Shock and Awe Avatāra
It is the summer of 1983. A jury in Orange County, California—that bastion of “traditional American values,” that home to Disneyland
and the pioneering mega-church Crystal Cathedral
—a jury stares at a large poster. Faces register shock and awe. They behold the astonishing Narasiṁha, the avatāra
with the body of a man and the head of a lion, sitting before a shattered pillar.
Aristotle, the Somali Pirates and Yoga
6th Street and 23th Avenue, it’s clearly the most patriotic intersection in town. A star-spangled red, white, and blue painted building on one corner, and diagonally opposite an intrusively large signboard that continually boasts inspirational sayings. The latest edition of the signboard reads, “America 3, Pirates 0.”
The Hare Krishna Movement’s Unknown Soldier
Although I was born the eldest son to a career US Army officer who served during two wars, and attended a well known military academy with over two centuries of tradition, I never really understood all the pomp and circumstance evoked by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That is…until now.
I was studying religion in graduate school. I was into the counterculture; I owned a real pea coat; my hair was, well, longish; my friends were, by and large, hippies. Most of the religion department took me for a real hippie. But my friends didn’t mistake me for one of them: I was, after all, in graduate school. It was one of my “hippie” buddies who took me to a Hare Krishna temple, and that led, to my everlasting surprise, to my next fashion change. I joined the Hare Krishnas: I wrapped myself in a dhotī; shaved my head, leaving the tuft of hair called a śikhā on the back, and showed up one day like that at the Department of Religion.
It’s the End of the World As We Know It -- And I Feel Fine
Could the end of the world finally be upon us? New Age authors and conspiracy theorists would certainly have us believe so, determined not to be thwarted yet again. This time the apocalypse comes to us courtesy of a supposed ancient Mayan prophecy that the world will end on December 21st, 2012. And boy is it popular. A quick search on Amazon.com pulls up over a dozen books on the subject, all written within the last three years.
Organised Religion: Devil’s Work or Divine Necessity?
For thousands of years, whenever saintly people have searched for a good spot to live, they’ve chosen places of tranquility, far removed from the noise and clamor of the town. In a quiet place, undisturbed by distraction or temptation, surrounded by the beauty of nature, they’ve said their prayers, studied their scriptures, and engaged in meditation.
An Inadvertent Footnote to the End of Civilization
Ever thought much about footnotes? As a practicing lawyer I have nightmares about them! Footnotes have the power to illuminate or damn any argument. The American College Dictionary defines a footnote as follows: a note or comment at the foot of a page, referring to a specific part of the text on the page. I don’t mean to get into splitting hairs, but as a lawyer I can’t help myself. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines a footnote slightly different as: an additional piece of information printed at the bottom of a page.
Are You Game?
Pep Sands used to say that the jump ball at the start of every basketball match is the most important play of the entire game. Pep was our high school basketball coach. His reasoning was that whichever team hustled enough to win the tip showed that they wanted the game more than the other team. Not a bad philosophy for anyone facing challenges or jumping on opportunities, even Vaishnavas.
Finding Ways to Support Cow Protection
A report by the European Environment Agency reveals that for the first time in human history more people are living in towns and cities than in rural areas. Europe is one of the most urbanised regions, with around 75% of its population living in urban areas.
This phenomenon is being mirrored around the world.
Gurus, Pundits, and the Lottery
Once confined to the mystic spirituality of India, terms such as guru and pundit are now chic designations all over the world. Consider this headline from the UK news source Telegraph.co.uk published during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, “The 50 Most Influential US Political Pundits.” The article begins, “Among those who help Americans decide are the ubiquitous political pundits who help drive the national conversation and shape public opinion.”
Lord Caitanya and the Renaissance of Devotion (Part 2)
Kṛṣṇa’s appearance as Lord Caitanya is really Kṛṣṇa’s own tribute and testament to the overwhelming attractiveness of pure devotional service and, especially, of His pure devotee. Moreover, when Kṛṣṇa assumes the features of His own greatest devotee, He has, in fact, a particular devotee in mind: His highest and most intimate devotee. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Chemical Evolution: A Molecular Concept of Life
The idea of the primitive reducing atmosphere has received strong and serious criticisms from scientists of various disciplines. Their arguments suggest overwhelming drawbacks in the conjecture. Available data from geology, geophysicists and geochemistry argue strongly against this idea.
For Atheists and Theists Alike: Time as God
As a blogger on a metropolitan newspaper's religious blog page, I find that some of my references to a higher power or supreme being are met with ridicule or scorn by those readers who profess faith in atheistic views. This is certainly not surprising.
Lord Caitanya and the Renaissance of Devotion (Part 1)
India in the fifteenth century was underwent a renaissance almost the opposite of the European one; scholars have called it the “bhakti renaissance,” a great rebirth of devotion to God. The preeminent figure of this powerful religious upsurge was Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
History and Ethics of Genetic Engineering
Suppose today if by biotechnology it were possible to produce a person of the same size and shape of Einstein, will such a person possess the same intelligence and personality of Einstein? The answer is no. Biotechnology cannot copy the spiritual nature of a person. Thus, the idea that life could be mechanistically recreated by incorporating existing DNA into an already existing natural process does not seem to be a correct one and further indicates that life is beyond physical characteristics.
Lessons from Slumdog Millionaire
According to USA Today, "When Slumdog Millionaire swept the Oscars on Saturday night, its triumph provided as uplifting a story line as the movie itself. For such an unlikely film to win - independent, low budget, much of it in a foreign language - underscores an American strength that's sometimes forgotten: the ability, as a nation of immigrants, to embrace and assimilate people from different cultures."
Gaura Pūrṇimā 523
Five hundred and twenty three years ago, on a full moon night in the month of Govinda, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared in the world, the avatāra descended to deliver Kṛṣṇa prema to the extremely fallen people of this Kali-yuga.
Kirtans, Questions, and Mixed Emotions
The good news: Kirtan, it seems, has finally hit the American mainstream. In the lead story of Wednesday’s New York Times Fashion & Style section, “Yoga Enthusiasts Hear the Call of Kirtan,” Times reporter Sara Eckel gives an overwhelmingly positive – albeit cheeky – glimpse into the practice of meditative call-and-response chanting. Festive, enjoyable, soothing, even relatively inexpensive – kirtan sounds like a pretty good deal in our troubled, stress-filled times.
Touch of the Brajabasi: The Musician
In Vrindavan, I had a policy: don’t give to beggars. I envisioned that if I gave to one, I would be swarmed with beggars from the entire street demanding their share.
So I just didn’t give. I had lived in Vrindavan for over a month and I had not given a single rupee to a single beggar. I had planned to keep it that way.
The Notion of ‘Free Speech’ in ISKCON
Does anyone remember the Telex machine? I guess even the question reveals my age. It’s like asking does anyone remember slide rulers or carbon paper. They are devices of the past. Like Linotype machines, spirit duplicators and pink negative correction fluid, they have all been washed away by the digital tidal wave.
Doubt is the motor of the modern mentality, the indefatigable engine that drives the spirit of our age. Such doubt was honored with an early recognition in the essays of the Renaissance courtier Michel de Montaigne: “We are, I know not how, double within ourselves, with the result that we do not believe what we believe, and we cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.”
Holidays, Trees, Gardens, Apes and Violins
We made the national news recently as our new calf - whom we’ve named Gangotri - was born. We are all very happy to see her into the world and pray that she will never have to struggle like her namesake. The Guardian supplement did a nice piece with a colour picture.
The Home of the Original GBC Meetings
This is not about the history of ISKCON’s GBC meetings, but of the original GBC that was created way back in the days of Queen Victoria.
The acronym GBC stands for ‘Governing Body Commission’ and was a term created by the British for its top executive body of the Indian Railways. The British-run railways were one of the miracles of Victorian India.
My Encounter With the Art of Perfection
By the time I encountered the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, I was so eager to transcend material existence that I was willing to renounce practically everything for the sake of liberation. So convinced was I that pain and suffering were of the essence of this life that I did not desire to reserve any attachment, even to the highest and best part of it.
Bus Ride to Nowhere
Travelers battling through the Westminster traffic this month are likely to encounter a bleak message emblazoned on buses. “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life,” is the dubious legend plastered to a number of the vehicles meandering around the nation’s capital. I’m not sure how its authors think we should respond to this call.