Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

The Need for Blessings

Please notice: for those following me in the walk through America, I will continue.  I have taken some days off my route to attend a wedding, a pre-school anniversary, and the blessing of some land purchased for the purposes of bhakti (devotion).

Speaking of blessings, I had returned from a visit to a Physio Rehab with my dear god-brother Daniel Dean (Vallabha Chaitanya) who came in contact with a unique form of cancer. That went well.

I decided to walk back- a mere 8.3 kilometres- to my ashram (monastery).  While trekking back through the area of Parkdale, on King Street, I asked three young ladies on their stroll, "What is the time?"

"8:45 pm," answered one of them.  Another asked, "Are you a monk?"

"Yes!"

"Do you just walk around Parkdale and give blessings?"

"I try.  It could use some, don't you think?"

There was some agreement to the notion.  Parkdale, although an area of some fairly well-maintained homes, has some reputation for drugs, prostitution, and mentally unstable people roaming in certain areas.  Blessings could help the place, but I'm not sure that I have the power to release such benevolence.  I can only try to function as a medium of mercy through the use of chanting the maha-mantra as I walk the zone of Parkdale.  It is actually a place of great potential for beauty, morality, and sanity.

I see that the city is making the effort to culturally clean up by providing decent facility. Yet the real revitalization depends on a spiritual participation.

Yes.  That is the resort we, as humans, require - a spiritual shelter.

May the Source be with you!

14 km

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Saturday, May 21st, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Our Group

Back at home-base but I can't get lax.  It should be business as usual.  "Walk a stretch!  Do so in the morning if you can.  You catch the best air.  Trees are sending it out for you to capture.  Oxygen, yes!  The early sun is energy-giving as well.  Connect with it!" - I tell myself.

I conscripted a small group of eager walkers and chanters.  Our intent was to connect with a piece of the creation, and the Creator too - through the chanting.  Our group of five fairly-well represented the spectrum of the human race.  Even Viv came to join us.  She's from China.  We were, altogether, looking like poster kids.  This is a far cry from the early days of the Hare Krishna movement when most of the new recruits were, on average, in the age bracket of 18 to 25 and from white, middle-class backgrounds. 

Now there is quite the cross-section of people involved in functions that are spiritual.

Is walking spiritual?

It can be.  It simply depends on your state of mind.  When you move through the world, on foot, and you see yourself as a tiny spark of life, humbled by all you see, and in appreciation of all that wonder - then you've got it right.  Then you are a pilgrim, or a spiritual mover.

The area our group walked in, Rosedale, was a place easy to fall in love with - considering the great burst of spring dynamics.  Walk and get high! 

Congratulations to Parama and Rukmini for the absolutely beautiful wedding.

May the Source be with you!

7 km

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Friday, May 20th, 2016
Rocky River, Ohio

Detroit Rd by Erie

Detroit Rd appears to go on forever, beginning from the downtown of Cleveland.  It is a rather straight route and runs parallel to Lake Erie.  There are a few bends to the road which always make a break from monotony.

Gone are pedestrians and motorist have taken-over, in this foresty, residential haven.  Dear to all motorists are good roads.  Road improvement people populate the road and it is they who nod in greeting.  Their showing this acceptance of me compensates for the lack of people walking.

A pilgrim, however, must be satisfied with whatever comes head on.  If people are not on the sidewalk, then branches and roots of trees make themselves welcome.  I do feel their presence.  They are above me as branches.  They are below me as feet (roots).  And, like people, they throw off their smells.  'Fragrant' is the word.

Second to them are the birds in flight.  A robin took a fierce beak-dart at a black-bird.  Yes, territory means everything to them.  Likely those baby-blue robins' eggs drew the attention of the black-bird.  When do we not view or experience defense?

For myself, I have little to defend while I am moving through perfect weather.  I'm sandaled and sock-less.  No hat.  Not coat.  It's a short one (walk) today, again.  It's a six miles.

