Podcasting (Adam Curry)
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I was listening to Adam Curry's podcast "the daily source code" today. Adam Curry is a former MTV host who has a daily podcast about other podcasts (and other useless stuff that is on his mind) and is considered to be one of the pioneers of podcasting.

He has an interesting take on the difference between blogs and podcasts:

Blogs come from an inherent desire of people to publish. Podcasts are the opposite, people create them because they are dissatisfied with what they what is available in the media (Radio/TV). In that way they are similar to the iPod (which is presumably why Apple has built podcast support into iTunes 4.9, the companion software to the iPod). The listening experience is no longer tied to what someone else thinks we will like. Instead everyone can listen to what they want to listen to when they want to listen to it. Freedom! Liberation! True happiness! (snicker)

"I want to tell people about something I'm interested in" vs. "I don't like what on the radio, so I'll create my own"

There was no real market for the former (blogs) when they first manifested, but the later (podcasting) is likely to have a much faster uptake, since people are actively looking for something like it. Mundane sound is just so dull and lifeless. All it needs is to become easy enough for the average-Joe to "tune in" and we'll have a listening revolution on our hands.

For those interested in creating their own podcasts: Adam and his friends are developing some podcast creation software.

Keep it short. Keep it simple.
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Attention spans are decreasing. Mine too.

When reading blogs I tend to skip those huge monster essays that some bloggers write unless I??(TM)m really, really, really interested in the subject matter. 500 words should be the limit. If a blog posting is longer than 500 words it is simply too long for the Internet audience. Better to write a book instead.

However, this is not to say that long articles are impossible. They just have to be broken up into multiple postings over multiple days. I'll read any number of words if my mind is tricked in that way.

So, all you reading this, please, for my sake, keep it short and keep it simple (and I??(TM)ll try to do the same for you).

Subscriptions vs. one-off payment
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Assertion: subscriptions are better, but people generally don't like them.

Consider the iTunes music store, unlike Yahoo music or Napster they offer a very simple fixed price of $1 per song. Whatever you buy is yours to keep. All other online music stores offer a subscription based plan where you pay $5 - $10 per month and download as much as you like, or some hybrid scheme.

One might thing that the subscription model is more popular. After all, it's better value, just think: unlimited songs!

Wrong! Even people that buy more than 10 songs per month prefer the simple iTunes buy-once model. People like to feel in control. People also like to any kind of commitment. Finally, people don't want things to be too complicated. Keep it simple!

Subscription services do sell in some scenarios. Take online role-playing games (please!): something like Sony's Everquest charges $40 for the game and then another $15 per month on top of that, yet is hugely popular. Some players spend hundreds of hours online, fighting monsters, completing quests, building up their virtual character, earning fake money (even more fake than the so-called real money) and so on. Everquest is designed to hook people into "just one more quest" and keep them playing and paying for-"ever". It works, too: Sony was astonished at how much money they made off Everquest.

Some smart new online games (most notably Guild Wars) have figured out that they can reach a much larger market (and more money) by not charging a subscription fee. Instead they'll release an "expansion pack" every few months and steal people's money that way.

Yoga teachers are notoriously bad at business. Most yoga classes I see advertised around the University want people to sign up for a 10-session course, or something of the sort. Most people I've talked to don't want to make that commitment and therefore end up not doing any yoga at all. Major untapped potential!

These yoga courses mean well, of course. People won't get any real benefit from just a single yoga session here and there. If someone really wants to improve their bodily and mental condition, it is best if they do two 90-minute sessions per week. But, low and behold, no one wants to do that. People don't care about themselves.

The same hold true with chanting the maha-mantra. Great if someone utters the mantra once. However, Krishna is most pleased when we make a commitment to chant a fixed amount each day. When Krishna is pleased we automatically also get satisfied. It's like watering the root of a tree. Again, the subscription model benefits all parties. And yet again, few people want to make the commitment.

Solution: I plan to offer a 40-minute yoga class once a week for a one-off one pound fee/donation and then follow that with some (free) chanting and philosophy, for those that are so inclined.

Scheme: attract people with something that they think they want, though it won't really benefit them and then make it as easy as possible for them to take to something that actually will give unlimited benefit.

Effects of time
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The BBC has a story of a show they did in which they digitally altered kids' pictures to make them look like 40 years old. The children had bad eating habits and the aim was to scare them into changing their habits by showing them the grim reality of the future. Check it out.

If only they could be encouraged to take up the real solution...

