Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Katha Dance

African born Jambulani, affectionately known as Jabs, accepted a new name today through diksa initiation.  His new name is Jambavan.  In the ceremony held in the temple tent to local monks, Bhakti Chaitanya and Kadambha Kanana Swamis and I, initiated several candidates.  It simply means that the spiritual family is growing in South Africa.

On the schedule and in demand was more of the Dance Master stuff at the Bhakti Cloud tent.  With the presentation of “Little Big Ramayan” the night before, the details of avatar, Ram, and His pastimes, are fresh in the mind.  So, the djembe drums triggered some creative juices which lead to my rapping out the story.  This compelled participants to dance it out.  If you didn’t drum the site, you ended up standing and clapping, if not dancing and repeating the rap. 

This approach attracts major attention as on goers outside the marquee stood in delight and awe.  Many of the dancers were relatively new to the story of Ram’s great heroism, of love, of devotion, loyalty and dharma.  This technique, dancing out the story, is a remarkable learning curve and great substitute for mundane dance. 

I’m hoping that this katha dance (story dancing) will really take off and become mainstream one day, because it is wholesome and takes the practitioner to a metaphysical level beyond this world of maya (illusion). 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

From Tent to Tent

I had paid a visit to the unsung heroes who are doing all the cooking outdoors for the hungry festival goers.  It’s impressive!  Just shy of the golden number 100, are these sizeable pots under fire that are burning and crackling away.  Beryani, a South African favourite, is on the boil for this second day at the Chariot Festival which is held at the old Durban drive in theatre.

Food is one of the major features of festivals.  Apart from the stage where our group brought down the house for the standing ovation performance of Little Big Ramayan, my like at the event is a tent called the Bhakti Cloud.  Here the youth organize presentations of various sorts.  On the program schedule, I’ve been dubbed as The Dance Master, so the expectation is for me to pull off a dance to the sound of half a dozen djembes. 

So much for being The Walking Monk.  Now there’s the expectation that I’m Fred Astaire.  Anyways, our half hour stint went well.  We got everyone up to dancing out and enacting the ten Avatars. 

Another highlight for me was an hour session given to talking at Tent A, about walking experiences.  I wasn’t sure that my Tails on Trails would carry an appeal, yet the tent filled up and interest in pilgrimage was generated.  My final word was actually a question, “How many of you anticipate to do more walking now that you hear how fun and freeing it is?”  The response was, “Lakker”, which in Afrikaans means, “Good”.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Round and Around and Round We Go

The smart path for walking on the Chatsworth temple grounds is essentially a concrete walkway running as a concentric formation around the building.  If you were to look from the bird’s eye view, you might see a spot on the rim of a wheel circling about over and over again.  That spot would be a group of chanters moving constantly for at least an hour or more. 

I am one of several in that group that makes the spot.  Unofficially we have become by chance a japa team.  Our group began as one.  One became two.  Two became three and so on. 

Jabs from Pretoria joined us.  He is a relative new comer to Krishna Consciousness and bhakti yoga.  There are several paths leading to the temple which cross our walking path.  Jabs happened to be walking on one of those paths, he spotted our group and I nodded that he should join our japa walking team.  So I suggested to Jabs, which is short for Jambavan, “If you join us you just concentrate on the mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare .  You’ll be happy to know that while chanting at this time, and you keep with our pace, you’ll be going at 5 kilometres an hour.”  I implied to him that with chanting and walking simultaneously you get double mercy.  Jabs was sold on the idea and he joined our group as it grew and grew.  Everyone on board seemed to enjoy the power of joint chanting and joint walking.  In addition to there being a moat around the temple with a constant flow of H2O that hugs the edifice, it creates a very pleasant atmosphere.  It just so happens that Nelson Mandela had stepped and walked on our circular path more than once, giving our trail an extra significance. 

Congratulations to Jabs and other members of our South African based drama troupe who pulled off a great rendition of Big Fish Little Fish on the first day of the great festival.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

On Anger

SB 1.7.34

I was asked to give the class from Bhagavatam, SB 1.7.34.  This I did after a brisk walk.  Here are points we came up with on this interesting subject.


