The Ten Fundamentals

Bhaktivinode Thakur02

Here’s a poem by my old friend, Madan Mohan Das. Its The Ten Fundamentals or Siksa Dasaka-Moolam; being the articles of faith deduced primarily from Caitanya Caritamrta and adduced as ten propositions by Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

  1. The Vedic truths are deemed self evident,
    As have in pure succession made descent;
    2. Which first that Hari is supreme decree,
    3. He is possessed of omnipotency;
    4. He is the source of bliss and rapture’s store;
    5. That souls stand in between the land and shore;
    6. Some bound by matter,7 and some bound no more.
    All souls and worlds subsist in him alone,
    8. And all are one with him, and yet not one.
    9. The way to win his grace is said to be,
    To sing his name in holy company.
    10. And finally to gain the highest bliss
    Of Krishna’s love, than which naught better is.

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Daily Japa: My Daily Flight


The first six months of my life were spent on an RAF aerodrome, and as a child I heard the grown-ups talking of military aircraft and of daring aerial battles during the war. No small wonder that I still think of flight as a metaphor for spiritual progress.

As every western devotee of Krishna knows, the daily commitment of a dedicated practitioner is to chant a minimum of sixteen rounds each day. This takes around two hours. The effect of the Hare Krishna mantra is quite remarkable, especially when recited early in the morning with mental focus and without distraction. The meditator feels uplifted by gradual degrees until there is a distinct feeling of lightness; of being free from gravity.

But in order to derive the most benefit from mantra meditation it must be done with determination and a feeling of gratitude and respect. Wherever the mind wanders it must be brought back to the sound of the mantra. That may take some time each morning; the mind still has to struggle with the lingering remnants of the night’s dreams, snatches of remembered conversation or hopes and longings for the future. Eventually, after an extended period of mental wrestling, the intelligence overpowers the mind and a level of absorption is reached.

I think of it as the gradual ascent of an aircraft – a British wartime Spitfire, naturally. So here’s what chanting sixteen rounds feels like in flight mode:

0 – 4 Rounds

The first round is usually accompanied by much coughing and spluttering. The engine is cold, having been out in the field all night. As you turn over the engine it may take a minute or two before it catches and you can rev it up. But once warm, the chocks are kicked aside, your plane turned in the right direction and you begin making your taxi down to the runway. You look at the sky, look at the wind direction, and begin to pick up speed along the runway. You begin to feel an intermittent lift as your plane reaches take-off speed.

4 -8 Rounds

You lift the nose of your Spitfire, but you’re a little too soon, and you jerkily come down to the ground again. Picking up just a little more speed, you see the trees flash past you. Again that feeling of lightness. And then the noise in your head stops: your wheels are no longer bumping along the ground. At first you’re only a few inches above the ground, but slowly, gradually, you lift and the ground sinks away from your eyes. Only the tops of the trees are visible. You’re flying.

8 – 12 Rounds

But you’re still too low to relax. You have to climb because flying low is dangerous. It takes more effort to climb than it does to take off. So you adjust the throttle and pull back on the lever, aiming for the wisp of cloud up ahead of you. Suddenly it goes darker; you are surrounded by cloud. You can’t see anything ahead or to the sides of you. You feel mild panic at having your vision so restricted. But after a few minutes, as you continue to climb, the cockpit becomes lighter and lighter.

12 – 16 Rounds

You break through the cloud cover and watch as it gently retreats slowly below you. The strength of the sunlight up here surprises you. It’s a completely different world; clean and fresh, light and bright. Up here there is only you, the bright blue sky and the Sun. For a moment even the mechanics that got you up here seem to disappear. The aircraft has become only a distant presence. You can’t even hear the engine anymore. You are soaring now, climbing ever higher. Nothing can stop you now. You are free.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Spitfire Pilot




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Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Breakthrough


I don’t think I quite believed in God until I had a trans-rectal prostate gland biopsy. The experience made me a believer. Well, I had to shout out to someone for help.

There are parts of the body that our Creator did not design to be investigated with cameras, let alone 12 needles. I will say no more.

Good news indeed, then, that a breakthrough has been made on the prostate cancer diagnosis front. It may save many men from having to go through the unpleasant experience, especially the 27% of men that didn’t actually need it.

