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“Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians”

Tuesday, 25 July 2006 / Published in Discussion, Ongoing debates / 5,863 views

I want to make it clear that this article is not the opinion of the GBC or the Child Protection Office.

Your servant, Ramabhadra das

I was quite surprised to read Laxmi Nrismha prabhu’s posting and recommendation on the Dandavats website that if followed would gridlock the directive of the GBC Executive Committee, calling for an emergency GBC proposal to be voted on by GBC correspondence rules, regarding Dhanurdhara Swami’s status as an ISKCON Diksa Guru.

Laxmi Nrsimha prabhu is one of the kindest and non-offensive devotees I know. Unfortunately because of his lack of the complete facts of this crisis, he is making an incorrect assessment based on his loyal support of an old friend Dhanurdhara Swami. Laxmi prabhu is avoiding the hard facts of the excessive physical and psychological abuse inflicted on young ten, twelve, and early teen age, defenseless boys. Laxmi prabhu is a kind devotee, a true gentleman, if he is your friend he will fight for you when you need his support, and live or die by your side, a man of great character. In a great battle you want a Laxmi Nrsimha prabhu in the trenches next to you covering your back. Sometimes this type of blind loyalty can have a detrimental effect on an institution where high moral standards are the rule. Heck even in the Military nowadays physical and psychological abuse of prisoners or enemy combatants can lead to imprisonment for the soldier guilty of such criminal acts. What to speak of Dhanurdhara Swami’s horrendous history of abuse against little Gurukula boys, Vaisnavas in training and the children of saintly Vaisnavas and surrendered disciples of Srila Prabhupada.

I will not respond to Laxmi prabhu’s paper tit for tat. Rather I will present my analysis based on what I would expect the standard of a Diksa guru serving ISKCON to be. I won’t name names regarding what high positioned ISKCON devotees high-pressured the former CPO Director into a very weak, first case sentence of sanctions, that were the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. I can call the weak and inadequate CPO decision issued to Dhanurdhara Swami the “Culture of the Slap”. Nor will I offend sincere leaders by calling a current GBC member on the carpet by name, as Laxmi prabhu did in his or his group’s paper.

Laxmi prabhu’s letter is so lengthy its almost as if he were representing Dhanurdhara Swami with an Amicus Brief, although he provides the rhetorical header, which is no more than smoke and mirrors, as “Impartial We Stand and Biased We Fall”, I prefer to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true and it shall follow as the night follows the day, thou canst not be false to any man”. The supporters of child abusers should look inside the hearts of those abusers they defend, who indeed are Vaisnavas in development, and determine if they are capable of the high degree of accountability a true Vaisnava is willing to measure up to. A true and great Vaisnava is willing to sacrifice for others, is willing to do the best thing for the greater benefit of the assembly of Vaisnavas. A true Vaisnava always leads by example and is accountable even if any personal desires remain harbored in his heart; he is willing to let those personal desires sink in an ocean of humility. Sacrificing to benefit Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s ISKCON.
Last time I checked ISKCON has lost many thousands of good devotees because some diksa guru’s were less than advertised, and large numbers of good people lost faith in ISKCON leaders in general because of such weak links in the chain.

ISKCON managers who themselves were acting as Siksa guru’s, who allowed and in many cases guided, sincere and innocent Bhaktas and Bhaktins to take initiation from such tainted persons also must share in the institutional bad karma of such flawed guidance. This is a very unfortunate predicament for ISKCON, as the vast majority of ISKCON diksa guru’s are sincere, loving, great souls, true and great Vaisnavas with wonderful disciples. I am sure Srila Prabhupada is proud of them and loves them very much. But remember a chain will always be as strong as its weakest links. Therefore thousands of good people, sincere aspiring Krishna Bhaktas and Bhaktins have abandoned ISKCON for what they perceive as greener and purer pastures, or worse, because of a loss of faith in leadership many abandoned their unique opportunity to achieve the highest goal of Krishna consciousness in this lifetime.
North America, Australia, England, Europe, Scandinavia, etc. were all devastated or significantly diminished by self-destructing diksa guru’s. How many thousands have gone away because they hold ISKCON responsible for allowing them to take initiation from an ISKCON diksa guru of ill repute? Some devotees would try to have you believe that everything in ISKCON is just fine, especially in their region, where everyone is just as satisfied as can be with the institutional performance. Maya’s influence is restricted to the big, bad, and ugly USA right?

