Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario

Plan in Jan

January is a great month for planning your year, so how this fits into my world is that I have plans to be walking in the States for pilgrimage purposes once again.  We are looking at the month of September as the start up send off time which means a walk from the northeast in Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, and then finally to New York City. 

This is all to coordinate with the time that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, landed on US soil 50 years ago.  It’s a milestone event, really, since in one way or another, he affected the lives of many North Americans and people all over the world. 

I look to this project with anticipation and have been thinking about trekking in the US for many years now.  Back in 1997 I had done a pilgrimage presentation to a group of Krishna devotees in the communications department in Detroit.  I had, at that time, asked the group what they thought about me doing a trek across the US, which I expect to execute next year in 2016.  The consensus was totally favourable. 

To my Canadian friends of whom some have expressed concern for reasons that America’s wild, violent, gun happy, redneck, Bible thumping evangelical cowboy condemnists, I say that that is not my experience.  I am looking toward an adventure, and being in the place where a small holy man from India was accepted back in ’65.  He had been received by the American public at that time with a glance embrace, or at least were very curious. 

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Monday, January 26th, 2015


From Airport To Airport

Hours were given to air, little on ground.  Hours were also given to mantra, and not words, shastra (holy texts).  I was not able to carry on much of anything.  Baggage on flight was stowed as check-in, and so I was left with mantra only, but that’s okay, it’s positive providence.  In the Detroit airport, I went for a juice at a newsstand.  The woman at the counter asked about my clothes. 

“I’m a monk, a Hare Krishna monk,” I answered.  After I made the purchase, done in a hurry due to a tight flight connection, the young black woman was waiting.  Her eyes looked at me with an anticipation as I grabbed change and the receipt.  She asked another question.

“Well, aren’t you gonna tell me somethin’?”  When I said, “Hare Krishna”, the term didn’t register even when I gave its origins, “An ancient tradition from India.  By now a lineup occurred behind me, and so hastily I offered her a, “God bless,” and so, I believe, she felt it. 

Most folks on flights were on business trips.  The clothes, the demeanor, and their talking revealed their convictions.  I can appreciate that they were in that mode.  It would just be nice if God could be inserted here and there, like the juice lady who wanted just a small hint of the spiritual as an insertion for the day.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Dallas, Texas

Have Life

The packed room of the newly renovated Sanctuary had reached that capacity to delight in our drama, “Blue Mystic”.  Unfortunately I failed to achieve such numbers in joining me on a follow up walk.  One of the actors, however, Jagannatha, took up the offer.  For him it was the first trek on the Santa Fe Trail.  We committed to one hour of walking.  We also made a vow to chant japa on our beads, while keeping our eyes and ears open.  What did we see or hear or smell during this nighttime walk?

A stationary cyclist, a young woman with cigarette in mouth, was taken by surprise as we came from behind.  It was not our intent to spook her.  She rode off in a huff and a few puffs.  Jagannatha and I were left to wonder what issues might be there in her life.  Or, to put it in a slightly different way, “What drama is she going through?”

There was also a man who couldn’t walk a straight line.  Alcohol?  Most likely.  We were sure that he has some drama going on as well. 

On this same Santa Fe Trail, our third pedestrian to come within our purview was actually a confident walker, that was refreshing.  The fourth traveller on the trail actually crossed the trail and did so in haste.  He was not human, he was clearly a fox, gorgeous tail, four legs and all.  Does he have a drama?  He’s probably out for groceries, checking out what else lurks on smaller four legs. 

All souls that you meet on the trail of life have some story.  Most are trying to make some sense of the world.  When we contemplate, it shows we have a life. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Dallas, Texas

The Mode of a Monk

At the end of the fifth day of sanga (spiritual gathering) we entertained the group with our drama, “Blue Mystic”.  Now it was my time to unwind and do due diligences to my physical self.  I hit the usual trail, the Santa Fe Trail.

By nightfall you are seemingly alone.  There’s the very irregular pedestrian, mostly male.  If I were in a female body I wouldn’t trust the area.

With the old growth of trees running along this former railway line, it attracts the usual wilderness.  Rabbits I see.  Raccoons I hear.  There’s the owl from the other day.  And the partial moon lies on its back set as a punctuation in a vast sky, a sky you would expect over Texas, a glare of utter openness.

“Hare Krishna….” I’m chanting with right thumb and mid-finger rolling over bead-by-bead.  I contemplated, “Yes, I left behind, decades behind, a world of rock ‘n’ roll for a world of mantra ‘n’ roll, with no regrets.  With only rewords like abstinence of the standard Saturday night mish-mash of a karmic world, I can boast that I’m getting my satisfaction from a social/spiritual life (I just entertained).  I am so content to submit to mantra and to the oxygen that projects from the trees and coolness from the moon.

Life can’t be better in the mode of a monk.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Dallas, Texas

Excerpt About a Place and a Monk

An excerpt from Satsvarup Goswami’s book, “Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrita” read this morning in the front of the assembly of yogis, spiritual leaders from across the US and Canada.  I was impressed by the contents, composition, set in ’58, India and to do with our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

“Alone and poor, Abhay (Prabhupada) returned to Vrindavan.  He was sixty-two, but he wasn’t thinking of retiring.  More than ever his mood was reflective and renounced.  Because few people know him and because he wanted to unite, he kept to himself. 

He enjoyed deep peace as a resident of Vrindavan.  Outside his window, the sacred Yamuna flowed by in a peaceful panorama for his private audience.  The Kesi-ghata neighbourhood was quiet, though in  the predawn he could hear a few devotees bathing and chanting.  When the moon was full the river seemed like a coolly resplendent jewel.  And in the morning the sun would appear, like a red smudge, a fire burning through an opaque wall at last bursting forth and clearing the entire sky, until in the hot blaze of noon, while the room would be in shadows, Abhay could see from his window a shimmering sun high in the sky and glittering across the silver sheet of the gentle river.  Without so much as leaving his room, from his doorway he could see hundreds of temples clustered together for miles in the friendly town of Vrindavan.  The various punctual kirtans and bell ringings in the temples, the spontaneous songs of  Lord Krishna in numerous homes and in the streets rose and filled the air with devotion.”

