Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Whole Day

Toronto, Ontario

The air was biting cold on the face while challenging a Canadian breeze. Back, I was on Bloor St. taking the millionth trek on a route all too familiar. I passed by the impressive ROM museum, Varsity Stadium (John & Yoko conducted a march and walk from here), the ill-fated Hippie experiment the Rochdale Building, the Bata Shoe Museum and the most significant, Urban Edge Yoga Centre.

The day spun by swiftly tending to people’s needs. The evening was destined to be a Brampton satsang experience. I have found that at these gatherings people respond well to verse memorization. I chose one. Bhagavad-Gita 8.5 “anta-kale ca mam eva…” Here Krishna addresses the result of a soul immersed in devotion. Such a person is done with travel in this world at the expiry of the present body. There is no more series of lives to come. There in union with Krishna is service to Krishna.

As we guided the attendees who were tightly seated in the duplex home, line by line of the verse was called out and then repeated. For most of the group the sound of Sanskrit was a pleasant buzz in their ears. It was fresh and new. Its message was a strong endorsement to reincarnation which is always intriguing to those who don’t want to accept the shallow doctrine of be-born-and-die.

What’s great about the memorization is that everyone’s brain is set to be sharp. For the newcomers hearing about a practical assimilation of devotion which overcomes transmigration was helpful. The evening was spent less at mantra and more at the listening of philosophical and universal truth.

Taking stock of the day I tallied all to be a wholesome and holistic day starting with the biting air.

5 Km

Monday, December 28th, 2009


Havana, Cuba

Many aspects of life in Havana have that vintage-edge to them – the cars (and there's never a traffic jam with them which is vintage in itself), the home’s the pace of life, the way of communication. There are no wired-up I-pod people in sight. Toilets, private or public don’t always flush. A handy bucket of water is available. People actually talk to each other. And another feature which I find appealing is the high percentage of walkers that you find on the streets. People look healthy. Obesity is low compared to the tourists you see. Most of what I mention here is a presence of the past and it is delightful to see. It is relieving and a break to not witness capitalism in full swing.

In fact banners are up to denounce consumer culture. On one large display strapped across the facade of Habana Libre Hotel, Raul Castro is quoted saying that the time is now for Cubans to bond while capitalistic crisis is on. I was looking at this banner across the street sitting inside one of Cuba’s primary radio stations and thinking of the arm wrestle between capitalistic and communistic societies. I was reflecting on the Vedic view of life. Whatever is the ‘ism’ people are ensnared by three modes of nature with prominence in passion (rajas) and dullness (tamas). Whether one is in Havana or Savannah (Georgia) people are on the same trip.

Let’s try to get on with our spiritual life.

It was 9AM when Jetu, Hrdai and I and translator Julan were called up for a lengthy interview for radio. We were recording for a future broadcast of chanting in addition to question and answer interview. We were able to even mention the word “God”.

The recording happened in a sixty-year old studio (that is before the revolution). So there we end up in the vintage department again. This was my personal ecstasy for the day – chant Hare Krishna over the radio airwaves. The recording was our last assignment in Cuba before a high-carb meal. Then enroute to Canada, we went with a send off of typical hugs and kisses from all. Hare Krishna!

Adios amigos!

2 Km

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Gone Forever

Havana, Cuba

There cannot be anything of more sentimental value to a monk hooked on japa mantra than his beads. I have been sustained by mantra power since 1973 and I have been using the same set of meditational beads since that time. They are a strand of 108 well-rounded and polished neem-wood beads. They have been a consistent companion for 36 years and have touched 5 continents. Well, they are no longer with me. They are gone forever.

After a perky morning program consisting of chanting and speaking from the book Bhagavatam, then meeting with a theosophist for two hours and then conducting a four hour Sunday program with guests I ventured my way home along a tidy street at Havana University when a young ill-intended fellow grabbed my bead pouch, yanked it off from my neck and dashed off with it into the darkness of the night. I was frozen with surprise. Stunned! I was unable to make a chase being loaded down with a heavy bag of paraphernalia. He was fast on his feet. At the moment I didn't realize that that was it. I will never see them again. When the assailant would see that the pouch carrying my beads were only that and not pesos he would discard it. But where? Would he toss my cuentos (beads) in the bushes somewhere, in a city dumpster or bring them into his home to inspect the contents under a brighter light? What would he do with prayer beads? I'm sure he's not the type to pray as opposed to prey.

We had a small search party out looking for my stolen treasure, but no sign – no trace. I asked Janardan and Julan about a report to the police, and they advised against the notion. “You wouldn't want to go through the bureaucracy.” So there I was let to contemplate. The theft occurred a little after 7. By 10 I knew I wouldn't sleep over the anguish, so Janardan and I walked for two hours until fatigue hit us. Along the Malacon sea wall we trekked chanting on beads (he had a spare set for me). I was dealing with some resentment and opening the way for forgiveness and letting the mode of detachment take its course. These things take time to heal and I could feel it coming sooner than later.

My resolve was that beads may go but no one can ever take away the mantra. Hare Krishna!

9 Km

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Culture Accepted

Havana Cuba

Diesel fumes from autos get to you after a while. There is a natural, almost gravitational pull, to go to the Malecon and sit there at the gulf of Mexico’s edge and take in those good sea breezes. Hridaya, Janardan and I trekked our way there like all mornings, yet today was different. We decided to look at our visit to the seawall not just as a physical therapy but also as the place to reflect on our guru, Srila Prabhupada, who was carried by such Atlantic waves on the Jaladutta ship to land on American soil back in ’65.

Without him I wouldn’t be a monk. I wouldn’t be chanting and leading a good life. I wouldn’t have these friends with me. I would be a part of the status quo. For these reasons and more, I am grateful to my guru for putting me on a counter-cultural track.

Our venue for the first Vedic cultural festival held in Cuba was in a former Church, now run by the Ministry of Culture. At 1 p.m. light and sound technicians came to set up. By 3 p.m. we started to warm up voice and do body exercises for the eight volunteer actors. They did work up a sweat for a last minute practice. Our narrator, Antoine, got toned up for his role in Spanish. By 5:30 p.m. people started entering the building to choose their seat (we gathered whatever old chair or cushion was in the building). The place filled up in no time. By 6:15 p.m. the show was on with an intro, kirtan (chanting), the drama “El Gita”, a talk (by myself), a mrdanga drum demo (by Jettu) and kirtan again. 2 hours of entertainment elapsed apart from applause at each item.

The audience was rather non responsive. Lo’ and behold, once we drew the final curtain, so to speak, on the show, the audience and performers mingled and the appreciation overflowed. Thank God, the hard work of three days rehearsing paid off. I saw Janardan and his mom, Chaitanya Priya, our mainstay in Cuba, were really bursting with happiness. The “Primer Festival de el Coutural Vedica” was a success. The art directors of the place thought so. They were as curious as anything to come and they had a novel experience.

It was fifty years ago that the revolution of Cuba had taken place. The local papers show photos of Cuban victory for independence. Perhaps today was a mark, or celebration of an enhanced diversity for the Cuban population. The Vedic concepts of India have been not a threat or necessarily an alien force to the Cuban population. In fact, as I suspected, ‘they want to know’. The Vedas say that we have sojourned in this world through multiple lives and now that the human body is achieved one should inquire into the absolute.

5 Km

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Not Too Much Santa Here

Havana, Cuba

I can’t recall a Christmas day without snow and commercial songs of this truly tainted season. I have always admired Jesus, this cool Jewish fellow, as I have Saint Nicholas. As far as Santa Claus is concerned, well, Coca Cola company, can have him back. Christmas is spoiled. Bah! Humbug!”

My parents of Dutch ancestry had told me that New England took the saint, Nicholas, and whipped up this configuration of a mispronounced name to become the man in red that he is. How true their rendition is of the popular hero I’m not sure, but I am inclined to believe that with corporate influence, any deception is possible. Santa is fake. I believe there are greater real live heroes that inspire children.

On the Malecon, a large lit-up star atop a lined and also lit tree formation is accompanied by the Jewish Hanukah symbol. While walking by the decorations in front of an eight storey U.S. edifice, guards tell our group to cross the road. For security reasons, no one can walk at arms length along the U.S. office wall. Also, an elaborate nativity scene is set perched high from the interior of a large cathedral near our accommodation. Other than that, visible signs of a childhood Christmas are rarely present. I don’t hear the recording of “Fa la la la la - la la la la!” blaring out anywhere, which is a relief.

Our small group is committed to chanting our mantra in hushed volumes on our beads while walking. Personally, I don’t miss the commercialized Christmas at all. The spirit is amiss. I’m sorry if I sound like a humbugger.

3 Km

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Getting Found

Havana, Cuba

It was pre-dawn that I did get lost in a city I figured I knew well enough, being my third visit here. But then I reflected on how I’m not the only one. Millions of people must get lost everyday somewhere, and it likely happens more in cities than in the countryside. I dwelled on how Krishna, as a young boy, along with friend, Sudama, lost their tracking. It was in a storm, at night, and in the bush. As usual, it was one of His self imposed adventures, designed to heighten his friendship with his devotee. The two boys were close, and when the vicious storm was conjured up, it made the two boys that more interdependent from the point of view of enhancing their relationship.

As the sun rose, surely, then I made sense of directions, buildings and landmarks, but it was too late to keep my appointment at my apartment to meet devotees for a walk on japa (chanting) meditation. The usual routine is to walk a stretch of the Malecon, the seawall. There I sat and there they came. Cubans, a German and a Canadian all of whom I’ve become fond of being on the same spiritual path as they. I know they see me as senior, but I frankly have a hard time seeing them as junior. Somehow, in the service of Krishna, we are all part of a spiritual network. I must remind myself that teaching is an obligation I must impart.

Our morning walk did turn into a shopping trip. Bok Choy and lettuce which are grown organically like almost everything else in Cuba, became a green need for our group. We have been putting out a lot into the “Teatro” department - a rehearsal for Saturday. Through the practices, we are learning more and more of the Gita’s message and as a result are feeling less lost in the forest of material enjoyment. Thanks to our guru, Srila Prabhupada, who has inspired in some way this enjoyable play, “El Gita”.

16 Km

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Out and Late

Havana, Cuba

“Five or six years ago a group of over-zealous Krishna devotees while engaged in street chanting were rounded up by police and sent back home, expelled from the country,” so Janardan and I were told by a couple, followers of the Paramahamsa Yogananda Society. From which country the devotees came, it wasn’t so clear. The couple were quite excited though to see the saffron clothes and expressed their full appreciation for Srila Prabhupada’s books, “Rajavidya” and “The Science of Self Realization”. I anticipate they will come to see our program, a first time “Festival de la Coultura Vedica” on the 26th.

The policy in Cuba is that permission is granted to any cultural presentation provided one applies in the appropriate way. People do practice various approaches to spirituality here in Cuba. In the building next to me a Baptist group sang “Hi ho!” from Snow White’s the seven dwarfs in the afternoon and by the evening it was Christmas carols. One block east of where I stay, the Methodist Church opens its door on Sundays for parishioners who burst out songs in praise of Jesus.

A tenant below my apartment caught my attention on my way out walking. He introduced himself as an eye and throat specialist. In perfect English, he expressed that he knew I represented an ancient culture and admitted that his country could learn so much from the ancient tradition of India. One thing that Cuba can’t learn from India is to be on time for functions. Three of our performers came late for practice. Our Canadian contingent was punctual along with three locals, but the balance, well, I guess you joke about it a bit. It’s volunteer work and nothing is contractual. You can only quote from “The Gita” where God says, “I am time” and try to honour it. If anyone has a solid solution for the notoriously late, please share it with me. I would be grateful.

4 Km

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Cast, Cars and Cassava

Havana Cuba

While waiting for rain to subside during our morning walk Janardan, Julan and I squatted under an awning by an eatery when a man offered me a coffee. He was very dark in complexion and he slid his index finger from the back of his wrist along to the back of his hand while saying in Spanish,” if you take this coffee your skin will get dark.”

“Muchos gracias,” I said, “but no!” It was said by him as a friendly gest and one I couldn”t take offense to. I could have said, “ I liked the way my parents packaged me,” but how could I when he meant no malice and was only trying to break ice.

In the afternoon our group took to serious practice of the drama “El Gita” in the hall where we will perform on Saturday. In the basement of this venue break dancers moved to the blaring sound of “Thriller” while we were getting heightened thrills with our work out. The art director of the place, Alejandro, a young fellow, spontaneously decided to join our group. His movements were great and hence, he got cast as Arjuna. That’s one way to make friends and expose folks to Vedic culture.

The food can be a little bland in Cuba. Thanks to Mr. Mandala whom we saw at the Indian embassy. He gave us a present of fresh curry leaves taken from a tree on the grounds. Indian spices are hard to come by in Cuba. Mandala has ginger and cumin sent in from Trinidad.

