We have heard and read about the violent abuse of our children and subsequent cover-up within ISKCON on the level of individuals and the collective Institution as a whole. In this essay I would like to focus on the collective cover-ups. The Abuse and its Cover Up is only one topic; however the same principle can be applied to a wide arrays of issues, topics and discussions that are currently taking place within the movement.
Bearing in mind the psychological immaturity of ISKCON as a group, we shall be examining aspects of both crimes in ISKCON, the abuse itself and their cover-ups. The two crimes are quite interwoven. Although the COVER-UPS may seem less atrocious than the atrocities, they are the other side of the same coin. How is it that so many individuals could have participated in such monstrous evil, without any of them being conscience-stricken as to be compelled to stop the abuse or come forward, to speak up and deal with the serious situation in a mature and responsible manner?
The cover-up was/is a gigantic lie. As with any lie, the primary motive of the cover-up was/is fear. The individuals who committed the crimes - who had sexually molested and/or violently physically and/or emotionally abused the children - obviously had reason to fear their actions and the repercussions that will be implemented if their abuse of children is ever found out.
What about the large number of "senior" devotees holding responsible positions, like Braja Bihari, Bhurijana, Sesa, Radhanatha Swami, Matsya Avatara, Bhadrinarayana, etc., who knew about the violent abuse yet neither said nor did anything (besides protect the abusers) about such rather demoniac, dark and evil acts? What did they have to fear?
Their public (whitewash) statements are only a form of justification, e.g., "We did not know”; "We did nothing wrong”; "We were only protecting the good name of Srila Prabhupada and this movement”; "We are devotees so we have to forgive them”; "We were under great pressure”; and "We did what we thought is best for us, the elite… oops… we meant… ISKCON”.
Of course this sounds very naïve and innocent, but in reality it is all a meticulously planned façade which hides their true intent.
The real issue was/is twofold; primarily, fear was brought upon them by the systematically applied pressure from their good old jolly ‘abuser friends’ and their supporters as a cohesive group that they themselves were/are an integral part of. Their secondary fear was the fear of loosing their status/position (their piece of the pie) within this elite group, who has hijacked the movement, as explained to us in detail by Govinda prabhu in his letters entitled, "Shadow ISKCON Or True ISKCON? Take Your Pick" and "Form vs. Substance".
Anyone who understands the nature of group pressure will realize that for a member of an Institution such as ISKCON to report a crime would/will require great courage. The conscious and systematic misuse of the philosophy of "don’t rock the boat” and "leave it up to Krsna”, etc. are deeply pervasive.
In a group dynamic, whoever rocks the boat by speaking up against a criminal act by another member will be labeled a "demon”, "offender”, "squealer”, or "rat.” That will surely lead to their excommunication or at the very least, to being ostracized by the particular group. For a regular person this does not seem like a horrible fate. If you get kicked out of one group, you can just join another.
In ISKCON it is complicated by the fact that Srila Prabhupada has given us the ultimate form of Krsna Consciousness and we have dedicated our lives to serving him in his movement. However, through the misuse of philosophy by these power elites, we have been nicely indoctrinated that we must never question or "criticize” ISKCON and its "exalted ones” (and their friends), for if you do so, well, we all know what that means…
Your spiritual life as you know it is finished. They make you believe that you will destroy your devotional creeper, committing Vaisnava aparadha by criticizing this 'shadow' movement and its members, which will definitely lead to your spiritual suicide.
He who is noble and truthful will remain noble and truthful in all times places and circumstances. A ‘fair weather friend’ may not be so truthful and noble when the chips are down. The thoroughly honest and good are they, who in times of pressure and great stress, do not desert their truthfulness, honesty, integrity, maturity and sensitivity.
If individuals are truly ‘good’ then they possess the capacity to uphold the truth and the ability to remain noble. They don’t "regress” under pressure to a state of denial, where they hide from painful thoughts and the negative repercussions from whatever they are facing, and take a subservient role to the group and conform to its expected norms.
