Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

There is a scrooge-mood pervading the atmosphere. A friend of mine from Washington in the retail business mentioned that his business in the fourth quarter did poorly despite the traditional spending splurge. People ask if we are on the verge of a major recession? A depression perhaps? People are cautious about the purchase of accessories. Many folks you talk to believe the excessive on-credit current lifestyle is finally catching up karmically. Some say that creed could now have a place while greed takes a rest.

Constantly we see the pendulum swinging from expansion to contraction, from liberalism to conservatism. I wonder if there is a resistance to middle ground- the safe territory? The Bhagavad -Gita refers this to the zone of satva, the mode of thoughtfulness, reason and cautiousness. It is an approach so rarely achieved by us humans as a species.

In any event the Season Greetings are less cheerful this year, so the pulse of the people tells. From the natural law of cause and effect one might be wise to study the nature of the world and is the impetus behind troubled times. Hardship is something we cannot avoid but tolerance is something we can invite.

The world is fragile. The city block that the temple rests in got hit by two black outs. The power failure the second time lasted about forty-five minutes. We were groping around in the dark. Then suddenly everything switched on!

How dual this world is!

0 Km. (just pacing in the temple room while chanting today.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In devotional life there is always a compelling force to see the coming days activities. As I made my way up Spadina Ave. in Chinatown as part of my walking regime I anticipated tomorrow- the time to share my devotional experiences with others at two community gatherings. I don’t necessarily plan my topics for speaking opportunities. It’s the way I am. It may be regarded as a weakness but I guess it’s my style to be fairly spontaneous. I take a verse from the Bhagavad- Gita and the method is to simply take inspiration from a particular verse and its companion purport and to coast along in that manner. I choose a verse often times, “on the spot.”

As I wrestle with the busy shoppers for space and make those peering glances at exotic and enticing produce on display and the less-enticing hanging flesh parts behind windows the experience makes for the basis of things to talk about. Somehow in all travel, whether on foot or otherwise, the things you see, smell, hear, and so on provides a portion of the data making discussion or a talk interesting and human.

As fog crept and glided over the snow laden soil of Queen’ s Park it left a picture of a perfect photo image. Towering leafless trees made dark contrasts to the space once walked by our guru. It is imagery like this that lays more groundwork on the subtle level for emotions to be expressed when delivering a public message of devotion.

10 Km

Monday, 29 December 2008

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Yesterday while sitting in the dentist’s chair the assistant who was about to execute the cleaning of my teeth asked, “Do you celebrate Christmas?”

“Yes, I said, in a unique kind of way. We love Jesus and his teachings. We (meaning our resident monks at the temple) will conduct an extra period for chanting.” This was precisely what we did and I took the chance to sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra to the tune of “What child is this?”, a Christmas carol. It worked perfectly. When you consider that some of the melodies applied to the Hare Krishna chant are Bollywood or romantic tunes then I have no misgivings about using a traditional Christian tune which is very devotional.

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, did not lay hard and fast rules on melodies used. He always emphasized a devotional approach to everything. He did express some preference to traditional tunes as used in Bengal by Gaudiya Acharyas, or teachers in the line of Caitanya. Devotion or Bhakti was always the main point.

The day of Christmas was indeed serene. Hardly an automobile engine could be heard from inside the temple. The evening was also blessed with quiet. Two monks and I braved the glassy-iced ravine for an up and down walk-and-slide experience while occasionally breaking into the mantra using the “What child is this?” melody. It all fit together so well; chanting, good association, fresh air, and a great tune.

5 Km

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Windsor, Ontario, Canada

It took me practically 50 minutes to walk around the massive block of Chrysler Plant. It gives you an idea of the size of the place which has employed thousands over the years in this auto town. I happened to stay overnight just two blocks away from the assembly with companion and fellow spiritualist Devadatta, at the home of his father, Dennis Ford (no relation to the big auto Baron).

These days companies such as Chrysler talk about big bucks, as they always did. The current climate has changed and instead of dollars in the plus it’s dollars in the red. While Christmas season is brewing the good cheers are also not what they could be. Bankruptcies and bail-outs are the talk of the town. In such grim times one could demonstrate a little wisdom, one could consider the great option of spirituality.

One woman walking her dog trudging through the snow with an air of cheerfulness, “Lots of beautiful snow!” she said as Devadatta and I readied ourselves to pull out of his father’s driveway.
“Yes”, I agreed “It’s mother nature’s frozen milk and it replenishes many forms of life in the spring”, I replied
“You must be one of those Green people”, she remarked.
“Well, I am a monk of the Hare Krishna movement and we do have some ecological concerns.”
“You learn something everyday”, she said blissfully and went on her way.

With less walking and more driving Devadatta and I visited five household, over a stretch of three hundred kilometers. Weather was nasty and in one city, London Ontario, we accidentally slipped into a snow-bound ditch. The first motorist to see us in our bind stopped, pulled out their newly purchased shovel and got us out of a tight spot.

The good Samaritans are out there and do exist. The two fellows did not show sainthood by expression of language but they did by expression of action.

6 Km

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It is officially the first day of winter and winter it is. Snow has blanketed the ground giving it a brightness that summer could never do. People like to complain about the white stuff. It’s cold! It’s hazardous for motorists! I had walked a good hour and a half in it. It reduces your walking (and driving speed) in half, if not more.

Snow! I believe it is something to smile at. To me it’s mother nature’s frozen milk. In time it nourishes the vegetation which nourishes hundreds of species including us humans. It’s a transformation of water. It illuminates the night. It’s insulation from chilly winds. It’s one of the colours of God when He goes under the name Balarama. So, stop winning.

Our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, was the example of optimism-always. For those of us who knew him he was Mr. Positive. In the midst of any difficulty he always looked up and ahead. Like those folks who came to attend a wedding today at our temple, the building in which I live. Attendees braved the snow storm to give support to couple Yamuna Jivana and Siobhan. They were not intimidated by harsh weather. Fish are never deterred by the current they swim against.

At the end of the day I called a friend from the states wishing him a “Seasons Greetings!” We spoke about smiling in the face of any and all adversities. I could not see him smiling but I could feel it. He expressed that those who smile have a grip on life. He also said that some folks make the excuse, “I come from a culture that doesn’t smile.” My friend argues that in New Guinea they used to eat humans. Not anymore.

So Smile! They made a change.

6 Km

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Havana, Cuba

At the airport an elderly man, a tourist from Canada, expressed that he was disheartened with his visit and that he has re-routed his vacation for Mexico. I on the other hand, enjoyed my stay. Apart from the heavy black car emissions spewing out from vintage cars I rather love Cuba. It’s much like India. There are environmental issues that make it uncomfortable but people are generally sweet. My mind gravitated back to the previous night’s event in Matanzas. There were these incredible lit up faces and bodies swaying to the beat. All were moving like the Cuban royal palm trees caught dancing in the coastal breeze. It was beautifully synchronized and with no rehearsal.

On my return flight I watched on the airline screen “March of the Penguins” the first time. I had been hurting a bit in the thighs from the morning’s walk but when viewing those pilgrims/penguins take up there austerity my trivial pain vanished, when they slide on their bellies. They were getting me fired up. My walks at the Malecon, rests at my room, the talks at different homes and other venues with casual meetings and greetings with people of what is often a misunderstood place have been most fulfilling. I look forward to the next venture there. Adios Cuba!

7 Km

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Matanzas, Cuba

In Cuba heroes are very much memorialized. Monuments and magnificent sculptures of those who fought for the cause of independence certainly dot the city of Havana. My two heroes for the day were in the flesh, two towering black athletes, one who teaches basketball and the other baseball. Although they were slugging down the rum which comes in small fruit-juice-type pakettes they did have a lot to say about their own need for God and their commitment to the Santaria tradition. For them the concept of a monk, no woman as an intimate friend was inconceivable. I appreciated that they tried to understand the idea of a monks mind-set, that all men are brothers, all women are sisters and all children are everyone’s responsibility.

While friendship ignited here I also came upon some anti-hero dynamic. I short -cutted my way to the apartment through university grounds. An over amiable type asked about my country of origin and offered to show me around with his friend. They took me to a dark side path, an area devoid of students, and pressed for help of the monetary kind. I had to coolly weasel my way out of this situation and emphasize my own poverty position. “I’m not a tourist” I declared. When I couldn’t produce what they wanted, they stopped smiling.

Anti-heroes sometimes come in waver. At Matanzas, a mere hour and a half east of Havana (by car) history tells of when Europeans came and gunned down every last indigenous person, leaving not one to stand. Hence the name Matanza, “Killing”. War is the world’s common occurrence. It is remarkable that centuries later descendants of such antagonism had come to partake in the aggressive passivism of chanting with us.

There are some good medals deserved out there. My own personal hero is anyone who responsibly looks after dependants and keeps at the core some spiritual integrity.

10 Km

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Havana, Cuba

Private space sizeable enough to accommodate thirty or so people for an ND Method lesson was a bit of a challenge to find for Yoel, but he did it. NDM or Nine Devotional Methods was the planned presentation for me to make. A new Age woman in the Havana community had the perfect spot for us near the tourist centre area, a quaint, but adequate courtyard. Healers, massage therapists, yoga practitioners and other alternative life seekers attended.

As in other locations the two hour session response was overwhelming. They were enthusiastic for dos partes. (Part two). So I’ll have to structure something as a follow up. A sequel will be something to thirst over thanks to the great Puranic saint Prahlad. At age five the young boy nailed down 9 principals to adapt to for acquiring inner strength.

Walking to and from this pleasant courtyard meant passing through neighbourhoods both rich and poor. Such dualities exists everywhere. Frankly in my opinion if ever a consumer/ capitalist system was introduced into Cuba it would toss the rico and pobre communities a greater distance apart. It would have a negative impact. I do admire a place where the government offers everyone free medical and educational services, where pornography is prohibited and television is more educational and commercial free. Above all people are approachable here. It’s easy to make friends.

One milestone to share is that three Cubans formally made vows to accept a guru, abstain form meat, intoxicants, gambling and to honour strong family values. It might be a first for this country which is so inclined toward spirituality.

16 Km

Friday, 19 December 2008

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Havana, Cuba

“Hay es Luner.” ( It is Monday).
I get excited when I learn some small thing in Spanish. I hope I can retain it.

Yoel, Wendy and I made it to the Malikon. The moon was prominent. It was going to be another clear day. And we were clearing our heads (cabeza) chanting the mantra on our beads while walking. It is the most excellent way to start any day.

Today was the day to reflect on one of the great visionaries of our tradition, Bhaktisiddhanta, our guru’s guru. Very effectively he shared his view of God awareness to the sub-continent of India in the early half of the 1900’s. Of course, India can boast to already have this awareness, but in particular Bhaktisiddhanta gave attention to the work of Caitanya, the avatar who emphasized mantra chanting.

Yoel and I visit the Indian Embassy, a few short blocks from my rented apartment. There was a cordial meeting with members there.

Time was taken up at washing my own robes in the kitchen sink with dish soap (the only facility available for now), and happily hanging them to dry on the veranda. Yoel’s mother busied herself cooking for us while Yoel attended his university classes which included writing an examination. I certainly could afford to give time to do a little self-maintenance hand washing.
Looking down from the veranda I could see plenty of people walking which probably could explain why Cubans look more fit than do most North Americans.

Another evening satsang (devotional gathering) brought our little nucleus of devotees together. It was flavored with the strumming of a guitar. All things can be dovetailed or channeled into a chanting session. It’s always the devotion that counts.

9 Km

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Havana, Cuba

I had arrived yesterday in Cuba. It’s my second visit. After a lengthy rest I ventured to the Malecon, the ocean front where the water slaps against the sea wall. To reach there from my rented apartment at block J25 I trekked down several blocks where people were still on overtime party mode.

“Where are you from?” asked a few groups of people chilling from the music-dance-drinks-scene. One fellow this early/late time (4:15am) was thrilled to hear I’m a Canadian.
“Hey, I love Cuba!” I responded, “….it’s warmth and openness.”
To which he said “You like Cubans?” Here we sing, dance and the sex is good!”
“I’m a monk and I’m not sure you said the right thing.”
“Lo Siento!” (I’m sorry) he said.

After several encounters of enjoyable folks I met the ocean, walked to the capital buildings and the old Fort wall meant to hold off pirate invaders of the past. I appreciated the moon creating sparkling waves. I was lucky to not get a splash. Aggressive waves reached out to soak the sidewalk on both sides of me, but I managed to stay dry.

Wendy is a four year novice at spiritual life and I was invited with 21 year old Yosh and mom, Cecilia, to her home for conducting chanting, a talk, and answering questions with Cuban vegetarian fare to finalize the visit. Following that great experience with an apartment full of chanting enthusiasts we all ventured out to a park for public drumming and chanting. Young folks joined in the fun moving their bodies to the beat of the drum and smacking hands. Two police came to watch. They saw no trouble here, but rather, a keep-out-of-trouble program going on here. And so they moved on.

16 Km

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Firday, December 12th, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A couple of good friends, doctors, arranged for me to check my spine through an MRI scan. Results will come in a few days. It’s an interesting process. You are put in a container the size of a coffin with ear plugs on. The lady who came out before I went in said the sounds inside were like a bad sounding rock band. “I’m claustrophobic, so it was tough.” She looked like she had a rough time.

At my turn I could understand what she meant, although at one point the tapping noise had a rhythm and I caught myself moving my toes to the beat. The operator of the machine asked me to keep still, so I did. It was hard to not move the legs in that reclining position with a roof three inches from your nose. In any event we’ll see what find of wear and tear exists on the spinal cord given all the walking, aging and not always being posture perfect.

I feel embarrassed to not put in at least two hours of trekking a day. The hospital form asks if the patient has a ride home. I answered, “no” . I always walk everything off even if there would have been a little “shake up” after the session.

Another passion that consumes me is drama. For the evening a volunteer group came to see me to work on a refined version of, “The Eighth Boy” regarding the life of Krishna.

Today was a day of patience and passion. I’m grateful for today.

5 Km

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

He works with the greatest of ease and I’m not talking about the man on the flying trapeze. I’m referring to one of our own monks who faithfully goes daily to the world’s longest street (Yonge st.) and smoothly convinces people, mostly shoppers, that they are getting the best bargain in life. The bargain is the “Bhagavad-Gita”, the great gift of knowledge.

Yajna Gauranga, a Ukrainian born monk, who sports regular civilian clothes for the task, loads himself up with soft-bound Gita books, priceless information on life skills. He succeeds with devotional finesse to approach passerby-ers, gets them to stop from their passionate pace and convinces them to take home a copy of this timeless “bombshell”. I say bombshell because once the wisdom of the Gita is put into thought and subsequent action it’s sure to shatter some mundane dreams.

I was appreciating Yajna’s devotional charm as I took a much needed afternoon stroll through the Santa Barrage of shoppers’ madness. My route was deliberate – to hit his daily path, meet him, and watch him in action. Christmas is a lonely time for a lot of people and the Gita’s contents can challenge that worst of social maladies – loneliness. Not everyone has to feel the pangs of a “Blue, blue, blue Christmas” as Elvis used to sing. “Go, Yajna, GO!”

8 Km

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A ravine here leads one to an old brick-making factory. There is a magnificent solitude at this site near Bayview Avenue, it should not be surprising. I walked there at 1:30am (contending with jet lag to my adjustments). Everything was covered with snow. I’ve seen two adult fox playing in the snow here in the past and at approximately the same time of the day. I will endear that image in my mind forever.

It was just me, those fox and my whisper of the maha-mantra that was so magical, even when the red fury fellows noticed me and then hurriedly dashed off.

This day was the anniversary of the Bhagavat-Gita being spoken. Some Gita verses I reflected on were Arjuna’s queries and remarks which reveal his transformation. “ I feel the limbs of my body quivering……I am forgetting myself…..It would be better to live by begging than top live at the cost of the lives of great souls……I am confused. …..Instruct me. What are the symptoms of one who is in transcendence? How does he speak? How does he sit and walk? ……Why do you want to engage me in this warfare? …..By what is one impelled to act offensively, even against one’s will, as if by force? …..Yoga is impractical for the mind is restless…..what is the destination of the unsuccessful who in the beginning takes to the process? ……What is the self? What is Karma? ……I wish to see how you entered into the cosmic form!.....Who are you? …..You are air, fire, water, the moon, Your are everything….Please tolerate the wrongs I have done. Excuse me.”

8 Km

Monday, 8 December 2008

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

JFK Airport, New York

I’m back to the Northern Hemisphere. All seems not so fast and efficient at JFK – the customs lines, the security check line are slow and clumsy-running. Perhaps it’s not always like that. Whether northern or southern, down under or up above the same mood pervades. Money is hard to come by. That’s what everyone is saying – In Australia, Argentina, America and Canada. Still birds chirp in the south and the wind and snow are alive and kicking in the north.

After having landed finally in Toronto I addressed the jet lag issue by drinking liquids, bathing and going for that long walk. I decided to prod the ravine near Bayview Avenue along with Devadatta. He loves the change of seasons, appreciates the snow fresh fall like me.

For a good long while I had a chat with organizers of the festivals to come- the winter, spring and summer ones. Our projections were probing into the future and we reminisced the past pleasant events. And then someone, Krishna Caitanya, my secretary, handed me on paper one of those proverbial motivational messages which reads as follows:
The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails…..

8 Km

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Buenos Aries, Argentina

They have only been married for a year and the relationship started not so long ago when he, Rodo, introduced her, Laura, to a book about spiritual life. It all began with Krishna. He is a professional juggler, does circus acts and she is a hatha yoga teacher. They are a couple now happily engaged in service to the temple just like so many other young couples who find spare time for “pitching in”. Rodo provides entertainment for the temple festivals and Laura helps with Kitchen duties.

Radha is pregnant with a child while her hubby works at a candle factory. It is unfortunate that I forgot his name as he is such a nice fellow but unfortunately he lost his middle finger to a cutting machine just recently. He’s taking it well. This vibrant couple attends enthusiastically to temple programs where there are philosophical talks.

At a program held in the suburbs at Shantipur Yoga Centre many young males and females meet regularly for chanting and hearing sessions. I was invited to talk about any subject of my choice. So it came to be relevant to human dynamics that I speak about the “Duryodhan principal”. (Duryodhan is a nefarious character found in the epic, “Mahabharata). The Duryodhan principal is just a term I used to describe our individual nature to be somewhat self-centered and at times non-co-operative. We discussed the need for cohesion and a harmony in all efforts to advance the spiritual cause.

5 Km

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Buenos Aries, Argentina

It has been a recovery day from the many hours soared high over the Pacific. I had slept a good straight six hours in the guest room of the local temple. Chanting started at 12 midnight. Confined to the temple’s tiny courtyard with its high property-line wall, I took it as a pleasantly imposed discipline to pace back and forth while chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. I was locked in by pad lock until the day dawned and a local monk who routinely unlocks let me at my usual roaming freedom.

While a portion of my day is captured by the spiritual writings of Srila Prabhupada I often browse this-worldly material keeping myself “in-touch”. November’s issue of National Geographic features an article of the Tarahumara who evaded Spanish conquerors in their homeland of Sierre Madre in Mexico. They were called Raramuri which means,”he who walks well”. To quote,” they’ve been known to irritate American ultramarathoners by beating them while wearing huasache sandals and stopping now and then for a smoke“.

From reading on I felt empathy for the isolated Tarahumara whose lives are now threatened by modern ways.

In Bernal, a hours distance from Buenos Aries, I was driven to facilitate another ND method (nine devotional practices) to a group of enthusiastic participants. The host was Jiva Goswami and his large home with devotional pictures and deities galore became the evening’s venue. People in this part of the world love to drum and chant all night long but for practical reasons we must draw time lines.

