Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Russell, Ontario

I Like Trains

Much as I like walking, I also like taking the train.  I suppose I did have some choices on how to get to this bedroom community of Ottawa.  One option was catching a ride with other commuters going from Toronto to our Canadian Leaders Sanga.  Walking was not an option.  It would take me at least two weeks to get to Russell.  Out of the question.

I like the train because of the ample leg room.  Scenery is nice.  I see a gorgeous trail running edge-wise along Lake Ontario.  It is mouth-wateringly tempting.

I also had my peaceful moments.  I enjoyed reading from Mukunda’s book, where he describes the recording of the maha mantraat the studio on Abbey Road, London, when George Harrison insisted there be some multiple voices to support the main singer, Yamuna, who had that golden voice. George was practical.  He brought in some secretaries, agents and janitors, whomever he could grab, to create a greater volume of sound.  It was spontaneous and it was teamwork.  I love the book, Miracle on Second Avenue.

Okay, so I arrived at Ottawa’s Via Rail Train Station, where Mandala, one of my support persons for the U.S. walk, picked me up, and then dropped me at the arts building in Russell.  There, a group of us conducted a Govardhan Puja, which is done in India.  The story, in short, describes how young Krishna raised an amazing rock. The Herculean feat is honoured all over the planet on this day.  He executed the feat long before the invention of the train.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

D Day (Diwali Day)

After a few glorious hours of Diwali calls from people, and dealing with people in general, it was time for a walk, some fresh air,, and a head clearing before the evening influx.  Diwali is indeed a big deal for a lot of people.  It’s the New Year for some.  It’s a fun fest.  It’s family-and-temple time.  It commemorates enlightenment over darkness—Ravana.

I escaped with my coat and beads in pocket to Bloor Street, then up to Christie.  There, many eateries, pubs and cafes dominate.  I passed by Home Hardware, Dollar Plus, and some ticky-tacky shops and such.  There is also the Poop CafĂ©, and it is popular.  Ever time I take a peek the place is more or less packed.

I got my break.

Then evening came upon us.  Diwali lovers started to trickle in.  They came with anticipation.  Will there be diyas(ghee lamps) to light? Will there be something exciting in the atmosphere?  A talk perhaps?  Some kirtan chants maybe?

There were no set plans to address a fair-sized group of people. There they were, mostly young folks and some children.

Okay then, Lila Mayi and Hitesh were there for the regular Wednesday chanting.  We went to the mic, started singing, and said some words about the importance of chanting. The group responded.  We even formed a circle, a huge one, and encouraged a dancing movement.  The doors to the deities opened, and I leapt out to get things cooking in the kitchen for the crowd.  It was successful. Team work works.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Brampton, Ontario

Mouth and Feet

Leaves were swirling in the air and the winds were fairly high, compared to most days, as I was footing my way along Dupont.  Kate and Gaurachandra had dropped me off at one of the malls along Dupont where they would pick up fresh ingredients for constructing some wraps.

“I’ll walk back to the ashram from here,” I said.

While walking, I was contemplating the visit I had just made to my dental clinic in Brampton, where some ‘teeth work’ was done.  These mouths and teeth get satisfied with a good veggie wrap and so many other edibles.  They are also used for communication—of good messages, hopefully.  

I also reflected on the series of verses from the Gitathat our morning group has been reading. For instance, Chapter 3 Verse 11, which I read to the others at 5:00 a.m., goes like this in the purport: “By performance of sacrifice, one’s eatables become sanctified, and by eating sanctified foodstuffs, one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence finer tissues in the memory become sanctified, and when memory is sanctified one can think of the path of liberation, and all these combined together lead to Krishna consciousness, the great necessity of present day society.”

