Seeking The Essence

Clearing Life's Webs and Weeds….

The 1st ISKCON North American Child Protection Conference – November 10 – 12, 2006

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This conference is designed to provide Child Protection Team members, devotee parents, educators, and temple managers with tools and resources to take back to your communities. You will have the opportunity to network with other devotees interested in creating safer temples and communities. Our presenters are from the ISKCON Child Protection Office or from professionals in the field. The conference will take place in a beautiful retreat setting just 15 minutes from New Goloka Mandir in Hillsborough, North Carolina.”

This is a link to a brochure for a Child Protection Conference hosted by Lilasuka and Uttara prabhus, which is posted at the ISKCON Child Protection Office website.  Lilasuka and Uttara hosted a “Child Safety Workshop” at the Kulimela Kid’s Camp.  Having properly trained Child Protection Teams in each community is vital for the well-being of current and future generations.

September 25, 2006 Posted by | Education, Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Vaishnava Youth | Leave a comment

Children of the Ashram

Raghu, his mother & daughter 1996

“It reminds me somewhat of this Twilight Zone episode. Sirens and the radio warned of an imminent nuclear attack by the Soviets. Only one household had built a bomb shelter. The rest of the neighbors wanted in but are locked out. They finally decide to beat the cellar door down and kill the owner. The owner is just about to start shooting them in self defense. Timely, the radio announces it was a false alarm. Everyone is simply left to apologize to each other with no hard feelings. Some situations can make everyone go crazy. That is when the exemplary come to shine.”

Below is an article titled, “Children of the Ashram” written by Raghunatha anudasa.  As best I can tell it was written some time in the early to mid 90’s.  The article recounts some of his experiences as a student in ISKCON’s gurukula system in the 70’s and early 80’s.  It is generally accepted that the students in his age group received some of the worst treatment in the ashrams. I think he does a decent job of delivering a first hand account highlighting aspects of the gurukula experience that negatively impacted the students. 

His newsletter, ISKCON Youth Veterans, published in 1990, was the first public forum to give gurukula alumni a voice. Raghunatha also helped to organize the first gurukula reunion in Los Angeles in 1990.  Currently in his early forties, Raghu is considered one of the gurukuli elders. During a recent trip to New York City I was able to spend an evening with him and his family.  He lives in Battery Park, is still an active writer and invests in NY real estate. 

This article ties in with my previous posting “Who Set the Standards?”  The gurukula teachers mentioned by Raghu are pretty much the same ones involved in the room conversation with Srila Prabhupada. This narration illuminates how discussions with Srila Prabhupada were translated into action by the gurukula authorities.  (For clarification, Raghunatha is not the unnamed boy referred to in the room conversation between the gurukula teachers and Srila Prabhupada.)

NOTE: Please be aware that the article contains some intense details and descriptions.

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September 23, 2006 Posted by | Education, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, India, ISKCON | 2 Comments

On Matters of Faith ….

Humourous Rabbi     Sikha

A Hare Krishna Monk and a Jewish Rabbi were sitting next to each other on an airplane.

After a while, the Monk turned to the Rabbi and asked, “Is it a requirement of your faith that you not eat pork?”

The Rabbi responded, “Yes, that is one of our beliefs.”

The Monk then asked, “Have you ever eaten pork?”

To which the Rabbi replied,”Yes, on one occasion I did succumb to temptation and tasted a ham sandwich.”

The Monk nodded in understanding and went on with his reading.

A while later, the Rabbi spoke up and asked the Monk, “Is it still a requirement of your faith that you remain celibate?”

The Monk replied, “Yes,  it is one of the four regulative principles we follow.”

The Rabbi then asked him, “Have you ever fallen to the temptations of the flesh?

The Monk replied, “Yes, Rabbi, on one occasion I was weak and broke with my faith.”

The Rabbi nodded understandingly and remained silent, thinking for a few minutes.

Finally, the Rabbi said, “Sure beats the hell out of a ham sandwich, doesn’t it?”

September 22, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, Humor, Philosophy | 2 Comments

Kulimela Business Development Conference

Kulimela Logo

Below is my “fifteen minutes of fame” from the Business Development Conference at Kulimela.  I was one of six gurukulis who were part of a panel.  We each gave a short presentation and repsonded to a Q&A session from the audience.  The other gurukulis: Govinda Syer, Samba, Bala, Kapila & Ananda Vardhani.  The keynote speaker was Hare Krishna prabhu.  He gave an inspiring speech that seamlessly incorporated KC philosophy with business principles.  I plan to transcribe some of his address soon.

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September 20, 2006 Posted by | Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Kulimela, New Vrindaban | Leave a comment

More Kuli Mela Video Footage!

Bala & Kapila @ Kulimela Business Plenary Session

More raw footage from Kulimela 2006 has been made available at Google Video.

You can watch the unedited video of the “Community and Spiritual Development” and “Business Development” plenary conferences from Kulimela 2006.  Key speakers for the “Community and Spiritual Development” session included: Kapila, Shakuntala, Manu, Vedasara, Vyenkata Bhatta, Romapada Swami, Radhanatha Swami, Malati, Anuttama, Syamasundara, and Bhagavan prabhus. Key speakers for the “Business Development” session included: Hare Krishna prabhu, Govinda Syer, Samba, Ananda Vardhani, Kapila, Bala, and myself.

There were some really good points raised during these discussions.  Sometime in the very near future I plan on doing some transcribing and posting portions on my blog. In the meanwhile, enjoy the video….

September 19, 2006 Posted by | Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Kulimela, New Vrindaban | Leave a comment

Burke Rochford Responds to: Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-86 & ISKCON’s Response to Child Abuse: 1990-98

Burke Rochford

“As many readers of this journal know, there has been considerable media interest generated by my article, “Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986.” Although I anticipated some interest on the part of the media, I never imagined the extent of media coverage that was to occur. In this short essay I want to reflect further on the issue of child abuse in ISKCON and address the publicity generated by my article. I also want to comment briefly about what has happened within ISKCON in the wake of widespread understanding that children were previously abused in the movement’s schools.”

This is a response by Burke Rochford to the intense media coverage that his article, “Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Movement: 1971-1986” generated. His essay was originally published in ICJ – Vol. 6, No. 2, December 1998.

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September 18, 2006 Posted by | Education, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON | Leave a comment

Pathways To Bliss

Pathways to Bliss Joseph Campbell    

“When people get excited about the Orient and begin putting on turbans and saris, what they’ve gotten caught in is the folk aspect of the wisdom that they need.  You’ve got to find the wisdom, not the clothing of it. Through those trappings, the myths of other cultures, you can come to a wisdom that you’ve then got to translate into your own.” Joseph Campbell, from the introduction to Pathways to Bliss.

“Krishna Consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind….When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane. Srila Prabhupada, from the introduction to On Chanting Hare Krishna.

September 17, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, India, ISKCON, Philosophy, Prabhupada | Leave a comment

Krsna Culture Kids: Exploring the ISKCON Childhood Experience

ICJ Logo 

“In her presentation and in this paper Norma McCaig posits a framework for examining and understanding cultural challenges facing devotee youth and their parents. She points out that, although they inhabit the same ISKCON culture, they are coming into that culture from different angles; they are either immigrants or natives, they are there by choice or birth. This difference in origins, and the different perceptions that these give rise to, leads to further differences in blending with external cultures. This paper shows one way of understanding the relationships between the generations. Development of this understanding is vital if ISKCON is to develop a stable base of devotee families.”

This is a link to an article by Norma McCaig originally published in ICJ Vol 9, No 1 – September 2001. Ms. McCaig specialises in programmes for raising awareness of the dymanics of the internationally mobile family, the lifelong impact and uses of a globally nomadic childhood, crosscultural transition and intercultural communication.

FYI: It’s a fairly long, academic article – filled with graphs and charts – but it does have some interesting insights.

 

Continue reading

September 16, 2006 Posted by | Education, Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, India, ISKCON, Vaishnava Youth | 1 Comment

Gold From a Filthy Place

Al Swearengen

Lately I’ve been watching an HBO series called “Deadwood,” a fictionalized account of an actual gold mining camp set in the Dakota Territories in the 1870’s.  Once I got past the seemingly ever present use of foul language I discovered some of the tightest dialog I’ve ever heard on a television show.  Many of the best quotes come from Al Swearengen, the series’ villain and local saloon owner. In a concise, crass and humorous way the Swearengen character repeatedly delivers many deep philosophical points, as seen from a lowlife’s point of view. 

Below is a quote from Swearengen, followed by a quote from Srila Prabhupada:

“Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair, or f***in’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man — and give some back.” Al Swearengen – Deadwood.

“….Every living entity in this world is struggling very hard to maintain himself and survive. This is called the hard struggle for existence….In spite of all our efforts, we remain bound up by the ropes of the material modes of nature….In material life, one is always in a blazing fire of fear, since no one knows what will happen next….All our hopes and plans for happiness and security in this world are ended by death….” Prabhupada – The Laws of Nature: An Infallible Justice.

 I know they don’t match perfectly, but as descriptions of an individual’s struggle in this world they do come pretty darn close….

September 15, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, Humor, Philosophy, Prabhupada | Leave a comment

Karma Kula

Karma Kula

“It is known…. if God wants one to live, nobody can kill him… If god wants one to die, nobody can save him…. If a Karma Kula is hunting you down…. God wants you dead.”

These are the opening lines to an interesting trailer for an online animation show called “Karma Kula.”  This is featured at a website called Ninjai.com.  Check them out when you get a chance.  My guess is they are somehow affiliated with gurukulis. 

If anyone knows who they are, please leave a comment and let me know.

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, India, Vaishnava Youth | 4 Comments

Calling the Next Generation of ISKCON Leaders

ISKCON Radhadesh

Below is an announcement about a scholarship program that I have been volunteering to help organize over the summer.  The idea is that some forward thinking first generation devotees are looking for ways to help facilitate those of the next generation who are interested in serving within the ISKCON institution.  I am happy to announce that three Vaishnava Youth from North America (two male, one female) have been awarded full scholarships for one year to study at the Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesha, Belgium starting the end of September 2006.  The idea is to make these scholarships available on an annual basis. Stay tuned….

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September 13, 2006 Posted by | Education, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Vaishnava Youth | 11 Comments

What’s in a Name?

Kuli drink

Hey look! We’ve got our own drink….

Just Kidding…. This is a brief history of the different titles used throughout the years by the people who attended ISKCON gurukulas. 

“Gurukula Veterans” was a term coined by Raghunatha anudasa in the late 80’s.  At various times he also used the term “Gurukula Survivor.” People objected to these for various reasons, mostly to do with them focusing on – and reminding us – about the negative experiences we went through. 

“Gurukula Alumni” was first used around 1990.  This was the term adopted for use during the “As It Is” days.  People pointed out that technically most never really graduated from gurukula so by using “Gurukula Alumni” we were giving the ISKCON gurukula system more credit than was due. 

So, around ’93 we simplified the name to “Gurukuli” which loosely means “One who attended gurukula.”  That’s the term that has stuck for more than a decade.  Though, more recently it has morphed to “Kuli,” which refers to anyone who grew up in ISKCON. 

September 12, 2006 Posted by | Gurukula, Gurukuli, Hare Krishna, Humor, ISKCON | Leave a comment

All The Way Home….

Two Young Monks 

Once two celibate men were walking in a forest, returning to their teacher’s home.  Soon they came upon a river that was running exceptionally swift and swollen from the recent rains.  A young lady was standing on the bank unable to cross the river.  She asked the young men for their help.

One of the monks hesitated, but the other picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the river and left her safely on the other side.  She thanked him and quickly departed.  Astonished, the other subsequently took it upon himself to chastise his friend for his obvious deviation from the strict principles of celibate life. 

As they walked the distance to their teacher’s home the other chastised the first, “How could you do that? She was so attractive. Her smile was charming and her voice so soft. How could you hold her in your arms like that?”

The first replied, “I may have held her for several minutes, but I cannot remember what she looks like. You, my friend, have carried her all the way home!”

September 10, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, Humor, India | Leave a comment

The Guru & The Cat

Guru & Cat 

Once upon a time in a certain village in India there lived a guru.  Every evening the guru would sit on his seat and deliver a lecture to the public. It so happened that the guru had a cat, and just at the time of giving the lecture the cat would create a big disturbance.

Being greatly annoyed by the cat, the guru decided to tie the cat to a tree before starting his lecture. So doing, the guru then delivered the lecture without disturbance. It worked so well that the guru regularly tied the cat to the tree before beginning his discourse.

 After some years the guru died. His disciples carried on the guru’s program. They also continued tying the cat to the tree.  When the cat died, they bought another cat and thus the ritual of tying a cat to a tree continued generation after generation.

In the fifth generation that followed the guru, one of the renowned followers wrote an elaborate treatise on the spiritual significance of tying a cat to a tree before beginning one’s studies of the scriptures.

“For the current of our spiritual life creeds, rituals and channels that may thwart or help, according to their fixity or openness. When a symbol or spiritual idea becomes rigidly elaborate in its construction, it supplants the idea which it should support.” Rabindranath Tagore

September 9, 2006 Posted by | As It Is, Hare Krishna, Humor, India | 8 Comments

New Vrindaban – A Brief History & Sacred Voices

Sankirtan Prabhu    Sankirtan perfoming at Kulimela Kids Camp

“Welcome to the “New Vrindavan History” site. Before you start exploring this intriguing story and the accompanying images, a few words about the background of this site.

I am the producer of the site, securing a grant from the Faculty Development Committee of Hanover College to underwrite costs of development and overseeing the conceptualization and production of the site. As professor and char of philosophy at Hanover I am not the most likely person to initiate a documentary history of a Hare Krishna community, so let me briefly explain what lead to this project.”

This is a link to a website that outlines the history of the New Vrindaban Community.  The site is a collaboration between Dr. Robert J. Rosenthal, a professer at Hanover College and Sankirtana prabhu, a long time resident of New Vrindaban and story teller extraordinaire.  It gives an overview of the history of the New Vrindaban Community from 1968 through 2002.  It’s got some good information and many nice photos as well.  Definitely worth a look.

Kulimela Kid’s Camp Entertainment: Sacred Voices 

Sankirtan prabhu also has a personal website, Sacred Voices, where he shares details of his lifelong career as a story teller.  In the early 1980’s my younger brother, Sesa, regularly performed with Sankirtan in the Nandulal play.  More recently Sankirtan was kind enough to donate his time and energy by entertaining the next generation of devotees at the Kulimela Kid’s Camp. The photo above, right is of him entertaining the children at Kulimela.

September 8, 2006 Posted by | Hare Krishna, ISKCON, Kulimela, New Vrindaban | Leave a comment

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