Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
Washington/Toronto

Getting Guidance

I had delivered a class based on a verse from the book, the Bhagavatam, 11:7:38, at the temple in Potomac.  The entire chapter seven is very instructive as it expounds upon the concept of guru—the concept of giving guidance.  It is in this text that Sri Krishna shares the example of how a sadhu learned about life from gurus known as the mountain and the tree.  I will simply copy the purport to the verse.

“Great mountains bear unlimited quantities of earth, which in turn gives sustenance to innumerable forms of life such as trees, grass, birds, animals, and so on. Mountains also pour forth unlimited quantities of crystalline water in the form of waterfalls and rivers, and this water gives life to all. By studying the example of mountains, one should learn the art of providing for the happiness of all living entities. Similarly, one may take excellent lessons from the pious trees, who offer innumerable benefits, such as fruits, flowers, cooling shade and medicinal extracts. Even when a tree is suddenly cut down and dragged away, the tree does not protest but continues to give service to others in the form of firewood. Thus, one should become the disciple of such magnanimous trees and learn from them the qualities of saintly conduct.”

Here Sri Krishna tells of two gurus, or teachers, that we find in nature.  It is through the words of the sadhu that we discover, in addition to the mountain and the tree, there are other elements which become instructors, totalling twenty-four.  This is an incredible, educational offer to all of humanity and that’s why the book, Bhagavatam, is such a gem.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

  

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Washington, D.C.

The Guy on the Parkway

Bharat, a lively member from the Potomac Vaishnav community, drove a group of us to the Gala event at the Capital Hilton, when the passengers asked about some of my walking experiences.  So I obliged.

Nearing the end of one of the selected adventures, I said something for them to think about.“When one walks, you are more inclined to be God-centered.  That holds true more-so than for those in a car.  An automobile can make you cold and callous, like the machine itself.”

Just as I made the statement, we noted a fellow, likely homeless, walking along the parkway we were on.  I rolled down the window and got the fellow’s attention. “Hey, you’re a hero for walking.”

His response was, “I’m walking after just having a triple bypass.”  With that, he pulled down his T shirt, as much as it would go from the neck, to reveal the medical marks.

“We think it’s great you’re on foot,” I reiterated.

“The good Lord is allowing me to do it,” he shouted back, in appreciation for the divine benefit he’s received.

In any event, I made the point about the connection between walking and spirituality, and right on cue, an affirmation came about.  The passengers and Bharat were questioning, “How could this be so?”  Something was magical in all of this.

The event at the Hilton was a milestone.  To commemorate ISKCON’s fifty years is remarkable.  Many speakers, including Congresswoman Tulasi Gabbard, honoured the achievements of ISKCON’s noble work.  She even picked up a ukelele and led all folks present in the chanting of Hare Krishna.

May the Source be with you!

0 km



Monday, September 12th, 2016

Monday, September 12th, 2016
Toronto/Washington

Walking Monk Goes to Washington

I would like to use the phrase “hop, skip and a jump” with regard to my journey today, but that’s not how it works for aircraft travel.  The flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto was brief. It wasn’t choppy, as the phrase suggests, nor was the one to Washington D.C.  The journeys were short and sweet, or more truthfully, sweet, because they were short.

I arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to be picked up by a Nepalese devotee, Chaitanya Nitai by name.  It is an enviable airport in that a gorgeous trail leads you directly into it.  It runs along the Potomac River and then under a canopy of a thousand trees.  This trail accommodates walkers and cyclists who can then come right up to the airport entrance.  I thought you could only do that in Thunder Bay.

I feel indeed honoured to reach the U.S. capital city to participate in ISKCON’s Historic 50th Anniversary, for it was fifty years ago that America started to acknowledge the work which was being done by Srila Prabhupada.  From 1966, when papers were signed and registered in New York City, to the early winter of ’77, a span of a mere eleven years, he established a worldwide adjustment in consciousness.  His aim was to approach life with a lighter tone, to experience bhakti, the essence of human sentiment.

Not all the world, at this point, has recognized his great worth.  The event tomorrow, held at the Capital Hilton, is a gesture to give credit where it is due.

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Sunday, September 11th, 2016
Thunder Bay, Ontario

By the Side of the Road

By the side of the road, there was this substantial piece of a body of a deceased raccoon.  Let’s say he was one third there.  Millions of maggots were stirring about, chewing whatever they could as part of nature’s recycling department.  One day later, Nick and I, witnesses to the feast, saw what was left.  But for a few bones, practically the whole thing had vanished over a period of twenty-four hours.  It was just astounding what we observed in terms of the clean-up.  Hardly any fur was left.  We were in south central Ontario near Hastings.

Today, Prem and I ventured onto the body of the Sleeping Giant.  No, it is not a carcass.  It’s actually a beautiful provincial park, situated in this northern region off of Lake Superior.  I always wanted to mosey on over and explore the old boy, who, according to myth, was an old chief who went to slumber after hearing a prophecy that the White Man was coming.

This park, which has the formation of a peninsula, resembles a large reclining person (reminding me of the horizontal Vishnu lying in water) and features many walking trails.  People take full advantage of them.  You have many choices.

Prem and I decided to take the trail to the Sea Lion rock formation.  Said to be shaped over a billion years ago, you can currently witness what’s left of it.  We were a bit disappointed to see the head clipped off due to erosion; due to time actually.  Once, it had the semblance of a lion resting on his haunches.

That then is the work of the all-powerful we call time.  It wears away everything, even our own bodies, precious as they are.  The Gita reminds us that God is time.

May the Source be with you!

14 km

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Saturday, September 10th, 2016
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Doing Things Right

I arrived at the Thunder Bay Airport only to have to wait.  A call came on my phone.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” said Prem.

He arrived and we drove to Lake Boulevard.

There, I met young new students, twenty-five or so, fresh from India.  It was their first time in Canada and their first week to start a new phase in their lives.  And, it was their first time meeting a white swami.

Prem has a way of doing things well.  He and his wife, Sneha, take these young enthusiasts and make them feel at home.  They are oriented to the beauty of nature around, then a walk by the lake, a picnic, an introduction to the quaint temple on Victoria Ave—which has attached to it, a shop for Indian goods—food and clothes.  Samosas, of course, are a regular feature.

Overall, the most important way of making the students—who are all bright and really value their education—feel comfortable,  is by helping them realize they have each other’s friendship, as well as the mentorship of Prem and his wife.  The students are made to feel right at home while they get totally accustomed to Canada and their school.

Well, the walk around the lake was great.  They got to understand what a Frisbee course was, and in  the end, after our picnic, they went on to playing cricket.

The last two evening hours were spent with Prem, in his home, viewing the results of his work, and the students watching last year’s Festival of Colours.  The displays and the stage show were phenomenal.  He and his team do a lot of things right.  They especially excel in newcomer care.

May the Source be with you!

5 km



Friday, September 9th, 2016

Friday, September 9th, 2016
Hastings, Ontario

Exercise: The Drug That Does it All

It is an eight kilometre trek for Nick and I.  Brihat leapfrogs us with the van, but does some walking, too.  That gets us from the centre of Hastings, at the guest-house where we are staying, to Govardhan Farms on Friendly Acres Road.  It’s a pleasant walk with little traffic.  We relish the countryside sights, sounds and smells.

Eight kilometres is great for a morning workout.  We also get a good portion of our allotted soft-volume chanting done.  And when we arrive at the eco-friendly farm, we put ourselves to work, harvesting tomatoes, squash, beans and okra.  It’s the bending over and squatting that works extra muscles.

I’m compelled to quote from this month’s “Time” magazine in regard to—in particularwalking and yoga.

For strength, yoga is beneficial.

“Lift your own body weight and flow through intense poses, and yoga will give you strength with a side of mindfulness and stress relief.”

For cardio, walking excels.

“With the lowest quit rate of any type of exercise, walking improves memory, well-being, heart health and even creativity.”

In the article, McMaster University’s Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky concludes his research with “The most effective therapy available to my patients right now is exercise.”

It’s not surprising that more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over the age of six are entirely inactive.

For the sake of longevity, optimism and service to others, let’s do the workout needed.

May the Source be with you!

8 km



Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Hastings, Ontario

Skye Has No Limit

Our landlady at The Doors Guesthouse is quite awesome.  She surprises us with her gifts, remarks and hospitality.  For instance, knowing I’m a traveler with a spot of patriotism in me, she offered as a present, the perfect book to savour—a hard-bound Canadian Book of the Road.

I’m reading, or at least pursuing it, Skye. Skye Morrison is her name.

Today, she brought over a mini wooden, toy sculpture of “Krishna and the Gopis Vastra Haran,” that is Krishna’s teasing the young maidens during their river-bath hour.  It’s surely a conversation piece.  Skye insists we bring this objet d’art from her home to the Hastings Civic Centre on Sept. 20th where I’ll be speaking on “Tales from Trails.”

Her remarks, well, they are light-hearted.  The bag of Indian snacks we have, she calls “snakes” because that’s the way they pronounce it in India, where she spends five months of every year.  The local “Hysterical Society is what she calls the Historical  Society, and being a member herself, I guess she has the right to speak endearingly about the people there whom she loves.

The quarters she provides for us to occupy are homey, and old (for Canada)—a 160 year old structure of charm.  The ceiling is red and the walls are yellow, which reminds me of Van Gogh’s room, which he painted, naturally.

Hastings is a quiet town where people can retire or raise a family in a relatively safe place.  I’m getting to meet residents, one by one, after a few hours of chores at the farm.

Simple living, high thinking!

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
Hastings, Ontario

Red

If I were to colour the day, it would be red.  Red is what I see, and I shared it with one of the boys, Brihat.

As part of our chores for these last two days, we’ve taken to Fil’s expansive garden and harvested the darling—big, firmly ballooned chunks of circular happiness—tomatoes.  Minus pesticides, these tomatoes are not on the food list of the dirty dozen, and are screaming with redness for attention.

Harvest—we did.  Cleaning, cutting, cooking and canning—we did.  We even rationed some of the day’s sauce we had cooked to flavour the pasta we ate.

Mama Mia!

This month, September, is the best month for tomatoes around here.  The red comes through those green vines.  Red also is the colour slowly creeping up from within the trees.  It is the chlorophyll which supplies the leaves of the tree with a green colour.  The autumn hues, slowly surfacing, are from the lack of chlorophyll.  We are left with bright oranges, yellows, burgundies and reds all making a pronounced presence by the end of September.

There is also an avatar by the name of Yajna and He has the complexion of red.  Red is wanted, craved for, especially when the snow white sets in for months at a time.  Only the red dogwood stands out as a rival to the snow.  They actually complement each other, in my opinion. 

Here I go, sounding like a horticulturalist or a botanist.  I’m really just seeing the colour red in nature.  I haven’t dreamt in red, not even of tomatoes, but during the course of these few days, we are consuming a lot.

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016
Hastings, Ontario

The Force Behind

My primary school teacher used to say “kids” refers to baby goats, so I’ll refrain from the use of the word.  Children are back to school and in many cases, adults are back to work after the summer holidays.

There is a change of sorts in the atmosphere.  Nights are slightly cooler—a relief—but days continue to offer a warmth Canadians don’t mind. 

Our program, like dharma, doesn’t change.  We’re up early.  That’s what all of us should do.  Then we take to a trail (the Trans Canada Trail in this case) and head for the farm for some sadhana (spiritual workout) and then something physical.

A sign on the trail reads “Watch for…” and below it are images of a frog, a turtle and a snake.  When on foot, there’s no real problem.  On bicycle, then it’s another issue due to speed.

This imagery brings to mind the verse from the Gita: 5:18, where Krishna lists categories of creatures—certain mammals and certain humans, namely the cow, elephant, dog, brahman and a dog-eating man.  The message is that all are one, being spiritually equal.

The sign before us may also reflect that all creatures are important.  All have life force so let’s take care.  Let’s share this vision.

While walking to the farm on this trail, I noticed a perished bat.  He was not on the list but is nonetheless an entity with a progressive force; a force that moved on to another body.

Whenever I see something alive, or something lying deceased, it stirs reflection.

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Monday, September 5th, 2016
Montreal, Quebec

Memory Walk

Major walking today constituted more of a slower sway while moving forward.  I wasn’t alone.  I was on a schedule to conduct a chanting party with all who could attend, in order that, as we say in Krishna parlance, “We get the mercy.”