1)      A product of passion
2)      It breeds bewilderment and blocks the brain
3)      It’s a beast that can be tamed
4)      An explosive that blows up in your face
5)      It’s what’s behind 4
6)      It means you’re not appreciating
7)      It could mean you didn’t get enough sleep
8)      A temper tantrum triggered by the tempter/temptress
9)      It becomes a great opportunity for picking up a drum and creating nice music (kirtan)
10)   Controlling it is a great victory
11)   It’s a big expenditure to check, and for clean up after damage is done
12)   When you keep a lid on it, it turns into a nice prep
13)   It does have its place (as in anger over abuse issues).  Know when to use it.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Couldn’t Be Sweeter

The pathway has puddles.  The ground under the parking lot has waves.  The sky is wet and air is still.  Not exactly the best conditions.  I am moved to an amphitheatre where I can chant and walk simultaneously.  But, the narrow shelter above the amphitheatre does little to block out the drizzle.  Normally, I’d be trekking round and round the mandir (temple).  It’s safe staying on temple grounds.  You can’t risk meandering through the streets nearby.  Crime is really high.  In the past though, I ventured around.  You are at some advantage if you are male, and being a monk helps, I imagine.  It’s unfortunate that in the past people within the community have been murdered under circumstances.  The cause?  Myriad reasons. 

But life in South Africa is not always great.  It has it’s bubbly moments.  A monkey perched on a branch near my window was looking for opportunity.  I threw him an orange, boy did he get excited.  He left me his peels. 

Our rehearsals for the weekend entertainment have been exhilarating.  Cast members have got all this rhythm, they can dance and they can act.  A good chunk of the troupe are from the Zulu community.  Performance is up their alley. 

The chariot festival always brings out the best in people.  Bhakti practitioners come from other parts of South Africa to join in for a mixed reverence and fun.  Guests are arriving from other continents.  I’m one of them.  This is my 14th year.  I’m always given warm and great food – avocados and sandwiches especially.

The day couldn’t be sweeter really. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Stay in the Water

Durban, South Africa
This marks the 20th year since the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.  People of native origin fought long and hard to achieve their freedom as recent history tells.  Despite the policy and administrative adjustments, things are far from perfect. Now you have minorities complaining about favoritism.  Job opportunities are preferentially partial.  And it goes on and on.  

But lets not be naive. Nothing’s ever going to be a bowl of roses. We are living in the material world, so, let's not whine so much.  Let's not blame everyone else for our own discomforts. You put yourself in the spot where you are now.  Such is the nature of karma. So swallow it and get on with life.  Life isn’t always fair, okay?

Maybe you don't belong here in the first place? Is that fair? Is that a fair question?

Today we spent hours on preparing dramas for the upcoming weekend Festival of Chariots.  Walking took a back seat.  To address this “other worldly” issue I found it great in the script writing by local stand up comedian, K.C., we call him, when the Sangoma, a Zulu shaman, who directs the troubled under dogged victim out of his misery. The story plays up on the analogy that we are all fish out of water.

Little Fish is the actual name of the victim and he addresses the Sangoma, “I need help. I don't know what to do anymore.  I need someone to take my problems away.”  The Sangoma spews out sounds like only a wizard can do as he throws the bones and reads the message.  

“The bones don't lie.  You were in a good place, a really good place, a long time ago!  Hmm, hmmm, then you got greedy.  You left that place.  You left that lovely place, to come here! But my friend, you’re never going to be happy over here, this place is not for you.  You are never going to be happy here, unless you go back to your home.  This place is not for you... you are like a fish out of water.”

The message has merit.  It gives us something to aspire towards. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

To Tolerate

Kala, Tamohara and I were flying from Mauritius to South Africa.  While waiting at the airport in Johannesburg, the stopover before heading to Durban, I was reading some anecdotes from those who were with our guru.  A passage I read happened to be of an occurrence while our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had flown from Mauritius to Durban.  It was a small lesson on tolerance.

Pusta Krishna: We were flying from Mauritius to Durban on Quantus Airlines. I was seated beside Srila Prabhupada wearing my little British hat, shirt, coat and pants.  At that time there was a rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand teams, and there were a lot of rugby types on the plane. We had a seat in the non-smoking section, but people were smoking there and I was disturbed.  I was also concerned for Srila Prabhupada’s welfare.  So I asked the stewardess to please ask them to stop smoking in the non-smoking section.  She told the rugby type guys, who were drinking quite a bit as well, to stop smoking.  But they didn't stop. I was about to ask the stewardess, “Please ask them again,” when Prabhupada stopped me.  He said “What is the difference between us and them if we can’t tolerate these sort of things?  Don’t be an ordinary, common, foolish man.”

I thought the passage was instructive.  Why whine over everything?  While in the air on whatever jet, there are always little things that we persevere through. Anyway, “Sawubona!” which means, “Hello!” in Zulu.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Monday, 14 April 2014

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

La Vallee de Ferney, Mauritius

Sea, Mountains and Folks

Well, what a day!  It began with a few young men going for a power walk with me by the ocean shore, past Bleu Bay, then a loop back to Mahebourg, and then by car and bus down a rickety road in La Vallee de Ferney.  At one point we pulled out of the bus to experience this gorgeous conservation area of endemic, indigenous and exotic trees.  The names will strike a funny bone of curiosity.  Our guide pointed out some of the official names of trees – the cinnamon of course, but there were also the black and white ebony trees.  Never heard of a rat tree?  Neither have I.  Its leaves, when gathered and put in a draw after three days, start reeking like a decomposing rat.  There, a cyclone tree gives a resemblance of the swirling dynamic that mother nature sends around now and then.  Finally our group of 23 also viewed the nail tree from the strong hard wood variety, pieces of the trunk were crafted in the shape of nails and used for construction.

We saw little wildlife but for the kestrel bird, a tiny hawk-like bird that almost went extinct.  Not but four decades ago only four existed.  They were native to Mauritius, but conservationists did their work and bread the few alive.  Now they are making a return.

To their merit, activist nature lovers fought to keep a proposed highway from penetrating through the fragile eco system.  What a delight it was to be here!  And as one Swiss devotee said, “We (meaning Krishna devotees) need to do more of these type of outings.”  I couldn’t agree more.  When you see those creeks and waterfalls you know that there is a kinder, softer world upstairs and this is a mere reflection of it.

The Dutch have been blamed for poaching the last of the dodo birds, but more recent research indicates that a famine the country experienced destroyed this huge feathered guy forever.  Anyways!  Whatever! We must endeavour to preserve all that is precious.

A dive in the blue ocean and picnic marked the middle of the afternoon.  Then the evening was topped with a turnout of 300 folks eager for kirtan, philosophy and a feast to not forget.

That’s why I say, “What a day!”

May the Source be with you!

14 KM

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Mahebourg, Mauritius

By the Sea 

In 1802 the French and English had a fierce naval battle at the bay here near Lion’s Mountain.  Kala, Tamohara and I ventured along the town’s sea wall catching the salt infused currents.  We stumbled upon an impressive arts and culture outdoor amphitheatre, a prospective place for a bhakti show in the future.  The occasional Banyan tree graced the coast line dwarfing us.  Young men at soccer filled a playing field.

Clouds above threatened a downpour.  We found shelter from a giant Banyan.  Then a more serious onslaught of rain compelled us to head for a roof by a rehab drug clinic.  Oh, yes, even here on this tiny Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, social ills challenge the human race.

Our trio continued our exploration of the town.  If we could, we would want to boast having touched each street, but time was pressing, calling for an engagement at the auditorium of the local Durga mandir.  Eventually the place filled up.  I realized that translation from English to Creole was necessary for my message to be understood, so a person by the name of Kaunteya did so.

And this message was that while we venture our way through myriad species of life, the soul’s obligation is to reach the human’s actual potential.  “I am not this body,” I stressed.  And we let everyone there go home with reciting and hopefully retaining these precious words in Sanskrit,  “Aham brahmasmi!  More definitively we are saying, "I AM SPIRIT".

May the source be with you!

