Seeking The Essence

Clearing Life's Webs and Weeds….

Something To Remember:

asitis93001.jpg 

I wrote the following paragraph as the conclusion to a longer article about the 3rd annual Gurukula Reunion in Los Angeles, CA.  This was published in the first issue of the “As It Is” magazine January, 1993. In retrospect, I may have been a bit overly optimistic in regards to the the time line for recovery on the part of the gurukulis and discovery on the part of the older generation.  I know from personal experience that it has taken me much more time and effort to deal with some of the more difficult issues than I initially thought it would.  And realistically, many of these challenges will be with me for the rest of my life.  Still, I stand behind the principles I briefly described.  A side note: at that time I was signing my correspondence “Keeping the Faith.” Eventually I felt that “Seeking the Essence” was more appropriate.

Something to Remember: 

Many of us [gurukulis] have already passed through the hardest parts of forgiving (but not forgetting) the past and have begun the healing process – both individually and collectively. Unfortunately, much of the first generation has not.  Only lately have the majority of them truly begun to come to terms with the reality of the past and their pain and guilt is quite literally tearing them apart.  Now is a good time to remember how we felt and find for them the compassion (karuna) and understanding (samajna) we so badly wanted at that stage.  In this way we can show that what we learned in Bhakti Shastri class went well beyond the mindless mimicry of a few select verses.

Keeping the Faith (alive and kicking!),

Chaits

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August 30, 2006 Posted by | As It Is, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

A Play-full Plea: (A glance in the rear view)

As It Is cover #2

I originally wrote and published this article in the “As It Is” magazine issue #2, the Spring of 1993. Ok, I’ll admit my approach was a bit idealistic and arrogant, though it also contains a touch of humor and optimism. While the way in which gurukulis are viewed and treated in ISKCON has gotten much better in the thirteen years since this was first published, there is still plenty of room for improvement.  I think we could find paralell examples today.  For example, Kulimela is one positive expression of the ideals found in the “Final scene.”

I post this both as a bench mark of how far we’ve come and as a reminder of how far we’ve got to go. 

FYI: I intentionally removed the names and locations referred to in the original article because my purpose is not to draw additional attention to them, but “rather to address the overall issue.”

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August 30, 2006 Posted by | As It Is, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Kulimela | 1 Comment

Kulimela!

kulimela-community-mural.JPG      Kulimela Make Your Mark

The above pictures are of a Community Mural created by Kulimela participants.  Everyone was encouraged to “Make Your Mark.” 

 There are over four thousand pictures, from many different photographers, available for your viewing pleasure at Kuliloka.

You can watch a time lapse video as Kulis paint the backdrop for the main stage.

At Google Video you can see perfomances by the Kuli Jazz/Mantra/Rock group The Fews, from DC, as well as the rap group One Way, from Alachua.

Most of the filming was organized and edited by Rasacarya Partin and his company, RasaFilms.

(Apologies to those of you who have dial up internet connections.)

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, Kulimela, New Vrindaban | Leave a comment

The Destruction and Resurrection of My Hare Krsna Faith

ICJ Image

“Someone recently asked me whether I felt my past experience in ISKCON was positive or negative. I had to think for a while. I answered that I feel that if I had not been able to go out and take the time to make up for the things that my Hare Krsna upbringing denied me, then I would view it today as a negative experience. But now, because I feel that I have gotten the chance to compensate for the limitations in my early life, I have a more balanced perspective of reality and can accept Krsna consciousness in my life. I don’t feel threatened in designating myself as a devotee because I have enough power and independence to go out and make up for the things that ISKCON cannot give me. Because of this broader definition of what it means to be a devotee, identifying as a devotee does not make me feel deprived in any way; in fact, Krsna consciousness brings many positive experiences in my life today.”

This is a link to an article written by Prajyumna Kafle that was published in ISKCON Communications Journal, September 2001.  I don’t personally know Prajyumna but his article touches on many of the points that would be part of what I’d call “A Gurukuli’s Progress.”

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | 3 Comments

Gurukuli Humor

Light Bulb

I realize that many of the articles I’ve posted and linked to so far have been of a serious nature. 

Today I’d like to lighten the mood with a little humor.

Question: How many gurukulis does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Before I give the answer, see if you can figure it out. 

To see if you got it right, click “read more” below.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, Humor | Leave a comment

Report On the Status of the ISKCON Child Protection Office

ISKCON CPO Image 

“An issue for the CPO is whether and to what extent to prioritize the processing of cases of persons who served in the line of authority of schools and temples where extensive and rampant child abuse occurred. These are not persons who directly physically or sexually abused children, or even the supervisors, or school headmasters in the first line of authority for the actions of the perpetrators. In addressing cases of neglect of supervision by gurukula headmasters in schools where abuse was extensive, the CPO met with impassioned resistance from GBCs and other leaders who have worked closely with the headmasters, or former headmasters, under investigation. In a first world justice system acting within a society holding contemporary views toward child protection, cases of the supervisors of the managers would likely be processed. Considering the extent of child suffering and maltreatment in some ISKCON locations, a secular court would very possibly find criminal neglect on the part of the overseers of the administrators. To date, the CPO has not substantially investigated or in any way adjudicated the cases of upper-level leadership. ”

This is a link to a report by Dhira Govinda prabhu posted on Chakra June 15th, 2006. Dhira Govinda served as the Director of the ISKCON CPO for about 6 years. This article gives some insight into the work that the CPO office has done since it’s establishment in 1998 as well as make suggestions as to what still needs to be done.

This is a link to the ISKCON Child Protection Office website.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986

Burke Rochford

“This paper deals with how children in a religious organisation were abused physically, psychologically and sexually by people responsible for their care and well being. My purpose is to describe the problem as it existed within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), more popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement. This discussion of child abuse within ISKCON is a historical one. I consider child abuse and neglect within the context of ISKCON’s boarding schools-or ashram-based gurukulas- as they existed from 1972 until the mid-1980s.”

This is a link to an article written by Professor Burke Rochford published in ICJ Vol 6, No 1 June 1998. His extensive research and relatively objective reporting sheds light on many of the broader societal factors that allowed child abuse to occur in the ISKCON gurukulas.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

ISKCON Resolve

ISKCON Resolve

“ISKCON Resolve is a service provided for devotees who have a problem or concern that they feel unable to resolve on their own. Although set up by the GBC in 2002, ISKCON Resolve is an independent office that gives you an opportunity to solve your problems and concerns with complete confidentiality. ”

This is a link to the ISKCON Resolve website. I’ve had some interactions with a few of the mediators and found them to be helpful and professional.

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

Plane Crash & Rescue Effort

Bhima Walker 1

“After circling for hours over socked-in Bear Lake Glacier on Monday, the helicopter carrying Alaska Air National Guard pararescuer Ben Walker finally caught a break in the weather, dropped in and lowered Walker and his partner to the deep powder snow. ”

This is a link to an article in the Anchorage Daily News published 01/04/2006. My brother, Ben (Bhima) Walker, serves as a Pararescuer in the Alaska Air National Guard. This article tells of a rescue mission he participated in. The picture is of Bhima in full gear about to board a helicopter.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli | 4 Comments

New Vrindaban – The Making of A Village

NV Making of a VillageOld NV Photo

“From the top of the main ridge on Madhuban, Kirtanananda pointed out a clean sweep of land extending six or eight miles. “Eventually we’ll get all this,” he said. “This isn’t just a community we’re planning . . . it’s a village. Later we might incorporate into a township, like the original Vrindaban in India. And that farmhouse, two A-frames and group of cottages you see on that opposite ridge is our Vrindaban. After lunch Paramananda, the manager of our farming program, will take you over there.”

This is a link to an article about New Vrindaban that was published in the Mother Earth News magazine July/August 1972. The article lists Hayagriva prabhu (Howard Wheeler) as the author, though Hayagriva is also interviewed in the article. It’s an interesting trip back in time and a glimpse into the early days and high hopes for the New Vrindaban Community.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, ISKCON, New Vrindaban | Leave a comment

The ICOCP’s Official Decision on Dhanurdhara Swami

dhanurdharaswami.jpg

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 Vrndavan 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 Vrndavan gurukula.”

This is a link to a PDF document of the ICOCP official decision by the ISKCON Central Office on Child Protection regarding Dhanurdhara Swami’s case from October 28, 1999.  Over the past few years there has been considerable confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the details of this document. I hope that making a link here will assist in familiarizing people with its content.

NOTE: Please be aware that this link takes you to Dhanurdhara Swami’s blogsite. Once there you can find several other related articles, written by DDS, that may be of interest.

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Dhanurdhara Swami, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

Fifteen Years Later: A Critique Of Gurukula

yudhi.JPG

“A personal reflection on the legacy of a gurukula education by a gurukula alumnus. Yudhisthira Dasa gives a first-hand account of how ISKCON gurukulas prepared their students for life in the wider society and offers advice on how gurukulas can be improved. What duty does a gurukula owe to its students who may choose not to be fulltime ISKCON members upon reaching adulthood? And how can a better understanding be reached between those who enter ISKCON by birth and those who enter by choice?”

This is a link to an interesting article written by Yudhistira Deadwyler that was published in the ISKCON Communications Journal September 2001. Yudhi is a long time friend who, among other things, lived a couple of rooms down the hall from me at the Vrndavan gurukula.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | 2 Comments

As It Is Magazine Cover Images

asitis93001.jpgAs It Is cover #2 As It Is cover #3

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna | 13 Comments

Forgiveness Requires Rectification

Nara Narayana prabhu

“With regard to the article “I Beg Your Pardon” by Chaitanya Mangala prabhu, I believe that His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami’s response to Nityananda Rama prabhu mixes several elements of sin and forgiveness.”

A response to “I Beg Your Pardon” entitiled, “Forgiveness Requires Rectification” posted on Chakra by Nara Narayan prabhu August 17, 2006. While I think the “pre and post diksa” part of NNP’s article is a bit heavy on the theoretical/philosophical side, NNP does bring up several interesting points and examples.

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August 28, 2006 Posted by | Dhanurdhara Swami, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

The Missing Peace

The Missing Peace

 I posted this article on Dandavats August 8th, 2006.

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.

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.

August 28, 2006 Posted by | Dhanurdhara Swami, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | 2 Comments

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