Premvilas das: In this era of internet and blogosphere, its easy to malign and destroy the reputation of a devotee by posting false complaints on the cyberspace. It has done great harm to our Vaishnava society, accusers themselves and has impeded the ability of those accused to effectively teach and propagate the message of Godhead. Biggest loser are the rank and file members from general public who are seeking and are interested in Krishna Consciousness but are totally put off by such slander. Initial faith or ” Shraddha” is required for taking the first steps towards one’s spiritual destiny but the distorted slander we find on the internet and in our communities against even the most authentic teachers of our lineage kill the initial awakening of “Shraddha” in many unsuspecting seekers.
Henceforth, I will use the word teacher to any devotee who acts as a Diksha or Shiksha Guru or in any leadership capacity within the Vaishnava society. My hope is that this article will serve three purposes:
1. I will like reader to understand the many discernment’s involved in the issue of false complaints and to recognize that although abuse of authority is a real possibility, spiritual teachers are also vulnerable to abuse by people with hidden motivations.
2. To bring faith,radiance and joy in our lives
3. To distinguish reality from illusion
This article offers a lens through which we can view the phenomenon of slander on the internet or false complaints against devotees, as well as the dynamics surrounding the so called victims.
A. Need for discernment in understanding slander and false complaints
The most challenging aspect of the false complaint syndrome is simply that there exist both true and false complaints, as well as varying degree of truth in complaints. The discernment to be made here is that just because real complaints do exist-it does not make all, or even most, complaints true. To honor our commitment to Vaishnavas and to life, we must learn to discern what we are encountering when reading, hearing, relating to, and in some cases propagating the circumstance of spiritual scandal and publicly defaming a teacher. We need to understand not only the complex dynamics involved, but the mutual complicity that creates any given circumstance.
Often, when there is a allegation of sexual abuse-whether against a professor, an employer, or a teacher-there is a collective assumption that it must be true. Yet this is oftentimes not accurate. There are many reasons why individuals and groups of individuals make false complaints. Envy, anger, hatred, sweet taste of being “right”, ego’s need to feel good and unfulfilled unconscious egoistical needs are some of them. In addition, there are just as many reasons-many of them political or having to do with competitive envy -why individuals and groups of people from behind the scenes encourage people to make false or distorted complaints, and then support them once they are made. This is done under the veneer of protecting the ostensibly abused or protecting the movement and sampradaya itself.
Initiators of false complaints are often a group that coalesces through a mixture of ulterior motives, who in turn wins to its cause a legion of well meaning supporters. A narrative is developed, aided by the easy and quick communication provided by the internet, and the surface appearance of a righteous campaign to protect the movement and Srila Prabhupada himself. Since everyone feels very strongly for the abuse of authority and for authentic teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sampradaya to be preserved, it is not hard for the story to be set in place without anyone noticing that hidden motives involving competition, envy and personal resentment are driving the core energy of the story.
False narrative becomes a dogma, facts are vastly distorted and exaggerated and selectively quoted in order to realize the conscious and unconscious drives and motivations of the accusers. One of the drive is an intense need to compete, dominate and destroy anyone who gets in the way of the individual’s identity, “territory” and mental projections. Narrative becomes an easy veneer behind which malice can hide.
It requires a great effort at discernment and profound willingness to break the silence to dare to speak the truth about these matters. But we must do, for to remain silent while our teachers-who are none other than our fathers and brothers- are attacked is a tragic abandonment of our integrity and honor.
There are two additional dynamics that often takes place in situations of false complaints. Both are meant to “demonise” the teacher. First might be called the “Narcissist” move and second is the “lifelong pattern” move.
“Narcissist” move is very simple. Complaints of a very particular and condemning nature are made against a teacher and they make him look like a rabid demon. Over time, it becomes clear to majority of people that these complaints are false. The false complaints are neither withdrawn, rectified, nor aplogized for. Rather, the false complainants are their supporters seek to shift the focus of attention from their falsity of their complaints to various forms of character assassination against the teacher.
“Narcissist” move is virtually always distorted and insidious at three distinct levels. All three are easy to miss and therefore need to be pointed out to facilitate appropriate discernment. First, attacks on character or motivation are subjective claims, which are notoriously difficult either to prove or to refute. Second, such attacks almost always ignore and dismiss all the values, goodness and service to which the devotee may well have dedicated his life to. They further degrade or dismiss his body of work and service by claiming that it was all based on agendas of ambition and power, when it is truer that motives are always complex, mixed and fluid. It is often the case that a devotee is able to clarify and purify his or her motives with the fullness of years, practice and experience. Moreover, motives and character are only truly known in the interior of a person. Third level at which this dynamic of “demonization” play out is that the individuals who make these false complaints are never able to introspect their own stench and feel perpetually right in playing the victim role. Extreme levels of distortion and lack of any form of integrity are the hallmark of such slander on Vaishnava teachers.
“Lifelong Pattern” argument is another form of rationalisation. Potent teachers generally arouse strong reactions that are both negative and positive. This will be true throughout the course of their lives. A teacher may be supported by a vast majority of the public, and disapproved of by a small group of people. Link together the naysayers and a small number of distorted incidents, while ignoring all the positive and a very sullied overall picture emerges. Supporters of the teacher are almost always the rational but silent majority. Its the most vocally aggressive figures who usually launch and support false complaints, and who populate the nastier neighborhoods in the blogosphere. The result is that the false accusers become those who gather and disseminate the discourse of the disaffected.
There are a number of simple litmus tests of discernment that reveal whether the critique of a teacher in an apparent scandal is primarily motivated by a desire to protect the innocent and teachings or is just a convenient veneer that hides the malice, fear, envy, jealousy or power motivations of those who initiate the scandal and who may even benefit from it.
First litmus test is: Have the spiritual leaders and others involved spoken carefully to all parties involved in the issue before taking action?
Second: Has a fact checking mechanism been set to check and cross check all available evidence regarding the claims of both sides before taking action
Third: Is there a protocol for healing and forgiveness that is effective and safe for both sides? Is there any attempts to mediation or reconciliation made before making the allegations public
Fourth: Is the accused party treated with dignity or is he or she dehumanized, demonized and treated with cruelty
If someone with a discerning heart applies these four litmus tests, he or she can generally discover the truth about what is actually driving the scandal events from behind the scenes. All too often, dubious complaints are encouraged because they serve the interests of various parties with agendas of malice, greed, power and ency. When political agendas are at play, there will be reluctance to check the facts or to investigate.
Even if people’s self justifying estimations of the accused individuals personal faults were to have some grain of truth, said faults do not in any way warrant the cruel treatment, reputation destruction and chants for death that occurs in so many of these instances. The failure to set up proper investigative or healing mechanisms is nearly always an indication that there is an ego factor lurking in the situation, or that the goal of accusers is not justice but instead malice or retaliation.
Tp be an aspirant on the spiritual path is to engage an endless process of learning from our mistakes, to err often and hopefully in the right direction, and to live in dignity and integrity.