11 Oct 2008

Stolen Childhood

The Sampradaya Sun - October 9, 2008


Oct 09, USA (SUN) — There has been a lot of discussion about the ISKCON settlement recently. I am a former gurukuli who attended Vrndavan, New Vrndavan, Gita Nagari, and other gurukulas in the late 70's and early 80's. I, along with many other children, in addition to being forcibly removed from my parents at age 4 or 5 endured many forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Before the lawsuit was pursued, around '98 and '99, I recall personally contacting different temple authorities about getting some employment through ISKCON. As many of us gurukulis are in our 30's and because of the low quality of education given in the gurukulas, university entrance was impossible. While ordinary karmis are having successful lives -- financial, emotional, and family stability -- every gurukuli I know is struggling day to day, have not attained the dreams of having what karmis consider even average success: family, a comfortable living situation, reliable vehicle, etc.
I have to emphasize that when I was 4, I didn't make the choice, unlike adults, to join a religion that celebrates poverty, lack of family, and viewing the world as a Kali Yuga hellhole that we must leave ASAP. Now as a result, many of us have grown up into exactly what was planned for us -- emotionally disturbed, unskilled losers, while many others around us who had normal childhoods are prospering with happy lives complete with families of their own. It's no wonder some have attempted or chosen to end their lives through suicide.
As I began, in '98 I had many talks with the temple authorities about solutions, such as offering former gurukulis support, employment, counseling, help with going to college, etc., and I was never offered a single lead in any of these areas. It had to come down to someone outside of ISKCON -- Windle Turley and a lawsuit -- to make any change.
And on the topic of the amounts that are compensated to former gurukulis, I can tell you firsthand, since I am one of the Turley claimants. It works out to about two thousand dollars twice a year for 4 years -- about enough to pay rent and bills for a short time. So anyone thinking there was a lot of money involved, they are simply wrong. It's a pittance for a stolen childhood and a bleak future.
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    Oct 10, USA (SUN) — Ganganam's letter doesn't make sense. Does he live under a rock somewhere? My sons, myself, and so many devotees and gurukulis go first to community college then onto university, working part-time and taking out loans. We have good jobs now and believe me, no devotee organization paid our way or provided handouts.

    Ganganam could train to become an RN with a two-year course and be assured of a job the rest of his life! This is not rocket science. Ganganam, take your Turley settlement money as seed money and get moving! If you're going to lament, lament for a spiritual reason, not for lack of material success.

  2. To anyone who has been in a cult, especially someone born and/or raised in such a totalitarian environment, Ganganam's letter makes perfect sense. The abuses Ganganam speaks of, the stolen childhood and lost opportunities, are well known to cult survivors. What doesn't make sense is Krsna Dasa's apparent need to attack a cult abuse survivor. Ganganam's letter was clearly a lament for spiritual reasons, i.e., the physical, mental and spiritual abuse by religious leaders and the denial of basic children's rights by those same religious leaders. Denying Ganganam's rights as a child infringed on Ganganam's future rights as an adult. Just because some of the consequences of that abuse and denial of rights are of a material nature, doesn't make it any less a spiritual matter. Ganganam has every right to lament material losses and opportunities which were directly caused by spiritual abuse.