“God’s Humility.” And, “Where to Donate for Good Karma?”


Everyone assembled expressed their agreement with what the King had said. This put Pṛthu’s mind at ease, and he said, “Ah! All of you have given me a great, kind gift! You accept Hari as the ultimate goal of your efforts, the most important guide, and the supreme proprietor. And, you agree with my advice to carefully and reliably dedicate your own worldly responsibilities to his service.”

The great devotees and philosophers replied, “You are our king, of course we will follow your instructions.”

Pṛthu protested. “No. I do not give you ‘orders.’ No ruler should ever exert his power over philosophers who have fixed their consciousness upon glorifying the Supreme, and are thus enriched with a wealth of perfections such as forgiveness, forbearance, and learning.”


Note: Government and management should not extend itself to those who are self-governing and self-managing by dint of their knowledge and good qualities.

“Glorification of the Supreme” — in the opinion of Vyāsa, given in Bhāgavata and Mahābhārata, is to illuminate the supreme by focusing ones consciousness upon him via nāma-saṁkīrtan and bhāgavat-śravan.

The proof of sincere glorification of the supreme is that the glorifier becomes enriced with perfections like forgiveness, forbearance and learning.


The devotees replied, “You are empowered by Hari himself, you can certainly order us.”

Pṛthu refused, “Even Hari, the Original Person, constantly reveres and respects the feet of philosophers. This is why Goddess Lakṣmī constantly stays by his side, and this is why his fame has the power to purify the universe more powerfully than any other force.


Note: The most endearing quality of Hari is his humility. He is extremely respectful to philosophers, even though he is the most powerful ruler and authority in existence. This is the most attractive quality of Hari, and is the main thing that makes Lakṣmī fall in love with him.

It is the most purifying aspect of his fame, because it induces others to follow suit and respect the learned spiritual philosophers – and this respect for the devoted philosopher purifies society.


“He is the hidden root of every being, and is completely self-sufficient, but still he is enamored by the learned philosophers and constantly serves them by satiating their needs. Like Lakṣmī, I too greatly admire Hari’s natural humility, and want to emulate it, so I consider myself a servant of the learned, in every way.

Note: “If Hari and Lakṣmī are so enamored with philosophers and so attentive to their needs, why are they always so impoverished?”

Hari and Lakṣmī’s service to the brāhmaṇa/philosopher is not to give them things desired by those who have no philosophical depth – money, power, and so on. Rather, they serve the philosophers by “tuṣyati kāmam” – by satiating their needs, quelling their desires, removing their hunger for money and power, by giving them the desired end result (happiness) without the need for these complicated and entangling intermediaries (money, power, etc.)


“Anyone who stays in regular contact with philosophers, serving them humbly, will also soon find their own needs and desires satiated, and their consciousness filled with its own natural, peaceful satisfaction. There is no better way to perform sacrifice than to serve the philosophers.

“Do not use a fire-altar for sacrifices. Use the mouths of the philosophers. A fire has no life, what is the point of feeding it? Feed the mouths of philosophers who are experts in the subject of reality. The Limitless Supreme is far more satisfied by such sacrifice, because he is always concerned for the most civilized philosophers.

Note: This is the most practical advice! Philosophers do not have the instincts and time to earn money. Thus their families are needy, and this becomes a terrible distraction to the philosopher. Therefore everyone should give their energy to feeding the philosophers. We must supply the dedicated philosopher with adequate shelter, clothing, food, and income – then society can progress, because philosophy can flourish. A society is only as good as the quality of its morals, and without sound philosophy that quality is not at all likely to be very high. Therefore donations to the educators and students on spiritual philosophy is the primary moral duty of every non-philosopher.

Unfortunately, this has been forgotten these days, and people prefer to give their money to building buildings, theme parks, hotels, and so on. Better to take care of the family of a person who can be a dedicated philosopher/brahmana. 

“Philosophers preserve the spiritual knowledge of the Veda, which is eternal, brilliant, ever-relevant. They realize this knowledge by the auspicious qualities of devotion, forbearance, silence, self-control and extreme concentration. These qualities make the philosophical mind into a mirror, upon which the true import of philosophy manifests clearly, for all to see.