I love the writing about this monk who poised himself before taking a journey to western soil.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Dallas, Texas

What Do You Think?

In the morning Bhagavatam class, speaker Anuttama, touched on some good topics.  Most topical was the subject of religious fanaticism.  In every camp you have right wingers to the far extreme and it’s these people who are of the mindset to destroy.

The terroristic tendencies to be oppressive to an innocent public is the current concern worldwide.  That type of spirit isn’t religious at all.  I still recall Sheila Copps, a dignitary in Canadian politics say, “It has nothing to do with religion.,” in response to an arson act that destroyed Sita Ram deities in a demolished Hindu temple in Hamilton.  I was there when she said it at a ceremony to lower the deity parts at the base of the harbor.  Some fanatic decided that the peaceful temple was culturally connected to the 9-11 devastation in New York.  Were they ever wrong!

I asked Anuttama after his class whether he had an opinion on what was worse – spiritual arrogance or regular mayic or materialistic arrogance (I also ventured to say that spiritual arrogance is like an oxymoron).

“Well, what do you think?” he asked.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely!”  And I expressed that when you put God behind your ego, you are worse off.

He nodded.

After his class I felt like I wanted to start an anti-fanatic walking crusade.

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Dallas, Texas

The Fabric Came

Nancy had come to drop off the material – fabric that was flowy, dreamy and meant to be used as a prop in the weekend production of “Blue Mystic”.  Nancy I consider to be Miss Fabric herself because she deals with it all the time with her bridal boutique called “Gowns of Grace”.

She was telling me that gorgeous gowns had lost their lace in the sixties.  Princess Diana then reintroduced fancy feminine dresses to the world.  Her trail blazing the attire of glamour or perhaps grace is like Bruce Lee being credited for popularizing martial arts from the east.

I then though how our own guru, Prabhupada, set a trend for bringing kirtan to the west.  He really did trail blaze and made an impact on the world, whether people are aware of it or not.  I discussed this with my dear godbrother, Gunagrahi Goswami, and brought to his attention the article by journalist Brennan O’Connor who declared that we are all now Hare Krishnas.  He admitted that Hare Krishna may not be mainstream, but all their ideas are.

What an honour it is to be a small component to the arrow head of the pioneering of Krishna Consciousness.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Dallas, Texas

Tough guys!

Cowboys?  No!  I haven’t met any yet.  But tough guys, yes.  Pitbulls and other ferocious dogs are abundant, at least in the neighbourhood of Kalachandji’s Restaurant and Palace where our continental meetings are held.  Meetings of sadhus or sages, both men and women, converge at Texas to discuss Krishna Consciousness.

Back to the pitbulls:  young Brajananda, my monk companion and I, venture down this alleyway.  It was daring for both of us to trek down this unused trail, uneven in terrain and overgrown with weeds, yet it became our opportunity for adventure. 

We started to hear the snarls from the other side of the wooden fence.  And then there were these fences that were of steel mesh where teeth and bark are clearly revealed.  The look and bark of these boys coming from both sides of the alley way was rather intimidating.  One particular canine stuck his aggressive head and paw through a hole in the fence and it was hair-raising because a little more push from him and he could have burst through.  Thant would mean open game for us. 

As Brajananda and I ambled along through that noisy trail of barkers, some emotional buttons including fear were pushed.  Believe me, these were mean dogs who looked eager to tear us asunder.  Tough guys made of muscle, hair and teeth, their arousals didn’t let up. 

The alley way continued on but our journey had to come to an end.  We veered off.  We got our thrill for the day.  I guess we were a little like stray dogs.  All the fellows we met had masters.

Come to think of it, we are all dogs, servants to our Master?  You know whom I’m talking about. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Dallas, Texas
On our way to Dallas the pilot was sleeping while in flight.  I was sitting right next to him.  Now let's get this right.  I was not sitting in the cockpit, nor was the sleeping pilot next to me in the cockpit.  He and I were in passenger seats while he was being flown to his next destination assignment.  Another pilot was flying.
As the pilot next to me with uniform and all arose from what appeared to be a good slumber, I decided to ask him, do you fly planes?
"Yes I do."
I asked him about the training he went through, so he told about his year in flight school.  I also was curious if he had his own life, whether his work was very demanding.
"Do you have down time, and at home?"
"I spend about half of my time on the road."
"The road?" I asked the pilot.
"Not exactly on the road, but in hotels while in transit..."
The plane had landed and stopped.  Passengers where filing out.  We kept talking. He was in the aisle seat, I had the window.  We were immersed in conversation.  "I better let you get out", he said.  He had proudly spoken of his trade, which I could appreciate.
Not but 3 hours later, on the Santa Fe Trail, on foot with monk Vrajananda, we spotted a proud owl perched on top of a tree.  It was at dusk and one fellow at the base of the tree was transfixed on the bird (and the bird on him) until Braj and I shouted out to get the owl's attention.  The owl turned his head around towards us.  He then spread out his wings and took to flight.
That's two pilots I personally met in one day
Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, said of piloting that each one of us must fly our own plane, meaning that after taking guidance and training by the guru one must learn to be somewhat self reliant while keeping guru's instructions in mind.
And may the Source be with you.
7 KM

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Brampton/Toronto, Ontario

What Is Family

ISKCON Brampton was a tad more quiet than usual according to one of the members.  Though their turn out of 80 people was low due to pilgrimages to India and the absenteeism of some of the youth on drum lessons, I thought the attendance was quite fair. 

It is Sunday, after all, and it’s a day that families are available for spiritual charge-up.  Hey, I’m proud to say that there are a lot of families, good family folks that form the major body of attendees at this midday gathering. 

