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Raghunatha Stocker - An Ex-gurukuli

reports on the abuse in the Iskcon school system

Open Letter To The Leaders Of Iskcon
From An Ex-gurukuli

September 26, 1999 VNN4805 


VNN EDITORIAL, Sep 26 1999 (VNN) Dear Leaders of ISKCON,

Recently, because of all the talk of past abuse, several questions and doubts have been popping into my head. Since these doubts concern yourselves, I feel at least one, or some of you should be able to clear them up for me. If not, I see no choice but to consider the present state and collective consciousness of ISKCON to be far from the wishes and teachings of Srila Prabhupada.


Iskcon School Children
Iskcon Children in the boarding school of Vrindaban, India

First, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Raghunatha. I was born into ISKCON Germany in 1975. From 1980-1985, I was sent to the Vrindavana Gurukula between the ages of 5-10.

You can basically say I am a model case for all the abuse that went on there. And I can assure you, that anything you may have heard or read on the VOICE web site, is definitely not an exaggeration. After I had not spoken a word for almost a year, the Gurukula finally sent me home. I can't begin to explain the psychological damage that this experience caused, but I can tell you where it took me.

After that experience I had strong troubles with authoritative figures, especially in school, and therefore have never finished any schooling. My youth was spent on drugs and cutting my arms open with razor blades. In the end, I was living on the street, shooting drugs intravenously, and eating food from dumpsters. I had absolutely no desire to live, and was waiting to overdose, get shot, or for something else exciting to happen. But, as I was living dangerously like that, I tangibly experienced how Krsna saved me from the brink of death on several occasions.

Through that, I started gaining faith again, and I even started chanting. Soon, I started to read the books again. At one point, it finally dawned upon me that actually, the experience I went through had nothing to do with Srila Prabhupada and the teachings of the movement. I could finally accept that what happened was caused by individuals straying away from the teachings.

This gave me enthusiasm, and in the summer of 95, I joined the temple in Germany. I figured that all this happened in the past, and it was forgotten history. And wasn't it Vaisnava behavior to be very forgiving, especially to people who have offended one personally. So for the next 4 years I served on the German TSKP. But sadly it seemed always more and more, that the old mood of ISKCON was still lingering around. And after several experiences with the leadership of ISKCON, I feel compelled to speak up.

My first concern is a certain Satadhanya. This person used to be a sannyasi, and was caught molesting children in Mayapur back around the same time as Bhavananda. Now my question is: Why is this same person living in Mayapur, and getting a paid salary from ISKCON? Actually I was told why.

Apparently he has such good connections with the local authorities, so he was seen as indispensable. In fact he seems to be so valuable to ISKCON, that he seems to be defending ISKCON in court on this Ritvik issue. Is this true? In fact, he seems to have such great sanctions from the temple, that he makes pizza for the devotees at the Mayapur festival. Maha Prasad Ki Jai! So my real question is, how do you think this makes an abuse victim feel?

Try to think back to December 12th 1998, when an ex-gurukuli hung himself from the Broadway Bridge in Portland Oregon. I was living there in the temple at the time. I didn't have a chance to talk to him. It is sad, considering that he was probably conceived with all proper samskaras, and had he not had to go through such a drastically traumatic childhood, could have realized his birthright and become a great help to this world.

Which brings me to my next question. How is it that the GBC did not make it a top priority to see that the children were being properly taken care of? Are not the children the flowers of a society? And like all flowers, they need proper care, and delicate handling. Especially when they are just baby saplings. One has to make all kinds of arrangements like proper fertilizer, water, and lighting. Things like being raped, beaten, and starved just don't seem very healthy for a child's growth. I mean, a person who is supposed to be a transparent via-medium to the Lord automatically sees Krsna in everyone's heart. So why is there so much insensitivity to the children of ISKCON?

I could understand if a group was to make some mistakes in raising children. That always happens. But to have a movement that proclaims to have the answer for all of humanities troubles, make such fundamental, and tragic mistakes in child raising is beyond my comprehension. So maybe one of you can answer this for me. Especially when I hear from older Germans how the Hitler-youth camps were actually very fun, and most consider it to have been a wholesome growing experience in their youth. Which is the least I can say about my Gurukula experience.

There is just one last little thing I would like to trouble you with before I go. Maybe someone can speak up for Gopala-Krsna Maharaja, and explain why he took the liberty to lie to a Times of India reporter on Sri-Krsna Janmastami on September 2nd of this year. When the reporter asked him about child abuse in ISKCON, he said that there had been some problem in (an)? American Gurukula(s), but that it had been long corrected (see VNN story # 4670). It would interest me to know if he was sitting in the Bombay temple room in front Sri-Sri Radha-Rasabhihariji and Srila Prabhupada when he told this obvious lie.

Whatever the case, this is the straw that broke the camel's back for me. You can count on my full cooperation and participation in the upcoming court-case. After 20 years of abuse of women and children by a society that claims to have the highest material and spiritual values, makes me think justice must come from the outside, to give a rude awakening to some obvious ignorant mentality present in the collective consciousness of ISKCON.

Therefore first of all, let me offer my apologies to all sincere devotees of the Lord, but I cannot take it anymore. How many more of us do you expect to take our lives before we are heard? And for those of you carrying a demoniac mentality while wearing the guise of Vaisnavas, prepare to do serious battle. You can be sure Srila Prabhupada is standing behind us on this one. And if he is behind us, I wonder who else could also be on our side.

Hare Krishna, Raghunatha