This week I also watched a couple of “child abuse” videos promoted on Sampradaya Sun. There’s “krishnachildren.com” and a video hosted on dailymotion showing ISKCON’s “sexual pervert” in action. Well, that was a couple of hours of my life lost and my intelligence abused. They’d say that it’s nothing compared to the abuse of actual children but I don’t see the connection.
I think people producing these videos are totally mental, living in the bubble world of their minds with little connection to reality. Of course we all have different ideas of what reality is but these two are clearly prisoners of their own minds.
“Cost of Silence” on krishnachildren.com is a recent production by a former gurukulī. It’s an hour long but I formed my opinion of it very early on, the rest of the time I was waiting for something, anything to turn it around. It would have been unfair to dismiss the video as groundless until I watched it through, it was a sacrifice and I’m not sure it was worth it.
All they do, scene after scene, is to talk about horrific abuse of children in our gurukulas, mainly Māyāpura and Vṛndāvana, in the most damning language possible but with no facts to support there was any abuse there presented whatsoever. None. Something must have been there twenty-thirty years ago but what exactly remains a mystery and absolutely nothing on the present day abuse, which is what this video is about.
It’s been a couple of days already but what I remember is this – back in the eighties or nineties Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Svāmī administered corporal punishment to student in Māyāpura, there was some bullying with sexual overtones form older students, and one female teacher pinched a stomach of a misbehaving boy in Vṛndāvana. That’s all.
Now, corporal punishment is considered abuse by the author of this video but it was a perfectly legal practice at the time. In West Bengal, where Māyāpura is located, it was outlawed in 2004. In half of the US school corporal punishment it still legal, so what they are on about? Nothing.
As it was described in the video, Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Svāmī carried a bamboo stick all the time so as to instill fear of discipline into students. This is practice specifically advocated by Śrīla Prabhupāda – carry the stick but do not actually strike the children. I think it appears in the quotes in the video itself but they are taken from Prabhupāda’s letters from 1972 – very early on in history of gurukulas. Later on, as Prabhupāda was presented with actual problems he was more practical.
There’s this conversation from 1976 where managers of Vṛndāvana gurukula approached Prabhupāda for guidance and towards the end the the subject of corporal punishment came up. There was a thirteen year old boy there who just didn’t want to behave and there was nothing teachers could do. Prabhupāda’s solution was to send him to either work or to go preaching in Bhavānanda Mahārāja’s party. Devotees said that Bhavānanda wouldn’t take this boy because he knows of his behavioral problems and so it was decided that the boy had to go on a farm in Hyderabad and work there. Devotees in Hyderabad didn’t want him in their temple either but farming was different.
At the end Prabhupāda said: “Yes, send him to farm, work in the field. If he does not work, beat him.” Devotees recommended publicly punishing him in front of the other boys to demonstrate what happens to those who do not obey the rules and Prabhupāda left it to their discretion: “As you think, you can do. But I wanted to engage in farm work, in digging.”
For this devotees, and specifically for Jagadīśa Prabhu, who was the principal of Vṛndāvana gurukula for many years afterwards, these personal instructions were undoubtedly the main guideline overwriting anything else proposed by materialistic liberal educators. I can’t comment on possible excesses that led to Jagadīśa’s eventual downfall because I simply don’t know what happened and this video doesn’t say a word about what he actually did, except to call him a serial abuser or something. His story is a story from the eighties, not a subject for this video.
Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Mahārāja, otoh, is a big figure in current day Māyāpura and they focused half a video on him. Back in the nineties he was banned from taking all positions managing children but now he is in charge of Mayāpura gurukula again, the video says. Actually they admit that he is not in charge of the gurukula per se but some other organization closely related and possibly including it but that doesn’t stop them from using his case as an example of ISKCON not following its own child protection resolutions. As I remember, the resolution left the possibility of him managing gurukula again with explicit permission of relevant authorities but video’s author doesn’t consider that this permission might have been granted and Mahārāja’s presence there is totally legitimate. This oversight is insulting to people’s intelligence because instead of checking the obvious it tries to overwhelm us with emotionally charged rhetoric.
Another obvious question is how these do-gooders expected Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Svāmī to deal with allegations of bullying. Punish the bullies and they call you child abuser. Don’t punish the bullies and they’ll blame you again. We are not given any clues as to how Mahārāja reacted to bulling reports either, just that he took notice and promised to investigate, which is what any person in charge would have said on hearing such things. The actual punishment would have been administered later but we were not told what it was, nor we were told that Mahārāja ignored these reports either. Let’s just call him a child abuser anyway. Because it makes us feel good and self-righteous. I’m not buying that.
Back to the corporal punishment – from the video it appears that it was done after consideration of facts, when everybody knew what the boys were accused of, and correct number of strikes had been determined. It wasn’t lashing at kids at will, it wasn’t a spontaneous reaction by an unbalanced individual, it was more or less like justice system works all over the world. I’m pretty sure boys had something to say in their defense, too, and their accounts were considered.
We should not underestimate the value of an example here, too. Children by nature lack self-discipline and they need to know the boundaries. The knowledge of boundaries comes from experience, which is, at the end of the chain, usually painful. Those who have enough intelligence do not need to follow it through until the end and could be deterred from doing something simply by a disapproving look of a teacher, others need words and direct orders, and others would do something anyway. In any case, what happens next sets a precedent for others. If kids can get away with it others will surely follow and pretty soon there’d be no discipline left and without discipline there’d be no learning. Disobeying teachers is not an option, at least not in the Vedic culture.
If these two examples, corporal punishment and bullying by older children, are used to designate Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Svāmī as a child abuser I’d say that these people are extremely unreasonable. If they had any more evidence they would have surely brought it but they didn’t, that was enough to set them on their course. Bhakti Vidyāpūrṇa Svāmī features in another scene in that video but I’ll address it another time.