Creating culture
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Think back just 10 years. It used to be the case that only special people created culture. No normal person could hope to be called "author", "filmmaker", or "musician". This is rapidly changing. I was listening to a podcast discussion on digital lifestyle and one on maximizing your blogging strategies. One of the speakers mentioned that anyone can now consume as well as create media. Anyone can publish a blog, anyone can podcast, anyone can create a film (okay, a fair amount of disposable income is needed, but, believe me, digital filmmaking is much cheaper than you might think). The shape of our culture is in the hands of everyone.

Great danger: given power to the masses will lead to chaos! The masses are dumb! They don't know what's good for them! This will just lead to more porn on the Internet.

Great opportunity: show the masses how to be Krishna conscious and a cultural revolution can spring for the bottom-up. Distribute enough books (and get people to actually read and then post their realizations on the blogs) and BOOM! It's the talk of the city/nation/world.

Great difficulty: information overload! With everyone creating content how do you choose which content to consume? What will make the Krishna conscious content stand out from the throngs of useless posts? How to get someone to pay attention for more than 5 seconds?! How to get someone to commit to a process of self-realization for more than 1 day?

Choose bliss, choose Krishna
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I read SB11.13.9 and thought:

Under the influence of the material mode of passion a materialist endeavors to enjoy life, but ends up just giving him or herself more and more suffering. They know full-well that there real happiness to be had. They write, sing and talk about the many problems of their life (again and again). However, firmly believing that they are the body and fully absorbed in matter/nature, they have no other option but to try to enjoy, enjoy for some time, suffer misery and repeat the same loop endlessly.

The alternative is simple. One must break out of the vicious circle by absorbing the mind in something which is not matter: Krishna. Then one can act on the realization that trying to enjoy matter eventually results in misery and, through gradually practice of thinking of Krishna, switch into the mode of goodness. Then, using goodness as a launching pad one can rocket off into pure goodness and transcendence.

Note to self: remember Krishna (again and again) always. It's really simple: practice makes perfect.

On powerpoint presentations
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Powerpoint is ubiquitous in the commercial world. Seemingly every talk, presentation, meeting, lecture and discussion must be accompanied by a presentation. There are some good presentation and very many bad ones. Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world, has given a few useful guidelines on effective presentations in his blog.

In the devotee world presentations are very rare. The Vedic process of dissemination of knowledge is by sabda, or sound. Up until 5000 years ago no one even saw the need to write anything down. Western education, on the other hand, is almost completely visually focused. Many people, myself included, find it somewhat difficult to switch between the two paradigms.

My spiritual master tried giving a presentation in Wellington using a projector and a few simple presentation slides. He was blown away by the result. The attentiveness, retention, quality of questions asked afterwards, all were phenomenal. The audience even applauded afterwards. All because of having a projector screen to look at.

I suggest combining the transcendental sound vibrations of Vedic knowledge and expertly constructed visual imagery of the western world. The result: ultimate learning experience.

(Side note from Michael Hyatt that I also agree with: dump PowerPoint and use Apple Keynote instead. It produces much better looking presentations. Unlike Microsoft, Apple software has a sense of style.)

Divyavani news: Mathura prepares for royal wedding. Kamsa to drive chariot in traditional rite
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(by Jayadvaita Swami - Copyright 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. www.Krishna.com)

MATHURA, INDIA A king??(TM)s daughter and a king??(TM)s son will soon marry here, in the land that is home to their ancient dynasties, a spokesman for the royal palace announced today. The marriage will be celebrated in grand traditional style.

The bridegroom is Vasudeva, son of Surasena. King Surasena is the head of an extensive kingdom that bears his name. He is the leader of the Yadu dynasty, an important royal family in the area.

The bride to be, named Devaki, is the daughter of Devaka (members of the royal family here are known simply by one name). Devaka??(TM)s brother, Ugrasena, is the king of the Bhoja dynasty, another influential royal family.

The wedding will be celebrated with pageantry, with processions, with rites and fanfare. And at the end of the ceremonies the bride??(TM)s brother, following an old traditional custom, will drive the bride by chariot to her new home.

??oeA girl here lives sheltered at home with her family till marriage,?? explained Dr. Satish Trivedi, head of the sociology department at Mathura University. ??oeThen at marriage she moves in with her husband and becomes, as it were, part of his family.?? By driving the chariot, Dr. Trivedi explained, the brother responds sympathetically to the sister??(TM)s natural feeling of missing the home where she has grown up. ??oeIt??(TM)s really a heart-touching custom,?? Dr. Trivedi said.

The brother of the bride is Kamsa, who has recently been singled out for criticism by the United Demigods as cruel and oppressive. But the spokesman for the Mathura palace, Mr. Trigun Mohit, gave a different picture. ??oeThey just don??(TM)t know Kamsa at all,?? Mr. Mohit said. ??oeThey??(TM)ve got him all wrong. You should see him close up, like with his family??"how caring and gentle he is!??

