Corporal Punishment: Digging, Slapping or Beating


May 15, 2017 — INDIA (SUN) —

Dear Devotee readers of the Sun, with keen interest I have been following the exchange between Sanaka Rsi das and Bhakti Vikasa Swami, including related comments from Mahavidya das, regarding the use of corporal punishment in ISKCON Gurukulas. Recently, Bhakti Vikasa Swamihad the following to say to Sanaka Rsi das.

    "You state that the quote is out of context but you do not state the context – instead you substitute a hyperlink for an entire conversation. But the context of the statement is clear: at that point in the discussion the context was how to deal with an unruly boy.

    You stated: "You found one instance where Srila Prabhupada reluctantly consented to the repeated requests of Jagadisa…" But I also added the Hindi part, with translation, that you left out, in which Srila Prabhupada, unprompted by Jagadisa or anyone else, used the word pito (beat). The context is that Jagadisa suggested (once, not several times) beating as one of two alternatives, the other being to "send him back." Srila Prabhupada endorsed "send him back." Then other devotees explained in detail just how misbehaved the boy was, after which Jagadisa said, "In my opinion, the best thing is to make an example and beat him."

    This was only the second time (not several, as you state) that Jagadisa had suggested beating, to which Srila Prabhupada replied

    Yes, send him to farm, work in the field. If he does not work, beat him. Murkhasya lathyausadhih ["The medicine for a fool is a stick"].

    A little later in the conversation, Srila Prabhupada, speaking in Hindi (not to Jagadisa) and not prompted by anyone else, again recommended beating: "Send him to (the ISKCON farm at) Hyderabad, make him work. Give him digging work. If he refuses, beat him, that is the way to do it." Srila Prabhupada recommended that a boy be beaten."

This one response reveals a great deal. It reveals that devotees like Bhakti Vikasa Swami are stretched thin with their obligations due to wearing many hats. For he has taken on debating a serious subject to which he appears not to own enough time to dedicate towards his research in order to do the subject justice, and I surmise he would do it justice if he had the time to devote.

Sanaka Rsi das took direct issue with the quote in question writing, "You left out some vital information about the exchange that took place." Next he prompted Bhakti Vikasa Swami to follow a link leading to a slightly broader excerpt of the conversation under discussion from 11/5/76, analyzed by Chaitanya Mangala das, as the proper context to pinpoint Srila Prabhupada's mindset and intentions regarding his endorsement of beating a youth in the contentious quote provided by Bhakti Vikasa Swami. Bhakti Vikasa Swami responds that Sanaka Rsi das unnecessarily linked to the entire conversation as context. This is not only false, as the excerpt analyzed by Chaitanya Mangala das is only a small portion of that conversation in Vrndavana, but the very first sentence on that webpage states as much, confirming the hurried posture of Bhakti Vikasa Swami.

Next, Bhakti Vikasa Swami dismisses Sanaka Rsi das's contention outright claiming that the context was simply regarding how to deal with an unruly child, and this after lauding Sanaka Rsi das's intelligence. Yet Bhakti Vikasa Swami himself earlier conceded that Srila Prabhupada more often than not recommended NON-COPORAL punishment for unruly children. Thus if Bhakti Vikasa Swami was not so hurried, he may have reflected to consider that Sanaka Rsi das perceived that Srila Prabhupada considered the type of unruly behavior to be a factor in the measure of correction applied, and this was his reason to request a more focused look at the particular context.

I believe that the context can be discerned from the excerpt analyzed by Caitanya Mangala das. I also believe it would bring even greater clarity to take the time to read the entire conversation recorded that day, as it brings additional light to the understanding of Srila Prabhupada's efforts to provide the knowledge base for his disciples to proceed to engage and correct the youth of his movement.

In the broadest context of this topic, we have seen Srila Prabhupada's idea for corporal punishment, is not only a last resort, but should ultimately come in the form of a firm slap. This implies that he believed this should normally be sufficient to and rectify the situation when all else fails.

In this particular case under discussion, when the context is fully considered, it becomes obvious that this child could be considered an outlier, an extreme example of rebellious and unruly behavior due to various causes. This is not to say it would be unmatched, especially if such a child is not dealt with properly and is able to influence other children badly. Thus Prabhupada, from the beginning, suggests "sending him back" to his parents 3 times, so that he does not spoil other children. His next suggestion is hard manual labor on a farm, either Bombay or Hyderabad.

