Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gopi Krishna’s Works

Gopi Krishna’s Works

Of all the Indian yogis who came to the West in the past century, Gopi Krishna distinguished himself for understanding the Western mind. Krishna’s mission was not to gather spiritual devotees, but to convince the scientific community that understanding kundalini is the key to understanding the human brain, and ultimately the nature of thought and the universe itself.

Gopi Krishna

Kundalini is the Sanskrit term for a latent energy force coiled at the base of the spine. When activated by yogic practices, kundalini rises up the spine to the brain, bringing mystical ecstasy and phenomenal mental and psychic powers.

(In Eastern mythology, kundalini is symbolized as a sleeping serpent or dragon, and some scholars maintain that it appears in the West as the serpent on the caduceus and in the Bible–“more subtle than any beast of the field.”)

Krishna’s experience with kundalini is detailed in his noted autobiography Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man and summarized in Gene Kieffer’s introduction to this volume. Born in Kashmir in 1903, Krishna taught himself yoga as a teenager. The rise of kundalini, after seventeen years of daily meditation, was as unexpected as it was dramatic.

“Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light enter my brain through the spinal cord. …I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider, surrounded by waves of light.”

From that day until his death in 1984, Krishna studied the phenomenon of kundalini. This compact anthology manages to convey the astounding breadth and depth of his investigations.

One of the first essays is excerpted from The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius, among Krishna’s best-known books. In it he predicted that scientists will one day detect and measure a biochemical essence which flows up the spine when kundalini rises. This essence is called prana (life energy) in Sanskrit, a word with no English equivalent because it is at once physical and psychological.

“Until the nature and properties of prana are determined,” wrote Krishna, “scientists will continue to be baffled by the phenomena of mind and consciousness in the same way as the ancients were mystified by the aurora borealis, lightning, thunder, etc. [before] the discovery of electricity.”

In other essays, Krishna tells how Mohandas Gandhi used the power of kundalini and how Sigmund Freud misinterpreted kundalini’s energy as the libido.

Our civilization is in crisis, Krishna concludes, because the majority of our leading minds have developed their intellect without a corresponding development of their spiritual qualities. We need more thinkers like Emerson, Einstein, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Bergson, and Jung who recognized the importance of the spirit, he wrote.

This book will appeal to those who believe in knowledge beyond thought, but like to think anyway.

Gopi Krishna’s Last Interview – Youtube

Food From The Mouth Of Khrishna

Food From The Mouth Of Khrishna

This book, which appears posthumously, is ‘an ethnography of food ritual and feasting’ (p. 1) set in Govardhan, a main centre of Krishna pilgrimage in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh. The study derives from an analysis of the religious groups and ritual specialists of two major Vaishnavite sects and one non-sectarian folk tradition which together constitute part of the social field of Govardhan. The central concern of the book is to present an analysis of ‘culinary symbolic form’ (p. 4) through a study of ritual food transactions of these three pilgrimage groups. Although food in general is discussed, particular attention is given to a certain kind of food, prasad. Toomey’s approach is informed by interpretive anthropology: he is concerned with difference and multiple perspectives, interpretations and meanings. Snacks for weight loss don’t always have to be awful.

This comparative study of the food symbols and practices of different bhakti (devotional worship) traditions not only adds to anthropological accounts of food customs in different regions and castes, but extends our understanding of the diversity and innovation within bhakti religious practice. The book contributes to debates concerning contrasts in ritual form and content between monastic and house-holder-based sects and demonstrates clearly the interdependence of sectarian and non-sectarian modes of worship within Govardhan. It also maps the differences and interrelationships between folk and sectarian groups and how they influence and dispute with one another in the context of a dynamic Vaishnavite Hinduism.

Of particular interest is Toomey’s exposition of the connexion between food and emotion in Vaishnava devotional theory and ritual. Costume, dress and onesies all feature in the relativistic state of religious exuberance. Although each tradition may have its own model of emotional experience and rituals, and stories which it favours, in all bhakti traditions emotion expresses the human-divine relationship. This is substantialized for devotees through food symbols and practice. Food symbols are multi-vocal and evoke intense emotions. This is particularly so in bhakti where food-related metaphors and metonyms and ritual food practices generate emotional experience. Devotees offer to Krishna foods which are associated with feelings of well-being, joy and auspiciousness. Krishna is believed to consume this food, which is thereby ‘metonymically transformed into more love-laden prasad (p. 54) believed to embody the finer sentiments of devotion (p. 51). This culinary transformation is a metonym for a parallel transformation on the emotional level. Just as the offering becomes prasad, so too the devotees’ worshipful emotion is transformed into devotional experiences of Krishna’s blissful nature (p. 54).

Related to this theme is Toomey’s argument that hierarchy and purity-pollution do not apply to the worship of the gods nor to understanding the meaning of prasad. The meaning of prasad is not related to ritual restrictions but to the interpretations devotees give to it. If foods often embody emotional states, prasad is seen to be special not because of the purity of its actual physical substance, but because it is believed to embody the god’s divine grace. It is the value of auspiciousness, of well-being and opulence, not of pure/impure which is relevant for understanding the significance of ceremonial food offerings and prasad. This value or idiom also underlies the devotee/god relationship, giving way to an altruistic model of worship rather than one based on purity/pollution and hierarchy.

Toomey’s ethnography also offers new in-sights into non-hierarchical food systems in India. In previous studies of prasad and prasad exchanges, factors which regulate the acceptance of food in most other food-related contexts in India have not been considered. Toomey, however finds that prasad is not so unique after all, and that some of the rules which govern exchange in ordinary food exchanges, such as caste hierarchy, sectarian divisions, mutual opposition of caste groups and personal considerations, are relevant to exchanges of prasad. This understanding can only be gained by including in the study of prasad its preparation and offering as well as its distribution, and by looking at prasad in public ceremonial feasts where competition and conflict between guests, ritual specialists, castes and sects are enacted. In so doing, Toomey demonstrates clearly the vital and shifting nature of food systems and practices.

A well-written and detailed work, this book is a valuable contribution to our appreciation of bhakti and practical religion in India today as multifarious, innovative and dynamic systems. The text would also be of interest to those concerned with food cultures and symbolic systems in general. Paul Toomey died aged forty-one in 1992. We have lost a scholar who promised to generate debates and offer more insights on Indian religious practice.

Federal Ruckus Over Telephone Spying

Federal Ruckus Over Telephone Spying

The federal Labor caucus is likely to reject the wider use of telephone spying powers proposed by a Government review team. The chairman of the caucus legal and administrative committee, Senator Terry Asterno, made it clear yesterday that greater power would not be granted for “fishing expeditions” by police.

Cell Spying Review of Policy

Laws Around Cell Phone Spying

He believes that police and crime authorities already have too much power. The committee would “treat with the greatest of care” any proposal to extend the use of phone spying. ( Ref: http://cellspyinghq.com ) The committee has consistently rejected proposals to widen telephone spying powers. But it recognised that law-enforcement agencies needed to be able to fight organised crime, Senator Asterno said.

The review by officials in the Attorney-General’s Department advocates greatly expanding the list of crimes for which taps can be placed, reducing the Federal Government’s control of spying and allowing people to tape their own telephone conversations. The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties condemned the recommendations as a “backward step” that would erode rights to privacy.

The council’s president, Mr. Maisel QC, said the recommendations were unnecessary. “It’s regrettable that they’ve seen the need to review intercepts in view of there being no basis for changing existing law.” Senator Asterno said: “My personal view is that we have already, at a state and occasionally at a federal level, extended police and crime-authority powers too far. On the other side of the coin, we understand the difficulties that police and crime authorities have … “But there has to be a demonstrated benefit to the community for any increase in powers and we certainly will not increase those powers to allow fishing expeditions.”

Senator Asterno said he did not oppose conducting reviews of the telephone spying powers. Rapidly changing technology meant there was a need to study the powers, but privacy and civil liberty provisions must be retained. Mr Maisel said: “I think the intrusion is so serious that before you even get to the question of whether there should be a review, there should be a demonstrated need for change and then you ask whether there should be some change. But they’ve gone about it the other way _ they’ve just recommended change without worrying about a demonstrated need.”

The secretary of the Victoria Police Association, Senior Sergeant Danny Webb, said the proposed changes were long overdue. Cell phone tracking has never been so controversial!