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Thursday, January 25, 2018

RACISM AND CASTE BIGOTRY IN THE HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT

Re-enslave black people? Call them ugly and uncivilized? Reinforce caste stereotypes treating sudras and Dalits  (“untouchables”) like stupid beasts of burden? ISKCON’s founder openly professed these beliefs and his devoted followers have never denounced them. In fact, the aura surrounding guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami “Srila Prabhupada” (1896-1977) has never been brighter, as attested by the 50th anniversary celebrations of his founding the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York City back in 1966.[i] Such blind adoration of the man and his teachings is also evident in the academic sphere, where followers of the self-promoting swami treat his legacy as an unparalleled visionary gift to the West. Just last month, for example, Yale University’s Dept. of Religious Studies held its “Hinduism and Ecology” conference at the ISKCON Goverdhan Ecovillage in Polgar, Maharastra (India) from December 11-14th, with many attendees from major universities worldwide, most of whom would cringe and run for cover if they knew their hosts’ repulsive racial ideology.[ii]
                                 ये लोग मित्र कैसे हो सकते हैं?
Harvard Prof. Cornel West and ISKCON guru Radhanath Swami
???
In a supremely ironic twist, on 7 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi—himself born in a sudra family—celebrated the grand opening of the Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar International Center, dedicated to the memory and work inspired by the principal architect of the constitution of India and a founding father of the Republic itself.[iii] Despite obtaining doctorates from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) had first-hand experience of the indignities those born into Dalit (“untouchable”) families suffer throughout their lives.  In his commitment to wiping out the caste system and its multifarious injustices, Ambedkar’s life and legacy show what a true mahatma is and why we need to cast a cold eye on so-called saints who promote regressive practices in the name of religious orthodoxy.  
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

ISKCON FOUNDER’S RACIST COMMENTS ABOUT BLACKS

Let me start with a famous quotation from Bhaktivedanta Swami’s commentary (“purports”) from the 1964 edition of his translation of the Srimad Bhagavatam[iv], which, for obvious reasons, has been omitted from subsequent editions. I will refer to the swami as “Prabhupada” for the rest of this essay. (My comments are in blue.)

The cupid, therefore, throws his arrow upon the living being to become mad after his opposite sex never mind whether the party is actually beautiful or not. Such action of the cupid is going on even on the negroes and beastly societies who are all ugly looking in the estimation of the civilized nations. Thus cupid’s influence is exerted even in the ugliest forms (of living being) and-what to speak about the most perfectional stage of personal beauties.
 SB 1.11.36, purport (1964 ed.)

What is truly ugly here is Bhaktivedanta’s degraded view of human sexuality and his monomaniacal belief that “the civilized nations” all share his fierce and ill-informed bigotry. His venomous hatred of and personal disgust with the appearance and behavior of what he calls “the negroes and beastly societies” reveals a coarseness of character his disciples should have recognized as far from his self-described status as a “pure devotee” fit for serving as the absolute moral and spiritual guide for each and every one of his disciples (and I might add, their disciples). Even his own editors—slavish and gullible as they were and still are--recognizing the damage it would do if the swami’s bigotry were made public, omitted it from subsequent editions. This decision, an obvious public relations ploy designed to hoodwink readers, shows how the Hare Krishna movement was from its very beginnings indisputably a cult.
Treating his absurd racist views as private, esoteric morsels of divine wisdom fit only for circulation among his disciples was a cheap maneuver intended to both insult their intelligence and that of the public:
Certainly we are not going to say these things about the negro people publicly… So, you can understand that these talks are not for the public, as they have not got the ability to understand.
 Letter to Satsvarupa, 9 April 1968, San Francisco
Evidently our revered guru truly resented the progress made by “a third-class negro” in Western countries, and regarded them with the contempt usually associated with white supremacists and other disgruntled malcontents:
This is Vedic civilization: plain living, high thinking. And poor thinking, poor in thought, poor in behavior, and living with motorcar and this, that, nonsense. It is all nonsense civilization. A first-class Rolls Royce car, and who is sitting there? A third-class negro. This is going on. You’ll find these things in Europe and America. This is going on. A first-class car and a third-class negro.
Room conversation, 5 October 1975, Mauritius
First-Class Success!
Judging from his disciples’ expertise in cheating and harassing the public that characterized Bhaktivedanta Swami’s book-selling scams—who can forget those saffron-clad nuisances who annoyed passengers at airports for so many years!--he was clearly an expert at hurling unfounded accusations against black people:
And especially in your country it will be dangerous because these blacks, if they don’t get employment, they will create havoc, these blacks. And they are not civilized. They want money, and if they don’t get money, then they will create havoc.
Room conversation, 21 January 1977, Bhuvanesvara, India
The following conversation, which I have quoted in full, between Prabhupada (Bhaktivedanta Swami) and a number of his disciples, shows just how he advocated racial segregation. Here he equates blacks with crows and states that they “naturally” prefer to live with their own kind:


