Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL

Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL
Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL (Personal Deities)

31 January 2014

A Breath of Fresh Air -- You're in my Prayers John!

It's The Other Oscars -- And Yet Again The Winner Slips Away

It's celebrity time again. The Golden Globes have been, and the Oscars are coming. This is a "vintage year", say Hollywood's hagiographers on cue. It isn't. Most movies are made to a formula for the highest return, money-fuelled by marketing and something called celebrity. This is different from fame, which can come with talent. True celebrities are spared that burden. 
Occasionally, this column treads the red carpet, awarding its own Oscars to those whose ubiquitous promotion demands recognition. Some have been celebrities a long time, drawing the devoted to kiss their knees (more on that later). Others are mere flashes in the pan, so to speak. 
In no particular order, the nominees for the Celebrity Oscars are:
Benedict Cumberbatch. This celebrity was heading hell-bent for an Oscar, but alas, his ultra-hyped movie, The Fifth Estate, produced the lowest box office return for years, making it one of Hollywood's biggest ever turkeys. This does not diminish Cumberbatch's impressive efforts to promote himself as Julian Assange -- assisted by film critics, massive advertising, the US government and, not least, the former PR huckster, David Cameron, who declared, "Benedict Cumberbatch -- brilliant, fantastic piece of acting. The twitchiness and everything of Julian Assange is brilliantly portrayed." Neither Cameron nor Cumberatch has ever met Assange. The "twitchiness and everything" was an invention. 
Assange had written Cumberbatch a personal letter, pointing out that the "true story" on which the film claimed to be based was from two books discredited as hatchet jobs. "Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them," WikiLeaks posted. In his letter, Assange asked Cumberbatch to note that actors had moral responsibilities, too. "Consider the consequences of your cooperation with a project that vilifies and marginalises a living political refugee ..."
Cumberbatch's response was to reveal selected parts of Assange's letter and so elicit further hype from the "agonising decision" he faced -- which, as it turned out, was never in doubt. That the movie was a turkey was a rare salute to the public. 
Robert De Niro is the celebrity's celebrity. I was in India recently at a conference with De Niro, who was asked a good question about the malign influence of Hollywood on living history. The 1978 multi-Oscar winning movie The Deerhunter was cited, especially its celebrated Russian roulette scene; De Niro was the star. 
"The Russian roulette scene might not have happened," said De Niro, "but it must have happened somewhere. It was a metaphor." He refused to say more; the celebrity star doesn't like giving interviews. 
When The Deerhunter was released, the Daily Mail described it as "the story they never dared to tell before ... the film that could purge a nation's guilt!" A purgative indeed -- that was almost entirely untrue. 
Following America's expulsion from its criminal invasion of Vietnam, The Deerhunter was Hollywood's post-war attempt to reincarnate the triumphant Batman-jawed white warrior and present a stoic, suffering and often heroic people as sub-human Oriental idiots and barbarians. The film's dramatic pitch was reached during recurring orgiastic scenes in which De Niro and his fellow stars, imprisoned in rat-infested bamboo cages, were forced to play Russian roulette by resistance fighters of the National Liberation Front, whom the Americans called Vietcong. 
The director, Michael Cimino, insisted this scene was authentic. It was fake. Cimino himself had claimed he had served in Vietnam as a Green Beret. He hadn't. He told Linda Christmas of the Guardian he had "this insane feeling that I was there ... somehow the fine wires have got really crossed and the line between reality and fiction has become blurred". His brilliantly acted fakery has since become a YouTube "classic": for many people, their only reference to that "forgotten" war. 
While he was in India, De Niro visited Bollywood, where his celebrity is god-like. Fawning actors sat at his feet and kissed his knees. Bollywood's asinine depiction of modern India is not dissimilar to The Deerhunter's distortion of America and Asia. 
Nelson Mandela was a great human being who became a celebrity. "Sainthood", he told me drily, "is not the job I applied for." The western media appropriated Mandela and made him into a one-dimensional cartoon celebrity tailored for bourgeois applause: a kind of political Santa Claus. That his dignity served as a facade behind which his beloved ANC oversaw the further impoverishment and division of his people was unmentionable. And in death, his celebrity-sainthood was assured. 
For those outside Britain, the name Keith Vaz is not associated with celebrity. And yet this Labour Party politician has had a long and distinguished career of self-promotion, while slipping serenely away from scandals and near-scandals, a parliamentary inquiry and a suspension, having acquired the soubriquet Keith Vaseline. In 2009, he was revealed to have claimed 75,500 pounds in expenses for an apartment in Westminster despite having a family home just 12 miles from parliament. 
Last year, Vaz's parliamentary home affairs committee summoned Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to Parliament to discuss the leaks of Edward Snowden. Vaz's opening question to Rusbridger was: "Do you love this country?" 
Once again, Vaz was an instant celebrity, though, once again, not the one he longed to be. He was compared with the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy. Still, the sheer stamina of his endeavours proves that Keith Vaseline is no flash in the pan; and is the Oscar Celebrity of the Year! Congratulations Keith, and commiserations, Benedict; you were only just behind. 

28 January 2014

It is Not the Ahabs -- It is Us

Noam Chomsky is right: It’s the so-called serious who devastate the planet and cause the wars
Fear the sober voices on the New York Times Op-Ed page and in the think tanks -- they're more dangerous than hawks
Greg Grandin,

A captain ready to drive himself and all around him to ruin in the hunt for a white whale. It’s a well-known story, and over the years, mad Ahab in Herman Melville’s most famous novel, Moby-Dick, has been used as an exemplar of unhinged American power, most recently of George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.
But what’s really frightening isn’t our Ahabs, the hawks who periodically want to bomb some poor country, be it Vietnam or Afghanistan, back to the Stone Age.  The respectable types are the true “terror of our age,” as Noam Chomsky called them collectively nearly 50 years ago.  The really scary characters are our soberest politicians, scholars, journalists, professionals, and managers, men and women (though mostly men) who imagine themselves as morally serious, and then enable the wars, devastate the planet, and rationalize the atrocities.  They are a type that has been with us for a long time.  More than a century and a half ago, Melville, who had a captain for every face of empire, found their perfect expression — for his moment and ours.
For the last six years, I’ve been researching the life of an American seal killer, a ship captain named Amasa Delano who, in the 1790s, was among the earliest New Englanders to sail into the South Pacific.  Money was flush, seals were many, and Delano and his fellow ship captains established the first unofficial U.S. colonies on islands off the coast of Chile.  They operated under an informal council of captains, divvied up territory, enforced debt contracts, celebrated the Fourth of July, and set up ad hoc courts of law.  When no bible was available, the collected works of William Shakespeare, found in the libraries of most ships, were used to swear oaths.
From his first expedition, Delano took hundreds of thousands of sealskins to China, where he traded them for spices, ceramics, and tea to bring back to Boston.  During a second, failed voyage, however, an event took place that would make Amasa notorious — at least among the readers of the fiction of Herman Melville.
Here’s what happened: One day in February 1805 in the South Pacific, Amasa Delano spent nearly a full day on board a battered Spanish slave ship, conversing with its captain, helping with repairs, and distributing food and water to its thirsty and starving voyagers, a handful of Spaniards and about 70 West African men and women he thought were slaves. They weren’t.
Those West Africans had rebelled weeks earlier, killing most of the Spanish crew, along with the slaver taking them to Peru to be sold, and demanded to be returned to Senegal.  When they spotted Delano’s ship, they came up with a plan: let him board and act as if they were still slaves, buying time to seize the sealer’s vessel and supplies.  Remarkably, for nine hours, Delano, an experienced mariner and distant relative of future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was convinced that he was on a distressed but otherwise normally functioning slave ship.
Having barely survived the encounter, he wrote about the experience in his memoir, which Melville read and turned into what many consider his “other” masterpiece.  Published in 1855, on the eve of the Civil War, Benito Cereno is one of the darkest stories in American literature.  It’s told from the perspective of Amasa Delano as he wanders lost through a shadow world of his own racial prejudices.
One of the things that attracted Melville to the historical Amasa was undoubtedly the juxtaposition between his cheerful self-regard — he considers himself a modern man, a liberal opposed to slavery — and his complete obliviousness to the social world around him.  The real Amasa was well meaning, judicious, temperate, and modest.
In other words, he was no Ahab, whose vengeful pursuit of a metaphysical whale has been used as an allegory for every American excess, every catastrophic war, every disastrous environmental policy, from Vietnam and Iraq to the explosion of the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Ahab, whose peg-legged pacing of the quarterdeck of his doomed ship enters the dreams of his men sleeping below like the “crunching teeth of sharks.”  Ahab, whose monomania is an extension of the individualism born out of American expansion and whose rage is that of an ego that refuses to be limited by nature’s frontier.  “Our Ahab,” as a soldier in Oliver Stone’s movie Platoon calls a ruthless sergeant who senselessly murders innocent Vietnamese.
Ahab is certainly one face of American power. In the course of writing a book on the history that inspired Benito Cereno, I’ve come to think of it as not the most frightening — or even the most destructive of American faces.  Consider Amasa.
Killing Seals
Since the end of the Cold War, extractive capitalism has spread over our post-industrialized world with a predatory force that would shock even Karl Marx.  From the mineral-rich Congo to the open-pit gold mines of Guatemala, from Chile’s until recently pristine Patagonia to the fracking fields of Pennsylvania and the melting Arctic north, there is no crevice where some useful rock, liquid, or gas can hide, no jungle forbidden enough to keep out the oil rigs and elephant killers, no citadel-like glacier, no hard-baked shale that can’t be cracked open, no ocean that can’t be poisoned.
And Amasa was there at the beginning.  Seal fur may not have been the world’s first valuable natural resource, but sealing represented one of young America’s first experiences of boom-and-bust resource extraction beyond its borders.
With increasing frequency starting in the early 1790s and then in a mad rush beginning in 1798, ships left New Haven, Norwich, Stonington, New London, and Boston, heading for the great half-moon archipelago of remote islands running from Argentina in the Atlantic to Chile in the Pacific.  They were on the hunt for the fur seal, which wears a layer of velvety down like an undergarment just below an outer coat of stiff gray-black hair.
In Moby-Dick, Melville portrayed whaling as the American industry.  Brutal and bloody but also humanizing, work on a whale ship required intense coordination and camaraderie.  Out of the gruesomeness of the hunt, the peeling of the whale’s skin from its carcass, and the hellish boil of the blubber or fat, something sublime emerged: human solidarity among the workers.  And like the whale oil that lit the lamps of the world, divinity itself glowed from the labor: “Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God.”
Sealing was something else entirely.  It called to mind not industrial democracy but the isolation and violence of conquest, settler colonialism, and warfare.  Whaling took place in a watery commons open to all.  Sealing took place on land.  Sealers seized territory, fought one another to keep it, and pulled out what wealth they could as fast as they could before abandoning their empty and wasted island claims.  The process pitted desperate sailors against equally desperate officers in as all-or-nothing a system of labor relations as can be imagined.
In other words, whaling may have represented the promethean power of proto-industrialism, with all the good (solidarity, interconnectedness, and democracy) and bad (the exploitation of men and nature) that went with it, but sealing better predicted today’s postindustrial extracted, hunted, drilled, fracked, hot, and strip-mined world.
Seals were killed by the millions and with a shocking casualness.  A group of sealers would get between the water and the rookeries and simply start clubbing.  A single seal makes a noise like a cow or a dog, but tens of thousands of them together, so witnesses testified, sound like a Pacific cyclone.  Once we “began the work of death,” one sealer remembered, “the battle caused me considerable terror.”
South Pacific beaches came to look like Dante’s Inferno.  As the clubbing proceeded, mountains of skinned, reeking carcasses piled up and the sands ran red with torrents of blood.  The killing was unceasing, continuing into the night by the light of bonfires kindled with the corpses of seals and penguins.
And keep in mind that this massive kill-off took place not for something like whale oil, used by all for light and fire.  Seal fur was harvested to warm the wealthy and meet a demand created by a new phase of capitalism: conspicuous consumption.  Pelts were used for ladies’ capes, coats, muffs, and mittens, and gentlemen’s waistcoats.  The fur of baby pups wasn’t much valued, so some beaches were simply turned into seal orphanages, with thousands of newborns left to starve to death.  In a pinch though, their downy fur, too, could be used — to make wallets.

Occasionally, elephant seals would be taken for their oil in an even more horrific manner: when they opened their mouths to bellow, their hunters would toss rocks in and then begin to stab them with long lances.  Pierced in multiple places like Saint Sebastian, the animals’ high-pressured circulatory system gushed “fountains of blood, spouting to a considerable distance.”
At first the frenetic pace of the killing didn’t matter: there were so many seals.  On one island alone, Amasa Delano estimated, there were “two to three millions of them” when New Englanders first arrived to make “a business of killing seals.”
“If many of them were killed in a night,” wrote one observer, “they would not be missed in the morning.”  It did indeed seem as if you could kill every one in sight one day, then start afresh the next.  Within just a few years, though, Amasa and his fellow sealers had taken so many seal skins to China that Canton’s warehouses couldn’t hold them.  They began to pile up on the docks, rotting in the rain, and their market price crashed.
To make up the margin, sealers further accelerated the pace of the killing — until there was nothing left to kill.  In this way, oversupply and extinction went hand in hand.  In the process, cooperation among sealers gave way to bloody battles over thinning rookeries.  Previously, it only took a few weeks and a handful of men to fill a ship’s hold with skins.  As those rookeries began to disappear, however, more and more men were needed to find and kill the required number of seals and they were often left on desolate islands for two- or three-year stretches, living alone in miserable huts in dreary weather, wondering if their ships were ever going to return for them.
“On island after island, coast after coast,” one historian wrote, “the seals had been destroyed to the last available pup, on the supposition that if sealer Tom did not kill every seal in sight, sealer Dick or sealer Harry would not be so squeamish.”  By 1804, on the very island where Amasa estimated that there had been millions of seals, there were more sailors than prey.  Two years later, there were no seals at all.
The Machinery of Civilization
There exists a near perfect inverse symmetry between the real Amasa and the fictional Ahab, with each representing a face of the American Empire.  Amasa is virtuous, Ahab vengeful.  Amasa seems trapped by the shallowness of his perception of the world.  Ahab is profound; he peers into the depths.  Amasa can’t see evil (especially his own). Ahab sees only nature’s “intangible malignity.”
Both are representatives of the most predatory industries of their day, their ships carrying what Delano once called the “machinery of civilization” to the Pacific, using steel, iron, and fire to kill animals and transform their corpses into value on the spot.
Yet Ahab is the exception, a rebel who hunts his white whale against all rational economic logic.  He has hijacked the “machinery” that his ship represents and rioted against “civilization.”  He pursues his quixotic chase in violation of the contract he has with his employers.  When his first mate, Starbuck, insists that his obsession will hurt the profits of the ship’s owners, Ahab dismisses the concern: “Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab?  Owners, Owners?  Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience.”
Insurgents like Ahab, however dangerous to the people around them, are not the primary drivers of destruction.  They are not the ones who will hunt animals to near extinction — or who are today forcing the world to the brink.  Those would be the men who never dissent, who either at the frontlines of extraction or in the corporate backrooms administer the destruction of the planet, day in, day out, inexorably, unsensationally without notice, their actions controlled by an ever greater series of financial abstractions and calculations made in the stock exchanges of New York, London, and Shanghai.
If Ahab is still the exception, Delano is still the rule.  Throughout his long memoir, he reveals himself as ever faithful to the customs and institutions of maritime law, unwilling to take any action that would injure the interests of his investors and insurers.  “All bad consequences,” he wrote, describing the importance of protecting property rights, “may be avoided by one who has a knowledge of his duty, and is disposed faithfully to obey its dictates.”
It is in Delano’s reaction to the West African rebels, once he finally realizes he has been the target of an elaborately staged con, that the distinction separating the sealer from the whaler becomes clear.  The mesmeric Ahab — the “thunder-cloven old oak” — has been taken as a prototype of the twentieth-century totalitarian, a one-legged Hitler or Stalin who uses an emotional magnetism to convince his men to willingly follow him on his doomed hunt for Moby Dick.
Delano is not a demagogue.  His authority is rooted in a much more common form of power: the control of labor and the conversion of diminishing natural resources into marketable items.  As seals disappeared, however, so too did his authority.  His men first began to grouse and then conspire.  In turn, Delano had to rely ever more on physical punishment, on floggings even for the most minor of offences, to maintain control of his ship — until, that is, he came across the Spanish slaver.  Delano might have been personally opposed to slavery, yet once he realized he had been played for a fool, he organized his men to retake the slave ship and violently pacify the rebels.  In the process, they disemboweled some of the rebels and left them writhing in their viscera, using their sealing lances, which Delano described as “exceedingly sharp and as bright as a gentleman’s sword.”
Caught in the pincers of supply and demand, trapped in the vortex of ecological exhaustion, with no seals left to kill, no money to be made, and his own crew on the brink of mutiny, Delano rallied his men to the chase — not of a white whale but of black rebels.  In the process, he reestablished his fraying authority.  As for the surviving rebels, Delano re-enslaved them.  Propriety, of course, meant returning them and the ship to its owners.
Our Amasas, Ourselves
With Ahab, Melville looked to the past, basing his obsessed captain on Lucifer, the fallen angel in revolt against the heavens, and associating him with America’s “manifest destiny,” with the nation’s restless drive beyond its borders.  With Amasa, Melville glimpsed the future.  Drawing on the memoirs of a real captain, he created a new literary archetype, a moral man sure of his righteousness yet unable to link cause to effect, oblivious to the consequences of his actions even as he careens toward catastrophe.
They are still with us, our Amasas.  They have knowledge of their duty and are disposed faithfully to follow its dictates, even unto the ends of the Earth.