A noble and truthful person can tolerate whatever they face no matter how agonizing it may be, and retain their integrity and purity of purpose.
When a person enters into a group they automatically assume a role within that group. All groups have certain ‘pecking orders’. That is, leaders and followers. In some groups the leaders are voted-in, others take the position or they assume the position due to their natural qualities. The rest fall into place behind the appointed leader.
What happens next is rather strange. The followers automatically assume a subservient role and all of a sudden lose their independent intelligence. They adopt a herd mentality as willing participants. This group dynamic is present in all spheres of human and animal life. This herd mentality is especially dangerous when the leaders lead their followers into danger.
The members of the herd sensing danger and confusion begin to regress as they try to come to terms with their plight. Most go into a state of shock, denial, and become silent (the head goes into the sand).
This creates a serious problem, especially in ISKCON, which is supposed to be a Braminical Movement based on Brahminical culture. A Brahman is by definition a spiritual leader (head) of society. In other words, each member of ISKCON is meant to be a spiritual leader/preacher and as a whole, the movement is here to provide spiritual guidance to humanity at large. When individuals cease to think for themselves, due to their leaders disallowing independent thought, they lose their ability to discriminate in the process and become unable to perform brahminically.
The situation of regression into a herd mentality in ISKCON is far worse because the leaders were not elected by the general devotees, nor were they afforded the position due to their qualities (adhikara). They assumed the position by assertion and self-proclamation.
They formed the ISKCON elite, clothed in the sannyasi garb, symbol of authority, and/or in the position of ‘guru’ or GBC, which creates an illusion of control that their followers believe is what qualifies them as advanced souls and leaders. Obedience and blind following is the number one pre-requisite for a disciple. The dependency of the rank and file devotees on his leaders is not simply encouraged - it is demanded and mandated.
This group organism functions as a single unhealthy entity with a Collective Consciousness. In ISKCON’s case, this organism is like a parasite. Rather than serving, it in fact feeds on Srila Prabhupada’s body (original ISKCON). This entity can be said to possess a ‘willful ignorance’ or a determination with an unscrupulous plan to break from their original/true purpose.
The most primal attribute of a group or individual is pride. The pride of the Shadow ISKCON-ites is wonderful to witness. This Shadow ISKCON believes that they are the only true representatives of Srila Prabhupada and they want everyone else to believe this as well. They want us to believe that they have the most intimate understanding of the ‘Absolute Truth’; hence their decisions are irrevocably unquestionable.
If someone within the group develops the strength to question the actions of the elite leadership, the elite initiates a defensive action that is termed ‘enemy creation’ -- hatred of the individuals/groups that are raising the questions and are consequently branded as ‘out group.’ In this way the ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality comes into play.
Cliques begin to form within the group. People take sides. Those who do not belong and/or unquestionably follow the elite group "clique” are despised as being inferior, troublemakers, offenders, demons, etc.
If one is to study the sociological structure of ISKCON one will find that besides the elite group, there are large numbers of unhealthy subgroups/cliques within the institution. These subgroups attempt to copy the elite group with the same delusional and narcissistic superiority complex. (Chowpatty temple, Hungarian farm, etc.)
(Note: the true ISKCON is the actual body of devotees, most of whom are not followers of the elite group [shadow ISKCON] or the subgroups. These devotees may also be branded as fringies, and so on. Even though they no longer participate in the unhealthy shadow ISKCON, they remain loyal and true to Srila Prabhupada and his teachings.)
It is common knowledge that the best way to cement group cohesiveness is to stir the group’s hatred of an external enemy. The external enemies in this case are former gurukula students and other devotees as such, who dare to speak up and ask that the individuals responsible for the abuses and their protectors be dealt with appropriately. The outspoken are labeled as demons, for in the eyes of the power elite, those who question them are attacking Srila Prabhupada directly and want to destroy the movement. Hence, deficiencies and shortcomings within the elite group/clique can be easily and painlessly downplayed, overlooked and neglected by focusing on the ‘sins’ of the out-group.
From this it should be obvious that the parasitic elite group/clique is the one likely to behave most demonically. An exposure of their failure wounds their pride, and it is the wounded animal that is the most dangerous and vicious.
In the healthy organism, failure will be stimulus to critical self-examination. However, as a demoniac individual cannot tolerate self-criticism, it is in time of failure that he or she inevitably lashes out, one way or other. Similarly it is so with unhealthy groups. Failure of the group and the stimulation of group self-criticism poses to damage the group’s pride and threatens its cohesiveness, which is unacceptable for the ISKCON elite group leadership. It undermines their DIVINITY, which is the foundation for their total and unquestionable control.
Group leaders in all places and times have therefore routinely bolstered group cohesiveness in times of their failure by whipping the group’s hatred for the "enemy.” ISKCON is no exception. To this day, former gurukula students and other devotees who bring important and vital issues to the attention of our "leaders” in the attempt to address the problems responsibly are getting labeled as "enemies.” These critical offenders are being unceremoniously ignored, expelled, ostracized and demonized.
The problems and issues however, are still here and will remain here till the ‘elite’ leaders of ISKCON acknowledge the existing problems and muster sufficient courage and integrity to deal with them in an appropriate, mature and responsible manner.
Their attempt to cover-up, suppress and ignore vital issues and their stubborn unwillingness to deal with them by remaining silent or by maintaining utopia of "There are no problems”, or thinking ”We are perfect and so are our decisions”, will only lead to a prolonged painful ordeal for everyone.
The followers, on the other hand, have two choices. One is to be misled by this corrupt leadership and suffer the consequences of their own fearfulness and indifference by sharing (karma) a percentage of institutional transgressions. The other choice is to stand up and assert themselves.
The followers that are not being directly affected by the abuse/maltreatment may believe that these are not their problems, and that they themselves are immune to any negative consequence of their ignorance and/or indifference. Sadly this is not true, as everyone involved will suffer the consequences one way or the other, at least to some extent. The onus is on everyone to act in a truthful and noble manner (brahminically) by speaking up against these corrupt individuals/leaders.
Braja Bihari das, among many, is a perfect example of a malignant, parasitic leader, a constituent of ISKCON's shadow administration who, by his very stealthy activities, threatens the true ISKCON host (Srila Prabhupada's body) - and everyone (leaders and followers) lets him get away with his nefarious schemes.
Despite the documented evidence and exposure of the role he played in abetting and protecting the violent abusers in ISKCON, he is not willing to own up to his role in this unpalatable fiasco. He refuses to be held accountable and like a true coward, chooses to hide behind his powerful elite friends (Gopal Bhatta's) and his false claims of naivety.
He claims that all these years, during all the cover-ups that he was involved with, that he was naive about the true nature of the child abusers, which is why he supported them. However this is not the case. For example, we have Dhanurdhara and Gauri dasa, both of whom were directly involved in the very same school during the time Braja Bihari held a senior position. Braja Bihari had either adjudicated or advised on their original cases and was fully aware of the documented evidence of their violence and abuse. So his claims of naivety are smokescreens to cover his crimes and to bewilder/con the blind followers.
He knows full well his guilt, and so do the other elite megalomaniac members of shadow ISKCON. Yet he hides away from being held accountable.
Of course, he waits hiding behind his parasitic buddies and his silence in hopes that the storm will blow over and everything will be forgotten. But not everyone is a blind follower and so many devotees have diagnosed the type of parasite that he is. Hence he will eventually be held accountable for his sins and will be duly punished, as will be his fellow equivocators and the likes of them. Let us not forget that those who deny and try to forget the past are condemned to repeat it!!!
Personally, I have no axe to grind against Braja Bihari dasa or anyone. However, the sanctity and survival of Srila Prabhupada's true ISKCON movement is at stake. All that glitters is not gold!!! Everything is NOT O.K.!!! There are issues to be addressed on many fronts. We hope and pray that the exposure and the eradication of our individual and collective anarthas will ultimately benefit everyone involved, notwithstanding the concomitant embarrassment and discomfiture.
Om tat sat