March 2007


We started the week with 3 days of near record high temperatures. This means the natural cycle is moving like it is on fast forward. Our forsythias showed bud color one day and in three days were fully blossomed out. Compared to watching a carrot grow, that is heady stuff. Some years the process starts and stops with dips in the weather and can take several weeks to open.

I got a call from one of my nurses yesterday and ended up having to go down to the emergency room and get a shot of Neupogen because my white blood count had dropped too low. That would be 1.9 (4.5-11.5 normal range) for the doctors in the house. This is a side effect of the interferon treatment.

Another side effect is the dropping of my hemoglobin levels. While I haven’t been in the normal range (13.9-16.3) for years, I have been pretty steady in the 12s since the transplant, but the test 4 days ago had dropped to 10.9 so I will have to get some shots for that.

I thought she said it was Epocrit but can’t find any official page for that drug so maybe misheard. I also may be assuming it is for the hemoglobin – it may be for red blood cells as those are also low.

I have been told to not take my interferon shot this Wednesday and to report to UPMC for an examine this coming Thursday and see how I have responded to the boosts.

Hopefully Muktakesh will be out of the ICU by then and I could talk to him while in Pittsburgh.

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The merits of the decision aside, the following encapsulates my reservations about the way the decision to buy the cows was made:


Bhagavad-gita 1.11

All of you must now give full support to Grandfather Bhishma, as you stand at your respective strategic points of entrance into the phalanx of the army.

“Having addressed Dronacarya with the others overhearing, Duryodhana now addresses the rest of his people directly, urging them to give their effort in a coordinated fashion. By casting vision transparently he has ensured that everyone knows what is going on. When communication is fluid within an organization there can be a high level of shared vision and shared situational awareness. With this access to vision leaders can be self-synchronizing. The natural tendency of leaders is to initiate action. If strategic vision is not shared across an organization the tendency will be for leaders to initiate action which doesn’t necessarily contribute to the overall goals or momentum of the organization…”

New Vrindaban has the potential to be a leader in how to preach in the 21st century, so it is not just what we do but what example we set.

As Michael said in his Brijabasi Spirit article,”Devotees argue that a cow based agricultural system is the answer, but offer esentially no working models.”

I am taking interferon/ribavarin treatment which means a once weekly shot which I took Wed. night. One side effect is irritability. Hence my initial perhaps over reaction to this cow purchase. 545 posts on my blog and this is the first time I let temple politics enter into it. On one level, I regret that. I am a recovering online debater and fell off the wagon.

I stipulate that New Vrindaban and its associated boards and managers had no legal obligation to either discuss or advise me of this cow purchase.

I have no absolute objection to buying cows. We do have the capacity to handle more. We are down from a peak herd of 360 cows to about 80, so capacity is there.

But I am realizing that it caused me a flashback of when we had 360 cows and Kirtanananda pulled the plug on the financing and walked away and a lot of really rough years and a lot of unnecessary deaths. I had refused to go along with his expansion plans in the years prior, but felt compelled to get involved again with the cows in that emergency situation. Not only having to endure the results of that abandonment along with the cows, but to be criticized while doing it by people who did nothing for the cows, and who were working half the hours I was, that the care was substandard.

I may have a little PTSD about that. Do the math: 360-80 = 280 deaths. A lot of devotees were able to ignore them better than I was.

My post was not to be construed as any criticism of Ranaka who has done way more for the cows than I have for even less appreciation. He carried out an instruction to purchase the cows.

And a big shout out to all the donors who did step up and contribute these last 15 years. Without them a tough situation would have been disastrous. All the cows died natural deaths; none went to the slaughter house. The donors have really made the difference. The fact that we still have 80 cows is a living tribute to the donors.

What to do now:

Establish a irrevocable trust fund with open accounting with the cows as beneficiaries to provide for their lifetime care, which would include a plan for providing for human caretakers.

Build a calf barn next to the milk barn so the calves can be raised near their mothers. The alternative is moving them away from the community center to the industrial barn where they will be out of sight, out of mind. Calves are good tourism, best if they are part of the center of tourist activity.

Build an oxen facility, in combination with the calf barn and/or one by the Garden of Seven Gates. The training of oxen where it can be observed has educational value.

Preserve existing pasture from encroaching suburbanization and expand existing fences into underutilized areas by the temple barn. I had engineered this with a previous barn manager but he never acted on it.

An educational program for devotees, guests, and donors that stresses cow protection instead of milk production.

Hospice facility near the temple for elderly cows.

If those things happened I would unreservedly support the purchase.

I want to go on record as stating that I had no advance knowledge of the purchase by ? in New Vrindaban of the 10 cows that arrived yesterday.

I was not consulted on this purchase.

There was no advance public discussion of this purchase wherein I could have offered my opinion.

The fact I have an ongoing and active interest in cow protection is well established. See numerous articles over the decades on several devotee publications and the attention I have paid to cows on my own blog, this being the 92nd post in the category of Cows and Environment. Although lately I have broadened the topic to include general issues of Land and Cows, the first 80 or so in the category are exclusively about cows.

