April 2007


OK, this post is to appease Soma’s sense of irony. When he is in New Vrindaban he stays at Varsana’s who has a space going out from the temple past the Palace. He had walked down to the temple to use the Laundromat and was returning via the lake path.

There he came upon us in indulging in an exercise in futility. Us being Sakya Rasa and myself who were trying to burn a brush pile.

I have being going out with Raghu on Saturday’s for a few hours doing some silviculture. Sakya Rasa had stopped by the week before and volunteered to come out and run the chainsaw. Raghu was out of town this weekend so I brought out my saw for Sakya to use. I lack the juice to handle it.

Our first order of business was to burn the brush pile from the week before as that had not been taken care of. If you don’t keep up with it the pile gets too big. We have been taking it out by the lake where they shoot off fireworks and having bonfires there.

Unfortunately, I had made an error in judgment. Most of what we will be thinning out is pine, and that has resinous needles that aid in ignition. However we had been working on the State Road side of the temple and it was all deciduous trees there.

We were cutting the weed trees off the Sweet Gums and thinning them out so they have a chance to grow to be large estate trees. They will be magnificent specimens in 100 years, completely shading the brick temple road they are planted along.

The problem is the timing, and I just didn’t do the necessary cognitive thought to realize that a leafless tree this time of year will be loaded with water from the rising sap. In a month or so the cut branches will dry out but for now it was like burning water.

We tried all sorts of techniques and failed consistently. I won’t bore you with the details. It was a strategic error, and no amount of tactical maneuvering was able to right it. Of course, I could go the hardcore route and throw some old tires on it and set them ablaze. That would work, but it makes smelly smoke and I don’t like doing it. Turns a fun bonfire into more like a work austerity.

In the middle of this blow to my false ego, Soma strolled by toting his clean laundry and told me he expected to read about it in my blog today so here it is.

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“He is an icon. There’s no other way to describe Russell Simmons and his 25 plus year career as an entrepreneur that has included the founding of Def Jam Records, Phat Farm clothing, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and numerous philanthropic organizations. Simmons released his latest book, Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, this week, and I sat down with him to talk about the book, as well as his thoughts on the 2008 election, and why he sees rappers as being more charitable than a lot of politicians.

“Adam Bernard: You just came out with another book, Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, talk to me about it.

“Russell Simmons: Yeah, I’m excited. Oprah Winfrey told me to change the title to Do You a month ago and I told the publisher. He went home from the golf course and burned all the books. I’m serious. It was a good title she gave us, though, Do You. It was called 12 Laws of Success, but then she liked the third chapter so much and I said you know it really is about your inner voice so Do You is really the theme of the book. I think there’s nothing in the book new, it’s the same s*** from The Bible, The Koran, The Torah, the Buddhist scripture. I’m talking about the same stuff. I got it from the Yoga Sutras for the most part, or from the Bhagavad Gita, but it’s the same. A Christian reverend, he says the same s*** as me every day. So I think when you understand scripture translated properly the laws are unbreakable and are exactly the same.

“Adam Bernard: So you’re basically rewording things so people can understand them a little better.

“Russell Simmons: Here’s the thing, if you don’t know what I’m talking about then I made it up, but nothing in this book comes from me, it all comes from God. The laws are unbreakable, it’s common sense. People have to learn to have faith and resilience and to put their head down and value the work more than they value the prize because the prize is not the toy, the prize is the work itself. You could use these laws and acquire junk, but the real secret is how do you become happy and that comes only when you have an intention to acquire things that inspire others or lift people up, and not for a minute but for a long time. Stable lasting happiness is what you want to give people. This obvious s*** is said over and over and over again by everybody and heard by everybody, but not adhered to by most people.

“Adam Bernard: Why do you feel more people don’t get it?

“Russell Simmons: Because they don’t have faith. God realization comes from clarity, complete focus. Complete concentration slows the world down to a standstill where you can see God’s work everywhere, but instead of doing all the things that promote that clarity you get high. What does getting high do? It makes you feel euphoric, like as if you were some realized or enlightened being, the world slows down, only it’s not from clarity it’s from a dull perception. The Yoga, they say Christ consciousness, or Nirvana, comes from stopping the mind from the noise. The noise is all the shortcuts and stuff that separates, it’s the rethinking of what you already know. That’s why you gotta slow the noise down so you can see it.

“Adam Bernard: What are your hopes for the book?

“Russell Simmons: I hope that people get something out of it. They say “what about a revolution?” I say all the revolution in the world will never amount to anything unless there is revolution in the state of consciousness amongst people, so if I can promote a little bit of consciousness and lift people up one degree then I did something…”

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We have a couple of native deciduous azaleas that are headspinningly fragrant in bloom. My wife had brought over some compost from the small dump truck load we had bought and had unloaded across the lane.

We took the deer netting off them this morning and spread the compost around them. I had ten 5 gallon buckets of pine needles that I had shoveled up from the gutters along the brick road by the temple. I mulched them with that.

Our viburnum started opening blossoms yesterday and that is pretty heady also. Vidya’s reaction on smelling it was why don’t we get another one.

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The few hyacinths I bought last fall are blooming and she brought one in a vase to set by my couch. It is a little strange, because sometimes you can’t smell it at all, and other times it is really intense. Unlike most blooms which emit fragrance more steadily.

Manjari called and said she is planning to be here for the Festival of Inspiration May 11-13th. This will be the first time Sydney has visited New Vrindaban when she can walk.

Chaits called from LA and is considering coming in also so the old house may not be so vacant for a couple of days. We do have plenty of capacity. Plus my friend Ed will be in town for the festival.

Personally this is the session I want to attend:

21. Yadunath das:

Yoga of Comedy: Exploring the Ridiculous in Search of the Sublime

I was recently forwarded the following email:

“With all of this talk about cows, it sure would be nice to walk into a supermarket and buy a half gallon of milk, or butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. with Lord Krsna’s face on the packaging. Why is it, other farmers can produce milk and market it in the stores for millions of people to see and buy, but the cowherd devotees can not do this. What is the problem? Even when Lord Krsna was on the planet, the gopis and cowherd boys had to milk the cows and sell the milk at the market place. What gives?”

Short answer:

Devotees cow herders don’t slaughter cows so milk costs 4 times as much to produce in order to protect the cow, and the calf that was needed to be born to start milk production, for their lifetimes. Devotees aren’t willing to pay the price.

Long answer:

In order to have a cow produce milk she needs to be bred and have a calf. Due to religious considerations, devotees do not slaughter cows or send cows to situations where slaughter is inevitable. Therefore the cow and calf need to be protected for a potential lifetime of 20 years. While milk may pay for costs for the first two or three years at best, for the balance of the lifetime of the calf and cow they are economically, not spiritually, a liability.

Commercial operations bred cows while they are essential still teenagers, then continue to bred them yearly until they no longer produce at a peak economic rate, then ship them off to slaughter. Calves are separated at birth, and fed cheaper milk replacer so all the cow’s milk can be sold.

Even amongst commercial dairies economic pressures dictate ever increasing exploitive practices in order to maintain viability. See any animal rights site for what the reality of how commercial milk is produced.

Where once it was possible to make a living with 50 cows, according to some it now requires 500. Overall nationally, dairy farm numbers have been declining for decades and continue to do so. One example is “At last count, there were 393 dairy farms left in Maine, down from 1,100 about 20 years ago.”

Devotee dairy farms are not operating on a level field because they lack economies of scale and can’t compete with farms that ruthlessly cull and slaughter nonproductive cows. What happened in a previous yuga is not relevant because no one slaughtered cows then and devotees did have a level playing field.

Back in the 1970s, so many ISKCON farms set out to produce milk and have the milk cover the cost of caring for the cows, They all failed. Kirtanananda tried it in New Vrindaban. After he fled his responsibility for the cows he bred in the early 1990s, breeding was stopped, but there are still 80 cows being cared for left over from that era.

When devotees start seeing milk as an opulence, and are willing to pay the premium price necessary to produce it AND protect the cows, instead of treating it like a commodity to which they are entitled to have at supermarket prices, it is possible to have Krishna milk instead of Putana milk.

It is largely a matter of personal responsibility. Not that ‘they “ are some specialists who somehow make it available to me competitively. When the devotees and the devotee leadership step up and demonstrate commitment to cow protection and its true costs, then milk, which is a byproduct of cow protection, not the purpose of it, will be available.

Cow protection is a spiritual duty, not a economic opportunity.

“Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

“The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.

“John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.

“The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children’s parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.

“The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents…”

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I was pondering the difference between pedants and intellectuals and this line came to mind:

“All she’s learned she’s had to memorize”

Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine

by Country Joe McDonald

She hides in an attic concealed on a shelf
Behind volumes of literature based on herself
And runs across the pages like some tiny elf
Knowing that it’s hard to find
Stuff way back in her mind,
Winds up spending all of her time
Trying to memorize every line,
Sweet Lorraine, ah, sweet Lorraine.

Sweet lady of death wants me to die
So she can come sit by my bedside and sigh
And wipe away the tears from all my friends eyes
Then softly she will explain
Just exactly who was to blame
For causing me to go insane
And finally blow out my brain,
Sweet Lorraine, ah, sweet Lorraine.

Well you know that it’s a shame and a pity
You were raised up in the city
And you never learned nothing ’bout country ways,
Ah, ’bout country ways.

The joy of life she dresses in black
With celestial secrets engraved in her back
And her face keeps flashing that she’s got the knack,
But you know when you look into her eyes
All she’s learned she’s had to memorize
And the only way you’ll ever get her high
Is to let her do her thing and then watch you die,
Sweet Lorraine, ah, sweet Lorraine.

Now she’s the one who gives us all those magical things
And reads us stories out of the I Ching,
Then she passes out a whole new basket of rings
That when you put on your hand
Makes you one of the Angel Band
And gives you the power to be a man,
But what it does for her you never quite understand
Sweet Lorraine, ah, sweet Lorraine.

Well you know that it’s a shame and a pity
You were raised up in the city
And you never learned nothing ’bout country ways,
Oh ’bout country ways, oh ’bout country ways,
Yeah, about country ways, oh, country ways …

“Just like two birds. So he is acting as my friend. That is described in the Upanisad, that two birds are sitting in one tree in friendly terms. One bird is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird is simply witnessing. So the bird which is eating the fruit of the tree, that means we are enjoying happiness or distress out of my own activities or this bodily activities… But the other bird, or Supersoul, He is not affected with the activities of the body. He is simply looking when this bird will turn to Him. That is His friendship.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.1 — Boston, May 8, 1968

So it was a warm sunny day and they served the feast at the temple outside today. I was sitting with some old friends in the patterned shade of an unleafed tree.

At one point someone whom I won’t name (she sings in a folk group and used to be a teacher) let out a gasp. A bird, singing in the tree above, er, ah, did its business and it landed right on her leg. Merriment ensued amongst the onlookers.

Although the observation was made that it matched her dress, she took a spoon and removed it, which made me remember why I like eating with my fingers. Anyway, she weathered the awkward situation with dignity, despite the lack of empathy of her companions.

The conversation moved on, including a story by Sankirtan about a man who used to stand outside a bakery and smell the aroma and look at the baked goods but never bought any. The baker kept telling him to leave but when he wouldn’t, he had him arrested.

The judge ruled in favor of the baker, and ordered the defendant to pay 7 gold coins. The baker was pleased. Then the judge told the defendant to lay the coins on the table, and told the baker he could look at them and smell them, but he couldn’t touch them.

Suddenly, she gasped again. The bird had repeated the deed. Needless to say, I found this quite amusing.

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