domingo, 26 de diciembre de 2010

H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Srimad Bhagavatam Canto Four, Chapter Twenty Five, Text Sixteen

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  1. ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Vaiyasaki Prabhu @ Urban Yoga
  2. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 171
  3. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Prabhupada Meditations
  4. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Trimmer Journal
  5. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Christmas Day 2010
  6. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Free Write
  7. Devadeva Mirel, Alachua, USA: Merry Christmas : Trying Not To Watch The Pot
  8. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 170
  9. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Prabhupada Meditations
  10. H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Free Write
  11. ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Daily Class - Aniruddha Prabhu
  12. ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Today's Darsana
  13. H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Srimad Bhagavatam Canto Four, Chapter Twenty Five, Text Sixteen
  14. Bhakti Vikasa Swami: On Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's Disappearance Day
  15. Kurma dasa, AU: Howzat?!
  16. Japa Group: Conscious Chanting
  17. ISKCON Krishna Valley Representatives Attend Mexico Climate Summit
  18. ISKCON Radhadesh Film Offers Up Lentil Soup for the Devotee’s Soul
  19. Akrura das, Gita Coaching: FOUR ROLES OF A SPIRITUAL COACH
  20. ISKCON The Crucible Gone Cold: Modern Yoga, Christianity, and the Practice of Individual Transformation
  21. ISKCON Junk Food As Addictive As Street Drugs
  22. ISKCON Ratha Yatra in Ludhiana, India
  23. Bhakta Chris, New York, USA: Grandma And The Hindu Monk
  24. Deva Gaura Hari, AU: Belpukur
  25. H.H. Sivarama Swami: Skype conference with Russian disciples
  26. H.H. Sivarama Swami: For technical reasons there will be no new podcast today
  27. H.H. Sivarama Swami: Niranjana Swami sing at Radhastami 2010
  28. ISKCON Toronto, Canada: Join Our 2nd Annual "Holiday Kirtan" Party Tomorrow Night!
  29. ISKCON Gita Jayanti Celebration at Bhaktivedanta International School, Vrindavana
  30. ISKCON The Passing of Prahlad Nrsimha Das (Paul Ignozza)
  31. Subhavilasa das ACBSP, Toronto, CA: Merry Christmas! If one loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus also.
  32. H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Vaishnava Etiquette By His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami
  33. H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Quote Of Guru Maharaja
  34. Gouranga TV: Bhajan – The Mayapuris – Prayers to Sri Radha
  35. Japa Group: We Have To Guard Ourselves
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ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Vaiyasaki Prabhu @ Urban Yoga


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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 171 SDGonline Daily updates

10:30 A.M.

Japa Journal

Woke up at 4:00 A.M., bathed and dressed. I started to chant but only chanted a couple of rounds before I was sleepy and went back to bed. Now I’m up again. It seems the main achievement of the day will be to be able to chant sixteen rounds. I don’t expect to be able to do much journaling aside from that. But I will try to do a little.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Prabhupada Meditations SDGonline Daily updates

From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume I:

Why Didn’t I Keep a Diary in ’66

(In the mood of Satsvarupa dasa bramachari):

Swamiji, they want to know
why I didn’t keep a diary
filled with the life of those days.

I thought everything was in your words,
and they were in books
and tape recordings.
I also made notes of them—
what is it I should have saved
for the future? Should I have
kept notes like, “He has brown eyes . . .
. . . today Hayagriva made a joke . . .
I feel happy in Krishna consciousness,
haven’t smoked pot in two months?
Maybe I thought it was maya.

But I’m sorry now
I didn’t keep a journal of it all.
I had no presence of mind–
for me, the main thing
was that you were restoring me to life—
I was fully occupied
holding onto your lotus feet.

Maybe I thought there was no need
to write it down because
we would never forget
everything that you did and said.
No, there’s no excuse for it.

Bless me now, Master,
to live in those days,
remembering your kirtanas and
the time I met you
on the street
and bowed down
on the sidewalk before you.
As I rose, you touched me with your hand.
You were in ecstasy!
On your morning walk—
and I proceeded to the welfare office
to break through the line

of angry workers on strike.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Trimmer Journal SDGonline Daily updates

We will have to live with a trimmer journal. At breakfast Baladeva read to me about Krishna and Balarama meeting the wrestlers. It is a favorite section. The four wrestlers lock hand to hand, chest to chest, toe to toe, and demonstrate wrestling techniques. But the audience isn’t happy. They feel there isn’t justice in the unfair matching of two young boys with two gigantic muscular wrestlers. Some people cry out, “No one should stay here! Anyone who stays here is implicated in the injustice of this act.” The people in the audience were fixed on the delicate bodies of Krishna, who was perspiring, and of Baladeva, who was giving off a beautiful red glow from the effort of His wrestling. When Krishna saw the people were in too much anxiety, He decided to stop the wrestling and kill Canura and Mustika. We stopped reading there. Fortunately, there’s plenty more to go.

Last night we had a nice meeting with Saci-suta’s family and Kaulini Mataji and Bhaktirasa and Kirtida. Caitanya was also there. They all came to our house, and we had a feast. The feast was a traditional one that Saci’s family has on New Year’s Eve, so it was easy to prepare. We sat around and talked about the Christmases of our youth. Many of the devotees had been Catholics, and they talked about going to Midnight Mass and then coming home to open the presents, or waiting to open them in the morning. In Saci’s family the children are allowed to open a few presents at night, but mostly they have to wait until the morning. They opened the presents that I had given them. The children responded very blissfully and spontaneously at the presents I gave them. I gave Laksmana two games in which you simulate a football game and a basketball game. He blissed out when he saw them, but he admitted to me that they were a little hard to play. He has a baseball game of the same variety, and Saci said it’s a little easier to play, but they will manage to learn how to play these games too. I gave Subhadra a camera, and she showed genuine happiness. She said, “I got it!” because perhaps she had asked for a camera. Kaulini Jr. remarked sarcastically, “We’ll see how long that lasts before it breaks,” and her mother asked her to not be so sarcastic. I gave Kaulini Jr. a gift certificate to be used in a shopping store. She seemed genuinely happy to get it, and I told her I thought it was the only way I could satisfy her, allowing her to pick out something that she liked herself. They gave me a few presents also and I was glad to get them, touched that they would think of me as a member of their family and give me a gift. One of them is a pair of hands in a prayer position which I can place on my desk and burn incense in it or not burn incense. Bhaktirasa gave me a book, Tuesdays with Morrie, but I told him I had already read the book and liked it. He said he would take it back to the store and get a new one. Kaulini-mataji gave me a card which said inside of it that she would be making kachoris in a few days as a present.  Baladeva received a pair of potholders to be used in cooking, and other devotees received packages of sweets.  I told how in our family in childhood, our custom was to all go to Midnight Mass in the Catholic church. It was the one night in the year in which my father conceded in going to church. I would be proud to see him dressed up in a suit and sitting in the rows with the other men. After Midnight Mass, which was held in Latin, we would go home and sit in the dark room before our bold, lighted Christmas tree. I don’t think we opened any of our presents until morning, but we would have a few drinks. Even as a teenager my father would let me have one drink with liquor in it. He and my mother also had a few drinks and my sister. We warmed up with holiday spirit and the atmosphere was always nice. We then went to bed, as it was very late, and got up early in the morning, when we were allowed to gather together under the Christmas tree and rip open all our presents. I have an air humidifier in my main room and a steam producer in my bedroom to help bring down the congestion. Baladeva is also going to get some Vicks VapoRub to rub on my chest. I talked to Dr. Nitai-gaurasundara in the morning and he was encouraging me, saying I would get better in a few days. My legs are weak, and I can’t walk well. He encouraged me to get plenty of rest.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Christmas Day 2010 SDGonline Daily updates

He asked me from Tennessee whether we had a white
Christmas. He said there was white dusting there.

Here it is a sunshiny day, but there is
snow on the ground from days before.
Last night we spoke of childhood days, of deep
snows, Saci visiting his grandmother, his own
children gradually coming into the world and
growing up, the Catholic church giving up
the use of Latin and introducing other
leniencies. Daddy letting me have a
sip of his liquor “highball.”
Then going to sleep and waking
in the morning tearing through
wrapping paper in a frenzy.

Within an hour, all the presents were opened.
I remember when I was
19 or 20, my sister bought
me the LP Django by the Modern
Jazz Quartet. I bought my
father woolen shirts and a box
of Dutch Masters cigars. At home
we didn’t talk of Jesus or
religion. We had a feast
for lunch. Usually we only gathered with our own
family for Christmas.
Now it’s my seventy-first Christmas
and I’m just out of the
hospital. I have to use

my time to reach my
japa quota. I am
thankful to be out of
the hospital and under
Prabhupada’s shelter.
May I grow strong
and write vigorous
poems for him again,
and maybe even a book.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Free Write SDGonline Daily updates

Mysterious diagnosis of pneumonia. You think of pneumonia from overexposure to the cold, but I had none of that. I had supposed it came from other ways. I’m analyzed as being exhausted. Collapsed on the floor. Was acting irrationally, getting up at 11:00 P.M. and taking a shower and putting on my pajamas when I fell over. Irrational behavior. Then I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. Couldn’t answer doctors’ simple questions. So they put me in the hospital and treated me with antibiotics and started a series of shots with needles, IV needle, shoved in a room with a hundred-year-old man. Depressing situation. “How do you feel?” “Anxious about being here. I want to leave.” “But you can’t leave, you have a serious illness, and you have to stay here to check on all your symptoms.” I felt rebellious and wanted to escape from the hospital. Talked to the psychiatrist. She asked me did I ever see things that weren’t there, did I ever want to hurt myself? She told me the hard consequences of leaving the hospital against the recommendations of the authorities: you had to pay for your hospital stay, your doctor will stop giving you prescriptions. When she said that I calmed down, scared out of my rebelliousness. I’ve written this before, but the impressions are still in my mind. Every day a new nurse, she writes her name on a board: Barb, Jessica, etc. “Hello, I am Agnes, I’m your nurse for the day, how are you feeling?” You have to take this medicine and that medicine. Then take them in your hands and swallow them with a cup of water. You are tied to a set of wires and put in bed. You have to get up to clean the bedclothes. Then they wash you down, wash your rear like a baby,  and wrap you up in a diaper with clean sheets. Then they gather in the catheter bag and empty it. You don’t go to the toilet to pass. You have to allow it to take in your bed sheet, and they clean it out and it goes from the bed. You are dressed up in new smock, and they keep you confined from missing the bed and entering into the toilet room.

I am writing a little incoherently, trying to describe a situation that was happening in an incoherent state. Put on the tubes, on the blood tube, and don’t make it too tight so it will pull out. There are different needles in your arm.

A respiratory man comes by four times a day with a see-through plastic pipe for you to suck on.  It inhales and exhales, for clearing the lungs. He says it may not be of any use, but you do it anyway. Another needle visit. You hardly remember what he says or for what he comes for. The three-times-a-day needles in the belly button.  The meals served on a tray are not very tasty. We have the “Vegan” menu. A man comes by and holds you a pamphlet: “The Patient’s Bill of Rights,” but you are too disjointed and busy to read it. What rights do you have when you don’t have the freedom to leave? A social worker. I tell her I was a social worker myself. She wants to know that I get good care at home. She leaves me her card. Later I got a roller-wheeler through her. The nurses come and go, speaking of Michelangelo. Loud voices from different quarters. You receive your own visitors, and they cheer you up but they can’t get you out. You ask a nurse to speak up for you. She tells you its best to stay in the hospital and do what they tell you to do: “When you are better, then you can go.” But their duty is not to let you go, but to treat you.

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Devadeva Mirel, Alachua, USA: Merry Christmas : Trying Not To Watch The Pot

This year for Christmas I was home with the kids while my husband worked (holiday pay!). Now that he got that out of the way, I am in the clear to give birth. Hear that, Cervix? Apparently, my cervix does not have ears.

To distract myself and to occupy my kids, I’ve been cleaning, gathering my home birth gear (never thought I would get so well acquainted with the incontinence aisle at Walgreen’s while in my 30′s) and baking. We made three lasagnas last nite–one cheeseless for the the boy, one with spinach and cheese for the girl and one with the works for my husband’s break room on Christmas Day. Thankfully, the oven fire didn’t wreck the damn thing.

Kosher for Christmas: VEgan marshmallows, chocolate ganache and ginger cookies combine to make a s'mores-style cookie...the flavor channels Sandra Lee imho.


The kids really wanted to make gingerbread men. I don’t have any man cutters, but we rummaged through the cookie drawer and happily chose maple leaves. Did I ever tell you my mother’s family is from Canada?

O Canada!


Having never eaten a s’more in my life, I thought it would be fun to use the leftover dough to extinguish the fire of my curiosity for this taste. I made them. You know that. The end result is pictured above. I thought they were gross. I realize, as a grown-up person with grown-up person tastes, that I only like marshmallows in rice krispie treats. Because that’s a very grown-up dessert. Otherwise, marshmallows taste like what I imagine kissing Sandra Lee to be like. Uhhh, no thanks.

But….I did make chocolate ganache for the first time, and that was easy fun.


Additionally, me and  my little elves, Snowball & Crumpet,  baked up some non-edibles. Here they are hard at work on their salt dough ornaments. You know, for the tree we don’t have.

Doesn't Crumpet look cute in her Target fancy dress! She wore it out to the playground later in the day with shin guards and cleats. So she could run really fast.


Here is an ornament I made for a friend. It is a copy of an ornament I made in grade school, with Ms. Fazekia, the art teacher @ Harry S. Truman School. I think the grade school version turned out better.


Yet another ornament made by moi for a friend. I really like how this snow man turned out. Especially since the weather was quite warm today and now it is raining. Need to bring a little snowy Christmas seasonal cheer into the mix one way or another.

Snowball & Crumpet mugging for the camera, showing off Crumpet's snowman, which she made sure was well decorated.


So that’s the full report. No baby. A decent amount of cookies. Marshmallow gross-out and salt dough. Hopefully baby will come soon. I am so done being pregnant I am not even freaking out about the pain of the birth. I’m just like…BRING IT ON! Let’s see if I still have that attitude during transition….

Merry Christmas!

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: 170 SDGonline Daily updates

11:39 A.M.

Japa Journal

I went to bed at 7:15 P.M. last night and got up at 6:30 A.M. My lungs were congested during the night. They’ve cleared since I got up, and I’ve bathed and dressed and had breakfast. There was no time for chanting or writing. After breakfast I began japa, and I’ve just finished my sixteen rounds. I chanted duly, silently, accumulating the rounds at a regular pace. In my recuperating mood I am low on energy and could not focus into a chanting with fervor or deep focus.

Excerpts from Sri Harinama Cintamani (spoken by Haridasa Thakura to Lord Caitanya and written by Bhaktivinoda Thakura):

“Criticizing the Teachings of the Vedas Is Offensive:

Sruti substantiates the nine ascertainable teachings, and the guru who is well-versed in the scriptures is able to reveal these truths. Anyone who criticizes the srutis commits a heinous crime. He’s a sinner and offender to the holy name.

“Jaimini, Kapila, Nagna, Nastika, Sugata and Gautama are six philosophers who were stuck by the fangs of mundane logic and reasoning. They simply did some lip service to the teachings of the Vedas, but they did not accept God. Jaimini propagated that the best knowledge the Vedas has to offer is the fruitive ritualistic portion known as karma-kanda. Kapila dared to state that God was imperfect; he accepted the process of yoga, but without understanding its deeper implications. Nagna spread poison by teaching a practice of tantra that is in the mode of ignorance. Carvaka Nastika was an atheist who never accepted the authority of the Vedas, and Sugata, the Buddhist, imposed a different meaning upon them. Gautama propagated logic and did not worship the Supreme Lord.

“These mischievous interpretations are in fact offenses against the Vedas. Through sophism, such philosophers speak half-truths that are likely to confuse the ordinary listener, though an experienced Vedantist can easily detect their ruse. Avoid dabbling in such philosophical concepts because they are detrimental to spiritual growth. The Mayavadi philosophy is equally dangerous, for it suppresses the natural devotional mood. Mayavadi philosophy is factually camouflaged Buddhism. In Kali-yuga, the propagation of this philosophy, which is a perversion of the Vedic truth, has been authorized by the Supreme Lord. On the Lord’s behest, Lord Siva became its propagator. As Jaimini seemingly upheld Vedic authority but practically propounded a warped version of the Vedic conclusions, similarly Mayavadi gurus give Vedic proof to establish their covert Buddhism; thus they obscure the essence of the Vedas, which is the science of devotional service.

“Astavakra, Dattatreya, Govinda, Gautapada, Sankaracarya and all of Sankaracarya’s materialist philosopher followers are known as Mayavadi gurus. In Buddhism the principle teaching is the non-existence of the soul. Buddhism does not accept the concept of Brahman. The theory of nothingness, the last word in Buddhism, is rendered by the Mayavadis into the concept of the formless impersonal Brahman, which is so conceived  by them in order not to be material. But these concepts are diametrically opposed to the eternal science of devotional service. Any affiliation with such thoughts automatically makes the jiva commit nama-aparadha. Some accept the Mayavadi philosophy but chant the holy name, but this is an offense against the Name.”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes strongly against those who don’t follow the Vaisnava siddhanta, the Absolute Truth. We cannot follow such philosophies and chant offenselessly. Bhaktivinoda Thakura cuts with a sharp sword all philosophies which criticize the srutis.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Prabhupada Meditations SDGonline Daily updates

Prabhupada Meditations, Volume I:

Friendly to All—According to Srila Prabhupada

A devotee of Krishna is friendly to everyone . . . he knows that only devotional service to Krishna can relieve a person from all the problems of life. He has personal experience of this, and therefore he wants to introduce this system, Krishna consciousness, into human society. There are many examples in history of devotees of the Lord who risked their lives for the spreading of God-consciousness. Therefore, the highest interest one can render to human society is relieving one’s neighbor from all material problems.

“One may say that this definition of friendliness is a personal interpretation given by Srila Prabhupada. But Prabhupada would always deny that he was giving his own opinions. (The previous acaryas and Lord Krishna Himself also defined ‘friendliness’ in terms of being compassionate to others by distributing Krishna consciousness.) But even if we consider that Prabhupada’s emphasis on preaching is his personal opinion, the disciple wants to accept that opinion as his own. Even Lord Krishna, while teaching His viewpoint to Arjuna, concludes, “That is My final opinion.” Every living entity has the free will to hold a different opinion from Krishna, but we should not do so.

“When I repeat Prabhupada’s opinion, I give it as the final word. I also give it as if it were my own conviction. If I had not met Srila Prabhupada, I certainly would have  some other attitude about friendliness (or any topic). I would have been inconclusive or I would have had a new opinion every few years, but once you accept a spiritual master, you should also accept his conclusions.

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H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami: Free Write SDGonline Daily updates

I am cutting out different sections of the journal such as selecting the section at random from Srimad-Bhagavatam. I’m also not going to oblige myself to write a daily long poem. I may write some personal reflections in a free write way but not be obliged to write at a certain length. I have to do this to preserve my energy and allow myself to take a nap. I ask my readers to please accept what I can give them, although it may be a little less. I don’t want to overwork myself to the point where I collapse again.

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ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Daily Class - Aniruddha Prabhu

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.28.22-24 - Material nature is just a reflection of spiritual Reality.

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ISKCON Melbourne, AU: Today's Darsana

Their Lordships adorn a new set today;
pay special attention to the meticulously hand-painted backdrop!

The Snana ceremony has started just now... all those who can make it please hurry and come down!

This day promises to be one filled with bliss and ecstasy.

Here's a
slideshow of the Deities in eager anticipation of the bathing ceremony followed by the Panihati festival.

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H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Srimad Bhagavatam Canto Four, Chapter Twenty Five, Text Sixteen

LECTURE BY HIS HOLINESS BHAKTI CARU SWAMI ON SRIMAD BHAGAVATAM 04-25-16 ON 09 OCTOBER 2010. Transcription : Ranga Radhika Dasi Editing : Ramananda Raya Dasa Audio Reference : Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 3, Chapter 25, Text 16 aham mamabhimanotthaih kama-lobhadibhir malaih vitam yada [...]

  • Email to a friend Bhakti Vikasa Swami: On Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's Disappearance Day

So we got this information from His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and that knowledge is still going on. You are receiving through his servant. And in future the same knowledge will go to your students. This is called parampara system. Evam parampara prap... It is not that you have become a student and you'll remain student. No. One day you shall become also guru and make more students, more students, more. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission, not that perpetually... Yes, one should remain perpetually a student, but he has to act as guru.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada's Disappearance Day, Lecture -- Hyderabad, December 10, 1976

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Kurma dasa, AU: Howzat?!

In Life's Big Cricket Match, today I'm 58, not out.

Yes I know, there has been a bit of silly mid-on; and although I have been caught-out more than once, I'm confident of reaching the next Boxing Day Test.


My partnership average has been poor, though I've been known, on occasions, to bowl a maiden over. With all those sticky wickets, I've almost been declared out on a number of occasions.

Fortunately there's more than one innings, so my batting average might get me through. Hopefully, when I reach Life's Final Test, I won't be stumped.

Hare Krishna!

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Japa Group: Conscious Chanting

It's a situation we all find ourselves in at one time or another....when we are trying to chant with attention but it becomes unconscious or inattentive - like a drone in the background of the mind's many thoughts.

The alternative is to be conscious of the sound of be conscious of each and every syllable and word of the mantra. By doing this we can become unconscious of the mind's ramblings and be fully focused on Krsna in the form of the Holy names.

Let us all try hard to become conscious of our chanting and of the Holy names, and to turn off the mind, at least for the time that we chant our Japa.

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ISKCON Krishna Valley Representatives Attend Mexico Climate Summit

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 25 Dec 2010

Two devotees from ISKCON Hungary’s non-profit Eco-Valley Foundation (EVF) attended the COP16 Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico from November 29th to December 10th this winter.

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ISKCON Radhadesh Film Offers Up Lentil Soup for the Devotee’s Soul

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 25 Dec 2010

Film-maker Vasudeva Dasa had planned to spend only three days at ISKCON’s Radhadesh community in rural Belgium to celebrate the annual Janmastami festival, when a doctor advised him to stop traveling and rest for three week—and he got an unexpected offer that would make a strong impression on him.

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Akrura das, Gita Coaching: FOUR ROLES OF A SPIRITUAL COACH

1. Example
2. Support
3. Guidance
4. Challenge

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ISKCON The Crucible Gone Cold: Modern Yoga, Christianity, and the Practice of Individual Transformation

By Josh Schrei for The Huffington Post on 28 Oct 2010

Christianity lost much of its alchemical fire centuries and centuries ago. Modern yoga teeters on the brink of suffering a similar fate for very different reasons.

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ISKCON Junk Food As Addictive As Street Drugs

By David Gutierrez for Natural News on 23 Dec 2010

Scientists are increasingly becoming convinced that junk food can be just as physically addictive as street drugs like heroin. Over time, regular consumption of junk food can create imbalances in some chemicals, leading us to eat more and more in order to restore normal levels.

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ISKCON Ratha Yatra in Ludhiana, India

By Bhakta Kaplish on 25 Dec 2010

ISKCON Ludhiana, India, had its 15th annual Ratha Yatra on December 19, 2010. Thousands of devotees from India and abroad joined the festival of chariot.

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Bhakta Chris, New York, USA: Grandma And The Hindu Monk

Special thanks to our friend Caitanya Mangala for sending this to us. He writes in the intro:

The American Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (1915-1968), wrote one of the introductory essays for an early edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It's a fine essay, if you haven't read it. Part of his sympathy with the Gita came from meeting a monk from East Bengal in the mid 1930s, whom he met through his Columbia University friend, Seymour Freedgood. I will, at some point in the near future, type up the sections of Merton's spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, in which he talks about Brahmachari, as they referred to him, and the influence he had on Merton's spiritual development. In 1968, Merton took a trip from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to India and Thailand, described in his book The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. One of the people he visited was Brahmacari, still living faithfully at his ashram in East Bengal. The following story by Seymour Freedgood, however, will give you a good introduction to Brahmachari.

I offer it partly because it is a fine, even a sublime story, based almost wholly, as I see it, on real events. Perhaps that makes it as much a reminiscence as a short story. Brahmachari was a real person in Seymour Freedgood's life.

However, I also offer it as reflection on the effect of a Vaisnava arriving in America thirty years before Srila Prabhupada. The sixties were definitely more conducive to the success of his mission than any earlier decade would have been.

The story is in three parts. If you really get impatient, scroll to the beautiful conclusion in Part III.

These events occurred in the mid 1930s, story published in 1948 in Harper's . Anthologized in 50 Great American Short Stories, edited by Milton Crane. I've kept the punctuation as it was originally printed, although it screamed for commas.

Grandma and the Hindu Monk

by Seymour Freedgood

(1915- )


It was only with my old Jewish grandmother that I expected trouble when Brahmachari, a Hindu monk I had met at the University of Chicago, came to stay with us at Wreck Lead that summer. Our parents' house in that seaside village was a bright, noisy, communal sort of gathering place. Located equidistant between bay and ocean - Wreck Lead is a narrow strip of island that fronts the Atlantic and has its back to a smaller ocean of marshes and bayous that separate it from Long Island proper - it was a haven for my college friends. In the garage one of my brothers was always building a sailboat. In the yard and over the surrounding sand dunes our youngest brother, sometimes aided by Ernst, the police dog, waged a constant war for survival over half a hundred neighborhood kids. Projects were always on hand - either a voyage of discovery to an adjoining island or the launching of a new surf boat on the beach. Against those clear Atlantic seascapes the agreeable combination of hot sun, salt air, white beaches, and interior bays made the town an exciting place to visit and our house was always full. Josey, the Czech cook, was never sure who might come down to breakfast any morning. Even more than our parents, whose work took them daily to New York, it was our seventy-year-old grandmother who ruled this precarious menage.

Her lot was not easy. She was a pious, near- sighted old lady who spoke chiefly Yiddish and spent most of her time at her prayers. Out of respect for the Jewish dietary laws and a distrust for Josey she prepared her meals in the basement and ate them in her own room. Betweentimes she made periodic inspections of the house. My two brothers and I usually entertained our visitors, both New York and local, in a small book-lined study - which was also a repository for most of the fishnets, paddles, and overnight camping gear in the community - at the rear of the house. An extra-large window gave it separate entrance. Sometimes, upon getting up from the table, my brothers, our house guests, and I would retreat to this room and find that ten or twelve of our Wreck Lead associates, having finished their suppers earlier, had come through the window and were waiting expectantly to discuss new projects - a crabbing expedition or a trip by rowboat to an overnight camping spot.

There was a fixed routine to Grandma's periodic inspections. Invariably she would poke her gray, mild old head through the door of the study and peer near-sightedly through her glasses - usually they were sunglasses - at the occupant of the nearest chair. "Where's Seymour?" she would ask. To this question there was a fixed reply. "Here I am, Grandma," would answer whoever it was who occupied the chair. She'd peer a little closer. Behind the sunglasses her eyes were misty and uncertain but whether she wore the dark lenses against the glare, or against the truth, or possibly against the glare of the truth, it was hard to say. "What time is it?" she'd want to know. "Twelve o'clock, Grandma," was the set reply. "Good," would say the little old lady. Satisfied that her eldest grandson was present and that the world was still at meridian, she'd return to her cooking or prayers.

Except for Mr. Isaacs, a local Hebrew teacher and Talmud scholar who had recently immigrated from southeast Europe and who provided her with a special link with her past, she had few friends of her own. Isaacs would stop by frequently to give her religious counsel, find her place in her prayer book, and criticize the finer points of her dietary observances. She accepted these ministrations with the good grace of a Roman lady who, condemned to spend her life in a distant and barbarous colony, took instruction in the traditional virtues from a clever Greek slave. Grandma was indebted to, yet suspicious of, Mr. Isaacs. In her conversations with me she sometimes observed that the scholar, coming as he did from southeast Europe, must have secret ties with the Hasidim, a mystical Jewish sect which had its origin in the eighteenth-century Ukraine. Grandma was anti-Hasidic. Yet Mr. Isaacs was a solace. Mystic or not, he at least knew the Talmud. And that was more than anyone could say about the rabbi of the local synagogue. All he wanted was a new gymnasium. She was also encouraged by the fact that Mr. Isaacs, in his frequent excursions into our back room, took occasion to chide my brothers, myself, and those of our friends who were of the Jewish community about our lack of respect for the ancestral values. He didn't get far.

Into this household, with Grandma its titular chief, the Hindu was easily absorbed. It's possible that three years before, when the monk - a delegate from East Bengal who turned up in America to represent his religious order at the World Conference of Religions at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair - had first arrived in this country, he would have fitted less nicely. By now though, after a period of residence at the University of Chicago, he had acquired more polish. When I met him there the previous Easter, he seemed to be just the sort of fellow who could liven up the summer at our house. I invited him at once. It's true that his costume was an obstacle but there was no changing that.

I still remember the shock I had when I first saw him in it. He couldn't have been four foot six. He had an ingenuous smile and protruding, fan-shaped teeth. Around his head was wrapped a turban, upon which a series of Sanskrit prayers had been scrawled in red and yellow crayons. A similar cloth hung around his shoulders. Beneath it was a gray undervest which did not entirely hide a woolen sweater and the tops of some brown underwear. And below all of this a white cotton skirt dropped clear to his feet. These, mercifully, were not naked; instead he had shod them in a pair of blue tennis shoes. Taken together, this outfit was his version of khaddar - Indian homespun - for adoption in northern climates. The sneakers he wore for religious reasons; any other footwear is of leather, which would be in violation of sacred cows. I don't know why they were blue. He also had a string of wooden prayer beads wrapped around his neck.

Such a costume, you may be sure, takes a lot of explaining but I felt we could overcome it somehow. Besides, he was clever and amenable and had a deliciously boyish quality. I knew that my parents, once the first shock of confrontation was over, would accept him as one of their sons. Anyway, he had dietary laws of his own to observe and I promised them and Josey that he'd prepare his own meals and eat them in his room. As for my younger brothers, I knew they would be amused by him. Monk or not, he could give them a hand with their boats. It was only with Grandma that I anticipated difficulties. She and Brahmachari were bound to run into each other eventually. I felt it important to prepare her.

I tried to explain to her, some months in advance, that a Hindu rabbi was coming to stay with us for the summer. Have you ever tried to make clear the facts of geography and history to an old woman whose Baedeker to the contemporary world is the first five books of the Old Testament, David's Psalms, and certain vestigial memories of a town in northeastern Europe where she spent her youth? That Brahmachari was a member of the Jewish clergy she was prepared to consider possible. Her world was full of mendicant clergymen - generally old men with beards, fur hats, and frock coats; many of them, she hinted darkly, were Hasidim. No offense to Mr. Isaacs, of course. She was even prepared to believe that Brahmachari, since he was a friend of mine, did not belong to this ragged company. A rabbi, to be sure. But just what community had I said he belonged to? India? A province of Russia, no doubt. Or further to the south?

"A little to the south," I admitted. "and maybe a bit to the east."

"Not Egypt?" she said, startled. Egypt had a special place in Grandma's world view. It was only a matter of years - or had it already been centuries? - since Moses had led us out of that wretched country. She was unkindly disposed toward the Egyptians and each spring at Passover she invented new atrocity stories about them. I sometimes felt that Grandma felt closer to the times of Exodus than to the European town where she had spent her youth.

"Certainly not Egypt," I said hastily.

She said she'd consult with Mr. Isaacs. Meanwhile we'd wait and see.


As it happened, Brahmachari was already in the house for two or three days before Grandma even noticed him. They were enjoyable if hectic days. As I had anticipated, the Hindu was absorbed into the household with a minimum of fuss. It's true that when he first drove up from the depot he was so surrounded by luggage and parcels that my parents were upset. They replied to his greeting with visible apprehension and eyed his turban, his skirts, and his shining brown face with alarm. For his part, the monk seemed to accept this as natural and tried to put them at ease.

"I am Mahanan Brata Brahmachari," he told them, in the meanwhile ordering the taxi driver to deposit his luggage on the veranda, "a Hindu mendicant from the Sri Angan Monastery, Faridpur, East Bengal. Your son has invited me to stay with you for the summer. Ay, Seymour," he said, noticing me for the first time in the crowd that by now had gathered around the taxi, "there you are. Delighted to see you. Please pay this man."

His fan-shaped teeth shot through his smile with an almost disembodied brilliance as he folded his palms in front of his face and bowed to my parents in the traditional Hindu gesture of greeting. He then shook hands with my brothers, patted the police dog, and clucked sympathetically at my parents' polite but strained expressions. They were plainly worried about how they were going to explain the presence in their house of this little turbaned stranger to their friends at the Men's Club and the Ladies' Auxiliary.

No sooner had Brahmachari installed himself on the couch in the backroom study - immediately upon entering the room he had removed his sneakers and squatted down in the middle of the couch, his legs folded under him, and from this position supervised my two brothers and me as we carried in his luggage - than my parents were inside with us. In the background Josey hovered, concerned about his meals. These, it appeared, must consist entirely of vegetables. No eggs, no fish, no meat. "Not even eggs?" asked my mother. "Can Josey fix you a salad for lunch?" He agreed that a salad would be splendid and the two women bustled off, full of plans. It was apparent that he would have to do little cooking himself.

My brothers and I got on with his luggage. This consisted, in addition to three tin suitcases, of a box full of philosophy books, and a potted plant, securely wrapped in brown paper, which he asked me to unbind and set in a window seat. When my father, who was an amateur gardener, expressed interest in this rather hideous bit of shrubbery - it looked a lttle like the rubber plants which were once a feature of many middle-class American households, but was dwarf-sized and covered with small, dark brown beans - Brahmachari explained, waggling his finger at us from where he sat in the middle of the couch, that it was a Tulasi plant, a bush sacred to the Hindus for a reason I now forget. His abbot had given it to him when he first left India. He never traveled without it. It reminded him of home.

More people were crowding into the room to greet the Hindu but my brothers and I admitted only Mr. Isaacs. It was my hope that the Talmudic scholar would act as an intermediary between Grandma and the monk. A direct meeting, particularly on his first day in the house, seemed unwise. As for our other friends in the house and out in the yard, some of whom were tapping on the window and demanding that they be let in at once, I asked them to be patient until the monk had settled. His trip from Chicago had been tiring and he wanted rest. Later we'd all go to the beach. A boat-launching was scheduled for that afternoon and the Hindu would come along. Meanwhile Mr. Isaacs sat down with Brahmachari on the couch.

It was soon apparent that the Hindu and the mystical Jewish scholar had hit it off. Indeed, so absorbed did these two become in each other that they seemed unaware of the tumult outside the house, where my brothers were preparing for the launching of a long, slender surf boat on which they had been working for weeks.

It's my impression that Brahmachari was comparing the attitudes toward God and salvation that obtained in his Hindu monastery with those of the Hasidic Jews. His order was devoted to Lord Krishna, he told Mr. Isaacs. This meant that it was opposed to brahmanic formalism and put its stress on music and dancing and ecstatic union with God. As among the Hasidim there is a preference for the Psalms of David over the priestcraft and legalisms of the Mosaic testaments, so among the members of his order less attention was paid to the Vedic writings than to the Bhagavad-Gita, a song by the same Lord Krishna in praise of Himself. In short, Brahmachari and Mr. Isaacs, despite their differences in cultural background, costume, and language, had much in common. In stressing the ascendancy of the poet and the musician over the legalist they were defying ancient parochialisms and giving full praise to the Lord. With much of this Mr. Isaacs agreed. He did feel, though, that Brahmachari, if he had any sense about him, should keep these opinions to himself. Grandma might hear. In fact, it was his advice to us to keep Brahmachari and Grandma apart as long as possible. God knows what would have been her reaction if she learned that we were entertaining another Hasid in the house. Especially in those skirts. The issues of the spirit were beyond her. Best play it safe.

Sound as was Mr. Isaacs' advice, it was less program than circumstance that led us to act on it. The immediate occasion was the renewed uproar that now swept the yard. Evidently the boat was now ready for launching, for faces appeared at the open window, my two brothers' among them, and there was no resisting their demand. We must join them at once.

A great cheer went up from the yard a few minutes later when Brahmachari, now clad only in loin cloth covered by a bright piece of turban, and I, more conventionally clad in shorts and sunglasses, joined the launching party. There were hasty introductions but my brothers and their friends were too busy with last minute preparations for plunging the boat, a slender, canvas-covered affair, into the surf to attend to further ceremony. As their only concession to Brahmachari's status - or perhaps this was to test him - he was assigned to the bow. Huge waves coiled up in front of us as we lifted the boat to our shoulders and walked it toward the ocean. In the bow Brahmachari was already perched, a small, well constructed, brown figure, dressed in a brightly colored loin cloth and holy beads, his teeth flashing with excitement, a paddle in his hands. "All set?" I asked, looking up at him as he sat in the boat. He nodded enthusiastically. "Let's go." We lunged forward into the surf.

At Wreck Lead the idea in surf boating is to get the craft out beyond the first three rows of breakers, reverse it without capsizing, and race back in. As the first row of breakers crashed over us the Hindu disappeared. He bobbed up a moment later, his sleek head dividing the waters, still perched in the bow. We were now up to our shoulders in the water and had begun to swim alongside. A second row of breakers rolled over us but again the monk bobbed up, the boat riding lightly under him. He was now working his paddle and grinning. By the time we had survived the ocean's third assault he was definitely the skipper of the boat. "Here," he said, flashing me a brilliant smile as I crawled exhaustedly over the gunwale. He handed me a paddle. "You take the stern." A moment later, with Brahmachari calling instructions from the bow seat, we were racing toward the shore. This maneuver was repeated until even my youngest brother was limp.

By the time we had returned to the house there was little feeling among any of us that the Hindu was a stranger. In one afternoon he had successfully submerged himself in the routines of the house. So far did this absorption go that when Grandma, making her six o'clock inspection, looked into the study and inquired about my whereabouts, Brahmachari - but surely he had been told about this beforehand: could he have got it wrong? - answered for me. "It's six o'clock, Grandma, " he said to her. "Seymour's upstairs." I was later told that she failed to notice the discrepancy and left the room.

It's possible that this happy state of affairs might have continued indefinitely if Grandma and Brahmachari, because of their separate dietary practices, hadn't been preparing their own meals, Grandma on a stove in the basement, Brahmachari on a Bunsen burner in the now vacated garage, and eating in their rooms. They began to meet, their hands full of trays and dishes, on the stairs. After two or three days of this Grandma came up to me one afternoon in the study. Brahmachari was off somewhere with Mr. Isaacs and for once I was alone. For once also she had removed her sunglasses and seemed reasonably certain that it was I she was addressing. Who, she wanted to know, was that old colored lady who had moved into the room next to hers?

"Old colored lady, Grandma?" My grasp of Yiddish has never been perfect and I wasn't sure I had heard her correctly.

She repeated her question. Who was the old colored woman in the shawl, white skirts, beads, and kerchief who had been monopolizing Mr. Isaacs for the last few days?

"That's not a colored lady, Grandma. That's a man. It's that Hindu rabbi I told you about. Hasn't Mr. Isaacs introduced you?"

"Him!" she sniffed. "That Hasid. But he's black," she objected. "You said he's a Hindu rabbi. Can Jews be black?"

The answer to that question would have called for such a lecture on the wanderings of the Jews since the burning of the first temple and their relocation in such unlikely spots as the Congo and Outer Mongolia that I decided to cut it short. "Of course they can be black. They can be any color you want. As a matter of fact," I added irrelevantly, "Brahmachari's brown. Now don't worry yourself about this, Grandma. Believe me, he's a man."

But she did worry, poor lady. I didn't realize until later how worried she must have been. Fifty years had elapsed since Grandma had come to this country but her attitudes, flexible as they may have been to start with, had long become fixed. The point of view from which she judged her children, her grandsons, our house on Wreck Lead, and her grandsons' friends was in violent contrast to the contemporary world of cultural interchange and racial transcendence. Nor was it any longer rooted, except indirectly, in the tight, exclusive, inversely aristocratic Jewry of nineteenth-century eastern Europe. Between the European world of her childhood and the transformed Long Island household in which she was spending her last days she had projected a screen upon which all social occurrences were interpreted according to their Old Testament archetypes. To her way of thinking, for example, every non-Jew was a potential raider on the caravan - Grandma in charge of one of the camel carts - which traveled interminably from Egypt to the Promised Land. In Grandma's mythical world-view the time was always Biblical - either midnight or high noon - and the space was a limitless desert across which she and her people moved. Perhaps you've felt that her periodic inspections of our back-room study, her queries about my whereabouts, and her requests for the time were no more than the obsessive rituals of a vague old lady. Or that our replies led to her questions - "Here I am, Grandma," and "It's twelve o'clock, Grandma" - were a cruel sort of joke. Obessiveness and cruelty were no doubt involved but it occurs to me that what she really demanding when she asked for my whereabouts was the promise that the caravan was secure. That despite the wide open doors and windows and the crowds of strangers, no enemies had come in, no hereditary antagonists of the race.

In retrospect I now realize that for some days after our conversation she looked more harried and distraught than ever. It's true that the house was crowded that week - another boat-launching was planned - and the yard and the back room were again full of enthusiasts. This added to her rounds. Also, it had been hot and for some time she had been ailing. Her illness was diabetes, I think, although she was secretive about it. She also had a leg infection. But I didn't know until the very moment of discovery that she had extended her patrols. Evidently she had taken on a new assignment after our talk about the monk. She began to observe him at night. Since her room adjoined his on the second floor and had access to it by an outside balcony, this wasn't hard.

The spectacle of that mild old lady creeping along the balcony after midnight to peer through a closed screen door and observe by moonlight a sleeping Hindu would be ludicrous if the eventual result hadn't been so shattering to her brave old spirit. Early one morning - it was the hour of the false dawn, I think: there was an unnatural light in my room - I was awakened by a violent tug. I rolled over, opened my eyes, and discovered that it was Grandma who was standing over my bed. She was dressed in a night shift and was barefooted and trembling with rage. "He's risen, he's risen!" she almost screamed at me.

It occurred to me that she might have been cooking all night and had eccentrically baked a cake. "What's risen?"

"The savage! The demon you brought to the house!"

I heaved to a sitting position and now realized that Mr. Isaacs was standing behind her. In the half light he looked as sleepy and bewildered as I felt. Presumably she had roused him first - he had by God's grace chosen this night of all nights to spend at the house - and had only given him time to throw his frock coat over his night shirt before rushing him to me. He too was barefooted and his beard was uncombed but he hadn't forgotten his fur hat. "The demons!" Grandma was now screaming. "Your friends, the demons!" She clutched at me savagely. There were other cries of alarm from up and down the ground-floor corridor as my father and mother, my brothers and Josey, perhaps thinking that the house had been burgled, came running from their rooms. Ernst, also aroused in the study, began to bark. I looked at Mr. Isaacs, who raised his shoulders in a shrug. "What demons, for God's sake?"

Instead of answering she grabbed me by the elbow and almost hoisted me from the bed. There was the strength of ten thousand demons in that little old woman. She then whirled on her bare feet and ran back up the stairs. Mr. Isaacs and I followed dumbly, with the rest of my family crowding behind us. "The Hindu's risen," I told them. "God knows what she means." Josey and the police dog, who now had been silenced, protected our rear. "What does she mean?" I whispered to Mr. Isaacs as we trailed Grandma across her bedroom and through the door to the outside balcony. "She caught him praying," he said indistinctly. "Praying?" I asked. "What's wrong with that?" Grandma had rushed on ahead and was now glaring - a fierce, stooped little figure in her white night shift - through Brahmachari's screen. "Burglars?" panted my father, who had brushed past us to join her. "Where are they?" He was carrying a shotgun. A moment later we were overtaken and passed by the rest of my family, all in various states of undress and each of them armed - my mother with her pocketbook, my brothers with boat hooks and a fish net, and Josey with Ernst on a chain. "Well?" I asked Mr. Isaacs as we hurried over to join them. "What's wrong with praying?"

"It's the way he does it," Mr. Isaacs stuttered. "It's his dawn prayer. He shouldn't be seen." Mr. Isaacs was trembling, but whether from cold or apprehension I couldn't make out. "Speak up!" I said harshly. "What does he do?" Across the eastern horizons of Long Island there spread the soft-tinted reds and purples that herald the true dawn; then up from the eastern horizon shot the fast rising sun.

I grabbed Mr. Isaacs by the arm and pushed him through the small crowd around the screen door. "That's what scared your grandmother," the scholar said hysterically. "He does it by rising himself." Mr. Isaacs was trembling with horror. "She saw him praying four feet in the air over his bed."

Mr. Isaacs and I, our eyes straining against the screen door and our arms around Grandma, who was making inarticulate sounds, now had minds for nothing except the vision of the monk on his bed. Bolt upright in the middle of the counterpane, and dressed only in a turban, his loin cloth, and holy beads, Brahmachari was rapt in prayer. His legs were folded under him in the traditional yoga pattern, his eyes were shut tight and turned inward, but on his lips was a cryptic smile. In a circle around him on the counterpane he had placed his begging bowl, his cymbals, his hand drum, and the water jug, and beside him on the night table the Tulasi plant nodded and rustled in the early morning breeze. Perhaps I was deluded by what Mr. Isaacs had just told me - and nobody, not even Brahmachari would confirm this later - but I had the distinct impression that the Hindu, at the very moment the sun had risen, had floated down from the middle of the air. At that Grandma screamed again and lurched against me and Mr. Isaacs. As we put out our arms to support her I discovered that she had fainted dead away.

With many expressions of commiseration and sympathy we lifted Grandma up and carried her to her bed in the next room. It was into a vastly changed household that the monk descended several hours later when he came downstairs to prepare his own breakfast. The doctor had already come, examined Grandma, prescribed quiet and rest, and had gone, promising to return later in the day. The virtual coma into which the old woman had lapsed after the tension at the screen door had changed into mild delirium. She was conscious, the doctor told us, but a bit out of her head. "What's been going on around here?" he asked, looking at us queerly.

"What do you mean, Doctor?" Mr. Isaacs asked. "Did she tell you anything?" My parents and brothers were looking at each other intently.

"Well," the doctor said hesitantly, "have you got any dark-skinned people around here? Dressed in shawls and turbans?" He paused, no doubt afraid he was about to make a fool of himself. "She has an idea that you've got somebody around here that Moses was angry about. She told me that when the Jews were leaving Egypt some dark-skinned people fell on the rear of the caravan, where the sick and the old folks were, and threw rocks at them. She says that Moses was very angry and told the Jews never to speak to those people again. It's my professional opinion," the doctor concluded bravely, "that if you've got anybody like that around here, get rid of him."

Even my brothers turned pale. "Dark-skinned?" asked my father. "The only one I can think of is a friend of one of my sons, a Hindu, and she couldn't mean him. India," he continued loyally, "is on the other side of the ocean from Egypt. Matter of thousands of miles. Besides, he's highly civilized. Never threw a rock at anybody." They were all looking at me sternly, though. The doctor agreed that Grandma might be suffering from shock. It was only an unaccountable swelling of her legs that disturbed him. She had suffered from this before, he knew - diabetes, perhaps - but it was now accompanied by paralysis. Temporary, of course. Keep her off her feet and under sedatives. He'd be back later.

"You and your monks," one of my brothers said gloomily.


It was into this hostile atmosphere that Brahmachari shortly descended. In his arms he was carrying my mother's pocketbook, as well as the fish net and the boat hooks with which my brothers had armed themselves. "Are these your properties?" he asked, smiling politely at us as we sat around the breakfast table. "I found them on the porch outside the door."

"We have no idea how they got there," my mother said stonily. She was speaking, it was clear, for the household.

"Excuse me," said Mr. Isaacs. Leaving his eggs untouched he got up from the table, took the monk by the arm, and led him out of the house. Later I saw them pan-broiling some rice together over the Bunsen burner in the garage. The two oddly-costumed men - Mr. Isaacs in his frock coat, fur hat, and beard, Brahmachari in a red turban and a clean skirt - were talking earnestly to each other.

The doctor's return the following morning did not ease the tension. Later that same afternoon he had briefly reappeared, stationed a nurse in Grandma's room, instructed her to keep the old lady under sedatives and to massage her legs, and had abruptly left. His only word to us was by way of warning - stay out of her room and keep the Hindu, or whatever he was, away from her. The nurse would attend to the rest.

So it was with considerable anxiety that I watched the doctor come down from Grandma's room the following morning. His own anxiety seemed greater than mine. In fact, when my parents took hold of him at the foot of the stairs and demanded to know what the trouble was, he seemed almost incoherent. "It's all in the mind," he mumbled over and over.

"In the mind?" my father asked. "I wish you'd enlighten us on that, doctor."

The doctor, perhaps recalled to his senses by my father's tone, tried to explain. He had taken Grandma off sedatives, he told us, although the old lady was still far from well. Despite hot applications and massage, the swelling in her legs had not gone down. It was almost as if she didn't want it to go down. You get cases like that, he confided. As if the patient refused to get well. It was his suggestion that we call in a psychiatrist. He'd be glad to recommend a good man, a cousin of his who was good in that line. Otherwise, the old lady might be permanently bedridden.

It was at this critical juncture, with my mother in tears at the mention of a psychiatrist and my father stern, that Josey made a great outcry at the kitchen door. "No, no," she was shouting, "stay out!"

"Come on, Josey, " I heard one of my brothers tell her. "It's only us and Mr. Isaacs." A moment later my brothers, with Mr.Isaacs in the lead, appeared at the foot of the stairs. "Where've you been?" I asked them. "The doctor wants to bring a psychiatrist."

"Out in the garage," said the youngest one. "That's where Mr. Isaacs spent the night." I looked at them closely. "Anybody else in the garage?" But if they had a secret, they were determined to keep it. "Could be," said my other brother. "You worried?"

Mr. Isaacs ran his hand through his thick black beard. "A psychiatrist? For the reverend dame?"

"For Grandma, " my mother wept. "They think the swelling is in her head." My father, himself verging on tears, tried to console her.

"In her head, is it?" Somewhere in the scholar's beard I detected a smile. "I can well believe it. I always thought her memory was bad. But before you call a psychiatrist, and with the doctor's permission," he said, making the outraged physician a formal bow, "I wonder if I could bring in a colleague?"

My father stared at him. "A colleague? Do you have colleagues? Another Hasid, I suppose."

"You might call him that," the Talmudist said imperturbably. "A certain theologian of my acquaintance." Again followed by my brothers, who winked at me broadly as they passed, he went back to the kitchen door, opened it, and returned a moment later by himself. "I would like to introduce Dr. Mahanan B. Brahmachari, my colleague from the University of Calcutta." This time preceded by my brothers, who with the greatest solemnity were carrying his hand drum, his copper begging bowl, his brass cymbals, and the water jug, Brahmachari appeared in the downstairs foyer. He was gorgeously made up.

On his head was a ceremonial turban of transparent gauze. His body was shrouded in a toga of the same material qand on his forehead and cheekbones he had daubed in yellow paste the markings of his religious order. "Good morning," he said, smiling at us amicably. "I've come to call on your grandmother."

"The Hindu!" cried the doctor. "Not the Hindu? Out! Out!" My mother was no less vociferous. Brahmachari's markings - they were in direct violation of the Mosaic injunction against tattooing or painting the flesh - seemed final proof. "The demons!" she cried. "It's the demons that Mamma was telling about!" But my father was more circumspect. "What did you mean?" he asked Mr. Isaacs. "You said the old lady had a bad memory. About what?"

Mr. Isaacs gestured triumphantly. "About locating herself in the Bible. It hurts me to say this," the Hebrew teacher told my parents, "but you've been wasting your money on her Hebrew lessons. Such a bad student. The worst I've had!"

It was clear that Mr. Isaacs had a point. Among the Jews, as with other groups who make use of the Old or New Testaments as the basis for their liturgical year, the sacred text is divided into portions for weekly reading. It was an old joke in our family that Grandma, whenever she became confused about the section for the week - and, according to Mr. Isaacs, this was often - would revert almost by instinct to the portion which describes the flight of the Jews from Egypt. So notorious was this habit that Mr. Isaacs sometimes referred to himself as Grandma's guide to the Promised Land. It was his hope that someday he would get her there. By some means he must teach her to follow, not her private idiosyncrasy, but the text. Finally, here was his chance. "For example," he continued, beginning to sway backward and forward in the approved manner of a Talmudist when he is about to explain anything, "she tells us that our friend Brahmachari is a member of the tribe who stoned us on our way out of egypt. This is a plain case of mistaken identity. Or insufficient attention to text," he added in a voice that was now falling into its traditional sing-song. "Our friend Dr. Brahmachari comes from another section entirely. Examine his cymbals and drum. Are these the equipment of a man who attacks caravans? Certainly not," he answered himself. "Then what section does he come from?" He looked at us expectantly.

"St. John?" said Josey.

"Wrong Testament," Mr. Isaacs told her. He looked at the cook disapprovingly. "Try the other one."

"Look here," the doctor protested. "I can't allow this to go any further. Whose patient is she?"

But we ignored him. It was plain that Mr. Isaacs, by recasting the issue in a more favorable Biblical framework, was now turning the tide in Brahmachari's direction.

My head reeled at this preposterous interpretation of history. "For goodness sake, Brahmachari," I said, hoping to be able to appeal to the monk as a university graduate, "surely you don't believe that?"

"What's the difference what he believes?" one of my brothers said violently. "You want Grandma to get well, don't you? Trust us, we've got it figured. If one shock put her into bed, a bigger one will get her out. Providing she holds still for it," he added grimly. "Otherwise we'll have a funeral around here."

"Of course," Mr. Isaacs continued dreamily, "there's always that affair with the Queen of Sheba. It's possible that Brahmachari is a son of Solomon by the Ethiopian queen. But no," he decided cautiously, "that puts him too close to Egypt. Best play it safe."

I was staggered by the perfidy of this reasoning. "Brahmachari," I again appealed to the Hindu, "you can't go along with this?"

The monk looked me straight in the eye. "I think I can. In a poetic sense, of course. It's possible that Mr. Isaacs, in his zeal to dignify my origins, is playing a little loose with the record. But in so far as Solomon himself was sired by King David, the author of the Psalms, I accept the paternity."

"You accept the paternity? He just made it up!"

"And a nice construction it is," the monk said comfortably. "Perhaps you're not aware of the close affinities between David, the dancing king of the Hebrews, and Lord Krishna, the ecstatic deity of the Hindus, one of whose followers I am.

For both, the proper method of worship is not doctrine and ritual, but enthusiasm and song.. You've been asked to examine my equipment. Look at it again." He reached over and gave the drum in the hands of one of my brothers a smart tap. "Cymbals and drum! Aren't these the implements of your own King David? Have you read the Psalms? We have more of a problem in treating your grandmother," he continued, "than giving me status in her somewhat quixotic world-view. Beyond that, it's a problem of convincing her that no matter what she's heard to the contrary, she's broken no commandment by accepting a mystic in her house. Or, as Mr. Isaacs would say, a Hasid. A devotee of the Psalms. We feel that once she's acknowledged that religious salvation, guided though it can be by rule and precept, has its origin not in theological doctrine, but in a spontaneous welling-up from below, from within the person, and is furthered less by abstract argument than by emotion, by a conversion of heart - she'll stop fighting herself. She'll no longer identify the sources of her movement with monsters and demons. She'll get up and walk. Even more than that," he added mischievously, "she"ll get up and dance. That will cure her." He nodded to my parents, signaled my brothers to precede him, and with Mr. Isaacs at his side began to mount the stairs.

"I forbid it," the doctor shouted. He tried to block the procession. "Nurse, nurse, lock the door!" But he was too late: in a moment the procession had swept past him and disappeared up the stairs.

Our ears cocked, we waited for the first sound from above. It came in a moment, preceded by a short gasp and a scuffle which I took to be the nurse protesting and then being thrust aside as the procession moved into Grandma's room. Grandma's shriek, while not as shrill as the one with which she had greeted the sight of Brahmachari at prayer, had more substance. Full of violence, the sound reverberated down the stair well.

My father shook his head. "It's those markings," he said, nodding sagely. "I knew she wouldn't take to that paint job. Against the Laws of Moses, you know," he informed the doctor. To this the latter had no reply.

Then there came from upstairs a sound of such intensity that Grandma's in comparison was the whimper of a small girl in a hurricane. In mood, though, the sounds were reversed. Whereas Grandma's was shrill, even strident in undertone, the new sound that emerged from her bedroom, soul-piercing as it was, had a high, sweet, overriding quality that seemed to originate, not in the brainpan, but in the heart. It had been going on for some time, I later realized - first low and muted, as if two soft metals had been struck together, then louder and stronger and more sweetly resonant - but none of us downstairs had been truly struck by it because of the violence of Grandma's cry. When it struck us it was all at once and almost at crescendo. It had in it the sound - not that the wind makes, but that the wind means, before sunup on a clear June morning. It had in it the swell of the sea, and the echo of the conch hell that reproduces internally the sea's message. It was Brahmachari, of course, dancing like an oriental King David in front of Grandma and clashing his cymbals.

Then came silence, abrupt and absolute. The sound had stopped.

""Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," the cook said. She crossed herself.

I looked around me and saw that my parents were huddled together in a corner like two frightened children. They nodded to me and without a word we swept past the doctor and up the stairs. Outside the shut door to Grandma's bedroom the nurse was standing, her face as white as her uniform. For a moment we surrounded her as my father tried the door. It was locked. From inside the room there came fresh sounds, but this time, although hard to make out, they were human. As if from another world I heard Mr. Isaacs chanting in Hebrew. "To the chief musician," he sang. "A psalm by David. Sing unto the Lord a new song, His praise in the congregation of the pious." I also heard a drum being tapped.

Wordlessly, and with my parents still in the lead, we turned and made our way through Brahmachari's adjoining bedroom and out to the balcony. There, with my arms around my parents' shoulders and our faces pressed to her screen door, we saw Grandma for the first time since her illness. She didn't seem ill at all. Still wearing the same night shift but with her hair and face made up - she had, in preparing for these inevitable visitors, even applied a little rouge - Grandma was propped against the pillows at the head of her bed. She seemed many years younger, and on her face there was a dazed but contented expression. At the end opposite hers on the bed Brahmachari squatted, his legs folded under him. He had again stripped down to his loin cloth, his turban and the holy beads, and with his long brown fingers he was tapping on the two-headed drum. Bolt upright in front of Grandma and with a slight smile on his lips he weaved the upper half of his body as he tapped. "Hare Krishna," the monk hummed. "Praise Krishna."

She smiled at him dazedly, her cheeks flushed. Brahmachari, I now realized, had also applied the religious markings to his chest. It was at these that she was staring. Tentatively, she put a hand up to her own slightly made-up face. As he continued to tap on his drum and sway in front of her I also noted that the large copper begging bowl was placed on the bedspread between them. In it was the pair of now-discarded cymbals. Each no larger than the palm of a man's hand and tied to the other by a thong that ran through their centers, they seemed dim and inconspicuous instruments to have produced the sounds that had drowned out Grandma's. And on the night table beside them Brahmachari's Tulasi plant nodded and rustled in the noonday breeze.

"A psalm by David," Mr. Isaacs chanted. The Hebrew teacher had taken up his station in a corner of the room and with a prayer book in front of him was singing and rocking backward and forward. "Hallelujah," he repeated. "sing unto the Lord a new song, Hs praise in the congregation of the pious."

"What time is it, Grandma?" the monk asked. He paused in his drumming for a moment. "Who am I?"

Her lips moved wordlessly. "King David?" she asked presently, but in a voice so timid that my parents and I, with our faces pressed to the screen door, could hardly hear.

"Hallelujah," Mr. Isaacs chanted. "Praise Him upon the clear-ringing cymbals. Praise Him on the high-sounding cymbals."

"It's Dr. Brahmachari, Grandma," my brother told her. "It's the Hindu Hasid that Mr. Isaacs wants to introduce to you. Up on your feet," he urged her. "Say hello to the Hasid."

They slipped their hands under her shoulders and lifted her to the floor. As she stood there between them, smiling bashfully and still uncertain on her feet, the monk slipped off the other side of the bed and came around to greet her. "I am Mahanan Brata Brahmachari, " he said, folding his palms in front of his face and bowing, "a Hindu monk from the Sri Angan Monastery, Faridpur, East Bengal. I've been invited by your grandsons to stay for the summer."

There was an instant of silence. At the church around the corner a bell struck the midday. Then Grandma came across. "Good afternoon, Dr. Brahmachari," she said in English. "Welcome to our house."

"Hallelujah," Mr. Isaacs began again but Grandma beat him to it. "Hallelujah!" she cried, wresting herself from my brothers' arms. "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." It was my parents' impression that she stumbled towards the Hindu but my own is that she skipped. As my brothers stepped forward to grab her she turned to them with a radiant expression. "It's twelve o'clock, children," she told them. "Where's...?" But before she could ask her final question I had plunged through the screen door and taken the old woman in my arms.

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Deva Gaura Hari, AU: Belpukur

2010-12-24 17.20.51.jpg

Yesterday, a devotee came to our house to tell us about the temple at the birthplace of Sacimata, the mother of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at a place called Belpukur. He said it was just past Bamanpukur, which is the first large village after the Yogopitha on the main road, not far from our house. He was the hereditary Goswami of the place, which was one of the holy sites developed by the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust, and he showed us a picture of the Deity, Who was very beautiful.

So after school, I took the kids for a ride to see this holy place. It ended up being a lot further away than we thought, and was really inside the interior villages of Navadvip Dhama. We stopped on the way and the kids had fun in the big mustard seed crops - thats the yellow flowered plants in the picture.

It was several kilometers from the main road and we didn't get back until after dark - but it was really worth it. It was such a beautiful place, very loving and spiritual feeling at that place. It is the family home of Sacimata, and her father, Nilambara Cakravarti, the astrologer who gave the name giving ceremony to Lord Caitanya.

Mother Saci is none other than Mother Yasoda, and Nilambara Cakravarti is Gargamuni from Krishna lila. You feel a very loving motherly feeling at this holy site - a very special place in Navadvip Dhama.

The blue Krishna in the photos is the Deity at the place of Sacimata's family house, and the black Krishna with Radha, is another temple we found just a little way before this place on the road. The Deity here is also very beautiful.

Photos are here

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: Skype conference with Russian disciples

Do sincere devotees give up Krsna consciousness

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: For technical reasons there will be no new podcast today

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H.H. Sivarama Swami: Niranjana Swami sing at Radhastami 2010

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ISKCON Toronto, Canada: Join Our 2nd Annual "Holiday Kirtan" Party Tomorrow Night!

The holiday season is upon us and there is a festive mood in the air. The Toronto Hare Krishna temple would like to warmly invite you for a fun evening of kirtan, bhajans, games, prasadam and more! Taking place on Christmas Day (Dec 25th), the Holiday Kirtan will kick off with the 6:00pm kirtan and will be followed by a fun evening of chanting, activities and prasadam.

The schedule will be as follows (subject to change):
6:00pm to 6:30pm - Arati
6:30pm to 7:30pm - Bhajans
7:30pm to 8:00pm - Movie
8:00pm to 8:30pm - Arati
8:30pm to 9:15pm - Games and Gifts
9:15pm - Prasadam

We hope you and your family can make it out for what will surely be a fun evening at the Hare Krishna temple! See you then!

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ISKCON Gita Jayanti Celebration at Bhaktivedanta International School, Vrindavana

By Somil Bharti for ISKCON News on 25 Dec 2010

On the auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, the advent day of Srimad Bhagavad Gita, students from all grades put up an all day long celebration program. Arrays of colorful placards depicting the shlokas of Bhagavad Gita, the thematic displays of Bhagavad Gita teachings, high-spirited book distribution and the exuberant kirtans made it an event that gurukulis will always cherish.

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ISKCON The Passing of Prahlad Nrsimha Das (Paul Ignozza)

By Nartaka Gopala Dasi for ISKCON News on 25 Dec 2010

Sriman Prahlad Nrsimha das passed away on Saturday, December11, 2010 at about 2:10 PM in Port Charlotte, FL. He was a disciple of Hanumatpresaka Swami, and most of his devotional life was spent at the Miami Temple.

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Subhavilasa das ACBSP, Toronto, CA: Merry Christmas! If one loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus also.

"If one loves Krishna, he must love Lord Jesus also. And if one perfectly loves Jesus he must love Krishna too. If he says, "Why shall I love Krishna? I shall love Jesus," then he has no knowledge. And if one says, "Why shall I love Jesus? I shall love Krishna", then he has no knowledge either. If one understands Krishna, then he will understand Jesus. If one understands Jesus, you'll understand Krishna too"
(Srila Prabhupada - Room conversation with Allen Ginsberg, May 12, 1969 - Columbus - Ohio)
So Lord Jesus Christ said, "My Lord, hallowed be Thy name." He wants to glorify the name of the Lord. And some people says that there is no name of God. How? If Lord Jesus Christ says "Hallowed by Thy name," there must be name. The name is there, but he did not pronounce it because the people at that time will not be able to understand or maybe some reason, but he says there is name. So we are making this propaganda, Krsna consciousness movement, the "Hallowed by Thy name. My Lord Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, let Your holy name be glorified." This is our movement. It is not a sectarian...
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture: Bhagavad Gita 3.27 Melbourne June 27, 1974)
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H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Vaishnava Etiquette By His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami

International Society For Krishna Consciousness  (ISKCON) Transcription & Compiling : Gauranga Premananda Dasa & Anupama Krishna Dasa Editing : Hemavati Radhika Dasi Introductory Lecture   3 Becoming a Vaishnava Devotee of Krishna   13 Basic Principles of Vaishnava Behavior  15 More on the Behavior of a Vaishnava  17 Vaishnava Behavior is Inspiring for everyone   20 Etiquette within [...]

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H.H. Bhakticharu Swami: Quote Of Guru Maharaja

Sender Prefers To Stay Anonymous

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Gouranga TV: Bhajan – The Mayapuris – Prayers to Sri Radha

Bhajan – The Mayapuris – Prayers to Sri Radha

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Japa Group: We Have To Guard Ourselves

We are full of many mundane impressions; so we have to guard ourselves against those ten offences that should not be committed during the chanting of the Name of Hari.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami Maharaja
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