Friday, 19 April 2019

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Durban, South Africa

Allow Me

Allow me to give you a little flavour of South Africa.  Mangoes are sweet.  So are bananas.  Papayas, too. It all depends on the season.  

The people are sweet too.  However, there are some issues.

Phodiso is a twenty-seven year old fellow from the Pretoria area.  We had him cast as Krishna in our drama.  He has the persona down and the build with a warm face.  Masculine, but moves with grace.  Phodiso received a call today and was told to get back home right away. His cousin was murdered, stabbed to death.  Our crew felt for him.  It was sad to see him go.

This is a feature of South Africa—crime and violence coincide with the good of the place.

Suraj showed up from Johannesburg.  He was dying to be in our play.  

“Fine," I said, "I know you from ten years ago. You can dance."  

Suraj explained to me that he needed the break; that recently eight men broke into his home, tied him up and held four guns readied for shooting him.  They cleaned out all his possessions—his car, his jewelry, cash, credit card, and anything of value.  Fortunately, he came out alive and reached a status closer to being a monk.

I know why I stay on the grounds while here in Durban.  It is a potential danger zone.  When I walk to do my japa I go round and round the temple moat, barefoot.  I get my peace of mind, and I feel lucky to be alive, and happy to be with some sweet nectarean people.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Durban, South Africa

Love Feast

Being Sunday means you have a feast at the local Krishna Centre.  Indeed in that program is a talk by some guest speaker.  That was me.  It was planned ahead of time.  Rasa, whom I co-ordinate with to do almost anything regarding my South Africa trip, asked, “Would you like to give the talk on Sunday at the Love Feast?”

"Sure!  What do you want me to speak about—the Love Feast?”

"Yes!" answered Rasa.

So I spoke about the origins of the world renowned "Love Feast" which began with Swami-ji in 1966, in New York. People of the counter-culture come for the exotic food.  I told the community of how Steve Jobs travelled miles on foot to get a nice free meal at the Hare Krishna temple while he was going through college.

For a lot of young North Americans, coming to a Sunday Krishna feast was a real treat, with all those great Indian spices. There were no chairs or tables. You sat on the floor.  You smelled incense and heard someone speak about "you're not the body."  He would throw Sanskritverses out at the listener.  The monk appeared to be wise.  There was a sweet family feel in the atmosphere.

In more recent years, although less sugar or sweeteners are used in food items which are blessed, more chillies and oily preps are regular features, which, in my opinion, is somewhat detrimental to one's health.  Nevertheless, the feast remains as a special draw to temples and centres around the world. Do check them out!

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Durban, South Africa

Back On the First Flight

In some way, I try to entertain myself on planes. This time, enroute to Durban, I immersed myself in a book, Karma Nation, by a devotee friend, Mohan Ashtakala (aka Hari Mohan), published by BWL Publishing Inc.  Mohan gave me a signed copy of his hot-off-the-press book, which is actually a love story.  A white woman, raised in an ashram in India, meets Sam, a young black man in Boulder, Colorado.  They hit it off immediately, and explore that they were soul mates in a previous life during slavery times in America's deep south. It's a good read.  It's Mohan's second book.

Despite relative entertainment on board, when landing at King Shaka International Airport, in La Mercy, north of Durban, everything went rather crazy.  An official at the airport said he can't let me in. "You have no pages left for stamping on your passport."

"I just came from Istanbul and they stamped," I said in respectful defense.

"You have to go back to Canada on the first flight. You will have to pay for the ticket. I will fire the three people who in the past stamped on your emergency visa page.  And the airlines you came on will be fined $15,000 for stamping your passport when it's full."

I was left bewildered.  I pleaded, on compassionate grounds, that here, in Durban, on my twentieth-consecutive-year visit, I was to attend a festival, work with teens from the Zulu community: black kids, brown, and white.  Fortunately, a member of my welcome party was able to come in to talk; several calls were made, and then the Minister of Home Affairs called to let me come in, just before showing my boarding passes.  With my checked-in baggage taken off the aircraft, I was free to enter.  

I was entertained.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Friday, April 12th, 2019

Istanbul, Turkey

Tired but Tolerant Travel

Everyone I know or talk to, on any lengthy air trip, comes out looking and feeling like a zombie.  Of course that's so because we are not meant to be in the air.  The only person I know who soars smoothly in the air is Vishnu Himself, riding on the back of Garuda.  So for me, being a mere mortal, a ten-hour flight in a mechanical bird, leaves me feeling like all others—drained.

The one saving grace of tedious travel is the beads in my hand, and how they compel me to remember the Supreme through a soft murmured mantra.  I derive some additional pleasure from the little bit of socializing.  The chatter that I had with others at the new Istanbul Airport was also a break from the humdrum experience.

I once caught a glimpse of Russell Peters' comedic talk about Arabic interactions with air officials.  It's hilarious.  A Montreal couple and I were amused at the style in which things are done, which is a slightly confused to aloof demeanour.  A German woman, also in transit, came up to me and said, "I'm standing near you in the Zen zone, just to feel like I know where I'm going." I knew what she was talking about. At the Turkish Airlines desk, where you look for some direction on how to get to your stop-over hotel, the official nonchalantly said, "Take a seat.  We'll call you."  However, there are no seats to rest your laurels on.

To my relief, an Estonian woman and I had that really sober talk on the hotel bus.  We chatted about South Africa, my destination, and she shared with me what she was reading in the best-selling book, The Candidate.  The nation struggles like all other places and all other people.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario


I'm off on Turkish Airlines to participate in (actually to direct) yet another drama called, "Grandsire," regarding the life of General Bhisma.  It is another one of those stories of a Vedic tragic hero.  I'm going to arrive, hopefully, early enough to get a few days of practice before staging this ambitious production.  I call on miracles to happen because I do want to do justice to the character of this fine warrior.  He is detailed in the epic, Mahabharat.  Audiences in Durban, South Africa, should be pleased.

Just around the corner, Vaishnavas, bhakti-yogis,will be celebrating Ramnaumi, the birth of Prince Ram.  I will not be able to assemble a production in His honour, as time is restricting, yet the meditation on His divine heroism will be a compulsion that will be unavoidable.  Yes, Ram had to combat evil forces in the form of Ravana, and succeeded after a great struggle.  Saturday, we celebrate the pastime of Ram, and the tales of other lords and ladies in the Vedic context I have scripted.  I have scripted approximately twenty-five dramas, directed those plays, and made them meditations in my life.  They are my ecstasies.

After the launching of, "Grandsire," in South Africa, I will proceed to Mauritius for the return of, "Gods and Demons," a lively take about the churning of the milk ocean.  It is always fun and enriching.  It's very physical for the actors and I'm sure it will delight.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

Went For a Night Walk  ©Bhaktimarga Swami

Went for a night walk
Stepping through every block
With street lights lit
I passed by he and she
Appearing happy to be
Then saying that magic word
Sweeter than the best bird
In this chill of early spring
Warmth is slow to bring
And pedestrians are but few
Faces worn in a mood of blue
Why if you have all
Can't you pass a bright ball
Why the air of being down
Why the look with a frown
If you have the right spirit
The world is fine, don't fear it
But bankrupt are some
I'm passing a sign for CHUM
She with coffee in hand
He with skin so tanned
They smile an ocean's stretch
The furthest from the look of wretch
I dwelt on how good I am
To have guru and not spam
I savour in my fortune
While stepping every concrete portion
Went for a night walk
Stepping through every block.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Stratford, Ontario

Swans, Stars and Shakespeare

It was an opportunity for one of those Tuesday excursions, when Jay had a day off and he could be the driver and companion for Connor and I.  Today's mission was to visit the Patels in Stratford, in their recently secured "Festival Inn" and then venture through some of the downtown shops of Victorian grandeur.  Maybe we could sneak by the Festival Theatre where Shakespearean dramas have entertained audiences since 1953, situated along the Avon River.

