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Interim decision from the GBC executive commitee concerning Dhanurdhara Swami

Saturday, 08 July 2006 / Published in Announcements, GBC, Ongoing debates / 5,933 views

The GBC Executive Committee has made an interim decision that Dhanurdhara Swami will not give initiation (harinama or gayatri) in ISKCON. They have sent this proposal to the full GBC for a vote on permanent ratification.

Furthermore, the GBC Executive Committee directs Dhanurdhara Swami to spend 50% of his time in working to heal the victims of ISKCON Gurukulas.

The GBC Executive Committee requests Dhanurdhara Swami to not distance himself from ISKCON but rather remain a member.

A committee chaired by Tamohara dasa, CPO Director, has been formed to discuss further restrictions on Dhanurdhara Swami such as the giving up of sannyasa.

The committee will also consider restrictions on other ISKCON members who may have been in positions of leadership when mistreatment of children took place.


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    Deenabandhu ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is very good news. I also don’t want to see him leave ISKCON, but it is not possible that he be an initiating guru in ISKCON. As far as giving up sannyas, well sannyas means a dead man. How can he be made more dead! Although we make a big hallabaloo about sannyas, it is not a title, or position, but one of the 4 ashrams of life. It is true that sannyasis are respected, but it is not just a title you give and take away.

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    TripD108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I certainly hope the GBC is intending to provide a thorough theological/shastric justification (via a combination of guru, sadhu, shastra precedents) to the community for the rationale behind its radical decision to not allow Dhanurdhara Swami to initiate within ISKCON and, if it decides to do it, the theological justification for instructing him to give up sannyasa. This latter restriction in particular seems rather strange in light of shastric descriptions about the nature and characteristics of sannyasa and such a decision would be curiously demonstrative of the way in which the concept of sannyasa has come to be uniquely interpreted and applied by the Governing Body Commissioners of ISKCON.

    -Tripurari dasa (hdg)

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    mgdasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Recently the outcry of what to do about child abusers and ISKCON leaders who were complicit in such behavior has reached a fever pitch. The time is ripe for a statement by the GBC as to how they are going to deal with these issues. How then do they come out with such a thin proposal merely saying that they will consider restrictions against ISKCON leaders? The CPO’s decision seven years ago was so much stronger. Now, in light of Ananda’s suicide and a chorus of disapproval, they’re toning that down?

    As a reminder, here’s what the Official CPO decision said on this. The panel, “concurs with [the] perspective,” that “all of ISKCON leadership was responsible for the abuse and decadence of [the alumni’s] gurukula experience.” They went on to say that:

    “In the course of reviewing the case file several allegations of child neglect and physical, emotional, and sexual child abuse against many persons other than Dhanurdhara Maharaja surfaced, as did accusations of cover-up and negligence in addressing reports of child abuse… ISKCON leaders responsible for setting priorities in Srila Prabhupada’s movement grossly neglected the proper care of ISKCON’s children. This neglect did much to bring about the sufferings reported in this case, and therefore all of ISKCON leadership must accept its share of the burden for what happened in the Vrndavana gurukula. Although Dhanurdhara Maharaja is responsible for his misbehavior, he was not singly responsible for the neglect and tyranny in the school. ISKCON leaders demonstrated appalling neglect of social concerns, and this was very apparent in the dearth of resources provided to the Vrndavana gurukula…ISKCON leadership was responsible for gross neglect in the failure to provide minimally acceptable resources for the children of Srila Prabhupada’s movement.”

    They concluded that:

    “The Child Protection Office will investigate and process all of these cases.”

    I urge them to keep their word.

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    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think this is a positive step in the right direction, so that this matter may finally be put to rest.

    All of us can learn from what happened, and move on.

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    omtatsat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    No, sorry Deenabandhu prabhu, it’s not a good decision; at least not for Dhanurdhara Swami. He should leave ISKCON. It’s a sinking ship and for years, he’s been made the scapegoat for the “abuse” scandal that has rocked Prabhupada’s movement. Since when does the GBC, or anyone for that matter have the authority to legislate guru-tattva? DS needs to move on and operate outside of ISKCON….why the heck would he want to stay anyway?

