Friday, 2 October 2015

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Montgomery, New York

"Don’t Jump, It’s Not Worth It!"

Rain permeated through the sky and through the previous night. It persisted through the morning. Off I went to a later than usual start at which time the drops did let up. Only then did I step out of the van. When I did so, five fawns spun out from the forest next to me. But guess who also emerged at that time? It was Tre’von, who slept overnight with Vivasvan and I and is now an official member of our team. He emerged from the van and, like a real trooper, took to the whole 20 miles of walking for the day.

We had a thrill walking on the bridge that suspended over the Hudson River. It took us exactly a half hour to walk it. That made it four revolutions on our meditation beads. We stopped somewhere at the middle of the bridge just to enjoy the view of the vista. When a motorist saw us while driving, he yelled out, “Don’t jump, it’s not worth it!” It gave us a good laugh. A construction worker on the bridge also noticed us. He was a big burly guy and upon seeing us he stopped his work and offered us a pranam ( a traditional palms together Vedic greeting).

We were treated royally at the Nimai Bliss kitchen to a tasty vegetarian Gujarati meal. I was impressed with the food and with Jimmy, one of the patrons of the place. Who is Jimmy anyway? He’s a garage owner across the street from the restaurant. He calls himself the All-American Boy but has taken a fancy to Krishna Consciousness. It comes at a good period in his life. At age 75, he is just looking to a new track in life. He is reading the books of our guru, whom I am walking for.

Once again, my guru’s name is Srila Prabhupada and he came to America 50 years ago. He started an explosion in consciousness-raising. To me, a walk in his honor is very justified.

We walked Newburgh, Little Britain, Plain View, Rock Tavern and Montgomery.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 kilometres


Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
Beacon, New York

Meeting a Runner

Vivasvan and I took a picnic break near Sylvan Lake. A runner came up to us, "I saw you in Connecticut. I am curious about what you are all about." The runner identified himself cordially along with his profession, "I am a retired professor. My interest now is UFOs." He mentioned he was writing a book about the positive experiences people have when they encounter beings from other spheres.

I offered to say that our Vedic literatures are replete with information about other places and planets of evolved life. The person was really nice and seeking knowledge. "I have got this left brain that wants to know. I think scientifically - why are these beings coming to us? Apparently all people who contact them have a good experience. They transform and they become somewhat enlightened."

I suggested that perhaps we don't need to over-analyze the situation but instead come to the point of loving, giving, and serving. There is always a problem with avoiding this natural obligation. I remember saying to him that our constitutional position is to serve. We are spirits and we are prone to bhakti (love) unconditionally.

Vivasvan and I left our new-made friend with some smaller BBT books (not to burden him too much - he's running) and a strand of japa meditation beads. He was most grateful to have a copy of the book Beyond Birth & Death.


I also met Jessica who was one of the people who offered a ride today. To Jessica I gave a, "Thanks but no thanks. I am walking." She told me of her friends who used to live in the Krishna Brooklyn Temple and how they all learned how to cook. Now, our evening was spent back in Farmington to hear my godbrother monk speak. Niranjan Swami, who is from Boston, spoke about bhakti (unconditional love). The prasadam (food) was bangin' good.

It was a great day. I spent the last 2 hours walking with Murali, a friend who lives in the area. It was a great pleasure to know that he spent the time to drive and look for me. Once found, he parked the car and we walked. I walked through Fishkill, Hopewell, Beekman, and New Milford.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km


Monday, September 28th, 2015

Monday, September 28th, 2015
Uniondale, New York

Everything's Going Nuts

With an early start and it being dark we could not see the thick branches jutting out from the trees. So, when backing up, our rear window bashed and broke into millions of pieces. Something had to be done to replace the vehicle's back which was also damaged.

The forecast called for rain, even for a storm, so Vivasvan got working on the damaged rear-end right away.

Another mechanical issue is my knees. They don't seem to care for the initial steps taken in the morning with the up-and-down nature of the Appalachian trail. Eventually though, the machinery (my body) takes to it fine.

Trees are shedding their fruit. What I mean to say is that nuts are falling all over the place - walnuts and acorns especially. The squirrels are in glee. You hear the sound of a thud when a nut hits the pavement but only after several snap sounds which arise from contacting twigs and leaves during its descent. I am lucky to not be struck by one of these guys yet.

We have crossed another border at Bull Bridge. We are now in New York State. It's funny but I guess each state has its own personality. Suddenly, I felt an increased openness in the people of New York whereas in Massachusetts and Connecticut people were somewhat reserved. Finally we're in a place where we get noticed. This is a good thing of course. In fact, when some people see me, the way they express themselves is as if they're going nuts. They stop and talk and they find that the walk is awesome. Even the police came by after receiving a report of a guy in orange sleeping on the side of the road. The one officer said, "You know, prisoners are in orange jump-suits and sometimes they escape."

On a more serious note, I spoke to a friend (a rather well-known athlete) on my cell and being familiar with our guru, Srila Prabhupada, I asked him, "Now it has been 50 years since our guru came to the West...what kind of assessment, reflection, or vision do you feel we should have?"

"Appreciate and never think that because I am a devotee (spiritualist) that all things should be happening for me. Do not feel entitled. Be grateful."

May the Source be with you!

20 miles/ 32 km

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Sunday, September 27th, 2015
New Preston, Connecticut

Mark Twain’s ‘Turf’

When I walked through Hartford with Tre’von, we went past the home of author Harriet Stowe who published the bestseller, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. She was an abolitionist and wrote about the slave escapees in the 1800’s. I was born near Uncle Tom’s cabin so it struck my interest.

Also, to my amazement, situated next to her home was the house of writer and humorist Mark Twain (1835 - 1910). It is a real stately house. I can’t help but deliver some of his best quotes:

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

“I don’t like to commit myself about Heaven and Hell. You see, I have friends in both places.”

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing, it was here first.”

“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”

“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm than the vessel in which it is stored to anything on which it is poured.”

May the Source be with you!

18 miles/29 km


Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Saturday, September 26th, 2015
Burlington, Connecticut


It is almost alarming to see the intensity of traffic this early Saturday morning on secondary roads, not freeways. Who are these people? Where are they going at 6 AM and with such speed and intensity of purpose? On a Saturday? You can’t help asking these questions.

Karuna and I spent most of the journey, now west of Hartford, on Highway 4 through Farmington and then beyond Burlington. At one time, for about 2 miles, we encountered relief from the callous traffic by way of a trail frequented by runners, walkers, and cyclists. Thank God.

Occasionally, a motorist on the busy road honks his horn. You can tell when it’s a happy honk as distinct from a ‘watch it man’ type of warning. It’s rare to find nasty travelers as long as you walk responsibly. I still find it astounding to see the lack of ample space for alternative travelers like walkers. It appears that all is laid out to the advantage of the automobile.

What does compensate for the more or less little interaction with motorists is the time I spent with newcomer, Tre’von. I find him exceptional, devotionally a rare bird. I spent the evening with him after his work hours in what our guru used to call, ‘cultivation’. This is a word Srila Prabhupada used to use to describe someone’s preparation in devotion.

When I was a boy growing up in a farming district, the term cultivation was used to mean ploughing or turning the soil by way of machinery. I believe it’s an appropriate word as Tre’von is really having a turnover in life. My support person, Vivasvan, is also helping him learn the ways of bhakti, devotion. I can see Tre’von’s head spinning around in a most positive way. I explained to him, “Just look at it this way”, as cars are whipping by, “we are not these bodies but spirits. The body perishes. Our souls go on. We can get over our identity crisis by concentrating on the point, 'I am spirit'".

Tre’von liked that.

Regards to Madhava and Vishali for accommodation.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 kilometres


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Friday, September 25th, 2015
Hartford, Connecticut

Oh! Magic Day

My dear friend, Pyari Mohan, the friendly head honcho of the Iskcon Centre in Hartford took me down a secret passageway to the downtown. "Hardly anyone knows this route," he told me as if a best-kept secret. Even though he's 67, he reminds me of a young kid in some way. Finally, he led me to the downtown district and to Connecticut's Old State House where a group of the local Krishna members had assembled for a chanting kirtan session. We all participated together, including Bhakti Damodara Swami, an American monk.

Now, Pyari is a magician. Yes, he does magical tricks. At his home in East Hartford he has this beautiful white dove named Jatayu - a dove that he uses for his magic tricks. He's a pretty bird, he is.

What really got me thinking about how out-of-the-ordinary the day was (magical even), I had in my thoughts the young Rastafarian chap that I chatted with on Monday night at the festival in honour of Krishna's consort, Radha. Tri'van is his name. While we were chanting, he happened to walk by. He had felt that maybe he wasn't liked at the event but I believe he changed his outlook when we greeted him warmly on the street.

Now this Tri'van is a special soul. I invited him to join me on the continuation of my walk and being his day off he accepted my offer. We let time slip away like anything as we immersed in conversation. He had questions. So did I. I like to be informed about what's going on these days. We reciprocated with answers. I shared my Krishna Conscious viewpoint. When it came to asking about his birthday, I knew intuitively he was an October 5th boy, like myself, before he could say. When it actually came out of his mouth to confirm, it had me wonder about how magical a day could be. It all climaxed with a good swim in Woodridge Lake, a body of water with an aged wood smell. I was given such good company, by Krishna's grace, from Pyari to Tri'van to the ancient lake.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles/32 km


Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Rockville, Connecticut

Apple Monk

On this trail a police officer pulled over and asked, "Going for a walk?"

Answer was "Yes! To Pennsylvania and I'm doing it for my teacher, my guru. Here's my card." So, I handed him a card which has the maha-mantra on one side with its translation, "Oh, awesome Creator, allow me to be of blissful service to You and the world."The officer expressed his thanks and moved on.

My walking partner for the morning session was Karuna Sindhu. He has got down the service attitude quite well. Our party was honoring a half-day fast, this being a day to remember the avatar, 'Vamana,' yet Karuna will go to knock on someone's door when we spot an apple tree and ask if we could help ourselves to a small number of the delicious fruits. Once granted, if the owner was home, Karuna would stock what he could in his pockets. At least for today we held back from eating until the clock struck 12 noon. Indeed, we are getting our share of apples everyday while investing in the chanting of the mantra during trekking.

Karuna was on a special diet for years which begins with a boiled apple in the morning. If I'm 'The Walking Monk' then he's 'The Apple Monk.'

Interaction with people is limited. In Staffordville we actually connected, but briefly, with pedestrians, otherwise you can say that most everyone is very car-bound. This is the destiny of the world it seems. People are cut-off from each other by way of the automobile. At least on two occasions today a motorist stopped asking for directions, which left us unaware of where to point. Anyways, it's great when there's human interaction.

One more interaction was with water. A good swim in Shenipsit Lake relieved leg tension. It was like heaven.

May the Source be with you!

25 miles/40 km

Friday, 25 September 2015

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
Stafford, Connecticut

We Keep Going

Walking continued with an anticipated 'better day' distance-wise. Our trek began in the centre of Oxford at the 'Dunkin' Doughnuts' and from there moved through the dark on windy roads until twilight. Then, after obscure visibility, the sun came strong, blinding motorists who were headed east.
Karuna and I were constantly switching to either side of the road in order to not give a scare to motorists. One consideration is absence of light or too much. Another is the sudden bends and twists the roads themselves make. We have barely a road's shoulder to walk on. There are instances where we step into wet grass and patches of poison ivy in order to avoid oncoming traffic.

All is well with attentiveness.

Tom Nappi, news director of HCAM-TV in Hopkinton, was great. Vivasvan, our support-person, drove us back to Hopkinton for a TV interview. The questions he posed surrounded the curiosity of why the walk, its dynamics, when did I begin such pilgrimages, and so on.

What was initially supposed to be a five minute interview went way beyond. Tom also asked about my involvement in community theatre and so I explained that in my 'time-off' (from walking) I travel the globe working with newcomer actors in morality drama based on Vedic themes.

As we were about to leave after the successful session, I noticed an old poster of 'Citizen Kane' on the studio's reception room wall. I remarked, "That is one of the best films of all time by Orson Wells." Everyone was in agreement of course. Vedic theme? It could easily be a story from the Bhagavatam, the likes of Ajamil, in a modern-day context.

In the interview I referred to the Beatles and George Harrison as experimenters of chanting. As we left we handed Tom a copy of 'Chant and Be Happy', a publication on the topic.

We went back on the road where we met some runners and a farmer, Barry Smith, who owns several hundred acres of land on both sides of the Massachusetts and Connecticut border. Nice guy! At 73, he looks robust and happily prides himself in a full head of curly hair. Like many buildings in the area, the homes date back to the 1700's.


May the Source be with you!

24 miles/38 km



Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Oxford, Massachusetts

Number of Highs

There were a number of high points today such as stepping on millions of acorns fallen from the trees. It's a sign of prosperity, I guess. Surely you hear those squirrels uttering their satisfaction.

You've also got walnuts a bit larger in size. It's good for acupressure and reflexology on the feet. Karuna and I continued to find an abundance of wild grapes. We can't get enough of them as we coast along, on foot, through the typical New England terrain on shady up-and-down roads.

An accountant took notice of the pilgrimage.

I was walking on Central Turnpike when a semi-retired 'man of numbers,' Peter J. Reilly, pulled over.

"Can I give you a ride?" he asked. I then explained my mission and about our guru, Srila Prabhupada, coming to America 50 years ago. "Can my wife and I offer you lunch?" My response was quick, "Yes but we're vegetarian, no onions and garlic."

"No problem," he explained and also mentioned that his wife, Evy, follows a similar diet. So, it was a date. We ate. We spoke. We made friends.

From there we rushed to Rhode Island, to Brown's University in the city of Providence. A meditation group, headed by Jeremy, had us present meditation on sacred sound. It was more of an interactive and inclusive experience. Sound is powerful - everyone agrees - but sacred sound is beyond powerful. We chanted various mantras which are well established in the yoga tradition of bhakti.

A nice group of students! It appears that they are looking to reap the benefits of meditation just as much as they wish to excel in their studies.

I would like to refer to something Srila Prabhupada said in regards to achieving higher consciousness. "It all depends on attitude," he said.

May the Source be with you!

12 miles/ 19km

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Hopkinton, Massachusetts

A Full Day

Off to a great start. Three of us, Karuna, Pradyumna, and I, walk in the dark, westbound. At 5:25 AM we hit the pavement as our driver, Vivasvan, pulls ahead three miles to park and heads back on foot until we meet. He then continues to move forward with us until we reach the vehicle. That's our system until the passions of the morning come to their zenith.

By 9 AM we all needed some downtime. We chose a park in Hopkinton to lie down on the grass under one of its great trees. Before doing so, we noted a bronze statue of a man with a Hitchcockian physique holding a gun in his right hand above his head. Curious, we decided to read the plaque at its base and lo and behold we discovered that this is the starting point of the famous Boston Marathon Run initiated in 1905. Wow!

I napped, as did Pradyumna, and was poised to continue to trek, when I saw a man and woman setting up chairs by the park's gazebo. Seniors, some with the aid of walkers, moved towards those chairs. I asked one of the boys if we could somehow participate in what they were going to do and Jennifer, the woman, introduced herself to me and said I could help. Rachel, a yoga/dance/stretch instructor then led the group of seniors into easy stretches. When asked what I could offer, the folks were seated. I knew I couldn't ask them to do our usual 'Swami Step' to music so I came up with a sit-down version, the 'Swami Swerve', which requires arms in the air, swaying, and twisting at the waist. We all enjoyed moving to the recording of Willie Nelson's rendition of 'Blue Skies' and Steve Miller's Band doing 'I Could Fly Like An Eagle.' Our crew was also enjoying the stretches to address our stiff limbs. Great fun!

Then Jennifer invited us for lunch at the Golden Pond Assisted Living & Memory Care Facility. It was something we couldn't refuse. "No onions and garlic if you don't mind," I asked. She wanted to know why the restrictions but asked unchallengingly. Also she was curious about our meditation beads and the marking on our forehead. Kelsey, from the Bahamas, was the chef and provided us with a gourmet-standard meal catered to our diet. Emma served. They were both darlings.

Onward we went and discovered the most outstanding wild grapes. The greatest discovery of the day, however, was finding Ganesh at the base of a lake's edge. Our men were parked at Pratt Pond and were looking at a promising swimming spot when they spotted a clay-based colourful object submerged in fresh water - the adorable Ganesh. Voila! What a find!

Karuna pulled him out of the water and I pronounced that he join us for our walk as a passenger in our SUV. This deity is known to remove obstacles on the path of devotion. We seated him in the middle of the second row of seats and he appeared like a prince.

The last of this day's installments of joy was time spent at the Hartford centre for ISKCON. There we honored a day for Radha. As I mentioned to Rachel earlier, "We did a half-day fast in dedication to the Goddess." There it ended. I was united with godbrothers like Niranjan Swami, a fine example of a monk!

May the Source be with you!

37 km/23 miles


Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Sunday, September 20th, 2015
Boston/Natick, Massachusetts

Champions Never Go to Sleep

From 72 Commonwealth in Boston at the ISKCON centre, Vivasvan and I set foot on the pathway of the Boulevard and headed west embarking on the first of many steps to cover about six states. On Facebook our pilgrimage project can be viewed under the heading, 'Walking For Our Teachers.' More broadly, this walk is significant in that we pay homage to the people who help us see and do what we could not before. More personally, we take to the road to recognize our own guru's work as he reached out and touched our hearts so that we can see the world by a different light.

We trekked along Beacon St, bore left to reach Centre St. moving through various communities. When our GPS guided us to Highway 9 it looked a bit gloomy. Although there was a sidewalk, it was crooked and broken up because of under usage. "You mean we are going to walk along a fast highway for days?"

Fortunately, at Wellesley we spotted a parallel road and switched. This was more like it. A gentleman sitting at a park bench with newspaper in hand who was kind and expressed he's deep into Zen recommended the new road that would take us to our final steps - to the Town Hall of Natick.

Vivasvan stuck by me all along up to this point before Vicky came to pick us up. Interaction with people was mostly with a swift, "Hi!" but the most precious remark came from a young chap who was climbing into a car with his two companions after an all-nighter. Being the last to get in, he noticed the two of us, raised his arms and said, "Champions never go to sleep!" It was about 6:30 AM and my thought was that Arjuna, the famed warrior of the epic "Mahabharat", was addressed by Krishna as Gudakesh (conqueror of sleep). Well, we had our sleep alright. We started early with our trekking because I believe heroes always rise early.

A second but public and official kick-start to the walking happened after 3 PM today. From the stage at Boston Commons, a send-off kirtan party led myself and others to Commonwealth Pier where the whole Hare Krishna thing unofficially started 50 years ago.

May the Source be with you!

27 km/17 miles


Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Saturday, September 19th, 2015
Boston, Massachusetts

It All Began in Boston

Pilgrims from the USA, Canada, Europe, and other destinations who were keen to be present for a unique historic event, converged at Commonwealth Pier where Srila Prabhupada landed at 5:30 AM on September 17th, 50 years ago.

We did not make a walking venture to commemorate his touching American soil for the first time but rather a three-hour cruise on the 900 person Provincetown II boat. The passengers, myself included, transcended (or tried to) the blistering sun beating on our heads as we immersed ourselves in reflecting on the significance of what would be to secular vision, a small brown monk from India landing in the USA in 1965 and what impact he had for those on board. Speakers went on further to say how perhaps he had impacted the world.

I was given the honour to lead the kirtan in what is called the 'Guru Vandanam' (Prayers to the Guru). This was followed by reflections from senior men and women, disciples of Srila Prabhupada. This was precious.

A second gathering of souls took place at historic Faneuil Hall with Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Graham M. Schweig. The guest speakers who spoke ranged from the political sector to the spiritual one. Now, this might all sound like a real formal experience but actually, it was flavoured by the presence of kirtan. Niranjan Swami sang. And it was Ambarish, the great grandson of Henry Ford, who spoke most endearingly about his ancestral past that captured my heart. What sticks out in my mind regarding what he said about his childhood was that at his Sunday school he demanded to know from his spiritual authorities who is God and how does He look? For this he was made to step out. Of his great grandfather, Henry Ford was known to have a Sufi saint come to his home. Plus to those whom he deemed receptive, he would present them with a pamphlet on reincarnation. Henry Ford was also a vegetarian.

May the Source be with you!

5 km