Monday, 25 August 2014

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

2nd Annual

In between the two installments of trekking today, I had the pleasure to partake in Brampton’s 2nd Annual Ratha Yatra at downtown Gage Park.  “When a teenager,” I told the crowd, “way before I heard the word ‘Krishna’, I relaxed at this very park at the gazebo in the shady trees.”  Ron Casir, a friend, and I, hitchhiked one summer throughout southern Ontario looking to find ourselves.  I never would have believed that I’d be in this spot again, bald and wearing robes, 43 years after my moderate hippie phase. 

Since then, the park has been spruced up (I still see the same spruce trees, though).  The area around has been built up.  After all, the world in which we live is always changing.  The mayor of the city, which is now at the half a million mark, showed up.  Susan Fennell seemed to be all smiles.  My god-brothers, Kaliyapani and Gaura, also came to lead in the kirtans.  A special feature, undisputedly, was the drama of “Little Big Ramayan”. 

The organizers were happy, expressing a double increase of attendance from last year’s modest 500, it grew to twice that size.  Our route for the standard procession was ‘in the round’.  Four revolutions on this circular sidewalk constituted the journey of joy as participants pulled the chariot by rope.

One local guy, James, who came for the bulk of the program, came to see me, offered the greatest handshake, saying, “Thank you, and please pray for me.”  I thought he was going to cry.  I believe he did, at least internally.  Tears were dripping on his heart, he had such a good time.  Then James asked a group of us, “Do you guys know the Beatles?” and one of our members, Vaishnava, sang, “We love you, yeah yeah yeah…”  James corrected him saying, “No it’s, ‘she loves you’.”  And my response to that was, “No it’s ‘we’, in relation to you and us.  We prefer, ‘we love you’”.  At that point, James got it.

May the Source be with you!

11 KM

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The Good About Kali

Sad for me to hear from a family lawyer, who’s a member of our community, that few people remain content in their relationships.  In her own words, “People don’t seem to learn from their past mistakes.”  She indicated that whatever personal weakness that an individual may admit to, he/she will not make the endeavour towards correction, hence, the same short coming spoils the chance for a relationship to work the next time around.

Separation/divorce is rampant, and it’s a challenge that faces every community across the board, across the globe. 

When I saw a park bench in the course of today’s trek, a grafiti’d message sprayed on to the bench read, “Sick Earth”.  I wasn’t sure how to interpret that line because sick in today’s language means, ‘it’s cool’.  If we take it to mean that the world is malfunctioning or is dysfunctional, I think this would be a more accurate assessment.  Patience and tolerance of character we lack, and it is a sure sign of the times.  We say, in devotional circles, “We are in the Kali Yuga (age of darkness).”  People are slow to inner development. 

At the same time that we languish in the conditions of today, we can also recognize the true optimism of the current day.  In our discussion this morning, after I took my personal short but sweet head clearing walk, the few monks and I reflected on the Kali Yuga’s strongest feature.  The sages of Vedic tradition say that through song of the right sound one can encounter ultimate hope and peace. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Tiny Spirit

Hanuman is a Columbian visiting us for some time in the ashram.  He and I, and Praveen, took a stroll before Surya (the Sun) poked his head over the horizon.  We were in the downtown on Yonge Street, so you couldn’t actually very well see that ball of glory beyond all the buildings unless you peeked east at a street running longitudinally. 

There are a number of men who work at the waste management plant nearby.  They are getting accustomed to seeing us on our devotional daily walk.   While they carry huge coffee cups in hand, they make a point to greet us with a, “Good morning”.

I had a humbling thought, “I am waste, I’m garbage.  Maybe they can manage me.”  It’s not for you to worry about a perceived low self-esteem issue, but I’m definitely not made of all clean stuff.  I’ll be the first to admit to the refuse within me.  I’m working on it though, I stay in positive company, hear positive sound, and eat positive prasadam(food that’s blessed).  I try to stay positively engaged in Krishna’s service.  I had the good fortune to deliver a class each day this week, it’s very purifying for me.  We have been speaking about the progenitors of the world, their rule and their counsel.  Reading and teaching from the ‘Bhagavatam’ reminds me of the smallness that I’m in and putting things in the real perspective.  I am a tiny spirit set in this universe.  I am a servant trying to get clean. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Spook Trail

It was an obscure trail and it lead me upwards under welcoming shade.  It meandered a bit up to the ridge’s ascension along Bayview Avenue.  “No one comes here,” I figured, and then I doubted my conclusion, “Well, someone has to, otherwise, it wouldn’t be here.”  It was just by chance I spotted this path in the first place.  It’s totally off the beaten path.  I trekked it and started to question the trail’s direction.  I went up and then it indicated that it’s descending already. 

There, along this super attractive trail was the secret home, a cylindrical tarpaulin structure to a not totally homeless person.  I assumed vacancy at this time of day, 5 PM.  I forged ahead and then decided to retrace steps.  The direction it went was north and I wanted south.

When I came back to this secret lodge, if you will, I noticed a pair of hands at one end of the person’s plastic home, just inside the aperture.  Anticipating some clear directions from the person inside, I said, “Hello, hello?” a few times.  Only the hands were visible, the rest of the body was bundled up and in darkness.  One hand pulled in at the sound of my voice, and the remaining one was jittery.  It was thin and bony and light skinned, and it was moving in a jittery way over a small game board of sorts.  The utter silence spooked me a tad, but rather, helped me to think of Krishna.  I was hoping that at least I’d here a caveman’s grunt. 

With zero answer I was compelled to let instincts guide me, and so I eventually found myself hobbling over the hill into sunshine and stepping right into a healthy patch of poison ivy.  Too late!  I’m done!  I’m susceptible to this ornery plant.  That’s what you get for being slightly adventurous and leaving a main trail.  It’s all fun.  You just keep rolling fingers on the beads and moving your lips to the mantra. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Just Yesterday

It was just yesterday that I submitted my yearly written words of appreciation to our guru, Srila Prabhupada, on his birth anniversary.  They are found in the form of a poem just below.  It was today that I trekked along the path that he took in June of ’76 along Taylor Creek, right here in Toronto. 

There are many moods projected about you,
Reflected in pics, so many, not few.
They are diverse colours of a true saint
That are captured by camera or brush with paint.
Moods of gravity, solidity, and weight
The serious look that defines the great. 
Moods of lightness, moments of humour,
Of laughter, jokes, and human candour. 
My favourite photos are of your smile, 
They inspire and push for the extra mile,
They lure and lock in an eager soul
Who’s on a search for the ultimate goal. 
You say, “The face is the index of the mind”.
The exterior can determine the kind. 
Dare I judge the face of your Divine Grace. 
Yet I presume purity rests at that place. 
You profile as a master, scholar, or king,
A general, a warrior, the spirit of Narasingh.
Paradoxically, you’ve shown your ability
To portray a servant in all humility.
There are images of you in reverent prayer. 
Those are the stills not really so rare –
Images of concern for us as we go
On a hobble or a crawl and move so slow.
I like the pics when  you enjoyed the play.
It was in New York at the end of one day.
Krishna eloped with a grand princess,
Rukmini, being the damsel in distress.
It was drama that brought you some delight
As actor princes put up a good fight.
Your viewing the play is precious indeed,
An impression that waters the bhakti seed.
There are action shots of your teaching and talking –
Action shots of reading and walking.
They are signatures, brands, trademarks –
Images that pull us out of the dark.
Grateful are we for those generous poses
That strike the heart like petals of roses.
One frozen moment of your deep contemplation
Leaves us with a piece for worthy conversation.
The Source is with you!
12 KM

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

It Is Custom

It is a custom, with me, anyway, to do this japa chanting walk in the dark after the fasting and feasting of Janmastami.  At 1:45 AM we went.  Churnley, Mohit  and I took to a blackened evening through the trees.  Churnley’s cell phone lit up some of the trail which edges along dry tree areas as well as cat-tailed wetlands in the lower Don River system. 

At one corner, we received some vision power from the moon’s casting, and there we caught a wave of wild flower scent that allowed our minds to travel to the drama we had just enacted before a full house at our temple.  Based on the pages of the book, Bhagavatam, the description of the eve of Krishna’s birth was one of total shanty (peace).  Planets were prominent.  All that was aromatic was present.  All that indicated prosperity, such as rivers full of flowing waters, breezes favourable, and stars apparent, were enhanced.  Whatever I had narrated from the script of “Blue Mystic” was delineating such details, at least in spirit, and was now duplicated in the very atmosphere we were moving through.  What a special day (evening, rather). 

Sleep was evident after a full day of activity and being on an empty stomach.  And now our full bellies were waddling down a trail for a two hour people-less stretch.  I told the two companions before the trek, the rule of this customary walk is “No talking.  Only chant.”  We are honouring our guru, Srila Prabhupada, because as of 12 midnight we celebrate his birthday – that’s festive day number two.  What can you do but continue the joy. 

May the Source be with you!

12 KM

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

His Birthday

It’s Krishna’s birthday.  On such occasions you often end up doing something that’s enjoyable.  Along with a dozen community members here, we chose to walk somewhat of an obstacle course just after our morning arati (early morning meditations).

Not all of this group were so highly prepared foot wear wise, because the trek was truly spontaneous for them.  We are also looking at participants that are mostly car bound suburbanites.  They were, however, troopers, excited by our chosen forest setting trail. 

“This trail will remind you of Vrindavan,” I said at the outset, “Krishna’s upbringing turf.”  We then blazed that trail at David Balfour Park, and then the Brickworks where I did my training for long distance walking. 

My pace was slower than usual just to accommodate the crew.  We went down a wiggly trail and let these troopers know that even in the heart of a fair sized city like Toronto, one can derive from it a peaceful greenery. 

Legs were sore (not mine), but smiles were preserved.  “That’s the spirit!”  I told the group.  “Now, we are going to enjoy a packed day of festivities.”  I also reminded them that it’s a full day fast.  Each one of these participants passed the test and had not passed out.  They achieved happy tolerance.  I gave a talk in the evening to a full house on the significance of Janmastami, the birth anniversary of Krishna.  Sitting in front of me was one of the participants, a woman who happened to slip and fall on the moist boardwalk segment of the walk.  She smiled away, though, like anything while I was talking, jubilant like one of Krishna’s peacocks. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Monday, 18 August 2014

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Real Strength

“I am the strength of the strong.”

This statement from the Gita bears relevance when we appreciate its reference to the Creator.  Strength comes in many shapes and forms. 

Nick and I were walking southbound on Yonge Street.  At the juncture of Gerard, we met a group of young folks from Niagara Falls who’d been drinking something more powerful than Gatorade.  They were partying.  The men in the group were obvious body builders.  They wore their muscle t-shirts to flaunt what they had – huge biceps. 

Upon seeing Nick and I in our devotional attire, the group from Niagara took a keen interest.  The most talkative of the group admitted their weakness, “We were up all night partying.”  Now being 6:15 AM, they acknowledged our strength with our early rising.  The group of them had question after question about how we see life.  As Nick put it after we part it, “They were very genuine and eager to learn.”  I had concluded in my mind, “I wouldn’t mind having body guards like them if I was in a dangerous setting somewhere.”

Hours passed, then hours were spent at the ISKCON Brampton Centre conducting a Kirtan Standard Seminar.  The subject of rules, policies and ecstasies regarding kirtan, chanting sessions, had been a very sought after workshop which helps to strengthen and reinforce the chanting that these participants engage in.  Its purpose is to make one’s self strong beyond physical strength.  Coping with life’s challenges is, after all, an incredible strength. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

On The Knees

I had been away from my home base for quite a good amount of time this summer.  My walking for the day was quite exclusively in the premises at 243 Avenue Road. I kept to the interior of the building and paced back and forth, more specifically in the temple hall.  For my entire chanting meditation, I chose to stay out of the cooler climate.  Had it become a hot, balmy day, as it often is in the summer, I would have made the escape. 

While in the shelter of the building which I love, I noticed the need for a cleaning – surfaces, shelves, floors.  The edifice is frequented by many peole and maintenance attention lags behind.  I did the necessary, I donned sweat pants and kept to the traditional kurta shirt.  I was inspired by monks of the past who boldly went at it. 

The favourite is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who orchestrated a healthy competition for collecting dirt and dirt affiliates in the Gundica Temple.  He positioned Himself against an entire group of followers and ended up the winner in comparing heaps of refuse. 

I rather liked going at the scrubbing of the floor and food areas right on the knees.  The after effect of cleaning is perhaps the best, there’s no better feeling.  When cleaning a place, particularly a sacred space, and getting at all the corners, it’s like cleaning the corners of your heart.  It’s highly therapeutic.  Try it out. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Bring It On

Bike trails are yet to be developed in a big way in this sprawling new place called Brampton.  I did a little personal checking up on trails for hiking in the Sandalwood Parkway area where I was staying overnight.  In these burbs you do find man made ponds, some have pathways which circle around them.  In the Dixie Road area there are some sidewalks chalked out along creeks and mini ravines.  At least some effort is being made to satisfy the pedestrian. 

I admit to getting judgmental about a place.  I consider that a settlement that has ample walking and cycling trails is first class.  It was also interesting to note that in Brampton, you can observe many members, seniors, of the Sikh community that do much walking.  Good for them.

After my dental appointment I trekked north on Dixie Road.  I passed by a prominent Baptist Church.  There at one wing of the building, a sign reads, “Integration Office”.  I thought, “Why doesn’t our temple have something like that?”  This would be a perfect service to assist newcomers into the community.  I imagine that even without a budget, all that is truly required to usher people into a new crowd is some time, attention and warmth – elements that are often absent in our crazy modern world. 

In general, I would like to say let’s bring on kindness. 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

When and if Gas Runs Out

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, responded to the oil embargo going on in ’74.  His remark then was that the problem could easily be solved if people stopped using the automobile.  He suggested travel would be by foot, horse, or bullock cart. 

To take his actual quote, “In human society, the normal way to travel is by foot, horse, bullock cart, camel, or elephant.  Those modes of transport have been around since time immemorial.   Only in Kali Yuga do we have motor cars, and this motor car society will not last very long.  When the petrol dries up, what use are your motor cars?”

This statement may be considered as somewhat relative since other alternative means have developed more recently for fueling the car.  There’s electrical power, solar, and other choices.  However, we may ponder the principle and agree that such a radical adjustment, if it were to be implemented, then efficiency would be sacrificed for health, safety, peacefulness and neighbourliness.  The social condition would certainly change. 

I doubt that a switch to a saner speed and mode of travel would happen tomorrow.  Total collapse of the present car culture would be the catalyst to ignite a sweeter and slower pace of living.  Are we dreaming? 

Personally, I would love for the dogsled to come back into the picture and take a prominent role in transportation.   Again, wishful thinking.  My confession is that today I did not walk, but I also did not use a car. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Good Thoughts for Robin

When going through the security screening at the Vancouver Airport, a monitor was reporting the news of the death of comedian, Robin Williams.  That’s sad.  He made a lot of people laugh.  God produced a very talented man in him.

When getting fetched at the Toronto Airport, greeter, Rajneesh, informed me how Mr. Williams gave up his own life due to depression.  That’s also sad.  It’s like the proverbial symptom of the sad clown.

It is well understood that life is tough and that there are hard circumstances to bear.  Many of us live a dual world with heaviness in the heart while we show a bright face.  To Robin we offer our respects and wish him a good chance in the next life.

News of this sudden departure caught my attention once again momentarily in the course of a cooling evening walk.  It brought my thoughts to the mode of prayer.  When I was just recently in Vancouver I was approached by someone who admitted to having a rocky marriage with a spouse.  The person asked that I please put prayers out for the relationship’s salvation.

Reassuringly I said, “Of course I will.”  Thinking of Robin’s going reminded me of prayer being important.  It usually means sending good vibes out there and a call for help.  It throws you into a wholesome dependency.  Now, just because I play a spiritual role doesn’t mean I’m the only one to enlist in this practice of prayers.  It’s for everyone.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM