Chakra Discussions

Divisive debates wrongly make pawns of gurukulis

by Caru das

Posted November 2, 2003

I promised myself for years that I would leave this part of my life behind. However after reading post after post on various discussion boards, I can't help but reveal my heart. Some devotees may find this topic "unpleasant"; however, this is a story of my life and how many individuals routinely say things that simply make it impossible to let the past be the past.

I was born into the ISKCON movement. My parents got married because they were supposedly "lusty". They did what most grhastha couples in ISKCON did at the time: Married, mated, had a child, dropped him off at the Gurukula so they could do "service", decided they didn't like one another and went their separate ways. I was left to the institution, to a Gurukula system that was obviously unacceptable. Most importantly I was surrounded by people, not institutions or "gurus", who were personally irresponsible and uncaring. The lack of integrity was an institutional problem. However, the institution's lack of integrity was built on the lack of personal honesty and integrity of the individuals -- not just the leaders and "gurus", but 95 percent of the people.

I was sexually and physically abused through the majority of my time in ISKCON gurukulas. I was abused by both the "peons" and "leaders". As much as these individuals caused me pain and suffering, I am almost equally as offended and hurt by all those who simply chose not to care, not to stand up for the obvious abuse of children and, most importantly, and painfully, those who use my suffering, and the sufferings of many others, as a way to promote their political, psychological and social issues.

My physical and sexual abuse ended 20 years ago. However, the psychological abuse, which is the most painful and damaging of all, continues almost daily on many of the "Hare Krishna" boards on the Internet.

I have forgiven those that sexually and physically abused me. Many of those individuals were abused themselves or have mental sicknesses that caused their actions. Some of those individuals were ill-equipped to raise and/or care for children. Many were children themselves.

Those I have been unable to forgive are the parents who dropped me off and left me behind -- the adults who saw the abuse and/or knew that "something was wrong" and did or said nothing. It seems that most focus on the leaders and, obviously, in my heart I hold the leadership of the ISKCON movement as responsible. However, most importantly I hold the individuals in our movement responsible.

Many proponents of the ritvik line of thought use the abuse that gurukula children suffered -- that I suffered -- as a central theme to illustrate how corrupt ISKCON leadership and gurus may be, or has been. To be honest, I use the same type of logic in many respects. However, the ritviks and/or anti-ISKCON propagandists use this logic in a very narrow and self-serving way.

Here are some examples:

1. Srila Prabhupada himself knew of both sexual and physical abuse. For example, Prabhupada was well aware of a disciple of his who had abused, and was sexually abusing, children. Yet, he still gave him sannyasa (Bhakti Caitanya). He may have "spoken out" against use of physical force and sexual abuse but he didn't do anything to stop it from occurring. Consider just how loyal and/or fanatical his disciples were that they could enroll (or abandon, depending on whom you ask) their own children to gurukulas without looking back. Their guru said to do something and they did it without question.

Had Prabhupada told them that physical and sexual abuse is wrong and that any individual responsible for such actions must be reprimanded, removed and legally prosecuted, then who would not have gone along with that? Instead, Prabhupada just made general statements condemning such actions, but did nothing to remove or distance himself, his movement and most importantly his movement's children from this abuse and from the abusers.

Giving sannyasa to a sexually perverse, abusive individual does not stop the abuse and perversion. So Prabhupada -- just as the GBC has done after his disappearance -- ignored, covered up and basically wished away the issue.

If one took every instance of Puranjana's and Sri Mukunda's use of the words "guru", "visnupada", etc. and replaced it with "ritvik representative" it wouldn't make Prabhupada's inactions and the actions of his disciples any more reasonable or acceptable.

To say that Prabhupada wouldn't dare allow his perverted, abusive and/or psychologically sick disciples to be gurus, but that he would allow them to be his ritvik representatives, is no less of an indictment against Prabhupada. Not allowing them to receive Guru-puja or to have their own disciples is not all that much different, I think. Aren't those individuals just as evil and sick whether they are called "ritvik representatives" or "gurus"?

2. One of the last people in the world I want to hear using this "logic" is Yasodanandana. I remember this "great" sannyasi. To me, his bid to position himself as "humble and austere" by wearing wooden sandals was as insincere and self-promoting as his current ritvik stance. He saw the abuse, even took part in some physical abuse, but that is supposed to be okay, because he wasn't a guru? Where is his regret and begging for forgiveness?

Then, today, he has the gall and lack of integrity to use the tragedies that I, and many other helpless children suffered, to promote his ritvik cause. He isn't a guru, or acting as one? Well, he may not be accepting his own disciples, but he is saying that he is one of the only "true" disciples of Prabhupada.

It is also clear by his actions that he believes his understandings of Prabhupada and Prabhupada's instructions are more advanced and pure than ISKCON's. With the exception of being called "Guru Maharaja", and his convenient "reasoning" of why he cannot follow the orders of his Guru strictly, he is accepting the same authoritative position. Sounds rather convenient.

As for Puranjana and Sri Mukunda, where are their attacks on the Ritvik sexual deviants and child abusers? I guess their anger has little to do with the abuse we suffered and more to do with their personal gripes.

I hope -- whenever Puranjana, or anyone else, writes obnoxious posts about child abuse -- they realize that, each time, they are abusing me, and the others who faced that torture, again and again.

Editor's Note: Caru das, the author of this article, is not the same person as Chakra's frequent contributor, Caru das from Utah.