Seeking The Essence

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Jayadvaita Swami’s Response

Jayadvaita Swami

“The offender purifies his heart by repentance, the offended by forgiveness.”

Jayadvaita Swami responds to “I Beg Your Pardon” at his blogsite July 16th, 2006.

Dear Jayadvaita Swami,

Hare Krishna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you for your clear analysis of this aspect of sinful behavior and the return to grace. However, I’m not sure it is applicable to the problem that Nityananda Rama Prabhu is trying to understand.

Is it not true that the brutal abuse of the children of Vaishnavas in Srila Prabhupada’s gurukulas should be classified as Vaishnava aparadha and guru aparadha rather than as mundane sinful activities?

It seems to me that those who were involved in the child abuse in the gurukulas committed aparadha against the Vaishnava children, their parents, Srila Prabhupada, and ISKCON as a whole. If that is the case, then, as I understand it, the perpetrators need to obtain forgiveness, and if unable to get it, need to fully surrender to the Holy Name to obtain His mercy.

If I am incorrect in this assessment, can you please explain my error?

Thank you.

Hare Krishna.


Pandu das


Dear Pandu,

I agree with you that brutal abuse of Vaishnava children constitutes a Vaishnava aparadha.

We have the example of Suruci, the wife of King Uttanapada. She offended her stepson Dhruva Maharaja and later had to suffer for it, not because Dhruva was a Vaishnava but because he later became a Vaishnava. Aparadhas have their consequences.

I also agree with you about what an offender ought to do: obtain forgiveness and, if unable to get it, fully surrender to the holy name.

Now, do you think it would be worthwhile to examine what we mean by “brutal child abuse”? These days the term “child abuse” seems to cover a broad territory, encompassing everything from punishing a kid with a smack to forcing children into repeated acts of sodomy.

Some distinctions might be worth observing.

Clearly, adults who try to satisfy their lust by sexually using children are at the most abominable depths of degradation and offense.

What about adults who impose heavy discipline?

These days, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that one should never, ever strike a child. Yet that wisdom (if that’s what it is) has prevailed (if in fact it has) only perhaps in the last decade or so.

If one visits historical sites re-creating colonial American villages (as I did when a child), one can still see in the schoolrooms such pedagogical tools of discipline as the cat-o’-nine-tails, a small whip with nine leather cords with knots on the end. If a child got too unruly, we are told, the teacher might well give him the cat.

These days, of course, we can hardly understand how a teacher could have been so cruel. Yet the children of early America survived it. And whether their psyches and their later character turned out worse than those of modern children raised with liberal permissiveness could perhaps, if we stop to think about it, be an open question.

Let’s move on to the 1950’s, when I was a child. My father, I believe (comparing him with the fathers of my cousins and friends), was an exceedingly mild disciplinarian. Exacting punishment was not, I think, a task he looked forward to. Yet every now and then when I’d been terribly bad, creating havoc and defying all my mother’s attempts to deal with me, her final recourse would be to say “Just wait till your father comes home.” And that could mean, finally, that I’d find myself in my room on the bed with my pants down and my father taking off his leather belt and giving my butt a few stinging whacks. (And my family, I should add, was on the somewhat upper side of middle class.)

Was my dad a child abuser? If I’m now a Vaishnava, is he destined to suffer horrible reactions for his “Vaishnava aparadhas”?

Moving from history to scripture, do our scriptures forbid that children be physically punished? Apparently not. If our scriptures have any rules forbidding parents or teachers from getting tough with their kids, I’m not aware of them.

Do I want to bring back the cat-o’-nine-tails? Of course not. But nor am I ready to insist on punishing devotees for acting in the context of the times in which they acted, rather than the norms of twenty or thirty years later.

I don’t want to trivialize what some of our children went through. The trauma of sexual abuse must be unimaginable. And, sexual abuse aside, one could easily sympathize with the plight of a little kid sent out to a boarding school in the middle of Uttar Pradesh (or Texas or West Bengal), with a makeshift curriculum, bad or inept teachers, a mean principal, no parents, and a feeling of being trapped, with no one to turn to.

(I’m told the schools and their staff had their bright side too. But one dares speak of this only at the risk of being labeled an apologist for “child abusers,” “perpetrators,” and “predators.”)

I think it’s useful to make a distinction between people who turned children into objects for their own warped passions and people who tried to serve their spiritual master and the society of devotees by taking on a difficult task they weren’t trained for and who, in the course of their service, made what they themselves later admitted to be serious mistakes.

Let us regret our errors of the past and do our best to correct and make amends for them. And if we truly believe we must avoid Vaishnava aparadhas, let us do our best to keep from adding new ones to those already committed.

Jayadvaita Swami

Dear Chaitanya Mangala,

Thank you for your valuable, carefully considered letter. It seems you and Pandu Dasa have been thinking along the same lines. I suppose, in fact, you must have written your letter before his came online.

I think my reply to his letter also responds to the main points you’ve raised in yours. On the essential teaching you’ve highlighted, we all agree. So I don’t have much more to say.

I would, however, like to add one point. If a true Vaishnava offends another, by the grace of Krishna that offender will soon realize his mistake, sincerely regret it, and beg forgiveness from the Vaishnava he has offended. And the offended Vaishnava, by the grace of Krishna, will sincerely forgive the offender.

Having carried many grudges in my heart at various times in my life, I can testify that carrying such resentments, however justifiable, is burdensome and painful. They anchor us to the pains of the past. And when at last we are able to let go of those resentments and forgive whoever has offended us, the heart feels lightened and cleansed, and now we are able to move forward

The offender purifies his heart by repentance, the offended by forgiveness.

Thank you again. Hare Krishna.

Jayadvaita Swami


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

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