as of late
July 13, 2008, 4:26 pm
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These are pictures of my altar.

The past few weeks have been filled.

My yoga practice was greatly inspired by a four day workshop with Edward Clark of Tripsichore. Check them out if you have time here. Raghunath Prabhu attended the workshop as well so we had a nice weekend together. Bridgette and the kids also came up on the fourth of July to watch fireworks with us and attend the Tripsichore performance.

Within the yoga teacher training course I have had the opportunity to lead kirtans(believe it or not) and teach about yoga philosophy. Last night we had a wonderful krishna kirtan at the lake front(yes not even one Siva or Ganesh song). It culminated with the entire group dancing wildly and chanting loudly! I felt right at home.

I started my summer novels(Jane Austin and Carlos Castenada) reading as well as my reading of CC and Satyaraj’s new Gita. Ill talk about that book another time as well as a book about Yoga teacher and student relationships by Donna Farhi.

In preparation for another year of college outreach I found a nice article this morning you can read below:

Mike McKinley
Contemplating Cool

By Mike McKinley

Show me a grown man with a goatee and I’ll show you a major league baseball player. Show me a grown man with a goatee wearing sandals and I’ll show you a youth pastor.

When I was a kid, I remember that the youth pastor at our church was totally different than any other pastor I’d ever seen. He quoted rock bands and wore blue jeans to church. He was cool in a way that the other adults in my life were not. I was proud to invite my friends to church and see their negative stereotypes of Christians get blown up. The youth group thrived and “unchurched” kids were reached. The one thing that distinguished our group from others was that our pastor was cool.

As the youth pastors and youth of the 1990s become the head pastors and congregants of the 2000s, it seems like the phenomenon has only grown. It is now an unexamined assumption in many quarters: the best way to reach people is to be like them. In order to reach our culture, we must embody what the culture defines as acceptable and valuable. We must be as “cool” as we can possibly be while still retaining the gospel. That way, people will see us and not be turned off by us. Maybe they’ll even want to be us.

This shows up in both the private lives of pastors (you missional guys, I’m talking about you and your emo eyeglasses) and in the church’s corporate worship, where we seek to remove everything that might seem foreign to the unchurched visitor.

In some ways, I think being connected to the culture around us is helpful. But there are ways in which a commitment to being cool can ultimately conflict with the call of a pastor. As the resident cool guy on the 9Marks docket (which is roughly like being the ladies’ man at a Star Trek convention—damning with faint praise), here are a few thoughts:

1. Being connected to the culture is a double-edged sword.

In a sense, we all carry a set of unique interests, talents, characteristics, and strengths around with us. These can both serve the proclamation of the gospel and hinder it. So, for example, yesterday the copier repairman stopped by the church which I serve. He is a young guy who is into cage-fighting. We built a connection over that fact (one of the guys in our church also does MMA—mixed martial arts), and he was pleasantly surprised to find that a pastor could be heavily tattooed.* I shared Christ with him, and he asked for a Bible. Score one for enculturation.

But there are other ways that my appearance might be a hindrance to the gospel. I have been sharing Christ with a strict Muslim man that I see in the sauna at the gym once or twice a week. We have built a friendship and talked about spiritual matters quite often. I have little doubt that the fact that I have a large weasel tattooed on my bicep does not make him more attracted to the faith. Score one for not having tattoos. This is why I wear sleeves on Sunday mornings. In one situation my ink serves me well; in another it can make things more difficult.

2. We must always be on guard against pride.

How much of a pastor’s desire to be perceived as cool or connected to the culture is motivated by vanity or pride? Knowing the depth of our depravity and self-deception and pride, we must examine ourselves. Am I motivated to dress a certain way or listen to certain music for good reasons? Or does part of me at least want to avoid being the butt of Ned Flanders jokes? We must beware that our quest for cool doesn’t feed the vanity and pride which we need to be choking to death every day.

