Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

In the New Brunswick Country

Phillipstown, New Brunswick

The rain was pounding on the pavement of Hwy 112. It was filling the sky and it was cold rain. It was 4 AM and Daruka with Nick and I as passengers were headed for the destination of my starting point for the day. The mind went in somersaults. Do I walk now, get drenched and become miserable? Do I or can I transcend the situation. At one point I told Daruka that maybe we turn back and I walk for six hours in Moncton's shopping mall or a large sports complex.

We finally arrived at my start point, which is the finish point of yesterday - a covered bridge, a common landmark in the province. I decided, "until the rain subsides I will pace under this shelter while chanting on my beads." The rain did indeed stop. Glory be! I took to the road again.

A local man pulled over, said he read about the walk in the paper. He was talking about bumping into interesting creatures. Last year he accidentally hit a 400 lb black bear with his vehicle. Moose come by his yard all the time. He never met a monk though. It was nice of him to stop and ask if everything is alright.

The feet kept prodding along on this quiet road. After every 15 minutes an automobile would pass. The Canaan River was next to me. Cracks are in the pavement as I make simple observations. Tim Horton's coffee cups are still the #1 bit of trash tossed out motorists' windows.

When 30 Km were reached Daruka, Nick and I re-dried ourselves for a kirtan and dinner at Carole Coleman's herb farm called Tansy Lane located in Albert Mines. It is remarkable what this retired lady is doing. She has inspired young men from the local area to come to her farm to build, to plant, prepare soil, to cook and then to eat what is cooked. Carole, like a number of people in the area, value the self-sustaining way of life and that's the direction in which she's going.

We preceded our meal with kirtan in the company of the aforementioned folks and including the monks of the Krishna House in Nova Scotia. This down-home event was just a beautiful God-centered country-style get-together. Somehow I felt a strong presence of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in the room. This is the type of life-style he so much endorsed.

30 Km

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Make Good In Little Time

Cherryvale, New Brunswick

June bugs have come and gone. With their life expectancy to be very short due to overexposure to light - act like gurus informing us about the temporariness of this physical world. I was more inclined to see them outside people’s doors as they were keeling over for their last breath. They were not to be seen on the road.

While going west on serene Hwy 112 the postman in his car veered over to my side of the road. He extended a newspaper, the Times Transcript of the city of Moncton and said, “have you seen this yet?” The front page, with a photo, featured an article entitled, “Walking Monk Visits Metro.” The story continued on the last page.

“Thank you!” I said as he offered a free copy.

Media coverage has been good. At 6:30 AM 99.1 FM News Radio had me graciously explain over the air, live, the mission about pilgrimage walking while I was on the road via calling in. Tyler McLean did the interview that lasted a good 15 to 20 minutes. I had the honour to say the entire maha-mantra over this news channel. So the word about trekking and chanting got out there.

Then at break time “Faces” magazine arrived for an interview and photos for their night-life publication. I guess I do fit in to the entertainment category in some unique way. Thanks very much Julien and Ben.

Finally the enter-enlightenment did come in the evening. Kimberly does aroma therapy and used her studio as our venue for kirtan. Being another great networker for new age directions she managed to fill up her space with spiritual seekers. All there had an awesome time with chanting and sharing their realizations.

What a day! We may come in this world and disappear after a short while, like a June bug, but what’s important is what you do while you are here.

30 Km

Mantra : Music Dance Drama



Enjoy an evening of entertainment from the Krishna culture of India with interactive mantra music, traditional dance and a theatrical drama about the wisdom story of Dhruva Maharaja, Prince of the Pole Star. Brought to you by students of Bhakti-yoga currently on tour across the USA and Canada.

The Krishna Culture Band presents ancient mantras sung in kirtan style, the call-and-response spiritual music from Bengal, India. Join with the audience in a choir of voices and be transported on a musical journey to a land before time, carried by the melodies and rhythms of a clay “mridanga” drum, hand cymbals and a harmonium.

Enjoy Bharata-natyam, a South Indian temple dance with origins in the culture of the Deva Dasis, where women who would take a monastic vow to marry only God and no one else. See the Drama and Theatre in The Story of Dhruva Maharaja, Prince of the Pole Star. A long, long time ago on Earth there lived a young prince named Dhruva, heir to an extensive kingdom. Unfortunately, Dhruva had an envious stepmother who was the king’s favorite queen. Come see the performance to see how the story plays out.

Opening the performance is Rajasi, who will play a transcendental rock set with a mystic mix of traditional vedic mantras and english over a groove of guitar bass and drums as well Hare Krishna mantra reggae.

July 12th, 2012

Doors open at 5:30PM. Show starts at 6:30PM.

Mountain Theatre:  526 Concession St., Hamilton, Ontario

For more information, call 289.389.1822, send an email to info@mountaintheatre.ca or visit www.mountaintheatre.ca.

Monks on the Road










Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Hawk and Others

Salisbury,  New Brunswick

Hawk is the name of a 33 year old hermit-type fellow here in Moncton.  He takes on the look of a shaman.  Long-haired, in black, and carrying a wooden staff with a curve and an attached piece of otter fur and eagle's feather, Hawk is my walking partner for the day.  He was inspired by our presentation last night in hearing about the virtues of walking.  He turned up at 3:30 am.

As a real trouper he stuck by me for a whole five hours until feet and calves started aching.  I told him in the beginning that I would take half the time to chant on my meditative beads.  He was totally cool about that and just walked by my side and listened.

I admit that part of the day's trek along the Petitcodiac River had me occupied in thoughts of other people who came around last night - people in addition to Hawk.  One of them was Rick, a real live ascetic who for three years now has been residing in his home-made tent in the bush.  By day he works at a Sears warehouse lifting objects (which accounts for his bulging biceps).  By night he's in his tent, deep in the forest, sharing space with slugs, spiders, mosquitoes and for one cold winter a porcupine.  It's inspiring.

Who else came last night?  Well, there was George, a worker at the local penitentiary and Amos, who is employed at a funeral home.  My thoughts were on the no less than forty-five people at this mini Kumbha-mela (a festival of mystics held in the Himalayas).

A young couple from Halifax drove the three hours to meet up with me at Salisbury.  The last leg of the day's journey ended at an old rustic covered bridge, a common landmark in the province of New Brunswick.  Inside we exploded our song of honour to our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  Twas great! 

29 Km

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Empty and Full
Moncton, NewBrunswick

Dieppe is the twin city to Moncton and is primarily a francophone community.  The two cities are physically divided by the Petiticodiac River, a snaky stream of water that goes empty at the ocean’s low tide and then abruptly fills up with the moon’s pull.  Tourists come here to view the highest tide in the world.

From Meramcook I walked along Hwy 106 until it suddenly ended to merge with super-highway 2, the Trans Canada Highway. Lo and behold an alternative grand road was spotted by Daruka.  This became Hwy 132 bringing me past a retail strip, restaurants, and churches with full parking lots.  The United, Catholic, and Kingdom Halls were filling in with parishioners as I walked by. Some folks noticed me.  Yes, I’m different, but still believe in the same God.

At Patrice’s place where Daruka, the brahmacaris and I have been hosted more faithful people of the new age kind filled his backyard for my delivery on yoga walking.  “I walk the line, and this has nothing to do with a Johnny Cash song.  Walking the line refers to treading the path of dharma, duty, responsibility, or obligation.”  I went on to tell stories of my duty as a renunciant who roams to learn detachment from this world.

I also engaged the crowd in learning a verse from the Gita.  They thoroughly enjoyed 18.54, a message about being joyful in transcendence, being above mundane desires and lamentation.  To follow, when the brahmacaris rolled their drums and we inserted the maha-mantra, it finally became dance time.  I bet that the followers of the churches on the other side of the river were not dancing -although no less enlightened.

It was a gathering of great souls who were drinking in the aural beauty of spiritual sound and moving physically to that sound.

I want to thank Patrice for his helpful massage.  I also want to thank Jagannath Misra of Burlington for his financial support and Murari Gupta of Miami for assisting in many wonderful ways.

30 Km

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Provocative but Nice
Sackville,New Brunswick

“Well, how are you kids doing?” addressed the jovial fellow.  He was talking about Matt, who’s 20 and me, who is almost 60.  The two of us were walking west on quiet highway 106 through Dorchester when this fellow, in his late 60’s, was doing some maintenance work in his front yard.

I explained about the 4th walk and he warmly but provocatively questioned, “how do I know it’s your 4th or that you’ve done any walks at all?”  In mild defense I told him I write a daily journal of my experiences, that I have my walking companions and support person as witnesses and various reps from media that have come out on the road to report. I could have gone on to show calluses on my feet and let him feel the IT band or stiff lumps on my thighs but I chose not to get personal.

“Why are you walking?” he queried.

“Lots of marathons go on, running, cycling especially, and mostly they are conducted for causes of disease awareness.  My walk is of a different nature.  It’s to address the disease called ego.”

With that he quipped, “I’ve got an ego.  I’m a politician in this area of Dorchester.”

I asked him if he considered politics and ego synonymous to  one another.

“Sure.  Politics is about moving things and making noise.”

“What a character!” I thought, but he was basically nice and was a communicator.

In Sackville, the brahmacari monks and I were scheduled to present the topic of meditation.  The focus was on sound vibration.  We decided to select a Gita verse and activate that portion of the brain connected to memory.  The verse that all attendees learned was from chapter 6, dhyana yoga.  It goes as such:

“As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist whose mind is controlled remains always steady in his meditation on the transcendent Self.” (6.19)

27 Km

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Friday, May 25th, 2012

This Day Wins
Kensington, Prince Edward Island

This day wins, hands down, for interaction with people. I suppose the great weather had much to do with it. It's the weekend now and from Summerside to Charlottetown (the general area where I'm trekking) the density of population increases. It was the pedestrians and not me that took the initiative to say something first.

"I read about ya' in the paper. Good luck!" was the message. Eric McCarthy's article "Chants, songs, and bulrush part of monk's first day on trail" appeared on page 2 of The Journal Pioneer and so people responded very well.

At noon we converged with the monks of Nova Scotia and chanted in a procession through Summerside's main street. That was a rarity, perhaps never been done before in this sweet place. Then we rushed to a Wellness Centre in Charlottetown for kirtan and relaying pedestrian pastimes. Dancing with the mantra really took off in a nice way followed by questions.

One attendee, in particular, asked if I had any stress. I had to think about that one. She had assumed that life in the renounced role is rather carefree and being a foot pilgrim is for the most part fairly carefree. She's right but as long as you are human there's going to be some anguish over something. Naturally I have concerns about my own community as there are ups and downs, successes and failures amongst all of us.

The woman, Tanya by name, really got me thinking. And here's what I put out as of genuine concern. I explained I bear in my heart a daily heaviness for the future generations. I see a general instability in many young persons' lives. The quality of food, lifestyle and environment that the next generation is born into are not as wholesome as it could be.

It did shake me knowing that this is a consistent thought. And yet I picked up my spirit with hope when I see two of the young persons, Mitch and Ryan, show up for our second satsang gathering for the day. We reflected on the Gita verse 3.14 and discussed karma yoga and how to channel your senses, mind, intelligence and soul in the service of the Supreme.

It was a winning day.

27 Km

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

On The Trail and Beyond

Muscouche, Prince Edward Island


With the emergence of the sun, the fog gets lifted, opening up to trees like the maple, white pine, ash, oak, white cedar and more. Their limbs are more like arms which offer an outstretched welcome. Through wetlands we see the engineer work of beavers. We see a couple of loons showing off their diving skills. We suck on cattail plants to get some nourishment, and on the trail, there’s lots of coyote droppings and the occasional splatter of blue robins’ eggs.


With me is Nick, a ski instructor and camping sales clerk turned monk. He wanted to give the walk a whirl; he sees the venture as a rare opportunity. When Nick and I came to areas which revealed the open fields, seed potatoes were being readied for planting by local farmers. The soil is red and so are the beaches where two of the coastlines, the north and south, practically meet; we walk through the skinniest section of the island. A cyclist takes interest in Nick and I who sit for a break, enjoying delicious veggie wraps and the making of a friend began. At evening time I head eastbound with Nitai Ram and Karuna Sindhu, two humble, but extraordinary monks who head up the ashram in Nova Scotia. At a village called Murray River lives a couple who have been married for 40 years, congratulations to Gaura Nitai, a Scotsman with a strong accent, and Lal Gopal, born of Cree decent,of Saskatchewan. They are students of Srila Prabhupada like I am. Much to their credit they are leading that very simple self sustaining life that our guru used to speak about. They bake their own bread, make their own soap, grow veggies that supply them from April to November, they herd cows, and are on the verge of making their own clothes from Llama’s hair, which they also herd. Even their toilet produces composting matter for fertilizer. I never thought a toilet could inspire. Their next door neighbours are Buddhist monks from Taiwan. Indeed, since being on the Island I sometimes get mistaken for being a monastic of that order. There’s a lot of similarities. Meat fish and eggs are taboo. When there is some roadkill near their monastery, the monks come out to enact a small ceremony honouring the passing on. But wait a minute! I believe they don’t accept the concept of a soul. What then, reincarnates? I pondered the question and I go to sleep, hoping to see more sights, hear sounds, smell scents and appeal for answers.


33 Km

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012


Mantra Mosquitoes

Inverness, Prince Edward Island



What could be the karma for 3 renunciants who broke one of their precious vows?


Here’s what happened. Newly initiated monk, Hayagriva, Bhakta Matt, also in saffron cloth, and I, a swami, broke our vegetarian vows by swallowing mosquitoes. It wasn’t intentional. The little guests came to explore uninvited, our oral caves. I was coaching the other two monks to chant their obligatory mantra as we walked. To be like a ventriloquist so that the little guys don’t have a chance to make an entrance. Did we ever struggle with them for the first two hours down the Confederation Trail until Daruka came to the rescue. He whipped out our saving grace – bug repellent. Blisters and bites were the first day’s experience of my companions on the gentle island of PEI. Like heroes, they bore the pain. We relished each other’s mutual company.


Meanwhile two other monks of Nova Scotia, Tirta Bhavana from Siberia, and Karuna Sindhu from Canada, were not working, and arranged for a program at Sandy’s place. Sandy is a yoga teacher. He’s a he, and is teaching other males. The turn out to our gathering was mostly yoga gurus, in the masculine gender, which is rare.


They wanted to have kirtan chanting and hear about the importance of sadhana and that it is not all just about stretching. “Let’s get beyond that,” suggested Justin who is also an actor playing the role of Gilbert in the renowned production, Anne of Green Gables. I talked about sadhana as a spiritual workout from a marathon walkers perspective. On the list of sadhakas, who enacted traditional walking feats, were Chaitanya, Shankar Acharya, Sukadeva and Buddha. Kirtan really propped up everyone’s day at Sandy’s home in Charlottetown. Kirtan is always the highest chakra point in sadhana.


Now, if we have offended any living entities, such as murdering mosquitoes in the process of our earlier walking engagement, a big part of absolving negative karma, is by feeling regret. The most relevant thing to do is engage in mantra power. Chanting mantras with the heart relieves much negativity.


30 Km

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I’m On The Road Again

Tignish, PEI

Daruka and I lodged at the Heritage Inn, a former convent for nuns.  It was an ideal location, one minute from the Confederation Trail, my walking route.  One woman I met on the trail said that the path was a railway line established in the 1800’s.  In 1968 the train ceased operating.  It’s another one of those stories about ‘rails to trails’.

I met a few folks on the path, certainly more bugs proportionately.  Near wet lands and density of trees, the little guys were plentiful.  Stopping in some parts for a moment such as to urinate, meant a cloud of mosquitoes would practically polka dot my saffron robes.  It is understood that both in the mosquito community and the black fly kingdom, it’s the females that bite, while the boys remain laid back. 

 One of the towns I walked through, Albertan, had a claim to fame for fox farming.  In 1913 and beyond black and silver fox were bred for the fur industry, but that exists no more.  Incidentally two fox, a mix of black silver and red, hung around our lodging place for the evening.  Fox are a marvelous mould of a creature. 

Daruka and I lost each other for a good 4 ½ hours.  I was walking down a rather straight trail and he with parrot, Billy, was driving to intersecting roads where the trail crosses.  It becomes complicated at times, and at one point I got hungry, so I chewed on the inner leaves of a cattail plant.  We finally found each other at the village of Bloomfield.  There we met Nancy who works at the Petit Post Office.  She was inspiring and told us that she prays often.  “How to keep happy in the face of problems?” she wondered.

I offered to say that balance and happiness are often synonymous.  “Keep busy, keep engaged, but keep enough time for some introspection. God must be at the center.  The Bhagavad-gita, sacred text, explains that we try to be temperate in our activities.  Depression often come from being under engaged, and nervous breakdown and stress arrives with too much engagement, and no time for self reflection.”

She then offered to say, facetiously, “You can ask God for patience, and the answer will be, ‘You might have to wait for a while.’”  Thank you, Nancy, for that, and thank you Eric and Cindy, who came from your respective newspapers to enquire about Canwalk, and the 4th trek across Canada; on its 2nd leg since commencing last September. This walk is meant to encourage pilgrimage.

37 Km

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Monday, May 21st, 2012

That Always Works
Sylvester, Nova Scotia

The mother of two initiates attended the fire ceremony this morning. Hans' new name is Hayagriva. His mother, Sylvie, is from Quebec and she seemed delighted to be present. Nora, a local Nova Scotian and the mother of Matt, is also relieved that her son is brighter and happier these days. Matt's sanskrit name is Mukunda.

Several Haligonians came out for curiosity's sake to witness an agni hotra, a fire sacrifice, as the ancients would do. Correction - our version is a bit modified yet it inculcates the most important ingredient, which is mantra chanting.

Andrew, who recently arrived from a training program, took on head chef duties. He was checking out exotic recipes as a group of us returned from a japa trek through Pictou.

We handed him a clump of dandelions we gathered along the way. Even I rolled up my sleeves to make a pakora batter to make fritters out of them. They came out delicious.

At 'Phoenix Rising Yoga Studio', we were requested to speak. "What did you have in mind for me to speak about Nancy?" I asked the facilitator.

"People want to hear about your walking experiences," she said. So on we went delineating on the accounts of pedestrian pastimes. Her guests, if I could use a sixties expression, a groovy group, heard of my inspirational moments.Their questions centred around karma, reincarnation and expressions of Islamic extremism in our world. We topped off discussions with mantra participation once again, a formula that always works.

10 Km

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

How Are We Received                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sylvester, Nova Scotia

In the first week of March, our east coast monks moved into a new home, now called KRSNA HOUSE. It's a modest house on top of a hill in the village of Sylvester.

The air is basically good except for when the smoke bellows out from the local pulp and paper plant at nearby Pictou. It's usually exceptionally good air. And the water is phenomenal. As is stated in the Gita, Sri Krishna identifies the sweet taste of water as His very self. Taste this H2O and you're tasting God.

And how about the people of Nova Scotia? Do they have a taste? Well the neighbours really seem rather accepting of the newcomer monks. One woman was struggling with starting her lawn-mower, so our guy, Daruka, went over to her, like a good samaritan, to assist her during our morning promenade from Maple Street.

In general our exchange with people faired well. In Celebration of our new place and reunion, our band of monks took to Spring Garden Road in nearby Halifax for kirtan on the grass at the library. Yet the highlight of the day was kirtan indoor at a community place called 'the Hub' in downtown Halifax. A good group turned up. Again, acceptance was terrific with the exception of an Oriental woman, manager of a restaurant below. She had not anticipated the singing, the drums and the dancing above.

"is this going to happen every Sunday?" she questioned in a frenzy.
 
"No," we answered, indicating that it was a special occasion. So, not everyone becomes a fully embracing welcomer. Such is the way of the monk, you recieve varying levels of hospitality.

6 Km

Monday, 21 May 2012

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Going East

Montreal, Quebec

Daruka, our driver, his pet parrot, Billy, and Anthony and I sped eastward bound on the nation’s busiest highway, the 401. On this six hour drive, I suggested to Daruka that we give his ’93 mercury car a break, near the approaching Quebec border. Anthony and I managed to put in a 7 Km walk on Highway 2, which was parallel to the 401. Needless to say, it was a breather for us humans and a single bird, as much as it was for our conveyance.

When we reached Quebec and Montreal’s precincts, we drove the balance of 100 Km chalking out the walking route that I would be taking through the streets of Dorion, Beaconsfield, and other residential sections, as part of the 4th Trans Canada walk. Finally we reached the desitnation, 1626 Pie Neuf Blvd, the location of our ISKCON centre. Moving along waterfront properties at this section of the St. Lawrence River, doesn’t get more pleasant than this.

By mid afternoon, we reached Montreal, enough time to prepare for the first of a three day festival, an anniversary for the installation of the Krishna murtis (sacred images). It was 35 years ago that the murtis of Radha Krishna, called Sri Sri Radha Manohara, were brought to this location. I was given an opportunity to speak along with others about the pioneering days of Krishna Consciousness in Montreal. I relayed how I had visited this community in early ’73 when the centre was located on Park Avenue at an old bowling alley. A young fine arts student at the time, I was exploring life and so I went to check out my first Krishna temple ever. To reach there you have to take a staircase to a third or fourth floor. Halfway up on the middle landing, on the wall, was written with black marker, “You are halfway up to the spiritual world, keep going!” 23 years later, on my first trek across Canada, I stopped by that building on Park Avenue, long after devotees moved out. The signage was still there, as clear as crystal water. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had walked those steps in ’68. On my visit I stooped down at the stair landing, bent over, and in reverence pressed lips to the sacred space on the floor.

7 Km

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

What Do I Take?

Toronto, Ontario

What does it take to prepare for a trek that's going to stretch out for sometime? Tomorrow morning I'm set to drive, direction - east, with Daruka from Winnipeg and his companion, Billy the parrot, to continue Canwalk 4.

The essentials for physical upkeep are sleeping gear, a tent, a two-burner Coleman's Stove, my robes (dhoti, kurta and chaudder), toiletries, shoes of course, food supplies and maps. For spiritual maintenance I'll have my japa meditation beads, reading material including the Gita, writing material and also books to distribute and sell.

In addition to this I will carry with me, or rather it will carry me - a ton of enthusiasm, loads of good health and showers of mercy from guru and Krishna.

Naturally, when you plan a trip you'll be forgetting something important. What that is, who can say? At a moment of importance the left behind item will reveal itself. Then you may kick yourself for not remembering to take it with you. Then you will recall how you are a resident of Kali Yuga, the age of forgetfulness, and are vulnerable to imperfections of life.

The book Bhagavatam informs us that in this age we are short lived, slow to self-realization, lazy, misguided and are generally always disturbed. I would say that these are the very reasons for the serious trek. It's good for health, body, my spirit, my sannyasa (renunciation) will be put into traditional action. With mantra, guru and God, there lies a power in you. There's a hope that the world will slowly transition and that the malpractices of Kali Yuga will first go down a few notches on the priority list and that a harmonizing amongst the living entities of the world will be the happy by-product of the dynamic undertaking. This undertaking is a form of sankirtan, a cooperative enlightenment. There will be many mantras chanted along the way, lots of sharing and encouragmeent as was done on previous marathons.

There are new trails to travel and new hearts to connect with.

10 Km

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Students Opening Up

Pickering, Ontario

We entered the chapel of the school onto a comfy carpet and removed our shoes as we do in a Vedic custom. Tommy Valookaran, the chaplain of the building at St. Mary Secondary School, was gracious.

"Would it be alright for us to move the chairs to the side, opening up the space?" I asked him.

"Sure, when the students arrive, I'll ask them."

When the thirty-five or so Grade 11 young men and women arrived, I could sense they were feeling a different space. We did make the space clear. We asked them to sit on the floor. We introduced ourselves, Madehavendra, Uttamananda and I dressed in our bhakti attire. We explained the get up, our lifestyle, our philosophy, the individual circumstances that lead us to our becoming monks. We then engaged them in chanting first with OM.

This rhymes with HOME. I asked them to repeat, "There's no place like HOME." They did. "Now repeat, 'there's no place like OM!'" They followed that very well and with my lead elongated the OM. Then we embarked on chanting the maha mantra "Hare Krishna!" From there we danced and also engaged them in stretching with salutations to the sun (even though it was overcast and raining outside). You have to believe surya, the sun is there.

What's always interesting about adolescents is that as wonderful as they are, they do live in a teeny (as in tiny) world with not yet too much experience. That will come though in time. They will work there way out of the box.

Just by having them stare at us with interest and hear us helped to break down walls. When I merely mentioned about my leaving on Friday for a 4th walk across Canada there walls may have come tumbling down, at least in a dream-like mode. Questions shot out about our way of being. About 50% of the queries had to do with the life as a walking monk. They were opening up.

8 Km

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

When I Say...
Toronto, Ontario
 
When I say it was a colourful day, I'm not referring to the spring flowers you observe in residential gardens. I spent a good four hours in a Human Rights Tribunal over an interesting merry-go-round issue that came to little resolve. Our mediation person found it an unique experience. It was not like a bland curry. It was spiced up. This can only remind us that human nature is a phenomena of complexities. I always admired the simplistic ways of wildlife. In my regular strolls I watch it and envy a more predictable behaviour there.
From the Tribunal office you are looking at a mere 3 Km walking distance from my home, the ashram. It's so central - our location. And on the same Bay St. not but ten minutes from there is St. Basil's Church, the venue for the funeral service of Professor Joseph T. O'Connell. Father Donovan presided over the occasion with the modest yet powerful series of presenters who spoke eloquently of this noted scholar of world religions and who completed at Harvard his Ph.D thesis in Chaitanya Vaishnavism. His wife, Kathleen, daughter Dierdre, and sons Mark and Matthew were present.
I was asked to speak at the reception from the standpoint of the professor's involvement in helping to establish our particular brand of Vaishnavism in the lineage of Chaitanya which is reflected by the great work of our guru, Srila Prabhupada. At the reception there was a comfortable mingling of friends, faculty members and of course, more family.
He was in many ways a visionary and activist type of scholar who planted many seeds of paradigm shifts leaning from prejudice to tolerance and acceptance. We have a great regard for this pundit and well wisher of the Hare Krishna movement.
9 Km

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Sweet Trek

Toronto, Ontario
It became a sweet trek. They all are, but today it's special. At 22 degrees Celsius, everybody's out and are relatively happy. So am I. I've got a good companion taking strides with me. Dhroova's his name.
He came from Montreal to participate in our New Vrndavan drama performance titled after his name. I only tagged on "Prince of Anger and Peace" to complete the label. Therefore, we have, "Dhroova, The Prince of Anger and Peace", a story of a young ksatriya (warrior) who had been abused which fuelled a fury in him.
I'm glad that my walking associate is not the angry type. Although he's named after the character from the book Bhagavatam and he personally conveyed to me that in his upbringing there were some harsh times, he did not succumb to this emotion or at least he's not showing anger.
A lot of that control has to do with his training with the monks in Halifax for three years solid. Additionally he travelled with a very charismatic brahmachari (monk), Jaya Keshava from Liberia. Their travels took them to many temples in the States. And what was that all about - the travelling and training?
Its' about performing acts of humility. It's about menial service such as cleaning the toilet bowls, washing pots, sharing in doing the laundry, approaching strangers and trying to encourage them into spiritual understanding with books on that topic. It's also about getting along and helping each other. It's a little like boot camp but more.
This weekend I will be headed to Sylvester, Nova Scotia, where we have established an ashram for men, a place for training and bringing out the best in young men and where they prepare themselves to deal and cope with a crazy world. I am longing for that visit and anticipating to see more quality persons come from this place of learning and training. I'm looking forward to seeing the calibre of men like Dhruva.
8 Km

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Simplicity/Clarity
 
New Vrndavan, West Virginia
 
I've got the same routing today, a clockwise trekking around the pond for as close to a two hour stretch as possible. This also registers as sixteen rounds of chanting the maha mantra. Being single, life is relatively simple. You walk carefreely around a pond. What more can you want?
 
I like what one of the presenters at "The Festival of Inspiration" said, "Simplicity breeds clarity." And from whom he was quoting, well, I missed that point and couldn't write everything down fast enough. Yet the remark is profound. It has been my experience that the more you bog yourself down with things, the more complicated is your lifestyle, and the more anguish, stress and illness you will feel. This is what I see goes on in people's lives while I've had the fortune to not have much but always enough.
 
I consider the situation one of true richness. It's not "how much you have but how much you need".
 
With our journey through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and then New York state we drove through some splendid landscape and for a washroom snack break stopped in for a refuel at one spot. I chose a drink to get some liquid in and it cost me 99 cents. I was surprised, "So cheap!" So, it dawned on me that food is so easy to come by in the States. Perhaps that accounts for the great problem of obesity in America. Things are so easy to come by in North America, in general, and yet somehow the simplicity factor is so much amiss. We live in a barrage of things. With 'more shopping malls in America than schools' as one presenter put it, it's no wonder there is little peace, there's tons of confusion and little clarity in the lives of us today.
 
6 Km

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Around the Pond
 
New Vrindavan, West Virginia

Peacocks show off what they have. At least the males, three in number, and a fourth, a pure whit one, strut around in full plumage span. Pilgrims click their cameras wanting to take a piece of heaven home. Swans occupy the water nearby - another attractive feature of New Vrndavan. It is around their pond that we roam in repetition.
 
It is 11 PM and I find it just the perfect situation and time. If it were daytime you would get socially and spiritually obligated to acknowledge others in their stroll. You would inch your way along to do as a swami ought, communicate a few kind and encouraging words. New Vrndavan, a place aesthetically more picturesque that its mother source, Vrndavan, in India, there are hills here. And everything is green and lush. But undeniably spiritual power rests in both territories. We are perceiving a oneness in our comparative study.

And as Vrndavan draws international attention, so does New Vrndavan act like a magnet for North Americans. When coming here on my annual pilgrimage I cannot play the hermit's role. I take to bonding with friends, godbrothers/sisters, disciples, and newly made acquaintances. Their journeys take them from Florida, North Carolina, New York, Detroit, Ohio and Canada, of course. They are enthusiastic, eager beavers to get a taste of home. That feeling is here.

Jaya Krishna, the coordinator for the place, approached me about my opinion of the colours in the main temple's interior. "Some people say the place is too dark. What do you say about giving it a lighter colour?"
 
"I wouldn't touch it, Jaya. People come here for the rustic atmosphere. It's woodsy. It has that warm cabin-feel early American charm. No one thinks of white washing those sacred granite temples of South India. You go in there and its pitch black except for the occasional flames of ghee and perhaps some tacky wired light bulbs. You've got something unique here. Don't change it!"
 
I thought I was just going to be a swami at this function, "The Festival of Inspiration", not a consultant for interior decor. You know, I don't mind. I'm honoured to be asked.
 
6 Km

Monday, 14 May 2012

Friday, May 11th, 2012

When I Became a Monk
Toronto, Ontario

When I became a monk in '73 one of my first assignments was to go in my devotional duds and to help reclaim the fallen conditional souls back to their spiritual position.  I remember how it was somewhat of a task along with fellow monks to approach with the hard sale businessmen in particular.  You know, they are the one's in the suits and ties with a callous demeanour (at least to me they appear so).  With spiritual book in hand and in the other an incense stick (homemade with love by our very own devotees) you begin to strike a conversation with the oncoming corporates and the retort would be, "No time!" or you may not get a response at all, not even a peep out of them.

Today I took to foot southbound on University Avenue which has its share of corporate entrepreneurs making a quick jaunt from one building to another.  And the walk I did was for killing time 'til our party for West Virginia was ready to leave.  I took a head start.  Maybe it was the great sunshine weather.  Maybe it was the fact that I was unarmed but for my small pouch with mantra beads inside.  Maybe after all these years (39 to be exact) I felt relaxed.  But at least three business-clad fellows in that short time struck up a conversation beginning with a remark on the niceness of the day.  From there the question was something like, "What's with the garb?"

"Oh!  I'm a monk - a Hare Krishna monk!"

A little more exchange and we are short time buddies.  In retrospect I didn't have to force an in-the-face message.  I just had to be myself, being comfortable with myself, and the magic then took place - the magic of communication.

7 Km

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The Artist/ The Magic

Toronto, Ontario

Shyamasundar is like me. He moves about with his eye like an artist. He notices the architecture of the buildings judging the modern stuff as looking bland and Victorian homes with a charm. The trees, bushes and what's natural is also something to be observed and appreciated. His eyes are wide with wonder as we strode along streets in our early meditational ordeal of chanting japa.

Having come fresh out of Israel Shyamasundar, who is credited for putting his beautiful brush to all the oil paintings adorning our temple walls, remarked that the Dead Sea where no fish live due to the intense salt content does something mystical. All the trees located near the incredible sea of mineral salts offer sweetness as in the date trees. "This is Krishna, the Creator's amazing design!" he remarked.

When he said that it was with a child-like innocence; that there is an amazing surprise that he spots at every turn and at every corner. He went further on to say to me in the topic of beauty. "When Prabhupada (our guru) was in Rome devotees said that all this (the palatial buildings) was maya (illusion) implying we shouldn't be interested. At one particular site Prabhupada took a hard and appreciative look saying 'this is beautiful'."

From these words coupled with my own meagre revelations it is hard to avoid seeing Krishna as what is pretty, what is dynamic and awesome. I continue to relish trekking in such great company with the Creator's ambiance in my mist.

10 Km

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

An Endorser
 
Toronto, Ontario
 
One meaningful section of the day was a walk with two members of our community, Keshav Sharma and Allyson Gilbert, to a Hindu-Catholic meeting. It's a mere 1 kilometre from our super central temple/ashram location to the Archdiocese of Toronto, Catholic Pastoral Centre on Yonge Street, where a modest number of pastors and pandits knocked heads together.  It was a successful shot at enhancing communication between the two traditions. During our adjournment, Prof. Reid Locklin and I took to a casual talk. Knowing he teaches at the University of Toronto, where acquaintance Prof. Joseph T. O'Connell is well established, I asked Reid, "How's Prof. O'Connell?" to which a great appreciation of words came.
 
Little did we both know then that O'Connell passed away. I found out later in the day that he left his body while in New York on Sunday. I had telephoned his good wife Kathy once I heard the news from a godbrother.
 
Who is Professor O'Connell? In brief, he was an eloquent speaking teacher and knew his stuff with regards to the culture of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the particular traditional line of devotion that we follow. He spoke fluent Bengali and was spending six months in Bangladesh teaching. Recently he compelted a text on "Vaishnav Ethics". During the time of establishing Krishna Consciousness, Professor O'Connel came forward to give his endorsement from his academic background. In our pioneering years there was ample welcome and scepticism floating about from the public view. At that time our dear friend stepped up to give his statement about the mission of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.
 
In a meeting Prof. O'Connell had with our guru, a question was raised on whether there were female gurus in our tradition and Prabhupada answered, "Yes", citing the example of the wife of Nityananda, a forerunner of the bhakti movement in India in the early 16th century.
 
O'Connell statement in our defence goes as follows:
 
"The Hare Krishna movement is but the most recent phase of an ancient tradition of religious piety known in India as Vaishavism. The devotees in the Hare Krishna temples live a full and active life of study, prayer, singing and day to day management of the temple's activities. Many are also active in a variety of more practical tasks such as the publishing and sale of books, the manufacture of incense, the operation of vegetarian restaurants, and the launching of a small dance-drama company. All observe abstention from meat, intoxicants and drugs. In my judgement, it is indeed fortunate for these individuals and for the society in which they live that there has been available this outwardly exotic but inwardly authentic and well-rounded way of religious communal life."
 
6 Km

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Walk Through Life
 
Toronto, Ontario
 
"Of seasons I am flower-bearing spring," states Krishna in the Gita. Yes, God is in there. You can feel Him. He's in the air. You get the whiff of the lilac and when treading the ravine it's more like the white flowered garlic mustard with its powerful aroma that permeates the air.

With that freshness in the atmosphere pedestrians also seem to bloom as they promenade through garden residential areas, on the street and in the ravines. That's what I see and that's what is felt on my own afternoon journey. What could be closer to Vaikuntha (heaven) than this? Fortunately this piece of perfection, felt, heard and smelled, is in our midst right now; unfortunately it doesn't remain. But that in itself is the learning curve of nature. You get used to the duality it poses.
 
"Do not become attached to the reverses of this life," is the real message. There is beauty and there is ugly there is gladness and sadness.
 
"Honour and dishonour" the Gita addresses are to be treated with equality. Don't embrace either one or don't get hooked on either of any form of dualities as they lead to disappointment. Of course, one can appreciate any opposite partners when connecting the wonder they offer to the creator of them both. Yes, even harshness, as opposed to softness, shines in its own beauty as it has its purpose - to help the person experiencing it to develop detachment.
 
The world is bipolar and yet we, practitioners of bhakti (devotion), are discouraged from allowing ourselves to be pulled this way and that. Our fixation is service to the Creator of this colourful up-down, yin yang world. It's very entertaining and this can so easily be experienced as we walk through life.

10 Km

Monday, 7 May 2012

Monday, May 7th, 2012

A Blissful Call

Toronto, Ontario

I received this most blissful call. Jambavan, a rather orthodox Vedic Hare Krishna priest, told me he just finished walking a two day trek across the city of "The Big D", Detroit, known to 60's music lovers and vintage cars as Motown. Actually, just his trekking like that proves he may not be so orthodox after all. I mean, who really gets out of their set of wheels for a dharmic cause.

Jambavan, with his white dhoti, kurtan and his associate Yugala from Kansas City, was in his usual saffron attire, when they began from Brightmore on Detroit's west end and finished at Gold Coast near Belle Isle.

"People thought we were Muslims," said Jambavan. One lady expressed gratitude to meet two nice guys instead of the usual drug dealers of the neighbourhood. "People were receptive," said Jambavan.

"We stopped by at a famous Christian Monastery at Father Casey Solamus", a deceased but renowned man of miracles. After two days their 20 mile trek was completed while stopping by just to do the mendicant thing meeting people.

I asked Jambavan why he did this. "At first I was thinking to go out and do some fund raising for a new outreach centre but that soon changed," he told me. He felt as if he was part of an exploratory committee and discover the various moods of different neighbourhoods. He thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots one-on-one approach and said he would do it again.

"In a temple everyone's nice to you but when you're out you do encounter some harsh things. It was austere as much as fun." He also said it was for internal development and visiting humility.

So, Jambavan, may you inspire others to do the same. Actually, Americans are open and curious. Jambavan is trail blazing and challenging stereotypical priests who tend to spend the bulk of their time in the rectory.

10 Km

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

The Star of the Show

Mississauga, Ontario

Okay! So we attended the 2nd anniversary of the opening of the Hindu Heritage Centre. It is a jewel of a building with fused east and west, old and new architecture.

Yogendra, Dhruva, Greg and I were invited to lead a kirtan chanting session. Wow, did the people ever respond well. It's largely that north Indian Punjabi punch-type of energy that we felt. The star of the show, of course, is the MAHA MANTRA.

As we were in an explosive chant with three powerful mrdanga drums, two dignitaries came in. They were representatives of a political party. They were not really prepared to join in on our ecstasy. So be it! The one gentleman, who was a white Canadian, began his address to the attendees once we completed our kirtan. All was quiet and all were sober (from the intoxication of kirtan). He opened with, "Namaste, Namaskaram, Kamcho, Vanakum, and any other words I missed."

Just then one of our devotees with origins from Delhi, burst out saying, "Hare Krishna" to which the government rep said, "Oh, yes, Hare Krishna!" That got everyone in a laughter.

The evening venue was the ISKCON Centre in downtown Toronto.  More of the same - chanting of the name that is so much becoming known. The theme of the program was the launch of this year's Ratha Yatra, Festival of the Chariots, on its 40th Anniversary. I spoke from the Gita, verse 1.14 but the star of the show was themaha mantra, the gift of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

9 Km

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Milton, Ontario
Walking Learning Talking
Lalita Krishna, 63, became a monk in Singapore in ’71 when he was young and looking to find life’s purpose. He recently felt symptoms of bodily weakness and discovered he had cancer. Quickly he went for treatment, and doctors say that things are going well for his recovery. From time to time I would bump into him at a spiritual function in Dallas or at our West Virginia retreat, New Vrindavan. I didn’t expect to see this kind soul in the hospital in Columbus.
We had a tearful exchange of words speaking about the fragility of life. Such also was a theme that I carried minutes after visiting him at the Columbus ISKCON Center situated near the Ohio State University. Students and congregants came to also hear about the more stable life of a renouncer based on Krishna’s message from 5.3 in the Bhagavad-gita. What a great flow of questions that were aroused. The individuals there projected themselves into a monastic lifestyle, tasting the simpler path over the complexities of the higher maintenance of life in the modern world.
I was picked up at the Toronto airport after a stop over in Detroit from Columbus. Little opportunity availed itself for much walking today, yet Rajnish and his kids took me along a creek (name unknown to them), yet flowed through Lake Chincagousi, and then later merges with the Humber River. By night-time I was greeted by a Bhakti Vriksa group, a devotional gathering of folks who meet regularly at the home of Aindra and Prema Gaurangi, a sweet couple hailing from Mauritius. Questions and answer ebbed and flowed after my delivery of the sankya and bhakti yoga comparative study. We are all learning. We have many questions, in fact, the moment we cease to ask questions, we are as good as dead.
4 Km

May 5, 2012 - Photos from Crawford Lake, MIlton, Ontario









Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Kway!

Milton, Ontario

"Kway!" we addressed him. Kway is the common greeting in the Huron language.  And "him" is the guide who is in period costume (but is actually a Scotsman). The place is a re-constructed longhouse village where remains of an actual 14th century indigenous residence exist. Myself and two former monks, now both engaged to be married, decided to walk on the famed escarpment.

The walk terminated at the village where we learned many things about the First Nations People of the area. They were largely vegetarian being nurtured by their staples, corn, beans and squash, called the three sisters.  A person was lucky to reach the age of 40 due to harsh living conditions. A young man and woman could begin having children in their early teens. One hundred people, several families, would live in one long house made primarily of cedar wood and which had lower bunks inside for sleeping and storage for dried food, tools, and other articles on the upper levels.  A longhouse was lit inside with fires whose smoke could escape from openings above. Life was simple fun and challenging.

I asked Yogendra, Dhruva and Aindra, our driver to the location, if they could see themselves living this lifestyle in this organic circumstance.  "Pretty ideal for a brahmacari (monk) ashram don't you think?" I questioned.

They agreed it had the markings of an inspirational existence. Going back to the 1300's, if it were possible, the culture would insist on some meat and fish as part of the diet. We did learn how wild-rice was prepared, more common to the Ojibway tribe, and corn, being so versatile, was utilized in various ways.  Most notable was the incredible reverence these people had for the creator.

Our small group of walkers got very enthused.  We walked into two major festivals, one after the other, to honor the lion avatar, Narasinghadev in Brampton and Toronto respectfully. In fact our reason for parting (with a pardon) from our guide was that we had to go to attend a fire sacrifice and bathing ceremony. He was surprised that we were so native and so Celtic (being a Scotsman).

Yes, we thought, at one time we were all part of one universal family. Then Parasurama, another avatar, came and dispersed us all, followed by a sweeping wave of conquerors in the age of Kali. That broke down communications substantially.

9 Km

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Honouring A Saint
 
Columbus, Ohio

Even before the day's end, I felt compelled to insert in the Walking Monk blog, something about Jayanada, a great American saint, whose anniversary of passing will be tomorrow.
 
My host Dayal Nitai has in his personal possession some original handwritten letters from Jayananda to a godfriend, Puru Das, from 1977, just days before Jayananda died from cancer. In a pouch that Dayal keeps is a copy of Jayananda's report card from grade 1, then known as James Kohr. Also, there's a photo of him as a cute kid, sitting next to his grandmother with his birthday cake at age 3. It's precious stuff for sure.
 
Here are excerpts from two of his inspiring hand written letters, scripted and sent not long before he left us:

1-21-77
 
Srila Prabhupada has always readily sacrificed all personal consideration for the higher purpose of delivering the fallen souls.... Srila Prabhupada showed us that we should pray that Krishna allow us to tolerate the reactions. It all is our past misdeed, but that He always gives us the recollection that we are nothing more than a tiny servant of the Almighty Absolute, as revealed to us by the unflinching mercy of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. So I pray that somehow I can always have that recollection.
 
2-28-77
 
I left the clinic after 3 weeks, as it didn't seem that much was going on. It always sticks in my mind that if Krishna doesn't want me to die, then no one can kill me, and if Krishna doesn't want me to live, then no one can save me. So I was feeling that the best thing was to come to Los Angeles, and get back into the temple program and depend completely on Krishna. 
7 Km

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Gifts From Cleveland
 
Cleveland, Ohio
 
It's day number two for me here in the city of Cleveland. The place boasts having the Rock N' Roll hall of fame, attracting tourists from all over. But for me being a monk and a walker, I'll take exploring a new trail any day. In any event, the offer was on, "I'll take you where you want to go," was Jatayu's offer.
 
So he and I and the couple Kaustubha and Tiffany took off for Fort Hill by Rocky River.  With the hot weather at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, many folks were out in the cool ravines walking or running. We were taken by the skunk cabbage (nasty smelling stuff) while three young men who were so very obviously under the influence of something else green, asked us, "So what's goin' on?"
 
What did go on minutes later was the Wednesday night gathering at Dayal and Tanya's home, which is a weekly stimulator for the spiritually sincere. I was really impressed by the quality of questions asked. After my delivery of words based on the Gita's verse 5.2 emphasising action in devotion over action in ambition. A grainless ekadasi feast followed. Everyone seemed happy in the spiritual company of each other.
 
A great America Krishna saint, Jayananda, was born in Ohio and raised in Cleveland as a child. Had we known the actual location of his home at the time of choice, we would have driven there with Jatayu as the driver. Jayananda's claim to fame was his skilled and genuine ability to interact with everyone he met, in a personal, selfless and human way. He was so much loved and appreciated in the early pioneer days of a surging spiritual movement.
 
I feel fortunate to be in 'his town', and especially with the coming of his passing in 1977, 2 days from now. Jayananda died from leukemia, but lived with Krishna on his mind.

10 Km

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Of Death and Life
 
Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland is one of those Great Lake cities not far from Toronto. It was a quick flight there. To pick me up at the airport was Jatayu, 59, with a birthday two weeks after mine. The prearranged driver, my dear friend, Akilananda, couldn't make it. His mother passed away at noon today. Bless her soul. She was 98.

Jatayu and I talked about our age, and how the machinery gradually becomes like a slug before it ceases to be. We both realized that our moment would come somewhere down the road. On the flight over I read an article about death by Douglass Cornish, "The thing about death is that it so often comes unannounced. One minute you're grocery shopping, the next you're hit by a bus. Someone once told me about their grandfather who went to the bank one morning, took out some money and had a heart attack on the step on his way out. It's true, you can't take it with you."
 
Before you know it, Jatayu and I had found our way to Fort Hill, a lovely place, typical of Ohio Valley topography, and vegetation at Rocky River. We were bent on putting in some walking before settling in for the night. There we were, dwarfed by jolly green giants of oak, sycamore, cedar, maple and more. Some of these trees were made to be humbled; who had a fall once their souls left them. Death and life is very apparent, even of herbs and giants.

We met James and Cassie on the trail, inquisitive they were. They were asking about our dress and how to address. "Hare Krishna" I offered. The couple who were young adults, appeared so much alive, especially when we talked to them about our lifestyle.
 
Interesting in this forest were the remains of a past ceremonial grounds by natives of 1000 years before. They had constructed on top of a hill these mounds that resembled a kind of earth rib cage, parallel ridges in the ground. A fossil of a dunkleosteus, a massive fish of 16 - 20 feet in length, that had razor sharp teeth to feast on sharks, is featured at the native center. There was a time when the Ohio area was an ocean bed, but that is no more, nor is the dunk or sharks. They have all perished. I certainly get a charge out of these green trails as they reveal what's really going on in life, with its appearances and disappearances. All things must pass.

7 Km