May 09, 2017 UK (SUN)
Maharaj, thank you for taking the time to clarify your position on the use of corporal punishment.
You have gone digging for the handful of quotes where Srila Prabhupada sanctioned the use of corporal punishment, but you disregard the context. In the course of this exchange I have pointed this out before. You have not addressed the concerns raised and you continue doing it… which leads me to wonder: what is your objective? Are you trying to establish what is the essence of Srila Prabhupada's position on corporal punishment or are you more concerned with "appearing to be right in the eyes of the public" at any cost?
There are good reasons why these quotes are not cited when discussing child protection in ISKCON. Your use of these quotes to claim that somehow Srila Prabhupada endorsed corporal punishment for children is akin to someone quoting the instance where it is said that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested that his disciples serve meat to the visiting British Governor, to somehow make a case that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta encouraged meat-eating. Well, yes, it is absurd.
After no doubt much research, you have provided 8 quotes you believe support your claim that Srila Prabhupada was at least sometimes in favour of using corporal punishment.
A brief glance at the quotes you have provided will quickly reveal that only 4 of these quotes actually speak of hitting a child. The rest use the words "force" and "chastisement". On occasions Prabhupada used these words to mean beating, but often he didn't. One of the quotes you presented says: "Either your son or disciple, you should always chastise them". I trust that you do not beat your disciples when you feel they need to be chastised.
Of the 4 quotes where he actually speaks of hitting a child, three are anecdotal, meaning that they are not direct instructions to use corporal punishment on children, but rather Prabhupada is simply stating that sometimes to correct a child we slap/hit them with a shoe. You have lived in India long enough to be familiar with the frequently figurative meaning Indians attribute to the expression, "beating someone with a shoe". One of these quotes refers to a father hitting his son, which again is a very different scenario then your proposal to use corporal punishment by teachers.
After scouring the Vedabase you have come up with only one instance where Srila Prabhupada gave a direct instruction to hit a child; and perhaps if you invest a significant amount of time you may find one or two more… But again you quote out of context. You left out some vital information about the exchange that took place. I encourage anyone interested in the matter to read the complete conversation here.
It is disingenuous at best to try and use these quotes to somehow peddle the notion that Srila Prabhupada endorsed the use of corporal punishment on children. You found one instance where Srila Prabhupada reluctantly consented to the repeated requests of Jagadisa; and you conveniently overlook the fact that the anecdote you quote happens to be directly opposed to the overwhelming amount of direct instructions Srila Prabhupada gave us to never hit children.
Anyone who will study the entire body of Srila Prabhupada's teachings on corporal punishment, with some degree of honesty, will necessarily conclude that Srila Prabhupada was strongly against it. One of the reasons these quotes are not brought into the discussion when talking about education is because they are not representative of his overall stance on the issue.
In my research, I have found that the following statement written by Srila Prabhupada gives an accurate rendition of his position on the matter:
"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. (Letter to Bhanutanya, 18 November 1972)
But let's go back to the conversation you quote. It is indeed true that Srila Prabhupada sanctioned the use of corporal punishment in that instance.
However, you omitted to mention that during the course of that very conversation Jagadisa das and the others present pressured Srila Prabhupada to give his consent to beat the child, several times; and that before conceding Srila Prabhupada gave four alternative possibilities, which were disregarded, both by the disciples present during the conversation, and it seems, by yourself as well.
Given the volume of quotes wherein Srila Prabhupada emphatically forbids the use of corporal punishment, I will say that, in my limited estimation, you have made a very weak case to support your position.
Maharaj, in your writings you seem to be oblivious to ISKCON's history on the use of corporal punishment. Truth is that the quotes you dug up wherein Srila Prabhupada sanctioned the use of corporal punishment has been abused beyond the imaginable. Your continued endorsement of this practice is disrespectful to the suffering that hundreds of children endured precisely due to this very mind-set.
If 50 years of ISKCON's history is anything to go by, then we have learnt that the outcome of those few instances when Srila Prabhupada sanctioned the use of corporal punishment have resulted in a social disaster that scared generations of devotees. This is the other reason why you don't hear these quotes when devotees discuss education. So, yes, it is safe to say that in ISKCON's case, the endorsement of any form of corporal punishment has equated to the endorsement of child abuse. I strongly encourage you to meditate on the far reaching repercussions of your current position.
Often I hear devotees make the argument that they received a lot of beatings as children and that they have come out fine, hence we ought to encourage the use of corporal punishment, or at least tolerate it for it's not a big deal.
Needless to say that I am highly sceptical of this reasoning. I find this stance to be lacking in compassion. I know someone who had his arm broken when he was 9 years old, by his gurukula teacher, during a "disciplinary kicking session". Despite the fact that he survived and he is now a reasonably functional individual, this is hardly a desirable ideal to aspire towards.
You may argue that this is an extreme example and that you are not promoting such brutal punishments. The problem is that often teachers have unsupervised access to children; when you sanction the use of corporal you must also be willing to take responsibility for the teachers that will abuse it... and history tells us that there will be teachers that abuse it. The fact that many abused individuals survive and thrive goes to their credit, but it must not be used to continue beating children, for then you also need to consider the individuals who have taken their lives.
You may have some very mild notion of how you think corporal punishment should be used, but the truth is that you won't be present to overlook the sleep-deprived, frustrated, overburdened teacher that snaps, lashes out at the children and sends them to the hospital -- because Bhakti Vikasa Maharaj said that corporal punishment is ok. You won't be present, but you will be responsible…
If there is anything we can learn from the past it is precisely that you cannot trust that teachers will administer corporal punishment in a measured and safe fashion. Even for someone like yourself who believes that there is an appropriate use for corporal punishment, it is far safer to err on the side of caution and abolish it altogether.
Moreover, to discount the gravity of Bhakti Vidyapurna Maharaj's actions, you quoted Bg 9-30, but again you omitted the full context, and then instead of describing the brutal beatings he inflicted on his students, to further your agenda you chose to focus on the ear-pulling incident instead. Since you are so fixated on ear pulling, I will share my own experience, just to give an example of how something so "innocent sounding" can turn ghastly.
When I was in the Vrindavana Gurukula, it was common practice among some teachers and monitors to physically lift small children by their ears as punishment. The skin around the ear would often lacerate and occasionally bleed. The frequency of this practice did not allow sufficient time for the wounds to heal, which sometimes became infected… these infections would often last for prolonged periods of time. These boys would then gain the nick-name kaan-sarii (rotten ears).
If you have read through the interview with Bhakti Vidyapurna Maharaj you will have noticed that Bhakti Vidyapurna Maharaj seemed to regard the raping of the children under his care as an expected, natural occurrence due to the seasonal increase in lust. You also conveniently ignored that Bhakti Vidyapurna Maharaj touched the body of semi-naked young girls and that he spent nights alone in the company of a lady. You overlooked the fact that Srila Prabhupada clearly speaks of a single accidental mistake in the purport of Bg 9.30, whereas in the case of Bhakti Vidyapurna Maharaj we have decades of blunders.
The same goes for Indradyumna Maharaj. To this day, at his programs he surrounds himself with young girls, and he does not appear to be even trying to reform his ways, yet you endorse him.
While at the same time you claim to support the highest sannyasa principles. I am puzzled.
You have selectively quoted the "ear pulling incident" out of context, you have also quoted Bg. 9.30 out of context, and now you have also quoted Srila Prabhupada on corporal punishment out of context. Why do you do this? What are your motives?
Quoting out of context
To quote out of context is to remove a passage from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its meaning. The context in which a passage occurs always contributes to its meaning, and the shorter the passage the larger the contribution. For this reason, the quoter must always be careful to quote enough of the context not to misrepresent the meaning of the quote. Of course, in some sense, all quotation is out of context, but by a "contextomy", I refer only to those quotes whose meaning is changed by a loss of context. The fallacy of quoting out of context is committed when a contextomy is offered as evidence in an argument. Such fallacious quoting can take two distinct forms:
1. Straw Man: This form is especially common in political debates, when opponents are quoted out of context in order to misrepresent their position, thus making them easier to refute. Frequently, the loss of context makes them sound simplistic or extreme.
2. Appeal to Authority: Naturally enough, arguments from authority often quote experts as a premise. However, it is possible to quote even legitimate experts out of context so as to misrepresent their opinions, which is a form of misleading appeal to authority.