After a hectic visit to Mayapur (that was long previously scheduled), I am gradually catching up with pending matters including discussions on the Sampradaya Sun regarding child abuse.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu has made serious accusations against me. He wrote:
“We have one conversation where Srila Prabhupada agreed to use corporal punishment, against an overwhelming amount of instances where he spoke strongly against it…”
I cited several quotes, not one, that at face value show Srila Prabhupada endorsing corporal punishment.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu continued:
“Maharaj, your presentation has been disingenuous and manipulative. I did not say that you quoted out of context because the quotes you provided were not relevant to the conversation, as you suggested. But rather because you have provided an edited version of the conversation, that created a slanted perspective.”
The only editing I did was to present a part of the conversation (as is standard practice; no one quotes whole conversations) and to add a translation of some of that part which was in Hindi.
In fact, Sanaka Rsi Prabhu himself edited what I quoted by leaving out part of what I quoted.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu continued:
“You seem to believe that somehow the Hindi portion of that conversation is unrelated to the rest. Essentially you are trying to take it out of its context, as if the fact that Prabhupada spoke that part in Hindi makes it a new conversation that took place in a different time, space and context, which is nonsense.”
Speculation. I simply included the Hindi part where it occurred within the conversation.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu continued:
“But what is perhaps your biggest blunder, is that you failed to inform the readers that the transcript of the conversation you provided in your article was an edited collage of different bits of the same conversation that you had selectively pieced together so as to create a version that incidentally happens to be more supportive of your agenda than the actual exchange that took place.”
These are heavy accusations that would certainly frame me IF THEY WERE TRUE. But they are NOT.
There is no collage.
Nothing is selectively pieced together.
There is no tampered quote, as he claims. I simply cut and pasted that section from the Vedabase and added Hindi translation. In fact, he “tampered” with what I had quoted, by leaving out a line by Yasodanandan Prabhu.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu then gives a detailed explanation of how I have “fabricated a distorted account of the events that indicates that Srila Prabhupada was as equally disposed towards the use of corporal punishment as he was towards alternatives.” Although he presumes this to be my “agenda,” I was simply presenting (as I wrote) “several other quotes wherein Srila Prabhupada expresses approval of stringent corporal punishment,” that “somehow, in discussions about child abuse within ISKCON … never seem to be cited.” (http://18.104.22.168/gurukula_controversy/child-abuse-definitions-and-subjectivity/)
I was presenting a case that, although some statements of Srila Prabhupada’s concerning corporal punishment express total prohibition, there are others also with a different message, so the issue is not as cut and dried as Sanaka Rsi Prabhu has made out. For a thorough, balanced discussion of any topic all evidence has to be considered. (Admittedly it is often difficult to discuss this particular subject in a balanced manner.)
He calls on me for “publicly acknowledging the gravity of this misrepresentation of your spiritual master.” But there is no misrepresentation, no collage, no selective piecing together, no tampering. In summary, he has accused me of being “disingenuous and manipulative” but it is these ABSOLUTELY FALSE CHARGES that are disingenuous and manipulative. (How can anyone think that they can get away with posting such bull dung and not be called out for it? I urge readers to check for themselves the original against what I posted.)
A major point has been overlooked in the discussion of corporal punishment in the early days of ISKCON gurukulas in India. Those days were very different indeed: corporal punishment was legal in ISKCON and in India; within India, it was widely accepted and approved of. This of course does not justify corporal punishment, nor is it an endorsement of excesses; but it should be understood that attitudes have greatly changed within one or two generations.
Even more importantly, the standard quotes cited in this discussion were largely unknown until after the period in which corporal punishment was common in ISKCON schools. Srila Prabhupada’s letters were not published until well into the 1980s, and even then it took time for devotees to read and research them. The whole collection of Srila Prabhupada’s audio recordings was released in the early 2000s (and at a price of $1800, was not affordable to all) and it would take years to hear them all even by listening to several a day.
Would devotees in the 1980s have administered corporal punishment had they known Srila Prabhupada’s position on it? Is it reasonable to hold persons guilty when almost certainly they were unaware that what they were doing was forbidden by Srila Prabhupada? Their superiors (the managers of ISKCON Mayapur and Vrindavan) must have known that they were administering corporal punishment, and they did not forbid it – and in those days the mandate to follow authorities was embedded in the psyche of ISKCON devotees. If authorities approved something, it had to be okay.
Sanaka Rsi Prabhu refers to my “agenda.” Here it is: my agenda in this matter is to oppose the one-sided, destructive propaganda against the only disciple of Srila Prabhupada who has dedicated his entire life for children by developing a traditional gurukula in the style that Srila Prabhupada wanted. Anyone who actually cares for children would be delighted to recognize the extraordinary good that Bhaktividya Purna Swami has done, rather than trying to drag him down by citing mistakes (even severe mistakes) that he has made.
Why does Sanaka Rsi Prabhu NOT see the many parents who enthusiastically endorse Bhaktividya Purna Swami’s contributions by continuing to send children to him? Why does he not see the several children who grew up under him and are still with him, or elsewhere in Mayapur, and who now have their own children? Why deny this? What is the “agenda” here?
Why have dozens of parents all over the world, who know full well the reported history and could send their children anywhere in the world, have still chosen Mayapur gurukula? Are those parents all stupid? The ongoing propaganda against Mayapur gurukula would make them seem so.
Everyone knows that there have been serious allegations against Bhaktividya Purna Swami, even fairly recently. But those accusations have been countered, mostly by his students and ex-students, on Facebook and elsewhere. Why does Sanaka Rsi Prabhu not inform others about that? What is his “agenda”? (These countering statements are presently being retrieved and collated and soon should be up in one place on the internet.)
Is not api cet su-duracarah applicable here?
As I previously wrote, “Does the Krsna consciousness movement not allow any possibility of reform?” Must a person who has made mistakes in the past be eternally condemned for them? Should we remember Valmiki as a sinner? Shall we reject the Ramayana because it was written by an ex-robber? Do we condemn Jagai and Madhai, or instead glorify Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy upon them?
I strongly urge those who would negatively judge Bhaktividya Purna Swami and the Mayapur gurukula to first personally visit there and see for themselves. Spend time, imbibe the pure atmosphere of the dham, speak with Maharaja and his students, ex-students, and staff, and parents and other members of the broader Mayapur community. No one will pretend that the gurukula is perfect, but the overwhelming opinion of those who are on the spot, living there, is that a very good job is being done in accord with Srila Prabhupada’s wishes.
What does Sanaka Rsi Prabhu have to offer in comparison? If he cares so much for children, what is he positively doing for them? He has had enough time in his life to set up a gurukula in the manner that Srila Prabhupada wanted. All he can do is bash others who have literally given their life to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in this regard.
The suggestions to have clear guidelines regarding child abuse, as proffered by Krsna Dasi and Sanaka Rsi Prabhu, are well taken and I am going to work on them. It won’t happen overnight. Incidentally, one of the leaders of the gurukula in Mayapur whom I recently spoke with told me that he had proposed to Sanaka Rsi Prabhu that they work together to make comprehensive guidelines on child protection issues, that could be used by ISKCON schools worldwide. Sanaka Rsi Prabhu declined.
By the way, everything that I have published on Sampradaya Sun has been written by me. I may send articles for review by others prior to publication, and I may incorporate certain suggestions and changes. But if my name is on it, it is by me. The Sun editors may make editorial changes to my articles, which explains why they might slightly differ to versions published on my website.
I plan one more article on these topics, concerning Indradyumna Swami. Then I’m finished. I am under no obligation to engage with anyone who employs lies and deception to paint me in the worst possible light. That shows very poor character, and our acaryas have warned us to avoid bad association.
[First published at the Sampradaya Sun (www.harekrsna.com/sun) on 2 June 2017.]