ISKCON Family, Nimai
July 27, 2021
There is a current discussion going on within ISKCON that I can no longer ignore in regards to Lokanatha Swami.
It’s actually a moral conversation that is much bigger than him or his disciples or even the survivor.
Who am I and why do I care? I was born into ISKCON. Both of my parents were Srila Prabhupada disciples, we had no family home. My parents had given everything up when they joined so the different temples and the gurukulas were my home for the first 12 years of my life.
And even though I was horribly abused in my childhood by members of the Society, I find that in my darkest hours of which there have been many, The Bhagavad Gita still makes sense and the teachings of Srila Prabhupada still hold true.
I was married in an ISKCON temple, did baby grain giving for both my kids in a temple and performed the last rites for both of my parents with the assistance and love of my ISKCON Family.
But this is not about me, this is about the legacy of ISKCON, a movement that Prabhupada gifted us. In the near future all of the Prabhupada disciples will be gone. Mahatma Prabhu once told me “you will not be able to effect any change in ISKCON until all the Prabhupada disciples are dead,” which may be true but it’s hard to stay silent on this issue. And that day is coming fast if we are honest.
In San Diego in the mid 1990’s a senior member of the Iskcon community and a Prabhupada disciple admitted to his wife he was molesting his daughter, there was resistance at first because he was a great kirtan leader and gave a nice Sunday lecture. But the community eventually turned on him and he was reported to the police, arrested, and spent 5 years or so in prison, then probation, and as far as I understand he is not allowed at the ISKCON temple to this day almost 30 years later.
I recently met a young couple at a kirtan at Krsna Lounge in San Diego. They stated they were inspired by his preaching to follow Krsna consciousness. I pray that if they find out his past they don’t become discouraged on their spiritual journey.
(I don’t mention his name out of respect for his daughters ONLY.
He at one point justified his behavior by saying he only used his fingers he didn’t penetrate with his ….. So it was not that bad.) As you can imagine his actions destroyed his family and left doubt and confusion in the community.
Lokanath Swami as Visvambhara das stated in his letter was one of those kirtan leaders that I and many others always looked forward to being in his Kirtan and hear his lectures. In fact last LA Rathayatra in 2019 I was with Vishvambara Das playing mrdanga while Lokanath Maharaj was leading. I actually knew of this incident for years but was told it was minor and had been dealt with. Only recently more details have come to my knowledge.
I would not want to be a GBC member that had to deal with this issue but it can not be ignored. It wasn’t dealt with properly in the past. If it were, it would not be resurfacing again pitting fellow gurukuli alumni and Devotees against each other.
Haribhakti Das made an honest personal plea to Maharaja. I don’t know that his request or the request that Vishvambra Das made are the right decision for The GBC but I would err on the side of the victim/survivor.
I don’t know Lokanatha Maharaja closely and don’t presume to tell the GBC what to do. I’m sure they wouldn’t listen to me if I did and I see Haribhakti is now being threatened by disciples of Lokanatha Swami for his video statement and I recently read a very threatening letter to Saraswati dasi who has been shining the torchlight of knowledge on this issue relentlessly.
I also understand the disciples of Lokanath. We were taught in gurukula to defend the Guru at all costs and they are doing as they were taught. I am sure many have gained valuable guidance and inspiration from him. I know Vishvambhar and understand his love for Lokanatha Swami. As I get older I see life is not so black and white, but lots of grey.
To defend the Guru is also why I’m writing this letter, to defend Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON at all costs.
ISKCON is bigger than any one of us, any Guru or GBC member. When Srila Prabhupada was here he made it clear there were 4 regulations and 16 rounds to be followed, NOT 3 regs and 12 rounds, or 5 regs and 21 rounds.
I ask the GBC to get clear on Child Protection. The duty of the leaders/ Kshatriyas is to protect the innocent from harm.
If a local GBC member bans one member for 30 years, but gives 2 year probation to a fellow Guru allowing him to keep all his money and followers, this is not justice.
I am not saying the two incidents are exactly the same but there are similarities.
It’s easy to make simple rules: don’t say Radha’s name more than 3 times in a row or no djembe in Kirtan.
Protecting the women and children should be the first priority of the leaders/GBC.
Currently there are the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements worldwide. Both are asking for the same thing in many ways: Stop allowing the rich and powerful to get away with things that the average man, woman, or black man can’t get away with.
If ISKCON and the GBC don’t get clear and make tough decisions this will haunt Prabhupada’s movement and may even destroy it. Look at what is happening in the 3HO Kundalini Sikh community which was started at the same time as ISKCON. The book about Yogi Bhajan written by his secretary in 2019 is destroying that community which was very powerful with millions of dollars and many many followers.
Many of the followers, some of the most dedicated and sincere, are leaving totally disenchanted.
We do not want this to happen within ISKCON, again, that’s why I say this is much bigger than Lokanatha Swami, his disciples, and his victim. This is about the the family of ISKCON around the world that are conscious of Krsna/God and are we willing to draw the Line in the Sand?
Is the GBC going to make bold declarations that no matter who you are within the hierarchy of ISKCON be that a bhakta or a GURU/GBC there are some things that are Absolutely Unacceptable and Unsupported!!!
I have been a member of this institution for 45 years and I’m no saint. I have made many mistakes but I haven’t molested kids.
I shouldn’t have to say this but I was scared when I found out my wife was pregnant with our daughter. I heard how victims repeat their experiences and become abusers and was told MAYA is strong. Thank god I was able to break that chain and never hit or abuse my kids.
I watched the failings in New Vrindavan, and have watched many one-time exalted gurus fall by the wayside over the years. There has been so much pain in this movement. I have seen so many good people, members of ISKCON become inimical towards ISKCON and leave because of double standards and dishonest gurus and leaders.
I keep hoping we the ISKCON family, good bad and ugly can work together and right this ship, stop sweeping the dirt under the rug and deal with it. I found that when I’m honest about my failings and mistakes the ISKCON family is very kind and understanding.
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