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Regarding the zero tolerance policy

Monday, 26 June 2006 / Published in Discussion, Ongoing debates / 4,241 views

By Visakha Priya dasi

Regarding the zero tolerance policy, what if the offenders have reformed themselves, are seriously practicing Krsna consciousness, and are inspiring newcomers to take up the process of Krsna consciousness?

Your appeal raises a very deep philosophical question, which threatens the very existence of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, because the first child abuser in the creation is none other than the head of our sampradaya, Lord Brahma. And he is still alive and still the head of the sampradaya, and he will still be in that position long after we’ve all gone. (Krsna forgave him.)

Have you read Chapter 85 of the “Krsna” book? Srila Prabhupada is addressing the issue therein. This is not to say that child abusers should be allowed to continue in their wrong ways, but only Krsna is infallible and we all have so many ghastly things to our debit from countless lifetimes. If people are trying to reform themselves or have reformed themselves, do we need to hound them for the next ten thousand years? Tolerance (not of the sin, but of the sinner) is an essential part of our philosophy. Srila Prabhupada has remarked that without tolerance we are no better than the karmis. Again I wish to stress that criminal activities should not be tolerated, but even criminals (Valmiki, Mrgrari, and others) did reform themselves, and thereafter they were no longer branded as demons but honored as devotees.

If, by Krsna’s mercy, it is possible, please try not to misunderstand my intentions and feelings. I am not condoning the activities of child abusers. I myself have been carrying the weight of childhood abuse for more than half a century, and its effects are only now subsiding. But one thing I have learned from Srila Prabhupada’s books is that there is no such thing as injustice, and everyone reaps the fruit of their karma. Again this doesn’t mean that we should be left alone to lick our own wounds. We should be merciful to one another and try to alleviate one another’s misery. The way to eradicate sin in our society and in society at large is through massive, sincere, congregational chanting of the holy name–Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare–not through witches’ hunt.

Thank you for patiently reading all this. Hare Krsna.

Your servant, Visakha Priya dasi

5 Responses to “Regarding the zero tolerance policy”

  1. Suresh das says :

    This is an offensive mentality. Now we are comparing ourselves to Lord Brahma? Lord Brahma is not a human being like us. Whatever he did was a pastime, not to be imitated by us. Lord Brahma is the topmost jiva within our universe. According to the Nectar of Devotion, all the spiritual qualities that an individual jiva soul can possibly achieve are possessed by Lord Brahma in full.

    Just to reach his planet, a person must be completely perfect at every moment for 100 life times in a row. This means that if someone is aspiring to reach that place, and they make one mistake, during any of the 100 lifetimes, they fall down and start the process all over. So, someone who has reached Brahmaloka is among the topmost personalities within our universe, and Lord Brahma doesn’t just live there – he is the leader of that sphere and the leader of all of us. According to the Vedas, the life of Lord Brahma is roughly half over, which means he has been alive some 75 trillion years.

    It’s so easy to think like this, I’ve done it myself. We read Srimad Bhagavatam and the stories are so wonderful, that we feel as if we are participating in them, not unlike someone witnessing a dramatic play or movie and identifying with characters who seem to act like us. Srimad Bhagavatam is spiritual television, just like Srila Prabhupada said. But we are not participating; we are only listeners, gradually being purified by the words.

    It is offensive on our part to in anyway compare ourselves to such great and pure devotees as Lord Brahma, Narada, Shiva, etc.

    Using this line of reasoning, if a devotee smokes marijuana in the temple, and then later repents and is forgiven by the devotees, is he still qualified to become an ISKCON Initiating Guru, because Lord Shiva smokes Ganja? Or say another devotee shows a preference for eating fish in the temple, but he repents, should also be accepted later as qualified for becoming Guru too, because Garuda eats fish?

    No one is saying that Dhanurdhara Swami’s actions shouldn’t be forgiven. He can come to the temple, chant in the kirtans, take Prasad, etc., but what devotees are questioning at the time is why he was given a position of power or authority again within ISKCON, or placed in the exalted position of Initiating Guru of ISKCON? This is part of what the uproar is about. What are out standards for Initiating Guru? Why instead of his becoming an initiating guru, living at the expense of society, was he not required to go out and get a job, and pay financial restitution to the devotees he harmed, or to the movement he has helped shatter?

    Read Dhanurdhara Swami’s words in his letter of resignation: “Though I can’t say I realize all the pain I have inflicted” – this means he can’t feel anything, that he shows no real remorse for his actions. In another place he stated he couldn’t understand what the big deal is? He stated that he was authorized to hit a child if he misbehaved. Dhanurdhara took this authorization to heart and with relish beat the children with rods until they bled; smashing boy’s faced into walls, and many other atrocities. His mentality is not unlike the Nazis in the concentration camps of Europe – “we did our job, we were only following instructions.”

    This is what is hurting so many of the devotees whom he tortured. In Western Society, which we condemn as uncivilized, if a man abuses children and is convicted of it, he serves jail time. Even after many years in prison he is not allowed to come near children, and is isolated in society. How many days of jail time did this man serve as punishment in our more advanced culture?

    It is unacceptable that the leaders of our society placed him in any position of power within our movement, what to speak of allowing him to initiate. We look like fools to other spiritual organizations, and honestly very few people take our movement seriously at this time, by the example we are setting, especially our own devotees.

    Hare Krishna,
    Suresh das

  2. Krishnadas says :

    Hare Krishna Suresh Prabhu,

    Perhaps you have misunderstood Mother Vishakha Priya’s point. Imitation of great souls is offensive, but there is certainly no harm in learning from their example as she is suggesting. No where does she say that we should imitate Lord Brahma. Rather there is a great lesson we can learn from Lord Brahma’s example that by taking shelter of Krishna and His holy name one can become purified of even such a heinous sin as child abuse or pursuing sex with one’s own daughter.

    I see Mother Vishakha’s use of this example to be congruous with the way Srila Prabhupada often cited it. Regarding this pastime with Lord Brahma, Srila Prabhupada several times instructed that this pastime contains instructions for us:

    “This is a lesson for the living entities, showing how sinful an act it is to indulge in unrestricted sex life. Even to think of abominable sex life is sinful, and to compensate for such acts, one has to give up his body. In other words, one’s duration of life, blessings, opulence, etc., are decreased by sinful acts, and the most dangerous type of sinful act is unrestricted sex.” — Purport to Bhag. 3.12.33

    “So we should not be disturbed when we see Lord Brahma and Lord Siva is captivated in that way. We should take this instruction, that is Lord Brahma, Lord Siva becomes victim of maya sometimes, what to speak of us? Therefore we shall be very, very careful. There is chance of falldown even in the status of Brahma and Siva, what to speak of ordinary persons. Therefore we should be very strongly inclined to Krishna consciousness like Haridasa Thakura. Then we shall be able very easily to overcome the allurement of maya. That is to be understood. Not that “Brahma showed that,” what is called, “weakness. He is weak or he is less.” No. That is for our instruction.” — Lecture in Los Angeles, 19 December 1968.

    “So far Lord Brahma and his attraction for his daughter; this illustration should be taken by conditioned souls, that even a person like Brahma is sometimes victimized, how much careful we should be. Not that even Brahma was enticed, so we shall become enticed more and more. This is an example set for us by great devotees.”
    — Letter to Himavati 23 March 1969.

    Suresh Prabhu, it’s good to see so many open minded thinkers such as yourself contributing to, I hope that you will also consider my humble comments above.

    Ys, Krishnadas

  3. Suresh das says :

    The reason I wrote my comment is because I have seen this type of mentality before in other devotees, and I just wanted to alert ourselves to the danger of our comparing ourselves to great personalities.

    I was speaking with a devotee who was comparing herself to Narada and how her service was better than Narada, because of some little mistake Narada had made in devotional service, ignoring the vast volumes of pure devotional service which Narada has engaged in over trillions of years. Sri Narada is the spiritual master of many saints and pure devotees. Sri Narada brought the Hare Krishna Mantra to this planet more than a million years ago. The Srimad Bhagavatam was written on the advise of Narada to Srila Vyasadev. These stories must be there to show us how easy it is to fall down, but at the same time we are not Narada, Brahma, Shiva, etc.

    It is so easy to think “oh now I am perfect, my work is done.” We feel a little tiny bit of spiritual happiness and think our work is done, but in the next moment we are back in Maya again. But when one reaches the platform of Brahma, or Narada there is no more falling down. It is inconceivable to us who Brahma or Narada are. We hear how exalted our path is and think we are already perfect, and beyond everyone else here in the Material World, such as the great demigods. Sometimes thinking ourselves superior to them because of our path we commit offenses to them, but we are not on their level. We live in the smallest of the universes, on the lowest of the earth-type planets. We are very small and insignificant.

    I thought I heard Lord Brahma being blasphemed, so I thought the only way to counteract it was to speak as many glories of Lord Brahma as I could remember.

    Because of the great disturbance created by the Child Molestation problem in our movement, many devotees are filled with doubts at this time and are either leaving devotional service, or are trying their best to stay, but need help. There is great confusion in this time and many doubts about our path. But we should be very careful not to offend great souls by our speech, because the Mad Elephant Offense can completely snuff out our spiritual life.

    Hare Krishna,
    Suresh dasa

  4. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Dear Devotees,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you for your replies to my letter concerning Lord Brahma. It was never my intention to drag Lord Brahma down to the level of a conditioned jiva. Some of you understood my point and provided some scriptural clarifications.
    Thank you. Whether Lord Brahma’s running after his daughter was a lila or not is not the point. After all, Srila Prabhupada says that if two godbrothers are quarreling, that quarrel should be seen as lila by their disciples. So what to speak of the creator of this universe. In fact, Srila Prabhupada writes in the Krsna book, chapter 85, that for the offense of criticizing a superior personality (referring to Lord Brahma’s attempted assault on his daughter), the six sons of Marici had to take birth as the grandsons of Hiranyakasipu and be killed; and then again, as the sons of Devaki, they were killed by Kamsa.

    Now, I do not wish to suggest that H. H. Dhanurdhara Swami is on the level of Lord Brahma, but still we should be careful. The process of atonement has no place in devotional service. We are simply meant to continue engaging in devotional service under superior guidance, and as far as I understand, Dhanurdhara Swami did so. He took whatever chastisement was prescribed to
    him and continued engaging in devotional service, studying Srimad Bhagavatam
    deeply, associating with senior godbrothers, and sharing his realizations
    with whoever was ready to hear them. Not that he left ISKCON in a huff and a
    puff and went over to Narayana Maharaja or became a babaji or started his own movement. A friend of mine (who favors the zero tolerance petition) told me that actually, Maharaja’s troubles started when Kirtanananda Swami sent one hundred children from North America to the gurukula in Vrindavan and that these boys were a real handful. Jayadvaita Swami’s 1997 letter
    to Prithu Prabhu clearly states that Dhanurdhara Swami was very much after getting rid of child abusers and that he was repeatedly asking the GBCs to send their best men to the gurukula instead of their rejects.

    Anyone having to deal with a bunch of unruly boys with an unqualified staff
    and uncooperative superiors in a tough place like Vrindavana could
    conceivably have cracked up and taken his frustration on the kids, which is
    NOT the thing to do, obviously, but what I am trying to get across is that
    there IS such thing as extenuating circumstances. The fact that Dhanurdhara Swami was not sexually involved with the children should weigh in his favor. Outside of his trying time as gurukula headmaster with uncooperative and unqualified people, he doesn’t have a record of going around bashing people, whereas hardcore child abusers will usually abuse until the day they die. And therefore, they should be kept at a safe distance.

    I met some of Dhanurdhara Swami’s disciples, and they don’t look like abominable persons to me. They appear to be well trained in devotional service. And I haven’t seen or heard of Dhanurdhara Swami trashing them with his danda. Furthermore, I understand that whoever wants to take initiation from him is given a full rundown on Maharaja’s ruthless behavior as Gurukula principal. In my experience, Maharaja’s disciples and prospective disciples are educated, articulate persons with inquisitive brains, and the fact that they still accept him as Krsna’s representative after reading all that stuff tends to indicate that they have studied the philosophy, understood its principles, and estimated that whatever happened in the past was not likely to occur again.

    In his reply to my first letter, Tamohara Prabhu wrote: “If one should really give up one’s body if one even thought about abusing one’s child, why is so difficult to simply ask child abusers to step down from a high position and become a humble devotee?”

    As far as I can see, Dhanurdhara Swami has taken the humble position by accepting the GBCs instructions, not leaving ISKCON over the past few years, and taking association from solid devotees. But he is a preacher and continues to preach, and if people develop faith in him, knowing whatever there is to know about his past activities, what is the harm? As Srila Prabhupada writes in Bg 9.3, “It is only by faith that one can advance in Krsna consciousness.” Faith is not an easy thing to develop in Kali-yuga.
    Nevertheless, it is the vehicle that propels us back to Godhead and it is an
    individual thing. No one can regiment faith, just as no one can regiment
    love, the end result of faith–adau sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriya, etc… If too many people are too emotionally charged up to see Dhanurdhara Swami giving a public Bhagavatam class, then this should be worked out somehow, but to destroy the faith of his disciples, to not allow those who have faith in him to take shelter of him, and to suggest that he should just wash pots in the kitchen when he can do so much more doesn’t seem right to me.

    One last thought: In his letter to Prithu Prabhu, H. H. Jayadvaita Swami
    mentions that in the eighties ISKCON didn’t take child abuse very seriously.
    But according to his testimony, Dhanurdhara Swami WAS taking it seriously. Who then is at fault? We all know (at least many of us do) what it was like
    in the zonal acharya days.

    Thank you. Hare Krsna.
    Your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  5. Suresh das says :

    In reading what Visakha Priya Prabhu has written in her comments about the history and facts surrounding Dhanurdhara Swami, I apologize if I wrote anything incorrectly or offensively against him. Whatever I know is really only hearsay evidence posted on other websites like Chakra. I have never met him, seen him, heard him speak, etc.

    Perhaps this website could run an article which speaks highly of what Dhanurdhara Swami has contributed to our movement over the years, which could possibly counteract all the negative articles which have been published elsewhere against him.

    What I have also stated is that the reform of the Swami has, as far as I have read in the history he has personally provided, only been his repeated apologies for his actions over the years. Unfortunately this might not have been enough, and may have contributed to losses for ISKCON in the millions.

    As far as bad kids being sent to him in Vrndavan; those same children were once innocent boys with a wide open future, who were neglected, corrupted and destroyed by us – they are not to blame. The courts have agreed with this finding. It was our responsibility to protect them and we didn’t. It was not all Dhanurdhara Swami’s fault that this happened. Everyone responsible should be brought to justice, and that justice has to be more than just “I’m sorry”.

    If the article had been written with a less sensational section accusing Lord Brahma of being the “first child abuser” when in fact he only thought about is daughter and never touched her, and had dealt more with the forgiving of a devotee, then I probably would never have participated in this thread, or objected.

    At the same time the article smelled of blasphemy, so I felt it was my duty to object, although next to much more advanced and well-read devotees present at this site, I feel whatever I might write is wholly inadequate.

    Hare Krishna,
    Suresh dasa

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