So there you have it.  Our mouths are meant for sanctified food (prasadam) and it puts us in a better place. Thinking of food, I decided to make a neighbourly stop at the corner of Dupont and Bathurst, in Toronto, at the ‘Annapurna Restaurant,’ just to say hello.  Out of the pot-washing back room emerged Patrick, whom I’ve known for years.  He pulled away and walked a few blocks with me, through the swirling leaves.  Nice guy.  It’s always a bit hard to maintain cohesion, though, when talking.  Bless him.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Good Vibes Continue

Dave Haberman is a religious scholar and author of many books on spirituality.  He spends much of his time in the Vraj district of India because he loves it there, being a big fan of Krishna.  In a more recent book, he’s written about the forests of Vrndavan where Krishna spent so much time.

Dave took time off from the Parliament of World Religions to give a few hours to the temple, prasadamat Govinda’s, and myself.  We could have gone on for hours talking about each other’s journey on the path.  I liked the fact that he encourages pilgrimage through the adoration of sacred trees, rocks—such as Govardhan, the most worshipped rock in the world—and bodies of water, such as Radha Kunda.

As he spoke of the charm of Vraj/Vrindavan, we both came to one roadblock, and a concern that many people at the Parliament of World Religions have, which is the environmental issue and its impact on the world, including the dham—holy grounds.  We are both appalled by the trash left in places, including the phosphates that are dumped into holy waters, and raw sewage.

You have to ask yourself, “When will the madness stop?” and also, “When does the wake-up call begin?”

However, overall, the love of a cherished bond spilled out of Dave’s personality and I came to appreciate more the sanctity of Krishna’s land, Vraj, despite the challenges it faces.

Meanwhile, I received in the mail a copy of “Sri Lalita-Madhava,” by Rupa Goswami, Dave’s favourite writer.  A kind woman from the mid-west of the U.S. sent me this treasure, translated by Kusakratha.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Owen Sound, Ontario

Seeing Results from the Walks

Dillon was up there, along with a friend, on the rooftop, tearing down shingles.  They need a replacement because winter will set in soon.  He noticed our little walking party, came over and greeted us, saying he’d been to our summer festival in Montreal.  Like him, so many people over the years have been in contact with Krishna Consciousness and it has impacted their lives.  Even from brief encounters.

At the Parliament of World Religions, I met a fellow running a booth who said, “I remember seeing you as host of the TV show, ‘On the Way to Krishna.’”  Our program ran for seven years on the Vision TV network.  Other folks were there to say, “I’ve visited your temple,” or, “I ran into you guys on the street, chanting.”

Then, after our visit to Owen Sound with the Hanna family,  I was whisked off to Toronto to catch the late afternoon program.  My dear friend Anuttama was giving the class.  He asked for questions at the end of his session.  Three people raised their hands.  The first was a man who, when a child, met me in Marathon, a gold mining community up north.  I was walking my first Canadian pilgrimage and his family invited me to their home for a rest and a meal.

The second person to ask Anuttama a question was Ray.  Ray said he’s a Christian but has admired the consciousness of the Krishnas for years.

“I met Bhaktimarga Swami on the road near Owen Sound.  We’re in touch.”  That was also back in ’96, my first walk.  I’m glad to see people coming around who made a connection to do with my pilgrimages.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

At South Building, Convention Centre

Thousands of spiritual delegates came from around the world to attend the Parliament of World Religions.  I met a small percentage at the booth/exhibit areas, casually in one of the many corridors, or directly off the stage and podium from where they made a presentation.  There are Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Baha’is, Indigenous Spiritualists, and everything in between and beyond.  Diverse styles of dress, life and beliefs make the event a potpourri of people—a sophisticated Kumbha Mela, perhaps.  There are certainly a lot of swamis around, most of whom put palms together in the pranams position upon seeing each other, myself included.  One of them was most eager for me to come to his pravachan—talk.

“I have one coming up too, if you’re interested,” I said as a mutual invitation.

However, my presentation, or talk, was a brief enough one, complemented by Michael Oesch’s film, “The Walking Monk,” and a Q and A session.  The room, 710, in the South Building, became occupied in no time.  People seem interested in the topic, “Finding Time for Pilgrimage.”

The questions flowed, and answers too.  Comments did the same.  One man from New Orleans relayed that he had walked the famous Camino in Spain. It was a life-reassuring experience. In general, the audience appeared to value a walking culture, the simplicity behind it and the penetration of thought that rolls out with it.  I was on Cloud Nine.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

At the Parliament of World Religions

Our cast and crew for “Many Mothers, Many Fathers,” were just entering the Room Festival Stage, a two hundred seat area, when the female speaker on the stage spoke of how her mother had her listen to George Harrison.  Yes indeed she did.  “I grew up hearing ‘My Sweet Lord.’”  She also mentioned that she believes Krishna to be Supreme.

The timing couldn’t have been better.  It inspired us.

The performance rolled out well.  Tears did too—from the audience.  

I decided to walk back home, to take in non-people air—the Convention Centre was full of people—and admire brilliance in the form of autumn leaves.  Yes, this excites me.    I didn’t meet an acquaintance of any kind.  Oops!  I did bump into a fine devotee, Yamuna Jivana, from India.  He was waiting for a bus to go to the temple.  I convinced him to walk with me.

For some people having a monk next to them is a treat.  Yamuna Jivana was a good sport, because as we met, I received a call from Vancouver, and thus couldn’t give him any attention.  It was a call for help.  The person’s pet had just died, leaving him very depressed.  He performed all the procedures to help his dog pass on devotionally.  It involved chanting to the dog before he left.

“That chanting,” I explained, “did a world of good.  He is now so far ahead of most souls who are on the journey to greener pastures.”

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Toronto, Ontario


Walking shifted to play practice today. While the city’s Convention Centre had the opening night for the Parliament of World Religions, and our downtown temple was celebrating the anniversary of when an extraordinary spring of water manifest in the holy district of Vrndavan, India, I was immersed in the story of a king—in a drama.

King Chitraketu was hard-pressed to have offspring, but was unsuccessful in producing, and so a sage came circumstantially.  He offered kheer Prasad—blessed, sweetened rice—to the monarch who offered it to his principal queen, who then bore a child. The sage paid heed to the fact that a child brings both joy and sorrow.  “First, joy will come, then lamentation will follow,” said the sage. The king was attentive to the first half of the statement but ignored the second portion.

Life in the palace went on in a relative happiness and for some time until the seething spirit of jealousy set in from the queens who were co-wives.  They plotted to poison the child and they succeeded.  A shockwave went through the kingdom of Surasena.  The father and mother of the boy were devastated but that feeling of breaking down transformed into insight.  Purification manifested.  The king’s partiality to the one wife reduced.  A reconciliation took place.  Hearts softened and everything looked up.  Tomorrow is the performance.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, 5 November 2018

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Toronto, Ontario


One of my favourite couples is Anuttama and Rukmini from Washington, D.C.  They are in town.  They are my heroes.  They have been married for thirty-two years and are still going strong.  Having flown in from abroad, fatigue hit them, and we, the hosts at the ashram, tried to make them feel at home.

Before their arrival, I managed to get a little walking in near the Annex.  What a marvelous day, though it was overcast, but the temperature—14°C—and the fall colour make everything so conducive for a stroll.  The whole neighbourhood was decked out for the annual “Trick-or-Treat” Halloween fun.  This is a big deal in North America.

When I walked through New England and Pennsylvania, I saw how the households embraced this event with all the decorations of death.  One fellow, a tourist from the U.K., pulled over his car near to where I was.  We both gawked at the elaborate displays of ghoulish creatures, hob-goblins, ghosts, witches and tortured creatures.  “They really get into it here,” he said in an excited, British accent.

During my walk today, I stumbled upon an all-out exhibit at an apartment building.  A woman was dressed as a vile witch, although she had a pleasant smile, while a caveman-type stood by.  To get into the fun, I jumped at the opportunity to get myself in a photo with the characters.

