Thursday, 31 July 2014

Sunday, July 27th, 2014


Edmonton, Alberta

I Overheard


I overheard the phone conversation.  No eaves dropping on my part.  The caller and the recipient were loud.  The recipient said, “You don’t quite get it, Swami doesn’t want a ride, you don’t have to come.  He wants to walk.  He’ll go down 34th and arrive there on time, don’t worry.”

“Okay,” said the caller, “I’ll see him when he gets there,” he said to my host, Yogendra. 

‘There’, referred to the Radha Madhava Cultural Centre where I would be conducting a class on Bhakti Yoga.  So I took to 34thAvenue and took advantage of the perfect day. 

The highlight of the day was a close contact with a coyote.  Lying in the grass at the edge of a woodsy area, was this real contented dog of the wilderness, his front lower legs stretched protruding forward, and ears perked up.  As I came closer, he naturally arose and then casually tucked himself under the shade of the trees.  Half shy, he poked out his nose and came out full bodied to bathe in the warmth of the sun.  He saw me move on, and thereby, he appeared to relax again, perhaps until the next apparent intruder would come – a walker, runner, or cyclist. 

Motorists were not his worry.  Those of us on foot were outnumbered by a thousand percent.  A motorist is too removed from nature.  He/she can’t be seen for the tinted glass, nor can be smelled beyond door tightness.  I stake my claim for being close to this beautiful creature, and I pity the distant motorist who only gets close before it’s too late. 

Death is often the fate of the animal who can’t understand the cold and callous road.  I’m happy to be a walker, walking defies human contraptions. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Monday, 28 July 2014

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Edmonton, Alberta

The Last


The last of the stops for the festival tour culminated in Edmonton.  The sky had been insistent on bucketing the water.  By noon, the dumping of yesterday converted to a spray which eventually depleted as our outdoor procession of the Chariot Festival was in progress. 

As remarked by more than one person, there was a remarkable focus on chanting and dancing.  The location or route was a little odd – through an industrial plaza strip area.  Perhaps it will take a little more time for us to prepare ourselves for hip Whyte Avenue for the future. 

One instance that pulled out of the sternness in me, and then later a chuckle, had to do with one of our young bus troupers.  Young Raj is from Texas.  He was in the procession like the rest of us.  He managed to grab a plate of prasad (sanctified food) and had a nibble at it.  Where one of the escorted police cars was parked along the way, Raj decided to place his food on the front hood of the car as he was fiddling with something.  The police officer was making his way back to his vehicle when I noticed the plate on the car.  I conveniently had a mic in my hand since I was the person responding to the lead singer in the procession.  I used the mic to alert Raj, I beckoned him towards me, “Raj!” who then picked up the plate and came to me.  I gave him a mild chiding and said, “You should never do that.  You don’t want to be disrespectful, do you?”  indicating that the police are our friends and are there to help us.

In innocence he said, “You mean I shouldn’t disrespect the prasad?”

“No, Raj, the police.”

Anyway, when it came to my few minutes on the stage once the chariot procession was over, I relayed the story to the crowd sitting before me.  They also had a good laugh.

Our day ended with an hour long chanting session on Whyte Avenue where the evening young folks hang out.  Kish, of the Mayapuris, lead the chant which had the support of three booming mrdanga drums.  I personally like the percussion, it gets people hopping.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Calgary, Alberta

A Monk’s Take on Family and Kids


“I would just like to see wholesome families become a part of the social fabric.”  This I expressed to a young devotee of Krishna who’s engaged to be married. 

It was the second time today that I had a conversation on the topic of marriage.  “New world with old values,” were our mutual thoughts.  “Many new experiments aren’t working,” said the thoughtful young man, without elaborating. 

Then I offered to say, “Chosen life partners must be good listeners towards each other.”

A second person whom I would deem as successful in his marriage of several years, told of a third child on the way, and that I played a major role in what will soon be a new arrival.  He explained that in my last visit I said something about how a good couple should consider many children.  “It would increase a finer percentage of humans,” that was the logic.  We know that is not always the case, yet my observation tells that dharmic couples can help the world with their procreation. 

This second person, also a pious person, asked me frankly, “What do you, a monk, think of people like me, a married man, caught up in the world of money?”

I was frank, “You’re doing great.”  I indicated, “Let’s populate the world with great offspring, kids with a good sense of right and wrong and who have a good drive.”  We rambled on as rain and wind continued to be a lame excuse for not trekking today. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Jasper, Alberta

Water


A herd of elk came into our purview, while ground squirrels (black tail prairie dog) poked their heads out of their holes, mostly to see what we could offer them in the form of food.  These creatures kept us company at the Marmot Meadows Campsite.  We also caught glimpse of a black bear who entertained tourists simply by his very presence.  European tourists just go nuts when they see Canadian wildlife, but they’re not the only ones.  Canadian city slickers also go into a frenzy clicking their cameras. 

It really was a day of wetness.  The boys tents and their contents; cots, blankets, pillows, clothes, got drenched.  It warranted a trip to the laundry mat.  The place was already full, but with our entrance, 25 or so wild young folks, I’m the oldest, the place was completely packed. 

In general, on a day of rain, or whether it be high winds, Indra dynamics becomes a reality.  Still, water was not enough to intimidate.  The big draw or attraction for the day for our bus crew was a swim and Radium Hot Springs, surprisingly done inside.  By day’s end my legs became antsy for something outdoor.  For a challenge I took to the downward road from mountain high down to the direction of Yellowhead Highway.  There in raingear I tread, dodging the hefty currents of water coming down as rivulets on the asphalt.

