Lifestyles of the not-too-rich and somewhat famous

Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 7:34 pm

The adventures of two travelling booksellers


I have for some time been pondering onwheather or not I should write about what we've gone through after Krishangi's latest book "On the outside looking in" was published. On one hand, Tattva-viveka is forum where we can share our stories and thoughts, as well as tell each othe about things we have done. On the other hand, to use this very forum to bring attention to our personal doings to the extent that I am could be called even preposterous. So you could say I harbour some mixed feelings facing this task.


I could of course construe it as glorifying a fellow vaisnavi, which would make it acceptable, even laudable. But as that vaisnavi happens to be my wife things get a bit trickier. Even more so when the reason I will tell about her is related to her new book. A project I also quite actively participated in, both as designer, critiquer, and to some small extent even helping out with the storyline. So in that sense, one could rule that I'm tooting my own horn in giving the recollections that follow.


Thus I ask for your understanding. Please do not misconstrue this to be an attempt to vainly bring attention to how glorious either Krishangi or myself are. We are nothing special, and what we have done, could be done by anyone else out there among the readers. Undoubtedly with a different flavour, a different style, but done nonetheless.


My motives for writing spring more from enthusiasm than from the need for Krishangi or me to be acknowledged. The very Finnish way would have been to keep quite about everything that took place. We even have a saying in our beloved country that one who has some fortune will do well in hiding it.


Regardless of this I decided I should not hide what Krishangi has done. Hoping it to inspire other readers as well to pick up the pen and tell about their adventures in spreading the glories of Krishna and Guru Maharaja. Since I know there are so many of you out there who have vastly better tales, and are vastly more qualified to tell them. So please share your stories with us, foregoing that natural vaisnava humility that keep you from doing so, a humility I so severely lack.


I have now opened the floodgates. It is for all of you to write the next chapters!


Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 7:42 pm

As anyone who has ever published anything knows, the easier part (remember, I said easier, not easy!) is writing the book. Getting it sold is the tricky part. It's not like people will gather behind our door in long lines to get their hands on the books.


This becomes a problem when navigating in your own home becomes obstructed by tons of cardboard boxes containing the very books you endeavouored hard to get printed. And I can assure you that the latest delivery of 1800 pounds of Krishangi's newest began to put some strain on our floor. Unanimously we came to the conclusion that the books had to go!


Also, the only excercise I seem to get these days is carrying boxes of either books or magazines, from one room the the next, from the next room to some store. And then occasionally lugging the boxes across Europe.


But, at the end of the day, we still had a lot of boxes left. How to get them out was our main mission. This is the (ongoing) story of how we did that.




Some pictures of the boxes arriving one rainy afternoon. The truckdriver dumped them on the lawn and told us that we clearly had things under control, meaning he wouldn't partake in the carrying. Luckily some friends were over who were in need of physical activity.


(Rule of thumb: if the pictures are out of focus and poorly cropped, they were taken by Krishangi. :Big Grin: )



Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 7:55 pm

I will in this posting include both newspaper clippings as well as links to websites. For the time being I have not taken the time to translate them into a more widely spoken language than Finnish, or in some instances Swedish, or even French. But if anyone reads this posting, and is interested in what those weird words mean I can take the time to give at least a synopsis of what was said.




I will start off with an article from a literary supplement to Hufvudstadsbladet called Volt. For those who aren't acquainted with the magazines in Finland, Hufvudstadsbladet, or more familiarily HBL, is the biggest newspaper for Swedish-speaking Finns. Which still doesn't make it huge, but quite significant anyway.


The headline reads something like "almost annoyingly positive". A quote that Krishangi herself used to describe how her outlook on life changed after she found vaisnavism.


Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 8:05 pm

Our first opportunity to market the book came before the book even was our from the printer's oven. With this I mean an art exhibition in the center of Helsinki, to which Krishangi was invited.


There are some ideological problems with exhibiting comic book art on the walls of a gallery. Because in many instaces it would be like randomly extracting pages from a book and framing them. You will be able to get something out of it, but at the end of the day the effort falls short. So we opted for an alternative approach.


Parts of the fruits of this effort have already been seen on Tattva-viveka, the real-live photographs of the characters taking it easy, but there was other stuff too to be seen. Like the rows of ducks and mice hanging from the ceiling. In addition to the aforementioned "standard" comic book art and printers sheet's. We chose to exhibit the entire nine pages about the summer retreat of 2005 (also seen on Tattva-viveka).


The exhibition was well received, and well attended as well. Wich is visible in the pictures below.




Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 8:15 pm

One of the first public appearences in regard to the new book came with an invitation to participate in a club evening which was apptly called "the nerdy club", because of their dislike for smoke or loud music. Out of the two speakers who were invited, Krishangi was one. (The speaker even went as far as to crown her an "honorary nerd", as all the organizers unanimously wanted to have her appear in their club.) The second speaker was also no stranger to us, partly because she, Katja Tukiainen, was the first "star" to be interviewed in the pages of Ananda.


To our surprise quite a big crowd had turned up, and was clearly interested in what the two artists had to say. The stage was small, but all three fitted on it, and art by both Katja and Krishangi was projected onto a screen to the right of them.


The interviewer was nice, and the athmosphere in the club was very intimate and nonthreatening, which clearly made everyone feel at ease. The discussions ranged from artistic styles (in which Krishangi pointed out that she chose comic books as her means of expression for the reason that she could neither write nor draw!), to seeking inspiration from India (Katja is a practicing Astanga yogi, who has drawn a book about her trip to Mysore), to the place female artists had in the comic book community.


The audience also had the opportunity to participate, and for Finland there were unusually many questions. (The common practise in this country is that when you ask for questions everyone will stare at the floor beneath them and an awkvard silence will ensue. This, even when clearly many would have questions to ask or opinions to give! Just as a warning for those of you who might end up speaking publicly over here...)


But, as I said, this time even the audience was awake, and had many questions, as well as some who just spoke up to praise either or both of the authors. The one question, however that both Krishangi and I felt to be the nicest, as well as a reaffirmation for us to keep up publishing, came from a girl we didn't yet know:


"When will we see more of the spiritual side in your books?"


Religion usually being a taboo subject in the world of alternative publishing and art, this took us by surprise. Clearly we had been doing something right!


(As for me, that was probably the only thing I had done right for some time. You see, because of all the stress with getting he book published, following up on its schedule, building the exhibition, doing promotional work, one small thing had slipped from my mind: it was Krishangi's birthday...)



Vivek - March 13, 2007 8:31 pm

Amazing prabhu, I hope i can be motivated enough like two of you!

Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 8:34 pm

One thing that for me has been especially gratifying is how people who generally wouldn't touch comic books just dive into the pages of Krishangi's latest work. I had first hand experience of this when I endeavoured to get the book sold to our school's library. My first stop was our principal, who directed me to the school's student guide. Who, fortunately is much more approachable. (I think at least Gurunistha can attest to this...)


Our student guide was very forthcoming, and immediately decided to purchase a copy for the library. Which was nice. I also saw her exhibit the book the rest of the school's personnel, including our principal. (This made me slightly worried. Would they take back the order once they found out the pretty religiously colored content?)


Apparently not. For what was nice was that I later that day saw her hand over the book to our school's secretary Tina, who for the rest of the day sat as glued to the book neglecting all other work. She then called me in to her office as I happend to pass it and exclaimed "this book is lovely! I just cannot bring myself to put it down. Could I have an own copy?". I happily accepted her order, and brought her a book. Almost two pounds less strain on our floor back home!




The scary part came later that day. When I was leaving school after a hard days work, our principal stood in the hallway waiting for me. She asked if I had a moment in a way principals ask rethorical questions, with the underlying notion that time is to be made!


As I agreed to this, she slowly began speaking. "I am not sure how to best express this..."


At this point my stomach twisted. I was royaly screwed.


"Kaisa's new book..."




"Well, I was wondering. Her work is so wonderful. So I was thinking that I would like to buy copies for the entire board. To show them that comic books can be so much more than your run of the mill Donald Ducks.


The only problem is the price. As I would have to pay for it myself, could you consider some amount of discount, if I took, say, ten of them?"


Lady! If you would have asked to have them for free I would have agreed! So relieved was I. I wasn't getting fired for spreading religious dogma on school premices. Instead I was going to make a deal! It only took me a few seconds to compose myself to the business-minded person I normally am, and went on negotiating a mutualy satisfactory deal. "You know, it is quite expencive to print books like these."


"Yes, yes. I understand it of course, and feel even ashamed to ask for a reduced price..."


The tables had turned. And in due course of time the school board will be reading of the adventures of young Krishangi and Kamalaksa, as well as getting to know our beloved Guru Maharaja in his cow form!




Later on Krishangi bumped into a member of a rivaling political party, who happened to be on the school board. "I read your book and I loved it!" she said. "But can I ask you something? Do you celebrate Christmas at all?"


It is a constant source of amusement to be confronted with the concerns of "common" people in regard to our religious beliefs. Never mind that we worship a blue god, and believe the world was manifested through a four-headed being who was sitting on a lotus growing out of someones navel. No, the real question is whether or not we celebrate Christmas. Krishangi assured her that we indeed celebrate Christmas with our families, although in more secular way. This answer clearly pleased her.


She also told her that the board had been wondering whether comics should be called "literature" or something else, and had concluded that they indeed are literature. What a feat!




In the end they bought 17 copies all in all!

Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 8:37 pm

One link I also would like to provide you with is the largest comic book portal Kvaak's website. Or two actually, one the the page with the review, the other to the page where Krishangi's neew book is beeing discussed.






Back when we started publishing our books we got pretty much critizism for the spiritual content. Many thought the books were just mindless propaganda, with us seeking new converts. Over the years these voices have slowly muffled, and our books have won over audiences we never thought we could reach.


Now people accept the spiritual side as a integral part in Krishangi's books, without feeling the need to always point it out in reviews or discussions. Many feel, and rightly so, that Krishangi is just telling about her world without any demands to the reader. And I feel this is a good way of tearing down the slightly cultish image our group (in its widest sense) has. The books open a window to a way of life and a world many are interested in, but who at the same time do not want to, for one reason or another, approach directly themselves.


From receiving applause for her general content and style but sometimes even severe critizism for the spiritual side, it has gone as far as people asking for more spiritual content, as told earlier on. We sure have come a long way.

Kamalaksa Das - March 13, 2007 8:45 pm

Then we have a newspaper clipping from our local paper Uusimaa. The article gives a short synopsis over the plot in the book, telling of our affiliation and eventual break up with the local Iskcon temple, and how we found a new spiritual home in our group.


And then there is the headline. Which reads Kaisa the mouse has been invited to France.


To be continued...


Kamalaksa Das - March 14, 2007 8:09 pm

The nonsectarian nature of Sri Chaitanya's sankirtan movement holds true at least when judging by the press coverage Krishangi has been getting.


As an example of this I present you with two magazines targeted at distinctly different groups.


The first one is a supplement to the weekly Christian newspaper Kotimaa. The supplement is aptly called Ilo, which can be translated to mean joy or happiness. They market themselves as an open-minded Christian paper, which they to their credit really seem to be.


Those who were in India might already have seen the interview, but in order not to deprive the rest of you from seeing it I scanned the four page long article.


The reporter had clearly done her homework, as had the layout department. (This is visible from the usage of similar typography that we employed in The Little Book of Bhakti-yoga.) The headline reads "the girl who drew herself as a mouse". And I really have to commend both the layout department of this magazine, as well as the photographer. First class work!


And even though they had to print the mandatory info box about the scandals of Iskcon, the article on the whole was a really positive one. And yes, Krishangi made it clear several times that we in no way were affiliated with Iskcon anymore. But as they might have a hard time finding any dirt on Sri Chaitanya Sangha, they had to resort to speaking about Iskcon. They wouldn't want to paint a too rosy picture of hinduism, would they. After all, it is a Christian magazine.


And while I know that we might be blowing it out of proportion, we find it annoying to be affiliated with a group, and even have to explain their at times odd ideas, when we more often than not don't agree ourselves with their conclusons. And are in fact banned from even attending their programs. But let's not dwell on the negative, since this was really a very minute part of the whole article.


Otherwise it painted a really nice picture of our lives as devotees. (Many times the picture these articles paint is more of an ideal we are striving for, as we do not see fit to dwell on our own shortcomings in the public. Making us seem slightly more holy than what we really are...) Still, the interview goes on to tell the story of our initiation, and mentions Guru Maharaja more than once, even giving a short description of Audarya.


Plus they make mention of our summer retreats, which everyone naturally should attend. (Subliminal marketing going on here...)


The only downside with the article (apart from the one i wrote about earlier) is the attention we have drawn from the more lunatic Christian community. Not that the attention has been that big, but we have received some weird letters.


Out of which my personal favorite was a letter that in its entirety read "Here are some prophesies given to me from God." With an attachment of 30 pages of TV-preacher like-Christian jargon printed on both sides. Needless to say, we only skimmed through it, without finding much of value there. And I want to underline this is no hostile attack on Christianity. I respect any person regardless of faith, when such respect is varanted. But this was not such a case this time.



Kamalaksa Das - March 14, 2007 8:12 pm

The second magazine is then from the other end of the spiritual market place. A new age magazine called Mina Olen (I am). Their headline's byline (or whatever its called in America) reads "The woman with no feet does yoga", and the headline itself reads "From being different to being unique"


Given the new age target group Krishangi found that the reporter was really easy to relate to, as they shared a similar way of thinking and speaking of things. Even when acknowledging that they at times meant very different things. The article speaks about karma, bhakti, and the need for a proper spiritual guide. And even in this article Guru Maharaja is mentioned. As well as our then upcoming trip to holy Vrindavana. All presented in a very positive fashion. Plus the freaky pictures we took of Krishangi dressed in her new Hello Kitty kimono.


And there will be more later, so stay tuned.



Babhru Das - March 14, 2007 9:54 pm

Wonderful, wonderful! You guys are just too much. Thanks for sharing all this and inspiring the rest of us.


BTW, where can we get the Little Book you published earlier. That has been on my list, but I'm not sure where to find it. Was it Nanda-tanuja who had some in the US?

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - March 14, 2007 9:58 pm

Interestingly in the last article Krsangi's blog has wrong URL, it should be http://kaisaleka.blogspot.com, but in the article it's http://kaisalega.blogispot.com By accident? I think not! ;)

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - March 14, 2007 10:13 pm
Was it Nanda-tanuja who had some in the US?

Yep, I will send you one tomorrow. Same address?

Babhru Das - March 14, 2007 10:53 pm

Yes, thanks! Do I remit to Audraya? How much?

Madhavendra Puri Dasa - March 14, 2007 11:01 pm

Hello guys- I really would like to get copy of this book. There is english version?

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - March 14, 2007 11:12 pm
Do I remit to Audraya? How much?

Well, I'm not a branch of the Audarya Bookstore, so any amount will do. And, yes, just make a donation to Audarya via Paypal on http://www.swami.org/sanga/ page.

Shyam Gopal Das - March 14, 2007 11:18 pm

for more info see bhakti yoga book website

Nanda-tanuja Dasa - March 14, 2007 11:18 pm
Hello guys- I really would like to get copy of this book. There is english version?

What book are you referring to? "On the outside looking in" or "The Little Book of Bhakti Yoga"? Both are in English, I think I've seen several "On the outside looking in" in Audarya, but it's not in the Audarya Bookstore yet. I've sent several "The Little Book of Bhakti Yoga" to Mayapurcandra dasa, so ask him, I'm sure he will send you a copy.

Babhru Das - March 14, 2007 11:19 pm

Done. Thanks, as always, prabhu.


And, yes--will we have to learn Finnish to fully appreciate this new book? ;)

Kamalaksa Das - March 15, 2007 5:49 pm

Gay Paris


Back in January 2006 Krishangi attended the big comic book festival in Angouleme in France, sharing a small sales both with a few other Finnish artists.


While there she tried to convince a few of the semi big publishers to publish her books as well. Unfortunately they deemed her works as too mainstream, as France traditionally has quite a strong emphasis on fairly artistic comic books. And as Krishangi´s books contain quite simple drawings and a logical structure, they apparently didn´t appeal to the snobbish publishers. (Ok, I'm being just a little bitter here.)


Anyway, her trip to Angouleme was a succes on all other counts, as she sold quite well. By this she broke the jinx which, from what I have gathered, plagued the other Finns throughout the years. The method to this was so simple, that it's amazing that our fellow countrymen hadn´t thought of it. The key was not to be hopelessly drunk and/or hungover. And not smelling like a corpse also seemed to help. Plus the general idea of winning people over by being friendly to them.


But as we know, not all karma fructifies immediately, and such was also the story with finding a publisher. A few months after the festival in Angouleme a lady called Iris Schwanck (who happens to be no other than Gurunishta's aunt) who works for the Finnish Literature Information Centre handed over a copy of Krishangi's previous book to Jerome Remy, who works as a co-ordinator for the Nordic literature festival in Caen.


He immediately took a keen interest in the works of Krishangi, and when he was visiting Finland we had both him and his wife as well as their new born baby over for dinner. He then expressed an interest to have Krishangi come over as a guest speaker for the festival, and had arranged that one of his old friends to jointly publish her book "I am not htese feet" translated into French. So now the ball was rolling again. It just meant quita a big workload for Krishangi, as the whole book, after being translated, had to be hand lettered.


In November we arrived in Paris, bags filled with books, prepared to take over France. Our first stop was in the Finland institute in Paris, where Krishangi was separately from the festival in Normandy sceduled to speak at a disability seminar. She gave talk based on one of her small autobiographical book, which was well received, although she faced some critizism from a French woman. It seems that the lady was a bit provoked by the fact that Krishangi chose not to hide her prosthetic feet, but rather called attention to them. It seems that in France the gender roles are still quite some more traditional than in Scandinavia, and the idea of a woman being primarily something nice to look at lives strong. In the eyes of both genders.


All in all it went well, and the attendes consisting of artists, students, sociologists and philosophers seemed pleased. In addition to this Krishangi also held a comic drawing workshop for younger kids. (Where she was confronted with the one group she has a relly hard time relating too, children.) As far as I understood everything worked out and only one kid had started crying.


My role in all of this (as well as in life in general) was to function as a mule, lugging around bags of books, clothes, and art for the upcoming exhibition through the streets of Paris and Normandy.


Next stop: Caen



Krsangi Dasi - March 15, 2007 5:57 pm



yes, both books are available through Audarya, but should you wish to get them through us, it is also possible. This is recommended especially if you are in Europe. Or if you want to order larger quantities. We can come up with reasonable rates.


Special price just for you!


The prices we have asked for are 20 dollars for The Little Book of Bhakti-yoga, and 25 dollars for Krishangi's latest book On the Outside Looking In. Both books are in plain and easy to read English, so no need to purchase that Fenno-Ugric dictionary just yet.


Thank you, and order tons of books!

Kamalaksa Das - March 15, 2007 6:39 pm

Even womyn like the books by Krishangi!


As an additional treat for the conscious consumer I give you a page from the small bu long running feminist magazine Astra Nova. (This clipping is in Swedish, so at least Mathuranath and Bhrigu can access this one!)


Their review of the book is a really nice one, and the fact that devoted a whole page for it made things only better.


The author Kajsa Heselius writes that she recomends the book to every teenager and older. Anyone who sometime has doubted that things work out in the end will, according to the writer, find solace and enjoyment in the discussions between the mouse and the duck.


Kajsa Heselius also notes with pleasure Krishangi's stance against sexism in the name of religion, citing Krishangi's thoughts on how a flexible philosphy can easily be turned into fundementalism when people start projecting their own values upon it.


Kamalaksa Das - March 16, 2007 7:47 pm

The train ride to Caen was peaceful, and both of us slept well for the hours it took us. At the train station we were greeted by one festival arranger and other guests of the festival. We also witnessed the hot temper of a scorned Frenchman. For it so happened that our chauffeur had parked his vehicle in a way that blocked the free passage of another car. After throwing various curses in the air the man, obviously enraged by the offense of having his car jammed, threw of his coat off. Thus making it clear the man saw the situation as such that matters could only be resolved by a fist fight. Luckily it didn't come to a full blown match, as our host jumped in his car and quickly moved it away, all while being at the receiving end of various insults from the man wronged.


We Finns just stood by the curb watching the incident with awe. Two cultures clashed, and we were at loss on how to react. For in our northern home it is more or less taboo to display feelings, what to speak of such a vulgar display. We were far from home in more senses than the geographical.


No one was bleeding, and our driver quickly navigated us to our hotel, saying that we might not have time to change clothes, as they were running late on their schedule as it was. To this I protested, as I was not going to attend an official ceremony dressed in sporting wear and an old t-shirt. Fortunately my opposition was heard, and both of us quickly dressed up in more fitting attire. As can be seen in one of the pictures of Krishangi ascending the stairs in royal style. (we had to conclude that the French town had a nicer City council building than our own in Porvoo. Might have something to do that while we Finns were still living in saunas with our livestock, our Normandian counterparts were pursuing the fine arts.)


Anyway, we met with our French publisher Thierry Weyd, (se picture, smiling man next to Krishangi) who turned out to be a short, round fellow, who spoke such broken english that many times you had to guess what he tried to say. (We were prepared for this, having received mails from him earlier on, with what we came to call thierryisms.) All in all he was a really happy fellow who had taken to promoting Krishangi's book with true enthusiasm. He had made up a small program for Krishangi, which included speaking at the school he was teaching at and various other events.


Other persons we met during the opening ceremony were a group of three Finnish photographers who were attending the big photo exhibition in Paris. They were Elina Brotherus, Sandra Kantanen and Tiina Itkonen. For those interested in fine photography, try to google them. You wont be dissappointed!


We bumped in to them the next day at the museum. Beutiful and serene pictures decorated the castles walls, and I could but admire them. But as man lives not on spirit alone we were summoned to gather for a dinner at the art museum. We met with Sandra, who since our days in school went on to become a quite acknowledge photographer, and took our seats around the table. And as it so happened the director of the museum also sat at our table. In fact just opposite to Krishangi and me. Next to him sat arguably Finland's best known photographer Elina Brotherus, who just had her exhibition opened at the same museum.


And so the food began being carried in. The dish of the day was fish on a cream bed. But as our host was well aware of our special diet, he had gone to great lenghts to see too it that we would be provided with different meals. (Vegetarianism in France is something that is viewed with extreme suspicion, I have concluded.)


Still, when the museum director saw us decline the fishplates, he as a gracious gentleman, became worried and inquired wheather we were not eating anything.


We were quick to explain that we were indeed going to eat, but that as vegetarians we would be provided with different plates. As an apparent connosoire of finer French cuisine he was taken slightly aback at the idea of someone declining the gourmandic pleasures in life, but quickly composed himself. Thus proceeding to offering us a glass of wine.


When we declined from this offer too stating that we do not drink his face took a really puzzled look.






At this point our new aquaintance Elina came to our rescue. She explained to the poor man that we were Hare Krishnas, and thus had a slightly different lifestyle.


Still clearly not willing to drop the subject our director went on inquiering "smoke then?", gesturing with his hand as if holding a cigarette. We shook our heads.






At this point the clearly confused director shook his head and uttered something like "mamma mia!" (Ar this point Krishangi wants to point out that it is Italians who say "mamma mia", but as I have no idea what the French would say I think this conveys the idea pretty well...)


He then asked if we did not miss these pleasures in life, and clearly wasn't willing to accept our negative answer. The clash of two worlds, oh how i relish them ; ).


(I also have included a picture of the museum director and Elina.)




The next big surprise came right after this. A middle aged lady on my right who wore way to much make up had heard our conversation turned to me and asked wheather we had been to India. When I still back then had to reply that we hadn't yet had the priviledge of visiting that country, she gave a short speech about the glories of Vrindavan and Prabhupada. All while devouring the poor unfortunate fish on her plate. This was getting surreal!




Krishangi's grand appearence was up next.




Kamalaksa Das - March 16, 2007 7:54 pm

Need more reading material?


A clipping from French paper Telerama, which gives an insight into the cultural climate of Finland. With one of our own appearing first.





(Not in Finnish ;) )

Vamsidhari Dasa - March 24, 2007 5:20 am

I've neen wanting to say this since last week: ILOVE THE HELLO KITTY KIMONO and I WANT ONE!!!!!!! :Big Grin:

regarding everything else, congratulations of course so proud of you. I loved the book too.


Kamalaksa Das - March 30, 2007 5:40 pm

Ok kiddies, back with more stories. Sorry for the delay!


For those of you who didn't know, we have had quite an intense time after the India retreat. Krishangi was running for parliament as a candidate for the green party, and the campaign took a whole lot of energy. Now for you Americans out there who live in a two party system, it might come as a surprise that over here the greens are a serious party, with a representation of 8,46% in the parliament.


But anyway, we had a campaign to run. Or Krishangi did, wich unfortunately, and to some extent contrary to my will, also included me. I found myself in all sorts of suburbs handing out magazines, reliving the days I was travelling around Finland selling Harikesh-tapes. (I know, I know, the products they had me selling were really something, but I did it to support the temple. And it was a lot of fun too!)


Once again I met a lot of interesting people, like a guy who was convinced since the early 80's that the greens were an offshoot of the nazi-party regrouped after WWII. (They are NOT!) Apart from these occasional crazies most people were really positive, and many recognized Krishangi from various apperances in the media. And nobody spit on me, which was nice.


Unfortunately, when election day came, even our hardest endeavours couldn't secure Krishangi a place in leading this country towards a glorious future. The number of people who voted for Krishangi in our district amounted to a whopping 1890, which in itself wasn't half bad. That's a lot of more people than we know, so she must have said something right! Just not enough. And for those of you who do not see this as a big number, let me give you some perspective: A lady from a rivaling party in the same electione zone got elected with just around 1000 votes, due to some quite high-flying election math I have just recently and after quite some education begun to understand. I wont bore you with the details.


And although Krishangi viewed this as a disastrous failure (not that she is melodramatic or anything) all of our friends, aquantancies, co-workers and total strangers have close to stood in line congratulating her for a very good effort. Telling her that her time might well come after four years. Then it's election time again - God forbid!


In the end it was like famous Finnish novel character Rokka said in regard to us poor souls loosing the war:


"The Socialist State of Soviet Union won, but as good second finished small and perky Finland!"


But enough of politics, and back to spreading the holy name. ; )

Kamalaksa Das - March 30, 2007 5:43 pm

Back in France. This was the day of the public apperences. First off Krishangi was scheduled for an interview for French television. Or two interviews to be more exact. One local channel, and one national. Unfortunately I can't find the show online, although it was there some time ago, but what I can do is post a few shots from the interviews. There is a slight Hollywood kind of feeling to it when you see people surround your wife with cameras and taperecorders. Paris Hilton – beware!


One thing that really shook some people up (more on this later, I promise) was the fact that Krishangi on top of all was and is a devotee. Now for one reason or another the Hare Krishnas have a really bad reputation in France. Those who have been around for a longer time might give some insight into this, maybe? So it was funny to hear the tv-reporter speak about Krishna in a really funny french accent. I gather they had a somewhat hard time putting together the fact that here was a girl who seemed level headed and all, author of many books, in short a person who could be kept in furnished rooms. Their stereotyped idea of what a devotee of Krishna is like surely took a hit that day!




Kamalaksa Das - March 30, 2007 5:44 pm

Then it was time to appear on stage. Various and famous authors from Finland gathered on a sofa and some chairs in the spotlight. And even if names like Kari Hotakainen, Märta Tikkanen and Matti Yrjänä Joensuu won't mean a thing to you, I can let you in on the fact that these are among the top selling authors in Finland. And among them, we had little Krishangi, whose books are produced in our upstairs studio, and eventually self published.


The interview itself was conducted by someone who looked like a fashionable skinhead, but who apparently had done his homework. I say this, because he was able to formulate interesting questions pertaining to the subjects discussed in the books.


The interesting clash of cultures came this time in the form of the varied customs of verbal communication between Southern Europe and Northern Europe. In practise this meant that the interviewer went on with long lasting and at times driveling questions ranging from 2 minutes an up, and receiving a blunt yes or no answer from the Finnish authors. Only to continue in the same way - the interviewer wasn't easily depressed, that's for sure. The funny thing was that the audience seemed to love this - apparently it was the most exotic thing they could imagine!



Kamalaksa Das - March 30, 2007 5:46 pm

Krishangi tried to adapt a little more to her environment, giving polite answers, although the ratio between question and answer time still was around 7:1. Some pictures of that even too. (Note that the there really is an audience of culturally minded people listening intently!)


And then there was the signing. People were literary lining up to meet Krishangi, buy her new book in French, (yes, we sold about a box of the new english book too!) and have it autographed. Many took time to tel her either in broken English or simpified French how much they admired her for being what she was. And how she served as an inspiration for them. And these were not any grungy teens (not that I resent grungy teens, but I don't know how to finnish this sentence...) but proper middle-aged ladies and gentlemen. Needless to say I was very proud.


More pictures, please!



Kamalaksa Das - March 31, 2007 6:02 pm

For those tired of France (do you still have those "freeedom fries" served over there?) let us move to Italy!


A short time after Krishangi's book I am not these feet was published in French we got an email form a small publisher in Italy, requesting us to let them print the book over there. After the mandatory googling of the publisher, and finding out they were as respectable as one could imagine, we agreed. This of course meant a lot more lettering work for Krishangi, as the books still are hand lettered. (The Italians sent us a sample of how it would look if they would typeset it over there, but the whole thing was just too hideous to even describe. There is a place in hell for people who insist on using Comic Sans anywhere and everywhere!)


My role in the lettering operation was limited to cooking. As Napoleon so wisely said, an army marches on its stomach. But in the bigger project I got to play a slightly bigger role. (And no, it was not merely posing as a duck, thank you for asking!)


You see, the Italian publisher wanted to have a small poster to go along with the book. And while Krishangi was overworked with everything else I took the task of designing it. (That means I'm the only one to blame if you find it tasteless!) I made a quick sketch, sold the idea to Krishangi (using only moderate force...) and went on planning how to execute the idea. Time was limited, as our trip to the dhama was pending, so a few corners had to be cut.


This didn't diminish the quality in any way, (I hope) it just meant doing things in a slightly different way. Remember, a marine adapts. So instead of trying to find a location for shooting and all the needed paraphenelia I decided to build it all myself. With a little glue, some paper and a sharp knife. And a lot of Photoshopping. Luckily my father had a tuxedo that I was able to fit in, and the local hardware store was kind enough to lend me a saw...


Here is a picture of how the poster turned out. The text on the banner says La ragazza senza piedi - the girl without feet. And the poster, well, it seems to show how things happened.


Remember, if you find it offensive, you lack a sense of humor! ; )


(If anyone wants to buy a copy of the Italian or French edition, drop us a line, we have a few lying around. Special price for you, my friend!)


Kamalaksa Das - March 31, 2007 6:04 pm

Now having a publisher in Italy is sweet, but having a publisher in Italy with good connections to the press is even sweeter!


Our contact person from the publishing house was called Alessandra Sabatini. And she arranged things so that prior to publishing the book only one paper would be given an exclusive interview with Krishangi. Sounds pretentious, doesn´t it? And the magazine that was given the honours of doing this *exclusive* interview was no smaller than the Italian edition of Vanity Fair. Aptly called Vanity Fair over there too.


An interview was promptly scheduled two days after our return from India. They had a female reporter called Enrica Brocardo fly all the way from Milan to Finland, just for an interview with Krishangi. We thought this was just wild! Someone travelling a few thousand miles to meet Krishangi? But so it was.


Unfortunately for poor Enrica, the temperature over here had just taken a steep dive, to somewhere around -15 degrees centigrade. Which was slightly less than what she had experienced the previous week while doing a story in sunny Egypt. But at least we greeted her warmly, offering her some prasadam, and trying our best to make her feel comfortable.


During the interview itself I was relegated to the kitchen, as the good Hausfrau I am. The ladies chatted for little more than an hour, after which dinner was served. And even though Enrica ate like a sparrow, she clearly fell in love with the newly baked bread.


Now whether the proverbial way to a man's heart worked with this woman or not is a question that still has no answer. By this I mean that while I have been pestering you with various clippings from magazines in both Finnish and Swedish, we have come to a point where karmic payback is in place. What goes around comes around, and now we don't have a clue what is being said. For you out there who speak Italian, please give us a small synopsis of what is written here. Or even whether it's positive or negative.


As the issue came out I was happy to note that they had indeed used a few PR photos taken by me. As a photographer, maybe it's time to retire now, while I'm still on top - having had my pictures printed on the pages of Vanity Fair. Another thing we found amusing was that the other celebrities featured on the issues pages were super model Gisele Bundchen, Sacha Baron Cohen (the man commonly known as Borat), Osama Bin Laden (!) and Krishangi. So our girl was evidently in good company (?).


To our dismay the cover shot featured a scantily clad Gisele Bundchen, not Krishangi. But we suppose Gisele beat Krishangi in the last round, probably by having some friends in the repro department... ; ) Supermodels - God, that's like so 90's!


Below the pages on the feature on Krishangi. And no, I'm not scanning the cover for you!




Kamalaksa Das - April 2, 2007 5:53 am

In an effort to keep the fenno-ugric pride thing going on these pages I now return with a clipping from a paper called Apu (literally Help). It is a widely circulated weekly magazine that did a story on the two of us some time ago. But due to an unwritten agreement between the major publishing houses they will not run personal stories of politicians during elections, as not to give them an unfair advantage over others. As the elections are officially over now they were able to run the piece.


The article is a person portrait of an artist with a focus on his or her home. So they interviewed both of us, and the talk went from punk to self publishing to spirituality to my obsession with collecting things. The photographer especially marveled my collection of obscure old cameras, featuring a nice shot of my Yashica 44.


As evidence that people actually read these things came yesterday when a man called me up and told how he back in the 60's had bought a Werra camera in East Berlin, and now wanted to find a good home for it. I happily accepted this offering, promising something nice for him in return. He went on saying that now that digital technology had made its big breakthrough these old cameras had no value anymore. As an old nostalgic i tried to counter saying that maybe they now had a different kind of value. And I know, I am a hopeless collector of perishable things. But the road is long, and I'm still on it to some extent....


I wonder if other readers as readily perceive the apparent paradox of my obsessive collecting and pursuance of spiritual life. No one is more well aware of this shortcoming myself. But my love for all kinds of obscure books and things is a thing I have a hard time controlling. Then again I guess there could be worse obsessions... (Cheap justification in progress here...)


Back to the article, there is quite big passage on vegetarianism, and cooking as a form of meditation. Plus the deities are featured, with a sub caption telling that the dolls are a reminder of our beliefs Indian origins. So all in all, not half bad!




Ok, I'll translate the headlines: Artist's residence in the empire-style quarters in Porvoo - Comic book heroes Kaisa and Leka.




Kamalaksa Das - April 2, 2007 5:55 am

A week before our pilgrimage to Vrindavana we made a short appearance on French soil. Once again. The reason was that they hosted one of the world's largest comic conventions there, in a small town called Angouleme located a few hundred kilometers from Paris. We had reserved a table there along with some other small publishers, and as we had quite a few comics in French left upstairs, a trip to France was the only logical thing.


As not to strain our otherwise already stretched budget I aplied for a grant from the culture council to sponsor my trip and lodging. A really over the top nice recomendation letter from our school's principal did a lot on the way to receiving the money. She wrote how visual culture and visual literature is a growing field, and how it is a excellent way of communication, especially among the younger generation.


Now we didn't get to see much of romantic countryside France, as we were steadily positioned behind our sales table. And as a result of this I got the worst cold in ages - their insistence on switching on and off the air condition proved to be more than my immune system was willing to put up with.


I also adopted our old friend Kardama's way of communicating with the locals in an effort to make the sales. This method means transcending the limitations of language, making missing words up while speaking. I spoke about two words of French, but those two words I used vigourously. So "bonjour" and "merci" it was. The rest a mix of dumbed down English and my own variety of sign language. Also not smelling (too) bad, or being constantly either drunk or hung over helped us make a quite good result during the fare. As witnsess to this I offer you pictures of our customers, who happily posed for your pleasure.


The cold I caught there, which eventually progressed to a full-fledged ear infection, was of course a downer. For about a week I could barely hear what my students said, and my doctor put me on antibiotics for the first time in years. I saw this as a curse, for flying while suffering from a cold is hellish, and with an ear infection it's even worse.


But what for a while seemed like a punishment turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A blessing very well disguised this time, but a blessing none the less.


For as I set foot on Indian soil, my body was so packed with antibiotics I survived the dhama without any illness. Which was a real relief. I thus excelled my goal of returning back home alive as I returned back both alive and in good health! And that's something to celebrate, dear friends!


Kamalaksa Das - April 16, 2007 7:30 pm

As neophyte vaisnava we at times succumb to the desire for distinction and admiration. Now everyne readily agrees that this is not a desirable quality, as it seeks to put us in the center instead of Krishna. But as we are weak and continue our stumbling on the path home, we at times fall.


And other times the world itself becomes our teacher, prohibiting us from receiving undue fame. This is a story about that. Come and sit closer, Uncle Kamalaksa will tell you something funny.




We begin with some background information. There is an organisation in Finland called Grafia. Its purpose is to promote good graphic design, and it simultaneously functions like a union for designers. So every year Grafia hosts a gala in which the best design of the year gone by receives prices. The award is called Vuoden Huiput – in English it would be something like the Peaks of the Year. The prices one can receive are either honorable mention, Silver Peak, or Gold Peak. And of course most receive nothing...


It's a fairly prestigious event, a black suit type of thing, where all the hip and cool ad agency guys and gals get to show off.


The different categories are many, but include best print ads, best book design, best tv-spots and so forth. Being a small time publishing house as we are, we readily seek all kinds of visibility in the media. And as we had two new (and really nice, in our opinion) books, we decided to take part in the competition. So we paid a small fee for our attendance, and sent the jurors The Little Book of Bhakti-yoga and Krishangi's book On the Outside Looking In. This was in January.


About three weeks ago we received a mail that stated that one of our books would be featured in the exhibition book, which meant that we would at least receive a honorable mention. Which would in itself be a really good thing, as we would be seen on the pages of a book that lists the best design of the past year. Clearly we had done something right, we thought. And besides, how big a chance would small time publishers like us stand against those big ad agencies with their 50K budgets? It's safe to say we were extremely happy.


Two weeks later we got an e-mail. It was from the secretary from Grafia, who wanted to know whether or not we would attend the gala dinner. Yes, they would be able to provide us with vegetarian food - no problem! The only downside was the price of the tickets – 150 dollars per person.


We quickly summoned a boardmeeting of Absolute Truth Press to decide how to react to this new intel. Which means that Krishangi and I sat at the dinner table debating the merits vs. demerits of attending. The pros were that we would receive fame and admiration from the community of designers. Every winner, be it a real price or a mere honorable mention, receives the token of honor on stage in front of everyone else. And like Andy Warhol said "in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes". Apparently now was the time for our quarter.


The cons? Well, the apparent 300 dollars. But part out of vanity, part out of excitement we decided it would be good to attend. Krishangi called up the lady, said we would be there, and went through the details.




Fast forward a week. I'm on my way back home from Helsinki, where I had done a photo shoot for the new issue of Ananda. And Krishangi was in some political meeting, (can't figure them all out, I've tried) where she loses every vote 8 to 1. (It's actually true :Applause: )


Anyway, during the bus ride home I receive a text message to my cellphone, which read "Congratulations! You have won the Silver Peak!" It was sent by our friend Jayanta Krishna who works for one of the biggest agencies in Finland.


Reading this sent a two different feelings racing through my mind: Joy - we won a real price!, and confusion - how could Jayanta Krishna know this? Did he have access to some secret information due to working at a high profile place as he did?


My curiosity got he better of me and I hit dial, and called him up. "Where are you?" I asked, as the background noise was quite loud. The answer made my blood freeze: "I'm at the Peaks of the Year gala. Congratulations once more!"


"But...but wasn't the gala supposed to be next week" I desperately suggested, knowing well the answer in advance – I mean, the guy should know where he is.


For those of you who ponder how a 300 dollar mistake like this could take place, I will give an explanation. The external explanation, if you will. It all has to do with a phone connection of lesser quality and of the Finnish language. Written down it's easy to spot the difference between "kahdestoista" and "kahdeksastoista" (12th and 18th), but in a fast moving conversation over the phone things aren't always that clear.


Thus, Krishangi, after having finished the call, took her pen, and wrote in her calender: gala dinner, 18th of April. And simultaneously begun planning what sort of dress she should wear at the big event. All while the party was getting started the night of April 12th.


And there was no chance for us to make there in time. Especially as I was only on my way back home. And a black suit dinner wouldn't have felt quite right for me should I have showed up in my outdoor photo gear, complete with trashy sneakers. Now my very unfortunate duty was to let Krishangi know about the mistake.


I am glad no one else had to make the phone call in question. For so emotionally tearing was the dismayed reaction from dear Krishangi. Not only had we lost a large sum of money, we also missed the opportunity (our only?) to bask in the glory of peer admiration. And Krishangi didn't get to wear her favorite Hello Kitty kimono. And while this might seem trivial to the guys out there, please refer to your better halves for consultation regarding the extent of this misfortune! Needless to say the rest of the evening was for my part spent consoling my wife.


The only one who found something good about the mistake was my brother, with his love for the obscure, who said it was a good thing we didn't attend, as it attested to our independent nature! My counter that this independence was more involuntary than not fell on deaf ears. So our explanation for the event is thus: we don't care for your silly pratishta competitions. (Yeah right! ;) ) Just remember to send our price in the mail! Please.




When we had gotten some perspective on the situation, ie. two days later, we started our philosophical dissectation of the situation. Krishangi was strongly of the opinion that the mistake had taken place as to teach her and us about the fallacies of material glory. My point of view was more along the lines of the shortcomings due to the minute character of the jiva - in plain english "to err is human". If you have your own theories you wish to share with us, please feel free to do so. We are past the phases of disappointment and anger, so you should be safe...


And in the end we ended up receiving a silver peak. Which was nice.




For those interested, please visit the Grafia site, and get aquainted with what it had to offer: (Yes, I know, the link is a mile long, but hey, I didn't name it...)


The jury's statement reads something to the extent of "This work is more than a book. Its consequent character and personality form a strong independent product." Not half bad, right!?



Shyam Gopal Das - April 16, 2007 8:46 pm

Great news, very nice to see not only devotees having much appreciation for your work, but graphic designers/comic lovers in general as well.

Gaurangi-priya Devi - April 17, 2007 3:33 pm

Congratulations on the award! Sorry you all missed the event. That's quite a bummer. Great story, though.

Kamalaksa Das - May 21, 2007 5:35 pm

Back again!


A month ago or so Krishangi had some of her work exhibited in what could be called an outdoor gallery in the center of Helsinki. The works displayed, 13 in number, were of a lighter variety, and, to be brutally honest, made in quite a hurry in between other projects. We brainstormed some ideas late at night, and Krishangi proceeded to draw them, while I operated the scanner.


I think we were done by 2 am. And had them sent by mail to the already anxiously awaiting gallerist. The pieces were ok, but by no means extraordinary in our opinion. But occasionally one has to live with less than perfect, I guess.


The interesting thing was that there was another artist exhibited simultaneously, a Brit called Al Davison. He is a long-term comic book artist from England, who has since birth been disabled, being more or less bound to his wheelchair. The diagnosis was something like a fractured spinal chord.


I remember seeing a documentary about him some 15 years ago on TV, and for some odd reason remembered him from that. Especially one image stuck with me from that very documentary, and that was how he practiced Buddhism in an effort to live with his disability.


Upon meeting him on the opening of the exhibition I briefly spoke with him, and invited him over to our house for dinner a few days later. He gladly accepted, even though his previous encounters with devotees seemed to be less than ideal. This became clear when he asked Krishangi weather or not there were different groups of Hare Krishnas. When receiving confirmation that there really where other groups, and that we indeed belonged to another group, he simply said that he thought so.


He then proceeded to tell about his meeting with devotees in the SoHo temple in London where he used to go. Now remember, I am only recollecting what he said, giving his subjective impressions. As stated earlier, Al is wheelchair-bound. The devotees who took to preaching to him said that his present condition was due to his lustful nature. And especially of a perverted lustful nature.


When he tried to counter this by asking how come there are very few rapists or molesters who are in wheelchairs, they proceeded to produce some sastric evidence to support their case. Which book cited, I do not know.


He didn't visit the temple after this. Big surprise there!


Still he was up for dinner, as good vegetarian food isn't all that easy to come by in this country. (Usually vegetarian food means bland, "healthy" mush with nothing to offer in terms of taste or appearance.) So I rolled up my sleeves and cooked two subjis, rise, apple chutney, some poppadums and a milk-based strawberry dessert.


At dinner we spoke at some length about our beliefs, and he shared with us his insights in Buddhism. What struck me especially was how much of what he spoke about as spiritual was more related to either physical or mental well being. Not that there would be anything wrong with a balanced life, only that from my perspective it seemed as a rather insignificant goal in relation to that what bhakti has to offer.


Another thing that I found myself a bit sceptic about was how he described the glories of his guru. He told these rather marvellous stories of how his guru inhibited a war between Russia and China.


I had two objections (which I naturally, as a kind host didn't voice out loud) to this kind of glorification. First off the ugly head of a Western sceptic raises his head: "How could this be true – is there any objective truth to this? I want proof!" But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, does this say anything about the level of spiritual realization about the person being glorified? And I hope it is not out of simple envy but this was the question that lingered in my mind that night.


We often wish to present our guru in the most favorable light. But trying to make him or her to be like a miracle worker or magician – does that really impress anyone? I mean, if I want to see David Copperfield pull a few stunts, I cough up some dough and go see him do his stunts.


And if we wish to impress people by making the guru out to be a big time philantrophist, true, that might also impress some. But then again, we have so many philantrophists out there – all from Al Gore and onwards. So many, and many of them better than our guides at philantrophy. (I hope this isn't an offense...)


Somehow, I think that the thing that in the long run will impress people the most is to simply state what is reality: That here we have a person who has deep conviction in his or her path and has reached deep spiritual realization. In essence, at least for our lineage; Here is a person who has an eternal loving relationship with Krishna. What more could be asked for?


But I might be completely off on this one, and if so, please correct me.




Anyway, the dinner went well, and as proof I have scanned you a picture from our guest book!


Kamalaksa Das - May 21, 2007 5:49 pm

And then we headed west. Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, hosted an expo for comic book artists, called SPX07. Short for Small Press Expo. Krishangi had been invited there to speak, which most of all meant free trips and accomodation for the two of us. Which was nice.


And while the expo in itself wasn't that spectacular this year - bigger space but less people than the years before - we had our moments. Many of them involving our happy customers, which I have included pictures of. Other highlights included selling a small stock of books to a feminist bookstore - on their request! Might be the first time any Gaudiya related material finds its was to a shop of that character. Which of course made Krishangi very happy!


The other highlight, at least according to Krishangi, were the many and variegated sweets we purchased at Hare Krishna Center, a local devotee-operated restaurant.


Krsangi Dasi - May 21, 2007 6:06 pm

This winter I was approached by a journalist from a big Finnish newspaper, who (oddly enough) worked for the financial section of the paper. For a brief moment I thought he had confused me with someone else as economics really aren't my strongest area - just ask Kamalaksa how he feels about the t-shirts and knitting yarn I spend all my money on. :Shocked:


But it was indeed me who the journalist wanted to interview, as he had read an interesting article about happiness and how we tend to pursue it in all the wrong places. He wanted to hear my thoughts on the subject as one of the examples the professor used was that it's easier to have your foot amputated than to suffer for years from a bad knee.


Here's an excerpt from the text:


"If Daniel Gilbert is right, then you are wrong. That is to say, if Daniel Gilbert is right, then you are wrong to believe that a new car will make you as happy as you imagine. You are wrong to believe that a new kitchen will make you happy for as long as you imagine. You are wrong to think that you will be more unhappy with a big single setback (a broken wrist, a broken heart) than with a lesser chronic one (a trick knee, a tense marriage). You are wrong to assume that job failure will be crushing. You are wrong to expect that a death in the family will leave you bereft for year upon year, forever and ever. You are even wrong to reckon that a cheeseburger you order in a restaurant -- this week, next week, a year from now, it doesn't really matter when -- will definitely hit the spot. That's because when it comes to predicting exactly how you will feel in the future, you are most likely wrong."


And here's a link to the entire text:




What I found really interesting about Daniel Gilbert and his study was that he seems to have scientifically proved that we can't become happy by aqcuiring. A meeting point of religion and science! (I said this to the journalist, but he left it our of the final article. He did however include several mentions of Hinduism making me a much happier person.) And the study also shows that no matter how much we try to plan ahead and make rational decisions, we can't control our lives. Some happiness will come, some sadness will come, and they probably won't be caused by the things we thought they would. A BMW might make us sad and a disability happy. Things aren't always what they seem, and to see clearly we need to use the eyeglasses of bhakti. :)


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:05 am

Hi everybody! (the reply being "Hi Doctor Nick!")


Returning to the ongoing narration of the lives of mostly Krishangi but sometimes a bit of Kamalaksa too. For the past months much has happened. Part happy, part sad. Just like the Bhagavad Gita teaches. I will start with the happy. The reason for our prolonged silence on Tattva-viveka (and in communicating with some of its members...) during the summer months was partly because of a crazy dream we had.


We wanted to see what this country looked like. From the bike perspective. We took a map in our hands, drew what was a more or less straight line from south to north, and called it our Trip to the end of the world. And as making a trip always cost money, we decided someone should sponsor us. Which many did, too. (A few voices were heard critizising me for being so greedy that I won't even go on vacation without being paid...)


We ended up biking over 1000 miles from our home to the Arctic Sea, going as far up North as the northern parts of Alaska. It was a very interesting trip, the simple days of getting up early, biking, cooking and chanting have taught us a lot about the way the mind tries to distract us from our goal. A very regulated life in comparison to the one we normally live.


I once previously mentioned the blog we kept during the trip, but here it comes again.




Even if the language escapes you (mostly bi-langual, that is Finnish and Swedish, but there is some English thrown in there somewhere) there are pictures worth looking at.




So what did we learn? Or did we learn anything?


1. You really want to see to that your butt is greased up well. Talcum powder won't hurt either. Trust us on this one.


2. We thought about quite a lot was about progress. While riding our bikes our pace was a very slow one, yet we kept with it every day. Many times it felt like we were getting nowhere. The first day we biked in heavy rain for hours, only to arrive to a place which one could reach by car in an hour. Much less tired, and definately not as wet. But as we keept going we soon arrived to places that would be tiresome to go to even by car. And the days went on. Soon we came to places to which many fly. And when we then took a look at the map we realized we had come quite far. The change of perspective was a refreshing one.


From this we drew a parallel to spiritual life. We many times do not feel that we progress at all, based on our own perspective. So maybe this is an instance when our own judgement is not the proper way of measurement. Progress has to be verified by authority beyond oneself.


Now this is not meant to construe that we would be advanced in way, but rather that by slow and steady movement in the right direction one will eventually reach the goal, no matter how far away it seems to be. Just keep going. Even if you might have to stop and catch some breath in the more steep uphills.


3. We also learned about the virtue of renunciation. As every gram we took with us had to be carried thoughout our journey, we found very practical use of the axiom "simple living". Only the most neccessary things were taken along. Our cart, Trailer-Bob, contained everything we needed and more. A house, a kitchen, a bed, a library and a bathroom. Which lead us to ponder how much one really needs. A refreshing thing to dwell upon for two convenience-loving packrats. Even though both of us had to admit that returning home felt quite good. But then again, nothing wrong with learning to appreciate what one has, right?


4. There was something very comforting in how stressless life on the road was. I might not be able to keep up a lifestyle like that for a long time, but it was refreshing how all kind of mental anguish was absent. Yes, your legs might protest, yes, the asphalt might be a bit rough, but no "the printer just called and said that all your images where rgb" (That's bad, for those not learned in the black arts...) "and all your fonts have been substituted with Courier!" (Very, very bad, too.)




During our trip we wrote articles for the local newspaper every Saturday. Plus a few days before we launched our mission there was a promotional piece. I will post them here, but I will not translate them in their entirety (Mathuranatha can do that if anyone wants to know what is says :Shocked: ) But even if you cannot read them, you can at least appreaciate how fetching my polka dot uniform looks like!


The first picture where I though myself to look like an athlete was dubbed by our dear Gurunistha to have more resemblance with a Namibian Tom of Finland clone. Thanks for that.


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:07 am

The headline reads: "The Leka couple want to explore Finland and themselves"


The goal is not important - the journey is. This was what we underlined, as we had no way of knowing wheter or not we would be reaching any goal. And a prayer for tailwind.


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:09 am

The headline reads: "The search for the perfect road"


Tells about life on the road, highlighting on Krishangi's pessimistic outlook on life and Kamalaksa's overtly positive outlook. Which together form some kind of harmonious middleground. There is an underlying balance to life, right?


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:10 am

The headline reads: "Thousand kilometers were easier than expected"


How to trick Krishangi to bike for almost a hundred miles – promise to buy her choclate! (Works every time!)


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:11 am

The headline reads: "By the North Sea the road ended"


Meeting people from our hometown and arriving to Mehamn. Plus how bad can Norweigan asphalt be?


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:12 am

The headline reads: "Thoughts on the way home"


On slow traveling and how all your senses take part in the experience when riding bikes. And how anyone can do a trip like this. Try it!


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:13 am

Let me present you with our own cover girl!


From a quite big union magazine, Krishangi dubbed to be "proudly different". Published in August.


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:14 am

The opening spread where Krishangi says that she feels at home in the margin. A footless absolutist, a vegetarian. A Swedish-speaking hindu from Porvoo. The comic book artist Kaisa Leka dares to be different. Speaking about her book "On the outside looking in."


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:15 am

And the next one, with a picture making our upstairs room appear larger than it actually is.


Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 11:17 am

The last spread. A red bike. Nothing more. Thank you for your attention.


Vivek - October 2, 2007 1:55 pm

great work!! You guys are exceptionally dedicated servants of GM. Hope I can learn something from this.

Kamalaksa Das - October 2, 2007 3:40 pm

Thank you very much for your kind words, Vivek. But in all honesty I just made five posts depicting our month long vacation. :Shocked: So in truth some truly dedicated servant might have utilised that time in a manner more befitting a vaisnava. :Shocked: But hey, you have to start from where you are, right?


And at least now we have something to strive for: to be better servants.

Syamasundara - October 2, 2007 9:24 pm
We took a map in our hands, drew what was a more or less straight line from south to north, and called it our Trip to the end of the world.


Right, I meant to ask about that trip...


The first picture where I though myself to look like an athlete was dubbed by our dear Gurunistha to have more resemblance with a Namibian Tom of Finland clone. Thanks for that.

:Shocked: :Shocked: ;)

Kamalaksa Das - October 31, 2007 3:40 pm

Today's lesson

Today we will aquaint ourselves with a new concept. In Krishangi's world we often bump into a term called "oppression scale". This is for many a new addition to the vocabulary, but a very important one, should you work together with our favorite cartoonist.


The oppression scale is a concept that in essence revolves around equality between genders. Differentiating it from the basic understanding of equality is that it doesn't merely touch the surface of the issue, but prys deeper, aiming at the root of injustice. The oppression scale states that women have been oppressed by men for millennia. This is of course a more or less known historical fact. The cure the oppression scale proposes on the other hand is somewhat unorthodox.


In order to gain equality the scales have to be level. Something that they clearly are not from the perspective of history. In practical terms that means that men will have to work hard to attain this ideal.


Case 1.


Problem: Heavy boxes with books have to be lifted and moved.


Question: Who will do it?


A. Both the wife and the husband working as a team.


B. The wife.


C. The Husband.




Correct answer: C, the husband, who by assiciation is implicated. That is, because he (in most cases) is male, he is partialy responsible for a long history of injustice. It might not be that HE himself has been oppressing women - he might even cook and do the ironing in the house and be kind to his wife most of the time. But in order for justice to be achieved the innocent sometimes have to suffer.




In the picture you see Krishangi at the Helsinki bookfair, next to a book shelf planned and constructed by me, and lifted and moved by me. Yes, you got it - because of the oppression scale.


(Citta Hari - I actually got to use power tools, and I'm getting a feeling for them. My testosterone levels are shooting off the scale! Watch out, I might just build a house! :Big Grin: )




But let's move on to the bookfair. We sold quite well during the four days we were there. Around fifty items all in all if I'm not mistaken. Everything from Krishangi's new Matsya book to our mutual effort, The Little Book of Bhakti-yoga, and even some Damodara records.


Bhrigu in his turn patroled at Ananda's table, promoting our magazine to everyone even slightly inclined to listen. And he sure used his charm, as the piles of magazines that were calculated to last for the whole festivities were more or less gone in three days. So much that we had to rescue a few of this year's second issue in order to have at least some copies of it in stock.


This of course made my life easier, as I could not hand out non-existent magazines. Thus I was obliged to stroll around the antiquarian book section hunting for treasures. Many found, one highlight I will share with you: The complete ninth edition of Ishihara's Tests for Colour-Blindness. Beautiful plates in a pretty volume from 1948.


So if you are worried that you are suffering from color blindness just stop by at our house - I will diagnose you for free!




But now I have to run, as Krishangi is soon coming home from work, and supper is still not cooked! Oppression scale, you remember. Bye for now!



Kamalaksa Das - October 31, 2007 3:47 pm

I think that it will come as a surprise for at least Dhiralalita and Hari Bhakti that they appear on the opening whole page picture in a Finnish feel-good magazine.


The intro to the text states that sometimes you have to travel far to see what's close up, the head line reads "A pilgrimage to India brought life up close". It is a piece about our retreat in India earlier this year, penned by Haripriya. The article revolves around an interview she conducted with Krishangi earlier this year. Without going to much into detail it offers the reader a small glimpse into the world of bhakti and gaudiya vaisnavism - words that have not been seen in mainstream print in too big a quantities so far.


Oh, Hari Bhakti - you are in the foreground on the second spread too! Now you'll be spending all your time signing autographs should you ever happen to come to Finland.




Kamalaksa Das - October 31, 2007 4:00 pm

For a person whose rise to fame came from writing a book titled "I am not these feet", Krishangi is constantly identified by just those feet. Featured magazine article tells about our cartoonists sci-fi feet, with the headline reading "amputation was a new beginning".


In describing the surroundings in which the interview took place the reporter writes about our big picture of Prabhupada that "from the corner in the kitchen a hindu guru watches with his wise eyes". There are also some discussion about spirtuality, mainly in connection to how Krishangi views her predicament in relation to karma.


And oh - I'm officially now dating a cover girl - Krishangi is alone featured on the front cover! (Though it is a terrible picture according to the both of us...)




Kamalaksa Das - November 1, 2007 3:54 pm

It is in very small portions we can share with others the words of Guru Maharaja. This was something I discussed with Gurunistha about when we last spoke. When - to a smaller or bigger degree - we immerse ourselves in the world of bhakti our whole view of reality changes. This is not news to anyone. It might not be a big bang, where everything suddenly loses its meaning except pure devotion, but more often it is a question of small things we start to view in a different light. It might be that we take note of the cruelty around us, it might be that we look at the Star Wars movies drawing out spiritual thoughts out of it. Or it might be that we see the futility in material pursuits. And through our practise we steadily move further and further from what is considered normal.


Problem comes when communicating these feelings with those not on the path. Be too specific, and you'll scare people away. Be too vague, and no one will be interested. It's a fine line, and one that takes constant practice to balance on. And yet many of us wish to share this supreme gift with others. Not in order to make us seem like big preachers - or even to think that we are qualified to act as such. But more from the overflow of a feeling of gratitude to have been the recepient of such grace.


During the years we have been running Absolute Truth Press we have made many misjudgements, that's for sure. And some things might have been better left either unsaid or unpublished. Still, we have also published stuff we're proud to stand behind. And we're gradually learning, and hopefully being able to attract thoughtful people to the realm of bhakti through these efforts. By taking baby steps, to be sure.




Here's a poster we designed for Krishangi's exhibition and performance in the Boreales festival in Caen, France. On the wall, beneath her name you see two lines written to us by Guru Maharaja sometime in the spring. Now the French frog-eaters will be exposed to them too! :Big Grin:


Citta Hari Dasa - November 1, 2007 4:02 pm

Very cool poster. And an impressive array of feet--she has more of them than Banasura had arms. Well, almost.

Tadiya Dasi - November 1, 2007 4:37 pm

Thanks for sharing these with us, Kamalaksa!


Hari-priya's article was nicely written... :Big Grin:

Bhrigu - November 1, 2007 4:47 pm

Great picture of Krishangi!

Guru-nistha Das - November 2, 2007 2:36 am

Man, that's a super cool poster! Reminds me of that one White Stripes music video... :Big Grin:

Kamalaksa Das - November 9, 2007 8:24 pm

On the cover of yet another magazine. (Are you getting bored yet?)


This time on a environmental/ecological publication, with the headline making a play with words by stating "Leka iskee kuvillaan", the pun being our surname having the meaning sledge hammer. (Yes, really!)


So you can either read it Leka strikes with her pictures, or The sledgehammer strikes with pictures. This of course in relation to the comics she draws, which often comment on sensitive issues.


The article deals with subject as ecology, being sober (highly uncommon in our beloved country...) and achieving peace of mind. A quote that is pulled out of the text reads "We already have everything we need, in truth what we need is peace of mind. Shopping is going contrary to this by agitating the mind. Each purchase is a seed for the next one".


The headline reads "Kaisa Leka has everything she needs". And for those not convinced, please come and visit our home - we barely fit in with all our junk... :Hypnotized:




For me this was a nice article, as I myself got to shoot the pictures (although their choices might not have been those I would have made...) for the article. The suggestion for this came from us, as many times these smaller (and thus not as rich) papers do not hire photographers since the journalist is supposed to take the needed pictures.


Once we got the green light for providing the paper with pictures, we decided that we would shoot the pics at our summer cottage. Those who have attended the retreats might see a familiar landscape, even though the crooks flipped the picture for the layout. No way to treat a perfectly decent photographer!


But in the end we got very good feedback for the pictures, as one leading activist had written the paper and proclaimed that this was the best cover the magazine ever had had. Not bad for an amateur like me and a freezing model with a red nose like Krishangi, right?



Kamalaksa Das - November 9, 2007 8:26 pm

Oh, I just had to include the picture I would have chosen for the story - but as usual, nobody asked me... :Hypnotized::Applause::dance:


Kamalaksa Das - November 9, 2007 8:41 pm

For Gurunistha who likes the White Stripes (do you have excessive time for watching YouTube there or what?!) I give the other poster from the France series.


On Monday Krishangi will be travelling to Caen in Normandie to attend a festival dedicated to showing Nordic art as well as touring hospitals speaking about art and life. Wish her luck! (And me - I will be surviving on cream crackers for the following two weeks. And orange juice.)