Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

New Monk

A new monk has come to town.  Dwarkanatha, 29, is from Vrndavana, India, and he recently has joined our crew to help in the cooking department.  Apart from being a chef, he also plays a lovely sitar and is quite good at the mrdungadrum.

From the musical side, it is a relief.  When here, I'm the one to play the beats, but now I can enjoy a break and have a realdrummer play away.

When weather improves, I’ll take him to the nearest ravine to experience a taste of urban-green walking.  It will be novel for him, being in a modern Canadian setting.  Even flying overseas is a first for him.

I am left to reflect on my first journey, not by plane, or by boat—when I was 5 my mother took me to Holland by one of those ocean liners—but my first experience in a temple.  It was like a foreign zone, something like church, but more.  I felt so much joy cut off from mundane-ness.

That initial journey was in Montreal, the winter of ’72, when Krishna devotees had rented a spot on the third floor of an apartment building on Park Avenue.  It was actually a former bowling alley.  The markings of the bowling parameters were still there.  In those days no one sang Bol! Or even Haribol!

A friend of mine, Durward, also had his first venture into Krishna culture in Montreal. He tells me that in that old bowling alley a person, a visitor, had set up a tent inside and had his pet iguana with him.  That was novel too.  In those days it was rather more of an open door policy.  Anyways, welcome Dwarkanatha.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

April 15thin Toronto

April is very deceptive.  Just when you think spring has burst through, or is about to, then a merciless storm crushes all you want to do.  They have reported over a thousand accidents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  There are high winds, and piercing-cold pellets of rain coming down, leaving a precarious situation at ground level. Slush!  Mush!  It’s weather that bends things out of shape—your windshield wipers, for instance.

Billie and I trudged through the mess.  Its newly-formed mountain ranges and rivers, we attempted to navigate through to get to our destination—the Convention Centre and to the ever-popular Yoga Show.

Most attendees are downtowners who braved the weather.  They are not discouraged.  They are here to see people bend, but not out of shape,rather in shape.  There was a session of ecstatic dance.  It only needed a mantra to make it complete and qualify it as kirtan.  Someone by the name of Sandeep gave a free head massage.  Oh, and I met friends I hadn’t seen in years.  It was a stupendous event lasting for three days. I like the yogis as much as they like our food (prasadam).  Many yogis also like kirtan.

Billie went around with mantra cards promoting kirtanand the monthly “Evening of Bhakti.”  Thank you Billie.  Thank you Demi, for co-ordinating the food section.  Many heroes emerged from the kitchen department of Krishna food distribution.  Thousands were fed.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

At the Yoga Show

We had to cancel our spring Farmer’s Conference, which was to be held in Brighton, Ontario, due to sleet and icy rain.  It is postponed until next Saturday, April 21st.  By default, I then redirected myself to the attention of the Toronto Yoga Show held at the Convention Centre.  To my delight, the attendance was great, despite the occurring weather.  Where do all these people come from? I had to ask myself.

Although the numbers of people were phenomenal and the draw to the event has much to do with wellness, simply stretching limbs in tight clothes has its limitations.  Of course there are some great products for sale by exhibitors and there is also the food court, with Govinda’s being one terrific food outlet.  The line-up is long.  Apparently people like the prasadam(blessed food).

What really made me feel complete about the event was the presence of kirtanconducted by the Gaura Shakti group.  The set-up took a while for their hour-long allotted time, but once the band began their songs, the massive hall at the convention centre, the entire place, transformed in sound.  People sang and got up to dance.

I was also pleasantly surprised by meeting Adrien, a massage therapist.  Why so?  I met him on the Trans-Canada Highway in 2012 when I was in stride, walking, and he was in a van supporting a cyclist’s club who were travelling across Canada, raising money for a charity.

“Are you The Walking Monk?” he inquired, when he met me near the food court.  From that question was triggered a recollection of the instance on the highway.  “And you had that guy with the parrot?”