I took these waves of downward water as a tax by maya, illusion.  I was most alert, yet anything to avoid wet socks.  Surely my chanting was evermore sharp as opposed to the more casual approach taken when sitting on the front seat of our bus.  A small ounce of austerity or inconvenience imposed on the self always goes a long way to contributing to the life of a monastic.  It happens to occur right here on the road, once again. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Jasper, Alberta

Mountainous Beauty


I covered a mere few kilometres on foot before the trip to Jasper, with stops along the way to capture with the eyes, the mountainous beauty.  My hosts, Radha Madhava, Swasti, and daughters in Calgary, and I, drove along Highway 93. Any stops made along the way, whether washroom breaks or gassing up, gave me the opportunity to add a kilometre here and there.

One tourist pulled over and offered a ride wondering how I mystically moved so swiftly as he passed me by twice before.  He just got so curious.

At Athabasca River we ventured down a trail as did so many other tourists from every part of the world imaginable.  Nature here seemed to have carved out of the earth these cool grooves by glacial and water movement in what is described as a tug of war for territory between rock and water.  Along the trail a plaque is entitled ‘Battle Front’, with the following text:

Water fights the rock lip back a few millimetres a year.  Now, the water is winning, but the nature of the rock may one day force the water to abandon this channel and seek another route. 
 
At the site of the gushing falls, more text follows:

Here, in a fury of sound and spray, the power of roaring water and a trembling earth meet.  Echoes of timeless batter assault our senses. 
 
After reading and viewing the facts we carried on to Whistler’s Park, where the Krishna Culture Bus Tour vehicle was kept.  I hooked up again with our team only to engage in spiritual talks over campfire roasted veggie marshmallows.  Marshmallows are an ancient food of the Egyptians. 

All is good here.  You just have to watch where you step.  One of the boys accidentally stepped into a prairie dog hole and sprained the ankle.  Such are the forces of nature. 

May the Source be with you!

11 KM

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Calgary, Alberta

Learning On The Trail


On the Rotary Mattamy Greenway, at the eastern reaches of Calgary, I took my early trek.  From two locations on the trail, I learned of wilderness struggle.  Firstly, on a slight divergence of the trail, by a batch of trees (where frankly, I released some water) I saw the remains of an ordeal.  It had more to do with a ruffling of feathers.  There, on this tiny forest floor, was a pile of actual feathers, likely what was left of some aerial battle between two birds.  It was not the down of a duck that I was looking at, or a crow; hard to tell really, but it was a scatter of life, nevertheless.  I could only imagine the pain of the feathery victim. 

Further on the trail, in fact very close to the Trans Canada Highway/Highway 1, there lies the relics of a fur animal, at least to me, it was evidence of another scuffle. 

I terminated the trail walk and ended at a newspaper box.   I pulled out a Metro newspaper, sat myself at a park bench, and read the feature article of a local Calgarian pit bull that was euthanized by officials.  He had attacked and killed a poodle.  Chaos was the name of the three year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  The article was an account of two dog owners walking their pets, their toothy encounter, and then the subsequent reactions from the owners.  All in all, the theme here was about the struggle within life, and the harshness that pervades in our world. 

Mmm… this gives me a topic to speak on at tonight’s sangha at the home where I’m staying, “Suffering!  Can it be overcome?”

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Vancouver, British Columbia

Decisions


A fairly spontaneous decision was made for me to fly to Vancouver, which I did yesterday.  The purpose?  It was not to participate in a walkathon.  Rather, it was decided that I meet with two monks, Gopal Krishna Goswami, and Hari Vilas (by virtue of service, he is practically a monk).  The three of us, not shunning administrator obligations, but sitting to discuss issues over our devotional community, was our topic of discussion. 

It would be nice to have the easy life of a roaming hermit, and not bother with ‘people’, however, our whole mission involves humans and offering them the more stress free material relieving lifestyle.  ‘People’ will always be on our agenda.  We serve and receive service from them.  Our role is to teach, mentor, coach, encourage.  The three of us had two sessions of meetings, one last evening and one this morning.  Prior to meeting, I naturally had to put in my kilometres, and also, in the planning of the day, work around our morning sadhana which begins at 4:30 AM.  After all, strength lies in sessions that are heart touching, and sadhana, when approached feelingly, opens up the chakra of the heart and prepares for dealing with people issues.

The three of us came out of our meeting room, satisfied with decisions made, knowing well that not all parties will be cent percent satisfied.  Compromise we must live with, otherwise, expect no hope. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Calgary/Vancouver

Moving Up


Usually the prairie is dry, yet this morning it was moist.  Some drizzle sprayed the sky during a portion of a 9 KM hike at Calgary’s east end.  It was my time to chant until I came to the home of Gaura Chandra when it was time to chat. 

Chat I did, and also at the Radha Madhava Cultural Centre, when reuniting with our bus tour group.  I spoke about the advantages of commitment, especially in regard to vows made by young Shyama Priya.  She is only 12, but made a firm conviction for the basic tenets of Vaishnava culture.  She put her values out for the ears of our community – no intoxication, no gambling, no meat eating and no casual sex.  These are tall orders to fulfill, but she has a good trying chance given her upbringing.  It is admirable that she takes this firm stance.  She also commits to mantra meditation for approximately 2 hours every day. 

Vows, when taken seriously, give power.  Vows that are taken casually, weaken.  No vows or no commitment means ‘no life’. 

I applaud Shyama Priya.  Her new name Shyamesvari. 

May the Source always be with her!

9 KM

Monday, 21 July 2014

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary Too


Calgary’s 8th Avenue is the most promising thoroughfare for another chariot event.  CafĂ© sitters and people strolling about could hear a distant booming of the bhangra and mrdanga  drums.  At 12 sharp, high noon, coconuts were ceremoniously crashed to the pavement sending exploded juices in different directions before the oncoming march of people chanting Hare Krishna. 

I think anything ‘new’ bedazzles people.  It challenges monotony.

So, for two hours, our parade went straight on 8th Avenue up to the armory, its usual route.  This then makes it a pilgrimage because of the nature of the event.  It is not a military march, a protest, or an aimless stroll.  This festival, known as Ratha Yatra, is a reenactment of Krishna’s consort, Radha, attempting to lure Krishna back to His home rural village of Vrindavan.  At least this is one aspect of the event. 

Hundreds came to partake in this walk, which to my guess is a simple 3 to 4 kilometre stretch.  My interpretation is an attempt to lure people away from their cars and get them on their feet.  This is good.  To me, Calgary seems to be a real car town, not so pedestrian prone, except for the trails along the Bow River.  This is where you find runners, walkers, and cyclers a plenty.

Meanwhile, all went well with the parade, and the truck pulled a flat bed wagon, on which I sat part of the way.  I am not getting lazy, it is on that wagon that the musicians sat churning out the mantra, along with a cheerful turbaned Punjabi man who tapped rhythmically on the two ends of his bhangra drum.   Outside of the chariot this guy looked the brightest. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Will Perpetuate


Rain has hit the prairies more than once, especially for farmers.  It also makes conditions very conducive for mosquito proliferation.  This is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Our bus’s front window gets plastered by the bugs.  The very faithful and dutiful, Dravanaksha, one of our chief drivers, pulled over the large heap of metal with precious cargo inside (22 nice teenage boys), and lathered with huge brush, water and soap, that expansive window, causing bountiful bodies of bugs to slide off.  It didn’t take long, though, before a new splatter of bugs replaced the old ones. 

Today, I squeezed in 4 kilometres through Willow Grove subdivision, walking with 14 year old Jay.  This was not at bug hour, but at midday.  Sun and wind were forceful, though.  Will anything be other than an onslaught in this world? 

At 5:30 PM, the first Chariot Festival for Saskatoon kicked off.  It was somewhat chaotic at the start, understandably so, and total order never really manifest, especially at our presentation time at the quaint Lakshmi Narayan temple.  The building was crammed, joyfully, by yogis, Hindus, new agers, and bhaktas or devotees of Krishna.  It was stuffy and seating was inadequate.  However, I am forever proud of what one devotional couple can do in mobilizing a whole crew of people in a town curious as to what The Festival of India, and and Indian chariot for that matter, would look like.  Kashyapa and Panchami organized this first event with lots of enthusiasm.  The numbers of people that showed up surprised us.  People liked what they saw and heard.  An improved venue should be on the prairie horizon in the future.  Once such a program begins, it is likely to perpetuate.  We thank donors and all who physically contributed to the event. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Regina, Saskatchewan

Shoe Happy


I’m really satisfied with my new pair of Keen shoes.  I picked them up from a shop on Danforth Street in Toronto.  The clerk charged no tax, perhaps he was charmed by a monk. 

I’ve had no issues with breaking into these shoes – no blisters or callouses.  They are snug on the feet, but are a trite heavier than Crocs.  For short term treks, such as the ones I’m currently going through, these shoes will be fine.  Time will tell. 

I’m in Regina.  Our bus parked at the Husky Gas Station at night on Victoria Ave. when I decided to make my way to the local ashram on Retallack Street.  These days, Regina and the province of Saskatchewan, are booming.  Natural resources had something to do with that.  Of course, it welcomes extra traffic.  Road madness hustled hustled along Victoria, which is where I happened to trek.  I had the fortune to walk a worn, unconventional trail where regular earth is as comfy for feet as asphalt is for tires.  I really was in awe at the insistence of road rage next to me.  I was glad when I finally reached the downtown which was quieter, and especially when a young oriental fellow asked about my assumed Buddhism.

“Actually, it’s Hare Krishna, with roots from India, and which also outdates Buddhism.”  He gave a nod and then dashed off to cross the street and off to work, I assumed. 

Our ashram in Regina is not in the best neighbourhood.  When I asked some folks where the nearest drug store is and where I could get a particular prescription drug, everyone seems to know where legal drugs are located, and perhaps, the other kind as well.

Our bus tour group went on to do a performance once again – chanting, magic show with Dattatreya, and our drama, “Little Big Ramayan”.  What a feel good program.  That’s what this is all about, it is about community strengthening and reinforcement, that our little travelling road show offers.  It is also effective as outreach.  Newcomers have something experiential.  I’m sure guru and Krishna are pleased.  Our show was all done in barefoot, though, no shoes required. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Winnipeg, Manitoba

In All You Do

The Unitarian Church just off of the Assiniboine River became the venue for our evening devotional show.  It’s an impressive place.  Limestone blocks give it that stately look.  Roger, a member of the church, and our ‘on-site man’, was there to assist us in our preparation.  He is just the right kind of guy for the job.

I see the devotion, bhakti, in him.  I don’t believe that one group of spiritualists, even our own Krishna movement, has a monopoly on it.  I will say that these common ground feelings run through my veins being in the presence of Roger and in such a sacred space.

When we say, “Krishna is everywhere”, just as someone might say, “Brahman is everywhere,” “God is everywhere,” “Divinity is everywhere,” what really is the difference in terms of perception? 

