Chakra Discussions

Step By Step...

by Niscala dasi

Posted May 31, 2006

That Dhanurdhara should beg forgiveness from his victims is a step in the right direction. More is needed though, as abusive people characteristically lack the ability to empathize with their victims. Without empathy, the ritualistic paying of obeisances and well rehearsed lines of remorse would in no measure be effective or sufficient to compensate the years of pain and trauma. For his own reform, he should meet with them personally so that they have an opportunity to convey what the experience of abuse was like from their side. After repeated meetings -which may go on for years- he will hopefully gain the quality of *empathy*, and really be able to apologize with heartfelt remorse and full-blown compassion. Then the victim will indeed get some measure of comfort as he will no longer be alone in his anguish. Someone else has felt it- the very person who initiated it- and seeing the transformation of the subhumanly heartless into one who is human and heartful may give some measure of meaning to the suffering for him. And it makes forgiveness all the more possible, which is also beneficial for recovery.

This method is being experimented with in the justice system of certain countries, and it has been found to be helpful not only for victims of violence or abuse, but also for the character reform of the perpetrators. It is important that the victim be surrounded by supporters- family and friends -so that he does not become retraumatized as he relives the traumatic experience. It is not true the widely held notion that just blocking out the memory of the event/s is an effective solution for trauma. It surfaces in other ways- nightmares, panic attacks, inability to trust, fearfulness of people, and so on. This is explained in Daniel Goleman's book "Emotional Intelligence", where he gives evidence that reliving the traumatic event in a safe environment is an effective means to overcome its psychological damage. He cites a certain US elementary school in which the children underwent a day of terror when a gunman unleashed round after round of shrapnel during their playtime. Revisiting the playground some months later, the children were found to be spontaneously reliving the traumatic event in play, reframing it in various non-threatening ways and ending it with positive outcomes, such as tackling the gunman to the ground. In doing so, they were found to be gradually overcoming many of the negative psychological effects experienced by the adults who had also witnessed the event, but who had considered it wise not to think or talk about it. Such effects included involuntary flashbacks, with full recall of the horror and helplessness experienced.

I therefore think its important that the gurukulis involved with Dhanurdhara's atrocities connect with each other and form a network of discussion and support. This should also include him; they should talk about the experience until he reaches a full understanding of every aspect of their suffering in full detail and until he feels it himself. Anger will of course be given vent to, but that is necessary too- it is tackling the gunman to the ground; it is feeling oneself no longer helpless before the perpetrator. These gurukulis have every right to feel angry and express it in person; the idea that doing so is offensive, because the perpetrator is dressed up in the garb of an advanced devotee, is institutional stupidity. He is a devotee in dress only- until Krsna has forgiven him- which happens only after these devotees have done so. We should learn from Pariksit Maharaja and see through the guise of Kali. (SB. Canto 1 ch. 16-17). Pariksit was rightly angered at such pretense, and so should we be.

Anger should also be expressed to the leadership who have protected him, and have allowed him to carry the title and position of guru, even after being made aware of his offenses. No one can be guru without a connection to the Lord, and to date Dhanurdhara has been disconnected, having committed atrocities to innocent devotees. So many have lost faith in ISKCON's leadership for this reason- they expel those who offer honest critical feedback (the brahmanas) but protect all manner of sycophants- even those of criminal mentality- offering numerous kickbacks all the way up to guru. In ISKCON, when one becomes guru or sannyasi, one "has it made"- the best facility, the highest honour, and so on. Unfortunately, it is given not to those of impeccable character, but with no character at all! Most devotees are aware of the situation, at least after a few years in the movement, and consequently leave it out of disgust. So we have an exodus out the back door as we focus on bringing people in the front.

The solution is to rid ourselves of hypocrisy, and a good place to start is to strip all child abusers of rank and title and to give them only menial services such as washing pots. We need to treat them for what they are- neophyte devotees at best- but more likely pretenders in vaisnava dress. This honest approach is actually compassionate to these poor souls so much in "delusions of grandeur" that they hallucinate they are pure "transparent via medium" to Krsna, from their position of filth. It offers dignity to the movement as a positive alternative to hypocritical Kali Yuga, and a proponent of religion that is for the truly honest. It offers the victims the comfort at least of a sense of justice being done, that at least those who are supposed to represent Prabhupada are behind them, and that ISKCON is not a shelter for the lowest scum of society.

If the death of Ananda can wake us up and we can take some steps such as these in the right direction, it will not be in vain, though it may always be regretted. My condolences to all who knew and loved him.