My Full Interview with Ananda McClure|
By Nori J. Muster
In 1997 I interviewed Ananda McClure for my research on the children of ISKCON. After 2003, he went to war in Iraq, then committed suicide on May 18, 2006. At first I published a part of the interview, but at this time, eight years after his death, I feel that it is appropriate to post the entire interview, so here it is (posted 7-10-2014).
Q: Did you see any older students abusing younger students?
Q: Do you think you had it worse than some of the other kids?
Ananda: I had it worse than anybody else in Vrindavana. Every other gurukula kid can tell you that.
Q: Were you ever locked inside a room as discipline?
Ananda: Bathroom and closet and Danudhara's room.
Q: Did they try to make it seem like your fault that you were treated badly?
Ananda: Yeah, they would say, "You gotta understand why we're doing this to you," or "If you stop acting this way, we'll stop doing this to you."
Q: Did it seem unreasonable?
Ananda: It was all lies. Danudhara and Naragadev were very vindictive people. They would do whatever they could to break you, no matter what it was.
Q: They would try to attack your self-worth?
Ananda: They would say, "You're here, your parents aren't coming for you. No one cares about you, we're the only ones that do."
Q: When you were growing up, did you have a sense of personal space?
Q: Did you have brothers or sisters who were abused?
Ananda: Not physically but emotionally. Sruta-srava hit my brother around a little bit; never hit my sister that I know of. Psychologically damaging to them, ISKCON's actions, yeah.
Q: Did you know any girls who were forced into a marriage that they didn't want?
Ananda: Not really, no.
Q: Did you hear of it?
Ananda: Yeah, but I can't remember the girl I was in Dallas with. I found out later on, when I came back I heard she had gotten married.
Q: Did that seem weird to you?
Ananda: No, I don't think so. I don't remember it, but it was kind of, I guess, accepted thing. Just really.
Q: Was it abusive?
Ananda: Yeah, I'm trying to remember her name. She wrote a thing for one of Manu's publications, talking about it. She ended up in New Orleans.
Q: Were you ever a monitor?
Ananda: No, no. They would have never made me a monitor. I never would have done it.
Q: Did some other kids you knew become monitors?
Ananda: Only one, that was Raghunatha.
Q: Did you go to Dallas, too, what years?
Ananda: 1973 to 1975.
Q: So two years off before India?
Ananda: Yes, that was in L.A. Those were the good years.
Q: When you were away at gurukula did you miss your parents?
Q: And you didn't get to see your parents for five years while you were in India?
Ananda: That's right.
Q: Did your parents make any attempts to contact you?
Ananda: My mom wrote a lot of letters.
Q: And what happened to the letters?
Ananda: They would open up the mail and either we wouldn't get 'em, or they would change them around a little bit. The best one they would use is that "She called for you. She asked how you were doing."
Q: So they would just not give you a letter? To your knowledge, did your parents make any attempts to get you out?
Ananda: My mom made a lot of attempts. A lot.
Q: How come she couldn't get you for five years?
Ananda: Because Sruta-srava went into her room at four in the morning and stuck a .38 in her mouth and took my brother and sister from her, and said if she didn't keep her mouth shout it was her brains on the wall.
Q: Do you know approximately when that happened?
Ananda: Yeah. It was 1979.
Q: So two years after you were in India. So they took your brother and sister? Where did they go?
Ananda: San Jose.
Q: San Jose, what was there?
Ananda: Sruta-srava was dealing drugs with a guy named um . . . Kumar's dad, was married to Conka.
Q: Your mother never reported it to anybody?
Ananda: She tried to. My uncles and my grandmother were actually at one point going to hire somebody to come into the temple and take her and my brother and sister out. And it was right before that happened that Sruta-srava went into her apartment in the middle of the night and did that.
Q: Was she living at the temple?
Q: L.A. temple? They did that in L.A. in '79? God, I was living there then.
Ananda: Yeah, my mom told me about that actually two months before she passed away.
Q: That was '79 so Ramesvara was there, did he know about it?
Ananda: If he did, he certainly didn't do anything about it.
Q: I'm trying to think back, Sruta-srava, wasn't he a shuttle driver?
Ananda: No he was one of the BBT guys, he always drove the semi-truck. A New Yorker guy. He was actually an ashram teacher for a while.
Q: Oh, it's hard to place the name and faces sometimes. Yeah, somehow that rings a bell.
Ananda: It was right in the pink building, that's where that happened. The very same building where all those guys came together to back me and Dayaniddhi out of there.
Q: That apartment where Manu lives, yeah, I lived in that apartment once. It was right before that, it was about maybe 1980, right after that. Because they put all the BBT women in there, the artists, Koumadaki and me. That same apartment.
