1. Proposed List of Standards for Boys, public relations files, circa 1974
2. Statement by Burke Rochford, from Rochford, 1998
3. Letter to the editor, Life magazine, Dec. 1980
4. Gurukula: School for the soul--An interview with Jagadish dasa, ISKCON's minister of education, IWR, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 1, Oct. 1981
5. ISKCON children win poetry writing awards, IWR 3.9, p. 2, Jan. 1984
6. Spiritual city rising in Sri Mayapur, IWR 4.1, p. 7, May 1984
7. ISKCON's educational leaders plan secondary school studies, IWR 3.10, p. 4, Feb. 1984
8. Krsna kids touring America, IWR 4.5, p. 7, July 1984
9. Four new gurus appointed, IWR 5.1, p. 3, May 1985
10. Hare Krsna kids rate high in general awareness test, IWR 5.7, p. 2, Nov. 1985
11. Dear Jagadish Maharaja, anonymous letter from a mother, 1988 (click here to read the letter)
12. Monkey on a Stick excerpt, Hubner & Grueson, p. 347
13. The Results, ISKCON Youth Veterans newsletter, 1990 (click here to read the article)
14. GBC Resolution, 1988
15. IWR interview: Gurukula Today in Dallas, IWR 8.4, pp. 6-7, Nov. 1988
16. IWR interviews Sri Rama Dasa, IWR 8.5, pp. 6-7, Nov. 1988
17. Children of the Ashram, by Raghunatha, ISKCON Youth Veterans newsletter, Vol IV, Aug. 1990, supplement, pp. 28-49 (click here to read the essay)
18. Gurukula, by D.D., ISKCON Youth Veterans newsletter, Vol II, Jan. May, 1990, p. 1
19. GBC Resolutions, 1990
20. Senior Colloquium: Hare Krishna Kids: The Voice of the Second Generation, by Gandhari Zeppetello, May 16, 1994
21. From a Teacher, by Krsna-kumari, As It Is, the Voice of the Vaisnava Youth, No. 5, Summer 1994, p. 12 (read the document: click here)
22. ISKCON Youth Ministry Mission Statement
23. Janmastami Nightmare: One Account of Child Abuse, anonymous, posted at the V.O.I.C.E. website, 1996
24. Prabupad's Responsibility, by Nirmal-chandra and Maya Devi, posted at the V.O.I.C.E. website, 1996
25. Vrindavana Gurukula, by Nirmal-chandra, author's collection, 1996
26. Excerpt from Priti-laksanam, by Kunti, 1996
27. The Children of Krishna, Inc., Strategic Guidelines, author's collection
28. My Life Story, by S.B. McKee, author's collection, 1996
29. GBC resolutions, 1997
30. The Past is Not Done With, statements about Bhavananda's acts of child abuse, posted at chakra.org, by Dr. Maria Ekstrand, 1998
31. Child Protection Office interview at Culver City Park, author's collection, 1998
32. Child Protection in ISKCON, a task force report, 1998
33. An analysis of Dr. Burke Rochford's "Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971 - 1986," which was published in the ISKCON Communications Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, June 1998, pp. 43-70 (click here to read the unabridged study)
Dr. Rochford admits he felt caught in an internal political struggle when encouraged to publish his paper (click here)
34. Media Release: Hare Krishnas Investigate Past Abuse at Boarding School, Oct. 13, 1998
35. Can We Mend the Shattered Fragments of ISKCON?, by Krsna-devata and Shakuntala, author's collection, 1999 (click here to read the transcript)
36. Hi everyone, by Bhakta Visvareta, author's collection, 1999
37. Cases Resolved by the Child Protection Office, vnn.org, April 6, 1999
38. Media Release: Krishnas Pledge One Milion Dollars to Child Protection, April 29, 1999
The organization issued a list of rules for children in gurukula. Following are several examples. For the entire list, click here.
Proposed List of Standards for Boys
IV TEMPLE ROOM BEHAVIOR
1. One should participate in all kirtans [musical chanting ceremonies].
2. One should not avoid bowing down before the Deity.
3. One should not bow down on one hand or in some other extraordinary way.
4. One should not offer obeisances silently [prayers while bowing down].
5. One should not enter the temple room to worship the Lord until he has washed his hands and feet after eating.
6. One should not pass air or belch before the Deity.
7. One should not play with or throw flowers in the temple room.
8. One should not turn his back to the Deities.
9. One should fold his hands or raise his arms before the Deity during kirtan.
10. One should not engage in conversation before the Deity.
11. All students are expected to sit up properly and listen to Bhagavatam class [morning scriptural reading].
12. There should be no talking during Bhagavatam class.
13. One's hands should be kept folded in his lap during Bhagavatam class (one should not play with anything or fidget).
14. One should not sleep during Bhagavatam class. If tired one may stand, but not lean on the wall or columns.
15. Only initiated boys are allowed to perform guru puja, tulasi puja [temple ceremonies], or fanning Prabhupada in the temple.
16. There should be no fighting for any reason in the temple room.
back to timeline
Statement by Dr. Rochford:
In 1979 I served as a teacher's assistant for a boy's ashram at the Los Angeles gurukula. In 1989, thinking about the young boys who I often took to the park and beach, I began an investigation of ISKCON's second generation. I began by interviewing seventy first-generation parents in four ISKCON communities in the U.S. Over the past eight years I have also interviewed dozens of second generation youth about their experiences in the gurukula. In 1992-93 I conducted a non-random survey of second generation youth in North America. I have also attended four gurukula reunions in Los Angeles and at New Vrindaban, and have served as a member of ISKCON's North American Board of Education. (from Rochford, 1998)
back to timeline
Life Letter to the Editor:
The Krishna children was a very good cover indeed. There is not a North American alive who has spent any time in a big city and has not seen the funnily dressed bald men chanting and banging tambourines while dancing down the sidewalk. Most would like to learn more about them, especially about their children and what kind of upbringing they are receiving. - Helen L. Connors, Sooke, B.C., Canada (Life magazine, Dec. 1981)
back to timeline
Minister of Education Jagadish, appointed in 1976, is alleged to have neglected his own son, moved perpetrators from one school to another to help them escape punishment, and proved to be generally ineffectual in stopping abuse. The following IWR interview with Jagadish sets the official party line for gurukula. Challenging this image was considered blasphemy.
Gurukula: School for the soul--
An interview with Jagadish dasa, ISKCON's minister of education
IWR, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 1, Oct. 1981
Q. What is gurukula's purpose and what did Srila Prabhupada say about it?
A. Gurukula is a scientific system for preparing children to live effective human lives as devotees of the Lord and prepare themselves for the time of death when they can transfer themselves back home, back to Godhead.
Srila Prabhupada told us to follow the guidelines given in the Vedic scriptures, such as Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Seventh Canto the sage Narada outlines the basic principles: the disciple should live in the guru's ashram, learn obedience, sense control, cleanliness, simplicity, austerity, truthfulness, spiritual philosophy, and devotion to the guru and the Supreme Lord Krishna.
Q. What does gurukula actually mean?
A. It's a Sanskrit word meaning "the place of the guru, or spiritual master." We now have about seven hundred children in gurukulas around the world. Our first gurukula was in Dallas in 1971. It was the only gurukula for about five years. Then, in 1976, we decided to start many more gurukulas. Now we have twenty-four in eighteen countries.
Q. What do you consider to be the most important subjects taught in gurukula?
A. Srila Prabhupada said our students should learn English and Sanskrit, so they can read our books of Vedic philosophy. And he said they should learn a little mathematics, some history, and geography, so they won't be thought of as being unaware of the everyday aspects of life in the material world. But mainly, we just try to teach them to become nice devotees of the Lord, and give them some practical skills they can use to serve Krishna when they grow up.
Q. How long does a gurukula education last?
A. In 1974, Srila Prabhupada told us that the gurukula is meant for children up to twelve years old, and after that they should go to a college that would be based on varnasrama dharma, the system of social organization taught in the Vedas. Each boy would be trained according to his special physical and psychological nature.
We now have two varnasrama college programs--one at the New Vrindaban farm community in West Virginia, and the other at our center in Vrindavana, India. The Vrindavana college specializes in education for boys inclined to be brahmanas (priests) and ksatriyas (administrators). The curriculum for brahmanas will emphasize philosophy, which will be learned from Srila Prabhupada's books. The students will learn logic and argument, so that they will be able to convince people of the value of Krishna Consciousness through writing or speaking. Those boys training to be ksatriyas will also study philosophy from Srila Prabhupada's books. In addition, they will learn about management, finances, and government.
Q. And the vaisya (farmers and merchants) and sudras (workers and craftsmen)?
A. They will study at our New Vrindaban college, where they will work as apprentices under devotees expert in farming, cow protection, and various arts and crafts, such as painting, woodworking, masonry, and so forth.
Q. Are girls taught any differently than boys?
A. Both girls and boys receive the same training in gurukula. But after that, instead of going to varnasrama college, the girls will be trained in devotional arts, such as painting, making jewelry, sewing, cooking, and so forth. Some will learn secretarial skills. All these talents will be useful both in the home and in the temple, for serving the Deity.
Q. What has happened in the last five years to standardize and improve the gurukula?
A. Well, we've got a basic structure now for our language arts curriculum. The system we used to teach the basic reading and writing is called "Let's Read." And now we're Krishnaizing it; we're calling it "Let's Read for Krishna." An exceptional number of our eight- and nine-year-olds are reading at the level of high school seniors.
Q. Why did Srila Prabhupada so much stress the gurukula system?
A. He once wrote, "If such children are given practical guidance on the transcendental platform above the bodily and mental conception of life, then they will develop into perfect citizens--moral, honest, hard-working, law abiding, clean, faithful to home and country. That is the unmatched success of our Krishna Consciousness schooling system. Introduce it nicely so that your countries' leaders will see something very nice and come to our assistance."
Q. How many students are there in the gurukula system now whose parents are not initiated devotees?
A. About five percent.
Q. Does it seem to be growing?
A. Yes, more and more people are taking interest. The condition of public schools, especially in America, is forcing sincere parents to seek alternative approaches. It's only a matter of time.
back to timeline
In an article about two Lake Huntington students, I included three paragraphs of P.R. rhetoric about gurukula.
ISKCON children win poetry writing awards
IWR 3.9, p. 2, Jan. 1984
LAKE HUNTINGTON, N.Y.--Two students at the ISKCON gurukula here recently won awards for their Krsna conscious poetry. . . .
In all of the ISKCON gurukula schools, children are required to study English, Sanskrit, mathematics, history, geography, natural science, art, and music. But, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada taught that the essence of the gurukula system is to train the children to become pure devotees of Lord Krsna. Therefore, the students are primarily trained in the science of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Lord.
As explained in Srila Prabhupada's writings, "Our eternal relationship with God can be revived in the human form of life, and that should be the goal of education. Indeed, that is the perfection of life and the perfection of education."
Following Srila Prabhupada's teachings, the children here are learning many forms of practical devotional service. One that they are particularly enthusiastic about is supervised distribution of transcendental literature in malls, stores, and door-to-door in private homes. Members of the public often question the children about the Krsna Consciousness philosophy, giving them added incentive to study Srila Prabhupada's books. More than thirty ISKCON gurukulas have been established throughout the world.
back to timeline
Some of the worst abuse took place in India in the early 1980s. In May 1984, when IWR published the following article, the system and the perpetrators were well-established. Dedicated followers trusted articles like this when they sent their sons to the Indian schools.
Spiritual city rising in Sri Mayapur
IWR 4.1, p. 7, May 1984 (excerpt)
The gurukula is located just east of the main temple building. On entering the gurukula complex, one can readily appreciate the sweet atmosphere and natural beauty of the flower-lined walkways and shade trees, where children can learn about the beauty and simplicity of nature.
The educational program is divided into two sections, according to Anirdesavapu prabhu, principal of the gurukula. In both divisions the emphasis is on the spiritual development of the students. The primary level is for children up to age twelve, and concentrates on basic academics such as reading, writing, English, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, math, geography, history, and general studies. The secondary level, the Varnasrama College, offers practical vocational training for teenagers.
Children from all nationalities attend the gurukula to receive a fine education in the spiritual atmosphere of the holy dhama [holy land].
back to timeline
ISKCON educators convened in Los Angeles during the peak of child abuse in gurukula yet managed to completely avoid the issue. If they did discuss it, there were no notes or records of their discussions. The topic of child abuse was never acknowledged, and therefore covertly allowed to continue.
ISKCON's educational leaders plan secondary school studies
IWR 3.10, p. 4, Feb. 1984
LOS ANGELES--At a recent meeting called by initiating spiritual master and governing Body Commissioner His Divine Grace Srila Ramesvara Swami, ISKCON leaders discussed the development of curriculum for secondary level education within the Hare Krsna Movement.
Srila Prabhupada envisioned a Varnasrama College as ISKCON's educational system for teenagers, according to their inclinations and qualities. Prototype Varnasrama College programs have already been established in Vrindavana, India, and New Vrindaban, W. Virginia, USA.
The Los Angeles meeting was called to draw up a standard academic curriculum for such programs, which will eventually be instituted in ISKCON centers worldwide.
As ISKCON moves into its eighteenth year, the establishment of Varnasrama College is an important concern among ISKCON leaders. Many ISKCON children are entering their teenaged years, creating the need for more curriculum.
The meeting was chaired by Their Divine Graces Srila Bhagavan Goswami Gurudeva (spiritual master for Southern Europe, the U.K., and South Africa), Srila Ramesvara Maharaja (spiritual master for Western and Midwestern U.S., Hawaii, and Japan, and co-GBC for the Detroit and New York-area centers), and His Holiness Jagadish Goswami, ISKCON GBC minister of education. More than thirty gurukula principals and headmasters, ISKCON writers, consultants, and researchers took part.
Jagadish Goswami proposed a list of core courses and electives, and a specialized curriculum was established. Textbook writing projects were assigned to ISKCON writers, and an editorial board consisting of Jagadish Goswami, Bhurijana prabhu, and Srirama prabhu, will review the manuscripts.
Official ISKCON textbooks will give students a clear understanding of standard academic knowledge, including world religions, Western civilization, geography, modern science, writing, and so on, but will present the subject matter in the light of Krsna Consciousness. The resulting Vaisnava textbooks should prove interesting reading matter for adults as well as gurukula students. Srila Ramesvara Maharaja is also planning a series of educational videotapes to pray and chant, he said.
back to timeline
IWR coverage of Krishna kids touring America completely ignores Murlivadaka's crimes of sexual, physical and emotional abuse perpetrated on the boys throughout the tour. Murlivadaka was president of Lake Huntington, NY, and later became a member of ISKCON's board of education and a board member of ISKCON's Children of Krishna, Inc.
Krsna kids touring America
IWR 4.5, p. 7, July 1984
VRNDAVANA, INDIA--Recently six exchange students from ISKCON's Vrndavana gurukula visited the United States at the request of Lake Huntington Temple President Muralivadaka dasa.
Muralivadaka and the boys traveled in a van with Deities and a sacred tulasi plant for one month, visiting ISKCON centers all over the eastern and mid western United States. The boys toured the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center in Detroit, Srila Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in West Virginia, and also visited many national monuments and museums.
The trip included distributing Srila Prabhupada's books, chanting in public and distributing prasadam [spiritual food] at various festivals, gatherings, and Hare Krsna Food For life programs. During the month of travels the party distributed thirty-one big books, 108 pocket books, 373 small books, and 2,750 magazines.
In gurukula, young devotees learn that human life is an opportunity for self realization, and that human intelligence is a gift for understanding our eternal loving relationship with God.
ISKCON now has twenty-five accredited schools throughout the world, including the Lake Huntington gurukula that hosts an annual summer camp for children of Life Members.
back to timeline
In ISKCON, the highest honor a man could achieve was to be named a guru. Since gurus were believed to be perfect human beings, exemplary in their private and public lives, the GBC went even further in whitewashing the reputation of the gurukula when they named Jagadish, Minister of Education, a guru.
Four new gurus appointed
IWR 5.1, p. 3, May 1985
One prominent sign of the success of Srila Prabhupada's International Society for Krishna Consciousness is the ever-expanding force of successor spiritual masters, who, under the order of ISKCON's Governing Body Commission, take up the task of offering spiritual initiation to sincere followers in different areas of the world.
Four new spiritual masters were appointed at the recent Mayapur festival. The are: Srila Gaura-Govinda Swami, Srila Bhaktitirtha Swami, Srila Jagadish Goswami and Srila Agrani Swami. . . .
Srila Jagadisa Goswami has worked as the GBC Minister of Education to establish a progressive educational system for the children of the Krsna Consciousness movement, organizing gurukulas, Krsna conscious schools, throughout the world.
back to timeline
Some gurukula students were extraordinarily intelligent, but in reality test results were mixed. ISKCON suppressed studies that found mundane or disturbing results. In New York, ISKCON had a friend in Dr. Lawrence Liliston, a psychology professor who supported the concept of gurukula. Although he offered to testify in the event of a lawsuit, an outsider like Dr. Liliston hardly knew of secrets that were hidden even from the parents.
Hare Krsna kids rate high in general awareness test
IWR 5.7, p. 2, Nov. 1985
LAKE HUNTINGTON, N.Y.--A recent academic study reveals that although children in the Hare Krsna movement do not watch television, they score significantly above average on tests that measure general awareness of facts about the world and application of common sense.
The report also stated, "Scores on the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) were on the average three grades above appropriate age level on reading and spelling and one grade above appropriate age level on arithmetic."
The study is being conducted by Dr. Lawrence Liliston, a psychology professor from Michigan's Oakland Univ. Who visited the Lake Huntington gurukula school in 1984 to evaluate the mental health and social adjustment of the students.
According to Sri Rama dasa of the ISKCON Gurukula Newsletter, Dr. Liliston's findings "present a highly favorable view of ISKCON gurukula education and upbringing."
Prof. Liliston has published the first of three academic papers, and hopes to compile his findings in a book. He has expressed his willingness to testify in court cases on behalf of devotees, should the need arise.
back to timeline
As the gurukula students grew up and began talking of their experiences, parents learned that the unspeakable rumors were true. Despite parents' letters and other attempts by parents, the Ministry of Education and GBC continued in their denial. (This letter was written in 1988, then circulated on the internet in 1998.) Following are excerpts. For the entire letter, click here
Dear Jagadish Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I don't know if you've been told any details about the child molestation here at Gita Nagari. I'd like to report to you in detail what has come out over the last three months. . . .
A total of five children are known to have been abused to some degree. Penetration had been attempted and oral sex had been done repeatedly to the degree of seminal discharge into the mouth with a condom. It seems it had all been going on for a year and a half with no one suspecting it. . . .
Maybe you haven't heard much of what they've been going through. It even helps you to understand why they might be rejecting a lot of the philosophy and see so much as hypocritical. You know, they watch Guru and teacher have illicit sex life in a manner that even dogs wouldn't do and yet they are supposed to chant and think well of the devotees and be respectful on top of all that I think it was a bit much for them to swallow. . . .
I hope I have not offended you in having such strong opinions. Please forgive me if I have. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu has been working with some of the older boys here---finding out details of what they have been through as far as abuse and names of people, also.
--Respectfully, Your Servant, (removed) devi dasi
back to timeline
Monkey on a Stick climbed to The New York Times best seller list in 1988, bringing ISKCON's crimes of drug dealing, murder, and fraud to a mainstream audience. The following excerpt describes child abuse in the New Vrindaban (West Virginia) gurukula:
Monkey on a Stick, p. 347: The boys were ordered to come to the front of the class and sit on Sri Galima's lap. Sri Galima then anally raped them, right in front of the class. Other boys were ordered to stay after class. Sri Galima tied their hands to their desks with duct tape and then assaulted them in the same way. At night, Fredrick DeFrancisco, Sri Galima's assistant, crept into the boys' sleeping bags and performed oral sex on them.
back to timeline
In 1988 the GBC passed a resolution to interview former gurukula students about their experiences. Although the survey was suppressed, gurukula alumni published it two years later in the ISKCON Youth Veterans Newsletter. Following are excerpts from the survey. For the complete survey results, click here.
General problems: There was no love, affection, kindness, or respect ever given. The schools were run like Marine camps except we were all small children. / Incompetent staff. Lack of funds, stifles individuality and natural human impulses. I could go on forever. / Rebelliousness. / Fuckheads for teachers. I was constantly being beaten for no reason. / Not enough time spent with parents (Sundays only). / Health, being dominated, getting picked on. / They didn't teach us how to deal with the outside world. They put karmis down too much. We were taught that boys were such terrible people. I think that because we weren't taught about drinking and drugs, that's why so many of the gurukulis are so into it. / Nosy teachers, boy girl relationships, lack of personal independence. / Too harsh on boys about Krishna consciousness. / Teachers were not trained, children were hit, negative atmosphere. / Too strict. Treated us like children of slaves by way of food and clothing. / Health. I get malaria and nobody does anything about it. Nobody notified my parents. At first the kids in my ashram took care of me, then I was helped. / Six to seven year old kids were forced to wake up at 3:30 AM, eat food they didn't like, and chant when they didn't want to. / Majority of teachers were unqualified. Too much violent forcing to follow rules and regulations. / Lack of qualified personnel. / Food, teachers, academics, living facilities, almost everything. Beginning education was a little weak. / Attending ashrams too early, very strict teachers (too violent). Too much stress on small children on sex and relationships, absence of parents for long periods of time, and untrained teachers. / Just about everything. / No knowledge of how to deal with children. / Too far from parents. / Mistreatment, abuse, mental abuse. / Not enough time spent at home. / Too strict. / The gurukulas forced the children to do things they generalized too much. The gurukula staff held back natural feelings and really made the children paranoid of many different things such as how karmis see them, etc. / People always hit. / No problems. Had my sikha pulled out a couple of times in Dallas and B.V.
back to timeline
Perhaps due to pressure from parents, the GBC accepted Jagadish's resignation in their Povisional Order 75 and close down the Ministry of Education. However, in Provisional Order 76 they form the Board of Education and name Jagadish as a member of the board of directors.
GBC Resolution, 1988
[Prov. Order] 75. That the GBC accepts the resignation of Jagadish Goswami as Minister of Education. The Ministry of Education is herewith dissolved and replaced by the ISKCON Board of Education. The ISKCON Board of Education is a GBC standing committee dealing with primary and secondary education in ISKCON, composed of GBC and non-GBC members. The Board will formulate and execute concrete plans which shall enable it to effectively insure the quality of Krsna conscious primary and secondary education throughout ISKCON.
Each member of the ISKCON Board of Education shall have responsibility for specific duties and shall make specific commitments for which he shall be held accountable. The yearly GBC Chairman shall also serve as a member of the ISKCON Board of Education.
The ISKCON Board of Education shall continue to maintain the activities of the former Ministry of Education. It shall, in addition, establish and maintain a cultural administrative office. The entire Board of Education shall meet together no less than three times a year.
[Prov. Order] 76. The members of the ISKCON Board of Education are: Tosan Krsna das, Chairman; Jagadish Goswami, Sivarama Swami, Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, Ravindra Swarup das, Bhurijana das, Vrikodara das, Kirtiraj das, Sri Rama das, Dhanvantari Swami, Vrisha das.
back to timeline
The following is a summary and analysis of articles we published in the ISKCON World Review.
IWR Interview: Gurukula Today in Dallas,
IWR 8.5, pp. 6-7, Nov. 1988
In 1988, I interviewed Drista, headmaster of the new Dallas gurukula. When I attempted to publish the interview in IWR, the GBC editorial committee complained and rewrote one of my questions and one of his answers. The question was, "In the old Dallas gurukula parents could only visit twice a year. What's your policy now?" They changed it to say, "What is your policy about teachers, parents, and students?" I argued it (see chapter nineteen) and we printed the question: "At one time some gurukula teachers sought to minimize parental involvement. What's your policy now?"
The answer they changed was in response to the question: "How do you feel about kids going on to college?" Drista's real answer was: "We're all for it." The GBC committee changed it to say, "Srila Prabhupada did not stress this, but I feel it can be worthwhile if they study courses that will help them find careers that are satisfying, and if in those careers they engage in activities to help Krishna Consciouess."
After Drista's interview came out, the GBC editorial committee and others complained that Drista only represented one school, and that he never should have been interviewed about such difficult topics. The following month, Sri Rama, secretary of the ISKCON-wide GBC Board of Education, was interviewed to clear up any misstatements Drista may have made. Following are some excerpts where he broaches the subject of child abuse:
IWR Interview with Sri Rama Dasa:
Education Secretary Adds Insight to Gurukula Discussion
IWR 8.6, pp. 6-7, Dec. 1988 (excerpts)
IWR: What, in your opinion, is the reason we have not achieved Srila Prabhupada's goals for educating the children of ISKCON devotees?
Sri Rama: There are quite a few reasons. Everyone is more or less familiar with the problems experienced by some gurukulas: lack of qualified teachers, poor financing, naivete, incidents of child abuse, etc. These individual failures caused a real loss of faith.
Another factor is that ISKCON changed, but the Ministry of Education didn't recognize the changes fast enough. The simple world we had in the young days of ISKCON exploded, and we ignored the complicated set of expectations that cropped up. In other words, we kept training the children to grow up into an ISKCON that existed in our desires, rather than seeing what was realistically there.
For any educational system to succeed, it has to train students for the society they will live in when they graduate and, to some degree, we failed in that respect. Therefore, many devotees have been looking at non-devotee school and college programs to satisfy their needs. Of course, we are probably being premature in judging whether or not gurukula has been a success. We won't know until the gurukula graduates have reached 25 or 30 to see the final results of their training. . . .
IWR: Do you have any experience of gurukula graduates who now feel inimical about their education?
Sri Rama: I have spoken to quite a few former students. Their evaluations vary from abject condemnation to the highest praise. The impressions differ mostly according to personal experience. However, I see two problem areas. First, a lack of qualified teachers. Especially where there are ashramas [boarding facilities], the teachers must function at a high level of competency and spiritual realization. We should have limited the programs to fit the number of qualified teachers we had, rather than fill up the schools beyond our real capacity. I think we've learned a lot in this area.
The second area of complaint is an atmosphere of force. I don't mean students were forced in every sphere of their activities. I'm referring to the fact that participation in gurukula wasn't a voluntary process for the most part- for students or the schools. Every child was expected to go to gurukula, and the schools were expected to accept every student, whether or not they had the qualified teachers or felt that a particular child was going to benefit by going to gurukula.
The history of gurukula ashramas is an example of how that attitude can contribute to a situation where failure is practically guaranteed. I want you to know that I'm not opposed to ashramas as a matter of principle. I've seen them work well when the circumstances were right. But ashrams are by nature places where there is an atmosphere of renunciation. If parents and students aren't expecting that--aren't wanting that--then it can be a miserable experience. I've heard former students complain bitterly about their gurukula experiences, only to realize that there was nothing wrong with the program--it was only that those students were completely out of place there. In schools where participation in ashramas was voluntary, results seem much better. . .
IWR: How will the Board of Education try to revive the devotees' faith in Srila Prabhupada's values for gurukula?
Sri Rama: I think one of the major things the Board of Education could do for the devotees of ISKCON would be to help them sort out their doubts about Srila Prabhupada's instructions on gurukula. A lot of people criticize the gurukulas and the people in them, but I think if they take a closer look they will find that they themselves don't believe Srila Prabhupada's program for educating children is right or practical. But because you can't criticize your spiritual master, you put up straw men and knock them down.
back to timeline
Raghunatha "joined" ISKCON at the age of eight, when his mother kidnapped him from her in-laws and enrolled him in the Dallas gurukula. From there, Raghunatha went to the Vrindavana, India, gurukula. Raghunatha was the first to begin publishing his stories in a newsletter for gurukula alumni. Raghunatha's suffering is undeniable, even though he tries to temper his stories humor and irony. To read the entire, unabridged document "Children of the Ashram," click here. The following is an excerpt from his essay:
Children of the Ashram
ISKCON Youth Veterans newsletter, 1990
excerpts, with analysis
Govinda decided to step up his harassment. One of the most disheartening was his wake up call of "happy birthday" before throwing this big bucket of cold water on me in the early hours of that freezing winter morning. It was my only birthday present of the day. Still, it turned out to be the most memorable one. I turned fourteen.
After this, the teachers locked him in a cold bathroom for the rest of the day. Another form of emotional abuse was when the perpetrators tried to convince the children that even Krishna hated them, or that Krishna wanted them to be abused. This is a common way child abusers silence their victims, making them feel like they somehow deserve the treatment they receive. A few days after his birthday, Raghunatha got into a fight with the school officials, which led to a beating with a religious symbol:
[Yasoda Maharaja] dragged me by the arm to the bathroom as he continued to berate me. He spiced up his points with sharp, stinging slaps. In the bathroom, the lecture continued as he waited for Manihara to bring his rings. He asked for his two biggest ones. One was of solid silver, crafted with a large lion's head and fitted with good-sized diamonds in the eyes and mouth. He called it Lord Nrsimhadev. The other was this nearly inch long and half inch thick, emerald that was set to a solid and very thick gold wring. After putting them on, he pounded me all over the body with them as I useless tried to protect myself.
Nrsimhadev is the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Krishna that is famous for protecting the child Prahlad. The scriptures describe an evil and abusive king who had an innocent son. The king hated his son's purity, so he put him in the school of the demons, and ordered the teachers to tortured the boy. After years of abuse, the father finally drew his sword to kill the boy, but Lord Nrsimhadev burst from a marble pillar and killed the evil king. Nrsimhadev then gave the father's crown to the child. ISKCON temples celebrate the appearance of Nrsimhadev every spring and sing prayers to this incarnation in the daily religious services. Devotees memorize the prayers and chant them in times of danger. Punching students with the image, the authorities tried to change Nrsimhadev from a protector to a persecutor. This proved extremely disorienting for Raghunatha. After being beaten with the religious image, the teachers locked Raghunatha in a bathroom. Raghunatha describes a psychosis that lasted approximately forty-eight hours after the beating.
The endless dimensions of anger are amazing. Just when you think to have reached the breaking point and feel you can't be pushed further, angered more; you find you can be. No other experience better exemplified the point. I was seething in utter rage with every ounce of strength and all of any emotion I was capable of. I went to the bars of the bathroom window and held them. . . . I found myself spitting foam as I screamed to myself - my loudest, quiet scream ever. I pulled and pushed at those bars with all my might. I yanked and shook and I cried. After about ten minutes of this, one of those half inch thick bars suddenly broke loose from its frame.
Instantly, I forgot my anger and stared blankly at what I had done. My God, I was bending bars now. This is certainly going to look great to my friends. A thousand ideas instantly flooded my mind. Break the hinges off the door with it, or better; get Manihara in here again and flog him as hard as I can. I graphically saw how I would beat him blow by blow. I played it out a hundred different ways. I will start with the legs, then the head, but maybe start with the head or maybe just break his arms and legs. No, don't do any thing lethal.
The idea of that was so completely possessing. I started thinking: "Krishna gave me this weapon for a reason." I flashed through the dozens of stories where Lord Rama and many others are equipped with weapons for the mission at hand. In all of these stories, weapons always come in unusual ways. Was this now my sign to punish these miscreants of injustice? I did not seek this weapon. It literally fell into my hands. I made my way to the door to start kicking it again. I finally decided to get even the Druvah Maharaja way. . . .
Instead of hurting the perpetrators, Raghunatha turned to another story from the scriptures, that of Druvah Maharaja. Druvah was the son of a self-centered king who rejected Druvah because he was not the heir to the throne. Druvah decided to meditate until he had gained enough spiritual power to possess a kingdom greater than his father's. So rather than beat the perpetrators, Raghunatha tried this:
By the prowess of my austerities, I was going to entice Krishna to get me the hell out of there. I sat in the lotus position, closed my eyes, and held my breath. That didn't seem to be going anywhere, even after about four tries. After turning nearly purple in the face, I decided on chanting Brahmasamhita verses. . . . I said them about thirty times. I then changed to Druvah's verse: "om namo bhagavate vasudevaya." It calmed me completely. Maybe it was just the exhaustion of the past three hours starting to set in.
My prayer and chanting was broken by the sound of the door opening outside. My prayers had worked. I was free and out. Well, no not quite. It was [two other students] Vrindavan and Deva Deva. They risked sneaking in to see me though they could get into "big trouble." I think I had redefined what big trouble could mean.
Deva Deva was crying. He was really upset thinking I was badly hurt by Yasodanandana and Manihara. This rare affection moved me in a very powerful way. On occasions, I still think back to his empathy for me during all of this. . .. Vrins and Devz had come to let me out. No, I was not going to get them in trouble too. I made them leave and locked the door behind them. I don't know exactly why I passed up this chance to escape. In a few hours more, I was going to regret missing this opportunity.
back to timeline
Throughout its thirty-five-year history, ISKCON has practiced its own version of the Hindu custom of arranging marriages, in which gurus, temple presidents or other adults decide who will be married. In this system, newly-converted women and minor-aged girls were often married to abusive men. D.D. wrote a personal essay published in ISKCON Youth Veterans newsletter, Volume II, Jan.-May 1990. The author is a lifelong devotee of Krishna, who lives in New Vrindaban. (author's collection)
The GBC passed a series of resolutions about child abuse, but declined the opportunity to admit what had already happened in their own schools or do anything to help the victims and their families.
GBC Resolutions, 1990
GBC Resolution 119: That the following is adopted as the official ISKCON policy on child abuse incidents:
1) The local governing authority of each ISKCON school or community is responsible to appoint 2 or 3 devotees to investigate and follow-up on all suspected or confirmed cases of child abuse.
2) Suspected or confirmed cases of child abuse must be reported to local government authorities for investigation and/or prosecution. In India, the ISKCON International Office of Education may authorize a waiver of this requirement if the perpetrator is willing to sign a statement authorizing the International Office of Education to publicize the incident to all ISKCON related educational projects and other concerned parties
3) All suspected or confirmed incidents of child abuse must be reported immediately to the local GBC secretary, and, within thirty days, to the ISKCON International Office of Education. The ISKCON International Office of Education shall review the investigation and give a finding as to the status of the alleged perpetrator as confirmed, suspect, or innocent/not-suspected.
4) The perpetrator or alleged perpetrator must be immediately segregated so that he has no possible contact with the victim or other children. This segregation may take the form of relocating the perpetrator to another part of the project, away from children; banishment from the project (and possibly from other ISKCON projects with children); or in severe cases, banishment from all ISKCON projects. The degree of segregation will be determined by the nature and severity of the offense; the attitude of the perpetrator; the feasibility of protecting the children from further abuse or intimidation; and the sentiments of the local devotees, especially the parents.
In no case should a confirmed or suspected perpetrator remain in the local community unless the local ISKCON authorities obtain the written authorization of no less than 3/4 of the parents of children at the project or in the community. The local government authorities and/or the ISKCON Board of Education will make the final determination of the appropriate degree of segregation.
5) Any confirmed child abuser may never again serve in association with children in any ISKCON project. The Board will also make available to all ISKCON educational projects and temples the names of all accused, admitted, confirmed or convicted child abusers.
6) Abused children must get appropriate professional counseling so that the serious ill-effects of the abuse can be minimized.
7) All ISKCON educational projects must have preventative programs which train children how to avoid and report child abuse incidents.
8) The local GBC man (or men) are directly responsible to implement the measures outlined above. Should the GBC Body find a GBC man or other ISKCON manager responsible for suppressing or covering-up complaints of child abuse, or supporting intimidation of those who might complain, the GBC man shall be open to censure or probation, and the ISKCON manager shall be open to appropriate disciplinary action.
back to timeline
Gandhari Zeppetello studies the history of gurukula in her UCLA World Arts and Cultures Senior Colloquium.
The first (and as of this writing, only) adult to give an interview to a gurukula publication about their role in the abuse, Krishna-kumari, is a Prabhupada disciple whose own child was abused. She is still a member of ISKCON, residing in Vrindavana, India. Following are excerpts from her 1994 interview with Manu Dasa in As It Is, the gurukula newsletter. To read the entire, unabridged article, click here.
back to timeline
The ISKCON Youth Ministry (also called Vaishnava Youth Ministry) became an organ of the GBC body in 1995 when the GBC deputed Manu Dasa to be its minister. Manu, a gurukula alumni, worked an assistant at the ISKCON Television (ITV) studio in the Los Angeles temple, where he published the gurukula newsletter, edited videos, and built web sites for ITV and the gurukula. He also coordinated gurukula reunions and a California bus tour that coincides with the summer reunion in Los Angeles. The Vaishnava Youth Ashram is an apartment in the Los Angeles temple where he lived while working at ITV, which he maintained as a retreat for Vaishnava youth who wanted to stay in the temple. After becoming a GBC minister, Manu changed the name of the newsletter to Spirit--Not This Body, and continued publishing it under the auspices of the GBC. Manu is still dedicated to the ministry and to improving attitudes and conditions for the second (and future) generations within ISKCON.
ISKCON Youth Ministry Mission Statement
To help youth who are growing up within ISKCON make the transition, materially and spiritually, into productive adulthood and society at large. To help especially those who are attending, or have attended, ISKCON's Gurukula schools. To expand this help to other youth as time and resources permit.
ISKCON Youth Ministry Goals
1. To develop and maintain a database of older and former ISKCON gurukula students, as well as others who grew up within ISKCON but did not attend gurukula.
2. To publish a newsletter on a regular basis, reaching out to and communicating with such youth.
3. To publish a separate newsletter from time to time, communicating the needs and interests of these youth to ISKCON Temple Presidents, temple devotees, congregational members, and ISKCON affiliated organizations.
4. To organize reunions, festivals, and get-togethers for such youth, centered around Krishna conscious activities.
5. To facilitate the placement of such youth with work-study, apprenticeship, service and employment programs in order to help them determine their varna and integrate into the adult workforce (Project Future Hope).
6. To represent issues concerning such youth at ISKCON Leadership meetings, and to report back the results to these youth.
7. To formulate proposals for the benefit of such youth to be incorporated into ISKCON Law by GBC resolution.
8. To remain innovative and keep up with new ways of communication, such as setting up and maintaining internet conferences, as well as video and multimedia presentations, to help and promote the interests of such youth.
9. To set up and monitor local Youth Ministries who will carry out the functions of the ISKCON Youth Ministry on a local level.
back to timeline
The V.O.I.C.E. [Violations of ISKCON Children Exposed] website, by former gurukula students Nirmal chandra and Maya Devi, includes a page of anonymous personal accounts. The following story took place on Janmastami, a holy day commemorating the appearance of Lord Krishna. In ISKCON, members fast until midnight, the hour that Krishna appeared. The V.O.I.C.E. editors warn readers:
Remember as you read these testimonies, that this happened to little defenseless children, who were in residential schools, far far far away from our parents. Warning: content is shocking. We have not included the names of the countless victims and perpetrators, and don't ask us either. This is an emotional journey - if you are a parent and sent your child to gurukula, it could be the life of your child, and the perpetrator could be a friend of yours. Many of our abusers are in high and respected positions within iskcon. Listen to your child, without defending the religion and the gurus.
Janmastami Nightmare: One Account of Child Abuse
I was four or five. It all started on Janmashtami night. We kids didn't have to fast all day but we'd only gotten a small amount of food. We had a nap in the evening so that we could stay up for the feast at midnight. I think the problem involved my waking up grouchy or something. Anyway, there were two of us involved (at least initially). All the other kids were getting ready for the arati and feast (it was late at night, about 11 or so) and this other kid and I were being tied up with strips of cloth (kopins). Our hands were tied together and our feet were tied together. Then our feet were tied to our hands behind our backs. We were left on our stomachs with our limbs all tied together behind us. I could barely breathe because of the pressure on my stomach. We stayed that way in the dark for a while, then we started to try to get out. The other kid was more nimble than I was (or more loosely tied) because he could get his feet under his body and move around. He came over near me and we talked bit trying to figure a way out of the bonds. We were unable to get free on our own. Then something unbelievable happened. An adult who was chanting japa in the ashram heard us talking and came into our room. He untied us and we got ready to join the festivities. Just as we were about to leave the ashram, our teacher returned to check up on us. After ranting at the other person to mind his own business, he tied us back up even tighter than before. We spent the night tied up. Everybody got to sleep in the next day because of being up late. We were not completely untied in the morning. Our hands were left tied behind our backs. After breakfast (no hands -- oatmeal off a plate) the teacher decided that the whole ashram deserved to be punished. He then tied everyone's hands behind their backs. Then we were tethered together as pairs. Then we were all tied together. It ended up with a big knot in the center of a circle of kids tied with our hands behind our backs. He then made us walk up and down with him in the parking lot while he chanted japa. We tried to manage but kept tripping over each other. We were all stuck together in a clump. We stayed that way all day. In the evening we got fed again. We each got a styrofoam cup full of kichari which we got to eat with our hands behind our backs. We knelt there in the grass and tried to get as much food down our starving throats as we could. We were being yelled at the whole time that we were dogs and that this treatment was too good for us. Some kids spilled their food and ate it off the dirt. Some forced their faces into the cups to try to lick the bottom. Some ate the styrofoam. When we woke up the next morning, our hands were untied and we got to go to the bathroom and wash the dried up food off our faces. It was totally disgusting.
back to timeline
V.O.I.C.E. editors, Nirmal-chandra and Maya Devi, published this definitive essay about Prabhupada's responsibility in the matter of child abuse. Most ISKCON followers still feel it is taboo to discuss these issues, since ISKCON's doctrine holds that Prabhupada is a perfect person who never made any mistakes.
by Nirmal-chandra and Maya Devi
editors of the V.O.I.C.E. website
Prabhupad and ISKCON have been fundamentally linked for us. We grew up in ISKCON, and Prabhupad is the founder of ISKCON and its cultural aspects. Although Prabhupad, to our knowledge, was never personally abusive, he does in our minds share some of the responsibility for our experiences as children. We agree that he was sincere in what he was he was trying to do, but we also have to look at the fact that we were suffering inside what was supposedly to be a haven from suffering.
Proponents to protect Prabhupad say that we should be absolutely clear that behavior of our guardians in gurukula should in no way reflect on Prabhupad. According to them Prabhupad had no responsibility in the matter. This would seem to leave us with an either or situation; either we should say that Prabhupad is to be lumped in with the other "demons," or he is kind benevolent and merciful and with no responsibility; but we are saying neither. We see that serious mistakes were made that led to severe abuse and negligence. It is impossible not to assign some responsibility to Prabhupad...
We also cannot isolate Prabhupad from having responsibility for what happened for fear that it is supposedly offensive. Based on the assumption that Prabhupad would be forthright and honest, we presume that he would be inclined to take responsibility. Hopefully he would admit and acknowledge that the care and well-being of children was grossly ignored. Although he might have been well-intentioned ideologically in putting the future success of ISKCON with its children, he failed to focus the necessary attention on the needs of families and especially children. His priorities were in establishing centers (temples), distributing books and initiating followers.
He did not make the children a priority at all. His instructions suggest that he naively thought that if is disciples followed the rules, they would be purged of their 'bad' behaviors, and would automatically treat the children well. It is recognized that Prabhupad had a life and identity before ISKCON and that his followers who later made up ISKCON are partly responsible for their perception of Prabhupad and the reality they created since his death. . . .
There were no measures taken to ensure our safety because such concerns were not top priority. Prabhupad did not set up the gurukula institution to abuse, but it is equally evident that he didn't go out of his way to make sure that it didn't happen. Because of the attitude, which is evident by the language and tone people use, of Prabhupad being beyond any scrutiny, all the blame or responsibility that is attributed, is deflected to anyone in the immediate proximity, including saying it is our fault - as in "our karma"?!
back to timeline
Nirmal-chandra, V.O.I.C.E. editor, and son of Jagadish, the minister of education, began writing about the gurukula after an accident left him quadriplegic in 1986. In his autobiographical essay, Nirmal-chandra describes what it was like for students at the Vrindavana, India, school. Nirmal chandra lives outside of ISKCON and later in 1999 joined a class-action lawsuit against ISKCON. He wrote his essay and circulated photocopied versions among his peers in 1996. (author's collection)
When the ISKCON temple presidents and North American GBC members met in Alachua, Florida (where ISKCON has a large community of devotees), they listened to ten former gurukula students tell their stories. According to an article later printed in several ISKCON publications, the men present at the meeting bowed to the kids to apologize, pledged money, and resolved to form an official organizational entity for the purpose of managing the funds. This was the beginning of "Children of Krishna, Inc.," which they incorporated as a nonprofit organization headquartered in Alachua. Their motto: "Helping Hare Krishna Youth to help themselves." Kunti dasi (the current editor of IWR) described the meeting in an article for Priti-laksanam, an alternative publication of the Hare Krishna movement. She also aired her opinions about why abuse was tolerated. The IWR later published a modified version of Kunti's original article.
Excerpt from Priti-laksanam article, by Kunti devi dasi
Two weeks ago, something special happened at one of these meetings with the GBC and temple presidents. To help set the stage, Yasodadevi dasi of North Carolina, a professional child abuse counselor and program directory with 15 years of experience, spent a full day explaining the damage that abuse causes. She brought graphic pictures, case histories, statistics, and scientific data to convince people to treat abuse as deadly serious. Manu dasa of the ISKCON Youth Ministry was originally scheduled for a 45-minute presentation on another day. He turned the floor over to a panel of other gurukula alumni and the session stretched over four hours that day and two hours the next. . . .
Sannyasis cried. You could see the shame in some of the men's eyes. I believe it was even more than the awful threat of lawsuit that spurred these men, so committed to ISKCON to go beyond passing resolutions.
It's been about eight years since I first encountered information from gurukulis about the abuse suffered by Krishna's children in ISKCON. We had all heard about "problems" at the Dallas school and that it was closed down. The exploits of a certain pedophile were infamous, and most devotees assumed that he had been somehow dealt with. Besides that was all part of the New Vrindaban mess, not ISKCON, right? Well, my education began when Raghunatha Anudas gave us a copy of his ISKCON Youth Veteran's newsletter [including Children of the Ashram]. I read with sadness, disgust, and anger of the reported abuse perpetrated, tolerated, and perpetuated by some of our leaders and their servants. . . .
Let's pray that the GBC, by raising these funds as seed money for gurukuli services, has signaled a real beginning in establishing shared responsibility among all members of our society for bringing children up in Krishna consciousness.
back to timeline
Children of Krishna, Inc., is a non-profit corporation formed for the purpose of managing funds to help gurukula abuse victims and other children of Krishna. Following are their strategic guidelines, mission statement and goals.
The Children of Krishna, Inc., Strategic Guidelines
The children of the Hare Krishna Movement are our greatest asset; they will carry on Srila Prabhupada's mission to spread Krishna consciousness. Therefore we must:
* facilitate a safe and loving environment and protect our children from harm;
* provide our students a first-class education, including trained professional teachers in exceptional schools;
* give our young adults the transitional training they require to become productive members of our society.
The Children of Krishna, Inc., Mission Statement: To support, further, and protect the education, economic, emotional, and spiritual advancement of the children of the Hare Krishna Movement.
Children of Krishna, Inc., Goals:
1. Protect our children from abuse and actively pursue rectification of past abuse.
2. Create an exemplary education system for our students.
3. Facilitate vocational training for our teens and young people.
back to timeline
In this personal essay, Srimad B. McKee describes many of the same stories from Betrayal of the Spirit, but from a child's perspective. Srimad's story continues through adulthood, but the introduction and first chapter provide a glimpse of what it was like for him growing up in ISKCON. After leaving home at age eighteen, Srimad found his identity as a member of the Rainbow Family (traveling musicians), then later settled into a more conventional lifestyle, including working and playing music in Hawaii and Southern California. [Essay not online.]
back to timeline
Manu attended the GBC meeting in India on behalf of his ISKCON Youth Ministry and successfully lobbied the GBC to pass the following resolutions:
GBC Resolutions, 1997
[LAW] 302. 1. THAT gurukula graduates and youth who have been raised in our ISKCON family are to receive a special ISKCON Youth Membership status offering them free prasadam [food] and accommodation at any ISKCON temple for one week per year per temple (provided they are respectful and follow temple rules.) Membership certificates shall be issued by the ISKCON Youth Ministry on renewable five year terms to individuals in good standing.
2. THAT all ISKCON departments, projects, businesses, and other enterprises controlled by ISKCON members, are strongly encouraged to seek out, train and employ ISKCON gurukula graduates and other youth raised in ISKCON. Wherever feasible, such youth shall be given priority over others.
3. THAT ISKCON temple ashrams have an obligation to provide room and board to gurukula graduates and other youth raised in ISKCON while they are pursuing further education and training at colleges, universities, or from our own skilled devotees. Such youth living in ISKCON ashrams must be of good character and are expected to be respectful, follow the temple rules, and attend the morning program. Whenever possible (for example, when there is an income from parents, financial aid, etc.), they should make regular donations to the temple. ISKCON Temple Presidents shall do everything feasible to fulfill this obligation to any youth certified and approved by ISKCON Youth Ministry.
[LAW] 303. 1. THAT the GBC gives its blessings to Children of Krishna, Inc. for its project to raise, manage and disburse funds internationally for the purposes of funding projects that improve gurukula education, help integrate gurukula graduates into society, and protect the physical and emotional well-being of gurukula students and graduates. This project of caring for our gurukulis is one of the most important elements in ISKCON and it has the full support and blessings of the GBC Body.
2. ISKCON leaders are strongly encouraged to make personal contributions (lead gifts) to Children of Krishna's annual fundraising campaign to show their concern for succeeding generations and set an example to others.
back to timeline
The following letter was published at chakra.org, a GBC-approved Internet forum for discussing controversy. According to Dr. Ekstrand's witnesses, Bhavananda first began hitting devotees' children in 1970. He became a guru in 1978 and remained in good standing until 1986-87, when the GBC suspended and later expelled him for carrying on homosexual affairs and violating GBC orders. Throughout the 1990s, Bhavananda has tried to win his status back and he has many supporters throughout ISKCON, especially in Australia, his former zone.
The Past is Not Done With
by Maria Ekstrand, Ph.D.
Dear Nrsimha Kavaca Prabhu,
After reading your letter about Bhavananda, I can only hope that you are completely ignorant of the severity of Bhavananda's past or of the psychology of trauma. You wrote "the past is done with," which shows that you know nothing about the long-term effects of abuse. I'm sure that the victims of Bhavananda's abuse pray that the past could be over for them. Unfortunately, it cannot, and they have to live with it every day and night, probably for the rest of their lives. Many still have nightmares from the beatings and other mistreatment they received from Bhavananda and others like him in ISKCON.
If Bhavananda has truly had a change of heart, then let him show this by apologizing to his many victims and offering them restitution. You are probably mean well, but you are not helping either Bhavananda or his victims by telling us to forgive and forget. It is not up to you or me to forgive him. He has to go straight to his victims. You stated that we all may one day be in a similar position. I certainly hope that this is not true, but if it is, may Krsna spare me from well-meaning but misguided individuals such as you. I would hope that instead, someone would have the sense and guts to sit down with me and tell me what I really needed to do to save my spiritual life.
Account #1. This occurred in 1970 in the New York temple. There were about a dozen children present (this was before the Dallas gurukula had opened), and someone had broken a minor rule. Bhavananda was very angry and wanted to find out who was the guilty one. All the kids were afraid and no one confessed or told. So he marched them all down into the basement, made them all pull down their pants (so that all the boys and girls were naked in the room together). Then he beat everyone hard with a stick. As you can imagine, this was both physically painful and extremely humiliating for them.
Account #2. A boy ate a couple of unoffered raisins. Bhavananda saw this and decided to teach him a lesson. So he forced the boy to keep eating piles of unoffered raisins until the child finally threw up. This was Bhavananda's way of teaching the boy that it's wrong to eat unoffered food.
Account #3. In Mayapur 1975. During japa, Bhavananda used to circumambulate the temple with the kids. Every time he passed some of them, he'd punch them hard on the arm. The person who told me said that he used to have black-and blue bruises all over his arms. Another japa memory involved Bhavananda's walking around the temple room with a "gong stick," whacking the kids on the head if they were "spacing out" or not chanting (usually because they were tired). The person who told me this said that he used to have welts on his head, and that other kids did too.
Account #4. Also in Mayapur. The gurukula was run "like a prison" and one of Bhavananda's favorite sayings was "no work, no food." So many of the kids were walking around in constant fear that they wouldn't get anything to eat.
Account #5. Later in Vrindavana, this boy was getting so tired of being in gurukula that he wrote to his mom that he wanted to come home. So his mother wrote to the school. When Bhavananda found out, he came after this boy (with two to three other men in tow), grabbed him by the shirt and completely intimidated him. He yelled at him that if he ever had a problem, he had to come to Bhavananda in the future.
Account #6. "Yes, I also remember for sure how he used to beat the kids. I got a little personal taste of it the very first day I joined the Vrindavana Gurukula. It was during arati, and because I wasn't jumping up and down in ecstasy, I got his fat fist hammered on my head from behind. Boy, was I shocked! What a sweet beginning."
Account #7. "He used to sometimes call the boys over to his room. Then we all had to sit there while some teacher (usually Dhanurdhar or Raghunath) used to tell all the bad things so-and-so did, and then that boy had to come up and get a good smack across the face. If you ever got one from him, you know what it means. It was about three times as strong as any other maniac would ever hit a kid."
Account #8. This female ex-gurukula student reported that Bhavananda's mistreatment of children was not confined to boys: "Bhavananda didn't limit his attention to gurukula boys. I remember when I lived in Vrindavana when I was four, he used to take special delight in lifting me up by my pony tail."
Account #9. "I want to confirm that story about how he use to bring up the boys to his room and smack them around. I was one of those boys."
Account #10. "Something else I just remembered today that I'd like to tell: Bhavananda used to take special interest in the punishment of the kids in Vrindavana when he was there, especially if some infraction was committed in his presence. I remember one time during his Vyasa puja [guru's birthday] I wasn't adequately enthusiastic. He pointed at me and signaled that he'd seen me. After it was over, he had me and a few other kids come up to his room where he gave us a few of his patented smacks. He would smack harder than anyone else. After a few of his smacks my ears would ring, I'd see stars, and would be so disoriented that I could barely stand up. Needless to say, we were all crying when we left. I think he liked to hurt kids and make them cry."
back to timeline
At the Culver City gurukula reunion in 1998, I recorded the following interview with Dhira Govinda (David Wolf), a social worker who lives in the Alachua, Florida, Krishna community. Over several years, he's provided counseling and social services to ISKCON, including child abuse investigation. In this conversation, recorded at the 1998 gurukula reunion in Culver City, California, he describes the formation of ISKCON's Child Protection Office. He also talks about a report that sets up an internal system to judge and punish alleged child abusers. I've included excerpts from that document, which is called, "Child Protection in ISKCON."
Child Protection Office Interview at Culver City Park
Tyaga: Hi, what is this about?
Nori: We were just finding out.
Dhira Govinda: It's the Child Protection Office.
Tyaga: Are you Children of Krishna?
DG: I happen to be on the board of Children of Krishna, but this is a different thing. This is actually sponsored by the GBC. I've been working in social services, in foster care, crisis intervention, medical social work. So now this office we're trying to help those children who were under the care of ISKCON and were abused. Trying to resolve past cases to see justice done, we want to investigate it professionally. We have teams of judges being trained.
Nori: For my research, I'm trying to locate these kids (shows As It Is magazine cover with photo of Dallas class of 1973). One or two of these kids is here today and they've helped me fill in the names of the people in the photo. I met some of their parents. But most of these kids don't come to the reunions. I'm trying to find them.
DG: I should be finding them before.
Nori: What is the result of your study of gurukula?
DG: It's not a study, it's a report. The task force came out with a report, which basically is a proposal for a comprehensive system to protect the children of the movement in a responsible way. I wasn't really part of the team that drew up the report. I was just the one that after the report was compiled, they hired to direct the office. I wasn't involved in writing the report. The report just said, devotees got together, Yasoda was on the team, and they said, okay what do we need to do to solve this problem? And the report is just like a sixty-page report on what we need to do.
Nori: I'm interested in what the organization is doing to confront the problem.
DG: This is what they're doing. They established this office. It's a three pronged attack. One, we're taking care of victims. Two, we're resolving past cases. We want to take the perpetrators and get them out of leadership positions, ban them from ISKCON according to the severity of their offense. Three, we want to set up systems for protection. Screening employees, screening volunteers, screening teachers, screening managers. Educating children, educating parents, educating everyone connected with ISKCON about child protection. Especially children and parents. Setting up child protection teams in each project.
Nori: That's good.
DG: That's the objective.
Nori: I'm glad that they're doing that.
DG: Long overdue.
back to timeline
The Child Protection task force set up an internal tribunal to judge and sentence child abusers. Following are excerpts from their manifesto. Results of two trials of child abusers are listed in part below.
Child Protection in ISKCON, a task force report, 1998
excerpt from p. 5, "Allegations of Past Abuse"
a) Preparatory stage:
The Task force members will stay on for one more year until April 31st of 1999 to help guide system through "past abuse" phase. The chair of this committee will rotate amongst members every six months. They will work with the GBC executive committee to set up the central office, find a director, and to help find and train judges and staff.
a) Announcements will be made that ISKCON is opening an inquiry on allegation of past child abuse . . .
b) There will be a six month window for the collection of allegations phase. With the approval of the task force members, reports can be taken after six months, but the preferred period for filing claims is within six months of announcements being made via the above avenues. . . .
f) After six months, the Task force members will have finished sorting through reports, prioritizied claims, and set a time line for the individual case.
excerpt from p. 15, "Sentence / Penalty Phase"
i) Counseling for victims:
Judges can grant victims funds for counseling, up to an average of $2,000 per individual exceptions can be made in extreme cases (to come from the GBC established fund for this purpose . . . see "Budget" section). The central office will also help in arranging for pro bono care by qualified health care providers and will help in assisting the victims in arranging for state funded care.
j) Statute of Limitations:
There is no statute of limitations. Upon approval of this proposal and establishment of a system for receiving allegations of abuse, a six month period of active solicitation of reports will begin, but if an alleged victim comes forward later on with a credible case, then such a case can be entered into this system at any time.
f) Criminal proceedings:
In case of alleged abuse, where there is an active outside justice system (western Europe, Australia/NZ, USA, Canada, etc.) and when the statute of limitations has not expired, a complaint should also be filed with the local police.
g) Double Jeopardy:
A person can be tried only once for alleged abuse against a particular individual. In cases where there is one person accused of abusing multiple victims, the central office will do everything it can to inform all those concerned that this is their opportunity to make their accusations. Again, there can only be one trial for one individual or one particular set of circumstances or set of alleged victims. In other words, if teacher X is accused of abuse at school Y, there should only be one trial to deal with that. The central office will do all it can to notify all potential victims and combine all related claims into one case.
Exception: If new evidence arises which is so convincing and points to offenses which are so egregious, the executive director of the central child protection office and the three member of the GBC executive committee, by majority vote, can reopen a case and initiate a second hearing.
Excerpt from p. 15, "Appeal Process"
a) Those found guilty via the above procedure can appeal to the GBC executive committee and the ISKCON minister of justice. The GBC executive committee and ISKCON's minister of justice form the panel to decide whether to hear an appeal.
Excerpt from p. 16, "Re-instatement Process"
a) If someone is convicted of child abuse and later on wants to have the basic restrictions listed below lifted:
"A confirmed abuser is not allowed to live on ISKCON property, hold any authority position in ISKCON (guru, GBC, temple president, regional secretary, and or board of directors etc.), to hold any fiduciary position, and or to be allowed to perform any priestly functions"
or to have all or a portion of their original sentence modified:
1. They must get a current risk assessment . . . from an ISKCON approved health care professional, and all their own expense.
2. Be able to demonstrate that they are in or have undergone treatment/ counseling.
The executive director of the central child protection office, combined with two judges (selected by executive director) will consult with ISKCON health professionals and together decide whether some modification of the above restrictions is in order.
b) A request for reinstatement cannot be made until five years after original conviction.
Only one request is allowed every five years. It is not that someone can petition this system every year.
Note: The above process removes the current system wherein a three-fourths vote of the householders at a project is required to allow a convicted abuser to live on ISKCON property etc.
back to timeline
The following is an analysis of Dr. Burke Rochford's study. To read the unabridged study, click here. An analysis of Dr. Burke Rochford's "Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986"
by Nori J. Muster
Dr. Rochford begins his paper, Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986, with a brief history of ISKCON. He characterizes it as "a communally-organized sectarian movement" in the early days, which evolved into "a loosely organized congregation of financially independent householders and their children" (Rochford, p. 43). He explains that as young converts became parents in the 1970s and 1980s, ISKCON's renounced elite redefined marriage as a symbol of "spiritual weakness" (ibid, p. 49). He writes, "As a stigmatized and politically marginal group, householders were left powerless to assert their parental authority over the lives of their children. Children were abused in part because they were not valued by leaders, and even, very often, by their own parents who accepted theological and other justifications offered by the leadership for remaining uninvolved in the lives of their children" (p. 43).
He goes on describing ISKCON's history: "Some of these sannyasis embarked on preaching campaigns against householders and even more so against women, whose life in the movement at this time became extremely trying. Feelings grew so heated that in 1976, a clash between householder temple presidents in North America and a powerful association of peripatetic sannyasis and brahmacaris escalated into a conflict so major that Srila Prabhupada called it a 'fratricidal war,' " referring to a story from the scriptures where all the descendants of Krishna killed each other at the dawn of Kali-yuga (the current age) (pp 49 50).
Rochford explains that ISKCON's fundraising practices contributed to child abuse. He said, "Sankirtan represented the foundation of ISKCON's sectarian world, and the movement's sannyasi elite took measures to assure that it was protected against the presumed deleterious effects associated with the expansion of marriage and family life" (p. 53). Although interested in putting the children in day care, Rochford explains that the leaders neglected to fund the project. One headmaster told Rochford in a 1997 interview: "Even at the peak of our movement's resources . . . the gurukula was getting barely anything. Anything. And so as soon as there was less to go around it barely got anything at all" (p. 55). Rochford suggests that "in failing to provide the resources and management necessary to maintain the gurukula, it became an institution defined by neglect, isolation, and marginalization. Because of these qualities, the gurukula also became a context in which ISKCON's children became subject to abuse" (p. 43).
Rochford explains that according to ISKCON's elite, "parents represented a threat to the spiritual lives of children" (p. 57) and they therefore dicouraged parental involvement. He says the lack of parental involvement and "an ever changing complement of gurukula teachers and staff" meant that the children were unable to create bonds with adults, and this "increased the likelihood that children might be neglected and/or abused" (p. 55).
Rochford comments that "Within the gurukula children remained largely separate from the day-to-day lives of their parents, and, very often, from ISKCON community life more generally. From an institution meant to train and educate, the gurukula instead became the functional equivalent of an orphanage" (p. 58).
Rochford makes some astute observations, especially about the isolation of gurukula students. I recall traveling to Vrindavana, India, in 1982 and seeing the large cement gurukula building to the side of the temple grounds, but we never saw the children. The only exception was when they came through the temple room for the morning services. We never suspected anything was going on, only because the children were so removed from daily temple life.
back to timeline
What follows is ISKCON Communication's press release about Burke Rochford's study. To read some of the resulting articles, click here.
HARE KRISHNAS INVESTIGATE PAST ABUSE AT BOARDING SCHOOLS
Date: October 13, 1998
Contact: Anuttama Dasa
Phone: (301) 299-9707
The academic journal of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), in its most recent volume examines allegations of child abuse in Hare Krishna boarding schools in the United States and India during the 1970's and 1980's.
Two scholars, one a Krishna devotee, Bharata Shrestha Das, and the other, Burke Rochford, a sociology professor in Vermont, each contributed an article to the ISKCON Communications Journal. These individuals presented their research analyzing alleged abuse in ISKCON parochial schools during the society's earliest years. The abuses they outlined were physical, emotional and sexual.
The New York Times called the report "an unusually candid expose." The Times noted ISKCON's openness, in contrast with other religious organizations including the Roman Catholic Church, which has been criticized for its handling of child abuse.
"This type of problem thrives on secrecy," said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON National Director of Communications. "We chose to print the articles and bring the allegations out into the open as part of a multi-pronged response to address past problems as well as to help prevent future abuse of our children."
In 1990, the ISKCON Governing Body Commission established policies to protect children from child abuse, as well as guidelines on how to respond to allegations of abuse. It wasn't until 1996, when a panel of 10 young adults testified about their experiences before North American Krishna leaders, that the depth of the problem was fully known.
ISKCON responded by establishing a Child Protection Office staffed with professional social workers. This office has three functions: 1) To investigate and respond to allegations of child abuse, especially in cases where local legal systems are ineffective; 2) To provide support for victims of child abuse through financial aid and counseling; and 3) To work with ISKCON management and educational bodies to help provide screening and other programs to protect children.
Also, a support organization called Children of Krishna was established to provide financial assistance for Krishna youth for their educational needs and counseling.
All but three Krishna schools are now day schools (not boarding schools), where students live with their parents, and parents have more daily input into their child's education.
ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna movement, was brought to the west from India in 1965 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, an elderly monk and scholar. From their it spread across the world and today includes over 325 temples world wide, including 45 in the United States. ISKCON is part of the Vaishnava religious tradition, a monotheistic branch of the Hindu tradition.
back to timeline
At the 1999 GBC meeting in Mayapur, India, Shakuntala and Krsna Devata (two former gurukula students who are still devotees of Krishna) delivered a plea for compassion and ethical values, and criticized their audience for lack of leadership. Following are excerpts. To read the transcript, click here.
back to timeline
Although the GBC acknowledged child abuse in 1996, after three years, little had changed. In this letter, widely circulated on the internet, Bhakta-visvareta describes attacking Danudhar, the principal of the Vrindavana, India, gurukula.
I just got back from India. I went (paid for by CKI) to present to the GBC why they should continue to support CKI and the office of child
protection in ISKCON.
While I was in Mayapur I discovered an old acquaintance of mine and many of yours. Dhanurdhar was staying in an apartment directly across from me and I saw him on his balcony one day. A few hours later I went over to talk to him at the apartment which belonged to one of his disciples. I requested to speak privately and we went to Dhanurdhar's room. Alone together, I began telling him all the shit I'd wanted to tell him for years. How his actions toward us fomented a deep seated hatred against him. How his actions were EVIL and by his own philosophy a person is judged by his actions, so that makes him an evil person. Allowing for the possibility that a person can change, he still has not adequately atoned for his actions in the past. I told him about the various ways in which he abused me directly and indirectly and how it continued to affect me to this day. Over all I was yelling at him for over an hour. Then I brought up the subject of my sexual abuser. They found out that a brahmachari in Vrindavana was molesting me. Dhanurdhar and Niragadev came and confronted me with it. I refused at the time to admit to anything for fear of being beaten. Within a month, the guy was gone from I hadn't known where he'd gone to until this trip. He'd been sent from Vrindavana where he'd molested at least one kid for over a year continuously to New Mayapur, France, where he was made a teacher and continued to molest and rape children (girls and boys). Dhanurdhar treated this subject, which was a total surprise to him, with callousness. (My impression is that he had calculated responses to the various issues he expected to face and was delivering them at me with surprising effectiveness. I almost believed the guy was sincere until this.) I lost my temper, grabbed his walking stick (which was about the size of a kids baseball bat) and hit him with it. I hit him twice, once on each leg, all the while yelling at him. At this point, the guy in the other room comes running and opens the door and tries to intervene. I shoved him out of the room and kicked the door shut so hard it cracked the frame. I then hit Dhanurdhar one more time as hard as I could in the arm, threw the stick down and left in disgust.
I did not try to kill Dhanurdhar. I did not hit him in the head or face. I delivered to him as he'd done to me many times over the years. It was cathartic for me and now I feel that my business with him is finished. I wish you all the best in your lives. - Adam
In another statement Adam (Bhakta Visvareta) wrote:
The whole reason I posted as soon as I got home was because I knew someone would hash rumors without knowing the true story. There were only two people in the room, me and Dhanurdhara Swami. What I posted is exactly how it occurred. My vision may have been blurred by rage, but I certainly did not attempt to kill him: I didn't hit him anywhere vital, nor did I attempt to. A further point that I made before is that he would do that kind of beating to me and worse in a day. In Dallas, every kid would get beaten with a stick ten whacks every day to help burn karma faster and punish us for the stuff we did and got away with. When I first got to Vrindavana, he would beat me every day because I wouldn't obey him fast enough. It turned out that I could barely function because I was suffering from an acute case of jaundice. Basically I got beaten every day by this guy because I was ill.
back to timeline
The Child Protection Office (CPO) published the names of alleged perpetrators they are investigating, as well as the results of two trials. They have resolved more of the 250 cases they are reviewing, but stopped announcing the results, allegedly out of fear of reprisals from the perpetrators.
Cases Resolved by the Child Protection Office
Excerpt from a press release newsletter and article at vnn.org
April 6, 1999
Since April of 1998, when the Office first opened, we have processed several cases of past child abuse through the adjudicatory system. Due to space we were unable to print the entire decisions in the newsletter. Here are the complete Official Decisions in two of the cases completed in 1998:
Srutadeva dasa - (Robert Kaufman)
Official Decision This judgment, rendered on August 26, 1998, is the official decision of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (IOCP) on the child abuse case of Srutadeva dasa.
In 1994 Srutadeva dasa was convicted in the State of California for molesting a girl, who was 12 years old at the time of the most recent incident of sexual molestation, which occurred on July 24, 1993. Incidents of molestation occurred for 3-3.5 years prior to the most recent incident. This molestation involved various forms of fondling, including touching the victim's genitals and making the victim touch his genitals.
Court records and other documentation relevant to this case are on file with the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection.
The ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection has determined that, as a result of Srutadeva dasa's acts of child sexual molestation:
1) Srutadeva dasa must show this document to the Temple President of any temple he visits, or the manager of any ISKCON project he visits, and obtain a signed statement that the president or manager has read this decision. Srutadeva shall send the signed copy of the decision to the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection. If Srutadeva only visits a temple once or twice during public functions, such as Sunday Feasts, then he does not need to obtain a signed statement from the temple president or manager. If he visits a temple more than two times, then he must obtain such a signed statement.
2) Once such a signed statement has been obtained, Srutadeva can perform services for the temple or project according to the discretion of the temple president or project manager.
3) Whenever Srutadeva attends an ISKCON temple, he must do so in the association of his wife. If she dies or initiates separation or divorce, Srutadeva must reapply to the IOCP. Any exceptions to this restriction must be strictly situational and approved in advance by the temple president.
4) Srutadeva is not permitted to lead kirtan in an ISKCON temple or project for the next two years.
5) Srutadeva is not permitted to give classes on Krishna conscious philosophy in ISKCON temples. This stricture also directs that Srutadeva cannot hold ISKCON positions such as Temple President, GBC, or diksa guru. He can hold other positions, according to the discretion of ISKCON authorities.
6) For the indefinite future, he should maintain ongoing visits with a therapist trained in addressing the issues of child abusers. He should have a session with such a therapist at least once every six months, and send documentation of his visits to the CPO or local GBC.
7) Except for legally permitted family visits, he should strictly avoid association with minors in or out of ISKCON.
8) If any of his ex-wives or children attend a function at an ISKCON temple, he must leave the premises, unless he has obtained written permission from them. He is not to pressure or attempt to force them to provide such permission.
9) He is not permitted to reside or stay overnight on an ISKCON property, though he may attend temple functions, such as Mangala-arati, Srimad Bhagavatam Class, Sunday Feasts, Ratha yatras and other festivals.
10) He must fulfill all financial obligations to his family members until his children are of legal age. We recommend that he continue to financially help his daughter whom he abused. We also recommend that he make donations to Children of Krishna or other organizations that serve Vaisnava youth.
If Srutadeva breaks any of these injunctions, then he can have no association with ISKCON temples or projects until his case is reviewed by the IOCP.
These judgments constitute the minimum restrictions that an ISKCON organization may place on Srutadeva dasa. Any specific ISKCON organization may choose to place stricter restrictions. However, it is expected that all ISKCON entities will consider these decisions of the IOCP before imposing more stringent limitations, as the constraints prescribed herein are deemed to be sufficient with regards to child protection.
It should be noted that Srutadeva has: - admitted to the molestations - cooperated with legal authorities - properly served time, probation, and obtained counseling as prescribed by law - shown remorse and willingness to reform - shown a cooperative spirit with this office.
Muralivadaka dasa - (Michael Mager)
Official Decision This judgment, decided on December 31, 1998, was rendered in accordance with the guidelines for adjudicating cases of child abuse established by the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, ratified by the ISKCON Governing Body Commission. This judgment is the official decision of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (IOCP) on the child abuse case of Muralivadaka dasa (Michael Mager).
Based on signed statements of victims as well as interviews with victims, this adjudicatory panel has determined that Muralivadaka dasa fondled and attempted to fondle four pre-adolescent boys while he was serving as teacher or headmaster in the school that these boys attended. These transgressions occurred over a period of several years, ending in 1989. They happened in various locations, including Lake Huntington, New York, Port Royal, Pennsylvania, and Alachua, Florida, where Muralivadaka was headmaster of a school. Muralivadaka dasa has admitted to these inappropriate sexual acts with the four children.
The IOCP has determined that, as a result of Muralivadaka dasa's acts of child sexual molestation:
1) Muralivadaka dasa should not visit ISKCON property, or the property of organizations affiliated with ISKCON, or attend ISKCON functions, or the functions of organizations affiliated with ISKCON, including activities such as ratha yatras and harinamas, till Feb. 1, 2003. This date is five years after Muralivadaka was asked to leave ISKCON property as a result of allegations of child sexual abuse. Also, till this date he should not perform service for ISKCON or ISKCON affiliates in any official capacity. After Feb. 1, 2003, Muralivadaka may visit ISKCON property, perform service for ISKCON, and attend ISKCON functions under the guidelines specified below.
2) Muralivadaka must show this document to the Temple President of any temple he visits, or the manager of any ISKCON project he visits, and obtain a signed statement that the president or manager has read this decision. Muralivadaka shall send the signed copy of the decision to the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection. If Muralivadaka visits a temple only once or twice during public functions, such as Sunday Feasts, then he does not need to obtain a signed statement from the temple president or manager. If he visits a temple more than two times, then he must obtain such a signed statement.
3) Once such a signed statement has been obtained, Muralivadaka can perform services for the temple or project according to the discretion of the Temple President or project manager.
4) If any of Muralivadaka's abuse victims or their family members attend a function at an ISKCON temple, he must leave the premises, unless he has obtained written permission from them. Similarly, Muralivadaka should not reside in the same community as any of his former abuse victims or their family members unless he has obtained written permission from them. He should not pressure or attempt to force them to provide such permission.
5) Muralivadaka should not lead kirtana or give class on Krsna conscious philosophy on ISKCON property or at an ISKCON function.
6) He should not reside or stay overnight on ISKCON property, though, after Feb. 1, 2003, he may attend temple functions such as Mangala-arati, Srimad Bhagavatam Class, Sunday Feasts, Ratha yatras and other festivals.
7) He should avoid close association with minors in or out of ISKCON.
8) At least for the next three years Muralivadaka dasa should receive therapy from a therapist trained in addressing the issues of child sexual abusers. At least once every six months he should have a session with such a therapist and send documentation of these visits to the IOCP.
9) Muralivadaka dasa should write apology letters to the victims and the parents of the victims. These apology letters should be written on a yearly basis and submitted to the IOCP, not directly to the intended parties. The first letters should be written one year, give or take a month, from the date of this decision. Yearly letters are intended to assist Muralivadaka to remain connected with proper feelings of remorse. These yearly letters should be written through Feb. 1, 2003.
10) As a therapeutic measure, IOCP recommends that Muralivadaka should express in writing his realizations about his child abuse transgressions. These realizations should be written on a yearly basis and submitted to the IOCP or any Vaisnava brahmana in good standing with ISKCON. This recommendation is intended to assist Muralivadaka to remain connected with appropriate emotions connected with his transgressions, and also to facilitate him to establish and maintain a connection with a senior Vaisnava.
11) Muralivadaka should make all efforts to financially compensate the victims of his transgressions.
12) Muralivadaka cannot hold any positions in ISKCON.
If Muralivadaka dasa violates any of these injunctions, then he can have no association with ISKCON temples or projects until his case is reviewed by the IOCP.
These judgments constitute the minimum restrictions that an ISKCON organization may place on Muralivadaka dasa. Any specific ISKCON organization may choose to invoke more stringent restrictions. However, it is expected that all ISKCON entities will consider these decisions of the IOCP before imposing more stringent limitations, as the constraints prescribed herein are deemed to be sufficient with regards to child protection.
Muralivadaka dasa has cooperated with the investigative and adjudicative procedures of the IOCP.
According to the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, Section 5, in cases where an allegation(s) of child abuse are determined to be valid, the accused may appeal the Official Decision to the GBC Executive Committee and the ISKCON Minister of Justice. The Official Decision described in this document is effective immediately, and the perpetrator must abide by its guidelines during the appeal process, should he choose to appeal this decision.
back to timeline
In response to the threat of a class action lawsuit by former gurukula students, and resulting negative media coverage, ISKCON Communications issued the following press release. To read examples of negative articles, click here
KRISHNAS PLEDGE ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO CHILD PROTECTION
Date:April 29, 1999
Phone: (301) 299-9707
Washington, D.C. -The Governing Body Commission (GBC) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known as the Hare Krishna movement, today announced it has pledged an additional $750,000 for ISKCON's Office of Child Protection (OCP). This pledge brings the total the Krishnas plan to spend in response to past abuse to over one million dollars.
By a majority vote made public today, the GBC voluntarily pledged to provide $250,000 per year for the next three years for child protection, to be administered by the religious group's professionally staffed OPC. A minimum of $500,000 will be used to directly assist victims of abuse. The balance of the $750,000 will be used for education and training to protect children and to support the OCP's work in investigating and adjudicating alleged past abuse. Another quarter million dollars was allocated previously to the OCP. The Governing Body Commission pledged the money from donations of the North American division of the Krishna's independent publishing house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT). The GBC pledged these funds recognizing that the individual North American temple communities do not have sufficient resources to financially support the desired increases in the child protection programs.
"The funds pledged today represent the bulk of the proceeds from our tradition's most sacred activity-the publishing of our religious texts," said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON spokesperson. "Historically, these funds have been donated to build temples and facilities for pilgrims at holy sites in India. Today's decision confirms that our leadership wants to do whatever is possible to help our families, and heal our young people." The Krishnas attracted international media attention when ISKCON's own academic journal published two lengthy articles by scholars investigating past abuse of Krishna children in the group's boarding schools in the 1970's and 1980's. The New York Times called the publishing of the articles "an unusually candid expose" by a religious group.
Independent child abuse experts have acknowledged the Krishna's Office of Child Protection's pro-active efforts. In addition to providing assistance to abuse victims, and education to prevent abuse, the OCP actively investigates allegations of past abuse. The OCP oversees an independent judicial system that determines restrictions and punishments for alleged past abusers who may have escaped prosecution from local and state law enforcement agencies. Actions against past abusers can include mandatory payment of reparations to victims, mandatory professional counseling, and banishment for life from Krishna temples.
In a related announcement, the Mayapur Foundation, a new independent ISKCON affiliated Trust that raises funds for charitable and religious purposes in India, today announced a new grant writing initiative dedicated to raising funds in North America for Krishna youth who were victims of abuse.
"The protection of children is an essential tenet of the Hare Krishna, or Vaishnava Hindu tradition," said Anuttama. "Many children in modern society have suffered from abuse. It has infected churches, schools, governments, and families. Unfortunately, ISKCON has not been free from that plague. We can't change the history of suffering that some of our children underwent. But, we must continue to do everything we can to help the healing process," he said.
back to timeline
Click here for Timeline index.
Click here for more ISKCON gurukula information.
Click here for an index of all child abuse information available through this site.