[This was formerly submitted to the Sampradaya Sun by the author but was refused for publication.]
To Topical Discussions Conference
25 April 2001
While appreciating attempts to stop child abuse I propose that it is far insufficient to extend protection simply to the limited extent accepted by mundane lawmakers. Children can only be fully and properly protected if brought up in pursuance of tenets given by the original, supreme and infallible lawmaker.
According to Krishna conscious understanding, even parents are guilty of abusing their children if they for instance:
- encourage their children to adopt a worldview more acceptable to mundane academicians than in line with sastra;
- set a bad example by regularly rising late, having poor sadhana, eating karmi food, and in other ways acting as materialistic rather than ideal Krishna conscious parents;
- allow their children unrestricted access to TV, computer games, and the like;
- fail to educate their children about the dangers of illicit sex, and allow or encourage them to freely mix with members of the opposite sex;
- fail to take the time and trouble to solidly train their children not to abuse their rare and valuable human form of life, but rather to seriously practice Krishna consciousness, which is their only hope of getting free from repeated birth in the world of exploitation and abuse.
Many who consider themselves protectors of children may themselves be active perpetrators of abuse.
10 May 2001
Your text above has been read by both gurukula alumni, parents and some child protection advocates. The question has arisen whether you consider the practices you list, which you refer to as child abuse, to be equally abusive as e.g. the practice of spanking children, or as child molestations. This topic has been discussed on this conference, as well as on a conference for gurukula alumni. Could you please clarify for us how you see the relative seriousness of what “mundane lawmakers” refer to as abuse and the items on your list? Thank you.
12 May 2001
Thankyou for discussing these important questions and for asking me to clarify my position.
But asking which I think worse is like asking me to compare brown stool with black stool. Both are disgusting.
Consciousness of gross child abuse has been awakened in ISKCON and there are now systems in place to prevent it. Notwithstanding unresolved controversies, the practical effect is that children of ISKCON devotees today are much less likely to be grossly abused than those of previous generations. The devotees who have been instrumental in bringing this about have done a great job and deserve applause.
Yet there is much more to do. We need to build a culture of stable family life wherein children can grow up looking up to their parents as ideal persons and not having to experience the pain of seeing their parents divorce.
Furthermore, parents should be made aware that if they do not take the trouble to seriously train their children in Krishna consciousness, they thereby send them back to suffer repeated birth and death, with concomitant intense suffering, for a practically endless period.
Gross child abuse, horrible as it is, is only a manifestation of a much greater problem, the root of all problems: forgetfulness of Krishna. Although gross child abuse should certainly be purged from the community of devotees, unless we focus on the spiritual decrepitude that is at its root, then any solutions are not really solutions at all; for unless and until one fully surrenders to Krishna and goes back to Godhead, he simply abuses others and gets abused in the most nasty ways life after life without respite. Therefore although letting children live a free undisciplined life may seem not nearly as bad as gross child abuse, in the long run it fosters abuse and is therefore abusive.
This does not in any way condone manifestations of gross abuse of children, but is meant to awaken consciousness of the need to do much more for them.
It is highly desirable, and not impossible, that devotees show an example to the world of stable, peaceful, wholesome, religious family life. But at present, devotee marriages tend to be short-lived, and most children of devotees are neither spiritually nor materially well developed.
In the case of gross child abuse, first awareness of the problem was aroused; positive and beneficial action followed. Let it be so also in this case.