Bamboo Skyscrapers

H.H. Hridayananda Goswami’s Krishna West project is based on the simple idea that if you remove the non-essential, Indian cultural trappings of present-day ISKCON from its spiritual essence, then ISKCON will be restored to its former potency and once again become the dynamic preaching movement with high levels of recruitment it once was. According to the Krishna West mission statement, they “do everything possible to make bhakti-yoga easy, relevant and enjoyable for Western people, without in any way compromising, diluting, or diminishing the purity and power of a glorious ancient tradition.”And they aim to do this “by offering the essential spiritual teaching and practice in its entirety, without requiring students and practitioners to embrace a new ethnicity composed of non-essential Eastern dress, cuisine, music etc.” Therefore they say they are giving the people in the West “the chance to practice genuine bhakti-yoga within an external culture that is comfortable and natural for them.” The big idea behind Krishna West is that bhakti is internal whereas culture is external, and their aim is to establish a complete and mature Krishna conscious community on this principle.

In some respects, Krishna West’s approach to preaching is no different from other long-standing bridge-preaching programs like spaghetti night at the local university or the successful loft program pioneered in Australia, whose focus was to create a “hang-out” for young people so they could feel comfortable, make friends with devotees and eventually become devotees. The idea is that there is a kind of cultural rift that prevents people who would otherwise like to become devotees but due to cultural attachments won’t. Therefore, as its name implies, the program tries to “bridge” that cultural divide and make it easier for them to cross over to Krishna consciousness. Successful bridge-preaching programs generally have to deemphasize certain aspects of ISKCON’s internal culture in order to be effective.[...] read more

Covering The Head Has Nothing To Do With Muslims

This is a response to a comment made by Gaura Keshava Prabhu in which he espouses the opinion that head covering by North Indian women is an imposition from Islam.

The theory that North Indian women cover their head with a sari because of Islamic influence is not a sound idea for several reasons. There are places in North India that had very little or no Islamic political domination yet the women cover their heads with sari. And there are large swaths of South India that were under Islamic domination for centuries and the women there don’t cover their heads with saris.[...] read more

Chastity – What Does It Actually Mean?

On the 26th of July we welcomed 40 ladies in Kharkov/Ukraine, who had traveled all the way from Moscow, Minsk, Moldova, Crimea and various corners of Ukraine to participate in the two-week course for ladies entitled “Exploring the Roots of Spiritual Culture”. As every year we had arranged for their accomodation in a nearby hostel of a ladies’ college. Our youngest participant was ten years of age and the oldest mid fifty, and everyone was excited to embark on this transformational journey. Each and every participant received a colorful folder with printed materials and articles. We had a tight schedule with a three hours’ session in the mornings, and another 2 hours in the afternoon. Every morning we began the lessons with a role play demonstrating the topics of the previous day’s discussions. Whenever ten-year old Manjari took part, the role plays were especially heart moving and sweet.

One of the many captivating topics was chastity – what exactly does it mean? These days we often have a very shallow and superficial understanding of this most important quality, and since women in materialistic culture don’t aspire for it at all, the term is therefore almost lost and forgotten today. I distinctly remember how I was preaching at a Sunday program many years ago in Sydney, Australia, and I mentioned this term ‘chastity’ to some newcomers. One of the ladies exclaimed with a thousand question marks written all over her face: “Chastity? What’s THAT??” Also in the German language the term chastity (Keuschheit) sounds like something from the Middle Ages.[...] read more

Sex—the Cause of Unlimited Suffering

“Of all kinds of suffering and bondage arising from various attachments, none is greater than the suffering and bondage arising from attachment to women and intimate contact with those attached to women.” (SB 11.14.30)

Because the experience and urges of sex are so intense, and the syndrome of man/woman relationships surrounding it is so complex, it diverts the conditioned soul’s attention away from Krsna and deludes him more than any other trick of maya. Sometimes the foolish conditioned soul experiences great delight in enjoying sex; at other times he is frustrated and burns in the fire of lust. Or, when spurned by a lover, he suffers mental agony, sometimes so severe that he is driven to kill the loved one, or himself, or both.[...] read more

A response to Hari-kirtana prabhu regarding my article

Many thanks to Hari-kirtana prabhu for his thoughtful response to my submission on the relative intelligence of men to women. He has clearly done a little homework and I appreciate his reminder that we have to be careful when we cite scientific findings as support for our preaching work. His admonition that “one small slip on the scientific slope (in this case, asserting that testosterone suppresses oxytocin to prove that a man’s biological response to stress is different than a woman’s) is enough to undermine our credibility with educated people and, with it, the credibility Vedic scripture as axiomatic, infallible, and of Divine origin” is well taken. It reminds me of an exchange we had with Srila Prabhupada on a morning walk on December 8th 1975 in Vrindavana:

“Nevertheless, despite his often humorous critiques and sometimes general condemnations of the modern materialistic scientists, Prabhupada cautioned us that any attempt to preach on a scientific basis must be done expertly. When Alanatha, a European devotee, told him of plans to publish a magazine in Sweden with articles challenging the material scientists, Prabhupada warned him. “Don’t write anything nonsense. It must be very solid. Otherwise you’ll be laughing stock. One must be confident before challenging others. In all stages he must be able to defend himself from the opposing elements. Then such challenge is all right. We are confident that this soul cannot be manufactured by any material combination. Therefore we can challenge. And we can defend ourselves in any stage.”[...] read more

ISKCON ROCK

This article was written in the 90-is when some devotees in the West were convinced that by been engaged is so called “straight edge” movement ISKCON will profit greatly and influence youth of yesterday. Unfortunately most of the protagonists of that “ISKCON rock wave” era are not in good standing today. But even more amazing is that now, 20+ years later some “smart'” people in India think they had discovered the great avenue for preaching. Good luck. – Editor (ex – Straight edger and a rock musician)

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A Historical Sense

I had come to Sanskrit in search of roots, but I had not expected to have that need met so directly. I had not expected my wish for a ‘historical sense’ to be answered with linguistic roots.

Aged twenty-seven or so, when I first began to study Sanskrit as a private student at Oxford, I knew nothing about the shared origins of Indo-European languages. Not only did I not know the example given in my textbook—that the Sanskrit ãrya, the Avestan airya, from which we have the modern name Iran, and the Gaelic Eire, all the way on the Western rim of the Indo-European belt, were all probably cognate—I don’t even think I knew that word, ‘cognate’. It means ‘born together’: co + natus. And natus from gnascor is cognate with the Sanskrit root jan from where we have janma and the Ancient Greek gennaõ, ‘to beget’. Genesis, too.[...] read more

How can we explain the need of Varanasrama dharma organization in human society?

Manidhara Prabhu

The need is self-evident, unfortunately not to many. Either in name of imaginary transcendental progress or in name of mayavada based declaration of oneness and “unity”, the conditioned soul likes not to look into the mirror and agree on ones acquired conditioning. And so we run into the risk to become grhasta-sannyasis and sannyasi-grhastas, homely brahmacaries of ugra-tapas grhastas, ending in entirely disturbed situations, causing pain to so many other living entities.

Even most intimate associates of the Lord place themselves while performing their lilas into exemplary varna and dharma designated positions in order to teach the conditioned souls how to live a disciplined life while aiming towards the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. And whenever, like at the beginning of Bhagava-gita, a devotee THINKS to serve in a self-designated position, the Lord rectifies him instantly.[...] read more