Friday, April 27, 2012

TEXAS FAITH 66: The Mormon Moment

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

In March, we talked some about Mitt Romney and his Mormonism. But since then Romney has become the presumptive GOP nominee.

This has led to a number of pieces about the so-called "Mormon moment, including one I wrote in today'sMorning News. Mormon leaders, understandably, may be wearying of that cliché. But it is true that church members have a teachable moment before them.

Specifically, they have a chance to demystify elements of their faith, which polls show is still not very well understood by many of us. In my book, this is best done through in a friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, pew-to-pew way. That approach allows for more candid conversations and helps build bridges.

David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist and a Mormon, said in an interview I did with him last week that those personal bonds are especially important. They keep in check the tensions that are likely to arise in a society that has so many different faiths.

With that as the set-up, here is this week's question:

What issue would you most like to discuss with a Mormon about their religious faith?

Perhaps you already have done this, so feel free to elaborate upon that in your answer.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Ever journey begins not only with the destination in mind but also with the starting point. If you do not have a GPS signal the address you enter into your device will be of little use. So similarly our goal may be God, or happiness, but a proper venture cannot be taken without recognizing your current position. It is for this reason that I feel that a preliminary discussion on the metaphysics of the self, the soul, to be necessary.

We all act according to our conception of our constitutional position. How we view our existence. Do we see the body as the self? The mind? The intelligence? Or are we something completely beyond body?

In my experience if someone thinks himself to be the body and mind, then their plan for happiness will be built with purpose of satisfying the body and mind. And even if they are religious they will seek blessing from God only for their body and mind. Such as, "God please provide me my daily bread, a car, a TV, health, wealth, good family, and so on" What else is their to ask for if you are your body?

However, if you are not the body, as the Vedas claim, if you are simply a passenger in an ever changing vehicle, then satisfying the needs of the vehicle will not satisfy you, the driver of the vehicle. Just as polishing the cage does not take care of the hungry stomach of the bird, our material efforts for happiness will fail if we do not have valid understanding of the self.

As a mansion is build on a strong foundation, so similarly religion must be philosophically and intelligently supported. Starting with the topic that is closest to us, ourselves. The question and answer must put forward, "Who, or more so, what am I?" This is the dialogue that I usually pursue with my Mormon friends and other religious folks.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

TEXAS FAITH 65: Catholic bishops and civil disobedience

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

How far should people of faith go in resisting laws they consider unjust?

I raise this because last week the nation's Catholic bishops, as the AP reported, "urged resistance to laws that church officials consider unjust."

The story explained how the bishops urged "fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad." The report also noted the clash between theObama administration and Catholic leaders earlier this year over the requirement for most employers to cover the birth control costs of their employees. Since then, the White House has offered a compromise, but the issue has not necessarily gone away.

Perhaps you agree that religious liberty is under attack, perhaps you don't. I'm not looking for an assessment of that. Rather, I would like your thoughts about how far people of faith should go in resisting laws they consider immoral.

I'm sure we all would agree that there is room for civil disobedience, but societies also require a certain amount of cohesion to function. For example, just because someone opposes a war does that give them the right to stop paying taxes that would benefit the Pentagon?

This issue matters enormously to people of faith and the larger secular society. Read on for informative answers.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

How far should people go in resisting laws that they consider unjust?

One should to the fullest extent intelligently resist what they consider to be unjust.

However it should be pointed out that most of problems are due to a lack of spiritual consciousness. Therefore solutions must be put in place with this understanding in mind.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TEXAS FAITH 64: The Intellect and Religious Faith

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

What is the role of the intellect in discovering and maintaining a religious faith?

That is the question for this week, and it is spurred on in part from two thoughtful columns drawing attention to a lessening of an intellectual emphasis in two major wings of American Christianity: liberal Protestantism and evangelical Protestantism.
The first column is a Wall Street Journal review of author Marilynne Robinson's new book When I was a Child I Read Books . In it, the review says, Robinson argues that mainline Protestantism got sidelined "by retreating from the cultivation and celebration of learning and of if people were less than God made them and in need of nothing so much as of condescension. "
The second column is by the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, Jr. He chides (gently) Christians in general and evangelicals in particular for diminishing the role of the mind in exploring faith. Writes Dionne:
"Popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers."
Later on, he says:

"Some Christians encourage a view of their faith as profoundly anti-intellectual. Faith is seen as more about experience than reason, more about loyalty than dialogue. The desire to assert The Truth takes priority over exploring productively and honestly what the truth might be."

At the end, after quoting with admiration evangelical scholar Mark Noll, Dionne concludes:

" If Easter is about liberation, this liberation must include intellectual freedom."

Perhaps you agree with these assessments, or perhaps you don't. Either way I would like to hear your thoughts about the role the mind plays in opening one up to a religious faith and then sustaining it over time.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Krishna Consciousness is a science, and intelligence is one of the tools of the experimental lab work. But because intelligence is material it cannot create spiritual information, it can only be employed in examining it.

For example I am sitting here in East Dallas and if I want valid information on Japan, the information has to come from Japan. If the agency of information (TV, web, university), had no known connection to some type of study or visit to Japan, then I would doubt its veracity. So similarly information about spiritual subjects must come from a non-material source.

In the beginning intelligence may be able to realize some basic spiritual truths without assistance of an outside informant. But in the higher levels of spiritual learning, intelligence is the examiner rather than the discoverer.

For example, the intelligence can discover or realize that the soul, the self, is different from the body. But what exactly is soul's nature is or what is its eternal form or position must be understood by a source that is not of this world.

Aroha-pantha, the inductive process of receiving information will not yield information that is otherworldly, rather it only takes place through avaroha-pantha, or the deductive process. Meaning basically that knowledge of God must come from God down to us rather than our senses and tools stretching up to God.

This body is compared to a chariot. Our senses are the horses, guiding and attracting us and thus moving us. The mind is the reins that control the senses, saying, "I like this, I don't like this,"

However the mind, the reins, are ultimately controlled by a superior, the intelligence which acts as a driver. Just as the senses may be attracted to a cigarette, the mind as well, but the intelligence can intervene and dictate that it is not good for us. But the driver of this chariot works under the desires of the passenger, the soul. So the soul may choose to go towards God, and employ his driver, the intelligence to the task at hand or the soul may choose simply to serve the senses and mind and wander about in a chariot with a weak or ill intended driver.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.

I also added in the comment section.

Nityananda Chandra Das

I also wanted to add that if God is the most intelligent being, He should then have the most intelligent philosophy. That is primarily how one can initially see God, is to see the intelligence of His philosophy. For example when I first began to read, and also to this day, books such as the Bhagavad Gita As It Is I remain continually amazed at its intelligence

Friday, April 13, 2012

TEXAS FAITH 63: Is God good?

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

If you believe in God, do you believe God is good? If so, why?

If you don't believe God is good, please explain.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

“The magnanimous nature of the Lord is better understood when we have a framework to understand the apparent irregularities of this world. In this world we see a lot of pain. There is disease, death, old age and even those who too young to be held accountable for karma or sin are subjected to severe suffering.

This situation is certainly a valid cause for doubts. Just as if I were to walk into a grocery store and was attacked by the cashier, I would naturally question the benevolence of the manager. For many this question is difficult, not to be discussed in religious circles. However, there is an intelligent structure by which all apparent anomalies can be subsided.

If we view the living entity, the soul, as a being who has no destruction but does have a creation, the faults of the world which afflict the soul at birth and even while within the womb would be then be the fault of God, the being who put the soul in that situation. On the other hand, if the soul, the person who inhabits the ever changing body, had a life and activities prior to his present birth then that opens the door to many other possibilities. Just as it can be understood that if I had performed criminal activities in the grocery store on previous days it should not a surprise to me if the cashier tackles me down to be arrested.

We all carry the baggage of our previous lives, our karmas, and are thus subjected to them. Just as a honey bee takes nectar from various plants which results in a certain flavor of honey, so similar activities and desires of our previous lives results in the situations that we are faced in our this life.

Why are we here in the first place? According to the Vedas, to be born in this world means that we have some desire to be independent of God. God has created this world to facilitate our wayward desires. Because in order for a loving relationship to be true there must be the element of choice. Love can never be forced, like a gun to the head.

So we see the general mentality here to be served rather than serve. Therefore, this material existence is a place for the soul to assert its independence to try to play God. In this play we step on others' toes and receive the karmic reaction.

However Sri Krishna, God, is very kind that He and His representatives regularly descend to this world to impart knowledge to us, to teach us how we can be free from suffering. To act in our natural function as part of a whole. If the hand nourishes the stomach, it also is for the hand's own benefit. Encouraging us to act in this yoga is one of the ways the Lord shows His love. He does not force us. Rather just encourages from a distance. But if we take one step He takes a 100 steps towards us.

He not only provides spiritual instructions but also everything we need to live is provided by the Lord. Food, light, warmth, air, water, everything is provided even for the insignificant ant.”

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.

A discussion ensued with another panelist and I.   He stated that “(God) It  is not a being, not a thing, and not an entity but simply the energy that caused a "balanced universe" and functions on the principle of balance, where every component of it is programmed to seek its own balance; both physical and metaphysical.  For lack of linguistic expression, we normally address God as "him" instead of "her." God only knows what it is. Indeed, we have created God in our own image.

Nityananda Chandra Das
Dear Ghouse, I am not sure if you will see this as this is an old thread. My contention is that basically every theology admits God as the source. As sun is the source of sunlight.

Would you think that the sun is actually cold, unlike its sunlight?

Sat karyavad. In the cause the effect is also found. So if I am a being how can my source only be relegated to a energy?

The Vedas define God as shaktiman, the source of all energies, rather than just an impersonal energy.

Śrī Īśopanisad 16
pūsann ekarse yama sūrya prājāpatya
vyūha raśmīn samūha
tejo yat te rūpaḿ kalyāna-tamaḿ
tat te paśyāmi yo 'sāv asau purusah so 'ham asmi
O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.


Dear Chandra Das,
When I referred to God as energy, I did not relegate it to passive energy; I did not perceive it in various grades either. God is active energy, for lack of more descriptive word. It is not static, it is dynamic and maintaining a continual equilibrium. It is all within the realm of that energy. Life is all about seeking balance and the freeing oneself from the factors that throw us off the balance.
I have difficulty conjuring up a form for that energy, although I understand, it is human to have an imaginative God and we perceive it in our own image – we have not been able to free ourselves from that imagination – even the alien movies we make; they still have a similar structure like ours.

 Nityananda Chandra Das

Dear Ghouse, Many perceive that by accepting that God has a form we limit God, a man made proposition. Imposing humanity upon God. However the same can be said of the idea that God is formless. That is also a limitation, "God is only this way, without form" However you have a form but your source cannot. This is illogical, but as was pointed out in this upcoming article logic is a tool of examination rather than tool of discovery. We examine must the info that is given to see if it is logical. But it is not that logic alone can discover the nature of God. That knowledge must come from the source itself.
The Vedas proclaim that God is the Energetic, the possessor and employer of the energy, and at the same time He is also in the energy as well. One and yet different. Monism and Dualism. Just as the drop of ocean water shares the salty quality of the ocean but differs in it quantity. Therefore God is also in this world but at the same time God has His own existence, His own form. The gurus have examined the logic of this, as well as myself and I find, as did they, that it stands solid.

Power and the powerhouse, energy and the energetic


Dear Chandra Das,
Indeed, a formless and formful God are possibilities for our imagination. And I do agree with you, "Therefore God is also in this world but at the same time God has His own existence, His own form." There is a couplet in my language Urdu -
Banday ko khuda mat kaho, banda khuda nahin,
lekin phir bhi juda, banday say khuda nahin
Don't call man "the God", man is not God,
yet, these two are inseparable, man is not distinct from his creator
Mike Ghouse.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kirtan Dance class at Irma Rangel Leadership School For Girls

After our Kirtan and Drum show in the auditorium we invited kids for face painting and kirtan dance class in the cafeteria.

Full story on ISKCON New - ISKCON Dallas Visits Young Women’s Leadership School

Kirtan for 500 students at Irma Rangel Leadership School

After the mrdanga presentation of Kalindi and Sri Rupa, Advaita Acarya Das gets the crowd involved as they spontaneously rush the stage and dance.
featuring an appearance by Giriraj Swami!

Full story on ISKCON News - ISKCON Dallas Visits Young Women’s Leadership School

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Women are like fire & men are like butter

nanv agniḥ pramadā nāma
ghṛta-kumbha-samaḥ pumān - Nārada Muni

Noted in Scientific American, a popular science magazine, was a scientific study that illustrated that men became significantly “Cognitively Impaired”, or so to say stupid, in the presence of a woman.  This study also very clearly illustrated something that I always thought the analogy of Narada Muni hints to. That women, like the fire, are unaffected by the butter.  See the short article here.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TEXAS FAITH 62: Is there too much "God talk" in politics?

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Two weeks ago, Wayne Slater posed a question about how much of a candidate's religious views the public is entitled to know. This week, let's take a different look at this issue.

A new Pew Forum in Religion & Public Life survey shows that voters across the political spectrum are growing tired of hearing politicians talk so much about religion. The survey shows that almost 40 percent of the respondents are weary of hearing so much talk about faith. That figure represents a turn-around from recent years, including only two years ago, when polling data showed that voters thought candidates talked too little about their faith.
Not now. Democrats, Republicans and independents all show a growing distaste for so much talk about religion. Democrats scored the highest, followed by independents and then Republicans.
There are exceptions. White and black evangelicals are more comfortable with religion being a big part of the political debate than most other traditions.
But this data represents a serious shift from the past. In 2001, for example, only 14 percent of independents thought there was too much talk about religion. Today, that number is 42 percent. (You can read more about historic trends in this link.)
So, here's the question for this week, and it is a two-part one:

Why do you think Americans are expressing a rising discomfort with the role of religion in national affairs?

Do you consider this a dangerous trend?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

"Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation."-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

It is possible that such a trend away from religious dialogues in all spheres may be due to the increasing materialism which results in atheism. However the people in general may be dissatisfied with the quality of religious discussions that are present in the political fields and are therefore not attracted to such dialogues.


A small debate came about in the Newspaper’s comment section. Here is it below.
Egrampa Why is NITYANANDRA CHANDRA DAS obsessed with atheism? This is the second post in a row in which he uses the topic of the week as a springboard to diss atheism. His rants seem to have no bearing on the topic at hand, and no evidence to support his claims.
Mr. Das, what's going on with you and atheism? What are you afraid of?

8 replies

Nityananda Chandra Das

There are different views as to what separation of church and state means. My stance is that secular government is to provide freedom of religion rather than to prohibit it.
For example a friend of my has a classical Indian kirtan band but he has in the past been refused performances at various venues because they had a no religion policy. He was informed that he could sing about everything under the sun, except for God. Such prohibition I would say is an influence of atheism. Atheism flourishes in materialism.
The question was in regards to prohibition of the speech of religious leaders on certain topics. So similarly I would say that such prohibition is of the same character. It not to exemplify freedom of religion but limit religious discussion and expression.


I believe the Constitution and Supreme Court agree that the separation of church and state includes not only freedom 'of' religion, but also freedom 'from' religion.
It's not just atheists that want separation, it's Baptists in Utah, Mormons in Alabama, and minority religions just about everywhere. I'm sure the Christians in Iran would like more separation of church and state.


Mr. Das, you doth protest too much, methinks. To say that separation of church and state, or the rise of "materialism," for that matter, means that atheism is "flourishing," is to take, pardon the expression, a leap of faith.
In addition to the apt comments by B. Godfrey, polls show that the U.S. consistently has among the lowest percent of atheists year after year, currently around 4%.
How many atheist friends do you have? How many do you know? Meeting your "friendly neighborhood atheist" might do wonders for what I'm perceiving as "atheistphobia."

Nityananda Chandra Das

atheism is also in religious groups. To wear the badge of religiosity and behave as if there is no God is also a form of atheism. I do know several atheist. I know many who accepted theism as well due to compassionate teaching.
This badge wearing is similar to as a couple who may be may be legally married but still they may not have any relationship, they may live separate, they may not even talk to each other.


Mr. Das, I'm happy to hear that you have atheist friends. Many of the problems some people have with atheists, gays or even liberals is that they don't really know any.
But I have to ask one more time: what is the problem with atheism? You do seem to fear it and seem to think it's a "movement" of some type that threatens you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atheism, by definition, is a "non-movement" of people who are simply not religious, have no faith, or are otherwise just not interested in the supernatural. Atheists, in general, do not "flock." They are few in number and generally have no "agenda" other than asking those of faith to keep their distance and obey the constitution (in the U.S.). There are no atheists creeping under your bed at night out to "get you."
What's wrong with that?

Nityananda Chandra Das

Atheism plagues religious and the non religious. As I stated, to wave the banner of religiosity and act as if there is no God is also a form of atheism. It is not limited to what answers that people give on surveys. I also know scientist and atheist who are as evangelical about their beliefs as any religious zealot.
What does atheism entail, well for starters no solid philosophical moral system. There is no karma or reactions to ones deeds. If no one really sees, then whats the harm?
Materialism is also another form of atheism, do you deny that we live in a materialistic society? Why is it atheism? Because materialism is the idea that materials, comforts, will actually satisfy you. However just as watering the leaves, rather than the roots, does little to help the leaves, and feeding the hands, rather than the stomach, does little for the hands. But if you water the root then it is actually beneficial for the leaves, or if the hands feed the stomach they the hand benefits by nutrition. So similarly just trying to serve body and mind through comforts, wealth, fame, power, distinction, adoration, prestige such endeavors will prove unsatisfactory. But by yoga, union with God through service, one will factually get satisfied. The real issue is that the conscious entity, the soul, is different from the body and therefore simply polishing the vehicle, pleasing the body, will not satisfy us, the soul. Because materialism is an out right denial of such a need, a proclamation that material arrangements and comforts alone will satisfy ourselves, it is also atheism.
On a side note regards to atheists have no agenda, why is it that most religious forums on the internet are mostly full of cynical atheists?


Mr. Das, I can't agree with you. I think you've made a number of unwarranted assumptions, as follows:
1. You've equated materialism with atheism. There's no evidence to support this. There's no proven relationship between believers who are materialistic and atheists who are materialistic, and vice versa.
2. You keep talking about atheism as if it were a kind of religion. While there may be some atheists who feel that way, it seems more logical, as I said before, to describe atheism as an absence of belief. I'm an atheist myself and I know many atheist friends and relatives. None of us have much interest in joining any atheist "church" or any atheist organization, simply because we're not interested.
3. You assume that atheists cannot have any philosophical or moral system. This is an unwarranted assumption. I consider myself (and my theist friends and relatives agree) to be a very moral person. It's clear that we're conditioned by evolution to be so. Again, so are my atheist friends and relatives. Show me some eivdence to support the notion that atheists are less moral or philisophical than believers.
4. Your characterization of atheism as a "plague" is insulting and uncalled-for. How would you feel if I said that about your belief system?
5. You wrote: "why is it that most religious forums on the internet are mostly full of cynical atheists?" Hmmm. good question. Maybe there are more of us than I thought! And, by the way, what's wrong with being cynical?

Nityananda Chandra Das

1. Materialism is the idea that I can find happiness through the body and mind by material arrangement. Spiritualism is the rejection of that notion, that there is a need to connect to God.
Atheism rejects the idea that there is a need for God and thus atheist believe that happiness can be found through the body and mind by material arrangement.
2? What is the question?
3. I never said less moral, tell me what is the rationale of the their morality? Why not harm others for one's own gain? Why not kill animals? Or why is it moral to kill them?
4. What is the harm of my belief system? If there is some merit to saying that following Bhagavad Gita is plague then how does it matter how I feel.
5. The overly cynical cannot properly investigate anything because they are already fixed in their opinions.

a similar and more extensive debate in regards to secular morality was started on my Facebook page.  The discussion can be seen here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ekadasi–the first Hare Krishna Zombie short film

Many are familiar with the Hare Krishna Zombie movie Dharmageddon featuring the devotees of the San Antonio.  But years before this movie hit the box office there was another.  A short inspired by the mind of Jagannatha Puri Dham Das.  This short is for all of those who are watching the clocks tick by this fasting day.