The Protection of Innocents - a Response To Ameyatma
Posted July 17, 2006
There has recently been some internet preaching initiated by Ameyatma Dasa, in support of the arranged marriage of girls at a very young age. The argument he gives is that it is what Manu Samhita as well as Srila Prabhupada have recommended. This needs to be addressed, as there are certain important considerations to be taken into account in this regard.
The purpose of the recommendation given in Manu Samhita to marry girls at a very young age is to guarantee their protection in a physical, emotional and spiritual sense. Few sections of even our current western society would think this a bad thing. However, it is of the utmost importance that one consider whether in the current degradation of human society, attaining this purpose through this method is likely or even possible.
Our ISKCON society is no exception to Kali yuga and its rule of thumb- to exploit the most vulnerable, most trusting and most innocent class of human being- our children. The goal of gurukula, which is to give the human being a head start in spiritual life through training from the very beginning of life, is certainly laudable, but the reality is that the atrocities that went on behind the closed doors of our gurukulas continue to haunt us. The victims of those abuses are damaged severely and often irreversibly, in every sense. The gurukulas were able to cover up their brutal transgressions through threats and bribery, and therefore the abuse went on and on for decades. How much more easily could an abusive husband do so? In the case of the gurukulas, a conspiracy to cover up was necessary, because so many were involved. This would be unnecessary in marriage- it is a closed group.
I have a problem with Ameyatma's sense of surrealism, thinly disguised as blind faith. He seems to hallucinate he is in a time warp and if he just follows all the instructions given by previous acaryas of long ago, magic will happen. But the acaryas themselves warn about this.
"Here we have full liberty to reject the wrong idea, which is not sanctioned by peace of conscience. Vyasa was not satisfied with what he had collected in the Vedas, arranged in the Puranas and composed in the Mahabharata. The peace of his conscience did not sanction his labors. It told him from within: 'No Vyasa! You can't rest contented with the erroneous picture of truth which was necessarily presented to you by the sages of bygone days. You must yourself knock at the door of the inexhaustible store of truth from which the former sages drew their wealth. Go, go up the fountainhead of truth, where no pilgrim meets disappointment of any kind. Vyasa did it and obtained what he wanted. We have all been advised to do so. Liberty then is the principle which we must consider as the most valuable gift from God. (GBC take note!) We must not allow ourselves to be led by those who have lived and thought before us. We must think for ourselves and try to get further truths which are still undiscovered.... (Bhaktivinode Thakura: The Bhagavatam- Its Philosophy, Its Theology, Its Ethics) Or as Srila Prabhupada advised and exemplified -instructions given by previous acaryas must always be presented in relation to time, place and circumstance.
The current circumstance is that we find there is widespread abuse of children, in any situation where they are away from that which is closest to real and spiritual love- the love of the mother for the child. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but these only drive the point home further- if even a mother can abuse her own child who is normally more dear to her than her own body- what to speak of a man not so connected, brimming over with often uncontrolled sexual passion, more skilled and cunning in exploitation and manipulation and far superior in strength to a young and innocent child?
It is for these considerations that current western society has banned child marriages, and preferred to educate its daughters so that they can be self-sufficient financially, at least. As far as emotional protection is concerned, it is very important that parents stay connected with their children, especially mothers their daughters and fathers their sons, because emotionally it is necessary, plus spiritually speaking, they are the primary role model for them. Even after they move out of the home, the parents should always be available and counsell them whenever possible. Education is vital if anyone is to survive emotionally, physically and spiritually in this degraded and dog-eat-dog world. A loving and educative bond between mothers and daughters gives the best hope that our daughters will make full use of their human form of life and not become victims of degraded sensuality. Education and love ensures the best chance that they will choose a husband on the basis of good qualities, not sexual attractiveness. And experience shows that these make the happiest and longest lasting marriages- so it is important that children wait before choosing their partner- get education and wisdom from those who have done it before- and then make the vital decision whom they are going to be committed to for life.
This requires an adjustment to Srila Prabhupada's recommendations regarding marriage, as the circumstances have changed since then. When Srila Prabhupada was present there was little or no child abuse that he was aware of (or most certainly he would have stopped it!). He himself adjusted the vedic rules to western standards by introducing the class of brahmacarini. His girl students (something unheard of in the vedic age) were given the same training as his boy students. They were both taught to be chaste and respectful to each other. Thus, the purpose of the vedic injunctions- spiritual upliftment- was fulfilled without the detail.
...In the Bhagavatam we have been advised to take the spirit of the sastras and not the words. The Bhagavatam is therefore a religion of liberty, unmixed truth and absolute love."
We must all learn this art or else become fanatics and blind followers. We must learn the essence of Krsna Consciousness- which is to arouse awareness of Krsna everywhere but especially in each other's hearts- and see which details support it and which no longer do, due to the effect of the times. Some of Kali Yuga's laws - such as freedom of religion- support and provide us with a peaceful environment to execute Krsna Consciousness. Other laws such as legalization of pornography do not, and it requires descretion to see which ones are beneficial and which are not.
As explained by Bhaktivinode Thakura in the above paragraph, we must learn the essences of sastra, not memorize and blindly parrot its details. It is thoughtfulness not fanaticism that is the missing ingredient which is restricting our society from investigation by men who are thoughtful introspective and wise:
"The Bhagavatam, like all religious works and philosophical performances and writings of great men, has suffered from the imprudent conduct of useless readers and stupid critics. The former have done so much injury to the work that they have surpassed the latter in their evil consequence. Men of brilliant thoughts have passed by the work in quest for truth and philosophy, but the prejudice they imbibed from its useless readers and their conduct prevented them from making a candid investigation"