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Angry Birds Yoga now with Dutch Translation

My essay, “Angry Birds Yoga” has now been printed in Dutch, in the self-help, alternative magazine “Urban Lotus”, whose website gets between 60-90 visits a month.

Pati-prana DD, the editor of the magazine, said, “The article went out and it was the most succesful KC-related one I’ve had so far. “.

Since being published last year, Angry Birds Yoga has had several articles printed about it in the Brazilian Media and has been included in the Wikipedia description of the famous mobile game. It gets read just about every single day since then.

You can read the Dutch version here.

The original English version is here.


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Top Brazilian News Group Publishes Article on Angry Birds Yoga

Globo is Brazil’s top media conglomerate. In their Internet Portal, G1, they published an interview with me about my essay Angry Birds Yoga with a “front page” link.

You can see the article (in Portuguese, naturally) here:

This article generated a flurry of other articles in different media outlets and professional blogs (and over a thousand hits on this blog on the day it was published!).


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Who wants it for free?

Yesterday I led another six hour Gita workshop in Brasilia. It’s part of my weekend Gita workshop series that I regularly teach in Rio, Brasilia and Porto Alegre. The difference is that in Brasilia I do it at home, on a Sunday once per month. When I travel I do the whole weekend once every two months, teaching two chapters, not just one.

This time we decided to charge a little more, bringing the price to R$40, which comes out to about US$23. For this people get about 5 hours of class and a delicious lunch prepared by my wife.

The guests sit around a big plasma TV, connected to my laptop, where the PowerPoint presentation guides us through every verse of the chapter in question (yesterday it was Chapter 2) and selected excerpts of Srila Prabhupada’s commentary. They sit on the sofa, chairs, or floor cusions, in our air-conditioned living room.

Even though we upped the price by about 30% this time, we got more people than ever before – 14 all told.

After the event, I had to quickly get ready and head off to our Sunday Program (Krishna Sanga, we call it). It’s held in a yoga studio we rent out on Sundays. It’s totally free, everyone can come and hear a class, chant with us and then get free prasadam.

Funnily enough, there were only 10 people there! Even though basically it was the same thing: a class based on our scriptures, kirtan and prasadam. But people who come to my paid-for Gita classes hardly ever want to come to the free weekly meetings.

This just goes to show the need for professionally arranged programs, in comfortable settings, free of all the trappings of “going to church”. People want to learn about Krishna Consciousness as they learn about everything else they’re interested in: by doing professional paid-for courses. As Prabhupada used to say, you try and give free mangoes, people get suspicious. If you sell them, though, no problem.

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Preaching in Porto Alegre

This last weekend I was in Porto Alegre again. We had another Gita Weekend Workshop. This was the second one there, teaching chapters 3 and 4.

I had a good group and they all listened very attentively. Two members of the group are philosophy majors, one of whom is the daughter of Lila Prabhu, who brought KC to the region some 25 years ago. Though her father is a great preacher and president of ISKCON there since its inception, and has brought hundreds of people to KC, she had never properly studied the Gita and is not currently practicing KC. So, I was very happy that she claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed the weekend workshop and has promised to come back for the whole series.

On Sunday the local devotees arranged a public celebration for Gaura Purnima. They celebrate two separate Gaura Purnima festivals in Porto Alegre – one for the devotees (on the day) and one for the general public (on the weekend). They invited me to give the talk at the public festival. I presented a brief sketch of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life and teachings, using a powerpoint slide show, to a crowd of about 180 people. I was very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for allowing me to spend the whole weekend preaching on the Gita and then topping it off with a little glorification of Lord Chaitanya!

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Weekend Gita Workshop in Rio

We just had another weekend Gita workshop in Rio de Janeiro.

We celebrated the successful completion of our first full series of Gita workshops. We had nine weekend workshops in all – two chapters each, one chapter on the Saturday, the other on the Sunday, with a workshop every two months or so – the first happening in July 2007.

The good news is that we’re starting a new series in April! Also, the group at the last workshop was the biggest yet (only 11 people, but still!). Only one person did all nine workshops, and she has already signed up to do them again! Another person did 8 of them, and two did 7.

And here is our newest student, Bhakta Theo:

His mother started participating back in the 3rd workshop and her husband, Theo´s father, started participating in the 5th.

On Friday I’m off to Porto Alegre to do the second in the series (chapters 3 and 4) there.

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Homosexuality Raises Ethical and Practical Questions – Part III

Concluding my series on the ethical and practical challenges ISKCON faces in dealing with homosexuality, I would like to touch on the subject of sex change operations.

Last year the story of Tim Petras made headlines – as the youngest person ever to have a sex change operation. Tim is now Kim Petras (picture above), at only 16 years of age! The operation was done in Germany and the procedure started when he was 12.

In Thailand alone, 30 thousand men a year seek sex change operations. In Iran, the fundamentalist regime has encouraged sex change operations as a means to combat homosexuality (considered a serious crime in Iran). The government even sponsors the operations in some cases.

So, what happens if Kim joins the Hare Krishna Movement? Would she stay in the brahmacarini ashram? Could someone like her stay there before the full sex-change procedure is complete (it takes 2-5 years)? If she later marries a male devotee, will she have the right to a full agni-hotra ceremony?

If a woman has a sex change operation (much rarer than the man to woman changes), could he (ex-she) then be allowed to take sannyasa later in life? (If yes, why can’t women take sannyasa without a sex change operation?)

Has it already happened? It’s not inconceivable that we have already had such a marriage between a man and a woman who used to be a man in the Movement.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini discussed these issues of homosexuality, transsexuality, etc. We need clear guidelines for our Society too. Guidelines that, to use Srila Hridayananda das Goswami Acharyadeva’s words, “best preserve our sacred principles: both our moral rigor as well as our deep compassion.”


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Homosexuality Raises Ethical and Practical Questions – Part I

During my touring of Brazil I came across the following administrative situation: an initiated devotee who had graduated from our 9 month Bhakti-shastri Seminary had been giving classes at the temple, and also teaching a bhakti-shastri course to the other devotees. She had been doing that for some time, to the satisfaction of the leaders and congregation. Then she decided to move in with her girlfriend and they signed some paperwork between themselves, making it as close to a legal marriage as they could. The other girl also became a devotee by her influence.

So, a female-female devotee couple was formed. Because she did not hide the situation, the local leaders became disturbed.  They then banned her from giving further classes and canceled her bhakti-shastri course to the local congregation.

(At the same time, in this same congregation, a male initiated devotee is living with a bhaktin, and they are not married. He not only teaches the bhakti-shastri course, but also cooks for the congregation.)

The general question I raised when discussing the issue with the local leaders, and for which they could not give me a satisfactory reply, is whether it is fair to ban someone from doing some kind of service on the basis of how they were born. That, it seems to me, would be grossly unfair and exactly like saying that, for example, blacks cannot be pujaris, or women cannot distribute books, etc.

So, IF it is the case (and I’m not saying it is or not, but that science can probably show this) that certain people are born homosexual AND not born with the inclination for lifelong celibacy, THEN is it fair to ban them from certain kinds of service to Prabhupada and Krishna when they naturally settle into a relationship?

The leadership argued that the homosexual devotees were breaking the illicit sex rule. I said, “how do you know?” I argued that any heterosexual couple could also be breaking the principle. But, just as we do not ask a married devotee what he and his wife have done in bed before allowing him to sit on the Vyasasana, we also cannot ask that of a homosexual couple. In other words, I cannot see how we can be any more sure that a homosexual couple is breaking the principle of illicit sex than a heterosexual couple. How about married heterosexual couples who can´t have children for medical reasons? Should we ban them from giving class too?

It seems to me that IF it is the case that homosexuals are BORN homosexuals (and as far as I am aware, science strongly supports this claim), then ISKCON must deal with this ethical issue urgently, lest we be guilty of the grossest kind of prejudice – that based on the way a person is born, regardless of his possessing all other qualifications.


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