Sunday, November 13, 2016

Giving praise to others is enriching to your soul


Praise goes a long way.

We need to work harder to see the good qualities in others and let them know how much we admire and appreciate them. We've become accustomed to finding faults in others, because it takes the focus away from our own faults. This is the same reason why bad news sells. By focusing on the suffering, pain and misfortune of others, we take the focus away from our own shortcomings, which makes us feel better for the moment.

But if we take the time to praise others and look for and highlight the beautiful qualities they possess, we enrich them with self-confidence and encourage them to be the best they can.

Simultaneously, we will also feel enriched seeing the happiness on their faces. To serve and please another is the innate quality of the soul. It is what gives us life.

Service is like breathing. We need it, and yet, foolishly we hold our "breath" and pretend we are independent like a stubborn child seeking attention. We are interdependent spiritual beings and unconditional loving service is what defines us. Praising another person is another form of service.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

You and I are being manipulated by a biased media


Too many people these days use Facebook's timeline feed as their primary source of information. Although the idea is convenient it fails dismally on credibility.

For one thing, our newsfeed is based on past likes and our faith in our network of friends to share news of value. The problem, however, is that this means the source of our news is skewed by our past subjective preferences and the value of our friend's subjective judgment on what is valuable to them. It does not in anyway guarantee you will get the truth or objective journalism.

We've all been subject to sharing a sensational post that seemed just too good not to share, only to find out later on that the story was totally fabricated, once a friend pointed out a link to a Snopes assessment.

Apparently, Facebook has declared war on misinformation, although the skeptic in me feels that this too is misinformation as Facebook has much to gain with viral posts -- more eyeballs on Facebook.

It seems to me that this recent presidential election is no exception and the mudslinging done by both Clinton and Trump was amplified by passionate supporters and a host of professional Internet Misinformation artists knit-picking quotes and sharing left and right-wing spin. Sometimes, the posts were just pure "hearsay," resulting in things like "Trump hates all Latinos and LGBTQ people" and "Clinton is a Satanist," becoming accepted in social media circles as absolutely true.

After the election, we're now witnessing some really hostile and abusive behavior both on and off screen. But again, the hidden hands behind the curtain (those engaged in manipulating public opinion) are continuing to spin and stoke the fires of controversy and division.

For example, the demonstrators outside of the Trump tower stating that Trump is not their president. In a healthy democracy, this is a good thing, but, what is not clarified here is that the 2000 or so protestors represent just 0.004% of the New York population. Not very significant by any means.

It is interesting to note that some of the anti-Trump protests in the US have been organized by groups that were sponsored by Clinton sympathizer and billionaire George Soros.

The bottom line here is that it is too easy to be swayed by information manipulators that rule over the news channels. We have to do our own objective investigations and make our minds up.

All the fear that is permeating the Internet now after Trump was elected is being stirred and fueled by the people that want to continue keeping us divided, powerless and ignorant. "Divide and conquer" is the most basic rule of warfare and believe me, what we are seeing today, both on and offline, is a real war on consciousness.

The ruling elite, made up of the most powerful corporate leaders of the world, would like nothing more than to keep us in the dark and fighting amongst ourselves so that they can continue selling us things we don't need, and a set of mental constructs that will keep us consuming and running like mice on a treadmill.

I have been minimized for expressing these opinions on Facebook when my intention is to help my friends stay awake and objective. I decided to take a break from Facebook until things settled down.

I humbly encourage people to do their own research and not just accept the so-called "facts" of a matter. History is HIS STORY and you can be sure that the self-interested rulers of this world are very much in the game of writing the story.

Remember, you and I are eternal souls -- sparks of God's splendor and nothing and no one can harm us unless we give them the permission to do so. Body consciousness is the biggest hurdle to self-realization and as long as we identify ourselves as Republican, Democrat, Independent, black, white, Latino, Muslim,, Jew, Christian, American, Mexian, etc, we will continue to remain caged by a false ego that will keep us bound to this material vibration.

Russell Brand had some illuminating thoughts on Trump's victory. "With Donald Trump [being elected] it is now no longer possible to ignore that real change is required."


An interesting report on Media bias (University of Pennsylvania senior Jack Beckwith and friend Nick Sorscher launched the website Data Face last October. They assembled a team of three “data journalists” who investigate topics in music, politics and sports. …[One such topic was] how positively (or negatively) the media has treated each 2016 presidential candidate. All of their articles rely on data that they collect themselves and present in interactive visualizations.)

Addendum

It seems to me that much of the fear is being promoted by the left-wing media, including the New York Times.

I came across this interesting article. Yes, it is on Fox News but the facts are undeniable. 

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/11/17/dems-media-skewing-trumps-record-on-lgbt-issues.html


Finally, a scholarly article about how the Government and the media uses fear to control the masses.

http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=1510

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Traveling is not all Pina Coladas and Chocolate



October 16, 2013 - travel diary in Brazil.

My hosts in Brasilia had to work on the day I was to fly out so they left me on my own in their apartment. It was very kind of them and they were really nice hosts, however, I soon realized that I was on my own to get to the airport that night. And as any English-speaking person knows, nothing even slightly complex is easy to do in a non-English speaking world.

Fortunately, I did have Internet and I quickly call upon a local friend on Facebook to call a taxi for me. She tells me that they are coming, but as the time approaches to my leaving to make the flight, the anxiety begins to churn in my stomach. That is a strange thing about flying; no matter how early you plan to be at the airport you still get the dreaded churn. I try to relax myself and just wait. No one is coming and all taxis seem to be just passing by. None are looking for an Australian tourist. Finally it is getting too close to the cut-off point, so when I see the next taxi I wave my hand, half-hoping that he is the one that has been called for me. Well, he also drives on, but then a taxi appears from the other side. I am not sure now if this is the guy that was called for me, or is the same guy I waved at and who has now circled the block the come to me.  I get into the taxi, a bit apprehensively. I say, “International Airport” in the best Spanish accent I can do. He understands with a “Sem” and we are off. But then all the way to the airport I am still wondering if he is the guy that was called for me and who had agreed to the set price of $50 Reias (US$25). I am anxious and wonder if I am going to have a fight with him at the end of the ride over the fare. The broken conversation and arguments continue inside my head. They don't stop until we finally arrive at the airport. I then wonder, “Is this the International airport?” In Sao Paulo there are three airports, but fortunately for me there is only one in Brasilia.

He hands me a bill for $60, I tell him, “No, I telephone, they tell me 50” (drawing the number in the air). He looks bewildered and makes some sound. I repeat the same and he finally gets it and agrees! “Sem.” I then hand him a $100 note but he has no change. He takes my bags out of the car and puts them on the curb. I then have this fear scenario running through my head that he will just take off with my $100 bill, calling out “Gringo”. But he finds another taxi driver and gets change. He hands me my change and we part ways. I made it! The first stage complete; now for the plane.

