Open Letter To Dhanurdhara Swami
Posted May 22, 2006
Editorial Note: The members of the Chakra editorial board were deeply saddened by Shakuntala's letter and extend their heartfelt condolences to Ananda's family and friends in their time of grief. We would also like to help facilitate any dialogue that can help turn this tragic event into an opportunity for healing. As Shakuntala noted, there may be other gurukula alumni "teetering on the same edge" as Ananda. Please send your thoughts about what it would take to make a difference in the lives of ISKCON abuse victims, to help them know that we care. We need to do all that we can as a community to reduce the pain that cause them to choose to end their young lives.
I regret to inform you that your former gurukula student, Ananda, just shot himself in the head last Thursday. Remember what you did to him so long ago…it may not be alive to you any more but I assure you it was still very much alive to him…At his funeral the people in his life who were not devotees mentioned repeatedly that much of his unhappiness and suffering in life was attributed to his upbringing. Over and over I heard this from strangers as I slunk further in my chair not wanting to be associated with "them", those people from his past…you. This was still very much alive in his life.
When you came to Los Angeles for a meeting regarding your history as an ashram teacher some years ago, Ananda was there. He chose not to enter the room because he did not feel he would be able to control the rage he felt against you and you are lucky because he is a decorated Gulf War veteran. He stood across the street instead, fist clenched for an hour, staring in your direction full of rage.
You came up in a meeting last year where ISKCON leadership was promising us that you are no longer in good standing, but others said that you "did your time, you tried to make amends with the past." They quoted the sloka that states a devotee even if he commits an abominable act if he comes back to his position of devote and chants the holy name he should be forgiven. Where was that sloka when you had your fist to Ananda's face beating him repeatedly, till blood came from his ears, he was a vaishnava too. With your fists, you pounded down his spiritual creeper by teaching him to equate Krsna with being abused. Have you checked in with your former gurukula students lately—your very "first" disciples? Do you know that others are also dead? Those who are not dead are on medication, or medicate their pain with various forms of intoxication. Many are not even able to function well in society because you have emotionally crippled them. Day in and day out they look those scars in the face and deal with their emotional disfiguration while you frolic on parikram in the holy dham giving lectures and caring for your disciples. It may be easy for you to move on and leave the past behind…but who knows who of your former students may at this very moment have a gun to their head? Where do they have to turn??? Not Krsna…not after what you taught them about Krsna consciousness when they were scared orphans left under your protection. And people have the nerve to criticize them for not coming to the temple anymore, or for medicating their pain with intoxication, "Oh they are in maya." What choice did you leave them? You robbed them of their Krsna consciousness and left them with emotional and spiritual scars and then laugh that they "don't have it together" or that they "eat meat", or wonder to yourself why they don't just "chant more japa"……..Would YOU ? Could YOU? Will YOU ? We believe in karma prabhu. What lurks in your future? You have not made amends with these souls? What can you do now to serve these vaishnavas who, with their pure childlike souls, were undoubtedly more elevated than you at the time? What of the mad elephant offence of crushing the spiritual spark of these devotees? For your safety in this lifetime and the next, I ask you to make amends with these devotees. Take responsibility and fall at the feet of each and every single one of them individually even if they spit on you like you are Jad Bharat. Do this for them because who else may be teetering on this same edge like Ananda? Prabhu, how much more blood do you want on your hands? How dare you accept worship! You must first break this cycle of suffering while you still have the opportunity to rectify your own mistakes. Not with a generic letter like the one you impersonally sent out to please your friends at the GBC. It never reached Ananda. As a so called personalist, go person to person and beg each of your former students for their forgiveness. Give them this closure. Please see what can be done to stop their suffering.
I know that you are not a purely evil person and I know that today you lead a very different life than you did long ago when you were an ashram teacher. I have never been harmed by you personally on the contrary I have actually had a few cordial interactions with you before I knew you were "that" Dhanudara. And though you have not hurt me directly, my own faith is attacked by the suffering my friends have endured. How can I have faith in the spiritual integrity of our leadership, our society, what to speak of you personally if you are still being worshiped and keeping ISKCON disciples without receiving the forgiveness of each and every single one of these devotees, whose lives you have devastated. You lost your opportunity to make amends with Ananda. Let's celebrate his life by allowing his loss to become a catalyst for change. He has reminded us all that even though the court case has been settled this is not over yet. We must end this cycle. If not for your spiritual evolution then at least for the sake of the others involved. So go find your students chewing on a burger at McDonalds and beg their forgiveness. Leave no stone unturned. And just imagine what could take place in this society if by your example we each begin taking responsibility by asking those we have wronged for their forgiveness.