Well, we did those things—a mini but charming walk.

At one street corner we met Virginia, a local theatre and, also, meditation enthusiast.  She's been to our Krishna temple in Toronto numerous times, and I presented her with my offer to bring kirtanto town, not in one of the major live theatre halls, but for starters, in a more quaint setting somewhere.  Let's see what happens.

When you come to this town—which is, by the way, the home of Justin Bieber, for whatever that’s worth—you feel theatre in the air.  You even catch a sensation of England, Shakespeare in the homeland atmosphere. Swans inhabit the river and smoothly ply along.

In many ways I should be idolizing William Shakespeare for being that model playwright, since I've written a number of plays, but of course, not on a level or anywhere near the level of our master. Speaking about stars, though there has been, historically, a line-up of theatre greats on the stage here, the likes of Sir Alec Guinness, Dame Maggie Smith, Christopher Plummer, Kenneth Welsh, William Shatner, Lorne Green, Julie Harris and more.

We visitors to town took that short but sweet stroll along the Avon and took a break at a bust of William himself.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Monday, April 8th, 2019

Brampton, Ontario

Changing World

Vatsal is an outstanding brahmacari (monk) from Moscow, and he's spending a week with us in Toronto, which means the number of Russian-born bhakti-yogisfrequenting the temple ashram is increasing.  It's a delight to have him with us.  In general, I like the rigidity of our Russian followers.  They take their commitment more seriously than our regular North American contingent.  The Krishna Conscious following in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe is huge.

And so the world is changing.

I went to the dentist for a cleaning, and while sitting in the newly renovated waiting room, I wondered what happened to the magazine rack where I usually pick up a copy of the most recent issue of National Geographic for a quick perusal.

"You don't have a magazine rack anymore?" I asked the receptionist at her desk near to me.

"No, they've done away with it I'm afraid. Everyone just comes and looks at their phones," she responded with a tone of regret.

I mentioned to the dental assistant about this and she said, "Oh I love National Geographic.  They'll probably bring the rack back.  It's just been recently removed."

It was a relief to hear.  I guess I'm not that ready for a changing world. "Just imagine, not having glossy paper on your lap with astounding pictures to gawk at,” I mentioned to the woman, who happened to be of Russian stock.

Yes, the world is always in a flux.  Watch for the Russians, Asians, Islam and more. All are spirits.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Monday, 15 April 2019

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Owen Sound, Ontario

Country Energy

This morning, I introduced a couple—whom I'm going to marry in November—to the land of Georgian Bay.  He is Raul from Argentina, and she is Judy from Cuba. They were wowed by the beautiful countryside, and then the quiet town of Owen Sound, itself.

At the Hanna home, we chanted, kids and all, and that was wonderful.  Good eats. Then the bunch of us proceeded to trek a side-trail to the Bruce Trail.  Markers are made with blue stripes painted on the trees, moving from tree to tree. We ended up at these cute waterfalls, and a shelter for gorgeous birds: pheasants and so on.

Owen Sound was once home to famous Canadian artist, Tom Thompson, and Billy Bishop, an aviation hero.  This day’s heroes were people on family outings, who had come out of hibernation after a long and weird winter.  Of course, you saw the occasional couple, hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm, strolling about.  Actually almost everyone was out because it was clearly the first good Sunday of the year.

It's quite the drive from the city of Toronto to Owen Sound; a good two hours-plus, and we thank Nanda for being the principle driver.  It is so important to reach out to families and instill within them a bit of higher consciousness.  The Hanna kids are of such high energy, and it was great to see them sit quietly, hearing about the childhood pastimes of the blue boy.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

Oakville, Ontario

Packed Day

I could get no foothold on a walking trail today. My movement was by car to various locations.  All four places were people's homes.  There is a thirst to hear a swami talk.  It is part of pastoral duty to offer encouragement to community members. Usually they come to you. Sometimes you have to go to them.

My first visit, along with assistant, Connor, was to a household in Woodbridge, where friends came to huddle and eat. Mind you, we not only did that, but I also told stories that were real/surreal and had occurred within my lifetime as a monk; stories of ghosts—friendly and not so friendly—who had come to visit ashrams, and temples, and even appeared on a ferry during my first cross-Canada walk. Whether telling of hobgoblins is a deviation from pastoral obligations, or not, at least I can say I had a captive audience that was told in the end to “chant your mantras.”

The next home, we went to, was in Brampton, with Keshava.  It was brief, and only cranberry juice was accommodated within the belly.  The former home had stuffed us to the neck.

Visiting Rajesh, whose wife, Sundesh, had just passed away last November, was meaningful.  We were there to comfort him.  Losing a life partner, and a good one at that, is tough.

Finally, another fair-sized gathering took place in Oakville, at the home of Kasyapa, who held together our outreach centre in Saskatoon for years.  We spoke about caring for people in death and despair.  We also packed in the prasad, blessed food.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Friday, April 5th, 2019

Vaughan, Ontario

Hitesh and I

Hitesh and I went zig-zagging east-west on residential streets right near the ashram. We took that whole hour to talk much about things we had gone over before.  A review—such as:

1) Politics are everywhere and it begins within.  It starts with the mind, which has two political parties—the 'yes' party, the 'no' party, and perhaps a third—the 'maybe' party.  In Sanskrit, the terminology expressing acceptance and rejection is sankalpaand vikalpa.

2) We also dwelt on the topic of the beauty of diversity.  Hitesh was saying that he liked Toronto for its variety of people from all over the world. He also liked the fact that all the monks, or swamis, whom he knows, each bring a different flavour or mood to the culture.  

"Wouldn't it be bland if we were all the same?"  I asked, and he agreed.  Diversity, but unity in the point that we all say the same thing conclusively.

3) Walking is therapy.  Hitesh is going to go for surgery soon, on his knee. His therapist says he should keep up the exercise and not just be idle.  The body is made for walking, and walking is the best form of mobility. You see so much in the course of a stroll.

With this last remark both Hitesha and I stopped to lean over an iron fence to observe three robins go worm-and-bug hunting.  All three moved in a similar fashion.  It was a ‘hop’ or a ‘bob.’  Humans walk. Robins bob.

What a remarkable epiphany!

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Toronto, Ontario

Thursday Afternoon 

Thursday afternoon.  It's sunny.  People are out.  It's winter-coat weather, but not for me.  I feel lucky, rather free.  Here on Bloor Street, at a time when the westerly sun streaks through, all appears so perfect.  People are out and about.  

Not all carry happiness with them, though. Some look glum.  An elderly woman struggles with every step, with stick in one hand and hope in the other.  Some are aware of their surroundings.  Others are in a chat with someone elsewhere, with wires protruding from their ears. They are in another zone.  

There are hipsters.  There are the ordinaries.  Some carry bags of groceries and bags of commodities of anything under the sun. Some bring along pet dogs, or perhaps it's the reverse.  The odd pigeon lands, gyrates, poops, then takes off.  

One man recognizes us, perhaps others too. It was obvious from him.  He said, "Hare Krishna," with the biggest grin—and nod.  

A beggar woman expressed a desperate look all over her face.  A beggar man expects compassion from us—from Connor and I.  Well, we were dressed as if we were givers, with devotional stuff on, beads, and me with robes, dhotiand kurta.  I take my japabeads and hold them in the air as if to say, "This is all we've got. Depend on the spirit."  

I don't know about Connor, my walking partner, but I feel like I'm with all the Bloor Street people, and yet aloof at the same time.  A sudden burst of joy overcomes me.  I think of guru, Prabhupada, and I feel so fortunate to be doing what I am doing—being a Vaishnava, walking in freedom.  I turn a corner at Avenue Road.

May the Source be with you!
5 km