I brought pilgrim, Manu, with me and he gave the talk citing many references to the family unit.  It got me thinking.  There’s one way we might describe the word family, it is a group of souls that share biological karma together.  Then, let me try something else, it is a network of souls that have the opportunity to serve each other over and over again.  I thought further on, a family could be viewed as a group of beings who can evolve or devolve together. 

We’ve heard of family feuds such as in the case of the Pandavas vs. the Kauravas, as found in the epic, The Mahabharat.  It’s sad, but all blood relations don’t always get along.  Evidently, genuine spiritual discharge has proven to help in damage control.  Somehow we need to see beyond the bodily platform and come to appreciate that as spirits, we belong to a one universal family. 

I was glad to catch a glimpse of this concept being put into practice.  A young drum teacher, Devala, by name, came to our ISKCON Toronto branch, where youths from Brampton and other areas took some lessons from him.   Devala created an atmosphere of family just with the thump of the mrdanga drum.  With his 30+ students, a powerful heartbeat of drums made you want to march, if not dance into the world of synchronicity. 

It was great!

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Monday, 19 January 2015

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Russell, Ontario

The Trail and the Waiting Room

Manu, who arrived from Vancouver, and I, flew to the nation’s capitol, Ottawa.  It was the first time he had ever seen those amazing fortress like buildings at Parliament Hill. 

We visited Govindas for some banana bread, and of course, people.  Saturday morning is kids time, so they were there to receive lessons from the stories of Krishna.

Onward to Russell we went, and now it’s my opportunity to hit the trail that runs through the town.  It’s old rail to trail route.  Given the time of year that it is with the trail being snowbound, fewer than normal tread it.  The only people I met up with was a man and his dog, and then a man on his snowmobile.  I also connected with the Sherwood Forest, peaceful, not a peep from wildlife.  Shhh, everyone’s asleep. 

Where life really was to be found in Russell was a music school/café.  Kasper (K. Dulal), the owner, calls it ‘The Waiting Room’.  There, you have these exotic brews, not coffee, but hazelnut and all kinds of nuts, and essential date and almond hot honey flavoured beverages to address the nippies of the outdoors. 

At The Waiting Room there was a scheduled program for kirtan, food – a mattar paneer dish, and a showing of the drama, 'Gita: Concise'.  Really, it was the rocking kirtan with Kasper’s keyboard and Krishna’s beating it out on the drum set that offered a fine flavour to a wintry night.  The kids from the morning also came, babies included.  For some of them it was probably their first rock ‘n’ roll experience.

As the Gita states, su-sukham kartum avyayam, spirituality can be a joyful expression.  Pat, as in Patricia, who came to be part of this event, jived with the joy that permeated the room.  She was raised in a convent and then joined the Canadian Forces, so she knows all about working and moving together with people.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario

Everyday There is an Arjun

Practically every day Arjuna comes to visit us at our ashram.  By that, I mean, the soul who is struggling somewhat and comes to submit himself to our temple room space for thought, prayer, and chanting.  Perhaps there’s even a need to talk to someone.  Sometimes the sense of purpose and meaning becomes trapped in a cloud of confusion, and duty seems to have lost its beauty. 

Like Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita who goes for some kind of deliberation and consultation with Krishna, he takes the absolute right course.  In other words, it would not have been a good idea to just stand alone in the cloud of doubt.  Express it, be heard, and then hear. 

In the opening of the dialogue found in the Bhagavad Gita, the two great souls, Krishna and Arjuna, one is wobbling, and the other is firm.  The one who is strong responds to the doubt of the other with concern and with love.  He speaks with knowledge behind him.  He affirms that dharma, duty, is not to be renounced, only up until one is free to be a fully surrendered soul.

Now those who come to visit us at the ashram and come for solace deserve our attention.  We may not be able to act as Krishna who helped Arjuna gain all confidence, but while acting as Krishna’s servant, you do the best you can.  If you have once been helped by someone, then you have the obligation to help others. 

Having the presence of Nick at our reception desk is making such a difference.  He greets people, acts as security, answers the phone, and then becomes a rep of Krishna.  He provides comfort to the soul who’s going through ‘stuff’.  I really appreciate what he’s doing.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday January 15th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario
To Catch a Thief?
A cold spell hit Canada, but with a quick pace I knew I could keep warm.  I just had to be outdoors and not get intimidated by it.  It was night time and I made my way to Yonge Street.  With fingers in pocket, the nip of the night still managed to strike the fingertips.  I decided to take a warm-up break by poking into the Shoppers Drug Mart, a pharmaceutical chain in the country.  There not only drugs are sold, but confectioneries, cosmetics, daily newspapers and glossy, gossipy rag mags.
Instead of just standing there, I helped myself to a peek of today's news.  As I told my peer Vaisesika Prabhu on the phone today, "I look at the newspaper at least once a week to check on what's going on that's so bad that makes my world, with its challenges and problems, seem puny."
So I browsed at the latest fundamentalist violence; this time to do with gunmen in Paris. 
"Sickening," I thought.
I then walked up and down 2 or 3 isles and landed my eyes on a colorful depiction of Biblical pics in the form of a book.  I was fascinated by the rendering of Caine and Abel.  The 2 sons of Adam and Eve didn't get along.  Abel was the carnivorous one and Caine was the vegetarian.  I was awed that the herbivorous one became angry to the point of killing his brother.
I then decided to brave the cold after a sufficient warming.  I was wearing my civilian clothes as it's practical in such weather conditions.  I left the store bypassing the queue of customers and exited through the automatic doors.  I paced a few meters North on Yonge for my return to the ashram, then crossed the road.
With my hood on I couldn't hear someone rushing behind approaching me with an urgent "Sir! Sir!"  I turned around and a young man with groomed facial hair stood before me while trying to catch his breath.  He flashed a security ID card in front of me.  "I'm with Shoppers. Security!  Do you have something in your pockets?"
"Why?" I asked with an air of innocence.
"You were walking around and picking up things,” he accused.
"I'll show you what I have in my pockets."  From my left hand I pulled out my keys.  From my right I pulled out my japa (meditation) beads.  "I don't steal.  I'm a monk and I take my lifestyle seriously."
A little embarrassed, the young man then returned to duty. I ventured off as well, thinking there is only one good and honest thief in the world - the One who steals your heart, God.
May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Longdenville, Trinidad
Mosquitoes don't seem to bother those of us who take our anticipated strolls in the suburb nearby the ISKCON centre.  They do, however, seem to land on me at night and do their little drill job during my sleep.  They are minuscule in size in comparison to the ones I am accustomed to.  Fast and light and noiseless would be an additional description of these pesky guys here in Trinidad.
This is definitely an adibhautika place, meaning in Sanskrit, a living entity that evokes misery. 
I've been informed about the dreaded virus going around that mosquitoes apparently carry in the Caribbean - a virus so agonizing it gives rash, headaches, fever and crippling joint pains.  It goes by the name Chikungunya.  One Jamaican dance-all artist scored a big hit with his song that goes:
"Mosquito one, mosquito two / mosquito jump inna hot callaloo - 
Mosquito bite me mosquito bite you / me me tell yuh what a mosquito can do"
What I have to remember is that there is a spirit soul in that mosquito's body, a spark of life, who feels justified in what he is doing.  There is a right to life set in the mentality.  At the same time the person being attacked has that same right to existence.  It starts to look as a case of survival of the fittest.
My last class delivered in the Caribbean (this morning) was based on the principle of coexistence. Admittedly it had more to do with humans to humans.  That is a major feat in itself, what to speak of the little aircraft with the drill bits trying to coexist with humans. 
Welcome to the material world. May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Longdonville, Trinidad

Family Feel

We were just a stone’s throw, or so it seemed, from Venezuela.  At this unique inlet on the Trinidadian coast, at a former Marine Corps submarine base, our small group did relieve ourselves of outdoor humidity with a good swim.  It becomes an annual procedure in Trinidad at this community to go for a bonding at the beach, at least when I visit.  This entails not only a fun swim, but a super veggie picnic and kirtan.  Only thing is the last of the three part program got cut short due to a soaker of a day.  A planned walk up the hill was also curtailed because the rain came down relentlessly. 

We were not the only ones to enjoy a community gathering.  A few dudes were neatly perched on rock and under trees smoking joints.  One of the fellows from the group had just come out of the water when I asked him, “How’s the water?” 


“How’s the weed?” 

“That’s good too,” as he cracked up at my question.

My questions were merely icebreakers, a way to begin friendship.  Most time was spent in the bonding with brothers, two monks in particular.  One is American born, Guru Prasad Swami, the other is Agni Dev, famed singer of bhajan music.  Agni Dev’s final evolution to monkhood began not so long ago.  He’s been running a successful vegetarian restaurant business for years on America’s west coast.  He figured it was time to retire.  With loving consent from his wife, in a committed marriage for many years, Agni Dev decided to go back to his native Trinidad and jump back into full time devotional life.  You would call him a Vanaprasthi, referring to the stage just prior to the full on renounced order of life. 

The minutes I had with these two brothers under a drenchy grass hut’s leaky roof, and with these people of piety, was precious. 

Placing value on good term relationship was the theme of the talks I delivered both in the morning and in the evening.  The sense of ‘belonging’ and the family spirit cannot be emphasized enough for the true human experience. 

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Georgetown, Guyana

Never Be Shallow And Hollow

Time has sped by, now being the last day in Guyana, the pangs from separation from the dear devotees started to set in.  We worked and played hard together to pull off an impactful five days of celebration on foot.  For some of wetness was welling in eyes as it was time to depart for the airport en route to Trinidad.

Before that, however, some devotees were destined for diksa, the initiation ceremony.  In keeping record for those four souls this morning, I herein document them.  For the two men: Sunil is now Sanjay, and Seedat Hardat is now Hari Narayan.  For the two women:  Priya is now Param Dhama, and Bhagmatee is now Bhavatarini. 

I spoke about the significance of the event and right beside me was my godbrother, Dina Bandhu, who also shared some words of wisdom on the meaning of initiation which really means getting started, meaning, blessings coming from well-wishers. 

Flying to Trinidad was brief, one hour only.  Agnidev, who’s known globally for sweet kirtan chanting, gave me some of his time.  His structured evening program entailed Gita discussion and reading from the book, ‘Nectar of Devotion’.  He asked me to take care of that.  I was quite impressed with attendance from the community. 

I would say that the highlight of the devotional topic was, “Move with both body and heart, never be shallow and hollow in bhakti.

May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Georgetown, Guyana

Land of Lotuses

In the many canals that you find in Guyana, there is a healthy growth of lotus flowers in full bloom.  They are something to marvel at for their esthetics.  Portions of this plant make a great veggie prep, and when ground up, it ends up being a tasty flour for baking or cooking.

The lotus flower can also remind us of the Gita’s mention of it, “It is found in water, but remains aloof from water,” to illustrate the transcendence we endeavour for while being in the mundaneness of this world. 

Don, a young man in our community, took me for a local walk and pointed out that the husband of the young woman sitting by the edge of the canal’s bridge was collecting lotus pads for the big event tonight.  It will be the fifth and final day of our padayatra in Georgetown.  The Prime Minister will be there.  He and other delegates will be feasting off of these exotic and natural plates – the lotus pad. 

The turnout for this final day was a full capacity crowd for its venue which is the future site of the Nimai Pandit Study Centre.  It now has a foundation and steel frame structure in place. 

Those who attended the evening’s events of chant, dance, drama, and speeches, were all lotus-like in a sense.  They were looking good as far as attire was concerned, and they were spiritually immersed to the point of not wanting to leave. 

Guyana has incredible potential for being a Krishna Conscious country.   Response is generally favourable.  Life here is less hustle bustled in the land of lotuses. 

And just to finish off, one of our boys in the drama is studying to be a lawyer.  I suggested, “Why not succeed, somewhere in the future, as Prime Minister?” 

I was serious.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Georgetown, Guyana

Gag on Gas

We’ve heard our guru, Srila Prabhupada use the term, ‘Man proposes, God disposes’.  You might say that the term applies to us in Guyana this year.  I was supposed to take a trip via canoe to a district where indigenous folks reside, pretty much the way they have for centuries.  To some regret, it wasn’t meant to be, and I ended up quite happily, in any case, in the Georgetown district once again, for an experience on padayatra on day four.

Response was good.  The sun shone, finally.  Monsoons let up for the most part.  Our group thickened, of course, it’s also Saturday.

Now, Guyana would be a perfect place for the use of the bicycle, at least along the coast, the terrain is relatively flat.  But sorry to say, the two-wheeler is not the mode of transport for most people.  Like so much of our planet, Bhumi, it is overrun by cars and not pedestrians or cyclists. 

Our padayatra, festival on foot, demonstrates a good will gesture, not only as a spiritual affair, but by dint of this physical endeavour we make another statement of benevolence.  As a padayatri, you must take in the brunt of the car fumes.  And to boot, the exhaust from the generator on the back of the pickup which carries sound speakers causes enough for us to gag on.  If you lead a kirtan like I have been, you are subjected to the foulness spewing out of the machine. 

To recover from today’s physical challenge, I took to the fabulous seawall for a jaunt to catch the ocean air, what a relief. 

With pride, our performance of  'The Jagannatha Story' on the stage was a big hit.  It was presented after popular, Dina Bandhu, spoke in his own animated way about the joys of bhakti, devotion.  The stage events culminated with mantras, a perfect closure to a triumphant day, despite the gas. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Friday, January 9th, 2014

Georgetown, Guyana

Missing One

Jaya and Vijay were two mangy dogs that would sleep at the entrance of the home where I stay.  This year I see only one of them.  One got eliminated, as in passed on.  It’s either Jaya or Vijay; couldn’t tell them apart, and they weren’t particularly great to look at, being diseased.  You see, they didn’t have names according to neighbours, and since they had been loyal, at the gate, I named them after the two celebrated gatekeepers at Vaikuntha. 

I photographed the surviving one while he was fast asleep in the middle of the day.  This picture will remind me of loyalty.  Although stray dogs, I imagine by definition, they did demonstrate territorialism at one main location, that is, where I get accommodated on 4th Street in Guyana. 

Our chanting procession took place today on Regent Road, the main drag for the city.  Response is generally good, although I could detect mild resistance, or at least indifference, from the African Guyanese.  Many of them would claim to be Christian.  In fact there was a large Evangelical concert held one block from our evening venue which was located at the Ghandi Youth Centre. 

It’s easy to say that both camps, us and them, honour the same God.  The approach is similar – praise the sound, praise the name.  Let’s say there’s a brothership here, brothers that should get along. 

Whether in procession or with a small group, or a solo by the seawall, I managed to get some trekking done while in Guyana each day.  Thanks to Krishna Jnan and Dharma Dasi for the stay and the place of loyalty by the two gate keepers. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Georgetown, Guyana
A Peace of the Action
Pastor Magarel was not a participant in the walking portion of our Padayatra, Day Two. But he was present in a big way at the evening site. Our venue was at the heart of the city Georgetown, at the Indian Monument Gardens. The Pastor is one year my senior in physical age and is a member of the Unification Church. As guest speaker he spoke about betterment and of peace and extend a discussion on the topic included myself. I offered to say that there cannot be any happiness without peace, quoting the Gita. In our track of earlier on, I noted a saying from a brushed on painted message from a municipal wall - "Happiness is an inside job".
It is necessary, if you are serious to get to happiness, to do so by addressing the storms within. Now for practically the whole day, monsoon rains have been pouring down to the point of a possible cancellation of the whole Padayatra. Organizer, Prabhupadadeva, told his helpers, they will bear out time on the entire weather condition. His strategy panned out successful because not one drop touched us in the evening.

I was told by more than one individual that when the monsoons hit Georgetown, much of the place gets flooded, all except for, ironically, a street called, "Water Street."

It was agreed upon by the audience that the storms and deluge of lust, anger, greed, madness, illusion and envy be tackled. Our approach to this was through the grand finale of the night - kirtan. And there was one more extraordinary thing that Pastor Magarel did in addition to dancing with us. He asked if he could pick up one of our extra mrdunga drums to join in on the fun. Gladly he was given the green light. He ended up playing very rhythmically.

This is where peace begin - People uniting in song and dance for the Divine.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Georgetown, Guyana
With Statesmen
We got to talking at the Padayatra Walking Festival. Hamilton Greene is a very well known city councilor for Georgetown. He's 80 years and has ran as mayor for over twenty five years. Even at that age he is a great sport taking to the streets with us. While most everyone around us was enwrapped in the ecstasy of chanting, just to break the ice with him and do the human thing, I continue to ask about himself and about Georgetown and Guyana.

From this, he gave me the rundown of rich history of the Dutch settling here and taking the responsibility for building the canal and bridges we were walking over. He told of the succession of the Europeans with the presence of Spanish, English and Dutch and of all the Slavery. We also touched on the topic of the current drug culture as we tracked through some of the challenged neighborhoods.

Yet all is not so grim in Guyana. I noted how easy it is to approach people and to greet them with a handshake or pranams, as we moved along in the procession. Hamilton is popular with people. I am an unknown but becoming known. Once the microphone came my way it was obvious the organizers insisted I lead the chant. Then all attention comes your way.

Part two of the Padayatra entails setting up in the main rendezvous for the night. The venue was the Alexander Mandir. The pandit for the place spoke eloquently as did the Prime Minister and acting President of the whole country, His Excellency Samuel Hinds. His theme was about unity and about walking and about the commonality in the language amongst us. He chose to use words like ignition having its roots from Sanskrit. Ignite comes from the word Agni. And pedestrian has its roots from once again Sanskrit, the word pada, which means feet.

