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Free Will, God, and the Child Abuse Scandal

by Niscala dasi

Posted October 24, 2012

Up to now I have been having an interesting correspondence with a devotee who had once stood up against child abuse, was himself abused, and is now not considering himself a devotee, wanting nothing whatsoever to do with Krsna consciousness. Having made this conclusion, he finds evidence against the existence of free will and of God.

Thoughts on this discussion are very welcome by writing to:, or through Facebook comments if they are available at the end of the article. But there is more than the possibility of interesting discussions that is prompting me to make this discussion as widely read as possible. It shows up the excellent and caring character of this devotee, and how we are pushing away those who are of the best and most vaisnava characters, and keeping the blind, faceless and heartless conformers.

The complete discussion can be found at:


ND: Me PD: Other devotee

PD: Arguably the biggest problem in the world is the beef industry, which clearly should be Krsna's department if people are calling Him Govinda and Gopala. Did He retire, or what?

ND: That’s a question of free will. In the human form, it is there, along with ample intelligence, conscience, words of scripture and so on. Even so, if people don't give a shit what happens to animals, they reap the reaction. God is not responsible. Those countries that kill animals very cruelly, reap even greater karmic reaction, as per the story of Mrgrari. It’s no coincidence that the countries where life is most poverty/war stricken, have no laws to protect animals, and such atrocities as cock fights, stuffing animals together in cages, chaining them in confined spaces, and draining them of bile, are rife. At least in this country, there are laws against needless cruelty. That does not require religion- it comes from conscience- and cuts across belief. Conscience is the voice of God within. Any child is horrified by cruelty and killing, but conditioning by the society covers their natural communication with the Supersoul.

PD: The matter of free will is practically disproved in both science and philosophy. However, Krsna is credited as the protector of cows and the servant of His devotees. Presumably devotees haven't stopped wanting him to protect cows, so that duty is double. Why should the free will of animal killers (whom Prabhupada called animals themselves) outweigh that?

ND: Because even animal killers have free will, and if it is "outweighed" by another's will, it’s not of one's own will, but the will of another, and there is then no question of will at all. It’s not utterly free in terms of being without influence- there is addiction to meat. It’s slavery and it’s freedom, both. Therefore, there is a choice, but they choose taste over the lives of animals.

PD: I personally have fought non-stop for twenty years to end industrial animal slaughter, since before I knew of Krsna, and the hopelessness of that made me seek shelter with Krsna; but He did not help, and I was rejected for standing against child abuse as an elected official in my devotee community when the issue was dropped in my lap.

ND: Krsna helps through His real devotees. Those who support those who torture and abuse children, who deserve only love and protection, are not devotees, but demons in vaisnava dress. They may chant, wear tilaka, and so on, but they do not even remotely resemble real devotees. Devotees like you are unfortunately rare. If you start losing hope in Krsna’s guidance, then we really have no hope. If you start losing hope in Krsna's guidance, then your intelligence is lost, because who do you think has guided you? Krsna IS your intelligence. You’re His instrument, to try to help those who are helpless. Krsna either incarnates to enact His will, or enacts it through His representatives, who are by nature merciful. In illusion, you are thinking yourself separate from Him.

You're a ksatriya- one of those who desire to protect others. You're Krsna's arms, He protects children, cows etc through you. But you are not empowered as you should be, in terms of social position. That’s why we need varnashrama. Prabhupada asked that we have it, but our leaders have neglected his instructions, because they aren't devotees except in name only, and prefer absolute control over empowering people to serve Krsna according to their true natures.

PD: The devotees less outraged by child molestation and other scandals are all apparently doing fine with their faith and community though.

ND: No, they are cut off from the Supersoul. Their faith is blind and materially motivated and their service does not soften their heart. It’s like pouring ghee into ash- as Kapiladeva advised. Yours, on the other hand, has been fruitful.

PD: "I expected much better when I dedicated my life to Prabhupada."

ND: You have hit the hard rock of reality, that’s all. Pearls, when thrown at swine, don't turn them into demigods. Devotional service only changes the heart when it is done with sincerity and surrender.

PD: Neuroscience has demonstrated that our activities are determined before we have conscious awareness of a decision. (This shows that free will is an illusion...)

ND: So there is a decision made. By whom, or should we say, what? Something or some centre of consciousness is making the decision. If I fall, my arms instinctively reach out to brace the impact. I am not even aware the decision is made- I don't make it. There is no time. But I may ponder for half an hour or more the need to go to bed, before actually doing it - or deciding to stay awake. So there are two centers of consciousness that act entirely differently. One is the Supersoul, and one the individual soul. This is the basis of my book.

PD: ...This shows that free will is an illusion. We live in a world of inescapable natural laws that govern the behavior of it all.

ND: But your description of your life is all about decision making. You decided to leave university. What exact law of nature or what chemical reaction resulted in that decision? E=MC2 or the fact that sodium and chloride combine at a certain temperature to make salt, or some other one? And if, say, you had stayed at university, what physical law would have been broken? The fact is, I am sure you agree, as would any scientist, that whether you had stayed at university, or taken up spiritual life, or become a junkie, mass murderer or president of the USA, no law of physics would have been broken or even modified slightly, or ever so slightly. So why the vastly different modes of behavior?

ND: You go against the grain, refuse to be conditioned by the institution, rise above politics, refuse to succumb to illusions of grandeur, resist the bribes of power and profit, the pushing of the ego, the demand of the senses, the insistence of the mind to find security in the herd, and you are really believing there is no free will? Yeah, right. I believe it. I think it’s more likely, as the rest of your email suggests, you can't understand why Krsna would allow child abuse, and why devotees freely take part in it, so you've opted for a world view without free will and without Krsna.

PD: If Krsna is real then He broke my heart worse than any human could, and I don't think that can be mended by any messenger.

ND: You are mixing up the source of your broken heartedness. Krsna does not will the abuse of children, but He is not a master of persuasion either, as you think. Before the Battle of Kurukstra, Krsna was sent by Yuddhisthira as a peace envoy, to try to turn Duryodhana, by reason and various appeals and bargaining, away from war. His best efforts made no effect on that bastard, who was hell-bent on destruction. So, it is entirely up to the living entity- the final decision. The best instruction is there, the Vedas, which proclaims the sanctity of all life, and the need to protect all- but especially the vulnerable- children, cows, elderly etc.

The best facility is there- the peaceful atmosphere and sattvic program, starting at 4 am. The best example is there- Srila Prabhupada, who was very affectionate to his disciples and their children. But certain people still want to be cruel and callous, vicious and domineering. Krsna will not paralyze them, nor impose His will over theirs- for such is the removal of will, and the beginning of dictatorship and slavery.

As Srila Prabhupada said "this world is no fit place for a gentleman" You don't belong here. That’s why you're enraged. Those comfortable with it, will stay here, life after life. Stay enraged, but don't lose reason. Keep cool-headed- and furious. It takes practice, but mastering it will mean you can direct your anger productively. Srila Prabhupada wrote that devotees do not renounce anger- they know how to direct it. Specifically, when devotees like our children are being abused, they direct their anger at the demons abusing them.

PD: He is said to be the controller of everyone's senses and puts the whole world in illusion. How can that not be seen as interfering with free will?

ND: It is absolutely necessary for free will. If you want to enjoy separately from the Lord, then you have to be covered in illusion, because the truth is, He is never separate from you. And from that illusion, so many others are spawned- the illusion that money and possessions make us happy, though it has been disproven by research. These illusions are all necessary so we can enjoy separately from the Lord, have a sense of separation and independence. It’s like a parent who never leaves the child, and even when the child wants to play alone, he's looking into the playroom from the back window. He fulfills all desires, even the desire to be alone, when we are not, but He gives us that sense of aloneness if we want it. He even gives us toys to play with, so we don't have to play with him. Cars, stocks and bonds, you name it. So many nice distractions...

Besides distracting us, such assets and money gives us a sense of freedom and independence. They take the place of God... Rather than becoming fearless from relying on God, we get it from insurance. Rather than attaining a sense of worth of being His valued servant, we get it from the bank balance. So these illusions are necessary to maintain our sense of separation from Krsna, without being terrified of the future and feeling helpless and vulnerable. Gods promises to fulfill the desires of the living entity, even to forget Him.

You can forget him too, if you like, but don't go blaming Him for what other people do. That just doesn't make sense. He controls our senses according to our desires. When we want to see, he arranges all our ocular machinery so that we have sight. When we want to smell, he sends the olfactory nerve endings firing off. Same goes with all the senses. And when we want relief from sensory engagement, he shuts it all down so we are no longer aware of anything, and while we are thus resting, He even entertains us with a movie for 8 hours or so, which may also be educational and help us with our problems. Can't have the kids bored while on holidays!

Even at my best, it was a challenge trying to keep up with others' devotional service. I don't know how to think they are not devotees.

Oh its easy, just practice looking at them and thinking "this person doesn't give a shit about the kids being raped in Mayapur" Of course, prior to that, bring up the topic with them to make sure your conclusion is correct- ask their opinion about the issue. They will probably say something utterly self-centred like "Prabhu, I have my own devotional service to think about" That’s my experience. And when that happens, then you can know that it is all utter pretence and has nothing to do whatsoever with love of God. Better to call it what it is- escape from the world, serving the ego, hardening the heart, rationalizing evil, but don't call it devotional service.

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