Text 18 Jul On Westwell Downs (first verse)
When Westwell Downes I gan to treade
 Where cleanly windes the Greene doe sweepe,
Me thought a Landskipp there was spread
 Here a bush and there a sheepe
The pleated wrinkles on the face
Of wave-swoln Earth did lend such grace
As shaddowings in Imagrie
Which both deceave and please the Eye.

— William Strode,
On Westwell Downes — one of the first poems written about a specific landscape in English (via Oxford Scholarly Editions Online). The English poet Strode (1602-1644) was a Doctor of Divinity and Public Orator of Oxford University. West well is on the border of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Strode’s use of ‘Landskipp’ in line 3 should be noted as a very early example of the phenomenon of reading a natural landscape through the medium of painting. ’Imagrie’ in line 7 means ‘painting.’
Text 29 Apr Inscribing Western values in the Chaitanya-Vaishnava tradition



The architecture of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) can be justified ex post facto, says Jan Olof Bengtsson (DPhil Oxford), who teaches the history of ideas at Lund University in Sweden.

In 2008, he was consulted on three published discussions about the TOVP: (1) Nine Reasons to Change the Design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium – http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6281 (2) Changing the Design of the TVP: reply to Ambarisa – http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6376 (3) Changing the Design of the TVP: reply to Hari Sauri – http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6563

Here is Jan Olof’s current intellectual analysis:

Since the TOVP discussion has resurfaced I feel I should briefly recapitulate some of my own positions and add some remarks with reference to the new situation we are now in.

Academic, scholarly, rational discussion of aesthetics and taste (the issues involved are simply philosophical) is badly needed, not least among scholars in ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness).

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Text 23 Apr Soul Searching

My favorite source of good English usage is the Grammarphobia Blog, which recently surveyed the wide range of meanings of “soul.” While my favorite source of knowledge of the soul is the Bhagavad-gita, I find the etymology of the English word interesting. 

SOURCE: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog

Many news organizations used “souls” in reporting on the Malaysian Airlines disaster. For example, this headline appeared in the Australian, a newspaper based in New South Wales: “Terrorism fears as plane vanishes with 239 souls.”

Why “souls” instead of “people” or “persons”? In our opinion, the use of a poetic image helps to acknowledge the humanity behind the numbers.

But the word “soul” wasn’t always as poetic as it seems to us today. In Old English, “soul” had a wide range of meanings, including some that were quite down to earth.

One’s “soul” could refer to many different levels of existence: the physical, the intellectual, the emotional, and the moral, as well as the spiritual.

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Photo 2 Apr    Offering the Violet to Krishna…
                                    So, little flower, go with me now,                                    To one I love the dearest, best,                                    One who, with youth and beauty blest,                                    Brings hopes and thoughts as bright as thou.

                                                        *           *           *                        
From Peter Parley’s Primer (1835) in the Smithsonian Libraries’ children’s book collection in the library of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Offering the Violet to Krishna…

                                    So, little flower, go with me now,
                                    To one I love the dearest, best,
                                    One who, with youth and beauty blest,
                                    Brings hopes and thoughts as bright as thou.

                                                        *           *           *                        

From Peter Parley’s Primer (1835) in the Smithsonian Libraries children’s book collection in the library of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Photo 1 Apr The lion goes vegetarian on this cover, called “A New Leaf.”

The lion goes vegetarian on this cover, called “A New Leaf.”

Photo 18 Mar The woman says this to the man. He will not even have that choice, as it were, in their next lives if they become degraded to animals. That’s one way to read it.   

The woman says this to the man. He will not even have that choice, as it were,
in their next lives if they become degraded to animals. That’s one way to read it.   

Text 5 Mar A biography about Sri Caitanya


Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in West Bengal way back around March of 1486, his name and fame stayed confined to parts of India for five centuries. But by 1986 —the quincentennial of his advent — suddenly he had been discovered as a marvel, the jewel of this age, in dozens of countries with no Vedic culture like India’s. This took place thanks to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who translated and published a profound biography — Sri Caitanya-caritamrta — and inspired its distribution worldwide. Over the past forty years, this biography appeared in seventeen languages for the first time. It is a book everyone in the world should read.

Caitanya-caritamrta literally means “the character of the living force in immortality.” The book describes the immortal Sri Caitanya. When I first read about him, I learned he was mirific, a miracle worker. The only miracles I knew of were Biblical (as a small-town, Roman Catholic altar boy in America, I prayed beside radiant stained-glass images of supernatural acts). The news of Sri Caitanya’s equally potent acts impressed upon me his divinity. The divinity embarks on miraculous adventures wherever he descends.

Besides providing books about Sri Caitanya to millions, Srila Prabhupada founded the Hare Krishna movement and traveled worldwide from mid-1965 through 1977 to teach thousands of new followers about Sri Caitanya. People naturally wonder what makes a non-Hindu join an apparently Bengali religion like the Hare Krishna movement. Even Indians, to whom Lord Krishna is better known, wonder what makes someone follow Sri Caitanya and study his life and teachings. One explanation is that devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu learn the highest transcendental truths from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which provides an integrated understanding of Sri Caitanya and Lord Krishna.


Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes, with reference to Vedic texts, that Sri Caitanya is the incarnation of God for this age, Kali-yuga. Internally he is Krishna (antah-krsna), the effulgent bluish Supreme Personality of Godhead. Externally he has the glowing golden complexion (bahir gaura) of Srimati Radharani, Lord Krishna’s eternal consort. Concealing himself as Sri Caitanya, Krishna tastes Srimati’s Radharani’s mood as the most rapt devotee of Krishna. He wanted 
to be in her position, to know
 how he attracted her, to feel 
her joy. In the process, Sri Caitanya taught everyone to chant Krishna’s holy names and dance in moods of devotion.

Devotees of Sri Caitanya naturally study his favorite scripture, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, often quoted in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. In describing the loving pastimes of Krishna, the Bhagavatam helps one realize the eternal pleasures enjoyed by Krishna and his devotees. The unique truths of the Bhagavatam have an authentic value, like fine jewelry, and Sri Caitanya freely distributed these gems, hoping everyone will accept them. Srila Prabhupada also translated and published the Bhagavatam and quoted it in all his other books, some of which are published in eighty languages. Nearly everyone in the world can read them.

Soon after Sri Caitanya left this world in 1534, Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami wrote the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, in Bengali couplets. Srila Prabhupada translated the couplets into prose, and to encourage close study of the original, provided transliterations and synonyms for every word. He wrote extensive commentaries, making the highest and most difficult spiritual concepts accessible to all. Thus people find it spiritually enlivening to read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, which fully describes Sri Caitanya’s mercy, emotions, and opulences. This book contains the nectar for which everyone is always anxious. There is no solace for the soul in the mirage of worldly happiness.

Text 10 Feb The George Harrison Memorial Garden


On Friday, February 7, 1964—fifty years ago—the Beatles landed in the United States; they played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that Sunday night, and thousands of us boys began growing long hair the next day. Since November 1970—when George Harrison released “My Sweet Lord”—George’s music has given people lots of spiritual inspiration. In 1973, he donated Bhaktivedanta Manor to Srila Prabhupada, the guru of the Hare Krishna Movement, and the Manor celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2013 by opening the George Harrison Memorial Garden. See photos of the garden and read “The Vaishnava Path in George Harrion’s Songs,” an article I edited, here:


Text 5 Feb Photos of the 2013 Janmastami festival
Text 5 Feb Arjuna and Subhadra


The great hero Arjuna, captivated with the idea of marrying Subhadra, dressed himself like a mendicant and remained in Dvaraka during the rainly season to devise a plan to marry her. 

The artist Ravi Raja Varma (1848–1906) painted Arjuna and Subhadra in 1890. His paintings mostly portray characters and scenes from Indian epics and classics. He fused Indian traditions with nineteenth-century European art techniques that he learned from Theodor Jenson, a British painter.

Here is a review of two books examining the aesthetic value of Ravi Varma’s oil paintings and his career as a “gentleman artist”:



Text 30 Jan Festivals in Karnataka & temples in Tamil Nadu

Every year I recall meeting Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles on January 13, 1974. On the fortieth anniversary this January, starting my fifth week in India, I was in Udupi, Karnataka, for a biennial festival. The Paryaya festival on January 18th would include a parade starting at two in the morning, ending at five at the famous Sri Krishna Mutt. Then and there, the daily worship of Krishna would transfer from one swami to another for two years. (The service has rotated among eight swamis for a millennium, though initially it rotated every three months.) Being fully determined to serve Krishna for two years is a good way to start 2014, I thought. I even dreamed of the Udupi people’s faith in Krishna.


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Video 8 Jan

Top to bottom:

Maharashtra. The state’s name, say some, is derived from the Sanskrit word “maharathi,” or “great chariot fighter.” 

ISKCON’s palatial marble temple in Pune, the state’s cultural capital. The elegant temple room is forty-six feet high and holds eight hundred people.  

Aerial and front views of ISKCON’s temple in Nigdi, near Pune. 

Nigdi is ten kilometers from Dehu, the home of Sant Tukaram (painting), a poet in India’s bhakti movement, who lived until 1650.

A temple on the Indranyi river in Dehu commemorates a miraculous event in Tukuram’s life of writing and singing the glories of Sri Krishna.

Text 2 Dec Virtuous Prudence

Vittore Carpaccio
Prudence, c. 1500
Oil on panel, 108.3 x 55.2 cm (40 2/3 x 21 7/10 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Collection

The bedroom in a Renaissance palace was multifunctional, serving as the inner sanctum—in a real sense, as the intimate core of the household. A select group of prized objects would be chosen to decorate this room. One of the goals was to make the bedroom a focal point for celebrating the virtues and high moral standards of the household. As the Roman humanist Paolo Cortesi declared, pictures seen in bed chambers on wakening:

"should be symbols of virtue so that … the soul will be excited to similar virtuous acts [throughout the day]."

A good example of a bedroom painting celebrating virtue is the panel depicting Prudence, which appears to have been part of the interior decoration of a fifteenth-century palace. It provides a general and traditional testimonial to the virtues of the palace’s inhabitants. Prudence holds in her right hand an elaborately decorated mirror and in her left hand a staff of command, with which she tames the dragon at her feet.

Source: http://italianrenaissanceresources.com/units/unit-5/essays/the-beautiful-chamber/ 

Text 28 Nov Flaws of Mother’s European Trip

The Matterhorn erect. Small visitors
On benches peer from yards about a church.
Swiss tour for the retired: travelers
Who dislike stairs without handrails, who lurch,
Whose ankles swelled during a long bus ride.
"Finished projects" now, their bodies rotting.
The last trip abroad that Mom can abide.

She wrote that her group next was in Paris
At the time of Lady Di’s accident.
Then in London two days — big mourning crowds.
This all made the body’s faults evident.

                                         (Sept. 1997)

I met my mother at the Matterhorn at a time I lived in Zurich. It was our last meeting. 
Old age and illness had overtaken her and the other Americans on the tour. 
Perceptions about the body’s temporality were made more vivid by Lady Di’s death.


Text 28 Nov Into China after the Tiananmen Square Killings

I looked at sparse displays of the liquor
In the wall’s glass case facing 9, my car.
A young train attendant efficiently 
Wore a white blouse and red tie; turned her key.

Rolling green land outside Hong Kong we passed.
Ten or twelve farmers, of quaint beliefs cast,
Stood working the rows of their neat small plots.
The great author of my book and his thoughts:

"Who trapped in a body of qualities
Which are material can understand You,
O Lord, who exist prior to this world?”

                                                            (August 1989)

"Qualities which are material" are represented by liquor (ignorance), efficiency (passion),
and green land (goodness). 
Written on my first trip to China. Quoted Srila Prabhupada’s
Bhagavad-gita As It Is about inability to understand God. The meaning of ”Tiananmen,” or
"the Gate of Heavenly Peace," was incompatible in 1989, after the bloody crackdown in
June, which ended the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square.

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