In fact, I fear (and here I am speaking from what I see in my own heart) that oftentimes we are at least partially motivated to reach people by pride. How much of our desire to be cool is a desire to reach people, not only for the gospel, but also for our own glory? Here’s a diagnostic question for everyone who is a pastor: if the Lord called you to shepherd sixty uncool saints until they were safely home, with no spectacular revival or ministry explosion, would you consider that beneath you? Would it seem unworthy of your gifts and a waste of your life? If so, you are being motivated by pride.

3. Much pastoral ministry is profoundly uncool.

Don’t sign up to be a pastor if you want to sound reasonable to most people or if you want to affect a cool detachment from people and ideas. The preaching of the cross is foolishness and a stumbling block to your average art community hipster. We must love the Savior more than we love the respect of others.

Also, the ironic detachment that cool requires finds little place in the work of a pastor. At times, you must be embarrassingly earnest and enthusiastic. You must love difficult and extremely mockable people with a real and true love that never seeks a laugh at their expense. You need to cry with people when they suffer unspeakable tragedy. Much of being a pastor is profoundly uncool.

4. We must never despise our brothers and sisters.

There is a real danger in becoming so puffed-up over our freedom in Christ to wear black t-shirts that we begin to look down on the Ned Flanders-style Christians who love the Lord and have served him faithfully for years. In fact, it may be that the Lord is more pleased with their humble walk (though not as sophisticated) than he is with yours. The fact is, love for other Christians is a hallmark of a true believer (1 John 2:10). Even more it must be the mark of a pastor. We have more in common with a believer in Myanmar and a believer in Duluth (even if they don’t know a pilsner from a stout or Operation Ivy from Crimpshine) than we do with the people we’re trying to reach for Christ.

The fact is, we can’t choose who will be in our flock, nor should we try. Should churches go after the “manly man” with gimmicks and mocking disdain for the average wussy church going guy? If I read Ephesians properly, the church should consist of all kinds of people: cool and square, macho and sensitive, punk rock and emo. Frankly, in my experience a sensitive guy who is not trying to be cool is about ten times more likely to fit the biblical profile of a man, even if he doesn’t ride a Harley and watch contact sports on television. Pastor your people, thank God for the diversity in the body, and love people who aren’t like you.

5. With a few exceptions, Christians who try to be cool are terrible at it.

When I was in middle school, a well meaning youth worker attempted to perform what came to be known infamously in Radnor Junior High School lore as “the Jesus rap.” These were the earlier days of hip-hop, and the genre was still trying to find its sound. Well, this youth worker, a slightly pudgy white guy of about 28 years, put the effort back ten years in five excruciating minutes. I later came to find that this well-meaning man hadn’t written this material himself (thank heavens!) but that it was later recorded as part of a song called “Addicted to Love” by a man named Carman.

The point is this: not many Christians can pull it off. A few can, but you probably can’t. Seriously, ask your wife. She’ll tell you the truth. Don’t try to be something that you’re not for the sake of impressing unbelievers. It’s bad theology and it will fool no one. It’s this kind of thinking that has gotten us Christian rock music. Please, stop it. No, really. Now. I insist.

6. Being like the culture can make it hard to see the gospel.

The more we understand the world (and its definition of what is compelling and cool), the less attractive we should find it. In fact, in a society that is increasingly morally and spiritually bankrupt, it may be our incongruity with the culture that serves to highlight the gospel. David Wells says this much better than I could in his book God in the Wasteland:

By this late date, evangelicals should be hungering for a genuine revival of the church, aching to see it once again become a place of seriousness where a vivid otherworldliness is cultivated because the world is understood in deeper and truer ways, where worship is stripped of everything extraneous, where God’s Word is heard afresh, where the desolate and broken can find sanctuary [emphasis mine].

Let’s pray that our churches recover that quality of vivid otherworldliness, even if it is not cool.

