Monday, 18 February 2019

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Saint John, New Brunswick

Strolling & Meeting

At the intersection, the light turned red.  I was standing there waiting for a green.  The red hand that was before me and the man with a coffee clutched tightly gave me some talking ammunition.  "In the culture I come from that open palm gesture means we are getting a blessing."

"If you move forward," said the tall gent who smiled, "it won't be a blessing," indicating a car could come and flatten you.  I agreed.

"The open palm would indicate 'be patient the blessings are forth coming.'"  We crossed.

"Have a good one," he said.

I meandered through the snow-ridden but now ploughed streets.  I was enjoying that older architecture that is so abounding in this historical Loyalist city.  On one street, two fellows, one with a snow shovel, were chatting, with the one instructing the other.  "Hello," one said to me.

 I returned the gesture. 

But then the instructing fellow looked back and scolded the shoveler for not doing as directed.  "Throw the snow against the building," he said, harshly.

 I thought he could have done a better job of community, given that it's Valentine's Day.  A little more love goes a long way.

After trekking through residential neighbourhoods, I came upon that Uptown park, and then commerce area.  A man and woman were stationary in conversation.  It seemed to me it was like church-talk because the woman ended the conversation with a "just keep up the faith... just keep up the faith."

They parted, but I kept up the conversation, feeling slightly like an eavesdropper.  "That word 'faith' is powerful," I said.

"Yes, I'm a believer!" she said as she veered off in another direction.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Saint John, New Brunswick


Due to nasty weather conditions, Nakula and I were grounded in his apartment for the entire day.  Strong winds blowing snow, and then ice pellets, made it impassible and impossible to take those legs out on the street.  Outside Nakula's place you have this inhibitive hump of glossy ice.  Anyway, enough of all this winter blues.  How do others deal with this dynamic?  Some people don't go anywhere.  Some shops did not open up.  That is a real storm.  How our northern people handled these severe challenges, I don't know.  All flights were cancelled today—all of them.  My earliest get away is Friday morning.

Fortunately at the St. John Airport, I met Anurag from Toronto.  It pays off to have friends in different places.  Anurag, now a banker, was formerly one of those little devotional spirits at the temple and sangha programs.  Kindly, he booked me a room for the night.  Thank you! God be with you!

It was Roy Flowers, 75, a local cab driver, who took us to a downtown hotel.  Roy appears to be a natural tour guide.  He said a bit about himself and mentioned he's related to the famous, "Buffalo Bill," the showman who put on all these wild western shows with horses, cowboys and Indians.

Cab drivers, I've found, are often colourful characters like Roy.  I do believe that somehow they have a connection to the Supreme.  After all, one of the most revered drivers of them all is Krishna himself, known as partha-sarati, which means the chariot driver of friend, Arjuna.  Come to think of it, Krishna may also have a bond with Buffalo Bill.  Long before Buffalo Bill hit the stage, Krishna drove on two wheels with four horses in the front.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Saint John, New Brunswick

Not Deadbeat

The Vedic warrior, Bhisma, known for his virility, heroism and saintliness, was honoured today.  On this day, his birthday, we reflect on his devotional performances which include his renunciation.  Yes, the mighty warrior was also a celibate.

Well, I went off, destined for New Brunswick, and while on the plane, sitting next to me, was a man who asked about my japa meditation beads.  Other questions followed such as: "Why the colour orange?" and, "Why did you become a Krishna monk?"  Once those initial questions received their answers, I asked him about what he does?

"I'm a Catholic priest with a parish in Rothesay."  That was my intro to Father Stan.

That was interesting.  From there we got to sharing common beliefs about the world—the drugs, alcohol, broken homes, pornography, and the lost souls that lurk.  Also, what about the evangelism?  Is there competition for the older traditions like Catholicism and the Anglicans?  And what about media and its very negative take on the church re: sexual abuse?  He and I both agreed that it's an issue—a serious one—and has taxed both of our communities.  Then he mentioned it's all over the news that a huge percentage of sports trainers are accused of sexual misconduct with young trainees.

Wow! What else about this Kali Yuga, Age of Darkness, madness?

Unfortunately media rarely speaks of religions who have helped people with their problems.  Another matter.  Much work is to be done towards rectification.

