Sunday, 30 September 2012

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Mantra and Marriage

Toronto, Ontario

One of our brahmacaris (monks) went through his full phase of trainng and after three and a half years of life in the celibate lane he now is married. Yogendra is from Halifax and spent his last few months with us in the Toronto ashram where he met one of the brahmacarinis (nuns) Rasa Mandali. They went through pre-marital counselling after mutually deciding on future partnership. In our tradition one doesn't usually remain single all his or her life even though life can be saturated in devotion.

We congratulate them both. I must say that the wedding of Yogendra and Rasa was a simple yet powerfully charmed event. Krsnanandini from Cleveland came up to emcee and to speak at the wedding.

That was our daytime pre-occuppier. The day fell and all youthful brahmacaris and lay persons went for an all-nighter. The Scotiabank of Canada sponsored Nuit Blanche, a 7 pm - 7 am downtown party of art expression. At a prominent indoor location at the heart of it all, Younge and Queen, people came in droves to witness our staged 'Eva Kevalam - Shifting Time and Space.' Basically it was a kirtan chanting session that we held with only the maha-mantra (which is actually the 'everything' in the mantra world) as the feature. By 1 am ten thousand people had come to view, listen and/or participate in the evenings popular program. The installation of 'Shifting time and space' incorporated two video projections: one from a heart rate monitor affixed to the lead performer, the second feeding from a thermal camera to display participants in real-time.

We thank Scotiabank for their smart and kind heart and for Nuit Blanche.

12 Km

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Outing

Campbelleville, Ontario

Sage, sweetgrass, white cedar and tobacco were the four plants held as sacred to the people of the longhouse at the Iroquois village near this town. Ten of us Krishna monks and nuns were learning about the ways of this village, now reconstructed, as it was five hundred years ago.

The tobacco was smoked from a pipe on occasion, by the men, held for some seconds and not inhaled, then released as smoke, which would rise, as a way to communicate with the creator.

Our tour guide, Carry, also mentioned that earth worms were brought to North America and that potatoes were indigenous to the Americas and transported to Europe. Also we sampled cornbread as the Iroquois prepared it. It was saturated in maple syrup, so naturally it was delicious and ready to die for.

Life in the longhouse was a sharing in experience; several families would live in one house and that would be for six months of the year during the chilly season. If you were 40 years old you would really be old and it was speculated that on the average, life expectancy for women was less as they would be more affected by the indoor smoke caused from the indoor fires. Blindness and cancers would be common in peoples lives. The diet of the folks was 80% vegetarian.

Our group also had the honour to conduct our own Pow Wow - but to the side, and to trek a stretch of the famous Bruce Trail, a trail not welcome to those with lazy feet as you'll be moving up and down with ancient rocks and roots exposed from the trees.

I had arranged this trip in order that our group of monastic devotees could learn something about another culture, that's number one. Secondly it is necessary to just 'get out' once in a while. Life in the ashram can be quite insular, a trite too much. And finally there was a need for us to create a day for sanga, association with each other as a group, which doesn't always happen. We walked, chanted and read from the book 'Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead' all with incredible delight.

9 Km













Saturday, 29 September 2012

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Ubuntu

Guelph, Ontario

"Ubuntu" is a South African word which can be defined as "connectedness." Reverend Marty, a very warm Christian minister conducts the initiative "Ubuntu" with objectives towards breaking down diverse faith barriers at the University of Guelph.

Myself and ISKCON reps like Mahabhagavata and wife Arusha, spent the entire day at this very cultural-friendly campus. We were hosted by Reverend Marty to chant at the student square and then to be part of a panel discussion with topic unity and diversity. Sikhism, Judaism, Sufiism, Christianism and Krishnaism were represented in a discussion involving student interaction.

"What is your take on being radical with your religion?" asked one student. Another asked about the concept of God. All panelists offered their perceptions. A Native chief, Tony, also spoke of Native spiritualism and gave reference to listening to country music early in the morning because the sound of birds and squirrels (his country music) is just too loud at that time of day. I was personally very impressed with the receptivity of the students.

Students purchased Gitas from the Krishna table and other BBT literature. Our contingent spent a whole day at the student square and when the program was casually terminated, our group took to trekking the local path at Aboretum Trails.

This was the perfect way to put a closure to our Guelph visit where hours were spent with beautiful young people. To wind down the mind and the body, we felt that our one hour amidst trees and bushes was the supreme environment for some japa mantras. We received a taste of ubuntu.

6 Km

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Satisfaction Verses

Toronto, Ontario

After a good trek along Dupont St., I indulged in reading some verses from the Bhagavad-gita which provided some inner encouragement. They have been translated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I wanted to share them with you all. Verses 2:64-70.

"But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control the senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord.

For one thus satisfied, the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such satisfied consciousness, one's intelligence is soon well established.

One who is not connected with the Supreme can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?

As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a person's intelligence.

Therefore, O mighty-armed, one whose senses are restrained from their objects is certainly of steady intelligence.

What is night for all living beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.

A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desire - that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires."

7 Km

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tuesday, September 26th, 2012

Keepin' Up!

Bramalea, Ontario

After a dental appointment (a teeth cleaning actually), I left the clinic to catch a taste of the outside air. There I waited for my ride. While sitting on a patch of grass, waiting, a Caribbean man was walking just about passed me when he noticed my garb and my chanting on beads. He stopped. It was good of him to say something in the midst of this busy plaza location.

"So you're keepin up the faith?" he asked in a certain tone and body language that I could recognize.

I sensed with that jargon and the initial impression he gave that a Christian lecture might be coming my way, which I just wanted to avoid. I decided to "head him off at the pass" in conversation and keep everything on a non-confrontational level and dodge a my-religion-versus-yours type of dialogue. I conjured up a remark, "Are you from Guyana or Trinidad?"

(I will not declare this strategy as a stroke of genius. Perhaps just some experience helps from time to time).

"Guyana," he said.

"Oh, I've been to Guyana, in fact I've walked it - the whole coast at one time, three years ago."

"Really," he remarked, being impressed.

"Yes, it's a beautiful country. And you're from there?" The conversation appeared to be steering in the right direction as I saw he was perked up. It was all pleasantries from here on, and we both "hit it on" from here.

"What faith?" he asked.

"Hare Krishna!"

We were both so warmed up from the experience of our word exchange which went so well. No need to sermonize each other. I thought we championed a true Christianizing and Krishna-izing through friendship. It became a spiritual exchange instead of walking up against the Great Wall of China. We bid our farewells and both proceeded in "keepin' up the faith," I believe.

Then my ride came.

9 Km

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The Mind and What to Do?
 
Toronto, Ontario
 
A most common question comes to me in my travels. It came just yesterday once again. "What to do with the mind?" Actually, it came as two questions: "How to control it?" For those who understand its wild side through watching it perform, it can be most entertaining.  It jumps around from room to room, country to country and then country to country. Or perhaps another way to describe it is to consider it like a monkey in a tree sweeping and leaping from limb to limb and acting in utter goofiness.
 
As I sit by a desk in a chair, my mind springs from office wall to an open road or trail. "That's where I wanna be now," are my thoughts. And yet I know that through the avenue of discipline I must take that crazy mind and drag it back to the office for administrative obligations. The mind must be teamed up with intelligence.
 
To answer the question(s) of the person who so much yearns for concentration, focus, I refered to the Gita wherein the speaker, Krishna, spoke of the mind as cancalam - fickle, restless. The mind needs some space but limit it. The mind needs a leash but make it a short one. It's a rascal and is best in a cage where it's safe. "Wherever it wanders, bring it back under the control of the self," says Krishna. You can't change its nature but you can influence it. Lock it in a room, in a spiritual environment. it may gravitate to the gutter. When it does go there, grab it and wash away the filth. Harness it. Calm it down. Immerse it in love, in Krishna. Let it be entertained by Him.
 
5 Km

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Pump Up

Winnipeg/Brampton

At the ticket counter for West Jet in Winnipeg I was a little anxious. I ran tight for time for the flight enroute to Toronto. The young fellow arranging my boarding pass assured me that I'll be fine. In his friendly tone he asked, "Are you from Toronto?" I answered. Then he asked, "What brought you to Winnipeg?"

"I'm in the progress of walking across Canada and just finished the mid-way point."

The guy was fascinated and then asked, "What's it for?"

"To encourage pilgrimage and walking culture. Like the Camino in Spain. I wish we could have trails and an infrastructure like that in Canada," I said.

He continued, "Well, do you have any designated routes in mind for Canada where pilgrimage could take place?"

"Hmmmmmmmm! You've given me something serious to think about." And think I did. As I made my way to the gate I felt hopeful and optimistic for the completion of the walk to come next spring. Maybe I could put more definitively in my mind the routes that I thought might work. Perhaps not the whole country but some pieces here and there could work. I recall talking to my dear Godsisters Yamuna (before she passed away) and Dina Tarine on this point of identifying some locations that might be pilgrimage-friendly and start talking up some possibilities with people. What immediately comes to mind is our indigenous people and the great communication I had with them on this summer's walk and in particular the last stretch. They have shown so much enthusiasm.

When I returned to Brampton/Toronto area after landing, I spoke with a young chap who works at the Chrysler plant. The figure he gave me is that each working day 500 cars are produced at the rate of one a minute. If it's true for one factory in Canada, then what of the cumulative amount and the impact that has on the globe. To me its a case of wheels versus feet. Which will win out?

We need to pump up the pilgrim culture. I say it emphatically.

5 Km

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Feelin' Great!

Stuartburn, Manitoba 
 
I have two good reasons for feeling great. First of all today is the anniversary of the birth of Sr Radha, the divine consort of Krishna and the ultimate Goddess. Secondly momentous for me and my travelling support companion as we had reached our target of the centre of Canada at its longitudinal meridian. This marks the end of the first half of walk #4. It is like shooting a score or making a touchdown. This was at junction highways 201 and 59. Just minutes away from this point, Chris from the Steinbeck Carillion newspaper came to capture the moment. He had asked Daruka, Doug and I to pose for the photo on the Roseau River Bridge. And so we did, with smiles, I hope.
 
All in all, we see this walking venture as a service to humanity. With it we are encouraging the "natural" movement of humans in the safest and surest way possible - on foot. Doug and I can say that the geese are flying south for their migration - with hopeful success. I cannot say the same destiny is so for the garter snakes which seem to be plentiful in Manitoba. Their migration is much like the wildebeast in Sarengeti, Africa, when crocodiles capture their meal in motion as the herd crosses the river. Out slithery snakes are having challenges like that crossing the road because of the weighty wheels of the cars.
 
To overcome challenges in this age (and that we have, in all complexity) we humans can better equip and prepare ourselves through chanting. For our moontime festival in honour of Radha, held at the ISKCON centre in Winnipeg we put emphasis on this, the chanting as a way to deal with issues of the day. A few of us shared this age-old process at The Forks, the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, with the public who stroll along pining for inner peace.
 
Today's trek, golden as it was for the two reasons mentioned before, is dedicated to godbrother Kala, who resides in British Columbia, and who is going through some hospital treatment.
 
18 Km

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Friday, September 21st, 2012


Madhavi, The Wind and the creek
Vita, Manitoba
Today’s walk goes to Madhavi, a gentle soul who finds herself in hospital for treatment. She played a role in one of the dramas I directed, “Sati”. She gave it her all. Now she needs some help and prayer. A mantra will do for calling on inner strength for her, Hare Krishna.
Regarding my trekking today, whatever physical strength carried me was fueled by the crispness in the air and then the gusty wind to follow. Doug, who’s 69, is a real trouper, fighting the wind just as I am. He put under his feet 24 Kms, and no complaints. At one point as he remained on the Highway, Highway 201, I paralleled his footsteps by walking the dried up creek running alongside the road. This location helped cut the wind and it gave me a new challenge. It reminded me somewhat of my blazing the trail in Israel last year – sand and rocks. It was uneven and rivaled the general prairie flatness. Incidentally this area, especially in the Piney municipality, we find some of the best water in the world. Rain, snow and the like filters through the sandy soil and leaves an incredible pure tasting water. According to Daruka, Donald Trump gets his water from the springs in this south eastern Manitoba region.
Doug and I walked through some Ukranian communities, including Sundown and Vita. Although a little human interaction occurred today, it was an Ojibwe person and an elder who slowed down their vehicle after noticing me for a second time on the road. Instantaneously he could comprehend our walking mission and the purpose behind it. He said confidently, “This is what my people have been doing for centuries. You see, we don’t really need these,” as he banged on the steering wheel. He implied that the automobile has spoiled his people and in general, the human race. Srila Prabhupada, our guru, was also highly critical of the car culture and other machinery invented. Since technology is what it is, and having an all pervasive presence in today’s world, then let it be utilized for the purpose of generating a spiritually based world.
Our day ended at the home of Leonard and Rameshni, who arrived originally from South Africa to Winnepeg some years back. We had delicious prasadam (food blessed by Krishna), it was tummy friendly. To really put the day to a full circle situation, Vrinda, the mother of hospital bound Madhavi, was also there to enjoy the prasadam with us.
30 Km

Thursday, September 20th, 2012


In God’s Wildness
Piney, Manitoba
“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great un-blighted, unredeemed wilderness.” - John Muir.
This is a quote I picked up yesterday when I read it from a picture depicting bison in the snow’s wonder. I found it so applicable to the feeling and belief that spurs me while viewing nature’s beauty around me.
Today off Highway 12, and then Highway 201 I have pine, tamarack, and poplars in the foreground of the dramatic sky of clouds. It’s awesome.
Doug, my walking partner for the day, and I, dove into a piece of that nature for a rest by the grassy side of the road. We knew that our lying there would attract some attention. We were genuinely tired. The prairie wind and coolness will do it to you. Concerned motorists pulled over to ask, “Is everything alright?” Then two Mounties, while off duty, stopped, flashed their badges and asked about our walking by the road.
Doug and I as part of our route hung a left and then an immediate right to take the most direct westerly road which is Highway 201. This is truly a shanti road, shanti meaning peaceful. We clocked it about 1 vehicle about every 20 minutes. That’s remote. As the day passed and night slipped in our venue, Our Lady of Perpetual Help church conducted an interfaith session in Winnipeg. Diverse faiths participated and presented their various moods and approaches to the absolute. One song was presented, “May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You”, and one stanza goes like this:
May you walk with sunlight shining,
And a bluebird in every tree
May there be a silver lining
Back of every cloud you see.
As guest of honour I was asked to come forward with a blessing for the group. I led all in a bhajan meant for protection from worldliness, greed, anger and excessive lust. We will appeal to God in the form of a divine magnanimous lion, Narasingha. The session was very participatory. All presenters at the occasion did splendid. The dialogue and the listening to each other is most healing and reassuring. I dedicated today’s trek to dear Godbrother, Yasomatinandan of Ahmadabad.
32 Km

Wednesday, Septemer 19th, 2012

Somewhere Under The Rainbow
 
Sprague, Manitoba
At the Manitoba/Minnesota border Middlebro, the two officers at this customs place were absolutely shocked to see me approaching their office. One uniformed person came out with hands on hips, then a second.
“What’s going on?” says one officer as if an alien descended from the sky.
“I’m a monk and I’m in the middle of the country on foot starting from Newfoundland. My purpose? To promote pilgrimage.” That softened the two tough looking officers, actually they were women.
After the handshakes I turned to head west. A rainbow greeted me. It was a perfectly defined striped bow in the sky and I happened to walk right under it’s highest point, in other words, in the middle. It was interesting to receive that welcome and in the village of Middlebro (hey, I’m a middle bro).
The bow dissolved under a deep blue Krishna tint of clouds; then it reappeared but only to flaunt its last pride for the day.
I read signs along the way that say, “No Hog Factories in Rural Municipality of Piney”. People don’t want the pig run off into their water systems. They are fed up.
A farmer’s dog came to join me for quite some time. I gave him a mantra to hear, Hare Krishna. After some time my loveable friend got taken by the owner in his pick-up truck.
“I meant nothing at all,” I said, “the dog just kept following me.”
“No problem,” said Corey, the young farmer, who is in the middle of a soybean harvest. Doug, who is 69 from Winnipeg came to join me along with Daruka. We meandered at Buffalo Point Park. Here you see no buffalo, but deer galore. What a great time with these bros walking within the forest cutting ourselves from the harsh and rainy prairie wind. Our evening was spent at 108 Chestnut Street, the ISKCON centre for chanting and walk talking. I just wanted to give the group a taste of what a wandering mendicant goes through in the modern age.
22 Km

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Another Personal Landmark

Rainy River, Ontario
This was a landmark day because it’s the day that our feet carried us to the finish line of the province of Ontario. It had been a good period moving along this long stretch of territory during the summer of 2012. Did I say summer? Well, perhaps that period is over. Temperatures are dropping to the near freezing point at night and my fingers felt it as I was walking during the sun’s rising.
Cathy Caul of confederation college arranged for Daruka and I to speak to her students at lunch hour. They are studying social services. I guess from her perspectiuve the idea was to expose the students to a monk who’s walking for the wellbeing of others, and that might add a little extra depth to their studies. She graciously arranged lunch for all during my presentation which included mantra meditation. Of course, Billy the Parrot was a hit with the young adults there.
From the college Daruka and I drove to the location of yesterday’s yet-to-do lengths of Highway 11 – a mere 7 Kms which terminates at the town of Rainy River and whose waters separate Canada from the US. I personally walked the last step to the customs office to shake hands with the officers and inform them of the feat taken.
One mention though about a stopover; before touching the Ontario/Minnesota border, Daruka and I made a detour at Emo to visit Issiah Wildneress centre. There we met Michale Shriver who’s known as the Gentle Bear Man. The man is remarkable. The furry creatures love him. The place is like a sanctuary for black and brown bears. I counted one dozen young and adult bears, playing, climbing, feeding, and enjoying in their natural setting. And it’s true, they eat right out of your own hand with no barrier between you and the mammal. We were in awe. Whatever little phobia I had about these guys I dropped when two full grown bears came to devour sugar buns from our hand to their mouth.
It was magic.
17 Km

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Monday, September 17th, 2012

 Inspired to walk the Camino
 
Pine Wood, Ontario
 
A letter came in from a Chris Andrews. Here it is:
 
Hi,
 
You are awesome. Over the last five years, when I was told of a pilgrimage called the Camino Santiago, I often joked about doing it. That started to slowly change over the last five years, for I am starting to plan to do it likely in 2014 if I'm lucky.

I saw an article about you in my local newspaper, and I agree with your comment about being boxed up. I'm not a religious man,
but I would like some spiritual connection to this planet. I could go on all day about my reasons and choice for the Camino. It feels right to do what others have done for over a thousand years. It is safe. There is good infrastructure to support its pilgrims. I've also never been
overseas. The pilgrimage is starting to gain popularity again. Your efforts will be noticed. People are going to realize that we need to consume less and love more.
 
Safe journey!
Thank you Chris for the encouraging words.
 
I received in less words (and on the road) the same kind of kindness from an elderly gentleman who remembers me from 2003. He offered me juice and a congratulations. James, a drug councillor, also pulled over for more dialogue. The policy of give and take is always a real dialogue. It is reflective of a remark by sage Rupa Goswami who expressed in Sanskrit dadhati prati grhnati (give and receive).
 
Here's where the day got the greatest. At Little Beaver Cultural Centre in Fort Francis, Jenny had arranged, quite spontaneously, a gathering of people from her mailing list. It was a wonderful experience having people chant. But, earlier in the day we spent an equal amount of time at Jackie's home for the most casual interview for a newspaper. That was in Rainy River. Her opening question was, "What's it like living in a monastery?" The conversation took off from there. She and her daughter were so hospitable.
 
30 Km

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Consistent Sun
 
Emo, Ontario
 
The consistent sun and still air has made the project of walking so appealing in this central part of the country. What also has made this feeling of contentment more aggrandizing is the positive public response. People that I meet remark: "I saw you the other day!"; "I heard about 'cha;" "I seen ya walkin' Eh;" and, "Everybody's talking about you!" Those are the kind of sunshine remarks that are coming.
 
Aaron, of North Bay, is part Ojibwe and is taking law in school hoping to reintroduce traditional law policies for the First Nations people. An even younger Aaron, led Daruka and I to the town of Stratton where huge burial mounds are located. These sacred mounds are the remains of hundreds of years of ancestors. It was awesome to be there and honour those souls of the past. Older Aaron and I were comparing notes of the ways of the Ojibwe and the Vedas of India. The use of herbs are stunningly similar. Young Aaron's granddad Willy Wilson was our lively tour guide. There was a mutual willingness to hear from each other culturally about the way things are done.
 
By the time we saw these sights, I had covered 20 kilometres on foot. During that walk, I met one of the organizers of the world renowned Terry Fox Run Research for Cancer. Daruka and I had intended to participate in the run. I came in to register somewhat late, but I got my five kilometres in. This was followed by a luncheon at the Methodist church. Daruka and I came in along with Billy the parrot perched on his shoulder. Those who were present were delighted. We were introduced to all the runners and walkers. A round of applause came upon us after I mentioned that it would be a good idea to bring back to focus the ancient way of the ancestors - pilgrimage. We were received with warm hearts. And, we enjoyed eating what we could with the people in the hall.
 
Daruka and I departed for our booked room, and as I turned the corner the driver was an old friend, general surgeon, who was as shocked as I was to see each other. He moved to Fort Francis three months back. This encounter just added to the appealing nature of the area.
 
30 Km
Elder Willy Wilson, our tour guide at the sacred Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung (Place of the Long Rapids) burial mounds, near Stratton, Ontario
 
Willy's grandson, Aaron, our tour driver
 
The luncheon after the Terry Fox Memorial Walk in Fort Frances
 
 
 

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Smoking Away

Fort Francis, Ontario
Melissa saw me last week near Thunder Bay, and now she saw me again. The Boston Pizza employee was so wanting to know, so she stopped and asked, "What do you believe? What is your concept of sin?" I recall our guru, Srila Prabhupada, having looked at that word "sin". It is traced back to an old German word "upsunder" meaning to break away. Sin then, means to break away from dharma, the path, or turning away from God. Pulling out of grace, or in other words, acting irresponsibly.
 
"We look at the damage done to the environment. That's sin isn't it?" She had to agree. "Greed is sin. Ghandi, spoke of need and greed - two different things. And these days we are full of greed." As a global race, we have definitely shifted from the need to the greed.
 
Melissa is a Christian believer, she also believes in being open-minded. That was so much appreciated.
 
I walked through Couchiching, Fort Francis and Alberton. At Couchiching, where I took a break, a cultural Native event took place. People were really smoking away. In the Rainy Lake area, wild rice grows in abundance. Now, under the bright Indian summer sun, Daruka and I watched the traditional method of husking the wild rice and roasting the kernels. It was definitely a labour-intensive program. In my opinion, wild rice is the best tasting rice. This social event opened the doors to new opportunities for Daruka and I, as we mingled with the Ojibwe and the whites. One great moment came from reading a statement on Alex's T-shirt. It read: "If you want to know the land, then you walk it."
 
30 Km
Fort Frances campground- home for the night
 
The Walking Monk, Daruka + Billie entering fort Frances, Ontario
 
Wild rice preparation the traditional Ojibway way at Couchiching Reserve by Fort Frances
 
Couchiching council member Alex's shirt rings a bell with the Walking Monk
 
Alex's mother Dorothy + the Walking Monk inspect the wild rice
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Misty

Rainy Lake, Ontario
The night was cold, but I didn’t feel it. I was snug and warm in my sleeping bag until I exited the tent. A mist so thick slammed to my body with a chill. I knew it was temporary though. From the walk up to the hill where the shower room is located, the sky could be seen with piercing stars.
It wasn’t until 3 hours later at 8 am on Highway 11 that the low fog lifted revealing the colours of fall. With eyelashes collecting some dripping fog. My eyes welled with joy at seeing this joy. How to describe this artistry! I rarely cry at the sight of such vibrancy. My heart warmed.
When I reached a panoramic vista at the east of Rainy Lake, so close at the cliff’s edge, four eagles dispersed in flight at the sound of my feet. Then a 5th terminated his perched pose to do the same, “I’m sorry to scare you.”
I had been wearing my safety vest, a luminescent orange vestment, a present from my sister, Roseanne. Of course, that was it, these foul detected the colour first, it wasn’t the sound of my feet. Come to think of it, I not only wear this vest to be seen by motorists through the mist, but I also get a chance to feel like I’m one of them, people in the forestry hunting, fishing, all wear such vests. The idea is to blend in. When in Rome do as the Romans do.
Cathy Aness, the yoga teacher, stopped to talk. Cathy Caul, a confederation college teacher also stopped.
Randy of CFOB, The Border Radio Station, recorded my story for broadcast on Monday, and Heather from The Fort Frances Times came out to see me at Pithers Point Park for their publication. In fact the response in Fort Frances (population 8000) situated on Rainy Lake was phenomenal. The well known French explorer, LaVerendrey, who came here during the heyday of the fur trade, and seeking a special travel route to the west, would be surprised to see development today. In those days canoeing was the mode of travel. I wonder if he would take kindly to the gas guzzling of now. Would he have believed that people in the future would cycle or walk across this incredible stretch.
The other day, Daruka and I took a 3.8 km trail off the highway. This was a little closer to what it used to be like. We moved through moss, dry ground, wet ground, over rocks and fallen trees, and through uncut plant life. This was a sample of the austerity of days gone by. Incidentally we had no hassle with bugs. The weather is too cool. The major pests to deal with were the little demons within.
35 km
Chipmunk who didn't even make it halfway across highway
 
Randy at Border radio in Fort Frances interwiew
 

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

On Both Sides of Me

Mine Centre, Ontario
I have jack pine, black spruce, birch, some maple, and more trees on both sides of me. The road is solid with few cracks in it. Wild life leaves there stool samples to the edge of it. I can sort out the bear dung, the rest could be fox, wolf or coyote. I believe I see every piece of feces common to this area, except for moose and deer droppings. In any event, the highway is someone’s idea of a toilet.
I reflected on last evening’s event. I took a second installment of trekking when I met Wandering Thunder, that’s the name of a local Ojibwe. His wife and whole family were in the vehicle sitting at ease, but when they heard their dad talking to a wandering mendicant, or rather, a monk, the boys in particular got excited. While we busied ourselves in taking photos alongside the road, a motorist pulled over inviting me to a Mennonite church service. I accepted. When Wandering Thunder bid me farewell, he remarked, “The Ojibwe had powerful legs and feet, they had to catch their animals, eh?”
Daruka and I sat in at the Christian service, more of a prayer/discussion session really. The congregants sat in pews, men to the right, women to the left. They spoke mostly from Revelations about the other world, how to perceive the angels? Are beasts actually in heaven? Are there babies or the aged situated in Heaven? They pondered these interesting points. Then some prayers were conducted to honour any recent deceased in the community and also for those struggling in life, as well as a mention of a family parting their own ways.
The group was totally gracious dealing with Daruka and I, and they were reciprocally wanting to know about our pilgrimage.
At 1:10 pm I have a presentation to students at Mine Centre School, grades 5 to 8. They were all indigenous kids. They liked chanting. I relayed to them how you might think of yourself as Ojibwe or Cree or Mowhawk, but ultimately we are none of these, “We are spirits.” The kids had lots of questions. As a gift from the school Daruka and I received a harvest of fresh veggies and fruits set in an ornamented box. Nothing is better, especially when it comes from the garden. Thanks, Jen. I’m certain there are angels on earth.
31 Km
Daruka + Billie at Bliss Cabins campground
 
 Young fox on Highway 11 by Mine Center
 
Mine Center School talk
 
 
 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Near Death

Flanders, Ontario
 
John is fortunate to be alive today. Daruka and I heard his story. He had come up from Madison, Wisconsin, to go canoeing in the area. Just last Friday, while I was trekking highway 11, John was in the canoe on a lake when he stretched out to collect some water and the boat tipped over. John landed in the water, holding onto the capsized canoe. He struggled to stay afloat - an ordeal that went on for one hour, then two, going on three. The water was chilling his bones. Luckily, he had a whistle. He blew it. Some canoers, from quite a distance heard it. The family who heard it paddled to the scene. He was safe now, and taken to land. His clothes stripped, he was laced in a warm sleeping bag until an emergency helicopter came to his aid. He almost died. He described to us that he was very accepting that he was going to go for good. "I felt bad that I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to my family." He also mentioned that he felt it was a divine act when those canoers came.
 
John was telling us this in the pool room/bar at the Atakokin hotel. It was by a fluke that we met John. Daruka and I decided to take a room in the hotel, as it was cheaper than a camping spot. In these areas, camping is restricted because people are generally irresponsible with camp fires. Otherwise we would have so many choices in which to pitch a tent in this land of wilderness.
 
Bob Davidson was a gentleman shooting pool. When he heard I had checked into the hotel, he asked to see me. As former mayor of Atakokin, and a retired forest ranger, Bob had much experience with life skills. He sat with Daruka, John and I. He had this inquisitiveness about the walk. It was an unusual setting for me in particular. A monk in a bar? There were a few people there, they were respectful. Bob and John were keen to have the maha-mantra in their hands as we shared it with them and the meaning behind "Hare," "Krishna" and "Rama." Our discussion was a good one, over the topics of social issues, forests and philosophy.
 
Stephanie and (another John) were owners of the hotel. She was a darling of a lady. Daruka captured her on camera making perogies. All the people of the hotel were such fine folks, and they were so good to us.
I had been contemplating on the previous nights' experience with these beautiful and real people while on my walk today. I was so calm inside, I even napped so well on one of those massive rocks that you find on the Canadian shield on the road. There was soft moss around me and I was keeping clear of a hard wind. Physically, I was gone, but mentally I was calm.
 
I believe that its better to have physical strain and a relaxed mind than physical comfort and an agitated mind.
 
40 Km
The 'Walking Monk' with John from Wisconsin and the ex-mayor of Atikokan at the Atikokan Hotel
 
Stepahanie, owner of the Atikokan Hotel, (and her dog Sidney) making perogies

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Towns - I Love Thee!

Atakokin, Ontario

This RV (residential vehicle) took off on the side of the road, just a few metres in front of me near Quetico park. As I proceeded on foot, I naturally came close to this conveyance, which had tagged on it "Canada Dream." The front end of it had some bodies stuck to it. Three people emerged from this rather spiffy looking vehicle. They are a support group for 26 cyclists moving across Canada. It is a program sponsored by Sears department store. In a few days, they will have completed 6000 kilometres, for the purpose of raising awareness for cancer. One of the supporters explained about the bodies in the front. "They are bugs that come from as far as British Columbia," she joked. I was as thrilled to meet the cyclist team, as they were with me. When I mentioned to them the purpose of my walk, that it was to raise awareness for the disease called ego, it seemed to resonate with them.
 
"You're doing this for a spiritual purpose, of course," said one of the fellows. "There are a lot of egos in this world," confirmed the other person.
 
"Some consciousness raising is necessary," I suggested.
 
They went on their way, and one other local person pulled over out of curiosity. I shared with him the mantra that accompanies me always. He classified himself as a hunter and a fisherman. The reason why he stopped was he was dying to know if I was for real. "Yes, I'm a monk." We talked, we shared. After he left, he turned around his truck to meet me one last time for one last comment wishing me well. Meat eating folks can be very decent people. They are currently in the majority, but in the future, perhaps the minority.
 
Little Falls, was an ideal spot for a dip in the water. It was also a great place for preparing a grainless meal to honour the Ekadasi, a fort-nightly day for soul healing. People kept coming and going to see the water wonder. And, in the course of it, they happened to stumble across Daruka, Billy the parrot, and myself. Michael, from the "Atakokin Observer," walked all the way from his work spot to see us. That was commendable. A great guy. And there were more. I will not be able to recall the number of people I met in this small town of three thousand. They were very easy to approach. They are very isolated, and were very taken by seeing something different - a monk.
 
Atakokin - I love thee!
 
Here is a quote from Socrates: "Unexamined life is not worth living."
 
28 Km
 
Billie takes over the driving
 
Meeting Cancer Fundraising cyclists support crew
 
The 'Walking Monk' with John from Wisconsin and the ex-mayor of Atikokan at the Atikokan Hotel
 
Stepahanie, owner of the Atikokan Hotel, (and her dog Sidney) making perogies
 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Monday, September 10th, 2012

That is the Idea

Crystal Lake, Ontario

I had begun the day early as usual. It seemed the road was curved to run directly underneath the Milky Way. It was awesome. You have the road under your feet, and above you, way above, is a luminous bar of heavenly bodies. As lightness proceeds from the sun, there are bald eagles, turkey vultures, partridges and gray jays. Park rangers told Daruka and I of the lynx spotted in the area and as I mentioned yesterday, that Mama bear and cubs jay-walked the highway, today it was Papa bear that came across. He was a walker.

Wildlife is one of the remarkable visions to be seen in this North-West of the province. Be assured they also have people here who are friendly. I was determined to see if the christian woman I met nine years ago, running the convenience store, was still around. Indeed she was, tending to the store. She remembers me as well. I believe we were able to bridge gaps this time around, despite our different approaches to spirituality.

One gentleman, a cottager from the area said, "Just by seeing you on the road, you're making people think."

"That is the idea behind this walk," I remarked while traffic passed by. The majoriyty of motoroists here appear to be fisherman, hunters and canoers. Like anyone, they are also compelled "to think."

My final leg of the day's walk was in the country's canoe capitol, Atikokan. My first impression of the town was that it looked a little run-down. But that opinion changed once I moved around in it. I started "to think" differently once I met the people. It's always a favorable thing to do - "to think" - to have your mind at work, especially if you can rap the mind around the spiritual elements. As humans, that is our great worth - to contemplate what is spiritual.

37 Km
A walker's enemy
 
Crystal Beach Campground
 
Dead fox
 
Little Falls in Atikokan
 
 

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Out In Nowheresville

Euronium, Ontario

Once again I'm King of the road. Highway 11 is a road less travelled. I see no buildings; there are few human-made landmarks to the exception of the Arctic water shed sign that reads that we are 1640 ft above sea level, and where waters at this point flow North and not East. The landmarks in this area are natural markers - trees and certain rocks, certain shaped lakes that are all distinct from each other. A certain bend in the road could also be a definitive landmark. It's all just natural raw beauty. Hardly touched by humans.

A couple stopped, pulled over and started to talk. They had read about my trek in the paper. They informed Daruka and I that there is no real town Euronia: two or three houses maybe. Once it was a major railway stop, as every 60 kilometres or so the locomotive had to stop for some kind of refeuling.

The couple remembers seeing Krishna monks in Amsterdam, years ago. They were surprised to see me in Nowheresville! The gentleman said, "These trees and plants and rivers and lakes really speak to me." How right he is. They are all living organisms afterall.

Daruka and I left for Kakabeka falls for a picnic/chanting session with our community members, including Chuck and Roberta who drove four hours from Deluth. What does anybody know about Deluth? As far as I know, it's claim to fame is that Bob Dylan came from around there. Daruka's cousins also joined in for the gathering.

Oh! Talking of family, I don't want to sound too redundant on bear topics, but Daruka and I witnessed a family, Momma and three cubs, crross the road in front of us. Oh! They would have liked our picnic - food that was rich and tasty. Above all it was prasadam, food prepared and offered with bhakti, devotion.

27 Km

Talking to dutch couple on Hwy. 11
 
4 bears by Shebandowan
 
Discovery Wilderness Centre cottage
 
Sunrise on the lake

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

I Carried the Can
 
Kashabowie, Ontario
 
I carried a can. It was empty. Of course, I had eaten the contents. It was peanuts and cashews, a common snack for hikers. It certainly is my brand of trail mix.
 
I carried this can for some distance, some kilometres. There's a reason for that: I don't like to do what I see other's doing. Some people so carelessly toss Tim Horton's coffee cups out of their window. I don't like to do that. It may have looked like this can I was carrying resembled a begging bowl. So be it. It could possibly be part of a monk's regalia. It doesn't really matter what it looked like to the motorist. This can served its purpose, and as a personal policy, I will wait until I meet Daruka who will save it and deposit it to a recycling bin when he gets a chance.
 
At a side road off highway 11, which is my trail for several days, was this curious red fox. But in the end, he wasn't really interested in me, or my can, nor were the many chipmunks who made squeaking sounds like crazy, with their cries announcing my intrusion. I envy these guys; there life seems to be quite free of worries. There life is simple: they carry no shopping bags, carts, crates, bins or cans for their carrying purposes. Everything is done with their teeth. They take only what they need for food and winter storage. How lucky and how free!
 
In the afternoon, Daruka and I went back to the city after walking through true tranquillity. Helen has a yoga studio, wherein 40 people came for kirtan chanting. That's impressive because it was publicized at a last minutes notice. And while the One to whom we offered these mantras, enjoyed, we (the chanters) also enjoyed singing Hare Krishna. People offered donations. Shucks, I should have used the can!
 
Our evening was well arranged for accommodations. Dan, whom I met a few days before, informed me of his wilderness discovery resort. With excellent lodging facilities over Lake Shebandawan. Out of the goodness of his heart, and that of his partner Wanda, we were comfortably set in cabin three, with no charge.
 
We call this service - devotional service.
 
30 Km

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I Open the Door
 
Shebandawan, Ontario
 
I open the door to a starry sky, when condensation caused a dripping from Daruka's car. Days are warm, while nights are cool, which accounted for a similar drip from our hosts' eavestrough. I waited outside the home of our accommodation at Dr. Jani's house until Daruka appeared to drive me to the place of the previous day's finish line.
 
September is the best month for trekking. Today it warmed up to about 20 degrees Celsius. Kids are waiting by the road for the school bus pick-up. Traffic moves north and south on this stretch of the highways 11 and 17 merger.
 
A local TV broadcaster came to film and interview me. She expressed off-camera how she really believes in the meditative walk. She runs everyday to have time for herself. I gave her a mantra card, letting her know that this is the mantra that I chant while stepping along across this vast land.
 
At a convenience store where they sell salt and sugar goods, I popped into this isolated place to meet Daruka who was parked there. The store owner, a woman, mentioned she saw me earlier on the road. "You're a real head-turner. I was driving and I couldn't believe that I saw a monk." She was friendly, and I guess you could say eligible to receive our complimentary book Chant and Be Happy by BBT books.
 
Before a second and third installment of walking today, Daruka took me down this abandoned logger's road as the quiet place to nap. It was a good three kilometres back to the main road trekking through an area of deforestation. Not all that you see along the main highway tells the truth. Tucked away in behind the tourists' eyes are hectacres and hectacres of ravaged forest.
 
A major highlight for the day was being pursued by a group of young teens. Dr. Jani and I were walking along the park on Riveria Road when these young fellows spotted us. The robes I wore drew their attention. They ran to us, and they were inquisitive like anything. When they asked, "Are you a monk?"
 
"Yes I am - all of me," I said.
"We've never met one before. Can we take our picture with you?"
 
"Sure."
 
I admitted to them that I know no martial arts, although friends of mine do.
 
"I teach mantra-meditation," I told them, and they understood that it was for inner peace. I shared the maha-mantra with them. They went on their way. That was fine.
 
Dr. Jani and I then spotted a bear next to a stream. Within the Thunder Bay city limits was this furry guy. I stared at him and he at me. He turned the other way and dashed off. He was not ready to receive the mantra.
 
39 Km

Friday, 7 September 2012

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Souls that Came
 
Murillo, Ontario
 
Susanne DuBeau was the first person to talk to me today. I moved with a steady stride along Alder Road toward Murillo when Susanne pulled over with her Canada Post vehicle. In a sense, we were playing leap-frog with each other. She would drive past me and then stop at one of those outdoor post box stations, slide mail into individual post boxes. At this point, I passed her until she drove to the next station. In this way the procedure went on.
 
Labelled on the side of her van was a pitch for surrendering to Jesus. When I first read that I thought, "Oh Boy, here we go - an attempt at trying to convert me." But now, Susanne was sweet. She offered a ride which I naturally could not accept. We chatted, and I surmised that, yes she was the real thing, she was being like a real Christian - friendly and kind, and like her name implies, beau means beautiful. She is a beautiful soul.
 
The next souls to see me were suspicious ones. They were two officers, slightly apologetic upon seeing me, the one policeman said, "Now theres a situation here were someone called in saying you were an escapee from the nearby youth correctional services. They all wear orange, you see!"
Thunder Bay Police pull over suspected escapee
 
I could not contain myself from laughter, "The last time I came to the Thunder Bay hospital area, someone spotted me walking and called the police under the suspicion that I was a patient, taking off with some hospital bedsheets (referring to my robes)." At that stage, the two cops could also not contain themselves from knee-slapping laughter.
 
I met another soul who happened to be walking pass the police and I. He was an older soul - or at least his body - who dedicates 2 kilometres to walking. I caught up to him after the police departed. I told him of my cross-nation pilgrimage and he told me of all the flooding that happened in the area earlier this summer. He mentioned how water levels rose and how fish were crossing the road. "It was on YouTube!" he said.
More souls came my way, including Brent from the Chronicle Journal. I complemented him since this was the fourth time trekking through, and he has been there since the very start. When he first came to see me, it was 1996 on my first walk. Now when he pulled over and, with camera in hand, I said, "So Brent, we must be friends by now." He said, "Yes we are!"
 
34 Km
 
Interview with Brent from the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal in Murillo
 
Kakabeka Falls

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The Speed of Optimism
 
Terrace Bay, Ontario

The towns people in Terrace Bay are on an emotional high. For some days now, they are feeling relieved. This tiny place, located more or less at a cliff`s edge overlooking Lake Superior, was looking practically doomed when their pulp and paper plant was going under. It looked like the place was going to close down. But then the company was bought up by a well-established Bierla firm from India. New hope came to this town of population two-thousand. In fact, three pulp and paper plants in Canada were recently purchased by the Indian firm.
 
Vinod Tiwari, the general manager of the revived business, he so graciously looked after Daruka and I when he heard we were coming to town. He was conscientious, direct, and confident in his interaction with us. I asked him how he hopes to succeed with the business. "We just have to be very professional," he said with conviction.
 
At least a dozen of his management team I had met in some rented apartments for breakfast, which was Indian palau, while others helped themselves to the American fare of cornflakes and milk. Most of them are on a few weeks stay in Canada to reorganize the pulp and paper plant. All of them moved with the speed of optimism to and from the designated kitchenette for the morning meal. While they were munching or crunching on breakfast, the Asian television network was on the TV monitor, with some guru delivering a message on his brand of spirituality. There was nothing mundane about the management team and how they carried themselves. In fact, one of the fellows I found engaged in a physical workout (no gym required) in the misty air of the morning while I was on my morning walk.
 
Now I will choose to reserve my personal opinion about the paper industry and its impact on the environment, but I simply want to bring up the point about their positive attitude. If only I could apply my spiritual life with the enthusiasm these men had for making their new prospects. It was admirable and a source of inspiration to meet and greet them. And, they treated my like a sadhu.
 
And for the few moments that we sat at the breakfast table, they took a keen interest in hearing what I had to say. They were respectful and they were good listeners. I guess you could say that some of these qualities are recipes for success in life.
 
9 KM