Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts On The New Year

The older you get the faster time goes. When I was a kid, it was different. I remember sitting in my third grade class watching the clock. It was just after one o’clock and school let out at three. I thought that was an awfully long time to wait. And the summer breaks seemed joyously forever. The whole summer was mine. No morning rush to school. No home work. No anxiety ridden tests. Just my time! And who could even think about high school graduation? That was eons away.

And suddenly I found myself graduating from college. And soon after, getting married. And next came kids. Still, age 40 seemed long away. And when I reached 40, 50 was like being old. But when I got to 50 it wasn’t so bad at all. I recalibrated 60 as old. Now I’m way past 60, and 70 doesn’t seem so bad.

One year uncreasingly tumbles into the next. Soon decades and centuries become insignificant. Millenniums are but a drop in eternal time. Events, generations, and history itself unfolds like some bizarre, fast forward film. We are powerless to stop it. Our health and fortunes and all we hold dear can evaporate in an instant. And I am reminded of the story of the ‘hairy sage.’

There once was a sage who lived by the banks of the Ganges River. He spent much of his time in meditation and he understood the difference between that which is ‘sat’ (eternal) and that which is ‘asat’ (temporary). He had been destined to live until all the hairs on his chest fell off. He is described as a ‘hairy’ sage. The thing is - only a single hair fell off during a day of Brahma (which is millions upon millions of years). So this sage was going to live for an awfully long time. One day he was asked, “Why don’t you build yourself a nice home?” The sage replied, “Why should I bother? I’m only here temporarily.”

Visit www.Mahabharata-Project.com for reviews and info about my new book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The First 50th

IMHO, as ISKCON makes plans for 2016, equal attention should be paid to the 50th anniversary of Prabhupada’s momentous journey to the West in 2015. In the public eye, the story of individual effort always trumps the story of an organization.  People can certainly make a more visceral connection with Srila Prabhupada since they would be natural inspired by a his struggle against great odds.  (Look at how the world has responded to the story of Nelson Mandela) And now especially as baby boomers head into their senior years (myself included), Prabhupada’s accomplishments will seem even greater. His is an important story to honor and to share.

To win the hearts of people in general one has to understand the potency of STORY. STORY is a valuable tool.  This has been my personal experience as a professional storyteller and workshop leader for over 25 years.

And Prabhupada’s is a remarkable story.  He came with practically nothing save for the three volumes of first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam he had prepared for the West.  He hitched a ride on a freighter, braved a month long voyage and struggled through a New York winter to present an ancient and venerable teaching to the West. And sociologically speaking, he came at a remarkable time when young people in the West were dissatisfied with materialistic culture and rejected the unprecedented wealth and education available to them.

This is the time for devotees to develop  projects as an offering for Srila Prabhupada in 2015.   I know Yadubara is doing a film and you may want to support that if you don’t have time to develop a project of your own.  But there should in fact be hundreds and even thousands of events and projects manifested in 2015 as a way to individually and collectively honor Srila Prabhupada for his selfless and untiring efforts to help humankind.

See www.Mahabharata-Project.com about my new book – Free shipping in Dec.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Tree of Devotion

A couple of days ago a 12 ton, 76 feet high Norway Spruce at Rockefeller Center in NYC  lit up with 45,000 lights.  The tree lighting event at Rockefeller Center started in 1933.  But the  Christmas tree event goes back to when it was introduced to English high society by Prince Albert who put up an evergreen for the holidays in Windsor Castle in 1841. It had been a pre Christian German symbol, and most Christians at that time loathed the idea of connecting the tree with Christmas. But within 10 years the fanciful custom took root in England and by the end of the 1800’s it also become an established tradition in America with Woolworths stores selling Christmas tree decorations and all.

The tree seems to be a universal symbol in religious and cultural traditions around the world. In Judaism  the Torah is referred to as the Tree of Life. The Torah is likened to the branches of a great tree spreading into the sphere of our lives, and it calls upon us to make every act an act for God.

In Buddhism the Buddha attained enlightenment sitting beneath a tree. At one point in his meditation when he was assailed by raging storms and other strange occurrences, a divine serpent arose from the roots of the Bodhi tree to protect him.

Nearly a thousand years ago on this continent, Deganawidah, known as the Peace Maker, called for a great council by the shores of Lake Onondaga. There, he carefully uprooted a Pine tree and urged all of the warriors from the gathered tribes to throw their weapons into the hollow of the earth. Then the tree was replanted over the weapons. The tree (the Tree of the Long Leaves) became known as the Tree of Peace. Thus the Great Peace was declared and the five nations of the Iroquois was established.

500 years ago Caitanya Mahaprabhu implored us to be as tolerant as the tree which patiently endures the rain and cold and heat. Another time, Caitanya  declared to his followers “As a large fig tree bears fruit all over its body, the tree of devotion to Krishna also bears fruit, and when that fruit ripens it becomes as sweet as nectar. All the wealth in the world cannot purchase even one such fruit of devotion. I request everyone to accept this Krishna consciousness and take it everywhere. I am the only gardener. How can I  act alone? How many places can I go? How many fruits can I pick and distribute?  It is certainly  very difficult for Me, alone. So all of you must take this fruit of loving devotion to God and  give it away freely to all people, in all directions, all over the world. Do not consider who is fit or unfit, whether people ask for it or not. Let people eat these fruits and become free from old age and death.”

Symbols of spirituality and peace from whatever tradition can surely be revered by all.

FREE shipping in Dec on my new book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest
281 pgs/6X9/$16   -1 Book – $16; 2 Books – $32; 3 Books – ONLY $45; 5 Books ONLY $70 – all prices include shipping. For reviews and info and more –

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tips On Writing - The Prologue

I begin Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest with three quick prologues. What the heck is a prologue for anyway? And three? What’s with that?

After the book’s introduction, your story begins. But before (pro - Greek) the story gets underway (lego – the telling) , do you want to drop in a prologue? The prologue might provide clues as to the theme of the book  or set up the mood or describe events that happen before the main story begins,  to anticipate the underlying conflict of the story or might introduce one of the main characters in an offbeat way. And that’s why I have three.

Prologues do those things and more.  Basically, the prologue sets up the mood.  (check the first sentence of my first prologue).  A prologue could even be like the coming attractions and poise questions and situations to titillate the reader,  or it could  provide a predicament which is then totally dropped, only to surface again much later in the book. You have to figure out if your book warrants a prologue and how to use it to your best advantage.  To see my prologues go to www.Mahabharata-Project.com to the Sample page.

Actually, you would do me a great favor if you went to the site, even if you were there before. In four months, if you googled Mahabharata, my site has jumped from page 15 to page 3. Now it’s been hovering between pages 2 and 3 for the last month. I’m trying to boast it to page ONE on google.   I thank you for your help.

Ys, Sankirtana das