Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pluralism Project Features New Vrindaban

Student papers at the Global Leadership Center at Ohio University profile the conversion experience of some of the residents of New Vrindavan Community. The students broke into groups and interviewed devotees on the phone a couple of times, spent a month doing research into the community, and then actually came to visit for a weekend last Oct. Now their papers are ready for viewing at Harvard University's Pluralism Project website. The Pluralism Project is dedicated to the study of religious diversity in America.

The article that targets me is at

If you haven't seen it already, you might also view my Nov 29th post - What The College Students Really Thought About New Vrindavan -

- which contains reflections by the students of their visit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Raw Deal

(or Shell Game Passes For Tough Love)

New York Times - Huckabee proposes his idea of a “fair tax” as Chuck Norris looks on admiringly. See

Big Politician Guy: Listen, I’m going to give it to you straight. This federal income tax system is dumb. It’s your hard earned money. You have a right to spend it the way you see fit. You know how to spend it better then the government. Forget about federal income tax and use your money to be happy..…… Actually, the government will need some money… Of course we’re not going to tax the people… Oh wait, I know… We’ll just impose a spending tax. That sounds fair. We’ll have a national sales tax on gas and clothing and food and stuff like that. . But why should you worry? You can afford a few extra cents with all those 1000’s of dollars you’re saving from not having to pay income tax.

Local Politician Guy: Since the taxes were cut the Federal government doesn’t have any money to give to supplement state programs so we’re going to have to increase your property taxes and also add a few more cents to the tax on goods. But why should you worry? You can afford a few extra cents with all those 1000’s of dollars you’re saving from not having to pay income tax.

Local Doctor or Pharmacist : The government is cutting back on Medicare and drug programs, so you’re going have to pay for your own drugs and treatment. But why should you worry? You can afford it with all those 1000’s of dollars you’re saving from not having to pay income tax.

Big Politician Guy: What! You need some help? Why turn to the government? The government is not a charity. . Don’t expect the government to bail you out… What?… Well, sure… the government created the New Deal to help people in the depression….. And that’s right, after WW II there was the GI Bill where the government helped millions of GI’s go to college and get an education. And sure the government bailed out a lot of corporations. And what if the government gave amnesty to a bunch of illegal immigrants back in the 80’s. What does all that got to do with you? Listen, times have changed. Your better than that. We believe in you. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Keep your eye on the ball. Put your nose to the grind stone. Study hard. Then move to China and get a good job there.

Srila Prabhupada (from Light Of The Bhagavat text 2): The welfare state imposes upon its citizens scorching taxes… in due course of time when the taxes accumulate into a large sum of money, they are utilized for the welfare of the citizens in various ways. Nevertheless, sometimes it happens that the benefits of the taxes fall like rains on the stone-hearted men in the state who are unable to utilize the money properly and who squander it for sense gratification….Thus, to have equal distribution of state raised taxes, the citizens need to be scrupulously honest and virtuous… if the people are not good they cannot have good government, regardless of which party governs the administration. Therefore good character is the first principle necessary for a good government and equal distribution of wealth.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Deconstructing Obama In Iowa

This last week the media was buzzing with the results of Iowa caucuses. Ten months earlier, Rory Steele, a 29 year old former marine, had arrived in the state. He was a man on a mission, sent there to organize the Barack Obama campaign in 21 counties. He did whatever it took. No job was too big nor too small for him. Steele, a friendly guy who can talk with anyone, says, “We don’t give up on people.” On January 3rd his efforts paid off. A New York Times article from back on Nov 26th , entitled In West Iowa, Obama’s Man Thinks Locally
reveals how Steele helped organize and lay the foundation that culminated in Obama’s Iowa victory.

Actually, the metaphor of a political campaign, in its excitement and competitiveness, seems appropriate to Krishna Consciousness. Devotees want to inject the awareness and teachings of Krishna into the hearts and minds of the “voters.” This brief article is a whole mini-course in itself. It glimpses Steele’s methodology and is chock full of important lessons that can be applied both within the Krishna movement as well as for interacting with the general public. The points below emerge as the article unfolds:

1) Think like a local - anticipate, understand and address people’s needs and concerns
2) Build networks based on person to person contact
3) Listen to people to get their advice and feedback
4) Be a problem solver but depend upon Krishna (Steele admits there are things and situations beyond his control - “I can only control what I can control, or I’d spend all day freaking out.”)
5) Focus on your work at hand
6) Delegate responsibility – empower others
7) Inspire people by your words and actions
8) Acknowledge people’s efforts and contributions
9) Thoroughly know your Candidate’s philosophy
10) Don’t speak ill of people (you might need their help in the future)
11) Pay attention to community movers and leaders who can help get others involved (warning: this does not imply that those who don’t appear to be “leaders” should be ignored)
12) Take notes and be sure to follow up

In this way, a devotee can humbly work for his Candidate. As Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport of the verse below – “ A Krishna Conscious person acts out of pure love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore he has no attraction for the results of the action.”

“Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.” Gita 4:20