Vanity thought #1799. “It’s for the children”

Wikipedia gives it as “think of the children” but there’s no difference. It’s about emotional appeal which is used as a substitute for reason. Not that reasoning stands on a much more solid ground according to Sāṅkhya, but still.

A couple of months ago a debate started on Sampradaya Sun when someone brought up Bhakti Vikāsa Swami’s (BVKS) lecture where he spoke on Bhaktividyāpūrṇa Svāmī and child abuse. BVKS replied and, as expected, more questions followed until it all snowballed with half a dozen different people getting on his case as well. It’s gone quiet now, probably because SS editors did not want to publish submissions in defense of BVKS before he finished his presentation. At this point BVKS is not responding, probably because he thinks it’s unfair given how many others were allowed to attack him at the same time. Or maybe he thinks nothing good will come out of it, or maybe this issue drifted away from his mind already.

At one point I myself sat down and penned an article expressing my personal view, not really taking sides and joining the fight, though it’s clear what camp I should be enlisted in. Sun editor immediately replied saying that my submission could not be published and I was actually relieved because I’m pretty sure it would have kicked up a storm of angry responses. Two weeks have passed, I don’t think there will be any progress and that article is not going anywhere, though I would welcome the opportunity to edit it to a more presentable standard, make corrections etc.

Here’s the thing, though – I wasn’t trying to present the correct version of the child protection issue, I only shared my personal perception of it. This perception might be wrong but it’s the one that was created, so don’t blame the mirror. I diligently read the provided sources, I read all articles published about it at the time, I watched the documentary in question a year ago, and my article simply documented my conclusions.

I’ll just copy paste it here as it was, warts and all. I don’t want to rewrite it – it would be too much work for no particular reason. I’m somewhat ashamed of my dismissive attitude but that’s because I am not emotionally involved in this issue, and I only speak about this particular dimension of it in relation to one particular devotee.

Sometimes I feel like I’m writing this against my better judgement – with so many devotees pitching in what is the value of my personal opinion? I can’t claim to speak on behalf of silent majority either, and yet I don’t see my perspective as being totally out of wack and it’s the perspective that should, theoretically, count, too.

As a background – I’ve never met a child abuser or a victim of child abuse in ISKCON, or outside ISKCON, for that matter, but since it has become part of our history I take it on authority that it did happen even if I didn’t see it or hear about it at the time. It’s the stuff of long past and we should put it behind us, I thought.

About a decade ago I ran into an online debate with those who think ISKCON is a dangerous cult that should be outlawed and one of the accusations they threw around was that it’s a hotbed of child abuse and pedophilia. They didn’t cite any facts, however. I searched the internet myself and found only two cases, in one a wife reported her husband to the police because she found child pornography on his computer, and in another a devotee was arrested in a child brothel in Cambodia, though it was unknown if he was in that country on any ISKCON related business. And so I left this as a non-issue until last year when a new documentary was promoted on vaishnava news sites.

It sounded as if it uncovered countless new incidents and I diligently watched it through but the only case of current abuse I remember was that a female teacher pinched a stomach of a boy who couldn’t stand straight during temple ceremony. Not the best way to keep kids in line (though in a pinch would do – pardon the pun) but not serious enough to make an hour long documentary out of it either. And yet for the whole hour people were going on and on and on expressing their outrage and wringing their hands in agony and I thought they just liked themselves to be heard. Much of it was how everybody else is doing their service wrong and if you only asked the speakers in that video they’d put ISKCON straight right away. If I wanted to learn about actual contemporary child abuse then an hour wasted, that was my conclusion.

Then this debate got reignited again and this time it somehow focused on Bhakti Vidyapurna Swami (BVPS). This time we got links to Child Protection Office case files on him and I read them through, too. 2007 investigation lasted for half a year and found two incidents that “could possibly fall” into child abuse category – their words, not mine. One is that BVPS rubbed a chickpea paste on a forearm of the smallest girl in class and another about him manually pumping water while the girls were taking a bath – a common occurrence in India where kids take bath at public pumps all the time and no one thinks any of it, and that was all. Is this what triggers people nowadays? It’s not even a mole hill to make a mountain of.

CPO report makes it clear that they were concerned mostly with people’s reactions and that they didn’t see any victims to be rescued. That paragraph reads as if CPO was acting as “mind protection office” there, but they clearly failed given the amount of outrage BVPS’ behavior eventually caused.

Then we were given a link to 2015 report on Sri Radhe that “confirmed” BVPS transgressions from 2007 paper. I’ve read that, too. All I learned from that is that Sri Radhe, the “child abuser”, had a group of favorite students, Coke in her fridge, and snack wrappers in her trash. I can’t help but put “child abuser” in quotes. As far as accusation of inappropriate behavior between her and BVPS goes – I understand it happened when she got engaged, married, and pregnant, and, in any case, this has nothing to do with CPO matters.

In Sri Radhe’s report one thing stood out for me, though – all the girls were introduced as victims – “victim 1 says, victim 7 says” and so on, and yet no crimes were mentioned. A teacher “yelling” at the class is not a crime, or is it now? Then it occurred to me that in another possible interpretation these girls were, indeed, victims – victims of CPO investigation. They were forced to search their memories for all the negative experiences and then magnify and verbalize them, and then CPO officers validated them by writing them down and making them into official records. It looks as if girls were manipulated and their minds agitated against their teacher and I don’t know how they could come back and look the teacher in the eye after that. And it’s not just one relationship that was broken forever, I’m afraid they’ll never be able to trust any of their future teachers either, and, perhaps, they’ll always have reservations against surrendering to their gurus, too. It’s very easy to poison a child’s mind and I’m afraid CPO did just that. I can understand how no gurukula would want CPO officers to interview their students because damage caused by such investigations can’t be easily undone.

Then there was a link to an old Sun article on BVPS abuse from twenty-thirty years ago. In one of the recent posts the word “rape” was used as if BVPS was a child rapist, and yet this word does not appear in that long article. He did nothing of the kind at all, that “abuse” was about older kids engaging in homosexual behavior with each other and BVPS failing to prevent it and protect younger boys from it. Then there was a matter of corporal punishment but it was mentioned only briefly. At the time it was legal in Bengal and kids at Mayapur gurukula quite possibly had it easier than if they’d gone to other schools. The article mentions that silence from BVPS was considered a far heavier punishment than any beatings. Should CPO prosecute people for not speaking to children now? In the end – it was all pre-1991, BVPS has been sanctioned for it, none of it happens at the present time, and so it should be put to rest.

