(Iskcon Fanatics Beat on Devotee Women)
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 99 13:16 -0500
From: "COM: Sudharma (dd) ACBSP (Alachua - USA)"
To: "COM: IWC (Internat. Women's Conference)"
[Text 2754846 from COM]
To All GBC Members:
Sudharma devi dasi, Malati devi dasi, Pranada devi dasi, Hare Krishna World, Mukunda Goswami, Hrdayananda Goswami, Sesa das, Brajabihari das, Kurma Rupa das, Prthu das, Tyaga Caitanya das, Mahaman das.
1 Nov. 1999
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
PAMHO. AGTSP. Below is a self-explanatory letter to Mahaman das, president of the Vrndavan ISKCON Krishna Balarama Mandir. I beg you to read this in full. Srila Prabhupada has been betrayed and the women outrageously molested under the auspices of the management for the last several days in the temple before the Deities without due cause and without proper explanation or any other kind of normal communication. After the traumatic mangal aroti yesterday, Mahaman prabhu was approached by a senior lady, whom he assured that for two days he would let things cool down and then hold an isthagosthi.
I assure you, things have not cooled down, and he in fact left town until Wednesday, depositing the temple into the hands of an unchecked band of rogues and sahajiyas. (This morning I watched an unsuspecting lifemember woman, unaware of the new energy, approach the human chain gang to reach a large empty spot where she could get a better darshan.
When she got close, though she was not physically touched, she jumped back with such a start, it was just as if she had actually been pushed. That lady's face was so disturbed, she will probably never come back again.) He has allowed Srila Prabhupada's temple to be hijacked by the most uneducated, unenlightened, rude bunch of ruffians. One of the temple comanchees has quoted Mahaman as saying that these steps were necessary to accomodate Giriraj Swami, Radha Govinda Swami, Bhakti Caitanya Swami and other occasional visiting swamis and Bhubanesvara das who apparently found it distasteful to pay their obeisances within 30 metres of their mothers standing around the Radha Krishna altar.
Physical restraint and abuse and inaccessibility to the Lord were the only obvious measures to be taken, apparently. No one bothers having any rational meetings or discussions with the women or other devotees to hear their needs or grievances on ANY matter, let alone this one. I have not personally approached the maharajas to find out if they in fact lodged the complaints that led to such malevolence and uncontrolled ill will.
Srila Prabhupada always was first a gentlemen. These men have joined the movement and have forgotten their manners (unless they never had any, and then the onus is on us for not training them properly). Will no one relieve the Dham of this burden? Devotees, both men and women, have spent thousands of dollars to attend this Kartik Festival in Vrndavana. Mangal aroti is one of the big highlights of anyone's day. It is very crowded and adjustments in comfort zones are normal. Are these devotees to go away appalled and offended instead of reenthused? Are the rest of us to remain captivated by this degenerated atmosphere?
Is there no one to help correct this offence to Srila Prabhupada's place of residence? Because of the international nature of this center, it goes without saying that extra care be administered to ensure proper hospitality of ALL the Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis, not manhandling. Can we not prove to the world that our society can turn out civilized human beings with civilized behavior?
This affects all of you and all of those you are responsible for. Kindly offer your support and valuable input to help this temple help you and help us correct a gravely injust situation. Please RESPOND before things get even worse. Your servant, Parvati devi dasi
31 October 1999
My dear Mahaman prabhu, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Two days ago Devavrata prabhu announced after mangal aroti that the management decided that the matajis at the front of the Radha Shyamasundara altar should kindly allow the men to pay their dandabats. He further stated that after the ghee lamp was offered, the women could take darshan along the breadth of the full altar. Most of us understood the announcement to mean that the women were too spread out along the left side of the altar and they should move back to the designated right side of the altar. One has ample room to pay obeisances in the space remaining. We were grateful that the management recognized that 40-45% of the increasing numbers of mangal aroti participants were matajis.
