Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

Going Smooth

The meals are light at Rockwood Manor, especially when you show up late like I did.  I had to catch a nap during this retreat workshop.  I'm exhausted from insomnia three nights in a row.  And when breakfast is not to my liking (there are uttapams) I'm more inclined to forgo.  I'm not complaining.  Just stating facts about the way of the world.  Nothing's perfect with these bodies. 

But, oh how I’m enjoying the meetings.  There are lots of young representatives from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as some old mules like me.  Topics are pertinent.  Relevancy is always something to embrace.  Thank you, God!  Thank you, Krishna!

I also can’t wait to get to the white water and waterfalls on the Potomac River nearby .  Kayakers apparently love the the fluid around here.  I’m scheduled for a walk tomorrow.  

During break times I get a chance to interview leaders. As a member of ISKCON’s Guru Service Committee,  I am taking notes from interviews I get from leaders, on the performance level of official gurus in our society of bhakti-yogis.  Assessment is always healthy. 

I'm grateful to Jennifer Thurman (Vishnu Priya) for coming from North Carolina to help secretarially.  She types out my handwritten blog entries before they go to the next level. I'm also grateful to Abhidheya in Vancouver, and the rest of my international communications team, who carry on from there.  I should never complain about the help I get. 

And one more checkpoint is to appreciate the soon arrival of Corrado when I get back home.  He will help me as an assistant, including looking after my legs and feet.  He will be a new monk at our ashram in Toronto, God willing. 

May the Source be with you!
0 km/mi

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

When You Walk with Trash...

From Canto 11 of the book, Bhagavatam, I spoke on the Chapter ‘Aila Gita’, which details the teachings and realizations coming to an affluent king, Pururava.  Oh, how in love he was with his lady, Urvasi, a heavenly beauty!  At one point in the relationship, deciding to terminate it all, Urvasi left him, and the separation for him was too much.  Time lapsed and he realized just how attached he was to this world and to his body, a mass of marrow, bones, sinew, blood, etc.  "This body," he reflected, "is like that of a worm."

Eventually, the king came to terms with reality, and felt that he had to get spiritual, and to accomplish that, he needed to get serious about the company he was keeping.  Sangha is what he required—spiritual people.  Most of us who are more experienced understand that one’s company determines one’s destiny.  We get shaped by the friends we keep.  Painful as it is, we may have to cut ties with those who constantly lower our consciousness.  

In this regard, I really like some famous quotes about the company we keep, some of which i shared with the morning class:

"Friendship is genuine when two friends can enjoy each others company without speaking a word to one another."
"When you walk with trash, you end up smelling the same."
"Make sure everybody in your "boat" is rowing and not drilling holes when you're not looking."
"Some people around us are energy vampires while others are energy boosters."

Sri Chaitanya, the monk, expressed that ‘spiritual life starts with saintly company’.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

From Plane to DNA

I sat in seat 16 F, on an Air Canada flight—en route to Washington’s Dulles Airport—which was slightly delayed, and outside my window was the right wing of the plane.  It was ever so inviting to walk that wing had the window been open.  The aircraft stood there so long, and I felt rather crammed in the seat with no motion happening.  A deterrent to walking the wing was the fact that it was just de-iced.  Imagine the slippery nature of that dynamic; It might be the only meaningful stepping for today.  It was at this point that chanting became important.  I would be in a meeting for hours.  

Looking at my bead bag stuffed in the pouch in front of me, the beads within were beckoning to be used.  Out they came with my right hand fingering through each bead as my mouth softly uttered the names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (softly because I have to respect the passenger next to me.) How I admire that wine-coloured bead-bag before me.  It was a gift from South Africa.

The plane landed and an amiable person, by the name of Janardana, arrived for my pick up, his accent—Dutch—so familiar to me as it was the community I grew up in when a child.  Come to think of it I left some saliva in a tube just yesterday destined for, to determine by my DNA what is the full ancestral background that my body is made up of.  Results are forthcoming.   

My parents are from the Netherlands, but is there more to the origins of my body of which I am not aware?

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020


Best Breakfast

It was at Tyendinaga, in Mohawk Territory—where in the summer of 2012, I napped in between the rows of soy beans,  and swam in a creek for a break, and where the fish bit Daruka's chest—that Jaya and I had a great breakfast this morning.  Yes, indeed, Jay and I stopped at "the Twins’ farm" (as we call it) and took food for fuel.

Graham and Dhyanachandra are identical twins, who used to live in Toronto, and do janitorial services at the Krishna centre.  Dhyanachandra is spending the winter in Panama, while his brother, Graham, now newly married, lives with his Malaysian wife and, get this, her twin sister.

The one-and-a-half sets of twins proved to be good hosts.  I blessed the food with mantras and we all partook.  From a local farmer’s plum jam that we spread over the waffles, we experienced only delight.  From Dhyanachandra's own bee hive, we mixed honey into the oatmeal.  And out of curiosity, I spooned on one waffle some more of Dhyanachandra’s harvest.  Boldly, I added his special tomato sauce all over that waffle.  Organic with local herbs cooked into it, the sauce was phenomenal.  Then Dhyana dripped onto Jay's waffle some Eagle Brand to which I remarked, "You're going to get behind the wheel after taking that?"

Jay and I were looked after.  At least for myself, I was fuelled enough to get some walking in.  David and Daniel joined me to the Christie Pitts and then back. 

I am grateful to anyone who grows, harvests and serves.  And to those who spare some time to walk off the calories.

May the Source be with you.
6 km

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Montreal, Quebec

One of the Monks...

One of the monks visiting at the Montreal ashram did not wake up at the usual time.  I went to him reminding him of the hour.

"It's 6:30 a.m."

"I was thinking to rest a little more," he said.  

Not argumentatively, but with a slight firmness, I expressed, "Well, that's eight and a half hours.  That's not enough, really?"  This chap is actually a good person but just once in a while…. 

The excuse was: "I woke up in the middle of the night so my sleep got disturbed."  

My response was: "I had a dream that disturbed my sleep.  I was swimming and a tiger cub saw me, came toward me in the water and his mother then came,  attacked me and killed me.  It was so real, but I got up anyway to attend the morning sadhana.”

Yes, it was a guilt trip I laid on him but I consider it training.  I rapped my knuckles on a nearby desk and said, "So, let's go,” meaning let’s get to the shower.  The job was done.  He washed away the ignorance and came to the balance of our morning sadhana smiling with a refreshed attitude!  I was glad we understood each other.  

Later in the afternoon, whichever men and women were around, all climbed into two vehicles for a quick trip to the Metro subway, where a reserved spot was set for our kirtan chanting. There were some lovely people there (pedestrians) who relished the sound.

In the evening, I ran another one of those "9 Devotions Workshops."  It was splendid! 

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Montreal, Quebec

Mantra, Message and Meal

Making it to Montreal is always a good venture for me.  Like all visits to various communities, it is special being in the company of old friends, newcomers, and those growing toward new devotional potentials. 

Jay and I and a group of local devotees, including a father and daughter from New Brunswick, took to the sidewalks east of the centreville, to catch some good but cool air, and accompany ourselves with the maha mantra, and chanting on beads.  The walk was in the prime of the afternoon, but with daylight being so brief during these winter months, you wonder, sometimes,  if there even is an afternoon.  

Five-thirty p.m. is the time for the Sunday Open House.  I was invited to lead the kirtan, singing mantras in appreciation of the saintly monk, Chaitanya.  Class followed.  Our dedicated monastic in Montreal is Prana Gauranga, who showed me "the famous verse" (as he put it) from Chapter 2:41 of the Bhagavad-gita to speak from.  It goes like this. 

"Those who are in this spiritual path are resolute in purpose and their aim is one.  O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many branched."

From the above verse, we can appreciate the message of the value of focus.  In the world in which we live, the experience is one of mass distractions, and a sense of concentration on primary functions in life is amiss.

One great aspect of the Sunday Open House is the emphasis on what the soul likes.  The components are mantra, message and meal. 

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Ottawa, Ontario

Reaching and Doing 9

If rain is clean, clear and cooling, if the sun is bright, bold and benevolent, then snow is white, wet and wonderful.

Jay and I drove through the white stuff, as it fell lightly upon us, our moving car, Highway 7, and the surrounding countryside.  It was a quiet ride, and in this area from Toronto to Ottawa, you travel through the edge of the Canadian Shield, earth's oldest rock.  The rock is embraced by a boreal forest.
We arrived at ISKCON Ottawa, at 212 Somerset, and were greeted by Mandala Rama McAllister, a happy, holy chap who makes nice wraps.  After a wholesome meal, we prepared for a "9 Devotions Workshop".  A comfortable number of twenty-five people showed up, and the three hour interactive program worked well as a bonding-type of exercise.  I received feedback.  To summarize, I would say the 9 Devotions Workshop is engaging, enriching and educational.

Devotion or bhakti is a type of co-operation with the Supreme, and all methods of devotional endeavours are indeed fun and fulfilling.

Let's go over these nine processes once again.

1. Shravanam: concentrated hearing
2. Kirtanam: concentrated responding
3. Smaranam: positive recall
4. Pada-sevanam: accepting humility
5. Archanam: honouring sacred images
6. Vandanam: power praying
7. Dasyam: practising humility
8. Sakhyam: making friends
9. Atma Nivedanam: sweet surrender

May the Source be with you!
0 km