How to issue a press release
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Do it three times!

The news media is more than willing to publish a story, any story. If something is moderately well written and seems to be interesting, a local newspaper will publish it. If something is of interest to a broader spectrum of people, then a national newspaper will publish it. The trick is to publish the same news three times. Observe the stories from day-to-day and see this in effect. Heres a fictional example:

"Russia commits to donate $1 million to help world hunger."

(2 weeks later...)

"Russia starts the process of supplying one million dollars to feed the hungry all over the world."

(2 weeks later...)

"Russia has successfully completed the process of giving $1 million to charitable food distribution."

This makes it sound like Russia had given $3 million. People don't notice that it is the same story, worded slightly differently, repeated over and over again. They get three separate positive impressions on three separate occasions. One event gives triple the benefit.

Slandering the slanderers
→ Unplugged Ice

I think this comes from the Mahabharata, which i think gets it from one of the Puranas (refs are welcomed in a comment on this posting)? Also, i thought the original was actually Atri Muni speaking? But the lesson is poignant either way. Basically he's saying, be careful about slandering others for by doing so you gain their bad qualities as well as giving them the results of your piety. This explains why some you wouldn't think should do well are in fact doing well...

Vidura said: In this connection is cited the old story of the discourse between the son of Atri and the deities called Sadhyas is as heard by us.
In days of old, the deities known by the name of Sadhyas questioned the highly wise and great Rishi of rigid vows (the son of Atri), while the latter was wandering in the guise of one depending on eleemosynary charity for livelihood.

The Sadhyas said: We are, O great Rishi, deities known as Sadhyas. Beholding thee, we are unable to guess who thou art. It seems to us, however, that thou art possessed of intelligence and self-control in consequence of acquaintance with the scriptures. It, therefore, behoveth thee to discourse to us in magnanimous words fraught with learning.

Slanders and reproaches

The mendicant Rishi answered: Ye immortals, it has been heard by me that by untying all the knots in the heart by the aid of tranquillity, and by mastery over all the passions, and observance of true religion, one should regard both the agreeable and the disagreeable like his own self. One should not return the slanders or reproaches of others for the pain that is felt by him who bears silently, consumes the slanderer; and he that bears, succeeds also appropriating the virtues of the slanderer. Indulge not in slanders and reproaches.

Do not humiliate and insult others. Quarrel not with friends. Abstain from companionship with those that are vile and low. Be not arrogant and ignoble in conduct. Avoid words that are harsh and fraught with anger. Harsh words burn and scorch the very vitals, bones, heart, and the very sources of the life of men. Therefore, he, that is virtuous, should always abstain from harsh and angry words. That worst of men is of harsh and wrathful speech that pierces the vitals of others with wordy thorns, bears hell in his tongue, and should ever be regarded as a dispenser of misery to men. The man that is wise, pierced by another's wordy arrows, sharp pointed and smarting like fire or the sun, should, even if deeply wounded and burning with pain, bear them patiently remembering that the slanderer's merits become his.

He that waits upon one that is good or upon one that is wicked, upon one that is possessed of ascetic merit or upon one that is a thief, soon takes the colour from that companion of his, like a cloth from the dye in which it is soaked. The very gods desire his company, who, stung with reproach, returns if not himself nor causes others to return it, or who being struck does not himself return the blow nor causes others to do it, and who wishes not the slightest injury to him that injures him.

Slandering the slanderers
→ Unplugged Ice

I think this comes from the Mahabharata, which i think gets it from one of the Puranas (refs are welcomed in a comment on this posting)? Also, i thought the original was actually Atri Muni speaking? But the lesson is poignant either way. Basically he's saying, be careful about slandering others for by doing so you gain their bad qualities as well as giving them the results of your piety. This explains why some you wouldn't think should do well are in fact doing well...

Vidura said: In this connection is cited the old story of the discourse between the son of Atri and the deities called Sadhyas is as heard by us.
In days of old, the deities known by the name of Sadhyas questioned the highly wise and great Rishi of rigid vows (the son of Atri), while the latter was wandering in the guise of one depending on eleemosynary charity for livelihood.

The Sadhyas said: We are, O great Rishi, deities known as Sadhyas. Beholding thee, we are unable to guess who thou art. It seems to us, however, that thou art possessed of intelligence and self-control in consequence of acquaintance with the scriptures. It, therefore, behoveth thee to discourse to us in magnanimous words fraught with learning.

Slanders and reproaches

The mendicant Rishi answered: Ye immortals, it has been heard by me that by untying all the knots in the heart by the aid of tranquillity, and by mastery over all the passions, and observance of true religion, one should regard both the agreeable and the disagreeable like his own self. One should not return the slanders or reproaches of others for the pain that is felt by him who bears silently, consumes the slanderer; and he that bears, succeeds also appropriating the virtues of the slanderer. Indulge not in slanders and reproaches.

Do not humiliate and insult others. Quarrel not with friends. Abstain from companionship with those that are vile and low. Be not arrogant and ignoble in conduct. Avoid words that are harsh and fraught with anger. Harsh words burn and scorch the very vitals, bones, heart, and the very sources of the life of men. Therefore, he, that is virtuous, should always abstain from harsh and angry words. That worst of men is of harsh and wrathful speech that pierces the vitals of others with wordy thorns, bears hell in his tongue, and should ever be regarded as a dispenser of misery to men. The man that is wise, pierced by another's wordy arrows, sharp pointed and smarting like fire or the sun, should, even if deeply wounded and burning with pain, bear them patiently remembering that the slanderer's merits become his.

