I had almost forgotten about George Svobada. George was a regular comer to our ashram in Toronto. I had got to know him when he'd visit. Long haird but groomed, full-length beard. Very mannerly and generally reserved. He originated from Czechoslovakia and rendered a valuable service to the people of his country.
He had written a road accommodation guide in the local language for global backpackers. As a traveler himself, he was able to explore all the cheap but decent hostels and hotels for the adventurous. More important as a contribution, George had made, was his translating our guru, Srila Prabhupada's "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" in his language - a translation executed in the 70's but is still in print and used today.
I got to know George more personally in '96 when he joined me for walking on the Trans Canada Highway. When he heard I was taking up this mission his free-sprited side shone through. He hitch-hiked and searched until he found me. He stayed with me and my companions of the time for a couple of days for the experience and then moved on.
George repeated this venture in 2008. He sought me out and we trekked that same highway, the longest road in the world. I recall then him telling me of a recent trip he took from Cochrane, Ontario, on the Polar Bear Express, which takes you to the base of James Bay, a domain for the most fearsome bears on the planet. George said,"When I got there I didn't want to pay for any bed and breakfast or a hotel. I slept outside in the wilderness."
"What was that like?" I asked. "weren't you scared?"
"No! whatever happened to me, it was okay. I was safe."
This morning when I was making my way through the temple room in Mayapura as devotees were chanting on their japa meditation beads, I was recognized by a male devotee from the Czech Republic who said, "Maharaj, you might not be aware but George Svoboda is not with us anymore. He passed away in a most unique way. His body was found frozen in the mountains of Germany."
The news of George's passing - A dear friend and walking companion - did hit me hard. On second thought, "That's probably the way he wanted to go."
And so with a peaceful mind I pray that this true yogi has moved on and with the Gita's telling to His abode where you stay with Him forever.