“Yes, Billie, the parrot.”

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

On This Day

I never in my life held any superstitious attitudes toward Friday the 13th. However, in a Vedic context, when it is said by some astrological authority that one is under the influence of the dark planets, Rahu and Ketu, I take it a little more seriously.  I personally survived a period of my life, said to be a Rahu period.  It wasn’t nice and I won’t go into minute detail.  What is important was how I approached this negative period.  I started a long walk to the distance of 8,000-plus kilometres on Canadian soil.

That was in 1996.  I also took to a lot of chanting.  Many days, it was 64 rounds on the japabeads.  The combination of walking, chanting and some speaking opportunities/engagements kept me going.

It was this afternoon that I took a mini-walk with Dave, not to counteract any ill omens of bad fortune Friday the 13thmight bring—I already explained my position on this.  Dave and I strolled along some of the laneways of the posh shops of Yorkville, just for a break from what we were both doing.  Trying to bond a bit might be what we were trying to do.

Dave serves food at Govinda’s and does some of the dishes when needed.  I was administratively engaged.  So we walked and talked.  No chanting was done, but that’s okay.  The friendship building is what was important.

It was Dave’s idea to go for this first walk.  “I’ll take up your offer on it,” he told me.

“Really, when did I ask for the walk?” I hadn’t remembered I had done so.

“You wrote the invite to walk, on a card, and I've been keeping that card.”

“When did I leave you the card?” I asked.

“About five years ago,” he responded.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

A Thirst for the Spiritual

Maybe I was a fool to dare weather with no overcoat, not even a light jacket, while on foot to Yonge and Queen—and all the way back.  I see everyone in some winter/spring attire.  I was informed that at 6:00 p.m. the temperature was 13°C.  It didn’t feel it to be quite that warm.  Maybe I am a polar bear braving what others might perceive as cold.  In any event, I started walking with just a slight chill but soon warmed up with no problem whatsoever.

The only thing to trouble me is the culture.  Am I getting old or something?  I’m looking at not a cold or cool climate but a cool bunch of people going up and down the street with seemingly nil purpose.  I’m taken aback by the lack of interaction with each other, but then when I walked some streets in Flacq, Mauritius, the other day, it wasn’t much different.  People there just go about their business, although there you have a strong Hindu population and pedestrians do respond to the saffron-clad, walking on their level, with some reverence, of course.

But look, there’s a man who breaks into all smiles as soon as he sees me—a Caucasian, not a Hindu.  Then as I plod along some blocks more, I get some pranamsfrom white folks, and “Hare Krishna” remarks from brown folks.  I’m happy for these people who greet, and for me, first of all, because I need attention and so do they.  I certainly don’t require the looks I get for my own ego, but I do adore the fact that attention is given for what I represent.  The attention is an indication that there is a ‘thing’ for the spiritual.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Dubai / Toronto

3 Gitas by 1

My return to Canada was okay.  Emirates airlines flew me back to Toronto, with so many other passengers, of course.  That means so much more luggage at the carousel upon reaching the Toronto terminal. The planes with Emirates are huge. It’s quite the battle for space when it comes to finding your cargo.  A little stress.

The trip is also a long one from Mauritius—6 1/hours to Dubai, a 5 hour wait in Dubai followed by 13 1/hour flight to Toronto.  A little more stress.

On these longer voyages, I like to take the Gita with me, but three instead of one.  First of all, I’ll carry Bhagavad-gita As It Iswith translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  In addition to this priceless piece, I also pack my smaller carry-on with Bhagavad-gita: Talks Between The Soul and Godby my dear friend and God-brother (Go-Bro), Ranchor Prime.  For a final squeeze-in, I have Gita Wisdomby Joshua Greene—aka Yogeshvara—also a dear friend and Go-Bro from New York.

The latter two translations are inspired by the first, and on their own they have the parent As It Is to package the message—the same one—in words inspired by each of them in a way which would appeal to different audiences.

I compare the notes.  In Dubai Airport, with leisure—also sleepy time—I looked up 5.18 from As It Is.  “The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle Brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.”  From Talks, it reads, “The wise see with equal vision a learned and gentle priest, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste.”  GitaWisdom, translates it as, “The wise see with equal vision all beings: a learned Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater.”  All similar.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Rose Belle, Mauritius

Avocado Finish

There is a tiny centre, an actual house with temple facilities, near the Mauritius Airport, in Rose Belle.  The group running the centre asked if I would plant an avocado tree. How could I refuse?

Some space for trees is allotted along the edge of the land. The tree, which was no taller than a foot and a half, has a chance to rise in a short enough time.  One lady in the community said it might bear fruit after two years, so that’s not bad.  Remember, winters in Mauritius are warm.

While that little project was started, our stay in Mauritius was ending.  A last dip in the Indian Ocean, a farewell to actors who had come from various countries to help in the production of “Many Mothers, Many Fathers,” and good-byes to the local Mauritians, marked the end of my stay here.  Lovingly, a good number of them turned up at the airport for a last minute send-off.

The project—working with the Vaishnava youth—once again this year, had been successful through classes on bhakti, theatre workshops, staging a Shakti Show,and, overall, just being there for them. However, it was now over.  The comments from the local Krishna followers on what I had done as a conduit on behalf of guru and God was so positive.  A great visit it was, with the finishing touch of being handed a small shovel, a tree and some dirt.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Grande Bay, Mauritius

Together and Water

The soul that sits behind the ego always resists.  This is the condition of the spirit soul.  Surrender or submission to the Supreme is not the priority.

A few of us discussed this and other topics at Grande Bay, a place on the northern shore of the ocean.  It was a bonding time—community time (common unity)—for devotees from Phoenix and Bon Acceuil.  Sixty of us came together to picnic, swim, talk and look at the odd sea urchin.

We talked about the story of Sudhama and Krishna as classmates in school.  In the water, the men formed a circle and sang the guru prayers.  Tourists, some from France, took some interest in what we were up to.  I won’t forget the innovative percussion sounds we created just by the movement of our arms and hands.

I met Sanjay, a miserable man who runs the food booth, and asked for a mantra that would access him to money.  He had refused the maha mantrafrom others, but when he met the Swami—me—he decided not to resist, but to take it and have a go at it.

A second level of gatherings occurred at the Bon Acceuil temple where we read of, “Ill Motivated Dhrtarastra,” the blind king who couldn’t or wouldn’t allow a clear vision to be part of his life.  He was physically blind and spiritually blind.  He sat on a throne behind his ego.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, 13 April 2018

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Phoenix, Mauritius

People Coming Together

From an overnight stay at Haridev’s, a small group of us ventured through a quiet, gardened neighbourhood.  It was wet after an evening shower; typical weather dynamics since being here.  These massive spiders abound.  Intentionally permitted to trapeze their way through these enclaves?  Or not? I don’t know.  Are they there to protect the fruit from bugs?

Anyway, as Trump would say, “They’rehuuge!”

Some of the fruit trees were also covered with man-made mesh, apparently to protect the trees from bats with an appetite.

Today was the second day for our performance in the best theatre in Mauritius, the Serge Constantin Theatre, and we had a full house again at this matinee. Our play was preceded by an impressive mrdungadrum demo.  After that program, we proceeded to the ISKCON temple for a talk I led, based on the Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 10, verse 9.  This passage highlights the pleasure derived from keeping our conversations positive and spiritual.  The joy of this approach is also directed to the Divine.

On the same theme, we then held a sangha,in Flacq, focused on appreciation of each other’s part in the play. I mean, this was a real party—people were coming together to express their love for individual input in a project, which created a harmonious bubble of safety and satisfaction.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Phoenix, Mauritius

The Shakti Show

We started with a walk at Belle Mare, then a swim, and then a discussion from the Bhagavatam1.1.1., right on the beach.  I did not have a book with me to read or reference from, directly, but I have that verse memorized, better in Sanskrit than the English. My favourite aspect of the verse addresses the issue of separating reality from illusion.  That discussion, plus our chanting on beads and singing—while in the water—the prayers to the guru, in my opinion, made a morning program of sadhanarather complete.

Time was short today as we had to rush to another section of the island, the central part, near Phoenix.  It was near Phoenix that we staged “The Shakti Show.”  Hats go off to Kala, a French descendant of Mauritians, who organized the program.  Held at the venue “Serge Constantin Theatre,” you could not find a better location.  It seats only three hundred, but it was full, and there’s another show on Sunday, a matinee, tomorrow.

The program began with a kirtanby local devotees, followed by an instrumental ensemble called “Confluence,” local artists on sitar, vina, violin, mrdangam and tabla.  With no vocals, it lent itself to the pure sound of raga.  They were good.

Finally our local talent, in addition to Pariksit’s co-direction and some South African input, presented, “Many Mothers, Many Fathers.”  WOW!  They were good.

We still have a distance to go in terms of real fine hosting of a program on a stage, but Sambha did well enough behind the microphone.  Overall, presentation wise, I believe our guru, Srila Prabhupada, would be pleased. 

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Belle Mare, Mauritius

At Belle Mare

There is this decent trail of sand amidst green trees that we embarked to walk upon. Japa is the rule before fun. Chant first, have fun.  Swim second, have fun.  This is our morning sadhana.

Once hitting the water, we sing in praise of Guru, Prabhupada.  That is also fun, while reverential.  Then we use the ball; volley it to each other while in the water. The ball is blue.  It represents Krishna.  You bounce it to each other on a count and you try not to have it contact the water.  The goal is to reach 108 hits with the ball.  At one point, we made the goal 174.  That’s our game.

It is a real pleasant workout.  You are forced to reach, to stretch and to keep Krishna from being out of His devotee’s grip.  After all, the players, who are actual players—being in the play (drama)—need this relief.  They work harder, harder than I—at least physically.

Our drama is, “Many Mothers, Many Fathers,” and while some experienced key players such as Pariksit, Jambhavan, Sukadeva and Govardhan are with us from the Mayapura experience, we also have our local volunteers.  They are doing wonderfully.

The whole crew comes together at Amar’s place.  We practise and bond.  The parents and friends of the actors come and bring food—prasadam.  It is such a wonderful gathering each year.  I’m in my element.

Walking, chanting, swimming, mingling and drama-ing.  That’s the life.  

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Flacq, Mauritius

Shiny Leaves

It is like the monsoons here.  All night and practically all day, the rains have been coming.  The plants are happy, I can see.  They are so alive and their leaves possess a sheen and a shine from the water pouring on; a truly wet look.

Massive snails, with that army tank for a shell, crawl everywhere.  You have to watch your step.  They are citizens too.

Unfortunately, the torrential rains restrict a walker’s movement.  I'm seeing trees, plants and snails from a veranda. Indoors is the place where we are harbouring, but we are busy with youth.  In the meantime, I also took the opportunity to care for body and feet. My doctor, Jagannath Misra, recommends propping my feet against the wall to address varicose veins.

“Let the blood run down,” he’s told me.

For dealing with arthritis—it’s in the knees—mustard seed oil application—external use—and an ayur-vedic mix of black pepper, ginger, walnuts, almonds and blackberry to be drunk with hot water.  For my kidneys, I'm taking amrita-dhara.  Something called Janardan—a name of God which means “maintainer of all”—is supposed to help the liver and blood circulation. With these daily doses, I'm feeling more like a healthy plant.

I am saddened to hear of the departure of my spiritual sister, Padyavali, who passed away from Parkinson’s.  She was a good soul, devoted to humanity.

May the Source be with you!
2 km