Thursday, 11 September 2014

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Walking In the Rain

It dripped and it dropped
I stepped and I stopped,

For the rain had come
In a hiss and a hum.

The slope had a slip.
I thought, “Oh!  What a trip!

Don’t be uptight! 
Slide not, stay upright!”

Somehow I succeeded
Prayers were all I needed

On the slimy raw trail
With no rope and no rail.

Rain drove all away
But I was fixed to stay.

Before I took to trek
“Clouds,” but what the heck! 

I’ll just have some fun
Should I walk or should I run

I’m a monk on the move
Conviction I must prove.

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

I Turned a Corner 

As I turned a corner at Roxborough and Yonge, a middle-aged woman was standing there, waiting for, my guess was a cab.  You could tell she was curious as hell. 

In order not to appear like I had my hand in a sling (on my actual pouch for holding my meditation beads), I held my beads free in my hand.

“Are you praying?” she asked.

“Yes, it is actually for meditation.”

“Are you a priest?” 

“A monk.”

“I’ve never seen before, your clothes,” she persisted in inquisitiveness.  “I’m Catholic and from Portugal.  Are you from Canada?”

“Oh yes!  I’m a Krishna monk and I adapted to this ancient culture from India.”

“Do you get married?”

“In our tradition most priests do but I stayed single.”

She went on with her curiosity.

“Our priests don’t get married.  Sometimes they make a mistake,” she said as she swayed her head. 

I concurred and we both broke into a smile. 

“Yes, sometimes they make a mistake!”

I walked on, on that note, thinking that I do not believe I errored on my celibate life.  I had put a little walking in before speaking at a group on “The Glories of Sannyasa” which means the life of renunciation.  I asked the group to consider 18.2 from the Gita:

“The giving up of activities that are based on material desire is what great learned people call the renounced order of life (sannyasa). And giving up the results of all activities is what the wise call renunciation (tyaga).”

My message was, “At the maturing of your life when passions have been subsided to a good degree, consider renunciation.”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Etobicoke, Ontario

Making My Way
I was making my way westward on Davenport, the ancient trail for the Huron native people.  It was once at the edge of waters called Iroquois. The water receded to where it is now.  It was a major thoroughfare connecting the current Humber and Don Rivers.  It’s now a narrow street.  I feel honoured to be on a trail that’s thousands of years old.
While trekking I met a series of guys who were, let’s say, expressing themselves individually.  The first one was angry.  While pushing his baby in a carriage, a person in a slick black Cadillac stopped right in front of him with cell phone in hand, oblivious to what she had done.  The father demanded while having to go around the vehicle, “Stop using your phone!”  He repeated it again and again as the driver of the car paid no attention.
Blocks later I came to a stoplight.  So did the driver next to me.  With his car window open he was singing at the top of his lungs.  I was trying to catch the song.  It sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck tune.  Anyways he sounded happy.
Some blocks later a guy on his bike going the other direction spotted me and broke into a string of mantras.  I was thinking we’re not doing too bad for a Monday late afternoon.
Finally I made a turn to Weston Rd., then Eglinton West until my prearranged driver came to pick me up 10 kilometres later.  He drove me to his home to initiate an annaprasana, a first grain ceremony for his five month old son.  Both dad and mom were thrilled.  So was I.  I got my walking in.  I witnessed happy men and one in a drama.  These things happened while walking so I could see all this and be entertained.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Pelee Island, Ontario

Kidding Around

I enjoy being a kid at times.  Before the journey to Pelee Island, I ventured my way to the Humber River in pilgrimage style, that is, chanting mantras, but I got a little distracted.  A skunk hit my trail, I started to chase him.  He was a beaut with lots of white on him.  I’ve dealt with these guys for years.  By now I know how close I can get and be alert to watching the tail spring up in defense, which would mean a nasty spray.  My motive apart from being frivolous, is to have the creature hear a Sanskrit mantra, which is pure sound and can even subliminally effect him positively. 

Now, the trip to Pelee Island took us first to Kingsville, where a ferry awaits.  It’s on this ferry, after boarding, that we applied the same philosophy that I did for the skunk.  Only this time it was a group first.  Chanting melodiously we did for human ears.  I should not forget the trailing behind seagulls flying in the air as the cruiser, The Jiiman, was creating a wave behind it.  The sound of mantra must have also fell on their ears. 

The kirtan (chanting session) was arousing.  People came from every level of the cruiser to listen – staff and passengers.  They joined us in the singing and dancing. 

This is becoming an annual event, visiting Pelee, while being a kid.  Devotees of Krishna from both Detroit and Toronto come together to swim the water and toss a ball trying to keep it volleyed to the count of 108.  Considering the long, drawn out winter as of late, squeezing out today’s wholesome bonding type of fun is most treasured. 

By the way, the main portion of the Detroit contingent was a couple, Jambavan and Samvit, with their 8 offspring.  How can you not be like a kid with them around? 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Scarborough, Ontario

Going to a Fair

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…”

Simon and Garfunkel. 

A god brother, Kala, drove me to Scarborough, and to a type of fair.  Actually, it was the 2nd annual Chariot Fest for that community.  It was not ‘parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme’, but more like, ‘curry, cumin, turmeric and lime’.  Actually the prasadam, (food) was very yummy.

Dr. Cho, who hails from South Korea, is a city councilor, he came to participate along with other dignitaries.  Naturally, they had good things to say in support of the event. 

I was also impressed with the number of Chinese folks standing by in delight as our Krishna community passed by in chanting formation.  Milliken Park was the venue – a great spot.  When I think about it, over the stretch of one day, I get to trek in several locations, this being one of them.  Yes, it’s good to get around. 

Our drama troupe did a great rendering of ‘Little Big Ramayan’ judging by the response.  In my position, I can engage some people in walking, some in theatre, some in administration, and some in driving me one place to another.  The diversity is sweet, variety is the spice of life.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Rivers of People and Rivers of Water

In the course of a day I meet a good number of people, they show up at our temple ashram for a different number of reasons.  People come for darshan, viewing of the Krishna deity, some sample food at our Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant within the building, some people come to hear and learn from classes that we offer and from seminars on the bhakti sciences.  Others are volunteers who come to help with kitchen work, or cleaning, or maintenance work.  The numbers add up over a day’s stretch.

So I meet these great people, but I haven’t developed the skill to remember their names very well.  Today a walkers’ club came to eat at Govinda’s.  They are a seniors group and they come quite regularly.  One of the members has a daughter in Kelowna, BC, a place that was a stop over for me during this year’s Trans-Canada trek.  I met her daughter at that time, she is a staunch mother, wife, and devotee of Krishna.  As mentioned, I failed to remember the names, but I am taken by the small world in which we live – the world of knowing someone who knows someone who knows you, even if you’re a relative nobody from another part of the country. 

Of course, when you meet somebody who shares the same walking passion as you, you get excited.  It made my day to meet a person who has a love for pilgrimage.  I was also thrilled to hear from her that the Pan Am Games are coming to Toronto next year, and will encourage the building of a Pan Am trail, which is really a series of trails that will be recognized as a unique route beginning from the northern part of the Humber River, leading to Lake Ontario, and then going east along the waterfront, and then north on either the Don or the Rouge Rivers.  This is ecstatic news.

The winding down message which I slept on at the end of the day, after a gathering with our Brampton community where we indulged in the Gita’s words, was from 17.15.  Here, the verse talks about favourable speech:

Austerity of speech consists of speaking words which are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature. 

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Flashes in the Night

At long last the summer has come as we usually know it – hot and somewhat humid.  Sunlight hours are not the most conducive for hiking up and down streets.  You wait until nighttime when it cools down or take to early morning strolls. 

The city is teeming with energy.  Very close to our ashram, movie lovers are filling the streets for TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival.  It’s a big one. 

It would be so nice, had there been the same passion for spirituality.  I believe the film industry and media in general, has done a fairly good job at downplaying the soul searching culture.  I say this sarcastically.  Exposing faulty habits by spiritual leaders has become a preoccupation.  There is some validity to this, however.  Our own guru would take the time to express what he felt about bogus people in the dress of religious garb and status.  People we sometimes refer to as ‘bhogi yogis’. 

At the same time, reporting should be balanced and highlight benefits of personal discipline and expression of humility.  We generally hear about the bad apples, but why not talk more about the good apples.  Yes, the balance of presentation is weak. 

We glamourize the night life of people in fancy dress, people we call ‘stars’.  They drive around in limos and take to parties.  They often enough detour fans with their sensuous lifestyles and rocky relationships.  They are not always the best role models.  It’s really a lot of tinsel flashing in the night.  What society needs is a boost of wholesome direction. 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Montreal, Quebec
The Trash Task
It’s painful to see the waste all around.  You’ll walk up a street and see rejected furniture, for instance, a big sofa set, tables, chairs, beds, and mattresses.  Often they look to be in good condition.  Then you have lined-up on the street bags and bags of wrapping, compost, and all kinds of refuse.  It’s all neatly consolidated into shiny bags of plastic.
Then, there’s the scrap yard.  Have you ever walked through one?  I have!  It’s like a visit to hell.  Speaking of which, we can all feel the weight of guilt because it’s all one big SIN!  We all contribute to “the pile.” 
Our turnover of stuff is phenomenal.  We are very good at trashing, and that’s not only with stuff.  We do it to people.  We do it to our partner.  We do it to God!
Again we make it all look good.  Landfill makes great landscape with a bunch of smooth sod over it.  I’m sarcastic, of course.
Have you ever walked over a beach full of empty disregarded plastic bottles?  I have!  You couldn’t see the sand.  I was slipping on the bottles and struggled to keep my balance.  I felt bad at that point, not sorry for myself.  I felt bad being a human and contributing to the culture of junk.
Now, I might complain about the trash without.  I must also contend with the trash within.  Clean up time!  That’s a herculean task!
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

Original Goddess

My embarrassing low tally for walking kilometres today was not fueled by a seemingly discouraging encounter I had on Saint Catherine’s, but by being busy in devotional service.  Also stacked on top of that was the hot and humid nature of the out of doors.  I was a tad bit intimidated, I’d say, during the sunny hours.  Then came the festival to honour Krishna’s eternal consort, Radha.  The day is called Radhastami.  She was born on this day. 

The Early Morning Encounter
At approximately 4 AM, I trekked with japa beads in hand while going west on Saint Catherine’s, when a  prostitute on a street corner made a proposal.  Naturally, I declined and told her that I have my goddess, Radha, whom I’m off to worship.  The lady was persistent and continued to walk by my side until about 2 blocks when we came about a second lady of the street.  Just to get her off my back, I suggested the two women get to know each other and make friends.  The suggestion did not sit well with either.  I picked up speed and left the two to mumble whatever they were saying the French medium, which I couldn’t well understand.  I turned a corner and paced back to our Montreal ashram into a more civilized atmosphere.  Frankly, I had enough with goddesses for the day, except for the Supreme One, who was honoured in style, in Her murtii form in the morning, noon and night.  I had the pleasure to speak twice today on the subject on the supreme balance to Krishna, and to highlight the great compassion She (Radha) has for souls who are struggling in this world.

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

Good Place and People

About 30 of us pilgrims walked, almost waltzed, down Prince Arthur in the McGill University area.  We stopped in front of one residence, by Sumir’s arrangement.  He functions as the coordinator of our chanting party today.  I objected to singing and drumming in front of someone’s home at 11 AM on Labour Day. 

“I know this is the building that Prabhupada (our guru) stayed for the summer in ’68, but I have some apprehension about us being in someone’s face.  Maybe people are still sleeping, it’s a holiday.”

Sumir assured me that it’s okay.  The front door to the handsome looking home opened, there, appeared a smiling woman.  She waved us in, so a small contingent of three entered and stepped in.  There we met the family that was expecting us.  Sumir explained to me, “It’s always on Labour Day that we do this.”

We met Matt, the lady’s husband, a cello player and teacher at McGill.  They are the home owners.  He’s also good friends with John McLaughlin of the Maha Vishnu Orchestra.  He asked us which year was it that our guru met John Lennon and company.  It was from the downstairs quarters that our guru lived here, and then spent time training six of his students in harmonium, mrdanga (drum), karatalas,  and voice, before dispatching them to England when they met the Beatles. 

“It was in around ’69,” I suggested to Matt. 

In any event, it was great to be in that spot.  The couple mentioned that they’ve been to the other three duplicates of their home which are all in an attached row, but, to quote them, “But no place has the same good vibes as this home.”  It was implied that a very special person had been living here. 

So after our visit, we continued the walk with kirtan on the grounds of McGill.  The security, lead by three people, approached our man in the front and inquired.  I guess the grounds do not permit assemblies of different kinds.  When they saw how harmless we were, and that we were ‘just passing through’, they let us off the hook.  They were taken by the good vibes.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

For Montreal
Before I left for a quick flight to Montreal, I discovered some guy sprawled out on the outdoor stair landing of our ashram. No doubt the fellow had passed out or was fast asleep or something, a result of some intoxication.

"You won't be able to stay here," I said as he was blocking the way.

Instantaneously he woke up, looked up to notice me and said, "Oh! Buddha!" I had remarked something to Dakshin, a monk visiting from Miami, and who had been standing nearby. The fellow managed to hoist himself to midway and said, "Oh! Another Buddha!"

"Yes, well, the two Buddhas are trying to say that you have to move on. Do you mind?"

He complied and left, hopefully to seek nirvana.

The purpose to my visit to Montreal was to do a talk during a festival in honor of our guru, Srila Prabhupada. I spoke about my personal time with him in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto. About half of the anecdotes had to do with my walking with him and his entourage. 

Then I learned from the coordinator of the event that in '68, when our guru made his first visit to Montreal to deal with U.S. visa issues, he had walked a good seven to eight kilometres from the Notre Dame Basilica to the ecumenical centre for visiting all religions: "Le Centre Montchanais." This was in June, July and August.

Also, he once mentioned he loved majestic flowing rivers which compelled him to walk along the Riviere St. Laurent, up to Mont Royal Park.

Guess who's going to check out those locations on foot? Yes, to me they are pilgrimage places.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Dundas, Ontario

There is One Thing
There is one thing I would like to declare, unofficially; that those Johnny-on-the-spot outdoor toilets are perfect self-realization cubicles. 

I personally stepped into one of those purely to make a change into my swimming trunks for water exploration. In the cubicle next to me a woman entered saying, "Gross!", horrified at the contents. That's why I say, "A step into one of those units and you've got reality staring you in the face." It's the lump-sum of human bodily constituency. It's eye opening while the nostrils and mouth stay tightly shut. 

The place of activity for the day was Spencer's Gorge, near Dundas, Ontario, which became a real hot spot for family and community fun. I spent the morning, and part afternoon, with our Brampton community; bonding, tracking, learning, chanting and having a picnic. It was a bhakti blast. The water experience took some bravado.

Every person that came to this outdoor haven circumvented barriers to reach the base of Spencer's Gorge/Webster's Falls. Vrajadham from Hamilton was our guide. He took us to what seem like Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". The notable place of ecstasy was right under the falls, a strong penetrating continuous shower. Going behind the constant pour was another "looking behind-the-scenes" experience. It was unobnoxious compared to the toilets.

The anatomy of this day was ending in Richmond Hill at the home of a god-brother, Subha Vilas. There, I delivered a theatrical reading of the Gita along with another spiritual bro, Krishna Das. Yes, it was well received, as was Kalyapani's song of Krishna done to an Irish tune. It was totally sweet!

May the Source be with you!

6 KM