Children should not be beaten at all

Summer 2007

“Children should not be beaten at all”: Srila Prabhupada speaks out on corporal punishment

In the last issue of BTP, we showed how Srila Prabhupada firmly outlawed ISKCON’s involvement in the opening of government schools which follow the government’s curriculum. Rather, he only wanted bona fide gurukulas (Hare Krishna schools) which would create first-class devotees. Despite these clear instructions from our Founder-Acarya, ISKCON is operating or involved with a number of schools where the government authorized syllabus is taught.
Allied to this has been a storm of controversy surrounding the legacy of child abuse in ISKCON schools, with ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) even going so far as to write a letter of apology in this year’s GBC resolutions to convicted child abuser and voted-in guru, HH Dhanurdhara Swami, and inviting him back to active service - while continuing to ban IRM supporters from even seeing the Deities in the temple, and then lying to the media about it (see BTP14, “ISKCON caught lying over temple banning”). Furthermore, we see a prominent ISKCON leader (and the same person who lied to the media about the temple banning just mentioned) who has been accused of child abuse claiming that physical corporal punishment was part of how ISKCON schools were organized in the 1970s

“Corporal punishment was part of ISKCON’s discpline”

“Corporal punishment was part of the disciplinary plans of ISKCON in the 1970s and ’80s in schools in India and the US.”

(Gauri Das, Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple President, quoted in “Spiritual head accused of beating up children”, DNA World, November 14th, 2006)

Below we see that corporal punishment was certainly NOT a part of Srila Prabhupada’s “disciplinary plans” for ISKCON

Children should not be beaten at all

“Now the thing is, children should not be beaten at all, that I have told. They should simply be shown the stick strongly. So if one cannot manage in that way then he is not fit as teacher. If a child is trained properly in Krishna Consciousness, he will never go away. That means he must have two things, love and education.
So if there is beating of child, that will be difficult for him to accept in loving spirit, and when he is old enough he may want to go away--that is the danger. So why these things are going on - marching and chanting japa, insufficient milk, too strict enforcement of time schedules, hitting the small children? Why these things are being imposed? […]
What can I do from such a distant place? They should run and play when they are small children, not forced to chant japa, that is not the way. So I have given you the guiding principles, it is not that I must be consulted with every small detail, that is the business of the in-charge, but if no one is there who can manage in the right way, what can I do?”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter sent to a teacher at the first ISKCON School in Dallas, November 18th, 1972)

“So I have heard that there has been some beating with sticks on the children. Of course I do not know, but that should not be. You may show the stick, threaten, but better art is to somehow or other, even by tricking them, avoid this matter of force and induce them to obey out of loving spirit. That is success of disciplinary method.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 18th, 1972)

Force and punishment is never allowed

“Encourage them to chant as much japa as possible, but there is no question of force or punishment. If there is need you may shake your finger at them but never physical punishment is allowed. Try as far as possible to discipline them with love and affection, so that they develop a taste for austerity of life and think it great fun to serve Krishna in many ways. Rising early and mangal arati, this is enough austerity.
Besides that, let them learn something, chant, dance, eat as much prasadam as they like, and do not mind if they have playful nature--let them also play and run, that is natural. It is nice if they eat often--if children overeat it doesn’t matter, that is no mistake.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, January 10th, 1972)

“Keep them always happy in Krishna Consciousness, and do not try to force or punish or they will get the wrong idea. By and by, if they are satisfied in this way, they will all grow up to be first-class preachers and devotees.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, February 16th, 1972)

“I consider this Gurukula school to be one of our most important aspects of this movement […]
If there is obedience then there will be discipline, and without any discipline the management is very difficult. So first obedience by the children. That is not always by punishing or by force, but sometimes by showing the stick, without necessarily hitting and sometimes it is learning how to trick them or even cheat them into obeying you voluntarily and enjoying by their obedience.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, June 20th, 1972)