Chakra Discussions

Vrindavan Gurukula

by Dhira Govinda das

Posted January 14, 2012

Hare Krsna. I’ve appreciated reading Sanaka prabhu’s articles, and the various postings commenting on what he wrote. Prana prabhu wrote “Well put. So what do we do? Is there any possibility of dealing with this phenomena?”, and Yaduvendu prabhu wrote “The reoccurring problem of child abuse in ISKCON is due to the lack of accountability of its leaders…” Based on my experience, I definitely concur that accountability is a key issue. In response to Prana’s question “…what do we do…”, I might suggest beginning with stopping to pretend that there is a reasonably functional accountability structure in the ISKCON organization, in relation to child protection issues, stopping to make believe that there are minimally effective “proper channels”.

Sanaka’s writings amply illustrate this. Still, I refer readers to the June 30th, 2004 Report on the Status of the ISKCON Child Protection Office (Click Here), and particularly to the sections in that report entitled Favoritism and the Appeal Process, and Culture of Accountability.

As those sections describe, persons in leadership positions in ISKCON do sometimes act with responsibility, care and common sense in relation to child protection. This happens, though, in a system that lacks a culture of accountability. I write here in the present tense, though it is true that I really haven’t been closely involved with child protection in ISKCON for more than seven years. It may be that the situation has markedly changed for the better, and I hope that is the case. Based on the relatively little involvement I have had in recent years, and practically everything I’ve heard from others, I doubt that significant improvement has occurred, and in fact I get the sense that regard for accountability in the organization, with respect to child protection, has deteriorated.

For example, on May 14, 2010, I wrote A Festival of Red Flags - Click Here, which points to many issues related to basic accountability in the organization. One of them, for example, is described in the excerpt below:

“I wrote to Campakalata: ‘I'm wondering whether part of your training and preparation for your service as director of the child protection office included reading the report on the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula Village that I wrote in 1999, and otherwise closely familiarizing yourself with what happened in Mayapur from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. From my perspective getting to closely know and understand the history of the child maltreatment in Mayapur, and the attempts at responding to it, would seem to be essential for your service, not just in relation to Mayapur, but with regard to ISKCON at-large.’

“She responded ‘In my training during the handing over process, I was never informed about what happened in Mayapur.’

“Based on my experience as director of the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children from 1998-2004, the child maltreatment in Mayapur from the late 1970s through the early 1990s was the most severe in the history of ISKCON. I believe that anyone with even a vague awareness of the history of child abuse in ISKCON would agree that that statement says a lot.”

In later correspondence with Ramadevi prabhu I wrote:

“As I've mentioned, I appreciate your efforts and fine intentions to protect the children of Srila Prabhupada's movement. I encourage you to direct your endeavors to provide an accountable explanation for why the international director of the CPO was not informed, as part of her training for the service, about what happened in the past in Mayapur, which was the most severe child abuse in the history of ISKCON. Recently a devotee approached me at the temple and offered that that would be like the new CEO at BP Oil a year or few from now, not being aware that there was some oil spill in 2010. If you are not really really heavy-duty concerned about obtaining an accountable explanation for this, then I am confirmed in my worries that your mentality, despite your well-meaning intentions, represents additional cause for alarm, for multiplying the red flags.”

So, the above, from my perspective, indicates a glaring lack of accountability, and lack of a system within ISKCON that honors the principle of accountability, even minimally. As a result, children and youth connected with the organization suffer, as does the integrity of the institution.


Dhira Govinda dasa (David Wolf)

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