24 January 2014

mrtyuh sarva-haras caham -- Krishna: I am all-devouring death

The obscene lifestyles of the new global super-rich
Private jets and lavish penthouses are just the tip of the iceberg

A new crop of global super-rich is pouring into the United States, changing the economic landscape from Manhattan to Los Angeles. They’re driving up the price of real estate, pushing out the middle class and going on buying binges that would make Gilded Age robber barons blush.
First they want the hotel room — perhaps the storied, $15,000-a-night penthouse at the Fairmont San Francisco, where guests receive honey made by the Fairmont’s own honeybees. JFK was rumored to tryst there with Marilyn Monroe. Next they want the shopping spree, snapping up million-dollar diamond Chanel watches and $1,000-per-ounce perfume. Then they want to buy a home in their favorite playground —maybe a $90 million pad at Manhattan’s behemoth One57, where they can pay negligible taxes yet enjoy the full menu of New York City services.
For the new ultrawealthy, ordinary toys will not do. Once upon a time, owning a super-charged sports car was a symbol of wealth to a certain breed of balding Floridian. But today’s young global gazillionaires require something with a little more flash, like a gold-plated Lamborghini, which costs $7.5 million and even has its own Twitter feed. Brett David, the CEO of Lamborghini Miami, has been selling top-dollar cars for a long time. But even he is shocked at the number of items he’s selling to overseas buyers, from Argentines and Venezuelans to a new crop of Russian and Chinese shoppers.
To help us understand this new breed of 1 percenter, CNBC helpfully launched a brand new series on Jan 22 “ Secret Lives of the Super Rich.” Starting off with a sycophantic chant of “money, money, power, power” over cheesy opening credits, the show is a full hour of nonstop douchiness (two episodes aired Wednesday back-to-back), featuring eager commentary from CNBC’s “wealth editor” Robert Frank (yes, such a job title exists).
For most Americans, half of whom live at or near the poverty line, this is something like a safari through a foreign country that strangely exists in your own backyard. You’ll probably never attend the Breeder’s Cup, the “richest two days in sports,” but you can gawk at the adventures of Justin Zayat, a 21-year-old NYU student and son of racing tycoon Ahmed Zayat who manages million-dollar horses from his college dorm room. You may never own a home with a poolhouse bigger than a McMansion, but you can follow a pair of Russian oligarchs, Irina and Joseph, as they tour a $15 million Gatsby-era estate on Long Island where they can, among other things, ascend a spiral staircase looking up the butt of a three-story stuffed giraffe. Home collectors, we are told, are the new art collectors.
Among the nuggets of wisdom I gleaned sitting through this journey to the land of Richistan was that rich people really, really like taxidermy. Let’s think about this for a moment. Does being surrounded by the corpses of majestic animals give the tycoon a buffer against the existential fear of death? Most of us poor souls walk around just trying to survive, but perhaps the super-rich, who have all their basic needs met and then some, end up with an amplified anxiety about death that fills in the psychological real estate usually devoted to wondering how to pay for your kids’ college. Hence they load up their apartments with stuffed alligators.
The global elites seem to spend a great deal of time wondering how to survive an apocalypse — you might call them Billionaire Doomsday Preppers. They want high-security buildings where their identities are protected, complete with panic rooms and stockpiles of food and water in case of emergency. In case there’s a Third World meltdown, they want a First World stronghold. If death comes, at least they have maid service.
Attending to the psychological quirks of the rich and powerful who don’t want to accept death has a venerable tradition that goes back to the pharaohs, who liked to hit the afterlife in a solid gold mask with an army of embalmed servants. More recently, the field of cryongenics has arisen to stoke dreams of immortality among the wealthy (whole body freezing is the most expensive, but at a discount they can just freeze your head).
Maybe the new bumper crop of billionaires signals the need for a whole new industry: terror management consulting for the 1 percent. The expert could provide a full menu of death-denying services, from customized trips to Brazilian jungles where ayahuasca shamans can help them conquer their fear of dying to a full roster of apocalypse simulations conducted in the privacy of their own home.
If none of that works, at least the super-rich can look forward to a million-dollar funeral, such as the one a Chinese businessman just put on for his mom, complete with a 600-musician marching band and gold-plated cannons firing out the final salute. You can’t take it with you, but you can die trying. (

12 January 2014

Unmasking the Demons

dvau bhūta-sargau loke 'smin
daiva āsura eva ca

"O son of Pṛthā, in this world there are two kinds of created beings. One is called the divine and the other demonic." (Bhagavad-gita 16.6)

"The term "savage" is used to refer to people from primitive cultures, but this documentary shows how savagery reaches new levels with the advent of advanced technology. In the 1950s, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, vaporizing islands and exposing entire populations to fallout. The people of Rongelap received near fatal doses of radiation from one of these tests, and were then moved to a highly contaminated island to serve as guinea pigs to test the affects of radiation on humans for almost 30 years, where they suffered from recurring cancers and birth defects that have affected multiple generations. This cynical act by the U.S. government was conducted with such arrogant racism that without incredible archival footage and shocking secret documents, the story would seem unbelievable."
"The Republic of the Marshall Islands covers nearly a million square miles of picturesque islands, thriving coral atolls, and crystal clear blue waters ". undoubtedly one of the most interesting places in the world to visit."

08 January 2014

Bhadram astu -- Head over Heels

yadā te moha-kalilaḿ
buddhir vyatitariṣyati
tadā gantāsi nirvedaḿ
śrotavyasya śrutasya ca


yadā — when; te — your; moha — of illusion; kalilam — dense forest; buddhiḥ — transcendental service with intelligence; vyatitariṣyati — surpasses; tadā — at that time; gantā asi — you shall go; nirvedam — callousness; śrotavyasya — toward all that is to be heard; śrutasya — all that is already heard; ca — also.

When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of delusion, you shall become indifferent to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard.

There are many good examples in the lives of the great devotees of the Lord of those who became indifferent to the rituals of the Vedas simply by devotional service to the Lord. When a person factually understands Kṛṣṇa and his relationship with Kṛṣṇa, he naturally becomes completely indifferent to the rituals of fruitive activities, even though an experienced brāhmaṇa. Śrī Mādhavendra Purī, a great devotee and ācārya in the line of the devotees, says:

sandhyā-vandana bhadram astu bhavato bhoḥ snāna tubhyaḿ namo
bho devāḥ pitaraś ca tarpaṇa-vidhau nāhaḿ kṣamaḥ kṣamyatām
yatra kvāpi niṣadya yādava-kulottamasya kaḿsa-dviṣaḥ
smāraḿ smāram aghaḿ harāmi tad alaḿ manye kim anyena me

"O my prayers three times a day, all glory to you. O bathing, I offer my obeisances unto you. O demigods! O forefathers! Please excuse me for my inability to offer you my respects. Now wherever I sit, I can remember the great descendant of the Yadu dynasty [Kṛṣṇa], the enemy of Kaḿsa, and thereby I can free myself from all sinful bondage. I think this is sufficient for me."
The Vedic rites and rituals are imperative for neophytes: comprehending all kinds of prayer three times a day, taking a bath early in the morning, offering respects to the forefathers, etc. But when one is fully in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and is engaged in His transcendental loving service, one becomes indifferent to all these regulative principles because he has already attained perfection. If one can reach the platform of understanding by service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, he has no longer to execute different types of penances and sacrifices as recommended in revealed scriptures. And, similarly, if one has not understood that the purpose of the Vedas is to reach Kṛṣṇa and simply engages in the rituals, etc., then he is uselessly wasting time in such engagements. Persons in Kṛṣṇa consciousness transcend the limit of śabda-brahma, or the range of the Vedas and Upaniṣads.
(Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 2.52)

03 January 2014

Tears for Mother India - Fallen into the hands of merciless demons

India has become a dystopia of extremes. But resistance is rising

by John Pilger
Neoliberalism has failed the vast majority of India's people. But the spirit that gave the nation independence is stirring
A man takes a bath outside his shanty in Dharavi, Mumbai, one of Asia's largest slums. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
In five-star hotels on Mumbai's seafront, children of the rich squeal joyfully as they play hide and seek. Nearby, at the National Theatre for the Performing Arts, people arrive for the Mumbai literary festival: famous authors and notables from India's Raj class. They step deftly over a woman lying across the pavement, her birch brooms laid out for sale, her two children silhouettes in a banyan tree that is their home.
It is Children's Day in India. On page nine of the Times of India, a study reports that every second child is malnourished. Nearly 2 million children under the age of five die every year from preventable illness as common as diarrhoea. Of those who survive, half are stunted owing to a lack of nutrients. The national school dropout rate is 40%. Statistics such as these flow like a river permanently in flood. No other country comes close. The small thin legs dangling in a banyan tree are poignant evidence.
The leviathan once known as Bombay is the centre for most of India's foreign trade, global financial dealing and personal wealth. Yet at low tide on the Mithi river, people are forced to defecate in ditches, by the roadside. Half the city's population is without sanitation and lives in slums without basic services. This has doubled since the 1990s when "Shining India" was invented by an American advertising firm as part of the Hindu nationalist BJP party's propaganda that it was "liberating" India's economy and "way of life".
Barriers protecting industry, manufacturing and agriculture were demolished. Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch entered what had been forbidden territory. Limitless "growth" was now the measure of human progress, consuming both the BJP and Congress, the party of independence. Shining India would catch up China and become a superpower, a "tiger", and the middle classes would get their proper entitlement in a society where there was no middle. As for the majority in the "world's largest democracy", they would vote and remain invisible.
There was no tiger economy for them. The hype about a hi-tech India storming the barricades of the first world was largely a myth. This is not to deny India's rise in pre-eminence in computer technology and engineering, but the new urban technocratic class is relatively tiny and the impact of its gains on the fortunes of the majority is negligible.
When the national grid collapsed in 2012, leaving 700 million people powerless, almost half had so little electricity they barely noticed. On my last two visits, last November and 2011, front pages boasted that India had "gatecrashed the super-exclusive ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] club", launched its "largest ever" aircraft carrier and sent a rocket to Mars: the latter lauded by the government as "a historic moment for all of us to cheer".
The cheering was inaudible in the rows of tarpaper shacks you see as you land at Mumbai airport and in myriad villages denied basic technology, such as light and safe water. Here, land is life and the enemy is a rampant "free market". Foreign multinationals' dominance of food grains, genetically modified seed, fertilisers and pesticides has sucked small farmers into a ruthless global market and led to debt and destitution. More than 250,000 farmers have killed themselves since the mid-1990s – a figure that may be a fraction of the truth as local authorities wilfully misreport "accidental" deaths. In one district of Maharashtra, farmers die by the dozen every week.
"Across the length and breadth of India," says the acclaimed environmentalist Vandana Shiva, "the government has declared war on its own people". Using colonial-era laws, fertile land has been taken from poor farmers for as little as 300 rupees a square metre; developers have sold it for up to 600,000 rupees. In Uttar Pradesh, a new expressway serves "luxury" townships with sporting facilities and a Formula One racetrack, having eliminated 1,225 villages. The farmers and their communities have fought back, as they do all over India; in 2011, four were killed and many injured in clashes with police.
For Britain, India is now a "priority market" – to quote the government's arms sales unit. In 2010, David Cameron took the heads of the major British arms companies to Delhi and signed a $700m contract to supply Hawk fighter bombers. Disguised as "trainers", these lethal aircraft were used against the villages of East Timor. The collapse this week of Cameron's attempt to sell attack helicopters to India, a deal now mired in bribery allegations, exemplifies his government's biggest single contribution to Shining India.
India has become a model of the imperial cult of neoliberalism – almost everything must be privatised, sold off. The worldwide assault on social democracy and the collusion of major parliamentary parties – begun in the US and Britain in the 1980s – has produced in India a dystopia of extremes that is a spectre for us all and a spectre for us all.
Jawaharlal Nehru's democracy succeeded in granting the vote (today, there are 3.2 million elected representatives), but it failed to build a semblance of social and economic justice. Widespread violence against women is only now precariously on the political agenda. Secularism may have been Nehru's grand vision, but Muslims in India remain among the poorest, most discriminated against and brutalised minority on Earth. According to the 2006 Sachar Commission, in the elite institutes of technology, only four in 100 students are Muslim, and in the cities Muslims have fewer chances of regular employment than the "untouchable" Dalits and indigenous Adivasis. "It is ironic," wrote Khushwant Singh, "that the highest incidence of violence against Muslims and Christians has taken place in Gujarat, the home state of Bapu Gandhi."
Gujarat is also the home state of Narendra Modi, winner of three consecutive victories as BJP chief minister and the favourite to see off the diffident Rahul Gandhi in national elections in May. With his xenophobic Hindutva ideology, Modi appeals directly to dispossessed Hindus who believe Muslims are "privileged". Soon after he came to power in 2002, mobs slaughtered hundreds of Muslims. An investigating commission heard that Modi had ordered officials not to stop the rioters – which he denies. Admired by powerful industrialists, he boasts the highest "growth" in India.
In the face of these dangers, the great popular resistance that gave India its independence is stirring. The gang rape of a Delhi student in 2012 has brought vast numbers on to the streets, reflecting disillusionment with the political elite and anger at its acceptance of injustice and extreme capitalism's pact with feudalism. The popular movements are often led or inspired by extraordinary women – the likes of Medha Patkar, Binalakshmi Nepram, Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy – and they demonstrate that the poor and vulnerable need not be weak. This is India's enduring gift to the world, and those with corrupted power ignore it at their peril.

29 November 2013

Some Relevant Questios

  • Why is it “normal” to embrace the hierarchy and wealth inequality of corporate capitalism, even though most of us claim to hold moral and/or theological principles that are rooted in the centrality of human dignity, equality, and solidarity? How compatible is capitalism with the values that are essential to a decent human community?
  • Why is it “normal” to assert that we (the USA) are the world’s most advanced democracy, without acknowledging that the concentration of wealth in the U.S. economy has left most of the population outside of the formal political process? Are capitalism and democracy compatible?
  • Why is it “normal” to express concern about environmental issues without ever questioning an economic system that is obsessed with the very growth that is undermining the integrity of the ecosystems on which are own lives depend? Is capitalism compatible with a sustainable human presence on the planet?
  • (with thanks:

22 November 2013

Disgusting, disgusting and disgusting

You know our economic system is out of whack when someone can buy a $5,000 hamburger or a $500 milkshake


Here’s something to read after you get done trying to figure out how to make the mortgage or the rent or the car payment this month. It’s a little story about how the other half lives. Well, maybe not the other half, exactly. More like the obscenely wealthy .01%.