Ananda: The sandbox used to be in back of there. There used to be a tree back there.
Q: Yeah. That's weird. So who was living there, your mom and who else?
Ananda: My mom and Sruta-srava whenever he was around, and my brother and sister.
Q: So Sruta-srava lived with your mom?
Ananda: Yeah, they did, and then he left because he met Sanatani.
Q: Right, he was the shuttle driver, because he and Sanatani. That's how she knew him, because that's . . . I was living in the ashram with Sanatani. She was my ashram leader. So he took your brother and sister with him?
Ananda: Because he found out or he suspected that my mom was getting ready to split.
Q: So he kidnapped her kids?
Ananda: At gunpoint.
Q: And he went off with Sanatani and her kids?
Ananda: First he went up to San Jose, then I guess he brought them up later on. See, I didn't know about any of this. My mom told me about all of this like in the last few months of her life. And I'll tell you it was hard for me not to just go and blow the entire Watseka Avenue off the face of the earth.
Q: After India, you went to Denver, or to the farm.
Ananda: Yeah, like three days after I got back from India.
Q: Tell me what happened there.
Ananda: They put me to work in the alfalfa fields with a guy named Ramananda Raya.
Q: Oh, he became the head pujari in L.A.
Ananda: Yeah, so it was like free child labor. That's how I look back on it. I knew back then that this isn't what I was meant to do in my life and I had been planning on leaving. I really wasn't sure how to do it and I thought to myself, I'm back from India for three days, why is my mom sending me away again? I remember asking her, well, why do I have to leave? Well, anyways, they took me down to the train station and handed me a little plastic bag of dimes, nickles and quarters, and put me on the train for Colorado. So I get out there and I'm out there for about six months, just working from early in the morning till late in the evening. I walked up one day up to this hillside and I was sitting at the top and there's a small lake that was down there, probably about as big as this apartment building. It was all frozen over because it was in wintertime. And then they pulled the van up and they got this guy out of the van. They were hitting him with sticks, I think one baseball bat, and then they threw him back in the van. I found out later on that night that he was being accused of molesting the children and somehow or other my name came up as well, and I think the reason why is they just didn't like me. I had started going to town by myself, I started meeting people away from there, I shaved off my sikha, started growing my hair out. I think they were really interested in getting me out of there, so conveniently they stuck me in that category.
Q: The category?
Ananda: They said that either I had sexually abused one of the children myself, or that I had the potential to do it. I heard that and said "I'm out of here." So I ran away in the middle of the night, because I didn't exactly feel like sticking around anymore and people keep beating on you all the time.
Q: So when you ran away, where did you go?
Ananda: I went down to the local police station and I walked in and I said "I'm a Hare Krishna, I'm from the Hare Krishna farm, this is what I saw. I'm afraid that they're going to try to do the same thing to me and I don't want to go back. And I don't know where my mom is, she's I think in L.A., I don't know how to get ahold of her there." And they're like "all right" and this detective comes in and he asked me the whole story, so I tell him. They drove out to the farm, I guess, talked to them, whatever it was the devotees told them didn't convince them of much, because they decided the best thing for me would be some kind of protected relocation away from there. So they put me in this foster home with a guy who was a Green Barret in Vietnam. It was kind of like a slash Foster home, protected sort of thing.
Q: Then did they contact your mother and tell her where you were?
Ananda: No, they put me into public school in a little tiny town in Colorado called Ceder Ridge. I went to school, they moved me again when I was mid-way through tenth grade, to Pueblo, Colorado.
Q: Another family?
Ananda: It was more of a boy's home.
Q: From a foster family into a boy's home? And all this time your mother couldn't find you? Did she try?
Ananda: Yeah, she told me she did, but she was married to this one guy named Doug, who was one of the ex-security guys from the temple and he had a lot of power over her through physical intimidation.
Q: Did she get your brother and sister back?
Ananda: No, she didn't see them from that time until one month before she died. I drove her up north to see them.
Q: What year did she die?
Ananda: November 1, 1993.
Q: I'm sorry to hear.
Ananda: You know, when I went to the reunion in '93, my whole life fell apart, from that day I went to that reunion. I regret ever doing it.
Q: What about the reunion was upsetting?
Ananda: Because I was already living here in L.A. but I would never go near Watseka Avenue. Purposely, if I was coming down Venice, I would go way out of my way just so I could avoid the temple. And I always said I would never go back there because there's nothing there that I want to see. And my mom was living here in L.A., too. As soon as I went to the reunion, it was like everything starts coming back. And then that same year my mom passes away, my wife splits, just everything came crashing in. The very same people I went to school with in India, in the gurukula, turned out to just betray me, one after the other. And it still happens to this day. So i don't see much, I don't even consider any of them my friends anymore. And i'm quoting recently this guy at the temple, Madhi, a gurukuli whose dad's a GBC, and he said to me and Dayaniddhi that the only reason we got the shit kicked out of us in India and our friends got raped is because we were stupid. That's exactly what he said. Dayaniddhi came up off the floor and just beat him up for doing that. I almost hit him, I was getting ready to, but Dayaniddhi beat me to it. But that just shows me where the mentality of people is at, in the generation that came up after us. There's no loyalty, there's no true sense of friendship, it's just all who can get one over on the next guy, and that's all it is.
Q: Instead of being abused, who can be the tough guy and do the abuse.
Q: Is it like a system of scapegoats.
Ananda: Must be, but I've never done anything to any of these people. I've never raised my fist in anger towards them. I haven't said anything behind their back that I haven't said to their face. I try to just live my life peacefully, but somehow be it for what reasons, I don't know, still continue to do it. Every time I go to the temple I'm hearing something new about "Ananda's this, or he did this, or he's done that." I don't even hang out there. I barely talk to these people, but still, they're experts at it. It's funny too, because the Army taught me how to wage war. I could use some of that to show these people what real misery is, but i've never had much of a desire to do that. But I've told them, you can't keep pushing me because you're going to lose if that's the game you want to play, but they don't listen.
Q: The teachers abused you, the other authority figures in ISKCON went along with the abuse, and then the kids, your peers, also abused you.
Ananda: Put it this way, when I put my faith back down on the line for humanity, and for everything in general, there is not one person in this world that I think I'll ever trust. You can only get shafted so many times that you either just stay humble and you do your own thing, or you make an attempt to, or whatever else happens. I'm not doing that same thing to them that they continue to do with me.
Q: You feel you're treated with no respect.
Ananda: Zero. I said to Badrinarayan, he gives this big speech about how they want to set up these programs. I told him, if you really don't want us here and you want to settle this, I'll tell you exactly what I need. I need $1,500 to move into a place. You give me that and I'll even sign a paper saying I'll never come back on your property again. I don't want to sue you in court, I don't want to battle you, I don't want to do any of that. Just help me move into a place and I'm outta here. Supposedly he set it up with Amarendra and everything else, and it just turned out to be a whole other bullshit scam. With us as the expense account.
Q: They not only neglected, but reabused by saying they were going to help . . .
Ananda: And then kicked us out of the ashram.
Q: Want to go back to the list? I've got a few more questions. When did you finally get back in touch with your mother?
Ananda: '87 I left high school in Pueblo and came out here to L.A. and stayed with that original guy from the foster home. He helped with the expense of that. I came out and she was part owner of a real estate company here in Los Angeles, called Exclusive Realtors. She was still married to that guy Doug. I stayed with them for a couple of months, and that was pretty tense. So he decided that the best thing for me would be to go back to Maui where I was born, so he buys me a plane ticket out there and sends me out there, which is more or less just someone getting you out of the way. That's what it seemed like. So I went out there and did that for a little bit. That didn't work out so good, so I came back out here, hitchhiked around America for a little while, then December of '88 I joined the Army.
Q: Did you ever have a chance to talk to your mother about what you had been through?
Ananda: We did briefly, but it's hard to argue against a very apologetic defense. In fact, I think it's the hardest thing to argue against and be able to maintain your true level of anger and resentment. And I said, this is my mom and now her health is starting to fail. I can't say that I ever really loved her, or even still do to this day. I don't hate her but figure pretty much all my life she never really did anything for me, so I never really knew her.
Q: Do you think she understood what you went through?
Ananda: No. I tried to tell her but no matter what I'd say she would start saying, "I'm so sorry that that happened."
Q: She would block it out?
Ananda: Yes, she just wanted it to go away.
Q: When you were growing up did you ever have any toys?
Ananda: Not one that I remember.
Q: Did you ever have time to play?
Ananda: In the afternoons, in Dallas.
Q: What would that consist of?
Ananda: It was a free-for-all in the back yard. There were a lot of rules. It's funny because I was really young then, but it's like it's right there. From what I remember the afternoon time that was your time for like an hour, or sometimes they would load us up in the van. They'd take us out to this old park somewhere that had an old merry-go-round. There's actually a picture in some of the magazines of us on the merry-go-round. You can see me right in the front.
Q: How was the rest of the day structured?
Ananda: Morning time get up, same routine devotees follow. Get up, go to mangal-arotik, then they'd give a class after that. But for us, hopefully, especially at the end of mangal-arotik, we would try to fall asleep in class. The older kids, Jagaman and them, used to say, that's the time to get some sleep. Try to sit in the back of the class, and some of them would try and teach themselves to fall asleep with their eyes open. Like if you nod off, that was dangerous. That meant that they would come up either behind you or on the side of you, and they would cup their hand like that and slap your ear. That was there in Dallas. My ears bled once.
Q: Did you ever have your ears twisted or bend as discipline?
Ananda: Ripped back. My neck choked so hard from my beads that it cut into my neck. That's what that scar's from. He pulled so hard on my beads it cut into my neck.
Q: Did they take your ear like this and bend it?
Ananda: No, they would twist it and pull it back. Or they drag you by it. Or they pull you by your ear and your sikha.
Q: Do you feel the authority figures ignored the kids' suffering?
Ananda: Put it this way, I think we all pretty much gave up the idea of somebody coming around the corner any day to save us.
Q: So you felt helpless?
Ananda: Yeah, I tried to run away from there once. They used to do this thing they would call "dog week." The thing you had to do for your punishment was you had to walk around on your hands and knees like a dog. They spoke to you, you couldn't speak in return, you had to bark. You couldn't eat with everyone else. You had to wait until they were done, then they sent you out, you had to go on all fours and lick their plates clean.
Q: You had to do it for a week? Did that happen to you?
Ananda: About seven or eight times. I was a little kid back then, so I don't remember everything. I do remember that it was enough to where I tried to run away from there.
Q: Do you think some of the people on the staff at the schools disliked children?
Ananda: Have to be, otherwise they wouldn't have an M.O. of handiwork as they dished it out.
Q: Do you think ISKCON in general had a bad attitude toward children?
Ananda: The still do.
Q: Can you describe that?
Ananda: They didn't care one bit. It didn't start out real punishing, it kinda got that was as more kids showed up. The parents would show up, I remember that. My mother came out to Dallas once. About a week before they got there, they kind of prep you up for it. They say, "If you say anything you're going to get it," or a week before they would make an example out of somebody, so you knew for a fact to just keep your mouth shut. That was a time when the bruises heal up or the black eye goes away, or your ear doesn't bleed after a while. The parents still showed up and the GBC (or not the GBC, but sannyasis) and whoever else came into Dallas still showed up. Either they suspected it and didn't do anything about it or they didn't care either.
Q: So they would hide it from the parents and others by coercing and intimidating you?
Ananda: They'd find somebody to make an example out of and they'd say, "If you tell them this, this is what's going to happen to you."
Q: Were you ever made an example?
Ananda: Yeah, I was kind of rebellious as a kid. That's why even throughout Dallas and India I took the brunt of a lot of their anger. I actually used to take beatings for other kids in India. I would stand up in front of them when the teachers would hit them. I'd stand there and I'd look at the teacher and they'd say, "Oh, so you want some too," and I'd just stand there and look at them and they'd come over and bam, hit me. They were bigger than all of us little kids that were there.
Q: So the parents were tricked into thinking the schools were safe for children?
Ananda: Yeah. They got money for each kid, I found that out from my mom. Each parent was required to send a certain amount of money to gurukula to pay for the school each month. So they were making their money, so you lose money whenever kids leave.
Q: Do you think people in ISKCON protected the child abusers?
Ananda: They still do to this day.
Q: Are a lot of the child abusers still around?
Ananda: The most prominent ones are. Now they have titles like "maharaja."
Q: How does that make you feel, that someone who was an abuser now has some big title in the organization?
Ananda: Not so good. It's almost to the point where I need to walk away from this thing or I need to take it into my own hands. I'm sure that's not what they would want because I don't think they'd like it.
Q: How often did you have to fear for your life, or fear that one of the teachers would seriously hurt you?
Ananda: In India, a lot. I ran away a whole bunch of times. But I wouldn't run far, I would just go and sit by the Jamuna River. I'd always go back because there was nowhere else to go. This one guy who was there in the ashram, his name was Dr. Sharma, he was this Indian guy, and he took a real liking toward me. I guess he really saw how rough it was for me there, so he actually tried to get me out of there at one point. He was really fed up with it, I guess. So he lived up in Hardwar, he had a house up there, so he took me out of there one time and took me on the train up to Hardwar with him, and they sent people back out to take me back. That was the time where me and another kid were in the train station in Delhi and they had sent Naragadev to collect us. Naragadev had epilepsy and so he started having a seizure and he fell down in the train station and he busted his head open on some stairs. I remember he was just bleeding everywhere and I remember we just stood there staring and we just laughed at him. But of course his response to that was as soon as we got back to Vrindavana, after that it was just like a year of sheer brutal terror from him. That was '79.
Q: When you were growing up, the teachers and schools kept the boys and girls segregated. What were some of the things they taught you about girls?
Ananda: Usual standard fare, they're bad, they're ignorant, they're stupid, they're inferior, God hates you if you're born as a woman. Same things they say now, none of that has changed. That's still their mentality. They used to tell us that if we got around the girls, that we would become spoiled and that we would fall down into the material world. When you beat that into somebody it's a pretty convincing argument.
Q: Now we've gone through most of the questions about the abuse, now I want to find out how it's affected your affiliation with the religion and the organization. You mentioned one gurukula that you attended was pretty much free from abuse, and that was L.A.?
Ananda: That was only because my mom was there.
Q: Were you living in an ashram then?
Ananda: Yes, it was in the building next to the brahmacari ashram. Dwarakanath, they never did anything to me. I never recall much happening to me in L.A.
Q: How do you feel about this statement: "Child abuse is the most sinful act a man can commit"?
Ananda: I'm a firm believer in it. I can't ever bring myself to ever raise my hand in anger to my son, in fact I refuse to. I swore that to him when he was born, swore that I'd never hit him. I see people doing that and I get these red spots in my eyes, I want to destroy them. I beat a guy up in front of a 7-Eleven because he was yelling at his kid, calling him stupid. I couldn't tolerate it. I hit him and made him apologize to his son.
Q: Do you think that God somehow forgot about you or took part in the abuse, how do you see that He allowed it to happen?
Ananda: Well, if he was there, he didn't do anything to stop it. I lost my faith in him years ago.
Q: Do you think Krishna could be the Supreme Lord, as the Hare Krishnas teach?
Ananda: Not as they teach, no. Could he be yes, but not as they teach.
Q: Do you see yourself as a devotee who believes in Krishna consciousness?
Q: Do you feel that you're still searching for the answers to the basic questions of life.
Ananda: No, I quit searching because it's all so disappointing. I don't feel hopeless about it, I just feel there's no point in wasting my energy looking for it. I don't feel disappointed anymore. I go through points of feeling absolute rage against it, to just not giving a shit at all.
Q: It's a source of disturbance, but you can put it out of your mind?
Ananda: Yeah, but the problem with that is it always creeps back up to haunt you. Usually at a time in your life where it does more damage to what's going on, and it adds to it.
Q: Adds to a sense of frustration or grief? Because it's tied up with your abuse issues?
Ananda: Yeah, I've thought a lot on that one. I've never really come up with a good answer for it though. It'll probably be the one thing that'll destroy me. I figure whatever purpose I have here, it's definitely not that [abuse].
Q: What do you think about the Vedic religion?
Ananda: I think like anything else: what starts off good gets tainted by the hand of man. Man throughout history, the one fault that we have that pretty much no body else has is the ability of deceit, and that leads to wanting to control others. So if history's true, everybody's always taking a religion and using it to control people.
Q: What do you feel about the Bhagavatam as a holy scripture?
Ananda: The versions that are out there now, I think they've all been changed around.
Q: What do you think about chanting japa?
Ananda: I never do it.
Q: Does it bring back bad memories?
Ananda: Yeah, it's like if you ask someone to eat oatmeal for ten years. It's the same thing.
Q: So chanting japa brings up bad memories and feelings of resentment?
Ananda: Yeah, and I think the only reason for that is, if you force something down somebody's throat it defeats the purpose of trying to teach them. They're going to end up resenting you and the philosophy you're trying to teach them.
Q: So the way you were raised has made you resent it?
Ananda: Yeah, they used to take us down to Venice Beach before I went to India. I remember standing there on the beach thinking, Why are we the only ones that look like this? It almost seemed at the time like it was just a big joke on us. Ya'know, when you're a little kid and everybody's staring at you and laughing at you. I was seven or eight.
Q: Do you feel that you've rejected the religion?
Ananda: I haven't rejected it, it rejected me. If I rejected it I still wouldn't be wearing these beads, or still be going to the temple.
Q: When you were growing up in school, did you learn your academic subjects?
Ananda: No, eighth and ninth grades in public school were very embarrassing years for me. I couldn't even tell you two times two.
Q: When you got into school, were you able to pick up on math and reading?
Ananda: I actually got this silly award every year because I would sit in the library for hours and hours after school. I would just read books, I used to check out ten to twenty books at a time. I would just read and stay up until one, two in the morning every night and just read. I read everything, it was kinda like downloading. I couldn't believe that there was this many things in the world that I didn't know about. It was amazing. Because of that I got really good at English and history, my math got a little bit better. I think just because of that I went to high school and actually managed to graduate. I got out and I think because I did that, when I joined the Army in '88 my test scores were really, really high.
Q: Do you remember seeing Srila Prabhupada?
Ananda: Yes, I have pictures of me next to him. I remember him very well.
Q: Do you respect him?
Ananda: Only man on this earth, or who was on this earth, that I say I put my head on the ground for. No one else.
Q: When you were in school in ISKCON, do you remember studying Sanskrit?
Ananda: I remember when I came back from India, I actually spoke Hindi fluently, and Sanskrit, too, but now no matter how hard I try I can't remember more than a few words to save my life. I've never been able to figure that one out.
Q: The adults in ISKCON often preached that the demigods are lining up to take birth in ISKCON, and that all you kids who were born into ISKCON were actually demigods. You remember that? What did you think of that, did you think you could have been a demigod in a past life?
Ananda: Yeah, actually I do remember that. I don't know if I was, I don't see how I could have been. I think if that's the case, then the biggest joke was on us. These supposed saints come, so let's get together and kick the shit out of them all the time. If that's the case and that's our welcoming party, it doesn't say much for us.
Q: Do you feel that in every day life, God hears your prayers or answers your prayers?
Q: Do you feel that ISKCON has in any way made up for what happened to you?
Ananda: No. I've never even gotten a letter of apology from them, but I see why. It's kinda like plausible deniability. "We know about it, but if we don't say it, then we didn't know about it."
Q: Do you think you would ever turn to ISKCON or any of ISKCON's gurus for spiritual advice?
Q: Do you think that ISKCON treats you better now?
Q: Do you see Krishna consciousness as your religion?
Ananda: No. I don't call it a religion that's why. I call it taking some of the theory that makes the most sense to me and just try to incorporate that into my life.
Q: Do you think that you got anything positive out of it, or did anything about your experience make you a better person?
Ananda: Yeah, I don't take shit from anybody, but that's not exactly the kind of strength that was taught in the right fashion.
Q: Now we're going to go to some questions about your self image. Do you consider yourself a drinker?
Ananda: Not to get drunk, no. Used to be.
Q: Have you used other hard drugs?
Ananda: Very seldom because I don't like the feeling that I'm not in control of myself.
Q: You smoke cigarettes?
Ananda: Yeah, about a pack every two days.
Q: Do you consider yourself a victim?
Ananda: Do I consider myself a victim? Um, it's an interesting question. Not a victim, more or less as somebody who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Q: Do you feel satisfied with your life?
Ananda: Not at all.
Q: Do you feel that you're self-sufficient?
Ananda: Not as much as I'd like to be.
Q: Do you feel that anybody understands what you went through?
Ananda: I haven't ever met them, if there is.
Q: Do you feel that you could easily get into a fistfight?
Ananda: Easily, no, I do whatever it takes to avoid that happening. I don't trust myself when it comes to that.
Q: Do you think that you'll ever have a satisfying marriage?
Ananda: I don't know if I'm the marriage type.
Q: Do you have a feeling of safety about your life?
Ananda: Hmm. Yes and no. No because I don't really trust anybody, so if you don't trust anybody, then I guess it's hard to feel safe. I don't feel safe from other people because their actions have always been something to take something of me from me, so from other people, no I guess I don't.
Q: Do you get along with full-time ISKCON members?
Ananda: Only if they're willing to get along with me.
Q: Do you feel that you have a bad temper?
Ananda: No, actually I don't think I do.
Q: Do you have career goals?
Q: Have you been to college?
Ananda: A few classes but I dropped out. I consider my time in the Army my college experience.
Q: Do you identify at all with your biological family?
Q: Do you feel that the organization was like a family?
Ananda: No. I used to, but not anymore. Up until the second reunion I went to, I saw it was just a free for all and nobody cares about anybody.
Q: Do you know how to lead kirtans?
Q: Do you think they would let you do that at a temple?
Ananda: I would never do it.
Q: Do you think they would stop you?
Ananda: Actually, they might. I'm not too popular. I try to have as little involvement with ISKCON people as possible.
Q: Do you think that the abusers need to get help for themselves?
Ananda: No, actually, I'd like to hurt them. I'm not going to deny that.
Q: Did you go through a lot of crisis as an adolescent?
Ananda: No, the only crisis was what was going on around us.
Q: Have you heard of continued incidents of child abuse in ISKCON?
Ananda: No. Well, one time, but I chose not to get involved because I didn't trust the people who were telling me. My self-alarms kept going off, warning me there was more motive behind it than that, so I chose to not get involved.
Q: Does it bother you to be around devotees because it brings back memories?
Ananda: No, that doesn't bother me. The only think that bothers me about them is what a bunch of spineless little shit-talking pack of jelly fish they really are.
Q: Continued secrets and abuse is going on?
Ananda: Secrets, yes. Abuse? The only abuse that's going on to this day is they refuse to offer us any compensation or acknowledge it. That's the only abuse going on.
Q: Do you think others who were abused also feel they're being ignored?
Ananda: Only a few, all the other ones turned out to either being supported by the GBC or some other way involved. The only reason to get together and talk with me is to basically get information, but I've been misleading them for years. I tell them one thing I'm doing, then I actually go do something else. I don't trust them enough; won't ever let them get too close to me.
Q: Do you think that the things that happened to you in ISKCON ruined your life?
Ananda: Ruined it? Somewhat, yeah. I tried to speak to my ex-wife about all of this, and because of my involvement with ISKCON is what drove her parents to want to destroy our marriage. And actually, effectively did.
Q: You know how they say that what happened to the gurukula kids was their own karma?
Ananda: I don't buy that.
Q: Why do you think they said that?
Ananda: Because it's an easy justification for it. Just say, "Well this must be your karma and I must be the chosen instrument for the delivery of your karma." "Okay, it's my karma that I'm eleven years old and you just crammed my face into a wall and broke my nose, I guess that's my karma. Gee, thank you very much why don't you bring it on some more?"
Q: Do you feel that what happened to you in the gurukula was blatantly unfair?
Q: When you were being abused in India, did you ever pray to Lord Nrsimhadev to protect you?
Ananda: Yeah, I did, but then I quit. It was at least two and a half to three years, but it didn't work.
Q: When you were young, did you draw pictures of Lord Nrsimhadev?
Q: Did you identify with Prahlada, that even though you're in the association of demons, you remain a devotee?
Ananda: Yeah, but you quit that after a while. I prayed like I've never prayed in my life, but not once has God ever answered one single prayer of mine. Every time I pray it seems to be answered with some bullshit.
Q: Did you chant the Nrsimhadev prayers daily?
Ananda: I quit chanting, especially after my second year in India, I used to just stand in the back and move my mouth. Deep down inside I was just cursing everything about it. That's why Danudhara hated me so much, because I used to stand right back up there and just look at him. Used to drive him insane.
Q: Could your teachers in ISKCON be compared to the teachers in the story of Prahlada?
Ananda: No, I don't think so because each person's make up is different. So some people are a certain ways for one reason and if they're the same way as others, it might be for different reasons.
Q: Do you feel that some schools in ISKCON were abusive like Sukracharya's school?
Ananda: If not worse.
Q: Do you feel the Lord will ever punish the abusers? Will it come out?
Ananda: It hasn't yet. I don't have much faith in many things anymore.
Q: Now some questions to measure the effects the abuse had on you. I'll read the statements and you tell me if you identify. "I feel ashamed."
Ananda: For others.
Q: "I'm different from other people."
Q: "I feel powerless."
Q: "If people really knew me, they'd leave."
Ananda: Leave, no, they'd do the exact opposite. I'm very loyal to my friends as long as they're willing to be the same with me.
Q: "I want to die or kill myself."
Ananda: Not anymore.
Q: "I have a hard time taking care of myself."
Ananda: Recently, yeah, nothing seems to work out.
Q: "I don't trust my feelings or intuition."
Ananda: It's others I don't trust. I trust my own because they always turn out to be right.
Q: "I'm often confused."
Ananda: Not often, but sometimes I'm very confused.
Q: "I use work to make up for empty feelings inside."
Ananda: No, I used alcohol to do that.
Q: "I'm a perfectionist."
Q: "I've made up lots of stories about my life."
Ananda: I don't do that anymore. I only did that before because I was embarrassed to tell people about the Hare Krishnas.
Q: "I feel enraged a lot of the time."
Ananda: Only certain things. I guess, not all the time, no. See that's kind of an odd question, because if I say that I do, then that kinda leaves it open to everything. But since I don't feel that way about everything, only certain things.
Q: "I get depressed a lot."
Ananda: Sometimes, not a lot.
Q: "I have a lot of nightmares."
Ananda: Not for a couple of years now.
Q: "I have panic attacks."
Ananda: I had those really bad for a long time.
Q: What ages?
Ananda: Around 22 to 25.
Q: "If I really let myself go, my feelings would be out of control."
Ananda: Well, no, I just don't think they'd be very well understood.
Q: "I've been violent."
Q: "I haven't been violent, but I'm worried I might be."
Ananda: No, I was paid for my violence, but I'm not in that business anymore.
Q: You were paid for your violence?
Ananda: Technically, that's what the military is, a machine of violence, but I'm not in that business anymore.
Q: "I'm not in my body a lot of the time."
Ananda: Wow, interesting one. If my soul is in my body, I guess I am in my body all the time.
Q: A lot of people, when they were abused, they would disassociate, almost like the abuse was happening to somebody else.
Ananda: I didn't ever do that. I did block it out. In India I did what I called the "ten second rule," that was if I could count to ten it would be over.
Q: So you would withdraw and count, so when the abuse was going on you would just be counting to yourself?
Ananda: Yeah, because I knew if I could make it to the next 10 seconds, I would be all right.
