Thursday, 24 September 2009

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Only the Lonely

Toronto, Ontario

There is a new theatrical production brewing and the brewers are members of our newly formed drama troupe, Swami Productions. At the moment it is an unofficial name and we hope to change that to an official status. On the team is Nitai Priya, who moved here from Vancouver, Hridaya Gauranga, a monk from East Germany, and Mahavira (formerly Josh) from South Africa. We are also expecting a young member to our troupe, Nitai. I’m there as well.

Collectively pulling the script together is every one of us. We are all excited about the production called, “Lonely”. The topic is pertinent to today’s social situation. Loneliness has a kinship to depression, although they are not necessarily synonymous.

At the moment we are writing and brainstorming scenes where we will mix both comedy and gravity. For instance, we are shaping a short light episode about a young computer freak who leads a life in his own world of cocooning, and on the more serious side we will attempt to demonstrate the moroseness that can plague the elderly.

The Swami Productions team is very excited about the project and we will, in the presentation, offer some spiritual and practical solutions to the problem of loneliness and not just profile cases.

In my walking ventures, I’ve had much time to think about this subject while near feeling lonely myself. I certainly feel and see loneliness as a sign of the times, especially in the developed world. It needs to be addressed and this is why I thought to throw the subject on the stage.

10 Km

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Another Monk

Toronto, Ontario

At the airport arrivals section, I saw a young Oriental monk waiting for his pick up person. I was also anticipating to see my driver. My first glance at him, I thought, "He has his mission and I have mine." I realized that this was a wrong attitude. He was obviously Buddhist and obviously with a different institution, but still here was an opportunity to make friends. I felt it was my duty to communicate first. I was the older of the two and he was likely a newcomer to the country, so I made the move.

I approached him. There was a simultaneous spontaneous pranam gesture that came from the two of us, followed by a handshake. It turns out that he is new,is from China and that he's Buddhist. I had enough time to tell him about my place in the world with respect to our mission originating from India. He was gracious and a good listener (as I believe I was for him).

Our encounter was brief as he pulled out his cell phone to answer and then readied himself for his ride. It was a pleasant goodbye. We didn't have the time to talk of world issues. Just having the monks meet was good enough for now. There is so much in common. Superficial barriers should never bar 'brahmins' from coming together. it is the job of community heads or leaders to pump up the level of spirituality in the world, and sometimes we need to do it together.

4 Km

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

The Air and the People

Winnipeg, Manitoba

There is nothing like late summer Manitoba air. It's a good reason to be out of doors. Though our priestly duties prescribe indoor events such as a house blessing like the one with the Sharmas at noon, I did manage to trek away from th home enroute to the next visit, another home. Oooo! That air again! And sunshine! So pleasant!

At Carolyn's home, Doug, 66, and I relished veggie wraps after picking the peppers, carrots,romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes straight from her garden. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, once said that when someone gives something from their garden, this then is a gesture of real love. So for lunch, Doug and I got hit with a kindness that comes at this time of year.

In the evening, the Iskcon Krishna Centre at 108 Chestnut, held their weekly Sunday feast event. I read about the binding of baby Krishna by His mother. After the reading and the chanting I had the opportunity to meet with Mason. He said he had been looking for a group to associate with so he admitted to landing with us. Congratulations, Mason!

I was hankering again for Prarie air and knowing Mason may like the company to walk him back home. Paulina liked the idea. Doug, Daruka and Flo also joined in. So the post party event became a walk everyone home event. And upon arriving at Paulina's, I offered to chant the auspicious Mangala Carana mantras that invoke blessings. Outside her apartment, I took the liberty to do what she considered an honour. The same came true for Mason. The sound carried up to his second storey apartment and all who listened from our party considered that "it was done!"

The evening calm was an additional pleasant experience. Life is good in a monk's shoes.

6 Km

Monday, 21 September 2009

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Bison and Brahmins

Winnipeg. Manitoba

One creature that I’ve always fancied is found in the plains or prairies of Canada. It’s the bison. Known as the largest mammals on the North American continent, their numbers were also large before Europeans set foot on this soil. Conservative estimates on figures range from 20 to 30 million. At one point due to over-hunting almost to the point of extinction, only one thousand individual bison survived in the late 1800s.

The infamous Buffalo Bill killed 4,280 within a seventeen month period for a Kansas railway project.

At Fort Whyte, devotees of the Winnipeg community at 108 Chestnut Street treated us to the interpretive centre where you learn of the ways of the past. Always inspirational are such places that leap you over to the pioneer epoch. From observing a herd of bison we viewed tipis and then old-style sod homes.

We spent a portion of the day where the buffalo roamed as well as a drive to an interfaith gathering where I was hosted as guest speaker. The theme was “Draw Closer” where host Farida asked me to address the group on the Nine Devotions as practiced in the Vaishnava tradition. The venue was Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Parish. We made friends with a host of spiritual leaders (I would call them Brahmins) such as the Archbishop of Winnipeg, James Weisgerber.

I liked the message from Reverend Monsignor Stan Jaworski who said of interfaith that we are here to understand. In the analysis of the word “understand” he suggested that you stand under something and you look up at it to gain a knowing of what it really is.

And the MC Herman Ahrens said the best sermon is from the one who lives it, not the one who speaks it.