What do you do when you just have too darn much money? Let’s say you already have your mansion(s), your jet, your yacht, your cars, your $50,000 watches, and you’ve still got too much money left over. (Yes, this really is a problem some people have.) While many, many Americans are struggling to get by, and a very few ultra-wealthy have too much money, here are five signs that the rich are just too rich.

1) You can eat a $95,000 truffle. The restaurant Nello, a Wall Streeter hangout in New York, offers a truffle for $95,000. A Russian billionaire named Vladimir Potanin recently ate one. Keep in mind that $95,000 is to a billion as 95 cents is to $10,000. If $10,000 is an amount you find too much to fathom, it’s like 9.5 cents to $1000. (PS, enjoy the terrible reviews the place gets on Yelp.)

2) You can get a $5,000 hamburger for lunch. The Fleur de Lys restaurant in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay offers the “Fleurburger 5000″ for $5,000. The burger consists of a Kobe beef patty “topped with a rich truffle sauce and served on a brioche truffle bun. And this burger comes with its own beverage, a bottle of 1990 Chateau Petrus that is served in Ichendorf Brunello stemware that you get to keep.”

3) You can get a $500 milkshake to go with your $5,000 hamburger. The Powder Room restaurant in Los Angeles is selling a milkshake for $500. For your money you get “special stuff: edible gold, Belgian chocolate, and a crystal ring.”

What Next?

A lunch with a $95,000 truffle, a $5000 hamburger and a $500 milkshake doesn’t even add up to pocket change. So how about a bottle of wine? Of course, you can’t just swill down any bottle of wine—life is too short. So let’s go for it.

4) A bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem sold at auction for $117,000. If you want a larger bottle of wine, the Le Clos wine shop in Dubai International Airport is offering three 12-liter bottles of 2009 Château Margaux for $195,000 each. What do you look at while you are eating and drinking your awesome, and awesomely expensive, luxury?

5) A piece by Francis Bacon sold for $142 million at an art auction. Three other pieces sold for more than $50 million; 11 for more than $20 million; and 16 sold for more than $10 million. An Andy Warhol piece sold for almost $60 million.

Too Much In The Hands Of Too Few

This really is all about too much money in the hands of too few people.
Agustino Fontevecchia at Forbes writes in “The Reason Why Francis Bacon’s ‘Lucian Freud’ Is Worth $142 Million“:

“As the ultra-wealthy become even wealthier, the top-end of the art market, along with real estate and other luxury sectors, have experienced an incredible surge as cash is being channeled into alternative investments.”

Fontevecchia explains,

“The final, and possibly most important factor is the rise of the mega-rich. “Since the recession, the wealthy appear to be becoming even wealthier, while middle-class wages are more stagnant,” said Galbraith, who notes this is apparent in the art market where the high-end is experiencing more activity. “The ultra high net worth and the newly wealthy are looking to get into the art market,” said Markley, who notes contemporary art is accessible and acts well as a status symbol. If the Forbes 400 is any indication, the wealthy are getting wealthier, with the 400 richest Americans now worth a cumulative $2 trillion, up $300 billion from a year ago and with an average net worth of a record $5 billion, an $800 million increase from a year ago.”

So what if a very few people have such enormous sums? These expensive excesses of food, wine and art don’t really affect regular people like you and me. But it turns out that the distortions caused by the excesses of the ultra-wealthy affect all of us a lot.

Take the housing market. You may have noticed headlines like the following: Hedge funds crowd first-time buyers out of housing market or How Big Institutional Money Distorts Housing Prices. If you live in certain areas of the country, like the San Francisco Bay Area, rents are soaring and it is unimaginable that you might ever purchase a place to live. The ultra-wealthy are purchasing houses by the hundreds to be rented out.

Then, of course, comes the usual next step when the ultra-wealthy are involved: they use their wealth and power to get things the rest of us can’t. One frequent example is demands for tax cuts. In cash-strapped Dayton, Ohio, this story: Hedge Fund Turned Property Owner Seeks Large Tax Cuts:

“Magnetar Capital LLC, investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its housing bets leading up to the property crash, acquired a rental business in January with about 1,900 properties from Charles H. Huber’s widow. In April, its management company applied for the largest cut to property tax assessments in the county’s history. The move could curb funding for public schools, the police and fire departments and services to the disabled, said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.”

A terrible, wealth-worshiping philosophy has taken hold among many of our conservative policymakers. A couple of months ago a piece in Forbes, Give Back? Yes, It’s Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%, spelled out this conservative philosophy:

“The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person—a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

[. . .] Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

The Forbes piece says that profit—no matter how attained—is the true measure of value in society. According to one example used by the author, Goldman Sachs has “done infinitely more for mankind” than people like Mother Teresa. The author knows this is true because of Goldman Sachs’ “billions in profits.”

You may remember reading that Goldman Sachs was accused of working with a hedge fund to sell “designed-to-fail” investments to customers like pension funds, so the hedge fund could profit from betting that the investments would fail. According to this conservative philosophy, Goldman Sachs’ profits are a measure of the “value created” by the “mental effort” that Goldman and the hedge fund put into developing this scheme.

The ultra-wealth of a few may be directly related to the way many people find themselves trying to figure out how to make their mortgage/rent, car payments, etc. Four hundred Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined, and just the six Walton heirs have more wealth than a third of all Americans combined. Yet companies like Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them have to turn to the taxpayers for assistance like food stamps just to get by.

This worship of the ultra-wealthy is manifested in policies that give privileges to the rich the rest of us don’t receive. The principle of one-person-one-vote gives way to power and our society eventually becomes ruled by the principle of one-dollar-one-vote.

Examples of our abandonment of the principles of democracy in favor of more-for-the-wealthier include the change from “high-occupancy lanes” where cars with two or three people can bypass traffic jams to toll lanes, where drivers who have more money can purchase the right to bypass traffic jams. We also experience this when we see first-class passengers allowed to bypass the long security lines at airports.

In a recent NY Times op-ed, The Extra Legroom Society, Frank Bruni writes about how people of greater wealth can purchase the right to board a plane earlier, even the right to bypass lines or make others wait while they go around again for rides at amusement parks. While these are examples of businesses, not our government, introducing tiers for the wealthier, they show how Americans have come to accept that people with more money should be allowed to bypass them.

Bruni writes, “But lately, the places and ways in which Americans are economically segregated and stratified have multiplied, with microclimates of exclusivity popping up everywhere. The plane mirrors the sports arena, the theater, the gym. Is it any wonder that class tensions simmer?”

These are a few examples of the excesses the super-wealthy indulge in, along with examples of ways their super-wealth harms the rest of us. There are far more examples in evidence these days. Our democracy—the ability of We the People to make our own decisions about how we should be governed—is what is really at stake as more and more wealth accumulates among fewer and fewer people.

20 June 2012

Corporate Media and Where is the Truth?

