Vedicsoc session #2.8 happy?
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Just 3 people for this week's Vedicsoc session. Last week's power yoga session may have been too intense. Then again, it was probably just a case of exams and coursework stopping many people from coming.

Yoga was a relaxing slow-deep stretch. Comments afterwards:

"While lying in savasana I kept seeing all kinds of strange colors flashing before my eyes."

(I related to story of Prabhupada telling a young hippy to "just keep chanting, it will go away")

"I've done yoga before, but never like this. I definitely feel something is happening to me."

Atmayoga is very good at making you feel its effects. Other yoga styles may be more austere, more intense, faster paced, more interesting, more expert, or better exercise, but in my option, Atmayoga excels in creating strong feelings in the bodies of the practitioners (which does not, of course, exclude any of the other benefits from accruing).

Then, as I say almost every session, I explained: "if you think this yoga is powerful, just think what the actual recommended process for this age, the chanting of Hare Krishna, will do for you?" Sadly, yoga, being on the bodily platform, is more instantly accessible and attractive. Nevertheless, we did some chanting of the Maha-Mantra and the people seemed to like it.

We then discussed "happiness". The group admitted that they generally were not very happy. I presented how material happiness is temporary and therefore not worth pursuing (referencing BG 5.22). Everyone could agree on that.

However, when I came to a solution to all this misery, I didn't take peoples previous conditioning of the structure of the universe into account enough. Everyone tends to believe the (mostly nonsense) they have been taught in school by their (mostly ignorant) teachers. It's natural to do so. So, breaking the conception that human life on earth is the be-all and end-all is difficult. More faith in the brilliance of the Vedic scripture is needed. However, faith is a dirty word these days.

Devamrita Swami: Any questions about anything?
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Need to experience that chanting Hare Krishna solves all problems. At least one night a week come together and chant non-stop for one, two, three hours. That's a practical demonstration of the simple, powerful taste of kirtan. Real community building. Bonding. You'll be shocked at the transformation.

Any questions about anything?

  • With the emphasis on service and bonding, how do fit in private sadhana and study?
  • DS: who has read all of Caitanya Caritamrita? How can you live without having read the CC?
  • Does Krishna refer to Himself as time anywhere?
  • DS: have you read all of Bhagavad-Gita? What do you do with all your time?
  • It's an offense to preach the glories of the holy name and yet we are giving out Krishna Book to the most unqualified. How do we remain enthusiastic about doing that?
  • Can you relate some memories of Srila Prabhupada?
  • Can you relate to us how you came to Krishna consciousness?
  • We hear that the holy name is non-different from Krishna. What are some analogies that can help us realize that?
  • We see so many great personalities really relishing chanting, how do we gain that same taste?

Devamrita Swami: Prioritise Properly
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Maya presents illusory sources of inspiration. Mind wastes so much time. Thoughts waste so much time, material desires, aspirations.

Nothing is more important than our KC. Pariksit knew how to prioritise properly. Maya promises satisfaction, but doesn't deliver. How can you resist promises that material nature presents? Resist such artificial sugar? You can't, because you have a weakness for it. Just like a weakness for chocolate. Without taking knowledge from the source of everything maya will always embarrass you.

There is no greater mistake you can make in life than to think something is more important than your endeavors to become Krishna conscious (as said in the 4th canto). This is a fundamental disagreement we have with modern society. You might not live for another 7 seconds, let alone 7 days, like Pariksit, so why do we have this false sense of security.

Car crash, SUV plows into the back of our Toyota corola in L.A. You can go at any moment. Otherwise there is just endless, senseless babble.

A snake bird happens when a cobra has some deep hate of someone at the end of it's life. It sprouts wings for one flight, looks for that person, bites them and dies. This is quite known to people in Mayapur.
Just because we haven't learnt about it in school doesn't mean it's not true.

Story of model policeman in a big city. Then moved to a small town of a few thousand people. Got report of gunshots. Burley guy with tatoos answers. Sneaks around the back of the house. But the guy surprises him with a magnum peacemaker monster pistol, graised him, then downed him with 3 shots to the arm and legs. Then in the house he sees the guy had killed an 8 months pregnant woman and the policeman's partner.
After seeing the scene he goes back and finishes the guy off. For executing the guy he gets sent to prison. Just at the end of his successful career.

Train ourselves to be like Pariksit. Even material upsets can increase our KC.

Questions:

  • How do we discriminate between over-planning for the future and realizing we could go at any moment? Like for, example, having a career in Krishna consciousness.
  • Tasting the emotions of KC might seem like a state that is a long way off, when doing our daily duties.
  • American deep space probe was sent to Venus greatly furthering human knowledge. How do we defeat this perception of an advanced system of knowledge?

Vedicsoc session #2.7 power yoga
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I taught a full 90-minute power yoga class to 5 eager students for this week's Vedicsoc session. The session was no walk in the park. I certainly was pretty tired afterward and woke up a little sore the next day. I dread to think what it did to everyone else. We'll find out next week.

Yoga can be really (!) intense exercise. No need to go to the gym. The human body has everything it needs to achieve fitness built right into it.

Not much time for anything else after the yoga. I offered a collection of various books for (possible) purchase, but no one was all that interested.

Business management gurus
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Quote from a class by BVPS:

One devotee goes to a big, elaborate, fabulous, inspiring, motivational discussion/self-help seminar from someone of the caliber of John Maxwell, Tony Robbins or Stephen Covey . Everyone loves the presentation. Then in the end, everyone starts to leave; some people come up to the presenter, shake his hand, pat him on the back, etc. But this one devotee is in the back watching the whole thing and thinking about it. So, in the end, after everyone else has left and the presenter is packing up, he goes up to the guy and asks him:

"You're saying all this, but how much is this really practical for the audience that was here."

So the guy looks around, makes sure that everyone else has indeed left and says:

"Actually, for nobody here. You see, it's business. The people who can actually apply it are already applying it. And the common person who doesn't come to these programs isn't interested anyway. The kinds of people that come to these programs come to listen and feel good about it, but they are not able to apply it, otherwise they would already be doing it. They are such common-sense principles. You study all the people who are successful and you say these are the principles of successful people. However, you studied the successful people to get that information. You didn't study the common person, because the common person doesn't have it and will never have it."

So no one really gets much benefit from these kinds of courses. People feel good about it, because they are interested in how to improve their lives. So, if they are given ideas which are the factual points of how they could improve, they like it. But if they could actually improve, they would have already done it. So, the audience is happy and the presenter is happy, because he made the audience feel happy and they gave him lots of money. But really, no one learns anything and life goes on.

Vedicsoc session #2.6 mystic power
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This week's vedicsoc session brought 7 guests. Just the right amount. 5 new visitors. I fail to understand the dynamics of the fluctuating visitor number. Students especially are quite unsteady in their attendance. I do what I can.

So, this week I focused on the theme of Mystic Powers (!). I taught a pseudo-kundalini yoga class, complete with every weird breathing technique you can imagine. I think I've finally also figured out how to teach it so it isn't so weird that people are scared off by it (we'll see next week).

I got a comment from the last session by one person. He said that after the class he felt like liquid fire was literally running through his veins. I know yoga creates heat, but that sounded quite dramatic. Anyway, he seemed to be amazed at the effectiveness of the practice. It certainly increased his faith in the Vedic version of reality from what I could tell and he was back for more.

I interlaced the poses with stories of great yogis of the past. I told the story of Dhruva Maharaja, Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada Maharaja, Markandeya Rsi and Saubhari Muni. I had meant to also speak about Kardama Muni, Vrikasura, Daksa, Siva, Valmiki, Bhismadeva and Haridasa Thakura, but didn't have the time.

There was an intelligent "crowd" gathered. One lady guest guessed that the nature of Krishna and the living entities was like the trunk of a tree to the leaves. Impressive.
One guy had been practicing chanting 1 - 3 rounds every day and found it was helping him giving up smoking. Two people who had practiced Buddhist meditation commented on how much easier chanting the Maha-Mantra was compared to concentrating on the breath. My response:

"yeah, I don't know why the Buddhists insist on making life so difficult for themselves".

