May 21, 2017 UK (SUN)
Maharaj, I think we have finally found some common ground. You wrote:
"But there can be no discussion when someone is so convinced that he is right that he won't give an inch and resorts to ad hominem attacks. However noble the cause, zeal in pursuing it must be tempered with openness and humility – a willingness to admit that there might be another side of the story, and possibly to adjust one's stance – otherwise it can become an inquisition."
I noticed that in the same paragraph where you accuse me of making ad hominem attacks, you very kindly took the trouble to highlight some of my shortcomings… I was wondering whether this would constitute an ad hominem attack? Do we have a case of the kettle calling the pot black??? I'm not sure, I'll let you decide.
At any rate, you are quite correct, my lack of humility has been a problem for many, many lives. I pray that before this one is over I will have made some progress in this regard.
The more people I meet, the more I become convinced that humility is a quality at risk of extinction. Thank you for taking the trouble to mention it.
The plain truth is that I am flawed in more ways than you point out. Growing up in gurukulas I didn't have role models of open mindedness and humility, and for now I'll blame it on that.
After all, if you find it acceptable that Bhaktividyapurna Maharaj blames his inadequacies on his victims, then surely you won't see any problem with me blaming my karma and conditioning on someone else, wouldn't you agree?
This approach may not be very helpful for my long term spiritual progress, but on the upside, for now it feels quite reassuring to my ego.
And… I also wish I could say that the cause you are championing is noble. For some unfortunate reason, you seem to have embarked on a mission to protect the inquisitors...
I am struggling to understand whether you have a comprehensive and insightful understanding of this complex issue that you wish to share, or whether you embarked on this discussion just to try and exonerate your friend Bhaktividyapurna maharaj from his wrongdoings…
In my last article I presented a quote where Prabhupada quite clearly explains that a person that resorts to beating children is unfit as a teacher. Srila Prabhupada never sanctioned the sort of brutal beatings Bhaktividyapurna inflicted on his students. The fact that in your estimation, someone with his history is not only qualified to teach, but also is some sort of role model in education, brings into question your authority to speak on this subject matter and your sense of discernment.
"So if there is beating of child, that will be difficult for him to accept in loving spirit, and when he is old enough he may want to go away--that is the danger. So why these things are going on _ marching and chanting japa, insufficient milk, too strict enforcement of time schedules, hitting the small children? Why these things are being imposed? Why they are inventing these such new things like marching and japa like army? What can I do from such a distant place?"
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Bhanutanya – Hyderabad, 18 November, 1972
Srila Prabhupada's words are prophetic: we have seen too many second generation Vaisnavas walk away precisely due to the reasons he warned about. He instructions on how he wants children to be treated reveals his disappointment, and the difficulties he experienced in getting the teachers to follow his instructions.
I understand the larger context of this discussion to be the use of corporal punishment in education, within the Hare Krsna society, hopefully taking into account its history and culture.
You seem to believe that it is advisable to make an allowance for corporal punishment in ISKCON, disregarding the dozens of instances where Srila Prabhupada gave clear and direct instructions against its use and years of documented abuse of corporal punishment.
As I have already mentioned, your endorsement of corporal punishment has been far greater than Srila Prabhupada's, and your objection to its use much weaker. I would not be surprised if in the future, some of your disciples will use this exchange to claim that you actually championed its use. This risk is that much greater, if we consider that you are yet to clarify when and how exactly you see it fit to use corporal punishment.
In one of your earlier articles you wrote: "I generally do not recommend it, although in some form it might sometimes be employed". This is WAY too vague! You have just left the door wide open for your followers to use corporal punishment whenever they deem it appropriate.
In your last article you claim that you are not championing to institute corporal punishment. Though it sure seems like that's precisely what you have been doing all along. At present, the use of corporal punishment in any form is banned in ISKCON. At least officially. If the official policy was changed to accommodate for your views, as I currently understand them, that would necessarily result in an allowance to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary option.
This is one of those instances where there is no middle ground. Being in favour of "some" corporal punishment in a society that forbids it, means that you are championing its use. You can't be vegetarian "sometimes".
If you are going to sanction the use of corporal punishment, you then have the responsibility to give a microscopically detailed description of when and how you believe it can and cannot be used. Otherwise it will be abused.
The reason I shared the account of my experience with ear twisting was to make the point that if you say that something, even as harmless sounding as ear twisting, is a sanctioned and acceptable form of corporal punishment, you must take into account that if you twist that ear hard enough it will rip off.
You must also assume that even if you give VERY specific details on how to apply it, someone will likely abuse it. The same goes for any form of corporal punishment.
We also have a similar problem with your statements regarding Indradyumna Maharaj and Bhaktividyapurna Maharaj's interactions with women and children.
Your tolerant endorsement of Indradyumna Maharaj's interactions with women and your silence about Bhaktividyapurna Maharaj are inconsistent with your later statement, "I certainly agree that everyone, especially sannyasis, should be extremely careful in dealing with women and children". The rules of sannyasa ashram are clear to everyone, except perhaps to certain swamis it would seem. If you endorse their interactions with women and young girls, you are necessarily championing for a change in the standards of the sannyasa ashram.
Given the importance of these topics (corporal punishment and sannyasa standards), I repeat my request:
Once and for all, would you kindly make a clear statement about your position on these issues? Ideally one that leaves no room for personal interpretation and political ambiguity!
We have one conversation where Srila Prabhupada agreed to use corporal punishment, against an overwhelming amount of instances where he spoke strongly against it, and you also seem to agree that the outcome of that one conversation has been abused.
Srila Prabhupada is an intelligent and practical person who on occasion, adapted his instructions as new information became available. Had he been made aware of the savage and sadistic abuse that has been inflicted on his cherished Vaishnava children, following from that one conversation, he may well have retracted it altogether. Obviously there is no way to know for certain, but taking into account his overall stance, it is reasonable to assume that he might have… but some will naturally perceive this suggestion as blasphemous.
Maharaj, your presentation has been disingenuous and manipulative. I did not say that you quoted out of context because the quotes you provided were not relevant to the conversation, as you suggested. But rather because you have provided an edited version of the conversation, that created a slanted perspective.
You say that Srila Prabhupada "advised" beating a boy, which is misleading. That's clearly not Srila Prabhupada's focus/emphasis in that conversation, UNLESS you take those sentences out of their context… which is precisely what you have done.
You seem to believe that somehow the Hindi portion of that conversation is unrelated to the rest. Essentially you are trying to take it out of its context, as if the fact that Prabhupada spoke that part in Hindi makes it a new conversation that took place in a different time, space and context, which is nonsense.
But what is perhaps your biggest blunder, is that you failed to inform the readers that the transcript of the conversation you provided in your article was an edited collage of different bits of the same conversation that you had selectively pieced together so as to create a version that incidentally happens to be more supportive of your agenda than the actual exchange that took place.
You presented a tampered quote that is more supportive of your agenda, but that does not adequately describe the exchange that took place.
This is the edited version you quoted:
Jagadisa: In my opinion, the best thing is to make an example and beat him. (1st time Jagadish suggests beating)
Prabhupada: Yes, send him to farm, work in the field. If he does not work, beat him. Murkhasya lathyausadhih. ["The medicine for a fool is a stick."] (1st time Srila Prabhupada suggests an alternative solution and beating)
Prabhupada: Ha! Hyderabad bhejo, usko kaam karao. Usko matti khodne ka kaam do; nahi kare to usko pito, aise kiya jaaye. /Yes. Send him to (the ISKCON farm at) Hyderabad, make him work. Give him digging work. If he refuses, thrash him, that is the way to do it.] ["pito" means "severely beat"] (2nd time Srila Prabhupada suggests an alternative solution and beating)
Jagadisa: The thing is, if we beat him here and keep him here, then all the boys will straighten up because they will see that if they go bad, then this will be their punishment. (2nd time Jagadish suggests beating)
Prabhupada: As you think, you can do. But I wanted to engage in farm work, in digging. (3rd time Srila Prabhupada consents to beating and offers his alternate suggestion)
The complete and unedited version of this conversation along with the entire audio can be consulted here on Vanipedia. In your edited version, you only included 2 out of the 3 times when Jagadish requested Prabhupada to consent to beating the boy.
Your skewed version of the conversation conveys the notion that Srila Prabhupada was more inclined to use corporal punishment than Jagadish, which is definitely not the case. In doing so you diminished the role that Jagadish played in directing the course of the conversation, thus increasing Srila Prabhupada's (you only quoted 2 instances where Jagadish pushed to beat the boy, whereas you quoted Srila Prabhupada consenting 3 times).
And while you mentioned every instance where Srila Prabhupada agreed to the use of corporal punishment (3 times), you only included 3 instances (out of 13) where he offered an alternative solution. These 3 instances you included are not even proportionally representative of his far greater disposition towards alternative solutions!
By only quoting 3 out of the 13 instances where Srila Prabhupada offered alternatives you have fabricated a distorted account of the events that indicates that Srila Prabhupada was as equally disposed towards the use of corporal punishment as he was towards alternatives. (You quoted 3 instances where he consented to the use of corporal punishment and 3 instances where he offered alternatives)
These are the reasons why I believe that you quoted your spiritual master out of context. You have done something similar with Bg 9.30 and with the way you quoted the ear twisting incident from the video in your class. You quote what suits your narrative and conveniently cut out the rest.
At this point I feel the need to mention that you shouldn't let my lack of humility be a hindrance to your own exercise of openness and humility.
In fact, I was hoping that as the senior devotee here, you could/would, offer a practical example on how to practice these noble precepts.
It would be incredibly helpful if you will have the courage, purity and forthrightness to offer an example of open minded humility by publicly acknowledging the gravity of this misrepresentation of your spiritual master. I assure you that this would be far more valuable than more word-jugglery, misquotes and half-truths to defend the beating of Vaisnava children.
In closing, I wanted to mention that IF one or more of your disciples have been compiling these articles for you, I suggest that you either fire or replace them. The clarity in presentation and the substance of your arguments have been consistently poor; they really don't present you in a good light. I imagine that as a Vedic swami you may not be very concerned with modern karmi perspectives. But, given that you are signing these articles, I thought I would mention that in the academic world, that would be considered plagiarism, which would be widely regarded as unethical and dishonest.
P.S. Regarding the point raised by Krsna dasi about the responsibility of parents, in principle I fully agree with it. Ultimately nobody is more responsible for children than their parents and they need to be encouraged to take more responsibility for their children. I do feel, however, that she presents an overly simplistic approach to the situation.
Many parents are young and inexperienced about life, and the history of ISKCON education, and rightly or wrongly, they look to spiritual authorities such as Bhakti Vikasa Swami to set the standards and for guidance on parenting and education. If these authorities endorse the use of corporal punishment or other misconceptions, parents will be less likely to object when their kids get beaten up.
And as perplexing as this may sound, historically many ISKCON parents have proven that they couldn't be trusted with the education and protection of their children. This is where the element of social responsibility comes into the picture.
This is not to exonerate or disempower parents, but rather to try and create a social infrastructure that may offer assistance and support to parents.
Another point to consider is that nowadays, the greatest challenges faced by ISKCON child protection are mainly in third world countries, where the police tends to be unreliable and easily corrupted, and where the American model suggested by Krsna dasi is not very relevant, and would be difficult to implement for many cultural and practical reasons.