Sunday, 24 July 2016

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Thursday, July 21st, 2016
Newton, Iowa

Cold Water Please!

Ice water and Gatorade were coming my way all day.  It was a response by the public to the radio, newspaper, and facebook articles which were being circulated.

Rajasuya and I took to a pretty, shaded, residential street and, as we did so, we encountered Wally, Diana, and grandson, Braden.  Diana’s sister had just passed away.  She asked for my prayers and I was happy to oblige.  Diana kept replenishing our cups with ice water.  We all got quite comfortable being in each other’s company in their front yard.  We even broke out into song with George Harrison’s, “My Sweet Lord,” Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Slow Down,” as well as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails.”  Braden, who’s about eight, didn’t have a clue about these songs from the 50’s and the 60’s.

Our meeting went from grave feelings to happy ones.  That’s just what the walking does, even in the midst of steaming heat and fatigue.

Were we ever relieved to enter the cooling AC’d Newton Library.  The weather was unforgiving at times, as we reached high noon.  Some of the water donated to us was taken as head-shower fluid.  At 107 degrees Fahrenheit, who wouldn’t employ H2O in that format? I’ve even found the umbrella as a shield to be effective as the heat rose.

I imagine the desire for water rose in just about everyone in the State of Iowa.  This is all relative to the need within the season.  Had we been in frigid conditions, the element of fire would be most desirable.  Needs change in relation to the body.

In connection to the soul, there is a constant contentment.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Grinnell, Iowa

His Eyes

His eye was fully open but the other was closed, and just as the closed eye-lid began to open, the open eye began to move in a slow blink.

This was pretty much how I viewed the full moon and its counterpart, the sun, as these heavenly bodies presented themselves in the early morning sky.  It was purely magical, and while I had the moon before me in the westerly sky, the sun naturally arose behind me.  I was being looked at by God, one eye at a time.

This dynamic occurred yesterday and repeated itself again today.  Yet today, the sun began to be in a relentless mode as the hours moved on.  Water in the air (humidity) was thick in suspension.  It was taxing and dehydrating.

Relief arrived  merely with the visitation of people.  Rajasuya and Mandala came to join me on Hwy. 6.  Then Dan Hayes appeared from the Iowa County Market Newspaper.  A fellow by the name of Rich, a local organic farmer, stopped out of interest.  I was also whisked away to KGRN radio with Chris Johnson as the interviewer. 

Back on the road again, and a woman from nowhere delivered lemonade.  A second one, Lisa, pulled over to hand out some refreshments—ice water and fruit.

“I’ve been following you on the internet.  I drove around knowing you were in town,” said Lisa.  She is very much the big-hearted type of person and it was a pleasure meeting her at the last step of the day’s walk.

These were all lovely people whose paths I crossed today, and it alleviated the physical strain felt initially.

What really stuck in my mind were Dan’s questions. “What prompted you to do this walk? Does it have anything to do with the current political situation?  Isis and so forth?”

“Much to do with it,” I said, and went on to explain that the message from our scripture, the  Bhagavad-gita, is much about taking firm stands when gentleness is taken advantage of.

This is a big topic in and of itself.

May the Source be with you!

19 miles

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Deep River, Iowa

Walk More, Rush Less

Two papers in the local area, “The Journal Tribune” and “The Pioneer Republican,” carried the story with the above title, by Melinda Wichmann:

“We’re designed for walking but we’re not doing enough of it.”

That is the message Bhaktimarga Swami wants to share as he walks from New York, N.Y. to San Francisco, Calif.

“The Walking Monk,” as he is called, passed through Williamsburg, Tuesday morning, July 12, during his travels.  He left Iowa City before the sun rose that morning and walked along the IWV Road, arriving in Williamsburg about 10 a.m.

The purpose of his cross-country trek is two-fold: first, to encourage people to slow down the pace of their existence, to become more introspective, and to find their spirituality, and second, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hare Krishna movement.

Bhaktimarga is breaking his journey into three parts.  Last year, he walked from New York to Butler, Pa.  This year, he resumed walking in Butler and hopes to complete the middle portion of his journey in mid-Nebraska by August.  He plans to reach San Francisco next year.

