Saturday, June 2, 2018

Brahmatirtha (Bob Cohen) and Hrdayananda defend child abusers (again)?


(Sanaka Rsi)

Hare Krsna Brahmatirtha Prabhu (Bob Cohen),

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. You mentioned during our conversation that you took on the job of defending Laxmimoni because it was asked of you by a senior devotee. You also said that concerns had been raised with regards to the justice and procedural fairness of the CPO.

I have established from three separate, and reliable sources, that Hridayananda Maharaj has been one of the GBC’s that have been attempting to influence the outcome of the CPO adjudication in favor of Laxmimoni. I encourage anyone interested to know more to contact Maharaj directly, his email is:

My guess is that he is our "mysterious senior devotee" that requested you to take on the un-enviable job of defending her. Now that Laxmimoni has been found guilty, she can no longer benefit from the assumption of innocence. She is now guilty until proven otherwise. This means that anyone protecting her is deliberately protecting a child abuser.

Though such an application of murky, "behind the scenes" politics, may be in line with the ISKCON Hridayananda Maharaj used to be accustomed to; one where the Zonal Acharyas got their way without accountability or transparency, no matter the (human) cost… I have to admit that I was disappointed to hear that Maharaj would choose to covertly misuse his position, influence and authority in the attempt to defend a known and documented child abuser.

At a time when India is introducing the death penalty for pedophiles, Hridayananda Maharaj joins “The Wall of Shame” on the long list of ISKCON leaders that over the years have, in different ways, have (ab)used their authority to protect or side with known child abusers. Among them we find: Radhanath Maharaj, Jayadvaita Swami, Sesa das (GBC), Tamohara das (GBC), Anuttama das (GBC), Champakalata devi dasi (Former CPO Director), Malati devi dasi (GBC), Ramay Swami, Praghosa das (GBC), Sivaram Swami, Gopal Krishna Maharaj, Bhaktivikash Maharaj, Indradyumna Maharaj and Bhakticaru Swami. (This is not a complete list)

Precisely because Hridayanadna Maharaj was one of the most prominent leaders of ISKCON during its darkest chapters of child abuse, it is imperative that he now does everything in his power to ensure that the victims that suffered, as children, are sheltered, protected and vindicated. As one of the most senior leaders in ISKCON today, it is his duty ensure that his actions are exemplary.

Instead, he has enlisted your assistance to do the exact opposite …  You have added insult and humiliation to the pain and injury of Laxmimoni’s victims. Even now, your continued efforts to exonerate Laxmimoni are tantamount to branding her victims - liars.

Hridayananda Maharaj would likely frown upon my choice of words, he would, no doubt, find them quite objectionable and offensive… He would probably prefer if the devotee community would view his interference in this case in a more benign light. He may want to package his actions under an innocuous disguise, something that would portray him as a champion of justice and fairness perhaps? 

This would be a better fit with all the work he has been doing to push a universal charter for human rights in ISKCON. Naturally if Maharaj was truly concerned with such noble ideals, and addressing the shortcomings of the CPO, I would have expected to have seen a lot more of his support and involvement with Child Protection, in the last 20 years.

The fact that he takes such a keen interest in these so called “procedural shortcomings”, only now that his good friend Laxmimoni is on the line, suggests that his motives are not as noble as he may want us to believe. On the contrary, his actions have all the hallmarks of favoritism, at the expense of the victims of his policies.

We suddenly have a newfound vocal champion of (his version) of fair process and justice for the CPO.

I must ask of course:

“Where is the fairness and justice when some of the most influential and powerful members of our society band together against the most vulnerable, just to protect one of their own (Laxmimoni)”?

“Where is the justice when the GBC appoint (and fire) the CPO Director, they have ratified (approved of) the CPO Manual several times in the last 10 years, they have been blissfully indifferent and dismissive of just about anyone who has raised concerns on the many shortcomings of the CPO and suggestions for improvements. They have starved the CPO of the necessary funding. They have also been consistently supportive of this ‘flawed’ judicial system used by the CPO to adjudicate low ranking offenders; they have been quite happy to throw them under the bus.

But every time this very same CPO system needs to adjudicate one of their friends, with the same yard-stick … then suddenly we witness leaders and GBCs coming out of the wood work kicking and screaming to campaign for ‘justice and fairness’ for their friend … to the detriment of the victims”.

I campaigned for a review of the CPO Manual in 2010, because at the time, the way it was worded favored the perpetrators, Tamohara strongly opposed my efforts. I also objected to the fact that the GBC had paid a lawyer to ensure that the revised Manual would not expose them to lawsuits, but no money was spent to get the counsel of child protection professionals. Is anybody really surprised that there is room for improvement in the said CPO Manual?

If the GBCs are genuinely concerned about some of the provisions they have ratified in the Manual, then, to respect fairness and impartiality, AFTER their friend is adjudicated, like everyone else and with the same procedures, we can get professionals in the field of child protection to assist with improving the Manual.

Bhismadeva had to pay the consequences of his silence and inaction. What will be the consequences of supporting adharma? I suspect that Hridayananda Maharaj hasn't read any of the allegations against Laxmimoni. For reasons that escape me he wanted her exonerated the day she was accused, regardless of whether she was guilty or not, and regardless of how his intervention may affect her victims.

For one moment try to meditate on how demeaning and embarrassing it is to be subjected to abuse, as an adult. Then imagine being abused as a defenseless child, by your teacher, overwhelmed by a complete sense of fear, shame and helplessness.

Now try to visualize the humiliation a grown woman experiences when she comes out to share her most traumatic childhood wounds with strangers, in a society like ISKCON that has a poor track record of support for victims.

For very good reasons, it is the minority of child abuse victims that find the courage, the willingness and the reasons to put themselves through such an ordeal. For every woman that has had the courage to come forward to testify against Laxmimoni, you can safely assume that another 10 have chosen to remain silent.

Discovering that the “spiritual leadership” of your society is stacked against you and is (ab)using their position to deny justice, in the name of “justice”, is tantamount to re-traumatizing the victims.

These practices foster corruption and prevent justice, because they discourage future victims from reporting crimes. This low grade consciousness has created an ISKCON where the abuse, exploitation and denigration of its victims is a frequent occurrence. Where instead of protecting the weakest and most vulnerable of its members, they are actively oppressed and victimized. This is a far cry from any basic spiritual ideals.

I kindly request that anyone who can confirm the names of any other GBC members who are abusing their position to interfere in the adjudication of Laxmioni’s case, to please contact me, privately or anonymously, so that their names can be made public.

If they are so blind as to misuse the authority that Krsna has given them in His movement, to defend demoniac activities perpetrated against His children, then the very least we can do is to show their true colours to the devotee public.

I look forward to the day when ISKCON will have reached the collective maturity to understand that, whatever short term benefits you may believe you can gain, by these deceitful and corrupt practices, are insignificant when compared to the long term costs, not only to the victims, but for ISKCON at large.

The abuse of power we are witnessing in this case has caused much distress to the victims, so much so, that some of them are now seriously considering the option of contacting the media. This is not a threat, I am simply presenting all the facts you need, to make an informed decision.

We request all GBCs to stand down and stop interfering with the adjudication of Laxmimoni’s case.

My questions stands:

“Why would someone with the learning, life experience and reputation of Hridayananda Maharaj choose to protect a child abuser”?

Yours in the service of the Vaisnavas

Sanaka Rsi das

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