From Christian to Krishna A podcast documenting their transition

Monk in chair

Jacobus Van Breda du Toit grew up in an small, God-fearing, Afrikaans town called Vereeniging in South Africa. He is now “Kavi Karnapura Dasa”, a practicing Krishna monk and the senior monk of his ashram in Stellenbosch. Du Toit and 6 other Afrikaans Krishna devotees live in the ashram. They maintain a vegetable garden and live according to the Krishna principles.

Podcast of Afrikaner Krishna devotees <5m35s>

This radio feature called “AfriKrishna” follows what these monks find rewarding and unique about this eastern religion. A lecturer on world religions also gives an interesting insight into why this movement is occurring in South Africa.

Journalism shifts into entrepreneurial mode

by Anthony Molyneaux

The CEO of media giant Media24, Esmare Weideman said ‘the future of journalism is more important than it has ever been’ during her talk about the changing world of media at the Stellenbosch University on Monday.

Weideman, wearing a tight fitting dress and big jewelry, addressed the Department of Journalism about the role journalists will play in future media.

“We need to be tough and adaptable in this industry. If you don’t like change, get out of the kitchen,” said Weideman.

A predominantly online approach is Weideman’s idea of journalism and news.

News24’s election site exceeded 22 million page views on the day after the elections were held. This shattered the previous record of 7 million views held by the news of Oscar Pistorious’s Valentine’s Day killing.

“These figures make me mad with excitement,” said Weideman. “I just wish the government can sort out broadband in this country so that the internet can be cheaper and faster because when that happens, this industry is going to change at the speed of light.”

The entrepreneurial journalist is key, according to Weideman and they write for the audience, not the editor.

“Advertisers no longer want to take out an advert in a newspaper or magazine, what they do understand is the way certain publications speak to their audiences. Online content solutions are becoming very worthy in the industry,” said Weideman.

Media24’s content solutions range from home safety sites that have been sold to Trellidor, baby safety sites that have been scooped up by Shoprite Checkers and Retirement24, a site for the elderly that has also just been sold.

Working with advertisers to create ‘content solutions’ is ‘good journalism packaged in a different kind of way”, states Weideman.

The CEO insists that money doesn’t influence editorial decisions but that Media24 is there to make money. “There is and always will be, a strict ‘Chinese wall’ between advertorial and editorial content,” said Weideman.

“At the end of the day, journalism and content creation is the DNA of this company,” said Weideman.

Ryk van Niekerk, the editor of Moneyweb, an online investment website believes, “the future news will come to you via mobile. If there is news about something that interests you, it will find you.

“The innovative ways a company can market their news is going to be a big game changer.”

Moneyweb is currently involved in a law suit against Media24. Moneyweb is suing Fin24 – a derivative of Media24 – for alleged plagiarism, copyright infringement and unfair competition.

Van Niekerk refused to comment on the case due to legal implications.

Mantra what?

By Anthony Molyneaux

Giriraja Swami, an initiating guru within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, suggests that everyone should try mantra meditation. Swami states that a few sessions of the mantra, “accrues to ones spiritual credit and it will gradually increase in value. Any way one chants, one will derive immense benefit and pleasure from the mantra”.

After watching this short video of Swami, I decided to take on his suggestion and made my way to a local mantra meditation group on my university campus in Stellenbosch.

I arrive to a group of 20 or so cross-legged students on a warm Monday afternoon. All those assembled are in their twenties, sitting in a crude half circle around an old portable organ called a harmonium. I join the folk by taking my shoes off and sit down on the stretched out mat, trying hard to adopt the cross-legged pose that has always created major discomfort.

The mantras take place outside among the bustling students of the University, some kicking back between classes, others on their way to the busy cafeteria.

Birds are chirping their melodic song overhead as the lead, playing the haunting harmonium, begins the mantra. Around his neck is a necklace made up of small wooden beads. They are known as Tulasi japa chanting beads, and they symbolize his surrender to Krishna. It is believed the beads also protect the wearer from bad dreams and bodily harm.

His voice is serene and harmonious as he recites the mantra,

“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare 
  Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

As the ‘congregation’ begins to recite the verse, a man sitting directly in front of me with long blonde curly hair, resembling Shaggy from Scooby Doo, begins singing the response much louder and obtrusive than the other twenty people present. His tone is way off and it’s quite distracting, not dissimilar to my dad’s rendition of church hymns during mass.

Later on, after the mantra is over, I over-hear the shaggy haired man say that he is in the process of ‘making music’ and is preparing for an upcoming show. A tinge of sympathy came over me for those who would attend that spectacle.

I try to collect my thoughts and come back to the mantra. By this stage, the mantra has gained some momentum. The lead brings in a hip hop element – A request by the lead of ‘ladies only’ followed by ‘gentlemen, your turn’. My younger days of Christian rap groups, ‘Yo Majesty’ and ‘DC talk’ spring to mind and this reminder makes me feel like I was attending a really strange ‘Holy Hip Hop’ concert.

I retrace my steps again and hone in on the mantra melody. I close my eyes, zoning my thoughts on the repeated words and away from my trailing thoughts of migratory patterns of birds and who really killed Biggie Smalls.

The beat of the Mridanga drum focuses me and after 10 minutes of becoming absorbed in this steadily building pace of the mantra, I start to tap my feet unconsciously with the intricate drum beat. I start to sway my body and the mantra becomes easy to sing, more natural with every repetition.

The music and mantra takes over and I feel at ease, relaxed and still, my trailing thoughts seemingly out of reach. I tap into this calm – a feeling similar to the relief you get when you’ve returned home after a long day at work or school. When you can finally lie down on your bed, not think about a thing and you can absorb the quiet in the afternoon light.

My legs go numb from the awkward crossed position.. I am forced back to reality and I adjust my seating. Suddenly I remember that I am outdoors and among people during this meditation. I peek out into the world again.

Gawking students pass by, some don’t seem to notice, other’s point and frown, few stare and  laugh. The Mridanga drum plays an addictive beat and the small hand held snare rings a pleasurable tone. My eyes shut again and I drift back into the meditation.

 The final recital slows the mantra down to the beginning speed and we all chant in unison, symbolizing the end of the meditation. Slowly eyes open and almost everyone has a smile on their face, including myself.

Swami may have been right. It is captivating.

According to Krishna.com,

‘The Hare Krishna mantra is a chant meant for enhancing consciousness to the greatest possible degree. Chanting the Hare Krishna mantra can give peace, happiness, God realization, freedom from repeated birth and death, and total self-fulfillment.’

The Hare Krishna mantra is a repetition of three names of the Supreme Being – “Hare”, “Krishna” and “Rama”. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness’s website has uploaded mantra meditation videos from London, New York, Ireland and many other cities around the world. Large groups of people from all walks of life dance and chant in the streets to this mantra.

I too enjoyed the session but I wonder if I would be able to dance in the streets and jump around in a kind of peaceful, religious mosh pit.

Much like some of the passers-by of the meditation group, crude looks follow the people dancing and chanting in the streets. ‘Crazy’ and ‘cult’ have been used to describe Hare Krishna’s practices.

But is it really crazy? Our current society of non-stop information, multitasking and deadlines seems to separate us from what meditations like the mantra teaches.

After soaking in a short time of the day where I force myself to break away from concerns and worries, I start to understand the gains of meditation. I can maybe even rationalize that our society might be the crazy one after all and not all dancing, twirling, singing people in the streets.

Upon investigating how this religion came about, I found that Krishna consciousness had only been introduced to the western world less than 60 years ago.

Srila Prabhupada, a spiritual teacher, arrived in New York in 1965 and began to spread Krishna consciousness to the American youth. In 1970, only one recruit signed up to Hare Krishna internationally. By 1980, close to 600 were signing up every year, according to E. Burke Rochford’s book, “Hare Krishna in America”. The growth slowed in the 80’s and 90’s but has seen tremendous growth recently with ashrams, a spiritual monastery, and temples being set up all over the world.

After my experience of the mantra, I decided that I would attend Buddha’s birthday celebration on the evening of the full moon.

I’m not sure if I will be dancing in the streets rejoicing with all the Hare Krishna’s just yet but the mantra meditation holds some quality that I want to acknowledged and adhere to. If anything, it has taught me not to care about what others think of you and has made me realize that I don’t have the worst singing voice out there. Hare Krishna.

Party sets up shop outside voting polls

The voting stations within Cape Town city yesterday were accompanied by ANC stalls and tables where young members were dancing, singing and handing out stickers and T-shirts with Jacob Zuma’s face on them.

Other party’s stalls were nowhere to be seen. The ANC members at the stalls were asked what they thought of the ANC’s chances in the Western Cape, one member said, “I can’t think that we [the ANC] won’t win the province, I have to believe that we will win and we will encourage others to vote for them.”

Political parties are allowed to set up stalls in the vicinity of voting stations and interact with voters but “should not impede the access of voters to the voting station. Voters should not be forced to report to those tents,” said electoral commission chairwoman, Pansy Tlakula on Monday.

“If a voter is asked to come to a political party tent and if the voter doesn’t want to do that, the voter must be left in peace,” said Tlakula according to Drum magazine.

Gift Makela, a resident car guard in the Cape Town region believes he will vote for a different party this year regardless of what others say at the stalls outside the voting polls. “It doesn’t matter what others say to me, I don’t understand how they can respect one scandalous person at the top of their party.”

On Tuesday, the day before the elections, the ANC members were parading outside the ANC offices in Stellenbosch, in preparation for their stall setups in the different areas. “Amandla! Awethu!” was being shouted from the dancing procession of 30 or so ANC members.

Faith Nkosana, one of the ward campaigners for the ANC believes setting up stalls like the ones outside Cape Town’s voting stations “shows support and encouragement for their supporters.”

Nkosana is in charge of the Lanquedoc ward, a settlement in the Cape Winelands district. Nkosana believes the elections could swing 50-50 for the DA and the ANC but thinks, “The coloured people feel very neglected by the ANC.”

Danika Koegelenberg, a hurrying passer-by of the ANC parade, is a student at Stellenbosch University. Koegelenberg is voting in Malmesbury and is hoping for a DA victory in the Western Cape.

“These stalls outside stations won’t change my mind. I feel the DA is doing well in the Western Cape and people will continue to vote for them.”

IEC members in the Cape Town city region kept a close watch on the proceedings. Police officers were in full view at the voting polls to prevent any infractions on Tlakula’s rules and to maintain order.