Sunday, May 14, 2017

KRSNA in the comic book industry

below is an earlier draft of the article appearing in the current Back to Godhead Magazine for those who might be interested in more details of the story.

­­Many of the most popular and top grossing films these days are based on comic books and it is no surprise that Krsna has appeared in these films in various ways.

The popularity of this genre is not limited to movies.  From action figures, to clothing, to Halloween costumes, to school supplies, to limited edition breakfast cereals, we see the market saturated with super hero paraphernalia.  And it is not just kids who are hooked on these costumed crusaders of truth and justice.  Adults also admire the positive messages that pervade these stories and are inspired to support or perhaps even become real life heroes who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place.

The 2012 release of Marvel’s “The Avengers”, which raked in 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, making it number five in the top grossing films of all time, shows Dr. Bruce Banner (the incredible Hulk) treating a patient in a small cottage in the outskirts of Kolkata, India.  Above Dr. Banner’s shoulder (as if representing the good conscience) while he is washing his hands, is a painting of Makan-chor Krsna stealing butter from a clay pot (pictured right).

In December, 2015, the mention of Krsna’s name in the trailer for “X-Men Apocalypse” sparked quite the controversy, inspiring many enraged individuals led by Hindu statesman Rajan Zed to petition against what they considered to be a misrepresentation of their culture.  Many media outlets including Time magazine online covered this story and the film’s director Brian Singer agreed to remove Krsna’s name from both the trailer and the movie itself.

The reason for the abovementioned protest was that Krsna’s name was uttered by a blue skinned villain hell-bent on destroying the world while claiming to be an incarnation of God.  While it is understandable that we would not want to equate God with an evil homicidal maniac, the context of this utterance reveals that the villain (like most evil-minded entities) was merely claiming to be God, and Krsna was just one of the names that he mentioned while doing so.  The list of names Apocalypse claimed to be known as also included Ra and Yahweh, covering the accepted names of the Egyptian and Judeo-Christian deities as well.  Although the movie trailer in question received over 51 million views on youtube, moviegoers did not hear Krsna’s name in the actual movie due to the petitioning of concerned citizens.

Others, of course, assert that since it is beneficial to hear Krsna’s name under any circumstance, be it indirectly, in jest, neglectfully, etc., that it would have been much more beneficial to allow the name to remain in the movie and consider the protest to be a disservice.

With the popularity of the comic book genre on the rise and the current world trend in producing multi-cultural presentations, we also find works like Stan Lee’s “Chakra, the invincible”, which, along with it’s comic book series and 2013 animated Television film, is also set to release a live-action Bollywood movie.  In this particular franchise, a young Indian boy named Raju wears a special suit that allows him to access the chakras in his body so that he can perform magnificent feats such as levitating objects, creating force-fields and shooting energy blasts.  With these powers, Raju is able to keep the streets of Mumbai safe from criminals, unfortunate lab experiments gone awry, and bhogi yogi’s.

“Chakra, the invincible” has various Vedic cultural references and Graphic India, the company who produces it, is also responsible for two other titles that are more specific to, and focused on Krsna.

The first is Grant Morrison’s “18 days”, which is a series that tells the story of the battle of Kuruksetra.  Although the author took some liberties such as implementing modern tech and abbreviated names, this series is a big step up from the large hard bound book of the same name produced in 2010 where Krsna was depicted as a blonde haired, pointy eared elf, wearing red garments.  The newer installment of 18 days (2015-current) is a much more accurate portrayal of the events in the Mahabharata.

Grant Morrison is also set to release a series entitled “Avatarex” which is meant to be read as Avatar-X with the “X” being a roman numeral ten, referring to Lord Vishnu’s tenth incarnation, Kalki.  In the preview to this series, Lord Kalki is illustrated as being produced in some techno-lab where the previous nine avatars have already been harvested from their shattered glass capsules.  As He is awoken, the narrator (a space satellite called Shamballa) explains His purpose of destroying the world at the end of Kali-yuga, but then Shamballa begins calling Avatarex too proud and arrogant, claiming that He must change His attitude.  As only the preview of this book is available so far, I am not sure where Grant Morrison is going with this one, but it seems that he will take similar liberties as those he took with 18 days, and perhaps even change the story in this case.

The reason why it is difficult to interject an all-powerful being like Krsna into mainstream storytelling is that the common man wants to be able to relate to the heroes of said stories.  Many comic book authors claim that a hero has to have some sort of imperfection or weakness so that his story is more believable and more interesting.  Their theory is that people will accept that a boy can climb walls and shoot webs from his wrists, but only if we humanize him by burdening him with tedious school work and girl troubles.  The common man does not want to read a story about someone who is completely perfect because he knows that it is unattainable.

From Grant Morrison's AVATAREX
Many times when a “god” is introduced in comic books, he is written off as merely a powerful alien, but with certain flaws or limitations.  In that regard, it may be a while before we see a fully accurate portrayal of the Vedic stories we know and love hitting big in the mainstream.

This, of course, does not mean that Krsna’s pastimes cannot be accurately depicted in comic books without imposing imperfections on Him or equating Him with an alien or mythological character in order to accumulate an expansive fan base.

In this iron age of Kali-yuga where men care more about politics, sports and self-aggrandizement than they do God-consciousness, it is no surprise that comic books about costumed vigilantes fighting alien forces will be more popular than their spiritual counterparts.  But when it comes to transcendence, popularity does not determine value.

For that reason, I have decided to produce graphic novels that allow readers to experience the culturally rich stories of the Vedas without altering their valuable messages.  The first book that I published tells the story of Lord Narasimhadeva from the Seventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam in 74 full-color pages with beautiful illustrations by Bhakta George Marnero of Bulgaria.

Throughout the last two decades I have told the story of Lord Narasimha at least a hundred times to various people.  From curious customers where I used to work, to family members, to budding spiritual seekers, every one of them very emphatically expressed their appreciation of the poetic justice that this ultimate story of good versus evil conveys.  Many of these eager listeners had me tell the story multiple times so that they could get the details right when they retold it to their friends.

This particular story is often prompted when someone sees one of the famous illustrations of Lord Narasimhadeva disemboweling the demon Hiranyakasipu who tried to kill his saintly son.  Due to the graphic nature of this pastime, this story is often acted out in a dramatic play or skit, which is perhaps the reason why most devotees have experienced the story in this way rather than by reading it in a book or hearing it in a class.

In order to make this highly appreciated and morally rich pastime more accessible to people of all backgrounds, I have carefully adapted it to a graphic novel while preserving the spiritual message conveyed in the Srimad Bhagavatam.

A preview of this book can be viewed at, and if this first publication is well received, I will gladly continue producing other stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam in this format.  The next graphic novel I plan to write will tell the story of Lord Varahadeva.  There is virtually no end to the amount of Vaisnava stories that can be produced in this medium and I hope to continue making them available to a much wider audience.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

divide and conquer

One of the most effective ways of preventing a group of people from succeeding in whatever it is they are striving to accomplish is to split them up by getting them to disagree on something.

A group’s strength lies in what they have in common.  The concept of “strength in numbers” only works if said numbers are working together.  Their common unity binds them together and makes them powerful while their weakness is what they do not have in common.

Even the most dynamic group will fall to pieces as soon as the individuals are more focused on their differences than their common goal.

This concept of divide and conquer has been utilized since before anyone can remember and due to its efficiency, it is the standard strategy employed in this world to keep us week and subordinate.  It is the killer of all revolutions.

Fortunately for us spiritual revolutionaries, this technique has no effect on us…  or does it?

The funny thing about spirituality is that, being transcendental to all things material, it is difficult to define in material terms.  Spirituality is a state of consciousness that cannot be externally observed because the determining factor that deems something either spiritual or material is not what is done, but the motivation behind why it is done.

Thus, a thing or an action cannot be considered inherently spiritual without considering the state of consciousness of an individual interacting with it.

Watercolour by Edgar Bundy, 1911

Therefore, everyone in this world is a unique mixture of materialist and spiritualist.  Our consciousness fluctuates between self-centric and God-centric.  Anyone who is honest will admit that they are not one hundred percent God-centric.

So even if we are highly advanced spiritualists, there is still the tendency for us to be subjected to and (temporarily) destroyed by the concept of “divide and conquer” when we lose focus of our true mission.

The reason i bring this up is because currently our “spiritual revolution” is being hampered by this unfortunate phenomenon.  Instead of working together we have started campaigning against one another over trivial matters that have nothing to do with spiritual principles.  We are caught up on details and it is dividing us.

Whether our disagreements are over dietary choices, wardrobe preferences, the details of our origin, the importance of public opinion, the concept of authority, who sits where, or any other such matter, none of these issues will make or break our ultimate goal of love of God.  We simply look like fools.

The spiritual movement is not weak because we haven’t resolved these issues…  it is weak because we are giving these material issues more importance than they deserve and we are not putting enough focus on the process of spirituality itself.

Material things or activities cannot hinder true spirituality.  The only thing that hinders a spiritual movement is our own materialistic consciousness.

When we put our focus on redirecting our consciousness then nothing can stop us.  But if we remain focused on petty details then noting can help us.

Let’s get back in the game, shall we?

Monday, September 28, 2015

i'm much more eloquent when i'm annoyed.

i’ve been wanting to get much more regular with posting blogs…  there was a period of time two years ago where i would post one per week…  i did this because i was in a place (both physical and mental) that was very annoying…  i was spending my tenth and final season working in a tourist beach town on the jersey shore.  What made that year more annoying than others is that the only reason i had to be there was to keep a promise to a very dear friend of mine.

In previous years i kept myself motivated by “keeping my eye on the prize”…  i was collecting money for what i considered to be (and still consider to be ) a much needed project that i had been striving to start for over a decade prior…  that was my motivating factor…  “it’s all worth it because this project needs to happen.”  It was my vairagya…  my tapasya.

But that last year was a different story.

During my 5th Season i was able to secure enough funds to purchase a property to start the Bhagavat Commune project on…  the next few seasons allowed me to develop that property and then later to purchase a different property which was bigger and had fewer challenges as far as building restrictions and agricultural cultivation…  the funds collected during these seasons went toward building…  developing…  maintaining…  it funded three outstanding and memorable festivals.

But that last season was right after my world exploded…  it seems Krsna had different plans for me than to head that particular project at that particular time and place…  and despite what i considered to be clear and justified signs to put everything into that project,  (time, money, passion, blood, sweat, tears, life) it was all yanked out from under me in a matter of a moment.  It was quite dizzying actually.

So there i was…  sitting in a shop in a town that i loathed…  working a job that i didn’t like…  and there was no longer anything to motivate me to stay beyond a promise to a friend…  which was enough to get me to stay, but not enough for me to be happy about it.

So i figured that if i didn’t want my brain to melt and my spiritual life to spiral into the abyss know as wildwood, new jersey, i would have to increase my spiritual practice… 

so i wrote.

When i started the “forever endeavor” blog, i didn’t intend for it to be a weekly thing…  i just wanted to let people know where i was at…  that i didn’t give up on the project.  i was just in a strange state of transition.  i also wanted to write so that people would have a better understanding of my mission for the project…  the drive behind it…  the previous blog only touched on that aspect while presenting the stages of progress of the properties, festivals, construction, gardening, etc…  i didn’t have a property anymore, but i still had the dream for the commune.

So i continued to write.

Each week, on my only day off, i would go to the grocery store and the Laundromat…  and i would write…  that became my sadhana…  every thursday, like clockwork, i would churn out a short blog post on what i had been meditating about during that week…  and good, bad, or ugly, they helped me get through that last season…  i honestly do not know what i would have done without it.  it was my outlet.

Since then i have been traveling quite a bit…  a few weeks here, a few months there…  my biggest chunks of time are spent in india where life is much less annoying…  i still get ideas for things that i would like to write about…  in fact i have a long list on a sticky note so i don’t forget any of them, but now it’s different.  When i sit down to write about these ideas it no longer takes me thirty or forty minutes to clack away at a keyboard…  it takes hours…  and we’re talking broken up hours…  like ten minutes here…  then after a week another ten…  then after a month another twenty…  I went from 14 Consecutive weekly blog entries to 7 Random ones over the next two years…  and i realized that the reason i cannot efficiently churn out these thoughts is that i am not sufficiently annoyed.

i’m always a little annoyed…  its actually what drives me…  some people are driven by money, others by sex, fame or fear.  i am driven by annoyance…  and anger. 

In 1997 i coined the term “krodhamishrabhakti” to describe my personal devotional practice…  basically it means that i utilize anger to inspire spiritual growth.  i came up with the term while i was in a hardcore band called eighteen days (which is funny because five years prior to that, i couldn’t stand the sound of hardcore music)…  it wasn’t until i encountered devotees that i could begin to appreciate people yelling at me…  ha ha…  let me clarify.

i have been motivated by anger since i can remember…  but not in a destructive way…  i would see something that annoyed me and i would do something to counteract it…  i kept the anger inside and used it to fuel a positive change on the outside…   to me, prior to 1993, hardcore music seemed to be a bunch of people yelling and complaining about something instead of actually being proactive to improve their situations…  i perceived that as a weakness, and since i couldn’t understand a word they were saying (screaming) to me, it didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

i actually met the Vaisnavas in spite of hardcore music.

One of the most important turning points in my life was in English class in high school…  the back of the t-shirt of one of my classmates (who became a life-long friend) said “quest for certainty”….   Hey, i confessed, i am also on a quest for certainty…  tell me about yours…   to which he replied, this is a hardcore band called shelter…  to which i replied…  oh, never mind.

Luckily, my friend further explained that these particular fellows followed a strict philosophical tradition…  one that i could hear all about on Wednesday nights on south street in philly…  and so i went, and i met my guru.

Once i encountered the devotees, i was subjected to a lot of hardcore music…  there were a lot of devotee bands back then, and their lyrics were surprisingly in line with where my head was at at the time…  my friend also gave me recordings of some other bands not affiliated with “the krishnas”, but had similar ideals.

And that is how my appreciation for people yelling at me developed.

i realized that their screaming wasn’t a weakness, as i had perceived earlier, and it wasn’t counterproductive…  it was actually inspiring others to see the world from a point of view outside of the one that society was force-feeding them…  and it was giving positive solutions to real problems…  and it was working.

Kids were abandoning destructive lifestyles of drug use and exploitative promiscuous behavior…  a lot of them…  all because of these people yelling on a stage…  and so i admired that.   and eventually i joined in with the yelling.

So, back to krodhamishrabhakti…  anger is valuable…  it can be destructive, but it can also be a powerful motivator.

Which is way i am much more eloquent when i am annoyed.

In that final season on the jersey shore i had plenty of fuel…  and so i was productive in this regard…  now the ideas still come, and occasionally i get annoyed enough to clack away at the keyboard and scratch another blog idea off the ever growing list, but its not the same.

i think i am going to try to become more regular with this again…  it was really helpful for me then, and i think it would still be really helpful to me now…  and while i’m not willing to subject myself to another season in wildwood to fuel this inspiration, i do hope that i can at least be more regular with it...  don't worry, the next one will be much better...  and shorter.

Forever endeavor!