Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Story Of The Hindu God Krishna

To know Lord Krishna is to adore him. He is the blue-skinned God, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Preserver of the World. He is the Cosmic Cowherd, the mischievous deity that Hindus love the most for his pranks, for his butter-thievery, for his melodious flute, for his romantic interludes with Gopis, the milkmaids. He fought demons, danced on the mighty serpent's head and lifted Govardhana hill with his little finger, using it like an umbrella, to protect the people from torrential rains.
Yet one anecdote encompasses it all: as a naughty child hankering after butter, he would stand on the shoulders of other children to reach the pots of butter that hung from the ceiling. His mother, sure the incriminating proof was in his mouth, ordered him to open his mouth. She was mesmerized to see entire universes in the child's mouth, and knew then that all the incidents were merely part of the Lord's Leela or celestial play.
Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna and it has no set date. On that day, devotees gather in the hundreds, in the thousands, in temples across India and around the world. It is a very special and festive day, and they wait in anticipation, surrounding the symbolic baby crib, singing devotional songs. It's a day of exuberant celebration befitting the birthday of a beloved deity, yet Janmashtami also has a much deeper message: It's a reminder to do one's duty in life, no matter how difficult, and to keep on the path of dharma, to surrender one's life to Krishna because all else is maya, or illusion.
The story behind the birth of Krishna is intriguing, and one most Hindu children have grown up with: the wicked King Kansa had been told that he would meet his death at the hands of his yet unborn nephew. To thwart that, he had his only sister Devaki and her husband Vashdev imprisoned, and murdered each of their seven sons as they were born.
Just as the eighth child (Lord Krishna) was born, the prison locks magically opened and Vashdev managed to escape with the baby Krishna in a wicker basket on his head. The river was raging but touching the divine baby's feet, it receded. Krishna was brought up by a simple cowherd Nand and his wife Yashoda, and the evil Kansa did meet his death at his hands, as it was foretold.
Krishna is the vanquisher of all evil and the guide for right living. In the mighty Mahabharata war in which the Pandavas battled their kinsmen, the Kauravas, he drove the Pandava warrior Arjuna's chariot and instructed him to perform his duty, to be on the side of dharma or righteousness. When Arjuna hesitated to fight against his own brethren, Krishna enlightened him with wisdom that encompasses all aspects of living. These words are immortalized in the 700 slokas of the Bhagavad Gita or the Song of the Lord, which has sustained people across the world.
Why do Hindus love Krishna so much? He is the all-pervading, omnipresent One without whom even a leaf cannot stir, but he assumes a very accessible human form, becoming babe, naughty child, son, friend and lover. There is an instant bonding and connection between this deity and his devotees because Krishna is all about love.
The Bhakti (devotional movement) in many parts of India revolves around Krishna, for his love for his beloved Radha is about cosmic love, about the union of soul and the Supreme Being.

Krishna is very much a part of a Hindu's life: Many children are named after him and the deity has hundreds of names from which to choose. Interestingly, Krishna is a name for both male and female children and the parents certainly hope they will take on his shining attributes. Everything associated with Krishna is auspicious.There's even a Krishna Savings Bank in Delhi and a Lord Krishna Bank in Kerala!

Krishna's devotees are also found in the movement commonly known as the Hare Krishnas, formally called the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, that was started in the United States by A.C. Bhaktivedanta in the 1960s and which now has centers all over the world. You may have seen the Hare Krishna devotees dancing on the streets or at airports.
Walk into a Hare Krishna temple and you see that same blissful abandon before the images of Krishna. Vegetarian feasts are served, free for everybody, based on the many delicacies that Krishna loved - butter, ghee, and milk.
In addition to ISKCON temples, Janmashtami is celebrated with pomp and pageantry, with dance performances and skits of Krishna's life, in the many temples throughout America that were founded since the 1960s by Indian immigrants.
"Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight which is the darkest moment of the night, symbolizes that the Lord manifested Himself from the prison cell, thus vigorously illuminating the universe, dispelling the darkness of ignorance," says Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America.
Those who grew up in New Delhi have vivid memories of the Janmashtami celebrations at the pink sandstone Lakshmi Narayan temple, which was lit up beautifully. In the gardens of the temple complex is a pond in the middle of which a statue of Vashdev carrying the Baby Krishna on his head had been set up. I still remember it and the festive air as hundreds pushed to get a better view. Janmashtami is a time of devotion, as I found at a recent celebration in New York where hundreds crowded into a temple in Queens, singing, dancing and chanting.
Many devotees also fast on this day, eating only after midnight, says Pundit Mahesh Shastri, a Hindu priest in New York. He explains that the icon of Krishna is bathed in milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, sugar, and water. A traditional prasad or benediction is given to all the devotees, the Panchajiri which is made with five ingredients, in North Indian temples, while in South Indian temples, it is made of favor puffed rice, a great favorite of Krishna.
In India, the day after Janmashtami is one of revelry, keeping with Krishna's fun-loving spirit. Clay pots of curds and butter are suspended from poles in the streets in towns like Mathura and Vrindaban, where Krishna lived and also in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai.
Bands of boisterous youth form human towers to get to the pots, mimicking Krishna's exploits. To shouts of 'Govinda Ala Re!' (Govinda is coming!), colored water is thrown on bystanders and participants, and yes, the pots contain money for those daring enough to reach them.
The revelry is fun, of course, but it's much more than a birthday bash for Krishna. Underlying the celebration is the importance of devotion to Krishna's teachings. As the Lord explains in the Bhagavad Gita: "Before creation I alone existed. There was nothing, neither existence nor non-existence. I am that which remains after dissolution."


Images of Krishna

Donald Trump and Religion

No one can see into the heart of another person. What we can do, however, is evaluate their words and deeds. We should do so not to condemn, but rather to understand and move closer to the truth. No one who is a follower of Jesus can correctly claim that their words and deeds always match their professed beliefs. Mine certainly do not always do. So, my concern is not whether Trump really is a Christian, though I admit I have serious doubts. Rather, my concern is whether his stated views and beliefs line up with Christian thought. And, it is now clear that many of them do not.
First, last summer Trump stated that he is not sure he has ever asked God for forgiveness, as he does not "bring God into that picture." Asking God for forgiveness is a central aspect of Christianity across the many traditions. This is not relevant to his political views, but it is curious that many Christians support Trump and believe his claims about his Christian faith.
Second, Trump has stated that the United States should "take out" (kill) the families of terrorists: "...you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families." This policy would clearly contradict just war theory, which is a prominent Christian view related to declaring and conducting war. One of the tenets of just war theory is that it is immoral to intentionally kill innocent civilians. Given the nature of war, non-combatants will be injured and killed, but according to just war theory this should be avoided if at all possible. It should never be done intentionally. Trump's proposal is not only immoral, it is also illegal and would be ineffective. If we attack innocent women and children, we only provide evidence for the terrorists who claim that they are fighting an immoral enemy.
Third, Trump has proposed that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. He is also open to forming a database tracking all Muslims who live here. In addition, he will not rule out requiring some sort of special ID for Muslims. While this taps into the fears and irrational beliefs many hold about Islam, terrorism, and our safety, it is simply wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of their religious faith (or lack thereof). We certainly need to have better screening procedures so that we can identify individuals who may be a threat, given their views and affiliations. But, to ban all Muslim immigration - even those who are fleeing the horrors of war and those who are Muslims moderates - because of terrorism that emerges from misguided interpretations of Islam is like banning all Christian immigration because of attacks on abortion clinics or violent racist ideology emerging from incorrect interpretations of Christianity.
Also, apparently Donald Trump has never read and/or just ignores the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
(Luke 10:25-3) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite (a Hebrew Temple priest),when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan (a very hated people by the Jews), as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Also: Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" and Luke 18:25: "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Fourth, Trump has a problem with women. His comments about Carly Fiorina's appearance and Megyn Kelly's blood are well-known. His sexism is not new. In the classic book On Writing Well, there is the following anecdote from a writer who interviewed Trump at a spa he developed in Florida:
"Evidently, Trumps philosophy of wellness is rooted in a belief that prolonged exposure to exceptionally attractive young spa attendants will instill in the male clientele a will to live...Trump introduced me to 'our resident physician, Dr. Ginger Lee Southall'--a recent chiropractic college graduate...I asked Trump where she had done her training. 'I'm not sure,' he said, 'Baywatch Medical School? Does that sound right? I'll tell you the truth. Once I saw Dr. Ginger's photograph, I didn't really need to look at her resume or anyone else's. Are you asking me, 'Did we hire her because she trained at Mount Sinai for fifteen years? The answer is no. And I'll tell you why: because by the time she's spent fifteen years at Mount Sinai, we don't want to look at her'" (p. 221).
The notion that women are equal to men because they are also created in the image of God is an important theological truth, even though many Christians and Christian institutions have not lived up to this. The dignity of women is not grounded in their appearance, but rather their humanity. That Trump has the support of so many women is baffling, to say the least.
Finally, Trump appears to be a narcissist. This might work for reality television or real estate deals, but it is not a desirable trait for the President of the United States. The most important moral principle, according to Jesus in the gospels, is to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The Christian understanding of love is that it involves sacrifice, self-denial, and preferring the good of others over one's own. It does not appear that Donald Trump understands this.

For these and many other reasons, Christians should actively oppose the presidency of Donald Trump.

Four Poems by Shaun Shane

Biography of Shaun Shane
Shaun Shane is a pseudonym. His real name unknown.

There have been few men whose work is so well known and as highly acclaimed and yet whose personal life is as shrouded in mystery as that of Shaun Shane in the History of Poetry. Shane's career first began in the early 1980's, publishing in small presses and doing famously standing room only readings while, it is rumored, he still was a Philosophy Major at Yale. When his work quickly came to the attention of the Literary Critic and host of the Public Radio Program, Poetry In Our Time, the host, Harvey Alexander, was so struck with Shane's work, he began to feature it prominently on his radio program. The filmmaker, John Waters, a close friend of Alexander's, was greatly impressed with Shane's work as well, arranged a meeting between the two which became the beginning of a longstanding friendship between the two of them.
But, Shane, to the great shock of his following, Alexander and Waters abandoned public life in his late-twenties, disappearing without a trace. Though the reasons for his disappearance remain unclear, he has never addressed them, there are no records of his doing any readings or publishing for nearly two decades. However, he suddenly he made a reappearance in 2008. It is rumored that he had become terminally ill and his re-emergence was to reinforce the ethic of pure poetry or truly modernist poetry which he felt had been betrayed by the inept and poorly executed attempts at post-modern verse by so-called poets and pseudo poetry of  before his disappearance. His reappearance was brief and took the form of publishing in independent and small presses as well as showing up in open microphone readings mostly in New York City. It is believed (if he is still alive) that he lives on the West Coast, because his last appearances were around the L.A. and the San Francisco areas. After that, Shaun Shane mysteriously disappear again. 

He has released two collections of his poetryA Poem is Nothing and Intangible Certitude. 

*         *          *
Four poems by Shaun Shane

As A Flower Towards The Sun
by Shaun Shane

as a flower towards the sun
she sprung from ground then won
a place in fairer air

whereby the sun admiring there
in humble defeat declared
even with all my brilliance
to such brilliance
i can't compare

*                *               *

02 Sip And Dip

by Shaun Shane

to sip and dip 
a bird will tip
it's beak into a bud

lap and lick the center quick
if lucky catch a bug

but if no treat of sweet or bug to eat
forlornly tweet

oh what cheat
for woe to me
so as my hope
the bud is beat

*                *               *

09 I Hate Man

by Shaun Shane

i hate

but it's
hard to be
the thing
you hate

for i
i find
i keep

just like

*                *               *

Earth Is Hell

by Shaun Shane

all in a heap

is a lawn of
grass to me

for all i see
is war and hate


and misery

by all those things
that squirm
and bite
and buzz
and live
amongst that sea

of nature's saber-edged

that earth is

and a
violent place
to be 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Political Cartoons of the Week, No 18

A Christian Pastor Speaks Out Against Donald Trump

Preceding Donald Trump’s Inauguration, Progressive Pastor John Pavlovitz of Raleigh, North Carolina published a strong and powerful letter about how he comes down on the election of Donald J.Trump.
Let the record show that I did not consent to this.
Let it show that I did not vote for this man, that he did not represent me, that I did not believe he was deserving of being here, that I grieved his ascension.
Let History record my objection to him, to the ways he humiliated women and vilified Muslims and threatened protestors and disregarded people of color.
Let it record my repulsion at his tremendous cruelty, his lack of compassion, his contempt for dissension, his absence of simple decency.
Let witnesses mark down my disgust at the way he boasted of infidelity, at how he ridiculed a disabled reporter, at the way he attacked female opponents for their appearance, at the way he marginalized immigrants.
Let it be remembered that I did not look the other way when women accused him of assault, when the reality of his Russian alliances came to light, when he refused to share his tax records - though large portions of the American media and its people chose to.
Let it be remembered that I did not buy into the fear that he perpetuated of those with brown skin or hijabs or foreign birthplaces.
Let the record show that I looked on with disbelief as he spent countless early morning and middle-of-the-night hours following the election on social media, broadcasting a steady stream of petulant, insecure, incoherent messages instead of preparing to do a job he was ill-equipped for and seemingly not all that interested in.
Let the record show that I watched him assemble a Cabinet of billionaires and bigots, of people woefully unqualified to steward our children, our safety, our healthcare, our financial stability—and that I was horrified by it all.
Let it be remembered that my faith would not allow me to fall in line behind this man while so many professed religious people did; that I saw nothing resembling Jesus in him, and that to declare him Christian would have been to toss aside everything I grew up believing faith in Christ manifested in a life.
Let History record my grieving at the racism and bigotry and homophobia that characterized his campaign, marked his supporters, and is evident in his assembling Administration.
Let it be known that I was one of the more than 65 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton; who understood that though not perfect, she was an intelligent, experienced, passionate public servant with the temperament, commitment, and qualifications to lead and lead well.
Let the record show that I greatly lamented the day of his inauguration, and that I promised to join together with other good people to loudly resist and oppose every unscrupulous, dangerous, unjust and dishonest act this new Administration engages in.
History has been littered with horrible people who did terrible things with power, because too many good people remained silent. And since my fear is that we are surely entering one of those periods in our story, I wanted to make sure that I was recorded for posterity:
I do not believe this man’s actions are normal.
I do not believe he is emotionally stable.
I do not believe he cares about the full, beautiful diversity of America.
I do not believe he respects women.
I do not believe he is pro-life other than his own.
I do not believe the sick and the poor and the hurting matter to him in the slightest.
I do not believe he is a man of faith or integrity or nobility.
I do not believe his concern is for anything outside his reflection in the mirror.
I believe he is a danger to our children.
I believe he is a threat to our safety.
I believe he is careless with our people.
I believe he is reckless with his power.
I believe America will be less secure, less diverse, less compassionate, and less decent under his leadership.
And if I prove to be wrong, it will be one of the most joyful errors of my life. I will own these words and if necessary, willingly and gladly admit my misjudgment because it will mean that America is a better and stronger nation, and the world a more peaceful place.
But right now, I don’t see that happening.
Right now I am worried for my country, concerned for our planet, scared for the future of my children, and greatly saddened that 62 million Americans seem okay with all of this.
Let the record show that I was not okay with it.
Not at all.


Newly Discovered Native-American Photographs

Newly Discovered Native-American Photographs