At the end of the program (mingle time) I spoke with several people of various faith groups and we came to a consensus that there is no need to retain these thick walls of barriers between us. For hundreds of years there existed these subtle walls of distinction that have torn us apart. The Berlin Wall came down easy compared to the walls that divide us.

Our principals are similar. Let not secularism destroy us.

5 Km

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Words, Comments

Toronto, Ontario

On my afternoon walk I caught people saying things that are rather cliché terms making use of the word “walk”. I passed by two young women and one said to the other “walking on eggshells.’’ Coincidentally on the same street one guy said to his friend in conversation “walked like a zombie”. These phrases were not in reference to me but what I found interesting was that walking was the theme.

Not related to the word ”walk” but equally intriguing was a group of three young girls who preferred to use as a connecting word the term “like”. It certainly demonstrated a common-day type of poor English. I happened to be behind them while we were going an even pace. I checked the use of the word “like” within one minute’s time. I clocked it to 7 times in one minute. I checked again and it was a whopping 10 times within one minute.

At that pace I believe these girls could possibly match how many times I chant the word “Krishna” in one day.

The final remark that was of interest while crossing a busy Spadina Street over the street car section was directed to me personally. A fellow shouted, “Are you a real monk?”

“Yes,” I shouted back. “I’m the real McCoy. I’ve been one for 36 years.”

“Thirty-six?” he said as he gave a thumbs up.

While trekking, you hear comments that are comical, considerate and sometimes cutting but you hear it all.

16 Km

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Toronto Ontario

See It all As Divine

I took Shyamasundar for a sojourn down Moore Park Ravine. It was his first time and with the abundance of trees, a creek, hills and the serenity, it reminded him of the sacred lands of Vrindavan in India. He couldn't get over it, how there could be a treasure of nature in the heart of a densely populated city and how calm and green it is. He was no doubt seeing as a Vaishnava sees; that is connecting the atmosphere in which he is living to another existence so transcendentally situated.

I am inclined to say that this is the northern most traces of Carolinian forest, but he was prone to see it from a spiritual perspective upon coming here for the first time. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, always encouraged his students to have the vision of the spiritual world before you. And as it was said of Chaitanya, the great preceptor of mantra chanting, "Wherever you are, that is Vrindavan", because of the inner vision of the divine abode that he was able to retain.

In Vridavana, there are many sacred tulasi plants, akin to the basil family. Daily, the members of our ashrams world wide, conduct a pooja, or worship of this 'sacred green'. After a godsister, Paurnamasi, had suggested we acquire a new table to conduct the pooja, I decided to go on a shopping venture. By God's grace, I found an excellent piece and arranged to purchase it (I hate shopping but for spiritual purposes, it's a different story). When it finally arrived, it was set in the middle of the temple room. It looked great. This table made of a dark metal became the base of a special plant.

I was reminded of Vrindavan twice today, once by Shyamasundar, and once by Paurnamasi. I thank them dearly.

12 Km

Wednesday, Septemerber 16th, 2009


Niagara Falls, Ontario

Our temple coordinator in Toronto, Subhuddhi, endorsed the idea. "Some of our boys needed a break, in particular, the kitchen boy. Take them for an experience to the world famous Falls." Agreed!

Good soul, Dwija Gauranga, a true hard worker in the ashram, drove us for the hour and a half trip. Once we arrived, our vanload of newcomers to the Falls were awestruck, of course. The tons of water dropping every second of the day were stunning. Shyamasundar, our local Ukranian artist, noted six different aqua colours in the water. I confess that I coldn't see it, but he's more the artist than I am. The sky with clouds manifest even more variations of colour tones. This I could see.

On a plaque affixed to the gorge wall is a description o the Falls' magnificence by Cuban poet Joseph Maria Herreria. His words flowed like the water itself.

Equally attractive is the Gorge that funnels downstream whitewater. It was here that we went for a dip after zigzagging our way downward through crevices of ancient rock. Picnicking was thrown into the package deal for the day of bonding as well as a walk through the main street of Niagara On The Lake, the country's prettiest little town. Just to observe the maintenance of foliage was inspirational. finally some of us tackled the waves of Lake Ontario with a swim, confirming that there are water babies amongst us.

The trip proved a few things: we are a little out of shape, we recognize beauty and the hand of God behind it, and we do like each other.

Spiritualists need to have fun together just like everyone else.

10 Km

Bhaktimarga Swami and chef Gandhiva overlooking the falls at our arrival

The swell of water before pouring out as one of the wonders of the world.

Our happy group with breathtaking backdrop. From left to right. Gandhiva, Dwija Gauranga, Bhaktimarga Swami, Hridaya Gauranga, Nitai Priya, Shyamasundara, Karuna Sindhu.

Fragile wild flowers frame the water's powerful majesty.

Bhakta Kevin from Buffalo (background) brought some handpicked apples and Shyamasundar, our local artist, is very happy to accept.

Bhaktimarga Swami admires the divine expression found in nature while enjoying a crispy apple.

Tons upon tons of water fall every second at Niagara.

A charming hidden waterway.

All admired the contrast and drama in the colours of the sky around the falls.

Onlookers snapped pictures as the monk and friends take a moment for prayer and reflection.

