Room Conversation

December 26, 1976, Bombay
Jagadisa: "...is not actually religious but is an exploitative brain-washing technique. In the past and even today the leaders of the Hare Krsna faith, as we understand, have been abducted, assaulted, and subjected to mental and physical abuse. We also understand that there are widespread pressures being applied to convince the media and the government that religious freedom should not include the choice to live by the tenets of the Hare Krsna Hindu scriptures. We strongly feel all these developments to be objectionable to all freedom-loving people of this great country. We will appreciate if you please look into this matter and take the needed steps to halt such religious suppression. Signed, V.J. Pandhi, Corporation Secretary and Member of the Board of Directors."
Prabhupada: V.J.?
Jagadisa: V.J. Pandhi.
Prabhupada: Pandit?
Jagadisa: P-a-n-d-h-i. Pandhi.
Prabhupada: It is European or?
Jagadisa: Hindi. P-a-n-d-h-i. And it has been signed by Padam Dakkad, the Treasurer of the World Foundation of Religion, by S.C. Shastri, Priest in charge, Sanatan Dharm, Cultural Ashram of America, Pandit Hari Prasad, priest in charge and president of the Vedic Mission of the Americas, Prakash something, Managing Director of the Literary Guild of India, Des R. Puri, President of Hindu Center, Swami Shambu Devananda, Vishnu Devananda.
Prabhupada: Oh, he's a very important man.
Jagadisa: No, Shambu Devananda on behalf of Swami Vishnu Devananda. And Surendra Kumar Patel of the Vishva Hindu Parishad of America.
Prabhupada: Oh, Vishva Hindu Parishad.
Jagadisa: Umadatta Maharaja, Mahatma Gandhi Satsang Society, Hari-Hara Yoga Center...
Prabhupada: It is very representative.
Jagadisa: Some other statements by... There's a nice letter from one of the devotees to one important psychiatrist outlining our case. He does a very good job. Would you like to hear it?
Prabhupada: Hm.
Jagadisa: "Dear Dr. Lubin: In our recent telephone conversation you asked me to articulate in a letter those questions concerning the current brainwashing, deprogramming controversy which I feel may be pertinent to psychiatrists interested in religious issues and therefore a potential topic for discussion and or research within the Committee on Psychiatry and Religion of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry. Speaking on my own behalf and informally on behalf of the Hare Krsna religious society, I might suggest that this issue raises some very serious questions concerning possible abuses of diagnostic power in psychiatry against religious practitioners and movements for what may be social, political, and legal ends. Within the last ten years a large number of new religious groups, sects, communities and organizations have appeared on the American scene. Some are totally new organizationally as well as theologically. And others are, or allege to be, based upon some already existing spiritual tradition. I myself am a member for six years of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Hare Krsna Movement. The term Krsna consciousness is synonymous with the term bhakti-yoga, a theistic form of yoga which finds its scriptural authority in the Bhagavad-gita and other major Indian devotional texts. The religious tradition represented in the West of the Hare Krsna movement, Vaisnavism, has centered the lives of hundreds of millions of Hindus for many centuries in India. This particular tradition has produced one of the world's largest and richest bodies of religious, philosophical, and mystical literature. The founder and spiritual leader of the movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has within the last ten years, offered more than fifty volumes of translation and commentary on major texts of the tradition: Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, etc. These works are considered significant contributions to scholarship by specialists in the field and are studied in the universities throughout the world. See book reviews in the pamphlet, 'The Krsna Consciousness Movement is Authorized.' The members of the Hare Krsna movement, both men and women, single and married, live in strict adherence to Vedic and Vaisnava principles in regards to religious practice, chastity vows, diet, etc. The movement's nearly one hundred centers are mostly urban monasteries from which members in accordance with Vaisnava tradition perform evangelistic and proselytizing activities. The authenticity of the Hare Krsna movement has formerly been confirmed by numerous Hindu religious academic and cultural bodies both in India and U.S. Of the new religious movements which are prominent, most are allegedly based on either a Western religious tradition: the Children of God and Unification Church are Christian oriented; or an Eastern religious or philosophical tradition: Zen groups, yoga groups, Hare Krsna, etc. Of the groups based either on Western or non-Western spiritual traditions, some are seen as not accurately representing that tradition upon which they are ostensibly based. For instance, several Christian church organizations assert that the Unification Church, the Moonies, is not a bona fide Christian organization. Others, such as the Krsna consciousness movement, are accepted as legitimate, both by scholars and adherents of that tradition. As the public tends, however, to indiscriminately lump together whatever appears to be strange or out of the ordinary, the mass media refers to all such groups with the derogatory term, 'cult.' All questions of legitimacy aside, the parents of many members of such groups feel, for one reason or another, that their son or daughter has been brainwashed and they are under the 'mind control' of the cult. Originally denoting the specific technique employed by Chinese Communists to effect ideological persuasion to extreme psychological and often physical coercion, the term brainwashing is defined as a colloquial term applied to any technique designed to manipulate human thought or action against the desired will or knowledge of the individual." That's from the Encyclopedia Britannica. "In popular usage it becomes an imprecise, all-encompassing and pejorative term used to describe any kind of persuasion or behavior with which one may disagree. In psychology it is not generally accepted, I am told, as a legitimate clinical term. How does one wash another's brain? The dynamics of 'conversion' in the case of Krsna consciousness are quite informal. Talking with devotees, reading scripture, meditation, etc. and certainly do not include the application of any type of psychological coercion against the desire, will, or knowledge of the potential or novice devotee. Although life in a Hare Krsna community is communal and monastic with well-defined guidelines affecting the behavior and religious practice, it is in fact, a good deal more open then many or most types of monastic communities. The Hare Krsna member is totally free to increase or decrease his involvement with the Society at any time he or she wishes. Because full commitment, as in any religious tradition, is not easy. A high percentage of those who join eventually leave. If brainwashing is what we're doing, we're not very good at it. Distressed however by an apparent rejection of their own values and lifestyle, and unable to account for what may be radical or abrupt change in the lives of their offspring, some parents of cult members, believing that their sons and daughters have been brainwashed, hire someone like Ted Patrick to forcefully abduct and debrainwash or deprogram them. What is being called deprogramming involves extreme coercive tactics, including rather intense psychological and often physical intimidation aimed at inducing the cult member to renounce his or her religious beliefs and practices. (See affidavit enclosed.) During deprogramming the victim is isolated from his particular religious community and is physically restrained. His religious apparel and paraphernalia, scriptures, prayer beads, sacred pictures etc., may be confiscated and destroyed and his beliefs and religious convictions vilified. In one case a pregnant mother was physically beaten. In another, a Hare Krsna devotee who refused to violate his religious vow of reciting names of God, had his mouth filled with ice and gagged. Such deprogramming lasts often for several weeks with deprogrammers working in shifts while the deprogrammee is deprived of sufficient sleep. All this so that the brainwashed youth can be returned to a normal state and once again be able to make free choices. Deprogramming often ends with the victim signing a statement admitting that he had been brainwashed. Perhaps just as the confessions of those accused of being witches during the Holy Inquisitions were proof of the existence of witchcraft, such confessions by members of religious groups are taken as sufficient proof of brainwashing by those committed to the idea of cultic brainwashing. But such tactics are a gross violation of fundamental human and constitutional rights..."
Prabhupada: Hm?
Hari-sauri: To get the sun if you like.
Jagadisa: "But such tactics are a gross violation of fundamental human and constitutional rights are to go without saying. In cases where victims have instigated charges of kidnapping against parents and deprogrammers, grand juries have thus far refused to issue indictments apparently because the work is done at the behest of parents or other relatives and ostensibly for the good of the victim. The situation which has prompted me to communicate with members of the professional psychiatric community involves sweeping implications of a very important legal case which will be going to trial sometime in the late winter or early spring. Some background of the case may be helpful here." Then he explains about the case. Anyway, it's very nicely written. And he's mostly trying to expose that the psychiatrists have to take an objective standpoint. Otherwise, there are some psychiatrists who are atheistic and they are contending that any religious experience or so-called religious consciousness is a...
Prabhupada: Artificial dependence.
Jagadisa: ...artificial dependence, yeah. So this is...
Prabhupada: They say that there is a tissue in the brain, they disturb with this religious idea. They say like that. And if that tissue is operated then there will be no more religion. They can do that. With a brain operation he'll forget willfully. These rascal, so-called scientists, they can do anything.
Jagadisa: There are some psychiatrists who are on our side though. So if we can rally their support... The whole thing is so emotional and based on this strong appeal by the scientists and leaders to avoid religion because of the distraction from sense gratification, that all of the charges against us are completely baseless. There's no foundation. And if we just carefully and with calculation expose all of their nonsense accusations, it will be a great victory. Especially now it has become such a national issue that the leaders of society have to become involved, otherwise they'll become implicated. They have to come out and say whether they support the Krsna consciousness movement.
Prabhupada: But they're supporting.
Jagadisa: They must support it. Actually, I'm sure that they're astonished to find out how intelligent all the devotees are. The devotees are the most intelligent people.
Prabhupada: Krsna yei bhaje sei bada catura. Then, what other letters.
Jagadisa: There's this conference which took place at Harvard, a symposium headed by Dr. Harvey Cox who is very important and a very famous theologian in America. Some of the things they said are very nice. Especially there's some quote from the Bible that gives it... This is actually stated by this Mr. Cox, or Dr. Cox, a very important man. He gives a quote from the Bible. "Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea and the great multitude from Galilee followed him. And many who had diseases pressed in upon him to touch him. And he went up into the hills and called to him those whom he desired and they came to him. And he appointed twelve to be with him and he sent them out to preach. And then he came to his home town and the crowd came together, so many of them that they could not even eat. And when his family heard about this they went out to seize him for they said, 'He is besides himself.' And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Beelzebub and by the Prince of Demons.' And Jesus said to them, 'If the house is divided against itself, that house will fall. It surely will not be able to stand.' And then his mother and his brothers came and standing outside the house where he was, they sent a message in to him calling him. And the crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers are outside and they are asking for you.' And Jesus replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister, and my mother."
Prabhupada: Very good.
Jagadisa: All these... Kirtanananda Swami was there and a boy who was kidnapped, Vasu Gopala, as well as Dr. Harvey Cox, the Civil Liberties Attorney who is defending us, and Dr. Stephen Corover, a psychologist, Jack Colley, who's a renowned religious scholar, and Dr. Eck, a lecturer in Sanskrit and India studies at Harvard. The public was invited and they had questions from the floor and all of the members of the panel, important people, were all in our support. It's very long...
Prabhupada: That's all right.
Hari-sauri: There's one interesting statement in there from one of these men. He's lived in Vrndavana for about two years. And he says how when he first went to Vrndavana, all the people there, they would chant Hare Krsna, Hare Rama, but it was kind of a derogatory thing because they had seen this film, Dum-mada-dam. So whenever they saw a Westerner they thought, "Oh, Hare Krsna, Hare Rama," implying, "Oh, you're a hippie, you're a drug addict." Like that. But he said in the last two or three years since we established our temple, now that is completely changed. They're still saying, "Hare Krsna Hare Rama," all the children shout it, but now they expect us to shout "Haribol" back and that it's a sign of, it's a friendly gesture now. So he's an outsider, but he's noticed the change in the Indian people's attitude, especially in Vrndavana.
Jagadisa: He said, "Any Westerner they see in Vrndavana they say Hare Krsna, Hare Rama."
Prabhupada: (indistinct)
Hari-sauri: Yeah, and he points out how the people, they generally ask when they see a Westerner, they ask, "Oh, when is darsana at your temple?" And he says that they're actually interested to come to our temple because the standard there is very much acceptable to them. They're attracted to come not because we're Westerners, but because they can see that our standard of worship is as good as or better than their own standards even.
Jagadisa: There's one other letter from Gunarnava. (end)

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