By Chaitanya Mangala dasa
A brief introduction for those of you who may not know me: For 10+ years I attended ISKCON gurukulas in the 70’s and 80’s. I was at the Vrndavan gurukula in the early 80’s when Dhanurdhara Swami was principal. For more than 15 years I have been an advocate for gurukuli concerns. I’ve been through two years of professional therapy to help me work through gurukula related issues. I earned an MBA degree and have been involved in business for several years. I would like to comment on something I’ve noticed in regards to the ongoing discussions on Dandavats. It seems most are arriving at the same conclusion even though the reasoning they’ve used appears to be drastically different. Here is where most seem to be in agreement:
1. Abuse happened in the ISKCON gurukulas
2. Responsibility for that abuse can be shared at many levels
3. DDS is one who shares the responsibility
4. All want to see a positive resolution to the situation
5. Some inadequate attempts at resolution have been made
6. More can and should be done
7. Redundant focusing on the past may take away from present endeavors
8. Working cooperatively will be more productive
Let’s try to avoid tit for tat rhetoric and instead center our efforts on creating an atmosphere conducive for reconciliation. Focusing exclusively on the past is divisive and ultimately benefits no one. Let’s instead spotlight the areas where we are in agreement. I sincerely believe that the more we engage in open and honest dialog the more we will discover that the points we disagree on are fewer than we think.
Over the years there have been many misunderstandings, miscommunications and missed opportunities when dealing with these issues. What happened in the past can’t be changed. What we can change is how we choose to interact today and in the future. ISKCON, as an institution, as a Society, as well as a collection of concerned individuals, has been trapped in a time warp. Time waits for no one. It marches steadily onward and those who remain ensnared get left behind. My hope is that we can provide a process for those affected to find closure and move forward in positive ways.
Sometimes the individuals involved are referred to as the “abuser” and the “abused.” Many of the events we are speaking of happened years ago. Thus it would be more appropriate to refer to them as “former abuser” and “formerly abused.” In an attempt to move things forward I suggest we instead use the terms “offender” and “offended.” This helps to bring our perspective into a current context, use Vaishnava terminology and is less inflammatory. It is not meant to downplay past events, instead it encourages a more solution-oriented attitude. (My article “I Beg Your Pardon” previously posted at Dandavats http://www.dandavats.com/?p=544 discusses how the Srila Prabhupada and the Scriptures recommend we remedy vaishnava-aparadha.)
Both the offender and the offended can be purified through an interactive process of seeking and giving forgiveness. However, expecting these things to happen automatically is unrealistic. There is a need to facilitate this process for it to take place. Both parties require support and encouragement to sort through these complex and unsettled matters.
Obviously these issues are important. Over the years there have been numerous comments regarding what did/didn’t happen, who is/isn’t responsible, who has/hasn’t atoned/forgiven, and so on. I encourage everyone to now put that effort into creating a process for meaningful dialog between those directly involved so this can move towards resolution.
My sincere prayer is that we all work diligently to create within our Society an atmosphere that is conducive for the process of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation to take place.
Seeking the essence,
Chaitanya Mangala dasa