July 2007


Cows on pasture, harvesting their own feed directly.  Modern beef production concentrates cows in large feedlots and brings the feed to them.

From Telegraph.co.uk

“Producing 2.2lb of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car non-stop for three hours, it was claimed yesterday.

“Japanese scientists used a range of data to calculate the environmental impact of a single purchase of beef.

“Taking into account all the processes involved, they said, four average sized steaks generated greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 80.25lb of carbon dioxide.

“This also consumed 169 megajoules of energy.

“That means that 2.2lb of beef is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions which have the same effect as the carbon dioxide released by an ordinary car travelling at 50 miles per hour for 155 miles, a journey lasting three hours. The amount of energy consumed would light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days.

“Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals’ digestive systems, New Scientist magazine reported.

“But more than two thirds of the energy used goes towards producing and transporting cattle feed, said the study, which was led by Akifumi Ogino from the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan.

“Su Taylor, the press officer for the Vegetarian Society, told New Scientist: “Everybody is trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints, but one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat.” “


Spent the weekend at a Sun Ceremony in Friendship Village, about an hour and a half away in Ohio. Misogynists might want to stop reading now because the community is run by (gasp, oh the horror!) a woman. Here she is with Vidya.


Notice how all the pillars of the dance arbor are decorated with corn, a detail sure to please an old corn farmer like myself.

Her name is Grandmother Parisha and she is an friend of New Vrindaban from the interfaith days. She has an extensive spiritual background and has experienced many cultures at a root level, at the spiritual level, not simply as that of a tourist looking at the sights. This includes having been home schooled by her Cherokee grandmother in the mountains of North Carolina.

Although their Sun Ceremony is private, we are lucky enough to be allowed to attend. This year Rukmavati, Soma, Chaitanya and Bhakta Chris went along with us. They brought a chickpea veg and some cookie prasadam as an offering to the ceremony. During the breaks they performed bhajans. Due to exigent circumstances, the ceremony unfolded according to a different time line than originally scheduled, so the bhajans took a more prominent place in the proceedings for that day than I had thought they would.

Not to puff Chaitanya up more than he already is (just kidding), but I heard several comments about how nice the bhajans were and how good his voice is, so I know they were well received and appreciated.

Dancing in the Sun Ceremony is a serious commitment and not for the faint hearted. It takes a full year to prepare for and essentially becomes the focus of your life. One example is that you have to abstain from intoxication for the whole year.

We went to support Vamsa, a kuli from NV who lives there now. Another example of the commitment needed is that in the week prior to the dance, Vamsa did a 5 day vision quest, where she fasted and prayed in isolation for the whole time. That is like 10 half day fasts back to back.

I am not going to get into too much detail, but it was a rich, colorful experience powered by performance of austerity and driven by a community fully focused on supporting the dancers. It was a very enlivening experience for me.

Bhakta Tirtha Swami talks about rites of passage. A lot of that is acknowledging the presence of the children and making them feel as if they are an important part of the community. This is something that is sorely lacking in ISKCON.

At Parisha’s, the children at different points in the event carry the ceremony. They dress like the adult dancers and dance in the arbor while the whole community acknowledges them. They also are responsible for the smudge pots by keeping them full of live charcoals and putting cedar and sage on them to keep the arbor bathed in purifying smoke.

As I only get to Parisha’s once a year or so, it is striking for me to watch when the children dance. While you know your own children and grandchildren are growing, it is so incremental on any given day, it is hard to notice. When you only see children yearly, the difference is more dramatic.

The youngest, a three year old, was dancing on her own for the first time. As I watched the children who have been dancing all their lives, I could see the whole gradient of youth represented in the the group, like the first part of the changing bodies diorama.

What makes it especially compelling is I can remember having conversations with the mothers of the teenagers when they were still in the womb. A powerful reminder of how under the spell of time I am.

I had one of those Zen moments when I was sitting with Grandmother discussing spiritual topics in the pavilion by the kitchen. Above us in the dance arbor, the bhajan was going on, and over to the side the teenage girls were softly singing some sweet traditional song, sounding as if the Apsaras, the handmaidens of Indra the Thunder god, were singing.