The trouble is that most of what the public hears about politics, including environmental issues, comes from the corporate media. This is a disaster for genuine democracy. As discussed in a recent alert (, the media industry is made up of large profit-seeking corporations whose main task is to sell audiences to wealthy advertisers – also corporations, of course - on whom the media depend for a huge slice of their revenues. It’s blindingly obvious that the corporate media is literally not in the business of alerting humanity to the real risk of climate catastrophe and what needs to be done to avert it

26 October 2011

Why We Follow Rupa Gosvami -- or what it takes to be a guru

Today is Diwali in Jaipur and Mangalarati was absolutely mobbed. I have never seen such a crowd at the Govindadev Temple. You had to fight the waves of people to get anywhere close to the darshan barriers. It reminded me of the story I was reading just yesterday in Krsna Book; when Krsna and Balarama met the inhabitants of Vrindavana at Kurukshetra during the solar eclipse. At that time Krsna asked Srimati Radharani to come to his capital Dvaraka with him but she refused. She, and the gopis and the rest of the Vrajavasis had no desire to be with Krsna among his royal entourage of servants, advisors, ministers, ambassadors, other minor kings, brahmanas, sages, petitioners, commanders, troops, chariots, elephants, horses, and the rest of the formal clatter. They wanted to be with Krsna in the village and forests of Vrindavana. In fact it says in Krsna Book:

“In spite of their long separation, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, the gopīs, were not interested in the idea of going with Kṛṣṇa to His capital city, Dvārakā. They wanted to remain busy in Vṛndāvana and thus feel the presence of Kṛṣṇa in every step of their lives. They immediately invited Kṛṣṇa to come back to Vṛndāvana. This transcendental emotional existence of the gopīs is the basic principle of Lord Caitanya's teaching. The Ratha-yātrā Festival observed by Lord Caitanya is the emotional process of taking Kṛṣṇa back to Vṛndāvana. Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī refused to go with Kṛṣṇa to Dvārakā to enjoy His company in the atmosphere of royal opulence, but wanted to enjoy His company in the original Vṛndāvana atmosphere. Lord Kṛṣṇa, being profoundly attached to the gopīs, never goes away from Vṛndāvana, and the gopīs and other residents of Vṛndāvana remain fully satisfied in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”

Then I remembered Rupa Gosvami’s famous verse he wrote at Puri, the verse Caitanya Mahaprabhu found rolled up in the thatched roof of Haridas Thakur’s hut. That’s the verse that explained the entire situation. Upon reading it Mahaprabhu was so moved he even mildly slapped Rupa with his lotus hand. Later he confided in Svarupa Damodar wondering how it was possible for Rupa to understand his mind. To which Svarupa Damodar replied that it was only possible for one who had received Mahaprabhu’s special mercy. Here it is:

priyaḥ so 'yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ saha-cari kuru-kṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham
tathāpy antaḥ-khelan-madhura-muralī-pañcama-juṣe
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati

[This is a verse spoken by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.] "My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Rādhārāṇī, and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but still I would like to go to the bank of the Yamunā beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within that forest of Vṛndāvana."

This kind of jewel is worth collecting. This is cintamani, transcendental touchstone. Rupa Gosvami, he’s our leader not because he pretended to be the exalted person he is but because he understood Mahaprabhu’s mind. Srila Prabhupada adds a nice personal touch for those of us who find it difficult be sincere about our struggle for purification:

“We had the opportunity to receive a similar blessing from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī when we presented an essay at his birthday ceremony. He was so much pleased with that essay that he used to call some of his confidential devotees and show it to them. How could we have understood the intentions of Śrīla Prabhupāda?”


07 July 2011

Bodily Conception

The Ism That Won’t Go Away
by John Glaser, July 07, 2011

Recent anthropological studies of the Turkana people, “a nomadic society in east Africa that lacks a centralized government,” find that they can “regularly muster armies of several hundred warriors, most of whom have never met before” by relying on fear of punishment or marginalization as the price of dissent and by exploiting kinship loyalties expected to “benefit the ethnolinguistic group.” A new theory holds that warfare “has played an integral role in our evolution” throughout our tribal histories and has “turned into the modern ability to work towards a common goal.”

The word “tribalism” was traded for nationalism once humanity began to organize on a larger scale and needed to overcome increasingly arbitrary associations in order to summon the collective will for war. This nationalism manifests itself in various civic dogmas and state myths about America and Americanism. It is precisely what permits state warfare in our modern imperialist age.

The militarism of the George W. Bush administration, although fundamentally a continuation of a long tradition of ruthless expansionism in American foreign policy, shocked much of the world with its boldness and grandiosity. Bush framed the Sept. 11 attacks as an assault on freedom, on a particular Americanness, and in doing so provided implicit moral justification to an ambitiously belligerent response. The terrorists “attacked America because we are freedom’s home and defender,” Bush proclaimed. He then mixed this uninquiring posture with a war of aggression against a non-threatening Iraq by preying upon feelings of unity and nationhood. “The long-term security of America and civilization itself” forced America to confront the threat of dangerous “weapons in the hands of terrorists or hostile regimes.” “History has called us to these responsibilities,” Bush declared before invoking a “special mission.”

Political scientist Paul T. McCartney wrote that “enduring nationalist themes provided the basic structure in which Americans organized their comprehension of and reaction to the terrorist attacks” and that America’s “insular preoccupation with its own lofty distinctiveness” galvanized “a sense of mission, which sometimes emerges as a crusading mentality.” It was “productive of little,” he explained, “but superstition and bloodshed.”

Some expected a departure from Bush’s martial frivolity with the election of Barack Obama, but the religious jingoism that has always provided the backbone for aggressive military interventionism remained and thus was taken full advantage of by the guarantor of change. In announcing a military surge in Afghanistan, Obama told American that our values “are a creed that calls us together … behind a common purpose.” Doctrines of exceptionalism were the rallying cry of his speech on the intervention in Libya. “America is different,” he said, and it is “our common humanity” and “values” that have impelled us to war. In announcing the eventual withdrawal of surge troops and the continuing commitment to warfare in Afghanistan this month, Obama said we must be steadfast in “extending the promise of America.”

These rallying cries do not differ from those propagated within any other state; they don’t even differ from how the Turkana people manage to motivate “several hundred warriors” of “participants [that] are not kin or day-to-day interactants” to “incur substantial risk of death” in order to “produce collective benefits.” George Orwell wrote that “the abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” Political scientist Benedict Anderson famously called this unit an “imagined community” made up mostly of strangers held together by pretenses about their countrymen, rather than actual connections to most or even any of them. “Ultimately,” Anderson wrote, “it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.”

In both primitive and modern societies, fear of punishment or social ostracism is an imperative tool in reinforcing nationalism. During the First World War, one of the most fiercely nationalistic times in American history, President Woodrow Wilson set up the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda ministry meant to build public support for the war effort. It succeeded in turning a largely pacifist population wary of foreign intervention into fervent nationalists. The CPI distributed propaganda in news stories, street posters, advertisements, and films. It launched pro-war lecture circuits to mobilize public opinion, and publicly criticizing the president or the war effort was criminalized. One woman, Rose Pastor Stokes, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act for writing a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star that said the government was allied with the war profiteers.

Ganging up on “the other” has a way of fortifying this fraternity and war fever. Americans became aggressively anti-German during the First World War. They called sauerkraut “liberty cabbage.” In 1918, a mob in St. Louis attacked a German immigrant named Robert Prager, who had tried to enlist in the Navy. They beat him up, wrapped him in the American flag, and lynched him. A jury found the mob leaders not guilty, citing a case of what they called “patriotic murder.” That’s a nice little microcosm of how war works: convince a people of their own righteousness and purpose in the course of history — as Wilson and his CPI did — and they can justify all kinds of horror.

It is “imaginings” about our place in history and the superiority of our group that caused Americans to excuse the Bush administration and the military for raiding a hospital and throwing patients on the ground with their arms tied behind their backs, which is considered a war crime under international law. These imaginings also made Americans gullible enough to believe that the rationale for raiding that hospital was that it was a “refuge for insurgents and a center of propaganda against allied forces.” These imaginings are precisely what enables Americans to demand respect for sovereignty here at home but disregard it completely when our leaders profess the necessity of conducting a drone war in Pakistan or Yemen. It lent credence to Obama’s call for intervention, and ultimately regime change, in Libya, while he managed not to blush that his own clients elsewhere in the region were committing the same crimes as Gadhafi. As Orwell put it:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when it is committed by “our” side.

In 2004, “new atheist” Sam Harris wrote that “religious faith perpetuates man’s inhumanity to man,” and to mitigate such inhumanity we need “the end of faith.” The abolition of faith needs to carry over and indeed be concentrated on the end of nationalism. If, as Randolph Bourne said, war is the health of the state, then nationalism is the health of war. Any hope for a departure from U.S. militarism will be shattered if it rests upon electing a seemingly sober new leader or making minor changes in policy. The change must be in how Americans think of themselves; it must be an abandonment of that timeless tribal tendency to perpetrate savagery in the interest of the group.

10 January 2011

Happy New Year From the Ship of Fools

New Year! What a crock of sh**t. No one is interested in the slightest in taking a close look at their ongoing situation. Like dumb rats they follow each other over the cliff, following the pied piper of self interest. They invest in illusion creating relationships with temporary meanings which vanish into the mists of time immediately the body is finished. The 100 year span allotted comes and goes in a blink of self absorption that blinds any attempt at analysis of the situation that unfolds right before their noses. No one asks, "What is going on here? Who is really in control? Why all these species of life coming and going? Why some suffer while others enjoy? Why the huge diversity of the creation?" The penny fails to drop: diversity of species, destiny, work, alliances, tastes... it all has to do with desire upon desire upon desire stretching back to time immemorial. Why, if everyone is equal (as we are on the spiritual platform), do we start off with varying handicaps? Why do the innocent suffer and die? Why do we get bad even when we do good? Like dumb animals no one asks, no one cares. All caught like hares in the headlights. Splat!

30 December 2010

God is controlled by love

How is this for a dynamite quote. One that you never hear the "lifers" in the various organizations mention, nor practice much for that matter.

Krishna becomes obliged to the loving spirit of the devotee and not exactly to the service rendered. No one can serve Krishna completely. He is so complete and self-sufficient that He has no need of any service from the devotee. It is the devotee's attitude of love and affection for Krishna that makes Him obliged. (Nectar of Devotion, Qualities of Krsna Further Explained. 40. Controlled by Love)

30 October 2010

Meditations for the month of Damodar (Kartik, October/ November)

Ten prayers submitted to Lord Damodara’s lotus feet


O Damodara! Due to Your childish restless nature, mother Yasoda is always in great anxiety to protect You from the horns of cows and bulls, the teeth of monkeys, beaks and claws of birds, from fire, water and other imagined dangers. Always anxious to keep You safe and at the same time to execute her household duties, she knows no tranquility. May a tiny drop of Yasoda’s ecstasy in parental love enter my heart and drown all my so-called duties cultivated independently of You over innumerable births.


O Damodara! Bent on mischief, every morning at sunrise You visit the houses of Yasoda’s gopi friends. There, You let loose the calves before milking and then steal the gopis’ stocks of butter and yogurt. If someone calls, “Hey thief, stop!” You become angry and shout back, “I am not thief, you are thief!” May the truth of Your sweet words enter my heart and eradicate the deep rooted propensity to steal from You that I have nurtured over innumerable births.


O Damodara! With a mischievous smile You tell Yasoda, “Mother, you should know that I am expert at this art of stealing.” Thus, You plunder the gopis’ storerooms of butter and yogurt and feed the assembled monkeys. When the monkeys are satiated and will eat no more, You call the gopis and chide them, “Just see, this butter and yogurt is so useless even the monkeys wont take it!” May that vision of Your butter smeared lotus hands enter my heart and feed to satiation the assembled monkeys of kama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (illusion), mada (intoxication) and matsarya (envy) so that they will cease their incessant demands made on me over innumerable births.


O Damodara! When Your pastime of drinking milk from the breast of mother Yasoda was abruptly interrupted as she rushed to the stove to attend to an overflowing pot of boiling milk, You became very angry, bit Your lips, red like the bimba fruit, and cried false tears. Then, in retaliation, You picked up a stone and broke her churning pot causing all the yogurt to spill out. May that stone enter my heart and smash to pieces the unlimited pots filled with sinful activities I accumulated over innumerable births.


O Damodara! When caught by mother Yasoda after breaking her churning pot, You became afraid and admitted to being an offender. You cried in fear of her and Your tears mixed with the kajal (black ointment) around Your eyes. As You rubbed Your eyes with Your small lotus hands that kajal smeared over Your enchanting face. May that vision of Your kajal smeared hands enter my heart and wipe away the black layers of sinful recalcitrance encrusted there over innumerable births.


O Damodara! Although You delivered the two sons of the demigod Kuvera from the form of arjunatrees, You remained firmly tied by the love of mother Yasoda to a wooden grinding mortar. Why is this? To understand it is not the play of some incompetent fool. It is to show the yogis who drill their breath over lifetimes, the jnanis who assiduously cultivate knowledge and the tapasvis who undergo mortifying austerities that You can be bound only by the ropes of unalloyed love. May that mortar to which Yasoda bound You enter my heart and grind to dust the enormous mountains of false ego I accumulated over innumerable births.


O Damodara! When, by pulling on the rope tied to the grinding mortar, You caused the two tall arjuna trees to crash to the ground, they made a tumultuous sound that shook the entire universe. In great anxiety Nanda Maharaja came running to the spot. When he saw You unharmed, sitting peacefully between the fallen trunks, he smiled and immediately untied the knots that bound you to the grinding mortar. May that vision of the lotus hands of Nanda Baba enter my heart and untie the grovel of knots of the ropes of offensive activities which have bound me for innumerable births.


O Damodara! With the offer of half a sweet the gopis induce You to dance in the courtyards of Gokula. As they clap their hands to keep time, You gracefully move Your enchanting small lotus feet in a wide circle while gesturing artfully with Your hands. May the sound of the gopis’ clapping enter my heart and chase away the countless crows of sinful habits that have perched there over innumerable births.


O Damodara! Just to invoke the transcendental pleasure of the gopis, at their request You bring them various items such as a wooden plank or a wooden measuring pot. When unable to lift a requested item, You simply touch it and just stand there smiling and to show them You have sufficient strength You clap Your hands over Your arms in an heroic pose. May the vision of that heroic pose enter my heart and frighten off the host of demons I assembled there over innumerable births.


O Damodara! One day a fruit vendor came calling before the house of Nanda Maharaja. Imitating the vaisya custom of barter, You took some grains in Your hands to exchange for fruit. However, Your lotus palms were very small and in Your eagerness You were not careful to hold the grains tight; nonetheless, the vendor immediately filled Your hands with fruit; not in exchange for the few remaining grains, but for Your enchanting smile. I may not see Your glorious, gentle smile for millions of births—and that’s all right—but at least grant me those few grains so that I may exchange them for the fruits of the sinful acts stored in my heart over innumerable births.

24 June 2010

Annad Bhavanti Bhutani: "All living bodies subsist on food grains"(Bhagavad Gita 3.14)

“Food grains or vegetables are factually eatables. The human being eats different kinds of food grains, vegetables, fruits, etc., and the animals eat the refuse of the food grains and vegetables, grass, plants, etc. Human beings who are accustomed to eating meat and flesh must also depend on the production of vegetation in order to eat the animals. Therefore, ultimately, we have to depend on the production of the field and not on the production of big factories. The field production is due to sufficient rain from the sky, and such rains are controlled by demigods like Indra, sun, moon, etc., and they are all servants of the Lord. The Lord can be satisfied by sacrifices; therefore, one who cannot perform them will find himself in scarcity-that is the law of nature. Yajña, specifically the saṅkīrtana-yajña prescribed for this age, must therefore be performed to save us at least from scarcity of food supply.” (Bhagavad Gita As It Is, 3.14. Commentary by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

Noam Chomsky's description of the dangers posed by U.S. elites' "Imperial Mentality" was recently given a boost in credibility by a surprising source-Bill Clinton. As America's economy, foreign policy and politics continue to unravel, it is clear that this mentality and the system it has created will produce an increasing number of victims in the years to come. Clinton startlingly testified to that effect on March 10 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Since 1981 the United States has followed a policy until the last year or so, when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food so thank goodness they can lead directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did, nobody else.

11 June 2010

Who is Crazy?

The thing about Prabhupada was his complete non judgmental approach to this world he came to. He saw a lot in the eighty years he was here. The imperial delusion, duplicity and connivery of the British in India. The gradual alienation of the Hindus and Muslims under that colonial rule. The decline of vedic culture and dharma. The apotheosis of Gandhi to a mahatma, Bhagavad-gita notwithstanding, and this in a period when he wrote a full commentary on that sublime book. He lived through the two world wars marked by unspeakable acts on all sides. In my experience with him no one better understood this place as the universal madhouse it actually is. Why else did he come to America, the very capital of the madhouse?

