The "G" Word
Posted July 31, 2005
Lisa Compton's response to my article makes the important point that the way we address others - the titles, categories, and designations that we use - may sometimes have a belittling effect on them. As a member of ISKCON's Communications department, I try to be especially cognizant of this, and I thank Ms. Compton for her thoughtful reminder. I hope, therefore, that she will not be offended by my offering some clarification as to why the term "gurukuli" was used in the piece.
My decision to use the term "gurukuli" was a conscious one, and was the result of much deliberation and discussion. The organizers of the New York meeting, which was the subject of the article, had originally referred to it as a meeting between ISKCON leaders and gurukula alumni. However, at the outset of the meeting, when participants were asked to introduce themselves, every single gurukula alumni present described himself or herself as a "gurukuli." This happened without exception. Thus, in order to be true to the wishes of the participants, I used the term "gurukuli" rather than "alumni" in the article. I was supported in this decision by the organizers of the meeting, some of whom are alumni themselves.
While I can appreciate that some devotees may feel that "gurukuli" only applies to children currently enrolled in gurukula, this is certainly not the only view. The popular website gurukuli.com and the upcoming Kuli Mela gathering are but two examples of ways in which some gurukula alumni have embraced - and infused new meaning into - the term.
In any event, I agree that one should address people as they are and not as they were as children. Respectfully, though, I submit that using the term "gurukuli" need not make one automatically guilty of this.
Yours in Service,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa
Associate Director of North American Communications,
International Society for Krishna Consciousness