Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Toronto/Vancouver

Namaste


My day started with some trekking along Jarvis Street in Toronto, a head start en route to the airport before my driver would pick me up.  Who knows if I’d get the chance otherwise to do what I need to do and love to do, stretching the legs.  While trekking at the early hour 4:45, some people partying from a second floor veranda looked down below and sent me a ‘Namaste’.  I reciprocated, and with a “Hare Krishna” too.  I gather from this encounter and many more like this that the world is slowly becoming Vedic.

Much later in the day, I found myself at Unity Yoga, a studio just off of Commercial Drive in Vancouver.  I was asked to give a schpeil on my walking experiences, so I did.  I was in the room with about 40 folks, mostly Caucasian, whom I consider incremental Vedic people. 

I opened up with a ‘Namaste’ and then, ‘Hare Krishna’, and then took off from there on, lessons and happenings along the pilgrims trail.  I threw in a few jokes, but ultimately emphasized that each and every one of us are essentially spiritual beings on a journey.  “We are not these bodies, we are spirits.  We have an obligation to cultivate our spiritual side.”  There were other people leading the chant, Katelin and Nitai Priya.  We had the most ecstatic dance at the end of the evening.  The kirtan, the chant and dance enjoyed by all, and the healthy prasadam consumed, confirms that the world is going directions east.  Namaste!

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Friday, April 10th, 201

Toronto, Ontario

Along Mud Creek


Along Mud Creek the ash trees have been cut down and more are to follow.  The reason?  According to signs posted along the ravine, we are informed that the emerald ash bore a pesky green beetle, and it is taking the life out of these trees.

The Parks and Recreation Department is on the assignment to manage the forest along the creek.  What can I say?  I hate to see trees go, but then, someone who knows more than me has to manage.  My observation is that nature seems to be cruel unto itself.  It nurtures and then demolishes. 

While on this walk by the creek, my walking partner, Durjoy, and I, came upon a group of youths mildly intoxicated.  Humans are always interesting.  We also nurture and destroy.  I guess because we are an integral part of nature.  Self destructive might be the term.  In any event, the kids, if I may call them so, were curious about us.  Handshakes were exchanged and they were happy to receive the mantra we are known for, “Hare Krishna”.  But now, back to the trail.  Much energy is going into the restoration of the forest and the creek along the way.  The mud deepened due to the sinking tires of trucks occupying the space during the day.  The thick mud forced us to turn back.  Boulders have been brought in and dumped to evade erosion I guess.  In one sense, it’s encouraging and commendable to see the efforts made to keep the forest and the creek alive. 

Much investment needs doing within our own psycho physical being, like the work done at the creek.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario

I Will Come


It was a type of conversation I’ve had before with people who have mystical notions about monks.  I was walking and came to the juncture of Ave and Dav when two young guys, one with hoodie and one with toque, saw me.  “Are you a monk?” said one. 

“Sure am!” said I. 

“I thought monks don’t speak.”

“In some orders they have taken vows of silence.  Our group makes lots of good noise.  We drum and we chant mantras...” 

I invited them to our ashram just two blocks away saying that our morning session was about to begin at 4:30 AM.  They weren’t quite ready for such a wakeup experience.

“We’ll come, promise, sometime soon.”

Another person I met on my way to see Devamrita Swami, a monk friend from the States, works with the Parks and Recreation division of the city.  He was in uniform and was parked on the side of the street.  He starts to speak, “Are you chanting?  Did you have your prasadam?”  I never met this person before to my recollection.  Then he identified himself as Michael and said he has a brother in Florida whose name is Mahavir, and who recently started a Hare Krishna bikers club. 

“I know him,” I responded, “he opened up so many Krishna centres in South America, right?” 

The fellow got a little jovial and then said, “Yeah, his hair’s a bit too long.  When it comes to hair, I’m more like you guys.”  And with that he pulled off his hat to demonstrate his lack of hair. 

And then I remarked, “Yeah, he looks at times a little like Shirley Temple with his hair.”  (Laughter)  “Come to our temple sometime, we have a great restaurant, you’ll love it.”

“I will come!” he said very determinedly. 

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Dubai/Toronto

Heart Throbs


As the plane flew through the African sky, my heart throbbed over the feeling for those good souls I spent the last week with in Durban.  Two of those souls from the Zulu background had received diksa initiation.  Bhaktin Lobe became Lila, and Bhima became Bhishma.  Congratulations!

To them, and to all who gave me so much support and love during my stay, in both South Africa and Mauritius, I offer my humble obeisance.  As usual, I put the recent past behind and look ahead.  Only occasionally would I revisit moments of the now gone.  For the present, well, being in a plane and looking at the screen in front of me about the story of a woman who walked across Australia’s desert with four camels and a dog gave me mixed feelings.  I found the docudrama not very interesting, but it did make me hanker for being hugged by the Earth.  My mind raced very fast to the future in anticipation for a walk from Boston to Butler Pennsylvania, and then New York, this September.  That will be heaven, to get out of the straight jacket seat at J57 in the aircraft that I was in, and then walking the northeast of the US, that would be heaven. 

I must remind myself, however, of patience as the ultimate virtue.

May the Source be with you!



0 KM

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Festival Done


Now that the festival is done, we managed to squeeze in some free time.  Like most years, after the Durban event I would chill with some of the members of our drama troupe.  We would organize a walk, a picnic, and engage in a kirtan, a read from shastra, the pastimes of Krishna.  One year we did all of the above, in addition to playing baseball.

I do recall at that time that wearing a dhoti is not so practical for baseball.  You can’t take the broad strides required to make a home run. 

Today a group of us decided to hit a great trail somewhere out of the city.  Within a half hour drive, we came to one of those very rural paths at a provincial park.  Low and behold, we were greeted by a family of zebras.  Oblivious to our presence the group of healthy typically African mammals were just grazing away.  We meant nothing to them, even though you could go arm’s length distance from them.  That was about it as far as sighting wildlife was concerned, except for a small snake that slithered by.  Going down a windy trail amidst foliage, bush, cacti and trees, a dhoti, once again, proves impractical.  All is pleasant until you brush against smaller plant life.  All these little things start sticking to your clothes, such as something called ‘black jacks’ and also ‘sweethearts’.  It would be interesting to know the technical Latin terms for them.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, was quite attuned to the botanical terminologies for exotic trees.  He wasn’t just familiar with Sanskrit verses and philosophy, he was all around quite expert at so many things. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Everyone Is Good


After a fabulous meal at the home of a prominent Krishna follower, Kala and I took to some walking.  For directions to the festival site one of the attendees explained, “You go left to the second robot, then turn right and go to the next robot.  There you will be near the site.”

Now, I was reminded what is meant by the word “robot”.  It means “street light”.

Before we departed, however, a dinner guest, giving deliberation on whether it was safe enough to do some promenade in the neighborhood, finally said, “It should be ok.”

We set off walking in this posh area yet each lot with its well manicured grounds had its cameras, hedges, walls, gates and whatever security device possible including, in some cases barbed wire.  Welcome to South Africa, where crime is at optimum level.  In fact I never fail to hear of stories where there is vandalism, violence and murder.

To offer a balance to this assessment on this place that I come to each year, I would say that everyone I meet, whether it be an Afrikaan, a Zulu, an Indian, black, white or brown, are very human.  They are kind, sweet even.  

Yes, by nature, everyone is good. Only motives stand in the way.

May the source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Momentless

More rain.  More greyness.  I don't mind.  Temperatures are comfortable.

Even in the tent called “Bhakti Cloud”, designed as a young person's place for devotional dance, it gets hot.  It's usually like being in a sweat lodge.  And I'm supposed to be the “dance master”.  That's how it’s dubbed.  I'm the dance master.  Today with cooled down temperatures it was pleasant.

What happened during that session, some women had come from church, stumbled upon our fest and joined in our improvised dance.  My God! Did they work up a sweat!  They were Zulu, rather elderly, and not slim but they got everyone going with their Zulu steps to the djembe beat and the mantra I was resounding.  They were appareled in their Sunday dresses and hats.  They were enjoying the rousing music and took it, I am sure, like a Gospel-thumping ecstasy dance.

That one-half hour session went in a flash.  Time takes on a different meaning when caught in the fever of devotion. It's a timeless zone.  You can chuck out your watch and forget tomorrow.  A sumptuous of transcendence.  It's a great moment, or non moment if you will.

May the source be with you!

5 KM

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Guy From the Street

It was a hard and yet fun full day at the site of the festival.  I was immersed in staging the drama “Sati”, a story of heroism the wife of Lord Shiva.  She stood up against her own father's mistreatment towards her due to the malice he felt over her husband Shiva.  In any event the story was highly appreciated in its presentation well rendered by my usual local crew from Durban and Pretoria mostly.

One other person who pitched into help in the production, back stage, was a fellow from another city in South Africa – Newcastle. He agreed to walk with me, a short distance really, to his hotel.  From there I was to be picked up for the journey to my flat in Chatsworth. After a day of people, it really was an ideal “chill”.  It's also unusual to have so much rain happening in Durban at this time.

Mathuranath from Newcastle, and I, took those unwinding steps under an umbrella when a young man, a Zulu, squeezed his way through a fence to access the streets.  He began speaking and even boasting about his life in the street.  “I spent three years in Joburg, then some time in Pretoria and now I've been in Durban for a few month living on the street.  Sometimes I stay under a bridge.  But yah know as long as yah live, right?” I could not one hundred per cent agree with his philosophy on life but he had an upbeat attitude towards living and didn't mind saying “Hare Krishna” a few times in his dialogue with us.

May the Source be with ou!

5 KM

Monday, 6 April 2015

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Way To Go

The champak tree becomes your companion when you do that goom-goom walk around the temple.  In no way does this mean that the tree walks with you.  I wish.  What I’m saying is that a number of these fragrant flowering trees are planted along the path.

There are also ashok trees like the ones you read about in “the Ramayana” where Sita is held captive in such a grove.

I'm also reminded that at the opening of this temple (the 80's) when the grounds where less lush and trees not so full, Nelson Mandela walked these steps.

Our Ratha Yatra, Festival of Chariots, Durban's 26th, took the route along the usual beach front passing by all the major hotels.  On this long weekend (Easter) many people become exposed to the chariots, the deities of Jagannatha and the mantra, Hare Krishna.  At the culmination of the chariot pulling the fest ends up at an expansive aria, the former Durban drive-in movie facility.

In my opinion, like other chariots festivals I've attended, the spirit of participants is up, yet the quality sound is not what it could be to draw in the crowds.  Musically, it has a way to go.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Durban, South Africa

Lucky!

I consider myself a lucky chap.  I have an understudy for a director here.  Yes, we are pulling together two dramas for the festival this week and when I get tired, needing some choreography assistance I have someone to depend on.

Prem Vikas just turned 29 yesterday and he's a great talent on the stage.  He hails from Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa.  In fact, a number of people in our cast are from Pretoria.

In reflection on productions done since January of this year, it seems to be a consequence of divine arrangement that a younger group are stepping up to the task of directing.  I can think of Kish who helped me tremendously in India. Stage presence he also has being a member of the kirtan band, “The Mayapuris.”  Madava of Australia has great possibilities as a director, being fine in the dance and acting department.

Hmmm! What else about today that is making me feel lucky? Well, lunch today was with Indradyumna Swami, also a former surfer (refer to yesterday's blog).  Having this sanga, companionship is shaping me.

My advice is “Seek good company that enthuses your spirit.”  Make it a priority!

I am lucky.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Durban, South Africa

To Be Endorsed

It takes less than 2 minutes to walk at my normal speed, one lap or one revolution, around the temple building.  In one way it provides a sense of eternity, like you never reach a destination.  I was just curious to know.  At this rate during my precious time for mantra meditation, “Just how many times do I go around this sacred edifice?” was my question.  If my math brain doesn't deceive me, then I can be looking to doing sixty times around on an average two hour jaunt in a day.

Unfortunately, today was not one of those days.  Hours are monopolized by drama practice, but for a special treat, lunch with another monk.  Bhakti Chaitanya Swami resides here in South Africa.  It was interesting to find out that in his teen – to twenty years – he was a surfer. He and his buddies lived for that special wave from the ocean blue.  Life was simple.  “You might live in your vehicle, sleep in it.”  He then implied that you wait for that special dream wave to come from the ocean blue.

That would be ecstasy.

Like many of us in our sixties surfing the wave is out of the question.  But walking a few rounds about the Chatsworth temple is quite doable even at ten revolutions per day.  I endorse it for anyone.

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Friday, 3 April 2015

Tuesday, March, 31st, 2015

Durban, South Africa
 
Where You Step
 
 
The circular trek around the temple means you meet puddles. In the wee hours of the morning the grounds with grass, shrubs and trees become wetted by censored sprays of water, leaving pools of water in spots.
 
My dear friend Kadamba Karana Swami, whom I met on the temple path simply said, “You have to know where to step,” referring to the puddles.
 
I could take the casual remark as metaphor on life: “You walk and take precautions while on your journey.”  Yes, you won't want to get your socks wet, nor do you want to make bad decisions about directions in life.
 
I had the good fortune to have lunch with this Dutch monk. For a renunciant it is a natural obligation to eat with, talk with and maybe a peer of like-minded. In Sanskrit you call it sanga. Our
guru, Srila Prabhupada, used the term “association”.
 
We talked about aging, arthritis, family, food, the world. It's not much different from any other dialogue, coming from any other person, only the insertion of Krishna is always there. Oh! We reminded ourselves, “You have to know where you step”.
 
May the source be with you!
 
6 KM