5TH MAY 2000
Last week-end Dhanudhara Swami, the ISKCON Guru and Sannyasi, who has had extremely serious allegation of Child Abuse levelled against him, initiated 17 disciples in New York State. According to Dhira Govinda, the head of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection, the allegations would appear to be very detailed and many in number:
"The file on this case is very large (The three small notebook files I delivered to Dhanurdhara Maharaja in Mayapur are not even five percent of the entire file)." (Dhira Govinda)
Yet Dhanudara seems to be carrying on with business as usual. It maybe pointed out that the investigation against him has not been completed, and that he is 'innocent until proven guilty'. However please note the action that the Child Protection Office took recently against one Maha Mantra dasa (Matthew Zacharais) from Canada. Here without any investigation, simply on the basis of the testimony of his wife, immediate sanctions were placed on him:
"Based on reports the Child Protection Office (CPO) has received concerning Maha Mantra dasa (Matthew Zacharais), a white-bodied person who has recently been in Canada and who took initiation from Satsvarupa Maharaja, the CPO recommends that Maha Mantra does not have any contact with an ISKCON temple, ISKCON school, ISKCON project, or any ISKCON-affiliated organization."
Also considering the sensitivity of the situation, with Gurukulis having been attacking or been prevented from attacking Dhanudara Swami in the past, as well as the impending gurukuli lawsuit, you would have thought having a high-profile alleged child abuser prancing around as if nothing has happened would not be the best course of action. It certainly will not help ISKCON's position in any future child abuse court case.
It will be interesting to find out if Dhanudara's actions have GBC approval. We have asked the GBC to comment but have yet to receive a reply. If he is acting with the GBC approval, then it is clear that there is much more leniency applied when it is a Guru who is accused of child abuse. As far as the GBC would be concerned he is still fully qualified to be treated as the 'sum total of all the demi-gods' and to take any disciples back home to godhead. It also makes a mockery of their recent pious pronouncements regarding how ISKCON is taking child abuse seriously. This would follow on from the last fiasco where the GBC had chosen the convicted child abuser Satyadhanya Das, to represent them in the High Court in Calcutta, in probably the most important court case the GBC will ever face. It seems nothing has changed, and our assessment that any recent steps taken by the GBC in regard to child abuse are merely cosmetic to try and appease gurukulis from taking them to the cleaners in any impending law-suit is correct. There is no real sincerity or compassion here.
- And even if Dhanudara is acting against some official GBC policy - where is the worldwide statement from them telling us how he is behaving in a deviant fashion?
They weren't slow in making pronouncements in the case of Maha Mantra dasa. It would also confirm that the GBC is totally impotent in policing its gurus.
- And if they cannot even get someone like Dhanudara to behave - what value do they add to the society?
Either way the whole affair looks bad for the GBC.
- How long can anyone continue to support such a corrupt body, for whom the enormous damage done to all the children in our society really doesn't seem to mean anything to them other than another pain in the neck lawsuit they will have to deal with?
Convicted Child Abuser Officially 'Returns' To Parampara
In our story above on Dhanudara Swami, we had naturally assumed that the investigation regarding his allegations of child abuse must have still been ongoing. We could not possibly have conceived that the investigation had been completed and that he had actually been found guilty of child abuse, AND that he was still initiating. However that is exactly what has happened. Last October, the Office of Child Protection (O.C.P.) found Maharaja guilty of 'Child Neglect' within the categories of 'Food, Clothing, Shelter, Hygiene, Medical, Supervision and Emotional'. Further he was also found guilty of 'Child Physical Abuse' and 'Child Psychological Abuse'. Under the last 2 charges the panel found that:
"With reference to the definitions of child physical abuse in the Task Force Report, Dhanurdhara Maharaja did physically abuse children on some occasions. Dhanurdhara Swami admits that he sometimes punished with hostility and sometimes with excess, and he accepts personal culpability for these mistakes. There is convincing evidence that Dhanurdhara Maharaja engaged in psychological abuse as defined in section 1.I.B.5 of the ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report."
(We are only able to provide you these details since following our story last week (above), an anonymous source leaked the full report to us. Though the Office of Child Protection also co-operated by supplying us a copy of the report, they marked it 'confidential'. Also the full report was only sent to ISKCON leaders by e-mail, and not publicised to the devotee community at large. The Office of Child Protection informed us that this restricted circulation was based on 'legal advice'.)
Having found Maharaja guilty of these offences, the O.C.P. instituted a series of sanctions against Maharaja, the chief being that:
"That is, as of Oct. 28, 2001, Dhanurdhara Maharaja may initiate disciples who are not on the list of currently aspiring disciples, although Dhanurdhara Maharaja may not perform initiation ceremonies outside his specified geographical area until Oct. 28, 2004."
In simple language this means he cannot initiate anyone in the USA (which is NOT one of his specified geographical areas) until 2004.
However it would appear that the new GBC administration headed by Ravindra Svarupa has decided to overturn this ruling, and decided that Maharaja is fit to initiate anyone, anywhere, anytime. This is further evidence if any was needed that, as we have said all along, this sudden 'concern' for the victims of child abuse, where it has actually been shown, was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to try and appease possible lawsuits.
In overturning the ruling of the very body that the GBC set up to deal with Child Abuse in ISKCON, it has made a mockery of the claims that the GBC is trying to change the past culture of being sympathetic to child abusers.
And please note that we are not talking here about the wild rantings of 'Guru-bashers' here. The GBC has overturned the verdict of the Child Protection panel which returned the above verdict, and which consisted of persons such as: Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja, Sesa dasa, Laxmimoni dasi, and Kalakantha dasa - all well-known GBC-Guru cronies. Yet even THEY could see that Dhanudara Maharaja needed to be dealt with - though it could be argued by many that even the punishment they handed out was far too lenient.
But for the GBC even THAT was too much. It seems that the GBC are happy for the O.C.P. to mete out punishment only to the 'rank and file' devotees who have been found guilty of wrong-doing. However when one of their own Guru pals ends up being caught, the 'old-boys Guru network' steps into to bale him out, and override the authority of any Child Protection Organisation. This means that if you are a Guru, the GBC have sent out a clear message that 'Child Abuse Will Be Tolerated'.
It seems ironic that having assumed office, this is basically the first use that Ravindra Svarup, the new GBC Chairman, has made of his powers.
(His Holiness Dhanurdhara Maharaja pictured 2nd from right with his 'old-boys Guru network'.)
However future Guru child abusers should watch out. They will not always have Ravindra as the GBC Chairman to look out for them and protect them.