Censuring BKG, why not Radhanatha and Malati too?
A few days ago I read the 2011 GBC Resolutions and was surprised to see the “Letter of Censure to Bir Krishna Das Goswami.” I don’t have any special interest in BKG, having never met him, but I noted the reference to ISKCON Law 22.214.171.124.3.9. and was awestruck. If I had known about that law six years ago, it seems like I’d still be an aspiring devotee today. Instead, largely because of three prominent GBC members — Bhakti-Tirtha, Radhanatha, and Malati — violating that law in my community, ISKCON and the whole Hare Krishna movement is becoming less relevant to me with each passing day. It so happens that Bhakti-Tirtha was dieing and is mostly excusable on that account. Malati has been kind to me on several occasions, but it doesn’t change the facts here. Radhanatha just blew me off and left town when I asked to meet with him about his bringing someone whom the ISKCON Child Protection Office had found guilty of child molestation, although I was told he was agreeable to meeting with my wife without me!
Nobody seems to know much of ISKCON Law, but I was able to get the actual text of this section with some help from a friend. It reads:
“126.96.36.199.3.9 Child Protection Concerns Persons, who after an ISKCON investigation, are confirmed to be guilty of child abuse must report their status to the local Temple President upon their arrival in an ISKCON community. Also, it is the obligation of a Temple President to determine for every member joining his community, if the newcomer is a confirmed child abuser. The Temple President is then obliged to notify the local householders and GBC of the offender’s presence. The local GBC should be advised if a Temple President knowingly arranges for a confirmed child abuser to be supported by a temple, or live on temple property without first notifying the householder community as per ISKCON laws. The local GBC is to supervise the situation to be sure the Temple President follows the following GBC guidelines: 1. “In no case should a confirmed perpetrator remain in the local community unless the local ISKCON authorities obtain the written authorization of no less than three-quarter of the parents of children at the project or in the community. 2. The local government authorities and/or the ISKCON Board of Education will make the final determination of the appropriate degree of segregation. (1990-119.4)” 3. Every GBC make sure the temples presidents in his zone are made aware of this resolution and GBC guidelines.”
I was further surprised to see that the GBC issued this letter of censure fifteen years after the fact, which tells me that the law has been in effect at least that long. I so much wish I knew of it back in 2005.
That was a very pivotal year for my aspiring Krishna consciousness. It was the same year I started this blog, intending to document my happy progress in Krishna consciousness. However, it did not continue on that trajectory very long.
At the beginning of that year, I was very enthused about trying my best at Krishna consciousness, and I suppose that was noticed because I was elected to the Gita-nagari community board that spring, although not on my own initiative. I chose not to vote for myself, deciding that I would only accept the service with substantial support from the community. I was also afraid of the potential for offenses that would come with having authority over devotees, so I sincerely prayed to Sri Sri Radha-Damodara to help me serve Them nicely and protect me. It seems that They had something more disruptive in mind.
It was around that time that Vakresvara Pandit arrived as a guest of honor with full red-carpet treatment. I would later learn that it was done through an agreement between the Child Protection Office and Radhanatha and Malati, because Bhakti Tirtha Swami had come to Gita-nagari to die, and he wanted Vakresvara Pandit to lead kirtan as he was dying. The CPO, its Director later told me, intended to authorize something minor but it so happened that this “benediction” made Vakresvara into a big celebrity and he clearly exploited that for his sense gratification. I saw him engage with kids in several dangerous activities that I thought put the whole community at risk, which I won’t go into now but which were documented at Oppositerule when they happened.. During the same period, I happened to learn that Vakresvara Pandit had a behavior problem including a child molestation record and was not following the rectification plan assigned to him by ISKCON’s Child Protection Office (“CPO”). Since my wife was on the Child Protection Team, and I on the Community Board, that seemed like something we should find out about. To my surprise, I was unable to get much help from the CPO, but fortunately I was able to get from someone else a copy of the Official Decision finding Vakresvara guilty of child molestation and prescribing a rectification plan for him.
In short, the Official Decision found that when Vakresvara was about 40 years old, he had sexual intercourse about 8 times with a vulnerable devotee girl over the course of a year, beginning when she was thirteen years old. One devotee attorney I who was familiar with the details indicated in correspondence with me that in his view Vakresvara was a sexual predator. The Official Decision stipulated several conditions that Vakresvara had to obey to participate in ISKCON, with maximum importance stressed upon the first two conditions: 1, That Vakresvara write a letter of apology to the girl, submitted to the CPO; and 2, that Vakresvara pay $3,000 in restitution. The Official Decision stipulated that unless Vakresvara complied with at least these two requirements, he could not be allowed on ISKCON property or any affiliation with ISKCON projects. Not only did he fail to comply with these requirements, he actually displayed serious contempt for them and for the Child Protection Office.
As I was learning of this, I felt great anxiety because the mood at Gita-nagari was overwhelmingly absorbed in Bhakti-Tirtha Swami, whom I was repeatedly told was a pure devotee. I was upset because he was leaving his body, and I was never able to get to know him very well. I was also perplexed over his invitation to Vakresvara, why a pure devotee would want an unrepentant child molester to sing for him at such a special time.
I tried to have my concerns addressed as discretely as I could, but months went by without any progress. Then the night BTS passed away, I found myself in a little altercation with Vakresvara over his neglecting the big bonfires he had built in the woods. It might have been a minor disagreement, considering the circumstances, but I was upset at the notion of arguing with a devotee and offered him my humble obeisances, which he expressly rejected. I was shocked, unprepared for such Vaisnava behavior, and I was glad to see him leave because it had seemed like he was going to hit me. The next day my guru, Bhaktimarga Swami, arrived and I asked for his advice about my concerns over Vakresvara Pandit, and he encouraged me to follow through with it.
I also found out around that time that while Vakresvara was at Gita-nagari, he had an appeal trial over the child molestation determination, but I was initially unable to get information from the CPO. Eventually I broke down and begged him to have mercy, and Tamohara (the CPO Chief) relented and shared the Appeal Decision with me. I looked and immediately noted that they found all of his objections without merit and affirmed the finding of guilt. The only two points in Vakresvara’s favor were based on errors, and these points were corrected after I pointed them out to the CPO. Specifically, appeal judges opted to declare Vakresvara’s rectification period complete with time served and noting that the sex was consensual; however there was more than sufficient proof available to show that he never followed the rectification plan and practically flaunted his disobedience to it. Also, nowhere in the USA is there legal validity to the notion of a thirteen year old child consenting to sex. In the end, the CPO appeal panel had affirmed Vakresvara’s guilt but waived the apology letter and restitution and maintained some very minor restrictions for one year.
After about three months of headaches worrying about this, realizing that going through “proper channels” is exhausting and wholly unproductive, I posed a question to the BTSwami e-mail group, asking if anyone knew what BTS thought about Vakresvara’s child molestation issue. The response was harsh. In short, my community rejected me and undermined my relationship with my guru by getting him to try to bring me in line. Unfortunately, in this situation my guru lied to me, broke a promise to me, and changed his advice supporting me into an order to stop (with no discussion of why). He also rejected me as a candidate for brahmana initiation because I was documenting these events on my blog, apparently without personally reading it.
That put me into about 18 months of severe depression, which I eventually sought to end, knowing no other way besides rejoining devotee society. I apologized to everyone and begged for forgiveness, but the only apology anyone gave me was from the fellow who had actually threatened me. To come back, I had internalized all the faults and accepted them as my own, but I eventually realized that was unnatural and I could not sustain it. In due course I got on board with the rtviks, but I could not stay with them because I consider Srila Prabhupada responsible for ISKOCN and the chain of command that he put in place. After fifteen years and chanting Krishna’s names around 100 million times, the Krishna consciousness has become painful to think about, enough that it has become a relief to forget about Krishna when possible.
I’m reached the point where I don’t want to care about this movement anymore and I am trying to get free. There is so much hypocrisy that my head could explode. So now I learn about ISKCON Law 188.8.131.52.3.9. It could have done me a lot of good back in 2005, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. However, maybe I’d still be trying to be a devotee if that law were respected.
As I read this law, the responsibility initially falls upon the Temple President, but the responsibility for ensuring compliance goes to the GBC. Our TP then was a disciple of BTS, who was our GBC. Of course, BTS was in no condition to act as GBC, but we had two other GBC members on extended visit: Radhanatha Swami and Malati Mataji. As I understand it, they were the ones who somehow got the CPO to stick its head up its ass and pretend that everything was OK with having an unrepentant child molester as a V.I.P. at Gita-nagari.
I had wanted, along with my wife, to meet with Radhanatha Swami about our concern over Vakresvara, but he would only agree to meet with my wife if I was not there! I have to admit I felt insulted and that it was a very improper condition for a sannyasi to impose. We said my wife would not be comfortable with that arrangement, and instead of giving a reply, he just left with no meeting.
Radhanatha and Malati, as the responsible GBC members at Gita-nagari in spring-summer 2005, should have been making sure that “In no case should a confirmed perpetrator remain in the local community unless the local ISKCON authorities obtain the written authorization of no less than three-quarter of the parents of children at the project or in the community.” Instead of trying to get permission from my wife and me, for bringing Vakresvara to our community, they were collaborating with the CPO to prevent the Gita-nagari community from knowing that their good friend Vakresvara whom they had invited as a great Vaisnava was in fact an unrepentant child molester. I was trying to get the information needed to understand the situation, so I could properly perform my duty as a community board member and assist my wife on the Child Protection Team, and for this I was rejected by my so-called Vaisnava community and sent down a path where I eventually lost faith in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings due to the gross misbehavior of his leading disciples and the chain of command he established.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for ISKCON poster-boy Radhanatha to be censured by his pals. LOL.