Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

From Volley Ball to Sex

Toronto, Ontario

There were no less than one hundred volley ball courts set up at The Beaches in Toronto's east side. Each court was occupied by summer enthusiasts. A member of our community, Mel, treated me to a barefoot trek (at my request) to the sandy beach to wind down the day.

There was nothing licentious about the beach. It was just family fun and nationalities of all kinds, yet the topic shared between Mel and I while trudging through sand was 'lust and what to do about it'. Mel recently had a failed marriage, yet the desire for companionship lingers. He explained that he feared being broken-hearted again and felt reluctant, at least for now, to enter into another relationship. As the saying goes, "once burnt, twice shy."

He wanted to know how to deal with human nature. He is contemplating celibacy. The question was, "how to deal with the urge and stay celibate?" I offered these recommendations:

1) Pray for strength from guru, God, and perhaps great celibate heroes like Hanuman and Bhisma.

2) Channel that explosive physical energy towards devotional passions such as drumming and dancing at a kirtan chanting session. Yoga, physical exercise such as walking, running and swimming are favourable.

3) Keep very busy in devotional service priorities such as chanting, reading, etc. - 24/7

4) Be informed. Statistically, a high percentage of relationships end up being a non-pretty sight. 50% of marriages fail and common-law relations dissolve also at a high rate.

5) Avoid viewing sex indulgent situations.

6) Be in good spiritual association with other celibates or respectable family folks.

7) Seek blessings.

Now, if one chooses to indulge in lust, then 1) do so within the realm of dharma, some level of control and regulation, and 2) Seek blessings.

6 Km

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Happiness is Our Birthright

Markham, Ontario

The woman had a microphone in her hand while her male companion bore the camera. They are working on a documentary with the topic, 'happiness'.

"What makes you happy?" she asked as I had just arrived at the corner of Bloor and Spadina to meet the monthly chanting party there.

The answer came with no apprehension as I said, "the freedom to walk, to meet people and meet God." I clarified that last phrase by saying that while trekking I chant and connect with the Divine in this way.

"what do you like about Toronto?" she asked.

"It's remarkable diversity of people. The whole world seems to be represented in this spot on the globe."

Off the record I spoke more to the couple about the carefree life of moving about. They were happy themselves about executing the project. I felt the topic relevant for who in this whole world will not admit to wanting happiness. Happiness or, ananda, as given in Sanskrit the term is an integral component to our very being. We are sat, which means, 'eternal'. We are cit, which means 'cognizant'. And we are ananda, which means 'full of joy'.

In this world everyone is seeking happiness, ''ananda bhayo nyasat'. Because it is our nature and exists within, and absence of it seems wrong. If our drive in life is purely mundane then we cover that natrual happiness just as one might conceal a lit candle with a bushel turned upside down. It seems we are habituated to blocking the natural shine within us while not aware of the mistake. By nature we are jolly but we deny this by unnecessary attitude and behaviour.

Let's shine!

7 Km

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Weeds and Curses

Inglis Falls/Toronto

Through patches of jewel weed we did roam. Priyam is about to enter high school next week, is an avid soccer player and now saw another side to sports - walking. His dad, Rajesh, also on the trail less travelled, was like the two of us - not exactly sure where we were going. It was dawn and the trail wasn't always traceable. You stumble here and there on unforeseen rock and trip over the odd tree roots. It made us alert though.

We vowed not to talk, or let's say, it was understood our soft chanting was to take dominance. The challenge was not how to shut out mother nature either, but to feel a union of the Creator, the sound of mantras, with creation, the nature around us.

We began this stretch of our trek by marvelling at Inglis Falls, a pretty sight. Father God (Krishna) and Mother Nature became married, in a sense. From there we took to a trail's loop and meandered somewhat. At one point I broke our apparent silence to inform the two with me that the patch of jewel weed we were brushing against to our right and left provides juices to cure an irritable poison ivy rash. A friend, I recently found out, got covered with the infection. He was doing a farmer's job in the harvest of hay when the ivy got caught in the mix. Rajesh offered to say that there is some similar plant like that in India. What it was, he wasn't exactly sure, but something is out there in the jungles of India.

I guess you could say infections of all kinds are everywhere. You search for the cure. One time our guru, Srila Prabhupada, explained that there are three main infections in this world. Of course, he was referring to the more psycho-physical traits of the gunas as described in the Vedas - satva guna (goodness), raja guna (passion), and tamo guna (ignorance). these gunas or conditions are the soul's irritants.

The cure comes form the change of heart. The method is to chant attentively and feelingly.

At the end of the day I was back in the Big City again - Toronto. After hours of administrative and advisory service, I felt a deserving trek would do. What an environmental adjustment it was from the morning! There, at Inglis, it was quiet. Here, it's hip hop blaring from auto radios, outdoor salsa dancing at a street corner, smells of pizza exhausting out of their shops, people on cells. A lot of guna stuff, I would say.

I walked and walked and kept the sound of the mantra with me.

17 Km

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Fun, Fun, Fun

Owen Sound, Ontario

The Batra family, Subal Vilas, Ashalatta and family hosted their annual Janmasthami festival from their home in Markham. Joining us was Bir Krishna Goswami, a sannyasi monk from America, and BB Bhagavat Swami from South Africa. We all came together the previous night for a wonderful time. Since the event stretched to close to midnight, the positive effect spilled over into this day which was an altogether extension of more spiritual joy.

One of the founding fathers of the Iskcon Brampton chapter, Vaishnava Das, celebrated his 60th. I was invited and expected to speak. I chose verse 2.60 from the Gita to speak from wherein it is said that it only takes one of our strong senses to carry away a person's mind and lead to a defeat in the battle against resistance. I went on to explain that those on the spiritual path usually experience a mix of the spiritual and material dabblings in the course of each day. Often times it is the superior taste of spirituality that comes in spurts and prods us on for more of the same.

The gathering for Vaishnava's birthday was a truly spiritual-grabbing sensation followed by a car trip to Owen Sound at the home of Rajesh Kalavadia. Neighbours and friends came to hear something new. The next door neighbours had heard us before on a previous visit as the sound vibrated through the windows while they were having their barbecue. This time around there was no outdoor cooking of animal. They very respectfully came over to hear the mantra and to partake in Indian-cuisine prasadam. How they loved it!

A trip to Inglis Falls and a brief stroll down the famous Bruce Trail completed a perfect day. A new couple from Brampton Rajneesh, Alka and their two children took me to Owen Sound for a day's pilgrimage that they won't forget.

