Saturday, 31 May 2014

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Coleman, Alberta
 
Entering the Land of Giants
 
We entered a new universe.  Yes, today, very clearly Karuna and I entered the Rocky Mountains.  Leaving the open plains behind us we are now amidst the jolly green giants (some of beautifully snow-capped, by the way).  We now see only small portions of the sky as it is upstaged .
 
Okay, so we entered some quaint towns, many of them with a history of coal mining.  This meant prosperity for some generations but disaster for another.  At Frank, the town, we read a plaque informing us of the great loss of lives and sacrifice.
 
“In the early morning of 29 April, 1903, most of the almost 600 residents were asleep.  At 4:10, a crashing and thunderous roar filled the dark, sleeping town and spilled out into the Crowsnest Pass.  A wedge of limestone over one kilometre wide, 425 metres long and 150 metres deep had broken from the crest of Turtle Mountain…In about 90 seconds homes, buildings and lives were destroyed…Seventy people died.  It was the worst natural disaster to overtake Alberta.  Stories are still told of the man who fought through the slide to flag down an oncoming train, or of the baby unharmed perched on a boulder.”
 
Karuna and I had come to know that similar kinds of coal mining tragedies took place in the last century along the Crowsnest Pass.  You can’t help feeling for these people, perhaps even offer a prayer or a mantra even though their lives have passed on long ago.  I guess, it’s a good reason to view this trail as a pilgrim’s route.
 
Later on we happened to meet a coal miner by profession.  We learned about his life as he did about ours in the monastic vein of things.
In the afternoon section of walking, which I did solo, I encountered plenty of appreciative motorists expressing by honks or hand waves.  That credit goes largely to the radio announcements made over-the-air waves that I’m out for a spiritual healing.

May the Source be with you!
 
34 KM

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Pincher Creek, Alberta

Windswept
 
Eric Clapton’s, ‘Further On Down the Road’ was playing off of Michael’s I-phone over moderate volume speakers as he drove me to the spot from where I left the day before.  For it’s genre of music, rock, it sounds good and inspires Michael.  I’m not opposed to it but for 4:30 am I’m accustomed to something quite different.  That different form of inspiration for me was doing my own more mellow song.  It’s called ‘Guruvastakam’ – a song in Sanskrit to honour the spiritual master.

Michael recorded it.  As I was walking I was hooked up to a cordless mic.  Then Michael stored this beautiful song composed by Visvanath Chakravarti.  The winds really started to pick up and as one local put it, “And this isn’t windy season yet!”  Air currents travel over the mountains which you can see from the distance.  They then swoop down engulfing every square inch of space on the open prairie surface.  At one point I struggled to keep my lower robes down.

At the Rotary Club luncheon in Pincher Creek I felt honoured to speak to the members about the windswept plains.  They were also curious to know about the purpose behind all this marathon trekking.  I presented some of my key reasons for doing so, one of which is that I had a bad year in ’95.  Gossip, some rumour-mongering and such, penetrated our community.  “That happens in all communities, right?  After all, we’re all human.”  And of course, that remark resonated with everyone.

Questions came after my talk and one gentleman offered a comment.  It was about gossip.  The abbreviated version goes something like this: “Mildred was the town gossip.  She started a rumour about a local man declaring he was a drunkard.  The man confronted Mildred and asked her why she made up a story that wasn’t true.  “I saw your car parked in front of the pub several nights ago,” said Mildred.  The man left and came back that night and parked his car in front of her house and left it there overnight.  Mildred stopped the gossip.

I want to thank the Rotary Club of Pincher Creek and The Echo newspaper and the on-line news presented by Christian Davis.

May the Source be with you!
 
37 KM

Friday, 30 May 2014

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Brocket, Alberta
 
The Many I Met
 
"I can't believe I'm talking to you," said Dana over the phone.  I expressed the mutual sentiment.  'Mutual' because we share the same karma of walking long distances.  Dana covered 16,000 kilometres on Canadian soil on the Trans Canada Trail.  Somehow or other he found me and contacted me.  It seemed like talking to a younger brother.  At age 40, I guess he's done what most guys wouldn't dream of.
 
What a boost it was connecting with someone who knows what you're talking about on the topic of trail ecstasy.
 
More boosts came from people.  Ronda came to join me on the road.  It happened at a rain and rainbow segment of the morning.  God, did a lot of responses come from others!  A courier, land surveyors, a rancher, a grandma, and more people came with curiosity and congratulations.  Sarah and Paula, members of the Blackfoot native community were really thrilled to meet me.  "What are you anyway?"  So I clarified and we had a great few minutes chatting with these young ladies.  Now, someone might ask what's a monk doing with a couple of young women?  Answer:  "I'm on the road.  It's public and I'm merely being neighbourly by saying something about the virtues of walking in parallel to doing something for the soul."
 
The day wound up by offering thanks to our Patel Motel owner, Kiran, in his office.  He shared with us his love for Gandhi's contemporary, another Patel, who changed the course of India's history.  And what of India's history?  Well, I tell people I meet that for millennia sages in India have roamed on foot for the sake of self-improvement and giving the wisdom they've gathered.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
36 KM

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

 
Coalhurst/Fort Macleod, Alberta
 
Thanks to the Prairies

The squeaky little outbursts of the gopher prairie dogs were not the only noise-makers along the Crowsnest Pass (Hwy 3).  There were cars tooting their horns.  Page 3 of the ‘Lethbridge Herald’ covered the story about a "Hare Krishna Monk Making His Fourth Trek Across Canada."  When motorists saw the saffron cloth blowing in the wind after catching the news, they did make acknowledgement.
 
Near the town of Monarch, the highway splits and veers some of the traffic in other directions.  This eases some of the intensity.  But overall the east-end section of the Crowsnest Highway is very high-powered.  It was a relief to reach the quiet downtown of Fort Macleod.  I walked into the community newspaper office, the Fort Macleod Gazette, and Frank McTighe, the editor, was happy to do an interview.
 
Oh yes.  Meeting those llamas, or alpacas, or whatever they are - in the countryside was special.  They were really keen to sniff the hand.  Their winter hair was shedding.  One of them had dreadlocks.  He was cool.  Only thing missing was a pair of shades, sunglasses.  I sang a mantra for them, "Hairy Llama!"
 
Before sunset we experienced a very successful program that happened at the Community of Christ Church.  Thirty people came to hear me spiel on 'Tales from Trails.'  This culminated with mantra meditation which all responded to so well.  It was nice to see some of the attendees pick up books like 'Bhagavad-gita', 'Christ and Krishna', and 'Ten Steps to Happiness' by Rami Bleckt.
 
I would like to thank Jo-Anne, a local hair stylist, for being the greatest host in Lethbridge.  Also to Vickie, the facilitator at the Community of Christ Church, and to Shelly Craig for the excellent new article in the ‘Lethbridge Herald’.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
36 KM



 

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Lethbridge, Alberta
 
Beating the Pride
 
The wind was beating hard on the pride today.  The additional gusts created by the transport-trailer could almost throw you off.  At spots I had to struggle to keep that balance.  My rationale simply kept saying that it’s a good beating because that's what pride deserves.
 