Yasodanandana does not acknowledge that but brings up the boy's previous presence in Bengal (Mayapura) and that he seemed to quickly pick up Bengali. Prompting Pradyumna to note the boy seemed intelligent to him, but very bad. Prabhupada then suggested sending the boy to Mayapura, but Jagadisa disagrees. He says he doesn't believe Bhavananda will accept him back after the previous trouble caused and Rupa Vilasa das agrees. Bringing us to this exchange:

    Jagadisa: In my opinion, the best thing is to make an example and beat him.
    Prabhupada: Yes, send him to farm, work in the field. If he does not work, beat him. Murkhasya laktausadhih. (?)(Hindi conversation)
    Yasodanandana: He was just in Hyderabad for that ceremony there, and he caused such disruption in the whole temple that I don't think they'd want him there.
    Jagadisa: The thing is, if we beat him here and keep him here, then all the boys will straighten up because they will see that if they go bad, then this will be their punishment.
    Prabhupada: As you think, you can do. But I wanted to engage in farm work, in digging.

One could argue that all suggestions of how to engage the boy without beating him were found lacking by those who knew him and those who would be asked to take him. And Srila Prabhupada appears to acquiesce, with a caveat. He makes clear that his disciples have failed to find a way, or justify, what he really wanted for the boy. To engage him in farm work. Which is why what follows Srila Prabhupada's last statement is MOST revealing.

    Yasodanandana: Yes, that is his propensity. Actually it's a fact when he was with me I would try to teach him Isopanisad and your purports, which are so clear and simple, but after three or four times explaining the same thing, he would become angry to receive the instruction.
    Prabhupada: No, no. He is meant for sudra's work.
    Yasodanandana: And when that boy would be told to watch himself…
    Prabhupada: You cannot expect that everyone is brahmana. No. He has got sudra mentality, so let him till the ground for Krsna. Svakarmana tam abhyarcya. He is fit for tilling so let him till and produce grain for Krsna.
    Jagadisa: Hyderabad?
    Prabhupada: Yes. Hard work. He should be given hard work. This gurukula is for high, high class brahmana, ksatriyas, not for the vaisyas and sudras. (man laughs in background) No, everyone is required for Krsna's service, but there… That I was describing today. There must be division. Don't put horse before a cart.

Jagadisa is being led by the nose, and even appears to have a glimmer of that recognition, asking "Hyderabad"? To which Srila Prabhupada answers, "YES". Earlier, the idea of Hyderabad was dismissed by Yasoda, at which point Jagadisa quickly repeated his earlier suggestion of keeping him there in Vrndavana and beating him, but elaborated enough to reveal his deeper motivation which was to use the beating as an example to the other boys as to their fate if they became unruly. Yet, here is Srila Prabhupada once again HINTING that his disciples leading different centers should find a way to work together to arrange for devotees to be where they will be engaged in the most meaningful and fulfilling way for their nature. Implying that beating is not only a last resort, but reflects upon a failure on the part of the adults to guide the child to a situation where rebellion is less likely to arise in them.

Just after the end of the excerpt above, there was further exchange between Jagadisa and Srila Prabhupada regarding another (younger) problem child. It was not included in Caitanya Mangala's analysis, nor addressed by Bhakti Vikasa Swami or Sanaka Rsi das, but I will reproduce it below because it emphasizes my last point.

    Jagadīśa: (name withheld) is another problem.
    Prabhupāda: Hm?
    Jagadīśa: (name withheld), (name withheld)'s boy. He is only eight, but he is becoming like a street boy.
    Prabhupāda: So let him go to farm working. Farm working is for suitable...
    Bhagatji: He likes that. He'll play with cows. He likes dung.
    Prabhupāda: What is that?
    Jagadīśa: He likes dung.
    Prabhupāda: That's nice. Let him take care. He should take care. Therefore we must have all these engagement. He'll be encouraged to take care of the cows.
    Bhagatji: But he's not in Gurukula. How can you send him? He is with (father's name withheld). (father name withheld) left him for five days. (father name withheld) is keeping him.
    Prabhupāda: If the father takes care, that's all right. Otherwise he can go to Hyderabad. Hyderabad should be for gṛhasthas, for plowing, for growing, and flowers, like that. No education required.
    Bhagatji: He is not interested in education, not at all.
    Prabhupāda: No, no education... That is waste of... For such boys who are not interested, why they should be enforced, education? They are not meant for that. Education is for higher brain, sober brain. And not that everyone has to become literate. It is not required. He can do other work. Yes.

I still recommend that the entire conversation be read because there is even more evidence of Srila Prabhupada instructing on how to organize the coordination of centers to accommodate the natural tendencies of devotees in order to insure meaningful service and minimize disruption and rebellion.


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