Sunday, 24 November 2013

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

A Verse That Tells It All

Richmond HIll, Ontario

It’s an honour to be asked to speak from the book, ‘Bhagavatam’.

Today’s verse, 7.15.57, was particularly appealing and addresses the nature of the Absolute:

“He who exists internally and externally at the beginning and end of everything and of all living beings, is that which is enjoyable and as the enjoyer of everything, superior and inferior, is the Supreme Truth.  He exists as knowledge and the object of knowledge.  As expression and the object of understanding.  As darkness and as light.  Thus, the Supreme is everything.”

The reason why this verse so much resonates with me is because of the confirmation of the presence of Divine presence being everywhere.  So that’s it, you can’t escape it, Spirit is all about.  Better still, Supreme Consciousness is everywhere, you can’t hide from it.  It’s always there to protect you.

Most people can’t see it.  We view objects as mere products of matter, as energy.  This verse underscores that ultimate reality is present in matter.  In expression.  In light.  In darkness.  In knowledge.

I like the description, ‘enjoyable’.  God is playful, not vindictive, not one to instill fear, but joy.  Fear does exist in this world.  We don’t need to be na├»ve about that, but we can overcome it by reflecting on the ananda (blissful) feature of the Absolute.  Absoluteness can be found anywhere in beauty and in ugliness, and hence, nothing moves without the will of the Supreme, not even a blade of grass.  In fact, within the most simple object you will find subtle complexities as it’s make up.  This is confirmation of a sophistication that could leave one in awe.  The world as it is is one of mystery and could leave Alice in Wonderland puzzled.

I’m travelling again, this time to a hospital to see a patient getting some Divine insertion.  May I become a decent conduit for the task.  Then I’m off to Cuba, not on foot though.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

With The Gods

Toronto, Ontario

Temperatures at night were going to go below the freezing point.  As I was preparing for that nighttime stroll that’s been habit this week, several people became my mothers.  It had drizzled, winds were picking up in addition to there being a plummeting of degrees.  So I donned my hoodie over a saffron coloured sweatshirt.  That wasn’t good enough though for my well intentioned friends as I was about to go out the door.

“You’ll need your coat, Maharaja.”  “Are you sure you’ll be warm enough?”  I simply had to remind those concerned well wishers that I’m not going to be standing at a bus stop freezing to death.

“I’m walking. Walking, in and of itself, is the most powerful mechanism for the emission of heat.”  We have this furnace within that stokes up as soon as you move those feet.  It’s the legs and feet that fire up the whole body.  As you put feet in motion, it’s like striking the flint; initially sparks will fly and then a combustible flame ignites.

Agni, the god of fire, which is the origin or root word for ‘ignite’ or ‘ignition’, will visit you.  He’s with you, even in the presence of Vayu, the wind god, who definitely tagged along for the stretch along College Street (I have yet to explore who the god of cold is, but he’s out there).  Generally the demigods all work either in concert or in competition.  You are never alone.

A young student, Durjoy, was next to me on the trek on College.  He was all bundled up and at one point brought up the topic once again, “Aren’t you cold?”

“No, I’m not cold, I am a spirit,” I wanted to say.  I assured him that Agni was with us, so I’m warm.  In all honesty, I didn’t mind the company of the elements at all.  They are the reason for keeping silent at times.  They are communicating with you and it’s always a good thing to acknowledge their presence without too much intimidation.  They are personalities and are devotees of the Great Spirit.

So all that is needed is to chill out so to speak.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, 22 November 2013

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Get Clean

Toronto, Ontario

After a long day at a desk and a phone (for one hour with students) I took an evening trek west on Bloor Street.  I unwound, I reflected.

There’s a neighbourliness to this segment of the street right up to include Little Korea and the Christie Pitts Park where a magnificent large image of a tiger is lit up in the dark.  On my return I popped into a place of shop owners, one of those east Indian trinket and clothing shops.  I’ve known the family for years.  I stepped in.  They looked a little morose, I wondered why.

“Lots of merchandise, no customers,” complained Mrs. Agarwal.  I could not verbally be critical of their place, only in the mind, I am their priest after all.  They demonstrated their natural reverential side, however.  I couldn’t help noticing that if there was a little more effort towards a smart displaying of the goods, there might be some customers.  It’s Christmas time, presentation is practically everything if you want to sell something.

Again, I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything.  I wanted to help in some way.  Even though they seemed to be struggling with their sales, their natural piety came through.   Mrs. Agarwal handed me an envelope which had a donation as the content inside.  It came from the heart.  It’s in the Indian culture to give to a sahdu (monk) when they see one.  The mentality is, “A holy man came into my shop, how auspicious.”  Of course, I don’t feel that way about myself, I have a lot of karma that I’m carrying.  I’m not particularly clean, but I can say that I’m strict with principles, no intoxications touch my lips or enter my blood stream.  No meat meets my belly.  No gambling engages my hands, and no sex.  These principals keep me protected.  In that way, there’s less contamination in my being, I guess you could say.  Thank Krishna.

I thank the Agarwals for their time, their kind words and gift.  I was left to trek back and in that time of contemplation, remembered what one personal friend from the States today said on the phone, “When my wife and I did our marriage vows 30 years ago, we promised we would never raise our voice at each other.”

Well, they’ve been doing it.  Sounds like a pretty clean program they’ve got going on.  That’s exactly what I told the students that came from Kingston today.  Our purpose in this world is to get clean.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Good Letter

Toronto, Ontario

I was reluctant to read stacks of personal letters (you know, messages on paper) that were left on my desk, or rather, given to me by the person whom they were addressed to. His name is Steve Mann, otherwise known as Satyavrata. He had left these letters which were written over a period by a well wisher, Kirtanananda, who was the son of a minister and later took to the practice of bhakti yoga. He had become controversial and had written these letters when in prison. But, to his credit, he wrote some insightful literature much to do with the comparative thought between Christianity and spirituality from the east.