A group of about forty of us converged at the Bay Shopping Centre to move along to Place Des Arts, and then finally to 420 Prince Arthur Street, the actual address where our guru, Srila Prabhupada, stayed for some weeks to train-up some of his students in the art of bhajan, before they set off to the U.K. to bring  the mission there.

In ’68, he came to Canada to address the extension of his visa, and while here not only engaged in teaching the songs we now know, but also taught the art of archana seva, honouring the deities of Radha-Krishna.  With a small set of brass deities, a kind donation from a New Yorker, Srila Prabhupada demonstrated the art of worship.  These small, charming deities that go by the name “Radha-Krishna” made their way to the Toronto ISKCON  shrine on Avenue Road, where they have now been looked after for close to half a century.

Once we arrived in Place Des Arts, that open space friendly to pedestrians, we formed a circle for dancing.  A second circle was formed by tourist spectators.

What can I say?  Everyone had a jolly good time, including Gurudas, who was with our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, during that time so many years ago.

We had stepped into the past and become very present enjoying each other’s company.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Sunday, September 4th, 2016
Montreal, Quebec

Long Day

We’ve all been on some sort of marathon, while having a party at the same time.  Krishna devotees have come to partake in an extension of the “Joy of Devotion” retreat.  Held on the premises of ISKCON  Montreal, you meet people from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec of course, and even the Big Apple, New York.

The retreat is about hearing and chanting and special guests—Gurudas, Malati, Suresvar and Srutirupa–—all telling their personal memories of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  Gordon is one newcomer to bhakti-yoga and his marathon is the pots.  It’s a lot of cleaning, and he appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

So starting from 4:30 am, for chanting, until 8:30 pm, many people have been going strong with only minor breaks in between.  It goes without saying that a big veggie prasadam feast marks the festive day’s end.

As most readers of this blog know, I’m habituated to a genuine wind-down at the end of the day.  With a small contingent, we walked and chanted, soaked our feet in a municipal fountain, and secured a final refreshment, an aloe vera drink, before retiring for the night.

Upon reflection on these festive hours, what personally struck us as prominent, were the explosive kirtans of the early evening, and a slide presentation, by Malati, to do with the involvement of our guru’s female students in his service to Krishna.  He was definitely inclusive when it came to their participation, sharing in all the activities of their spiritual brothers, including sitting and teaching from the Vedic texts.  It is important that we see beyond gender and recognize qualification.

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016
Montreal, Quebec

Full Circle

After a grand day at Complex Desjardins for a second consecutive day, and after happily hearing Patrick Bernard sing and play out the maha-mantra from the stage, I decided on my usual form of wind-down.  I would walk back to the ashram on Pie IX Blvd.

That meant, once I left the main entrance of the mall, I turned right on Rue Sainte-Catherine O.  It also meant meeting the three modes of nature—goodness, passion and ignorance, and not necessarily in that order.  I now left what seemed like the spiritual world.

Let’s say, that from that entrance, in a relatively central core of the city, a large volume of passion (rajas is the Sanskrit term) can hit you in the face.  There’s traffic and people bustling. Not but a few blocks from there continuing westbound, where streets are pedestrian-free, at the Gay Village, there is another brand of passion.  And so Brhat, who comes here with chanting parties quite regularly, said of the area, “The people respond here very well.”  Considering that it’s night now, that also stokes up the rajas power a bit more.  Folks dress-up here in a rather non monk-like way.

Finally, I come to more quiet quarters.  Montreal is known for its many magnificent churches, and you do pass the occasional one.  Ahhh!  Here I have a feeling of meekness as I view their towering stature.  I also realize much devotion has been rendered in such territory.  I’ve touched goodness (sattva).

Further on, and the neighbourhood opens up to an ignorance element (tamas).  Prostitutes stand at corners until clients appear.  Drugs, alcohol and depression join hands together.  This is apparent in general in speaking about this neighbourhood.  I wish I could do something.

After a sojourn, I turn a corner at Pie IX and land myself in transcendence.  Yes, here is the ashram and the temple.

May the Source be with you!

6 km