Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Rosedale, Toronto

 

Men Aren’t All Bad

 

I heard a car door slam and there she was, a woman, probably in her seventies, carrying a box of goods from her car to the front door of her Rosedale house. She was struggling a bit and my male instinct to help her carry that box to the house flared up. However, second instinct said, “No!” There is hysteria hyped up regarding strangers and thoughts of mistrust, as well as news reports of people taking advantage of others. So I let it be and decided to say nothing. I did speak about it with Victor, a young man who is in his late twenties, while he was walking with me.

 

“I was thinking to help that woman, who appeared a bit feeble,” I said as we passed her by on foot, midway to our destination on our walk. Victor resonated.

 

“I was having the same thought, but the response you’ll get is ‘what do you want from me?’ And so you can’t do anything.” He responded.

 

“You’re right! Culture has developed to a level where acts of courtesy are discouraged.” My next thought was, well, I can understand the lady rejecting my offer. I’m in saffron robes. I’m out of place. Whereas Victor is dressed smartly, all in black, is good-looking yet short enough to not come off as imposing.

 

The stigma exists—a stigma often tagged onto men. At times you feel like you can’t be yourself. Happiness comes from assisting, lending a helping hand.

 

When Victor and I completed our walk, and stopped at the steps of the temple/ashram where I live, I saw one of our senior women strain herself to get out of her car across the street. “Do you mind?” I asked Victor, and he immediately understood. “That’s one of our seniors.” I told him. He ran over, gently grabbed her arm and helped her across the street. She felt loved. He felt great. So did I.

 

May the Source be with you!

4 km



 

 

Monday, September 14, 2020

St. Jamestown, Toronto

 

Went for the Blood

 

I went for a blood test in a downtown lab. Great walk! I paced through the neighborhood frequented by the famous impressionist artists, the Group of Seven, to make it to the lab. There I met an amiable woman, an Afro-Canadian.

 

“My name is Aretha,” she said.

 

“Oh! As in Franklin?” I thought, Of course, she was named after her.

 

“After the vocalist, yes.” She said.

 

“That gal was the best. She had an incredible voice.”

 

This Aretha made a remark about my attire, the colour, and how she especially appreciated it.

 

“How long have you been a monk?”

 

“I started at the age of twenty. No regrets!” I told her, of my forty-seven year commitment.

 

“Well, you appear and sound peaceful!”

 

“At times. This is one of them.” And as I said that the needle for blood extraction did penetrate as I clenched my fist. I told her of my walking service. “I took to the road in Canada, the US and other places to encourage a healing of sorts.”

 

Aretha was quick to mention, “We could use some healing with the way the world is going.”

 

“Most definitely! But you know, the world always has this chaotic dynamic. My parents told of the Second World War and the depression. It was tough! Always will be; therefore, it should compel us to tap into our spiritual side.”

 

Aretha was so much in tune. I hope to meet her again for another installment of upbeat chatting.

 

May the source be with you!

4 km



 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Harrison Park, Toronto

 

Jay to Be Found

 

It is definitely a pretty part of the province, near the quiet city of Owen Sound, where several waterfalls embellish the natural beauty of the place. Nanda, Aisvarya and I took a stroll at Harrison Park, on a trail leading to the awesome, cascading Inglis Falls. Our trek was short (and more walking awaited us along Georgian Bay) but sweet, it was near escarpment cliffs and under the canopies of still-green trees. A breeze picked up and sent down residual raindrops from those trees. It took us by surprise—the sudden drops hitting us.

 

Our intent in visiting this area was to see the Hannas, a clan of four generations that have clung to bhakti (devotion to Krishna) over the years. We were blessed with their ecstatic kids moving as if “Jumping Jack Flashes.” I don’t want to say that because the phrase has drug induced connotations, however, what I do mean is jumping jolly young ones who are enjoying the upbeat music and song. This is what we always do when we come here: socialize, feast, walk, dance and sing—a perfect formula for contentedness.

 

I also spoke about the joy of the soul, in a Zoom call, to some devotees in New Jersey. The actual topic was titled “How to Make Spiritual Advancement and Have a Blast at the Same Time.” My call was broadcast from the home of Taruna and Seema, in Brampton. Good topics! I was given this topic minutes before I pressed the link for the call and I referenced Chapter Nine Verse Two from The Gita. Check it out. “Su-sukam” in Sanskrit means joyful expression.

 

May the Source be with you!

4 km



 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Oakville, Ontario

 

Gathering Good

 

My feet didn’t go far today but, on a set of wheels, I did venture to Oakville. We were going to have our first ISKCON Oakville gathering but due to the number of Covid-19 victims rising, that was canceled. It was regrettable, however, Kasyapa and Panchami saved the day. This couple, who have successfully run a centre in Saskatoon for eight years, are back in the Greater Toronto Area, and they opened up their home for a smaller group event.

 

I asked them if I could bring Cameron, Chris, Nick and Christopher to their home, because each and every one of these guys are quite sincere about their spirituality. Each one of them are serious about their japa chanting. That makes them special.

 

We sat down—one Indian family, a Mauritian family and then the four younger Caucasian guys—and listened or followed the verses from chapter eleven of the Gita. This chapter clearly stands out with its visually sensational display of magnificence. I correct myself though. Because we were a diverse group, we’re good. Nick is Guyanese. He treated us with his ukulele playing, along with the maha-mantra chanting.

 

Kasyapa and Panchami’s daughter is great with colour and paint. She gave me a gift of a Krishna image. She has a knack as an artist, with a unique style. Thank you, Radhika. And thanks, all, for a lovely evening.

 

May the Source be with you!

0 km



 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020

St Jamestown, Toronto

 

Greater Beauty

 

Some of us will never forget this date—September eleventh—a sad day in human history. On a positive note, it is also the date that marks the birthday of a dear follower of Krishna. His name is Keshava and I remember this day of his, not because he is a terrorist, by any stretch. He is a kind-hearted Malaysian Canadian. I wish him well. Very well!

 

I walked to Saint Jamestown, to a clinic, to intimate a medical check-up for next week. A queue of people were standing in the hall, waiting for the green light to welcome them in. I came to the back of the line, which wasn’t so long. A client walked in after me, with a sample for the clinic woman at the door. “I brought my pee!” She proclaimed, as she held it in the air. After all this is the place where you give some consideration to your physical make up.

 

Our guru tells the story of “Liquid Beauty” in the magazine, “Back to Godhead,” which he first published in 1944. Here it is, in short:

 

A young prince set his eyes on a beautiful woman. Spontaneously he wanted to arrange to meet her and, perhaps, win her hand in marriage. The young woman, knowing his intention, agreed to meet one month later. She had a plan to help open his eyes. So, for that time, before the prince came to take her to the ballroom, she took laxatives and collected the by-product, excrement and all, in containers. When the prince arrive to meet his date he was horrified to see an ugly, emaciated woman. He asked, “What happened to your beauty?” So she brought him the containers to see. Her point: beauty is only skin deep. There is a greater beauty that lies within.

 

May the Source be with you!

4 km


 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Rosedale, Toronto

 

Juice At the End

 

Sanjit decided to come over for our nightly stairwell kirtan and then a walk. The walk was left to me and him. The kirtan party dispersed while he and I honoured an hour of the night. Days are becoming shorter. You don’t hear birds. The crickets have taken over and I must admit I cannot favour one group over the other, as far as sound goes. They are equal in giving comfort, however, the birds offer more aesthetic pleasure. Those ground crickets look too much like black cockroaches. But I love them. Sanjit, too, was remarking how sweet their sound is.

 

My prayer for the evening came out of the calmness of the night, and relates to the consistency of the crickets chirping. “My Dear Lord Krishna, please endow me with the steady enthusiasm to serve.”

 

I’ve been serving as a monk, first as a novice for 11 years, then 36 years as a full-fledged monk—a sanyasi. Many people take to the spiritual life and excel for the first 3 or 4 years, then continue but with some weaning of eagerness.

 

I hope to stay in the fire of love for service, to the Divine and His world. I would not trade anything in existence for my lifestyle. Fortune, or luck, has reached out and held on.

 

When Sanjit and I parted I prepared for rest and reached out for my usual evening beverage—water, lemon, jaggery, ginger and pepper. I might just as well call it con-covid juice. I drank from a mug — a mug bearing a vintage picture of my family from 1954. Even as a monk it’s good to keep some ties with family.

 

May the Source be with you!

3 km


 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Toronto, Ontario

 

About Yourself: Get Gutsy

 

A brahman (priest) had just finished dealing with the call of nature, and took a quick look at what had come out of his system, remarking, “You are so disgusting!” His output responded back saying, “I was a sweet ladhoo until I entered your company for a few hours.”

 

That was, perhaps, a lesson in gross humility.

 

I was chatting today with the foreman overseeing the renovations going on in our ashram. He was speaking about the sewage pipeline in our building. “This building, which is well over 100 years old, has its pipes very deep in the ground. We have had to dig real deep to get to the bottom of it in order to have washroom facilities for a guestroom.”

 

Acharya, one of our Ukrainian devotees, is the foreman, and he deals with practical matters such as this. “Dig deep!” He said, in relation to the reno’s. This concept of going deep needs to be applied to our spiritual self. We have to be gutsy in order to progress in all projects, whether physical or anti-physical.

 

Today was such a good day, from the introspective side, and also on pragmatic levels. Steps were thought out and taken to aim at solutions. It wasn’t just a day for putting out fires.

 

At the same time I was hearing that there’s a surge of Covid victims in Ontario again and there’s a concern about the children going back to school. How to honour social distancing for these young ones?

 

May the Source be with you!

2 km


 

Friday, 11 September 2020

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Thunder Bay/ Toronto

 

Last Little Touch

 

A last little touch of the boreal forest marked the end of my stay in Thunder Bay. The Beaver Meadows Trail takes one through a sweet boreal forest, a forest that occupies so much of Canada, holding a treasure of a huge collection of freshwater. Check out maps of this extraordinary spread of trees, ancient rocks and lakes. People speak of rainforests, such as the Amazon but, as I understand, the boreal bush impacts the globe in a similar, environmental way.

 

If you are a walker you have to love nature. Even if one begins routine outdoor walks with some apprehension, the atmosphere grows on you, eventually.

 

After landing at the Toronto airport I had a chance for a short touchdown in our neighborhood park, Ramsden Park. It’s considerably warmer in the southern part of the province. It was 3°C in Thunder Bay in the morning. Upon landing, after a two hour flight, we were greeted by a warm 17°C. Quite a difference.

 

I was struck by seeing the lineups at the tennis courts. Basketball courts were also occupied. Before long the hockey rink will be filled up with ice. I can hear the skates hissing along already. It’s actually a kind of grind sound created by the blades of the skates biting into the ice. I can also hear the hockey puck slamming against the rink’s wall.

 

We do have a fall season yet to relish. It is colours, smells and no mosquitoes that I look forward to. There’ll be two months of such glory.

 

While the park is busy with sports abound, it would be nice to see a tad more of spiritual practices taking place. It is somewhat rare.

 

May the Source be with you!

1 km (In Toronto)


 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Thunder Bay, Ontario

 

By the Falls and Friends

 

It has been relaxing here for me, and also for Ananda, who came from Regina. Both of us are getting some walking in—a piece of trail here or there. A treat was to get to Kakabeka Falls, which translates as “steep cliffs.” That they are. It’s always inspiring to be at this location, where I marvel at the cascading Kaministiquia River.

 

A twenty-five minute walking trail is connected to the falls, as an added feature. A sweet smelling boreal forest cuts the high winds of the day and makes you appreciate trees evermore.

 

A second crack at walking was at Fort William’s International Friendship Garden, where communities who came as immigrants all settled in the area and contributed some icon to represent their country. There is Slovenia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, China, India, Netherlands and so many more. The area welcomed people here from around the world, who then worked hard to establish themselves. It puts me to shame. My meager walking today is so little compared to what people have done to ground themselves into their new home at Lake Superior.

 

There’s always interactions with people. Two young girls, with their granddad, wanted to know about the orange colour, about the monastic lifestyle, etc. Ananda, Prem and I pitched-in to explain and clarify the foundation of a spiritual life. They were young, just ready to prepare for going to a French-immersion school two days from now. I hope they learn their French and also about rivers, waterfalls, trees and trails.

 

May the Source be with you!

4 km