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Letter from Sanaka Rsi

Sanaka Rsi in front center. Picture taken by Kurma Rupa Prabhu.

July 21, 2021

Dear Vaishnava community,

Please accept my respectful obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I had hoped to disengage from any involvement with the important, complex and all too often neglected topic of child protection in ISKCON. However, recent events surrounding the case of Lokanath Maharaj compel me to speak.

In truth this case isn’t just about the victim/survivor and Lokanath Maharaj; its repercussions are far more extensive and its importance must not be underestimated.

This case is a window that offers a unique vantage point into the system ISKCON has used to respond to incidents of child abuse. It highlights the back-to-front priorities of the leadership!

Its importance lies in the fact that it demonstrates that in 2021 after:

more than 50 years of exposure to the philosophy of Krsna Consciousness, having had thousands of our own children abused, witnessing the Catholic Church brought to its knees by this very same negligent and cavalier attitude, ISKCON’s 11 million $$$ settlement for the Turley case child abuse class action lawsuit, notwithstanding the several GBC resolutions that emphasize the paramount importance of child protection and state the obvious, that the abuse of Vaishnava children IS Vaishnava aparaad of a very high order and that perpetrators must not be allowed to occupy positions of authority…

When it comes down to it, ISKCON’s leadership is still struggling to apply some very basic Vaishnava principles and simple common sense notions of child protection.

The GBC, the highest managerial authority of Srila Prabhupada’s movement, seems more concerned about the political considerations than they are with the protection of our children.

They look at the short term best interests of Lokanath Maharaj and his many disciples and followers, but they seem to lack the foresight to understand the far reaching long-term costs of keeping a known child abuser in a position of spiritual leadership for everyone involved.

Can ISKCON afford another guru child-abuse scandal?

The truth is that this scandal has been unfolding for 28 years behind closed doors, the only choice now is how ISKCON will handle the aftermath. Pretending it never happened will not make the problem disappear.

Over the years the GBC broke the law by failing to report this and many other incidents of child abuse to secular authorities around the world.

The GBC has set the example that it is acceptable to break the law in cases of child abuse, and that when a Sannyasi abuses a child, it is not a big deal: nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of chanting, some meditation in Vrindavana, a postponement of initiations and then it’s back to business as usual.

At present, many GBCs are still direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and how they choose to handle the case of Lokanath Maharaj will set a precedent that will be followed for generations to come, possibly for as long as Prabhupada’s movement continues to exist.

Having given too much consideration to the political repercussions, the GBC appear confused.

The important questions that need to be considered here are actually quite simple: “which course of action offers the best protection to the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s legacy?” If ISKCON does not have a robust system to protect the children of its members, who will be left to replace the old guard?

The allegations against Lokanath Maharaj came to light in 1993, but unlike other cases of child abuse in ISKCON, the GBC has prevented the CPO from addressing these allegations.

Until this is properly investigated, doubts and confusion will continue to linger…

An investigation is absolutely in the best interest of Lokanath Maharaj and ISKCON at large. If he is guilty, it is important that his transgressions are addressed, if he is innocent, then ISKCON devotees deserve to know!

ISKCON India has been threatening that there will be severe consequences if the GBC allows the CPO to investigate and adjudicate Lokanath Maharaj. In truth we could be on the verge of an historic break of ISKCON.

The participants in the leaked video of the ICC meeting appeared frightened and angry. They seemed to have taken this as a personal attack against ‘their Indian Swami.’ It is very telling that the ICC is not interested in ensuring a fair adjudication of Lokanath Maharaj, they want no trial at all! They seem to be operating from a rajo-guna, fear-based, reactive state of consciousness.

Some of Lokanath Maharaj’s supporters have resorted to sending death threats to the devotees who are requesting a CPO investigation free from GBC interference, when all these devotees are asking is that the GBC apply their own laws and resolutions to the case of Lokanath Maharaj, just like they have done with everyone else.

We are here today because 30 years ago the GBC chose to cover-up and minimize this incident, let’s ensure we do not continue to repeat the same mistake!