Preparation for the evening program all culminated in a great show with an appreciative audience.  The space and acoustics were great, as was the layout of the building’s interior. 

Some temples I visit are cluttered with mismatched furniture and paraphernalia.  This place was tastefully done with its placement of things.  Perhaps the attendees felt the space to be cared for and that was one of the reasons for the joy they felt this evening. 

Devotion can be applied in all facets of life.  It is not limited to how you execute some rituals, or how you put out your mantra.  It is an implementation in all you do.  Check 9.27 from the Bhagavad Gita. 

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Thunder Bay, Ontario

Beyond Liberation


My friend, Gaura, and I, took a short trek under the spit of rain in Toronto.  Not ignoring the dripping trees, we noticed a black cherry tree.  Again, this is right in our neighbourhood where such juicy bounties can be found just hanging right there.  Strange that humans generally take so little interest in what is so natural and so ‘under your nose’.  So be it.  Leave the organic stuff for the squirrel, the raccoon, or the odd monk, and let humans access the GMO’d commercial bought, what we call, ‘food’. 

Not long after black cherries darkened the lips, Gaura and I returned to the temple ashram and sat for a Bhagavatam class conducted by Kaliyapani, a long time devotee from the UK, reminding all those attending that the goal of life is liberation, freedom from ongoing births in this world.  The class was well delivered.

Those of us who have routined ourselves to devotional activities for some years now, put a life of bhakti, devotion, above liberation itself.  Just to give an example of what I’m talking about, when I arrived at Thunder Bay for its annual Festival of India, I came to this realization regarding liberation.  What did I see there at Marina Park off of Lake Superior?  I saw crowds of happy people, about 6,000, engrossed in spiritual culture.  The food, the dance, music, pretty clothes (very colourful), incense, spiritual books, popcorn, lemonade and ice cream were all featured.  Thunder Bay bursts with bhakti this time of year, and my great fortune to be here serving others by simply giving the message of Krishna Consciousness, allows me to touch the tip of liberation, or better still, to ride on its back.  Freedom truly comes from serving and telling others of a better life that is alien to that mundane greedy existence of our modern world. 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
New Territory
 
 
Phil, Ananda Rupa, and Jagannatha, who are all visiting pilgrims, and I, trekked through posh Rosedale in the morning when we came upon a security guard at a childcare establishment.  He noticed us, stood there, and inquired about our exotic attire. 
 
“What do the clothes represent?” asked the dark and tall middle eastern man. 
 
“It represents Krishna Consciousness.”
 
He had a string of questions, including, “What book do you follow?”
 
“Bhagavad Gita,” I said.
 
“Do you believe in heaven and hell?  What happens when you die?  Do you believe God can be seen?”  From his looks and his questions, I gathered that he followed the Quran, as he was talking about a personal judgment day.   I hoped that my answers left him thinking about shades of grey, and not the usual black and white mode of perception.  He spoke about what he was taught, that there’s one book only. 
 
“So you wouldn’t read Alice in Wonderland?” I asked.
 
“No.”
 
My companions were lit up at his inquiries, and I believe that to some degree he was enjoying the responses as he stood in a fresh new territory of openness.  The sensation that we could talk in this liberal way, and not live in fear about sharing and learning, was comforting. 
 
In the end of our exchange, it was a warm embrace.  The experience was sweet.  I had to think about it, that who in such a place in Rosedale ever talks about spiritual things on the street?
 
May the Source be with you!
 
8 KM

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Toronto
 
Hypes
 
 
Certain hypes I don’t understand.  For instance, the world cup for the soccer tournament has captivated the globe, and this afternoon, Germany had won in the final game against Argentina.  A screen made its way to Centre Island on day two of our festival.  This was not part of the agenda, however, championship enthusiasts, who also have a heart with Krishna, went to the side to immerse themselves watching the game on the screen. 
 
Attendance at the Island was a little bit down, due in part to the spectacle causing many people to just stay at home.  Rain, I guess, was a second excuse. 
 
When hype of the magnitude of the soccer game takes place, usually there’s extra drinking that goes on. By that, I’m not referring to Kool-Aid.  We had incident, not on the Island, but back at home base at the temple ashram.  Two men and a woman, highly intoxicated, made their way inside our building and did some property damage.  I can’t blame stupid behaviour on soccer games, but I can say that there should be happier and cleaner ways to celebrate. 
 
Speaking of drinking hard, our very controversial mayor, Mr. Rob Ford, showed up at the Chariot Festival on Centre Island.  He actually had his time on the stage and congratulated our community for the ongoing success of the festival.  He ended up saying, “Hare Krishna”, which from our point of view is a more than pious thing to do. 
 
Thank you, Mayor Ford, for making it to the event.  You are a public figure known for your gutsiness.  As you saw yourself, people from our community were swarming around you after you made your speech.  In any event, it was very considerate of you to attend. 
 
I wanted to congratulate the three second-initiates – Aindra, Rupa and Sanatan, who took that next spiritual step. 
 
May the Source be with you!
 
6 KM

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Not Much But So Much


Not much to say other than the event.  The 42nd Annual Ratha Yatra Chariot Festival was a smashing event.  I saw all kinds of people come out of the woodwork, so to speak, at the Yonge Street procession, as well as Centre Island where crowds were enjoying good clean fun.  As pointed out in the past, no drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, and at the same time having a blast, is practically unheard of in this day and age. 

That’s what happened!

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

High Point


Monks have come, sannyasis by the name of Gopal Krishna, Bhakti Raghava, Chandramauli, and Janardan.  Lay members have arrived, some who are family members, some who are singles.  There are the elderly, the very young, children and babies, and adolescents that have made their way to 243 Avenue Road for the warm-up session leading to this year’s Chariot Festival.

I am referring to a 12 hour kirtan, a chanting marathon.  These folks have come from far and wide, cities from locations in primarily North America are represented.  The vibes are great.  I was given the honour to kick start the function.  I was fortunate to have our boys from the Krishna Culture Bus Tour all around me.  The well known kirtan icon, Madhava, was there to support with his voice while Phil Lussier, who so expertly adjusts to any of my tune switching, was fingering on the harmonium. 

Throught the day, mantras were resounding.  I would call our building nothing less than a busy anthill or beehive.  By evening, the high point reached during Madhava’s lead – a crescendo of sound, of movement, of smells, and finally, the fire of digestion. 

Anyone who was there at those lofty moments could appreciate the words of the Bhagavad Gita, “The Higher Taste”.

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
 
More Of It! 
 
 
The passengers aboard the Krishna Culture Bus Tour very informally gauge the best meal on the trip so far.  ISKCON's Montreal centre number one for the best lunch but it is Owen Sound's Rajesh and Alpa's home that took the official top score for breakfast.  It featured pancakes with nothing other than Canadian maple syrup, fruit, veggies and your standard American boxed cereals.  I wasn't there when sponsored bricks of ice cream came their way at the night-time snack indulgence before going to sleep.  What do you suspect for a bunch of young teens?
 
For soul nurturing I spoke from Canto 7 of the book Bhagavatam emphasizing the power of smaranam or recalling positive spiritual thoughts.  Spiritual practices and messages folded with physical exhilaration was our usual full day program.  While our boys took advantage of favourable water at Souble Beach, Dattatreya and I went for a beach walk to the end and back.  The newly-wed and I, the monk, had our opportunity to know each other simply through conversation.  Through that process we had come to the conclusion that our mutual upbringing was sattvic, in a mode of goodness, for goodness sake.
 
My day wound-down when Tulasi from the rock band, Rajasi, engaged me in an upcoming music video, shooting from a camera, some walking along the Bruce Trail.  It was at that magic hour when the sun comes to our level, close to the horizon or the earth's service.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
10 KM

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
 
Fun!
 
 
Today's temperature escalated only to 17 degrees Celsius, not too impressive as beach weather, although it was sunny.  The boys are really anticipating the glory of Sauble Beach.  We all settled for an hour trek from Inglis Falls to Harrison Falls via a decent trail along a clean babbling brook, what is more accurately the Sydenham River.  Intermittently, skipping stones on and submergence in that water took care of the boys frivolity, including a lie-down in a rock formation, a natural jacuzzi where more than a trickle of water cascades on three sides of the body.  A game of soccer was preceded by the splash and the trek.
 
I think its an achievement to get young boys or men in general, away from gadgets.  This youth's program, in essence, is to provide a natural and spiritual experience.
 
Coordinator Manoram, who is slowly passing the succession baton onto others, especially an Afro-American by the Sanskrit name of Dattatreya, has been conducting the last two classes in the morning.  They are lessons from Prahlad, a young Vedic saint, and they encompass an ultimate dependency on the Supreme.  The guys are responding well to the message.
 
Afternoon, or at least a chunk of it, is time to engage this youth in our drama, 'Little Big Ramayana' which has multiple physical movements in it.  Ultimately the story-line underscores the message of peace, loyalty, and devotion.
 
By evening time, families from the neighbourhood and even a computer engineer, Nageswar, from Andra Pradesh in India, came by for chanting and a feast.  Though in a short-term assignment in Canada, Nageswar took the time to be with us.  I'm sure he was fascinated by seeing mostly western kids approach the mantras of ancient India with an enthusiasm that even mundane gadgets can't excite.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
10 KM

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario
 
Boys from Men
 
I walked to the old Mudtown pottery building wherein lives one of my support persons from CanWalk 3.  Garuda Vahan is residing in this unique place overlooking Georgian Bay.  He is a happy pensioner but keeps very active physically and spiritually.  It was at this location that I was to meet up with the Krishna Culture Bus Tour occupied by twenty plus young men, aged 12 -18.  Within minutes that I arrived at Mudtown, the bus pulled up.
 
As is custom in our Vaishnava tradition, you shower or take bath in the morning before you move on with affairs of the day.  While there are showers in the bus, I suppose to be both creative and hurry things along, the program's coordinator, Manoram, proposed that the boys dip into the clean and refreshing waters of Georgian Bay.  "This will separate the boys from the men," he challenged.  While the world is immersed in Soccer mania (no exception for these guys) the real hands-on sport for this morning was 'who can stay in the cool waters the longest'.
 
The swim was the highlight of the day.  While walking was brief for me, the leaping up and down from the director's chair was more time consuming.
 
Frankly speaking some of the boys showed some 'apprehension' to act.  Much like the will to brave the cool waters of the Bay, but by the time our second session of practice rolled on, for the Ramayan, all the cast had become loosened up.  The pastimes of Ram are endearing to all of them.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
4 KM

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
From Big to Little City
 
The annual visit from the group Encounter happened today.  Putting into practice their purpose, as the name implies, the organization arranges to connect with others, particularly faith groups of different kinds.  'Learning,' I imagine is a key word.
 
The questions from the group of 50 flowed like one of those many gushing streams of water I had just seen in BC during my cross-country walk.  In fact the group was very curious about the pilgrimages I've taken, as they were curious about the lady on the altar with the fluffy white thing she was moving about.  That 'thing' is called a chamara and it is used as part of our ritual.  A chamara is a Yak tail with a fancy handle.  They were also keen to know about the Beatle's involvement in Eastern mysticism, Krishna Consciousness, and in our founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  The group sang from the heart in our chanting session, then relished the veg feast which the devotees had prepared.  What a great group of inquisitiveness they are.
 
