Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gosh Mooved: He Went That'a Way --------->

Yes, Gosh has mooved his blog to a new server. He mumbled something about difficulties with uploading pictures, not being able to post some days, not being able to schedule posting times, and no categories for the posts. Why anyone needs to categorize fence posts is beyond me, but hey, no accounting for taste.

So he said to invite you to come on over anytime, but once you are there you will want to change your:

Bookmarks (Favorites)
Site Feed Subscriptions
Links (Blogroll) from your website, MySpace, or blog

He was practically begging you to update your Links list on any sites you have, or even add him to your Links if you haven't already. Something about how by mooving he lost his Site Ranking karma or some other such human silliness. I didn't even know cars had mothers, but shame on anyone who would lose their mother.

So just to be sure you got the message, all his new posts will be at a new host, even though the name will remain the same "View From a New Vrindaban Ridge."

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Yellow Line Is There For A Reason

Tejo's curve

Here is a letter that got sent out by Jaya Murari to his mailing list. I am hoping to get him to start sending (teh the the the the the thethe the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the) the content to a blog. (Note the repeated "the". This is because I have gotten a bad habit as a self taught typist to write "the" too quickly, often resulting in a "teh". It is time consuming to go back and correct this, so I have made myself type "the" correctly 20 times in a row every time I make a mistake. I have been doing this for a while, but still not perfect so I am subjecting my subconscious mind to a public humiliation by not deleting the exercise this time. I apologize if this creates a lack of clarity)

"Haribol All Devotees of New Vrindaban,

"I have a humble important request to make. I was driving out to Rte 250 the other day and came close to wrecking twice due to people flying by. There really is no need to go 40-50mph down this road. I called the State Dept. and the limit is 30 mph. The road is windy and in many areas you can't see around the corner or if the embankment has slipped. Going thru the residential area of Madhuban is another bad spot where people go so fast like it's a highway. The speed thru a residential area is 25 mph actually (as it is going thru Bethlehem). We see animals and deer, baby fawns, killed left and right.

Dead fawn hit by speeding driver

"I will practice what I preach and commit to driving slower and on my side of the road. I ask all of you to do the same and if ever you catch me not following this please chastise me.

"Your servants,
Rama Lila dasi and family"

I would like to add to this the concept of a yellow line down the middle of the road is to indicate that while you are entitled to half the road, it isn't the middle half. It is the right half. While I can understand the concept of cutting the apex of a curve to save wear and tear on your tires, and to save gas, please confine this activity to your side of the road. The half to the right of the yellow line is several feet wider than your vehicle, and is more than adequate to allow the cutting of the apex practice.

If your driving skills are so inadequate that you are fearful of going into the ditch, perhaps you should reappraise the viability of your driving at all. Or, SLOW DOWN so you CAN keep it between the lines.

If you see me coming and you are left of center, look closely at my hand. The gesture is NOT a friendly wave.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kurma Is Coming To New Vrindavan!

Kurma is coming to the Festival Of Inspiration in New Vrindavan next May. This is good news, as he is a famous cook, not just inside ISKCON but also all over the cooking world. Cooking is important because all whatever whatever aside, most devotees were originally attracted by prasadam, and will admit it in confidence. I am an avid fan of Kurma's blog.

New Vrindavan used to have the best prasadam. Today it is fashionable to treat Kirtanananda as a bad person, but the truth is not so convenient. Despite his flaws, he had some good qualities, one of which was his cooking and teaching cooking through surrogates. Srila Prabhupada taught Kirtananada (he called him Kitchanananda) and Kirtanananda taught the devotees how to cook. Unfortunately, all the great cooks have moved out of the temple and no younger devotees have been inspired to learn. That chain is now broken. Advaita told me he was cooking for the Sunday feast recently, making samosas Srila Prabhupada style, and not a single person knew what he was doing. They tried to tell him he was doing it wrong.

In the old days, there were so many good cooks around, but many preps had one cook who could do it best. Radhanath was sandesh, Garga Rsi was rasgullas, Dharmakala was cheesecake, Ambarish was sweet rice, Pracetas was ice cream, Lajjavati was kanti, Kutila was malpuras, Candra Mauli was black walnut burfi, etc. They would spend years cooking the same prep until they perfected it, and if you wanted to learn that prep, you would go to them. Sudhanu and Advaita were famous for being able to cook large-scale feasts with the quality of a Deity offering. Cooks would also learn in other temples and then bring their knowledge and share it.

My own meager contribution was the infamous oat water, so much maligned in the imagining. It was actually quite tasty and nutritious IF prepared CORRECTLY. It suffered from poor branding. Creamed Oats Nectar would have been a better name. Kirtanananda made it first, and then taught me how to do a small batch, then I taught Sudhanu and he introduced it in scale to the main kitchen.

I would put it up before mangala arotik, and then let it simmer until after the morning program. Those were the days of the "shotgun program". Tulasi and guru pujas were immediately after mangala, followed by SB class, all done in 1 1/2 hours. Lightly salted, with plumped raisins (added later in the cooking), ginger, and one tablespoon of ghee per gallon. It would become a drinkable liquid, the oats essentially dissolved. Longer cooking of grains converts starch to sugar, so it was sweetish without adding sugar. It digested easily, as opposed to globs of sticky oatmeal, and was very satisfying. Of course, like anything, oat water can be prepared poorly and be just awful, especially if it gets cold. The basic concept was adding more water and cooking it longer than recommended.

Friday, August 25, 2006

So Much To Post, So Little Time

I love this kind of stuff. The cultural fleshing out of the bones of Krishna consciousness:

Read the whole story at Utahkrishnas.com.

"Though, there was a safety issue. There was no one to catch the guys who could have fallen down. That’s why we decided to break the hundi as soon as possible the last time to avoid any accidents. I am thinking that if we have just 5 more guys than what we had the last time, then this issue can be solved. Even the last time, the hundi was around 15-17 feet (above the ground) and it was looking very imposing..."

Utility is the principle:

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

"I was talking the Institute’s Bob Johansen about wisdom, and he explained that – to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward – they advise people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.” They've been giving this advice for years..."

Knowledge is only skin deep:

The Deepest Hole

"Another unexpected find was a menagerie of microscopic fossils as deep as 6.7 kilometers below the surface. Twenty-four distinct species of plankton microfossils were found, and they were discovered to have carbon and nitrogen coverings rather than the typical limestone or silica. Despite the harsh environment of heat and pressure, the microscopic remains were remarkably intact...

"When drilling stopped in 1994, the hole was over seven miles deep (12,262 meters), making it by far the deepest hole ever drilled by humankind. The last of the cores to be plucked from from the borehole were dated to be about 2.7 billion years old, or roughly 32 million times older than Abe Vigoda. But even at that depth, the Kola project only penetrated into a fraction of the Earth's continental crust, which ranges from twenty to eighty kilometers thick."

I did a version of this last year for New Vrindavan college freshman:


"Most 18-year-old students entering the class of 2010 this fall were born in 1988. They grew up with a mouse in one hand and a computer screen as part of their worldview. They learned to surf the internet as they learned to read. While they were still in their cribs, the 20th century started to close as the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet bloc disintegrated, and frequent traditional wars in Latin America gave way to the uncontrolled terrors of the Middle East..."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Rivulose" by A.R. Ammons

You think the ridge hills flowing, breaking
with ups and downs will, though,
building constancy into the black foreground

for each sunset, hold on to you, if dreams
wander, give reality recurrence enough to keep
an image clear, but then you realize, time

going on, that time's residual like the last
ice age's cool still in the rocks, averaged
maybe with the cool of the age before, that

not only are you not being held onto but where
else could time do so well without you,
what is your time where so much time is saved?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Riddle Of Misplaced Kama

First, here are a few riddles.

What 5 letter word typed in all capital letters can be read the same upside down?

What 11 letter word in the English language ends with the same three letters that it begins with?

Krishna is everywhere, if we accept sastra at face value. Why can’t we see Him? The following riddle gives us a hint:

What country is hidden in the paragraph below?

As defendants, we deny all involvement in the unscrupulous dealings which have come to light in the recent government investigation.

(If you give up, the answers are in the Comments.)

As for what damage a little misplaced comma can do:

Comma Quirk Irks Rogers

“It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

“A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal's cancellation.

“The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.

“Rogers thought it had a five-year deal with Aliant Inc. to string Rogers' cable lines across thousands of utility poles in the Maritimes for an annual fee of $9.60 per pole. But early last year, Rogers was informed that the contract was being cancelled and the rates were going up. Impossible, Rogers thought, since its contract was iron-clad until the spring of 2007 and could potentially be renewed for another five years.

“Armed with the rules of grammar and punctuation, Aliant disagreed. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only one-year's notice, the company argued.

“Language buffs take note — Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement ‘shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.’... ”

“The validity of the contract and the millions of dollars at stake all came down to one point — the second comma in the sentence...”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Light And Fluffy As a Cloud

Ever Wonder How Much A Cloud Weighs?

"Let's start with a very simple white puffy cloud - a cumulus cloud. How much does the water in a cumulus cloud weigh?

"Peggy LeMone, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, did the numbers. "The water in the little cloud weighs about 550 tons," she calculates. "Or if you want to convert it to something that might be a little more meaningful … think of elephants."

"Floating Masses

"Assume an elephant weighs about six tons, she says, that would mean that water inside a typical cumulous cloud would weigh about one hundred elephants. The thought of a hundred elephants-worth of water suspended in the sky begs another question - what keeps it up there?

"First of all, the water isn't in elephant sized particles, it's in tiny tiny tiny particles," explains LeMone. And those particles float on the warmer air that's rising below. But still, the concept of so much water floating in the sky was surprising even to a meteorologist like LeMone. "I had no idea how much a cloud would weigh, actually, when I started the calculations," she says.

"Outweighing Elephant Populations

"So how many elephant units of water are inside a big storm cloud … 10 times bigger all the way around than the "puffy" cumulus cloud? Again, LeMone did the numbers: About 200,000 elephants.

"Now, ratchet up the calculations for a hurricane about the size of Missouri and the figures get really massive. "What we're doing is weighing the water in one cubic meter theoretically pulled from a cloud and then multiplying by the number of meters in a whole hurricane," she explains.

"The result? Forty million elephants. That means the water in one hurricane weighs more than all the elephants on the planet. Perhaps even more than all the elephants that have ever lived on the planet. And that is a lot of water."

Bhagavad-gita 6.46-47 -- Los Angeles, February 21, 1969:

“The sunlight is acting, evaporating the water and it is turned into ocean. Then it is overcast all over the land and there is production. And there is river flowing down. You stock your water tank high, and there are mountain heads, there is stock of water and all year the river is flowing, supply water. Don't you see how nice brain it is? Can you pour water? If you want to evaporate hundred gallons of water you have got to make so many necessary arrangements. And here, millions of tons water is taken away immediately from the ocean and sea and turned into cloud, light cloud so that it may not fall down immediately. You see? Not like a tank. And it is reserved on the head of the mountain and it is sprayed all over the land so everything is there. You require water to produce grains, vegetables. So everything is there.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

God Would Be An Atheist

God would be an atheist: Why can't we all be Japanese?

"Drawing on a wide range of studies to cross-match faith – measured by belief in God and acceptance of evolution – with homicide and sexual behavior, Paul found that secular societies have lower rates of violence and teenage pregnancy than societies where many people profess belief in God.

"Top of the class, in both atheism and good behavior, come the Japanese. Over eighty percent accept evolution and fewer than ten percent are certain that God exists. Despite its size – over a hundred million people – Japan is one of the least crime-prone countries in the world. It also has the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy of any developed nation..."

" At the other end of the scale comes America. Over 50 percent of Americans believe in God, and only 40 percent accept some form of evolution (many believe it had a helping hand from the Deity). The U.S. has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and homicide rates are at least five times greater than in Europe and ten times higher than in Japan.

"All this information points to a strong correlation between faith and antisocial behavior -- a correlation so strong that there is good reason to suppose that religious belief does more harm than good...”

“All believers learn that God holds them responsible for their actions. So far so good, but for many, belief absolves them of all other responsibilities. Consciously or subconsciously, those who are "born again" or "chosen" have diminished respect for others who do not share their sect or their faith. Convinced that only the Bible offers "truth", they lose their intellectual curiosity and their ability to reason. Their priority becomes not the world they live in but themselves.

”The more people prioritize themselves rather than those around them, the weaker society becomes and the greater the likelihood of antisocial behavior. Hence gun laws which encourage Americans to see each other not as fellow human beings who deserve protection, but as potential aggressors who deserve to die. And hence a health care system which looks after the wealthy rather than the ill...”

What do Vaisnavas have to say on this topic?

“In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with.”

“No Man is an Island” by Thomas Merton
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, New York 1955: Page 120

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sydney Comes to Visit

Manjari brought Sydney to spend the night. Here she is hangin' with grandma.

Manjari came down to go to a surprise 30th birthday party for Suddha Sattva, son of Soma and Dharmakala. Suddha was a record setting swimmer when he was on the local high school swim team. I think he was the team captain. He got a swimming scholarship to Wheeling Jesuit, which wasn't yet a University when he was there. He works for an environmental cleanup company. He was called to the site of the Flight 93 crash. That was the flight the passengers brought down in Western Pennsylvania on 9/11. Later, he was part of the cleanup at the Capitol after the anthrax scare.

When he was a teenager, he played on a roller hockey team organized by his father and Cakravarti. It was those 2 guys, me and a bunch of teenagers. We played in a Moundsville adult league. We had t-shirts printed up with our name, “Palace Guards”, on them. We lost our first two games badly, and things were looking bleak, but we didn't quit. Then we started to gel, and placed in the top half of the standings for the regular season. In the playoffs, we beat one of the teams that had stomped us early in the season, but lost to the other in the Championship game.

“Prabhupada: ...football? Football ground.
Devotee: Soccer.
Prabhupada: Soccer or football?
Manasvi: Football, that's football. [break]
Prabhupada: No, rugby is different.
Siddha-svarupa: Football they call soccer here. [break]
Prabhupada: ...men in one party?
Manasvi: Eleven.
Devotee: Did Krsna play that? (laughter)
Prabhupada: Hmm? Unless Krsna played, how you can play? [break] ...play is very popular in India, and rugby. What is that called, rugby?
Manasvi: No, that is hockey.
Prabhupada: Hockey, hockey, yes. [break]

Morning Walk -- June 18-19, 1975, Honolulu

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ego And Biking Trips

In 1971 I took a solo bike trip from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Daytona Beach, Florida; a close to 2000 miles (3000km) ride. I ate meat for the last time the day I set out and paid respects to every cow I saw on the way. There are a lot of cows between ND and FL. My parents had told me I would die if I didn’t eat meat. I didn’t die, and as I was stronger when I got there than when I left, I have been a vegetarian ever since. Eventually, I ended up in Gainesville, where I went to the temple and first heard about NV.

Now, in my present state, such a memory seems unreal, like viewing someone else’s life. I tried to play soccer in a pickup game a few days ago. After 5 minutes I was so winded it took as long to catch my breath as I had played, and by the time I had caught my breath, my feet were swollen. Sharp reminders I am not the physical being I used to be. Some days, I feel worse than the day before, and the thought I may never really recover nags me. Then I have to cling intellectually to the memory of being told it will take about a year to get back to normal, or near normal. I get impatient, and forget it has only been 2 ½ months since the operation.

I worry that I have grown accustomed to the idle, sedentary life; become lazy, and am just using the transplant as an excuse. Whereas in the past, time was the limiting factor in what could be accomplished, now I have lots of time, and not enough energy to fill it. It is a useless feeling. Even chanting takes energy, and as I have no spontaneous desire to chant, I do disturbingly little of it. On the worst days, I feel like a walking dead man. Yet, people seem obsessed to tell me “You look good.” This always bothers me, because it is more about their need to gratify their sense of sight and forestall the feeling of their own impending mortality. That last sentence is probably not true -- most likely they are really trying to be positive and supportive -- but I perceive it in a negative way. It makes me feel like a malingerer, guilty that if I look good, I should feel good too, which I don’t. Those saying I “look good” never bother asking me how I feel, so it seems to me to be more about them than about my medical condition.

Whew! Was that last paragraph wallowing in the false ego or what? I think I need to go take a walk.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Born 150 Years Too Late

Next time you think you are living austerely...

Published: August 3, 2006

(Full text in Comments if you don't want to register at the NY Times.)

"There are those who, on hearing that the tintype photographer John A. Coffer lives without car, phone or plumbing, might call him a Luddite. This, he insists, is not true — for one thing, he has a computer. He even has a computer room. The walls are bales of hay, the roof is tin, and the power source is a 75-watt solar panel outside in the pasture. Mr. Coffer, who lives on a 48-acre farm in the Finger Lakes, built his computer room in March. It’s lasted nicely through heavy rains and if it falls apart, Mr. Coffer says, no matter: He’s invested all of $15 in it..."

"He spent seven years on the road with a horse and buggy, and that’s the way he still gets around. He uses an outhouse. He lives in a small log cabin, which he built. The heat in the cabin comes from a wood-burning cast-iron stove, so that everything in the cabin, including Mr. Coffer, has the soft, smoky scent of soot..."

"He happens to like living as he does, he said. Conveniences like e-mail and phones end up being your master. Driving a horse and buggy, he’s not beholden to auto and gas companies..."

“ 'I was a great student of how people lived in the 19th century,' he said. 'I emulate my heroes, the independence people had, the old wagons and things. It’s just more of an earthy way of moving, the natural rhythm, the poetry, the pace.'

And he headed down to the pasture, to the cows..."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vyas Puja

I got up late this morning, missing a lot of the Vyasa Puja activities at the temple. I had gone there for Janmastami evening, intending to only stay a while and come home early. I know my energy levels and was intending to respect them, but kept running into devotees and having interesting conversations so suddenly it was 11:30 and that was so close to midnight I stayed. It was a positive experience, though the amped up music hurt my ears. Which made for a late, albeit wonderful, evening, but physical reaction kicked me hard this morning.

The whole experience was tempered by knowing about the bombing in Manipur (Manipur CM condemns grenade attack on ISKCON.) The sad thing is we live in a world where this is not enough brutality to crack the headlines. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israeli wars all have more interest, and the Jon Benet Ramsey obsession is dominating the news this morning.

I was going to school north of Boston the day Srila Prahbupada landed in Boston. Only 50 miles, but a world separated us. Now, more than distance separates us; he’s left this planet in his vapu form and his vani is still eluding my frail comprehension. On this day in 1968 he wrote a letter : "My idea of developing New Vrindaban is to create an atmosphere of spiritual life where brahmacaris and sannyasis, and vanaprasthas, will live independently, completely depending on agricultural produce and milk from the cows." This concept seems to have been eluding not only NV, but ISKCON as a whole. You are still way ahead of us, Srila Prahbupada.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pastimes and Futuretimes

Yesterday there was a link to a picture of a pregnant Manjari. Now, through the magic of jumping back into the present, here is a picture of the baby, Sydney. Since it is Krishna's birthday, and we don't have any photos of Him as an infant -- cameras not being invented for another 5,000 years -- I substituted an infant photo I did have.

Here is a link to something I did about a year ago. Well, I had the idea and Sakya Rasa actually did it. I posted it back in the days no one was reading my blog. Thought I’d post it again. The idea is to demonstrate the concept of transcending. How transcending is in addition to what it transcends, not instead of it. If I were to do it again, I would have it made in a continuous spiral, rather than concentric circles. Or maybe not.

Great Wheel Metaphor

You might have to click on the picture to see it full size, maybe the lower right hand corner.

Another thing I have been playing with is getting together an ISKCONNews.net type blog aggregator for New Vrindavan, fed by New Vrindavan devotees, so residents, alumni, life members, and well wishers could feel a better sense of participation. If I wasn’t technologically challenged, I could do it myself, probably, but do need it to be a team effort, since I am. I have floated the idea around and have some positive feedback so it may happen. I am remarking on it today as it is supposed to be good to start things on Janmastami, so this would be its first float out on the internet.

Once there was a baby
with markings on His feet
He came to manifest
His pastimes oh so sweet.

Villagers adored Him,
the cows loved Him as well;
now there are the stories,
for you to hear and tell.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In The Image

As I was wheelchaired down the ramp at my house to the vehicle taking me to Pittsburgh for my transplant surgery, my 8 months pregnant daughter Manjari was there. We took a picture of us standing together, her with her pregnant belly (life comes from life)and me with my ascites belly, which was holding 30 pounds(14kilos) of extra fluid. Some members of my family think the photo is in poor taste so you have to go to Flickr to see it.


“The human soul is still the image of God, and no matter how far it travels away from Him into the regions of unreality, it never becomes so completely unreal that its original destiny can cease to torment it with a need to return to itself in God, and become, once again, real.”

“The New Man” by Thomas Merton
Ferrar, Straus, Giroux Publishers, New York 1961: Page 112

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to Him, "Lord, we don't need You anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what You did in the 'beginning'."

"Oh, is that so? Tell Me..." replies God.

"Well, "says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the Likeness of You and breathe life into it, thus creating man."

"Well, that's interesting. Show Me."

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.

"Oh no, no, no." interrupts God,

"Get your own dirt."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Vidya Sells Some Gourds

preparing gourds on rack

Vidya preparing gourds.

On my way to UPMC Friday, I swung through Wheeling and dropped Vidya off at Enterprise. She was there before it opened at 7:30 AM so she brought a lawn chair to sit in. She needed to rent a vehicle for the weekend to do a show. A last minute opening had come available to do the Salt Fork Arts & Crafts Festival free; normally $150. It was a chance to check out the show and see if she wanted to do it next year. It is a juried show, with 120 crafters. She only does juried shows anymore.

She got the chance through Bill. I used to set up next to him at the Farmer’s Market in Wheeling for years. He also custom grew gourds for us after the deer and groundhogs got too bad for us here. The show organizers had approached him to do the festival. As he had Farmer’s Markets Friday and Saturday, he asked Vidya if she wanted to use the spot to hold it for him. She sold down her inventory Friday and Saturday, so there was room for him Sunday. I am addicted to his blueberries, one of Nature’s powerhouse foods.

The show has booth sitters if you need a break and are alone. The guy who sat in for her turned out to be a retired surgeon. She mentioned to him about my transplant and the esophageal varices bleed I had had prior to the surgery. He said that not too long ago, the bleed would have been fatal. I went with her Sunday, and when he came by, I showed him my scar and he said it was a beautiful job.

She told me I had to go talk to the paper guy. He is someone we had met at a show years ago, and he had recognized her. He makes homemade papers and embosses them to get these great patterns. He embeds floral materials to add colors and textures to the finished products. He frames them, and sells them for up to several hundred dollars a sheet. People buy them because they are unique and beautiful. He was excited to see us, because we had given him some gourd “guts”, the dried pulp of hardshell gourds, and suggested he try them to make paper. He told Vidya it had changed his life (a little overdramatic) as once he figured out the technique, it made paper easily and gave him something to use as a base for his more labor intensive pulps, such as hydrangea blossoms.

I got a chance to catch up with Bill. His son is back from Afghanistan and going into Ranger school. A politician came by who is running for US Congress in place of Bob Ney, and Bill got up and engaged her for 15 minutes about various topics. Threatened to vote Democrat (he is a life long Republican) because he was so disgusted with the state of affairs. It was an interesting Festival.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Best Clinic Ever

I drove by myself to UPMC again. I signed in, then stamped my own parking, which is appreciated by the receptionist. I looked around and saw an empty chair. I asked the woman next to it if someone was using it, and she said, “No, I’ll clean it off” and she reached across and started taking bags off the chair NEXT to the empty. The sweet thing about this was that it was one of the good chairs. There are regular reception room chairs but 2 special comfortable ones. Protocol is you leave your bag on your chair when called for blood draw, so I had assumed the good one was being used. Once I sat down, I looked at all the gray and serious faces and said, “I would have been happy with the empty one. Now I feel guilty for getting the good chair.” Got little interest, but post transplant clinics are a tough room.

Blood draw went well. There was a gray looking, resigned eyes, skinny girl, 21, in at the same time. The nurse talked to her in a smoothing tone, assuring her they used small needles. It must have been her first clinic. My first clinic, the same nurse had told me to get ready, because she had to use a square needle. When I had a shocked response, she laughed and said that she had already slipped the needle in, so smoothly I hadn’t noticed it. She had seen me coming. :-)

When I came back from breakfast, in an alcove down the hall from the main waiting room, there was room on the couch. Score! Twice in a day, the good sitting spot. I felt like I had won the lottery. I settled in, as I typically wait 2 or 3 hours for blood results to come back and to see a doctor. I was dozing off when, barely 30 minutes later, I heard my name called. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I got up quickly, and walked briskly down the hall. To my bewilderment, the nurse was taking a different guy into the examine rooms. I went back to the alcove, and said to no one in particular, “I was sure I heard my name called – I must have been dreaming.” That set off some conversation about the whole clinic experience. All of a sudden, I heard it again; this time the nurse was coming further down the hallway. I jumped up and said, “You DID call my name,” and everyone in the area started laughing, including the gray 21 year old. I had been laughing at myself for having the illusion I had been called, and everyone was sort of tuned into that, so when I got up the second time, it was funny. Turns out the nurse had called two names before, and she was letting the first guy in and hadn’t noticed me coming.

So had the best seat twice, was taken in quicker than usual, and got a lot of down people to laugh. I’ll take that. Then it got better. I was taken off 2 of my drugs, and was put on "as needed" for a third, as my blood work was at good levels for 2 months post transplant. Even bigger, I don't have to go back for three months unless my blood work goes funny. I can get blood drawn every two weeks, instead of weekly, and can do it locally. Best clinic ever.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"That Painter In The City" byTu Ke Tuong

in the morning you just wake up when that painter
splashes a swarm of green leaves
everyone of us we see the sun suspended in air
but not that painter
he insists on seeing it a ripe fruit
and so he paints on the citreous background
a strange perfume

when he turns mad and jumps on the sandbag to
the children crowd round and cheer
the painter draws a ripe grenade hanging from a
and he loudly proclaims to the multitude
everlasting peace
he also points out to everyone
a sunbaked corpse loitering on the fence
then he adds to it just a touch of remaining fresh

and when the blind bird is with child
he sketches on our eyes a pair of wooden crutches
and says here is enduring happiness
to illumine your blackened days

then the day we lie down
that painter again strokes a fresh green meadow
he says that’s a cool and comfortable bed
and every morning
he adds innumerable fragrant blossoms
as we start to forget to breathe little by little

Friday, August 11, 2006

Email to Ed

I have an old friend, Ed Fissinger who recently had an epiphany that Krishna is God. We use to chant together before I came to New Vrindavan. This is Lake Michigan where he recently took a retreat and was chanting 16 rounds daily and reading the Srimad Bhagavatam. From an email exchange:

>I am now curious about your practice

Well, usually I have them do ball feel exercises until they are warmed up. Then, we do stretching exercises, many of which are yoga postures. Then we do some shooting, dribbling, passing and trapping drills. Then 3x3 games.

>...what you do on a regular basis regarding the practices and principles of Krishna???

Oh THAT! I thought you meant soccer practice. I do follow the 4 regulative principles. I don't go to the temple or chant japa as much as I should, though I wish I did, and think they are very important and useful. I have done them strictly for extended periods in the past.

Mostly, I cruise devotee websites, and comment sometimes. I spend an hour or so a day on my blogging -- researching, writing, and posting. So for me, that constitutes hearing and chanting, 2 of the 9 processes of devotional service stressed by SP.

>What things matter????

Chanting. Remembering Krishna and never forgetting Him (third process of devotional service). Struggling to live a life in the mode of goodness. Trying to see Krishna in all living entities.

>.....and what things does Krishna actually want us to do???

Ah, that's a question. Any number of people will be willing to give you an opinion there, usually, strangely enough, involving labor or money for their project. Which may, or may not, be a good thing. Discovering your true service is a challenge.

For now, continue what you are doing but add Krsna Consciousness to it. Avoid becoming overzealous and proselytizing everyone you meet. Do share with those who are receptive. Parisha used to say, " If they can't ask the question, they aren't ready for the answer."

> And how much of scripture do you think is infallible???

There are 3 pramanas - direct perception, logic, and sastras, scripture. I think scripture is a map, not the territory, and it is a teaching tool. Whether every bit is literal or not doesn't concern me. I think the underlying principles expressed are infallible.

"Pramana means proof. Vaisnava philosophers condense all the different types of pramanas into three: pratyaksa, anumana, and sabda. Pratyaksa means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyaksa often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumana refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Sabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is sabda-pramana. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods."

Narada Bhakti Sutra 59

>Right now I can only seem to believe what i have discovered not so much what i am told....as far as doctrine is concerned anyway.....

Review -- what did you believe in 1966? 86? Today? Has it changed? If it has, how valid can it be? What will you believe in 2026? What are the unchanging things that have been constant? It helps to realize that there is relative truth, contingent on time and circumstance, and absolute truth. USA has never won a World Cup. Relative truth. In the material world, in the mode of passion, there are winners and losers. Absolute truth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Apple Picking

Here is a picture of Nanda picking apples, taken from the Minister of Agri-culture's, Balabhadra, personal blog. I am glad he started blogging, and hope he keeps it up, because Krishna Conscious centered farm life is a sorely underserved demographic in ISKCON. His specialty is training oxen. The tractor replaced oxen.

“Disciple: Srila Prabhupada, once you said, "The tractor -- this is the cause of all the trouble. It took all the young men's farm work. It forced them to go into the city and become entangled in sensuality." You said people had to leave the country and the simple life of goodness and God consciousness. And so they went to the city and got caught up in the anxious life, the mode of passion.

"Srila Prabhupada: Yes. In the city people must naturally fall into the mode of passion: constant anxiety due to needless lusting and striving. In the city we are surrounded by all sorts of artificial things for agitating our mind and senses. And naturally, when we have this facility we become lusty. We take to this passionate mode and become filled with anxiety.”

From: “Back to Simple Life and Simple Truth”

That is farm life, not (sub)urban life in the country. Unfortunately, I am now living the suburban lifestyle. Maybe I will get back to farming, but now I’m even buying vegetables, albeit from Balabhadra. My rehab is progressing slower these days, the benchmarks more incremental. I have been walking to Advaita’s, 8.5 tenths of a mile total. The benchmark is where do my legs start to ache going up to Sudhanu’s. Yesterday it was the sign warning that a Yield sign is ahead; today I made it 20 meters farther. I sit in a chair on Advaita’s porch and catch my breath before making the return trip. Eventually, I will make it without the rest.

Although I have trained a team of oxen (Bala and Deva for those who remember the Jersey team from back in the day) mostly I was a tractor jockey. I started driving tractors when I was 11, and was doing 60 hour weeks at age 13. When I came to New Vrindavan, I wanted to do oxen but my “surrender” was to keep doing tractors, so the labor force could be freed up to build the Palace.

Yesterday was Balarama’s appearance day. He carries a plough, so let’s talk plowing. The original definition of an acre was the amount of land a man and a team of oxen could plough in a day. It was standardized to be a rod by ½ of a mile (5 meters by 8/10 km). One rod = 198 inches. If a plough takes 14” a pass that is about 7 miles traveled for an acre. Add some for overlap and turning, and it pushes 8 or 9 miles, which means I am now walking about 1/10th the distance needed to plow an acre, about 14 km. I’ve got a ways to go.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sri Sri Siksastakam

Grass heads and tree, backlit

1 Peter 1:24-25

24. for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers,and the flower falls,
25. but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

I don’t think the Siksastakam gets enough play, despite it being the only writing left us by Lord Chaitanya. I can almost scrabble together an alleged intellectual understanding of the first 5 verses, though after that it is mostly “say what?” Googling to find a copy, I found there are newer translations. I stipulate they may be more accurate, but I like the poetic ring of this version better.

Sri Sri Siksastakam

1) Glory to the sri-krsna-sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.

2) O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names, but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.

3) One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.

4) O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.

5) O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.

6) O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with tears of love flowing constantly when I chant Your holy name? When will my voice choke up, and when will the hairs of my body stand on end at the recitation of Your name?

7) O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.

8) I know no one but Krsna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Dictionary of Useful Research Phrases

It has long been known... I didn't look up the original reference.

A definite trend is evident... These data are are practically meaningless.

Of great theoretical and practical importance... Interesting to me.

While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to these questions... An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.

Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study... The results of the others didn't make any sense.

Typical results are shown... The best results are shown.

These results will be shown in a subsequent report... I might get around to this sometime if I'm pushed.

The most reliable results are those obtained by Jones... He was my graduate assistant.

It is believed that... I think.

It is generally believed that... A couple of other people think so too.

It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of the phenomenon occurs... I don't understand it.

Correct within an order of magnitude... Wrong.

It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigation in this field...
This is a lousy paper, but so are all the others on this miserable topic.

Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to George Frink for valuable discussions... Blotz did the work and Frink explained to me what it meant.

A careful analysis of obtainable data... Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of beer.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Looking Good

Last week I went to get a new pair of glasses. After picking the new frames, the optician’s assistant asked for my old pair to see where the bifocal line was. She commented that they were in bad shape. She knew I’d had a liver transplant 2 months ago from taking my medical history, so I said, "Yes, I needed a new pair a while ago but didn't want to get any in case I died because it would have been a waste of money." Without missing a beat, she said, "But you would have looked good in the coffin."

I was stunned. It was so funny, but so unexpected, I couldn’t laugh. I simply said, “That was funny. I like it.” It was only later that I cracked up while repeating the story, over and over again, to my wife and friends. It stunned me because of the context. Regular citizens live in a society where death is something that happens in action movies, but in real life is hidden away. Old people are put in nursing homes, out of public view, and whisked off to hospitals when death is nearing. The body is immediately removed after death, then cosmetically restored to look lifelike at the funeral. If you talk to them about death and dying, in any sort of personal or concrete terms, they tend to get very uncomfortable. So for a citizen to deliver that line so offhandedly, it caught me off guard.

With devotees, it would have been less unexpected. From Jambavan or Advaita, it wouldn’t have even been unusual. Older devotees have sort of a gallows humor slant on death. It has been pounded into our heads by scripture and classes since we were wet behind the ears bhaktas. Even so, it was something that happened to others, to karmis, to those who weren’t transcendental, weren’t protected by Krishna. Now, as we look at old pictures we see that in any group, there is usually someone who has left his/her body. Many of our parents are gone, or requiring extra care. Death becomes more real, more personal, and less deniable.

I Googled Yudhistre and found a site where the Mahabharata is summarized:

“While wondering in the jungle Duraupathi becomes thirsty. Nakul goes to get water for her. In the river a demon asks him a question. Nakul does not answer the demon and drinks the water and dies. The same thing happens to Shahadev, Arjun and Bhim. Then Yudhistre comes to the river. The Raksha asks him the questions. When Yudhistre answers all the questions the Rakasha tells him to choose one of his brothers to live. Yudisdhister tells him that he would like Nakul to live because he is Madri’s son. The demon became pleased with him and revives all the brothers.”

The question was, “What is the most amazing thing?” Yudhistre’s answer was that even though we can see that so many of our ancestors have all died, we think we won’t.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bharat Rekha in America

ISKCON is represented in the book Bharat Rekha in America. New Vrindavan's Palace of Gold is pitured as one of 53 featured temples.

"It is a Unique book with excellent photographic and text coverage of 53 Hindu Temples of USA. It presents interesting and exciting information on traditional and rare Temples. The Author is the first INDIAN ever to bring out a book on Hindu Temples of USA.

This Book is intended to serve the following objectives.

Directory of Hindu Temples with all coordinates and information.

An aid to decision making on future construction of Temples in USA.

Will strengthen even further the already existing socio-Cultural relationship between Persons of Indian Origin in USA AND Resident Indians.

The Book is an excellent presentation to International Standards in Multi Color with Hard top and Jacket Cover in A4 size, 200 plus in pages and carrying rare and large pictures of Temples and Deities."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Soccer or Cigarettes?

Exercise in youth has lasting bone benefits

"Men who participate in athletics in their late teens experience bone-building benefits that last for years, even if they are no longer training intensively, a new study shows.

"Osteoporosis or brittle bone disease is most common among women, but also occurs in men, with the incidence expected to triple over the next fifty years, Dr. Anna Nordstrom and colleagues from Umea University in Sweden note in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism..."

Self-Perpetuating Cycle of Drinking and Smoking

"Not only might cigarettes prompt more drinking by lowering blood alcohol levels, said psychologist Saul Shiffman of the University of Pittsburgh, but drinking actually seems to spur smoking.

" "When people are drinking," he said, "they're more likely to smoke."

"Some of that association, Shiffman said, is psychological—resulting from lowered inhibitions and a conditioned association between cigarettes and bars or drinking—but some is pharmacological: A 2004 study from Duke University suggests that even small amounts of alcohol can intensify the pleasurable effects of nicotine.

" "There's some evidence that smoking is more rewarding when you've had alcohol," Shiffman said. "It's a self-perpetuating phenomenon." "

"So when we are children, innocent, we have no bad habits, but as we grow and associate with bad company, we also acquire all these bad habits. So to give up all these bad habits means we have to associate with sadhus or devotees, saintly persons. Then we can give it up. This is called anartha-nivrtti, means giving up all unwanted bad habits. These things are not wanted. Nobody dies if he does not smoke or drink. Nobody dies."

Bhagavad-gita 2.11 (with Spanish translator) -- Mexico, February 11, 1975

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Wake

sunrise between trees over garden

As from a previous life,
the attachment of decades grew
(instantly, in a dream)
as deep as grapevine roots.
The fruit of our happiness
hung thickly and within reach.

The woman I loved
was as gentle as a vintner.
Her agile hands, her wit,
and her calming way with children
masked the sadness of her profound
and hazel eyes.

On the verge of harvest,
fatigue slowed her gait, her joy,
and on her cheek grapish bruises
never healed. Karposi’s.

As if it were the eighties,
no tests said HIV,
because there was no test,
no treatment, no HAART.

Like the moon, she was desireless.
I could have slipped away
but stayed, powerless,
while she waned.

Dazed, I awoke to a sunrise,
and she burned away
like morning fog on a vineyard.
She burned into vivid memories,
where I mourned fate
and her fallen leaves.

All day, as if hung over, I ached,
haunted by a phantom grief
as real as your death and mine.
As the evening fades,
I contemplate what Sunrise
will wake me from Maya’s dream.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Thirty Second Season

I didn’t do any vegetable gardening this year, but I did have a soccer season, which bodes well for next year’s garden. It was not my 32nd season, though; it was my 30 second season. Actually, it was my 10th season of playing. It would have been my 11th, but I missed last year due to bodily restraints. Aside from a couple of seasons played back in prep school, I didn’t play for 30 years, so really didn’t start until my mid forties, in 1996. My kids started playing and I had been drafted as a coach. Since I remembered nothing of the game, my mental speculations as a coach led us to a spectacular losing season. I saw a flyer for an adult league, and joined, to learn the game. I had read some sastra about soccer, but needed a guru to really learn it. As is true of most things. Perhaps it was a midlife crisis that spurred me to start playing, but at least I didn’t buy an Arrest Me Red sports car or try to trade my wife in for a younger version.

I went to Tulasi’s last game. It was playoffs. I was going to sub for Tulasi in the last minutes of the game if the outcome was determined. Best laid plans...it was tied up late in the game and stayed that way. The last game of the day was the championship game. One team was short a man at kickoff. His teammates were on cell phones and knew others were coming, but the ref was impatient and game time had arrived.

I asked the captain if I could step on the field for the start of the game, assuring him that if the ball came to me, I would step off. I had hoped my adopted team would control the ball and carry it forward for a while, but after about 30 seconds, the ball came to my side. Knowing I would fall over if I accelerated too fast, I broke into a trot, getting up to about ¾ of my old speed, eventually, which was max for me that day. I judged I could get to the ball at the same time as the opponent, and instinct took over. Then I saw a teammate closing fast so I kept running right through the sideline, and plopped down on the bench. It was a total of about 20 meters, but I was huffing and puffing. It took me a couple of minutes to catch my breath again, but I had played in the 2006 season. Which is probably an analogy for my involvement with Krishna Consciousness – in it, but just barely. Maybe next season.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Minister of Agri-culture Has a Blog

Here is a picture from Balabhadra’s blog Life With the Cows and Land . He is chronicling Krishna Conscious life on the farm. Balabhadra is the ISKCON Minister of Agriculture, though this is his personal blog.

“In the Vedic times cows were not breed for milk production. Cows were breed for producing Bulls so that the activities of Agri-culture could be accomplished.

"The second reason was for cow dung. Cow dung is called farmers gold as it is such a high quality fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is also used in some Ayurvedic medicines. Dried cow dung is also used for a cooking fuel and fresh cow dung can be used in the production of methane gas.

"The third reason was for cow urine, which is valuable for Ayurvedic medicines as well as Agri-cultural applications.

"The fourth reason was for milk, which was considered as a bye product of breeding for the production of bulls.”

Balabhadra is growing and delivering vegetables to NV devotees. We buy from him, something that would have been inconceivable a couple of years ago. We used to grow and sell at a local Framer’s Market in Wheeling. The only tomatoes we have growing now are volunteers in a flowerbed. We have gone from being producers to being consumers. Not a pleasant feeling, though mitigated knowing Balabhadra is growing them. Maybe next year.

Poll question: Is Balabhadra an anachronism clinging to cow protection just because some book says it is important? Vote with your money – buy milk where the cow will be slaughtered and let it go at that if you think he is out of touch; purify that milk by supporting cow protection programs and/or animal rights organizations if he isn’t. Krishna will tally the results, and He has a built in error checking system.

“Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1 Chapter 16 Verse 18

The Personality of Religious Principles, Dharma, was wondering about in the form of a bull. And he met the personality of earth in the form of a cow who appeared to grieve like a mother who had lost her child. She had tears in her eyes, and the beauty of her body was lost. Thus Dharma questioned the earth as follows.


The bull is the emblem of the moral principle, and the cow is the representative of the earth. When the bull and the cow are in a joyful mood, it is to be understood that the people of the world are also in a joyful mood. The reason is that the bull helps production of grains in the agricultural field, and the cow delivers milk, the miracle of aggregate food values. The human society therefore, maintains these two important animals very carefully so that they can wander everywhere in cheerfulness. But at the present moment in this age of Kali both the bull and the cow are now being slaughtered and eaten up as foodstuff by a class of men who do not know the brahminical culture..."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Is Reality?

(Click through to the journal to read the individual essays.)

"In a special collection of articles published beginning 1 July 2005, Science Magazine and its online companion sites celebrate the journal's 125th anniversary with a look forward -- at the most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today. A special, free news feature in Science explores 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century...


The Top 25 Essays by our news staff on 25 big questions facing science over the next quarter-century.

> What Is the Universe Made Of?
> What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
> Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
> To What Extent Are Genetic Variation and Personal Health Linked?
> Can the Laws of Physics Be Unified?
> How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?
> What Controls Organ Regeneration?
> How Can a Skin Cell Become a Nerve Cell?
> How Does a Single Somatic Cell Become a Whole Plant?
> How Does Earth's Interior Work?
> Are We Alone in the Universe?
> How and Where Did Life on Earth Arise?
> What Determines Species Diversity?
> What Genetic Changes Made Us Uniquely Human?
> How Are Memories Stored and Retrieved?
> How Did Cooperative Behavior Evolve?
> How Will Big Pictures Emerge from a Sea of Biological Data?

'Biology is rich in descriptive data--and getting richer all the time. Large-scale methods of probing samples, such as DNA sequencing, microarrays, and automated gene-function studies, are filling new databases to the brim. Many subfields from biomechanics to ecology have gone digital, and as a result, observations are more precise and more plentiful. A central question now confronting virtually all fields of biology is whether scientists can deduce from this torrent of molecular data how systems and whole organisms work. All this information needs to be sifted, organized, compiled, and--most importantly--connected in a way that enables researchers to make predictions based on general principles...'

> How Far Can We Push Chemical Self-Assembly?
> What Are the Limits of Conventional Computing?
> Can We Selectively Shut Off Immune Responses?
> Do Deeper Principles Underlie Quantum Uncertainty and Nonlocality?

' "Quantum mechanics is very impressive," Albert Einstein wrote in 1926. "But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing." As quantum theory matured over the years, that voice has gotten quieter--but it has not been silenced. There is a relentless murmur of confusion underneath the chorus of praise for quantum theory...'

> Is an Effective HIV Vaccine Feasible?
> How Hot Will the Greenhouse World Be?
> What Can Replace Cheap Oil -- and When?
> Will Malthus Continue to Be Wrong?"