It was a big surprise the next morning when the women were angrily and physically shoved away by you and your temple commander. Their crime? Their eagerness to get the darshan of the Lord in the same limited spot they have been alotted since the festival two years ago? I came in right after your deed was done, and heard from dozens of disturbed, shocked, confused and sobbing Vaishnavis who were personally manhandled. If your intention was to cancel our darshan (a highly irregular intention), then you could have rectified the misunderstanding with an announcement after mangal aroti.
No such announcement was forthcoming, however, and no one approached either myself, Bala Gopal, Mokshalaxmi, Sitala, Kusa, or any of the other senior matajis who were involved in the previous discussions which resulted in the right side of Radha Shyamasundar darshan arrangements. Neither were there any public apologies for this marvelous behaviour which took place right in front of the Deities. Apparently, a great number of men took courage from this incorrect activity that was in no way denounced by appropriate persons. This morning on the auspicious Bahulastami Day, there was a well organized program to entirely and thoroughly deny the women any access whatsoever to the Radha Shyamasundar altar, including the locked front door, a rowdy and raucous kirtan (beginning from a time when soft kirtan is considered prudent), and a human chain of men locking arms shoulder to shoulder.
Though there were empty spaces to the right, any mataji approaching to fill it up received punches, slaps and kicks. I witnessed it and personally experienced it. Because everyone was finished paying obeisances, and ganged up over there, several senior devotees and I (senior Prabhupada disciples, and also 50-60 years old) went to the Krishna Balarama altar. Better to avoid this crazy behavior and find a saner place to stand.
It was quite peaceful and unattended, since everyone else was adamently attending and defending the other prized altar. Within half a minute, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DEITIES and in full view of a couple dozen men who were still taking darshan at that altar, WE WERE ATTACKED BY SEVERAL YOUNG MEN WEARING SAFFRON, grabbed from behind and thrown here and there to be released and then grabbed again and THROWN REPEATEDLY in one direction or another until these saffron wearing persons, including someone who is called a temple commander, placed themselves in front of us to guard the railing and to prevent us from being in the front row.
One man actually requested these guys to behave, but evidently they ignored him. The temple commander who had his arms secured around me and my right arm and bead bag locked in his right elbow, finally spoke for the first time and ordered me to move. I tried to catch my breath and pointed out that I really couldn't move until he let go of me.
These boys certainly might have stated their case and allowed us to voluntarily step aside before assaulting us in the first place. I noticed that these several young saffron dressed men were so agitated that it was several minutes before they actually looked in the direction of the Deities, and were looking around everywhere else but the altar, though they had the advantage of being right in the front row.
There was amazingly no announcement of clarification after mangal aroti, neither apologies for inappropriate behavior and offenses in front of the Deities. Not a man in the temple protested the manhandling of the women. They went right into dandabats to the Vaishnavas who are compassionate to all the conditioned souls (except of course to the women, because women don't have souls).
Hundreds of these saffron dressed men were laughing at the whole thing as if in conquest, and literally EVERY WOMAN IN THE TEMPLE WAS SUFFERING UP TO THE POINT OF NAUSEA AND SOBBING. THEY HAD COME FOR DARSHAN AND WERE TREATED IN THE MOST UNCIVILIZED MANNER OVER AND ABOVE BEING DENIED ACCESS TO THE LORD.
It was pretty obvious that this was not a case of allowing a few men to pay obeisances in front of an alter. It was a simple case of territorial imperative and aggression, something like what a dog goes through to pee on a tree. In transcendental terms, this means pride and false ego, not to mention the passion for lording it over. In other words, this is not to be encouraged. Dinabandu and Devavrata informed me that this was entirely our own faults for not following Prabhupada's instructions. If the situation hadn't been so pathetic, I might have laughed. Imagine justifying such wholesale hooliganism by taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
Bala, Sitala, Moksa, Kusa, Nrsingha, Aditya and myself, among others, did have the opportunity to attend mangal aroti in Vrndavana while Srila Prabhupada was on the planet. We could stand where we pleased, ON PRABHUPADA'S INSTRUCTION, which was mostly in front of Krishna Balarama or Radha Shyamasundara, in front of the men. The only person who always stood in the back was Daivashakti, because she like it. And Srila Prabhupada almost always stood pretty far back. The men could take a lesson in that for humility.
There is even an old tape of a conversation in which some devotee asked Prabhupada if the women should stand behind, and Prabhupada replied with the story about that eager old lady who climbed upon Lord Caitanya's shoulders to get a better look at Lord Jagannatha. This devotee said to Prabhupada that we must not imitate. And Prabhupada replied that, no, we must imitate and that the women can be allowed to stand wherever they wanted to. He also never allowed that a man ever lay a hand on a woman. Srila Prabhupada's mission was to bring people to Krishna and today we witnessed an intentional play to deny all the women darshan of the Lord at any altar and any protection from rogues dressed in saffron. Aiyindra, Mahaman (Temple President), and Vaisnava das (General Manager) were the brains behind today's brilliant performance. That one could chant for so many years with the result of such genteel tactics is a shame.
Nevertheless ultimately the temple president and GBC are responsible and will have to take most of the reaction for the offenses committed. The men who stood by and allowed this shameful activity to continue for two days will also bear the reaction. Today's aggressions were nothing to do with spiritual life, Vaishnava ettiquette and certainly no way to treat your mothers. This temple was built primarily from the collections of Vaishnavis who still come often to get recharged at such festivals. How shameful that they have to come and witness such a degraded atmosphere.
By Krishna's grace, women are gentle and forgiving by nature. The offenses made today can be remedied in a great part by a simple PUBLIC APOLOGY tomorrow morning. Since few devotees will be present tomorrow morning, the apology should be made the following day's mangal aroti as well, so the devotees will know what is right and what is wrong. Additionally, the women who come for darshan should not be insulted by having to wait for their darshan for half the aroti.
There is no earthly reason why they should not be allowed to continue their peaceful mangal aroti darshan on the right half of the altar, and indeed, after the ghee lamp, be allowed the whole altar. Anything less than that is out of the question. We heard that you were going to wait for things to cool down for two days and then have an istaghosti. The APOLOGY and allowing the women (albeit less than equal) access to Krishna should be affective IMMEDIATELY. You have no idea the suffering you have caused by not preventing this shameful display of uncultured behaviour. That Srila Prabhupada's temple should have been taken over by this low class mood is unforgivable.
REMEDIAL MEASURES SHOULD BE ENFORCED AGAINST ALL MEMBERS WHO PARTICIPATED
IN WHAT PRACTICALLY AMOUNTS TO GANG-RAPE.
Their sikhas should be cut, their saffron cloth withdrawn and their responsibilities should be removed. If they are allowed to do any service in the temple, it should be cleaning the toilets, washing the pots, cleaning the floors and grounds, and other such menial service. This was Prabhupad's way of testing the sincerity of devotees, especially in India.
WE HAVE ALL BEEN VIOLATED, EVERYONE OF US, AND SRILA PRABHUPADA MOST OF ALL.
A collection of signatures and or personal letters from large numbers of women will follow. They would have come sooner, but every woman in the temple is reeling from the shock of today's episodes. I assure you that if the apology and reinstatement of the darshan are not effective immediately, the matter will be taken up with the GBC and the law of the land.
[PADA: Don't go to the GBC to complain about being mistreated, this is like complaining to the gladiators that people are getting thrown to the lions, get some "weapons" (best to expose them in public) and defend yourself. Take it up with the local media, government and police, this is assault and sue the GBC for allowing this to go on.]
Assault is a felony not just vaishnavi aparadha. It is outrageous that I should
even have to write such a letter. But the contamination of today's activities
must be neutralized without further delay. I beg to remain your servant,
Parvati devi dasi
in collusion with the insulted women