Long-distance walking is nothing new.  Canadian-born, he has walked across his home country, four times, as well as  Ireland, Israel and a number of other foreign countries.  He averages about 20 miles a day, logging mostly morning hours to beat the summer heat.  He believes walking enables people to find their spirituality, slow down and become a little more introspective, rather than rushing through the day in a frantic hurry.  No one walks anywhere anymore, he said, they all drive. “We are consumed by the automobile and as a species, it is making us very hard and cold.”  Walking provides a way to connect with one another as well as oneself.

“This part of the country already has a slower pace of life,” he said, by comparison with larger cities and urban areas.  When he told friends he was going to walk across the United States, their reaction was a little skewed, based on American television shows.

“But everyone has a gun there,” his friends told him.

“Clearly, that is not true,” he said.

“The reception has been great,” he says, with the people he passes offering friendly waves or stopping to talk to him.

He is enjoying his trek across the heartland, especially the spacious fields and pastures.

“You have an opulence of space here,” he said.

For more information, visit

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Monday, July 18th, 2016
Williamsburg, Iowa

1100 Kilometres

We did 1100 kilometres of driving to make it back to the spot where we left off last week.  My walking mission is met with many interruptions; happy ones, of course.  It was a six-day leave of absence from the trail.

Now on our way, before entering the States and in particular the state of Michigan, my driver, for the next four days of companionship, is Rajasuya from Brampton, Canada. Also with us are Mandala, an assistant to replace Uttamanada.  They are in for a treat.  I wanted to bring them down memory lane.  Off the major 401 Highway, we veered onto the Tecumseh Parkway.  This was the road I roamed to go back and forth to elementary school;  a humble, red-brick school house that enrolled rural kids, accommodating eight grades, and with only one teacher.

That’s a miracle in itself!

When you see this structure, boarded-up, and closed down since the sixties, it’s remarkable it is still standing.  The size leads you to believe that this 25 x 30 ft. place could not possibly hold the group of us.  Eight grades in one room!  One teacher!  Imagine that!

We thrived in this type of environment.  The older kids looked after the younger ones.  We lined up outside for drinking water from the pump.  We had little or practically no facility for sports.  Somehow we were happy in this minimalistic life-style.  I won’t forget the wooden desks with holes for the ink jars.  You used pencils in the younger grades.  The use of ink was for the older kids.  Yes, the simplicity was the thing.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Sunday, July 17th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Some of What Happened

A couple flew in from Hawaii to attend the Chariot fest and I was given the honour to award them diksha (initiation) into the Vaishnava tradition.  Three couples also took second or brahminical initiation.  The new initiates are Guru das, an attorney, and his fantastic wife, Amala.

The ritual, which had quite the appeal for the public (as it was held outdoors on Centre Island), was colourful, and was positioned in front of the mystical temple under a marquis.

On the second day of the festival, like the first, I was scheduled to conduct an aerobics class to the sound of drum and mantra.  Held at the youth tent called the Bhakti Cloud, within no time, volunteers who wanted to loosen-up and shake-it-out filled the space.

For my own record, I thought to document  the one hour talk which I gave at the Govardhan Farm tent.  The topic was “Spiritual Ecology and the Age of Machinery.”  As you might imagine, I underscored the culture of “Hands On” and expressed the superiority of manually working with soil and animals, over the use of machines.

We certainly need to have a hard look at what is favourable for mankind and the environment.  The future is in our hands, especially when we plan and act in the present for an improved world which is based on the balance of the physical and the spiritual.

A last point to raise on the outcome of the fest, is that it was record-breaking for spiritual book sales, devotional items, and food.  Also, there were splendid presentations made on the stage.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Saturday July 16th 2016

Saturday July 16th 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Happy Faces

While last week's Montreal Chariot Fest was drenched with the pouring of cats and dogs (strange saying), the event in Toronto enjoyed perfect weather today. I cannot make any remarks relating to Karma in this regard.  Who's to say who deserves what, right?  Whatever comes to you that is seemingly bad does not always need to be met with an "it's my karma" attitude.  The wind blows as it may.  Accept it and adjust your sails. 

What's important is how you cope with or handle a challenge.  That is the real test of the devotee. 

But what of the event today on Yonge St. and Centre Island, in Toronto? 