Part two of my day was spent in Owen Sound, a very relaxed and smart-looking little city where I'll spend 3 days rehearsing with young guys aged 12 to 18 for a road show that travels across Canada.
Rajesh and Alpa, my hosts, are always enthusiastic about Krishna Conscious activities.  We trekked the downtown as we chanted on our beads.  Rajesh's unrealistic but eager remark was, "Maharaj, you just stay in our town forever."  My thought was, "I'd like to but I'm a swami and swamis are nomadic.  They just keep rockin' and rolling"
  
May the Source be with you!
 
5 KM

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Montreal, Quebec
 
Shades in Montreal 
 
 
Curvy stairs, cigarette butts, gray cats, plantain greens, well-worn sidewalks, and trees of optimum shades, with three and four-storied European-touch residences are what we saw in our brief trek of Montreal's East Side.  Early-bird devotees and I walked and warmed up to the actual big event of the weekend in our community, the Chariot Festival.
 
Surely we do not rival in numbers to the attendance of the city's Jazz Festival, the largest in the world.  But with our most modest figures we do end up with a happy bunch of hundreds of people at least.  That number starts to swell at Jeanne Mance Park for the free food - vegetarian fare of course, and which is blessed by brahmins (priests).
 
Clouds were burned and blown by sun and wind.  The sun-god Surya wanted to be present, so it seemed, when our happy bunch in colourful exotic clothes came singing up a storm of mantras on Saint Laurent Street.  After the procession I put on my drama cap to stage the play Little Big Ramayan.  That performance, executed proudly in French, just happened to be the biggest draw of the whole day.
 
A big part of my personal portfolio is drama.  Some people may wonder if there is some compatibility between marathon walking and theatre.  When I walk I meet people.  I observe their personality, hear them speak and hence I learn so much about an individual's nature.  This is the best teaching tool.  You go out, you meet people, and you observe all the various shades, colours, and moods.  It is very entertaining and it is interesting to see how the Supreme has wired everyone in a unique way.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
6 KM

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Montreal, Quebec
 
Streets and Parks
 
 
I'm not sure that 'craving' is the right word to describe what my two walking companions are feeling.  After a full day at Jeanne Mance Park at the base of Mount Royal between mingling with people and manning the book table at Festival of India, Karuna and Hayagriva, two young monks, asked me if the three of us could trek back.  At least it's desire.
 
It was the most perfect day, weather-wise; we had sun, a breeze and in the mid-twenties celsius temperature.  Couldn't be better!
 
'Trekking back' meant instead of catching a ride, as none of us have a vehicle although equipped with driving skills, we decided to make it to the ashram on Pie IX Blvd to catch our night's rest.  Are my two companions hooked on walking?  In the case of Hayagriva who told me, "I try to walk for two hours a day."  Karuna, well he said much the same.  I'm glad I'm of some mini influence in their lives.
Our trek back routed us through pedestrian-warm streets and through parks.  I notice wherever I go more people are turning 'Vedic.'  They see us and say, "Namaste!" or "Hare Krishna!" or when we took to the sidewalk in Parc du Fontaine where older folks were at play with a game, 'Petangue,' some younger guys actually sang our song.  At least you see eyebrows raise when three saffron clad blokes pass by coming from shirtless men and tight-attired women culture.  One fellow who identified himself as 'Bhisma' was a former Krishna practitioner addressed us.  He was open about his cigar smoking.  "No need to be apologetic," I said.  We're not going to judge just by some deviation.
Yes, Saturday evenings, in the adjoining downtown of Montreal is the place to be for almost anyone and especially for a group of three us monks.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
8 KM

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
Community
 
 
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live."
 
The above quote is from George Bernard Shaw.  I copied this quote affixed to a pedestrian bridge on my walking trail across the country.  For many who read this, it should resonate well.  How can we live without community?
 
The community efforts for me this very day entails a trip to Montreal where our drama team members from Toronto will embark on the journey of entertaining the crowds at the annual Chariot Festival.
 
If walking can be a spiritual venture because of the divine intent behind it then anything you do, even theatre can be spiritually experiential when the objective is divine.  Any endeavour, provided it has a divine connection, can serve to liberate the participant by dint of devotion.  As humans we have either the obligation or the opportunity, whichever way you wish to approach it, to make the connection.  Think in terms of raising the consciousness.  Start with this intent or desire and best is to work with others, as in community, and be successful.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
3 KM

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Reflections Of


In my afternoon stroll, a break from desk work, the most prominent and endearing thoughts and words of that walk with Patrick, I thought I would share. 

·         Gratitude for the unpaved trails in the city.
·         Let’s keep in the shade as much as possible on this steamy day.
·         There are hundreds of berry trees in this city, Saskatoons and mulberries, ripe and ready, and we sample them.
·         People are darned friendly on the trail.  The green brings out the best.
·         Thoughts of gratitude for Daruka and Karuna who were with me in the just completed 4 th walk across Canada.
·         A  park bench so inviting that can lead to a 7 minute lie down while Patrick chanted some mantras.
·         I have hardly a clue what’s going on socially and politically in the world due to being away from it all – walking.  No regrets – in fact, ignorance is bliss.
·         I find myself fortunate when occupied in soft chanting.  Others on this trail don’t have this experience.
·         Upon seeing me, a runner offers pranams (palms together). This I accept on behalf of guru.  I reciprocate with his gesture on the same point.
·         Patrick’s joke:  What did the one cannibal say to the other when he showed up late for dinner?  Answer – Everyone’s eaten. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
 
When a Blessing Works
 
 
It was considerate of Mathieu and Krishna Dulal to drive me back to home base from Ottawa.  My most and least favourite modes of transportation, namely walking and bussing, were not the preferred options.  Off to Highway 7 (in Ontario) we went by conventional car.  Bless those two guys.  I’m home, I think.  Sometimes I’m convinced the road is my home. 
 
I did fortuitously meet some great folks that asked for blessings today.  I meant to say it was not my intent to meet these people who asked for some benedictions.  Some hours after Matheiu and K. Dulal dropped me off, I dashed for the first opportunity to move my legs.  I went south on Yonge Street.  I was softly chanting on my beads.  While exposing those beads I passed by a pub and a trio of people sat at sipping beer.  There was no window to bar me from communicating with them as it was an open concept pub.  When the woman said, “Oh, a rosary,” this was an opportunity.  I stopped at the remark and backtracked about three steps to address it. 
 
“Actually, these are what’s actually called japa mala.”
 
“That’s interesting,” she said. 
 
“Yes, Hindu and Buddhist followers use these with 108 beads on each strand.  If you’re Catholic, it’s a rosary with 54 beads.”
 
“You pray something different on each bead?” the woman persisted with curiosity.
 
“Basically, you stick to one mantra which you repeat for each bead.”
 
One of the men said, “Well, God bless you.” 
 
The woman said, “Can you bless us?”
 
I bore my right hand facing them, as is done in a Vedic blessing, “God bless you.”  They nodded.  I went about my way. 
 
For that, I believe I got blessed.  Not but three minutes later, I heard a voice behind me calling my name.  I knew the voice.  It came from Haridas, my spirit or godbrother.  From here on, we continued the trek on Yonge, chatting and chanting.  Meeting him was a good omen.  I believe to have received a blessing from the threesome. 
 
May the Source be with you. 
 
6 KM

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario

Chanting in Freedom

Perhaps for a good square mile or two, around the Parliament Buildings, it becomes like China, very congested.  It’s not normally this way.  It’s the nation’s birthday, and so you have a convergence of people in on the celebration.

For a different spin on walking and chanting, Karuna and I, who are accustomed to switch-backing in the mountainous roads of British Columbia for the last month, now found ourselves in an urban setting weaving through people.  Our destination was a spot near Parliament, an allocated area for our kirtan (chanting) set up.  Each year our boys from Ottawa make it to this cozy outside place at 5 AM to set up a mini stage, awnings, and sound system. 

Slowly, Karuna and I, managed our way to that special site, after meandering through people outside and inside; through the Rideau Shopping Mall, through Sears Department Store and so on.   Through the crowds and through the noise (mostly happy noise), pass the buskers, with their acrobats, fire eating and whatnot, and past the multiple musicians of various genres, we attempted transcendence with our mantras, as we worked our fingers through our mala beads.  It was crazy as we cruised.

Finally, we reached our destination and I ascended the stage for leading the song on this Canada Day:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

People danced as our drums, both mrdanga and djembe, rolled.  It was very fitting.  We were expressing who we are and we were celebrating the freedom to do so.   When I wasn’t chanting, I had an opportunity to meet people.  I met folks from Iran and Iraq (now emigrated).  They are baffled by this freedom. 

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario

The Microphone and Camera


The microphone and camera were right there, in front of me.  The interviewer asked how I made out on the flight from Vancouver.  Serious problems arose from the hydraulics on Air Canada. 

I answered, “Everything was quite calm.  The pilot was updating the passengers in a very reassuring tone.”

Question, “How did you react when you were informed about the mechanical difficulties?”

“It gave me the opportunity to be more meditative, to chant more mantras for protection.”

Question, “What are you doing in Ottawa?”

“I came  to visit to participate in the Canada Day festivities along with the Krishna community here.”

Question, “Is it good to have your feet back on the ground?”

“Yes, I just completed my fourth walk across Canada, and so I’m very much a man of the ground.”

Interviewer, “Thank you very much.”

“Thank you, and enjoy the day to come.”

This night I couldn’t sleep, not until 2 AM.  The reason – I hadn’t walked today.  I wasn’t tired enough.  This night (I found out later) the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) aired the interview on the 11 PM news. 

During my attempt to sleep, I decided to phone Dana, my friend, who has covered over 18,000 km on foot over the Trans Canada Trail.  His spirit is always up, even though he just recovered from a case of Beaver Fever in the hospital.  It was great to share with him, once again, over the phone, the joys of walking. 

I miss the road, and the people.  Don’t let your spirits get you down, ever.  I think of my guru in this regard. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Burnaby, British Columbia
 
Not the End
 
 
It was a few minutes after 4 that I woke up for the last leg of the Fourth walk across Canada.  I woke up Karuna who like a real trooper is habituated to morning trekking.  I let Daruka sleep in for a well-deserved one, considering it's also a less-demanding day with a mere 22 kilometres to go.
 
I was determined to make this a quiet finish as far as a marathon pilgrimage is concerned.  It doesn't require a big hoopla necessarily.  It's a walk for peace afterall - inner peace.  And the walking is only meant to continue.
 
From Akrura's home in Surrey Karuna and I had set out to make a few turns and twists on various streets and a stepping on yet another bridge, the Patulla, to New Westminister and then Burnaby.  Once entering Burnaby the sights and buildings began to be familiar to me as this is where I generally trek when I visit Burnaby.  
 
One way I thought we could celebrate however, in the most wholesome and calm way was just test out some of the wild berries lined along the street along the stretch.  Generally I go for touching the ocean nearest when putting an apparent closure to such a pilgrimage.  The Pacific is but a few clicks (kilometres) away but I vied for taking the final steps to the lotus feet of Krishna deities this time around and the ISKCON temple in the heart of Burnaby.
 
The very final steps was actually a full obeisance (prostration) before the magnanimous avatar of Krishna, Sri Chaitanya, who was a popular mover of legs - a pilgrim himself - in early 16th century India.  My heart did indeed melt momentarily as I glanced at the smiling brass image of the Chaitanya deity.  There is power in the deity.  I could feel it, especially now.
 
As I was peering at the deity a hazy but sublime backdrop of mountain, trees, semi-deserts and prairies super-imposed itself.  "It's all one!" yogis often say.  For me the elements and the elemental source are one.  They are also different.  Creator and creation shine together and also apart.
 
While it's been one big-time adventure once again trekking a great piece of the globe, Canada, I ventured through this land with its multiple eco-systems seeing it in awe and offering it a service.  As I play a small role in massaging the land's hard and soft surfaces I know that mutually my very bottoms (the feet) got a treat.
 
I lost some pounds.  I lost some karma.  From trees we learn tolerance; from wind, creativity; from water, gravity; from the sun and moon, energy and from people, hospitality and kindness.
 
Thank you all donors in cash and in kind.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
22 KM

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Surrey, British Columbia
 
Walk, Drive, Dance
 
 
Karuna and I started from Pitt Meadows.  Led in his hand with a Rogers Samsung phone, Karuna had navigated us through pedestrian-friendly streets.  The day began with drizzle from the sky as our walk included a long trek over the Golden Ears Bridge which arches over the Fraser River.  Overcast it has been for one more morning.  The both of us see this as mercy from Krishna.  It's so much easier to trek in conditions that are moderate as we made our way to the home of Akrura in Surrey.
 
Kindness is what spurs you on and Akrura, a world traveller and bhakti-yoga teacher, is always good to me.  For accommodation and now giving our CanWalk team a ride to Ashcroft, he demonstrates his good-heartedness.  The event of the day is the Chariot Festival, a re-enactment of the big-draw celebrations held in Puri, India for centuries.  In fact today, by lunar calendar, the anniversary of this colourful event falls on this very day.
 
Members of the Govardhana School Academy presented this great drama.  And a special highlight for me was the garden-fresh food, prasadam.  It's blessed.  The program also involves a procession, so guess who had the opportunity to put on an extra two kilometres of walking?
 
Anyways, no problem!  These legs are on a roll.  I did have the good fortune to use different leg muscles when it came time to leading the kirtan chant and dance.  It was obvious that some participants were not used to moving (in dance).  Stiffness is a predominant feature of today, but for all those who attempted to thaw and loosen up for dancing, I honour them and respect the great effort.  Effort is always devotional, especially when done for the Absolute, for Jagannath, the Incredible Force.
 
I want to thank Manu for his classical dance piece executed on the rustic stage by the side of a mountain slope overlooking a tranquil lake at Saranagati village.
 
May the Source be with you!
 
16 KM

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Maple Ridge, British Columbia
 
Monk at Mission
 
 
Highway 7 was gritting our brains – dense traffic, speed, unsafe, noisy.  Any alternative would do.  My assistant, Nitai Priya, here on the west coast, searched on Google maps, to find a quieter more straight and direct route – the Dewdney Trunk Road.
 
Karuna Sindhu and I loved the idea and headed for peace, until the Dewdney itself became uproarious and then merged with highway 7.
 
As was done on the previous day, Daruka, with his well-focused networking abilities, made friends with yoga people and so we had, within hours, company of the nicest group at the Iron Lotus headed by Laura and Josh in the city of Mission.
 
Mission is an interesting place.  As we were told there are a number of people in town dressed as monks.  Some come across as mere beggars and/or could be inwardly challenged in some way.  When I was spotted going down Main Street the question came, “Is he a genuine monk or a fake?”  A philosophical answer to the question can be, “You really don’t know until he opens his mouth.”
 
May the Source be with you!
 
33 KM

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Mission, British Columbia
 
With Hope
 
 
Yes, I’d been here before – this route.  Hwy 7 is as usual, beginning from Mission, busier than ever.  From the east side is an impressive tower on top of a mountain with adjoining edifices – a Christian monastery.  And yes, to my right as I go westward, stands a permanent Gurudwar.
 
Of course, you have the common iconic this-century structures that mean a practical ‘much’ to people – Rona (the home centre), Best Western (the hotel), and Superstore (where all exists to take care of grocery needs).
 
As mentioned, traffic is crazy and you appear to be the only person in the world that is walking (and chanting).
 
By evening a backtracking to Hope, by car, was a neat obligation to fulfill.  Kevin, a young yoga teacher, who hails from Thompson, Manitoba, invited us for a presentation at his yoga studio.  A couple of cyclists from Calgary heard about the program and came to hear about our devotional endeavours on the road.  Nicole, from Sunshine Valley, heard of the event and also saw me walking past her house so she put two and two together and came.  Other real nice, good-listener folks came to grace us with their down-home type of presence.
 
I had passed through Hope zillions of times, on foot or via car and acquired an impression of the place only because it’s a major junction leading to many roads.  Tonight we stopped and got happily familiar with some of the citizens through chatting and chanting with them
 
May the Source be with you!
 
33 KM