a blade of grass

… he told me that perfection could be learned from nature. be more humble than a blade of grass; more tolerant than a tree. give respect to others freely, without expectation or motive. in such a state of mind, stripped bare of your false pretenses, call out to your Lord eternally.

i’m still working on it …


Today's Kazakh demolition... in pictures

All the photos -- including photos of the demolition in November, which left Krishna families homeless in freezing winter snow -- can be found here.

Video can be found here.

Bulldoze now, ask questions later. Is this how an "oasis of religious accord" deals with religious minorities?

Police officers (government thugs) brought in by the busload to make sure that the job gets done.

Homes reduced to rubble...

... possessions thrown out into the street...

... and a community becomes a cloud of dust.

The human faces of tragedy. How long will Kazakhstan ignore them?

Kazakh Crisis

Devastating news from Kazakhstan. It is hard for me to express exactly how I am feeling, except to say that my head is reeling and I feel like I have just been kicked in the stomach. Suddenly, the reality of what has been going on there is hitting home. Hard.

Please pray for these innocent devotees, that they may manifest the strength to overcome this ordeal and that they may be blessed with justice and protection.

I will try to update and include some more personal stuff here in the future, but right now I have my hands pretty full. Here is the official letter to ISKCON I wrote on the situation:

Early today, the officials in Kazakhstan demolished more homes belonging to Hare Krishna devotees at the farm in Almaty.

This ten minute video gives an overview on the background of the situation in Kazakhstan.

Preliminary reports are placing the number of homes demolished today at twelve (added to the demolitions last November, that would bring the total to twenty-six homes destroyed). As before, the officials brought busloads of laborers and police officers with them, indiscriminately taking crowbars and sledgehammers to the homes. They threw personal possessions out into the street, even as the horrified devotees pleaded with them and begged for mercy. Mechanical diggers then moved in, literally "crushing the houses to dust."

We do not think that the (makeshift) temple or cow-barn have been demolished yet. However, local officials have included these buildings on their list of buildings to be demolished. This is especially troubling because the temple is the official site linked to ISKCON's registration as a religion in the country. Because of the way Kazakh law is structured, there is a possibility that if the temple structure is demolished, ISKCON will simply lose its right to exist legally in the country at all.

The latest report is available at Forum18.org, a religious freedom watchdog news agency.

Please keep checking the following sites for updates:

His Holiness BB Govinda Maharaj is in the United States right now in order to raise awareness about (and funds for) the crisis in Kazakhstan. He is in Washington, D.C. right now with Anuttama Prabhu and they have had several successful meetings with high-ranking US officials and human rights advocates.

I will try my best to let you know more details as they emerge; right now, please inform everyone you know about the situation and request their prayers. Organized kirtan is always a nice idea in situations such as this.

Also, now it appears certain that the devotees will have to relocate very quickly and this requires substantial funds, so any financial help would be most welcome. You may help by contacting your local ISKCON temple about how to give donations, or by visiting www.palaceofthesoul.com and clicking on "Donate Online."

Please do NOT stage any protests or contact any officials without first coordinating it with our office.

on behalf of ISKCON Communications,
your servant,
Vyenkata Bhatta dasa

PS: BB Govinda Swami's inspirational words to the devotees in Kazakhstan:

"Take shelter of Krishna. Everyone should remain very brave and remain fixed in chanting the holy name. Pull together and take care of the devotees whose homes have been destroyed. What is being done is cruel and certainly not fair but we still have our lives….so those lives should be focused on serving Krishna and our consciousness should certainly not become like that of the people who are doing this. We are witnessing a rude exhibition of material consciousness – never become like that. Pull together, even more than you did last November. Make sure the homeless devotees have shelter and try to gather together their belongings. And by this try to understand how special devotee association really is…"


GBC Meetings in New Vrindaban - pix

No, I wasn't at the GBC Meetings held in New Vrindaban a couple of weekends ago. Contrary to popular rumour, I'm not quite that high up on the rungs of the ISKCON leadership ladder yet. But, here are some cool photos from that "who's who" event. Enjoy!

GBC meetings@NV


vaisnava-seva gives me life (updates)

Dear Friends,

I'm sorry for still not back-posting on here. Ratha Yatra (which was fantastic by the way) took its toll on my health, work and sadhana, so I am struggling to recover. I promise to be back as soon as I can.

One of the highlights of this "busy time" has been hosting His Holiness BB Govinda Swami at our place for the last few days. Thanks to Yasoda-dulal and Sri Radhika Prabhus, Krsangi I have been deliriously happy serving the "King of Kirtan" as our special guest. I had spoken to Govinda Maharaj on the phone and over email before, while working on the campaign to save the ISKCON community in Kazakhstan, but this has been my first opportunity to interact with him personally.

(BB Govinda Swami on left, Indradyumna Swami on right)

What can I say? Govinda Maharaj is awesome -- very personable, loving, kind, gentlemanly, dedicated, realized, inspiring, and hilarious! His upbeat persona and animated re-telling of Borat anecdotes almost makes you forget the horrific reality of what the devotees are going through in Kazakhstan.

Krishna willing, I will post up some nectar (pix, anecdotes, maybe a Top Ten list) from his visit soon.

Having Govinda Swami here helps to deal with the sadness of not seeing Radhanath Swami at New York Ratha Yatra this year. It has become a little unspoken tradition that on NY Ratha Yatra day, Krsangi prepares Radhanath Maharaj's lunch and I usually get to assist in serving him the prasadam at the park. This year, of course, we missed that opportunity. Krishna is kind however, and allowed us to serve BB Govinda Maharaj. Its funny, but somehow while serving Govinda Swami, we felt very connected to Radhanath Maharaj this weekend as well. We could actually feel, from within the heart, that Radhanath Swami is pleased that we are trying our best to serve the devotees and especially his dear godbrothers and godsisters nicely.

As exhausted as we are, there is a certain buzz you get from serving Krishna's devotees. Krsangi is particularly blissful, and getting more and more attached to having Govinda Maharaj and his disciples (who speak little English but make up for it with their sweet smiles and gracious gestures) around. I've already caught her getting teary-eyed at the prospects of Maharaj leaving us to go on to the next part of his tour.

Hope to write more soon!

Vyenkata Bhatta dasa


"Just now coming"

Hare Krishna! A small note of apology... I know that some of you have been eagerly awaiting more entries on Radhanath Swami's visit to NY and DC.

With New York Ratha Yatra right around the corner, and with Krsangi and I hosting B.B. Govinda Swami, I don't anticipate having a lot of blogging time. But I pledge to get caught up with back-posting in the coming weeks. Krishna willing, I can share thoughts (and photos! and video!) from the initiation ceremony at Radha Govinda Mandir in Brooklyn, and write about the incredible Sacred Sounds program at Gauravani's place in Washington, D.C.

Til then, talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: tilak is neither tea nor a lock. Discuss.




It is katha season in Towaco, New Jersey.... Radha Raman Swami, Lokanath Swami, and then Radha Govinda Swami. It is one of the nicest things about the community of devotees here -- they are eager to come together and hear Srimad Bhagavatam.

I wrote these last year, after hearing Radha Govinda Swami’s 7-day narrations of the pastimes of Lord Krishna Stealing the Garments of the Unmarried Gopi Girls and Delivering the Wives of the Brahmanas Engaged in Sacrifice.

Innocent Gopis

Krishna stole their clothes and hearts
Robbed of modesty.


Clothes on Your shoulders,
You call each girl “come forward,”
And make it prasada.


Brahmins, Yajna, Pride
Mantra, tantra, all useless
But wives understood.


Thank you for coming
Leaving it all for My sake
Now you must go back.


The Bhagavatam says

that Lord Krishna is faultless
then what fool finds fault?


Horn Okay Please -- the movie!

If you've ever been in an India taxi (or just wanted to), please check out this hilarious, touching, and excellently made claymation short called "Horn Okay Please." It will give you an unforgettable glimpse into the life and adventures of a Mumbai taxi-wallah.

Watching this brought me back to my visits to that charming smog-filled paradise of contradictions formerly known as Bombay. I remember good old K.M Munshi Marg, where I used to try to look like I knew what I was doing while hailing taxis outside of the Bharati Vidya Bhavan.

So, what are you waiting for... click here to see the movie!

Also... check out a piece I wrote about the phrase Horn Okay Please (and the use of jargon in ISKCON) here, at my sister-blog for ISKCON Communications.


Think for yourself?

A comment on my previous blog post about what it means to have a relationship with a spiritual master, raised some interesting challenges. Calling him or herself "Shunyavadin" (transl.: "voidist" or, literally, "follower of zero"), a commenter felt the need to call me out on my "childish" worship of "an imaginary friend."

I have no interest in turning a blade of grass into some online debate forum (so, please -- mayavadis, rtviks, racists, fanatics, etc. etc. -- don't waste your time or mine; you'll just be deleted). But still, I wanted to share this exchange with readers, in case they found it helpful in dealing with similar challenges.

1. The comment:

Worshiping a deity or guru keeps one immature.

"Would I be doing or saying this if Maharaj was standing and watching me or listening to me?" This is like saying, "Would my mother let me do this if she was watching me?"

Have you not grown up enough to know whether something is right or wrong? Can you not think for your self?

To believe in a god is to believe in an imaginary friend. Are you not mature enough to discard this childish practice and rely on your own initiative? Or does the thought that you're all alone in this world scare you? Grow up!

Be a light unto your self and no longer be an immature slave!


2. My reply:

I can't say that I agree. What you fail to realize is that bhakti - directed towards God Himself or to His dear devotees and saintly personalities - is motivated not by fear, but by love.

To ask "would I be doing this if Maharaj were standing here?" is not a symptom of moral immaturity or an inability to think for oneself; it is an expression of gratitude, humility, and love. It is taking inspiration and guidance from one who sets the example, and trying to apply that inspiration in one's life. That doesn't make someone weak or childish -- it makes them honest.

Besides, looking at your words a little more closely, I can't help but notice an arrogant double-standard at work:

"Worshiping a deity or guru keeps one immature."

(But accepting what *I* say as Absolute Truth is mature and reasonable.)

"Have you not grown up enough to know whether something is right or wrong?"

(But I'm telling you that worshipping a personal God or turning to the guidance of a guru is wrong, and following my path is right.)

"Can you not think for your self?"

(But thinking for yourself must result in you coming to the same conclusion as I do, or else I will call you immature and childish.)

"To believe in a god is to believe in an imaginary friend."

(Because I said so.)

"Are you not mature enough to discard this childish practice and rely on your own initiative?"

(Relying on your own initiative means accepting whatever I tell you. If, however, you rely on your own initiative and choose to engage in the practice of bhakti then I will call it childish and dismiss it.)

"Or does the thought that you're all alone in this world scare you?"

(Follow me so that we can be 'alone' together.)

"Grow up!"

(Be like me.)

"Be a light unto your self..."

(Be like me.)

"...and no longer be an immature slave!"

(Except to me and my 'enlightened' and 'grown up' ideas)

So, lets see if we have this straight. I should make my own decisions, rely on my own initiative, and be free -- except if that self-initiative and freewill lead me to conclude that there is a Supreme Person and I want to know and love Him?

I should grow up and think for myself -- so long as I think in the exact same way you do?

Sorry, Shunya... I'm just not buying it.

Vyenkata Bhatta dasa.