Our guru Srila Prabhupada, used to say "little drops wear away the stone."

May the Source be with you!

6 miles

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
Lakewood, Ohio

Pedestrians - Yes!

The previous night's program, held at Dayal's, was devotional as usual because that's where he is at.  I thank him for all the times that he's accommodated me.

The walk today was short, sweet, and memorable.  The sun shone, the temperature perfect at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit - good for a walk.  What a break it was seeing human beings on the same street level.  I stuck to Detroit Avenue, going west.  Avadhut, a Cleveland resident was my support person, while Gopal and Arjuna have left for a weekend conference.

As traffic whoozed by I could now see people, pedestrians not bound by vehicles.  I could greet kids on their way to school, adults on their way to work.  One of those people was Bill, 63, who mixed with devotees of Krishna through the 70's.  His surname is Angel.  In many ways he is one. 

He offered pranams.  For blocks we walked, talked philosophically, and otherwise - until we reached his workplace 'John's Diner.'  I stopped-in to use the restroom.  I mentioned to Bill about the lack of response from media in Cleveland regarding the walking project.  As we entered John's work premises, a cozy, 50's style, checker-tiled-walled place with round stools at the bar; there was Bob Soltys - a photographer and writer for media.

Bob was fascinated by the pilgrimage project I was doing.  He liked the concept of the easy life of moving, a 'ramblin' rose,' a rolling stone.  Bob had an affinity for the spiritual as a balance to life.  He even said he'll pull together an article for a media outlet.

My visit to Cleveland was not in vain.  Again, this night, we held a program, a satsang, this time at the home of Avadhuta.  His very great and animated spouse, Agnihotra, put a great feast together.  Kirtan was at an optimum.

May the Source be with you!

7 miles



Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio

Got Excited

Abhimanyu Arjuna and I trekked from Beachwood to the downtown Public Square of Cleveland.  It would be our rest stop, but renovations are underway so we continued on for the ideal relaxing location.  At Superior Ave we were told by a city rep to not cross the road but to wait for three minutes while a movie stunt was being done for a 'Fast and Furious' sequel.

Okay!  Something about racing cars is what Arjuna was saying.  He says he likes the series.  I resigned to say anything about the boring nature of fast cars.  I don't even care much for slow cars.

Never cared much for basketball either.  On my second installment of walking today Gopal accompanied me.  He was clicking away with the camera as we passed by the stadium.  The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors were playing next.  Still, this doesn't excite me as much as meeting people.

At mid-day Agnihotra treated us to her exceptional soya nuggets.  I'm a bit warmed up now.  And her husband, Avadhut, took us to the pilgrimage sites of Bhakti Tirtha Swami's earlier childhood.  He died from cancer over ten years ago and was a dear friend to me.  Known as John Favors, he was recruited to attend Hawken private school for boys.  He was a remarkable student and he graduated at the high school the same year as classmate Jeff Briggar who took us for a tour of this thriving school.

We also drove to B.T. Swami's former home, or at least where the home was at 82nd St off of Kinsman, now an empty lot.  The church he attended as a child is now boarded up.

Jeff did pull out a copy of the school's year book which opened to two pictures of B.T. Swami when he was John Favors.  The write-up on him goes as follows.

"With his amazing strut, his flaming, iridescent, tapered, cuff-less, belt-less, sharkskin, electric, spray-paint, skin-tight, orange tubes (pants), his matching four-inch high-rolled-collar-turtleneck, offset by contrasting sport coat (belted in the rear), and alligator pinstripe shoes, John Favors came to Hawken.  Underneath that sartorial splendor was a real student.  Favors' contribution to every class was always impressive.  He was one of the few seniors who studied during the day (or studied at all for that matter) and he could be found any time in his private carrel in the library.  He appeared very quiet, perhaps a bit frightened by Hawken when he first arrived last September.  His fear wore off in time yet despite his overt amicability, Favors remained somewhat estranged.  It's possible that that is the way John wanted it.  Regardless, Hawken and John learned something from each other."

Being in his places of the past and reading about my dear friend, I got excited.

May the Source be with you!

14 miles

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
Beachwood, Ohio

East of Cleveland

I met a series of good Samaritans.  It started off with a woman who stopped to offer a ride.  She was in tears, her face wet with emotion.

"Would you like a ride?  Sorry, I've been crying.  I just came from a woman's group."

With that I had to decline, as I had to for so many kind and conscientious people, which included two police officers, a Buddhist woman, a yoga teacher, Allan - a tree maintenance man, a female disciple of Such-and-such Swami, and a well-to-do suave dude with his mom.

These encounters left me with a good taste for things east of Cleveland.  For the most part I trekked through green spaces of creeks and hardwood trees and residential paradises where no one is encouraged to walk.  Where's the sidewalks, please?

At Chagrin Boulevard I saw my first signs of suburban plazas and here I felt a notion of liberation upon seeing fellow pedestrians.  One of those striders (if I may use that term) was a tall orthodox Jewish man in his black, someone I envied.  If I had his speed and stride I'd make it to San Fransisco in thirty days.  Further on he went and I could see him being approached by a woman collecting petitions. 

Now it was my turn to be talked to also.  "Can you sign our petition for approvin' marijuana for medical purposes?" she asked.

"No thank you!  I'm from Canada and our prime minister is working on legalizing the stuff.  Period!  Not that I approve."

"Okay!" she said surprisingly.

It was at that juncture on the street that our party of two grew.  Abhimanyu Arjuna from Florida joined Gopal and I for the US Walk.  Hurray!

By nighttime we reached the home of Kaustubha and Tulasi and their 2 1/2 year old son Kapil.  Our purpose in part is to visit members of the Bhakti Yoga culture along the way.

May the Source be with you!
16 miles

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Monday, May 16th, 2016
Burton, Ohio

Horses and More

The sights of the morning were horses and buggies-- of course horse-drawn in some cases.  Indeed, this is Amish country and I'm loving it.  The men were repairing a barn roof.  The women doing the laundry.  That I could not see but I did view one lady putting out the family wash for drying on the clothes line.  This is the first day for all day sun in a while.

Anne, the reporter from 'Maple Leaf' newspaper, had mentioned to me that the Amish kids are the only ones that play in the yard.  There's an implication here that most other kids are locked indoors, by choice, addicted to devices.

"I believe you're right, Anne."

I was a curiosity for them.  The darlings say to me, "Hello!" to which I would say, "How are you?"

"I'm fine," they say as they tilt their head in shyness.  Our encounter always ends up with the wave of a hand.  I end up feeling as though I've stepped back into a more innocent era.  This is old school lifestyle they're living through - and I like being part of it - though it's so temporal.

The chief of police from Burton, Richard Smigelski, came out to see if I'm doing alright.  Chris McClellan, who builds earth homes for people (UncleMud.com!), also stopped to talk.  This is interesting what he does.  I really wanted to spend more time with him but I had to move on.

Come to think of it a song about rambling on came to mind - a song by Patrick Sky called 'Many a Mile' from the sixties.  It's a heart-puller and I used to sing it out loud in the valleys during my hitch-hiking days before becoming a monk.

Yes it was a step into the past.  Thank you Atmarama and Manjula for hosting us.

May the Source be with you!

20 km / 12 miles

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Sunday, May 15th, 2016
Southington, Ohio

All's Well

Brian was saying that he was keeping up with the Krishna's at all the DEAD concerts (the Grateful Dead rock band).  "We would be there singing and dancing with the Krishnas.  But then Garcia passed away and we got into family and responsibilities."

We had an astounding gathering (not exactly like the Dead concerts) but a group of 20 people had come to Brian's Love Boutique and Yoga Studio, in Newcastle, for hearing from our 'Tales from Trails' and kirtan.

What a marvelous mature group they were!  This occurred after a 17 mile jaunt today when I weathered some rain, sun, hail, sun, and wind - one after the other.  It was Gopal who encountered more interaction from people.

"Hey, you're parked on my grass!  That's my grass!  And you, don't start spinnin' your tires there!"

Gopal was aghast at the outburst of misrepresenting appropriate ownership.  After-all everything belongs to God.

Another fellow became disturbed for Gopal's pulling over the vehicle too far into his driveway and waiting for me to reach there.  When he explained to the complainer that he was the support person for a monk walking across America, for America, he just calmed right down and offered a great place by a pond for parking at.

All's well that ends well.

May the Source be with you!

27 km / 17 miles 

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Warren, Ohio

Full of Rain, Full of Fun

Gene was like a cross between the sunshine and the actor Burl Ives.  Warm, euphoric, giving, and fairly large-framed.  He read the article that came out in 'The Vindicator' entitled, "Walking Monk Makes a Stop in the City," by Bruce Watson.

Gene owns and runs a car dealership.  From across the street he saw me through the rain as I walked closer towards his sales yard.  He beckoned me to come over.  He offered a donation.  Kindness?  Yes, he was oozing with it.  He even offered the shirt on his back - literally!  It was a t-shirt with his company's name on it.  While beaming the whole time I was in his shop, and me having a chance to dry off - Gene kept up with his helpfulness.  He told of a friend settled in a town from Ontario.  Then he began sharing friends' contact details with Gopal (my assistant) and I.  He just wouldn't stop - he called Don Perkins from Wawa Ontario and handed me the phone to talk to him.  We were set for a sit-down and a salad - later in the afternoon.  I had to politely sneak out to continue on trekking on the Millcreek Metro Park's bike trail.  There I entered paradise for two hours before merging in with regular shoppers' traffic on this Saturday afternoon. 

I passed by Mini Food Mart, near Warren, when the owners of the place came out magically to greet me.  It was a couple from Nepal, Laksmi Narayan & Brnda, who have that strong tie and connection to Krishna Consciousness.  Laksmi had been trained in India in the gurukula, the school for learning bhakti-yoga.  Along with Gopal and myself, Laksmi Narayan insisted on a kirtan right in his convenience store while customers were coming in.  Every-time a customer would come in, Laksmi would temporarily stop playing harmonium while I continued on a dolak drum and Gopal on the karatalas (hand cymbals).  Laksmi was reliving his boyhood-past in Vrndavan, India.  He also relayed to us that his father was the person who translated the teachings of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in the Nepalese language.

While our day was full of fun, it was also full of rain.  It is part of a lesson in learning detachment from this world.  I was reminded of both death and life.  Of course, the plants seem happy with the natural shower.  It was road-kill, mostly muskrats, that told me of life's futility - apart from walking by the memorial of McKinley, one of the U.S. presidents, who was assassinated way back when.

I want to thank Das and Vrsni of Pittsburg, who were fine hosts for us for the last few days.

May the Source be with you!

17 km / 10.5 miles



Friday, May 13th, 2016

Friday, May 13th, 2016
Youngstown, Ohio

Along the Mahoning River

I had put in several hours on foot on a great trail.  Naturally I became thirsty and made my way to a convenience store for juice, on the outskirts of Youngstown.  The place was dark; tiles were cracked on the floor.  Chicken was being cooked at one end of the shop.

I was selecting a drink - an energy drink - with sugar as a nominal ingredient.  A fellow walks in as loud as can be and addresses his friend.

"Hey thanks for hookin' me up with that chick the other night."

"No problem!"

I found the place and parlance interesting.  The word 'monk' is expressed over and over again by pedestrians.  One motorist today asked, "Are you a monk?"  It ranks as the number one question on these travels.

In Lowellville, a couple of elderly women gave me directions.  "You're a monk going to San Francisco?"

"Yes, here's a mantra (I had on my card) and this is the song the Beatles would sing."

"Really?!  Can we give you some water or juice?"

I looked joyfully down no two Macintosh apples.

"Please pray for us," they said.

"I will."

The bike trail that led to Youngstown was under-used by humans, but is frequented by frogs, rabbits, and muskrats.  The birds were also plentiful - blue ones, red ones, orange, yellow, and black ones, too.  The month of May is an a-MAY-zing time because of this.  Two birds were battling over a butterfly.  In the scuffle the butterfly got away.

A major bridge into the city was closed but not for me.  I was not going to detour.  I took advantage of a monk's garb to transcend the conventional closure.  I was just tired and couldn't go the extra mile.

May the Source be with you!

19 km / 12 miles

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Thursday, May 12th, 2016
New Castle, Pennsylvania
  
After the Article
  
The elderly man drove oh-so-slow on the country road and with pleasant weather he had his window down.  He went even slower as he approached me.  He turned his head and said, "Thank you!"  I simply guessed at the reason for the abrupt comment as he then sped along.  This man had read the daily paper and the article on the front page with picture captioned, "Hare Krishna Walking Monk visits the area," by reporter Nancy Lowry.  It happened more than once-- when I blocked out one hour for phone calls while walking-- that motorists stopped to congratulate and offer water.

Throughout the day hand-waves, handshakes, and voice gestures of well-being came my way.  An officer also stopped.  He was the only motorist who wasn't up on the news.  So he asked, "Are you looking for something?"

"No!  I'm just trekking and on my way to San Francisco."  With that he bulged his eyes and shook his head in a comic disbelief.  It was priceless.

When I finally got into the city of New Castle, where there was also overwhelming response, one man, another senior person, whose name is Evangelist Green Leaf, came over to my side of the street.  The 69-year-old was open and friendly and wanted me to have Jesus in me.  He out-stretched his right hand and welcomed the Saviour into my heart.  I'm sure we were a spectacle, because we actually sat there over the ordeal and were absorbed in discussion - he with his bright green top and me in saffron-orange.

I thank Nancy for the positive article that made the residents of the area aware that Hare Krishnas have been around now for 50 years and it all started more-or-less in Pennsylvania in 1965, when its founder, Prabhupada, came to present a new way of thinking and being.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km




Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
Butler, Pennsylvania

Back At It

"Where yah goin'?" asked the worker from his van, which was parked next to the road as I passed by.

"I'm going west, to San Francisco, on foot."

"Is it for a religious purpose?"

"Actually I'm encouraging pilgrimage, which refers to walking meditatively - you have God on your mind."

"I believe in that," stated the curious fellow on his work break.

Then, two young mechanics (brothers) - Mark and Junior, were on their way to work when they were puzzled to see a robed man on the side of the road.  As Mark rolled down his window in the passenger seat, Junior, the driver, came to a full stop.

"Are you really a monk?" asked Mark.

"Yes!"

The two men hurriedly came out of their vehicle to see and talk with me on this first day in reconvening my USA walk.  The conversation went slightly crazy as the two were arguing over who the better fix-it-man was between them.  They generally held their own courtesy and shook hands with me at least eight times each.  One of them even asked for pardon when he almost breathed out the whole word, "sh_ _." After the multitude of handshakes they even ended up doing pranams (folded palms) when, at least in the beginning, they admittedly expressed never having a 'God experience.'

A state police car also pulled over and I told him I'm on my way to San Francisco.  He had nothing but kind words to say like "you are really dedicated to what you are doing."  He was not familiar with the term "Krishna."

"Christian?"

"No!  Krishna!  You know - roots from India.  The Beatles used to sing this song?!"  With that I handed him a mantra card.  As I did he noticed my orange watch band and got a super charge from that.  He also admitted receiving one call - a concern about someone who might be a convict escapee in an orange jumpsuit.

Before nightfall my support person, Gopal, and I were hosted by Das and Vrsni of Pittsburgh.  There I gave a talk and a mantra about the glories of walking and the beauty of chanting.

May the Source be with you!

15 miles / 24 km