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Comments Posted By Tripurari dasa (hdg)

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Editor’s Note

Well, this decision is somewhat of a slap in the face to those of us who took the time to post something in response to the GBC decision as well as those who come here instead of other news websites to read about and contribute to issues. With all due respect, perhaps you should let the readers judge for themselves how many responses and which ones they choose to read and reconsider your decision to not allow the concerned voices of the devotee community to be heard.

If it looks like censorship and sounds like censorship….

» Posted By Tripurari dasa (hdg) On Jul 12, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

Interim decision from the GBC executive commitee concerning Dhanurdhara Swami

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)

» Posted By Tripurari dasa (hdg) On Jul 10, 2006 @ 2:19 am

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