4 KM

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Dubai,  UAE
Moving with Time
Downtime! Much sitting in the aircraft. Emirates, world 
class airline has conditions or facilities conducive 
enough for japa meditation, reading and writing,  all that 
I relish doing.
There's time to talk to the passenger sitting next to 
you, however, sometimes you respect the fact that its also 
 their downtime, or rather up-time. The flight from 
Toronto to Dubai is at an unimaginable height, need I 
detail the figure? Its just very high and very cold, 
It flashes to mind that we could be victims of a 
mysterious disapperance, going of the radar screen, as in 
the case of the recent Malayasian airline that appered  to 
vanish in thin air. Always a good reason to chant divine 
mantra's with more intrepidity.
Time presses  on with window shutters closed  which makes 
it confusing to decifer the hour. But thats ok. In the air 
with such incredible speed (exact figures unknown to me) 
you really enter a timeless zone, keeping an eye on 
boarding time is significant but once  off from departure, 
it really doesn't matter much. In a way its off-time.
A lay-over in Dubai with a six hour span and a  hotel 
voucher in hand permitted horizontal space to actually 
sleep which is practically impossible in the plane. 
Arabian Park Hotel was the space that was destined. No 
need for its lounge, its drinks or non-veg food. I'm a 
monastic that can keep  cheap thrills at bay.
And also, until the new day, new dawn or dusk we do not 
tarry but move forward with ever changing time.
May the source be with you!
0 KM (except for moving in the airport)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Go It Together

I received a call from Michael who took to the Trans Canada Highway in 2001/2002 on foot with a backpack.  We made an agreement to go it out together on the road for a three week stint. 

Starting in mid May we plan to drive to Taber, Alberta, the spot from where I left off last summer.  We will stop a bit along the way, put on our shoes (I, with Crocs), while he will be equipped with camera, hopeful to capture the beauty of the road, the rhythm of walking, and all that visual vista stuff that people usually see as post cards.  The filming will be like a reenactment of the walk I did last summer, until we arrive at Taber, when business will be as usual to complete a fourth trek, bringing me to the edge of British Columbia.

I’m really looking forward to it because in addition to having the usual company of support person, Daruka, and his blue front Amazon parrot, there will also be Michael, a most amiable person.  Up for the challenge will be those occasional cool prairie breezes, and then the intermittent warming Chinook winds coming from the Rockies.  There will be the upward downward trends of pacing once hitting those lovely mountains.  I will not be surprised to hear the jazz of the road, that is, the last clumps of snow, sliding off the arms of the coniferous trees, and the feet making the beat gritting the gravel on the highway shoulder.  It will also be the time of invigoration, rebirth, of so much life springing into action. 

Michael knows the road I’ve tread, he’s done it before – the Crow’s Nest Pass.  And, of course, we’ll be seeing smart crows in flight, and I’ll be dreaming of smooth sailing swans during naps which will take place by the side of the road that will offer a peace like nothing else.  Hare Krishna! 

Thanks for calling, Michael, it’s a deal.  We’ve nailed down the date, May 17th

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario

Who’s The Artist?

In the midst of this morning’s meanderings I stumbled upon Tom Thompson’s Art Gallery.  Who is Tom Thompson?  A noted Canadian impressionist landscape artist he was.  His body was found mysteriously in the wilderness while on a canoeing trip. A result of foul play?  It’s not really known.  He’s loved and remembered for defining the natural esthetics of the north.  I admit, it’s nice work indeed. 

I’ve been an art lover for years, including the art of nature. The artist behind the elemental combinations of the out of doors should not be denied.  “Who’s behind the placement of patterns of life?” we might ask.  “Does it have to be a person?”  If we settle for intelligent design, as some people use the term, then we admit to personal implication.  Where there’s intelligence there is a brain.  Brain refers to a person.  Where there’s design, we should come to terms with a designer. 

Being that it is Ramnaumi today, a small group of us at the quiet place of Owen Sound, reflected on the classic Vedic personalities known as Ram, Sita and Lakshman, who spent a long and interesting 14 years in the jungles.  A good part of that phase was the travel by foot from the north of India to the south at Rameshvaram.  Shastra, ancient texts like “The Ramayan”, tells of how the three wanderers enjoyed the features, smells, sights and sounds of the wilderness.  Their apparent exile or banishment was actually a blessing. 

Our trip back to the big city, Toronto, allowed our eyes to see a transition.  Behind us was not only the green spirit of the docks at Georgian Bay, but also rolling hills, farms and forests, all now to be replaced by highways, high rises and high expectations of tantalizing pursuits.  Frankly, there’s nothing more boredomsome than peering at square warehouses and the monotonous looking apartment buildings of a modern day city.  You have to ask, “Who’s the author of such pathetic creations?”  Not the Great Spirit, that’s for sure. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM