Saturday, 30 August 2014

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Bracebridge, Ontario

Trees, Water, and People

I hit a few trails outside of Bracebridge with companion, Jay Gopal.  We had them all to ourselves.  The trees were with us though, only they did not walk.  We had red and white pines, cedar, maple, hemlock, beech, and more, which acted as our canopy.  True friends they are. 

At noon I embarked on the Lady Muskoka cruise, one that meanders the Muskoka River, and then to the lake of the same name.  “Tourists are down, ever since 9-11,” said one of the cruisers staff, “Americans don’t come as they used to.”  Anyways, water was all around and it was very tranquil, the whole 2 ½ hour run.  It was also my chance to connect with fellow passengers and make friends. 

Outside of forest and water, I had a great conversation with a Polish fellow who’s doing renovations at the Inn.  Being Polish, he declared his exposure to Catholicism, yet I found in him a sense of incredible openness.  He is currently reading Canto 7 of the book, “Bhagavatam”, and has immersed himself in the wisdom that tells of tall tales and deep philosophy.  He was enamoured by the self centred character, Hiranya Kashipu.  He talked and questioned long and hard, and I responded from the platform of Vedic philosophy, which he admitted, goes deep.  He did share with me some good material from Saint Augustine’s “The Confessions”:

In this life, which is said to be one long temptation, no one should be complacent… Restrain yourselves from the monstrous savagery of pride, from luxurious inertia of self indulgence, and from sham pretention to knowledge.
May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Bracebridge, Ontario

Eeking Out The Last Of Summer Fun

The summer break for kids is nearing its end.  Vacationers are wrapping it up as a creeping in chill hits our evenings.  In the forests where the oak tree flows with acorns, the squirrels ‘go nuts’ with harvest.  In truth, this is the summer that never was, as temperatures rarely reached normal heights.  But that’s okay, moderation in temperatures and lack of balminess is my thing, if I might say so, selfishly.

From the greater Toronto area, four families and I took off for an outing.  This I see as the spiritual leader’s obligation from time to time.  The motive or the motif is, “Get with your people”. 

Once reaching Bracebridge, a quaint town of 16,000, the majority of the group vied for going to Santa’s Village, a mini (and multi triple that) version of Disney nestled in the northern forest.  I first had to question my purpose in being in this kiddies’ domain.  Once entering, however, I could appreciate the neatness of the place, and an ambience of innocence.  I felt it was a safe haven compared to being in a convenience store which solicits sex through magazine covers which are for sale.  Now you have to remember, I’m a monk speaking here.  By the way, our kids really loved Santa’s Village.  The teenage boys, however, got stimulated only when we returned to our host’s facility, The Muskoka Riverside Inn, which has incorporated within its premises, a bowling alley. Excuse the inside joke – the ‘Hari Bowling” alley.  Yes, I took a crack at striking the pins.  I did pretty good if I might say so.

Finally, my turn for greater stimulation, a walk to two local waterfalls from along the Muskoka to Saugeen River, and to trails beyond, completed my adventure with the Patel dynasty, that are ever so good at securing motel/hotel establishments doomed to fail, and turning them into hopeful enterprises.  The secret is family power.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Two Directions As One

I had been preparing for the next day’s trip to Muskoka cottage country up north.  Preparatory work for me means two things, one, get my chanting, and two, get my walking in.  Packing is minimal.  I’m only staying overnight.  So the idea is get body and mind tuned up

I ventured through nooks and narrow streets.  I came upon a place I’d never seen before in the city where I live.  I particularly attempted to hit walkways situated away from traffic.  I trekked for the first time up the street from where I live, University Avenue, and trailed down on its gardened strip of the boulevard in the middle.  I was surprised to discover urban labyrinths.  All the while I was chanting except for two instances when I briefly stopped to gesture at a First Nations fellow who was quite drunk, yet he knew enough culturally to offer his pranams when seeing me. 

My next and final encounter was with two Caucasian chaps who did their best at saying “Namaste”.  Both of them, brothers, had been to India.  They spent some time there, then came back to North America only to experience a type of “subtle hostility” as they put it.

“Yes, India’s a place of physical chaos, but mental peace,” was our mutually agreed upon attitude about the country.  Neither communities, east or west, have the ideal situation as they stand on their own.  East and west should be able to find solace in drawing together the strengths from each side. 

So, let there be a marriage, a gorgeous celebration! 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Make Light!

I know some people who visit our ashram and who have challenges in life with imbalance. Whether on medication or not, I advise them to get more physical for their well-being. Such people do seek advice. They sometimes anticipate some spiritual counsel and surely I will deliver.  At the same time I will suggest physical accomplishments – the use of head to toe, the swaying of legs and swinging of arms. In short, the ancient art of walking works.

It is also in walking that one reaches a creative optimum. There are things you see, smell and wander over in the course of movement that helps to bring out the most in an individual.

Sometimes I meet folks who carry extra karma (lbs.-wise) and surely I will tactfully recommend walking. For the slim and trip, I’ll do the same – advise them that their obligation is to stay inspirational to others. “Please remember though, you are not the body. You are the spirit.”

For the youthful, anything to get them for free time from gadgets. “Walking beats all,” I say. To the elderly, well, in his seventies our guru, Srila Prabhupada went on his daily treks. That, along with daily massage boosted longevity. In his own words he said of an emergency doctor, “That was good advice.”

Anyways, what do you expect a “walking monk” to say to an audience of readers? The monk part is about chanting and healing oneself with the subtle flab that hangs around inside you.

“Karma is a heavy thing,” a friend said when he encountered life’s bumps. I agreed with him and said, “Let’s make it light!”

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
Fill the Day
The start of today was kirtan. The middle of the day also called for kirtan. Then at the farewell bidding of the day there was also kirtan.
Kirtan refers to the celebration of sound. For those few of us who reside in our ashram we have the good fortune to be attending the first of the day’s chanting session at mangal arati. A half a dozen people come from outside our building. Most of the residents in our area are $1 million-plus homes. It makes it hard for our community members to even consider living near their place of meditation. Again, those of us who are practically able, are lucky.
Most mornings Manoj plays a soft roll on the drum. Nick plays a sweet, light clang on kartals (hand cymbals). The rest of us sing making this all a glorious welcoming to the day.
My second and third portions of celebratory sound were at Bhakti Lounge on Dundas Street. For the guru, Srila Prabhupada, young members, all born after his departure in ’77, sang the standard Guru Vandanam and then proceeded with their version of what’s called Vyasa Puja. Each one of the hardcore members, numbering about ten came forward to read (from a glowy gadget) their own scripted words to express their thanks. When it came to kirtan time, I was frankly concerned the floor would cave in when these jumping enthusiasts and the singing and drumming made that floor shake a bit. Below us is a chicken-eating restaurant. I’m sure eating clients chewing on their birds would not appreciate some monk suddenly landing on their table.
The final kirtan for the day was at our 243 Avenue Road location, again this time with three hundred folks ecstatic with letting the sound of Krishna’s name be of a powerful force that pushes maya, illusion, far away. Wish you could have been there.
May the Source be with you!
7 KM

Monday, 25 August 2014

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

2nd Annual

In between the two installments of trekking today, I had the pleasure to partake in Brampton’s 2nd Annual Ratha Yatra at downtown Gage Park.  “When a teenager,” I told the crowd, “way before I heard the word ‘Krishna’, I relaxed at this very park at the gazebo in the shady trees.”  Ron Casir, a friend, and I, hitchhiked one summer throughout southern Ontario looking to find ourselves.  I never would have believed that I’d be in this spot again, bald and wearing robes, 43 years after my moderate hippie phase. 

Since then, the park has been spruced up (I still see the same spruce trees, though).  The area around has been built up.  After all, the world in which we live is always changing.  The mayor of the city, which is now at the half a million mark, showed up.  Susan Fennell seemed to be all smiles.  My god-brothers, Kaliyapani and Gaura, also came to lead in the kirtans.  A special feature, undisputedly, was the drama of “Little Big Ramayan”. 

The organizers were happy, expressing a double increase of attendance from last year’s modest 500, it grew to twice that size.  Our route for the standard procession was ‘in the round’.  Four revolutions on this circular sidewalk constituted the journey of joy as participants pulled the chariot by rope.

One local guy, James, who came for the bulk of the program, came to see me, offered the greatest handshake, saying, “Thank you, and please pray for me.”  I thought he was going to cry.  I believe he did, at least internally.  Tears were dripping on his heart, he had such a good time.  Then James asked a group of us, “Do you guys know the Beatles?” and one of our members, Vaishnava, sang, “We love you, yeah yeah yeah…”  James corrected him saying, “No it’s, ‘she loves you’.”  And my response to that was, “No it’s ‘we’, in relation to you and us.  We prefer, ‘we love you’”.  At that point, James got it.

May the Source be with you!

11 KM

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The Good About Kali

Sad for me to hear from a family lawyer, who’s a member of our community, that few people remain content in their relationships.  In her own words, “People don’t seem to learn from their past mistakes.”  She indicated that whatever personal weakness that an individual may admit to, he/she will not make the endeavour towards correction, hence, the same short coming spoils the chance for a relationship to work the next time around.

Separation/divorce is rampant, and it’s a challenge that faces every community across the board, across the globe. 

When I saw a park bench in the course of today’s trek, a grafiti’d message sprayed on to the bench read, “Sick Earth”.  I wasn’t sure how to interpret that line because sick in today’s language means, ‘it’s cool’.  If we take it to mean that the world is malfunctioning or is dysfunctional, I think this would be a more accurate assessment.  Patience and tolerance of character we lack, and it is a sure sign of the times.  We say, in devotional circles, “We are in the Kali Yuga (age of darkness).”  People are slow to inner development. 

At the same time that we languish in the conditions of today, we can also recognize the true optimism of the current day.  In our discussion this morning, after I took my personal short but sweet head clearing walk, the few monks and I reflected on the Kali Yuga’s strongest feature.  The sages of Vedic tradition say that through song of the right sound one can encounter ultimate hope and peace. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Tiny Spirit

Hanuman is a Columbian visiting us for some time in the ashram.  He and I, and Praveen, took a stroll before Surya (the Sun) poked his head over the horizon.  We were in the downtown on Yonge Street, so you couldn’t actually very well see that ball of glory beyond all the buildings unless you peeked east at a street running longitudinally. 

There are a number of men who work at the waste management plant nearby.  They are getting accustomed to seeing us on our devotional daily walk.   While they carry huge coffee cups in hand, they make a point to greet us with a, “Good morning”.

I had a humbling thought, “I am waste, I’m garbage.  Maybe they can manage me.”  It’s not for you to worry about a perceived low self-esteem issue, but I’m definitely not made of all clean stuff.  I’ll be the first to admit to the refuse within me.  I’m working on it though, I stay in positive company, hear positive sound, and eat positive prasadam(food that’s blessed).  I try to stay positively engaged in Krishna’s service.  I had the good fortune to deliver a class each day this week, it’s very purifying for me.  We have been speaking about the progenitors of the world, their rule and their counsel.  Reading and teaching from the ‘Bhagavatam’ reminds me of the smallness that I’m in and putting things in the real perspective.  I am a tiny spirit set in this universe.  I am a servant trying to get clean. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Spook Trail

It was an obscure trail and it lead me upwards under welcoming shade.  It meandered a bit up to the ridge’s ascension along Bayview Avenue.  “No one comes here,” I figured, and then I doubted my conclusion, “Well, someone has to, otherwise, it wouldn’t be here.”  It was just by chance I spotted this path in the first place.  It’s totally off the beaten path.  I trekked it and started to question the trail’s direction.  I went up and then it indicated that it’s descending already. 

There, along this super attractive trail was the secret home, a cylindrical tarpaulin structure to a not totally homeless person.  I assumed vacancy at this time of day, 5 PM.  I forged ahead and then decided to retrace steps.  The direction it went was north and I wanted south.

When I came back to this secret lodge, if you will, I noticed a pair of hands at one end of the person’s plastic home, just inside the aperture.  Anticipating some clear directions from the person inside, I said, “Hello, hello?” a few times.  Only the hands were visible, the rest of the body was bundled up and in darkness.  One hand pulled in at the sound of my voice, and the remaining one was jittery.  It was thin and bony and light skinned, and it was moving in a jittery way over a small game board of sorts.  The utter silence spooked me a tad, but rather, helped me to think of Krishna.  I was hoping that at least I’d here a caveman’s grunt. 

With zero answer I was compelled to let instincts guide me, and so I eventually found myself hobbling over the hill into sunshine and stepping right into a healthy patch of poison ivy.  Too late!  I’m done!  I’m susceptible to this ornery plant.  That’s what you get for being slightly adventurous and leaving a main trail.  It’s all fun.  You just keep rolling fingers on the beads and moving your lips to the mantra. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Just Yesterday

It was just yesterday that I submitted my yearly written words of appreciation to our guru, Srila Prabhupada, on his birth anniversary.  They are found in the form of a poem just below.  It was today that I trekked along the path that he took in June of ’76 along Taylor Creek, right here in Toronto. 

There are many moods projected about you,
Reflected in pics, so many, not few.
They are diverse colours of a true saint
That are captured by camera or brush with paint.
Moods of gravity, solidity, and weight
The serious look that defines the great. 
Moods of lightness, moments of humour,
Of laughter, jokes, and human candour. 
My favourite photos are of your smile, 
They inspire and push for the extra mile,
They lure and lock in an eager soul
Who’s on a search for the ultimate goal. 
You say, “The face is the index of the mind”.
The exterior can determine the kind. 
Dare I judge the face of your Divine Grace. 
Yet I presume purity rests at that place. 
You profile as a master, scholar, or king,
A general, a warrior, the spirit of Narasingh.
Paradoxically, you’ve shown your ability
To portray a servant in all humility.
There are images of you in reverent prayer. 
Those are the stills not really so rare –
Images of concern for us as we go
On a hobble or a crawl and move so slow.
I like the pics when  you enjoyed the play.
It was in New York at the end of one day.
Krishna eloped with a grand princess,
Rukmini, being the damsel in distress.
It was drama that brought you some delight
As actor princes put up a good fight.
Your viewing the play is precious indeed,
An impression that waters the bhakti seed.
There are action shots of your teaching and talking –
Action shots of reading and walking.
They are signatures, brands, trademarks –
Images that pull us out of the dark.
Grateful are we for those generous poses
That strike the heart like petals of roses.
One frozen moment of your deep contemplation
Leaves us with a piece for worthy conversation.
The Source is with you!
12 KM

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

It Is Custom

It is a custom, with me, anyway, to do this japa chanting walk in the dark after the fasting and feasting of Janmastami.  At 1:45 AM we went.  Churnley, Mohit  and I took to a blackened evening through the trees.  Churnley’s cell phone lit up some of the trail which edges along dry tree areas as well as cat-tailed wetlands in the lower Don River system. 

At one corner, we received some vision power from the moon’s casting, and there we caught a wave of wild flower scent that allowed our minds to travel to the drama we had just enacted before a full house at our temple.  Based on the pages of the book, Bhagavatam, the description of the eve of Krishna’s birth was one of total shanty (peace).  Planets were prominent.  All that was aromatic was present.  All that indicated prosperity, such as rivers full of flowing waters, breezes favourable, and stars apparent, were enhanced.  Whatever I had narrated from the script of “Blue Mystic” was delineating such details, at least in spirit, and was now duplicated in the very atmosphere we were moving through.  What a special day (evening, rather). 

Sleep was evident after a full day of activity and being on an empty stomach.  And now our full bellies were waddling down a trail for a two hour people-less stretch.  I told the two companions before the trek, the rule of this customary walk is “No talking.  Only chant.”  We are honouring our guru, Srila Prabhupada, because as of 12 midnight we celebrate his birthday – that’s festive day number two.  What can you do but continue the joy. 

May the Source be with you!

12 KM

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

His Birthday

It’s Krishna’s birthday.  On such occasions you often end up doing something that’s enjoyable.  Along with a dozen community members here, we chose to walk somewhat of an obstacle course just after our morning arati (early morning meditations).

Not all of this group were so highly prepared foot wear wise, because the trek was truly spontaneous for them.  We are also looking at participants that are mostly car bound suburbanites.  They were, however, troopers, excited by our chosen forest setting trail. 

“This trail will remind you of Vrindavan,” I said at the outset, “Krishna’s upbringing turf.”  We then blazed that trail at David Balfour Park, and then the Brickworks where I did my training for long distance walking. 

My pace was slower than usual just to accommodate the crew.  We went down a wiggly trail and let these troopers know that even in the heart of a fair sized city like Toronto, one can derive from it a peaceful greenery. 

Legs were sore (not mine), but smiles were preserved.  “That’s the spirit!”  I told the group.  “Now, we are going to enjoy a packed day of festivities.”  I also reminded them that it’s a full day fast.  Each one of these participants passed the test and had not passed out.  They achieved happy tolerance.  I gave a talk in the evening to a full house on the significance of Janmastami, the birth anniversary of Krishna.  Sitting in front of me was one of the participants, a woman who happened to slip and fall on the moist boardwalk segment of the walk.  She smiled away, though, like anything while I was talking, jubilant like one of Krishna’s peacocks. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Monday, 18 August 2014

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Real Strength

“I am the strength of the strong.”

This statement from the Gita bears relevance when we appreciate its reference to the Creator.  Strength comes in many shapes and forms. 

Nick and I were walking southbound on Yonge Street.  At the juncture of Gerard, we met a group of young folks from Niagara Falls who’d been drinking something more powerful than Gatorade.  They were partying.  The men in the group were obvious body builders.  They wore their muscle t-shirts to flaunt what they had – huge biceps. 

Upon seeing Nick and I in our devotional attire, the group from Niagara took a keen interest.  The most talkative of the group admitted their weakness, “We were up all night partying.”  Now being 6:15 AM, they acknowledged our strength with our early rising.  The group of them had question after question about how we see life.  As Nick put it after we part it, “They were very genuine and eager to learn.”  I had concluded in my mind, “I wouldn’t mind having body guards like them if I was in a dangerous setting somewhere.”

Hours passed, then hours were spent at the ISKCON Brampton Centre conducting a Kirtan Standard Seminar.  The subject of rules, policies and ecstasies regarding kirtan, chanting sessions, had been a very sought after workshop which helps to strengthen and reinforce the chanting that these participants engage in.  Its purpose is to make one’s self strong beyond physical strength.  Coping with life’s challenges is, after all, an incredible strength. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

On The Knees

I had been away from my home base for quite a good amount of time this summer.  My walking for the day was quite exclusively in the premises at 243 Avenue Road. I kept to the interior of the building and paced back and forth, more specifically in the temple hall.  For my entire chanting meditation, I chose to stay out of the cooler climate.  Had it become a hot, balmy day, as it often is in the summer, I would have made the escape. 

While in the shelter of the building which I love, I noticed the need for a cleaning – surfaces, shelves, floors.  The edifice is frequented by many peole and maintenance attention lags behind.  I did the necessary, I donned sweat pants and kept to the traditional kurta shirt.  I was inspired by monks of the past who boldly went at it. 

The favourite is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who orchestrated a healthy competition for collecting dirt and dirt affiliates in the Gundica Temple.  He positioned Himself against an entire group of followers and ended up the winner in comparing heaps of refuse. 

I rather liked going at the scrubbing of the floor and food areas right on the knees.  The after effect of cleaning is perhaps the best, there’s no better feeling.  When cleaning a place, particularly a sacred space, and getting at all the corners, it’s like cleaning the corners of your heart.  It’s highly therapeutic.  Try it out. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Bring It On

Bike trails are yet to be developed in a big way in this sprawling new place called Brampton.  I did a little personal checking up on trails for hiking in the Sandalwood Parkway area where I was staying overnight.  In these burbs you do find man made ponds, some have pathways which circle around them.  In the Dixie Road area there are some sidewalks chalked out along creeks and mini ravines.  At least some effort is being made to satisfy the pedestrian. 

I admit to getting judgmental about a place.  I consider that a settlement that has ample walking and cycling trails is first class.  It was also interesting to note that in Brampton, you can observe many members, seniors, of the Sikh community that do much walking.  Good for them.

After my dental appointment I trekked north on Dixie Road.  I passed by a prominent Baptist Church.  There at one wing of the building, a sign reads, “Integration Office”.  I thought, “Why doesn’t our temple have something like that?”  This would be a perfect service to assist newcomers into the community.  I imagine that even without a budget, all that is truly required to usher people into a new crowd is some time, attention and warmth – elements that are often absent in our crazy modern world. 

In general, I would like to say let’s bring on kindness. 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

When and if Gas Runs Out

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, responded to the oil embargo going on in ’74.  His remark then was that the problem could easily be solved if people stopped using the automobile.  He suggested travel would be by foot, horse, or bullock cart. 

To take his actual quote, “In human society, the normal way to travel is by foot, horse, bullock cart, camel, or elephant.  Those modes of transport have been around since time immemorial.   Only in Kali Yuga do we have motor cars, and this motor car society will not last very long.  When the petrol dries up, what use are your motor cars?”

This statement may be considered as somewhat relative since other alternative means have developed more recently for fueling the car.  There’s electrical power, solar, and other choices.  However, we may ponder the principle and agree that such a radical adjustment, if it were to be implemented, then efficiency would be sacrificed for health, safety, peacefulness and neighbourliness.  The social condition would certainly change. 

I doubt that a switch to a saner speed and mode of travel would happen tomorrow.  Total collapse of the present car culture would be the catalyst to ignite a sweeter and slower pace of living.  Are we dreaming? 

Personally, I would love for the dogsled to come back into the picture and take a prominent role in transportation.   Again, wishful thinking.  My confession is that today I did not walk, but I also did not use a car. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Good Thoughts for Robin

When going through the security screening at the Vancouver Airport, a monitor was reporting the news of the death of comedian, Robin Williams.  That’s sad.  He made a lot of people laugh.  God produced a very talented man in him.

When getting fetched at the Toronto Airport, greeter, Rajneesh, informed me how Mr. Williams gave up his own life due to depression.  That’s also sad.  It’s like the proverbial symptom of the sad clown.

It is well understood that life is tough and that there are hard circumstances to bear.  Many of us live a dual world with heaviness in the heart while we show a bright face.  To Robin we offer our respects and wish him a good chance in the next life.

News of this sudden departure caught my attention once again momentarily in the course of a cooling evening walk.  It brought my thoughts to the mode of prayer.  When I was just recently in Vancouver I was approached by someone who admitted to having a rocky marriage with a spouse.  The person asked that I please put prayers out for the relationship’s salvation.

Reassuringly I said, “Of course I will.”  Thinking of Robin’s going reminded me of prayer being important.  It usually means sending good vibes out there and a call for help.  It throws you into a wholesome dependency.  Now, just because I play a spiritual role doesn’t mean I’m the only one to enlist in this practice of prayers.  It’s for everyone.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Vancouver, British Columbia

Every Day

Every day of one’s life, one should ride on the power of a message.  Walking for me is down time, if not, up time, because you have opportunity then to elevate the consciousness.  I always try to have one of the many empowering statements of the Bhagavad Gita to dominate the day and to be with me when I’m moving my feet. 

Today’s verse came not so randomly, but was triggered  by someone’s question.  Verse 3.26 came to me like some divine dove that did dive down from the sky.  It’s about encouragement.  Here it is, along with the transliteration:

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed
ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām
joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi
vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran

So as not to disrupt the minds of people attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work, rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he/she should engage them in all sorts of activities.
Here, the message is not to discourage people, but to encourage and inspire them in the spirit of devotion.  The task left to those who will take up this obligation then, is to ask ourselves, “What can I say or do to inspire service in others?”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Vancouver, British Columbia

Free Plum

“Free Plum” read the sign tacked onto the tree trunk.  I guess the reason for the singular and not the plural to the word ‘plum’ is that it must have been scripted by the tree’s proprietor who doesn’t have English as their first language.  I couldn’t’ find a plum during this morning’s walk at least from the branches overhanging by my walking path.  Those golden balls of juice were visible on the other side of the owner’s fence.

“There will be other opportunities,” I thought while in last for an organic fruit.  Who can blame me?”

Well, I did find another plum tree.  I helped myself to one delicious edible and moved on.  I trekked by more berry bushes, orchard gardens.  The smells emanating from the various growth was phenomenal.  The experience reminded me of a statement by Chanakhya Pandit regarding a dominant plant in a garden known for its fragrance and size and how in the illustrious dynasty of the moon, Sri Krishna had been born taking dominance.

You might say that it’s purely a coincidental situation when I was ear marked to give a class.  It just so happened that the verse from the ‘Bhagavatam’ was centered on the sun and moon dynasties and that Krishna shines through as the dominant person in that lineage.  Cool, isn’t it?

May the Source be with you!

12 KM

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Vancouver, British Columbia

The Change Within the Change

On a trail you’ll never see the foliage along the way to be the same as before.  Plants come up to replace old ones.  New invasive ones will eventually be invaded.

It was only three weeks ago that I was walking this trail in prime farmland and it was not hard to see the transitory nature of what happens along both sides of me.

Humans seem to always respond to the plant dynamics. For instance, the blackberry bushes come in like an army.  It’s vines hug (or choke) trees.  They climb fences and start to crawl on the trail or rail.  Someone will come along with a serious cutting instrument to fight back the invasion.  It appears to be one siege after another on behalf of both sides.

It looks like some people give up the comfort and just let nature in the form of colder weather get the aggressors to tone down.  Perhaps it’s like letting old age take to natural course, to subdue youthful passions.

Today also brought me to Stanley Park as it did so may other people.  I was impressed with a man who, as an artist, balanced irregular shaped rocks upon other rocks turning the nook along the beach at English Bay into a gallery to view with awe.  No double, a strong wind or a strong wave will change that and make it disappear.  Hence, a rearrangement of the physical continues on. 

This was my observations our humble chanting party breezed through the crowd along the attractive beach.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

A Fight in the Tree

Fierce fighters they were.  One block from our ashram were a family of four ‘rascal raccoons’ as some people would call them.  They were cussing and snapping at each other off of narrow branches from a single tree.  It was 4 AM, they would not let up.  It was a real show, or rather, a show down.  It halted my short trek, it was a station break for me.  Entertainment at its best.

Seeing those guys lunging at each other was  a simple reminder that species outside of humans usually occupy themselves, in and amongst other things, with this kind of fare – fighting.  Oh, there are plenty of testimonies given by people of spiritual things that animals sometimes enact.  Some of those creatures demonstrate great qualities of benevolence and virtue, such as the dog’s loyalty, which is a far cry from what you find in many humans. 

A raccoon’s snarl, such as what I heard and witnessed when seeing those perfect rows of jaws jutting out, was a family feud performance.  It seems to be quite common amongst these guys.  I believe we all have aggressive little raccoons in our head. 

Aggression was probably the theme of our drama practice this evening.  As the director, I was bringing out the raccoon in everyone.  Aggression is what the scene calls for.  I applaud my tree friends, the raccoons, taking the lead in showing this passion.  The rehearsal was good.  By the way, you really get to know people when you ask them to surrender who they think they are and when they’re trying to be someone else.  Deep down inside we are humble entities and naturally take a service role.

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Three Workers

I heard some talking going on from across the street and slightly above.  I turned my head as a natural response.  Three guys in hardhats at a construction site were looking right at me.  One was brown bodied, one was white, and the third was oriental. 

The brown guy offered pranams (palms together).  The oriental guy looked at the brown guy doing pranams and engaged in a smile, while the white dude who was standing in the middle did a little head toss.  I reciprocated with their responses which were triggered by my being there.  Whatever dialogue went on between the three of the workers, I was not privy to.  I know that the initial reaction from them was favourable and respectable. 

I went on my way towards my destination to a gathering of vintage Krishna folks, where we would enjoy each other’s bonding.  To the program, I, as usual, tend to take note of reactions from people.  Indeed, cyclists and pedestrians responded rather positively, apart from the three workers.  I see that greeting someone is a kind of service that people are obliged to indulge in.  There is that social need in extending neighbourly gestures.  Let’s face it, life can be extremely grim if it wasn’t for small traces of lightness that’s inserted within.

A “Good morning! “ “Hello!  How are you?”  Or just delivering a smile.  Maybe a “Namaste”, a “Hare Krishna”, go a long way to leading people towards improving the quality of life.  Of course, it really helps when you have a unique set of duds on that puts the thought of spirituality in the mind.  It makes the greeting that much more interesting. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Madrid, Spain

Fast In and Fast Out

It’s a first for me in Madrid, we had a few hours to kill, so to speak.  No better place could be found, but any place where there’s devotion, right?  Arrival time to Madrid was early and a nice person, temple commander of this ISKCON Centre came for the pickup of a monk and his travelling assistant, Mohit, to that place of devotion.

It’s Europe, you know, so everything is tight in the developed part of the city.  Whether it be kitchen, bedroom, toilet, eating space, it’s tight, but smartly tight.  European architecture?  Beautiful! 

I gave a talk, had no time for a walk.  Temple is quaint, devotees sweet, time to depart.  Our car smashed into the door of a truck.  Quickly, Mohit and I had to switch to a cab. 

In fast forward, over the Atlantic, came the arrival into Canada.  We were greeted by a smiling Maha Bhagavat, a member of our Toronto community.  At his home, we munched on wraps.  Instead of a nap at his home, I vied for a stroll via Finch Avenue down on Leslie Street and then Eglinton Avenue. 

When I walk, I take it all in, I observe, I smell, I experience, I nod (to people), I notice the concrete, the grass, the apple and plum trees, the Rivers.  I see cracks in the sidewalk, and I see solid spots.  I see below me and above me and the front of me, especially when crossing the road.  I have no radio, no box in which to be crammed as in automobile.  I am free and I watch prisoners of cars go by me.  I’m free up to a point until I get picked up to get brought back home.  Then, it’s a different kind of freedom, because I’m with spiritual people.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

Last Day

The last day’s visit to this extraordinary place in the Canary Islands was crowned with a ceremony.  Cuban born, Janardan, accepted his 2nd initiation this morning.  He’s a smart young guy and has won a scholarship for mathematics at the University at Madrid, he’s studying and teaching.  His accepting the brahminical initiation allows him some privileges in our community.  In Cuba and in Spain, people love when he gives a class in bhakti yoga. 

Both Yadunanda Swami and I spoke on the importance of brahminical input into human society.  Some of the points made are as follows:

1)      A brahmin aspires to understand both energies of matter and spirit.
2)      A brahmin is a visionary and shares his/her vision, working towards an improved world.
3)      A brahmin is a guru for the community and acts as teacher, trainer, guide, coach, mentor (cheerleader, even) in the spiritual sciences.
4)      A brahmin always endeavours to be clean, honest and see through the eyes of wisdom (shastra).
5)      A brahmin may be cold with himself, as in being austere, but is warm with everyone else.

While I took personal time with Janardan before and after the fire ceremony to honour his achievement, there were other people who wanted personal dialogue, this I obliged.  It did consume the day.  Also a final stop at a gorgeous plot of land that is the future site of a temple and cultural centre.  Before the ride to the airport, a small assembly of devotees had last goodbyes while we were reading quotations and memories about our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  In a sense the day was not complete because I found no  minutes to put on some walking shoes and blaze a trail.  My feet felt antsy going on the plane.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM (I’m embarrassed)

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

Near the Top

We were near the top on the surface of the crater at the National Park of Del Teide Mountain.  The actual peak is at 3,178 metres, and as I understand it, it is the tallest elevation point in Spain.  Patita Pavana, our jolly and fearless leader, who runs the Tenerife Krishna centre, said this is where the latest Planet of the Apes was filmed.

A few of us from the local centre took to walking and to some steep hiking on the pourous rock of this most interesting volcanic area.  When the last active volcano leaked its lava, the residents of one town took refuge in a cathedral.  The red hot substance flowed down on either side of the building, which remained intact.  And hence, the sheltered believers were saved. 

The terrain is wild looking like the badlands of the US and Canada.  We were at this location at the most intense feature of the sunset.  The play of the sun’s colour, plus the array of volcanic sediments, was a feast for our eyes.  Fortunately the government conserves this upper portion of the mountain.  Either in your ascent or descent of the mountain, you can also see productive agriculture going on with grape vineyards and potato fields.  Wild fig bushes grace the side of the road. 

After this long day, and the late night festival of the previous day held at the downtown of Playa De Las Americas, our small group treated ourselves to seeing and exploring this gorgeous piece of Mother Nature and Father God. 

The Earth has beauty everywhere, but we were going ape over this special summit in the world.  I really aspire to walk up the mountain peak one day, as others have done.  I would chant all the way.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

So How Was It?

If it wasn’t for the procession in the downtown of Tenerife, in honouring, once again, the Chariot Festival, I would have not got any walking in today.

So, how was that, anyways?  The festival?

Just great!!! 

The thump of the djembe saved the kirtan.  The traditional clay bodied mrdangas (drums) of Bengal don’t always have the power to deliver when the air in the atmosphere’s just not right.  Humidity works against the desired sound you want.  The ends on either side of the mrdanga gets too slack.  For the quieter bhajans done indoor, mrdangas are terrific, but I haven’t seen them work well for most cases for outdoor events.  Yadunandana Swami lead the chant.  Then I was given the mic to complete singing on the route in a rather densely pedestrianed area.  If I’m not mistaken, the rich come here, mostly from the mainland.  Though, we’ve heard that the recession has hit Spain really hard, and that the country has this high unemployment rate, this doesn’t really show in Tenerife.

But, back to the beat.  Any Latino blood seems to flow towards a rhythmic thump, and this was so obvious in the public’s response.  The public always looks for something new and different.  What else could you do besides sitting in a bar or café outside, or checking out a super Flamenco dance?  How about watching a bunch of Hare Krishnas jump to a thump?  I guess it’s entertaining for the casual tourist.  Not only watching us, but clapping and trying to sing is what we found people doing.  These are the symptoms that determine a good program.

Our stage show completed by 1 AM.  Everyone was tired, happily. 

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

Those Who Were Sleeping

Those who were sleeping outside in their camping wear woke up to the sound of our chanting.  A group of us were firmly planted by a cliff’s edge by the ocean, as were the Friday night party folks who were nestled in those sleeping bags.  The volcanic rock formations of unique configurations were the backdrop to our morning chanting and discussions.  A couple of fisherman came to us and really complemented us for our drumming and singing. 

Yadunandana Swami, a Spanish born, Barcelona raised boy, was my companion in leading the chant.  He’s ten years my junior, he’s clean and honest.  We made the trek from our flat at Club Paraiso, and along with Mohit of Calgary, hit our desitanation point where we met other local devotees of Krishna.   We chanted and talked.  The group wanted to hear of walking adventures I had, and so I obliged them before we dipped into those pristine waters at the base of the cliff where sea turtles do frequent.  At least at Tenerife’s water, you have multiple creatures.  It’s land that has less variety, so it seems.  I asked about wild game and locals say, “Rabbits are about the largest animals you’re going to get around here.  Next to them are lizards.”  I do see lots of doves and hear them quite amply. 

Life is laid back here and relaxed.  Personally, I was restless about my lost luggage, so with a ride, I went to the lost and found at the South Airport.   My lost luggage was found.  The queue for that lost and found stall consisted of grumpy travellers, as you can imagine.  Personally, I was relieved. 

I’ve learned that it always does good to stick your fingers in the bead bag and do some mantra chanting to cope with the agitation of all sorts and kinds.

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

No Trails But Devotion

Vacationers come here for the moderate temperatures.   The sun, the ocean, the clean air, the fancy shops, the night life.  It’s also not a bad place to reside in.  I find the trails to be fun, although, the southern part of the island is rather barren.  The volcanic matter that is dispersed everywhere is thrilling to a person who hails from the lowlands of central Canada. 

No, I didn’t hit any trails today, demands of time brought me to the downtown core where under a tennis court on a basement level is the local learning and devotional centre for ISKCON.  I lead some chanting and delivered a class on the importance of planning and how it is indeed integral to advancing in devotional life.  For breakfast, we had an old favourite for Krishna pioneers in the west, a prep called ‘utma’, veggies in a semolina base.  

The rest of the day was occupied in drama practice.  At downtime, the author of that delicious prep, Patita Pavana, told me of the miraculous work of one of my Cuban students.  She had a man who had been crippled for 20 years, walk again.  She actually healed him.  When I asked how it happened, he expressed she was a healer, used Reiki technique, and chanted mantras.  When I asked her personally about her healing abilities, she said, “I did nothing.  Power’s in the mantra.  I was a medium and all I did was enter into a mantra.  She began to recite the mantra that she was using, something that a number of us are familiar with. 

Jaya Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Adwaita, Gadadhara, Srivas, Adi  Gaura Bhakta Vrinda“ .  No doubt love and concern was applied to the client.  She chanted these mantras.  The crippled man first experienced some convulsions and then walked out of his wheelchair, never to come back.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

Trek By Ocean

At the still dark hour, our small walking party had gone the way of a small port and beyond.  There we passed hippie homes made of leaf structures.  We trekked through a rocky coastal trail.  Young Balaram, who in the arms of his mom or dad (they shifted), also made it through the rough terrain.  Cacti will catch your cloth, as it did mine, so you trek the worn path with caution.

Tenerife is known for its excellent bananas, but along this trail, according to our guide, Patita Pavana, the orchards failed here, and so we’re left with what looks like ancient ruins which were actually territorial dividers. 

The sun broke through.  Before our swim (and it was Mohit’s first dip in an ocean ever) we had a serious sit down on sand.  There, our party of a dozen sang our standard gaudiya songs in honour of guru and Krishna.  I also spoke by way of a Kindle device on a verse from the book, ‘Bhagavatam’, on the allegorical tale of King Puranjana.  A brahmin comes to visit a grieving queen.  This brahmin represents the best friend, amigo.  Analogously, the friend also refers to the witness in the heart, the Paramatma.  Traditionally, yogis aspire to reach this stage of Paramatma perception.  We also discussed the role of guru in one’s life, in addition to the need to gain incredible focus to be successful in spiritual life. 

Our talk and swim terminated when at least two members of our party were to meet their job obligations.  We returned on the rustic and barren trail on this moderate morning of low 20’s Celsius.  And then careful of the clingy cacti.

Hours of the evening were taken up in our drama practice - preparation for the Chariot Festival to take place on Sunday.  We are having a blast.  A bhakti blast.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Tenerife, Spain

I’m In Spain

I’m in Spain, or to be more specific, in Tenerife, to meet students of mine from Cuba.  I will deliver some classes in the science of bhakti and also pull together some drama for the weekend Ratha Yatra Chariot Festival. 

In a resort area of Tenerife’s south coast, I’m accommodated in a quiet apartment across from the “Rhythm and Booze Pub”.  The twisty, windy streets are interesting from a walking perspective.  People are nice, “Hola” is how you address everyone, even tourists from Germany, Britain, and of course, Spain.  Residents in this area of Paraiso are posh and you’ll also find squatters at the beach nearby.  One devotee from Madrid suggested that these are gypsies who have set up camp. 

There are also Indian shop owners here.  I entered a boutique shop called “Shanta’s”.  The clerk is a man from Rajasthan, or that part of India where gypsies originally hailed from.  He was nice, a little surprised to see a Caucasian swami in his shop.  We talked.  It was his pleasure and mine. 

Prasadam (sanctified veggie food) is provided by Cuban born Julan Yatra, as well as the special maha prasadam, or remnants of the Krishna deity from the local ISKCON temple. 

In the walking that I pursued today, I also came upon a Tibetan temple.  I poked my head inside but did not enter.  I was content to just look.  A Spanish fellow said in a local language, something like, “You can enter at your own leisure.”  I indicated that, “Everything’s okay.”  He came back with a warm, and in American lingo, “Whatever!”

All is fresh and great for me in this one of seven islands known as the Canary Islands.  I stick by the maha mantra wherever I am.  As I walk I chant “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


Loosing Things

In the course of travel, as you may have experienced, you could lose something.  The last time I came to Ireland, indeed with the intent to walk it from Belfast to Cork, I misplaced an umbrella.  An umbrella is much needed in this greenish land.  It rains a lot.  I did accomplish the feat (on foot by the way).  This umbrella had sentimental value for me.  It was a gift that was handed to me by a First Nation’s person (a Native) in Cape Breton, Canada, during a rainfall while I was trekking.  It was particularly big, one of those golf course types.  In my forgetfulness, I left this token of kindness in the overhead compartment of the aircraft.  Regrets!  Oh well! 

I also lost my japa meditations beads in Havana.  They were actually stolen right from my person.  A young guy mistaking the pouch with beads in it to be a money bag, just ripped the pouch and beads right from around my neck and dashed off in a hurry.  I’ve had those beads in my possession since I became a monk in 1973.

That became a lesson in detachment of mind.  After a search for either the culprit, and/or beads, I just had to ‘let go’.  The beads were gone forever.  I hope the thief has made good use of them and has taken up mantra meditation.  That would be of some resolve.

Now, in the shuffle of luggage from Toronto to Dublin, and then to Tenerife, my luggage of robes and personals can’t be found.  It’s not hopeless, the luggage is retraceable.  Now, is there anything worse than losing such things?  Well, there is the consideration that if you lose your reputation or people take stabs at it, it can become very hurtful.  I take personal pride in being somewhat principled, and in being a monastic person with some decent character, though far from perfect.  When accused of promiscuities over the internet, of doing something that has no foundation whatsoever, it can be painful.  I won’t get too specific here.  I will bear the pain and invoke whatever compassion I can toward the accuser. 

In all circumstances, I would say a person should never lose a grip on dharma (duty), integrity and compassion.  Hold on to these for dear life. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM (Except for the walking within 3 airports.)