“In the material world everything is created, and everything is annihilated, and the duration of life between the creation and annihilation is temporary. In the transcendental realm there is no creation and no destruction, and thus the duration of life is eternal unlimitedly. In other words, everything in the transcendental world is everlasting, full of knowledge and bliss without deterioration. Since there is no deterioration, there is no past, present and future in the estimation of time. It is clearly stated in this verse that the influence of time is conspicuous by its absence.”

SB 2.9.10

Newsflash: Time May Not Exist

by Tim Folger

“No one keeps track of time better than Ferenc Krausz. In his lab at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, he has clocked the shortest time intervals ever observed. Krausz uses ultraviolet laser pulses to track the absurdly brief quantum leaps of electrons within atoms. The events he probes last for about 100 attoseconds, or 100 quintillionths of a second. For a little perspective, 100 attoseconds is to one second as a second is to 300 million years.

“But even Krausz works far from the frontier of time. There is a temporal realm called the Planck scale, where even attoseconds drag by like eons. It marks the edge of known physics, a region where distances and intervals are so short that the very concepts of time and space start to break down. Planck time—the smallest unit of time that has any physical meaning—is 10-43 second, less than a trillionth of a trillionth of an attosecond. Beyond that? Tempus incognito. At least for now.

“Efforts to understand time below the Planck scale have led to an exceedingly strange juncture in physics. The problem, in brief, is that time may not exist at the most fundamental level of physical reality. If so, then what is time? And why is it so obviously and tyrannically omnipresent in our own experience? “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics,” says Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford. “The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.” (editors note: he means in terms of belief of what time is, not belief in God)

“The trouble with time started a century ago, when Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity demolished the idea of time as a universal constant. One consequence is that the past, present, and future are not absolutes. Einstein’s theories also opened a rift in physics because the rules of general relativity (which describe gravity and the large-scale structure of the cosmos) seem incompatible with those of quantum physics (which govern the realm of the tiny). Some four decades ago, the renowned physicist John Wheeler, then at Princeton, and the late Bryce DeWitt, then at the University of North Carolina, developed an extraordinary equation that provides a possible framework for unifying relativity and quantum mechanics. But the Wheeler-­DeWitt equation has always been controversial, in part because it adds yet another, even more baffling twist to our understanding of time.

” “One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,” says Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. “It is an issue that many theorists have puzzled about. It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time—that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.” …”

(read more)


Soma and I went over to Pennsylvania yesterday to do an inipi (a purification ceremony, commonly called a sweat lodge) with Yogadev.

Part of the ceremony is gathering wood for the fire to heat the stones.


Yogadev met Radhanath Swami in Athens, Ohio in 1981, early in RS’s preaching career. He used to drive him to various engagements. In 1983 he moved to New Vrindaban and for a while taught physical education and yoga in the gurukula.

He never took formal initiation from the community guru at that time, Kirtanananda Swami, as he said his heart belonged to Radhanath, who was not yet initiating.

He was happy to see Soma, because he said he used to go to the sculpture studio and watch Soma when he was “channeling” (as Soma describes it) Lord Nrsimhadev.


Yogadev was at the installation ceremony in 1986 and helped carry Lord Nrsimhadev from the vehicle He was transported in onto the altar.

The other day I read Miracles on Transcendental Street where Jiva talked about devotees becoming invisible. He ended the story with this,”When I submit another recollection for your entertainment, Dear Reader, it will be about the times I’ve seen Devotees fly and or levitate.”

The next day I was talking to an older gurukuli (who wants to keep his visit to New Vrindaban on the down low for personal reasons) and somehow the following story came up in conversation. Krishna doing a little syncronicity thing with Jiva, apparently, as the kuli hadn’t seen Jiva’s post.

He was remembering back when the temple was still part of the community and we used to have these team building exercises. Everyone would do their own service during the day, but several evenings a month, we would all get together and do a project as a group. These were nice because you would get to hang out with devotees from outside your little social clique or departmental work group.

One such exercise was roofing the temple. During the day, materials would be brought to the site and the trusses set up. At the “marathon”, as they were called, some devotees would work on getting the plywood up onto the roof via ladders and give it to guys who would set the plywood clips and kick the sheets into place, tacking them down with one nail.

