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“More detailed analysis of correlating variables is needed, for example, to determine if abuse was consistent over the years, or if it has diminished or increased. As a general rule of thumb, if, for example, 15% is the norm of responses in a certain category (i.e. neglect questions) and some questions score considerably higher (or lower) than the norm, those responses stand out and are pretty safe to argue.”

Manu dasa is in charge of ISKCON's Youth Ministry and is based in Illinois, USA.

ISKCON Youth Ministry Anonymous Survey Results
By Manu dasa

Dear Friends and Family,

Here at long last the frequency results of the anonymous survey ISKCON Youth Ministry conducted in May of 1998. More in-depth results will follow in the weeks to come. The survey was mailed to some 800 youth and young adults who grew up in the Hare Krishna Movement. The purpose was to determine levels of abuse in Gurukula, and solicit honest feedback on what went wrong and what was good about our upbringing and experiences in the movement. We received 115 valid responses, which have been tabulated into an SPSS statistics program. Please note that there was also a non-anonymous section of the survey, which has not yet been tabulated.

We welcome your suggestions for correlation analysis of this surveys variables. Examples of correlations would include, for example: Did Gurukula experiences improve over time? Were boys abused more than girls? How many of those who stated that they felt mostly unloved and unwanted in Gurukula still consider themselves members of ISKCON today?

Please send us your suggestions for correlation questions:

ISKCON Youth Ministry 
PO Box 209 DeKalb, IL 60115 USA

Email: manu.das@pamho.net

  • Gender of respondents: male 36% / female 64%

  • Average age of respondents (in 1998): 22 (oldest respondent was 34, youngest 15)

  • Average year respondents left Gurukula: 1989

  • The following questions related to experience while living in Gurukula:

  • Touched with sexual intent by teacher or monitor: 18.3%

  • Touched with sexual intent by person two or more years older: 23.5%

  • Length of sexual abuse: (of those who were abused) - one day or less: 25% - up to one month: 12.5% - up to one year: 29.1% - more than one year: 25% - don’t remember: 8.3%

  • Repeatedly hit to point of marks left on body by teacher, monitor, or person two or more years older: 31%

  • Saw or knew of friend(s) being repeatedly hit to point of marks on body: 37.4%

20) Emotional Abuse performed by teacher or monitor:

a)       Repeatedly called bad names: 27%

b)       Repeatedly told you were useless, good-for-nothing: 24.3%

c)       Repeatedly told you were in maya: 35.7%

d)       Told you that parents or relatives were maya: 30.4%

e)       Told you crying was bad/maya/sissy: 32.2%

f)        Told you wetting your bed was bad/maya: 21.7%

g)       Humiliated you in front of other kids: 47.8%

h)       Repeatedly chastised you for no apparent reason: 26.1%

i)         Repeatedly made fun of you: 19.1%

j)         Repeatedly made fun of you in front of other kids: 19.1%

k)       Punished you for not chanting nicely (japa/kirtan): 37.4%

l)         Punished you for wetting your bed: 18.3%

m)      Punished you for crying: 17.4%

n)       Punished you for running away from school: 15.7%

o)       Punished for asking for clarification on a statement: 19.1%

p)       Punished for questioning reason for doing something: 29.6%

q)       Punished for not memorizing mantras well enough: 13%

r)        Punished for looking at member of opposite sex: 29.6%

s)       Punished for innocently playing with member of opposite sex: 30.4%

t)        Punished for not finishing prasadam on your plate: 58.3%

u)       Punished for not responding quickly enough to an instruction: 28.7%

v)       Punished for innocently forgetting an instruction: 30.4%

w)      Punished for telling the truth: 29.6%

x)        Punished for complaining about another teacher or monitor: 20.9%

y)       Punished for something beyond your control, that you could do nothing about: 31.3%

z)        Played you up against another student (as in lets see you fight it out, or lets see if you can beat him up.) 19.1%

aa)    Told you to hit another student: 6.1%

bb)   Told you to lie: 12.2%

cc)    Told you not to tell anyone what he/she did to you: 10.4%

dd)   Told you to steal: 2.6%

ee)    Told you to sexually touch him/her: 3.5%

ff)      Told you to sexually touch another person: 0.9%

gg)   Gave you more cleaning duties than others: 23.5%

hh)   Asked you to do menial services you felt were unfair: 20.9%

ii)       Asked you to do unreasonable things (please explain...): 13%

jj)       Told you that you would get into trouble if you told your parents: 10.4%

kk)    Told you to re-write a letter to relatives that expressed negative feelings about your life in Gurukula: 16.5%

ll)       Monitored phone conversations with your parents: 16.5%

mm) Other... (Your own additions of similar experiences): 27.8%

nn)   While in Gurukula, saw any of these above statements happen to one or more of your friends: 71.3% yes

21) While you were in Gurukula, how did you mostly feel:

a)       Loved and cared for: 24.5%

b)       Somewhat loved and cared for: 50.9%

c)       Unloved and uncared for: 24.5%

22) Did you ever experience a longer period of time in Gurukula where you felt unloved and unwanted? 41.3% yes

Abuse by Neglect in Gurukula:

23) While you were in Gurukula, did you ever experience:

a)       Being left alone and unsupervised for long periods of time: 25.2%

b)       A lack of enough food to eat: 27%

c)       A lack of enough sanitary water to drink: 15.7%

d)       A lack of necessary clothing (such as in winter): 26.1%

e)       A lack of socks: 23.1%

f)        Lack of owning a coat or chaddar: 13%

g)       Lack of owning a hat and scarf: 15.7%

h)       Lack of a blanket at night: 10.4%

i)         Lack of sleeping bag or blanket due to bedwetting: 8.7%

j)         Lack of getting replacement dhoti, kurta or sari because it got ripped, ruined, lost or stolen: 15.7%

k)       A lack of feeling safe and protected from the teachers (for example, you had no one who would protect you if you got in trouble): 34.8%

l)         A lack of medical treatment for illness you had, which the teachers knew about: 27%

m)      You weren’t believed when you said you were sick, causing your sickness to get worse: 24.3%

n)       You were told not to go to the doctor but to chant Hare Krishna instead, and that Krsna would cure you: 10.4%

o)       You were told to look after other kids (in the absence of a teacher) for long periods of time, when you were still a kid yourself and felt you were unable to cope with the situation, causing you to feel helpless: 20%

p)       Felt helpless and abandoned, with nowhere to go, no way out: 28.7%

q)       Other ___ (your own similar experiences): 19.1%

r)        While you were in Gurukula, did you ever see any of the above happening to one (or more) of your friends: 58.3% yes

Sexual abuse performed or attempted at temple community while growing up:


a)       Before you were 18, outside of marriage or being engaged to someone, were you ever touched with sexual intent by an older person at your ISKCON community: 24.3%

b)       Before you were 18, outside of marriage or being engaged to someone, were you ever approached with the intention of having sexual contact by an older person at your temple/community? 23.5%

Current level of adherence to the tenets of Krsna Consciousness by survey respondents:


a)       Eat meat: 7%

b)       Take intoxication: 39.1%

c)       Gamble: 9.6%

d)       Have sex for pleasure: 60.9%


a)       Chant 16 rounds a day: 16.5%

b)       Don’t chant any rounds: 45.2%

c)       Chant as many rounds as I can, whenever I can: 23.5%

d)       Chant a fixed number of rounds: 8.7%

29) How often do you read Srila Prabhupada’s books?

a)       Every day: 4.4%

b)       Regularly: 15.9%

c)       Sometimes: 48.7%

d)       I don’t: 31%

30) Currently serving under the direct guidance of an ISKCON spiritual master or ISKCON authority: 22.6%


a)       Believe Krsna is God: 84.3%

b)       Consider yourself a devotee of Krsna: 73%

c)       Believe Srila Prabhupada was a pure devotee: 85.2%

d)       Consider yourself a follower of Srila Prabhupada: 66.1%


a)       Believe Prabhupada’s books have the solutions to the problems of the world: 72.2%

b)       Believe ISKCON has the solutions to the problems of the world: 27.8%

c)       Believe ISKCON has hope for improvement: 81.7%

d)       Consider yourself a member of ISKCON: 53.9% yes, 39.1% no, 3.5% somewhat.


A word of caution is offered here to those who will use this data to draw hard and fast conclusions about the topics surveyed. More detailed analysis of correlating variables is needed, for example, to determine if abuse was consistent over the years, or if it has diminished or increased. As a general rule of thumb, if, for example, 15% is the norm of responses in a certain category (i.e. neglect questions) and some questions score considerably higher (or lower) than the norm, those responses stand out and are pretty safe to argue. Responses where variance from the median or norm is slight, may not be as black or white, and may not apply to a large enough number of respondents to make a strong case for or against. And on the flipside, even a low percentage, such as 1%, is not to be discounted... because behind that percent is a person who had that experience. Finally, surveys are imperfect. We didn’t word each question perfectly... many could have been worded better. Plus, the type of person who feels strongly enough for or against an issue to respond to this kind of a survey is by default represented more frequently than the type who takes life in strides and doesn’t care too much either way. We wish to thank all those who took the time to fill out this survey and send it in. This is for you. It could not have happened without you.

May the future be a better and happier place for our children. On behalf of the volunteers around the world who helped hand out and collect the surveys, thank you, all. Thank you to Jaya Radhe for entering most of the survey data, and to Tamohara for helping to evaluate it. Your servant, Manu Dasa

© CHAKRA 14-April-2000

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