by Subhadra-Mayi dasi
Posted December 17, 2002
At first sight, the term "spiritual abuse" seems odd, misplaced. Definitely
Or is it? Is ISKCON free from controlling, dominating, and manipulating its
members? No, say some, but it's for the protection of the devotees in
Does that mean ISKCON members are incapable of thinking for themselves?
that what Prabhupada wanted? Independently thoughtful people? The fact is
the persons being controlled and manipulated lose their self-respect. They
become fearful and lose their ability to stand up against the manipulation,
because if they do, they become branded. They are either called a feminist
(pronouced with a spit by many) or they are accused of being in maya. Their
faith in Prabhupada gets attacked, they get labeled as disloyal. They become
the subject of ridicule, or worse.
So many devotees have low self-esteem. Is this what Krishna Consciousness
No! It's what those who preach in the name of so-called Krishna
produce! We have become so used to it that those not directly affected don't
see the harm anymore, and those who do see it turn a blind eye. Those
affected give up fighting against a brick wall, and are happy to leave the
institutional setting and worship in their own way, most for a very good
Do you truly feel good when you visit temples? Do you question your own
Consciousness? Do you check others'? In your eyes, are the GBC laws equated
coming from Krishna? Is your seriousness in spiritual life linked to the
that you follow all the laws? Are exterior appearances linked to your
dedication? Do you still feel the initial happiness that you felt when you
first came into contact with Krishna Consciousness, or has that enthusiasm
replaced with low self-esteem, shame, and discomfort? Do you feel uplifted
after all classes, or do some speakers make you feel beaten down or
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, it means that Prabhupada's
isn't what it was meant to be.
That I ask these questions may be seen as a sign of rebellion or maya. It
prove, to some, my lack of sincerity. But to the contrary, I happen to care
lot about the house which Prabhupada built. The house in which the whole
can live in.
Well, can the whole world live in it? No. There's no place for intelligent
women, no place for children, no place for responsible men who provide for
their families, no place for brahmacaries who choose to be gentlemen, no
for the honest, and no place for those with integrity, it seems!
If there was a place for all these devotees of Krishna, nobody would have
allowed the abuse of women and children. Men would be given opportunities to
provide amply for their family without being branded as being insincere or
fully dedicated to the mission. Brahmacaries who use their manners wouldn't
frowned upon or made fun of.
Those who demand acknowledgement and atonement for these problems get cast
as vaishnava aparadhis. That way, things will never change. Resentment
continues to build up, which ruins devotees' material and spiritual lives,
in the end, what will be left of Srila Prabhupada's house? A bunch of
who try to hold the empty fortress together -- with what? Their egos, their
perceptions that they must be the sincere ones, since they are the only ones
left? Let us not allow that to happen!
One may say that a lot of good gets done by ISKCON. That is true, but that
doesn't give anyone the right to dismiss all the harm ISKCON causes too,
particularly to its own members. Don't we owe it to Srila Prabhupada to not
let his house go to ruin? Don't we owe it to him to keep his house in
repair and even make it more glorious then it already was? Wouldn't he be
proud? Let us please address these things, not just in small conferences or
between friends but on every level. I'm dreaming of the day that I'll hear
new devotees don't get preached to anymore about how inferior woman are, or
that Prabhupada's words have been twisted to imply that one should not even
in the same room with his mother, or else there will be a risk of falldown.
devotees who preach these kind of things should not be in the position of
teaching others -- they belong in institution where they get help.
It's sickening how Prabhupada's words get twisted to these concepts. I dream
the day where a system is in place that protects the children of this
instead of protecting paedophiles in fear of commiting 'vaishnava aparadha.'
Why aren't new devotees checked on their criminal records? Anyone can pose
sincere bhakta, join the temple and be free to commit hideous acts. Why are
perpetrators protected? Why aren't they turned over to the authorities? Is
really vaishnava behaviour to protect those people instead of the children
I dream of the day that the focus of the brahmacari ashram is Krishna,
then the focus being the intelligence of women. It seems they can only feel
secure in their way of life when they put others down. Otherwise why would
be such a matter of interest? Is it necessary? Moreover, is it normal?
I dream of the day that all devotees have manners, just like Prabhupada had.
Impeccable manners. I dream of the day where classes are about Krishna and
instructions, where class doesn't get used for personal propaganda against a
certain class of devotees. Prabhupada never mentioned anything demeaning in
classes simply because he knew that nobody would protest. Prabhupada didn't
think in a demeaning way in the first place. Can you say that for classes
I have so many dreams. For now ISKCON is run as a dictatorship. If one says
something that isn't liked by the authorities, you're harrased away,
etc. For now nobody takes ownership for all the problems. It's laziness,
not caring for what Prabhupada's house is meant to be.
"Laziness," you may say, "that's a big word! Don't so many senior devotees
charge of ISKCON open temples, etc."
Yes maybe, but what's the use? They're merely expanding a dysfunctional
movement -- if you can still call it movement? Wouldn't it be better to
this whole mess? If that gets done, all those devotees who have left over
years may come back. ISKCON would attract intelligent people. ISKCON would
flourish beyond imagination.
But new GBC laws won't do the job. These things must be tackled at the core.
From the bhakta program to the way interactions take place in the GBC
conference room, there's just no respect for each other as fellow
Really, the women and children of this movement aren't out to destroy
spiritual life, so stop perceiving us this way. All we want to do is have a
place in Prabhupada's movement where we all can contribute to our fullest
capabilities. And we really are smart enough to figure out for ourselves
our capabilities are, rather than having someone throw sastric quotes at us,
telling us that we don't have certain qualifications. Honestly, we can
it out ourselves! Give us a chance. You may be amazed.