Friday, 27 November 2015

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015
Montreal, Quebec

Mandala and I were driven by the Megabus to Montreal through the night.  Bus transportation isn’t the best mode of travel.  There’s only one way of moving that I like.  Guess what it is? 

We took a chunk out of the day to appease the legs.  We headed for the Botanical Gardens off of Pie IX Blvd. - always a pleasant place.  To reach the gardens from our temple, one passes through the landmark area of the Olympic Stadium.  The stadium resembles a space ship and reminds me of other places in the atmosphere where we might venture.  It has a futuristic look. 

While walking, I was contemplating the incredible vimana (a magnificent aircraft the size of a city, invisible at times) described in the book, Srimad Bhagavatam.  Shalva was the name of the captain of that aircraft and he had a rather selfish disposition. 

When you delve into other worlds and various means of transport, you do at least become mentally transported. 

I hope that I was able to take my listeners, while I was giving class, to some outer limits.  I was asked to speak from 18.66 of the Bhagavad Gita on the topic of surrender.  It is generally understood that when you alter your consciousness to a higher level of being, then you have the freedom to travel to other spheres beyond the earthly plane.  Once going to the optimum place, known as Vaikuntha, you never wish to return to this world of struggle, of birth and death. 

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Mississauga, Ontario

I Am Not…
It was the second day consecutively where either my driver or my host was talking about what was on their mind.  In general, that’s what people do.  The subject of one's talk is one’s projected thoughts.

The talk was wrapped up in one subject – violence.  The hashtag words would be ‘Syria’, ‘Paris’, ‘Terrorists’, ‘ISIS’, ‘War’, ‘Refugees’.  People seem to be expressing their opinions about what to do about ugly doings which are hiding behind religion.  It is madness that seems to be under the microscope as of late.  How much of it can we take?  Also, how generous should one be, specifically for nations, considering how many refugees to receive in the wake of people being displaced and who live in fear? 

I attended devotional programs at the homes of these two individuals.  The above topics did not enter into the joyous atmosphere of our gatherings.  It was before and after that the socio-political concerns surfaced.

In general, problems always arise from the bodily conception.  The conceptions that ‘I am this body’ and ‘Anything connected to this body is mine’, are false notions.  They lead to false controlism, false territorialism, and false identity. 

The Vedas teach that, “I am not this body.  I am not Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Male, Female, Black, White, etc.  I am a spirit, free from all bodily designations.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Brampton, Ontario

Going For A Cleaning
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair while the assistant was working at cleaning my teeth.  At one point, I began to slightly fade, a moment of fatigue hit me and the assistant could feel my teeth closing in on her fingers. 

“Sleepy?” she asked.

“Yes, a bit.” 

I had little time to say much more as she had to press on with her work but when I saw the opportunity I asked her, “Does it happen to many clients or am I the only one?”

“Yes, it happens enough, especially at this time of day.”  It was 3 PM

It was a consolation hearing that.  I lingered in that thought, reasoning that if I’m a trite tired it’s because I’m working hard for our mission in sharing higher consciousness with others. 

The assistant did a nice job.  I was complimented for keeping my teeth maintained well, although in the past my brushing was too aggressive.  I take pride in the preservation of my teeth.  I believe it is maya, illusion, to neglect the body God has given us to use as a tool in service to others. 

I asked the assistant, “Your name?”


“As in Loren?”

“I wish,” she said and with a great smile. 

From the dental clinic, Mandala, who was waiting for me, and I walked to the home of a Krishna devotee.  We took the scenic route and captured the willow trees, golden leafed and set against a bold blue sky, on our iPhone camera.  It was such a clean look.  And that’s how we have to be – clean in consciousness before leaving this world. 

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Cutting Down
It was a beautiful array of food on the spread of our host’s table - pasta, paneer in sauce, subji, chickpeas in salad.  Chopped up jackfruit and pineapple were also featured.  I should also mention that there was homemade misty dahi, a dessert and another sweet Bengali dish called chumchum.  Chumchum for the tum tum.  Our host, Subal, had intended to kill us with cuisine kindness.  He succeeded.

It was a good thing that our small group from the ashram came walking to the home of Subal.  The 4 km walk was well worth the investment.  It stoked up our digestive powers and after the meal and gathering, we did the same thing home, keeping the fires within going. 

At the home of Subal, we read about Krishna, His pastimes and glories.  We serenaded about Krishna in His aspect as Damodara.  Then we ate.  Ah, it was good. 

When looking at the phenomenal spread of eatables, our eyes were delighted.  Our tongues became active but the stomach stopped cheering at a certain point.  As a monk, I must watch and monitor the intake.  As of late, I’ve been doing better at controlling the eating organs.  I still have a ways to go. 

Many, and I say MANY maladies pester humans due to consuming food in overdrive.  This holds true also for bhakti yogis, who sometimes get carried away with an overload consumption of prasadam (sanctified food).  You can never deceive yourself by saying that, because it is prasadam, therefore, you are protected regardless of quantity.  That type of reasoning may apply when trying to wean off of drugs.  Going from drugs to prasadam is a good transition. 

Now, let’s say that you do not fall into that category but you just want to reduce.  Let’s try this.  Whenever you look at a great display of food and your eyes tell you there’s a certain quantity you could handle it’s a good idea to reason with yourself at that point and say, “I’ll take half of that.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

The Mayor and More
I met Paras, age 30, after a long time.  I engaged him in some of my dramas in the past.  He’s on the verge of opening his own restaurant. 

“I’m vegetarian but I’ve got to serve some of the other stuff,” he said, almost apologetically.  I told him that I understand and that it will take time for the world to get off of eating animal body parts. 

This evening we attended an event.  The venue was Toronto City Hall and the occasion was "A Diwali Remembrance".   There we met mayor John Tory.  He remembers us (Keshava, Gayatri, and I) from the summer’s Ratha Yatra festival.  It was great to hear him say, “Hare Krishna” and also congratulate me on the walking. 

Speaking of walking, I decided to go home from that venue on foot via Yonge Street, always the more interesting route compared to blasé Bloor Street.  
There I met a fellow who was curious. 

“You’re a monk?” he asked. 

“Yes!  A Hare Krishna monk!”

“A hug?” he asked.

“Sure!”  And so we embraced. 

Then I met a man whom I had seen in Cuba.  As usual, he was puffing away on a cigar.  He reminds me of a cross between George Burns and a chimney.  He always seems to sport a good smile. 

“Hey, when are you going back to Cuba?” he asked. 

“The end of this month.” 

“Bring me back some cigars!”

“No, it’s no good for you.  It turns your lungs into something ugly.”

“I’ve got a lot more ugly things going on with my life than a set of bad lungs.”

With that we both laughed.  I kept walking, half amused and half empathetic. 

May the Source be with you!

8 km

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Return of the Demon

I encountered another insomnia attack last night. Let's see how the patterns goes. I thought that forty-five days of good hard work on the feet, walking, and regulation could cure sleeplessness. Lo and behold, soon after returning to home-base the old pattern seemed to return, hauntingly. What to do? I’ve tried everything under the sun to deal with the issue but I’m dealing with a stubborn ox. What can I, as a bhakti yogi, learn from stubbornness? I had to think about it.

Well, I will be very obstinate towards “Maya”, worldly temptations. I will say “NO!” to Maya’s beckoning and deny any offers from that department of illusion. I will try to see staunchness and stubbornness to be like a set of twins, good neighbours at least, who live on the same block together. Patience will also be a part of the same community.

Perhaps I’ll take up juggling and toss these three pins in the air, like balancing time, place, and circumstance together. It seems like a formula for easier living, beginning with the creature called stubbornness. I’m glad to meet with a challenge although initially it was uncomfortable when I saw insomnia coming on.

I’m learning from this, that whatever rears its ugly head is an act of God. In this way I am beginning to see divinity manifest all around.

I did manage to pace a bit during the time of apparent despair. The balcony of our ashram provided a good space as I addressed the little demon (Oops! Excuse me!) my little friend called Insomnia.

May the Source be with you!

3 km

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Monday, November 16th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Whim and Purpose

I went westwardly twice today, first by way of Bloor Street and then later by Dupont.  I guess I was taken by whim each of those two times.  No!  Time number two was a deliberate visit to the home of a young man whose grandmother just passed away.  He wanted me and other members of our ashram to have a grand veggie prasadam meal in her honour. 

The sentiment is noble and appropriate.  She is in India now thousands of miles away or perhaps now thousands of yojanas away (a yojana is a Vedic measurement equating to 15 kilometres or 8 miles).  Since the soul travels, there is no guarantee that it returns to Earth once leaving.  It may be destined to more sublime spheres.  This could be something to rejoice about, since existence on our plane is wrought with suffering and with not enough enjoyment to match.

In the Gita, Krishna speaks of pain and pleasure, sadness and gladness as being a very shared reality.  Right in the beginning of chapter 2, he addresses dual experiences.  Therefore, application of tolerance is necessary and acceptance is key. 

We are encouraged to be in Vaikuntha (Heaven) wherever we are.  It is the state of consciousness that is important.  Our greed and envy tends to stir the pot and agitate us to the point where we say, "the other man’s grass is always greener".  By the way, that’s not always necessarily true - it’s greener where you water it.  My condolences go to the righteous young man, Durjoy by name, and all well wishes go to his grandma, a mature and pious lady.

May the Source be with you!

9 km

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Sunday, November 15th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario


There was a general sense of happiness in the atmosphere today.  The great weather made a major contribution.  Many walkers hit the trail, as I did, along Balfour Park, The Brickworks, and beyond.
However, a touch of sadness naturally grasps the heart for those of us who remember the passing of our teacher, Srila Prabhupada.  It has been 38 years of this anniversary event.  I chose to read a passage from his biography to a gathering of devotees before I took to walking.  The letter was addressed to him from one of his spiritual daughters.  The contents of the letter are as follows:

Dear Srila Prabhupada,
This shawl is made of the wool from our own sheep.  It is spun and woven here at Gita Nagari.  It is the first piece we have made.  While I was working on it, I would always think of you, of how I was supposedly making you a gift.  But, actually, you were giving me the gift of engagement in devotional service.  Srila Prabhupada, I always pray to Lord Narasimhadeva to protect you and allow you to stay with us and finish your books.  But, I think today the rain falling from the sky is actually the tears of the demigods, crying at the prospect of your departure.  I am also crying.  Even Krishna cried at the passing of grandfather Bhisma, so I have a right to cry.  I cannot be so philosophical to say that you are always present in your books and teachings, though I know these things are true.  I will miss you so much, Srila Prabhupada, if you go.  I beg that I will always remain your menial servant and devotee.
Your humble disciple,
Satyabhama Dasi

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Saturday, November 14th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Woe to the World

I am back at home base.  I’m downscaling as far as walking is concerned but I am walking.  I’m revisiting the neighbourhoods I know by making a puny promenade (5 km).
I’m seeing a full circle dynamic from one year ago.  I see Christmas paraphernalia being propped up for the big commercial hype.  I see the liquor store bustling with activity - vain attempts at weekend pleasure.
I do see optimism in the hearts of the people though.  At least I’m receiving nods and smiles.  I always see that as a good sign.
There is an undercurrent, however, of uncertainty, as always in the atmosphere of this world.  The city of Paris is under a siege of terrorism.  The loss of 129 lives and many injured, the result of ISIS activities, is very significant.  In simple terms, we might make a remark that ignorance is behind it all.  But a question continues to linger in my mind regarding such terrorist acts.
At a home program this evening during a casual discussion, the question arose.  “Since it is such a cowardly act that just took place on the part of some antagonist, why does the US continue to supply arms to such zealot outfits?”  This is a great puzzle for me.  I stand to be corrected on such an assumption - sounds to me like it all boils down to economics. 
Woe to the world. 

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Friday, November 13th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Friendship Walk

We took one last walk to wrap up our bonding venture with fellow pedestrians – Vivasvan, Mandala, and Jake.  Tre’von had already left for Hartford and Esa for his home city, Philadelphia.  Our group of four took to a seven kilometre stint through the residential area of Rosedale before parting ways.
Surely a bond had developed between us over the last few weeks of walking and it is such a bond that sustains us.  In all reality, it is establishing personalism that is so vital for our survival.  There were times on this recent trip where tension had flared between two or more of us but our strong sense of needing to fixate ourselves on the mission made it it possible to overcome any differences.
As we came to a park, we met Wayne Cherry, our neighbour and a noted artist.  I’ve seen Wayne for many years.  He’s on his second dog now who is 13 years old.  I say this to illustrate the point that I’ve seen Wayne for a long time.   During my training time at the ravines, I would see him when he would take his pet for a stroll.   Being neighbourly is another aspect of personalism.  I’m always glad to see Wayne who always expresses interest in my latest venture on foot.
“Impersonalism” is a common theme found in our guru’s books which he addresses when speaking about the Divine.  Prabhupada writes, “Long practice in impersonalism becomes a source of trouble.”  He then correlates personalism to the joy of life – to the bliss factor.   That’s what everyone wants, to be happy.

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
Brooklyn, New York

Now That The Walk’s Done

Well, our walk through a portion of the US northeast is now complete but the activity of trekking will not cease.  Like so many tourists who come to New York, walking over one of the multiple bridges is a must do.  I imagine the Brooklyn Bridge is a popular one and so our core group left Manhattan for Brooklyn via that causeway over the water.

We made our way to Schermerhorn Street where the temple of Radha Govinda is located.  There, darshan, or the viewing of the gorgeous deities, blesses the eyes and in the basement, you can secure a marvelous meal with a veggie nut loaf as one of the main features.

I had asked the boys who travelled with me for some or more of the 950 mile walk to make some comment about it.

Jake was with us for the last day.

Jake:  “While I was walking and focusing on the mantra, I was caring less about some of the physical pain I was going through.  The mantra has power.”

Mandala was with us for the last 2 ½ weeks.
Mandala:  “The walking really helped me to cultivate determination.”

Vivasvan was with me the whole time as my driving support person. He did a lot of walking as well.

Vivasvan:  “It was a life changing experience.  It makes you re-evaluate how you see things and brings you closer to people and nature.  I found out things about myself that didn’t reveal themselves to me before.  Overall, the walk was better than skydiving.”
The final cap that we put on the day was to honour Diwali, the Festival of Lights, at the Iskcon Towaco Center.  There, I spoke about Rama and the epic nature of His story.  Rama spent many steps trudging through the forests of India.

May the Source be with you!
4 miles / 7 km

Friday, 13 November 2015

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Manhattan, New York

The Finish Line…The Tree

We had yet to complete New Jersey before hopping on to a ferry for Manhattan, taking us towards our final destination for this walk.

Two more players entered our trekking arena; a local person, Bhakta Avatara, and Jake from Michigan.  Seven of us took boldly to the streets despite it being overcast with light rain.  Through Newark downtown we went.  And then we came upon bridges with walkways - rarely used. They take you over the river before reaching Jersey City.  Before we came to the posh and clean waterfront with new high-rises, we traveled through areas of human embarrassment - trash, rejected objects of food, coffee containers… We walked by a massive auto grave yard catching a glimpse of the symptoms of Kali Yuga, the age of forgotten values.

In Manhattan, the world of cultural power catches the attention.  We came upon an extraordinary memorial in honour of Irish settlers who took the long journey to the US in response to devastating famine.  Not far from there, just two blocks away, we observed another monument.  This one was to honour the departed souls of 9/11.  It was a huge square-ish run of water trailing down a dark deep well.  Very impactful.

Another one of those tiny miracles occurred when I was stopped in the street by another friend, Sudha Jiva.  He came at the point when the rain came more profusely.  Conveniently, we took shelter of his vehicle nearby where we could talk.

“Much work needs to be done”, we both concluded in regard to promoting spiritual renaissance, one that encourages us back to the land and simple living.

kirtan chanting party was set for our last leg of the 950-mile walk in honour of our teachers (and specifically our guru Srila Prabhupada).  It began at Union Square and proceeded to Tompkins Square Park to its central point, the elm tree.  It was under this tree that our divine teacher inspired his first followers to engage in the prime function for the people of this age - celebration of sacred sound.  There was a small gathering that came to honour our humble event of walking from Boston to Butler and to New York.  I’m grateful that Abhiram, my spiritual friend, came to join us.  Not all of us hugged that very special tree but we all circumambulated it offering it the reverence and credit that it deserves.

I had the good fortune to speak about the glories of bhakti-yoga and our recent walk to a gathering at the nearby Bhakti Center.  I hope that I successfully took them out to the trail in an imaginary way through the woods and along the crazy highways to capture even for a moment the glory of introspective walking.

Although this walk is now completed, I will continue with more trekking and we’ll update you with more tales. Thank you all for following us.

May the Source be with you!

17 miles / 27 km