I walk through the huge terminal looking for my airlines. Hang on a minute, what is my airline? I have no idea. Someone else booked my ticket. All I know is that the flight is GE 1693. I ask a man, he calls over a friend who then explains to me that it is GOL airlines and then directs me to the right ticket counter.

I approach the counter with two overloaded bags. The one that always goes underneath is always maxed at 25kg, but so too is my “carry-on roller bag.” I sneakily push that to the side and then thrust the big silver one on the scale, all the while smiling. The ticket lady understands a little English. Yeah! With a “help-me” face, I tell her, “Can you please upgrade me to business class. I am very tired. I work for charity.” I keep smiling and she says, “in the first plane there is no business class.” I tell her that her English is good. She appreciates that and smiles back. We have some rapport going on here. It appears that she feels good about me and gives me a seat up the front. I assume that they are business class seats. I am really happy and boast about it on facebook. The reality is far different. We are flying on a 737 to Sao Paolo and then again on a 737 to Santo Domingo. The so-called business class is actually just 1 inch more leg-room and a curtain dividing you from the riff-raff.

I am told that my boarding gate is H. “Just go down the stairs after security,” she says. We part ways. I have some free wifi upstairs but it doesn’t seem to work downstairs. I stay upstairs for my most of my wait. I am like 2 hours before the flight, after check-in. I have no idea why I worry so much before flights. Anyway, I am chatting with my fiancé and others on Facebook, while the clock ticks away. I think, “I better go downstairs to see on my gate and the status of the plane. I am sacrificing Internet, but a man has to do what a man has to do!” On my way down I notice a place where I can actually eat! Hallelujah, there is a place that sells baked potatoes. Everything else I have seen thus far has been pastries and candy.

Travel note: Do not expect to get any decent food at the Brasilia airport if you are vegan.

I approach the counter and try to explain to the lady that I want a baked potato with olive oil and salt. I am vegan, so I don’t want all the butter and cream and extras on my spud. She is like, “blah, blah, blah”. I don’t have a clue what she just said to me, and of course she can’t understand me. Another lady hands me a menu and points at something with mignon or fillet. I don’t know much, but that seems fish or meat. “No Obrigado,” I tell her. (yes, I learned how to say thank you in Portuguese!). I look frustratingly, as others make their order and move happily on their way. I try to text my fiancé, who speaks Spanish, but the Internet is bad down here. I have to now lug my bags upstairs to get Internet and then ask her to write in the chat window, “I want a potato with olive oil and salt.” She does and I race downstairs to show the lady. She understands! She gives me my baked potato with a small container of olive oil and 6 small bags of salt. I am like, “lady, I wanted some salt, but I don’t want to have a heart attack!” I then ask, “Do you have pepper?” They look at me confused. “Pepper, you know, salt, I mean sol and pepper.” They are still bewildered. I am waving my hands to indicate that salt and pepper are like bread and butter. They still have no idea what the hell I am talking about. Then a customer chimes in, “I think he means, pimento”. “Sim, Pimento. Ok!” The lady then hands me a bottle of hot sauce. I am like, “Erm, do you know the powdery stuff?” She says, “what?” “Ok forget it, hot sauce it is. I sprinkle hot sauce all over my potato, pay for it and am soon on my way with dinner!

I sit down to eat at Gate H but then notice it is getting rather close to boarding time. It is now 9:05 and the plan is scheduled to fly at 9:32. I am eating as fast as I can, considering this spud just came out of a 250 degree oven and has hot sauce all over it. This is killing me. I am so hungry, but the sauce is so darn hot, and I am now worried about missing my plane. But I am at Gate H and people are still waiting around and the sign on the board is for another flight, so surely we are the next one. I just need to relax and enjoy this potato. My intuition now chimes in, “No, something is wrong. Grab that potato and go over and ask the guy at the counter if this really is the correct gate.” My tickets says Gate H, the lady at the ticket counter said it was Gate H, but then he says, “No, it is Gate 9 upstairs.” What!!!! I race upstairs and across the terminal. Gate 9 is on the other side of the terminal. I am tired, hungry, anxious and now possibly going to miss my flight. I look at the flight board, and my flight is boarding now! I finally find Gate 9, there are people around, but they too are waiting for another flight. Everyone else on flight GE1693 are sitting in their seats. I approach the counter; the lady waves me in. I am the last to board. And you all thought traveling around the world is so damn easy.

I settle in with my potato in hand and eat dinner while the plane prepares for take-off. Our flight to Sao Paolo will take 1.5 hours. Every time before take-off and landing I say a prayer to Lord Nrsimhadeva, the Lion God to protect everyone on the plane. I try to sleep to no avail and finally, we land safely in Sao Paolo at 11pm.

I now have to wait for my next flight leaving at 2.20am. I am already exhausted. I try my best to whittle away the time at the magazine shop where I spot a whole section of English magazines. I find a Popular Science and am intrigued to read an article on the quest for finding a particle of dark matter. Billions upon billions are being spent on this search, but just like the so-called noble quest to cure cancer by pharmaceutical companies, this too has the smell of scam, because the reality is that dark matter is an energy form that is beyond measurement; totally invisible to mundane instruments. The only reason that scientist know it exists, is because, this strange “nothingness” is influencing things that they can measure. In other words, just like we cannot see our intelligence or mind, but know that they exists by the symptoms they produce and the influence they have on the world around us. For decades scientists have been boggled by the problem of what is filling all the space in the universe? Conveniently they now refer to it as dark matter and dark energy. Translation: We don’t have a clue what it is, but we know there is something out there. Of course, from the Vedic perspective, it is spiritual energy, a higher frequency of energy beyond mundane sensual perception.

Ok, back to the airport.

Another hallelujah moment awaits me, Starbucks! They have Internet and they also have soy milk. I order a Venti hot chocolate with soy milk. I am really happy now. I catch up with friends online and confirm that someone will be there to pick me up at the airport in Santo Domingo tomorrow morning. My time finally runs out and I must board the flight. I again have a window seat because on any sort of long flight, the window is better for resting your head. Unless you have one of those stupid looking neck pillows, which I did travel with once, but then gave up on because they are so impractical.

We take off on time and I immediately try to go into sleep mode. I mean it is like close to 3am now and I have not slept a wink. Despite my attempts to twist the tiny airline pillow into places to support my neck and head, nothing seems to work. The plane is packed so there is no question of finding three empty seats. Although, on my way to the bathroom I did notice one lucky guy scored an entire exit row to himself. Now that is just not fair! I begrudgingly return to my seat. 

I try and try to sleep to no avail. Then in a half conscious stage I hear the lady announce that we are descending, but right then my body decides to go into deep sleep mode. I am like dreaming and having a great old time, but then I hear her voice, “Sir, Sir,” as she wiggles my arm. I don’t move. I am gone, but I can hear her voice. My body is totally resisting any disturbance. It has had enough of this bullshit. She continues, “Sir, Sir, we are landing,” this time grabbing my arm. My body is like, “No way, sister, we are staying down for the count.” At this stage I am now aware of what is going on and I try to will my body back to full consciousness, but it is so disconnected at this point, it is like moving a dead body. I am actually now half in an astral state. It is not easy. Finally, after more tugs of my arm and my urging, my body complies and awakens. I lift my seat up and with eyes still closed and prepare for the landing. At this point, I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. I don’t give a shit what my hair looks like or if my face is all contorted from the sleep state. I grab my bags and leave the plane following everyone one else.

Unbeknown to me, most people on this flight are catching a flight to Miami, and only a few of the passengers head for the baggage claim area. I get my bags and proceed towards customs. The lady waves a paper, expecting me to produce the same kind of form filled out. I know I filled one out on the plane, but I have no idea where it is now. She can see I am half asleep and mentally fried and says, “Ok just go.” Can you imagine that ever happening in the USA? No custom form and just waved through! Welcome to Santo Domingo, bitches.

Ok, so with bags in hand I exit to the meeting area, praying that someone there has a sign with my name on it. There is no one. I move slowly scanning the area, but there is no one. I absolutely hate that experience. Frustrated, tired and so over this sort of thing I leave the terminal to wait outside. But again after 5 minutes there is still no one. I then return to the terminal and look for wifi. I find a place, but unless you buy a drink you don’t get wifi. I give the lady a puppy dog face and she begrudgingly agrees to put the password in my phone. She does, but it doesn’t work. I now wonder if she is still bent on selling me something for the actual password. I did not have any local money, so I gave up and went back outside.

As I leave, a hoard of taxi guys talk to me, but I have no idea what they are saying and move on. They look at me like, “We are talking and you are ignoring us.” And I am like, “Why are you making sounds with your mouth? I am busy waiting for my ride, so leave me alone.” I begin to wait and wait, and wait. 20 minutes, then 30, then 40, then 1 hour goes by. It is clear now that no one is coming for me. I am so tired of this experience. It is not the first time and I hate it even more every time it happens. In fact, I would actually prefer not to take 1 million dollars in exchange for someone picking me up on time at the airport. It is that important to me. I am musing this is not Sao Paolo where traffic is hell and you can just use that as your excuse for being late. This is Santo Domingo, an island where people ride bikes. There are no traffic jams here. Where are you!?

I grab my bags and try the café that has wifi again. This time I go the cash machine and get $100 (peso) out. I return to the café and without even saying anything the lady says, “The problem is with your phone. It was the right password,” as if to intuit what my motive was in returning with cash. This time I use my laptop and the password works. Hallelujah!. I sit down and immediately text a message to one of the FFL coordinators in Haiti, “No one is here. What is wrong?,” I write. He texts back, “I will call now.” He then tells me that some people left hours ago to get you. I say, “BS I have been waiting for over 1 hour. Finally, after another 20 minutes I see a sign shoved in my face, “PAUL TURNER”. I am relieved but still very pissed at why they are so late. I ask them, “What happened? “Oh we were not told of your 8:30 arrival and we had some other things to do.” “What? Other things to do?” I want to scream, but I keep a relaxed look on my face and thank them for coming. I then hear from the person that organized my pick up that they had assumed that I would take 1 hour to get through immigration, so he had not stressed my arrival time.

Rule #1 when welcoming a guest to your country: Be on time to get them at the airport. No excuses. Just be there waiting at the time the plane actually arrives. You can never judge how much time customs or immigration will take, because there are too many variables. So just be there at landing.

Rule # 2: Always have a bottle of water to give your guest. Planes dehydrate you like a potato chip, and your body needs water badly. Make sure the water is room temperature.

Rule #3: Assume that your guest is tired and is not interested in complex conversations or hearing about your problems. Just play some relaxing music have small talk and get them to a place where they can wash and settle down.

I finally arrive at the humble temple of the ISKCON society in Santo Domingo. It is now 10:30am and I am still super tired, spaced out, thirsty and hungry. In other words, I feel horrible so just close the door and leave me alone for a bit.

My guests brings me 2 delicious coconuts to drink and I then lay down to try and rest on an old mattress with no sheets. All I am thinking now is, “bed bugs.” I surrender to sleep and lay down, but within minutes a tiny dog nextdoor starts barking, and barking and barking. “Please give me a shot gun!” No, I didn’t think that, but seriously, “Shut up. I want to sleep!”

My guests then brings me breakfast -- a strange combination of watermelon with the rind still in tact, strips of cheese and boiled plantains. I’m like, “Seriously?” I eat the few pieces of watermelon and try to sleep again. But that little asshole dog just won’t stop. I finally give up and go to sit in the temple room. At least it is quite, but really I just want to sleep. I try to use the toilet but it doesn't flush. I learn later that you have to use a bucket of water. Oh and ladies, you can forget about the tissue paper. It ain’t happening. Here you just man up and shake it off.

I decide to take a shower, but the plumbing here must be like 100 years old. I first wash my face but then worry that I may catch something. The shower is a rusty pipe hanging from the wall. There is no showerhead and it is of course cold water. I get in and soap up as the huge plastic bucket collects the water from the pipe. I then look at the plastic container I am supposed to use to scoop the water to bathe myself, and notice it is covered in mold. In fact, there is mold everywhere. Now I am really freaking out. I throw the entire bucket of water over myself, dry off and get the hell out of that germ-infested room.

No one speaks English here so I can’t ask for anything. I try to explain to my guests about the dog and the fact that I just want to sleep, but he just keeps talking in Spanish. Even after I politely explained to him that I don’t understand, he keeps talking. Of course, he can’t understand what I just said either. It is hopeless. I smile and walk away.

And this, my dear reader, is what a typical travel adventure looks like in between all the nice beaches and waterfalls that I sometimes come across. It is not all so easy, and frankly, I am really tired of it. I just want to be in my own bed.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Vegan KFC drumstick recipe (Krishna-Feel'n Crispies)


When I was a monk, one of the favorite things we looked forward to were the cauliflower pakoras at the weekly Sunday feast. Pakoras are a traditional part of North Indian cuisine and are deep fried battered vegetables, usually cauliflower, onions, peppers, or potatoes. 
The North America (non-veg) equivalent of pakoras is "Buffalo wings" and "KFC drumsticks". Recently, someone in the vegan community created a vegan version of buffalo wings and a vegan ranch dressing. But although it was a nice alternative it really cannot compare to a traditional pakora or a KFC drumstick. 
The recipe I am going to share here is not meant to be a fake meat version of KFC's drumstick but more of a KFC-version of a traditional pakora, and it is based on the actual KFC recipe. Enjoy!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chickpea (Garbanzo) flour 
  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 1/3 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons ground white pepper
  • 1/3 cup vegan yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp flax seed oil
  • enough water to make a slow running batter
  • Cut one whole cauliflower into florets with a long stem. 
  • Oil for deep frying
  1. Mix the flour in a bowl with all the herbs and spices; set aside.
  2. Mix the vegan yogurt and flaxseed oil together in a separate bowl until combined.
  3. Add yogurt/oil mixture to flour and then while whisking, add enough water until you get a slow-running batter. 
  4. Cover and place batter in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  5. Meanwhile, steam the cauliflowers for 2 minutes or until tender. Drain.
  6. Add oil to a large, deep saucepan or wok to reach a depth of 8cm. Heat to 170°C over high heat (when the oil is ready a cube of bread will turn golden in 20 seconds). Add cauliflower to the batter and stir to coat. Add half the cauliflower to the oil. Cook for 3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with remaining cauliflower, reheating the oil between batches.
  7. Place the cauliflower in a serving bowl. Top with fresh coriander and season with salt. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

