Monday, December 13, 2010

Exploring the Origins of Life

The paradigm of the Vedic culture presented in the Bhagavad-Gita sheds a lot of new and interesting light on the question of the nature of time and of our history, and this week we explored the extraordinary and compelling cosmology of the universe that the Gita sets forth. We are accustomed to a linear view of our time and our history here, as taught and supposed to us through the Western cultural paradigm, but the cosmology of the Gita offers something different. We discussed the cyclical nature of time, of periods of history known as yugas which constantly repeat over and over again, and we discussed how the science of the Vedas predates and hold true many of the great “discoveries” of our modern times, such as the theory of relativity, the health benefits of yoga and meditation, and the multiple universe theories of quantum physics. Ultimately the Gita calls for us to transcend these material cosmological elements to understand the nature of spiritual reality, but in our discussion we came away with a lot of thought-provoking ideas that showed us that what we know to be time and space and our own history could be much more than what we have been told or taught before.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding Gratitude

"An aspect of Thanksgiving I’ve always had trouble with is the part about giving thanks. I’m not against gratitude, but things to be grateful for just don’t naturally spring to mind."
This was the opening quote of a NY Times article that we read for our final Reflections of the Fall semester. It's not always easy to be grateful, but, as we discussed, it's a skill worth developing. We have to work at it throughout our lives, learning how to perceive each circumstance and situation in life through a certain lens that enables us to experience a greater joy and satisfaction that we might have otherwise missed out on with the wrong outlook.
For the full article, click on the link below:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Morning meditation

Congratulations to our early morning, late-in-the semester, meditation warriors! Today was our last morning meditation of the semester. With tens of thousands of thoughts rushing through our mind each day, how often do we take the time to pause, sit still, and observe our own consciousness? If you weren't able to make it today, don't worry. We'll start again next semester.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

South Indian Lemon Rice

South Indian Lemon Rice
Category Main course accompaniment
Region Southern India
Served Hot, accompanied with curry or vegetables
Serves 3
Cooking Time 25 minutes

This is a highly aromatic rice preparation with a distinct lemony flavor. Lemon rice is easy to whip up when you are short on time.

1 1/2 cups of rice (the Indian variety, like basmati)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or as per taste)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
A pinch of asafetida
2 dried red chili peppers
1 tablespoon urad dal (split black gram)
1 tablespoon chana dal (split gram)
1/2 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seeds
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
12 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon haldi (turmeric) powder
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated coconut (optional)

- Clean and soak the rice for about thirty minutes. Drain the water and boil the rice in salted water (3 pinches of salt) until almost done. Rice gets cooked in its own steam when left covered. So it is best to leave it slightly uncooked. Drain and keep aside.

- Heat some oil in a nonstick pan and throw in the asafetida. Break the red chili peppers into large pieces and toss them in the pan along with the urad dal, chana dal, and methi seeds. Fry for about thirty seconds till the lentils turn light brown.

- Toss in the peanuts and mustard seeds. When you hear the mustard seeds crackle, throw in the curry leaves and stir in the turmeric powder. Stir-fry for another thirty seconds. Now you can add the cooked rice. Toss the rice in the pan so that the spices mix evenly in the rice. Ensure that the rice is evenly yellow. Now add salt and lemon juice and toss the rice again. As a finishing touch, garnish with grated coconut.

Monday, November 15, 2010


“Deep down, beneath all our insecurities, beneath all our hopes for and beliefs in equality, each of us believes we're better than anyone else. Because it's our beliefs that are right, our doubts that are allowable ones, our fears which are legitimate” - Audrey Beth Stein

Do you believe the above statement?
What's your take on the meaning of equality? It's in our constitution, but do we see it applied in the practical situations of our daily social and economic lives? Do we demonstrate in our own lives the principle of equality towards others? Is it a practical way to live, considering all of our obvious differences? On what level are we actually equal? These were a few of the intriguing questions tossed around during our most recent Reflections, as we ventured to find the thread that ties all of us together as living beings.

“The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.” -Emma Goldmas

Special speaker

Check out the website below to see and hear about the guest speaker we had at out Tuesday cooking classes. It wasn't about cooking, but it did provide food for the , explaining how by diving deeper into the river of life and discovering our inner essence, we can unearth the happiness, fulfillment, and compassion that is inherent to each of us.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Death and Dying

Depending on how you look at it, death can be a somber topic that puts everyone in an unpleasant mood, or it can be an opportunity to ponder the mysterious gift of life. A few interesting questions asked at our last Reflections were "Does life continue after the time of death?", "How can the thought of death increase the quality of our life?", and "Am I living a life that I find meaningful and satisfying?" Below are a few quotes that we looked at during our discussion.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
-Mark Twain

“... almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
- Steve Jobs

“Today my soul spoke to my temporary self and said, ‘death removes everything that is false; death reveals to us our true friends; death exposes our true priorities; death brings forth wisdom; death educates us on our fears and weaknesses; but, most importantly, death reminds us that these material bodies and material universes are not our homes….”
-B.T. Swami – “Die Before Dying”

Living in the Matrix

All the great spiritual traditions of the world have something to say about the nature of reality, and the possibility of illusion. Popular examples such as the film The Matrix have brought to our attention the idea that the world around us may not be what it seems. Indeed, it may not be at all. In last week's discussion we read a series of verses from the Gita which told us two things: that our material realm is a temporary place, and that there is another deeper realm, a spiritual realm, where we exist beyond the miseries of the reality we know know.

Why miserable? After all we don't want our spiritual path to make us gloomy, but we discussed that we all experience a certain sense of uncertainty in our lives, sometimes feeling even in the midst of our happiest times that something undesirable is lurking around the corner. We all want a happiness and security and a sense of self-knowledge that is enduring, and the Gita explains that this is the natural condition of our soul, beyond our temporary bodily state. While many descriptions of the spiritual reality where we can find this real happiness and life seem quite ethereal, we discussed that the teachings of the bhakti tradition laid out in the Gita for us help to access this spiritual reality through the nature of selfless love and relationships. By giving ourselves to others in a mood of compassion and brotherhood/sisterhood, we can begin to experience within ourselves, the spiritual realm the Gita speaks to us about, and we can find the lasting well-being beyond the flickering waves of this material reality.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


What is depression? What's the difference between being depressed and just having a bad day, or a couple bad days, or a bad year? Some interesting ideas thrown out at our last Relfections discussion was that depression results from a deep feeling of being disconnected from your surroundings, your peers, and ultimately yourself. Having a deep sense of purpose and an active spiritual practice of meditation can help prevent bouts of depression, and maybe even bring positive happiness and fulfillment into your life, beyond just making ends meet and somehow getting by.

Veggie meat balls

Feel free to replace your canned tuna with our veggie meat balls to make an all-time classic sandwich. Here's our recipe below.

A variety of vegetables can be used for this recipe, including
potatoes, zucchinis, or carrots. This particular one calls for cabbage.

1 head green cabbage
3-4 cups gram besan flour
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon asafetida powder
1 ½ teaspoon tumeric powder
1 ½ teaspoon paprika powder
oil for frying
1 bunch fresh cilantro/parsley, chopped (for garnish)

1. Shred the cabbage finely and place in a bowl.
2. Sprinkle the spices in the bowl with the cabbage and begin slowly
adding the besan flour, about ½ cup to a cup at a time. Pour with
one hand while mixing with the other. When you're able to roll the
mixture into sustainable balls that don't collapse, stop adding flour
and roll the mixture into about 30-40 small balls (just a little
smaller than a golf ball)
3. Heat the oil in a pot. When hot, begin adding the kofta balls, one at
a time. Depending on the size of your pot, you can fry different
amounts of kofta at a time. Fry for a couple minutes until the kofta
turns a dark golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon. Garnish with
freshly cilantro/parsley
4. Smother in your favorite tomato sauce and couch the "meat"balls
inside a roll of fresh-baked bread, remember to smile, and

Taking control

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that our senses can draw us, even if we are striving to control some of their negative influences upon us, into situations that we don't want to go into, to say words we don't want to say, and to hurt feelings we don't want to hurt. Sense control is not something we ever think about too often, but our discussion helped us all to find a common bond and understanding, from the wisdom of the Gita, as to why a little restraint and understanding about the sensual forces in our life can help us to find a deeper spiritual understanding. Letting our sensual desires get out-of-control can throw us into a downward spiral that leads to anger, bewilderment, and the kind of illusions that prevent us from finding consistence and contentment in our spiritual lives.

Of course, living in our go-go-gadget world means that this is easier said than done. This past week, we discussed the importance of the wisdom of sense control that the Gita teaches us, and how we can take a step back, through the vision of ourselves as spirit soul, and see the forces that are working upon us. Practices like mantra meditation can help us to steady our mind and deepen our perspective so that we can push back and remain strong against the urges of our tongues, bellies, etc that throw us off and make us feel miserable, despite whatever temporary pleasure might be there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Morning meditations

“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.”

Indeed, to control the restless mind is no easy task, but at 7am, what else do you have going on? (other than sleep)

Bart sells his soul

For our evening Reflections this week, we took our cue from America's favorite family, The Simpsons. When Bart decided to sell his soul to his friend Millhouse, a spiral of philosophical and spiritual questions arise as, suddenly, he begins to receive attitude from his pets, becomes unable to laugh or appreciate humor, and even gets rejected by the automatic opening doors at the Kwiki-Mart. Obsessed to retrieve his soul, Bart finds himself praying to a God he was never quite sure existed and eventually, by the grace of his sister Lisa, is able to repurchase his soul from the local comic-book store owner (to whom Millhouse traded Bart's soul for a collection of Alf pogs). Humorous and thought-provoking, we were left to wonder and discuss "what is the soul?" "Does it even matter?" Regardless of belief, we could all agree that there is definitely a deeper aspect to our existence as individuals. To seek out, understand, and experience that deeper aspect can be our greatest source of happiness and fulfillment in life, whatever cultural or religious background a person may be from. As C.S. Lewis put it, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

Methi Parathas

Methi/fenugreek Parathas
Ingredients: (makes 4 medium size parathas)
1. 1 cup wheat flour
2. 1/4th cup dry/fresh/fresh frozen methi (washed and patted dry)
3. 1 tablespoon oil (canola/peanut/olive oil)
4. ½ cup yogurt
5. ¼ teaspoon asafetida
6. 1 teaspoon chili powder
7. ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
8. 1 teaspoon coriander powder
9. Salt to taste
10. Water to make the dough
11. Oil for cooking the parathas

• Put the flour, methi leaves, oil, asafetida, chili powder, turmeric, coriander and salt into a large mixing bowl (order does not matter).
• Add yogurt, a little at a time to this mixture, and knead to form a medium-soft, smooth dough. If you run out of yogurt or don’t have enough, you could use water also. Keep aside for 30 minutes (optional).
• Divide the dough into golf ball-sized portions and roll between your hands till they are smooth and without cracks.
• Very lightly flour a rolling board or clean counter surface and roll each ball into a circle of 7-8" diameter (5-6mm thick). For convenience roll out as many parathas as you like, stacking them, ready to cook with a layer of cling film between each paratha.
• Heat a griddle and fry the parathas one at a time like this: Put a paratha on the griddle. Do the first flip when you see tiny bubbles rise on the surface of the paratha. As soon as the first flip is done, drizzle a bit of the remaining oil on the top and spread well over the surface of the paratha. Flip again in 30 seconds and drizzle oil on this surface too. The paratha is done when both sides are crispy and golden brown.
• Serve with your favorite pickle/chutney.

Coaches, guides, and, gurus

In last week's Bhagavad Gita-In Your Life discussion, we explored the idea of having a spiritual mentor, teacher, guide, or guru. So many of us have begun to question the fabric of our reality, to look for something deeper, perhaps even to live with a spiritual consciousness, as a soul, as the Gita suggests. We discussed that having a teacher and guide is certainly not something out of the ordinary for us. Our lives are full of people of wisdom and knowledge who guide us in our academic, social, athletic, and just-plain-common-sense realms of reality. We couldn't do without them, for they have walked the path we are trying to walk, and they can show us the way to move forward, and to avoid the pitfalls and potholes that may be in the road ahead. So it's not a stretch to say we need some similar guidance in our spiritual life.
Of course there are many doubts and questions of trust and qualification, but if we are sincere and really seeking the kind of person/people who can give us real, lasting, personal, and intimate guidance to traverse the spiritual road, we will find them, but we must be patient, and we must be willing to serve, and we must be inquisitive as well. These are all facets of the teacher/student relationship Krishna is describing to Arjuna, and which they are showing to us through the dialogue and wisdom of the Gita.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vegetarian Chili

Last Tuesday The Bhakti Club became a part of Latino Heritage Month with a joint-club event. Rice pudding and vegetarian chili made it on the menu along with some mild Spanish rice.....Mmmmm. Feel free to give the chili a try for yourself.

Vegetarian Chili
Prep/cook time approx. 40 min.
serves 6-8 persons

2 tbsp olive oil
2 hot green chilies, minced
ź tsp asafoetida powder
˝ cup diced green peppers
˝ cup diced celery
˝ cup cooked corn pieces
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
ž cup tomato paste
3 cups cooked kidney beans
1 cup frozen tofu (frozen, thawed & crumbled)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ˝ tsp salt
ź tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1) Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.
2) When the oil is hot, add the minced green chili and sauté for 1 minute.
3) Add the asafoetida powder and sauté momentarily. Add the diced
pepper and celery.
4) Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables
are soft.
5) Add the cooked corn and the chopped tomato and cook, stirring
occasionally, for another 10 minutes.
6) Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes,
stirring occasionally.
7) If the chili is too thick, add some reserved bean liquid. Serve hot.

The Middle Path

This week we really began to see that the wisdom of the Gita can have a real practical effect on our everyday consciousness. Consider this: everyday we have some kind of success, and some kind of failure. That's not news to any of us, but we considered something perhaps new and fresh; a different kind of reaction to the waves and oscillations of our daily experiences. The Gita teaches us to abandon all attachment to success and failure, and to remain equipoised. We discusses how this seemingly complex instruction from Krishna is something we can perhaps easily grasp. We don't want to dive into our failures of course, but we also don't want to dive too far into our successes. There is no doubt success and failure will come, and there's no doubt we'll have some definite feelings to these experiences, but the wisdom of the Gita helps us to find a deeper perspective on it all. To begin to live as a spiritual person, we have to learn to see the deeper side of things, and keeping an equal mentality, knowing that our successes and failures aren't permanent, is a wonderful initial way to begin to see yourself as something more than just a temporary body and mind.

Ultimately, dwelling too much on success and failure creates a selfish mentality, which prevents us from finding the selfless mentality that leads to a real spiritual sense of who we are. Actually, by working towards the spiritual platform, we find real success, and transcend mundane failure, by beginning to work on the deeper, eternal platform.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Monsters are due on Maple Street

After watching a classic Twilight Zone episode about what happens to the residents of quaint and quiet Maple Street, we discussed for our weekly Reflections the nature of our inner selves and what comes out in times of fear, pressure, and anxiety. The monsters lurking within can be quite scary to confront and perhaps our own greatest enemy. Who are the Monsters on Maple Street? Well, we are......

Tomato chutney

Tomato Chutney
Serves 3-4/prep & cook time: 30 min.

3 tbsp ghee or oil ½ tsp black mustard seeds ½ tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole dried red chilies, broken ½ tsp turmeric 3 ½ cups firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cups sugar ½ cup raisins ½ tsp salt
1 (5 cm) cinnamon stick

• Heat ghee or oil in medium saucepan over moderate heat
• Saute mustard seeds in the hot ghee until they begin to crackle.
• Add the cumin and cinnamon.
• When the cinnamon darkens, add the chili bits and the turmeric.
• Immediately add the chopped tomatoes and, stirring to mix, cook over moderate heat - 10 min.
• Add sugar, raisins, & the salt.
• For moist chutney cook for another 5 min./For thick jam-like chutney, cook for another 15 min.
• Serve warm or cold.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soul Searching

In our third week, we considered together the first main teaching Krishna gives to the inquisitive and seeking Arjuna: that we are not this body, but the soul within. We explored together how this paradigm of personal spiritual identification, including the concepts of karma and reincarnation, fits with the paradigms we grew up with. Do we only get one shot at life or is it a constant stream of opportunity and experience? What is the meaning and the goal of our existence if we are to define ourselves as an eternal spirit, rather than just a temporary body in a temporary world? To shed some empirical light on our intriguing conversation, we discussed the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson, whose research on the remembrance of past lives by young children around the world offers many thought-provoking questions as to the potential reality of reincarnation, and we also watched an ABC News report about a young boy who remembers his past life as a doomed World War II pilot, with corroborating and startling evidence proving many of his statements. Lots of food for thought about our deeper identity and how this can shift our perspective to understand the presence of spirit within us and around us

Down at the Crossroads

In the second week of Bhagavad-Gita In Your Life here at Columbia, we dove right into the existential situation of the great warrior Arjuna, as he found himself at a tremendous crossroads in his life, wondering whether to engage in a great battle against many of his most beloved family and friends. We understood that the key to diving into the timeless and priceless wisdom of the Gita is to see ourselves in Arjuna's shoes, so our discussion this week revolved around a careful look at Arjuna's emotions, at the confusion, sadness, and frustration that we also share in the crossroads and dilemmas of our own everyday lives, big and small. The tumult we feel can be a grand opportunity for us to take a step back and ask the questions that need to be asked, and we talked about the example Arjuna is setting for us, seeking guidance from his dear friend Krishna, and how he is not content to just put a band-aid on the problem, but to find a deeper, spiritual solution.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Giving Tree

Last week we had a read through Shel Silverstein's classic book the Giving Tree. Some of the topics of discussion were the balance (or often times imbalance) of giving and receiving in relationships, the needs we enter into relationships with, and the importance of spending more time on understanding our own selves a bit better. Who am I and what are my needs, and what am I looking for in my relationships with others? The more in touch we are with ourselves and the stronger spiritual foundation we have in our own lives can help us enter relationships with a stronger sense of stability, maturity, and understanding.


PREPARATION TIME: 50 minutes DOUGH RISING TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
DRYING TIME: 20 minutes YIELD: About 18 calzone
3 teaspoons (15 ml) fresh yeast, 1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar,
4 cups (1-litre) plain flour, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt, 3 tablespoons (60 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (20 ml) olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) yellow asafoetida powder,
2 tablespoons (40 ml) red or green peppers, finely diced, 1/2 cup (125 ml) black olives, chopped
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt, 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper
2 cups (500 ml) ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese or fresh curd, crumbled)
1/2 cup (125 ml) grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup (85 ml) grated cheddar cheese,
1/2 cup (125 ml) spinach leaves, chopped and lightly-blanched
1/3 cup (85 ml) chopped fresh parsley
extra oil for brushing and the baking tray

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, add the sugar, mix well, and leave covered in a warm place for 10 minutes or until the mixture froths.
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, oil, and enough lukewarm water to make a smooth dough. Knead well for 5 minutes. Rub oil inside the bowl and over the dough. Place the dough in the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3. To prepare the pastry filling: heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over moderate heat. Saute the asafoetida in the hot oil for a few seconds; then add the diced peppers and saute for one minute. Add the chopped black olives, salt, and pepper and stir to mix; then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
4. Combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, cooled olives and pepper mixture, spinach, and parsley in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.
5. After the dough has risen the first time, punch it down with your fist, remove it from the bowl onto a floured bench top, and knead again for one minute. Roll the dough out with your hands into a long tube and cut into 18 portions. Roll each portion into a smooth ball and, with a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a 13 cm (5-inch) disk.
6. Divide the filling into 18 portions. Place a portion in the centre of each disk. Fold over and seal around the edge either with a fork or by pressure from your fingertips to make small semicircular pastries. Place all the pastries on a oiled tray and place in oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or unitl golden brown.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

“Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical
accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that's true. Most people,
however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes.”

Caught in a world of progress and achievement, we rarely stop to give ourselves the time of day or take personal nourishment for, not only our body, but mind and soul as well. Meditation is gradually being seen in the Western world as a substantial way to relieve stress and focus the mind. Plus, after each meditation, we serve a healthy breakfast. This week it was fresh dosas!

Standing before an assembly of students in Athens, Solon, one of the seven great Greek wise men, held up an apple. It was rotten and decayed. He questioned them, "how can we regenerate and make new this apple?" Unable to provide an answer, the students remained silent. "You can not revive a rotten apple." At that time, Solon cut the apple in half and removed the seeds. Holding the seeds he remarked, "this is how the apple can be regenerated. By proper care and use of it's seeds, a new apple can be made." Who are the seeds of society? They are indeed the youth, and the spiritual values, morals, and ethics that the students of today hold in their lives, qualify them to regenerate society and make a better tomorrow as they move to become the future leaders, managers, and parents of the future. What are the values that you hold dear in your life? What are the values you feel pressured to keep by society? Where do we get are values? These questions and others were discussed in our Wednesday night Reflections.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mixe vegetable coconut milk curry


* 3 tbsp ghee/oil
* 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
* 2-3 green hot chilies,chopped
* One 2.5cm cinnamon stick
* 10 curry leaves
* ½ tsp asafetida powder
* 1 ½ cups green beans
* 1 ½ cups potatoes (3/4 in. cubes)
* 1 ½ pumpkin (3/4 in. cubes)
* 1 ½ cup Zucchini (3/4 in. cubes)
* 1 ½ cup cauliflower, cut into florets
* 1 ½ cup carrots (3/4 inch)
* 1 tsp turmeric
* 1 tsp coriander powder
* 2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 cup coconut milk
* ½ cup water
* ¼ cup coriander leaves


1. Place the ghee/oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat.
2. When hot, drop in the ginger and chilies and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the cinnamon stick and curry leaves, and sauté for another minute.
4. Sprinkle in yellow asafetida powder.
5. Stir briefly then add all the vegetables, the turmeric,
coriander powder, salt and sugar.
6. Pour in the coconut milk and water. Reduce heat and simmer
slowly, well covered for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
7. Additional coconut milk and water can be used for more moist curry.
8. Fold in the chopped fresh coriander leaves and serve hot.

Bhagavad Gita: In your life

This past Friday we kicked off another year of wisdom for the body, mind, and soul with our Intro session for Bhagavad Gita-In Your Life. We set a template for our discussions this year with the clear idea that not only can the Gita be relevant to our contemporary lives, but it can also take us to a deeper and happier everyday level, where real spiritual wisdom can enter into our thoughts and actions and help us to become the person we want to be.

Curious newcomers and returning friends were welcomed and introduced to the setting of the Gita, and the great personalities, Arjuna and Krishna, at the heart of the discussion. Arjuna is the greatest warrior of his time drawn into an unimaginable situation, having to fight his dearest teachers and family members in a massive civil war. Krishna, as his chariot driver, dear friend, and incarnation of the Divine, has the duty of convincing the naturally reluctant Arjuna to fight.

What does this all mean? Isn't this another example of religious violence gone wrong, gone beyond morals and reason? We explored some of these tricky topics, and asked students to consider that the story of the Gita will reveal something much deeper beyond its challenging surface, setting the stage for next week when we will dive deeper into the crossroads Arjuna finds himself at, and the crossroads we often find ourselves at.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Missing the point.

Internal happiness doesn't always follow external, material success. We have a certain conception of what will bring us happiness in life, whether it's money, prestige, position, achievement, etc., but the case of Amanda Beard shines light on the deeper side of the issue. An excerpt of a recent New York Times article is below. Her picture, left, is from the 1996 Olympic Games, where she was 14 years old.

[Beard twice broke the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke and won that event at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. She made four Olympic teams and the cover of Playboy. Yet during that period, Beard said, “I was never really, really happy.”

Throughout her teens and well into her 20s, Beard presented an image to the world that was as airbrushed as her photographs in magazines. Her toothy smile and surfer girl insouciance hid deep emotional pain. In a series of interviews over the past year, she revealed for the first time her struggles with anger, depression and self-injury.

“I’d go to swim practice, put my face in the water, and I didn’t have to talk to anybody,” Beard said. “Swimming was like my escape, but it was also like this huge prison because I felt like I had to swim up to people’s standards.”

“I just kind of put a smile on my face and just pretended a lot of the time,” Beard said, adding, “I always felt like I didn’t want to be a role model because if people knew the real me or the things I was doing or going through, there’s no way they’d want their kid to be like me.”

Beard said: “I’d go back to this whole self-hating thing, where I had this record player repeating to me, ‘You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re nobody.’ You’re in so much emotional pain, and you don’t know how to express it.” ]

What are we actually looking for in life? Where does that internal peace, fulfillment and satisfaction come from? As we progress materially, we also must progress and cultivate values internally, or spiritually. Otherwise, we may up with everything we always wanted, but nothing we were really looking for.

For the complete article, visit

Are you ready for some cooking!?!?!?!?!?

Last Tuesday we kicked off our first Bhakti event of the year with our most-beloved Vegetarian Cooking Class. Pandit was at the healm, teaching us his favorite Tomato Spinach Eggplant subji with Chickpeas. Filled with a variety of colors, texture, flavors, protein and served along side spiced rice with carob-peanut-butter halava, this meal went over well with everyone. Check out the recipe below.

Recipe: Spinach, Tomato, Eggplant & Chickpea Stew

½ cups ghee or oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 hot green chilies minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
10 dried curry leaves
¼ tsp asafoetida pwdr
1 medium eggplant (½ in. cubes)
4 med. tomatoes ½ in. cu
1 pound spinach
1 tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups chickpeas canned
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
(serves 6-8 persons/Prep. time 40 minutes)

1) Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy saucepan or large wok over moderate heat.
2) When the ghee is hot, add the ginger, chilies, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds.
3) When the mustard seeds crackle, add the curry leaves, asafoetida powder, & eggplant.
4) Stir fry the eggplant for 8 to 10 minutes or until the eggplant is a little softened.
5) Stir in the tomatoes, spinach, turmeric, & salt.
6) Partially cover and reduce the heat to moderately low. Cook until the eggplant is soft and the spinach is reduced in size, stirring when required.
7) Add the cooked chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the sugar and lemon juice now.
8) Remove from heat and serve hot.