More importantly, it will help to save lives if the diagnosis is less invasive, since men of a certain age tend to be doctor-phobic at just the wrong time of life.

Breakthrough news here.

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Remote Viewing Revealed: Uri Geller speaks out


In 1998 the CIA ended its research into the intelligence-gathering and espionage potential of ‘remote viewing.’ It had been running since 1973. The research was to study the ability of certain people to see pictures and objects at a distance – without using their eyes. 25 years is a long time for a government agency to investigate what many called a ‘spurious psychic phenomenon.’

A quarter of a century suggests that someone, somewhere, thought it was indeed worth investigating, and that the results from laboratories such as Stanford, one of the universities where the remote viewing was conducted, was actually coming up with tangible results.

Typically a ‘psychic’ would be asked to describe, or reproduce, a drawing being made by a ‘target’ at a remote location. There was no prior contact between them, and no connections at all during the experiment. Yet the results were remarkable, with detailed drawings made in the lab that accurately reproduced the original. The repeated observatory powers of the laboratory psychics seemed to suggest to the scientists that the power of the mind to see is not limited by the eyes.

But how could that be? The working model for neurologists is that the mind is a function of the brain, and that the power of sight is therefore limited to direct perception of an object through the medium of light waves entering the eye. That being so, the results of ‘remote-viewing’ should have been statistically random. But they weren’t. In many cases the experiments showed that the psychics could ‘see’ with startling accuracy.

One such person, it has just been revealed, was the spoon-bending Uri Geller, whose story of CIA-sponsored experiments can now be told.


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Not too late to make a resolution!


Resolutions are like a pod of seeds. They’ll grow.

It’s still not too late for a New Year’s resolution. You can do it. Whatever it is, rallying your determination now can make all the difference to the rest of the year.

For those of us walking the spiritual path, January is a great time for looking at the year ahead and fixing our determination to reach a target. Yes, even the spiritual life has targets, and spiritually-motivated development of mental strength is an essential prerequisite. Visualising your goal comes first, then verbalising it as an affirmation. A determined resolution is known as a sankalpa, and expressed as a verbal commitment becomes a vrata.

It’s much easier to reach any goal when you have friends who share the same path, and especially when one of them gives you encouragement and occasional guidance. Such a person can be a patha-pradipika guru for you, someone who ‘keeps the path illuminated.’

A coach is someone who helps you reach your goals, often in sport. He or she will listen carefully as you describe what sort of physique you wish to have, the level of stamina you want, and the lap times you’d like to reach. The coach will then suggest exercises and a fitness regime that will suit you. In spiritual life it’s just the same. We all need someone who’ll listen to the goals we’d like to reach and offer us guidance to get there.

You may already have such a person in your life, or you may be looking for one. Finding one, trusting them, and being honest when you don’t make your chosen target is a key element in keeping your resolutions and becoming an improved version of yourself.



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Management vs Theology – a new challenge


Martin Luther nails his protest to the church door

Any human endeavour requires good management. Any organisation of a certain size – and some say over 150 members – requires a different system of management from that of its beginnings. But when good management dominates theology, and spiritual vitality, and moderates religious practice, and we choose a religious leader on the basis of how good a manager he is, then the very purposes for which the organisation was founded are threatened.

This year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s challenge to the Church of his day. He thought it needed reform and he wrote his suggestions as a list. A contemporary list of suggested reforms for bishops of the Church of England, all 95 of them, has been published and makes interesting reading. It’s a long piece, but it can be ‘translated’ for the organisation or movement of your choice.

Here it is.


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Happy New Year of Service to the Vaishnavas!

We have now entered 2017 and with it, the Millenium of Sri Ramanujacarya. I wish all the Vaishnavas who will be directly celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of the birth a wonderful year, and I wish that his name is broadcast far and wide. May the glories of Ramanujacarya be communicated in 108 languages, by 1,008 great teachers, all over the world.

This morning I received this link and I would urge my readers to have a look and see if inspiration comes to you.

Meanwhile, our efforts to make known the great legacy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada continue past the 50th year celebrations with the new film on his life. The movie is the devoted work of Yadubara Das and his wife Visakha Dasi. It was always going to be quite a monumental undertaking to produce a full-length documentary of this type. But they did it, and now the cinema distribution is the task in hand.

Let’s all make a small contribution to the cost of this (a generous sponsor will double your donation) and this beautiful film will come to a cinema near you soon this year.

Just click here for information.

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What is the Spirit?


A few years ago I narrated a compilation of selections from the Upanishads. Music was added and it became track 7 on the Chakram album. Now some friends have created a video around the track. I’d like to share it with you, please click here.


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Renunciation Personified


Today is Gaura Kishor Das Babaji’s appearance day. In our line of gurus he comes after Bhaktivinode Thakur and before Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. He is a very important person because his life was an example of vairagya, or renunciation.

His life was an example of an authentic detachment from sense gratification and the utmost attraction to spiritual gratification. He lived alone most of the time, often on the bank of the Ganges river in Mayapur. He ate very little, and spent his time chanting the maha-mantra. For clothing he simply picked up discarded items, and for food he begged a little rice which he would soak in Ganges water.

When anyone came to become his disciple he would refuse. When they came to ask him questions he would reply that everything  could be found in the songbook of Narottama das Thakur. When they came to him and asked for ‘secret mantras’ he said that everything would be revealed by the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, which in itself was the highest of all mantras.

When they weren’t trying to become his disciples, some of them would try to imitate him. One time a man camped just down the riverbank from him, dressing like him and trying to chant like him. At times the man would let out cries of “Oh Krishna!” as if he was experiencing spiritual ectasy. However, the Babaji could see that the man was trying to attract followers with his behaviour. His comments were typical: “Sometimes a woman cries out with all the sounds of the labour of childbirth – but she is not yet pregnant even! Similarly a man thinks he has developed love of God, but the seed of love has not yet grown within him!”

Gaura Kishor Das Babaji was leading a life that was only possible because he had factually realised the pleasure of chanting Krishna’s names, and simply could not be bothered to cater for his own eating, sleeping and comfort. It is not a life that could be imitated prematurely.

But as much as he shunned public attention, even refusing to have his photograph taken (there was only one picture ever made), he was a regular visitor to the home of Bhaktivinode Thakur. There in the garden they would discuss the Srimad Bhagavatam, and the Thakur was very impressed with his company.  At the side of the house was a small brick shed, and the Babaji  would sit inside there on rainy days, the holy name reverberating off the brick walls.

The Thakur insisted that his son, Bimala Prasada, take initiation from the Babaji, but he was educated and the Babaji was illiterate. But the father was so strict he told his son: “If you do not take initiation from him – don’t return to this house!” Repeatedly, Bimala Prasad asked until the Babaji simply said, “Alright, but I will have to ask Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If he says ‘yes’ then I will initiate you.” The next week, Bimala came and asked what had been the reply. “Oh, I forgot to ask,” responded the Babaji. But eventually Bimala became the one and only disciple, and went on to become, years later, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur.

However, at first he was confused. His father, Bhaktivinode, was a great preacher, writer, and publisher of books. He moved in high social circles and had a large following. But his guru lived alone, had no followers, was a renunciate and a constant chanter of the name. Who should he follow – his father, a great devotee, or his guru, a great devotee?

He decided to first chant more than 100 rounds of Hare Krishna japa every day, and lived in a simple straw hut, even though the roof leaked. After some years he received the inspiration to begin his preaching mission, the result of which, through his dear disciple Srila Prabhupada, is now in cities all over the world.

Some years ago, I learned that the original shed where the Babaji chanted had been knocked down to make way for a concrete shrine built in his memory. Such things happen in India. I was able to salvage a few chips of one of the original bricks, and still have them for inspiration. Gaura Kishor Das Babaji’s body is now interred in a Samadhi shrine in the grounds of the Chaitanya Math, the original headquarters of the Gaudiya Mission.


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Kirtans from the Attic

Here’s some old recordings of kirtans from thirty years ago. Although 1985 was a great year for cassette tapes, time had taken its toll on them and they were sounding pretty rough. Now they’ve been given new life by Jaggi of Radha Krishna Records.

Jaggi has done a great job in restoring them. Using a Bang & Olufsen tape machine, he cleaned the tape heads, played it back through a BBC analogue desk, and enhanced the recording. Hopefully you will find a use for them.

They arrived just in time for my 60th birthday. If you enjoy them please say a prayer for my continued good health and spiritual progress. Hare Krishna.



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