The day on the road began at Coaldale.  It's 4 AM.  A local street-cleaner in his truck pulled over and asked if I wanted a ride.  I told him I'm trekking across Canada, "No rides for me, thanks!" 
 
"Really, and you're doing it in those crocs?"
 
"Well, it's good to have lightness on the feet," I said.
 
The Crowsnest Pass, or Highway 3, had been consistently an ego basher with intense traffic.  The only relief was a short three kilometre stretch amidst the Coulees along Old Man River and under a railway bridge, "the longest and tallest of its kind in the world," said a park personnel.  "The engineer's life ended in a morbid way.  He hung himself.  The project was too much pressure for him."
 
For a good portion of the day I had Karuna with me.  He's great company.  The last chunk of highway was a dalliance with wind and sun - some dust too.
 
A pick-up pulled over.  It was dust-covered.  I figured "here's a farmer."  And it was.  Out emerged a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, third-generation Dutch chap who introduced himself as Dean Vanden Berg.  He said he was Christian and was curious.  I offered to say, "I'm a monk from an old tradition - roots from India.  Monks in our order spend time walking.  It's good for calming pride."
 
Dean was sweet, even offered a donation for the cause of pilgrimage.  I asked him if, being born and raised in Canada, he was into hockey.  With a wholesome smile he said, "I'm just always workin."  We shook hearty hands and he went on his way.
  
May the Source be with you!
 
36 KM

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

 Group gathering in Kenora, ON

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Calgary, Alberta

A Day in Calgary

For practical reasons, our group of four decided that a one day stay in Calgary would make sense before embarking on the long continuous trek to the destination point, the Pacific Ocean.  We were already here and the Sunday Open House at the Radha Madhava Cultural Centre should be attended by us.  Michael opted for visiting and attending Mennonite services at a church nearby. 

At the Radha Madhava Cultural Centre, I did speak from Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 3, regarding every endeavour being a sacrifice.  Otherwise, one’s actions create a kind of bondage.  In other words, you function in life with the best of efforts.  Being detached from the fruits, so to speak.  Our best foot should be put forward.  Even walking can be done, or any activity, for that matter, as an offering.  In the course of your activity, you don’t seek attention for your own profit.  If what you do brings what you do to an increased state of awareness, then you are on the right track.  If you act in such a way that ego becomes inflated, then you can consider you’re taking several steps back. 

After our time speaking, chanting and mingling, a group of us headed for the placid waters at the Jaypur Bridge on Princess Island, situated on the Bow River.  Our kirtan, which included voice, harmonium, drums, karatals (cymbals), met with delight by park browsers. 

In addition to this, just to keep up some foot momentum, Gaura Chandra, a local devotee, Karuna and I, took to the Calgary Greenway Trail, in the city’s northeast end.  The day was full and rich. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Monday, 26 May 2014

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Taber / Calgary, Alberta
Two People in One Way

In the town of East End last night, Brenda had hosted us at her home for a satsang (spiritual gathering).  This evening, Radha Madhava and Swasti opened their home for a similar gathering, only tonight was unique in that Michael and I shared in the use of the microphone.  I had invited him to tell his stories about his trans Canada walk, as I did mine.  Our Krishna community in Calgary is accustomed to hearing a swami speak at a gathering such as this.  I thought it would be nice for the group to hear a lay person talk as well. 

It seemed to be the obvious topic, walking.  Especially after my first day of reconvening the fourth CanWalk for its last stretch.  From Taber, Alberta, I ventured the 23 kilometre stretch on the Crows Nest Pass to Coaldale.  How liberating it is being back on the road. 

In comparing notes of treks of both Michael and I, you hardly could tell we were different people.  We both like the self imposed life of simplicity, the naps in graveyards, and sleeping in a tent at night, interacting with other travellers, encountering wildlife, and the securing of wisdom that comes from the road.  It was also interesting that one passionate walker fully backed up the other.  Today, I did the walking, while Michael drove his vehicle as a support. 

It is said that wisdom and renunciation are two highly aspired for acquisitions by yogis, and I would also say that pilgrimage offers both benefits.  It all turns devotional when you share your stories of what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted and touched, and in connection with the wonders of the Creator.  That is what makes the walking clearly divine, clearly devotional. 

May the Source be with you!

35 KM

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

East End, Saskatchewan

A Place of Safety

There’s this incredible feeling of safety or sanctuary in the town of East End.  I felt it when I walked through here last year, quite overwhelmed by people’s kindness and receptivity.  I had a chance to find out why the place was so special, at least from the historical point of view.

Tim, from “The Advance” newspaper, located in Gull Lake, was interviewing me about my walking excursions.  Once done, I took the liberty to interview him to let me know what is so significant about this area.  Not but one kilometre near Raven’s Craig, in this extraordinary valley with coulees all around, the very revered Chief Sitting Bull, came here to stay for a three year period with his army.  The US blue coats were eager to capture this powerful warrior who fought for his people’s culture preservation.  Sitting Bull took refuge here and in the adjoining Cypress Hill. 

Tim, who’s quite the historian, elaborated on the past and satisfied my questions about this peaceful place.  On a plaque on the valley road nearby, a synopsis is given. 

“In 1876 the Sioux Indian Nation defeated General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn.  Fearing reprisal from the US Cavalry, thousands of Sioux passed the Medicine Line – the Canada/US border.  Sitting Bull came with 400 of his lodges, and is reported to have camped in the Cypress Hills.  It is said that 200 of Crazy Horse’s lodges camped near this site.  Many had originally stayed in the US with Crazy Horse, but when their chief was killed by cavalry soldiers at Fort Robinson in the states.  Lodges joined Sitting Bull north of the Medicine Line.”

So this area was a major shelter for the indigenous people who were eventually coerced to return south for various reasons, including the consequences of lack of food source, the buffalo, which has all been killed. 

It was an ugly period of history for human kind.  We should know history and learn from past mistakes.  When you walk, you must spend time, at least a moment, to understand the pain and pleasures of past peoples. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Estevan, Saskatchewan
 
Shanti in Estevan
 
"Star wars and Spartan battles are nothing compared to what you see in the open sky," I explained to tonight's group.  Roxy, the person behind a new-age boutique called 'Soul Hideout’, had her shelves of paraphernalia shoved to the perimeter of the room to accommodate my presentation.
 
I was talking to the circle of attendees about the glory of foot travel and the accompanying entertainment that comes as a natural consequence.  "I recall an eagle going after the eggs of a heron and the fierce battle that ensued.  I recall just the other day in Kenora seeing a couple of robins in feverish agitation over a crow at their nest.  I recall numerous aviation dynamics that put me in awe of nature and the Creator."
 
We also talked about the difference between matter and spirit and how you can happily bind the two through service of a devotional kind and that this service is the end of all knowledge and the end of all yoga.  "We are not these bodies.  We are spirits," I added.  That in fact should be a relief to those of us who get too fidgety over our flesh and blood.
 
Everyone really had a good feeling about the mantra meditation we did near the end.  It put a cap onto this evening of shanti, peace.  But before I sign off on this quick report on today's goings-on I wanted to mention a small incident of the afternoon.  At Churchill Park in Estevan, where Karuna and I rested a while, I noticed a young man in the distance sitting at the grass’s edge and looking out at the deep valley below.  I encouraged Karuna, who's also young, to talk to him.  I surmised that he was in contemplation, and since he was there for quite a while, that his contemplation was more penetrating than normal.  His dream has dimension and that maybe he was at a crossroads.
 
Karuna honoured my suggestion and indeed he did discover that the young man, who was Philippino, was gnawing within to explore the world.  He wanted to be somewhere beyond the town and was praying to God to help with this.  Karuna's timely drop-in to this man's life made a difference.  He was cheered on to reference the Creator for strength.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
3 KM

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Day At Winnipeg

Newly arrived from India are Vishvambar and his wife, Mahasundari, a young couple.  It was Vishvambar whom I lead to a park near his home, hoping that I could convince him of the joys of early morning outside freshness.   I hope he makes it a routine to get out and walk.  Both he and his wife arrived in March of this year when they were met by a blast of cold at 40 below Celsius, and just after coming from India’s temperature at 40 above.  Successfully, they have weathered the weather after the most unforgiving winter of all time (in my humble opinion).  I see that the couple are a pair of optimists.

We do have the great wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita to console us over the extremities of life.  In chapter two, the speaker, Krishna, explains that dualities such as winter and summer, come and go, as do happiness and distress.  “One must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

In the afternoon, I found myself for a time in Winnipeg’s major downtown library, where 18 years before I gave an address to the inquisitive about my then trek through the nation.  While sitting there in conversation with someone, I could witness a diverse group of people in the course of my chatting.  Judging by clothes wear and behaviour, I saw extremities in people’s life approaches.  It was interesting.  In this case, I took in the dualities as entertaining and not so threatening. 

The beautiful closure to the day had me conducting a Kirtan Standards Seminar at the ISKCON Centre on 108 Chestnut Street.  Our group was discussing standards for mantra meditation, and adherence to traditions established by sages from the ancient past.  It’s always cool to have blessings that come from those who have been here before us. 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Kenora, Ontario

Kenora the Good

Jen is a jem.  Her partner, Dan, and her, took us up in their home for the night.  Jen, good soul that she is, networked and organized a gathering in Kenora’s outdoor pavilion.  The event entailed a walk from this huge marquee, to the town’s icon, Huskie the Muskie, a massive steel and fiberglass image of a fish.  This stunning statue symbolizes the real attraction of the area – water, and a lake known as Lake of the Woods.  In a town that heralds a banner saying, “We love our lake”, you can also be assured that people love people. 

About 50 of them, some of them families, all newcomers to the bhakti yoga scene (and our first time to hold any event here), took to the walk, then my talk, and then to the drum and then to the chant.  Jen arranged for djembes and a drumming circle.  I projected mantras into that circle and the people responded so nicely.  Brad, the maintenance man to the pavilion, came to me tearfully.  He asked if I could offer a prayer for his boss.

Such gentle people. 

And for wildlife today – an eagle, a seagull, a crow and a pelican pair brought excitement to the eyes.  The Mink Bay Trail was our little escape from the world humans have made.  I won’t be sarcastic though when I say that I credit humans for the upkeep of this sweet trail. 

May the Source be with Kenora!

6 KM

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Fort Frances, Ontario

The Marriage of a Monk

We bid farewell to our Thunder Bay host, Dr. Jani, and took a great drive up Highway 11.  With time zone change we gained an hour and it allowed for me to do some sporadic walking, for instance, when Michael would gas up, or just wanted to use his camera to capture the aesthetics of nature, I could then trail blaze.

It’s clearly beaver country out here, and at one of our breaks, being tempted, I dared to walk the edge of a beaver dam which would access fairly close to the beavers’ lodge, their home.  With grass grown over the dam’s edge, I thought it would be an easy effort.  But no, I was wrong; the train was just too uneven and slippery with Crocs as my footwear.  I wasn’t going to run the risk of getting plunged.  And being alone, and waters at temperatures just above freezing, I opted to turn back. Smartness and cowardice be married to each other. 

After hopping into the SUV with Michael and Karuna, we drove on and sighted deer, and also a pregnant porcupine.  Michael said it was.  I don’t know how you can tell.  Our destination was reached, the home of Andrew, a resident of Saint Frances, and at a lovely rustic home overlooking the wonder of lake land.  His friends came, they were curious about long distance walking, and perhaps, more so, coming face to face with monkism for the first time.  When Michael invited folks from town he discovered that there were misconceptions, “A monk is going to give a talk?  they thought monks don’t talk.” 

I sure did talk though, especially Theresa from the West End Weekly.  She rolled out her questions for an interview before I even got to a more formal-to-casual talk to the people that came.

A real highlight today was being reunited with Daruka from Winnipeg, and of course, his female Amazon parrot, Billie.  She still doesn’t like me.  She’ll always be dedicated to her one partner, Daruka.  Anyways,  as a monk you don’t fuss over any one person.  You are always partnered or married to the Divine and the mission. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Canadian Shield, Ontario

Michael, Us, Canada and More

Michael and his ’94 red engine Chevy Blazer are the driver and carrier for this trip en route to Taber, Alberta.  A stop over night in Wawa was a good place to rest after a 12 hour journey from Toronto. 

Also on board is my monk assistant, Karuna Sindhu.  The three of us are all Canadian boys.  Michael even worked at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Front Street in Toronto for some time.  He, like myself, trekked the nation, starting from the Beaches area of Toronto.  He went eastward to Newfoundland in 2002, and three years later he started at that fairly central point once again, at the Beaches, on a westerly direction to Victoria, BC.  On the two trips he backpacked it all the way, living much like an ascetic or a yogi.

As we drove through the planet’s oldest rock formation, The Canadian Shield, he was pointing out to us all the things he had done on the previous walk 9 years before, about whom he met, and then also identifying the very spots where he pitched his tent and what occurred around him.  One day he woke up and four inches of snow welcomed him. Another day, a moose happened to offer company outside his wigwam, and like my own experiences, you wake up to the sound of millions of, well, at least it’s my interpretation, Krishna flutes, playing sweetly.  Actually, they’re small yellow throated sparrows of the Boreal forest, and they’re supposed to be chanting, “Oh sweet Canada Canada.”

Eventually after today’s  more modest mileage, and being interrupted by a bear, a yearling on the road, we arrived at Thunder Bay and the Vedic Cultural Centre to conduct a 9 Devotions Workshop, an exercise in fostering good relations of bhakti.  So, while we may have pride in nation, ultimately our connection is to do more with nature and its source.  

May that Source be with you!

5 KM

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Toronto / Wawa, Ontario

Freedom Ended?

Fil came to me for a hug and then I asked him if he wanted to spend his last moments of freedom for a three kilometer hike with a monk.  He said most abruptly, “Let’s go!”

It was just a literal four hours from when he was to ‘tie the knot,’ so to speak – get married.  He was going to be the lucky bride-groom to Sukayanti, a devotee girl from Israel.  Their Vedic wedding would be at 10 AM.  They already had their official marriage last fall but considered that the real exchange of vows was in the temple before family, friends, and God.

So Fil and I ambled along Roxborough, then south on Yonge where we met a group of five young guys at Davenport.  They had been up all night, were ‘pissed,’ as the saying goes, and smelt like a combined brewery and tobacco farm.  They were awfully friendly though, and curious.

I volunteered to talk and we walked southbound on Yonge.  I told them we were walking and meditating.  “What are you doing?”  I volleyed to them.  Half embarrassed, and half in twilight zone, they answered what they could.  I told them about Fil getting married.  One of the guys animated with his face a melted heart.  Then another jokingly asked, “Did you have a bachelor’s party?”

“Yeah, we’re having it right now!”  I expressed.  At Bloor we separated as they received a Krishna parting from us.

Fil and I returned to the ashram/temple.  He got busy while I started to prepare for the journey to complete my fourth cross-Canada walk.  At speech time, I like others, was given one and a half minutes, to say something.  The short of that was, “A marriage is a sacrifice where two people had freedom and now share space.  According to 3.10 of the Bhagavad-gita, sacrificing is for humans and super-humans (demigods) with end result being happiness.  So be happy in a spiritual-centric relationship!”

Fil and Sukayanti – congratulations!

May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

 You Cockroach!

“You cockroach!” said the disheveled looking man when I was outside at the base of the stairs at Bhakti Lounge.
 
To make it clear, the term wasn’t lodged towards me.  I had no previous exchange with him.  I just opened the door and appeared when the sound was projected.  The cutting remark with additional language of a six letter word was directed to someone else, another unfortunate soul.

What was clear to me and to the other members of Bhakti Lounge poised to begin our sankirtan (public chanting) was that someone was cursing as a result of some anger and discomfort no doubt.  I merely suggested to the group that we hurry it up with our kirtan and purify the atmosphere which got some laughter.

I had forgotten the neighborhood we were in.  It’s rather a mix of, on the bright side, students of Ryerson University, complemented, if you will, by street and drug folks.  All the more reason to be in this location with the presence of Bhakti Lounge.  You go where you can be useful, correct?

From here the juncture of Church and Dundas Street, we walked in stride with instruments as people in good numbers gad about, which is common on a Friday night.  Well we were the ones having fun and by reading the faces of others the contagion wore on.  As we ambled along you could see people lighting up.  I like to think that they got more than they bargained for.  What can sensual pursuits have over the aural reception of the groundbreaking sound of mantra power?
 

May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
The Together Path
 
Our visiting guest speaker for the last few days at the ashram is Vaisesika from California, and he relayed to us this morning about walking at the popular pilgrimage site, Govardhan Hill, in India.  We are looking at a good four hour trek, clockwise, around the mound that is known to have been mystically elevated by Krishna in His younger years.
 
Vaisesika described how he came out of his retreat which is located at the parikrama path and felt a particular fatigue one morning.  He was feeling unsure about whether he was going to make the whole revolution around the hill or not.  During a state of apprehension, a sanyassi (monk) whizzed by him.  He was going at a good clip.  This ‘pull’ encouraged Vaisesika who decided to follow the pace of the monk.  Once he picked up the momentum, he found it easy to continue and completed his walk. 
 
Vaisesika recalled this occurrence to illustrate how helpful it is in life when acquiring strength from others.  It is a hard task to tackle the world in solo.  It’s foolish to think one can succeed in singular effort.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario
 
Spirit Money
 
“I said, ‘Please, Jesus, send me some money.  I don’t need too  much.’”
 
Those were the prayers of Sophie Rizavas, a 63 year old cleaning lady from Toronto who yesterday won 50 million dollars from a lottery.  I wish her well and that she will not slip to the wayside of self destruction, like most winners of such lotteries.  She might find that she will suddenly have so many friends around her, and that would be sad.  I hope she will stay with Jesus and remain his true friend. 
 
What would you do if suddenly you received a chunk of funds like that?  Would you invest in your spiritual bank account as much as you will your material benefits?  Is spiritual progress dependant on dollars and cents? 
 
The answer to that last question is that money can’t buy me love (of God).  However, whatever you do in life, if it’s favourable for spiritual advancement, then take that green light.  Such are the directions of the great teachers of bhakti.   But how do you use money for spiritual purposes?  The answer to that would be that one great way to make spiritual progress is in the sharing of spiritual wisdom.  Practically everything costs money.  Money is not evil as long as it is used for higher purposes in charity work.  Spirituality is also a component of that charity.  If not, it is the epitome of it, in the effort to disseminate the wisdom of the Vedas, for instance, it requires some expenditure.  While so much is spent on enticement toward sensual pleasures, if more energies, including money, were directed toward our inner growth, we would stand to challenge the imbalanced lives that we are currently living. 
 
May the Source be with you, and good luck, Sophie!
 
5 KM

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

New Take
 
Even if you follow the same trail on a daily basis, the walk will never be a duplicate.  Fortunately, each take on a trail, street or road, has its own uniqueness.  It will never turn out as dry routine, especially if you approach the walk with a fresh outlook each time.  That’s where it becomes adventuresome.
 
It is much like the soul’s transmigration.  It takes on new bodies, hence, every birth brings with it a new experience that spans out until it’s exit time.
 
When you take those first steps for that daily trek, you face a new weather dynamic, new encounters with people, with plants, wildlife, creepy crawlies, or whatever.  The wind always blows a different way.  Above all, you always go with a different mindset and carry the new add on mental makeup of the day.
 
It can never be boring – really.
 
And let’s say you don’t go in a loop fashion, but you take a path, reach the furthest point in your day’s journey, and then turn around to retrace your steps.  But this time it’s from a new angle.  The scenery is changed.  You see the other half of the same house that you passed by on the way over.  Magically, it’s a new scenery.
 
The one thing I recommend is to chant a mantra simultaneously while on foot.  That offers some consistency, even though the inner approach from the heart will carry a different brand of sincerity each time.  You can call this whole technique a good shot at diversity.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
To the One Who Inspired
 
Today is just another one that holds much inspiration.  A few of us at the ashram were remembering a soul by the name of Jayananda.  Hailing from Ohio, he was one of the most helpful persons when Krishna Consciousness was in its infancy in the west.  He passed away from leukemia in ’76, so this makes it an anniversary day.
 
He was not known as a walker, but rather as a cab driver.  With his income he supported devotional efforts in the Bay area and what you could call the beacon of hippie-dom in the ‘60’s.  Perhaps he didn’t put all energy into his feet and legs, but he did put physical energy into everything.  He used every part of his body in the service of others, and his endeavours ranged from priestly work to taking out the garbage, all done in the spirit of joy.  For him, everything was an opportunity.  He worked tirelessly, selflessly, and where saintliness really counts, it truly shone in him in many ways.  One way was his strong resistance to hearing criticism of others.  Basically, he loved people and life.
 
Now, I personally never met him, but I have plenty of peers who shared invaluable time with him, whether it was doing mechanical work on the communal car, or assembling the chariots for the big parade on Fifth Avenue in New York.  He seemed to capture the mood and spirit of bhakti, devotion.  In this regard you could classify him as a true yogi in the devotional sense.
 
Inspiration is a difficult concept to grasp, perhaps, in scientific terms, but it is very real when you get motivated just by seeing someone in selfless action.  That’s what Jayananda did for people.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
To the One Who Inspired
 
Today is just another one that holds much inspiration.  A few of us at the ashram were remembering a soul by the name of Jayananda.  Hailing from Ohio, he was one of the most helpful persons when Krishna Consciousness was in its infancy in the west.  He passed away from leukemia in ’76, so this makes it an anniversary day.
 
He was not known as a walker, but rather as a cab driver.  With his income he supported devotional efforts in the Bay area and what you could call the beacon of hippie-dom in the ‘60’s.  Perhaps he didn’t put all energy into his feet and legs, but he did put physical energy into everything.  He used every part of his body in the service of others, and his endeavours ranged from priestly work to taking out the garbage, all done in the spirit of joy.  For him, everything was an opportunity.  He worked tirelessly, selflessly, and where saintliness really counts, it truly shone in him in many ways.  One way was his strong resistance to hearing criticism of others.  Basically, he loved people and life.
 
Now, I personally never met him, but I have plenty of peers who shared invaluable time with him, whether it was doing mechanical work on the communal car, or assembling the chariots for the big parade on Fifth Avenue in New York.  He seemed to capture the mood and spirit of bhakti, devotion.  In this regard you could classify him as a true yogi in the devotional sense.
 
Inspiration is a difficult concept to grasp, perhaps, in scientific terms, but it is very real when you get motivated just by seeing someone in selfless action.  That’s what Jayananda did for people.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

New Vrindavan, West Virginia
 
It just seems to move you every time when you enter or leave this rustic rural retreat in the Appalachian Mountain range when going down the windy road, the song by John Denver that rings in the ears.  The lyrics being, “Country road take me home to the place where I belong, West Virginia, Mountain highway, take me home…”
 
And, you do it with a tug on the heart.  For those of us who come here with a devotional motive, it can’t be helped but to feel the hominess of the place, replete with the ashram, temple, Palace of Gold, peacocks, swans, organic gardens, and now lilac bushes, wild mustards, deer, and tent caterpillars either define the season or the safety of this chunk of space located just outside the town of Moundsville.  For me, New Vrindavan means to see and feel these things, but the main relish on my plate here is the company of good souls, in human form.  Acquaintances visit here, mostly from the U.S.’s northeast and Canada.  We get the chance to chill and do walks.  I even half officiated a baby’s first grain taking, something called anna prasana for the proud parents of young Kapila Muni from near Cleveland. 
 
I also met Diana Rose, a clairvoyant, who saved our hide once just before a performance in Mayapura, India.  The short of it is that when we were 100% poised to start the drama, “Grandsire” about the life of warrior, Bhishma, my lead actor came to me in a panic and said, “Maharaja, I can’t find my beard.”  Lo and behold, Diana came to the rescue and sensed that we had a difficulty and sensed that we were missing a vital prop.  “Can I help you?” she asked in eagerness.  We told her about the misplaced beautiful flowy white beard.  Sure enough, step by step, she lead us to the very spot, where someone thinking it was a rejected piece, tossed it in a room behind our dressing room in a dark corner.  She saved the day. 
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Saturday, May 10th 2014

New Vrindavan, West Virginia
 
Quiet / Loud
 
At this annual Festival of Inspiration, there are always lessons to be learned.  From the presenters I took notes of some of the points made.
 
1)      In good or bad times, always show support.
2)      Lead by asking questions, not just by issuing instructions.
3)      Service is a noun, and self service is an adjective.
4)      Make every guest feel special.
5)      Do not be upset with the instrument of your karma.
6)      Defy entitlement; earn your badge every day.
7)      The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
8)      You can’t just motivate someone, you create an atmosphere whereby they get motivated.
9)      Those who smile have a real grip on life.
10)  Simplicity brings contentment.
 
 
This day began with a quiet walk to the creek.  The day ended with a loud, explosive kirtan, which had everyone dancing.
 
5 KM

Friday, May 9th, 2014

New Vrindavan, West Virginia

Reincarnation

On a seven hour drive to this rural community in the hills of West Virginia, I had the chance to read out some favorite quotes from scholars on the topic of reincarnation.  May I share them with you?


"Were Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him.  It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing.  And that his present birth is his first entrance into life."  -Arthur Schopenhauer

"I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead."  -Socrates

"By some inclination toward evil, certain souls...  come into bodies, first of men, then through their association with the irrational passions, after the allotted span of human life, they are changed into beasts, from which they sink to the level of...  plants.  From this condition they arise again through the same stages and are restored to their heavenly place." -Origen

"And you were dead, and he brought you to life.  And he shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back to life, and in the end shall gather you unto himself."  -The Koran

"It is neither absurd nor useless. It is not more surprising to be born twice than once." -Voltaire 

"Finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other, always exist." -Benjamin Franklin

“It is a secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again...  Nothing is dead, men feign themselves and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some new and strange disguise." -Emerson

"As far back as I can remember, I have unconsciously referred to the experience of a previous state of existence." -Thoreau

"The soul is not born, it does not die, it was not produced from anyone... unborn eternal, it is not slain though the body is slain." -Katha Upanishad

There's more. The source of the compilation came from the BBT publication, "Coming Back". 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Interesting figure

My dear friend, Shyama Sundar, originally from Sudbury, Ontario, gave me an interesting figure to chew on with regards to driving and drinking.  Shyama Sundar is a well enough known astrologer, but the stats that he gave me is the annual global 600,000 people dying related to drunken driving, and which has nothing to do with reading into the future, it’s telling it like it is.  In general, people are irresponsible in the matter of handling the mix of a car in motion behind a steering wheel and drinking bad water (liquor).  The figure is astronomical, after all.  It’s a good plug in for foot power – walking.  So that’s one thing. 

Ah!  And what can I say regarding this early trek before a 7 AM service?  The windows of stately home where I’m trekking reflect the lateral sunlight.  They are all a rich glowing saffron, almost blinding, really.  That eastern sun beckons me forward to keep going, and even to skip my 7 AM service.   But, no, duty stands before passion.  However, the days are numbering when I will be heading, not east, but west, towards the Rockies, when I hope to be rocking in completing the fourth walk across Canada.  So readers, wish me well.  Come and take to the enticing road for a day or two.  Spoil yourself and get spiritually high. Bring your mediation beads.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario
 
Exceptional Departure
 
It was quite auspicious how he passed away.  It was at the Sunday Open House program at ISKCON Toronto Centre when people were attending the service known as arati, that one of our long time members, Naresh Meham, suffered a heart attack.  It happened in the midst of everyone chanting, when the sound vibration of the maha mantra was at its optimum in devotion.  Today I attended his cremation in Brampton along with other members of our ashram, with loving family and friends.  Surviving are wife, Vibha, his daughter, Lisa, and sons Harsh and Mohit. 
 
Naresh had collapsed in the middle of the temple room.  Naturally, everyone responded.  It was unusual but auspicious at the same time. The regular pattern of the Sunday Open House begins with chanting in front of Krishna deities, followed by some announcements, and then a talk is delivered on the message of the Gita before a delicious feast is dished out.  But on that day, April 27th, no talk was given.  The chanting persisted in its place in honour of Naresh.  There are a few occasions where the timing of departure was like this.  Naresh’s last conscious moment was in front of Krishna while in the company of the devoted and while in the presence of sacred sound.  He died several days later in the hospital.
 
I recall other souls who left under somewhat similar circumstances.  A Bengali pujari (priest), whose clothes caught on fire during his service experienced similar providence.  He did not survive from the burns which came to him during a Diwali festival.  There was also Michael O’Regan, who was with us for years and who rendered so much help with our mission, especially in the ‘70’s.  At the same time at the Sunday Open House, Michael, who had physical challenges, was called to go home I guess you could say.  His last conscious moment was before his Krishna friends during the time of the arati
 
On today’s walk I had time to contemplate what is fortunate and what is less fortunate in terms of departing circumstances.  We can all go at any moment.  I can be hit by a car while crossing the street and it may be my moment.  Will I be in a good state of mind?  Will I have the sound of transcendence going through my ears when my soul is pushed on?
 
These are things to think about.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Halifax / Toronto
 
Bringing In The Sun
 
While in Halifax, a woman running a boarding house stood outside her building when Nitai and I, in robes, walked by her.  Her immediate reaction was, “Well, are you guys going to give me some sunshine today?”
 
Strange thing is, we did, or someone did after a cloudy day’s start.  She had demonstrated true Nova Scotia hospitality, invited us in, and wanted us to meet one of the tenants of her group home.  As we started to converse, sun did start to leak through the window.  We were treated to orange juice and coconut water.  This would not be an analogy, but perhaps the young fellow that we met, Jonathan, needed someone to shed light on his life.  Nitai and I took the opportunity to encourage Jonathan, give him some hope, since he was struggling with problems at home and the reserve.  Jonathan is native and is from the Ojibwa First Nations.  I hope he will carry some light with him.  Darkness in the form of drug abuse and so many social issues have taxed him.
 
Now, I’ve arrived in Toronto.  The sun has been shining here.  In the shine I took a second trek of the day just to give a break to some desk work that I was at.  In the course of my walk, a house painter who hails from Columbia shouted, “Ram!  Ram!”  He conveyed to me that he has so many friends back home who are practicing the mantra.  This was good news because it was the mantra that acts like the sun.  It has the power to touch something filthy, clean up the place that’s trashy and remain uncontaminated.  In that way the mantra  and the sun are antiseptic and prophylactic. 
 
May the Source be with you!
 
12 KM

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Halifax, Nova Scotia
 
Last Day in Halifax
 
The hearty daffodils stand in all their glory. Even in the dark, early hours, they transcend without sunshine and with mouths wide open.  Raccoons screech at each other – a fight no doubt.  I can hear them, but I can’t necessarily see them.  For years in my travels I’ve heard their sounds, predominantly their whimpering.  Then the birds pick up with their morning welcome songs.  It’s all awesome, and it really beats the noise of the maddening traffic, when passions kick in and the nocturnal peace that’s punctuated with raccoon party fights is all done.  This transition of sound and activity is my observation for many years now on early morning early walks.
 
Corey and Theresa had us over for lunch.  Once again, I’m impressed what a little training has done for younger folks such as the youth.  Corey, in particular, travelled with our east coast monks one summer and is now enjoying the lasting and favourable effects.  He whipped up this fabulous meal for a group of us.  His service mood was excellent.  The apartment he and Theresa share is a small oasis of sacred books by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.  They have a modest but beautiful shrine of Krishna deities.  They keep a clean place.  I see a smooth assimilation of Vedic culture in their lives.  I’m happy for this young couple who might otherwise be prone to stay on the grid of sense gratification.
 
With it being my last day in Halifax, I called on a small ad hoc meeting amongst faithful followers to discuss vision and organization for the sharing of Krishna Consciousness in this neat old city.  There’s a rich history here of the acceptance of waves of immigrants at this natural and national port of entry, of taking a major blow when explosives from the harbor went off a century ago, flattening the city, and of a ready response to burying hundreds of corpses, victims of the fateful Titanic.  I think we can fit Krishna into the multiple experiences of Haligonians, residents of Halifax. 
 
May the Source be with you!
 
6 KM

Monday, 5 May 2014

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Halifax, Nova Scotia
 
May the Fourth
 
After a leg journey’s venture along the North West Arm of Halifax Harbour, I decided to sit a few minutes out at the Saint Mary’s Boat Club dock.  I was there in meditative pose on a bench, and without him noticing me, I observed a Mariner coming in to the shore.  I guess that’s what you could call a guy in a kayak.  He came to dock and took meticulously to the care of his boat.  He hosed it down and set it upright after propping it on some stilt stands, and then slipped it over to wash the salt water.  Then he wiped it dry very lovingly and did so twice by flipping it again.  He executed the same for his oars, and all this was done before he set it in place stacked up with hundreds of other kayaks.  Such devotion.
 
I wish I had that much bhakti, devotion, for my paraphernalia.  God knows, as a monk, I own little, but whatever I have, I should treat it like gold, like this guy treats his sporting goods. 
 
Not but two hours later, I saw Nitai Ram, who is such a real brahmin (priest) treat his paraphernalia with similar prudence and care.  Nitai Ram, along with Fernanda and Nina, set up this beautiful havan kund (small fire arena) for a fire ceremony on Nina’s initiation.  Nitai’s execution of the ritual was just fantastic.  It was impressive, like the kayaker’s handling of his equipment. 
 
I’d like to congratulate Nina on her new spiritual name which is, Nirmala.  It sounds like Nirvana.  It means one without pride.  Her parents drove all the way from Saint John, New Brunswick. 
 
My second major destination was to a kirtan kattha session (chant and talk) located on Hollis Street across from the Wired Monk CafĂ©.  I avoided cars as much as possible on this gorgeous, fresh and sunny day.  While on foot at Robie Street, two young guys across the road were sitting on their lawn chairs in the front yard sipping pop.  They beckoned me to come to see them, so I crossed the street.  We started to chat.  They were interested in my monkism, and finally invited me into their home to go through their whole house and in to their back yard, and to “bring in good energy” as they put it. 
 
They told me they are musicians and I told them I do Sanskrit mantras.  Spontaneously they took to recording my recitation of the mangala charana mantras, while Michael hit the keyboard for a sitar twang.  And the other fellow (forgot his name), made percussion sounds.  It was a jamming on the spot session for sure. 
 
On this day I saw devotion coming from different directions; a little bit like, if I could use the term, “angles from angels”.
 
May the Fourth be with you!
 
10 KM

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Charlottetown/Halifax

Three Provinces

I’m smack in the middle of what’s called The Gentle Province, in the tiny city of Charlottetown which has real live Canadian historical significance.  Here, papers were signed in 1867 declaring confederation.  A nation was born which would shape into a huge country with thousands of trails.

Sobha was host to our party of four, Nitai, Fernanda, Nina and I, who made the trip for the satsang program at Sobha’s home.  Sobha is involved in the government’s accounting and advisory department, and we suggested a portion of the budget be set aside for kirtan chanting projects.  It’s wishful thinking.  With a smile, she agreed that kirtan has rehab and therapeutic effects that are socially advantageous.