    -Bhakta Chris

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    simonkitty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is good news to hear,
    but deeper issues need to be considered by the GBC for the long term
    of iskcon’s wellbeing, otherwise we will go through this same sad saga
    again & again & again.
    1) Decisions / rulings of the CPO must have the same authority as the whole GBC,
    an iskcon leader who disregards the instructions of the CPO must immediately
    lose all leadership status & can only remain in iskcon as a 1st initiate.
    2) Any Guru / Swami / GBC / TP,TC who abuses children or fails to act when he is in
    knowledge of abuse happening – is permanently unqualified to be a swami / leader.
    NO – I do not think that there is no hope left for iskcon …
    The leadership just needs to be very, very proactive in making iskcon a legitimate,
    ethical, moral, responsible organization – and to be totally ruthless in removing any senior devotee who interferes in this program.

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    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Bhakta Chris:

    ISKCON is a ship, yet it’s far from sinking. However, if you maintain that position, feel free to dive off and swim for your life…no one is stopping you. Chances are you were already swimming for your life and practically drowning in the material ocean, yet it was an ISKCON devotee who threw you a rope. Would that be a good guess?

    Considering that, let’s have a little less of the emotional dramatics, please…

    Braja Sevaki

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    Pandu das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hare Krsna. I agree with Deenabandhu’s comment. It’s refreshing to see the GBC beginning to move on this. It seems somewhat awkward dealing with instututional conceptions of guru and sannyasa, and I wouldn’t presume to know the best way to do that. My feeling though is that forcing Dhanurdhara Swami to formally change ashram would be superficial, unnatural, and counterproductive. Granted, sannyasa comes with a lot of respect in ISKCON, and it seems like the idea is to take that respect down a notch or two (which has probably already happened due to so much publicity). Perhaps the more important thing is the type of service he is asked to do, and that point is addressed separately.

    It is also very important that Dhanurdhara Swami must not be made a scapegoat; this sort of attention should be directed throughout ISKCON. A lot of others have hurt kids in various ways, and, consequently, our whole society has suffered. I hope that everyone involved can do the needful with courage for everyone’s benefit. The treatment should be fair and conducive to healing, so that anyone who feels some guilt will not be afraid to step forward to confess, apologise, and accept responsibility. False prestige will not help anyone on the path back to Godhead. Lets all take responsibility for healing together. Hare Krishna.

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    Radhika seva dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When you say you will discuss “giving up of sannyasa” what does that mean? Do you want Dhanurdhara Swami to change ashrams? Do you want him to get married? Do you want him to remain a sannyasi in practice but wear a different type of clothing?

    That sounds like it would be a very odd “restriction”… Imagine if Dhanurdhara Swami were a grihasta – would the GBC consider asking him to change his ashram then?

    If the GBC chooses to request something like that, I hope they will explain the logic behind such a thing.

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    Deenabandhu ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My dear Chris,

    North America is not the whole world, although they’d like to think so. There are many places in the world where ISKCON is flourishing. There are also many places that are not. It’s not going to sink. Dhanurdhar Swami is a very nice devotee who made some horrible mistakes the result of which had horrible consequences, that nobody knew about at the time. When I grew up we thought that child abusers were old guys in black raincoats who hid behind trees and offered children candy.

    Today we know that the vast majority of them are people that the child knows and trusts and the community trusts as well. If you’ve ever seen the educational film about child abuse, the abusers admit that they were able to get away with what they were doing for so long, because no one wanted to believe that such a nice person could do such things. Children were to embarrassed or intimidated to talk about it and even coming to adulthood they supressed it.

    It’s only in the last decade that we know so much more and the abused have begun to talk about it. We have also clinically researched the permanent damage that occurs. We can’t judge things then by what we know now. Most of us myself included did not know such abuse was going on, or it’s consequences. This is not to say DS is not responsible for the things he did, as normal person even in those “less aware” times could not condone the type of behavior that was going on. DS will have to pay for his actions and part of that may be not being able to initiate in ISKCON. But I don’t think he should leave ISKCON. And the question also arrises that there were many people in the gurukula and knew what was going on and remained silent. Why?

    I’ve known him, however, for a long time and he’s not the same person and has to a large extent reformed himself. He has also, to the extent possible, tried to bow down and apologize and help those who suffered. And he continues to do so. Unfourtunately, we never hear about that, and I felt very sorry for him that he had to toot his own horn. I personally know persons who were either abused or know about his abuse, who having interacted with him personally, have come to forgive him. One person I know did not want to even hear his name. But after he helped that person in their life, have changed their opinion of him altogether.

    I want to make one last point and that is we only know half the story of what went on in India. I talked to one Indian ex-gurukuli who told me that the vast majority of the Indian boys have never talked about what happened. It’s still not their culture to talk about it. He himself told me that till now he’s never even told his parents what happened, but he was smart enought to get his two brothers out of the school. It took him till about 3 years ago to even talk openly with DS about what happened. And he has also forgiven DS.

    So the ISKCON ship definitely is in some hard seas, and too slowly learning from the past mistakes, but it’s not about to sink. Come on over to Vrindavan some time and refresh yourself from the heavy environment there in the states.

    Your well wisher,
    Deena Bandhu das

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    Tripurari dasa (hdg) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I do not typically contribute to public forums like this for a number of reasons, but given the recent decisions made by the GBC executive committee in regard to Dhanurdhara Swami and the absence of hardly anyone attempting to broach the issue from a theological point of view in the public square (likely out of fear of being irrationally branded a supporter of child abusers) has compelled me to add my voice. In a previous comment on here, I wrote that I hope the GBC provides the devotee community with a thorough theological justification for their decisions regarding Dhanurdhara Swami. I want to explain why this is important. It is important because it is imperative that the GBC, as the institutional authority for ISKCON, base its decisions in these kinds of cases on some kind of coherent theological basis to avoid setting a misguiding precedent. This precedent is not only about how ISKCON will choose to deal with abusers and those under whom abuse took place, but it is about what should be the guiding factors in how such decisions are ultimately made. Are they made primarily on the basis of public relations concerns that are not clearly supported by an understanding of theological principles (ironically, it is PR concerns that seem to have played a major role in leading to child abuse cover-ups in the first place) or are they made through a careful consideration of how theological principles should be understood and applied? Some questions that are important to consider in setting the precedent that will be set by the GBC’s final decision regarding Dhanurdhara Swami: what does the decision and the reasoning that leads up to the decision say about the understanding of the power of bhakti and its ability to change a sincere person and bring them to a more advanced level over and against past faults? Are a person’s qualifications for being a guru based on who a person was or what a person did in the past or what a person has become and is doing in the present? Is it not a general Vaishnava principle to overlook the past of someone who has come to recognize their past shortcomings and taken the steps to overcome them, and is this not the principle Srila Prabhupada himself applied to those to whom he gave first, second and sannyasa initiations? I think these questions and similar ones need serious consideration by those who are addressing the case of Dhanurdhara Swami. Perhaps, the GBC executive committee has already done this and we just have not yet heard from them about the rationale behind their recommendations…I cannot say because little has be said publicly about what has guided their decisions. What I can say, however, is that from my own personal experiences with Dhanurdhara Swami it seems to me (and I think anyone who has taken the time to get to know him and discuss his case with him) that he has made an exceptional effort to rectify his past mistakes and that he has done an excellent job of rectifying them. He has done this by recognizing his mistakes, making amends with others whenever possible, helping those who were harmed under his care, and taking the burden of accepting GBC recommendations for his personal rectification and abiding by them to the best of his ability. Moreover, I would argue that if anyone has the qualifications of a guru, it is Dhanurdhara Swami: he knows shastra, he gives personal attention and care to his disciples, he follows his vows, he’s loyal to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON, he’s humble, his life revolves around hearing and teaching about Krishna and Krishna bhakti, he is disciplined and self-controlled, and he’s renounced in how he lives his life. The question then becomes, what more do people want? If the answer to this question is that they want him to stop being a guru, i.e. stop connecting to the Gaudiya tradition through initiation and instruction those who he has personally inspired and who have personally asked him for his guidance, then my question in reply is: on the basis of what Gaudiya theological principles is the request to not initiate grounded? While his earlier past may suggest a lack of qualification, the process of rectification he has since embraced and the lifestyle he has chosen to live in pursuit of that rectification, the cultivation of his own Krishna consciousness, and his endeavors to facilitate the cultivation of others’ Krishna consciousness suggest something quite different.

    In regard to the additional idea that is being explored that he be directed to give up his sannyasa, this is frankly one of the most curious things I have ever heard of. What does a sannyasa vow have to do with any of this? The fact that this idea has been suggested says a lot about the ways in which sannyasa has come to be seen and understood by some in ISKCON: it indicates that sannyasa has come to be seen primarily as an institutional position of power and prestige to be achieved (and given up as punishment) more than it has been seen as the acceptance of a style of life characterized by humility, devotion, and the renunciation of worldly attachments. And if this is actually the case, it is not only frightening that sannyasa has come to symbolize the former qualities in the eyes of the institution’s leaders, but it seems to me that the whole concept of sannyasa as described in shastra—what it is, why one takes it, and how a sannyasi should live his life–needs to be revisited.

    Finally, I want to be clear that this letter is in no way intended to minimize the abuses that occurred in ISKCON or meant to excuse anyone responsible for abuses. Those are harsh realities and the burden of responsibility for those abuses needs to be accepted on both the institutional and individual levels. The question now, however, becomes what is the most effective and mature ways for an institution and individual to accept those responsibilities without marginalizing the efforts and progress—both institutionally and individually—that have already and continue to be made and without undermining the basic theological principles of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. I would also like to make clear that I appreciate very much the sincerity that exists among the members of the GBC body, the difficult position of being a GBC, and the difficulties in handling a case with so many emotional nuances as this one. I look forward to hearing the justification underlying the GBC executive committees decisions and eventually the final GBC decisions regarding Dhanurdhara Swami.

    Thank you,
    Tripurari dasa (hdg)

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    jambavati ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I appreciate the compassionate and intelligent comments, but lets face it, sanyasa is a status symbol in iskcon which perhaps prevents total renunciation. In iskcon sanyasa is a power position which brings a pseudo star like status , which I imagine must feel like a real slap in the face to the abused and overlooked to see their abuser place on a throne. Doesnt it say in the bhagavatam that a king should punish criminals for their own karmic benefit? Is pulling away a little status from someone really so horrific? Actually, it seems as if status is more import than respect for others here. The status protection team seems to have more members than the child protection team.

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    mahavidya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As a parent, having had 3 children experience the best and worst of the gurukula system, having been to court trying to bring perpertrators to book, having found out temple management gave one “prabhu” money to jump bail.
    having to see one prabhu still teaching in ISKCON, having experienced the lying , cheating, suffering, et all, that accompanies abuse and that is just in relation to my children, I watch with interest all the traffic on the web.
    So much effort is being made to repair damaged people. May I suggest that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. I read one time a conversation wherin a devotee was asking HDG what to do with theives. HDG suggested you hang one .

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    scott wetherell ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Mahavidya Prabhu,

    Unfortunately, scapegoating one man probably will not stop sexual abusers of children from continuting to abuse children. They can’t help themselves and the only solution is that they are identified and cut off from access to our children. I’m not convinced that “hanging” this man will make my temple more safe for my son.

    Thank you, Tripurari Prabhu, for such a nicely stated summary of this issue.

    IS THERE A SASTRIC BASIS FOR INVALIDATING DHANURDHARA SWAMI’S ASHRAM? This is the real question. Stop him from initiating? Yes. Excommunicate him maybe? Yes, that could probably also be accomplished. But I can’t understand how Tamohar Prabhu is going to somehow overthrow or invalidate Satsvarupa Maharaj’s sannyasa initiation of Dhanurdhara Swami from the early 1980’s.

    I mean no offense to Tamohar Prabhu as I certainly support child protection to the utmost extent, I’m just hoping that we are careful how we proceed and that we have a sastric basis for our decisions.

    All glories to Srila Prabhupada and the house he built in which the whole world can live.


    Scott Wetherell

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    mahavidya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Scott ,

    You are right, child abusers will always prey on unsuspecting victims but how do you identify one untill the damage has been done? Then someone else will have to clear up the resulant consequences. Are you willing and prepared to do that?
    Perhaps you should contemplate the role of the police and the judicial system. The Iskcon CPO is making an attempt but is undermined by those who do not understand its purpose. Yet the very same prabhus are given the status of advanced preachers within Iskcon.
    My point is to learn from history and send out a very clear message to the worldwide community that this and other abuse will not be tolerated within our society, until this message is reinforced with severe consequences ,who will take our society seriously?
    If I suffer abuse, through sastra I can come to terms with it but being in a position of responsibility for others I am obliged to view events differently. I cannot change history but my experience has taught me that I should send out a very clear message, if you interfere with those in my care, be prepared for the consequences. It is not a question of scapegoating, more a question of if the cap fits…. Such is the nature of impersonalism ,that we cannot relate to the misery of victims.

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    Kaunteya ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dearest Devotees,

    I speak as a father of four beautiful boys who went to Vrindavan gurukul 1979-83 in the sweet mood of Srila Prabhupada and his books. They went to see the Vrindavan he taught them. Today I received a letter from one of my sons who is now 35 years old. It is a long letter and it is full of his pastimes in India. I have decided to share part of it with you. He was 8 years old and his brother was 9 when they went. Their 10 year old was already there.

    Dear Dad,

    …”If I was to experience India again in which I must at some stage, it would be different now but somewhat the same. I’m 35 years old, no wonder it’s calling me all the time. It’s always sending me love and understanding of a higher place, Vrindavan, Yamuna river, Radha Kund, Dhavanala Kund, Mathura, Loi Bazaar, cold limbu panis, lassis, warm samosaa on a frosty morning listenening to the shenai playing as the sky colours change and life evolves. A swim in Mother Ganga. Playing and dancing and sweating from beating the mrdunga and chanting the names of Lord Sri Krsna.

    I shall go to India to study. Maybe there I can find some answers to my questions, for as long as there are these questions there will always be answers.

    The thing is only very few know of my experience with Krsna today. There are many people who have found some message in Krsna either through yoga, meditation, books etc, but it seems there’s very few who have lived it, not to say their not living it. Krsna seems to live in everyone. I suppose if you encounter something strongly it has a hold on you forever.

    I believe Krsna loves music. He played his flute to attract all the gopis of Vrindavan. Danced with them all, in fact it’s what lead me to the temple. On our arrival into Vrindavan Gabriel and I got off our bus.

    As it pulled away with a great puff of black smoke we looked at each other and thought, what now? As I was looking around I could hear a bhajan going on. How beautiful it was to hear that sound. I said “let’s follow the music and as I approached, it grew louder, louder until we opened the gates. There for the first time I laid eyes on the Krsna Balaram Mandir. There you are, Two brothers arrive at a temple named after Two Brothers, Krsna and Balaram. How magical.

    It was all a long time ago, but it is never far from my heart. Keep smiling Dad.
    Love Ezra.

    All I can say is I have lived with their sadness at having missed so much joy in singing and dancing for Krsna. To protect our children, they had to be removed, we had to leave, there was no other way. Perhaps if Dhanudhara Swami was to chant all day for the rest of his life in a small room and dedicate those rounds to all the boys, he might one day receive a forgiving gesture from all those sweet boys that I knew so well.

    All glories to Srila Prabhupadas original gurukul dream.

    Kaunteya Das

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