So many things happened in a month that has passed. Or rather nothing happened but so many people said so many things, the latest being BVPS offering his side of the story. The whole discussion revolved around punishment and cover ups and responsibilities and coming clean – the political side of it. Sannyasa Ministry suspended BVPS as a sannyasi and GBC announced that he should be called Anirdesya Vapu Dasa from now on. Or maybe until Sannyasa Ministry makes a final decision on his status, they didn’t make it clear. In any case, I want to go back to the time of the abuse and at that time he was BVPS so that’s the abbreviation I would use.
As far as I know, nobody has seen this “Anirdesya Vapu Dasa” so the name refers to a non-entity at the moment. Is he wearing white? Who knows. There is a just a name for now. They say it’s his pre-sannyasa name but he was a saffron clad brahmachari then, not a white wearing… “I don’t know what”. There is no known designation for sannyasis exiled from their ashram. It seems we are making things up as we go, which is a legitimate non-Vedic way of living our lives. Vedic ways, unfortunately, have been killed by his indiscretions (to put it mildly) and for many of his detractors they have become thoroughly discredited and they are not coming back any time soon. Devotees are developing an allergy to all things Vedic now. But I don’t want to talk about them.
Let’s talk about sex. I’ll repost the link to the redacted testimony by BVPS “main squeeze”, a twenty plus year old woman at the time. None of this has anything to do with pedophilia, I would state it right away. There’s an unsettled argument whether the victim from CPO report was fully eighteen at the time her breasts were fondled but even if she was short by several months she was not physically a child. So no pedophilia, period.
SR documented development of her relationship with BVPS and quite explicitly described the sex part of it. Again, right off the bat – there was no sex, just sexual activities or whatever they call it nowadays. Popular term is “sexual abuse”, and I’m only half joking, as some call it “rape of children” and don’t think twice about it. Whatever the precise classification, the simple fact is that it was not suitable for one in the sannyasa order of life and therefore BVPS could not be called a “svami”. This much is clear, but “this much” is actually not very much at all in the big scheme of things, and that’s what interests me in this whole story far more than political repercussions of the affair.
According to SR’s narrative, BVPS was interested in exploring workings of sexual energy. I’ve already made plenty of jokes about using penis as energy measuring device so let’s take it a bit more seriously this time – BVPS was interested in how bodies of living entities come under the spell of sexual energy, where this energy enters into the body, how it transforms, and what effects does it have. Once you know how it all works you can keep this energy under control, pretty much like Neo in the Matrix, for those who still remember the movie. You can avoid it, redirect it, dissipate it, transform it – anything you want, and it won’t have control over you anymore. Considering that it’s the primary energy of the universe you will, in effect, achieve liberation. Brahma bhuta prasannatma, which is the threshold of actual devotional service.
My point is that the stakes were high, really high, and if BVPS could achieve what he wanted he would have become God. Not God literally, of course, but in comparison to full mastery of this knowledge losing titles like “svami” is a very small price to pay, shouldn’t even register on the radar. Of course it would be foolish to advertise your newly attained powers so BVPS kept his research in secret and he was correct in telling SR that nobody would understand what they were doing, or rather what they were trying to accomplish. “Here is a sannyasi exploring workings of sexual energy” – who would understand and accept that? And yet it’s not exactly against the principles of sannyasa. Bear with me for the moment.
We have a clear rule – a sannyasi should never be alone with a woman, even with his sister, as Srila Prabhupada taught us, so clearly what BVPS did was wrong. Right, but what is the purpose of that rule? Should we consider sannyasi being alone with a woman as a falldown in itself? Of course not. We understand this rule as a necessary precaution – one time you are alone and it’s all fine. Two times, then three times, then you get yourself a female secretary, but somewhere down the line you WILL cross it and engage in activities which must be classified as a falldown, like having sex. Except BVPS “did not have sex with that woman”, as Bill Clinton immortalized it.
How does that first verse of Nectar of Instruction goes:
A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.
Tolerate the urge of genitals, specifically. A man who can avoid ejaculation for many years of sexual activities must have a very high level of control. The absolutely perfect level would be not to experience any kind of arousal but that is not what “tolerate the urge” rule demands. The “urge” in this case is to ejaculate and according to Auyrveda ejaculation should not be restricted just as one should not restrict himself from the urge to urinate. So anything that does not progress to restricting ejaculation is “tolerance” and “control”, sastrically speaking, and BVPS complied.
In recounting their first sexual interaction SR says she suspected BVPS ejaculated, as he suddenly rushed off to the bathroom, but she cannot confirm it and even if it happened, by her own accounts BVPS was able to control himself since then. As soon as he felt his arousal going out of control he would go and take a cold bath. I’m not sure this is healthy from Ayurveda perspective but at the first approximation it IS “tolerance of the urge of genitals”.
The rationale now goes like this:
– Do not stay alone with a woman
– But why?
– So that you don’t fall into sex
– Okay, I got that part nailed, so no worries
That’s the first approximation only, however, and the devil is always in the details. There are many other things that went wrong in that affair to declare it innocent. For one thing – what about the woman? SR didn’t spell it out but I suspect she did reach orgasm during this sexploration of her body. BVPS did tell her that their arrangement is sufficient and therefore she didn’t need to be married, which is plain wrong. On the surface it might have looked like it was working – she didn’t have to get into the whole mess that marriage is – emotionally, financially etc etc, and it did look like she was sexually satisfied, so problem solved? Not even close, not even the same ballpark, not the same category of solution.
Marriage is a solution in that it fully involves the entire range of “personhood” of a human being, on all levels, and compared to the depth and breadth of this involvement sex itself looks like a small and not very significant part. You literally transcend it. It’s like when a couple is trying for a child no one even thinks about savoring mechanics of it the way people gossip about sex. Totally different thing, totally different approach, totally different attitude, totally different feelings involved – it’s just not the same thing. Sex has been transcended.
Then there are varnasrama considerations – first people have lust, then they purify it through above described experiences of grihastha ashram, then they evolve to the point of vanaprastha. They do not engage in sex anymore but they still do everything together – go on pilgrimage or perform tapasya as prescribed in the scriptures. Their “marriage” connection is still maintained even when sex is no longer in the picture. By “marriage” I mean fundamental dependence on interactions of the male or female energies in the universe. Divorce doesn’t turn one into a vanaprastha, sorry to say. One needs to fully develop and fully understand interactions of male and female energies and in the end peacefully let it go in a state of full detachment. Divorce means you can’t stand that other person and this hate is just another side of attachment, it’s the wrong opposite of “love”. So yeah, where was I? Ah, varnasrama – the arrangement between SR and BVPS was far short of what is required or what would be helpful, which means his experiment was a failure.
This is another important aspect of this affair – should this exploration of sexual energy be considered a success or a failure? If we count by ejaculations then it was success but if we count by varnasrama science then it was a failure. I don’t know what BVPS current estimate is but I hope that, ideally, he realizes that the whole thing was wrong, that the very theory behind his research was wrong. This explains why results on one hand could be acceptable (no ejaculations means sex control) but because he was testing the wrong theory it doesn’t really matter. The conclusion then should be “sex energy does not enter from breasts to penis, as I tried to measure in this experiment”. Sex energy enters from inside the heart, not from outside objects. Outside objects only respond to sex desire from within and it’s there on the outside that they divide themselves into male and female, ie breasts and penises. At this point it’s too late to control it. It might look possible at first, ie can be stopped by taking a cold shower, but these physical means only keep sex energy from transforming itself from one state into another, not dissipate it completely.
Complete dissipation and shutting of the inner source comes only from channeling it through prescribed varnasrama methods where it eventually get transcended or sublimated in the spirit of service. It’s not through “servicing the lady”, it’s through mutual service to the prescribed duties. It’s not control by becoming bigger than sex, it’s control through service to a cause which is much bigger than sex. It’s the same strategy as with liberation – we do not become liberated by gaining control over maya, we serve Krishna instead and by doing that we become His integral parts and parcels, and then maya can’t touch Him, and we got liberated by the virtue of being stuck to his body – sthita dhuli sadrisam vicintaya – please consider me a speck of dust stuck to Your lotus feet.