Feeling happy in the woods after an invigorating swim in the swift waters of Niagara.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Trail of Confidence

Toronto Ontario

As long as we lie in this world we will find something that is disruptive. Even when we endeavour to perform a benevolent task, obstacles stand before us staring us in the face.

Someone asked me today, "How do we deal with it?"

I suggested he stay on the forest trail and avoid the distraction. If it is a wild, ferocious animal, back up and go around him and get back on the trail.

"What if he comes after you?" he asked.

"Then you'll have to confront him, but get back on the trail after you've dealt with him."

In a way, I was preaching to myself because I had been confronted by some issues - issues that I could not ignore. They had to be dealt with and procrastination had to stop. As always, I find solace in walking down the trail (which could be a street). I walk and walk and walk and walk and chant. In the course of the pacing, I search for answers to troubling matters. Often enough, a solution arises or at least what could possibly be an alleviation of the problem. A scheme, an angle, an approach surfaces to the mind. Hope becomes reality.

While sorting things out, I came upon an old friend and then another wile traversing Yonge Street. I passed by a nun whom I greeted with a "God bless!" She nodded. Then a young fella with purple hair undid his iPod to ask me questions. I was happy. I was active and I felt confident. Inspirational. The most inspirational moments come from when you are walking. Nietze said something like that.

Confidence and courage surged and I felt I cold confront the issues.

9 Km

Friday, 18 September 2009

Monday, September 14th, 2009
Toronto, Ontario


Knock! Knock!
Who's there?
Rita who?
Read-a-Gita! You might learn something.

Here are some verses from the Gita to deliberate on, they came to mind today.

About the mind:

"For one whose mind is unbridled, self -realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by appropriate means is assured of success. That is My opinion."

- Bhagavad-gita, 6.37

About karma:

"As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities."

- Bhagavad-gita, 4.37

About transmigration:

"The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another."

- Bhagavad-gita, 15.8

10 Km

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

The Double Decker

Toronto, Ontario

Here was a great idea that actually manifest. Our stalwart “kirtan” man around here, Krishnadas, a god-brother of mine, a respiratory therapist.

“Kirtan” Means chanting and Krishnadas organizes kirtan on the streets. He did something unique. Instead of the usual smaller processional kirtan party equipped with instruments he arranged to rent a double-decker bus for a different spin on kirtan.

There it was pulled up in front of our ashram at 4pm with it’s fire engine red. Participants hopped on board after meeting Michael, the driver. There was a fee for the venture which lasted four hours. Both levels filled up with musicians occupying five seats on the top.

Once Michael set off and turned the corner to drive through the pedestrian frequented streets on our Magical Mystery tour, we found the response phenomenal. There was something ethereal about being up above street level. Our upper crew waved at pedestrians who reciprocated most joyfully. We seemed to float by and not drive by. It was “kirtan” that was not “in-the-face” of the public but a soft gentle flaunting of soft spiritual sound vibration.

The area we covered were the film festival district, Little India, the Beaches, the distillery district, the Greek area and wicked Yonge st. (according to Guinness, the longest road in the world).
Participants wanted to be informed of the next planned trip for a double-decker bus. We had so much fun!

The idea of a double-decker kirtan is, I believe, revolutionary. It was a dream that came true. It was a double – barrel shot at maya or illusion.

6 Km

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Groups, Smiles and Laughter

Scarborough, Ontario

Here is a lively group improved in their approach to kirtan since the last time I visited them. It was a proud group who had arranged new curtains and shrine for their icons of Krishna. They were all “smiles”. Their temple or center is newly opened and is located in a unit at an industrial park. They had made remarkable achievements since the inception of this new center for disseminating higher consciousness. All was good although prasadam, the food, was a bit on the hot and spicy side.

That was the new Scarborough ISKCON Center. Now I headed for the downtown center. Four new candidates were to take diksha or initiation, a formal entry into the family of Krishna. There were vows made, vows of no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no casual sex. And a commitment of prescribed time to mantra meditation. New names were given to the initiates which are as follows: Subal, Mahavir, Karuna Shakti, and Radha Krishna. Here was a second group that was all “smiles”.

It’s often understood that when a guru commits to helping initiates along their life that he/she absorbs the karma of the candidate. This point is somewhat debatable or worthy of deeper discussion as to the full responsibility of guru. The main job of the guru is to teach and train. It may be argued that ultimately it is the original guru, Krishna, who is capable of absorbing the collective karma (negative energy) of the student. Chapter 18 text 66 can verify this. In any event the guru does have or carries a great burden of responsibility to refine the student’s life.

When pursing through photos of the event, after it was over a few of us came upon one photo which captures myself, the guru in this case, with a serious –to- frightened look on my face. One of the new candidates who was there also looking at it in a light mood, that the caption should read, “here comes karma”, in reference to himself. That certainly sent us all into a burst of laughter.
We wish the new initiates well.

8 Km

Friday, September 11th, 2009

The Universal Teenage Idol

Mississauga, Ontario

The most impressionable feature of this day was the trip to Mississauga in the home of a Gujarati couple, Kasyapa and Pancami. Twenty-weeks ago they opened up their home for weekly Bhakti Vriksa (devotional tree). To explain the purpose of this function we are looking at a devotional gathering of people, many of which are families who engage in kirtan, chanting, and discussing a topic of pertinence, something to do with personal challenges and how to overcome them devotionally. The children occupy a floor in the house to hear stories of Vedic morality. Refreshments are served at the end of the function.

What touched my heart was strong attendance of the youngsters. When local resident’s found out there is a learning experience for kids in someone’s home they jumped for the opportunity.

With kids there is this “hope“ factor. This particular group is absolutely thrilled about the personality of Krishna. For them He is all attractive. They were bubbling over with eagerness to hear a story out of so many. I would say he comes across as their Universal Teenage Idol.

When I see their zealousness I stand for a moment in self pity thinking of having passed my first twenty years not having the privilege of knowing Krishna.

5 Km

Monday, 14 September 2009

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I Don’t Mean to Be….

Toronto, Ontario

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, “ is the common mantra I hear from people, sober or not.

Right now TIFF is on, Toronto International Film Festival., one of the largest of its kind in the world. It’s busy! Most of the action is three blocks from the temple on Yorkville St. People describe the event as glamorous. I was strolling there to counter jet-lag and accidentally bumped into it. Someone yelled, “Hey!”

I turned around, “he’s talking to me,” I thought. It’s some guy in spiffy clothes and he wants to talk. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful….(he paused) but what do you represent?”

It has become such a familiar phrase, “I’m sorry……respectful,” It demonstrates common courtesy. It’s particularly what I hear in North America. I’m not always proud of, rather embarrassed, of my fellow country-men for the self centered culture that we live in. But these kind of sensitive remarks redeem them (for me).

I turned a corner after a chat with that chap and three young men walk by immersed in dialogue. My ear caught what the middle one was saying, “There is only one God. People all honour the same God right?” I had to question what I heard for a moment. But my hearing didn’t deceive me that is what he said.

Finally two fellows who were immersed in lovingly swearing at each other caught a glimpse of my saffron cloth. They started to follow me then at the stop light began to speak. “if you don’t mind my asking, are you like that guy who’s a monk doing these martial arts in the movies?” He was struggling to stand straight making a sincere effort despite having drinks on his breath. “I mean no disrespect”, he said.

We conversed more. I give him credit for asking and the credit for feigning sobriety trying to show discipline. In his own way he’s trying to make a little advancement on the path of spirituality.

5 Km

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

In the Sky

Over the U.S.

One of the most exciting aspects of today was sitting next to a person unknown to me but someone born in the same place I was. Well, “This is a small world.”, was our realization. On my return journey from Fiji via Los Angeles was a woman born in Chatham, Ontario in the hospital across the river from where I was born, the second hospital. It turns out she is a runner and that was her reason for going to L.A.

We did have something to share knowing the same Thames river, knowing the same people and also knowing about marathon walking/running. It’s discussions like this that throw you back into childhood. It’s hurtful to hear how a place has closed down that was so much a part of your childhood. Or even to hear how trees have been removed, trees you have known for residential development.

Attachment goes so deep that we wish no change be there to break our precious childhood. We expect everything to freeze. We impose that nothing should change without our permission. But reality stands and things will change for better or worse because this material world is in constant flux. That is it’s very nature and because it is always changing you can’t put a lot of trust in it.

We who are very conditioned by this world are left to wonder, “What or who to trust?” These thoughts may appear, “airy”, while flying thousands of feet in the air. I was waiting to land.

Back in 1973 my childhood ended and I found a grounding or an anchorage in Krishna Consciousness. I felt I could put trust in the profound words of the ancient and fresh message of the Bhagavad-Gita.

My day ended perfectly with a 9km walk from 10-12am midnight, meeting all kinds of people and being comforted by a visit from my dear god-brother, VedaVyasa Priya Swami.

I felt very grounded.

9 Km

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Farwell Fiji

Nadi, Fiji

It’s parting time. Farewell to all the great souls who made my trip to this place of paradise so nice. I especially want to thank Radha Madhava and wife Swasti from Calgary for making the trip possible. Also I express gratitude to Visvanath at Suva for making excellent arrangements. Thank-you Jaya Rama. Thanks to all the cooks. Fijian cuisine is the best!

While on three of the Fijian islands by the grace of God a lot of ground on foot, led numerous chanting sessions and conducted a host of classes on the Gita and Krishna pastimes. The ocean swimming with Vaishnavas was phenomenal.

I should not fail to mention the fantastic time in New Zealand where much of the same activities took place. Kala Samvara, Thanks! Heidi, I couldn’t see you. You were in Wellington. I was destined to stay in the Aukland area.

For all those good souls in Vancouver That I know and that are a part of Fijian decent, I understand you more after visiting your homeland.

Two days prior to my leaving this land of the hibiscus two university professors came to see me both with the surname Reddy. They came of interest towards the walking mission. There was some mutual appreciation amongst the three of us. We are all walking advocates. I know we all dream that one day walking could become as popular as the use of cell phones.

Let the world walk for God!

7 Km

Monday, September 7th, 2009

To The Heart Of the Village

Suva, Fiji

Well, It happened! The dream to see one of the villages I passed while walking become the recipient of delicious Krishna food has materialized. And it happened to be the village that Daniel, our Fijian native boy hails from. Daniel returned to Krishna Consciousness after we met. With his will and cooperation, and that of Suva temple, curried vegetable rice and your standard semolina halava/vanilla flavoured were items dished out to the majority of villagers. Their appetite were voracious.

Rasa Mandal, our brahmacari monk from Suva started tapping his djembe and kids lined up for dancing movement as I took the lead. The greatest moments during this food settling session was when an elder would jive to the beat of the drum and the sound of the mantra. As sound carried beyond the coconut trees more and more villagers came to check out this thing we call prasadam, the mercy of God. Sugar cane workers from the fields came along to take a break and enjoy the dance and feast session. Daniel was exceedingly happy. “You see how my people are. They are spontaneously accepting it all.”, he expressed.

Daniel also showed us his tent where he resides all year round. Right next to the white sands of the Pacific ocean. Since he discovered vedic culture he had turned vegetarian and can handle no meat in the house. So there he grows his vegetables outside his dwelling with his cooking pots stored inside his tent. Now he has taken up residence in the Suva ashram to live as an ordinary monk once again.

Yesterday I had walked with a group of devotees at Taveuni to the landmark at the International Datelines where the actual global day begins and the previous night ends. Today I saw the day begin when I watched those youngsters at this site, the village of Navutulevu rushing for the prasadam, aching in the stomach for a new experience. What a happy lunch!

I am convinced this program of nice sattvic food, the best of a drum and the sound of the mantra is going to make a difference in these people’s lives.

The other day I spoke with two mormon elders, who were actually young men from Utah on their mission. They were garbed in their ususal white shirt and tie and looking very clean cut. In place of trousers they wore instead sulus, the common skirts men wear in Fiji. The mormons made this adjustment in order to communicate more closely with the native community.

I am suggesting that for Fiji we keep our world famous saffron skirts (the Dhoti) and distribute karma-free food and karma-free mantra

2 Km

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Sharks And All

Taveuni, Fiji Islands

I had contemplated a last dip in the Pacific near our hotel room. The water was clear and enticing. It would be a last cooling-off before flying to Suva. I revealed my mind which quickly dismissed the idea when locals told me that three deaths recently took place in this very area. Sharks! I was informed, however that if ever a shark does come towards you when you are submerged and you see him coming dodge him by reaching a lower level. He can come like a torpedo – very straight – but cannot maneuver very well. He will turn around and come back and you can try the same methodology again until you reach shallow water.

Thanks for the tips. I now can add it to my defence list how to deal with sharks. I’ve got the bear defence mentally rehearsed. And also how to avoid stepping onto a dead catfish – keep your footwear on.

I grew very fond of our little community here. Departing at the airport was a difficult thing watching them become small as we were hoisted away in the air. Such gentle souls! My dear god brother, a monk from the US, Bir Krishna Goswami, has some lovely children here in the form of sincere souls under his care. He is like their daddy.

Speaking of which today is “Fathers Day” in Fiji. That became my topic for speaking in Suva. It’s all about responsibility. There are lots of really good dads out there but we don’t hear about them. We only hear about the nasty ones; about people who are like sharks. People are less intrigued by let’s say sea horses who happen to be very good fathers. Our minds are like sharks. We want to take a bite out of everything.

8 Km

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Falls And All

Taveuni, Fiji Islands

After a four hour ferry ride, Radha Madhava and I docked at our third island, Taveuni, a more lush temperate exotic place. Parrots and snoker reside here. As I suspected, the smaller the island and the fewer the people the more simple the folks. Although very bright the group of Krishna followers here did not catch on to my casual remarks which is largely North American humour.

We should not assume that everyone understands us. Each person is so relative and not absolute. What passes as normal in one place doesn’t necessarily fit into everyone else’s shoe. In any event we are looking at a very isolated place – Taveuni.

With some of the kirtans I led not all could follow although I rendered rather simple tunes. Due to lack of exposure the young men playing drums regardless of their enthusiasm simply require some lessons and someone to spend time with them.

In the early afternoon session of the day a grand total of fifteen youths joined me on the government road for a 10km hike. One of the girls led a spontaneous chant using cucaracha as the melody and applying the maha-mantra to it. So cautiously I corrected her makeshift version of the tune and when I mentioned that the Spanish word cucaracha means cockroach it became an enlightening moment for the group. They have no qualms about laughing to this realization.

After the 10km stint which took us near the airport, the size of a quaint tea-stall, the group was driven to a cascade of a three level waterfalls. There we swam in the rain. It was a good bonding time. After all it was Saturday. Or was it? I’m forgetting the time. Each day is a holiday. Few worries. Few cares. I just have to make the best of where I am. Leave sometime to myself and reserve a whole lot of time for the world.

There are two types of monks, it seems to me. There’s the seclusive hermit type. And then there’s the out and about type. It is my understanding that our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, wished for his monastic students to exercise travelling the world and touch the hearts of the people.

10 Km

Friday, September 4th, 2009

A Day At Savusavu

Savusavu, Fiji Islands

You cannot believe the hospitality of the people of Fiji. The native folks have invited me for tea on numerous occasions during the more serious walking. And wherever I have been accommodated by the Indian Fijians for mealtime it is a stunning display and tasty experience. Try an entice of fifteen to twenty different vegetable combinations without mentioning the soups, rice, salad, roti. No dessert (the cooks know I don’t care for the sweets). It is never a monk’s meal of one prep nor is it ever slim pickings rather a love of plenty. The hosts wouldn’t accept anything less as a demonstration of gratitude for coming to their home.

At Savusavu, you will witness a piece of heaven – a vista of Pacific majesty. Radha Madhava and I were given a villa to stay at the top of a hill overlooking the absolute natural splendour.

Aside from all these blessed treatment for the eyes and the belly the real pleasure is the sankirtan public chanting. At the base of a mountain the single downtown street provided us fine chanters with a fair reception. Two of the voices, however, were loud but flat. At one point I found it to be unpleasant to make it a lengthy session. I believe the street public found charm in the sincerity despite the deaf-tone dynamics. I thought the best course was to cut it short. Devotion and musicianship is always the best. You can’t always have both. Devotion comes first though.

Our villa host Brij Narayan really seemed to enjoy the evening’s presentation of a dramatical reading and mime of, “Why Duryodhana Became Insulted?”, an episode from the Mahabharata story when a group of guests came to listen.

There’s a saying, “If you don’t read you can’t lead.” How true! It’s hard to give guidance without reserving sometime to study each day. Reading fuels the intellect and the imagination. It triggers the two parts of the brain.

5 Km

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

To Concentrate on H O H

Labasa, Fiji

In Fiji residents either drive a car, hop on a bus or walk. No one cycles. There is no in between, I don’t know why?

One day myself and walking companions did happen to converge at a service station with a group of bikers. They could never come anywhere close to demonstrating a demeanour of Hells Angels. People here are just too sweet to show intimidation.

But more about the Native Fijians. In the precious night our lively chanting party seemed to have some spellbound effect on folks. They just stood and stood until one fellow broke the ice by gyrating to our music. He was a powerfully built middle-aged Fijian and when he persistently swirled his hips around and around it brought us all to the point of hysteria. Somehow or other the man did some “seva” or service by getting the local people to totally become comfortable with the chanting.

In the early 4:00am Radha Madhav and I did sweat profusely from the intense weather while the rear walker of this hour was all bundled up in hood and jacket. We retrieved from the road at 6:00am just to be near a fan or an AC. By the afternoon favorable rains came down bringing down the temperature.

Outside Labasa, Radha Madhav and I were driven to the top of a hill to Nityananda Hall which is graced with petite Krishna Deities. The hall filled up with people of all ages to hear a newcomer speak. Me! And so we made it fun. Incoporating mime, charades and oral fill-in–the-blank we combed through Chapter 11 of the book “Krishna” all in an effort to put our minds off our puny mundane concerns and to concentrate on our Heart of Hearts, H O H.

11 Km

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009


Lautoka, Fiji

Dr. Umanand Prasad is the Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Fiji. He spotted me walking the other day and asked that I visit him (which is today).

He invited two other professors from the campus while I had my four companions. We all met in the Conference Room for casual conversation, for starters.

They were curious about the walking mission. I explained that we were rekindling an ancient practice — pilgrimage. And what really resonated with them was expressed in their own terms, “Revisiting mother nature with her forces”.

“I don’t have to go down to the road with you gentlemen to start to describe the health benefits behind all the trekking but since my marathon days began in “96 in Canada I have received so much good response from people, many who are my monastic peers, who got encouraged to walk more.

It was a real treat for me to see members of the academia poking intellectual fun at each other at times during our dialogue. We all agreed that laughter is the best medicine for the ills of a crazy world. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, also saw the need to throw humorous anecdotes out there for us to savour.

We also talked to the professors on a more serious note about the current human condition.

According to them the population growth on earth is leveling off and eventually will taper down due to impotency. Impotency apparently is a big problem today.

Dr Prasad though, wanted to know more about Chaitanya, a noted walker of the sixteenth century but more important about his being a proponent of chanting. Dr Prasad had the good fortune to hear our guru, Srila Prabhupada, speak at Cross Maidon in Bombay in the early seventies.

My afternoon was spent partially in the air to Labasa, a city on the second major of Fiji Islands. There I was greeted by big smiles from our Krishna community who indulged me in a king’s plate of “prasadam” sanctified food, as well as an introduction to their main street where we partook in chanting once again. Even though today was the city’s biggest festival day and being “Indian Day” our host, Rupa Vilas, attracted fifty devotees of India origin.

14 Km

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009


Tavua, Fiji

Darkness attracts millions of frogs to leap about. Some are large and some just the size of a button. Some that reach the road become ill — fated flattened under car tires in motion. You can’t begin to count the number of such casualties.

Flying fish move with speed on rivers bridged over by the road. To the left of us walkers, men on horseback huddled to discuss their cattle herding plans for the day. Some pious Hindu ladies came to the road to offer their home made garlands, offer a pooja with a camphor - fed flame and then some fruit and sweets - all a traditional way of greeting a monk. Further down the road a group of Fijian Native women took the long laneway hike from their Christian “Back to Eden” domiciles. They were just curious.

“Bula! Bula!” was our opening greeting as usual. From there we exchanged words of inspiration.

Tavua is a prospector’s town where gold is mined. As we entered it we felt the heat as we dragged our feet. The old cinema hall built in 1936 is now turned into a Krishna hall for “Kirtan” chanting where I was hosted to speak in the evening.

At the roasting hour of l PM a small party of chanters hit the main street for delivering the sacred sound as we do in every significant place along the way. As usual the public goes into a pleasant freeze.

The fresh highland fed water at Turtle Creek gave the boys and I a relief of the afternoon “burn”.

How blessed we all are to have water!

As darkness crept up to make a new night, millions of frogs started to leap about.

Some became casualties. Some did not.

18 Km

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Go To The Public

Rakiraki, Fiji Island

The famous seventh century chanting Saint Tukaram from Maharastra said that one must sing kirtan in such a delightful way as to move the hearts of the listeners. In our efforts to execute public chanting we keep this message in mind. In Fiji, wherever our walking party travels there is no exception at this attempt.

As a group of a dozen or so chanting enthusiasts unloaded ourselves from the vehicle in this down town location we saw a lot of movement of shopping pedestrians. Once the mridanga and djimbe drums started thumping with a mantra and voices to take the lead the town virtually stopped. I would say that minimal activity continued such a cash register making a noise but truly, customers and retailers came out to hear and to see. The town was rather mesmerized by sight and sound. We started a procession covering practically every inch of retail strip including our favourite stop – the farmers market. After a hot walk under Fiji’s western sun we took to a high “carb’ diet at a prominent Police Officers home. To beat the heat, five of us traveling from town to town were treated to an exotic Australian owned beach front facility called the Volivoli Beach. Young Nick, the owners son asked “why the walk” and I said it’s a “dying art” that you won’t die from.

From Volivoli, Rasa and Daniel, my male companions and I took the treck back to our accommodation on Kings Road. We interacted with many cane field workers. One group in particular sat down their machetes to rest and talk to us. I asked these men when they start their walk.

“From 4am to 6pm with a break in the middle,” said one worker with the biggest smile and with no complaint. It was a refreshing tone that you rarely find when speaking to a North American about their work. Finally, in the evening I spoke to an interesting group at the Krishna Centre about the need to go to the public, meet them, get inspired and try to inspire.

7 Km

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

To Be Consistent and Persistent

Rakiraki, Fiji Island

I have been told by several individuals that when the first missionaries came to Fiji, they met with cannibals who made desert out of the new comers. The missionaries persisted, however, and did not become deterred in their efforts to adjust the culture of the natives. Now the Christian mission has infiltrated Fiji.

As Daniel, Rasamandal, a local Red Cross Worker, Vrajendra Suta and I hiked a trail to the nearby Krishna Centre a busload of young men passed by us. They were singing the praise of Jesus in a beautiful harmonious tone.

We also walked by a mosque where people were seated for eating time. I see the same architectural design by the Islamic community through out Fiji. The look and colour, predominantly white and green, is consistent here as I saw in Guyana earlier this year

From these two examples, I perceive a spiritual determination that is some what enviable.

For today’s spiritual commitment, I had the honour to conduct a chant and talk program in Lautoka and also in Rakiraki. I had my heart set on journeying to the cave sight of serpent Kaliya but it appeared that securing a reliable guide to take us there was difficult to do. Plus enthusiasm for reaching the destination started to wane amongst the group when we heard that it’s a seven hours hiking ordeal through valleys and then up mountains would be the price to pay for a pilgrim’s yearning. It would be seven hours going back.

Perhaps our determination is weak and that we were meant to engage ourselves otherwise for the coming day. Perhaps more public chanting would be a more favorable determination.

In Fiji, there tends to be a persistent Farmers market venue in major towns like the determined Wal-marts in the west. The market place would likely be our destination for tomorrow’s period.

6 Km

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Hibiscus Festival

Suva, Fiji Island

One person with a medical background reminded me of something the Chinese say, “The only disease is congestion and the only cure is circulation.” Having to tackle 30 to 40km a day on feet allows me to feel a free movement of things internally and includes the bowels, of course. Since completing the walking of the country of Fiji I know I can’t get complacent and take to relaxation. Taking part in Suva’s Hibiscus Parade will help to see the walking momentum continue. And if it wasn’t the parade you just have to keep motivated.

As an annual event the Hare Krishna Society partake in the event with float and chanters precede. Of the 750,000 Fijian population close to one fifth of them attend this largest of their events. I took the opportunity to rehearse with the youths, boys and girls, on a structured march and chant before embarking on the task of publicly leading the chant. The volunteer marchers and chanters from the community were bubbling over with enthusiasm and onlookers viewed us with great interest. Next to me was Daniel, our only Fijian native who really got a lot of the stares. I guess I did too being practically the only white dude in the parade. The event was broadcast on TV when they announced that the monk walking the island indulge in the chanting float.

I thought we did well considering we had only an hours practice before the event. However, there are a number of tips we could adhere to in the future for the best performance. Primarily, focus would be the main aim in this regard on a sense of real attentiveness.

Isn’t that what we must always apply in regards to everything we do?

5 Km

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The Day of the Goddes

Lautoka, Fiji

I saw powerful images while in stride. A group of men fire stones for a lovo, a roast for root crop cassava and sometime mongooses. A woman hoses her front yard plants. Calves suckle from their mother’s udder. I see McDonald.

While still dark a van pulled over in the distance and out came a young man just coming from the nightclub. He slurred his words, “….want to see the walking monk.” So he did. I saw his buddy passed out sprawled out in the back seat.

As night lit up more delighted folks honked horns while people waiting for a bus would wave, shake hands acknowledging TV and paper coverage.

In front of the Police Station was a Fijian native by the name of Tuks. He had lodged a complaint to the authorities about his boss cheating him. He asked if I believed in Christ.

I said, “Yes! The son of God. If you are interested in knowing more about the son’s father, then you can go to where I am going.” I didn’t take him seriously but a half hour later, I found that he was following me. He hid his bags of belongings (clothes mostly for working) somewhere and decided to join me. For the next 15 km we trekkedd all the way to the temple of Krishna and the serpent Kaliya. We were greeted by the mayor – 1 km short of the temple. He with his ministers gave a warm welcome to the city of Sugar.

Radha Madhava had arranged for Tuks to get a new set of clothes and enough fare to get back to home to wife and two month old baby. As we left for Suva, a four hour drive, we saw Tuks happily engaged in Temple service. Perhaps he will stay for a while before returning home.

Tuks got blessed today by the Goddess. I am referring to Radha, the female shakti of Krishna or female aspect of God. Devout Krishnaites around the world honour this day Radhastami as Her day.

In the evening, I was asked to speak about the Radha principle. “Please speak slow, Maharaja,” asked Visvanath. “People have a little difficulty with your accent.”

I happily complied and also happily had completed walking the country Fiji.

30 Km

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

A Long Good Day

Nadi, Fiji

For the evening’s rest our small party of four were accommodated in a simple home 2km off Queens Road. The facilities were semi-primitive but pleasant. In truth, a monk gets fuelled by the austerities that come to him of their own accord. As I departed from the home (while the rest took their shower) at 3am, I headed down a bumpy, stoney road with sugar cane growing on both sides. At this hour who could be here at this lonely time? Only dogs bark in the distance.

I use a small flashlight (torch) during dark time like this. To my surprise, I found two natives crouched down next to towering cane plants. I was startled. SO were they. To them I was like an alien, I guess. They shivered in fear and demanded to know what I was. This is a remote area where bald-headed white guys are rare to be seen, let alone the robes, tilak markings on the forehead and beads in my hands.

“what time is it? They demanded.

“3.20am!” I said? Why are you’re here?”
“what are you doing?”
Questions! Questions!

“what do your have under your sulu (dhoti)? To convince them I was not a ghost, I showed them my ankles.

I mirrored the questions, “what are you doing here at 3 o’clock?”

It took a good fifteen minutes to convince them that I was nothing to fear. We ended on the note of handshake. But no, there was more.

“Take me to where you come from!” asked Roko the spokesman of the two.

“You mean planet Canada!”

“Yes! Yes! Take Me!.”

I insisted that I had to move on – pilgrim’s duty

I deduced that the two chap were field workers, a little intoxicated mixed with a dash of superstitions.

At Nadi, our small party of five planted ourselves under a massive tree next to the marketplace. I led the chanting. I thank Krishna for allowing me to walk to keep the lungs pumping well. Our chanting group belched out the mahamantra. The crowds came curious as you can imagine. We sang our hearts out. Some people snickered and laughed. But when our indigenous boy, Daniel, 6 ft 2, came to pick up the drum and join us the crowd suddenly changed their mood. They took us seriously.

During midday, I had covered 40km walking. My umbrella kept the sum from roasting me. Daniel and Rasa took shifts to accompany me.

Despite the long day enough strength was sustained for conducting a satsang, a spiritual program, at the home of Raghunath, an Indian devotee.

I believe that God in the heart is satisfied to see all of this.

40 Km

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

At the Old Broken Bridge

Sigatoka, Fiji

Rasa Mandala, a brahmacari or monk from Suva temple, Daniel and I took to the road shortly after 4 am to enter into what’s called the “salad bowl” of Fiji. It is a very productive section of the main island. As we pass by fields of ground crops such as cassava and taro, we entered into the district of sugar cane and papaya orchards. Resorts for tourists, mostly Australians and New Zealand folks, have been to our left where the ocean continues to be our constant companion.

At the city of Sigatoka where flooding from monsoons tend to wash away various man and human-made arrangements, a substantial bridge to accommodate traffic and tracks for hauling cane over the Sigatoka River got partially swept away. At the west end of this now condemned bridge and at the juncture of a busy downtown crossroad, local kirtaniyas, chanters joined us in public chanting. It drew a lot of attention. Did it ever!

Then we moved locations to the farmers market and inside a massive structure where you findd a hub of activities. We were invited by one of the farmer to chant in his stall. Our singing and drumming froze all who were there. People listened. Tourists as well. It was a major highlight feature of the day. Hindus and Christians came forward spontaneously with donations, something we did not request. Such big hearts!

I must not fail to mention that from the sight of the old broken bridge a four storey temple is going up atop the main hill of the city. The whole town is rather excited about the future opening and it’s all being a reality by the efforts of two main persons, a ladies team. Gita Kirti and Gurusmarna are the dynamic duo empowered to see the project inception and completion (for May 2010).

Whatever was collected at the market was handed over to these women for their glorious project, one that will be a place of learning and growing for spiritually needing souls.

30 Km