“Oh honorable people,” Pṛthu concluded, “For as long as I live, I will always carry upon my crown the pollen-dust from the lotus-feet of philosophers. This will quickly destroy all my misdeeds and make me fully qualified to truly love Hari. When someone acquires such qualifications – having treasured manners, always feeling grateful, and always learning from superiors – he certainly achieves every goal conceivable, as a consequence.

“May I become satisfying to the philosophers, to the cows, and to the People’s Ultimate Refuge and his devotees.”

Note: How do cows come into this?

The cow is the greatest wealth. With cows alone, humanity can produce everything they need. So cows are the most essential animal for providing the basic necessities that philosophers and everyone require.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at VrajaKishor.com



Am I Against Intoxication?


I am not “against intoxication.” I just haven’t had been drunk or high for many, many years, and have lived the majority of my life that way. It’s not because I am “against it.” It’s because I practice yogic mantra-meditation and rarely have much, if any, interest in drinking or getting high. When the opportunities for intoxication arise I simply find that I don’t have a hunger for what it offers, or that I have better ways of accomplishing the same effects.

I’m not “against” it. I just don’t need it.

I think alcohol is a useful, practical social thing. Alcohol and drugs are also a part of Vedic culture. Soma, for example, is an intoxicant, and is practically the most essential ingredient in Vedic ritual. Pot, aka Cannabis Indica is (as the “Indica” part indicates) a native and deeply rooted part of Indin cultures for centuries, if not millenia. In fact, the vast majority of really traditional Indian culture considers alcohol a dangerous drug, but employs cannabis as the safe and socially acceptable drug.

I don’t recommend or promote drug use, but that doesn’t mean I am “against” it.

If someone wants to be a serious yogi (including bhakti-yoga) and advance in their meditation (including nāma-japa), I would unequivocally recommend that they abstain from significant drugs like alcohol, cannabis, and so on, because the goal of yoga is to gain full control of one’s mental powers, and drugs actually work against that (though in some ways they present an illusory facade of doing otherwise) because drugs free our mental powers from our intellectual control – the opposite of what yoga works towards.

But it’s hardly realistic to expect everyone to seriously practice yogic meditation (even many of the people who have some degree of sincere initial interest in yogic meditation) so I don’t see the point of preaching to such people that it’s extremely important that they immediately stop using social drugs like alcohol and cannabis in normal social contexts and to normal social extents.

Even when I was younger and was a “straightedge hardcore kid” the militant stuff like “bring back prohibition” and “I’ll kill you for blowing smoke in my face” just made me embarrassed or amused (respectively).

I acknowledge that there is definitely such a thing as “substance abuse.” People get carried away with a lot of things, including intoxication. It’s the “getting carried away” part that seems to be the essence of the problem. Drugs do seem to be dangerously prone to “getting carried away with” – and/or they seem to have more dramatic impact when we do get carried away with them, so I certainly respect and applaud anyone – yogi or not – who abstains from intoxication for whatever reason. But that’s hardly the same as saying I’m “against it.”

Manu puts it nicely in Manu-saṁhitā (5.56). “There is no evil in eating flesh, getting intoxicated, and having sex, for these are natural behaviors of embodied beings. There is no evil in these things, but abstaining from them is a great virtue.”

The Body Comes from the Soul


This is Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.21.34 & 35…

Some of the scholars in the assembly seemed unconvinced that conventional duties could grant transcendental results. After all, such things were material but transcendental results are spiritual. “Spiritual” and “material” are certainly like day and night, they thought.

Seeing the look of confusion on their faces, Pṛthu explained that this dichotomy between material and spiritual is not very valid or deep. After all, everything is directly connected to the Supreme Transcendental Godhead. “Yes, he is beyond the limitations of this world,” Pṛthu said, “but all the countless limited things of this world are in him, too. All the different materials we use, all the qualities and talents we have, all the deeds we perform, and all the words and songs we say and sing… all of them exist within him. The names and forms of all of them attain their true spiritual significance when they are dedicated to serving him, who is the intrinsic form of concentrated, completely pure and distinct consciousness.

“This material body is produced by consciousness interacting with several things: the external reality, time, emotions, and the inherent principles of things. So, ultimately, the material body is a product of consciousness, spirit. It is therefore capable of achieving the greatest spiritual results – just as wood is capable of producing fire.

“Different types of wood produce different types of flame, similarly different endeavors with the material body can produce different results, even on the spiritual plane.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto

By Vraja Kishor

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at VrajaKishor.com

Onions, Initiations, & Fingers


Q: What’s the real reason for abstaining from onion, & garlic? I know that some sampradayas avoid from eating carrot too. Is it because they’re all roots of plants. We eat potatoes, but potatoes came to India later on, and maybe that’s why there is no rule about them?

It is an interesting theory, but then what about root vegetables that are a part of old Vedic tradition, like ginger, for example?

The onion/garlic thing is definitely mystifying, but I made a post about two years ago attempting to demystify it: Garlic Stinks?

Q: What’s the importance of initiation?

Initiation is a translation for the word dīkṣā. That word, dīkṣā, has two branches of meaning – one is “formal ceremony” and the other is “dedication of the self.” Śrī Jīva Goswāmī actually says that the best fullest meaning of dīkṣā is “the process of transmitting spiritual knowledge.”

The formal ceremony has its importance and shouldn’t be scoffed at or made light of. But in comparison the self-dedication to gaining spiritual knowledge (which is in fact the essence of the formal ceremony, as well) is the really important aspect of dīkṣā, or “initiation.”

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand “the importance of initiation.”

Q: One of the swāmīs I met told me that it’s impossible to get liberation without being initiated. Why is that, exactly?

Well, it should be clear why it is impossible to attain enlightenment without dedicating yourself to gaining spiritual knowledge (dīkṣā). But it is a dishonest mixing of word-meanings (probably unintentionally) to say that it is impossible to gain enlightenment without a formal ceremony (dīkṣā).

Q: What if, after some time, your ways become seperated from the guru, but you don’t break any of the basic 4 regulative principles? Will that initiation and your new spiritual name be still valid?

No, the bar-code validation on that initiation rubber stamp will have expired and require forms submitted in triplicate to the board of inquiry at Yamarāja’s district court.


But joking to make a point that this “valid” concept is pretty weird.

The guru is the guide for your spiritual development. If you are moving away from one guru you are moving towards another – be it a traditional guru or not, be it human or not, be it another person or be it the voice in your own head/heart. Whatever guidance you are getting plays a huge role in determining where you will wind up, and how you will get there.

I think you would benefit by having a deeper concept of what “guru” is all about. I very recently made this video on the subject:

Q: Why do we put our index finger out of the bead bag while chanting?

Well, one thing is that a finger sticking out helps hold the bag on our hands. But besides that…

Different fingers represent different emotions and attitudes. The thumb expresses appreciation, admiration, and love (“thumbs up” then is probably no coincidence). The pointer/index finger represents ego and authority (we use it to tell people where to go, what to do, etc). The middle finger represents detachment (“Middle finger” = “I really don’t give a damn”). The fourth/ring finger represents morality (maybe its not a coincidence that its the place symbolic of our greatest conventional moral commitment – marriage). The fifth / pinky finger represents culture and refinement (Pinky in the air when you drink your tea).

We keep the pointer finger off the beads in as a mudra for keeping ego and prestige out of our spiritual practices.

We always chant with the thumb (love), and we usually use the middle finger to counterbalance, the finger of detachment. “Love for Krishna, detachment from ego.” vairāgya-yug bhakti. 

But I’ve heard that Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (or a similarly authentic book) says that chanting on the fourth/ring finger is even more productive.

–  Vraja Kishor das
please see my books and more at

Without Pretense, and as Best You Can…


“All of you should certainly make his devotional service your true career; devote your actions to him, using all the talents of your thoughts, words and body. If you do this without pretense and as best you can, then his desire-fulfilling lotus-feet will become the source of perfecting your every want and need.”

Spoken by Emperor Pṛthu
to his citizens.
Per Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 4.21.33

Translated by Vraja Kishor
for Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive

Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at VrajaKishor.com

Guru Tattva De-Mystified

A simple śāstric presentation demystifying this big mystery. The basic notes for the presentation are:

1. “Guru”

“guru” simply means “significant” or “heavy” – its the important person. Its the person with a lot of weight.

Dance-guru, music-guru, archery-guru, cooking-guru, grammar-guru, sanskrit-guru…

2. Bhakti-guru

The person from whom we can learn/get bhakti.

The tattva of guru: Guru is Krishna’s merciful effort to rescue jīvas who want to turn towards him.

[See CC 1.1.45, ŚB 11.29.6, Gītā 10.10]

Guru is Krishna, or more exactly Krishna’s energy, working though channels that can reach us in our conditioned state.

Guru is Krishna’s energy working though other people and other things.

[See CC 1.1.44, Guruvaṣṭaka 7]

The energy is Krishna-bhakti.

The channel it comes throguh is is primarily people who carry some significant quantity of krishna-bhakti.

The bigger the quantity the more powerful the guru can be.

This energy flows to us through many channels, not just one.

[See, “vande-ham…,” CC 1.1.1]
3. Guru-disciple relationship

[See Gita 4.34]

Disciple’s part:

(1) Seva = by “service” – what service? cutting wood giving donations? Yes, but mainly…

(2) pranipat = be willing to sit near guru and learn

(3) pariprasna = by asking thorough questions

[See Bhag 11.3.21]

Describes the disciple’s role in the same way as Gita 4.34..

prapadye = pranipat
jijnasu = pariprasna

Misconception: Guru is top-level management

Misconception: Guru gives and we just receive. Guru is active, we are passive.

Misconception: Don’t ask difficult questions

The disciple’s effort to understand the Guru’s teaching and example is the most important part of the guru-disciple relationship. This is why exalted Gurus can have unsuccessful disciples.

Trying to learn without asking questions is like trying to eat without chewing.
4. Types of Guru

Inspirations (pradarśak)
Lineage (dīkṣa)
Instruction (śikṣa)

As is obvious from the Gita and Bhagavata’s definition of Guru, the instructor is the most important type of Guru.
5. Qualification of Guru
Qualification of Guru is important, because the main activity of the disciple is to ask questions, so the guru has to be qualified to answer the questions, (a) accurately, and (b) in a way that the individual disciple can actually understand and connect with.

Gita: tad-vidhi… tattva-darśana
Bhāg: sabde pare ca nisnatam, brahmany upasamasrayam


BRS 1.2.17~19:

śāstre yuktau ca nipuṇaḥ
sarvathā dṛḍha-niścayaḥ
prauḍha-śraddho ‘dhikārī yaḥ
sa bhaktāv uttamo mataḥ

yaH shAstrAhi Svani puNaH shraddhAvan sa tu madhyamaH

yo bhavet komala shraddhaH sa kaniSTho nigadyate

All three are adhikārī (qualified) but for śikṣa-guru, uttama-adhikārī is the best, obviously.

[Not confused with “Uttama Bhagavata”]

Human Antiquity, Anti-evolution, Didn’t go to the Moon, etc. etc.


Q: What do you think about extreme human antiquity, anti-evolution campaign, ideas like “we didn’t go to the Moon”, “Sun travels around the Earth”, “humans were ten times taller before Kali-Yuga” etc.? Should people see these ideas as a part of Vaisnavism?

These are ideas of people who are trying to be Vaiṣṇavas and trying to fit the Vaiṣṇava world-concept within the modern world-concept – but I don’t think they have really read the śāstra carefully from all angles.

In my study of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam cantos 2 and 3 it became very clear to me that the Bhāgavatam is quite compatible with most aspects of modern theories. For example, Bhāgavatam describes an enormous period of time when the universe is void of manifest living beings, and the primordial atomic building blocks are simply evolving on their own. Consciousness does not develop tangibly in the universe until all these elements have evolved fully, and even then it manifests in a very abstract form. Bhāgavatam also describes a sequence of design by Brahmā which is similar to evolutionary stages (plants first, then various types of animals, then humans, then superhumans)

As far as history goes, the calculation of the actual duration of yugas is uncertain. The Bhāgavatam describes an astronomical yuga as well as a historical yuga. The astronomical yuga is 360 times longer than the historical yuga. This may be another cause of confusion when trying to bring the Bhagavatam’s version of history into some basic parallel with our modern theories.

The “we didn’t go to the moon” campaign is based on something Śrīla Prabhupāda said – and he said a few different things at different times on the topic. It’s not a topic I would waste my time with. It easily and quickly becomes “prajalpa.” For me it boils down to this: we went to “the moon” but we obviously didn’t go to candra-loka (the abode of the Moon god) – so my conclusion is that “the moon” is not identical in every way to candra-loka. In other words the lokas are not literally “planets” in our 3-dimensional universe. They are locations and exist on various planes of reality, not at various spatial coordinates in this 3-dimensional reality.

The idea that “the sun travels around the earth” is perfectly true, because such statements are made in the context of how to calculate time, and are made from the viewpoint of an observer on earth. Because motion is always relative, it can be described differently depending on the viewpoint of the observer. We stand on the earth. From that viewpoint everything appears to move around us. If we abstract our viewpoint to the Sun, everything appears to travel around it. If we abstract our viewpoint to the center of the galaxy, everything appears to travel around it. Etc. etc.

“Human’s were ten times taller previous to kali-yuga” – Maybe so. They were supposed to be much taller, healthier, live much longer, etc. The entire environment was different. We are currently in an unusual kali-yuga, however, 1 out of 1,000 – because of the advent of Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu – so not all the effects of a normal kali yuga are already felt. Also, if we take the astronomical length of the yuga, we have not even really begun the yuga itself, but are still transitioning into it (it has a 43,200 year intro and outro transition).

All these ideas are not exactly part of Vaiṣṇavism, but they are part of the Vedic Culture that supports Vaiṣṇavism.

Q: What is the real Vedic view on the Earth? Everybody is saying different things about it. Is it flat or round?

As above, movement and everything observational is always relative. If you stand on the ground, the Earth, it appears flat. But if you abstract yourself from the ground and go up some distance into the sky (or look very far off at a distant horizon) you can see that it has curvature and is round. Every observation is relative, subjective – and the truth of the observation is only relative to the observers point of view.

Q: In Srimad Bhagavatam, Vyasadeva says that he wrote Mahabharata for women and sudras, because they were unable to understand the Vedas. What does that mean? I remember, you had said that there’s no sexism in the Vedic scriptures themselves, and because of it, even it looks like sexism to me, I thought maybe there’s another reason for Vyasadeva to talk like this which I can’t see. Maybe the women of that era were not so good at academic (or “high”, I don’t know) Sanskrit or something like that. I want to know the exact reason of this.

In this age, a high level of Vedic scholarship is practically impossible. So Vyāsa wanted to write books that would help people who were not scholars – like housewives, businessmen, and laborers… people who have little practical time for extended studies.

It is not demeaning of women as a group (nor towards businessmen or laborers). It is simply that modern people have no time to devotee to the kind of study required to be a Vedic scholar.

There were, and perhaps are, some exceptional men and women who could accomplish a Vedic level of scholarship but by and large in the current epoch, it’s impossible – so Vyāsa wanted to write some books specifically designed for us.

Q: Again, in Srimad Bhagavatam, there are some verses about animal sacrifice (especially horse). In Caitanya Caritamrita, Lord Caitanya says that before Kali-Yuga, Vedic animal sacrifices were not for killing animals, but for giving new bodies to the souls of sick and old ones. If that’s the case, then why in Srimad Bhagavatam Yuddhistira Maharaja becomes so sad after horse sacrifice? He says “We killed these animals for nothing.” or something like that and feels very sorry.

It’s not exactly as you depict it. You are saying (a) the sacrifice doesn’t harm the animal, and (b) Yudhiṣṭhira felt sorry for doing them. But the truth is closer to this (a) the sacrifice brings the animal back to life after killing it, and (b) Yudhiṣṭhira didn’t want to do more such sacrifices. Yuddhiṣṭhira feels sorry for killing so many people in the Kurukṣetra War – and says, “Don’t tell me to do another horse-sacrifice, how can more killing atone for the killing I’ve already done?”

Vraja Kishor

Krishna & Sexism


Another big topic in Enquirer #5 was sexism, featured in an article blatantly titled, “Krishna and Sexism.” The article started out by defining sexism as the evaluation of a person’s worth primarily on the basis of their type of body, male or female. Thus, the ultimate root of sexism is a bodily concept of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, most modern equality movements inadvertently accept the bodily concept of self, and thus nourish the root of sexism, by identifying strongly with gender, “I am woman.”

Then I tackled the complaint, “But wait, you’re a Hare Krishna… you guys are totally sexist.” I claimed not to know where the sexist things associated with Hare Krishna came from, but said confidently that they are not a part of it’s true, core philosophy. As an example I quoted Krishna directly, who says in Bhagavad Gītā (5.18), “A wise person sees everyone equally.” Not only is Krishna consciousness not sexist, I argued, it is the ultimate cure for sexism because it provides a way to realize oneself and others as conscious beings, not just as bodies.

Who I was trying to convince more, the readers or myself? I’m not sure.

Or maybe I was trying to convince the Hare Krishna’s? Trying to remind them what Krishna consciousness really should be?

God knows I saw plenty of sexism around me every day in the temples, ingrained into the fabric of how the whole International Society operated. God knows I wished devotees would pay a lot more attention to the stuff I brought up in this article, stuff like Bhagavat Gītā 5.18 and the ramifications of “I am not this body.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence:

A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

And Then Came the Vegans…


So there we were, master conductors orchestrating our spiritual revolution through music – “taking straightedge to the next level of purity” – when, suddenly, something unexpected happened. One day we were busy preaching vegetarianism to the straightedge kids. Then the next day we were busy defending against the straightedge kids preaching veganism to us.

It seems straightedge leapfrogged over our heads in a militant stride to an even higher level of purity.

Enter the “Hardline Vegans.”

Our reaction to it frustrated me. If we actually cared about animal rights, why would we get defensive when someone comes along even more into animal rights than us? We weren’t so much into animal rights, it turns out, as we were into being the holiest dudes this side of CBGBs. So when some holier dudes came along who were even more “cruelty free” than us… instead of applauding or supporting them, we tried to shoot them down.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely our fault. For the most part they were a bunch of asswipes even more “holier than thou” than we were.

I wanted a more reasonable reaction to Veganism so, in Enquirer #5 I wrote an article entitled “Mother Cow, Father Bull – Honor Thy Parents.” In it I explained how organic, sustainable agriculture relied on the help of the Bull and Cow. The idea was that a sustainable cruelty free solution wouldn’t exclude animals entirely, but would include them in a respected and protected role.

The article featured “Arguments from the Hard Line” with my replies.

Argument: “It’s cruel to make bulls work.”

My reply: They like it. If you don’t believe me go check out the bulls in India and on Hare Krishna farms. And, agriculture without animal- or machine-power isn’t a large-scale solution because it doesn’t yield enough produce to support a large population or a vegetarian diet.

Argument: “Milk is not for humans.”

My reply: Says who? Scientists? Bah, they change their tune every week. Vedic culture has venerated the effect of milk on human health for centuries, but they do drink a different sort of milk than we have these days, and they drink it under different dietary and living situations that what we have.

Argument: “Milk is for the calves, not you.”

My reply: Apples are for the seeds – not you. This is the wrong way to look at nature. Nature is symbiotic, species are interdependent.

Argument: “Milk from protected cows is ok, but most milk involves cruelty.”

My reply: I agree, but its nothing to get so “hardline” and intense about. Everything involves cruelty. Hardline bands buy bean burritos from Taco Bell. Or we buy broccoli from a grocery store that sells meat. It’s impossible to avoid cruelty entirely, and we should each do the best we can without becoming ridiculously self-righteous about it. We propose that “the best we can” is not just a really zealous and strict boycott, it’s a practical demonstration of a positive alternative: natural, sustainable agriculture like that based on the cow and bull.

Hardliners didn’t disappear after the article, but at least we did have a sensible logical, and not-totally-combative reply from now on. Over the next few years more devotees actually crossed over to the dark side and adopted veganism. I eventually wound up writing a booklet supporting them, without demeaning those who did not adopt veganism – “The Vegan and the Vedas.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence:

A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

The Krishna-Core Explosion – and How I Got Kicked Out of Shelter


Shelter toured so frequently and played so constantly that Hare Krishna’s had become as common as stage dives at hardcore shows, especially in the North East. But besides taking the temple to the kids, we were taking kids to the temple.

In downtown Philly, a devotee named Hariyāśva had a vegetarian restaurant named Govinda’s. It was on the ground floor of a muti-story building, the fourth floor of which served as a temple room for kīrtan and Krishna conscious gatherings. Hariyāśva was happy to give us that space up there on Wednesday nights, where we would cook multi-course vegetarian feasts in it’s apartment-sized kitchen for a few dozen hardcore kids who would pack in wall-to-wall week after week for months. The similarities between traditional khol-karatāla kīrtan and the familiar hardcore mosh pit became evident on those sweaty and blissful Wednesday nights. Older but eternally jovial, Hariyāśva himself would often join us and gracefully leap around the kīrtan with a huge, effulgent smile, reminding me of a prancing black horse and erasing the border between “hardcore kid” and “non-hardcore kid.” So many people were jumping up and down in that small fourth-story room that the floor literally began to act like a trampoline, and the pictures and mūrti figures of Krishna started falling off the shelves!

Outside the city, the temple on Allen’s lane was also bustling with an influx of new full-time residents moving in from all parts of the country, eager to become a part of the Krishna Consciousness movement swirling thrillingly like a new hurricane around Shelter and, especially, Ray. Antonio Valladerez, Norman Brannon, Glen Karma, Dan Davis… these were just a few of the names bringing new life into a temple that had been practically deserted just a month or two before.

But things weren’t easy between me and Ray, and the tension between us became clear by the refreshing fragrance of its sudden absence when he went to spend several weeks in Vṛndāvana India. Obviously, Ray was the kingpin of all this spiritual revolution, the central hinge – the main reason all of this Krishna conscious stuff was happening at all. Maybe I was jealous of that, wishing I was #1 instead of #2? Maybe it was just the artistic tension that arose from my definite dislike and incompatibility with the musical direction Ray had steered Shelter towards? Maybe it was simply a personality clash – him being a classic extrovert and me a classic introvert?

I guess it was all of these, and probably more. Nonetheless, he and I always shared, and I think always will share, a deep and very real love for one another; a mutual admiration, respect, and, perhaps most importantly, a mutual willingness to forgive one another. He and I were becoming brothers not just because we soon became students of the same guru; we were brothers in a much more common sense: we fought all the time – but we loved each other.

Brotherhood aside, the tension was becoming too much. If Ray said left, I said right. And if I said left, he’d say right. In my eyes, he seemed so extroverted and superficial about sharing Krishna consciousness, as if our ultimate goal was to make the whole world move into a temple, shave up, wear robes, and eat a lot of burfi sweets. In his eyes I probably seemed like the incurable, stubborn pessimist, an ideologically elitist wannabe-bookworm, a self-made know-it-all. Truth is, both of us were ridiculously young and flawed, spiritually even more than physically – it’s no wonder both of our strong-willed ego’s couldn’t fit in the same band and live in the same building.

One day, a little bit after Ray returned from India with the name Raghunātha (something else to be jealous of), Bhakta Tony came into to the bunk-bed room and called me across the hall into the Equal Vision Records office. “Guṇagrahi Swāmī is on the phone. He wants to talk to you.”

Everyone just happened to be there, even a cool devotee from the Cro-Mags scene, named Kaustubha.

I picked up the phone, confused why all eyes were on me.

“I had a dream,” the Swāmī said.

A dream?

“In my dream,” he continued, “There were two Krishna conscious hardcore bands.”

Oh, now everything made sense! I was getting kicked out of Shelter.

“Why don’t you come down to D.C.,” he concluded “and start a second band?”

It seems like Ray and the devotees made an effort to be gentle about kicking me out – but it wasn’t really necessary at all. I didn’t need a swami’s dream to sell me on the idea of getting out of Shelter and doing my own thing!

Back in my room, I took out my guitar, sat on the floor, and in all of fifteen minutes wrote Holyname – the first song for the first album of my new band.

Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

by Vraja Kishor