In the early morn, while all were asleep, including Sobha’s exotic fish and gerbil, I took a morning walk off to that confederation building, the ocean docks, and the theatre where the popular “Anne of Green Gables” is performed on stage.  All was good.

On the return journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I would jump out of the car when we stopped for a refueling.  Down the highway I’d go until the car’s stomach was happy and ready to move forward.  I suggested a second stop at Amherst, New Brunswick, where we could all stretch legs and get some japa meditation in.  In the course of that walk, I met Jonathan, a local bloke.  I praised him for his heroism – walking instead of zipping around in a car.  But he didn’t quite get what I was talking about.

In Halifax, and in our third province, we converged for a gathering at Savitri’s in her condo.  Savitri is a Dutch born lady in her retirement now.  She recently got hit at the knee by a motorist.  It took its toll on her skeletal structure, but she’s strong willed and is going to be fine.

I’m not sure if I were to meet Jonathan again that I would be able to convince him of the automobile’s evil side.  Just how many people get killed annually global wise by the magic machine?  India alone claims 100,000 lives a year.  Conservative figures I’m sure.  I wonder what the collective stats look like.  It would be a number right up there with cancer, heart related diseases, mental disorders, etc.  I’ll bet you that it’s a big figure.  Sorry, but I’m not supposed to gamble.

May the Source be with you!

13 KM

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Charolottetown, Prince Edward Island

From The Speaking Tree

I had landed in Halifax at 1:15 AM, caught some rest at the home of hosts, Mukunda and Hladini, and found a few minutes to stroll with monk, Nitai Ram, before a drive to Charlottetown where we took part in a satsang, spiritual gathering.  On the ride over we stopped at the border of Prince Edward Island to catch up on internet stuff.  There, we googled a newspaper article that appeared on April 27th, 2014 with the New Delhi Times, a section called The Speaking Tree.  I was honoured to be featured there as a person who is promoting pilgrimage.  And here it is:

Walkathon To Eternity

The Canadian-born BHAKTIMARGA SWAMI believes in walking in the great outdoors to find the Truth. REENA SINGH spent a morning with the ‘Walking Monk’ in Noida at the inauguration of a new ISKCON temple.

He’s a self-confessed walking addict who says he got attracted to Swami Prabhupada’s Hare Krishna movement 41 years ago because it was ‘radical, daring and different.’ Bhaktimarga Swami began walking in 1996, when he wanted to do something really big as a tribute to Srila Prabhupada’s centennial celebrations, and he hasn’t stopped since. He’s walked across Canada thrice and is due to finish his fourth walk soon. Born John Peter Vis, the 61-year-old Canadian has also walked across Ireland, Israel, Guyana, Mauritius, and Fiji Islands and is planning yet another marathon walk in 2016 from New York to San Francisco. 

He walks all mornings, 35 KM or so at a stretch and spends nights at camp sites. In between, he stops at schools, senior citizen homes, libraries and yoga studios and among Hindu communities, delivering the message of the Bhagavad Gita and conducting meditations. 

Parikrama And Pilgrimage

All along, he also promotes being one with nature and says that many countries — India, Russia, Europe, Ireland, and South and Central America — have a rich heritage of parikrama and pilgrimage. “It was common in ancient times for young people to set off on a vision quest in solitude in a kind of walking meditation. Across the globe, there is a history of people travelling light, looking for a kind of transformation, an inner cleansing. We must look at this walking culture of our ancestors more deeply and realise the value of it,” he says.

“We now live in an automated society and so hardly ever travel on foot,” he rues. “My aim is to go to every town and village — meet people and get inspired by what they do, and try to inspire them. A support person checks on me once in a while and ensures that I am still alive and that I haven’t been eaten up by a bear! The whole idea is to gain a sense of resistance and take in whatever comes of its own accord — cold and hot weather, rain, snow, mosquitoes, flies — to walk through the dualities and to gain strength,” he says. 

“What resonates with a lot of people when you get past that half century mark is that you have to spend a little more time in simplicity. Walking aids in that endeavour. My message is that we are the spirit, not just the body. Moreover, we were designed for walking, not flying, or even running. In many societies, there is a tradition of walking and leading a monastic life,” he says. 

Was there opposition from his family when he took to the Hare Krishna way of life? “I am still Roman Catholic, and I still believe in God. I have only added to something I was already practising. So while my family was taken aback at first, later they were proud of me. I keep in touch with my siblings and all of them walk with me when I come to their neighbourhood — in dhoti, kurta, chadar, japa mala, tilak, and my Crocs!” he says with a laugh. 

He admits western audiences don’t know eastern philosophy, but things are changing now and they are opening up to vedic concepts and eastern thought.

“To the western community, I also talk about my experiences on the road, tales from my treks and then teach them mantra meditation. Then, I literally pass on the hat, and donations pour in,” he says, when questioned about how he funds his walks. “People believe that if they feed a monk, something good will come of it,” he adds, with a twinkle in his eye.

His message is that the way to make spiritual progress is not just to establish your own inner temple or to visit a church or mosque. Spirituality isn’t limited to that. The world itself is a temple. “I get close to God when I am walking. Walking has a natural rhythm, you take in the great air, everyday is an adventure and when you are out there with nature, you get enlightened. That’s why the ancients did this. Why deprive ourselves of this today,” he asks. 

“It’s my hope that city planners will plan great trails where people will have great experiences. It’s the ultimate experience to walk and travel light — it’s not going to Las Vegas, Disney World or Paris. It’s going on your feet and seeing the big Imax screen all around you — of nature, itself.”

Hair-raising Tales

With children, his approach is different. He talks more about his hair-raising experiences, of being attacked by wasps on the behind, his one-time interaction with a hungry bear…. “If a truck hadn’t trundled along at that point in the morning, I would have been toast — breakfast — for the bear. It was a humbling experience,” he adds. 
 
Teens think monks are cool — the result, perhaps, of seeing so many Kung Fu movies, he explains. “A newer generation has sprung up and they are open. They admire my carefree, car-free lifestyle,” he says. “Of course, children need something exotic too — and my support person comes along with a real Amazon parrot on his shoulder — that’s a real attraction. I talk about the journey, the pilgrimage, what’s it about, how many pairs of shoes it takes to walk across Canada — four of them. I give them some numbers to crunch on. They love that,” he says. 

Educators look forward to his visit. “The biggest challenge now is to get kids away from computers and out of the house. It’s inspiring for them to hear that someone is walking across Canada. Many of them are locked into their own little communities and our Project Walk tells the kids that the globe is big and there is so much going on outside,” he adds. 

When he is not walking, he busies himself with theatre and is a well-known director of theatre arts. He has made Gita concise — and presented all 18 chapters of the Gita in a language people can understand. It includes two fusion dances showing Krishna’s dynamic virat rupa, or cosmic form, complete with music and rhythm in both English and Hindi. 
 
May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Friday, 2 May 2014

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Alachua, Florida

It’s May Day, Eh?

It’s rare to see anyone on foot in this area, but that’s what I saw on this ultra quiet sandy road.  The sun was just making its appearance when I came to a stretch with Spanish moss dangling from giant trees.  Coming my way was a young black girl in reddish, but humble attire.  Before I had a chance to utter any greeting, she uttered a clear, “Hare Krishna, it’s May Day.”

“Yes,” I replied, “and you have a good one.”  I turned around after we crossed each other wondering about her destination and also her connection to that Divine personality we know as Krishna. 

So May has begun with a day that will not be repeated ever again according to the calendar for planet Earth.  “Cherish it, then,” I thought, “and contribute to making it unique.”  That uniqueness began for me with sitting side by side with a friend  and delivering this morning’s message from the Bhagavatam together.  Tamohara is a very respected brahmin in the community.  He was scheduled, according to a roster, to give the class, but by his kindness, me being a guest, the idea came up that we share the teaching.  The fact that we broke from routine makes the start of this day different.

What were some of the bullet points, or sutras that summarized our message on this May day?  (In my own words)

1)      Improve your sravanam (listening)
2)      Don’t take provocation or argument so seriously
3)      See the God factor in whatever occurs
4)      At least mentally register the little miracles of the day
5)      Adjustment and change cures the disease we call stubbornness

One more item that I would like to add about uniqueness on this day has to do with a visit to an old Canadian friend, Mahavir.  We enjoyed brunch together and at that time I became an honourary member of the Hare Krishna Motorcycle Club.  Yes, indeed, I got plopped on top of one of those mean machines, and I’m sure he snapped a few shots to promote the worthy mission of Hare Krishnas on motorcycles.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Lacrosse, Florida
 
Who Am I?
 
Paul Gauguin was known to have signatured some of his finest works of art, captions like, “Who Am I?”  “Why Am I Here?” and “Where Am I Going?”  It’s the same profound remarks about quest that my artist friend, Adideva, slaps onto his thought provoking art display pieces which he takes around to art shows and now, Festival of India events.  These smart art sculptures are featured in different localities like Nashville and New York.  Now, he’s offering to go to Canada with these unique statements of art based on the Bhagavad Gita philosophy.  That’s one of the reasons he brought me to his studio as the Canadian connection to the Festival of India, apart from being just a nice guy.  He has lined up in his studio hundreds of Buddha, Jagannatha, Narasingha and Ganesh, which the public loves to purchase as talisman good luck pieces.
 
Adideva, as I mentioned, is a super nice guy who likes to share this higher consciousness and thought provoking questions with as many people as possible in a world which has a growing interest in protection from fear and evil.  Thank you, Adideva, for sharing your beautiful bhakti works.
 
Today I did trek the 5 KM stretch to and from the local ISKCON Centre where I spoke about protection from evil.  And let us bear in mind that it’s evil which is more dominant within than without that we need to address.  I had the honour to speak at a second session, a basic Q&A’s at the Krishna House in Gainesville.  Time was very demanding today, and if I didn’t have my walks dispersed between visiting obligations, then I might turn more evil than I already am.  There’s enough of that in me already.
 
Pace yourself, balance yourself, monitor yourself.  And on top of that, ask, “Who am I?”
 
May the Source be with you!
 
9 KM

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Alachua, Florida

It Started With A Cardinal

I spotted a cardinal bird, which is a sign of spring. 

“It’s a female,” said Manorama, who’s quite the outdoorsy type.  He knows his wildlife and his herbs.  “The male’s colour is more intense,” he explained more.  “The cardinal is a very aggressive bird, it’s been known to hop on to your rear view mirror and poke at it when seeing his reflection.  He takes that mirror image as a competitor, and so he pecks away at it very hard, at the mirrored object, to the point where he hurts himself and gets all bloody.”

Manorama was giving a mild lesson on this red bird’s dynamics in the midst of our discussing this summer’s youth bus tour.  “Great lesson about nature,” I thought.  Nature is harsh. 

My hosts in this district of Alachua are Ananta Sesa and Vaishnavi, both of South Indian origin.  They reside with their two sons, Aravind and Gopal.  They had arranged a picnic in the town’s park which has a typical Floridian forest trail.  Jagannatha, Vaikuntha, and son, Dhira, along with one of the very few monks in the area, Janudwipa, took to the trail with me, at least a small portion of it.  Conversations began about large temple constructions going on in various places in the world.  We were talking about the expansion of Krishna Consciousness in places like India, Russia, Eastern Europe, pockets of South America and Africa, where there is exponential growth.  North America seems to be lagging behind a little bit in terms of growth. 

When we look at a response in North America from the public, it is rather good.  People are either curious or just downright friendly, but not always so committal.  One thing to admit to is that our marketing approach needs some adjustment.  I’ve seen it work in places like Gainesville where young people are joining what we call, Krishna House.

Our evening wrap up occurred at the very home where I’m staying.  A host of people from various backgrounds, including some neighbours, showed up.  After kirtan, we discussed the nature of the mind, since that is what we all contend with on a daily basis. 

I opened up the discussion to all.  This is food for thought.

The mind: 

1)      The centre of the senses.
2)      The sixth sense.
3)      The subtle sense.
4)      It is fickle.
5)      It is like a switch.
6)      It’s either a friend or a foe.
7)      It possesses a good and bad side.
8)      It’s a storage unit of thoughts.
9)      A river of thought.
10)   It can elevate you when controlled and degrade you when it controls you.
11)   It can enslave you.
12)   It is a connector.
13)   It is the reigns of the wild horses (senses) pulled by the driver (intelligence) of the chariot (the body) and bewilders the passenger (the soul).
14)   It’s a rascal, a monkey, a clown.
15)   It’s like money, here today, gone tomorrow.
16)   Befriend it and it works in your favour.


May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Orlando, Florida

Cleanse For Glory

Angelo and I and a few other individuals made our way to Main Highway with meditation beads in hand, and then down to a quiet road which accesses the ocean.  It was my second trip here this morning.  A police cab was parked on that road very close to the water’s edge.  On my first venture over here, however, alone at 4 AM, it was a parked car that likely facilitated two lovers.  Who knows.  I’m not that curious.

Angelo had remarked that he like the fact that he parked ourselves (I mean buttocks) to a concrete block to be by the waves for gaining a sense of peace.  I concurred saying, “Chanting by the sound of moving water can do a lot to clear the cobwebs of the mind.” 

My visit to Miami terminated.  Goodbye, Miami, and hello Orlando. 

Here, I was driven to the new home of Abhimanyu Arjuna for a housewarming event, Vedic style.  Raghu, a young priest from near Gainesville, drove the distance to perform the homa (fire ceremony).  For Jamie and Chuck, who are local yoga instructors, viewing the ceremony was a new experience.  Again, here was a ritual, like the chanting by the ocean in the morning, which serves to cleanse or purify the consciousness. 

Considering the materialistic world in which we live with all its crazy demands, we need all the help we can get.  It’s important to remind ourselves and each other in a regular manner that we consider to make our exit from this life after a good cleansing.  Who wants to leave this world with a bad or sick heart?  No one in their right mind would want that.  It’s principles of forgiveness and gratitude that permit a glorious parting.  That’s why all the chanting, purifying rituals, wholesome interaction, etc., make a difference in changing the shape of our destiny. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM