The sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the greatest benediction for all mankind. By participating in it under the guidance of the bonafide acharya, one is invited to the Divine Realm, which is characterized by the absence of envy, a mass consciousness of appreciation for the unique devotional service of every living being, and a heart-centered joy in pushing others forward to be recognized by the Divine Couple, Sri-Sri Radha and Krsna. Participation in this preaching movement ends the material sojourn, where there is repeated birth and death, and where the modus operandi is ongoing action to cause pain to others. The magnitude of what has been offered to us by Srila Prabhupada is hardly able to be understood or appreciated in our conditioned state. The mission to present this rare opportunity of devotional service on the earthly realm could only be undertaken by a highly empowered personality who is very intimately associated with Krsna. As Krsna sent His powerful right hand man to inaugurate this Krsna Consciousness movement in the bleakness of this material world, the personality of Kali also sent his most powerful representatives to try to impede it. This is really the pastime of the Lord, as the glorious outcome is already predicted. Yet, there is plenty of work to do, and our second generation of devotees is now being called upon to sweep the road clean for the manifestation of the purity of heart and purpose of the upcoming third generation.
As a collective body of devotees, we may have heard of, or even experienced, atrocities and abuses that have disguised themselves as part of the organized mission that our dearmost Srila Prabhupada began on behalf of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, the vaisnava parampara, and Sri Krsna Himself. In the past, there have been many reports of abuse, complaints, lawsuits, and alienations, all accompanied by the energies of blame, retaliation, revenge, victimhood, denial, or simply lethargy. There has long been a sense that the pure spiritual essence and the organization (ISKCON) have become somewhat separated from each other. This is the time of awakening. The correction of the errors within our devotional society, and the removal of the dark threads that have been so expertly woven by the agents of Kali into the pure whiteness of ISKCON as Srila Prabhupada envisioned it, is now possible. Why is this correction possible now and has not been so in the past, in spite of so much effort and expense? Giving full credit to Krsna as the Supreme Time Factor, I will also briefly digress in order to explain some of the finer points.
I was born with a very sensitive and intuitive nature, and was always intrigued by the metaphysical. As I got older, I apprenticed with one of the world’s topmost exorcists. She was a powerhouse of a lady, very devoted to her Lord Jesus Christ and determined to do God’s work. As she approached a foreign spirit, however, she too was in a mood of polarization, same as our ISKCON victims of child abuse, rape, and torture. “You were not invited here. Get out in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.” It was a war of “good vs evil”, and the exorcism could go on for hours. However, she would always quote Jesus, “You will do greater things.” As I went on with my work, I learned that the best way to clear out these energies was to step out of the game of duality and operate from a place of heart-centeredness, love, and compassion. Then, there was opportunity for wonderful results and personal transformation in a very short time. Yes, I have done greater things. And, I say to my second generation students the same thing, “You will do greater things.”
Now, the time has arrived to come to a place of prayer, a place of healing, a place of compassion, even for those who have acted as our so-called enemies. The energies of revenge, anger, hatred, blame, etc, simply fuel the fire of material existence, keep us in the material world, and create even more revenge, anger, hatred, blame, and other activities that simply cause pain. They solve nothing. We have sojourned in this world of form for eons, as victims, as abusers, and gotten ourselves embroiled more and more deeply in polarization, forgetting our true nature as pure servants of Sri Radha. In the past, the approaches to cleaning up the abuses within the organization of ISKCON have created polarization, with the victims being labeled as “demons” or dismissed as crazy, insane, or delusional troublemakers. The undertaking to restore purity can now come from a place of purity, led by those who have accepted their own accountability and seen the precarious position of the living entity in this world. An ISKCON exorcism, in a sense.
It is awkward and painful to accept that organized sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and violence have taken place within our ranks. There is a lot of denial, even with so many sad stories and so much symptomology glaring us in the face. However, it has occurred, and is still occurring.
Even though there is advanced healing going on among members of our first and second generation, there is still a general lack of awareness of the situation among most devotees. However, there are many symptoms of a disorder. There are many members of the second generation and their parents who exhibit depression, bitterness, uncontrolled and pervasive anger and rage issues, an inability to be focused on tasks, a lack of motivation, addictive behaviors (including sexual), panic attacks, aversion to going to an ISKCON center, strange health disorders, and self-sabotaging behaviors. On an organizational level, there has been a deep disrespect for children and those of us in women’s bodies, and a general harshness in our dealings with each other and with ourselves.
Everyone has been affected by the threads of evil and the veiling energy around it, whether or not there is a conscious awareness of it. For example, are we able to honor our gut sense around a person or situation that gives us “the creeps?” Or do we, out of false humility and self-doubt, simply assume that we are “in maya” for having such “offensive” thoughts? Have we had our enthusiasm for spreading Krsna Consciousness and our creative application of that enthusiasm endorsed and supported by the organizational leaders, or have we been ostracized for our unique inspirations and lost that spirit and enthusiasm? Do we feel free to propagate these topmost teachings and win people’s hearts by our personal dedication and expertise? Or do we feel stifled by some unspoken voice that says we are of lesser stature than those who follow the approved protocol? Do we have a sense that there has been a loss of potency and purity? That something is not right? Do we have reservations about bringing people to whom we are presenting Krsna Consciousness to the temple? If we can look at things objectively, we might note that things around us are not in the mood that Srila Prabhupada himself introduced. Maybe something really IS wrong. The first step in enacting a change is the recognition that it needs to take place.
There are still abusers and sexual predators in our midst. They have systematically attacked the very core of our strength as a functioning spiritual society. They have polluted and crippled our children and worked to destroy the deepest of relationships, those between the mother and the child. They have worked to destroy the family unit, and to betray the deep loyalty that the sincere devotees have for Srila Prabhupada. They have used well intended, qualified, devotional gurukula teachers as bait to lure the children of unsuspecting devotee parents into their demoniac, hidden lairs.
In order to be effective in enacting a change within our organization, facilitating a mass healing, and taking on the war against maya as Srila Prabhupada called it, we must restore and maintain our standards of purity. For example, Srila Prabhupada told us that prasadam is a vaccination against the modes of material nature. Foods not offered or offerable have a subtle, increasingly powerful effect on clouding our spiritual intelligence and reducing our spiritual potency. They energetically attract forces that are not conducive to our spiritual well being. The famous exorcist previously mentioned had a great affection for the devotees. When she asked her Lord Jesus Christ what was impeding our preaching mission, he told her, “Food and pornography.”
That should not be such a shock. Our society of devotees has been gradually sinking into the patterns of the world around us. We have compromised our integrity, and now have a society, to a large degree, that is fully abreast of the seductions of the popular culture, including the latest in cinema creations, music, mundane charitable pursuits, products, and so on. We have all but forgotten our proper eating standards and often feel that it is sufficient to simply be vegetarian. It is not. Our deviations have created within ISKCON a society of secret dealings, denial, a lust for reputation, and the punishment and ostracizing of those who dare to speak the truth. This is the way of the material world. Behaviors that are not strictly in line with the teachings of the guru parampara have empowered the demons within us, and the demons without. Our ISKCON was never meant to be an ordinary society. It was meant to be an “oasis in the desert” of Kali Yuga.
What can we do? I have some thoughts, you may have more.
We can allow ourselves to accept and process the truths that are contained herein. We may have emotions around what is written. It is not “maya” to experience them.
We can accept that “inner knowing” comes from Paramatma. It is not a New Age concept. That includes our “gut feelings.”
We can strive to learn the difference between being “dissociated” (not present) and having attained transcendence. We can only be fully effective in this realm if we are in a state of awareness. Srila Prabhupada was fully present and aware, totally effective, and in a state of transcendence at every moment.
