The Cost of Silence (About Child Abuse in ISKCON Hare Krishna Gurukul Boarding Schools)

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The Cost of Silence — Children of the Hare Krishnas is a new film produced by Sanaka dasa who was raised in ISKCON gurukuls in Italy and in India. As a child he witnessed different forms of abuse on a regular basis. Sanaka has dedicated the film to the generations of Hare Krishna children whose suffering has been ignored and silenced. The Cost of Silence was released on the auspicious day of Sri Nrsimha Caturdasi, May 20 2016.

“For you child-worship is more important than Deity worship. If you can not spend time with him then stop the duties of pujari.

“These children are given to us by Krishna, they are Vaisnavas and we must be very careful to protect them.

“Try as far as possible to discipline them with love and affection.” (Srila Prabhupada in 1972 letters to Aniruddha)

In ancient India children were placed in the care of an enlightened teacher, the guru, who was qualified to look after the material, emotional and spiritual development of his students. These schools were known as gurukulas.

Nowadays many believe that child abuse is a dark chapter in the distant past of the Hare Krishna movement and that now there is an effective child protection system in place. Although some progress has been made over the years the current policies are still inadequate.

At present ISKCON does not offer any form of support, assistance or counsel to child abuse victims.

In the Hare Krishna movement political influence and spiritual authority often rest with the same people. This monopoly has created conflicts of interest that have frequently led to a misuse of power. Generally the need to be respectful to these leaders and the sentiments of their followers has been given priority over the need to protect children. This in turn has fostered an environment where accountability has been problematic and children have suffered.

The GBC controls the child protection office. Effectively we have a scenario where prosecution, judge and jury are all working for the same team. The current system has little room for independent revision, appeals or scrutiny and consequently credibility.

ISKCON MAYAPUR GURUKUL

“My name is Prem Sarga dasa and I came to Mayapur gurukul in 1987, December, and I stayed until 1993. During that time which was around five years Bhaktividya Purna Swami  (Alan Ross Wexler) was the principal of the school. There were several times when Maharaja beat physically the gurukul children during my time. Maharaja was famous for carrying a bamboo stick, you could bend it and it looked like a whip. Maharaja gathered everybody at the Hanuman house and older and younger boys were witnessing this punishment. He requested the three boys [who were being punished] to bend over and hold the back of their ankles and Maharaja used his bamboo stick as a whip to hit each boy three times. The mark left by the whip was very bad, it took days to fade away. One of them had some blood coming out. Everybody was completely flabbergasted to see Maharaja’s action.

“Regarding the sexual abuse to children I remember clearly that in many occasions Maharaja was approached by the students mentioning that they were being molested by older boys and Maharaja just couldn’t do anything about it or he would question the boy. In one particular case I recall he questioned the boy that,  “How do you know you have been molested?” Of course the reply was not very clear. So basically Maharaja did not do anything about it, did no accept it and did not file the case.”

Dhira Govinda dasa, at the time the director of the ISKCON Child Protection Office (CPO), recalls and interview he had with Bhaktividya Purna Swami about the child abuse problems at his Mayapur gurukul. “I asked him, ‘Bhaktividya Purna Swami your saying that there’s ten boys, the report indicates definitely more than thirty. You’re saying it was consensual and of the same age except maybe in one case but this report describes rampant force and violence from older to younger and multi-geneational sexual deviance.’ Of course the report recommended that Bhaktividya Purna Swami leave and so he left. But when we follow the history six weeks later he’s back in the same position after the investigators went away.

“He’s not aware of half a percent of what happened, how children were brutalized under his supervision, at the same time he has a signed letter from 1991 saying that he read the report closely. If you read the report closely it’s not something that you will forget in this lifetime.”

ISKCON’s Child Protection Office issued a ruling on Bhaktividya Purna Swami on September 20, 2000. “Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja won’t serve in any capacity that is directly connected with children until January 1, 2002. After that he may serve in a non-managerial and non-administrative capacity connected with children if the ISKCON Education Ministry agrees that he may do so. Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja may not at any time assume a managerial or administrative role in ISKCON, and especially not in connection with children.”

Today (2016) Bhaktividya Purna Swami is still running a gurukula in Mayapur, still working with children in ISKCON. The current management of Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s school is made up almost exclusively of his disciples. So even though Maharaja may not look after the day to day management of his school, effectively this arrangement gives him far more managerial influence than he should be allowed.

In a in 2011 letter Champakalata Mataja, the ISKCON Child Protection Office director, affirmed that the ISKCON ministry of education encouraged Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja to resume his involvement with children…..

Sri Radhe, a disciple of Indradyumna Swami was appointed as the principal of Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s girls gurukul in Mayapur, Sri Anasuya Vidyamanadala (education for girls).

When Sri Radhe became the principle of the girls gurukul in Mayapur she was 19 years of age. She had no teaching qualifications or experience.

The ISKCON Child Protection Office has carried out two investigations on Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s girls gurukul. The first was in 2007 and the second in 2015. The 2007 documents state that Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja would pump water for the young girls in his school while they were bathing naked in front of him and then he would massage them while they were semi-naked, wearing their underwear only. The 2015 report reads: “Based on the above statements there should be zero tolerance of her (Sri Radhe) ever teaching or caring for children ever again effective immediately.”

Both the 2007 and the 2015 ISKCON Child Protection Office documents state that Sri Radhe and Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja regularly spent extended amounts of time alone. The report says that students have walked in on them behaving in a frivolous manner and indecently dressed. On the seventh of May 2015 the ISKCON Child Protection Office placed a lifelong ban on Sri Radhe from holding any positions related to children. Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s girls gurukul has now been closed.

For years there have been rumors that both Sri Radhe and Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja were mistreating the girls. The involvement of a sannyasi in the education of young girls should have been regarded as unacceptable even if Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja did not already have a history of child abuse. The ISKCON Child Protection Office granted an appeal to Sri Radhe despite the fact that she did not meet the requirements to be eligible for one. The appeal panel removed the lifelong ban on Sri Radhe caring for and teaching children in ISKCON.

Sanaka dasa grew up in ISKCON gurukuls and child protection was been a concern for most of his life.  He made several attempts to request a review of Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s circumstances following ISKCON’s appropriate channels without any success. For this reason he felt that disrupting one of his lectures at Bhaktivedanta Manor near London was the only option left. Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja’s only response to this challenge was “It’s not true…” The audience was more shocked by Sanaka dasa’s disruption than to discover that a known child abuser is involved in the education of children in ISKCON.

ISKCON VRINDAVAN GURUKUL

Dhanurdhara Swami was the principal of the Vrindavan gurukula for many years. The ISKCON Child Protection Office found him personally responsible for physical and physiological abuse and neglect of children placed under his care. Even though many ISKCON leaders were aware of the extensive nature of the abuse Dhanurdhara Swami received much support and remained in his position for more than a decade. Even today Dhanurdhara Swami is a regular speaker at the Bhakti Center, Radhanatha Swami’s temple in New York City. This is in contempt of the ISKCON Child Protection Office sanctions placed on Dhanurdhara Swami.

The GBC body publicly apologized to Dhanurdhara Swami: “The GBC body is sorry for the difficulties you and your disciples, followers and friends must have experienced because of these long and cumbersome procedures. We could have done much better, and we sincerely apologize.”

It’s like if a government apologized to a child abuser for the troubles and inconvenience he experienced while being adjudicated for his crimes. In 1995 Gauri dasa (George Kilmurry) was the head teacher in the Vrindavan gurukula. After an incident where he had beaten three children a number of former students wrote to the GBC and were able to obtain a ban on the use of corporal punishment in the school. Then a teacher, Braja Bihari dasa (Brian Bloch), wrote a letter to the GBC petitioning them for the reinstatement of corporal punishment:

“Please understand clearly the two concerns (needs) of the Vrindavan gurukula school: 1) Corporal punishment must be reinstated, 2) Gauri dasa must be allowed to administer corporal punishment. He will use corporal punishment only in the presence of the ashram teacher, and will not use it at all on the boys in his ashram (the older boys). That is what we want. It’s reasonable.”

In response to this request from Braja Bihari the GBC did reinstate corporal punishment at the ISKCON Vrindavan gurukula.

When the case of Gauri dasa came up for review in 2006 three GBC members wrote letters of support: Siva Rama Swami, Sesa dasa and Progosa dasa. As a result the GBC have now appointed Gauri dasa as the managing director of Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK. This is one of the biggest temples in ISKCON and the position carries one of the highest salaries paid in ISKCON.

In 2010 Gopal Krishna Maharaja took over the management of the Vrindavan gurukul, he claims:  ”The Bhaktivedanta Gurukul and International School is a school with a difference…”

Gopal Krishna Maharaja appointed Lila Purushottam (Laxmidhar Behera) as the new principal of the Vrindavan gurukul. As Lila Purushottam lives three hundred kilometers away from Vrindavan he needed someone to look after the day-to-day management of the school. So he appointed Radhakanat dasa as the vice-principal. He was a twenty-five year old straight from IIT Kanpur with no experience of life and no experience in dealing with children. He had been living a life of brahmacary [celibate monk] and he had no background in education or administration.

In 2011 one of the teachers in the Vrindavan gurukul reported a colleague for beating the children. The school management then asked the teacher that reported the incident to leave. Any school that operates with a policy of discouraging the reporting of incidents is bound to have big problems with child abuse.

We have many actual reports filed over the last six years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of the children of the Vrindavan gurukul. The 2014 ISKCON Child Protection report on the Vrindavan gurukul states “Six boys in year six were sexually molested by three older bullies in there ashram (dorms). In all cases the victims were threatened not to tell anyone about these activities. This happened many times over an eight to ten month period. The victims were afraid to speak out about this. In Vrindavan unawareness of child protection principles goes right up to the GBC (Gopal Krishna Maharaj).

Any time the abuse was brought to management the order was “Please keep this in the family of ISKCON, do not let it get out.” When the matter was brought to the GBC Gopal Krishna Maharaj his reply was: “Lila Purusotoma Prabhu runs the management in Vrindavan gurukul. I as the GBC can not interfere with the regular running of the school. But you don’t worry about anything, you just continue your work of collecting money for the school…”

The mother of one of the ISKCON Vrindavan gurukul students pleads: “My child studies in the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula in Vrindavan. I have come to know that the children in the school are sexually abused. I sent my children to the Vrindavan gurukula because it is such an exceptional place. The school is supposed to teach Bhakti Bhav (love of God) in Bhakti Dharm (the most sacred place). So I was very shocked to discover that sexual abuse is going on. This has happened to my children. Despite the fact that the management is aware of these problems, they take no action to address this problem. I request you kindly close this school because this sexual abuse will destroy the future of our children.”

Anita Khetarpal (M.A. English) served as the academic director for the ISKCON Vrindavan gurukul for seven years. During this time she observed the problem of child abuse in the school and tried to the best of her ability through the official channels to stop the abuse of the children. She explains one situation with Devasish, who had a long history of child sexual abuse and who was therefore forbidden to enter the gurukul because of his past crimes. “I saw that Devasish was hovering around the school too close. I was alarmed. I also know that he was passing by the security and that he was entering the school. When I mentioned to Lila Purusotama [the principal] that, ‘Devasish has a history of child abuse and why is he being allowed into the school?’ So his reply was, ‘Mataji it is none of your business, we know what we are doing and he is a very well connected person, he is known to a lot of very, very big people, he is very useful to us and this child abuse is only Western propaganda to malign his name. There is no truth to all this.’ And then in February of 2015 I get a call from a  parent of one of my ex-students telling me that national television is reporting the children of Bhaktivedanta Gurukul and International School Vrindavan have been sexually molested and Devasish has been arrested and I was completely devastated because in front of me were all my worst nightmares. I could see it was actually happening. What I warned these people of and they never heard me today was a reality.”

RADHANATHA SWAMI & KIRTANANANDA SWAMI &
NEW VRINDAVAN

Radhanatha Swami (Richard Slavin) is a GBC, a guru and a leading figure in the Hare Krishna Movement. He says, “On a worldwide basis, the leaders of ISKCON are really coming together and connecting throughout the year on issues that the GBC themselves have felt are the most important, crucial issues for the present and future of Prabhuapda’s society.” For this he gets a round of applause from the GBC members. Of course they do not discuss child abuse…

Kirtanananda Swami (Keith Ham) is one of the former leaders of the Hare Krishna movement (now deceased). Kirtanananda Swami was a convicted criminal. The US Federal Court charged him with conspiracy to murder two devotees and the ISKCON Child Protection Office found him guilty of child sexual abuse. It was charged that Kirtanananda ordered the murder of these devotees because they had threatened to expose his child abuse activities. Now we see leading ISKCON devotees including Radhanatha Swami and Gopal Krishna Maharaja paying their respects by bowing down at the grave of Kirtanananda. This is offensive to his victims, it is also a statement on the value they place on child protection.

In the 1980′s Sri Galim (Garry Gardner) was the principal of the Gurukula in New Vrindavan. At one point the members of the community became aware that he had sexually abused several children in the school and they asked him to leave. It is claimed that Radhanatha Swami opposed the decision to ban this man from the community. The following is a statement from a New Vrindavan gurukul student: “Sri Galim has a charismatic personality and is quite learned in scriptures and makes all external appearances of being a first-class Vaishnava. That made him popular among many first generation devotees. Sri Galim and Radhanatha Swami have been friends since the early 1970′s. Radhanatha Swami did oppose excommunicating Sri Galim.”

There is so much more…

Please watch The Cost of Silence — Children of the Hare Krishnas and consider how we can save the children of ISKCON.

Please  SIGN THE PETITION  to register your support for Krishna’s Children

For copies of the DOCUMENTS and HISTORIC REFERENCES mentioned in the film please goto WWW.KRISHNACHILDREN.COM

 

 

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3 Comments on "The Cost of Silence (About Child Abuse in ISKCON Hare Krishna Gurukul Boarding Schools)"

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  1. MS says:

    The primary purpose of all organizations – secular and those claiming to be spiritual including ISKCON is their survival. Whether such a choice contradicts any spiritual, ethical or moral principles is irrelevant and secondary to the primary purpose. If you agree with this, you will find a clear pattern to the decision making inside the corporate boardroom at Oracle, the GBC in ISKCON and the Catholic Church. Just because you claim to be holy does not free you from this first purpose. Personally, having read about what happened, it is clear to me that it is far more dharmic to be a “Karmi” than to be associated with these types of organizations. This does not hold the individuals who are sincere culpable in any way but by association. After all, if you throw a stone into a dirty pond, the thrower can get spattered.

  2. galen yuyutsu says:

    Kudos Prabhu Thankyou on behalf of our Spiritual Master Ac Bhaktivdanta Srila Prabhupada..it breaks my heart to have met some of the Gurukula children in Vrndavan then years later meet them as grown men. As I also as a child was molested by a cousin that feeling of helplessness has stayed with me all the years of Military Service then in the years as an aspiring Disciple of Jagat Guru Ac Bhaktivdanta Srila Prabhupada. He saved my life after Military as a Veteran only to become His Disciple. We commend you on your perciverance in exposing the TRUTH of the matter in ISKCON regarding abuse molestation rape Paedophiliac activities of the so-called leaders of FISKCON. It’s a sorry state of affairs that has degraded the once pure integrity of Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupada’s Instructions for ISKCON.Thank you, Glories to Srila Prabhupada..ys gopijana das ACBSP.

  3. Lisa says:

    Sanaka Rsi Dasa bless your heart for having faith to present the truth. I could see the toll in your heart at the end of the documentary. To me your choice was the right one and I pray your spirit has lifted. The abuse of children is being allowed by many different institutions in this world. I have fought for 10 years to keep my daughter safe from her unwell father who is an addict and she has been subjected to many near death experiences. The British Columbia Provincial Courts whose law does little to protect children, holds the legal position that there are good parents and there are bad parents, and it is not enough to keep a child away from a parent that cannot fulfill a proper duty of care and does not hold them accountable for failing to have a duty to act when injured (head trauma) and passing out while operating a vehicle as a few examples that is deemed “bad parenting”, but because she has one good parent that can provide a proper duty of care, the father of my child still has a right as a parent. Besides the parents inability to provide a duty of care, what is our legal body of the law also teaching our children, that their lives do not matter. I have done my utmost to protect her and I have been threatened with jail and financial penalty of $5000 just to keep her safe from harm and will not be arrested or fined if I walk the line they impose while my daughter’s balance of life is at risk. It has been like living under constant fever of trauma and stress for I would do her no good to be arrested either. My spiritual connection with God and the Universe lovingly reside with me to guide, protect and bring peace. What more gifts could one ask for, be grateful and share! In my local Buddha Temple, I was befriended by one of its members who could recite the teachings and knew all the Bodhisattvas which impressed me as a newcomer and at times he would make odd social comments to me which I did not know where they came from until I learned the truth of his hidings. Coincidentally I learned on TV he had been arrested for abuse to young boys abroad in Thailand and here. I was so heart broken in my Spiritual Teacher and community of friends from the Centre, felt betrayed that they did not share with me their knowledge. The response was you have daughter not a son. I am a parent regardless of the orientation of my child AND I am a spiritual person who commits willingly in my heart with eyes of God in me and in my spirit to be the protector of those wronged. I pulled away my presence from my Buddha Centre for almost 2 years, and toiled with their decision to respond in the manner they did, to be silent and almost defend and carry on as though it did not happen. I missed the spiritual connection and teachings, I found myself recently attending a different Buddha Temple farther away which felt so good to be in the room with a delightful teacher and eager hearts listening, learning and praying in meditation, but the dark sky of my broken fearful heart still hung over me. So I sought out further teachings online and came to admire Radhanath Swami’s teachings. As a busy single working mom, I have been spending all my spare time engaged in his teachings. Then I happen to Google IF RS had a view on “abuse” and your video was the first result of my search. Again I felt betrayed, lost, confused, hopeless for his teachings are beautiful but to wrongly support violators again toils every fibre in me of RS’s true intent. Now that I have watched your video and spent the last 7 hours writing, reading and meditating in prayer, I feel the silence is being lifted. They are not alone. You are not alone. My daughter is not alone. I am not alone. We stand united against speaking the truth to stop the silence. Thank you for helping me with three situations that spiritually were in ways paralysing a part of me and lifting the dark cloud that has hung over me and raged inside of me as it seemed no one wanted to know. Lovingly your friend, Lisa

    This is what I wrote:

    If we truly believe spiritually that God resides in each and everyone of us and what we do by our own actions God sees through our eyes, ATMA, how can one truly be a deliverer of faith and teachings while abusing God’s Children, and truly believe they are faithfully acting with true intentions by the Grace of God?
    THEY ARE NOT.
    Nor are they capable of knowing the difference because they are mentally sick (unhealthy) individuals for they do not see and will not see their act of wrongdoing to God’s children and to their followers that they have carried out such reprehensible violations when their egos continue to be supported by their followers who are not allowed to question the violator or their institution of faith and its spiritual teachers, and when the violator’s counterparts continue to deny publicly and privately the violent act(s) itself by not holding the violator accountable by true discipline: stripped of their position of authority and proximity to children, physically relocating the violator within the institution, demanding from anyone of knowledge of the wrongful acts to keep it in the family and not speak out, and allow the violator to continue teachings.
    What is occurring is that the violator and violations are being supported by counterpart men and women who are mentally sick as well by their inaction of holding the violator accountable and the lack or even delay of action of accountability and that is an action of Evil Spirit. What also transpires is for the violator and their counterparts is they have failed the test of their commitment to faith with intent of true loving heart (1) by not speaking openly and honestly to their followers of these wrongful acts, and (2) by not following through with true discipline to hold the violator accountable in full view. It is spiritually and morally wrong, and NOT in action carried out by the Grace of God.
    By holding up the thin veil that nothing occurred, by the allowance of violators to continue within the institution of faith as teachers in any capacity BY these very INACTIONS of accountability by the violator’s counterparts and the institution of faith itself, IT WILL BE seen as a facade by intelligent pure intent followers. Moreover damage occurs to the spiritual universe as the true intent of pure of loving heart and true intent of faith is not being in action by the Grace of God. It is being allowed to be in action as a misrepresentation by violator’s actions and by his or her counterparts’ inaction which is not an honest representation of accountable action by the true Grace of God. No matter what residual effect may occur from holding the violator accountable, fear amongst the leaders within the institution of faith that it will cause a blemish on the institution itself, a loss of followers or a loss in donation support funds, it is the truest act of faith and intent of pure loving heart to morally and spiritually act from a foundation of truth. It will be witnessed by their true intent followers that their institution of faith truly deserves their support, it teaches their followers that righteousness boundaries can be drawn within personal lives and within institutional organisations, and to the outside observers they will be shown righteousness accountability can be a part of an institution of faith which has been lost. Here the institution of faith and its’ spiritual teachers themselves who have spent years in mediational prayer with God, years engaged in learning from their Gurus and historical and present scriptures are going against the very teachings that was in front of them. They are acting in fear not faith to walk in the path of spiritual righteousness with intent of pure loving heart that speaks from the foundation of truth and carry the Grace of God within. An institution of faith and its spiritual teachers representing that faith are supposed to act and teach from an intent of PURE loving heart, a foundation of truth, and here it is not, the embodiment of evil is present in spirit and teaching, not the virtuous Grace of God. They have to right this wrong it is not God’s responsibility, but the responsibility of representatives of the institution of faith to the spirit of the universe and God’s children.

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