I saw happy faces with loud singing, and bodies moving at a good clip, southbound on Yonge St. for a 4 to 5 kilometre stretch to the Waterfront.  Three 50 foot chariots were hand-pulled by ropes, and onlookers viewed with awe, this unique, exotic, and ancient Festival.  It is a re-enactment of a ride that Lord Krishna once took millennia ago, and it is enlivening to those who get involved, and even those who choose to just watch.

Procession is part one of the program.  A carnival of sorts is part two, held on Centre Island in Lake Ontario.  The procession covers 5 kilometres.  The return is the same, so I managed to double the distance while taking time to reflect on the day's joy of devotion.  This pensive time was at the darkening hour--dusk.  "Yes, joy comes from within," I thought, as I was noticing the party-goings-on, on the street that I walked. 

May the Source be with you!

12 km

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Friday, July 15th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Move and Not Move

The day constituted more of a sit-down than stand-up or walkabout one.

It was the normal 12 hour kirtan program preceding the next day's Chariot procession, which became a highlight for those of us living in the area and those who had come from far and wide.

As is usual, I had the Good Fortune to kick-start the chanting event by leading the chanting while all others responded. A half-hour time slot allows for little time to build a crescendo of sound and energy, which would inspire dancing.  We normally start slow and easy with the mantra and the support of mrdanga drum, harmonium, and kartals (hand symbols).

My body is habituated to a good walk each day, but today, at least in the morning, I was confined to the "lotus" sitting position.  It was only in the evening, when B.B. Govinda Swami took the lead, singing and gradually building up the tempo, that quite a number of us took to the flight of our feet and moved about in some devotional style of dance.

Yes it was sweet, this use of the voice and other body parts.  For me, I came to moving as if in a walk-dance, and so it fulfilled my passion for trekking and dancing. Indeed in my high school years at the dances, I used to show off a trifle with whatever skills I could conjure up.  If I was in my teens now, I'm not sure I could muster up and execute the dance steps of the contemporary approach. 

The event, the 12-hour kirtan was sublime.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Thursday July 14th, 2016

Thursday July 14th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Some Reflections

I got fairly busy--much to do with the weekend Fest, The Festival of Chariots, perhaps the largest in North America.  So little time for walking.  I did, however, compile some thoughts on the art:

#1) Walking through the countryside at normal speed allows you the time and space to absorb all that's around you.  It enhances appreciation for nature, people, and the Creator.

#2) Rain came down for hours and I was holding up the umbrella while trekking.  After some point, I gave up on the umbrella and just let the rain and wind do what they wanted. Instead of resisting, I chose to accept and free myself from those elements.  You can get to a point where you realize, "I'm not this body.  I'm actually a spirit--a spirit in motion."

#3) I enjoy walking and I enjoy the mantra meditation, but I will admit I'm not ecstatic about either at this point.  It's not a major stimulation or adrenaline rush, but I do see and feel the power they wield and how they wear away at the mind, which channels the ego.

#4) Regarding pain or fatigue: It's better to have a physical ache or pain with a peaceful mind, than have a pampered life style with an agitated mind.

#5) God created us with half of our body made of legs, so I believe in using them for Him.  I find there is no better or more personal way to meet people than with the low-tech, highly organic approach of using the legs.  The legs were made for walking, and the mouth for speaking about the absolute.  Perfect combination!

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

What the Gazette Said

In yesterday's "Iowa Gazette" under the "Faith and Values" section, we have an article.

"Canadian monk walks across U.S. to spread the message of simple living" by Madison Arnold:

On Monday morning, a driver called the police after spotting Bhaktimarga Swami, dressed in his traditional orange garments, as he walked along the highway.  The man thought the monk was an escaped convict.

And more than once, people, spotting him coming from a distance, mistake him at first for an orange traffic cone, Bhaktimarga said.

Bhaktimarga Swami, a monk from Ontario, Canada, is walking from New York City to San Francisco, mostly along the Lincoln Highway, in an effort to encourage people to embrace a lifestyle of "simple living and high thinking."  He stopped Monday in Iowa City.

"I'm trying to say, ‘You know, folks, let's slow-down a little bit.  Let's take a little time to connect with the world around us,’ the Swami said.  ‘My message is universal.  It's non-denominational and, it's trying to encourage people to realize their inner potential.’”

