Viewing entries tagged with 'realization'
I recently gave a talk at the Krishna Fest at Gaura Yoga on the "Vedic System of Self-Development". Thanks to Sivarama Swami for the inspiration for this talk.
or download the source AAC file vedic system of self-development.m4a
or download the source MP3 file vedic system of self-development.mp3
I was listening to the following podcast:
The title is deceptive. It is more about analyzing a market or activity holistically and reinventing it to taking into account the complete picture. With a complete view of all the factors, motivations, desires, side-effects and intentions, one can transform into a truly customer focused organization.
Darrel Rhea gives example how he helped do this for Apple Retail Stores, Electrolux Kitchen Appliances, the Australian Tax System and Hospital Stroke Treatment.
How about we think about the classic Sunday Feast in this way? In New Zealand the Sunday Feast has already been adapted and reinvented to a certain extent to make it more accessible to newcomers, but without changing any of the core values of Krishna Consciousness. But more can always be done to improve it even further.
(Learn more about the "Krishna Fest" as it is in Wellington, New Zealand: Gaura Yoga - Festivals)
Think of the usual kind of person that might attend a Krishna Conscious center: curious, wary, ignorant of any kind of philosophy, averse to ritual, averse to religion, proud, attached to the opposite sex, not able to sit on the floor for long periods of time, short attention span, self-conscious (unless intoxicated), concerned about spending too much money and concerned about the environment (although not actually doing much about it).
So, using that picture of the typical guest, how would you reinvent the Sunday Feast with a fresh outlook, unencumbered by past traditions? Things that might be changed: name, time, music, types of events, sequence of events, physical layout of the room(s), decoration of the room(s), devotee numbers, devotee dress & accessories and devotee language & attitude.
Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
This PhD degree has been the greatest austerity I've ever undertaken. It was often frustrating, demotivating, felt like it would never end, caused my body to frequently fall ill and resulted in a huge amount of worry and pain.
However, the austerity of this PhD have been child's play compared with what a sage named Markandeya Rsi went through. (His story is told in the 12th Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. I'm recalling it in my own words here):
Markandeya was meditating on the Supreme Personality of Godhead in his small heritage for many years. He was very strictly and sincerely meditating. So much so, in fact, that Indra, the King of Heaven (aka Zeus), became worried that this Markandeya might become eligible to take over his position soon. Indra therefore sent a team of people to break Markandeya's meditation.
He sent Cupid along with the best of the heavenly singers (Gandharvas), the most beautiful of the heavenly exotic dancers (Apsaras), the season of spring, a gentle cool breeze, intoxication personified and greed personified (the mode of passion and the false ego of thinking in terms of "I" and "mine"). A celebrate monk's worst nightmare. All these together were to create a situation where Markandeya would be tempted to stop his meditation and enjoy materially.
However, faced with these allurements, Markandeya wasn't even slightly shaken. He remained completely steady and fixed in his worship.
Markandeya Rsi's austerities were so powerful, in fact, that the members of Indra's assault team began to burn-up within (similar to what happen when Kapila Muni was attacked by the sons of Sagara who thought he had stolen a sacrificial horse).
Eventually, while Markandeya was meditating in this way, the Nara-Narayana avatar came and visited him. Markandeya immediately recognized the Supreme Lord and worshiped him with expert poetry.
The sage explained: Krishna is like a spider, He creates everything within the universe like a spider creates his web, and then He retracts it all back within Himself. Through Krishna one can conquer material misery, death and even time itself. Time is so powerful that even Lord Brahma (the oldest and most intelligent person in the universe) fears it, but Krishna's devotee need not fear time. The devotee knows that his self is not the body. The modes of nature generally bind us to the material world, but the devotee knows how to use the mode of goodness as a launch pad to blast himself off on a trajectory back to Godhead. Because of their perverted and sinful activities, materialists cannot understand Krishna. So material philosophers therefore come up with so many different theories, doctrines and religions. These are created to match their particular mix of the modes of nature (satva-, raja- and tama-guna), but have no real substance.
After hearing this nice prayer by Markandeya, Nara-Narayana offered him any benediction he might desire. The sage answered that just seeing his worshipable Lord was all he desired. He could imagine no greater gift. However, he was curious about the illusory energy (maya). He asked to understand how it could bewilder so many people into thinking material life was the one true reality.
The Lord ruefully promised to fulfill his wish and then disappeared.
Markandeya went on meditating for a few years when suddenly strong wind started to blow. Soon after, it started raining very heavily. The intense rains caused severe flooding. This hurricane went on continuously for many years. The intense weather eventually caused the entire surface of the earth to become flooded. Practically all species died off in this intense atmosphere. Gigantic sharks roamed the wild waters. The flooding even spread to the higher-dimensional space of the heavenly planets. It was the devastation at the end of the day of Brahma.
Markandeya was swimming and drifting throughout all of this. He lost all sense of orientation, he felt intense hunger and thirst, he got attacked by sharks, he felt extreme pain from various injuries, he was completely exhausted continuously fighting for his life, he frequently fell ill, he felt lamentation, happiness (when he temporarily escaped some danger), fear and misery. This went on for many, many years, all throughout the night of Brahma (4.32 billion years).
After an extremely long time drifting in the waters of devastation, Markandeya spotted a small island with a banyan tree growing on it. In one corner of the tree he saw a young child. As he swam closer to the island he noticed the wonderful beauty of the child. He noted his blackish-blue skin, wonderful jewelry, shark-shaped earrings, auspicious bodily markings and nice cosmetic decorations.
Then, suddenly, the child inhaled and began to suck everything surrounding him into his mouth. Markandeya also got sucked into the mouth of this wondrous child. Within the mouth he saw his old hermitage, the waters of devastation, the heavenly planets, the creation and destruction of the universe, everything, the entire universal manifestation; he even saw time itself, past, present and future, all at once. The child then exhaled and Markandeya found himself spat out back into the waters of devastation.
As he once again began to struggle to keep his head above the waters, he suddenly found himself transported back to his old heritage, as if nothing had happened. He then realized: "oh ... so this is the power of the illusory energy!".
And I realize: a PhD is nothing compared to that.
There are so many different religions and spiritual systems out there. Which should you choose and why?
In this talk at the Gaura Yoga centre in Wellington, New Zealand I give some criteria by which one can judge how bona fide a spiritual system is. I conclude by explaining how well Krishna consciousness does when judged by these criteria.
Download selection of the presentation slides [24 MB].
Download just the audio of presentation [34 MB]
Download version formatted for iPod/iPhone [153 MB].
Download highest-quality version [262 MB].
I have moved from Manchester, United Kingdom to Wellington, New Zealand. Last Sunday I gave the Krishna Fest presentation at the Gaura Yoga center here in Wellington. The topic was the "Science of Happiness" (analyzed using the teachings on the three modes of material nature from the Bhagavad-Gita: As it Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada).
Download and view a higher quality (800x600) version of the video here [124 MB].
Every living entity on the planet (and beyond) needs to sleep. Rats, die if they are deprived of sleep for 5 days (they also die if they are deprived of food for 5 days). Why this is, no one knows. It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. Wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to waste so much time with sleeping?
Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita (BG6.16):
There is no possibility of one's becoming a yog?«, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.
The general trend nowadays (in the mode of passion) is to sleep too little. I was listening to this 60 minutes feature on sleep. They presented all the latest research on the subject. Some surprising and alarming results:
- Sleep enhances memory: a study showed that students memorizing a list of words could recall them with 40% better accuracy after a night's sleep than they could before going to bed. So, pulling an all-nighter to revise for an exam will actually harm one's changes of remembering the material.
- Insufficient sleep is cumulative: the negative effects of sleeping only 4-6 hours night-after-night build upon one another. The less sleep you get, the worse your state of body and mind becomes.
- The effects of not sleeping are similar to intoxication: sleeping for only 4-6 hours has a similar effect on your mental awareness as drinking alcohol. So, for example, your ability to drive a car is severely impaired, your emotional mind takes over and can no longer be controlled by one's rational/logical mind. In fact, the MRI brain image of someone who hasn't had enough sleep is very similar to that of someone will a severe mental disorder. Caffeine can offset these effects for one or two days, but after three days insufficient sleep no amount of coffee can mask the intoxicating effect.
- 2-second micro-sleeps occur after insufficient rest: if you have had insufficient sleep, then you will, most likely, not realize just how tired you actually are. Your body will fall asleep for 2 second, even with open eyes, without you realizing. Needless to say, this can be very dangerous when driving a car.
- Many disasters are caused by insufficient sleep: lack of sleep played a factor in many accidents. For example: in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown and the Staten Island ferry crash the staff responsible all had had inadequate sleep.
- Lack of sleep causes obesity: not sleeping enough causes a drop of the leptin hormone, which regulates hunger. So, not sleeping enough will make you feel hungry, even if you've had plenty to eat. It produces an uncontrollable desire to eat. The result: not sleeping makes you fat.
- Lack of sleep causes diabetes: studies have shown that if someone is restricted to sleeping just four hours per night, they start developing symptoms of type-2 diabetes (symptoms include: weakness/fatigue, tingling/numbness in hands and feet, blurred vision, dry/itchy skin, unquenchable thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss, irritability, frequent urination, slow healing of wounds). It seems not getting enough sleep disturbs the body's ability to metabolize sugar. Indeed, type-2 diabetes, which used to only occur in elderly people, is becoming more and more common; even children are getting it (children need 9 - 10 hours sleep, yet frequently get less than 7 hours of sleep). Lack of sleep also increases one's risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Most people need 7.5 - 8 hours of sleep per night, yet the median amount of sleep people in the USA get today is just 6.7 hours. Sleeping is just as important as eating. Not sleeping is really dangerous. So, if you are not getting enough sleep, then what are you waiting for? Get to bed!
Dr. Philip Weeks told me about the B12 crisis on my last visit to him. He had noticed that almost every devotee (practitioner of Krishna consciousness) who came to see him had a low level of the vitamin. An abrupt change in diet is probably to blame. Krishna consciousness automatically leads one to become vegetarian (as a pleasant positive side effect of the practice, not as an end in itself). However, if someone has been eating copious amounts of meat for generations and then suddenly stops their self-degrading practice, the body's B12 supply may run dry.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that B12 is stored in the body for a long time. So, a person may be fine for 2-years of not getting enough of the vitamin and then they suddenly start getting really sick for seemingly no reason. Symptoms of B12 deficiency are listed on the following websites:
The most common initial symptom is fatigue and depression (which indeed seems to be a common issues affecting many, many devotees).
So, what to do? First of all it is a good idea to go to a western doctor and have one's blood tested (though watch out for the B12 analogues which might confuse a blood test - read about those here and here too). That will reveal if indeed there is a lack of B12 in the body. If this is the case the vitamin has to be replenished. However, taking supplements won't really work, because B12 is very difficult to absorb into the body. It would take a long time of taking pills to replenish the body's vitamin supplies. The only two options seem to be getting a B12 injection from a doctor, or using the following ingenious B12 patches:
Then, once the B12-levels are up again, they can be kept up by taking Engevita Nutritional Yeast (one of the few reliable vegan sources of B12).
One might ask how vegan cultures got their supply of B12 for thousands of years before B12 injections were invented. Well, for one, the people in those cultures are probably genetically predisposed to surviving with a less supply of B12 than us westerners. Then there is also dirt. That's right: dirt! Surprisingly, dirt often contains some B12. Cow dung, for example, is very rich in the vitamin. Agricultural field used to be fertilized with cow dung, so a little bit of it would inevitably end up on people's plates. Nowadays, however, with chemical fertilizers being the order of the day and food being super-clean and sterile, dirt can only rarely find its way into our digestion system. So, no B12 for us.
I recorded my conversation with Dr Phil on the topic. Please listen to it here (5 minutes):
"The division of gross time is calculated as follows: two atoms make one double atom, and three double atoms make one hexatom. This hexatom is visible in the sunshine which enters through the holes of a window screen. One can clearly see that the hexatom goes up towards the sky." (SB3.11.05)
Scientists currently believe that the photon (also known as light) is the transmitter particle (gauge boson) for electromagnetic force. Photons supposedly have no mass and no electric charge. It is said that Einstein was the first person to theorize that these particles should exist (except he wasn't the first - not by a long shot!).
Photon (obviously) travel at the speed of light. They can be redirected by gravity (not because gravity attracts the photon like e.g. a magnet attracts iron, but because gravity bends the very space through which the photon flies).
Photons are strange because they behave both as waves and as particles at the same time (as demonstrated in the famous double-slit experiment).
Besides photons, which we "see" every day, there are supposedly a few other gauge bosons, or carrier particles for fundamental forces of nature. Specifically, there supposed to exist W and Z bosons (which supposedly cause the weak atomic interaction), gluons (which supposedly cause the strong atomic interaction) and the (totally speculative) gravitons (which supposedly cause gravity - although no one has ever detected a graviton).
Physicists are hard at work trying to figure out how these particles fit together in a grand unification theory. They believe that if they figure this out they will understand everything there is to know about the elegant universe with no need for primitive gods, deities and other "unscientific" stuff like that.
And here we have the Srimad Bhagavatam stating quite plainly and clearly, thousands of years before the advert of modern physics (or more precisely: the sage Maitreya speaking to Vidura sometime around the year 3102 B.C.), that the photon is actually made up of 6 (specifically 3 groups of 2) atomic particles. These Vedic Atoms (parama-anuh) are the true fundamental particles of nature. In different combinations these particles presumably also make up the other gauga bosons.
So, there we have the much vaunted unification theory.
Why do theoretical physicists not take notice?
Update: (disclaimer) My statements above are called into question by some good counter arguments in the comments to this post. This is not to say that the article is incorrect, but I nevertheless advise anyone reading this to read the comments and make up their own mind based upon what they think are the most reasonable assumptions.
60 minutes has a report (A Pill to Forget?) (videos here) on a drug that can erase memories. Propranolol is a drug that (among other things) seems to erase link between an intense emotional event and the memory.
Psychiatrist hope to treat patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (i.e. victims of war, rape, or accidents). Usually if someone has experienced a traumatic event and then, years later, sees or hears something that reminds them of that experience, then the emotions from the trauma come back in full force. However, the drug shows promise that it can remove these painful memories.
It does its magic by blocking adrenaline from nerve cells. Adrenaline causes memories to really take root. We can see for ourselves: most long-lived memories are associated with some event that caused our body to produced lots of adrenaline. So, if the drug is taken shortly after a traumatic event, or even many years after the event, provided the victim is made to remember the thoughts and emotions of that time, then it breaks the link between the thoughts and the emotions. The memory fades away.
Opponents of the drug believe that our memories make us who we are. Erasing painful memories would rob us of the chance to become better people. They also fear the drug will be used recreationally, to erase minor unpleasant or embarrassing moments from our memory.
This strikes me as interesting and reminds me of a realization that a devotee recently shared with me:
The devotee is interested in remembering Krishna at the time of death. Everyone else is interested in remember as little as possible at the time of death.
This devotee doctor was telling me that death is super painful. Like 1000 scorpions biting you all at once. A dying person usually is given vast quantities of morphine to dull their brain so they feel and remember as little as possible. However, there comes a stage at the end of life where even morphine is no longer effective and the full pain takes effect.
However, the jaws of death are just like the jaws of a cat carrying her kitten to the devotee. The rat lives in terror of the fearsome cat jaw, but the kitten purrs contently as its mother carries it in the very same jaw.
The memory pill opponents do not know that we are not this body and mind. Our memories most certainly do not make us who we are. After all, we forget almost everything at the time of death. However, the subtle impressions remain. So, someone who has endured a life of a pig will subconsciously learn that maybe they should not engage in a gluttonous lifestyle when they become a human again.
Can this pill erase these subtle imprints? - I don't know.
One frightening thing however is that while the drug can erase bad memories it can also probably erase good ones. The Vedic culture makes use of so-called samskaras. Rituals at important life events that serve as imprints in people's memories. If the samskaras are Krishna conscious, then the person recalling these memories at the time of death can attain liberation (and avoid repeated birth in the animal kingdom) (BG 8.6 + BG 14.15).
Another perspective is that living with painful memories, day-after-day, is suffering we were destined to receive by our previous actions (bad karma). If we try to escape the suffering by taking a pill, it will just come back at us in some other way. No one can escape their karma (unless, of course, they practice devotional service and Krishna personally intervenes to give them a special personalized reduced package of karmic reaction that is best suited to bringing them back to Godhead).
So, this is yet another example of today's culture of ignorance and forgetfulness. Materialists want to forget as much as possible, while devotees want constant remembrance (smartavyah satatam vishnu).
