Viewing entries posted in 2006
In the last Vedicsoc session before the christmas break we talked about the controversial topic of human origins.
I talked about the established theory of Charles Darwin and why it (seemingly) makes a lot of sense. We then watched a part of the Mysterious Origins of Man documentary and I gave examples of some other archeological discoveries and so-called paranormal physical phenomena from Michael Cremo's books: Hidden History of the Human Race and Human Devolution: a Vedic alternative to Darwin's theory
We then discussed why the concept of the "knowledge filter" which prevents idea that radically contradict established ideas from being taken seriously. People naturally think:
"Modern humans, millions of years old? No, that is clearly impossible, otherwise I would have learnt about it in school. There must be some mistake. Let me ignore the evidence."
We concluded by discussing the Vedic alternative explanation: humans aren't ascended apes, instead we are actually fallen angels. The Vedas contain detailed genealogical records documenting human origins from "angels" (sophisticated living entities living on other planets and/or in other dimensions). But those are just absurd children's stories, right ... ?
The result: (much to my surprise) everyone attending the session agreed. "Wow, yes, the Vedic version makes a lot more sense."
Guru Maharaja asked Frank-Peter what the most memorable part of our trip was. Answer: the Swami's lectures and the spiritual feeling of nourishment in the heart from devotee association.
Bits of advice from the Guru:
- Marriage, whether you know the person or not, is difficult. However, if you stick to it until you're over 45, the passions die down, and you start to work together very well. The problem is that few couples can weather the storm for that long.
- German ISKCON was famous around the world as the epicenter of extremism and fanaticism.
- Women need to decide: do they want to surrender to the nest, or do they want to become Krishna conscious career women?
- Mellow husbands are okay, but passionate men are in for a shock when they are no longer the number one baby of the family. For every child you have the attention you get from your wife goes down by at least 33%.
- You want to get things done, you ask a busy person.
- Service defines everything: you have to stay at an appropriate level of fitness for executing your service. Its very easy to ignore your health.
- Germans are probably the most direct persons on the Earth. They are tough. You can tell them things straight-on. They appreciate it, too. You are not wasting their time.
- A good manager/executive like Dina Sharana is defined not so much by what they do, rather they are defined by what they do not do.
Also, check out the pictures from the trip.
I just listened to a talk by Dr. Philip Weeks on various aspects of natural medicine. Wow, it was really interesting. (Dr. Weeks was instrumental in helping my body recover from Ulcerative Colitis / Crohn's Disease.)
He talks about how he cured blood poisoning in his own leg using echinacea. He tells the story of one of his patients who had lethal radiation poisoning and was due to die in 6 months, but was completely cured by doing an intense juice fast. He talks extensively about amalgam dental fillings (50% mercury) causing auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular problems, high cholesterol, Alzheimer's disease and general insanity. Plus, heavy metal poisoning in general.
Why can some people drink, smoke, eat junk food and still never get sick, while others are constantly getting sick from the smallest bit of unhealthy living? Philip answers this question (hint: genetical strength/resilience has a lot to do with it).
He talks about the "mandate of heaven" and how to optimize our bodily constitution and mental/emotional well-being.
Krishna is like the sun, sometimes unmanifest like the sun at night, sometimes manifest.
Krishna has a right to do whatever he wants, but we don't like that.
We want things done our way. However, Krishna does things his way and thereby creates subject matter for eternal conversation.
Story of my father educating me in the real point of life: leave some footprints in the sand when you're gone.
Where are the former leader of the DDR's (E. Honiker) footprints? Ever place has its local heroes. In Weimar they are Schiller, Goethe and Liszt, but in other parts of the world no one has ever heard of them.
Mysterious: the Lord wants to take his own Yadu dynasty away from the world. The reasons are that some of his family members where becoming too powerful, familiar and proud, less intelligent people would automatically consider someone born in that dynasty spiritually qualified and that they were so attached to him that they couldn't have handled the feelings of separation from him.
Brahmanas curse the Yadu dynasty. Maharaja Pariksit is confused as to why and asks Sukadeva Goswami.
Yadu boys play a joke on the great sages and get cursed to give birth to an iron club that will destroy the entire dynasty. They told there family members and King Ugrasena had the club ground up and thrown into the ocean. These turned into iron reeds that the Yadus used to beat each other to death.
Krishna let all this happen. He wanted to reduce the prestige of the material world. Just like the death of Jimi Hendrix caused DS to loose faith in material glory.
Understanding Krishna is the greatest career goal.
- Duryodana is a partial incarnation of Kali. Why does Balarama love him so much?
- Caitanya said we should be very humble, but I often feel angry at other people's disinterest in Krishna consciousness. What is the proper attitude?
- What happened to the larger piece of iron from the ground up club that the fish swallowed?
"How sophisticated is human design? How many humans can walk out into a meadow and with their left hand scrape away a little dirt and with their right hand put something into the ground that starts to make oxygen, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, distill water, provide habitat for hundreds of species, build soil, accrue solar energy as fuel, generate complex sugars and food, change color with the seasons, create micro-climates and self-replicate?"
From a talk by William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle Design.
As we drove from Berlin to Leipzig I noticed that wind power generators were everywhere. Every few km there was a patch of about 15 windmills. Germany is the world's greatest producer of wind power. It generates double the amount of wind power than the next runner up (which is France, I think). A good thing too: German has instituted a law that requires that all nuclear power plants are shut down in the next 50 years. The 40% of the country's power that those generate needs to be replaced with renewable energy.
The East Germans are quite hearty people. More so than their western breatheren. They seem more emotional and personable.
The TV is the greatest destroyer of Krishna conscious family life and time for chanting
The prasadam in Berlin is very good. When there is good prasadam, the mind is peaceful.
If you just make 10% of the population of Berlin Krishna conscious the whole country will change. Krishna can do the seemingly impossible. Don't buy into the Hare Krishna folk tales. In spite of material failure, going on and on in Krishna's service is always successful.
How long will it take to get to Leipzig? Frank-Peter is Germany's safest and most mellow driver. Driving with him is like driving on a bed of feathers.
The exclusiveness of devotional service should always be discussed. It is not sectarianism.
Real sustainable human economic development doesn't exist today, nor does sense gratification that doesn't kill you in the process, let alone religiosity, that can't deliver any genuine information about God. Everyone knows everything, except what they should know.
Why do we worship someone's feet? A speck of dust from Krishna's lotus feet can situate you beyond liberation.
Krishna forces pleasure onto the devotee. Don't worry about your own pleasure.
Who had gotten a letter from the mayor thanking you for serving Krishna? There is no support, no fame and no appreciation from materialist society.
Talk it up about serving Krishna. That is the highest position in reality! How to increase? How to serve better? Krishna appreciates this.
If you follow the so-called great people of today's society you'll go crazy. It's not that having precise spiritual knowledge in optional.
Germany has changed a lot since the 80s. The under 45s are open to everything. However, then one must understand: what is the best thing? Everyone is saying their thing is the best. Are all cars the same? Is a Mercedes as good as a Hyundai?
In the material world it's not enough to be a nice guy, you need to be
smart: you need knowledge. Bhagavatam is the topmost knowledge. See for yourself.
- I still cannot understand the violence of Balarama towards Romaharsana Suta. We talk so much about love and peace, so why did Balarama have to kill him.
- How to engage our weak women's sentimentalism in devotional service?
- Many people say this movement is not very sentimental at all, no emotion, unlike e.g. Christians.
Krishna is the master of masters of yoga, so any understanding of him is the highest kind of mystic yogi.
How far can you take your spiritual life living in a big city?
In the Dwarka pastimes: Krishna has just gotten rid of Shalva, Dantavakra and Vidura and ended his mission of annihilating the miscreants. Balarama was going on pilgrimage while the battle of Kuruksetra was going on. When visiting the sagas at the forest of Namasuranya he was offered respect by everyone expect Romaharsana Suta who was sitting on the vyasasana.
Lord Balarama became angry. His mission was to annihilate hypocrites.
Romaharsana was not humble, not self-controlled, and just pretending to be a great sage and therefore needed to be terminated. He killed him with a single blade of kusa grass.
The sages cry out: abscheulich (alas, alas). They request Balarama to seat Romaharsana's son in his father's place, kill the demon Bhalva and tour all the holy places as atonement.
Thereafter Balarama saw Bhima and Duryodhana fighting, told them they should give up their anger and stop trying to kill each other. They didn't and Balarama left the scene, assuming it was destiny/Krishna's arrangement.
Yesterday in Weimar someone asked me: you may have knowledge, but still act in the opposite way. How is that the topmost thing? But real knowledge is realized, it is shown in actions, like a fire that burns.
That is what Romaharsana lacked. True, real knowledge!
Each pastime of Krishna's has deeper and deeper realization within it.
Think about it and understand the two-sided reality. Everything Krishna does can fascinate you endlessly. That is being the most powerful urban mystic.
- Krishna normally acts to set an example to the ordinary people, but sometimes he acts immorally, like when he tells Arjuna to kill Asvatarma. Why?
- Do you have some practical advice on how to practice Krishna consciousness in such a disturbing environment as a big city?
- I heard you were preaching in the East before the Wall came down. Do you have any trilling stories from that time?
We travelled to Berlin with Maitreya-Muni das, a very nice disciple of Pritu Prabhu. It was a very nice sunny day with hardly any traffic. A very nice ride up to Germany's capital city (4 million people live in Berlin).
The temple itself was a bit of a shock. Located off a main street in an old courtyard of sorts, it had a run-down DDR-look to it, but at the same time was extremely peaceful. None of the noises from the busy road penetrated in. Dieties of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra shone brightly. Supremely excellent prasadam was served upon our arrival. I've rarely seen Guru Maharaja chant so much while taking a meal. The food was most definitely out of this world.
I met Bhakta Andr?©, an expert photographer who took off in his Krishna consciousness while visiting New Zealand. In Wellington he met Devamrita Swami and married his long-term girlfriend.
The Saturday Feast started off with an hour of super-sweet bhajans. The singing, harmonium and mrdanga playing was expert.
Some things degrade with time, but there is always a revival. This is a miracle: devotees openly discussing Krishna consciousness in the DDR. Freestyle spirituality is popular today. No repressive dogma! The need for a religious institution is even more alien.
Devotees are an opportunity to talk about Krishna. Then everything becomes positive. Pray for the ability to associate. Nice association of devotees will attract the lonely people of today. How? Help others to achieve their (genuine) dreams. The more you give Krishna, the more you get Krishna.
Real love requires qualification. You have to practice. Like being a student. 5 years of study just to understand something ordinary like hospitality or tourism. Dedicate your whole life for this purpose.
- How can we motivate people to become attracted to Krishna in one of the four ways explained in the Bhagavad-Gita?
- I'm always wondering what is the right decision for Krishna. Like e.g. to work or not.
- How to develop loving relationships without becoming familiar?
Weimar is a famous beautiful university town. The birthplace of Schiller, one of the most famous German authors ever. It is one of the only cities in East Germany that has grown in population since the reunification. Income comes mostly from tourism. Gurudeva's comment about Weimar devotees: quite an unusual crowd, they were quite mellow, usually Germans are really intense people.
The devotees are a nice, close knit community of university students and householders: no big leaders, no big programs; just simple, kind, loving and caring, free-flowing, non-rigidness.
East Germany has lots of unemployment. Practically every second person I spoke to didn't have a job. Even educated people have trouble finding themselves jobs. However, rent is very cheap. Living life does not cost much.
The programs are in a former slaughterhouse with very cheap rent. Even running just one program each week the congregation can easily afford to permanently rent the room.
We're originally a part of Krishna, but struggling like a fly that has landed in some jelly. I was the first regional secretary for the DDR.
Weimar is famous for its culture. One thing is going on in the world:
economic development, more money, more money, more money!
In times with material "good times", people need to do it out of their intelligence. Most people tend to come because of distress, but such motivation does not last. We need to develop attraction to Krishna and his service, just like people are attracted to money making.
People are into being spiritual, but not religious. People think being religious means focusing on specific rules and real spirituality is free from all that. That kind of false religion is something that people are afraid of. However, real religion means complete, definite understanding of what is God.
There is so many so-called spirtual paths and teachers. What to do? Go party! Make money! Those become people's religion. But as soon as the goal of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known, everything makes sense. That is what is unique about Krishna consciousness.
Materially what is the benefit in trying to understand anyone? It has been going on for millions of years. But that desire to understand, focused on Krishna, is real religion.
Bhagavad-Gita already assumes some basic human intelligence: not belief in God, that's easy, kindergarden-stuff. Instead, a program for your senses to understand the Supreme is given. So don't be afraid of admitting you are trying to understand Krishna.
Please remember: you can eliminate all confusion, simply by understanding that the whole point of everything is simply to understand Krishna.
- People know, i.e. Have knowledge of what a cigarette does to the body, but still they smoke. So how does that relate to the faith and knowledge that is talked about in the BG?
- What is the missing link between reading Bhagavad-Gita and acting on that knowledge?
- Isn't gaining some interest in Krishna consciousness by devotee association also just faith as ordinarily known?
- Krishna is known to have the opulence of renunciation, but how does he display this?
- I once saw a person with a sign: "I am God and can answer all questions". I asked him "what is my name?" and he could not answer. He said he was just God wanting to experience "ignorance". This made me think: Why did Krishna need to come as Lord Caitanya to experience his own devotees' love?
- The yuga-dhama in this age of Kali-yuga is to chant the holy name, so what is the importance of, for example, deity worship?
Only 2 people for Vedicsoc this week. It was raining very (!) heavily.
I asked what they wanted to do. The request, to my surprise, was kundalini yoga. They really liked that. One person again said that the minute they closed their eyes in savasana they saw a bright green light.
We then discussed Ayurveda. Principles of Ayurveda:
- Eat consciously. Chew food well and pay attention to eating. No eating mindlessly while doing something else. Enjoy the food.
- Eat a proper regulated times. 8am, 12am, 5pm are the ideal times. (Snack of some fruit at 3pm is good, too). The main thing is to always eat at the same time each day. The exact time that is doesn't matter so much.
- Pass urine after a meal.
- Drink plenty of water, but not one hour before or one hour after a meal, since that will drown out the fire of digestion.
- Once or twice a week self-massage with cold-pressed sesame oil (or almond oil for vata bodies and stressed people). Apply a thin layer all over the body.
- Don't repress the 13 body calls.
- When sick eat the right things according to your body type (and no meat, fish, eggs, deep fried, microwaved, processed, or fast-food; regardless of body type)
Amazing that this medical knowledge had its origin:
2000 years before Buddhism
1000 years before the Greek civilization
1000 years before the first Chinese dynasty (Xia)
1000 years before the Mayan civilization (and interestingly according to the Mayan Long Court system of recording time, the current cycle of this world began in 3114 BC, almost the exact time of Krishna's leaving the world)
500 years before the Egyptian pyramids
Of course, the Vedic culture is the origin of all the world's civilizations, so, in that sense, it makes perfect sense.
Devamrita Swami spent the night at my old home in Germany. He suggested I should take a course in lawyer's rhetoric for making a presentation and arguing. I need to learn negotiation and cynicism: to size up the opposition and get what you want (this was right after having been chewed up and spat out at yet another PhD interview).
Another idea: sales training. Salesmen need to anticipate possible objections, never say something one could answer 'no" to.
While at my parents' house he saw a picture of my playing the cello. He said:
"I didn't know you played the cello, you should play it in kirtan. Use all skills in Krishna's service."
He then also saw a picture of my sailin a boat:
"I didn't know you sailed, when was that?"
In the morning he visited expert physiotherapist who had been practicing for 27 years to treat his whiplashed neck. "There is a definite difference between a good physiotherapist and an ordiany masseure", the physiotherapist explained. "The physio has much more knowledge of how the body works". This guy loved his job and spent 30 minutes loosening the Gurus stiff neck.
DS continued to ask lots of questions about the event from various pictures of me my parents have all over the house. My graduation, sailing, my playing musical instrument, etc.
He appreciated the quiet area/house. I served Gurudeva an all-organic breakfast: apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, millet with raw sugar and maple syrup. I found German food to be very high quality, much more so than in the UK. Or, maybe it's just what my body is used to from growing up there.
We went to briefly visit Schloss Rettershof. It is now a hotel, but 20 years ago it was a huge Hare Krishna centre. The devotees used to have 17 Mercedes sankirtan mini-vans with which travelling sankirtan parties used to fan out over the surrounding area every week. Everyone gathered back at the Schloss (castle) on Sunday for the Sunday Feast.
During this time GM was using Schloss Rettershof as a base to travel into Eastern Europe, communist Russia, and so on. Thus he wanted to see his old home once again.
Once when Srila Prabhupada visited Germany the devotees made a huge advertizing campaign to publicize his arrival. They had the idea to print and put up posters everywhere, announcing: "der F? 1/4 hrer kommt!" (the leader is coming), with a picture of Prabhupada under the writing. Of course, the word F? 1/4 hrer was commonly used to refer to Hitler. As one might imagine, the campaign caused quite a commotion and outcry. However, as a result thousands of curious people came to observe Prabhupada. The streets leading up to the temple were lined wall-to-wall for miles with curious people eager to catch a glimpse of the strange Indian "F? 1/4 hrer".
Gurudeva mentioned that my flat was very nice as a transfer location when switching continents (when jetlagged to the max). He said (mercifully) that my cooking skills were increasing. He especially liked my pasta salad. There is also quite a lot to be said for good facilities, large external computer monitor, high-speed wireless Internet, rebounder, quiet location, good prasadam.
Dina Sharana met and accompanied us on our trip to Weimar. She is the new Euro GBC for Germany. She talked a lot about the revival of ISKCON Germany. An endless task that she is working very hard to accomplish. Devamrita Swami jokingly calls her the Kaiserin (Empress).
On this day we flew to Germany from Heathrow. While checking in at the airport there was some complication with the booking. The lady at the ticket desk spent what must have been 30 minutes merrily reading over regulations, filling out forms, discussing with her colleagues until finally issuing us with tickets. All was fine. Oh, the bureaucracy. GD's comment: only India comes close to the British standard of bureaucracy, and they learnt it from the British.
Uneventful flight to Frankfurt in a small plane ...
... and to my parents' house in Germany ...
Just 3 people for this week's Vedicsoc session. Last week's power yoga session may have been too intense. Then again, it was probably just a case of exams and coursework stopping many people from coming.
Yoga was a relaxing slow-deep stretch. Comments afterwards:
"While lying in savasana I kept seeing all kinds of strange colors flashing before my eyes."
(I related to story of Prabhupada telling a young hippy to "just keep chanting, it will go away")
"I've done yoga before, but never like this. I definitely feel something is happening to me."
Atmayoga is very good at making you feel its effects. Other yoga styles may be more austere, more intense, faster paced, more interesting, more expert, or better exercise, but in my option, Atmayoga excels in creating strong feelings in the bodies of the practitioners (which does not, of course, exclude any of the other benefits from accruing).
Then, as I say almost every session, I explained: "if you think this yoga is powerful, just think what the actual recommended process for this age, the chanting of Hare Krishna, will do for you?" Sadly, yoga, being on the bodily platform, is more instantly accessible and attractive. Nevertheless, we did some chanting of the Maha-Mantra and the people seemed to like it.
We then discussed "happiness". The group admitted that they generally were not very happy. I presented how material happiness is temporary and therefore not worth pursuing (referencing BG 5.22). Everyone could agree on that.
However, when I came to a solution to all this misery, I didn't take peoples previous conditioning of the structure of the universe into account enough. Everyone tends to believe the (mostly nonsense) they have been taught in school by their (mostly ignorant) teachers. It's natural to do so. So, breaking the conception that human life on earth is the be-all and end-all is difficult. More faith in the brilliance of the Vedic scripture is needed. However, faith is a dirty word these days.
Need to experience that chanting Hare Krishna solves all problems. At least one night a week come together and chant non-stop for one, two, three hours. That's a practical demonstration of the simple, powerful taste of kirtan. Real community building. Bonding. You'll be shocked at the transformation.
Any questions about anything?
- With the emphasis on service and bonding, how do fit in private sadhana and study?
- DS: who has read all of Caitanya Caritamrita? How can you live without having read the CC?
- Does Krishna refer to Himself as time anywhere?
- DS: have you read all of Bhagavad-Gita? What do you do with all your time?
- It's an offense to preach the glories of the holy name and yet we are giving out Krishna Book to the most unqualified. How do we remain enthusiastic about doing that?
- Can you relate some memories of Srila Prabhupada?
- Can you relate to us how you came to Krishna consciousness?
- We hear that the holy name is non-different from Krishna. What are some analogies that can help us realize that?
- We see so many great personalities really relishing chanting, how do we gain that same taste?
Maya presents illusory sources of inspiration. Mind wastes so much time. Thoughts waste so much time, material desires, aspirations.
Nothing is more important than our KC. Pariksit knew how to prioritise properly. Maya promises satisfaction, but doesn't deliver. How can you resist promises that material nature presents? Resist such artificial sugar? You can't, because you have a weakness for it. Just like a weakness for chocolate. Without taking knowledge from the source of everything maya will always embarrass you.
There is no greater mistake you can make in life than to think something is more important than your endeavors to become Krishna conscious (as said in the 4th canto). This is a fundamental disagreement we have with modern society. You might not live for another 7 seconds, let alone 7 days, like Pariksit, so why do we have this false sense of security.
Car crash, SUV plows into the back of our Toyota corola in L.A. You can go at any moment. Otherwise there is just endless, senseless babble.
A snake bird happens when a cobra has some deep hate of someone at the end of it's life. It sprouts wings for one flight, looks for that person, bites them and dies. This is quite known to people in Mayapur.
Just because we haven't learnt about it in school doesn't mean it's not true.
Story of model policeman in a big city. Then moved to a small town of a few thousand people. Got report of gunshots. Burley guy with tatoos answers. Sneaks around the back of the house. But the guy surprises him with a magnum peacemaker monster pistol, graised him, then downed him with 3 shots to the arm and legs. Then in the house he sees the guy had killed an 8 months pregnant woman and the policeman's partner.
After seeing the scene he goes back and finishes the guy off. For executing the guy he gets sent to prison. Just at the end of his successful career.
Train ourselves to be like Pariksit. Even material upsets can increase our KC.
- How do we discriminate between over-planning for the future and realizing we could go at any moment? Like for, example, having a career in Krishna consciousness.
- Tasting the emotions of KC might seem like a state that is a long way off, when doing our daily duties.
- American deep space probe was sent to Venus greatly furthering human knowledge. How do we defeat this perception of an advanced system of knowledge?
I've (finally) finished writing up my notes and editing the recording from a trip to Germany with my spiritual master in April 2006. I'll post these on this blog over the coming weeks.
So, the blog posting relating to the trip are obviously not in real time. They are from a long long time ago (a whole 6 months!).
I taught a full 90-minute power yoga class to 5 eager students for this week's Vedicsoc session. The session was no walk in the park. I certainly was pretty tired afterward and woke up a little sore the next day. I dread to think what it did to everyone else. We'll find out next week.
Yoga can be really (!) intense exercise. No need to go to the gym. The human body has everything it needs to achieve fitness built right into it.
Not much time for anything else after the yoga. I offered a collection of various books for (possible) purchase, but no one was all that interested.
Quote from a class by BVPS:
One devotee goes to a big, elaborate, fabulous, inspiring, motivational discussion/self-help seminar from someone of the caliber of John Maxwell, Tony Robbins or Stephen Covey . Everyone loves the presentation. Then in the end, everyone starts to leave; some people come up to the presenter, shake his hand, pat him on the back, etc. But this one devotee is in the back watching the whole thing and thinking about it. So, in the end, after everyone else has left and the presenter is packing up, he goes up to the guy and asks him:
"You're saying all this, but how much is this really practical for the audience that was here."
So the guy looks around, makes sure that everyone else has indeed left and says:
"Actually, for nobody here. You see, it's business. The people who can actually apply it are already applying it. And the common person who doesn't come to these programs isn't interested anyway. The kinds of people that come to these programs come to listen and feel good about it, but they are not able to apply it, otherwise they would already be doing it. They are such common-sense principles. You study all the people who are successful and you say these are the principles of successful people. However, you studied the successful people to get that information. You didn't study the common person, because the common person doesn't have it and will never have it."
So no one really gets much benefit from these kinds of courses. People feel good about it, because they are interested in how to improve their lives. So, if they are given ideas which are the factual points of how they could improve, they like it. But if they could actually improve, they would have already done it. So, the audience is happy and the presenter is happy, because he made the audience feel happy and they gave him lots of money. But really, no one learns anything and life goes on.
This week's vedicsoc session brought 7 guests. Just the right amount. 5 new visitors. I fail to understand the dynamics of the fluctuating visitor number. Students especially are quite unsteady in their attendance. I do what I can.
So, this week I focused on the theme of Mystic Powers (!). I taught a pseudo-kundalini yoga class, complete with every weird breathing technique you can imagine. I think I've finally also figured out how to teach it so it isn't so weird that people are scared off by it (we'll see next week).
I got a comment from the last session by one person. He said that after the class he felt like liquid fire was literally running through his veins. I know yoga creates heat, but that sounded quite dramatic. Anyway, he seemed to be amazed at the effectiveness of the practice. It certainly increased his faith in the Vedic version of reality from what I could tell and he was back for more.
I interlaced the poses with stories of great yogis of the past. I told the story of Dhruva Maharaja, Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada Maharaja, Markandeya Rsi and Saubhari Muni. I had meant to also speak about Kardama Muni, Vrikasura, Daksa, Siva, Valmiki, Bhismadeva and Haridasa Thakura, but didn't have the time.
There was an intelligent "crowd" gathered. One lady guest guessed that the nature of Krishna and the living entities was like the trunk of a tree to the leaves. Impressive.
One guy had been practicing chanting 1 - 3 rounds every day and found it was helping him giving up smoking. Two people who had practiced Buddhist meditation commented on how much easier chanting the Maha-Mantra was compared to concentrating on the breath. My response:
"yeah, I don't know why the Buddhists insist on making life so difficult for themselves".
I was asked loads of questions and given some friendly challenges: why is this better than Buddhism? How is no blind faith required if you are telling us these fantastic sounding stories? Isn't this basically Hinduism? Are these stories meant to be taken literally? Do you have a disciplic succession, I've heard that is quite important in these kinds of things? Isn't everything being one and everything being nothing (illusion) basically the same thing, or at least very similar?
I answered all the questions, but as usual, probably went a bit overboard. Too much information for the audience to take in all in one session.
We finished with some vegan, wheat-free banana and sunflower seed cookies and a preview of next week.
Apple yesterday released an updated MacBook Pro. The major change is the inclusion of the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This is big news for me because the Core 2 Duo is a 64-bit processor, meaning that it can address more physical memory than the previous generation 32-bit processor. It should also work a bit faster if an application is written to take advantage of it.
The main reason I'm interested is because 64-bit Java will probably be included in the next release of Mac OS X: 10.5 Leopard due out in Spring 2007. I frequently run programs to push up to the 1.6 GB limit of the JVM, so hopefully Leopard and this new MacBook Pro will solve that problem.
Here is a run-down of the new and upgraded features (on the base $1999 model):
- Faster processor: up from 2.0 Ghz to 2.16 Ghz
- 64-bit processor: up from 32-bit Core Duo to 64-bit Core 2 Duo
- More memory: up from 512 GB to 1 GB
- Greater amount of maximum memory: up from 2 GB max to 3 GB max
- Larger hard drive: up from 80 GB to 120 GB
- Larger maximum hard drive option: up from 120 GB to 200 GB (though don't buy the 200 GB drive since it is dog slow at a rotation speed of only 4200 rpm - same as the iPod).
- Faster DVD burner: up from 4x burn speed to 6x
- Higher capacity DVD burner: up from 4.8 GB per disk to 8.5 GB per disk (it can now burn "dual-layer" disks)
- Faster firewire port: up from 400 to 800 Mbps (for faster external hard disks, e.g. for video editing)
- Better battery life: up from 4.5 to 5 hours max battery life (a lot of news reports missed this one - the better battery life is most likely due to the better power saving technology built into the newer Core 2 processor)
- 802.11n wifi: 11n wifi is five times faster than 802.11g wifi which is supposed to have a maximum speed of 56 mbps. So, in practical terms this means that we'll probably see a sustained transfer speeds increase from 2 MB/sec to 10 MB/sec (however, the final standard for 802.11n is not agreed yet, so Apple has not yet enabled this feature - I expect it to become active when the iTV product is released = January)
Conclusion: a very nice update, especially considering the price is the same (I bet your kicking yourself if you bought one two days ago).
On a side note: I was looking at some IBM/Lenovo, HP and Sony notebooks in a local store today and I must say: "Man, those things are ugly!" (the picture above doesn't do them justice, since their photographers obviously know how to make even something ugly look at least "okay")
All of them had all kinds of hocks and knobs jutting out from everywhere, stickers pasted all over them, random ports and connectors arranged unsymmetrically. They were just plain horrible to look at. None of them care even close to the clean, refined look of the MacBook Pro.
Why, oh why, does Apple seem to be the only company in the world that has any kind of design esthetic? Are Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs the only computer executives in the world with good taste? Apparently so!
The Internet is making it ever easier for "normal people" to produce "professional" content.
Blogging turns anyone into an online journalist. Podcasting allows people to create their own on-demand radio shows. Using Apple's iMovie the average guy or gal can even produce professional quality movies (though don't try that on a PC as this Apple Mac advert cleverly illustrates).
However, one medium still eludes the non-professional: books! It is surprisingly difficult to produce a professional looking book. Sure, anyone can print a crummy-looking plastic-comb bound collection words printed on cheap paper, but that is a lot different from a nice solid hardcover book. Those require some expertise to produce.
It is not just the print quality. I've seen some people publish books written using Microsoft Word. The result is not very nice. The poor quality of the page layout is instantly recognizable. It is with good reason that the archaic Latex document processing system is still almost universally used in academia to write scientific articles. Documents produced using Word just look downright ugly. Here are some more myths about desktop publishing.
There are just two choices for good professional quality page layout (such as would be used to create a modern high-quality book):
- Adobe InDesign (much recommended)
- QuarkXPress (used to be the market leader, but now is not nearly as good as InDesign, although still the number two)
Both these software packages help to perfect some critical aspects of document composition and layout: hyphenation, rivers of white space, orphans and widows. The sophisticated text optical kerning, tracking and optical margin alignment controls present in page-layout software can be used to eliminate visual errors and distractions.
Other software like Apple's Pages can also produce decent looking layouts and can do some basic kerning and tracking, but does not feature the automatic document adjustment features that are necessary to create a really good looking print job.
Now however some new companies have sprung up to help the normal person produce professional quality books. I was listening to an interview with Eileen Gittins, the CEO of Blurb. Blurb offers a desktop client and online service that makes producing really good looking books both cheap and easy. The company has just started out so the software is a little limited in terms of features and number of available templates, but it shows great promise. Note: a competing service called Lulu offers the printing and publishing, but without the aid in design and page layout.
Eileen gives the example of a businessman who sent out his 23-page business plan printed using cheap over-the-counter printing and got no response from prospective investors. He then took the exact same material and created a hardcover book (for a cheaper price) using Blurb's service and sent that out to some investors. The result: almost everyone phoned him back - mostly asking "how did you create this amazing book?". Eileen Gittins says:
In our society books have a real cultural pedigree. People don't throw books away. They do throw away things that appear like photocopies. So the shelf life of his book caused people to pick up the phone to phone him.
Does that sound familiar? Here an excerpt from the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita:
When a librarian advised Bhaktivedanta Swami to write books (they were permanent, whereas newspapers were read once and thrown away), he took it that his spiritual master was speaking through this person. Then an Indian Army officer who liked Back to Godhead suggested the same thing.
So then: don't underestimate the value of well produced book. It can work wonders. Please, please, please do not (ever!) use Microsoft Word to publish anything. Learn good publishing if you can, or, if you can't, use a service like Blurb to produce high quality books. And finally: save the world.
This week 9 people came to Vedicsoc. It was just the right amount of guests.
I taught a fairly mellow slow-deep strength class (someone commented how they were paining for days after the aerobic experience of last week) and afterwards we all chanted the maha-mantra together on beads for about 10 minutes. A few people said they had been trying the chanting at home.
We carried on to discuss times people act from their outer shell and times when they genuinely act from the core of who they really are. I had one guest read out two verses from the Bhagavad-Gita (13.21 and 13.22) which explain how material nature is mostly controlling all our actions and how we can regain control - act from the core - by taking to a practice of Krishna consciousness.
The next day after the session I attempted to re-register Vedicsoc as an official University society. After filling in all the paperwork and submitting it to the University societies office I get a call from the lady running the office. Apparently, the computer says I'm not a student, so I'm not allowed to register a society. I phone and visit the student services center (multiple times) and eventually find out that because I registered in April and the University switched over to a new computer system in September my registration status is incomplete on the new system. "Not to worry", they say, "it will all be sorted out next April if and when you re-register". I go back to the societies office and tell the story, but the administrator there doesn't believe me. She demands proof that I'm a student. Otherwise, anyone could come and open a society. Not even a proof of attendance or my valid student card will satisfy her, since the computer says I did not pay my fees. I could well have a valid student card, but might not have paid my fees and could therefore have been expelled from University. By this time both offices close (and I waste most of my day). Next week I'll have student services phone the unrelenting societies officer and (hopefully) tell her that what I say is true and that I am a registered student.
I hate this British bureaucracy!
I've created a system for memorizing Bhagavad-Gita verses called Sloka Raja.
You can go to the Sloka Raja website and see a series of verses hidden by a saffron veil. Each verse number is given in a tab along the top of the window. If you hover the mouse over the veil shrouding a particular verse, then that text's veil becomes transparent and you can "peek" at a single line of the original Sanskrit or the English translation. You can also click the mouse button and the text becomes permanently uncovered. Clicking again re-hides the verse.
Click the left and right arrows to scroll to other verses you want to memorize. You can also directly select and scroll to the verse you want to review by clicking on the appropriate tab on the top of the window.
Pressing the "change this verse" button on the bottom of the screen puts the verse display into "selection mode". Using this mode you can change the verse you want to learn to a different one. Simply select a new chapter and verse from the list in the window and that new verse will replace the current one. Press the "accept changes" button to switch back to the memorization view. In this way you can customize the view to learn different sets of verses as you desire.
The system always remembers your personal selection of verses. When you finish using the website simply close the window. There is no need to save. Sloka Raja remembers where you left off automatically. The next time you return the website recreates your personal view exactly as you left it. Everyone can choose their own personal set of verses to memorize on Sloka Raja. It remembers a different custom selection of verses for each and every user of the system.
Sloka Raja is available at the following URL:
If anyone notices any bugs or has any suggestions for improvement please let me know.
I was listening to a news report on the Indian caste system. The journalist talked about the huge amount of discrimination between the various castes in India. Only in the slums of the big cities, where everyone is equally poor, can people escape the shadow of the caste they were born into.
And what is to blame for all this segregation? The reporter says: why, of course, it is the evil Hindu faith with its antiquated beliefs and useless scriptures! The journalist went on to describe how there was a growing movement to throw out the Laws of Manu and establish the glorious Constitution as the basis of society (I won't link to the report, because it really isn't worth listening to).
Now, I won't go into the evils (real or imaginary) of so-called Hinduism in all its billions of shapes, sizes and variations. I will however point out that nowhere in the Vedic literature does it say that caste is established by birth. Everywhere it is said that caste (or varna) is determined by personal quality. If one has the qualities of an outcaste, then one should be treated like an outcaste. If one has the qualities of a brahmana, then one should be treated like a brahmana. Simple.
Proof? The Bhagavad-Gita (the basis of Hinduism - or so they say) says in verse 18.41:
"Br?hman?£as, ks?£atriyas, vai?>yas and ?>?«dras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy."
The word used is "svabh?va", which means "nature" or "quality". It does not say "janma", which would have meant birth. I think it is pretty clear.
The Srimad Bhagavatam (follow on to the Bhagavad Gita by the same author) makes it even clearer. In 7.11.35 the great sage Narada Muni is quoted:
"If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification."
Here is a one way to determine which class one is most inclined to (note: there is a lot more to it than this simple explanation):
Brahmanas (intellectuals) are perfectly happy to be part of some larger operation, as long as it is well run and they can have their freedom. Ksatriyas (warriors) prefer to be part of smaller, poorly managed operation, as long as they are in charge. Vaisyas (merchants) want to make lots and lots of money and Sudras (laborers) are happy just working and not having to worry about any big decisions. No class is any "worse" than another. Different people work in different ways. It is foolish to pass laws making everyone equal when it is clearly not the case.
Krishna consciousness is not Hinduism. Hinduism does not make much sense to me. However, Krishna consciousness makes perfect sense and it is based on the best knowledge. A society based on varna and ashrama is perfect. But don't take my word for it: read the Bhagavatam and see for yourself the genius of the varnashrama system.
This week's Vedicsoc session was, once again, a bit of a surprise for me. 18 people showed up! Some from previous sessions, but also lots of new guests.
I taught a Slow-Deep Aerobic yoga class (everyone nearly died during the aerobic part), which went well. One lady asked me afterwards how long I had been practicing, since it seemed like I had been doing it since early childhood (if she only knew...).
Then some chanting of the Maha-Mantra on beads (though I ran out of beads, not expecting such a large crowd).
Then a discussion. I tried to make the discussion interactive and engaging, but the group was just the wrong size. Too large to personally interact with each person and too small to allow people to become anonymous in the group and feel safe to interact with me in that way.
I ended up talking for only a short while, explaining how we are not the body and giving an overview of the Bhagavad-Gita. I then randomly divided people into groups of four (making sure to mix people together who did not know each other) and told them to socialise, get to know each other and talk about whatever they like. While they were talking I walked around distributing prasadam to everyone. Very soon everyone was chatting, laughing and having a good time.
After about 20 minutes of small group chatting the session naturally came to a close. Everyone thanked me and the students headed off back into the material world.
Nearly everyone bought a set of beads.
I recently had another consultation with Dr. Philip Weeks in Hereford.
My body is doing well. Certainly much, much better than it was. I'm fine as long as I watch what I eat (no diary, no wheat) and get enough sleep. That will most likely stay that way until I finish studying. This PhD is putting an intense amount of mental pressure on me, which is stopping my digestion from working as it should. Medicine can only do so much. The rest is in the mind and in the stars.
I was feeling a bit tired and run down. Phil decided to give me a "boost" with some acupuncture needles. He stuck needles in my chest, forehead, ankles, arms, knees and six places in my lower back. Most of these (especially the forehead and back) were actually quite painful. Usually acupuncture isn't at all painful. It just is a very weird tingly feeling when the needle hits the energy point. However, when the doctor misses the exact and needs to correct by moving the needle ever so slightly, then that can create some pain. Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, of course.
One good thing that practicing a martial art like Jiu Jitsu has taught me is that pain is just in the mind. Sure, I don't like it, but I'm not the mind, so I don't really mind.
After the treatment I felt weird, as always. However, very soon I was a lot more alert and energetic. It worked. My tiredness was needled away.
Apparently I respond well to acupuncture. People are different. Some respond better to herbs, some homeopathy, some Ayurveda, some western (killer) drugs. There is no one cure for all ailments (except chanting Hare Krishna, of course). Acupuncture works for me, so that's what the doctor applies.
Philip gave me some Probiotics and B-vitamines to take and sent me on my way. Onwards to the next battle ...