Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Thursday, January 28th 2016

Thursday, January 28th 2016
Bartica, Guyana

In Bartica

50 is the golden number today.  Guyana is celebrating its 50 years since independence.  It is also a half a century since the official registering of Hare Krishna in the western world.  In July of 1966 ISKCON was born in New York City.

Also this year, Bartica becomes an official town since its inception.  Its population is 17,000 people and I am told it has a major port for goods, such as diamonds and gold.  Because of the areas rich red soil, the Amerindian word bartak was used and a mispronunciation left it with the name it has today.

To reach here at least 50 of us took the four hour ferry from Guyana’s West Coast, along the river Essequibo and then after an hour drive from Georgetown.  You are talking about remoteness but not so much that we find tribal folks in this area.  That venture is saved for next year. Surprisingly all modern amenities are here.

Our purpose in Bartica was to expose the residents to the maha-mantra through the method of Pada-Yatra, a festival on foot.  This is how I got my walking today, at a guess-timation of 6 Kilometres.  Our culmination point was at the quaint community centre ground where we had the chance to interact and display Krishna Consciousness to locals.

It was on the long boat ride to reach here.  That became a high point when we reserved an hour for kirtan and a reading from the book Swamiji, subtitled “An early disciple, Brahmananda Dasa, Remember his Guru.”  Every chance I get I have my head sunk in the text.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Wednesday, January 27th 2016

Wednesday, January 27th 2016
Georgetown, Guyana

A Mention of Jonestown

I’ve had discussions with Damodara Swami on the 9/11 conspiracy case.  Yes, monks do have opinions.  This morning though, we did harbour on the topic on what makes a community healthy in spirit.  We simply endorsed what the experts say on the subject- along the lines of common vision- teamwork, integrity, and so on.

The flight to Guyana was short – one hour.  As the plane came closer to the land, while making its descent, I remarked to the passenger next to me as we both peered out the window, “Look at the endless amount of trees, rainforest.” Then he was responsive, saying something about a community of the past.

He said, “When I see this (the inland forest) I think of Jim Jones and his Jonestown, and the disaster.”

“Yes I remember that.  Not a healthy situation,” I responded.

I was garlanded and greeted by a group of Guyanese followers once we landed.  Bless their souls.  It was also some of those souls that accompanied me to the seawall at Georgetown for a much needed walk.

Wet-ness was splashing from the waves, crashing against the wall, but more so was the moistness derived from within the body.  The sweat was good.

One great quote that came to me today: “Darkness cannot put out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot cancel out hate, only love will do.”

May the Source be with you!

9 km

Tuesday, January 26th 2016

Tuesday, January 26th 2016
Longdenville, Trinidad

With Water and People

“That’s a corn bird,” said  Kartamasha, pointing to the feathered creature flying above us.”  The tail is yellow and in other parts.”

I was trying to catch sight of the bird’s colouration but he was moving, and then was high in elevation and the moment I was informed, we happened to be in the ocean’s water.  Attentiveness also went to the oncoming waves as they were somewhat abrasive if you didn’t watch yourself.

Time spent in the water was invaluable. We are 75% water in physical constitution.  It makes perfect sense to be submerged in it.  I know that during marathon walking times, massage and swimming offer the greatest relief.

As is usual on my trips to Trinidad, a visit to a beach like Las Cuevas brings a group of us together for meeting the ocean and then having a bhakti picnic.  To qualify the term ‘bhakti picnic’ I mean sitting down on the sand, eating Krishna food, and holding a kirtan.  The food and company were fine.  For the kirtan some creativity was implemented.  The picnic pot lids became our cymbals and the food canteen became our drum.

After the beach affair more fun ensued.  In Longdenville, a group of people filled the ISKCON centre for the second consecutive day.  Our topic of discussion was based on the intro of the book “Chaitanya Charitamrta.”  Here we learn of the origin of the magnanimous avatar Sri Chaitanya, an inspiration for all those who engage in the Kirtan Movement.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Monday, January 25th 2016

Monday, January 25th 2016
Port of Spain, Trinidad

Awkward

I can’t boast to have walked today.  I can’t even brag that I have spread out my arms, flapped them and took off in a flight.  Flying I did but by way of sitting in an aircraft, Caribbean Airlines, destination Trinidad.

It was an awkward sit.  I was in seat 9B.  A father and his teenage daughter were in A and C.  That meant I was in-between them. Before we had actually settled in I suggested that they sit together as I could see they were karmicly linked, by blood.  The father declined the offer.  “No, I would rather take the aisle seat.”

“Okay, this should be interesting.”  I thought, “Maybe they are a little ticked off with each other.”

That clearly wasn’t the case.  Between the computer works each one of them was doing at their individual seats, they did have fairly amiable communication while I was in the middle.  I leaned far enough against my chair in order that they would see each other.  At least twice I leaned to the extreme forward position in order that they maintain a conversation while I would stretch and re-position.

It was interesting.  I had to maintain a neutral disposition in all of this.  After the six hour flight and landing in Port of Spain I was driven to the ISKCON Longdenville Centre.  By evening time I was asked to speak on the verse from the Bhagavad – Gita 12:17.

“One who neither rejoices nor grieves, who neither laments nor desires and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things- such a devotee is very dear to me.”

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Sunday, January 24th 2016

Sunday, January 24th 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Protect Your Actual Self

It was Shelly’s birthday.  As is often done, when a member of the community has a birthday he/she will visit the temple.  They may catch the early service – at 4:30 am as she did.  Shelly came with her mom.  She is very self-motivated and wanted to be there for the chanting and the blessings.

Blessings are regarded as a favour from the higher-ups, ultimately the highest up (Krishna). The dictionary also relays something about protection when speaking about blessings. Protection is quite the priority for people these days.  Much finance is invested in it, in the most practical sense, involving everything from installing cameras, securing locks everywhere, keeping a guard dog, learning self-defence and so on.

For the general populace there is a form of danger that is overlooked.  That danger is called maya.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, once said of his students that they have a problem of not sufficiently fearing maya.  By maya he meant the temptations of the world.

Actually, the illusions of the world are something to be concerned about; hence we need protection - a spiritual protection.  When we don’t obtain protection we become most vulnerable.

It is essential that the soul, which is our true identity, be guarded.  Chant the name Krishna and give it a try, if you haven’t already. Chant and be happy. Be protected!


May the Source be with you!

6 km

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016
Hastings, Ontario

Going to the Country

It was totally my pleasure to go to the country with Kevala Bhakti.  A young, well, younger than me, person.  Our drive was just shy of two hours to see Fil and Sukhayanti who have launched an ambitious agrarian program involving cows and land.  They also launched two baby girls recently, twins, actually.

A lucky family.

Why do I say that?  The answer to that question is, country home, barns, land, clean air, river nearby, each other, health, God, and a purpose.

Kevala Bhakti and I had our hand at serving the bovine these compact green pellets.  It came to mind on the return journey, the lyrics of Bruce Cockburn in his song, “Going to the Country”

Look out the window, what do I see?
Cows hanging out under spreading trees
Zoom!  They’re gone behind the sign
White letters pointing to the long white line
And I’m going to the country
Oh la la la la la la
I’m going to the country
Sunshine smile on me
I can smell the grass growing in the field
Wind in my hair tells me how it feels
Farm houses, silver roof flashing by
Tractor – trailer truck says goodbye with a sigh
And I’m going to the country
Oh la la la la la la
I’m going to the country
Sunshine smile on me
Birds singing, I’m singing in my bones
Doesn’t much matter now where I’m going
Get it when I get there is what I’ll do
If I get enough I’ll give some to you
And I’m going to the country
Oh happy as can be
I’m going to the country
Sunshine smile on me

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Friday, January 22nd, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Perceptions

If you are going to go on pilgrimage to India, this is not a bad time of the year to make that move.  I don’t know too many winter buffs amongst those from the great white north, Canada. An escape to warmer climates is what snowbirds do.  I’ve seen the great migration of bhakti yogis exit stage right for the land of Bharat around this time for years.

Personally, I take well to the austerity that comes with the cold, and I think sometimes I’d rather be an ice cube than a fire brand.  No, I’m not a fan of India’s balmy summer, but I’ll go next month out of obligation and for recharging the spiritual battery.

I do mention the warmth of people when they leave for the holy places of pilgrimage.  I mention this because I don’t see Praveen.

Who is he anyways?  Praveen is a gentle soul.  Whenever I’m in town, he will join me for that trek that Mandala and I take.  He just left for India.  We take a stretch along Yonge Street. We meet employees that have this luminescent yellow green attire while they’re on their way to the waste management depot.  They say good morning, we say good morning.

We also see people waiting at the bus stop at Bloor before the subway opens.  They are all so quiet.  When they see us, they kind of perk up at our sight, when they see Praveen in his standard white dhoti, I’m sure they wonder, “Muslim?”  When they see me in the saffron, the likely assumption is, “Buddhist?”

Whatever the perception, there IS a perception, and if they are left thinking, even momentarily, “God’s people” or “two religious paths getting along with each other”, then I think it’s a plus.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Thursday, January 21st, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

The Traffic Moved

The traffic moved ever so slow
On Bloor through the sprinkled snow.
The usual passion did not show
Like a lazy ball with little “go”.

Mandala and I moved quite fast
To combat the chilled Arctic blast.
The traffic we seemed to go right past,
Our feet fueled and totally gassed.

Shoppers are few in the January blues.
Christmas is gone, its lights blew a fuse.
It’s that timely circle, no new news.
In the glum of it,  there’s debts and dues.

We were quite glad, stepping the street,
Venting the power of our body heat.
You measure life by strides on the feet,
Making each move neat and complete.

We stopped to visit our tattoo friend
Working hard and that to no end.
Ten minutes went, that time we did spend
Till it came time to go round the bend.

It was night, the day said “Closed!”
All seemed still, perfectly posed.
We arrived home, I showered and hosed.
I read and wrote, then finally dozed.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
Miami, Florida

Leaving Miami

I gave one last class in Miami for this trip, and from Canto 7 of text Bhagavatam we were discussing the response of a tyrant, Hiranyakashipu, regarding his son’s strong commitment to Vishnu. He was furious, and held his boy’s teachers, Shanta and Amarka, responsible for the perceived deviation. The teachers themselves could not comprehend how the enemy infiltrated into mind of Prahlad, the son. It became a mystery for them.

To analyze the situation, those who embrace the bodily concept of life and take to the lifestyle of lording it over the world, such as in the case of the tyrant Hiranya, there will always be defensiveness. Any different perspective on life will be viewed as a threat. If you don’t succumb to the dictator’s wishes, then you are clearly labeled as the enemy.

Hiranya epitomizes the false ego. Such persons always meet their doom. Bad karma definitely came his way. Hence, the message from the Bhagavatam is: Watch out for that false ego, which is a major hurdle on the spiritual path.

So now that we are talking about paths, I could not manage, time-wise, to hit a trail today because of air travel.

I’ve left the land of Florida, where 800 humans move to every day, and I left the Everglades, where pythons- unmanageable pests- are released every year by irresponsible owners.

I guess you could call them enemies of the environment. Yes, in this day and age, destroyers of our eco-enviros are the true sinners. How dare they upset the balance that nature provides! But I guess you could say we are all guilty of that.

As our plane ascends into the air, I look down at the roadway systems and the automobiles; the concrete jungle. Yes, we are all guilty; we are the enemy.

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
Miami, Florida

Gator Glade

I learned a lot from visiting the Everglades National Park. I didn’t know that the male mosquito pollinates the local orchid. I was unaware that there is a water plant in the glades that consumes mosquito larvae. That makes it a carnivorous entity. I also didn’t know that at mating time, the bull alligator physically poses himself in a curved position, makes a call to lure the female, and when they meet, he pulls her down with her testing him to see if he succeeds at keeping her down, then she accepts the romance. Otherwise, she leaves with the attitude, ‘see you later, alligator’.

Yes, the walk and the ride by tram were both educational. Experience also confirmed for me after seeing, hearing, and some interaction with birds and animals (no, we didn’t get too close to the gators), that the creatures of the wild are easier to deal with than humans.

Back at the Miami Iskcon Centre, I saw a good side of humans, which was one of cooperation and enthusiasm. Basically, I was facilitating a group of Krishna followers in organizing sankirtan in three categories – food, book, and mantra distribution. This approach to devotional life is generally a morale booster. Everyone went home feeling fulfilled, renewed and hopeful at the prospect of increasing their devotional output.

My final adventure of the day was an encounter with the police. I was walking in the dark in a residential neighborhood near my host’s home when a police cab pulled over. The officer coming out asked what I was doing. I explained.

“I got a couple of calls, people here don’t see too many monks in orange robes.”

I explained, “I’m visiting, I’m from Canada.” I gave him my card.

Two more police cars came over after they received the report. The police just came over to say they wanted to see the walking monk. They were congenial, kind, although in the beginning of the urgent calls they received, it was likely a response to terroristic paranoia.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

 

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Monday, January 18th, 2016
Miami, Florida

From the Park to Carlos

Tropical Park is a new place for my feet. I’ve never been here before. Being Martin Luther King Day, a good number of people took the day off and chose this location for walking their dog or engaging in a family picnic.

Funny though, many people are sporting coats. Odd for Floridians, unless they perceive that temperatures are low. Being a Canuck, I personally love the weather. To be frank, though, I wouldn’t dip into the ponds nearby. It’s still not warm enough.

Speaking of warmth, I met Carlos for a second time. He runs a health shop with a cafĂ©. Fully vegetarian and fully fun, this facility is an attractive place that drew a few of us devotees, since we were dealing with an unplanned lunch. Why I say it’s attractive here is because of the incredible human skills that Carlos demonstrates. He and his team of employees (all male) really know how to please their customers. A hard worker, an incredible gifted man with jokes, Carlos has got it down.

It was my epiphany that it’s kind and caring personnel like this who win hearts. It is this kind of person that can have success anywhere, even when it comes to running a spiritual centre like a temple. I could see Carlos’s employees enjoying their work, that’s what makes a successful enterprise, when there’s leadership that enthuses everyone.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
Miami, Florida

With My Friends

In Houston I had paced back and forth in Abhay and Sukriti’s backyard. They were my hosts and I was thrilled to have access to a car free zone. The grass and ground, a little uneven in spots, was just ideal for pacing, and I liked the ambience for what I could see through the nighttime darkness. Bordering the suburban property is a pear tree – also papaya, pomegranate, peach, banana, and some other trees that I just couldn’t identify, lined the property. I saw them as my friends, with their leaves tossing in the night wind. They were doing what they were supposed to be doing and I felt I was doing what I was obliged to do, walking and chanting. It is their dharma to produce fruit (at least I could see the pomegranates forming on their parent tree), and it is my dharma to be doing something spiritual. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, once wrote, “Humanity begins when Inquiring is awakened in the mind.” Well, I’ve been on my quest, it was 44 years ago that I began my quest, and I somehow or other landed with those interesting Hare Krishnas. No regrets.

I flew to Miami and met my host, Lee, a lawyer in South Miami. I then attended the Iskcon Miami Sunday Open House, on the corner of Virginia and Day in Coconut Grove. What a marvelous event it was. This is a great community that has been somewhat struggling in certain ways.

My visit was to encourage.

May the Source be with you!

9 km