I attended a talk by a "science communicator" who was visiting my University. He was speaking on intelligent design from a neutral (yeah, right) perspective.
He outlined both the evolution and intelligent design theories. He quoted anti-evolution argument of the molecular motors that some bacteria use to propel themselves. These little spinning corkscrews propellers consist of over 30 different proteins. Anti-evolutionist have long argued that it would be impossible for these 30 proteins to come together in just the right configuration all at once in one evolutionary step, yet they would have had to in order to form a working and useful motor. However, apparently scientists have now discovered a bacteria that does a similar thing with just 6 proteins. Ha! (although how or why they got from 6 to 30 is not yet known)
He also gave the famous example of the eye, which is way too complicated to have "evolved". However, scientists have now discovered "light sensitive skin". Creatures with such skin obviously gradually evolved into animals with modern eyes. Ha! (although the exact details of how this happened are not yet known)
Another common misconception is that evolution happens by "chance". It is not at all chance. There is no planned outcome. it is not like drawing a specific pair of card from a deck of cards (which would have a small probability). Much rather, it is like getting any pair of matching cards from a deck (much more likely). Lots of different evolutionary paths will work. Nature just happens to have evolved the way it has. If the Universe's dice had rolled differently then we'd all be completely different. So, the ridiculously low probabilities quoted by some opponents of evolution are inaccurate. They are actually much smaller (but still pretty unlikely).
The final steak in the heart of intelligent design is the motivation of intelligent design advocates. Leaked internal documents reveal that they are all Christians who are trying to use it as an inroad to have their religion taught in public schools. This is against the American constitutions, so it is no wonder that the "evolution is just a theory" stickers on text-books and other such attempts get struck down by the courts. The judges aren't stupid. They know there is an ulterior motive behind it.
Christians are being trained up in special universities like the elite Patrick Henry College and the Opus Dei society. They are then tasked with infiltrating key positions of power in school boards, etc. to push their (unconstitutional) Christian agendas.
After his "neutral" talk I asked him about Michael Cremo's books. His answer (and I paraphrase):
Oh yeah, he is another one of those religious types. Which organization does he belong to? The Hare Krishnas, right? However, he does come up with a few very uncomfortable facts. So, yes, I recommend everyone at least has a browse through one of his books. But, don't read any of them, because they are - like - "this" thick. But keep an open mind and at least look at some of the controversial archeological findings he presents.
So, in summary (according to this science communicator person), intelligent design is a concocted idea that ultimately aims to have Christian creationism taught in schools. Science (the new God) will very soon discover the exact detailed mechanism of evolution (even if a few minor missing links are still missing at the moment). And the world will continue to ignore the extremely detailed (non-Christan) intelligent design theory offered by the Vedic literature (even if it does make perfect sense and answer many of the open questions).
I finished re-reading the Caitanya Caritamrita over Christmas. That makes it the second time I've read the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita all the way through. Nevertheless, I feel like I know nothing. There is so much knowledge in those books that even a lifetime of study will just scratch the surface. And even if, by some miracle, I were able to absorb all the knowledge, there is still many, many lifetimes of realization locked up in the Vedic literature. And even if I fully understand all the points, it will take a long time to actually apply them in my life.
Oh well, I guess I'll just have to keep reading. I'll get there eventually. Good thing that the books get better and better every time I read them. It even says so: Krishna consciousness is joyfully performed (and scientific) (BG 9.2 and 10.9). So what if it takes a long time? I certainly don't have anything better to do.
So then, time to once again dive into the wonderful, fascinating, thrilling, treasure-trove of transcendental knowledge: the 1st Canto of the Bhagavatam.
"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.
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.
I attended Krishna's birthday in Wales.
I took a train down to Cardiff, walked to the Soul Centre and felt like I was going to faint from the strain of the long trip and fasting. Some fruit helped restore my body.
I then took some pictures of the Soul Centre. It is a very stylish urban spiritual centre, don't you think?
The devotees went out on harinam in Cardiff for two and a half hours. It was great! After about an hour of chanting while walking around the city centre we spread out some blankets and spent the rest of the time sitting down and chanting.
Just as we were preparing the seated area a group of about five young people came up to me and asked me what "all this" was about. I briefly started to explain when one of them asked if we believed in the Bible. I said "yes, we do". Somewhat surprised, the guy started to ask some more questions. By this time I started to realize that these were rather fanatical (though respectful and inquisitive) Christians I was talking to.
Soon the kirtan had started and was going on in full-force, purifying the surrounding atmosphere. Oh well, I thought, I might as well take the opportunity to talk to these evangelical Christians about Krishna while they hear the holy name.
They presented all kinds of doubts and attacks against the notions of reincarnation, salvation outside of solely following Jesus, karma, vegetarianism (apparently, it says in the Bible that God wants us to eat meat). I explained the Krishna conscious perspective on all these point. One young man was surprised to hear the sensible KC viewpoints. The others however were closed-minded. They strained their brains to come up with something that "this heathen Hare Krishna" could not answer.
However, little did they know that all knowledge comes from Krishna, especially on his birthday. With Krishna on my side I could answer all their points. After we had talked for quite some time they asked me what distingishes a bona-fide religion from a bogus one. I answered that one aspect of a bona-fide religion is that it has a disciplic succession, like catholicism, for example.
I was very much surprised when they shoot back:
Catholics are not Christians!!
They argued that the catholic church has changed aspects of the literal meaning of the Bible. It also believes that we can go to heaven simply by following a mechanical process without surrendering our heart (which is actually true: someone can, for example, go to Gandarvaloka, which resembles the Christian idea of heaven, just by following the necessary rules and regulations of pious life; though, of course, that isn't the perfection of life).
I now realize that the lack of a disciplic succession is the main fault in evangelical Christianity. It takes the Bible as literally true. Too literally true. Without a chain of teachers coming down from the original teacher it is very easy to misinterpret the teacher's teachings and loose the true meaning (BG4.2). That is exactly what these poor Christians have done. They follow the exact words of the Bible without taking into account time, place, circumstance and intent. It is not just Chistians however. There are so many bogus interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gita which distort the true meaning.
Later, returning to Swansea, we sang bhajans until late into the night. Suki-Krishna expertly led the most amazing chanting on the harmonium. We also watched a documentary about Indradyumna Swami's amazing Festival of India tour. It is such an inspiring series of festivals! The film made me want to go to Poland and help out (but I won't because my body couldn't handle the intense austerity of the tour).
At midnight, the time of Krishna's appearance, over 100 different preparations were offered to the deity. The devotees then partook in the obligatory feast. As usual, I couldn't eat more than about two preparations because of dietary restrictions. So is life. On the bright side: my body held up surprisingly well. I even managed to chant 54 rounds throughout the day.
What is the largest amount of gold you have ever seen?
I realized that the largest amount of gold I had ever seen was a single 5 kg gold bar. Even that was at a friend's house many years ago (in the 80s).
Society is so degraded! Wealth nowadays is simply a number in a bank account. It doesn't actually exist. One computer glitch and it's all gone.
The governments of the world have slowly decoupled the value of money from gold reserves and linked it to real estate instead. The United States has a reserve of 8000 tones of gold (the weight of about 10 modern train locomotives). The price of gold today is about $20,000 per kilogram. That makes the gold reserve worth about $160 billion, which is quite a bit, of course, but not nearly enough to cover the $600 billion in circulation.
Things get more interesting when we look at the historic price of gold. In the mid 1970s the price of gold increased dramatically. In 1970 a kg of gold cost a mere $1000. It seems someone decided gold was no longer going to be the standard to measure wealth by. Indeed, more profit can be made if the money does not actually exist!
Yep, practically speaking money today has no real value at all. This is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.16.20. The Bhagavatam also describes entire palaces made out of solid gold. Some of the great ritual sacrifices that were performed in ancient times would require more gold than was available on the entire planet today. We are such poor buggers these days. You think the 8000 tones of the American gold reserve is a lot? Think again. That amount of gold is a mere 7.5 metre cube (7.5m x 7.5m x 7.5m or 20m x 20m x 1m).
From another point of view even "real" gold wealth is unreal. It is just temporary matter. Actual real wealth is spiritual knowledge. That contributes to one's eternal benefit. It is not taken away when the body is slain. As the saying goes: "the last shirt has no pockets".
Still, some gold would be a good start.
I wonder, what is the largest amount of gold you have ever seen? (please comment)
Principles and values are where it's at! Someone may know something: "smoking kills". But until they have internalized the knowledge into their core value system that knowledge is not of much use.
Realized knowledge (yijnana) actually affects one's day-to-day actions. Example (that made me think about this whole issue):
The other day I was shopping at the local ASDA supermarket. I had had quite a tough week and felt myself overcome with material desires. I suddenly desired to buy more of something (anything!). "Just look: so many shelves full of product for my enjoyment. I want them!" I proceeded to picked up a random attractive-looking item, turned it over and read the ingredients.
"Yuck, full of eggs", next item
"Oh no, full of onions and garlic", next item
"Vile, this one isn't even vegetarian", next item
"Can't off this to Krishna either", next item
"Hmm, I could buy this, but it is full of wheat and dairy products. If I ate this I'll be seriously suffering the next day", next item ...
... and so it went. I wasted a lot of time looking through various products, but, in the end, didn't end up buying anything else.
The point is that I really, really wanted to buy something, but my values wouldn't let me. I was protected, in spite of myself.
Realization: the scientific process of Krishna consciousness is very good at transforming people's character. That is: imbibing people with positive values. (Also interesting how the vast majority of stuff in a modern supermarket is uneatable garbage).
I hosted another Saturday Feast yesterday. On the menu:
- Lebanese bulgur-wheat salad
- Spicy Bengali potatoes
- French braised summer vegetables
- Almond basmati rice
- Lemon-yogurt shake/lassi
- Coconut butter cookies
After some chanting we watched the Mysterious Origins of Man documentary. It highlighted some major problems with the Darwinian model of evolution. In particular, it shows very convincing evidence that humans walked the earth long before they were supposed to have evolved.
On that note: today I listen to an interview with Martinez Howlett, author of "Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence". He is a roman-catholic and molecular biologist who tries to unify science and theology into "theistic evolution". This philosophy accepts the idea of evolution, but does not accept the "no God" idea of ontological materialism that often gets tagged onto neo/social Darwinist bandwagon. It also rejects fanatical Christian creationism.
In the interview Howlett attempts to answer the age old question of:
"why do good things happen to bad people"
"why do bad things happen to good people"
Most so-called religions tend to have a problem with this. Either God is not powerful enough to do anything about the evil in the world, or God is powerful enough, but chooses not. Either God is weak, or God is evil. Both don't fit well with the Christian idea of the all-powerful, all-merciful God.
Howlett's solution is to claim the creation as described in Genesis is still ongoing. That is: when it says that "God created the world in seven days and saw that it was good", those seven days are not over yet. We're still in the middle of creation and therefore things are still bad. It's up to us to act as co-creators and help the universe evolve to perfection. He takes the idea from the philosophy of Teilhardianism. This philosophy is the brainchild of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a famous French Jesuit philosopher (speculator).
The Vedic understanding is, of course, that bad things happen to good people, because those "good" people are not nearly as "good" as they believe themselves to be. They have committed sins in their past life and are now suffering the reactions for their activities. Every action has and equal and opposite reaction. So called "bad" things are not evil, they are educational.
The new-age notion that the Universe is evolving to perfection is similarly flawed. Being heavily influenced by Darwin's doctrine, it takes only a very limited view of history. The Vedic literature explains that everything degrades over time. The Universe goes through cycles. There is gradually degradation until things get so bad that there is a (partial) destruction. After that comes a re-creation of near-perfect universal situation, which then, once again, gradually degrades, etc.
The Vedic viewpoint is simple, sensible, scientific and has been around for thousands of years.
Greetings are so powerful.
Good hotels, restaurants and conference centers employ one person (sometimes even two!) for no other purpose than saying "good morning" to people as they come in the door.
The Srimad Bhagavatam advocates that every guest must be offered at least some nice words of greeting, a seat and some water (SB 1.18.28). Samika Rishi got himself in trouble because he did not offer these to Maharaja Parikshit. There is even a special hellish planet for those people who fail to greet their guests properly.
When a guest enters one's house or (especially!) one's temple or outreach center one should drop everything and immediately rush to greet that guest. That guest should be made to feel so super-welcome that they can not help but desire to come back again and again. Ignoring guests is mega-dangerous, counter-productive and not good for business.
Standard big bang theory states that the amount of space in the universe is increasing, but the amount of matter is fixed.
If you take any amount of matter and compress it into a single point, that point becomes infinitely dense (and infinitely hot). That was what was supposed to have been the state of the universe at the time of the big bang. However, the mathematical formulas for understanding the laws of nature don't work when one of the starts putting in "infinity". You get all kinds of nonsense results. So, really smart physicists have come up with all kinds of theories and speculations as to how to tweak the model in order to make the impossibility of the big bang infinity work.
Now, a few billion years after the big bang, scientists observe that everything in the universe is moving away from everything else. The common analogy is to describe it as a loaf of yeasted raisin bread rising. The raisins are the matter in the universe and the bread is the empty space. As the empty space increases (the bread rises) the raisins move further away from each other. The number of raisins (amount of matter) remains the same, but the size of the bread (universal empty space) increases.
Then you get into what and where the matter in the universe is. 99% of it is this mysterious dark matter or dark energy that no one knows what it is and no one can detect, but must be there to make the mathematics work.
So, all in all, the physicists have no clue, they are just guessing wildly. Check out Carana Renu??(TM)s blog, a good friend of mine who has a PhD in astrophysics.
As I mentioned in this blog posting of mine: looking into the 5000-year old Vedic literature of ancient India sheds some light on the mystery. Those writings state that there are an unlimited number of parallel universes, each finite in the amount of matter they contain. Within each universe there are roughly 36000 cycles of partial creations and destructions (one might call them big bangs and big crunches) before one particular universe is completely destroyed (after 311 trillion years). Within the universe humans occupy only a tiny amount of space. The Vedas state that there are 14 different loka-systems (literally: places). Earth and reality as we see it occupies only one of these. The most advanced living beings in this universe live in a place called Satyaloka (literally: perfected-place) (and yes indeed, human beings are not the pinnacle of evolution). The big bang doesn't kill the people in that supreme sphere of existence. They only die after 311 trillion years (lifetime of Brahma) when the actual universe is destroyed (sucked into a skin pore of Maha-Vishnu).
So, from the Vedic perspective, it is no wonder that the Universe doesn't make sense to the scientists, since most of it is in different (higher-dimensional?) space which we can't understand with our limited, low-class material bodies.
... and I have not even mentioned the spiritual reality where time does not exist.
On Christmas day our central heating system broke down. The temperature was -10 C.
We borrowed several electric heaters from the neighbors, which barely managed to keep the house somewhat warm. If the electricity had also broken down, we would have been finished.
Two days later we called a plumber to fix the system. However, after trying various things and replacing some parts of the system the boiler still refused to work. He eventually gave up and suggested phoning the manufacturer.
Two days after that a specialist from Junkers Corporation came and replaced nearly every component of the heating system. It had not been serviced for 20 years and most parts were beyond repair. Lesson learnt: take good care of machines, service them regularly and fix things as soon as they break. Leaving a fault unrepaired will very soon result in many compounding problems and cause some major headaches (or worse).
I remember that way in the dark ages (i.e. 20 or so years ago) we, and practically everyone around us, used to have a wood/coal burning stove attached to chimney. To warm the house we would light the fire. Simple. With a sufficient stockpile of burnable fuel there was practically no danger of freezing.
Now however, with the advent of nice, convenient modern central heating systems, we are no longer independent. If the underground gas supply system breaks down, we freeze. If the boiler unit breaks, we freeze. If the electricity cuts out, the boiler unit no longer works and we freeze. If the underground water supply system breaks down, the boiler can no longer heat water to supply to the radiators and ??¦ we freeze.
A good, fault tolerant system has multiple backups and few dependencies. Modern society is just the opposite: too many dependencies and no contingency plan.
For example: 5 years ago protestors prevented the fuel/gas/petrol tanker trucks from carrying out their work. Within a couple of days the entire country ground to a halt. Keeping stock is expensive, so everything in shops is delivered just-in-time. With no fuel, deliveries can't happen. The result: within a few days there was no more food in the country. The government had to step in and force the protesters to stop.
German keeps an emergency oil reserve that will last for 90 days. The USA maintains a 50 day stockpile. However, in the event of a breakdown of the distribution mechanism, those stockpiles will be pretty much useless.
Realization: if a small disaster knocks out one or two of the main utilities (water, gas, electricity, fuel) of one of our great, powerful western consumer democracies, then that nation will be reduced to total anarchy in a matter of months!
School in Germany starts at 7:30am. At least it did when I was in school there. This simple, but ingenious fact contributes greatly to the overall good of German society. The children lean better in the morning hours, before the passionate mid-day sets in, they get trained to get up early and their parents are also forced to get up early. Both children and parents therefore have to go to bed earlier, reducing nightly sinful and criminal activities. Children (and adults) can't get into trouble at night if they're not awake. Brilliant!
At the same time, I wasn??(TM)t too happy about the German curriculum. Here are some things I disliked:
They choose to ignore the history of the world outside of Europe (and the American west). I really wanted to learn some Asian, African and South American history, but the teacher??(TM)s response was: ??oesorry??.
World War II was ignored. While World War I was covered in great detail, the painful memories of the second Great War were blocked out. History lessons covered the time up to 1939 and then made a jump to 1945. What happened in between, I asked. Teacher??(TM)s response: ??oenothing interesting??.
Lutheran religious education (evangelische Religion) primarily covered two themes: the role of the church in the 3rd Reich and various philosophies of religion. The latter lessons taught us na??ve kids that "religion and divinity are projections of human nature" (Ludwig Feuerbach) and that "Gott ist tot" (Friedrich Nietzsche). As a result I and practically all my friends became complete atheists.
Sports were limited to some basic team sports and track and field. Neither provided much in the way of good exercise. Team sports involved standing around most of the time waiting for the ball to come one's way. Track and field involved waiting around most of the time waiting for one's turn to run or jump. Physical education could have been orchestrated to be much more interesting and provide much more benefit for the students.
I??(TM)m back in Manchester from my visit to Germany. My realization is that the external environment makes a huge difference one's ability to practice Krishna consciousness.
My parents??(TM) house in Germany is filled with so much stuff: over 30 years of clutter. This mass of mess (even if orderly arranged) seriously agitated my senses. I could not chant the maha-mantra property in that environment. My mind would constantly interrupt, asking me to do so many seemingly important things. Very soon I would give in to its demands, my resolve weakened by the atmosphere.
- The result: I didn??(TM)t chant all in one go, but spread out throughout the day.
- The result: chanting became a chore, an unwelcome duty that I had to push myself to do.
- The result: my meditation was wavering, weak and wholly inadequate.
- The result: my days became distracted, full of sense-gratification and completely unproductive.
Krishna is not kidding in the Bhagavad Gita when he says that he is time. With the pure single-pointed attention that Krishna consciousness brings one can accomplish many, many things in a seemingly very short amount of time.
An inattentive, unconscious person might work really hard their whole life, but ultimately get very little done. However, a fully Krishna conscious devotee (such as Srila Prabhupada) can write 60 books, circle to globe 14 times, initiate thousands of disciples and create a world-wide network of temples and ashrams all in just 12 years.
This morning, back at my flat, I was amazed at how much better my chanting was. Chanting was such a rejuvenating and refreshing experience. I didn't want to stop. I could have gone on for hours and hours.
The experience has strengthened my determination to live simply. Today I went through all the stuff in my flat and threw a load of it away. I filled two large garbage bags full of unless junk I had accumulated. I must do this kind of review more often.
I like Germany. This is partially to do with my having grown up here, but also because Germany has a very deep history and culture. Just turn on one of the many classical radio stations to see what I mean. Of course, any piety that is left in Germany is rapidly dwindling due to the influences of Kali-yuga pop-culture. Such a shame, Germany has/had so much potential.
Example: I talked to a neighbor last week (Frau Schott). A 91-year old lady. She was still sharp-witted, living with and giving advice to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her body was strong enough to walk up the town's step hills carrying her shopping basket. Certainly some very good karma there for a very nice lady.
I also met some old friends from high-school. It was interesting to hear what has happened to everyone. I can see that they are all just harvesting the results of the karma: some have gotten married (most haven't), some have children (mostly accidentally), some are still studying (forever aimless students), some are working (and are too busy to do anything else but work). I could see, in every case, that whatever my past classmates were experiencing was pre-determined. Everyone was automatically getting their various desires fulfilled by the laws of nature according to their various stocks of pious-credits. Very little free will (although quite a bit of good karma).
The same would also have happened to me. I too would be living the same, old, boring, mundane, dry, been-there-done-that life that everyone seems to take so seriously. But in the period from 2000 until 2002 I gradually made the conscious decision to switch trains: from the Karma-merry-go-round to the Krishna-Express. Looking back, I'm glad I did.
(My eternal gratitude to those devotees who influenced and advised me.)
I recently read an interesting article by Paul Graham on how to make wealth. He advocates working really, really hard in a start-up for a few years and (maybe) getting a huge pay-off from the effort (or ending up with nothing, if the venture, like ever so many start-ups, fails).
However, an interesting point he makes is the distinction between wealth and money. Wealth is what we are really after, while money is just the exchange medium for wealth we use in today's society. All the money of the world would be of no use to you if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing to buy. Similar, if you had a machine (or surabi cow) that could create anything you desired, you would have no need for money.
Until recently even governments sometimes didn't grasp the distinction between money and wealth. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) mentions several that tried to preserve their "wealth" by forbidding the export of gold or silver. But having more of the medium of exchange would not make a country richer; if you have more money chasing the same amount of material wealth, the only result is higher prices.
Similarly, on a smaller scale, many people chase after money, when what they actually desire is wealth. Wealth is whatever someone values and therefore wants to acquire.
Graham falls into the same trap that ensnares practically everyone. He reasons:
Create things that people desire => make money => buy things you desire => objective accomplished.
In reality the following happens:
... buy things you desire => desire more => buy more => desire more => buy more => never become truly satisfied
The spiritual solution is given in BG 2.70: instead of trying to create more and more wealth we should practice minimizing your desires (and since annihilating desire is impossible, replacing it with a higher taste - BG 2.59). That way, even if we don't have the luck (good karma) to be part of a successful start-up, we'll still be supremely wealthy. We'll be able to buy all the things you want, even with a modest income, because we'll desire less stuff than the common manipulated-by-marketing consumer. Even better, we'll also will gain permanent, spiritual wealth.
All material wealth is eventually destroyed by the effects of time. However, spiritual advancement lasts forever.
I just listened to an interesting interview with John Barrow, a cosmologist and mathematician who talks about his book: The Infinite Book : A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless.
He explains how the Universe may or may not be infinity and outlines a theory where our particular Universe is finite, but there exists an infinitely old realm of unlimited parallel universes beyond ours. We will however, never know for sure, since, in order to get information from those other Universes that information would have to travel faster than the speed of light, which is, of course, impossible (according to Einstein).
This theory sounds remarkably similar to the view of the Universe given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Maha-Visnu is in the infinite spiritual causal ocean where time does not exist and generates unlimited finite Universes just like ours.
Barrow also explains how there are different sized infinities (as discovered by Galileo Galilei). There are, in fact, an unlimited number of infinities, each larger than the next. The infinite infinity is mathematically impossible (as shown by Georg Cantor, but hypothetically possible for a meta-physical being such as God.
There are several statements in Vedic literature that the spiritual energy is three times larger than the material energy (SB 2.6.20 and Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya-lila Chapter 21 Verses 51, 55, 56, 57, 87). Devotees always told me that these statements were not to be taken literally. I was however never satisfied with that explanation. However, using Cantor??(TM)s mathematics of infinite sets, it is indeed perfectly reasonable to talk about multiple differently sized infinities.
In today??(TM)s world it is not enough simply to offer some service or product. Products and services are very quickly becoming commoditized, so one must offer some extra value in order to stand out of the crowd. One??(TM)s offering needs to be polished. Here are some examples:
Mac OS X is a very polished computer operating system software: much more so than Windows and much, much more so than Linux (which might have all the features, but lacks the glitter). Polish may seem irrelevant to someone who just wants something that will get the job done, but most people want more. My parents were certainly impressed at the rotating cube fast user switching effect on their Mac mini. That sort of good impression is much more important than the ability to open a file a few milliseconds more quickly.
A good yoga teacher will not just show the yoga asanas (postures). He or she will give a running commentary, tell jokes, tell stories, correct the students??(TM) postures, offer complements to the students when they perform a difficult asana, play background music, light incense, in short, offer a whole polished yoga-experience. Anyone can, after all, do gymnastic exercise.
Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-Mantra is easy. You just say the words. However, attentive chanting is difficult (at least for me). The aim is to be so fixed in one??(TM)s attention and cry out with such sincerity that Krishna can??(TM)t help but take personal notice. Even chanting just one mantra in such a pure fashion can make someone completely Krishna conscious in an instant. All material contamination is brushed aside. Someone like me however is far away from that stage of shininess and needs to keep polishing. Luckily, practicing the chanting is the very means of polish.
I heard a researcher make the following comment in a recent mp3 lecture I was listening to: ??oeThe fact that all species use DNA as their means of copying and reproduction is the single most compelling proof of the theory of evolution.??
Juxtaposing that with the following: ??oeThe fact that computers all use transistors is the single most compelling proof that they came about by random mutations of silicon ore.??
When you come up with a new idea, for heavens sake, don??(TM)t present in a public forum: envious, self-obsessed people will cut you down to make themselves look good. Instead, talk to as many people as possible one-to-one. Get their feedback and slowly perfect the idea, so that, when it comes time to present it, everyone in the room already knows all about it and agrees with your plan (and there was no reason anymore to actually give the presentation).
Researchers will try to help each other up to a point, but everyone very much looks out for their own prestige and publication count. This is very different from working in a company: there maximum teamwork is encouraged. ??oeWorks well in a team?? is never in the job description for a researcher, but very much a critical skill for any corporate employee. Firms are in the research game so that the company as-a-whole can make more money. Universities are also in the research game to make more (government grant) money, but it??(TM)s more every man/woman/student for himself/herself.
There is more freedom in academic, but also more competition. Whereas employees in the corporate world are slaves, but at least don??(TM)t need to worry about someone stealing their good ideas.
However, whatever the field of work, the politics and social manipulation is often much more important than actual skill. I might as well try to learn (or renouce it all and live the worry free, easy life of a saint).
I reinstalled Windows XP on my computer over the weekend. My lowly Dell Inspiron 4150 laptop was showing its age. The operating system was clogged up lots and lots of old applications and orphaned data. It was time for a spring clean.
I deleted everything (after doing a backup) and started from scratch. It took three days to install all the many, many programs, utilities and applications I use. I must have downloaded gigabytes of updates and software. Windows itself is the worst culprit. The amount of patches and updates Microsoft has released in 3 years is mind-boggling.
As Gopala-Guru has remarked recently: something as complex as Windows needs constant tweaking and fixing by highly intelligent software engineers. Something even more complex, like the human body, supposedly came about completely by chance and involved no intelligent design whatsoever. Uh-hu ??¦
Yes, sometimes it is necessary to tear down the decrepit, old, moldy, rotten and highly unstable foundations and start over. A fresh new beginning to break free from past paradigms can work wonders. Free from debt and in a new attractive, city-center location ...
It certainly worked well for my computer. It runs so much faster now. Almost like new. The austerity of the re-install will help me get a few more months of life out of this machine.