Chakra Discussions

Questioning the Guru System

by Former Bhakta Mike

Posted June 24, 2006

I am writing today as an outsider. My moniker will seem familiar to some. For two years I was a Hare Krishna. I left because of the rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that I saw. For a movement that claims to have a surefire path to enlightenment, it has degenerated to something much less enlightened than the western society it exists within and mocks on a regular basis.

However, I feel what I have to say today is of utmost relevance to the current situation at hand. There is a much larger issue than ISKCON covering up a former abuser and allowing him to remain as someone to be worshiped. It is even a much larger issue than the fact many former ISKCON devotees worship at the feet of a man who just got out of prison and possibly orchestrated murders, rapes, and other abuses.

The issue at hand is that people are being worshiped at all. It's not just an issue within ISKCON. In any tradition where people are revered as the mouthpieces of God or enlightened beings, there is a tremendous amount of corruption. All we have to do is look at the Dark Ages and see that corruption taken to an extreme in Christianity. Even now, Catholicism is facing its own accusations of pedophilia, abuse, and subsequent coverup.

Within Buddhism, you also see the same level of corruption. In the 16th century, Jesuit priests were horrified at how rampant pedophilia was among the buddhist priesthood. One priest even remarked how they were proud of what they were doing, and made open displays of it. In Tibet, the lamas were considered as reincarnations of enlightened beings and worshiped. Under them, corruption achieved a new height. One writer even remarked:

No priestly caste in the history of religion has ever fostered and preyed upon the terror and ignorance of its flock with the systematic brigandage of the lamas.

However, I think that if that same writer had witnessed the hindu guru system, he would have very little better to say of them. The hindu caste system is the most known historical abuse of their power, designed to keep them in worshipful status while keeping the rest of society at their feet. Today, even within ISKCON, matchmaking frequently involves the issue of caste. It only takes a visit to the Hare Krishna matchmaking mailing list to see caste mentioned many times in the ads.

I am not telling anyone not to seek to please God. As a matter of fact, I'm telling them to do exactly that: seek to please God. Do not stick fallible humans in the position of God or as His emissary to mankind. To do so, you only invite corruption into your spiritual life. What I am seeing here is a lot of people dissatisfied with corruption and sinfulness...corruption and sinfulness that would not have been possible if these people were not placed into positions of absolute power.

I know what the vedas say on the subject. I also know that the vedas were written by priests. By learned estimates, the vedas (if you include Srimad Bhagavatam) were not completed until somewhere around 800 A.D. They're not ancient writings from thousands of years ago. They should not be viewed as infallible....especially when the lives of our children and their children are at stake.

Many will consider me a demon for these statements. I realize how strong the need to believe in something can be. It sometimes blinds us to the truth. We want so much to believe in something concrete and unwavering, that we're willing to disregard all the warning signs and evidence that point to the contrary. We want direction. We want someone infallible to tell us what to believe. We don't want uncertainty.

However, life isn't like that. Unquestioning loyalty allows evil to reign free. There aren't infallible people walking around that can make our choices for us. Real life is much more uncertain than that. We find out that the only person we can truly trust without a doubt is ourselves. We find out that we are responsible for our own choices, and the responsibility for our choices rests solely on OUR shoulders. We find that the path back to God is the path within ourselves.

I know this will create a lot of dispute, but, haven't those around us suffered enough for our cowardice and inability to stand on our own? We can blame guru after guru for the injustices against the children of ISKCON, but ultimately, we have to blame ourselves. We were the ones with the unquestioning faith. We were the ones who didn't see the problems before our own eyes. We were the ones that traded righteousness for a sense of security.

It is my hope that this system of perversion, discrimination, and slavery that was imported from India be allowed to die in India, the place of its inception. Worship Krishna if you wish. Delight in His pasttimes. Dance and sing, perform puja, but don't bow down before a man who is, after all is said and done, just a man. To do anything else only feeds the corruption that must inevitably exist when men are revered as gods.