When you know Angels have your back

Dionne
Big thumbs up to Delta Airways customer service reps at JFK, Dionne, and Omar. I am on my flight to Slovenia, via Paris. Here is what happened.
To start with, the taxi from New Jersey to JFK too way longer than I anticipated (2 hours) and then the driver dropped me off at the wrong terminal, so I am crazy late! As I entered the terminal at 6:15pm for my 7.00pm international flight I hear symbols and chanting. I look over and see a swami is arriving and being greeted by disciples. It is someone I know and admire, Gopal Krishna Goswami, but I had no time to say hi, and just took it as a good sign and continued racing up the stairs to the check-in.
It turns out, getting dropped at the wrong terminal was a blessing in disguise, because when I went to counter, one Delta customer service rep called Dionne said, "Oh my, let me check for you. Do you have bags to check?" I said "no." She asked her colleague Omar to find out the gate number so she could call to see if they could take me, but the phone did not work. Minutes are ticking by and she had to find another phone but no one answered. Omar said, "it is too late." You missed the flight! I am like, no, please help me. I am not traveling for personal pleasure. I am traveling for a charity. Then Dionne finally got an answer on the phone, "Hi, I have a customer here traveling for a charity. He does not have bags to check, can you take him?" The quick answer was no, it is too late.
Dionne said, "I am sorry, sir, but you'll have to rebook your flight," but then something happened.
Omar handed Dionne boarding passes. "What is this?," Dionne said. "The flight just miraculously opened up," said Omar, "so I quickly printed him a boarding pass!"
Dionne said, "This is a miracle. Ok, sir, you have to follow me fast. We have to run."
We were at terminal 1 and had to get to terminal 4. We ran as fast as we could to terminal 2 to take the bus. Dionne then took me to the front of the security line and then helped me unpack and repack after the check-in. I grabbed my roller bag and asked her, "Where is my computer bag?" "Oh, I have it. Let's go." We then raced downstairs to catch a bus, Dionne carrying my backpack on one arm and me dragging my roller bag. The bus line was huge, but she took us to the front of the bus, telling the driver to just "go!"
We then took a 10-minute ride to Terminal 4. The one I needed to be at, but she told me if I had gone to terminal 4, the security lines are too long and I would not have gotten a boarding pass. "You have Omar to thank for that," she said. 
Finally, we arrived at terminal 4 but then had to run 20 gates to get to my gate. Dionne saw one of those terminal buggies and said, "get on" and asked the driver to get me to Gate 28 asap. The Spanish lady said, "Sure," but did not understand the urgency. Anyway, we got on, but then she decided to pick up other people, a family with lots of bags. They were taking their time and minutes were passing and my flight was boarding. Dionne was hurrying everyone up. Finally, we got going, but there are huge crowds to pass through. I realized I should have just run, but we get to the gate in the nick of time and I am the last person to board. I made it. I hugged Dionne and thanked her for helping me. Without her and Omar, I would not have made it. 
Thank you, ladies. Dionne, you went above and beyond good customer service.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

I was Hugged by a Saint


I had not seen Radhanath Swami since the time I was living in New York in 2010. He has always been very kind to me and even back then when I was probably at my lowest point in life, he extended his compassionate hand to me.

At that time I had decided to deconstuct everything I ever knew and to reset my outlook on life, even to the point of adopting a strict raw vegan diet. My hair was a little longer and I spoke and wrote differently about my spirituality. Some of my older Krishna friends had thought I had lost my way, but I was as passionate as ever to find spiritual truth and meaning. Like the true wise sage, Radhanatha swami did not change a beat in how he related to me. He happily sat down with my friends and I at the Sunday feast at the Bhakti Centre in New York to share funny stories of his college preaching days in the 80s when he hosted a vegetarian club on campus. This was also the same time that I began writing my book, FOOD YOGA - Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul.

A few months later, I left the US and returned to Australia to continue my new journey and admired his successes and wisdom from afar through Facebook posts and videos, and like so many others, I thoroughly relished reading his first book, The Journey Home

I was so happy to be able to see him again once I heard he was releasing his latest book, The Journey Within at the George Washington University tonight.

My wife and I arrived on time and took our seats. My son, Bhimal is usually very peaceful, but tonight he was also excited and was making many oohs and ahhs. I watched and listened with wrapped attention as Maharaja spoke. My eyes are not good at the moment, so he was slightly blurry to me from a distance, so I was straining my eyes to really focus on his face, hoping to capture his eyes. Like any good speaker, he constantly scanned the room from side to side, communicating to the entire audience. At times, I felt that he looked my way and I hoped that he would remember me.

His lecture and answers to the questions after the talk were beautiful, enlightening and entertaining. The entire auditorium listened with respectful silence and focus as he delivered each and every word with careful consideration. Maharaja talked about his dear friend Bhaktitirtha Swami, who on his deathbed asked Radhanatha Swami to promise to tell his spiritual journey in the form of a book. That book, The Journey Home is now translated into 24 languages and has inspired millions of people.

Tonight's talk introduced the wisdom shared in his latest book, The Journey Within, that our search for true happiness has to start from within -- we are the "witness" the soul to all of the changes that are taking place in our life and bodies.

After the lecture, Rukmini Walker the host, asked if people would like to get their books signed. I jumped at the chance and got into the line. There were about 5 people in front of me and soon the line started to snake around the room. I waited anxiously wondering what I would say, but our main purpose in coming tonight was to ask Maharaja if he would bless our new baby, Bhimal. My wife, Juliana readied him in the stroller beside me. Suddenly a young man approached me and asked for our names. I asked him to write down our spiritual names, Priyavrata, Jagannatha Priya and Bhimal. It seemed that he only started taking names with us and those that went before us introduced themselves.

Soon it was our turn. I offered my respects by bowing my head to the ground in the traditional manner and reciting a prayer of respect to all Vaisnavas. At first, Maharaja did not seem to recognize me. I handed him my book for signing and then the boy with the notepad showed him our names. Maharaja glanced at our names, but still did not make a connection. Knowing Maharaja would not have much time to chat, I immediately introduced my wife and son and asked him to please bless Bhimal and if he would kindly do the grain giving ceremony for the child next week. He immediately agreed and leaned over to touch the boy's head. He then looked at me again and his eyes lit up. His pupils dilated like they were taking in the universe and with a broad smile, he communicated clearly that he remembered me. We touched hands and then he leaned over to hug me. I did not feel worthy, but gladly complied as we embraced for a good 5 seconds. Maharaja buried his face in my shoulder and I felt so much gratitude. He asked where I was living and I told him we now live in Colombia at my wife's animal sanctuary.


It is said in the scriptures that even a moment's association with a devotee of God will guarantee one a successful spiritual journey. The Chaitanya Charitimarita says it this way:

'Sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’—sarva-śāstre 
kaya lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya

SYNONYMS
sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅga—association with pure devotees; sarva-śāstre—all the revealed scriptures; kaya—say; lava-mātra—even for a moment; sādhu-saṅge—by association with a devotee; sarva-siddhi—all success; haya—there is

TRANSLATION
“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.

Tonight I got a hug from a saint and although I felt extremely unqualified, it made my day. As I read Maharaja's book later tonight, tears welled up in my eyes as he recalled his meeting with Dorothy at the airport. Dorothy was an elderly lady that had literally gone through hell and felt the entire universe swallow her up. Her story was so sad but Maharaja was there to comfort her with his simple words of wisdom and helped her see the positive side and how we always have a choice as to how we respond to each situation in life.

We all go through challenges and I have had my fair share. Lately, however, although in many ways life is good, it can still be overwhelming and has brought me to tears.

When I hear the stories of Radhanatha Swami and his incredible successes, I feel like I've achieved nothing and are far from reaching my full potential. In some ways, this makes me hopeful that things can only get better, but there are times, when, like Dorothy, I feel that God might have forgotten me. But when you come into the presence of a genuine holy person and take the time to attentively hear their wise words, you get a direct connection to transcendence which puts everything in your life in full perspective. Just like a light bulb turned on in a dark room, suddenly things become clearer and make sense.

In the Chaitanya Charitamrita there is a wonderful exchange between Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his dear friend, Ramananda Raya.  CC Madhya 8.251
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu asked, "Out of all auspicious and beneficial activities, which is best for the living entity?"
Now, Ramananda Raya could have given so many good suggestions here, even some very obvious ones like, "Oh the most auspicious activity is chanting the holy name of God," or "visiting a holy place," but he didn't. His answer was much more profound...
Rāmānanda Rāya replied, "The only auspicious activity is association with the devotees of Kṛṣṇa."
The ONLY auspicious activity! In making this amazing statement, he clearly declares that there is nothing auspicious about this material world. It is a temporary realm of birth, disease, old age and death, combined with three kinds of suffering (bodily, other living beings and natural causes). His statement supports the bold claim that even a moments association of a pure devotee of God can guarantee one all success.

We try to build big "castles" of wealth and fame in our life, but in reality, they are all made of sand and will not last past our demise. It is important to stay fixed on what is really important in this life -- self-realization. Who are we really? That is the journey within and most of us need a constant reminder from the saints and sages of this world.

I felt really blessed tonight after that hug. Thank you, God. Thank you, Krishna.

Books by Radhanatha Swami

Friday, May 13, 2016

POEM - The wisdom and love of a mother


Mothers are like rock candy -- please let me explain,
They're soft inside, even though they sometimes complain...
About your dirty socks -- lying all around the floor,
They'll collect them diligently -- even the ones behind the door.

Despite your sad failings -- and your less than ideal ways,
Your mother loves you unconditionally -- and come what may.
She'll never give up on you -- nor will she trade you in,
Your hers forever -- regardless of your sins.

Sweet and tender inside -- but with a tough outer shell,
She's the rock you've been calling for -- the one who'll ring your bell
When the going gets tough -- and you need a helping hand,
Your mother is the one who'll forever understand...

Your weaknesses and strengths -- and your fears and misgivings,
Your silly character traits and those times unforgiving
But she'll leave them all aside, knowing you're doing your best,
Because every challenge we face is just another soul test.

You see, your mother gets it...she's wiser than you or I,
She knows a thing or two -- but she's not one to pride.
With age comes wisdom and the foresight to know,
When to fold one's hand and when to let it all go.

She has wisdom in spades -- a sage of high accord,
Your first guru -- worth more than you can afford.
So never devalue her worth -- or minimize her role,
For she is the divine vessel -- that introduced your soul...

To this material vibration -- a place to educate,
A chance to renew -- and our soul to elevate
For we are not these bodies -- but eternal spirit souls,
Pure, intelligent and blissfull -- trapped in a "black hole"...

From where we can absorb light -- through acts of pure devotion,
And re-awken our love for the Lord of pure emotion.
Your mother is an example of that Source of pure love
Empowered by the divine Goddess -- glancing down from above.

Honor her always -- and remember her sacrifice,
For there is no one and no thing that that can repay the price...
She has invested in your success -- and the elevation of your soul
To make you the best you can be -- to make you whole.

Dedicated to my dear mother, Alison May Turner




Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to make your own natural vegan toothpaste at home

For strong teeth and an irresistible smile, we need to keep our mouth free of bacteria and brush after every meal. However, the most important thing is to stay away from toxic substances contained in most toothpaste, especially fluoride.

Over 95% of the toothpaste sold in the U.S. now contains fluoride, even the popular vegan toothpaste, Tom's of Maine, that started out fluoride-free until the company was bought by Colgate in 2006 for $100 million.

The presence of fluoride in toothpaste, particularly during early childhood, presents a huge health risk. This is why the FDA requires a poison warning on every tube of fluoride toothpaste now sold in the US.
The warning label on all major toothpaste brands

The Fluoride Alert Network explains the danger

"Risks from ingesting fluoride toothpaste include permanent tooth discoloration (dental fluorosis), stomach ailments, acute toxicity, skin rashes (perioral dermatitis), and impairment in glucose metabolism. All of these risks have been unnecessarily increased by the marketing practices of toothpaste manufacturers, who use cartoon packaging and candy-flavors to target *adult-strength* fluoride toothpaste to young *children.* The dental community’s failure to educate the public about the dangers of swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste has further exacerbated the problem." - Source: http://fluoridealert.org/

What to avoid in your toothpaste

These ingredients are found in most major toothpaste brands:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), as it can dry out the mouth and cause canker sores. This ingredient is often added shampoos too because it creates the foaming effect that is most desired by people.
  • Hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, as they also cause drying and can lead to tooth sensitivity.
  • Fluoride or fluorine is a very common ingredient for tartar control. However, a side effect from swallowing too much fluoride is dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is a defect in tooth enamel caused by excessive fluoride intake during the tooth-forming years (age 0 to 8). In its mild forms, dental fluorosis presents as cloudy white splotches and streaks on the teeth, while in its moderate and severe forms, fluorosis can cause extensive brown and black staining along with pitting and crumbling of the enamel.

What to include in your toothpaste


A healthy and safe home-made vegan toothpaste should contain the following ingredients:
  • Alkalizing agents such as sodium bicarbonate or aloe vera powder, which reduces inflammation in the mouth and relieves irritation of gums.
  • Natural abrasives like the natural fibers of the Indian Peelu tree or the very refined diatomaceous earth that can gently remove stains without damaging the tooth enamel.
  • Natural sweetener like Xylitol. This natural sugar helps prevent tooth decay by stopping the growth of bacteria that cause cavities.
  • Co-Q10, which has been shown to cure and prevent gingivitis.
  • Olive Leaf extract, which helps prevent tooth decay while boosting the health of the entire mouth.
The ideal toothpaste would be the combination of xylitol, Co-Q10, aloe and olive leaf.


Expensive version


  • 2 Tbsp of Indian Peelu tree powder or diatomaceous earth
  • 1 Tbsp Aloe powder
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Leaf Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Xylitol
  • 1 teaspoon Co-Q10
  • 2 - 5 drops of essential oil
  • Distilled water to mix into a paste
Aloe powder
Xylitol powder

Olive Leaf Extract

Peelu branch made into a natural toothbrush
Diatomaceous earth 
Diatomaceous earth powder in a container

Simple version #1


  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • 2 drop of essential oil (peppermint, spearmint, sweet orange, clove or cinnamon)
  • A few drops of distilled water to make into a paste
Mix everything well to make it consistent.

Simple version #2


  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda (use the aluminum-free kind)
  • 2 drop of essential oil
  • Some distilled water to make into a paste
Try this out and see how you go. I assure you it is safe and your teeth will love you. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to eliminate kidney stones naturally and easily

So, you've felt the excruciating pain of a kidney stone? Or you've heard about it and want to avoid one? Well, I can tell you honestly, there is a simple and effective way to treat and avoid kidney stones that can save you thousands of dollars and weeks of inconvenience.

But before I get to the remedy, let's first understand what kidney stones are and how they are formed in the first place.

What is a Kidney Stone?

A kidney stone is a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. Kidney stones are a common cause of blood in the urine (hematuria) and often severe pain in the abdomen, flank, or groin. Kidney stones are sometimes called renal calculi.

The condition of having kidney stones is termed nephrolithiasis. Having stones at any location in the urinary tract is referred to as urolithiasis, and the term ureterolithiasis is used to refer to stones located in the ureters.


Nephrolithiasis is the medical term for kidney stones. Did you know that one in every 20 people develop kidney stones at some point in their life?

Kidney stones form when there is a decrease in urine volume and/or an excess of stone-forming substances in the urine. Dehydration is a major risk factor for kidney stone formation.

The symptoms of a kidney stone include flank pain (the pain can be quite severe) and blood in the urine (hematuria).

People with certain medical conditions, such as gout, and those who take certain medications or supplements are at risk for kidney stones. Diet and hereditary factors are also related to stone formation. Diagnosis of kidney stones is best accomplished using an ultrasound, intravenous pyelography (IVP), or a CT scan. Most kidney stones will pass through the ureter to the bladder on their own with time.

Natural Cure

The first thing to note is your diet? Are you eating foods that cause kidney stones to form? Are you eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated? 

I have personally tried this and it is harmless and effective. 

Step 1. 
Drink apple juice and distilled water throughout the day to keep thoroughly hydrated. Keeping hydrated will increase urine output in the urinary tract, cleansing the kidneys and preventing infection while kidney stones are present. This also helps guide the kidney stones to the urethra for natural removal from the body.

Step 2. 
1 cup of extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon

Procedure:

Eat a light lunch and then do not eat after that until the next day. At around 7 pm, begin taking 1 Tbsp of lemon juice followed immediately by 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Repeat this every 15 minutes until the entire cups of olive oil and lemon juice are finished. 

Do not drink this mixture all at once, as it can cause nausea and vomiting, which would render treatment ineffective. According to the Alternative Health Gazette, kidney stone pain should subside within 15 to 20 minutes after taking the last dose.

Lay down on your right side and sleep. 

Visit the restroom every time the urge is felt. Kidney stones will be broken down within 12 hours and passed through your stool or urine, depending on the stone's position in the urinary tract during treatment. The passing of the stones should be less painful or pain-free.

The next morning, you should be passing out the kidney stones. 

Disclaimer

For stones that do not pass with treatment, seek medical attention immediately. You should first consult your doctor to first see how large your kidney stone is. This remedy can also be used effectively for gall bladder stones. If you get abdominal bloating, contact your physician immediately. 



Monday, February 8, 2016

Karma is a bull when there is an unfair fight


As a follow-up to my last blog article about fighting, there is one so-called "sport" that stands out amongst all others as the dumbest, most barbaric, ego-centric display of brutality -- bullfighting.

This cruel spectacle of blood and gore continues to flourish in Spain, Colombia and other countries. It is presented as a contest of conviction and skill between a brave matador and a mad and ferocious beast. The matador, dressed in a traditional costume of brilliant colours tries to toy with and evade the charging bull. For many this fight is an ancient ritual of showing the superiority of man over beast, but once they have witnessed the brutality with their own eyes, they typically never come back for a second show.

Like most bovine, bulls are not naturally aggressive, but must be provoked to illicit an aggressive response. What most people are unaware of is the cruel treatment the bulls undergo prior to their entrance into the arena.

The http://www.stopbullfighting.org.uk/ website explains: "What spectators see is not a normal, healthy bull, but a weakened, half-blinded and mentally destroyed version, whose chances of harming his tormentors is virtually nil."

What Exactly Happens to the Bull Prior to the Fight?

"The bull has wet newspapers stuffed into his ears; vaseline is rubbed into his eyes to blur his vision; cotton is stuffed up his nostrils to cut off his respiration and a needle is stuck into his genitals. Also, a strong caustic solution is rubbed onto his legs which throws him off balance. This also keeps him from lying down on the ground. In addition to this, drugs are administered to pep him up or slow him down, and strong laxatives are added to his feed to further incapacitate him. He is kept in a dark box for a couple of days before he faces the ring: the purpose of this is to disorientate him. When he is let out of the box, he runs desperately towards the light at the end of the tunnel. He thinks that at last his suffering is over and he is being set free — instead, he runs into the bullring to face his killers and a jeering mob." (source)


Our Desire to Lord it Over Others

The urge to lord it over the material energy, which includes other living beings, is the root cause of our bondage in this material world. At some point in time, we all desired to be masters, and so, as Vedic scholar, Srila Prabhupada explains in his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 3.26.5
"...the material energy was accepted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in order that He might exhibit pastimes for the living entities who wanted to enjoy and lord it over the material energy. This world was created through the material energy of the Lord for the so-called enjoyment of such living entities. Why this material world was created for the sufferings of the conditioned souls is a very intricate question. There is a hint in the previous verse in the word lilaya, which means "for the pastimes of the Lord." The Lord wants to rectify the enjoying temperament of the conditioned souls. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that no one is the enjoyer but the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This material energy is created, therefore, for anyone who pretends to enjoy. An example can be cited here that there is no necessity for the government's creation of a separate police department, but because it is a fact that some of the citizens will not accept the state laws, a department to deal with criminals is necessary. There is no necessity, but at the same time there is a necessity. Similarly, there was no necessity to create this material world for the sufferings of the conditioned souls, but at the same time there are certain living entities, known as nitya-baddha, who are eternally conditioned. We say that they have been conditioned from time immemorial because no one can trace out when the living entity, the part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, became rebellious against the supremacy of the Lord."
What these idiotic matadors fail to understand is that for all their machismo in fighting off the charges of a weakened bull, they must ultimately suffer karmic reaction - or "bad karma," and sometimes it ain't pretty.

All karma is bad in the sense that it necessitates bondage to this material energy, however, if a soul acts impiously, acting according to his own whims, he has to suffer a bad karmic reaction, like poverty, disease, ugliness, pain, or some other undesirable circumstance.

In relation to such whimsical and barbaric activities like bullfighting, the law of karma insures that those who cause such violence and suffering to other living beings must themselves experience equivalent violence and suffering - immediately or in the future. The Bible explains, "As you sow, so shall you reap."

OUCH! 
Yes, he did!
Do you have anything to say?

The Law of Karma

When a human unnecessarily takes the life of another entity, especially under conditions of great pain and suffering, this act of overt aggression produces a severe karmic reaction as shown in the pictures above. And, if year after year millions of animals are mercilessly butchered in huge, mechanised slaughterhouses, the accumulated negative karma produced by all those participating is almost unfathomable. Not only is there individual karma, but family, community and country karma as well.

The history of the world has shown that nations that have displayed a total neglect of the health and welfare of their citizenry and exploited innocent animals, collapse into ruin.

Srila Prabhupada explains the connection between the killing of innocent animals and wars...

"In this age, the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently, there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they must also be slaughtered like animals in big wars. This is very much evident in the Western countries. In the West, slaughterhouses are maintained without restriction, and, therefore, every fifth or tenth year there is a big war in which countless people are slaughtered even more cruelly than the animals. Sometimes during a war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse and by hunters in the forest."

Bullfighting, much like other killing sports, is irrefutable evidence of the depths of depravity humanity has fallen to. We are a very sick species and are acting more like a deadly virus on this planet, killing everything in our wake. It is time for those that care -- the real human beings -- to speak up and stop all this madness before it is too late.

Read the facts on bullfighting at http://www.stopbullfighting.org.uk/facts.htm


Sunday, February 7, 2016

How I learned to respect the art of fighting

The legendary Gracie dynasty, master of jiu jitsu

I have been a fan of martial arts from the first time I watched a Bruce Lee movie. However, before that, I followed boxing and watched every championship bout broadcasted on television. My father was a fight fan and he always encouraged us to stand our ground and never be intimidated by others.

Professional boxers and streetfighters were friends of the family. I am talking really tough men that would intimidate anyone and yet they were friends of the family and their influence on us was profound. We even had a boxing gym in our garage and I became really proficient at hitting the floor-to-ceiling ball. My hand-eye coordination was sharp. Kenny Harrison was one of the most feared men in Australia and was a real man's man. He would regularly train in our garage and show us how to punch. I remember one day he hit the floor-to-ceiling ball so hard the dyno bolt holding it to the cement floor was pulled out! Kenny could do 50 pushups on one hand and had a stomach like a brick wall and would encourage us to hit him as hard as we could.

My nature was to be peaceful, but when you have an older brother that taunted and teased you all the time, at some point, you break and it forced me to choose the dark side and pick fights when there was no fight necessary. I later realized this was all to gain the approval of my very homophobic father who saw my artistic, philosophical and passive nature as effeminate.

For the most part, however, I kept the fighting tendency in check and usually just stood up to any challenges when it was absolutely necessary, particularly when I had to defend one of my friends. I remember one day I was at home from school because I was sick and my mother bought me a book about the history of boxing. I immersed myself in learning about the great boxers of the past and relished the stories of bare-knuckle fights that would sometimes last for 50 rounds!

I stayed up late to watch "The rumble in the jungle" (Ali and Foreman) fight in Africa and "The thriller in Manilla" (Ali and Frazer) fight in Manilla. Although I never pursued boxing as a sport, I trained with professionals and could hold my own.


When I was 17, I was playing pool in the local pub with my friends and a 30-year-old man came over and started calling us names and enticing us to react. Everyone ignored him, but something inside said, "You can't allow him to disrespect you and your mates." So I calmly put my pool cue down and walked over to him and with one punch, knocked him clean out. I then walked back to the table and asked, "Is it my shot." My friends were in stunned silence. I picked up my cue and began playing pool again as if nothing of importance just happened. From that day on, everyone respected my right hand. That was the first time I had ever knocked someone out. The next two years of my life were hectic and chaotic, as I navigated my way to adulthood and tried to find my path. There were many more fights and very dangerous situations, but somehow I survived. Suffice to say, that unless something miraculous happened, I would have probably ruined any chance of a successful and progressive life.

At age 19, my best friend Jeff Cassels helped me escape the craziness of the neighborhood I was living and convinced me to move up to the mountains with him. For the next 6 months, I soul-searched, read philosophy, wrote poetry, drew pictures, played music and learned how to cook vegetarian meals. I even practiced celibacy and began doing mantra meditation. And then, just after my 20th birthday, I shaved my head and joined a Krishna ashram and become a monk. For me, it was the most natural thing, but I am sure many of my old mates were shocked.


By 21, I was steady in my vows as a monk and was doing fundraising for the temple, selling things like candles and incense to help support the Food for Life the temple did. This brought me to visit another temple in Melbourne, where something happened that changed my whole perception of violence.

Up until then, like most people, I viewed fighting as a match of egos -- who was the tougher man. That all changed one afternoon I was walking around a Melbourne neighborhood selling fragrant oils for the temple. Foolishly, I decided to enter a pub. Now, keep in mind that I was a monk and had a shaved head, so in order to hide that identity, we wore wigs and dressed in regular clothes. I approached the patrons at the bar at their tables offering them free samples and encouraging them to purchase some for Christmas presents. Suddenly a very large aboriginal man, about 190cm high and weighing around 140kgs, approached me, pushed me aside and began taking bottles out of my presentation bag, telling me that he wanted them and was not going to pay a cent. Basically, he was stealing from me in broad daylight and no one was going to do a thing about it. I was shocked and said, "You can't do that." He laughed and said, "And what are you going to do about it, bitch?" I was weighing around 70kg, but I still had my pride. In that moment, a switch flipped and I threw a right cross that knocked him flat out on the floor. He and everyone in the bar were shocked. As this big bear of a man gathered himself from the floor, I remember an older lady saying, "Kill him, Billy." He came at me full force and I began throwing more punches and then he grabbed me and I felt the massive weight difference. Suddenly the "light" went back on in my head and the internal dialogue went something like this: "What are you doing here? He will kill you. And you're a monk and you have a wig on! Get the hell out of here now!" I ran for the door, leaving my bag of products and escaped to another shop across the road to call the police.

They arrived at the bar, picked up what was left of my bag, after everyone in the bar helped themselves and brought it to me across the road where I was hiding in a furniture store. The police officer rightly asked, "What were you thinking, selling such things in a place like that? You're lucky to be alive." Lesson learned.

I returned to the car still shaking and relayed the story to my fellow monk, Darren, who was an old friend from childhood who knew me well. He said with a smile of concern, "Paul, you have to be more careful." Then he told me the story from the Bhagavad-gita of how Krishna had enticed his friend Arjuna to fight for the greater good in defeating the demonic rulers that had taken over the world. Arjuna fought to reestablish righteousness. His aggression was in service to the Lord. I understood now that everything we experience in this world originates from the Supreme Personality, only that in this world, men and women fight for selfish motives and false ego, whereas the act of fighting can be done for the greater good -- to reestablish righteousness. Even Lord Krishna enjoyed slaying demons, and wrestling is an ancient sport that has been practiced by all the world's ancient cultures.

It was also during my time as a monk that I learned of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). I was visiting Dallas, Texas in 1995 when a martial arts friend showed me some VHS tapes of the first UFC tournaments. He was training to compete and would go to the local park and hug trees for 30 minutes to increase his crushing strength and roll iron bars across his forearm, like traditional Shaolin monks would do, to make their arms unbreakable. He was the real deal and we both enjoyed watching Royce Gracie destroy all comers, including men twice his weight. He looked fragile and weak, but he outsmarted everyone and shocked the world, by demonstrated the true meaning of martial arts.

A few year later, after I gave up my vows to be a monk and got married, I continued to follow the progress of the UFC and whenever I could I watched boxing on television. Martial arts is part of my upbringing and although I never took it up as a sport, I have always appreciated the discipline required to be successful in it.

Some of my childhood friends were probably shocked that I became a monk, but that is simply because they never got to know the real person inside -- the philosopher, poet, and artist that kept his "cards close to his chest," for fear of ridicule and out of necessity, considering the tough neighborhood I grew up in.

Looking back, it was an odd start to where I find myself now. It is hardly a perfectly scripted life story, but what life is? We all have a certain set of experiences we have to go through in order to become the person we are meant to become in this lifetime. My father was a convicted criminal that spent 5 years in prison. Some of the nastiest and toughest men in Australia (bank robbers, killers and conmen) were friends of our family. We grew up in an impoverished housing commission district of Sydney (Mt Druitt), notorious for crime. I would hustle in bars at age 16, playing pool. There are so many stories to tell, but suffice to say, it was all part of the greater plan to present me experiences that I could draw from to have gratitude later in life and know how to relate to others less fortunate.

My son, Bhimal was born in Colombia, a country famous for outlaws so you can be sure he is going to learn self-defence -- only unlike me -- he will learn it for the honor of protecting what is rightfully his and to defend those that need defending.

The Gracie Family


Royce Gracie and his brothers, who are now also represented by their children have done a wonderful service to humanity in bringing back the honor of martial arts, that over the last 20 years has been tarnished by ego-driven, chest thumping psychopaths, charading as martial artists. Their Gracie Jiu-Jitsu academies are helping kids stand up to bullying by realizing their full potential.

I wish I had this kind of example when I was a child and for sure my son will be joining one of these academies as soon as he can walk. Take a look at this wonderful video below.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A poem for Bhimal -- a blessed birth


You were conceived in Nepal -- in room 433
At exactly 3:44 am -- it was mangal arati.

An auspicious time -- Lord Brahma's divine hour, 
We prayed for a yogi of considerable power...

A devotee of God -- a servant and sage,
Someone that could do wonders in this dreaded iron age.

We chanted and prayed -- and hoped for the best,
While Juliana ate healthy food on this noble quest. 

When we heard the good news, that you'd entered her womb,
We knew this was some kind of transcendental boon.

Throughout the pregnancy, I sang songs and harinam
I read Krishna book and talked about the animals on the farm.

You seemed to appreciate -- my warm soothing voice, 
As you kicked mommies tummy -- we all did rejoice. 

But there were scary moments -- we had along the way,
Corporate nurses and doctors -- hell-bent on dismay...

Misread the fetal monitor, fueling doubts about your heart,
They told us you had arrhythmia -- it tore mommy apart.

But it turned out, you just had hiccups -- a normal irregularity,
Something many babies have -- it was a moment of clarity.

And then the day came -- to enter this material world, 
To abandon the safe haven of your mother's warm whorl.

We prepared the room with flowers and sweet herbal scents,
and played kirtan all day to welcome your descent.

Your mother strained and cried -- while I massaged her back,
Reassuring her with kind words and feeding her snacks.

She was a champion throughout -- so strong and one-pointed,
There was no denying this woman of a baby anointed.

And then you appeared -- at exactly 10:25 at night
after 20 hours of labour -- your appearance gave us a fright.

For you were initially limp, totally white and lifeless,
Exhausted from the labour -- you had lost all your breath.

But with loving caresses, from your mother and midwife,
Suddenly you awoke -- and came roaring back to life.

You let out a cry -- letting us know you're ok, 
Finally, it was time to celebrate -- your actual birthday! 

I jumped in the pool, to join you and your mother, 
I could now finally tell your sister -- she had a little brother. 

Your name would be Bhimal -- a pure son of Jagannath, 
You will walk with confidence and teach the bhakti path.

Born on the 19th -- signifying confidence and pride,
With a double "2" as well -- you'll be an intelligent guide. 

Talkative and psychic -- with empathy in tow,
You'll have things to teach the world -- and let everyone know...

That we're all brothers and sisters -- animals and humans allied, 
"This world needs unity -- for we're all souls inside."

With a middle name of Fox -- signifying Xfiles and cunning, 
You'll have a way with words and will always be forthcoming.

Surrounded by animals -- at your mother's sanctuary, 
Your situation is unusual and extraordinary.

A place you'll learn -- from the day you are born, 
That all animals deserve respect -- and not eaten or worn.

Your mother hopes you'll be -- a servant and devotee, 
To carry on her mission -- she hopes you'll agree. 

Your daddy hopes you'll be a yogi -- a master of your tongue,
to expand Food for Life Global and give prasadam to everyone. 

So thank you for making us -- a happy family, 
a complete triangle accentuated with your sister, Kishori

May the Lord bless you abundantly -- to live a life divine, 
to be the best you can always -- and to forever shine. 

NOTE: Bhimal was born on December 19, 2015. Today he is 44 days old.