Hare Krishna Youth
Chapter 2 Prabhupad, A Person
Prabhupad was a person. He had a life in India prior to establishing Iskcon. In his life, he was married and had a family, worked at a career, and had decades of intermittent association with his guru. Prabhupad spent his whole life (82 years) practicing his faith. Iskcon is a group, founded by Prabhupad and based on his ideas, in 1965. Prabhupad died in November 1977. Prabhupad came to America because he believed that he had the philosophy which would save the world.
As an adult, he went to college (a British curriculum) and learned about the cultures and histories of countries outside of India, including the political strife for India's independence from Britain. All of these, combined with his influences from the ancient histories of India, helped develop his picture of how the world operated. He was, for a time, interested and participated in the work of Gandhi who was engaged in using means to extricate the British out of India. Prabhupad, who was then called Abhay Charan Dey, was politically and socially concerned for India.
In India, there are sadhus or holy men, who people will provide charity
and invite into their homes for food. Some of these sadhus become gurus
and have followers. Throughout his childhood, sadhus had visited Abhay's
home, where he had the chance to see them and hear them speak. Abhay did
not find the sadhus´ orations appealing. It would seem that the sadhus
were not inspiring to him. He saw the wars and unrest in the world and in
his own country and felt skeptical about listening to these sadhus because
it apparently wasn't having an affect.
One day some of Abhay´s peers invited him to join them to visit a sadhu. Initially, he resisted, but his friends convinced him that this sadhu was different. Abhay went and afterwards he felt that this guru could teach him what he wanted to know. Later on he became married, had several children, worked, and lived in a household for some time. As soon as he felt justified that he had no more obligation to his children, he took sanyas, which is the practice of abandoning worldly life.
Judging from the emphasis that Prabhupad´s later works placed on the better value of renouncing family, he personally felt very good about taking sanyas. Perhaps it appealed to him, because there are indications that family life was not palatable to him. He stayed with his family out of a sense of duty, and looked forward to his chance to absolve himself of it.
One of the things his guru had said to him, was that he should bring this information to America. After hearing his guru's suggestion Prabhupad fervently hoped to follow his guru's orders. By the time he was in his late sixties he had to have been wondering whether it was going to happen, and when he came across the opportunity, he seized it. It was a fervent missionary feeling of fulfilling his guru's wish.
He felt strongly that the philosophy he had, was the panacea for the world and he wanted more than anything to teach it to people. He was finally able to get to the America when he was in his seventies. Traveling by steam ship he went to New City, where everyone had a completely different history and culture than his own.
Chapter 2 Prabhupad, A Foreigner with a Mission
The reason for giving this abbreviated rendition of Prabhupad´s life, is to demonstrate that he came to America with a specific mission. He was old and knew that he didn't have much time. He was absolutely convinced that he had the knowledge that the world needed to know. This knowledge was that everyone is a 'parts and parcel' of God, and that we needed to be reconnected with God. The only way to do that was through the teachings he had.
Prabhupad firmly believed in his " mission ". He traversed across the Atlantic Ocean on a steamer in his 70´s -- and within 11 years, made the Hare Krishna´s fairly recognizable to the public (bald headed saffron robed people on the streets). He beleived that this foireign culture was degraded and fallen. He told the people who had now begun to worship him, that they would become happy by following his instructions. The newly recruited members who embraced his philosophy were strangely eager to completely delve into this exotic and alien culture. Prabhupad used the various personalities of these devout recruits to accomplish his ends. Prabhupad believed that all souls were identical in nature. He believed that this essence would be exposed when they shed their " false egos ". The radical transformations he endorsed for his followers were meant to awaken their true identities as servants of Krishna. His followers would completely adopt his instructions and rid themselves of their previous cultural influences. Prabhupad saw no redeeming value to any other way of life besides service to the guru and Krishna. The former society of his recruits was degraded and practically useless.
After the Hare Krishna religion began to expand, Prabhupad could not answer all of the questions to clarify his meanings. His followers were not behaving in the ways he anticipated. He had asserted that even if his followers had " bad tendencies ", they would be cleansed by following his orders. He wished to mold these new members into surrendered devotees. He was confident that his instructions would produce this transformation. When this was not working he was incapable of recognizing the drawbacks of his programs.. All of his followers wanted to be with him and have his attention. He had become the divine messiah guru he had wanted to be.
Chapter 2 Prabhupad, A Cult Leader?
Prabhupad may not have intended to be a cult leader, but that was what he became.. He demanded radical changes in the appearance, behavior, and entire life of his followers. The discipleship that he required of his followers, is akin to the authority dynamics common to all cults. He taught his followers to worship and adore him, as they would God. Upon his death, he appointed 11 successor gurus from his entourage. These gurus used the guru-format set out by Prabhupad. They encouraged their followers to treat and revere them as God. Prabhupad and his successors all possess the characteristics of charismatic cult leaders.
Chapter 2, Section D.
Prabhupad, Gurukula Orders
1) A list of some of the instructions that were carried out
1. Very young children, as young as four, were separated from their families.
2. Children were very often sent to far away schools where places and people were completely strange to them.
3. These places, which were to be their schools, were not adapted to children's needs, with regards to physical and mental stimulation or health.
4. The teachers under whom the children were charged to for care, held no credentials and were not qualified academically or psychologically.
5. The leadership and teachers treated the children with cold discipline and had them following strict rules and regiments, the same or more stringent than the adults.
6. Prabhupad instructed that children should be taught with love, and that the greatest love was to not be lenient and to enforce the rules, so that the children would be saved from hell. "From five years to fifteen years, all students should be under strict disciplinary order." (BTG Vol 10/11). This pretty much left the children open to any and all forms of punishments, which included physical, emotional and mental abuse.
There are a number of things which were held as 'normal' by the religion which to the normal society would be defined as abuse and mistreatment, which is how we felt them. Many of these things will be talked about in due time because they were so imprinted on us, and in such a manner, that we were made to think that it was supposed to be that way. Most of these things were very guilt inducing and this is a small sample of them.
2) A list of some of the painful rules that were enforced
1. Wake up at 4 am in the morning.
2. Chant, 'meditate' and listen to sermons for hours.
3. Having our heads shaved all of the time (boys).
4. Not being allowed to have any contact with the opposite sex.
5. Consistently deprived of food.
6. Denied anything in the way of entertainment and fun.
7. Completely isolated from our western heritage and culture.
Chapter 2, Section E.
Prabhupad, A List of Some of His Responsibilities
Here are some factors
1. Prabhupad set up the gurukula schools and ordered parents to send their children away to the gurukulas.
2. Prabhupad preached that family and material life were/are illusion and hindrances to spiritual life, while encouraging families to have children - for the 'second generation'.
3. Prabhupad was in a leadership position, and he appointed and/or passively accepted the appointment of the people who abused us to positions of leadership and control over children.
4. He ordered children to be sent away by their parents, and did not implement any system that was meant to assure that children were going to be well looked after.
For Us as Children Prabhupad/Iskcon Are Connected
Prabhupad and Iskcon have been fundamentally linked for us. We grew up in
Iskcon, and Prabhupad is the founder of Iskcon and its cultural aspects.
Although Prabhupad, to our knowledge, was never personally abusive, he
does in our minds share some of the responsibility for our experiences as
children. We agree that he was sincere in what he was he was trying to do,
but we also have to look at the fact that we were suffering inside what
was supposedly to be a haven from suffering.
Proponents to protect Prabhupad say that we should be absolutely clear that behavior of our guardians in gurukula should in no way reflect on Prabhupad. According to them Prabhupad had no responsibility in the matter. This would seem to leave us with an either or situation; either we should say that Prabhupad is to be lumped in with the other 'demons', or he is kind benevolent and merciful and with no responsibility; but we are saying neither. We see that serious mistakes were made that led to severe abuse and negligence. It is impossible not to assign some responsibility to Prabhupad. We will look at what happened from three vantage points; circumstantial, philosophical, and emotional.