I remember one episode from last year’s video where, at the end of the class by BVPS, a female devotee stands up and practically starts reading a prepared list of accusations against him that had nothing to do with anything he said. I’m sure she felt she was rallying for a good cause but to me it showed a blatant disrespect for the position awarded to a class speaker, who should be treated as a representative of Vyasadeva himself. Carried away by anger these people lose their intelligence, their power to discriminate between right and wrong – just as Krishna described descent into hell in Bhagavad Gita. Someone mentioned here that BVPS is not allowed to give classes in the UK but he is a regular speaker at Bhagavatam classes in Mayapur where not only devotees but Sri Sri Radha Madhava, Panca Tattva, and Lord Nrisimha have no problems hearing him speaking every Sunday. He is good enough for Them but not good enough for the UK. Whose loss is that?

And it all sprung up to life from him rubbing chickpea paste on a girl’s forearm… This obviously can’t be the reason. I think what drives this outrage is the desire to feel righteous, promote a good cause, and rage against designated culprits to one’s heart content. This behavior doesn’t really need external reasons, any excuse would do, like spotting a word “rape” or “beatings” in some article. Triggering it is super easy. CPO officers from 2007 BVPS report realized and mentioned that danger but, according to their report, BVPS didn’t seem to care, and so here we are.

Much of the current debate is about Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s presentation, too. I don’t think his opponents read him carefully, without prejudice. Why accuse him of giving quotes out of context, for example? He only said that these quotes exist, that Srila Prabhupada did on some occasions support physical punishment for children. This fact is true regardless of context the quotes were made in. And then BVKS defended his understanding of the context, and people objected even more, and in this way the whole thing snowballs out of control and BVKS is accused of not following through on every argument.

It got to the point where devotees approaching Srila Prabhupada for guidance are accused of having “offensive contempt”. I don’t think anyone approached Srila Prabhupada with contempt, offensive or otherwise, in those days and Prabhupada and his servants would have spotted it right away. I can’t accept this as part of the “correct” context for that infamous conversation about gurukula, nor is this the context as relayed in Hari Sauri’s Transcendental Diary. They’ve discussed the discipline question for about 6 min out of a 44 min conversation, by the way.

It is true that Srila Prabhhupada was reluctant to accept corporal punishment as a solution and recommended that trouble maker should be sent to a farm but imagine the outrage if our gurukula managers started doing just that – sending thirteen year old boys to dig on farms, giving them no further education and following Prabhupada’s “not … everyone has to become literate” dictum! That would qualify as child labor and would be downright illegal. For all the analysis of that conversation this obvious point is somehow gets lost.

Bottom line, as I see it, is the usual – devotees bring modern standards from the outside and want to impose them on Vedic tradition. Today it’s opinions on child abuse and earlier it was about gender equality. Others do it with homosexuality and there’s the whole Krishna West movement, too.

Perhaps my accusations are unfair to devotees involved but I kept the names out so that I could talk about behavior, not personalities. In any case I beg forgiveness if I misunderstood their motives and their service. Still, this is the perspective present in my head and I can’t deny it’s there or that it’s not caused by observing this debate.

Hmm, on the re-read it’s actually not that bad, but I would definitely word it differently if I were to write this for Sampradaya Sun again.

Vanity thought #1797. Tulasi Krishna Preyasi

I feel it’s time to revive this blog after a long break. I’m not sure I can keep up with the usual schedule of writing a new, thousand word article everyday but, hopefully, it will come through trying. A few words first.

Just before New Year I opened a Facebook account, to discuss cosmology. It didn’t work out, however. I think I’ll discuss reasons for it some other day. Once you are on Facebook, however, you’ll get drawn in by friend requests and new content being suggested all the time. FB knows what you read and god forbid you ever clicked “like” on something because then it will start feeding you stories you’ll have hard time to ignore. One thing leads to another, you participate in conversations, and pretty soon you become part of a community. It’s not a bad thing in itself but it forces you to behave in a certain way, say certain things, click certain likes. For every debate there are certain established positions and you are expected to fit into one of those. Life will never be the same.

One such aspect is the “depth” of content there. No one posts a thousand words tractates there and no one reads them. Content has to be short and to the point, it should be scrollable and people should decide to “like” it after reading the title or at most a paragraph. It’s not meant for deep engagement and careful deliberation. There’s one popular devotee there who puts up dozens of old paintings depicting various līlās and sometimes he asks people to identify them for him. One commenter complained that he sees no point in spending time hunting for the stories and reading up on details to come back and find that the poster has long moved on to something else and has neither interest nor time to discuss it anymore. “Take one story and learn from it as much as you can,” he exclaimed (paraphrasing here).

This is not how I used to write for this blog and I miss the good old days. It’s not to say that this way is better, and I don’t even consider the matter of publicity. These are “vanity thoughts”, after all. These are things that occupy my mind and I somehow find them clever and worth sharing – not because they have value but because I want to feel that way about myself. By connecting these thoughts to the Lord I hope to purify myself from these motivations. After a three month break my attitude could have changed already, let’s see how it goes.

Facebook will never run out of controversial material to feel oneself clever about, I will give them that, so let’s take one topic I haven’t considered yet – Tulsi Gabbard. She is often in the news, and I mean vaiṣṇava news, and she’s invariably covered in good light. She was invited here, appeared there, got sworn on Bhagavad Gītā etc. etc. This favorable coverage doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any detractors and critics, however. Recently I listened to this class by Bhakti Vikāsa Swami and even if he didn’t mention her by name this lecture was about her.

To be honest, I don’t know why he didn’t say the name when it was so clear who he was talking about – she is not some “you know who” who cannot be mentioned but that’s how it was. Main thrust of his argument was against her support for abortion and gay rights and I don’t see how even his critics could disagree with him on this. His position is objectively correct. There’s however, a way to see a bit more of a picture while remaining in agreement with everything he said as well.

First, he didn’t really consider the argument that pro-abortion and pro-LGBT statements on her website are positions of her party. She is Congressman (-woman) from a Democratic Party and from Hawaii – these conditions dictate a lot of what she can and cannot say in public and are not necessarily indicative of her personal convictions. This doesn’t make her free from blame but we should consider shades of her guilt, too.

We ourselves, when going to work, pay government taxes and so support current government policies on abortion and gay marriage, too. It obviously varies from country to country or form state to state in the US but some share is always there. Likewise, by becoming members of a team we offer moral and emotional support to fellow team members and it includes sharing in their happiness of having a hot cup of morning coffee even if we don’t drink it ourselves, or anticipation of Friday night drinks at the bar we have no experience of. At least we are not expected to vocally object and denigrate these activities, which reads as tacit approval. Who among us barges into any of these office conversations with an offer to surrender to the Lord, chant His holy name, and abandon all sinful activities? So let us not hurry to throw stones just yet.

There’s also a matter of indifference. I don’t feel anything about abortions myself, for example. As far as my consciousness goes they don’t exist. Sure I know what they are and I used to know a girl when I was young who had an abortion herself, but I don’t remember her name, only that she was sad and regretful about her decision even if it didn’t stop her from her promiscuous ways. Otherwise – I don’t have any emotional reactions to abortions, or to gay marriage, for that matter – it’s not a part of my life and doesn’t affect me in any way. If I was a baker asked to make cakes for gay weddings I would surely have felt differently, but I’m not a baker, and neither is Tulsi Gabbard. As far as I know she just has this obligatory statement on her obligatory website and that’s it. It doesn’t mean she passionately promotes it, which would be clearly undevotional.

Regardless of this, however, she has the guts to go on stage in Washington hotel, give a speech, and then sing her heart out in kīrtana. I’ve found only a short version of it but there’s a longer one somewhere where you can see all the dressed up Washington people in tuxedos and cocktail dresses. It’s not like an ISKCON sannyāsī going on the same stage who has no connection to these people and nothing to lose. To me, this requires bravery and devotion, and these qualities should be appreciated:

A few words about devotees who make her into some sort of a saint who has done more for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness than the rest of us together – they might not say it, but I think it’s obvious is that they appreciate her high position rather than her actual level of devotion or impact of her preaching. They didn’t care about her before she got elected to Congress. Now she is a leader and Kṛṣṇa says that whatever a great leader does others naturally follow, but we shouldn’t be those “others”, we have our own spiritual leaders and so we should appreciate Tulsi’s achievements but not give her the status of an ācārya just yet. She is certainly dear to Kṛṣṇa and we should contemplate how she could turn out that way even when growing in a sect splintered from ISKCON before she was even born while her father became a Christian minister. Was it her mother who protected her seed of devotion from all these deviations? I have no definitive answer but I’d like to this so.

Vanity thought #1796. VC – Cosmology should be semantic

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

The end of section on problems with modern cosmology is within the grasp. There are only two rather short chapters left and they largely summarize what has been explained in detail earlier. There’s one little bombshell dropped here, however, so, without further ado, let’s see this grande finale.

Dark Matter anomaly arises when we our observations do not comply with our theory of gravitation. We expect distant stars and galaxies to rotate with certain speeds but they do it faster as if they were in the presence of a large gravitational field. We attribute this field to dark matter.

In our solar system we also expect planets to rotate around the Sun with different speeds – those closer to the Sun must rotate faster and those farther away much, much slower. Saturn, for example, completes one rotation in twenty six Earthly years. Wait a minute, the Saturn also covers a lot more distance in this time so I’m not sure whether it moves faster or slower relative to Earth. Anyway, in Vedic cosmology, the book says, the problem of dark matter does not arise because all planets and all start rotate with the same speed.

What about our observations of [allegedly] slow moving Saturn, however? What if it moves slower than Mercury, which is the closest to the Sun in our solar model. This is where the book drops a mysterious sentence that despite same rotational speed the apparent speeds are different because planets are being dragged by the Sun and by the zodiac. Dragged by the Sun? I’ve read this before, I’ve heard of this from Srimad Bhagavatam, too, and I’ve read detailed explanations further in the book, but I still can’t explain what it actually means. Maybe it will come to me later.

Stars are parts of the zodiac and in Vedic cosmology they move at a constant speed, too. We think that those of them that are further away should move faster to keep up but here they are considered as parts of the same “disk” rather than independent celestial objects with no connections to each other. This is promised to be explained in later chapters.

More to the point, because in Vedic cosmology gravity is rejected as a driving force behind movements of stars and planets then what follows is that distances to them are explained differently as well. There’s a great agreement between Vedic observations and modern astronomy when it comes to rotational movement but distances to planets are all wrong – as Śrīla Prabhupāda insisted that the Sun is closer to the Earth than the Moon, for example.

Methods of measuring distances used by modern astronomers have been enumerated in this section and in semantic theory all of them were rejected one by one as they rely on unsubstantiated principles. Light does not travel in straight lines as assumed in the parallax method. Light is not equally distributed in all directions as assumed in inverse square law of luminosity. All parts of the universe are not made of the same type of matter as assumed by calculations based on Doppler shift. Once we drop these three assumptions and incorporate principles of semantic theory (Sāṅkhya) we can construct an entirely new model of the universe that will be in full agreement with śāstra, though scientists might not necessarily see the benefits of that agreement.

The last chapter starts with the point that it’s not only that we don’t know how to reconcile quantum theory with thermodynamics or general relativity but we have no idea what these reconciliations would look like. I think quantum field theory already claims to explain thermodynamics but don’t quote me on that. Physics needs postulates of dark energy and matter on the assumption that “dark” stuff we can’t see is physically just like the stuff we can. The author says that all these problems rise not from theories themselves but from the inability to incorporate meanings into science in general. I see what he did there – we can’t see meanings and they do not act like what we can see – objects.

Sāṅkhya provides the alternative to science where meanings are incorporated from the get go and difficulties experienced by science do not arise there. At this point I must add that I can neither concur nor disagree with this statement – no one knows if Sāṅkhya can be fully understood without accepting some contradictions here and there. It’s a bold claim to make.

Sāṅkhya based approach, however, will fundamentally alter our understanding of time, universe, and space we all live in. For now we see time and space as linear and flat, and all objects as physical. In Sāṅkhya we must first understand the nature of concepts and space-time in which concepts exist. This new space-time will become hierarchical and closed. As far as I understand, “flat” means that in our universe everything is made of the same kind of matter and in Sāṅkhya this flatness will be changed into hierarchy. Our space is “open”, meaning our universe has no boundaries and space between stars if filled with an infinite number of points which can make up continues straight or curved lines, for example. Closed space means that there’s the universal tree and that’s it. It’s not a tree in space and there are no straight paths between its branches. Our trees exist in space and squirrels can jump from one branch to another but this is not the correct model of the Vedic tree – outside space must be excluded.

Time is also arranged hierarchically, which will be explained later. For now I’ll just say, not being entirely sure, that our time folds in the time of greater beings like days fold into a week, weeks fold into months and so on. Vedic time is also cyclic – days, months, years and yugas go full circle and return where they started (never mind that space changes from Monday to Monday or from spring to spring).

Due to hierarchical nature of objects we won’t be puzzled by dark matter because all “dark” means in Sāṅkhya is it’s the kind of matter more abstract than our senses. Hierarchical organization of matter also means that all different kinds of space-time might appear in our physical view just as country, state, city, and street are all present in the physical sense but they are not the same types of location. We understand the difference between a concept of “state” and “street” but science somehow doesn’t recognize this distinction of type when it tries to reduce all matter to atomic interactions. Science suffer from physicalist dogma here and once that dogma is removed a new picture of the cosmos will emerge in which many of currently held views will become irrelevant, or wrong, or both.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the section on problems with modern cosmology. The next section is dedicated to principles of Vedic cosmology but it starts with discussing another set of problems in modern science so it’s not going to be all about Lord Brahmā and the lokas he made right from the start.

Vanity thought #1795. VC – Putting Vedas back into Cosmology again

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

We are near the end of the section on problems with modern science. I think most of them have been presented already, leaving only a discussion on dark energy and dark matter which be the subject of the next couple of chapters. So far we’ve covered things like speed of light, Doppler effects, parallax, luminosity, thermodynamics, general relativity and some aspects of quantum theory. I might be missing something but it’s a long list as it is. In every case the book highlights problems with each discipline and explains them through semantic theory where these problems do not arise. Semantic theory, in turn, needs an induction of several principles so far completely absent from modern science and in today’s chapter there’s an attempt to describe these principle in Vedic terms, then somehow the discussion shifts to dark matter and conversion flows gently into the next chapter where some outrageous things are stated, but all in good time.

Should dark matter and energy have gotten their own chapter instead of stealing the show in the middle of the Vedic explanation of things? Probably, but the reason they are brought here is that there’s a nice semantic explanation of what “dark” means which ties it up back Sāṅkhya. Should I follow chapter’s narrative or should I re-organize the ideas in some other way? Probably, but I’m not sure my alternative would be better. Reorganizing ideas is a good exercise which leads to deeper understanding so I’ll try for a change. There are two hooks into Sāṅkhya in this chapter and we can start with semantics first and then describe these hooks later.

First of all, in Sāṅkhya the universe is a space-time tree and objects in this tree represent not only mass, which is the view of general relativity and gravitational theory, but any kind of semantic information. Various forms of semantic information are related to each other as abstracts and contingents. The most contingent forms are sense objects and that’s all we can perceive directly. Sense objects are produced from sensations which, in turn, are produced from senses.

We all have senses, there should be no argument about that, so we can perceive colors and sounds, but the author makes an interesting twist here – can we see color itself? We can see red and we can see blue but those are properties of color, as in “red color” or “blue color”. We see red and blue but not “color”. Similarly, we can hear musical notes but can’t hear the tone itself. To make tone perceptible it must have added details to produce a contingent object, like C#. In the same vein we have vision but can’t see vision itself not can we hear hearing. Concepts such as color and tone are abstract and by adding details to them we can produces perceptible contingents, such as sense objects, and it works in the down-up direction as well.

In this way the universal tree can be traversed up to the root. From sense objects to sensations, from sensations to senses, from senses to mind, from mind to intelligence, and from intelligence to ego. Each step is more abstract than the next. When we go from the top down we get progressively contingent objects with more details added to previous abstracts.

In our everyday life we all have language terms to discuss those abstracts and our common sense understanding of reality is not that different from Sānkhya. Consider intentions, for example. We all have them but we can’t see them directly. To demonstrate one’s intention it has to be converted into perceptible actions with perceptible sense objects. That way intentions can be “proven”. Intentions are causes of our actions but they are not seen, only their effects are visible.

Problem for science here is that intentions are excluded and ignored, except for humanities maybe. In hard science causes are attributed to visible objects and their properties, e.g. mass causes gravitational pull. All other things like intentions, guṇa, karma, mind, intelligence etc are physically imperceptible and therefore, from science point of view, are “dark”.

That’s where there’s a hook between Sāṅkhya and science in this chapter – empirical observations of movements of stars and galaxies do not conform with predictions of gravitational theory and their causes are attributed to “dark matter” and “dark energy”. Dark matter pulls stars together and is responsible for celestial objects rotating slower than they should, as if planetary systems or galaxies had a large core of invisible mass. Dark energy works in the opposite direction and forces galaxies to speed away. We can see that, no one is denying it, but the causes of these effects remain hidden and called “dark”. It’s worth repeating that together this dark mass and dark energy account for 95% of the total matter in the universe.

If only they could accept existence of abstract objects instead of only physically perceptible ones everything would become so much easier.

The second hook into Sāṅkhya, actually the first in the chapter, is that all interactions in Vedic universe are governed by guṇa and karma. These two have no equivalents in modern science and they are also dark and imperceptible but in this chapter they are linked to quantum theory. Remember that chapter on slit experiment a while back? The conclusion there was that the number of slits affects the outcome and this is what guṇa is compared to here.

Guṇa is part of our existence which modifies incoming information and which determines how it is perceived. In my mind I keep comparing guṇa to goggle with which we filter our existence. In slit chapter it was compared to base counting system – decimal, binary etc, but this kind of notation doesn’t change transmitted number itself the way pink glasses affect our vision.

Karma is channels established in the transmission of light, or any kind of information. These channels were discussed when we talked about light not going in all directions but being transmitted straight to the destination. There was source S, destination D, and cause C. Karma is this cause which connects S and D and enables information transfer. Guṇa, for some reason is compared here to D, or the part of our body which receives the light. It could be a leg or mind or eyes, I figure, but it’s an unusual way to talk about guṇa that’s for sure. It will make sense in the section on astrology, I guess, where guṇa and karma are described as two distinct celestial systems. This will come up in the next chapter as well but only briefly.

That’s it, a rather long chapter is done in one post. I might have missed a couple of paragraphs but nothing important. next chapter is very short and there’s a chance of finishing the entire section this week.

Vanity thought #1794. VC – Getting off the gravi waves

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Next up for assault and reinterpretation in semantic terms is discovery of gravitational waves, which was the major news as the author was writing the book. He clearly couldn’t restrain himself from making this late addition and this probably explains why this chapter gets somewhat fuzzy in the end.

Gravitational waves are not a new theory and their discovery doesn’t affect general relativity in any way but detecting them for the first time was nice. According to general relativity two black holes orbiting each other lose some of their energy in the form of gravitational waves and this amount increases as black holes come closer and closer. This was the first time when our instruments were sensitive enough to catch the wave generated by black holes in the last second of their lives before they collapsed into each other.

The discovery deserves a Noble Prize but the difficulty lies in crediting because people who first showed how it could be done have gotten their Nobels decades ago and the current effort can’t be attributed to any one individual or a group. What made the difference to waves being detected this time lies in increasing equipment sensitivity and that was a financial decision, not an even an engineering one.

Two long tunnels at the right angle to each other were used to shoot lasers and when space contracted due to gravitational waves these tunnels length changed and that caused a change in lasers phases, which was detected from a change in their interference as their waves blended. In short, gravitational waves make space bigger or smaller, and that’s what the book aims to explain from a semantic perspective.

If there’s transfer of information between two nodes of a semantic tree than the node that emitted the information would become “smaller” and the node that received the information would become “bigger”. Not the nodes themselves, I figure, but whatever is branching out of them. More information means more branches, less information means less branches with less details. Information transfer, therefore, would cause expansion and contraction of “space” where by space we must mean “everything that exists from that node down”. This is true for ANY information exchange, not just for gravitational waves.

Then there’s a floating half paragraph about detecting these contractions and expansions on the macroscopic level. I say “floating” because it is not anchored anywhere. What is the threshold for detecting macroscopic addition of information, for example? What would “information” mean in case of space expansion in general relativity? What is it that we are supposed to detect? Instead the book simply says that this information transfer need not be caused by two rotating black holes but it could be created by either a massive transfer of detailed information or a transfer of an abstract from which all these detailed information is produced.

