"Planet ISKCON" - 23 new articles
I was on my first day of book distribution with HG Navina Nirada Prabhu. We headed down to our local spot, Byron Bay. We did a harinam, sought the blessings of the ocean and then purified ourselves with some Prasadam. Now that we felt sufficiently purified we were ready to engage in the sankirtana yajna of book distribution. I stopped one young woman. She seemed very interested in the concept of Krsna consciousness but didn't seem totally inclined to take for some mysterious reason. She held onto the book for the whole time we talked and then handed it back. She moved on down the street where I saw Ekendra, ready to stop her again. I tried to signal that I had already stopped her but he just couldn't see me. I wandered over to see what he had to say. He showed her another Krsna book. She was still very interested in holding the book but revealed she was very financially down. She had a few more weeks of her vacation and she was only sure she could afford a potato for lunch. She seemed a bit down and we wanted to give her some of Krsna's mercy in any shape or form. I wrote a note to Dhruva (Veteran book distributor in Australia). He was working in the local Hare Krsna restaurant. I gave the note to the young woman and pointed her toward the restaurant. The note was asking Dhruva to give her a free meal. We kept distributing. It was a little slow. Half an hour later the same woman came back. She said the Prasadam was the best meal she had ever had. She asked me for a flyer to our local temple, New Govardhana. We returned to New Govardhana for a book distribution class by HG Navina Nirada. He was talking about utility being the principle. "Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Like today the boys gave a young women a free meal of Prasadam." Ekendra, who was sitting in the audience, shot up his hand and informed us that the same women, who's name was Elana, had called the temple and was coming to stay on the New Govardhana farm for a few days. Elana thoroughly enjoyed her stay in New Govardhana. On her first day she asked for some japa beads. She came to the Sunday feast in a sari and tilak. On her last day on the farm she took a few more books. After this she flew back home. Months later, 1000 km away, in Sydney, we were doing books with HH Devamrita Swami's squad. We had just finished our last day of a mid year marathon before I was flying off to Europe. We went to Govindas for a celebratory Prasadam feast. We were in a massive line up for the Prasadam, behind many guests. I was curious why it was such a busy night. I anxiously looked ahead to see if any devotees were in the line ahead of us, hoping to catch some sat sanga. The women in front of me turned around and it was Elana! She was there for her birthday and had brought thirty of her friends. This explained the big line. It was good to see Elana was still attracted to Krsna, the kind devotees, and still hooked on Prasadam.
Your servant, Madhavendra Puri Dasa.
H.G. Sankarshan das Adhikari, USA: Monday 23 August 2010--He Said Krishna's Teachings Are Trash--and--How Do We Get Moksha ...
Recently one of our readers dropped out of our course with the comment, "It is the same trash repeated over and over again!" It is interesting to note that this was the second time he dropped out. This means that even though he describes Krishna's teachings as trash, he was attracted enough to the "trash" to sign up for a second time. So what we are...
These photo’s are from the daily darshan site for Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha in Sydney. You can check the site out anytime of day or might to see the latest stunning shots of Their Lordships hosting and participating in the many activities at the temple.
If you post photo’s online of the Deities at you temple please let us know so we can share them with the electronically assembled devotees everywhere.Share this story your way:
My cooking classes are coming and going with such mind-boggling speed that I've hardly had time to even upload the photos I managed to take of the culinary events that so underscore my life, what to speak of blog them.
But somehow or other, it seems that, for the moment, the asafetida-scented funk has cleared enough for me to compile at least a small photographic record of events that have so eluded reporting over the last few months.
So let's begin with Gopals Vegetarian Restaurant. Two sets of classes have come and gone unreported, so here's a few glimpses:
The red hemp shirt means this was Sunday 25 July.
What's a Kurma class without a succulent bundle of juicy-fresh-panir-cheese joy ?
And we all retire to the banquet table - the way of all good cookery classes.
And the black hemp shirt means this was way back in May. My friend Radha Caran was the photographer that day, so these are his images.
I introduced my students to my friend behind the lens.
Yes, everyone was very focused that day.
Rolling pin still-life.
And that wraps it up until tomorrow. Stay tuned for part two of The Ones That Got Away.
I’ve sent this letter to news sites where the letter it replies to was published.
I have a very soft spot in my heart for my senior godsister Govinda Dasi. In 1968, right after I was initiated, she was serving as Srila Prabhupada’s cook, and for a couple of weeks in Boston I got to assist her. I will always fondly remember those days of being with her and Gaurasundara in serving Srila Prabhupada. She was (and is) such a nice example of a devoted disciple! But as for Govinda Dasi the historian, well. . .
A letter from her to Yashoda Dulal Prabhu, lately being circulated on the internet, gets several points wrong. But I’ll just mention two of them.
Namamrta by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – The lack of religious principles in Kali-yuga is more than compensated by the process of chanting the holy name:
"It is said that this age of Kali is three-fourths devoid of religious principles. Hardly one-fourth of the principles of religion are still observed in this age. But by the mercy of Lord Krishna, this vacancy of Kali-yuga has not only been completely filled, but the religious process has been made so easy that simply by rendering transcendental loving service unto Lord Krishna by chanting His holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, one can achieve the highest result of religion, namely being transferred to the highest planet within the spiritual world, Goloka Vrndavana." (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead)
Here the benefit of chanting Hare Krishna is spelled out by numerical figures and by the specific gain. The vacancy of three-quarters irreligion is filled up just by chanting Hare Krishna. And not only filled up in a general sense, but by chanting one can go to Goloka Vrndavana. The religious practices in the other ages don't guarantee that one can go to Goloka Vrndavana but they guarantee material benefits, liberation and possibly love of God. But Lord Caitanya's particular brand of chanting Hare Krishna was with prema-bhakti and so it brings one into the company of His associates in the spiritual world. Through Lord Caitanya we reach Radha-Krishna. Through the audarya mood we reach the madhurya mood. That is the great benefit of chanting Hare Krishna in Kali-yuga under the shelter of Lord Caitanya and His representatives.
I woke up only with the alarm clock at 2 A.M. I felt that I was behind because I prefer to get up at 1 or 1:30. But I was well rested and my chanting went well. When Narayana Kavaca came up at 2:30 and I told him how I had gotten up at 2 he said it was good and that I looked good and that my chanting would be good as a result of getting up a little late. I should not be fanatical about desiring to get up at 1 or 1:30 because it doesn't guarantee I'll do better chanting. And if I don't finish my sixteen rounds before 3:30 I can always make them up later in the morning. So I've chanted twelve rounds and the last four were a little drowsy but I took a cracker and that woke me up. The chanting was rapid and attentive and that's good. In the purport to the Namamrta verse I spoke of chanting in prema-bhakti and being transferred to Goloka Vrndavana. Those goals are yet beyond me but I take solace in chanting with full wakefulness and attention and no pain. I have to count those as good days and wait for the rest.
Chanting alertly is a
One Hundred Prabhupada Poems
I am reading of Priya-vrata who wanted to
Your orders are my life-blood, life-air—
Here is the poem from Under Dark Stars:
The bus stopped in the garden—
Can I go back to Ireland and
Ask your friends. Violence—
Yeah, it was good.
Stay away from those places.
Put him behind the bars
It was a work of many figures
But I misbehaved and had to
Oh there was plenty of Krishna
of violent threat. I may have been
As I say, I misbehaved, and I
A person from San Francisco who heard my last video poetry reading remarked (by email) at the loud motorcycle noise in the background. She said it sounded like we were living in a suburb of New York City. It was rare that that bike revved by just as we were broadcasting. It's usually very quiet here. But she liked the poetry reading of Prabhupada in San Francisco in 1967. Another man emailed me from Dallas and said he watched the video. I'd been disappointed that only nine and thirteen people watched the last two shows but if I'm catching even a few people from farflung places who are appreciating it, it's worth it. The next door neighbors keep their dog outside tied to a tree just on the other side of the fence joining our property. They seem to do it when they leave the house and the dog barks constantly and loudly in loneliness. Baladeva is going to talk to Saci and find out what the man is like and if he's approachable to ask him to move the dog to the other side of the yard. As it is, he is quite annoying in any case.
Taking the poems in the novel Under Dark Stars and inserting them in new poems and giving a purport has been fun. In one sense a poem shouldn't need a purport. It should be clear by itself. Haridasa told me he read an essay by Steve Kowitt in which he lambasts obscure poetry that is intended to be taken as profound (I'll ask Haridasa to send me the essay and I'll tell you more about it). Many of the poems in Under Dark Stars are not clear by themselves. But they have a swaggering energy and moments of honest self revelation that I feel they are worth seeing again. Besides, hardly anyone has read Under Dark Stars—and if they did they might dismiss the poems without some further explanation. So I'm continuing the project and getting bolder about surrounding the poems with actual poem-purports.
For ekadasi lunch we had mashed potatoes (with lumps), cauliflower, sour cream and mushed-up eggplants. Also macaroon cookies with ice cream. Baladeva came up at 12.30 P.M. and said lunch would be ten minutes late "I don't have it down yet. How to get the potatoes done on time," he said.
I said, "I thought you were a master cook."
"I'm in the process," he said "if I don't perfect it I will have to come back in my next life."
"So your rasa is to be a cook in the spiritual world?"
"In Radharani's kitchen. I wonder if they have pressure cookers. Or in that kitchen it's all pressure cooking."
"Yes, you cook a meal with five preparations and Radharani cooks fifty preps."
Baladeva conceded that he probably wasn't qualified to be a cook in Radharani's kitchen, but would work outside "cleaning the dirt off the vegetables".
My nightmare was ISKCON heebiejeebies. I was called into an office by an ex-sannyasi and he began by telling me I had done much nice service of going into the city and distributing pamphlets, magazines and books. He went through a pile of receipts on his desk. He told me that I would have to pay over fifteen years of back payments on bus fare because I should have hitchhiked! I became angry and shouted out a curse word at him. The devotees in the room turned and looked at me shocked and disapprovingly. Then another ex-sannyasi showed me a sample of cakes with icing on them which his temple members were making and taking out on sankirtana as introductory gifts to people for selling books. He said it was highly successful. I was determined not to pay the non-hitchhiking fine and I left the room. But a woman followed me asserting that it was really proper to hitchhike and not spend money on public transportation. I woke up with a severe case of heartburn and nausea in my chest. I took an anti-acid medicine and lay on my back with two pillows. For breakfast I had only yogurt and my heartburn went down. But I felt uneasy about the dream. The fifteen years fine was outrageous and I felt bad about shouting out a curse word.
Lord Caitanya as a child was very mischievous. He used to go to the Ganges and spit on the Brahmins. They came and complained to Jagannatha Misra. A man said Visvambara stole his offerings to Lord Vishnu, another said He stole his dhoti and another said Nimai stole his Bhagavad-gita. He went under the water and grabbed at the ankles of Brahmins meditating on their Gayatri mantras. The girls complained to Mother Saci that Nimai exchanged their clothes with the men's and threw sand on them. But the people who complained were actually pleased and did not complain angrily. Jagannatha Misra, however, became angry and promised to punish his son. The boys warned Nimai that His father was coming after Him so He told them to tell His father that He had not gone to the Ganges but went straight home after school. Nimai then approached His home carrying His books and covered with ink spots as if He had come straight from school.
I had a rough day with repeated headaches. I had one lingering at 5 P.M. but put on my shoes for the walk. I wore a cap against the sunshine. It was beautiful weather. Narayana and I walked three laps in Saci's backyard. The camaraderie is sweet. But I cancelled reading poetry with him from 6:15 to 7:00 because I am fragile. Baladeva read Caitanya-caritamrta to me while I took my 6 P.M. snack. "Whatever Caitanya Mahaprabhu said it is correct." Lord Buddha spoke to the atheisst to stop them from killing animals but he rejected the Vedas. Sankaracarya reinstated the Vedic knowledge but emphasized the impersonal and denied the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His followers made it worse. Caitanya Mahaprabhu defeated the mayavadis wherever He went. He converted many mayavadi scholars into Vaisnavas and then introduced the chanting of the holy names. You can get into it very technically but I have lost my ability to do so. I keep it simple and repeat what I remember from Prabhupada. I go on hearing.
Several years ago I helped a struggling devotee out, he had no were to live, no means to support himself and was under pressure to store things from his recently failed marriage. A van was hired and we traveled down and picked his belongings up that was nearly four years ago. When I first looked [...]
We are not going to teach anything which is not spoken by Krsna and which is not supported by Krsna Caitanyadeva. This is our principle. This is Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna preached Krsna Himself, Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached the same principle, krsnas tu bhagavan svayam [SB 1.3.28], and we are preaching the same thing. We do not preach anything else. We do not manufacture anything. That is not our business. So by the grace of Krsna, by the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, you all European boys and girls joined this movement under my soliciting. I went to your country with this word only. I did not show you any magic, neither I have any knowledge how to play magic. That is not possible. I simply repeat the same thing, that "Here is Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Here is Krsna Caitanyadeva, the devotional form of Krsna. You accept Them. Your life will be successful."
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.3 -- Mayapur, March 27, 1975
"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest - whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories - comes afterwards. These are games."
Those are the opening words of Albert Camus book The Myth of Sisyphus and could be taken as a good summary of existentialism with its focus on the experience of the individual rather than abstract philosophical systems, and an atheist existentialist the prime question to answer is "What is the purpose of life if there is no God?" and "If there is no God why shouldn't I commit suicide?"
Any philosophy that looks at human life without reference to God or anything transcendent runs into the obvious risk of degenerating suicidal nihilism. Certainly the burden of proof is on the atheist to prove that atheism is not nihilistic. And nihilism taken to its logical conclusion is suicide. Camus address the question this way "Does logic command me to commit suicide?"
Suicide is then the obvious challenge that the atheist must answer to.
But I find Camus' answer to the question less than compelling.
His answer is rebellion or revolt, which is acknowledging "the certainty of a crushing fate, with the resignation that ought to accompany it."
Somehow rebelling against our crushing fate (death) makes life meaningful. It really escapes me if life doesn't really have any meaning and if death is the end of everything and ultimately there is no meaning or purpose to anyhow how rebellion makes an otherwise meaningless life meaningful, maybe he wouldn't say meaningful but he would say that rebellion is better than suicide.
Camus exalts pride. "The sight of human pride is unequalled," he tells us. As if pride and defiance have some meaning, but how could they in a world devoid of meaning and purpose.
The words that he chooses, rebellion and revolt, are interesting and to me they only make sense in the context of a theistic worldview. Who is there to rebel against? If there is no God there is there no one to rebel against.
The book is titled after the greek legend of Sisyphus, who was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down for the rest of eternity. Camus imagines, and wants us to imagine, that Sisyphus can rebel against his fate, and he can be happy despite the divine retribution upon him.
In the case of Sisyphus rebellion makes some sense because he is rebelling against the gods who have condemned him to his eternal punishment. In our case, supposing there is no God and that we are just here for a short span of time and will soon be dead forever, what meaning is there to a rebellion. One might suggest rebellion as a way of dealing with the despair that might accompany knowledge of our immanent destruction, but that is different from proposing rebelling a way out of the logical conclusion that if there is no God there is no reason not to kill myself.
So to answer the original question, "Does logic command us to commit suicide?"
I think in the end Camus fails to show that we are not commanded by logic to commit suicide.
And I don't think any atheist has ever or will ever be ever to show this, for without God there is no logical reason not to commit suicide.
Of course as biological organisms we have self-preservation instincts and as with all other animals and we can find non-logical reasons, ie. reproduction, to not commit suicide but when looking at atheism as a philosophical system we want to know if it provides a logical reason not to commit suicide. Maybe we don't need a logical reason but that is different discussion. I've heard some atheists make the argument that we have instincts to be good, to be moral, to treat other people with kindness, compassion, respect, etc and we don't need a reason to be "good." And in a similar way maybe we don't need a reason to lead a meaningful life. Maybe that is true, maybe it isn't, but either way that is a different discussion.
In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus attempts to show that logic doesn't command us to commit suicide, but I think he fails to do so.
World Holy Name Festival 2010 is from September 17 - October 2, 2010.
Maddy Jean-claude Durr, New Govardhana, AU: A Journey Across to Poland: [P24] Clobbered In Kolobrzeg
Friday 13th, August 2010.
It was another day and another festival. The boys were supposed to head off to setup, early in the morning, but their transport was overcrowded. I chatted with them a little, before I went off to samosas. We made up four hundred samosas, the usual count for a typically big festival. Today was a festival in Kolobrzeg, one of our biggest, so I wasn't surprised so see so many samosas on demand. I was punished for my silly antics, of making wet dough, and now I had to knead almost double the amount, with a cold, hard mixture.
I was in our room and HH Indradyumna Swami came in. "Where's Mahavana?" he asked. Mahavana wasn't around so we said he wasn't in. "What's the weather going to be like?" he then asked, glancing out the window. "Just tell me what you want it to be Maharaja and I'll text message Indra and have it arranged" I said in return. He chuckled and left it at that. It was nice to see Maharaja's constant meditation; he was attentive to all the usual material considerations but he was simply concerned with how they would effect the preaching.
I went along with the harinam bus. I had wanted to go on harinam in Kolobrzeg, since the start of the tour, but I somehow I missed my previous opportunity. I had to wait almost a month just to have another chance to dance down the big beach and I made sure to take it up this time. The harinam started, with it's usual pomp and wonder. By the end of it, everyone was a little mad. I checked my watch, and I noticed that it was Friday the thirteenth! It was supposed to be a wacky day (based on the western calendar) and it definitely seemed to be effecting some of the devotees in our harinam party. Vraja Sakha was acting like a mad man on harinam, dancing crazily. The rest of the devotees were following suit, doing all the matajis' dance steps. The madness was well spread throughout the whole festival team also (but that could probably be contributed to the intensity of the tour, as apposed to some silly holiday).
We finished the harinam back at the festival site. "Ok, lets go again, two more hours" said Maharaja. He laughed as the devotees gave a non-spontaneous reaction. We stood around, winding down from the harinam. I had a couple banners next to me from the harinam and I saw Maharaja taking some photos of me. *Snap*, that was the profile picture.
I went on a long japa walk, down the nature strip. That was the nice thing about doing festivals along the Polish beaches, they always had a nice stretch of green to stretch your legs and chant some nice japa. I returned timely for the cooking demonstration. I was surprised to see Nanda Kumar Prabhu, instead of Rajesvari Seva mataji. Raja was sick so Nanda was taking the reigns. He prepped up a salad with a sauce from HH Danavir Goswami's arsenal, the kind of Prasadam that would cultivate a devotee in one hit.
It came time for kirtana. The devotees borrowed my chada, so Gurudeva could sit on it. I sat behind stage, writing and waiting for my chada to be returned. The little girls from the audience were all up there, putting on the saris they won. I heard Krsna Das and Radheya talking excitingly about ice-creams and heading in the direction of town. It was a little late for that wasn't it? Finally I was given back my chada and I ran for the buses. I couldn't see the boys anywhere and I prayed for their safe return. Back at base, there was still no sign of them. Braja reassured me that they would find their way back with Dominik, in the van, and I decided to sleep on it.
Saturday 14th, August 2010.
Gaura Mohana and I both awoke from dreams of HH Indradyumna Swami. It was a nice contrast to my wild dreams, concocted with the ingredients of my uncontrolled, prolonged exposure to Western media; Sometimes change was nice. I was happy to see, safely tucked away in their beds, Radheya and Krsna Das, after their mysterious disappearance the night before.
I went down to the kitchen for my shift, feeling pretty uplifted. I went into the Restaurant's bhoga room, to see if I could find some butter for the samosa dough. Someone had left the bhoga room's window open all night, and now the whole room was swarming with wasps. I casually worked around them, almost pretending they weren't there. I went on like this, for three or four visits, but finally, the inevitable happened. I caught a real hard sting to the arm. It was the worst one yet. I muffled my cry when I realized how loud it must of sounded. I quickly put my leftover lemon on it, and tried to shrug it off.
My arm was still hurting from the sting as I kneaded out over four hundred samosas. The mataji was even checking the consistency of the dough, after my little mishap in the last festival. I was falling behind now, with the added quota and the harder knead. I raced, almost breaking a sweat, as the mothers patiently waited for me to turn over the dough.
I tried to enthuse Radheya to come to breakfast. It was pasta, the unquestionable must have, but he was not budging. It reminded me of Kolobrzeg, last year, when we lost Vanamali to tour pressure. We slowly and sadly waved goodbye to him as he left our sound crew, halfway in the tour. No one blamed him because it was physically the hardest day I myself had ever worked in my life, and almost all of us felt like quitting at the time. We tried to encourage Radheya but I knew there was only one cure - a good amount of rest and a good, monitored dosage of sweets and salties.
I just made it out the door for the bus. Krsna Das led Nrsimha prayers, although his voice had been over worked. We sat next to each other, on the bus, and I read Caitanya Caritamrta, on my computer. Krsna Das leant over, from time to time, as he chanted. He started to read the Bengali and comment on the word for word. He was like an instant Bengali scholar, growing up in Mayapur with the language. I was amazed to think how much nectar devotees would derive out of Caitanya Caritamrta and other sastra if they knew the language of the script; it would add a whole extra layer to the depth and appreciation of the masterpieces that so many devotees daily read.
We arrived and took Prasadam. Krsna Das was quick to take, worried that the storm clouds were going to engulf us. I didn't take him seriously, wanting to savour my Prasadam, but we soon found out that he was right. Just as we finished Prasadam, the rain rolled in. The rain was so bad that the festival had to be postponed. Tribhuvanesvara Prabhu (Tribi) made the announcement from the stage. The plan was that there would be a two hour delay and then everything would presume.
It was upsetting to see that the show was not starting on time and it was even more upsetting that we were going to cancel half of it. I was relieved when, half an hour after the scheduled start, the show went on its way. It seemed the rain cleared up enough for the crowds to return. The Sankya Group jumped onstage and began another one of their majestic dances and the devotees had their hearts dancing along as well.
I dropped into the cooking demonstration tent, to check on Nanda's new menu. I was shocked to see Rajesvari Mataji was back. She made a quick recovery (thanks to antibiotics) and was back as our master chef. Kolobrzeg was well known by the tour veterans as the best festival to visit the cooking tent. In most other festivals, the cooking demo sell the majority of the Prasadam at the Restaurant tent, to the people who watch the demonstration, but in Kolobrzeg, due to health regulations, they are not permitted to do so. This means that the whole of the spoils has to be consumed by the devotees, who are more than happy to do the service.
This time, even HH Indradyumna Swami joined us in honouring Prasadam. He was so transcendental that he wasn't even aware of this bi-yearly (before and after Woodstock) Kolobrzeg tradition. Radheya was sitting with me, in the back row and Maharaja looked over at him. "Radheya, did you get?" asked Maharaja, checking on Radheya to see if he had taken Prasadam. Radheya reassured him that he had and Maharaja continued his business peacefully. It was nice to see that Maharaja was making a special watchful eye for Radheya, seeing him coming along so nicely in his Krsna conscious determination.
Indradyumna Swami asked what was happening on the stage. "Nandalal has just started" someone said. "Oh, my favourite part" said Maharaja. He began to pack up, ready to head out. He saw me on my computer and commented. "you writing your report?" I laughed because I was just opening a page so I could dictate what he was saying. "No Maharaja, I am reading VedaBase" I replied (which was half true). I skipped off from the festival for a long japa walk. It was dark now and the walk through the trees was extra scary. I came back for the bus and we made our way home. I was just outside Maharaja's room when I caught him talking to Braja. They were commenting on the successful show. Maharaja mentioned that it was raining heavily everywhere on the coast but Kolobrzeg. "That's Lord Caitanya's mercy" he said, "he held off the rain." I took it as direct realization and I was amazed, yet again, at the modern day pastimes of the Golden Avatara.
Sunday 15th, August 2010.
I did my usual morning ritual. After breakfast, when everyone wanted to wash their plates, the pipes went dry. There was no water in any of the taps in the whole school. We desperately stole people's personal waters supplies, simply to wash our hands, and painstakingly waited until the water returned so we could wash our filthy plates (this took a couple hours at least).
I made my way to the bus, at the usual time, but found that there wasn't a single seat spare. I was trying to make an effort to go to more festivals but it seemed Krsna wasn't letting me go to this one. I took it as an arrangement for my health and sadhana. I went for a long japa walk, hoping to walk past the "Tree House" and beyond the small patch of forest that the structure bordered. I saw a deer in the field and I couldn't help but think of Krsna in Vrndavana. The deer came up so much in his pastimes and I rarely saw such creatures living in Australia). I kept walking and, just as I was in line with the forest, I saw close off in the field a whole family of wild hogs. I wasn't used to bumping into such wildlife, Australia simply having little venomous things like spiders and snakes. I remembered my trips to New Zealand, with its similar climate, and the horror stories I had heard, about wild boars and other such animals. I decided to take this as a hint to chant my japa back at the base.
I waited for the troops to return from Kolobrzeg. We all waited a strenuously long time for the evening milk to be served, catching everyone's sanga and sharing the day's events. Tomorrow was a scheduled day off, which none of us expected in the final marathon weeks of tour. We had only recently discovered it, in the last few days (barely catching a look at the schedule), and the idea had everyone feeling a lot more relaxed. I nestled down in my sleeping bag, content on the days to come. The coming week was the last week of festivals for the Polish tour. The end was near; all we had to do was survive the next half a dozen days or so.
Real love is to love Krsna, love of Krsna. So this is the highest philosophy of life, highest perfection of life, how to learn to love Krsna. Vrndavana does not mean a city or town or this or that. Vrndavana means where everyone is in love, in intense love with Krsna. That is perfection of life. And that is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s contribution.
- Srila Prabhupada
Jhulan Yatra festival is being celebrated with great splendor in Mayapur. This year the festival is happening in Gurukula village. Sri Sri Radha-Madhava visits the swinging arena in a decorated bullock chariot with harinam. Vaisnava youth of Mayapur has turned the gurukula into a beautiful kunja with colorful fountains, decorated pools, flowers and have organised variety cultural programs for the pleasure of the Lord.
Wendell Berry has said that eating is an agricultural act. I have always suspected that agriculture is a theological act. The way we produce and consume something as basic as our food not only determines our physical and environmental health but is a reflection of our social health and a contributing factor of our spiritual health. This is an idea that should disturb and excite us. If eating is agricultural and agriculture is theological, then right eating is a sign of faith, and unjust, aesthetically bankrupt eating endangers the soul.
I have suspected this connection since my grandfather washed his farm-calloused hands in holy water to baptize my infant head. My memories of the rattling of Grandpa's tractor are mixed with those of the booming of his preaching. I always imagined there was a link between the strength of his faith and the strength of his milker's grip. But for the first 25 years of my life, these loosely held notions remained in the background of my thinking and living. I was discontented with both the fast food and fast religion of our society. I gave up both, but was only rewarded with the occasional surge of self-righteousness as I passed by a burger joint hungry or turned off a radio sermon pessimistic. I knew that the easy food and easy religion that I had used to fuel my body and my soul for most of my life were bad for me. But I thought fasting was the only solution.
By the time I graduated from seminary, I was beginning to see signs of hope in our public discourse. People were talking about food and farming in meaningful ways. People were raising their voices in support of a religion that got its hands dirty. I came to possess the dangerous combination of optimism, conviction, and discontent that sometimes leads to an adventure. I was craving a meaningful way of life, which neither my years of consuming nor fasting had provided, and I suspected that the best place to look was in the very garden from which our food choices had excluded us long ago. I applied for an internship on a little organic farm in Washington state, packed up some clothes, a tent, and my dog, and hit the road.
For the past three weeks, I have been living, working, and eating with dirty hands. In those three weeks, I have showered a total of six times, blistered my hands five, watched 21 sunsets and 15 sunrises, lain under a garden sprinkler twice, floated down the Yakima river three times, and sunburned my neck too often to mention. I have been stopped short by beauty every day, and I have fallen asleep contented every night.
The spiritual abundance I have enjoyed while living with a sore back and blistered hands cannot be explained by the food I have eaten. I have eaten well before. It is not due to the awe I have experienced. I have been immersed in beauty before. It grows from the blisters and the aches themselves, earned in pursuit of a simple good thing. It is the result of reordering my understanding of "the good" to include struggling against and overcoming the benevolent afflictions of early mornings and long, hot days. The solution to the discontent of a fast food culture and a fast food religion is not just a rejection of the fruit of these societal trends. It is a total metanoia; a mind-turning towards a theological and culinary aesthetic that includes both difficulty and satisfaction as parts of the good.
Our preachers must proclaim the complex mix of the painful and sublime that constitutes the true beauty of creation. Our faith communities must invite us into this beauty, by tearing down the white picket fences we have built between our self-referential good and evil. We must open up new fields for working and growing, and put ourselves to the difficult task of relationship building. Likewise, our food system must reclaim the value and dignity of hard work by connecting consumers to producers through community gardens, CSAs, and local, seasonal eating. We must demand that "fair trade" ceases to be a luxury, so that when we meet the men and women whose hands have given us our daily bread, we might look them in the eye and smile. We must relearn the bent-backed posture of farming, and with it, the bent-backed posture of prayer.
This will be difficult work, and it will be slow. Training our spiritual muscles to work and to harvest requires discipline. To relate to the beauty of the world on its own terms requires humility. The inertia of much of our living is against us. But behind us, urging us forward, is the steady strength of community; the strength of good living and good relationships; the strength of family, of earth, of home.
Our mistake was an old one. Our ancient ancestors warned us about the dangers of trying to polarize work and pleasure. Just like Adam and Eve, we have defined good and evil in terms of our own convenience, dividing that which has its being in unity. In our attempt to live in only that softer half of being that we have called good, we have denied ourselves the full experience; we have kicked ourselves out of the garden.
Luckily, the solution to our mistake is equally old and equally clear. Along with Adam and Eve, we have harmed the earth, and we have harmed ourselves. God's response remains the same:
In toil you will eat of (the ground)
Such a life, such a struggle, such a blessing is ours. It is time we pick up our spades and claim it with a gratitude and an energy equal to the beauty of the gift.
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