Abhay Charan and Lokanath Swami Emails
Abhay Charan Das’ Facebook post from June 8, 2021.
Further background to this matter that might help devotees trying to understand the circumstances of the incident. I have inserted correspondence between Lokanath Swami and myself from 2017, which may help to illustrate Lokanath Swami’s understanding of the abuse incident. I had emailed Lokanath Swami because of the concerns that I had and the deafening silence I had received from senior Vaisnavas to my questions. I had no intention of ever disclosing these emails, but because of the recent misinformation being presented by the India yatra over Lokanath Swami’s culpability and their minimising of the abuse, in their attempts to defend Lokanath Swami, these emails may help to clarify matters. Personally my disappointment is reserved for the actions of the GBC at the time following the incident, in their protecting of the perpetrator; and their failure to respond to the needs of the young victim and her family. I ultimately after some years of patiently waiting for a resolution, I abandoned Lokanath Swami as my diksha guru; which was one of the most difficult decisions I made in my spiritual life. I sincerely wish him well in his spiritual life, in whatever capacity that may take.
Email sent 6 June 2017, 4.37pm (NZ time zone)
Please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am writing to reveal my mind to you so that you might understand why I have been distant to you in our Guru-disciple relationship.
Following receiving diksha from you in April 1996, my faith in you was undermined by two separate circumstances.
Firstly, you may recall that I met with you in Centennial House in New Delhi in January 1995. At that time you didn’t offer me diksha and only after I had written a letter to you did you say that you would indeed accept me as your disciple, but not until 1996. You told me that you were delaying all diksha ceremonies because you wanted to make this as an offering to Srila Prabhupada on his 100th anniversary. Later I was to learn that you were in point of fact suspended by the GBC from accepting disciples until 1996. You may well have intended to delay giving diksha to aspiring disciples until 1996, but I would have appreciated being told the other confidential reason. I specifically chose you as my Guru because I had witnessed the various Guru fall-downs in the 1980s when I joined ISKCON. I was seeking a Guru who was pure of heart and who was beyond the demands of the body. While it later became clear that many devotees knew of your sexual abuse of the young Indian girl in America, no one thought to tell me of this. I became your disciple in 1996 completely unaware of your earlier fall-down.
The second circumstance relates to my becoming aware of your sexual abuse incident. I had communicated to you in private to ask if there was any truth to the rumours that I was hearing concerning your behaviour. You chose not to reply to me. Instead you arranged for HH Ramai Swami and HH Devamrita Swami to visit me in Hamilton to reassure me of your standing as an ISKCON Guru. They made only very vague reference to the actual incident and downplayed the extent of your involvement. I was disappointed that you were not able to personally give me your reassurance and explanation in confidence.
Gurudev, it is for these two circumstances that my faith in you has been spoiled. I know that anyone can accidentally perform abominable actions; but my understanding is that this particular sexual abuse incident occurred over a number of successive days and was not accidental. I wish I could put this behind me and move on trusting in your rectification. But because you have never given me any personal response or reassurance, my faith in you has been undermined.
You may also be aware that I have never missed making a vyasa-puja offering to you over all the years I have been serving you. Even now, each morning I still offer my pranam prayers to you prior to japa. I have done this out of gratitude in your accepting me as your disciple and connecting me to our parampara. This year my offering was rejected by you and I was told by my God sister Vrndavanalila that you wished me to rewrite it. I wrote this vyasa-puja offering in sincerity as your disciple. It is your prerogative to accept or reject it; but can I humbly suggest that it is inappropriate to dictate what a disciple should write for the Guru’s satisfaction. If you were offended by anything in my offering, please point this out to me for my benefit. If I am at fault I will accept your admonishment. After we had first met, one of the first things you said to me was, “Name, fame and glory, same old story”. You stressed to me how important humility was for our spiritual growth. I often think of the example of Pariksit Maharaj who accepted not only the criticism of the Brahmin’s young son; but also the undeserved curse. I have in this communication revealed my heart to you and I have also honestly explained why I was disappointed in you. You can now simply reject your New Zealand disciple out of hand; or you can show by your personal mercy to help me to continue serving you as my Gurudev.
When you accepted me as your disciple, you asked me to make an additional vow, to never leave ISKCON. I have kept this vow; and will continue to do so but taking care in my own small way to help rectify any discrepancies in our ISKCON; and to support and encourage any necessary reforms to ensure that Srila Prabhupada’s movement is safeguarded.
Abhay Charan Das
ISKCON New Plymouth
From: Lokanath Swami <email@example.com>
Date: 16 June 2017 at 6:37:46 PM NZST
To: Alan Hodgson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: In confidence
Dear Abhay Charan Dasa,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupad.
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 11 June 2017 and have carefully taken note of the contents.
I appreciate your letter written to me in confidence.
It was the decision of the North American GBC subcommittee to keep it fully confidential. All those who knew were asked to keep this confidential. I was also asked not to share it with anybody. This was during the 1995/1996 period. Also during that time I was asked to temporarily with hold initiations. I was then asked to resume initiations, but still not share the matter. And in essence that is what had happened at that time. It was very much later on that the GBC’s asked me to communicate the matter to the prospective disciples, which I had religiously been doing. Once bitten, twice shy. You are governed by a minor mishap that occurred almost three decades ago.
This Vyasa Puja celebrations of ISKCON gurus had become a big issue. Especially after the zonal acarya syndrome that was witnessed within ISKCON during the late ’90’s. As result the whole Vyasa Puja of gurus was revisited by the GBC. Gurus were holding Vyasa Puja celebrations on different continents and countries with pomp and show. The Vyasa Puja book was printed and published in large quantities. The GBC renewed the restrictions and guidelines and many restrictions were imposed. We are governed by that.
My Vyasa Puja always takes place in Pandharpur. The Lord gave me birth on the date when celebrations are held in Pandharpur in honour of the commencement of Caturmasya. This is when 1,5 million devotees gather there. ISKCON also participates in that festival and the Vyasa Puja becomes a part of that festivity. It is a Vyasa Puja cum Sayana Ekadasi festival. So all the arrangements are not just for Vyasa Puja.
I remember saying to you – name, fame, glory – same old story. I understand and appreciate your concern. There is no labha, puja and pratishtha., profit, adoration and distinction. You have nothing to worry about. I am practicing tṛṇād api sunīcena – humility is at my command. I have been practising this humility with the blessings of Srila Prabhupad. No-one around me seems to be concerned, but in principle, I could do better. Thank you for reminding me, but I again assure you that you have nothing to worry about in these matters. I value that you have shared this with me in confidence.
Last year you were circulating something on Facebook and that was not appreciated. Our Vyasa Puja publishing team noticed that the theme of your current offering carried the same mood as your posting on Facebook then. They shared your offering with me. So I have already read your offering.I was not happy with the mood or the expression in your offering. Vaisnava etiquette in general is that if there is any glorification, appreciation, it is done publicly. But if the devotee needs to be corrected, admonished, reprimanded then it should be done privately, confidentially. This is not for the public domain and it is not just for guru- disciple related matters. The glorification of any and every devotee should be broadcasted as widely as possible. The Vyasa Puja publishing team applied this criteria to your offering. It did not meet these criteria, especially on the occasion of a spiritual masters’ Vyasa Puja. This cannot be published in the book nor posted on the website. So far it is rightfully between you and me.I appreciate your offering. It is honest, sincere and frank.
For the first time I understand – guhyatamam pravaksyamy – you are confidentially sharing your history, your thoughts, your feelings. Now I know why you were disturbed. That’s good. I am sorry to hear that your faith had been shaken by not sharing with you the details prior to initiation. I am also happy to realise that your faith was shaken, but not broken. You maintained your faith and I wish and pray that it becomes stronger, fully revived.
In future if you have any doubts or questions which you would prefer to share in confidence, feel free to write to me on this email address.
I hope this finds you in good health and in high Krishna conscious spirits.
Your well wisher,
The following vyasa puja offering was sent by email to Vrndavanalila dasi on 16 May 2017 at 1.57pm (NZ time zone)
Dear Guru Maharaja,
nama om vishnu-padaya krishna-presthaya bhutale
srimate lokanath-swamin iti namine
Please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga; all glories to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
I pray that your ability to preach is ever empowered by our disciplic succession; and that your personal qualities and exemplary behaviour as a sadhu are preserved. You are fortunate to have the values and culture of your Maharashtra village upbringing, and accordingly we look to you to ensure that our GBC members and other ISKCON leaders live saintly and simple lives; free from extravagance and personal ambition – intent only on serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Genuine humble sadhus will always attract sincere devotees; helping them to see that your example should be exemplified in their own lives. The weight of our ISKCON’s reputation and integrity sits on your shoulders, by virtue of your position as a senior ISKCON leader. On this the anniversary of your appearance, I am praying that you will always act in ways that bring full credit to our founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada – and to all the previous acaryas in our parampara. And by so doing, you will be instrumental in protecting the future of our Gaudiya Vaisnava movement. Now more than ever we need senior leaders who can expertly manage the stewardship of our international society; to ensure it grows and meets the expectations of an increasingly critical and discriminating population; and to positively influence a regressively negative and atheistic world.
Abhay Charan dasa
ISKCON New Plymouth, New Zealand
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