Sorry, Sanaka, You Are Wrong H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami

Response to

Sanaka, you are intelligent, articulate, and dedicated to a noble cause. You also seem to be fully convinced that you are right in all respects and that anyone who disagrees with you must be just plain wrong. However, you have erred in your portrayal of myself as quoting Srila Prabhupada out of context. The context is Srila Prabhupada’s statements on corporal punishment of children, especially in gurukula. I supplied quotes in which Srila Prabhupada generally endorsed corporal punishment and one in which he himself advised beating (pito) a badly behaved gurukula boy. (See

Correction: I slightly mistranslated pito. In Bengali, it means “severely beat,” but in Hindi, it just means “beat.” Srila Prabhupada was speaking in Hindi, so the meaning conveyed was not to severely beat the boy, just to beat him.

You might not like such quotes. You might try to explain them away. But you cannot deny that Srila Prabhupada made them, and specifically in the context under discussion. In fact, you admitted “it is indeed true that Srila Prabhupada sanctioned the use of corporal punishment in that instance”—which is at least one instance of Srila Prabhupada sanctioning the use of corporal punishment. Nothing that Srila Prabhupada says or does should be lightly discounted. Even one instance of our founder-acarya’s advice in a certain situation is instructive for us in dealing with similar situations in future.

You state that the quote is out of context but you do not state the context – instead you substitute a hyperlink for an entire conversation. But the context of the statement is clear: at that point in the discussion the context was how to deal with an unruly boy.

You stated: “You found one instance where Srila Prabhupada reluctantly consented to the repeated requests of Jagadisa…” But I also added the Hindi part, with translation, that you left out, in which Srila Prabhupada, unprompted by Jagadisa or anyone else, used the word pito (beat). The context is that Jagadisa suggested (once, not several times) beating as one of two alternatives, the other being to “send him back.” Srila Prabhupada endorsed “send him back.” Then other devotees explained in detail just how misbehaved the boy was, after which Jagadisa said, “In my opinion, the best thing is to make an example and beat him.”

This was only the second time (not several, as you state) that Jagadisa had suggested beating, to which Srila Prabhupada replied

Yes, send him to farm, work in the field. If he does not work, beat him. Murkhasya lathyausadhih [“The medicine for a fool is a stick”].

A little later in the conversation, Srila Prabhupada, speaking in Hindi (not to Jagadisa) and not prompted by anyone else, again recommended beating: “Send him to (the ISKCON farm at) Hyderabad, make him work. Give him digging work. If he refuses, beat him, that is the way to do it.” Srila Prabhupada recommended that a boy be beaten.

These quotes might seem shocking, but Srila Prabhupada actually made them. We have to be careful to not try to stereotype Srila Prabhupada to fit our own ideas.

Regarding ear-tweaking. In your film you showed a boy complaining about it, as if it was a big deal. But you didn’t supply any context. The children in the video accused a woman of twisting the ear.

[10:17 “Cost of Silence, part 3 of 4”]

Kid 1: [indistinct] to our stomach very much, very hardly and to our ear she pulled it like a key.

Kid 2: Our head is going in the wall.

Kid 1: Anybody has any problem, any people not jump in mangal arati, then he will come and jump so much.

Kid 3: Mata Ji, can I speak in Hindi? Aap jante he main jab vahaan par thaa. Mata ji khadaa hua. Unhone mujhe tapar diyaa [slapped] aur mujhe bolaayaa “come here come here”, aur unhone mera pinch kiyaa pet [stomach] aur ghuma diyaa [twist].

Kid 1: Pulled it like a key. Mata Ji, she turned it like a key.

But now you describe ear “pulling” in quite a different manner: physically lifting children by the ear. A woman twisting a boy’s ear is not the same as lifting children by their ears off the ground. Yet you accuse me of citing you out of context.

Although you make some valid points, for instance, about possible misuse of corporal punishment, which are certainly worth discussing, I can’t write whole articles (like this one) to rebut all the opinionated and flawed statements that you make as if they are proven facts.

As is well known, Srila Prabhupada sometimes said different things at different times on the same issue, and different devotees explain these apparent contradictions in varying ways. Indeed, alternative approaches to harmonizing seemingly disharmonious statements is the stuff that religious schisms are made of.

But there can be no discussion when someone is so convinced that he is right that he won’t give an inch and resorts to ad hominem attacks. However noble the cause, zeal in pursuing it must be tempered with openness and humility – a willingness to admit that there might be another side of the story, and possibly to adjust one’s stance – otherwise it can become an inquisition.

By no means am I on a campaign to institute corporal punishment; I am only discussing it because you asked me to clarify my position regarding it. I was planning to respond to further of your challenges in a series of articles (as suggested at the end of my previous article), but there can be no fruitful dialog unless you display a more fair-minded and accommodating spirit.

Regarding Bhaktividya Purna Swami: there are horrendous reports about him and glowing ones also. Paradoxical. Is it discussable that there might be some good about him, that he is not all bad? Not according to you. You have given the verdict, and woe to anyone who dares question you!

Here, I have a suggestion for you. If at all you feel that there are any GBCs in ISKCON who are seriously concerned about child abuse, try approaching them individually and attempt to cojointly devise a strategy as to what is to be done. Sure it is tough to make changes in ISKCON or to get through to the leaders but someone must be concerned, otherwise why was the CPO set up?

[First published at the Sampradaya Sun ( on 13 May 2017.]


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