I have worked both directly and indirectly with cows and in support of cows in New Vrindaban for 34 years.

I was unable to sleep the night after I heard about these new cows from Ray, the local employee who does the majority of the actual work of caring for NV’s cows.

I have some questions about this purchase that have not been addressed by any announcement.

Why is the first time I heard of this from Ray?

Who is committed to take the responsibility for the management of the lifetime care of these 10 cows?

What staffing has been added to care for these cows? Additional cows require additional staffing.

What arrangement have been made to assure continued qualified staffing for the 20 year life expectancy of these cows?

What arrangement has been made for the financial security of these cows for the next twenty years? While milk may (or may not) cover the bills for the first year, what of the 19 years after that?

Where will the calves be cared for? There is no currently existing calf care facility. The two current calves are housed in the birthing pen at the temple barn.

Who will train the oxen that will be born? Cow protection mandates the oxen being trained, otherwise it is simply milk production.

This is not an all inclusive list of questions I have.

While I hesitated to address this issue in public, as there is no other obvious channel to do so, I had no choice.

I approached the Board of Trustees and they had no knowledge of this purchase.

Kirtananada also was very eager to add cows, but when reality set in, he abandoned them and we are still, 15 years later, caring for many of the cows he caused to be birthed. They are cared for industrially. While a tribute to those who stayed the course and at least maintained the minimum despite all odds against them, this is not a standard that should be perpetuated.

Regardless of popular opinion, it was Kirtanananda’s lack of committement to care for the cows he brought into the community that was the internal cause of his going to prison.

wind chimes
play a Schoenberg

a kite sways
on the spring wind
dangled in an elm

Last night after the feast at the Sri Ramacandra festival, Raghu cornered me while all the blood was in my stomach and asked, “What is consciousness?”

As I was in no mood to do any philosophical work, I tossed off a glib cliché, “I think, therefore I am.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t placate him as he had an agenda. He was recently hired on at Wheeling Jesuit University as a programmer and is working on some sort of artificial intelligence project. I am guessing in the NASA center though I didn’t think to ask him. So he is trying to sort out what is it a computer needs to do in order to emulate a human, in other words, what separates consciousness from computative capacity.

I would throw out something and he would bat it away, saying that no matter what the limitation on computers today, you can’t project those into even 10 years from now.

To make it fun, I was avoiding any formulistic faith based responses, like the individual jiva being part and parcel of Krishna, life comes from life, love, etc.

What it seemed to come down to was humor and poetry. He said he could make a computer laugh at any joke, but I took the position that while you could teach a computer how to recognize specific jokes and respond appropriately, you couldn’t make it recognize humor at first encounter. I stipulated that you could teach a computer to write poetry, but it would never write good poetry.

Poetry and humor draw on emotion and intuition, and these are not logical, rational processes that can be captured in an algorithm; that one definition of poetry is that which communicates before the words are understood. Computers need to understand words.

I did finally manage to get an “Hmmm…” out of him, so it was back to uninterrupted, mindless digestion.

I set off walking for the temple Sunday. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and my forsythias were showing bud break color. The daffodils on the south facing bank by Floyd Coffield’s old house across from Bahulaban are an early variety and they were blossomed out.

daffodils.jpg

By the time I got half way up the hill past Bahulaban, it was obvious I wasn’t going to make the whole trip walking so I got a ride with Shyam and his son to the Palace. I got out there to see the crocus. There used to be a lot of them but only a few have survived the decades.

crocus.jpg

Walking into the Palace grounds I could smell the witch hazel in bloom on the Palace lawn. It is the second tier of shrubs so you don’t really see them but the scent is strong enough to massage you as you walk in.

I walked through the pasture down to the temple past Vrisham who was out grazing.

vrisham.jpg

After I got home I crawled up on the roof of our garage where we let a Sweet Autumn Clematis grow and cut it back so it doesn’t get too strangled by older, less vigorous growth. You are supposed to do that every year but I can’t even remember the last time I did it.

I have a little row of 4 red bumps along my incision scar. I was itching a lot there and scratched without self control until the raised scars where the metal staples were got scraped off and now have little mini scabs on them. There is the long scar of the incision and on each side is a row of little white dots where the metal staples went in on each side.

The itching is good because it means the nerves have regenerated. There had still been an area of desensitized skin along part of the incision that I had thought was going to stay that way but just now, 10 months after the operation, feeling has returned.

I am sure that all of you have had this experience when you have scraped some skin off a knee or shin or something and as the scab healed it got itchy. This is standard operating procedure for regeneration of tissue after injury. Itching is part of healing.

The nice thing is it gives me some solace in the hope I will recover more in my energy levels, that the healing process is still ongoing. Because right now my wind is shot and it seems a little bleak day to day otherwise.

“When there was a separate manifestation of skin, the controlling deities of sensations and their different parts entered into it, and thus the living entities feel itching and happiness due to touch.”

SB 3.6.19

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