Paternalism and the Guru-Disciple Relationship
Paternalism is based on the premise that it better to keep people, especially those people judged from a position of superiority to be vulnerable, in ignorance rather than given knowledge and the consequent rights and responsibilities. Not only is paternalism debilitating, but its effects can linger for decades. I’m living proof.
Jesus, the Vaishnavas, and the Spirit of Understanding
Sometimes – but only sometimes – I like to think my interfaith credentials are all in order. I mean, as a Vaishnava I regard all religions as paths towards the same supreme Godhead. Religion is one, but the ways we do it – and the outfits we do it in – are many.
God Himself says this in the Bhagavad-gita. (That’s not the Vaishnava God as distinct from the Christian or Jewish God, but the one and only original creator and supreme person.) God says that “All are on my path, and as they surrender to me, I reward them accordingly.” That always sounded pretty fair to me.
The consolidated city of New York comprises five boroughs (each a county): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Among these, the borough of Queens is blessed with The Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Mandir, which stands in the neighborhood of Richmond Hill.
Judging others is always tricky. Much of what we do, say, or believe is based not on objective truths, but rather on the relative value we place on a particular activity, thought or behavior. Yet, judgment or discrimination is a necessary function in our lives. So, perhaps the best way to judge someone or something is to evaluate the person or the activity in terms of the values or standards they set for themselves.
Flowers of Devotion
Spanning the cusp between the 15th and 16th centuries, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught and exemplified complete absorption in divine love through the chanting of the names of God. Mahāprabhu propagated a spiritual discipline that carries the guided practitioner through clearly demarcated stages, beginning with a tentative interest (adau śraddhā) and culminating in an extraordinary exultation of ecstatic spiritual emotions (prema).
Chemical Evolution: The RNA World (Part I)
How could the first living cell with DNA-based molecular biology have originated by spontaneous chemical processes on the pre-biotic earth? This has been the chicken and egg problem of life’s evolution from chemicals – Which came first, DNA or the protein molecule?
Self-righteousness is easy. Self-examination is a lot harder. Understanding the difference between the two makes a tremendous change in one’s ability to communicate his or her message to another person.
“Do I have to repeat myself young man?!!” Oh, how I hated it when my mother would say that. Not because she was being mean, rather because she was being right. It’s hard to hear someone when they’re right and you’re wrong. Most of the time she was correctly pointing out my selfish behavior, “Share with your brother ... don’t boss others around,” she would say.
George Harrison's Spiritual Music & Yusuf Islam
A blogpost which referred to the recent music of popular Muslim musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, got me thinking about how music is viewed within India's religious traditions - especially my own - the Hare Krishna faith. If you've ever seen Hare Krishnas chanting in public, you can probably surmise our general attitude toward music! In particular, George Harrison's story reveals why modern music with instruments like guitars, pianos or sitars, is not considered strictly taboo in our tradition.
Karma Is ...
Here is what we know: karma is very difficult to understand. We all have experience of this fact. Krishna even advises in Bhagavad-gita that karma is so intricate that it’s better not to become too convinced that we will even understand it, better to just find our way out of the world of karma. But still, for purposes of helping others, we Hare Krishna devotees try to inform people of the correct understanding of karma.
Sanskrit, Character, and Bipartisanship
Character matters, especially in a world where surety is fast becoming a thing of the past, in a communication age where according to Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message,” and philosophers of language are still pondering the question, "What is meaning?"
The Power of Saying No
In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel and others started a revealing study of four year old children at a preschool on the Stanford University campus. The four-year-olds were offered a proposal involving getting a marshmallow (a kind of sweet candy). If they could wait for about twenty minutes till the person giving the candy returned after doing a small task, they would get two candies. If they couldn’t wait till then, they would get only one candy – but they would get it instantly.
The Economy in Three Modes - Part II
Knowledge of the three modes (guṇa-traya) proves to be fruitful on a variety of levels. The principles that offer insight into the working of individuals also illuminate the characteristics of entire cultures or civilizations.
'SR': Simply Rascals
Did you know the words laser, scuba, and radar aren’t technically words. They’re acronyms. Laser is an acronym for light amplification by the stimulated emission radiation. Scuba is an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. And, radar is an acronym for radio detection and ranging.
The Economy in 3 Modes
To anyone committed to bringing about a transformation in the iniquitous ways of this world’s misdirected civilization I recommend an ancient system as guide for this undertaking. The system is a science, containing, like any science, both theory and practice. By theory I mean an organized set of categories that illuminate the workings of the world, and by practice I mean the application of the theory to the world so as to bring about desired changes.
Necessity is such a strong term. For something to be a necessity it’s got to be almost a matter of life or death. Eating, sleeping, mating, and defending yourself from harm, these are necessities. What’s the proof? The lengths to which we are willing to go in the name of necessity are proof. Even if such necessities push us to dehumanizing behavior.
Recession - Financial or Spiritual?
During his inaugural address, US President Obama identified greed as a major cause of the current recession. Whose greed? It’s easy to point the finger at the US mortgage brokers. Certainly they were greedy, but how much harm could they alone have done? Not much. They capitalized on the greed of ordinary Americans for unaffordable homes. Ultimately, if we are honest with ourselves and if we want to help solve the problem, we have to point the finger to ourselves.
Becoming a Survivor of Technology
Millvina Dean died on Sunday, May 31, 2009. CNN.com reports that Dean, who was 97 years old, was the last known Titanic survivor. The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic in the early hours April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg.
I question whether in fact Ms. Dean was the last survivor.
Yes, Ms. Dean may have been the last person alive who traveled on that fateful maiden voyage of the Titanic. However, she was not the last survivor in the sense that there are countless remaining victims of the Titanic. I refer to victims who are trapped in a co-dependent and abusive relationship with technology, a relationship which is epitomized by the history of the Titanic. Hopefully one day these victims will become survivors.
The Conservation of Intrinsic Nature
I am an eighteen-year-old college student on the verge of starting my adult life. And as American capitalist culture never lets me forget, central to adulthood is the career I choose. Everything I have been taught in school has been entirely in preparation for this choice. The various pressures are seemingly insurmountable- whether they are parental, financial, or personal.
A Voice in the Public Debate
Something old or something new, this question lies at the center of a friendly rivalry between me and my friends from England. Americans loves firsts. The first automobile, the first airplane flight, the first man on the moon, America is a nation built on firsts. England on the other hand is a country that revels in maintaining the old. St. Michael’s Tower in Oxford dates from 1040.
A number of Sanskrit words familiar to all Kṛṣṇa devotees have become incorporated into Standard English. “Karma,” “mantra,” “yoga,” “avatar”—all grace the pages of current dictionaries, and show up in contemporary writings innocent of any italics, the ID statutorily pinned on foreign words. These words belong.
Among them, “avatar” shines most radiantly in the spotlights of popular attention. Just last week The New York Times took note: “Fan Fever is Rising for Debut of ‘Avatar.’”
Mom, Spiritual Economics and Bhakti-yoga
You are standing outside a burning building. The flames and smoke are getting denser, but there is still one way to enter the building. Trapped inside it are the following beings:
- Your beloved mother.
- A Nobel-prize-winning scientist that is close to discovering a cure for cancer.
- A highly intelligent ape that may unlock the secrets of the missing link.
Doctors of Happiness
The latest findings of Dr. Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor both funny and smart, derived from assiduous research into (human) happiness, have revealed to him an important truth that will already be familiar to students of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
To Boldly Go Where We’ve All Gone Before
Star Trek, the franchise that never dies, has, like the vampire, returned among us, this time in a clever “prequel” to the original ’60s space opera TV series. In this, the eleventh of the series-spawned feature films, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the other starship Enterprise voyagers appear as “sexy young cadets,” as David Hajdu describes them in his illuminating op-ed piece on the “Star Trek” phenomenon in last Sunday’s Times.
The Social Role of Cows
Throughout history many traditional societies have centered on a particular animal, and the relations the people develop with that animal influence the values of the whole society. We think of the role of buffalo in shaping the lives and values of the Native Americans of the Plains. Similarly, we think of the Laplanders and their reindeer, or even the New England whaling villagers and the whales.