June 2007


gopasdeck.jpg

Here is a picture of the ridge across the hollow from Gopa’s. Shows part of the Vrindaban farm and part of Snyder’s. Similar to the view I was meditating on the day of my bike trip, but without the crowd or deck.

Recently I have attended a couple of home programs co-anchored by Radhanath and Jayadvaita Swamis. After one of them I was hanging out with JS and I was critiquing the state of kirtan in ISKCON.

My primary standard isn’t how “ecstatic” or “blissful” it appeared to be. It is did it hurt my ears. If it hurt my ears, I didn’t like it.

Kitchenananda used to say about prasadam that the most important feature was how it looked (what chef’s call “presentation”), then how it smells, and last, how it tastes. Similarly, how kirtan sounds is the most important part to me, and if it hurts my ears, I don’t like it.

I will interject here that the kirtans at these home programs did NOT hurt my ears. This enabled me to catch the wave and even do a little dancing, short lived as it was, due to my miserably poor fund of stamina.

JS drew from his pouch a set of ear plugs and showed me them. He extolled their virtues in the sort of circumstances I was lamenting, including, but not limited to, over amped kirtans, insensitive whoppers or karatala players who, lacking musicality, make up for it with volume, or the guy who sits in an office all day, who doesn’t play sports, and who works out all his aggressions on a djembe.

Quite often my response is simply walking out. I don’t like having negative reinforcements associated with kirtan. The alternative is ear plugs.

Unlike regular ear plugs which, while they do lessen the decibels, muffle and distort the sound, JS says the kind he showed me give a decibel reduction but maintain the sound quality.

On his site, he has an article entitled:

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss:

“What it is and what it may mean to you”

There, damaging effects of noise, such as found in the types of poor kirtan mentioned above and the concept of being responsible for the health of our guests’ and children’s hearing are discussed. It is also mentioned that even without feeling pain, and thinking we are enjoying the sounds, we can still get ear damage, or damage the hearing of others.

About the earplugs:

High-fidelity earplugs

“Interested in hearing protectors that bring down the volume but preserve the natural quality of the sound?

“You might like to try the high-fidelity earplugs—ER-20’s—made by Etymotic Research.

“They cost about $12, last indefinitely, and don’t need to be rolled like foam plugs. And they make the sound quieter without making you feel like you’re under water.

“You can order them online from The Ear Plug Store.”

Advertisements

“How does Man attain to a real union of love with his neighbor? Not merely by abstract agreement about truths concerning the end of all things and the afterlife, but by a realistic collaboration in the work of daily living in the world of hard facts in which everyone must work in order to eat.”

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979: 143.

divinenature.jpg

by Michael A. Cremo & Mukunda Goswami

“What are the root causes of the environmental crisis? What can we do about them?

“Does a highly spiritual tradition like Krishna consciousness concern itself with concrete problems of this world? Do the teachings have a significant environmental impact?

“Divine Nature is a clear, even eloquent ‘yes’ answer to both questions. The chapter on ‘Meat and the Environment’ is the best succinct statement I have read on the environmental impact of meat consumption. But Divine Nature deftly weaves this concrete factual material into a worldview which includes history, scientific theory, and the metaphysics of karma. The implications of diet are far-reaching. Divine Nature is a must for professors of religion like myself and for students like mine. It shows us that the apparently abstract and ethereal realm of spirituality bears upon the environment in a quite positive and practical way.”

Gene C. Sager
Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy
Palomar College, San Marcos, CaliforniaDivine Nature:
Practical Application of Vedic Ethical Principles in Resolving the Environmental Crisis

By Michael Cremo (Drutakarma dasa)

“If there is to be a synthesis of science and religion, there must be a real desire and need for cooperation. And one area in which the need for cooperation between science and religion is most deeply felt is that of concern for the environment.

“In 1995, I attended a conference on population, consumption, and the environment, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Boston Theological Institute.[1] Coming together at the conference were scientists, politicians, environmental activists, and religionists. I was invited as author of the book Divine Nature: A Spiritual Perspective on the Environmental Crisis,[2] which had drawn favorable comment from many, including two former environment ministers for the Indian government.[3] Divine Nature looks at the environmental crisis from the standpoint of the Vedic teachings of India.

“One of the keynote speakers at the conference on population, consumption, and the environment was Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior for the United States government.[4] For a politician, Babbitt gave a rather remarkable speech. He told of growing up in the town of Flagstaff, Arizona, from which can be seen a large mountain. The mountain inspired in Babbitt a sense of something wonderful, something godlike, in nature. Raised in the Catholic faith, Babbitt asked a priest about the mountain, hoping to gain some clue as to its spiritual significance. But he received no satisfactory answer, perhaps because his priest was used to thinking of God as remote from nature.

“Later, Babbitt approached a friend his own age. This friend, who happened to be a Native American of the Hopi tribe, took Babbitt up to the mountain and explained to him its sacred nature. And from this Babbitt said he developed a sense of God’s presence in nature—to a degree that had not been possible for him previously…” (read more)

Thanks to Balaramacandra prabhu and Bhakta Justin, my bicycle has been salvaged from the hook it was gathering dust on in the basement and is once again road worthy. One aspect of the needed maintenance was changing a tire that was so old it was dry rotted.

The last time I remember riding it was a bike trip with Tulasi and Marken down the back way into Elm Grove along the creek. Marken has been gone for 5 years, and they were young when we did the excursion, so that had to be last century.

I have a difficult time doing pointless exercise. I can’t run just for the sake of running. I can run in a soccer game, as there is a point to it. I acknowledge that to some it is a meaningless point, but my mind doesn’t see it that way so it is incentivized to put out the effort.

I need to be exercising to help struggle against the side effects of the interferon and ribavarin I am taking, although the side effects themselves are fatigue and shortness of breath, so that is an internal contradiction

Vidya had gone to town with the car, so no lunch being served at home. Full of optimism, I decided that even though any sort of burst of energy had me panting within 5 seconds, I could leisurely pedal to the temple, take some lunch prasadam, rest as long as necessary, and return when I was recovered. An incentive.

Hah.

Making it there wasn’t too bad. I only had to make two stops, the first half way up the Bahulaban hill. I have 18 speeds and in the lowest one was able to pull the hill pedaling with the single break.

Coasting down the hill from the Palace to the temple, it started to rain, and some dim memory of biking down a hill decades ago in the rain and having brake failure due to wet rims flickered through my memory, but never developed in this case.

After an executive lunch break, I felt tired but still confident. While there is basically no level parts in the road — one is always either cranking up a hill or coasting down — the temple is on a higher elevation than my house, so the net effect was more downhill than up on the return journey,

Fatigue soon asserted her cruel grip though and by the time I reached the Palace, I was taking my second break already. The third break was sitting on the bank by Raghu’s, watching the view, across the hollow, of Snyder’s farm.

It was made even more breathtaking by a passing thunderstorm. I was waiting to see if I was going to need to take shelter of his barn. Snyder’s was getting hit, and I could see the lightning and hear the pleasing rumbles of thunder, that natural sound that heard acoustically can exceed even a great requiem mass for beauty.

The thunderstorm passed so closely that I could hear the rain falling in the leaves of the trees at Lalita Gopi’s, but was untouched where I sat.

Once I was sure it had passed enough so I would be behind it, I set out again. I made it down to Bahulaban, but the exhaustion was really setting in.

Another storm was starting to roll in. I didn’t have the juice to make the hill up into the Bahulaban barn, where I have spent thousands of hours, so ducked into Floyd Coffield’s (Krishna rest his soul) old barn and waited it out there.

The rest didn’t revive me. There were no reserves to draw on. If I was in a soccer match, I would have been raising my hand for a substitution. Not an option in this case. I still had to pull the hill to my place.

I had it in the lowest possible gear, but by the time I got to Judy’s, I was dismounted and my mind was telling me it was over, making it home was not possible. Which was a great feeling, as it was real, a real problem, a real danger (okay, not that much of a danger being on a road well traveled by devotees, but it had a real feel), a physical adversity to overcome. What a relief from being a prisoner in cerebral land!

Fortunately, I have pushed myself to the limit on previous occasions, and know that once the physical reserves are depleted, there is still a mental energy that can be harnessed.

Plus, all the kids Judy day cares were out on the porch, so there was no way my false ego was going to let me collapse in front of them, so I kicked in with “poser power”. I had to acknowledge to Judy I had bitten off more than I could chew, but by the time I had passed through the zone of “hi” and “goodbye” with all the kids, I was only a hundred yards from home.

Vidya asked me if I was okay when she saw me walking in, and I said no. She took the bike and I continued into the house, hydrating and flicking on a fan to cool down in front of.

So, the longest ride of the century for me ended ingloriously, a mere 6 miles in the record book.

I have a ways to go to worry last century’s record. That was an approximately 2000 mile solo ride from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Daytona Beach, Florida. By the end of that trip I was pumped up, and a 100 mile day was routine. More about that another day.

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

bones-and-poison-ivy.jpg

leila_reflections1.jpg

With the help of assorted others I have finally got a feed reader set up where you can see all the bloggers in New Vrindaban in one spot. Check it out at New Vrindaban Bloggers.

I have been working on this in fits and starts for the last two years. Or more accurately, I had a desire to do so for two years, and occasionally played with it. The original inspiration was when I discovered Planet ISKCON.

The first year was mostly about getting content generated, so there would be some blogs the feed aggregator could subscribe to. A feed aggregator goes out on a periodic basis and checks all the blogs it is subscribed to. If there is new content, it copies it to its own address and presents it in the form of a feed reader.

Thus, by going to one url, the end user can see the content from as many sites as are subscribed to without having to visit each individually. This is especially useful when the sites being visited don’t update daily.

The second year was about the tortuous process of doing something by the ascending method. I was learning, but had no guru or scripture to guide me, and lacked strong determination to power my way through. Little obstacles that others may have hardly noticed, were like boulders in the road for me.

Somehow or other, a little piece here, a little piece there, it came together. A shout out to Manish who was able to solve my “chron job” problem that made the updating process automatic, and to Shyam Pandey for designing the header.

While a particular blog will reflect an individual’s perspective, when there are many blogs, a more community oriented view can can experienced.

The one disadvantage of using the feed reader instead of visiting the blog directly is that you don’t get to read any comments that may have been posted by readers. If you have an interest in that, you can always go ahead and click through to the individual blog itself.

The hope here is that the reader will have a chance to make a virtual pilgrimage to New Vrindaban on those days physical presence is not an option. The Holy Dhama has no geographical boundaries, and if reading New Vrindaban Bloggers helps someone experience that, it will be successful.

macplus.jpg

“Gosh come quick — the clothesline fell over and it’s starting to rain!”

The world lives primarily on solar energy. However, in order to convince us to stay addicted to fossil fuels, there are whole series of stats demonstrating our dependence on them. Of course, as my father used to say, you can make statistics prove anything.

If you wash your clothes and dry them in an electric dryer, that pumps up electrical usage stats. If you use a gas dryer, it pumps up gas usage stats, but if you use solar energy to dry the clothes… oops, somehow or other that DOESN’T count for solar’s stats.

This creates an unbalanced presentation of energy consumption patterns and is used to sway public opinion to keep thinking it is okay, no necessary, to be addicted to oil.

Besides environmental considerations, I also prefer a clothesline over a dryer because of the intangible of sweet smelling laundry that no chemical additive in detergent can approximate.

When we moved into our current location, one of the first things I did was put up a clothesline. At that time I made a field expedient decision to reuse a locust post because it was the right size and readily available. I didn’t have a cured post long enough for what I needed, and didn’t want to wait a year for a freshly cut one to cure.

While the life expectancy of a post can be 25 years or more when installed cured, uncured it can be half that. If i can’t remove the bark from a locust post by hand, I won’t put it in the ground. So I took a chance on a used post that I thought was early in its cycle.

Apparently I was wrong, because there was Vidya yelling for help, only 12 years later. I hurried out and sure enough, it had started to sprinkle a bit so we hustled to get the clothes off the line which was complicated by some of them being pinned under the post.

Due to the urgency of the sprinkling rain and the darkness of the incoming clouds, I didn’t take the time to grab my camera and snap a shot with all the clothes lying on the ground. Would have made a better shot.

Back around 1986 I bought a Mac Plus. I had it for years. The power supply burned out on it eventually, and I replaced it, but when the second one fried I abandoned it. Still, I had payed so much for it at the time (computers used to be much more expensive than they are now), I didn’t have the heart to throw it away.

I’ll probably show up in the court of Yamarajah with it in a backpack.

I had put a second crossbar on the locust post and made a platform on it so I had a place for the Mac Plus. When the post fell over, the Mac went flying but did a tuck and roll and landed on its feet.

I shortened up the lines and made the previous center post the new end post. This cuts the capacity of the clothes line in half, but with all the kids gone, it is adequate for our current needs.

From the Times Argus

The heifers, which ranged in age from a couple of months to almost two years old, wore flower wreaths and, in some cases, Vermont license plate nametags.

The Vernon Cow-Licks 4-H Club, which led off the bovine portion of the parade, had the large name tags with the participants’ names like “Sugar,” “Raisin” and “Daisy,” which charmed the crowd.

“Sugar,” a 10-month-old Holstein heifer, was the joint project of Meghan Devine and Brenda Atwater, both 12, of Vernon. The girls said they didn’t live on a farm, but liked working with the animals and joined the club.

Atwater said that they work with Sugar at least twice a week, to get her ready for the Stroll and summer fairs…

Two area veterinarians, Ronald Svec and Stephen Major, watched over the animals before and during the parade. Svec said that the relatively short walk up Flat Street and Main Street to the Brattleboro Common would not be stressful for the animals.The heifers in the parade, he said, were used to humans and most were taken to agricultural fairs and so were used to all the noise and attention…

“ “It has turned into a signature event for the state, really,” Munzing said. “It brings the whole state together to realize the importance of small farms and agriculture

“Munzing said she was proud of the parade and the festival because the events have raised awareness of the area’s agricultural heritage, and its farmers. She estimated more than 250 people volunteered to help this year…”

Next Page »