In an effort to reach out to one in need, Kirtanananda wrote the following letter to his friend. I thought it worth sharing and after reading it and after a walk through Rosedale:

“Thank you for your recent letter, 15th March, 1998.

So far as Lord Jesus is concerned, His mission is the same as all the other representatives of Godhead; namely, to remind us that we are all children of the one Almighty Father, and that He wants us to come Home, Back to Godhead! Again, don’t worry about some ‘final dissolution’ of the material world’. Material nature is also eternal, although any particular manifestation is temporary. The sacrifice Christ made is the same sacrifice demanded of all of us, ‘die before you die’, ‘die to live’. Unless we die to the ‘old man’, the false ego self, we cannot live to the ‘new man’, the real self that is part and parcel of the One, Krishna.

My instruction to you is the same instruction Prabhupada gave, ‘Chant and be happy’. Surrendering to Krishna means to stop worrying about your future and leave everything in His hands. Trust Him completely, He is your Father. He loves you perfectly and completely. He knows what is BEST for you. He is able to accomplish it and has the will to do it. Just trust Him!

Perhaps you should pray the serenity prayer, Lord, grant me the serenity (intelligence) to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Also, the second part of Saint Francis’s prayer gives the secret of that sacrifice I mentioned, ‘Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we born to Eternal Life.’

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I Love It When Students…

Toronto, Ontario

I love it when students come to our ashram.

Today we had a small number of them, a dozen, including David Paris, the teacher.  They came uniformed and with bright open minds from York School, Secondary School level.  With some assistance on music, namely a mrdanga drum and kartal cymbals, I led the students in a chant and dance.  They even happily recited word by word the two mantras in honour of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, followed by the offering of flower petals at the base of his murti (icon).  After engaging them in this simple ritual, we sat for a chat, and I answered questions.  I had also taken them around the room, showed the group the excellent paintings and the stories behind them.  Mr. Paris was drawn to the picture of demoness Putana.  Initially he looked startled; when he read the adjoining caption he seemed to be relieved.  “Do you take your scripture literally?” was a question of his.  Answer, “Our main book, the Bhagavad Gita, is taken as historical, but, in a more relevant way the follower of Krishna looks at the evil forces within and tries to ‘kill the demon within’.”

“What’s the goal?”  asked one of the girls.

“To ultimately love God.  We are practitioners of bhakti yoga,  the yoga of love.”

Mr. Paris also asked, “What’s your opinion of other faiths?”

“We are glad that so many people have found diverse approaches to the Absolute because there are so many diverse types of people that need to be accommodated.  There just needs to be a maturity of attitude towards each other.  Acceptance, tolerance, and not ignorance, are traits of respect and saintliness.”

The students also got treated to a great meal, a vegan prasadam fare, and it looked like that got swallowed real well.  We hope to see the students again.

Tuesday nights are called Tuesday Sanga, when reflections of the Gita are shared.  I was given the freedom to do whatever I chose, so the group that came, took to a memorization session on 7.6:

“All created beings have their source in these two natures.  Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.”

The only thing is that I had the group concentrate more on the Sanskrit, which was really fun.  For part 2 of the sanga¸ I got to talk about pilgrimage, walking the country, and all the amazing people I meet along the way.  The day was really fulfilling.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Don’t See But Know

Toronto, Ontario

Flight 1485 American Airlines was somewhat rough in its landing at Toronto Airport.  Coming underneath the clouds gave passengers a surprise with the strong air current.  The wind, you can’t see, but you could feel it.  Ask the survivors in the Philippines.

The same can be said of the soul’s presence.  It can’t be seen, but felt through various symptoms.

I did, after landing, take advantage of a walk downtown.  I have forgotten that Christmas fever starts early in recent times.  It means the city is lit up more than usual in the night.  On occasion I had looked up at the glorious moon when a high-rise would allow it.  It made me wonder once again about the powerful presence of the elements and of matter, of energy, and where it all comes from.

Before resting, I took a few moments to relax my mind with some reading material before my eyes.  In the publication “Easy Journey to Other Planets” by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I revisited the following passage:

“Matter itself has no creative power.  When it is manipulated by the living energy, material things are produced.  Matter in its crude form, is therefore, the latent energy of the Supreme Being.  Whenever we think of energy, it is natural that we think of the source of energy.  For example when we think of electrical energy, we simultaneously think of the powerhouse where it is generated.  Energy is not self sufficient, it is under the control of a superior living being.  For example, fire is a source of two other energies, namely light and heat.  Light and heat have no independent existence outside of fire.  Similarly, the inferior and superior energies are derived from a source which one may call by any name.  That source of energy must be a living being with a full sense of everything. “

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Monday, 18 November 2013

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Out With The Down And Out

Miami, Florida

For a change I decided to walk down the poor route.  Right near Coconut Grove you have this enclave of low rental low real estate properties.  There are even empty lots.  Who in their right mind would invest in an area like this?

It was after the Sunday program at ISKCON Miami that I opted for a less comfortable, perhaps, less safe space.  A place which doesn’t reek of money like the affluent shops and posh drinking joints of the Grove.  Perhaps I was taking a risk in the dark like this passing by people on drugs, drink, or just being down and out.  Somehow the test of this moment had me feeling more God dependant, and for this reason I was actually feeling not so bad off.

One woman who was quite high on something, followed me for some distance and began talking to me after having a loud conversation with herself.  She was coherent enough and just asked which group I belonged to, so I said, “Hare Krishna.”  That rather ignited her further on as she couldn’t stop saying the name over and over again.  For others it was easy to get some little remark from them, “Hello”.  I guess they see me as a minority figure as they are – a person of common ground.  One young chap, however, just looked so ashamed as he looked the other way.