I was asked loads of questions and given some friendly challenges: why is this better than Buddhism? How is no blind faith required if you are telling us these fantastic sounding stories? Isn't this basically Hinduism? Are these stories meant to be taken literally? Do you have a disciplic succession, I've heard that is quite important in these kinds of things? Isn't everything being one and everything being nothing (illusion) basically the same thing, or at least very similar?

I answered all the questions, but as usual, probably went a bit overboard. Too much information for the audience to take in all in one session.

We finished with some vegan, wheat-free banana and sunflower seed cookies and a preview of next week.

Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro
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Apple yesterday released an updated MacBook Pro. The major change is the inclusion of the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This is big news for me because the Core 2 Duo is a 64-bit processor, meaning that it can address more physical memory than the previous generation 32-bit processor. It should also work a bit faster if an application is written to take advantage of it.

The main reason I'm interested is because 64-bit Java will probably be included in the next release of Mac OS X: 10.5 Leopard due out in Spring 2007. I frequently run programs to push up to the 1.6 GB limit of the JVM, so hopefully Leopard and this new MacBook Pro will solve that problem.

macbook pro core 2 duo

Here is a run-down of the new and upgraded features (on the base $1999 model):

  • Faster processor: up from 2.0 Ghz to 2.16 Ghz
  • 64-bit processor: up from 32-bit Core Duo to 64-bit Core 2 Duo
  • More memory: up from 512 GB to 1 GB
  • Greater amount of maximum memory: up from 2 GB max to 3 GB max
  • Larger hard drive: up from 80 GB to 120 GB
  • Larger maximum hard drive option: up from 120 GB to 200 GB (though don't buy the 200 GB drive since it is dog slow at a rotation speed of only 4200 rpm - same as the iPod).
  • Faster DVD burner: up from 4x burn speed to 6x
  • Higher capacity DVD burner: up from 4.8 GB per disk to 8.5 GB per disk (it can now burn "dual-layer" disks)
  • Faster firewire port: up from 400 to 800 Mbps (for faster external hard disks, e.g. for video editing)
  • Better battery life: up from 4.5 to 5 hours max battery life (a lot of news reports missed this one - the better battery life is most likely due to the better power saving technology built into the newer Core 2 processor)
  • 802.11n wifi: 11n wifi is five times faster than 802.11g wifi which is supposed to have a maximum speed of 56 mbps. So, in practical terms this means that we'll probably see a sustained transfer speeds increase from 2 MB/sec to 10 MB/sec (however, the final standard for 802.11n is not agreed yet, so Apple has not yet enabled this feature - I expect it to become active when the iTV product is released = January)

Conclusion: a very nice update, especially considering the price is the same (I bet your kicking yourself if you bought one two days ago).
Nw9440

On a side note: I was looking at some IBM/Lenovo, HP and Sony notebooks in a local store today and I must say: "Man, those things are ugly!" (the picture above doesn't do them justice, since their photographers obviously know how to make even something ugly look at least "okay")

All of them had all kinds of hocks and knobs jutting out from everywhere, stickers pasted all over them, random ports and connectors arranged unsymmetrically. They were just plain horrible to look at. None of them care even close to the clean, refined look of the MacBook Pro.

Why, oh why, does Apple seem to be the only company in the world that has any kind of design esthetic? Are Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs the only computer executives in the world with good taste? Apparently so!

Publishing books
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The Internet is making it ever easier for "normal people" to produce "professional" content.

Blogging turns anyone into an online journalist. Podcasting allows people to create their own on-demand radio shows. Using Apple's iMovie the average guy or gal can even produce professional quality movies (though don't try that on a PC as this Apple Mac advert cleverly illustrates).

However, one medium still eludes the non-professional: books! It is surprisingly difficult to produce a professional looking book. Sure, anyone can print a crummy-looking plastic-comb bound collection words printed on cheap paper, but that is a lot different from a nice solid hardcover book. Those require some expertise to produce.

It is not just the print quality. I've seen some people publish books written using Microsoft Word. The result is not very nice. The poor quality of the page layout is instantly recognizable. It is with good reason that the archaic Latex document processing system is still almost universally used in academia to write scientific articles. Documents produced using Word just look downright ugly. Here are some more myths about desktop publishing.

There are just two choices for good professional quality page layout (such as would be used to create a modern high-quality book):

  • Adobe InDesign (much recommended)
  • QuarkXPress (used to be the market leader, but now is not nearly as good as InDesign, although still the number two)

Both these software packages help to perfect some critical aspects of document composition and layout: hyphenation, rivers of white space, orphans and widows. The sophisticated text optical kerning, tracking and optical margin alignment controls present in page-layout software can be used to eliminate visual errors and distractions.

Other software like Apple's Pages can also produce decent looking layouts and can do some basic kerning and tracking, but does not feature the automatic document adjustment features that are necessary to create a really good looking print job.

Blurb book example

Now however some new companies have sprung up to help the normal person produce professional quality books. I was listening to an interview with Eileen Gittins, the CEO of Blurb. Blurb offers a desktop client and online service that makes producing really good looking books both cheap and easy. The company has just started out so the software is a little limited in terms of features and number of available templates, but it shows great promise. Note: a competing service called Lulu offers the printing and publishing, but without the aid in design and page layout.

blurb book example 2

Eileen gives the example of a businessman who sent out his 23-page business plan printed using cheap over-the-counter printing and got no response from prospective investors. He then took the exact same material and created a hardcover book (for a cheaper price) using Blurb's service and sent that out to some investors. The result: almost everyone phoned him back - mostly asking "how did you create this amazing book?". Eileen Gittins says:

In our society books have a real cultural pedigree. People don't throw books away. They do throw away things that appear like photocopies. So the shelf life of his book caused people to pick up the phone to phone him.

Does that sound familiar? Here an excerpt from the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita:

When a librarian advised Bhaktivedanta Swami to write books (they were permanent, whereas newspapers were read once and thrown away), he took it that his spiritual master was speaking through this person. Then an Indian Army officer who liked Back to Godhead suggested the same thing.

So then: don't underestimate the value of well produced book. It can work wonders. Please, please, please do not (ever!) use Microsoft Word to publish anything. Learn good publishing if you can, or, if you can't, use a service like Blurb to produce high quality books. And finally: save the world.

Vedicsoc session #2.4
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This week 9 people came to Vedicsoc. It was just the right amount of guests.

I taught a fairly mellow slow-deep strength class (someone commented how they were paining for days after the aerobic experience of last week) and afterwards we all chanted the maha-mantra together on beads for about 10 minutes. A few people said they had been trying the chanting at home.

We carried on to discuss times people act from their outer shell and times when they genuinely act from the core of who they really are. I had one guest read out two verses from the Bhagavad-Gita (13.21 and 13.22) which explain how material nature is mostly controlling all our actions and how we can regain control - act from the core - by taking to a practice of Krishna consciousness.

The next day after the session I attempted to re-register Vedicsoc as an official University society. After filling in all the paperwork and submitting it to the University societies office I get a call from the lady running the office. Apparently, the computer says I'm not a student, so I'm not allowed to register a society. I phone and visit the student services center (multiple times) and eventually find out that because I registered in April and the University switched over to a new computer system in September my registration status is incomplete on the new system. "Not to worry", they say, "it will all be sorted out next April if and when you re-register". I go back to the societies office and tell the story, but the administrator there doesn't believe me. She demands proof that I'm a student. Otherwise, anyone could come and open a society. Not even a proof of attendance or my valid student card will satisfy her, since the computer says I did not pay my fees. I could well have a valid student card, but might not have paid my fees and could therefore have been expelled from University. By this time both offices close (and I waste most of my day). Next week I'll have student services phone the unrelenting societies officer and (hopefully) tell her that what I say is true and that I am a registered student.

I hate this British bureaucracy!

Sloka Raja
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I've created a system for memorizing Bhagavad-Gita verses called Sloka Raja.

Sloka Raja

You can go to the Sloka Raja website and see a series of verses hidden by a saffron veil. Each verse number is given in a tab along the top of the window. If you hover the mouse over the veil shrouding a particular verse, then that text's veil becomes transparent and you can "peek" at a single line of the original Sanskrit or the English translation. You can also click the mouse button and the text becomes permanently uncovered. Clicking again re-hides the verse.

Click the left and right arrows to scroll to other verses you want to memorize. You can also directly select and scroll to the verse you want to review by clicking on the appropriate tab on the top of the window.

Pressing the "change this verse" button on the bottom of the screen puts the verse display into "selection mode". Using this mode you can change the verse you want to learn to a different one. Simply select a new chapter and verse from the list in the window and that new verse will replace the current one. Press the "accept changes" button to switch back to the memorization view. In this way you can customize the view to learn different sets of verses as you desire.

The system always remembers your personal selection of verses. When you finish using the website simply close the window. There is no need to save. Sloka Raja remembers where you left off automatically. The next time you return the website recreates your personal view exactly as you left it. Everyone can choose their own personal set of verses to memorize on Sloka Raja. It remembers a different custom selection of verses for each and every user of the system.

Sloka Raja is written using pure Javascript / Dynamic-HTML, which means that it can run on every operating system and can be used offline as well as online. You do not have to be connected to the Internet to use the service. If you are using Internet Explorer just go to the website in "offline mode" and it will work as usual. Using Firefox or Safari download the service to your local hard drive using the "download for offline use" link on the bottom of the page and unpack the zip file. You can then run the program by executing the "run" application shortcut included in the download (or simply by opening "index.html" in your web-browser). It works as usual (although a bug/security feature in Safari prevents it from remembering your verse selection when you are offline). It is also worth noting that the Sanskrit won't look correct if you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 or below (IE doesn't know how to correctly display unicode). Upgrading to Internet Explorer 7.0 or Firefox solves the problem (I recommend Firefox).

Sloka Raja is available at the following URL:

http://www.slokaraja.com

If anyone notices any bugs or has any suggestions for improvement please let me know.

caste system
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I was listening to a news report on the Indian caste system. The journalist talked about the huge amount of discrimination between the various castes in India. Only in the slums of the big cities, where everyone is equally poor, can people escape the shadow of the caste they were born into.

And what is to blame for all this segregation? The reporter says: why, of course, it is the evil Hindu faith with its antiquated beliefs and useless scriptures! The journalist went on to describe how there was a growing movement to throw out the Laws of Manu and establish the glorious Constitution as the basis of society (I won't link to the report, because it really isn't worth listening to).

brahmana preparing sacred thread

Now, I won't go into the evils (real or imaginary) of so-called Hinduism in all its billions of shapes, sizes and variations. I will however point out that nowhere in the Vedic literature does it say that caste is established by birth. Everywhere it is said that caste (or varna) is determined by personal quality. If one has the qualities of an outcaste, then one should be treated like an outcaste. If one has the qualities of a brahmana, then one should be treated like a brahmana. Simple.

Proof? The Bhagavad-Gita (the basis of Hinduism - or so they say) says in verse 18.41:

"Br?hman?£as, ks?£atriyas, vai?>yas and ?>?«dras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy."

The word used is "svabh?va", which means "nature" or "quality". It does not say "janma", which would have meant birth. I think it is pretty clear.

The Srimad Bhagavatam (follow on to the Bhagavad Gita by the same author) makes it even clearer. In 7.11.35 the great sage Narada Muni is quoted:

"If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification."

Here is a one way to determine which class one is most inclined to (note: there is a lot more to it than this simple explanation):

Brahmanas (intellectuals) are perfectly happy to be part of some larger operation, as long as it is well run and they can have their freedom. Ksatriyas (warriors) prefer to be part of smaller, poorly managed operation, as long as they are in charge. Vaisyas (merchants) want to make lots and lots of money and Sudras (laborers) are happy just working and not having to worry about any big decisions. No class is any "worse" than another. Different people work in different ways. It is foolish to pass laws making everyone equal when it is clearly not the case.

Krishna consciousness is not Hinduism. Hinduism does not make much sense to me. However, Krishna consciousness makes perfect sense and it is based on the best knowledge. A society based on varna and ashrama is perfect. But don't take my word for it: read the Bhagavatam and see for yourself the genius of the varnashrama system.

Vedicsoc session #2.3 rebound
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This week's Vedicsoc session was, once again, a bit of a surprise for me. 18 people showed up! Some from previous sessions, but also lots of new guests.

I taught a Slow-Deep Aerobic yoga class (everyone nearly died during the aerobic part), which went well. One lady asked me afterwards how long I had been practicing, since it seemed like I had been doing it since early childhood (if she only knew...).

Then some chanting of the Maha-Mantra on beads (though I ran out of beads, not expecting such a large crowd).

Then a discussion. I tried to make the discussion interactive and engaging, but the group was just the wrong size. Too large to personally interact with each person and too small to allow people to become anonymous in the group and feel safe to interact with me in that way.

I ended up talking for only a short while, explaining how we are not the body and giving an overview of the Bhagavad-Gita. I then randomly divided people into groups of four (making sure to mix people together who did not know each other) and told them to socialise, get to know each other and talk about whatever they like. While they were talking I walked around distributing prasadam to everyone. Very soon everyone was chatting, laughing and having a good time.

After about 20 minutes of small group chatting the session naturally came to a close. Everyone thanked me and the students headed off back into the material world.

Nearly everyone bought a set of beads.

Acupuncture (part 9): painful energy
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Acupuncture NeedleI recently had another consultation with Dr. Philip Weeks in Hereford.
My body is doing well. Certainly much, much better than it was. I'm fine as long as I watch what I eat (no diary, no wheat) and get enough sleep. That will most likely stay that way until I finish studying. This PhD is putting an intense amount of mental pressure on me, which is stopping my digestion from working as it should. Medicine can only do so much. The rest is in the mind and in the stars.

I was feeling a bit tired and run down. Phil decided to give me a "boost" with some acupuncture needles. He stuck needles in my chest, forehead, ankles, arms, knees and six places in my lower back. Most of these (especially the forehead and back) were actually quite painful. Usually acupuncture isn't at all painful. It just is a very weird tingly feeling when the needle hits the energy point. However, when the doctor misses the exact and needs to correct by moving the needle ever so slightly, then that can create some pain. Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, of course.

One good thing that practicing a martial art like Jiu Jitsu has taught me is that pain is just in the mind. Sure, I don't like it, but I'm not the mind, so I don't really mind.

After the treatment I felt weird, as always. However, very soon I was a lot more alert and energetic. It worked. My tiredness was needled away.

Apparently I respond well to acupuncture. People are different. Some respond better to herbs, some homeopathy, some Ayurveda, some western (killer) drugs. There is no one cure for all ailments (except chanting Hare Krishna, of course). Acupuncture works for me, so that's what the doctor applies.

Philip gave me some Probiotics and B-vitamines to take and sent me on my way. Onwards to the next battle ...

Vedicsoc session #2.2 desires
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It seems I may have been a bit too direct after all. This week only one person of the 21 that came last week came back. Three other new guests also came for the first time.

I was not intending to teach any yoga (which might also have had something to do with the low attendance), but since that was the main reason these three new guest came, I taught it anyway. Then chanting, a long discussion of desire and prasadam.

I asked people to write down:

Choices made in the past that significantly affected your present situation.
Choices you are making right now that will significantly affect your future.
If you could have anything you desired, what would it be?

And the discussion went from there. Here some of the desires people are having deep down in their hearts:

  • lots of money
  • nice car
  • being popular
  • passing exams
  • glamours life
  • happiness
  • health
  • love
  • perfect friends
  • perfect family
  • no violence
  • no fear
  • no difficulty

Gurudeva stop-over rest
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My spiritual master visited me again for a few days. He arrived from Russia, having taken part in three huge festivals (in Hungary, Ukraine and Russia). One of his connecting flights was delayed and he ended having to stay overnight in an airport.

Needless to say, when he finally arrived he was exhausted. He came to Manchester to hide, rest and recover. Then, after two days of rest, onwards and upwards to more traveling and preaching all over the world.

During his stay I got to answer some computer questions. His laptop was acting up a little. He also inquired as to the possibilities and options for video recording and editing.

Krishna Katha was accompanying him on his travels and taking very good care of him. He took care of the tons and tons of washing and ironing that needed to be done for Guru Maharaja.
On the menu for his visit:

Day 1:

  • Salad with cherry tomatoes and olive oil and lemon juice dressing
  • Carrot, sweet potato, zucchini and brussels sprout coconut curry (he liked the brussel sprouts and asked for more, but he didn't like the carrots)
  • Basmati and white rice with fennel
  • Corn on the cob
  • Green bean and broccoli samosas
  • Tomato chutney
  • Dorset apple cake (half of which I almost burned, but he liked it anyway)
  • Apple and ginger juice (my juicer started smoking just after finishing the juice - yet another case of shoddy cheap made-in-China electronics that break just after the warranty runs out)

Day 2:

  • Basmati and white rice with turmeric
  • Salad with radishes and tahini dressing
  • Tomato and spinach subji (too spicy, apparently)
  • Asparagus and (red) bell pepper subji
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Tomato chutney
  • Vanilla dream cookies
  • Peppermint tea

Vedicsoc session #2.1: introduction
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Vedicsoc has reincarnated. Yes, we just had our first session. 21 people came; with a roughly 4/1 female-to-male ratio.

We started off with some Power Yoga. I modified the class structure to avoid poses that take up a lot of space (anticipating a large initial crowd). So, no "hero sequence" for example. The room would not have been big enough. The yoga went well. People can relate to yoga.

We then moved onto chanting two Vedic mantras for 5 minutes each (not the maha-mantra). I asked for questions and feedback. That also went well. Some questions I didn't answer straight out, but promised to answer later, explaining that the answer requires some background to fully understand.

The third phase of the session was the discussion. I asked if anyone knew what the word "Yoga" actually meant. No one knew (it means "to connect", by the way). I then asked what makes a car move, proceeding to explain the nature of consciousness, the complete whole we are all a part of and the dual personal and impersonal nature of that complete consciousness. Yoga, I said, means to connect to the personal complete consciousness named "Krishna".

I proceeded to give some more background and respond to questions. My aim was to dispel doubts, fears and misconceptions. So, I explained the authorized origins of the teachings, the fact that they required no blind faith, but can be scientifically verified by entering the Vedic laboratory. I said how there was no need to stop any current (so called) religion anyone may be practicing. I also strongly encouraged people to voice doubts, concerns and questions. "Questions are good, we like questions; no force, take as much or as little as you desire" (to dispel the idea that Vedicsoc is some dangerous money-grabbing, soul-eating, loony-fanatic cult).

I was amazed how I was directly advocating Krishna consciousness to these students. I had not planned to speak so plainly. My plan was to gradually introduce the more unfamiliar notions of the Vedic knowledge, but here I was, pulling no punches (in a nice way).

I was similarly amazed at some of the questions people asked. This was one intelligent group of students. One girl asked:

"So is connecting with Krishna like having a perfect relationship?"

We finished with some prasadam cookies (which went down well) and a chance to purchase some introductory literature. 15 people bought books (Perfection of Yoga or Perfect Questions, Perfect Answers).

And that was that. See you next week.

[Oh yeah, I recorded the session using the (horrible quality) built-in mic of my MacBook Pro. It is good enough for recording speech directly at the computer, but it is not made to record an entire room of conversation. I tried to clean the audio up as much as possible in a sound editor. It is still far from ideal. Anyway, enjoy (if you can).]

Vyasa-puja
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

Today we celebrated my Gurumaharaja's Vyasa-puja. This is my last few days in Wellington, as I'm heading back up to Auckland on Monday, so it was nice to observe the ceremony here, especially considering this is where I first got into Krsna consciousness, but I had never previous been in Wellington to celebrate Gurudeva Vyasa-puja.

Here is my offering to Gurudeva:

Dear Gurudeva,

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

On this most blessed and auspicious day, I hope for my mind to be deep in contemplation over the mysterious indebtedness that arises as a natural result of the Guru-disciple relationship.

Srila Gurudeva, it’s practically impossible for me to calculate exactly when my debt to you began. In the summer of 1998 I first met a disciple of yours, the first Hare Krishna devotee I had ever met, while walking in Whakatane township with some friends. I was full of envy and asked this devotee what it felt like to be a member of a cult. He just stared blankly at me, with my spiked up pink hair, facial peircings and dirty appearance and replied “Well…from my perspective it looks like you are the cult member.” All my friends laughed, and instantly I was filled with respect for this devotee.

The following year an aspiring disciple of yours approached the door of my parents’ house, and convinced me to give him a donation and thus I received the book Easy Journey to Other Planets. Over the following years, I frequently met your disciples in various cities in New Zealand. My brother and I spent ½ an hour talking to one disciple in Rotorua. Another gave me advice on asthma on Queen Street in Auckland. Often I would go looking for a Hare Krishna whenever I visited a city, and upon finding one I would walk past them repeatedly until they would talk to me. One day I even received a set of beads from a disciple of yours that I met on the streets of Hamilton, which lead me to start chanting Hare Krishna daily, for at least a little while. Your disciples fed me from their restaurant on many occasions. In fact, several previous associates of mine even became your very serious disciples.

Somehow, Gurumaharaja, one of my previous associates, turned surrendered soul, convinced me to take a trip to your Gaura-Yoga centre, to see a world traveling monk. With no money in my bank account, I had to beg $3 to come for the Sunday feast, and with that $3 I unknowingly placed myself into a debt of unimaginable proportions. On that night I heard you speak such obvious truths that I was ashamed to admit that I was so lost in a world of obvious illusion. We had a short discussion afterwards, during which you told me that I could only make a real change in the world if I first changed myself. From that night I felt a feeling of indebtedness to you, and in order to begin to pay it back, I tried to follow your advice faithfully, though progressing slowly.

Srila Gurudeva, somehow or other you dragged me from such a position of embarrassing suffering. One is automatically placed in an embarrassing position when they think they are the body, and I was so deep in such a position that I am now completely ashamed thinking about the situation, and thus I feel immensely indebted to you. And through your constant guidance, you have repeatedly given me the opportunity to begin to pay back my debt.

Srila Gurudeva, you placed me in the association of serious devotees, so that I could engage in serious devotional service to begin to pay back my debt to you. But, mysteriously, the happiness I felt by engaging in devotional service, in the association of devotees, only served to increase my feelings of indebtedness. Then, under your guidance, I began to try to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is clear that this is a service very dear to you, and I thought that perhaps by serving you in this way I might just be able to repay my debt to you. But Srila Gurudeva, the mystery is that the total opposite seems to be happening!

While in Auckland I met a boy named Jonathon, who had just returned to New Zealand from a student exchange experience in Denmark. While passing through the LA Airport, heading to Denmark, he ran into a disciple of yours who sold him a book. He read that book several times, and thus decided to become vegetarian. On the way back through the LA Airport he again met that same disciple of yours, receiving this time the Journey of Self Discovery. When I met him, he decided to buy a Science of Self Realisation. I sent you an e-mail about this story some time ago, for your pleasure, and as an attempt to pay off some of my debt.

But Srila Gurudeva, that story hasn’t ended, and thus my debt has only increased again! Recently, I have made a brief visit to Wellington. On the first Krishna Fest celebration I attended while here I had a boy come up to me, asking if I remembered him. He said I had met him a year and a half ago in Auckland. Since I had met him, he had met many other disciples of yours, and bought many more books to continue his collection, which he reads regularly. He has made himself familiar with a number of your disciples at your Gaura-Yoga Centre, he has started chanting a little bit, and seems enthusiastic to continue his associating with your disciples. As we talked I asked where he got his first book, and as he explained his story more, I realized who it was I was talking to. It was that same Jonathon who I wrote to you about over a year ago.

Srila Gurudeva, somehow or other, while trying to repay my debt to you, I have found myself to be an insignificant link in your chain of mercy which is working to pull conditioned souls out of the embarrassing ocean of material existence, out of the dark ocean of misery that is bodily identification. And as a result of being in this position I feel such happiness that it seems like my debt to you has just increased a thousand fold again!

Gurudeva, I don’t know what kind of trick you have played on me, but I don’t see any way out of this situation, for the only currency which you will ever accept for repayment of my debt only seems to increase my indebtedness to you more and more. But unlike my materialistic friends of yesteryear, who upon finding themselves in debt are feeling incredible pangs of stress and anxiety, for myself the thought of serving you for the rest of my life in order repay this great debt only serves to fill me with such a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that I am actually praying to you today that this debt will only increase a thousand-fold, year after year after year.

Your eternally indebted servant,
Vidyapati dasa

Vyasa-puja
→ Vidyapati dasa is no one special.

Today we celebrated my Gurumaharaja's Vyasa-puja. This is my last few days in Wellington, as I'm heading back up to Auckland on Monday, so it was nice to observe the ceremony here, especially considering this is where I first got into Krsna consciousness, but I had never previous been in Wellington to celebrate Gurudeva Vyasa-puja.

Here is my offering to Gurudeva:

Dear Gurudeva,

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

On this most blessed and auspicious day, I hope for my mind to be deep in contemplation over the mysterious indebtedness that arises as a natural result of the Guru-disciple relationship.

Srila Gurudeva, it’s practically impossible for me to calculate exactly when my debt to you began. In the summer of 1998 I first met a disciple of yours, the first Hare Krishna devotee I had ever met, while walking in Whakatane township with some friends. I was full of envy and asked this devotee what it felt like to be a member of a cult. He just stared blankly at me, with my spiked up pink hair, facial peircings and dirty appearance and replied “Well…from my perspective it looks like you are the cult member.” All my friends laughed, and instantly I was filled with respect for this devotee.

The following year an aspiring disciple of yours approached the door of my parents’ house, and convinced me to give him a donation and thus I received the book Easy Journey to Other Planets. Over the following years, I frequently met your disciples in various cities in New Zealand. My brother and I spent ½ an hour talking to one disciple in Rotorua. Another gave me advice on asthma on Queen Street in Auckland. Often I would go looking for a Hare Krishna whenever I visited a city, and upon finding one I would walk past them repeatedly until they would talk to me. One day I even received a set of beads from a disciple of yours that I met on the streets of Hamilton, which lead me to start chanting Hare Krishna daily, for at least a little while. Your disciples fed me from their restaurant on many occasions. In fact, several previous associates of mine even became your very serious disciples.

Somehow, Gurumaharaja, one of my previous associates, turned surrendered soul, convinced me to take a trip to your Gaura-Yoga centre, to see a world traveling monk. With no money in my bank account, I had to beg $3 to come for the Sunday feast, and with that $3 I unknowingly placed myself into a debt of unimaginable proportions. On that night I heard you speak such obvious truths that I was ashamed to admit that I was so lost in a world of obvious illusion. We had a short discussion afterwards, during which you told me that I could only make a real change in the world if I first changed myself. From that night I felt a feeling of indebtedness to you, and in order to begin to pay it back, I tried to follow your advice faithfully, though progressing slowly.

Srila Gurudeva, somehow or other you dragged me from such a position of embarrassing suffering. One is automatically placed in an embarrassing position when they think they are the body, and I was so deep in such a position that I am now completely ashamed thinking about the situation, and thus I feel immensely indebted to you. And through your constant guidance, you have repeatedly given me the opportunity to begin to pay back my debt.

Srila Gurudeva, you placed me in the association of serious devotees, so that I could engage in serious devotional service to begin to pay back my debt to you. But, mysteriously, the happiness I felt by engaging in devotional service, in the association of devotees, only served to increase my feelings of indebtedness. Then, under your guidance, I began to try to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is clear that this is a service very dear to you, and I thought that perhaps by serving you in this way I might just be able to repay my debt to you. But Srila Gurudeva, the mystery is that the total opposite seems to be happening!

While in Auckland I met a boy named Jonathon, who had just returned to New Zealand from a student exchange experience in Denmark. While passing through the LA Airport, heading to Denmark, he ran into a disciple of yours who sold him a book. He read that book several times, and thus decided to become vegetarian. On the way back through the LA Airport he again met that same disciple of yours, receiving this time the Journey of Self Discovery. When I met him, he decided to buy a Science of Self Realisation. I sent you an e-mail about this story some time ago, for your pleasure, and as an attempt to pay off some of my debt.

But Srila Gurudeva, that story hasn’t ended, and thus my debt has only increased again! Recently, I have made a brief visit to Wellington. On the first Krishna Fest celebration I attended while here I had a boy come up to me, asking if I remembered him. He said I had met him a year and a half ago in Auckland. Since I had met him, he had met many other disciples of yours, and bought many more books to continue his collection, which he reads regularly. He has made himself familiar with a number of your disciples at your Gaura-Yoga Centre, he has started chanting a little bit, and seems enthusiastic to continue his associating with your disciples. As we talked I asked where he got his first book, and as he explained his story more, I realized who it was I was talking to. It was that same Jonathon who I wrote to you about over a year ago.

Srila Gurudeva, somehow or other, while trying to repay my debt to you, I have found myself to be an insignificant link in your chain of mercy which is working to pull conditioned souls out of the embarrassing ocean of material existence, out of the dark ocean of misery that is bodily identification. And as a result of being in this position I feel such happiness that it seems like my debt to you has just increased a thousand fold again!

Gurudeva, I don’t know what kind of trick you have played on me, but I don’t see any way out of this situation, for the only currency which you will ever accept for repayment of my debt only seems to increase my indebtedness to you more and more. But unlike my materialistic friends of yesteryear, who upon finding themselves in debt are feeling incredible pangs of stress and anxiety, for myself the thought of serving you for the rest of my life in order repay this great debt only serves to fill me with such a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that I am actually praying to you today that this debt will only increase a thousand-fold, year after year after year.

Your eternally indebted servant,
Vidyapati dasa

Maximum Group Size
→ Home

I was listening to Christopher Allen (blog) giving a talk about Dunbar's number.

Dunbar measured the ideal sizes of various types of groups. The larger the group, the more time must be spent coordinating and socializing, and less time spent doing stuff.

Groups over 150 or so people, do not work.

Settlements split at that size, Roman army units are that size (a Centurion would command no more than 150 men), academic peer-groups don't work if they grow above 150, the list goes on ...

The best group size is far lower than 150, depending on what a group is trying to accomplish. 150 is the ideal number for a group of primates trying to survive. The ideal modern group size is somewhere around 40 - 60. Such groups can work very well.

Allen goes on to describe that a group of 40 people have a different dynamic to a small group of about 5 - 10 people. Groups of 10 people also work well, but do so in a different way to larger groups of 40 people. However, in between these two ideal group sizes the group dynamic falls apart. The group is too big for small group practices to work well, but too small for large group practices to take effect.

Groups of 13 people do not work.

Such groups must either shrink back to a more manageable size, or quickly expand to at least 20 people to allow large group dynamics to set in. Groups between 10 and 20 people will otherwise at best get nothing done or at worst break apart.

new Vedicsoc: Fresher’s Fair
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A new University semester is upon us and Vedicsoc is back in business!

Vedicsoc flyer vedicsoc schedule
We just had the Fresher's Fair at the University. Up to four days of hoards of students being induced to join every kind of club or society one might imagine. I chose two days in the prime location (UoM Academy) for Vedicsoc's recruitment efforts. Kamren helped me.

We distributed loads of prasadam (Coconut Ice and Chinese Almond cookies), as well as 1000 flyers (and foolish me thought I had printed too many). 166 interested people put their email address down to be put on our mailing list.

On advice from Joy I added a timetable of events to the back of the flyers. A definite schedule of interesting topics should hopefully attract more people. I also set the price at ?£1 per session, pay-as-you-go. People liked the cheap price for a two hour long session, as well as the fact that they didn't have to commit to anything.

The fair itself was pretty intense: loud noise everywhere, wall-to-wall people and discarded flyers all over the place.

My realizations:

  • Asian people are becoming more interested in yoga/meditation. We had quite a few Chinese and Japanese students come by, ask questions and sign up. In previous years there was zero interest from students from those countries.
  • Students are getting older. Excessive sense gratification is prematurely aging young people. I remember when the freshers at University looked like little kids. Now I can hardly tell the difference between someone who is 18 and someone who is 28. All their innocence has been lost long long ago.
  • (As my spiritual master also has said) men are generally spaced-out and women are angry. Indulging the senses destroys a man's intelligence and he becomes a spaced-out zombie. Women hope to get some emotional fulfillment from sense indulgence and are (inevitably) disappointed and angry when it does not result.

I tried to capture some of these ideas with my camera as I was distributing flyers and shouting at people trying to get their attention so they would join Vedicsoc. You can view the result of my photographic endeavors here. I think the pictures nicely illustrate the sad and sorry state of the student community (if I accidentally took a picture of anyone reading this blog entry and you don't want it displayed, please email me and I'll remove it).

Sorry for the low quality of the pictures. It was quite dark in the room and I had to resort to less than ideal ISO settings and shutter speeds.

On another side note: I've been watching the Radiant Vista Daily Critique. It is an excellent daily 5-minute video photo critique by master photographer Craig Tanner. He takes viewer/listener submitted photos and gives some encouraging words, as well as suggestions for improvement. I've learnt a lot about photography from these podcasts. I've implemented some of what I've learnt in this latest series of pictures. Further comments and suggestions are, of course, welcome.

Hitesh => Radhikesa dasa
→ Home

Just got word that Hitesh has been initiated by his spiritual master (Devamrita Swami) during the recent festival in New Vraja dhama, Hungary. His initiated name is Radhikesa dasa. I'm really happy for him. Who would have known that a photography student from Manchester would become such a great humble servant in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya?

Here is a picture from the ceremony:

Your name is: Radhikesa dasa

Happiness Without Fear
→ Servant's Report

“In the liberated state of affairs, the full-fledged affection for the Lord is awakened. As such, there is an unlimited flow of everlasting happiness, without the fear of its being broken as we have experienced here in the material world. The relationship with the Lord is never broken; thus there is no grief and no fear” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.47 purport).

I remember whenever I would experience some sort of happiness, when things would start to go well in my life, immediately the fear of loss would rush into my consciousness. “When is this going to end?” I knew it would. It always did. After some time of experiencing this duality of gain and loss the fear would take over. This happened with relationships, this happened with school and work, even (or especially) on drugs. I would be high as a kite, oblivious to the world, but then came the comedown. Even the onset of comedown would bring fear and grief. Why does it have to end? Why can’t I be like this forever? And sometimes those comedowns were extremely hard. From so high to so low, just like that.

Because of this fear we may not want to enter into any sort of relationships. Why go through all of the trouble if it will simply end sooner or later? Then we become a bitter hermit who hides from the world (I speak from experience here too). But this will not solve the problem. We have to have relationships. We have to have real love. And as the above quote states, that real ever-lasting relationship exists between the soul and God. Only in that relationship do we never have to fear loss, for it is eternal. Even without our knowledge the relationship still exists, as God is within our heart always watching over us. And when we turn our love back to Him then we experience this “everlasting happiness” which we are all searching for.

Happiness Without Fear
→ Servant's Report

“In the liberated state of affairs, the full-fledged affection for the Lord is awakened. As such, there is an unlimited flow of everlasting happiness, without the fear of its being broken as we have experienced here in the material world. The relationship with the Lord is never broken; thus there is no grief and no fear” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.47 purport).

I remember whenever I would experience some sort of happiness, when things would start to go well in my life, immediately the fear of loss would rush into my consciousness. “When is this going to end?” I knew it would. It always did. After some time of experiencing this duality of gain and loss the fear would take over. This happened with relationships, this happened with school and work, even (or especially) on drugs. I would be high as a kite, oblivious to the world, but then came the comedown. Even the onset of comedown would bring fear and grief. Why does it have to end? Why can’t I be like this forever? And sometimes those comedowns were extremely hard. From so high to so low, just like that.

Because of this fear we may not want to enter into any sort of relationships. Why go through all of the trouble if it will simply end sooner or later? Then we become a bitter hermit who hides from the world (I speak from experience here too). But this will not solve the problem. We have to have relationships. We have to have real love. And as the above quote states, that real ever-lasting relationship exists between the soul and God. Only in that relationship do we never have to fear loss, for it is eternal. Even without our knowledge the relationship still exists, as God is within our heart always watching over us. And when we turn our love back to Him then we experience this “everlasting happiness” which we are all searching for.

Honest food guide
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What foods should you eat?

Is this question really that difficult to answer? Lots of people seem to think so. Indeed, from what I see people all around me eat, it would seem there is a huge need for some basic common-sense food education.

This website has a free downloadable easy-to-read guide that distinguishes foods that cause disease and foods that are good for health. It is very nicely presented. I agree completely (except for the thing about fish oils; not because they aren't healthy, but because I don't want to get the karma from killing the fish).

So, have a heart and be healthy and happy!

Devamrita Swami: How much Krishna consciousness do you want to bite off?
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There is a force that makes us act in the material world, even though we do not know what we are doing, or why we are doing it. We propose a new standard of intelligence: someone who can see this temporary material energy acts is a truly brilliant scientist. Not someone who can merely create some brilliant technology.

We need to understand that we should give the best of our lives to Krishna.

So, how much Krishna consciousness do you want to bite off?

We need to overhaul our lifestyle.

Who gives the best advice? What is the "absolute"? Where do you go to get knowledge of your true identity?

Please say: "give me the Bhagavad-Gita"

Conditioned life means denying Krishna - in a variety of ways. Some people have a fear that by focusing too much on Krishna they become limited or sectarian.

Where did personalism come from? Who is the best (unlimited) person? As soon as we acknowledge someone as a person that means there is personal obligation. We have calculated that the best way we can get on with our enjoyment program is to ignore the person Krishna. We have ourselves brainwashed into thinking: "I have no time"

We must have a progressive plan how to go forward in Krishna consciousness, otherwise the material world will pull us back.

Questions:

  • But I don't have enough disciple to practice all of Krishna consciousness.
  • I see disciple as just following the teaching, not some victorian thing imposed upon us.
  • Will I appreciate Krishna consciousness if I just subject myself to it?
  • It seems like we should just read to enjoy the verse, not thinking "if I read this verse it is going to make me x,y,z". We should be attached to the result, right?
  • Will our freedom always be limited?
  • You say that real religion does not require you to believe in anything, but can be experienced in the laboratory, but then you say some faith must be there in the beginning?
  • Vivekananda said that it is very good to be born in a church, but it is very bad to die in it, because you do need some kind of system when you are at the embryonic stage until you can stand alone.
  • Perhaps she is talking about when you come to the spiritual platform from the material platform?
  • Isn't it up to you to find you path? How can you say that somebody else's path is not valid?
  • There are so many maps by so many different religions, all claiming to be valid.
  • It really winds me up when I'm told "whatever you do, it has to go to Krishna". How do I do it? Do I have to go all the way into the laboratory, since I can't talk to Krishna directly? I can also misinterpret what I hear.
  • Surely you can chant someone's glories by talking about him, not just by chanting?
  • I want to be convinced that this is the path.
  • In the Bible it says "in the beginning was the word", but the translation of the original greek is "logos" which means "conversation", like the Bhagavad-Gita's conversation between Krishna and Arjuna.
  • I think in the Indian mentality there is a lot of thinking "I can be God", but in the Christian world people don't consciously think that. Also, a Muslim is always thinking that the best position is to be a servant of God. Not how he can become God.
  • Do we not believe in Advaita? Becoming one with God does not mean wanting to be God.
  • If you become realized you are a part of the whole is that still duality? Is the thing that is left after the body decays is not the whole?
  • We need sat-sanga discussion to understand what we are reading, otherwise there will be so many misconceptions.

Gurudeva stopover: day 1 + 2
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My spiritual master, Devamrita Swami, recently visited my humble little abode. Not much to report. I was so busy serving and arranging things that I didn't ask him any questions. Actually, all the many worries, doubts and concerns that had been on my mind evaporated in his association. I ended up not needing to ask him anything.

Hitesh was traveling with Guru Maharaja. He is due to get initiated at the Ukraine festival sometime very soon (or perhaps it has happened already). It was nice to see old gloomy Manchester resident Hitesh (judging by his old passport photo) literally glowing in his saffron robes. Krishna consciousness creates happiness. No question about it (Lilamayi Subhadra also thinks so).

The two of us worked together nicely cooking for the Guru. Here is what we prepared on the two (and a half) days:

Day 1:

  • Salad with radishes and carrots
  • Basmati rice with wild rice
  • Tomato soup with zucchini
  • Stir fried broccoli and sweet potato subji
  • Organic corn on the cob (which he really liked; it was the first time I found organic corn in the local ASDA supermarket)
  • Wholemeal easy apple pie with vegan custard

Day 2:

  • Salad with cherry tomatoes and cucumber
  • Yellow basmati rice with wild rice
  • Oven roasted vegetables with rosemary
  • Spicy spinach and tomato subji
  • Split mung dal soup
  • Wholemeal carrot and sunflower seed cookies

Day 3:

  • Cauliflower and pea samosas for the flight (which weren't quite spicy enough, apparently)

Only Him
→ Servant's Report

He looks at her from across the meadow. Her brownish hair waves in the wind as she dances and smiles, but not at him. He realizes she has no interest in him as much as he longs for her. It was always like that with every girl. The one he liked could care less. Is that why he liked them? To torture himself? Just then he noticed another looking in his direction, with that same expression of want. But this time, he was the one who did not reciprocate. “Why is it that we always are looking for the one who is looking for someone else?” he wondered. “Why can’t we find the one who could fully repose our love?” Then it hit him, it’s only Krishna who could do that. Only Krishna who loves everyone, unconditionally. Only He who no matter how many turn toward Him can truly satisfy their feelings. Only Him.

Only Him
→ Servant's Report

He looks at her from across the meadow. Her brownish hair waves in the wind as she dances and smiles, but not at him. He realizes she has no interest in him as much as he longs for her. It was always like that with every girl. The one he liked could care less. Is that why he liked them? To torture himself? Just then he noticed another looking in his direction, with that same expression of want. But this time, he was the one who did not reciprocate. “Why is it that we always are looking for the one who is looking for someone else?” he wondered. “Why can’t we find the one who could fully repose our love?” Then it hit him, it’s only Krishna who could do that. Only Krishna who loves everyone, unconditionally. Only He who no matter how many turn toward Him can truly satisfy their feelings. Only Him.

My Father’s New House
→ Servant's Report

I’m staying at my father’s new house in Gainesville. He’s finally done it, after all these years. Bought his own house and moved back to his favorite place. And I’m happy for him. Of course, to tell you the truth, when I first found out that he was planning to do this I was a bit surprised and maybe even a little disappointed. After all, he is almost 58, which in Vedic culture is a time to be winding down one’s material responsibilities and preparing for the final exam of leaving this world, not accumulating a mortgage and tons of debt. One is supposed to have gone through the full life experience and now, children grown, pass things off to them and have time and energy to fully focus on one’s spiritual life.

But he has sacrificed much of his life for service. This is the first time he’ll have owned property in his entire life, which is more surprising given the fact that he’s been a successful attorney for the past 25 years. He sacrificed his youth to living in and running a temple, for the first couple years barely able to pay for food. He worked tirelessly in that position, and then even more so when he became a lawyer. Instead of making a healthy living, he worked mostly for the movement, losing much income to preserve and protect the mission his spiritual master had given him. We were never in want, but we didn’t have the most comforts either. Mostly we lived modestly and the sometimes embellishments were brought about by his going into debt.

So now he has this house and he deserves to enjoy. He still has hopes for service in a new field and maybe will be able to serve more now than he ever has. But he also has to worry about paying that mortgage and the many other bills associated with it. And he’s not getting any younger. Where will he get the energy? What if he starts developing serious health problems? I guess we can’t let these kinds of questions stop us from taking risks in life. Otherwise, we would never be able to do anything.

But when I look at my own life, I wonder about the future and how much I want to become invested in this society. In “getting my share”. In other words, going about the normal routine of job, home, family and the rest. How long will this society continue? When will a major war take place? When will economic collapse occur? When will a hurricane or earthquake come along and destroy everything? Or simply when will death come? Once again, we can’t think about these questions all the time and plan our life accordingly, living in bomb shelters or germ-free biospheres. I recently heard that the reason BV, my former gurukula (spiritual boarding school) folded was because it bought the land based on small initial payments and then a balloon payment five years down the road. They agreed to this deal thinking that a war would come by then and therefore they wouldn’t ever have to pay it.

However, at the present rate I don’t think this society can last much longer. So how could I just go about my life as if nothing were wrong? I have to do something meaningful to help change take place. I can’t just worry about my socio-economic position. I saw a couple of nice documentaries last night. One was called The Corporation, a vivid expose of the utter power and nightmarish effects the modern corporations have upon us all. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but saw enough to get the point. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch it in full another time. The other, I can’t remember the name, was about a lady named Helen Kolnukaff?, who at one point 25 years ago became one of the leaders of the anti-nuclear arms movement by giving up her profession as a medical doctor to travel all around the world and write books about the horrors and politics of nuclear war. In this doc she has written a new book all these years later and struggles to bring people back to the issues in a changing environment of corporate control and mass media and the overall apathy of people today. Although going through many obstacles, she connects on a grassroots level and gradually through her optimistic mentality begins to spark the movement again. She said at one point that a cynic is simply an optimist who has given up.

In seeing these I validated my understanding of the terrible circumstances we face today in society and the great need for change. And I also realized that with determination and faith in God one person can make a difference. But can I be that person?

My Father’s New House
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I’m staying at my father’s new house in Gainesville. He’s finally done it, after all these years. Bought his own house and moved back to his favorite place. And I’m happy for him. Of course, to tell you the truth, when I first found out that he was planning to do this I was a bit surprised and maybe even a little disappointed. After all, he is almost 58, which in Vedic culture is a time to be winding down one’s material responsibilities and preparing for the final exam of leaving this world, not accumulating a mortgage and tons of debt. One is supposed to have gone through the full life experience and now, children grown, pass things off to them and have time and energy to fully focus on one’s spiritual life.

But he has sacrificed much of his life for service. This is the first time he’ll have owned property in his entire life, which is more surprising given the fact that he’s been a successful attorney for the past 25 years. He sacrificed his youth to living in and running a temple, for the first couple years barely able to pay for food. He worked tirelessly in that position, and then even more so when he became a lawyer. Instead of making a healthy living, he worked mostly for the movement, losing much income to preserve and protect the mission his spiritual master had given him. We were never in want, but we didn’t have the most comforts either. Mostly we lived modestly and the sometimes embellishments were brought about by his going into debt.

So now he has this house and he deserves to enjoy. He still has hopes for service in a new field and maybe will be able to serve more now than he ever has. But he also has to worry about paying that mortgage and the many other bills associated with it. And he’s not getting any younger. Where will he get the energy? What if he starts developing serious health problems? I guess we can’t let these kinds of questions stop us from taking risks in life. Otherwise, we would never be able to do anything.

But when I look at my own life, I wonder about the future and how much I want to become invested in this society. In “getting my share”. In other words, going about the normal routine of job, home, family and the rest. How long will this society continue? When will a major war take place? When will economic collapse occur? When will a hurricane or earthquake come along and destroy everything? Or simply when will death come? Once again, we can’t think about these questions all the time and plan our life accordingly, living in bomb shelters or germ-free biospheres. I recently heard that the reason BV, my former gurukula (spiritual boarding school) folded was because it bought the land based on small initial payments and then a balloon payment five years down the road. They agreed to this deal thinking that a war would come by then and therefore they wouldn’t ever have to pay it.

However, at the present rate I don’t think this society can last much longer. So how could I just go about my life as if nothing were wrong? I have to do something meaningful to help change take place. I can’t just worry about my socio-economic position. I saw a couple of nice documentaries last night. One was called The Corporation, a vivid expose of the utter power and nightmarish effects the modern corporations have upon us all. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but saw enough to get the point. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch it in full another time. The other, I can’t remember the name, was about a lady named Helen Kolnukaff?, who at one point 25 years ago became one of the leaders of the anti-nuclear arms movement by giving up her profession as a medical doctor to travel all around the world and write books about the horrors and politics of nuclear war. In this doc she has written a new book all these years later and struggles to bring people back to the issues in a changing environment of corporate control and mass media and the overall apathy of people today. Although going through many obstacles, she connects on a grassroots level and gradually through her optimistic mentality begins to spark the movement again. She said at one point that a cynic is simply an optimist who has given up.

In seeing these I validated my understanding of the terrible circumstances we face today in society and the great need for change. And I also realized that with determination and faith in God one person can make a difference. But can I be that person?

Changes
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So many opinions, what to do and what not. Mistakes to learn from, new systems discovered. Am I really going there, back again? Didn’t I run from this once before? Feelings I forgot were there. Interesting it is, but the mind can only think about so many things. Do I want this going during japa, during puja? What happened to Krishna?

Changes
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So many opinions, what to do and what not. Mistakes to learn from, new systems discovered. Am I really going there, back again? Didn’t I run from this once before? Feelings I forgot were there. Interesting it is, but the mind can only think about so many things. Do I want this going during japa, during puja? What happened to Krishna?

AppleCare MacBook Pro repair experience
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My MacBook Pro needed a repair. So then, here is a first hand account of my experience with the AppleCare tech support.

Appl MacBook Pro
The first problem I had was the battery malfunctioning. It would continually display a battery life estimate of 55 hours (which would have been nice, if true), even when empty. So, I phoned Apple and the tech support person ran me through a long list of trouble-shooting steps. She concluded that the battery was indeed faulty and arranged to send me a new battery. The new battery arrived two days later. With the battery came a prepaid UPS box to send the faulty battery back (Apple took my credit card number, so if I did not returned the old battery they will bill me for it).

Then I decided to complain about the infamous "whine" problem. The MacBook Pros make a faint, high-pitched whining/buzzing noise when running idle while on battery power. Apple had been denying the problem until last month when they announced a fix. I again phoned Apple support and (after about 45 minutes of running through every possible other thing that might be causing the noise) the tech support person arranged for the MacBook to be picked up for repair. The very next day a box for the computer arrived by UPS. UPS collected the computer a few hours later that same day.

Now the trouble started. It seems that since practically all MacBook Pros had this "whining noise" problem, everyone on the planet decided to send their laptop into Apple for repair at the same time. The result was that Apple was very short on the part (motherboard/logicboard) needed for the repair. To cut a long story short, after 4 weeks of my repair being "on hold - in queue for part" I phoned Apple and told them I critically needed my laptop. 3 days later it arrived in the post fully repaired and in good working order.

Tech support staff were always friendly, expert and helpful. The longest I was on hold for was about 3 minutes. They explained the situation with the long queue for the part, saying that repairs normally will take no longer than 7 days. They then upgraded the priority of my repair so it would "jump the queue".

I learnt the key words to say when talking to an Apple tech support person. They are "critical" and "unacceptable" . The staff are trained to agree to repair almost any complaint, however small, if you say it is "unacceptable". If you say the use of your computer is "critical", the priority of the repair gets boosted and it is completed in record time.

Apple recently has won a whole load of tech support awards. They are generally rated equally to Lenovo (both got grade A). In this particular review of computer tech support the other manufacturers scored as follows:

  1. Apple: A
  2. IBM/Lenovo: A
  3. Fujitsu/Siemens: A-
  4. Dell: B+
  5. Gateway: B+
  6. Sony: B
  7. HP: B
  8. Acer: C
  9. Toshiba: D-

(also check out PCMag's recent consumer satisfaction survey. Yup, Apple comes first there, too.)

Janmastami 2006 in Cardiff and Swansea
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I attended Krishna's birthday in Wales.

I took a train down to Cardiff, walked to the Soul Centre and felt like I was going to faint from the strain of the long trip and fasting. Some fruit helped restore my body.

I then took some pictures of the Soul Centre. It is a very stylish urban spiritual centre, don't you think?

The devotees went out on harinam in Cardiff for two and a half hours. It was great! After about an hour of chanting while walking around the city centre we spread out some blankets and spent the rest of the time sitting down and chanting.

Just as we were preparing the seated area a group of about five young people came up to me and asked me what "all this" was about. I briefly started to explain when one of them asked if we believed in the Bible. I said "yes, we do". Somewhat surprised, the guy started to ask some more questions. By this time I started to realize that these were rather fanatical (though respectful and inquisitive) Christians I was talking to.

Soon the kirtan had started and was going on in full-force, purifying the surrounding atmosphere. Oh well, I thought, I might as well take the opportunity to talk to these evangelical Christians about Krishna while they hear the holy name.

They presented all kinds of doubts and attacks against the notions of reincarnation, salvation outside of solely following Jesus, karma, vegetarianism (apparently, it says in the Bible that God wants us to eat meat). I explained the Krishna conscious perspective on all these point. One young man was surprised to hear the sensible KC viewpoints. The others however were closed-minded. They strained their brains to come up with something that "this heathen Hare Krishna" could not answer.

However, little did they know that all knowledge comes from Krishna, especially on his birthday. With Krishna on my side I could answer all their points. After we had talked for quite some time they asked me what distingishes a bona-fide religion from a bogus one. I answered that one aspect of a bona-fide religion is that it has a disciplic succession, like catholicism, for example.

I was very much surprised when they shoot back:

Catholics are not Christians!!

They argued that the catholic church has changed aspects of the literal meaning of the Bible. It also believes that we can go to heaven simply by following a mechanical process without surrendering our heart (which is actually true: someone can, for example, go to Gandarvaloka, which resembles the Christian idea of heaven, just by following the necessary rules and regulations of pious life; though, of course, that isn't the perfection of life).

I now realize that the lack of a disciplic succession is the main fault in evangelical Christianity. It takes the Bible as literally true. Too literally true. Without a chain of teachers coming down from the original teacher it is very easy to misinterpret the teacher's teachings and loose the true meaning (BG4.2). That is exactly what these poor Christians have done. They follow the exact words of the Bible without taking into account time, place, circumstance and intent. It is not just Chistians however. There are so many bogus interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gita which distort the true meaning.

Later, returning to Swansea, we sang bhajans until late into the night. Suki-Krishna expertly led the most amazing chanting on the harmonium. We also watched a documentary about Indradyumna Swami's amazing Festival of India tour. It is such an inspiring series of festivals! The film made me want to go to Poland and help out (but I won't because my body couldn't handle the intense austerity of the tour).

At midnight, the time of Krishna's appearance, over 100 different preparations were offered to the deity. The devotees then partook in the obligatory feast. As usual, I couldn't eat more than about two preparations because of dietary restrictions. So is life. On the bright side: my body held up surprisingly well. I even managed to chant 54 rounds throughout the day.

Management technique: eat together
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eating together in WellingtonJoel from the popular 'Joel on Software' blog, talks about the The Identity Management Method of managing a team. His advice: eat together to stay together!

A method I??(TM)m pretty comfortable with, is eating together. I??(TM)ve always made a point of eating lunch with my coworkers, and at Fog Creek we serve catered lunches for the whole team every day and eat together at one big table. It??(TM)s hard to understate what a big impact this has on making the company feel like a family, in the good way, I think. In six years, nobody has ever quit