broken. I was convinced something very ugly and violent had happened to him. Looking at him then, I felt angry and helpless.
Here is a question I would like to ask: is Bhaktividyapurna Swami, formerly Anirdhesh Vapu head of the Mayapur Gurukula, less guilty than Dhanurdhara? Although there is no conclusive evidence that he has sexually abused any of the children under his care. There is however, plenty of evidence that he was violently beating the boys, in addition he made no significant attempts to expel and punish the many pedophile teachers and monitors that raped the children while he was the principal of the school.
He is notorious for his expertise in lacerating the skin off the back of the children with one single hit of his special bendy bamboo cane. He would get the boys to kneel forward and hold their ankles with their hands, so as to form an arch of some sort with their body. He would then hit the boys on the back, causing the tip of the stick to whip around striking their chest. Many boys recall that he preceded his beatings with a sadistic ritual intended to increase the fear of his victims. He would smile and wiggle his eyebrows gleefully while bending the cane full circle and making whipping sounds with his mouth. Several boys suffered shock after those canings.
The father of a prospective student questioned Bhaktividyapurna Swami about the sexual abuse that was said to be taking place in the Mayapur Gurukula at the time. Bhaktividyapurna Swami gave him what I call the “Kirtanananda stance on sex”. He said something to the effect of, “sex, whether it is between you and your wife, not intended for procreating, or between a teacher and a boy is illicit: It is all sex”. As if morally and karmically they are on the same level. This is from a man whose job is to protect and guide the children.
Why has he not acknowledged his mistakes and offered an apology? If he does not feel he has done anything wrong, I am compelled to question his motives and qualifications. Today Bhaktividyapurna Maharaj is an authorized initiating Guru, Sannyas and still runs his own Gurukula in Mayapur specialized in “training brahmanas.” The GBC decided a fit punishment for his crimes was to temporarily suspend him from directly interacting with the children at his school. Personally I would like to know in what court of law such a punishment will be considered appropriate and just.
In the non-devotee world “karmis” cringe on hearing about child abuse. Yet in our vaisnava community, Gurus and Sannyasis have perpetrated child abuse and condoned it for years and very few ever stood up to say “this is unacceptable.” Why are we so apathetic as a society? What credibility does that give us as a spiritual community? That we have calmly allowed these atrocities to take place?
As aspiring Vaisnavas we must strive to be exemplary gentlemen before we can call ourselves Vaisnavas. We should first reach the level of sattva guna and then work our way up to shudda sattva, there is not enough emphasis in our society to behave like respectable citizens. In fact we have condoned and allowed so many despicable acts to go unpunished that this movement has been a heaven for criminals of every description. As a result some of our “pure devotees” have behaved in ways that no decent and moral “karmi” would ever consider acceptable.
Accountability of our Leaders
Jaya Pataka Swami has been the GBC for Mayapur since the beginning. If I am to believe that he is less responsible than Dhanurdhara I want to know what he has done over the years to protect the children. Although he did not personally perpetrate abuse, he was negligent in his duty of care toward the children at least as much as Dhanurdhara. Once he randomly asked my father if he wanted to be a teacher in the Gurukula, he didn’t even know my father. Given the carelessness with which he enrolled teachers, it is no wonder that so many atrocities took place. Anybody willing to do the job was readily welcomed with little or no screening. Sadly more often than not the volunteers for this job had their own agendas.
Gurukulis have been beaten and tortured by Doyaram, former temple president of Mayapur and Jaya Pataka Maharajs’ disciple. Similarly to Gopal Krishna Maharaj, Jaya Pataka Maharaj did not make an effective attempt to protect the children who over the years were being sexually, physically and psychologically abused right under his nose. Again it seems that he was so busy traveling, preaching and initiating disciples, that he was unable to properly carry out his responsibility as a guide and protector.
I know of one worker who was beaten to death for stealing money from the restaurant’s cash register in Mayapur, his rib cage was crushed in by Jaya Pataka Swami’s Bengali disciples. If you have been unfortunate enough to witness the beating of a thief in India you can easily picture how things get out of hand. I was present in Mayapur when a pickpocket was caught stealing. It was near the Samadhi during a festival, I saw this man tied on the floor bleeding profusely while three of our ISKCON guards where repeatedly beating this man with two inch thick bamboo sticks. This man had visibly broken bones, bruises, lacerated skin and giant blood blisters all over his body. As it is customary in India a crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. They beat that pickpocket within an inch of his life. That is when Jnanagamya, a senior Prabhupada disciple walked in on the scene. His reaction was to disperse the crowd and tell the guards “At least don’t beat him here go someplace secluded”. I do not know what happened to the man, but I can easily guess that if he wasn’t killed he will be a crippled beggar for the rest of his life.
In this phrase by Jnanagamya I see ISKCON’s problem in a nut shell, nobody cares if a person gets killed or if he is even guilty. For too long we have only been concerned with saving face. Appearances are more valued than substance. It did not cross the mind of Jnanagamya to say stop, you are killing this man: he was more concerned with what people might think.
Somehow it would seem we have had in place a system to sternly punish pickpockets, but we worship and respect child abusing Swamis.
Gurus and GBC
Bhavananda (maharaj) as a Guru was a pedophile who habitually had sexual intercourse with men and gurukula children. A boy burned down Bhavanada’s house in Australia. When the boy was questioned by the police he said that the owner of the house had raped him. The local temple president testified in court that it was impossible and the boy was sent to a juvenile prison. By the time the boy was due to be released Bhavananda was no longer a Guru. Instead of attempting to make amends the temple president involved became concerned over a possible retaliation the boy might make against him. He was not at all repentant or empathetic for the child. In Vrindavana he once threw a boy from the first floor balcony of the Gurukula building into the garden because the boy was irritating him.
When Bhavananda (Maharaj) was the GBC, he was very close with Satadhanya (Maharaj), who was at one time the main manager in Mayapur. At this time there were Gurukula boys who were designated to be the “Swamis’ service boys” These boys are known to have had to perform sexual services.
To this day Bhavananda gives classes and is offered respect and honor as a “senior” Prabhupada disciple. When he comes to Mayapur he is allowed to give class and still receives royal treatment. Why is it that nobody stands up to say that Bhavananda is not fit to take a sit of honor on the Vyasasan and be given the authority to present the philosophy?
Nitai Chand Swami was a good friend of Bhavanada and Satadhanya when they were in power. A while back on Chakra, devotees were asking to make Nitai Chand a Guru! Granted there is not sufficient evidence to prove that he is also a pedophile, however in my eyes the simple fact that he did not speak up against the perpetrators makes him guilty. It tells me a lot about his character.
The priorities of our society have thus far been all wrong; therefore ISKCONs’ future can only be very bleak. As a society we have failed to protect, guide and inspire our children. The GBC is getting old, who will take over? It is unlikely that many of ISKCONs’ children are going to feel much of a sense of loyalty, belonging or inclination to step up.
The most likely people to take over are the devotees who joined between the late seventies and the early eighties, unfortunately they are people such as Braj Bihari and Gauri who have been trained in the old regime: they may simply perpetuate the mistakes of the past. They are not in my opinion people who will, when push comes to shove, make the “right” decision, especially if it is not convenient, against their personal interests or if it would make them unpopular.
Very recently one of our Gurus, Puri Maharaja formerly Balabhadra has been found implementing a bizarre and perverted test to decide if the matajis at his temple in Scotland were fit to become brahmacarinis or if they had to get married. He was spending a lot of time alone with the some of the girls. They had to come to his room and show him (a sannyasi) their breasts. If they were too big the girls had to get married and if they were small they could remain brahmacarinis.
Aside his inappropriate interactions with women Puri Maharaj has an interest in money and luxuries; he bought himself a £200.000 motor home; he has a passion for expensive electric guitars; he has bought over 50 instruments with some of them costing up to £15000 each . All of this with laxmi that his disciples have collected on the streets with their sweat and blood working 365 days a year: surrendering it all supposedly to Krishna.
Sivarama Swami and Govinda Maharaj formerly Ayodyapati have known of this for a long time yet they have not stopped or exposed him. I will agree that a largely publicized scandal is not always the best way to deal with these situations, but cover up is certainly not a better alternative. Why do they allow him to remain as a Sannyasi?
I want to know if it is because of their friendship or because of all the money that Puri Maharaj has given them to support their projects. Do they think Puri Maharaj has behaved in an acceptable way for a Sannyas? Do they think that he is fit to be a Sannyasi? Where does their loyalty lie? Don’t they feel a duty of care toward Prabhupada and the devotees that take shelter in ISKCON? These people who in my eyes lack in basic material integrity are supposed to be the infallible pure devotees who will guide us back to Godhead; I am at a loss. Because they did not expose him they have chosen to protect Puri Maharajs’ reputation over protecting the devotee community from being exploited by him and men like him in the future.
Even though the GBC is now aware of the incidents nobody has asked Puri Maharaj to step down from sannyas. Apparently because there is no evidence that he had sexual intercourse with these women he has not really fallen.
The only action taken has been to remove Puri Maharaj as the GBC/Temple president in Scotland and relocate him to South Africa. We are allowing him to start afresh, as if nothing happened, with no apparent consequences to his actions.
Recently, Jayadvaita Swami mentioned that some of our initiating Gurus are not even chanting their rounds. How can these people, in good conscience, ask their disciples to vow to follow rules and regulations when they themselves are not following. If these Gurus are allowed to continue, all the parties involved will be sharing the blame; I feel that by neglecting his duty to protect the movement Jayadvaita Swami is doing a disservice to Srila Prabhupada.
As Vaisnavas we must strive to be more humble than a straw on the street, yet some of our Gurus display an arrogance and pride that could easily match a rock stars’. Why is it considered acceptable behavior for a model Vaisnava?
Somehow being what karmis call “a decent human being” is not a requirement to be an infallible pure devotee in ISKCON, and yet we claim to be better!
If we are going to make a difference it will take courage. It will be difficult because for too long the unacceptable has been the exemplary norm, but if there is to be any hope, we must gather the courage in ourselves to find and implement a solution.
The following is a nice quote I have found on courage.
This was written by somebody who probably never heard about Krishna, probably a meat eater, if only we had been a little more like this man……
Most devotees know that Harikesa (Swami) left with a handsome payout. What perhaps is not so know is how he came to be in possession of the money. At least part of the money came from a BBT trust: the leftovers of money Harikesa lost on the Russian stock market after the mid ‘90s crash. A disciple of his was one of the trustees. In order to release the funds Harikesa needed his signature. Harikesa requested this devotee to give him the money, when this devotee refused to sign it over, Hariskesa had his loyal Russian disciples threaten to kill this devotee and his family. This accounts for a portion of the 5million plus US$ that Harikesa is said to have taken with him.
I think a good question to ask is, what is our responsibility in this, what could we have done to prevent it from happening, and more importantly what do we have to do to insure that it will never happen again? Is it appropriate that Sannyasis manage millions of dollars?
The GBC body is structured as a self electing entity (Its members decide who can join the club) unfortunately this leaves ample room for corruption. The GBC body must be accountable and when need be its members must be judged by an external and independent panel of senior devotees. The current closed circle system has contributed to drain Prabhupada’s movement of its former purity, justice, objectivity and strength.
By the lack of transparency and integrity, shown by some of the GBC members the whole body is loosing credibility, day after day.
I believe money and political power would be much better placed in the hands of Grihastas without vested interests: devotees who are spiritually, financially and morally accomplished, with a proven and spotless track record.
Power must be given to those who do not seek it, and money to those that do not need it. If a person is in financial need he is not likely to be a reliable treasurer. It is so simple that we seem to have missed the point. Sannyasis must not interact with women, Srila Prabhupada did not spend time alone with his aged sister, not because he was at risk of a fall down, but to set the example for us. Child abusers must not be teachers. Sannyasis should not be managers.
I believe that the position of GBC comes with a duty to care, protect, serve and safeguard the people and assets of Prabhupada’s movement. I feel that in many instances the GBC has taken too lightly these duties. Harikesa was able to steal so much money because we do not have appropriate measures to protect our assets.
When somebody wants to become Guru or Sannyasi I become immediately suspicious. The very desire to be a Guru or Sannyasi, can in itself be a disqualification. Bhakti Visvambara Madhava Maharaja formerly Mahamantra das pushed the GBC for years and years to be awarded Sannysa. Surely Sannyas is not necessary to preach, I ask myself what is the motivation? Perhaps we have changed the duties and qualities we associate with the position of Sannyas.
Today, a successful sannyasi in ISKCON can have more power, fame, adoration, prestige and less accountability than some of the presidents and prime ministers in the karmi world. It is no surprise that everyone wants to join the club. A successful swami can have a fabulous career full of attractive material benefits.
I do not see anybody pushing to be an austere madhukari (begging for one’s food daily) as has been the traditional role of a Sannyasi. To uplift the consciousness of society, a Sannyasi must renounce worldly possessions and travel, his duty being to serve society not to be served. No Sannyasi has ever been known to have a personal bank account before our Swamis set the trend.
Tamal Krishna Maharaj left a hefty inheritance to Giriraj Swami. Why did Tamal Krishna Maharaj not put ISKCON in his will instead? Perhaps he did not trust that ISKCON would utilize his money for a worthy cause. ISKCON ought to have a level of financial transparency that its members can be confident and reassured when donating their material wealth before departing this world. Imagine how many resources could be gathered. The lack of integrity that we have had over the years has created a lot of distrust, much to the detriment of the society at large.
It is not my intent to discount the priceless service that these devotees have done for Prabhupada, I am concerned because most of the people I have mentioned are, or have been leaders of our society, and their behavior will be seen as exemplary and perhaps appropriate conduct from their subordinates. I believe it is of the outmost importance that when a mistake is committed it is publicly acknowledged and the people involved be held accountable. I see this as the only way to prevent history from repeating itself.
Here is another inspirational quote I have found on leadership, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” I would like this standard to be expected and required of our leaders.
I propose that the definition of Sannyas be redefined and explained. Candidates should donate their personal money to the society, and walk into the sannyas asrama completely dependant on Krishna and the Vaisnavas. I believe this would cause less of a rush to get on board, and the relationship between the Sannyasis and the rest of the Vaisnava community would be much more friendly and respectful.
Our duty as devotees is to serve, and our spiritual accomplishments should be measured by how pleasing our service is to the family of Vaisnavas. If they are unhappy we are doing something wrong.
Many times I have been told that I had to keep the scandals in ISKCON to myself, if things would be known devotees would loose faith in Prabhupada’s movement. Today I have come to the conclusion that with my silence I am an accomplice to the problem. Because scandals in ISKCON have been covered up people have lost faith in the movement. I believe that failure to report a crime is itself a crime. As a society we are in part responsible of our leaders’ mistakes, if we do not make an effort to prevent the same mistakes from taking place again. It is everyone’s duty to protect ISKCON from abuse exploitation, deviant philosophies and practices.
Protecting abusers and thus allowing them to continue abusing makes us silent accomplices. I urge all the devotees that with their silence have allowed and are allowing abuse to take place to come forward and speak.
Our leaders must become accountable to the society not simply between themselves; spiritually, morally and financially, there is no transparency at this stage. This lack of transparency ultimately affects the GBC body and the society as a whole; it leaves too much room for exploitation and corruption, resulting in a lack of purity and trust in the system.
I believe in ISKCON we have a desperate need; to drastically raise the benchmark of what is considered acceptable, and of what is the ideal behavior for a Vaisnava.
An eloquent speaker or a good singer does not equal a good devotee. Likewise a good devotee does not make a good singer, speaker, teacher or manager. Deception is harmful both to the leaders’ spiritual life and to the followers that are being misguided. You can’t cheat your way into the spiritual world, Krishna is the biggest cheater.
The most worrisome aspect of the situation is that what is mentioned in this letter is but a glimpse of the actual picture of abuse and misuse of power that has and is taking place within our society. I suspect the true magnitude of the problem is something a lot more frightening.
All the people I have mentioned have one thing in common, to the best of my knowledge none of them have to this day shown the decency to come forward to acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes. I have never known of an ISKCON leader to come forward while in power and say “Dear Vaisnavas I have failed in my service to you, I have abused your trust and I have made many mistakes, please forgive me, I submit myself to your judgment and I am prepared to accept your advice and whatever atonement you see fit.”
My question is still on the table, "Why are we ganging up on Dhanurdhara? "I am inclined to think that most devotees who have been in the movement long enough, at least subconsciously are aware that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way our society is run. Dhanurdhara happens to be the person who represents the problem. He is today’s scapegoat. It is easy to hate and despise a child abuser write a few lines and perhaps have him exiled from the society that would make some of us feel better; the problem has been externalized and fixed. Our conscience can rest at least for a while, we can decline our share of responsibility. We are good people and he is bad.
I believe fixing the “Dhanurdhara” problem is more work than it may seem at first and I hope that this letter will encourage devotees to seek and create solutions with the same enthusiasm shown thus far.
I want to hope that by reading this, devotees will be inspired to help reform, redefine and protect Srila Prabhupadas’ movement. It will be a long journey which begins with acknowledging and working on our own anarthas first and taking responsibility for our mistakes.
If we as individuals do not change for the better the society as a whole will change for the worse, we will soon be another big religious institution living lies and hypocrisy.
I offer my apologies to all Vaisnava who feel offended by this imperfect attempt to better our movement.
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