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Interesting overview of Vrindavan as a Holy site by National Geographic Magazine. The published article that appeared in the November 2005 issue was written by Alex Chadwick. his Vrindavan contact was Ranchor Das and NG passed the article by the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies to make sure all was well in the state of Chadwick.

The article with resources and perspectives is available at

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Krishna in Vrindavan

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Balaram in Vrindavan

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Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, Pause for Thought, 2003

Sabal Singh was the washerman’s donkey. One day he died. The washerman was very close to Sabal Singh and had worked with him for years and years, and was very upset. So, as many Indians do during a time of mourning, the washerman shaved his head. With his new haircut and a suitably morose demeanour, he walked into the marketplace and met the sweet vendor, who said, ‘Oh! You’ve shaved your head. Why is that, my good friend?’ The washerman replied, ‘My faithful companion of 35 years, Sabal Singh, has died. I am so unhappy.’ The sweet vendor said, ‘Oh! Your friend has died! I will also shave my head, out of respect for your friend.’ Then the sweet vendor’s regular customers asked him why he had shaved his head. ‘Haven’t you heard? Sabal Singh has died!’ So they thought, ‘Oh! Sabal Singh must be an important person.’ They all shaved their heads. Soon the whole market place had the new haircut. Then, the chief minister of the king wandered through. He saw people beating their breasts and weeping for Sabal Singh, the great Sabal Singh who had died. The minister was so overwhelmed with their devotion that he decided to shave his head too.

Later that day the minister met the king who asked, ‘Oh! What has happened, that you, the chief minister, are in mourning?’ ‘Your Majesty, the great Sabal Singh is dead.’ ‘Oh! Who is Sabal Singh?’ asked the king. The minister was struck, because he realised that he did not know.

So the word went out, through the market place, eventually reaching the sweet vendor, and then the washer man, who explained that Sabal Singh was his donkey, whereupon everyone except the king felt like an ass.

This is an old Indian story, told to promote thoughtfulness, and to highlight the need to question the world around us. The story shows how easy it is to misinterpret the world and follow an unquestioned path. In Indian spirituality, to be thoughtful is considered essential for genuine spiritual life. It is also essential for anyone who wants to act with common sense.

We have to be thoughtful and questioning of spirituality and ritual, but also of our economists, scientists, politicians and teachers. We should question with respect and submission, in order to learn—not to criticize or confuse. Then, like the king, our questions will make a social contribution.

There are answers out there to all of our problems. The only thing is, are we asking the right questions? Or are we mourning for an ass? Hare Krishna.

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Boradcast on BBC Radio2, 2004

There I was sitting peacefully in my office and the phone rang. It was ITV and they wanted to do a live TV interview discussing God’s role in the Tsunami. I was to get a first class ticket and travel to London and bear my soul to the nation and put myself at the mercy of the media. I would achieve 15 minutes of fame and make my mother proud.

The interview was going very well. Questions coming thick and fast, but I was ready for all angles. I was on top until, ….…..well what do you think is the worst thing that could happen to you on live TV? – I didn’t know either until my front tooth, which is a crown, that had stayed religiously in place in my head for twenty-five years, decided to fall out.

Now if you are used to seeing your face with a full set of teeth, black one out with a marker and look in the mirror and see what an enormous change it makes to your face. That is one of the little thoughts that went through my mind as I began to experience a vacancy in my dental presentation. Somehow, by the grace of God, I caught my tooth with my tongue and pushed it back up again, while continuing to mumble about some important theological issue.

I was doing the interview primarily to defend the position of God in the face of natural disaster, and what does God do? He humiliates me in front of millions, and I’m a volunteer! I thought I didn’t deserve such treatment. But, then again, when have I accepted humiliation with grace?

The Television Company sent me a copy and, although everyone praised me for a good interview, they all had a good laugh at the tooth-fairy bit. Actually it is funny to watch and God has great timing. I have since reflected that humiliation and inconvenience are a normal part of life, and often valuable in our personal and spiritual development. Its often very easy to look for the desirable and comfortable situation; to take ourselves and our positions too seriously; but ignore the essence of our lives.

We are only a part of the equation of life. If we take ourselves too seriously we will be laughed at, and deserve it; and if we expect perfection in an imperfect world we will be inconvenienced, that’s common sense. Our difficulties are often the most valuable parts of our lives. They mould and instruct us, and help us to mature. We should look back on most of them and laugh because they are only the teething pains of God and nature. Hare Krishna.

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