How does that follow? There’s no connection whatsoever. In this case it would be nice to explain how amount of information translates into the size of space. It’s not obvious at all, though as I think about it I can see how what we call “space” can be expressed in terms of information describing it, pretty much like digitized images. I’m still not sure whether space expansion would affect its digital representation or not, or what space expansion actually means. As I understand it’s not about fitting more stuff in it but rather the time it takes light to travel through. Maybe one day I’ll stumble upon a clear explanation of this but today let’s move on with book.

So, it could have been a massive transfer of details or a smaller transfer of abstracts. One deep enough abstract can cause massive changes because it will affect all the contingent details so it’s not the size of the transferred symbol itself that affects the resulting change in size but it’s the type of this symbol. This is clear enough but has nothing to do with detection of gravitational waves, just a general principle.

In gravitational theory there’s an assumption of space made up of physical points and expansion and contraction are changes in the metrics of that space. In semantic theory space doesn’t exist a priori but is constructed from information for each particular point and “physical distance” between points is pointless itself because creation of two points doesn’t mean all points in between have been created as well. I mean we can create this point and that point but they won’t be connected to each other, as gravitational theory assumes.

The unlimited number of points making up straight lines is impossible even from quantum theory point of view and so any theory that supposes this will be inconsistent with quantum physics, which is another reason why general relativity can’t be reconciled with quantum theory and why we can’t create a unified theory of everything.

In the last paragraph the author drives the main point home, which is that in semantic theory there’s no contraction or expansion of space but there are differences in distance between two objects which we can measure semantically and translate into “physical distance”. How exactly it happens is not explained but let me try again.

What we call physical distance is, in fact, a difference between semantic description of two objects. I suppose the location property would be the main difference here but there could be other differences as well. To fill that informational gap a certain amount of information needs to be exchanged and the amount of that information could be expressed as “physical distance”.

What complicates this is that amount of transferred information doesn’t matter as much as its type so that some cosmetic changes to details might require a bigger transfer of detailed symbols while one abstract symbol would change the entire system at once.

At the end of the day another achievement of modern science has been explained in a semantic way, which we should not forget is the good old Sāṅkhya expressed in modern language, and that this approach does away with conflicts between relativity and quantum theory but it needs an induction of a new theory of abstract vs contingent “atoms”. Once we have those we can explain pretty much anything science throws at us.

We, of course, already have this new theory, it’s part of Sāṅkhya, but we need it to be accepted by scientists before they can unify their irreconcilable theories of atomic, macroscopic, and cosmic size objects.

Vanity thought #1793. VC – Dark Times for Cosmic Microwave

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Resuming from the next chapter, which is dedicated to cosmic microwaves. If we go with Big Bang Theory then all matter was initially in a highly condensed state and the universe was very very small. It’s hard to visualize this because a second into the life of the universe it was the size of a golf ball but at the same time there was no space outside this ball. We can’t imagine the whole of space being inside a golf ball because such definition of size is meaningless without relation to other known objects, such as the size of a golf club or tennis ball or a ping pong ball. In standard model of cosmology the universe is infinite in size so how could this infinite space be all packed inside a golf ball?

If we were present then, would it mean that all other things we compare golf balls to were still relatively the same size as our golf balls compared to the current universe? What difference would it make from the “insider” perspective then? We can say that our universe is a size of a golf ball to someone who is outside of it now. Besides, how could the space become infinite if it was very finite in the beginning and only a finite amount of time has passed?

Talking about size in this way makes no sense. There’s “observable universe”, however, which ties the size of it to the speed of light – how far it can go in 13 billion years could be considered as size of the observable universe. Then we have to consider that during this time the universe has been expanding so we add that and come to a current estimate for the diameter of the observable universe to be 93 billion light years (as light goes in the opposite direction as well).

Does it stretch any further but we are unable to see it? Possibly, that’s why we talked about “observable universe” here. Now, to the book.

As universe was rapidly expanding after the Big Bang scientists estimated the effect on light emitted at that time and predicted that it must come to us with a significant red shift and, because the matter that emitted it back then does not exist anymore, this radiation must not have any other attributable source. This has been experimentally confirmed as Cosmic Microwave Background, CMB, and so now we have “proof” of the Big Bang.

The author points out to current need to postulate dark matter and dark energy as throwing a wrench into this theory. What if this cosmic background radiation is not a vestige of Big Bang but is emitted by currently existing dark matter? It would mean we need another theory instead of Big Bang and in that theory the need for dark matter and energy might not even exist so in the end we are left with doing what we are already doing because alternatives are scary and unthinkable.

The book then takes us a chapter back and reminds that in semantic theory wave frequency can be correlated to the level of abstraction of the information – higher frequency means more energy is transmitted by a hotter object and lower frequency means the object is cooler, and from thermodynamics comparison discussed earlier it would mean that lower frequency is more abstract while higher frequency is more detailed. What science calls a redshift, therefore, means that the object has shared all its contingent information and only abstract information is left.

Next step is understanding that objects carrying abstract information must be below the threshold of our senses – like we can’t directly perceive our minds or egos. When science can’t attribute CMB to any known object it simply means this object is more abstract than what we can sense, or is “subtle” in the language of Krishna consciousness.

CMB itself is an effect of an imperceptible cause and, because it’s relatively abstract, it affects more abstract “atoms”, too, and not the “details”. These abstract “atoms” are what our detailed bodies are built from and so to us it would appear that effect of CMB is felt “everywhere” rather than in any specific part because perceptible parts of our bodies are built of “detailed” atoms contingent on more abstract “atoms”.

When we receive this abstract information and only our abstract “atoms” are affected by it then all contingent details change at once, too, and that means we can’t pinpoint the direction from which this radiation comes from – just as we can’t with CMB. As I understand it, direction can be deducted from two changes happening one after another in distinct locations but when the entire contingent body is affected at once this becomes impossible, so we say that CMB comes from “everywhere”. This all will start fitting together very soon.

The author then makes a detour into quantum mechanics and says that instruments measuring CMB must be treated as quantum systems and not typical physical objects. I can’t follow that but the point is that without quantum measuring systems we only catch the quantity of information but not its type, which is compared to examining a book without knowing language and having no clue why squiggles of funny shapes appear seemingly randomly in it. I don’t want to delve deep into this here as it was all making sense before and will continue making sense after this one paragraph.

The principle under consideration is that when the system receives abstract information the state of all contingent details is changed at once. This means that energy transmitted with low frequency will be absorbed and assimilated faster by the whole system while higher frequency energy will affect big changes in only selected detailed parts. Apparently thermodynamics confirms this, too.

It’s not immediately obvious to me but the author claims that there’s not only a different semantic explanation for common observable data here but a new kind of predictions, too. It would be nice if it was explained what kind of predictions and in what areas he envisioned here but he skips to the next part, which refers to Doppler effect from a few chapters back.

Doppler effect, if you remember, also produces a redshift and in light of today’s semantic explanation it would mean that we receive a more abstract information. This has an effect on our understanding of sources of light when we think it’s emitted by hydrogen or helium atoms found on this planet – because these atoms are detailed constructions we built from our observations and not more abstract “atoms” which produce the observations. Meaning that instead of looking for a more abstract source to observations we create a contingent. Hydrogen atoms we think up here can’t that more abstract source. There’s no sound reason, therefore, to extend our interpretations to the rest of the universe and we should rather accept that redshifts are produced by a different kind of sources then the ones we have on Earth.

Now that we have both CMB and Doppler effects explained semantically there’s no reason to accept Big Bang theory anymore. The universe is not expanding but static and is made of objects of a different, more abstract type then the ones we have on our planet.

Let me see if I got this right – we believe in Big Bang and expansion because we observe redshifts in radiation but semantically it means that it is transmitted by more abstract types of matter than we experience here, like cosmic mind and cosmic intelligence. Makes sense, but lacks detail, but not to worry, there will be plenty of chapters discussing “subtle” influences on our world later on.

Vanity thought #1792. VC – from thermos to quantos

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Continuing where I left off. The chapter is about unifying theories of nature but so far it’s been mostly about thermodynamics. Yesterday I said that the author has a clear preference of quantum theory and this seems to be the way science goes, too, but today the flow is reverse – the book inducts insights from thermodynamics into quantum mechanics and does it via “semantic theory of information” – my words, google returns not quite what I have in mind. It would be nice if the book had a catchy name for this theory that solves everything but it isn’t there. Or rather it’s just another presentation of Sāṅkhya done in a contemporary language, which is a good thing because Sāṅkhya is authoritative.

Last time we left on brief description of weirdness of thermodynamic exchanges. They are not weird to us as observers and users of thermodynamics for our entire lives but they are weird for science because energy transfer goes only one way – from hot to cold – and never the other, and because energy can never be transferred in full. Incidentally, there’s a homeless woman whose baby froze to death as she was holding it in Portland a few days ago. The meme created out of this story uses a photo of a homeless man from a couple of years ago so it’s a fake. The point was that we deal with transferring heat all the time, just don’t think about it much.

Now I can’t use the word “body” when talking about thermodynamics but I don’t see any other choice. So, particles comprising a body might look alike from a science point of view but they might also carry different levels of information. These levels build up as they go from abstract to contingent and so if contingent information is present then it must include its abstract, and if we remove the abstract then the contingent layer would collapse, too.

Comparatively speaking, the hot body has both abstract and contingent levels of detail but a cold body has only abstract. When they come in contact only the contingent information is transferred from the hot body to the cold until both come to the same level of abstraction. At these point both objects have the same information and no further exchanges are possible or even necessary.

In classical physics information can be sent out regardless of whether it’s needed or not – like a light bulb which shines in all directions even when you leave the room. In semantic theory this is not possible and information transfer happens only when some of it is missing AND required. We require only stuff that we don’t have – we can’t require something we already possess, but we don’t require all of what is missing. So information must be missing first and then required as the next logical step. Then information transfer could occur. In case of two bodies in thermodynamics when they reach the same temperature there’s no missing information in either of the systems so transfer stops because of the first rule – information mush be missing.

This is where the books shifts to quantum theory and plugs it with what is missing there. Two quantum systems must be connected, or entangled in QT speak, one of them must have more information than the other, and the other must need that information so that it becomes missing and required. Only when these conditions are satisfied energy/information transfer will take place.

Current quantum theory doesn’t get that. It can’t predict neither when the particles will be emitted nor where exactly they would go. The question of where does not really arise because QT assumes that a particle/wave would fly out and will be absorbed by whatever happens to be in its path. Thermodynamics tells us that it’s all wrong – first two systems must come in contact and once that happens the when, where, and what will be exchanged will become fixed as well and we’ll know everything.

Apparent randomness and unpredictability of quantum behavior is, therefore, caused by us not knowing how two systems become entangled. I don’t think this is accepted as an obvious reason in current quantum theory but the author’s long term goal here is to propose a solution to this problem of random entanglement, which lies in semantic interpretation of karma.

Abbreviating all this we get source S, destination D, and cause C. Unless C brings S and D together they have potential for exchange but it doesn’t happen – probably because without C they are not designated as actual S and D yet, they are just “things”. In thermodynamics C is a choice to put hot and cold bodies together. In quantum theory objects don’t have to be physically close and C has to create a channel between S and D through which information can transfer. Once the channel is established information is transferred immediately. The role of causality in nature, therefore, is establishing and breaking up these channels. The author says that these channels are like roads on which information travels and that they might exist without being attached to any particular pair of source and destination. This last part is a bit unclear but okay, no biggie.

Bringing relativity into a fold, as the chapter intended, the implications of this model for cosmology are huge – light from the stars doesn’t shine in all directions equally and it hasn’t been travelling to us for billions of years. Rather it’s transmitted instantaneously as soon as a channel between the star (S) and us (D) is established. Stars don’t spam the universe with their light but rather send it to those for whom it was intended and assigned by the cause C.

Time involved in this process is spend on absorbing the light, not on its travel. It takes time for us to process the received information and come to a state when it becomes part of our system, but it’s not longer than our lifetime. To us this absorbed information manifests as life experiences. When we finally “see” the light we think it happened just now but, in fact, light has been received earlier and we were just processing it. It’s like the “aha” moment when reading a book – it takes time to process the words and realize it’s important.

The last paragraph sums it all up. As promised, there’s a unification of three fundamental theories of nature but no one theory gets to be a winner. Information transfer must happen when there’s a channel between the source and the destination. and it’s established by a third party and it’s this third agency that is missing from all branches of modern science. There’s also an interesting addition that it’s not our entire body that must receive the information but only the part which is connected to a channel. The same information, therefore, can create different experiences in us depending on how exactly the channels are created what they are connected to. To figure it all out science needs a theory of channel establishment. We have one in Sāṅkhya but it’s not the time to bring it up yet.

Vanity thought #1791. VC – No Unity In Diversity

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Before moving on to the next chapter I want to say a few words about this book and potential “problems” with it. As a rule, it has no supporting quotes for its assertions about Sāṅkhya or Śrīmad Bhāgavatam whatsoever. How can we be sure that this is really what Sāṅkhya says? If we check the content of Śāṅkhya related chapters in the Third Canto we might not even recognize what is presented here. The answer is that it’s not so much the quotes that we need but thorough understanding of principles – principles on which we can already easily agree.

We all know that we change bodies, for example, but how many of us pursue this principle logically to realize that our bodies do not move through space from one end of the room to another, that this motion is only an illusion, and so our models of space which are built on it are an illusion, and that out entire grade school curriculum on geometry or physics is just one big lie. That’s why Śrīla Prabhupāda dismissed Moon travel a full decade before it happened, before coming to America. In Vedic science travel means changing of bodies, you change into a moon body and you are on the Moon. You don’t change into a moon body and you aren’t. Very simple.

How many quotes do we need to realize that? None, we already know everything we need to know, we just don’t think deep enough about it.

Another example – all empirically perceptive sense objects are created to match living beings desires for sensations – they do not exist independently or objectively. None of them. One might object that he remembers nothing like that from chapters on Sāṅkhya but one need not to search that far – Prabhupāda’s Introduction to Bhagavad Gītā is enough:

    When we see wonderful things happening in the cosmic nature, we should know that behind this cosmic manifestation there is a controller. Nothing could be manifested without being controlled. It is childish not to consider the controller. For instance, a child may think that an automobile is quite wonderful to be able to run without a horse or other animal pulling it, but a sane man knows the nature of the automobile’s engineering arrangement.

It’s a simple principle that underwrites the entire creation. Nothing could be manifested without being controlled. Nothing appears on its own. So what if Prabhupāda only mentions Kṛṣṇa as the ultimate controller without describing controllers in between, like Lord Brahmā? This is a simple principle that we all sort of know but don’t really understand so we think that planets, stars, rocks, minerals, oceans etc are “dead” matter and we accept scientific explanations for them that don’t require neither God nor any kind of consciousness to produce. Maybe in their bubble they don’t but all it means is that they don’t know the whole truth about this process, which means they are in illusion and have only slight connection to reality. So are we, but at least we have proper sources of knowledge which we can utilize if we want to understand true nature of things or at least understand how and where science goes off track.

Back to the book. There are three major theories in science – quantum theory for small stuff, thermodynamics for our size stuff, and relativity for universe size stuff. Each of them emerged from classical physics which were linear and deterministic. Quantum mechanics is still linear but non-deterministic, relativity is deterministic but non-linear, and thermodynamics has become neither linear nor deterministic. Interesting classification but if you don’t immediately recall what the difference between linear and non-linear is it kind of loses its effect. I’d volunteer to say that in linear systems output is directly proportional to input but if you want to figure out if that is a sufficient definition and all the implications of major theories branching out this particular way you are on your own.

The point is that there’s no one theory that could describe all phenomena. The author here demonstrates a slant towards quantum theory to be the one science that rules them all. In the previous chapters we’ve seen how interpreting light from stars in the quantum way leads to discarding corner stones of relativity such as constant speed of light and judging distances to the stars by their luminosity. Today it’s thermodynamics way to be defeated by the mighty quanta.

As far as I know, this has already been done and there’s a tentative way to express thermodynamics through the theory of quantum fields but this should be interesting anyway.

First there’s a description of principal differences between classical physics and thermodynamics. In classical physics when two objects collide it’s possible that one of them transfers all its energy to the other, like one billiard ball could hit another and stop itself. This never happens in thermodynamics. If you bring two bodies together, one hot one cold, the hot one will never ever transfer all of its energy to the cold one. They’d rather reach the state of equilibrium where they both become warm. In classical physics two object hit each other with an equal force. The smaller one feels a greater effect than the big one but there’s an effect on both. In thermodynamics cold body doesn’t transfer any energy to the hotter one, it all goes one way – from hot to cold.

The book explains this one sided and never complete energy transfer in the language of Sāṅkhya as it has been formulated in the earlier section of the book – there are abstract objects and adding information to them creates contingent objects with greater level of detail. Are there any quotes for that? Not that I know of but it’s restating familiar Sāṅkhya’s processes about three guṇas producing one element out of the other in a different language, that’s all.

Matter is thus constructed from layers of information. There are layers of abstract information to which details are added to create the next layer. Some particles, which we think bodies are made of, might look the same but if they carry different levels of information they belong to different layers – some to abstract and some to contingent. Since contingent information is produced from abstract then existence of a contingent symbol means there should exist an abstract symbol already. And if you remove the abstract then contingent will collapse, too.

Next comes the actual explanation of heat transfer but I’m afraid it’s too long to start it now. Another day.

Vanity thought #1790. VC – slits for eyes

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

I’ll resume from the chapter I started here and no, there isn’t going to be any racism in this post. It refers to a “slit experiment” where light passes through a screen with vertical slits in it and then creates a pattern of light and dark bands. Depending on the properties of light, ie frequency, and the number of slits this pattern varies. The book compares it to $100 being divided in many ways in various combination of lower denomination notes like $1, $5, $10 etc. This is where I left last time.

The rest of the chapter is about what it all means. Slit experiment is now taken to represent a principle and then this principle is applied to other areas of inquiry. The full description is broken into two parts – the nature of reality and our method of dividing this reality, ie number of slits. The number of slits then represents our choice of knowing and when this choice interacts with reality we get a representation. Our choice – our division of reality – is not physical anymore but semantic, and this is where we should brush up our memory of semantic tree, symbols, and meanings. I covered this extensively many months ago but it’s still hard to summon that knowledge right away. I don’t want to review that now in hope that the usage is not complicated here.

When we are talking about objects on various levels of the universal tree there’s one theme that stays in common – each object has a meaning and each object can be divided into symbols of that meaning. These symbols, in turn, will become objects to be divided at the next stage of creation, but the book discusses this first step here – diving one meaning into many symbols and choices we can make during this process.

When we describe a meaning in our language then words become symbols arranged in a specific order which depends on our chosen “vocabulary”, though I think “language” would be more appropriate here. This is our choice – what language to represent the meaning in, and this is our equivalent of choosing a different number of slits. Thankfully, without going into “grammer”, as it is often misspelled on the internet, the book rather compares it to representing one number in different counting systems. Like 10 in our decimal system is 10, but written in binary, like a computer code, it becomes 1010. That is 1*8+0*4+1*2+0*1 where 1,2,4 and 8 are place values in four digit binary numbers. In hexadecimal 10 is simply A because a normal sequence of digits there 0123456789ABCDEF, with letters replacing our 10,11,12 etc.

Going back to light for a second – if some information is transported by a set of photons then the meaning and value we attach to each arriving photon would depend on our chosen counting system, or on our slits, and so will be the order in which these photons arrive, and when we decode all this we get a description of reality, or it’s representation as was mentioned earlier.

This process is compared to reading a book. The book is a single object, or a single number being transferred, but its meaning is divided into words and sentences which depend on chosen vocabulary and language. If we change the language then the symbols, ie words, will change, too – I guess if the book is translated on the fly. If we change the book then symbols will change, too, and our understanding will be different each time any of this happens. Let’s skip fidelity of translations for now, the author doesn’t consider it anyway. Instead he says that the key point here is that all words will never be observed because there’s fixed reality and chosen vocabulary.

When this principle is applied to cosmology it becomes hugely important in the way scientists are not prepared to consider – our perception of light and dark areas of the sky, ie stars and space between them, depends not so much on their reality but on our way of decoding it. This patterns tells us absolutely nothing about the distance to the stars like the pattern formed on the screen by slits says nothing about distances.

Our problem is that we are looking at it in a classical, not quantum way. If we interpreted our vision quantum mechanically then we’d come to very different conclusions about the nature of the reality. If one area on the canvas of our vision is brighter it means that this particular symbol appears more frequently, like words “passion” and “love” in a romantic book. Talking about physical distances here makes no sense.

When astronomers take pictures of the sky they interpret them according to wave theory of light discussed earlier instead of quantum theory of light. In a wave theory light spreads equally in all directions so less light means either smaller or a more distant star but in quantum model of light it means there’s less chance of photons hitting this particular spot. Now I think I get the difference.

Just like we don’t interpret light and dark bands in slit experiments as related to distances so we should not interpret different luminosity for stars as them being closer or farther away. Darker stars could be explained by them not transmitting enough photons in our direction (reality) or by our particular method of perception that limits probability of these photons reaching compared to other observers (choice of our slits).

What the author ultimately argues here is that if we interpret the same data, same pictures of the sky, according to quantum theory, and if we treat the entire universe as quantum system instead of classical one, then all our notions about the size of the universe and distances within it will become “vacuous”. This brings us back to a point introduced a bit earlier – data underdetermine theory, which means, may I remind, that same information can be interpreted in different equally consistent ways and it’s impossible to tell which of them is better. In the end we’ll get vastly different models of what reality is.

In the last sentence the author takes a dig at relativity and suggests that quantum theory is superiorto it. Maybe, I’m not the one to argue about this. The issues of unification between various existing and widely accepted scientific theories will be discussed in the next chapter.

Vanity thought #1789. Devotion cuts through everything

There’s a story going around the Internet which I have seen two-three times already. Instead of simply sharing it I’d rather retell it in my own words. I might get a few details wrong here and there but talking about pastimes of the Lord and His devotees is incomparably sweeter than simply hitting a share button. There are also no share buttons for wordpress – people are supposed to write their own stuff here and produce original content, and this is another example how reality controls our consciousness, pretty much like physical structure of our temple affected how we organized sankirtana, too, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago.

There was an old woman living in Azerbaijan, one of ex-USSR countries to the northeast from Turkey. She bought Bhagavad Gita somewhere, became Krishna’s devotee, and went to the temple address printed in the book. On that day there was some program specifically for new bhaktas and devotee conducting it told them to wait a little before they start. When he returned he was amazed to see this woman preaching Krishna conscious philosophy to everyone else and she was so enthusiastic about it that he didn’t even think of interrupting her.

Later on she decided to sell her apartment and move into the temple. By modern standards this would be considered crazy and irresponsible and our modern day ISKCON is not equipped to accept this kind of sacrifices, but maybe it was the time of Krishna conscious revolution in Russia or maybe it was okay by the standards of that society. Devotees built a separate room for her so that she would always have a place to stay, a kind of bhajan kutir.

She was a rather eccentric person and didn’t fit in many norms of devotional behavior. After a while people considered her slightly crazy and possibly even a sahajiya. She got Radha Krishna dolls somewhere and she worshiped them as her personal deities and when she talked to others she would often start with “Gopal told me that…” She was tolerated as a local curiosity, though.

Then one day she watched a documentary about an ancient temple of Lord Narasimha somewhere in India. It’s believed to be located on the spot where the Lord appeared and there are ruins of the original column from which He emerged. There’s a self-manifested deity of Narasimha inside a cave but there’s no regular worship because the temple is located deep in the jungle still full of tigers and there’s a point where one has to wade through water up to chest high to get to see the deity.

This lack of care inspired this mataji to go and restore the worship to its rightful glory. Never mind that she was seventy four years old already, even older than Prabhupada. Devotees thought it was a crazy idea and tried to talk her out of it but who can counteract “Gopal told” me arguments?

First they told her that no one knows where the temple is and promised that one devotee she knows who lives in Vrindavana would investigate and get back to her. That devotee also had no idea where this temple is located but just as he was about to reply he saw the documentary maker visiting Krishna Balaram Mandir and he had no choice but to ask. That way he got the exact location and instructions how to get there.

Next hurdle was that mataji didn’t speak English, never been to India, and so she should go to Vrindavana and meet this devotee first. The idea was that wonderfully sweet atmosphere of the Holy Dham would distract her and she wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

So she arrived in New Delhi airport, the devotee met her and told her there were going to Vrindavana for a few days but she was adamant that she should go straight to Lord Narasimha. She demanded that he got her a ticket right away and gave her the address. It was up to him if he’d go along or not, but she was going. Of course he had to follow.

After a flight and a long taxi ride they arrived in the village and found a pujari’s house. He was seventy years old himself and his age was the main reason he could go and do puja only once a week. His son was translating. He explained the problems – the jungle, the tigers, lack of any kind of facilities, and the fact that women are not allowed to do puja. The mataji replied that Krishna wants to restore the worship and she spoke with such conviction and enthusiasm that no translation was necessary. Pujari’s eyes grew twice their size as if he was a blind man seeing the world for the first time. He had no choice but to agree.

Next day he took her to the temple and she saw an old abandoned cottage near cave’s entrance, it was leaning to one side so much that it was impossible to use a door there but mataji exclaimed that this is the accommodation prepared for her and that it’s all she needs. Amazed pujari got inspired to come and do puja daily, too.

Soon everybody from the village came to see this lady and they thought of her as a living saint. She set up all her deities there and people brought food and everything she needed. She became as much a place of pilgrimage as the temple itself. Eventually even the state governor heard of her and went to see for himself what was going on. He was so impressed that he ordered a proper road built there with all the amenities for pilgrims.

In this way the worship of this self-manifest deity was restored through efforts of an old “crazy” woman who couldn’t speak even English, let alone Hindi or the local dialect. She didn’t care about anything but following desires of the Lord and all the insurmountable obstacles on her path fell away in the face of her determination to serve.

She had a plastic chair in her cottage, which was also renovated, and she used this chair as “asana” for her deity of Krishna. She’d put the deity there and do her puja every day. One morning people came to see her as usual and she was standing on her knees in front of the deity, firmly clasping Lord’s feet and there was Bhagavad Gita tucked under her left arm. “Mata, Mata,” they called her but she didn’t respond – she left her body already.

Her name was Pada Sevanam – literally service to the Lord’s feet! Our spiritual names matter, there’s no doubt about that.

Her guru was HG Rohini Suta Prabhu, a famous book distributor from Germany who later got vilified for marrying his own disciple. This stuff simply doesn’t matter. Whichever way you look at it, he either brought this mataji back to Krishna or Krishna chosen him as her guru, but what really matters is that it worked and we shouldn’t listen to “ISKCON gurus are fake” crowd. We are in the safe hands and we all have the potential do amazing service to the Lord if we stopped seeing ourselves as limited by material conditions.

I’ll leave with pictures accompanying the story, I don’t think they are disrespectful at all: