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Don't Place the Blame on Others
By Saradiya Dasi

"When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it." (Instructions for Life) This quote was given in one of my university classes recently. It can be applied under any circumstance. I am using it to convey a serious mistake I've made and I feel ISKCON as a whole has made, and any person who considers themselves a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

However, not putting the blame on anyone else, I am accepting responsibility for my own mistakes, acknowledging that I did nothing as soon as I read this in the Windle Turley case: " #35: The founder of the institution, Prabhupada, was informed in 1972, at a time when he totally controlled the institution, that extensive physical and sexual abuse of minor ISKCON children was occurring, but he concealed the wrong doing from public, parents, and all but a handful of close advisors."

I realize that I have become indifferent to the barrage of information bombarding me from all sides, this group vs that group, this group being more connected to Krishna, to Srila Prabhupada, etc. As a lone devotee isolated from real flesh and blood devotees, I've had to rely on what I read on the Internet. After reading the Windle Turley case, I was disturbed about this accusation. I threw out some inquiries to devotee Internet users and received various responses. But no one ever said anything about the hideous, horrendous accusation against Srila Prabhpada! It was only after receiving a letter from an old god-brother who is also in an isolated situation that I woke up to the serious nature of this accusation. I have only heard talk about everything else in this case, but nothing about this statement. This is a serious accusation against Srila Prabhupada. Why no protest from anyone? Do we believe this? Are we placing the blame on our beloved spiritual master instead of accepting the blame ourselves? Do we realize that this will have an effect on people's faith in Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna? If Krishna's pure devotee was in full knowledge of these acts, then how can one have faith in him? These questions will arise in people's minds. What is really going on here? Is Srila Prabhpada being the scapegoat for all our faults and mistakes? Having had personal association with Srila Prabhupada, (received initiation from him in San Francisco in January 1968), and having read his books, seen him countless times on walks, lectures, personal exchanges with him on many occasions, I am having a hard time believing these accusations.

1971. The year named in this Turley case. That year in New Vrindaban there were hundreds of devotees from all over the USA gathered for the Janmastami festival. Eager to get "advanced" association, they listened to a small group of recently initiated sannyasis who had just come from Los Angeles, where Srila Prabhupada was. These leading devotees espoused the philosophy that Srila Prabhupada was God! (Therefore he would know everything that went on in every corner of his ISKCON movement.) Later, this infamous group was severely chastised by Srila Prabhupada and separated to preach on their own to become purified of their deviant mentality.

Some lessons to be learnt here: Those closest to Srila Prabhupada do not always present the philosophy correctly; they sometimes concoct their own philosophy; and negatively influence other devotees with their so-called expertise.

The year 2000. Isn't ISKCON's latest Mayapur meeting placing Srila Prabhupada back "in the center" of ISKCON again? After years of neglect, his position is being acknowledged as the founder-acarya of ISKCON and worthy of the highest worship. Now that Srila Prabhpada is in the "center" again, what does that mean? Doesn't that really mean to place him in the center of our hearts? Doesn't that mean to protect his name and honor? (Does it mean that he was God and knew everything in every corner of his ISKCON?)

Have we forgotten that Srila Prabhupada came on a freighter ship from India, risked his life, had two heart attacks, to come to America to preach Krishna's Holy Names? That he chose to live in the Bowery instead of society's elite areas, to give us the Holy Names? That he traveled all around the world 12 times to share his love for Krishna? More people have heard of "Hare Krishna," but they don't know who Srila Prabhupada is because he didn't want the limelight. That's what he wanted. But now he's being thrown in the limelight.! And for what purpose? To destroy everything he sacrificed and lived for?

Everything we have is due to Srila Prabhupada. Without him, we wouldn't know about Lord Krishna's Holy Name, Form, Pastimes, etc. etc. Without him, we wouldn't have the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagwatam, books which Srila Prabhupada said would outlast him and carry on his mission for the next 10,000 years to bring souls back to their eternal home in Goloka Vrindaban. What good are those books if the revered author is defiled and dishonored worldwide for taking part in horrendous child abuse? Who will believe those books?

When Srila Prabhupada started the gurkulas, it was to enable our children to become happy, not to be abused emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally, and mentally, becoming maimed for life. That was not his intention. In his wildest dreams do you think Srila Prabhupada would have known how dysfunctional we were? He only meant the highest good for his disciples and dear children. We cannot blame him for our dysfunctional behaviors.

The official statement of ISKCON goes along these lines: "A Hare Krishna spokesman in Washington, said Monday that Krishna leaders have acknowledged abuse in the boarding schools and worked to provide counseling and financial support to victims. 'It's disappointing that it had to go to a court situation,' he said. 'We will try anything we can to address their needs.' ISKCON's Child Protection Task Force, formed in 1998, has compiled the names of 200 people who allegedly inflicted abuse in the 1970's and 1980's, said director Dhira Govinda. The office has finished investigating more than 60 cases, he said. 'There is no doubt many children did suffer while under the care of the organization,' Govinda said." (Quoted in The Associated Press, Tuesday, June 13, 2000).

The purpose of this article is not to go into the details of this whole case, but is to concentrate on this statement against Srila Prabhupada. There is not one word in the official statement of ISKCON defending Srila Prabhpada's name and honor. Srila Prabhupada is being implicated in this case, and I would like an explanation for this atrocity.

Do you ever hear any court cases implicating the Pope in the Catholic Church child abuse cases? Why was Srila Prabhupada named in this case? What's the motive here? Why didn't ISKCON leaders work to remove Srila Prahhupada from this accusation, to avoid his name being dragged in the media muck? For this reason alone, all the marble should have been sold to appease the gurukulis' anger at ISKCON.

Or is it more likely that Srila Prabhupada is being made a scapegoat for those persons in ISKCON who knew that this court case was going to come up and wanted to make sure they had an "out." Let the court case decide the guilt of the accused, but please leave Srila Prabhupada out of this court case.

These are my thoughts. I am risking my own privacy and opening myself to who knows what. But I'm willing to take this risk in order to rectify my own mistake of not responding from the moment I read this unspeakable statement. I invite serious discussion from the devotee community, the congregational members, from the GBC, and gurus. The fall out from this bomb will have long term repercussions.

Saradiya dasi

© CHAKRA 25 May 2001

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