January 2008


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From a photo set on Flickr.

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Recently Mudakari dd was looking through some old Brijabasi Spirits and found some articles I had written. She photographed them and emailed them to me, a kindness I greatly appreciate. They are in jpg format.

This one is from an issue in 1982 called Vol. IX, #4.

In retrospect, I look at the article now and realize that it wasn’t a B-52 that would have been breaking the sound barrier, as they fly close to but do not break the sound barrier. It would have been one of the fighter jets that also flew out of Grand Forks Air Force Base where the B-52s were stationed.

If I were to edit this now, I would put the request of the Air Force officer in context by pointing out that we were about fifty miles south of the Canadian border, about halfway from the border to the Air Force base. We were in a direct line on the shortest route, over the North Pole, from Russia to the US and in the heart of the Cold War.

The B-52s carried nuclear weapons so we were located in a primary target zone in case of a nuclear attack. New Vrindaban is near some heavy industry but was considered only a third level target

Click here for the first part of the article.

Click here for the conclusion to the article.

By the way, any transcriptionists out there? I wouldn’t mind having this in digital text format but I am a crappy typist so would appreciate if someone would take the trouble.

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While it isn’t on the level of how I used to cook ghee when I worked at the ghee factory, I still make some on occasion. Back then, I would load forty 25 Kg blocks of butter (that would be 2200 pounds) into a 300 gallon(1135 liter) steam jacketed cooker and turn it into ghee.

This time around I was only using 5.5 Kg (13 lbs) of butter on a wood cook stove but the underlying principle is the same. FYI, for local readers interested in making their own ghee, I buy my butter at Aldi’s out by the Mall. They have it everyday at a price that you would have to find on sale at the regular supermarkets, plus there is no sales tax on food in Ohio.

The ideal of course would be to be making it out of our own cow’s milk but I lack the resources, energy, and potential duration of life to maintain the cow and calf for their lifetimes so I do the exchange thing and support cow protection by the temple to offset the karma of buying dairy from the market where cows will be murdered.

My goal is that by the end of my life I will have contributed to the establishment of a trust fund for cows that will contain at least $1,000,000 US. This would generate enough income that 100 cows could be keep at a bare minimum standard and allowed to live out a natural duration of life.

In any case, back to cooking the ghee. I don’t ascribe to the method of cooking off the water then skimming the floating solids and decanting from those that settle. That yields butter oil only which lacks the full potential of great tasting ghee.

I cook it until the floating solids sink to the bottom and the bottom solids coagulate. This takes longer but is worth the effort IMHO.

I cook in the winter because we are heating with the wood stove anyway, so longer cooking times don’t effect our energy usage. In the summer we use propane so it would impact our consumption of nonrenewable energy. On the wood stove, the energy goes into the ghee and cooks it, but no energy is lost because most of it escapes in the form of steam into the room which gives needed humidity and releases the heat into the room air.

The rest is released into the room when the ghee is cooling down after I have jarred it up. So the energy used for heating the ghee is zero, it is merely diverted on its way to heat the room.

Incidentally, after I took the picture above, I poured the melting butter into a larger pot. When the butter melts initially, air is released plus steam from the water in the butter, and it foams up. You either have to stir it constantly, or have a pot about twice as large as the melted butter in order to accommodate the foam without it boiling over and making a mess, albeit a fragrant one. In this case I had miscalculated the necessary pot size.

I could have sped up the melting process by opening the burner with the handle you see in the picture and putting it directly on the open flame, but I was in no hurry as I started in the morning so had all day to cook it.

The difference between the steam cooker and the stove top comes into play in the end stage when I am “polishing” the ghee, that is to say after the water has all been driven off but before the solids have coagulated. That is when the flavor of the butter is driven into the ghee.

In the steam cooker, there is no danger of burning the ghee because steam never goes above 220 degrees (105 C) (higher than normal because it is pressurized). On the stove top, the ghee without water will get quite hot and can get a burnt taste if you aren’t careful so I have to move it from over the fire box to a cooler part of the stove top, and keep an eye on it.

I make our personal ghee in the winter because it is traditionally a part of the year when you have more time and are indoors, plus with this method no extra energy is used. Ghee lasts a long time, so storage for the year is not a problem, and then we don’t have to worry about it in the summer.

I get an email Reflection from the Thomas Merton Institute every week. Occasionally, I mash one of these up with a quote from our Vaisnava literature. The resonation is so striking that I consider Thomas Merton to be a great Vaisnava saint, who happened to take birth in a Christian culture. He lived the lifestyle of a Vaisnava and arrived at most of the same conclusions on spirituality, albeit through a different religion, that of Roman Catholic Christianity.

I realized I have done this mashup a lot over the last couple of years, so this weekend I created a new category, Thomas Merton, on my blog and went through my archives and recategorized all my posts with Merton quotes in them.

Hopefully this will be of benefit to someone interested in interfaith.

“When advancement of knowledge is applied in the service of the Lord, the whole process becomes absolute. The Personality of Godhead and His transcendental name, fame, glory, etc., are all nondifferent from Him. Therefore, all the sages and devotees of the Lord have recommended that the subject matter of art, science, philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology and all other branches of knowledge should be wholly and solely applied in the service of the Lord.”

SB 1.5.22

I must get to know something of modern physics. Even though I am a monk, that is no reason for living in a Newtonian universe or, worse still, an Aristotelian one. The fact that the cosmos is not quite what St. Thomas and Dante imagined it to be has after all some importance. It does not invalidate St. Thomas or Dante or Catholic theology, but it ought to be understood and taken into account by a theologian.

“It is futile to try and live in an expanding universe with atomic fission an ever present possibility and try to think and act exclusively as if the cosmos were fixed in an immutable order centered upon man’s earth. Modern physics has its repercussions in the monastery and to be a monk one must take them into account, although that does nothing whatever to make one’s spirituality either simple or neat.”

Thomas Merton. A Search for Solitude.

Why don’t devotees eat chicken?

Because it has eggs in it.

This is probably the oldest devotee joke there is. Most devotees immediately crack up if they haven’t already heard it, especially in this day and age when most devotees live and eat outside the temples.

If it seems a little obscure to you, read the following for the deep background, bearing in mind devotees don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs:

What Are We Really Eating?

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

I am jacked up.

I got a letter today, albeit a mass mailing to all organ transplant recipients, inviting me to join the 2008 US Transplant Games. It is in Pittsburgh, right next door. That means transportation cost is minimal and no lodging expense, ergo, doable. If it was somewhere else, I wouldn’t consider it but if Krishna is plunking it right into my lap, it has to be a sign I am supposed to compete.

Naturally I would prefer to participate in some ISKCON Games, that would be extraordinarily cool, but as long as the dinosaurs who were imprinted with “frivolous sports are gambling” during their bhakta years and still misinterpret it to mean ALL sports are included are still running ISKCON, that is unlikely to happen. Maybe next lifetime.

So Transplant Games will have to do. The last few days I have been feeling focused and actually with a little energy. I am past the post fast period (taking as many days, 5, to return to a normal diet as I fasted on water) and seem to be feeling some results.

I had had a bit of a healing crisis at the end and had a massive bout with insomnia, first being dog tired and unable to sleep for two nights, then becoming wide wide awake and not even close to sleepy type tired for 40 straight hours. All this threw my circadian rhythm completely out of whack. After the insomnia, I was getting enough sleep but not at the right time but have finally got that back to more normal and I am feeling, relative for me, good.

Yesterday after I had finished pushing myself to accomplish my goals for the day, I actually found myself with some energy and thinking, “Gee, what should I do?’. That hasn’t happened in years.

So when the letter arrived this morning, I actually found myself contemplating doing it. I wasn’t fully confident I could, or, to be more truthful, wasn’t confident I could compete without making a fool of myself. My false ego does retain some illusions that it is possible to still have some degree of pride, and I didn’t want to get in some event and just get shredded by the others in it.

I don’t feel I would want to do anything in the physical condition I am in today, but feel good enough to think that I have the possibility of getting into shape and making a fair showing. I didn’t feel that way before the fast.

Anyway, I called, and the good news is that events are split into age groups, with one of them being 55 and up. At 58, I would be at the younger end of that group and that is a competitive advantage. The further good news is that the winner of the over 55 group in the 5 K race won the gold at a walk. Heh heh (evil snickering). Bunch of old sick people — I might stand a chance! A silver medal is a silver medal even if there are only 3 in your group. :-)

The bad news is that there is NO SOCCER! Apparently, ISKCON isn’t the only organization run by dinosaurs. Still, there are bike races and some track events so I might be able to fake my way through some of those.

The other bad news is a $90 which is a bar at my current income level, but maybe someone will sponsor me. Any takers?

Sponsor me for the 2008 Transplant Games and I will give you fierce praise on my blog. That has to have a tangible value of 1/10 of 1/100 of a dollar or more.

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