Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Luckiest Man

Toronto, Ontario

I had actually surprised myself with moving forward walking at practically a normal pace easily on Sunday morning. That I did again early this day, as the healing from surgery is occurring. What compelled me on to trek at midnight was tummy problems. I had engaged so much in conversations with guests before, during and after the Open House Sunday program. I had actually forgotten about eating at the Sunday feast only until it was too late.

A monk is in ecstasy when talking about spiritual matters. There is a greater adrenaline from that than eating.

By the time the program was over, the kitchen was a Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. All was devoured except for some thick dahl soup and rice, not what you want to put in your stomach before going to bed. My meal for the day, by circumstance, was a bit of greasy broccoli and later, black cherry juice. Well, my bowels were encountering a whole new experience while lying down. If you combine the 1st, 2nd World Wars and Kuruksetra War on top of that, you might get the picture of explosions going on inside. The cure? Walk! And for hunger pangs? Find someplace that's open that may have snacks. Both tasks were accomplished and a third japa chanting.

I walked past the Bata Shoe Museum. I thought about some of the exhibits inside. On display are shoes of some celebs like Elton John, Marilyn Monroe and Tiger Woods. I thought again, "Would I trade my life for the lives of any of them?" And the answer to that is, NO!

Life! I'm loving it, even with an eruptive stomach from time to time, when sleep gets disrupted. I'm the luckiest man in the world and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Twisting Things

Toronto, Ontario

I opened randomly to a page from Hari Sauri Dasa's book, "A Transcendental Diary", and came upon a passage that I had found interesting at my first read of it. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, of whom the book is all about, raised an objection about the way in which his rendition of the "Bhagavad-gita" had been edited.

The following passage from Mellbourne in '76 indicates that he wanted proper and responsible editing to be applied to his book. You might call this an inside story.

"On the way back in the car, Srila Prabhupada told Pusta Krsna Maharaja (his assistant) to have the BBT in Los Angeles correct and editor's mistake in the Bhagavad-gita" he has detected during a conversation in his room yesterday. While talking about cow protection, he had asked Pusta Krsna to look up verse 18.44. When Pusta Krsna read the verse aloud, Prabhupada noted a mistranslation of an important word. So today he told him, "Immediately inform Ramesvara (the publisher-in-charge). In the "Bhagavad-gita" yesterday, they have edited 'cattle raising'. But it is not cattle raising. Cattle raising means to grow and killing. That means the rascals, they have edited. Hayagriva edited. He thought, ''cattle raising'. Not 'cattle raising'. It is mistranslation. It is go-raksya, 'giving protection to the cows.' It is expecially mentioned go-raksya, not otherwise."

Here is a prime example of how editing was irresponsibly handled. You want to be especially careful with regard to a classic text like the 'Bhagavad-gita'. Fortunately, thereafter, editors did as was ordered - to change the definition to the original meaning of the Sanskrit words, go-raksya. It goes to show that a misinterpretation can distort something fundamental as the word 'protection' to the twisted meaning of 'raising for the slaughter'.

6 KM

Saturday, January 29th, 2011


Brampton, Ontario

Temperatures have dipped after a spring-like dynamic. Now we've entered a big freeze in central Canada and although the sun shines, frigid mother nature pervades. Devotees are not deterred by the weather.

Twenty-five young men and women from our community braved the cold to be embraced by it in two locations. Kensington Market and Dufferin Mall, to go out and "have a good time" as they put it.

What is this good time?

Each month on the last Saturday youths are geared up under the mentorship of Radha Mohan, a banker by profession, to engage in a sankirtan party. This entails street chanting and distribution of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust literature. There's a vegetarian feast to follow and then sharing of stories about the great people. Mostly shoppers, that were interacted with.

In my healing from surgery stage I lamented not being part of this happy experience but I was present when the eager brigade both left and returned from the venture. Excitement filled the air as on an amazing "buzz" invaded the Govinda's dining room upon the return of those weather warriors. I was happy for them being in their own ecstasy. They appeared to have transcended the cold.

What I was fit for today was a ride to suburbria Brampton, and a home program with hosts Savyasachin, Shyamesvari and their one year old daughter. In our tradition a true inauguration for entering into a new home is chanting which is accompanied by a toasty fire ceremony called agni-hotra. The fire was foregone but the chanting was not. There is always warmth that emanates from chanting-warmth to the heart.

Our super drummer Radha Kanta, who provided the music for our mantras, is a monk from Asam, and he just hasn't quite understood our winters here yet. If your vehicle is stuck on the road during frigid climate you have to be prepared for anything. When ascending to our van to leave, icy conditions were such that the ill-prepared monk lost his balance sending one of the dollarama sandals from his feet, sliding off into the street. That gave him a good laughing. It's certainly another world for him in Canada.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Smitten With Love

Toronto, Ontario

A little about sex

I took my therapy trek along Bloor and Yonge Streets and I noticed the store fronts in preparation for Valentine's Day, the next wave of sensual indoctrinations, a subtle tsunami for the public. It brought to mind a line from the Gita, "Of causes of procreating I am Kandarpa, the god of love." Window Displays project images of hearts and arrows. The colours of red and hot pink are abound.

Kamadeva, the Vedic nomenclature for Cupid, has wings and flies about striking stinging arrows into the hearts of just about everyone, humans and non-humans. He's a cute and very babyish in innocence and in appearance; his baby fat is adorable topped by curls o sandy-coloured hair. Monks are supposed to feel less of his influence but they may not necessarily be exempt to such feelings. They should be better equipped to cool down the surging heat of lust. Thank god that in one's late fifties, speaking personally, the umpf feeling becomes somewhat subdued. Cupid should be buzzing right by you.

Just south of Wellesley on Yonge Streets' west side is a new shop with a banner reading "Blue God". I intentionally visited. Workers are putting the finishing touches to the interior. I stepped in to be greeted by the business partner of J.J. Das. The shop has not yet opened. The grand opening is yet to come to this chic boutique-type of space which will carry a line of unique clothes and which has already laid out booths for tattoo operations.

I was greeted by a smile and told J.J.'s not in. "He's in the hospital. Shanti just got a baby. Here!" And he showed me a picture on his phone display of a newborn baby boy. The smile was contagious. I broke out in an oceanic smile, and for two reasons.

First of all, I was happy for the baby's healthy disposition, and secondly, I was happy for the couple. Here is an example of the fruition of well-deserved man and woman's effort. J.J. and Shanti are a divine couple. They have gained a modest following, being gurus in their own right. When J.J. administers a tattoo, being a master at it, you can be assured he's counselling. He's telling something about responsibility and doing the right thing.

Back to our topic - SEX. I just gently endorsed responsible sex. I hope you caught on. I was talking about a very committed couple.

Congratulations to J.J. and Shanti!

4 KM

Friday, 28 January 2011

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

New Music Wave

Toronto, Ontario

Munish Bhakri is one of the boys in our community or shall I say young adults (he's in his 20's) who organized a rather large scale gathering of kirtan leaders from around the world. They will descend on the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) for a jamming of Krishna's name on what's called the Family Day weekend (Feb. 20th). The surge of kirtan is a worldwide phenomenon and a 24/7 or what's called Astha Prahar traditionally, is going to jam the air waves for one precious day.

The 24 hour approach to continuous nonstop chanting of the maha-mantra is not foreign to this part of the world. A serious yet humble beginning of effort came with Raj Sarangi, a dear friend, now deceased, in the nineties and it has been going strong ever since. Munish is taking it to another level. The venue is large - at the Hindu Sabha in Brampton and the chanting leaders are coming from all over - India, Australia, USA, the UK. The noted names of some fame are Bada Hari, Hari Bhakti Dey and the Mayapuris.

In all humility Munish came to me on this day and knowing I won't be in attendance due to my trip to India, he wanted to apologize. I said, "You don't have to say you're sorry. I wish you the best and thank you."

It makes me so proud that our young guys and gals have picked up the bhava, or mood, of love for this chanting. After seeing Munish I took my healing walk on the windy streets of Rosedale. To get to this neighbourhood I cross Yonge St. and when I did so the ground shook. Why did it shake?

As I was crossing, rap music was pulsating from inside someone's vehicle. yes, the ground shook. And I picked up a little bit of the sound. Now, I don't mind rap, but this was rap with a 'C' in front of it. I will declare I wondered what will be the next new wave of music to storm the world. What genre will it be?

I believe it will be a sound that starts with a 'C'. It will be chanting.

Thank you, Munish.

4 KM

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Keep On Trying!

Toronto, Ontario

It's slightly hard to accept when you walk down the street at your less-than-average clip. Everyone is passing you. You're healing from an operation. No need to feel sorry for yourself, really. You just "keep on trucking" as they used to say in the sixties. "Speed will come in time," I had to remind myself.

In the morning sessions of our Bhagavatam class, the monks of the ashram are looking with interest at the story of Canto 6 on how Daksha, a progenitor of the world, begot 10,000 sons and lost the whole lot to the renunciant, Narada Muni, who convinced them about celibacy. We mentioned about this story that Daksha was disheartened but he actively fathered a new batch. He tried again and wanted his boys to flourish and to also populate the world as he was. Narada pulled 'a fast one' again and 'liberated' these potential future family men. Frustration for Daksha struck again. He didn't give up and neither did Narada, both in their respective determined approaches to life.

The example we gave was if you bake a batch of cookies that get spoiled try another batch until you get it right.

In correspondences with individuals today, the theme of my message on two issues was, "Okay, you failed, but it's a worthy cause, so try again!" We don't need to be so easily defeated, especially by the material energy. Let's remember that the material nature is strong but the source of that nature is stronger. The message was firm, "Try again! Don't give up!"

Did Wayne Gretsky give up (sorry to use a Canadian icon)? Did our guru, Prabhupada give up?

4 KM

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

If I Was Trapped

Toronto, Ontario

It was my first full day back from the hernia surgery and in moments of pondering while walking in progressive baby steps, I flashed-back to the highlights of my stay in the hospital. Frankly, no one wants to be in a hospital. Shouldice with its surroundings was more like a hell in heaven. There's inevitable pain, but all that is eased by the pleasant arrangements around it.

I reflected on two occasions that are highlighted in my mind at the Shouldice. The first one was the visitation by my friends form The community. I lead a chant (very softly) with a crammed group of visitors in my hospital room. As is customary after a chanting session, credits are given to the line of prominent guru teachers of the past. Their names are categorically chanted out by the lead person while everyone responds with a reverential head bow to the floor and genuflecting. So your head is down and your butt is up. The nurse walked in to see all these rear-ends sticking up facing her direction. She got the shock of her life.

The second incident was when I was departing from the hospital and dealing with the accounts. There was a new guy being trained and so the procedure for the accommodation payment went rather slow. In the lineup one of the fellows broke the monotony of waiting by cracking jokes that were both spontaneous and witty. He would make a remark that wouldn't leave us in stitches but which aggravated the ones we did heave. Every time you laugh, it hurt in the newly sewn area.

I contemplated though, if I was trapped in a mine for days what kind of people would I want to be trapped with. I, for one, would certainly not wish to be with grumpy folks, even though the gloomy attitude would be justified. I would rather have a humourist or a laughologist in amongst us. But better still, I would like to be stuck with someone who would remind me of the spiritual component in life.

Indeed, I think chanting would be the best thing to do in whatever bodily position you are in if trapped for days in a deep, dark mine. These were my thoughts while walking some streets in the process of recovery.

3 KM

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Krishna's Mercy In Haiti

Toronto, Ontario

Last year I visited Denver to attend the wedding of a happy couple, Jagannath P.D. and Vaikuntha-lila. While there, I met Pranaballabha, a Krishna devotee and godbrother, meaning we share the same guru, Srila Prabhupada, as he was alive when we were his students. Prana had then just returned from Haiti to give aid and assist in a national disaster. I wrote him recently, asking about his personal welfare and recalling the relief work he had done, so I wanted to share his response.

"Yes, it has been approximately a year since the Haitian earthquake and the devastating aftermath. You are correct, a group of devotees, including myself, were there from the middle of January to the first few weeks in April. My role was to pull together all of the parties concerned and then launch our Prasadam Distribution Program (sanctified food) in full earnest.

We were very fortunate indeed that we were able to connect with the Indian Army stationed a short distance outside of Port au Prince. We approached the commander of the base and described in detail the mission at hand. Remember, there was chaos everywhere, so we first had to establish a safe and clean place for all of our volunteers to stay. The commandant of the base, erected tents for us to sleep in as well as sleeping cots, and even electricity for lights and some office equipment that we managed to bring with us. We then forged a relationship with the landowner next to the base to allow us to cook there.

We initially landed in the Dominican Republic where we purchased large custom made stoves and secured the largest pots we could find. Then we proceeded to obtain all of the items that we would need for our temporary kitchens. Finally, we purchased a truck to transport all of our supplies to the new outdoor kitchen facility. Our group managed approx. 5,000 meals per day for those most affected. The small children were the most affected as you could tell most of them were bordering on malnutrition.

All total, we distributed well over 100,000 meals and hopefully we touched the lives of these people with Chaitanya's mercy."

(My response to Pranaballabha is that you touched our lives with your report).

2 KM (but it felt like 10).

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

You Adjust

Thornhill, Ontario

Serious waling is next to impossible after surgery. All hernia patients wake up stiff and in some pain. Exercise is recommended though. You try your best edging your way up and down the hallway. Daily, patients are treated to formalized exercise classes. It begins with graceful movement like Tai Chi to the sound of soft piano. Then it wound up to Elvis', "I'm All Shook Up" where participants bend knees while moving around the room like a locomotive steaming down a curved track.

Next to me was an elder from the Ojibway tribe. Normally this type of dance with a different twist on music would be regular fare as in a Pow Wow. The though came that perhaps in the future the Shouldice will introduce kirtan music and for motion, the swami step.

It is my last full day here and I thank God it is. People here are nice and the atmosphere is peaceful. They are even eager to hear about the ABC's of my spiritual lifestyle, but frankly, football grabs their attention and for some, hour after hour in front of the wide screen. It's not my cup of tea. I'm ready for home - the temple.

Word got out in our community if you're going to visit the swami at the Shouldice, then bring him some juice. And so it came to pass that at visiting hours, as on the previous days, each new well-wisher would bring not one, but two bottles of the ambrosial stuff. Always carrying a bag, as soon as the kind donor would pull out the content, it would create a stir of laughter. Oh well, all is done in love and service. My patient's room was looking like the juice compartment of a convenience store.

I have my juice, my meditation beads, devotional company, something to read and something to write. A little food with specifications - vegetarian, no onions, garlic - would be something I would quickly offer mantras to make it prasad and in silence in front of my co-eaters. I'm all set.

Wherever you are, as a monk, you adjust and you are happy.

0 KM

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

It's All About Meeting

Thornhill, Ontario

A doctor came to relieve me of half of the stitches. He noticed my kurta.

"Are you with Zen?"
"I'm with Krishna," I said as he snipped away.
"Oh yes, that's the root of it all, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," I said with some exhaustion recovering now from surgery.

I had lunch with all patients but I'm treated to a strict diet. I believe I'm the only one who is vegetarian in the hospital. Everyone, however, knows people who are. The fellow next to me at the table claims his two daughters are on a meatless diet. Rose is an ex-hippie who hung out at Yorkville during hippie heyday. And across the table was a gentleman with a Dutch name - Vander something-or-other. He looks like Jimmy Stewart. I told him so. His wife, next to him, said many people have told him that.

"I've been called Kevin Spacey, even though I've never seen the actor." Mrs. Vander .... said, "Yes, I can see that."

From there we dropped the small talk to discuss more about spirituality. They wanted to know. So I began, "We are all divine sparks of life, regardless of gender, race, or species. We have a chance to purge ourselves and if we fail this time around we are given another opportunity in the next. Our teachings are based on the ancient text called Bhagavad-gita and I am a Bhakti Yoga instructor."

"Yes, I have played the role of chaplain at a school," said Mr. Vander Jimmy Stewart (take no offence).

I meet just about the nicest people at the Shouldice. I believe I have some purpose here apart from the cut and the stitches. In fact, Mr. Vander Jimmy Stewart was willing to accept that his Catholicism was influenced by the 'root' culture from India.

I was fortunate to meet these and other folks. Other visitors came at the two designated visiting hours. The first batch of devotees from the temple could not resist a soft chant in my hospital room. That terminated when one of the nurses came in to see the packed room and asked, "What are you doing?" She sternly questioned.

So everyone drilled their way quietly down to the spacious solarium to resume our metting.

0 KM

Friday, Janurary 21st, 2011

Before and After

Thornhill, Ontario

You hear nothing but praise about the Shouldice Hospital. The remarks will go something like this (coming from patients): "I had an operation some years ago elsewhere and I realize I had to come her to do it right." Or, "Hernia is all they focus on, they're specialists here." Also, "For healing, this is great. It's quiet, a friendly atmosphere, like family and the natural surroundings are beautiful."

I will agree that this is a terrific place for care. People come from all over the world for treatment. It's rumoured that Clint Eastwood was here last week. In any event, remarks such as the above conjure up a desire to have people say that about our temples. Mind you, some do. Pilgrims or just curious browsers come for an experience, of the deities (sacred images), the incense pervading the air, the soft chanting in the background. The temple generally provides that but to be self-critical I would like to see that we step up on the quality of care from our personnel. People should have an experience they'll never forget. It should be very human and mystical.

Speaking of which, after sedation, then operation executed in its own designated floor, I found myself in my usual patient’s bed. The drugs were that strong that I don't recall moving.

Family and friends came and phone calls as you can imagine streamed in. That, if anything, eases the pain, plus the friends you make on the premises. The patients (mostly men) are curious about my lifestyle, the kurta (monk's shirt), my vegetarianism and the marathon walking.

Outside of mechanics being worked on, friend raising and catching up on rest, reading and writing, I do have the mantra. It is so profound, before or after surgery, before or after anything and everything, there is the mantra, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."

0 KM

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Will this Happen to Me?

Thornhill, Ontario

And speaking of shuffling along I still see the image of my dear Godbrother, a monk from New York, Romapada Swami, in my mind’s eye, forging ever so slowly ahead in the same street of Rosedale that I walked today. The swami came to Toronto to the world -renowned Shouldice Hospital for hernia surgery. It was a good twenty years ago or more that I walked beside him at what seemed to me to be a snail’s pace. He was hurting or at least he was careful and frankly I can’t recall if the stroll was before or after the operation.

One thing that was clearly set in to the recesses of my recollection was my inner thought at that time. “I wonder if this will happen to me? “ And sure enough it is happening. I find myself in the Shouldice getting first of all orientated with a shared room, the staff and the surroundings (beautiful grounds around).

I had to come to the self-admission that the machinery (this body) is needing repair from time to time. I’m not invincible or immortal but let’s settle for the word invincible first because mortality will find its way “down the road” (please Krishna). Wasn’t the word ”unsinkable” used to describe the Titanic before it set sail on that fateful journey? Invincible, unsinkable is practically the same thing.

On that summer along with the swami I do recall thinking that all my daily walking, all the exercise, should spare me of what my monk friend is going through. But no! Not a chance! Anything can happen to anyone. It’s profound.

And so the ego would say, “Oh no, not me!” The Truth will reveal otherwise. If we don’t see truth through a deductive rationale then hopefully it will work its way through another channel but it’s always there.

Here’s to quote Robert Browning:

“Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness”.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Ice and Tongue

Toronto Ontario.

Sidewalks are slippery. They are hard, smooth and shiny. I opted for trekking on the streets where salt is more dispersed to break the ice. Other pedestrians do as I do. Some remain inching along shuffling their way with baby steps on the sidewalks coming from work, school, shopping or the bar.

One woman shuffled her way to the temple. Her friend joined her minutes after the agreed appointment. Lady #1 said she drove by our building hundreds of times, tempted to come in. Its understandable, hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass by our temple on its west side while the east side of the structure, more scenely, is frequented by squirrels and racoons. Less so in the winter of course.

Lady # 2 has a history of living like our monks do in the ashram. She admits to having lived sixteen years in a cloistered nunnery or convent. I asked her how she found it. She expressed that she enjoyed her practice, but it had issues with "statues quo" as she put it. The vow of silence she honoured at that time was precious to her. It was austerity of speech.

"At least there was no gossip" I joked. We discussed that more lethal than a sword, a gun, an arrow, or a club was the tongue that is uncontrolled. Certainly there was a nod of agreement. The undignified warrior will use that weapon.

IN the prayer by saint Bhaktivinode Thakur it is said of all the senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable. Therefore to become dignified, we eat prasadam (sanctified food) and that with limits.

Our two visitors, the two ladies, enjoyed their sattvic(good)food very much. Being vegetarian in the convent for her sixteen years term allowed her to be most confortable with the prasadam.

I was so happy to see that our two guests shuffled their way to our temple.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

A Wise Group

Toronto, Ontario

The students were great with their questions.

1) Can you know your past lives?
2) Would there be advantages to being aware of all you have gone through in previous lives, in other words, how does it impact you now, in this life?
3) What about Hitler and what kind of life would he have had after he died?

A secondary school class from Silverthorne Collegiate came in today (philosophy students) who were curious to know about the Krishna Consciousness lifestyle. I presented them in front of Prabhupada, the murti (statue) of our guru. I lead a chant before this murti and then students tossed flower petals at the base of it. Our super-monk on the mrdunga drum, Radha Kantha, from Assam, did a demo of beats which thrilled the students. I then introduced the maha-mantra, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare". They sang in response, clapped hands, tapped their feet. I gave an intro on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Then the questions came followed by answers. The above were a sample. They were intrigued with the soul's transmigration.

1) It is possible to know your past existence. Krishna explains in the Gita that we pass through bodies as much as we change clothes. Lives we have experienced, and there are stories in the Puranas that detail these events. In more recent times documentation has been collected by Edgar Cayce and others who have found persons recalling previous lives. To make spiritual progress, however, we need not be so concerned about the past but to look at your current circumstances and use them as assets and tools with which to prosper in life.

2) There may be advantages to knowing your past. It then may become more rational why things are as they are in the present life but again, how long does an individual need to dwell on the past? Not much. Accept the present and move on.

Whatever was done previously impacts today. Negative actions and bad choices bring negative reactions (the positive brings positive). Krishna speaks of dharma (duty) and to be less attached to results to focusing more on being responsible. But consider that as physics tells, 'for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction'

3) What happened to Hitler karmically? The answer could be that he was reborn into a better situation because there wasn't anything worse than him that I can think of.

6 KM

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The Sport of Sankirtan

Toronto, Ontario

The scraping, scratching and slicing sounds of blades on ice bounced off the walls of the outdoor rink. The occasional 'bang' of the puck slamming against the wall was a sure sign of passion at play. It was just another hockey game and until I got around the corner of the utility building I did not see the young men out there and in a way in defiance of the indoor geek culture. Good for them! And for building team spirit!

I climbed up the slippery stairs of ice and snow (it's fun, really) to reach Building 50 on floor 15 for a visit to Hadai Pandit, a Swiss-born devotee of Krishna. He cooked a hernia-surgical-friendly meal for me. And we talked about spiritual progression as well as psychological advancement. By that I mean the value of things such as team work and good sportsmanship within both the spiritual and material context (as a youngerling, I had a passion for baseball and volleyball, always relishing the synchronized work involved). I went on lingering during the trek back to the ashram, pondering the asset of team spirit and the practicality that follows it. The sport which I came to rally love, however, was of another nature. I joined the sankirtan team.

Chaitanya inaugurated sankirtan five hundred years ago. He was a teamster who organized the various roles played out by various people as vocalists, musicians and dancers. Especially for events like Ratha Yatra, the devotional band of Chaitanya stirred the public with the aid of organization, planning and teamwork. It was the sound, with teamwork behind it, that took people to newer heights. According to predictions, the good work (or sport) of sankirtan was to continue for centuries to come.

5 KM

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Truth in a Mad World

Vaughan, Ontario

"Man is mortal. He who is a child today will sooner or later pass away. And although he knows his destiny to be dust..."

This is an excerpt from the script of "The Age of Kali" spoken by Madness, the character, is a personification of the notorious vice that seems to possess all of us at some certain time or another. The truth as expressed in the lines above may not necessarily reflect the insane character. As it is said by pundit Chanakya, "You can get gold from stool."

The reason why these words came to mind in the first place is because I had trained my host of today with these lines as the actor. Sanjay, the host, as in his teens when he played Madness in our temple festival. He did it well. Today is a preempted engagement with Shivi, to be formalized in the weekend to come. Sanjay and family wished to start off the engagement on a good note and that's the reason for the presence of our small kirtan (chanting) group. The chanting invokes something auspicious.

Nick, a friend of Sanjay's, had experienced the chanting for the first time. Being raised as the son of a UN diplomat, Nick has travelled the world and relates the kirtan to some of the Buddhist and Catholic ways which he was exposed to as a child being raised in those two traditions. He was particularly interested in the walking monk experiences that I was able to share with him simply through retelling. Oh, how that gets me hankering again!

The initial impression by some people who hear of the back-and-forth-big-cross-nation walk is that you're mad. But then there is always some truth behind madness, as pointed out earlier.

In any event, I'm happy for Sanjay's happiness who hope to tie the knot on April 30th with Shivi in the spring. "Just make your lives Krishna-centric," I recommended. It always makes for a happy medium in this mortal world.

0 KM

Monday, 17 January 2011

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

To Clear

Toronto Ontario

Chaitanya, the great mantra master of the late 15th century, taught the world about cleanliness. Back then it would involve brooms, pots of water, and even their own cloth that they were wearing. The mass wash of the Gundica temple at Jagannath Puri's seaside was the setting for a temple cleaning. The ordeal was collaborative but happily competitive also. Chaitanya himself challenged the volunteers for who would collect the most dirt and he would come out gloriously on top of the tournament.

On a monthly basis youths from this community here dive deep into cleaning for hours being inspired by Chaitanya. It all culminates with a feast and today with Gunagrahi Swami sitting amongst the youth, he and I reminisced the old days of taking on the kitchen of mayhem after a feast. We approached it like warriors on the battlefield. It was walls, ceilings, shelves, the floor, and the pots that required that TLC, tender loving care. We rolled up those sleeves of our shirts and tackled the grime. We chanted in unsion. It felt good not only the finished product but the activity itself. You felt that you were cleaning the soul. Everytime you completed a pot with all its crusted black, it was like conquering an empire. It was team work at it's youth. You could witness and feel the bliss and the transformation.

Gunagrahi mentioned that there is always an apprehension at the start but in the course of it all you felt a beatitude that is beyond compare. You had gone 180 degrees in attitude and you wondered what an idiot you were for being so reluctant in the first place.

If you hadn't had such an experience enjoying cleaning an area with a group of people and especially a sacred territory then such an event (regarded as a sacrifice)is about the most fertive thing you could ever hope to go through. Most people like the motion of cleaning the cobwebs of their mind. Well there is practically no distance or difference between the words clearing and cleaning. You adjust on one letter, that's all.

4 KM

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Friday, January 14th, 2011


Toronto, Ontario

The Eye Weekly's article "The War on God" is now a week old and the latest issue features feedback on the article about the Centre of Inquiry. This is a four year old organization dedicated to atheism, skepticism and encouraging critical thinking around the existence of god. Frank Bedek, a reader, wrote, "I found it meaningful that I picked up this issue on 'Eye Weekly' and read this story on the exact same day that I finished reading Richard Dawkins, 'The God Delusion'. I take it as a sign that I'm on the right path."

The editor's feedback was, "We ask, a sign from whom?" That remark gave me a chuckle. And I appreciated that a dear godbrother, Thakur Haridas, who brought me the Eye Weekly pointed out with genuine pride that his remarks were also in this section. In his response he challenges the inquiry group, "What if you are wrong and He exists in all His glory? You are going to be obliterated. I have been a serious devotee of God for over two years and He is clobbering me. I can't imagine what He is going to do to you guys."

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, was always anxious to challenge the atheistic tendency as it carries a bleak outlook on life. The waters of atheism are indeed shallow whereas the water of theism allows one to swim with depth where hope, faith and love are the dolphins of life.

One sign of God for me today was the visit of a dear monk friend, Gunagrahi Swami, who headed up our chapter in Buffalo years ago. He's a gentle soul, a real gift of God. It's hard for me to believe that he randomly came and that he exists by chance.

4 KM

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

How To Perk Up!

Toronto, Ontario

We are a humble few. At 7:30 AM no more than a dozen of us monastics sit down for listening to a message from the Bhagavatam (on the weekends, of course, participants swell in number.)

We have implemented a method for those who display sleepiness. No, we don't have a system or a program for martial arts to stimulate blood and muscles. But we have found a rather fun device that works. Before the class we decide what will be the penalty for starting to dose even though the speaker may be lively enough.

Jumping is one method and since yesterday's verse described the lost soul as being like a monkey always engaged in foolishness, the candidate caught in slumber was asked to jump like a monkey. Two of our monks were delinquents and they were mildly penalized by asking to portray the mischievous critters, all in good fun. The devotees became perky. The technique worked.

Every day requires creativity. One technique will get monotonous. The traditional push-ups is on the list for solutions. Another method that works is for the speaker to throw the flower garland at the person doing the head dive-bombing. In the past a love-poking in the ribs by a kind monk sitting next to the doser (or hoser) can be effective.

When I joined the ashram in '73 the summer was hot and sticky and we shared a small space in our rented house at 187 Gerrard St. E. The monks who worked hard during the day, and got up for the early rise, naturally would sometimes get hit by sleepiness. The going method then was the use of a powerful spray bottle of water. The colder the water, the better. It was a magical shock treatment. Hey, monks can have fun too!

Another very effective approach was being singled out by the speaker in the middle of the class. In the Manhattan ashram in '76 I recall a very dramatical swami who humourously pointed his finger at a dozing monk and said in front of all, "Stay awake or blood will flow!"

One method that I find works (more seriously) is a yogic approach. As I have learned form my walking along the Trans Canada Highway when sometimes I would encounter fatigue was to indulge in pranayam, a powerful respiration method which enhances air flow. Also I've found that if I do a couple of yogic salutations to the sun, I get energized if I am about to enter a meeting room knowing that the topic may not have a particular appeal.

In this way you utilize your innovative and creative abilities and dovetail them in the service of the Supreme. Hearing is so important after all, especially in relation to the soul. Om Tat Sat!

9 KM

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

A Bizarre Affair

Toronto, Ontario

To take a walk today I found I had to detour. Police had blockaded off an extensive area of city blocks beginning just outside our temple ashram. Police were all around on foot and in their cabs near the home of us monks to investigate. Of course, we were not in trouble nor suspect for anything.

Apparently, early at 5 AM a man in bare foot trudged the snow and ice and jumped into a snow plow vehicle that was idling. From there a bizarre escapade like that of a mad car chase thriller movie ensued. The thief sped his way through city streets dodging police, banging into vehicles and in one spot, bashing into a car dealership building, shattering the showcase windows. The snow plow owner was also on a wild chase for the culprit. Police had formed a barricade not but two blocks from our building when the mad snow plow driver burst through. Sadly, an officer got killed, God bless him. Police shot at the suspect who was finally put to a halt, and the hospital. By 7 AM the surreal chase episode finished while investigation went on.

The world also went on. I deliberately trekked the major thoroughfare for pedestrians. People were talking about everything and the chase scene as well. When legs move to proceed on foot, the other senses remain activated. You hear what people say. You observe where you walk, the traffic, the people, the buildings, the stop and go lights. You feel the chill and the snow flakes contacting the nostrils. It's a barrage of activity.

In the course of a day, a lot goes on within you, within the place or city where you live, within the globe, the universe, and finally, within the entire creation itself. Someone is born. Someone dies. Someone is at war. Someone's eating. Another one is starving. And then someone, a police officer, sacrifices his life and an entire city mourns.

5 KM

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

A New Mask

Toronto, Ontario

For neighbours who route themselves diagonally on the walkway through Dupont Parkette situated just behind our temple/ashram, there is something new. It might go unnoticed.

The City Parks Department had planted a sugar maple tree last fall. It is a mere 15 foot young guy rooted in amongst giants. He'll be like his companions one day, give it one hundred years or more. What's so special about it is the dedication it was meant for. At the base of this new soon-to-be budding artist is a stone plaque inscribed on it, "In dedication to Bhaktivedanta Swami who walked here in June 1975."

In that year, an explosive time for the spread of Krishna Consciousness, our guru did in fact stroll through this moderate-sized park with a dozen or so followers. This healthy patch of green from April to November (and white for the balance of the year) is situated at the base of Dupont Street where Avenue Road crosses.

Local historians say that this area was the route taken by the Huron natives centuries ago when the water form Lake Ontario was progressively up in levels that edged off right along or near this spot.

In any event, the parkette, now graced with a special maple tree, gives it a new meaning. If trees have their own glory, especially those that run a sweet sap, then humans who emit a nectar of divine wisdom and example, who are few and far between, leave an indelible mark where they go. This place now marks the spot of a person who gave a real renaissance into the lives of many.

It was in this neighbourhood where rooms were rented to the free-love hippies, many of whom 'hung out' at Canada's famous hippie-haven, Yorkville, just a stone's throw from here.

Bhaktivedanta Swami was now the world over for leading flocks of fortunate seekers who wanted to change for a cleaner mode of life. With that he succeeded. He also demonstrated the tolerance of a tree when trying to train the wild and wonderful youth of the 60s and 70s.

This tree is well placed and is situated there to show appreciation to the good work of the guru. For a fee of seven hundred dollars, sponsor Raghavender stepped up to do the honour of gracing the earth with this special tree that represents giving help and giving devotion.

3 KM

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Dead or Alive!

Owen Sound, Ontario

Everywhere that anyone may wander there is a reminder of death and life. From 4th Avenue I trekked on passing by the length and width of the local cemetery, Greenwood. It was too dark to read the inscriptions on the tombstones. Sun hadn't yet shown its' glorious face.

Traffic trickled along the grid of this tiny city. It showed life though. And you can imagine the minds of those motorists. It's Monday morning. A blue mood persists. It seems like death for some people. Runners are running. Motorists are motoring. I seemed to be the only walker.

Priyam is 13, and Krishna, his brother, is 8. As I completed my walk I sat down with them for breakfast. They are driven by Mom to school each day. Dad is in Orlando on a work assignment. The boys will not be running, walking or driving a car. Their love is hockey. And they're good at it according to them. Hockey makes them feel alive. Their summer shifts them to soccer and Dad plays cricket then.

What? In Canada? Apparently.

There's enough people in Owen Sound from South Africa, New Zealand, the U.K. and India to form a team.

What is most extraordinary about this family of Gujarati origin is that while they put out work and play efforts, the always have time for God. The moments when they don't play and work is the time for shanti, peace and stillness. The parents, Rajesh and Alpa, keep a beautiful shrine in their front room.

The situation for this family seems as close to perfection as possible. The boys do well in school. They have a nice home. The town is clean, Victorian-looking and there are natural waterfalls all around. Good karma, for sure!

One thing we learn form stories found in the Vedas, like the story of Sudama Brahman, is that you should never be ungrateful for the great that comes your way. Don't let your good karma spoil you.

Our hosts, the family, demonstrated so much kindness to Surya, Deva and myself during our one night stay. We saw what ideal life is like.

On our return to the city while the sun suspended itself in its glory, snow like light dust was blowing about when we saw a massive arched rainbow in the sky. Has anyone ever seen a rainbow in the dead of winter? It was so much alive.

6 KM

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Checking Imbalances

Owen Sound, Ontario

A long haul by wheels limited walking as time restricted. Snow drifts retarded our speed from Detroit to this northerly south Ontario city, Owen Sound. Combined with the previous day, this short trip was squeezed in to encourage Krishna Consciousness to worthy and loyal to-the-mission folks.

What is the mission? It's an interesting word. I recall meeting hippie types who would stop to greet me on the road and tell me they were on a mission. It wasn't hard to figure out that they were enroute to liberal British Columbia where the marijuana is particularly fine.

The mission I'm speaking of is the humble attempt by our guru to check the imbalanced lives that we folks live in. The families that came together at the home of Rajesh and Alpa and their two sons, Priyam and Krishna, were of Canadian origin. Tome and Dale are at near retirement age. Our mission is somewhat new to them but they sat and heard in what we had to share. I find Canadians and Americans are somewhat curious at that age to at least listen with respect.

The rest of the group at the home event were three families, all born as devotees of Krishna. They always emit and incredible enthusiasm. Would I consider their lives imbalanced? No, but surrounding them are the enticements of a highly charged techie world and that can steer anyone away from life's prime objective.

I did get the chance to come closer to the children by giving gifts of devotional value - colouring and reading books. Each child left happily adorned with sacred tulasi neck beads around their necks. Most valuable for this day was the pleasure of giving and receiving the good company of Deva and Surya, who like anyone else, just need a little change from valuable but routine services.

That provided a balance for them.

1.5 KM

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

The Changing Bodies Blitz

Detroit, Michigan

Before a 400 kilometre drive down the 4-0-1, the country's busiest highway, and with thru stops along the way before reaching a destination, I took to some trekking. The blitz to London, Chatham and Windsor where chosen obligations for family, friends, devotees.

In Windsor friends Tom and Betty had cooked up a simple but wholesome veggie meal which I always have the honour to consecrate before spooning to my lips. After lunch, Tom had shared an old black and white TV series with host, Boris Karloff. It was dubbed as the best series that's never been seen (don't ask why it never went on the air, I don't know).

One episode was irresistible for Tom to share. Called, "The Veil", this drama brings you to Delhi in the 20s when a young woman had received a proposal for her hand, marriage by a fellow named Krishna. She cannot accept the offer because she admits to already being betrothed to a man from her previous life. She had died prematurely, you can say, leaving behind a husband and a son, Ram (played by George Hamilton) who is about her own age.

The story is fun. It pokes at the plausible scenario of reincarnation. The girl's mom speaks with more of a Transylvanian accent than a woman from Delhi and George looks half Indian. The only thing that qualifies the piece as Indian apart from the subject, which India cannot monopolize a claim to, is the use of the word, "Namaskar!" Produced in the fifties (is my guess) the production was a real honest attempt at looking out-of-the-box for that time. I admired the attempt.

Speaking of reincarnation and our trip, the two other monks, Surya and Deva and I, we felt as if we stepped into different bodies. Each stopover, each place was different, although we remained the same persons. Our last reincarnation was in Detroit where we were greeted by a most vibrant community including some who trailed over from Ohio.

What a day! Much was accomplished in solidifying relationships. Detroit, not only being in another place but country, was just the icing on the cake, as I had the opportunity to speak from the Gita on Krishna's sublime nature.

4 KM

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Religious and Secular Extremism

Toronto, Ontario

It is no wonder that atheism is on the rise. The reason for this phenomenon growth might not be so easy to ascertain but one thing is for sure, people are appalled. Is the increase a response to right-wing Christianity which carries a high level of bias? Is it a reaction to Muslim fundamentalism? Extremist attitude and extremist behaviour can be very unsettling.

If you pay attention to the testimony of someone like Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian woman who came to America to escape duress, it can cause alarms to go off. Her writings tell of the gross oppression of women under the sharia law, a religious-induced policy. And yet in the west the opposite extremity of 'looseness' in the name of freedom prevails for both women and men. You have stringent versus looseness. The Buddhists teach the middle path and the Vedas from India encourage sattva guna, the way of being temperate.

In our current pop culture you may have a concept where a woman is set in a cage wearing a very restrictive, almost straight-jacket type of Islamic wear. She dances out in captivity very artistically from the oppression. At one point the cage is lifted, and the dancer is relieved of her overly restrictive clothing to reveal a so called 'freedom' in the form of suggestive sensuality. The transformation is no doubt a crowd pleaser. But both approaches weigh far too much to the left and the right. A happy medium doesn't seem to be accommodated. It's a shame really.

I had walked through a schoolyard leaving boot impressions in the freshly strewn snow earlier in the morning. I contemplated on the direction of the world. It's fine if a moderate spirit prevails but if majority falls to the side of either the fundamentally rigid or loose then these impressions, like footprints in the snow, leave me concerned.

The only solution ahead is to step up to a higher consciousness and demonstrate, live and breathe that moderate approach.

5 KM

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

The Drastic Chili Story

Toronto Ontario

Somehow or other the morning's Bhagavatam class facilitated by myself swung over to the topic of red hot chili peppers. The two monks from India sitting there to listen amongst the rest of us looked at me with amazement as if fire came out of their mouths when I said "Chillis" did not come from India. They were introduced." Like the tea drinking the British crazed over is now custom in India, so is the use of chilies and the ground up version cayenne powder.

The boys were startled. Perhaps someone can now research further on Google, but it is the curry leaves, yogurt, chic pea flour, ginger, tumeric and cumin that is India's culinary contribution and not the red hot 'sharks' as some of us in the ashram called it.

While our actual topic was "sense control" we landed at the point of the over use of the passionate pods for cooking. Some of our visitors of the previous night bit into a hot pakora(veggie fritter) and had the dragon-mouth experience of their life. It was then and there at the tail end of class that we declared that all chilli peppers and cayenne make an exodus from the building. Subuddhi, president approved and co-president Madhavendra Puri, happily disposed of the little devils, with sneezes of course.

Why the reason for the drastic injuction? Well, those little guys shaped like the country Chile itself make you overly rajasic (hyper). It is intolerant to children because of the large doses used in the temple cooking and not that a small amount hurts). Many of our cooks just can't help themselves. They over do it. That's the actual problem. I guess our two topics tied in together-control chillis.

Not only the kids but most people who come find it not newcomer friendly. They won't eat with us again, and may never return. Even though by night-time the little sharks were chucked the little asurae (demons) will make their way back (by well intentioned donors) and a rerun will then occur. The toss-out leela (pastime) repeat itself.

As a compromise the temple ashram is usually stocked with fresh green ones. Maybe we can call them "green hornets". They can be a side-dish for those wanting them but we certainly don't need flames shooting off everyone's tongue as a result of an en masse curry cooked for hundreds.

To me chillies are like cigarettes. Use them outside and keep temple food nutrition healthy, colorful, and in the mode of goodness. Today I trekked a good seven kilometers all in one sweep, despite the hernia, and I didn't need one red hot shark to fuel me.


Friday, 7 January 2011

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

So Right

Toronto Ontario

As I dandered my way south on University Avenue it became apparent that despite winter overcoat robes were exposed. That cost some smiles and even nods, although most pedestrians just go about their business. The route took me by ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), then a half loop along Queen's Park, the provincial legislative building, then you pass several hospitals for cardio, cancer, and sick children up to the corner of May Pickford's bust(her birth spot) and into a medical clinic for a blood and urine testing.

My medical assistent was a woman from Guyana, and my guess was that she's Hindu. I'm sure I was her first robed patient. It showed in her surprise. "Just leave yourself bare chested, lie down and I'll be back."
"Fine,"I said.
"Is this Buddhist?" she asked.
"Hare Krishna."
"Oh yes, I was raised Catholic but I became a Hindu," she remarked.
She was pleasant as Guyanese folks usually are and our dialogue went on as time allowed. She got my invite to the temple. I was happy to have made that friend.

It was a bit daring doing the trek there and back walking on a hernia but it was painless. I looked down at my feet and reflected on what the monitor had said in the waiting room, "your feet have 25% of your body bone structure. Protect them."

Okay! I believe I've been doing that. Protect the body. Protect the soul. That sounds like a balanced equation. Keep body and soul together. I know I'm not just a body, a lump of chemicals. I'm a person, a divine spark. I'm convinced that there is this dimension otherwise devotional activities wouldn't feel right, so natural.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

It Started With White

Toronto, Ontario

Snow had snuk in with its silence changing the dynamics of things. I had completed a second trek for the previous day, then lay down to rest at midnight when all was dark and grey. At a 4 AM rising, nature's white sprinkle moved in to provide that new world of surprise. Weather gave fascination to the day. It gives an impetus to live and love life.

Each morning is like that for the spiritual practitioner. When you open the door to be hit softly or harshly by the atmospheric conditions it comes like that when you arise to a day of devotional wonder. There's adventure.

When the gates and doors to the vigraha (Krishna deity) opens to expose us to a fresh look our optimism escaltes. Our kid-in-the-candy-shop mood becomes ignited. Their smiles radiate a warmth that stokes your devotional energy permitting you to bear up against the day's onslaught.

I didn't have the opportunity to push a leg after that rising, I only had the fine memory of doing so before it struck midnight. Issues came at me from different parts of the continent either electronically, telephonically or personally. It took a stressful toll on me although I felt sustained because of the morning pull - seeing the most beautiful forms of Radha Gopinath (Krishna's sacred images). They stand there confident in pose and curvy like poetry or prose.

My day began before those buoyant forms and it ended that way as well. Before them, at evening arati (service), I picked up a drum and let fingers walk on its ends while Keshav, an always zestful one, gravitated to the same space. His fingers walked over the harmonium's teeth. We played and sang. It was a perfect day, as usual, except for the lack of trek.

0 KM

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

"Devotional Milestones for 2010"

Toronto, Ontario

A wrap up or review of the past year would look something like the following with regards to my feet and heart at home or other territory.

1. Early in February a sweaty walk got me through the nation of Trinidad.

2. Along the Mediterranean bare foot I went in October covering half of Israel.

3. Prem Kishor aka Dr. Jani, dear friend and devotee, hosted the first Festival of India in Thunder Bay at the shore of the world's largest lake, Lake Superior, in July. It was a grand success.

4. Montreal ISKCON launched its first devotional talent show called Natakam featuring dance, drama, and music of a unique kind.

5. The brahmacaris (monks) from Halifax purchased a bus, compliments of kind donors, for the purpose of travelling Canada throughout the year.

6. A Tamil gang leader turned pious and joined our Scarborough ISKCON centre. He now chants mantras on japa meditation beads.

7. Devotees of Brampton cooked up a storm serving thousands at the India Panorama.

8. Saskatoon is the latest city to open Krishna Consciousness programs led by team Kasyapa and Pancomi.

9. Ottawa ISKCON celebrated the 35th Anniversary of Guara-Nitai deity installation in August.

10. Vancouver ISKCON has finalized drawings for a new temple, a unique monolithic domed structure.

11. The village of Saranagati, an eco-friendly rural and devotional community, hosted a grand Balarama Festival in the summer, fusing indigenous and Vedic culturals. A huge teepee was erected to symbolize unity.

12. The Krishna Youth Bus Tour drove into Regina for its fifth year of devotional talents. Regina was the first city to host indoor stage events with the tour.

13. The Toronto Star, Canada's most widely read major city newspaper featured an article "Hare Krishnas Go Mainstream," a favourable update on the city's Krishna community. It was sourced to other papers nation wide.

14. Sunday school (Krishna Conscious style) is increasing in Calgary at the Radha Madhava Cultural Centre in age group up to age 21, thanks to co-ordinators Twani and Gopika.

15. Toronto's downtown Urban Edge Yoga Centre is enjoying its second year of operation catering to U of T spiritual seekers.

16. Alas this humble self, the Walking Monk, travelled in addition to Canada, to the USA, Guyana, Trinidad, Cuba, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, India and Dubai.


Monday, 3 January 2011

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

The Year Of Love?

Scarborough, Ontario

Could 2011 be the Year of Love? Let's try! Skeptics and cynics will say 'no' to anything, but for the spiritualist there will always be optimism. For them there will be an attempt at seeking and creating loving exchanges. But let's not be green behind the ears. There is no excuse for naivety regarding this material world.

The Bhagavad-gita cries out its ancient wisdom, "dukhalayam asasvatam'. There is misery in this world. Just consider the agony of being trapped in a mine for 69 days like those heroes in Chile this past year. Against all odds, ecstasy of knowing survivors were living off of hope of seeing their loved ones. Love does keep people alive. Love does make the world go 'round.

Love is powerful. People have declared wars over its passion and have fought in defense to protect those they love. It's just awfully shameful that love clashes as one camp will be totally malicious towards another out of love for kith and kin. If love could be extended beyond the tribal attitude to include the whole universal family we would be in better shape. This might sound idealistic but when love can work beyond the inside of a box then earth has a chance.

In a message delivered to a crowd at the ISKCON Centre, the topic was just that, about the cliche term 'love' which is really a type of lust. Love becomes perverted or self-centered as lust.

I like the definition of the word love coming from one of the great ksatriyas (warriors) of the epic, "Mahabharat". King Bhuma says, "Love means reposing one's affection completely upon one person."

In a devotional context this love which is pure and distinct from the lust of this world, this relationship with its natural reciprocation is in connecting to the Supreme Divine.

The bottom line is that love is a craving that everyone is seeking to fulfill. It's up to each individual to find what is meaningful in this regard. May 2011 be prosperous in the Divine love-making department.

2.5 KM

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

A Start for 2011

Toronto Ontario

As is common in much of the world, the New Year is received to the sound of popping open the cork of a bottle of booze. Here is the alternative. Chant a mantra and pump into the atmosphere a sound that infuses good fortune.

Guyanese born Vrindavan das had the idea to start off the New Year with a bang of the maha mantra. He arranged a twelve hour chanting session. On a shift basis family and friends took part in the lead and response procedure.

I had the pleasure to be inside the circle of chanters in the living room and our Halifax monks were there to form a lively kirtan group. from there I made my way to my sister for a family reunion. Siblings from various parts of Ontario emerged for a New Year's meal at a table of tolerance for a mix of veggies, grains, and bird. Out of our lot one third of us are firm vegetarians

As the day wore on the number of people around me increased. At the downtown temple/ashram, (and my residence) hundreds of people ushered in cheers of a hopeful 2011. Young Bhaktin Becky from Cleveland received her new name Hari Lila.

Why the name "Hari?" It has something to do with her love for George Harrison. George asked our guru about committing to an ashram (style of life). The things that our guru suggested to George was that hair shaving was not necessary for him, that his music making with devotional lyrics was a benevolent service to the world and that his name need not change since his surname Harrison implies being the son of Hari (God).

On January 4th 1973 thirty eight years ago, our guru Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter to George indicating that he "was making good spiritual progress"...Its not by accident that you are coming gradually to the right point" He quoted Krishna in the Gita 7. 19 "After many births and deaths he who is actually wise surrender unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is."

I took the opportunity to read an excerpt from the lengthy letter reading also the closing " I know you are very intelligent boy, and I like you very much. You are better than my own son" My message to Hari Lila was to grow fond of Krishna as much as she is of George. In this way the fortune is enhanced.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Friday, December 31st, 2010

A baby and the new year

Scarborough, Ontario

She sat there rather uncomfortable. I mentioned to her husband sitting next to her, “us guys could never understand the pain these ladies go through.” She is eight and a half months pregnant and looking beautiful in her own type of way.

She remarked, “ I’ve been known as a phys. Ed guru for years , always conscious of my looks, but recently being very hungry and trying to feed the baby and I don’t seem to care.” The Three of us, minus the unborn, discussed how parenting is all about giving, all about sacrifice and that the experience is setting themselves up for their spiritual life. The husband, a very successful tattoo artist, indicated he was trying to be a good support during these last few months, when again, the baby started making his moves. As we continued over a little chat at the back of the temple room it crossed my mind, “ Hhmmmmmm! Perhaps the baby’s trying to walk. I could have another future walking companion. “

I had to bow out of the most exhilarating event of the year, the new Years kirtan, chanting at Toronto’s old city hall. With health condition what it is (the hernia) I opted for a home program at a Bengali’s home. It was our community youth that took the reigns of the New Years smashing and bashing chanting which was received with tremendous approval. A protective phalanx of police broke into smiles of delight when they realized the explosive passion of chanters had more of a subduing effect on the crowd rather than stirring up a form of rowdiness. The “smashing” and “bashing” adjectives were merely a poetic way of challenging Maya (illusion) that were to come for 2011.

You can be guaranteed that the world and the individual will be threatened by the devil just like any other year. As our guru, Srila Prabhupada, once wrote in a letter to Brian Marvin aka Shukavak of Scarborough, Ontario “history is eternal”. And he added, “history repeats itself. “

We just need to be prepared for the attacks when they arise.

Happy New Year!

0 KM

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

God Sent A Boxer

Toronto, Ontario

I went for my daily walk when I met the Halifax monks. They were just returning from their book distribution program. In the month of December, worldwide efforts are made to enthuse pedestrians, shop keepers, residential folks, just about anyone in receiving a book of Vedic wisdom for nominal donations. With the month coming to a close the book marathon is beginning to wind down.

To give our community a taste of what I'm talking about with regards to this noble book distribution service I spoke with the boys about recreating some of the highlights of encounters with people (particularly on the street) in the form of a dramatization for a New Year's festival at the temple. There was some eagerness about doing it and the monks came back to start the scripting. Each of the six monks butt heads to write of a person (sometimes 'character') they met. I wondered how I could contribute to the script. I wasn't much involved in the book program other than encouraging people in my recent travels. I'm handicapped with a health issue, a hernia whom I've nicknamed Hernia-kashipu, which has a semblance o to the name of a Puranic demon.

When I returned from a careful walk I saw two young men sitting in the back of the temple room. The one who first noticed me was Ryan O'Campo who won a bronze medal for the 2003 Canadian Winter Games in New Brunswick for boxing. Ryan has made it his second trip to the temple. "I love it here," he said with a smile. He did express a slight depression due to not training for five days.

"I know what it's like, being a marathon walker, and if you don't move those legs for a few days you feel like something's really missing," I said, he concurred. In fact he did agree with so many things including philosophical remarks I made. He was enthused to purchase a book from me. "Coming Back" is a small paperback on the science of reincarnation. Ryan was thrilled.

And when I asked him if he would play himself and to re-enact our encounter in our drama for Jan the 1st, he was doubly thrilled. "Rehearsal will be at 4 pm tomorrow," I said.

I'm glad Ryan came. He’s God-sent. God sent a boxer.

3 KM