Chakra Discussions

Some gurukulas inflicted permanent harm

by Julie Gibbs

Posted February 18, 2005

I have read with interest this whole idea of child abuse vs. corporal punishment. I had a child in the gurukula that was run by Sri Rama das. My daughter and I both wish him the best on his Krsna conscious journey.

That stated, I would no longer put my child under Sri Rama's protection if I were given that choice again. Nava was in Lake Huntington between the ages of 7 and 10. During that time her ear was pulled so hard that she ended up in the hospital with a bleeding, perforated eardrum. It was damaged for life.

What can a 7 year old do that is so bad as to warrant a lifelong injury? She was "bad" one day, for which she was sent from the asrama to the temple with no shoes. It was mid-winter. Both of her feet are now frostbitten. This is also a condition that never heals. For anyone who lives in the cold, you know how painful this can be whenever the temperature drops.

Many of these torturous punishments were meted out to her not because she was so much more of a problem than the other kids. No, many of her teachers just plain old did not like me and took it out on her. This is sinful. These children are Vaisnavas and have had many offenses made against them by those of us who were "real" devotees.

I am not suggesting that sometimes punishment is not required, only that we need guidelines for what type of punishment is proper without being excessive, and under what circumstances it can be used. Punishment also needs to be reported and monitored. No guardian should have that much power over the totally powerless.

Even we adults have a difficult time seeing our sufferings as a result of our past misdeeds. Suffering should never be imposed under the guise of karma, especially not on children. Gurukula is a system of protection and training. Instead of helping our children develop in a safe atmosphere, we have alienated most of them.