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.