Another way to look at it is that in his experiments BVPS tried to control his senses and achieved a reasonable degree of success but it’s not the same as controlling lust. Lust has three seats in the body and senses is only one of them, the other two being mind and intelligence (BG 3.40). Did he successfully control mind and intelligence? When SR went to Australia in 2008 he couldn’t stop himself and went to grope breasts of the younger victim, three times. He didn’t ejaculate on those occasions but nobody would call it successful self-control.
Speaking of which – by self-control we often understand control of one’s physical body, like when taking a cold shower to curb sexual arousal, but I would argue that this is control of what is in front of us, of what is within our control, not control of the “self” which is behind us, so to speak. “Self” is “atma” in our literature and “atma” is what makes things move. “Atma” for the senses is the mind, “atma” for the mind is the intelligence, “atma” for intelligence is false ego. When one’s consciousness is firmly tied to his physical body then “atma” for him would be senses, because senses themselves are not physical. In this state self-control would mean reducing sexual agitation, which then usually manifests as changes in physical body (unless Viagra was taken). “Cold shower” means changing of the environment, changing of the stimuli, and even “cold” is perceived by the whole body first, not just by the part with increased blood flow to it. Alternatively, people are known to lose their mood by other means, too, like a sudden change of tone or subject when speaking, and then the physical body responds. The point is that “control” here means controlling the cause, not the effect, and this rule applies to all levels of “self-control”, too.
When one’s consciousness is on the mental platform and one mentally marches into a girl’s room mentally undressing her in the process, “self-control” would mean control of intelligence, which mean destroying the picture where these actions will be considered possible and positive. The mind needs certain assumptions about the situation to imagine these things and these assumptions are provided by intelligence. Destroy and erase them and mind would have nothing to work with. One would have to step back from his fantasies for that and it’s the most difficult part – to withdraw inside and find the cause, which is what self-control is.
What if one’s intelligence gets polluted and somehow always creates a picture where sexual relationship look possible and desirable? The “atma” for intelligence is false ego and that’s where it should be fixed. One would have to re-imagine himself as an entity that simply does not have sex with the object in mind. Dogs don’t have sex with humans, for example, but we can surely find something easier. In BVPS case he could have brought his “guru” personality to the front of his consciousness and as a guru and a protector neither of the women would look like sexual objects. We always have several identities available to us and we can, in theory, switch to any of them and lose our sex desire. It still could be very hard to instantly rethink oneself like that but it’s what “self-control” is.
To me self control, or ātma-vinigrahaḥ from BG 17.16, means always stepping “back” or “inside” – however one models spatial relationship between body, senses, mind, intelligence or ego – and changing the cause of your situation, not dealing with effects in front of you. The main problem is that most of the time we don’t see the cause and we don’t see the “self” that controls it. Our consciousness is outward looking, we see what is in front of us, not what made us do these things or brought us into these situations. By the time it happens it is often too late to do anything about it. What we see is an effect already, the cause has already done its thing, it’s in the past and outside our reach. What to do then?
Not much is possible, and therefore we should begin self-control long before we get ourselves in trouble. Ultimately, Krishna is the cause of everything and therefore we are told to always take shelter in Him. He won’t place us in situations which are unfavorable for our relationships with Him, also known as “unfavorable for spiritual progress”. While we are looking forward with our eyes and other senses, He’ll get our backs and cover our sixes, that’s the only safe way to live a conditioned life. So on one hand the solution is trivial – chant Hare Krishna and be happy, but if we combine it with the constant search for the Self and rely on the Name to sort it out we’ll quickly start seeing Krishna’s protection and start sensing this “self”, too, the cause of whatever is happening. This will change us into inward looking beings and this will make us independent of the world around us, meaning less and less conditioned, which is a good thing, right?
Back to BVPS – the hopeful thinking is that “he has learned his lesson” but we should know what this lesson must be and whether it was actually learned. We won’t know until he tells us himself but I can speculate a little, as if it was me learning these things. So first lesson – physical control of ejaculation is possible, at least theoretically. Second lesson – it means nothing because it’s just an effect, not the cause. Third lesson – removal of the situation, ie SR getting married, does not mean disappearance of lust. I have no idea how BVPS handled this stage. Most men would redirect their lust towards someone else, or more likely resort to watching porn, but I really hope this is not what happened and Maharaja found a way to detach and disassociate himself from lust altogether. His interest in research might have been fully satisfied, for example. This means he would see sex as boring – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. This probably is not enough to defeat lust altogether but at least the Sannyasa Ministry would be satisfied.
Will the Sannyasa Ministry ever make peace with what happened? That would require a great degree of maturity and detachment. SR mentioned that BVPS took inspiration from the author of the Kama Sutras, who was a lifelong brahmachari. This means that there was this man who knew female sexuality in great detail without himself being affected, like Neo in the Matrix. Did he ever tried any of the techniques described in Kama Sutras? I can’t think of a scenario where he didn’t and it was all only theoretical, but this is a complex subject. For one thing “sutra” mean a compressed statement which is difficult to decipher but I don’t see anyone having difficulties with parsing Kama Sutra. Is the modern version full of interpolations to fill the gaps? I can’t say.
The problem is the strategy itself – typically, Sannyasa Ministry would be firmly against any contact with females but true detachment means interaction without being affected. Avoiding females is the means but detachment in female association is the goal, and you’ll never know you got there until you tried it. And “tried” means there would be failures in the beginning. We can throw tantrums at BVPS but I bet vast majority of our sannyasis test the waters themselves now and then. Some conclude that they should still stay away from women completely, some think having a female secretary doesn’t affect them anymore, and there are many stages in between, like consulting married couples or having a large posse of female followers. In any case, we haven’t even thought about the transition from Chota Haridasa to Ramananda Raya and so devotees like BVPS chart these unknown waters themselves.
Sannyasa Ministry demands Chota Haridasa like behavior, BVPS went for Ramananda Raya’s. And failed. Or maybe it was his first try only and by now he perfected it already – almost fifteen years have passed, after all. And hopefully perfection is not anymore seen as giving women oral sex without getting aroused. That was one weird definition, if you think about it. Women are very useful creatures in many other ways, if one wants to approach them in the spirit of yukta vairagya. Varnasrama system takes care of that already, as I described above.
Last question in this connection – should BVPS have married SR or maybe that younger girl to make honest women out of them? It would have been a good solution in theory but in practice marriage involves far more than sex and one shouldn’t marry only for sex either. With all these other consideration in mind I don’t think marriage would have been suitable in this case. Some say he should become an honest grihastha now, too. Maybe, if he wants to, but who do you have in mind as his wife? The man is seventy years old, never had a job in his life, won’t be allowed in ISKCON, what kind of marriage it would turn out? Perhaps there are older women looking for companionship in their ripe age, but is this what BVPS wants for himself? Last time he was sexploring a twenty year old woman, what would he want with a fifty-sixty year old one? The only possible arrangement that comes to mind is “seva-dasi” widows living with “babajis”. Maybe it’s what is suitable for BVPS,too, but who in ISKCON would ever recommend that?
And with this I think I can put this topic to rest. There are other aspects I thought about here but I don’t see them as important. BVPS had tried to explore sex, got burned but also got invaluable experience, it’s not clear what exact lessons he learned from it but one thing is clear – we, with our cliched thinking, are not qualified to judge his behavior because it’s far beyond our own capacity to try or to understand. We can surely apply the very simple rule of no female association for sannyasis and demand that he no longer be called “svami” but even that demand is stupid – one is placed in sannyasa or any other ashrama with considerations for the future, not as a punishment for what happened ages ago. It just makes us vindictive. And we do have to learn how to progress from Chota Haridasa to Ramananda Raya eventually. It’s fine to say that for now we can’t live even like Chota Haridasa so we should not concern ourselves with Ramananda Raya yet, but Chota Haridasa ended up as a gandharva in heavenly planets – what would be our destination if even his example is too high for us?
In one sentence – BVPS example is here for us to learn, not to judge.