Indian Culture: American as Apple Pie
→ Unplugged Ice

The following is scratching the surface, but was nevertheless interesting to write. As Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to an acquaintance: I'm sorry, but if i had more time i would have made this shorter.

Indian Culture: American as Apple Pie

Most of us think Indian influences arrived in America during the countercultural movements of the sixties. In reality, that was only the most recent wave in the rising tide of Indiological interest stretching back centuries. I will review the history of the transference of knowledge from India to America. Each of the following cultural phenomena in America occurred in roughly the following order: cross-cultural traffic between India, Europe, and America; Transcendentalism; the Theosophical Society and Eastern gurus; Nazi Germany; the Civil Rights Movement; the Beat Generation; the widespread use of LSD; Indian influenced music; and the Hippies.

The European Connection

Indian culture was first introduced to America by the Europeans, who had been fascinated with the sub-continent since trade between the two began.

Famous depth psychologist, Carl Jung, reasoned that during the [atheistic] French Revolution, the violent and bloody rejection of the Christian religion and subsequent enthronement of the “Goddess of Reason” in Notre Dame was culturally compensated, by the first major translation of Indian philosophy in a European language (Jung, 1971, p.469). According to Jung, while the revolution raged in France, Anquetil du Perron, a Frenchman, was living in India and translating the Oupnek’hat – a collection of fifty Upanishads (Jung, 1971, p.469), which are philosophical commentaries on the Vedas, the core reglious texts of India, which will hereafter be referred to as Vedic. Acccording to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious mind, the onslaught of atheism in France was compensated, by a fresh influx of an ancient religion. A similar compensation occurred in America in the 1960s, as we shall see.

Thanks to the constitutional separation of church and state inaugurated by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Indian philosophy was openly and ernestly imported in the following century by the founders of the first American philosophical movement, Transcendentalism (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.23-24).

Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two of the most prominent figures in forming the Transcendentalist movement in America, which enthusiastically adopted much of India’s wisdom. Dr. J. Stillson Judah, professor emeritus of religion at the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California in Berkeley, writes in his book, The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America: “Transcendentalists believed that intuition, rather than the senses, revealed a spiritual reality and spiritual science, transcending the natural science of the physical world. This created a dichotomy between the natural and spiritual worlds – the natural world being but a shadow of the spiritual one” (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.26-27). These ideas began emerging in America roughly around 1840, when Emerson, Thoreau, and other transcendentalists, like Amos Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman, began studying translations of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, the Vishnu Purana, and other Oriental texts (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.31-32). Among all the Eastern texts, the Bhagavad-Gita was most influential. Emerson proclaimed it as a required reading for all those intersted in Transcendentalism (Versluis, 1993, p.197). [See Appendix A for quotes by Emerson and Thoreau on the Bhagavad-Gita.] Influenced by the Bhagavad-Gita and other Vedic texts, Emerson wrote essays such as “The Oversoul,” which were highly regarded by both academics and metaphysical societies such as The Theosophical Society (Blavatsky, 2003, p.31).

The Theosphical Society and The Guru Factor

The Theosophical Society was founded in America in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and fourteen others. It soon spread worldwide and still functions today. Blavatsky, the Society’s main authority and a Buddhist, had been a world traveler and was able to impress others with her claims of psychic ability (Henderson, 2000, p.72). Henry Olcott previously held a number of prestigious posts in New York and had caused a stir by becoming the first well-known person of European origin to formerly convert to Buddhism along with Blavatsky (Seager, 1999, p.35). Mystical masters, or mahatmas, supposedly guided the Society telepathically by miraculously writing letters on paper placed in a special box (Williams, 2004, p.8). Whether or not the mahatmas existed, the idea of guiding gurus was very prevalent in the Society.

The Theosophical Society’s objectives were threefold:
(i) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, color, or creed.
(ii) To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World's religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical [Vedic], Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
(iii) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.
(Blavatsky, 1972, p. 39)

The cultural influence of the Theosophical Society is evident in the impressive list of its members, including such influetial figures as William Butler Yeats, Jack London, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Edison, Carl Gustav Jung, Elvis Presley, Shirley MacLaine, and Mohandas K. Gandhi (www.katinkahesselink.net/his/influencetheosophy.html/11/25/2007/10:11am) [For a fuller list see Appendix B].

Based on the philosophical foundation layed by the Theosophical Society, subsequent missionaries from India such as Swami Vivekananda, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, brought Vedic culture to America.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament of Religions, an interfaith dialog that was part of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After that discussion Vivekananda remained in America long enough to form The Vedanta Society, as well as influence Transcendentalists (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.41). The Vedanta Society still exists.

In 1922, Jiddu Krishnamurti, a famous writer and speaker on Indian philosophy and spiritualism, was inspired to travel and preach around America and the world as a result of a “life changing experience” (Krishnamurti, 1997, p.xvii). He was intimately connected with The Theosophical Society through his father, Narianiah, who had been one of its members in India since 1882 (Williams, 2004, p.17).

In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in Boston as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, in 1925, to promote his own brand of philosophy, yoga, and meditation (Self-realization Magazine, 1971, p.61). Yogananda wrote several books, including the very popular Autobiography of a Yogi, which remains a bestseller.

Maharishi [who was later involved with The Beatles] taught his Transcendental Meditation technique in Hawai’i in 1959, traveling on to California to continue his mission.

In 1965, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami began the Hare Krishna movement in America to fulfill the wish of his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Both were acclaimed and learned Vedic scholars. In the following 12 years, Bhaktivedanta Swami established over a hundred temples and farm communities throughout the world and simultaneously translated sixty volumes of Vedic texts into English.

The Theosophical Society’s interpretation of the Vedas was internationally known. Among early admirers of its ideas were members of the The Thule Society, occult architects of the German Nazi party (Levenda, 2002, p.40).

Nazi Germany

The Thule Society, which was established at the end of the World War I, founded the German Worker’s Party in 1919, whose name was changed to the National Socialist Party, or Nazi Party, by Adolf Hitler in 1920 (Ross, 1995, p.11). In A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult, Peter Levenda states: “The rationale behind many later Nazi projects can be traced back - through the writings of von List, von Sebottendorf, and von Liebenfels - to ideas first popularized by Blavatsky…. It was, after all, Blavatsky who pointed out the supreme occult significance of the swastika.”

Hitler had also studied India independently. Trevor Ravenscroft, in The Spear of Destiny, writes, “The works of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, which are laced with eulogistic comments regarding oriental thinking, led the youthful Hitler to a keen study of Eastern Religions and Yoga … the Rig-Veda, the Upanishads, the Gita” (1982, p.26). As Hitler rose in power, he instigated a mass migration of nearly 130,000 Jews from Germany between 1933 and 1939 (Kershaw, 2000, p.858). Among them was Leo Strauss, a political philosopher, who, after moving to America, was considered one of the founding fathers of neo-conservatism.

In his book, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, Strauss cites the philosopher Martin Heidegger (who was both greatly influenced by Nietzsche, and involved in the Nazi Party during the war): “A dialogue between the most profound thinkers of the Occident and the most profound thinkers of the Orient ... [may be] accompanied or followed by a return of the gods. That dialogue and everything that it entails, but surely not political action of any kind, is perhaps the way” (1983, p.33-34). This “return of the gods” is not arbitrary, for Nietzsche often wrote of the East – for example, he sometimes quoted a “Brahmanic [Vedic] culture” (Nietzsche, 1968, p.110).

The Nazi Party had unknowingly facilitated the Strauss/Heidegger/Nietzsche-inspired neo-conservatives’ gleaning of knowledge from India. The same Indian culture and philosophy also affected the sixties countercultural movements in America, from which the neo-conservatives had emerged (Aronowitz, 1996, p.187). There was, therefore, an exchange of ideas and subsequent influences in the sixties that countercultural movements inherited from Nazi Germany’s interest in the occult parts of the Vedas.

Another factor which affected countercultural movements in the sixties was the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights leaders, Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, were successful in applying Henry David Thoreau’s Vedic-inspired ideas on non-violent resistence.

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, in which he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This was not taken literally by the American white majority, and so Rev. King fought to bring about a racial equality, which up to then had not been embraced. Rev. King was an ardent admirer of Gandhi (Barash, Webel, 2002, p.522). Both Rev. King and Gandhi studied non-violent civil disobedience from the pages of Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, written in 1849 (Persons, 1999, p.160). Thoreau was at that time studying the Vedas, especially Bhagavad-Gita. Civil Disobedience revolved around the idea of following your conscience, which is also encouraged in Bhagavad-Gita [18:63] (Bhaktivedanta, 1982, p.832). Thus, non-violent resistance came full circle: from India to Thoreau in America, back to India and Gandhi, and back again to America, inspiring the “sit-ins” (peaceful demonstrations) of the sixties. Thoreau’s ideas also greatly influenced a fifties generation of disaffiliated young people known as the Beat Generation.

The Beat Generation

In the 1950s, a number of dissatisfied youths rejected the “social norms” of the time and expressed their concerns through poetry, borrowing heavily from transcendentalists and Indian philosophy.

Josephine Hendin, professor of contemporary American literature, in A Concise Companion to Postwar American Literature and Culture, writes: “Historically the term Beat Generation was officially launched in a New York Times magazine article on Nov 16, 1952, by John Clellon Holmes, a beat author himself. The Beat Generation characterized a movement in progress made by a post-World War II generation of disaffiliated young people coming of age in a Cold War without spiritual values they could honor. The originator of the Beat Generation was short lived and had consisted only of a group of friends; that original group, Ginsberg, Carr, Burroughs, Huncke, and Holmes, had scattered. After the Korean War, the Beat Generation ideals were forced into the foreground again, and it was resurrected. Postwar youth had picked up the gestures and soon the “beat” sensibility, as reflected in its political and social stance, was everywhere” (2004, p.75).

The influential writers of the Beat Generation, namely, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, among others, had an avid interest in Eastern philosophy stemming from their natural gravitation to the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, and Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau (Hopkins, 2001, p.240). Allen Ginsberg was publicly convinced that chanting the Hare Krishna mantra was a major spiritual factor in his life (Dershowitz, 2004, p.391). Gary Snyder was an initiated Buddhist.

As well as an attraction to the East, psychedelic experimentation also played a large part in psychological change and spiritual epiphany for the Beat Generation (Tarnas, 2006, p.395). Among the Beat Generation’s many experiments with “mind-expanding” substances, such as peyote and “magic mushrooms”, the invention of the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests” by a group of influential Beats popularized a new recreational drug called LSD, which in turn intensified the generation’s interest in the mystical aspect of India.

LSD

Lysergic Acid, or LSD, played a part in stimulating “spiritual” and “religious” experiences. In 1943, Albert Hoffman discovered its properties after inadvertently ingesting it in Sandoz Laboratories, Switzerland (Levine, 2003, p.275). Psychiatrists became interested in the potential therapeutic use of this substance and so began a series of experiments on advanced schizophrenic patients (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.5). By 1954, research into LSD was well under way in Europe and North America (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.5). Experiments showed that the drug enticed creative and spiritual impetuses (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.76-151). LSD became increasingly well known until it reached Harvard PhD, Dr. Timothy Leary, whose experimentation with it became part of the famous “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” culture of the sixties.

At the same time “The Merry Pranksters”, a group of beats led by “cult hero,” Ken Kesey, set out from California in a modified school-bus to travel the US, sharing LSD with whoever they met who was willing. This road trip and their “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests,” as they came to be known, was a catalyst in the subsequent spread of LSD use in America.

Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Oscar Janiger write of the effects of LSD in their book, LSD, Spirituality, and the Creative Process, “It encourages one to try to explore more in the higher regions of consciousness and to experience more inner power or even experience self-awareness for temporary periods” (2003, p.144). The use of the words consciousness and self-awareness are tacitly taken from Indian philosophy, and, so, through the use of LSD, Indic influence grew.

Indian culture reached a new level of popularity when famous musicians became influenced by the drug-induced metaphysical undercurrents of the Beat Generation, who amplified its messages with their music.

Music

Music, as one of the most powerful ways of communication, was the voice of the counterculture: imbibing and echoing its trials, tribulations, goals, and influences. Before encountering Maharishi, George Harrison, of The Beatles, had tried meeting many gurus, and he had even gone so far as climbing walls in Cornwall, Southwest England, with a local guru who was going to reveal all to him – to no avail (Davies, 1996, p.230). The Beatles met Maharishi in the London Hilton, and their positive experience with him later led them to become active with the Hare Krishnas. George Harrison recorded the Hare Krishna maha-mantra (“maha”– great, “man”– mind, “tra”– deliver) with Krishna devotees in the summer of 1969, greatly popularizing the mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (Nye, 2001, p.11).

The interest members of The Beatles had in psychedelics, and subsequently Indian gurus, came from the counterculture, of which Bob Dylan was one of the band’s main influences (Taylor, 2004, p.289). It is most likely that Dylan had introduced The Beatles to hashish in a New York hotel room during an American tour in 1965 (Sounes, 2001, p.161). Dylan had been prominent in the Civil Rights movement of Martin Luther King (Trager, 2004, p.474) and was using elements of Beat poetry in his music. In Dylan’s own words, "It was Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who inspired me first” (Farrell, 1997, p.75). He was therefore familiar with countercultural ethics and ideals, as well as the idea of non-violent resistance.

From the combination of famous musicians’ interest the counterculture, the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests,” and Gandhi and Rev. King’s non-violent resistance, the Hippies were born.

The Hippies

Eric Donald Hirsch writes in his book, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, “Westernized social norms in the 1950s, segregation in the Deep South of the U.S., and the war in Vietnam, have all been accredited with inspiring the couterculture revolution during the sixties” (1993, p 419). As mentioned, the rebellion against “social norms” and non-violent resistance subsequently brought about a mass appeal of all things Indian. The Hippies evolved as a synthesis between the previous Beat Generation and experimental drug use. This new generation cradled an eastern inspired philosophical and metaphysical worldview which was plain for all to see.

Picture yourself walking around Height-Ashbury during the “Summer of Love,” 1967, and observe the Indian influence in the hippie generation. You see that tie-dies and paisleys are in fashion. Multi-colored folk of all races with rudraksha [Shiva] beads hanging from their necks, wearing “Legalize Marihuana” [sic] buttons on their yarn ball and tiny-bell festooned waistcoats, blouses, skirts, overalls and (even) chasubles, meander in and out, or socialize outside, stores with names like The Cosmic Yogi, filled with exotic bric-a-brac including hash pipes and statuettes of Shiva and Ganesh. The whiff of marijuana is all pervasive, except when it is in competition with the aromatheraputic smoke curls of strong incense. Jerry Garcia’s recorded voice crackles and wafts out of an open second-storey window and is accompanied by the jangling of a sitar from behind an ajar door below. A boy with long unkept hair and furry clothes sits on the sidewalk reading a scraggy copy of The Dharma Bums. His apparent blonde girlfriend, dressed in a bright sari, sits erect in meditation. On the opposite side of the steet a sombrely dressed young man in dark shades and pointed shoes stands and weaves his politically surcharged poetry of non-violence to the beat of his guitar. A girl wearing a psychedelic dress and flowers in her hair greets you with “Namaste.”

The cross-cultururism observed in the hippie generation had been brought about by centuries of American interest in Indian culture and philosophy.

Cross-culture Apple Pie

In America, India’s wisdom has been called upon time and again: from Europeans, who had found in America an open-armed acceptance and willingness to adapt and learn what they had gleaned from the East; to the Transcendentalists, who used that newfound freedom from the shackles of tradition to eloquently write about the East; to the Theosophical Society who facilitated and gave credence to the idea of guru; to the Indian gurus who brought India’s spirituality to an eager audience; to the Nazi’s interest in the Vedas, which was delivered to America via refugees; to civil-rights leaders learning from the Bhagavad-Gita; to a Beat Generation out of which, like a phoenix from the ashes of degradation and drug abuse, was born a yearning to understand eastern wisdom; to experimentation with LSD as an attempt to reach a higher consciousness; to screaming girls and groupies being replaced by the spiritual vibration of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord;” to the emergence of the hippies and their natural affinity to India. America’s embracing of Indian culture and philosophy has become as American as apple pie.

References

Aronowitz, S. (1996). The death and rebirth of American radicalism. New York: Routledge.
Barash, D. P. and Webel, C.P. (2002). Peace and conflict studies. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Bhaktivedanta, A. C. (1982). Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Philippines: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Blavatsky, H. P. (2003). Theosophical quarterly magazine, 1921 to 1922: Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.
Blavatsky, H. P./ Mills, J [ed.]. (1972). Key to Theosophy. An abridgement. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Pub. House
Blume, M. (1995, July 8). A Little Meditation on the Bottom Line. International Herald Tribune. (Retrieved online 2004-04-25).
Davies, H. (1996). The Beatles. New York: W.W. Norton
Dershowitz, A. M. (2004). America on trial: Inside the legal battles that transformed our nation. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.
Dobkin de Rios, M. and Janiger, O. (2003). LSD, Spirituality, and the creative process. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions / Bear & Company
Ebenstein, W. (1951). Great political thinkers, Plato to the present. New York: Rinehart
Emerson, R. W. (1894) Essays X. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus.
Emerson, R. W./ Emerson, E.W and Forbes, W.E. [eds.]. (1914). Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, VII [10 Vols.]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Farrell, J. J. (1997). The spirit of the sixties: Making postwar radicalism. New York: Routledge.
Henderson, H. L. (2000). Theosophy and the secret doctrine condensed. San Diego: Book Tree.
Hendin, J. (2004). A concise companion to postwar American literature and culture. Boston: Blackwell Publishing
Hirsch, E. D. (1993). The dictionary of cultural literacy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Hopkins, D. N. (2001). Religions/globalizations: Theories and cases. London: Duke University Press.
Jung, C. G./ Campbell, J. [trans.] (1971). The portable Jung. New York: The Viking Press.
Kershaw, I. (2000). Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis. New York: W. W. Norton
Krishnamurti, J. (1997). Krishnamurti: Reflections on the self. Chicago: Open Court
Levenda, P. (2002). Unholy alliance: A history of Nazi involvement with the occult. London: Continuum
Levine, B. (2003). Principles of forensic toxicology. Washington D.C.: AACC Press
Nietzsche, F.W./ Kaufmann, W. A. [trans./ed.]. (1968). Basic writings of Nietzsche. New York: Modern Library.
Nye, M. (2001). Multiculturalism and minority religions in Britain: Krishna consciousness, religious freedom, and the politics of location. Oxford: Routledge.
Persons, G. A. (1999). Race and ethnicity in comparative perspective. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction.
Ravenscroft, T. (1982). The spear of destiny. Newburyport, MA: Red Wheel
Ross, A. (1995). Satanic ritual abuse: Principles of treatment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Seager, R. H. (1999). Buddhism in america. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sluga, H. D. (1993). Heidegger's crisis: Philosophy and politics in Nazi Germany. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Sounes, H. (2001). Down the highway: The life of Bob Dylan. New York: Grove Press
Stillson Judah, J. (1967). The history and philosophy of the metaphysical movements in America. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Strauss, L. (1983). Studies in Platonic political philosophy. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Tarnas, R. (2006) Cosmos and psyche: Intimations of a new world view. New York, N.Y.: Viking.
Taylor, S. (2004). The a to x of alternative music. New York: Continuum
Thoreau, H. D./ Thomas,O. [ed]. (1966). Walden and civil disobedience, New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company.
Trager, O. (2004). Keys to the rain: The definitive Bob Dylan encyclopedia. New York: Billboard Books
Versluis, A. (1993). American transcendentalism and Asian religions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Williams, C.V. (2004). Jiddu Krishnamurti: World philosopher 1895-1986. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Yogananda, P. (1971). Self-realization magazine. Self-Realization Fellowship

Appendix A

In a letter to Max Müller on August 4, 1873, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavat Geeta. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake [sic] to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us." (Emerson, 1909-1914, VII: p.241-42, 511).

In his essay, “Plato, or the Philosopher”, Emerson wrote, "In all nations there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of the fundamental Unity. The raptures of prayer and ecstasy of devotion lose all being in one Being. This tendency finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly in the Indian Scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Geeta and the Vishnu Purana. These writings contain little else than this idea, and they rise to pure and sublime strains in celebrating it."(Emerson, 1894, p.120)

Henry David Thoreau, a fellow transcendentalist and companion of Emerson, wrote in Chapter 16 of his famous book, Walden, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial” (Thoreau, 1966, p.197).

Appendix B

Partial List of Theosophical Society members

Lyman Frank Baum – American author of The Wizard of Oz
Mohini Chatterji
William Butler Yeats – Anglo-Irish poet and playwright
George W. Russell – Irish poet, painter, and agricultural expert
Lewis Carroll – author of the Alice books, Sylvie and Bruno, etc.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle –English author of Sherlock Holmes stories
Jack London – American novelist
James Joyce – Irish novelist
D. H. Lawrence – English novelist
T. S. Eliot – Anglo-American poet and critic
Henry Miller – Bohemian autobiographical novelist
John Boyton Priestley – English novelist and playwright
Thomas Edison – American inventor of the electric light, phonograph, etc.
Sir Alfred Russel Wallace – Naturalist
William James – philosopher and psychologist
Carl Gustav Jung – founder of analytical psychology
Rukmini Devi Arundale – Revitalized Indian arts
Beatrice Wood – artist, ceramicist
Paul Gauguin – French post impressionist painter
Gustav Mahler – symphonic composer
Alexander Nikolaievitch Scriabin – Russian composer
Elvis Presley – American rock and roll musician
Ruth Crawford-Seeg – composer
Shirley MacLaine – American film actress
Hernández Martínez – former President of El Salvador
Henry Wallace – former Vice President of the United States
Jawaharlal Nehru – first Prime Minister of India
George Lansbury – former leader of British Labour party
Mohandas K. Gandhi – Indian patriot
Matilda Joslyn Gage – American feminist
Anagarika Dharmapala – a leading figure in the Buddhist revival
D.T. Suzuki – brought Zen-Buddhism to the West

(www.katinkahesselink.net/his/influence-theosophy.html/11/25/2007/10:11am</div>

Indian Culture: American as Apple Pie
→ Unplugged Ice

The following is scratching the surface, but was nevertheless interesting to write. As Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to an acquaintance: I'm sorry, but if i had more time i would have made this shorter.

Indian Culture: American as Apple Pie

Most of us think Indian influences arrived in America during the countercultural movements of the sixties. In reality, that was only the most recent wave in the rising tide of Indiological interest stretching back centuries. I will review the history of the transference of knowledge from India to America. Each of the following cultural phenomena in America occurred in roughly the following order: cross-cultural traffic between India, Europe, and America; Transcendentalism; the Theosophical Society and Eastern gurus; Nazi Germany; the Civil Rights Movement; the Beat Generation; the widespread use of LSD; Indian influenced music; and the Hippies.

The European Connection

Indian culture was first introduced to America by the Europeans, who had been fascinated with the sub-continent since trade between the two began.

Famous depth psychologist, Carl Jung, reasoned that during the [atheistic] French Revolution, the violent and bloody rejection of the Christian religion and subsequent enthronement of the “Goddess of Reason” in Notre Dame was culturally compensated, by the first major translation of Indian philosophy in a European language (Jung, 1971, p.469). According to Jung, while the revolution raged in France, Anquetil du Perron, a Frenchman, was living in India and translating the Oupnek’hat – a collection of fifty Upanishads (Jung, 1971, p.469), which are philosophical commentaries on the Vedas, the core reglious texts of India, which will hereafter be referred to as Vedic. Acccording to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious mind, the onslaught of atheism in France was compensated, by a fresh influx of an ancient religion. A similar compensation occurred in America in the 1960s, as we shall see.

Thanks to the constitutional separation of church and state inaugurated by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Indian philosophy was openly and ernestly imported in the following century by the founders of the first American philosophical movement, Transcendentalism (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.23-24).

Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two of the most prominent figures in forming the Transcendentalist movement in America, which enthusiastically adopted much of India’s wisdom. Dr. J. Stillson Judah, professor emeritus of religion at the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California in Berkeley, writes in his book, The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America: “Transcendentalists believed that intuition, rather than the senses, revealed a spiritual reality and spiritual science, transcending the natural science of the physical world. This created a dichotomy between the natural and spiritual worlds – the natural world being but a shadow of the spiritual one” (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.26-27). These ideas began emerging in America roughly around 1840, when Emerson, Thoreau, and other transcendentalists, like Amos Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman, began studying translations of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, the Vishnu Purana, and other Oriental texts (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.31-32). Among all the Eastern texts, the Bhagavad-Gita was most influential. Emerson proclaimed it as a required reading for all those intersted in Transcendentalism (Versluis, 1993, p.197). [See Appendix A for quotes by Emerson and Thoreau on the Bhagavad-Gita.] Influenced by the Bhagavad-Gita and other Vedic texts, Emerson wrote essays such as “The Oversoul,” which were highly regarded by both academics and metaphysical societies such as The Theosophical Society (Blavatsky, 2003, p.31).

The Theosphical Society and The Guru Factor

The Theosophical Society was founded in America in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and fourteen others. It soon spread worldwide and still functions today. Blavatsky, the Society’s main authority and a Buddhist, had been a world traveler and was able to impress others with her claims of psychic ability (Henderson, 2000, p.72). Henry Olcott previously held a number of prestigious posts in New York and had caused a stir by becoming the first well-known person of European origin to formerly convert to Buddhism along with Blavatsky (Seager, 1999, p.35). Mystical masters, or mahatmas, supposedly guided the Society telepathically by miraculously writing letters on paper placed in a special box (Williams, 2004, p.8). Whether or not the mahatmas existed, the idea of guiding gurus was very prevalent in the Society.

The Theosophical Society’s objectives were threefold:
(i) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, color, or creed.
(ii) To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World's religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical [Vedic], Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
(iii) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially.
(Blavatsky, 1972, p. 39)

The cultural influence of the Theosophical Society is evident in the impressive list of its members, including such influetial figures as William Butler Yeats, Jack London, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Edison, Carl Gustav Jung, Elvis Presley, Shirley MacLaine, and Mohandas K. Gandhi (www.katinkahesselink.net/his/influencetheosophy.html/11/25/2007/10:11am) [For a fuller list see Appendix B].

Based on the philosophical foundation layed by the Theosophical Society, subsequent missionaries from India such as Swami Vivekananda, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, brought Vedic culture to America.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament of Religions, an interfaith dialog that was part of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After that discussion Vivekananda remained in America long enough to form The Vedanta Society, as well as influence Transcendentalists (Stillson Judah, 1967, p.41). The Vedanta Society still exists.

In 1922, Jiddu Krishnamurti, a famous writer and speaker on Indian philosophy and spiritualism, was inspired to travel and preach around America and the world as a result of a “life changing experience” (Krishnamurti, 1997, p.xvii). He was intimately connected with The Theosophical Society through his father, Narianiah, who had been one of its members in India since 1882 (Williams, 2004, p.17).

In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda arrived in Boston as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, in 1925, to promote his own brand of philosophy, yoga, and meditation (Self-realization Magazine, 1971, p.61). Yogananda wrote several books, including the very popular Autobiography of a Yogi, which remains a bestseller.

Maharishi [who was later involved with The Beatles] taught his Transcendental Meditation technique in Hawai’i in 1959, traveling on to California to continue his mission.

In 1965, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami began the Hare Krishna movement in America to fulfill the wish of his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Both were acclaimed and learned Vedic scholars. In the following 12 years, Bhaktivedanta Swami established over a hundred temples and farm communities throughout the world and simultaneously translated sixty volumes of Vedic texts into English.

The Theosophical Society’s interpretation of the Vedas was internationally known. Among early admirers of its ideas were members of the The Thule Society, occult architects of the German Nazi party (Levenda, 2002, p.40).

Nazi Germany

The Thule Society, which was established at the end of the World War I, founded the German Worker’s Party in 1919, whose name was changed to the National Socialist Party, or Nazi Party, by Adolf Hitler in 1920 (Ross, 1995, p.11). In A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult, Peter Levenda states: “The rationale behind many later Nazi projects can be traced back - through the writings of von List, von Sebottendorf, and von Liebenfels - to ideas first popularized by Blavatsky…. It was, after all, Blavatsky who pointed out the supreme occult significance of the swastika.”

Hitler had also studied India independently. Trevor Ravenscroft, in The Spear of Destiny, writes, “The works of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, which are laced with eulogistic comments regarding oriental thinking, led the youthful Hitler to a keen study of Eastern Religions and Yoga … the Rig-Veda, the Upanishads, the Gita” (1982, p.26). As Hitler rose in power, he instigated a mass migration of nearly 130,000 Jews from Germany between 1933 and 1939 (Kershaw, 2000, p.858). Among them was Leo Strauss, a political philosopher, who, after moving to America, was considered one of the founding fathers of neo-conservatism.

In his book, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, Strauss cites the philosopher Martin Heidegger (who was both greatly influenced by Nietzsche, and involved in the Nazi Party during the war): “A dialogue between the most profound thinkers of the Occident and the most profound thinkers of the Orient ... [may be] accompanied or followed by a return of the gods. That dialogue and everything that it entails, but surely not political action of any kind, is perhaps the way” (1983, p.33-34). This “return of the gods” is not arbitrary, for Nietzsche often wrote of the East – for example, he sometimes quoted a “Brahmanic [Vedic] culture” (Nietzsche, 1968, p.110).

The Nazi Party had unknowingly facilitated the Strauss/Heidegger/Nietzsche-inspired neo-conservatives’ gleaning of knowledge from India. The same Indian culture and philosophy also affected the sixties countercultural movements in America, from which the neo-conservatives had emerged (Aronowitz, 1996, p.187). There was, therefore, an exchange of ideas and subsequent influences in the sixties that countercultural movements inherited from Nazi Germany’s interest in the occult parts of the Vedas.

Another factor which affected countercultural movements in the sixties was the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights leaders, Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, were successful in applying Henry David Thoreau’s Vedic-inspired ideas on non-violent resistence.

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, in which he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This was not taken literally by the American white majority, and so Rev. King fought to bring about a racial equality, which up to then had not been embraced. Rev. King was an ardent admirer of Gandhi (Barash, Webel, 2002, p.522). Both Rev. King and Gandhi studied non-violent civil disobedience from the pages of Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Civil Disobedience, written in 1849 (Persons, 1999, p.160). Thoreau was at that time studying the Vedas, especially Bhagavad-Gita. Civil Disobedience revolved around the idea of following your conscience, which is also encouraged in Bhagavad-Gita [18:63] (Bhaktivedanta, 1982, p.832). Thus, non-violent resistance came full circle: from India to Thoreau in America, back to India and Gandhi, and back again to America, inspiring the “sit-ins” (peaceful demonstrations) of the sixties. Thoreau’s ideas also greatly influenced a fifties generation of disaffiliated young people known as the Beat Generation.

The Beat Generation

In the 1950s, a number of dissatisfied youths rejected the “social norms” of the time and expressed their concerns through poetry, borrowing heavily from transcendentalists and Indian philosophy.

Josephine Hendin, professor of contemporary American literature, in A Concise Companion to Postwar American Literature and Culture, writes: “Historically the term Beat Generation was officially launched in a New York Times magazine article on Nov 16, 1952, by John Clellon Holmes, a beat author himself. The Beat Generation characterized a movement in progress made by a post-World War II generation of disaffiliated young people coming of age in a Cold War without spiritual values they could honor. The originator of the Beat Generation was short lived and had consisted only of a group of friends; that original group, Ginsberg, Carr, Burroughs, Huncke, and Holmes, had scattered. After the Korean War, the Beat Generation ideals were forced into the foreground again, and it was resurrected. Postwar youth had picked up the gestures and soon the “beat” sensibility, as reflected in its political and social stance, was everywhere” (2004, p.75).

The influential writers of the Beat Generation, namely, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, among others, had an avid interest in Eastern philosophy stemming from their natural gravitation to the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, and Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau (Hopkins, 2001, p.240). Allen Ginsberg was publicly convinced that chanting the Hare Krishna mantra was a major spiritual factor in his life (Dershowitz, 2004, p.391). Gary Snyder was an initiated Buddhist.

As well as an attraction to the East, psychedelic experimentation also played a large part in psychological change and spiritual epiphany for the Beat Generation (Tarnas, 2006, p.395). Among the Beat Generation’s many experiments with “mind-expanding” substances, such as peyote and “magic mushrooms”, the invention of the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests” by a group of influential Beats popularized a new recreational drug called LSD, which in turn intensified the generation’s interest in the mystical aspect of India.

LSD

Lysergic Acid, or LSD, played a part in stimulating “spiritual” and “religious” experiences. In 1943, Albert Hoffman discovered its properties after inadvertently ingesting it in Sandoz Laboratories, Switzerland (Levine, 2003, p.275). Psychiatrists became interested in the potential therapeutic use of this substance and so began a series of experiments on advanced schizophrenic patients (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.5). By 1954, research into LSD was well under way in Europe and North America (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.5). Experiments showed that the drug enticed creative and spiritual impetuses (Dobkin de Rios, Janiger, 2003, p.76-151). LSD became increasingly well known until it reached Harvard PhD, Dr. Timothy Leary, whose experimentation with it became part of the famous “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” culture of the sixties.

At the same time “The Merry Pranksters”, a group of beats led by “cult hero,” Ken Kesey, set out from California in a modified school-bus to travel the US, sharing LSD with whoever they met who was willing. This road trip and their “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests,” as they came to be known, was a catalyst in the subsequent spread of LSD use in America.

Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Oscar Janiger write of the effects of LSD in their book, LSD, Spirituality, and the Creative Process, “It encourages one to try to explore more in the higher regions of consciousness and to experience more inner power or even experience self-awareness for temporary periods” (2003, p.144). The use of the words consciousness and self-awareness are tacitly taken from Indian philosophy, and, so, through the use of LSD, Indic influence grew.

Indian culture reached a new level of popularity when famous musicians became influenced by the drug-induced metaphysical undercurrents of the Beat Generation, who amplified its messages with their music.

Music

Music, as one of the most powerful ways of communication, was the voice of the counterculture: imbibing and echoing its trials, tribulations, goals, and influences. Before encountering Maharishi, George Harrison, of The Beatles, had tried meeting many gurus, and he had even gone so far as climbing walls in Cornwall, Southwest England, with a local guru who was going to reveal all to him – to no avail (Davies, 1996, p.230). The Beatles met Maharishi in the London Hilton, and their positive experience with him later led them to become active with the Hare Krishnas. George Harrison recorded the Hare Krishna maha-mantra (“maha”– great, “man”– mind, “tra”– deliver) with Krishna devotees in the summer of 1969, greatly popularizing the mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (Nye, 2001, p.11).

The interest members of The Beatles had in psychedelics, and subsequently Indian gurus, came from the counterculture, of which Bob Dylan was one of the band’s main influences (Taylor, 2004, p.289). It is most likely that Dylan had introduced The Beatles to hashish in a New York hotel room during an American tour in 1965 (Sounes, 2001, p.161). Dylan had been prominent in the Civil Rights movement of Martin Luther King (Trager, 2004, p.474) and was using elements of Beat poetry in his music. In Dylan’s own words, "It was Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who inspired me first” (Farrell, 1997, p.75). He was therefore familiar with countercultural ethics and ideals, as well as the idea of non-violent resistance.

From the combination of famous musicians’ interest the counterculture, the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests,” and Gandhi and Rev. King’s non-violent resistance, the Hippies were born.

The Hippies

Eric Donald Hirsch writes in his book, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, “Westernized social norms in the 1950s, segregation in the Deep South of the U.S., and the war in Vietnam, have all been accredited with inspiring the couterculture revolution during the sixties” (1993, p 419). As mentioned, the rebellion against “social norms” and non-violent resistance subsequently brought about a mass appeal of all things Indian. The Hippies evolved as a synthesis between the previous Beat Generation and experimental drug use. This new generation cradled an eastern inspired philosophical and metaphysical worldview which was plain for all to see.

Picture yourself walking around Height-Ashbury during the “Summer of Love,” 1967, and observe the Indian influence in the hippie generation. You see that tie-dies and paisleys are in fashion. Multi-colored folk of all races with rudraksha [Shiva] beads hanging from their necks, wearing “Legalize Marihuana” [sic] buttons on their yarn ball and tiny-bell festooned waistcoats, blouses, skirts, overalls and (even) chasubles, meander in and out, or socialize outside, stores with names like The Cosmic Yogi, filled with exotic bric-a-brac including hash pipes and statuettes of Shiva and Ganesh. The whiff of marijuana is all pervasive, except when it is in competition with the aromatheraputic smoke curls of strong incense. Jerry Garcia’s recorded voice crackles and wafts out of an open second-storey window and is accompanied by the jangling of a sitar from behind an ajar door below. A boy with long unkept hair and furry clothes sits on the sidewalk reading a scraggy copy of The Dharma Bums. His apparent blonde girlfriend, dressed in a bright sari, sits erect in meditation. On the opposite side of the steet a sombrely dressed young man in dark shades and pointed shoes stands and weaves his politically surcharged poetry of non-violence to the beat of his guitar. A girl wearing a psychedelic dress and flowers in her hair greets you with “Namaste.”

The cross-cultururism observed in the hippie generation had been brought about by centuries of American interest in Indian culture and philosophy.

Cross-culture Apple Pie

In America, India’s wisdom has been called upon time and again: from Europeans, who had found in America an open-armed acceptance and willingness to adapt and learn what they had gleaned from the East; to the Transcendentalists, who used that newfound freedom from the shackles of tradition to eloquently write about the East; to the Theosophical Society who facilitated and gave credence to the idea of guru; to the Indian gurus who brought India’s spirituality to an eager audience; to the Nazi’s interest in the Vedas, which was delivered to America via refugees; to civil-rights leaders learning from the Bhagavad-Gita; to a Beat Generation out of which, like a phoenix from the ashes of degradation and drug abuse, was born a yearning to understand eastern wisdom; to experimentation with LSD as an attempt to reach a higher consciousness; to screaming girls and groupies being replaced by the spiritual vibration of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord;” to the emergence of the hippies and their natural affinity to India. America’s embracing of Indian culture and philosophy has become as American as apple pie.

References

Aronowitz, S. (1996). The death and rebirth of American radicalism. New York: Routledge.
Barash, D. P. and Webel, C.P. (2002). Peace and conflict studies. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Bhaktivedanta, A. C. (1982). Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Philippines: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
Blavatsky, H. P. (2003). Theosophical quarterly magazine, 1921 to 1922: Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.
Blavatsky, H. P./ Mills, J [ed.]. (1972). Key to Theosophy. An abridgement. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Pub. House
Blume, M. (1995, July 8). A Little Meditation on the Bottom Line. International Herald Tribune. (Retrieved online 2004-04-25).
Davies, H. (1996). The Beatles. New York: W.W. Norton
Dershowitz, A. M. (2004). America on trial: Inside the legal battles that transformed our nation. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.
Dobkin de Rios, M. and Janiger, O. (2003). LSD, Spirituality, and the creative process. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions / Bear & Company
Ebenstein, W. (1951). Great political thinkers, Plato to the present. New York: Rinehart
Emerson, R. W. (1894) Essays X. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus.
Emerson, R. W./ Emerson, E.W and Forbes, W.E. [eds.]. (1914). Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, VII [10 Vols.]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Farrell, J. J. (1997). The spirit of the sixties: Making postwar radicalism. New York: Routledge.
Henderson, H. L. (2000). Theosophy and the secret doctrine condensed. San Diego: Book Tree.
Hendin, J. (2004). A concise companion to postwar American literature and culture. Boston: Blackwell Publishing
Hirsch, E. D. (1993). The dictionary of cultural literacy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Hopkins, D. N. (2001). Religions/globalizations: Theories and cases. London: Duke University Press.
Jung, C. G./ Campbell, J. [trans.] (1971). The portable Jung. New York: The Viking Press.
Kershaw, I. (2000). Hitler, 1936-1945: Nemesis. New York: W. W. Norton
Krishnamurti, J. (1997). Krishnamurti: Reflections on the self. Chicago: Open Court
Levenda, P. (2002). Unholy alliance: A history of Nazi involvement with the occult. London: Continuum
Levine, B. (2003). Principles of forensic toxicology. Washington D.C.: AACC Press
Nietzsche, F.W./ Kaufmann, W. A. [trans./ed.]. (1968). Basic writings of Nietzsche. New York: Modern Library.
Nye, M. (2001). Multiculturalism and minority religions in Britain: Krishna consciousness, religious freedom, and the politics of location. Oxford: Routledge.
Persons, G. A. (1999). Race and ethnicity in comparative perspective. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction.
Ravenscroft, T. (1982). The spear of destiny. Newburyport, MA: Red Wheel
Ross, A. (1995). Satanic ritual abuse: Principles of treatment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Seager, R. H. (1999). Buddhism in america. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sluga, H. D. (1993). Heidegger's crisis: Philosophy and politics in Nazi Germany. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Sounes, H. (2001). Down the highway: The life of Bob Dylan. New York: Grove Press
Stillson Judah, J. (1967). The history and philosophy of the metaphysical movements in America. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
Strauss, L. (1983). Studies in Platonic political philosophy. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Tarnas, R. (2006) Cosmos and psyche: Intimations of a new world view. New York, N.Y.: Viking.
Taylor, S. (2004). The a to x of alternative music. New York: Continuum
Thoreau, H. D./ Thomas,O. [ed]. (1966). Walden and civil disobedience, New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company.
Trager, O. (2004). Keys to the rain: The definitive Bob Dylan encyclopedia. New York: Billboard Books
Versluis, A. (1993). American transcendentalism and Asian religions. New York: Oxford University Press.
Williams, C.V. (2004). Jiddu Krishnamurti: World philosopher 1895-1986. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Yogananda, P. (1971). Self-realization magazine. Self-Realization Fellowship

Appendix A

In a letter to Max Müller on August 4, 1873, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavat Geeta. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake [sic] to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us." (Emerson, 1909-1914, VII: p.241-42, 511).

In his essay, “Plato, or the Philosopher”, Emerson wrote, "In all nations there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of the fundamental Unity. The raptures of prayer and ecstasy of devotion lose all being in one Being. This tendency finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly in the Indian Scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Geeta and the Vishnu Purana. These writings contain little else than this idea, and they rise to pure and sublime strains in celebrating it."(Emerson, 1894, p.120)

Henry David Thoreau, a fellow transcendentalist and companion of Emerson, wrote in Chapter 16 of his famous book, Walden, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial” (Thoreau, 1966, p.197).

Appendix B

Partial List of Theosophical Society members

Lyman Frank Baum – American author of The Wizard of Oz
Mohini Chatterji
William Butler Yeats – Anglo-Irish poet and playwright
George W. Russell – Irish poet, painter, and agricultural expert
Lewis Carroll – author of the Alice books, Sylvie and Bruno, etc.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle –English author of Sherlock Holmes stories
Jack London – American novelist
James Joyce – Irish novelist
D. H. Lawrence – English novelist
T. S. Eliot – Anglo-American poet and critic
Henry Miller – Bohemian autobiographical novelist
John Boyton Priestley – English novelist and playwright
Thomas Edison – American inventor of the electric light, phonograph, etc.
Sir Alfred Russel Wallace – Naturalist
William James – philosopher and psychologist
Carl Gustav Jung – founder of analytical psychology
Rukmini Devi Arundale – Revitalized Indian arts
Beatrice Wood – artist, ceramicist
Paul Gauguin – French post impressionist painter
Gustav Mahler – symphonic composer
Alexander Nikolaievitch Scriabin – Russian composer
Elvis Presley – American rock and roll musician
Ruth Crawford-Seeg – composer
Shirley MacLaine – American film actress
Hernández Martínez – former President of El Salvador
Henry Wallace – former Vice President of the United States
Jawaharlal Nehru – first Prime Minister of India
George Lansbury – former leader of British Labour party
Mohandas K. Gandhi – Indian patriot
Matilda Joslyn Gage – American feminist
Anagarika Dharmapala – a leading figure in the Buddhist revival
D.T. Suzuki – brought Zen-Buddhism to the West

(www.katinkahesselink.net/his/influence-theosophy.html/11/25/2007/10:11am</div>

K-CAP 2007: A Methodology for Asynchronous Multi-User Editing of Semantic Web Ontologies
→ Home

I gave a presentation at the K-CAP 2007 conference. It, along with all my other papers, can be found in the publications section of this website.
You can view the research paper, the slides of my presentation, and an animated movie of my presentation (slides + audio). To view the movie click the image below to download (quicktime h.264):
View movie of K-CAP presentation
The research gives techniques and a methodology for multi-user editing of ontologies. It suggests a technique for locking segments of description logics ontologies for multi-user editing. This technique fits into a methodology for ontology editing in which multiple ontology engineers concurrently lock, extract modify, error-check and re-merge individual segments of a large ontology. The technique aims to provide a pragmatic compromise between a very restrictive approach that might offer complete error protection, but make useful multi-user interactions impossible and a wide-open, anything-goes editing paradigm, which offers little to no protection.

K-CAP 2007: The State of Multi-User Ontology Engineering
→ Home

I gave a presentation at the WoMO 2007 workshop (co-located with the K-CAP 2007 conference). It, along with all my other papers, can be found in the publications section of this website.

You can view the research paper, the slides of my presentation, and an animated movie of my presentation (slides + audio). To view the movie click the image below to download (quicktime h.264):

View movie of presentation at WoMO2007

The research gives an overview of ten different ontology engineering projects??(TM) infrastructures, architectures and workflows. It especially focuses on issues regarding collaborative ontology modeling. The survey leads on to a discussion of the relative advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous and synchronous modalities of multi-user editing. This discussion highlights issues, trends and problems in the field of multi-user ontology development.

K-CAP 2007: day 3
→ Home

Interactive Knowledge Externalization and Combination for SECI model

Yoshinori Hijikata from Osaka University in Japan talked about capturing both tacit and explicit knowledge from two people while they are engage in a conversation. Stages of the conversation are: socialization, externalization, internalization and combination. The GRAPE interface was used to allow the users to collaboratively build a classification tree as they speak. Four general discussion models were observed: (1) both users understand and agree with each other based upon their individual experiences, (2) one user doesn't have knowledge of the topic being discussed, but understands the other user's explanation, (3) one user doesn't understands the other user's explanation completely, but nevertheless modifies his own understand, because he trusts the other user's expertise, (4) both users disagree with each other, but one user reluctantly gives into the other user.

Human Computation

A Luis von Ahn talked about the CAPTCHA test he developed. The test is designed to protect a website from being misused by automated computer programs. A computer has trouble passing the test, but a human can pass it with ease. This has led to a whole new industry of "captcha sweat shops" where spam companies employ people in developing countries to solve captcha tests all day long, so they can sign up for free email accounts and use these to send out spam. In total about 200 million captchas are solves every day. Solving a captcha takes an average human 10 seconds. So, this amounts to a great deal of wasted distributed human processing power.

This led to the development of reCAPTCHA, a game that has all the advantages of a regular captcha, but also helps the OCR process of digitizing all the world's books. A scanned word from a book that a computer could not recognize accurately is offered up as a captcha for the human to interpret.

Luis von Ahn also developed the ESP game, where people have to assign keywords to an image with a partner with whom they can't communicate. If both people guess the same keyword, they win and the keyword gets assigned to that image. The keywording helps services like Google's image search to return more accurate search results.

The scary thing is how much information can be found out about a person just by monitoring them playing the game. After just 15 minutes of game-play, the researchers could predict a person's 5-year age bucket with 85% accuracy and gender with 95% accuracy (only a male would, for example, attempt to label a picture of Britney Spears as "hot"). This is just from a short time anonymously playing an online game, so, you imagine just how much information Google knows about you based upon what search for?

Some other new games being developed in Luis von Ahn's lab are: Squigl, a game where two players trace out an image; Verbosity, a game where people are asked to describe a secret word via a template of questions; Tag-A-Tune, a game to label sounds. All these games and more will soon be coming to the Games With A Purpose (GWAP) website.

K-CAP 2007: day 2
→ Home

Maintaining Constraint-based Applications
Tomas Eric Nordlander talked about a brilliant constraints programming system for hospital inventory control. He defined Knowledge Acquisition as: "the transfer and transformation of problem-solving expertise from some knowledge source into a program. The process includes knowledge representation, refining, verification and testing". He goes on to define Knowledge Maintenance as: "including adding, updating, verifying, and validating the content; discarding outdated and redundant knowledge and detecting knowledge gaps that need to be filled. The process involves simulating the effect that any maintenance action might have". Knowledge Maintenance is extremely important, but frequently under-appreciated.

The author designed a system named proCAM for Cork University Hospital. This system replaced the hospital's previous manual logistics system. It had to answer three basic questions: what products to store? When should the inventory be replenished? How much should be ordered? To answer these questions, proCAM considered: historic demand, service level (risk of being out of stock), space constrains, time constraints, holding cost, ordering cost, current stock level, periodic review time, and more. These can be generalized into physical constraints, policy constraints, guidelines and suggestions (nice to order and store two products together that get used together).

proCAM used a combination of operational research algorithms and constraint programming (CSP) to do its magic. It is very easy to use. The users of proCAM only see two values on the display: the order level (the stock level at which a new order should be placed) and the order number (the amount of the product that should be ordered). Behind the scenes, the system takes all constraints and past history into account to calculate the ideal order amounts. It can even detect seasonal variations in stock usage patterns and adjust order amounts accordingly. If someone tries to order a product that violates one of the system's constraints, this violation is highlighted the user is given the option of: overriding the constraint and placing the order anyway, adjusting the constraint, or canceling the attempted order. Constraints can be maintained on-the-fly by hospital staff with this easy-to-use interface. proCAM also supports different sets of constraints between e.g. the day-shift and the night-shift staff of the hospital.

One could imagine the same system being adapted to almost any inventory control scenario.

Strategies for Lifelong Knowledge Extraction from the Web

Michele Banko (a student of Oren Etzioni's) taked about "Alice" system. Similar to TextRunner, Alice goes from a text corpus to extract facts, but also attempts to create logical theories (e.g citrus fruit = orange, kiwi). Alice adds generalized statements and embellishes class hierarchies. It allows lifelong learning. It does bottom-up, incremental acquisition of information. So, it will extract facts, discover the new concepts, generalize these facts and concepts and repeat this process indefinitely. The output is an updated domain theory.

Alice, when answering a query, does not use exhaustive search, because its data is never assumed to be perfect. Instead, it uses best-first search and search-by-analogy (association search) to navigate its knowledge tree.

Evaluation consisted of assessing the returned knowledge as: true, off-topic (true, but not interesting), vacuous, incomplete, erroneous. The system was 78% accurate. Problems occurred when the best-first search got distracted by going deep down a specific search branch.

Indexing ontologies with semantics-enhanced keywords
Madalina Croitoru, standing in for Bo Hu, talked about a system of adding keyword meta-data into ontologies for improved indexing.

She talked about the need to index ontologies for easier and faster search retrieval. Ontologies are different from text documents, so traditional text indexing can't be blindly applied. Ontologies are suppose to be conceptualizations of a domain, so the emphasis of this work was to take advantage of this aspect when indexing ontologies. Existing ontology indexing approaches use flat keyword indexes, human authored manual indexes or page-rank-like indexing techniques.

The author's semantic enhanced keyword approach works by unfolding all axioms in an ontology until all primitive concepts are extracted. These concept names are then weighed according to whether they are e.g. negated or not. Finally, because ontologies are conceptualizations of a domain, then it should be possible to take advantage of other people's conceptualizations of the same knowledge. So, the approach harvests wikipedia articles (and other articles link to from these articles) relevant to the ontology, and then uses latent semantic analysis to further tune the ontology keyword indexes.

K-CAP 2007: day 1
→ Home

Papers and presentation that I found interesting from day 1 of the K-CAP 2007 conference:

Everything I know I learnt from Google: Machine Reading of Web Text

Oren Etzioni talked about his TextRunner knowledge extracting search engine. TextRunner gathers large amounts of knowledge from the web. It does this by focusing on semantically tractable sentences, finding the "illuminating phrases" and learning these in a self-supervised manner. It leverages the redundancy of the web, so, if something is said multiple times, it is more likely to be true.

This is all loaded into an SQL server and can be queried by anyone. If you type a query into the search engine it will return all the structured knowledge it knows about that query. For example: "Oren Etzioni is a professor" and "Oren Etzioni has an arm".

Capturing Knowledge About Philosophy

Michele Pasin talks about his PhiloSURFical project to build an ontology of the history of philosophy for the purpose of improving the browsing and searching experience for philosophy students and teachers. His view is that ontology should not be about true or beauty, but instead should focus on enabling reuse and sharing. Requirements for this tool were that it should support: uncertainty (e.g. of dates), information objects, interpretation of events, contradictory information and different viewpoints. The ontology itself is based upon CIDOC CRM. It captures events such when one philosopher interprets another's work, teaches a student, and/or debate with another scholar. The knowledge base contains 440 classes, 15000 instances, 7000 individual people, 7000 events and 500 axioms related to the philosopher Wittgenstein.

Searching Ontologies based on Content: Experiements in the Biomedical Domain

Harith Alani talked about the need for a good system to find existing ontologies on the web. Users need to find ontologies that they can reuse and/or bootstrap their own efforts. Existing content-based searching tools don't work, because, for example the Foundation Model of Anatomy (FMA) doesn't have an actual class called "anatomy" anywhere in it. So, a search for "anatomy" would not result in this ontology being returned.

The research involved interviewing a number of experts to established a gold standard. The experts were asked to list the good ontologies on certain topics (anatomy, physiological processes, pathology, histology). However, even the experts only agreed on 24% of answers.

The researchers new ontology search tools uses the wikipedia to expand the queried concepts (future work involves also using UMLS and WordNet to expand the query). The result was that Swoogle achieved an accuracy f-measure of 27% and the expanded term search's f-measure was 58%. The conclusion is that more ontology meta-data is necessary.

Capuring and Answering Questions Posed to a Knowledge-based Systems
Peter Clark from Vulcan, Inc. talks about their Halo project. The project aims to build a knowledge system (using the AURA knowledge authoring toolset) that can pass high-school level exams in physics, biology and chemistry. The system should be able to answer a free-text question such as: "a boulder is dropped off a cliff on a planet with 7 G gravity and takes 23 seconds until it hits the bottom. Disregarding air resistance, how high was the cliff?"
The system enforces a restricted simplified version of English that humans express the questions in (based upon Boeings Simplified English for aircraft manuals, modified for the specific domains). The language is both human usable and machine understandable.

Common sense assumptions need to be made explicit for the system. So, for example, in the above example it must be specific that the drop is straight downwards and not arced. So, the humans who were asking question to the system had to go through the following cycle: read original question text, re-write in controlled English, check with the system and take note of any re-writing tips, allow the system to turn the text into logic, check the paraphrase of the system's understanding, press the answer button and evaluate the system's attempted answer to the question, retry as necessary.
38% of biology questions were answered correctly with 1.5 re-tries per question (1-5 range).

37.5% of chemistry questions were answered correctly with 6.6 re-tries per question (1-19 range).

19% of physics question were answered correctly with 6.3 re-tries per question (1-18 range).

The researchers considered this to be a huge achievement! The system uses the sweet spot between logic and language to do something no other system before it could come close to. There was no single weak point that caused the system to give the wrong answer. Bad interpretation, bad query formation and missing knowledge all equally caused incorrect answers.

Designing Energy Efficient Buildings
→ Home

Amory Lovins (from the Rocky Mountain Institute) is a visiting professor for energy and the environment at Stanford University. He gave a series of talks about using clever design to improve energy efficiency in a variety of industries. I found the talks about improving the efficiency in buildings to be particularly interesting. It's amazing what one can do if one uses a few simple (or not so simple) technologies and designs in buildings.

Dr. Lovins gives examples of buildings in almost all the world's climates that can be built without costly energy wasting air conditioning or central heating systems. Using modern building materials can make a house very comfortable at a fraction of the cost. Better insulation turns out to be cheaper than the alternative of investing in artificial climate control. Better airflow design can make a house more healthy and comfortable.

Anyone that is living or working in a house that is too hot/cold in the summer/winter should listen to these lectures. Anyone that is building a new house should also definitely listen to these fascinating lectures.

Energy Efficient Design For Buildings - Part 1
Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Part 2

K-CAP 2007 pictures
→ Home

I attended the recent Knowledge Capture (K-CAP 2007) conference in Whistler, Canada. I will write more on the interesting papers and presentation from the conference in future blog post. However, for now, some pictures from the conference and surroundings.

(yes, that is a real bear on the path)

Thumb K-Cap 37 2007-10-31-1

(I've switched the Coppermine Gallery from a multi-page view to a single-page view for each album. The idea is to open pictures in a new tab (by ctrl/command-clicking on them), if you want a closer look at them. Tell me how you like the new layout.)

Manchester Pictures
→ Home

After almost four years of living in Manchester I took the opportunity of a friend visiting to explore the city. Here are some pictures of this mighty city in the North of England.

Pictures are from the Trafford Centre, my flat, Imperial War Museum, and City Centre.

Manchester-November2007-31

Understand the “Great Mystery”
→ Home

241216650 6C0F5A85D2 MI've heard a number of people express their intuitive belief in some kind of universal mind, great mysterious force, universal super-consciousness, or great white light. This mysterious energy guides us all and can facilitate the fulfillment of our desires, as well as provide great artistic inspiration.

This perception is, in fact, an amazingly deep intuitive understanding of the true nature of the universe. However, while intuition is well and good, intuition coupled with a scientific intellectual understanding of the "great mystery" is even better.

Maybe you think that it simply cannot be understood, or maybe you think it is different for everybody? However, judging by everything I've learnt, I believe that the science of Krishna consciousness can and does perfectly explain the "great mystery" and it does so in a completely logical left-brain way. At the same time, Krishna consciousness can also reinforce one's intuitive relationship with the "force". The end result is a complete realization of the nature of reality.

Many people these days are somewhat cynical of organized religions that demand faith in some kind of deity. They therefore prefer to believe in this somewhat undefined impersonal mystery. That is safe: the mystery doesn't make dogmatic demands, force you to surrender, etc. But have no fear: Krishna consciousness is different from "religion" as traditionally known. There is no blind following: everything has a good reason and purpose. In fact, all other spiritual traditions of the world make perfect sense when viewed under the Krishna conscious framework.

Different faiths exist for different purposes, mentalities, times, places and circumstances. However, Krishna consciousness deals with the eternal underlying reality. It is about engaging in a process of continuously deepening one's relationship with the "great mystery", becoming more aligned with its desires, intellectually understanding what it is and how it functions, feeling what it wants, etc. There is no blind faith, because one can experience the direct and indirect effects of this relationship on so many levels as one progresses in one's practice. One gets abundant sensory, mental and intellectual experience of the "mystery".

In order to get this experience, one needs to be willing to do the experiment and engage in Krishna conscious activities. Sadly, many people are afraid of doing so: "What if it turns out to be true? Will I have to change my behavior? Will I have to give everything up? What will become of my own personal wants and desires?"

(by the way, the answers to those question are (in order): You become happier than you've ever been. Only that which is causing you suffering. No. They remain eternally.)

So, the "great mystery" has a name: Krishna! And the relationship with Krishna is called Krishna consciousness. Krishna is described in great detail in the Vedic literature. He has many aspects. One such aspect is the great all-expansive impersonal force that pervades everything (it is called the "Brahman" effulgence). Another is a unified personal form that exists distributed inside of every living being, constantly guiding, facilitating and protecting us all, if we are only willing to listen (it is called "Paramatma" in Sanskrit - roughly translated as "super-consciousness"). The third and final aspect of Krishna is a supreme individual personal form known as "Bhagavan". This aspect is the person whom most religions refer to as "God". Brahman and Paramatma aspects both emanate from the original Bhagavan personality.

Re-connecting with Krishna is the literal meaning behind the word "yoga". It is much more than the physical exercise for which the word is commonly known. The Vedas teach that all living beings are made up of a physical bodily machine, a subtle (but nevertheless material) mind and a spiritual consciousness. Any physical techniques only affect the body and mind. Real holistic yoga deals with all three and particularly focuses on the consciousness.

Our consciousness has been dulled because of being covered over by varying degrees of material contamination. Just like a mirror covered by a thick layer of dust, our covered consciousness limits our ability to "see" ourselves. If the covering of the body and mind is removed, i.e. if we become more and more aware of the consciousness as a separate entity from the body and mind, then we see with equal vision. We can see everything and everyone in their true position as a unique individual living entity of pure consciousness that is part of Krishna. In this way we are all the same, regardless of different physical bodies (male/female, young/old, black/white, rich/poor, christian/muslim, chinese/american, etc) and mental states and abilities (artistic ability, creativity, intelligence, anxiety, depression, etc). We are one. However, at the same time we also retain our unique individuality.

The benefit of engaging in the various yoga practices of Krishna consciousness are many: by removing the material covering and uncovering the underlying consciousness we develop "full-brain" insight into "everything" (i.e. both matter and spirit). We also gain a deep sense of personal fulfillment and happiness that is independent of external conditions. No more: "I'm happy because I won an award and got a raise at work". Instead: "I'm always happy, regardless of the circumstances, because my motivation is completely in-line with Krishna's desires". Normally, doing the same activity over and over again eventually becomes dry. However, if one's motivation is connected with Krishna, i.e. if one is "Krishna conscious", all activities are ever fresh.

The Vedic literature, in my experience, provides the deepest, most scientific, most complete and most authoritative knowledge of spirituality in all the world. Nothing else even comes close. Here is a quote from the literature that explains the "super-consciousness":

chaos in love
"It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that a person who is always absorbed in Krishna consciousness is the topmost yogi. What is Krishna consciousness? As the individual soul is present by his consciousness throughout his entire body, so the Supersoul, or Paramatma, is present throughout the whole creation by superconsciousness. This superconscious energy is imitated by the individual soul, who has limited consciousness. I can understand what is going on within my limited body, but I cannot feel what is going on in another's body. I am present throughout my body by my consciousness, but my consciousness is not present in another's body. The Supersoul, or Paramatma, however, being present everywhere and within everyone, is also conscious of everyone's existence. The theory that the soul and the Supersoul are one is not acceptable because it is not confirmed by authoritative Vedic literature. The individual soul's consciousness cannot act in superconsciousness. This superconsciousness can be achieved, however, by dovetailing individual consciousness with the consciousness of the Supreme. This dovetailing process is called surrender, or Krishna consciousness. From the teachings of Bhagavad-gita we learn very clearly that Arjuna, in the beginning, did not want to fight with his brothers and relatives, but after understanding Bhagavad-gita he dovetailed his consciousness with the superconsciousness of Krishna . He was then in Krishna consciousness." [Srimad Bhagavatam 3.15.45 (purport)]

(picture credit: picture one, picture two)

Mangala-arati
→ Unplugged Ice

The following is a descriptive essay written for my English class here in Honolulu. Bear in mind it was written for a non-devotee audience who are completely unfamiliar with anything that we do, plus there was a limit to the amount of words I could use. There's nothing academic about this paper but it was fun to write. And, by the way, I used a heap of artistic license since I avoided mentioning karatalas played like dustbin lids and the mad passionate drumming associated with many a present day kirtan.

Mangala-arati
         Halfway up the Nuuanu Valley tucked in a huddle of bungalows, consulates and churches, is a Krishna Temple that pulsates with music from another world.
         My day begins at 4:30am as I enter the temple room. It’s a long, narrow room with a soft, warm, wooden floor underfoot. The chandeliers are dimmed, stimulating a meditative atmosphere. An angelic breeze carries a bouquet of jasmine from a nearby tree and delivers it to the temple through an open window. The rustling of leaves outside accompanies Vedic mantras chanted within by three or four monks who sit and softly rock back and forth. Eye-catching paintings grace the walls like windows into a sublime land.         I pace back and forth by an old fireplace that is now being used to store floor mats and exotic musical instruments such as traditional clay drums. I sit next to the Vyasasana, a Sanskrit word that means, “The teachers seat,” on which a deity of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, elegant in saffron robes, rests in a lotus position.
         A loud conch shell punctuates the stillness, competing with the solemn hum of the chanters. By the third blast my mind is forced to its source behind dark oaken doors that extend across the width of the far end of the temple room. Light seeps under these doors from a realm beyond; through that gap I observe two bare feet scurrying back and forth, hurriedly making final arrangements for mangala-arati – “auspicious service.” The feet stop, and a sliding bolt triggers silence throughout the room. Hypnotically, the heavy doors gracefully glide on rollers to reveal an altar.
         “Cedarwood incense,” I tell myself, as the altar exhales its heavenly aroma on us mortals. I bow down along with everyone else, head touching the floor in respect.
         As everyone stands up one devotee hastens over to the fireplace, digs up some finger-cymbals from a pile of tambourines, shakers and other cymbals of every size, then swiftly moves to the front of the altar.
         “Samsara davanala lida loka,” he begins softly singing, while delicately striking a one-two-three, clang-clang-ring rhythm on the finger-cymbals.
         Others repeat the mantra in harmony, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm like ripples in the ocean. A couple sing out of key, but no one is phased as expertise is not a necessity. Someone draws the window closed so as not to disturb our slumbering neighbors. Another picks up one of the two-headed horizontal drums from the fireplace, hangs its strap around his neck, and softly picks up the beat.
         A sign painted with Sanskrit lyrics is placed in front of the altar on which stand five four-foot tall Deities of the Pancha Tattva – Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is considered non-different to the Christian God, and His four principle associates. They are all lovingly adorned with flowing blue and red velvet gowns, shimmering jewels, and aromatic garlands, or leis, of pink and white plumeria, pure white tuberose, and golden marigolds. The three central Deities raise Their hands high in a majestic dancing pose, while the two on either wing pray reverentially with folded hands. The rest of the altar is the residence of other wonderful forms of God, all dressed to match the grand occasion.
         Floating back and forth on the altar is a pujari, a temple priest: his head is shaved clean around a pony tail, or sikha; his bare back is adorned with a white Brahmin’s thread that loops around his left shoulder and right hip; his waist is wrapped around with a simple saffron cloth, or dhoti, reaching down to his feet. In graceful circles his right hand offers different articles of worship to the Deities while his left hand rings a small hand-bell in sweet contrast to the constant rhythm of the cymbals and drum. Etched into his pujari face are lines of devotion, cleaved from years of austerity and selfless service. He offers an incense stick, and the scented smoke paints gossamer paisley patterns in the air, accentuating his mystical ambience. When he finishes offering the incense to all the Deities, he turns and makes a gesture of respect to the singing devotees.
         The music’s tempo steps up the pace, entreating devotees to step from side to side in response. Some begin to dance outright. Hands are folded in prayer or raised as an act of surrender. The women wear multicolored saris that cascade like dancing rainbow waterfalls. Most of the men wear traditional dhotis and kurtas, loose shirts that fall just above the knees. These are either saffron, declaring celibacy, or white worn by those who haven’t completely renounced. There are even occasional Hawaiian shirts and shorts to be seen.
         A ghee lamp – like a menorah holding five cotton wicks dipped in clarified butter – is lit, offered to the Deities by the pujari, and handed to one of the devotees who then conveys it to everyone else. I touch the flame and then touch my forehead in respect. A moment later I am inhaling the sweet aroma of an offered rose, the aristocrat of flowers. I glance up at the pujari cooling the Deities with a peacock-feather fan. Before I know it a half-an-hour has passed as announced by three more blasts from the conch shell. The melody ends, the song is over, and devotees bow down, touching their heads to the floor while reciting prayers. With closed eyes I hear large wooden doors gently rumbling shut. The lights go on, and again I am back in the Nuuanu Valley.</div>

Mangala-arati
→ Unplugged Ice

The following is a descriptive essay written for my English class here in Honolulu. Bear in mind it was written for a non-devotee audience who are completely unfamiliar with anything that we do, plus there was a limit to the amount of words I could use. There's nothing academic about this paper but it was fun to write. And, by the way, I used a heap of artistic license since I avoided mentioning karatalas played like dustbin lids and the mad passionate drumming associated with many a present day kirtan.

Mangala-arati
         Halfway up the Nuuanu Valley tucked in a huddle of bungalows, consulates and churches, is a Krishna Temple that pulsates with music from another world.
         My day begins at 4:30am as I enter the temple room. It’s a long, narrow room with a soft, warm, wooden floor underfoot. The chandeliers are dimmed, stimulating a meditative atmosphere. An angelic breeze carries a bouquet of jasmine from a nearby tree and delivers it to the temple through an open window. The rustling of leaves outside accompanies Vedic mantras chanted within by three or four monks who sit and softly rock back and forth. Eye-catching paintings grace the walls like windows into a sublime land.         I pace back and forth by an old fireplace that is now being used to store floor mats and exotic musical instruments such as traditional clay drums. I sit next to the Vyasasana, a Sanskrit word that means, “The teachers seat,” on which a deity of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, elegant in saffron robes, rests in a lotus position.
         A loud conch shell punctuates the stillness, competing with the solemn hum of the chanters. By the third blast my mind is forced to its source behind dark oaken doors that extend across the width of the far end of the temple room. Light seeps under these doors from a realm beyond; through that gap I observe two bare feet scurrying back and forth, hurriedly making final arrangements for mangala-arati – “auspicious service.” The feet stop, and a sliding bolt triggers silence throughout the room. Hypnotically, the heavy doors gracefully glide on rollers to reveal an altar.
         “Cedarwood incense,” I tell myself, as the altar exhales its heavenly aroma on us mortals. I bow down along with everyone else, head touching the floor in respect.
         As everyone stands up one devotee hastens over to the fireplace, digs up some finger-cymbals from a pile of tambourines, shakers and other cymbals of every size, then swiftly moves to the front of the altar.
         “Samsara davanala lida loka,” he begins softly singing, while delicately striking a one-two-three, clang-clang-ring rhythm on the finger-cymbals.
         Others repeat the mantra in harmony, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm like ripples in the ocean. A couple sing out of key, but no one is phased as expertise is not a necessity. Someone draws the window closed so as not to disturb our slumbering neighbors. Another picks up one of the two-headed horizontal drums from the fireplace, hangs its strap around his neck, and softly picks up the beat.
         A sign painted with Sanskrit lyrics is placed in front of the altar on which stand five four-foot tall Deities of the Pancha Tattva – Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is considered non-different to the Christian God, and His four principle associates. They are all lovingly adorned with flowing blue and red velvet gowns, shimmering jewels, and aromatic garlands, or leis, of pink and white plumeria, pure white tuberose, and golden marigolds. The three central Deities raise Their hands high in a majestic dancing pose, while the two on either wing pray reverentially with folded hands. The rest of the altar is the residence of other wonderful forms of God, all dressed to match the grand occasion.
         Floating back and forth on the altar is a pujari, a temple priest: his head is shaved clean around a pony tail, or sikha; his bare back is adorned with a white Brahmin’s thread that loops around his left shoulder and right hip; his waist is wrapped around with a simple saffron cloth, or dhoti, reaching down to his feet. In graceful circles his right hand offers different articles of worship to the Deities while his left hand rings a small hand-bell in sweet contrast to the constant rhythm of the cymbals and drum. Etched into his pujari face are lines of devotion, cleaved from years of austerity and selfless service. He offers an incense stick, and the scented smoke paints gossamer paisley patterns in the air, accentuating his mystical ambience. When he finishes offering the incense to all the Deities, he turns and makes a gesture of respect to the singing devotees.
         The music’s tempo steps up the pace, entreating devotees to step from side to side in response. Some begin to dance outright. Hands are folded in prayer or raised as an act of surrender. The women wear multicolored saris that cascade like dancing rainbow waterfalls. Most of the men wear traditional dhotis and kurtas, loose shirts that fall just above the knees. These are either saffron, declaring celibacy, or white worn by those who haven’t completely renounced. There are even occasional Hawaiian shirts and shorts to be seen.
         A ghee lamp – like a menorah holding five cotton wicks dipped in clarified butter – is lit, offered to the Deities by the pujari, and handed to one of the devotees who then conveys it to everyone else. I touch the flame and then touch my forehead in respect. A moment later I am inhaling the sweet aroma of an offered rose, the aristocrat of flowers. I glance up at the pujari cooling the Deities with a peacock-feather fan. Before I know it a half-an-hour has passed as announced by three more blasts from the conch shell. The melody ends, the song is over, and devotees bow down, touching their heads to the floor while reciting prayers. With closed eyes I hear large wooden doors gently rumbling shut. The lights go on, and again I am back in the Nuuanu Valley.</div>

This is not a journal revival.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

Before you start running for cover, considering the possibility that I have revived my LJ after a full year of silence...Have no fear. These last two updates are just a once off occurrence. I just wrote a few things, which I posted elsewhere, and I felt inspired to stick them up here, as I thought some people who previously paid attention to this journal may be interested to read them also.

Now, back into hiding I go.

This is not a journal revival.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

Before you start running for cover, considering the possibility that I have revived my LJ after a full year of silence...Have no fear. These last two updates are just a once off occurrence. I just wrote a few things, which I posted elsewhere, and I felt inspired to stick them up here, as I thought some people who previously paid attention to this journal may be interested to read them also.

Now, back into hiding I go.

You can’t understand the illusion until you experience the reality.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

He’s not sure what to make of it. Now that he’s in high school, he is feeling more pressure than ever before to conform to the ways, styles and actions of his peers. He tells his parents that he needs the right shoes, he needs the right hair-cut and he needs the right taste in music. Despite fitting in with his friends’ choice of fashion, music and vocabulary, and despite the constant phone calls, text messages and MySpace messages he receives daily, he still feels more lonely, isolated and confused about his identity than any moment in his life previously. It seems like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s not sure what to make of it. She spent her childhood dreaming of bringing up her own family, and watching caringly as her own children grew up and made their own marks on the world. Now, after 25 years of sacrifice her children have all but left home, and as she feels this intense and engaging life project of child-rearing entering into a stage of independent maintenance, she is finding the need to re-define her life’s purpose, mission and identity. The quietness of the house is starting to increase, as her remaining children at home spend most of their waking hours out and about, and she now has more time to allow her personal thoughts to pervade, revealing inner conflicts she had all but forgotten about. And she’s suddenly noticed that 25 years of marriage hasn’t been enough time for her husband to develop his caring side. It seems like something is missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

He’s not sure what to make of it, as he analyses his current mortgage statement. It seems like he has been working his whole life, but no matter how hard he works the money disappears faster than he can earn it. And despite his hopes for the contrary, the consumeristic desires of his wife and children continue to expand more and more each year. Of course, he feels great happiness and pride being able to be the provider for his family’s desires, but he’s now working 70 hour weeks, and seldom has time to spend in a meaningful way with his children. In fact, that very house which necessitates his home loan, and his long hours, seems less familiar to him than the train station, where he seems to spend more of his waking hours when compared to his own lounge room. He’s starting to lose track of his original vision and plan for life. It’s starting to seem to him like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

Neither of them is sure of what to make of the situation. When they first started their relationship they could barely handle being in separation from each other for a whole weekend. They both enjoyed having their minds fully absorbed in thoughts of the other 24 hours a day. They joyfully walked hand in hand, sharing secrets, forming inside jokes and staring into each others eyes endlessly. Something has changed completely now. It’s not that they aren’t getting along any more; it’s just that that original spark is gone. Their minds, their eyes and their emotions are excited about the prospects of new opportunities for perpetual absorption which new relationships claim to offer. And because they feel this urge for change in themselves, they have decreased faith in the fidelity of the other. They used to say that they were in love; now it seems like something is missing, but since they have no experience of reality they can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s not quite sure what to make of it. She has spent the last 3 years of her life working hard at her degree; studying, cramming, and sacrificing. When she first left high school she was full of hope for the future in the career of her dreams, but having spent the last years studying hard to achieve that dream, she is starting to have her doubts. Can a career in this field really provide her with the satisfaction of all her hearts desires? Have these past years really been worth the effort? The doubt is overwhelming, but it is overshadowed by the fact that, despite her graduating with honors and her double major, she has yet to actually find a job in her chosen field. And the prospect of paying off her student loan before she hits 40 seems like an impossibility. As summer approaches, the bills keep coming and rent is needing attention, she is starting to feel like something is missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

He’s not sure what to make of it. Although he put a lot of effort into his church in the past, and he really felt like he was getting closer to God, something seems to have changed. It now seems like he attends every weekend service more as a matter of ritual rather than as a heart felt offering. In fact, he doesn’t even know what he believes any more, so he is finding it hard to justify living up to a lifestyle and morality that he doesn’t completely identify with. It seems like he is being more of a ‘sinner’ by blindly following some faith and lifestyle than he would be if he just went along with his own thoughts, feelings and desires. Besides, does anyone else in his community seem like they have really dedicated their lives to loving and serving God with all their hearts, minds and souls? In fact, he’s getting a little bit sick of all the village talk, back-stabbing and gossip that goes on after each Sunday sermon. He used to be certain that religion plays some importance in his life; now it seems like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s really not sure what to make of it. She used to have a very romantic view of getting older, of being the strong woman figure in her family, but as she reached the age of 79 her body, and her mind, started to fail on her, causing many carry on problems. Eventually her children decided it was best that she be put into a rest home, so that she could be cared for constantly by trained professionals. She didn’t like the idea of it at all, but to satisfy her children’s desires she relented. Now she is finding each day to be a source of embarrassment, as a stranger helps her go to the toilet, baths her and dresses her each morning, and her forgetful mind sometimes completely forgets why she’s in this place to begin with. She dreams of returning to her old life, and she often sheds tears thinking about it. At least her family does visit once a month, but they only stay for a few hours and it seems to her that they are making their appearance more as a matter of duty rather than out of real love. And as she watches her fellow residents pass away one by one, she fears the reality that her turn will come sooner than later and she will have to face death all by herself. She has so many unfulfilled desires left in her life, but time has run out. It seems like something is missing, in fact something must be missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

You can’t understand the illusion until you have experience of the reality.

You can’t understand the illusion until you experience the reality.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

He’s not sure what to make of it. Now that he’s in high school, he is feeling more pressure than ever before to conform to the ways, styles and actions of his peers. He tells his parents that he needs the right shoes, he needs the right hair-cut and he needs the right taste in music. Despite fitting in with his friends’ choice of fashion, music and vocabulary, and despite the constant phone calls, text messages and MySpace messages he receives daily, he still feels more lonely, isolated and confused about his identity than any moment in his life previously. It seems like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s not sure what to make of it. She spent her childhood dreaming of bringing up her own family, and watching caringly as her own children grew up and made their own marks on the world. Now, after 25 years of sacrifice her children have all but left home, and as she feels this intense and engaging life project of child-rearing entering into a stage of independent maintenance, she is finding the need to re-define her life’s purpose, mission and identity. The quietness of the house is starting to increase, as her remaining children at home spend most of their waking hours out and about, and she now has more time to allow her personal thoughts to pervade, revealing inner conflicts she had all but forgotten about. And she’s suddenly noticed that 25 years of marriage hasn’t been enough time for her husband to develop his caring side. It seems like something is missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

He’s not sure what to make of it, as he analyses his current mortgage statement. It seems like he has been working his whole life, but no matter how hard he works the money disappears faster than he can earn it. And despite his hopes for the contrary, the consumeristic desires of his wife and children continue to expand more and more each year. Of course, he feels great happiness and pride being able to be the provider for his family’s desires, but he’s now working 70 hour weeks, and seldom has time to spend in a meaningful way with his children. In fact, that very house which necessitates his home loan, and his long hours, seems less familiar to him than the train station, where he seems to spend more of his waking hours when compared to his own lounge room. He’s starting to lose track of his original vision and plan for life. It’s starting to seem to him like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

Neither of them is sure of what to make of the situation. When they first started their relationship they could barely handle being in separation from each other for a whole weekend. They both enjoyed having their minds fully absorbed in thoughts of the other 24 hours a day. They joyfully walked hand in hand, sharing secrets, forming inside jokes and staring into each others eyes endlessly. Something has changed completely now. It’s not that they aren’t getting along any more; it’s just that that original spark is gone. Their minds, their eyes and their emotions are excited about the prospects of new opportunities for perpetual absorption which new relationships claim to offer. And because they feel this urge for change in themselves, they have decreased faith in the fidelity of the other. They used to say that they were in love; now it seems like something is missing, but since they have no experience of reality they can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s not quite sure what to make of it. She has spent the last 3 years of her life working hard at her degree; studying, cramming, and sacrificing. When she first left high school she was full of hope for the future in the career of her dreams, but having spent the last years studying hard to achieve that dream, she is starting to have her doubts. Can a career in this field really provide her with the satisfaction of all her hearts desires? Have these past years really been worth the effort? The doubt is overwhelming, but it is overshadowed by the fact that, despite her graduating with honors and her double major, she has yet to actually find a job in her chosen field. And the prospect of paying off her student loan before she hits 40 seems like an impossibility. As summer approaches, the bills keep coming and rent is needing attention, she is starting to feel like something is missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

He’s not sure what to make of it. Although he put a lot of effort into his church in the past, and he really felt like he was getting closer to God, something seems to have changed. It now seems like he attends every weekend service more as a matter of ritual rather than as a heart felt offering. In fact, he doesn’t even know what he believes any more, so he is finding it hard to justify living up to a lifestyle and morality that he doesn’t completely identify with. It seems like he is being more of a ‘sinner’ by blindly following some faith and lifestyle than he would be if he just went along with his own thoughts, feelings and desires. Besides, does anyone else in his community seem like they have really dedicated their lives to loving and serving God with all their hearts, minds and souls? In fact, he’s getting a little bit sick of all the village talk, back-stabbing and gossip that goes on after each Sunday sermon. He used to be certain that religion plays some importance in his life; now it seems like something is missing, but since he has no experience of reality he can’t distinguish truth from lies.

She’s really not sure what to make of it. She used to have a very romantic view of getting older, of being the strong woman figure in her family, but as she reached the age of 79 her body, and her mind, started to fail on her, causing many carry on problems. Eventually her children decided it was best that she be put into a rest home, so that she could be cared for constantly by trained professionals. She didn’t like the idea of it at all, but to satisfy her children’s desires she relented. Now she is finding each day to be a source of embarrassment, as a stranger helps her go to the toilet, baths her and dresses her each morning, and her forgetful mind sometimes completely forgets why she’s in this place to begin with. She dreams of returning to her old life, and she often sheds tears thinking about it. At least her family does visit once a month, but they only stay for a few hours and it seems to her that they are making their appearance more as a matter of duty rather than out of real love. And as she watches her fellow residents pass away one by one, she fears the reality that her turn will come sooner than later and she will have to face death all by herself. She has so many unfulfilled desires left in her life, but time has run out. It seems like something is missing, in fact something must be missing, but since she has no experience of reality she can’t distinguish truth from lies.

You can’t understand the illusion until you have experience of the reality.

Apathy is a disease that must be destroyed from the inside-out.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

49% of ‘green house’ gases in New Zealand are produced by the agriculture industry,
The number one cause of water pollution is meat production,
Heart disease and cancer have been directly linked to a diet high in animal fats and protein,
World starvation could be solved if all the food grains fed to livestock were fed to humans directly,
There is a direct statistical link showing increased family violence amongst slaughterhouse workers,
Save the world, but don’t touch my diet!

The majority of ‘P’ lab raids have found young children living in these make-shift drug factories,
The number one cause of family violence and family break-ups is drug addiction,
There is no denying the fact that licit or illicit drugs permanently damage physical and mental health,
The average age at which a person begins taking intoxication is 13 but some start as young as 8,
Most people admit that their intoxication habits are an attempt to forget,
Save the world, but don’t touch my intoxication!

Teen promiscuity has been directly linked to decreased physical and mental health in adult life,
Children born our of wed-lock are statistically lower achievers at school and more likely to suffer from depression in later life,
80% of men in America admit to having cheated on their wives,
One in four women and one in eight men have been sexually assaulted at some point in their life,
50% of men admit to an addiction to pornography,
Save the world, but don’t touch my sex life!

$5.5 million is lost through gambling everyday in New Zealand,
There are 14 convictions relating to gambling addictions everyday in New Zealand,
A problem gambler can directly affect the lives of over 5 people around them,
There is statistical evidence linking gambling with increased suicide rates, drug addiction, and child negligence,
The majority of slot machines and casinos are located in low income neighbourhoods,
Save the world, but don’t touch my gaming!

There are over 1 million prescriptions for state funded anti-depressants handed out every year in New Zealand,
And 50% of adults are now expected to suffer from severe depression at some point in their lives,
Every twelve days a woman is beaten to death by her husband in New Zealand,
Mental health is expected to become the number one health problem in the world by 2012,
The average person feels less fulfilled in their lives than their counterparts 50 years ago,
Save the world, but don’t try changing my life in any way!

*the majority of the above statistics are from New Zealand newspaper articles I collected over the past year.

Apathy is a disease that must be destroyed from the inside-out.
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

49% of ‘green house’ gases in New Zealand are produced by the agriculture industry,
The number one cause of water pollution is meat production,
Heart disease and cancer have been directly linked to a diet high in animal fats and protein,
World starvation could be solved if all the food grains fed to livestock were fed to humans directly,
There is a direct statistical link showing increased family violence amongst slaughterhouse workers,
Save the world, but don’t touch my diet!

The majority of ‘P’ lab raids have found young children living in these make-shift drug factories,
The number one cause of family violence and family break-ups is drug addiction,
There is no denying the fact that licit or illicit drugs permanently damage physical and mental health,
The average age at which a person begins taking intoxication is 13 but some start as young as 8,
Most people admit that their intoxication habits are an attempt to forget,
Save the world, but don’t touch my intoxication!

Teen promiscuity has been directly linked to decreased physical and mental health in adult life,
Children born our of wed-lock are statistically lower achievers at school and more likely to suffer from depression in later life,
80% of men in America admit to having cheated on their wives,
One in four women and one in eight men have been sexually assaulted at some point in their life,
50% of men admit to an addiction to pornography,
Save the world, but don’t touch my sex life!

$5.5 million is lost through gambling everyday in New Zealand,
There are 14 convictions relating to gambling addictions everyday in New Zealand,
A problem gambler can directly affect the lives of over 5 people around them,
There is statistical evidence linking gambling with increased suicide rates, drug addiction, and child negligence,
The majority of slot machines and casinos are located in low income neighbourhoods,
Save the world, but don’t touch my gaming!

There are over 1 million prescriptions for state funded anti-depressants handed out every year in New Zealand,
And 50% of adults are now expected to suffer from severe depression at some point in their lives,
Every twelve days a woman is beaten to death by her husband in New Zealand,
Mental health is expected to become the number one health problem in the world by 2012,
The average person feels less fulfilled in their lives than their counterparts 50 years ago,
Save the world, but don’t try changing my life in any way!

*the majority of the above statistics are from New Zealand newspaper articles I collected over the past year.

B12 crisis may be the cause of chronic fatigue in devotees
→ Home

B12 is an essential vitamin for the human body. The body can't create it itself, so it needs to be supplied from an outside source. However, there are very few good vegan and vegetarian sources of B12.

Dr. Philip Weeks told me about the B12 crisis on my last visit to him. He had noticed that almost every devotee (practitioner of Krishna consciousness) who came to see him had a low level of the vitamin. An abrupt change in diet is probably to blame. Krishna consciousness automatically leads one to become vegetarian (as a pleasant positive side effect of the practice, not as an end in itself). However, if someone has been eating copious amounts of meat for generations and then suddenly stops their self-degrading practice, the body's B12 supply may run dry.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that B12 is stored in the body for a long time. So, a person may be fine for 2-years of not getting enough of the vitamin and then they suddenly start getting really sick for seemingly no reason. Symptoms of B12 deficiency are listed on the following websites:

http://www.veganhealth.org/b12/sympt
http://www.b12patch.com/about-b12deficiency.html

The most common initial symptom is fatigue and depression (which indeed seems to be a common issues affecting many, many devotees).

So, what to do? First of all it is a good idea to go to a western doctor and have one's blood tested (though watch out for the B12 analogues which might confuse a blood test - read about those here and here too). That will reveal if indeed there is a lack of B12 in the body. If this is the case the vitamin has to be replenished. However, taking supplements won't really work, because B12 is very difficult to absorb into the body. It would take a long time of taking pills to replenish the body's vitamin supplies. The only two options seem to be getting a B12 injection from a doctor, or using the following ingenious B12 patches:

http://www.b12patch.com/

Then, once the B12-levels are up again, they can be kept up by taking Engevita Nutritional Yeast (one of the few reliable vegan sources of B12).

One might ask how vegan cultures got their supply of B12 for thousands of years before B12 injections were invented. Well, for one, the people in those cultures are probably genetically predisposed to surviving with a less supply of B12 than us westerners. Then there is also dirt. That's right: dirt! Surprisingly, dirt often contains some B12. Cow dung, for example, is very rich in the vitamin. Agricultural field used to be fertilized with cow dung, so a little bit of it would inevitably end up on people's plates. Nowadays, however, with chemical fertilizers being the order of the day and food being super-clean and sterile, dirt can only rarely find its way into our digestion system. So, no B12 for us.

I recorded my conversation with Dr Phil on the topic. Please listen to it here (5 minutes):

Mind Battle
→ Servant's Report

Trying like a small child, struggling to walk, once again but this time different, not alone. Which is good and bad, for now there is help but also greater responsibility to help her and set the proper example. Anartha-- unnecessary, NO NEED... but still the mind challenges, "Just a little, a slight glance, what's the harm?" Implanting seeds of desire that take strong roots without even noticing until your creeper is choked almost to death. You may call it harmless but I know the truth, I know how far I can fall.

What is so hard about rising early no matter what and starting the day immersed in spiritual vibration? For how much does it help keep one fixed in Transcendence. But don't go back to sleep, at least during the sacred time of pre-dawn. Sometimes you are fooled and left with the vivid, crazy dreams of regret. Make it this far and then use your time (oh so valuable) wisely in service-- even apparently mundane but not if you know what to do with the fruits. Push on, push forward and so much can be accomplished.

It hit me during the football game and she, left in the the other room alone and upset-- am I sacrificing my dreams for this? "You can do both," my mind retorts. "Don't be a fanatic." But you've told me that before and I listened and failed and failed again. Must get back the determination I once had...

Mind Battle
→ Servant's Report

Trying like a small child, struggling to walk, once again but this time different, not alone. Which is good and bad, for now there is help but also greater responsibility to help her and set the proper example. Anartha-- unnecessary, NO NEED... but still the mind challenges, "Just a little, a slight glance, what's the harm?" Implanting seeds of desire that take strong roots without even noticing until your creeper is choked almost to death. You may call it harmless but I know the truth, I know how far I can fall.

What is so hard about rising early no matter what and starting the day immersed in spiritual vibration? For how much does it help keep one fixed in Transcendence. But don't go back to sleep, at least during the sacred time of pre-dawn. Sometimes you are fooled and left with the vivid, crazy dreams of regret. Make it this far and then use your time (oh so valuable) wisely in service-- even apparently mundane but not if you know what to do with the fruits. Push on, push forward and so much can be accomplished.

It hit me during the football game and she, left in the the other room alone and upset-- am I sacrificing my dreams for this? "You can do both," my mind retorts. "Don't be a fanatic." But you've told me that before and I listened and failed and failed again. Must get back the determination I once had...

Paper accepted at WoMo 2007
→ Home

I just had a paper accepted for publication at the Second International Workshop on Modular Ontologies (WoMo 2007) co-located with the Knowledge Capture conference (K-CAP 2007). My paper is "The State of Multi-User Ontology Engineering".

You can download the paper here, or in the publication section of this website. This will be the last paper I publish for a while. From now on it's exclusive PhD thesis writing for me.

Zen cooking documentary
→ Home

Howtocookyourlife L200709101828 An upcoming film about a Buddhist cook. This begs the question: why didn't they make a film like this with the Hare Krishna's instead? What's the "kitchen religion" Buddhism or Vaishnavaism (Krishna consciousness)?

There is obviously a market for and interest in this sort of movie. It seems like a great way to present our philosophy. Kurma prabhu are you listening?

Saturday Feast: Bhagavatam seed verses
→ Home

I hosted another Saturday Feast at my flat today. The last time I hosted a feast I was a bit late cooking. I guess my multi-person cooking skills were a bit rusty, since it had been a while since I had done something like this. However, I seem to have gotten the hang of it again. Today I was a lot quicker. I got the lunch finished right on time, on the dot. 2.5 hours from start to finish to prepare the meal.

Unfortunately, no one was there to eat it. At first I thought I had made the classic mistake of establishing a precedent of actually starting 30-minutes later than I advertise (Sitapati talks about this common practice and its ill effects in his "preaching on purpose" eBook). However, it turned out that everyone was genuinely delayed for a variety of reasons. I had 5 guests in total.

On the menu for lunch:

Fennel Basmati White Rice
Seychellian Carri Coco Curry
South China Stir-Fry
Baked Potato Wedges
Tomato Chutney
Strawberry Halava
Banana Vanilla Soya Milk Drink

Pictures of the meal (click on the pictures for a full-size version):

plate 1 plate 2
One guest always asks me in amazement if I make the chutney myself or rather, buy them in a shop. They are really not at all difficult to make. So, if you're reading this, the recipe for tomato chutney is on page 80 in the "Great Vegetarian Dishes" cookbook by Kurma dasa (order from BLservices in Europe, Krishna.com in the USA, Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk).

After lunch we chanted one round (108 mantras) of the Hare Krishna mantra on beads in unison. Usually we have a kirtan, but today almost everyone brought their own japa beads, so I thought we might as well use them.

We then discussed the four seed verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam (2.9.33, 2.9.34, 2.9.35, 2.9.36). These verses are the first instructions that Krishna gave to Brahma, the first created living entity in our universe. From these instructions Brahma could expand the purport of all the Vedic literature. This discussion culminated in the need to gain this knowledge by disciplic succession. It is impossible to speculate and attain knowledge of the true personal form of God (the highest one can come with speculation is to the point of realizing that everything is "one"). Knowledge about Krishna must come down from Krishna himself, there is simply no other way to attain it. Just like an ant can't gain knowledge of the Large Hadron Collider by its own capacity.

Glories of the sauna
→ Home

On the advice of Dr. Weeks I've started using the local swimming pool's sauna to improve my health. Sauna vary in heat and humidity. The one in the Manchester Aquatic Center consists of a room heated to 80 C with relatively low humidity. They also have a steam room with 100% humidity. Some crazy suicidal people use really, really hot saunas.

From what I've read it seems that dry saunas are good for digestive disorders (dry up all the mucus in the body), while wet saunas/steam rooms are good for healing respiratory illnesses. In practice, I found that I much prefer the dry sauna to the wet ones.

Some people like to use the sauna after exercising, but, from what I've read, this is not a good idea. This is because the heat of the sauna increases greatly increases one's heart rate. The body needs lots of oxygen to sweat and cool itself down. After vigorous exercise one's body is already hot and sweaty, so if one jumps straight into the sauna in such a state, there is a magnified risk of heart attack. A 20-minute wait is therefore recommended between exercise and sauna use.
At first I couldn't stay in the sauna for more than 5-minutes. I could hardly breath and felt quite light headed. Finally stumbling out of the hot room I needed to lie down on one of the benches for 15-minutes to recover.

Now, however, after just 5 visits spread over the last 5 weeks, my body has gotten more used to the heat. I now initially stay in for 10-minutes, go out to cool off, in for another 8-minutes, cool off, in for another 6-minutes, cool-off, in for another 4-minutes, cool off, in for another 2-minutes, out cool-off and lie down for a good 20-minutes to recover. After that I do some swimming. I take it easy the first few laps of the pool, since I'm still a bit shaky after the heat-therapy.

The increase in time I can spend in the heat seems to be directly released to how much my body can sweat. Previous to using the sauna I would hardly sweat on any occasion. However, I think the intense heat has "encouraged" my body to open its sweat pores. It's like holding a gun up to the body and saying: "sweat or die!" The benefit is of this is not only that it allows me to spend more time in hot places. Sweating also removes toxins from the body. They literally ooze out the skin (eww, yuck).

My digestion improves more and more after each visit. At the moment the beneficial effect wears off four days after each visit. Let's hope the time period of well-being increases over time.

Slaughterhouse civilization
→ Unplugged Ice

I'm taking classes at a community college in Hawaii. This semester i am taking "World History", which is really a bad fiction read; "Philosophy (logic)", which is the proselytizing front of agnosticism; "Food Science and Human Nutrition", which must be partially funded by the meat industry; and "English", which is a business language.

Luckily i used to like reading fiction so it's bearable in that sense.

Slaughterhouse civilization
→ Unplugged Ice

I'm taking classes at a community college in Hawaii. This semester i am taking "World History", which is really a bad fiction read; "Philosophy (logic)", which is the proselytizing front of agnosticism; "Food Science and Human Nutrition", which must be partially funded by the meat industry; and "English", which is a business language.

Luckily i used to like reading fiction so it's bearable in that sense.

Corporate chaplains on the rise
→ Home

Corporations in the United States are increasingly hiring chaplains for the workplace. These clergymen come into the offices maybe once a week and employees can talk to them if and when they wish. The chaplains give confidential advice on all life's problems to those people that choose to take advantage of their guidance. They don't force themselves onto anyone who doesn't want their help.

A great benefit of the corporate chaplain is that in an increasingly dog-eat-dog world the chaplain is not some good-for-nothing boss, nor a double-crossing so-called mentor who really just has his own best interest in mind. Instead, he is there for just one reason: to care. And a little care and attention is really just all everyone wants, right?

The trend in the predominantly christian USA is to hire christian chaplains, but I see no reason why there couldn't be successful vaisnava chaplains, too. This is especially so in countries were the traditional churches are mistrusted or frowned upon. However, even in the USA the demand for corporate chaplains far exceeds the supply. There are just not enough spiritually educated people around who are will and able to genuinely care for others. It's a huge growth industry.

This makes me think of Ameyatma's article on implementing Varnashra Universities. But why establish external educational institutions that people need to make an effort to visit? Instead here is the possibility of meeting and helping people directly in their workplaces and getting paid for it too.

I think members of the Krishna consciousness network are ideally suited for this kind of non-sectarian, educational, care-given work. Indeed, employees who are getting guidance from Vaisnava chaplains are more likely to be able to lead a mode of goodness lifestyle, free from so many self-degrading activities. They can be happier, more productive and make spiritual progress, all at the same time. It's a win-win situation.

Someone should try this!

More information in the following articles:

Saturday Feast: rejecting materially motivated religion
→ Home

Last Saturday I hosted a meeting at my flat. It had been a long time since I had done such a thing.

Just 3 guests came. Two regular friends and one friend of a friend: a German exchange student from Berlin who was new to Krishna consciousness.

We started off by having lunch and general chatting. On the menu:

  • Sweet potatoes in cayenne, ginger and groundnut sauce
  • Baked vegetables with rosemary (which I over-salted)
  • Apple chutney
  • Cashew basmati brown rice
  • Chinese almond cookies
  • Mango and orange nectar drink

After lunch we had a kirtan.

Then we discussed the second verse of the Bhagavatam (for 2 hours!). Actually, we only made through the first half of this verse. There is so much stuff packed into each Bhagavatam verse. One can talk about each verse for months!

The verse is:
"Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyasadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhagavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart." (SB1.1.2)

All in all, every really enjoyed the afternoon of hearing, chanting and feasting. I must do this more often.

Closed for Summer
→ ISKCON Communications


Hare Krishna! Apologies to the regular readers of the ISKCON Communications Blog for not having posted in quite some time. I have been in Italy - first for an ISKCON Studies Institute conference, and then for some personal holiday time. The trip has been wonderful on many levels, but my expectations that I would have time to blog and a dependable internet connection have both proven unrealistic.

Here in Italy, I have noticed that life moves at a different pace than it does in North America. For instance, walking and bicycling is more common, meals can last several hours, and it is not frowned upon for grown adults to make time for naps in the middle of the day. Along those lines, I have also noticed that a lot of businesses and services simply close shop during these - the hottest, slowest days of summer. I have even started to get used to the simple handwritten signs on the doors of shops, cafés, or offices: <chiuso per ferie> aka closed for summer.

Unapologetic, in August many Italians pack up, flee the cities, and head for the mountains and seaside for some needed rejuvenation. And the unadorned notes they leave behind simply state the truth - "We are taking a break right now. We will be back soon enough. The world will not fall apart without us here, nor will anyone forget about us. We need this time to ourselves, but we will serve you again."

Readers, please consider this blog post my "closed for summer" sign for the IC blog. I hope that when I am back in the States and have had a chance to catch my breath and deal with the overflow of emails awaiting me, I can get back to blogging with a new passion. I'm also excited to explore some new ideas - like making this IC a team blog and building a first-draft IC website.

But all of that will happen, I hope, in due time. Til then, please excuse the locks on the door and shutters on the windows.

ys,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa

Closed for Summer
→ ISKCON Communications


Hare Krishna! Apologies to the regular readers of the ISKCON Communications Blog for not having posted in quite some time. I have been in Italy - first for an ISKCON Studies Institute conference, and then for some personal holiday time. The trip has been wonderful on many levels, but my expectations that I would have time to blog and a dependable internet connection have both proven unrealistic.

Here in Italy, I have noticed that life moves at a different pace than it does in North America. For instance, walking and bicycling is more common, meals can last several hours, and it is not frowned upon for grown adults to make time for naps in the middle of the day. Along those lines, I have also noticed that a lot of businesses and services simply close shop during these - the hottest, slowest days of summer. I have even started to get used to the simple handwritten signs on the doors of shops, cafés, or offices: <chiuso per ferie> aka closed for summer.

Unapologetic, in August many Italians pack up, flee the cities, and head for the mountains and seaside for some needed rejuvenation. And the unadorned notes they leave behind simply state the truth - "We are taking a break right now. We will be back soon enough. The world will not fall apart without us here, nor will anyone forget about us. We need this time to ourselves, but we will serve you again."

Readers, please consider this blog post my "closed for summer" sign for the IC blog. I hope that when I am back in the States and have had a chance to catch my breath and deal with the overflow of emails awaiting me, I can get back to blogging with a new passion. I'm also excited to explore some new ideas - like making this IC a team blog and building a first-draft IC website.

But all of that will happen, I hope, in due time. Til then, please excuse the locks on the door and shutters on the windows.

ys,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa

Here comes the rain again
→ Unplugged Ice

It's raining as i write. Actually i would say it's bucketing down. Every day like clockwork the rains come to Taipei around 1pm and subside around 3pm. The weather has it's rituals and when it performs them there is not much we can do about it. I always found the "everything came about by chance" "philosophy" on life quite ridiculous. If something was brought into existence by chance then logically it should continue to exist within the laws of chance. Does chance pack-up and leave once it has created something? Even if chance produced an alarm clock that worked like clockwork, chance should always be there to give that clock a chance to do something else. If chance created it in such a way that during rainy season it rains every day at a certain time, then chance should still exist to change that. We learn in school that the law of averages is constant. Each time we throw a die we have the same chance of getting a six. Each time you get a six, the chance of getting another six or any other number doesn't decrease. In the same way, the chances of creation should also always be constant. But in too many cases this chance has produced something that works according to rules, and then [maybe] by chance that chance simply stops being chance any more. Whatever! It's still raining as i write, by the way.

Here comes the rain again
→ Unplugged Ice

It's raining as i write. Actually i would say it's bucketing down. Every day like clockwork the rains come to Taipei around 1pm and subside around 3pm. The weather has it's rituals and when it performs them there is not much we can do about it. I always found the "everything came about by chance" "philosophy" on life quite ridiculous. If something was brought into existence by chance then logically it should continue to exist within the laws of chance. Does chance pack-up and leave once it has created something? Even if chance produced an alarm clock that worked like clockwork, chance should always be there to give that clock a chance to do something else. If chance created it in such a way that during rainy season it rains every day at a certain time, then chance should still exist to change that. We learn in school that the law of averages is constant. Each time we throw a die we have the same chance of getting a six. Each time you get a six, the chance of getting another six or any other number doesn't decrease. In the same way, the chances of creation should also always be constant. But in too many cases this chance has produced something that works according to rules, and then [maybe] by chance that chance simply stops being chance any more. Whatever! It's still raining as i write, by the way.

Surf’s up
→ Unplugged Ice

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My body is a year older. If I were ambitious I would be worried about this. After all, if I were ambitious, my precious body would be the vehicle to take me to my ambitions and, once arrived there, also carry them. If this were the case then I would most certainly squirm at my increasing number of gray hairs and receding hairline. I would be over self-conscious of the extra baggage I carry around my waist. I would be intolerant of the ever increasing wrinkles and other youth destroying phenomena. I would find it difficult to bear my decreasing endurance levels. I would find it hard to accept my limited allotted time available here. I would find it impossible to think that I am starting to get a glimpse of my inevitable twighlight years. I would have to be illusioned to continue.

On the other hand, my present state of little ambition makes a statement to the world that this person is to be strictly avoided. Fair enough, since confidence takes a while to build up and can so easily be deflated. The fact is that it is unfortunately a struggle to work against gravity. This struggle is not a natural phenomenon and therefore precautions are taken to make the struggle as easy as possible. One of these precautions is to avoid looking down the slope of our demise and instead create a Technicolor illusion of a world full of positive people potentially gliding gracefully towards their personal ambitions. Anyone not fitting that particular job-description takes energy away from our upward motion and should be kept at a distance.

My train of thought here is inevitably hurtling towards a slight brush with the self-help genre of people. What on earth to do with self-help? It seems that every self-help technique is a subtle system of keeping those precious ambitions from slipping out of our grasps. We writhe and squirm at losing pace with the pack, but our self-help gurus tell us that these downtimes are not blemishes but beautiful ways to increasing our enchanting ambitions. Oh yes, you can turn failure into success with a simple shuffle of your thoughts – just like the iPod shuffle makes your playlist of songs ever-fresh and exciting by a simple random re-arranging of their order.

The world is hell-bent on keeping its ambitions in motion by making it well known that they are absolutely worth the extra endeavor to keep. But what happens when a spanner gets thrown in the works and it all starts to seem so futile? What happens when we look at things for what they really are, temporary? The illusion crumbles and with it any ambition to keep rolling with it. Then we are faced with a new world, one that is not as rosy as it seemed before. Self-aggrandizement becomes sickening. Gloating and obsequious individuals don't have their uses in any master plan hatched from a truckload of lust and desire marinated in raw sewage. All those pleasantries we once saw as part of our life-force shrivel into nothing, and then turn to dust.

At this point we either take the blue pill and go down and out, unfortunately remaining on the same coin but on the opposite side (this could regurgitate another wave of written thought that I will try my best to restrain), or we take the red pill and do something radical and join the Hare Krishnas or something.

Ahh, here it is finally, the part of this indeterminable muse that gets spiritual, and it looks like it's going to be one of those "wonders of spiritual life" versus "the folly of materialistic society" type bashes. But alas, on the contrary, what happens next is quite a twist to the plot, for forays into spiritual seeking can oft be surface encounters with something unknown, which then tends to lead to accidents on the royal road.

No doubt about it, spiritual life is where it's at. I'm not going to back that up with a hundred lines of stuff that you already know (the main audience here is adept at understanding this as fact since we all have – in want of, but unable to find a better word than the clichéd Californian pretext to reality – experience). But how is it that a wannabe spiritualist, replete with all spiritual motivations and an intrinsic material aversion, can again fall into the same traps as before his revolution against mundane ambition. We know that ambition cannot be taken away from us as it's part of our being, and we know that selfless ambition in loving connection with the Supreme and His devotees is a good place to build from, but ambition is ambition and the premise of doing it selflessly can be so easily and unconsciously flipped over into doing it selfishly. Comfort, subtle intoxication, unheeding the subtle approaches of lust, anger, avarice, and illusion, missing the spiritual beat whether it be hearing, chanting, remembering – all these simply rock the boat and are ready to sink us in the same motivations and ambitions we were previously illusioned by

I admit it; I'm sunk, ambitiously. I'm one of those derelicts washed up on the shore of the Hare Krishna movement – almost a beach bum for Krishna. But I must also admit that though I am unable to do anything about it, the present ambitions within the society of devotees worries me.

No point in getting worked up about it all. In the mean time... surf's up!

Surf’s up
→ Unplugged Ice

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My body is a year older. If I were ambitious I would be worried about this. After all, if I were ambitious, my precious body would be the vehicle to take me to my ambitions and, once arrived there, also carry them. If this were the case then I would most certainly squirm at my increasing number of gray hairs and receding hairline. I would be over self-conscious of the extra baggage I carry around my waist. I would be intolerant of the ever increasing wrinkles and other youth destroying phenomena. I would find it difficult to bear my decreasing endurance levels. I would find it hard to accept my limited allotted time available here. I would find it impossible to think that I am starting to get a glimpse of my inevitable twighlight years. I would have to be illusioned to continue.

On the other hand, my present state of little ambition makes a statement to the world that this person is to be strictly avoided. Fair enough, since confidence takes a while to build up and can so easily be deflated. The fact is that it is unfortunately a struggle to work against gravity. This struggle is not a natural phenomenon and therefore precautions are taken to make the struggle as easy as possible. One of these precautions is to avoid looking down the slope of our demise and instead create a Technicolor illusion of a world full of positive people potentially gliding gracefully towards their personal ambitions. Anyone not fitting that particular job-description takes energy away from our upward motion and should be kept at a distance.

My train of thought here is inevitably hurtling towards a slight brush with the self-help genre of people. What on earth to do with self-help? It seems that every self-help technique is a subtle system of keeping those precious ambitions from slipping out of our grasps. We writhe and squirm at losing pace with the pack, but our self-help gurus tell us that these downtimes are not blemishes but beautiful ways to increasing our enchanting ambitions. Oh yes, you can turn failure into success with a simple shuffle of your thoughts – just like the iPod shuffle makes your playlist of songs ever-fresh and exciting by a simple random re-arranging of their order.

The world is hell-bent on keeping its ambitions in motion by making it well known that they are absolutely worth the extra endeavor to keep. But what happens when a spanner gets thrown in the works and it all starts to seem so futile? What happens when we look at things for what they really are, temporary? The illusion crumbles and with it any ambition to keep rolling with it. Then we are faced with a new world, one that is not as rosy as it seemed before. Self-aggrandizement becomes sickening. Gloating and obsequious individuals don't have their uses in any master plan hatched from a truckload of lust and desire marinated in raw sewage. All those pleasantries we once saw as part of our life-force shrivel into nothing, and then turn to dust.

At this point we either take the blue pill and go down and out, unfortunately remaining on the same coin but on the opposite side (this could regurgitate another wave of written thought that I will try my best to restrain), or we take the red pill and do something radical and join the Hare Krishnas or something.

Ahh, here it is finally, the part of this indeterminable muse that gets spiritual, and it looks like it's going to be one of those "wonders of spiritual life" versus "the folly of materialistic society" type bashes. But alas, on the contrary, what happens next is quite a twist to the plot, for forays into spiritual seeking can oft be surface encounters with something unknown, which then tends to lead to accidents on the royal road.

No doubt about it, spiritual life is where it's at. I'm not going to back that up with a hundred lines of stuff that you already know (the main audience here is adept at understanding this as fact since we all have – in want of, but unable to find a better word than the clichéd Californian pretext to reality – experience). But how is it that a wannabe spiritualist, replete with all spiritual motivations and an intrinsic material aversion, can again fall into the same traps as before his revolution against mundane ambition. We know that ambition cannot be taken away from us as it's part of our being, and we know that selfless ambition in loving connection with the Supreme and His devotees is a good place to build from, but ambition is ambition and the premise of doing it selflessly can be so easily and unconsciously flipped over into doing it selfishly. Comfort, subtle intoxication, unheeding the subtle approaches of lust, anger, avarice, and illusion, missing the spiritual beat whether it be hearing, chanting, remembering – all these simply rock the boat and are ready to sink us in the same motivations and ambitions we were previously illusioned by

I admit it; I'm sunk, ambitiously. I'm one of those derelicts washed up on the shore of the Hare Krishna movement – almost a beach bum for Krishna. But I must also admit that though I am unable to do anything about it, the present ambitions within the society of devotees worries me.

No point in getting worked up about it all. In the mean time... surf's up!

Washington Post story on ISKCON’s response to Hindu Prayer Disruption
→ ISKCON Communications

This story appeared in the Washington Post, page A4, on Friday, July 27. I had worked with the reporter, Michelle Boorstein to help communicate ISKCON's response to the disruption of Hindu prayer. The article focuses on that fact that ISKCON Communications was one of the groups who wrote to political leaders to encourage them to support the Hindu community and condemn the bigotry.

Here is the article:

Hindu Groups Ask '08 Hopefuls to Criticize Protest

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007; Page A04

U.S. Hindu organizations are urging presidential candidates to denounce the protesters who disrupted the Senate as the first-ever Hindu opening prayer was being delivered this month.

Ante Nedlko Pavkovic, Katherine Lynn Pavkovic and Christan Renee Sugar -- identified in the Christian media as a couple and their daughter -- were removed from the Senate floor and arrested by Capitol Police on July 12 after they began shouting, "This is an abomination," and asking for forgiveness from God.

The three, from Davidson, N.C., were arrested and charged with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.

A brief prayer was then delivered by Rajan Zed, a chaplain from Reno who was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Several Christian organizations spoke out against the prayer, before and after it was delivered. The American Family Association circulated a petition, urging its members to contact their senator to protest the prayer. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," it read. The Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America issued a statement saying the prayer placed "the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ."

Although the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington issued a statement July 17 saying its members were "deeply saddened" by the interruption, no senators present spoke out against it publicly, according to the Hindu American Foundation and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Both organizations said they are disappointed with the legislators, and they sent letters this week to presidential candidates and senators, asking them to condemn the incident.

"We call on you to follow the example set by [Reid] and take a stance in defense of religious freedom and equality, in the face of opposition from extremists and fundamentalists," the ISKCON letter said.

A focus of the Christian organizations was the perception that Hindus are polytheistic. "Our national motto isn't 'In gods we trust,' " Janet L. Folger, president of Faith2Action, said the day before the Senate prayer.

However, the U.S. Hindu groups say this criticism reflects ignorance of the monotheistic underpinnings of their faith. Hinduism has many deities, all manifestations of one god.

Although there were only three protesters, said Ishani Chowdhury, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, "if you look at it as a reflection of a larger number of people . . . we need people to condemn what happened and highlight the need for dialogue."

According to the foundation, there are 2 million Hindus in the United States.

source

Washington Post story on ISKCON’s response to Hindu Prayer Disruption
→ ISKCON Communications

This story appeared in the Washington Post, page A4, on Friday, July 27. I had worked with the reporter, Michelle Boorstein to help communicate ISKCON's response to the disruption of Hindu prayer. The article focuses on that fact that ISKCON Communications was one of the groups who wrote to political leaders to encourage them to support the Hindu community and condemn the bigotry.

Here is the article:

Hindu Groups Ask '08 Hopefuls to Criticize Protest

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007; Page A04

U.S. Hindu organizations are urging presidential candidates to denounce the protesters who disrupted the Senate as the first-ever Hindu opening prayer was being delivered this month.

Ante Nedlko Pavkovic, Katherine Lynn Pavkovic and Christan Renee Sugar -- identified in the Christian media as a couple and their daughter -- were removed from the Senate floor and arrested by Capitol Police on July 12 after they began shouting, "This is an abomination," and asking for forgiveness from God.

The three, from Davidson, N.C., were arrested and charged with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.

A brief prayer was then delivered by Rajan Zed, a chaplain from Reno who was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Several Christian organizations spoke out against the prayer, before and after it was delivered. The American Family Association circulated a petition, urging its members to contact their senator to protest the prayer. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," it read. The Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America issued a statement saying the prayer placed "the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ."

Although the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington issued a statement July 17 saying its members were "deeply saddened" by the interruption, no senators present spoke out against it publicly, according to the Hindu American Foundation and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Both organizations said they are disappointed with the legislators, and they sent letters this week to presidential candidates and senators, asking them to condemn the incident.

"We call on you to follow the example set by [Reid] and take a stance in defense of religious freedom and equality, in the face of opposition from extremists and fundamentalists," the ISKCON letter said.

A focus of the Christian organizations was the perception that Hindus are polytheistic. "Our national motto isn't 'In gods we trust,' " Janet L. Folger, president of Faith2Action, said the day before the Senate prayer.

However, the U.S. Hindu groups say this criticism reflects ignorance of the monotheistic underpinnings of their faith. Hinduism has many deities, all manifestations of one god.

Although there were only three protesters, said Ishani Chowdhury, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, "if you look at it as a reflection of a larger number of people . . . we need people to condemn what happened and highlight the need for dialogue."

According to the foundation, there are 2 million Hindus in the United States.

source