Really the whole thing is quite bizarre.  The Kali-Yuga is advancing.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Fun People

“Hey, can I… … …?” asked the tall and stocky guy.

“I’m sorry, can you say that again?” I asked, trying to hear over the traffic noise.

“Yeah, can I rub your bald head for some good luck?”

“Sure,” I said, “go ahead.”  

He proceeded to do so, and then went north on Yonge.  He got his thrill.  I was standing and talking to someone at the time and he was surprised at the casual request and gesture.  Of course, Kunal, who is from India (not so long ago) wouldn’t see that kind of interesting behaviour from where he came from.  He’s conservative.  For me, I don’t care for everyone to be so stiff.  A little bit of frivolity on my dome can’t hurt anyone.

I continued on with my journey, and on my return back to the ashram, a woman with two pet dogs stopped and had another question.

“Where’s your pouch?”  She noticed I was chanting on my beads without them being in a pouch.

“I like to advertise my beads, but here is my pouch,” I said, as I showed her the cloth bag that usually bears my beads inside.  Actually my cell phone is the present content.

“On each bead I chant a mantra,” I said as I handed her my mantra card.  “This mantra is so powerful that it can purify your existence.”  

The woman’s eyes widened.

“Yes the mantra has a potency that, when uttered, it can cleanse even the hearts of your dogs.  So, you might like to try it on for size!”

“I will,” she said.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Getting Humble

I took the opportunity to walk south on Yonge Street, the place where, in my early devotional years, I would hand out a stick of incense to passersby to get them to stop.  Once they did so, and they would take in hand the fragrant paraphernalia, I could start a conversation, and perhaps entice the person into offering a donation.  If they were charitable enough, I would offer a book on enlightenment, some publication of our guru, Prabhupada, and thus they would walk away with a spiritual treasure.

I would be in ecstasy.

The nostalgic street corners such as Yonge and Bloor, Yonge and Gerrard, Yonge and Dundas, and also in front of “Sam the Record Man,” were places of my devotional beginnings, places where I was trained in sankirtan.  It was a way to connect with people and thereby connect people to Krishna.

To view these times of old—forty-five years back—I can get caught in sentimental feelings. My sensations also revolved around a feeling of regret. “What has happened to those shops of the past?”

The answer (which was “blowing in the wind”) is that they have been wiped out of existence, and replaced by new, more towering edifices.  

One business man I talked to concurred with such a dynamic. “I came to Toronto thirty years ago.  It’s a different city now,” he said.  

Whether it was good or bad, he didn’t really express an opinion.  It was just a matter of fact.  That’s the way it is.  However, I put in my opinion. “Oh well, those big buildings are humbling us.” 

He agreed.

May the Source be with you!
8 km

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Running Krishna

Walking these last few days involves mainly pacing back and forth at a decent speed. Since coming back from steamy hot India, I’ve found the damp coolness of late October somewhat intimidating, but I’ll get over it.  Locking oneself into a cabin for a period seems sometimes necessary as long as you can keep active.  Nowadays most folks who care for an upkeep of the body use their treadmill indoors. Outdoor stuff is no doubt superior.

With the indoor mode, I was fortunate to participate in a seminar as a listener. Then, to our congregation, I delivered a message about Krishna, the Butter Thief, and also Krishna, The Runner. When He was a mere toddler, He ran from His mother, who was in pursuit, to protect Himself from her threatening stick. Her intent was not to use it physically but to help keep Him in line.

We know that Krishna is reputed for His outstanding flute-playing, His frivolity, His childhood antics and so on.  We rarely hear of His walking or fleeing, but He definitely does those things.  He’s a jack-of-all-trades and a master of them all. This is the actual meaning of the word Bhagavan.

It is important to reflect on the positive traits of an individual, and Krishna, to His followers, means everything to them.  His movement and even His words are to be listened to for the sake of spiritual progress.

May the Source be with you!
3 km