Friday, 13 March 2015

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Vrindavan, India

Again In Vrindavan

The drive is not long to Vrindavan, just about 2 hours from Noida. Before conducting a theatre arts workshop, I thought that we, as planned, could slip in 2 days for some purification in Vrindavan, land of Krishna.

We made it, just in time for darshan (viewing of the deities) and class by monk Badri Narayan Swami. He was warming up the crowd with his message on Sri Chaitanya for tomorrow would be the birth anniversary. Even more significant, this year marks the 500th anniversary of His walking to this most holy place. In His years of activity as a renunciate He did extensive foot travel throughout the sub-continent of India. He was a real live pilgrim and with a message to share. In the shastras, ancient texts, His coming to the world was prophesied. "He would come as an avatar armed with peaceful weapons, introducing the system of sankirtan, interactive chanting." (From the Bhagavatam)

Standard pilgrims from Delhi and other surrounding areas are well aware of the celebratory Krishna. Not all know of Sri Chaitanya's contribution to the world and how He made Vrindavan a major place of executing bhakti, devotion.

In a quiet moment when I was sitting at a bench at what is called the MVT grounds, a young man from Delhi who works in organizing a call centre asked a question, "What's this all about?"

"Sit down", was my invitation to Vaibhav who came to Vrindavan for the first time to learn about what is the buzz that everyone's talking about when they come to the land of Krishna. Between myself and those traveling with him we spent quite some time bringing him into the power of Krishna, the mantra and Sri Chaitanya.

May the source be with you!

3 KM

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Noida, India
 
In The Corporate City
 
On the road. At the airport. In the air. On the wheels again. That's how our day looked before the afternoon catch-up rest in Noida. Our group of mine got excited about doing something spiritual by the end of the day. Kirtan was the way to sum up a grueling day in the downtown.
 
My idea of a city's downtown is bright lights, pedestrians, shops and cafes. All of the above exist, except for pedestrians. Everyone's got a car but for the beggars. Alas a vast range demographics from India find their way to Noida! There we were just outside of McDonald's (yes, they can be found here) and with loud speakers we bellowed out the Name of the Greatest. Shop owners came a bit intrigued seeing a bunch of white and brown youthful (I'm the exception) zealots putting out the mantra. Our procession had to be shared on the road. Sidewalks are practically in the avyakta stage which means unmanifest, at least at most shops. It's interesting! By the time we returned to the Noida ISKCON temple, we noticed the large banner strapped above and across the front entrance. "Vande Arts Presents Drama Workshops" reads the banner with an image of myself in a playful mood at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada while on my second cross country trek. So that's why we're here. At the request of one monk, Lokanath Swami, I have come back since the year's opening of this gorgeous temple. "Do some theatre! " he happily demanded.
 
May the source be with you!

3 KM

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Mayapur, India 
 
The Seed Giving Doctor
 

I got to know Uddhava from a former visit to Tirupati in South India. He comes daily to my room offering me a method of seed therapy. In addressing slow weakening knees (I'm 62), the kind soul, a doctor, applies methi seeds, or what we know as fenugreek, to my middle toes. By simply lining in row a group of those organically golden seeds and then pressing a strip of tape to them he then winds them around that delicate toe on each foot. 

For a second application he has been using on the middle finger, taped seeds of rice kernels to each hand. The reason for this approach is to take the challenge on varicose veins developing on both legs. My mother was taxed by varicose veins and from what I recall she felt pain and did numerous things to deal with it. The one that I recall was to see her wrapping gauze around her legs. She had large and long purple/blue veins looking the shape of lightning rods. Although what I have are nowhere as acute as in her case, still, like Uddhava says "it's good to be preventative" and hence, he's helping me out. 

The physical challenges that tax us all have to do simply because we are in a physical body which has no permanent vitality. 

"Walking is good for everything, but maybe not too much", said Uddhava.

"Is he talking about me, about my marathon?"  Then I'm sure to be so surrendered to the hinting of Uddhava, who's also 62. I'm grateful that he's helping me out with what he calls an ancient technique. Thank you and goodbye, Uddhava, we're off to leave for Kolkata and a flight to Delhi. 

May the source be with you! 

6 KM

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Mayapur, India

Crowds


Most of the senior monastic people, what we call sannyasis, have left Mayapur for other pilgrimage sites in India or have left for their areas of responsibility in their respective places on the globe.  The numbers of pilgrims to Mayapur, however, have not diminished - but only increased. 

The various places of devotion, worship, and sanga (classes or chanting) are crammed situations at times.  What do you expect with an additional 8,500 pilgrims coming as an influx on top of the thousands already here?  The other areas of "clogging" are where the food is served.  And with today being ekadasi, a day of abstaining from grain, the congestion at serve-out zones is no less.

Meals are sponsored every day.  Some people opt for a more hopeful efficiency at numerous food stalls and restaurants.

I was taken by the fully capacitated pandal, a rather elegant bamboo-framed colourful tent, which drew a Russian audience to hear the day's Bhagavatam class, presented by "yours truly" (translation provided).  Hours later our final performance of "Blue Mystic" was executed at the same location - a packed house again.

That was satisfying enough!  However, in my brief walk to our accommodation, the fire in me changed directions.  A motorcycle came tearing through the crowd.  One driver and two passengers (three young men) occupied the machine and I truly "chewed them out" for their inconsiderate, careless nature.  My final words were, "Sell your monster!  Learn how to walk!"

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Mayapur, India

Last Day


It's the last day of the month but dates as we (humans) have established according to the movements of heavenly bodies like the sun and moon, mean as little to certain creatures in the dhama (sacred ground) here in Mayapur.

Just outside our room in the Gada Building is a hornet's nest.  Affixed to the ceiling, these brown-winged fellows buzz around not bothering anyone very much.  They have their purpose, to multiply and survive.  You just have to watch yourself when hanging your wet clothes out to dry over the balcony wall.

An just around the corner by the stairwell leading to the ground level, you find, a dove set to roost within a light fixture.  The fixture is shaped like a sea shell, so it appears cupped, perfect for laying twigs in and leaves for nesting.  The construction of this nest is a team effort.  I assume it's the female that's sitting upon the bulb.  It must be warm for her.  The second dove goes out, presumably the male, gathering the goods for the nest.  I see him regularly.  He's busy.  And I'm sure Feb 28th means nothing to the love couple.  Only their love and instinctive plans means everything.

Now, to one of my room-mates, today has become significant to him.  Jon and I got our accommodation almost a month ago.  With his initiation he's now Jnanagamya.  Jnanagamya pointed out to me on one of my breaks in the room that actor Leonard Nimoy passed away on this day.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Facebook.  I liked his character, Mr Spock.  I was an extra in one of his movies, Holy Matrimony."

"Congratulations!  I guess it's a great day."  I thought somewhere along the line Krishna blesses everyone in some way, shape, or form.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Mayapur, India

It Started At the Shoe Rack


After a modest morning walk I was destined for the Pancha Tattva Hall and then the adjoined Radha Madhava Temple.  There is an arrangement for parking your shoes.  For those we call Srila Prabhupada disciples (students) a separate shoe rack is reserved.  While other racks are available for others pilgrims' shoes are apparently dispersed on the ground at the temple's entrance.  The shoe rack for those of us in the mature category (Srila Prabhupada disciples) it is three-fifths empty.  In 1977 when I first came to India, Mayapur, for pilgrims, we had one sole guru.  There were over five thousand of us and practically all of the pilgrims were "us."  Now in 2015 a number of the early day pilgrims are aged and some have passed on.

It's just an observation.  The gathering in the temple was for a sit down to a class on the Bhagavatam.  I was one of those sitting down but my seat was higher because today was my turn to deliver the class.  I was accommodated on the vyasasan, the seat of the representative of Vyasa, the great compiler of Vedic knowledge.

It's a larger audience than usual, five hundred or so, and yet a greater listening audience over the air waves was additionally present.

Two points made which I recall at the time of my sending this entry are as follows based on 6.4.27-28 from the Bhagavatam:

1)  As fire is found in wood, as spirit is found in all life forms, so also Supersoul is realized by the sincere human.

2)  More important than the sacred sound is the devoted because where there is devotion there is the sound.

This evening a second audience became a reality.  To a packed house in the Samadhi Auditorium came to view our "Little Big Ramayan" drama.

I was humbled by the response of both crowds.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Mayapur, India

A Cool Black Dude


Every year at this time a large group of us get to honour one of our favourite monks.  Bhakti Tirtha Swami, was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  He became a prominent figure in Princeton University before he decided to renounce worldly things to enroll in the Hare Krishna movement.  We were celebrating his birth anniversary today and also his ten years since he passed away from cancer.

He was a very personable and magnanimous type.  When I was asked to say a few things I told of my fascination always for black folks (him being one) - for their high sense of rhythm, musicology, and physical agility.  I told of how, being born in an area of Canada where black slaves in the Civil War came pouring in and settling in areas all around where I grew up.  In fact the famed Uncle Tom's Cabin was just a bike ride from where I lived as a child.  We were also just an hour's drive from Detroit, Motown.  Yes, the black boys and girls produced happy music.

In our town, Blenhem, Ontario, there were no black kids but I always hankered to meet and befriend them.  It wasn't until college that I finally had a friend of the black race.  Then I joined the movement and got to meet Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who was a real cool black dude.  He impressed me for his austerity, friendliness, and above all - being a clear demonstrator of service to others.  He was tall, well-built, spoke well, and smiled "to kill."  To kill what?  The materialistic tendencies.

In any event we are indebted to an inspirational monk, Bhakti Tirtha Swami.

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Mayapur, India

The Main Thing


"At the most it's one and a half kilometre, please join me," I encouraged one of our Canadian pilgrims.

I was set to do this short trek and I like the company.  Krishna Balaram, the pilgrim referred to is a bee keeper back home.  He produces honey, a terribly fantastic-tasting variety, in the area of the Laurentian Mountains.  In fact Krishna Balaram is quite sold-out to self-sustaining living.  He made a good attempt in collaboration with a few friends with a base in a rustic country home in Quebec.  At this point, however, not all the ingredients necessary to bring the project to fruition became a reality as of yet.

"Never give up!" is my motto in such endeavours.  Like walking it's worth the effort, always a little hard to psych yourself up and get the machinery going, but once started, it's like a piece of cake.  

Krishna Balaram is a real hero in my estimation for targeting the "simple living, high thinking" model.  He only showed a tiny apprehension about the walk.  He's rather short compared to my stature.  "I heard you walk fast!" he remarked.

"Hey, don't worry, I'll adjust to your speed.  The main thing is to walk."  And so we did, four of us.  We trekked before the sun came up and by the elephants who have their breakfast early enough - a breakfast of banana stalks and leaves.  It's all a great way to start the day even if you start with 1.5 KM.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Mayapur, India

We Treated and Cheated Ourselves


We had treated ourselves to a PPP (Post Production Party) with Del Ray pizzas and natural ginger soda water.  This was to honour our second consecutive successful performance of "Blue Mystic."  Our cast, acting and technical members, had our own version of "toasts" in the upper deck of Govinda's Restaurant.

The Samadhi Auditorium was in "packed" capacity both nights.  Now we are prepared to film the production. 

As Chandrashekar, one of the actors, and I walked to return to our rooms, we caught a glimpse of the moon as it rested there as if on its back suspended in the heavenly skies.  It very much appeared as if it was actually held up by the massive crane standing by the new temple's construction site.  Of course this was our vision from our particular stance.

The eyesight is indeed a deceptive perception point.  Our second perception was, as put in Chandra's words, "Why not consider the moon holding down the crane?"  That was a bright observation.  In truth though, both visions appeared real but war in fact illusory.  There is a great gulf of difference between our benevolent moon and man's sometimes malevolent machinery - what to speak of the vast distance between the two.

In general our sensory powers delude us.  You can't rely on them.  Our inner evolved perceptions bear much greater ability.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Mayapur, India

Best Trail


The best walking trail in the area runs close and parallel to the Jalangi River.  "Best" for me means the quietest, most scenic, most interesting.  To my knowledge it has no name.  Locals may have a term.  Let's call it marg which means path.

It's on the marg that automobiles can't wheel their way through.  It's here that trees get tapped and overnight generously fill clay pots suspended from them.  The contents - the sap, invite birds, bees, and arouse human nostrils.  It's here that the elevation is about 12 feet above the fields on both sides.  You have a view despite the vegetation that is found, apart from the trees, that could in some way obscure the pleasure of the eyes.

I could detect mint.  I pulled off one leaf, pinched it and held it to my nose - what a surprising explosion of green power!

On this day I also met a sadhu.  Within this morning's mist the saffron fused through.  The colour was worn by Janananda Swami, a monk from the UK.  We met at a juncture.  Amiably we spoke and out of it he expressed curiosity about the marg.  He hadn't yet explored this perpendicular trail.

I said, "Maharaj, it's worth every footstep.  Do yourself a favour and chant here!"  He said he would give it a go.  I think being there and meeting the monk midway became a highlight for my morning in addition to hearing a class delivered by friend Anuttama regarding the pride of a progenitor and how we are all victims of their interesting element.  It is to be curbed.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Monday, 23 February 2015

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Mayapur, India


Firm Feet


My legs are well looked after.  A brahmacari (monk) from Ujain, gives daily massages before the night's rest.  Normally I get a decent reflexology session by walking the uneven terrain (not today unfortunately).  I keep ankles and feet covered with thick socks during sitting times.  Mosquitoes look at your ankles like succulent drum-sticks.  It is also doctor's recommendation to have my legs above the level of my head.  So I kick those lower limbs up to where two walls meet allowing my blood to flow down.  Apparently this is a way to treat varicose veins.  Tiny as they are, they are a part of my karmic reality. 

It is important to get a good footing in life.  To do so, you should identify with your natural dharma, your natural psycho-physical nature and engage yourself accordingly.

I was sitting with two people I much admire - Anuttama and Jayananda both from DC - and we were talking just briefly about two passions.  I mentioned about my love for walking and also my love for working with youth and engaging them in drama.

Anuttama is a good teacher.  He's in his element.  He delivers classes in spiritual leadership.  He does it well.  Jayananda is a teacher in the area of puja (rituals for the deities).  They are both very grounded - kind of people because they are engaged according to their own propensity.

Find a good footing in life and balance like two feet, your spiritual and material endeavours.

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Mayapur, India

On the Roof

On the roof of the education building, the Chaitanya Bhavan, a priest had prepared a havan, a small sand-pit arrangement.  It was paraphernalia all set up for a fire ceremony to acknowledge two candidates for initiation into our Vaishnava culture.  And I must say they are very excited about this personal step forward.

Luke is the father of one of the candidates.  His son, Philippe Lussier, has been aspiring for this moment, and was anticipating that it could happen in his dad's presence.  Luke is Canadian and it’s his first trip to India.  Michelle, his friend, to accompany him, just loves it here.

The other candidate, is Jon Strickland, from the USA.  He had served with the Marines and he finds the devotional regimentation of Krishna Consciousness to be very second nature to him.

It was a fine morning, a bit misty, up there on the flat roof.  The sun from a far distance, attempts to pierce through.  I counted five raindrops to brace my shaven head.  Jon sports a beard, a green light I gave him as an actor in our drama.  I spoke from 16.5 of the Bhagavad-gita, wherein Krishna identifies with the qualities of divinity declaring them as the road to liberation.  The qualities contrary are sources of bondage.

In my role as the guru I like to see in all the initiates that they become, or rather remain in this life, as at least, sensitively moral, if not, then better still, lovers of the Creator.

Joh took on the Sanskrit name Jnanagamya in honour of our recently deceased dear god-brother.  Philippe accepted the name Pradyumna.  Got bless them!

May the Source be with you!

5 KM