The conclusion of the matter is this: be who God made you to be. If you lean hipster, run with it. Be a hipster to the glory of God. If you lean in another direction, that’s great too. But Christ must be central to all who will pursue the calling of a pastor. That means putting to death our pride and scorn for others who are not like us. That means evangelizing across the boundaries of taste and preference. In the long run, it might even mean that we’re not cool.

Michael McKinley is the pastor of Guilford Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, and the 9Marks lead writer on church membership.


Nathji’s Surprise Party
July 2, 2008, 3:00 am
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Sri Gopal Nathji(That little Black Boy the Beloved of Vraj) doesn’t know yet but he is having a surprise birthday party this weekend. I wish I could be there but Ill be away. If any of you can be there to celebrate please do so. Our Gopal is turning 25! Bathing ceremony, giant feast, kirtans, and fireworks. What a great way to celebrate our Independence!

Gopalji has always been a dear friend to me. I used to sit and read stories to Him from Krishna book. I would either sit in front of him if it was day and I had time or I would sit on the Vyasasana step next to Prabhupada at night after everyone else would go to sleep. I don’t know if that was offensive but that is the way I could get closer to him. Actually I felt that was where I was supposed to sit and read. It was the only place with a little light. When I first moved to New V there were two beautiful cows on each step. Then the higher ups decided that philosophically, Prabhupada couldn’t have cows next to him so they were removed. Once they moved provided the perfect spot to look up into Prabhupada’s eyes and read to him his favorite pastimes of Gopal and the cowherd boys in Vrindaban.

Once I was in Chowpatty temple and I was trained to do “Gopal Darshans”. Check them out at the Radhagopinath website during Chandan Yatra time. I learned because I wanted to do them with Gopal in New Vrindaban. I have yet to do so. One day I hope….One day….

Here is the letter I received from the organizer of Gopals surprise party which I want to share…

“July 4 2008, doesn’t just commemorate the declaration of independence
of the USA. It also commemorates the Declaration of Dependence to God
for His shelter when the most beautiful deity of Sri Gopal Nathaji
(Krishna, the lifter of Govardhan Hill) was established in New
Vrindaban, WV 25 years ago on this date. The history is that the most
auspicious moment for establishing the deity was 5-7 minutes before
midnight on the 4th, and the big elaborate ceremonies, like the
maha-abhishekam (ritual bath), took place on the morning of the 5th.
This is infact, consistant with Lord Krsna’s pastimes. He was born at
midnight, but his grand birthday celebration took place the next day,
called Nandotsava.

So this coming July 4-5, there’s gonna be a small festival for Nathaji
at the community.

On the 4th, there will be an adhivas ceremony in the evening, where
special items and ghee lamps will be shown to the deity to inaugurate
the festival.

and then the next day..

Sri Nathji will be offered a dress made completely of flowers. There will be a traditional Chappan Bhog offering of 56 special food items offered at noon to Nathji. This is a special rite of the Pushti
Marg Vaishnava sampradaya whose main deity is Srinathji.

At 4pm, there will be another maha-abhishekam for Nathaji, when
the whole deity will be bathed in substances like milk, rose-scented
water, juices, etc

Please give your blessings and prayers for the success of this
festival. If you’re able to come in person, please do so and celebrate
with us. If you cant, then at least offer your prayers to Nathji on
this special day. This is also consistent with Lord Krsna’s pastimes.
While Nanda Maharaj celebrated Krsna’s birthday in Vrindavan with all
those who were present, Lord Krsna’s actual father – Vasudeva,
mentally observed the festival by giving charity to the Brahmanas,
offering special sacrifices, prayers, etc.”

Sri Gopal ki Jaya!!!!!!!!!!!!

Soul Of Athens
July 1, 2008, 1:07 am
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Every Spring Quarter the Visual Arts college does a multimedia project called “Soul of Athens”. This year the devotees from Athens were all over it. Many students spent entire days and weeks with us shooting for their projects. Some of them made it others did not. The theme this year was wellness, so naturally the devotees fell right into that category especially with how much they do in that small college town. Check it out at www.soulofathens.com.

Kripalu Days
June 30, 2008, 2:23 am
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I am at Kripalu now. If you don’t know about Kripalu check it out www.kripalu.org. I arrived last Thursday.

After the Bhakti Tirtha Swami festival, HH Radhanath Swami went to Chicago and I went to Kripalu. Actually I hung out in Gita Nagari for a number of hours and ate pancakes at Mother Tarunis house then went to Spruce hill Lunch with the New Vrindavan crew for sandwhiches and soft serve ice cream cones. Then I played with Venu Madhava and Madhumati for an hour or more as Deva Deva looked on in amazement that her children could come so close to getting really hurt.

When I was fully disqualified for a safe afternoon drive I hit the road. I was going to drive the full distance to Massachusetts but opted for an evening with VBD and Krishnagi in Clifton New Jersey. There we did our usual, shopping, eating, and talking about sharing Krishna Consciousness in the Universities. I love them very much as they have become such close family.

On Thursday after a full morning of japa, and shopping I drove up to Kripalu. I headed over to Derek’s house for dinner, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and a great night of sleep.

Friday Morning I chanted my japa at his estate, shaved my head, and ate almighty left overs after my primary series yoga session. I lazily made it over to Kripalu by 3 to check in. I am in hill house this time. It is a very nice place. It is a building about 1/4 mile from the main center so it is quiet. It is also newly remodeled for the semester intensive program they have here. University students can come and live here and study for a semester for full University credit. So this is where they live. Fortunately I brought my fixy so I can ride from my room to the main building in 1 and a 1/2 minutes. I am very glad I brought it. On Friday I also walked down to the lake to read before the sun set and chant Gayatri. I returned to my room around 9:30 or so and very soon my roommate Toshiro arrived. He is a senior yoga teacher in Tokyo. So humble and very appreciative. I couldnt ask for a better roommate.

On Saturday I had my first meeting with the teacher training directors and assistants. We organized our individual teaching schedules and overall plan of action for the next month. We met once more after lunch the I drove over to Steyvasant Falls New York to play Mridanga for a Kirtan Program at Karuna Shakti Yoga Studio with Keli Lalita Devi and Raghunath Prabhu. Check their site here at www.karunashakti.com. I stayed the night with Raghunath, Bridgette, Saci, and Rocco then in the morning went to a vinyasa class with Bridgette at Sadhana Yoga Center in Hudson New York http://sadhanayogahudson.com/. Today is Ekadasi so Bridgette made an amazing blueberry shake for me to take as I got lost driving back to Kripalu for my 2pm meeting. Our teacher Training stared this evening so Ill fill you in on that soon enough. That will be my world for the next month. Wish me luck!

vegan food spot check.
June 29, 2008, 2:26 am
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Vegan Food Spot Check

I love doing food “research”. You know, checking out what is on the market out there. We have to know how to present our “kitchen religion” in the most modern ways. In order to do that, we have to get out there and check those vegan restaurants out(before they close down).

A few weeks ago I was introduced to Kaya’s Kitchen. It is a Vegan Restaurant in Belmar, NJ. My brothers wife Kerri is vegan so we often talk about food and Morrissey among other more meaningful discussions. We visited this fine establishment on the night before her wedding. OMG! I ate so much I felt sick. Really I ate more and more and more I could not stop. I was a true glutton. My tongue was devouring, my mind was devouring, my pocket book was devoured. I felt sick. Actually I over did it in protest of Bhima Ekadsasi the following day. It’s just one of those things which I learned to do. If its Ekadasi the following day then that evening you eat way too much and especially you fill up on grains as if you may be tied over for the next 24 hours during your fast. It makes no sense but it is within our ISKCON culture to do so. So we ordered, veggie burgers, perogies, fake chicken wings, fake bbq ribs, philly cheese steaks, lemon drinks, french fries, onion rings(not me), banana cakes, bluberry pies etc…. the list goes on. Some how everything fit in my stomach. Well I totally recommend that you go there if you are a restaurant person or need to have a business luncheon or take the family out to eat.

My brother needed a wedding cake for his wedding so they asked around about vegan cakes. A friend of theirs mentioned a straight edge lady in Philly who makes amazing cakes. So they checked out her site and contacted her. Her company is called Lotus cakes Studio. They arranged a cake testing meeting and upon meeting her they found out she was a devotee. It was Vedika! This is a perfect example of someoen utilizing their talents to both serve Krishna and maintain themselves minimally to continue their Krishna Conscious practice. She is the queen of cake making in Iskcon and well known beyond. Is there anyone who can compete? If you are getting married with a a few hundred miles of Philadelphia or need some amazing cake for some other reason. There is only one option-Vedika. The whole wedding was well worth it simply because I was able to distribute prasadam to every guest in attendance! Actually there were many wonderful parts of the wedding but Ill post that soon.

a whole day of singing to God.
June 28, 2008, 2:29 am
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This last weekend was the 24 hour kirtan festival in New Vrindaban. I can honestly say it was the best festival of the year. Flat out. If anyone would like say differently I would appreciate hearing your reasoning although I wont agree.

The festival was direct and to the point. It provided opportunities for 1. Developing taste for chanting the holy name(Nam Ruci) 2. Service to the Vaishanvas(Vaisnava Seva) and 3. Sharing the essence of Krishna Consciousness with others(Jiva Daya).

More devotees were in attendance than Festival of Inspiration and the energy was beyond the limits of all expectations. The lodging was very inexpensive, $25 for two nights, and the prasadam was free. There were tshirts and other merchandise for sell which sold old rather quickly.

The kirtan line up was extraordinary; HH Sivaram Swami, HH Radhanath Swami, HH Niranjana Swami, HG Badahari Prabhu, HG Madhava Prabhu and countless other exemplary musicians.

Devotees showed up on Friday night for an amazing kirtan with HH Sivarama Swami and most went to bed early to prepare for a the next day’s devotional madness.

Every melody was eloquently chosen and perfectly accompanied by hundreds of sincerely dancing, crying, and singing participants. Literally all day and all night every kirtan was impressive. Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra seemed to be ingesting the devotion being offered and infusing the audience with the remnants. The kirtan was enhanced by every moment of dedicated participation.

The lights went out! This made the festival only sweeter. What else does one need than the holy name? The water still worked and the stoves still lit. I personally did not hear one complaint.

Just a week before the kirtan festival my heart had grown some what distant from New Vrindaban. There are many reasons for this. Primarily a lack of vision. I am young and enthusiastic to serve. But eager to serve a mission, a vision of something which is fulfilling and where my skills, talents, knowledge and contacts can be utilized fully. I could no longer see myself letting days, weeks, months and years go by without accomplishing much for New Vrindaban. Basically I felt useless in my connection to New Vrindaban. Meaning I felt that either (whether this is a reality or not) anything I do is not appreciated, any of my ideas are not respected, or that the way things move anything i do will not be supported, and any ideas I have will not be implemented or given room to develop. So I came to a conclusion that better i just not affiliate with the project of New Vrindaban and that would open up new doors by clearing up a lot of guilt of not serving Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra and Srila Prabhupada effectively.

Then the festival happened… and I reconnected with the potency of New Vrindaban. When I returned from New York to New Vrindaban I was truck by the shear beauty and tranquility of the environment. First thing that pops into my mind when I am in New York is, “this is hell”. First thing that pops into mind everytime I walk around New V is, ” wow look at the potential, this is heaven!” My mind floods with ideas as to how to develop and utilise each aspect of New Vrindaban.

Then my Gurumaharaja arrived. This is the greatest enjoyment/satisfaction in the world for me when I get to serve HH Radhanath Maharaja. Any environment becomes Vaikuntha when I am engaged is his service.

Anyone who knows me closely understands my life is desirous of this service eternally. In his service I feel complete. I am learning slowly to see all I do as his service, but it is a slow process.

The Vaishnavas started to show up in masses. The devotees truly decorate and beautify any situation. Other than serving HH Radhanath Maharaja I am often blessed with the opportunity to serve HH Romapada Swami when he comes to New Vrindaban. In between their services(i have a great story about cutting someone’shair), I got to lead up the lunch prasadam cooking with HG Dayal Gauranga Prabhu, HG Jagadisha Chaitanya and HG Janaka Rishi(JR). It was so much fun cooking for 500 people. We got to break out the 55 gallon pots!!! I was ready to stoke up a fire pit but we recently bought new candy stoves in the kitchen that

did the job. The meal reminded me of the good ole Rainbow gathering days yet also put a seed of doubt in my mind about this years Burning Man festival.

So everything worked out, the festival was a huge success and everyone left. I was chanting in the temple room on Sunday late afternoon when HG Malati devi approached me and decided to share a few words with me. She has always been a big supported of my endeavors to serve. She truly respects me as a person and eagerly attempts to engage me according to my abilities. She always respects my opinions and needs in regards to everything. She also equally give words of wisdom and caution when she sees I may be moving upon a dangerous path. So she came up to me and began to speak to me. I could understand that she sensed my recent disconnect and cared for me anough to try to talk to me about it. That is what she did. Primarily

she began to share her experience of the recent festival and how much faith she developed in the Youth as capable servants of Srila Prabhupada and holders of the legacy of New Vrindaban. She pleaded with me in the nicest and kindest of ways to stay connected with New Vrindaban and Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON. We have lots of work to do and we musn’t push away our calling to serve that mission. Talking with her confirmed my connection renewed confirmation that I msut remain connected with New Vrindaban. I love New Vrindaban and appreciate the community as a whole but recently I re-read Sita Pati’s article about community and felt

horrible not being at New Vrindaban right now and doing my own thing. But really I am not….. I am trying to learn how to develop and assit NEw Vrindaban. I am trying to develop a vision as to how to in one way eneable New Vrindaban to attract and care for Americans.

Ill share more on this topic later.

Right now I plead with you, do not miss next years 24 hour kirtan festival! The kirtans will remain forever documented but dont miss our chance to experience a  kirtan as performed by Sri Chaitany Maharpabhu for one full year.

somethings i do on time others i do not.
June 27, 2008, 12:57 pm
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I am sitting in a large house in the Berkshire mountains right now thinking, “should I do my yoga practice or not? I’ve finished my japa and I can either eat something for breakfast or do my practice. I can take the noon vinyasa class at Kripalu or even wait until the 4 oclock one…. Hmmm….. what to do? I can read Chaitanya Caritamrita or finish up Matsya Avatar Prabhus book on Yoga and health or I can finish up the letter which i was supposed to have done a few weeks ago, I can order checks to pay the bills or write a blog post. it seems as I sit here and think about what I should do I am ending up writing this post. I have not written much since Hridayanada Gosvami spent two months with us in Athens. It was a busy end of the year and I preferred riding my bike, hiking, reading his book or listening to him speak during my free time rather than write in this journal. I guess I can reflect on the past two months a bit now… Ill be here at Kripalu teaching for all of June and July before I head out to Burning Man and then back to Athens for our college year. At least that is the plan. One thing for sure is Ill have a little more time to write, maybe…. if i can fit it in with the rest of my plans……..

Notable activities from the past month(which I will write about more):

School finished and Acharyadeva left, spent a few days in dc and learned some life lessons, my brother got married in Jersey, helped finish Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s Samadhi, served Radhanath Maharaja at New Vrindaban, cooked for the 24 hour kirtan festival, attended a small festival in Gita Nagari, and now I am in Massachusetts.