Saturday, 1 August 2015

Friday, July 17th, 2015



Friday, July 17th, 2015 
Toronto, Ontario

Seeing a Thief

Walking today entailed shopping around. It was a drenched day. There were a handful of us dodging the rain. It was just a few trimmings we needed for our drama performance this weekend. The most prominent item needed was some fabric for Draupadi's sari.

In our drama, "Krishna Is...", there is a captivating scene where Queen Draupadi becomes insulted through an attempted public disrobing. It was Krishna, in His heroism, who spared her from the dishonour by supplying her, mystically, with unlimited cloth.

Our interest was to purchase a roll of lengthy material that would suffice for Draupadi's part. Anyways, business was done. On Queen St. West where we acquired what we wanted, we then proceeded to a costume shop on Yonge Street. Not but 2 minutes after we arrived, a transvestite dashed out of the store with goods in his/her hands. It was a theft! 

"Wigs!" said the angry store proprietor, "I could have talked about giving a discount but I don't need anyone to steal the merchandise."

One of the employees made a run after the culprit but to no avail - no catch. Police were called and all was done that was possible to set things right. What to do. At least we got a discount on the goods we needed - some masks. We saw this gesture, after the agitation, as a good one. Perhaps the act could be perceived as a form of devotional service. Because the proprietor knew our festival was on for tomorrow and he just wanted to help. I hope the thief will one day have the heart of the proprietor.


May the Source be with you! 

4 km

Thursday, July 16th, 2015


Thursday, July 16th, 2015
Moundsville, West Virginia

Relief!

Night time travel since Monday on interstate highways leads one to believe that America is a culture of trucks and cars, expansive roads, roaring engines and high-speed movement. Would this be the life of a trucker?  You might be wondering, “Is this life?”  It almost seemed that way to Kalyapani, a friend and one of our bus drivers, and I when looking at the distance we covered and seeing and hearing what is out there.  It wasn’t until we reached the quiet and green of New Vrindavan Village just outside Moundsville that the flip side of the U.S. was revealed to us.

Of course, we’ve been here before.  You have the tendency to forget though that there are zones where deer and raccoons reign, where plants graciously crawl and explode in a silence that is sweet.

Everyone felt it.  The whole bus crew felt it.  It was a change to charm. A transition from transmission. What a relief!

I personally had a moment with Vrindavan Das, one of the managers, and it appears to me that he’s quite serious about setting up a large dinner banquet in Butler, Pennsylvania, the place where or guru, Srila Prabhupda , first started his mission in humble circumstances.  Set for October of this year, it will co-ordinate with my arrival, on foot, into the town.  For those not aware, it will be fifty years since the swami, our guru, came to Boston, Massachusetts.  All are welcome to join the walk.

 
May the Source be with you.

3 km

 

 

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015


Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

St. Louis, Missouri

First Time

It’s my first time to St. Louis. We rolled in with our buses after a tough sixteen hours drive. At the first opportunity, I took to checking out the town on foot. I had other options. The youth were driven to the Arch, a high elevation point for viewing the surroundings of the city, farmland and planes flying low spraying the crops for bugs.

I went for walking the university grounds. The buildings are impressive. I love the sculptures. I ventured off to The Old Fox Theatre which I had been told about. The facade is adorable. Art Deco style? And people are friendly, like the guy in the Wal-mart who looked at me, looked again and said, “Hey man, you look like the Dalai Lama."

Like anywhere in the world, every place is a scenario of mixed karma. Manoram, our youth minister for the Hare Krishna movement and who heads up this travelling tour, mentioned to me that the infamous Trail of Tears began here. In my mind’s eye I visualize a row of rejected natives who were forced to that trail during winter circumstances. Out of the 40,000 that were forced to head west for unfamiliar territory only 4,000 survived. I get angry thinking about it. I walked passed Monsanto Hall with inner rage enhanced. To resolve this emotion I must let go, knowing that this is the world as we know it. At least I can take pride in executing a happier walk then those poor folks took.

I had the pleasure to present ‘Tales from Trails’ to the community. I finished with a “When you walk, you rock!”.


May the Source be with you!

5 km

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015


Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Texas

 
Some Steps Inside

Somewhere off the interstate between Houston and St. Louis our two bus-loads of youth from the US, Canada and Europe had a driving break. Let’s call this somewhere "Blue-collar Town". In "Blue-collar Town" the main feature of the place was none other than the Wal-mart.

For shopping we went. I sponsored ice cream for the fifty-plus teens. Grocery supplies were purchased for the journey ahead.

One of the UK boys asked, "What is Wal-mart?" as we spun into parking position. I summarized it like this, "A big box that you enter. It has everything in it that is cheap and smells like plastic."

The one big attraction for both boys and girls, their drivers and one monk was the air conditioning inside. The boy’s bus is one of the older school bus types which has open windows for its AC, which are minimally effective when the vehicle is in motion. The generator on the girl’s bus is malfunctioning. So we were totally happy to be in a cool unit; the Wal-mart. For me it was the only opportunity for a walk. So I began doing cycles along the building’s interior. I met a Wal-mart greeter several times over – a woman. I stopped for a second to explain my intent and her response was, "Oh, people do it all the time. They walk to feel chilled." That was great because I was slightly uncertain about my intent.

In any event, embarrassment of any kind was now removed. I felt justified in my actions, put on three kilometres and became rather proud of the accomplishment.

While going for that walk it dawned on me that perhaps I’m executing a kind of Karma Yoga, the path where you offer your action’s fruits to God. Here I was, using my body, which belongs to Krishna, and offering it in His service.

 
May the Source be with you!

3 km

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Monday, July 13th, 2015


Monday, July 13th, 2015

Houston, Texas
 

Back In Texas

I have come to this city to connect with the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Krishna Youth Bus Tour. The celebration will be events and touring itself throughout North America. It is my 10th year hooking up with the crew. And what a joyous reception it was. Not for me but for the Lord! Minutes after I arrived at the mega ISKCON temple on 34th St. I entered the room where the deities of Radha Nila Madhava adorned at Raj Boga (or high noon).While entering, I was approached by organizers of a much larger retreat, a youth sangha. “Can you show us some dance steps?” asked an eager three guys.

“Sure!”  

So we went at it. 

The main chunk of the day, however, had me engaged in preparations for the main drama for our tour, beginning in Toronto. The piece is called ‘Krishna is... !’ Consisting of seven scenes, they are entitled: 

  1. Krishna Is... The most humble being.
  2. Krishna Is... the Ultimate Protector.
  3. Krishna Is... the Giver of Free Will.
  4. Krishna Is... the Deliverer of Divine Wisdom.
  5. Krishna Is... the Subduer of Evil Forces.
  6. Krishna Is... the Performer of Divine Dance.
  7. Krishna Is... a Child
Practice went on. I had no time for walking, only limping through two airports. A challenged right knee is somewhat taxing me. I forge ahead.
 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015



Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Where is Raganuga?

A group of doctors from Iran came to see me today.  No, I'm not sick.  The group leader happens to be a personal friend and he introduced his friends to the temple food, and me.  Dr.Shahi and I have known each other for years.  His medical profession has brought him to various parts of Canada.  During my cross-country walks I would bump into him at places like Fort Frances and New Glasgow.  During a walk, I would be in a quiet residential area, cross the street and suddenly come face to face with him as he just came out from around the corner.

Tonight he brought his friends over.  They enjoyed a feast, but he fasted in order to honor Ramadan.  He told me of his early days when in Iran a Krishna devotee by the name of Raganuga would work in the kitchen together with him. 

"I'm indebted for his teachings and association.  I've lost track of him.  Can you find him for me?" asked Shahi.

One of his doctor visitors was questioning whether God is being or an entity.  He was more inclined to believing in God as a force.  I gave the example of the sun which is obviously an entity radiating so much light and heat energy.  We know this to be the sunshine.  We can appreciate that this force, the sunshine, has a source.

Our discussion went on and we eventually finished with kirtan, which always opens up the chakra of understanding.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Monday, 20 July 2015

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015



Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

New Man Came

A young chap from Calgary, a second-generation Hare Krishna devotee, came to join us for the summer.  His name is Jagannath and at 18 years of age his parents, Gaurachandra and Vanipriya, felt that a summer-long retreat in our ashram would be the best experience for him.

Personally I like the concept of "monk for a month" or "monk for any length of time, a week-end etc." It is just ideal for a young guy especially.  Why?  Well, you take on disciplines like early rising.  There's the occasional fast.  You do some menial tasks such as cleaning or prep-work in the kitchen.  You learn team-work, cohesion and harmony of activity.  You also familiarize yourself with sastra, sacred wisdom.  You apply it.  You eat good healthy food.  You build character.

Part of Jagannath's experience was to accompany me on a trek along the ravine.  As a special treat we had Michael Oesch with us.  Michael, whom I've written about before, is one of those rare creatures to have walked across the country so we share so much in common.  We identified plants, trees, bad water (the creek), and good water (the rain) which came down in buckets just as we finished.

Michael remembers the Brickworks from years ago when it was an abandoned empty quarry.  To his amazement the place, at one time full of dug-out clay for brick-making, has transferred into an urban green haven.

I believe that Jagannath benefits totally from his stay in the ashram.  With our walk, he spent time with a couple of older pogeys (us) and he will be in the company of younger monks, encompassing a wider range of experience.  I wish all younger men, and women, could have the ashram experience for their ultimate benefit.  It's an adventure. 


May the Source be with you!

10 km

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Sky Walkers Indeed

“Krishna was compared to Luke Skywalker”, said the woman who came with twenty-six other curious browsers as part of an Encounter group. The woman said she just finished a course on gods and super-heroes. Somehow the comparison was made between the two persons; perhaps because Krishna appears young and is from the countryside, as I understand is the case with Luke.

But I just prefer to talk about my experiences with these lay-members and clergy of some sort. Brian Corwoods leads the group of students, which turns over annually, of interfaith or multi-faith. Generally when Brian pops over his group has already been to a synagogue, church, mosque, or temple for the morning and after a visit to our facility they are off to see another faith group.

They were thrilled about the philosophy, participating in our kirtan and our Q&A as well as a meal at Govinda’s Dining Room. It was a refresher for them, the experiential visit. With groups like Brian’s I sometimes get tempted to ask, “Which of the groups that you visit do you like the most?”

Brian had already briefed his people before reaching us. They were not surprised to hear about the soul’s transmigration. The statement made by Krishna in the Gita (Chapter Two) tells of the soul’s journey within one life, having numerous experiences through the eyes of a child, an adult and then through seniorhood. This principle of many lives within one body, reincarnations within one life-time is an interesting concept which I’m sure Luke Skywalker doesn’t speak about.

I had a rather complete day with Brian’s group and felt like I had many days within one, after which I went for a good 5 kilometre walk before “hitting the sack”. That makes my day most complete.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, July 5th, 2015



Sunday, July 5th, 2015
Vancouver/Toronto 
 

Welcome to the Material World

Fires have still not subsided. British Columbia is as dry as a bone. Its trees are under siege by flames. As Harold and I drove past the entrance to the valley where Saranagati Village is nestled you still find trees ablaze. “They are contained”, said Harold, meaning fire-fighters have the flames under control.

Once I got back up in the air headed for Vancouver, my co-passenger Dean Kop, a saw-mill business operator, and I noted the hazy skies of the mountains. This was not fog necessarily. It was collective dampness and smoke from accumulative brush fires going on all over the place. To me, it gives a glimpse of final devastation when the world is engulfed by the basic elements. You could visualize Shiva dancing away at the time of cosmic dissolution. This dance is not an expression of joy but, more so, a display of serious business, a display of ultimate passion. 

When the skies became a little more clear, Dean and I guestimated what the landmarks were below us. In the same way on my trip north the question was, 

“Would that be the Thompson River or the Frazer?”

“No, it must be the Frazer,” said Dean, “because it’s a muddy river.”  

The theme for today was that the world is on fire and that holds true for the insatiable desires of people. 

At the Vancouver Airport I met devotees who lovingly offered me pasta prasadam to consume along with legal documents to sign. All in the service... 

So, here you have it – the material world. Fire, desire, illness, etc. As our Air Canada aircraft was ready to take off for the air the fellow next to me pulled out the bag for collecting rejected edibles consumed from the seat in from of him. He vomited but did a real good job. Perfect aim! Not a splatter reached me. In Sanskrit the word for illness is vyadi. It means dis-ease. “Food poisoning” he called it, “from the night before.” 

Welcome to the material world. 

 
May the Source be with you.

0 km
      

Saturday, July 4th, 2015


Saturday, July 4th, 2015
Ashcroft, BC

Suddenly, Fire!

Of all days for this to happen.  More than the usual number of planes were in the air.  They were dropping water bombs and chemicals.  A forest fire had started on the north end entrance to Venables Valley, the location where I was staying and also the place where the annual countryside Chariot Festival was to take place at noon today.  This fire dynamic, sourced from Mother Nature (or Father Jagannatha), turned everything upside down.

It was 11:00 AM when my hosts Harold, his good wife and a friend, Vyasapad, were told by police that any non-residents in the valley must leave immediately.  This red alarm got us thinking, “Two out of the four of us are in that category.  We’ve got to evacuate.”  Furthermore, Harold raised a concern in his mind that this wasn’t the first time people have had to evacuate.  In 2004, residents, which were about 100, had to honor a one week mandatory absence from the valley by authorities.

We were also informed that the bus from Vancouver destined for the festival was not allowed to enter the valley due to the spreading flames, while winds were unfavourably headed in the direction of everyone’s homes.  This was getting exciting.   Harold started to secure his essentials, packing his Krishna deities.  I recommended, “Why not get your legal documents and money together?”  And Vyasapad added, “How about some basic food to take with you?”

Harold was totally on board.  We gathered what we could to get in his car, what the car could accommodate.  We arrived at the festival site, hoping that the fire was under control.  There were mixed reactions about the police order from the residents but it wasn’t safe to stay.  The police then rolled in at the site.  Officer Phillips persisted, “Guests must leave.”

I asked him to announce that at our pavilion, so he did.  Managers of the valley from the Saranagati Village arranged then to send all the prasadam, food, to Legacy Park in the nearby town, Ashcroft.  It was a very wise decision.  That did the trick.  Everyone, including residents, converged at the park where the bus passengers were waiting.  The party went on in full force while fire fighters did what they could to contain the flames.  Harold set up his Krishna deities on the grass.  I addressed the crowd, “What does Jagannatha (our Father of the Universe) want?  Does he want a festival in a town and not in a secluded Valley?  Let’s explore the idea for the future.”


May the Source be with you!

6 km





 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Friday, July 3rd, 2015


Friday, July 3rd, 2015
Kamloops, British Columbia

Back In B.C.

Sitting next to me on the flight from Vancouver to Kamloops was Shane from a northern city, Fort St. John. Shane, I learned, works in the oil fields.  I assume he was on a business trip. From thousands of feet up in the air we conversed while looking down out the window.  Basically we fell into a joyful speculation as to the names of the towns below us, “Was that the town, Hope?”  “Oh, could that be the Thompson River?” 

The vistas were stunning.  In elevation, we were above the bird’s eye view.  Even cranes and storks don’t fly this high.   

Then we got to talking about us, in other words, what is going on in each other’s life – beyond the oil fields, etc. We hit on the topic of walking.  Shane admitted to doing more walking lately.  Perhaps he felt he wasn’t doing enough before.  “It gives you time to think,” he said, “then you notice trees, the other creatures, nature, and you mix it all together.”  He was talking like a real advocate of pilgrimage now. 

Shane and I, along with the plane load of people, landed at quaint Kamloops Airport.  Shane and I parted and Harold picked me up and brought me to Saranagati Village where we took to trekking along a trail called the “Ratha Yatra Way”.   

On that trail, Saskatoon berries are abound – and mosquitoes in even greater numerical figures.  Our destination was a farm, owned and run by Bala Krishna, and a gathering of devotee villagers.  The meal that drew everyone was of local harvest and organic quality.  The kirtan that followed was home performed, but the sound, the mantra, originated from the spiritual world.   


May the Source be with you!

6 km


 

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
Peterborough, Ontario

Observations

It wasn’t really planned, but in an impromptu way our van-load of Krishna devotees decided to break up the five-hour drive to Toronto with a stop.  The city of Peterborough boasts having Trent University and Fleming College.  It’s a rather handsome downtown that we did stride through with our voices, drum and cymbals.  In my opinion, we were not in full gear and perhaps that’s one of the reasons for a more indifferent reception from the streets.

When we moved to a green strip along the Trent River system, the niceness of the town seemed to show itself.  Sometimes the soft approach gets more attention. We were sitting on the grass looking perhaps less intimidating.  It’s just an observation.

We also came upon Toby Tyler, who was originally from the US and who had met our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in New York in those very early days in the sixties. Toby runs a restaurant in the downtown and was so happy to see us at his eating place, the Electric City Gardens.

Life as a monk has its ups and downs like it is for anyone.  In my case, I worry for people’s lives.  As a mentor for some, I hear sometimes of the personal struggles. If it had not been for their adherence to Krishna Consciousness they naturally would be in a worse spot.  There is a lot of encouragement that goes along with the job.  Outside of the “worry” there is a pattern in this lifestyle of travel, fun, interaction, learning and realizations as we encountered in Peterborough.

May the Source be with you.

6 km