The Governing Body Commission's Questionnaire
by Raghunatha Anudas
I remember the 1987 [North American] GBC meeting in L.A., when Rupanuga Prabhu convinced its members to get feedback from the kids about gurukula. What a concept. Anyway, they passed the request on to the North American Headmasters meeting held in Lake Huntington about nine months later. I had attended that meeting as well. From there it was assigned to Badrinarayana of San Diego. He wrote it up--in about ten minutes. Badri asked me to pass it around to the kids attending the 1988 Ratha-yatra. I took about a week chasing everyone down but I did get most every kid who came that year to fill it out. Mandalibadra and his dear mother, Rasa Manjari, were a great help and compiled all the scribbled responses into the computer. It also took about a week. Thank you Mandali and Rasa.
Respondents attended the following gurukulas: Atlanta / Bhaktivedanta Village (B.V.), Three Rivers, CA / Dallas / Denver / Detroit / England / Gita Nagari, Port Royal, PA / Hawaii / Lake Huntington, NY / Los Angeles / Mayapur, India / Miami / New Mayapur, France / New Vrindaban, WV / New York / Philadelphia / Seattle / Tennessee / Vancouver / Vrindavana, India.
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.
Positive points: My vocabulary was greatly enhanced. / Comradarie, close friendships, clean regulated living, discipline. / You got to be with friends a lot. But then being together a lot got on your nerves. / Girls got along nicely. / Being vegetarians. / Great friends, devotee association, good Krishna conscious morals and principles. / We learned how to develop relationships with each other. We were taught how to share and get along with each other. We now have a good religious background. General studies. / Morning program. Some things learned about being strict devotees. / Gave me a lot of responsibility. / Discipline. / Living arrangements and concern and labor. The sports time. / Everybody was usually good friends and enjoyed being together. / Good teachers academically - wise but Rupa Vilas later found out that they were sexual molesters. / We got to play a lot of games, go on field trips, etc. Kids were the most positive points. / Fireworks, new friends, spiritual teaching, and self control. / Close relationships with teachers. Having all the children for brothers and sisters. / Being taught such strong moral principles. / Friends, recreation, some good training, good experience, good memories. / Friends, self control. / Made many friends. / A lot of spiritual guidance. / The knowledge we got. / We got a good education and had many friends of our own age. I also got a very strong Krishna conscious base for my life. / I heard a lot of good things. / The positive points were that there was always the association of devotees. / My friends. / Learned self control, cleanliness, learned the philosophy, learned how to deal with people.
Ashrams, positive points: There were some, but they never lasted. / Nice teachers in New Vrindaban, nice facilities. / Cold showers. Many friends, sadhana (daily meditation), philosophy, fun, learned to get along well. / Discipline. / Having so many friends. It's really nice to have so many friends today that I know can understand me because they all went through the same things I did. / Great experience, fun with the sisters I never had. / Fun. It's okay if gurukula is a marine corps if they do it nicely and not by the hand. / Clean. / More discipline. / Everybody was usually good friends and enjoyed being together. / Growing up with close friends. / Friends, sports, sharing, good Krishna conscious training. / Made close friends. / A lot of friends. / Discipline, knowledge, friends. / I grew up with many friends and I am sure I will never make friends as close as these during my life. / Made very very unbreakable friends. / There was a feeling of closeness between the people in the ashram like a family. / Friends.
Ashrams, negative points: Incompetent staff. Fanatics. Uneducated / Teachers. / Strict discipline in Lake Huntington. / Everything. / Too many kids with one teacher. Too many people living together. / No quality control of teachers. No love for kids. / Not spending enough time with our parents All the parents are trying to make up the time that they didn't have with their kids. A lot of kids have resentment against their parents because they felt abandoned by their parents. Can you imagine being thrown into an ashram and having to be expected to get along with a bunch of kids? Children are supposed to be disciplined by their parents. However you are treated when you are a child is how you will be when you grow up. / Missing parents. Other kids picking on me and each other. Sometimes too crowded. Teachers wanted to know too much about the kids personal and private lives. / Unfair - teachers were partial to one group and hated another for no apparent reason. / Too crowded. / Too many. / Sucked. No privacy. Teachers were always peeking in on us. / Teachers burned out, got frustrated and usually took it out on the kids. / The teachers were too careless. / The food, the teachers, the strictness, the paranoia. / Practically everything. / Boys and girls not learning how to relate to one another. / No dedication from the teachers. Bad untrained teachers unfamiliar with children. Nosy teachers. Not enough independence. Favoritism. / Nearly everything. / Teachers were too strict or mean. / Not enough sleep. / Physical and mental abuse. False accusations. / Teachers doing bad things. / The teachers would always suspect a child of doing something wrong and they were too strict in suppressing feelings for the opposite sex. / Abuse, torture, people not understanding, being molested. / Teachers didn't know what the hell was going on. They needed training.
Academics, positive points: We came out with a good vocabulary. / Read a lot. Have a good vocabulary. / Good, up to date books. / Philosophy (only thing taught). / We were all ahead in our reading. / A lot of personal attention. Pretty much up to standard. / Classes. / Spiritual enlightenment. / Mayapur was really easy going. / Philosophy. / I learned creative writing good. / Good reading and writing level. / We learned a lot. / Philosophy. / Up to standard. / Up to standard. / Fun recreation. More attention from teachers. Shorter classes than public school. / Religion, philosophy. / No homework. / Bhagavad gita, Sanskrit. / We received an excellent education and could move at a fast pace because it was tutorial. / Learned things. / I learned really fast.
Academics, negative points: No emphasis on writing, math, science, literature (U.S.) or English grammar. / Incompetent staff. Insufficient and faulty teaching techniques. / People were made teachers just because they happened to be living near the school. / Short hours, kick back. / Never learned anything. / Not much learned. Awful math, science, English, etc. / Terrible. No organization. / There wasn't enough emphasis on math. A little lax in some ways. / Over-instruction about the same matter. / Everyone was behind in math. Once a bunch of American kids had a teacher who was Bengali (Balarama). Not one of us could understand a word he said. / B.V. seemed to be two or three years behind grade. / Books were not up to date. / Didn't really learn anything. They would read to us while we were sitting around telling dirty stories and talking about good fights. / Too much emphasis on Bhagavad-gita, etc. / A very unbalanced system. / Most of the kids weren't in the right grade. / I was in fifth grade math for four years. No experienced academic training. / Could have been better. / No steadiness on teachers' part. / No dedication from the teachers. / Bad tempered impatient teachers. / We were in the wrong grades. / Not enough academics. / Mathematics should have been taught better. Didn't learn enough. / The system slowed people down, didn't teach them enough. / We didn't learn much. The teachers were jerks. / The teachers didn't have any idea of what they were doing. The grading system was messed up.
What would you change? I have already improved by getting out of gurukula. / Scheduled strict academics. / the teachers should be trained how to teach properly. / Girl, boy relations. Teachers. / We need more academic studies. / I would improve the prasadam and change disciplinary tactics. / Everything. They needed some more certified teachers. / Just about everything. / We need some teachers with some brains. / Most everything. / Academics, prasadam, and ashram facilities. / The teachers and the food. / Almost everything. / Have the teachers and schools accredited. / Get professional qualified academic teachers. / Nearly everything. / I wouldn't ever go again or send my kids. They need to learn how to teach the religion and not shove it down your throat. / The teachers' attitude. / Only use people who want to teach, no beating, force feeding food, or eating off floors. / They just needed to have more advanced teachers who could take us to high school. / Teachers. / I would definitely change the way they teach the children how to be devotees, especially in the older children's program. Everything as it is and was, was forced upon them whether or not they responded to it. / I would change all the abuse. Give to the older kids who had their lives ruined without an education and now are struggling on welfare with kids. / I would have sent all of the teachers to school. Too many people looking for a place to stay where they didn't have to go out on sankirtan rather than being there to teach.
What did you like about the ashram teachers? In absolute fairness, nothing. / Some of them cared a little bit. / They tried real hard to train the girls (Laxmimoni). / Nothing. / They had a lot of patience (only the ones in L.A. The ones in Seattle were all assholes). / Some really cared about us and what was happening. / I liked it when they were fair and fun. / I liked the Mayapur gurukula teachers. / Nothing. / I can't remember. / Sometimes they gave a slight effort. / Each one was different. Some were nice and some were mean. / Nothing. I prefer the more lenient ones. / Most of them really tried their best. / I only had one ashram teacher and I think she's great. / Nothing. / Nothing. / Nothing. / I thought they were good until the age of ten. / I generally try to like most people and the teachers are no exception, but I was rather scared of them much of the time and I tried my best to please. Therefore I had basically good relationships with my teachers. The woman who taught our ashram took the place of our mothers to some extent because we lived with them for so long. / Nothing. / Sometimes the ashram teachers were like mothers which erased the tension of being away from home. / A few of them were good friends.
What didn't you like about the ashram teachers? The were incompetent, abusive, violent, and they all had deep psychological problems. / Fanatical. Not properly trained for their work. /They were crazy. / They were always very frustrated, meant at times --unhappy. / Anger. Couldn't engage kids properly. / Very unfair, favoritism. They didn't take the time out to understand us as individuals. They didn't try to figure out our emotions and feelings. / They were a little too strict and they didn't know how to deal with us. / Too rude sometimes. Favoritism. / Mean and too strict except for Shastra. / They beat the kids. They were devotees who didn't have anything else to do. / Their breath, nails, and underarms. / They always thought of themselves first. / Most of them felt and were free to deal with us in any way they saw fit. / Everything. Molesters physically and sexually. / Some of them should have never been working with children. / Too forceful, bad tempers, too nosy, weird imaginations, yelled too much. / Everything. / They were rude and nosy. / They were too strict. / Fake favoritism, they whipped us with belts. / They could be unfair and rather mean at times. Everything. / The teachers would beat the kids unnecessarily just because they happened to be in a rotten mood or they were angry and they needed someone to take their anger out on. / They didn't understand and were abusive. / Too strict. When they couldn't handle something they would freak out.
What did you like about the academic teachers? Tusti was the only one who was qualified to teach anything. / Nothing. / They tried their best. Learned about Krishna and Bhagavad-gita. I was pretty happy until twelve years in school. / According to the circumstances they did the best they could. / They were okay. / I liked it when I actually learned something from them. / Nothing. / They really did try sometimes. / Gave a fairly good effort to teach. / Mine were all the same. Not too good, not too bad. / Nothing except for the good grades. / Not much except for my mother was very good. / Some tried their best. / Nothing. / Easy. / You could have very friendly and personal relationships with them. / Some of them were understanding. / Nothing.
What didn't you like about the academic teachers? They had their heads up their ass. They had no teaching experience. We were all victims of their experiments. / It was more the program than the teachers themselves. / They were there. / Some of them were also my ashram teachers. / No patience, no real teachers, not paid enough, no good math teachers. / They didn't grade us fairly. We didn't have enough competition. / They were too involved in our ashram life as well so they wouldn't separate us from our ashram selves. / Lack of material studies. / Some of them were incompetent of teaching and would get angry too easily. / Didn't explain anything. Didn't know how to teach. / Untrained. / They didn't know what the difference was between an adult, a child, and sometimes a dog. / Didn't give much emphasis on regular academics but very much on Krishna conscious topics. / They just shoved books in our faces and didn't explain. They usually weren't very experienced. We had to learn for ourselves. / Except for several rare cases. / They tried but didn't know how to teach. / Not trained well enough. / Everything. / Most of all that was taught was Krishna conscious. / Weren't professionals. / My academic teachers. / All of my academic teachers were not qualified to be teaching and therefore I basically taught myself because I was so frustrated by them. / They didn't think learning material courses were necessary so we didn't learn so much. They were all under too much pressure. / They probably didn't know what they were supposed to teach.
Additional comments, prasadam (food): I used to watch it being prepared by filthy, greasy Indian vagrants who had no knowledge of cleanliness and who wouldn't dare eat their own cooking. / Fine. / It was as good as it could be when cooking for 150 people. But not in Vrindavana. / Good chapatis, otherwise middle-class. / Needs improvement. / Mostly good here in L.A. but other places not. / No quality food in Vrindvana. / Children shouldn't be forced to eat things they don't like (eggplant). If they knew we didn't like things, why did they cook them? / Most of the time it was good in L.A. / Okay. / Bad. / Vrindavana was terrible. / It was different in the different schools. In Vrindavana there were many insects, worms, and rocks in the prasadam. / Too much leftovers. / It was okay except for India. / Mostly quite poor. / YUCK! / Needs more variety. The bugs were unhealthy and inedible (Vrindavana). / Pretty good (my mother was a teacher in the school). / It was up and down but never that bad. / Okay. / We should not have been forced to eat what we didn't like. / Yuck. / No variety. Boring. / Fattening. / Generally good. / It was mostly good in B.V. / In most cases, the prasadam was less than up to normal standards. Kids were forced to eat prasadam they didn't ask for and so on. It was awful tasting a lot of the time. / When I got it, it was good.
Medical: Some of my very close friends were almost killed by the medical aid given to them. / Sufficient most of the time. / Didn't get any. / Needs more attention. / Yoga should be incorporated. / We never had physicals. I had allergies and no one ever bothered to take me to the doctor. / Took pretty good care of us. / Needs improvement. / Terrible. / Primitive. / Never needed it. / Pretty good. / Never had any experiences with that. / Needs more attention. / Was basically taken care of. / When we needed it, it was there. / Not good enough. / "Chant Hare Krishna. You're not that body," was basically all the medicine they gave. / No comment. / Okay. / Good. / As far as any medical needs go, there is no such a thing. I got very sick in many gurukulas and the ashram teacher would send me away without even any medicine or any treatment. I took care of myself. In gurukula the children watch out for each other's needs and sicknesses. / Okay.
Clothing: What a joke! We never had shoes, ALL clothes were ripped, worn, and filthy. In the winter rains, we were always freezing with inadequate protection from the weather. / Where I was it was all right. Received a few saris. / Could care less. / Shouldn't make girls wear head scarves at all. Shouldn't make boys wear dhotis. / Devotional clothing should be encouraged. / At age eleven, we had to wear saris and cover our heads. That was a little hard and weird. / Needs improvement. / Adequate. We all had yellow dhotis. / There was no freedom in the dressing code. / Depended on the school. / All right. / All right. / Was forced to wear dhotis. / Pretty good. / Was our own responsibility, but when I was seven I wasn't allowed to wear shorts or my hair down. That was a bit extreme. / Green dhotis in India due to blue soap bars on yellow cloth. / Saris and dhotis should not have been required. / Parents always got their children clothes and we got provided with new saris every year. / Some of it was provided. / Very limited. / Given too sparingly. Not allowed to wear western clothes. / Ragged out. / Colorful and comfortable. / Okay, but didn't like the sudden mandatory sari dress code with shawls. / Good. / Shitty. / Not enough and koupins [underwear] were a real problem.
Living facilities: In the summer the generator was going out and in the winter, at 3:30 AM, we were shoved into an ice bath that even the teachers wouldn't dare enter. / Fair. / It was too crowded. It's ridiculous when there's ten people living in one room. No privacy. / Nice. / No comment. / Way too crowded. Eight people to a room. My own feeling is that in the west there should not be ashrams, just academics! / Clean, roomy. / Too crowded. / Sometimes crowded and overly smushed. In B.V. nice and comfortable. / Could be better. / Minimal, an eight by ten foot room with up to eight kids in it. No heating in winter, and it got cold there. / Not bad for a boarding school. But Mayapur was so interesting. We had cow manure on the floor, etc. / Crowded. / No privacy. / Less than descent. / Pretty good. / England, excellent. Lake Huntington, okay; Detroit, lived in our own homes; B.V. good. / Like a jail. / Just fine. / Not bad at all, besides lack of heating. / New Mayapur living facilities improved greatly and our gurukula building was very good standard. Nice new furniture, carpets, etc. / Didn't bother me until I was older. / VERY BAD!!! / Often cold. Too many people together. / Dirty. Too many cockroaches. / Too many people in room. / Good. / Okay. / The living facilities were less than standard. There was in most gurukulas seven to eight kids per one small room. In one gurukula we didn't even have a bathroom in our house and we had to go next door to do everything. In the winter time, it would be too cold and they wouldn't spend money to warm the places up. We had to take freezing cold showers in the winter. / Roach motel.
Notes and comments: I was a victim. / Some teachers were vicious. If you didn't like something they would make you do it and vice versa. / Married many kids when they were too young. / I hated when the teachers would confiscate our money and other personal items and use it for their own personal gratification. / I would just like to say I know there were problems with our schools but there is, even with outside schools and many children who grew up with public schools and "normal" living conditions have many of the same or even worse problems. The really big difference for me was that my mother was always there for me and she really cared for me. She was there for me even though she was told not to be. It was because my mother was there and because she cared that it made a big difference. She was responsible. Parents assume too much trust on the gurukulas and didn't bother to try hard enough to change things if they did. My mother made sure that I got a little bit of both worlds. I think that was an important difference between me and many other students. / Some of our teachers were so mental and confused that frequently they would have spasmodic attacks in front of us and use vulgar language. Not very exemplary for the pupils. Occasionally a good teacher would pass through but they would get totally bummed out by our behavior. Our not so good behavior was due to bad experience of teachers. We were, in a sense brainwashed because the teachers were so dogmatic and would even (well most of the time) refuse to discuss the outside world and the facts of life. We were too secluded and isolated from the outside world so when we entered it we went wild. / I would change the way the gurus treated the girls. Ramesvara used to come in and watch the girls dress. / The teachers were to be the students' parents but you could see a big difference between how they dealt with their own children and how they dealt with their students. / Most of the nicer teachers turned out to be child molesters.
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