Saturday, 31 August 2013

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Honouring our guru

Regina, Saskatchewan

Last night we engaged in a celebratory event, Janmastami, in Regina, until 1:30 AM. After a good rest, I conducted a program to honour our guru, Srila Prabhupada. I had the good fortune to put in 10 kms on the road to a place near Horizon. Here is my offering of devotional sentiment to the guru.


You never did leave us

Your books contain your spirit

Your apparent departure

A myth without merit.


You are alive as ever,

Mortality has no place

For the voice of truth

Within time and space.


Your teachings bear power

Thrusting “real” enjoyment

And tightening controls

To sensual amazement;


They are for all times

Nothing relative

But relevant, teaching

The art that, “we give”.


No truth superior,

Science of the self

Most secret of secrets

Not to stay on ones’ shelf.


To live in this realm

Entities do cry

Deprived of peace

And Maya being dry.


Examining the real / surreal

What to conclude?

That life is constant?

The Force to include?


The cosmic clock ticks

Wearing us away

‘Til we look to sport

With Him and to play.


We thank you for that

All mentioned above.

There is no repay

For this genuine love.


We have you and Him

Making it all whole

Our final exam

Is to reaching this goal.


10.5 KM

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

On His Birthday

Ogema, Saskatchewan

I wanted to tell the world that today is Krishna’s birthday. The strange thing was that not one motorist, not one soul stopped to talk. There were the regular honks and hand waves, but no one came to a standstill to offer congratulations on the marathon trek, or inquire about wellbeing or offer some water to drink.

This registered to me that this is the way it’s meant to be. Perhaps solitude was a theme to live by on this special day until social interaction would pick up in the evening in Regina at the ISKCON centre.

In any event, solitude, I achieved, especially when at one moment at about the middle mark of 15 kms I was dragging feet with fatigue. Some pranayam breathing also didn’t help much. I just needed forty winks as I believe is the expression, or a cat nap. So where do I have such a snooze in a desert like place where there’s hardly a tree about, and where soft grasses means bugs unlimited? I’ve taken a nap on a bale of hay before, but the ones that I see that are in my purview are all too close to the road. God knows, someone will notice me lying there and honk their horn or call the police.

I settled for a space on a plowed field and tucked myself behind a clump of grass. This was perfect for a spot to nap. Yes, one of those grasshoppers did come to terminate the great doze by jumping on my chest. His timing was perfect though, I proceeded on foot. Personally, I would give anything to live like this, in the freedom of nature’s bedroom choices over the fanciest suite in a five star hotel.

The sun was hot by the time I reached Ogema, a small town that apparently wished to name itself Omega, but the name was already taken so a juggle of letters solved that problem. In fact, the sun was a blast with 35 degrees Celsius temperature. I craved for shade like I craved for Krishna. With some ground work done by Daruka and the charm of our princess parrot, the few downtowners were out to break the solitude with their individual greeting. It started with a welder who spotted me and invited me into his shop for a cold water. What a sweet experience it was given the fact that it’s a full day fast until midnight, Krishna’s actual time of His divine birth.

At the next town over, Pangman, Daruka and I couldn’t resist but to enter the local outdoor pool. No one was there except for Bernie, the lifeguard. Slowly the place filled up with dads, moms and kids, breaking a supposed solitude. Happily, we were able to tell as many as we could that it’s Krishna’s birthday.

30 KM

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Time Goes By

Khedive, Saskatchewan

Time goes by so quickly when walking. 4 AM is suddenly 5 AM and then 6 AM and so on and on and on. The scenery change, the weather change from dark to light to bright, the interaction with people are all fillers to the time factor.

The chanting which I do during the mobile process also offers a kind of groundedness or gravity to the otherwise irritable mind. For certain, the Hare Krishna mantra keeps me from a weary state of being, it gives energy. When speaking about the physical world there’s nothing that can infuse and enthuse you with optimum thought like when you are under the open prairie skies. The sky tells you to unleash, to dream, to be creative, to rise to the spirit of freedom and to giving and to offering your whole self to the world and the Creator.

Yet, that said and done, there is not a day that perfectly lays itself out. For me there is always going to be some leg and foot issue, and in the case of today, an harassing sun, but that’s alright. This is to be accepted as the nature of the world with all its dualities. How can we develop an evenness of mind unless dualities are honoured? Count your blessings, my friends.

My blessing was partially felt in spending the balance of the day in a room at Circle 6 Motel, compliments of owner Aswin Brahmini, a Gurjurati gentlemen. He’s been arranging an East Indian meal of chapattis, rice and subji, even in the thick of his busy schedule.

I had put in a good day of trekking practically without stoppage once it begun. Meanwhile Daruka constantly chats with residents of Weyburn, and also clicks away with his camera. Today, his main subject was grasshoppers which are numbering in millions on the road. He caught one grasshopper couple mating. He positioned his camera and as he put it, “They gave me a look as if to say, ‘Do you mind?’”

My relationship with these jumping bugs is as an observer. So many of them get ruthlessly crushed under the wheels of the motorists. Then, to respond to the tragedy, their cohorts come to the victim and either feast on them or reverentially stand by in sadness. I’m not sure what are the dynamics.

Are there any grasshopper gurus out?

30 KM

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Switching Trails

Weyburn, Saskatchewan

It was not a snap decision but one that was well thought out. Daruka and I decided we had to switch roads. Highway 18, although cutting through nice landscape, was becoming a challenge. In spots, it turns into gravel and where paved, it becomes uneven, quite hazardous to the wheels of our support car, a’93 Mercury Grand Marquis. Okay for my feet though. The area was becoming quite barren with population sparse. We decided to leap north to the highway parallel to us, Highway 13. Locals tell us it was a wise decision.

The move brought us to the city of Weyburn, population 11,000. This is where Tommy Douglas started his career. For those readers who are not Canadian, I’ll mention that he was voted as being the most popular Canadian being the father of medicare in Canada. Having your medical needs met is precious for residents of this big country.

Before Daruka had a chance to get into 103.5’s radio station with our walking story, the station was already informed by a motorist who saw me trekking, “You can’t believe what I just saw…” phoned in the person. The description of a monk on foot ambling his way through town excited the crew and as they were just making their way out the door, Daruka popped in with Billy perched on his shoulder. The radio hosts came out to search and caught up with me and Daruka. After the interview, our message with photo was put on line entitled, “On a Wing and a Prayer”.

For my 2nd instalment of walking today, motorists seem to respond to that message. Again, people are so nice. The route here is primarily agribusiness and less of the oil industry. By nature’s way the road here is lined with the potent fragrance and presence of chamomile. Hawks continue to be in flight above on this new route.

Sometimes the heat hits you hard. If someone stops and they want to talk, the heat appears to dissipate. There is nothing like communicating about the virtues of reflective walking and of the simple lifestyle. One fellow who stopped while on his way to the oil pipes said, “Hey, I’ve just finished reading Sharma’s book, ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’.” This true story tells of a man’s successful business ventures and how he came close to a life threatening illness. That turned him to the life of simplicity and taught him that less is more.

31 KM

Monday, 26 August 2013

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Sleep Got Interrupted

Oungre, Saskatchewan

Sleep got interrupted by some noise. Some creature was trying to poke its way into our tent at the Oungre campsite. I finally figured out what was trying to badger its way in. From the lamppost outside, I could make out its silhouette, it was the darndest cute little frog. His head was up and his legs spread out as he jumped his way up to explore our synthetic domicile. He would leap, attempt to clutch on, but he would either slide or just fall back. He tried various sides of our tent. I was just lying there less annoyed than amused.

Once it was time to rise, 4 AM, it was time to zip open that tent, zip over for a shower and zip on off to the road. The world of magic began once again. I was using my meditative beads to chant my daily mantras. It was a soft murmur of “Hare Krishna… “

From a distance shortly after sunrise, I could see a pack of coyotes running as in teamwork. Apparently local farmers sometimes lose their calves to these visitors. In any event it was exhilarating to see these wild dogs in some kind of action moving swiftly on their feet beyond the wheat field.

Daruka pulled over and had a cassette playing of Melanie, the popular folk singer of the late sixties, early seventies. The theme of this song seemed pertinent.

I Don’t Eat Animals

I was just thinking about the way it’s supposed to be

I’ll eat the plants and the fruits from the trees

And I’ll live on vegetables and I’ll grow on seeds

But I don’t eat animals and they don’t eat me

Oh no, I don’t eat animals ‘cuz I love them you see

I don’t eat animals, I want nothing dead in me

I don’t eat white flour, white sugar makes you rot

Though white could be beautiful, but mostly it’s not

A little bit of whole meal, some raisins and cheese

I’ll eat the plants and the fruits from the trees

But I don’t eat animals and they don’t eat me

Oh I don’t eat animals and they don’t eat me

Oh no, I’ll live on life, I want nothing dead in me

You know, I’ll become life and my life will become me

You know, I’ll live on life and my life will live me

It’s a great song and I remember it from over 4 decades ago. Thank you, Melanie, I also don’t eat animals.

Now the last portion of the day had Daruka, Billy and I attend ISKCON’s centre in Regina. I spoke from 9.11 of the Bhagavad Gita. The message was that divinity is everywhere.

28 KM

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

I’m Just West…

Torquay, Saskatchewan

I’m just west of Estevan, near a massive dam. Highway 18. The moon is above and in front of me. The sun sneaks up from behind. What clouds say, “You’ll be less intense today, we are here to veil you.”

The highway is lined with, from what I can make out, miniature sun flowers , actually Echinacea, and then there’s amaranth plants that ancient civilizations used as food substances. I’m glad to have their company. Muskrats are here, or what’s left of them after being run over. Caterpillars make their migration across. They have a better chance on the westerly portion of Highway 18, there’s less human traffic now.

A salamander sloths his way across. He’s absolutely adorable. With a tip of my umbrella I touch his belly. He swings his tail and actually swerves and makes a sound. I tried again to offer the softest touch, he reacted the same again and gave off a kind of a squeal. I didn’t know salamanders make noise.

I thought I would try my five finger Vibram footwear. It seems to work. The highway here is uneven, and pavement here is bumpier with a rough gravel surface. The feet like it, they like the grip.

Speaking about grip, let’s have a look at getting a hold on life. I meet a lot of young guys everyday, they are good to me, they are supportive, they seem happy and hard at work. One fellow gave me a container of cut watermelon just as I was getting so dehydrated. With some, we have some great chats about all the money they are making and about family and girlfriends and all. I make a point of them getting a grip on the term dharma, and what that means as far as responsibilities go. One fellow that I talked to was boasting, “I’ll just pick up a girl now that my ex is out of the picture.” I said, “You know women aren’t so cheap that you can just pick one up. They are valued just like you are valued.” It’s great speaking like a father to them. They really like monks.

In Torquay, the only village on today’s route, we met some great folks, especially a few bikers. I was curious to know what it’s like being on a Harley Davidson, “Check it out, Swami!” For fun, I sat there on the machine and had a good laugh. It seemed that the whole residential street was out there with us, meaning Daruka, Billy the parrot and myself. Everyone was looking at it and deciding whether the motorcycle was me or not. Ultimately consensus tells that I’m better with feet and the trail, and not putting pedal to the metal.

36 KM

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

On The Hour

Estevan, Saskatchewan

On the hour, local radio stations were announcing the trek across Canada. I was interviewed at their studios, so my voice came on briefly, but hourly. Facebook also went wild on the story. Responses on the road were tremendous.

One slim fellow pulled over. He caught the news. He showed me the photo of someone with a very prosperous frame at 350 pounds, “That’s me,” he said, “I had to get determined to lose all the weight.”

“That’s great. Now let’s try to decrease karma,” I said. He was right on board with my suggestion. Another motorist who had heard the news also pulled over at that point, and then another. We all got into deep down discussion. It was a huddle of sorts. One of the fellows was native. He had no trouble in accepting the concept of Creator, a higher power, a superior intelligence.

My response was, “Look at all this out here,” implying the beauty of the prairie as we stood at the edge of Estevan, known as the energy city, “when you walk through it all, all the 3D, all the smells, the colours and textures, it really enhances your appreciation for the artist behind it all.” Everyone there seemed to be on the same page.

“Do you guys accept Jesus?” asked the natives, “Is he the son of God?”

I began to respond, “If God’s the father for everyone… “ to which he completed the statement, “then we are also His son.” He got it. Even though the group of us were in the middle of going somewhere, in the middle of work you could say, we all seemed to be ready for a drum and mantra session. There was all this enthusiasm.

Being Friday afternoon, it has something to do with the good cheer in the air. The sun’s out, everyone’s making money (remember, it’s oil country here), and now there’s a novelty, a monk to excite a few folks. Roxie, was kind to let journalists from the local papers, The Estevan Mercury and Lifestyles, interview me in her new age store called “Soul Hideout”. An amiable gal she is. Journalists were super. As usual writers want to know about motivation behind the walk, and behind being a monk. So, I give my brief bio, which includes the inspiration of Beatles music, a fascination for anything East Indian, and a strong attraction for the mysticism within monasticism. Bhakti, devotion, is the goal – devotion to the great artist.

I feel that for people to sometimes take you seriously, you may have to do something to the extreme. That’s why it’s a cross country walk and a 4th one. It’s a matter of walking the talk, isn’t it?

30 KM

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

We Love You

Hirsch, Saskatchewan

I left the campsite and found myself moving under the blue moon. At 4:30 AM all was calm and in some way, all was bright. The coyotes really sang out in response to the moon god, that then stirred up the local dogs. The howls outdid the barking though. The coyotes won out for making noise.

All around there were massive gas torches at the summit of stacks. The road started picking up with traffic – mostly trucks en route to oil rigs. Southern Saskatchewan is in an oil boom period. Fortunately many of the oil workers are kind enough to honk or wave or stop and encourage in some way. It seems that maybe that this is their first step at self realization.

On that note, here’s an excerpt which I read to Daruka as he was fixing sandwiches in preparation for our break time:

“The very first step in self realization is realizing one’s identity as separate from the body, ‘I am not this body, but am spirit soul’ is an essential realization for anyone who wants to transcend death and enter into the spiritual world beyond. It is not simply a matter of saying, ‘I am not this body,’ but of actually realizing it. This is not as simple as it may seem at first.

Although we are not these bodies, but are pure consciousness, somehow or other we become encased within the bodily dress. If we actually want the happiness and independence that transcend death we have to establish ourselves and remain in our constitutional position as pure consciousness.”

-From Beyond Birth and Death by Srila Prabhupada.

With death, well, it came to a close call. It was about 8:45 PM when a motorist was speeding. An officer came chasing madly after him. The driving offender registered at 149 km per hour. While the officer ticketed the driver he kept his flashing lights on which caused other traffic to slow down and to move on the highway’s shoulder where I happened to be. It was dark. The oncoming driver didn’t expect to see a pedestrian, let alone a monk. He got shocked out of his wits and reported to the police, “Who is that guy?” This was in earshot.

Once ticketing was done, the officer drove up to me, who has been accosted by a cloud of mosquitoes by the way. The guy was nice and went out of his way to drive me to our encampment, a good 20 kms away. He admired the walking project and expressed his appreciation as we were driving.

Such was the response from people in general today, “We love you,” is becoming a regular mantra.

So now where was Daruka all this time, my support person? It was a small slip up. His watch stopped, and that caused a deception of time.

35 KM

Friday, 23 August 2013

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Many People

Oxbow, Saskatchewan

There’s a remarkable migration of tiny frogs attempting the journey over the highway.  Many casualties occur I’m afraid.  They’ve got guts doing this, boy do they ever have guts.

It’s people that I meet like crazy.  The first person stops his vehicle, raises his iPhone for a picture and asks, “What’s up?”

“I’m on a walk across Canada.”  The fellow was impressed, he was very poetic.

“Holy _____ !  Good luck!”  At least the words rhymed.

The walk was news to this guy who works in the oil fields which are all around.  Many other folks were quite aware though – the oil riggers, farmers, students on holidays, seniors on chores.  It seems that even though I pulled of the road over a month ago to attend Canada and US spiritual fests, there was a buzz lingering about a roaming monk, and so the reception was phenomenal.

At one point a heavy rain came.  83 year old Mr. Swayze pulled over and let me into his passenger seat until rain let up.  Mr. Swayze, although retired, took up work again.  He was on his way to getting a bridge constructed.  He told me, “If you do nothing you start to deteriorate.  Since I took up this recent assignment, my brains got sharp again."

Words of wisdom.

I walked through several towns, Glen Ewen was the name of one.  People were sitting outside a pub.  The owner offered water (of course, I won’t take hard drinks).  I went inside, so did all who were sitting in the sun.  They were curious.  All the walls were adorned with large pictures of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.  The owner, a woman, asked what I thought of Marilyn from a monk’s perspective.

“Overrated.  Not my idea of the emblem of true womanhood.”  The folks there respected my opinion.  They had oodles of questions.

“So, you’ve been celibate all your life?” asked the owner.  People were sipping beer and were in rapt attention.

“Yes.  When I was in high school I had one or two girlfriends.  I came close once but God said, ‘No, not now,’ (laughter).”

One fellow asked if he could be a monk and drink.

“You’d be a drinking monk (laughter).  No, as a monk, you learn self discipline.”

Back on the road again.  Numerous people stopped to talk.  It got to the point where it was hard to make progress as far as distance was concerned.  It was a nice problem, I’ll admit.

By nightfall, I got nearer to our campsite spot, an ideal location by the serene Souris River.  Daruka was anxious about my being late, so he went out looking for me.  A local woman, big hearted as anything, came on the search as well.  She figured out what we needed for our outdoor cooking.  She had gone home, brought rye bread, fruits, and a camp lamp to contend with the darkness.  Archie was her name.  The people I met were in great numbers, quite overwhelming.  Archie came at the end and showed an incredible level of devotion.  Thank you, Archie.

36 KM

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Re-Start

Carievale, Saskatchewan

I landed in Regina. My marathon support man, Daruka, and the lovely, vivacious Billie, the blue front amazon parrot were there to see me in anticipation to re-start the prairie portion of a 4th walk across Canada.

It took a three hour drive to reach the Manitoba/ Saskatchewan border and the extension to Manitoba's Hwy 3, now turned to Hwy 18.

It didn't take long for the thrill of walking and recieving greetings to begin. Firstly, a fellow, a chef actually, and looking like one of those jolly types, pulled over. Other motorists followed thereafter.

When I reached Gainesborough, Daruka had already "worked the town" so to speak. He went around asking for information from locals. He even ventured up one of those old abandoned grain elevators.

Outside the Riverside Hotel several employees who Daruka had met, came out to meet a monk, their first perhaps. Employees from the grocery store also came to "check it out."

"What's the walk about?"

"To promote walking culture and all that goes along with it- therapy, inner peace, health both physical and mental," I responded.

Darren was amongst the group. He didn't ask questions. He loves to talk and not to stop. . He was gracious enough to trek my last kilometer with me and even to help Daruka set up the tent at the Carievale Campground, and all the while his conversation went one way. Daruka and I didn't mind. somehow or other you end up loving the guy as he inserts humour into the picture.

Yes, Humour, it's one of the greatest gifts ever that comes to us and makes a world that would otherwise be bland and stale.

22 KM

Monday, August 19th, 2013

His Work

Vancouver, British Columbia

Before a flight, I love to walk. I took to some of the streets in San Jose alongside the commuter train. It was early- too early for any pedestrians. Only a cat was a stir. And then another one. Hunting could be good. Cats don’t herd but these two seemed to be on the prowl together.

Then a flight to Denver before Vancouver, would be my wing travel for today. A young seminarian boarded. Here he was all in black except for the exposed white collar. He sat right behind me. I was curious.

“Where are you stationed?”

“Minnesota. I’m a seminary there but on my way to Virginia.”

“I’m rather surprised. You don’t see many young men joining the mission these days. Am I right about that?”

“Where I’m learning, the seminary is growing.”

I felt compelled to congratulate him. “Well it’s great to see young guys like yourself doing God’s work. God bless!”

“God bless!”

We had parted ways.

In Vancouver I was picked up by Hadai Pandit, a Swiss-born devotee, excited about his Brahminical initiation. A fire ceremony for the occasion was set up outdoors off of Marine Drive at the ISKCON Center. This is the second initiation one formally takes. The first one ushers a candidate into the order of Krishna Consciousness. The second one welcomes one to the privilege of the more intense work for God.

For the ritual I decided to balance the modest event, held on the grass, by speaking from 4.35 of the Gita. At initiation #1 you capture the essence of 4.34 wherein you take lessons and guidance from the guru and render personal service to the guru. The following verse sends the message that you assimilate the philosophy. It’s a kind of maturation.

As the verse indicates, “Now that you’ve absorbed the message, understand that all things are in Him and that they are His.” This ends my detour from the southern Prairie Highway. I’m itchin’ to get my feet back on the road.- Highway 18.

6 KM

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

We All Were Hippies

San Francisco, California

The JFK Blvd runs through Golden Gate Park, the route for the 47th Annual Ratha Yatra, the Festival of Chariots. This is a milestone. Approximately that long ago hippies (young with flowers in their hair) danced in circles around Swamiji and his faithful followers, the Hare Krishnas. To be more precise it was 1967, the summer of love, when San Francisco was the world hotbed of free and alternative thinking. "Turn On," "Be Grooving," and "Let It All Hang Out," were cliched to the max. At the top of the hill (Hippy Hill), our guru, Srila Prabhupada, known affectionaly as Swamiji drew the crowds to take them to a higher consciousness.

During today's chariot parade, I was personally or physically thrown back to that precious time when leading the chanting kirtan. The crowds came, some of them from that era I'm sure, but in general more diverse in age. At one point I walked the great grand-children of Anavadyangi, a personal student of Srila Prabhupada.

It was with some dismay that the route to the standing point of the parade was my only walking for the day. My guess is a mere 4 kilometres. But yet a sweat was worked-up. It happened to be a sun-filled day.

Our local drama trope, with Sing Lung added on did stupendously on the stage. We got everyone off their feet and having at the story's crescendo. It was a rewarding feeling after putting the hours in its direction and the actor's hard physical output.

There was warmth and kindness from all in those expressing their appreciation.

I will not fail to mention the joy in the heart when seeing a group of middle-aged guys beating at their djembes just outside the festival's zone. The principle drummer constantly threw in this "Govinda Jaya Jaya". The other drummers were focused and reverent in the practice of their mystical beats.

It was heart-warming, just heart-warming.

4 KM

Monday, 19 August 2013

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Moving On

Los Angeles, California

A concrete man-made water way is what gave space for the Ballona Bike Trail, a route that Dhananjaya and I had now become partially familiar with. It looks like we were not the only ones aware of this quiet getaway. We shared in this secret with a coyote who non-chalantly prowled his way (a portion of its length opposite to the river to us.) I Tried to gain his attention, "Hey Dude!" but he wasn't in the least phased. Frankly I was happy he was just there. His very presence seemed to defy or transcend the human infrastructure around him.

The other day, I had the same feeling when at pre-dawn an opossum was making its journey at post-party time on the San Diego beachfront. For him the party just began as I followed his quiet footsteps from dumpster to dumpster. He was apparently doing his rounds.

For those of us who are fortunate to live the lifestyle in the monastic order, rarely a day goes by where we can ignore sastra, the written wisdom, wherever we go. In reflection on today's Bhagavatam verses I was asked to speak on the final message of Chapter 11, Canto 7, regarding the Vedic four social orders. The Vedas convert the four social human types based on a person's psyco-physical make-up. What I attempted to emphasize was that spiritually we are all equal, as servants of Him. Materially we are all distinct and simultaneously complimentary to each other.

Complimentary or not, I did mutually get on well with a guy at the LA Airport waiting for a flight to San Jose. He calls himself a skipper or a sailor who is well-travelled and works on boats. He was neighbours to Crosley, Stills, Nash & Young and helped them get their yacht adrift in those days. A firm believer in conspiracy theories, he clearly pointed out at the CNN screen in front of us and declared that tv tells no truth.

He expressed that he really liked what I was doing as a roaming monk, hitting trails on foot and meeting people. On a recent ocean voyage he took ninety boy scouts for an adventure. I asked about the outcome.

"They're today's kids, hooked on gadgets and know little of the outdoors. About a dozen caught on. It's a shame, really."

10 KM

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Her Second

Los Angeles, California

Svavas has been the Krishna community leader here for many years. After I settled in at the sannyasi quarters of the LA community he showed me a copy of "Newsmax" August issue with a picture of First Lady Barbara Bush wearing a shawl from India. Draped around her shoulders it read in Devanagri script, "Hare Krishna." We were both delighted by Barbara's fashion statement.

My main reason for a rare visit to the City of Angels (It's just not on my regular trail) was to award brahman initiation to a Cleveland woman residing in the community. Hari Lila, was a super fan of George Harrison when she got internet-connected with Ramachandra of London Ontario, running a website of the legendary Beatle. One thing led to another and Hari Lila eventually, through the initial boost of George's devotional music, jointed the Krishna community here.

Hari Lila had earned this post of privilege on the strength of her sincerity and commitment. Svavas mentioned that she's earned it.

It was a pleasure to meet Rick, her father, a Lutheran, who came to the fire ceremony of his daughter. She was given new additional mantra to chant as part of the job description and that was followed by a planned walk on Ballona Bike Trail, through the heart of Culver City, a path she daily cycles as physical output. Her Dad came along as well as other friends.

The expression of wheels that takes to religiously is her down-time from kitchen and temple duties. Overall I'm very happy for her for having so many encouraging friends. "We love her," said one senior female devotee.

To her credit she has wrapped around her heart the Mahamantra, "Hare Krishna" and has mad it her life-line.

10 KM

Visit To New Dwaraka Dham Los Angeles August 14th-15th







Saturday, 17 August 2013

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Meet People

San Diego, California

Dhananjaya and I took to peripatetic activities. Out trekking took us along Pacific Beach, where we would later on go for a swim. Our ashram is located so close to sand and ocean and, as I've been told, our monks do take advantage of swimming opportunities when it's more safe for monks. As one of them put it, "Outside the bikini hours."

Dhananjaya and I were about to finish our term when two young guys and a girl came towards us trying to get our attention.

"Hey!" said one of the guys.

We stopped.

"What are you doin'?"

"We're walking and meditating!"

"Can you walk and meditate at the same time?" ask the fellow in a slurred voice. (It was a party-all nighter.)

"We are doing mantra meditation. We try to tap into sound that is other worldly." I asked them to close their eyes and listen to the mantra, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…" They liked that.

"Who is Krishna?" Is He the one with the many legs?" asked the girl who called herself Robin.

"No! We are looking at two arms and two legs and He is a celestial blue-like Avatar."

"Oh yeah, okay?" said one of the guys.

Somehow I had a feeling that they would make it someday to our ashram on Grand Ave.

"The invitations on," I said. I relayed this encounter to the monks seated in class in the ashram and also at my evening talk at the home of Pandava for a spiritual gathering. My purpose in doing so was to endorse the practice of going out into the neighbourhood in your devotional wear and see what friends you'll make.

10 KM

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Monday, August 12th, 2013

A Button Popped

San Diego, California

Intuition told me that the day might have some bumps in it. Some signs seemed to indicate this. It began with having a button pop off my upper cloth, the kurta. Where it rolled off to, heaven knows!
Then, my plane arrived late. It first launched from San Francisco, where it was delayed due to thick fog in the sky. That then led to missing the plane to San Diego. Then, confusion with luggage; long lineups; praying and pleading for an earlier, new flight to substitute for the proposed one. I got a bit panicky for a bit. I was supposed to arrive in San Diego to award diksa (initiation) for a young monk by the name of Bhakta David.

Eventually, United Airlines found one seat available. Someone cancelled out! This meant I could fulfill an obligation. But, only my walking would suffer. For me, a day without trekking is not exactly a tragedy, but it’s a mild curse.

The landing at San Diego terminated the airport experience. David was at Arrivals with a big smile. We drove to the ISKCON ashram on Grand Avenue. Here, you’ve got a real live monastery with 15-20 saffron clad monks, mostly college grad young men. They kept me quite occupied. A fire ceremony was held, and Bhakta David received his new Sanskrit name Dhanajaya, a name that Krishna’s friend Arjuna is known by. A congratulations, Dhanajaya! My first personal assignment for him was to sew a button on my kurta.

0 KM

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Insert Devotion

 

Vancouver, BC

There’s always something rustling in the bushes. There’s always something stirring in the swamp. You can hear the sudden swish, amidst the reeds, or an abrupt bloop – the sound of a mini-creature going for the dive in algaed water. These are nature’s responses to my loud prowl, lurking in their territory as I made three repeated treks down the same route in riverside.

The instinctive fear in the land and amphibious creatures astounds me. They are so quick to move and then they become so still. Humans are so far behind the rest of the species in such sharp detectiveness. In an attempt to excel in this, we use whatever brain substance to steer ourselves to inventions of devastating devices.

I could report on today’s glorious fest at Stanley Park, but that could detour us from the trails that I am determined to report. In reflection of the last twenty-four hours, my three treks in this delta strip left me in amazement over the concept of fear.  I first trekked alone. For my second, I was with an American devotee (the name escapes me) who walked the whole of India; and the third trek was with Sing Lung (dancer/actor from Toronto). Fear is so pervasive. It’s in all of us, so much entrenched. For the animal kingdom, fear translates into “will I be eaten?” For a human it’s, “Will I be ridiculed, criticized, character assassinated?”

How to address this reality of possibly losing your hide? What’s the optimum protection?
Bless the humble creatures, the lower brethren, who must live out their tenuous destiny. As humans, we have an obligation to protect their domain in order that they may be permitted to follow their natural course. Secondly, we have the opportunity to protect our spirit from moving in the direction of the world of Maya - this nagging world that sucks out our very life.
Let’s live life the best we can. Insert devotion.

11 KM

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Loop It!

Burnaby, British Columbia

I had begun and ended the day with chanting, walking by Riverside, established in 1861. The river being referred to is the Fraser, a major water artery in the lower mainland Vancouver.

Re-visiting the same route a second time felt like the day looped. I ended where I started. And that is pretty much how life is. It's cyclic. Such are the movements of the sun. The moon. The seasons go that way as well.

Our tiny spark of life, our very self, meets birth and death repeatedly until we make a change within. It's a circle game and then we make it linear. Apparently we will connect again with a world of circles.

The Sastras, ancient texts, reveal that we will be walking in a world free of inebriates.The walk, which will be under the shelter of either a fresh sun or a full moon, will have kick to it. It may be a skip, most definitely a dance.

I'm reminded that the current world in which we live in is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. Our guru used to say this. We can ask ourself, "How can I get out of the perversities of life?" The answer would have some content to do with how you walk your way in this world. It would be good to take the steady march of dharma, of principles, while enjoying the stroll at the same time.

Out of a sense of duty, I found myself dealing with a number of practical issues involving the community. Some of the matter were quite draining but I pulled through and came to terms with sticking to duty. I felt some comfort in that resolve as well as some reciprocation from the Lord in the Heart.

I will try again, and again and try to loop it.

8 KM

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The Woman

Burnaby, British Columbia

The woman at the Toronto airport was a passenger, ready to embark on the same flight as myself, destined for Vancouver. At the waiting area, she asked me that all too familiar question, "Are you a monk?" We began a conversation. Naturally, we got onto talking about not just me but also herself. She was born in Scotland and was raised Catholic. In recent years she had gone more "eastern" in her approach quoting Deepak Chopra that it's all inside of you, meaning the spiritual you. There was some implication from her side that you don't need an organized religion to depend on for your salvation.

I have to agree in part that it's all "from within" and that no religion should tell you all of what to do, but we can get some guidance and direction from someone. After all, Deepak did give this woman (my age) some direction. The moment we stop hearing from good sources, I guess, you think you're God.

In the Vedic system from India, a person on the path of self-actualization, actually accepts a guru, one who teaches selflessness, how to cultivate good character, how to live, even how to think and how to love.

This woman, who resides in Windsor and was on a visit to the west coast, concurred that teachers are needed. We wanted to continue but boarding time came and so we broke off the uplifted dialogue between us.

After a 4 and a 1/2 hour flight I deplaned and a gentleman in a suit and with the warmest smile and who was trying to sell me on an air miles program, asked the classic question, "Are you a monk?" "Yes, a Krishna monk," I said to the man who happened to be Iranian. "So you are from Iran, an Aryan, right?

"Yes, we Iranians are supposed to have some of that in us," he said.

"Great," I indicated. Aryans of India always accepted teachers, were keen on spiritual progression and were God-believing.

0 KM

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

To Please Guru and God

Toronto, Ontario

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada always wanted to see his ashrams and temples look good, that they would be clean, neat and tidy. This was evident by the things he said and did. If need be, he would go at it himself to fix the problem or insist that his young and energetic students clean up whatever mess may have been created.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Cleanliness leaves a good impression, it also makes the atmosphere very conducive for spiritual activity. You want to have an atmosphere that is clean, both externally and internally for body and soul.

Our guru liked things first class. That attracts and this attraction ultimately would direct a visitor or seeker to Krishna.

Today was another day where neatness, colour and d├ęcor came to grace our temple. God and burgundy drapery was hung over the upper windows of the temple’s dining room called Govinda’s. The look in the end is gorgeous and is fit for a king in his palace. Of course, everything was done smartly and from a practical point of view, done within budgetary means.

This particular room is a 20 foot high ceiling space with Gothic arches and columns at their junctures. This room was also the original chapel for a Methodist congregation at the turn of the 19th century. Royal chambers they now resemble and are there to please guru and God. Visit Govinda’s for a great meal and ambience, feel spiritual; Monday – Saturday, 12 – 2:30 pm and 6 – 8:30 pm.

8 KM

Monday, August 5th, 2013

A Question Came

Leamington, Ontario

A question came from one of our retreat members as we had some time to kill.

“When I approach people about this higher consciousness, they sometimes express disinterest, ‘The problem I have with all of you religious people is each one of you expresses the same self-righteousness. You say we are the only true faith or this is the highest form of religion or there’s the classic, only one way. How do I know which way is right? Maybe you’re all wrong.’ What kind of a response can I give these people that I meet?”

To answer such a sincere question, here’s my take on it.

Answer: As an objective and sincere seeker of the truth one can see that there are many many choices around there, around the globe, and people have benefitted tremendously from participating in the various spiritual functions. We would like to affirm that any system that brings you closer to the Divine is valid and can be honoured. Any program that especially subdues ego is to be praised, and blessed are those who have acceptance, beyond tolerance, for anyone whose approach is different from their own.

Now, how to know the right path? You are at liberty to scan all that’s available to you, and when you get to the Hare Krishnas just check out the delicious sponsored vegetarian feast, the drumming and the singing of ancient mantras and have a look and hear an ancient wisdom rich in philosophy. See the smiles and the happy faces, hear about a dancing God who’s also musical and tilts His head to a curious gesture that reads, “Won’t you celebrate with me?"

That’s how I would answer it.

10 KM

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Pushing At Pelee

Pelee Island, Ontario

This area, my childhood playground, you could say, I left forty years ago. South Western Ontario is where life began for me in this body before heading for what seemed to be greener pastures. I pursued studies in college up north, then moved to T Dot (another word for Toronto) the big city, to take up life in the ashram as a monk. I travel the world and now come back to heart-string pulling 'home' and I see the pastures, literally, that I left behind are indeed green.

I mean, everything grow here, especially tomatoes. And what about sand? Reminiscence takes me to beaches where those tiny granules of dirt hug your feet. It's a good feeling.

So here we are in Pelee Island, one of those childhood places, where baking in the sun with transistor radio next to you was the thing to do along with trekking a nature trail through Carolinian forest.

The 'we' are a group of devotees from Michigan and Ontario who have converged on a retreat. We jumped in the much warmer Lake Erie and kept that volley ball bounced in the air tossing at each other to the hopeful count of '108'. We only made it halfway, at the count of '52' actually before it hit the water. To me this attempt at keeping the object up is analogous to the soul staying up and staying dry. The jeeva 'the soul' must not fall to the mundane-ness but must remain liberated.

Also our walk down a pebbled-bound strip of endless peninsula forced austerity. At some spots the sand was burning on the soles. We then found ourselves shifting to more firm wet ground until that turned into sinking pebble zones. We shift again, but we kept going until we reached zenith-point - the end of sand, where the undertoe of the water became dangerous.

The activities of the day also included great prasadam, the ultimate yoga food to satisfy tongue and soul - it's all therapy.

We had played hard until we tired ourselves out. We pushed ourselves even up to the end. When we had an exhilarating kirtan that filled the ether on the ferry, the Jiimaan, all the way back to mainland, a sweet hour and a half.

That was it! We pushed our souls not to the limit, but to the unlimited - the bonding was good. Jambavan, a real Brahmin from Detroit, said "Let me know when you are doing this next year. I'm on board."

7 KM

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Chilling at the Bluffs

Scaraborough, Ontario

The cliffs or bluffs at Lake Ontario's edge just east of Toronto are naturally impressive. This was the site of the 4th year anniversary of the sankirtan events that take place monthly. Resident monks and lay members from the Krishna community make the public more accessible to the One with the Blue Skin and the message of gold, the Bhagavad-Gita by being on the streets with mantras and books.

In a less formal style and minimal structure the group converged at the park at the bluffs, which to my speculation are a delicate piece of mother nature's wonder. This likely explains why the man-made park is acting as a barrier to powerful water waves that could erode the bluffs.

I was asked by organizers R. Mohan and S. Mohini to conduct a walk while sweet corn was being barbecued and spiced with lemon juice and chat masala. Yummy! The walk along the meandering path actually turned into a herbal trek. Plants and trees which I could identify for their appearance, smell, and divine properties became known to the group. Whatever little I have received on the subject began with the marathon walks. We were looking at the chickory, burdock, cedar, thistle, plantain, jewel-weed, sumac, and so many more.

A clear point to ponder and a question I posed, "we know models of cars but do we know our plants?" When asked I received a response. I saw a few faces light up tinged with silly embarrassment.

A gorgeous white crane stood like a sage amidst water lilies. It was a divine spot for sure. I think we broke his meditation. He went in flight.

Several of us blokes took to swimming while others, crazed over the sport, cricket, went their way.

This was just another one of those chill-out sessions; much needed for those devotionally engaged in a bee-hive of activity. The regimen and service-oriented life of bhakti can be taxing and therefore a breath of fresh air in the form of bluff-gazing is sometimes necessary. One thing is, I'm the lucky one who gets to hop from one chill-out to the next.

6 KM





















Saturday, 3 August 2013

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Several of Our Monks

Unionville, Ontario

Several of our monks went for chanting on the streets in downtown Toronto. The city is abuzz with Carribana Festival fever perculating for the weekend.

Providence had me go northbound for another type of chanting session. It was a funeral. I was asked to chant at Chapel Ridge Funeral Home. The intent was to give comfort to the family members whom I've had a relationship with, going on four decades. When Mohinder Bhagat called our ashram to see if I was available to attend he mentioned that I attended his dad's funeral, who as a senior, had spent time living with us in the ashram. His name was Govind and he had me name his first grand child, a girl. So, the bond was there.

I secured a ride from Dhira, a Sri Lankan devotee, and a musician devotee, Philippe, to accompany me in the sound of shanti (peace). So, in honour of the deceased, Chandrikal Bhagat, we chanted a soft melodious mantra.

I would say that the priest, Dr Srivatsa, conducted very professionally and devotionally, the last rites. It made me wonder why we don't have an expert like this pundit in our ashram community who so smoothly tends to such rites of passage? Marriages, births, deaths and other samskaras (sacrements or rites of passage) play an integral part in a community's and an individual's life's achievements. In other words the programs of "hatch, match and dispatch" are hoops that we all jump through in life. (If you remain a life-long celibate like myself then dispatch does not apply.)

Chandrikal had a beautiful passing. Even the pundit mentioned that the light rain which fell prior to the actual cremation was very auspicious. We were very happy for her.

7 KM

Friday, 2 August 2013

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

In Some Way

North York, Ontario

Connie and Pauline are both sisters of mine in their fifties, while Jordon, Connie's son, is a young university-aged guy. They and I teamed up for a walk along the Don West River where water was gushing forth from the previous night's stretched-out rainfall. It became a familial walk as much as it was naturally and aesthetically pleasing.

We got caught up in things; new with anything to do with the views of Ralph Nader to recounting walking monk encounters with people and to the notation of vegetation all around us to the Pope's recent remarks about gay people. The hearing and chatter of subject matters held a full range that took us all over the world. Our minds were immersed in past and current affairs. We actually left the Don River several times mentally before it was time to terminate the walking for snacks at Pauline's - cucumber chunks to dip into a batch of her homemade hummus.

It's occasions like this that gives me a chance to insert a little something about spirituality. My kith and kin always show some interest. There's never been hostility or major resistance when the subjects have surfaced. I've resigned to the fact that I won't convert but to play the role of brother and uncle. I can't resist, in their company, to poke at their regular carnivorous eating habits. It's their customary choice and there's not much I can do.

Anyways, this is more or less an annual kind of coming together and with the very little baby steps taken to evolve, I believe we all are moving forward in some way.

7 KM

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Insomnia

Toronto, Ontario

Insomnia hit hard once again. In addressing it I decided to put on my sneakers for walking. Before that, I donned rather large swimming trunks. Why? Well, it was raining out. Dhotis don't always score well in the wetness. Over the torso was a new gift, a dark blue XL T-shirt which reads, 'Volunteer for Festival of India.'

It was night time. Being summer the rain was warm, so little impediment is what I felt. My monk-in-cognito attire had purely to do with practicality; something I've learned from being a student of Srila Prabhupada.

Rain persisted. The walking persisted. The soft chanting persisted. It was a pleasant and liquid walk. I ended the walk just before midnight hoping to be fatigued enough. It just didn't come - the "feel" to sleep. The will was there.

I kept walking, but inside, now, in a dry setting, pacing back and forth. For a moment I dwelt on the curse that haunts me and then resigned to the fact that I'm giving more time to the mantra.

I ask for no pity. Everyone in this world has some deficiency, a personal issue, which might even cause one to reach for a tissue, a reaction.

We are reminded that along with this body, there's always some discomfort. That's clearly a message from the Gita - dukhalayam asasvatam.

Personally I wish that I didn't have to sleep. Think of the hours we could save and the service that could be rendered in that time! Introspectively I perceive those moments of wakefulness as precious because while the whole world is asleep, it appears only you and God are not.

10 KM