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This is a simple recipe for vegetarian kebabs.  I have used panir for this recipe, but vegans may prefer tofu. You can also use haloumi cheese.

Method:

The Kebabs

  1. Shallow-fry radishes, cauliflower flowerets and peppers in olive oil in a frying pan at medium-high heat.
  2. Shallow-fry panir cubes in a frying pan until crispy-brown all round.
  3. Cut plum or cherry tomatoes, prunes and dried apricots into halves
  4. Assemble on skewers

The Marinade

Mix olive oil, soya sauce, two tsps pomegranate molasses with mix of roasted-and-crushed coriander, cloves and cumin.  Add a little water.

Place kebabs on foil on oven tray.  Drizzle marinade over both sides of the kebabs.  Roast in oven at 170C for 10 mins.  Grill till crisp for another 5-10mins.

Offer and eat.

There is a lovely food store in Shoreditch, near Arnold’s Circus, called ‘Leila’s’, which has an interesting range of fine quality vegetables etc.  Here is a vegetarian cornish pastie pie partly based on Leila’s advice.

Directions:

  1.  Cut potatoes into small cubes, do the same with two carrots, cube one swiss chard (it is onion family, so you may not want to do this if you’re very strictly anti-onions), add a large handful of celery.
  2. Put tbsp butter in pan at high heat.  Add smoked paprika, pepper flakes, grated nutmeg, fresh turmeric root, asafoetida and two bay leaves.  Add two cups of water.
  3. Add Himalayan salt, crushed black pepper and vegetable stock.  Add vegetables.
  4. Cook until tender.  Add fresh parsley.
  5. Cook until fully cooked and a little stodgy. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
  6. Fold out puff pastry (check to to see if it is vegetarian-friendly) and roll a little, adding flour to the rolling surface to prevent from sticking.
  7. Add pie-filling to pastry.
  8. Fold pastry over, using a fork to close the pie.  Prick the top of the pastry.
  9. Glaze with milk, using a food brush
  10. Place in oven at 180C for about 20-25mins.
  11. Remove when crisp and brown.

 

Purchased some sage the other day and was thinking of ways to use it before it wilted like an old lizard’s skin.  Googled vegetarian recipes with sage.  Search suggested a whole bunch of recipes with pumpkin and butternut.  Here is my adaptation of a pumpkin risotto recipe.

1. Boil water.  Dissolve vegetable stock cube.  Roast small cubes of pumpkin in oven with a little oil.

2. Pan fry risotto/arboreo rice in butter, with asafoetida until light brown.

3. Add stock water to rice, a couple of centimetres above rice.  Boil on high heat.  Keep adding water to rice, as water evaporates.  Add pumpkin and finely chopped celery when  rice is 3/4 cooked.  Add crushed pepper and Himalayan/sea salt.  Add lemon rind and finely chopped sage. Pinch of paprika.  Add butter or extra virgin olive oil.

4. Remove from heat when rice is soft.  Nice with rennet-free parmesan cheese.

 

‘Animal welfare groups cannot persist simply in order to continue to persist.  There must be a governmental voice against the hellish and archaic social injustice to animals in the United Kingdom simply because those animals do not speak English, otherwise millions of very caring citizens are greatly concerned about issues that non one is able to do anything about.  What animal protectionists need to say is very well worth saying and well worth hearing.  But we cannot sit around waiting for establishment enlightenment.  The sanctimonious disaster of animal agriculture cannot be allowed to go on forever, because its widespread impact is hellish. Animals in dairy farms and abattoirs are very eager not to die, yet their bodies are torn apart whilst still alive as they are strapped beneath a blade.  No outcome can justify this, and we cannot be happy with a society that allows it to happen, because such a society without compassion goes nowhere.  The abattoir is the modern continuation of the Nazi concentration camp, and if you are a part of the milk-drinking population, then you condone systems of torture.  There is no such thing as humane slaughter, and if you believe that there is, then why not experience it for yourself?  If animal serial killer Jamie Oliver feels so passionate about including ‘kid meat’ (young goat) into the human diet, would he consider putting forth one of his own kids (children) for general consumption?  If not, why not?  What makes such people have absolutely no forgiveness towards animals?  What hate drives them? The meat industry, after all, shows no compassion towards the planet, towards climate change, towards animals, towards human health.  It is diabolically contrived and is the world’s number one problem.  It is also the number one issue stifled from any political debate, which, if anything, highlights its importance.  The slaughterhouse effectively means that none of us are safe.  Just investigate the appalling effects of meat production on our climate, environment, fields, forests, lakes, streams, seas, air and space. Your eyes will pop.  No bigger global disaster could possibly be devised.  Social justice for animals is not much to demand, because we are only asking humans to think rationally and with heart, even if being unable to hunt foxes and shoot birds would leave the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family with nothing else to do’.  Morrissey, http://true-to-you.net, (4 March 2016)

The town of Govardhana is named after Govardhana Hill.  Govardhana Hill is the sacred hill Krishna lifted on His baby finger to protect the inhabitants of Vrindavan from lord Indra’s wrath. Indra, the king of heaven, resented the brijbasi’s  adoration of Krishna.  He summoned his samvartaka clouds, ordinarily invoked at the time of universal destruction, to destroy Krishna’s brijbasis.  It is said Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill ‘like a mushroom’ – an action commemorated by the  Govardhana anakhuta festival or Govardhana puja (puja means ‘worship’).  The pastime called Govardhana-lila is depicted on gaudy cloths and paintings in the homes of pious Hindus all over the world.  I arrived in Govardhana at midday amidst a swirl of tuk-tuks (diesel taxis), dust and mendicants.

A grimy, wiry youth with a red-and-white checked gamcha wrapped around his forehead approached me as I slid off the metal back-bar of the autoriksha. The boy was holding a basket which he pushed towards me with his outstretched arms. I remembered yesterday’s feast at Govardhana Palace.  Rice, dal, spicy Indian sabjis, sweet rice and Giriraja saonpapri – lovingly served by Russian devotees from circular straw baskets. Saonpapri is produced by repeatedly adding syrup to a mixture of channa (chickpea) flour and ghee, heated in a kadai or wok.  The golden-yellow mixture is removed from the kadai, twisted into sticky strands and beaten over a marble slab.  Saonpapri is the light-brown, buttery result of this labour of love. Saonpapri melts in your mouth, like a blend of compacted sugarcane and biscuit.

The boy ceremoniously opened his basket.  There were no heavenly confections inside; only the brown, scaly coils of a lethargic Indian cobra!  Snake charmers starve their snakes to keep them docile and manageable.  I watched the boy’s hand slide over the snake’s neck, in a light caress, a meter from where I stood.  I stepped back.  My craving for Giriraja saonpapri vanished at the thought of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami’s story, ‘The Frog and the Lily-pad’. The frog sits poised on a lily-pad, waiting for a fly.  The frog is unaware that the black serpent of time is hovering over him with open jaws.  Like the frog, we are also unaware of our mortality.  We think we are going to live forever and, in our foolishness, seek sensual enjoyments.  We do not realise the “snake” of death is waiting for us with wide open jaws. The ancient Sanskrit adage goes: Padam padam vipadam na tesam.  There is ‘danger at every step’.  Why?  Because we are subject to birth, disease, old age and death. The seriousness of my visit to Varsana now dawned on me.   I hailed another autoriksha, skipped my visit to Giriraja Sweet Shop and prepared my mind for the next stop – Radharani’s palace.  The afternoon was slipping by.

Yada yada hi dharmasya/glanir bhavati bharata/abhyutanam adharmasya/tadatmanam srijami aham 

‘Whenever and wherever there is a decline in relgious practice, O scion of Bharata, and aa predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend myself’ (Bg. 4.7)

This verse is well-know to Hindus and followers of sanatana dharma.  You often see the original Devanagari script, with a picture of Arjuna and Krishna riding upon a chariot, in the homes of Hindus.  The word glanir means that there is a need for re-spiritualization, for Krishna consciousness, in this godless world.  The Lord, therefore, appears from to time to revive religion or dharma. He appeared in His original form in Vrindavan 5,000 years ago.  Five hundred years ago, on this auspicious day, Sri Gaura Purnima, He appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You might be wondering, ‘Who is Caitanya Mahaprabhu?’ This was the question I first posed to a Hare Krishna devotee outside the Standard Bank in Rondebosch, in Cape Town, some 17 years ago. I asked, ‘Who is Kaitanya Mahaprabhu?’ (I wasn’t sure of the pronunciation).

We all have different conceptions of God.  There is the analogy of a mountain.  The mountain is seen in different ways according to where you are standing.  Some see the Supreme Personality of Godhead as all-pervasive spirit, or Brahman; some see Him as the Holy Spirit within all living beings, Paramatma; and others see Him in His personal feature, Bhagavan.  It is challenging for us to hear things like, ‘Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ or ‘the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared in this world as a renunciate.’  This is because we live in a world that favours impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth over the personal. We do not see the chairman of Anglo American, yet we accept his existence – even though there are branches of Anglo American all over the world! The word avatara is the Sanskrit word which describes the appearance of the Lord within the material world.  Avatara literally means ‘one who descends’, ie. ‘one who descends from the spiritual world to the material world.’  Krishna is avatari.  He is the source of all avataras or incarnations.  The Brahma-samhita uses the analogy of a candle.  Many incarnations emanate from Krishna, just like many candles can be lit from an original candle. It may appear confusing to us that the Lord appears in various forms such as Lord Ramachandra (with a bow and arrow), Lord Narasimhadeva (with the upper body of a lion), Kurmadeva (in the form of a tortoise) and so on.  We only have difficulty understanding personal conceptions of God because of our western conditioning.  If we have faith, however, that everything comes from God and that God has unlimited powers, then we can accept that God can appear in whatever form He likes.  God can steal, because He owns everything.  God can have unlimited wives, because He is not only capable of expanding Himself unlimitedly, but because everything emanates from Him – janmady yasya dehe.  Avatara hi asankhyaya/harer sattva-nidher dvija.  The Lord appears in different incarnations, like unlimited waves appear in the sea. On the one hand he can appear as Lord Krishna, the Supreme Enjoyer; and on the other, He can appear as Lord Gauranga, the Supremely renounced.  As Lord Gauranga, He is the ideal devotee, who seeks to serve rather than enjoy.  He comes in the mood of Sri Radha (but we’ll say something about this later).  As Krishna, He gives love in return for the highest level of surrender; and as Gaura, He gives love of God to those who do not even want it – like a drunk king giving out his jewels to loiters on the street.  Namo maha vadanyaya/Krsna prema-pradayate/Krsnaya krsna caitanya/namne gaura tvise namah.  These were Rupa Goswami’s words on meeting Lord Caitanya for the first time at Dasasvamedha Ghata in Prayaga.

The Transcendental Appearance Of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

Our story begins 528 years ago in the town of Navadvipa in the Nadia District of West Bengal. The story of the transcendental appearance and activities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  The Bhagavad-gita says janma karma ca me divyam/evam yo vetti tattvata/tyaktva deha purna janma/naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna.

India is sometimes called punya-bhumi or ‘the land of piety.’  We may associate India with cricket or cheating businessmen or poverty and squalor; but, even in spite of these perceptions, India is perenially famous for its highly developed spiritual culture.  You can assess this statement by the number of holidays and fasting days on the Indian religious calendar.  In ISKCON it is determined by the number of feasts. Indian spirituality may be a little hard for westerners to understand because of its highly personal nature.  Some Temples worship Visnu, the Personality of Godhead – the “head God.”  While others worship His expansions, like lord Siva, or Siva’s son, Ganesha.  One thing that struck me on my first visit to India was the number of Temples I saw.  Your typical western city has pubs, Macdonalds and restaurants on every corner.  India has Temples.  Navadvipa was such a place.  It was a great centre for learning in Medieval India.  There were many schools of Vedic culture.  Great scholars resided there.  This wonderful spiritual capital, however, had become quite materialistic by the time of Lord Caitanyas advent in 1486.  The residents of Navadvipa began to place emphasis on the worship of Durga and were performing irreligious ceremonies in the name of religion.  For example, they would marry dogs or cats in very grand ceremonies.  Caste-conscious priests called smarta brahmanas – something like the pharisees of Christ’s time – claimed a monopoly on religion.  The chanting of the Holy Names of God, in whatever form, such as Govinda and Pundarikaksha, could be chanted by hereditary brahmanas – and even then only under special circumstances!  Navadvipa was degraded and religious principles perverted.

Seeing this, Advaita Acarya, a very powerful brahmana, offered sacred tulasi plants and Ganges water to the Lord, and prayed with tears in his eyes that the Lord would appear to deliver the wretched souls of Kali Yuga.  Sometime later, on the full moon night of Phalguna, the Lord appeared.  His appearance was not ordinary, for on that full moon night there was a solar eclipse.  Now, in Vedic culture solar eclipses are considered highly inauspicious.  It is said that if a pregnant woman sees the moon on a solar eclipse she can miscarry.  If she cuts cloth on a solar eclipse, her child can be born with a hair-lip.  The rays of the moon are considered contaminating on the night of a solar eclipse.  On such days, it is the custom, even now in India, to close all the curtains, to fast and to chant the Holy Names of Krishna – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama/Rama Rama, Hare Hare.  The other custom is immerse oneself in a holy river, like the Ganges, and to chant until the eclipse elapses.  As we have described, the general mass of people were not allowed to chant the Holy Names of the Lord, except under certain circumstances – such as solar eclipses.  When the Lord appeared, therefore, most of the residents of the town of Navadvipa immersed themselves in the Ganges river and loudly chanted, ‘Hari! Hari!’ and ‘Govinda!’  In this way, Lord Caitanya introduced the yuga-dharma of harinama-sankirtana from the time of His appearance.

Sri Vrindavan Das Thakura’s biography of Lord Caitanya, the Caitanya-Bhagavata, describes the Advent of the Lord.  The Lord’s childhood pastimes are also described in Sri Caitanya Mangala.  His later pastimes and more philosophical understandings (or tattvas) are described in the great poet Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami’s Caitanya-caritamrita.  This book has been translated with commentaries by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.  Vrindavan Das Thakur explains how Lord Nityananda appears before Lord Caitanya.  We celebrated Sri Nityananda Trayodasi about a month ago.  There is a secret meaning behind this.  Lord Nityananda, a form of Krishna Himself, represents the guru principle.  Since Lord Caitanya appears after Lord Nityananda, we obtain Lord Caitanya’s  mercy via Lord Nityananda or the guru.  Vande sri krishna caitanya/nityanandau suhoditau/gaudadaye puspavantau/citro-samdau tamo nudau.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu took birth from the womb of Mother Saci at the Yoga Pitha, in the village of Mayapur.  Yoga Pitha means means the place where spirit and matter blend and a Temple stands there today.  This Temple is not very far from our ISKCON Headquarters in Mayapur.  Lord Caitanya’s father was a humble brahmana named Jagannath Misra. His mother, Sacidevi, called him Nimai, since he was born under a holy neem tree.  She also called him Nimai because she thought the name would ward off snakes and other inauspicious creatures from her child.  As is the custom in Bengal, Mother Saci worshipped the Goddess Sashti to further protect baby Nimai. At the time of His appearance, the child’s grandfather, Nilambara Cakravarti Thakur, read His horoscope.  Everyone was pleased with the chart.  There was every indication that the child was going to be a great personality (part of the mystery and beauty of the Lord’s pastimes is that those close to Him are not always aware that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead).  Jagannatha Misra, his father, called him Gauranga. Gaura means ‘golden’ and anga means ‘limbs.’  His grandfather called him Visvambhara, which means the ‘sustainer of the Universe.’  The Lord is also known, amongst other names, as Sacinandana, the beloved son of Saci Devi; Gaurasundara, the beautiful golden Lord; and Mahaprabhu, the great Lord. In this way the Lord appeared to bring light to a world that had become darkened by the influence of Kali.  Tatas-canu-dinam-dharma/satyam saucam ksama daya/kalena balena rajann/nanksyaty alur balam smrti.

The Transcendental Activities of Nimai Pandit

Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained to His own followers that there are three kinds of devotees.  There is someone to takes the Holy Name of Krishna once.  Though he has taken the name of Krishna, he is the best in a crowd of people.  Then there is the devotee who chants the name of the Lord constantly.  He is known as a madhyama-adhikari or second-class devotee.  Finally, there is the uttama-adhikari, or first-class devotee, who just by His presence makes others chant the Holy name.  Nimai Pandit exhibited the qualities of the first-class devotee, as we have seen, from the time of his birth.  Since He was so attractive, the ladies of village were always visiting Mother Saci’s house.  He would cry and they would try everything to pacify Him.  But only one thing worked.  The chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama/Rama Rama, Hare Hare.  Little Nimai Pandit would go into the streets of Navadvipa and would induce the people of Navadvipa to chant, rewarding them with Mother Saci’s sandesh and other sweetmeats.  In this way, Nimai pandita delighted the residents of Navadvipa with His childhood pastimes.  The most important thing to note is how the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna was always a feature in Lord Caitanya’s life.

Reasons For Lord Caitanya’s Appearance

We were reading this morning how Lord Caitanya appears every 1,000 Kali Yugas.  It is therefore our good fortune that we are living on this planet so soon after the appearance of Krishna and Gaura-Nitai,  We have already discussed how the Lord appears to re-establish dharma.  The dharma which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu re-establishes is the sankirtan yajna.  Kali kale nama rupa krishna avatara.  ‘In the Kali Yuga, Krishna appears as the Holy Names.’  He is, therefore, also called Kali Yuga Pavana or the Yugavatara.  He is the recipient of all sacrifices and is also known as Yajnapurusa.  In the Age of Kali there is no need for elaborate sacrifices or expensive offerings to the Deity.  All that is required is the chanting of the Holy Names.  After taking sannyasa (the renounced order of life), Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu travelled to many Holy Places in India.  It is described that when His sankirtan party passed through the villages, the people would become addicted to the Holy Names.  He would leave and they would just be chanting the maha-mantra incessantly.  There are also confidential reasons for the Lord’s appearance.  These are described by Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami in the Caitanya-caritamrita.  When Krishna saw His own reflection in a pillar in Dwaraka, He saw what Srimati Radharani sees within her own heart.  He wondered, ‘Who is this beautiful person?’ Krishna is bewildered by His own beauty!  The Lord was intrigued by His eternal consort Srimati Radharani’s love.  ‘Why is She so in love with me’, He thought.  ‘What is it about Me that attracts Her?  And what does She experience when She loves Me?’  Krishna appeared as Lord Caitanya in order to experience Sri Radha’s love. Sri krishna caitanya/ radha-krishna nahi anya.

‘Radha’s love is all-pervading, leaving no room for expansion.  But still it is expanding constantly’ – CC 1.4.128.  In this world, men and women seek relationships with one another because they are imperfect.  The quality of Radharani’s love is so perfect and so sweet that the Lord Himself appears as a devotee, in the mood of Srimati Radharani, to taste that mellow or feeling of love.  Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a complex personality.  He is none other than Shyamasundara Krishna, yet He is in the mood of Srimati Radharani.  He takes Her complexion – radha-bhava-dyuti suvalitam/krishna naumi svarupam.  Yet, while this intricate exchange is going on within Himself, He is externally a simple sannyasi!  The beautiful Nimai pandita with his long flowing locks, shaved His head and took the simple cloth of a sannyasi.  He was the husband of the Goddess of Fortune, Laxmidevi, yet he renounced all worldly enjoyment!  He did this to demonstrate the power of devotional service and the best way to worship Krishna.  All living entities are spiritual beings.  In this world they are covered by different bodily “dress.”  A learned devotee does not see the external dress of any particular living entity, rather he sees the presence of the soul and the Lord.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu exhibitted this perfectly.

‘Most history is written in prose; and the selection of the material, the organization into narrative and the choice of language show that it is a created form, an art’ – Phillipa Gregory

‘Fiction is not wholly the creation of an imaginary world, any more than history is the total description of a real one’ – Phillipa Gregory (Historical Novelist)

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