Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I Gave A Nod

Brockville, Ontario

Compassion is one of the great virtues. This, I was compelled to embrace when meeting the first person I’d had interaction with today. It was before 7 AM on Highway 2, Galup Canal. The sun had come up proudly making pink the disbursed light clouds.

I gave a nod to an oncoming motorist. It was a woman, she made a U turn and then stopped in front of me at the shoulder of the road. She came out of the car and left the door open with the radio playing. I recognized the song, it was Johnny Cash singing “Walk The Line”. With no intro, she asked in a slurred voice, “What are you doing?” I know it was alcohol that caused the slowing of words.

I explained I was on foot across the country promoting pilgrimage, but that wasn’t too interesting to her. She offered to take me to a beautiful spot along the canal. Her pet dog waiting in the cab of the car was to have a good swim in the water. I declined saying that I couldn’t leave the road for fear I would lose sight of Daruka, my support person.

The face of the woman went from anticipation to eating a sour lemon. What could be done? I’m a monk and monks have little to do with the opposite sex. Politeness is a way of dealing with the other gender, and to be quick about it. I felt bad that she was disappointed and I let her know I’m doing as Johnny is singing, I’m walking the line, the line of dharma, duty and obligation. She then got back in the driver’s seat to leave with her pet without a third entity. I wish her the best.

Somehow or other it was a day for ladies. Maria stopped and asked for blessings for her daughter, the passenger, who was feeling a little down. I offered her some mantras. I also came upon Preyana who has a guru in Risikesha in the Himalayas. Her husband is also initiated into a spiritual tradition from India. I chatted with more folks along the way including some deep sea divers who were preparing to go down to check out some shipwrecks on the Saint Lawrence.

For a break Daruka and I drove to Ottawa to deliver a class I delivered on 9.15 from the Gita, a verse about sacrifice and the compassion that’s invoked by doing so.

33 Km

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

I'm out

Iriquois, Ontario

I’m back on track and I’m out early. I zipped open the tent at our campsite at McLerron Island. After a shower, I tread the path at 3:30 AM and leaving Daruka and a couple from Montreal to take the extra slumber they deserved. As mentioned in the past you start early in the day in order to beat the heat. The early motorist happens to notice a dude in robes, me. He may have come from an evening shift at the local Kraft Dinner factory. Then someone else passed by to prepare the facility for the golf course nearby. Another person made his way to Upper Canada Village, an extraordinary historic park. It turns out that he was the shoe maker in the village. Our small walking party had three tickets to the village, a replica of a mid 19th century self sufficient community. Since shoes are an important issue for my mission, I gravitated to the shoe shop. The man makes his own shoes from hide and then applies wooden heels. After a 30 hour ordeal to complete one pair, in those days a pair of shoes were sold at $1.80

We also visited the tin shop, tin is a metal that was shipped in from England in those days. We learned that the tinsmith received a more healthy salary than his neighbour the shoe man. The interpreter was extremely informative. I asked him a facicious question, “Is the Tin Man your icon or guru?”

“No,” he said, “my Guru is the guy upstairs.” Referring to the Lord. To such persons it’s natural to speak about my pilgrimage. One other interpreter in period costume asked, “What order are you with?”

“Hare Krishna.”

“Oh yes, you have famous follower, George Harrison. I listen to him in my car.

“Great,” I said, “George was a good musician and decent follower.”

30 Km

Friday, July 27th, 2012

We Came Together

Long Sault, Ontario

Click goes the camera. A man at customs for the US snapped a shot as I was leaving Cornwall with Montreal couple, Rasamrita and Krishna Devi near the US Canada bridge. The man stepped out of his customs station and said, “Good luck with your walk.” So the news is out, The Walking Monk’s in town. Kacper from Ottawa came to join us in the trek and so did Karana Karana, with her daughter, Vishva Devi. Mother and daughter came all the way from Hamilton. The little army is growing, the bonding is developing.

What is really unique about the left turn we made was an entering into a paradise of sorts. The Saint Lawrence Sea Way with all its islands has an interesting history. In the late 50’s, 6500 residents in the area were relocated to make way for a flooding. This was intentional to create a waterway that would dispel the rapid and provide enough depth to have cargo ocean liners come through. On what is called Inundation Day, people saw their properties which included five villages go under water. Many homes were moved and some burned to the ground prior to the flooding. What you are left with is a series of hilltops that are now lovely islands.

Our trip today, boiling as we were under the sun, took us to a park way linking several patches of serene islands. Swim we did and then we drove with speed to Brockville to meet Donna Wilson who hosted us for a meal at home. We ended up having a delicious meal, along with Lucy, Karana Karana’s step mom and Donna’s kids. The kids are into eating pork and that’s what they indulged in. But we thought nothing of it while sticking to our veggies. The kids couldn’t resist her menu, they added that to their meal. The oldest boy, Elijah, is a top athlete and student in school. Recently he suffered from a serious sprained ankle. Donna, his mom, said that I have special connections with someone above who can help. Be that as it may, I offered to offer a day’s walk and mantras in Elijah’s honour.

Donna opened up her yoga studio to us where I delivered a talk on the merits of using your feet and using your mantras. I attempted to balance walking tales with philosophy and then culminate with kirtan (chanting). Indeed, it was a magical time with the attendees. Donna is a gracious host.

Megan came from The Recorder and Times Paper, and Andy from Snap Magazine also arrived to cover the story of the walk. The day was really intense as we were trying to fit everything in. The sweet chanting and the end of the day made up for any strain and fatigue under the sun.

24.5 Km

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

To Highway 2

Cornwall, Ontario

On the Quebec / Ontario border I did begin trekking along the Saint Lawrence Sea Way which has multiple islands within it. I meditated with sound as I walked. After that I composed a letter to the trail I’m grateful to have.

Dear Highway 2,

Thank you for being what you are, a quite path that takes me along the scenic splendour of water and trees. You take me through communities of curiosity. You are no comparison to the nasty, hectic freeway nearby. You choose to follow the river. You cure and bend and offer a surprise around every corner. You were there first before the monster (the 401). You were the indigenous trail and then became the horse trail. You link the towns together like a thread. You are friendly to bikers, cyclists, walkers, and cautionary motorists.

I am taking advantage of your benevolence. I’ll try not to pound on your pavement too hard, just as a Vedic dancer begs the earth not to be offended by some stomping that might be needed to execute the various moves. Thanks for your being there on the map and under my feet. Your service is incalculable.

Yours sincerely,

Bhaktimarga Swami

The Walking Monk

Another thing about the road, Highway 2, it brought me friends, Rasamrita and Krishna Devi from Montreal came to greet us. Their determination is to stay with Daruka and I for a few days and to take up the challenge of walking. To add to this first day of excitement, we received a grand tour through an old cotton mill factory, now converted into an office building. May, a broadcaster from Variety 104.5 Radio, interviewed me and she so kindly took us around in the building to meet all the broadcasters. Todd from the Seaway News also came to see me on the road to do a story for the paper.

37.5 Km

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Leaving to Start

Toronto, Ontario

Daruka and I left for a month’s journey on the road. It would be Highway 2 that I would trek. To arrive at its beginning point at Ontario’s eastern most end, Daruka’s ’93 Mercury would take us eastbound on the 401, the country’s busiest thoroughfare. To get to the 401, we routed our way north on Bayview. Here was my only opportunity to get a little walking in as Daruka pulled over to a store to get my current favourite, cold coconut water.

Yes, we were leaving the city. We were taking the advice of Prahlad as outlined in the book, Bhagavatam. This morning I had the honour of delivering the morning class, sourcing the 7th Canto segment wherein the young saint recommended strongly in his straightforward way that his father should retreat to the forest. He urged him to leave his palace, to leave the throne, to leave the city as a gesture of kindness. He indicated that the affluent life was damaging to his father. City life can be very contaminating and the journey to the countryside can be very therapeutic for body, mind and spirit.

It’s good advice, no doubt, for all of us to be in a conducive atmosphere for transformational experiences. Our dear guru, Srila Prabhupada, also left the larger cities, including Kolkatta, his birthplace, to enter into a more slowed down pace of life. Everyone has heard of monks who have retired to the mountain caves and hermitages. Once having gained inner strength from the tranquil surroundings, it becomes obligatory on the part of the monk to reenter cities and areas of population and passion in order to offer encouragement and enlightenment for those who are still entangled.

Daruka and I passed our first evening near the starting point in an Econolodge, primarily to address the recovery from pain from lower back spasms. I took a hot shower and applied some balm. I woke at 3:30 am the next morning to embrace a new adventure on a new leg of the walk. Highway 2, here I come!

3 Km

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

The Real Warrior
Toronto, Ontario
We all know "how the West was won." With guns! But now that it's won, do we still need them?
Being shacked away in a traveling bus has kept me in the dark (or brightness, depending on which way you look at it). While traveling, there was a major mishap with the use of guns in Colorado, and believe it or not in Toronto involving senseless shooting of people. My comment! What you see is what you do. How many guns does the average viewer see in one life time? Hundreds? Thousands? More than needs to be seen, that's for sure. Thanks to the way creative wonders of B/Hollywood and let's not forget Nollywood (Nigeria's answer to the silver screen) and all filmmakers who feel that the box office won't be full without bullets in the picture.
When I was a (well younger) some of my peers would boast about going hunting for deer and pheasants. I guess you feel like a real man putting that rifle under your arm.
Here's what I have to offer as an alternative to bracing that gun in the right arm. Japa beads are a string of what resembles bullets. There's a bag made of cloth which could be considered the holsters which holds the weapon. The weapon and beads are one and the same. You put your middle finger and thumb firmly on the trigger or a bead. There's also the use of the mouth, upper and lower lips, as well as the tongue. The index finger is let free while the two fingers, indicated before, keep busy moving from bead to consecutive bead. With the mouth you chant this ancient mantra which kills the enemy, hitting him dead on target. The mantra is, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare." The enemies are six-fold - lust, anger, greed, madness, envy and illusion.
When you release the ammunition you do so with resolute determination. You are sure to feel like a warrior in the truest sense and satisfy any macho proclivity that exists in you.
One time I was approached by an RCMP officer, a mountie, while walking on the Trans Canada Highway. I had my hand in the bead bag and, seriously, he hid behind his cab thinking I was a madman with a weapon. When I explained that they were my meditational beads he became relieved. So, there's power in these beads. And you can feel the power when you take advantage of them.
7 Km

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The Shorter the Better

Calgary, AB

When I saw this Punjabi Sikh wheeling a lawn mower from one home to another the next block over, I thought, "Here is something that challenges greed. This guy is either borrowing or sharing a valuable tool." While walking a suburb in the North East of Calgary, I got captivated by this simple gesture of intelligence. I pointed it out to walking companion Radha Madhava. "Here is someone who's bright, neighbourly and not hung up on needing-one's-own-utility at the expense of a credit card that puts you into debt. Something can be said also about the man's sensitivity to the environment. Whether intended or not, his practice of share or borrow goes in sync with nature. You're looking at one less machine to manufacture.

Turning a corner and an oriental woman saw the dhoti and kurta (my robes). She related it as Buddhist garb likely, so she put her palms together. We found this lady rather open to introduce herself. It was a warm exchange.

Simple, brief and relevant exchanges and observances like this have me pine for going back to the marathon walking. Just one day of settling in a home or community is like a dog sitting on a burdock plant. As soon as he gets up he realizes he's collected these spikey burs stuck to the hair, hard to shake off. I would like to underscore this analogy and compare it to the human dynamic, the politics and gossip of a place. Whether it be an internal reality within our own community or the bashing that goes on in the larger secular field, it exists and it's strong.

Being single, being celibate, being a monk, and being a roamer has its advantages. When you stick around a few mere hours you just watch the stool fly in.

My last major exchange with a person of no acquaintance to me happened at the Calgary Airport as I was enroute to Toronto. A native fellow came straight towards me saying, "Hey Dude, how are yah! I just came from Nepal. My girlfriend has spent time with the Krishnas." It was a positive moment, perhaps 2 to 3 minutes in length of a discussion.

What helps me? When you see the spirit of a person the experience is wonderful even if the encounter is brief. When you see matter there's nothing but trouble.

4 Km

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

On Tour

Edmonton, AB

Everyday, practically, our group is on stage. A couple of complaints made their way to the bus organizers earlier this week. Two of the actors were feeling that the practices were too much.

When someone responded to them, "Well you're a performer and you're on tour," then the many rehearsals seemed less severe. The message was, "You've got some status. Take it as a blessing." That changed the attitude somewhat. Although not on an actual stage, we did perform.

Anapayini's dance troupe did their stuff - marvellous as usual. The drama went on. Kirtan was also incorporated.

All was done in a temple - the Radha-Govinda Cultural Centre. Appreciations were plentiful here in Edmonton. This became a nice ending for my trip with the troupe. I parted from the bus here in Alberta. The group moved on to go South of the border. After they left, luckily I had enough back strength to make 3 Km on foot. I ventured along the Bow River.

I've never seen this mountain-fed channel of water so high in elevation. So there it is; nature at work as usual. All that rises does fall, and all that falls ends up rising. The soul seems to encounter the same. It travels to higher existences, and then reaches lower plains, inhabiting lower species. The Vedas also describe demigods being bumped, being defeated by the demons, and then vice-versa. Where is consistency in this world? The next time I visit this city, I may see the river at a shallow level.

Rivers are always good to be near. They are a constant reminder of the fluctuations that exist. Oh, and by the way, they are living personalities with very strong minds. I can think of the Ganges as one. If you read of her demeanour in the Puranic stories, you will find her to be fiesty, but also with a generous disposition. She is always travelling - at least her liquid is. She's on tour, she's important, and she has status.

3 Km

Saturday, July 21st, 2102

Absolute Necessity

Calgary, AB

Some cool air travelled through the open windows of our bus. It took its toll on my back, and rendered it as stiff as a board. God knows that lower back spasms became an impetus for me to do long distance trekking as a way to cure a troubled back in my thirties. Back pain comes to haunt me from time to time. The pain restricted me from taking part in the Festival of Chariots held on 8th Ave and culminating in Calgary's Shaw Millennium Park next to the armoury building.

Nice spot! But, no trees. The marquis spared participants from the hot sun. I did catch a middle-to-the-tail-end of the entertainment. Our drama was presented and liked, though the outdoor crowd was thinned by then. The community here has a reputation for being a bit of a chatterbox. When my Godbrother, also a monk, spoke, there was so much distraction . Being a monk has its opportunities for experiencing humility.

I recall when one outstanding performer told me of a humbling moment. Jayadeva, who is from the UK, and formerly a member of the Rubettes, a rock band that had climbed to fame in the 60's, was singing in front of a devotional audience during lunch. Despite his past and current reputation, the apparent spectators were not attentive at all. They were absorbed in eating. After he got off stage, he remarked to me, "that was the most humbling experience of my life."

For me, not being able to trek a serious walk today, due to the baby steps I could manage, was a reminder of my physical futility. We are all vulnerable to the onslaughts of nature's modes. This is not bad, necessarily. We need to be put in our place of meekness. Our false pride needs to be challenged. It's an absolute necessity.

0 Km

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Friday, July 20th, 2012

This Lake Has Everything

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

This lake has everything. Clay for facials (girls like this one), minerals in the water that are good for the skin, and it possesses a liquid that makes you buoyant when you dip in. The place is called Manitou Beach. People in Saskatchewan know of this little paradise. Having been here and having trekked the area before and appreciating the healing powers (which the Cree have known for thousands of years), I suggested to Manorama, our bus coordinator, to drop in. Here our morning was spent.

Several of the boys went ape. Once covered in the therapeutic clays they moved as monkeys and enjoyed the organic nature of grunts and leaps. They wouldn’t stop. It was good for a laugh.

Kaliapani, one of the bus drivers and I took to the Wellington Park Trail. What’s special about this mini ravine is the creek which is spring fed and which supplies crystal clear water before it reaches the minerals of Manitou. “Manitou” is native for The Great Spirit.

From the trail we got curious about the largest room in this petit town. The structure is called Dance Land, established in 1928 was a popular venue for the big band days. The floor made of maple wood is two levels, has an amazing spring to it created by pipes in between the two levels wrapped by horsetail hairs. I asked the attendant of Dance Land if they might have our troupe dance and chant for a short while. While a small group sat at coffee tables sipping on such and more. They were enthused. Destiny had it though, that time ran out as our group were rushing as it was time to prepare for the ride to Saskatoon to perform. Our venue was Broadway Theatre in downtown. Best hall yet. For a new city to Krishna Consciousness, the attendance was great. Credit goes to Kasyapa and Panchami who have built a friendship with local folks. It is remarkable what one sincere couple can do to affect a positive change for others.

5 Km

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

I Left A Note
Regina. Saskatchewan

Our tour bus parked at a truck stop, it was early, at 4:30 AM all were fast asleep. All 32, minus myself. The drivers were also in slumberland. Perhaps, the best sleep our crew was having. The air is dry and the temperatures are below the 20s Celsius. I didn’t have the heart to wake up a soul.

I left a note on the driver’s seat, which read, “I left to go westward on Hwy 1 toward Regina. Signed, Bhaktimarga Swami.” So that’s what I did, I started walking. After I took to the road, the wind coming into the bus blew away the message. No one saw the note, but everyone knows me by now. Meanwhile, I had the time of my life. Doing what? Walking and chanting down the prairie road. The sensation is like moving within infinity. The terrain is flat, the space is immeasurable, the sky has no limit. Apart from motorists which are few and far between, there is rarely a resident. I could open my lung and sing with an open heart at a high volume that no one would care. Talk about a feeling of freedom, well, it’s there to be had on the open trail. This is something to be experienced by all of you, my friends, readers of this blog. With the sun on my back I feel support that will carry me for the day. When the bus did arrive I was content to be back with my summer family and content that solitude had its time.

The evening’s venue for our Mantra show, was at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium. It was close to full in capacity. Gradually, our crew was getting tight on time in honouring the schedule.

How important is time! And space! Especially in the mystical prairie. Here you can be deceived. You think you’re approaching an object in the distance, and as you work your way towards it, it appears forever to be beyond your reach. Spiritual life can be like that. You feel that you are making progress, and then suddenly maya (illusion) may come to attack and expose a weakness. But don’t be fooled, the straight and narrow path of bhakti is to be clung on to. Even if one slips and falls by the wayside, simply crawl back and let the illusions of life know that you are made of tough nerve and will.

12 Km

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Better Chance

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Being bus bound doesn’t always provide the opportunity for a wayward stroll. Still, you can be somewhat productive and let your brain do some walking. With a good chance to read I pulled out of my travel bag, I pulled out the latest copy of the JVS, Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Here’s what I read and loved, and have referred to in the past:

A quote from To Kill A Mockingbird.

Atticus Finch said,“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

To comment, we who live in this age of agitation in Kali Yuga are so much prone to misunderstand. We are hard of hearing. Listening to or understanding the other fellow is not our strength. If we are committed to this scenario, to ‘my’position, and only ‘mine’, it could be that we will be reborn into a body with a personality that misunderstood and are now going to appreciate more.
When our bus tour youth pulled together their drama, The Jagannatha Story, one actor projects himself into the life of a King who is anxious for life’s deeper meaning. Another actor becomes the tribal leader who has profound love for the Divine, and fears the King who will usurp his privilege to serve the Divine. Another actor must perceive the purpose of a Brahman who is committed to helping his King. While the Brahman’s wife is a role that is played out needing to know what she can do for her husband, father and king. In other words, everyone here as actors has become someone else.
The drama staged this evening at the Hindu temple on Saint Anne’s Road presented the motives of four different individuals, each being totally relatable. The tale which surrounds the manifestation of Jagannatha (an image of Krishna) really does stir up interest amongst those involved. The audience and the actors. I think that the actors did portray their characters in such a way that the audience could fit into those characters. It was a job well done.
Anyways, how improved could be our world if each of us could step inside another’s experience? And if we could go for dialogue over monologue we would have a better chance towards peace.
1 Km

Tuesday July 17th, 2012

Go For The Essence

Thunder Bay, Ontariop

After a 12 hour drive from Serpent River, our bus finally rolled into Thunder Bay for a 3rd annual Krishna Culture Festival of India. The venue is great every year. A park overlooking Lake Superior with a rock formation of The Sleeping Giant set into it is the perfect location. There’s a huge stage with a massive canvas marquee to shelter the performers. The free Indian feast is a main attraction.

By 5 PM the area was thick with curious people, eager for the food, music, and an overall sattvic or heavenly atmosphere. The mayor came offering a welcome address. The emcees did a great job. There was music, dance of all traditional kinds, exhibits and books on spiritual life.

People sometimes wonder what IS the culture of India anyway? Can the current lifestyle of India reflect the REAL India? Is Bollywood the best representation of the culture?

In essence, India is spiritual, or so, at the heart of it, that’s what you’ll find, spirituality and dharma. That’s what our presentation of dance, drama and kirtan reflected, the spiritual side of life.

I met and asked an upcoming law student, what is the philosophy of law, what is at the core of law? And he explained that it depends on who you ask. For him, it meant to protect, to regulate, to follow what’s natural. It sounded a little like dharma, which refers to duty and to honour the natural order of things. We discussed briefly about absolute law being eternal and man’s law being relative.

After the festival a good number of people, 4000 came. Channa (chickpeas), rice and naan bread just wasn’t being turned out fast enough. But the cooks were doing their duty. It came as a surprise that in the relatively small city was such an incredible turn out. The festival was over by 10 PM (now had there been a beer garden, said one acquaintance of mine, “People would have stayed for hours on end.”) For 5 hours there was a jam packed program of what is Indian culture. Nutshelled, it was colour, smiles, optimism, and ultimately spirituality.

1 Km

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Wter Gifts

Serpent River, Ontario

Here you hear the loons crying out. The cedars and the white pines stand out, and wild raspberry bushes are saying, “I’ve got plenty of fruits, take some, they’re free!”

I was always curious about the village of Serpent River, with a population that can’t be too much, and which is a First Nations community of the Obijway race. My heart pined for years to walk through this off the highway grid village. So I left the picnic area where our Krishna Culture tour bus was parked, hoping for some interaction with the locals. To get to the village I went east bound on Canada’s longest road (actually, the world’s longest), the Trans Canada Highway, when a car pulled over. Peter and his partner came out of their car and offered water. Then, entering onto Serpent River Road west, I met an old Husky dog, he’s friendly. He decided to come along by my side for a good long while until he got distracted.

Once having trekked the length of the quaint town, passing by homes, playgrounds, and even their powwow grounds, I dared myself to walk back via the railway track. Surely no one hits this trail, I though. I was wrong. Coming down the tracks with trees to both sides of it, was a young dude on his way to work. He was surprised to see me as well. For him, the track is his daily route. His name is Brad and he’s an Ojibway. I also got to meet Dale and his mother Gloria who are the actual owners of the husky dog, whom I had innocently lured away. While chatting with Dale and Gloria on their veranda, someone called in saying they spotted their dog at a daycare so I was off the hook, and wouldn’t be accused by anyone for losing their pet. In reality we are all lost, lost souls being separated from the Divine.

I spent some time with our youth philosophizing and answering their questions, swimming and practicing for our drama. Then it was time for me to hit the road again. I just hate waiting for everyone to get ready. It was remarkable how motorists responded with generosity by offering water. One woman tossed a bottle over the creek in order for me to catch it. If it wasn’t water, then a donation came to me to get water. The final offer of water came from a car load of young men. They passed by me on the highway and were curious to meet their first monk ever. They pulled over and had questions. “We were just curious why you were walking.”

“To promote pilgrimage, simple living, and to get clean inside.” Somehow they got it. One of the fellows asked, “Is it so that we don’t get too attached to things?” That’s hitting the nail on the head. These young guys who just recently graduated were inquisitive and I was so happy to meet them. “Please correspond with me if you have any questions.” I then left to continue on foot, and they on wheels.

20 Km

Sunday, July 16th, 2012

Take Up The Challenge LA
Toronto, Ontario

It’s always a pleasure to read from the book, Chaitanya Charitamrita. This is one of a number of publications that explores the extraordinary personality of Chaitanya, master of the maha-mantra. This morning I read of the cleansing makeover He conducted on the sacred Gundicha temple, in what is now the current state of Orissa.

Being the second and last day of the Festival of India/Chariots for Toronto, I thought it was an appropriate chapter to peruse through. Subsequent to my reading I asked the group that I was reading to, to help with a self assessment of yesterday’s event. It actually took the shape of a discussion on what were the good aspects of the parade on Yonge Street and the activities on Centre Island. To add on, I asked the question, “What in your opinion were the pluses and minuses on the Wednesday promo with the samosa eating contest, and the Friday 12 hour chanting session?”

Overall, the group, mostly visiting devotees from other cities offered a glowing report while expressing a few minor glitches here and there. One person compared the Toronto festival to LA’s, but one senior woman from the States remarked that there was no comparison, that the event of yesterday’s far outshines LA’s. Having participated in LA’s festival last year myself, I would be inclined to agree to the woman’s statement, that southern California’s program is a “tired old festival” and needs a fresh new energy.

I would say, without malice, and where healthy spiritual competition has its place, the challenge is on for LA to pull up its socks in stepping up for this colourful event for the pleasure of guru and Krishna.

And of course, for the sake of making a more attractive show, that the public may relish this great alternative to gratification, let’s think out of the box, LA! (Let’s dwell on the cleanup competition between Chaitanya and His followers.) Healthy competition is good.

I give all credit to the Toronto crew for doing a splendid job. To see them in action is like seeing Wayne Gretsky on ice, or Michael Jordan making a score.

To wind up my day I took up less of a walk but more of a swim. Myself and two other monks, Nick and Corey, dipped into the moderate temperature waters of Lake Ontario. What a weekend. I would like to congratulate the two young men who became initiated into our Vaishnava society. Rupa of New York obtained the name Virat Rupa. Virat Rupa means ‘Universal Form’. And Matt, of Ontario, has the new name, Maha Mantra.

5 Km

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Playing host

Toronto, Ontario

When someone new comes to town, I like to show them what our ashram, temple and city have to offer. Those that do come have a devotional motive, of course. I like to show them our main room of worship and especially the interior. Although simple, the floor is of linoleum, not really classy. Yet it is the floor our guru, Srila Prabhupada, walked on. We wouldnʼt want to change it for the world. When suggestions sometimescome up with alternative interior designers from well-meaning sources, I say, “Over my dead body!”.

There are slight paint marks still to be seen on the linoleum where the seat of honour, the vyasasan, of our guru was placed in ʼ76 when he came to visit us. Oh yes, even the paint markings hold a significance.
I will then take the newcomer (almost by the hand) and show them the Oriyan-style paintings of Krishnaʼs pastimes because those renderings by artist Shyamasundar are phenomenal.

Naturally if the doors to the shrine are open - three large teak wood doors - I will explain our deities, and their interesting history! The next step might be to showcase our neighbourhood. How do you do that? Well, it means to put your shoes back on and stroll the nearby parks or just cover some of the shady residential streets.

Today, being the fortieth annual Ratha Yatra for Toronto, I became the guide for a number of visitors that have come as far as Europe, Sri Lanka, and various parts of North America including L.A., Texas, and Florida. My group came with me to Yonge and Asquith, the official starting launch for the celebrations.

The three chariots were lined-up standing there, by their glorious selves, waiting to be pulled by fortunate festival enthusiasts. There are some people like that. If the Grateful Dead have their following known as the Deadheads, then we must have the Krishnaheads, devotees who hop from festival to festival.

In truth, I hope that first-timers donʼt become Krishnaheads. I personally prefer our people to achieve groundedness and plant roots somewhere. Hey, look who is talking?Mr. Gypsy himself. As a monk I have the privilege to be that. Iʼll travel around to templesand if a newcomer comes, I play host. I like it that way.

13 Km

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Friday, July 13th, 2012

From Fear to Free
Toronto, Ontario
I had just come out of the ravine, entering into the residential area of Rosedale when Carol, whom I never met before, was watering her lawn. Addressing me with a “Good morning!” I responded returning the same.
I could tell that she wanted more to say, so I stopped to reciprocate. We got to talking. She told me of her father who said to his kids at the dinner table, “When I die I would like to come back and let you know what happened.” She replied to her Dad, “Okay, but don’t come scaring me when you do.”
Years later (she told me), that one evening she woke up from sleep feeling like her mouth was filled with the coldest ice water. The voice of her father said to her, “Carol, you don’t have to grieve for me. I’m as content as I could be.” She told me that her dog reacted strongly and strangely to the visit by her father. Carol was simply relaying this story about her life, seeking some clarification.
All I could say is that there appeared to be a happy exchange within the family. The atma of Carol’s father came to give confirmation. “I’m happy here and I’m good!”
Carol started spraying the water from her hose towards the front yard tree. “He’s dying.” I could see that the towering fellow was going. His leaves were wilting. We started to speak about how the spirit of the tree was preparing to exit. I could also see that she loved the tree.
Carol believes in the soul’s transmigration. So I mentioned about the Gita’s reference to the atma’s travelling. She was fascinated. I invited her to the karma-free meals at our Govinda’s Dining Hall. I do believe she’ll come one day.
“Well, I must depart and allow my soul to travel via these legs. I am expected to lead a 12 hour chanting session at our temple on Avenue Rd.”
Carol said that since she’s been watering the lawn for a good while in the morning that I was the first pedestrian to return her “Good morning!”
And a good morning it was. The evening was also not bad. It was my first visit to the Bhakti Lounge at Church and Dundas. I was asked to speak on the Friday the 13th, about how to overcome fear and to become free. From fear to free.
12 Km

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Time Can Be Troubling

Hamilton, Ontario
Life in the devotional lane can be very hectic. I couldn’t even remember where the kilometers went by, other than on the bus ride to Niagara and then Hamilton. The combination of roasting weather and the company of young adolescent minds and ways weighs on the sharpness of brains, perhaps even memory. (Don’t get me wrong. I love the bus tour group. It is I who may be a problem for them).
In any event, where did time go for walking?
Time! It’s so precious, so critical. I was reminded about this most interesting aspect of the Divine, especially in the evening when our group performed in the premises of a quaint old movie house called "Mountain Theatre.” Performances went well, but timing or the rhythm of a show needed tweaking. There were gaps between items. This is being self-critical, of course. Items need to be definitive in terms of their length and there is also a respect for the audience as far as overall duration is concerned. A show over three hours, unless totally riveting, is a trite too long for some folks.
I put myself to blame for the oversight. Nevertheless, we had an appreciative enough crowd. Our girls mesmerized the audience. Custodians of the hall were touched by their discipline and grace. I had the chance to speak for a few minutes about welcoming anyone to Highway 2 as I trail through Hamilton. I’ve pegged down the date - Aug. 10.
Another memorable point of the evening was seeing Visvakarma, a dear godbrother of mine, play bass-guitar for Rajasi, the bhakti-rock group. He assisted in the emcee-ing. It was gratifying to see him so stoked-up about delivering the message of Krishna.
Hours passed by and this swami (me) passed out at midnight from devotional fatigue, while we passed by traffic, buildings, factories, trees and such. My bunk was like the rest in the moving bus which put on kilometre after kilometre. I guess I made good distance, only not on foot.
1 Km

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Samosa Fun

Toronto, Ontario
The contestants were chomping away and downing them as fast as possible. Big and spicy samosas were making their way through the channels to eager stomachs. Anticipating spectators were eyeing the daring challengers. Of course they were young. I’m almost 60, too far beyond the range for wolfing down these powerful savouries. Maybe it’s also a little frivolous for a monk to indulge in such a competitive sport. I decided to remain with the happy onlookers unequivocally rooting for everyone.
This Samosa Eating Contest is actually a promotion for the weekend’s Festival of Chariots. Toronto’s answer to New York City’s Time Square is at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, called Dundas Square where all kinds of urban hypes take place. TV cameras come to film this probably first of its kind contest, which was followed by kirtan. Kirtan chanting reverberated through the city block and beyond as Batman and Spiderman looked down from above with delight. Let me clarify – billboards of the heroes suspended high, looked like they took notice of the spiritual boys and girls who were chanting those sublime mantras.
Passions were subdued. The street became calm as the sun made way for neon lights to take over. Madhava from Switzerland had rolled out the maha-mantra, and then Bada Hari from the U.S. took his turn. I had a chance to mingle, meet people and shake hands. Hearts met and hearts melted because of the mantra. Hot, firey stomach pains abated as cool evening airs occupied the space. It was time and not the temperature of air that soothed the tummies.
Anyways, mission accomplished. People were informed, moved and enlightened. Chaitanya, who witnessed multiple kirtans and chariot festivals, seemed present as he was centuries ago in the place called Puri, India. Dundas Square reincarnated for a few hours into a spiritual oasis.
Jaya ho! By the way, the winners of the contest was an Australian chap by the name of Angus.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Festival of India Launch party

'Festival of India Launch party '
at Yonge - Dundas Square
in downtown Toronto
Wednesday July 11th, 2012

'Encounter World Religions'

Bhaktimarga Swami hosts the annual
'Encounter World Religions'
group from Guelph, Ontario
at the Toronto Hare Krishna temple,
on Monday July 9th, 2012

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Travel and Serve

Riviere Rouge, Quebec

There are few airports you can go to in the world where you can roll your baggage from the doorstep of your home and wheel it right to the departure entrance. I almost succeeded in doing so in Toronto's downtown Billy Bishop Airport, but running a little late after 5 kilometres, I decided to flag down a cab.

The cab driver, a Muslim by faith, was surprised that I had wheeled my luggage all the way from our well-known ashram on Avenue Road. Since it was pre-dawn, the driver mentioned how prophet Mohammed encouraged night time travel. That makes sense. I would vie for traveling under the stars in a desert instead of a grueling trek over sand and under the sun. But the driver said more. "The Prophet explained that the earth is squeezed at night making distances shorter. He advised that everyone travel in the evening."

As the driver relayed this within the short window of opportunity, we quickly pulled up at departures. I thought then, as I climbed out of the cab, that probably I could have wheeled my way right to the door, been on time and saved some money. But no! The meeting between myself and my friend was meant to be. At least there's a confirmation for trekking at night during the hot season. Just prior to shutting the door I uttered the words, "Praises to Mohammed, to Allah and to Krishna!" to which he gave a nod and a smile.

The flight to Montreal was brief and then a longer ride took me to the Laurentian Mountains, the ski resort area, and then to Riviere Rouge where I was hosted by Mahajana and wife Madurya Rasa. You can't get sweeter than this couple. Here, we ended up doing the most monk-like endeavour. It's simply called FOCUS! Chapter Six of the Gita fairly well sums up how we applied a sound recording, or voice-over, to a drama script, "Krishna, the 8th Boy." The mission was accomplished.

Sometimes we need to lock ourselves up in a sound room, a cage or a cave in order to achieve, before we can go for a hearty walk.

5 Km

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To J. W.

Toronto, Ontario

I just can't resist but to say something in favour of J. W. Windland. Who is he?

Well, J. W. happens to be your friend and mine, when it comes to spiritual talk and walk. He's an ice-breaking person and more dynamically, a wall-breaker. For years now his enterprise called "Encounter/World Religion Centre" has been actively knocking down barriers and building bridges between people who are of various walks of life, both philosophical and spiritual (encounter@worldreligions.ca).

When I say he's a friend, I meant it. He's been bringing in folks of the curious (and maybe even skeptical) kind for years to our ashram. It's a delight to have him network with people and introduce them to different spiritual approaches and to make his yearly visit with people from various parts of Canada and the U.S.

With today's group a host of them are nurses but amongst them was also a real nice looking guy who had been a trappist monk for fifteen years in a New Brunswick monastery. The group partook in a variety of devotional activities such as pushpanjali, a flower throwing to the feet of the deity of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, the offering of obeisance (an elaborated genuflection), singing and dancing and the honouring of prasad (consecrated food). I have the annual honour to walk J. W.'s people through the devotional process, and it's a pleasure.

It was important to recognize his valuable work in the interfaith connection since it was his last year to facilitate such programs. The entire group love him and we took a few moments to show him our appreciation for his benevolence. I asked him if he had a succession plan and the reply was that yes indeed two fellows were ear-marked for the service.

Anyone who endeavours to help people find the universal commonalities is doing the world a great favour. And so we thank you, J. W., for the great work done. May I say, "God (Krishna) Bless," and let our devotees of Krishna know what we can do for you.

7 Km

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

To the Main One

Montreal, Quebec

I did not get externally dramatical over something today, yet emotions did stir up inside. It was a feeling of fulfilment that came over me.

After staging our little theatre piece, "The Jagannatha Story," at the Montreal festival, some appreciations came. Our little troupe of four principle actors, which are quite amateur but exceedingly devotional, were receiving outpourings of praises. It was not just peers of the actors but professional stage people that were laying out the comments and remarks. One acquaintance I know was in tears after seeing the performance. She does professional children's entertainment shows. Another woman who is well established in classical Bharat Natyam dance form in North America approached me about collaborating on some level. And then a world travelling bhajan singer, quite well known in the kirtan circles, gave all praise and expressed a desire to do something together.

So I felt good to hear these things on behalf of the effort of the young men and women on the bus tour. I may not get much credit for the trek these last few days, but there sure is joy coming from the creative outlet.

But just to go back to the road for a few short blocks, I found a few moments to break from the fest-fever and head in the direction of the westerly sun. A man sped by on his bike and whipped around in a u-turn. In an excited French parlance, he just wanted to compliment on the colour of the clothes. It really seemed to charge his batteries.

All around the day was great. A lot of love came at me. The major chore was trying to calm the antsy legs during the six hour drive back to Toronto.

Oh! How I want to be on the road again - to smell the great air, strike adventure of a different kind and feel myself closer to the Main One!

6 Km

Sunday, 8 July 2012

40 years... and we’ve been smiling the whole time!

The past four decades have witnessed the Festival of India blossom into one of Toronto’s most dazzling, head-turning summer events. And this year the chariots and festivities roll into the city from July 14-15, 2012 – so be sure to mark your calendars and come visit the 40th Annual Festival of India (also known as Ratha-Yatra) for an unforgettable experience.

The event begins with a euphoric parade down world-famous Yonge Street (beginning at Bloor and continuing south to Queens Quay). The celebrations then shift to Centre Island for two days of festivities expected to draw close to 40,000 people.

The festival is open to the public and free for everyone. This year's attractions include a pre-festival launch party at Yonge-Dundas Square, a free vegetarian feast, an award-winning arts and culture show, Yoga Meltdown - a spiritual yoga festival, a South Asian Bazaar, and much more!

The special pre-festival launch party at Yonge-Dundas Square will take place on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.

The parade route and island festival grounds are all easily accessible by Toronto Transit.       


Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Tech and Trek
Montreal, Quebec
One young Belgian man came to Montreal to attend a religious conference. It was his first time to Canada and his first experience at the Ratha Yatra (festival of chariots) hosted by ISKCON. I had the good fortune to meet him and as I was speaking to him he gazed at the 40 foot dome of the chariot, at how the hydraulic motor was ascending.
"Does your group embrace technology?" He asked.
"Certainly, whatever can be utilized in God's service and as long as it is not harmful. But look at this... " I pointed to the two large ropes that people were pulling. "Here's something totally organic. This chariot could be powered by a motor and be mobilized like any other conveyance. But that would not be traditional. And everyone gets a chance to serve the passenger of the chariot- Jagannatha, a deity of Krishna. We always try to emphasize the simpler way of life where possible."
At the chariot event I also met a man who spent time in India from '62-'64 with the peace corps. He revisited in the 1990's and noticed a marked difference and said that the current boom in India is likely more a curse with its software technology.
"As its going" he said. "There's too much greed behind it like anywhere else in the world."
I always walk back to my accommodations from the festival for time to chant and wind down. It's a good 8-9 km. On Sherbrook street as I headed eastbound I met Andreas of Brazil. He is very familiar with the Maha Mantra. We exchanged words. I told him of my pilgrimages. It had him intrigued . Then he told me of his business and his survival enterprise. For 21 days he'll take clients into the Amazon without food or supplies and just depend on what nature provides.
Now there is a case for using little or no technology to get by with. I'm sure there's a little dependency on the Creator as part and parcel of the survival program. Such a program can't be all that bad.
15 Km

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Chanting and Being Young
Montreal, Quebec

Our youth bus tour group the Krishna Culture Festival, numbers at about 32. The average youth age us around 18 or 19. They are a well-behaved group who love kirtan, prasadam (blessed food) and each other. Sanga is a word that implies keeping good company. To clarify by the word good we mean "devotional'. The group enjoys the sanga.
As is the tradition here, a large chanting session comprised of our youth group hits St. Catherine's street the night before the Jagannath Chariot Festival. Every year this is said to be the largest jazz event in the world. Montreal is known to be a real party town and the Krishna devotees, our youth included, merge into the celebration mode but uniquely enjoy a good time without drinks and without eating animals.

What I find most interesting about this evening's chanting is that of the spectators who represent this cosmopolitan city a large percentage were middle-eastern folks.
People from Iran, Egypt and other such countries really delight in watching the youthful energy. In Washington the other day, July 4th, I had people of an Islamic background show great interest. And in Ottawa, on Canada's birthday it comes as a regular feature when devotees stage themselves near the war memorial. The Mid-east is strongly showing a presence at our display sight. They will stand for long periods listening to the maha-mantra.
There must be some piety in their karmic background and therefore they have some attraction. Perhaps their spiritual experience is of another approach and our lively way with young men drumming and young women dancing becomes a true drawing card. It's a pleasure to meet with them as I "work the crowd" so to speak. It's warm hand shakes and a good exchange of words that occurs while the chanting session goes on.
This brings me to a point I've made in the past, it's a special secret about feeling and staying young. Chant! Shine! Feel Young!
2 Km

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Cow Dung Walls
Manhattan, New York

The Big Apple is also getting baked. The heat wave persists. This wasn’t going to deter me though from walking a stretch. I borrowed a “sun-brella” and took to the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn. I feel both inspired and challenged at the same time whenever I cross this bridge. Taking the pedestrian route gives the sensation that you’re really moving. There’s motorist traffic a level above you and subway trains mobilized next to you. The Brooklyn Bridge is in the near distance. I can see it also being a dynamic mobility of humans.

Once I reached Manhattan and made a right at The Bowery, I took a few city blocks to finally turn at Houston eventually to 1st Avenue. I met a man with a cane and I asked him about the location of the Bhakti Centre. He wasn’t sure as he wasn’t from the area but he did volunteer to say what was troubling him. “I just came from the clinic and found out that I’ve got diabetes.”

I told him that walking would help substantially. “Yah know, you’re about the third person to tell me that today.” I told him of my cross-country walking. It inspired him. He certainly made me think of Mom who struggled with the disease but who seemed to lack the willpower to combat it. Since diabetes can be hereditary, I found my way to keep it at bay. Walk and pray. That’s how I parted on that message, “Walk! God bless!” I said to the man.

When entering the Bhakti Centre and, in particular, the 3rd floor where you find the temple, you no longer feel you’re in New York City. There are beautiful deities of Krishna. The walls have been smartly plastered by a mixture of cow dung. The colour looks great. It’s earthy, without scent and possesses a texture that looks so natural.

It was in this room that our Krishna Culture Festival group performed our first show. I was skeptical, admittedly so, with our inexperienced group. Much to my surprise, whatever time invested in the practices simply paid off. The audience loved it: the kirtan, the dance and our drama, “the Jagannatha Story”.

7 Km

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

I Found Myself

Washington D.C.

I found myself in the company of one of the most outstanding monks among my peers. Jayadvaita Swami, who hails from the New Jersey/New York area, came into devotional service, having met our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in the late sixties. He went into monastic life for the long haul, and has remained staunch and steady all this time. We shared the morning sadhana together, with five brahmacaris who are based out of Kansas city, and are basically travelling the US and Canada on the mission of sharing the message of Sri Caitanya. Sri Caitanya is a total initiator of what is now the popular practice of kirtan, chanting. I'm blessed to be in such company.

One thing that is for sure, spiritually, we all have no true designations except for being spiritual servants. When it comes to our physical existence, we generally affiliate ourselves with a town, a province, and a nation. But we are falsely Americans, Canadians, whatever. Yet we cannot deny that we have a physical connection to our birth place. With July the 4th being America's birthday, devotees of Krishna participate in the celebration of their land. The Independence Day Parade has accommodated our annual float, a temple on wheels, as the last feature of the event. I, along with Gaura Vani, led the group pulling the float in singing the maha-mantra. This is our contribution to the parade and the nation. As citizens, we feel of an obligation to return to the nation the best we have to offer. It is a beautiful option to beer and hamburgers. More kirtan went on prior to the evening fireworks. At least I felt that the chanting has more boost power than the temporary sparks in the sky. Hare Krishna.

4 Km

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Wake Up America

Potomac, Maryland

The ISKCON centre for the D.C. area is actually located in Maryland, in one of the richest neighbourhoods in America. Normally it is a very tranquil place, with forests and white-tailed deer. The last few days, with the power failure (we're on day four or five without electricity), each household (mansions rather) has secured a generator, a noisy contraption, just to keep things running. But we don't have one.

I checked one of the numerous golf courses nearby the renowned Congressional Golf Course where Tiger Woods just played. When it's pre-dawn time, the golf course is all yours. It's serene, except for the generators humming in the residential background. We are left to question, if America becomes exhausted with its energy, what will become of this civilization?

I spoke and spent time with one of ISKCON's members for a few hours in his air conditioned home. It seems like I'm also quite dependent on wanting some cool air. The member, Yash, lives on Prettyman Lane, not far from our centre. We chatted, not so about the energy crisis, but more about the impulsive shopping in the U.S., about loans and second loans, and expensive eating, greed and millions of bucks owed to china each day on debt interest. Where will this all go? Yash said clearly, "China owns America." I mentioned to Yash that perhaps the land of stars and stripes, and those people who live a similar kind of lifestyle, have lost the sense of value and discipline and are headed for collapse. American culture is the new Rome. It will crumble from within. The self-indulgence is in over-drive. Instead of "Good Morning America," it should be "Wake Up America."

This may sound like a fundamentalist whose got all the pat answers, but here it goes anyway. "Invest in your spiritual life and place priorities right." And here's another, "When do we stop pretending that everything's okay?"

Before the evenings rest, both Yash and I concurred that the wise use of money and keeping solid relationships are not taught in school, hence the coming generations are destined to fail. You have to ask, "What are the most important things in life to invest time in?"

6 Km

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I Flew
Washington, D.C.
I flew from one nation's capital to another's. In preparation for America's birth celebration, I was brought to D.C. for the 4th of July party. Our youth bus group is not yet prepared to present a show near Capitol Hill. Besides, with renovations on the grounds, all groups, secular or spiritual, who usually line-up their displays had to bow out this year. This will not stop our group from chanting through the crowds, as in Ottawa. We are also a recognized group to participate in the Independence Day Parade.

Heat is on all the more. The move from Florida to North Carolina and now to D.C. did not make a great difference weather-wise. The newest challenge is having no power to cool things down. Imagine no air conditioning or even fans to help ease soaring temperatures. Three days ago, a storm knocked out power lines. As a spiritualist, I should be shifting into the tolerance mode. "Be tolerant like a tree," Caitanya says.
This is a very likeable imagery, a concept to embrace. I look out at the trees at our location in Potomac, where we are accommodated (but are not powered) and I see what they are going through. The sun bakes these green giants and they say nothing. Kind that they are, they take the sun and provide us with shade.
There is something to be learned from this. Take a blow and offer a pat. Receive discomfort but give comfort.
Nature is our guru. There is much to be learned from the natural world. The reminders are always to enhance our spiritual life.

At the writing of this day's blog, I have not as of yet walked a mile (although the airport's interior had me take a distance, at this point it's zilch). I'll try to sneak in a late night trek.
0 Km

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Investing in the Capital

Ottawa, Ontario
Generous devotees had me come to Canada's capital for the 145th birthday of the nation. How we play and contribute into the party is, well, guess? Yes, we chant. Quite near to the large war memorial and the Parliament Buildings, is allocated an area for a humble stage and awning for us Hare Krishna's to hold kirtan, chanting. We go at vibrating Krishna's name for six hours at that spot, attempting to delight crowds. That we seem to accomplish. Phillip's lead guitar blends in to the chant so well.
A second instalment of kirtan chanting is less of a stationary approach. In fact, our enthusiastic group of chanters worked the crowds, so to speak, moving in a snake like fashion. The response was phenomenal. While going in motion we tended to collect more and more people. If I use the term "movers and shakers" in a colloquial way to describe such takers you would then appreciate that they were dancing up a storm.

In such instances I always feel a concern for such a build up of followers. With crowds on Sussex Drive near the Parliament, you can imagine the security that this event warrants. We will be chanting away, drums are beating, young folks shout a version of mantras. It escalates to a kind of frenzy. As we approach a group of police you can see the puzzle on their faces. They can see that we are stirring up excitement but that we are virtually harmless. So, they let us pass and do our thing.
Days such as this - a nation's birthday, or New Years Eve or the day your city wins the game - are times of crowd arousement. That's what we were happily caught in. We are there on a day off, on a day that is special to the public and when people may have downed a beer or two and put themselves in a temporary state of elation. We are there to deliver the mantra.

That's what I was saying at mantra intervals, "We are chanting mantras for the country. Mantras for the nation,"
10 Km


Saturday, June 30th, 2012

From Branches to Hanuman
Sandy Ridge, North Carolina
There were small winds that hit North Carolina leaving small and substantial branches on Sheppard Mill Road. I decided to walk that quiet road, and lucky for me, as midnight was approaching, the darkness of night was lit up sufficiently by the moon. Yes, indeed, it was a day where the sun was loathed and the moon was loved. Still temperatures were warm enough despite a breeze. The only thing that brought on a real chill were the dogs coming at me. Had it not been for one owner calling off two tough canines (species I don't know) I am not sure what may have happened. I can assure you though, that almost anywhere you trek in the world, dogs are a concomitant factor and 95% of them are harmless.
The night fell, and 5am brought on the mangal-arotik, a morning ritual of gratitude. Being the visiting monk, it became natural for a temple coordinator, Sivananda, to ask me to deliver the Bhagavatam message to the youth from our bus tour. In Canto 3, the child in the womb is described. Apparently, before birth the fetus can have a rather developed consciousness. In the verse, it spoke about the unborn child being known to share space in the womb with other living beings, usually of a more microscopic dimension. The Bhagavatam declares that the unborn child may even be very prayerful.
Somewhere in the discussion, and in the purport, it is described that the living being may have the good companion of clear consciousness. As it is stated in the Gita, the mind (or intelligence) could either be your best friend or worst enemy. Whether consciousness, intelligence, or mind, when on a good track they are your amigos. When they control you and you submit to them, then surely they are foe.
As a knife can be used favourably, as in cutting veggies, the instrument becomes positively useful. On the other hand, a knife could be used in a violent way to do harm. The criterion for success is in the proper usage of an instrument. Use the human body for self-realization purposes and you have hit the target.
Other lively moments for the day, well I visited the archives of our guru, his letters, publications, etc. The custodians of the archived material, Ekanatha and Nitya Tripta, are looking for successors to the preservational work. They have on their plates some work which is of an incredible inspiration.
What else? I was asked to do the voice-over for Hanuman, the character of "The Ramayana." In less than ten minutes Rangadevi, a devout Krishna follower, had me record the voice for the warrior for a project she's doing. It was a treat.
8 Km