Thursday, 30 July 2009

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The Uniform

Toronto, Ontario

It is just big promotion being out in the public with robes. I recently had my trusted helpers Deva Datta and Nipuna give my dhotis, kurtas, and chauddars, bottoms, tops and shawl respectively a fresh dye job. It left the colors rich and really make the cloth stand out.

I crossed the street at the bustling rush hour and a guy and his girl friend in a SUV recognized me. “Hey, you’re the guy form the Yogafest in Thunder Bay. There was this dance on the stage.” He said with excitement.

“You’ve got it right, “ I reciprocated.

Next our young Josh from South Africa is beginning to get comfortable with handing out flyers, mantra cards, and books. He had made an effort but monks do often experience public rejection for such things. Josh spotted me from afar. He was a little discouraged. I guess providence timed it for me to meet him, I pat him on the back and offer words of encouragement.

As day fell and night began color becomes less obvious but robes are rare and a dear friend, former-monk, RSI, and family spotted me. A few words of encouragement occupied some minutes here as well.

I cannot emphasize the importance for us monks and nuns to become more visible in the public eye. Uniforms have their place in this world. People look forward to seeing the shaven heads, the markings on the forehead, the robes, the beads. I say let’s give people what they want.

7 KM

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Stones and Thorns

Toronto, Ontario

I found the verse from today’s lesson very interesting. From Canto 5 of the book Bhagavatam we have Jada Bharat, a very simple – profiled man who took to the working class speaking with articulate eloquence to a king by the name of Raghugana. In chapter 13 he speaks about life and compares it to a traveler whose feet are harassed by stone fragments that land in his foot wear.

This can be extremely aggravating, I can say, based on my experience. When a stone gets into your sneakers or sandals and starts rolling around inside the agitation can be unbearable depending on where it falls and on which part of the foot. What eventually happens is that the walker or traveler must address the problem by coming to a halt, undoing the shoe-lace or strap and discharging the culprit.

Chances are that there will be a new stone that will fall in place to rock n roll you in a repeat performance. In this way life goes on with the good and the bad in a circle game.

“And the seasons they go round and round
And the pointed ponies go up and down.”
Joni Mitchel

Another analogy which Jada Bharat draws out to liken life to is the thorns that one contacts while traveling up the hill or over a mountain. Anytime one traverses through thick bush sooner or later you get pinned by a thicket or scratched by prickly objects of all kinds. Those same sharp bushes may blossom fragrant flowers, if not will release a scent that arouse any dull nostril.

Here again a traveler’s hassel is revealed in the eye – opening text the Bhagavatam. Life is a duality.

9 KM

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Monday, July 27th, 2009

The Want to Do Something

Penn. State College. Pennsylvania

The small summer group of students here who conduct a Vedic society asked that I relay some pedestrian pastimes of cross-nation walking. So I did. They reciprocated by showing me on the internet screen what they as a group are doing on campus as far as outreach is concerned. I saw people dancing to the Krishna mantra.

“You see these people? They're members of the campus Athiest society. They yoga (connect with), mantras and dancing.” Said the co-ordinator, Ganga.

“that’s quite remarkable.” I thought.

Through my travels today homeward bound I read and heard more data that took my interest such as this information had.

I read that population concerns have arisen again. By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on the planet. Who will feed them? The earth is straining now.

A physician sitting next to me on a flight back mentioned that the sex industry runs a 13 billion dollar profit annually and it is recession proof. This goes to show what people’s priorities may be. We can go on with global facts and figures. Certainly while walking such facts are worth pondering. Better still, better worth praying and doing something about. The impending problems can be overwhelming at times. I know I’m not the only one with such concerns. I for one cannot begin to comprehend the length and breath or scope or depth of our global challenges.

Someone might say, “why worry? Challenges were always there.”

But I respond with, Someone cared and did something about those challenges. It takes a collective concern.”

If our Guru, for instance, Srila Prabhupada, had no feeling for people and had no hope, then he would not have taken a journey by an ocean liner at age 70 to begin a revolution in thought when he came to America.

6 KM

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Boldness Now

Penn, State college, Pennsylvania



Pennsylvania retains a natural beauty with its fields in other areas. Some students from Penn. state college drove me trought central state to their residence on campus so savouring the view came natural. After I arrived at the residence I was treated to a great meal.

I could have stayed on another day in Port Royal/ Gita Nagari but as a monk you often get cursed with a itchy feet syndrome. Your heart craves to move on even though you like the place you're in. I had the chance here, at Penn. state, to meet with a new group of people who gave me the invitation for a morning talk.

Posted on the wall at the home of Ganga Narayana, a student, where I was staying was something I wanted to share - a quote from a German Dramatist, Johann Walfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832). This excerpt had been inculcated by sannyasi peers previously. Here it is:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectivness concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occured. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favous all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

What to Do About Loud Kirtan?

Port Royal, Pennsylvania

I am accommodated at the house of the Institute for Spiritual Technology. My favourite monastic friend stayed here. He died of cancer four years ago and I do miss him. I have been given his very quarters to stay in. Before he left us he affectionately said that in the spirit world he and I would dance together(before God). His name was Bhakti Tirtha Swami. He really did inspire so many people.

From the Institute I made my way to Pennsylvania’s largest remaining covered bridge. A few meters from Gita Nagari You find this newly refurbished bridge set over the Juniata River. People are seekers for these old nostalgic things(myself included). Under the new roof you see and smell the aged original chunky wood of an important throughway for over a century. By the way this area is populated with Amish and Mennonite communities. You can hear the clap of horse hooves on these roads before you turn your head to see a humble farmer on a buggy, steering this gorgeous four legged creature.

While we speak about fancying chunky wood let’s not forget to mention about my main purpose in being in this rural setting. I was invited to attend a country style festival to honour Jagannatha, the Krishna deity of chunky wood. The event had drawn people from the north east of the States. African Americans maintained the pulsating beat of drums during this processional festival.

Indeed the energy was high and the volume of things was high as well. Too high ! The decibel level of kartals(hand cymbals) had peaked to a point where one of our monks, Bhakti Vasudeva Swami from Africa, remarked about the headache he accrued as a result of loud playing.

This has been my pet peeve for a long time – loud kartals. They drown out the mantras. When playing instruments the sound of the mantras must be heard in order to receive the benefit of the pure sound vibration.

5 KM

Monday, 27 July 2009

Friday, July 24th, 2009

To Rate a Temple

Port Royal, Pennsylvania, USA

After a full morning sadhana(spiritual warm up) at Sandy Ridge I moved on by aircraft on two flights to Harrisburg, then driven to the farm community, near Port Royal. Darkness was setting but I managed to fit in sufficient time to trek from Gita Nagari Road to Jaya Gopal’s ice cream restaurant. Ekavirya, a Detroit native and I had no intent on scoops of the sweet dairy dream. We both felt we needed to take in some good Pennsylvania air and work our legs well enough to be able to have a good night’s rest.

The temple at the farm is simple but tastefully done. What isn’t done in wood, is a painted rich burgundy. I applaud the arrangers of the temple for providing ample chairs for those in need. (Not everyone can sit in the lotus posture. My duration is a comfortable 5 minutes then I hanker for a chair). When I entered the building well built shoe racks were provided on either side and surprisingly shoes were neatly placed in them. I couldn’t find the washrooms/restrooms. They were on a trip to get to, once their location was pointed out.

I also noticed very little clutter of things – instruments, books, microphone or other regular features of most temples. The deities adored here are displayed in a simple singhasan(shrine) which is in keeping with the rest of the room. Overall my unofficial critique puts the place in an 8.5 out of 10 rating for a pleasant experience in terms of lay-out, colours, tidiness etc.

Oh yes ! The size of the space is just perfect-cozy and not cavernous in feeling. I do take notice of interiors as much I do of the exterior world when walking.

How does your temple or place of spiritual gathering rate in terms of being people – friendly? Do you have a diaper changing station?

6 KM

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Mist, Water and Rock

Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, USA

Sometimes in the night’s darkness you will find a pervading light. I am referring to the mist. As the day was trying to break through, fog had engulfed my companion, Parasurama, and I as we tread a stormy road. Moving towards us was a greater intensity of white – a flowing white object. A ghost perhaps? No. It was a man in white dhoti and shawl. It was Caru.

Caru hails from Pennsylvania originally and now runs a unique temple in Spanish fork, Utah with his wife Vaibhavi. He made a presentation to the youth about his project situated in the heartland of Mormonism. What an innovater he is ! What a role model he is ! He’s been married to the same girl for thirty nine years.

I joined the youth for a pleasant swim in Snow Creek. This kind of activity is a treat for these city slickin ‘ kids. While there we couldn’t make out just what species of snake she was but a mama snake, of a larger than garter snake dimension, was a little overwhelmed by us rowdy boys near her resting spot, a small den housing the young.

Another real treat was the trail walk at Hanging Rock. The drop in steep and the vista is breath taking. I took the role of guide but couldn’t identify much of the local vegetation. The main of what comes to be a strenuous climb was to lead all participants to the appreciation of God, in the many life forms that exist. I hope I succeeded.

10 KM

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

In the south

Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

At the airport here, myself and a predominant Houston branch of the Pandava Sena youth group were greeted by a Mississippian bus driver for the hour cruise to an exclusive Krishna conscious village known as Prabhupada Village. While this group of passengers and I immersed ourselves in kirtan (chanting) during the drive, it was easy to peer out the bus windows to view a new surrounding. Stricken with near-drought conditions, a red soil was exposed with intermittent deciduous forest.
Bordering close to Virginia, North Carolina with its shared growth of now flowering tobacco plants, reveal a history of cultural shifts. It was in this U.S. region that Europeans got to look at their newly-found treasure which became a curse when experimenting with the perky habit of smoking.

"We are south of the Mason Dixon Line", said Partha Sarathi, a retired American soldier of the Iraqi war. Partha and I trekked a short one up and down these rolling hills where history is visually rich. Abandoned homesteader log cabins are relic in brushy tracts of land. The buzzing sound of crickets and cicadas permeate the atmosphere. It's humid - as you would expect from summer in the south.

I started sweating and panting going up the steeper-than-usual hills. Partha, twenty years my junior, had an easier time with it. Upon entering the local community centre in the temple, I was asked by co-coordinator Chaitanya, 21, who I have known since being a toddler, if I could conduct an ice-breaker.

"Why, because I'm Canadian?" I joked. In any event, I did it as a way to get everyone to know each other.

It was a marvelous day for orientation. I also had the great honour to partake in a birthday dinner for Sivananda on his 63rd. What is unique about him is that amongst his many great attributes, he single-handedly ventured to Germany when a novice monk and "tested the waters" there. He's the unofficial founding father for the consciousness of Krishna in that part of the world. What a hero!

7 KM

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The Simplest and the Purest

Toronto, Ontario

With visiting people at our ashram I find it rather easy to recruit companions to walk with. It’s tempting to go with perfect temperature (it hits a perfect 23 )

The walking route is usually a curvy trek through a posh green well- maintained neighbourhood. It gives a sense of inner security moving through something tidy and neat.

Graffitti-ridden neighbourhoods are a source of mental agitation which doesn’t help the japa meditation. On the other hand those places of fine sight and scents are mere reflections of the other world, a spiritual realm, that offers comfort and security. Such ambiance is so conducive for expressing at least internally appreciation for life and the willingness to serve life’s source.

It cannot be a more peaceful situation. In the sacred Bhagavat-Gita, It’s speaker, Sri Krishna makes mention, “Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy name(Japa) “ 10.25. Commenting on this Srila Prabhupada remarks, Of all sacrifices, the chanting of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare, Hare. Is the purest representation of Krishna. Sometimes animal sacrifices are recommended, but in the sacrifices of Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, there is no question of violence. It is the simplest and purest.

9 KM

Monday, July 20th, 2009

There is nothing too Difficult

Toronto, Ontario

Today was clean up day from all the messy build-up after the Festival Of Chariots. It was a lot of work and even though I’m a Swami I still keep concerned and get personally involved in temple co-ordination due to the heavy demand. There is always much to do but generally nothing is too difficult.

I was on the phone offering a moment of thanks when my god-brother Krishna das extended a gift to me, a copy of Srutakirti’s book,

“What is the difficulty?”

I had a copy before and relished reading it but ended up giving it away to a congregational donor. With Joy I now have a copy again. I couldn’t remember the reason for the title. So I read at the opening.

At page one the author describes:

“Hundreds of devotees squeezed into the temple room (Brooklyn,1971) And tried to get as close to Srila Prabhupada as possible. After kirtan (chanting) WE SIMULTANEOUSLY BOWED DOWN TO OFFER OUR OBEISANCES. This made the room even more cramped. I started to get up before the person behind me accidentally placed my posterior on his head. This startled him and he rose very quickly, pushing me forward with great force right into the side of Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana (SEAT). My hands and head landed directly at his right side.”

“'what is the difficulty?', He asked me."

This slogan if you will, “What is the difficulty?” can be applied to practically any challenging situation. Try It!

3 KM

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

A Mix

Toronto, Ontario

Today was the 37th annual Festival of Chariots/India this year for Toronto. It was big and as chairperson Keshava is quoted in the Toronto Star newspaper declaring it colourful. “The festival has enough colour that you could put us in a garbage dump and we would still make it fun,“ is how the article was completed.

One man parked in a driveway read the report as a bunch of us devotional clad devotees did our early morning japa walk. We turned a corner , he saw us and with a smile said through his open window, “Hey, I’m just reading about you!” He was taken by the coincidence.

The article came out Sunday morning (yet to come, I’m behind in my blogging) but it did give an honest report on the spirit of the event. Surrounding articles of the day covered stories about the moon mission and the diminished dreams of that expedition, what the U.S. can learn from Canada’s health care system and how age doesn’t necessarily restrict one from scoring big as Tom Watson did at golf championship.

While I had a fabulous time involved in the festival program watching our youth (including Keshava) in full devotional action I couldn’t deny the sobering effect of a dialogue I had with a non conspiring theorist but realist in regards to the economical woes to come.

Every event is a mix of fun and harshness.

22 KM

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Prepare Or Not?
Toronto, Ontario

Pastoral care preoccupied much of the day at hospital and funeral home. One man, a lawyer, whose father was minutes from dying and whose relationship was not particularly bonded very strongly, heard about his dad’s involvement in spirituality and how it sustained him. The son was overwhelmed at the verge of the last rites, as well another family member just needed to hear, “everything is going to be alright now. Your father’s journey is a good one.”

It’s all just a few simple comforting words that take loads off people’s emotions. Of course we cannot deny emotions. When the battle of Kuruksetra ended Krishna stood by the grieving folks, many of them women, and supported them through their sorrow.

In between visits I enjoyed a break for lunch in a park with Ajamila. A long time bhajan singing companion and Nimai, an aging Krishna devotee. A young couple seated on a bleacher at the baseball diamond was very much immersed in each other. I couldn’t help wondering what a natural irony life is. Here we have a display of strong physical attachment which all leads to an unpleasant end and is demonstrated by practically everyone. At last the grieving time is extremely crippling and inevitable.

What will any of you do to prepare for departure time? Is there any way to fully prepare oneself for bidding farwell to someone close?

2 KM

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Guilt and Fear

Nepean, Ontario

At Petrie Island I was strolling a trail with a young man struggling with substance abuse and the subsequent trauma that follows that. He is ridden with guilt and fear; guilt from putting his parents through so much anguish and fear of entering into weak periods where he may succumb. As he spoke about fear we noticed a tiny turtle perched on a floating log in the swampy setting. I came close to him. Out of fear he dipped into his friendly waters to freedom. It was fear that saved him.

One time our guru, Srila Prabhupada, expressed that the difficulty many of us have is the lack of fear (for maya). In other words there is a tendency to go back to our old ways. It's called addiction. It's not necessarily a bad fear. Without fear of failure we make no effort to improve. This I explained to the young fellow.

As far as guilt is concerned, well, within this trait there is a sense of regret and that is not necessarily bad for the same reason. Guilt can be the fuel to create an inner drive towards improvement. The word of caution is to not be consumed by guilt though. We can swallow little doses of it and temper it with positive spiritual outlet. Keep busy!
I
n the evening a second Anglican auditorium venue set the stage for dance, chant, and attempted trance. My young walking companion took up services and got busy with back up services at this event. He was pretty happy at the end of the day.

5 KM

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Christian / Krishna
Russell, Ontario

Two days prior I had hosted J.W. Windland from Interfaith Enlightenment who brought fifty people, many of which were Christian ministers from southern Ontario and Michigan to the temple. They gad come for an experimental event; first a brief introduction on Krishna Consciousness, bhajan songs by Badahari, a participatory dance, a viewing of deities and to top it off a fabulous meal all comprised the presentation. When completed our Christian friends expressed great thanks with the pranams gesture.

On this day we were given the grand opportunity again to share the ancient message of the Vedas with Christian brothers and sisters. The Anglican Church in Russell, Ontario became the venue for a collaborative presentation with the Krishna Culture bus tour group. Members of the church came to watch something different- Bharat Natyam, bhajans and our play "The Witness." I met the rector, Rev. Jan Staniforth, introduced to me as a "cool" minister for being an open-minded spiritual leader. The congregation was entertained. Some went home after the show with purchased CD's of bhajan songs. Even though the language for the dance and bhajans is foreign to this strictly Anglophone town, people liked the mood and vibes coming from another world. There is something familiar to all of us when sound carries a spiritual potency.

Why shouldn't a Krishna monk like myself get excited when catching on occasion an earful of Gregorian chants. Reverence to God through music cannot be monopolized by any one religious sector. It's common to all.

My last remark for the day is an apology to my feet. "Regrets over no time for trekking. Drama practice ate up all my time. Since it's all done in God's service I hope you'll understand. I'm sorry!"

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

No Way to Pay

Hamilton, Ontario

It's been seven years since coming to Hamilton, a municipality or district of 500,000people. It was my southern most destination point in the country for my second sojourn on foot. People's response to Krishna Consciousness has always been well received here. A whole band of young people hailing from this bustling city became serious followers of Srila Prabhupada in the early seventies, a number of them who imparted to me personally and saw to my spiritual evolution. It's for this reason that I feel some indebtedness to come here.

Jaya Keshava, a monk from Liberia and I took a few steps through the downtown. We scouted Westdale, the university district at McMaster as well as Mohawk College We ended up driving to the west end of Hamilton to see landscape artist Tracy Munro who has been to India, is fond of Krishna and recently cut a CD of ancient mantras. She invited us to a couple's home, clients and friends for lunch. There in the coziness of their backyard we got caught up on things.

While watching their young kitten climb a tree who then by suprise pounced a robin's nest which sent those gorgeous turquoise eggs in the air we noted the furry animals natural instinct. Mother robin was terrorized and so were we to a certain extent. We managed to re-position the nest to its juncture of two branches and spare one egg carefully placing it back in its home by gloving it with a broad dandelion leaf. We had heard that some birds reject their eggs if handled by humans.

The incident, though petty in some ways, did rile up some fine sentiments. It was also a recurring sentiment in me that had me thinking of devotees in this area that helped me in my spiritual life back in '72. They introduced and sustained me for so very long. There is no way to repay them for picking me out of the mire of maya, illusion.

Finer sentiments or sensitivities are supposed to develop when one cultivates consciousness.

5 KM

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Tummy Trouble

Toronto, Ontario

I have been watching with great interest the youthful organizers of our community here come up with great promotional gimmicks. To catch the public attention towards the weekend's Festival of Chariots/India, Toronto's answer to Time Square known as Dundas Square was booked for a spicy dosa eating contest.

On the stage contestants, mostly young males, from every part of the world ate heartily to this getting-used-to savory, a favorite of South India. The competition was fierce (on the stomach) and it aroused the crowd who witnessed this super dynamic game of good and spicy hot fun.

On the first round of contestants our newly arrived boy from South Africa, Josh, came out as the winner. Not bad for a young monk who doesn't necessarily have a voracious appetite. The bad side was, however, his tummy took its toll. You always have to pay for passion play. Too much chili puts food in the mode of rajas, restlessness. Josh ended up going to a walk-in-clinic.

Anyways I was getting indigestion just looking at the next round of ambitious eaters. It was time to head back on foot to the temple for drama practice. The feet were put to good use making a pastoral visit to the hospital, a swami's natural obligation. During the Sunday service a member suffered a serious heart attack and was whisked away by paramedics to Mount Sinai Hospital.

Whether the heart or the tummy, our bodies are fragile.

7 KM

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Water Drama!

Montreal, Quebec

Cargo ships anchor along this north shore of the St. Lawrence river. They come from all over the world. The street with sidewalk running next to or near the shoreline is Notre Dame Ave. It is my walking route to the temple located on Pie IX Blvd. I remember how years ago I was invited aboard a ship from India to conduct a scheduled Krishna conscious program before a group of shipmates along with their families. It was such a special treat to have some white guy who is a swami, aboard their ocean liner delivering them Sanskrit verses mixed into his talk.

I imagined what it would be like travelling with them for weeks on end. But no! I wouldn't be able to handle the wave movements and the subsequent sea sickness. Vertigo!

Further on westbound on Notre Dame I thrust my head back to view the sky and it registered clearness. That was 3AM. By 12noon at procession time the overcastness revealed possible rain. At the point of finishing the chanting and drumming procession the rain came down. By 3PM it was like serious monsoons.

I was narrating at the time. Thunder and lightening seemed to come on quite just when the drama needed it during a spooky session. Then it came more and more forcefully. Although sheltered under a tent the actors, audience and I were getting at least sprinkled on. Drip, drip went the droplets on my script as I narrated. Trickle, trickle went the wetness running down my back. Thunder clapped! Rain reverbed against the plastic roof. Winds picked up shaking the very shelter we sought. The reading continued. The actors performed. The stage lights went out. But the play went on. It was a drama within a drama. The audience remained transfixed. There was nothing else they could do unless of course they tackled the torrential drench. The actors went on and so did the reading. We rode the wave of "the show must go on!"

And it did to its glorious end. The audience cheered.

"The Jagannatha Story" was told against all odds. No one's enthusiasm to hear and see dampened. It was all mercy from the Divine Power.

What an experience that was!

10 KM

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Strange World

Montreal, Quebec

On the mezzanine of the Montreal temple I spent hours with a group of youths rehearsing for "The Jaganatha Story" which is based on the two-thousand year old history of the Chariot Festival that goes on all over the world as well as here in Montreal this weekend. The way the script reads is to draw the crowd in almost like a fairy tale of "Once upon a time." The characters with central figure King Indradyumna are partial caricatured until we come upon clearly devotional subject matters.

In some ways the life of Krishna reads that way in the book "Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead." You could swear it's fiction the way the stories unfold and how hey are told until philosophical subject matter comes to temper it. For the devotional readers it cannot be mythical matter on the strength of the bhakti driven explanation.

When I look around me in the real world I do see lots of 'characters' that appear to come out of a dreamland- certainly influenced by the three modes of nature. And people do some rather strange and sensational stuff to verify my point. For fetched we are in what we say and what we do.

I walked with a monk by the name of Jaganatha and a new retreat person, Jean Andre. We stationed ourselves on park benches to chant quietly on our beads. It crossed my mind, "Chanting brings about sobriety while we are in this crazy world of strange utterances and strange actions."

4 KM

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

From Trains to Chocolate

Montreal, Quebec

We took to the tracks (railway tracks), three monks and I. It was different and that's why we decided that route. No people would be there and there were not. But lots of wild plants and weeds line those tracks. We count them in as living spirits. They got the chance to hear us chant, softly though. We had been informed that the mantra is so powerful that even the vegetation reaps benefit. The sound penetrates through the green fiber and reaches the soul.

After all plants do hear. Haridas Thakur, the close associate of Chaitanya, Father of the Holy Name, was himself a master chanter. In a dialogue with Chaitanya, Haridas mentioned that pure sound spiritually advances even the plants. So wherever you venture if you carry some meditation beads and chant with their help you are doing someone or something a favour. Even in the desert the cacti can listen and derive some progress.

I had not planned to travel to Montreal via rail but by co-incidence it happened that way. It seemed to be a day for trains. I struck it quite lucky when economy class was full and one seat was left on first class which I got at economy rate. I believe the guy at the wicket had a genuine compassion for a monk.

While on the train I sat next to Joan who was in her eighties. She had roughed it up being in the navy during the war. She wasn't going to "stay at home and knit all day." She seemed to know about Krishna Consciousness. She also told me about current events and how a man in New Jersey lost his life at work when he fell into a vat of chocolate that was hot and sweet. "What a way to go!" said Joan with empathy of course.

3 KM

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

About Humility

Toronto, Ontario

I had asked a good friend of the Krishna Conscious Movement, an active member, Michael O'Regan, if he could prepare a presentation for the resident monks and sisters in the temple, to say something about the early days.

As part of his presentation, he read a poem he wrote while residing for some time with devotees. Everyone liked it a lot. Here it is! It's about humility:

"Ou Sont Les Humilities d'Anton"

Whatever happened to my humility?
I used to be so humble.
I was more humble than a stone,
More humble than a tree.
I could have won prizes for my humility!
In fact, and I say this with all humility,
I was one of the most humble people around.
I was so proud of my humility.
It gave me a secret inner glow
Just to know how truly humble I was
Compared to everyone else.
I revelled in the depths of my humility.
And it wasn't as if it came easy to me.
True, I had a lot to be humble about,
But then it isn't easy to become humble
When you're as wise and beautiful and
Talented as I am.
It took years of work.
I trod the wavy line between humility and
Humiliation, power and love, love and power,
And eventually I achieved my goal.
I had it all!

I was humbler than the humblest.
The earth was not low enough for me.
I was lower than the lowest.
I had reached the apogee of humility!
I could'a been a contender!
Then it all slipped away...
Where did it go?
Where did it all go?...

Michael O'Regan

12 KM

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Toronto, Ontario

I was cautious not to put pressure on the foot. Doctor's orders! So at least for today I minimized leg movement. It is an austerity. Fortunately within the confines of the tempe building there are plenty of rooms with duty bound services in which to walk to and fro. There are stairs to climb. The distance between the rooms which are spacious become lengthy.

A shipment arrived from Quebec and in it's container the English version of "The Teachings of Krishna" authored by Pierre Corbeil (aka Visnurata) and published by IQ press. I had the pleasure to pen the preface. It was an honour to be part of a project that offers a synopsis of the 18 chapters with 700 verses of the sacred Bhagavad-gita.

In the forward, author Corbeil explains the purpose of this publication:
This book is directly inspired by the Bhagavad-gita-the "song of God"- a compilation containing the teachings of Krishna, faithfully translated from Sanskrit by Srila Prabhupada without changing their meaning as so many did before him. These teaching are of cardinal importance, and it is not our role to interpret the wording to our whims or our limited understanding. We should rather accept them as presented and try to fulfill our human mission, which is to reconnect with our spiritual self and cultivate the divine consciousness that will bring us closer to the Absolute.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Wart Souls

Burlington, Ontario

I hate to face it but there are about twenty-five planters’ warts that have taken hold of my left sole. When soaking my feet in water and submerging them for a good hour the crowns of the big and small toes appear to swell up to resemble cauliflower floweret’s. I had take a trip to the doctor in Burlington for his diagnosis. He had tackled my first wart ever in ‘96 on my first walking marathon, after a distance of 8,000 kilometers. Every other step on the right foot on that journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic was a step on a wart, which is a soul taken birth as a virus. It is a rather loathsome birth, wouldn’t you say?

In any event my doctor hacked away at Old Charlie Wart who made his appearance once again and took him out at the root this time. Good-bye Charlie and don’t come back! Prior to the dig, the doctor injected a freeze which required an anchor person for me to clench fists with. The prick forced out the name of God and it also pushed poor old Josh who was holding onto me in another direction. Subsequently we all had a good laugh including my driver Devadatta. To our pleasure one cauliflower was harvested for now and more gardening will continue until the field lie fallow. For now “stay off your feet as much as you can” said the doctor who will inspect the foot (which is far from looking like a lotus) in a matter of a few days.

3 KM

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Krishna and Cricket

Brampton, Ontario

I decided to walk from Woodbridge, a relaxed and well-kept residential community, to the Krishna center in Brampton with a passionate cricket player. If you can fancy that. I had my deep saffron on and he had his blue cricket team uniform on with his team’s cap and shoes. Where we drew similar lines was in the bead bags which each of us carried in the right hand. Motorists noticed. Some honked for the cricket sportsman, some for the monk and some for both. We engaged in personal meditation of chanting. We also broke into conversations, with my cricket friend a little over half my age he asked for some clarification on spiritual topics. Reciprocally I asked about the nature of the game cricket.

After fifteen kilometers which passed by like lightening flashed we terminate our walking together. I wished him well in the game with the hope to win while I proceeded to speak before the community of devotional enthusiasts. Incidentally my cricket friend loves to chant and for him to complete a round on beads is like making a winning strike.

I had come to learn that another member of our Toronto community was a professional cricket player in India (actually world famous) but he came to Canada to start a new life.

My conclusion on this is that you will find sportsmen who are also crazy about God.

The message in Brampton for the community seemed to hit a home run when we suggested that God is not just interested in your offerings of food, flowers, water, donations and so on. There is also an interest on his behalf to see your offerings of tolerance, perseverance, patience and kindness. The kind of stuff for a cricket player or anyone for that matter.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Easy Encounters

Toronto, Ontario

The chemical smell from the freshly applied floor varnish was too much to handle. I had to get out of the temple building. So out I went towards my destination of Victoria Park on Danforth ave. We are talking about, “on foot”. Of course.

A stationary cyclist said, “Hey those clothes are cool! I mean it! They must be real comfortable.”

Further on a couple of happy beer sippers sitting outside a bar asked for my attention. “I hadn’t seen you guys for a long time. I thought you closed down.”

“Not a chance”, I remarked. “We’re still around. In fact our second and third generation is proving to bear the torch we are giving them.”

“That’s good.”

“But pray for us” I requested as I handed out cards to the upcoming Ratha Yatra, an outdoor event. “We’re in trouble if the garbage strike continues and ferry operations are closed to get to the island.” They said they would pray for us and I thought that was extraordinary.

I also met Julian form Iraq. He was curious. “I got up at 1:30 am with my head to the floor praying to Allah. Were you up then?”, He asked.

“I usually am as a matter of fact”, I told him.

“Where do you believe God is?” he pressed on.

“Everywhere” , I responded.

“Do you really believe that”

“Yes”.

“So do I”, he said.

We shook hands and made friends.

My next encounter was a white man sitting outside at a cafĂ© with his family. He beckoned me forward so I came close. “Do you have any literature?” Embarrassed to admit not having even the smallest pamphlet I could at least satisfy him with a card- an invitation to Ratha Yatra/Festival of India.

The greatest brief meeting of all was when some folks offered a respectful obeisance to the swami, me, at the start of a busy bridge. Their heads went straight to the ground. It turns out they just returned from a wedding and then while driving spotted the robes. They were from Atlanta and New York.

What a great day of encounters!

20 KM

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

The Power of Association

Toronto, Ontarion

One of the boys in our community was having a bit of a substance abuse problem. Knowing of his culinary and gardening skills I thought,” here is a man of expressiveness and creativity. “If only I could engage him in the dramas for the festival two weeks away. Most people just need to keep busy and be enveloped in positive activities and especially if there is some latent talent there.

So I tried him out and gave him a script. His reading was natural, articulate and full of emotion. I thought, “A star is born!” He struck me that much. “Leading man material perhaps. “

It is relieving and exciting when you come upon a gifted person. The trouble he had from the start was being in bad association. From what I could see his parents are together and are caring and loving. So they were not the problem. It was just as the saying goes, “got mixed up in the wrong crowd”.

Most of us are like the chameleon - we take on the colour of our environment. Or to express it otherwise as put in the Bhagavatam that association is like a crystal which reflects whatever it is in contact with!

To correct the effect of bad company start associating with good company.

6 KM

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Mustard Seed Matter

Toronto, Ontario

In Bengal, mustard seeds are highly cherished for their flavour in seasoning while the oil extract is used for preserving, cooking and also as a massage oil and hair gel. On each fortnight of ekadasi, the eleventh day of the moon's wax and wane, devout Hindus in Bengal and some surrounding areas fast from grains and seeds of certain plants. Mustard seeds are forbidden to be used internally or externally on this day.

One of our residential monks hails from Assam, and spent time serving in our centres in India with Bengali monks. When one of our cooks tossed some mustard seeds in his prep, the monk expressed concern, "This is not right!" The communication wasn't the best. So the issue came to me and I spoke with the monk who works very hard, by the way, and with enthusiasm.

"My dear Prabhu (devotee master), our teacher, Prabhupada, asked his students to fast on this special day from grains, which includes corn, peas and beans. He never got so detailed to the point of a mustard seed. He was practical and always emphasized devotion."

If you travel to India, every district has its' own rules about this day. In some places, they abstain from spices altogether. That is not the standard that our guru gave us. I once asked one of his cooks, Yamuna, a lovely senior female disciple, about what standard our guru went by in dealing with this matter. Here's what she told me:

"He accepted whatever was the standard of the region he was in when it came to eating. The main thing he stressed was the devotion put into the cooking."

With that explanation, the intensive listener accepted and agreed to not disagree over any mustard seeds again.

"Our relationship development with our fellow servers is most important," I added.

For an evening wind-down walk, I came upon Michael Jackson fans singing and playing his songs with instruments. There's one called "ABC". The lyrics are simple. I guess people like it. Sometimes we just have to revisit the basics. Work on relationships and communication.

10 KM

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Wednesday, July1st, 2009

OM Canada

Ottawa, Ontario

Canada became a nation as we know it in 1867. Today is the birthday and one of our able youth’s, Vrajabhumi who hails from the small town of Norwood arranged for four carloads of us Krishna enthusiasts to make the journey to Ottawa, the nations capital. There as every year devotees from Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto converge to chant to the public in the midst of baskers, break dancers, marching bands and the like.

As soon as we arrived at the war memorial near Pariliament Hill I had a chap who works for the Department of Native Affairs say, “Hey I just saw you on T.V. last night, on Vision TV. “ To my recollection I had been interviewed at a studio in Vancouver last fall and that was what this fellow was reffering to. I recall before the interview I asked what kind of questions they would be asking?

“First of all we were going to bring up the topic about the charge laid against your founder Swami Bhaktivedanta on child abuse,” said the interviewer.

“Excuse me but our leader / founder is a clean as a whistle. I think you have your information a bit confused, “ I retorted.

“oh, well, I guess we’ll skip that one, ‘ said the popular broadcaster. He brought up another topic which escapes me now, but was one of controversy with Krishna Consciousness and some distorted view so I again declared, “That’s misinformation.’

“Okay, so we’ll also leave that one out.”

I had not seen a playback of the interview but in the end the show went well and so the response from the public in Ottawa confirmed this by people telling me so. In fact I felt proud to be in the company of singing and dancing devotees to a very participatory crowd making some kind of affirmation that Krishna Consciousness is not a criminal culture but a tradition of happy and genuine spiritual expression.

By the way the national anthem here is called, “Oh Canada!”. We have our version, “OM Canada!”.

7 KM

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Heaps of Garbage
Toronto, Ontario

One of our members put it very bluntly, “The unions are destroying everything.” Referring to the most recent strike for garbage collection. “They are rascals,” said another acquaintance. “In such cash strapped times as these and receiving forty dollars per hour, how dare they.”

When perishable items remain hanging around stanching and taking up space it’s no wonder that tax payers start beefing. Someone else said that unions were formed to protect the worker but the times of oppression are by-gone and the situation has gone in reverse. The public is left at a stranglehold until negotiations unfreeze the strikers demand.

That’s the simple and one sided end of the story. It is a side that I have been sold on. Mind you much can be said about the public’s lack of thriftiness, being non-frugal and so very wasteful. I’m sure that you’ll agree that a monk’s message should always include putting out a good word for Mother Nature and it’s seed-giving Father.

I will give credit to the people of this city and many places with garbage strikes that they try to shove a throw away item into a city bin even though overloaded because strikers refuse to pick up the garbage.
Somehow in this world of discontent, this world of throw- out we have managed to do that with GOD-throw Him out. As I walk Yonge st. I’m saddened to see the pile ups and that the Wind-God doesn’t hold back on the distribution of trashed items.

The whole thing wreaks of greed. It’s stronger than the smell of garbage.

Will someone please light up some incense?

6 KM

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Concentric Inspiration

Toronto, ON

Our photographer friend Haidee gave a generous offer of a choice at her top of the line photos. After perusing through the dozens of massive pictures projected on canvas and peering at portraits and people in action at both rural and urban India, I chose my pick. One piece called "Concentric" stole my heart. It depicts a turban wearing farmer watching over his oxen harnessed and anchored by a device and moving in centrifugal motion. The picture reminds me of what we, as a society of eco-friendliness should be going toward. It also reminds me of a verse from the book Bhagavatam wherein it states that our lives can evolve when we place ourselves at the post of dharma always moving around that sense of duty and obligation and never to swerve away from it.

Of course I had that picture, frame and all, in mind to adorn a wall in the temple. But I confessed to Haidee that we need a mate to "Concentric".

"Sure, which other one would you like?": she expressed with her continuous kind heart.

"Well, it's the one with the woman in a green saree seated at her stock of produce up for selling at the market. Haidee graciously reciprocated with us for the use of our space by granting the second photo.

This one also reminds me of what we all should be supporting - the growing of local food. How removed we are from living the truly natural life! Food get shipped in unripe from all parts of the world except your own place. It raises questions about the loss of the art of growing employment, good clean living, being practical and doing God's will.

I can't wait to get those photos on the wall to give our community members something serious to think about.

6 KM