Technically, Kamsa and Devaki are not brother and sister. Their fathers are brothers, so Kamsa and Devaki are cousins. But in this part of the world, Mr. Mohit said, that technicality hardly matters??"first cousins are like brothers and sisters. Apart from that, he said, ??oeKamsa really sees her like his sister. I just can??(TM)t tell you how much he loves that girl!??

The entire kingdom, thoroughly excited, is gearing up for the wedding. On the streets, in the cafes, wherever you go, it??(TM)s the topic of everyone??(TM)s talk. In Mr. Mohit??(TM)s words, ??oeThis is going to be a wedding that people will long remember.??

And from Divyavani news service, good morning. Thank you very much.

Divyavani news: Lord Vishnu, mysterious power behind the United Demigods
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(by Jayadvaita Swami - Copyright 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. www.Krishna.com)

WASHINGTON Ever since a delegation of the United Demigods expressed alarm over global military buildups and returned from the Milk Ocean with reported assurances of help from Lord Vishnu, Lord Vishnu has been much in the news. Multinational corporations worry about him. Think-tanks try to figure out his next moves. Kings are said to fear his power. Everyone, it seems, has heard of him.

But who is he?

??oeWe??(TM)ve got a huge file on Lord Vishnu,?? said a highly placed official at the Central Intelligence Agency, speaking on the condition of anonymity. ??oeI??(TM)d say we??(TM)ve got more on him than on anyone else. Tons of data??"but all of it contradictory.??

Take his whereabouts, for example. Lord Vishnu is supposed to have his headquarters in the Milk Ocean. ??oeBut where the heck is that??? the official said. ??oeSometimes we hear he??(TM)s in Russia, sometimes we hear China, sometimes the Middle East, South America. And forget rumors??"I??(TM)m talking highly reliable reports. So what are we supposed to think? It??(TM)s like he??(TM)s everywhere.??

And, for that matter, what is he lord of? No one seems quite sure, the CIA official said. ??oeYou ask those demigod people and they just smile and say, ??~Oh??"everything.??(TM) What are we supposed to do with that???

Vishnu??(TM)s age? No one seems to know. His nationality? No one knows. His looks? From most accounts, he??(TM)s exceedingly handsome. But then some reports say he??(TM)s a dwarf. He seems to be a master of disguises.

Whatever he may look like and wherever he may be, at least some information about Lord Vishnu seems fairly consistent. ??oeFor one thing, he??(TM)s incredibly wealthy,?? the CIA official said. ??oeHe??(TM)s got gold, he??(TM)s got oil, he??(TM)s got diamonds, he??(TM)s got timber, he??(TM)s into biotech. I can??(TM)t tell you how much he owns. Anything he wants to do, he??(TM)s always got the resources. He doesn??(TM)t seem to have any limits.??

And he??(TM)s astonishingly well informed. ??oeHe??(TM)s got eyes and ears everywhere,?? said a source at the National Security Agency. ??oeIt??(TM)s like he knows in advance our every move. It??(TM)s uncanny.??

And he has power. ??oeHow much??? said a source at MI5, the British security agency. ??oeWe don??(TM)t know. But we??(TM)ve seen his forces wipe out whole armies, just like that. We believe he has nuclear weapons??"and maybe even weapons we don??(TM)t know about.??

Yet he doesn??(TM)t fit the profile of a terrorist. ??oeFrom his track record, it seems he supports all the best causes,?? said the source at MI5. ??oeYou could say that he??(TM)s outright benevolent.?? But he??(TM)s not all sweet and light: ??oeHe??(TM)s also got this other side to him??"if he thinks you??(TM)re rotten, watch out.??

Still more puzzling, some reports say that Vishnu is indifferent to opulence and hardly cares about world affairs at all. According to French intelligence sources, what Vishnu most likes to do??"despite his money, despite his power, despite everything??"is just forget it all and live like a nomad in cow pastures somewhere in India. The French sources hinted he has a fascination with local village girls.

Two months ago, top-level security officials from fourteen countries attended a conference focused entirely on sharing information about Lord Vishnu. What they found out is that everyone has a different idea. According to one theory, it??(TM)s all a bluff??"Vishnu??(TM)s just an ordinary man. Others say he??(TM)s the single most powerful person there is. Another theory says there??(TM)s no such person as Vishnu at all??"an organization, maybe, but not a person. And then others say there are many Vishnus??"perhaps something like a Vishnu family??"all working together.