6 Km

Friday, 5 December 2008

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Tues. Nov 25/08 - Sydney, Australia

Moving along in the air towards the next stop in the Southern Hemisphere. I am trying to calculate mathematically my hours (gained or lost). But frustrated I conclude that to be patient is a veritable virtue for a renounced person. When I landed at the Sydney Airport I had my filled out customs card. For occupation I wrote. ``Minister Of Religion`` the terminology used in Canada. Customs looked at that with raised eyebrows, questioning followed.

``You’re a Minister of Religion`` ``What are you doing here?`` Do you have a card to verify your occupation?`` You`re only here for eight days?`` How long have you been a Minister?``

I answered smoothly the authority`s questions. They found the responses unique enough. I write dramas and direct plays for youths and walk across countries – three times across Canada.

``Oh how long does that take?``

``Six months! One day I will tackle Australia and watch the kangaroos`` (Laughter).

My host to Australia or as he puts it "The Land Of Oz" is a dear friend and long time monk, Indradyumna Swami, who also brought me to Poland earlier in the summer. He's invited me to direct his Aussie troupe for “The Gita" as a component in "Le Carnaval Spiritual" established in France in `79. Thanks for the invite.

On this first trip to this great land of wonder I felt the need to ground myself after a lengthy air travel. Cameron, another friend, took me around. On foot we passed through the executive district of North Sydney, residential areas and parks with fragrant eucalyptus trees. Nice place but like most the motorists are in the majority and pedestrians remain the minority.

5 Km

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Sun. Nov. 23, 2008 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

The community of devotees in Buenes Aires have had it rough in the last few months. The human dynamics of divided interests split the consciousness that was there when I made my first visit in 2006. Fortunately a third party was called in under the able mediation of good friend Jaga Jivan from Paraguay just prior to the Chariot Festival. Hope was restored and it appeared to me that the happiness in the hearts of the community was a gauge for some level of success. What can be done. Even Spiritual families have their differences. We just have to attempt to resolve, that`s all.

One young family man, Javier, who shares life with a supportive wife and daughter, became enthused to take diksha, spiritual initiation. His new name is JANMASTHAMI DAS. I am overly impressed with his active participation in service. Being non political, and simplicity of character is what is really going to spare him from being involved in dissention. It is heart warming to meet someone trusting and not evil – hearted. Some monks and I took to walking on what seemed like an endless residential street until we stumbled upon the commuter train tracks. I am learning the spanish word for dog, cat, pigeon, dove, street, etc. I certainly could not ignore those massive beautiful purple flowered trees indigenous to the area, the name of which I forgot.

The Sunday evening program at the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) centre drew a vast amount of people. Some young people of same gender orientation came to visit for the first time. They were curious about our views on same – sex relations. Our monks get asked all the time about our stance on the issue. My answer is Krishna is accepting of everyone. If one choses the experience of celibacy the ashram is a good place to lie. Otherwise we all have an obligation to regulate and control our sexual appetite.

5 Km

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Sat. Nov. 22nd – Buenos Aires, Argentina

If I am not mistaken, today is the day of the anniversary where JF Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it well sitting in grade school when my teacher had excused himself from being called from the classroom, a very irregular thing. He came back to us five minutes later to announce, “President Kennedy has been shot!” Even though he was not our Prime Minister for Canada, Kennedy was a popular world leader. At receiving this news we were held in shock. Minutes later the teacher announced his death. It was the baby boomers 911 and our little cushiony world had been shaken.

Here in Buenos Aires more happily, the Chariot Festival rocked the city. A very bright-eyed and enthusiastic group of Jagannatha admirers turned up with drums, colorful attire, and baby strollers to soak in sun and fun. I was personally surprised over the three hours session leading the chant and not having lost my voice in the end.

Festival goers enjoyed the free vegetarian feast prepared by organizers at the Plaza Francia. Our hard-worked-at drama “The Jagannatha Story” seemed to draw in the crowd and hit some sentiments. One woman removed her sunglasses at the play’s climax revealing her smeared and dripping make-up mixed with tears. For the credits we brought onto the stage actors and back-up crew who danced to the sound of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” Mahahari , the main co-coordinator tiredly popped into the temple late in the night when all was over regretting that people were asking for George’s music and books on his connection to the chanting, and more of that material had been made available on site. Otherwise, well done Mahahari.

10 Km

Monday, 24 November 2008

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Men in orange involved in municipal repair were taking their lunch near their digging spots. Every two blocks you would see a group of them catching a restful moment. I made a few heads turn, for sure, as I passed by with a nod while they reciprocated. Women, too, and school children got curious. If they are all lucky they will see a whole slew of us at Plaza Francia with our drums and mantras, flags and chariot tomorrow.

Our drama group is working hard to invest in hours and details of a beautiful story about Jagannatha. With every effort there is challenge. I’m directing in English with one percent Spanish thrown in while everyone else knows little English. Fortunately our narrator Anna does professional voices for TV characters and Marina has a career in making documentaries. They get by with English. The actors remain strained without their translations. Rather I should say that I’m the strained one. This is their territory I’m in.

It’s always exciting seeing how a production molds together in so little time. – three days. We have people in our troupe that are strong-willed. Rodo is a professional juggler and funny man, and he is a piece of cake to work with, but one of the fellows seems to struggle and I guess it appeared that I was giving him a hard time. He’s taking it well and I believe that by performance time tomorrow he will do well. He’s trying hard.

In any service, steadfastness is a true embellishment. To be steady is the mark of a hero.

10 Km

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Thursday, Nov. 20th – Buenos Aires, Argentina

It’s my second day here and I had been noticing familiar signs found in most parts of the world. “Coca Cola, Mc Donald’s, Burger King” flank busy thoroughfares as common unused realities. Perhaps it is inappropriate to draw such comparison, but Jagannatha (the once forest deity, now popular temple divinity) is reaching the streets in mobile fashion marking the weekend’s colorful Chariot Festival. As His name implies He is the cosmic Lord, Lord of the Universe, and for some people will rival such above mentioned commercial icons of the day.

Jagannatha has so much to offer and His festival hundreds of years in operation from the place of origin in Puri comes to cast His “happy face” mercy to Argentineans. I had been reading in the “Journal of Vaishnava Studies” the account of Salabega who was an established 17th century poet of Muslim decent. His writings which are entrenched in devotion to the deity Jagannatha are truly inspiring. Although the temple where Jagannatha is fabulously adored it has rejected entry to the non-Hindu born faithful, but this bright poet saw Jagannatha as very inclusive of all. Orthodox priests in Orissa have maintained a rigid policy preventing “outsiders” from coming into this ancient temple.

I had my experience two decades ago when trying to see if I could have darshan (a view) of the famous temple in Puri called Gundica. The security guard stopped me at the gate saying I could not enter because I was Christian. Calmly I asserted my commitment to Krishna and that I bore the robes to prove it what to speak of shaven head. “You are white,” he said. Keeping my tone to a subdued respectable level I pressed, “But three gods adorn this temple one is black, one is golden and the other is white. I am here to see the White God, Balaram.”

The guard would hear no more, held his body attentively square and eyes away. That was my vain attempt to enter.

I’m just glad I can attend a parade like this weekend’s and gain the positive vibrations from the broad smiles of Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra. I express my gratitude to our guru, Srila Prabhupada, for bringing these deities to the west and to be known to everyone. They are not confined to South-east Asia, but are visible to all.

6 Km

Satruday, November 15th, 2008

Saturday, November 15th – Markham, Ontario, Canada

At a satsang (spiritual gathering) held in the home of a Trinidadian household hosted by Ganesh and Devarka. I talked about a phone call that I received earlier in the day.
“A mother called me and said that her eight year old son had questions. So, I said ‘put him on.” His first question was, “What is the proof that God exists?”

“You have to read Dr. Suesse?” I asked him and he said he had. You had to never seen the authors but you know he exists because of the author’s book. Similariliy, God exists on the strength of his book, Bhagavad-gita.

His next question was “Have others seen God? I have never seen God.”

My answer was, “It takes a clean heart to qualify. Right now we have to contend with anger, some jealousy, some greediness. These things make it hard to communicate with God because there’s a lot of junk in the way.”


Another question. “If there are so many gods, why have you chosen Krishna?”

I explained that He is all attractive. As a philosopher His book “The Gita” is deep. And besides He’s nice to the animal, plays a great flute, comes across as a fabulous dancer and fighter. He always smiles even during the greatest trials that we go through and He has a tremendous amount of friends and He’s willing to take more.

My young questioner seemed relatively content with the explanations. “Thanks” said Jay. “I’ll have more questions later.”

On the drive back to the asharam rain hit the front window of the vehicle. The rain drops became softer and then turned white. It was snowing.

Having not walked today but for the morning, pacing the front foyer of the temple I had little fatigue or cause to sleep, so I chanted on my beads and paced again until after midnight. I admire the new light fixtures adorninn the ceiling. They cast more lights than the previous ones. I tuned off the switch and walked upstairs to bed.

Overall I had a bright night thanks especially to Jay in the day.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Tuesday, Nov. 18th, 2008 – Miami Beach, Florida, USA

Staying in the room next to me is a very special monk from New York. His name is Prabhupada Das, a student of Srila Prabhupada. Having come around to see Prabhupada since the sixties he has served the mission for quite some time in America, Guyana, India, Colombia and other places.

Prabhupada Das (we hope the name doesn’t confuse here) tells of a time when he was handed a dhoti (lower monk’s robe) in his early exploration of higher consciousness by his spiritual father, Srila Prabhupada. He approached the young man with a distinct tear in his eye, an evocation of compassion and eagerness to see the young New Yorker take to the saving, or shall we say, safe path.

When Prabhupada Das first started seeing the seasoned swami from India, his Jewish father also visited him on occasion. The concerned father was impressed by his son’s new mentor who mentioned that his son was a little crazy but that he would “fix him up.” In my periodical encounters with Prabhupada Das I was moved by his conviction as a renounced person. He would be the first to admit to transformation.

Incidentally, Jeffery took an upper step this morning. He became initiated into the spiritual succession. As an astrologer he took on the name Garga Muni das, after the name of the astrologer in Krishna’s foster family. Blessings to him!

Wanting to catch some sun before a flight to Buenos Aires, I was driven by physician Dr. Murari to Miami Beach. I guess it wasn’t quite on his mind that there are topless elements there during warm spells here. I would advise alternative walking locations to the sands of Miami Beach for monks.

11 Km

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Mon. Nov. 17th, 2008 – Biscayne, Florida, USA

To catch some vitamin D was my objective in going to a sea side park. While walking on the sea wall my walking partner, Jeffery Brock, a local astrologer, and I caught glimpse of a beautiful manatee wallowing in the wetness of the Atlantic. Lizards of all sorts crawled near us on our venture through the forested area.

While gazing at such wonders watching our every step we simultaneously entered into deep discussion. In fact as we tread towards a famous lighthouse, a spot with historical significance where combat took place between the two native groups, we pondered and discussed the fallibility of even spiritually advanced individuals. Tempted again to walk the sea wall, we contemplated the possibility of falling onto the rock edged ocean side.

Our guru explained that spiritual life is like a razor’s edge – a little inattention to shaving and you draw blood. And as long as we are human we are all vulnerable. The advanced sage, Bharat, was enwrapped in dhyana yoga, mediation and while in the course of his detached ways a fawn distracted him. He eventually became infatuated with the creature and obsessed. It led to his untimely death.

If Jeffery and I spent enough time eyeing at the magnificent gracefulness of the manatee’s motion we might also fall from the wall and become Humpty Dumpties. We can all be hit at a weak moment even though we could boast seniority in spirituality. We can slip because “we are humans.” There is a need to always beg for protection.

9 Km

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Sun. Nov. 16th, 2008 - Coconut Grove, Florida, USA

Lynnric, a young Norwegian student at FIU in Miami. She and her friend, a young Costa Rican male model had been driving around in the Coconut Grove neighborhood looking for Dharma House, a Buddhist resort. Her intention was to observe ceremonies and ask questions from a spiritual community outside of her own Christianity, as a school assignment. She spotted the robes on me and so her friend, the driver, made a sudden sharp turn to ask about her destination place. I had been walking with physician/friend Dr. Romeu (Murari Gupta is his spiritual name) when they couldn’t resist asking. We had no idea about the whereabouts of the place, but explained about our own Sunday Open House. So Lynn and her friend drove us to the Iskcon temple, where to her surprise were more students doing the same assignment for the same course.

Lynn was detailed about recording all answers to the interview by pen and paper. More students filtered in like a high tide coming in, some from the secondary school level. They all appeared quite excited about the monks and lay-members of our community (largely Hispanic) with our very outgoing approach to spirituality. With approximately seven drums resounding in an actively sharp acoustical room, it was in my estimation, a bit over-kill in the volume department. The mantra was drowned out at times. The students still appreciated the vibe though. Devotees enjoyed dancing and students enjoyed watching. I was not able to cover much mileage on foot but my mouth motored-off plenty to an inquisitive bunch of sincere seekers. For them it was not just a service they saw, but a group of blissful people sprung into action with an important message to tell them.

3 Km

Friday, 14 November 2008

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Thurs.Nov.13/08 - Toronto, Ontario.

My early morning leg work took me through trendy Yorkville, close to our ashram. “Buddha Forever!, remarks a young fellow as he walks by.

A drizzle began. Another passerby in a giddy mood expressed in hi jovial way, “Hey, isn’t Krishna gonna protect me from the rain?”

I ventured into Chinatown much later on after cooking a large meal at the ashram looking for a personal filing cabinet. While scouring place to place on Spadina Ave. some folks would greet with a nod. From a large window of Lord Lansdowne Grade School students waved. An oncoming class (on foot) about to enter the school yard respectfully gave way for me to walk the sidewalk. “Good afternoon!” was the greeting from three boys at the end of the line.

Four native fellows sitting near the Friendship Centre noticed the passing robes, “Hey that guy’s got a dress on!, ” said one.
“Correction, robes!” was my response.

I stopped by to see a friend, Kuladev, a brazilian, who runs three vintage clothing shops. In his younger years he also tread the path of monastic life and was highly successful at selling vedic literature in Rio, on buses of all places.

It was a great morning and afternoon of human interaction. I’m glad to be alive and to be a monk, a servant to all.

I did find my filing cabinet by the way.

11 Km

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Tues. Nov.11/08 - Toronto, Ontario

There is something quiet about today. Oh yes! Many businesses will be closed and it will be a time of sobriety, reflection, memories, stories of bravery, courage, death, and hope.

As I had walked a section of Yonge St. quite early at 2:50am chanting on beads I found I could be heard, let’s say, a half a block away with no disturbance and rarely a pedestrian to be seen. I paced by endless clothing shops, taverns, banks,, physic reading outlets, restaurants, sex shops and I thought how all this is rather irrelevant to the truth. On this day, Remembrance Day when veterans of ghastly wars are honored for their sake of sacrifice I find it a world of dichotomy. Much later I had asked one of the monks in the temple to pick up for me a newspaper in the evening. Yes monks do read newspapers from time to time. There’s a need to know what’s going on in the world outside the sheltered temple and ashram (monastery). Big news is that Bush and Obama met in the Oval room of the White House to discuss transition. But the stories that really captivated me and pulled my heart strings were the personal war stories by veterans who went through so much. My dad used to tell of stories in Holland when it was under Nazi control. Those were times when people prayed and really did help each other as much as there was dissension, which is what war is all about.

I always relish reading the battle events in the epic, “Mahabharata”. Those events tell of an ancient battle and the curse that comes along with glory. There is always two worlds where we live on earth.

9 Km

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Sun. Nov.9/08 - Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Winter chill has come in finally but with a chauddar wrapped around the torso the 4C is tolerable. When walking at a decent stride the body appears to be a powerful furnace keeping coldness off.

Some of the street names that I pass perpendicular to Sandalwood Street have optimistic names; Fidelity St., and Virtue St. are a fresh sound to designate promenade routes. New subdivisions in the area are featured with man-made ponds inviting water-fowl such as ducks, Canada Geese, the occasional Heron, and sometimes the swan.

I gave a presentation talk at the Brampton ISKCON Center with regard to community and family values, (a favorite topic of mine) and how the chances of keeping cohesion amongst humans is increased with the implementation of mature spirituality. A second talk (this time shared with God-brother Adi Yajna) emphasized the playful nature of the Absolute. The venue was Toronto’s ISKCON center. And after the talk I had the honour to lead the kirtan in the way that it is done by the standards of the past where all participants stand and sway, as opposed to sit, and perhaps step into more exhilarating dance movements.

I see the sitting trend as a slight deviation from the old Bengali-style, Gaudiya chanting sessions. The advantage to the dance to accompany the drums and mantras is that it engages all the senses and as was expressed by a monk who hails from India, Lokanath Swami, “Dancing makes the event complete,” he told me in South Africa.

7 Km

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Saturday, Nov.08/08 - Toronto, Ontario

I have hope that the younger generation will carry through with what “Swamiji” started. Swamiji refers to the name used to address the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON) in the late sixties by members of the counter culture, flower children, beatniks and hippies in America.

Now Srila Prabhupada, who was back then called Swamiji drew the attention of those baby boomers who were on a search for the Absolute. The public may wonder what is happening with generation two of this freshly packaged version of an extremely older tradition.

As I sat in the temple room to hear youths speak from their hearts and guts about their involvement and feelings about Prabhupada, his mission, the philosophy and culture I could not help but be moved. Teens and those in their twenties came from New York, Detroit, New Jersey, West Virginia and elsewhere to organize a remembrance of Srila Prabhupada. The group organizing this super event is called Pandava Sena. Their brochure explain who they are: an association of like-minded youth who try to incorporate spirituality and Vedic principles into their day to day lives. Through discussions, social events, and services at the temple they are given an ideal opportunity to meet other youth who, like them, are searching for something more.

The program was sweet. It was great to see them in action. They are vibrant and sincere. It can move you to tears watching them and being able to envision an improved world ahead should they become influential.

I took a stroll in the evening reflecting on youthfulness and how powerful and positive is that energy when channeled. Hey! I’m beginning to sound like I’m an old man. I’m not old. I’m not this body.

7 Km

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Thurs. Nov. 6/08 - Toronto, Ontario

Students from Silverthorn Secondary school seemed to gel well with their experience at the temple. Mitch, their teacher, is a regular enthusiast of spirituality who takes his students to the temple and other faith centers. He insisted that I speak about the marathon walks I’ve undertaken as his group is largely comprised of athletic types. While I spoke to the students about the power of guru (the one who coaches you), the power of chanting, the power of sacred images, the power of prasadam (blessed food), the power of good association. I was obliged to address the experience of power walking.

I tried to convey the need to apply conviction in what we do, that no matter what is the weather, whether you are noticed or the public gives no attention, hungry or thirsty you go at your responsibility.

Mitch asked for the sake of the students about taking drugs. “It’s bad news! It’s not seeing long term. In our youth there are enticements and especially pressure coming from peers. If you want good performance in hockey, swimming, running and other sports just abstain. Even taking substance “In moderation” shapes into alluring scenarios”. The message seemed to sit well with them.

Mitch was great and so were his students. He admitted to me that he’s used the cookbook, “The Higher Taste” a vegetarian publication by Bhaktivedanata Book Trust, made some preps and proceeded to offer his food to Krishna. He said he assembled it all as a meal for guests.
“It turned out to be delicious”.

3 Km

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Tuesday, November 4/08 - Deseronto, Ontario, Canada

There are certain words that cannot be repeated here- words that were volleyed towards me expressing that I was not welcome.

While on return to Toronto from Montreal, a distance of 600kms, Yajna Gauranga, another monk from Toronto acting as my driver wanted to take a nap due to driver’s fatigue. I decided to walk ahead, catch some fresh air and a gaze at that intense red sun in front of me. Just west of the town Desronto is Mohawk territory. It is clearly marked along highway 2. While 3 kilometers into the trek a male voice shouted from the side “freak”, Foreigner” and other colorful expressions. I stopped for a moment and took-up the challenge. I could see no one beyond the trees and a clump of three houses tightly built together.

“Would you like a conversation? We can talk!” The voice continued but from his distance, no body appeared. It was mild out and easily he could have spoken through a window from inside. Command to leave kept asserting itself and I again challenged a friendly conversation. But to no avail.

I would have defended myself expressing That I’m not a foreigner (I guess my robes didn’t fit into his form of reality) and that I was born in Chatham, Ontario close to the famed Uncle Tom’s cabin where black slaves were given refuge during America’s revolution. I’m a monk and not a freak. And besides we are not these bodies. We are spirit souls. Using bodily designation is somewhat unhealthy. We can share the earth together. If you check out history even indigenous people came from somewhere, the common belief being that they migrated from Asia through the Bering Strait. Which community wasn’t nomadic by will or by force looking for a promised land or put into exile on an island or desert? We are all essentially brothers sharing the common father, the Creator.

Unfortunately there was no receptivity or a will to meet and converse. The non-hospitable remarks persisted and I was left to bear an ounce of humility, which isn’t bad.

12 Km

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Monday, November 3rd, 2008 - Hull, Quebec, Canada

Not a single human soul passed me along the quite trail, Voyageurs Path along the Ottawa River from 3h30 AM to 5h30 AM. After all it is early and it is Monday. (Remember that Mamas’ and Papas’ song “Monday Monday” casting off all the blues feelings?)

A sleeping flock of geese awoke at the subtle stomping of my feet as I tread near the calm water. They became a little bit agitated and I felt a bit guilty being the cause of the disturbance. Did they ever create a fuss with their honking sounds!
History is rich here. The monumental figure of Jean de Brebeouf stands tall along the path. As a Jesuit priest from France in early 17th century Brebeouf and other pastoral peers braved the Algonquin wilderness attempting to Christianize the indigenous people. Being a tall strong stature this Jesuit won the hearts of the Huron peoples. However the Iroquois took less of a liking to his mission and as a result ended a missionary village and his life.

Shortly after a return trip to Montreal, history was made for French speaking Canadians when Priya Bhakta, a local translator, presented a book “Teaching of Lord Chaitanya” by Srila Prabhupada as an offering of love. It took him six months to complete the translation of this essential reading material which gives an in-depth insight into the Bhagavat philosophy of Vaishnavism.

9 Km

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

There are always sincere seekers surfacing and making inquiries into the Absolute. Here at the centre on Somerset East after explaining the melodic lyrics of a song “Damodarastaka” some bright inquisitive faces came forward. They were young men who wanted clarification on the nature of the Absolute as a person. Those relatively new seekers also became personally involved in the dance portion of the Sunday gathering. In fact the entire group attending became immersed in a kind of polka-square dance moving to the tempo and beat of drum and accordion and the sound of mantra.

After my talk and the chanting session a fellow by the name of Sunny asked if I knew Nostradamus. I said that I was quite aware of some of this visionary’s prophecies. Sunny proceeded to tell me that Nostradamus predicted that India’s faith and culture will dominate the world. I foresee that this could be so when the young and the curious participate with open hearts in all the joyful expression.

Mind you, this is a world of duality in which we live and not all person exposed to Krishna Consciousness are happy campers. One individual whom I spoke with earlier in the day expressed his disappointment with operations in our society which he accused of not having all priorities in order. It was difficult to have dialogue because the person was overcome with more emotion than with any attempt towards reflective listening. What can be done? Listen is the best we can do and offer help and show friendship. One day a real dialogue can flower. As a person in his delivery: “Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll be able to see it different some day.” So I felt hopeful.

2.5 Km

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Sat. Nov 1/08 - Repentigny, Quebec, Canada

At 3AM there were still a fair number of residual party goers staggering back to their homes from Hallowe’en fests at the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve portion of Montreal City. While I was set for serious chanting on Ste-Catherine street which is two blocks from our ISKCON Centre, those evening fun goers seemed delighted in my original costume, my robes comprised of a dhoti, kurta and a chaddar, which is a warm shawl to wrap around my upper body. Some thought I was part of the fun, unaware that the apparel is worn year-round. One woman in a silly hat and who rode on a bicycle let off a hysterical laugh upon seeing the robes and shouted loudly, “Gandhi! Gandhi!”! For myself, monks and members of the Krishna culture worldwide a sober vibe resonated in our hearts. While today’s day is recognized as “All Saints Day” it had turned out by some divine arrangement that this was the day by lunar calculation that our guru Srila Prabhupada passed away thirty one years ago. An anniversary function was held at the Pie-IX centre and a gathering of sincere devotees made good of the memorial ceremony.

The evening portion of the day had in store for some residents of Repentigny a bedroom community for Montreal, a presentation “9 fa├žons d’exprimer sa devotion”, that is, 9 processes of devotion. In a martial arts centre a healthy turn out of 40 people came to learn about and participate in easy-to-adopt ego-crushing ways to make life more spiritually progressive. While I facilitated, a super-nice francophone devotee Anubhava translated into French the ways of sweet surrender. It seems all attendees had a good and awakening time.

9 Km

Friday, 31 October 2008

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Thursday Oct 30/ 08 - Columbus, Ohio, USA

My dear friend and godbrother, Akhilananda, drove me from Cleveland, where the previous night we participated in the weekly Wednesday gathering of devotees, to the Center of the World. I kid you not. There is a small village in Ohio named Center of the World which does not necessarily give you the feel that there is lots of action nor the attraction is a place for someone who’s looking to retire. What’s so special about the place is there is a large Correctional Services Campus here – a prison. Akhilananda has been regularly seeing an inmate Aaron, a fellow who once dated his daughter from school but who is going on his fifth year in jail. Originally from Jamaica his father and Bob Marley were close associates and when he was young Aaron used to sit on Bob’s lap in jovial playfulness.

Aaron has been corresponding with me. He has been conducting himself well in this facility and is winning the respect of others. He’s been chanting on meditative beads (japa mala) and become strict with standard principles. Practically he’s living like a monk.

In a small room adjoined to an area where inmates can meet visitors Akhilananda and I conducted a small diksha or initiation ceremony and gave him the name Arjun, after the peace warrior friend of Lord Krishna. Arjun has got these incredible leadership qualities and hence this name was given. I specifically asked him if he could be an inspiration through his good behaviour to be that good example for the people he’s sharing time with. Grateful that he has achieved a new start in his life and regretful of his past criminal deeds, I believe he will excel.

My walking today happened early in the morning up and down Cleveland’s Lorain Rd. when only the baker was in action and traffic was next to nil. The evening was spent at the Columbus centre of ISKCON. Lively chanting went on here.

8 Km

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Tues. Oct.28/08 - Burlington, Ontario

I went to a medical clinic on a road called, “Walker’s Line”. Few people walk here in this well established community which would be a marathon two days trek to Niagara falls. I made my way to the third floor to see the receptionist confirming my appointment for a medical check up and in particular to look at my blood pressure level. The cordial receptionist asked for my medical card which I produced and then asked if I had a family doctor. “I don’t have a family so I guess I don’t have a doctor.” (laughter). “I’m single, I’m a monk.”

With a smile looking at my robes she said, “ Oh pardon my ignorance!” She got curious and so did the specialists who did the reading of my pulse and blood pressure a few minutes later. They had me ride on one of these tread-mill type of cycles. I’m accustomed to walking only so this was a change for me. Our conversations were all on a happy note and being Diwali day, the day for honoring Ram’s triumphant return to his kingdom I proceeded to offer a small gift of a candle to those who medically assisted me,.

Our guru Srila Prabhupada, wrote to one of his students that one can celebrate the occasion with lamps or lights. Hence the medical office got a little taste of a happy celebratory day on the Vedic calendar.

By the way my blood pressure reads at a normal level and I attribute much of that to the regular movement of the body on foot.

5 Km

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Mon. Oct.27/08 - Toronto, Ontario

Halloween approaches and communities across North America are gearing up for an experiential ghastliness. The window displays of shops cater to the public demand of hob goblins and the like make their presence in this windy leaf tossed season. Lord Siva, the god of dissolution, keeps bhutas or ghosts as his companions demonstrating a compassion he has for such disembodied beings. It is their good fortune to be able to keep his good company if they choose to.

Most of us want nothing to do with such confused beings but as a person trying to cultivate spirituality , a level of pureness, it appears appropriate to have some feeling for ghosts who are spirits suspended in an existence they don’t want to be in. Ghosts are not myths. I have seen several occasions of people being momentarily under their influence. They usually just want a little attention. Chanting is a positive approach to dealing with them.

Going back over thirty-five years when our temple/ashram was located at 187 Gerrard St. one of our monks decided to check out the trap door to the attic. A dusty old book was discovered among other things and brought down. From that day on a subtle personality began to disturb in particular the women of our ashram on the second floor. It went on for nights on end.

In ‘96 when I was just completing my first cross country walk, my support guy was attacked by a ghost on two consecutive evenings, once in our tiny mobile home. It took some effort to pull him out of the ghost’s grasp.

When our guru, Srila Prabhupada spent some days with his students at John Lennon’s place at Tittenhurst, John’s hired hand approached Prabhupada about what to do with the ghost haunting his wife daily. Prabhupada and his followers went to the home of the worker and chanted mantras to relieve the ghost.

8 Km

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Sun, Oct.26/08 - Burlington, Ontario

There has been restless sleep for me the last two nights. It’s not to do with jet lag but more to do with the unsettling circumstance of our god-brother’s critical condition. Fortunately Jayapataka Swami’s condition has improved as he is showing signs of being conscious. The collective prayers world-wide has proved fruitful. Let’s continue the prayer.

For the evening I was hosted in the home of a friendly doctor. Jagannatha Misra (Dr. Vikas Pandith) his wife Saci and their two sons drove me to their home from the Toronto temple ashram last night after having participated in a well- orchestrated wedding reception for a very special couple. As I have explained prior, monks are permitted to be involved in such events. Newlyweds ask for blessings and monks feel obliged to offer them.

I had taken an early stroll along the westerly lake Ontario coast in Burlington. I came upon the replica home of Thayendanegea also known as Joseph Brant (1743-1807). Known for his effort to regain land for his people. As a Mohawk chief of the Wolf Clan he had become a fearless warrior during the time of the American Revolution as a British ally. He was perhaps the most popular native of his generation. He was extremely influential for his time and built this handsome two story home where he maintained about twenty white and black servants and slaves. He was interesting, because he defended his people the famed Six Nations, knew all their languages, became adept at English and became a formal member of the freemasons and much more.

Those times were different and who are we to judge under the circumstances of the past? I admit being a bit of a history buff. The harsh circumstances under which people lived in those times can be an impetus for appreciating our great comforts of today.

The wind at this early morning hour seemed to pass here before carrying the past to another domain. The sliver of a moon set in the open sky above the water appeared like a yogi’s eye lid, half open, watching the past and present together.

8 Km

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Fri. Oct. 24/08 - Paris, France

It was a long day, about 34 hours long, stretched out due to time zones changes while moving by aircraft in the westerly direction. There was time for thought.

I had the opportunity to visit our “older brother” Jayapataka Swami who lies in the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. This senior monk was struck with a serious stroke and as a custom, members of our ISKCON league all over the world are praying for his recovery. Prior to my flight back to Canada I found those few minutes to be with him alone in the intensive care unit. He was in a coma and so his faculty powers are more or less dormant. I sang mantras during that special time for him. As I finished a woman who heard the mantras asked that I come by her mother’s bed to sing for her, so I did. It was and is a great time of sobriety for so many people.

As said before there was time to think. For the past few days in Mumbai I felt grateful and honored to be a member of a committee which has taken on the responsibility to formulate a constitution for our international organization. Being that the work is sedentary and requires much technical processing, the task does not always appear to be my calling. I have managed during our get together sessions to go about our small circle and give neck and back messages while discussion and reporting goes on. At least I’ve become somewhat useful with this newly found seva or service. Service is the thing that sustains the devotional path. There are many different ways to serve but serve we must do.

7 Km

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Thurs. Oct 23, 2008 - Mumbai, India

It is in keeping with the Vaishnava Culture to accept gifts as tokens of love and appreciation even if you are a member of the renounced order who is accustomed to not accumulate “things”. The item which I received from a kind soul, a well-wisher, was a framed picture of the Supreme Monk, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Before my jaunt to the beach I became taken by the artist’s rendering of Chaitanya who is God as a monk. The piece had captured the compassion and soft-heartedness of a great luminary from the time of India’s middle ages. Chanting on beads & meditating on soft-sounding mantras while gazing at such a sublime form I could predict that it is a day’s high point although 2:30 am. In any event it is a great gift. It won’t spoil me.

To join me on the oceanfront were Ashok and Kiran. As everyday the waves of wetness with their light roaring sound vibrations seem to get my full attention. As a Great Lakes kid from North America I used to lie down by the lake’s edge under the sun usually with family, siblings and friends and listen to the transistor radio which would blare out something like “It’s My Party.” In those late teens I would give more attention to the sound of the waves. You couldn’t help it but be attentive. I would wonder what message the waves were delivering. I always considered that they were more than just liquid rhythm rolling.

But now while capturing the image of folding water and the accompanying sound and marrying that vision to the one of Chaitanya in the picture I felt most content to merge the two. Chaitanya in his free spirit of love and wonder allowed himself to be drawn in and carried by the ocean waves. In one instance His water journey pulled him a good forty kilometers from Puri to near a famous sun temple at Konark. Chaitanya was a special mendicant, one who was loved by people and animals. He was all attractive.

It came to our attention that one of our senior monks, Jayapataka Swami, was brought by ambulance to a local hospital today. He is suffering from a serious stroke and is in a coma. Please pray!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 - Mumbai, India

In the cabinet are Wilkinson razor blades, a can of Gilette Shaving Cream, a soap container, towels of orange and white patterns and many more personal items locked behind glass. I’m speaking about memorabilia of my guru, Srila Prabhupada up for display in his personal quarters. Also for perusal one can flip through the pages of the commentaries of previous gurus (spiritual teachers) that Srila Prabhupada used in compiling his books. In November of 1977 he passed away before seeing to the completion of the marvelous project, the ISKCON temple complex.

Being that this was a team building day for us spiritual leaders a component of today’s event included a tour of Prabhupada’s quarters as was left from three decades ago. Another highlight of the day was participating in a processional walk on Juhu Beach taking the same route that our guru trekked. I had the good fortune to carry a small deity (icon) of His Divine Grace for a portion of this walk along the water front and then up the lane to the temple.

During one session of our team building one of our beloved monks, Lokanath Swami, reflected on the bygone days when we as young renounced men came together to pass our own legislation for the fledging movement for the consciousness of Krishna. He identified ourselves as exploders of emotions. Now there has been a maturation that has set in. It comes with age. He quoted saying, “An older sadhu is a better sadhu.” Sadhu means holy man.

8 Km

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 - Mumbai, India

It’s not uncommon for there to be unrest amongst humans let alone the rest of the world. A local political figure had been charged and arrested in the city. This arrest triggered riots in Mumbai which froze business and movement of traffic in certain sectors.

While I was lunching with a good friend, an American monk, Kavichandra Swami, in the protective oasis of the ISKCON eating room he relayed the story of a riot that took place in the very grounds which we were sitting. Thirty years ago the world-wide media took notice of the triumphant temple being built – this same ISKCON Juhu temple. Even though they were young and inexperienced, journalists credited “the young American boys” for building it. I recall reading about it myself.

Apparently in the same year of its opening a dispute arose in the lobby and a subsequent riot. Kavichandra Swami was on the second floor ill with jaundice. He came out of his room to see what the commotion was about. Looking down at the courtyard he was spotted by rioters who then dashed stones at him. He dodged and went back to his room keeping himself locked inside until authorities came to settle the uprising. Kavichandra Swami tells the story in great detail but it goes to show that even in a sacred place human passions can escalate to the point of madness. Hence, this is life in the material world. There is always some attack.

On the previous day while I did a solo walk on Juhu Beach a dog rushed towards me, wrapped his jaws around the calf of my right leg. He didn’t really dig deeply. It was a quick bite and then he left. In any event be always prepared for any attack from anywhere. This is the material world.

4 Km

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008 - Mumbai, India

I don’t go to the beach for enjoyment. I go there for serious sadhana and in particular for chanting on my meditation beads. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada used to walk here. I am not sure if he went south-bound towards the Citizen Hotel or paced north, a right turn at former home of Sumati Morarjee, the business woman who owned Scindia Ship Co. and offered Prabhupada the free passage on an ocean liner the Jaladuta, headed for the US in 1965.

Since these sands were trampled on by a great saint we consider the beach here at Juhu to take on a sacred quality. Not all people recognize it as such. Some might consider that it’s time and the waves themselves that wear away any pure potency.

Juhu is used by early risers as a running track, for athletes it’s a playing field for cricket and for others it’s their home. Plenty of people sleep on the beach at night.

“Time and tide await for no man.” In the morning the tide is high and I avoid the oncoming wave of water but time will catch up on me because it’s something none of us can dodge.

My walking companion, Nitai Prem, and I noticed the crows up above. They are like the mind going, hither & thither. A man later on in the day asked me about the nature of the mind. I told him it’s like crows in the sky. They are always up to something, usually mischief.

7 Km

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 - Mumbai, Indian

A young monk (brahmachari) from Nepal offered to take me to Juhu Beach. There we found hundreds upon hundreds of people taking to the beat of the feet on the sands of Juhu. Waves from the Arabian Sea fold gently over the large bay expanse . There were ample greetings from walkers when they cast their eyes on our robes. They are familiar with us.

The hospitality is beyond compare at Iskcon’s Juhu, atleast for us visiting global facilitators or leaders. It’s not just the fact that most of us are monks, that attention or respect is commanded but whether we like it or not most of us are the elders. In India elders are given a reverential place in people’s hearts.

I pray that secularism will not put a deep hole in the culture of India as some values are currently eroding. I think of the image of a model, male or female, on the cover of a Parisian, poster or magazine and it speaks tons about fashion but about “me”. There is no room for “us”.
Family and communities are challenged the world over by the secular “me-ism”. It’s time to love again the people around you and love yourself less.

7 Km

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Thursday, October 16th, 2008 - Gujarat, India

It was a stopover in Paris with Air France that gave me time to reflect “I’m going to India” and although I maintained some reservations about the place (mainly it’s the lack of efficiency, cleanliness, orderliness) the land of Dharma has this magnetic pull. I guess it’s the sweetness of the people that makes it so attractive. There is a calm about them and a patience that offers us westerners a learning lesson. And it’s those smiles that are easy to conjure up and eases the abrasive nature of westerners. Our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, taught us about acquiring a relationship with God. Rasas or relationships although fleeting and temporary in this world often have strong bearings on our lives. If in “this world” relationships are wholesome and full then it is with greater ease that we can execute our obligations in this world while cultivating our “other worldly” relationships with the Supreme.

What I see and experience with visits to India is that relationships are highly valued and more grounded than in the west. It’s not perfect in India but it’s ahead of the west in the department of people bonding.

As our aircraft soars above the state of Gujarat, based on the geo-vision screen in front of me, I mentioned to the sikh gentleman next to me that we are on top of Gujarat. The Punjabi man said,”yes, Gujaratis are busy but quiet people – at peace with themselves.”

I couldn’t disagree. “They all seem to be fond of Krishna,” I thought.

(A few footsteps at the airport).

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 - Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

I am mentally preparing myself for a trip to India departing on Thursday. It is understood to be a particularly spiritually progressive time, the month of Kartik. Travelling to the place of origin of spiritual culture always generates a spurt of enthusiasm for me, but as I trek speedily west on Dundas St towards Mississauga I am hit by a feeling of ambivalence. This is a bright time to be here in the west. The weather is perfect, colours of trees are brilliant and many festivals of spiritual significance are honoured. In the west just as much as they are in the land of dharma, India. The journey to Mumbai means sitting down at meetings. Meetings - long ones – especially are not my cup of tea but it is a service – a service to the mission. The best part of meetings is to be in the company of other peers, Krishna monks. It is “stilling the legs” under a long table that is a chore for me.

To Johnny Belinko, a local yoga teacher, whom I seem to bump into mysteriously almost everywhere in Toronto, I pace along beside him explaining about the importance of Kartik. After 2 blocks worth while delineating on this glorious month, it became known to him that on this full lunar day it is indeed an enriching time. When I finally reached my destination point after 10 km on foot and 13 on wheels at the Iskcon Mississauga center, servicing that area and to its north , Brampton - my talk was meant to drive home the point “ God is a person”.

Recently a chap I met on the street handed me a button with a label “ I`m a person first. “ Similarly God is energy, power, a force, what have you, but ultimately (or initially) God is a person first. In the month of Kartik people in India reflect on God not only as a person but as a child at play.

11 Km

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Mon. Oct. 13/08 - Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

The chanting session today was comprised of the following, On mrdunga drum was Nitai Ram, our head monk in Halifax, kartalas (hand cymbals) was Praharana, a super secretary of a woman from Toronto, the harmonium playing was executed by Vrnda, another exceptional spiritual leader who’s Winnipeg and back up singers and smilers from Vancouver were Jaya Govinda and Damodara Gopal. I had the honour to lead the chanting held in the local Unitarian church engaging a room full of enthusiastic chanters and dancers.

It was Canada’s Thanks-giving and so there is no more appropriate way to express gratitude than by mantra power. The level of responsiveness to the chanters here in Thunder Bay is quite phenomenal. Additional drummers on Djembe Dave and Hero, local guys also contributed to jay and felt a major reciprocation.

It is most evident to me that the prediction and effort by luminary Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Father of the Holy name, is coming to pass.

11 Km

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Sat. Oct. 11/08 - Lake Shebandowan, Ontario, Canada

There was an early morning rain, so I managed to find the option of walking around the pool table in the quiet games room while chanting on my beads. The location is a resort facility on a gorgeous lake called Shebandowan. When the early sunlight appears so do the golden autumn deciduous trees appear blending with their cousins the green coniferous trees. Once our meetings commenced the participants could not help but peer out the expansive window. On their own individually to capture that natural beauty.

I admit that our discussions were stimulating, however, the event itself was sedentary. So by 8pm it was time to explore that freshness of nature and do a favour to my antsy legs that tolerated stillness all day. Headed eastbound on highway 11 on this isolated stretch where an automobile may pass by only every 10 minutes or so I noticed a small dot of light in the distance. The sun had descended after an almost complete day of cloud so the tiny light stood pronounced. It was set low on the side of the highway. When I came near I heard a movement, “Who is it?”, I said in a curious tone. There was no answer. Faintly I saw an image and then there was movement again. It was an elderly man holding a flashlight and sitting on the side of the road. He explained he was resting and had been walking all the way from the last city, Thunder Bay and had another 100 kms to go to get to a village Emo, a native reserve. Since I could not see him well through the dark I could understand that he was Indigenous when he said he was ojicree. He decided to get up to proceed walking so I helped him get up. He complained about a sore leg. He adjusted his hearing aid so we could continue talking. He spoke and expressed his dismay at domestic life as we set westbound together.

“I was living with my wife but she is addicted to drugs, I’m stressed and so I’m seeing my brother.” He asked about me and my lifestyle so I explained and then had to leave to make my way back to my cabin. As I saw him go we bid our good-byes. I was very concerned for him although knowing he has lived the tough life. Off he went down the highway with mean wilderness on both sides of this quiet road. The rain started coming down. Krishna, please take care of the sweet elder man.

5 Km

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Fri., Oct.10/08 - Lake Shebandowan, Ontario, Canada

On my flight to Thunder Bay the fellow sitting next to me expressed interest in my garb and what it stood for.

“I’m a monk who has roots coming from an ancient culture from India.”

The young man is employed as an analyst for the government (dealing with stats and such) mentioned he was raised Catholic but wasn’t sure about the concept of afterlife. “No one has ever proven it! Even Jesus, I think he could be a myth.”

To the best of my ability I offered this thought, “each and everyone of us have the urge to enjoy permanently. We don’t want to die. That essential and innate inner drive “to exist eternally” never dissipates. It’s the principal that leads us on to believe that there is such a thing as an undying spark of life called the atma or the soul. After the body sheds….

“As far as Jesus is concerned whether you want to believe in whether he roamed the earth at one time or not we can well appreciate his universal messages of truth, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, is a healthy directive, someone spoke it. “Personally I accept him as one of my gurus.”

My new friend found that interesting and proceeded to put headphones on, listening to his favorite music I imagined.

The walking today was comprised of almost nothing. I’m here to assist in the co-ordination of an AGM - Annual General Meetings, for our small group of about 20 people consisting of monks and family folks who have assumed spiritual leadership.

1 Km

Friday, 10 October 2008

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Mon. Oct.6/08 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Yesterday some of us on the pilgrimage anlysed or defined what an automobile is. Some of our definitions were, “anxiety-on-wheels”, “shiny coffin”, lazy box”, and “Karma dioxide”. I for one have never had a great affinity for the automobile. It has complicated the lives of all of us. Just the insurance on a car alone is enough to shatter the heart.

Oh, how we have become so dependant on machinery! Urban living and being wired up go hand in hand. As I walked a 15 kilometer stretch on Leslie St. and York Mills streets today I calculated that 70-80% of the youths that passed me on the road were wired-up on an I-pod. When I walked in the ravine amidst nature with trees and stream next to me no pedestrians there used an I-pod. It seems we have created a world of concrete and noise that we chose to block out. I wonder sometimes when will these monsters that we have created ever come to an end? Perhaps never, But at least we might consider utilizing gidgets and gadgets only when absolutely necessary.

With the current economical plummeting going on in America and subsequent other countries we may be forced to reduce and down scale our use of energy. It will not be a bad thing necessarily.

The day was a typical Indian summer day with warm sun rays and splashes of autumn red’s all around. I couldn’t help feeling something for motorists jammed in traffic while I’m moving steadily without stoppage.

15 Km

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Sun. Oct. 5/08 - Mississauga , Ontario, Canada

It was my 56th birthday today to celebrate I wanted to have a marathon of walkers take stride from one pilgrimage site to the next. So from the ashram on Avenue rd. a dozen of us adventurists paced our way on a 30km pilgrimage to Mississauga at our west-end centre for Krishna Consciousness. As we trekked along our party started to swell until we reached our destination for a program which initiated with a foot bathing. Because of the nature of the day this birthday boy could justify the cleansing and cleaning of the feet. With eater which is actually a tradition carried out by hosts in India to honor a sadhu (renounced pilgrim)

Now if you were to talk to any of the companion pilgrims of today about how they felt from the experience of the 30km walk they would exclaim to you as they did me, with words like “freeing”, “Liberating”, “Bonding” . We took only one juice break but several elimination breaks. It was a blast all the way along. This type of activity walking through some part of earth space is picking up some momentum amongst communities.

To those of you who are convinced that a car culture can bring ultimate satisfaction I would sing the chorus to the song, ”Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream”.

30 Km

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Sat. Oct.4/08 - Vaughn, Ontario, Canada

It is very easy for me to be antsy, to have itchy feet and to want to get out of the inside and meet the air. After several hours of administrative work and some cleaning I slipped on those shoes and burst open the doors to encounter a better oxygen flow. And being Saturday an exhilarating flow of people. Cities like Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, and one of my favorites, New York cater to a vivacious flow of moving people on foot. I am definitely not a hermit type. I could easily handle a sole wilderness trip but cabin fever would quickly kick in and I would have to be a part of the human herd again.

After a glorious two hour walking addicts experience I was accommodated into a vehicle with fellow monks, including dear friend and visitor, Bhakti Raghava Swami to be transported to a large Punjabi gathering for chanting, dancing, and feasting. Sitting next to me and introduced to the community was Tiger Ali Singh, a world renowned wrestling master who especially made inroads particularly in Japan. He really enjoyed chanting and addressed the large crowd appreciating the family spirit. The event was a total vegetarian program.

Two of our monks from India who reside in our ashram (monastery) really get a charge out of these events. They love Saturday night. Even the ashram can appear like a cabin. They love to burst open the doors as if exploding, hop in a van and get driven to a facility where people talk, laugh, sing, dance, and not touch one drop of alcohol or eat animal dead body parts. Monks experience the real “Saturday Night Fever”

9 Km

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Friday, Oct.3/08 - Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

“Honest Ed’s” is a large bargain store in a downtown Toronto established by Ed Mirvish, an entrepreneur of sorts who came to Canada as an immigrant years back. And like so many people who came from overseas rather penniless his rags-to –riches story reflects the history of those who made mega contributions to the nation’s culture and economy starting with virtually nothing. Ambition and hope drove him to a level of success.

As I made an early morning trek up Bloor St. in Honest Ed’s direction and back to the temple, my residence. I contemplated on our guru’s story. Srila Prabhupada came to America with a mere nine dollars in his pocket in 65, an hours easy spend in Boston at that time. Within a short span of ten years he built up an empire that embraces a counter-culture experience. As a genuine monk he claimed to own nothing of it personally. As he taught us that all provisions, properties and other assets all belong to God. The force driving him was the interest to revitalize the human race and offer the option to live by universal truths, a concept so buried under by impersonal consumerism. He was very much at the cutting edge of “New Age” concepts. He was successful at what he did.

The afternoon and beyond portion of the day was spent in Kitchener. Our in-house yoga teaching monk, Devadatta drove me, a devotee tattoo artist and his wife, a former fitness guru/model for an evening at the home of a couple. Instead of delivering a monk’s talk I read from the book “Krishna” at which time I left “fill in the blanks” sections. It was a very interactive session and a way to hold the attendees interest in the story which highlighted the battle with serpent Kaliya.

8 Km

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Tuesday, October 1st, 2008

Tues. Oct. 1/08 - Alberta to Ontario

In the park in the dark a light object had bounced around in front of me. It was a hare, a large rabbit, showing the sign of the season’s change with his new white coat. Other rabbits I spotted this week strutted about in their brown furs but with each transitional day the coming snow camouflage shows itself in a more pronounced way.

As the darkness dissipated to show the morning sun and after locating my seat 6F on a Westjet flight back home, rich brown colours of agrarian patches revealed themselves below. By the time our aircraft reached Saskatchewan, when I looked out again I would see fresh harvested fields and then a white spill in a designated spot. Ah yes! That’s the salt mill. I walked there twice, in 96’ and 2003. The nearby lake and highway looking miniature triggered in me a road-lust from the past. I admit to liking the ground better than being thousands of feet up in the air.

An hour later or so colours disappeared. A layer of cloud blocked the sun’s rays from above and below another layer of cotton mass engulfed the space. Before long deep greens became visible and dashes of maple red along with blocks of buildings in greys and rust tones. As we descended into the Toronto airport and hit the gripping runway I felt thankful to have the eyes to be entertained by diverse displays of colour. Thank-you creator.

3.5 Km

Monday, September 30th, 2008

Mon. Sept. 30/08 - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

It was interesting to watch people walk or jog by at lunch hour at Calgary’s downtown leisure spot at Prince’s Island within the Bow River. The bridge to the island reads that Jaiupr, the famous “pink city” of India, is twinned with Calgary in Canada. More of a dozen or so of us chant enthusiasts sat ourselves on the grass to provide a sattvic entertainment for business passers-by. As the harmonium pumped out it’s drone sounds, drums thumped and soft symbals rang, people were either indifferent, smiled, nodded waved, thumped up or offered pranam (hands reverentially placed together ).

In the evening at the home of my Calgary hosts a sizeable number of people came to enjoy a real feast, chanting and discussion (in that order). Our chosen theme was “War on False Ego” and how to implement practically acts of humility. A key point was that it is sometimes felt that devotional service is executed only within the realm of a religious setting such as your temple, church, mosque etc. but no, all beings are in essence spirit and so for our own sake acts of humility or kindness must reach beyond designated space.

8 Km

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Sun. Sept. 28/08 – Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I delivered a talk at each of the two cities (300 Km apart from each other, or one week’s walking distance) in oil rich Alberta. At the Radha Govinda Cultural Centre in Edmonton, the message there was derived from the Bhagavad-gita 4:31 centering on “without sacrifice there cannot be happiness either in this life or the next.” In the early morning my god-brother, Revati Prannath, and I had walked along the Saskatchewan River, and this river, an excellent type of waterway, was the route taken by French Voyageurs, as they were called. In the 1600’s they paddled and portaged all the way from Montreal, a far stretch from the east, taking life-risking journeys back and forth, in order to experience adventure and also to achieve means of happy livelihood through the fur trade. Now, I could label these travelers as “demons” for all their fur trapping casualties But I must admit, I admire their bravery and tenacity or their sense of sacrifice dealing with the unknown wilderness.

Such determination of purpose led me on to speak about the mood of our dear guru, Srila Prabhupada, who with incredible conviction left hi comfortable facility in Vrindavan, India and took up hardship to spread the message of Krishna.

At the Radha Govinda Cultural Centre in Calgary the topic could have been, “Get out of your Hole.”, hole referring to one’s comfort zone, the apartment or the house. Our guru addressed some of his monastic contemporaries and said that they should not be content to sit in temples, ring bells, and eat some nice Kichari (a rice and lentil mix). He urged them to take up a sacrifice get out and do something for people and assist them in overcoming the vicious cycle of birth and death.

Over the weekend American actor Paul Newman passed away. Having an affinity for good acting I appreciated his work but I also honour him for being a fine philanthropist and a good family man.

6 Km

Monday, 29 September 2008

Thursday, September 26th, 2008

Thursday, Sep 26, 08 - Regina Saskatchewan, Canada

It was a simple one hour flight from Winnipeg that brought me to Regina and a stay over in White City with a couple, Jaganath and Chintamani. Jaganath is an accomplished palm reader and had clients and tasks to tend to while Chintamani a nurse at the de-tox centre, attended a conference. I asked Jaganath to drop me off at Victoria Park, the heart of Regina’s downtown.

I chose a park bench under yellow autumn trees to plant myself armed with a mrdanga drum and facing the war memorial, a location where people pass by. At lunch hour folks came by such as a a young father pushing his young son in a stroller, men and women in business suits, and an elderly woman hobbling along. Native people, members of the Cree tribe, sat by listening to my pow wow, drumming and singing. The mantra also attracted people who stopped to talk - Shivaji, Mayank and Priyankar, all from India here on computer business. There was Dave from an insurance firm, Mark a porter, Mike who works for the provincial government and teaches yoga, to name a few.

To break I would read from Steven Rosen’s new book “The yoga of Kirtan” a treasure of a publication which is an interview of master chanters. This casual program of chanting, talking, reading and passing out mantra cards put me in the happiest state. I was really in my element here. It went on for five hours this interactive-ness, this giving and receiving. There were no fellow monks to accompany me but I certainly didn’t feel alone.

In the evening I was asked to speak about the walking inspirations in Ireland at the Krishna centre on Retallack St. Most amazing was meeting Jim who came. He is now retired after working for the government for years. He first met Krishna monks in 1973 and took seriously to chanting. After a period of setting aside spiritual pursuits he more recently returned after a dream where child Krishna spoke to him redirecting him back to spiritual association. Jai Jim!

9 Km

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA

Walking was extremely limited today for many reasons, one of them being that I took time after the flight to Winnipeg to view with administration a new location for self-realization practice. The address is 108 Chestnut St. Tonight was our first formal gathering at this Krishna Conscious centre which is a charming century-old building in great condition. The mute yellow outside walls with navy blue window shutters gives the place a real welcoming feel. Inside the house, the staircase and wood frames are made of rich oak and the rooms are of ample size to accomodate many guests.

Among the guests was a religious professor at the University of Manitoba, who very much enjoys the mantra meditation. Another guest was Ruplal Choudhary, who moved here from India a couple of years ago. Ruplal invented, built and patented a machine for mass producing the popular Bengali sweet, Rasagula.

The visit here was a reunion of sorts with Doug (Daruka dasa), who was my support driver for five months last summer during the eastern leg of my third walk across Canada. He is usually accompanied by his parrot Billie, who also made the long trip with us. Our host in Winnipeg is Vrnda devi dasi, a fine example of a devotee and a wonderful human being. She managed to acquire the new facility in the granola belt area of Winnipeg (population 650,000).

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 - TORONTO, ONTARIO, Canada

While walking on Yonge St. in the early morning, a group of young chaps visiting from North Bay passed by me. One of them just had to ask, "Hey, are you a monk?"
"Sure am!"

"Hey guys, he's a monk, a real monk. Are you a real monk?"

"Since 1973," I said, responding to his curiosity.

"Wow! Let's get our picture taken with a monk."

So we all lined up for a pose and the boys of North Bay now have a record of seeing a real live monk.

Amongst other folks who stopped me out of curiosity was a young Chinese chap wanting to know about astral projection and a young Caucasian woman who had questions about yoga. In the evening I did greet yoga students at the Jiva MuktiYoga Studio. It was an invite, a presentation I was asked to give on the subject of bhakti yoga. The particular topic was 'Exploring the Nine Processes of Devotion.' The experience was very transformational for those who came. Basically I facilitated everyone and guided them through the processes. First was chanting in a receiving and responding fashion, then smaranam or reflecting on personal 'leaps of faith' that happened in their lives, then pada-sevanam, a gesture in practicing humility, then arcanam. Here we offered a small lit candle to a sacred image. Vandanam involved having the group write down individually a genuine spontaneous prayer. Dasya, servitorship involved overall tidying up the studio. Sakhyam, or cultivating friendship was executed by pairing up individuals who expressed appreciation for their partner. Finally, atma nivedam, was a demonstration and everyone folowed the procedure of offering dandavats, or prostrate obeisances.

The exercise was experiential and I think it gave all there a sense of feeling lighter and more at peace with themselves while recognizing the potency of the Creator.

13 Km

Saturday, 27 September 2008

CAN SOMBBODY PUT A STOP TO THIS BEFORE ITS TOO LATE?

(A comical article on Bhaktimarga Swami's walk of Ireland)
By Praghosa Dasa
We are now in serious danger of ruining our long practiced and much cherished reputation of our 21st century sannyasi!

What are we talking about? Well a couple of weeks ago a certain member of the sannyasa order all but snuck into the emerald isle unnoticed. Usually a visiting sannyasi’s arrival is known well in advance and there is at least a modest welcoming party to greet him. However not this time, rather it was a very humble entrance at a regional port and from there, almost immediately into a walking tour of the country. This is where things really began to deteriorate, you see walking in and of itself is quite a sattvic activity, not least because it is so environmentally friendly and of course healthy to boot. It is also an excellent way to focus on the concept of simple living and high thinking, what to speak of developing tolerance due to the constant battle against the elements, particularly the wind and rain.

But that is only the beginning, this Swami then had the audacity to stay over at various persons homes along the way, encouraging them in their spiritual life, taking a little prasadam and then leaving at the crack of dawn the next day and never staying over in any one home for more that one night! There is little doubt that a little prasadam in the evening is hardly going to sustain you for the duration of an eight hour, forty kilometre daily walk right? So what does our trend-setting Swami decide to do? Struth, he only goes and starts eating the fruits and berries growing on the wild bushes along the roadside! That really was the straw that threatens to break the back of the 21st century sannyasa dharma. Hence my rallying cry to all right minded thinking devotees out there who care passionately about protecting and preserving the unique sannyasa dharma we have developed over the last few decades – stop this man by hook or by crook before his odd behaviour catches on and we become a laughing stock!

You can help by sending him a cell phone, the latest laptop computer, an electronic personal organiser, a blueberry, the latest digital camcorder, an ipod or all of the above! You could also write to him at the below address impressing upon him that you get no financial benefit from ‘walking miles’ and then introduce him to the wonderful world of ‘air miles’ and all the perks that flow from them. His address is:
The walking Swami,
The Shack,
Bally-go-backwards,
The Back of Beyond,
Planet Earth

Ps Physician heal thyself! I guess I’ll send him some of my own electronic collection first :-)