Saturday, 19 May 2018

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Sussex, New Brunswick

Billy Graham Crusader

I took a head start walking toward our evening’s destination which was Sussex, over an hour’s drive from our place at the Norfolk Motel.  A Billy Graham Crusade follower pulled over and started talking.  He had hordes of questions, not curious ones, but the type that might lead you into a trap if you did not answer according to his take on Jesus.  I found it fun, though.  The point is, he saw me—the second day in a row—and felt I needed to convert, that I needed Jesus.  Personally, I’m happy with Krishna and Jesus together.  He could only have one and not the other.

“Maybe I can challenge you this…” he started, and I politely cut him off.

“You see, it’s not a question of your camp or my camp.  We are running parallel, truly as one camp.”

Then he offered to say, “Yes, there’s one camp.  THE camp.  A camp.”

Then I butt in saying, “A camp. ‘A’ stands for ABSOLUTE.  We are both going for the Absolute.  It is not black and white.  We say in Sanskrit, achintya-beda beda tattva,which means we are onein purpose with slightly different approaches.  I will take your brochure.  Here’s mine—a mantra card.  God bless you!”

That was that!  I met more people in town.  A fellow in a wheelchair said, “I'm 71.”

“Well you look 35.”

“I wish girls would say that about me,” he said in glee.

A woman approached me.  “Do you have some change?”

“No, but I have a bottle of water.”  She laughed and shrugged it off. 

Finally, the boys (monks) picked me up for the Sussex program at a fitness studio. Well, we got ‘fit’.  We danced and chanted in community spirit.

May the Source be with you!
7 km

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Fredericton, New Brunswick

Getting to Know Bear

“The recent floods in New Brunswick did a lot of damage,” said one fine lady on her way to work.  She showed us some pics, on her camera-phone, of how the Saint John River rose to the level of the foot bridge.  We chatted with her.  She really wanted to know about we four monks walking the bridge under a strong sun but chilling breeze.

A film company at one end of the bridge was on a music video assignment.  A guy was rapping out a song and we happened to get in the frame.

Our trekking lasted over two hours, going over foot bridges, over sand-ridge trails, and also circumventing puddles of relatively large magnitude.

All this walking happened in Fredericton, but it was back to Saint John where we truly shared with the public, at Uptown, the chanting.  OMG!  The folks here are so easy to approach.  They loved our cultural output of chanting with djembes and harmonium.

One admirer, Bear, by name, is a Mi’kmaq with some Irish blood in him.  He acquired that name when he was in the Northwest Territories and was attacked by a grizzly.  He showed me his permanent scars on his arms.  Luckily, he survived, and is alive to be with us on the grass, learning how to chant.  He’s a strong, husky type of guy, and is very eager to know about the Bhagavad-gita.

He followed us to the Wellness Centre for Presentation #2.  Bear went home with a book, “The Gita,” as well as beads, and wants to learn more and more.  I told him to seek help from Nick, who lives in Saint John. He will be an ideal coach for Bear. 

May the Source be with you!
10 km

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Saint John, New Brunswick

Something Wild and Delicious

At the Toronto Airport, I met a fellow from Saint John enroute to get back home.  He told me he was a driver.  I expressed my vocation—well, one of them.

“I’m a walker; did Canada four times.”

“How much do you walk in a day?”

“It used to be forty-two kilometres a day.  Now it’s twenty-four when I do the marathons.”

“You couldn’t catch me doing that.”

From our conversation, I felt I was already in the Maritimes—the east coast—where people come right up to you and convey their friendly side.

My hosts in Saint John are Nick and Sara.  They hold a weekly program of bhakti-yogaat the Saint John Wellness Centre.  Tonight, I was guest speaker, and all went well including the kirtanand dance at the end.  The group participation was phenomenal.  The space was great—that old-character type of house. Many of the downtown homes were built by fishermen and/or sailors.

There is one thing which we pulled off that is a standard practice for me and anyone who tags along with me when in New Brunswick.  The travelling monks of Canada and I did some fiddlehead foraging at Irving Nature Park.  Fiddleheads are the early stage of the fern plant before it unravels.  This wild vegetable is just delicious and nutritious. They make a good pizza topping, but what we ended up doing was tossing some of these greens into Sara’s kicharipreparation.

We had no regrets at supper time.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Mascouche, Quebec

New Progressive Project

The Montreal Krishna community has been thinking about expansion of membership and facility for some time.  Their persistence, headed by someone of the name, Anubhava, has led to the purchase of a 78-acre farm in Mascouche, off of Hwy 25, just a 20-minute drive from the centre of downtown Montreal.

It has six lodging units, and includes barns, sheds, tractors and equipment, and also, one of the buildings shelters horses.  Plans are to continue renting out horse space, and cultivate the land, which is fertile, for growing veggies, fruits and flowers.  Greenhouses have potential.  There is also potential to develop this eco-friendly area into a village. Housing in the area is not expensive by Canadian standards.  A river, the Mascouche, runs to the edge of it.

Anubhava’s son, Radhanatha, who is one of the people to buy into the project, has his home at one end of the property, just steps from the river.

“You can canoe and kayak on the river,” he said.

Radhanatha also told me that the farm has potential as a petting farm.  Overall, it sounds very attractive, and adds a new dimension to the long-standing community efforts at Pie IX Boulevard.

The project is a 1 million dollar endeavour.  The purchase and direction is a combined work of devotional businessmen from the area.  It was the desire of the Krishna guru, Srila Prabhupada, to expand horizons and look to growing one’s own food, thus becoming productive people who offer a quality of life.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal and Mothers

A good conscientious driver, friend, and devotee, by the name of Harry, drove Karuna and I to Montreal.  It was just a lovely land we went through, with that red spill against the sky, manifest from the east, and beckoning us to move forward.  Arrival time was 10:00 a.m., after the 5 ½ hour ride.

To the ISKCON temple we went, on Pie IX Boulevard.  In the spirit of Mother’s Day, everyone was cheery, and the irresistible urge in us to walk a stretch became our first business there.  As usual, we moved along Prince Arthur Street and then beyond.  The beyond is a grassy and tree-patched area before you get to the train tracks.  Then we practically slid down a steep slope to land on Notre Dame where traffic is serious.

I received a call.  “Can we talk about the summer and the talent-troupe that’s planned?” asked Prem.

“Yes, it’s a conference call right?”

Narasimha from Montreal got on the line with us, and we discussed who the actual talent will be for the month of July, travelling from this town, Montreal, all the way to Calgary, and stopping along the way to present a summer’s “Festival of India” which will include bhajan, magic and a dance/drama.  Some details were finalized.

What was missing?

The need for another woman on the stage.  Yes, another ‘mother’.  Currently, we only have two.  A third makes it better.

Fast forward.

“There are seven mothers in one’s life, according to the Vedas,” I said at talk-time, to the Pie IX ISKCON community.  “Let us always remember and respect the many mothers we have in our life.”

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Monday, 14 May 2018

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Markham, Ontario

Dwarka’s Birthday

When I became a monk back in ’73, the opinion amongst the movement was that your birthday wasn’t important.  It relates to the body, and since you are not that body you don’t need to give it much attention.  A brief mention of your birthday would happen, as this was our mood, then, in the name of renunciation.    

As time passed and our cultural evolution shaped up, we found that ashram residents and community members really do feel loved and appreciated with at least a small birthday cake—without eggs—and when everyone sings, “Hare Krishna to you… Hare Krishna dear so-and-so…” it brings everyone together.

Tonight we went in carloads of well-wishers to the home of Dwarka who turned 60.  She is very saintly and she is well loved by the community.  Her tiny place in Markham was filled to its capacity in honour of this worthy person. With a little discomfort, we managed to all pack in, and then do the honours of highlighting her qualities—a good mother, wife, devotee and human being.  She’s one of those unsung heroes.

We are accustomed to remembering the birth of Krishna or Chaitanya and celebrating them in a grand style, but it is also virtuous to celebrate someone who’s lived through a lot and continues to serve unceasingly.  Your birth, your marriage and your death are significant days in your life.  Perhaps also the day you accept a guru can be an event to be taken seriously with celebration in remembrance.  We want to wish Dwarka the happiest birthday of all.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

New Friend in the Pack

I'm really getting to like that park nearby for what it offers, even apart from its name: Ramsden—with a name like that…Ram’s Den.  For a second day musician monks, Dwarkanath, Karuna, and today, Bhakta Billy as well as myself scouted out a fine location for a sit-down chant.  As soon as we lay down the madras,a man took notice and left his wife and young daughter at the playground to approach us.

He is an Armenian.  It’s natural to ask anyone in Toronto about their origin because everyone here is from some unique part of the world.  I invited him to the park bench where I sat next to the boys performing mantra music.

We spoke of the genocide his people have gone through, his career, his family, his beliefs.  He is remarkably open, and was curious about our take on life, to which I responded, “Essentially, we are all spirits going through life to learn lessons, but for slow learners, you come back again to complete what you could not.”  The man, who goes by the name Vekan, nodded in agreement to the nutshell explanation I gave him.

He did say, when he first moved to Canada, he observed a good amount of greed, but overall he likes it here.  He is not shy about expressing his opinion.

We concurred on many points as we chatted.  He considers himself a minimalist and loves getting by with the simple things in life.  He’s keen to come visit our restaurant and temple.

We made a friend.  This is why I love parks, whether it’s a Ramsden, Balfour or Deer Park.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Two Monks on the Grass

I like the approach of sharing Krishna Consciousness in a cultural, entertaining way, over a forceful, in-your-face presentation.  Having some new talent in our midst, I thought, Let’s give it a try by having our best young monks—even if only two—display their ‘stuff’ in the least intimidating way.

Dwarkanath played his sarodin the temple this morning and it sounded so heavenly.  Karuna plays well on the mrdunga drum.  The combination is attractive.  “Let’s go somewhere within walking distance, lay out a madras, sit ourselves down, play the instruments, and see what may come of such ingredients.”

The experimental location was the corner of the Rosedale Subway and Yonge Street, a rather high-end neighbourhood.  The two monks took their positions while I stood back to watch the reactions from passersby.  I took some photos.  End result being that in over an hour’s length of time, pedestrians noticed. They did not feel threatened. Some folks stopped nearby the transcendental musicians to listen.  The most responsive was a Brazilian—Jose.

From my perspective, the two looked peaceful.  They could have smiled a trifle more.  Overall, it was good.  The downside was the sound of traffic obscuring the beautiful vibrations of the sarod.

Our small group of three will continue to find the ideal spot for such a sattvicpresentation.  We will continue to establish a good form of music and mantra over the coming pleasurable months.  Wish us the best.

May the Source be with you!
1 km

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Shy Monk

Yesterday someone called and one of our monks answered.  He is just a great soul and he’s shy but not when it comes to devotions or opportunities for devotions.  That’s why he answered the phone.

The caller asked, “Would you people be interested in purchasing a church?”

Our shy monk didn’t know how to answer but boldly brought the message to me.

“I don’t know that we’re ready for a second building in the downtown but let’s take a walk over there anyway, and look,” I said.  It was actually his suggestion to walk in that direction, initially.  So we went to look at the Baptist Church with the shy monk, a quiet monk and a less quiet but sweet and talkative girl.

The church is impressive.  For its time—when constructed in the late 19thcentury—it was the largest Baptist church in Canada.  There’s a theatre hall with balcony, lots of office space, housing facility and parking for 27 vehicles. But…  It was nice to dream about it.  We got our walking in to Walmer and Lowther Streets.  The Annex is a great neighbourhood where the building is located. But…  I was looking at the windows and thinking we can hardly keep a small interior windowed door clean in our existing building.  I kept oscillating back and forth on a dreamy project.

By the way, the shy monk has a name.  It’s Karuna Sindhu, a home-grown boy from Canada.  He’s terrific.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Green Buds, Yellow Blossoms

Karuna and I walked the trail at David Balfour Park.  Laksman took pictures.  The ravine, with new green growth and yellow blossoms, was a magical place for us to be.

