Sunday, 29 January 2012

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

After the Rain in Crane
          
Crane, Guyana

We tucked in our dhotis (lower robe) to almost half-mast. An overnight tropical storm made muddy, the Saturday morning market place. The farmer’s market is the weekly outing for the monks in the area. A mirdanga drum, coupled with a djembe and hand cymbals were our tools. Marketers, vendors and us monks were somewhat not well prepared at first, but we became adaptable to the wet conditions eventually. Planks were being placed over puddles while husks of corn were set in mud spots offering some relative dryness. At least we were contented at least the kirtan party.

The over cast weather with its surprise gusts of rain is a treat over the scalding heat that is common in Guyana. A trek on Guyana’s main road, another on a side road and fairly a hard pace back and forth in my designated room, constituted all that the feet did today.
We got our memory working also. I took the devotees on one of those verse memorization sessions. The group found it a little tough to tackle 6.42 from the Gita which detail the positive destiny of a Yogi who continues his spiritual path by taking birth in a family of transcendentalists after not attaining full enlightenment. In other words, there are concessions for those who cannot reach the goal of freedom before passing from this world.

Because it was Saturday those who live in a devotional setting feel the justification behind making the evening festive to rival chutney shows and what have you.

I read from “Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”,the book, to an eager group at the temple in Crane. For these types of reading you can’t avoid putting a bit of your own personality in your delivery. We had a real great devotional time.
6 Km

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

One More Soul 

Alachua, Florida

By the blessings of Krishna I was asked to speak from Canto 10 of the Bhagavatam. I hope that the class inspired at least one soul. Just one soul. Hmmm! Maybe two souls are better. One spiritual brother gave a piece of paper with two names on it, Vaikuntha and Sarva Satya.

“They are two souls who are in a nursing home for veterans.” The gentle devotee who handed me the slip with names, directions and room numbers in the home indicated that the two patients are also veterans of our Krishna Conscious mission. I was happily committed to contribute my short visit to these two contributors of humanity.

After a great walk over the sandy roads of the area, my host family took us to Gainesville Health Care Center. We hit an awkward time. It was dinner. Sarva Satya had lost an arm and needed to be fed. To Vaikuntha’s room we slipped by and we saw him sincerely offering his food to Krishna with the deepest meditation. He uttered mantras loudly with head to the food. Once done, he raised his lovely bearded head and then noticed us standing there. He blurted out a gorgeous, “Hare Krishna!” and with a welcome that was novel to us; arms outstretched and with a smile enough to kill.

Back to Sarva in another room we went, and he gave us his brief but meaningful greetings as well.

These were two souls there that we touched and in turn touched us. Upon our departure from the center, Anil and family, who drove us there in the first place, remarked after seeing the price paid in the struggle of life by patients, “The entire Bhagavatam lesson about life can be found by a visit to the home for veterans.”

Evening came upon us and there was one last visit to make – to a local massage therapist, Michael Loomis. It was great meeting him. One-hour session with him passed by in a flash. He just happened to be a trekker himself, an adventurist. We had great stories to share.

It was just one more soul to be inspired. I’m speaking about myself.

7 Km

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012 to Guyana

Chutney Show
 
Gainesville, Miami, Port-of-Spain, finally Georgetown, Guyana.

Going through four airports this day left little time for walking.  It was hard to find some spunk out of the day, except for reading about conversations our Guru, Srila Prabhupada had with people in 1968, some of which interviewed him on radio in the Bay area of Frisco (San Francisco).  Apart from that if there was anything that was a little arousing, spunky or spicy about today then there was a mere mention of “chutney” by a Guyanese man whom I met on the plane.

“Chutney” is a common condiment, possibly pickled, could-be-tardy and maybe dragon-like hot preparation. It’s often used as a dip for savouries and is common in the south-east Asian communities. It can tantalize or kill depending on your conditioning.

So this one man, whom I met, who recognized the robes said, “yah know, we need more people like you to give the alternative to our young folks. In Trinidad and Guyana they are so much exposed to these Chutney Shows.

“Is it a new cooking show?” I asked innocently.

“No!“ he said, ” you can imagine what is.”

“Oh, you are talking about sex in your face”

“Yeah, and most of the lyrics in the songs talk about encouraging rum consumption.

“Not Ram, but rum?” I asked.

“Yes, exactly!”

I suggested that we fight fire with fire; that we, as a pious society entertain with enlightenment; we give the youths of today enter-light-en-ment. Give them song, dance and drama. Do it light but with a subtle smack.

“Light their fires” with a message of bhakti (devotion) and make their chutney taste disgustingly, bland and flat.

I told this gentleman that I write, direct and produce devotional plays that attempts to insert Shakti (spiritual energy). He seemed happy that someone is working on bringing the young under a spiritual banner. I let the gentleman know that I have come to Guyana before to engage youths in performance. On this trip, I will be leading some chanting sessions with some teenagers. This is also just the best engagement for them. With kirtan chanting you have it all- sweet and sticky, spicy and hot, cool and chilled. And it is for everyone.

1 Km

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Krishna House

Gainesville, Florida

One alligator had chomped on a turtle and another gator had been eyeing a blue heron for as long as we could fathom, at least for the length of our 30-minute stay.

Companions 4 and I walked the horse trail at Payne’s Prairie Park when we decided to detour to the spring fed pond replete with the reptiles mentioned above. What looked like logs and driftwood were a group of alligators sun bathing. They were there in the plenty and we were intrigued to watch them do absolutely nothing, except for the one lying dead still, his head and body aimed in the direction of a perhaps na├»ve bird, the crane. The gator was surrounded by lush green water vegetation – rather hidden.

We pondered, “How long would it take before the gator made that straight dart for the bird a few feet away? When would nature take its ugly course?”

Our little trekking excursion in this Florida wild prairie where bison and horses also co-exist was preceded by the morning’s Bhagavatam class that I was asked to conduct. The verse 1.11.28 reads like this: “After entering the house of His father, (Krishna) was embraced by the mothers present and the Lord offered His obeisances unto them by placing His hand at their feet. The mothers were headed by Devaki [his real mother].”

And in the evening at the same venue called “Krishna House” I spoke from the Gita verse 6.32 which goes like this “He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self sees the true equality of all beings, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna!”

My participation at Gainesville’s “Krishna House” went on by the kindness of the person who runs this successful program. His name is Kalakanta, a dear friend, who draws many a young UF students to Krishna Consciousness.

Now, in between the two classes came the walk at Payne’s Prairie and one more thing – a kirtan at the downtown farmer’s market. This is a weekly outing for the members of the Krishna House. Charlie, the coordinator for this organic market remarked, “You guys really shone today.”

7 Km

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


Through Fields That Lie Fallow

Gainsville, Florida

 Life is easygoing in the Florida countryside. Kind Anil and wife, Vidhya, and their sons Aravind, 13, and Gopal, 4, came to fetch me at quaint Gainesville Airport. With our drive to their home I would see a dry but pleasant temperature atmosphere. By the ditch a couple of turkey vultures were downing some obscure roadkill. And there are fields of fallow space separated by trees of Spanish moss cover.

Our trek over the fields was a treat. A deliberate route by their edges provided shade until all became shade for the absence of the sun. Gopal is too young for the walk and stayed at the house as Aravind babysat his younger sibling. And Aravind had some catching up to do with schoolwork. It left us three adults to be in the fields, to chant, to chat and to dream a little.

The dreaming is so necessary. And whenever I get together with friends such as Sesa and Yugala who came for soup at night with their families, we usually discuss and ponder about the world and how things could probably go better with our spiritual mission and us. And as usual, we part our ways after some thoughts hoping that some of our aspirations will become realities.

So, there you have it – some hours with friends at a peaceful neighbourhood, with moderate climate, surrounded by fields of great potential and you have all the hope imaginable. You have God. You have guru. You have some experience and you think, “I’ve got it made!”





7 Km

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Extermination of the Bad 

Miami, Florida

Heading north on South Bayshore, which turns into Miami Ave., then off from a side street I came upon Skanda Yoga Studio. I made it almost all the way on foot until one of the members of our Coconut Grove community pulled over to get me there in time. We were prepared for an evening of kirtan.

Yoga societies have discovered the magic of kirtan, a new and yet ancient sound that defies some of the current [Insert Word Here] passing as music today. That might sound harsh to say but I mean it. Perhaps kirtan, the more angelic side of music, is a response to the denigration of much of today’s popular music.

We did not waste time with the brief hour and fifteen minute session allotted to us. We got right into japa which is chanting without a melody and kirtan/bhajan, chanting with melody and instruments. Two young chaps, Dharma and Gopal, played mrdunga drums and they were fantastic. The thirty or so participants got up off their feet to sway, swing and surrender to the sound.

This practice of chanting (and to add the dancing which completes this particular from of yoga) is described as “the prime benediction for humanity at large” as quoted by Sri Chaitanya.

Chanting is that function that is supposed to address the little devils within. It is like the termites that are having their hay day in our local temple where anything made of wood is slowly dissolving. Doorframes, baseboards and any ornamental wood fixtures are going through a disappearing act. There are experts who know how to deal with them.

In the same way, the little devils of lust, greed, and anger that exist within our lives need extermination of sorts. This chanting serves the purpose to offer this benediction.

10k Km

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Work Me As If I'm Your Chappati Dough
Miami, Florida
Three kind souls came to greet me at the Miami Airport. Garga Muni, Raghini and Rupa Manjari arrived a few minutes late. Not their fault, but the plane arrived early. I was set to be in the city for 2.5 days not knowing where I was to serve.
There was mention of an itinerary so I was glad someone worked on a schedule. But as far as I was concerned I remarked to the three, "Mold me, shape me, as you like."
As I recall when my Guru, Srila Prabhupada came to visit us in Canada in '76, he asked us, "What is it you want me to do while I'm here?" I took to copycatting that mood. It is a mood that would enhance surrender to the will of Krsna, Guru and devotees.
After delivering the Sunday message from the Gita before the congregation I announced, "Now I request questions or comments. I have nothing to hide." I implied that if anyone wants to shape a question, I will shape an answer. In other words I was opening myself to be rolled around a bit and have some fun. I'm like a batch of chappati dough and very stiff and hard. I need to be engaged and if you use me, I'll warm up and become pliable. Some students from Saint Thomas University were taking a course in world religions and posed some questions after my presentation. They were so eager.
While during the course of the day, I had set ideas on how to use my time, but being a spiritual master, I have to make myself available to the public needs.
If the mental application is applied, "I'm your chappati dough." I believe one day I'll be shaped into perfectround paddy and will be offered to the flame and then presented to Krsna. I will then be cooked to perfection.
6 Km

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Clapping Away

Mississauga, Ontario

Some days the feet are unhappy. Due to numerous obligations the hour permit little time in the day for flexing legs. This evening however, our hands were in creative motion.

During kirtan chanting our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had spoken about how the lines on your hands, which determine very much your destiny (as in palm reading) can be altered. When clapping before the deity of Krishna, as kirtan resounds, the markings can change to a more blessed situation.

At the 25th Anniversary of the Grovers we did clap, not just to congratulate the occasion, but in celebration of our life in Krishna Consciousness. A good fifty or so people took to smacking the hands in time with tempo. Dhira Grahi, a Ukranian devotee, and Jitu, a local born, second generation devotee, led our group in kirtan. For those not so accustomed, their palms turned red.

Since I wasn't able to squeeze in much time for wearing down or altering the etchings on my soles I thought, "the hands will have to do." The result was an exuberant devotional expression with palms. To facilitate clapping even more the torso, arms and head also go in motion. Clapping is a perfect time keeper. It also keeps the kirtan perked up. It engages a good part of the body. In many cultures the bringing together of hands to make noise is an expression of appreciation. It is also a device to get attention or or to send off and strike fear in an adversary or a flock of birds eating your orchard fruit.

Clapping is effective. We don't do it enough. It's the perfect cheer-leading practice.

As of late, when I'm asked to lead a chanting session, I often decline the hand cymbals or kartals often used to add a sweetness and timing to the sound. I ask someone else to play them while I have the freedom to use my hands in some unique way.

Come to think of it, my hands are my upper feet, my arms my upper legs. I've found a great use for them.

4 Km

Friday, January 20th, 2012

A Couple

Mississauga, Ontario

Rajeev and Ajita are a professional business couple who were curious about everything Krishna. After a great North Indian meal, Rajeev asked the question about the eastern concepts coming to the west in the 60's. He was keen to know about the history, the Age of Aquarius, and the humble beginnings of a tiny man, a sadhu (a swami) who drew the attention of beatniks and hippies.

I tried my best to provide an overview.

Then Ajita, his wife, asked about the proof, the reality of God. "We've been told, but how can we be sure."

"The best way to be sure is to apply. Factor Him in and then see that the equation fits. Answers come and fulfillment is reached. Not all things are comprehended by our limitations. More can be understood through feeling and hearing. The first thing the swami of the 60's, Srila Prabhupada, the Hare Krishna guru, recommended was principles. He offered discipline coupled with having a good time. When we clear the cobwebs of our mind we become a clear channel for receiving Him. We agree to be a servant and to feel the joy of serving and loving Krishna. Instead of so much philosophizing, it's best to just do it."

Ajita laughed and said that was the slogan of Nike.

"Ah yes, their mantra."

Questions kept coming from Rajeev and Ajita. It was good but my backside was sore. I began shifting uncomfortably. The couple has offered me the prime seat in their home, an one hundred year old antique chair, an actual hardwood Rajasthani bench taken from a bullock cart. It was chic. I stood up.

"Any chair loses its coziness after a while. The only relaxing pose for the human body is a changing one - walking." (Laughter)

Our conversation with the couple and two other families of the area terminated at the witches hour. Rajeev and Ajita have a 15 year old son (a wiz kid I'd speculate), who had returned from his extra curriculum activity - assembling a robot.

Robots! Well, all I can say about them is "if they ever infiltrate I'll never have one do my walking for me."

4 Km

Friday, 20 January 2012

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Matter/Spirit

Toronto, Ontario

"The guru might snore or burp, because he is human after all. It doesn't take anything away from his divinity."

That was my remark during our Bhagavatam class discussion amongst our ashram residents. Our talking led to the same logic when applied to the sacred plant tulasi, a warm climate plant, member of the basil family, which is honored every morning as an integral part of our morning spiritual exercise. The plant Tulasi may be healthy or ill. She may be attacked by white flies or spider-mites, but nonetheless she is still sacred, packed with spiritual energy. The Ganges River may also apply. Here you have anointed waters with origins (at least on the physical planet) in Gangotri in the Himalayan Mountains. She may manifest some foam on the surface at certain locations of her downward journey to the ocean. Still she possesses the spiritual power, the ability to purify.

Divinity is found within matter. The reverse is also true. Matter is found in spirit. In fact, everything we see is encased in spirit. The mundane eye leads us to believe that matter exists and only matter, but our senses are dull, blunt and limited. Our perceptions in general have their restrictions.

As I took to the street for a much needed evening wind-down walk I could perceive what was in front of me and only that, to a small range. Because I'm human I have my limitations despite a "divineness" that persists within me.

In other words, all that is material and all that is spiritual are folded into each other.

Even though sometimes we see defects, which are a display of imperfect matter, the effervescent spirit is always present.

6 Km

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

La Belle Nouvelle

Toronto, Ontario

The very good news is that "Nuit Blanche" the all white night contemporary art event that storms the city every year has accepted our application for mantra chanting in the early fall. The Scotiabank sponsors this popular event when the world's longest street (Yonge St.) closes off traffic for an all-night pedestrian happy art loving venture. This year chanting will be an exhibit.

This evening Keshava Sharma, one of our younger community co-ordinators, and I, scouted out the downtown to explore possible indoor or outdoor venues. We were walking with a different purpose. We were excited by he acceptance and by the special "in" as contemporary artists.

Art today is no longer an object or a painting you view hanging on a wall with unique directional lighting. It's something experiential and chanting with some additional features such as hooking up the kirtaniya, the chanting leader, to a screen to register his/her heartbeat during the process is an incredible art experience.

Paris began this world acclaimed event. New York also took up "Nuit Blanche" as an annual festival. Toronto and other cities have also caught on for a few years now.

Kesava and I were walking on cloud 9 imagining the coming eve of Sept. 29 when the sun makes a descent and art lights up. I reflected on my first days as a monk in '73 when chanting by a small group of us on the street was a daily happening. At that time I never would have dreamed that the city would back our mantra meditation with a space and a grant to fund the effort almost four decades later.

The plan is to have a 12 hour chanting session. When you consider that the theme for 2012 is "If it weren't for the buildings..." then you can throw yourself back in time when "Toronto," which means "the meeting place," was a place of indigenous people celebrating life with drums and shakers. How appropriate!

11 Km

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

What I Left Behind

Toronto, Ontario

It's strange! In devotional life it's such a different world from the secular one. Within the context of temple life, we speak about increasing our endeavors of bhakti, devotion. Either that, or you speak about intensifying what you are already doing, such as improving heartfelt chanting. Then you hear how important it is (from the outside) how sex must be increased or Tim Horton's chain restaurant comes up with a larger cup, hence enhanced caffeine intake.

There's clearly two worlds. The emphasis is different. The gap is large.

As soon as I step out of the temple building, I might hear coarse language that is unacceptable to the ears. Life in the temple ashram is not perfect but much closer to the spiritual world, for sure. As soon as I track myself down those concrete stairways I enter into the mixed world of beautiful nature and nasty nature. I also make the entrance into what man has created; not all good.

The general populace is innocent and they want more out of life. Spiritual life can fill a vacuum beyond Churchianity, beyond dogmatic endeavors. If only they would try, if only they would make some room for a small dosage of higher conscious activity and relax in the pursuit of the Divine. It's adventurous. It's pleasurable. Susukham in Sanskrit means "joyful." Kartum means "execution." These are words from the Gita.

The evening wind was turbulent, as is the world in its mundane manifestation. It actually deterred me from a night-time stroll and so I vied for the protectiveness and sanctity of the temple and paced the balcony in its horseshoe shape. I went for a good hour and a half, every so now and then stopping to peak out to the world of harshness, the world that doesn't need to be so, the world I left behind.

6 Km

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Do Something About It

Toronto, Ontario
 
I will continue to promote the walking culture to colleagues and dependents, students and anyone who seeks life improvement.

Here's what I stumbled upon (with eyes) written by author Colin Fletcher:

"I had better admit right away that walking can in the end become an addiction, and that it is then as deadly as fashion or heroine or television or the stock exchange. But even in this final stage it remains a delectable madness, very good for sanity, and I recommend it with a passion."

You know how I don't care if people call me a fanatic when I fire out words about taking care of yourself. Yura, a young York U student picked me up at the airport and I asked the usual, "How's your health?" as much as I say, "How's your Sadhana?" which is in reference to a metaphysical workout.

Yura expressed he has tension in his machinery and especially in his lower back. "Well do you walk?" I asked. Yura is in his early 20's.

To paraphrase his answer, he said that it was minimal. So then I got on his case for letting his many hours of study indoors stand in the way of his overall well-being. As Mark Twain said, "Don't let school get in the way of your education." In the same way, don't let current living conditions restrict you from the healthy and sane life.

We have potential. Look at your frame. Is it for flying? Swimming at long lengths? Unrestricted sex? No! Then what? Think about it and do something about it!

8 Km

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

The Second Day

Dallas, Texas

The second day of our "Jagannatha Story" drama presentation and the follow up success had me wound up to the point that rest was tough. I chose to walk on the same old trail towards White Rock Lake, that body of water whose edge was walked by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in the mid-seventies.

Naturally, the route becomes a pilgrimage site for me. I felt safe being here even at the midnight hours. There was no one else in sight. I had no inhibition about chanting at a volume more than usual. That stirred up some dogs at properties lined at the edge of the trail, arousing their barking.

I got to thinking about the watch dog nature in all of us. For those of us on the disciplinary path of monastic rigors such as abstaining from meat, fish, eggs, drugs, drinking, gambling, sex, it means you have you watch dog on the alert. "Abstinence" is a way of saying "NO" to the things that weaken us physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a safeguard.

The above mentioned happy strictures are what Srila Prabhupada gave us to ensure that at least some members of society can be hard-core on "principles." Honouring these principles is a source of inspiration for the general public.

As I completed my mid-night hour trek, I was finally led to wind down feeling a general satisfaction to have the chanting as my life-line and principles to hold that life-line in place. Restfulness finally nabbed me.

But, up at 3am I went, to ready and catch a flight for home. Good-bye Texas.

7 Km

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

On the Trail and In the Temple

Dallas, Texas

One woman on the trail jogging behind her kid on a tricycle burst out with a happy, "Hare Krishna!" She used every muscle in her face to express it. A man minutes later expressed, "Blessing from Krishna!" as he held his hands in pranam formation. This confirms, perhaps, that the west is more and more embracing the east. Then a second fellow who stretched his joyful facebeyond imagination greeted me on the same trail with an "Amigo!" The etched-curves on either side of his mouth were a classic impression.

What this all tells me is that the Krishna community on Gurley Ave. here in Dallas are being appreciated in the area. It is the fruit of the community doing the right thing.

I am grateful to be in such a great company of saintly-like people who have come from various parts of the U.S. and Canada. I have also had the great privilege of leading kirtan chanting while here at the temple program and also to inaugurate each new day's meeting with mantras and drums that become explosive with everyone's participation. Also with these committed swamis
here, Romapada and Bir Krishna, I was also put on the schedule to deliver a class from the book Bhagavatam. The talk and discussion was on the mystical play of Brahma, the secondary creator, and his frivolous dealings with Krishna as a young cowherd boy.

Krishna was enjoying lunch in the pasture with His playmates when Brahma tested his mystic might against Krishna's. The event was a learning curve for Brahma, this greatest of demigods, on appreciating the Yogesvara. In the very last verse of the Gita, Krishna is addressed as the master of all mystics.

You don't want to mess with Him.

7 Km

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Disperse It

Dallas, Texas

My curiosity took me through some bush area near White Rock Lake. Some of the vegetation I couldn't identify. Texas is to the far south of Canada, and it is relatively a rather dry state, hence, a different planet in some respects. The foot worn path I was on became more and
more narrowed as I meandered on and which finally lead to human habitat - a makeshift camp - a squatters domain. No one was there at the time, the time being my break from meetings, and the time of absence for the occupant.

He had a great set up for himself from what I could see. A blue plastic tarpaulin for a ceiling and including three walls. A metal framed fold out cotter bed with a matching blue comforter. Lots of paraphernalia was there, a pot for cooking, likely for fish, as I saw a fishing rod leaned against a tree. Knowing that the lake and river are a mere 5 minute trek from location, the fellow's got it made, I thought.

The path clearly ended with the squatters super deluxe set up and it was slightly unsettling hanging around. How would the occupant take my intrusion if he was to suddenly show up? Perhaps my assumption that here's a person who doesn't have full equilibrium is justified.

Confirmation came, from Randy. After I left the squatter's haven and returned to a bona fide path, Randy, a cyclist stopped wheeling when he saw a robe-clad me. He works in the psychiatric field. "Most homeless have mental issues," he said. Randy deals with people of that challenge almost everyday. He proposed that their path is difficult. "I spend much of my time just listening to these people." He also said hat mental illness coupled with drug consumption is so damaging. The biggest part of the cure is to give some attention - to be human.

Randy and I parted. I resumed sitting with colleagues back at our meeting place. I just couldn't help remembering that giving attention, giving some love is what cures all.

Let us take into consideration this point; the ultimate love is with God and when you genuinely embrace that love and attention it needs to be dispersed to all.

9 Km

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

SKK

Dallas, Texas

I was waiting at a street corner for my walking partner to fetch his thickest coat to address the strong wintry chill when a beach ball rolled its way past me. It had taken a diagonal direction and landed in the front yard of a non owner. Immediately I thought, "Who reeled that thing at this hour, 12:20 am?" and secondly, "Whose kid does this ball belong to?" The second question couldn't be answered, but the first could.

The wind grabbed that circular object and tossed it for relocation. Further logic ignited. What caused the wind to do that?

Answer: The cause of all causes. I dare say, I thought the answer in Sanskrit, "sarva-karana-karanam," but the meaning is the same, the cause of all causes.

As my walking companion, Chaitanya Chandra and I, walked towards White Rock Lake, it became another query to ask, "How did it get so cold?" After all I'm in Texas and not Cananda. The answer was the same as before, "sarva-karana-karanam." Truly, nothing moves without the will of the Lord.

I took a second jaunt in the evening, in the same direction, along the fairly new path restricted to pedestrians and cyclists. The moon shine lit the way. "What lit the moon?" I asked.

Answer? Is it self-sustaining? Or is it divine intelligence? Or is there another scientific diagnosis? My simplistic approach to all questions about life always ends up the same conclusion. "sarva-karana-karanam," SKK.

7 KM

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Chair Sculpture

Dallas, Texas

The morning sights and sounds of east Dallas. Pecans are strewn over the sidewalks, winds strike them down from their treetops. And, as every year, the roosters crow in this 95% dominant Mexican neighbourhood, to the awakening of the day. Dogs are also prevalent, tough ones, barriered behind yard fences, thank God. I hit the trail. Once a railway line that runs next to Santa Fe Street. One direction takes you to White Rock Lake, the other to downtown. The temperature reached this day's zenith at 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Nice.

"Why couldn't we have meetings while walking?" I thought. "The oxygen is awesome outside." My reason for being in Dallas is to attend meetings, or to put it more casually, 'knocking heads' with the devotional kind. Surely no one will buy in to the outdoor rendezvous, but it was a thought.

The second reason reason for the flight to Dallas was to provide some theatrical entertainment for the group, which are coming from various corners of Canada and the US. This is a special service I like to provide. God also loves entertainment, theatre to be more precise. The epics of the Ramayan, Mahabharat and stories of the Bhagavat
Purana, are all the productions of God that have been recorded practically as script, and when you consider that script and scripture are so similar, it leads you to wonder about the root word. As part of our dramatical warm up exercise for the first night's practice, our group of 5 pushed for creativity. The exercise was to stack readily available metal chairs, up to balance, upon each other, all held up by one single chair. Remarkably, we measured up to 9 chairs with this chair sculpture. This practice allowed us to build up team spirit and cooperation, which is vital when a group is working on a project, even
for God's sake.

4 Km

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Made My Day

Toronto, Ontario

A flight to Dallas began with a 9 km walk towards Pearson Airport from Dupont to Keele to Weston Road, I went through a working class neighbourhood. I like it. It's simple folks, family oriented, who are set to toil during the week to bring food to the table, to have a visit to the shopping mall on Saturday to purchase something shiny and perhaps to put an hour and half time in for a service at church on Sunday. Such is life for the human basics program.

It was great being out there in the urban outdoors, catching a moment with people at the bus stops. Shirley was waiting at Keele. I gave a nod and then she introduced herself as coming from Jamaica. She wanted to know about the markings on my forehead.

"This is an earth based substance put on the brow to mark the body as a temple of God,"
I explained. "God is in us." She liked that and then asked,
"What religion are you?"
"Hare Krishna," I said.
"Hare Christian?" she asked.
"No, Krishna. It's origins are India, it goes way back."

I gave her a mantra card and told her I walked the distance from Avenue Road which at this point from the start measured at 7 km. She was wowed by that. Of course, she is bus bound and likely has an incredible ways to go, so walking is not an option. I find it's important to impress someone by one way or another, either by friendliness or words that stimulate. Once that's achieved, you can talk spiritual to anyone. What was nice about Shirley is that right off the bat she wanted to dive right into the spiritual realm. She was non pretentious and didn't wander around the bush.

My ride came and I was then on my way to the airport and then Dallas. I had numerous interactions with people since morning, but Shirley, the Jamaican, made my day, although a brief encounter.

9 Km

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Monday, January 9th, 2012

"Just Open"

Toronto, Ontario

This sprinter sped right passed me as I practically baby-stepped over the ice, moving with utmost caution. It was inspiring to see the daring nature of the runner. Just by seeing him I picked up speed and broadened my strides.

In one rendition of the pastimes of Krishna's advent, His father Vasudev, was hesitant to cross a raging Yamuna River to protect His son. He was apprehensive to cross, but when he saw a jackal make his way, plying across despite darkness, rough water and depth, Vasudev became inspired to tread the water keeping Krishna unharmed above his head.

Everyone needs an inspirational element in order to move on in life. It often comes from people, not always, but often enough - it's some hero. Those who can move through the darkest hour encouraged others. What comes to mind is Krishna's raising hope in Arjuna, His dear warrior friend.

Without inspiration you're a dead man. We just can't live without it. Even in the most mundane sense an alcoholic gets inspired by the bottle.

When we enter into a period of confusion, despair or defeat there will be something stirring up to spark excitement, inspiration. It comes to us at the toughest hour. We just need to recognize when it pops up. Expect it when you're down-in-the-dumps. It's waiting there, staring at you. Just open your eyes and see it.

8 Km

Monday, 9 January 2012

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Time Pressured

Brampton, Ontario

It's a blessing to keep busy in service. It's a curse to be under engaged. It's a mixed blessing/curse to have too much. Even a devotional life requires prioritizing and working within timelines. Being human means that anyone can 'snap' due to overload, regardless of how strong your fever for service.

In monastic life such as mine, which takes on a mentor's role and added to that, administrative duties plus the artistic output, much happy time is consumed. If it wasn't for the daily reflective walking, life would be overwhelming. The walk permits a much needed 'time to myself' period as time for people, congregants, gets very demanding.

People need attention as life in modern times arouses too many complexities. There appears to be a lacking of 'outlet' or 'chill out time' for the average person in the so called developed world.

It's as a Nepalese woman, the clerk at a grocery store counter, told me today, "In this country there is not time to go to the temple. You have to always work to pay the bills."

This woman detected my 'devotioness', my 'ISKCON-ness', while incognitoed in winter wear, upon seeing my neck beads, faded forehead tilak markings and saffron coloured kurta top.

"Hare Krishna?" she asked as I came to the counter for a small yogurt purchase.
"Yes!" From there we talked.

It had been a day of 'go-go' - delivering a class in our Brampton centre, then two more class presentations in Toronto with people needing in between. Of course, on Sundays, demands intensify. All the more reason for 'the walk that chills'. It makes the difference between make or break. We must plan wisely in order for balance to prevail.

8 Km

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Leadership Lesson

Toronto, Ontario

It was a glorious day for me to participate in two events. The first one was an appreciation dinner for the cast of, “Dhroova”, the story of a great prince who learned many lessons from his austerity in the forest. The actors in this production worked hard. Secondly, I attended another dinner, much later on in the day, to honour the weekend warriors of BBT book distribution. I sat to hear the stories of devotees who relished in the spiritual activity of approaching people at different venues – the street, homes, shops – about the value of taking the spiritual path. It was a delight to digest, not only the food but the stories of human interaction. To better digest it all, I took to an evening walk, trekking Yonge Street, up to the point where break dancers were whipping up incredible moves, including fast spins on their heads.

Upon my return from the walk I opened to a page of “Tales of Ancient India” based on the text Hitopadesh, which our guru, Srila Prabhupada, would quote from. A dear friend, Guy Tetreault, from Quebec, wrote/translated it. Here’s a story about heavy responsibility in leadership.

“A prince was sent to a school of a guru to pursue his studies. Once they were completed, their master informed the king that he could come and pick up his son. When the prince demonstrated his achievements, the king was very appreciative. Desiring to teach one final lesson to the prince, the guru asked the king to go on horseback to a distant tree and then to return.

As the king galloped away, the guru told the prince to try to catch the horse. Meanwhile, the king had reached the tree. It was on his way back when he saw his son running breathlessly toward him. Furiously, he asked the guru, why he had obliged the prince to run in this way.

The guru replied, ‘now his education is complete. With this last experience he will not show indifference to the suffering of his subjects, especially of those who must labour hard in the service of others.’”

The moral: Leaders who have not received an education based on the principles of wisdom, will inevitably be blinded by power, fame, and wealth. They may certainly make decisions that benefit their own wallets, but they’re likely to be disastrous for the people they are supposed to serve.

7 Km

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Prisoners

Toronto, Ontario

I rarely receive snail mail these days. One person who constantly sends letters as an update on his life is Dave. He's in a situation where he doesn't have the freedom to walk. Dave is a prisoner in the US and I"m sure he doesn't mind me sharing his letter which arrived today:

"Dear Maharaj,

Hare Krsna Guru-deva. I have a new celly named Chris Cherry and he likes to eat all my food. I found him stealing my oatmeal this morning. Just a token reaction for my sins.

But he likes to chant Hare Krsna, just out of the blue, so I will fan that fire. He is not really serious about Krsna but I will be humble and tolerant.

Now I know how you and mother feel when I sin.

Bhakta David"


From this letter we can sense Dave's realizations about karma and about being tolerant and being humbled.

One thing I would add to Dave's message is that we are all souls imprisoned in these bodies. We are all 'cellies' even though we might regard ourselves as free civilians. We are in this prison, this durga and we are locked in behind the bars of our strong desires. While here, our good conduct can make a difference. The 'key' to releasing ourselves from jail is bhakti (devotion), love - deep love for the Divine.

10 Km

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Ice Under You

Toronto, Ontario

Along Moore Park Ravine it has become a virtual skating rink but with pedestrians sliding about. Over the years I've taken to slipping trials and even learned how to fall although there's no guarantee that its a one hundred percent smooth landing once hitting the ice. For the most part Krishna has protected me.

I recall, as a kid being an ice slider talking to trekking of a different kind over frozen ponds, rivers and lakes. Dad used to take us kids for a Sunday drive (spin is more like it) with our 50's Dodge on Lake Erie. Fortunately we never went under with the car. There was no casualty.

The saying 'treading on thin ice' could be analogous to our spiritual life when our sadhana practice is not strong and the deepening of our devotion has a hard time to manifest. Some practitioners depart from the spiritual path altogether after meeting a dark hour. We sometimes refer to that drop of faith as a 'fall down'.

After yesterday's episode with the lady and the wedding gown, I stopped suddenly on my tracks to see a former avid follower standing on the sidewalk chatting with someone. I stood there trying to get his attention to make a cordial greeting, a 'Hare Krishna', a 'Happy New Year". I hadn't seen for some time this young person whose past participation illustrated so much enthusiasm. Once I got his attention he walked away and expressed a type of denial with a hell of a snarl. "What happened?" I wondered. "A loss of faith?"

It hurt to see the negative response, the rejection. To me it registered as a walking away from God. I turned and moved on completing the day's walking obligation feeling that even if a person spiritually slips and falls, he/she can make their way back up again. There's always another chance, another opportunity. Any endeavour made, devotionally makes a permanent mark. It's not that if you don't make the grade this time around that you get thrown into a furnace where ice can't survive.

What I learned is that some people chose thin ice to tread, some chose thick. It's always good to be safe than sorry. You want ice under you, not on top of you.

9 Km

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bhaktimarga Swami in Cuba December 2011 - Varadero




Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

What He Wants

Toronto, Ontario

Good Samaritan? I don't know. I was trying to be what I believe my guru, Srila Prabhuapda wants me to be - helpful.

I took that evening much needed walk. I was south bound on Yonge Street when I saw a woman struggling terribly with lugging baggage on the sidewalk. It was a large duffel bag on tiny wheels which was reeling all over the place. I offered to help. She accepted. She was a Korean woman (the other day I met a Congo woman who was in distress).

"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Down the street." It ended up being a good 1.5 kilometres. I strapped the bag over my shoulder. It was medium heavy. She was curious about my spiritual and monastic life, about the term "Hare Krishna", about the Gita and the philosophy. She had a hard time accepting the concept of the soul being in bodies other than humans.

"There's no essential difference between humans and other creatures, even insects. We all eat, sleep, mate and defend. The soul, the living force is in everything," I explained.
"Oh, just one minute!" she said excitedly and rushed into a grocery store. I waited for a good five minutes, chanting on my beads. She came out and we proceeded to her building. She ended up being most appreciative. She then explained the reason for the cargo and the additional groceries.

"I'm leaving for Orland tomorrow at noon, by bus. I'm going there to get married and in the bag you carried is my wedding dress. Thank you so much."

"Congratulations!" She said she'll contact me after the wedding and honeymoon to learn more about what I believe.

I'll tell you readers what I believe. I believe I might be the first monk in history to carry a woman's wedding gown. I do think nothing of it though. I believe my guru would want me to be helpful.

5 Km

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

One But Not One

Toronto, Ontario

Someone remarked that the creatures in flight on New Year's Eve were starlings and not bats. That makes more sense. It was quite spectacular nevertheless, seeing flocks in formations above the chanting party. It was awesome.

Somehow we are all fundamentally the same, whether mammal or feathered friend. We have the same physical constituents of earth, water, fire, air and ether, regardless of different body types. In essence we all have variant DNA. By constitution the spiritual DNA for all of us in Sanskrit is called sat, chit, and ananda, which means eternity, knowledge and happiness. Such is what the Vedas teach. We are not these bodies but spirits that are permanent, always were, are now and always will be. We are sat.

Secondly, we are cognizant, meaning we are intuitive, aware, conscious, beyond the dullness of matter. We are chit.

Lastly, we are by nature blissful. Certainly we are in utter search for this feature, groping about trying to find happiness through a perverse attempt with matter. Deep within though, we are happy. We are ananda.

We are sat, chit and ananda, but in this mundane world have become covered over by viscous modes. While we share these three constituents, still there exists some scope for individuatlity despite the commonality. In other words the oneness and distinction within us, runs parallel. We have this unity-and-diversity concept wrapped up in one.

Whether starlings, bats, rats, pigs, cats, dogs, humans, etc., all are denominations that are common while a differentiation persists, simultaneously.

Om Tat Sat.

8 Km

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Congo Woman and Bats

Toronto, Ontario

We hit a cold snap so when I took that evening trek south on Avenue Road you could feel it. With wind chill it registered at 20 degrees Celsius below zero.

A woman asked for the Bay subway station. She was lost. I then diverted from the route I was to take in order to see that she would find her place. It's a service I could do. I relayed to her that I live in the Krishna temple up the street. I asked her where she was from.

"From the Congo."
"You must find this weather interesting?" I asked.
"Yes, it's cold. So you believe in the Lord?"
"I certainly do," I affirmed. "There's no other way! And you?"
"Yes, I depend on the Lord, I can't live without Him."

As she said this I thought that one advantage of extreme cold is that it forces dependency so it can't be all that bad. Taking the old saying, "If you have to live with it, you might as well love it", takes on a powerful meaning at such times. With this simple circumstance of winds whipping in from the north I had made a friend. I was able to be of some service. The woman from the Congo was ever so thankful to reach the Bay Station.

Now for enthusiasts of the winter airs, check out YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJjn16jowwk&feature=share

Hundreds of bats swirled in the air on midnight at Dundas Square. We were at our spot, chanting away in the midst of party animalism, when above us in the sky an influx of Batman bhaktas (devotees) came in to welcome the New year.

Happy 2012! Hare Krishna!

7 Km

Bhaktimarga Swami in Cuba December 2011 - Matanzas Farewell









Bhaktimarga Swami in Cuba December 2011 - Matanzas and Havana















Bhaktimarga Swami in Cuba December 2011 - Eco Park and Havana