September 2006

Srila Prabhupada gave ISKCON the arotik ceremony to use in its temples. Pretty much we just took it for granted and accepted it because it was given by him. Although in numerous places he talks about its importance, I have never noticed in any of his major writings where he talks about the ceremony itself, and what is happening in it.

Anyway, I am sure there are all sorts of levels of things going on, but here is one angle of vision. I was noticing that, symbolically, there is a very definite pattern to how the ritual unfolds. First, the pujari blows the conch shell, generating sound. Sound travels thru ether (sky). Then, like in many Earth culture ceremonies, there is smudging with incense, which travels thru air. Next, fire is offered, and what happens when we burn air? We get H2O, water, which is offered in a second conch shell. So what we are witnessing is the process of creation unfolding as described in the Second Canto. Sound, ether, air, fire, water, and when they are all present, earth manifests, and the variegatedness of the earth in its various products are then presented: cloth, flower, the yak tail and peacock fan.

So what we are seeing in the arotik is the process of creation; that process and all it’s manifestations then being offered back to the Supreme Creator who is the Ultimate Source of Creation. All the living entities are involved – the two legged by the pujari, the four legged by the yak, the six legged by the silk, the winged ones by the peacock fan, the aquatics by the conch shell, the standing people by the flower, the stone people by the metal arotik paraphernalia, and the reptiles by arguably the five headed fire breathing cobra as some say the 5 ghee wick holder represents, but at minimum the entirety of the paraphernalia used being Ananta Sesa. The conch shell being shaped in a helix, and two conch shells being used, we are also seeing the double helix of DNA, the underlying source codes for the unfolding of all the variegatedness.

“Because the sky is transformed, the air is generated with the quality of touch, and by previous succession the air is also full of sound and the basic principles of duration of life: sense perception, mental power and bodily strength. When the air is transformed in course of time and nature’s course, fire is generated, taking shape with the sense of touch and sound. Since fire is also transformed, there is a manifestation of water, full of juice and taste. As previously, it also has form and touch and is also full of sound. And water, being transformed from all variegatedness on earth, appears odorous and, as previously, becomes qualitatively full of juice, touch, sound and form respectively.”

The whole process of creation is an act of gradual evolution and development from one element to another, reaching up to the variegatedness of the earth as so many trees, plants, mountains, rivers, reptiles, birds, animals and varieties of human beings.”

SB 2.5.26-29


Srila Prabhupada said that something from the garden is worth 100 times as much as something from the market. He wasn’t speaking economically, yet that is the primary guideline most consumers, including devotees, apply. The following story is one of the hundred reasons it is better, taken from the health perspective.

E. coli Scare Puts Focus On Calif. Crops

“BERKELEY, Calif. – An Oakland woman’s mother has died from the current E. coli outbreak, NBC11’s Jodi Hernandez reported. … from Oakland said her mother… died of kidney failure on Sept. 7 at a Green Bay hospital… said the kidney failure was caused by an E. coli infection…

“Federal health officials said Friday afternoon the E. coli outbreak has spread to 20 states and sickened 94 people, including California (1), Connecticut (2), Idaho (3), Indiana (4), Kentucky (3), Maine (2), Michigan (6), Minnesota (1), Nevada (1), New Mexico (5), New York (7), Ohio (7), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (3), Tennesee (1), Utah (11), Virginia (1), Washington (1), Wisconsin (29) and Wyoming (1).

“It is linked to tainted spinach…

“NBC11 News reporter Christie Smith reported more than half of the nation’s spinach comes from California and most of that is from the Salinas Valley.

“State and federal officials are looking into the lettuce farming and processing practices to find out why leafy vegetables grown in the Salinas Valley over the past 10 years have been linked to e coli.

“In the past, eight cases of E. coli from nationwide outbreaks have been linked to the Salinas Valley…”

If you can’t grow your own spinach, at least buy it locally grown.

In related news, here is an elegy for the latest victim:

“I was so very sad to hear this news.

“My childhood dreams, all shattered.

“Nobody could expect this would happen.

“He wasn’t that young anymore, but i really liked the guy.

“This came as a surprise to me.

“I sure am going to miss him.

“I dont think there was anyone in the world who didn’t like him.

“But alas, some things can’t stay the same forever.

“He shall be gravely missed.

“My hero……………….”


“Thus Arjuna saw the Sesa Naga form, and he also saw that on the very soft, white body of Sesa Naga, Lord Maha-Visnu was lying very comfortably. He appeared all-pervading and very powerful, and Arjuna could understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead in that form is known as Purusottama. He is known as Purusottama, the supreme or best Personality of Godhead, because from this form emanates within the material world another form of Visnu, known as Garbhodakasayi Visnu. The Maha-Visnu form of the Lord is also called Purusottama (Purusa-uttama) because He is beyond the material world. Tama means “darkness,” and ut means “above, transcendental”; therefore, uttama means “above the darkest region of the material world.” Arjuna saw that the bodily color of Purusottama, Maha-Visnu, was as dark as a new cloud in the rainy season.”

KB 89: The Superexcellent Power of Krsna

I am posting this for those who think scientists hold hard and fast positions: an admission they know very little about 95% of the Universe. These are only the first and last paragraphs of a long, detailed discussion.

Dark Matter Exists

“The great accomplishment of late-twentieth-century cosmology was putting together a complete inventory of the universe. We can tell a story that fits all the known data, in which ordinary matter (every particle ever detected in any experiment) constitutes only about 5% of the energy of the universe, with 25% being dark matter and 70% being dark energy. The challenge for early-twenty-first-century cosmology will actually be to understand the nature of these mysterious dark components…

“What about dark energy? The characteristic features of dark energy are that it is smooth (spread evenly throughout space) and persistent (evolving slowly, if at all, with time). In particular, dark energy doesn’t accumulate in dense regions such as galaxies or clusters — it’s the same everywhere. So these observations don’t tell us anything directly about the nature of the 70% of the universe that is purportedly in this ultra-exotic component. In fact we know rather less about dark energy than we do about dark matter, so we have more freedom to speculate. It’s still quite possible that the acceleration of the universe can be explained by modifying gravity rather than invoking a mysterious new dark component. One of our next tasks, then, is obviously to come up with experiments that might distinguish between dark energy and modified gravity — and some of us are doing our best. Stay tuned, as darkness gradually encroaches upon our universe, and Einstein continues to have the last laugh.”


I had a great time late yesterday afternoon. Vidya came running into the house, breathlessly announcing that there were huge oxen in our yard, and that one of them had horns THIS BIG and kept approaching her. Now, as she is working overtime getting gourds ready for the Ohio Gourd Show this coming weekend that means production is off, so I had to go deal with it.

My first reaction was a bittersweet sense of relief that since I had been dancing with Death last spring, I hadn’t planted a garden, so there was no damage being done there. Next, I hit speed dial and called Balabhadra on his cell phone. The problem was he answered in Pittsburgh, 2 hours away. I asked him what his contingency plan was for dealing with his herd being loose while he was gone, and he, knowing me well, first asked if I was kidding. I assured him I wasn’t, asked him to call his wife, and headed for the door, grabbing a baseball bat on the way out. Hey, it was the closest thing to a stick I had near to hand. A stick is an essential for cow herding as it can be used to make you seem taller or wider.

I go out and sure enough, there are about 20 cows having a party in my yard. They seemed to all be there except Vraja, whose arthritis kept him from making the mile long trip out here. I immediately did my loudest, expelled from the diaphragm “Heeyah!!” to get their attention, hit the side of the garden shed 3 times (because the resonation was loud) and strode directly at them. Fortunately, the leader was feeling guilty, so he immediately walked back out to the lane and headed towards home. It took a bit of herding to get the stragglers following him, but once the leader is headed in the right direction, they will inevitably follow.

I hopped in our 1990 Toyota Corolla and started out the lane behind them. I did have to get out a couple times and turn a few of them back out of the side woods and fields, wading through chest high goldenrod and other weeds at times, some with natural Velcro on their seeds ( see photo of pants). Just past Pusti’s, Chaya and Ray showed up from the other direction, and seeing the herd coming, had opened a gate at the corner of their pasture and managed to get most of them in. A few spread out and went around them, so the mission wasn’t over for another 30 minutes, but now there were 3 of us so we could triangulate them and the outcome, played out under a beautiful rose and yellow sunset, was inevitable. I had planned to go do some dancing at the temple to get my exercise in, but Krishna had a different plan. It was like old times, except with more huffing and puffing on my side.

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.


Ginger Flowers

Here is a good evidence based site about ginger.

“You may need to stop taking ginger before some surgeries; discuss this with your health care provider…”

Anecdotally, the upper reading on my blood pressure has dropped 20 points since I resumed taking ginger since my liver biopsy 2 weeks ago. The lower, more important one, has stayed at about 90. As there is no familial history of hypertension, and my high BP only started recently, I assume it is one of the stated side effects of Prograft, my anti-rejection med. It should resolve when the dosage is reduced.

If you search my blog for “ginger”, there are other places I have discussed its benefits that I won’t repeat here.


By Hare Krsna Devi Dasi Back to Godhead, Vol 30, Nov 1996

FROM TIME TO TIME I receive letters from people who want to help our Hare Krsna
farms develop. They often suggest we market “organic milk” or “milk from
protected cows.” So it was with interest that I read the following instruction
by Grandfather Bhismadeva to Maharaja Yudhisthira in the Mahabharata: “They who
live by selling hair, poisons, or milk have to sink in hell.”

Bhismadeva is considered one of the twelve great mahajanas, or authorities on
Krsna consciousness. He spoke these words several thousand years ago. By
looking at more recent history we can see the suffering these commercial
activities have caused.

To see the miseries caused by “selling hair” one has only to look at the vast
enclosure movement of the 1500s and 1600s, when peasants were swept off their
land and left to starve so the manorial lords could expand a profitable wool

As for the sufferings caused by poison sellers, one has only to look at the
environmental havoc caused by pesticides over the last fifty years.

But what about selling milk? How would that cause suffering?

Consider the process of marketing milk. (For simplicity, we’ll set aside
government subsidies, which make the process more complex.) The price of milk,
as with any product, must take into account the cost of land, labor, and
anything else needed to produce the milk. All other things being equal, in an
open market people will buy from whoever can produce milk for the least cost.
To “live by selling milk,” therefore, I must by all means bring my price down
to a competitive level; otherwise, I’ll lose my market share to more
“efficient” farmers.

How does this affect the protection of cows? To protect cows I need extra land,
labor, and feed for animals not producing milk, including bulls, oxen, and
older cows. Obviously, this pushes up my production costs and the price I must
charge for milk. In 1988 at Gita Nagari, the Hare Krsna farm in Pennsylvania,
we calculated that to produce one gallon of milk from a mature protected herd
costs $10.00 a gallon. We would not have been able to “make a living” from
selling milk.

A farmer selling milk must do whatever it takes to bring his commodity into a
competitive price range. If one farmer slaughters his animals to save on feed
costs, then all others must do the same or be priced out of the market. Because
of this sinful activity, the farmer must “sink in hell,” as Bhismadeva
describes. That is the karmic reaction for cow slaughter.

Srila Prabhupada encouraged devotees to produce for self-sufficiency, not for
the commercial market. Then if there is surplus it can be sold in the market.
So there’s a difference between market-oriented production and a subsistence
production that markets the surplus. To produce milk for my needs and sell
what’s left over, I don’t need a competitive price to survive. If no one buys
my product, I can still survive. I’m not forced to adopt cruel means to keep my
prices low. My living comes from the land.

In a letter to Yasomatinandana Dasa (November 28, 1976), Srila Prabhupada
summarized this perspective:

“This is a no-profit scheme. For agriculture we want to produce our own food,
and we want to keep cows for our own milk. The whole idea is that we are
ISKCON, a community to be independent from outside help. This farm project is
especially for the devotees to grow their own food. Cotton also, to make their
own clothes. And keeping cows for milk and fatty products.

“Our mission is to protect our devotees from unnecessary heavy work to save
time for advancing in Krsna consciousness. This is our mission. So there is no
question of profit, but if easily there are surplus products, then we can think
of trading. Otherwise, we have no such intention.”

At present, many of our farms protect cows with the help of charitable
donations, allowing devotees a taste of cow protection until we can institute a
full-fledged Vedic social system. The farms also enable devotees to avoid the
sinful activities inevitably involved with marketing milk.

Last of all, a donation to a Krsna conscious farm allows devotees there to feed
and milk cows and farm with oxen. Krsna is pleased to receive offerings made of
milk from protected cows, and grains and vegetables produced by oxen. In
return, He awards to the supporters of cow protection a special appreciation
for His own joyful pastimes of herding cows and bulls in the transcendental
village of Vrndavana.


In late 1985, I came to the conclusion that the situation in New Vrindavan at that time was not viable, and that I needed to put the long term interests of my family above that of the “guru” who would be king of NV at that time. I went to New York City to start my independent economic life. The hard part was leisure time – we were on the outs with ISKCON and I was fried on “devotee” life so hanging out at the temple was not an option. What was free, outdoors, and with a crowd not into intoxication? After work, I would skate up Madison Avenue from my office at 34th and Fifth to Central Park, and hang out there, roller discoing, until dark, then down to Washington Square Park for a while, then over to St Mark’s Place and catch a subway under the river to Brooklyn, then skate up to the north end (not the “North Side”) of Greenpoint where we were staying.

This amounted to 8 miles of road work, plus hours of park skating. After a while, I started to get comfortable on my skates. Bear in mind, this was before roller blades, and street skating wasn’t yet common. A few skaters from the park, and skateboarders were all you’d ever see on the streets.

Blah, blah, blah ended up moving back to New Vrindavan, got into growing and selling gourds mail order, and my wife started crafting them. We go to two gourd shows a year, one in Ohio and one in Indiana. The first year, we attended one of the many events and it was a gourd hat contest. There were some really elaborate hats, mine pales in comparison. The funny thing was the gourders in the goofy hats were like real down to earth, church going, hard working people, you would never expect such silliness from. Naturally, I loved it. I eventually evolved a costume made of gourds, and I would skate around the Gourd Festivals making a fool out of myself. I had a skirt that rattled when I turned or shook, a big rattle, and a horn made of a gourd that was extremely loud. I even got my picture in the newspaper a couple of times.

This morning I got an email from an old gourd friend, who is writing an article for The Gourd (the magazine of the American Gourd Society) asking permission to use my picture in it. He is also doing the Society’s new brochure, and I may have a picture in there too.

Yes, I am hugging two women in this photo but it is okay because it isn’t in a “Vedic” style culture. (some devotees frown on public hugging). Plus, it really isn’t me, it is a persona created for the show. You’d be surprised what nonsense you can get away with when you are wearing a costume. All good clean fun of course

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