4 KM

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Every Which Way

Toronto, Ontario

In the last two days I attended satsang, home gatherings, where we spoke about some of the vices that we are all plagued with. From the Bhagavad-gita, 15.5, the issue of pride is addressed. From the verse’s purport I read and expanded upon the topic:

“The first qualification is that one should not be deluded by pride. When one is free from delusion caused by pride, he can begin the process of surrender. For one who is always expecting some honour in this material world, it is not possible to surrender to the Supreme person. Pride is due to illusion for although one comes here, stays for a brief time and then goes away, he has the foolish notion that he is the Lord of the world. He thus makes all things complicated, and he is always in trouble. The whole world moves under this impression.”

Speaking bluntly of a list of nasties such as pride, the author, Srila Prabhupada, explained that vices are “the royal road to hell”. Pride’s opposite, humility, is also described by Prabhupada as the quality where one is not anxious to have the satisfaction of being honoured by others. (Bhagavad-gita 13.8)

With the last effort to walking for the day, my humility was tested. This happened so after talking about meekness versus pride at a satsang. I was going southbound on Yonge St. I was sleepless, it was after midnight, so I took to the sidewalk. A group of drunken fellows blasted by in a car. One of them stuck his body out the window to shout out an obscenity. My mental response was one of defensiveness. Walking almost abreast to me was a black dude who looked with disgust. He and I were both not sure whom the curse was meant for. Being both representatives of minorities, either of us could have been the target, or both. “What’s the matter with these guys? You can be drunk, but you can still have respect,” said my brief walking agitated companion.

I encouraged him to see it with a different point of view, “Perhaps we need to receive a dosage of humility every now and then. I learned this from being on the road three times across Canada.”

I made a friend out of this event. Had the nasty remark not been uttered, we likely would not have had a meaningful conversation. Something positive arose from a foul source. Lessons in life come from every which way.

6 Km

Monday, 29 August 2011

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Have a Genuine Friend

Brampton, Ontario

Those rare birds, like me, who are in the renounced order of life, a 24/7 monk or a sannyasi, as we call it, would do good to always have friends. Perhaps we can call it a buddy system, or to put a Vedic spin on it - an ombuddy system.

In many institutions, an ombudsman exists, someone who listens or hears out about some grievances. In the same vein every monk, being human, has his own internal grievances or even personal weaknesses he may struggle with. It behooves him to have a friend/friends to confide in, to reveal his mind and avoid the bombastic danger of being an island unto himself. It is an easy trap to fall into - to be surrounded by loving sisyas (disciples or students) who offer so much adulation and to always be reminded that you are not God, but almost. It can be an ivory tower syndrome. The reverence done in overkill can be quite stifling for anyone in the position of taking a spiritual lead.

Recently I was speaking with another sannyasi (monk) about monks we both have admiration towards and a genuine concern for. We came to analyze even our own personal circumstances. We had to admit to ourselves, "Do I as an individual have enough friends or peers that I could confide in and share concerns, etc.?"

There is one group of spiritualists from India whose sannyasis never venture to do anything without another sannyasi. The travel together, live together, walk together and eat together. There can be some great merit to this. We might even consider track records on rate of apostasy, defection, or what we sometimes term as a spiritual falldown.

It is important in whatever phase of life one is in whether it be monk, a parent, single but destined to get married, that there always be a mentor or some type of guru who can keep us on a spiritual track or to just have a spiritual buddy that enthuses.

If you are an island then you are stranded. It's just not a secure situation being alone.

8 Km

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Matt, Will, Lake, Arti and I all sat at the corner of the temple room to read the chapter, "Devouring the Forest Fire" from the book "Krishna". We each read a paragraph or a few sentences and passed the book on. It was evening and I guess I could say that we were maintaining a legacy of an early ISKCON habit by reading in this way, calming the mind before evening rest.

We pursued discussion after the read, one of which was Krishna's purpose for His advent - saving sincere souls in peril. Another topic was 'the elements' and how they consume our perished bodies. The Vedas speak of partial and complete universal destruction occurring at certain times. Wind, fire, water and earth dissolve everything in sight as they come in massive installments.

We spoke about the earthquake felt by some of us yesterday, a tremour that hit the Richter scale at 5.9.

The chapter "devouring the Forest Fire" is short and has to do with fire being dissolved. Our katha (talks) also ran brief as duties and prior obligations had to be met by each of us. I had yet to put in some clicks (kilometres) for the day. On the street I thought of fire and how I was stuck one day in a room with two other monks more or less held hostage in a hotel room with flames under the floor below and the corridor outside our room engulfed in fumes. We survived. It was a drama.

As I trekked north on Yonge St. rains came, monsoon-like. Thunder clapped something mean and lightening struck in all directions looking as if tearing open the sky. "Lightening and water could kill me tonight," I thought. Dhoti, kurta and chauddar (my robes) were drenched. I was a dripping wet noodle when I returned to the temple. Electricity struck out for a short time.

How much might the elements possess! How powerful is the force of nature. How small and insignificant we are! I then had flashbacks of Mom who would sprinkle holy water throughout the house, with faith, that her few droplets would counter the buckets coming down. Siblings and I, so innocent, observing the excitement of a summer storm or what we perceived as a wrathful God in action.

It was wonderful!

5 KM

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Humans - A Disappointing Lot


Owls were hooting in their trees. Spanish moss dangled from their perches. All else seemed still as I trekked this early darkness. Sesa and wife Madhu Mati shared in dosas and sambar (a south Indian fare) at Anil's place before my leaving for Jacksonville Airport.

At the departure gate a CNN screen revealed the attempted seige by rebels against Gadafi. I was intrigued, concerned and worried all at the same time. What a fighting crazy world! Fellow travellers at the gate sitting at the departure lounge took little or no notice. Perhaps the American public is desensitized. I wondered if people are still in the vacation mode. Their own personalized screens appeared more relevant.

People! People!

I had a look at "The Columbus Dispatch". A comic caption and picture sparked some inner giggles. One bear talks to another while on-looking at two nighttime campers. The bear says to the other, "OK... I'll admit they're kind of cute but I still say their herds need to be thinned."

Another article by writer Kathleen Parker perked up a standard issue I have about people and their use of language. Oh, how pure mantras could use a debut in people's lives! Here's an excerpt from her article:

Scene: An elevator in New York Presbyterian Hospital, where several others and I were temporary hostages of a filthy-mouthed woman who was profanely berating her male companion. His attire (baggy drawers) and insolent disposition seemed to suggest he was her son.

Every other word out of the woman's mouth was a two-word expletive that starts with the word 'mother'... The elevator doors opened and we, the numb majority, were able to escape our too close quarters, but not the diatribe, which continued unabated down the hallway, through the exit and onto the sidewalk...

Her exit and our release were accepted with silent gratitude, but I have been fuming ever since because, though she was gone, she didn't really exit our lives. She managed in those fleeting moments to make a mark, to alter our lives in some way. A vile invader, she made coarse and unlovely a period of time that was not her own. What gave her the right?...

I was in the hospital that day for the birth of my great-niece. There's nothing like following the intimate miracle of childbirth to make one wish for a gentler world...

Good behavior is nothing but good manners, simply consideration of others. Recently out of vogue, manners get hauled out the way most people attend church - at Easter and Christmas time. But manners aren't just gray haired pretension practiced by smug elites on special occasions. They are the daily tithes we willingly surrender to civilization.

And so, agreeing with Kathleen about the reckless direction humans are taking and how it became confirmed by the foul teenage mouths in front of me at Canada Customs. I repeat again, "how pure mantras could do a debut in people's lives!"

The hooting owls sound superior to humans. I wont suggest thinning the herds but some form of education about RESPECT could go a long way.

12 KM

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

His Day

Alachua, Florida

Anil, wife Vidya, and their tow boys Aravind and Gopal have been overly kind to me. They provided for me the best sleep in months. Now we brave heat again for another worthy visit to the temple - the anniversary of our guru's birth.

I read my poem as an offering of thanks to our master, Srila Prabhupada, entitled "Holy Praises!"

Srila Prabhupada,

Engrossed we were in toasts to boasts
Of Maya, the most of big-time ghosts.

In us you saw the obvious flaw:
We had this awe for the flesh and the raw.

We had this thirst for the very worst.
We were cursed (weak) like a bubble to burst.

To hell we would go, our life was so low.
You then came to show the best course is NO!

But YES to what's true, be fresh and new.
It's bhakti we do for the One who is blue.

Succeeding to endure Maya's overture,
With devotion mature on the track of the pure,

We do once a year lend an open ear
To words we hear that conquer our fear.

Beyond balmy blazes and dreamy dazes,
We hear golden phrases of your holy praises.

We hear the most beautiful words at your Vyasa-puja.

0 km

Bhaktimarga Swami

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Final Day

Alachua, Florida

We arrived at 7:30 AM with our two buses at Alachua, the same place from where we started our month's journey. We have gone full circle. Hot and sweaty even after a shower, we trudged our way across the uneven but low grassy lawn to the temple of Krsna Balaram. It's Janmastami, Krishna's birthday, and the atmosphere in the temple was one of, can I say, jollity.

Like all over the world the celebrations of Janmasthami draws millions of people. Here in this relatively remote area of Florida, cars parked outside this tiny temple while their occupants were inside to honour Sri Krishna with kirtan and offerings of flower petals and all the love that goes with them.

That love, or bhakti, kept on rolling for hours on into midnight, the stroke of His birth. And our group of young men and women demonstrated this flow of commitment with their last performance of "The Three Lives of Bharat". As I sat on the side of the stage to the outdoor pavillion executing my usual intermittent narration I could see the actors give it their all before a very responsive audience. Perspiration dripped off their bodies under the intense lights precipitated by the already humid nature factor.

This play has been our consistent project throughout the last month, something that has glued us together as a group forming an harmonious bond. The drama has been a story repeated over with our regular performances telling a story of an ascetic (Bharat), in India caught in a hard place and who then evolved through a succession of three lives and was able to overcome personal handicaps through the mercy of the Supreme. The story from the book Bhagavatam is just ideal for our youth group who individually all have their own personal intersections of life to deal with.

I was proud of the actors being up on the stage with them for the final bow. As the sun seemed to bow at the same time it offered slight relief and was a queue for me to take a 6 kilometre walk in the area along with friend Kevin from buffalo and Anil, a local pharmacist. It was time to get away from crowds before returning to them. In the back road of snake and alligator world. we committed to mantra chanting.

Back again and scoring well on the full day fast, the clock then struck 12 followed by an outburst of devotional emotions. A feast after the fast and a few words with members of "The Mayapuris" a rather successful up and coming kirtan band marked the end of a long but quick day. And then to bed, reminding myself it's His day.

6 Km

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Immerse Yourself


We had left arid desert for flat swampy green territory. It’s nice to see green again. Diversity of plants has increased. We see cotton fields and towns of black folks. Our bus is diverted from moving on fast freeways to opt for a more direct route on a two lane highway, at least for a time. So you see, small towns with people outside, it’s the kind of road you would walk along, what a relief. Here you see homes, gardens, mom and pop shops, kids on bicycles or playing in water.

If the average person today is not subjected to this human element, and is stuck on concrete trapped in a car, there’s no wonder that there’s cause for frustration and loneliness. On the other hand, we humans don’t always score well when we have a chance with interpersonal relationships, even when we try. So here’s a perfect escape route, just get into a vehicle, close out the elements, after all it’s hot, listen to your radio, float, dream away and avoid hassles. But in reality both scenarios are not ideal. Both lack the grounding effect of spiritually connecting.

After a sticky, hot ride, our buses arrived at New Talavan, a rural Vaisnava community, one hour from New Orleans. An outdoor ‘fun fair’, as the organizers called it, was staged with a major attraction, being our Bha Ra Ta show. Even local attendees were expressing heat wave grumblings, but once the show of spiritual might, Bha Ra Ta, took off, the calming of minds transpired. The effect of physical, mental, and intellectual preoccupation in divine immersion cannot be underestimated.

0 KM

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Walking Episode With a Master

Dallas, Texas

Texas is going through a heat wave. It’s a dry heat. For two weeks the temperatures were over the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark. At night temperatures have not gone below 80. Drinking mineral water is popular these days for the youth on the bus. On route to Dallas, we try to keep ourselves optimistic in spirit. We reviewed the verse of yesterday, reciting 5.29 from the Gita and reminding ourselves that God owns it all. It’s His heat and it’s His cold. When we stop driving, for instance, at a Walmart perhaps, our group of 45 sits by the side of the parking lot under the shade of a tree having breakfast. Usually cereal with cold organic milk. I then read to the group from the book, “Memories”. Today I read an excerpt by Nischintya.

“Arrived in Hawaii in March and Srila Prabhupada was coming in May. I immediately started to learn everything I could about Hawaii because Prabhupada would regularly ask questions about the place he was visiting. I learned about Hawaii’s history, the hotels, the beaches, you name it, I knew it. I thought that on the walk with Prabhupada one day, I’d be able to answer any question he might ask about Hawaii, so on Waikiki beach, I was carefully walking in Srila Prabhupada’s actual footsteps. They were leaving an impression in the sand, and I was thinking, ‘you don’t get an opportunity like this in millions of lifetimes’. And I was also thinking, ‘Prabhupada’s going to ask a question, I’m going to know the answer. I’m going to be the man.’ Suddenly Srila Prabhupada stopped, turned and looked right at me, he was very close. He pointed and said, ‘What is that?’ I looked over and I had no idea what it was. I was shaking. I felt about one inch tall. In the distance I heard somebody say, ‘Prabhupada, that’s a device that measures how far a person has walked’. Prabhupada was still looking at me and he said, ‘So, they should make a device that tells how far death is, but that they can not do.’ Then he turned around and kept walking. I recovered a little, my pride had been completely eliminated and I was ecstatic thinking of Prabhupada’s mystic power. He knew I’d learned all about Hawaii. I wanted him to ask a question and I wanted to impress him. I understood that you don’t show off to your spiritual master. “

0 KM

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Canon City, You're Awesome

Canon City, Colorado

While the bus was moving at its usual 70 miles per hour the passengers inside enriched their morning by memorizing a verse from the Gita, 5.29. With a hip hop swing to its recitation, the dozen or so boys picked up on learning very quickly the message of the verse, which was referred to often as ‘the peace formula’. And here’s the verse in Roman transliteration:

bhoktaram yajna-tapasam


suhrdam sarva-bhutanam

jnatva mam santim rcchati

The translation worded simply is, “to achieve inner peace one must come to know and apply three things. 1) That God is the enjoyer. 2) God is the owner of all. 3) God is everyone’s friend.

This formula is universally applicable.

Time afforded space for walking Canon City. Just off of main street I met Chris. A young maintenance guy who says that Canon City sucks. To say that your own town sucks is rather a common phrase which I have heard ever since I started long distance trekking. When Chris first saw me walking near 12th Street, he saw me through his backview mirror and remarked, “Hare Krishna in Canon City?” I actually heard him say it, and then he came to see me to ask questions. “Is this a condemning kind of faith? What do you believe?” My answer was, “We follow an ancient book called Bhagavad Gita where Krishna speaks to His warrior friend, Arjuna. Arjuna was undergoing a personal crisis to which Krishna addressed encouragement to the spiritual side of life.” Chris wanted a picture taken and a book to read about Krishna. He had only seen a Hare Krishna in the movie ‘Airplane’

Why does Canon City suck anyways? Chris talked about the negative karma of the place, how 15 out of 18 state penitentiaries are in and around town. If most people here are like Chris, then I can envision a Krishna centre here before long.

As I walked through a park after meeting Chris, a group of young people under the shade set their eyes on this unusual sight, me. To see a monk is rare in these parts. One of the boys shouted out, “You’re awesome!” I looked at the group wondering who the remark was directed towards. He said it once again, “You’re awesome!” And I threw him a peace sign.

Canon City, if this is a sampling of you, I don’t think you suck.

10 Km

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Look at the Formula

Denver, Colorado

Making modifications or rearrangements can be so stimulating. With an injured leading actor as part of our reality and with no serious understudy, our bus crew rose up to the occasion. The show had to go on in Denver and so adjustments were absolutely necessary.

The result of such team work paid off. At the same time, I would not say everything was perfect. When certain things need doing, it can be a hard task to pull a young person away from his or her computer or iPod. The curse of technology is upon the human race so it seems.

And so I see the machine obsession everywhere with travel. There is so little foot traffic. Car culture is set for sometime. Despite gas price escalations, there seems to be no true decline in auto motion. We are determined to burn gas.

Adjusting can be a lot of fun though. There cannot be anything more shallow, monotonous, or understimulating than being frozen in routine. While we keep our core values, we might find it necessary to change our approach from time to time. It’s as simple as adjusting the thickness and quantity of clothes based on weather conditions.

Perhaps the greatest quality of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, that I admire about him the most, he was staunch about holding on to core principles, but for practicality purposes he would analyze so carefully a situation and then shuffle things around in order to avoid ‘getting stuck’.

The mission is that work has to get done. The formula is do what it takes to get it done.

0 Km

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


Spanish Fork, Utah

Caru, our host in Spanish Fork, told us about some hot springs near by. Manu went as an advanced party to see if roads leading up to the area was accessible by bus. Indeed, it was! Caru referred to the cascaded stream as Fifth Water.

Somehow or other our crew on the bus gravitates towards waters. As far as the elements are concerned, we do get our share of wind, especially in the arid mid-west district. Our conveyance, the buses, are forever firmly on the ground, on interstate highways. We are also getting plenty of fire in the form of Surya, the sun. There are many noses with peeling of skin, result of sunburn.

We climbed that trail when our nostrils were greeted by sulfur scent, and after a two mile hike to the summit, hot and cold springs were abound. We were in heaven with mud bathing and a cave under a waterfalls provided the perfect sacred space for kirtan. It reminded me of a visit I made to a cave in India that the great warrior from the Mahabharat, Dronacarya, had meditated in. We were transported into another world of Krishna and sulphur. Our day’s grand finale of service was held in Salt Lake City a facility formerly occupied by the Seventh Day Adventists. Caru, co-emceed our Bha Ra Ta program. All went well until our principal actor/dancer, Godruma Goura collapsed on the stage in front of our audience. Naturally it brought about concern from all, he sprained his ankle leaving him in some pain. This leaves a challenge for the remaining shows. The pain is shared. May I make use of the cliché, ‘no pain, no gain”?

17 Km

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Listen and Look

Boise, Idaho

Speaking of screaming girls again, a response to the boys doing their drum demo number on the stage, the shrilling kept going today at a water park.

I had the privileged challenge to hold the audiences interest after the boys’ stunning audio and visual show. I decided to just wing it and speak of how I see these boys, the drummers, like my sons. Even though I’m biologically a non-parent, still, I feel on this trip, I’ve got my offspring. I started to speak to the crowd about the glories of monastic life, of downscale, simplicity, of marginalizing the dependency on matter and increasing the trust in spirit.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the attention given to these words. We tried to paint the picture into the minds of the audience. Imagining the merit to a ‘less is more’ policy on life. Looking at the amazing range of ages, and their attentiveness, I felt that people were getting it. “You give that a serious consideration” I appealed, “when you hit sixty, if you haven’t already, then consider the path of no frills.”

The theme I am hitting at here is about listening, and that they were doing intently.

And what about looking? Nirguna and I were walking streets on the outskirts of Boise. We came upon a creek that looked inviting, or rather, the trail next to it. This fast flowing waterway trail took us through the backyards of an impeccably tidy residential area. One home owner had spotted us while he was busy in his back yard. “Hello!” he said, “Are you from here?” “Actually, we’re from Canada.” “Oh, good, wait just a minute,” so we stopped. I thought perhaps he was going into his house to open a drawer and then to toss at us a Christian Track, but no. Out came a statue of Buddha which he held in his arms. Our new friend simply wanted to make us feel very welcome. I explained we were Krishna monks, but we have some affection for Buddha.

Buddha and Boise, get a load a’ that!

10 Km

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

By the Way Girls Scream

Vancouver, BC

I broke into a new pair of shoes this morning, the usual Croc wear. At this point I’m not willing to try anything else. A recent promotion for this footwear at a shoe store in Canada used a newspaper article with photo showing me sporting Crocs while on the last cross Canada trek in 2007. I felt honoured to hear that.

The kind gift from Nirguna, my travelling assistant, came to me at the opportune time, just ready for the Festival of Chariots. As for the event, I was asked to monitor the leaders of the kirtan while going in procession along English Bay.

I noticed people did pop their heads out from their windows and while balconies that are not frequently used in a place like Canada, now had a purposeful meaning. People went out on their balconies to see and hear the kirtan.

My god, it’s difficult to control a bunch of crammed people in motion on foot, moving forward, then looking back (at the chariot), then forward again while doing vocals or playing an instrument. Feet get stepped on and someone accidentally pokes you in the ribs with their elbow. Sometimes you lose your shoe in a crowd, it’s crowd fun. What is truly good about being in the festival is that the chariot pullers, musicians, or just participants in general, get that walking in. It becomes a pilgrimage in itself.

By 8 PM, things subsided at English Bay. Our crew performed, dance, drama, and dance again, and some of the boys did a drum demo in traditional wear. That went over well if you want to gauge success by the way girls scream.

10 Km

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Good In Vancouver

Vancouver, BC

I have hope for the world when I hear about, nay, take part in a 60th wedding anniversary. Talk about success! Congratulations to Paul and Annie, my uncle and aunt from my mother’s side. The Persoon family, that’s a Dutch name, had come from far and wide to take part in this family reunion at Inn on the Quay, off the Fraser River. I hadn’t seen this section of family for 40 years.

I believe the world should celebrate the success of such commitment. I think the king should summon the sounding of royal trumpets and announce this joyful news to the citizens. Yes, let it be known to the world that two humans went through it with relative ease by following the old course and raising, I forgot to ask, but I think it’s nine kids.

It was interesting trying to brush up on some eager known Dutch, but more important was having a happy stare at commitment, which is a powerful thing.

A trip on the Skytrain, and then feet brought me from the Fraser River to English Bay.

Jeffery Armstrong is a teacher and author of Vedic Sciences at Stanley Park, off the bay, he was host to the 2nd annual Kirtan Vancouver. He was telling me about his work in the early Krishna Consciousness with the Travelling Road Show, also known as Jnamadagneya. He had co-authored with Michael Cassidy, Mangal Ananda, a rock opera in the style of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. Telling of a young disillusioned man who had stumbled upon the life of bhakti, devotional practices. It was a story about transformation. It was performed in various venues and apparently our guru, Srila Prabhupada, enjoyed it a lot. So, bhajan singer Karnamrita came to the stage to lead her kirtan followed by DJ A Slam, a renowned artist who put a perky spin on mantra music. I was called on the stage to join him for vocals but my needed mrdanga drum players, the boys on our bus, were apprehensive to do anything but more traditional kirtan.

In any event, kirtan lovers had a great evening at the bay, and hopefully commitment to mantra sound will persist for them.

6 KM

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Promotional Power

Vancouver, BC

The best time to cross a national border, if you have nothing to hide and no quirky stories to tell customs with no criminals on board, then do so at 1 AM like we did. Our going over the border into Canada with 2 massive buses filled with adolescents of an angelic kind made the procedure a piece of cake. There was no queue. We looked disheveled though, we had been sleeping, but we passed the customs test easy. I wish all things went like that.

Let me tell you what else was like being on easy street. That evening after a full day of activity at our ISKCON Centre in Burnaby, Manu, our bus party facilitator arranged for us to hit the street in downtown Vancouver with a warm up promotion through kirtan. Robson Street became the venue where several blocks of the street are bordered off for pedestrian liveliness. Some buskers were there such as the usual fire eating show man, but their flare provided poor competition for our kirtan. We provided a rockin’-sockin’-chant and be happy killer kirtan. And, as may be expected, the public were drawn in, to move in on the fun. A bit of licentious dancing crept in (who knows anything about folkish dance these days?). This was new for the eyes of some of our innocent kids. Nevertheless, the power of the chant overshadowed any little nuance of ‘I’m the center’, or ‘look at sexy me’. The sensation reminded us of what power does lay in kirtan, and it set us up for what was to come tomorrow in chant friendly Vancouver. Once the kirtan was over, one of the girls on the bus expressed to me, “Thanks for leading the kirtan.” And my remark, “Listen, it’s not my name we’re chanting, it’s Krishna’s.”

6 KM

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Oh My God, More Youth

Seattle, Washington

I have to say this about today, my time was tied in beautiful knots. I had anticipated trekking a few kilometres, oops - miles, I’m in America, but things came up.

After setting up chairs, curtains, stage wings, to create a theatre atmosphere for the evenings Bha Ra Ta Program, along with helpful efforts of my assistant, Nirguna, I was going to go for a cat nap, then freshen up, and then go for that walk. But Krishna had another plan. The temple leader here in Seattle asked me to host 90 youth coming to visit the centre as part of a four day camping excursion.

“Thanks for tidying up the temple”, said the appreciative servant leader by the name of Nanda Suta. “Maharaja, there are a group of Sikh students coming.”

“Sure, I’ll be happy to look after them.” I asked Mitra to team up with me in the presentation that we made. He brought his home made slide guitar, composed of a medium sized crushed tomato can, some wire, some scrap wood, and some bent discarded metal. Mitra demonstrated playing his craft to the accompaniment of the maha mantra. The students got a kick out of that. I did the bulk of the talking and left a space for questions. One question came up whose answer resonated well with the youth group. “What does the knot of hair on the back of the head represent?” Asked a girl. “This is called a sikha, and it signifies that we agree to follow Krishna, and that He takes to any which way He feels is best for us. Now you are known as members of this Sikh community. Sikh means follower, that implies you take direction from God and/or His representatives.”

The students were happy that we shared this common ground terminology, concluding that we are all not that much different than each other in our spiritual pursuit.

0 Km

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

People by the Mountain

Morton, Washington

Walking on or around Mount Rainier, brought some responses from locals. Nothing out of the ordinary, but here were some reactions. The most asked question I get asked in my travels was posed four times in the last four days. “Are you Buddhist?” And perhaps the next most asked question which goes across the board anywhere in the world came up, “Can I take a picture of you?” One slow motorist on his way down the mountain rolled down his window and remarked, “You’re in better shape than I am!” An elderly cyclist with a firm look on his face, delivered, “God bless”. A middle aged woman stopped her vehicle to offer local blueberries, bless her heart. The most interested person was a Cambodian with his Korean wife. He asked the classic question, “Are you Buddhist?” My answer, “No, I am a Krishna monk. We believe in Krishna who is the speaker of Bhagavad Gita. He teaches about the soul, worship and devotion.” He was so charged up to put it in his words, “I really want to meet a master.” I don’t think I disappointed the man, but I did do what most of us Vaishnavas do, invite him to our nearest temple, which is Seattle. I presented more philosophical dialogue and gave him books to read. I do hope I will see him again, perhaps in Seattle when we perform the next day.

Not to do with road responses, but more so with an email message, someone got back to me with a really enthusiastic letter about his walking ventures. He calls himself ‘Walkabout’ and asked if I had heard of the Peace Pilgrim. It’s good to know there are others out there who have a passion for walking and a passion for talking about it.

18 KM

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Up High

Mount Raineer, Washington

“For some early visitors the power of the waterfalls suggested spiritual connections. They named it after Narada, after a powerful sage of Hindu mythology who acted as a messenger between human and divine realms.” (About Narada Falls) Thus reads the plaque next to a glorious waterfall which has a depth of 168 feet. It’s nice to see Narada Muni memorialized here in the state of Washington. Our bus crew of young men and women who have read of the sage since their early childhood were rather surprised to see one of their heroes honoured in this obscure place.

Rainier, which has an elevation of 14,000 feet possesses all the dynamics of a mountain. There’s plenty of snow on top. We ascended it about halfway by bus, and then descended from there by foot. What a thrill the white stuff was for our Floridians on board, some had never seen snow before. Tourists drove up to experience the phantasmagoria, the vista. They were able to see marmots, deer, blue jays, eagles, bears, squirrels, and now they saw monks. Mahatattva, the San Diego brahmachari and I are attired in our usual saffron cloth. It looks great against the white and green mountain backdrop. We took our descent by way of road, and tourists were clicking their cameras like crazy, including us in their days adventure.

What a radical adjustment it was going from high and dry 90 degree Fahrenheit weather a week ago in Mexico to the chill and dampness and half the temperature up in this mountain in Washington state.

Regarding weather, when we were ready to set out in the morning, one of the young guys on the bus had just awoken. He got up, stood there looking a little groggy, peering through the bus window. He asked, “What’s the weather like?” and while he was standing there just a few inches away from the window pane, I volunteered to answer, “Why don’t you just check it out on the internet?” I teased.

22 Km

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Down Highway 5

Portland, Oregon

The only walking I did today was with my arms, I did a careful plucking of blackberries across the road from a Walmart. I took the task as a service to the bus crew.

We had a great morning sadhana (spiritual workout) while the bus was in motion on Highway 5. At that time we were driving through areas of history through the state of Oregon. When Europeans settled in the area from 1840 – 1860, 320,000 of them in fact, they fought and found a last frontier, Oregon. Mormons, gold seekers and others took to the Oregon trail. The famous Donner party expedition challenged their first severe winter. Many died and the balance resorted to cannibal dinner. That’s extreme, but who are we to judge, not being subjected to the circumstances of the time? But back to the morning program. As facilitator, I divided up this morning’s verse, 5.51, from the book Bhagavatam. After reading it’s purport, I asked the young men on the bus to pick a theme from what I just read, and to speak on their topic for 3 minutes. They took turns, and so we went about it in this interactive way. Everyone contributed. Here was a list of benefits the boys came up with as feedback on this approach:

It made me think
It helped me for public speaking
I had to think philosophically
It kept me awake
It helped me to be sharp and to not repeat what someone else said
It forced me to focus

I perceive some of these boys as future leaders. Their three minute dissertation and follow up remarks were indicative of leadership material. One comment made by Godbrother Mitrasen, after the presentations were over, was a quote from Lal Tzu. “The best leader goes unnoticed. The second best is loved by all. The third best is feared, and the fourth is hated.” The conclusion is, according to Tzu, is that best type of leader is that when everyone thinks that they are doing things themselves.

0 KM

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sunday, August 7th, 2011


San Franciso, California

With a town named after such a saint, the place can’t be all that bad. At Golden Gate Park on John F. Kennedy Drive, the chariots rolled on their 45th anniversary. Following the joyful parade was the Festival of India layout of tents, trinkets, and food. Gurudas, a participant of the very first event was the master of ceremonies on the stage located at what was known as ‘Hippie Hill’. Srila Prabhupada, his guru, had sat at this very spot singing with the free spirited boys and girls of the time. Over the mic, Gurudas made a point of it, “He sat right there!”.

The historical landmark is actually tucked away from most park browsers. Of all in attendance I would give a guestimation, that the crowd is 95% us, meaning, members of the Krishna community.

It was an honour to meet a spiritual sister, the student of Prabhupada, who was walking along side her two great grandkids. Believe it or not, we are looking at 4 generations of Hare Krishnas. It was an honour for me to stroll with the two youngsters hand in hand, for a few yards.

It was another sweater day, damp and chilled. I felt for our male actors, some of whom portrayed bare chested palanquin carriers for His Magesty, King Rahugana, a character in our Three Lives of Bharat Drama. The actors have come to know with some experience now, that putting on a show involves some tapasya, austerity. Austerity has been said to be the wealth of the brahmin, and so it’s not all that bad to taste what visionaries are supposed to experience in order to be strong.

Strength of body, mind and character are good targets to hit for all persons and at all times.

9 Km

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Have a Chance

Berkley, California

You have to put your socks on here, your tootsies just might get a little cold. That’s rather standard for the Bay Area in the summer. Our bus crew bundled up in hoodies, scarves and chaddars, and then worked on assembling the chariots for the next day’s Ratha Yatra. That’s one way to warm up – work hard.

There are few places that can boast their 45th annual. That figure actually puts the San Francisco Festival of Chariots as the first in the western world. With humble circumstances the program got off the ground in 1967 with flowers, a pick up truck, Jagannath dieties, and a group of happy bound hippies in the summer of love.

In fact, those of us who lived through that time know it to be very special. It was an epoch of openness, of welcoming new thoughts and bursting out of the box. Had it been a conservative space, Hare Krishna might not have got off the ground. When Swamiji (Srila Prabhupada) as he was affectionately called, arrived in liberal New York in ’65, and then to mind expanding San Fransciso. The timing could not have been better.

I was thoroughly tempted to get out and about, and feel whatever residual effect might be there in a part of the world that impacted the globe, that mystical north California flower power place. After Laghu Hari and Godruma Goura, performed an excellent Nandulal drama, I ventured off to Telegraph Avenue in Berkely, of the Bay Area. I took to both directions, feeling some ghosts of the past and some optimism as well. If I could share my judgement as much as it allows, I would say the drug culture has hit hard and taken its toll on those who are addicted. But fortunately, some of these folks come to visit our temple, working on their rehab through chanting. They might have a chance.

6 Km

Friday, August 5th, 2011

How to party

Encinata, California

Along the beach walk of San Diego, you catch a great but pleasant breeze. "No Smoking, No Alcohol, No Glass Bottles!" is the repetitious marking along its waist-high wall. If San Diego wasn't such a party town, you probably wouldn't read about such prohibitions.

"Who really knows how to party?" I was thinking. And especially without destroying yourself, and without being a nuisance!

After a great walk along Pacific Beach, a sadhana program at the temple, some correspondence over buses headed to Encinata for an evening performance, traffic was thick on Highway 5--normal for Friday. After all, it's the weekend. Some people will slot time for partying for sure.

As usual, our party or "get together" take on a different shape from most of the world. Free of nasties like intoxicants, our life of party involves kirtan chanting. This is a unique teenage group. We do make a mess but clean up after. Free from gossip? I don't know whether our group is liberated from that. What I do know is that we are looking at a great bunch of young people. I'm traveling with them because I believe it to be a good investment of time in helping them for their devotional future. I also hold a firm belief that I get some punya (pious credits) out of this.

Our audience was passive while actors and dancers strutted their passion. "Pacific people are like that." said Mitrasena, a spiritual brother also traveling with us. Nevertheless they showed their appreciation.

As aforementioned, we clean-up after our group of forty plus. We arrive at a place; trash it; and then tidy it up. During that process, I found a broom and dust pan. I began cleaning when one of the young women from our tour group remarked, "Maharaj, you are a real bus swami. You know, you just fit in so well."

I was touched by the remark. I felt accepted by these young Vaishnavas.

7 KM

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

You Have a Body, Wait

Mexico/US Border

The border was our venue – not all day but long enough to make it memorable.

I heard one of the older boys on the bus that the Mexico/US border is the busiest in the world, I don’t doubt it. You know what that means, you can imagine. Long lines, snail pace.

Borders have everyting to do with bodily designations. You are either this citizen or that citizen. Because we are born on a particular parcel of land, we get tagged and belong to that plot. In other words, we become territorial. And since our bodies are an extension of ego, we regard our turf as sacred.

Check out Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita, and ‘everything revolves around me’. This is the extent of it. In fact, there is no extent, everything, yes, everything revolves around me. Instead of the Designer being the axis of everything, we have configurated this concept that I am HOT ENERGY, the hottest.

We have mentioned before that ego stands for ‘edging God out’, well it’s true. I own nothing, not even my country, and yet, I make false claims like a Rakshasha (monster). And now that the stock market plunge is going on, it becomes so evident. ‘One day, I have millions, the next day, nothing’. It is pathetic that we have to contend with ego, just as we have to do with borders. Our two buses were in queue and in processing for 3.5 hours. Our show got cancelled at Laguna Beach. Shame.

I recall our guru, Srila Prabhupada, having a tough time (not that it was so troublesome to him) but at one Canadian airport, customs could have handled it better. Anyways, the problem all begins with bodily identity. We need to rethink who we are.

5 Km

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Olla! Mexico!

La Fonda, Mexico

Our two Krishna Cultural Tour Buses arrived at the Mexican border near Tijuana. It took two energy bars and a twenty dollar bill to present to customs to convince them that “our church group” be given clearance. No passports needed to be shown. That was a subtle bribe, I guess -- an ingenious move by Manu.

Driving up to a crude but private campsite at La Fonda, we are not too far south where you can easily purchase anything with U.S. bucks. Before arriving we stopped at, believe it or not, Walmart, to buy supplies for our three day stay in the area. The Pacific is wondrous. I couldn’t resist a dip. As soon as we arrived, Nirguna and I became children.

Oooh! Cold are it’s waters.

From there we tread south bound with sand under our feet and pelicans over our heads. They were sailing above in a jagged line and then swooping down for a serious dive at the water. Their aim? Fish, of course! One pelican after landing on the beach didn’t make it into the air again. Nature takes it’s course. A dog attack saw to it’s end.

Co-campers at our site go for fish as well. They apply fire to their catch. Some folks dig for crabs. I look at such ventures with gratitude. As Vaishnavas we don’t do such things. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are better people but that we live in a different mode. If attitude is triggered by life-style, which it usually does, then it could hamper spiritual progress.

I have referred to the Gita’s verse before beginning “vidya vinaya sampane…” “See with equal vision the various life forms.” “We are all spirits” is the resounding message.

Abhimanyu, a young devotee, seems to be just about everyone’s favourate on the bus tour. He delivered the valedictorian speech at his school three months back. I’m training him as an understudy for our drama “The Three Lives of Bharat.”

Campfire kirtan (chanting) concluded this bright day’s end.

7 Km

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

LA Last Day

Los Angeles, CA

I was savouring in the sweet thoughts of the previous day’s chanting. People love our presence there. I was also remembering what a devotee, Rameswara, said yesterday about the first LA Festival of Chariots in 1977. The LA Times reported 100,000 people in attendance, and our guru, Srila Prabhupada, being pleased with the numbers had said, “I told you this would happen.”

It was early morning 3:30 AM or thereabouts when I took in early air on foot at Venice Boulevard. I was immersed in such thoughts when a man who carried himself like a celebrity walked by me and proceeded to say, “Just remember, you just walked by one of the Sopranos, God bless.” I take it he is one of the actors.

I know there is a TV series by that name, never watched it, I accepted the remark as a good omen for the day, especially since the word ‘God’, with good intent was uttered during the bar hour.

The day was good. Devotees with bass, tenor, alto and soprano voices marched to Venice Beach pulling those glorious three chariots and singing their hearts out. It was the 35th annual Ratha Yatra for LA. Cameras, cell phones, kept clicking. Beach attired folks gyrated to the drum beats. Faces lit up to the sights of the towering temples on wheels (the chariots). You couldn’t help to hear the people’s faces which read ‘here is something different, something far out.’ They liked the rhythm.

From that first year in ’77 when Hollywood town, Los Angles saw dozens of banners with images of chariots and elephants, when the public thought Ben Hur was coming to town (as Rameswara put it). All that and to the present, the Festival of Chariots is still a big sensation in LA. It’s a day that everyone pays devotion to the Universal Lord, Jagannatha.

12 Km

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

A Prized Purport

Los Angeles, California

This morning, Swavasa, the temple president of the LA temple read to us from Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 2, Chapter 9, Text 3, and I wanted to share it with you.

The two misconceptions of life, namely "I" and "mine," are verily manifested in two classes of men. In the lower state the conception of "mine" is very prominent, and in the higher state the misconception of "I" is prominent. In the animal state of life the misconception of "mine" is perceivable even in the category of cats and dogs, who fight with one another with the same misconception of "mine." In the lower stage of human life the same misconception is also prominent in the shape of "It is my body," "It is my house," "It is my family," "It is my caste," "It is my nation," "It is my country," and so on. And in the higher stage of speculative knowledge, the same misconception of "mine" is transformed into "I am," or "It is all I am," etc. There are many classes of men comprehending the same misconception of "I" and "mine', in different colors. But the real significance of "I" can be realized only when one is situated in the consciousness of "I am the eternal servitor of the Lord." This is pure consciousness, and the whole Vedic literatures teach us this conception of life.

The misconception of "I am the Lord," or "I am the Supreme," is more dangerous than the misconception of "mine." Although there are sometimes directions in the Vedic literatures to think oneself one with the Lord, that does not mean that one becomes identical with the Lord in every respect. Undoubtedly there is oneness of the living entity with the Lord in many respects, but ultimately the living entity is subordinate to the Lord, and he is constitutionally meant for satisfying the senses of the Lord. The Lord therefore asks the conditioned souls to surrender unto Him. Had the living entities not been subordinate to the supreme will, why would the living entity be asked to surrender? Had the living being been equal in all respects, then why was he put under the influence of māyā? We have already discussed many times that the material energy is controlled by the Lord. The Bhagavad-gītā (9.10) confirms this controlling power of the Lord over the material nature. Can a living entity who claims to be as good as the Supreme Being control the material nature? The foolish "I" would reply that he will do so in the future. Even accepting that in the future one will be as good a controller of material nature as the Supreme Being, then why is one now under the control of material nature? The Bhagavad-gītā says that one can be freed from the control of the material nature by surrendering unto the Supreme Lord, but if there is no surrender, then the living entity will never be able to control the material nature. So one must also give up this misconception of "I" by practicing the way of devotional service or firmly being situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. A poor man without any employment or occupation may undergo so many troubles in life, but if by chance the same man gets a good service under the government, he at once becomes happy. There is no profit in denying the supremacy of the Lord, who is the controller of all energies, but one should be constitutionally situated in one's own glory, namely to be situated in the pure consciousness of being the eternal servitor of the Lord. In his conditional life the living entity is servant of the illusory māyā, and in his liberated state he is the pure, unqualified servant of the Lord. To become untinged by the modes of material nature is the qualification for entering into the service of the Lord. As long as one is a servant of mental concoctions, one cannot be completely free from the disease of "I" and "mine."

The Supreme Truth is uncontaminated by the illusory energy because He is the controller of that energy. The relative truths are apt to be engrossed in illusory energy. The best purpose is served, however, when one is directly facing the Supreme Truth, as when one faces the sun. The sun overhead in the sky is full of light, but when the sun is not in the visible sky, all is in darkness. Similarly, when one is face to face with the Supreme Lord, he is freed from all illusions, and one who is not so is in the darkness of illusory māyā.

Srīla Vyāsadeva has specifically contributed to the illusioned living entities the science of God and the process of bhakti-yoga in his great literature Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the conditioned soul should fully take advantage of this great science.

Friday, July 29th, 2011

LA First Day

Los Angeles, California

California, nice weather. Relief! And in the City of Angels (sorry to use the word once again), we have the temple off of Watseka Avenue. Our busses pulled up, devotees greeted us with obeisance and hugs. We took a shower and some prasadam to eat. Off for a trek up along Hughes Ave, past the Kirk Douglass Theatre near Culver City Park. And Sony Studios? It’s huge!

I admire the trees, plants and flowers, and the neatness of the Culver City district.

Our troupe was poised to perform right in the quaint, ornate temple of Rukmini Dwarkadisha. The play is beginning to gel and going beyond the actors jarring their memories for lines. The audience was responsive to our show, but the audience was small. It was a let down. This low attendance for a large community must have been due to people being uninformed. Who’s to blame? I don’t know. Promotion is always important. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, was a divinely empowered person who believed in the practicality of the world, and since maya (illusion) is highly promoted, promotion then to that contrary, is necessary. He used words like ‘propagate’, ‘broadcast’, ‘spread’, ‘expand’.

Before I lay down to rest, an explosive moment of inspiration came to me in regard to the promotion of higher consciousness. A young man who joined our society about 3or 4 years ago, and who has recently travelled throughout North America, has settled in LA for the last 2 months. You can certainly call him a monk. Being inspired by the life of simplicity, he spends his evenings resting, either in an empty parking lot, or behind some bush in a park. It’s always a different location, this is all by choice. By 4 AM he rises, comes to the ashram to shower, he attends the morning temple program, and fills up the rest of his day by selling books from the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. He is not eccentric, he’s very normal, so when he told me of his program, that really moved me. To meet him and to hear of his program was very awe inspiring.

7 Km