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Re: Planet ISKCON - 35 new articles

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"Planet ISKCON" - 35 new articles

  1. Japa Group: With Awareness Of The Lord
  2. ISKCON Brisbane, AU: Children's Creative Journal Classes.
  3. ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Daily Class - Gopa-Vrndesa Prabhu
  4. ISKCON Toronto, Canada: Deity Darshan: Sunday, April 11, 2010
  5. H.H. Sivarama Swami: Climate change treaty 'more urgent than ever'
  6. Gauranga Kishore das,USA: Crime and Punishment
  7. Bharatavarsa.net: Bhakti Vikasa Swami: beyond the clutches of death
  8. HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: '403' from The Yellow Submarine
  9. HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'His Exalted Status' from The Yellow Submarine
  10. HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'I Hope To Correct This' from The Yellow Submarine
  11. HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'The Roof' from The Yellow Submarine
  12. David Haslam, UK: My thought's on the article "does ISKCON really care for it's members?"
  13. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  14. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  15. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  16. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  17. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  18. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  19. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  20. Srila Prabhupada's Letters
  21. ISKCON Toronto, Canada: No Sunday Feast Broadcast tonight
  22. Japa Group: Nama Prabhu Is A Person
  23. Dandavats.com: Last Call for BBT Photo Book
  24. Madhava Ghosh dasa, New Vrndavan, USA: Dodged One Bullet
  25. Manoj, Melbourne, AU: 196. Mayapur 2010 – Hours of initiation
  26. H.H. Sivarama Swami: First kirtan for Radhe-Syama after returning from India
  27. H.H. Sivarama Swami: Madhavendra Puri's ecstatic love of Godhead
  28. H.H. Bhaktimarg Swami: Tuesday, April 5th, 2010
  29. Yoga of Ecology, Bhakta Chris, USA: The Inner Meaning of Vegetarianism: An Interview With Steven J. Rosen
  30. Bhakta Chris, New York, USA: The Humblest People In Washington
  31. Vrndavana Vinodini dd, Toronto, Canada: Calm Down!
  32. H.H. Sivarama Swami
  33. H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Photo's from the Durban Ratha Yatra
  34. Gouranga TV: Mantra session 20.03.2010 1/7
  35. Gaura Sakti das & Adi Radhika dd, New Vraja Dham, Hungary: Banyan tree
  36. More Recent Articles
  37. Search Planet ISKCON

Japa Group: With Awareness Of The Lord

I felt a little bit of holiness in the atmosphere of harinama, the thing I so much want. That sanctity, that clarity of anything but Krishna. I chanted the rounds quickly and heard the syllables in my mind. If only I could chant this way and better everyday I would be a happy man. Good japa brings you to the place you want to be, within yourself with awareness of the Lord.

From Bhajan Kutir #403
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ISKCON Brisbane, AU: Children's Creative Journal Classes.

Mondays 3:30pm - 4:30pm 

At the temple. 
Term starting 19th April, 2010

Tuition Fee: Each week, bring fruits, flowers, milk, grains or sugar, honey or any other bhoga for Gaura Nitai. 
Open to children from Year 1 - Year 7

Class essentials: Please bring a photo of each child to the first lesson, a visual art diary or scrap book for each child - (available at Officeworks or news agencies), a pencil case with pencils, a rubber and sharpener. Other arts materials will be supplied. 
Classes will help children develop personal expression, drawing skills, painting skills, collage and other media for art making. They will also use poetry and creative writing to make a journal about their journey in life. It is designed to be a fun way for devotee children to spend time together. 

Facilitated by Taraka devi dasi,
Contact:    0402 599 416


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ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Daily Class - Gopa-Vrndesa Prabhu

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.19.9 - Krishna's lotus feet destroys your material existence and showers nectar upon you.

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ISKCON Toronto, Canada: Deity Darshan: Sunday, April 11, 2010

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: Climate change treaty 'more urgent than ever'

Read more…

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Gauranga Kishore das,USA: Crime and Punishment

I just finished reading Crime and Punishment, the famous masterpiece by Dostoevsky, this weekend. Wow. What an intense and powerful book.

I like this quote by Virginia Wolf describing Dostoevsky:

"The novels of Dostoevsky are seething whirlpools, gyrating sandstorms, waterspouts which hiss and boil and suck us in. They are composed purely and wholly of the stuff of the soul. Against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture."

Crime and Punishment is a powerful story about despair and ultimately salvation and redemption. (read a summary here)

In his novels Dostoevsky doesn't argue for the existence of God but rather shows the depravity, desperation, and horror of life without God and without faith, and the struggle that we go through to find faith and to hold on to faith, and the redemptive power of faith.

And ultimately through his books Dostoevsky accomplishes his purpose in writing by inspiring faith in the reader.

At least he does for this reader.
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Bharatavarsa.net: Bhakti Vikasa Swami: beyond the clutches of death

First one must control his speaking power. Every one of us has the power of speech; as soon as we get an opportunity we begin to speak. If we do not speak about Krsna consciousness, we speak about all sorts of nonsense. A toad in a field speaks by croaking, and similarly everyone who has a tongue wants to speak, even if all he has to say is nonsense. The croaking of the toad, however, simply invites the snake: "Please come here and eat me." Nevertheless, although it is inviting death, the toad goes on croaking. The talking of materialistic men and impersonalist Mayavadi philosophers may be compared to the croaking of frogs. They are always speaking nonsense and thus inviting death to catch them. Controlling speech, however, does not mean self-imposed silence (the external process of mauna), as Mayavadi philosophers think. Silence may appear helpful for some time, but ultimately it proves a failure. The meaning of controlled speech conveyed by Srila Rupa Gosvami advocates the positive process of krsna-katha, engaging the speaking process in glorifying the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. The tongue can thus glorify the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord. The preacher of krsna-katha is always beyond the clutches of death. This is the significance of controlling the urge to speak.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => NoI: verse 1

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HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: '403' from The Yellow Submarine

www.sdgonline.org. SDGonline Daily updates

4:00 A.M.

I woke up at 2:00 A.M. with a headache but took medicine and began chanting. Krishna-kripa is staying with us for a week to take the place of Narayana Kavaca. He came up at 2:30 to wake me up along with Baladeva who woke up the Deities. My headache subsided and my chanting was fairly good. My mind felt quiet except for some distractions. I felt a little bit of holiness in the atmosphere of harinama, the thing I so much want. That sanctity, that clarity of anything but Krishna. I chanted the rounds quickly and heard the syllables in my mind. If only I could chant this way and better everyday I would be a happy man. Good japa brings you to the place you want to be, within yourself with awareness of the Lord.

Good japa is the goal
of a satisfied life. It's
such a simple yet
elusive thing. All you have
to do is clear your mind of
distractions and concentrate
on softly, gently, reverently
reciting Hare, Krishna and Rama.
We have made our lives so
cluttered with other things
that we can't take simple
pleasure in the single most
important thing. But some
days are better, and you
have a dawn of hope that
you could become a hari–

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HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'His Exalted Status' from The Yellow Submarine

www.sdgonline.org. SDGonline Daily updates

Here is Prabhupada on a morning walk, wearing his heavy woolen swami-cap, a grey cadar and tan sweater, piece of turtleneck jersey showing. It must have been a chilly morning. His face has so many expressions. He looks sad, tender, compassionate, thoughtful, transcendental in a world of his own. He could switch from these moods from one to another as parts of his self. On a walk, people wanted to be near him, to ask him questions and hear his answers. It was not the same as words he wrote down in print, but the way he spoke them made it very different. He is carrying Krishna in his heart, and he is compassionate to share Him and teach Krishna consciousness to others. That is the main impression I get from this picture. He has wanted to create influence for his Guru Maharaja and for Lord Caitanya. For many years he was all alone, and no one would listen to him. His immediate family did not appreciate him because he did not have much money, and besides, he did not like that burden. Ever since he left home he wanted to preach for his Guru Maharaja, but he was not in a position to do so, and when he was free, his master's Gaudiya Matha was ruined, and there was no organization to preach for.

But by the time this picture was taken he was at the peak of his influence in the International Society For Krishna Consciousness, his own branch of his master's movement. He was very successful, and he had thousands of followers. He looks satisfied, loved but still very humble and in a sense all alone, carrying many disciples. They all loved him but could not possible understand his exalted status. They work hard for him and dedicate their lives for him and for this he is very appreciative and loves them all as his children. But ultimately he is alone, satisfied to see the book distribution, the Radha-Krishna worship, and the bright young faces. But alone with Krishna in his heart.

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HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'I Hope To Correct This' from The Yellow Submarine

www.sdgonline.org. SDGonline Daily updates

Yesterday I forgot to write some
of my journal. A sad omission.
read more from SDGonline - daily updates from The Yellow Submarine: My Bhajana Kutir journal 

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HH. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 'The Roof' from The Yellow Submarine

www.sdgonline.org. SDGonline Daily updates

This is an old ISKCON picture that brings mixed emotions. One thing you'd like to say about it is that all the people in the photo love Prabhupada. But the children are really too young for that. The saddest thing about the picture is that one of the most sincere devotees, the mother in the lower left, Sunita Devi Dasi has passed away. She was too young to die, and it just shouldn't have happened. She died from a heart attack while swimming on a happy day, happily married with children to take care of. A few of the other faces have scattered away, but almost all of them are still sincere, hard working devotees for Srila Prabhupada. The picture was taken on the rooftop of the 55th Street building which is no longer in ISKCON's possession.

read more from SDGonline - daily updates from The Yellow Submarine: My Bhajana Kutir journal 

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David Haslam, UK: My thought's on the article "does ISKCON really care for it's members?"

I was at a clients house the other night and once they had settled down and fallen to sleep I read some of the articles available online; for me it's a sort of therapy a way of reconnecting with Krishna and the devotees. Any way I read an article from one of my favorite writers Kripamoya [...]

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1970 April 11: "All of them are pseudo-religions. The Bhagavat condemns such pseudo-religion. Except Krsna Consciousness or Bhagavata Dharma, any other system of religion is only pretension."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1970

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1971 April 11: "Do not worry about the immigration difficulties. It will all be done by Krishna's grace. Don't worry. Take to the right process and it will be done."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1971

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1971 April 11: "Initiated members are for managing the temples and preaching work. We are not after making initiated members very many but our concern is that people understand this philosophy in wider circles."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1971

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1972 April 11: "I am surprised that none of the GBC members detected the defects. It was detected only when it came to me. What will happen when I am not here, shall everything be spoiled by GBC?"
Prabhupada Letters :: 1972

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1972 April 11: "So in the GBC Agenda I do not find any programs for reforming our past bad habits. So for the time being, let the GBC activities be suspended until I thoroughly revise the whole procedure."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1972

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1973 April 11: "These children are the future hope of our Society, so it is a very important matter how we train them. The simple method I have introduced is sufficient.Why this Montessori method?"
Prabhupada Letters :: 1973

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1974 April 11: "It is extremely assuring that Gurukula is doing nicely. The importance of Gurukula cannot be overestimated, both for our Movement, indeed it is important for the whole world."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1974

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Srila Prabhupada's Letters

1974 April 11: "Human life means tapasya, lie down on the floor, collect alms for the spiritual master - not to make a comfortable material arrangement. We are producing first class brahmanas who can actually do good for their fellow man."
Prabhupada Letters :: 1974

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ISKCON Toronto, Canada: No Sunday Feast Broadcast tonight

Due to some unexpected technical difficulties,we will not be broadcasting the Sunday Feast today.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

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Japa Group: Nama Prabhu Is A Person

Nama Prabhu is a person with all the qual i ties of Krishna just as good as His form, but when you chant mechan i cally it's like you're chanting the puppet rather than the person. The body is tired and can't give its energy in devo tion as it would like to. But you push on and pray for the best.

From Bhajan Kutir #401
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Dandavats.com: Last Call for BBT Photo Book

Kaisori-devi dasi: This is just a reminder to anyone who still plans to submit photos for the BBT's photography book. The deadline is APRIL 30

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Madhava Ghosh dasa, New Vrndavan, USA: Dodged One Bullet

We had 7 days of mid 80 degree (29-30 C) weather, at least 3 of which set new record highs for the date. While this made for comfortable weather for humans,  it has brought on an onslaught of spring, like watching it in Fast Forward. Things have been coming on too quickly, IMHO.

The problem for fruit trees is twofold. First, everything comes out into bloom too quickly, while the potential for hard frosts is still very high. While enjoying the warm weather, a nagging part of me was fearing that a freeze would catch the fruit trees at their most vulnerable, when all the blooms have emerged, but they haven't been pollinated yet. This would result in no fruit for the year.

Sure enough, at the end of this warm spell came a cold front and the forecast was hard frost. It set up just as one fears, a cold rainy day with the temperatures dropping throughout the day, then seeing patches of blue in the sky as the daylight faded to dark. If the clouds hold, heat is retained like by a blanket but if they dissipate, the heat does too.

I covered a currant bush that was all bloomed out with floating row cover in case it was self pollinating as this would represent the first fruit from the berries I planted last year (most won't bear until next year), but there wasn't much I could do for the established fruit trees.

I went out with some trepidation the next morning, but the frost was lighter than predicted, with only some showing up on the windshield of the car. I checked the fruit tree blossoms that late afternoon but the dreaded brown blooms were not to be found, they were still bright and vibrant.

The second problem for the fruit crop is lack of pollinators. When the Spring unfolds its earliest blooming plants at a more natural pace native pollinators can build up populations so when the fruit nectar flow hits they are ready to go. When it all comes in at once they are undermanned.

Usually beekeepers have their new bees (a lot more hives have to be repopulated yearly now then they used to have to be)  by now, and they use the fruit tree nectar flow to build up on so they have adequate population to make honey on the sweet clover and stuff later.  Unfortunately, the new bees haven't shipped yet.

I was talking to a beekeeper this week who said he had ordered bees to arrive second week of April, which would mean they would have been here for the normal fruit tree nectar flow. Unfortunately, because it was so cold in Georgia this past winter, they have had to delay shipping bee packages until the last week in April.

The combination of an early blossoming and late shipping of the bees means they will miss the fruit bloom.

When I was checking the fruit trees, I could see a few bumblebees hovering around them, and I am sure there were probably some small wasps that are hard to see, but there should have been a pervasive humming sound in them as the bees worked them over efficiently.

So it remains to be seen how much of a fruit set we will get this year.

Filed under: Cows and Environment
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Manoj, Melbourne, AU: 196. Mayapur 2010 – Hours of initiation

I was looking towards this day. I had heard that His Holiness Jayapataka Swami would be doing a TV telecast for the devotees who were to be initiated. The last time I saw him was in 2007 when he was in Melbourne and a handful of devotees, me included went for a long walk around the temple. Some of us got some bright red cherries that morning. As I walked past the Mayapur Academy library, I first saw an initiation ceremony in Portuguese happening in one of the rooms. Although, I couldn't understand the language, it was nevertheless interesting to look through the window and watch devotees get their japa beads along with a new name to everyone's resounding yell, "Hari Bol !!!!!!".

I quickly walked over to the large venue which was near the new Vedic Planetarium being constructed. I had a good feeling that the venue would be packed and I didn't want to lose the front seat. More over, one of our Melbourne devotee was getting initiated and I didn't want to miss that.

By the time, I reached the place, the venue had a few people and they were watching a big screen on the podium. And there was His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaj giving a talk from USA. Health wise he seemed to be making good advancement. Everybody were glued to the screen. The place wasn't well covered so plenty of sunlight filled the place and it was hard to see him properly. But anyways, hearing was important. He spoke with much enthusiasm and devotees seemed happy.

Place of initiation

The initiation ceremony area was cleared off all chairs and people. Leaf plates and other items for the fire sacrifice was laid out neatly.

Decorative ideas !

The tent ceiling had plenty of decorations and I was surprised to see the above design using hair combs ! New ones of course !

He arrives

As the place was filling up, Lord Chaitanya and Nityanada prabhu arrived much to everyone's happiness. Soon afterawards, came 3 Guru maharajas -

His Holiness Bhakti Vaibhav Swami

His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami

His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami

That was when I realized that there would be 4 sets of initiation that would take place. This would be really interesting. And that was exactly how it turned out. Each guru maharajas spoke about the importance of devotional services, 10 offenses to the holy name and the importance of initiation. The most memorable part of the afternoon was a full talk given in fluent Bengali by HH Bhakti Vikas Swami which was fluently translated by HH Bhakti Charu Swami into English. It amused everyone around especially the locals. Later HH Bhakti Charu Swami said, "Swami has got an English body and a Bengali heart !". After about 2-3 hours, our Melbourne devotee, Bernadette mataji was the first to be called by HH Bhakti Purusottama Swami, who was representing HH Jayapataka Swami.

Bernadette becomes Baradatri Radha Devi Dasi !

All in all, i think the entire initiation process for all the 50 odd devotees took about 4 hours. And it was a great learning matter for me. One of the prime messages that both HH Bhakti Vikas and Bhakti Charu Swami gave to the new initiated devotees and the assembled guests were :

- Please do not leave ISKCON

- Read and study Srila Prabhupada's books every single day

And may these 2 advice forever be plastered in my heart.

"Hari Bol!!!" to all the initiated devotees from that day ! Lucky to have 4 sannyasis preside over your ceremony.

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: First kirtan for Radhe-Syama after returning from India

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: Madhavendra Puri's ecstatic love of Godhead

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H.H. Bhaktimarg Swami: Tuesday, April 5th, 2010

At the U.

Durban, South Africa

After a short rest in the evening, I rose for the usual 4:30 AM spiritual program pre-empting it with a good circumambulation around the temple. At 10:00 AM I was driven along with some of our drama volunteers to the Kwala Zulu Natal University to speak to the theatre arts students. With some of the puppets made for our new drama, "The Three Lives of Bharat" our presentation added a new dimension to the course. The staff and students participated in a "wing-it workshop". There was no apprehension about joining us in chanting mantras as a way to warm up for one of our standard sessions. I led them in pranati mantras to the guru, beginning with "Namah om Vishnu-padaya" and demonstrated surya namaskara (sun salutations). We played out one scene of the drama of Bharat, one of the very celebrated kings of India who had turned monk in his maturing years. It was a pleasure playing the role of a teacher of theatre while in my monastic cloth.

Baked potatoes as a prep called 'Gauranga Potatoes' was the main course of 'the last supper' during our stay in South Africa. Hugs, hugs and more hugs – appreciation of all kinds were exchanged. Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, presiding monk in Durban, gave blessings.

As Simon and Garfunkel had sung, "Homeward Bound" the mood for home was nudging me even though South Africa is almost like a second home for now. In all reality if you are an ascetic, all places you go are home.

6 KM

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Yoga of Ecology, Bhakta Chris, USA: The Inner Meaning of Vegetarianism: An Interview With Steven J. Rosen

Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa) is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is also founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and associate editor for Back to Godhead. He has published twenty-one books in numerous languages, including the recent Essential Hinduism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) and the Yoga of Kirtan: Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting (FOLK Books, 2008).

[*This interview was conducted by Rynn Berry for his book, Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World Religions (New York: Pythagorean Publishers, 1998)]

Berry: How long have you been a vegetarian?

Rosen: I became a vegetarian in 1971 after studying the roots of various religious traditions. It started when I began to look deeply into Western religion, especially Christianity, which only goes back about two thousand years. I then studied Judaism, which is somewhat older. Both of these religions emphasize the need for love and compassion, but rarely take it to the point of vegetarianism, at least not overtly. Wanting to delve deeper and go further back into the religious history of mankind, I began studying the various Eastern religions, which go back many thousands of years. In the course of my research, I found that common to most of the Asian religions was this sort of ahimsa sensibility—this notion of "harmlessness" and "nonviolence," this mood of treating others as you would have them treat you. And that's what led me to vegetarianism quite early on.

Then, taking the religious quest back to its roots, I became interested in yoga and ancient Hindu traditions that emphasized vegetarianism. This was well before I met the devotees of the International Society for Krishna consciousness [ISKCON]. I was already a practicing vegetarian when I became a practicing Vaishnava, although my commitment to the Krishna religion definitely enhanced my resolve to be kind to all creatures and to be a vegetarian.

But the point I want to make is this: I saw that there was a thread connecting all the religious traditions and, for me, this was best expressed in what is known as sanatan dharma, or "the eternal function of the soul"; that's what the devotees of Krishna were purporting to follow. So that's what I started to explore in the Krishna consciousness movement. Now, that particular sanatan dharma ideology, that particular point of view—wherever you find it, be it in Christianity or Hinduism or whatever—necessarily insists on kindness to all living creatures. Taken to its furthest and most logical end, it insists on vegetarianism.

Berry: Larry Shinn, President of Berea College, Kentucky, and an acknowledged expert on the Hare Krishna movement, observed that many vegetarians joined the Krishna movement because it gives them a rationale for their vegetarianism. Did you find this to be true in your case?

Rosen: Yes. I would say so. Here at last was a religious tradition that provided a clear connection between vegetarianism, kindness to all creatures, and the religious pursuit. As I said, I found this same principle in other traditions, but you had to look really hard for it—it was mainly to be found in the mystical traditions. Mainstream Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, certainly do not stress vegetarian teachings. If anything, they would reject it. But they do stress universal compassion and love, which ultimately leads to vegetarianism, at least if such love is truly universal. Therefore, the mystical traditions that grew up around these religions do support a vegetarian way of life; but their mainstream counterparts lost sight of this. Whereas in Krishna consciousness, whether mainstream or the more mystical side, it is right on the face of it, right there as a prominent teaching.

Berry: I understand that in 1975 you were initiated by Swami Prabhupada himself, the founder of the International Krishna Consciousness movement. Did you have a sense that he was a special person?

Rosen: When I first met Prabhupada in 1972, my immediate impression was that he was a genuine saint, and his saintliness inspired me to want to improve my lifestyle. So I followed his instructions, distributed his books and spread his teachings with a view to becoming his disciple.

Berry: What were the prerequisites for becoming a disciple of Swami Prabhupada?

Rosen: Disciples were required to follow four basic principles—no meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no gambling. One also had to chant sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna on beads. There are 108 beads on Vaishnava rosary. So one has to go around sixteen times chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra: "Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna! Krishna! Krishna! Hare! Hare! Hare Rama! Hare Rama! Rama! Rama! Hare! Hare!" This was the minimum prerequisite for initiation.

Berry: Did you have to repeat this refrain throughout the day?

Rosen: Sixteen rounds on beads as a minimum—that was for quiet, reflective meditation—and then you would chant aloud in kirtan, a sort of joyous, overflowing spiritual exercise wherein you sing and dance with others. You must have seen the devotees singing like this on the streets. It's quite traditional, and it's a well-known practice all over India. There are many Vedic and post-Vedic prayers and chants like this, but this particular one is known as the Maha-mantra, which indicates that it is all-inclusive and all-encompassing. It's said that all other mantras are contained in this one mantra. It's that powerful. So it has a soteriological function, its meaning is very deep, and it is extremely purifying.

You see, most prayers or incantations ask for something in return. "Give us our daily bread," or something of that nature. Or, in the latter-day Buddhist tradition, you have nam-myoho-renge-khyo—suppo

sedly, if you chant this incessantly, you'll get whatever you want, any material acquisition. But this Hare Krishna prayer is totally selfless. It asks for nothing in return. So its power comes from its selflessness, its purity, and it puts you in touch with the supreme pure, God.

Berry: How would you translate it?

Rosen: "O Lord! O divine energy of the Lord! Please engage me in Your service!" It means, essentially, "Whatever You want, O Lord, that's what I want! I'm going to put Your desires before my own."

Berry: The great Indologist A. L. Basham said that Swami Prabhupada, in founding the International Hare Krishna movement, had established the first Asian religion in the West since the days of the Roman Empire. Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity and Chairman of the Department of Applied Theology at Harvard Divinity School, said of Prabhupada: "There aren't many people you can think of who successfully implant a whole religious tradition in a completely alien culture. That's a rare achievement in the history of religion. Eventually, he planted this movement deeply in the North American soil, throughout other parts of the Europe-dominated world and beyond. The fact that we now have in the West a vigorous, disciplined, and seemingly well-organized movement—not merely a philosophical movement or a yoga or meditation movement, but a genuinely religious movement—introducing the devotion to God that he taught, is a stunning accomplishment. So when I say 'he was one in a million,' I think that's in some way an understatement. Perhaps he was one in a hundred million."

Rosen: Yes, that's a great quote.

Berry: He certainly was an improbable figure to have founded a religion on Western shores: he arrived in New York almost penniless in 1965. Clad in a flimsy dhoti and wearing rubber shoes, his only luggage was a battered portable typewriter and an umbrella. When he embarked on his long sea voyage to the United States, he was seventy years old (an age at which many people are checking into rest homes). On the outward voyage from Calcutta, he had several mild heart attacks. Yet he did the impossible: he established a branch of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in America, Europe and Asia—and it seems to have taken root.

Rosen: That's true—it was a phenomenal accomplishment! But he was not really "an improbable figure," as you say. In many ways, Swami Prabhupada was the most likely person to do it, chiefly because, as his biographers tell us, he spent a lifetime in preparation. He was born to devout Vaishnava parents of the Chaitanyaite school; he studied Vedic texts for most if not all of his life; he knew Sanskrit; he knew Bengali; in college, he majored in economics, philosophy and English; and he lived a pure life of loving God from the very beginning. So these things really prepared him for coming West, and for the monumental success that followed.

Berry: But he was an unlikely figure in another sense. Come to think of it, Mahatma Gandhi was an improbable figure as well. Dhoti-clad like Prabhupada, he weighed about 125 pounds soaking wet; yet he drove the British out of India and is considered, in some respects, the father of modern India. So that's a consideration: very often even the most unlikely figure triumphs. The weak overcome the strong when they have truth on their side—that's the whole idea of satyagraha.

Rosen: Ultimately, Prabhupada's greatest strength lay in his dedication to and faith in his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. There were so many people who had been given the instruction by Bhaktisiddhanta to come West and to deliver the esoteric teachings of Krishna consciousness; but they considered it to be totally impossible because they'd been given to understand that people in the West were meat-eaters, alcoholics and sex-mongers. So they backed off. On the other hand, Prabhupada rose to the challenge, saying, "They declared that it was impossible . . . but I was determined to try it anyway." [laughter]

Berry: Do you think the Krishnaites [Vaishnavas] have been responsible for the spread of vegetarianism and the doctrine of ahimsa in America and Europe?

Rosen: Yes, very much so. In ISKCON vegetarianism is a requirement for practitioners, whereas, in other traditions, it is generally optional. Thus, it is an actively promoted philosophy. ISKCON has opened vegetarian restaurants in every major city of the world. They are immensely popular, opening people up to a broader conception of the vegetarian lifestyle. There are, of course, Jain and Buddhist denominations who have contributed to the popularity of vegetarianism, and certain Christian sects like the Seventh-Day Adventists have contributed as well. Perhaps I'm biased, but I would say, comparatively speaking, ISKCON has had a broader influence.

Berry: In fact, Bill Shurtleff told me that when he was training as a Zen monk in Japan and working on The Book of Tofu, that he met Swami Prabhupada, who had come to Tokyo in the late sixties to open a branch of ISKCON. So thanks to Prabhupada's zeal it has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Rosen: Vaishnava restaurants, which are strictly vegetarian or, I should say, lacto-vegetarian, have been thriving all over Europe, Japan, Australia, China, India, and Hong Kong, and, of course, in America as well.

Berry: India? I should think that opening a Krishnaite restaurant in India would be like taking coals to Newcastle.

Rosen: ISKCON has its own particular style of cooking and preparing sacred food that's offered to Krishna in sacrifice. In addition to the interest created by the mere fact of seeing Westerners preparing traditional dishes, devotees sometimes take traditional recipes from the culture and give them a distinctive Western flourish. Thus, the popularity is twofold.

Berry: What characterizes that style of cuisine?

Rosen: Bhakti. The love and devotion of the devotee—this is the main ingredient. You see, in Vaishnava devotional cooking, there are three concepts that one should be aware of: first, there is bhoga, or "mundane enjoyment," and this refers to unoffered food. Then you have naivedya, or the food that is brought before the Deity. Finally, you have prasadam, literally, "the Lord's mercy," which refers to the food after it is offered. This food is spiritually purifying and is always sattvic, or vegetarian and health-giving.

Berry: Is Yamuna Devi's cookbook Lord Krishna's Cuisine representative of prasadam preparation?

Rosen: Yes, in the sense that her mood in this book is devotional, but, in addition, it is a masterpiece of Indian culinary art. For many years Yamuna was Prabhupada's personal cook; he taught her his own cooking secrets, helped her collect recipes and specifically asked her to compile a cookbook. That was a great impetus for her; that's why she did it and doubtless that's why it turned out to be the award-winning cookbook that it is.

Berry: Prabhupada wanted her to do it for the West?

Rosen: For the world—even for India because, as I've said, ISKCON is unique in its presentation of Indian food. More, Prabhupada wanted her to perpetuate traditional Vaishnava cooking.

Berry: I understand that Prabhupada saw to it that his protégé Yamuna was given access to temple kitchens to which non-Westerners and non-Hindus had never been admitted. Have you, as a Vaishnava scholar, penetrated any of these temples?

Rosen: Yes, I've entered the sacred precincts of many temples that are off-limits to Westerners and non-Hindus. I've been to Tirupati, Guruvayur, Shri Rangam, and others. But, in actuality, they're easing up on the restrictions for foreigners. I think this is also due to ISKCON's presence.

Berry: In your book Om Shalom [a collection of dialogues with Rabbi Jacob Shimmel, who has studied and traveled extensively in India], you discussed a temple in South India, Pakshi Tirtha, where they have a time-honored custom of feeding two white eagles at precisely the same time every day. Can you tell me about that?

Rosen: That's a Shaivite temple [where Shiva is worshipped] near Mahabalipuram in southern India. An Amazing place. The temple sits atop an enormous hill. To reach the top, one has to climb a seemingly endless flight of steps that are carved into the mountainside. One has to time one's journey so that one arrives before the feeding of the two eagles, which takes place at 12:30 P.M.—sharp—every day.

To climb these steps takes about an hour or an hour and a half. At this time of day, the sun is positively scorching. It beats down piteously on these stone steps—which one has to climb barefoot because one must remove one's shoes upon entering a sacred place. So to climb these steps is quite an austerity.

As soon as one gets to the top, amidst throngs of pilgrims, the first thing that one sees is a pujari—a priest who worships the deity and presents prasadam (sacred food) to the deity as well. Around twenty-seven minutes after 12:00, the pujari takes out a pot of prasadam and places some in his hand. Soon after he does this, at exactly 12:30, one sees two black dots in the sky, moving in from quite a distance. It's the two white eagles! This ritual has been going on for thousands of years. It's even mentioned in the Puranas, where there's a story that refers to two devotees of Shiva, two yogis, who were cursed to take birth as birds perpetually, birth after birth. It's also briefly mentioned in the Chaitanya-charitamrita—the most authoritative and canonical of the biographies of Lord Chaitanya, which was composed in the early seventeenth century. [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, of which ISKCON is a branch.] So there is evidence that something has been going on here for a long, long time.

Berry: Rabbi Shimmel, who is a keen but not uncritical student of Hinduism, was very impressed by the whole Pakshi Tirtha incident.

Rosen: That's right. He witnessed it, and for centuries European travelers who visited this Pakshi Tirtha temple have left accounts of it. For instance, in 1908 the Archaeological Survey of India published interesting findings in the annual report of the Madras Epigraphist. It seems that ten Dutch army officers had inscribed their names in the Pakshi Tirtha area in the year 1664, attesting to the fact that they had witnessed the noontime meal.

So the two black dots appear in the sky just after noon, flying in from across the subcontinent. As they get closer, one can see that they are actually two white eagles. They swoop down, seize the prasadam from the pujari's hands and eat it. Then they fly around the mountain and clean their beaks on the alternate mountainside. What's more, since these birds (and, perhaps, their ancestors) have been cleaning their beaks after lunch for millennia, there are huge indentations in the mountain just where they clean their beaks. So this is the story of the two Shaivites who were cursed to take birth as eagles . . .

Berry: Cursed or blessed? It's not such a bad existence, is it? Flapping about merrily while feeding on tasty vegetarian dishes prepared by a temple chef . . .

Rosen: One man's curse is another man's blessing. [laughter]

Berry: It's also rather extraordinary that eagles, which are thought of as being exclusively carnivorous, should be so taken by this vegetarian food that they appear at 12:30 on the dot every day for at least two thousand years.

Rosen: India is filled with such inexplicable enchantments and paradoxes. You'll find many truly sacred places with uncommon marvels that defy the imagination.

Berry: Can one interpret this metaphorically, I wonder? That these two white eagles should feed on the prasadam—isn't that almost symbolic of the way that devotees of Shiva and Krishna sustain themselves on the gods' prasadam?

Rosen: It's a little different here because this is Shiva prasadam. Shiva is a demigod, and so feeding on his prasadam can only bring material benefits. Whereas devotees feeding on Krishna prasadam are feeding on food that is consecrated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead; the result of this kind of feasting is that it frees you of sin, brings intense happiness, and ultimately liberates you from material existence, situating you in love of God.

Berry: Do you yourself eat prasadam at home? Do you consecrate your food to Krishna before you eat it?

Rosen: Yes. I offer my food to Krishna, in my way. At the same time I try to remember that the energy I get from this food is to be used in Krishna's service. This is another aspect of honoring prasadam.

Berry: Is it Krishna's teaching that He will not accept animal flesh as prasadam? Does He only accept vegetarian food?

Rosen: Exactly. That's based on various passages in the Vedic literature. Prabhupada was fond of quoting one particular verse from the Bhagavad-gita in which Krishna says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." Prabhupada points out that Krishna doesn't ask for meat, fish, or eggs in this verse. Of course, this Gita verse is not in and of itself conclusive; but there are many other parts of the Vedic literature that also point in this direction, as well as those that state it overtly. For example, in the Vaishnava epic known as the Mahabharata [anu. 115.47], it is said, "He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth." Or, also in the Mahabharata [anu. 114.11], "The meat of animals is like the flesh of one's own son, and the foolish person who eats meat must thus be considered the most vile of human beings." So the Gita verse taken in tandem with these other texts, inescapably points to vegetarianism. Moreover, the Vaishnava tradition has been emphatically vegetarian since ancient times. In later literature, such as Krishnadas Kaviraj's Chaitanya-charitamrita, vegetarianism is an implicit and recurring theme.

Actually, in that mammoth work, Krishnadas Kaviraj does something quite remarkable: In addition to delineating an incredibly complex theological system and systematically revealing Lord Chaitanya's prevailing hagiography, he describes and gives recipes for the hundreds of dishes that Lord Chaitanya found most delectable. Many of them, incidentally, appear in Yamuna Devi's cookbook.

Berry: Could you give some idea of Chaitanya's favorite recipes according to Krishnadas Kaviraj?

Rosen: Well, various forms of shak are described, that is, green leafy vegetables with interesting combinations of ghee and spices. All kinds of exotic rice preparations are there as well; and delicious forms of dahl too; the list really goes on and on.

Berry: But they're not vegan recipes . . .

Rosen: No. There are some that involve the use of milk and ghee, as I've said. But many of the recipes are vegan-oriented—simple but tasty vegetarian fare that would appeal to all connoisseurs of good food. You can ask Yamuna about the specific recipes. Basically, there are two food groups: foods called kacha, which are grains, vegetables, and various foods that are boiled in water (wherein you will actually find thousands of vegan recipes). Then there are foods called pakka, which are prepared with cow products—again, there are thousands of recipes. These are the two basic categories.

Berry: So Chaitanya would dine on these vegetarian meals, dished up by temple chefs in the sixteenth century. How fascinating to have these culinary artifacts preserved so faithfully by his biographer!

Rosen: Well, there's an esoteric reason for that. An interesting thing about Krishnadas Kaviraj, which would kind of explain why he peppers an intensely philosophical work like the Chaitanya-charitamrita with detailed recipes, has to do with his ontological form; it has to do with who he is in the spiritual realm. He is a maidservant named Kasturi Manjari. Appropriately enough, this maidservant assists Radharani in the kitchen when she prepares food for Krishna. Since this is his eternal activity in the Spiritual Sky, it is quite natural that in his bodily form as Krishnadas Kaviraj he has a preoccupation with recipes and has a predilection for listing foodstuffs and feasts in his Chaitanya-charitamrita.

Berry: Interesting. You are suggesting that Chaitanya's biographer, Krishnadas Kaviraj, was the reincarnation of a sous-chef in the kitchen of Krishna Himself!

Rosen: In a manner of speaking, yes. In his original spiritual form, he is the assistant of Radharani in the kitchen. And so this affects the way in which he approaches his service as a writer of Chaitanya's biography in this world. This is even brought out more clearly by the fact that Chaitanya's other biographers—and he's had several—don't delve into the recipes or give a detailed listing of the preparations at all. But Krishnadas sure does! He's meticulously describes all the different kinds of feasts that Lord Chaitanya attended; he tells how to prepare the various dishes, and he lingers lovingly over every detail of its preparation.

Berry: I should think that after having been Radharani's kitchen assistant, Krishnadas would have achieved moksha, or liberation from the wheel of rebirth. Wouldn't being reincarnated as Chaitanya's biographer have been a bit of a comedown?

Rosen: Not at all. Here's the first thing that needs to be understood: As Radharani's assistant, there is no higher goal—he was already beyond moksha and established in his natural constitutional position in the spiritual world. He's one of the inner circle of Krishna's associates and so he is considered eternally liberated. That's the first thing. Closely linked to that is another, related idea: his incarnation as Chaitanya's biographer can be seen as lila, or pastime, enacted merely for the Lord's pleasure.

You see, people are born into this world for diverse reasons. Conditioned souls need to learn certain lessons and are forced to take birth as a reaction to their karma or materialistic activity. Through proper conduct and the Lord's mercy, they ultimately achieve moksha, or liberation. However, liberated souls also take birth in our world, but their reason is different: they come to help others and to assist the Lord in His mission. So this is one way to answer your question.

From another perspective, it can be seen like this: Lord Chaitanya is considered the most confidential and powerful avatar of Krishna. The Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition proclaims that Chaitanya is Krishna, but in His most intimate feature. So, since Krishnadas was Chaitanya's intimate devotee and biographer, he moved closer to the Godhead. Direct service to Lord Chaitanya is the ultimate form of moksha, even for souls who are already liberated. So this is seen as a very exalted thing. This ultimate form of liberation—seva, or service to God—is delineated in Bhagavad-gita…

Berry: I see. So his incarnation as Krishnadas is actually a blessing. That resolves the issue quite well. But I want to ask you something about the Gita, since you just mentioned it. In the Gita there are several passages which stress ahimsa as one of the eternal verities. Would you say that the Gita is a seminal work for the Vaishnavas?

Rosen: Yes. The Gita comprises chapters 25 through 42 of the Bhishma-parva section of the Mahabharata, and the Mahabharata is considered one of Vaishnavism's main texts. In regard to ahimsa, the Mahabharata says ahimsa para dharmo: "nonviolence is the highest duty." This emphasis on nonviolence can be found in all major religions as well.

Berry: You've become something of a scholar in the field of comparative religion, too, having written Food for the Spirit, Om Shalom, East West Dialogues, inter alia. As a spokesperson in the field of comparative religion, how would you account for the fact that the Indic religions of the East, such as Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Hinduism tend to promote ahimsa and vegetarianism, whereas the Semitic revelatory religions of the West, such as Christianity and Judaism, condone, if not encourage, the taking of animal life and the eating of their flesh?

Rosen: I think it's because in Western religion there tends to be an emphasis on loka-hita. This is Sanskrit terminology; it means "kindness to one's own species."

Berry: This would include Islam as well.

Rosen: Especially Islam. Western religions emphasize loka-hita more than Eastern religions. The newer religions emphasize loka-hita more than the ancient religions. Islam is only 1,300 years old. Since it's a newer religion, it accentuates loka-hita, which is a fundamental, beginning spiritual ethic: "First you have to be kind to yourself and your own kind; then you can extend it to others." Now, in the older religions, and especially in the East, they stress sarva-bhuta-hita, which means "kindness to all living things." It's a more inclusive ethic—it includes one's own kind as well as all other living entities. This is the compassionate sensibility that is stressed in ancient India's Vedic texts, and especially in the Puranas and the Gita. This is one of the things that attracted me to Vaishnavism: it promotes this more inclusive, embracing ethic. It encourages love for all creatures; vegetarianism is implicit.

Furthermore, the Eastern religions, especially the various forms of what has come to be called "Hinduism," also stress the principle of aham brahmasmi—"I am not this body but, rather, I am spirit soul." This very spiritual perspective includes a sense of bonding with all that lives, an interconnectedness with all life forms. They are spirit, and so are we. So we have much in common with all creatures in God's creation. People who adhere to an Eastern religious tradition will tell you in all candor that "I am not this body—I am something beyond this body." Of course, this notion can be found in the Western religious traditions as well; every spiritual path will include some sense of experiencing our identities as different from the body. But it's a question of emphasis. In the East, it is a rigorously elaborated upon and highly valued sensibility. Especially among Brahmins, these spiritual ideals are markedly evolved.

Berry: By chance, as I was making my way here this afternoon, I was reading Norman Lewis's book called A Goddess in the Stones—it's about his travels in Eastern India. In it, he recounts an incident that vividly illustrates the point you are making. He describes the reaction of a little Hindu girl on learning that there are people in the world who actually eat fish. Let me read it to you: "Fish had been introduced and ingenious wicker traps were offered for hire in which several, not exceeding two inches in length, had been caught and transferred to tins full of water. These were being examined by a pretty and expensively-dressed little girl, who I was to learn, had never seen a live fish before. 'And what will they do with them?' she asked her father. 'They will eat them.' he told her. She seemed to turn pale with horror, and was on the verge of tears. The father explained smilingly, 'She is very gentle by nature. You see, we are Brahmins. We do not eat living things.'"

Rosen: Yes. Instinctively, she realizes that the only difference between her and this poor fish, who is going to be eaten, is the body; spiritually she realizes that she and the fish are one, parts of God, and should not be exploited or abused in any way.

The interesting thing to me is that in the West this would be considered an esoteric teaching, whereas in the East this is a most exoteric teaching. As Prabhupada would often say, "The common street sweeper in India knows that he is not the body." By contrast, in the West, people are generally not conscious of the distinction between body and soul in their everyday life.

Berry: This may be related to the Indic idea or belief in samsara or the transmigration of souls. The Western religions do not support such a belief. Is that a fair statement?

Rosen: No, this is not really an accurate assessment. In my book, The Reincarnation Controversy: Uncovering the Truth in the World Religions, I argue that just as with ahimsa, the principle of reincarnation is accepted by both Eastern and Western traditions. Although practitioners are generally unaware of it, Western religion for the most part accepts the doctrine of transmigration, even if it's only religious mystics, or those who study the "esoteric teachings" of Western religions, who would admit this to be true. In the East, transmigration is common knowledge and is pretty much accepted across the board. But make no mistake, samsara is definitely there in Western religion.

You have the example of orthodox Judaism—generally those who adhere to this system of religious belief will deny the doctrine of reincarnation. However, those Jews who know their own mystical tradition, Kabbalah, will inevitably come up against texts that lend support to the idea of transmigration, and they will even become acquainted with a lengthy work known as Sefer-HaGilgulim, which is largely devoted to elucidating the truth of reincarnation. The Hassidim and other orthodox Jewish sects are aware of this, and they accept that a person can be reincarnated in the shape of a stone, an insect, a plant, an animal, and so on, until one perfects one's life and learns one's lessons. But the mass of Jewish people do not know that transmigration plays a role in Jewish teaching.

In Christianity, the idea of reincarnation was consciously suppressed. If one studies the twenty-five ecumenical councils one will find that at the Second Council at Constantinople, in 553 A.D., Emperor Justinian, with the approval of Pope Vigilius, ordered that all references to reincarnation be stricken from the Bible and from post-biblical Christian literature. So most Christians are unaware of Christian reincarnationist teaching.

Berry: Weren't they trying to stamp out Origenism—the teachings of Origen of Alexandria? The emperor and the pope made common cause against Origen because his teachings on reincarnation threatened the establishment.

Rosen: That's right. The pope was afraid that if Christians in general believed that they had many lifetimes in which to perfect themselves, they would not treat death as such a grave issue. (Forgive the pun.) If they had more than one life, they might not be serious about following Christian directives and scriptural injunctions. In a word, they couldn't be threatened with hellfire and damnation after a single life. With this in mind, the powerful leaders of that period decided to tell the mass of people that they had only one life—and that after this they would go to heaven or hell. Finished. This, they hoped, would make serious Christians.

Berry: You were saying that ahimsa and samsara are esoteric doctrines in the West but are known to the man-in-the-street in the Orient. What about vegetarianism? It strikes me that this has also been an esoteric practice in the West, but commonplace in Asia.

Rosen: Until recently one had to go to an occult bookstore to find information about vegetarianism or reincarnation; they are considered counterculture subjects in the West, or at least they were up until the last twenty years or so. But in India these have long been topics with which the common man is conversant, and speaks about very easily.

Berry: This is a bit off the point, but I was wondering if you've read Jeremy Rifkin's popular book, Beyond Beef.

Rosen: Yes. It's an excellent work.

Berry: Do you agree with his view of Indian history?

Rosen: No, not exactly. For the most part, he seems to accept textbook Hinduism, the kind that was popularized by Indologists who were largely Christian missionaries—biased, with a secret agenda, to say the least. In chapter five of Rifkin's work, he mentions that Hindu Brahmins were largely performers of animal sacrifices, and that it wasn't until the rise of Buddhism that ahimsa principles were adopted by the Hindus. This is simply untrue. Rifkin's main reference is Marvin Harris, an anthropologist who does not draw on primary sources. If one studies the original texts, in Sanskrit, one finds that ahimsa was promoted in the earliest portions of the Vedic literature. This can be found in the Rig Veda (10.87.16), for example: "One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse, or any other animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by any other mans, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head." Or consider the Yajur Veda (12.32), which says, "You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether these creatures are human, animal, or what have you." Or the Atharva Veda (17.1.4): "One should be considered dear, even by those in the animal kingdom." So, contrary to popular belief, the ahimsa principle can be found in early Vedic sources, even if there was a parallel Vedic allowance for animal sacrifices.

Now, it is true that the Buddha refuted the hypocritical Brahmins of his time who were engaged in needless animal sacrifices in the name of religion. But other Brahmins spoke out against these hypocrites as well. It's not that ahimsa was peculiar to Buddhism; it was there in Hinduism all along. Even Vedic texts that recommended animal sacrifices did so with numerous caveats, and they were clear that these sacrifices were certainly not meant for our present age of Kali.

Only misled, bogus Brahmins bastardized the tradition and taught that it was appropriate to conduct animal sacrifices in Kali-yuga. But this was an aberration that was not condoned by Vedic texts.

You see, in India, there are eighteen Puranas, ancient scriptures—six for those in the mode of goodness, six for those in passion, and six for those in ignorance. The scriptures for people in the mode of goodness adamantly eschew the use of flesh foods—and animal sacrifices. Only the scriptures for those in passion and ignorance condone meat-eating and, rarely, animal sacrifices—and both in regulated fashion only. It is meant to wean practitioners off of these things. A similar phenomenon exists in the Bible, for example, where the koshering laws are described.

So while I feel that Rifkin's book has a lot to offer, I think he didn't really do his homework in regard to Eastern religion, and this is reflected in his fifth chapter, which is called "Holy Cow," I believe.

It's my opinion that Westerners in general don't really understand the reason for Eastern vegetarianism, so Rifkin's analysis is not surprising.

Berry: It would appear that Westerners become vegetarians largely for narcissistic or health reasons; whereas, in Asia, especially in India, people seem to be vegetarians for spiritual and ethical reasons. Is that a correct assumption?

Rosen: Not entirely. Practitioners in the East are also aware of the health benefits conferred by a vegetarian diet, and, conversely, Westerners often become vegetarian for spiritual reasons. But, to focus on the Eastern religions: If one studies ancient Ayurvedic texts, one will find it very clearly stated that it is better to be a vegetarian not only for religious, ethical, and moral reasons but also for medical and nutritional reasons. It is always better to do things in full knowledge than to do things without knowing the purpose. That's acknowledged in all Indic traditions. But the central reason for Eastern vegetarianism, especially for Vaishnavas, is twofold: first, a Vaishnava cannot bear to see the suffering of others. They feel an intense love for all living beings, and cannot harm anyone—what to speak of eat them! Secondly, a Vaishnava can only eat foods that are offered to Krishna in sacrifice, and as we've mentioned earlier, Krishna will only eat vegetarian foods. These two reasons are deeply ingrained in Vaishnava culture, and have been an integral part of Vaishnava consciousness long before the rise of Buddhism. So, yes, the two main reasons are ethical and spiritual.

Berry: Would you say that the average Indian is a healthier specimen than his western counterpart?

Rosen: On average, yes. They tend to be lean and lithe, and they live to a ripe old age.

Berry: You were raised in a non-practicing Jewish family, and after converting to Vaishnavism, you've become an expert in the field of comparative religion. Has your interest in Judaism been rekindled by your study of other religions?

Rosen: Very much so.

Berry: Can one be a practicing Jew and a Krishnaite at the same time?

Rosen: The average Jewish theologian would say no. They would say that it's not possible because Hinduism is idolatrous and polytheistic. But the conception of sanatan dharma that is set forth in the Vedic literature is quite monotheistic in that it sees Krishna as the supreme God—the same supreme God that is mentioned in biblical literature. And, as far as idol worship goes—there is a huge difference between worshiping a Deity of the supreme and worshiping an idol of some lesser god, fashioned by one's own imagination. I've actually written quite extensively on this. You see, what Vaishnavism, or Krishnaite religion, emphasizes is this: getting at the essence, finding God, and this is the same basic idea that is there in Judaism and in all major world religions. So, I would say, yes, one can actually be a good practitioner of any faith and still be a Vaishnava. But one must dig deep, and must look into the essence of one's religion. In fact, if one does so, one will find that the practice of Vaishnavism can enhance one's faith in many ways, whatever one's sectarian affiliation may be.

Berry: Actually, in Om Shalom, you and Rabbi Shimmel discuss a small colony of Jews living in India who can trace their lineage back over one thousand years.

Rosen: That's a different issue because these people are actually practicing Jews; they're not following Krishnaite religion.

Berry: Have they retained their Jewish customs and dietary habits? Or have they assimilated and become vegetarians?

Rosen: It really varies because Judaism teaches that it's a mitzvah, or a "good thing," to eat meat on the Sabbath. Or at least it teaches that one should rejoice and eat luxuriant foods on the Sabbath—and most Jewish authorities interpret this as a mandate to eat meat. But by and large I'd say that the Jews in India have assimilated and become vegetarians. Many of them speak Hindi or, rather, Tamil, and they wear saris and dhotis; so it is difficult to distinguish them from Hindus, and although their practices are distinctly Jewish they have imbibed many Indian customs. For many of them this would include the vegetarian diet.

Berry: Can you draw any parallels between Judaism and Vaishnavism?

Rosen: That's the subject of a whole book, and your readers can turn to Om Shalom. But, as an example, the word judaism comes from judah, which means "to exalt the Lord" or "to glorify God." So if one could, for a moment, divorce Judaism from its ethnological dimension, the essence of Judaism is to glorify God. The connection to Vaishnavism, then, is obvious, for the goal of Vaishnavism, too, is to glorify God. In this way, if one looks at the essence, one can find great harmony in these traditions.

Berry: Although many Jews observe the koshering laws, only a small minority are vegetarians. If a Jew wanted to become a vegetarian, what passages could he cite from the Bible to justify his conversion?

Rosen: Well, this is more Robert Kole's subject, but I would say that one could begin with the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 1.29, where a non-flesh diet is forthrightly recommended; in this text, God actually describes the vegetarian diet as "very good," whereas later diets containing meat are given as an emergency measure, and are usually clearly described as such. The meat-oriented diets mentioned in the Bible are generally referred to as "a concession to human weakness." If one studies the Bible closely, one can see a distinction between God's preferred will and His permissive will.

Berry: Why did God make these concessions and why did He permit Noah and his descendants to eat animal flesh?

Rosen: The crucial thing here is to try to understand exactly what was taking place at the time of Noah. Actually, man had become so depraved that he would eat a limb freshly torn from the body of a living animal. The situation had become so degraded that God decided to create a great flood—incidentally, the flood that is depicted in the Bible would doubtless have wiped out all vegetation, leaving scant alternatives to animal foods.

In any case, God did give a concession at that time for the eating of animal flesh. This occurs in the ninth chapter of Genesis, where God gives permission for man to eat anything that moves. Soon after this verse, God says that man should not eat the blood of animals (it is for this reason that the Jewish koshering laws came into play). And not long after that, I believe it's in Genesis 9.5, God reveals the karma that awaits those who slaughter animals: "By their own hands shall ye be slain." This is translated variously in different versions, but this is basically what it means.

Berry: What about this matter of God's having given man dominion over the animals?

Rosen: Dominion was never taken to mean "one who enslaves" or "one who exploits"—at least not according to traditional biblical usage. Rather, the original Hebrew for the word "dominion" is yirdu, and it connotes a sort of stewardship or guardianship. In other words, we are given the command to care for our more humbly endowed brothers and sisters—the animals—not to eat them. A king may have dominion over his subjects, but he doesn't slaughter them and feast on their remains. Not generally.

It should be added, too, that Genesis 1.26, the verse that gives us dominion over the animals, is followed, only three verses later, by the verse that clearly recommends a vegetarian diet. In other words, God gives us dominion over the animals and only three verses later prohibits their use for food. Implicitly, the dominion He gives us does not include using animals for our taste buds.

Berry: You've touched on the Jewish tradition with respect to vegetarianism. Could you briefly outline the Christian tradition vis-a-vis vegetarianism and animal rights?

Rosen: Well, many of the arguments given for the Jewish side of vegetarianism would apply equally to the Christian tradition—they're both based on the Bible. But Christians claim to adhere to a new covenant, set in place by Jesus and his unique spirituality. Basically, over the centuries, there have arisen two distinct schools of Christian thought: the Aristotelian-Thomistic and the Augustinian-Franciscan school.

Berry: How do they differ in their view of animal rights?

Rosen: The Aristotelian-Thomistic view has, as its basis, the premise that animals are here for our pleasure—their purpose in this world is only to serve us; that's what animals are for. Period. We can eat them, torture them in laboratories, and do anything to them we please. This is almost Cartesian in scope. Unfortunately, much of modern Christianity seems to take its cue from the Aristotelian-Thomistic school.

The Augustinian-Franciscan view, on the other hand, teaches that we are all brothers and sisters under God's fatherhood. Based largely on the world-view of St. Francis, and being essentially Platonic in nature, this school emphasizes love and compassion and, consequently, lends support to the vegetarian perspective. There is clearly a spirit of the law that is missed when one neglects the Augustinian-Franciscan view. Modern Christians would benefit greatly by exploring the philosophical teachings of St. Augustine and St. Francis.

In summation, I think you'll find that in all religious traditions some form of these two antithetical strains exist—the Cartesian rationalist view versus the compassionate empathetic view. It is the judgment of the mystics, and I quite concur, that those who are more spiritually evolved tend to be attracted to the latter strain, though lest one lapse into total sentimentalism one must have a healthy regard for the rationalist approach as well. Perhaps it's the Libra in me, but I feel that there must be a balance of these two approaches if the practitioner is to be successful in his spiritual quest.

Berry: This brings to mind religious schisms in general, a problem which is reflected in attitudes toward vegetarianism, among other things. For example, Muslims and Hindus in India have such divergent views on vegetarianism, don't they?

Rosen: Sure. And you can even see such differences of opinion in the various Hindu sects, too. You have Shaivites and worshipers of Kali, for example, who often sacrifice animals and eat flesh—they call this animal sacrifice bali—and then you have the Vaishnavas, who are scrupulous vegetarians and who are kind to animals.

Sometimes worshipers of Kali offer a goat to the goddess in sacrifice, for she is said to be propitiated only by red blood. Vaishnavas who enter Kali temples often bring an offering of red flowers to appease the goddess by the similarity in color. To this day, there is an unscrupulous class of Kali priests who run a lucrative slaughterhouse business in the name of religion. Not so for the Vaishnavas…

Berry: Would you say that a goodly number of Hindus indulge in meat eating as a result of this form of Kali worship?

Rosen: Well, animal sacrifice, or bali, is now on the wane. Thankfully. There's evidence that Calcutta's most famous Kali temple, known as Kalighat, now sacrifices fewer goats per year than ever before. This is setting a standard in the less popular temples, too. All Kali temples that are associated with the Ramakrishna Mission have prohibited animal sacrifice, and it is prohibited by law in the temporary shrines erected throughout Calcutta during Kali Puja. So there is something of a "vegetarianizing" of the Goddess going on. Rachel Fell McDermott, a Harvard scholar now teaching at Columbia University, has been doing a good deal of research on this subject.

Berry: But in the Vedic texts—is there ever an allowance for meat eating?

Rosen: Well, certain medicines include animal products, so, yes, for medicinal purposes—but a true Vaishnava, and especially a Brahmin, will never take these things. Also, in Vedic culture, there was some allowance for a kshatriya, a member of the warrior class, to eat meat, but this was only in very special conditions—when he was living in the forest, preparing for battle. And even then, he would do so only under certain regulations, and then he would have to kill the animal himself, uttering the mamsa mantra in the animal's ear. This mantra basically says, "As I eat you now, in a future life, you may eat me." This was to inculcate in the meat-eating kshatriya a sensibility of karmic or causal truth. There is a severe reaction for killing animals, or eating meat, and this was widely known in ancient India. Actually, in India, it is still widely known, and meat eating is frowned upon by most believing Hindus.

Berry: What about the ashvamedha, or the horse sacrifice, that one reads about in histories of ancient India?

Rosen: The ashvamedha was one of many royal sacrifices. Three were most prominent: the rajasuya, the vajapeya, and the ashvamedha. Again, this was for kshatriyas, and they were very complicated sacrifices that would ensure entrance into heavenly planets, although not necessarily into the kingdom of God. The ashvamedha involved a complex series of events that lasted over one year. Essentially, it called for over one hundred horses, but only one was chosen as the main object of sacrifice. What is not generally mentioned in relation to this sacrifice, however, is that the horse was not only killed but was immediately brought back to life—immediately rejuvenated by the power of the mantras that were chanted by the priests. If the priests could not produce a young horse out of the fire sacrifice, then they were forbidden to perform the sacrifice at all or to kill the older horse in the first place. Incidentally, the whole ceremony is off-limits in this age, since there are no qualified priests who can properly chant the mantras.

Berry: Wasn't there some sort of sexual ritual between the horse and the queen?

Rosen: [laughter] Well, modern scholars have assumed as much. The ceremony called for the queen to lay down behind a drawn curtain with the horse that was to be sacrificed. This was to soothe the horse, to calm the poor animal. Sexual innuendoes are not really there in the texts, and there is no evidence that any perverse activity was actually part of the ritual. Anyway, I must reiterate that these sacrifices are not recommended for this age. There are schisms, however, and some sects say that it can still be done. It should be pointed out, though, that the vast majority of practitioners and Vedic scholars insist that the ashvamedha and similar sacrifices were for a previous age, and that the modern sacrifice is the chanting of the holy name. This is the recommended process for our current age.

Berry: Speaking of schisms, what about the rift between Advaita philosophy and non-Advaita philosophy? According to Indologist A. L. Basham, when he visited Benares, which is the sacred city associated with Shiva worship and Advaita religious philosophy, the Advaita Brahmins who pride themselves on having gone far on the path of Raja yoga and Shankarite meditation tend to be very arrogant and self important because they feel that they have successfully merged their atman, their soul, with Paramatman, the supreme soul, or God. Basham notes that they strut about the streets of Benares like dhoti-clad gods. Far from exhibiting a fading away of self, they display a refined egotism that reminds him of the self-absorption of the Theravada Buddhists.

On the other hand, Basham says that when he visited Vrindaban, which, as you know, is that city in northwestern India that is associated with Krishna worship and non-Advaita or theistic Hinduism, he found the Vaishnavas to be friendly, unassuming, and forthcoming. Basham ascribes their friendliness and lack of holier-than-thou attitude to their being dualists who worship a personal God, holding themselves separate from God (unlike the Advaitavadis of Benares, who see themselves as one with God). Identifying with God, however one rationalizes it, seems to run counter to humility.

So we have these two cities—impersonalist Advaita Benares and personalist non-Advaita Vrindaban—representing the polarity that exists in Indian religious philosophy. Do you agree with Basham's critique?

Rosen: Yes, to a certain degree. I think it's very well stated, too. Advaita philosophy is very much akin to Theravada Buddhism. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preferred the non-Advaita or dualist system because under the Advaita system there is no opportunity for rendering service to God. He prefers being distinct from God and thus being able to pay his adoration to a personal deity.

Berry: What about reincarnation and liberation? Do these various systems perceive the ultimate goal in different ways?

Rosen: There are various nuances of difference in these things, depending on which Advaita group you are talking about and which Vaishnava group you are talking about. Generally, in the Advaita system you continually reincarnate until you achieve moksha, "release," which, for them, means becoming "one with God," a position from which one generally falls. For Buddhists, the goal is nirvana, or enlightenment, but this, again, is not really an ultimate goal: what do you do in your enlightened state? The Vaishnavas say that the ultimate liberation is developing love for Krishna and, after death, attaining His supreme abode. This is the perfection of moksha and nirvana. You experience release from material bondage and are situated in your eternal constitutional position. What's more, you exist in eternity, knowledge, and bliss, so you have enlightened activity in Krishna's service and relish it for all time.
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Bhakta Chris, New York, USA: The Humblest People In Washington


The Humblest People in Washington

Amy Cunningham | Posted on 04/05/10

To understand humility and fathom its riches, we must turn the world as we know it on its axis. At first glance, these are not humble times. Young people today seek money, status, and more than their fifteen minutes of acclaim. Being unknown, or off the world's radar, isn't enough for so many. One can blog or videotape oneself into an odd sort of prominence. Here in America, our egos crave splashy careers, nicer houses, published books, and tap dance knowledge. Many people suffer and fret as they frantically look outside themselves to determine their worth.
When Sister Christiana and Mother Therese return from their lunch and the two prayer sessions that framed it, they present me with a reading on humility by Saint John Climacus. The sisters and I have been discussing humility all morning. What does it mean to be humble? Of all virtues, why is humility most important? Because their every gesture is cloaked in humility, because their low voices are so saturated with sincerity, I'm feeling rather proud of myself for getting an interview with the most humble spiritual teachers possible, certainly the most humility-enriched people residing within fifteen miles of the U.S. Capitol! But there I go, getting smug, losing my own humility again.
These cloistered nuns wear traditional habits and headdresses. They chant the divine office eight hours daily with thirteen other Poor Clare sisters in the monastery's chapel, uplifted by the candlelit glow of thirteenth-century Franciscan ritual. They pray for the nation, the president, and all people in need; they also respond to scores of prayer requests weekly. But only a few priests who come in to say Mass get to see them. People who attend chapel services can hear the nuns' ethereal voices, but their bodies are always hidden, as is their wish. "We come here to live in obscurity and die in obscurity, and usually we do not know the effect our lives and prayers have upon people," says Mother Therese, who moved here as a novice more than twenty-five years ago. The sisters are so humble as they grapple with my questions, they've already thanked me for setting their minds to humility, insisting I've taught them something about it in the process.
So I'm not sure what to expect as their slender fingers slide my way the piece of paper on which is typed the reading on humility by Saint John Climacus. We are seated in the same parlor, separated by a fine-mesh screened partition through which I can see them for the purposes of this rare conversation.
I read aloud from what they've given me: "'Humility is constant forgetfulness of one's achievements.' Oh yes, that's good...."
"'Humility is the disposition of a contrite soul and the abdication of one's own will,'" I read on, adding, "Oh, that's lovely too."
"Yes, but he is saying that humility is more than these things," offers Sister Christiana. "You will see when you get to the end."
I skim to the bottom of the page and read back to them: "Humility is a grace in the soul with a name known only to those who have had experience of it."
The three of us then utter little gasps you'd ordinarily reserve for fireworks. "It is indescribable wealth, a name and a gift from God." At this, the nuns seem to indicate, "Oh yes, that's it," and I stop reading to look into their delighted faces for a second.
My thirteen-year-old son cannot define humility, but he can approximate what being humble means. "That's like when you don't brag about a good thing that has happened because you don't want other people to feel bad," he says. What happens to the good thing then? I ask. "Well, you can still enjoy it and think about it," he says, "but you just keep it inside of yourself."
No, honey, it's harder than that. Humility means you stop labeling the things that happen to you as either good or bad. Your life's assignment is to greet your fellow men with the assumption that they have a good thing inside them that you are curious to discover, no matter who they are. Your narrative, your history, travels with you, but you have stopped worrying about your rank. "Each person is unique," the sisters like to say. "There is no comparison." Humility is the great equalizer. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, try viewing poverty as a privilege, as the Poor Clares do.
The Lord finds joy in his people,
He honors the lowly.
-The Liturgy of the Hours
To understand humility and fathom its riches, we must turn the world as we know it on its axis. At first glance, these are not humble times. Young people today seek money, status, and more than their fifteen minutes of acclaim. Being unknown, or off the world's radar, isn't enough for so many. One can blog or videotape oneself into an odd sort of prominence. Here in America, our egos crave splashy careers, nicer houses, published books, and tap dance knowledge. Many people suffer and fret as they frantically look outside themselves to determine their worth. Expressions of humility are often viewed as signs of weakness, and the U.S. presidents who bow too low lose respect.
The nuns believe - and many would agree - that Western culture does not foster virtue, and more importantly, that God has gotten lost in all this. We are never responsible for our own advancement, the nuns say. God is. God takes us beyond what we thought we could do, they claim. If we come to think we were responsible for our greatness, we're misappropriating credit and thereby forgetting the One who matters most. So one large goal of cloistered life is to continually keep God at the center, nudging the striving self or ego off to one side ... or into the next room, or if you're really accomplished (but not proud, of course), the self can be nullified and made absent altogether.
One might think that it's much easier to be humble when you live in a cloister with a strict schedule, frosted windows, and a clearly delineated function (abbess, vicaress, portress, etc.) that changes after a relaxed election every three years. But the nuns are dynamic examples of how difficult true humility is to practice. In fact, the nuns say, the effort to stay humble and remain always at God's disposal clearly runs contrary to basic human instinct - their own included.
"Falling down and getting up is part of it," says Mother Therese. "The Lord sometimes asks of us more than we can do," says Sister Christiana. "Then He helps us to do it."
In the subsequent half hour, the two of them refer to themselves as sinners and failures so many times that finally I stop, a tad exasperated, to ask them, "What is it that you could possibly do that is so sinful?"
"Oh, really, the same things as anybody else," says Sister Christiana. "Acts of impatience, complaining to myself or to someone else, or in little ways preferring my will to what the bridegroom [Christ] is asking of me."
Mother Therese later discloses that she feels far from perfect also. She says, "You know, the Lord said, 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength,' and when I examine myself, I know that there are days when I haven't done that. I just know in my heart that I haven't. With my whole, whole self, I haven't. It's like a daily failure in that way, and it keeps you humble, but that doesn't stop you from trying harder. Well ..." she stops to refine her remarks. "It's not about trying harder but instead allowing Him do it all from within." Humility, then, is getting out of God's way.
She goes on to describe how God helps her navigate cloistered life's small irritations. "Well, I might be thinking about another sister - this is sort of personal - and I might ask myself, 'Why is she so noisy with her books?' And then upon reflection, I will realize that when I am in my cell, I make as much noise as anybody moving things around. I can be noisy. And in thinking about that, I see in myself what was annoying me in the other sister, and I discover I am feeling much better." Humility shines through the person of compassion who recognizes her humanity in another. "God is good. I never could have come to that realization myself," she says.

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
-C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Long linked with self-abasement, true humility does not involve repressing talents or feeling inferior. "It's knowing the truth," says Mother Therese. "It's not that I am naught, it's that I do nothing without God," says Sister Christiana, "because He said, 'Without me you can do nothing.'"
Though the word humility is derived from the Latin humilitas, which in turn descends from humus, meaning "earth" or "ground," and though references to man being "dust and ashes" or worm-like abound in the Bible, humility as it has been explained to me does not mean embarrassing yourself, sitting on your hands, or putting yourself down. It is more precisely concerned with the forgetting of the self, and the desire to completely surrender to God. The most often cited quote on this important point comes from the former archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, who once wrote, "Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all."
Humility is a rich and vitally important concept in all the world's religious faiths. "Be humble, be harmless, have no pretension," advises theBhagavad Gita, the sacred text of Hinduism.
In the Old Testament, Abraham identifies himself as nothing but "dust and ashes." Moses is a meek man of obvious importance. In Judaism, the righteous man is humble, existing only to serve others and heal the injured world. Praise and criticism fall with equanimity; sweet and bitter are the same. Success should be surrendered to others. Self-centered victories of the ego are meaningless because death is inevitable. Reads Psalm 144: "Man is like a breath, his days like a passing shadow."
In Zen Buddhism, humility is the third of six paramitas, or cardinal virtues of the bodhisattva (a humble seeker who forgoes nirvana to help others reach it). The fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader and now a veritable celebrity in the U.S., always refers to himself as a simple monk. He says he walks into a room with the assumption that he is the lowliest person in it.
Buddhist priest Norman Fischer of the San Francisco Zen Center writes that Buddhist humility shares much with the other brands. "True humility," he says, "would have to be simply trying to appreciate others, [letting] go of concern for one's own accomplishments, spiritual or otherwise." This will always be an endless process, he says, aided by meditation and contemplation "because ego is sneaky and, even after its grosser manifestations have been reduced, its subtler tricks go on."
Prostrations, the act of prayerfully lowering the body toward the floor, are dramatic, sometimes physically rigorous gestures used within the ritual practice of most religions, and they too are useful in the quest to dissolve self-centeredness. In both Islam and Buddhism, prostrations are seen as purifications of the body. There is a Tibetan school of Buddhism that teaches 100,000 full prostrations - which will not only exhaust you, but assist in the good effort to overcome pride.
The Poor Clare nuns prostrate themselves several times a day at different prayerful moments, including when entering the chapel and upon rising for the second time in the morning. They also kiss the floor while praying from the Gospel of John, "And the Word was made flesh," in memory of the Angel Gabriel's visit to the Virgin Mary. Poor Clares pray a penitential prayer called the "cross prayer" once a day, outstretching their arms as Jesus's were on the Cross. "In the beginning, this prayer may seem uncomfortable," says Mother Therese, "but we get used to it."

Humility is the fountainhead of peace and the streams of peacefulness flow from it.
-Aphrahat the Persian Sage
The Poor Clare sisters retire to their six-by-eight foot bedrooms (or cells) at nine p.m. every evening, but they do not rest on their straw mattresses for long. At half past twelve, Sister Amata, the sacristan, rings a handheld bell as she walks down the hallway, rousing her fellow sisters from their sleep for matins, the midnight prayer service. "It is said that rising in the night is our greatest external penance," says Sister Christiana. "Do you agree?" I ask. "Yes!" she says with playful exhaustion.
The nuns go back to bed at one-thirty a.m. Then at five o'clock, Sister Amata rings the bell again. This time, the sisters rise from their cots and bend into a kneeling position, lowering their foreheads toward the floor. They have fifteen minutes to get ready for lauds, the next office of divine prayer, which is followed by fifteen minutes of private meditation.
At six o'clock, a mounted bell rings three times to commemorate the coming of Christ as man. The sisters say a special prayer. This angelus bell will ring again at noon and in the evening at six, requiring prayers each time.
"Part of the humility in our life is the sameness," says Mother Therese. "It's a centuries-old tradition and we're really entrusted with it to keep it living."
Not everyone can manage the cloister's prayer schedule, or the heartache involved in the break with immediate family. The nuns can see parents and siblings twice a year, but no hugging is permitted until a twenty-fifth anniversary in the cloister is celebrated.) The sisters tell me that for every one of the fifteen sisters residing in the community, another one has tried and then quit.
Humility is a beautiful tool for managing such transitions. And just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, Mother Therese maintains a humble management style. "She renders to us the service of authority, and indicates to us what would be pleasing to God," says Sister Christiana.
"I live the common life. There is no power in my life," admits Mother Therese. In fact, the woman who was abbess for a full twenty-six years before her now serves as her assistant. In that capacity, she also does the laundry.
There are no hierarchies. Nobody stands higher or is better than another. "Humility is truth," says Mother Therese. "We are what we are in the eyes of God, no more, no less. How other people see you is not who you are. Man sees the appearance; God looks into the heart."

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.
-Thomas Merton
Lest you despair that no one outside the cloister is even remotely humble these days, that too many people are exhibiting their vanities on reality television and YouTube, allow me to inform you that - even in a world where rapper Kanye West walks on stage to interrupt Taylor Swift at the Music Video Awards - the meek and the mild are making a sly comeback.
This is what I tell the nuns, at any rate. I tell them that I detect more - not less - interest in humility today, that my research has revealed that social psychologists, political scientists, and corporate leaders are reviewing what humility can teach us. I also mention an American trend I think they will consider good news: that more people are enjoying contemplative experiences at spiritual retreat centers; ordinary people want to fast, meditate, and simplify their lives. I chatter on to explain the popularity of yoga, but I'm not sure the nuns understood. That's when I mention Oprah Winfrey, who, I think, over time has exhibited a ferocious ego tempered by strong humility. And that's when I discover that the nuns have never heard of her. "How do you pronounce that?" they ask.
They only know what they need to know to serve God and spin prayers for us, having been exposed to nothing more than carefully selected passages of the National Catholic Register, the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Washington Times, and the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano. That's it. Neighbors called to get their prayers churning on September 11, 2001, before the Twin Towers collapsed, and one of the sisters believes she heard the plane crash into the Pentagon, about five miles away. But only the smallest amounts of world news are needed or even appropriate to a Poor Clare in the cloister. They pray for the president, but it doesn't really matter who the president is.
I suddenly feel I've said too much. The early winter sun is setting, and the monastery bells indicate that the nuns are due back in chapel anyway. So we stop, and I find it tremendously difficult to say goodbye. I tell them I will come to the public side of the sanctuary after I quickly call myself a taxi cab. I want to hear their chanting of the office one more time.
But then the cab comes almost immediately, and I find myself in a quandary: do I treat myself to hearing the sisters sing, and keep the cab driver waiting? Or do I hop into the car, forgetting my wishes?
I want to hear the sisters, but I find I can't abandon the driver. It feels inexplicably rude to put my needs over his. So I toss my belongings, then myself, into his backseat. And I stare at the glowing amber chapel windows from the cab's rear window, unable to discern if I've been exceedingly humble or slightly stupid.
The cultivation of true humility could consume more than one lifetime. But given that the Poor Clares' eyes are trained on eternity, I too try to see the bigger picture. We drive away, I forgive myself, and I feel no need to worry.
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Vrndavana Vinodini dd, Toronto, Canada: Calm Down!

Ever notice when you are chanting that you get the best ideas? You realize that you've forgotten to do a million different things and start getting panicked and worried that if you don't care of it right now then you'll forget. Or maybe it suddenly hits you that you haven't been in touch with a dear friend for a long time and you make a grab for your cell phone to send off a quick text message?

Welcome to my world of chanting. It never ceases to amaze me that when I sit down to chant I'm deluged with so many different pressing matters that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed. It happened to my again today. There I was trying to hear the sound of the holy names when I remembered a deadline for a service I'm engaged in. This is one of the hardest callings to ignore: when reminders of service and ideas for new services start to manifest when one chants. Anxiety started to wash over me, but suddenly from somewhere came a voice that said, "CALM DOWN!"

It was amazing! Immediately I started to calm down. Instead of giving a slew of reasons to stop chanting and get to work immediately on this service, my intelligence actually spoke up for a change and said, "There's time. Don't worry. You will get this done and I promise I won't let you forget."

As I continued chanting something else came up and this time I actually verbally spoke out the words, "CALM DOWN!" It worked. It also made me realize something. As most of us are practicing bhakti yogis who are trying to balance our material and spiritual lives, we are very busy individuals. When we are not involved with school or work, many are involved with spiritual activities. In the rare instances that we are not swamped, the only thing that most people want to do is relax. Take a break from the mental clutter and just do something effortless.

The problem is that nowhere in our busy lives do we actually make the time to just reflect. We don't ever give ourselves even a mere 5-10 minutes of private, silent time on a daily basis. Is it any surprise then, when we sit down to chant, that our mind takes opportunity of that time to go crazy and remind us of a million and one things?

In fact, if you really think about it, those thoughts and reminders that creep up are actually disguises for a much deeper problem. They are indirect hints that we are not allowing ourselves to experience emotions. Our excuse for being busy is very convenient since we numb ourselves to all our feelings whether they be positive or negative. That's why instead of feeling any taste or attachment to the holy names, we feel stress, anxiety, restlessness or any other milieu of emotions. It becomes the only time we actually feel everything we've built up inside of us.

How can we feel anything to the holy name when we've become so expert at not really feeling anything at all? It may sound crazy, but think about it. With our calendars chock-full of events and things-to-do, it's not unusual for someone to have more than three things to do on any given day. Where is the time to process what we feel and what other people are feeling in relation to us if we're just running from one thing to the next?

I've begun to notice that those individuals who are really able to dive deep into their chanting are those who actually take the time to introspect and reflect on a daily basis. They will sit in front of the deities or write for some allotted time. Most of the time we run on automatic pilot and try to ignore the mind's demands because let's face it, there's no time. But the mind is just like a child- if you don't willingly give time, it will just demand and grab it from you at inopportune times. So if you don't give time to process experiences and emotions, most likely you'll start to notice that you'll do it while you are chanting.

So calm down and give yourself a break! There really is enough time in the day and you can afford to take a few minutes for yourself to really experience everything that is going on. It may be that elusive key to experiencing some emotion when chanting the holy names.

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H.H. Sivarama Swami

Yes, kirtana and prasada will appeal to even the uneducated. We have means
to preach to both the educated and uneducated, the sinful and the

- Srila Prabhupada

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H.H. Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Photo's from the Durban Ratha Yatra

The report to follow soon…

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Gouranga TV: Mantra session 20.03.2010 1/7

Mantra session, kirtan 20.03.2010 1/7

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Gaura Sakti das & Adi Radhika dd, New Vraja Dham, Hungary: Banyan tree


Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.

Purport: The fact that the atomic soul is within the body of a gigantic animal, in the body of a gigantic banyan tree, and also in the microbic germs, millions and billions of which occupy only an inch of space, is certainly very amazing.

Prabhupada explaining the Bhagavad-gita, continues with an interesting explanation after this verse: Men with a poor fund of knowledge and men who are not austere cannot understand the wonders of the individual atomic spark of spirit, even though it is explained by the greatest authority of knowledge, who imparted lessons even to Brahma, the first living being in the universe.

Behind the many real up to date subjects like sharing knowledge, simple, self sufficient, sustainable life lies a force that drags us to a very precious moment where we may be able to be awakened to our real selves, our souls.

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