In retrospect Dhanurdhara Swami’s admittance into the revered ISKCON Diksa guru ranks in approximately 1992 was a big mistake. I remember hearing His Holiness Bhaktivaibhava Swami, a wonderful devotee and great servant of Srila Prabhupada mention in a class at Radha Rasabihari Mandira approximately four or five years ago, I believe Maharaja may have been receiving Ayurvedic health treatment in Mumbai at that time; Maharaja quoted something he heard Srila Prabhupada say, he quoted Srila Prabhupada saying “big leader means big responsibility, means big mistakes, means big reactions”.

If any research on this case needs to be done, if a significant part of the history needs clarity, it is how did Dhanurdhara Swami ever get approved to be a Diksa guru in the first place? Who was that regional ten-person recommendation committee, in what location did this happen, and what was their review process? Did they consider all the abuse accusations against him before making a flawed recommendation? Especially considering that at that time he had only recently been removed from the post he abused as Gurukula Headmaster. Were they compromising the integrity of ISKCON leadership in general by giving him a gentle kick up the corporate ladder, was it an adjustment motivated to compensate him for his removal from the Gurukula?

I don’t believe Lord Krishna needs or wants as a representative, a Guru who beat and ordered beatings of little defenseless devotee boys. I don’t believe Lord Krishna needs or wants as a representative, a Guru who kicked and punched a little defenseless devotee boy in his sleep. These punishments in Dhanurdhara Swami’s Gurukula, his Paris Island (Infamous Marine Training Camp) version of a Gurukula, were excessive, disproportionate to the misbehavior of innocent unprotected students, and in the world around us the equivalent of assault and battery.

This was in no way the “Culture of Spanking”, this claim by Laxmi prabhu is known as a Whitewash, more smoke and mirrors. In most so-called civilized countries, if litigated within the Statute of Limitations and convicted, Dhanurdhara Swami would have been remanded to the State Penitentiary for this degree of physical and psychological abuse.

In the world around us, the case where Dhanurdhara Swami admits he lost control, attacked a defenseless little devotee Gurukula boy in his sleep, by kicking and punching him, would have been cause for his immediate removal from his position, and if the parents filed charges he would have been arrested, handcuffed, booked, imprisoned, and put on trial. He is a former amateur Boxer from Brooklyn, do you think the law enforcement officers and the little boys parents may be a little bit outraged by this severe degree of so-called discipline, which in reality is criminal assault and battery?

Laxmi prabhu’s request for revisiting “200 pages” of a previous investigation, if entertained would be a greater disservice to Dhanurdhara Swami and his small group of initiated disciples and would be the very double-jeopardy the ISKCON leadership is avoiding, by simply following the directive of the first CPO decision; which recommends the GBC decide his status as diksa guru within ISKCON. Anyone who reads those 200 pages of damming testimonies and admissions of abuse would be hard-pressed, save for the shelter of Denial, to question how Dhanurdhara Swami ever was allowed to initiate in ISKCON in the first place. Let the GBC follow the CPO directive to review his privileges to act as a Diksa guru representing ISKCON. Don’t gridlock the proceedings already set in motion in an attempt to stall the proceedings.

From every angle of vision of true circumstance that I inspected this case from, the GBC and CPO have always acted with respect, and restraint toward Dhanurdhara Swami and especially with concern for the care and well being of his innocent initiated disciples. It is his so-called friends who muddy the waters by constantly causing Dhanurdhara Swami’s dirty laundry to be aired in public forum. And now Laxmi prabhu who is a friend and supporter of Dhanurdhara Swami, facilitates his friend being dragged through continued public humiliation and continued destruction of his reputation, by making inaccurate allegations implying that the CPO maliciously convicted or lynched Dhanurdara Swami, by virtue of the so-called witch hunt “inquisition” in which Dhanurdhara Swami was made the so-called scapegoat for the sins of ISKCON. “For a man who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death”.

What the North American GBC and the current CPO advised, is what the first CPO decision directed, that the GBC is responsible to review what additional action they wish to take regarding Dhanurdhara Swami’s status as an ISKCON diksa guru, as such a ruling is beyond the CPO jurisdiction. Dhanurdhara Swami was not Railroaded (Unfairly Judged) anytime past or present, unfortunately many small boys in their formative years had to suffer unthinkable humiliations in his Gurukula, where he beat and ordered the beatings of defenseless little devotee boys who couldn’t fight back. Where he passed the Buck onto others regarding the sexual abuse, the sodomy inflicted on some young devotee boys. As Gurukula Headmaster the Buck most certainly should have stopped with him, but he was never willing to be a man and accept full responsibility for his criminal negligence as the day-to-day leader and authority for those little devotee boys. That is not the definition of a Great Hero in my book.

