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Visvambhar’s Letter to the GBC

Visvambhar Sheth said in his letter below, “Placing more restrictions on Maharaj in an attempt to placate the situation is a band-aid solution that will not resolve the deep rooted and festering anger felt by many in my generation.”

Actually, all that is being asked is:

1. Give Lokanath Swami’s case to the ICPO.

2. Restrict Lokanath Swami from any institutional leadership positions in ISKCON.

Doing those two things would bring long overdue accountability to this situation and go a long way towards practically demonstrating ISKCON leadership’s commitment to child protection in Srila Prabhupada’s Society.

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From: Visvambhar Sheth <visvambhar@gmail.com>

Date: July 16, 2021 at 11:52:02 AM EDT

Subject: Second Gen Gurukuli Aspring Disciple of Lokanath Maharaj

Dear Esteemed GBC Members,

I am writing to you as a second generation Gurukuli, living in the USA (Alachua), and as someone that simultaneously has a very close relationship with Lokanath Maharaj. Maharaj has been a friend to my family and also a mentor to my father (Bhadra Das SDG), since the very beginning of my father’s spiritual life (1979). In 1990, Maharaj visited our home in Los Angeles and he inspired me, at the time a 7 year old boy, to chant 2 rounds of Mahamantra daily. I have been chanting his pranam mantra since that time (for the last 31 years). I spent almost 5 years, in my early 20’s (2003-2007), traveling with Maharaj both internationally, and also extensively in India, as his personal servant and mridanga player. I have yet to take formal initiation from him, but this has only been due to my own spiritual shortcomings. I asprire to be formally initiated by him in the near future.

Over the last couple of months, previously unreleased details concerning the case of Maharaj abusing an 11 year old girl have surfaced, after some 30 odd years of being suppressed and minimized. This has disturbed many people. As a second generation Gurukuli, I appreciate my peers for calling out the inefficient way this case has been dealt with from the beginning. That said, I do not agree with their methods of public slander and gossip on social media, even though I understand their mistrust in our society and their desire for justice. My generation, particularly those older than me, lived through many atrocities that no child should ever experience, and this has left many of them ever vigilant to fight against abuse.

Meanwhile, while understanding and appreciating my fellow second generation brothers and sisters, I am standing with Maharaj, my guru, who remains dedicated to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON, upholds an excellent exemplary standard of sadhana and service, and continues to inspire tens of thousands of devotees in their Krsna Consciousness. I understand that he made a major blunder thirty one years ago, and that it will remain as a stain on his reputation. Being exposed to more details of the incident has served to deepen my fear about the potency of Maya, and highlighted that I must be very careful, because even the most sincere practitioner, my guru maharaja could become liable to momentary fall downs. Given mine and my family’s close association with Maharaj, and witnessing his impeccable character over so many decades, I continue to trust him as a bonafide guru and I aspire to become his qualified and initiated disciple.

Of course, I cannot presume to advise senior members of the GBC and would not want to be in your positions, given the tough decisions you have to make. Yet, the sudden response of a third round of the same restrictions that have twice previously been placed on Maharaj will not satisfy the demands of the ‘justice seekers,’ nor will it avoid demoralizing tens of thousands of devotees who have taken shelter of, or are inspired by, Maharaj. While one side will always feel that any punishment is not enough, others don’t even want to hear or believe that anything happened.

I don’t think that the second generation devotees who have exposed this issue are angry at Maharaj particularly. They are angry about decades of cover-up, disengagement, lack of concern for them, and a lack of responsibility on the part of the leadership. Placing more restrictions on Maharaj in an attempt to placate the situation is a band-aid solution that will not resolve the deep rooted and festering anger felt by many in my generation. Please instead consider using this as an opportunity for the leadership to make amends to those who have been hurt, molested, or abused. Their grievances must be heard, sincere apologies must be conveyed, reparations must being made, and a humble offering of continued support should be given.

Placing travel/initiation restrictions on Maharaj is a disservice to ISKCON in North America, specifically to second generation devotees like myself. Even if they are not disciples/aspiring, many of my generation have experienced Maharaj’s kirtans and his saintly personal interactions. I can confidently say, having traveled extensively through North America with Maharaj on every one of his trips to the USA over the last twenty years, that most second generation devotees in ‘good-standing’ from Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, New York, New Jersey, DC, Alachua, etc, would be able to look beyond the issue from 30 years ago and joyfully have Maharaj’s association. I know many second generation peers feel as I do although their voices may be silenced due to fear of being ostracized or ‘taking sides.’

Please know that I personally still aspire to become a qualified ‘official’ disciple of Lokanath Maharaj. The ICPO has already declared that they would ‘remove Maharaj’s status as an initiation spiritual master.’ This would be a great impediment on my spiritual path and the spiritual lives of many second generation peers who are inspired by Maharaj. Please don’t ignore all of us, just because we don’t take to social media to air our grievances.

How can the leaders and the second generation devotees work together to heal the old wounds? How can we move forward with brave conviction and transparency? Can we also forgive the indiscretions of those that are trying their best? I trust that you are taking many view points into account and will approach this specific issue appropriately.

Your Servant,

Visvambhar Sheth

Parents: Bhadra Das (SDG) & Ananga Manjari (ACBSP)

Service: The Mayapuris and other Kirtan projects

Current Residence: Alachua Florida USA

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