We can stop thinking that societal atrocities and the most heinous of organized crime cannot happen to us. It already has, and it has been going on for a long time. Read “Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century” by Randy and Pamela Noblitt.
We can recognize the wisdom, sacrifices, and mistakes of the first generation and not repeat the mistakes. The patterns have already been passed down. Let’s become aware of them and make rectifications.
We can, within our ranks, honor and preserve the last leg of religion that is available in kali-yuga: truthfulness. The earth planet cannot bear the weight of even one liar.
We can strive to come to a place of full accountability and no longer blaming anyone else for our walk while simultaneously being fierce as lions in preserving Srila Prabhupada’s legacy.
We can make the decision to no longer let political or financial agendas take precedent over purity. This pertains to personal and societal affairs. Anything done just for the sake of money or other artificial gain is simply prostitution.
We can organize small and large “Festivals of Healing” in a mood of humility, openness, and service.
We can learn to accept truths even if they are presented in language that is not familiar to us. Truths are not owned by a certain “jargon.” Let’s open the horizons. Krsna owns everything, and He is everywhere.
Let’s not be “rubber-stamped” Hare Krsnas. Let’s get real.
Let’s be very cautious of those who propound “False Memory Syndrome (FMS)” and its insidious ramifications. Of what are you afraid? What might you be hiding?
Let’s become ready and eager to enter into our own healing. If nothing else, we owe it to Srila Prabhupada. Take it as service. Excitement and purpose can return to our lives.
We can finally acknowledge the proverbial “elephant in the living room.”
Let’s not retreat into our own sadana in a mood of fatalism.
We can honor ourselves and others by speaking what we know to be true while honoring vaisnava relations and protocol.
We can agree to, and adhere to, a policy of zero tolerance for abuse and abusers within our ranks. It does not matter if our numbers decrease. A blind uncle is not better than no uncle. Purity is what will attract people to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Compromise will not. Enough is enough.
We can look at what is real and no longer accept dogmatic principles and our perceptions of other people’s expectations of us as our motivating force.
We can offer ourselves at the lotus feet of the Lord in full surrender and again make a commitment to His service in simplicity, purity, and devotion. Sort of like picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and trying again….
We can think deeply and examine ourselves before we condemn and categorize someone who has creative inspirations for the spreading of Krsna Consciousness that may not fit into our limited little box of understanding.
We can recognize that the demon and the devotee now reside within the same body. We can pray to be able to conquer the lower self by the higher.
We can look into our hearts and pray to Lord Nrsmhadeva that the last shards of material desires be destroyed and ask that our inspiration and purity in preaching be restored.
For those who have left the association of devotees, please try again. For those who are angry, please let the anger be purified and properly used as a weapon of mercy towards the abusers. We need to rise up together and reclaim Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON for its purpose of facilitating loving exchanges among devotees and enthusiastic preaching.
I have also been wounded. I have had both my motherhood and my loyalty to Srila Prabhupada and his mission betrayed. I have also seen how tiny this experience is in the face of eternal time. In that regard, it cannot be taken so seriously. However, we need to serve the acharya in his mood and see from his perspective. This ISKCON is a product of Srila Prabhupada’s blood, sweat, and tears. It is his offering of love to his spiritual master and to the Divine Couple. This organization is the portal out of the material world for us and so many other conditioned souls. It DOES matter. Let us fight, internally and externally, for Srila Prabhupada’s mission. That is what burns in my heart. These are critical times.
Although this is written for all the devotees, I have a special investment in the ISKCON “youth.” Srila Prabhupada has clearly shown me that my service is the second generation of devotees. To this second generation, please accept me as your servant. It is time for you to become fit for the great responsibility that is falling upon you: the cleansing and restoration of the organization, the cleansing and restoration of your own hearts, and the creative, empowered propagation of Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtan movement. My constant meditation is upon how I can assist you.
– Karen E. Silberstein ND, PhD