Incidentally we all, that is the entire assembly of people in the hall, used our feet. I lead the simple swami step as we sang away in the joys of a final kirtan.

May the Source be with you!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario
People Have Forgotten
People have forgotten how to stroll. Its always a race with time. A walk is a run, if not a dance. Dodging one another is commonplace. Pedestrians move each at a different pace. Oncoming walkers stare clear as do you. Some have long strides. The tall guys cover good territory just with one stride. The motion on the street is like a weaving sensation.

Going along Bloor street, people scurry about, trying to reach a destination point, shopping or for a return to home or for a bite to eat in some fast food joint.

There is no herding here. Each has his/her own orbit, their own karma, really. There is a sharing of the street. You then come to a crossing where there is the traffic machine. Stop! Wait! Go! Yellow! Red! Green! It’s a rather bizarre scene - the incompatible two - the man on the wheels and the man on the legs.

I have made my observations right up to Baskin Robbins and the lit Korean tiger. Off I go to the north then east then south, back to my home to fill stomach and mouth.

It was a walk worthwhile. It is my balance. From desk to street, to bed, to worship, to mantra, to people, to bathe, to eat, to sleep, to plan, to talk and finally to walk. Always we come to that point in our day’s cycle - to walk. Like the daily vow to chant and to do full circle with finger on the beads, the conviction to ones walk is what must be, indeed. For health, physical health, our guru has done. It’s a pilgrimage as much as it is fun.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Toronto, Ontario


It was a biting cold that Nick and I took as the challenge on an evening high speed trek.  That’s fine, because you then come to appreciate warmth.  Whatever is the condition, it is there to remind you of some words of wisdom.  Verse 2.14 of the Bhagavad Gita convinces us of the dualistic reality and how to be persevering the world’s two faces. 

It will only be a matter of two days before I’ll be near equatorial territory, Guyana to be precise.  I’ll then be seeing the other wild side of nature.  At that time, I will be dreaming of cold when I sweat to pieces in Guyana.  Verse 2.14 will once again spring up.  It informs us that we should tolerate and moderate.  Toleration appears to be more of a psychological acceptance of things.  The verse 2.14 suggests that dualities arise from sense perception. 

Now, if you were to visit a place like Hawaii, where I’ve been, you encounter the almost perfect moderate weather.  Physically, you can enjoy, but still, the storm within exists and the climatic changes of the mind persist.  The moodiness of the mind is universal.  Every living being gets intense over issues, and they require some tempering.

They say if you temper steel first by heating and then by cooling, it improves the hardness and elasticity of the metal.  Moving through life and accepting its extremes is key to being neutralized in some way in becoming moderate.

I laugh when I think of being invited, along with my support guy, Dave, on my first cross Canada trek, to “A brandin’”.  A cowgirl/woman asked if we wanted to go to a brandin’ at a local ranch in Alberta.  You, know, it’s when you mark the side of cattle with heat.  We declined and indicated that we were too cool for that. 

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Montreal, Quebec

The Noise of Winter

I set out at 3 AM.  Overnight snowplows had scraped the streets addressing the surprised flurries.  Even at this hour,  you hear the occasional home snow shovel scratching a concrete surface.  Someone, somewhere is moving the white fluff in order to make a walking passageway. 

I’m doing alright and contributing to music with a crunch crunch sound of my boots gripping the snow.  Snow doesn’t make sound, but it invites.  Somehow, snow is a silencer and a softener of sorts.  I can appreciate being in its presence. 

I came indoors after some time to partake in sadhana.  Hours later I met with Khosro Shemiranie, editor in chief of Journal Hafteh, geared to the Iranian/Afghan community.  Khosro and I sat in ISKCON’s library room with the window to our backs.  Khosro asked questions pertinent to spirituality, mainly honing in on the concept of fear. 

I offered to say that fear is dealing with the unknown and living with the uncertainty of being harmed.  It is a component of life.

He also asked me about my major walks, and how fear played into these treks.  I told him that initially I carried the fear of whether I’d be accepted or not.  Would a public that’s mostly secular embrace the notion of a monk who hails from a tradition not yet well known.  Khosro wanted to know if I had overcome that fear, and I said, “Yes, people seem to accept the principle of pilgrimage and the good workout that goes along with it.”  I explained that as long as you bear self confidence, believing in your own spirit as distinct from the body, people will end up admiring who you are and what you are doing. 

As we spoke with that window to our backs, I was actually angled in such a way as to catch a glimpse of the outdoors.  I could see that snow had turned into crystallized ice on the trees.  Suddenly, a branch of a tree snapped off, and it came crashing down with all the crystals.  It came with an incredible noise, the noise of a wintery day. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Montreal, Quebec

Did Not!

Today The Walking Monk did not walk, he trained. 

I boarded Via Rail at Union Station in Toronto for the trip to Montreal.  It was a pleasant ride.  Western trains generally are a leisure way to travel.  The scenery was alright between the two cities.  It just becomes a bit tiring seeing the colour of winter brown.  That gradually changes as you go northeast.  The ground becomes covered, like icing sugar, with sprinkled snow.  White becomes more prominent by the time Montreal is reached. 

Next to me on the train, I met a young male passenger who’s on an adventure in life.  He’s on his way to join the armed forces.  “Why?” I asked him.  His answer was honest and innocent, “I come from a poor family.  Joining the forces as opposed to furthering my education right now will help me financially.  Also, I thought it’s a good thing to defend the country when in need.”

I thought it to be a commendable remark.  I was happy for him.  I couldn’t see this fellow getting deeply into drugs, drink, and girls.  At best, he’d be a moderate in habits of such sorts, I speculated.  Anyways, I wished him well as we detrained. 

My analysis of this day is me feeling real good about conducting another of those seminars on kirtan standards, where some young people showed up and kept engaged in the interactiveness that took place.  When you consider that there are lots of options out there on a Saturday night, they vied for doing something very positive.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Toronto, Ontario

Marriage and Makeover

One of our ashram residents asked a question, “Why are we putting so much energy into this wedding?”  When I heard this query, I did not take it as a challenge, but as innocent curiosity coming from someone who leads the simple devotional life with a group of other monastic people.  Shekar and Christina were getting married, and our main kirtan hall was going through a kind of makeover.  My response to the question was, “Marriage is an important day in a person’s life.  It’s a major commitment, and the couple needs blessings.”

I thought more about what I had said and wanted to add something.

We live in an era of lack of commitment.  We quit on people and projects so easily.  It’s a lack of determination – not a good trait.  In marriage, you demonstrate maturity through vows and keeping them.  You learn to communicate and learn the game of give and take.  When there’s kids involved (which is natural between a couple), show them that you have some conviction by being committed.  Try to avoid defraying the fabric of a family.  And people don’t always get along, even when you make a new arrangement.  Show some tolerance and patience.  Of course, there are cases of abuse.  Granted, you may need to break off.  But the word abuse is very casually used.  Break off can be a last resort.  This opens up a new door of discussion.  People have become non-congenial.  Much is to be said about the selfish world in which we live, and about an educational system which does not build character and avoids spiritual based values.

Yes, a makeover on us would be good.

The wedding, by the way, went well.  I wish the couple all the best.  I had to leave early to attend a funeral for Mark Mulair, also known as Muralidhar.  He died from cancer.  His new existence means a makeover of sorts. 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Thursday, January 1st, 2015


Here’s What They Said

So here’s what some actors and viewers had to say about our new theatrical production held at the annual Prabhupada Festival – the production called “Blue Mystic”:

Actor Kanaad (From Toronto) – I learned so much about the pastimes of Krishna.  Being on the stage like that helped me to gain more personal confidence. 

Viewer, Stephen (From London, Ontario) – It was like CBC Tapestry radio show, very cultural… I also noticed from the audience that they could not set their eyes away from the stage.

Actor, Natalia (From Montreal) – Oh my God, I had to question how we could pull it all together in just a week.  It was exciting playing multiple roles from the pious Devaki to the compelling goddess, Durga. 

Viewer, Dakshin (From Miami) – I liked it very  much, very visual.  A great way to give training to the youth, future leaders. 

Me – It was most rewarding working with the crew I had, rather, the crew that was sent my way by divine arrangement.

The drama, “Blue Mystic” was a way to bring in the new year.   In this more tweaked version from the pilot production of last summer, I hope to take it to my 2015 destinations worldwide. 

Happy New Year, and congratulations to the three new initiates from Brampton.  Rajneesh has received the name Nanda Maharaja Das, Alka is now Ananda Mayi, and Raj is now Rasaraj.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

People, Drums, New Year’s

People in this city ride the transit rail all the time.  The subway, which it is referred to, is that regular commuter that transports people to work, school, etc., to and fro.  On this evening the ride has a different intent for mostly younger folks.  Their destination is the City Hall, as it is ours, for the final countdown to mark the end of a year, and opening up what will historically be the one and only January 1st of 2015. 

A group of us, monks and lay Krishna members numbering 60 strong, helped to fill one of the cars on the subway line.  As soon as we stepped in from the subway platform sitting and standing passengers noticed our entry as we corralled in fully equipped with drums and anticipated faces. 

“What are they going to do?” milled through the minds of the curious. 

Here’s what we did.  The train doors closed.  The subway car moved south on the Yonge Street line, and after the first stop, the major Yonge and Bloor juncture, we waited for those doors to close once again.  Two massive tom-toms with mallets and one additional djembe were poised and now rolling with sticks and hands to stir up the kind of excitement that ushers in a new beginning. 

A core group of us sang, “Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy New Year!”  Response came.  We delivered a few more bars of that, then we switched to “Hare Krishna…”  That resounding vibe occupied the space of the people and stayed with the public for the whole ride and there ever after to the location of Old City Hall, that impressive building on Queen Street.  Thousands were drawn in to the song and dance.  The energy provoked by mantra and drum was nothing short of ecstasy. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, 2 January 2015

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
Find Light
I was drawn to Casa Loma this morning.  They call it Canada's best known castle.  Going for a japa (chanting) walk with two American friends and another from Montreal, I take a dual role as their mentor and tour guide simultaneously.
This impressive structure is a mere 20 min walk from our ashram.  It sits gracefully atop a hill. Developers dare not rival its majestic presence.  I believe it's law that you cannot put this edifice into obscurity.  It's a good law.
Our small walking team was awed by Casa Loma.  But even more so by a lit up yuletide ornament at the building's front door.  There we marveled at this classy illuminated horse and sled display.  Our interpretation is that here we see the chariot that was meant for Krishna and Arjuna.  It glows in the dark and is totally attractive.
I guess we are always fascinated by anything that gives light in the dark.  Try walking in the night alone under an aurora borealis sky like I have experienced and you will have gone through a sensation.
I believe it is practically everyday that I look for something that casts an effulgence.  I was really pleased to read from the "Journal of Vaisnava Studies" the first article by a friend, Shukavak N Dasa, author of "Hindu Encounter with Modernity", on the life of spiritual luminary Bhaktivinode Thakur.  His article made my heart shine in the dimness of an often dark world and provided what newspaper articles cannot. 
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
The Avatar Who's Known to Walk
I anticipated a day of excitement in the environment of devotional service which was to include an evening practice on our drama, "Blue Mystic".  Rising on a usual day, the thrill of early morning sadhana sparks before a 4:30 am arati.  We start with song and dance, an offering to guru and Krishna.  Then a trek through the neighborhood with eager devotees becomes a real catch for fresh air.  We return for more mantra meditation followed by a class facilitated these days by myself.  The current topic being the walking avatar who goes by the name of Vamana. 
So the story of Vamana and his interesting encounter with Bali, conqueror of the universe, entails the unfolding of rich traits of human character.  Personally I have read the epical scale book Bhagavatam several times over and I still become stunned at each new reading by the depth of dimension in regards to the interaction of these two personalities.  I find myself venturing new territory even though I've been down this trail before. 
What comes as a "new to me" is the respectful response to words and actions projected by the two characters.  Their very dealings embody humility, introspection, a purging and other dynamics.  To me it is totally fascinating, particularly how the events lead to the modest voluntary post taken by the walking avatar.  He becomes a doorman to Bali's domain.  Content with menial service and relishing the place where adulation generally doesn't find itself.  There is something for all of us to learn from this story.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Be Adjustable

North York, Ontario
The temperature rating for today was above freezing.  Still, our newly arrived monk from Brazil found it quite the adjustment to make.  Nevertheless, this fine young man who bears the gift of a smile appreciated our including him in a breezy walk through residential Rosedale where "quiet" prevails.
Vitaliy, originally from the Ukraine, now residing in Detroit, has no issue with the freshness of air, nor does his fiancée, Anandarupa, who is visiting us from Miami.  Natalia, from Columbia, has already acclimatized herself to winter in our North.  All five of us meandered through the streets for a mere hour as we chanted on our individual chanting beads.
My thoughts are that anyone who makes a move physically, from one geographical location to another, is always up for needing to adjust, or being like a chameleon who changes his color.  To be versatile or to turn with ease from one thing to another is a skill much in demand even in a spiritual environment.
It becomes a tough task at times to deal with people (devotees of Krishna included) who do not develop the art of flexibility.  For example, those who keep to ways that worked well in 1965 will find that those ways do not necessarily apply in today's world.  Change is a reality as much as permanence is.  They run in parallel lines.  People's attitudes change.  Lifestyles change.  Strategies change.  But basic values such as respect should be a perpetual anchor, just as the soul is a constant principle.  Finally, certain ways of doing things out of the box should be welcome while core principles be sustained.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Mandate for the World
Scarborough, Ontario
I am convinced that you are not going to find something more beautiful coming from humans until you see them in unison in song and dance.
It was my pleasure to facilitate with two rhythmic souls, Keshava and Rukmini, another Kirtan Standards Seminar. The venue this time was at the ISKCON Centre just off of Markham Road in Scarborough. For me, the highlight of the event was the mantra–and–dance segment with everyone. It’s remarkable what humans can do.
The ultimate expression of speaking appears more in the form of the song and the optimum expression of moving can be found in the form of a dance. When executed, gracefully, for the pleasure of the Supreme, we can have an almost perfect world.
In what in my opinion is usually a crammed space, in a unit of an industrial plaza, the train-car shaped, stuffed space we found ourselves in, transformed into a Vaikuntha, “world of harmony”. With the termed “swami step” we swayed in a “to the right, to the left” fashion. In a more Manipuri-style movement the mantra we encouraged was “Forward and back and forward and back….” These and other varying dance forms make the kirtan complete. Uniformity in the matter of both voice and body expression is the proven factor of bliss.
I wish the world could unite on the mandate of moving and mouthing for the Creator’s pleasure.
May the Source be with you!
7 KM

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Man of Understanding: J.W.
Toronto, Ontario
The Christmas frenzy is on, perhaps post Christmas or more popularly known as Boxing Day when goods are at a discount.
I was taking my walk down Yonge Street. It became obvious that reverence to Jesus just did not linger. Frankly the commercial push at this time of the year appears more gruesome than the crucifixion. What would Christ say? It’s all about bargains, things, money, waste and stress.
My criticism and absolute Scroogeism does not reflect on the good Son himself, nor on truly reverential followers of the Christ.
Members of our local community as well as members from all over the world act as opportunists to the occasion. My God, you won’t blame them for being out amidst the post Christmas shoppers. It’s really more like Christmas shocking during the Christmas shopping – on unfortunate cultural norm.
It’s at this time of the year that is sacred to pagans, sacred to Jews and Christians and Hindus. It was in December that the most famous penetrating dialog of all times was spoken by Sri Krishna. Local devotees of Krishna converged at Yonge and Dundas to chant and distribute profusely Bhagavad-Gitas. I was swift on my feet to meet and join in the pleasure of the disbursement. Fate had it that I was late. I missed the group by five minutes. I rapidly returned to the ashram only to find by e-mail that J.W. Windland passed away. Who was he? Well, he was a magnanimous soul who died of oral cancer on Christmas Day. It’s a loss because he built many bridges and took down many walls – bridges of communication and walls of misunderstanding on the subject of varying spiritual expressions amongst us.
It was a pleasure to have known J.W. who established the organization “Encounter”. Fortunately a succession plan was in place as I understand from the news I received from Brian Carwana.
My mantras I dedicate to J.W.
May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Brick and Bark

Toronto, Ontario

A Reflective Track

Squirrels.  They’re all over the place, scurrying about, digging from earth storage of nuts and other concealed treats.  On ground or tree level, they’re making an incredible appearance, a response to mild weather, I guess. 

It’s features of nature like this that make the day complete.  Just one little guy perched on a branch at eye level became a mere reminder for me of the glory of anti-urbanization, because during my outdoor ventures through concrete zones, I am provided with a break.  “Thanks little fella,” I pensed, “you just brought me closer to Krishna with your jerky tail and animated loveliness.”

When looking at concrete and doing some building gazing, it just doesn’t do the same for a person when compared to being in a pastoral presence.  I’m grateful for green, or even brown spaces in the city that reflect a gentler world.  I pass through Allan Gardens and also ambled along through Jarvis Street which has this unique blend of Victorian stateliness, and glass modernity.  It still doesn’t beat seeing the community of the black bushy chaps.  I can always appreciate the artistry of man, but it never measures up to the creativity of the natural world’s artist. 

On my return journey from a satsang at the home of a sweet Bangladeshi household, other ashram dwellers had joined me, retracing steps through brick and bark regions.  I’m of the opinion that no one should remain in one building or machine all day.  Life can be more reciprocal than that.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, walked through beach and through park in this town in the 70’s, so I’ll always bear in mind the good fortune of being on a reflective track as he had done. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM