Saturday, 27 February 2010

Wednesday, February, 24th, 2010

Your sacred space

Mayapur, West Bengal.

I don’t beleive it happens too often here in Mayapur but for the morning class a woman spoke. Urmila is a senior member of our society and a student of its founder, Srila Prabhupada. She spoke eloquently from the elevated seat we call the Vyasasana.

I came in a little late due to some preparation for the evening’s drama that I’m directing. When I entered the temple room I witnessed something which reminded me of the early 70’s in our temples of North America. Aside from Urmila’s polished message the placement of listeners numbering in the hundreds was very pleasing. I saw men including two or three sannyasis (monks) occupy half of this room while women occupied the other half, all seated on the floor in the lotus position. In other words the room was divided in half for the two genders instead of the usual men in front and women in the back. I liked it.

I percieved such an arrangement as fair, natural and conducive to today’s audience. I believe it sets a good standard for a modern world and also for an International head quarters of a spiritual organization.

So here was the scenario a qualified speaker delivered a message about building good relationships to a large body of people who had come from around the world. It was an inspiring event. It reminded me of the sacredness of sages coming together to hear about that which is important.

To quote Joseph Campbell, scholar of mythology “Your sacred space is the place where you meet yourself again and again.”

5 Km

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Property and Cloth

Mayapur, West Bengal

Tierry, from Mauritious and I were trekking through some of the fields (or on the edge of them) seeking short cuts to a clinic where our dear Dustin is dealing with treatment for his asthma. At one point I relayed a story to Tierry about our guru, Srila Prabhupada, who walked through a farmer's field. The owner came out to see the Swami. This took place in India. The man expressed his great appreciation to Prabhupada for blessing his property. After the farmer expressed himself like this Prabhupada made a comment to some of his students who were with him walking on the man's property. He said that in India when you do this they congratulate you but in the West if he was to walk on someone's land they would come at you with a shotgun.

Prabhupada illustrated the point of the different attitudes drawn from different cultures and India's unique place in the world as the land of dharma. It is the place of hospitality.

Meanwhile our dear Max who was walking between buildings came upon Lakshmi Priya, Mayapur's elephant. Lakshmi is taken daily by her trainer for walking and social interaction on the grounds. When Max got close, Lakshmi pulled at his fresh new dhoti (lower robes). She made a substantial tear and Max held on to his clothing for dear life. It was a surprise and unexpected for Max. Before she had a chance to take off with his entire protection max got himself free from her trunk. Whew! That was a close one!

After the ordeal Max showed me the damaged dhoti. "Hmmm! Very interesting, I though! Laksmi is very creative. The rip is substantial and she left a clear mud imprint on the white dhoti with the end of her moist trunk."

I believe that Max will take that cloth and frame it behind glass as a novelty item and posterity sake. It will be a reminder of the great pilgrimage that he partook in on this wonderful trip to India in 2010.

7 Km

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Monday, Febuary 22nd, 2010

Let's See

Mayapur, West Bengal

Hobbling out of a public bus were youthful pilgrims from the day's parikram. I overheard one of them say, "We just walked 14 kilometers." She looked exhausted but elated. Each day, hundreds of pilgrims set out at 5:30 AM from Mayapur to some destination- a sight connected to the pastimes of Chaitanya or anything where there had been spiritual enactment, a miracle, an auspicious event, or a great revelation.

The weary travellers who are escorted on bus and then left to roam in massive numbers do come back having experienced a purging for the day.

Only drama rehearsals restrict me from participating in what I like to do although these walkers encounter something different than myself. I'm accustomed to going on marathon levels alone or with an occasional comrade. Plus I will start my trekking early to beat the heat. Whatever the approach, the result is the same. These pilgrimage walks have their purpose and that is to cleanse the participant. It is notably a way to learn detachment; a way to see the spirit behind all that passes by you.

Pilgrimage is the aspect of life that is virtually unknown to modern man who is bound up in his greed. He will go great lengths to fly to Vegas or some other place of self-aggrandizement. What would such a man know of such luminaries as Balaram, Vidura, Narada who traveled from sacred ground to sacred ground? Will that time come when the general populace will know this missing link-this most wholesome fortune of life? Perhaps such a craving for the soul to journey on foot will come sooner than later.

Let's see what happens to the social change of our modern world. I would like to see Barack Obama on such walks of enlightenment.

7 KM

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Offense Perception

Mayapur, West Bengal

I wasn't going to tolerate it anymore. Midway through the ceremony (Mangal arati) in honour of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, people were leaving the samadhi temple. Of course, it wasn't totally driven by their rudeness. Most were trying to rush for the arati in the main temple. My calculations tell me that if they attended the entirety of the first event they would still make it on time for the main arati. I still considered it rude for half of the people to leave when our teacher, whom we owe so much indebtedness, was being disrespected.

I had been standing in the back of the samadhi and having watched this pattern day after day I decided to stop and tell the early exiters that it wasn't nice. As I talked briefly to at least a collective 30 or so people they responded quite well. They turned around and went back to their standing space to finish the chant and ceremony to its completion. After the event was over, a mere 15 minutes in length, a young man whom I approached thanked me for the correction.
I considered the offence of early departure an aparad, in sanskrit means offense.

This theme carried over into the evening when a new book was launched on behalf of the deceased Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who had authored it. The main topic was of the offences which we commit in the course of our life. I found the workshop on the book launch well presented by Vraja Lila, one of his students. Incidentally Bhakti Tirtha an Afro American is one of my favorite monk friends. Although passed on I do get inspired when thoughts of him come to mind.

As part of the presentation an excerpt from the book listed the major offenses as follow (as I recollect): offence against the Sacred names, Sacred Places, Guru, saints, etc.

In the list I found no mention of general offenses that can be committed towards the public, average person or even a non-believer. Even if you break the law or make a mistake unknowingly it does offend. I see it as a general trend amongst the bhakti community. We tend to view things from an in-house point of view forgetting that people outside our domain do count as well. We are human and "to err is human."

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada over and over again expected us to illustrate perfect gentlemanly behavior and that means we must include in our examination of offenses the most broad perspective possible. A saint is known within his community, and without his community

10 KM

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Frail, and the Fail

Mayapura, West Bengal

The morning message from the vyasasan or elevated seat is shared by senior members. Each day an experienced sanyasi (monk) or grihasta (family person) takes a turn to convey the teachings of Vyasadev, the original speaker of the book Bhagavatam. Anuttama, a good friend and American teacher of bhakti yoga spoke about being frail in one's spiritual life. Basically he was saying (echoing from Srila Prabhupada) that "if you are frail you may fail." He gave the direction that good association is the ultimate safeguard against spiritual weakness. Good company is where spiritual life begins and ends.

There is, in truth, no point in going at spiritual pursuit alone. Even the saintly boy, Dhruva saw spiritualist, Narada Muni. Finally Dhruva saw Bhagavan Vishnu. He was always in some good camaraderie or in the company of superiors.

In the afternoon I had one woman, a grandmother, who asked if I could have her grandson travel with me, in her words, to provide him with the kind of company that she would like for him. I'm not sure whether it was of his own volition or her coaxing that had him come to see me during the Russian's Tenth Anniversary of their Cloud of Nectar party. For one decade this crew of energetic performers did entertain at the samadhi auditorium for themselves. Here was camaraderie at its best.

That was the point. Let's build a strong spiritual solidarity and win the fight against maya (illusion).

2 KM

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Where It Shines!

Gopinagar, West Bengal

There are no names to the roads in India. At least on paper, or maps, it may be so but if you ask a local person about the nomenclature for a rural dirt road you might get nebulous answer.

After a good sleep I ventured down such a road. What a pleasure! The peace! In the early morning when darkness pervades, sound becomes amplified. You hear the sound of water trickling into one field sourced by another through the irrigational lock system. Maybe it's Ganga water? I'm not sure.

As you pass by a home a dog may howl or you hear a sudden out burst of a baby crying piercing through what seems like a paper thin wall. As sun shines through, the occasional person on foot wrapped in lungi or saree offers some kind of greeting. English is rarely spoken in these rural parts which is one of the reasons why I don't get an answer to ,"What road are we on?"

After a late breakfast a parikrama was scheduled with our youthful attendees from Mayapura. The boiling sun divested some of that energy from those youth. It seems like sometimes I must compensate for this by putting out my own personal energy which actually isn't my energy at all. I am so grateful to my assistant, Dustin, who is young and never seeming to be depleted of energy.

The form of parikrama which Ajamil arranged was a walking party which is drumming and singing while moving from one residence to another on dirt paths. The sacred Tulasi plant which landmarks every courtyard became our point of changing directions and heading for the next home. While dodging palm leaves and opening us to a cow by a tree I could not help to think how almost perfect rural India is. All that you need is here. People have each other with their food growing at their fingertips. It's pure ecological charm.

Our evening was occupied in a pandal (tent) program at Ajamil's once again. He asked me to give a talk and I happily consented. When I got up from my speaking chair a flood of local people rose and then segued to bowing towards my feet. It is common, perhaps more so in Bengal, for the public to go to the sadhu (monk) and touch his or her feet for benedictions.

My problem with this event as people were cued all around it that it turned into a tickle session. I'm sensitive and when they slid their soft hands over the feet; it was difficult to remain standing. I saw a virtual sea around me. I asked one of the boys, Sacisuta from Florida, to save me and so he came to my aid and pulled me out of an embarrassing situation.

I must give credit where it is due. It was our youth who shone at this two day program.

10 KM

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Yadu's Message

Gopinagar, West Bengal

I sat with Yadubhar on a shuttle bus to the village mentioned above for mere two hour drive to somewhere between Mayapura and Kolkata. The engagement was a 24 hour kirtan in the native village of Ajamil, a long time friend and veteran of kirtan.

Yadubhar, himself a seasoned devotee of bhakti for 40 years talked about the process of photo-assignments and film assignments (his field of expertise) and of journal writing and of "murdering the darlings." What he was referring to was that part of the process in presenting an assignment before it goes public, you get your work assessed. At that time you have an objective audience, maybe a group of critical well-wishers to view the material. "It's what the experts do. Even great directors of film are constantly trying to find what the audience will find pleasing."

In anything we do it is not a bad idea to get a kind of clearance, a kind of okay or approval as we all should hope to approach excellence. We may "think" we have done well because we are attached to our results or "our darlings".

After arriving at Gopinagar, settling down and eating great Bengali subjee (vegetable dishes) our turn for kirtan began. Local villagers came to chant under a pandal (tent). Men tended to stand at the periphery for hours while women sat closer to the kirtan group in a lotus posture. I prided myself in doing the lotus position for 5 straight hours while leading or supporting the kirtain sessions.

These legs which like to walk don't necessarily care for a long lotus stretch. Let's say some empowerment came my way. We can't do anything on our own strength. We can only take credit for making the right choice.

6 KM

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


Mayapura, West Bengal

The sky had not blessed the land of Bengal for weeks with moisture. Now finally overnight a serious rain had come to Benedict. It cleansed the air and reduced the heat substantially. It was a nice change.

In the Bhagavad-Gita weather and in, particular, the wind is compared to the mind. I dealt with several human minds today which changed like the wind adding to the color of the days affairs. In my efforts to please the festival stage coordinator, dear friend Pragosh from Ireland, I started work on a second drama for the hundreds of pilgrims coming to partake in transcendental drama. It meant wrestling with actors’ minds, a pleasant challenge.

I was committed to the prescribed duty of putting on a decent show but it meant forsaking another prescribed duty- attending the last day of the gathering of great souls in an annual AGM for our society. When one volunteer decided not to participate at the last moment and another one is asked by myself to drop from the cast (not type-cast) and a third one leaves us hanging on the edge of not being sure abut being the right talent, it makes for an interesting day.

I knew intuitively that all things would work their way out in the end. Convictions must always be strong and then mental mountain ranges can be crossed with relative ease.

Such inspiration comes from watching or studying the life of "guru". Determination must be like a torpedo always.

5 KM

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Krishna Breaking!

Mayapur, West Bengal

In the morning we passed-by fields of sugar cane, chick peas, coriander and sun-flower. When I say we, I mean that I’m never alone in Mayapur. There is always a half a dozen to a dozen of us pilgrims taking the time to step to the sound of transcendence, the maha-mantra. Tierry from Mauritus came to India for the first time. Also Kalpesh from Calgary, a young man from the business world in oil-rich Alberta, decided he needed a break. He expressed, “I came here to Mayapur not sure if I would know anyone. Fortunately I found you” (meaning us).

Tierry caught a whiff of the coriander aroma. It hit his notrils like it did all of us. The next major scent to greet us all happened at the Goshala, the cow shelter. Laksmi, a fine queen amongst the bovine, dropped her mercy to release fragrant methane plops.

We were informed that one man who had serious respiratory problems was advised by his Ayurvedic doctor to live near the Goshala. For weeks he was exposed to the gaseous sweetness of the place until his breathing complications were over.

My evening took a turn from scents to sounds and sights. It was the premiere of our play ‘The Witness’ in Mayapur. The audience was thrilled especially when Dustin and Prem danced. After the presentation came feedback. Apparently one influential person took some opposition to the short break dance segment by Prem who played Krishna.

I’m willing to take my criticism as mentioned before but on this one I will say break-dance is non-sensual. The execution was expert. It gave Krishna a playful edge but nothing less-reverential than He deserves.

5 KM

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Gurus to Consider

Mayapur, West Bengal

We can take lessons from anyone.

For the last few days I have been conducting drama practices in the Samadhi Auditorium of the Mayapur Complex. After handing over scripts to those doing voices for the miming actors, I get approached by some of them, “Maharaja, could I use ‘such and such’ a word instead of what’s in the script?” Momentarily I may experience a mental halt. The mind may say, “How dare you challenge my chosen words.” As author of the script I could feel slighted by such a question.

How I resolve this momentary objection is to eat some humble pie and to accept that it is all a work in progress. My business is to serve and if I ask someone to become a character and they do their job of immersing themselves, they must be gaining some realizations from the part they are speaking for. Perhaps I’m too subjective and may not always see things from the objective standpoint.

When those suggestions of minor change come I am usually pushed to the truth and that’s what you want to extract from the story. I may be the director of the play but behind our direction are many gurus. Mind you, anyone who does approach me for a request of change does so in a most genuine respectful way. So the pride is swallowed with some ease.

The heat is beginning to escalate in Mayapur. More fans are put to use and less blankets are used at night. Mosquitoes although not as bad as they could be, are enjoying all the extra pilgrims here including the 800 that just arrived from Russia. Regardless of the condition, the post-morning sadhana at 5:30 am is an ideal time to make that early trek by the fields and forests where jackals howl the whole night long.

6 KM

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

A Bull Must Find

Mayapur, West Bengal

Clumsily he walked over to what he thought was the source. It was the food he was after. He was staggering from his mother’s front end to back end and back. Still in wonder! A group of monks and I took our usual rural walk. We had stopped by Laksmi Priya, the elephant, who was wielding her trunk about. And now it was this fellow, a one-day old bull calf. The mother was proud of her new-born. Of course, he was beautiful. A Bengali brahmacari tried to come to his aid, steering him towards the udder of his mother but still no hope. One nipple was full of milk content waiting for action. Surprisingly the young bull resisted the guidance.

We were scheduled to move on hoping that by a matter of minutes he would have it figured out.

That was eventful.

Next on the mornings’ agenda was a flag-raising ceremony. Hoisted above a deity of Garuda, the man-eagle, was a long tapered red cloth that flapped in the air and marked the Gaura Purnima Festival, the golden moon Avatar festival. This year claims the five hundredth anniversary of the monastic ordaining of Chaitanya, the father of mantra chanting. It is also the anniversary of the ordaining of our guru as a monk which occurred 58 years ago. And to add to the list the festival itself which attracts pilgrims from all over the world. Unique also was the ground-breaking of what will become the largest domed temple in south-east Asia. Ambarish, also known as Alfred Ford, who told me he’ll turn 60 in 2 weeks, presided over the event. This great grandson of Henry Ford was indeed happy to have begun the project. As he put it, “We’re not getting any younger. The project must get underway.”

As the day came to a closure, I thought again about the starving calf. I do hope he succeeds in finding the source.

6 KM

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Don’t stop Checking!

Mayapur, West Bengal

Physical illness is one thing; spiritual illness is another. It is unfortunate that as leaders we must sometimes hear about someone’s defeat in the battle against maya. It is especially distasteful when a renounciant falls prey. This can happen to anyone because we are at war and it is a vicious war. We may refer to Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad-Gita to understand the overwhelming nature of combat when odds seem to be against the individual.

We can wave the flag of the many glorious tasks undertaken by spiritual leaders the world over. When someone of good charisma and good character loses grip it becomes a great defeat for the world. It is like when a marriage fails it impacts the whole human race. When a person of inspiration shows symptoms of weakness do we rally around and provide sufficient support? Sometimes it’s hard to catch it in time. I believe a better job can be done by us in observing symptoms, and better still, implementing systems to safeguard against…it is a sin to be a bystander. It is better to be pro-active than reactive or better to be satvic (in thoughtfulness) than to be rajasic (in passion).

While the world is troubled with ambitions and lusts a special effort can be made to protect the leaders of inspiration. Let’s more carefully analyze pitfalls such as too much adulation, isolation, overwork, overeating, access to funds, etc.

It’s a hard job to check advances of illusion or maya but that’s what war is all about. Don’t stop checking!

5 KM

Friday, February 12th, 2010

I’m Happy / I’m Sick

Mayapur, West Bengal

It is a magical drawing card – these play practices that we have been conducting in the Samadhi auditorium. The volunteer kids with their parents are so enthralled by the various exercises that we are undertaking. For them it’s just chill-out time and a time for the young and older to come together on common ground.

We are developing the drama, ‘The Witness’ the story of the walking deity of Krishna. It is a tale of the force of an icon of the Lord that traveled on foot to the village of Vidyanagar in the more southern part of India from Vrindavan, a town in Uttar Pradesh, northern India. The story centers around a promise which the deity of Krishna gives witness to. It also highlights the nature of family dysfunctionality and how faith in Krishna can indeed resolve a difficult situation.

As mentioned before the kids are happy to participate and see before their very eyes how our characters are shaped. I also became excited after a day in illness. Tummy problems persisted. It’s called ‘the Delhi bully’ so I’ve heard. Weakness had overcome me and it was hard to stand let alone do any serious walking today.

It just so happened that our morning session for meetings was free so I didn’t miss anything. In the afternoon session a presentation was done by Hungarian delegates on Eco Valley, a sustainable vegetarian based community. I felt so much hope from that. Under one of our more disciplined monks, Sivarama Swami.

Great job, Maharaja! The presentation got my mind off my physical ailment.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Michael and the Ganges

Mayapur, West Bengal

This morning I released the ashes of deceased Michael O'Regan, friend and spiritualist from back home in Canada. Michael would have it this way, the connection of the holy waters of Mother Ganga which flows through India's heartland while edging her way along Mayapur. The Ganges attracts life and death. From her waters she gives life and seems to take it away.

Michael was a very poetic, creative man who participated in the years of Krishna Conscious growth. He utilized his craftsmanship abilities in the service of Krishna over the years. Just before he passed away he expressed his love for chanting the maha mantra, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."

I was fortunate to have with me a pundit for mantras. He reiterated them expertly as I discharged Michael's remains.

Almost every year a pilgrim who comes to Mayapur loses himself to the Ganges. A pilgrim will bath for purification and Ganga will claim him or her. It is said in sastra (codes of wisdom) that these waters are liberating for those who by providence are taken by her forceful flow. We are not suggesting suicide.

Doug and Max, two of three of our traveling companions to India, had gone to Ganga Devi on the previous day with caution. Doug our senior man in his sixties is taking well to all this spiritual cleansing. He did in the course of wallowing about in her special mud acquire a cut from a sharp object. Dustin, our third companion and super-efficient assistant came to Doug's aid. Hence Mayapur with all its pureness is having a positive effect on our boys. Whether its water, air, fire, ether or earth something treasurable is present here.

5 KM

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Thanks Gopal!

Mayapur, West Bengal

One of my heroes is not of the renounced order but is a family/business man who is able to resonate a unique presence of higher consciousness. Gopal Bhatta is an American Vaishnava and possesses a real fine analytical brain, what to speak of his heart. He's great as a motivational speaker and his love for his guru is profound. He is a very mission driven person and its inspiring to see him in action and to hear him talk.

For the last few days Gopal along with a competent team was able to steer us (so to speak) in a smart direction. He shared with us a quote from one of his motivational icons. "The brave may not live forever but the cautious never live at all." To a large degree this statement does reflect the life and efforts of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. At age 70 Prabhupada took a great risk when he set sail from India, plying over Atantic waters to reach American soil. At the expense of health he put himself in dangerous situations.

Gopal relayed to the body of devotees, both monastic and family leaders that he was returning home but detouring to Vrindavan before that. He introduced us to his wife and daughter and that he was taking them to a YES program, one of yearning, eagerness and searching.

Farewell, Gopal, until the next encounter. To speak well of someone, especially one who teaches the spiritual path is in many ways the epitone of all of our spiritual practices.

I'm feeling good.

5 KM

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Someone Has Gone

Mayapura, West Bengal

We had lost one of our devotees. She's gone, as in passed away! She died from a stroke during her sleep. It was just ten days ago and it all happened very peacefully. Her name was Gita and she originally hailed from India.

Our small Canadian contingent from Room 505 in the Gada Building ventured over to see her husband, Madan Mohan, who I've regarded as one of our comrades from Digby, Nova Scotia. We usually walk with a purpose. Today was special. Mohan was happy to see us at his door. We did come unannounced. He did admit to us that he was staying within the confines of his home and refrain from going to the temple as many traditions in India will uphold. If there is a deceased person in the family you would not enter the temple for several days if you follow orthodoxy.

Madan Mohan, was always a resilient man. He always takes tough things well. I asked about his daughter. "for two days she was really affected, but she seems now to have gotten over the worst." She's 9 now and she's strong like her Dad.

We need only to reflect on the message of the Bhagavad-Gita which resounds in the message of transcendence. The soul moves on. The body lies with us. Life goes on or we make certain adjustments. What we are left with is inspiration, the kind that reminds us that here was a good soul, in the form of Gita, dutiful, kind, devoted, responsible, a believer in the spirit, one who knew of the impermanence of the body and who bravely marched on. This message is as it always is, death doesn’t exist for the soul.

4 KM

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Monday, February 8th, 2010

That’s It

Mayapur, West Bengal

I had a session where I sat in a meeting with a group of exalted peers in Room 851 of the Conch Building. There we discussed the topic of Constitution for our cultural movement. It has been an ongoing project and our group is moving closer to its completion.

Anyway I sat there listening to the discussion when my mind veered off looking at the facility and the spacious nature of our meeting room. It was the room of one of our colleagues in the meeting. A large bedroom area was an extension to our sitting area which could easily be a dining room. This large open space also accommodated a kitchen area with a sink. The area also included a private washroom.

“Perhaps I should secure a room such as this for next year and then I can enjoy greater privacy and space,” I thought. Currently I’m crammed in a tiny room with hardly leg room sharing space with 3 other Canadian first-timers to India. I wondered.

Then in a casual stroll with Sesa, the chairperson of our group, we talked - also casually. He mentioned he has a group in the same building as me in the Gada Building. He mentioned his space is very small and had contemplated a much more expansive room, like I had been thinking. Now I’m a monk and he’s a lawyer. He could legitimately or philosophically justify getting a place of greater magnitude. But then his remark hit me, “I came to the conclusion – when am I going to be satisfied?”

That rang true for me. “When am I going to be satisfied? I love my company, that is, the boys I brought with me. We relish each other’s association even though things are very tight. That’s it. Be satisfied!”

5 KM

Monday, 8 February 2010

Sunday, February 7th, 2010


Mayapura, West Bengal

On the topic of bhakti, devotion, my good friend from Ireland, Pragosh, who heads up our leader's Team Building Committee slipped over to me some folded pieces of paper with names of peers on each one. I was to choose one. So I did, like you would from a hat. Whatever name is bore in that paper is your secret service person -to put it more clearly "secret devotional service" person. How innovative! You are not to have the person know whose name you have. The task is to serve that person in some way without him or her knowing who you are.

This smart little endeavour is supposed to enhance your devotional propensities. If your recipient cannot detect who is doing the service he or she does not get the chance to say thanks. You serve without motivation, without recognition other than what Krishna witnesses.

Most of today's trekking is on the campus here at our international headquarters between buildings. It's not really what I call walking but it is something.

The curse of having a cell phone, is that it reduces walking time. It may be efficient but it's definitely not healthy. I do not carry one and that's very intentional. If I need to find someone I'll go looking for him.

In the world of Vaikuntha all are searching for the Divine. They look on foot. The very reputable Goswami's of Vrindavana in their mood of separation were searching for Krishna who wasn't easy to find. They were going on foot in a labour of love seeking the lotus feet of Krishna.

3 KM

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Perfect Mating

Mayapur, West Bengal

It is almost like I wanted it to happen. Our cab driver from Kolkata to Mayapur, Babu, pulled over off the road. "I have a flat," he said. I opened the door to see if it was true or not. Sure enough his tire was flat. This type of thing is very common in India. Babu's claim is that the last flat he had was 5 months ago. In any event flattening your tire it goes on. It's my opportunity to do some trekking in the direction of our destination, Mayapura. We had been sitting down too long.

Dustin joined me. We got the opportunity to trek through raw Bengal's countryside. The dust, the smells, moustached men, sareed ladies, playing kids, tin stalls, tacky restaurants are there. People acknowledged us. Two men strained to bring their cart of merchandise over the hill, one pulled and one pushed. They work hard here and without complaints.

You know, what I really am impressed by in Asia is the hospitable smiles and soft toned voice. This is evident in the airlines from Asia as well. There's charm there and a sense of bhakti. In Europe, where people can be abrupt and rigid, there exists a sense of bhakti in it's cleanliness and orderliness.

The institution Iskcon, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is perceived by many to be a combination of east and west assets. Wherever there are strengths from either hemisphere the mating of the two produces a good result. It only needs the spiritual component to make it complete.

4 KM

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Coming to the Veggies

Brussels, Belgium

I have nothing glorious to report about walking on this day. I took turns with my companions: Doug, Dustin, and Max walking up and down Concourse B of the Brussels airport. Because we were in brief transit we did not get the chance to see the city nor have the chance to appreciate its highlights.

The country boasts about having some of the best chocolate items in the world. Well I generally don’t consume chocolate for the caffeine content. But I really, really am deeply in love with brussel sprouts if there is any connection between this city and the vegetable. Sprouts offered to Krishna are just about the most heavenly thing to eat. I would walk an extra mile for some. That is impossible to do today because of flying circumstances.

We are en-route to India which has its major diversity of vegetables. West Bengal, our destination, has some of the best greens in the world. Greens were a favourite of Sri Caitanya, whose birthplace we will visit. The preparation was called Shak. The general term is Bhaji. The food, mind, ego is a secondary reason for coming to India.

Our real fuel is the chanting.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Good Soul B.P.

Toronto, Ontario

The most significant aspect of today was a phone call conversation with godsister, Bhadra Priya. Suffering from and advanced form of cancer she is finding it rather tough to cope right now. Her health is deteriorating very quickly and she had recently shifted residence from Toronto to Alachua, Florida where she is receiving special care. She needs a lot of encouragement. Prayer is also helpful.

She is a very gentle soul who is a first generation pioneer person for spreading Krishna Consciousness in Canada and the U.S. Like many of us in the late sixties and early seventies she was looking hard for a purpose and a people to devote to. She found a happy group of students of the Bhagavad-gita living communally, ladies on the second floor and men on the third floor in a house at 187 Gerrard St. of what’s called Toronto’s Cabbagetown. She moved into this house-made-temple not long before I did. She was a great helper and also took many excellent photos of the presiding Krishna deities. In the fall of 1973 she and I had our first initiation ceremony presided over by our Brahmana priest Sri Pati who hailed from the U.K.

Circumstances had it that she left the mission for a while and she feels terrible about that but she’s back and has been keeping the company of her dear godsisters. The main thing I emphasized to her over the phone is that she is blessed with great association like friend Nirmal and she has the pure sound of sabdha brahman as her shelter.

Readers here may not have met her. Please mark my word she is a great and gentle soul. Please chant for her strength to cope and give her hope with your good wishes.


5 Km

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010


Toronto, Ontario

This day and tomorrow is spent on preparation for the flight to India. One of the best ways to prepare for my journey in the air, as mentioned before, is to put in some walking. Our superstar monk, Dustin, from Halifax (they all are over there), Premavati, one of our Toronto nuns and I made our way to a ravine at 5:30AM for a genuine work-out. It is a real workout considering the steepness in some areas and the sliding conditions with snow and ice, and trying to hold on to your japa (meditation beads). What an obstacle course! At moments you are forced to be extremely attentive to the meditative sound as you are holding on for dear life to branches of trees, fallen trunks and clutching on to anything you can grab.

We did not intend to hit an obstacle course. Once we were in the ravine ice paths on acute angles caused us to detour. Anyways we built up a good sweat. I’m now 57 and proud that I can do this stuff. I hope it continues for another 20 years.

While in the Caribbean last week I came to know that a good number of our devotees were apprehensive to join in the walking and why? There are serious diabetic problems amongst those in their 40’s. Can it be the rich food and lack or little of any exercise? This is not exactly what our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had in mind for us. He desired healthy followers.

I cannot label one part of the world as guilty of not being physically active enough. It is across the board, this issue of poor health. If you want to make a difference try trekking our icy ravine and then come and give a class from the Bhagavatam book. That’s what’s happening with me. I’m liking it.

I admire the stout and strong image of Bhaktisiddhanta. For a monk he seemed to carry a powerful demeanor both physically and spiritually. Today was his birth anniversary and he is noted for many honorable contributions such as ushering in the chanting process into India’s time of industrialization.

5 Km

Friday, 5 February 2010

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

"A Neat Return"


To put some miles under my feat on ground level before taking all those miles in the air I took to the road at 5AM from Crane to the outskirts of Georgetown. As light showed itself I saw a green bird entering a green tree and remain a green bird. This analogy is told by the saint Bhaktivinode Thakur which defies the philosophical theory of the soul's merging into nothingness as it reaches liberation. The soul will always remain as such, so the Gita tells. It cannot be dissolved.

My second thrill for the morning was seeing this black dude run backwards. I could see he was training. What was unique about it was that he was doing the same thing last year near the same spot. He recognized me from last year when I did the Guyanese trek and I, of course, recognized him.

Thrill #3 was walking over that rickety old floating bridge over the Demarara River. It was a good half hour plodding that thing over a river with such mighty force.

Although Krishna monks are less visible than previously (so people say) the public knows us. Motorists yell out with a positive "Haribol" from their vehicles.

My return flight worked out well as far as keeping enlivened is concerned. My next-door neighbour-passenger was a woman from the Red Cross and she was on her way to Toronto for a conference on Child Abuse Prevention. It's a topic I'm always keen on learning more and hoping to contribute to in some way.

All is good!

13 Km

Monday, February 1st, 2010

"House on Fire"

Crane, Guyana

I walked young Rivaldo to school. He's a great kid. He loves Krishna. He proudly walks to school each day with a shaven head and a small tuft of hair left in the back as us monks do. I suggested to him to study hard and to run those studies parallel to developing his Krishna Consciousness. We parted hoping that another year would pass soon when I would return.

From Rivaldo’s school I trekked toward the Coastal Road, Guyana's main thoroughfare where our most reliable driver, Ravi, picked me up for the drive to Crane. On our way we spotted a house in flames. Jet black smoke spewed out into the sky. Two buildings over was a school full of uniformed students standing out the veranda and looking at this building brought down to ruins. They stood in awe. "Where was the fire Brigade?" the driver, Ajamil and I wondered. It took a good ten minutes after our sighting it that a fire truck actually came full steam ahead.

It crosses anyone's mind who would see such a thing, "I'm glad it was not my home. Perhaps I could be next. Let's take precaution." Whenever there is a harmful fire it's natural to react and exterminate it if possible. The great thinker Chanakya said that there are three things that must be put out immediately- debt, disease, and fire.

In some discussion at the Crane Temple a devotee heard me say that Hitler used the sacred Vedic Swastika symbol as his Third Reich logo. He however, had this symbol reversed and I suggested that perhaps that's one of the reasons he failed. The devotee, Madhava said that recently a small yajna, fire ceremony, was held in the home of a woman in Guyana. Madhava, who was present, noticed that the swastika was also in reverse. That day the woman's house went up in flames and reduced to ashes.

I believe the moral here is to be prudent in dealing with yantras or Vedic symbols and be careful, very careful in dealing with fire as well as the fire of maya, illusion. Furthermore if one is trying to establish oneself spiritually as soon as your devotional house is detected to be on fire extinguish it ASAP. Avoid all fire and hazardous conditions as you plod along in your devotional endeavours. See that your exit signs are well lit, your alarm system is operable, your exterminators are working and you know how to use them, etc.

When you're in spiritual trouble learn to act quickly for help.

3 Km

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

"Last Day"

Berbice, Guyana

The last evening's event of the 5 day Padayatra was wrapped up at the Albion Sports Complex just off of the Coastal Road. The world's international cricket games take place here during the big competition events involving Guyana. It was a good location. A member of Parliament, Mr.Poonai, gave a good talk. Usually political VIP's have the gift of making their message in a succinct way, to the point almost like bullet style. He commended our efforts for promoting a non-violent way of life, education on vegetarianism and what to speak of practicing it. He spoke kindly of Srila Prabhupada our guru, and his bravery in delivering the message of chanting.

A very active local Pandit from a nearby temple also spoke extolling the glories of Prabhupada's mission.

If I were to critique the 5 day program my list would be substantial enough such as the lack of organization still I would give a high rating for the devotional efforts. A group of us huddled together by the side of the stage (primarily youths) to discuss improvements for next year's program. We cast a general review over the last few days’ performance.

On top of the list for excellent performance was the favourable soothing Atlantic air currents. It was always welcoming having that breeze after sultry hot days. Fortunately I did not have to experience the agony of stepping on a dead catfish on a Guyanese beach as what happened last year. Rather I enjoyed, and my singing partner, Ajamila, enjoyedt he opportunity to give a lot of ourselves to the exploration of mantra power.

10 Km

Monday, 1 February 2010

Saturday, January 30th,2010

Helping the Boys


A handful of young boys in their early teens are attending the festival. They have something in common. Some of them are orphans and without parents for some years. The loss of parents is due to different forms of death. One boy lost his parent from drinking too much rum and the other parent died from a gun shot. As he was telling me I imagined that he had told this reality about his life over and over again. There was a sense of loss in his voice and even being slightly lost. He didn’t want to be this way but that is where his destiny lies.

Someone can dismiss the mishaps so easily by saying, “it’s his karma” even though it be true, and walk away. I was told that the great thinker Chanakhya Pandit was an orphan. And there is a history of magnanimous saints who were abandoned at an early stage in their live or due to some circumstance the parents either died or are just out of the picture.

When the boy explained how he lost his mom and dad he did emote with a slight choking in his voice. Immediately I reverted to my past as the eldest of a group of pretty happy kids. In particular my dad was always there for us. He provided us with the base essentials and never gave too much. He arranged for my siblings and I a sandbox, swing and other playful climbing instruments. He gave us the things we needed to play sports and bicycles. He gave us direction, principles and chores to keep us engaged. I would rise at 5:30 to milk our family cow. Such gratitude I can’t replace other than being like a parent to these boys.

My stay in Guyana has been good from that perspective. One boy, Rivaldo 12, comes to my side all the time. He has no parents. So I’m committing myself to taking time for him along with his friends. He has an attraction for chanting and like the other boys here they keep engaged.

I don’t think there is a greater gift to offer a displaced child than your precious time, your guidance and friendship.

After all, Rivaldo, led me to the beach knowing the directions. There we received a good early morning breeze. So now for the brief period that I’m here I will offer some direction so that it may contribute to his having a more easy journey in this life.
12 KM

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Friday Fun

Berbice, Guyana.

As the party of processioners moved themselves slowly along with drummers playing a hot beat people lie in their hammocks only to adjust themselves to see what’s going on. What pops out is an arm or a head ; a wave and a smile . Children scurry with excitement. Even a calf goes frantic upon hearing the “ring” of hand symbols. It is these back residential streets that due find all the people; some of which live along dead end or cul-de-sac road ways. Such a quaint parade dosen’t frequent such one-lane dirt thoroughfares.

People are struck b y such novelty. It may never come again; Happy faced ladies in gorgeous sarees, men in dhotis slapping out a beat and kids dodging p0t-holes and mole dung.

There was no sound system today. Only the raw, organic vibration pulsated as Chaitanya himself would have known it. By default we pushed our voices and wiggled our bodies through these narrow street-ways along lotus-flowered and plastic-bottled canals. It was Friday night and everyone felt a kind of devotional fever.

At the outdoor stage venue for the evening the sound system, now present, gave us problem. I was asked to deliver my 30 minutes talk. For openers I said, “The only feedback problem we should be having is the sound of a burp after eating some of the prasadam food.” That set the tone for some carefreeness. I was really touched however, to hear Bhutadi when he spoke. As the first pioneer to bring Krishna Consciousness to his native Guyana this long time friend did indeed speak from the heart and the concern to adjust cultural habits.

Guyana’s minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, came with his words adding another dimension to the event.

There is much more to tell about the Padayatra of Friday held at the popular Supermarket but I must call it quits for now.

I thank our guru, Srila Prabhupada, for landing me in this festival-driven culture.

8 Km