Caring for the Women in ISKCON
Posted September 17, 2012
People have gone public about the formerly hidden abuse of children in our movement. There is also abuse of women going on. Although I will not reveal my identity or the identity of the person being abusive towards me, I want to bring into the open what I went through to increase awareness that even "devotees" cannot always be trusted, and that women need to trust their intuition and wisdom when choosing men to associate with, not just trust a man because he is outwardly a devotee. I am also writing this as a request that we in devotee communities develop a woman protection office as there is a child protection office, and that we educate the women in our movement more on what is healthy and unhealthy in a relationship. There is the confusion in our movement of being taught that celibacy and living the simple single life is the ideal versus the reality of what most of us need in our lives. This can create some guilt and insecurities in the men who go from brahmacari to grhasta which can then also create disturbances for the women.
In my particular situation, I have spent six years of my life trying to be faithful and loving (as the duty of a woman is according to sastra) to a devotee man (former gurukuli, perhaps his childhood abuse has rendered him unable to relate kindly to women in his adulthood) despite the emotional abuse he has put me through. Sastra emphasizes so much that a woman needs a man (there are even quotes that a woman without a man is a dead body, and that an independent woman can never be happy), so I took these quotes to heart, and thought that be trying to be faithful to the man I initially gave my heart to was the correct dharmic path for me. My intuition told me at times he was cheating on me, and later I found it out to be very true, but I did not listen or trust my intuition as I was trying to be this good little chaste girl. I am writing this as a warning to other women, to trust your instincts, as I don't believe we need to stay faithful to someone who is harming our hearts.
This person has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, repeatedly going from being kind and loving one week, to not talking to me the next with no warning or indication of why. One day he will speak of marriage, the next he will announce that he has a new girlfriend. One day he will block all communication with me out of the blue, a few months later he comes running back.
I have tried to be the spiritually faithful, chaste, forgiving, tolerant, patient, compassionate woman through all of this, but am at the point where enough is enough. At what point does taking care of ourselves become more important than being forgiving and tolerant? Then there is also the guilt factor, as we are taught in scripture that breaks in the relationship only occur because of the woman. So then there is the constant inner voice of "what did I do wrong to bring this on", but in certain abusive relationships, I think the men are also to blame. And there is also the fear of "what will I be without him?" If the woman's prime duty is to be faithful to a man, and if we lose our man, then what will become of us? Such thoughts might run through the mind of a devotee woman in a troubled relationship.
Also disturbing to me is that this person is so much respected and looked up to by many in the devotee community. Most people think he is a celibate saintly person, having no idea of what goes on behind closed doors. Throughout these six years, it was hard for me to find people to reach out to. I found some devotee counselors in another state across the country but that was about it. We have a child protection office, but I think we need a woman protection office as well. Had I had a trusted place to call and confide in years ago, maybe I would not have remained so tolerant and forgiving for six years. As devotees we don't want to play the victim role, and we want to accept responsibility for our own karma, but where do we draw the line and learn when it is ok to accept that someone else's actions are wrong, and are causing us unecessary pain?
Women are encouraged to be the faithful wife, but I think we need more education how to do this in a way that is healthy, knowing where to draw the line between being faithful and chaste and tolerant, and taking care of ourselves. I also think we need to distinguish between what is Vedic and may have worked will in India many years ago, and what is Krishna Conscious and may work well in the modern western society we live in. Women are raised in the west to be independent. Why not encourage women to utilize that independence in a preaching spirit, and to serve the Lord, rather than encourage her to give that up and become the quiet, humble, submissive wife, especially when it is to someone who may not be acting as a proper husband. I hope that some senior female devotees with wisdom and experience in this matter can possibly create some seminars or books on this topic, or maybe include this in the annual Vaisnavi retreat - a segment on learning to recognize signs of abuse or a potential abusing parter in a relationship, and more generally, how do we as women balance our roles as being the faithful, humble Vedic wife, with being the strong and empowered devotee of Krishna we also have the potential to be.
Post your comments here.
These comments are posted by independent site visitors and are in no way affiliated with Chakra.org or the authors of its content. All comments must be appropriately censored for children. If you want to post anonymously, we can provide you a password for Chakra Dev (email your request to chakradevrequest (@) gmail (.) com ).