My stay at Virginia and Day Juncture at the ISKCON centre nearby, had been interesting.  Louis Lumis, recently met one of our members.  He had been homeless.  Now, he takes his mantra beads everywhere he goes, feels clear headed, and feels joyful over the new turn in his life.  Sergio also had a serious drug issue just a year ago.  He came to our open house vegetarian feast and felt so good about his life slowly coming together.

At the feast where there was chanting and an initiation ceremony, I met briefly a broad spectrum of people, many of whom are professionals.  Quite the opposite end of the social status that I had met later.

People are people, rich or poor, healthy or ill; they all have the same spiritual need.  After all, we really are all very much the same, we are spirits.  Thank God!

I would like to congratulate the initiates, Steve, has a new name, it’s now Sri Dhama, Anna is now Ananda Rupa, and last but not least, Tony is now Tirtha. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

ATROCIOUS SCAMS ARE REVEALED TO THE WALKING MONK!!!
 
Gainesville/Orlando, Florida
 
Scams Galore!
 
Bare feet.  Sand.  Temperatures in the 30’s Fahrenheit.  The conditions are so alright.  Spurts of walking make the day perfect and complete.
 
Just before I delivered a class from the Bhagavatam at Krishna House, I had that great pleasure to trek some streets in Gainesville with a group of fresh air enthusiasts.  In Alachua, I had a brief jaunt to the future location of the Krishna.com distribution center which allowed my limbs to loosen after a rare massage session.  Then, after a fantastic meal at the home of Sesha and Madhumati, another short but sweet trek permitted an aid towards digestion.
 
Over the course of the last few days I have spent time with people of varying professions – legal and medical field as well as those in the pharmaceutical and including youth leaders.  I heard from them some spell bounding, if not hair raising, tales and remarks of self and public deception.  The remarks from the medical people were something like, “Clients in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, some ready to pass on, are desperate for what they consider their saving grace, Viagra.”
 
Here’s another one.  Hing (asafetida) has animal byproducts in it.  Most of my friends love this spice.  They might tune out or turn off when they hear what this plant resin is cut with.  Tapioca is another food tainted with material you won’t want to hear about.  And ahimsa (non-violent) mrdanga drums that come from India, well, don’t trust the flyers, they are lying through their teeth.  The best hide for such a drum is sourced from young, defenseless calves who are not allowed to die naturally.  The reality is old cows don’t provide good drum heads.
 
“Scams galore!” might be a good way to describe some of what is going on.
 
It took a drive, and not a walk, to Orlando to contemplate the cheating that occurs.  In any event, the wrap up program for the day was held at the ISKCON Orlando Center where I was asked to speak on the benefits of seeing divine energy as personal versus impersonal.  “God is a person, someone to communicate with, and you can never label Him as a cheat as you could the people of this Earth.”
 
May the Source be with you!
 
6 KM

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Touch The Trail!  Touch The Earth!

Alachua, Florida

A trail reveals much about life where there is life and death.  Maha Mantra and I took the one hour trek to the local temple from the residence of Ananta and Vaishnavi, a South Indian couple with two boys.  They are our hosts.

Along the sandy road we came upon the signs of passing, for instance, deer gets struck by truck (or a car).  You see remains of bones and dried hide.  We also spotted to the side of the road an Armadillo who just didn’t make it in his migration across the humble two lane width thoroughfare.  Smaller creatures stand little chance against the speedy giant, the automobile.

The class that I delivered today before a sizeable group of local devotees was based on the episode of Krishna rescuing his father, Nanda, from the waters of Varuna.  During the course of the delivery of my message, I could not help but say something about the hazardous nature of the car.  I can’t remember how it came about, something to do with the premise of fear.

Not only did I mention something there in the class about the car, but I perpetuated the topic when speaking to two groups of students at Bhaktivedanta Academy.  I believe that in this modern world, especially in America, the message of the precious conveyance, the automobile, needs to be spelled out.  The automobile is not necessarily our best friend.

Vaishnavi, not the other one I just mentioned, who orchestrated my going to the school, offered to say this, “There’s this whole movement going on called ‘grounding’, and it’s been found that when you touch the earth, it’s soil (she was also implying barefoot travel) that it has anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

Finally, in the evening, with a facilitation at a bhakti session at the home of our hosts, we touched on the topic of the use of footwear.  I strongly recommended to the group that the best shoes to wear are what allow you to feel the trail.  Get close to the earth as possible.  Even when you look at the shape of your soles, they seem to want a hug from the sand

So, my dear friend, trek a trail, feel the earth, and out of respect, be careful not to respect on a living entity’s bones.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Wendy and I Talking

Gainesville, Florida

Wendy is a Lutheran, Christian based person, who is open enough to adapt to the policy of Darwin’s evolution.  It’s not usually a Christian option.  She also is open enough that the current Vatican Pope is a pleasant guy who walks his talk.

When I first began speaking to Wendy, she was obviously friendly.  She stated her name and said she looks after horses.  I asked her, “Now, where do horses originate from, from Arab countries?”

“Yes, I believe that’s where they first came from.”

“And zebras, being horse-like, how do they fit into the picture?”  I asked.

“I’m not quite sure, but the speculation is that they once were the size of dogs that evolved.”

I didn’t really let Wendy know that I personally don’t prescribe to Darwin’s doctrine.  I did, however, speak on the Vedic perspective on evolution.

“The individual self takes on a body beginning from a one-celled creature.  And each successive life thereafter is a slightly more progressed form of existence.  Finally, one reaches the stage of having a human form, and from there, demonstrates his/her uniqueness through inquiry beyond food tasting, sexual pursuits, defense and sleep.”

Wendy and I also talked about the three forces of nature as outlined in the text spoken by Krishna in the Gita.  You have these three powers called gunas, referred to as sattva, raja and tama.  They impact us all positively and negatively and through self discipline, one can overcome them.

Wendy and I were on American Airlines en route to Gainesville.  No, I didn’t meet her on the road.  Foot travel was to happen later on in the day at the sandy soils of Alachua.  Just before pre-boarding, all passengers waiting heard a very annoyed woman speaking to someone on the other side of the phone.  She exuded a wrath that could raise hell.  The volume of voice and intensity of emotions were such that she had everyone’s eyebrow upraised, including Wendy’s.

“I could feel the woman’s negative energy,” Wendy remarked.

I invited Wendy to our Alachua community nearby and I said, “If you see me walking in the area, if you’re in a car, please honk.  If you’re galloping on a horse, please let the horse neigh.”  She expressed that she would definitely do that.  I was glad to have made a friend and I left her with the great mantra that makes a person shine more, “Hare Krishna”, and I did offer my salutations to her with the remark, “May the Source be with you!”

5 KM

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Monday, November 11th, 2013

What’s There To Worry About?

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mariano and I were the first awake in the ashram.  With a spurt of claustrophobia, we decided to hit the main street nearby for a walk before brahma muhurta, predawn.

“We’ll have to be careful though!” he warned.

“Alright, so what’s there to worry about?” I challenged with a chuckle.  “No drug dealer’s going to sell us anything, and if a prostitute is at a street corner, we will say to her, ‘Hare Krishna, Mataji’.”  Mataji means ‘mother’ respectfully.  “If a group or a gang spots us, they won’t know what to do with a couple of guys in robes.  It’s beyond their scope of experience.  If someone wants our money, we can prove we are pennyless and say, ‘hey, we’re monks’.”  It appears Mariano’s fears were dispelled.

Of course, I live in no denial about the dark side of life.  “It is for real,” I thought, while we were walking and seeing graffiti caked on store fronts almost everywhere we roamed.  It’s the sign of the times.  Some people say this is the age of Aquarius.  From a Vedic perspective, this is the age of Kali, a time of spiritual sleepiness.   This is quite easy to see anywhere in the world.

There’s a diversity of shops, all closed at this hour, mind you – modern furniture places, confectionaries, banks, clothing stores, office buildings.  A woman was lying there in front of a store front.  She had a blanket partially covering herself, and as we passed by, she looked ashamed and covered her face.  A few blocks further on, and we saw a reclined fellow enjoying a cigarette.  He gave a wave with a complacent smile.  He seemed content enough in his pile of meagre belongings.  If anyone’s life is not safe, it’s these types of people who are homeless and are in a vulnerable situation.

Safety or guarding from suffering is a concern for everybody, and it is apparent that some people do take shelter of God for alleviating pain.  This is one of the motivations behind approaching a life of devotion.  At noon today, four young people accepted diksa, spiritual initiation, as a step toward a better quality of life.  Held at the local temple, Mariano received the Sanskrit name, ‘Gaura Dayanath’ by his guru, Virabahu.  Then I delivered the names Markandeya Rishi to Marcos, Sevakund to Sebastian, and Nitya Siddha to Nadia.  The community in Argentina has treated my monk assistant, Maha Mantra and I, with amazing warmth.  I won’t forget their send off chanting party, just like I won’t forget their greeting.  The food was sublimely digestible, and I couldn’t get enough out of peach juice and fresh basil leaves in the veggie dishes.

Adios!

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Monday, 11 November 2013

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Contemplating
 
Buenos Aires, Argentina
 
Once again, Sebastian lead me on a trek through some of the streets, noisy and quiet. I had contemplated during this time my advantaged life as a sannyasi, a position I had taken since ‘84 which was a formal vow as a lifelong monk. The eleven years prior I had been committed to the stage of brahmachari with the option to be married at any period. The ‘84 solemn promise nailed the coffin shut to any worldly pursuits, at least for this life.
 
Yesterday I spoke from Canto 3 of the book "Bhagavatam" to the local group of Krishnas, bhakti-yogis, and how sannyasa is both free and grave at the same time. My translator to Spanish is Veda Vyasa, who’s part German, Spanish and a few other things. His destiny, glorious as you could imagine, is to take those vows of celibacy entering into sannyasa in four months from now when he verbalizes the commitment in India.
 
Here’s a very stable person, devoted to teaching the devotional arts. He’s in the 60’s range of age, he dedicated himself as a husband to one woman and bred two great kids. With their consent he’s taking that bold step. It’s rare. It’s inspirational for others to see this kind of spiritual loyalty.
 
For myself, I could not have enjoyed the freedom to travel as I do, had it not been for the single life, so I bathed my consciousness into moments of gratitude for this. It’s not a matter of becoming a tourist or sight seer, it’s more a matter of travelling about and contributing to people’s personal detachments from the world and readying themselves for the final exit from this life.
 
The great universal truths such as learning detachment are taught by Sri Krishna in His delivery of the Gita. For the entertainment, or rather, enlightenment that was presented on the stage at Plaza Francia, a combined effort by actors from Canada and Argentina presented at Obra de Teatro. Krishna and Arjuna were portrayed by Miarianno Sobodia and Marcello Brushetti. The message was one of learning the gradual disconnect from this world and making a growing bond to the Great Spirit.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
9 KM

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

I Remember
 
Beunos Aires, Argentina
 
I remember reading that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had a good feeling when he was a student and would sit on a clean seat at a clean desk at school. The sensation is the same when you walk on the street that’s just been hosed down. With spring being what it is in Argentina, trees drop their blossoms, buds and leaves. I hate to say it but dogs leave their doo-doos all over the place (can’t blame the pet really).
 
Sebastian is a 23 year old and was great enough to take me around through the streets. At one park a few party goers took us to be Arabs judging be their innocent remarks. More enlightened were a couple of guys in a fast car who spotted us and suddenly came to a halt to talk to us. “I had been to south Asia – Thailand - and I really got to know some of the monks there. I really like their vision on life,” said the driver. He shook hands with Sebastian and I a few times over, all in good spirit.
 
Vision is something that many people are cut short of, referring to the inner vision or penetrating into your actual self. I spoke with Louis from the news paper in Argentina later at the temple at the second day where a 12 hour Kirtan took place. Louis is a very respected journalist whose forte is spirituality when it comes to writing. He views a spiritual teacher as a kind of doctor who diagnoses the world and after due analysis, offers a medicine. He asked me what my take on the world condition is and what my prognosis would be.
 
I cannot claim to be a great luminary by any stretch of the imagination but I did offer this, “ We live in a world with many social ills, relationship issues, so much discord and a submission to things that harm. Emphasis is on the urges of the body. The atma (spirit) is neglected.”
 
What is the cure? A practical cure?”
 
“Secure a small space, have a powerful drumming mantra session. Dance and sing. Have nice food, ahimsa vegetarian food. Stipulate "no drugs!" Encourage one and all to come. Let them have a higher taste. Watch the results!” I suggested these events to be a regular feature. See the culture transition. I then had to dismiss myself to lead some kirtan which becomes a hot sweaty experience.
 
May the source be with you!
 
1 KM

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Here Again!
 
Buenos Aires, Argentina
 
It`s great to see that the Krishna community here is growing. There’s Prema, an Argentinean who himself is a monk heading up the rest of the crew of monks. You won’t find a more jovial fellow who’s musical and who lead the greeting party with a kirtan when Maha Mantra and I arrived at Templo Hare Krishna Ciudaddelapaz. There`s also Mahahari, the local leader, and his American wife, Gandharvika, super talented cook and Govinda’s manager. I see many familiar faces. You have diehards, or core members, loyal and committed. There’s always new seekers of course.
 
Maha Mantra and I were given accommodations in a former private school building which now serves as an ashram, temple and restaurant. Being that some areas are under construction the place is one of simple circumstance. It takes two flights of stairs to get to a busy washroom. Renovation goes on during the day, making lots of noise, but when you consider all the new space coming together, the sound is really music to the ears.
 
To contribute to the upcoming weekend Chariot Festival, Maha Mantra, Philippe, also from Canada, myself and a group of devotees from Mar de Plato work hard on a Spanish rendition of the drama ‘Gita: Concise’. As author of this paraphrased view of the Gita, I’m also the director. Between rehearsals many of our drama crew take advantage of the 12 hour kirtan taking place. I was given an hour slot at which to lead a session. The Argentineans give their true fullness to the chanting dynamics which I think is in part thanks to their Latino blood which is always happy for song and dance. My Bengali friend, Ajamil, is also present to lead his usual rousing version of Kirtan. I’m Just surprised that the neighbours aren`t complaining. But then it appears to me that a party atmosphere is a regular feature, not a bad program necessarily for the young at heart. It might be the reason I keep coming back every year.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Going South
 
Toronto/ Miami/ Buenos Aires
 
My brahmachari assistant, Maha Mantra, and I got to experience the air of the airport in these three cities before our nostrils hit the out-of-doors in Buenos Aires. Walking wasn’t much; whatever you go through in the corridors of the airport is the sum total of your steps.
 
“Watch my luggage, will you?” I asked Maha Mantra in Toronto, “While I pace a bit back and forth.”  So, I went off in Terminal 3 to pass by shops, passengers and officials, waiting or busy. On the news, monitors display the ground breaking broadcast highlighting Toronto’s mayor admitting to taking crack. You get a little tired of hearing about all the blunders. By the time I reached another screen, another new item covered the one before about a victim of some oppression and how now some healing took place. It appears media occupies itself in so many sob stories, they will be repeated to death again and again.
 
Our flight was pleasant enough. We took to reading the book “Ramayana Smarana” the book “Bhagavatam” on his iPad. It shows you the difference in generations. There were many hours to kill on this jet flight so we treated ourselves to watching a movie - `”Jobs” about Steve Jobs, the technical visionary who passed away two years ago. It is a known fact that Steve used to travel on foot to have his vegetarian meals at the Hare Krishna Temple, and in the film he is shown to be at the campus lawn to hear some Indian pundit speak. Now I have not read on his life story but it would be my speculation that he was in regular contact with Krishna on some level.
 
We came for a landing at Buenos Aires. Temperature is great. The screen showed a comfortable just below the 20 Celsius mark. But before we hit the outside a young woman in the airport the boutique was selling perfume. She was tall, beautiful, and sported a golden smile. As Maha Mantra and I were about to pass by her she, raised her palms in pranams and said “Hare Krishna”.
 
What a welcome.
 
May the great Source be with you!
 
0 KM

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Cutting Edge Guru
 
Toronto, Ontario
 
November 14th, 1977, by the lunar calculation corresponds with today’s solar projected date. It is a significant mark on the calendar for those of us who observe the anniversary of our teacher`s passing. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, our guru, left his body for a divine destination 36 years ago. He also left behind thousands of mourning followers who were confronted with the classic question,  “Now that our leader is gone, what will happen? What’s next?”
 
Naturally, such a prime query had arisen amongst some of us prior to his departure. His personal assistants for instance (not me) contemplated the consequence. Mixed motivation ranging from selfless to selfish shadowed and gave light to the quest.  The history thereafter got interesting as his family is enjoying a current maturation or at least a sorting of things. Today, fortunately, is a reflection time of all the positive transformational occurrences that happened in the lives of the monks, nuns and members of the Krishna Conscious family. Facetiously we sometimes speak of personal transition within house terms such as demon-to-devotee, hippie-to happies and punks-to-monks.
 
In addition to our personal miracles we can credit His Divine Grace to be a remarkable cutting-edge guru, as the one who insisted on a vegetarian culture, a fore-running advocate of the science of reincarnation, one who openly challenged Darwinism, one who introduced to the west ancient festivals of the east, one who spearheaded the kirtan mantra culture. His writings, commentaries on the ancient Vedas of India, baffled scholars of a philosophical capacity for his mammoth insight (I am sure I am missing something from the list - I have my limitations).
 
Today I have decided to pace back and forth in the temple ashram in order to feel close to him in the form of his murti (icon) situated at the rear of the sanctuary. A small group of us kick started our morning with a devotional song honouring the guru, Guruvastakam. It`s what we do every day, yet today is different because today marks the day we count the endless contributions by a person who really was so influential and yet who is so humbly set in the background. When you ask the average person who Swami Prabhupada is, they may be embarrassed to respond. It's not necessarily a bad thing. He is Krishna’s, we are confident that he has the attention of the person that counts.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Stepping Home
 
Toronto/Ontario
 
I've got a happy story about someone coming home. It's about an all American boy (young man really) who joined the order of the Hare Krishnas. He was like most people at the time in the 60's and 70's, a product of the counter culture. He settled down as a monk and accepted a guru as his guide. He was hit hard in the heart when his guru passed away and saw power struggles happening within the spiritual organization. He got disenchanted and even dis-chanted for a long time, years in fact.
 
Life went on for him, not as a monk, but as a married man. The relationship didn't hold together'. Eventually he made his way to  central Canada to collage country where the canoeing is good. By now, being outside the company of spiritualists, he fell away from vows he made long ago. One day an event occurred that traumatized  him. He took up chanting again after a thirty year break. This was a life break through for him.
 
He recently showed up at our doorstep at the ashram, after some correspondence and came to test the waters after not being wet (so to speak) for so long. I had the pleasure to meet and spend some time with this former monk who now eagerly wanted to be there again. He purchased a kurta (devotional shirt) and we acquired a dhoti for him, the lower body robe. He sported beads around his neck and applied tilak (earth based substance) to his forehead. It was all coming back to him.  The chants, the incense, the prasadam food. The special kind of people. The wisdom. " Why did I even leave"?  he asked himself. "We all learn in different ways," he reasoned.
 
"You're home now," I indicated to him. He ends up having been quite successful in the business world but it just wasn't enough. He wants to get in the thick of spirituality again. It's been a pleasure being with him. We click well together and what's more? He likes exercise and likes walking. That's my kind of person. He's a good brother, a spiritual bro. We went to a sanga home gathering, had a feast and chanting. The host was gracious and all the people there treated him nice.
 
It's like he never left, in a way. We're glad He's home.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
0 KM

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Tip the Scale
 
Toronto, Ontario
 
I had a real meaningful discussion with a male student while on foot. He believed as I that everyone--well, almost everyone ... at least 99.99% of us-- are good, but we do carry baggage. We are a combination of what's divine and diabolical. We are pure and profane at the same time. We are all in this dual domain.
 
Chapter Sixteen of the Bhagavad-gita puts it very clearly that the world is cut with the powers of the divine and the demoniac. And although we are encouraged to always think or be "balanced" it becomes rational that every individual should tip this scale. Life's mission has much to do with putting weight to the virtuous side causing vice to lighten up. That is the entire thrust of the Gita's message; to address anger, lust and greed.
 
By the way, they do have their place, too. The steam pressure of anger can be released of its lid when one is on the defense of battle, when there is injustice and when one must stand up for the vulnerable. Lust can do a front flip to become love for the Divine. And greed can do a backflip and transform as eagerness to attain the Lord's favor.
 
Chapter 14 of the Gita outlines the three modes of nature, goodness, passion and darkness-- the three states of consciousness. Life is a bag of trail mix in regards to each individual spirit being influenced into negative and positive ways. This is not to complicate matters-- going from two principles, good and evil, to three, but the karma in this world can be complex. Surely a sensible person can appreciate what is permanent and that which is not. He/she will gravitate to the eternal and endeavor in doing what it takes to be good.
 
As I wound up my walk and when my walking/talking companion had to go his way, I reached a juncture at the street. It was at Yonge and Bloor where a fellow bent his head slightly down to maneuver his lighter to his cigarette. Once he succeeded to have it lit he looked up at me and mumbled, "Hare Krishna." Two forces were coming from the same pipe (his mouth), which kind of prove the point made. There’s strength and positive in all.
 
He had me smiling. I hope I'll meet him again and hope that he'll outnumber The mantras to the cigarettes.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
7 KM

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

The Actor

Brampton, Ontario

Early this morning I met the most amazing actor. He looked wholesome and was stylish in attire. At the time, he was very much in the enjoying mode before he got fearsome.

To be more specific, when on my japa meditation walk at 5 AM in the quiet suburbs of Toronto, I stumble upon an opossum. It’s the first one I had ever seen in Canada. He’s a hairy guy, he had in his possession an apple which he had been chewing on. The reason for me calling him an actor was because he was faking it – dead. Like the saying goes, ‘play possum’, referring to lay low and play dead. This little guy pulled it off real well. He was rather motionless, laying partially to the side, yet I could tell by some jaw movement he was very much alive. His stoic posture is his defense method. It’s instinctive, if not genius.

I wanted to let him know that he had nothing to worry about when meeting a veggie monk. I was able to get close enough and let him catch the sound of the mantra. I proceeded to walk with the intent to come back a few minutes later, and sure enough, I found him gone, his partially eaten apple missing as well. Perhaps he’s found a tree to suspend himself from by means of his powerful tail. I’d say he’s quite professional at what he does. I was reminded of the Gita statement, “I am the ability in all.” Wherever talent lies, it all emanates from Him.

Later in the evening I was proudly engaged in the grand opening of a new facility for VEC, an acronym for Vedic Educational Centre, sponsored by ISKCON. This facility will function as a temple on Sunday while on other days of the week will hold Gita classes, kirtan, cooking demos, Odissi classes of dance lessons, perhaps even South Indian martial arts.

To celebrate its opening at 6 George Street in downtown Brampton, we staged a drama, Gita: Concise. It was performed by our own local actors who are very sincere. They did splendid. They helped me to reflect on the expert marsupial little fellow, the opossum, and the opossum reminded me of Him.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Leaving Impressions

Toronto, Ontario

Nature likes to show off and leave an impression.  I wasn’t the only one to notice.  There were lots of outdoor enthusiasts strolling through Chorley Park and the adjoining ravine as I was.  Sunday, today, was sunny, revealing rusty-red and glowing-yellow trees.  People took their time to absorb by ambling along or taking a seat on a log or clicking their cameras to register something worthwhile.

If I could just dwell on this theme of impressions then I will share.

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights, the New Year.  At this time you can take a fresh look at you.  It’s review time in addition to living in the moment through a unique celebration.  There’s colour, sounds, and great tastes.

Diwali is a recall of King Ram’s homecoming at the optimistic times of Treta Yuga.  After 14 years of a fateful exile.  Ram returned to the kingdom of Ayodhya along with his wife, Sita, brother, Lakshman, and a whole set of new friends, a simian race.  They were greeted very regally.  They were so much missed and loved.

A few days prior I had been asked to see what I can insert for the festival held at the temple, so quickly, in a matter of three days, we pulled together a presentation of monologues, excerpts from a recent book, ‘Rama Smarana’, produced by Krishna Ksetra.  The delivery of the reading and miming by actors left an impression.  I’m usually set out to do that.  It is the veritable obligation of a monk to leave an inspirational spiritual impression.  I thought a bit about what fuels impressions and it seems to me the answer is other impressions.

At the program was our chief guest, city counselor, Kristyn Wong-Tam.  She wowed the crowd and then stayed on after her allotted time to chant with a few of us after feasting.  Here we have a very accessible person who’s a good listener and as a rep of the city she offered the various services that her post provides.  It clearly was not just an official visit, she happens to be an official who is really a friend.  We were impressed.  Let us all try to impress with a selfless cause.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Friday, November 1st, 2013

No Costume

Mississauga, Ontario

Last evening the wind had been howling.  Trees and branches were astir with leaves hissing.  It was a perfect sound effect and atmosphere for Halloween.  My dear godbrother Krishna Das explained that the Pagan event had to do with the honouring of coming together of two worlds, and that a thin veil existed between them, the evil and the good.  People would mask themselves hoping to stave off the evil forces.

Like most things these days, traditional events take on a heavy commercial edge.  I had walked to “Theatrics Plus” on Yonge Street.  It’s a popular ghoulish costume store run by a good family whom I consider good friends over many years.  I’ll actually go there sometimes to buy costumes and other props for upcoming dramas staged at the ashram.  Sanjita, the owner, looked a little worn out serving customers up ‘til 1 AM.

“Now, Halloween is bigger than Christmas and Santa Claus,” she said.

It seems that people must have something to celebrate, to have something to go crazy over.  We need something to do.

In any event I ended up purchasing what I needed – outfits to portray a male and female cakora bird, for a Ramayan pastime.  After the purchase I readied myself for a gathering of great souls at Toronto’s west end in Mississauga.  The couple hosting the event at their home had a major purpose in mind for my visit. Recently, home owner, Dharan Dev, who hails from Madurai from South India, received a shipment of an entire Bhagavatam book set in the Tamil language.  It sounded like a purposeful event to me.  I felt honoured to attend.  I was to cut the ribbon which was actually a plastic strap binding a cluster of books together.  So I cut it (applause).

Then I spoke from chapter 1, verse 3:

“Oh expert and thoughtful souls, relish the Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures.  Its message emanates from the lips of Sukadeva Goswami…”

Who is Sukadeva Goswami?  He is an incredible monk who left home at age 16 and he sustained a renounced disposition, and is also the orator of this book.  Wherever he travelled on foot he did so unclothed, as he had no attachments.  No costume for him – ever.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Humour’s Okay

Scarborough, Ontario

Recently I pulled out one of those Christian tracks, you know, a small fold out that promotes the Jesus stuff.  I have no qualms with Jesus.  He’s totally cool.

This particular fold out has 101 of the world’s funniest one liners.  You’re supposed to get a good laugh and then you warm up to their message at the end.  The copy was given to me six years ago from a newspaper reporter in a town in eastern Ontario while I was on my third trek across Canada.  He came out to the street to interview me.  I felt him to be a bit biased, he asked, “Why did you get into this?”  Meaning Bhakti Yoga, Krishna Consciousness.  Anyways, I thought to share a selection of these one liners.  It’s Halloween, you can scream if you want.

1.       Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.
2.       Never answer an anonymous letter.
3.       I don’t suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.
4.       No one is listening until you make a mistake.
5.       Campers: nature’s way of feeding mosquitoes.
6.       Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else.
7.       Consciousness:  that annoying time between naps.
8.       There are three kinds of people:  those who can count, and those who can’t.
9.       I started out with nothing and I still have most of it.
10.   Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
11.   Out of my mind.  Back in five minutes.
12.   As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools.
13.   Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.
14.   You can’t have everything; where would you put it?
15.   Okay, who stopped the payment on my reality cheque?
16.   We are born naked, wet and hungry, then things get worse.
17.   Eat right, stay fit, die anyway.
18.   God made mankind.  Sin made him evil.
19.   Don’t steal.  The government hates competition.
20.   For every action, there’s an equal and opposite criticism.

And by the way, monks can laugh.  I hope you do too.  If you’d like a second installment, let me know.

May the Source be with you!

5 Km

Friday, 1 November 2013

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

A Tenor

Toronto, Ontario

Dustin Hiles sings opera and has expressed an interest in going to India.  I told him I know a place where his voice could be well utilized.  He has sung for the Queen and other dignitaries.  Recently he played around with the maha mantra, applying it to the classic rendition, melody wise, to Ave Maria.

Dustin has also run for office for the political party, the Liberals.  He currently resides in the country’s capital, Ottawa, and had just made a stopover in Toronto.  He’s fond of our temple and ashram, the residents and the prasad (the blessed veggie food).

I took the opportunity to walk with him to meet his aunt Marilyn.  We went en route to the music conservatory.  Inside are exhibits of old time musical instruments.  One piano, Chopin had played. I was intrigued with a serpent flute as well as a walking stick flute, both from another era for sure.

Dustin was getting me updated on what’s going on with his life; quite positive.  He also inquired about how to advance spiritually.  I was eager to suggest the following:

“You have a great voice.  Why not learn some sacred Sanskrit mantras?  Chant mantras of hope, sing them out and deliver them to access the ears of the world. “

I also indicated that there is a super sacred place in India where the acoustics are likely very conducive for an opera voice.  Dustin has an incredible set of lungs as a tenor, and I personally believe that he could help with what is called the Pushpa Samadhi with stone ceiling, and offer an enhanced purposeful space.  Thousands of pilgrims come there every day.  It is a sublimely attractive place.  I go there every year and spend hours in the downstairs auditorium.  I do feel the samadhi itself could be more than what it is.  Instead of it being a seemingly museum type of space, if its ether is more regularly infused with meaningful sound, emphasis on voice rather than on musical instruments, it would be a magnet of a place.

The Earth could do with more sacred space and less factories, what do you think?

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Coming Down

Tel Aviv / Amsterdam / Toronto

Flight 462 on KLM was super intense. Coming in for a landing into Amsterdam was not easy. Powerful wind currents had struck before the cloud level. The English woman next to me seemed calm, cool and collected during this turbulence but I could see a host of people adjusting their individual vents from above, response to wooziness. The plane maneuvered in circles. Some passengers were poised with their disposal bag to their mouths. Any chatter going on had ceased while the pilot in the cockpit held his focus on what to be done.

The English woman said, "The pilot must be working up a sweat. I know because my husband was a pilot and an uncle as well."

For me, my fidgety legs that wanted to do no more than be on the ground, quieted by the upstaging of the wavering plane. I mention to the woman that as a kid I used to get motion sickness being in the car (one reason for me to sleep in them). Just looking at solid ground below seem to anchor my equilibrium somehow. Any moment that I set my eyes to the inside the shakiness within sent dizzy impulses.

Gradually with time, minutes, we landed which was also a rough one. But we made it! I had been up to my protective mantras during the process, which is the grace of the Guru. Perhaps I wasn't the only one praying. In my mind I thought, "this could be it."

It was just before the turbulence that I picked up the major story in the New York Times. It was about President John F Kennedy who himself encountered a fragile, shattered and perhaps heroic life. Soon to come will be the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Some 40,000 books have been published about the man whose death traumatized a generation. The article brought to light with one new book (I forgot the name and author now) that delta still lingers on the character and contribution of the person. Despite all written on him he remains a mystery.

I couldn't help but parallel a concept from the sound Gita. Krishna Explains that many people (seekers) give consideration to the nature of the soul. Gyanis, the wise, speculate as to its nature. They ponder its existence and are still left with questions.

This also can hold true for studying the nature of the Absolute. You can spend a lifetime --or lifetimes-- in attempting to penetrate the inconceivable. You may have reached an epiphany, but in the end the mystique prevails.

Whatever we may conclude with realization on life will be what they are. The question is tiered for leaving?

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

See A Bigger World

Harish, Israel

The day started off with a few of us exploring a trail at Aeriels' perimeter. With fence and barbed wire top, it was assumed it's out-of-bounds, a security road only. But no, it was confirmed by a local body that it is a route that walkers generally take.

The view is pleasing to the eyes with valleys of cream-to-beige coloured rock. The vista reminds me of the backdrop of a Charlton Heston 50's film. The sun is ever present and air is dry while condensation, and morning dew, is prevalent on most services, a desert dynamic. Temperatures are in the mid 20's by midday.

Friday is the day for the Muslims. Saturday is the day for the Jews. Sunday, today, is the day for the Christians. And, of course, everyday is special if you see it from an enlightened perspective.

Radhikatma and I drove to Caesarea, a town of ancient Roman ruins by the sea where we dipped in before the ride to Harish. I have a theory that mid afternoon should meet with a splash, a quick one. It's a great wake-up to challenge the grogginess as the day wears on.

Finally we made it to Harish, a moderate sized city where you will find a community of bhakti yoga adherents. This group is mostly of Israeli descent. I thought to conduct a Nine Devotions Workshop here. Part of the session involves an ice-breaking few minutes. "What's your favorite color?" for instance is a question asked. It was remarkable how many of these participants like "blue". Is it a Jewish trait? As the minutes rolled on we all could see Chaitanya's doctrine or principle that there's uniqueness and commonality in any sphere of existence. We are one and different at the same time.

We had a jolly good time making our way through the nine devotions that bring us closer to the Devine. I always ask for feedback after the sessions are over. I think it was put nicely by one of the women who said, "It Really helped me and the group to open up and see a big world."

May the Source be with you!

8 KM