Following would be a group of nailers, doing it the old fashioned way, with hammers. As you would finish the sheet you were working on, you would get up and walk past the other nailers until you got to the next sheet that was ready to be nailed down.

The kuli stepped onto the next sheet, but it was not to be. The kicker had tacked it insufficiently, and the plywood sheet took off like a sled, with the kuli aboard.

This was on the upper roof of the temple, the eaves of which are 20 feet (6 meters) above the ground. As the plywood sheet cleared the roof edge, it had enough momentum to move vertically and the nose went up into the air, catching the breeze like a sail and it flew cushioned on the air.

The kuli paid obeisances on the sheet as it cleared the 24 horizontal feet of the lower roof and landed in a pile of sand where the mailboxes are now. He was only 14 at the time and skinny so there had been enough loft to carry him.

Now that was “catching some air”.

He said that the amazing thing was that while everyone had turned to see what happened, once they saw he made it safely and verified he wasn’t hurt, everyone turned around and went back to work.

Kids — Krishna, who set up this trick, is a professional and you shouldn’t try it at home. You would never be able to duplicate all the variables and do it successfully.

“Prabhupada: Yes. Farming, agriculture, that is nice. There is a proverb: agriculture is the noblest profession. Is it not said? Agriculture is noblest, and Krsna was farmer, His father.”

Room Conversation with Allen Ginsberg — May 11, 1969, Columbus, Ohio


Ray, who has worked with Ranaka for 25 years serving New Vrindaban cows, was on my upper meadow the other day putting up the hay. He had cut it two days before, the second day for curing, and the third day, the weather having been good, he raked it into windrows and was baling it.

According to the best possible protocol, he left it cure in the windrow until there was just enough light in the day to get it baled before the dew started to settle. You want to get the hay into the bale dry, which means let its own moisture evaporate out, but get it before the dew forms when the sun sets.

You have to guesstimate when to start in order to achieve this, leaving a little margin for error in case there is some repair to equipment that may be needed.

I went up to take some pics, and Ray had it timed perfectly, IMHO, as he was finishing up as the sun slid to the horizon.


The tractor straddles the windrow and the pickup head grabs up the hay. It is a lot of rake teeth that go around and around between strippers that raise the hay into the baling chamber.

The chamber rotates and winds the hay into a tight round  bale. When it is full, Ray lets the twine arm move back and forth across the face of the bale and it ties it up with twine.

When that is done, he opens the rear gate and the finished bale falls out.


If you aren’t careful, either forming the bale asymmetrically (you move the pickup head back and forth across the windrow to make it square) or dropping it on a place too steep, the bale will take off down the hillside and end up in the woods.

I have made thousands of bales in my hay making career in New Vrindaban. More than a few ended up in the woods, so I know whereof I speak.

After curing in the bale for a few more days, the hay is picked up and hauled to the barn. In this case it will be hauled to Balabhadra’s, which is just over the hill from the far end of my upper meadow.  Ray will haul it through Balabhadra’s pasture rather than coming back down to the road and going around. It is shorter.

Before New Vrindaban started buying a lot of land, we had a shortage of hay for our cows. I would go around and find meadows owned by others and put up the hay on the shares. I would make the hay, and give the land owner 1/3 of the bales.

So acccording to tradition 1/3 of these bales would belong to me, but in this case I simply donate them to the cow program.

Near the end when I was still share cropping for New Vrindaban’s benefit, I ended up making some deals with land developers. I would take all the hay in exchange for keeping their warehoused land cleaned up. These arrangements would be temporary as they would eventaully be broken up into pieces so small it wasn’t worth doing anymore as the land was gobbled up by Suburbanasura.

The god of war assured King Arsounas, “Do not be fooled by words. No life is taken. Know that no one was ever born, nor does anyone die.” In the violent mini-eternity of the warrior, combat is conducted according to a ritual formal as song: no one is ever born, no one can ever die. The left-handed rockabilly guitarist whose left arm was severed by an RPG round at Dak To has come back to life in a part of my body that died long before we started to patrol this part of the river of eternal woe. His life is mine though I never lived it. The violent backwash of the rotors is crimsoned by a fine aerosol spray of blood while a loudspeaker amplifies the goddess’ excited laughter.

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