We came upon a person, a man, who was not ‘with’ the place, meaning he was lost.  Karuna and I tried communicating with him, but he was not there.  We met other people, all single males, who all felt one with the ravine.  They were ‘being’ there.  It showed in their faces, their words and how they expressed it in bodily language—a language of feeling nature.  Their words ranged from, “It’s great, isn’t it?” to the most lofty-spirited, “How are you?”

However, the one lost soul, mentioned earlier, was whimsically there in the ravine, a wanderer in the wilderness.  We felt for him.

This evening I conducted the “Tuesday Sanga,” a gathering of people at our ashram/temple. They came, twenty-five or so, to explore the Gita, Chapter 16, about Divine and Demoniac Natures.  The discussions were stimulating.  After the venture I met at least one good, good soul who used that term “lost” which is how I described our earlier fellow to Karuna in the ravine.

A new word was thrown in there along with “lost,” it was “locked.”  Those two words, united, have a haunting feel. Lost and locked.

To respond to what the good, good soul expressed about personal turmoil, I did what I could to appease by saying, “The world is a place of danger, exhaustion, of being trapped.  Let it go. Place your consciousness in a refreshed view of things.  You can walk out of the lost and locked world.  Call on Krishna to walk out with you.”

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Just Today

I’m still reflecting on the guitar kirtan we had at Georgian Bluffs in amidst the rocks yesterday.  In that mood of sharing sacred sound in the out-of-doors, or at least seeking out the ideal location for such a venture in the city, Karuna Sindhu and I set out for a local park.

What we actually had in mind was to plan a place where we could perhaps regularly sit on the ground with a fancy madrasunder us for the summer months.  We actually have a sitar player now, our latest arrival, a monk by the name of Dwarkanath.  We are hopeful that with sitar and drum people in our neighbourhood would be enchanted.

Our location of consideration for such a happening is at the edge of Ramsden Park on Yonge Street, just where the subway has a stop.  People enter and exit there very consistently. There is grass and there are shady trees.  It looks good.

As we made our way back to our ashram we saw an elderly woman strenuously bending over to gather branches and twigs.  There was a storm that whipped through here last Friday taking down trees, damaging roof tops, etc.  The residual debris was left on her side-yard.

Karuna and I offered to help.  She was grateful.  She also mentioned how nice it was when we converted our driveway into a mini farmer’s market in the summer.  Our neighbours really like that.  So in addition to providing mystical music for the nearby folks, we should also endeavor to have for them some stalls with great organic produce.  It brings smiles and happy bellies to the locals.

May the Source be with you!
1 km

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Owen Sound, Ontario

Be Like A Tree

Three monks, including myself, and one family man, the driver, went for an excursion north-bound to the tiny city of Owen Sound.  It is the location of the upbringing, and near the burial place of famous Canadian artist, Tom Thomson, a prominent member of the Group of Seven.

Well, our group of four, plus a few more, the Hanna clan, took to trails on the Niagara Escarpment after a chanting session, a talk and a meal. Unique to these trails are the presence of these ancient crevices, deep splits in the rock under you—tight gorges that could turn a wanderer through this area into a frenzied claustrophobic madman, if not prepared.

Garuda, head of the Hanna clan, claims he’s braved some of them. Personally, I wouldn’t venture through them, especially now.  They are piled up with deep snow in the bottom.  It would be risky to tackle them during this season.  Maybe summer could do.  One thing for sure is that a trek through these tight areas would keep you cool, even on the hottest day.

We held kirtanat one site which resembled a grotto, a formation of rocks.  Also in this area, which is edged near Georgian Bay, you find ancient trees.  Trees can always remind us of how tolerant we could be.  They stand there over the years and take in so much.

Whenever I’m in the company of the Hanna’s, I feel like a kid. Three generations of them and they make you feel like you’re supposed to be in the forest and just fix yourself there forever.

May the Source be with you!
5 km