Dhanurdhara Swami grew up in Brooklyn, he was an amateur Boxer in his youth, he learned how to fight back but he didn’t teach the boys he was responsible for to follow him and be tough and strong like him, he choose to beat them with his own hands, fists and feet, and he ordered beatings with sticks. “Culture of Spanking”, I don’t believe so.
A point of interest; in approximately 1992-1994 I was talking with Dhanurdhara Swami in Vrndavana. By then the accusations of his neglect as Gurukula Headmaster were surfacing, he only had three or four initiated disciples at that time. Seeing more potential weakness in our Guru system and hoping it would some day become a strong and exemplary chain of succession, I asked him why he had to be a diksa guru, especially I was considering all the controversy that could potentially surface to discredit him and our ISKCON guru succession image. He replied to me “I asked Narayana Maharaja if I should initiate or not, and he (Narayana Maharaja) said it was my duty”.

Obviously HDG Narayana Maharaja had no knowledge of all the horrendous claims of child abuse that would later be lodged against Dhanurdhara Swami, or that the CPO would find Dhanurdhara Swami guilty of physical and psychological abuse of children.
I close this analysis with some important questions for Laxmi prabhu to ponder, as Laxmi prabhu is a former schoolteacher, I believe he is an English teacher. If the Headmaster or Principle of a school where Laxmi prabhu was teaching, walked into Laxmi prabhu’s classroom and assaulted a very young defenseless boy, a minor, by kicking and punching him while the boy snoozed in his seat, where would that Headmaster or Principle end up? Would such an abusive school official be removed? Would he be arrested if charged for assault? If convicted of abuse would that school official later be promoted to an even more prestigious leadership position in the same educational institution? Or please reverse that scenario and imagine the Principle walked in on a teacher and caught the teacher inflicting severe unwarranted punishment upon a small boy, what do you think that responsible Principle would do to that teacher? Please ponder these questions in the context of 2006 accepted norms of behavior and not the archaic standards of the 1950’s and 1960’s when many of us went to school.

I am very hopeful Srila Prabhupada’s GBC will make the correct decision in this critical case. I have seen the GBC members for many years and my assessment is they are sincere, loyal, and great loving disciples of Srila Prabhupada. They are all much greater than I am or ever shall be. Their goal is to protect and preserve this great International Society for Krishna Consciousness, its credibility, integrity, and sanctity. Their goal is to build the strongest foundation for ISKCON so it lasts millenniums. I hope and pray they have the courage and intestinal fortitude to make the strong and correct decision to bring to a close this dark chapter of ISKCON history.

Please forgive me for any bad grammar, as I have no editor working for me, and please forgive the ISKCON Henry St. leader who convinced me to give up my college studies after only two years of college. I forgave him and am eternally indebted to him for his mercy and wise counsel. Unfortunately the readers of this article must suffer with bad grammar and rough language and I apologize for that. Please forgive me.

Your insignificant servant,
Ramabhadra das
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Brooklyn, New York

7 Responses to ““Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians””

  1. mahavidya das says :

    Well spoken, although I am supprised your article got posted, we are not often given the opportunity to portray the graphic brutal reality of the situation.

  2. simonkitty says :

    Thank you Prabhu for an intelligent & moral presentation.
    It is not a case of double jeopardy … it is more like a case that the
    approval process was deeply flawed the first time around.
    It is true to say that many other personalities made mistakes /
    covered up / failed to act upon abuse. But at this moment in time we
    have an opportunity to correct a serious corporate error – if we don’t then
    my prediction is that this problem will snowball into worse errors.
    Speaking for myself – I am prepared to be independant from iskcon
    if this farce is not corrected soon.

  3. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Laksmi Nrsimha Prabhu is a wonderful saintly Vaisnava. I am his loyal friend and servant and consider myself privileged to have his association. Thus it is with a straw between my teeth that, as a matter of principle, I feel compelled to disagree with one of the basic points of his article.

    Certainly we should establish the facts of the situation, as he suggests. It is never too late for that. But it seems to me that the essence of the matter is not in dispute: Many children accused DDS of committing violence against them and he admitted to it. The only thing that may possibly be in dispute is exactly how many children were abused, and the exact nature and extent of each incidence of abuse. But the basic issue is not in dispute, as far as I understand. Therefore, even if Yasoda’s investigation may have been flawed in some way, or even if ISKCON may have mishandled the Turley case in some way, a new investigation will not miraculously reveal that this has all been a mass hallucination, that DDS never laid a hand (or fist or foot) on a child and that he was absolutely vigilant in ensuring that no child was ever sexually or physically abused by others on his watch.

    So, sure, let’s try to establish all the details as accurately as possible. There’s no loss in doing that. But the basic essence of the matter is not in dispute, and that’s what needs to be addressed. I think this is the well-intended but distracting “can’t see the forest because we’re too preoccupied with arguing whether the leaves on each tree are red or brown” approach to the issue that Badrinarayana Prabhu highlighted in his essay.

    *I apologize to the devotees for making so many comments on this website. This has been an issue that has been impossible to sit back and keep quiet about. But I promise to try to make this one my last.

  4. satyaraja says :

    A short note to Lalita Madhava Dasi: I would like to respond to several of your points. Despite what you say in response to my articles, my heart goes out to the ex-Gurukulis and their families, and I believe that they deserve our respect and support. No doubt. By crafting articles in favor of Dhanurdhar Swami — who, as a Vaishnava, was transformed by his years of devotional service — I do not hold back my compassion and support of the Gurukulis, and you are mistaken to think that I do. One does not preclude the other.

    Also, in your response to Laksmi, you are willing to admit that, in relation to Dhanurdhar Swami, the extent of the Gurukula tragedy might legitimately be in question — even if the tragedy itself is not. This is significant. If Dhanurdhar’s Swami’s personal infractions are minor, as the official case decision shows it is, then why continue to berate him, especially since he acquiesced to the original GBC demands? There were others who perpetrated more serious offenses, no? Shouldn’t THEY be the subject of all these letters?

    And where did the whole tenor of corporal punishment come from? Do you know? It was not Dhanurdhar Swami’s personal philosophy. It was in place when he dutifully took his assignment as headmaster. The simple fact is that as passionate westerners we often exaggerated Prabhupada’s instructions or took them to extreme places that Prabhupada did not intend. As a woman, I’m sure you remember how women were viewed, and that children were often seen as, well, as less than children. Times have changed, and so has Dhanurdhar Swami. The sooner we all acknowledge that, the better. Best. –Satyaraja Dasa

  5. bh. kurt harris says :

    I respectfully disagree with Rambhadra Prabhu. It’s a mistake to re-sentance and convict Dhanurdhara Swami without a fair trial. It’s true that Laxmi Nrsimha Prabhu’s points may make life harder for the GBC by “gridlocking” their decision making process. But if the GBC handles this situation carelessly, and does not offer Dhanurdhara Swami a fair trial, perhaps by taking another look at the initial CPO decision, they risk alienating not only Dhanurdhara Swami, but his friends, well-wishers and supports from the association of ISKCON.

    Thats why the details – the “trees” – really count here. Was Dhanurdhara Swami an uncontrolled monster who couldn’t help but abuse children? Or was he an immature devotee who tried to surrender everything to Srila Prabhupada’s service, was put in extenuating circumstances, and made mistakes which he regrets?

    Figuring those questions out for sure is going to make a big difference in the spiritual lives of many people.

  6. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Dear Satyaraja Prabhu,

    This is an incredibly polarizing issue, one which finds even close friends who are ordinarily like-minded on opposite sides of a huge philosophical chasm. I do not mean to seem adversarial in any way, that is not my intent, but why are you saying “DDS’s personal infractions are minor”? Did he not admit to punching, kicking and beating children, as Ramabhadra Prabhu and numerous others have stated? How can you call that “minor”?

    And I don’t think people are “berating” him. They are simply objecting to an admitted abuser of Vaisnava children accepting worship as an initiating guru, a bona fide representative of the parampara, and a transparent via medium to the Supreme Personality of Godhead because it makes a mockery of our so-called spiritual institution, destroys our credibility and offends his victims.

    Your servant, LM

  7. Pandu das says :

    Some devotees have been calling for rights of the accused at a standard used in criminal law. This is not criminal court. It may be that crimes were committed, but it is being handled in a civil manner. On one hand the standard of proof is less, and on the other hand there is no chance of incarceration. Mostly what Dhanurdara Swami stands to lose is his high level of institutional glorification, which could easily be a an obstacle to spiritual advancement anyway. In other words, treating him as innocent may be more of a risk to his freedom than treating him as guilty. None the less, we don’t want to make any mistake, because any time there is Vaishnava against Vaishnava, it is a dangerous situation.

    My feeling is that Dhanurdara Swami can do the most good by voluntarily assuming a more humble role. Wouldn’t that be an honorable way to put this issue to rest?

    Hare Krishna.

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