Hare Krishna Youth
Chapter 3, Section C.
Emotional Connection Between Prabhupad & Iskcon
There are a mixture of conflicting emotions that are sometimes difficult to clearly resolve when thinking about Prabhupad. He was, for the children, projected as a grandfather figure. There was perhaps genuine affection, but this has been tempered with a milieu of other messages. It is a complex relationship, as with any ´family´ relationship, were a whole series of circumstances and experiences creates the impression we carry of people. This is made even more complex and confusing for us because our childhood ´family´ had few boundaries, and constantly changing figure heads.
There were no measures taken to ensure our safety because such concerns
were not top priority. Prabhupad did not set up the gurukula institution
to abuse, but it is equally evident that he didn't go out of his way to
make sure that it didn't happen. Because of the attitude, which is evident
by the language and tone people use, of Prabhupad being beyond any
scrutiny, all the blame or responsibility that is attributed, is deflected
to anyone in the immediate proximity, including saying it is our fault -
as in our karma?!
We lived in a communal atmosphere, were we might have known our biological parents, but they did not have the ´definitive´ say in the direction of our young lives. Any of the school teachers could tell us what to do and punish us as they wished. Adults in the temple would pull power trips on us. None of them were accountable to a dedicated caring guardian, like our parents. This made our lives and expectations very unpredictable and unsafe. In so many ways, Prabhupad was the force that controlled the overall situations and direction in our lives.
1) Perceptions as Children
Since it is at times difficult to sort out how we feel about Prabhupad, we need to talk about all the various ways we feel about him. Since, as children, we grew up only knowing of Iskcon, we naturally have been very conditioned and influenced by the experience. Many of us were very young children when Prabhupad was alive. Given our unique vantage point, it follows that we would see Prabhupad and his teachings quite differently from a westerner that joined in their early adult life, after say 20 years of western (or other) influences.
The members of Iskcon, including our parents, were ´following´ him, and they usually felt righteous and bound to strictly follow his directions and instructions. The control and punishment we received, was directly taken from Prabhupad´s letters and books. This attitude became even more pronounced after his death in 1977. At this point, his personal role and responsibility is less defined, except that in our minds, his images and words subjugated and controlled us.
To give some examples for clarification. As per Prabhupad's direct orders we children had to attend morning services (aratis) starting at 4:00am. The services were held in a large room with deities of God and a statue and pictures of Prabhupad. At these rituals the children were required to give him and his guru lineage obeisances, and to glorify and pledge ourselves to strictly follow without question. Then there was the hour plus Bhagavatam lecture, were we had to sit still and listen to readings and expositions from the religious texts that Prabhupad wrote. Then chant the maha mantra for hours (the optimum recommended was 16 rounds on 108 beads), because he said that this was the only way to escape the ´endless cycle of birth and death.´; This was every day, before breakfast. After the morning program, it was hours of classes with short tempered teachers. We received few shows of love and affections from our parents. Prabhupad had written profusely about how this form of love expression was an illusion -- the only 'real' love being love of God.
The belief structures created by Prabhupad led to us as children being isolated, devoid of affection, full of self doubt, unable to trust anyone, sexually exploited and guilty, devalued, and expected to like it. It was expected that by us chanting, being devoid of the false love of family, and constantly engaged in service, we would be naturally happy. Childhood familiarity with Prabhupad and his books and words has made him less mysterious and awesome for us. We can see him as a person and not the ´god-like´ figure our parents have made him. He is a person who made decisions that had traumatic repercussions for us. We can not ignore this reality and we will not feel guilty for talking about him and his role.
A Personal Note to 'Protectors' of Prabhupad
We understand your desire to protect Prabhupad, because you believe that
following him will be your path to salvation. By speaking of our version
of our history, we are not trying to test or change your faith. The
discussion of this topic is not meant to debate the philosophy, it is
meant to research the connection in our minds between our experiences and
Prabhupad. There are any number of groups who consider themselves to be
the correct version of Prabhupad's movement, and they each have their
agenda of which they wish us to be a part of.
If it is your path to follow Prabhupad, then this is your choice and one we hope will bring you happiness. We ask that you show us enough respect, maybe even just because we were the first generation to be brought up in Prabhupad´s Iskcon, and we need to talk about our views of our upbringing. You are not helping us by ´humbly´ telling us what we should do. We will taste love and life as we see fit.
Prabhupada´s responsibility in the Hare Krishna abusive cult (1st Part)
Prabhupada´s responsibility in the Hare Krishna abusive cult (2nd Part)