God & Science: Was there an Eve?
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

In 1987 an article in Nature seemed to show, by studying the mitochondrial DNA of people from all continents, that they all had a common ancestor, one woman living in African 200,000 year ago. However, in 1992 Alan Templeton from the University of Washington showed that the original computer simulations were inaccurate and both the time and place of "Eve" were incomputable.

Humans and apes are not, as evolutionist believe, similar because they descended from the same creature. Instead, as the Srimad-Bhagavatam reveals, Brahma, the original superhuman being, generated beings called prajapatis, who, in turn, created generations of lesser creatures: plants, animals, humans, etc.

These living beings are similar to each other because they are modified versions of the same original template. Just as a computer programmer might re-use a program he has written in the past, the intelligent designer who created us worked from a basic design which he modified to suit different purposes.

This theory of intelligent design overcomes the difficulty that evolutionists have in explaining how some organisms have complex structures. Given complex feature, there often is no clear chain of mutations that could have produced it by evolution, nor is there evidence of an intermediate form.

God & Science: Primordial Alphabet Soup
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Stanley Miller of the University of Chicago did a famous experiment in which he created amino acids from methane, ammonia and hydrogen by electrifying a test tube. Artificial life by chemistry! Not quite, these elements weren't readily available on primordial earth. But supposing they were and amino acids could form:

Amino acids can not randomly form into complex organisms capable of self-reproduction. Even a semi-random formation process semi-guided by the rules of chemical bonding will tend to gravitate to very simple stable structures. Complex formations are only possible if a very specific initial state is set up purposefully [see John Conway's Game of Life to illustrate this: try some of the given examples and then try inputting some random patterns].

So a complex self-reproducing DNA-based organism cannot come about by chance. So, simple RNA-based organism might have been created. However, RNA can only be formed from amino acids by very specialized coaxing from scientists. But supposing RNA-based life-forms did form, they still would have to evolve into sometime more complex than themselves. Evolution does not however create new features [again, the Game of Life as well as Ripple-Down Rules illustrate this]. An RNA-based self-reproducer will only exhibit slight variations by random mutation.

Vedicsoc: session #2
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Second session of Vedicsoc today. I'm not too happy with how it went.

11 people came, down from 25 in the first session. That was a nice manageable amount of people. The slow-deep aerobic yoga went well (though these students are seriously unfit, I dare not attempt a full power yoga session). Chanting of Hare Krishna afterwards went okay, but people found it hard to concentrate. It might have had something to do with some crazy guy practicing on his huge drum kit next door.

The carob cake I made was well received. 6 people bought chanting beads to take home with them.

However, my talk on "stress" was forced, confusing, lacked cohesion and didn't really say anything. I struggled for words, often pausing several times mid-sentence. Most of the audience seemed bored. I couldn't explain even the simplest philosophical concepts in a user-friendly way. Has all my Krishna consciousness evaporated in Canada? It certainly seems that way. Lack of prasadam and lack of uninterrupted, attentive chanting have certainly taken their toll. My soul needs a serious detox.

I also didn't allow people to speculate enough. Especially initially, University students like to feel like they know everything already. I need to encourage more open non-judgmental discussion. Surrender can come later.

Also, (note to self) there is nothing wrong with people just chatting amongst themselves. It builds the social fabric of the club. One observation however: men are wolves.

God & Science: Consciousness and the “New Physics”
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

In quantum mechanics the observer supposedly has the power to affect the experiment. For example, a cat in a sealed box may be both alive and dead at the same time until an observer (man or machine) checks. However, from the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita it seems that the supersoul should be able to observe all occurrences. This creates some trouble in relation to quantum mechanics. Therefore we might consider that just as classical physics was incomplete until the discovery of relativity and relativity was superseded to some extent by quantum mechanics, so there is another, more complete, physics reality beyond quantum mechanics which we have yet to discover. The science of mind manipulating matter.

Attention and Advertizing
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People's attention is a very limited resource in today's day and age. So many things compete for one's attention that one is forced to pay "partial continuous attention" to everything. It drives people crazy!

The highest complement is therefore to pay full attention to someone. Paying attention to Krishna while chanting the Maha-Mantra is exactly that. Paying full attention to other people gives them a feeling of trust, protection and belonging. The newest thinking in advertizing today is to evoke such feelings in the people. Those feelings are what people are missing. They are what people are craving.

K-CAP day 6: back home
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19|1After 22 hours of travel I'm back in the UK. Damage from an irregular diet is starting to heal, my sleeping patterns are slowly getting back to normal, the spontaneous bleeding of my hands has stopped and I'm slowly getting some energy once again.

Most people would consider this temporary relief from suffering true happiness. Suckers!

Take a look at some of the pictures of the Mother Nature's beautiful artistry in Banff, Canada.

K-CAP day 5: aftermath
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Today, over breakfast, I was at a table with various high-powered researchers. One of them has been up all night writing an "emergency paper" for the boss of a friend. The topic of schmoozing came up.

They enlightened me that it is very important to complement even the most senior speaker on their keynote presentation. The may seem like they are all-powerful and supremely intelligent, but, in reality, they are just as insecure as everyone else about whether they did a good job and people liked their talk. The trick is to boost their ego, become their friend and get them to help you out.

Research is mostly funded by various government agencies (EPSRC and JISC in the UK and DARPA and NASA in the US). At big conferences there are invite-only "brainstorming" sessions where the agency??(TM)s officers discuss with the researchers what the next big research grant should focus on. This is a chance for the University professors to argue that their line of research is best and should be funded (even if it isn??(TM)t ??¦ in fact: especially if it isn??(TM)t).

The key in these brainstorming sessions is to injecting one's ideas into as many other peoples??(TM) mind as possible before these meetings. It??(TM)s a horrible thing to do and one may have to have a shower afterwards to wash off the slime, but the more people argue one??(TM)s case, the better the chance of getting the money.

However, in the end, all this is somewhat of a pretense. The actual decision is made in the pub after the session. The grant officers will give the contract to their friends. Their friends are their drinking buddies. The really successful researchers are those that manipulate the social scene to make everyone their friend. For example, people like Wendy Hall and Nigel Shadbolt are primarily famous not because they are brilliant researchers (though, of course, that must also be there), but because they knows everyone and everyone knows them.

What, if you don't drink? Well, better start soon.

It works the same in most industries. Film producers for example spend most of their time in the five year production cycle of a film going to cocktail parties meeting the potential funders, potential actors and potential directors. They negotiate the production crew over a few drinks. Sometimes a key member will pull out of the agreement and they need to go to more parties to recruit new staff.

Ministers in the Greek government spend most of their time at the ministry drinking coffee with one another. The do this because they need to know that they can pick up the phone, talk to a friend, ask for a report and get it delivered to them next morning.

In the UK and USA beer replaces coffee. Each country has its own style.

When one then finally has the grant money one often can't spend it fast enough. If one doesn't spend all of the money one has been granted, then one obviously didn't need it in the first place, so one will get less next time. Some projects therefore need to get very creative in how they can burn money. They will, for example, finance trips overseas for the entire research group. Even then, sometimes one simply cannot spend enough of the government grant money. In such cases one needs to extend the grant due to "staffing issues". In other words, in order to fudge the records one, once again, needs to be in cahoots with the right people.

K-CAP day 4
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Today Udo Hahn gave an interesting presentation on a new methods of extracting technical terms from a large text corpus. Traditional methods work by statistical analysis of how often a phrase occurs. His new method used limited paradigmatic modifiability to test the frequency of each single word of a given phrase and thereby compute how likely it is that a phrase is part of a term and not just a chance combination of frequently used words. The new p-mod method beat the t-test and c-value methods in testing on the UMLS meta-thesaurus. Supplementary tools used were the GENIA POS tagger, YAMCHA (support vector machine) chunker and a stop-words filter.

Some US Army and IBM researchers were experimenting with ways to detect if a particular speech contained a story. Their vision is to attach small recording devices to every soldier and automatically record the war stories they tell. Stories are the best way to entice people to take up military life, entertain them, keep up their moral and record the "human" side of military service. They used the WEKA toolkit to rapidly try out different machine learning algorithms and ultimately settled on support vector machines with polynomial kernels. The neural net would be used in real time on textual speech data transcribed by IBM ViaVoice 10. Certain kinds of figures of speech indicate a story is being told. The SVM was therefore trained to recognize the structure and grammar of story-speech. Ultimately, they failed in their experiment. The speech recognition was only about 70% accurate, which wasn't high enough to accurately distinguish stories from regular conversation.

Carol Goble from Manchester (the co-leader of the IMG research group) gave the closing keynote presentation. She talked about the Montagues and Capulets, the two families from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The Montagues are equivalent to the logicians and knowledge engineers in the realm of research. Ian Horrocks, for example, falls squarely into this camp. They are interested in the cool technology, advanced tools, logical rigor, writing researcher papers, solving the interesting (though often not practical) problems. The Capulets, in contrast, are the biomedical researchers such as the people that created the Gene Ontology (GO). They don't care about the theory, but do care about solving practical problems. They also tend to be better at the social engineering necessary to get people to actually use the tools they provide. A third camp is the philosophers (like Barry Smith), who say that everyone else is doing everything completely wrong, but don't offer any practical advice or help in how to do it better. Her conclusion: let's not all kill each other and instead try to work together and have a happy ending.

Need: a seemless ontology authoring and annotation tool that lets people annotate data and extend the ontology at the same time. At the moment we not only need to switch between tools to accomplish this talk, we also need to switch between people. Currently only the biologists can do the annotation and only the logicians can build the ontologies.

Jim Hendler's principle: "A little bit of semantics goes a long way". Just using OWL as a common knowledge interchange format is of great benefit to the e-science community.

K-CAP day 3: banquet
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This evening was the official conference banquet at a restaurant called "the Keg Steakhouse" (groan). The conference organizers had informed them of one vegan guest within the dinner party. One of the waiters asked me if it was me and joked that he wouldn't tell anybody. He considered it quite a ridicules idea. Nevertheless, they had prepared a special meal for me: tofu in soy sauce appetizer, green salad with tomato and raw peppers, brown rice with little bits of chopped vegetables mixed throughout, no dessert (the idea of a vegan cake/dessert was completely beyond them). These people really need to learn to cook! I guess they specialize in killing innocent animals and distilling poisonous liquids.

More interestingly, I got a chance to talk with a professor from Jena Universit??t in Germany. He is at the forefront of automated text mining and natural language processing (NLP) research. The next day he gave a very interesting presentation on automatically extracting the important technical terms from a large corpus of text.

The professor was talking about his lifestyle. He loved the isolation of the New Zealand South Island, which he has visited three times. Untouched nature. Not a human in sight for miles.

This is very much in contrast to Tokyo, Japan. In Tokyo everything is grey. You cannot tell where you are. Grey concrete everywhere. He was staying on the eighth floor of a hotel and the motor-highway was just three meters away from his window. How so? In Tokyo, due to lack of space, they stack their highways vertically. Outside his window was the fourth level of a super-highway. A true vertical city. Even at 3am there was continuous traffic on a seven lane highway going into the city. After all, the 36 million people in the world's largest city need to somehow be feed every day. Metropolitan life in the very extreme. I wonder what it does to the people?

Still, he was attached to life in Europe. He would never want to live anywhere but there. The cities have so much more history than anywhere else. Each place has a distinct history and personality.

Life as a professor isn't rosy. He travels around the world presenting his research in so many exotic places, but doesn't have any time to enjoy them. Here he is in Canada, but doesn't have time to enjoy any of the sites, because he is too busy preparing his next presentation. Giving a keynote address at a conference is a great honor, but giving five of them per year very quickly turns into a burden. Then there is reviewing other people's papers. Well known researchers need to review their peer's work. For example, he needs to write an elaborate explanation for each research paper from Asian researchers which doesn't meet the western standard of innovative research. Japanese researchers tend to take a too mechanistic approach to research, which doesn't teach anyone anything new. Then there are the many academic funding committees. He needs to help determine if a particular project gets government research grant money. On top of that comes his own research. He needs to write and publish papers of his own to stay in business. Then, of course, comes the job of teaching his students. PhD and Masters students need to be supervised. Undergraduates need to be lectured to and their exams marked. Sometime between all of that there is (maybe) a little thing called family life.

Still, such a life certainly isn't boring. Discovering truly new things and significantly enhancing the knowledge of humanity has its appeal.

K-CAP day 3
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Today Nuno, a researcher from Porto, Portugal, asked me about my distinct hairstyle (sikha) and why I seem so peaceful and relaxed. While asking he was constantly apologizing, thinking that I might be offended. I told him a little bit about Krishna consciousness.

One presentations was about image analysis on 3D cell slices. Matlab's image toolkit is very good for this purpose. The researchers from Amsterdam used RuleML to capture shape classification rules from medical image interpretation experts. However, they suggested using SWRL instead, since RuleML is quite a clunky rules engine. Post-presentation questions raised the issue of rules vs. machine learning. Many people preferred the neural net approach, though a few people defined rules as they allow for better provenance, logging and examination.

Pat Hayes presented the COE ontology editor. This was originally a concept map creation tool, but has been expanded into a fully featured graphical OWL ontology editor. The major advantage COE has is that it is very intuitive to use. Like HTML, people can "view source" on ontologies and "steal" other people's designs/modeling tricks. COE doesn't work with ontologies larger than about 2000 classes. This is another area where my segmentation work might come in handy.

Here a list of some top-level ontologies: DOLCE, CYC, OpenCyc, OntoClean, SUMO.

There was a panel discussion about machine learning vs. manual knowledge capture. The conclusion was to do both:

Improve the volume of manual K-CAP by mass-collaboration
Automatically capture knowledge and manually clean up any mistakes (in this case it is very important to use codes that indicate where a particular piece of knowledge data came from)
Use manual methods to guide (but not haul) large knowledge acquisition methods

Revolutionary concept: make knowledge capture fun by making the task into a game. Carol Goble in particular was very impressed by this idea from Tim Chklovski from USC. She intends to build this into her bio-annotation tools.

An interesting presentation was about estimating the health of pigs by the consistency of their feces. The researchers worked with veterinarians to build a Bayesian network of external circumstances and pig disease. The interesting part was their use of a combination of statistical data and expert rules of thumb. They used isotonic regression to bias the statistical data to match their expert's intuitions. Ultimately, the graphical structure of the Bayesian network matters much more than the exact probabilities on the nodes.

K-CAP day 2
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Pat Hayes, a famous AI research started off today's conference day. His keynote, while somewhat entertaining and somewhat insightful was extremely scattered and altogether gave the impression that he had prepared it the night before (which indeed he had). He talked about his "9 deadly sins of AI". These are as follows (and yes, I know there are only four):

Not wanting to accept that the ship has sunk: some researchers still hang on to trying to make techniques and ideas work that where bad ideas when they were first invented and have caused no end of trouble since.

Worshipping philosophy (or, for that matter, worshipping anything): philosophy is useful, but it is a different field to knowledge representation. Just because something is important in philosophy doesn't mean that we have to pay any attention to it in KR.

Taking paradoxes too seriously: A logical paradox is just a humorous distraction for a Sunday night. Just because Kurt G??del's incompleteness theorem shook the very foundations of logic and mathematics, doesn't mean that a paradox is something we have to worry about in practical system. Yeah, so OWL-full allows for paradoxes. Just don't create them and stop complaining about it.

Worshipping logic: (first-order) Logic is attractively simple. Everything in the world can be expressed using AND, NOT and FOR-ALL. However, this is too much of an abstraction from real useful things. It requires too large a framework of axioms on top of it to make it do something useful. We should push more expressivity into the logic layer, thereby bringing it closer to the ontology layer.

Other topics of today:

Nokia and Airbus are working together to shorten their product development feedback cycle. They want to create more mature (useable, useful and acceptable) products more quickly. They aim to achieve this using a system of active documentation. Documentation not just for the sake of it, but in order to involve all project stakeholders in the design, prototype, evaluation and requirements capture processes.

Harith Alani uses four measures for ranking ontologies returned from an ontology search engine:

  • Class match: the degree to which the searched for terms are present in the ontology
  • Centrality: how close the search terms are to the middle of the is-A hierarchy
  • Density: how much information context there is on the search terms (restrictions, etc)
  • Semantic similarity: how many links need to be followed from one search term in order to reach another

Harith also mentioned that there is a graph query API called JUNG. I'll have to check this out for my work.

K-CAP day 1: my talk
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I gave a talk today on my research on segmenting ontologies. It went well. There were about 20 people in the audience (in total 60 people attended the conference, but they were distributed between the three different workshops). Some people had specifically come from one of the other workshops just for my presentation.

I started off with a very good opening statement. This caught everyone's attention and got them interested. I said (view my powerpoint presentation for the graphics):

"An ontology is like a labyrinth, very complex and almost impossible to comprehend at first glance. Beneath the ancient city of Knossos on the island of Crete there was a very large and complicated labyrinth, which had a fearsome Minotaur within it. One day the hero Theseus descended into the labyrinth and killed the monster. He then found his way back out by following a trail of red yarn he had laid behind him as he was exploring the maze, thereby reducing the complex labyrinth into a simple corridor. Ontology segmentation aims to do the same thing."

After saying this I could see people nodding and agreeing. This is what Jeremy Wiessman in his book calls the "ah-ha" experience that one should aim for in any talk or presentation.

I also used the powerpoint presenter's display view. A feature which strangely no one else seems to take advantage of. It may be because it is somewhat tricky to set up. It displays a different view on my laptop's screen to what shows up on the projector. In addition to the current slide, I also get a running timer, my notes (though I didn't make any), a preview of the next few slides and the ability to jump to a specific slide immediately without having to scroll through the entire presentation (this was very useful for the Q&A session).

I wasn't particularly nervous, though I um-ed and ah-ed a bit too much for my liking. I did however manage to hold the attention of the audience for the 20 minutes of my talk. No one went to sleep, no one started checking their email, everyone was looking at me throughout. Pretty good, considering my talk was in the graveyard slot: just after lunch.

There were initially some general questions and clarifications from the audience. However, then Chris Welty bombarded me with questions. He misunderstood the filtering segmentation algorithm walkthrough I had presented. I corrected his misunderstanding of the final directed acyclic graph connectivity of my segmentation example. He also didn't understand the need for the reciprocal filtering. I answered that one by explaining that it worked well for GALEN, which is fair enough; however, on reflection, I realize that some reciprocal link filtering is necessary in every segmentation algorithm, since otherwise everything will be connected to everything else and the "segment" will end up becoming the entire ontology.

Harith Alani, one of the workshop organizers from Southampton University, told me afterwards that he liked my presentation and talked me for submitting my paper at such short notice. Another conference chair, Derek Sleeman, also seemed pleased and interested.

All in all, I'm pleased with my first conference presentation.

K-CAP day 1
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The first day of the conference was split into three workshops. This allows for a more focused discussion. I was in the Ontology Management: Searching, Selection, Ranking and Segmentation Workshop.

Chris Welty from IBM started off the day with a keynote on "Re-learning Ontology Management for the Web". His main point was that that each term in an OWL ontology is a uniquely addressable URI that can exist on the Internet for all eternity and be accessed by anyone, anywhere and at any time. This seemingly obvious fact is the key difference that makes ontologies much more useful anytime in the past. It changes everything. People (and machines) can now start to reuse each other's knowledge on a massive scale. And, very importantly, this reuse can happen will relative ease.

He also made an interesting point that the quality of an ontology matters, but the benefit derived from any ontology, no matter how badly engineered, is much greater than the benefit gained from having the best possible knowledge base.

Ontologies are not object oriented, or frame-based systems, though may people mistake them for these, since they are quite similar on the surface. OWL has the distinction of using URIs for all identifiers and being based on formal description logic, which allows for automated reasoning and classification.

As usual, there were some terrible talks. Some people just cannot explain themselves. They will talks for 20 minutes, giving all kinds of complicated maths, confusing everyone and, in the end, it turns out they have just done some very insignficant, minor new thing. The complexty was just to fool people into publishing the research (why explain something in one page, if you can do it in 20 and get published?).

Some researchers from Zurich presented their iRDQL query language extension that allowed for imprecise query term matching. Useful, though nothing extraordinary.

Derek Sleeman gave a strange talk on the research he plans to do. He didn't really say anything, but then, I guess, he wasn't intending to. One useful bit of information he shared was that when evaluating users' understanding of a system, it is useful to have them "think aloud". Research has proven that this speaking one's thoughts does not interfere with the normal thinking process. It is a very useful technique for understand what someone else's mental model of a situation or computer program is.

Sleeman also gave a talk on "Searching and Ranking Ontologies on the Semantic Web". Southampton University, Aberdeen and Sheffield have built an ontology (ontosearch) search engine that uses a PageRank-style algorithm. This offers an alternative to Jim Hendler's Maryland research group's Swoogle search engine.

F. Mostowfi gave an interesting talk on "Change in Ontology and Ontology of Change". He outlined a complex version system that relies on all changes being recorded in an ontology of change. This ontology provides an audit trail, so that one can always reconstruct the original context of any class by performing a RDQL query. The system is being used by linguists to study and preserve the semantics of all 6000 languages of the world.

K-CAP day 0
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A long flight from Manchester to Toronto, then 3 hours to get through customs by which time I had missed my connecting flight, then a long flight from Toronto to Calgary, then a long bus ride from Calgary to Banff. After this Odyssey I've finally arrived at the Banff Center hotel and conference center for the K-CAP conference.

Canada seems very much the USA, expect for a slight, but noticeable extra degree of stylishness. Less ugly industrial concrete, but more refined. Still, the American influence is all pervading.

Banff is located in the midst of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 4500 feet (1350 meters). The natural surroundings of the center are beautiful. The Rockies are certainly majestic to behold. The mountain air is refreshing (and cold). I'm finding myself occasionally become light headed, since I'm not yet used to the thinner air at this altitude.

The Banff center staff is very professional, well organized, knowledgably, helpful and personal. They will go out of their way to accommodate almost any request. They also constantly ask if they can get you anything, or assist you in any way. Impressive.

The center also offers a range of services and activities for its guest. Most of them are free. It is equipped a swimming pool (I went swimming to get over the jet lag), classes in Yoga, Pilates, Kick Boxing, Massage; a running track, climbing wall, gym, badminton courts, a number of shops and a choice of dinning facilities. The rooms are huge (unlike the UK, there is lots of empty space in Canada, so the can afford to build stuff big). However, I have no idea why anyone would need a bed that is 2x2 meters in size. That is a bit over the top. Nevertheless, they certainly know how to make a good impression on their guests.

First order of business: Sleep.

God & Science: on Mystic Perfections and Long-Distance Hypnosis
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

In 1920 Professor Leonid Vasiliev of the University of Leningrad, Russia performed an experiment where he would monitor a subject in a darkened room, detecting when she would fall asleep. A psychic would then be directed to a special lead-lined room some distance away. There the psychic would find a sealed envelope with instructions written by a neutral third party to either:

  1. Remain in the room and issue a command to the subject to fall asleep
  2. Exit the room and issue the same command
  3. Exit the room and issue no command

The resultant average time it took the subject to fall asleep were:

  1. 4:43
  2. 4:13
  3. 7:24

The experiment suggests that telepathic influences are very real and do not work via electromagnetism, since these waves are blocked by lead. Professor Vasiliev work was eventually canceled by the Russian government, since it was investigating phenomena ??oewhich considering the time and place, cannot be perceived??.

In contrast, these kind of mystic powers are quite common in the Vedic literature. However, they are also condemned, not because they couldn't possibly be true, but because they distract from the path of service to God, which is the true goal of life.

Devamrita Swami: Overburdened earth
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Download MP3
Verse: SB1.16.34
Place: Govinda's Restaurant, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
Duration: 1:25

In this class to devotees in the Swansea temple Devamrita Swami talk about the how people who are reluctant to take up Krishna conscious because of fear of going "too fast" and many burdensome false obligations are just like someone who has just woken up and doesn't want to get out of bed. Changing one's way is especially difficult for someone over the age of 40, but it can be done. He also talks about how material nature, not the United States, is the only true superpower in the world. The world is overburdened by so much unnecessary economic endeavor. She fights back.

He finished by talking about Vamana-lila. We can only really be happy if we are satisfied with whatever we currently have. We shouldn't struggle for acquiring more and we are destined to get. However, we should endeavor strongly for our Krishna consciousness. He gives the practical example of a devotee couple formally living in Slovenia.

Questions:

  • How is the demigods' controlling position is related to simultaneous oneness and difference?
  • Are we headed for a new period of serfdom for the people in general?
  • What to do if I, due to past conditioning, offend devotees?
  • How to not get depressed working in a non-devotee job?
  • How to balance health, sadanna and service?
  • How to use Yoga to preach?

Devamrita Swami: See yourself in 15 years
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Download MP3
Place: The Soul Centre, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Duration: 1:17

Summary:
In this discussion between guests at the Cardiff Soul Centre and Devamrita Swami, the swami asks them where they think they will be at in 15 years time. Guests ranging in age from 17 to 50 give their thoughts. They discuss how they think they will have progressed and/or want to progress spiritually.

God & Science: Imitators of Life
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Artificial life scientists aim to create intelligent machines that will eventually replace humans by a natural evolutionary process. Some researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory project that this will happen within one hundred years.

The Vedic literature also contains stories of robots. Sanskritist V. Raghavan has written a treatise on machines in ancient India. King Samarangana Sutradhara in the twelfth century, for example, was said to have wooden human-shaped automata that would perform simple menial tasks like fanning, sprinkling water, or playing musical instruments. The Buddhist Bhaisajya-vastu tells of a country where complex automata existed that behaved and looked just like humans. These stories are however most probably just fantasy.

Yantras, as machines are called in Sanskrit, are most often used in analogies explaining how our own bodies are merely machines and we, the consciousness, are the machines controller. Similarly, the Universe is a large clockwork-like machine, with God as the ultimate controller.

Other machines were used for military purposes. For example, in the battle between Krishna and Salva, Salva boarded an airplane that could turn invisible. Later in the battle Krishna shot this airplane down using a sound-seeking arrow that was attracted by sound of the invisible airplane in the sky.

These weapons worked because they are sentient. They had living beings embedded within them with whom the warrior can communicate telepathically to issue commands. These cybernetic weapons are exactly what Los Alamos researchers postulate. They prove that sentient machines are indeed possible.

God & Science: the little Man in the Brain
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran proposes that the idea of a "little man" sitting in our brain observing our sense input is nonsense. Such a figure would require another "little man" sitting in his brain, and then yet another, ad infinitum. Obviously nonsense. So instead the brain must understand things at an abstract symbolic level.

The brain takes in input in a neural net similar to the logic gates of a computer chip. However, a computer chip is not consciousness. It isn't aware that it is experiencing anything. Scientists use the fact that the brain very complex (it 10 billion neuros) as an excuse. The large complexity must be where the consciousness is coming from. But how does scaling a simple pattern change anything? The brain is still fundamentally like the computer chip.

Maybe there is such a thing as a soul that sits inside the brain, reading the data it interprets and processes just like we might read a book.

God & Science: Life: Real and Artificial
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Researches at Los Alamos National Laboratories study artificial life. They hope to one day build a sophisticated computer simulation that exactly mimics the real world. Even today they can hook a person's eyes up to TV-screens, feed their nose and mouth smell and taste generators, equip their hands with data-gloves and put headphones on their ears.

Researcher Tommaso Toffoli from MIT argues that a simulated collapse of a simulated bridge that is indistinguishable from a real event, is just as much "life" as "real life", as we know it.

Indeed, the Vedic literature paints a similar picture. It describes how, just like the person liked into the computer simulation by way of artificial senses, "real life" is actually an illusion and our real self is linked into it via the interface of the false ego.

Whether or not computers can even develop real consciousness is an open question. However, we can learn a lesion about so-called reality from the computer scientists' experiments.

Vedicsoc begins
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Just had the first session of Vedicsoc in the new University term. It went rather well.

A total of 25 young students attended (male/female ratio was about 1/4). There was barely enough space in the room. I taught a very crowded power-yoga mini class, which seemed to be well received. However, I forgot to get people to do Ardha Matsyendrasana. Also, I need to work on speaking more slowly, clearly and loudly to a large group of people like that. Then we chanted some Vedic mantras together (Nitai Gauranga and Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya) for about 15 minutes (the Hare Krishna mantra comes next time).

Following that, everyone had some cookies I made. After people had finished their (first) cookie, I asked: "Who's a pleasure lover?" and explained that spirituality means happiness. Then I asked people to share some happy experience. After a few stories I explained how that happiness is conditional: i.e. dependent on external circumstances and temporary. Better to go for Krishna consciousness and get spiritual happiness. Any questions?

Someone asked about the difference between the mind and consciousness and how to tell which is which. Another person wanted to know if anyone can take up the practice. Someone else asked what it means to "free the mind". Another person questioned me about how conscious animals are. One half-German girl asked how "mind" translates into German, since "der Geist" means "the soul" (actually, I couldn't properly answer that one - anyone care to offer some help?). More questions gave me the opportunity to talk about, among other things, the relationship of physical yoga to Krishna consciousness and how I came to this spiritual practice 5 years ago.

I ended by announcing all the topics and activities we would cover in the upcoming term, offering people good deals on yoga equipment (Universities and non-profits get wholesale prices) and asking for donations to finance the society (I choose not to charge any fee for sessions). Also, anyone that gave a sufficiently large donation got a small book of their choice. This resulted in my selling 12 books and collecting enough money to cover my costs for the session.

Oh yes, and more cookies for anyone that wanted them. Some people took as many as five. Ah, the power of prasadam.

I'm happy. We shall see how many people return for the next session.

Devamrita Swami: BG 8.16 places of misery
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Download MP3
Verse: Bhagavad-Gita 8.16
Place: Govinda's Restaurant, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
Duration: 1:44 hours

Summary:
In this morning class to devotees in the Swansea temple Devamrita Swami talks about how everywhere in the world is a place of misery. He specifically highlights the recent Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We tend to quickly forget the miseries we encounter. Indeed, he says, there is an organized effort to prevent people from thinking too deeply about their lives. Krishna consciousness puts one into a special dimension, a different atmosphere. We should make it our lifetime career goal and prioritize accordingly.

Questions:

  • How to convince young people to plan so far ahead?
  • How do devotees influence the material energy?
  • Are disasters the direct result of sinful activities?
  • Is there really a conspiracy of world leaders?
  • Regarding the Christian church minister getting a $0.5 million salary per year, how much should our leaders be paid?
  • How to give Krishna consciousness to people we meet only once on the street?
  • What is the a fine line between giving people too much truth and massaging their ego?

God & Science: Paradoxes of Time and Space
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Einstein??(TM)s Theory of Relativity shows how time slows down for someone traveling close to the speed of light. This effect is known as time dilation. Time dilation also occurs when large gravitational forces are present. A person traveling into the event horizon of a black hole, for example, will, to an external observer, appear to slow down more and more as he approaches the horizon, but never actually enter it. The traveler will not notice any change in the passage of time, but the light showing his actions cannot escape the gravitational pull of the black hole, so the observer sees him in super-slow motion.

The Vedic literature has account of these kinds of relativistic time dilation effects. There is the story of King Kakudmi, who visits Lord Brahma for one hour to ask a question and find that 27 catur-yugas (27 x 4,320,000 earth years) have passed. The Brahma-vimohana-lila describes a similar time stretching pastime.

Lord Brahma is said to live near the outer shell of the Universe, near the border to the spiritual world. Could it be that the passage to the spiritual world is like the event horizon of a black hole? The closer one gets to it, the slower time passes and once one actually enters it, time ceases to exist completely.

World of Warcraft is big business
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The most popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) in the world is World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard recently announced that they now have over 4 million subscribers worldwide, making WoW the most popular online RPG in existence. In comparison, the XBox Live online playing system (with which people can play any number of online-enabled Xbox games) only has 2 million subscribers.

A World of Warcraft subscriber pays a monthly fee of $15 per month (a XBox Live player pays only $6 per month) and the retail box costs an additional $40.

This equals: US$ 880 million per year income for Blizzard.

That amount of money is on par with to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of several small countries, like Bhutan, Mongolia, Rwanda or the Central African Republic.

God & Science: High Technology and the Ground of Being
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Researches at Syracuse University have demonstrated that light beams distorted by frosted glass can be reversed and restored to their original form. Similarly, a drop of ink in glycerin can be blurred and recreated by rotation. This leads to the idea that one supreme consciousness could be distributed throughout all of matter while simultaneously being a unified whole. Indeed, physicists David Bohm hints at the possibility of the structure of the Universe has we see it, being a direct result of this distributed consciousness.

The Vedic scripture called Brahma-Samhita gives an account of exactly the simultaneous oneness and difference Bohm postulates. Moreover, Srimad Bhagavatam gives accounts of subtle sound vibrations causing the space itself to unfold from an unmanifest state called pradhana. God directly causes this unfolding, but his presence is hidden in the seemingly random resultant effect (maya).

Alfred Russell Wallace, co-inventor of the theory of evolution, made a similar point to Bohm. He also believes that natural selection isn??(TM)t the whole store. Some superior intelligence must have been involved. Unifying physics and meta-physics requires an open mind, like that of these forward-thinking researchers.

Fresher’s Fair 2005
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The University Fresher??(TM)s Fair finished today. In the first week of University, the new students get a whole load of events, advertising from various clubs and societies, free stuff and so much sense stimulus that they practically loose all intelligence and discrimination. Indeed, most of the men looked totally spaced-out, walking around with a dazed look on their faces and most of the women looked angry and frustrated.

The young first-year students also didn??(TM)t look nearly as young and innocent as I remember them looking just three years ago. 18-year olds looked more like they were approaching 30. Excess indulgence in sense gratification is so degrading. A sad state of affairs.

This event marked the rebirth of Vedicsoc after the summer break. The Vedic society is a university club that aims to teach things related to the Vedic literature (like e.g. Krishna consciousness).

We distributed 1500 flyers and 400 prasadam sweets (coconut ice) throughout the two days we were allocated a stall. ??oeWe?? included Ben, Felix, Shilpa and myself. Ben was really getting into it towards the end of the last day. He was stopping nearly everyone and getting them to sign up for the email newsletter. Felix used his sankirtan skills to induce people to join-up without them even realizing. Shilpa was also very good. She quickly made friends with people and got them interested in that way. She attributed her natural sankirtan abilities to her long-time retail sales experience (selling iPods in Selfridges). Besides distributing flyers, I managed to distribute one POY and one SSR to interested students.

The most common question I got was: "This isn't a religion, is it?"
Could anyone offer some advice for what is a good response?

My body, though improved in health, still is no where near suited for sankirtan-like activity. Distributing Vedicsoc material from 10am till 4pm for two days wiped me out completely. It was pretty intense being in a huge hall, with blaring music, trash everywhere, wall-to-wall people, 160 other societies and countless commerical companies competing for the students??(TM) attention. Time to get some rest.

Acupuncture (part 3)
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I??(TM)ve been to Dr Philip Weeks again. He was very much pleased with my progress. The ulcerative colitis is certainly still there, but much less prominent than before. Indeed, I certainly feel a lot better.

Philip did some more acupuncture on me. He concentrated on clearing ??oedamp?? from my body. As usual, some acupuncture points resulted in a more prominent weird tingle/shock feeling than others. Sticking some needles into my thumb joints resulted in the most powerful sensation. My entire arm all the way up to the shoulder was (briefly) paralyzed.

The treatment certainly worked. I??(TM)m now feeling much better still. I appear to finally be able to consistently properly digest food (excluding wheat and dairy). However, I??(TM)m still taking probiotics, digestive clay and slippery elm powder, asacol (western drug) and Philip??(TM)s own custom herbal tincture. Ah, trials and tribulations of the body.

Acupuncture works by re-routing the prana/life-force/chi/electric energy of the body. By sticking a small metal needle into an energy relay station, the energy flow is re-wired. An expert acupuncturist can re-wire to body??(TM)s energy to heal almost any disease.

Interestingly, kundalini chakra yoga attempts much the same thing. This style of yoga uses specific postures and breathing techniques to re-wire the body??(TM)s energies. Same with Tai Chi, Falun Gong, etc, etc.

Even more interestingly, in ancient Vedic times, expert mantra chanters could use the sound vibration of specific Sanskrit syllables to influence the energy around them in miraculous ways. A doctor could heal even the most serious of injuries just by chanting the necessary mantras. A warrior could similary kill thousands of people by the power of mantra. Sadly (or perhaps luckily), the science is pretty much lost in this day and age.

God & Science: Challenges Facing Science and Religion
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

In the Vaisnava tradition God takes the form of Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. In Christianity there are the similar ideas of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both emphasis a personal supreme being. This is in contrast to the scientists such as the biologist Julian Huxley who said: ??oeI am an atheist, in the only correct sense, that I don??(TM)t believe in a supernatural being who influences natural events.??

Thompson poses the argument that both there are a lot of things that both science and religion does not know. This grey area in between the two fields should be investigated. Here are some of the issues:

God and the Laws of Physics
Isaac Newton believed that God influenced the physical reality by making small adjustments. Indeed, modern chaos theory shows that arbitrarily small changes can be used to systematically control a large, complex system.

Special Theory of Relativity
Albert Einstein??(TM)s special theory of relativity shows how time and space interact at very high speeds. They are actually just different manifestations of the same thing. Time, i.e. past, present and future, is just an illusion. Question: how and why do we consciously perceive the jumbled space and time continuum linearly?

Quantum Physics
The famous collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanism occurs completely by chance. Some people like William Pollard see this as a chance to introduce a matter-spirit interface. God could influence events by subtly adjusting the random quantum fluctuations without us noticing. However, John Polkinghorne, a physicist and priest, calls this idea far-fetched.

The Brain and Consciousness
Francis Crick has stated that all joys, sorrows, memories, ambitions, sense of identity and free will are no more physiochemical brain processes. However, thus far no one has been able to even suggest a way in which the brain??(TM)s processes can be linked to conscious experience: the redness of red.

Life after Death
John Polkinhorne, attempting to give a scientific view of the Christian doctrine of resurrection, sees the body as a machine and resurrection as the recreation of the exact pattern of physical atoms of the dead person in a different place. Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita explains that the body is a machine occupied by the soul. It transmigrates between bodies via reincarnation. Researches such as Ian Stevenson have documented a great deal of empirical evidence for such transmigration.

NDEs
Near death experiences point towards the survival of consciousness after the death of the physical body. The dying person usually sees his or her own body from above and then enters some other world with bright light, beautiful scenery, etc. However, the particular experience a person has is very dependent his or her particular religious beliefs. This suggests that the near death experience might be fabricated or imagined, although the people experiencing them attest that they are real.

UFOs
The phenomenon of alien abductions can be somewhat linked to religious texts. Powerful alien life forms might, for example, correspond to Christian angels and demons. Aliens are also remarkably similar to the Vedic demigods. These have the power to levitate, pass through solid matter, appear and disappear suddenly and mysteriously and display halos of light.

The Fossil Record
Modern Geology asserts that the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and that the first humans evolved no more than 100,000 years ago. Some Christian traditions deny these numbers based on Biblical stories. Hinduism??(TM)s scriptures roughly correspond to modern figures. Carl Sagan said: ??oeThe Hindu religion is the only one of the world??(TM)s great faiths in which the time scales correspond, no doubt by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology.??

Darwin??(TM)s Theory
Life, according to neo-Darwin theories, manifest entirely by chance. It origins of life is like a ??oeblind watchmaker??. The Roman Catholic church agrees somewhat, but proposes a guided evolution, where God gently nudges the process every once and a while. Darwin??(TM)s theory has never been able to explain how complex organs come into existence. Michael Behe has, for example, published a book explaining how the findings of biochemistry are extremely difficult to explain using Darwin??(TM)s theory. Bio-molecular evolution is not understood by modern science. Could there be some intelligent design, or has science just not yet found the mechanistic explanation?

Conclusion
Our ignorance is overwhelming. Both scientists and religionists have much to learn. We must avoid imposing a final conclusion, either from scientific rationalism or from religious dogmatism.

The Lord Giveth and Taketh Away
NewTalavan

Hurricane Katrina Approaching Land

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." As I watch the mad scramble for insurance money and government aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I am amazed by the transient condition of life in the material world. Lord Krsna describes in the Twelfth Chapter of Srimad Bhagavad-gita that He is pleased by the devotees who are undisturbed by loss and gain. At present, I am wondering how powerful is the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as I observe evryone frantically trying to overcome their loss and damages. Let us not get lost in the madness of material pursuits. It is a jungle of false happiness and lamentation ready to pounce upon us at any moment. Better to live simply, accept the will of the Almighty, whether for loss or gain, and be always happy in Krsna Consciousness, loving devotional service to the Lord.

—Yogindra Vandana das

The Lord Giveth and Taketh Away
NewTalavan

Hurricane Katrina Approaching Land

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." As I watch the mad scramble for insurance money and government aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I am amazed by the transient condition of life in the material world. Lord Krsna describes in the Twelfth Chapter of Srimad Bhagavad-gita that He is pleased by the devotees who are undisturbed by loss and gain. At present, I am wondering how powerful is the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as I observe evryone frantically trying to overcome their loss and damages. Let us not get lost in the madness of material pursuits. It is a jungle of false happiness and lamentation ready to pounce upon us at any moment. Better to live simply, accept the will of the Almighty, whether for loss or gain, and be always happy in Krsna Consciousness, loving devotional service to the Lord.

—Yogindra Vandana das

Thanks to all
NewTalavan

Devotees distributing prasadam in Gulfport, MS

Today is the 21st day since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. At first God helped those who helped themselves, but gradually government and charity agencies crept in.

We want to thank those ISKCON and non-ISKCON people and organizations that heroically came to our aid. Special thanks is due to the devotees of ISKCON Alachua, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, Food for Life International, especially Priyavrata Prabhu, Ananda Prabhu of Sterling Art, Shuddhajivana Prabhu and crew from New Jersey, the New Vrndavan crew, Ramakeli Prabhu, his son Krsna-Balaram and his dear wife Mother Gaura. There are many other local devotees and donors we need to thank, but especially Dvibhuja Prabhu who forged a path into the wilderness of the storm's destruction to distribute prasadam.

Thanks to all those who prayed and sympathized with our plight. May your taste for Krsna consciousness increase.

Sincerely,
Yogindra das

Thanks to all
NewTalavan

Devotees distributing prasadam in Gulfport, MS

Today is the 21st day since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. At first God helped those who helped themselves, but gradually government and charity agencies crept in.

We want to thank those ISKCON and non-ISKCON people and organizations that heroically came to our aid. Special thanks is due to the devotees of ISKCON Alachua, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, Food for Life International, especially Priyavrata Prabhu, Ananda Prabhu of Sterling Art, Shuddhajivana Prabhu and crew from New Jersey, the New Vrndavan crew, Ramakeli Prabhu, his son Krsna-Balaram and his dear wife Mother Gaura. There are many other local devotees and donors we need to thank, but especially Dvibhuja Prabhu who forged a path into the wilderness of the storm's destruction to distribute prasadam.

Thanks to all those who prayed and sympathized with our plight. May your taste for Krsna consciousness increase.

Sincerely,
Yogindra das

Podcasting
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I've started podcasting. That is, you can subscribe to my website's newsfeed and new classes and other interesting audio that I record will automatically be delivered to your computer as and when they become available. The process is simple:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Select the menu item: Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast
  3. Enter: http://www.deltaflow.com/?feed=rss2&category_name=podcasts

You are now subscribed to the podcast.

Initiation in Swansea (2005)
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18|1I've posted the audio and pictures of a recent initiation ceremony in Swansea, Wales. Devamrita Swami initiated two new disciples:

Simon, the ex-carpenter who built most of the Cardiff Soul Centre became:

Suki Krishna (Krishna who is always happy)

When they met for the first time Devamrita Swami took one look at Tara and thought: "She's a devotee. I recognized that this person is meant for serving Krishna without delay". After graduating with a degree in photography and spending a year in New Zealand very seriously and compassionately distributing books she became:

Sukanti Radha (Srimati Radharani with the sweet/auspicious voice)

Cheated on eBay
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I found out I was cheated out of over US$1000 today. I was buying a new laptop to replace my aging Dell monster. I bid on a new Apple 12" Powerbook over eBay and won it for a good price. Too good, it would turn out.

The seller said he shipped the laptop using a slow shipping method. It didn't arrive after a few weeks. I emailed the seller and he reassured me it would arrive very soon. After a few more weeks I email the guy again but he didn't respond.

Now, I check the eBay website and the guy's account has been cancelled. A whole bunch of people have posted negative feedback saying how they too have been ripped off. It seems he spent one year setting up his account, auctioning off a few items, building his ebay reputation (he had 100% positive feedback) and then set up a whole load of fraud auctions, took people's money and ran. It is past ebay's buyer protection/complaints deadline (45 days after the sale), so no way for me to get the money back. Nothing I can do. Just spent over $1000 learning a lesson.

Lessons learnt:

Material nature tempts you with a attractive looking promises: "do this and you'll be happy", "buy this, it's cheap", "this is for you to enjoy". However, things rarely turn out as one expects. You get cheated and exploited. A horrible feeling. Better to practice Krishna consciousness and escape the cruel, merciless grip of the material world.

Conclusions and advice:

  • Never buy anything over $1000 on eBay
  • Don't trust anyone
  • Be extremely careful with anyone that has less than 1000 positive feedbacks
  • If the item doesn't arrive in 30 days, never wait, file a fraud claim immediately

Sri-Sri Radha Radha-Kanta Arrive In Dallas With Their Associates
NewTalavan

Their Lordships being worshiped nicely in Dallas

by Lavangalatika devi dasi


From Chakra.org

Posted September 16, 2005

The horrible destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the surrounding area turned out to be a huge boon for the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple and devotees. Katrina visited these areas late Sunday night August 28 th, and early Monday morning August 29th. Initially, the damage in New Orleans was not as severe as what happened after the levee separating the city from Lake Pontchartrain broke Monday night, flooding 80% of the city with up to 20 feet of water.

The Dallas devotees had been in contact with the New Orleans devotees prior to Katrina wreaking her havoc there. A few families arrived in Dallas prior to the hurricane. The rest of the devotees in New Orleans felt they could brave out the storm and its consequences. The first reports that came from New Orleans initially were that the temple had not flooded, and the Deities and devotees were doing fine. However, on Tuesday morning, following the levee break, all phone and internet connections with New Orleans were lost. As the news reports rolled in about the worsening situation in New Orleans, the devotees in Dallas prayed hard for the safety and security of those who were suffering. With no way to communicate with the New Orleans devotees, everyone was in the dark. During this time, there were conflicting reports coming from different places. Some devotees staying at the nearby Mississippi farm said the New Orleans devotees were safe, sound and in no need of help.

Fortunately, at around 12 noon on Thursday, September 1st, by the sweet graces of Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji, one of the New Orleans devotees was able to get a call through to Dallas and describe their horrendous plight. Even though the temple building itself was spared the worst of the flooding, with no running water or electricity, the growing stench, and no way out of the city, the situation for the Deities and the devotees at the temple had become unbearable.

On Thursday evening, temple authorities had already called for a meeting to discuss how the Dallas devotees could help the victims from the places hit by Katrina. Daily there were hundreds of evacuees pouring into Dallas, escaping the horrors there. However, the devotees' offers of assistance to the large institutions helping the evacuees had been turned down. They were told, "don't call us, we'll call you," but no call came. So, instead the meeting focused on how a rescue mission could be mounted, with devotees physically going to the aid of the 14 Deities and 19 devotees who were stranded at the temple in New Orleans.

About 25 devotees attended the meeting, and there was a robust discussion about exactly how to mount the mission. There were questions about safety and security, necessary approval(s) for moving the Deities, the feasibility of the undertaking, and the resources that were required to carry out such a mission. The meeting started at 7:00 p.m. in the temple room, and by 3:00 a.m. the next morning, all the supplies had been gathered, and the details planned out. Dharma Prabhu had worked tirelessly through the night and obtained many of the items needed for the trip. Seven devotees were chosen to take part in the SWAT-type rescue mission. They were asked to take rest before they began their heroic journey.

At 11:00 a.m., Friday, September 2nd, the seven-member force, comprised of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Daruka, Divyaratna, Bhakta Jose, Bhakta Kesava, Ramachandra and Bhakta Tavish Prabhus departed from the Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas in a 15-seater rental van, dontated by Sunil Patel, and an 18-wheeler truck. Along with them, they carried three letters of introduction: one from the Internal Revenue Service to certify the temple's non-profit status, one from the Temple President , and the other from the Food for Life Director. These letters, along with a copy of Back to Godhead Magazine featuring many photographs of Deities being worshipped, were brought along to help show the authenticity of the mission to the authorities. The truck was loaded with cardboard boxes, cushion blankets and two large rolled sheets of plastic bubble wrap, donated by Yudhisthira Prabhu, to pack the Deities for safe transport. The devotees carried several two-way walkie talkies in each vehicle. Because they were prepared to wait for up to one week if necessary in order to wait for the window of opportunity to reach the Deities and devotees, the truck was also loaded up with ample supplies of bottled water donated by Laxmi Priya Prabhu, as well as dry food, vegetables, propane tanks, burners, pots and spoons.

Road signs as far as 400 miles from New Orleans were warning travelers not to enter the city. The situation was that no one was being allowed in except the military and other official personnel. Within the city, many were past the point of desperation. The residents of New Orleans were frustrated, angry, helpless, breaking down with hopelessness, and were ready to do anything to get out of there. Undoubtedly, this was a very dangerous mission at best. The devotees had even considered taking their own guns, just in case. People were shooting at each other, looting was happening in the streets, there were reports of rape, and other "lawless" activities as the victims of Katrina experienced abandonment and felt uncared for by the authorities. "I had received as many as 10 calls from senior devotees around America warning me to call off the mission, because it was too risky and impractical," said Nityananda dasa, the local Temple President . However, after the devotees in New Orleans had expressed their severe suffering circumstances there, the devotees in Dallas felt there was no other choice, despite the risks. Instead of not trying at all, they thought to at least make an honest attempt to do the right thing.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 3rd, the rescue team arrived at the New Orleans city limits. To get there, they had passed through as many as 40 checkpoints. "Somehow, by the grace of the Lord, they let us through," said Daruka Prabhu, who had very kindly availed his Tri-State Express 18-wheeler truck for this mission. Seeing the truck, the authorities felt they were bringing relief supplies and let them in. They did have relief supplies, but not enough sufficient to deal with the massive need in New Orleans. They then drove for another 30 to 40 miles to the next checkpoint where they were told to wait until morning, as it was too dangerous to go into the city at that time.

The devotees saw many people standing by the roadside and freeways desperately trying to wave down vehicles to get out of the city. They were trying to get help, and essential items for their distressed families and their health needs. It was mind boggling, pitiable and unbearable scenery. People were roaming the streets like mad men wanting to get out. Daruka and Ramachandra Prabhus could not bear the sight and gave away their personal blankets, pillows, and other items to the some of the distressed and stayed awake the whole night.

At daybreak, tens of buses started to arrive to pick up the people sitting on the highways and freeways to take them to shelters arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We were the only ones traveling on the highway towards the city center. Every other vehicle was traveling outbound," said Daruka Prabhu.

At this time, the devotees entered the city guided by Divyaratna Prabhu, who was a taxi driver in New Orleans. Bhakta Tavish, who was from New Orleans , also helped the devotees navigate their way to the temple. The two vehicles kept in constant radio communication with one another. On their way to the temple, they were turned away from some checkpoints, so they took alternate routes. In addition, at times they would go down one road only to be stopped by fallen trees, then take another route only to find a similar situation. With the help of these two knowledgeable persons, the devotees were able to zig-zag their way across the city. Without their help, it would have been practically impossible to reach the temple.

Daruka Prabhu bravely drove his vehicle through the debris, brushing against broken and hanging branches from top and sides. They encountered flooded roads as they neared the temple area. As the truck gradually entered deeper and deeper waters, Daruka Prabhu radioed the van behind not to come any further. The floodwaters were too high for the 15-seater van to make it all the way to the temple, so it was parked approximately one mile away. Ramachandra Prabhu guarded the van and ended up waiting in the vehicle for four hours while the rest of the devotees climbed into the truck to reach the temple and rescue the Deities and the devotees.

When the truck arrived at the temple, and the devotees began loading up the 18-wheeler, some military personnel arrived at the scene wanting to assist some person with health problems. They advised them that they would commandeer the devotee's truck unless they found the keys to a van that was parked nearby. The military officers broke into the house where the van was parked, and luckily, found the keys. During the entire rescue effort, military choppers were constantly circling and even hovering above the devotees, policing the movement of all people and vehicles throughout the city. In the meantime, the devotees frantically loaded up the truck with Their Lordships, Their paraphernalia, the devotees and their meager belongings. They left the scene as quickly as they could, fearing they would lose the 18-wheeler if they stayed a moment longer.

Some Dallas devotees, especially Kunja Bihari Prabhu, had kept in constant touch with the rescue team, ready to do the needful. At about 7:15 a.m., Saturday, September 3rd, Sweta Manjari Prabhu, Daruka Prabhu's wife, came into the temple room and advised the devotees that the mission had been successful and everyone was headed back to Dallas. Obviously, she, the mother of 3 young children, was very relieved. The devotees were extremely happy to hear the great news. The rescue team called later to say that all of the Deities and devotees were famished and looked forward to a sumptuous feast of hot prasadam upon arrival. The Dallas devotees, led by Manjuali Prabhu, then proceeded to prepare the feast for their arrival. Mathuranatha and Bhakta Ross Prabhus helped with the preparation of accommodations for the guests.

The rescue team arrived into Dallas at 11:30 p.m. that night. They were greeted by an enthusiastic kirtan party of about 30 when they pulled up on Gurley Avenue. There was an exuberant festival atmosphere. Devotees were singing and dancing on the street in great anticipation. The 15-seater van and another smaller van pulled up first. Everyone happily greeted the devotees, grateful that everyone was safe.

When the rear doors of the 18-wheeler truck opened, devotees ecstatically jumped on to commence unloading the paraphernalia of the Deities and the devotees. Soon, the portion where the Deities were was reached. First, Srila Prabhupada came off the truck, seated regally on his vyasasana. Now, all of the devotees were wild with ecstacy. Then came Lord Nityananda with His upraised arms in a wonderful dancing pose, soon followed by Lord Caitanaya casting His most magnanimous glance on everyone there. Everyone began reveling in the joyfulness. The mood kept rising with the arrival of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha Baladeva and Subhadra Maharani. The emotions reached fever-pitch when Sri Radha Kanta and Srimati Radharani gave Their merciful audience. All the Deities were fully dressed, ready for giving Darshan to the eager devotees awaiting Their arrival. The devotees' ecstatic emotions increased even more when the small Radha Radha Kanta, Gaura Nitai and Srila Prabhupada Deities were unpacked from Their carrying cases.

The Deities were taken to Srila Prabhupada's quarters, and stood in front of Srila Prabhupada. Srimati Radharani was placed directly in front of Srila Prabhupada. One of Her pujaris mentioned that when Srimati Radharani was in New Orleans, She had a stern look on Her face. However, standing in front of Srila Prabhupada in his quarters, much to her amazement, She broke into a distinct smile.

Everyone said that the Deities all looked so very beautiful and happy. The devotees in Dallas felt unlimitedly fortunate and blessed to have the darshan of Their Lordships.

There was much discussion as to exactly where the Deities would be happiest. There were four alternatives. Finally, the personal servants of the Deities decided that They would be most pleased staying with Srila Prabhupada in his quarters. The majority of the devotees in Dallas had felt exactly the same way. A beautiful marble altar has now been built to accommodate the Deities in Srila Prabhupada's quarters.

Lastly, the devotees were asked how they felt serving the devotees and Deities this way. They said it was great adventure. They added that devotees should not always stay in their comfort zones but accept new adventures in Krishna consciousness, as it is very exciting and pleasing to the heart. The Deities and devotees are expected to stay in Dallas for about 6 months.

Sri-Sri Radha Radha-Kanta Arrive In Dallas With Their Associates
NewTalavan

Their Lordships being worshiped nicely in Dallas

by Lavangalatika devi dasi


From Chakra.org

Posted September 16, 2005

The horrible destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the surrounding area turned out to be a huge boon for the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple and devotees. Katrina visited these areas late Sunday night August 28 th, and early Monday morning August 29th. Initially, the damage in New Orleans was not as severe as what happened after the levee separating the city from Lake Pontchartrain broke Monday night, flooding 80% of the city with up to 20 feet of water.

The Dallas devotees had been in contact with the New Orleans devotees prior to Katrina wreaking her havoc there. A few families arrived in Dallas prior to the hurricane. The rest of the devotees in New Orleans felt they could brave out the storm and its consequences. The first reports that came from New Orleans initially were that the temple had not flooded, and the Deities and devotees were doing fine. However, on Tuesday morning, following the levee break, all phone and internet connections with New Orleans were lost. As the news reports rolled in about the worsening situation in New Orleans, the devotees in Dallas prayed hard for the safety and security of those who were suffering. With no way to communicate with the New Orleans devotees, everyone was in the dark. During this time, there were conflicting reports coming from different places. Some devotees staying at the nearby Mississippi farm said the New Orleans devotees were safe, sound and in no need of help.

Fortunately, at around 12 noon on Thursday, September 1st, by the sweet graces of Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji, one of the New Orleans devotees was able to get a call through to Dallas and describe their horrendous plight. Even though the temple building itself was spared the worst of the flooding, with no running water or electricity, the growing stench, and no way out of the city, the situation for the Deities and the devotees at the temple had become unbearable.

On Thursday evening, temple authorities had already called for a meeting to discuss how the Dallas devotees could help the victims from the places hit by Katrina. Daily there were hundreds of evacuees pouring into Dallas, escaping the horrors there. However, the devotees' offers of assistance to the large institutions helping the evacuees had been turned down. They were told, "don't call us, we'll call you," but no call came. So, instead the meeting focused on how a rescue mission could be mounted, with devotees physically going to the aid of the 14 Deities and 19 devotees who were stranded at the temple in New Orleans.

About 25 devotees attended the meeting, and there was a robust discussion about exactly how to mount the mission. There were questions about safety and security, necessary approval(s) for moving the Deities, the feasibility of the undertaking, and the resources that were required to carry out such a mission. The meeting started at 7:00 p.m. in the temple room, and by 3:00 a.m. the next morning, all the supplies had been gathered, and the details planned out. Dharma Prabhu had worked tirelessly through the night and obtained many of the items needed for the trip. Seven devotees were chosen to take part in the SWAT-type rescue mission. They were asked to take rest before they began their heroic journey.

At 11:00 a.m., Friday, September 2nd, the seven-member force, comprised of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Daruka, Divyaratna, Bhakta Jose, Bhakta Kesava, Ramachandra and Bhakta Tavish Prabhus departed from the Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas in a 15-seater rental van, dontated by Sunil Patel, and an 18-wheeler truck. Along with them, they carried three letters of introduction: one from the Internal Revenue Service to certify the temple's non-profit status, one from the Temple President , and the other from the Food for Life Director. These letters, along with a copy of Back to Godhead Magazine featuring many photographs of Deities being worshipped, were brought along to help show the authenticity of the mission to the authorities. The truck was loaded with cardboard boxes, cushion blankets and two large rolled sheets of plastic bubble wrap, donated by Yudhisthira Prabhu, to pack the Deities for safe transport. The devotees carried several two-way walkie talkies in each vehicle. Because they were prepared to wait for up to one week if necessary in order to wait for the window of opportunity to reach the Deities and devotees, the truck was also loaded up with ample supplies of bottled water donated by Laxmi Priya Prabhu, as well as dry food, vegetables, propane tanks, burners, pots and spoons.

Road signs as far as 400 miles from New Orleans were warning travelers not to enter the city. The situation was that no one was being allowed in except the military and other official personnel. Within the city, many were past the point of desperation. The residents of New Orleans were frustrated, angry, helpless, breaking down with hopelessness, and were ready to do anything to get out of there. Undoubtedly, this was a very dangerous mission at best. The devotees had even considered taking their own guns, just in case. People were shooting at each other, looting was happening in the streets, there were reports of rape, and other "lawless" activities as the victims of Katrina experienced abandonment and felt uncared for by the authorities. "I had received as many as 10 calls from senior devotees around America warning me to call off the mission, because it was too risky and impractical," said Nityananda dasa, the local Temple President . However, after the devotees in New Orleans had expressed their severe suffering circumstances there, the devotees in Dallas felt there was no other choice, despite the risks. Instead of not trying at all, they thought to at least make an honest attempt to do the right thing.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 3rd, the rescue team arrived at the New Orleans city limits. To get there, they had passed through as many as 40 checkpoints. "Somehow, by the grace of the Lord, they let us through," said Daruka Prabhu, who had very kindly availed his Tri-State Express 18-wheeler truck for this mission. Seeing the truck, the authorities felt they were bringing relief supplies and let them in. They did have relief supplies, but not enough sufficient to deal with the massive need in New Orleans. They then drove for another 30 to 40 miles to the next checkpoint where they were told to wait until morning, as it was too dangerous to go into the city at that time.

The devotees saw many people standing by the roadside and freeways desperately trying to wave down vehicles to get out of the city. They were trying to get help, and essential items for their distressed families and their health needs. It was mind boggling, pitiable and unbearable scenery. People were roaming the streets like mad men wanting to get out. Daruka and Ramachandra Prabhus could not bear the sight and gave away their personal blankets, pillows, and other items to the some of the distressed and stayed awake the whole night.

At daybreak, tens of buses started to arrive to pick up the people sitting on the highways and freeways to take them to shelters arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We were the only ones traveling on the highway towards the city center. Every other vehicle was traveling outbound," said Daruka Prabhu.

At this time, the devotees entered the city guided by Divyaratna Prabhu, who was a taxi driver in New Orleans. Bhakta Tavish, who was from New Orleans , also helped the devotees navigate their way to the temple. The two vehicles kept in constant radio communication with one another. On their way to the temple, they were turned away from some checkpoints, so they took alternate routes. In addition, at times they would go down one road only to be stopped by fallen trees, then take another route only to find a similar situation. With the help of these two knowledgeable persons, the devotees were able to zig-zag their way across the city. Without their help, it would have been practically impossible to reach the temple.

Daruka Prabhu bravely drove his vehicle through the debris, brushing against broken and hanging branches from top and sides. They encountered flooded roads as they neared the temple area. As the truck gradually entered deeper and deeper waters, Daruka Prabhu radioed the van behind not to come any further. The floodwaters were too high for the 15-seater van to make it all the way to the temple, so it was parked approximately one mile away. Ramachandra Prabhu guarded the van and ended up waiting in the vehicle for four hours while the rest of the devotees climbed into the truck to reach the temple and rescue the Deities and the devotees.

When the truck arrived at the temple, and the devotees began loading up the 18-wheeler, some military personnel arrived at the scene wanting to assist some person with health problems. They advised them that they would commandeer the devotee's truck unless they found the keys to a van that was parked nearby. The military officers broke into the house where the van was parked, and luckily, found the keys. During the entire rescue effort, military choppers were constantly circling and even hovering above the devotees, policing the movement of all people and vehicles throughout the city. In the meantime, the devotees frantically loaded up the truck with Their Lordships, Their paraphernalia, the devotees and their meager belongings. They left the scene as quickly as they could, fearing they would lose the 18-wheeler if they stayed a moment longer.

Some Dallas devotees, especially Kunja Bihari Prabhu, had kept in constant touch with the rescue team, ready to do the needful. At about 7:15 a.m., Saturday, September 3rd, Sweta Manjari Prabhu, Daruka Prabhu's wife, came into the temple room and advised the devotees that the mission had been successful and everyone was headed back to Dallas. Obviously, she, the mother of 3 young children, was very relieved. The devotees were extremely happy to hear the great news. The rescue team called later to say that all of the Deities and devotees were famished and looked forward to a sumptuous feast of hot prasadam upon arrival. The Dallas devotees, led by Manjuali Prabhu, then proceeded to prepare the feast for their arrival. Mathuranatha and Bhakta Ross Prabhus helped with the preparation of accommodations for the guests.

The rescue team arrived into Dallas at 11:30 p.m. that night. They were greeted by an enthusiastic kirtan party of about 30 when they pulled up on Gurley Avenue. There was an exuberant festival atmosphere. Devotees were singing and dancing on the street in great anticipation. The 15-seater van and another smaller van pulled up first. Everyone happily greeted the devotees, grateful that everyone was safe.

When the rear doors of the 18-wheeler truck opened, devotees ecstatically jumped on to commence unloading the paraphernalia of the Deities and the devotees. Soon, the portion where the Deities were was reached. First, Srila Prabhupada came off the truck, seated regally on his vyasasana. Now, all of the devotees were wild with ecstacy. Then came Lord Nityananda with His upraised arms in a wonderful dancing pose, soon followed by Lord Caitanaya casting His most magnanimous glance on everyone there. Everyone began reveling in the joyfulness. The mood kept rising with the arrival of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha Baladeva and Subhadra Maharani. The emotions reached fever-pitch when Sri Radha Kanta and Srimati Radharani gave Their merciful audience. All the Deities were fully dressed, ready for giving Darshan to the eager devotees awaiting Their arrival. The devotees' ecstatic emotions increased even more when the small Radha Radha Kanta, Gaura Nitai and Srila Prabhupada Deities were unpacked from Their carrying cases.

The Deities were taken to Srila Prabhupada's quarters, and stood in front of Srila Prabhupada. Srimati Radharani was placed directly in front of Srila Prabhupada. One of Her pujaris mentioned that when Srimati Radharani was in New Orleans, She had a stern look on Her face. However, standing in front of Srila Prabhupada in his quarters, much to her amazement, She broke into a distinct smile.

Everyone said that the Deities all looked so very beautiful and happy. The devotees in Dallas felt unlimitedly fortunate and blessed to have the darshan of Their Lordships.

There was much discussion as to exactly where the Deities would be happiest. There were four alternatives. Finally, the personal servants of the Deities decided that They would be most pleased staying with Srila Prabhupada in his quarters. The majority of the devotees in Dallas had felt exactly the same way. A beautiful marble altar has now been built to accommodate the Deities in Srila Prabhupada's quarters.

Lastly, the devotees were asked how they felt serving the devotees and Deities this way. They said it was great adventure. They added that devotees should not always stay in their comfort zones but accept new adventures in Krishna consciousness, as it is very exciting and pleasing to the heart. The Deities and devotees are expected to stay in Dallas for about 6 months.

God & Science: the Miracle of the Milk
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

On the 21th of September 1995 deities of Ganesa, Lord Siva and other were reported to be accepting offerings of spoonfuls milk. Debunkers explained the effect as capillary action of the stone stature sucking the milk out of the spoon. They say that a single small incident was blown out of all proportions by mass hysteria.

Indeed, human beings have the tendency to cheat, have imperfect senses, become illusioned and tend to make mistakes, so the events of 1995 may well have an explanation that is in-line with the laws of nature. We will never really know.

St. Augustine spoke of miracles, not as contradicting the laws of nature, but instead as merely contracting what we currently understand about the laws of nature. For example, There are numerous accounts in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and in modern times of people exhibiting mystic powers (yoga siddhis) and paranormal apparitions (ghosts). Yogis can levitate, acquire objects across large distances, transform their body, etc.

Miracles are not accepted by modern science because they contradict the laws of physics. Newton??(TM)s law of the conservation of energy, for example, does not allow macroscopic objects to be teleported. Even if numerous people give testimony of a miraculous effect, scientists will favor what the laws of physics tell them should be happening and assume the witnesses must be deluded in some way.

The best way to distinguish between actual miracles and cheating is to listen to a teacher in a bona-fide disciplic succession. Such an authorized person will not try to mislead his listeners for some ulterior motive. Example: Krishnadasa Kaviraja??(TM)s description of the Lord Caitanya??(TM)s disappearing from locked rooms, eating offerings of food across large distances, healing sick people and appearing in several places at once.

God & Science: Rational Mythology
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(chapter summary from God and Science by Richard L. Thompson)

Vivekananda Swami gave a lecture on Hinduism at the Paraliament of Religions in 1893 explaining how, in the highest state of realization, God is the impersonal Brahman. He described a philosophy of monism (advaita). Everything is ultimately one. In perfection, there is no relationship, no love, no activity, just the oneness. All religions can be reconciled, since they are ultimate all just different ways of trying to get a handle on the inconceivable oneness. Similarly, science and religion can be reconciled, since science is also just another way of interpreting and explaining the, so called, impersonal Brahman.

Into the skeptical climate of the 19th century came the Indian high-court judge and scholar Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He rejected monism as useless and proclaims that God is an eternal person. The highest goal is to "serve that Infinite Being forever spiritually in the activity of Absolute Love".

However, in order to be taken seriously enough by the scholars of the day for them to listen to his ideas, he told them that the fantastic stories of the Srimad Bhagavatam did not actually occur and were instead fabricated in order to impress simple and ignorant village people.

We could take a similar approach in presenting Krishna's pastimes by adopting a "theology of visions". The spiritual realm exists, but the only link to it is through meditation. The mythical events described in the Vedic literature did not actually occur here on earth 5000 years ago. Instead, they were injected into various sages' minds while they were meditating.

This line of argument has numerous disadvantages: first and foremost it limits the power of God. If God can only manifest himself in people's minds, then how could he have created the Universe? If he couldn't have created the Universe, then why have a concept of God at all? However, a "theology of visions" may open people's minds to the ideas of mental projects, psychic materialization, leading them to gradually accept the so-called paranormal and eventually leading them to believe in spiritual experiences.

Thompson concluded by explaining how the Bhagavatam manages to reconcile all religions: Krishna is just one particular form of God. He can, and frequently does, manifest himself in an unlimited variety of forms, depending on the desire of the worshiper.