Monthly Archives: July 2009

Blog For Change


Some readers/friends already know that, inspired by the Planet Iskcon ethos of being “the uncensored voice of the ISKCON community online,” I would like to invite people to submit stuff to guest post here. I realize not everyone has time to maintain their own blog so why don’t we share this space?

Of course, I get to decide what to post and what not to post…thus making myself the Editor. But I promise I don’t need to agree with your ideas…just don’t be a meanie. Thoughtful, introspective crap is what I am interested in posting. And if you want to post anonymously, we can make up a fake name for you (readers, you will be notified it is a fake) which you can use if you post again in the future.

I think it would be great if current and “former” devotees have a voice. While this will probably not lead us directly to self-realization, I feel the ISKCON powers that be could benefit by actually gaining some understanding of who makes up, who left and who could potentially be a part of this society…which is supposed to be for the benefit of our self-realization. This may be a little too democratic of an idea for some, but so what. Many social ills were not obliterated in a day. Feel free to take that last statement however you want.

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It’s Cherry Season!


Well, somewhere…not Florida. Unless you count the fact that cherries were on sale for 99 cents a pound! I made my first attempt at cherry pie. It was a little sad. I didn’t properly crimp the edges. The crust was injured in multiple places. My pie never really set–I think due to all the extra cherries my kids pitted which I threw into the pie. Who wants to eat finger macerated fresh cherries? Waste not, want not.

Nevertheless, it is a fresh, homemade cherry pie. So no one’s complaining. Except my daughter, who is prone to complaining. Gee, wonder where she gets that from?
But tonite we are going to be dinner guests at our neighbor’s house. A neighbor who was born in France and raised in England. She is going to make us some cherry pie. With a pedigree like that, I am sure it will be excellent!

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LOMPOC Me Back!!!

***picture totally unrelated to post***

Okay, I have to do it. Someone out there has visited this blog from or near Lompoc, California. On more than one occasion. With a population of less than 50,000 humans and a location clear across the country, it is a bit curious that I would have heard of Lompoc, no?

We have some friends, right here in Alachua, with deep family roots in Lompoc. What a small world! So if you are from Lompoc, especially if you are interested in Krishna and are from Lompoc, please leave a comment here or email me: sabjimata@gmail.com, because I know someone who would like to get in touch with you.

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Impromptu Doughnuts

Friday was a busy day here. I woke up early to do some big pot cooking. Come lunchtime, my neglected children were feeling hungry. And they didn’t want rice or pasta. What to do? I had some bread dough wrapped and resting in my fridge and some cream cheese sitting on my countertop, so I fired up the wok and grabbed a few hunks of dough. Into the mini food processor went the cream cheese, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Creamy globs spooned onto flattened dough circles, edges sealed and smoothed and into the fryer they went. Out came deliciously bready and sweet quick doughnuts, which my son favored over my daughter, who is, unfortunately for her, not that into chocolate.

Don’t tell my husband I let them eat doughnuts in our bed, okay?
You know you want one!

Hunger was sated and back to cooking. In the evening my kids accompanied me to a wonderful program, the installation of our friends’ Radha Damodara Deities.
Now that the fun is over, I can start planning my treats for the rest of the week. I think I am going to try some jam filled doughnuts for our weekly CC reading group on Friday (just in case you want to come, it is at 11:15 am…please give me a heads up so that there is a doughnut for you). And from all the cherry katha going on on Facebook, I just might give cherry pie a go. Ninety-nine cents a pound for cherries @ Hitchie’s until the end of the month!

Friend of the family: Surya, the beautiful dancer, looks good for Krishna.
Kulavira Prabhu feeding the fire.

Adi-Gopi and her too cute son Agni Locana…awaiting the bathing of their Deities.
Sarva-Mangala, the original family deity.
Beautifully dressed Sri Sri Radha Damodara accompanied by Lalita and Vishaka Devi.


****Please forgive my forever buttery camera lens***

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Appreciating Srila Prabhupada

Recently some friends and I started a Caitanya Caritamrta reading group. The participants, thus far, have all been moms with kids and, this being the summer, the kids come too. So, us being moms and all, our progress is steady but very, very slow. We are still on chapter one of the Adi-lila, entitle The Spiritual Masters.

I have to admit, being an aspiring devotee who has definitely had some “guru issues” over the years, it is–at times–a tough chapter to swallow. But still, I am enjoying it. I am forced to really contemplate things, to put my faith *somewhere* and to try and “go deeper” as the cliche goes.
In general, I am not a fan of gurus. The worship of a human being is a serious thing…what to speak of worshipping him because he is as good as God. In our fledgling religious organizational tradition, guru-ship has become a business. It is how a certain segment of the ISKCON population makes their living and, for them to admit their ordinariness…their flaws and imperfections, would really cut into their lifestyle.
But, I’m not ritvik. I believe that it is possible for pure souls to exist. I believe in the potency of the parampara. I just don’t believe such souls are available a dime a dozen. Also, I believe that we get what we are ready for and that it is possible for someone who is not a pure devotee to inspire, guide and encourage another along their path of spiritual life. 
I’m just not into people misrepresenting themselves.
My understanding of the current GBC position on approving Gurus is not that deep. However, what I have gleaned from my personal experience within ISKCON is that no matter what happens with the relationship between a disciple and their initiating spiritual master, we will always have Srila Prabhupada.
What a relief.
Only…
Back in my religious fervor days, this was welcomed news. My relationship with my god-siblings and my guru were strained–to the point that my guru even took away my name, thus un-initiating me. Prabhupada was my only spiritual shelter. He loved me no matter what. He wanted me to be a devotee no matter what. He would not un-intiate me. 
I read his books. Memorized quotes from him out of their original context. I listened attentively to his disciples telling stories about him–how he looked at them, how he smiled at them, how he said this or that or moved his head in such a way.  I prayed to Prabhupada. I sang along with his chanting. 
Only…
I began to wonder about what Prabhupada would actually say to *me*. How would Prabhupada actually look at *me*? One devotee would tell me Prabhupada wouldn’t like my dancing in the temple room and another devotee would tell me that was nonsense and that Prabhupada would love that I was dancing ecstatically in the temple room. It kind of made me wonder how much of Prabhupada is real and how much is our own concoction. 
Many devotees claim to know what Prabhupada wanted/wants. It gets very confusing. On top of that, within ISKCON culture, there is a dominant prescribed sentiment one should carry for Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is the ISKCON Founder-Acarya. True. I am very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for bringing Krishna conscious philosophy to the west. For taking the time, at such an advanced age, to teach the details of cultured living to his disciples.
But I wonder, honestly, how I am expected to emulate the same love and emotion for Srila Prabhupada as his disciples who either met him directly or were around during Prabhupada’s time. Sometimes it seems like ISKCON is a bit of a cult of personality, with Prabhupada at the center. When all the Prabhupada disciples are dead and all the fixed up children of Prabhupada disciples are dead (how many are there even?), then what will the expected sentiment towards Prabhupada be?
I can’t imagine how Prabhupada’s position will ever be diminished; he did such incredible work for Krishna. But I can imagine that future generations of devotees will not have the same raw feeling, despite all the books and DVDs that get produced documenting his extraordinary spiritual position. 
Personally, I need to find a way to connect with Srila Prabhupada, to appreciate him, without being false. And I feel I need to also deepen my appreciation for the other members of our parampara, who’s importance is equal if not greater to Srila Prabhupada’s, for without them the knowledge could not have descended. All this while feeling totally blah in my spiritual life. What a challenge.
I’ve had these realizations about the limits of how deep I am able to go with my relationship with Prabhupada because, although I really respect, admire and believe in the purity of my husband’s guru, Srila Gour Govinda Swami, I just don’t experience Maharaja the way my husband does. I never met him. I don’t know him. My husband had meaningful experiences, which solidified his faith in his guru. But for me…I just haven’t had those experiences. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.
And then there is my whole family situation. Kids. Kids! I used to be a real religious nut job. I like to say that had I become a Muslim, I would have blown myself up by now. I was the perfect cult member, enthusiastic to a fault. Back in my pure devotee heyday, I surely would have lay my life on the line for Prabhupada or Krishna or whatever freak manager asked me to. These days, I have to say, the only person I would give my life for are my kids. Kids! I love them so. Is it maya? I could care less. I love my kids. Totally. With all my heart. Although sometimes I do ask them to leave me alone. “Leave me alone!”
How many times have we heard that a mother’s love for her kids is the closest feeling we can come to in the material world for that loving feeling for Krishna. And when you are a mother, you totally understand. You understand how it is more pleasurable to love than to be loved. You understand how a tiny pair of underpants or flip-flops or a favorite Matchbox car left lying in the middle of the floor that you almost break your neck on as you wake up to get your whining kid a glass of water in the middle of the night…how it all gives you pleasure.
And with that unit of measure…my love for my kids…I can really see my lack of progress in spiritual life. Because I really feel…to hell with all this! I’m taking care of my kids. I see where my love is directed…kids!  I would put my kids before Srila Prabhupada any day. And I’m sure there is someone out there who will tell me that that is actually loving Srila Prabhupada (with a quote about child worship or whatever to back it up). But it’s kind of like this: I don’t even care about justifying it. I need to do what’s natural. Life can’t be lived based on pulled quotes. 

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Why Boobs


Recently, after attending a two year old’s birthday swim party, I added a lot of boob shots to my Facebook page. And I realize, some people are left wondering why. Let me tell you.

#1 I’m just getting comfortable. Since moving to Alachua in August of 2008, big changes have taken place in my life. I feel like I finally moved out of the ashrama, and for better or for worse, have rejoined society. Personally I feel it is for better, since I have the responsibility of raising two kids in society…and I don’t want to miss a beat.
I have definitely shed most of my fundamentalist beliefs and am riding the pendulum to the other side, back to my more radical self, which feels oh so comfortable, like putting on a pair of well worn 4 inch wedge heels after spending the past 12 years in slip on kitchen shoes 😉
Nevertheless, I haven’t hit the thrift shops looking for my old mini skirts or see-through lacey tops a’ la’ early-80s Madonna. I am a 34 year old mother, after all. I wear bows in my hair like an aging school girl–that’s my idea of being age appropriately tarty these days. For the first time since seventh grade I have bought a bathing suit after going to the springs and feeling a bit overdressed in my multiple layers of mis-matched impromptu swim clothing. Parts of my body which have never seen the sun since childhood have gotten burnt. And the sky hasn’t fallen in on anyone as a result.
Still, it is something I am learning to negotiate. I feel inappropriate around other devotees in my swimwear. But hey, they are in theirs. I remember living in the temple and being grossed out by the men who would wear a dhoti and no top cloth. Like walking around in a towel (there were even some who would walk around the temple in their gamcha as if they were in the brahmacari ashram in Vrindavan). Grody. But here I am. Eating pasta salad in a bikini with a towel wrapped around me, talking to a friend’s husband in his swim trunks, no shirt, chomping on corn. It’s still awkward and I am highly self-conscious about it.
Taking these pictures helps me feel at ease with the situation. I am most comfortable with things that make me uncomfortable if I talk about them. If I bring it to the forefront. And then when I become comfortable with it, I don’t even think twice about it. No, I’m not silent on the matter, I just talk about it more and more without much notice. By taking these pictures I am letting you know that I know that this is awkward. For all of us. And I am hoping it will make us all more comfortable with one another. Or something like that.
#2 Don’t We All Look Good? I took these pictures because I am truly fascinated by the human form. Bodies amaze me. So many different varieties. And they are all beautiful. And even if I don’t personally find them beautiful, I know that someone else out there does.
Growing up I was pretty much always covered up. I hung out with a group of guys in high school. It was more comfortable for me (and for them) to just be one of the guys. I dressed like them, talked like them…all to the detriment of developing a confident feminine identity. We were not beach goers, so swimwear was hardly an issue. But the times that we did hit the water together, I did so wearing denim cut-offs (most likely below the knee) and some oversized cotton shirt from The Gap. I wasn’t around other girls and really didn’t get a good look at their bodies. I was all alone with my own form, unable to compare or contrast. Unaware of what was normal (which is everything!!!).
So now, when I see bodies, yeah…I look. I’m amazed. I’m intrigued. Which leads me to..
#3 I Like Reality I think a bit of skin is a good thing to show in this culture. I don’t mean in a skanky way. But in a “European” way (LOL). It would have been good for me as a young woman to see real bodies, as opposed to just the plasticized, air brushed bodies of celebrity women, looking more and more perfect in their 70’s than I ever looked in my twenties.
I enjoy being around people comfortable with themselves. It helps me be comfortable with myself. I appreciate men and women of different sizes, complexions and textures feeling okay with their God-given form. Stretch marks, cellulite, excess body hair, pimples and dimples…this is real life, baby!
And I think it is good for my kids. At first they were kind of shocked that, as they put it, I was out in public “in [my] underwear, showing [my] milk.” Hey, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But my opinion is that bodies shouldn’t be such a huge mystery. I’m 34 years old and just beginning to see what people really look like. It would have been helpful if I had this education earlier in life. At 16 any curiosity about other bodies, especially of the same gender as you, is promptly met with accusations of homosexuality. To that I give a big high school DUH!!!!
I know in Indian culture, the idea is to be chaste. To be covered up. But I have to say that the most skin I have seen over my years of being a devotee was in India. Boobs and butts. Legs and tummies. Indian streets are a display of flesh, but not fantasy. At least to me, the real life nudity was never a source of eroticism. Skin diseases, deformities, sagginess, new babiness–different stages of human existence lining the streets of villages and cities. Now, I am not saying we should all just drop trow and take a dump in the middle of the street, but I am saying we should be a little more forgiving of our own bodily faults and a little more realistic about what’s covering our soul.
#4 I Want to Give Them Something to Talk About In case you didn’t know, I like Facebook. I think it is a good forum to share and exchange ideas and, depending on your friend list, you may even be exposed to a whole new way of thinking/way of life/etc. How fun!
For some of my friends on FB, topless shots would not even warrant an eyelash bat. Boring, to say the least. For some, say…the Hare Krishna ones–these pics may confirm to people my low brow status. Or maybe validate the idea that I just want to be shocking. Personally, I have little interest in being shocking. To me, that’s boring.
But I don’t find conversation boring. I think it is good for stuff to be out there and for people to discuss amongst themselves. I think it is good for people to think about things. About what things mean to them on a very personal level. You don’t have to share it on a blog or on Facebook (we all have our different comfort levels), but I think it is good to at least share it with oneself!
We don’t have to agree about any of this. But, if you choose, I think it is good to think about it. I mean, here I am…completely disrupting my own narrative of who I thought I was. And it feels good. I follow the four regulative principles. I read Krishna’s pastimes to my kids at bedtime. We strictly limit media for our kids. Ninety-nine percent of what I feed my family is homemade prasadam. Yet I’ve adjusted my idea of chaste dress in terms of not only the local climate and greater American culture but also to include the attitude of the person. Heck, I’ve changed the entire way I view Krishna consciousness, which is now more about my heart than anything external. And I feel happy.
Personally I vacillate between being happy serving Krishna and finding happiness serving Krishna. This is a good balance for me. There are natural tendencies I have which spontaneously arise as service to God. And then there are parts of me which are resistant. Parts where things feel unnatural or forced. And I have found ways to make that less so…to find happiness in living my life for God. A little for me, a little for Him. But it is an honest effort and to me, that’s everything.

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In Loving Memory of Michael Jackson

For last nite’s dinner, I decided to cook an homage meal in memory of Michael, who has affected the lives of every single member of my family in such a deep and profound way. None of us would feel so comfortable with our whiteness if it wasn’t for the King of Pop making us feel that, yes, white is alright!

Since I had absolutely no idea what MJ’s favorite foods were and, well, since Michael wouldn’t actually be *eating* the dinner, I decided to make the meal a homage in theory (or is itin hypothesis?) and cook up something my dear sweet husband, who does resemble Michael ever so slightly (it’s the chin dimple), would surely like.

We have *a lot* of cabbage in the fridge due to a cancellation of our 4th of July plans (and the coleslaw that was headlining the event) So yeah, some parts of the menu were obligatory. Cabbage. And salad. But what was absolutely yum for my own pop star were the sausage burger-y type things smothered in an Italian tomato sauce.

All I did was take the spicy Italian sausage recipe and form the gluten into *patties* (word that skeeves me out), wrap and steam, cool and unwrap. Then I dipped each individual sausage thing into a thin pakora batter and then into a dish of flour. Breadcrumbs would have been better, but I was so choked up over Michael that I haven’t been able to get much baking done. I then pan-fried each piece in a skillet shallowly filled with a combo of coconut oil and ghee–much like the people who fill this earth without any recognition of how MJ touched their lives on a deeper level. Tomato sauce cooked, spooned on top and voila! A meal fit for….okay, anything I say at this point would just make me look like a snot so I will shut up now.

Gosh, some people take their pop culture so seriously!

The pictures:





*notice how the Ghosts of Michael’s Gloves are very happy about the meal.

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