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“To have a healthy society, it is necessary to have a forum for publicly stating what is acceptable and what is not.”

      ISKCON Vancouver, Canada









“With leadership comes responsibility. If one cannot make decisions or take the responsibility of being accountable, then such devotees should step down from leadership posts and let others manage.”

Comment on VNN's "Killed by Friendly Fire"
By Radhikarani devi dasi

Dear Prabhus,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!

With regards to the Mahamantra issue in general and the VNN editorial story in particular, I wish to humbly put forward several points and what I perceive as solutions. This is not a personal attack on anyone and neither is it my intention to get embroiled in this sorry state of affairs. Suffice to say, and what most would fail to recognize is that in this "war," the wife of Mahamantra is not the only victim. There are other causalities as a result of the snowballing effect.

Let us not be so quick to identify "heroes" or call for quick fixes. Simply rendering the punishment to Mahamantra won't solve the problems. I can guarantee you that there will be other Mahamantras and other victims like Shanta devi again and again. It will just be a new set of characters with some on the guilty side and some on the victim side. And this is because we have not touched base with the root of the problem.

As I perceive it, the following is some of the ways to address the core issues:

All children, particularly male, must be taught to respect their mothers and sisters. This education starts with the mother instilling these values in a child. It is called samskara. It must be taught that violence -in words or otherwise- is not acceptable. That chanting beads cannot be used as weapons, for example. Do not assume a child will naturally not be abusive. Acceptable and unacceptable behavior has to be spelled out. The gurukulis must be given examples of what is acceptable behavior. Every temple president is morally bound to ensure that those living on the property are following these simple rules. Let us talk about behavior in SB class in the mornings. It is ideal to be talking of the glories of Lord Krsna but if one cannot conduct oneself properly then what is the point? It becomes lip service.

All brahmacari leaders should be morally bound to inform all the new bhaktas (and themselves) that women are to be respected and not perceived as "Mayadevi." In relation to this point I would like to share something I observed about two years ago. I was traveling on a bus (in Vancouver) one day when a group of brahmacaris - fired up sankirtana devotees got on the bus. Shortly after, an attractive woman wearing clothes in a less then modest way got onto the bus. The brahmacaris immediately started to sing a jingle on "Mayadevi." This poor lady had no idea that she was being made fun of. I thought how sad those women are treated this way. The brahmacari ought to be informed that all women, no matter how they are dressed, or where they come from, or what their status is, are still to be respected as mothers. Perhaps we even need to look into this concept of having brahmacaris. It is not working out correctly as these are the men who get married and abuse their spouses because they have no idea how to deal with women. Perhaps the emphasis should be on training young men to be responsible men as a grhastas. Let us not live in the illusion that being a celibate brahmacari is working. If it did, we would not have such high incidence of abuse of women and children or even incidents like abortions within temple property. In Vedic times that was the training - for all men to be responsible and in process of training, some who could really and truly live the life of a celibate emerged and observed their vow perfectly. As long as we emphasize brahmacari as being the ideal way to be, we will find men who wish to be the top and fail miserably because we do not come from an ideal home where self-denial is the norm. Rather, this is the age of self-indulgence to the max. How difficult it is to overcome this barrier! Might it not be better to train them as responsible householders and progress from there? What have we learnt from our past experiences?

To have a healthy society, it is necessary to have a forum for publicly stating what is acceptable and what is not. I refer to the media. We have the BTG where everything is portrayed as being fine and dandy. When we have issues like Mahamantra, it might be an idea to publish their pictures as a deterrent to others from behaving in a similar fashion. This is the most essential function a media has in any society. Otherwise it is totalitarianism and propaganda. Such propaganda may initially attract one to come in but it can also have the disastrous effect of disillusion for the individual as they see things are different from how they are portrayed. Let us be realistic and start addressing our issues in a way that is beneficial for us all. Let us talk about it and stop pretending the society has no problems.

With leadership comes responsibility. If one cannot make decisions or take the responsibility of being accountable, then such devotees should step down from leadership posts and let others manage.

Proper understanding of Vaisnava philosophy

It is true "we are not the body"; but does that make it all right for one to either physically or verbally abuse others? Instead of trying to preach to others that we are not the bodies, first let us understand this injunction correctly.

Change in our attitude to each other and all around us. Let us come down from our high cloud of thinking "we are better because we are initiated or chanting." If only we understood the third sikshastaka of Lord Caitanya, our problems would be wiped out. Just that one point is the sum and substance of how to gauge our own behavior

Let me conclude this by saying that wanting to practice Krsna Consciousness is a noble goal. It is a great training ground for us to manifest good spiritual qualities towards each other. For this to continue being a great training ground for each one of us. Let us deal with our root problems and take corrective measures. Some things can be done by each one of us immediately, here and now.

Radhikarani devi dasi. Vancouver.

© CHAKRA 14-April-2000

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