RMF Summary: Week of December 26, 2011 - January 1, 2012

December 26
ISKCON U-Turns Explained
bluecupid shares:
Since Rajiv makes ISKCON part of his research, you might be interested to know why many of the "gurukuli" youth have U-turned from it upon reaching adulthood.  Keep in mind that these people never CHOSE to join ISKCON but were born into it through their parents. They grew up in ISKCON's "gurukula" system wherein many of them experienced severe psychological, physical and even sexual abuse.

It may be that had they not experienced this abuse, they would not have done U-turns, and there are some who, having even experienced such abuse, did not do a complete U-turn from either ISKCON or Vaishnavism in general.

These young people, now adults, are currently writing about their growing up in ISKCON and what affect it has had on them as adults.

Here's a peak into one such life:


Another U-turner is a relatively longtime adult member (at the time) who was considered an intellectual treasure some decades ago in the organization. He has since gone on to write books about his experiences and other topics. His critique is insightful and not entirely negative.



In the section where he discusses all the things he learned from his ISKCON experience, I'm posting below what he writes "ON TRANSPLANTING AN INDIAN RELIGIOUS TRADITION TO THE WEST" but I recommend you read all of the "things learned".

I learned, in the end, that it is nearly impossible to transmit and translate a religious tradition from its land of origin into a completely foreign cultural environment. However earnestly one may attempt to preserve its original cultural and experiential ethos, that tradition is unavoidably refracted through a radically different cultural lens, and in the process is distorted, perhaps fatally.

I learned that any such attempt to universalize a religious tradition is further complicated when the transitioning culture has been redefined and repackaged as an elitist monastic society preaching a world-rejecting ideology.

I learned that such a foreign religious transplant, re-branded as a world-rejecting monasticism, would naturally create a high level of tension with the new host society, further causing the transplant to assume a defensive posture and recede into a hard institutional shell.

I learned a thing or two about the role of the intellectual in a cultic milieu. Because intelligence, like everything else, is to be used only in Krishna's service, the intellectually inclined member finds him or herself constrained to a narrow range of intellectual or academic activity. His research library consists not of the accumulated wisdom of mankind, but of the writings of his guru (and those who support the guru's views). Thus, while the independent, non-apologetical intellectual engages in open-ended reflection and analysis in search of deeper insight and unbiased understanding of a chosen subject, the cult intellectual works under a particular mandate: to explain, promote and defend the ideology of the cult, as well as to promote the institution that embodies it. ...

Carpentier responds to bluecupid:
I often wonder at the rather sudden epidemic of sexual abuse in all organisations, spiritual, religious or not...Is it not some
fashion that has become endemic.Millions of people now remember that they were sexually abused in infancy or adolescence. I am sure most are sincere and some are telling the truth but still! In some countries in the West many women equate any sort of sexual contact that they did not specifically demand with rape or abuse.

Rajiv's comment: 
"...This "blame Indian culture" is yet another example of superimposing western bias (in this case from the imagined liberal kind).

I went to a catholic school in delhi and many boys said that as punishment they often got caned in a private room after having them remove their pants! In USA today there would a huge class action law suit against the whole chain of catholic schools. Probably it also happened in non catholic schools judging from stories told by boys from various places...
So these "excuses" by uturners are just that. Their are right in making the charge, but wrong in accusing a particular faith or culture for it.

The same is true of blaming caste bias on Hinduism per se. I was recently at the Huffington Post holiday party in Manhattan where a young Muslin woman (self classified as a Muslim feminist) was telling me how one prominent Indian Hindu
scholar (name withheld) was giving a talk in Istanbul recently, and got totally stumped and embarrassed when an Indian Muslim woman in the audience asked her of caste biases in Hinduism. The Hindu woman had no idea what to say and retracted her entire thesis in embarassment.

So I told this Muslim feminist that Islam has an even more severe caste system. I explained how the ashraf muslims (upper caste) in south asia imagined they were descendents of Arabs, Turks or Persians, including Saids who claimed to be
direct descendents of the prophet. How the ethnic clashes in Pakistan were often involving those who migrated from the India side (mujahirs) after partition, and hence were not considered ashraf but ajlaf muslims (lower caste). This muslim
caste is a form of racism. There has never been a single panel on it in the AAR or the past 40 years of South Asian Conferences in Madison where Hindu caste is staple diet for the scholars.

Muslim caste is worse than the Hindu caste bias which is recognized and has quotas etc to help those who got affected. The muslim caste has no self consciousness on the part of the ashraf - Shabana Azmi and her pompous husband
and most other prominent Indian muslim elites proudly claim to be ashraf
, in ways that would be considered scandalous if brahmins did that in Delhi's elite

The muslim feminist was in full agreement with my understanding of the muslim caste system. I went on to tell her that every Pakistani newspaper in any language has matrimonial ads where they announce the caste of the person and the desired caste of the partner they want - this is out in the open as muslim caste.

There was a christian Indian also present in the conversation. I was about to open the question of christian caste, but she anticipated this and calmly walked away in another direction.

The muslim feminist then told me: Why did xyz (name withheld) not respond this way in the conference when she was asked? I told her that it was the wrong kind of Hindu ambassador invited to the event. "

Kundan responds:
"... debate on prime time on CNN-IBN will further substantiate Rajiv ji’s view that both Islam and Christianity practices casteism in India, given that there are two Islamic scholars who talking about the need of caste based reservations within the Muslim population in India (the case of Dalit Christians is also taken up).

Though both Islam and Christianity have adopted devious and violent measures for conversion in India throughout Indian history, they have always claimed that they want to bring about the conversion to end caste-based discrimination in Hinduism.

There is no society in the world where there isn’t any discrimination. But somehow Hinduism is a chief target of intellectuals to criticize. In the psychological parlance, we call this as “shadow projection.” Shadow projection happens when one projects one’s deficiencies, problems, and issues onto others, instead of examining it within oneself. What happens on an individual level also happens on a societal level. If one looks at the American society, discrimination based on lines of race, skin-color, gender, and religion abounds. However, India continues to be center-stage of projection where all discrimination happens. Despite that South Africa continued to practice apartheid till only a few years back, the specialty of Hinduism in this area continues to be reserved.

Caste discrimination happens to be one of the greatest barriers among the Hindu Indian American kids in having a confident identity about themselves. It is also one that makes westernized Indians or “White Indians” as Rajiv ji mentioned in his dialogue with Francis Clooney at UMass, Dartmouth highly apologetic. It produces “Difference Anxiety from Below” and creates a fertile ground for assimilation and disowning of one’s Hindu/Indian identity. As we begin “reversing the gaze” we will ultimately need to write ... It requires work along the following lines:

  1. An insider’s perspective on varna as it has been described in various dharmic texts beginning with the “Purusha sukta” of the Vedas. We will then need to look at its discussions in all the dharma-shastras that have been given to us over ages. This is specifically because varna-dharma has changed according to time and place. This will, of course, reveal that Varna traditionally in India was guna-based and was not hereditary, according to the family of birth, as it became in later times (since I had written a detailed email on this topic some time back, I will refrain from writing about the same thing again).
  2. How the varna-based society was described in the travelogues of the foreigners since the times written records are available.
  3. How the varna based society changed during the Muslim and English rule (Ronald Inden and Nicholas Dirks talk about the English impact but the Islamic impact remains to be studied).  
  4. A critical inquiry of assumptions of all those philosophers like Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau etc who are said to have laid the foundation of “equality.” And finally the social problems that specifically appear and arise from the philosophical foundations of western societies. This is important further because in India, there is an uncritical aping of the west that is happening, which is problematic on at least two accounts: a) what India may be aping may not be in conformity with its particular way of being—this does not mean to say that the west is wrong in having its present society; just that India does not need to be aping it, and b) the problems that have emerged in the West due to its current social philosophies have not been sufficiently studied. And they need to be studied using the Indian cosmology.....  

And as I say the above, I want to clarify that I am an opponent of birth-based jati/caste system, with all its problems of discrimination, rigid hierarchy and oppression but I do not share the same views regarding guna-based varna system which was a different matter altogether. The guna-based system, in my opinion, was based on plurality and diversity with utmost respect for people’s individual guna-based swadharma ... Because most people in India have forgotten the wisdom of the guna-based varna, many children are subjected to utmost oppression by their well-meaning and more-often-than-not-loving family members where every attempt is made to make them something which is not in tune with their natural flow, their swadharma."

Venkat adds:
"A very important point that is overlooked in any discussion about ISKCON is that Prabhupada emulated the Christian model as well as fundamental beliefs and incorporated them into his movement. It was, in a certain sense, inculturation, just that it happened in the reverse direction. Consider these:
  1. Tithing the church was a Christian practice and requirement (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) which Prabhupada borrowed into ISKCON.
  2. Prabhupada's opposition to sex is directly borrowed from Christianity (Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7), and was a radical departure from the Hindu ethos regarding sexuality.
  3. Even the congregational structure he created was based on the Christian model of congregation.
  4. The anti-intellectual strand that ran through ISKCON ....
The list can go on but what Gelberg and others miss is that ISKCON's is not a problem of a foreign dharma entering the US soil - after all Christianity is a desert religion of Semitic origin. It is foremost the case of a dharmic religion acquiring Abrahamic memes. The abuse in ISKCON has been a fraction of what happens in the Catholic or Protestant churches but the media is generally prone to treat Christian churches with kid gloves. As Daniel Dennett says the only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of followers it has acquired."
bluecupid responds to Venkat:
""Prabhupada's opposition to sex is directly borrowed from Christianity
(Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7), and was a radical departure from the Hindu
ethos regarding sexuality."

Wrong. Its borrowed from the Bhagavat Purana, Bhakti Sandarbha, and Hari Bhakti Vilas. Please see here;


One of the problems when discussing ISKCON with Indian Hindus is that they are more often than not unfamiliar with the texts of the previous Vaishnava tradition that ISKCON sprang from and which much of ISKCON is in fact based.

"The abuse in ISKCON has been a fraction of what happens in the Catholic or Protestant churches but the media is generally prone to treat Christian churches with kid gloves."

Wrong again. There was hardly any coverage of the ISKCON scandals in the mainstream media when the news broke. Even now, when you say "Hare Krishnas" in the West, most people think of happy people singing and dancing in the streets
back in the 70s and often wonder "where have they gone?" They are unaware of the scandals. Same in India. Unless you are an ISKCON member or related to them, you would not be privy to what happened. Even the new comers who join the
organization now are largely unaware.

As far as the child abuse being a "fraction" of what took place in the Catholic Church during the same time period, well, adjust for population size and they are pretty par. It may even be more in ISKCON." 
[this post is tied to the 'Jesus in India' thread that was discussed else. search Keywords]
December 28
Frank shares: 
I am about to travel to India to produce a documentary and would like to ask for recommendations.  The film will be called Beyond Reason and will be about the roots of Vedanta and the scientific nature of Indian Philosophy.

I have already produced two documentary films on spirituality that you are guaranteed to love.   

These documentaries are sure to invoke a lively discuss.  The first film, Beyond Me, is about consciousness, instincts, personality disorders and evolution and makes a case for how meditation is the solution for human suffering. 

The second film, Beyond Belief, presents a case for Missing Knowledge that Jesus taught and that His authentic teachings have their roots in Vedanta.

Ravindra reviews the films
Watched both the movies.
Movie 1: Good documented case of Punar-Janma (re-incarnation) with lot of fuzzy statements about claims on behalf of Buddhism's new contributions on Yoga, that
can not be substantiated...

Movie 2: Mainly Speculative, wishful thinking, need of Christians to show Christianity and Jesus as Victimized, so create a story that Brahmans and Xshatriyas tried to kill Jesus. And Jesus learning Yoga directly from Rishis and
Mahavira etc.. Basically a load of BS.

December 28
Our own leaders inadvertently helping in the digestion of Yoga
HSS USA is kicking off its annnual Surya Namaskar Yagna (SNY) from Jan 14th 2012. This is from their website:Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) announces the...
January 1
Clarification to Ch.2
Dear Rajiv, I recently bought a copy of Being Different and am reading it with great pleasure and edification. You deserve our thanks for having undertaken the...
Jaunary 1
Triple anxiety of being different.
Dear Rajiv Ji, Namaste, I have recently purchased your latest book, Being Different, and I have just begun reading it. Though I wanted to read it through to...
January 1
Another review of Breaking India in Tamil
One of the good tamil literary website has published article on Breaking India. http://solvanam.com/?p=18567...

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