Thursday, 28 April 2016

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Monday, April 25th, 2016
Calgary, Alberta

Two Guys and the Worms

On the Greenway Trail we did tread, but in some spots it was more like a hop. With fresh spring rain that had come, earthworms were appearing out of their hiding; they tried their very best to make the crossing over the pavement. They just don’t always make it across, however. The obstruction for them is human trampling. I don’t believe it’s totally intentional for us to squish these guys, they are a little hard to spot as they crawl along at snail’s pace. One might be careful not to accidentally split one in half. Contrary to popular belief, when a worm is cut, the two parts don’t necessarily continue on living as two worms, only one part survives. In any event, Gaura Chandra, Radha Madhava, and I, were prudent and danced around the humble creatures.

It was day number two for speaking at RMCA in the Bridgetown area. There I met Griffin, who is from Austin, Texas. He uses his feet, since he is a runner, and he is making his way to Vancouver (not by running) to participate in a marathon run when he reaches his destination. I was impressed to see him with a bead bag containing his meditation beads. Chanting and running are important to him.

After our morning walk, I also had the pleasure to meet Curtis, a local chap, a yoga student, an athlete. We met at Gaura Chandra’s home. This guy is quite sattvic, thoughtful, polite – rare in today’s world. Curtis is a bare-footer, he gets around with his feet in the raw. I caught a glimpse of his soles, they looked pretty red and healthy. Curtis really enjoyed the kirtan we had in the living room.

To Griffin, Curtis, and the earthworms, I wish you the very best.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Sunday, April 24th, 2016
Edmonton/Calgary

Everything Connecting

The steps to the house lead to the front yard footpath which lead to the sidewalk, which lead to an endless lane, which lead to a trail in a park, which lead to a gravel pathway, which lead to a winding forested dirt trail, which lead to a road crossing, which lead to a paved trail, and which ended up at the school yard.

All this ‘new’ territory for me in Rutherford Heights became a small wonder which became almost the same wonder as I reversed direction in order to get back where I came from. The big illusion of the discovery is that the mind tries to convince you that you found it all. In reality, city planners had it pegged out before you even knew these city walkways were manifesting.

I guess it’s a little like some of our ancestors discovered the new land, North America. Europeans declared, “We discovered it,” but people were already residing there. And before those First Nations resided there and made, perhaps, some unofficial declaration, the Creator knew all about everything, even before a worn trail was to come into existence, about every mountain and valley, and how they would change over time through nature’s evolving and eroding ways.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
Edmonton, Alberta

A Day for Chapattis

Bala, Anish, Venkat, and I took to the White Mud Park trail. When I entered, I knew I had been here before, a giveaway was those familiar chickadees that flit through the spruces and hang around even in the winter. Like any other creature in the woods, they try to cash-in on a good meal.

Those cute feathered objects, creatures of the Prime Entity, Krishna, were out on their version of a scavenger hunt. You can play along with the game, just provide some bird edibles and hold them in the palm of your hand. We tried small stones and placed them in that palm suspended in the air. One feathered fellow used my hand as the landing base, inspected the goods, but was not interested. He flew off.

Fortunately, Anish brought a bag of broken off chapattis, some raw rice, and millet, thinking that some of the animals out in the forest would be interested, animals such as squirrels and birds. We found that we didn’t score well with rice, nor the millet. The chapatti material, which is prasad (consecrated food) broken into small bits did attract the chickadees. Their able pointed beak would grasp them with ease. They would take off to a nearby branch, perch there, and gobble up the flatbread crumbles.

The little guys were very happy.

Bala, in particular, worked really hard that day in the food department, especially in its preparation. By evening time he had cooked up a large batch of chole, chickpeas in sauce, rice, halava, chapattis (this time not crumbled up). A salad was also added, all prepared for the group at the event, Spirit Matters.

Yes, we all indulged in food and in mantra. In many ways we were like the chickadees.

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
Edmonton, Alberta

Burn Sage and Sweet Grass

I received from Marquis or North Ontario, a letter of a send-off nature for the kick-start of the coming journey across the US from New York to San Francisco. Likely, the trek will start on May the 10th or 11th of this year at Tompkins Square Park. It will be made official within the next few days. It will be a walk to commemorate 50 years of the Joy of Devotion. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, came to America from India in ’65, and then registered the International Society for Krishna Consciousness a year later in New York City.

I’m seeking blessings from all the readers to make this hike a successful one. Doubts emerge from time to time. Please pray that my legs will hold out okay. As I trekked with a friend, Bala, today in a nearby park, I felt some strain on an ascending trail. So Marquis, a true friend from First Nations, and a walker himself, wrote:

“Enjoy your walk, and don’t party too much in New York!

Will definitely say a prayer and burn some sage and sweet-grass for you! Good luck, and may the universe look over and give good grace on this journey, as I’m sure it always is.

Sincerely,
Marquis.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Thursday, April 21st, 2016
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Purple Gaze

The colour purple suddenly flashed into people’s faces.  Popular musician, Prince, passed away and, as far as I know, his fans affiliate him with that hue.  I confess that I’m fairly ignorant of the pop star for two reasons.  Number one, he’s after my time.  I joined the renounced order at age 20 in 1973.  As far as I know, Prince was unknown at the time.  Secondly, as a monk you just don’t go and pursue that genre of music or stage performance.

Bless his soul, though.

It was just interesting, and likely not a coincidence, that one of our guests at a home program tonight was all in purple.  It was not intentional for this person whom I met once before, goes by the name of Purpley Pauline.  She regularly dons herself in this colour-- that’s just her.  At the home of Visvambara and Mahasundari, a small group of us were discussing the story of Prince Dhruva, which is really a story about determination.  Purpley Paulina was really enjoying it.

I can see that Paulina is a determined person with her shades of purple, including her hair, hat, and lipstick.  She was very consistent in this.  I just didn’t peer in detail at the rest.  I could appreciate her listening skills, her willingness to sing along with us, and her relishing the simple pasta that we had on hand as our meal.

When chanting with Purpley Paulina, I did not bother to ask her about her preference of colour.  We stuck to the issue of Krishna Consciousness, and the need to paint our life with the various colours of the rainbow, the full spectrum of the various ways to serve the self (the soul) to service in Krishna.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
Winnipeg, Manitoba

From My Window

From my window at Woolsley Street, I can catch a view of the Assiniboine River.  It reminds me of the Ganges River in India.  The Ganges has meant so much to so many people over millennia:  a place to bathe, a place for sacrifice, a place to clean, a place to meditate, a place to meet, etc.

The river, Assiniboine, also has borne significance to the indigenous First Nations peoples and Europeans.  It was once a highway for canoes.  It was also a source of water for wildlife and humans.  It was a travel route for trade, and also a place for battle in some circumstances.   It is a natural wonder.

At the Assiniboine Park, Doug and I watched a bald eagle swoop down to attempt to catch a prairie dog (ground squirrel).   Despite his high speed and power of wings, he could not succeed.  The squirrel retreated to his hole.  The eagle will endeavor again, I’m sure.  This is not something you see every day.  You see these daring forces of nature occur because you are outside and you are walking.  For many people who are house or office-bound, walking or moving through the wind, under the now budded trees, is a bold step.

I had mentioned earlier on to Visvambar, my host, “Why not open a window?  Bring in some prana (force of energy) into your apartment.  Invite the outdoors to your indoors.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
Winnipeg, Manitoba

A Will and a Prayer

I had just arrived in Winnipeg and it was at the airport that I had my first meaningful exchange with anyone, and that was after I climbed into Daruka’s car.  A man at the pickup area approached us at the side of the car after I shut the door.  In an urgent state this man indicated that he wanted to say something before Daruka pressed on the gas pedal. I opened the door.

“I believe in the power of prayer.  Can you say a prayer for my 34 year old son undergoing surgery today?” he asked, although I’m a total stranger.  I asked the man for his son’s name and his condition in order to make that personal appeal to Krishna to honour the patient for his ultimate welfare.

Daruka, being my support person on 1 ½ times across Canada, is the perfect guy to take a stroll with and catch up on pedestrian memories.  We were passionate about getting soft and near to muddy trails along the Assiniboine River that runs through the city of Winnipeg.  With his blue front Amazon pet parrot perched on his shoulder, and I being the monk attired person that I am, we apparently excited a young guy by the name of Will who was in some way doing what we were – seeking some tranquility by the river and catching a view of the odd log or goose adrift.

Will spontaneously blurted out in amazement, “This is meant to be!”  Free spirit that he is, he was standing there shirtless and revealing an array of tattoos, including an ‘OM’ insignia on his torso.  He expressed, “We are all one.”  I didn’t disagree with the ecstatic young man, but I ventured to say, “Sri Chaitanya was a great teacher, who explained, ‘All is one and different’.”  I also expressed that in Sanskrit, and he tried to follow me with the proper pronunciation, and he did so with 95% success.  We chatted on.  We then parted, but before doing so, we exchanged hugs, and Billie the parrot offered a bow of his head.

Will carried on the path and left us with saying, “Where there’s a Will, there’s a will.”

May the Source to be with you!

10 km

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Monday, April 18th, 2016
Regina, Saskatchewan

The Park is the Best

Vijay and I had a fairly solid program together at the temple on Retallick Street.  He resides there on the top floor but rarely has someone to share in the chanting and prayers in the morning.  He is most often alone, but keeps devotional sanity by hearing kirtans over the internet.

We both also took to the road, the Trans-Canada Highway, for a stretch in order to make it to our destination, Victoria Park.  There Jahnavi, her three kids Adrian, Rose, and Lily, as well as Vijay, Ramesh and I, gathered for doing that good old grassroots activity – kirtan.

Incidentally, we sat on the grass in a circle fashion.  We were not loud-- not ‘in your face’, so to speak-- but light in volume and somewhat sweet in flavour with voices and instruments.  This type of an approach is an attractive set up.  We positioned ourselves near the playground where families gathered and children do what they do so well.  It didn’t take long before people gravitated to our circle, one-by-one, to join in. I believe that the attraction is in the sound, the formation, and the components to that circle.  We were non-threatening and we provided a safe corner in the park where we did sit and chant.  We stopped singing after a short while and then had an exchange with people.  At least two people accepted copies of the Bhagavad Gita.  To Matt, who received a copy, I said, “Here’s an ancient voice that we can all relate to.  Enjoy it.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Sunday, April 17th, 2016
Saskatoon/Regina

Third Day on Ram

Above me, periodically, a single bird, a couple, or a flock, would fly overhead – geese, hawks, ducks, a pink gull. Wait a minute!  A pink gull?  Yes!  The sun had just about risen and that magic colour that emanates from it reflected on the gull’s white down. 

I had swirled around to the streets at Willow Grove neighbourhood.  I practically got lost.  My bearings misplaced in the process of walking.  Maybe I was looking at the birds too much.  It was great, though, I tallied 10 km.  I tagged on another kilometre when Kasyap went to fill up on gas on the way to Regina via the Louis Riel Trail/Highway 11.  I put on yet another kilometre when walking with priest, Vijay Krishna, in the area of Regina where First Nations people live.  “That’s more like it,” I thought, “12 kilometres in one day.”  But, it is merely a warm up for the big trek to come in the USNew York City to San Francisco.

This evening I had read a section from the Ramayan to a Sunday gathering in Regina where Ram-Nauvami is being celebrated today.  Author, Krishna Dharma, has done a splendid job on its translation into English.  Everyone was tuned-in to the story of Ram being put into exile, and the citizens of Ayodhya, who, out of profound love for their leader, followed Him; camping out and lying on the direct ground in an attempt to sleep.

One person listening to the reading asked a question, “Why were Ram and Sita separated a second time?”

“Because the first one worked.”  (Laughter). 

What I explained to the gentleman was that the absence of a loved one intensifies the love.  I then asked him a personal question, “Are you single or married?”

“Married.”

“Is your wife with us here today?”

“No, she’s in India.”

“Do you miss her?”

“Very much!” (Laughter).

“You get the point, then?”

“Yes!”

May the Source be with you!

12 km

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Saturday, April 16th, 2016
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Second Day on Ram

Tarun and I took worn paths along the South Saskatchewan River.  Pelicans, geese, ducks, and seagulls gravitated to the water while we stuck to the land.  Tarun became like a tour guide for me.

“Here’s where they have outdoor summer Shakespeare…  Here is this sculpture garden… And here’s what I call the Rail Bridge.”  So we crossed it over the river.

He wanted to know why Ram would impose on himself, agony through the separation of Sita and vice versa.  Answer:

“Separation (not to be mistaken for ‘we’re getting separated’).  Intensify the lover and beloved’s relationship.”

Tarun and I walked to the Karma Conscious Café.  The owners wanted some chanting to happen inside the café, so I obliged.  Great session it was.

A second gathering of people came to the home of Kasyap and Panchami to honour Ram-Nauvami this evening.  There were a good number of kids, so I asked them to sit in front of me as I read a portion of the Ramayan.  The approach was more like storytelling with some charades put in the mix.  This appeared to engage them thoroughly.

Laura, Cory, Darren, and Karen-Anne, also showed up simply because I invited them from the café, since they seemed curious and spontaneous.  To the sound of the ukulele, guitar, and drum, everyone had dance-stepped to the rhythm of the beat.

Ram must have been pleased.

May the Source be with you!

8 km

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Friday, April 15th, 2016
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

A Support Man Emerged

This was a milestone of a day.  Not only because the calendar marks it as Ram-Nauvami, the birthday of Ram, but good news came my way.  I had been struggling to find a support person to execute a planned cross-US walk to honour the 50th anniversary of Iskcon.  My former trusted Daruka, of Winnipeg, just can’t make it this time.

I would have preferred an American citizen with an American license and an American vehicle.  After all, the plan is to trek through America.

About a week ago I received an email from an Abhimanyu Arjuna from Florida.  He expressed, “I need to travel with you,” indicating he needed a change.  This was a perfect queue to reach out to him.  It was a “YES” from both sides.  I need to know if he’s ready for the responsibility, and also, if he’s actually ready to put up with me.

This was a major breakthrough.

Tonight students from India, the US, Brazil, and Canada, came to have a casual meet with myself and hosts, Kasyap and Panchami.  When I say ‘casual’, I mean to say that we went less formal in the structure of things-- in regards to celebrating Ram-Nauvami.  We allowed ample time for questions which were most stimulating.  One of the students was strongly advocating that experimenting with life is superior to blindly following a religious system.  He had a firm belief in science.

“Fine,” I said, “just try experimenting with chanting in all sincerity, and you can test the results.  This can be directly perceived.”  It all became a light argument in the beginning, but he actually toned down and appreciated that application of wisdom tested in time has so much credibility.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Going Conscious

 Kasyap and I took to the trails in a North East suburb of Saskatoon.  The layout of the area was pleasant with well landscaped hills, land depressions, and creeks.  The problem is that it’s all designed for the automobile.  Too much distance to the market place makes it impractical.

Oh well.

After the trek, Kasyap and family took me to a new vegetarian café called the Karma Conscious Café.  The operators/owners are the Patawari brothers.  They asked that I lead a chant.  A drumming circle was arranged for backup.  Clients as well as friends and family got involved.  I was then asked to give a talk.  I picked up their promotion card and stood there before the crowded enthusiasts carefully analyzing the branding words as I spoke.

“ ‘Karma’ means ‘activity’.  You want to make sure that it’s positive activity.  Then there’s good response, good karma.  The food here is animal cruelty free, so that implies ‘good karma’ food.  Then the word ‘conscious’ implies to be sensitive.  Being that we are in human bodies, we have the opportunity to be sensitive to our essential needs.  In essence, we are all spirits.  We are not these bodies.  This is something that humans can comprehend.  A distinction between the machine and the mover.  As humans, it is within our capacity to understand the separation.  When we act on this basis then we demonstrate that we are alive and conscious.”

The words were well received.  I asked the group if someone could Google the word ‘café’.  That then would complete the definition of the term ‘Karma Conscious Café’.  I asked the attendees if this was the only vegetarian restaurant in town.  I also expressed to the owners if they would make the food prasadam, meaning offered.  Some of the items bear onions and garlic, so that would be out of the question.  Initially their baked goods had eggs, but I discouraged it and so they found a great egg replacer.

May the Source be with you!

6 km