Monday, December 26, 2016

Indradyumna swami's "Child Hugging" Issue (Sanaka Rsi)

Indradyumna Maharaja's "over affection" for children, especially girls, seems to have been causing some friction and debates over the years, but it seems self-evident that the GBC will not correct or reign this deviation in. The problem of the GBC's "gurus" over affection for females of different age groups has been ongoing, for example Ramesvara was seen "dating" a young female student and the GBC did not seem to be able to correct that issue properly. 

Vipramukhya used to have his female disciple "Prema-lata" massage his feet, and the GBC did not react properly. Jayatirtha was having an affair and he was "suspended and then reinstated" as the acharya of the Jagat, and so on and so forth.

So it seems there is a lot of loose definition of "acharya" going on here. Of course Kirtanananda was covered with the hands of many little boys when he was seated on his "Vyasa" seat, and we saw some photos of many "big leaders" who were there all chanting "Jaya Bhaktipada" and they were encouraging this process. Bhavananda has always had an entourage of young men following him everywhere, and so on. And Indradyumna has been a big supporter of the Bhavananda GBC guru empire and so forth.

So it seems like the GBC gives out "acharya" titles to people who are not fit for that title, and then they "overlook" all the deviations, problems, defects and difficulties their false acharyas are generating -- to keep up their "the emperor has no clothes" false acharya's project. The good news is, more people are starting to realize how defective their whole program is, and the critics are finally speaking out to protest these bogus acharya scams. 

Did we forget to mention that Indradyumna has been a leader of the "Radha Kunda Babaji consultation" deviation? So Indradyumna's followers are fanatically defending his actions, and this is being seen as the bogus personality cult process that it is. Its a good starting point. ys pd 

What is the Issue with Indradyumna Swami’s “Grandfatherly” Hugging of Children?

Recently Ramaragava prabhu released a thoughtful, 15 minute video interview with Leela Smarana prabhu, one of the earliest gurukula alumni. I posted this video on my Facebook wall and, as is often the case with gurukula related topics, a heated debate ensued. The focus of the debate was the nature of Indradyumna Maharaj's interactions with children. Many interesting points were raised and this inspired me to write something about the exchange.

What emerged is that many grown up gurukula alumni (mostly girls) feel that the exchanges they had with Maharaj when they were children were not only acceptable, but that they actually cherish them and have a special attachment to Indradyumna Maharaj. Their experience is something important and it needs to be taken into account when considering Maharaj's actions.

Unfortunately, due, precisely to this strong attachment that many of Maharaj's followers have for him, the debate became heated, and many of his supporters are outraged that anyone would even suggest that there is anything remotely inappropriate with Maharaj's interactions with children.

In response, a gurukula alumni lady wrote a post on her wall saying that "she will want to pummel to death anyone who says anything offensive towards Indradyumna Maharaj". What was surprising is that her post got 88 likes! And on the comment thread there were two other devotees that expressed similar unsavoury sentiments… Only one person pointed out that making death threats is not appropriate or acceptable.

Many of Maharaj's followers are upset, but none of them seems willing to entertain the notion that Maharaj is in good part responsible for the criticisms he is now facing. Had he behaved in a fashion that is respectful of social norms and his ashram, like many of his Godbrothers, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

What troubles me most is not the threats, because I do not regard them as serious. I see them as an expression of anger. I think that those words were probably spoken in jest and as much as I don't believe there is ever anything funny about death threats, I am far more concerned by the cult mentality that they represent… It suggests that the Hare Krsna community hasn't matured that much in 50 years. Death threats are something out of ISKCON's dark ages in the 1980s.

From the standpoint of his Sannyasa Asrama, there simply is no room for his interaction with women of any age, certainly not the sort of interactions he is accustomed to.

I find some of the exchanges he has with children to be highly inappropriate (with or without parental consent). In this 40 minute video you can watch Maharaj interacting extensively with children and judge for yourself.

He disregards norms of basic social respect and child safety. In doing so he is setting a bad example and precedent, not only because those who have unhealthy inclinations towards children may view what he does as some sort of a licence, but also because they could reasonably assume that Hare Krsna children are still a soft target. Not to mention how this experience may affect the children themselves. Could it teach them that it is ok for older men to touch them the way he does?

At times Maharaj has taken photos of children and posted them on his public Facebook profile without parental consent; some of these children were in bikini.

A few months ago Indradyumna Maharaj visited one of the Hare Krsna schools in Alachua and again, without parental consent, he went around giving hugs, cuddles, etc… in breach of the school code of conduct and safety policies. Naturally this alarmed some of the parents. Fortunately, the management treated the incident with the seriousness it deserved, and it is unlikely that there will be a repeat.

If any other 70-year old man came to one of our schools and started to hug and cuddle children the way Maharaj does, we'd probably call the police. As a society, ISKCON has allowed Indradyumna Maharaj a to have special licence; he operates under a different set of rules from anyone else. Is this justified, beneficial and appropriate?

A friend explained how Maharaj has, over the years shown an interest in assisting, supporting and inspiring young Hare Krsna devotees, but that although he has never been personally accused of anything, he is friends with a number of known offenders. He also shared an anecdote of when he was at a program on Padayatra in New Zealand with Maharaj sometime in the '90s. 

A devotee brought his mother along to the function; she was appreciative and positively impacted, but she expressed her surprise to see the interactions Indradyumna Maharaj had with the young women in his entourage. He concluded by saying that perhaps Maharaj ought to be aware that his interactions with young girls may be sabotaging his preaching service to Srila Prabhupada.

The other problem is that with his actions, Maharaj is making a statement to the (devotee) world that ISKCON leaders don't care to follow the rules. By doing so Maharaj is undermining the importance of child protection policies, the authority of the Child Protection Office and ultimately the GBC. When the leaders disregard their own authority structure, they encourage the rise of vigilantes... and by definition, vigilantes cause social disturbance. The reasoning is something along the lines of: "If the leaders don't care to follow the rules, why should we"?

Some of Maharaj's followers claim that he gives "The touch of love" to these children. They further claim that his critics, blinded by conditioning, cannot differentiate between "The touch of Love and the touch of lust".

If we can learn anything from the accounts related in the Bhagavatam of the many Sages that after inconceivable austerities, take "unscheduled sabbaticals" when they meet some pretty damsel, it is that it's unwise for anyone to assume that we have overcome lust.

The bottom line is that even if Indradyumna Maharaj is indeed a liberated Mahatma that has completely transcended sex desire, he still ought to follow the example set by Srila Prabhupada and Caitanya Mahaprabhu in his dealings with women, for surely he does not regard himself to be above them.

I believe that if Maharaj is 100% pure and he has the best interest of these children (and women) at heart, he can still serve, encourage and interact with them in a non-physical fashion, respectful of the social requirements of his ashram. There is no need whatsoever for him to touch them for prolonged periods of time, take them on his lap, hug them, cuddle them, etc...

So, is there a problem with the way Maharaj interacts with children? I think so, but judge for yourself!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.