The official from the CIA summed it up: ??oeWho??(TM)s Vishnu? At the end of the day, we don??(TM)t really know.??

New iRiver MP3 players
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iRiver has accounced a new lineup of MP3 players: U10, T20, T30.

The two T models, in particular, sound good. iRiver players produce the best quality voice recordings in the industry (excluding super-expensive, super-large professional DAT recording equipment, of course). Check ' em out.

I still have my trusty little iRiver iFP-395T, which works like a charm, but if I were in the market for a new MP3 player/recorder, I'd certainly give the new T-series a very serious look.

Divyavani news: Earth-welfare delegation receives assurances, intervention expected
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(by Jayadvaita Swami - Copyright 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. www.Krishna.com)

NEW YORK The delegation of ??oedemigods?? that sought out Lord Vishnu earlier this week to plead the case of Bhumi, the earth-welfare organization, has received assurances of his help, sources close to the delegation said today. Precisely what sort of help he has offered is not yet known.

The assurances seem to have been given personally to Lord Brahma, the head of the delegation, in a highly confidential message. Brahma then informed the other demigods.

??oeIt was sort of mystical,?? a returning delegate told a reporter for DNS. From publicly available documents, Lord Vishnu is known to live on an island in the Milk Ocean, and ??oewe were all just standing there on the shore,?? the delegate said. ??oeNo ferry, no helicopter, nothing. So we just stood there on the shore and??"what else could we do???"we prayed.?? Brahma meditated for a while. Time passed. Nothing happened. ??oeAnd then all of a sudden Brahma said he got a message,?? the delegate said. ??oeBeats me how he got it. With Vishnu you never know. You stand there with nothing, and next thing you know you??(TM)ve got the whole package.?? Highly confidential information in the message, the delegate said, convinced him the message was for real.

No specifics of the message have been made available to the press. A spokesman for the delegation said only that Lord Vishnu had promised ??oesome sort of intervention.??

In response to a plea by Bhumi, the earth-welfare organization, the delegation had gone to seek help in countering an alleged pattern of political oppression and military buildups the delegates say have become a global crisis. Spokesmen for the major world powers say no such pattern exists.

Political analysts said they don??(TM)t expect changes overnight. Most likely, they said, Vishnu will come up with a long-term plan. But when he finally acts, one analyst said, the action will be dramatic: ??oeVishnu doesn??(TM)t do things small.??

Divyavani news: delegation seeks relief from arms buildup
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(Jayadvaita Swami's newspaper style article - Copyright 2005 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. www.Krishna.com)

NEW YORK Responding to what many perceive as a needless global buildup of weapons and military forces, a delegation of dignitaries has gone to the Milk Ocean, the reputed headquarters of Lord Vishnu, to seek relief. The specifics of their requests have not been disclosed. The delegation went to express ??oeextreme alarm?? about oppression and exploitation by presidents, kings, and other heads of state, a delegation spokesman said today. ??oeThese kings, dictators, and presidents are unfit to be in charge of anything,?? he said. ??oeThey squeeze their citizens for every tax dollar they can, spend billions on so-called military defense??"in plain words, on war??"and couldn??(TM)t care less about the welfare of their people.??

According to sources close to the delegation, which has yet to return, the dignitaries are acting in sympathy with Bhumi, the earth-welfare organization, known by its symbol of a cow. The delegates are convinced, the source said, that Bhumi ??oeauthentically represents the welfare of the earth.??

??oeThe stories Bhumi told us were appalling,?? one delegate was quoted to have said. ??oeWhole countries devastated, villagers driven from their homes, innocent people killed and tortured. And this??"it??(TM)s so sickening??"all over the world. And for what? So a handful of politicians and money men can suck up as much oil and gold and power as they can? If you ask me, they??(TM)re just demons.??

This ??oemurder for money,?? the spokesman alleged, is going on practically worldwide??"in Africa, South America, the Middle East, the Far East. ??oeAnd is Europe exempt??? he asked. ??oeName me a place, I??(TM)ll show you the terror and oppression.??

The delegates, reporters were told, are headed by Lord Brahma, the eminent scientist, engineer, philanthropist, and scholar. Lord Vishnu, it is believed, has yet to respond. But the delegation spokesman was optimistic: ??oeWe??(TM)re confident that he will.??

Only Lord Vishnu, the delegation is said to think, is powerful enough to intervene. ??oeWithout him,?? the spokesman said, ??oewe??(TM)re hopeless.??

In Washington, the State Department declined comment. But in London a spokesman for the Foreign Office dismissed the delegation as ??oea pack of extremists and fanatics.?? In India a spokesman for King Kamsa of Mathura, characterized by Bhumi as particularly cruel and despotic, said, ??oeThe king is unaware of any such delegation.??