By evening, I had arrived at a wellness centre with the message, "Be upbeat, not deadbeat!"

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, February 11th, 2019

Montreal, Quebec

Skates Meant Fall on Butt

At primary school, I used to express to my home-room teacher that I was not feeling well when it was Monday afternoon, and all the students would go to the arena to skate.  We kids had the freedom to shoot the puck—as in hockey—or just skid around on skates.  However, I was terrible at it.  I suppose, or I believed, that I had weak ankles.  I was this skinny thing, and I just wasn't strong in many areas of my physical body.  I could run and move like a swift wind, but those heavy, awkward skates wrapped around my feet were just too much.  I couldn't make those curves like the other guys playing hockey.  I would never become a figure skater.  I was an absolute klutz on ice.  I was, as said, hopeful as a runner, quite fair at baseball and high-jumping, but skating—an absolute failure.  I sat in the classroom, skipping out, doing homework, with my teacher up front at the desk and maybe one or two other students at their desks, perhaps also with ‘excuses’.  I was thinking: At least I'm not falling on my butt.

I had these flashbacks, as I walked in Montreal's downtown eastside, when I came upon a skating rink, where young boys were on ice, artfully swerving about, gliding; at play with puck and sticks. 

So where am I now?  Well, I'll likely never try skates again, but I have been walking and walking, and my flimsy weak ankles have been strengthened over time.  I'm not worried about climbing down the ice-covered snow bank in front of me, at the rink.  I guess you could say, I've somewhat conquered that past, with some help from my friend, Krishna.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Montreal, Quebec

Soft Slides on the Street

Because I'm a walker, I must do so, even today when all sidewalks are as slippery as can be.  From our  ISKCON centre in Montreal, I baby-stepped my way to Saint Catherine Street to do more of the same.  Mind you, there are some dry sections where better traction is achieved.  For the most part, it's a careful forward-moving dynamic, and I'm not the only one out and about partaking of the challenge. Other pedestrians are also focused on looking downward, watching each step, wary of a fatal slip.

However, you know, I believe that those of us who tread the trail are better off than those in cars or  chilling in front of a screen in their home.  We are feeling air and the wind in our faces.  We are meeting and greeting surya, the sun, with its warmth.  They are amiable encounters.

So a little bit of east-and-westerly soft-shoe work on Ste. Catherine's and I'm back in time to prepare for the Sunday program—the Open House.  There I found myself in the midst of well-co-ordinated dancers and chanters. Being the guest speaker I sat on the speaker's chair to deliver some words on the twenty-six attributes of a divine person.  It appeared that the community took to the message quite well.

I can say for sure that the prasadam, blessed food, was great, and well received by tongue and tummy.  The Montreal kitchen always puts out some of the best.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Russell, Ontario

Shine Day

It was all like glass—every driveway; actually, it was ice glistening with the sun on it.  Snow banks were the same—sparkling, shining like anything.  That was our driving experience, visually, all the way to Russell, with Billy behind the wheel and his wife, Amala, as passenger, along with myself in the back seat, and priest, Mangala Charan, at my side.  A clear day.  Pretty!

We were set, not for a walking party but for a diksha ceremony for Mandala, a young Canadian chap who assisted me during my three segments of walking the U.S.  I guess you could say his receiving an initiation name, a fresh new set of beads for the hand to meditate with, and a new strand of beads for the neck, was all a reward for his kind services.  Mandala is without ego.

Mandala, now Mandala Ram, is also blessed with a wife. Married not so long ago, Apurvi, the lucky lady, was someone he first met in Noida, India, when Mandala and I travelled there for a production of "Krishna Is," and he was my sound man.  It's nice that we had some experiences together in areas where life is significant for him.

His mother, Kirtan, was there for the initiation, as well as "bros and sistas."  Yes, a big family of twelve siblings. Irish-Catholic-Hare-Krishna is what the McAllister family is—big and beautiful.  The ceremony was held in the Registration Building, a small armoury-resembling edifice, in the quaint downtown of this small bedroom community of Ottawa.

By the end of the evening, the sparkle, glitter and shine remained when there was some reflection of light as I opened the door to exit into that wintry wonder of magic.  Just watch your step on that shimmering ice.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, 11 February 2019

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

Ten Years

I was going through some of my stuff and came upon an article from ten years ago in the Guyanese "Kaleteur News."  Wow!  It's my tenth anniversary since walking that country—and I just came from there. 

Here are some brief excerpts from the article:

“Thursday January 29th, 2009

Bhaktimarga Swami, better known as the “Walking Monk”, is in Guyana to be part of the Hare Krishna Movement’s seven-day festival called Padayatra – the walking festival which began on Monday and ends this Sunday.

Using drama, presentations, lectures, dances and bhajans, the movement aims to preach the message of peace, unity and national well-being.  During the festival, devotees of the movement meet at different locations on East Coast Demerara and walk a designated route.

Bhaktimarga Swami is the movement’s special guest for the festival.  He is a follower of the millenary Vedic tradition from India, and has already covered various areas of the country.  Today, he will be walking from the Demerara Harbour Bridge to Parika.  The Swami, 55, said he was attracted to this lifestyle and enrolled as a monk (of the order of “Swamis”) in the Hare Krishna movement back in 1973 when it was hip to be radical, daring and different…

On his walk in Guyana, he said the response from Guyanese has been good…  “People are so quick to wave a hand and make the address ‘Ram Ram’ or ‘Sita Ram’ or ‘Haribol,’” he said.  He particularly noted that Afro-Guyanese express these terms as do Hindus…

His walks are aimed at promoting meditation, pilgrimage and “the walking culture.”  The walk begins each day at 04:00 or 05:00 h and he goes on for about nine hours everyday.  He carries with him a sack holding his meditation beads, and often chants and talks to the Creator along the way.”

May the Source be with you!

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Trinidad to Toronto

Moving Along

From the land of sand flies to the land of ice pellets, I go.  Yes, it's a "Trini thing," a term used by Hamsa Rupa, one of the new initiates from yesterday.  Bugs are rampant in Trinidad and other tropical places.  All places have their pluses and minuses.  We must note the pluses and build from there.

Now it was reported there was an ice storm in Toronto.  Good, in one way.  No biting bugs can survive in that.

One speed bump I had to undergo at the airport was to go through customs for a special inspection.  I think it's been three decades since that happened.  Mind you, I have nothing really to worry about.  The officer, a woman, who pulled  me to the side, appeared to have never met a walking monk, let alone a renunciate.  I answered her questions.

"I'm a monk who attends walking fests, like the ones I participated in, in Guyana and Trinidad.  I have pictures," I said, as I showed her those from my phone.  "Yes, I always wear these clothes (robes) except in a snow storm—then it's pants."  She laughed.  "I'm on a pension and get no salary.  I travel the world, sometimes on foot: Canada, four times and the U.S. once."

This was all new for her, hearing the sacred sound Krishna, so I saw it as an opportunity.  "I live in a monastery/ashram with a dozen other monks.  We have a fantastic restaurant downtown.  Please come."

I will miss the Caribbean vaishnavas.  Among them is Pateet, short for Patita Pavana, a former drummer who can make any funky sound with breath and hands.

Until next year.  Haribol!

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Longdenville, Trinidad

Bhakti Yoga Is Growing

Sometimes you just have to stay inside.  There's a part of me that doesn't want to sweat early in the morning, dodging pot holes and puddles, what to speak of canines.

I was determined to stick it out mostly indoors with the AC on while doing some pacing in the sizeable-enough temple.  Much chanting had to be done.  An initiation for fifteen new candidates was to take place, and in preparation for this, the guru (me) chants on their newly acquired beads.  I grouped these folks together and talked about commitment to vegetarianism and other regulations promised.  Just minutes before the ceremony, I raised the question to them, giving them another opportunity: "Are you ready for this?  You are in a position where you can change your mind."

But no one responded.  For months these candidates gave serious thought to the self-discipline coupled with the joy of singing mantras.  Personally, I was impressed with their resolution.  May they spiritually prosper.  Their new names are Narayana, Visvakarma, Satva-guna, Hari Kirtan, Rasamrta, Sadhavi, Prsni, Tulasi Priya, Mahatma, Madhavi, Ranchor, Devamrta, Mantra Murti, Urvasi and Hansarupa.  A seasoned bhakti-yogi, Lilaraj, accepted her second initiation.

The ceremony was actually a fire sacrifice.  People are awed by fire.  Always have been. Kirtan followed.  Carnival is about to begin.  It attracts thousands from around the world with its costumes, music and such.  I consider our party superior.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Longdenville, Trinidad

Across the Street

Across the street from our temple is a neighbourhood called Cashew Gardens.  Well, on such an early trek as five of us took today, scouting each little side street in this hood, it was hard to find cashew trees.  Dogs, we got to know—practically every last one.  Most are chained or behind a fence, thank God.

The special treat, concerning today, was a visit to the beach.  It's where my friend, Agnidev, and I went.  There were caves to explore—or perhaps not to explore.  You don't know when sedimentary rock will cave-in from above.  The water was simply a pool for pleasure, and a place to bond and chill.  The turn-out for the swim, the food, and the Bhagavatam class on the sand was phenomenal.

The evening brought additional joy at the home of Radhe Shyam and Kamalaksha.  Their house-event drew two-hundred people whom we engaged in song, dance, and listening to the lila of the Lord, or what I call, LOL. ;o)

Going to these two locations involved traveling quite some distance, unlike the walk across the street to Cashew Gardens.  You know, most people are unaware of the treasures that lie nearby.  From your very own home, apartment or room, there may be a street or pathway relatively close, beckoning to be walked on.  If some places are more dubious than others, and Trinidad is known for crime, then have some companions with you or, like I said recently to a group in Round Rock, Texas, "Start a japa walking club.  You'll get both physical and spiritual enrichment."

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Freeport, Trinidad

Another Country

My stay in Guyana is over.  Prabhupadev, the manager of the Nimai Pandit Study Centre, arranged for a group of young men plus himself to accompany me to the airport. From there the group would go for fun at "Splash," some water event. These men, after all, deserved it. Basically they did all the work in organizing the Padayatra over the last weekend. It was intense. They were happily engaged, which is the formula to combat the over-stimulating and yet wearisome world that is now recognized as a chronic problem for the i generation (iGen).

God bless them!

Now, I'm in Trinidad, and was greeted by Umapati from our centre in Longdenville. On our drive to there, Umapati told of when my dear god-brother and colleague from Canada, Sridhara Swami (now  passed away) walked to the temple, came face-to-face with a dog and challenged him. He took a firm stand and shouted, "HUT!" something our guru did with aggressive dogs in India. Well this didn't work for Sridhara when on his visit to Guyana. The dog lunged forward and left him with a deep bite.

I know from walking in Trinidad that there's a plentiful supply of three things: oil, cars and dogs. All are some of my pet peeves; nevertheless, the people are sweet.

We experienced this with their response to Trinidad's version of Padayatra. A member of Parliament, Mr.  Singh, came for the opening ceremony. The  people at their homes responded favourably, and so did the many dogs.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

Plaisance, Guyana

Sunday Chant-Walk

Today was the last of a four-day Padayatra,and this morning's final time period took us to Plaisance, through residential areas and a marketplace.  It was a mere three-kilometre stretch, but then we moved rather slowly, with a vehicle—a flatbed truck—in front to carry water, and a speaker to amplify the sound of our kirtan.  Next in line was the kirtan itself, comprised mostly of young men and women.  Then finally in the procession was a smartly built, rope-pulled cart which sheltered the murtis,or images, of Chaitanya and Nityananda. That was it.  Rather modest, but powerful, because our presence in Guyana is known through this walking festival.

Acknowledgement of Krishna monks is also known in Guyana for the annual Rathayatra, also a walking festival of sorts.  And finally, we are quite visible to the public through television broadcasts.

As we paraded along, while singing together, we passed at least a half-dozen churches, in addition to a mosque.  Some Christian services were in session—a marked difference from gatherings at pubs with Saturday-night-thumping music a few hours earlier.

Our walking party culminated at the ISKCON Centre near the University of Guyana.  There we engaged in more chanting.  I gave a class on twenty-six qualities of a virtuous human, followed by a diksha, initiation ceremony, for a farming couple.  Their names are Damodar-lila and Radha-lila.  They specialize in growing those long exotic beans which are delicious when cooked nicely.

I had a room full of young teens to twenty-year olds. We chatted about their issues. They were a great bunch.

May the Source be with you!
4 km