Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Stay in the Water

Durban, South Africa
This marks the 20th year since the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.  People of native origin fought long and hard to achieve their freedom as recent history tells.  Despite the policy and administrative adjustments, things are far from perfect. Now you have minorities complaining about favoritism.  Job opportunities are preferentially partial.  And it goes on and on.  

But lets not be naive. Nothing’s ever going to be a bowl of roses. We are living in the material world, so, let's not whine so much.  Let's not blame everyone else for our own discomforts. You put yourself in the spot where you are now.  Such is the nature of karma. So swallow it and get on with life.  Life isn’t always fair, okay?

Maybe you don't belong here in the first place? Is that fair? Is that a fair question?

Today we spent hours on preparing dramas for the upcoming weekend Festival of Chariots.  Walking took a back seat.  To address this “other worldly” issue I found it great in the script writing by local stand up comedian, K.C., we call him, when the Sangoma, a Zulu shaman, who directs the troubled under dogged victim out of his misery. The story plays up on the analogy that we are all fish out of water.

Little Fish is the actual name of the victim and he addresses the Sangoma, “I need help. I don't know what to do anymore.  I need someone to take my problems away.”  The Sangoma spews out sounds like only a wizard can do as he throws the bones and reads the message.  

“The bones don't lie.  You were in a good place, a really good place, a long time ago!  Hmm, hmmm, then you got greedy.  You left that place.  You left that lovely place, to come here! But my friend, you’re never going to be happy over here, this place is not for you.  You are never going to be happy here, unless you go back to your home.  This place is not for you... you are like a fish out of water.”

The message has merit.  It gives us something to aspire towards. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

To Tolerate

Kala, Tamohara and I were flying from Mauritius to South Africa.  While waiting at the airport in Johannesburg, the stopover before heading to Durban, I was reading some anecdotes from those who were with our guru.  A passage I read happened to be of an occurrence while our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had flown from Mauritius to Durban.  It was a small lesson on tolerance.

Pusta Krishna: We were flying from Mauritius to Durban on Quantus Airlines. I was seated beside Srila Prabhupada wearing my little British hat, shirt, coat and pants.  At that time there was a rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand teams, and there were a lot of rugby types on the plane. We had a seat in the non-smoking section, but people were smoking there and I was disturbed.  I was also concerned for Srila Prabhupada’s welfare.  So I asked the stewardess to please ask them to stop smoking in the non-smoking section.  She told the rugby type guys, who were drinking quite a bit as well, to stop smoking.  But they didn't stop. I was about to ask the stewardess, “Please ask them again,” when Prabhupada stopped me.  He said “What is the difference between us and them if we can’t tolerate these sort of things?  Don’t be an ordinary, common, foolish man.”

I thought the passage was instructive.  Why whine over everything?  While in the air on whatever jet, there are always little things that we persevere through. Anyway, “Sawubona!” which means, “Hello!” in Zulu.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Monday, 14 April 2014

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

La Vallee de Ferney, Mauritius

Sea, Mountains and Folks

Well, what a day!  It began with a few young men going for a power walk with me by the ocean shore, past Bleu Bay, then a loop back to Mahebourg, and then by car and bus down a rickety road in La Vallee de Ferney.  At one point we pulled out of the bus to experience this gorgeous conservation area of endemic, indigenous and exotic trees.  The names will strike a funny bone of curiosity.  Our guide pointed out some of the official names of trees – the cinnamon of course, but there were also the black and white ebony trees.  Never heard of a rat tree?  Neither have I.  Its leaves, when gathered and put in a draw after three days, start reeking like a decomposing rat.  There, a cyclone tree gives a resemblance of the swirling dynamic that mother nature sends around now and then.  Finally our group of 23 also viewed the nail tree from the strong hard wood variety, pieces of the trunk were crafted in the shape of nails and used for construction.

We saw little wildlife but for the kestrel bird, a tiny hawk-like bird that almost went extinct.  Not but four decades ago only four existed.  They were native to Mauritius, but conservationists did their work and bread the few alive.  Now they are making a return.

To their merit, activist nature lovers fought to keep a proposed highway from penetrating through the fragile eco system.  What a delight it was to be here!  And as one Swiss devotee said, “We (meaning Krishna devotees) need to do more of these type of outings.”  I couldn’t agree more.  When you see those creeks and waterfalls you know that there is a kinder, softer world upstairs and this is a mere reflection of it.

The Dutch have been blamed for poaching the last of the dodo birds, but more recent research indicates that a famine the country experienced destroyed this huge feathered guy forever.  Anyways!  Whatever! We must endeavour to preserve all that is precious.

A dive in the blue ocean and picnic marked the middle of the afternoon.  Then the evening was topped with a turnout of 300 folks eager for kirtan, philosophy and a feast to not forget.

That’s why I say, “What a day!”

May the Source be with you!

14 KM

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Mahebourg, Mauritius

By the Sea 

In 1802 the French and English had a fierce naval battle at the bay here near Lion’s Mountain.  Kala, Tamohara and I ventured along the town’s sea wall catching the salt infused currents.  We stumbled upon an impressive arts and culture outdoor amphitheatre, a prospective place for a bhakti show in the future.  The occasional Banyan tree graced the coast line dwarfing us.  Young men at soccer filled a playing field.

Clouds above threatened a downpour.  We found shelter from a giant Banyan.  Then a more serious onslaught of rain compelled us to head for a roof by a rehab drug clinic.  Oh, yes, even here on this tiny Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, social ills challenge the human race.

Our trio continued our exploration of the town.  If we could, we would want to boast having touched each street, but time was pressing, calling for an engagement at the auditorium of the local Durga mandir.  Eventually the place filled up.  I realized that translation from English to Creole was necessary for my message to be understood, so a person by the name of Kaunteya did so.

And this message was that while we venture our way through myriad species of life, the soul’s obligation is to reach the human’s actual potential.  “I am not this body,” I stressed.  And we let everyone there go home with reciting and hopefully retaining these precious words in Sanskrit,  “Aham brahmasmi!  More definitively we are saying, "I AM SPIRIT".

May the source be with you!

4 KM

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Dubai,  UAE
Moving with Time
Downtime! Much sitting in the aircraft. Emirates, world 
class airline has conditions or facilities conducive 
enough for japa meditation, reading and writing,  all that 
I relish doing.
There's time to talk to the passenger sitting next to 
you, however, sometimes you respect the fact that its also 
 their downtime, or rather up-time. The flight from 
Toronto to Dubai is at an unimaginable height, need I 
detail the figure? Its just very high and very cold, 
It flashes to mind that we could be victims of a 
mysterious disapperance, going of the radar screen, as in 
the case of the recent Malayasian airline that appered  to 
vanish in thin air. Always a good reason to chant divine 
mantra's with more intrepidity.
Time presses  on with window shutters closed  which makes 
it confusing to decifer the hour. But thats ok. In the air 
with such incredible speed (exact figures unknown to me) 
you really enter a timeless zone, keeping an eye on 
boarding time is significant but once  off from departure, 
it really doesn't matter much. In a way its off-time.
A lay-over in Dubai with a six hour span and a  hotel 
voucher in hand permitted horizontal space to actually 
sleep which is practically impossible in the plane. 
Arabian Park Hotel was the space that was destined. No 
need for its lounge, its drinks or non-veg food. I'm a 
monastic that can keep  cheap thrills at bay.
And also, until the new day, new dawn or dusk we do not 
tarry but move forward with ever changing time.
May the source be with you!
0 KM (except for moving in the airport)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Go It Together

I received a call from Michael who took to the Trans Canada Highway in 2001/2002 on foot with a backpack.  We made an agreement to go it out together on the road for a three week stint. 

Starting in mid May we plan to drive to Taber, Alberta, the spot from where I left off last summer.  We will stop a bit along the way, put on our shoes (I, with Crocs), while he will be equipped with camera, hopeful to capture the beauty of the road, the rhythm of walking, and all that visual vista stuff that people usually see as post cards.  The filming will be like a reenactment of the walk I did last summer, until we arrive at Taber, when business will be as usual to complete a fourth trek, bringing me to the edge of British Columbia.

I’m really looking forward to it because in addition to having the usual company of support person, Daruka, and his blue front Amazon parrot, there will also be Michael, a most amiable person.  Up for the challenge will be those occasional cool prairie breezes, and then the intermittent warming Chinook winds coming from the Rockies.  There will be the upward downward trends of pacing once hitting those lovely mountains.  I will not be surprised to hear the jazz of the road, that is, the last clumps of snow, sliding off the arms of the coniferous trees, and the feet making the beat gritting the gravel on the highway shoulder.  It will also be the time of invigoration, rebirth, of so much life springing into action. 

Michael knows the road I’ve tread, he’s done it before – the Crow’s Nest Pass.  And, of course, we’ll be seeing smart crows in flight, and I’ll be dreaming of smooth sailing swans during naps which will take place by the side of the road that will offer a peace like nothing else.  Hare Krishna! 

Thanks for calling, Michael, it’s a deal.  We’ve nailed down the date, May 17th

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario

Who’s The Artist?

In the midst of this morning’s meanderings I stumbled upon Tom Thompson’s Art Gallery.  Who is Tom Thompson?  A noted Canadian impressionist landscape artist he was.  His body was found mysteriously in the wilderness while on a canoeing trip. A result of foul play?  It’s not really known.  He’s loved and remembered for defining the natural esthetics of the north.  I admit, it’s nice work indeed. 

I’ve been an art lover for years, including the art of nature. The artist behind the elemental combinations of the out of doors should not be denied.  “Who’s behind the placement of patterns of life?” we might ask.  “Does it have to be a person?”  If we settle for intelligent design, as some people use the term, then we admit to personal implication.  Where there’s intelligence there is a brain.  Brain refers to a person.  Where there’s design, we should come to terms with a designer. 

Being that it is Ramnaumi today, a small group of us at the quiet place of Owen Sound, reflected on the classic Vedic personalities known as Ram, Sita and Lakshman, who spent a long and interesting 14 years in the jungles.  A good part of that phase was the travel by foot from the north of India to the south at Rameshvaram.  Shastra, ancient texts like “The Ramayan”, tells of how the three wanderers enjoyed the features, smells, sights and sounds of the wilderness.  Their apparent exile or banishment was actually a blessing. 

Our trip back to the big city, Toronto, allowed our eyes to see a transition.  Behind us was not only the green spirit of the docks at Georgian Bay, but also rolling hills, farms and forests, all now to be replaced by highways, high rises and high expectations of tantalizing pursuits.  Frankly, there’s nothing more boredomsome than peering at square warehouses and the monotonous looking apartment buildings of a modern day city.  You have to ask, “Who’s the author of such pathetic creations?”  Not the Great Spirit, that’s for sure. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario

Just Before Ram

It was the eve before Ramnaumi, the birthday of Sri Ram, that I arrived at this small city of natural beauty all around.  Along with Rajneesh and family, we ventured to this Georgian Bay area to meet acquaintances, one of whom shared foot travel with me.

Garuda, is now 66, and was with me in British Columbia on walk number 3 when we encountered a grizzly bear and got close to being breakfast. That’s a story unto itself, and one I don’t personally mind reliving.  Anything that impels one to slide into a prayerful mood, isn’t necessarily a bad experience, however adventurous. 

There’s only a 5 year difference between Garuda and I (I’m the younger one).  He’s always been an active man, but is feeling the aches and pains of aging as of late.  Always enthusiastic for chanting, we found he and his clan, with two younger generations, were absorbed in doing just that.  His three sons are rock musicians.  In reality, for them, kirtan is where it’s at.  Another area where we share a passion is in trekking sections of the country’s oldest foot path, the Bruce Trail, which runs along Owen Sound’s escarpment. 

Our union with Garuda’s clan at the home of hosts Rajesh and Alka, was a warm up for the coming day’s Ramnaumi.  We did so through kirtan chanting, feasting, of course, and reading of memories of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  We especially were hearing of his morning strolls by the Pacific.  He would go at a pace that was hard to keep up.  In this regard, he was always ahead of the game in comparison to his students, in practically every category of activity that you could imagine. 

It is a Vedic colloquial term to follow in the dust of a holy person’s lotus footsteps. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Towards Personalism

A college student came to see me for agreed upon meeting at venue, the streets.  It became a question and answer session on foot on this most sattvic day.  The sky was clear and bright, air was fresh, there was hardly a breeze. 

I can say for myself, I felt the same forecast within.  I think my friend from Whitby, Ontario, the college student, was of a similar state.  I could tell by the questions and the way he was receiving and digesting my responses.  He was curious about the long walks I’ve done.  To that, I explained that light and long travel aid in the process of detachment. 

“Is that like nirvana?” he asked.  I was relieved to know that the phrase wasn’t just a name to him for a hot rock band, but that it means something quite different. 

Nirvana is a word found in the Bhagavad Gita, and it’s a term very much clutched onto by the Buddhists.”  I explained that we are referring to a state of mind beyond the mundane, beyond the hankering and lamentation of this world.  Although nirvana may not be complete so far as total spiritual fulfillment is concerned, within popular Hinduism the equivalent to nirvana would be moksha.  For Krishna conscious pursuers, the state of completion anticipated is union with the Divine in personal service.  It is a highly personalistic approach to life. 

The student and I agreed to meet again and to have more parlance while walking. 

Equally enjoyable to walking and talking through the quiet residential Rosedale neighbourhood, was the evening kirtan which followed right after a successful run of the drama, “Little Big Ramayan”.  The incredibly hyped kirtan with pulsing drum beats and high strung voices took a strong personal involvement, and many people were there participating.  And it was my arm that reached out to bystanders of the kirtan, pulling the eager and shy ones into the dancing circle. 

One teenager that I pulled in stood there very flushed red, shrugged his shoulders up and down, as if declaring, “I don’t know how to dance!”

“Relax,” I said, “you’ve already got unique style.”

May the Source be with you!

6  KM

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Three of Us

All of us crave Sunshine, as long as there’s not too much of it.  It was a pleasure to walk towards its disc which was making a slow descension into the western sky.  The west side of the street going north/south was unfavourable for walking because I wanted the sun’s embrace.  I switched directions to College Street.  I ended up face to face with him.  There were no more imposing buildings.  It was nice, but like anything in this world, you take sookh and dookh (happiness and distress), sad and asad (good and bad).  Basically, you receive a duality.

Along with that generous glow of the sun, came the wind.  Unexpectedly, to me, as forceful as he was.  He also got blocked by buildings eventually, just as the sun did.  Now, I had two guys coming at my face.  It was interesting to see them partnered.  I had their company.  There are three of us now until I turned another corner going north on Croft Street.  Once again, I was in the shadows of the buildings.  I was seemingly alone, but not.  Paramatma (Supersoul) is always in the heart. 

Croft Street is more like a back lane with mostly garages on both sides of the asphalt.  There is pleasant graffiti, and some not so, meaning unsophisticated.  People have left their mark. 

On Bloor Street, I meet my companions again, the sun and the wind.  The sun had moved by now, humbled by time, or just being on time.  Perhaps defining time.  Not exactly, it is said in the Bhagavatam, out of fear of Him, the sun shines.  Who then, in actuality is defining the time factor. 

Finally, I made it home, the temple ashram, where you enter a timeless zone, where all is spiritual, and where there is relative peace.  I say relative because there are humans in the space, and they are not perfect. 

I’m reminded of the joke about the human ego, “Nobody’s perfect, I’m just a nobody.”

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Fun Pun

I did not go outside the walls of the ashram building today.  It doesn’t mean I was confined, as in prison.  I was joyfully locked in with service – and service of a different kind.  I’m speaking about theatre.  The dramas!  The directing! The performance!  I put several hours into our practice of the drama, Little Big Ramayan.  Doing “plays” is a marvelous creative outlet.  And it’s approved (rather, receives blessings) by the previous acharyas or teachers in the line of devotion.  In fact, our guru, Srila Prabhupada, loved dramas that have a spiritual message.  He went so far as to say that the play is better than the book.  He loved the theatre and even acted when as a student in his college years, he played the role of Adwaita, a close associate of Sri Chaitanya, father of kirtan in the modern age.  Our guru also liked Charlie Chaplin.  He would not go out of his way to the cinema, mind you, he wouldn’t have anything to do with extreme mundane entertainment.  Once, on the plane, he had a few chuckles watching the guy with the funny stick, hat and moustache

Now, speaking of fun, what about pun?  Someone sent me from a facebook source, a list of puns called, “Punography”.

Here’s are some real dillies:

I tried to catch some, I mist

A guy I know is addicted to brake fluid.  He said he can stop any time.

How does Moses make his tea?  Hebrews it.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, then it dawned on me.

The girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I never met herbivore.

I’m reading a book about antigravity.  I can’t put it down.

I didn’t like my beard at first, then it grew on me.

How do you make holy water?  Boil the hell out of it.

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble. 

What does a clock do when it’s still hungry?  It goes back four seconds.

I wonder why the baseball was getting bigger, then it hit me.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario


Some of today’s lessons that came out of our Bhagavatam session this morning were gems.  In sutra form, here’s what we came up with from 8.5.26 and its purport:

Sense perception is not complete to understand.

You may see, but you may not be able to understand.

Seeing Him is not as important as appreciating Him.

Prayers are heard and the needful action is taken.

Desire less and deserve more.

Engage yourself or encage yourself.

Another major gem of the day was spending time with our recent most visiting monk, Devamrita Swami, over an excellent meal prepared by Mangal Aarti.  I had trekked to the apartment where he was staying.  My return to the ashram, however, was by cab, and that encounter was another gem. 

The cab driver was curious, “Do you go to India?” he asked.

“Yes, once or twice a year.”

“Which part?” 

“The eastern side, mostly, Bengal.”

“Do you know any Bengali?” asked the taxi driver who told me he’s from neighbouring Bangladesh.

“I know some songs, do you want to hear one?”

“Yes.”  So I sang, in its entirety, ‘Gaya Gaura’ to the cab driver.  He was testing me. “Can you tell me what it means?”

“Yes, do utter or sing the honey like names of the Supreme regardless of status or mood, and benefit.”

The driver was really happy.  He sparkled. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM