Friday, 28 August 2015

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

 
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
Richmond Hill, Ontario
 
Seeing
 
On the previous evening, our small chanting party made our way westbound on Danforth Avenue where we passed by a pub. Danforth is known for its outside cafe and pub culture. "It's forty years since I seen them," blurted out one of the guys, referring to Krishnas doing just that - chanting. I'm glad we gave him a thrill.

Signs are going up for a political federal race. That's in both Canada and the U.S. It's the time when terms are up. New and old faces with names will pop up in increasing numbers and I'm not sure that it excites a whole lot of folks. Apathy might be the word to describe the mood for North Americans. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, would say of Indian politics that people are hopeful of Rama-raj in reminiscence of the years of Rama's reign.

That's hard to find. A dharmic ruler? Practically impossible! Can't get hopes up too high.

I spent my afternoon at a palace of a building. It's actually a home of a friend and godbrother, Subha Vilas. The mansion reminded me of how I would picture the abode of Prince Rama as outlined in the epic "Ramayana." We are talking about the location known as Ayodya in Uttar Pradesh in north India.

Anyways, what I appreciate about the structure with its marvelous and massive slab pieces of limestone from Indiana is that it is designed for not only a family to dwell in but also, it facilitates crowds for special function days. On the ground level is a temple of Radha and Krishna and there's ample cooking cuisine for the masses. That's big thinking. Yes, thinking out of that me-and-my-family shows benevolence.

One big attraction of the place is that there are walking trails in the area. Subha Vilas tells me of the wild turkeys they spot in the area. It just gets more intriguing.

May the Source be with you!
 
0 km
 
 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Monday, August 24th, 2015


Monday, August 24th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Cannot Give Up

My trekking partner today has been mentally challenged for decades, perhaps since birth. Personally, he has found it difficult to make and keep friends largely due to the unpredictability in his behaviour. Having known him for some time, I felt I could offer him some service by allowing the chance for us to walk together. I thought it would be good for his condition.

We trekked up Bloor street to Christie, then to Dupont and back to the ashram. It got tiring for him at certain points. Overall, I think he did remarkably well in acting like a trouper. He was distracted at certain times, although the attempt to fix his ear to the mantra that he was chanting was sincere. In other words, we both were walking and chanting together. I admit to also being distracted while chanting with the aid of my japa mala (meditational beads). It is the natural course that the mind takes when attempting to harness it.

At one point he needed a break from walking. We spotted a park bench but the recent rainfall left the bench to be drenched. So I pulled out a newspaper from a newspaper stand and spread it out over the bench so that we could sit. We just wanted to keep our behinds dry.

My friend and I reached the ashram by 7 AM. We have a policy, however, that he is not permitted to be within the premises. Some of his impulsive behaviour in the past has complicated the situation for him. But I must hand it to him, it was honourable of him to take that hour to walk and chant with me. I cannot give up on people. After all, we are all struggling souls in this world. We need to provide support.


May the Source be with you!

10 km

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015


Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
Point Pelee, Ontario

I Shared

Gaura, my godbrother, and I shared a message with our weekend beach crew on the birth of Krishna, how the stars and planets lined up in such a way as to challenge regular orbital movement. As we spoke to our listeners, the waves from the lake’s water were lapping next to us.

We had set a picture of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, on a piece of driftwood and fixed it in such a way that it was held by spiralled broken branches. We were under good shade from a tree. But for a branch that hung over us with the silky webs of the tent caterpillar, all was perfect. It was our last hour of water and beach fun before rushing back for duty in the city.

Duty for me was connecting with the congregation in Toronto beginning with delivering a talk on how valuable it is to make a spiritual link through texts of Vedic origin. Before speaking, I spent a few minutes viewing, reviewing, and renewing my memory on chapter 7 of the Gita. Then I came upon verse 17. Therein, Krishna speaks of the importance of knowledge acquaintance. This includes knowing your true identity. After all, “Who am I?” is a question to be answered.

It is said that when you have endeavoured, even for lifetimes, to attempt to know the truth, eventually answers do come. Then the spiritual path becomes relatively easy. It also becomes so much more second nature to serve others devotionally when you have wisdom in your DNA or in your blood as a result of background endeavours.

After I spoke, several people came forward with their curiosities. One man asked, “Is Krishna real, or is He symbolic?” Fair question.

“Yes, He is real, and He can be understood as one who lives in His own abode. He is also known as the witness in the heart, and is the essence of nature.”

The man seemed content. “Thank you”, he said.


May the Source be with you!

4 km

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015
Pelee Island, Ontario

Happiest

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” I always liked this musical piece and lyrics by George Gershwin. When I discovered kirtan this piece couldn’t match up to it, although Gershwin’s genius is something to very much respect.

“The livin’” came easy to us today. It was a summer outing once again with a gathering of Krishna devotees from Cleveland, Michigan, Windsor, Toronto, and Brampton. A trip to Pelee Island took the shape of a ferry ride. Once reaching this peaceful piece of land out in Lake Erie we picnicked veggie style. We then swam, hiked, held kirtan, and danced to the point of hearts jumping. It was a meeting of sweet, sweet persons coming together. As the song goes, “One of these mornin’s, you’re gonna rise up singin’”. That spirit of upliftment was amongst us.

It would not be an error to say that the highlight of all our affairs today, including consumption of the pasta and bean prep, was the chanting on the return ferry. We chose up on the deck as our spot to chant, where passengers could browse and watch, tap toes, and move the torso to the sound of Sahil’s beats on mridanga and Gaura’s voice with harmonium. People were glued for that hour long redefinition of party-time.

Yes, indeed, when we reached the mainland, docked, and made our way to the parking lot, nearby, at a patio bar, people were also listening to music. But frankly, the sound fell on my ears as mundane. It was the live rendition of “Hey Goodlookin’ What You Got Cookin’” by Hank Williams. I took a moment of glad relief, feeling spared by kirtan. I could have been one of those people sitting at the bar, lonely, hankering for a sense of belonging had I not been captured by mantra. It was one of the happiest days of my life.


May the Source be with you!

7 km

 

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Friday, August 21st, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

A Spark

Narayani had arrived. She hails from the Chicago area but joined the Krishna Consciousness Movement in Boston in 1970. Those were the early days of the Hare Krishna Movement. She could tell of events that happened then, who the people were, who came around, and she could tell it like it was yesterday. She is with us for a few days staying at the ashram. As usual, when guests come to town I like to treat them to one of my walking trails. It takes the semblance of some kind of initiation or orientation.

Yura, one of our Russian attendees, came to our mangal arati at 4:30 AM, part of our sadhana, and with him came 3 friends. He specifically mentioned to me that he wanted his friends to have an experience. We then made an outing of it. Narayani, Yura, the guests who came, and some of our ashram residents took to the Brickworks to see and walk an area that was totally neglected for decades. What was once a massive quarry, big, wide, and dry, was transformed into marvelous green space. Switchbacks have been created to allow for an easy ascension to the peak of the highest elevation point which, in Toronto, is not very high really. From there you do get a great view of the downtown cityscape. In addition, the sky with clouds and sun on the uprise was panoramic.

I believe that it really makes your day when, at its start, you appreciate what it reveals. It can even take on a nasty aspect, as in the form of a storm. But, if acknowledged as some manifestation from the Great One above, then that can spark a moment of humility and that is not a bad thing.


May the Source be with you!

4 km

 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Beauty and Gone

It is to be highly appreciated when you go to a place, either inside or out, that improvements are made. It’s been weeks since I ventured off on foot to the Brickworks, an old brick factory. Adjoined to this facility are wetlands and vegetation growth with trails running in a meandering fashion. Trails are now widened to accommodate bikes. Another thing that’s new is that we have a statue of a fox that’s been erected on a pole reminding us of one of the common inhabitants in the area.

I came at evening time and hit those trails and then moved over to the cavernous old factory itself. I had been here once before when ukuleles had been played to the song, “Can the Circle Be Unbroken”, a popular spiritualist song by the Carter family. The crowd at the time was immersed in the song. It was like kirtan.

Tonight however, at dusk in the outdoors, a jazz band had made centre stage right near one of the factory’s facilities. Wining and dining went on and people were clad in their finest. I must say that the group of men playing the music were stellar performers. I was almost in tears to hear their beautiful music. It got to my heart and then it reminded me of something else that was beautiful. It was today that a very good spirit, Jatayu by name, passed on under peaceful circumstances. He was exceptional. He was not a soul from Cleveland but a soul from God. Here’s my poem in his honour:


Another soul fought hard the fight
 
Before he made the glorious flight

A gentle soul, Jatayu had been

Scarce are such of his calibre seen

Sensitive, warm, and for all others

Seeing all as sisters and brothers

There, for service at the feet of Prabhupada

For family, friends, community, and God

An inspiration that is now in our mind

A Vaishnava of a very special kind
 

(Jatayu passed away at around noon-time today and he was a walking partner whenever I went to Cleveland.)


May the Source be with you!

8 km

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015


Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
Bracebridge/Orillia

Statements

Our small group took a dip in Lake Couchiching in Orillia. We did some trekking back in Bracebridge where we were led to several waterfalls along the Trans Canada Trail. There really are treasures tucked away in these woodlands. A surprise awaits you around every corner.

The profound statements which I ended up sharing to our group at the Inn are worth repeating:

“The Supersoul knows everything in everyone’s heart. He knows everyone’s determination and everyone’s want.”

“What the devotee actually offers the Lord is not needed by the Lord for He is self-sufficient.”

“Not only must a brahmin be well qualified according to the requirements stated in scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavatam and Srimad Bhagavad Gita, but at the same time, he must be a devotee of Krishna.”

“Sudhama Vipra (a renowned devotee) realized that although Sri Krishna is unconquerable, He nevertheless agrees to be conquered by His devotees.”

“If by the grace of the Lord we get such opulence as material wealth, fame, power, education, and beauty, it is our duty to consider that they are all gifts of the Lord and must be used for His service, not for our sense enjoyment.”

The source is from Chapter 80 entitled, “The Brahmin Sudhama Blessed by Lord Krishna.”

 
May the Source be with you!

10 km

 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015


Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
Bracebridge, Ontario

In Muskoka

Summer seems to be approaching its end as far as heat is concerned. It’s usually at these times that I arrange for some outings for our ashram residents. This time, Bracebridge was our destination for outdoor experiences. This meant some canoeing which we executed down the Muskoka River. Just like for anyone else, it’s important that monks and nuns have some chill-out time to. Someone may argue that our whole monastic life is chill. That’s true, but some diversity is necessary. I personally believe that some recreation must be given` paramount importance.

That being said, we did oar our way for a stretch, compliments of the Patels whose Riverside Inn is situated right at the dock of the cruiser "Lady Muskoka". Swimming, being a Vaishnava sport, became obligation number two for today. And number three was a walk along the Trans Canada Trail near High Falls.

Along with the Patels, we trekked a meagre 5 kilometres, which is nothing for this long network of pathways. When the Trans Canada Trail is completed in 2017, it will likely be the longest walkway in the world at over 23,000 kilometres in length. The millions of needles shed from spruce, pine, and cedar allow for a bouncy, spongy forest bottom. Surprising to me is the discovery of this trail which runs parallel to Highway 11. Had I known this in ’96 on my first cross-Canada trek, I would have likely avoided trekking on the highway.

We see this excursion as a pilgrimage. For our two day stay in Muskoka we had morning and evening sadhana in the Inn where people came to join us for a chant and a read.

 
May the Source be with you!

5 km

 

Monday, August 17th, 2015


Monday, August 17th, 2015
Toronto/Bracebridge

Grass!

It’s good to know that we can speak about it. Developers seem to consume it with their concrete. Fortunately, there’s some of the green stuff still remaining. Near our ashram we have a space of green just north of us – a park. Trees and grass are also kiddie-corner to our building. Then on the other side to the south of our limestone structure is a much more expansive space of green – another park. When you descend the stairs and cross the street, tucked away there is a little piece of heaven on Earth. It’s a blessing actually, wherever there is green I have the feeling that there is hope.

When I walked Ireland from Belfast in the north to the southern city of Cork, I had taken in so much of that colour. It was all pervasive but for areas of grey - the sky in multi-tones. In Ireland I was always reminded of Indra, the rain god, as much as I might contemplate Krishna. Krishna is very favourable to green and to grass. When he was young, he looked to the hill known as Govardhan as the source of grazing material for the calves He was responsible for. He’s known as Gopal, the friend of the cows and bulls. Thoughts of Krishna guiding His herd generates optimism. He must be telling us something like, “To the country we should be going.”

Well, that’s just what we did. One of our congregants by the name of Sai drove four of us ashram residents to Muskoka, north of the city, to the land of lakes, rocks, and green.

This morning when I walked through the grass picking up some dew on my shoes, I was reminded of this wonderful commodity and now that we have come to the northern region of Muskoka, the greenness offered again the most inviting coolness.

 
May the Source be with you!

3 km

 

Sunday, August 16th, 2015


Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Brampton, Ontario

A Day

I took young Jagannatha to Philosopher’s Walk

A trail that consequently leads to no dock

For to philosophize may never come to an end

Unless you have a particular dynamic friend

One who teaches the way of love,

Of service, being meek and looking above.
 

I sat in the class that spoke of dying

Then received a call of sick man in bed lying

How many days in life can we count

How much karma can a person mount

Before he moves on to the greener field

When his negative attire can be peeled?

 
I was taken to Brampton to speak about food

And the need to prepare it in a proper mood

The mode of being sensitive within

Curbing violence and reducing the sin

And showing thanks to the One who’s given

So that consciousness will then be devotionally driven.

 

May the Source be with you!

5 km

 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Saturday, August 15th, 2015


Saturday, August 15th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Article on Sustained Happiness

An article was forwarded to me from the Toronto Star entitled: "'Want to be Happy for Life? Get Religion, Study Suggests.' Joining a church helps keep depression at bay, especially late in life, European researchers discover."

"Sarah Pullian Bailey from The Washington Post: A new study suggests that joining a religious group could do more for someone's "sustained happiness" than other forms of social participation, such as volunteering, playing sports, or taking a class."

A study in the American journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.

"The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life." Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement, "It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated."

Researchers looked at four areas; volunteering or working with a charity; taking educational courses; participating in religious organizations, and participating in a political or community organization.

Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness researchers found. The study analyzed 9000 Europeans who were over the age of 50.

The report also found that joining political or community organizations loses its benefits over time. In fact, the short-term benefits from those social connections often lead to depressive symptoms later on, researchers say...

 
May the Source be with you!

6 km

 

Friday, August 14th, 2015


Friday, August 14th, 2015
Hastings, Ontario

Going Up the Country

Fil and Sukayanti are an admirable couple. They are sticking their necks out, in a certain way, for the benefit of others. Recently they acquired a piece of property, fifty-six acres in the rolling hills and farmland of the above-mentioned area of the province. The reason why I say "benefit" is because they are leading the way to a benevolent lifestyle of wholesomeness. They are following the directions of guru.

It was our guru, Srila Prabhupada, who encouraged country living; the simple life, the closer-to-nature-and-God existence. Since their acquisition of this nice property with its sizeable four bedroom country home at the road's edge, Fil and Sukayanti have been working extremely hard at establishing themselves. They are not country bumpkins. They both came from the city and they are trying their hand at the usual farmer's tools.

Fil has successfully seeded, raised, and harvested zucchini and squash. Carrots are coming up, so is kale, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and other goodies in the veg category. There is no alternative to the organic approach they are taking.

When I, along with a group of comrades, stepped into their red-brick home past two massive blue spruces gorgeously towering in the front yard, I felt like I was back home. Even the interior walls were of that wood panelling that was so common in the 60's. Our brunch comprised of Sukayanti's home-made bread and hummus and Fil's kale and cucumbers. Dessert was a walk to the back fields through the barn and sheds. We were enthused by the good air and the Trent River across the road.

"Simple living, high thinking," is the unspoken motto of the place. Yes, they have got it right. It's time to go back to nature, back to simplicity. At least we can consider this a favourable situation for a young couple planning a family. Oh, and I believe its no secret that twins are on the way.

Congratulations! This is Vedic Culture put into action. An agrarian, God-centric life is what is wanted.

I wish Fil and Sukayanti the very best.

 
May the Source be with you!

5 km