Rāmeśvara: In regards to brainwashing, they claim that our life-style tends to take the devotee and isolate him from the world.
Prabhupāda: Yes. We hate to mix with you. No gentleman tries to mix with loafers. In England still, the rich quarter is different from the poor quarter. Is it not?
Hari-śauri: Not so much. It was though, formerly, very strongly.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Aristocratic will never live… Even in America, they don’t like to live with the blacks.
Rāmeśvara: No.
Prabhupāda: … So that separation… Crows will not like to live with the ducks and white swans. And white swans will not like to live with the crows. That is natural division. “Birds of the same feather flock together.”
Jagadīśa: And honest men don’t like to associate with thieves and criminals.
Prabhupāda: Yes, that is natural. We are not interested even with these daily newspapers. We are interested Bhagavad-gītā. We don’t keep any news. We know the dogs are barking. That’s all. But that does not mean we have to mix with the dogs.
11 January, 1977, India

DUAL EVILS: CASTE HATRED AND RACIAL STEREOTYPES

Now I will introduce a set of Prabhupada’s comments showing his belief in the hereditary, race-based hierarchical caste system and how it should be introduced to and practiced by his followers world-wide.[v]
The following—in which he openly states his belief that blacks should be returned to slavery--is possibly the most notorious of the swami’s racist statements:
Sudra is to be controlled only. They are never given to be freedom. Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal right? That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied.
Room conversation 14 February, 1977, Mayapura, India.


Never Again! You Can Keep Your "Sufficient Food and Cloth."

It is hard to believe that Prabhupada wished to import the evils of the caste system to wherever had followers established temples, but these statements make it indisputably true:


The varnashrama college has to be established immediately. Everywhere, wherever we have got our center, a varnashrama college should be established to train four divisions.
                                                           Morning Walk, Vrindavan, India, 12 March, 1974.
Once the populace is situated in the varnasrama-dharma, there is every possibility of real life and prosperity both in this world and in the next. [Sure, as long as you’re not a sudra!!!]
Srimad Bhagavatam 4.14.19, Purport

The following two quotations reveal how Prabhupada equated skin color with caste. Predictably enough, because he claimed sudras have a “black” complexion[vi] because they are allegedly “non-Aryan” Dravidians (so-called indigenous people from Southern India), they are imposters even when they have obtained a higher social status. In this way, caste bigots treat the “black” blood of a sudra as a pollutant:



So here, this man was cheating. . . . He was dressed like a king. Just like king is very gorgeously dressed. But his bodily feature, he was a black man. The black man means śūdra.
Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.16.4 1 January, 1974, Los Angeles, CA.


Dravidian culture. Dravida. They are non-Aryans. Just like these Africans, they are not Aryans. Now they are mixing up with Europeans and Americans. In India, it was, one from the higher section, brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, they will be fair complexion. Sudras, black. So if a brahmana becomes black, then he’s not accepted as brahmana. . . .And if a sudra becomes fair, then he’s to be know that he’s not pure sudra. 
                                                     2 August, 1976, ISKCON farm in France

In the following, Prabhupada extends his disgust with sudras to Native Americans, by simply hurling more insults accompanied by his typical unsupported oversimplifications:

Sudras have no brain. In America also, the whole America once belonged to the Red Indians. Why they could not improve? The land was there. Why these foreigners, the Europeans, came and improved? So sudras cannot do this. They cannot make any correction.
Room conversation with reporter, 3 June 1976, Los Angeles
OPPORTUNISM:  THE WORM AT THE CORE OF THE CASTE SYSTEM
By now, some of you might be thinking, “why didn’t somebody tell me about this nonsense before?” Well, in what began as a flirtation in the 1960’s and in a few decades, blossomed into a full-blown romance, many Western countries have embraced Eastern mysticism with incense-clouded glasses. Savvy marketers of yoga, meditation, and various sorts of guru-worshipping cults insist that each of them has a proven method to achieve “transcendental” results fast and easy. Voila! You have achieved enlightenment. Now everything you are and have is subject to a spate of rules and regulations designed to keep you orbiting around their star. Our guru Prabhupada used to call it “spiritual communism” and he wasn’t kidding.
Scandals abound in these neo-Hindu organizations, but threats and hush money virtually guarantee that only a very few instances are made public. Those who are deeply involved in these enlightenment-is-easy scams are deluded fools who see what they want and choose to ignore the rest. For all the talk about spirituality, it has never ceased to amaze me how most of these people seem to have lost their souls as they retreat into an alternate reality where empathy and common decency have little to no value.
Dalit Woman Cleaning Feces Off Train Tracks
Back to our subject.  If you want to get an idea of how the caste system poisons India to this day, just go to Twitter or Google and search for the term “Dalit.” You will find a multitude of hair-raising accounts of everyday abuse—domestic terror, really--suffered by these “untouchables” at the hands of higher caste Indians. Such outrages are modern day vestiges of those Ambedkar fought against so courageously and detailed so unforgettably in his 1936 unpublished speech, Annihilation of Caste.[vii] To better appreciate his contributions to eradicating the injustices perpetuated by the caste system, readers need to get their facts straight regarding its origins and methods of operations. First, Ambedkar’s correction regarding the issue of race and caste:
As a matter of fact the caste system came into being long after the different races of India had commingled in blood and culture. To hold that distinctions of castes are really distinctions of race, and to treat different castes as though they were so many different races, is a gross perversion of facts.
Annihilation of Caste  5.2 pp.237-238.

So much for the caste origin myths and their relation to the skin color gradations in some sort of primordial caste structure![viii] The fact is that all natives of the Indian subcontinent share DNA markers, regardless of the percentage of ancestral sources and their geographical locations.[ix] What the institution of the caste system did (around 1,500 C.E.) was to artificially restrict interbreeding by restricting intermarriage between castes, resulting in gradations of skin color that have been mistakenly associated with each caste. However, as Ambedkar states, India was already a mixed population racially before the caste system took hold.

We already know about the racism and caste bigotry ISKCON founder Prabhupada taught his disciples, virtually all foreigners whom Hindus strictly following the dictates of the Manusmriti would have torn limb from limb had they the audacity to presume that they could preach to them about the Vedic scriptures, enter a temple, what to speak of wearing the sacred thread and actually declaring themselves to be Brahmins! Yet this is precisely how our guru taught us to regard ourselves, using the reputed caste egalitarianism of the Bengali Brahmin Chaitanya (1486-1533) as warrant for his actions. Keep in mind that Prabhupada’s many references to the Manu Samhita (Manusmriti) as the lawbook of mankind, are meant to be taken literally:

Manu-Samhita is the law, Hindu law, still accepted, they have made many amendments. But it is not to be amended.


Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 7.3, 18 February 1974.
 
As the saying goes: you can’t have it both ways! Yet this is precisely what Prabhupada tried to do; in fact, his racist statements about sudras are only the tip of the iceberg when compared to the prohibitions from the Manu-Samhita aimed at sudras who dare to aspire to improve their lot in life:

A once-born man (a Sudra), who insults a twice-born man with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.


 If he mentions the names and castes (gati) of the (twice-born) with contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth. 8.271. 


If he arrogantly teaches Brahmanas their duty, the king shall cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and ears. 8.272.

From these quotations from the Manu-Samhita (there are many more just as terrifying), there is no doubt that keeping the sudra caste from protesting their condition and obtaining education requires subjecting potential and actual violators to threats and horrible punishment. Worse, it uses its scriptural authority to approve the severe punishment of those who violate its rules. Prabhupada tried to skirt dictates of the Manu Samhita against sudras and the social stigmas Dalits suffer to this day by linking caste to the guna-karma theory, in effect claiming that one’s guna, or nature, determined caste, not birth.[x]

This was merely a ploy to justify his preaching activities in the West to people who he himself stated would be classified as the lowest scum of society in Vedic culture, mlecchas (impure persons) and yavanas (foreigners). Perhaps these views might partially explain why he insisted that his disciples live in extreme penury, eating on the floor with one’s hands, sleeping on the floor in crowded, vermin-infested ashrams, slaving all day selling his books on the street, and other indignities that haunt ex-devotees to this day. Prabhupada told us to believe that initiating us as his disciples and then investing us—many of whom were once a bunch of former drug addicts and hippies--with the sacred thread made us genuine Brahmins, a joke that was made at our great personal expense.



उन लोगों की मदद करना याद रखें जिन्होंने आपकी सहायता की है

N'oubliez pas d'aider ceux qui vous ont aidé.

Не забудьте помочь тем, кто
CONCLUSION

Today the caste system remains hereditary in nature and, as Arundhati Roy points out in her introduction to Annihilation of Caste, its upper caste members include many fabulously wealthy business owners and others occupy a vast majority of government positions.[xi] A relatively few Dalits—Mayawati comes to mind--have risen to positions of influence in politics, but the vast majority remain deeply and stubbornly impoverished. To make matters worse, most of the caste-related outrages today are committed against Dalits, whose protected status as beneficiaries of the “reservation” system sparks continual outrage from the higher castes due to its quotas and other forms of government sanctioned affirmative action.[xii]

Furthermore, the hereditary nature of the caste system is another reason why Hinduism—unlike other major world religions—does not seek converts. Ambedkar’s straightforward analysis of this issue is worth remembering and repeating:

The law of caste confines its membership to persons born in the caste. Castes are autonomous, and there is no authority anywhere to compel a caste to admit a newcomer to its social life. Hindu society being a collection of castes, and each caste being a closed corporation, there is no place for a convert.[xiii]

This is a major reason why Indian gurus who are actually preaching in the West prefer terms referring to meditation, yoga, and the like. Gullible people with deep pockets are favorite targets. However, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada introduced his Krishna Conscious (ISKCON) sect to the West by actively proselytizing to and accepting as disciples multitudes of grossly uninformed and under qualified Americans and Europeans for the express purpose of opening temples and selling his books. His dictates about our personal lives cost us our relationships with our families and in most cases, damaged our health and emotional well-being. The crimes and controversies that arose shortly thereafter and continue to this day are direct byproducts of these irregular practices. If Prabhupada wished to teach his followers about the Gita and his Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism, fine, but using them as means to his ends was morally repugnant.   

Finally, the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the irrational and immoral nature of the caste system:

Reason and morality are the two most powerful weapons in the armoury of a reformer. To deprive him of the use of these weapons is to disable him for action. How are you going to break-up caste, if people are not free to consider whether it accords with reason? How are you going to break-up caste, if people are not free to consider whether it accords with morality?[xiv]
Amen.






[iv] Generally known as the Bhagavata Purana. For more information about this epic poem, see the note at the end of my blog essay: https://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2017/12/new-sex-starved-idiots-slaves-how.html
[v] “Varnashrama” refers to the four-fold caste system in a pyramidal social structure consisting of the priestly Brahmins at the top, followed by the warrior Kshastriyas, then the merchant class Vaishyas, and finally, toiling at the bottom and supporting all three “twice-born castes, are the lowly sudras. The caste system is the varna part of the system. It is also refered to as “chaturvarnya” or the four-fold caste system (a term popularized by Dayananda Saraswati; see note below) to condense what had grown by the modern age into an intricate set of castes and sub-castes. Women born into these families assume its hereditary caste. The ashrama part refers to the religious orders for the three upper classes; sudras have no part in it and neither do women (who are expected to follow the dictates of their families regarding choice of husband and at what age). Under the tutelage of a guru, a boy in the brahmachari ashram is a celibate student; after marriage in his early twenties, he becomes a grihasta (householder or married man), after his sons are grown, he leaves home with his wife and retires into the forest for penance as a celibate vanaprastha, and afterwards, if he wishes, returns his wife to the care of their sons, vows lifelong celibacy, and becomes an itinerant preacher, or a sannyasin.
[vi] Referring to lower caste natives of India as “black” in this context is just a pejorative term with no basis in reality.
[vii] Ambedkar, B.R. Annihilation of Caste. Intro. By Arundhati Roy, The Doctor and the Saint. Ed. and Annotations by S. Anand. Verso: NY, 2014. Hereafter referred to as “AoC.”
[viii] See indiafacts.org/aryan-invasion-myth-21st-century-science-debunks-19th-century-indology/ for a summary of controversies regarding this matter.
[x] The source of the guna-karma theory is the Bhagavad-Gita 4.13, where Krishna states that the four castes are his creation and their classifications and duties arise from the guna [innate quality] dominant in each. It is interesting to note that this information has been used as pretext by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, founder of the Arya-Samaj and others (including Prabhupada) to claim that birth does not determine caste, whereas a straightforward reading of it is an unmistakable affirmation that the guna-karma theory only amplifies the claim that caste is hereditary because the qualities that typify each caste are innate in the denotative sense that they are innate.
[xi] “The Doctor and the Saint,” pp. 23-33.
[xiii] AoC, 10.3, p. 254.
[xiv] AoC. 22.16, p.303.

1 comment:

Yajnesh said...

Thank you again for opening my eyes after fourty years of indoctrination. Really interesting article.