He that waits upon one that is good or upon one that is wicked, upon one that is possessed of ascetic merit or upon one that is a thief, soon takes the colour from that companion of his, like a cloth from the dye in which it is soaked. The very gods desire his company, who, stung with reproach, returns if not himself nor causes others to return it, or who being struck does not himself return the blow nor causes others to do it, and who wishes not the slightest injury to him that injures him.

Causeless
→ Unplugged Ice

What was my experiences in the Holy Dhama? My experiences are worthless, but one thing that's been re-emphasized from my visit there is that the Dhama is non different to the Supreme. That's why being in the presence of the Dhama means being in direct contact with Krsna.

Many years ago i rode a bus between Delhi and Agra as a traveler. I wasn't an aspiring devotee then, just someone who had left London in search of some meaning and adventure in his otherwise humdrum, run-of-the-mill life. Even though i didn't know it at the time, this trip to Agra took me for a brief few minutes through places where Krsna had enacted many of His pastimes; the heart of Braja. I was driven in-between Vrndavan and Govardhana and then along the outskirts of Mathura. I can honestly say that this seemingly passive incident in my a priori spiritual journey affected me in a positive way.

A different situation, but similar effect, happened about three years ago when i spent a couple of months at the asrama in Govardhana. My sadhana was shot from all my travels and crazy schedules, i had no taste for the Holy Name, and among many other problems i was a spiritual wreck. And yet, even though nothing improved from my endeavors and works during that stay, i still felt as if i reaped some unseen, causeless benefit from being in the presence of Giriraja. After my stay i felt somewhat rejuvenated from simply being there - i didn't do anything to bring this on apart from stay there.

This year was similar. For various reasons i had become run-down and weakened by staying in the West for a long time. Sense gratification becomes the norm in America and Europe as maya lures one like a seductress with many different dresses to suit different occasions and tendencies. I was worn out and tired. Again, it seemed that my time in the Dhama was unproductive, i know i could have achieved a lot more. But yet again, on reflection, i can see that by just having put myself in the care of the Dhama it has affected me in a deeper more subtle way without my reciprocation.

Why do we go to places of pilgrimage? In the Bhagavatam (1.13.10 purport) Prabhupada says "To go to some holy place of pilgrimage does not mean only to take a bath in the Ganges or Yamuna or to visit the temples situated in those places. One should also find representatives of Vidura who have no desire in life save and except to serve the Personality of Godhead." The Holy Dhama is recommended to be resided in for that reason. The Dhama itself, it's residents, and the pilgrims visiting are all sources of understanding the goal of life. What did Prabhupada say about the goal of life?... something about being addicted to Krsna. In some places this addiction is more contagious. We can only aspire for it by making some good choices.

Causeless
→ Unplugged Ice

What was my experiences in the Holy Dhama? My experiences are worthless, but one thing that's been re-emphasized from my visit there is that the Dhama is non different to the Supreme. That's why being in the presence of the Dhama means being in direct contact with Krsna.

Many years ago i rode a bus between Delhi and Agra as a traveler. I wasn't an aspiring devotee then, just someone who had left London in search of some meaning and adventure in his otherwise humdrum, run-of-the-mill life. Even though i didn't know it at the time, this trip to Agra took me for a brief few minutes through places where Krsna had enacted many of His pastimes; the heart of Braja. I was driven in-between Vrndavan and Govardhana and then along the outskirts of Mathura. I can honestly say that this seemingly passive incident in my a priori spiritual journey affected me in a positive way.

A different situation, but similar effect, happened about three years ago when i spent a couple of months at the asrama in Govardhana. My sadhana was shot from all my travels and crazy schedules, i had no taste for the Holy Name, and among many other problems i was a spiritual wreck. And yet, even though nothing improved from my endeavors and works during that stay, i still felt as if i reaped some unseen, causeless benefit from being in the presence of Giriraja. After my stay i felt somewhat rejuvenated from simply being there - i didn't do anything to bring this on apart from stay there.

This year was similar. For various reasons i had become run-down and weakened by staying in the West for a long time. Sense gratification becomes the norm in America and Europe as maya lures one like a seductress with many different dresses to suit different occasions and tendencies. I was worn out and tired. Again, it seemed that my time in the Dhama was unproductive, i know i could have achieved a lot more. But yet again, on reflection, i can see that by just having put myself in the care of the Dhama it has affected me in a deeper more subtle way without my reciprocation.

Why do we go to places of pilgrimage? In the Bhagavatam (1.13.10 purport) Prabhupada says "To go to some holy place of pilgrimage does not mean only to take a bath in the Ganges or Yamuna or to visit the temples situated in those places. One should also find representatives of Vidura who have no desire in life save and except to serve the Personality of Godhead." The Holy Dhama is recommended to be resided in for that reason. The Dhama itself, it's residents, and the pilgrims visiting are all sources of understanding the goal of life. What did Prabhupada say about the goal of life?... something about being addicted to Krsna. In some places this addiction is more contagious. We can only aspire for it by making some good choices.

NY Ratha Yatra Coverage: India Post
→ ISKCON Communications

An article on New York Ratha Yatra, from the India Post newspaper:

ISKCON rath yatra attracts New Yorkers

Wednesday, 06.20.2007, 03:19am (GMT-7)


NEW YORK: When British colonists first encountered the Ratha Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath - a millenia-old Hindu procession of three giant chariots bearing images of Lord Krishna - they hardly knew what to make of it.

Today, the British Empire has come and gone, but Ratha Yatra rolls down some of the most famous streets in the Western world. Case in point: on Saturday, June 9, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) presented their jubilant annual Ratha Yatra (Festival of the Chariots) parade down Fifth Avenue.

Modeled after the original Ratha Yatra held in the seaside holy city of Puri, the New York City version of this event featured a procession of three 40-foot high traditional Indian chariots - pulled by hand by Krishna devotees and guests.

The custom built chariots, bearing sacred images of Lord Krishna, were festooned with colorful canopies, flower garlands, and other decorations by a team of hundreds of devotee volunteers from the Hare Krishna temple in Brooklyn, New York. "This festival brings the East and West together," said Pragnesh Surti, an architect and festival volunteer from Queens.

"It is a demonstration of universal peace, goodwill, and the equality of all in the eyes of God."Like many of the young volunteers helping to keep the parade running smoothly, Surti is a second-generation Hindu-American who grew up attending the Hare Krishna temple. He credited ISKCON with connecting him to his cultural and spiritual roots."Being a part of ISKCON has helped me to understand and better appreciate the amazing gift that I was given," he said.

"Now I am trying to do my part to share this gift with others - Indian, American, white, black, or brown." From 2pm until 7pm the celebration continued with the Festival of India, a traveling exhibition of India's spirituality and culture. Washington Square Park morphed into a traditional Indian mela, with performances by professional artists and local community groups. Western-born Krishna devotee Anapayini Dasi and her Bhakti-kalalayam Dance School presented a bharat-natyam dance ballet on the ten incarnations of Vishnu, while the East-West School of Dance portrayed Krishna's famous dances with the gopis of Vrindavan.

The show-stealer, however, was a multi-ethnic local cast performing their take on The Age of Kali, a Bengali classic. The drama, which depicted personified Sin and her agents being defeated by the power of Lord Krishna's holy name, had the audience of over one hundred adults and children spellbound. Along with the stage show, display booths allowed festival-goers to get their hands on traditional Indian handicrafts and books on bhakti-yoga, and approximately ten thousand visitors were treated to a complimentary multi-course vegetarian feast.

"The festival celebrates the beauty of Eastern spirituality encountering 21st century New York City." said Vineet Chander, a communications director with ISKCON.

The Festival of the Chariots is modeled after the ancient festival of Ratha Yatra, one of the most important yearly events in the calendar of the Hindu faith. This festival is especially sacred to Vaishnavas (devotees of Lord Krishna).In the sea-side holy city of Jagannath Puri, every summer, at the beginning of the monsoon season, the Deity is taken out of the temple amidst great fanfare, and placed on bright and colorful chariots.

Almost a million worshippers throng to the city and pull the chariots with love and devotion, accompanied by joyful music, religious chants, and dancing. In 1976 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement, inaugurated the New York City version of this ancient Indian parade. Since then, it has been celebrated annually here and has become a New York summer tradition.

This festival blends the splendor of a millennia-old celebration with the excitement of a parade down New York's world famous Fifth Avenue. This event draws thousands of people of various walks of life from all over the world, bringing the best of the East and West together in a demonstration of universal peace, harmony and goodwill.

NY Ratha Yatra Coverage: India Post
→ ISKCON Communications

An article on New York Ratha Yatra, from the India Post newspaper:

ISKCON rath yatra attracts New Yorkers

Wednesday, 06.20.2007, 03:19am (GMT-7)


NEW YORK: When British colonists first encountered the Ratha Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath - a millenia-old Hindu procession of three giant chariots bearing images of Lord Krishna - they hardly knew what to make of it.

Today, the British Empire has come and gone, but Ratha Yatra rolls down some of the most famous streets in the Western world. Case in point: on Saturday, June 9, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) presented their jubilant annual Ratha Yatra (Festival of the Chariots) parade down Fifth Avenue.

Modeled after the original Ratha Yatra held in the seaside holy city of Puri, the New York City version of this event featured a procession of three 40-foot high traditional Indian chariots - pulled by hand by Krishna devotees and guests.

The custom built chariots, bearing sacred images of Lord Krishna, were festooned with colorful canopies, flower garlands, and other decorations by a team of hundreds of devotee volunteers from the Hare Krishna temple in Brooklyn, New York. "This festival brings the East and West together," said Pragnesh Surti, an architect and festival volunteer from Queens.

"It is a demonstration of universal peace, goodwill, and the equality of all in the eyes of God."Like many of the young volunteers helping to keep the parade running smoothly, Surti is a second-generation Hindu-American who grew up attending the Hare Krishna temple. He credited ISKCON with connecting him to his cultural and spiritual roots."Being a part of ISKCON has helped me to understand and better appreciate the amazing gift that I was given," he said.

"Now I am trying to do my part to share this gift with others - Indian, American, white, black, or brown." From 2pm until 7pm the celebration continued with the Festival of India, a traveling exhibition of India's spirituality and culture. Washington Square Park morphed into a traditional Indian mela, with performances by professional artists and local community groups. Western-born Krishna devotee Anapayini Dasi and her Bhakti-kalalayam Dance School presented a bharat-natyam dance ballet on the ten incarnations of Vishnu, while the East-West School of Dance portrayed Krishna's famous dances with the gopis of Vrindavan.

The show-stealer, however, was a multi-ethnic local cast performing their take on The Age of Kali, a Bengali classic. The drama, which depicted personified Sin and her agents being defeated by the power of Lord Krishna's holy name, had the audience of over one hundred adults and children spellbound. Along with the stage show, display booths allowed festival-goers to get their hands on traditional Indian handicrafts and books on bhakti-yoga, and approximately ten thousand visitors were treated to a complimentary multi-course vegetarian feast.

"The festival celebrates the beauty of Eastern spirituality encountering 21st century New York City." said Vineet Chander, a communications director with ISKCON.

The Festival of the Chariots is modeled after the ancient festival of Ratha Yatra, one of the most important yearly events in the calendar of the Hindu faith. This festival is especially sacred to Vaishnavas (devotees of Lord Krishna).In the sea-side holy city of Jagannath Puri, every summer, at the beginning of the monsoon season, the Deity is taken out of the temple amidst great fanfare, and placed on bright and colorful chariots.

Almost a million worshippers throng to the city and pull the chariots with love and devotion, accompanied by joyful music, religious chants, and dancing. In 1976 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement, inaugurated the New York City version of this ancient Indian parade. Since then, it has been celebrated annually here and has become a New York summer tradition.

This festival blends the splendor of a millennia-old celebration with the excitement of a parade down New York's world famous Fifth Avenue. This event draws thousands of people of various walks of life from all over the world, bringing the best of the East and West together in a demonstration of universal peace, harmony and goodwill.

Body kaputt (and healed again)
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Two weeks after my maha-long flight my body started malfunctioning. Digestion went down the drain, stomach wound itself up in pain and PhD work showed no gain. This if fairly normal for me. Two weeks after some damage to the body I get the delayed reaction. However, Phil thought his preemptive treatment should have prevented this from happening this time.

So, I emailed Dr Phil and asked for advice. His advice: fast for a day or two to give the digestion system a break, take loads of the clay and slippery elm powder to coat and heal the colon and drink loads of Aloe Vera juice to soothe the digestion and add some more healing power to the mix.

It worked. In a few days I was (almost) back to normal. See here for more of the miracle of Aloe Vera and how to Harvest Fresh Aloe Vera Gel.

Acupuncture (part 11): out of whack
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Just back from my trip to New Zealand I saw Dr Phil again. He did a brief calculation of my astrology. The result: it seems just around the time I'm due to finish my PhD my planetary influence moves from "study" to "work". My health should get a bit better too at that point. Oh and I'll have influential children...

The irregularity of travel had thrown my body a bit out of whack. I was feeling quite hot (where I'm usually too cold) and was needing only 6 hours sleep (not because I was healthy, but because my body was so confused it didn't quite know what to do and when).

Philip used acupuncture to sort those things out by unblocking a few meridians. He stuck needles in various exotic places like my arm pits, the upper side of my chest, my feet and the sides of my legs (the last two are fairly common).

I had some acupuncture done while in New Zealand and I asked Philip about this. The person I saw in NZ was trained to use as thick needles as possible and stuck them in as deep as possible.

"The bigger and deeper the needle, the more the effect." - he said

While this is true in one sense, Philip prefers a more subtle approach. Chinese bodies' constitutions are, in general, strong as oxen. They don't get sick like we westerns do. Traditional Chinese treatment is therefore too heavy handed for the average frail western body. So, it doesn't work. Systems of medicine have to be adapted to the changing conditions of the patient group. Even 20 years ago people were completely different and required a different alternative medical approach in order to heal them. The treatments of yesterday no longer work today. The doctor needs to keep learning and adapting.

A lump had been developing under the skin of my chest. It was very unlikely to be cancer around to western doctors, however they didn't have a cure. If it got too big they offered surgery as the only solution. "That's no solution" said Philip, "it has to be caused by something".

The acupuncture should help it. He also gave me a herbal mix to reduce growths and cancers, as well as increase my testosterone level slightly. He also gave me some zinc and probiotics to help my body in general.

Anything else dosn’t cut it
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I dun be as sick as a wounded dawg. Yea, I have a recurrence of bronchitis which is causing a cough from hell, plus, as if that wasn't enough, my right ear is blocked because of an infection. This is probably part of the deal of having been in India for the last 4 weeks (call it purification or karma). And so henceforth, my friends, here's another practical lesson in how the material body is not for us... Gone is skipping dainty through daffodil carpeted fields of blissful existence and joy. Imploded have the promising dreams of a healthy life in serenity and sugar candied familial love. Regurgitated are the ambrosial delicacies that were brought forth for the finer pleasures of the palate. Creamed are the memories of happiness... all that is left in their place is a deaf stupor.

In the holy words of the monty python team sometime in the 1970s; “That's nothing!” My so called cajoling with the stark inevitability of material agony is simply a stroll in the park in comparison with others' who have it much worse. One devotee here in Taipei suffered polio in early life and because of it still sustains a dysfunctional leg to this day. He learned to overcome the regret and pain associated with it, even though it also cost him the chance to pursue his dream of an occupation as a doctor, for according to Taiwanese law you can't be a doctor with such a disability. He now makes a living on the street making those little rubber stamps that Chinese people officially sign their names with. There really is no solace in material life; it leads simply to madness. But, for the majority of us, we still pray with folded hands and all sincerity that we can find some happiness in it.

Forget yoga, jnana and fruitive research. Simply meditate on the divine feet of Nanda Nandana with as much love as you can muster and beg the sublimely pure Sri for Her help. Anything else just won't do.

Anything else dosn’t cut it
→ Unplugged Ice

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I dun be as sick as a wounded dawg. Yea, I have a recurrence of bronchitis which is causing a cough from hell, plus, as if that wasn't enough, my right ear is blocked because of an infection. This is probably part of the deal of having been in India for the last 4 weeks (call it purification or karma). And so henceforth, my friends, here's another practical lesson in how the material body is not for us... Gone is skipping dainty through daffodil carpeted fields of blissful existence and joy. Imploded have the promising dreams of a healthy life in serenity and sugar candied familial love. Regurgitated are the ambrosial delicacies that were brought forth for the finer pleasures of the palate. Creamed are the memories of happiness... all that is left in their place is a deaf stupor.

In the holy words of the monty python team sometime in the 1970s; “That's nothing!” My so called cajoling with the stark inevitability of material agony is simply a stroll in the park in comparison with others' who have it much worse. One devotee here in Taipei suffered polio in early life and because of it still sustains a dysfunctional leg to this day. He learned to overcome the regret and pain associated with it, even though it also cost him the chance to pursue his dream of an occupation as a doctor, for according to Taiwanese law you can't be a doctor with such a disability. He now makes a living on the street making those little rubber stamps that Chinese people officially sign their names with. There really is no solace in material life; it leads simply to madness. But, for the majority of us, we still pray with folded hands and all sincerity that we can find some happiness in it.

Forget yoga, jnana and fruitive research. Simply meditate on the divine feet of Nanda Nandana with as much love as you can muster and beg the sublimely pure Sri for Her help. Anything else just won't do.

Travel: Auckland (loft)
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Auckland GalleryAfter my stay in Wellington I went onwards to Auckland for a brief two day visit. I went to the Loft for one evening. It is very similar to Gaura Yoga in mood, style and popularity, although maybe a little more industrial looking. It is a very nice place that attracts many, many people to Krishna consciousness.

I went to visit the brahmacari monks living in "peaceful" South Auckland in a wonderful ashram environment. They live a very regulated life of distributing books (50000 Srimad Bhagavatam 1st Cantos in the warehouse, waiting to be distributed), studying books (2 hours each day), distributing prasadam (at the many Auckland universities) and chanting the Maha-Mantra (at least 16 round each day). Such wonderful character-building service to all of humanity! The brahmacaris also have a vegetable patch in their back garden. Such a moderately sized garden is enough to supply food for most of the year. So much so that they often have to give some away to the loft, because they can't eat it all. If it is so easy to feed 8 hungry men, then what is this non-sense about world hunger due to overpopulation (although granted, the population of New Zealand isn't exactly large)?

I also gave a talk about Krishna consciousness to students at Massey University in North Auckland. This was part of a series of activities the devotees had organized as part of a "spirituality week" that was going on there. Krishna consciousness was a welcome break from the legions of christians that jumped on top of every unsuspecting student that entered the main concourse the day before (I was told).

Just a few hours after that I was off on a 32 hour flight back to the UK.

Pictures from Auckland are viewable here.

Hell is in the sky
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A realization I had while reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam: the place commonly known as "hell" is not underground or anything like that, but in the sky. In the place between heaven and earth.

"Living entities who are associates of Rudra develop in the third mode of material nature, or ignorance. They are situated in the sky between the earthly planets and the heavenly planets." SB3.6.29

So, to me that means "hell", or the ideal living conditions for those in the mode of ignorance, is situated in space, on other planets in the solar system, on asteroids, etc.

Talk on Scientific Spirituality at Gaura Yoga
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While in Wellington (New Zealand) I gave a Sunday presentation at Gaura Yoga. I talked on Scientific Spirituality. I talked about science in general and how it works (or not). Then I went on to talk about Krishna consciousness explaining how it is a very scientific process of spirituality which is in many ways more advanced and beneficial than materialistic science.

View the video of my presentation:

Download a more high-quality version of the video and download the Apple Keynote slideshow presentation (mac only).

The Kazkah demolition in pictures
→ ISKCON Communications


All the photos -- including photos of the demolition in November, which left Krishna families homeless in freezing winter snow -- can be found
here.

Video can be found here.


Bulldoze now, ask questions later. Is this how an "oasis of religious accord" deals with religious minorities?



Police officers brought in by the busload to make sure that the job gets done.


Homes reduced to rubble...


... possessions thrown out into the street...


... and a community becomes a cloud of dust.



The human faces of tragedy. How long will Kazakhstan ignore them?

The Kazkah demolition in pictures
→ ISKCON Communications


All the photos -- including photos of the demolition in November, which left Krishna families homeless in freezing winter snow -- can be found
here.

Video can be found here.


Bulldoze now, ask questions later. Is this how an "oasis of religious accord" deals with religious minorities?



Police officers brought in by the busload to make sure that the job gets done.


Homes reduced to rubble...


... possessions thrown out into the street...


... and a community becomes a cloud of dust.



The human faces of tragedy. How long will Kazakhstan ignore them?

Crisis in Kazakhstan
→ ISKCON Communications

Early today, the officials in Kazakhstan demolished more homes belonging to Hare Krishna devotees at the farm in Almaty.

This ten minute video gives an overview on the background of the situation in Kazakhstan.

Preliminary reports are placing the number of homes demolished today at twelve (added to the demolitions last November, that would bring the total to twenty-six homes destroyed). As before, the officials brought busloads of laborers and police officers with them, indiscriminately taking crowbars and sledgehammers to the homes. They threw personal possessions out into the street, even as the horrified devotees pleaded with them and begged for mercy. Mechanical diggers then moved in, literally "crushing the houses to dust."

We do not think that the (makeshift) temple or cow-barn have been demolished yet. However, local officials have included these buildings on their list of buildings to be demolished. This is especially troubling because the temple is the official site linked to ISKCON's registration as a religion in the country. Because of the way Kazakh law is structured, there is a possibility that if the temple structure is demolished, ISKCON will simply lose its right to exist legally in the country at all.

The latest report is available at Forum18.org, a religious freedom watchdog news agency.

Please keep checking the following sites for updates:
Forum18.org
KazakhKrishna.com
iskconcommunications.blogspot.com

His Holiness BB Govinda Maharaj is in the United States right now in order to raise awareness about (and funds for) the crisis in Kazakhstan. He is in Washington, D.C. right now with Anuttama Prabhu and they have had several successful meetings with high-ranking US officials and human rights advocates.

I will try my best to let you know more details as they emerge; right now, please inform everyone you know about the situation and request their prayers. Organized kirtan is always a nice idea in situations such as this.

Also, now it appears certain that the devotees will have to relocate very quickly and this requires substantial funds, so any financial help would be most welcome. You may help by contacting your local ISKCON temple about how to give donations, or by visiting www.palaceofthesoul.com and clicking on "Donate Online."

Please do NOT stage any protests or contact any officials without first coordinating it with our office.

on behalf of ISKCON Communications,
your servant,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa


PS: BB Govinda Swami's inspirational words to the devotees in Kazakhstan:

"Take shelter of Krishna. Everyone should remain very brave and remain fixed in chanting the holy name. Pull together and take care of the devotees whose homes have been destroyed. What is being done is cruel and certainly not fair but we still have our lives….so those lives should be focused on serving Krishna and our consciousness should certainly not become like that of the people who are doing this. We are witnessing a rude exhibition of material consciousness – never become like that. Pull together, even more than you did last November. Make sure the homeless devotees have shelter and try to gather together their belongings. And by this try to understand how special devotee association really is…"

Crisis in Kazakhstan
→ ISKCON Communications

Early today, the officials in Kazakhstan demolished more homes belonging to Hare Krishna devotees at the farm in Almaty.

This ten minute video gives an overview on the background of the situation in Kazakhstan.

Preliminary reports are placing the number of homes demolished today at twelve (added to the demolitions last November, that would bring the total to twenty-six homes destroyed). As before, the officials brought busloads of laborers and police officers with them, indiscriminately taking crowbars and sledgehammers to the homes. They threw personal possessions out into the street, even as the horrified devotees pleaded with them and begged for mercy. Mechanical diggers then moved in, literally "crushing the houses to dust."

We do not think that the (makeshift) temple or cow-barn have been demolished yet. However, local officials have included these buildings on their list of buildings to be demolished. This is especially troubling because the temple is the official site linked to ISKCON's registration as a religion in the country. Because of the way Kazakh law is structured, there is a possibility that if the temple structure is demolished, ISKCON will simply lose its right to exist legally in the country at all.

The latest report is available at Forum18.org, a religious freedom watchdog news agency.

Please keep checking the following sites for updates:
Forum18.org
KazakhKrishna.com
iskconcommunications.blogspot.com

His Holiness BB Govinda Maharaj is in the United States right now in order to raise awareness about (and funds for) the crisis in Kazakhstan. He is in Washington, D.C. right now with Anuttama Prabhu and they have had several successful meetings with high-ranking US officials and human rights advocates.

I will try my best to let you know more details as they emerge; right now, please inform everyone you know about the situation and request their prayers. Organized kirtan is always a nice idea in situations such as this.

Also, now it appears certain that the devotees will have to relocate very quickly and this requires substantial funds, so any financial help would be most welcome. You may help by contacting your local ISKCON temple about how to give donations, or by visiting www.palaceofthesoul.com and clicking on "Donate Online."

Please do NOT stage any protests or contact any officials without first coordinating it with our office.

on behalf of ISKCON Communications,
your servant,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa


PS: BB Govinda Swami's inspirational words to the devotees in Kazakhstan:

"Take shelter of Krishna. Everyone should remain very brave and remain fixed in chanting the holy name. Pull together and take care of the devotees whose homes have been destroyed. What is being done is cruel and certainly not fair but we still have our lives….so those lives should be focused on serving Krishna and our consciousness should certainly not become like that of the people who are doing this. We are witnessing a rude exhibition of material consciousness – never become like that. Pull together, even more than you did last November. Make sure the homeless devotees have shelter and try to gather together their belongings. And by this try to understand how special devotee association really is…"

Too much traffic?
→ ISKCON Communications

A letter from the Hendon & Finchley Times in the UK:

Traffic just a religious excuse

At a time when harmony between communities is seen as a matter of priority, the new Jewish Community School in East Barnet has given rise to controversy.

Karen Jordan has come up with the old objection, excessive traffic (June 7). This was the same objection raised some years ago, when an orthodox synagogue opened in Watford Way, and when the Hare Krishna movement opened Bhaktivedanta Manor, near Watford. Yet there is not a squeak from anyone about the amount of traffic generated by Christian churches.

Traffic is just an excuse for some people, thankfully a minority, for expressing objection to faiths other than their own.

Ron Isaacs
Sebright Road
Barnet

Too much traffic?
→ ISKCON Communications

A letter from the Hendon & Finchley Times in the UK:

Traffic just a religious excuse

At a time when harmony between communities is seen as a matter of priority, the new Jewish Community School in East Barnet has given rise to controversy.

Karen Jordan has come up with the old objection, excessive traffic (June 7). This was the same objection raised some years ago, when an orthodox synagogue opened in Watford Way, and when the Hare Krishna movement opened Bhaktivedanta Manor, near Watford. Yet there is not a squeak from anyone about the amount of traffic generated by Christian churches.

Traffic is just an excuse for some people, thankfully a minority, for expressing objection to faiths other than their own.

Ron Isaacs
Sebright Road
Barnet

A Thursday Evening Program of Transcendental Theater and Sounds
→ New Vrindaban Brijabasi Spirit

Come one, come all, as we celebrate the success of the Summer 2007 GBC International Meetings here in New Vrindaban Dham with some of the finest theater and kirtan New Vrindaban has to offer.

Beginning at 7PM, in the Main Temple Room, you can see and hear:

“TENTH CANTO”-A dramatic rendition of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, featuring the New Vrindaban Players led by the one-of-a-kind direction of His Holiness Bhakti-Marg Swami

This will be followed by sublime bhajans led by HH Lokanath Swami and HH BB Govinda Maharaja.

Admission is free, and donations are appreciated.

Travel: Wellington
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After the amazing Bhakti-retreat I headed off to Wellington, New Zealand. I had stayed in Wellington for one year in 2003. So, it was quite emotional to be back.

Thumb Pict4121Gaura Yoga is the main hub around which all Krishna conscious activities in Wellington revolve. All other outreach centers around AU and NZ are based on this remarkable establishment. Gaura Yoga is not a temple. Rather it has the look and feel of a high-quality caf?©. Yoga classes and seminars take place during the week and a three hour-long kirtan is held every Saturday, followed by a massive masterfully executed festival on Sundays. An average of 25 people attend each yoga night and 30 - 100 guests come to the Sunday programs (and these are paying guests wanting to hear about Krishna, not devotee staff).

Visnumaya devi dasi manages Gaura Yoga. Throng of pictures here.

I want to move to Wellington after finishing my PhD, so I spent most of my time looking for jobs while there. Lucky for me: there is currently a huge shortage of software engineers in New Zealand. I'm told it works something like this:

A while ago (during the .com boom) everyone in the world (and more than everyone in India) studied computer science even if they had no interest, talent or skill in the subject in hope of cashing in. However, now that the good times are over, suddenly no one in NZ is interested in computers anymore. CS student numbers have gone way, way down. Thus getting a job in academia is nigh on impossible at the moment. University departments are funded based on how many students they teach. Fewer students, means less money, which means no hiring of new staff. However, because no one is studying computer science, very few people are graduating with software qualifications (and even those that are, are mostly moving to the USA where salaries are much higher than in NZ). This leaves the NZ IT companies clamoring for every last software engineer they can get their hands on.

Most companies hire via various recruitment companies, so I got in contact with a number of these recruiters. They had a whole slew of companies they wanted to represent me to. However, they preferred to do this closer to the time of my actuall arrival. Nevertheless, I got three job offers from the different companies I interviewed with. So, I can pick my job.

Wellington, here I come!

Travel: Brisbane Bhakti Yoga Retreat
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Thumb Dsc 0027After a short stay in Brisbane the devotees headed off to a retreat center two hours out of town on Mount Warning, Murwillumbah, NSW. The center had been shut down for many years, but the owner wanted to get it going again. However, fixing it up was a big job, which he could not have managed on his own. So, the devotees offered to help. It took many weekends of hard work to clean out the dirt and numerous living entities that had taken up residence in the abandoned buildings. Now however, looking at the results, one would never know. It is a very nice setting.

The bhakti yoga retreat was a wonderful program of getting up early, finding one's way to the main building in the darkness of the night using a flashlight, having a nice morning program, chanting the maha-mantra on beads, having another nice program, listening to inspiring classes by Devamrita Swami, having a nice healthy breakfast, resting, attending an occasional seminar, having a sensational lunch (taking into account all the devotees' health needs) and a nice evening program that usually lasted deep into the night and exhausted everyone with hours and hours of blissful chanting.

I finally got the opportunity to meet some devotees in person who I had previously only known and communicated with online. Plus, of course, all the great enthusiastic practitioners of Krishna consciousness I met for the first time.

The last day of the retreat was a particularly memorable one. We did a one and a half hour trek over the mountain to the New Govardhana temple. New Govardhana is a huge community of devotees, complete with wild peacocks, poisonous snakes and beautiful deities. The pace of the walk was hard and fast, yet Sitapati led a transcendental kirtan all the way (while carrying his son on his shoulders and accordion strapped to his chest). I had a hard time just walking!

Near the end of the walk the heavens opened and 15-minute rain storm swept over all of us. Everyone was drenched. However, we dried off soon enough when we reached the temple and carried on chanting for what must have been another two hours of kirtan. Then Devamrita Swami arrived at the temple, gave the Sunday Feast lecture and proceeded to have another 1-2 hour long kirtan. This one even more intense than the previous ones. Then, finally, a hugely opulent feast. What a day! (If only every day could be this wonderful...)

Many, many pictures of the retreat are viewable here.

faith and the iPhone
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I was watching this interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and tech-writer Walt Mossberg on (among other things) the upcoming iPhone. One thing definitely comes through in the video: Jobs really believes in his product. He isn't trying to "push" or "hype" the iPhone. He simply and truly believes that it will be the best phone, iPod and Internet communicator in the world. Such genuine faith is very compelling and much more effective at making others believe similarly than trying to be artificially enthusiastic, as, for example, Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer famously has been.

Indeed, such authentic enthusiasm is the best preaching. In my experience the best way to tell other people about Krishna consciousness is to be so genuinely enthusiastic about it that you can't help but tell everyone you know how great it is (not counting the initial "fanatic" stage that most people go through when they first take up the Krishna conscious practices). Faking it just doesn't work (as Sitapati also recently blogged about). People can tell the difference. Just like I'm sure everyone can tell the difference between Steve Jobs and Steve Balmer's enthusiasm.

Travel: Brisbane city
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The next destination in my travels (a short plane flight away) was Brisbane, Australia.

Brisbane is very different from Melbourne. While the climate in Melbourne is mild, Brisbane is downright tropical. I did not like it very much. Too hot. The city also has more of a never-ending sprawling feel to it, while Melbourne felt more like a central city with distinct suburbs.

I stayed in the temple in Brisbane. It is not as huge or impressive as Melbourne temple, but also managed very nicely by Tirtharaja dasa. Despite being in the city, the temple was surrounded by nature. For example: I was amazed that there were quite a few wild turkeys running around the temple's gardens. My stay was comfortable. The devotees were bending over backwards to host their guests.

Besides the temple there is a Govinda's restaurant in the city center. Close to Govinda's is Atma Yoga, Brisbane's outreach center. It has been in existence a bit longer than Urban Yoga, but is also still quite new. It is managed by the venerable Sitapati dasa and his team of expert devotees.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to visit either of these establishments, but from what I hear, they are excellent places to be.

Travel: Melbourne
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Thumb Pict3471I took a 6 week break from my PhD study. During that break I traveled to various places down-under. My first destination: Melbourne, Australia.

I stayed in the glorious Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir. It is a beautiful and amazing temple run under the skillful direction of Aniruddha dasa. The temple buildings were originally an old school complex situated in a rich suburb of Melbourne.

In addition to the temple, the devotees also run two restaurants in the city centre: Gopals - an up-market restaurant, and Crossways - a cheaper all-you-can-eat restaurant aimed at massive prasadam distribution. Both restaurants are within 1 minute walking distance from each other on one of the busiest streets in Melbourne.

Above Crossways is Urban Yoga, a newly opened outreach center. A place for yoga, meditation, discussion, cooking classes, etc. Tri Yuga skillfully manages this inspiring program. Many young people are taking advantage and developing an interest in Krishna consciousness in this convivial setting.

I took many pictures during my visit. They are viewable in the gallery section of this website.

Servant's Report 2007-04-20 12:54:51
→ Servant's Report

Emotions all mixed up. Thoughts bring dualities, one moment happiness and then distress. I have someone, finally, a spiritual partner- dreaming of this my whole life. But then mother is now in the hospital, broken down after years of struggle. I’m with a spiritual master, serving and learning. But sister is not better, no end in sight.

I don’t know where I’m going, afraid to plan. For when everything seems to be falling into place, just like that all topsy-turvy again, like the castle in the sand.

Servant's Report 2007-04-20 12:54:51
→ Servant's Report

Emotions all mixed up. Thoughts bring dualities, one moment happiness and then distress. I have someone, finally, a spiritual partner- dreaming of this my whole life. But then mother is now in the hospital, broken down after years of struggle. I’m with a spiritual master, serving and learning. But sister is not better, no end in sight.

I don’t know where I’m going, afraid to plan. For when everything seems to be falling into place, just like that all topsy-turvy again, like the castle in the sand.

Vedicsoc session #2.20 two hours and remote control
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Just two people for the last session before the easter break. I discussed a little bit about the story of Srila Prabhupada and all the amazing things he did. We also discussed some general questions and answers.
Use of technology: everyone is really impressed by my using the Apple Remote to effortlessly control the background music of the yoga. Since the thing is so small that it can be concealed within the palm of my hand, it appeared that I was controlling the sound by the power of my mind. Doing the same thing with one of the Windows Media Center remote controls that come with some PCs would have been impossible.
Realization from the last few weeks: 2 hours are is long for a session. I was okay last year, but now almost everyone excuses themselves after 1.5 hours and leaves. Some people can only stay for 1 hour. Better to have fewer shorter sessions for the busy people of today's world that are under the illusion that 2 hours is too long to spend doing any one thing in any one place.

High school reunion
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klassentreffenI went to a Klassentreffen (high school reunion) of my former high school in Germany (the Taunusschule K??nigstein) over the Christmas vacation. It was interesting and nice to see all my school mates again.
Funny that at least one third of them had been to New Zealand in the last 10 years. NZ must be a very popular destination for Germans. Tons of them take an interest in Krishna consciousness while they are there, that's for sure (non from my high school, though).

A few of the people were still students, but most have graduated now. Lots of people working for the various many banks in Frankfurt.

Only one other PhD I heard of (someone doing a PhD in chemistry). One medical doctor though.

A gallery of pictures is on my website.