Support Our Sponsors -- Support Us!

Ad Info

(Prev | Top | Next)

Chapter 8, pp. 73-77, "Who's Watching the Children?"

My father once commented, "You can win more people to your side with pictures of kids and animals than with any other gimmick." This rule applied to the April 1980 Life magazine cover of two beautiful Hare Krishna girls wearing colorful saris and big smiles. . . .

Life's article, "Children of a Harsh Bliss" began with a fifteen-inch-wide, black-and-white photo of three bald gurukula boys, holding their hands out to Kirtanananda as if begging. Kirtanananda, sniffing a flower, looks them over. Gurus sometimes passed out flowers during worship time; the children wanted the flower that Kirtanananda held to his nose. The lead paragraph said, "The children with the outstretched hands have already begun their training as lifelong members of the sect of Hare Krishna." ("Sect" not "cult" was a small concession to Mukunda's legal front.)

Life printed a good picture of the palace, but the rest of Hoffman's black-and-white photo essay was moody and bleak. In one picture, a group of men bow to someone on a bare, rutted road. In another, a sari-clad woman shaves her son's head. Bold type beneath a photo of children in a classroom reads, "The study of Sanskrit in a climate of few comforts." On the seventh page of the eight-page article is the heading "Strict rules to separate the sexes" and a photo of a gurukula [school] girl receiving a sewing lesson. Finally, a full-page photo shows a teenage girl with almond eyes, her face partially illuminated by rays of sunshine. "The fourteen-year-old at right, caught in a reflective moment, was married recently. 'She was developing a lot of crushes,' a devotee explained. Her sister, sixteen, is married and pregnant." . . . .

In his newsletter Mukunda described the Life cover as a victory and printed comments by the guru Hridayananda:

"Concerning the part on women, it says that we segregate the sexes and stress chastity for women, which are values that most Americans respect. Don't forget that the Equal Rights Amendment failed in America. America, as a nation, does not believe in the equality of women. It's a proven fact, because ERA failed. . . .

"The mention of a sixteen-year-old pregnant wife and a fourteen-year-old who will get married came off very well. The article mentioned that one is married and the other is getting crushes. These days, there's a big movement in America against illicit sex, and these early marriages show our concern for not letting women become polluted."

In controversies like this I wanted to take ISKCON's side, but such inane arguments by the leaders gave me new doubts. I trusted my father above anyone else because he knew P.R., and I was glad Mukunda respected his opinion. As far as Life magazine, Dad and Mukunda were right. The cover was remembered. Life readers voted it one of the best of the year, and the magazine published several letters about it. The Hare Krishna girls even appeared on a Bombay billboard advertising Life. Ethan Hoffman won praise for the photo, and it remains one of the most memorable and well-known of all his prize-winning shots. . . .

The Life cover was a metaphor for the children of ISKCON. On its face, the picture seemed like good publicity, with innocent, smiling faces, but it hid a growing desperation. All the children in ISKCON during those years felt it, even if they were not assaulted. Some adults sensed the tension, but most trusted the GBC leadership and left childcare to the gurukulas. Perpetrators told the children it was their karma that they were abused, but that's not true. It was neglect on the part of idealistic and irresponsible adults.

(Prev | Top | Next)

Krishna Today Contents    Links    Mail Box   

Betrayal Excerpts    ISKCON Rumors    AOL bbs dialogues

Internet Link Exchange
Member of the Internet Link Exchange

Please send questions, comments, problems, and letters to the editor to Nori Muster, nori@steamboats.com. All editorial correspondence becomes the property of trancenet.net -- unless requested otherwise -- and may be edited for purposes of clarity and space. Except where noted, entire contents Copyright ©1998 Nori Muster. trancenet.netTM is a trademark of trancenet.net Society, an unincorporated nonprofit organization. The opinions and viewpoints of contributors do not necessarily reflect those of trancenet.net, its editorial staff, nor trancenet.net Society, its board, officers, employees, volunteers. Neither trancenet.net Society nor its editorial staff conclude that any group discussed on this site is necessarily cultic in nature. We provide suppressed and alternative information so that you may make informed decisions for yourself. Copyrighted works are reprinted with permission as noted or are made available under the "fair use" exception of U.S. copyright law, for research and educational purposes only.

A trancenet.net publication.

Search this site.

To comment on this or any other trancenet.net page, go to trancechat.

This page was last built with Frontier on a Macintosh on Fri, May 22, 1998 at 2:36:45 PM .