Guru and Disciple: Hundreds of copies already sold

blue books

So I published my book in August, just a modest run of 500 copies. They’ve almost all gone. Thank you to all those who showed me support and bought one. And congratulations to you if you bought one as a gift for a friend.

Just to stimulate discussion, and to perhaps interest you, dear reader, in buying one before they all go, here are the Contents pages. You’ll see I have not flinched in discussing some controversial topics, chiefly because there’s a readership for those types of subjects. The Guru & Disciple Book is available on Amazon – now at a reduced rate – in both UK and USA.


Part One: Putting first things first

  1. You are Here – Why our home-made map of life may require updating.
  2. Five Tales – Classic tales from the Upanishads suggest that a change of perspective may be necessary before spiritual life can begin.
  3. Understanding the Vedas – There are two classical ways of gathering knowledge; only one is good enough for spiritual transmission between the guru and the disciple.
  4. What are the Vedas? – A look at the numerous components of a vast library of wisdom.
  5. The Vedas and other religions – Ultimate reality is one, perceived differently only due to the different consciousness of the seers.
  6. Discussing and understanding the Sources – Original texts, commentaries and mystical revelation. How to avoid fuzzy thinking.
  7. Postmodern Views – Postmodernism affects everything – even the guru-disciple relationship.
  8. The Necessity of accepting a Guru – Why other ways of gaining higher knowledge are incomplete.

Part Two: The ancient culture of learning

  1. A is for Acarya – The meaning of the word and the ancient culture of how acaryas lived and taught.
  2. Siksha, Diksha, and Semantic Drift – More meanings of words and how they’ve gradually changed.
  3. Diksha – The history of giving mantras; what happens at the diksha ceremony; and what has changed in a thousand years.
  4. Qualities of the Guru and the Disciple – A classical description from the Nyasa Vimsati, the lifetime experience of the mediaeval Vaishnava saint, Vedanta Deshika.
  5. What does a guru teach? – Guru means ‘teacher,’ but what is he supposed to teach you, and how often? How do you know if he is teaching you correctly? How do you know if you are a good student?
  6. Teaching techniques of the gurus – Gurus employ a diverse range of time-tested techniques in order to help their disciples on their spiritual journey.
  7. The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship – Four ways the guru should not think about himself – or his disciple. Wisdom from the ancient sage, Pillai Lokacarya.
  8. Where can you find a guru? – Lord Krishna told Arjuna to ‘approach’ a guru. But where can you find one? Here is what Krishna said years later, as recorded in the eleventh canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
  9. Within You, Without You – How God manifests as the guru, both inside and out.
  10. Little Ants on a Leaping Lion – Who is more important for the disciple – the physically manifest guru or the historical acarya? The discussion continues after 900 years.
  11. The Parampara Family Tree – How the best fruit is gently carried down through the branches of the tree.
  12. A Very Different Diksha – Misconceptions and movements. How the grandfathers of contemporary Vaishnavism tackled ‘mission drift.’

Part Three: Creating and sustaining community

  1. The Guru spreads his Arms – His ashrams, sanghas, missions and movements.
  2. Not Everybody likes Organisations – Why we don’t like ‘organised religion,’ and prefer small groups to big ones.
  3. Sustainability and Governance – Why hierarchy and ‘due diligence’ are essential – even in spiritual movements.
  4. Are you Church or Chapel? – Religious groups constantly divide and splinter, but by keeping a tradition spiritually dynamic, we can avoid the temptation of separation.

Part Four: Shades of saffron

  1. Sannyasa Dharma – Ancient rules for a renunciate and the ten vows he must make.
  2. Sannyasa – the Real and the False – Real sannyasa is internal, and goes beyond the wearing of saffron robes. So why was it important for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur?
  3. Undercurrents – The Gaudiya Mission was enormously successful, yet beneath the surface there were already swirling currents.
  4. White Skin, Orange Cloth – The many challenges in setting up a western sannyasa order from 1967 to 1977.
  5. Saffron Cardinals – An order of renunciates as ecclesiastics, and the phenomenon of ‘clergy burnout.’
  6. Reflections and Reforms – Sannyasis who became gurus share their private thoughts.

Part Five: Gurus, scandals and issues

  1. Why would anyone be a guru? – Discussing why, and how, the decision is made to accept disciples.
  2. Gurus of the Future – Srila Prabhupada speaks clearly on how he wants his disciples to become gurus after him.
  3. The July 9th Letter – In the 1980s certain members of ISKCON raised this one letter to the level of a religious text.
  4. So what went wrong? – The turbulent years after the passing of the founder-acarya threatened to wrench his movement apart. What mistakes were made?
  5. Stepping into their father’s shoes – Some of the complications of being a young guru in an even younger spiritual movement.
  6. Diksha Lite – In a bid to attract followers, some gurus offer initiation without training.
  7. Diksha and Drugs – In the name of ‘compassion,’ some gurus try to have disciples without discipline.
  8. Guru and Disciple in Therapy – In which we subject the guru-disciple relationship to an hour on the therapist’s couch.
  9. When the Wise become Weak – It does happen, sadly, so what should be our response? How can it be avoided?
  10. Loyal Disciple…or a mouse? – The guru repeats what he’s heard or loses his power.
  11. Leaving a Guru – Can you ever leave? What are the legitimate reasons?

Part Six: Becoming a disciple today

  1. Steps towards the Big Step – Spiritual life is a journey of a thousand steps. Where is initiation on that journey, and how do we prepare for it?
  2. Are you ready for a guru? – What should you look for within yourself before initiation? What doubts and myths about the guru have to be dissolved first?
  3. Serious to find a guru – Srila Prabhupada and his own guru write on how to find one.
  4. Testing the guru – No-one should blindly accept a guru. The candidate is first meant to test the guru. But how, exactly, and for how long?
  5. The Path to Initiation – How to become initiated in ISKCON today. Stages in the procedure and the support you’ll need to have in place.




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Wolf in sheep’s clothing


I’ve been reading the news about the increasing violence in Jerusalem this week, and it seems to be surpassing much of what’s been happening for years. The wave of horrific daily stabbings is far more brutal than ever seen before, and the number of people being killed at bus stops by crazed car drivers far outstrips the former randomness of such crimes. Why the sudden escalation?

It’s almost as if the activities of the IS in Syria and Iraq, made well known by their warped publicity department, has made other Islamists in the region much more brutal. And Mahmoud Abbas raising the Palestinian flag in a garden near the UN, and his constant inflammatory rhetoric, no doubt fanned the flames.

It’s not my business to comment on politics, especially of those countries I’ve never visited. But it is my business – at least I make it my business – to comment on religion-related issues. The Middle East is a political phenomenon disguised as a religious issue. As in most cases of this kind, it is not that the most pious and religious people are involved in making the political decisions. More often, it is the angriest politicians that cloak themselves in religious rhetoric that rise to the top of the social heap.

The so-called religious flashpoint is the Temple Mount / Al Aqsa Mosque, supposedly the ‘third holiest place for Muslims.’ Even though the location of Mohammed’s ‘night journey’ is nowhere mentioned in the Koran, and even though it was probably an invention of Saladdin to bolster his reasons for invading Jerusalem; and even though it is most surely a legacy of the historical Islamic preference to build mosques over the most sacred places of other people’s religions (please see Bethlehem, Ayodhya, Mathura, and numerous other sites in India).

The Bhagavad-gita is a conversation about religion that was recorded before the beginning of Islam. It therefore has absolutely nothing to say about Islam. But it does have an interesting take on how a mental state can spread among people, inducing the masses to share an emotion that by themselves they may never have experienced. Socialised emotion, you might call it. The Gita explains that the enemy of all of us is lust, the intense desire to reach out with one of the senses and control a material object (or a person who has been objectified) and enjoy it. The concomitant emotions are greed and anger. Indeed, says the speaker of the Gita, Sri Krishna, those three emotions, lust greed and anger, are ‘the gates leading to hell.’

Anything that inflames lust, greed and anger is the antithesis of religion and the enemy of spiritual progress. Anger-inducing religion is thus the very opposite of factual religion – a wolf in lamb’s clothing – and is the enemy of spiritual progress.

I also read this and thought I’d share it you:


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Groundbreaking ceremony at Parsippany, New Jersey

brahma puja

There’s a very old tradition of rituals in our Hare Krishna movement. Rather than being what people sometimes describe as ‘empty rituals,’ they are ceremonial offerings of service to the Divine, pleasing to the eye and ear, and satisfying to the heart. On a daily basis we keep them quite simple, but on special occasions we can create very elaborate and colourful festivals. The groundbreaking ceremony for the building of a new temple is one such occasion. A fire sacrifice is held, and a small statue of Ananta Sesha is buried deep down in the earth, directly beneath where the main altar will be.

This week, one such ceremony took place in Parsippany, New Jersey. It’s an important event because new temples come once in a lifetime for a community, particularly one built in a traditional style. You can see a short video here.

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Lord Vamanadeva appeared within this world from the womb of Aditi, the mother of the gods. He appeared at midday on the shravan-dvadasi, the 12th day of the lunar month of Shravan when the moon is waxing.

There are many lessons for Vaishnavas to learn from the narration of His activities, as found in the 8th canto, 18th chapter of the Bhagavat Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam). Amongst the lessons are these:

1. That God comes to this world in many forms; not just once, in one form, or even many times in the same form, but many times in many forms. He is never limited by the form, but remains all powerful.

2. That all other gods are meant to offer homage to Him. They did this when, appearing as a young child, he was awarded the sacred thread by Brihaspati, the guru of the gods. The sun god gave Him the Gayatri mantra and His father, Kasyapa Muni, a straw belt. Mother Earth gave Him a deerskin and Lord Brahma gave Him a waterpot. Kuvera, the heavenly treasurer gave Him a monk’s begging bowl, and the wife of Lord Shiva gave Him the first alms. In this way, the gods all offered the best of what they had to the Supreme God. Each of us, in our own way, must also give the best of what we own – our talents, intelligence, words and wealth – as a gift to that same God. He gave it to us along with our birth, and we can offer ot back to Him.

3. Upon seeing the lad from a distance, King Bali noticed his remarkable sun-like effulgence. He welcomed Him and washed His feet. Thinking of himself as a great proprietor of the Earth, Bali then asked Vamanadeva what He would like to be given in charity, as this was the custom of the king. Vamana replied that He only wanted three paces of land, as measured by His own short steps. The king smiled at the thought of such a small request. He was soon to discover that just as God comes in disguise, so His requests to us are often disguised as simple acts of devotion. Many people smile at the thought that God asks us for only three words: Hare, Krishna, and Rama, spoken as a mantra. But as we speak those three small words we begin to realise that He is changing our life forever from within our hearts.

4.Vamanadeva teaches Bali that enlightened human beings are meant to be satisfied with what comes to them. Those who are not satisfied with what they actually need will never be satisfied, even if they gain the whole Earth. And a man or a woman practising the spiritual life must never be dissatisfied, for by such dissatisfaction they sprinkle water on the inner fire of their spiritual potency.

5. Bali Maharaja’s guru, Sukracarya. was perceptive enough to understand what was happening, who the young boy was, and what was about to happen. But he counselled the king to deny the request, even though he knew that it was Vishnu Himself asking. Thus Sukra was an atheist, even though learned in the Vedas. Such a guru, who stands in the way of his disciple’s emancipation, is fit to be rejected.

6. Bali turns to his guru and says that telling lies, or not keeping a promise once spoken, is the most sinful act. He explains that Mother Earth once said:  ” I can bear any heavy thing except a person who is a liar.” Therefore, a person living according to dharma must scrupulously avoid lying.

7. He explains that the opportunity to give in charity to a qualified, saintly person is very rare. It must never be regarded as a time of loss, but as a moment when auspiciousness is drawn towards the giver. When we give we don’t lose, rather God – and the universe – gives us even more in return.

8. Sukra curses his own disciple, thus revealing the actual relationship that sometimes exists between an official religious priest and a member of the faith.


9. Vamana responds to Bali’s promise by expanding his size. Although God may appear as a child, He is the oldest of the old, the immeasurably largest of all large things, and the most powerful of all. This lesson would later be learned by Lord Brahma, who tested the Lord’s power when He appeared as child Krishna. God is also the ultimate owner of everything since everything emanates from Him.

10. Vamana takes His first two steps which, due to His size, encompass the entire cosmos. When He asks where He should place his third promised step, Bali realises that there is only one thing left to give Him – his very self. The king surrenders fully to God at that moment. The surrender of Bali, although offered in a moment of abject desperation, is nonetheless to be emulated by all of us. We don’t own countries, but we do regard ourselves as proprietors of our domestic domains. Most of these, in truth, never quite belong to us legally, and in the grand scheme of things we can claim no factual ownership at all. Death will come very quickly and take everything away from us, so better to give it all to God now. We do this by dedicating everything we own to His service. The result? Curiously enough, the same result that Bali achieved: that we are given everything back and that God draws us nearer to  Him and His eternal abode.

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“No scarcity of acarya…”


I have written several times of the need in society for an increased numbers of volunteers to provide good spiritual teaching, pastoral care, encouragement and guidance. Essentially the need for gurus, by whatever nomenclature or sub-category we might wish to call them.

In this clip from 1975, the founder-acarya of the Hare Krishna movement requests his followers to create an organisation of many thousands of such ‘acaryas.’

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The Guru & Disciple Book gets off to a good start


Our Lord and the Twelve Disciples was the title of a Victorian print hanging on the wall of my childhood Sunday school in Cornwall. I can still see it now. In different attentive postures, the twelve are gathered around their Master, whose right hand is held in benediction. They are in awe at his divine words, and their closeness to the Son of God indicates their status not merely as followers, but as The Twelve Disciples. That picture had a lasting effect on me. Throughout my childhood, the word disciple always meant those twelve – and only them.

Fast forward a few years and I was in Africa speaking to a large group of Ethiopians. It was from them that I first heard the term nefshabbas, the local term for spiritual teacher or guide. The nefshabbas was ‘the soul-father’ and he guided you on your earthly journey towards God. As a disciple, or daqa of such a spiritual helper one would offer reverence and service in exchange for teaching and guidance. Gradually, I learned that every branch of Christianity had versions of this relationship between master and disciple. In Russian Orthodoxy the guide was the starets and his disciple the uchenik, while in Greece the spiritual elder was the geron. In early Ireland he was the anamcara, or ‘soul friend.’ But it didn’t end there.

I discovered that every spiritual path, every religion, had such a master-disciple relationship for compassionate and friendly instruction. For the Sufi Muslims the murshid or pir was the spiritual guide and the murid his acolyte; while in China the teacher was the shifu and over in Japan he was the roshi. European Jews spoke of the mashpiya as the learned guide, and the tzadik as the saintly master. Discipleship, it seems, is a universal approach to spiritual learning and grace, and knows no geographical or cultural boundaries. The twelve disciples did not have the monopoly on discipleship, after all.

India has embodied the master-disciple relationship in millions of spiritual friendships over thousands of years. Although the ancient Sanskrit language is used to describe it – guru and sishya – India gives us the archetypal form of that vital connection which is familiar to all religious or spiritual traditions. No other country has had such a full and rich history of spirituality taught by such a time-tested method. The very history of that land is made up of gurus and their disciples and the detailed science of spiritual transmission has been preserved intact.

For the path of yoga, the guru and sishya relationship was the only way to effect inner transformation. Becoming a disciple was not an easy life, but for someone who wanted to learn both transcendental knowledge and meditation techniques, and to reap the ample rewards of practising both under the guidance of an expert, it was the singular choice to make. It still is today.

So in my book I try to describe the teaching techniques and relationship dynamics of the guru-disciple connection. I find it a fascinating subject. The book seems to be accessible for readers so far. Over the recent festival weekend we sold 70 copies and the comments have been favourable. In the past few days I’ve been organizing the book’s overseas sales. The distributor Motilal UK is handling sales through Amazon UK, USA and India, and also with Nielsens. I’m exploring well known routes for our Vaishnava community.



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A Plainly-Named Book


For the past twenty years, at least, people have been asking me my understanding of the various philosophical aspects and issues related to the subject of the guru and disciple relationship. Although many liked the traditional idea of practising spiritual life with a guide and teacher, they found some of the aspects inaccessible and some quite controversial. I always tried my best to convey to them both the tradition and the contemporary application as I understood it. When it became clear that successive waves of people were asking similar questions, and that some of them found my answers interesting and helpful, I started writing it down for them instead of speaking. Some of that writing has already been published as posts in my blog. Eventually I thought to compile it all to have everything in one place. I didn’t think of writing a book. But, as these things go, a book was the result. So here is a plainly-named book, The Guru & Disciple Book, and it will be coming out on September 3rd.

It will be available on Amazon and from other outlets.


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50 Years ago today: How one sadhu changed the world


In 1965, fifty years ago today, an elderly Indian gentleman boarded a steamship in Calcutta. He was a saffron-robed sadhu – a holy man – bound for America, a place he had never visited before, and a place where he had no friends. Almost 70, he had spent the last eight years in the medieval town of Vrindavan, the home of Lord Krishna. In the last years of his life he wanted to give his spiritual message to the world, but at such an advanced age in a foreign country, and with no support, what could he do? How many would listen to him?

He sat under a tree in a park in New York City, played on some small hand cymbals, and sang the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Surprisingly, some young people walked over, sat down, and joined in with this strange chant. They listened with interest when he spoke of yoga and of how meditation could take them to a higher level of consciousness. Later, in a small shop front temple, they watched, fascinated, as he performed the traditional arati ceremony with incense, bells and lamps, and followed him as he showed them how to chant the mantra using wooden beads. He even cooked vegetarian meals for them, with delicious, exotic-sounding names: dahl, subji, chapatti, pakorah, samosa, halavah, laddhu and gulabjamon. The young people had never experienced anything like this before. Gradually he taught them how to live a good and simple life, free from bad habits and confusing ideas. The elderly sadhu’s name is now known to all: His Divine Grace Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; and his young followers became the Hare Krishna Movement.

By the time Srila Prabhupada passed away, there were more than 100 branches of his ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’ (ISKCON) in all the major cities of the world. That was in 1977, only 12 years after he first sat under a tree. Now there are more than 600 places where his followers gather to sing the Hare Krishna mantra, study his teachings, and conduct religious festivals. Even in Russia more than 10,000 honour Srila Prabhupada as their guru, just as they do in Africa, the Amazon, China, and even in the Arctic Circle. It is a remarkable achievement for one elderly sadhu and a few followers.

Srila Prabhupada was remarkably gifted. He was an expert Sanskrit scholar, an articulate speaker, a generous teacher and a compassionate and understanding spiritual preceptor. He had an unshakeable conviction in the reality of Krishna, the Supreme Godhead, and his communion with that same Krishna nourished and informed his every move. But he said that anyone could achieve the same success by introducing some simple spiritual practices into their daily life. As many thousands of his followers have found, by spiritualizing our life we can become peaceful, happy and contented, and by sharing what we know with others – just as Srila Prabhupada did – we can play our part in making the world a better place.


The Ten Point Campaign

  1. Recite the Hare Krishna mantra on a circle of 108 wooden beads. This is known as japa One time round the beads each morning is for beginners, four times round as a daily minimum is for committed members, and sixteen ‘rounds’ is the standard for experienced practitioners. Japa meditation is the basic practice of devotees of Krishna.


  1. Read the books translated and commented by Srila Prabhupada. Along with the well-known Bhagavad-gita there is the Srimad Bhagavatam. Its 18,000 verses were Srila Prabhupada’s life work and not only continue the philosophical teachings of Shri Krishna found in the Gita, but also describe Krishna’s divine appearance within this world, as well as accounts of his many avatars. Srila Prabhupada also published the Caitanya Caritamrita, the biography and detailed teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna’s most recent incarnation. There are also the important works of Srila Rupa Goswami, medieval disciple of Caitanya, such as Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and Upadeshamrita, as well as one of the principal Upanishads, the Isha Upanishad. Srila Prabhupada’s books provide authentic and time-tested wisdom, and their careful study creates a strong foundation for spiritual life.


  1. Sing the Hare Krishna mantra and other melodious songs accompanied by musical instruments. This very popular devotional activity, known as kirtan, can form the basis of many family and communal gatherings.


  1. Join together with others to discuss the teachings and their practical application in your life. Hold kirtan and chant japa Treat these gatherings as your personal spiritual community.


  1. Offer a practical service to your local temple or group. Find something you like to do and spend one or two hours each week in volunteer service. This will be of great help to the mission and will be spiritually purifying and uplifting for you. Through this service, known as seva, the philosophy comes to life.


  1. Give up any bad habits you have, or at least try to minimize them. Remove all meat and fish from your diet, as they are the products of violence. Avoid impure items such as eggs, onions and garlic as they pollute the system. Abandon all forms of intoxicant. Try to live simply, without exploitation of the world or others around you.


  1. Create a sacred space in your home. A small altar dedicated to Krishna will sanctify your entire house. Offer pure foods to Krishna by placing them before his image. Eat only food which has been made sacred by offering, known as Krishna prasadam. If you can, light lamps or candles, and offer incense and flowers each day on your altar.


  1. Be generous to others – share what you have learned and experienced with them. Answering spiritual enquiries, giving out leaflets or books, distributing free Krishna prasadam, and taking part in public kirtans and festivals; all these are a blessing for you and to others.


  1. Celebrate the festivals and honour the days of fasting. Learn how celebrating special days can help your spiritual growth. Do not eat any grains, beans and legumes or items that contain them on the holy days of ekadasi, the 11th day of the moon which comes twice in a month.


  1. Make friendship with those who are spiritually strong. Meet with them regularly and enquire from them. Avoid those who seek to minimize your spiritual commitments. Create a strong friendship with at least one sadhu – an experienced and knowledgeable devotee of Krishna who shows interest in your spiritual progress.


All the members of the Krishna devotee community are deeply committed to helping you in any way possible. We want you to enjoy Krishna consciousness and make new friends. So here are some suggestions we think you’ll find helpful:



In many towns there are Krishna groups known as sangas that meet regularly. At these gatherings, which generally last for 90 minutes, you can enjoy uplifting kirtans, a lively and informative talk or discussion on Bhagavad-gita, and often an arati ceremony – a festive traditional offering of lamps, incense and flowers. And of course, there will be delicious Krishna prasadam at the end. With members like yourself you’ll find support and encouragement. If there is not a sanga conveniently close by, you might like to play host to a gathering in your house or a nearby venue.


Krishna appeared in this world five hundred years ago in His avatar of Sri Caitanya. In this form He travelled from town to town in India singing the Hare Krishna mantra and teaching the people how to live a spiritual and Godly life. Srila Prabhupada did the same and so do we, his followers. There are great spiritual blessings to be gained by anyone who shares the message of Krishna or the holy name of Krishna with others. Our weekend public kirtan programmes – known as sankirtan – visit different neighbourhoods all over London and beyond. We hold lively and melodious musical kirtan, give out prasadam, sell books, and generally bring a temple festival atmosphere to the city streets. Sometimes as many as 40 Krishna devotees are in one place at a time. If you come and take part, even for an hour, you will enjoy it.


Spiritual life according to the Bhagavad-gita is not all about stillness and contemplation. Meditation also gives rise to vigorous and practical activities fully dedicated to God. Temples are set up as places where both aspects of spiritual life are practiced, and where the opportunity of practical service is always available – and needed! Devotees like to come to the temple and offer one or two hours of volunteer service; whatever they like to do can be offered to Krishna. In the city temple there is caring for guests, driving, cleaning, preparing for festivals, cooking, and simple administration work; and in the country temple (in addition to all of those) there’s looking after cows and bulls, gardening, farming, and assisting the large number of pilgrims who visit.


We all need a sadhu in our life; someone who is a good spiritual example, knowledgeable with teaching skills and a pleasant manner; that has experience and is willing to help us move forward. A friendly guide on your path can lift your spirits, help you work round obstacles or make it through difficult patches, and will always be on hand to answer questions and offer guidance if you want it. Those who have such a senior guide in their life have found it very helpful and so we highly recommend it to all members of our community.  Our mentorship system is available for all committed members. Later on, after a period of enjoying the tangible benefits of spiritual practice, you may like to consider making your lifetime vows. This is an important step in spiritual life when you dedicate yourself to Krishna under the guidance of a qualified preceptor, or guru, thus becoming a disciple, or sishya. This spiritual initiation is offered to all those who chant a minimum of sixteen rounds each day, uphold and understand the required disciplines and teachings, and demonstrate steadiness in their spiritual life.

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New Generation of Music inspired by India’s Mahabharata

Inevitable Time

I may be hopelessly biased, but I think Inevitable Time is one of the most important new albums to have come out this year. Its from a new generation of musicians who take classical themes – in this case the Mahabharata of India – and breathes new life into them with a sound that is completely contemporary.

Ananda Monet was trained in Russian folk singing – which gives her a dynamic and at times unearthly edge to her powerful yet emotional voice – a sound that lifts the lyrics to a new dimension. The collaborative trio of Jagannatha Suta, Pete Booker and Andy Baldwin (The Who, Florence and the Machine, producer) make sure the sound is superb.

I witnessed the launch of the album with the full stage performance in London, but with the astounding new visuals supplied with the album and the website to support the story behind the album, you won’t be missing out if you didn’t see it there first.

Don’t take my word for it, read reviews, see the story and hear clips here on the dedicated website. Best if you buy it before it runs out by clicking here.


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The great legacy of Bhaktivinode Thakur

Bhaktivinode Thakur02

Bhaktivinode Thakur left us all a great legacy of devotional songs and poetry. Today being the day he passed away in 1914, it is an opportunity for those of us whose lives have been enriched by his words, to take a few minutes and read one or two, or sing them as well.

This morning I sat with my daughter and we sang the song beginning Atmanivedana… from the Saranagati collection. Each song in that book is a nuance of devotional theology; the songs progressing from one aspect to another so that every thought and theological conclusion involved in surrender to God has been expressed. It is a wonderful library of hymns.

The Thakur was writing at a time when much of his thought was regarded as antiquated and merely a remnant of India’s long and beleaguered history. The intellectuals of the day, the English-educated bhadralok, were mostly involved in appeasing their British overlords in order to secure the best paying jobs. The theological aim of the day was to form a Hindu-Christian syncretism so that Hinduism would not be seen as backward.

Bhaktivinode Thakur was fixed in his understanding of the perennial value of devotional bhakti, and taught that it was not something subject to the vagaries of the age. In defiance of many of his contemporaries he wrote his songs and published them.

Thirty-three years after his death the British left India for good and perceptions of India’s philosophical history began to change. In 2015 India is enjoying a resurgence in many ways. People are more proud of India and its traditions, and the Thakur’s songs are being sung by his modern followers all over the country.

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