Our evening ended with a meal at the home of a sympathizer. She has been chanting the Maha-mantra. Her food was packed with devotion and starch - sticky rice and cassava. To complement the whitish preps she served fresh water cress and organic tasty tomato juice. Yummy to that! Somehow or other my stomach took really well to the meal which I topped off with slices of local and flavourful Papaya.

On our drive home Jettu and I were guessing the year of each vintage car we saw along the way. We were spot on with the decade but off with the year according to our cab driver.

8 Km

Sunday, December 20th 2009

Bhakti cuts down Fear and Pain

Toronto Ontario

I have no mileage to report so far as walking is concerned. I can’t boast even having walked a half of a city block. It was a day jam-packed with devotional activities. Sometimes it’s like that. Because it was bhakti oriented or devotion oriented there was nothing that has gone in vain.

In the text Nectar of Devotion, bhakti is identified as that activity that excites the Divine. It gains for the practitioner, company with the Divine. One also achieves a protection from fear. And as stated in Chapter 2 of the Gita there is no loss or diminution on this path. One way to look at fear is as follows: it’s the worrisome uncertainty to fear an uncomfortable future. It is the intense anxiety of losing, something, perhaps even life itself (the body). There is an extended fear that the coming body will be fraught with so much suffering.

And who wants suffering?

One devotee gave me a lift from one speaking event to take me to the next and he expressed “You never got married you avoided so much suffering,” admitting that although his own marriage is relatively successful it is still a bumpy ride. To this I responded, “life-long celibacy is not for everyone but it suits some of us.” I indicated that if you can tough it out and emphasize bhakti you certainly can reduce some pain.

0 km

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Having It In Havana

Havana, Cuba

Weather reports on this first official day of winter tell that major snow storms hit Canada in the far east and also in the north east of the U.S including New York and D.C. We are not affected as we are headed south to Havana and are avoiding the oncoming snowstorm for central Canada.

“We” means four of us: Jettu, Nitai Priya, Hrdai Gauranga, and I. We are set out to prepare for the “Festival de la Cultural Vedica” which includes dance, kirtan (chanting), and a drama “The Gita”. As we disembark from flight 970 Air Canada, an elderly woman asked, “Do you mind if I ask what regimen you belong to?”

“Hare Krishna! I’m a monk. It’s an old tradition from India.” “Yes, I’ve heard of it,” she said.

At the pick up carousel a man who teaches high school up in the far north at Hudson Bay asked if I had come to Cuba for the first time. “No it’s my third time. We are here to stage a show on Vedic culture.” Eli was interested in attending. “Where and when is it being held?” I was embarrassed. I didn’t know the details. “I’m just glad we made it.” We chuckled and then I gave him my email address. Our group had met with our devotee friends in Havana at the airport. Janardana, Julan Yatra and Chaitanya Priya got acquainted with us. We settled down, ate and discussed the coming show for the 26th. Our eager legs were beckoned to the Malacone the passageway along the north shore with its crashing and splashing waves. A young Ricardo, 27, followed us. It was his birthday and he was looking for something interesting to do and see, so he started talking as we walked. He became our first local amigo on this trip.

The group also visited a Santeria session. drumming and singing went on as an offering to the goddess Oshun. “No Photos allowed.” They were told during the ceremony. Participants were kind. Some paraphenalia with snakeskin was attached at the entrance to keep evil and enemies out.

Our group was really enjoying day 1 of the Cuba trip. I was too.

10 Km

Monday, 21 December 2009

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

The Moving Soul

Burlington, Ontario

The Olympic torch went pass me again two days after I first accidentally stumbled upon it. This time having completed a brisk walk with Dr. Pandith and son by the crashing waves of Lake Ontario the Olympic runner came right on queue.

It’s interesting how timing works. Without anyone’s planning other than God’s a woman passed away and hours later a baby girl was born, both occurrences took place within our community. Vaishali an 8 pounder took birth to Savysacin (dad) and Shyamevari (mom).

These are all scenarios of souls traveling. Who is to say that it could be the same soul leaving one body and taking the opportunity to enter into another within the same community.

Several years ago a personal friend, Jonathan Kay produced an excellent documentary on reincarnation called “Waiting after Midnight”. He came to Toronto to see me while on an assignment to interview K.D. Lang the well known singer. K.D. Born in 1962 was convinced that she is Patsy Cline, the country singer, in her previous life. Ms. Cline died in a plane crash in ’62. That’s interesting isn’t it?

Ringo Star narrates “Waiting after Midnight”. It’s a real entertaining piece of footage and a real lively endorsement for the concept of reincarnation, the soul’s transmigration.

7 Km

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Friday, December 20th, 2009

What Will Become of Us?

Toronto, Ontario

To Sick Children’s Hospital I went on foot with my god brother Krsnadas. We went in good stride talking about the world: the border dispute between China and India; the trillions of dollars of American debt; Copenhagen environmental discussion; the-all- things-made-in- China problem; the tar sands of Alberta; troops to Afghan; the troubled times of Tiger Woods. We concluded that it is indeed a crazy world we live in.

As Krsnadas put it, “We are headed off to seeing big changes in the world – in our lifetime and worse to come, beyond our life time.”

With the direction the world is taking I couldn’t agree more. What are we to make of the incredible demographical changes taking place? The white community appears less keen on family. The numbers are diminishing. The Islamic community is swelling in the world and in North America. What will all this mean in ten or twenty years from now?

What has man learned from past wars, dissensions and territorialism, from rampant diseases, famines and such?

Krsnadas and I parted at his workplace, Sick Children’s Hospital. As I left the building and took in a breathe of fresh air I looked up in the sky where clouds scudded by to sneak behind skyscrapers. I asked God, “What will become of us and the world?”

In the mean time we can immerse ourselves in chanting and surrender to the name.

8 Km

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A Fiery Dream

Toronto. Ontario

I took to a speedy trek down a quiet ravine over bumpy ice and then through park paths and into a busy Christmas traffic to finally stumble upon the World Olympics torch runner. Yonge Street was pedestrian-happy to watch the procession of hype over the big games to take place in Vancouver.

The torch has been making its way across Canada which is a lengthy process (take it from an old pro having walked it thrice). Seeing that torch conjured up thoughts of the god Agni and how vital is his presence at Vedic ceremonies; of ancient Greece where mega competitive sport may have taken birth for the western world; of succession, the passing of a baton in a race or empowering the new king by way of passing a crown, father to son. I was also reminded about inheritances and of disciplic succession when a sisya (student) becomes a guru (teacher) who teaches a student who eventually becomes a guru.

I did not stay long enough or follow the runner behind his feet to watch a passing of the torch. There was a lot of excitement in the air and people surely perked up to see that fire coming southbound on Yonge. There is a vibration of an anticipated party, and that, it seems, breaks the monotony.

I sigh and wish that even a small investment of spiritual practice could make its way to the public, breaking the boredom. Let the sports go on, but let the spirit go on as well to greater heights.

The flames faded away and eventually became buried by police flashing lights. It represents a dream.

8 km

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

The Secret of the Gift

Toronto, Ontario

I’ve known Leena Taneja since she was a little girl. She is the daughter of the temple president here in Toronto – Subuddhi, and she has become a theologian, a scholar and a teacher at Stetson University in Deland Florida. I really enjoyed reading her recent paper “The secret of ‘The gift’ in the Bengali Vaishnava Tradition.” It has appeared in the journal of Vaishnava Studies, volume 18 no.1

It is December and in Canada where 60% of the people claim to be Christian there is in their tradition the enactment of gift giving although the exchange of presents is not exclusive to the Christian world.

Here is an excerpt from that paper that I found very endearing.

“After recalling these childhood days together, Krishna cheekily asked his friend (Sudhama): “What present have you brought for me? Even the slightest offering- a particle given with affection from my devotee is considered by me as very great.” Embarrassed by his paltry gift, Sudama merely hangs his head. Krishna understanding his mind, snatches the gift of parched rice (which was tied up in a rag) from under the clothes of Sudama, and begins eating it with great satisfaction. Krishna takes a second handful of rice to eat when he’s stopped by Rukmini who tells him the handful of rice he has eaten is more than sufficient in granting Sudama all kinds of wealth and prosperity in return.

The next morning Sudama sets off for his return journey home. He did not ask anything from Krishna in return but was satisfied thinking about the time they spent together.

When he arrives home, he discovers that his old dwelling has been replaced by a palace surrounded by pleasure gardens, pools, and many attendants. The Brahmin’s wife is marvelously transformed in to a beautiful maiden. Sudama realizes that his unexpected prosperity is due to his dear friend Lord Krishna. The story ends with Sudama thinking the following words, ”Although what he gives is immensely abundant, he looks upon it as very little. And whatever insignificant gift is offered by his friend, he regards as very great. That high-souled affectionate friend accepted with pleasure the meager handful of parched, flattened rice that I offered him.”

4 Km

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I won’t forget the Imagery

Regina & Toronto

I was not able to take to walking in Regina for the morning due to the recent dip in temperatures, that I had planned to do once I arrived in Toronto. I had come to a moment of boredom on Westjet flight 110 when I got curious about the screen in front of me. Believe me television is more boring than boredom itself. Nothing stimulating! And I’m so glad I left TV behind 37 years ago.

What did catch my eye on the screen was the National Geographic channel and a scene –an impression of Mother Nature’s teaching that I’ll soon not forget. It was caught on film taken in Kruger National Park in South Africa. I put on head phones to listen. And here was the image and the subsequent lesson I learned.

A herd of water Buffalo were making their way down the trail next to a river. Three or four lionesses were crouched low for the oncoming herd and their color was well blending in to the earth tone environment. The alpha male buffalo saw the lioness posed to run and pounce. The big bull turned around while two more adults and a meaty calf did also. The chase was on by the feline animals who were headed straight for the calf. The calf slipped by the river bank and fell into the water. Three or so lionesses pounced and dug into the calve’s flesh to penetrate and attempt to cut off circulation. A crocodile appeared and clutched onto the calf and a tug of war began- lion against croc. The lions pulled the calf out of the water. With the film frame you could now see a massive herd of buffalo. They came to the sight of injury.

Now you would think that the calf would be finished. But no! That calf survived, got up on limping legs and sprang back to safety –the herd.

The moderator asked the viewer what he got out of the episode. What I surmised was that the calf survived on the basis of not just the physical aid from the herd but the vibe of encouragement.

When encouragement comes in the form of a great collective effort nothing can stand in its way. It was just an incredible sight.
“I wonder if we humans encourage each other enough”

8 Km

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Krishna Yuletide

Regina, Saskatchewan

Victoria mall was my venue for walking for an hour. People from the edge of Regina and local farmers come to shop here. Santa Clauses’ seat was ready for him and a spectacular set of mock reindeer taking off in the sky was the backdrop in the warm corridor of the mall. In the absence of the guy in red was the guy in orange who got the attention. Sorry Santa!

For me to say “Merry Christmas was the natural ice breaker for people. To that they would say, “Thank-you”. It would get the smile out. As I paced up and down one woman just had to ask, “how much distance do you have to cover in a day?”

Here she broke the ice, and then we talked.

A member of the mall staff broke the ice too, “looks like you’re warming up?” he assumed. We talked.

It was mid-day and it was good being out, or rather, where people converge.

My host in Regina is Jagannatha aka Jai Ram a Krishna devotee in his seventies and one of the foremost palm readers in the Canadian prairies. He took me to attend a funeral for a doctor in the community. It was a Muslim ceremony and many people turned up to offer condolences. May Allah keep and watch over him.

Jagannatha then drove us home where his wife Cintamoni started cooking for an evening get together. It was great seeing Jim (now Jagadish) make spiritual progress. After 35 years of working for the government he retired and decided to give more time to Krishna, which is a different name for the same god, Allah.

Jagadish, Dinesh, Jai Ram, Cintamoni, daughter Kavita and I ornamented a Christmas tree (Kavita’s wish) while we chanted and enjoyed each other’s devotional company. The prasadam (Krishna food) was great but for me the icing on the cake (or the star on the Christmas tree) was everyone’s singing the maha-mantra to the tune of “Amazing grace”.

3 Km

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Cold and Warm

Saskatoon, Regina

At minus 50 degrees Celsius, like now, you cannot go out for a walk. You will get frost bite after a few minutes of exposure, I have had the experience. One day in Winnipeg’s winter my fingers were exposed when opening the hood of a vehicle. I had to look inside the vehicle’s guts without gloves. Three minutes later I could not bear the chill, and had to run inside. Two days later the outer tissue of my fingertips had gone dead, the skin had turned white and started to peel off. I decided to be wise and cautious about prairie winter chill in the future.

Kasyapa and I settled for walking inside the arm corridor of the Lawson Heights mall the last two mornings. It’s not ideal but that’s what walkers do around here when weather poses problems.
I had given a talk at the Laxmi Narayana temple. It was an orientation day for me as I never really got to know this community before. It was a good crowd, mostly professional people also mixed as far as ethnicity is concerned. I found a similar dynamic at ISKCON Regina temple. There some bohemian – hippie free spirits made up part of the mix. They fueled everyone with their powerful dance moves.

The talk in Regina was based on verse 9:2 of the Bhagavad-Gita, the same verse I chose to speak from in Saskatoon which is a three hour drive from Regina. We attempted to elucidate on the phrases, “King of Knowledge” and “Most secret of all secrets” . Krishna himself says, “People look on the soul as amazing and yet some even after consideration of the soul’s presence cannot appreciate it at all.“ The Gita’s subject matter is for all but not everyone warms up to it. In other words, not everyone is ready to receive.

3 Km

Saturday, December 12th, 2009


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

There is a massive bust sculpture of Gandhi on second ave. in Saskatoon’s downtown. The inside folds of his chuddar (shawl) Harbor deposits of snow. The piece is made of black material and it offers a very dramatical effect with the black and white contrast. The caption below reads, “nonviolence” a signature message of the mahatma. Actually the word mahatma appears in the Gita more than once, in 7;19 we have the verse, “after many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto me (Krishna), knowing me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul (mahatma) is very rare.”

We find the term mahatma again appearing in 9:13, “Oh son of Prtha, those who are not diluted the great souls (mahatma) are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because the know me Krishna as the supreme Personality of Godhead original and inexhaustible.”

With regards to Gandhi the honorific term mahatma, may be stretching the truth here if we look at the Gita’s definition. According to the Gita, Gandhi does not earn the title, although he was a very passive activist and renowned humanitarian. In some way he put India on the map for much of the western world. He can also be applauded for his efforts in the direction of self -sustaining communities.

Gandhi hailed from Gujarat. This evening Kasyapa my host invited some Gujarati folks to his apartment. The highest percentage of them recently moved to the city from elsewhere in the country. They were specifically invited to hear me give a message from the Gita, which they did relish very much.

6 Km

Monday, 14 December 2009

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Sri Krishna is coming to Town


I spent the earlier part of the day scouting Saskatoon’s downtown on foot. My reason being is I have high hopes for this city in the near future. A seasoned devotee of Krishna who is from the Greater Toronto Area, has moved here recently. This means Krishna Consciousness will open it’s doors to this smart looking city in the prairies. Maybe I should put it in the opposite way, Saskatoon will open offer it’s welcome to Krishna Consciousness. My going about on foot is a way of checking the pulse of the city.

In the summer of 2006 I did walk through Saskatoon, on my third Canadian pilgrimage. At that time I was hoping and wishing that some presence of Krishna would make its way here. Now, with the presence of my host, Kasyapa Muni who has recently taken up work here and after having run a successful program of devotional gatherings in his former home. He will now duplicate the same here.

It is our ambition to offer the opportunity to the residence of this fine city the message of Krishna, found in his book Bhagavad-Gita. The public revels in the diversity of choice about lifestyle. Now the choice will be expanded. Although I haven’t as yet checked out the active yoga societies here, there is always room for more of Krishna’s words on the bhakti approach, the way of devotion. .

I was rather bundled up in winter attire while trekking through minus 20 degrees weather for three hours in the downtown area, on the trails of the south Saskatchewan river. I’m happy to be here in anticipation for Krishna Consciousness to be established here in the near future.

12 Km

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Cool and Kind

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I am often times reminded how important kindness is in dealings and interactions with others. This reminder comes from pedestrians themselves. Kindness is a saintly trait. Some people will dismiss encouraging remarks or helping gestures and just common courtesy. Even so, common courtesy is a mark of goodness.

While walking some residential streets in Toronto the former evening after hours of indoor service I was highly impressed with kind remarks of snow shovelers as I walked by. Here in Saskatoon city and in the province of the land of the living skies fellow pedestrians were so friendly despite low temperatures outside.

Without introduction an elderly man saw me and remarked, “It’s easier going the other direction (referring to the strong head wind I was battling)”. He didn’t have to say anything at all which is the approach or modus operandi of a lot of big city folk.

I had asked at a Husky gas station how to get to the downtown? A customer at the store who overheard the conversation immediately responded, “I can drive you there.” That remark plus frequent smiles and greetings are more prevalent in small places like this one (after all, whoever heard of Saskatoon?)

After being in the business so to speak, of spirituality for three and a half decades and having witnessed behaviour of a large spectrum of people I have concluded this; those who smile and are cordial and go out of their way to be helpful are usually very productive and liked by all. If I can be so bold as to say - they are close to God in nature.

Someone may argue, “You are speaking mode of goodness terms. Indifference and transcendence are superior.” I have heard that type of attitude and I beg to differ.

Our Guru Srila Prabhupada demonstrated these acts of so called mundane goodness, such as smiling and politeness all of the time, to the exception of gravity and sternness when needed to be applied. And so I stand on affirmed affirmation that kindness kills and that it is cool to be that way. You might check your own environment and ask if there is any killer-kind place or is just tolerable. If tolerable why not change the environment and become a killer kind artist.

7 Km

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

37 years ago

Toronto Ontario

It was 37 years ago at Christmas time that 5 monks came into my life to change me forever. Their names - Visvakarma, Ayodhyapati (now Bhakti Brngha Govinda Swami), Satyohit, Dustadura and Drupada. It was in a mining town, Sudbury the nickel capital of the world, that I first met these boys with their extraordinary names. I had been searching and trying to find myself in those months as an art student roaming some of those streets when one day in December I acquired a "Bhagavad-gita".

This joyful group of monks were chanting and drumming in front of a downtown mall when Visvakarma's arm extended out with that unique book with two unfamiliar characters on its front cover. There was some exchange of words. I asked "how much?"

"Give what you can. Five dollars is pretty standard ", said the smiling Visvakarma.

I was interested in the monks as much as I was in the book. They had been staying in a church’s basement, courtesy of a minister. But they were interested in my offer to stay at my apartment for the night. That night the five monastic shaved headed men came over to the large room. My room-mate, Michael, was gone for the weekend. His marijuana plant in the apartment caught the attention of the visitors. They remarked that it should be a tulasi plant.

"What's a tool-si?" I asked.

And so they remarked about this plant of India held sacred for thousands of years.


That night all six of us crammed in the room to rest. I slept not a wink. My world of wonder and indecision was spinning at an incredible velocity. When they awake they showered and wrapped their robes around themselves preparing themselves for what they called a sadhana. I hoped it wasn't going to be something sad.
Visvakarma conducted a class. The men all prayed on their rosaries after which Ayodhya read a story to me "The gopis attracted by the flute of Krishna".

"Whoever wrote that has a wild imagination", I thought.

By noon the men were on their way home to their ashram in Toronto. That brief stay impacted me so much. I became an instant vegetarian. I started chanting on beads and started to get clean about everything. I read a lot. I constantly looked at a picture of the monks' teacher.

I had written a letter to Visvakarma asking him "Why does maya (illusion) exist?" His answer -"To protect Krishna from those who were insincere", he replied.

Since that time I have been having a good fight with maya.

5 Km

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The Spirit For All Seasons

Calgary, Alberta

As I walk around areas of retail I see a mix of moods. Some people seem to have got it, the Christmas spirit, that is: There is something cheerful that they have picked up, and that does take some will. It’s not that it always comes natural. An effort is made. As in the life of St. Nicholas, whose birth anniversary just past on Dec.6, there are multiple stories telling of his kindness and humanity disposition.

Then there are those who sustain, not just at Christmas, but year round, an air of scrooginess or gringeness. I have even encountered members of the vaisnava community who chant mantras but have missed the boat due to a pejorative mentality. Apparently some of us are not too attentive to offences that can be committed while chanting that greatest of all carols, the Hare Krishna mantra.

With chanting and serving others we are meant to combat the sour mentality towards others especially those who make such a deliberate effort to change hearts. It seems that some people make it a mission in life to do character assassination. Might we say that media is often times guilty of this and they offer little balance of the good that does go on.

Some people just don’t get it. There’s a curse of grumpiness that persists throughout the seasons and it is difficult to be in such a bitter atmosphere. It is most non- conducive for making spiritual progress in such an environment. Even in a mundane scenario where there’s a grouch how can you be a productive person?

There is so much to be grateful for. We need only to remind ourselves of this everyday of our life.

5 Km

Monday, December 7th, 2009

A White Furry Night

Calgary, Alberta

The place just becomes a frozen wonder. At pre-dawn hours at 30 degrees below Celsius it is no surprise that everything is still and quiet. But wait! My eyes did catch a glimpse of a moving white ball in the distance at ground level. As I got closer it became obvious what it was- a massive white rabbit. It seemed he and I were the only animate anything at this time of day. Only I’m walking and he’s hopping. I’m chanting to gain peace. He’s moving to gain a piece of something-something to eat no doubt.

“Hello! And Haribol! My furry friend!”, I said.

No response. No reciprocation. In fact he went in the opposite direction. It’s understandable. I’m human and I’m bad (at least in his mind).

In the same neighbourhood, now in nighttime darkness I was driven by my Calgary host, Radha Madhava, and family to the home of a Bengali household for a gathering of Vaisnavas (devotees). People really got packed in. It makes for a cozy evening. Each time the door opened for a guest to enter our gathering room received an amazing dry ice effect from the outside air. Talk about ambiance.

It was a dramatical reading of “Krisha In Indraprastha City” that kept our gathering focused. At the end I made a pitch for distributing Bhagavad-Gitas. I held high in hand a Gita and challenged the group if any one would volunteer to make “the cold sale”, so to speak, by enticing the next door neighbour to accept the book and also offer something for the printing of a new book.

A man out of the crowd volunteered. He took the Gita, put on his jacket and went boldly for the mercy as we applauded his boldness. We were left in suspense. Our volunteer came back all smiles and showed up empty armed except for a donation from the recipient. We all cheered him on his first attempt at this.

The evening program wrapped up rather late up to the time white rabbits take over the night as humans take their rest.

7 Km

Monday, 7 December 2009

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

A little push

Edmonton, Calgary

It was dark at 5am. Wind was biting the nose with its chill. The temperature was about 20 degrees Celsius below. I was walking near white mud drive in Edmonton’s Southern side maneuvering myself on foot from sidewalk to street wherever there was a passage of plowed snow.

Then I saw a motorist in trouble his wheels were spinning but not moving forward. In the attempt he was getting more and more buried Like a victim of quicksand. The more he struggled to free himself the more quickly he sank. It was a remote area and very quiet at this hour, the poor guy just needed a push. He revved up. I pushed….Voila! He moved forward inching away and Eventually sped off.

“Thanks!” he shouted in appreciation after rolling down his windows.

“No problem”, I shouted in return.

To draw an analogy; we all get stuck in a body and our actions plunge us deeper into a mire unless of course someone comes along to yank us out.

Thinking of the motorist I told myself , “I’m so glad I don’t own a vehicle”, I have to think twice, "but I do have one – this body". Better to get unstuck and work my way towards a spiritual body”. My rationale then brought me to the point of, “Well that’s why I’m out here chanting I’m not just walking, I’m out here in the cold chanting towards freedom”

I spent the morning and evening in Edmonton/ Calgary speaking to a community in each city about sharing or to put it in other terms, giving each other a little push. How do you do that? Share information, I quoted verses from the Bhagavad- Gita about the benevolence about sharing wisdom. 18.68-70 go as follows; “ For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees pure devotional service is guaranteed and in the end he will come back to me. There is no servant in this world more dear to me than he nor will there ever be one more dear. And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation of our, worships me by his intelligence.“


The Gita could make a great Christmas gift for someone.

7 Km

Friday, December 4th, 2009

In The Right Queue

Edmonton Alberta

“I would really like to wear saffron cloth someday soon”, expressed a young man, Nelson from BC who recently joined our Montreal center. He walked with me a stretch expressing his desire to switch from his white robe to the cheerful saffron color.

“Just be patient and the color will come. Work these details with your mentor in Montreal what does he say? “

“After six months I can change.” He said.

“More important than the color is our eagerness to serve”, I said in pep talk to him.

“Saffron tint as you know is for one in a serious celibate role and if you desire to be married then you go back to white. But remember dress is external. It’s what is in the heart that counts.”

I appreciated he was eager to jump at the next step on the ladder of spiritual evolution. At least he had incentive. He was standing in the right queue to develop his spirituality.

Speaking of standing in the appropriate queue that evening I was waiting at the wrong departure gate for a flight to Edmonton I was paged over the speaker in the airport but I could not hear the page. Finally I was found by an airport assistant. One thing led to another and I just made it on time to an Air Canada flight. Slightly embarrassed I stepped onto the plane and was greeted by a smiling caucasian flight attendant, who said : “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare"

She had the whole mantra down I was astounded! Most people don’t get beyond saying "Hare Krishna”

I say she was standing in the right queue.


Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Powerful Things

Edmonton Alberta

Alberta got clobbered last night not as in “ beatin’ in a hockey game” . No! The province received a deluge of snow. It is a special privilege to live in the stormy North where this most white of all white substance sometimes comes sideways. It’s an opportunity for service.

I decided to dawn pants to shovel out the stuff which was blocking the entrance to the Radha Govinda centre. It felt good clearing the powdery substance like doing away with heaps of karma.

Snow is invigorating to be in as you trudge through fresh fall of it you hear the crunching sound under your feet if the word clean has a sound then that might be it.

Snow flows down speed but hey we all need to slow down anyway the world moves too fast. Snow imposes upon us a reduction in speed weather pedestrian or motorist. It seems to teach us patience. As a high wind that delivers the snow also seems to reduce speed. As powerful as the magpie flies even he cannot perfectly steer through the high velocity of the wind force. One magpie whizzed by me and almost got brushed away by the power of the wind. He seemed to thrive on that though .

Despite nasty weather conditions twenty people came to the centre in the evening I engaged them in group memorization of verse 10:20 from Bhagavad-Gita. We discussed the verse and then enjoyed prasadam (blessed food). Cooks here tend to go overboard on the powerful chilies; nothing to do with trying to combat the cold. It’s purely out of habit.


I start the day with snow and I end up with a bunch of chilies.

4 Km

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Feel For Others

Toronto, Ontario

“There is this phrase, Para duhka dukhi,” I said over the phone.

“ Can you say that again, please Maharaja?” said the caller in a genuine curious tone.

And So I repeated it, “para dukha dukhi, which means that a saint is pained to see others in pain. For himself he feels less concern but when he witnesses the anguish that people go through it compels him or her to do something to help.”
The caller was pleased to learn of this new “mantra.” He found it very profound and would attempt to apply this natural born anguish that we have for ourselves and then transfer it over to someone else. Compassion would be a word to describe the concern we have over others who struggle.

Being that it is Christmas it becomes a very appropriate time to demonstrate this compassion. Not the very best comes out in people this time of year. The pressure is on to put yourself in debt over gifts which many folks are not able to afford. It doesn’t take much to walk the street and see the tormented brow on the public. If the face is the index of the mind then it is at this time of the year that faces express the blues more than a happy cheerfulness.

“Can you say that again once more? I’ll write it down this time”, the caller said.

“Para duhka dukhi,” is what I recited again. Let’s have a feeling for others. Let’s feel their pain and the effect is that your problems become trivial.

3 Km

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

December Dissemination

Toronto, Ontario

On the day prior I had watched two brahmacaris (monks) and heard of more heading out with books in their arms off on a marathon mission. I was in Argentina, Buenos Aries, to be more specific, when I saw Prema, a young energetic monk, leaving to catch a bus for another part of the city to partake in a world-wide effort to give the world a higher consciousness through book distribution. They are not ordinary books but publications of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

I also watched at least two similar devotees return to their home temple in Toronto after I arrived back home. They came back with less weight under their arms having indulged happy takers to the same BBT books, this time in English whereas Spanish was the medium the day before. In two continents I saw the same enthusiastic energy being generated towards the aim of distributing these very special books.

December has been declared the month for promoting this literature of higher consciousness in Krishna Conscious circles. Our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, creator of the BBT, worded his intent on raising the world’s quality of life through book distribution. He wrote about the purpose of his society in the seven statements beginning with 1`) To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the technique of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.

And statement 7) With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines books and other writings.

These mission statements, if you will, are the driving forces behind all the eagerness to disseminate this knowledge of transcendence .

8 Km

Friday, 4 December 2009

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

On Parting

Buenos Aries, Argentina

Our morning classes have echoed the message of parting on good terms with loved ones and leaving a trail of sadness. From Canto one of the sacred book Bhagavatham we have been reading and discussing the departure of Krishna for the city of Dwarka after He spent quality time with friends in Hastinapura, now known as Delhi. His leaving for his own abode after giving comfort and association to friends and family were parting moments very hard for some to bear. Such feelings of separation are acknowledged as the most endearing of all sentiments in the realm of devotional relationships.

There can be no comparison between the parting of Krishna from His confidential associates and my leaving my South American friends, but for what it’s worth I did leave with a weighty heart. For those I trekked with and those I dramatized with and those I chanted with, and above all those I just sat down with over meal time. It was out of duty and upcoming commitments that put me on that plane to return home. It wasn’t my heart. So until a full year gap, “Adios” to brothers and sisters of Buenos Aries where the air is good beyond the city.

If comparisons are to be drawn at all it would be the natural rainbow that was my last image before entering the terminal for Delta Airlines. Krishna was compared to rainbow in the Vedas. When he appeared in the world he gave human semblance but in fact he demonstrated super-human qualities. It appeared he was attached to the world of bondage as we are and just as the arch of a rainbow appears to be bound at its two ends by string. Anyone knows that if you walk to the end of the rainbow you will find nothing to force its anchorage. No string, no rope, no means whatsoever could bind Krishna to this world.

By the time I embarked on the plane there was no chance to see that rainbow. But it will return and again I will see my amigos again.

5 Km

Monday, November 30th, 2009

A Trek and a Visit

Bernal, Argentina

Just prior to departing from Bernal, a neighboring city, I took a trek 2 blocks form the temple when a man and woman sitting in a small office for a car business beckoned me forward. Despite the great language barrier it posed no barrier whatsoever. I tried to decipher what they were saying in Spanish and for the most part I was able to mime my way through or illustrate through sound.

First, they wanted to know what order I belonged to. They assumed it was a Christian order.

“No! Krishna! Christ, “I explained by drawing with my finger invisible ink on the wall, “ is 2000 anos. Krishna is 5000 anos. Krishna form India.”

“Si! Si! Si!” they replied.

They tried to ask if I was married by indicating holding a baby in arms. I said no. “I am a monk.”

“Si! Si!”

They asked what we eat. I indicated through mime and sound “No chickens, no pigs, and no cows.” The couple went hysterically happy and could understand. I invited them to the temple for Sunday. “Templo, Domingo!”

“Si! Si! Si!”

“Adios Amigos!”

“Adios!” They responded with oceanic smiles.

After this episode of making friends a taxi was ready to take my assistant, Janmastami, and I to a large extended family situation at the home of Jiva Goswami in Bernal. The family mentioned a bit about the settlement’s history. In the days of Colonialism the British attacked the alliance of Spanish and natives but had to retreat twice. Hot boiling oil being flung in the air was one of the strategies used to ward off British invaders.

Our real focus for the evening was singing songs from Bhaktivinoda Thankur, a bhakti master, and speaking about our personal devotion as likened to a vine that grows and takes daily watering through mantra power. The toughest battle is within and not without and devotional chanting can bring the chanter to a victory situation.

6 Km

Sunday, November, 29th, 2009

Distractions and Reactions

Buenos Aries, Argentina

One person mentioned to me that there had been some public outcry about the city’s billboards that advertise photogenic women and men promoting underwear. For motorists it becomes a distraction to see these huge blown up, sex in the face images. (Sounds like a monk’s complaint). Accidents have occurred. For pedestrians it becomes less of an issue. You have to have your eyes on the sidewalk. Dog dung is rather plentiful on the residential sidewalks and you want to be careful otherwise you lose your traction on the stuff. In the pre-dawn hour I brought a miniature flashlight as my “dung detector” so I demonstrated it to a group of brahmacaris with me. We started our jaunt with a giggle.

We made our way to the university grounds. Some residential party-goers shouted obscenities in Spanish. Another car load of the same genre of people gave out a boisterous, “Allah!” thinking we were Muslims. At least the last remark was complimentary.

The previous day’s Ratha Yatra event drew a lot of interest to the evening Sunday program at the new temple location. Some candidates from the community became newly initiated. Hanumatpresaka Swami’s message was strongly putting emphasis on the wish of our guru to continue treading the path of past masters which was to have students who will then become gurus/teachers themselves. In our Krishna society, Prabhupada remains as the dominant guru.

The ceremony culminated with a powerful kirtan (chanting) led by colleague, Ajamila, also from Canada.

Kirtan is like a panacea. It gets the mind off illicit sex and the dancing accompanying it is a million times more fun than sliding in dung.

5 Km

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Hard Work Paid Off

Buenos Aries, Argentina

It is ironic that a traditional Ratha Yatra (Chariot Festival) based so much on sound has sometimes flaws with sound systems. After a hard walk through busy shopping streets with a group of devotees we arrived at the sight of the procession’s starting point at 3 pm, the official starting time. Proper microphone equipment didn’t arrive until much later on. A similar occurrence took place for the stage show at Plaza Francia. Our drama “La Era de Kali” which carries a powerful message about mantra sound transforming the individual, had all kinds of sound technical difficulties. The performers demonstrated their resilience through that though, bless their hearts.

I was really proud of the group for their fixation on the delivery of their characters. It was miraculous that they mastered memorizing their lines and dance steps all in two and a half days for this 50 minute production. They all worked hard, under time pressure, twelve hours each day. Our leading man, Jorge, a professional actor, remarked that he loved the devotional environment. In fact he said he left acting behind “because of the contaminating self-centered atmosphere.”

Our guru congratulated a group of his students when they took drama seriously in a production, “The Pandavas Retire Timely.” I will always remember how he desired to do things first class. Frankly our actors in Argentina needed one more week to perfect their delivery but we did endeavor to bring it to tip top shape as close as possible.

The crowded outdoor audience was transfixed on drama and chanting. I walked back to the ashram, a good 6 Km with a helpful assistant, Janmastami, in high spirits.

14 Km

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Buenos Aires, Argentina

One truly beautiful aspect of travelling is the association you acquire. For a swami it means connecting with a vast assortment of people and when your accommodation is usually an ashram or temple situation you are likely to meet some spiritually evolved people. One great soul whom I sometimes bump into at Miami is Prabhupada Das who hails from New York. He is in Argentina for three months.

Before he committed to the life of a monk he had a colorful past. He was telling me about his more frivolous times as a hippie, but unlike many he did get legally married and took up jobs here and there. He managed to accumulated $2700 and with it he decided to take over a business run by hippies. This was in Boston on 95 Glenich Ave. The shop was a used furniture store that carried all kind of knick knacks. He bought the business: 1.) Because it was affordable; 2.) It was mystical as he saw pictures and books of Krishna in the shop (formerly Boston’s first Hare Krishna temple) and 3.) Along with the package deal came a real live monkey by the name of Mr. Zeek. The store was named “Zeek's Old Time Furniture.”

The rock band Aerosmith used to practice a floor above. Steve the band’s vocalist used to come to the shop to purchase hair dryers for $2 each. Prabhupada Das said of the band, “Talk about focus and 24/7 dedication. These guys were determined in their music. If only I could focus like that on Krishna!

The “Zeek’s” business expanded and it became a popular shop. “People thought I was Mr. Zeek, but actually Zeek was the monkey that was kept down in the basement. If there were any complaints and people would ask “where’s Zeek?” I would say his office is downstairs.”

Das explained that people would descend on a ladder to get there and then meet Zeek. They would come back up with all smiles and forget about their purchase complaint.”

It just so happened that Krishna devotees would come to the shop from time to time and eventually Prabhupada Das (formerly Salomon) got serious about spiritual life.

He shared with me more about his sojourn to God but that was colorful enough for now to allow my evening walk to have light thoughts on my mind.

4 Km

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Buenos Aires, Argentina

It becomes a difficult spot to be in when you’re locked inside a courtyard and when you’re an early riser and you want to hit the sidewalk for a walk in meditation. Well, no sense in getting frustrated. You do the next best thing, pace the courtyard. So with a hard pace back and forth I calculated 5 kilometers in this fashion. You heat up enough that you undo the top button of your kurta (shirt).

The rest of the virtual work out for the day came from rehearsals of the drama “Le Era de Kali”, which is being prepared for Saturday’s Rathayatra. The drama has incorporated in it the casting of very passionate characters and it is my job as director to demonstrate for the actors some of those passionate moves. Luckily I have a good group, all volunteers who work together in a most cohesive way. One of the actors, Prema brahmacari (monk) who resides in the local temple, and who is a natural born upcoming director told me, “I was this shy introvert of a kid but when I was ten I decided not to be so withdrawn, and so the outgoing side of me came out.”

One of the sannyasi friends that I associate with here in Argentina frequents South America and has an affinity for the stage, Hanumatpresaka Swami, told me that he has pieced together a script in Spanish for Hamlet/Arjuna. That’s interesting! I am hoping to see someday how he utilizes a line like “To be or not to be. That is the question.” I can certainly see a remark like that compatible to the character of Arjuna who finds himself in a major quandary.

For our drama practices we find ourselves rehearsing either in the temple room or on the roof top. The temple president, Mahahari, politely asked us not to be too loud. “We just received a document from the city indicating that after being tested for decibel levels that we are a quiet group. We don’t want any trouble with our neighbors.”

And so we have been good with sweating hard, making plenty of moves but keeping the volume down.

5 Km