Saturday, 30 April 2011

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The Topic of Sex

Toronto, Ontario

A few days ago three devotee married men asked me my opinion about sex and science.

"They have done scientific studies, Maharaja, and have concluded that sex is good for your health and overall well being."

There, they said it and wanted me to give a response to this incredible endorsement by the scientific community.

"Well, you are talking to someone who had no experience in this life," I said to which they laughed. I continued, "Did the voice of science say anything about the physical and psychological benefits of sticking to one partner?"

"No! This was not their agenda."

"Exactly," I said. "Moral issues are not to be discussed. There is no objection to sex as explained in the Gita but attaching parameters to deal with the sex appetite is addressed."

I went on to express that the average person would love to be given the green light to do any old damn thing unrestrictedly. After all someone is making money on your promiscuity. The criterion for what is right and wrong is measured so often by "Will it make me a buck?" After all, capitalism prevails, doesn't it?

To my dear friends who brought up the topic I suggested to concentrate on a spiritual focus and remind each other that their kids love you for being loyal in the relationship with their mother.

Will science speak of value? No, because it is so often data working without heart.

Let us look at deep, sublime love with the Supreme, beyond romance and stimulation. Not that these realities do not exist. Let's get the priorities right.

5 KM

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Thoughts Wile In The Air

Dubai, U.A.E

Mpho is an impressive young black woman from South Africa who majored in theatre arts. We had the pleasure of having her engage her talents in our dramas over the weekend in Durban. She told of how her training, from perspective, was rather ego based and the philosophy was "it's all about me." She said the techniques were fine but the downside was that she couldn't detect the principle of humility and that was important to her.

It was two days ago in a casual setting in a marquis while actors were readying themselves for the chariot festival performance when she spoke of her icon, her epitome of Nelson Mandela. She referred to Oprah's TV interview. "The way he was in that interview was so inspiring," she said most theatrically.

I was happy for Mpho for identifying the quality behind his heroism. Real success is dependant on the humble state of mind, so we are taught in Krishna Consciousness.

Or guru, Srila Prabhupada, encouraged the modest outlook and the tolerance that parallels it. "Following in the footprints... thinking oneself lower that the straw in the street... be as tolerant as a tree" he referenced the words of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

"Always remember this verse (about humility)" he wrote. Underscore it. The word "always" can be given an extra line for emphasis.

Mpho will set out next month teaching theatre arts as therapy and I wish her well. Whatever was missing in her curriculum during her student period might now be an insertion. May the humble greats affect her. And all of us.

Who doesn't wish success?

0 KM

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011


Durban, South Arica

When walking in urban areas in the morning (and chanting) the creatures most common to be seen are cats, dogs and birds. Amongst the birds are doves. Here at the Chatsworth/Durban temple I see or at least hear a dove each day. I began thinking about the word "Dovetailing" so often used by our guru, Srila Prabhupada in his writings.

In a letter by him written 38 years ago on this day, Prabhupada wrote to a devotee friend of mine, Thakur Haridas, from Canada about dovetailing. Although the word was not spcifically used in this context it is totally implied.

Thakur Haridas was a novice monk living in California at the time when he went door to door in Hollywood. He knocked on the door of pop star Neil Diamond. Neil opened his home to Haridas for a couple of hours and had frank discussions with Haridas. Haridas then told Prabhupada of the experience.

Here is an excerpt from the letter on channelling your talents or dovetailing:

"My Dear Thakur Haridas,

Please accept my blessings, I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated April 21, 1973 and also the screenplay, "Jonathon Livingston Seagull" from Mr. Diamond. So it is good work that you are getting important man to understand the importance of Krishna Conciousness in the modern world... I can undrstand from the play he is talented man. Now you have to impress upon him that when talent is used to glorify the Supreme Lord, that is perfection of talent. Just like one of our students, he is scientist, PHD and he can present God by scientific statement. He has written one small book presenting God Consciousness based on scientific statement very nicely so we are publishing it..."

The point made is if you have a skill, a talent, use it for a higher purpose.

12 KM

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Sweat and rain

Durban, South Africa

The Easter Monday marks the last of the four day Ratha Yatra festival in Durban. The numbers have been big, tens of thousands each day. And the ecstasies... there are plenty.

I particularly relished the Youth lounge where dance sessions to go to the beat of multiple djimbe players. Despite lack of air in the scrawny tent youths in the age of 16 and above(not strictly enforced) were jiving with the mantra. It was a sweet experience.

Over the four day phantasmagoria we alternated on two dramas for the larger tent which seats 1200 or more. Scheduled as the last item this time a lot got filled up in full capacity seating of spectators. Godrumagoura, who I see like a son, played out his roles well in the Vishnu story, "Gods and Demons" and in "The Jaganath Story". We also managed to insert a ten minute dance where he partners with African born Prema Vikas in a piece called "Chaitanya's Verses". Well done, Gour and Prema. Audiences were pleased.

Mother Nature did not let up tonight to add to all the ecstasies. Rain drenched the place located just a short Jaunt from the newly built Stadium, established for last year's soccer world cup. The down pour only added to the fun.

And you know, when dealing with nature as it is with its dualities you never hop into a bowl of roses. I had my issues with the technical guys on lights and sound. The Bhagavad - Gita states that this world is dukha (pronounced dookha) meaning there is a shore of misery. You can never expect to step into perfection in our mundane world. Let's end the naivete and get real. We have some work to do before we reach a resemblance of perfection. The final kirtan chanting with Madhava from Switzerland and B.B. Govinda, dear friend from the early monk days in Toronto put a nice closure to the weekend and creating a close - to - perfect scenario.

10 KM

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Good news from the Island

Durban, South Africa

“Wow!” I say.
I picked up off the internet a poster welcoming Mauritian
Islanders to a Saturday and Sunday Walk for Spiritual
Awareness. Departure on Saturday is 5:15 AM and Sunday at
3.30 AM with an attached itinerary and including a
spiritual program on the road as you trek.

“These guys are on fire,” is my response. I’m impressed.
They are really taking off. Of all places in the world,
this tiny it-takes-less- than-two hours-to-drive-across
island might be the right place for regular walkathons.

Where would you find a place when there is some foot travelers on
the main secondary roads where motorist are so kind and
virtuous. They do not honk their horns, and veer around
the pedestrians. They don’t seem inconvenienced. No swear
words are hurled. It’s quite an amazing place I’ve found.
And here they are organizing themselves for such a unique
kind of weekend fun. I wish them all blessings, and luck. Team leaders are Sukadev
and Ram Vijay. I say to them “May your flames be
contagious. And may the enthusiasm be sustained.”

When in Mauritius a week ago I heard from several people
that morning sadhana (service) were a little laid back at
the three island temples. Perhaps the early morning
marriage of physical and spiritual exercise will change
the perspective on “morning sadhana”. Let the road be the
weekend temple. Why not?

10 KM

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Furry Felines and People

Durban, South Africa

I’m no cat expert but I certainly see them prowling about,
on the hunt, of course. In my reeling about the Chatsworth
temple chanting on my japa meditation, I see some feline
regulars. You might call it cat hour, pre-dawn.

There’s this white and grey patterned one and is rather
oblivious to my chanting. Another one who hangs out near
the moat of the temple is a tabby cat. He shows off his
blond stripes. Near the kitchen you find this loyal one
who’s patterned like a Holstein cow, an impressive black
and white. I don’t know any of the names to these half
domesticated pusses, yet they are my early morning
friends. They provide a break from the hectic nature of
these days.

The Durban “Festival of chariots” is a big one. There’s
lots of people. You are surrounded by them all day. Just
yesterday 22,000 plates of biryani (a South African
favorite), dhal soup, farina halwa and a fruit base drink
were served. And that was gratis. Somehow I manage more
solo moments before the flood of youths puts its tide in.
I was requested to facilitate an interactive dance session
at the tent called the Youth Café. My God, talke about
being crammed and swimming in the shared sweat of the
young. The djembes were rolling and popping their sound.
The mantra was put out in gutsiness. Then at body make up
time my crew of youth for the production “Gods and Demons”
was my company. Agny, the god of fire, was painted up, so
was Indra, the god of rain; Varuna, the god of water;
Bhumi, the earth deity; Vayu, god of air; and even one of
the Maruts representing the either. We also had the girls
all in white portraying the milk ocean.

Anyway the environment was one of controlled rowdiness, a
devotional chaos. The performance was marvelous. We even
featured a ten feet tall elephant. What a crowd pleaser
that was. It’s all good energy for the day. It started
with a cat and ended with an elephant. Of course,
elephants. I’m in Africa, what do you expect.
OM TAT SAT were the signing off words of the play “Gods
and Demons”. They are words from the Gita.

8 KM

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

What Students Said

Durban, South Africa

I received some messages of appreciation from students at
Notre Dame Secondary school in Brampton, Canada.
Irresistible for me to share just four of them for brevity
sake I also left out the names.

“Hi, how are you? I am a student at Notre Dame and I would
like to thank you for coming to our school. I would like
to say Thank you because you took time from your life to
come and talk to us and answer a lot of questions I didn’t
know the answer to. I didn’t really know about the clothes
you wear and that you can use your clothes for preaching
but now I understand. I love your song that you taught us
and have a great day”.

“Namaste Bhaktimarga Swami,
Your visit in our school was a great privilege that our
school had. Yoga was a very good exercise that you taught
us. It seemed to have fixed my back problem. Overall,
doing yoga made me feel rejuvenated which I thank you for
teaching. You have taught us a great deal of how to become
spiritual and how to enjoy being spiritual. I had so much
fun dancing and chanting the Hare Krishna Mantra with you.
You were very good at drum playing even you stated that
you weren’t. I feel very humbled when you shared your
experiences with us and about your life. It was very
interesting that you walked for countless miles of
distance in a variety of countries. Thank you for taking the
time to visit our school and I wish you safe and happy
travel and pilgrimage”

“Dear Bhaktimarga Swami,
I had a great time when you came by Notre Dame. Your
chanting and dances where so interesting. Your way of life
is inspiring, it makes you think more about your spiritual
self and makes you search deeper within. It helped open my
eyes and show me that being a monk look quite fun.”

…and just one more….”

“Hi Bhaktimarga Swami,
It was a great pleasure to learn about your religion and
your everyday lifestyle as a monk. Before you visited, I
never actually knew what a monk did or what their purpose
was I think it’s wonderful how inspired you guys are in
keeping the world a more peaceful place. “

Comment: after receiving these letters and more, it
increased my love for my life.

8 KM

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Thursday, April 21th, 2011

The Travelling Monk and Walking Monk Meet

Durban, South Africa

I had a few minutes with Indradyumna Swami, an American born
monk and a good friend of mine. He is dubbed as the
Travelling Monk. At 61 he’s doing well in body, mind and
spirit. As is customary for Krishna monks

He chants tons but for body he might do thirty laps in the
pool. He complimented me for my physical commitment to
walking. He felt it was our duty as leaders to convey to
the next generation how important is the health for the
sake of service and becoming an aid rather needing it.

If we were on a good regiment for balancing our physical
and spiritual fitness when we joined the mission four
decades ago we would have less casualties amongst our
ranks. Our generation, the flower child Pepsi generation
may be considered a rather careless group. Amongst our lot
a good number have passed on at an early age. This is
interesting. I am personally not shy to bring up the issue
of good health and insert it into a class on bhakti-yoga.

A person remarked to me the other day after having my talk
at a Sunday open house, “we never heard a Maharaja speak
about health”. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for a
high rate of the infirm amongst our age group.

Now what else about Indradyumna Swami who is rather fit?
Well he stages entertainment in Poland, Australia, South
America, India in spiritual flavor. It’s unique. He has
this exotic variety show complete with martial arts, and
the passion of drama, bharat natyam dance and more. It’s a
two hour bedazzling experience. Indradyumna is in South
Africa for a relaxer from his travelling road show. It’s
another one of those things we share in common ground. He
remarked, “you and I go around and put on shows.”
“That’s fair,”I thought, “We do share this similar

I guess we both get that buzz from seeing the public
become not only entertained but elevated in consciousness.
All success to your shows, Indradyumna Swami. Wish the
same for me!

16 KM

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Michael’s Question

Durban, South Africa

An Afrikaner chap, Michael, brought up a question after my
delivery of Bhagavatam class.

“How can we settle the matter of the origin of the jeeva,
the soul?”

Michael’s question deserves a little background. The topic
is debatable and controversial. Pundits have been trying
to wrap their hands around the issue of “where did I
initially come from, meaning my soul, my spirit.” Most of
us know about the birth if this body. It’s written on your
birth certificate. That is to do with your body but not
your soul.

We are informed that through a series of lives we have
been transferring. How many lives is unknown. Since time
immemorial. The question pressing for Michael is actually
not so much when but from where did the soul make entry in
the material world.

Debates on this subject matter have spun around in circles
with no agreed upon siddhanta or conclusion. You merely
have factions that hold hard and fast to varying
positions. But as Michael was well aware, our guru Srila
Prabhupada’s stance on the subject was that primarily we
don’t need to be engrossed in the subject, that we be more
concern about the fact that we are a spirit, we are deeply
entrenched into matter. It’s like being trapped in a deep
dark pit and you immediately strategize how to get out.
Don’t worry about analyzing details of how you fell in.
There is a compulsion to get out, a desperate need to act
and to escape.

My response to Michael was perhaps too simplistic for him.
I suggested that life is such that live with doubt, that
we accept mystery and that not all will be known. Krishna
with His Creation reserves the right to retain his title
as Achintya, the inconceivable.

It is better to love Krishna then to try to understand

8 KM

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Durban, South Africa

In Durban with temperatures in early morning
approximating at 15 degree Celsius, there is comfort.
Having left Mauritius I find myself in new territory,
South Africa, the site of last year soccer world cup game.
Usually that means taxes are up and local folks will be
paying a debt for years to come on all the expenditure on
urban cosmetics arranged for the game.

I visit Durban every year for the Easter weekend Ratha
Yatra. New features for this year’s chariot Ratha Yatra
festival are promised – a youth’s veggie lounge, a kid’s
tent with massive sculpted animals and a wondrous
procession on Friday not on Saturday. Good Friday!

I’m here to inject some dramatical entertainment. Some
back-by-popular-demand dramas “Gods and Demons” and “The
Jagannath Story”.

I like the Durban Temple setting across the road from
Ghandi Park, on top of the hill. I try to avoid venturing
on foot beyond our property because outside it’s risky as
far as crime is concerned. I stick by the temple in a
clockwise fashion with the deities of Radha Krishna whom
are the natural centripetal objects for the region.

It’s my twelfth year coming. The moat surrounding the
building is in full swing except for a belching fountain
to one side. At least some water squirts out. Things
aren’t perfect but attempting to be.

Never give up. A winner never quits. A loser often can’t
even get started.

Every morning I will do my prescribed chanting around the
temple and I will circumambulate and I will not quit until
I complete the mantras for the time that I’m in Durban.

8 KM

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Mauritius, Good Bye

Bon Acceuil, Mauritius

I was pleasantly surprised. For a last trip by car to the
temple from the town Flacq, Kala and I came upon a white
attired japa performer on the road.

Kala stopped to offer the walker with japa meditation
beads in hands a lift to his destination to the temple.
The walker who had been one of our regulars on the road
for the past four days refused the ride preferring to walk
his whole distance. It appears he got hooked on the

Kala remarked that this would not normally happen; that
the padayatra, the on foot festival, had impact. In fact
some of the men in the community vowed to me that they
would begin a japa walk club. The question came up twice
yesterday at two different venues where I gave a Krishna
Conscious talk, “when are you coming back (to Mauritius)

And my answer was, “When you build up your club
membership”. Mauritians are a reserved type of people and
there was no sudden “hurray!” It just seems that they will
react by doing. And after a brief attendance of morning
sadhana, a dozen or so attendees followed me as I trekked
down Vrndavan Road. The Mauritius Walk was officially
over. I had completed one more country to add to the list
but these folks, including two women, who came for an
extra 3 kilometers just may continue after I’m gone.
There is something to be relished from this walking and

As part of the talk yesterday I asked the crowd from a
health point of view, “Are there problems with diabetes in
the community?) Answer was “Oui (yes)!”

“How about high cholesterol?”


“How about heart related diseases?”


Does anyone have their spare tire in the wrong place?”
(Laughter) “Oui!”

We parted and I took my ride to Plaisance Airport
physically prepared to leave Mauritius, psychologically
less so. I’ll miss these walking gentle souls, the sugar
cane lined roads, the mystical moon, clouds and sky.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Outside Our Accommodation

Goodlands, Mauritius

Outside our accommodation in all directions the roosters crow at 1 a.m. Their cry throws off the sleep Thierry and I needed for this last of days walking in Mauritius. Once up and out we counted thirty five pilgrims including young children. That’s pretty good for starting at 3: 30 a.m. once again.

Each morning the moon has been eyeing us. His waning eye lid and the sporadic hiding behind the clouds makes him appear shy form the town of Goodlands to Mon Choisy, a 21 kilometre stretch. You always feel his presence in rural districts up until his eye companion, the sun, becomes prominent. It looks like they do shift work.

As in a perfect pilgrimage you finish feeling cleansed. You can’t help having that sensation especially with the serious swim in the end. The beach invited us. It’s a fabulous swimming place. Water frivolity brings out the best in everyone. Sadly it is not a cultural norm anymore for many countries. Hey, we’ve got computers now.

I would say most emphatically that there is nothing that technology has to offer that creates a beautiful bonding like the trekking in the wee morning hours and the swim to follow. We tolerate the barking dogs, we may step accidentally on a fallen passion fruit or slide on a slug yet it’s all this “real stuff” and not the fantasies of the mind or the screen that provides adventure and fun sport from the spiritual component.

We feel we are kings of the road and at the same time are very much family, enjoying each others’ company.

Thierry who is a native French Mauritian is so much loved by all the community. With a colourful fire ceremony to highlight Thierry’s initiation or diksha his new name now is Kala das referring to his punctuality. Kala means eternal time.

21 KM

Saturday, April 16th, 2011


Triolet, Mauritius

Jet-lag still haunts me and so sleep was rather restless. I don’t know what engine I’m running on. The evening was hosted by a family from a town named Flacq. Our hosts Amar and Priya have relatives, acquaintances from Milton, Canada.

It is the third day on foot in Mauritius and it was a brief 10 kilometres. A windy road and a cane plant backdrop appear wonderfully usual each day. Leaves of the banana trees flap in the breeze sliding along each other looking like a man rubbing his hands. For the most part my companions and I move in the dark. There’s less distraction that way. Concentrating on sound comes easier, the sound of the name of Krishna which is uttered over and over again.

Thierry saw to it that I reach the Bon Accueil temple for the 8 o’clock class. The verse of the day was Krishna speaking of the effort made by sage Narada who had compassion on the two wealthy sons of Kuvera. Because a saint made the endeavour to help these intoxicated brothers Krishna expressed His obligation to further help them by awarding them liberation.

Great questions evolved from our discussion regarding compassion. A little more on this topic became my experience when a portion of the day was devoted to theatre workshop. It was day number two for some youth to come to me for lessons. I used the word compassion in this regard since I was compelled to conjure up some new ways for approaching improvisation.

Finally by late afternoon a hefty figure of 1500 devotees turned up for one of five Chariot Festivals held annually in Mauritius. Today’s was a procession on the main drag of Triolet culminating with a darshan (deity viewing) and kirtan chanting at the newly built temple of Rukmini Dwarkadish.

The day was nothing short of glorious. As I lay down to rest I marvelled at the coincidence, if you will, of the two large arjoon tree branches that fell in front of our pilgrim group yesterday. It reflects on the story of the two sons who became cursed as arjoon trees and then fell to land in Krishna’s own courtyard. Their punishment for indecent exposure was to be born as this species of trees. Their curse became a benediction.

15 KM

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Jour Deu


We actually set foot from the Krishna Balaram temple at Bon Accueil quite early. 3:15a.m. was not a discouraging time for Guru Carana Padma, a mom and her two sons, Govinda, 18 and Govardhan, 11. Thierry was the fifth person and we grew from there. Within the hour our number reached thirty-five as volunteers, many of whom had blistered feet from yesterday, latched on along the way. I tell you frankly though, I had never heard so many dogs raise such a fuss. Not one of them joined our battalion as on the previous day when one mutt took to our pilgrim group for kilometre after kilometre.

The public was aware of our walking as it was broadcasted last night on MBC TV. I’m sure it was no plot other than Mother Nature’s but a tree had fallen and blockaded the road to part ours. We managed around it in a shaded area of arjoon trees lined along the way. They protected us from rain more than from the sun.

It was as much ecstasy. We conducted a march to the beat of our drum and the sound of Guru-astakam (Prayers to the Guru) singing in unison like the British troop whistling in The Bridge Over the River Kurai. They generously insisted to be its captain or general.

Gradually nature and some fields went behind us as city madness engulfed me. Hustle bustle diesel realities changed the atmosphere. Pedestrians started peeking out and moving to their destination. Tell them “comment sa va?” (How are you? In French) said one helpful devotee as a greeting. In Mauritius it’s Creole that they understand. The island had been occupied by various forms of militant take-over. First there were the Portuguese, then the Dutch (we passed by an old Dutch fort yesterday), then came the French and then a sweeping attack of the British.

Our finish point was at the touristy ocean harbour of Port-Louis. After a non-stop 24KM trek we stopped to a spontaneous indulgence in a circle leg massage, one for men and one for women.

We were done but we had fun with a final kirtan until the evening spun in and over two hundred chanters walked a 3KM kirtan procession in the dark once again, this time in Camp de Masque Pave. The planned program culminated at a kali temple where the goddess saw an additional three hundred people clap and sing to “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”

27 KM

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

The Name of the Road

Phoenix, Mauritius

“What is the name of the road we walked on?” I asked.
“It doesn’t have a name (officially). Most people just
call it the coastal road or the royal road,” answered
Thierry and Sukadev, our driver back to Bon Accueil.
We had just completed a trekking success story. At least
for me, I never expected seventy three people to show up
at 4 a.m. for what might be perceived as a whimsical trek.
After all we are not raising any money here. Awareness,
yes. Since last night’s talk and kirtan people wanted to
be part of the action. I found it rather astounding that
such a small island with few residents would have a decent
size turn out.

We rendezvoused at Bel Air roundabout and began walking in
the dark when scarce was there a vehicle passing by in
this narrow two lane road crunched by sugarcane plants on
either side except at village sites. When headlights would
shine to one side of us it revealed a mass of silhouetted
people in robes scanning across slightly wind-tossed
twelve foot plants. It appeared rather mystical.
That’s what we were a mystical army. No police escorted
us. In Mauritius, it is a to do-it-yourself safety
program. There were plenty of women and children among us
and a mere torch (flashlight) bobbed up and down warning
oncoming traffic that we are here.

Practically our walking group chanted japa (meditation on
beads) all the way. Only at 8 a.m. when the sun’s presence
shone did we sing aloud our songs to Guru and to Krsna.
Drums and karatals (cymbals) set the beat and tempo for a
urging march. All the while Sukadev so expertly tended to
walkers who needed picking up from fatigue. Everyone
proved to be troupers of a glorious kind. I heard not a
single complaint. They were all smiles.

And smiles popped up under the lights of the temple in
Phoenix in the evening as well. Temple leader, Haridev
introduced me to yet another community on the island.
There, with the day’s closing, I spoke about the merits of
a more simple track to take in life and a less dependency
on technology.

“Use those legs. Give a car a break. Walk and chant. They
go so well together.” Such was my message. There was
pin-drop silence as the talk went on except for a baby who
seemed to make a vocal fuss every time I needed a sound on

What a great day in Mauritius!

25 KM

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The Island’s First Day

Bon Accueil, Mauritius

I had been greeted at the airport in Mauritius by an employee who yanked me out of an endless customs line-up to be brought to a moving VIP line. I'm not complaining. Having cleared customs and the long wait for luggage, I came out of the terminal with a substantial microphone coming at me. It was MBC, Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation.

The news interviewer asked me questions after welcome,

“When did you start walking?”

“When I was five, one mile to school and one mile back.”

“What is your purpose for walking Mauritius?”

“To promote the notion of pilgrimage. These legs were made for walking. To encourage more the spiritual side of life."

The questions kept pouring out, most of which I just can’t recall. It went all so fast. I guess it’s big news on this small island which was first discovered by the Portuguese. It would not be a major marathon. I would be starting tomorrow at a planned 20 KM a day. It’s less than my usual distance.

I was told by Thierry, a French native devotee of Krsna that there was no large wild animals here.

“Oh, that’s no fun,” I thought.

“Oh, but there are people,” he corrected himself.

“You are right, it’s the worst kind of animal.”

“Do you have Hell’s Angels?”

“A few Harleys are on the island but no one looks tough around here, really.”

“Again, well, that also sounds flat,” I thought.

Before a shower, sleep or eat, I was led to the Krishna Balarama temple on Vrindavan road at Bon Accueil at noon. There I was asked to conduct a kirtan, chanting. It’s perfect. You get to meet everyone through chanting.

Personalities stand out by the mere response to the mantra; who is extra or intra / verted; who smiles; who remains stern looking; who plays the instruments with you or tries to or who is in their own world.

It’s like sports. When engaging in a game of volleyball which I do from time to time, within twenty minutes of the game you’ve become acquainted with everyone. A second kirtan in the evening drew a full house. At this kirtan there were just too many to discern who’s who and what’s what. I’ll get my opportunity to meet everyone. It will be a happy getting-to-know the slightly over a million Mauritians. At least I hope so.

0 KM

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

In Transition

Dubai, U.A.E

You heard about the book “Eat, Pray, Love”. Today I felt like writing a novel “Stand, Sit and Chew”. I’m spending time mostly in the air and it’s port. You stand in line-ups, sit in the plane and eat a little food now and then. I’m not complaining. That never does any good. I’m just taking note of a day in the life in air culture. To some degree I guess you could say I’m eating, praying and loving (loving Krishna of course, via the chant).

At least I was lovin’ it and a packed house was lovin’ it, at a rented hall in Dubai. The community really was immersed in Kirtan, and given that it is the official birth anniversary of Rama all went ecstatic and on their feet singing their hearts out. There is no better pre-occupation.

Because of the global economic down turn, Dubai got hit like much of the world. Devotees tell me that companies are imposing layoffs while some are stipulating “you want to stay on the job then we reduce your salary to a third of what you used to get. Take it or leave it”. Some people have left Dubai to return to their places of origin for greater hopeful prospects.

Be the situation that it is, community members here value the power of chanting all the more for its social spiritual potency and have come to terms with the tighter times. It’s quite a resilient group. Their enthusiastic co-coordinator, Sri Vallabha, asked me to read from the book Bhagavatam, Canto One, describing Ramas’ appeal for the ocean to co-operate.

The place where Rama sat in meditation calling on the assistance of the samudra, the Indian Ocean, is located in the South of India, Ramesvaram. The ocean reduced its turbulence and became calm allowing for boulders to float on its surface, hence creating a causeway for him to reach Sri Lanka’s northern shore.

With this pastime we capitalized on the term of “co-operation”. The message was one of “Listen, Follow, Enjoy!” Hey, we’ve got material for a new book!

0 KM

Monday, 11 April 2011

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Monk’s Suit

Toronto, Ontario

As I had done last time a trip overseas with a stopover at Dubai means I must appear there in plainclothes. I will change in the plane while we are in the air. I will do like Clark Kent. Instead of a telephone booth, I will use the washroom to change in. But it will be reverse to what he does. He goes in the booth to change into his attire of empowerment.

I will strip down from my robes, my attire of empowerment, to put on my civies (civilian clothes). It’s not by choice. I love my clothes, my devotional clothes.

Remember the lyrics by Donovan where he sings, “I love my shirt, I love my shirt... I love my jeans, I love my jeans.” Well, I feel the same way about my devotional wear, my monk suit. I like my dhoti, kurtan and chauddar for comfort and for what they represent.

I recall years ago when going to a woman’s shelter to deliver, after cooking it, meals of tasty Krishna prasadam (blessed veggie meals). The women, some of whom were not of the highest grade, enjoyed it so much. One lady asked with all frankness why I was wearing a monkey suit and I corrected her, with no offense, “A monk’s suit, ma’am!”

The coordinator of the shelter said, “You handled that one very well, Mr. Swami.”

After all, one has to protect one’s domain and as a monk the clothes on your back is about all you’ve got except for a few books, a set of meditational beads and a tooth brush.

I will travel with this meagre paraphanelia to Mauritius today via Dubai with an enviable lightness.

8 KM

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

What the Leaves Told Me

Toronto, Ontario

I was going on little sleep. The cause – worries, but never mind. Move on, little doggie, that’s me. Goura and I took to the Belt Line ravine and the Evergreen Brickworks. It felt good. I had fine thoughts about the previous day’s Kirtan Standard Workshop. We trudged through mud and chanted, softly. Then I noticed the leaves strewn along the ravine’s slopes. The snow, now melted, exposes these sleepy guys who are relieved of their wet and white blanket.

It seems leaves play a major role in avoiding erosion, as do the trees anchored in with their serious roots, as do fallen trees and branches. They hold it, the soil, all in place.

And I thought dharma is like that: the path of duty checks morality and all that’s stable from slipping away. Dharma is our foundation and it becomes the springboard for transcendence. You practically cannot be truly ‘spiritual’ or a transcendentalist until you establish duty and obligation first.

I have never viewed nature’s debris in this manner before. Roots I knew about. They are like security guards seeing the soil behave but the leaves fallen from six months before? I have never appreciated this aspect of their existence. They just form this spongy coat on the slopes of a beautiful setting and assist the guards.

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that Krishna descends to the world with three intentions. 1) He protects the virtuous. 2) He establishes dharma. Since the community had celebrated Rama-nauvami today on a large scale, I had a chance to reflect on Krishna in the form of Rama as the upholder of dharma. He exemplified it well and I had the pleasure to speak to the crowd at our Sunday Open House about this great avatar.

At least for me, when Rama comes to mind it’s the scene of Rama and consort, Sita, brother Laksman in the Dandak forest with all the leaves at their feet. I worry less when I see that mental picture.

8 KM

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

A Friend Sends Me

Toronto, Ontario

I have a terrific friend from Saranagati Village in British Columbia. His name is Yamala Arjuna and I'm on his list of recipients to his bi-yearly package of jokes. I'll pull out some of the Zen sarcasm remarks to do with walking. They're good.

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.

2. The journey of a Thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

3. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

And here are some dillies that deal with health, and God, etc.

1. One danger of overeating - it may cause you to live beyond your seams.

2. Blessed are the hard of hearing, because they miss much small talk.

3. It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts.

4. If you want your dreams to come true, don't oversleep.

5. In order to mold His people, God often has to melt them.

Thanks Yamala, for some great one liners.

5 KM

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Another Cool School

Brampton, Ontario

I really like these school engagements. Today I found myself with Rajasuya from our ISKCON Brampton centre at Notre Dame Secondary School. The teacher, Judy Bella, was most gracious and she arranged for our presentation in the school's chapel. It's a great space.

With chairs at the perimeter of the room ample room was there for students in two periods to be briefed on the yoga asana of the lotus posture. I also led them through salutations to the sun, but the real highlight was the chanting of Hare Krishna (as usual) and the dancing that accompanied it. And through the talk when mentioning about doing three cross Canada walks the eyebrows rose.

In my travels in the west it's common to hear about guys, boys or men in general, having a bad rap. It's less prominent in eastern countries. Indeed, when Raja and I first entered the school and waited at the main office to be shown the chapel, a young male student came in and expressed his anger with a brunt, something I wasn't expecting. It's not always a super trait of glory that guys demonstrate.

Overall, what impressed me is in both classes that I gave that some of the boys stood out to be real gentlemen. You could pick out three or four that were like that. And that's not to say the girls were bad at all I would give credit to Judy and staff, and of course, parents of those teens, what to speak of the male teacher who told the outburst boy to behave. Good job done!

It's important to observe trends amongst our young.

Sadly, though, as Judy was telling us, technology has got them. After school hours like a noose (my words) video games lock kids in a cell and that's voluntary. we discussed with Judy after the class that for young men, over exposure to these gadgets causes a lowering of the sperm count. We don't know yet the damage for girls.

Judy is like Raj and I. We're into the outdoors, countryside and walking trails. That is so much what this blog is about. It's about getting out and getting a life.

8 KM

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Thursday, April 7th, 2010

March to Vaikuntha

Toronto, Ontario

It's been a while since I walked the Belt Line Trail. It's where I started my trining for marathon waling. At mid afternoon the trail is not ignored by locals despite the mud in some areas. They are doing what they need to do. The are out here to chill, just like I am. There is a need, a compulsion to get out. The building you are in and the constant dealing with people that pushes you away. It's necessary on a daily basis.

I'm grateful for this space, the air and the rare person with their dog. The atmosphere is pleasant, as close to Vaikuntha (heaven) as it will ever get.

I thought how unfortunate some people are, for instance, those residing in the politically-hot domino countries of the middle east. There, one cannot boast of peace. You cannot enjoy a walk.

And yet here in this place of relative peace not all persons are smiling and expressing good cheer. I had come out of the ravine and onto a path of a higher elevated park when I heard a toss and a rustle in a plastic bag. I though, "Oh, here, we must be having a raccoon who trapped himself in a garbage bin, but no...." I turned around to see Mr. Grumps. Now, Mr. Grumps was doing a good deed.

I said to him, "Oh, I though it was a raccoon; you know how they get caught inside trying to find food."

"No," said he, "I tossed out a soft drink can. It was 20 feet from the bin and someone couldn't take the time."

"It's carelessness," I suggested.

"Carelessness?" retorted Mr. Grumps. "It's ignorance." He forged ahead, passed by me. I was watching him. He found another piece of trash to pick up. The park was quite clean except for the odd piece of garbage. I though, "Okay, Mr. Grumps, there are some ignorant people. At least enjoy your volunteer service, or else you fall into the same category." I concluded he's not at peace.

It is so rare to find it in this world. All the more reason to march to Vaikuntha.

8 KM

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

At St. Ignatius

Mississauga, Ontario

Students of grade 11 at St. Ignatius Loyola stood up twice, once for the national anthem and once for us. The "us" was Goura from our temple ashram, Nitai Priya, our temple receptionist and I. "We" engaged the class in chanting and dancing. I selected one of the more outgoing kids of each gender to come up front with us to boost the spirit of the others in the class. It worked but mainly it was because of the teacher who was so much into it. She was terrific.

In fact she had stumbled upon us at last summer's Ratha Yatra festival, the Krishna's largest outdoor event at the Toronto Islands. Although Catholic, she was open enough to love what we were doing.

In the beginning when we walked into the classroom, I saw mandalas hanging along the blackboard. "We just finished teaching about Buddhism and that's the reason for the mandalas." She said. "Darn," I thought, "These brightly patterned hangings could have been easily upstaged by the brilliant picture of Jaganath (Sri Krishna) that I was think about bringing as a part of our presentation. Oh well, we do have ourselves to appear colourful."

I think we did appear so. Goura Explained how when he was young he went to secular school only to get bullied a lot and then got the relief of his life by attending a Krishna boarding school in India. And Nitai Priya explained to the students what the tilak was all about - sacred clay applied to the forehead to indicate humility by shaping the form of God's footprint with the substance at the mid-brow area. Then I explained what is a chadar, a shawl which (I demonstrated) becomes a coat, a seat, a blanket and a begging cloth all in one.

I took the opportunity to explain "dharma", to walk the line of duty, to stay on the road and don't be distracted by the things around you. One major principle in our sacred book, The Bhagavad Gita, is to be committed to duty and results will be what they will be. Stick to dharma and feel protected.

All in all, I think we were colourful to the students.

5 KM

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Thanked my guru

Markham, Ontario

Pornography. The topic came up.

A female devotee expressed that before pornography established itself in the world the mood was more chaste, a greater respect for the individual. I told her I couldn't agree more. Pornography has indeed become mainstream and has contributed to sex addictions, broken homes derailing wholesome traditional values and more. It's a big distraction and yet a big industry reaping millions if not billions of dollars annually. At what cost may we ask? It is not likely an industry that will shut down tomorrow until it shuts us down.

I had to look at families which I considered wholesome this evening when visiting two households as part of my pastoral obligations. In each case they were Hindu folks neither orthodox nor too liberal, but strong enough in moral values that you could declare, "Here is something stable." I thought that the sexual passions employed by these folks wear tempered by good old fashioned values. It was so evident in the behaviours of their kids. Most assuredly I could say that the porno-culture was not an issue in these two homes. They are stable families.

I felt safe in their environment not because I'm in the renounced order and am not exposed to the common licentiousness of todays atmosphere. I felt protected because I was respected as an individual. I grew up in the sixties in the era of free love and didn't really partake in it. Thank God! Call me dull.

Back in '96 on my first walk across Canada I completed trekking though the Rockies and was just ready to enter the vast Prairies when I sat at a creek upon a rock to chant a noon mantra. I was miles away from any humans. At the base of the rock was a glossy magazine and as I peered at it I could tell it was a porno magazine. I left it there knowing its not for me to see. It was something I had not ever seen before and I didn't need to be tempted although I was all alone.

I thanked my guru, Srila Prabhupada, internally for providing me with superior literature and superior things to think about.

3 KM

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Some Students

Toronto, Ontario

Isn't it profound that when you allow something so subtle into your life, something spiritual and light that you become more grounded, more stable?

Such was our message to a group of students form George Brown College who came as part of their training in the hospitality and nursing field. Their curriculum includes becoming acquainted with people of different cultural diversities. Our temple was chosen as one of their destinations.

As I was making my presentation I had a young brahmachari monk right next to me. I addressed the group saying, "If this young man in his robes comes to your restaurant or if he happens to be your patient, he will not want onions on his plate, he'll avoid garlic, meat, fish and eggs. In addition to that just to let you know he won't be ordering whiskey or any such thing. He's clean. He doesn't gamble. And one day he just may get married and organize a family planning program."

At the last remark he blushed a little displaying a wholesome degree of bashfulness. I asked him if he would follow me, the maestro, in kirtan chanting. He enthusiastically picked up his mrdunga drum and holding as if carefully handling a baby, started to tap it proceeded to expertly play it. The group responded to his percussion and to my chanting.

They seemed sublime and it seemed they understood that the lightness of chanting, the ultimate in spiritual expression, provides a kind of groundedness. It makes you feel safe.

Once the group departed, went for their coats and gethered to fetch their shoes and expressed their appreciations, I then left the building too - for a walk, of course, catching spring air and doing my legs a favour.

It felt great! I felt light and grounded!

7 KM

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

What I Saw and What I Said

Hamilton, Ontario

I had walked an early hour on Yonge Street when parties just begin to wind down, when cab drivers are very busy and people on the street speak louder than normal. A woman with tight slacks who was very elevated (due to her high heels) was very much dressed to tease. A male motorist coasted next to her as she walked speaking on her phone. He was offering her a ride and more, but she expressed disinterest. Yet she loved the attention and he loved the tease.

I was compelled to chant on my beads with enhanced fervour. Yes, the sight was one of cheap thrills.

I don't normally take to this street with its strip of raunchiness. If I go northbound or even south of Dundas I won't see these things. It could be worse for a monk's eyes.

I visited Brampton at noon to speak to our community there. A new couple asked about caste identity and I explained that the Gita which addresses this speaks about a societal structure that is meant to give spiritual direction by brahmans known for honesty, wisdom, austerity and cleanliness. There is not an emphasis on someone being higher or lower, but more so on serving.

The same emphasis of service applied in my facilitation at the Nine Devotions workshop held in Hamilton's Shanti Yoga Studio. "We are servants. We are spirits or souls. We are not this body or a position or even a gender for that matter. We exist as an anti-material spark of life. And that's what we are," was the message.

7 KM

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

The Aim of the Game

Markham, Ontario

India won the cricket game against Pakistan. And so I am hearing a lot about that from members who have had their eyes glued to the screens.

The cousin to cricket is baseball something I'm a little more familiar with. Bhakta Kurt, a young monk from Victoria strolled with me along our neighborhood residential alleyway when we came upon a father and his young son engaged in pitching and batting a ball. The young boy very spontaneously said to dod when he peered at our robes, "Why are they like that?"

"They're Hare Krishnas." The father kept on talking to educate his son as Kurt and I gave a nod.

Just an hour later Kurt and I made our way down the Don Valley Parkway in individual cars,yet we saw the same thing- India cricket fans showing off national pride with flags of India poking out of automobile windows.

Sports are an amazing pre-occupation for the public. If only spirituality had as much popularity. I see though, that both athletes and practitioners of faith can get spoiled. As I heard one Hindu say just this morning, "All mandirs (temples) are after money." That's why some people prefer to have allegiance to spirituality as opposed to churchianity or religion. Indeed the path of the Absolute can lose its luster at times.

Sports have become much like that- big money makers. Big commercial ventures. The "sport" is often taken out of the game like God is often removed when there is too much dogma or commercialism.

What does it take to bring integrity back to a game or a faith? Perhaps a re-evaluation of things. Look at your intent. How are you scoring? More internally of course.

Krishna edges Arjuna on in the Gita, saying to His warrior friend to play the game of fighting fairly and as best as can be and the results are to be regarded as secondary. Take up duty. Do not consider the happiness or distress behind it. Krishna is pushing for sincere endeavor always- to make the right aim.

5 KM

Friday, April 1st, 2011

April Opening

Richmond Hill, Ontario

I don't know if anyone wishes to hear about spring and nature but here goes anyway.

Winter has broke, finally. Along the moraine Rouge River system we could detect it. It was obvious with robins in sight, red-winged black birds in song, and snow now a clear fluid of water rushing by our feet.

It was kind of a rare moment for us just to be us, or rather to be together with the busy lives of devotion, work and school and all. I was with the members of the Gaura Shakti Bhajan Band. We had a few minutes to kill before entering Yvonne's spa so we timed ourselves a little early (better early than late) to meet our appointment and so we hit the trail at the Rouge. The environment set a great tone for our evening engagement, not for a spa but for conducting a workshop on the nine devotions.

Nine Devotions are 1) hearing 2) chanting 3) remembering 4) rendering service 5) honoring the Divine form 6) power praying 7) declaring servitude 8) befriending and 9) sweet surrendering. All of these practices are directed to Vishnu if we translate the origins of these 9 concepts literally from a Puranic verse. The words which I did express in Sanskrit originally sounded a bit foreign to the attendees at the spa and who were of various backgrounds like England, Iran, Ukraine, Philippines, Columbia, India and even Canada. But as we glided through the devotions all who were there felt they knew these principles. After all who is not familiar to praying or recalling a life-changing experience or to making a friend?

We just don't do these things enough. And that was the comment by one of the attendees- "We don't do these things enough?"

To wrap up the evening at Yvonne's Spa Gaura Shakti led us in a great chant and all ended with refreshments.

There you have it- a word on nature, Vishnu and what we did at Yvonne's Spa on April Fools.

8 KM

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Thursday, March 31st,2011


Winnipeg, Manitoba

Not all that you give out to people gets accepted. For instance, last night at the gathering of yogis, at least one yoga teacher got up and left without having a meal. He liked the chanting but not the philosophy as I presented it. My guess for the non-acceptance is that I spoke about the Absolute more in terms of being a person as opposed to a power. It was a bit disappointing to see him go. "You failed." I thought to myself. "You cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time," I heard our guru, Srila Prabhupada say at Lake Michigan in Chicago. That rings true a lot.

I made a number of visits today for home blessings and also including a kirtan at Be Yoga Studio. There was a full acceptance feeling coming from the facilitator, Tiffany.

Here's where real approval came from today. I made a visit to the home of Rachitambara and family. She is a phenomenal devotee of Krishna. Her father, now deceased, was knighted by the queen, via the Governor General of Canada as Sir Graham Fraser. When Rachitambara decided to become one of those Hare Krishnas when she was a young woman, her Dad, Sir Graham Fraser wasn't really thrilled.

Of all her years in devotional life which was spent in India as a school master, in Austrailia, France, and Canada Rachitambara said he never really approved of her chosen lifestyle. She was telling me this with her usual oh-well, what-can-you-do attitude, but then she described how I was rolling through Ottawa on my third cross Canada trek. Local television set their cameras out to follow me walking and stuck with me for several blocks.

Sri Graham Fraser watched the news that night on TV covering the story of the walking monk. "My dad got so excited and immediately called me to give compliments about my Hare Krishna ways. After all these years he finally approved when he saw that telecast."

"Well, there, that was a feel-good remark," I thought. It goes to show that someone may reject you, another accept and then there’s a third category. Someone may say "no" and then suddenly turn around and say "yes."

3 KM

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Back in Winnipeg

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Before embarking on the Westjet flight to Winnipeg, a young South East Asian man, who was also boarding, said to me, “You did my moodan.”

“I did?” I asked the fellow, who was beaming.

“In 1985,” he said. “You probably don’t remember, you meet so many people.”

I doubted that he remembered either. A moondan is a haircutting ceremony that a child receives at about age one to relieve himself of babyhood. The shedding of baby hair denotes change, growth. It is a purificatory stage one goes through.
I addressed the fellow, saying that he has a good crop of hair and everything turned out okay.

“Your name?” I asked.

“Karuna. I know you from the photos,” he said, followed by more conversation until we set to our assigned seats. I was reminded that in the context of my monk lifestyle, there have been priestly duties also factored into my responsibilities.

The two hour flight landed me safely to the Winnipeg Airport to meet Daruka, a clean head-shaven devotee in his forties, who was my support person during the last cross-Canada walk. Daruka drove me to the edge of the city’s Granola Belt to 108 Chestnut Street, the home of Vrnda, our bhakti coordinator. We had refreshments at Carolin’s. Organic no GM Saskatoon berry juice was our fuel until we trekked through St. John’s Park. Daruka then took me near a famous corner of fierce cold wind, the corner of Portage and Main, nicknamed Portage and Pain.

Finally the day was topped with a sat-sang, a gathering of yogis and bhaktas (devotees). The chanting together was sweet indeed and our discussion was on the topic of how to overcome dualities. It’s all a matter of changing our consciousness, about change, about growth.

8 KM