Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fresh vs Factory Food

It's been found that allergies have more to do with how foods are being made vs the food themselves. For example, bread flour sold from the grocery store shelf contains insect and rodent filth from the factory production (And if you are attached to chocolate, you may not want to learn what THAT contains). We can avoid this  in our bhoga offerings, however, by homemade ingredients.

FRESHLY GROUND FLOUR. One example is using a mill to grind wheat berries for a more wholesome flour. More is written at this post:  Grind Your Own.

Herbs and spices are often sitting on shelves for long periods, too. Check out Grind Your Own Part II for an alternative. This is how they lose not only flavor but also potency. So if there is any doubt about the effectiveness of an Ayurvedic remedy, for example, be sure to check the freshness of a product. Even a day old can greatly alter effectiveness, so the fresher the remedies, the better.

FRESH TURMERIC In other words, try using fresh turmeric, instead of the stuff powdered long ago and bought in the food store. And it isn't hard to use. If you already use fresh ginger root, it can be prepared for use in the same way.

Chaunced or simply boiled with rice, there is an immediate sense of how much tastier freshly prepared items can be.

And in those recipes where only powdered turmeric will do, and you have a sunny window, it only takes a day or so to dry out some minced turmeric before easily grinding it into a powder.

Using a dash here and there of the common ingredients found in garam masala is far better than using the powdered- and- then -stored- long- term version. which loses its freshness rapidly. If a recipe calls for it, usually all that's needed is a little pinch of cinnamon. Sometimes nutmeg, cardomom and cloves can be used, too. Especially when sweet things like sweet potato is being prepared. Otherwise, the cumin and coriander and pepper is usually already include. No need to overdo these flavors.

The same goes for what people call "curry powder".

One may be blessed with a very sunny climate or at least a very sunny windowsill in the summer season. All kinds of experiments can be made. Be amazed by leaving some wilted but still good grapes on a tray in the hot sun there. In just a few days you will have raisins! Or how about that unripe mango you accidentally cut open? Continue to cut it into small pieces and leave it in the sun for a few days, then grind the dried pieces and you will have freshly made amchur. Minced pieces of ginger spread out in the same spot dry very out in a day and grind easily to ginger powder, free from any factory filth. Another thing people keep on the shelf for long periods is chili powder which instead can be ground up easily, at a moments notice, from chilies left drying on strings hanging in one's kitchen.

Using our good intelligence, we can discover more and more how Krishna designed things in such a way that we do not have to depend on factories for our food.


Chickpea with Potatoes

  • About 1/2 c soaked chickpeas
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • thick yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 t ginger root, minced
  • a pinch of hing
  • 1 t roasted ground cumin
  • 1 t coriander powder
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • salt, as desired
  • 2-3 T ghee

  1. Bring the chickpeas to a boil in salted water, cover and then simmer about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the ghee then add ginger. Cook until browned. Add hing, coriander powder, black pepper and the potatoes. Stir a little to coat the potatoes with ghee and spices. Then lower the heat and cover. Let simmer until potatoes are tender.
  3. Add the celery to the potatoes. Stir a bit and then turn off the heat.
  4. Stir in the cooked chickpeas, roasted ground cumin, thick yogurt. Add salt.
  5. This makes a good breakfast dish. Offer to Krishna with freshly buttered chapatis or parathas or with pancakes and syrup or a bowl of oatmeal....
FOR A NIGHTSHADE FREE VARIATION use white sweet potato to replace the potato with a small pinch of cinnamon or garam masala (opt)

Three Birds

Japa help, by remembering three birds from sastra: the chakora, the chataka and the chakravakra

Wikipedia: "The chukar sometimes symbolizes intense, an often unrequited, love. It is said to be in love with the moon and to gaze at it constantly."

"The family of Mahārāja Nanda is just like an ocean of milk, wherein Lord Kṛṣṇa has arisen like the full moon to illuminate the entire universe. The eyes of the residents of Vraja are like cakora birds that continuously drink the nectar of His bodily luster and thus live peacefully. CC Antya 19.36

The chakora bird fixes fully its gaze upon the moon, not giving attention to anything else. Similarly, japa is darshan. The holy name is Krsna. The holy name is a person. Krsna is present, so we don’t want to be absent. It's our daily date with Krishna.

Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.

Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean
The image of the morning star doth rest,
So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.
--Harriet Beecher Stowe

 "A pure devotee knows that when he chants the transcendental name Krsna, Sri Krsna, is present as transcendental sound. He therefore chants with full respect and veneration." (Adi Lila 2.11)

Prabhupada: The example is given, these cataka birds, they want water from the cloud and they will never come down to take water... Similarly, devotees will simply depend on Krsna... Example is given that sometimes the cloud, instead of giving water, gives thunderbolt. Still, they will not take water from down. That is a cataka. Although it is... Sometimes they are punished—instead of water, they are given thunderbolt—but still, they will not take any (other water). -morning walk, Honolulu, 10/10/75

Prabhupada: The bird flies in the, near the cloud in expectation of water, and they are not afraid of thunder. That is called cataka. That example is given by Rupa Gosvami. The cataka does not take water from ground. They will take water when it falls from the cloud. So in the beginning of every cloud there is thunder. So this bird, because they expecting water from the cloud, the cloud is giving him thunder, but still he does not, will not take water from ground. -morning walk, 7/6/75, Chicago

"I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally." -Siksastaka 8

 “Only by the wonderful mercy of the Lord, who is a nectar ocean of wonderful pastimes, is the wonderful sweetness of chanting the holy name manifest. It is not manifest by one’s own efforts.” --Sri Brhad Bhagavatamrtam

The chakora above has been described in a similar way also:
"One particle of that transcendental, blissful nectar is the life and soul of the ear, which is like a chakora bird that lives in hope of tasting that nectar. Sometimes, by good fortune, the bird can taste it, but at other times he unfortunately cannot and therefore almost dies of thirst."- CC Antya 17.45

Sri Brhad Bhagavatamrta describes the chakravakra bird calling out to its beloved during nocturnal separation. Similarly, japa is calling out to Radha and Krishna.

In the Mahäbhärata, Krishna says, "When I was away from Draupadi, she cried with the words, 'He govinda!' This call for Me has put Me in her debt, and that indebtedness is gradually increasing in My heart!" This statement by Krishna gives evidence of how one can please the Supreme Lord simply by addressing Him, "He krsna! He govinda!"-NOD17

"The chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His energy, to give protection to the conditioned soul. This chanting is exactly like the genuine cry of a child for its mother's presence. Mother Harä helps the devotee achieve the Lord Father's grace, and the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee who chants this mantra sincerely." - Srila Prabhupada

"The gopīs who joined Kṛṣṇa's pastimes within this material world were coming from the status of ordinary human beings. If they had been bound by fruitive action, they were fully freed from the reaction of karma by constant meditation on Kṛṣṇa. Their severe painful yearnings caused by their not being able to see Kṛṣṇa freed them from all sinful reactions, and their ecstasy of transcendental love for Kṛṣṇa in His absence was transcendental to all their reactions of material pious activities." -Krishna book 29

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

home remedies II

1. Mix 1 t honey with 1 t roasted ground cumin and take morning and evening.

2. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add a few drops of peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil. Inhale the steam

3. Boil a cup of water and add 1 t grated fresh ginger root, 1/4 t turmeric and a pinch of black pepper. Steep ten minutes and strain. Stir in 1 t honey and the juice of 1/2 of a lime.

4. Keep hydrated and get some rest.

Soak cotton balls in rose water to soothe. Make sure to read the label, though, for natural ingredients without additives.

Cooking and burns go together. It's part of the job. For quicker healing, dab on the gel from the inside of a piece of an aloe vera plant.  Very soothing. Keep the plant part in the fridge to reapply as needed. Cover with a bandaid after applying.

Use a 2 oz dark glass vanilla bottle.
Fill with pure, cold pressed castor oil
Add 40-50 drops of pure camphor oil (optional)
and 5 drops of Vitamin E Oil (optional)
Apply daily. Takes about 3-4 months but really works!


Mango Lassi

  • Mango, peel and pit removed
  • Sugar
  • 6-8 T sugar
  • 2 c water
  • 2 c yogurt or buttermilk
  • Pinches of ginger powder (optional)

  1. Boil sugar in 1 cup of water until dissolved. Cool
  2. Blend mango pulp with remaining water.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.
  4. Offer to Krishna with breakfast, lunch or anytime snack

Tamarind Water

4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon tamarind paste

1. Boil 1 cup water and the sugar until sugar dissolves
2. Stir in tamarind until dissolved
3. Cool. Then stir in remaining water before offering to Krishna.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tulasi Devi's Presence

Excerpt from an old story book with a story titled: The Old Brown House about an enstranged woman who was befriended by a little girl who one day announced she was moving away (and very similar to the book Rotten Island by William Steig):

"'Well, I will tell you; we are going to move away. I declare, I think it's too bad to leave all the girls just as I began to like them, and you, too, Aunt Ruth. I don't want to go one bit;" tears rolling down her face.

"'Going away, my little girl going off?' said Aunt Ruth seriously.

"'Yes; and mamma said we couldn't move Chip, it would be such a bother, so I have given poor birdie away to Allie Smith;' tears flowing afresh. 'I let Amy Wells have my kitten, but I haven't found a place for my poor little rose. See,' said Bessie, going to the table and removing the wrapper from her parcel, 'isn't it a beauty? You will keep it to remember me by, and take care of it always, won't you, Aunt Ruth?'

"The little blossoms were out in full, and seemed to smile a benediction upon the old woman."

This story is similar to what it is like to suddenly have a tulasi plant in your home when the neighbors must travel for some time. Her presence touches every aspect of the life for those who are so fortunate to be chosen for her care. And not only by discovering her needs and how to keep her happy for Krishna's service, it's simply a joy just to see her every day!  Tulasi devi transforms one's consciousness and has a good effect on the life and surroundings of everyone she is near, as well as providing her leaves and flowers to offer Lord Krishna. Tulasi is so very dear to Him. Her holy association is such that we soon realize that Tulasi only wants to serve, and we pray that her service mood rub off on us.. Tulasi Maharani ki jaya!
It is similar to how the above story continued:

"Then the shadows seemed to come back to the inmate of the old house; but as her glance fell upon the little flower, she began clearing a place for it to stand in the warmest corner...

"Bringing a little pine stand, she carefully placed the plant upon it. In doing so, she chanced to glance at the window. 'Bless me! it never looked quite so dirty before;' and Aunt Ruth moved with new life, as she cleansed, rinsed, and polished the glass.

"But this being done, the old muslin curtain seemed dingier than common, shading the clear glass; so it was taken down, and another finer one unpacked from a drawer and put in its place.

"The next morning, as she ate her lonely breakfast, she placed her chair to face the window and the rose. The sun was shining, and as the rays streamed across the room to the opposite wall, she marked the cobwebs. That day the cobwebs were swept down, the other window washed, and the floor cleaned. The old house had not been so neat and cheery for many years.

"And did Bessie Lane ever come again? Yes, when June smiled upon the earth, the childish figure once more paused at the gate, but the blue eyes gazed bewildered around. 'This isn't the place. Aunt Ruth must have moved away.' Well might she think so; the house was neatly painted, the yard fence repaired, and up and down the path all sorts of flowers were blooming.

"Just then Bessie descried a neatly dressed old lady tying up some vines. 'Can you tell me where Aunt Ruth Jones has gone that used to'—Bessie stopped, and with one bound sprang into the woman's arms, for it was Aunt Ruth herself.

"'It is so beautiful here! how did it all happen?' cried the delighted child. Aunt Ruth smiled brightly, and, taking Bessie by the hand, passed into the neat, cheerful room, and up to the south window, where the carefully tended rose was putting forth beauty and fragrance."

LATER NOTE: What I also like about this story is a reminder of the nature of devotional service as ever increasing. One can start very simply, for example, by offering food to a picture of the Lord and associates. Gradually, over time while doing the offering steadily, a taste awakens to do this service nicely and various details on how to do it come up such as setting up an altar and learning mantras and how to offer the food nicely and keeping everything very clean and punctual, etc.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Serving Milk with Salty Preparations

A controversial topic, but if you’ve been wondering about the Ayurvedic teaching to not put salt in fresh milk, and whether it is also applicable to serving fresh milk with a meal that includes salty preparations, here is food for thought found at Quora in response to the question:  Can we consume milk with salty food?

According to Ayurvedic principle "Salt in milk" (Ksheeren lavanam) do not go together. But it is applicable to milk in salty preparations as well. As it has been mentioned in "Astanga Sangraha" that the reaction may not be immediate, so it will be wrong to say that such combination have been used by people without any ill effects. The ill effect or harmful effect is always there but it may not manifest into a disease immediately. It's like we see so many people drinking alcohol everyday but not all of them get diseases. This does not means that alcohol is harmless for the body. On the other hand we see many people who don't drink alcohol or don't smoke etc. but they get serious diseases. Maybe they take "milk with salt or milk in salty preparations" everyday or three times a day.
It's also explained in Ayurveda that by regular practice, even some wrong combinations become less harmful. This is because the body adapts to or gets used to that kind of food. Usually people with strong immunity, strong digestion and those who cleanse the system regularly are less effected. Please note the words "less harmful" and "less effected" I have used above. This means that there is definitely an harmful effect on the body when we take "milk and salt or salty preparations" together. The effect can vary in each individual depending on certain factors like immunity, age, state of ojas, strength of Jatharagni etc

Since Ayurveda only mentions milk and salt and not milk products such as curdled cheese, yoghurt, butter etc. and salt to be incompatible we have to analyze the difference between milk and e.g. yoghurt to find out the possible factors which make this substances compatible or incompatible.
The difference of yoghurt and milk in regards to metabolism is, that milk has to be curdled by the body and the milk fat which tends to coagulate has to become emulsified** by the bile*** liquid. Yoghurt is already curdled by the lactic acid produced by the yoghurt bacteria and the fat of yoghurt doesn't tend to coagulate because of the specific structure of processed milk products.

Milk contains a specific protein-calcium compound called calcium caseinate which is responsible for the curdling effect of milk as soon as the calcium bond is broken by the interaction of acids.
If salt which is a sodium salt is added to milk it could interfere with the calcium ions of the calcium-caseinate and thus impede with the curdling, emulsification and / or albumin metabolism of the milk.
If salt is added to any other milk product that would be no problem since the milk doesn't have to be curdled and is already pre emulsified.

Another possible reason is the sweet taste of milk. Generally sweet things are not mixed with salt, which again would not be a problem for yoghurt which does not possess the sweet characteristics of milk.

That is also the reason why milk is recommended to be served hot. The colder the milk is, the more difficult it is for the bile liquid to emulsify the milk. Drinking cold milk is like trying to wash greasy hands with soap (bile) and cold water. Only with hot water will the fat emulsify and the hands become nicely clean.

paneer making revisted

First of all, devotees often call paneer "curd", but so many Indians refer to yogurt as "curd", so just a little note about that, in case there is confusion.

Here is just some quicker technique. More info is online or at a previous posting:

JUST WHEN STARTING TO BOIL, CURDLE THE MILK. Use lemon juice and or yogurt whey or a little citric acid. Experiment for what amounts are needed. The whey should not be milky looking. It should be rather clear and yellow to greenish (forgive the blurry photos)

To save time simply pour the milk curds into a medium fine sieve, without a cheesecloth.

Next, instead place a cheesecloth on top of a thick folded towel. Then place the milk curds on top of the cheese cloth soon after straining somewhat in the fine sieve. Cover and press with a weight, such as a pot of water.

Using a cheesecloth after straining makes things a bit faster because sometimes diy cheesecloths at home (in this case, plain cotton cloth) often slow the initial draining process.

Usually the milk curd will completely come out of the sieve very easily by turning it upside down and giving a little tap. If anything is still in the sieve, then rub it with your fingers under tap water to remove very easily. Simultaneously, place the now empty cooking pot underneath the running tap to catch the water to use as the weight on top of the milk curds. More photos are at the previous post.

Unpressed milk curd pictured second to the bottom is called chenna. It's good for something like scrambled paneer. If you do press for paneer, just press a minute for softer paneer. If you press longer, you can still add it during cooking to soften it up.

Paneer is super tasty when cooked a little in ghee first, whether immediately in a chaunce before adding to a subji or using a cast iron skillet separately for easier browning.

Again, more information may be found here: Paneer or Fresh Cheese Making

Friday, April 27, 2018

Horror Story or What I Learned from House Dust

Listening to someone say how much they love to watch horror stories (and about the exciting discovery how a new friend of theirs shared that same love), I woke up the next morning thinking about why I don't need to go to Netflix and so on to see a horror show. That's because I'm already watching a horror story every day in real life.

Imagine watching a movie where a group of young people end up together in some strange place where, one by one, each one is killed in different ways. One may be pushed off a cliff. Another fall into some kind of booby trap. Another may end up in a meat freezer (there are movies like that) . How similar that is to real life. We all come into this world young and ignorant of our surroundings, and we all are, one by one, going to die someday and no one can say how it'll happen.

But even more suspenseful... is not knowing who is next.

In Bhagavad gita 11.26-30, Lord Krishna did give a grisly outcome in advance. Arjuna described what he saw:

"O Lord of lords, O refuge of the worlds, please be gracious to me. I cannot keep my balance seeing thus Your blazing deathlike faces and awful teeth. In all directions I am bewildered.

"All the sons of Dhrtarastra along with their allied kings, and Bhisma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.

"As the rivers flow into the sea, so all these great warriors enter Your blazing mouths and perish.

"I see all people rushing with full speed into Your mouths as moths dash into a blazing fire. 

"O Visnu, I see You devouring all people in Your flaming mouths and covering the universe with Your immeasurable rays. Scorching the worlds, You are manifest."

But still, how each soldier ultimately died was not yet revealed.

And thanks to the daily news and  remembering TV serials like 911 or 1000 Ways to Die, or even that unforgettable film they made us watch during Driver's Ed, we start to realize that  horrible things are going on all around us every day and every moment. Accidents and murders and people disappearing. Animal slaughter. Wars. Sicknesses and losses. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur called the material world "an ocean of sorrow".

But what really prompted me to write this was not the obvious stuff. No, there is something going on that we are hardly aware of, or we take it for granted. But I get a reminder every day that I do housework..  I'm talking about house dust.

House dust consists of tiny particles that have broken down from basically everything around us over time. Some things faster than others, like when you sit on an old couch next to a window with a stream of sunlight shining though it, and you see all these little specks fly up into the air from its cushions. And no matter how much I clean, there is always more to come and haunt me with the thought that everything around us is very slowly, very subtly disintegrating.

But there's a way to become fearless. Like when people watch a horror show they know it is not really happening to them or others. Especially if they were to watch it with the sound turned off and in broad daylight rather than during the night, they'd realize that even more. Similarly, the light of transcendental knowledge that we are not these aging material bodies via engaging in the devotional service of Lord Krishna and hearing the holy name rather than mundane sound, gives one the power to be less sucked into the distress and happiness happening around us in daily life. But most importantly, we can have a happy ending.