Q: "I feel as if my body is separate from the rest of me."
Ananda: No, I think I'm separate from everything else.
Q: So sometimes you feel separate?
Ananda: Yeah, I withdraw a lot. I try not to do it, but I try to keep a distance from people.
Q: "I have illnesses I think are related to my abuse."
Ananda: Would that be physical or psychological?
Ananda: Psychological, yeah. My biggest problem is I don't let people come in close enough. The times that I've tried it, I was destroyed for doing it.
Q: "I often feel alienated from people, as if I'm from a different planet."
Ananda: I often don't feel alienated, I choose to be somewhat aloof.
Q: "Most of my relationships just don't work."
Ananda: None of them do.
Q: "I don't have many friends."
Ananda: I have no friends.
Q: "I'm okay with my friends but I just can't work things out with a lover."
Ananda: I can't work out anything with either one of them, friends or lovers.
Q: "I think I'm really meant to be alone."
Ananda: Not by choice. Yes and no by choice, I guess.
Q: "I'm not sure I really deserve to be loved."
Ananda: I do deserve to be loved.
Q: "I don't know what love is."
Ananda: I thought I did.
Q: "I find it hard to trust people."
Q: "I think people are going to leave me."
Ananda: In what way?
Q: I guess, abandon you.
Ananda: I'll abandon them before they do it to me.
Q: "I test people a lot."
Ananda: I feel I have to.
Q: "It's hard for me to be nurtured or to nurture someone else."
Ananda: My kids changed that one. I love to nurture them. My son's four and my daughter's one.
Q: "I'm scared of making a commitment, when people get too close I panic."
Ananda: Now yes, for a while I did everything I could to try and change that, but it seems like I'm just back in the same boat again.
Q: "People take advantage of me in relationships."
Ananda: Every single one has.
Q: "I get involved with people who are inappropriate or inaccessible."
Ananda: Inappropriate yes; no one's inaccessible.
Q: Inappropriate would be . . .
Ananda: Someone I know can't ever be a true friend, because it's only their interest. As long as their interests are served entirely then you're worthy of their friendship.
Q: So unbalanced, giving and never receiving?
Ananda: I've given all of myself to people and I've never asked for anything in return. But I'm all that I've got left and I think I'm worth something. I'm tired of being taken from. Everything has been taken from me. Everything.
Q: There's one thing we didn't talk about, the sexual abuse. Can you briefly describe . . .
Ananda: Did I get raped?
Q: Did you feel you were sexually abused?.
Ananda: No, because I would never let them touch me. I would always run away or I'd kick and scream. The one time I recall was when I was in a shower in Vrindavana. Naragadev came into the shower and I looked down and saw his thing sticking up. I went to go shut the door and I ducked under his arm and ran out of the bathroom screaming.
Q: So you felt that he was sexually aroused and he was coming into the shower to mess with you?
Ananda: Yeah, because he told me that for my punishment I had to take a really super cold shower. So when they used to do that I used to walk into the shower, but I'd keep my clothes on, I wouldn't ever take them off. That one time I did and he came into the shower stall and I took off running.
Q: Were you aware of some of your peers being sexually abused there?
Q: Was it mostly the monitors who did the sexual abuse?
Ananda: They picked them out and set them up.
Q: Set it up for themselves or the teachers?
Ananda: For the teachers.
Q: How widespread was sexual abuse there?
Ananda: I don't think it was really ever out of hand because it was getting to the point that we would stick together. We would always go in a group. A lot of times we wouldn't let ourselves be separated. We knew that if you got taken away from your group that something really funky is going to happen to you. So that was our way, we used to always band together.
Q: Another thing we didn't talk about was your father. Who was your father, where was he?
Ananda: My real father? My real father was somebody who was never in my life. He got my mother pregnant, then took her inheritance money—which in 1968, $30,000 was a lot of money—and blew it on a pot deal he got ripped off on, it went bad. So here was my mother in Maui, with me, eight months pregnant, and he took off.
Q: So he didn't play any part in this.
Ananda: No, I never met him until I was 21.
Q: What was he like?
Ananda: He was just an asshole. Every time I would get back around him, just an asshole. I never let myself want to get to know him too much. He was just another big disappointment.
Q: Did you look forward to meeting him?
Ananda: No, I hired a private investigator to find him, actually. I was curious what he would be like. I was disappointed. After I talked to him for a little while, I just realized what an ass he really was. I realized why my mom felt the way she did.
Editor's Note: Ananda leaves behind a son and daughter, as well as a brother and sister.
In 2009 film student Erica Bardin made a video about Ananda, while at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Click here to watch the video.
Click here for more ISKCON gurukula information.
Click here for an index of all child abuse information available through this site.