As a substitute for good company I spend a lot of time surfing alternative sites on the net. I try not to take sides: Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, capitalists and socialists, obscenely rich and abject poor, irresponsible, criminal leaders of all stripes and in all fields — politics, art, education, health care, business, media, entertainment. The only way to keep my sanity is to remind myself of their madness. “God forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

24 May 2010

For What We Are About to Receive…

The modern theory that starvation is due to an increase in population is not accepted by the demigods or the devotees of the Lord. The devotees or demigods are fully aware that the Lord can maintain any number of living entities, provided they are conscious of how to eat. If they want to eat like ordinary animals, who have no God consciousness, then they must live in starvation, poverty and want, like the jungle animals in the forest. The jungle animals are also maintained by the Lord with their respective foodstuffs, but they are not advanced in God consciousness. Similarly, human beings are provided with food grains, vegetables, fruits and milk by the grace of the Lord, but it is the duty of human beings to acknowledge the mercy of the Lord. As a matter of gratitude, they should feel obliged to the Lord for their supply of foodstuff, and they must first offer Him food in sacrifice and then partake of the remnants. (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.5.50 purport)

As you sow so you shall reap” or to put it in scientific terms, “Each action has an opposite and equal reaction.”

On this planet every year we slaughter:

-- 45,895 million (45.9 billion) chickens
-- 2,262 million (2.3 billion) ducks
-- 1,244 million (1.2 billion) pigs
-- 857 million rabbits
-- 691 million turkeys
-- 533 million geese
-- 515 million sheep
-- 345 million goats
-- 292 million cows and calves (for beef and veal)
-- 65 million other rodents (not including rabbits)
-- 63 million pigeons and other birds
-- 23 million buffalo
-- 4 million horses
-- 3 million donkeys and mules
-- 2 million camels (and other camelids)

Blowback anyone?

09 November 2009

The Funny Side of Money

Although Laksmidevi has been good to me throughout my life, I've grown to respect Her by watching and hearing how Srila Prabhupada dealt with Her. One time Tamal Krsna Maharaj told me a funny story. At least, we found it funny, it being so typical of Prabhupada, that we laughed in love and admiration for a long time. Tamal and I were old India hands and he could be the sweetest cowherd boy when he was away from management; and he knew so much history of our movement's early days in India, especially the funny side of it. Anyhow, once when he was sitting in front of Prabhupada's desk he noticed some coins on the table. When Prabhupada noticed him looking at the coins he unlocked the drawer, swept the coins inside, re-locked the drawer and put the key away!

Never give money without getting a receipt and anything collected in the name of Iskcon, or any charitable organization, should be deposited in the bank before any expenditure is made. Those were Prabhupada's edicts to us in India.

Laksmidevi = Indian goddess of wealth. Synonymous with money.

08 November 2009

Again, Some Truth

pravṛttiṁ ca nivṛttiṁ ca
janā na vidur āsurāḥ
na śaucaṁ nāpi cācāro
na satyaṁ teṣu vidyate

Translation: "Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them. (Bhagavad-gita, 16.7)

According to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a military coup has taken place in the United States, with the Pentagon now ascendant in every aspect of foreign policy.

It doesn't matter who is president - George Bush or Barack Obama. Indeed, Obama has stepped up Bush's wars and started his own war in Pakistan. Like Bush, he is threatening Iran, a country Hillary Clinton said she was prepared to "annihilate". Iran's crime is its independence. Having thrown out America's favourite dictator, the Shah, Iran is the only resource-rich Muslim country beyond American control. It doesn't occupy anyone else's land and hasn't attacked any country -- unlike Israel, which is nuclear-armed and dominates and divides the Middle East on America's behalf.

In Australia, we are not told this. It's taboo. Instead, we dutifully celebrate the illusion of Obama, the global celebrity, the marketing dream. Like Calvin Klein, brand Obama offers the thrill of a new image attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he bombs.

This is modern propaganda in action, using a kind of reverse racism - the same way it deploys gender and class as seductive tools. In Barack Obama's case, what matters is not his race or his fine words, but the power he serves. (Breaking The Great Australian Silence, John Pilger, 7 November 2009)

02 October 2009


Democracy... or as Srila Prabhupada rightly called it, demoncrazy!

03 September 2009

Anti American

Martha Gellhorn, explains "anti-American":

"I'll tell you what 'anti-American' is," she said. "It's what governments and their vested interested call those who honor America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America's citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the south with the Civil Rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional."

The initial cause of Lord Krsna's advent 5000 years ago was the distress caused to mother Earth by the unbearable burden of, "the unnecessary defense force of different kings, who were actually demons, but were posing themselves as the royal order. At that time, the whole world became perturbed...” (1. Advent of Lord Krsna, Krsna Book, A.C. Bhktivedanta Swami Prabhupada).

It does not take a big stretch of the imagination to equate the demonic Kings of yore with today’s prominent political leaders. A distinguishing quality of the demons is their insatiable lust for power. Blinded by delusion they will stop at nothing to achieve dominion over all they see. Truly, it’s every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. Not for nothing was this idiom first recorded in the Colonial Record of Georgia (1742). Although many things have changed since those shameful days of colonial mayhem, the underlying principles have regrettably stayed the same.

In the present situation change can only come from the bottom up. The overwhelming majority with common decency can create change by challenging the immoral, indecent criminal leadership of the few. Five hundred years ago in Bengal, India, Caitanya Mahaprabhu reversed a repressive political current by staging a civil disobedience movement. Sixty years ago Gandhi did the same. Reclaiming our moral ground is the first step on the road to enlightenment.

"At a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
(George Orwell)

03 May 2009

The Root of the Problem -- Lest We Forget

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, at the time of his departure, requested all his disciples to work together with the governing body and conduct missionary activities cooperatively. He did not instruct a particular group of men to become the next acaryas. But just after his passing away, his leading secretaries made plans, without authority, to occupy the post of acarya, and they split into eleven factions over who the next acarya would be. Consequently, all eleven factions and the supportive GBC body were asara, or useless, because they had no authority, having disobeyed the order of the spiritual master. Despite the spiritual master's order to cooperatively execute the missionary activities of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, the eleven unauthorized factions began fighting and competing with one another and with their godbrothers and that is still going on after thirty years with no conclusion.... The members of the self-appointed acaryas’ party and their offshoots who occupy the property of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness are satisfied, but they could make no progress in preaching. Therefore, by the result of their actions, one should know that they are asara, or useless.

"Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that 'This man should be the next acharya.’ But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acharya. That is the failure. They never thought, 'Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acharya?’ They wanted to create artificially somebody acharya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acharya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it.They declared some unfit person to become acharya. Then another man came, then another, acharya, another acharya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection." (Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation,16 August 1976, Bombay)

14 March 2009

Krsna's Headache

Devotee means accepting a headache on behalf of Krsna. Like the Gopis were ready to go to hell but let Krsna's headache be cured.

One ongoing migraine for the leaders in Iskcon is making room for dissent and free speech. To be willing, when necessary, to be corrected by one's godbrothers. To accept meaningful responsibility for past deviations. To give up simpering syrupy approval by neophyte disciples. To foster inclusion rather than exclusion. In other words, to accept headaches on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. As he wrote in 1961:

"Now even, my godbrothers, you return here to the order of our master, and together we engage in his puja."

"But simply a festival of flowers and fruits does not constitute worship. The one who serves the message of the guru really worships him."

"O shame! My dear brothers, aren’t you embarrassed? In the manner of businessmen you increase your disciples."

"From the seas, across the earth, penetrate the universal shell, come together and preach this Krishna consciousness."

"Then our master’s service will be in proper order. Make your promise today. Give up all your politics and diplomacy."

"The one who renounces the guru’s order (guru tyagi) and the one who tries to enjoy the assets of his spiritual master (guru-bhogi) are two kinds of useless persons. First become a servant of your spiritual master (guru-sevi) and then you will understand things clearly."

"Your gold, brother, is the father of sense gratification. Give up your wealth for preaching. Sit down together and make some special judgment."

"So what is the difficulty for all of us to come together in this way and why do all these things even have to be said to you?"

"Today my brothers, get to this task. Save the battered souls by your preaching."