Walking out in the open is a very public way to deliver this message and as he believes cars are a sign of consumer culture, he wants to reject that mentality.   Swami said spiritual, long walks are a tradition dating back to the origins of Buddhism and beyond.  He also has completed walks across Ireland and Israel, and four across Canada.  His goal is to travel about 20 miles per day and he usually camps at night, unless a temple or resident offers him a place to stay indoors.  People generally interact with him, especially after they learn what he's doing, Bhaktimarga said.  The Swami said he expects to walk another month before taking a break and finishing the final leg of his walk next year.

May the Source be with you!

9 km

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Williamsburg, Iowa

The Rain Came

The rain came down quite enthusiastically, like bullets in speed, but not penetrating like bullets.  It was the contact with corn leaves on both sides of me that made a constant sound, at least for three hours.  At 3:45AM I could see hardly a thing and it took an hour and a quarter, from the point of my first footstep, before a vehicle of any sort passed by, it was quiet.

I decided upon wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt over my robes, that way when the rain subsided I would have dry clothes available.  Despite my civilian clothes, someone called the police.  The officer who responded came to see me.  By now, rain retreated.  Some wind also had picked up.

Rather apologetically, the officer who did receive a dispatch of message from yesterday’s police, said, Hi!  I got a call that someone’s walking!”

“It’s not a sin to walk!  I said, restraining some frustration while in my wet civies.

“I know.  People!!!” he said with arms outstretched.

The officer was really nice, like the police from the former county that I tread through yesterday.  I was startled to hear the remark from him when he said, “I don’t follow the news, it’s too depressing.”

I did take the liberty to express that driving is a sin, that 1.25 million die from auto accidents each year, and that the automobile causes major polluting effects, if not by gas emissions, then through creating heaps of trash.  We parted totally as comrades would.

I made it to Williamsburg (pop. 3200), met Melinda from the news.  Motorists and pedestrians saw a monk.  I changed then changed to dry, devotional attire.  All is well.

May the source be with you!

15 miles

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016
Iowa City, Iowa

Instant Everything

When I explained to the officer I met today, the purpose of my walking, which is to encourage “the slowing-down culture,” he was right on board.

“Yes, of course, people are so accustomed to instant everything.  I have to have this and that and I have to have it now,” he remarked.  He was implying that there’s little patience.

He was nice.

When I think about the consistent professions or vocations that I meet, it’s got to be cops and journalists.  They’re great people to have as part of your day.  Both professions help to “keep me on my toes,” so to speak.

To the journalist from the Gazette, Madison was her name, I told of the historical significance of this year, 2016, and what it means for followers of the Hare Krishna leader, Srila Prabhupada.  On July 13th, 1966, his unique community, ISKCON, became a legal entity.  It’s been 50 years.

“We are an ancient tradition with roots from India, but we are newly packaged, done in such a way that our lifestyle can be relevant to a western world as well.”  I did, in fact, let her know that I’m hoping to inspire a slower pace of life through walking.  I also mentioned to her what the police told me earlier on.

“Someone phoned in after seeing me in my exotic garb and figured out that I’m not necessarily from the prison, but perhaps someone who escaped from the local mental institution.”

May the Source be with you!

19 miles

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Sunday, July 10th, 2016
Minneapolis, Minnesota
What Hurts the Heart…
I was asked to deliver a message from the book Bhagavatam as a component to the morning sadhana (spiritual work-out).  Families came to listen from the First Canto of the book.  The verse had much to say about heart-cleansing.  Our hearts have blockages that are described as knots.  Then the purport to the verse, explained by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, addressed what the one major knot is.  In Sanskrit it is referred to as ahankara.  Ahankara means ego.

Most of us are aware of ego.  We all have it and we are all rather good at holding it in place.

In any event, the ego hurts the heart.  It is like some illness that you have.  You cannot understand the source of the malady, only the symptoms.

We had a beautiful discussion on this subject.  Then I got to thinking “That’s what I’m doing almost every day while walking and chanting.”   These two functions alone help towards eradicating ego.  Although I enjoy both activities, I will admit that they don’t necessarily offer adrenalin effects.  No rush.  I do, however, see and feel the power they wield, and how it’s all good for taming the mind through which the ego channels itself.

This is one of those unfortunate days where I did not walk, but some funds were raised over the last two days, for promoting our walking (and chanting) cause.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles