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Saturday, October 09, 2010

"Origins of the Gurukula Catastrophe" from THE GURU-FAKING BUSINESS

Let me start with an especially striking example, a letter that speaks volumes about the attitudes that led to the horrific abuse at the ISKCON (“gurukula”) schools and eventually to the lawsuit filed in 2000 by former students in the U.S. In a letter dated Friday, December 27, 1968, Srila Prabhupada tells a young American disciple of his named Satyabhama that

"If you take charge of the children of our devotees and give them nice education strictly on Krishna Consciousness principles, it will be a great help to the preachers, just like our six students, husbands and wives, who are preaching in London. One of them has got a child and as soon as she is at least two years old, she may be sent under your care. New Vrindaban is just the suitable place for keeping cows and children. It will be an ideal residential quarter, completely for spiritual life and I hope for the future the Americans must evaluate this enterprise as very very valuable."

The very idea of separating toddlers from their parents in order to facilitate a swami’s book distribution goals is unimaginably cruel, but for this guru, love between parents and children were what he called “ropes of affection” that needed to be undone for the sake of spiritual advancement. The arranged marriages that produced these children were intended as vehicles for opening more temples and duping the inquisitive into thinking that the husband and wife team who ran many of them were ordinary married couples. The misery that resulted from these inane and cruel practices destroyed many lives and took many lives of the children who were abandoned by their parents to a life that denied them their childhoods entirely—toys were out of the question—and subjected them to beatings, sexual abuse of all kinds, and, in general, a nightmare existence of forced austerity that included waking up at 4 a.m. and spending hours chanting and worshipping a variety of deities made of wood, brass, and stone. In addition, as those familiar with the reign of terror at the New Vrindavan "school" in West Virginia can tell you, the idea that "cows and children" were referred to together by the founding guru of the Hare Krishna movement speaks volumes about how his policies directly contributed to the mayhem that followed. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the cows were treated better since (I would hope) nobody raped and/or sodomized them.

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