Seeking The Essence

Clearing Life's Webs and Weeds….

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.”

A Play-full Plea: 

Scene one: A temple president approaches a group of teenage gurukulis (three girls and one boy, approximately 16 years of age). The temple president asks the boy, “What are you sniffing?” The boy replies, “What do you mean?”  Temple president, “You know exactly what I mean.  Whenever a group of bitches are around there’s always a male dog sniffing where he’s not supposed to.”

Scene two: Two gurukulis (one male & one female, both aged 22 in a serious, committed relationship) visit a rapidly growing devotee community.  Their visit is the last stop on a trip across America in which they have been formally introducing each other to their family and friends.  This was to be the most “spiritual” stop on their journey.  Upon arrival though, a concerned “uncle” and current board member approached them.  He forewarned them that their current unwed status was under scrutiny by the board and unacceptable in the community.  He further advised them that if they stayed they would be run off the farm to prove a point to the rest of the community.  From this advice they decided it was best to leave only a few hours after their arrival.

While this may be shocking to some, for those who attended gurukula these scenes are very familiar.  For years we have been put through such treatment.  With recent positive changes in the Krishna consciousness movement many would hope that these scenarios are nothing more than memories of the now infamous “dark age” that ISKCON passed through in the 1980’s.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  Both incidents occurred last month [Spring of 1993] at the [location removed]. Scene one involved current students of [school name removed] and scene two involved [names removed].  These are not isolated cases either.  There are many other such examples of prejudice and mistreatment but the point of this article is not to check them off like a laundry list, rather to address the overall issue.

 A common response by devotees who are a part of the “greater” community is that the people who act in such a way do not necessarily represent the sentiment of the community as a whole.  While this point is understood, in reality those few people do represent the community because they are appointed leaders.  The rest of the devotees condone their actions through their silence.  Those who oppose such treatment should speak out and support us in this regard.

There are still expectations that those who attend, or have attended, gurukula will become super-human, Prahlada-like devotees.  It certainly must have been a disappointment to see the first group of gurukula children to grow into “normal” people, struggling with life just like everyone else.  We will not apologize for who we are, but give us a chance; we’re not done yet!

Flash back: Twenty-five years ago a similar group of young men and women with long hair, short dresses and the like, approached a temple and an elderly Swami saw within them a small spark of faith and hope.  He took them in and fanned those sparks into a great spiritual revolution.

Had that same Swami judged those young people by external appearances alone and disgustedly thrown them out, the Hare Krishna Movement as we know it would never have come to be. 

Many of the gurkulis would rather be treated like “karmis” when we visit temples than be looked upon as failures and bad examples.  At least then we would be treated with some respect.  Suppose the people from scene two had been non-devotees.  Would they have been treated similarly?  We are no longer helpless children who can be sent away when our questioning and growth goes beyond the comprehension of our superiors.  Maybe in this case the student has outgrown the teacher.

Scene three: The bubble bursts….

On the positive side: It is often nothing more than a lack of communication that causes such prejudice and ostracism. So, let’s have open and honest discussions! Already concerned elder devotees are meeting with gurukula alumni to better understand and appreciate each other.

Final scene: The gurukulis stand up for – and are proud of – who they are. They unify and find power in solidarity. The older devotees lay aside their unrealistic expectations of the gurukula alumni and accept them for who they are.

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

1 Comment »

  1. That’s an inspiring piece, I sincerely applaud you for expressing our view on things. I’ve seen this happen a few times. the expectation of perfection by the adults in our community puts a lot of pressure on the youth/gurukulis and sometimes creates animosity. An encore for the “Final scene.”
    Ys,
    Vishaka

    Comment by Vishaka | October 1, 2007 | Reply


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