Whatever the outcome, a Bhumi spokesman said, Bhumi is ??oeextremely grateful?? to the delegation. ??oeWhat can I say??? the spokesman told reporters. ??oeThey??(TM)re demigods.??

Steve Jobs: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
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In a speech at Stanford University Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks about his life after dropping out of College. He describes how he used to walk 7 miles to the local Hare Krishna temple to get a good meal.

Hmm, Jobs has been purified by prasadam. Preaching opportunity I wonder?

Steve Jobs certainly was some kind of demigod in his previous life. You need some special kind of karma to create a $2 billion company by the age of 30. He also is reputed to have quite an ego: "My way, or the highway". Another symptom of his having had some serious power in his previous life. Now, of course, the question is: where is he headed next?

In his speech, he also talks about a piece of advice he was given when he was 17. The Srimad Bhagavatam recommends that you live your life as if today were the last day of your life. He doesn't mention the Bhagavatam, of course, but that's probably where he got it from. In any case, he took that advice to heart and has accomplished so much.

So then: let's go out there and do something amazing! (and if we can recruit Steve Jobs' help, all the better...)

Compassion for oneself
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Listening to a series of lectures by Sacinandana Swami. He makes a point that I need to heed a little more.

(Based on Sridara Swami's maxim: "Be yourself and contribute.")

"When you are tired, then you need to rest. This is so simple. I remember Prabhupada used to send devotees to bed to rest. When you are tired you become miserable, can't understand anything even in the nicest seminars, develop water in the feet when you become older because the heart doesn't work correctly, etc. When we are tired we can rest a little bit more.

This point is so natural. When you are tired, this means that you are tried. It took me my fiftieth birthday to discover this. It is not maya, or anything else. This is my honest opinion. If you are tired: sleep!"

Comment spam combat
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Just got hit with 7 comment spam postings for an online casino. So now: no more comment spam allowed on this website. After some googling I found what looks like the best spam protection plugin for WordPress. Hashcash makes the commenting client webbrowser generate a hash code before allowing the comment to be submitted. Simple, effective and totally transparent to the user. I like it.

Passed (again)
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I had my post-1st-year transfer-interview interview today. My supervisors were very pleased with the corrections and additions I made since the interview. Now I've utterly and completely passed my first year. Finally, the axe that has been floating over my head for the last 3 months has been lifted away completely.

Speaking with Rahil, a fellow PhD student, she said that it took her about a month to get back into what she was actually supposed to be doing. It takes a while for the fog-of-uncertainty to lift.

Acupuncture (part 2)
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Having gotten back from my tour of Germany I had an appointment with my doctor, Philip Weeks. I wasn't feeling too bad, so I decided to cancel. I really didn't feel like more traveling. I can't imagine how travel weary the ever-traveling Swamis must be.

Anyway, I found an answering machine message request that I keep my appointment anyway, even if I'm feeling better. Oh well, I thought, I'll go, after all, it's only 5 more hours of train riding. (I'm lucky to have a doctor who actually cares about his patients.)

Dr. Phil asked how I was doing, took my six pulses and refreshed the acupuncture treatment he has given me a few weeks before. Apparently, it had held quite well, though treatments do tend to fade away with time.

After some more diagnostics he decided to apply two more needles. This time in my armpits. The effect was far out: The weird tingling feeling that occurs when a needle connects with an acupuncture point shot down all the way to my hand, paralyzing my arm for about half a minute. Philip had triggered some major shifts of energy in my body.

The next day I felt a little better: digestion seemed to be working.

The day after I felt even better: I could once again digest rice. Oh happy day!

Ah, material happiness = relief from distress. Up and down I go. I hope this experience will prepare me to be more tolerant of the next "down". I'll still need to practice not to be too elated with this temporary "up". Good training for death, in any case.

Swansea tour (day 11)
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5:00am - all the devotees crowd into a house from a cold and windy mid-summer street in Swansea. The occasion: a pure devotee was departing. Devamrita Swami drove off as we all looked on.

Next stop for him: Finland.
Next stop for me: Manchester.

(also: I've post the pictures I took during the trip: take a look)

Swansea tour (day 10)
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I had recovered somewhat from exhaustion of the journey. Today was learning time. After the morning program I drove with my spiritual master to Dharmasetu's house where he was staying. While there I took instruction from both Vrikash and his wife. They are Indian (Gujarati) devotees who council young devotees in male/female issues. Time for me to learn to understand my emotional side, as deeply buried under my hard technical shell that it is. Also, some lessons in ironing.

A japa-walk on the beach, Sunday Feast program and good spiritual food (prasadam) and it was time to wrap things up. I, of course, apologies for all my stupidities, space-outs and offenses as I was accompanying my spiritual master. DS's response: "oh, you've committed no offenses!"

Swansea tour (day 9)
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Swansea was a veritable reunion. Many disciples and aspiring disciples magically materialized in Wales for our brief visit. Kishore Muri das, Simon (ex-yacht captain for the ultra-rich), Stambha Bhava das ("the right kind of ecstasy"), Simon (ex-carpenter who almost single-handedly built/is-building the new Cardiff soul centre), as well as ex-Manchesterites Dave and Hitesh were all present.

Very enthusiastic singing and dancing (kirtan). More rest for me. My health isn't what it used to be (back in 1994 when times were good - yeah right).

Devamrita Swami talked about the ISKCON organization and how people nowadays don't want to "join" a spiritual organization. Organized religion is an oxymoron. The folk notion is that: "only you can know what is right for your spiritual life". We therefore shouldn't hit people over the head with this notion of "joining-up", which might have been cool in the '70s, but doesn't strike a cord in today's world.

Germany tour (day 7)
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I spent the night at my parent's house and picked up my German driver's license in the morning. It had been quite an endeavor to get it exchanged for my US military license.

Devamrita Swami and I departed back to England. Dina Sarani departed back to Burg Hohenstein. Carana Renu had departed back to Slovenia the day before.

After a short flight, having arrived back in Manchester, I lost my keys in the taxi from the airport to my flat. Terrible embarrassment: there I was outside my door with my spiritual master unable to let him in. Luckily, my landlord was in town and arrived 30-minutes later, letting us in.

A quick lunch had to be prepared and DS requested Kurma's Pasta Salad (Great Vegetarian Dishes: page 77), which he had greatly enjoyed as lunch on the flight to Germany. This time it didn't turn out so well. Hint 1: use less lemon juice, the dressing needs to be thick. Hint 2: let it sit for a while to allow the flavors to seep into the vegetables.

(also: I've posted the pictures from the Germany trip: have a look, if you like.)

Germany tour (day 6)
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Enthusiastic morning program at Goloka Dhama. Among other things, DS talked about how to attract more people to Krishna consciousness. Scores of Germans start practicing KC in New Zealand, but no new devotees seem to come forth in Germany (in fact: another one emailed DS just the day before). What is different in New Zealand? Why can't the German temples spark interest in the German people?

Goloka Dhama is located in the Hunsr? 1/4 ck region of Germany. It is always windy and cold, even in the summer. The heating in the temple doesn't seem to work that well either. The result: all of us caught a cold. I'm still getting over it.

Bala Gopala das initiated me into Reiki healing (level 1). I can now harness the energy of the Bhramajyoti and heal people by laying-on of hands. I'm skeptical, of course. I don't tend to be very much into the more subtle (non-computer science like) sciences, but, then again, anything is possible. It can't hurt, in any case.

Around noon we then set off (in a much too small car) to Heidelberg. After a grueling car trip we arrived in the small temple that my father visits every other weekend. Heidelberg used to be the main, hip and happening, place-to-be, guns-blazing, new-devotee-generating-machine temple of Germany. However, for various reasons, the prime, inner-city temple building became too expensive to continue renting and the preaching fizzled out. The current temple is a two-story apartment in a suburb of Heidelberg. (It does have very good internet access though. Lots of iMac and Powerbook users in Heidelberg temple, it seems)

Sacinandana Swami arrived in time for the evening program. He encouraged Devamrita Swami to speak whereupon he launched into an almost two-hour long soliloquy on how to heal the German yatra. He actually intended to speak about how the same old boring thing keeps going on-and-on in cyclical-time, day after day of Brahma, but Krishna had other plans, it seems.

Germany tour (day 5)
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DS rested from the program the night before, so Dina Sarani dd gave the Bhagavatam class in the morning. Afterward we traveled in a (large, well-organized) car to Abentheuer in the Saarland region of Germany. Located there: German Krishna headquarters, Goloka Dhama.

The devotees greeted us very nicely. I felt immediately welcome and at home. Everyone was helpful, personal, welcoming and caring. Lots of families live in and around the temple, but no youth. Everyone is either over 40, or under 10 years old.

The deities (Sri Sri Radha-Madana-Mohana) were transcendentally beautiful. I remember seeing them in a picture at Bhaktivedanta Manor over two years ago and instantly falling in love. Devamrita Swami talked about how he had been under their shelter back in 1978 years ago, when he was preaching in the former east-block communist counties and using Germany as a base. He said how seeing their Lordships again brought back lots of memories.

One first time temple visitor was interested though somewhat cautious. Incidentally, when asked what he thought of the deities, he described how he could not see anything on the alter. After repeated questioning it was clear the Sri Sri Radha-Madana-Mohana had hidden themselves from his vision.

(side node: my spiritual master was situation in Schloss Rettershof temple, a 10-minute drive away from my home town of K??nigstein around the time I was born. Coincidence?)

Germany tour (day 4)
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A very nice (long) morning class started off the day. Two interested guests talk which DS personally afterwards. He certainly made an impression on them. They both liked his personal nature. "Er ist sehr annehmbar", one Zen-Buddhist/Devotee said.

Carana Renu fixed DS's lunch. Amazingly she (frantically) managed to prepare it in half the time it should have sensibly taken. Good to see things haven't changed with her.

I proceeded to loose my spiritual master's icebreaker merino wool hat in a shopping mall we were walking through. He handed me his jacket and hat, though I didn't realize the hat was part of the package and must have dropped it. A few minutes later, when we noticed, the hat was no where to be found. I am indeed foolish. (I've since ordered him a new hat).

Devamrita Swami's comment: I'm lucky, I could have lost my life.

In the evening we traveled to Aachen for a university program. However, they were unable to book a room at the actual university, so it ended up being held in a nearby flat. The plan was for both Carana Renu (PhD Astrophysics) and me (aspiring PhD Computer Science) to speak in addition to Devamrita Swami. However, it turns out that there were only Hindus at the program, so DS gave a talk trying to get them to actually read the Bhagavad-Gita. They turned out to be quite a lively audience. DS ended up staying much longer than he had planned, answering their questions and arguments.

Germany tour (day 3)
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After a small morning program in Burg Hohenstein, breakfast and over two hours of trying to organize suitable cars for travel, we set off for K??ln. When all was said and done everyone arrived just in the for the Sunday Feast program in K??ln. I was surprised at the number of young people in the audience. The program was well organized and very well attended. A full house.

The house itself reminds me of Soho-Street temple. 4 stories, restaurant on the ground floor, temple above that, shop and ashram above that, another ashram above that. However, the temple is located about 5 kilometers from the K??ln city center in a bad part of town. Cheap rent, I guess, but not the best location for attracting people to Krishna consciousness.

Devamrita Swami gave the Sunday Feast talk.

Germany tour (day 2)
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My father, mother and me traveled to an art school in central Wiesbaden. DS was to speak at a program there. The devotees in the Wiesbaden area come together every month for a Saturday-Feast program. Lots of people came. DS talked about the difficulties of being Krishna conscious when dealing with practical matters in the "real world". An old friend of mine, Carana Renu devi dasi, was also there. She would accompany Devamrita Swami, Dina Saranai devi dasi (the GBC for Germany) and me on the tour.

Germany tour (day 1)
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Last week I went on a tour of Germany with my spiritual master (Devamrita Swami).

Arriving in Frankfurt/Main airport we were greeted by Bhakta Marcus and my father. The plan was for me to spend a day with my parents in K??nigstein and Devamrita Swami to spend the day at Burg Hohenstein.

National Vegetarian Week
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This week was national vegetarian week. I heard an in-store advert in ASDA loudly proclaiming: "a vegetarian diet is great for health and fitness, try it now, we have lots of vegetarian products here at ASDA (hint-hint)".

Nice that people are being encouraged to be vegetarian. Sad however that the reason that is being pushed for them to do so is so that they can enjoy more sense gratification. What about when the body (inevitably) breaks down, or the pop-vegi trend fizzles out? Well, it's straight back into slaughtering the innocent animals.

The only way people will stop meat-eating is if they develop compassion for the animals they are eating. Before having compassion for animals, they need to have compassion for other humans. Before having compassion for other humans, they have to have compassion for themselves. Before having compassion for themselves, they have to understand who they really are. Guess what: you're not that body!

Jiva Goswami’s definition of God
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(warning: longest sentence in existence)

He who is the very form of existence, consciousness and bliss, who possesses inconceivable, multifarious and unlimited energies that are of his own nature, he who is the ocean of unlimited, mutually contradictory qualities, such that in him both the attribute and the possessor of attributes, the lack of differences and the varieties of difference, formlessness and form, pervasiveness and centrality all are true, who's beautiful form is distinct from both gross and subtle entities, self-luminous and consisting entirely of his own nature, who has unlimited such forms that are manifested by his chief form called Bhagavan, who's left side is beautified by Laksmi, who is the manifestation of his personal energy suitable to his own form, Bhagavan resides in his own abode along with his associates, who are furnished with a form that is a special manifestation of his own splendor, who astonishes the hosts of atmaramas, those who take pleasure in the self, by his wonderful qualities, pastimes, et cetera, which are characterized by the playing of his personal energy, who's own generic brilliance is manifested in the form of the reality, who is the sole shelter and life of this marginal energy called the jivas, who's mere reflected energy are the gunas, visible in unlimited phenomenal world, that person is Bhagavan.

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I've been to see Dr. Philip Weeks, the devotee/herbalist doctor who has been treating my condition (western medicine is useless: no cause, no cure, no mercy). He usually uses a Vega testing machine to diagnose the cause of an illness and mixes together a brew of herb extracts and homeopathic remedies to counteract whatever is causing the sickness.

This time however, he did something else. Having just finished a degree in acupuncture, and eager to try out his new skills, he laid me down, marked me up with a felt-tip pen and proceeded to stick a small needle into my body at various places. When he got the acupuncture point just right (it has to be accurate to less than a millimeter) I felt a weird tingling sensation throughout my entire body. Indeed, it felt like (and probably was) the energy flows in my body were being rewired.

After the treatment I felt very light headed, spaced out and could hardly walk. Ever skeptical as I am, I was amazed. A few needles can do this to me?

Philip mixed up a tincture of herbs to help fire up my damp rag of a body, gave me some general medicine, some good advice and encouraging words and sent me on my way (after I had recovered my walking ability).

I struggled somewhat getting back home. I felt very, very tired and feel asleep almost as soon as I got back. However, the very next day (after 10 hours of sleep), I was brimming more energy than I'd had for weeks. Eating solid food however quickly changed that. My digestive fire had yet to be ignited.

Today, two days later, I'm feeling better still. I think I may have succeeded in digesting my first meal in months. Acupuncture really works. Thanks Philip.

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Last weekend I experienced a relapse of Ulcerative Colits. The flair-up started off with my eating some dal and feeling very wiped out afterwards. I spelt for a hour and had a horrible burning feeling in my stomach. A few hours later I started getting pains in my abdomen every 5 minutes, each attack lasting for about 30 seconds. Nothing new, I'd been through all this before.

This kind of pain is very debilitating. It destroyed all my imputus to do anything. Why start doing something, if 4 minutes later you'll be floored by an attack of pain? Result: two days of sitting around feeling sorry for my state of existence, chanting inattentively, reading inattentively and observing maya working herself into my consciousness.

Relief came after two days of fasting. The pain subsided into merely an uncomfortable tightening sensation and I could (kind-of) eat fruit and get some (little) energy that. The body is an amazing machine when it works, but very bothersome when it doesn't. And, more often then now, it doesn't.

As much as a release that pain is merely a temporary manifestation of my mind to let me know that something in the body is going wrong, still I find my consciousness very severely affected by it. Anyway, good practice for the time of death.

BT Swami’s conflict resolution techniques
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In general, conflicts should not be seen as "bad". They are something we can learn and grow from. Conflicts, if handled correctly, result in a "win/win" situation where everyone is better off.

Ineffective conflict resolution

  1. Battle mode: the idea that we have to fight the other party
  2. Avoidance mindset: it will not go away
  3. Negotiation, arbitration and bargaining: causes the problem to resurface later, if people are not fully satisfied with the deal
  4. Bandage: doing a little something to (half-)patch things up, but not really dealing with the underlying issues
  5. Role-playing: approach conflict based on status: "I'm the big leader, so you better do as I say".

Effective conflict resolution

  1. Create an effective atmosphere: comfortable, non-threatening
  2. Clarify both parties' conceptions of the problem
  3. Focus on individual needs and shared needs: what needs do both parties have in common?
  4. Build upon these shared positions
  5. Learn from the past, but look to the future: don't dwell on the past problems/issues/disagreements
  6. Look at various possible solutions: record things that are agreed upon
  7. Build upon agreements
  8. Form mutually binding agreements on what will be done

BT Swami’s principles for better community
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From a series of lectures by Bhakta Tirtha Swami: four spiritual technologies for raising our collective purity. Things to internalize as complementary to the four regs.

  1. If there is a conflict: first look at yourself as being at fault.
  2. Think of the person who you have the deepest affection for and try to extend that same mindset to everyone.
  3. Interact with each other in the spirit that the success or failure of your own KC is dependent on these interactions.
  4. Consider that the people you are living with at the moment are likely to be the people who will be there with you when you leave the body. Everyone's consciousness is affected by the quality of the association.