Monday, 21 July 2014

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary Too

Calgary’s 8th Avenue is the most promising thoroughfare for another chariot event.  CafĂ© sitters and people strolling about could hear a distant booming of the bhangra and mrdanga  drums.  At 12 sharp, high noon, coconuts were ceremoniously crashed to the pavement sending exploded juices in different directions before the oncoming march of people chanting Hare Krishna. 

I think anything ‘new’ bedazzles people.  It challenges monotony.

So, for two hours, our parade went straight on 8th Avenue up to the armory, its usual route.  This then makes it a pilgrimage because of the nature of the event.  It is not a military march, a protest, or an aimless stroll.  This festival, known as Ratha Yatra, is a reenactment of Krishna’s consort, Radha, attempting to lure Krishna back to His home rural village of Vrindavan.  At least this is one aspect of the event. 

Hundreds came to partake in this walk, which to my guess is a simple 3 to 4 kilometre stretch.  My interpretation is an attempt to lure people away from their cars and get them on their feet.  This is good.  To me, Calgary seems to be a real car town, not so pedestrian prone, except for the trails along the Bow River.  This is where you find runners, walkers, and cyclers a plenty.

Meanwhile, all went well with the parade, and the truck pulled a flat bed wagon, on which I sat part of the way.  I am not getting lazy, it is on that wagon that the musicians sat churning out the mantra, along with a cheerful turbaned Punjabi man who tapped rhythmically on the two ends of his bhangra drum.   Outside of the chariot this guy looked the brightest. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Will Perpetuate

Rain has hit the prairies more than once, especially for farmers.  It also makes conditions very conducive for mosquito proliferation.  This is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Our bus’s front window gets plastered by the bugs.  The very faithful and dutiful, Dravanaksha, one of our chief drivers, pulled over the large heap of metal with precious cargo inside (22 nice teenage boys), and lathered with huge brush, water and soap, that expansive window, causing bountiful bodies of bugs to slide off.  It didn’t take long, though, before a new splatter of bugs replaced the old ones. 

Today, I squeezed in 4 kilometres through Willow Grove subdivision, walking with 14 year old Jay.  This was not at bug hour, but at midday.  Sun and wind were forceful, though.  Will anything be other than an onslaught in this world? 

At 5:30 PM, the first Chariot Festival for Saskatoon kicked off.  It was somewhat chaotic at the start, understandably so, and total order never really manifest, especially at our presentation time at the quaint Lakshmi Narayan temple.  The building was crammed, joyfully, by yogis, Hindus, new agers, and bhaktas or devotees of Krishna.  It was stuffy and seating was inadequate.  However, I am forever proud of what one devotional couple can do in mobilizing a whole crew of people in a town curious as to what The Festival of India, and and Indian chariot for that matter, would look like.  Kashyapa and Panchami organized this first event with lots of enthusiasm.  The numbers of people that showed up surprised us.  People liked what they saw and heard.  An improved venue should be on the prairie horizon in the future.  Once such a program begins, it is likely to perpetuate.  We thank donors and all who physically contributed to the event. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Regina, Saskatchewan

Shoe Happy

I’m really satisfied with my new pair of Keen shoes.  I picked them up from a shop on Danforth Street in Toronto.  The clerk charged no tax, perhaps he was charmed by a monk. 

I’ve had no issues with breaking into these shoes – no blisters or callouses.  They are snug on the feet, but are a trite heavier than Crocs.  For short term treks, such as the ones I’m currently going through, these shoes will be fine.  Time will tell. 

I’m in Regina.  Our bus parked at the Husky Gas Station at night on Victoria Ave. when I decided to make my way to the local ashram on Retallack Street.  These days, Regina and the province of Saskatchewan, are booming.  Natural resources had something to do with that.  Of course, it welcomes extra traffic.  Road madness hustled hustled along Victoria, which is where I happened to trek.  I had the fortune to walk a worn, unconventional trail where regular earth is as comfy for feet as asphalt is for tires.  I really was in awe at the insistence of road rage next to me.  I was glad when I finally reached the downtown which was quieter, and especially when a young oriental fellow asked about my assumed Buddhism.

“Actually, it’s Hare Krishna, with roots from India, and which also outdates Buddhism.”  He gave a nod and then dashed off to cross the street and off to work, I assumed. 

Our ashram in Regina is not in the best neighbourhood.  When I asked some folks where the nearest drug store is and where I could get a particular prescription drug, everyone seems to know where legal drugs are located, and perhaps, the other kind as well.

Our bus tour group went on to do a performance once again – chanting, magic show with Dattatreya, and our drama, “Little Big Ramayan”.  What a feel good program.  That’s what this is all about, it is about community strengthening and reinforcement, that our little travelling road show offers.  It is also effective as outreach.  Newcomers have something experiential.  I’m sure guru and Krishna are pleased.  Our show was all done in barefoot, though, no shoes required. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Winnipeg, Manitoba

In All You Do

The Unitarian Church just off of the Assiniboine River became the venue for our evening devotional show.  It’s an impressive place.  Limestone blocks give it that stately look.  Roger, a member of the church, and our ‘on-site man’, was there to assist us in our preparation.  He is just the right kind of guy for the job.

I see the devotion, bhakti, in him.  I don’t believe that one group of spiritualists, even our own Krishna movement, has a monopoly on it.  I will say that these common ground feelings run through my veins being in the presence of Roger and in such a sacred space.

When we say, “Krishna is everywhere”, just as someone might say, “Brahman is everywhere,” “God is everywhere,” “Divinity is everywhere,” what really is the difference in terms of perception? 

Preparation for the evening program all culminated in a great show with an appreciative audience.  The space and acoustics were great, as was the layout of the building’s interior. 

Some temples I visit are cluttered with mismatched furniture and paraphernalia.  This place was tastefully done with its placement of things.  Perhaps the attendees felt the space to be cared for and that was one of the reasons for the joy they felt this evening. 

Devotion can be applied in all facets of life.  It is not limited to how you execute some rituals, or how you put out your mantra.  It is an implementation in all you do.  Check 9.27 from the Bhagavad Gita. 

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Thunder Bay, Ontario

Beyond Liberation

My friend, Gaura, and I, took a short trek under the spit of rain in Toronto.  Not ignoring the dripping trees, we noticed a black cherry tree.  Again, this is right in our neighbourhood where such juicy bounties can be found just hanging right there.  Strange that humans generally take so little interest in what is so natural and so ‘under your nose’.  So be it.  Leave the organic stuff for the squirrel, the raccoon, or the odd monk, and let humans access the GMO’d commercial bought, what we call, ‘food’. 

Not long after black cherries darkened the lips, Gaura and I returned to the temple ashram and sat for a Bhagavatam class conducted by Kaliyapani, a long time devotee from the UK, reminding all those attending that the goal of life is liberation, freedom from ongoing births in this world.  The class was well delivered.

Those of us who have routined ourselves to devotional activities for some years now, put a life of bhakti, devotion, above liberation itself.  Just to give an example of what I’m talking about, when I arrived at Thunder Bay for its annual Festival of India, I came to this realization regarding liberation.  What did I see there at Marina Park off of Lake Superior?  I saw crowds of happy people, about 6,000, engrossed in spiritual culture.  The food, the dance, music, pretty clothes (very colourful), incense, spiritual books, popcorn, lemonade and ice cream were all featured.  Thunder Bay bursts with bhakti this time of year, and my great fortune to be here serving others by simply giving the message of Krishna Consciousness, allows me to touch the tip of liberation, or better still, to ride on its back.  Freedom truly comes from serving and telling others of a better life that is alien to that mundane greedy existence of our modern world. 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
New Territory
Phil, Ananda Rupa, and Jagannatha, who are all visiting pilgrims, and I, trekked through posh Rosedale in the morning when we came upon a security guard at a childcare establishment.  He noticed us, stood there, and inquired about our exotic attire. 
“What do the clothes represent?” asked the dark and tall middle eastern man. 
“It represents Krishna Consciousness.”
He had a string of questions, including, “What book do you follow?”
“Bhagavad Gita,” I said.
“Do you believe in heaven and hell?  What happens when you die?  Do you believe God can be seen?”  From his looks and his questions, I gathered that he followed the Quran, as he was talking about a personal judgment day.   I hoped that my answers left him thinking about shades of grey, and not the usual black and white mode of perception.  He spoke about what he was taught, that there’s one book only. 
“So you wouldn’t read Alice in Wonderland?” I asked.
My companions were lit up at his inquiries, and I believe that to some degree he was enjoying the responses as he stood in a fresh new territory of openness.  The sensation that we could talk in this liberal way, and not live in fear about sharing and learning, was comforting. 
In the end of our exchange, it was a warm embrace.  The experience was sweet.  I had to think about it, that who in such a place in Rosedale ever talks about spiritual things on the street?
May the Source be with you!
8 KM

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Certain hypes I don’t understand.  For instance, the world cup for the soccer tournament has captivated the globe, and this afternoon, Germany had won in the final game against Argentina.  A screen made its way to Centre Island on day two of our festival.  This was not part of the agenda, however, championship enthusiasts, who also have a heart with Krishna, went to the side to immerse themselves watching the game on the screen. 
Attendance at the Island was a little bit down, due in part to the spectacle causing many people to just stay at home.  Rain, I guess, was a second excuse. 
When hype of the magnitude of the soccer game takes place, usually there’s extra drinking that goes on. By that, I’m not referring to Kool-Aid.  We had incident, not on the Island, but back at home base at the temple ashram.  Two men and a woman, highly intoxicated, made their way inside our building and did some property damage.  I can’t blame stupid behaviour on soccer games, but I can say that there should be happier and cleaner ways to celebrate. 
Speaking of drinking hard, our very controversial mayor, Mr. Rob Ford, showed up at the Chariot Festival on Centre Island.  He actually had his time on the stage and congratulated our community for the ongoing success of the festival.  He ended up saying, “Hare Krishna”, which from our point of view is a more than pious thing to do. 
Thank you, Mayor Ford, for making it to the event.  You are a public figure known for your gutsiness.  As you saw yourself, people from our community were swarming around you after you made your speech.  In any event, it was very considerate of you to attend. 
I wanted to congratulate the three second-initiates – Aindra, Rupa and Sanatan, who took that next spiritual step. 
May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Not Much But So Much

Not much to say other than the event.  The 42nd Annual Ratha Yatra Chariot Festival was a smashing event.  I saw all kinds of people come out of the woodwork, so to speak, at the Yonge Street procession, as well as Centre Island where crowds were enjoying good clean fun.  As pointed out in the past, no drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, and at the same time having a blast, is practically unheard of in this day and age. 

That’s what happened!

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

High Point

Monks have come, sannyasis by the name of Gopal Krishna, Bhakti Raghava, Chandramauli, and Janardan.  Lay members have arrived, some who are family members, some who are singles.  There are the elderly, the very young, children and babies, and adolescents that have made their way to 243 Avenue Road for the warm-up session leading to this year’s Chariot Festival.

I am referring to a 12 hour kirtan, a chanting marathon.  These folks have come from far and wide, cities from locations in primarily North America are represented.  The vibes are great.  I was given the honour to kick start the function.  I was fortunate to have our boys from the Krishna Culture Bus Tour all around me.  The well known kirtan icon, Madhava, was there to support with his voice while Phil Lussier, who so expertly adjusts to any of my tune switching, was fingering on the harmonium. 

Throught the day, mantras were resounding.  I would call our building nothing less than a busy anthill or beehive.  By evening, the high point reached during Madhava’s lead – a crescendo of sound, of movement, of smells, and finally, the fire of digestion. 

Anyone who was there at those lofty moments could appreciate the words of the Bhagavad Gita, “The Higher Taste”.

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
More Of It! 
The passengers aboard the Krishna Culture Bus Tour very informally gauge the best meal on the trip so far.  ISKCON's Montreal centre number one for the best lunch but it is Owen Sound's Rajesh and Alpa's home that took the official top score for breakfast.  It featured pancakes with nothing other than Canadian maple syrup, fruit, veggies and your standard American boxed cereals.  I wasn't there when sponsored bricks of ice cream came their way at the night-time snack indulgence before going to sleep.  What do you suspect for a bunch of young teens?
For soul nurturing I spoke from Canto 7 of the book Bhagavatam emphasizing the power of smaranam or recalling positive spiritual thoughts.  Spiritual practices and messages folded with physical exhilaration was our usual full day program.  While our boys took advantage of favourable water at Souble Beach, Dattatreya and I went for a beach walk to the end and back.  The newly-wed and I, the monk, had our opportunity to know each other simply through conversation.  Through that process we had come to the conclusion that our mutual upbringing was sattvic, in a mode of goodness, for goodness sake.
My day wound-down when Tulasi from the rock band, Rajasi, engaged me in an upcoming music video, shooting from a camera, some walking along the Bruce Trail.  It was at that magic hour when the sun comes to our level, close to the horizon or the earth's service.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
Today's temperature escalated only to 17 degrees Celsius, not too impressive as beach weather, although it was sunny.  The boys are really anticipating the glory of Sauble Beach.  We all settled for an hour trek from Inglis Falls to Harrison Falls via a decent trail along a clean babbling brook, what is more accurately the Sydenham River.  Intermittently, skipping stones on and submergence in that water took care of the boys frivolity, including a lie-down in a rock formation, a natural jacuzzi where more than a trickle of water cascades on three sides of the body.  A game of soccer was preceded by the splash and the trek.
I think its an achievement to get young boys or men in general, away from gadgets.  This youth's program, in essence, is to provide a natural and spiritual experience.
Coordinator Manoram, who is slowly passing the succession baton onto others, especially an Afro-American by the Sanskrit name of Dattatreya, has been conducting the last two classes in the morning.  They are lessons from Prahlad, a young Vedic saint, and they encompass an ultimate dependency on the Supreme.  The guys are responding well to the message.
Afternoon, or at least a chunk of it, is time to engage this youth in our drama, 'Little Big Ramayana' which has multiple physical movements in it.  Ultimately the story-line underscores the message of peace, loyalty, and devotion.
By evening time, families from the neighbourhood and even a computer engineer, Nageswar, from Andra Pradesh in India, came by for chanting and a feast.  Though in a short-term assignment in Canada, Nageswar took the time to be with us.  I'm sure he was fascinated by seeing mostly western kids approach the mantras of ancient India with an enthusiasm that even mundane gadgets can't excite.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
Boys from Men
I walked to the old Mudtown pottery building wherein lives one of my support persons from CanWalk 3.  Garuda Vahan is residing in this unique place overlooking Georgian Bay.  He is a happy pensioner but keeps very active physically and spiritually.  It was at this location that I was to meet up with the Krishna Culture Bus Tour occupied by twenty plus young men, aged 12 -18.  Within minutes that I arrived at Mudtown, the bus pulled up.
As is custom in our Vaishnava tradition, you shower or take bath in the morning before you move on with affairs of the day.  While there are showers in the bus, I suppose to be both creative and hurry things along, the program's coordinator, Manoram, proposed that the boys dip into the clean and refreshing waters of Georgian Bay.  "This will separate the boys from the men," he challenged.  While the world is immersed in Soccer mania (no exception for these guys) the real hands-on sport for this morning was 'who can stay in the cool waters the longest'.
The swim was the highlight of the day.  While walking was brief for me, the leaping up and down from the director's chair was more time consuming.
Frankly speaking some of the boys showed some 'apprehension' to act.  Much like the will to brave the cool waters of the Bay, but by the time our second session of practice rolled on, for the Ramayan, all the cast had become loosened up.  The pastimes of Ram are endearing to all of them.
May the Source be with you!
4 KM