Thursday, June 29, 2006

Echoes of Kulimela

For photo tour of the 2006 Kulimela in New Vrindavan, go to

For a behind the scenes peek at one aspect of Kulimela, here is the email Chaits sent out to those involved with the Kid’s Camp. While this is specifically about KC and Kulimela, he has a desire that in the future the KC would spin off into a life of its own, with maybe a one or two week KC held yearly in NV, perhaps:

Hi all,

I'd like to share some of my ideas for improvement of the next Kid's Camp:

1. I should have made arrangements for the Kid's Camp to start on Thursday. There were many kids (and parents) who would have attended if we had started a day earlier.

2. Because of the really late night on Saturday, Sunday Camp didn't happen. A few volunteers were on hand, but kids didn't really show. So, even half day on Sunday does not seem necessary.

3. I could have made a better distinction between between the older and younger camps and activities. Next time there probably should be two separate areas for each age group. A good balance of both age groups showed up on Friday. During that day the younger kids needed more time and energy than the older, more self-reliant ones. This meant the older ones got less attention. Because of this only half the older kids returned on Saturday. We need to find ways to get the kids between the ages of 10 and 14 more interested and involved.

4. The Kid's Camp should be set up in an area a bit more separate and removed from the rest of the festival. This time the location was right in the middle of the Kulimela action. This often made it more difficult to keep track of the kids. It also made the energy in and around the Camp a bit more frantic and hectic.

5. This year we were very fortunate that the weather was excellent. Because many of the activities/workshops were held outdoors next time we need to make sure we have a better thought out contingency plan in case of bad weather.

6. Scheduling of late night activities that include the kids need to be concluded by 10 pm so they can go to bed at a reasonable time. The Harinama parade with the star lanterns didn't happen because it was too late at night.

7. The lunch Prasad on Saturday was a bit spicy for the kids. We ended up having to find alternate food for many of the kids. Luckily, the Snack Bar stepped up and donated pizzas and the kids were satisfied.

8. More thought and effort should be put into the "Kid's Area" near the entertainment site. Vraja came up with a great idea and set up an area where parents could bring their kids and trade off watching them. If a little more energy had been put into this it would have been used a lot more.

9. I could have done a better job arranging for some kind of "Thank You" gift for all the volunteers. I mentioned most of them by name at the Sunday Fare Well speech but would have liked to give them some memento as well.

10. The dates for Kulimela need to be later in the season so that more kids can attend without having to make special arrangements to get out of school early.

Overall, I think Kulimela exceeded all of our expectations. Through our efforts we raised the bar and still have plenty of room for improvement next time!

IMPORTANT: I'd like to hear any ideas/suggestions you may have.

With great admiration and appreciation,


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Funeral, a Wedding, a Birth, and a Rebirth

My paternal grandfather had 23 grandchildren. The family has a group emailing that gets used time to time to keep in touch. Here is a email I sent this morning, the first since my transplant:

My daughter Manjari had a baby this morning in Columbus, Ohio at around 2 am June 28. C-section, 8 pounds 2 ounces, 20 inches. Her name is Sydney Aleya (spelling?).

I was thinking this has been an archetypical 30 days for the Meberg clan. In Eastern religions, they talk about the samsara, the cycle of birth and death. We have experienced the major milestones of samsara as a family.

Yesterday was the 4 week anniversary of my liver transplant. It was the same day Burt left his body, which I learned after being revived. I was comforted to hear his passing was peaceful and at home with family.

Recently, I almost bled out when some esophageal varices ruptured. My sister Laura had flown in as I was recovering, so I got caught up on family news. I knew that my cousin Dean’s daughter Katie was getting married at the same time as my transplant. Though I don’t really know Katie, due to geographical separation, it gave me peace going into the operation knowing that no matter what happened to me, from the perspective of family, a new life in the form of a marriage was being forged. So thank you Katie for that.

I also knew that Manjari wanted me to see her new baby. Whom I hope I will see later today. Marken has been in Morgantown, using the last of his medical leave to prepare the apartment he and Tulasi will be staying in at WVU, applying for jobs, and buying a car. He will be out of the Navy in time to start at WVU. He will be here around noon and we can drive the 2 ½ hours to Columbus and have a visit with the baby.

So there we have the funeral, the wedding, and the birth.

As for rebirth, that describes my own experience. A generation ago, I would have been dead a couple of months ago. Marken took leave from the Navy when he heard I was in the ICU with the bleeding, came home and donated 65% of his liver. While ultimately my fate was in the hands of the Lord, externally the medical technology that extended my life was unavailable 20 years ago. So in a sense, it is a physical rebirth, but instead of reincarnation, my body was recycled. Waking up helpless, unable to move or independently perform bodily functions, fed through a tube. Recovering function bit by bit, it was a lot like a child learning how to control and use a new body.

I am grateful to be here, to be part of an extended family, and for the opportunity to again be a productive member of society, both materially and spiritually. I celebrated my 4th week anniversary by walking a quarter mile in the morning and in the evening, leaning on a lawn mower and pushing it around the straight and level parts of our front lawn. Which was probably a mistake because my incision was a little sore this morning, but it felt great last night to be pushing myself to get something done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Existence of HIgher Power Obvious To Farmers

Farmers Hope For Showers

"PARK RIVER, N.D. - Some of Luther Meberg's crops are dying. And he knows he can't do anything but have hope. Meberg, a farmer, said the future of this year's harvest is up to Mother Nature.

"We did what we can do," Meberg said. "Now, Mother Nature has to do her part."

But she hasn't been.

In the past 51 days, the rain gauge on Meberg's farm has only seen rain on seven days. The highest measurement recorded was just 0.32 of an inch. The rest were around one-tenths of an inch, Meberg said.

His crops could be in serious trouble if a couple of inches of rain don't fall on his 1,900 tillable acres. He already estimates he has lost the top half of yield potential in his wheat grains. If the dry weather spell continues, he could produce as little as 10 to 15 bushels per acre. Compare this with two years ago, when he produced 63 bushels per acre. Last year, even with too much rain and crops dying from disease, he was able to produce 33 bushels per acre. This year's dry spell has just hit hard..."

My brother Luther was on the front page of his local newspaper. He continued farming after I left. I have a reporter coming out today from our local Wheeling paper who wants to do a story on my transplant. Somebody dropped a dime on me.

Yesterday morning I went out and walked a quarter mile. That would be 400 meters. It took me 12 minutes, pushing it hard, huffing and puffing from the git go. I was exhausted when I got back, and it took 90 minutes to recover. Now, if, at a minimum, you run 3 miles in a soccer match (5-6 more probably) that is 12 quarters of a mile x 12 minutes would equal 144 minutes time for a game’s worth. Add in recovery time between each quarter mile, and, well, you get the idea – I am not up to game speed yet. Next year in the match!

Still, relative to what I have been able to do, when 2 meters from the couch was a good distance to the bathroom and the 3 meters to my computer a great journey, walking a quarter mile was great. I was thankful I could do that, and it gave me confidence that greater recovery is inevitable.

Went to Tulasi and Thakur’s summer league game last night. As it was Thakur’s 17th birthday, my wife made cupcakes and after the match we distributed them to both teams and their family members. That was fun.

I didn’t have to go to UPMC last Friday; did have to get blood drawn in Wheeling a couple of times. Went yesterday, and as the multiple tubes of blood were being filled, my phlebotomist asked someone passing in the hall if Tara was working. I immediately thought how amazing Krishna is, remembering my post of June 11th 2006.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who Is The Taste Of Soda?

"O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man."

Bg 7.8

Okay, occasionally I drink a soda, but not on a regular basis. Usually I filter my own water. Much cheaper than soda and no containers to dispose of. The following may not be totally accurate scientifically, but deserves some consideration as well.

Soft drinks: Unsafe beverages

"Amazingly, Americans (and people in other countries) actually drink a product that can rightfully be called Osteoporosis In a Can. And, it gets worse from there. Read on.
This poison goes by many brand names, such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. Generically, this poison is on the market in formulations known as soda, pop, and soft drinks. It includes all carbonated beverages--even carbonated plain water. The various substances in sodas compound the problem, especially the typical formulations with their carbonic acid or phosphoric acid.

Reading the rest of this article may be the best use you've ever made of 5 minutes. Yeah, we know Pepsi will never sponsor an ad on this site. But your health is more important to us.

It's tragic that the "beverage" industry shoves this toxic brew at human beings. Let's take a closer look at what it does..."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Irony and Piss

I grew up in North Dakota, close to the Canadian border, and in the flight path of a SAC wing bomber unit. The sonic booms of aircraft breaking the sound barrier and the knowledge that planes carrying nuclear weapons were routinely landing 50 miles away was as much a part of my growing up as sandboxes and elementary school. I remember as a pre-schooler watching my mom talking to a uniformed Air Force officer. When he left, I asked her what he wanted and she said he asked her to call a phone number if any planes flew in low under the radar. In grade school, we had nuclear attack drills.

In 1965, a Minutemen missile field was completed and all the B-52s went to Viet Nam. We lived in the middle of 150 nuclear missiles, spread out over 50 miles. Driving to and from the locations we farmed at, it was common to see missile silos and the little signs that showed where the communication cables were laid between them.

Eventually I left, not being comfortable living in a primary target zone, amongst other reasons. Long complicated story – I ended up in New Vrindaban. There I found the discipline I needed at that point in my life. I think I may have ended up more naturally in the military, but Viet Nam was the wrong war at the wrong time for me. In New Vrindavan, my survivalist instincts were easily dovetailed. For the first twenty years I was there, I made sure there was enough grain on hand at any time to feed the entire community for a year. Even while farming, primarily for the purpose of feeding cows, I would plant corn in the spring, and when it was harvested in the fall, a cover crop of rye. One aspect of this was that any given time if there was some societal collapse, we would always have a crop in the field that, if push came to shove, could be harvested by hand for human food, even if our larder had been plundered.

Now, New Vrindavan is just as dependent on the macro society for its inputs as every other ISKCON temple. I had my own personal thing going after the old school management at the temple kicked my family and me to the curb, but that has more or less ended with my descent into disability. No one even noticed when their larder went empty.

So for me, the whole survivalist thing is memory. More ironic than that, due to my now lifelong dependence on anti-rejection drugs due to the transplant, my life is tied to the continuance of industrial society and the pharmafia. Very funny, Krishna; so much for my illusion of independence.

I still have an academic interest in these things. For instance, here is a link to an article that may be of interest to those who are simultaneously addicted to electronic devices and convinced the larger society is doomed.

Scientists harness the power of pee


"A urine powered battery the size of a credit card has been invented by Singapore researchers. A drop of urine generates 1.5 volts, the equivalent of one AA battery, says Dr Ki Bang Lee of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology...

Is it practical?

Foley says the energy generated by the urine-powered battery would be enough to keep a digital wristwatch or a scientific calculator going, but anything bigger would be impractical. "You could probably increase the power by having more of them and loading them up," she says. "[For power on a large scale] you'd probably have to coat the whole of Australia in this paper-based electrode and wee on it."..."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Restoring Illusion

Fatigue continues unabated. Energy level at about what it was before the transplant. This was predicted, that energy would be diverted to regenerating the liver from the 65% of one I received. Have been making some relatively rapid progress in my range of motion in the last week. I can actually pick something off the floor. Always took that for granted, pre-op. The first time I was able to pick something up post-op was about a week ago. I would have to spread my feet as far apart as I could and still be stable. Then I would bend my knees about half way into a squat, lean forward and rest one elbow on a knee, then dip a shoulder and extend the other arm to the ground. I could then reach something, and slowly reverse the process to get back to an upright position. Such a sense of accomplishment! Now I can get something in what might appear to a casual observer to be a more natural movement. It still requires some focus and attention to technique but that is a major benchmark

I can even rollup onto my side when trying to sleep, and fall asleep. It is still a bit awkward, and I end up waking up after a REM cycle, but nice to have the option. Overall, the level of discomfort has fallen off a lot and is no longer as restrictive an element in a decision of what I am capable of doing. Some weird transitory skeletal muscular pains manifest and unmanifest, but that is most likely a side effect of the drugs I am taking I suspect, as is the slight tremor I have in my hands.

I have even gone, gently, through my pregame stretching routine. Much of what I do is essentially yoga positions, or variations thereof. I am concerned about scarring on the muscles as they knit and long-term range of motion restrictions. On the other hand, I don’t want to stretch too hard and tear the muscles. Don’t really have a guru in these matters to consult. Alas, the tribulations of a nonprofessional athlete, lacking the support staff that must accompany every World Cup team. To strengthen the illusion I will never age, I need to be able to retain my flexibility and range of motion. At least my legs, while tight, will rebound to former levels after doing some more stretching. I have been trying to make a point of fully expanding my lungs to help their capacity so I have it when I need it. Initially it felt like a band was restricting full expansion of my diaphragm, but that seems to have eased off.

Apparently my new mantra is:

restore body, restore body
Body body, restore restore
restore illusion, restore illusion
illusion illusion, restore restore

Now, if I could only remember that other one...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Voyagers in the Mist

Gliding through the calm predawn sea
guided by dim silhouettes
and the smell of wood smoke,
they beach their boats on muffling wet sands.

Leather clad feet slip without ripples
into the final shallows of a long journey.
Held soundlessly away from their bodies:
sharp, hungry weapons.

The first to have dreamt his last
dream is the dozing sentry.
Many others are also dreaming their last
dream. Many others.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Grey Day

I need some cheering up. No, not my physical thing, that is having a good day. Has to do with external events beyond my control influencing my mental state. Don't worry about me though, it's ghana be okay.

A lady from the city and her traveling companion were riding the train
through Vermont when she noticed some cows.

"What a cute bunch of cows!" she remarked.
"Not a bunch, herd", her friend replied.
"Heard of what?"
"Herd of cows."
"Of course I've heard of cows."
"No, a cow herd."
"What do I care what a cow heard. I have no secrets to keep from a cow!"

What are the spots on black and white cows?

What kind of milk comes from a forgetful cow?
Milk of Amnesia

Where do cows go when they want a night out?
To the moo-vies!

What did the bored cow say when she got up in the morning?
"It's just an udder day"

How does a farmer count a herd of cows?
With a Cowculator

Where do Russians get their milk?
From Mos-cows

What do cows wear in Hawaii?
Moo- moos

What do call a cow that has just had a calf?

Why did the cow wear a bell around her neck?
Because her horn didn't work

Did you hear that NASA recently launched a bunch of Holsteins into low Earth
They called it the Herd Shot 'Round The World!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Birth and Rebirth

Quiet this morning. Marken is still off in Morgantown, and last night, Clint, Vraja, and granddaughter Gracie left for Columbus Ohio to be with Manjari, so the house feels empty. Tulasi is still here, but he is puttering around outside somewhere and my wife is gone off on her walk.

This is the theoretical big day for Manjari, the day the doctors had given as the approximate due date for her baby. I called this morning and nothing has happened yet. Vraja will be staying with her through the birth and help her transition into her home with the newborn. This was the actual reason for her originally planning an extended visit here this summer – the Kulimela and to help Manjari. My whole medical drama was an unscheduled sideshow. Certainly worked out as well as could be expected, maybe some divine guidance made it all mesh together the way it did. Vraja said she is going to work on massaging Manjari today, and concentrate on some points on her hands and feet (?) that may help the event move smoothly.

I feel in some ways like I have had a new birth. After the operation, I awoke helpless, completely dependent on others for all bodily functions. I had a catheter for passing urine. Initially, bowel movements weren’t even an issue, as they had given us some stuff to drink before the operation that was a very effective purgative, emptying the digestive tract. That was why we wanted to go to Pittsburgh the afternoon before admittance, because the need to be near a toilet was paramount. :-) Plus, they give you a drug that shuts down the digestive system. As my operation lasted 12-14 hours, they couldn’t have any activity going on.

Flat on my back, any movement was very unpleasant. There were two IVs hooked up in one arm, something going on in the other. I was connected to a heart monitor and I think I had one of those blood oxygen sensors on my finger. There were 2 tubes coming out the right side of my abdomen that each ended in collection bags where fluid was draining out. Not connected, but still there in case something happened and they had to take me back into surgery, were tubes into the main veins on each side of my throat into which they recycle your blood during the surgery. There was something like these boots on my calves that cycled on like blood pressure checkers every few minutes. They squeezed the lower extremities so no clots would form.

I don’t remember anything about the first day in the ICU, when they had a ventilator stuck down my throat. My wife tells me stories about that day. After the ventilator was out, I was talking to her, to Kuladri who came and visited, and the doctors and nurses, but it is a blank. She said just before they pulled the ventilator, she came into the room and I had a clipboard in my hand and was attempting to write on it. After they pulled the ventilator out, my first words was to say, “It’s just a bunch of lines, isn’t it?” or something to that effect. It was.

Anyway, the next week was pretty much a constant meditation on urine and stool, and each benchmark was some event that moved me closer to normal digestive function. I could spend a week’s posts detailing this. Or as Marken so succinctly reduced the whole experience, “Pass stool, go home.” I wish I could desire Krishna as much as I desired that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fans Lose Trousers To Gain Entry

This is so over the top my first response was it must be a hoax but it seems to be real. Atheists, or even so-called religious people, who are so arthacentric, so obsessed with economics, with amassing unnecessary wealth for sense gratification, are ruining everything, IMHO.

Soccer is a game, meant for exercise and clean fun for kids. The type of mentality that leads to actions like this is seriously out of balance. Don’t these big companies understand what heartless fools they come off as being?

Short Version at BBC News

"Football's governing body has explained why up to 1,000 Dutch fans watched a World Cup tie wearing no trousers.

Around 1,000 fans arrived for the Ivory Coast tie in their traditional bright orange trousers - but bearing the logo and name of a Dutch brewery.

To protect the rights of the official beer they were denied entry, so the male fans promptly removed the trousers and watched the game in underpants.

Fifa said an attempt at an "ambush" publicity campaign was not allowed.

Fifteen major companies have paid up to $50m (£27m) each for the right to be official partners at this World Cup.

The American firm Anheuser Busch, which makes Budweiser, won the exclusive right to promote and sell its beverage in the stadiums and other venues.

There has been a wider resentment in Germany that a US brewery has the exclusive rights in a country which prides itself on the quality of its beer and has very strict laws governing its composition."

More In Depth Story at Guardian Unlimited

Monday, June 19, 2006

Like a Leaf, Driven By The Wiind

I am not allowed to drive for 6 weeks after the operation, so I need someone to take me anywhere I go. At this point, this seems quite logic to me. Hopefully, I’ll be chomping at the bit by 6 weeks, but so far I have no desire to drive, and have no faith in my ability to do so. I had sort of already come to this point even before, as I usually had someone driving me around anyway due to fatigue from the dysfunctional liver. The outmost limit of any self-driven excursion was about 30 minutes one way, on a good day. So I am already pretty conditioned to this limitation.

This needing to be driven is complicated by the fact we don’t have our own car. I had to wait to be admitted to the hospital for the transplant until 12:01 AM on a Tuesday. This because of health coverage – to check in early the previous evening would have cost a whole day and it wouldn’t have been covered. Our plan was to go up Monday midday, check into the Family House, and nap and relax until midnight. The Family House is a partially subsidized place for patients and family to stay that are going through the transplant process or other long term hospitalization. Anyway, Sunday night the transmission went out on our car. I called Balabhadra and he came and towed it home (fortunately, the tranny went out on the ridge). He also offered to make arrangements to get it replaced, which was a great relief to me as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to and he was competent to go through the process of shopping around for best value and getting it replaced.

We had to borrow a vehicle to get to Pittsburgh, about 1.5 hours away off peak traffic. Rush hour traffic can add another 30 minutes to that. As I recollect, my daughter, Vraja, visiting from Colorado with her daughter Gracie, lent us her vehicle to go. Ever since then, we have been borrowing vehicles or have been driven by friends. An independent variable that affects recovery is a good social network, and I feel that somehow or other, mostly undeservedly, I certainly have that. Last Friday, Gopisa spent virtually the whole day driving me to my weekly appointment, and many others have also come forward.

For economic reasons, we couldn’t go to one of the national transmission franchises. There is a local guy with a good reputation who specializes in trannys, so we used him. A problem developed because he ordered a used tranny, and when it arrived, he wouldn’t put it in because it seemed too worn out, so he ordered another one. That arrived last week and the car should be ready for pickup today, ending 3 weeks of being without.

Which is why my wife, using my daughter’s vehicle, drove me up to the temple yesterday afternoon about the time the feast was being served. The temple area was quiet, as the feast was being served up the hill where all the entertainment had been happening. Bhajan was going on in the yajnashalla, and it was pleasant being able to talk to various devotees who wandered by. The awkward part was so many wanted to shake hands or hug me and I would have to wave them off explaining that I was immunosurpressed and needed to avoid contact. Did get to spend time with a lot of devotees, including Chaits and his 4 siblings who were all in town. Got reports of how things had gone over the weekend, so vicariously was able to experience a lot of what had transpired.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nectar and Urine

Yesterday I slipped up to the temple for an hour after the sun was up but before the seminars started. It was quieter, most people either not about yet or in Radhanath’s class. I caught about 10 minutes of his class, which qualitatively was at the level most expect from him. He has health problems and I would hope at some point devotees will be prepared to cut him some slack and let the body of his work speak for itself, and not judge him by “what have you done for me lately.”

Mostly I sat out front and talked to devotees who walked by. Such a simple thing we take for granted but it was wonderful for me. I know I will eventually forget that, and go through my day assuming there will be devotees around, but at least for the moment I appreciate the association.

The kirtan in the yajnashalla (a gazebo like structure located between the temple and the guest lodge) hadn’t started yet, but a devotee was in there doing puja to the Gaura-nitai Deities presiding there. He then sat and was chanting japa. The whole vibe of the place was anticipatory to the kirtan and bhajans that seemed to be hovering unmanifest in the ether like a cloaked queue waiting for the slightest provocative to emerge as sound vibration.

All around were unmanned tents and booths. It was easy to visualize how vibrant it would be later in the day. I didn’t make it over to the children’s center, will maybe do that today if I can.

One interesting aspect of this festival is the multi dimensionality of it. While there are the sort of old school, swami centric type things happening, with lots of nice classes and kirtans and typical stuff, it exists in parallel to what seems to me to be an emergent new model. During the day, there are maybe 4 different seminars happening simultaneously, most put on by second generation or new younger devotees. The range of topics is quite varied. Plus, there are hours and hours of entertainment at night, ranging from traditional bharat natyam dancing to fashion shows to the 5 bands that played last night, scheduled to go until 3 am. The entertainment is in a pasture between the temple and the Palace. There was even a soccer tournament. The two types of festivals seem to mesh well together and give attendees a wide range of potential experiences and opportunities.

My daughter has been involved helping Chaits with the children’s camp, which is almost a third type of festival in itself. For many gurukulis, the old model reunion aimed at singles and young childless couples no longer reflects the reality of their lives, which is dominated by care for their children. Chaits wants to develop a format designed for that demographic. Neither the swami centric festival nor the gurukuli reunion models accommodate it very well currently.

Marken took part in a seminar about devotees in the military. I haven’t gotten an after action report from him yet on that. There are all the general issues any youngster would have contemplating such a career choice, and the benefits/risk/negatives to consider, but for devotees there are others. One of the biggest is diet.

As for my bodily condition update, yesterday’s benchmark achieved was being able to clear my throat for the first time since the operation. Sounds like no big deal, but try going through a day or two without doing it. I bet you can’t.

The benchmark I hit a couple of days ago was being able to push a little bit at the end of passing urine instead of relying on gravity for all the action. I realized I am already taking it for granted, but it really was wonderful to be able to do so. It made it possible to completely empty my bladder and increased the time for a urine cycle, and when you are living on a level where urine cycle has replaced the hour as the primary unit of time, and all plans and trips are made with accommodating the urine cycle in mind, this was a big deal. It lengthens the interval between cycles and opens more options. Sleeping through the whole night now becomes more of a probability. Marken says he already can sleep straight through, so looking forward to that.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I've Found God Says Man Who Cracked Genome

"The scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real. Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”..."

Complete Article

Friday, June 16, 2006

Attachment and Detachment

“One of the chief obstacles to this perfection of selfless charity, is the selfish anxiety to get the most out of everything, to be a brilliant success in our own eyes and in the eyes of other men. We can only get rid of this anxiety by being content to miss something in almost everything we do. We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything else go, we will probably be able to retain the one thing necessary for us -whatever it may be. If we are too eager to have everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need.

Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one thing necessary’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed. “

From No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, New York, 1955) Page 130

Went to weekly appointment today. 4 hours round trip plus 5 hours in the clinic, mostly waiting. So feeling sort of wasted.

Kulimela is in full swing. Mobs of youths. I mostly get second hand reports as my family comes and goes from my house to the temple. Hope someone writes it up and shares with the world. I won’t. It seems to be quite a dynamic event.

Marken has figured out young ladies are quite impressed by a large scar and a story behind it that you gave part of your liver to your dying dad. When I mentioned to him he could minimize the scarring by applying vitamin E, he said, “Why would I want to do that?” They had used internal stitching and butterfly bandages to hold his incision together.

I had my 43 staples pulled out today. My incision was higher so apparently needed more to hold it together. I had the idea that I would go somewhere kids with lots of body piercings hang out and show my staples off. So out of touch I wouldn’t even know where to go though. What to speak of if I had the energy to do that I might go spend some time at the Kulimela. It’s all academic now. Goodbye, staples. Doctor said wait with the vitamin E until the scabs fall off. Not that there is much scabbing, surprisingly.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

All The Things You Should’ve Done

“The material creations are manifested for some time as perverted shadows of the spiritual kingdom and can be likened to cinemas. They attract people of less intelligent caliber who are attracted by false things. Such foolish men have no information of the reality, and they take it for granted that the false material manifestation is the all in all. But more intelligent men guided by sages like Vyasa and Narada know that the eternal kingdom of God is more delightful, larger, and eternally full of bliss and knowledge.”

SB 1.1.17

There was a period when I used to spend some time with some Lakota (a Native American nation) religious guys. One of them was fond of saying that there is culture, religion, and spirituality, and you need to know the difference. When he was asked one time what is spirituality, he replied, “Don’t take things for granted.”

We see things being taken for granted all the time. How many take it for granted that they should chant gayatri 3 times a day, but never really think about what they are chanting and take the rising and the setting of the sun for granted? How many hop into a car and drive somewhere for groceries and never think of how it came about they could do so and what the long term consequences are? Try going through your day and watch how you take things for granted.

Lakota warriors would sometimes greet the sunrise by chanting “It is a good day to die!” This was not some negative self destructive or depressive thing. It was about embracing life and being so fulfilled at that moment that death held no fear. Marken has this tattooed on his heal.

Here is a poem I stumbled across at It is about taking things for granted, IMHO.

All The Things You Should’ve Done

she is, as they all are,
inevitably vulnerable
a filament charged with light,
breakable with just the wrong handling

so we fuss around her, unbuckling this
and plugging in that,
with the upwards monitor glance
shared between us as her story
plays out in blue and yellow
and red

and i can’t talk to you yet,
because i’m stealing time
with your daughter from you;
it’s a transaction, i take
four hours, because i think
perhaps i might
be able to transfix her onrushing loss
with my drugs and devices

(and you sit by the door,
clear of the carnage,
wondering about
all the things you should’ve done)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Milking Time at New Vrindavan in the 1970s

Link to picture of me milking a cow.

Laxmi Honest called me the other day and mentioned she had seen a picture of me at the New Vrindavan website photo gallery, so I found it. I didn't used to milk that much, as I was the fields and crops guy, but did help on occasion.

The devotees in the picture from left to right are Ambarish, me, Cirantana, and Ganendra. Ambarish and Cirantana have already left their bodies. As will have the cows, which have a life span of 20 years possibly and were probably gone by the time the 90s rolled around.

Having a bit of an off day so making an easy post.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Soccer as Succor

Last night I had a great adventure. Tulasi plays in an adult summer soccer league, the same one I had played in for 8 years until 2004. So I know a lot of the guys who play in it. I never became close friends with them because I never got into the post game male bonding ritual of drinking; still, just knowing someone for a long time does build a relationship.

Simply being out on the sidelines, in the fresh air and sun, and seeing live soccer was such a treat for me. While I confess to having an interest in the World Cup, and use watching games as a tool to distract myself from the discomforts of my current situation, normally I don’t watch games or follow any particular team. For me, it has been more the experience I had of coaching kids for 10 years and using it as a way to interact with my own kids and perhaps be a bit of a positive role model for other local kids. That, and the actual playing of the game myself, which was a way to stay in shape and find some joy in a way not dependent on consumerism or over stimulating my senses. Something my body could amuse itself with.

The car trip to the field was the most difficult part. Our West Virginia roads twist and turn and bump now and then, and each minor shift was amplified by my still mending wounds. Once there, we got lucky and got a parking spot right next to the entry. I walked about 40 meters and Clint brought along a field chair that I sat in on about 25 meters up the sideline. Making it to midfield would have been a bit much as I was pushing to get where I did. Plus, most of the players booted up there and that is where the spectators were sitting. I am supposed to avoid crowds because even a minor flu of cold infection could be serious for me at this critical healing and liver reboot time.

Mostly I had little bits of conversations with people as they walked by. Some already knew I had had the transplant because they knew Tulasi was my son and had asked him before why I wasn’t playing this year. When others asked if I were playing, I would say I can’t, I just had a liver transplant. When they would ask when, I would say 13 days ago and the mild shock reaction they would show at someone being out so soon amused me.

Incidentally, I realized I have never mentioned that the liver regenerates itself. This is unique amongst all organs. So my son, left with 35% of his liver, will have a completely functional full sized one in a matter of weeks. The part I got will also grow out to full size. Of course, it takes a tremendous amount of energy for the body to do this, and the side effect is fatigue, but poison in the beginning, nectar in the end.

By the way, our team did win easily, 7-2. Thakur, the son of Jayaprahbupada, who had moved here from Brazil last year, scored once and had 2 assists. He rides in with us. All the teammates chant “Thakur” and “Tulasi” as part of the normal flow of communication in a game. I would think that has some benefit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Morning Musings

Two ISKCON Youth buses just rolled past our house on the way to the temple. It is still hours before noon. They were arriving from New York where they had left after the NY Ratha Yatra. New York is more or less 9 hour drive from here. According to Chaits, who had stopped by with his brother Bhima last night, they will be retuning to New York and keep making round trips until all those needing rides from NYC to the Kulimela have been brought here. Some attendees are flying into NYC and then catching the bus.

Chaits is involved in planning activities for the children of those attending. My wife is going to be helping out by doing some craft class or classes and we have been Chaits’ mail drop for supplies. My daughter Vraja is staying with us, along with her other, Clint, and their daughter, Deva Gracie, age 2 and ½. Vraja is also going to be involved with the kids’ programs. Interesting thought that I had as a future blog digression that I will throw out as a premise. While we all know that gurukuli is no longer a synonym for second generation devotee or ISKCON youth, I was wondering one day if there are any gurukulis who are grandparents yet. As the oldest ones are now in their 40s, it is possible. Chaits and I were discussing it and we know of at least one gurukuli who has children in their 20s.

Marken, who gave me 65% of his liver (I had been quoting 60% but he has corrected me) and his younger brother Tulasi are down in Morgantown furnishing the apartment they will be rooming together in the fall when classes at WVU start. Marken also has to finish signing up for more curriculum credits so he has enough to get his GI bill benefits. We had worried the operation might knock him off his schedule of being out of the US Navy Aug 5 and starting classes at WVU in mid-August but it seems his quick recovery and the Navy letting his emergency medical leave count towards his commitment, he is going to make it.

Anyway, I know no one in Australia will be reading this when it first posts as their national team’s first appearance in the World Cup in 32 years is being broadcast as I type.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha

First, an update. I walked into the temple last night for the first time, 11 days post transplant. It may have seemed a slow casual stroll to an observer, but to me it was a great adventurous trek. I circled around all the altars and then back to the car. My surgical team had advised me that walking was the best thing I could do to help recovery, though my body has plenty of excuses and reasons for not doing so. Walking, and drinking lots of water to flush poisons from all the drugs. Naturally, drinking lots leads to walking as the inevitable results of drinking manifest in an urge from the bladder, but I wanted to push myself and walk some extra to hasten the healing process, hence a trip to the temple.

This advice had been part of my first post release clinic after getting out of the hospital. The greatest news though was that I didn’t have to come back for my next clinical visit for a week. I had originally been told pretransplant that twice a weeks would be necessary for the first month or two, and then weeklies, but my blood test numbers were normalizing enough so I can go immediately to weeklies. Yee hah.

I have been mulling over how to write about this whole experience. On the one hand, it is easy to just go to the nectar, but it seems that that would give a distorted, unrealistic view of the entirety of what happened. Still, to give the nectar and the proper balance would take a lot of posts, and in the meantime life continues to unfold with daily mininectars coming one after another. For me, mostly of the kind that would be considered “material”, but that is the platform I function on. So I am still working that out. Today though, I am taking the easy route of a nectar post.

In the transition unit between the ICU and release, the nurses change shifts every 12 hours. In the ICU it is different set of nurses, then in the transition unit it is different set as you go from the weekend to the weekdays, and it seems even within the unit the schedule of which nurses get which patients can vary day to day. Bottom line is every time a shift changed, it seemed I had a whole new set of faces to familiarize with. An RN and a PCT is assigned you each shift, and they write their names on a dry eraser board. I did have a few nurses a couple of times, but the most stable name was Tara, who I got 4 different shifts.

Be advised: I will now be talking about Buddhism, so either proceed no further if you find that troubling, or at least turn off your mayavadi alarm. I will be promoting neither the practice nor the philosophy of Buddhism.

The name Tara struck me as interesting because I remembered hearing the Green Tara and White Tara mantras at some point. I knew that to some schools of Buddhism they have importance, though I didn’t know what they meant or anything. I asked Tara if she knew what her name meant, and she said no, mostly her parents had liked the sound of it. The "sound" of it. I told her about the Buddhist connection and said she might be interested in checking it out on the internet. Having made that suggestion, I got around to doing it myself and was blown away by what I read. Talk about an appropriate name for my nurse to have had in my condition. I felt like Krishna had made a special arrangement for me.

I have pasted in the explanation I found. To see pictures and a link to a sound file of the mantra itself, use the click through links. I didn’t check out the sound files myself because of the limits of my dialup connection and I already have plenty of mantras. (and no, this is not the obligatory devotee nectar story I promised, that is just now coming).

Green Tara Mantra

"Om Taare Tuttaare Ture Svaahaa
(Om Tare Tuttare Ture Svaha)

Tara (whose name means "star" or "she who ferries across") is the female Bodhisattva of compassion. In particular she represents compassion in action, since she's in the process of stepping from her lotus throne in order to help sentient beings."

White Tara Mantra

"Om Taare Tuttaare Ture Mama Ayuh Punya Jñaanaa Pushtim Kuru Svaahaa
(Om Tare Tuttare Ture Mama Ayuh Punya Jñana Pustim Kuru Svaha)

White Tara (Sitatara) is associated with long life. Her mantra is often chanted with a particular person in mind. She's another representation of compassion, and she's pictured as being endowed with seven eyes (look at the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and her forehead) to symbolize the watchfulness of the compassionate mind.

As a variant form of Green Tara, her mantra begins very similarly. But added to the play on the name of Tara are several words connected with long life. Ayuh is long life (as in Ayurvedic medicine). Punya means the merit that comes from living life ethically, and this merit is said to help one to live long and happily. Jnana is wisdom. Pushtim means wealth or abundance. Kuru is a mythical land to the north of the Himalayas, which was said to be a land of long life and happiness (it may have been the original northern home of the aryans). Mama means "mine" and indicates that you'd like to possess these qualities of long life, merit, wisdom, happiness, etc. You can of course choose to wish these qualities for someone else -- perhaps a loved one who is ill."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Post Operative Disclaimer

Any statements or representations made by me during the immediate future should be considered even less reliable than usual due to my current medical condition. Combinations of factors make me suspect my own memories and interpretations of events. Any dialogues should be considered more or less paraphrased. I was trying to organize experiences into memories as they unfolded but sometimes why things were as they were wasn’t clear until later when I was better able to see what my situation was in context to the entire transplant procedure. So these realizations were incorporated later, as were others’ memories of what happened.

Currently my material body is trying to readjust into some semblance of balance after going through some major revisions. As I have been living for years with a liver that was barely functional, other organs have been compensating as much as possible to cover for it. Suddenly, they are relived of that duty, so they are a little confused. The liver produces more than 300 chemicals used by the body. The cirrhosed one I had was either not producing or under producing many or most of them. Thus, when the healthy liver from Marken started working, a lot of the biological regulators that are expressed to control production levels are miscalibrated. Added into all this are the drugs I am taking so my immune system doesn’t reject the transplant. I am taking an immunosuppressor to shut the immune system down. To cover for that, I am taking an antibiotic, an antiviral, an antifungal, and an antacid. All of which have their own set of side effects.

Add to this the whole issue of pain. Besides the 16 inch (40 cm) incision through both skin and muscle, in the process of removal and replacement they have bruised my ribs. If you’ve ever had a bruised rib, you know what I am talking about. What to speak of all the internal slicing and dicing that went on. I’ll get into all the other holes in a later post.

The bottom line is a roller coaster sort of ride where at times I can feel light headed and jittery, or totally fatigued, through a whole range of variants up to and including some moments where I feel better than I have in years. Like glimpses of what my life might be. At least it evokes memories of what normal used to be and how I used to take it for granted.

Anyway, the last week has been one series of benchmarks achieved after another. Setting upright in my desk chair and writing this blog entry has been one of them. Thanks for sharing the moment. Hare Krishna.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Been There, Done That

Home from the transplant. Lived. Recovering well. My son gave me 60% of his liver. Went through the same process Catherine Herridge will go, in the same Unit. I was released before she cleared ICU but hey, maybe she will get the bed I opened up by being released. Try to do more posts later, still pretty wasted. Even have the typical devotee angle to my story to tell (hint - one of my surgeons was a Bengali).

Newswoman and son recover after surgery

A 5-month-old boy from Washington, D.C., was recovering Tuesday evening at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in Oakland after receiving part of his mother's liver. The case of Peter Hayes has attracted national attention because his mother, Catherine Herridge, is a national correspondent for Fox News Channel.

Herridge's story has been told in recent days by Fox host Greta Van Susteren.

Herridge, 42, donated part of her liver to save her son from a life-threatening illness that blocks the bile duct. The disease, known as biliary atresia, causes bile to build up in the liver and poison it.

Herridge and her son underwent surgery simultaneously yesterday. Both were doing well afterward, according to surgeons at Children's and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Dr. Amadeo Marcos, clinical director of transplantation at UPMC's Starzl Transplantation Institute, said Herridge was in extremely good condition after a five-hour operation in which he removed about 20 percent of her liver. She likely will be discharged by the end of the week, he said.

The new liver will cure Peter, said Dr. George V. Mazariegos, director of pediatric transplantation at Children's.

"We're very encouraged," he said. "Everything is going as well as we could have hoped for."

Herridge's husband, J.D. Hayes, said the couple chose to have Peter's transplant in Pittsburgh because of UPMC's reputation.

"If you have the opportunity to go where there's the most experience and the highest success rate, then you go there," Hayes said. "These guys are very dedicated, very disciplined."

Hayes said the family likely will remain in Pittsburgh for six to 10 weeks. The couple have another son, Jamie, 20 months.

Herridge covers homeland security issues for Fox.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Liver Operation Update

My father and my brother went through the operation very well and are recovering very well. Should be out of the hospital in a week.