Thursday, September 27, 2007


Organizing my things to pack up, i found this quote from Thomas Paine, writing to his compatriots in 1776. He was writing in regards to duty to country, but his words can easily be applied to those of you who are fighting for liberation and bhakti:

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value."

from The American Crisis, by Thomas Paine

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Signing Off from the Big Apple

One thought i had today: the most difficult thing to do is to do nothing. We are active by our very essence. A parrot flies, a fish swims, a cow chews. And a man plans, thinks, collects and spends. So doing nothing is against our nature. This is one reason why old age is so difficult. The senses slacken. The body deteriorates. And energy becomes very low. So there is no scope for action. Only thoughts continue unabated. And if the mind has not been trained to take pleasure in transcendence, it gravitates to the memories of an imperfect past, or anticipates the dark fear of an unknown future. This is the curse of old age without cultivation of real knowledge.

My time in New York is almost over. I have been here for 10 weeks. I came on a mission, and that mission has more or less been completed. I have no more reason to remain in New York, although i have become a bit attached. New York City is engaging due to its exceptional ethnic mix. I haven't seen a more diverse group of people anywhere in the world. Of course tourists come from everywhere, but amongst the resident population, there's an amazing diversity of races, religions, cultural backgrounds and ages. Just walking down the street is a variety show of God's human creation. I wouldn't call it "civilization," but it's a fascinating human zoo.

I live alone here; however in the past few days, one fly has become my roommate. He seems to like me, and i like him enough not to try to kill him. We don't communicate much but we tolerate one another.

I'm now preparing for my next stop, Miami. I'll be busy packing for a few days. So my next entry will probably be sometime next week from the Orange State. Wandering from Apples to Oranges on the jivatma express.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thakur Bhaktivinode, Where Are You?

I woke up this morning, remembering it was the golden appearance day of one of our great predecessor acaryas, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. Yes, and i found a biography of his glorious life that i shall read before the day is over. There was also a brief sketch of his life posted in today's Sun that i read. But the chief article in that vaisnava online newspaper that caught my attention was a posting by Rocana of the scandal in Scotland with Balabhadra dasa and the GBC men who covered for him and later (due to his not obeying their conditions) exposed him. It was a depressing article on a subject that has no spiritual value. It only exposes the extreme lack of qualification amongst the current leaders of Iskcon, and frankly, the lack of vision on anyone else's part to create a viable alternative.

From there i went to the mainstream news, where today's big story is about the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who spoke at Columbia University. He is berated as a mini-Hitler and incarnation of evil by some of the media and especially by the Jewish organizations in the US. But he is also an academic and a smart politician. He spoke about God, science and religion to the students and faculty, complaining that he was insulted (he was) by the University president who introduced him. He explained that in Iranian culture (which is coming from Aryan culture originally, as Prabhupada confirmed when he visited us in Tehran in 1976), one never insults one's guest, even if he is considered an enemy. He made some good points, but as a politician whose record on human rights is terrible, one can be sure that his words do not match his deeds.

So in today's news we had vaisnavas who intimidate others and engage in degraded activities, other vaisnavas who protect their own vested interests as leaders and cover up for the abusers, "if they remain quiet." Then we have a world leader berated for being a dictator, who tells Americans what they don't want to hear: that they aren't the "good guys" and they should stop trying to control the world.

I guess it was not so much different 120 years ago, when Bhaktivinode Thakur was writing and preaching. There were fallen vaisnavas and sahajiyas then too, and colonial imperialists at that time were more brutal than today's leaders. People seemed much more simple then, and in many ways, less sinful, but also much less aware and open to change. And there was no internet to challenge the prevailing lies and half-truths of the established media. Now we have this amazing technology, where i can sit here in New York, typing on my keyboard, and within seconds, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can read my words. Or see video images of any event happening in the world. That could be a powerful force for truth.

The only thing missing are the real devotees, the great acaryas, like Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur and Srila Prabhupada. Where are those rare souls who have the compassion, the knowledge and the sakti to cut thru this jungle of ignorance and give the message of Caitanya Mahaprabhu with an open heart? Until Krishna inspires such souls to return, or until He empowers new mahatmas or sadhikas, the world will not get any better. And unless it improves, it will decline even further.

We cannot expect miracles. We don't know the plan of the Lord. All we can do, is try to remember those great souls, pray to them, cry in separation from them, and with humility, understanding our limitations, do whatever little we can to follow them. Then at least we will not create any more bad news. And in times like this, no news is good news.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Demigod Worship

Today is one of those rare days when the demigods are merciful to the impious New Yorkers. They give them sun, clear skies and air that is not too hot, too humid or too cold. Today the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York. Seeing the weather, he may think that Allah is on America's side after all.

Walking down Central Park West on my usual shopping trip, i noticed lots of people taking photos of the Dakota Building that i wrote about in a blog one week ago. I also noticed a vendor selling photos of John Lennon nearby. On my way back, i passed the same intersection and even more people were taking pictures. I knew why, but just for confirmation, i asked a Japanese tourist aiming a digital camera at the building. "Why are you taking photographs here?" I asked in a friendly way. "Dakota here....John Lennon here," came the reply.

It made me think how the natural tendency for human beings is to worship demigods. In the absence of the real deal (Lord Siva, Durga Ma, Kali, Saraswati, Hanuman, Ganesh, Karitkeya), people worship other human beings, who by their fame, become like demigods. If they are dead, all the more convenient to worship them. That's why on the corner of 72nd St. and Central Park West, everyone was snapping pictures of a building that John Lennon lived in 30 years ago.

In spiritual and religious movements also, in the absence of the real deal (self realized devotees and uttama adhikari gurus) the followers feel a need to worship "demigods." In the case of Iskcon, it's the unqualified rubber stamped gurus. Like celebrities on tour to promote their latest film, or corporate execs, they fly from one continent to another. On the Sun the other day, someone published an email sent by one of these gurus to a friend. He was saying how he was going to be one day in Helsinki, one day in Estonia, one day in Latvia, then come back to the US for a week, then go to Fiji, India, then back to Europe. This guru said he was "in bliss." In other words, he had finally achieved celebrity status, and was now a demigod in Iskcon.

This kind of behavior simply gives nutrition to the ritviks who claim there is only one guru for the next 10,000 years. But even the Catholic Church, which practices a kind of ritvik philosophy, has its demigods-- the Saints, Popes and Cardinals. And the Protestants? I guess they've got evangelical preachers and movie stars. All perverted demigod worship, in my opinion.

So the Hindus, with their hodge podge puja of demigods that we thought was 'backward' when we were young, turn out to be more sane than everyone else after all. At least their demigods are real.