I pray that the current leadership will do what is necessary to rectify the widespread mindset that abusing a Vaishnava child is a minor mishap and that protecting the image of the institution is more important than protecting the children of its members.

When ISKCON will start to treat child protection as a matter of paramount priority and importance, its image and reputation will automatically improve.

Many devotees of the first generation have enabled these dangerous misconceptions… and if they don’t fix things before they go, they will leave a poisoned legacy that will be extremely difficult to rectify.

Quite simply, ISKCON cannot afford to set the precedent that someone who abuses a child can maintain a position of leadership.

I have seen many perpetrators who falsely equate forgiveness with a full reinstatement. After apologizing, they demand a full reinstatement. These are two very different things!

Even where the victim has offered full forgiveness to the perpetrator, reinstating such person back into a position of authority is not only reckless and disgraceful, but it also creates an incentive for perpetrators to make fake apologies, when the only real objective is reinstatement!

Status, power, position and worship are not requirements to be a Sadhu or to chant the Holy Name, rather they are often regarded as impediments to the practice of Bhakti.

By some amazing irony of fate, the name of the victim is Satya (Truth). Her truth and the truth about this case has been intentionally buried and retold in lies for 30 years by ISKCON’s leadership.

Yet somehow by Krsna’s sweet Will, He has chosen this case of Satya to expose the pervasive hypocrisy, rot and deceit that has been festering at the very heart of our society.

As I said at the beginning, this is not only the case of Satya dasi vs Lokanath Maharaj. Somehow through this case, Krsna has decided to shine the light on one of the darkest corners of the Hare Krsna Movement, He is offering us an opportunity to rectify and redeem ourselves.

We are here today because 30 years of attempts to bury Satya with lies and deceit have failed, for Truth defends Itself!

Does the leadership of ISKCON want to continue hiding behind lies and deceit or are they ready to take this opportunity to serve and protect Satya and set an example of the standards for child protection that are so desperately needed in ISKCON at large?

If there is to be any hope for ISKCON as a whole and for its individual members, Truth must prevail!

The path of Bhakti purifies our anarthas. ISKCON and Lokanath Maharaj cannot go forward without properly addressing this matter. If done properly this will have far reaching beneficial repercussions for all involved: Satya, Lokanath Maharaj and ISKCON at large!

I am beginning to wonder if we are witnessing the unfolding of a Divine plan much greater than anything we can fathom. The fact that this case has gained so much traction may be an indication of some special mercy. The fact that Krsna has allowed this ugly darkness from the past to come to the forefront, may be a testament of His special mercy. He will not allow us to continue hiding behind a lie!

Something sacred and mystical may be unfolding before our eyes! We are witnessing the triumph of the beneficial influence of Mahaprabhu’s Golden Age, on the deceitful ways of Kaliyuga that contaminate our hearts and consciousness, both individually and collectively! The consciousness that will invite such inconceivable Grace is incompatible with our lies and scheming manipulations. Every corner of our heart must be surrendered and pure!

Lokanath Maharaj is in a difficult place. The price will be high no matter what he chooses to do. He can choose to act with integrity and bravely come forward to clarify the matter, and if necessary, humbly accept the consequences of his actions. Or he can continue to hide in silence behind his vocal supporters and go down in history as the person who was responsible for breaking up the legacy of his Spiritual Master. If he chooses to step down, he will set a glorious example and be a living testament of how a Vaishnava acts when faced with similar predicaments.

Lokanath Maharaj is the one person who holds the power to pacify his followers and prevent more disturbance for ISKCON.

Today ISKCON is at an important crossroad, Lokanath Maharaj and the GBC have some very important decisions to make. Will these decisions be based on fear, attachment, manipulation and deceit or are we going to see decisions based on surrender, trust, purity and courage?

A sannyasi is fearless and pure. Name, fame, disciples and worship are worthless to a sadhu.

What would such a sadhu choose to do in a situation like this?

Satyameva Jayate!

I beg the forgiveness of all the devotees I have offended,

Aspiring to serve the Vaishnavas,

Sanaka Rsi das

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