Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Altoona, Pennsylvania

Exit & Entrance

Today, Karuna left for his trip back to India.  We will miss him.  He’s a great man for any travelling expedition. Last year he also accompanied me as we trekked on highways and trails through the Rockies in Canada.  Until next year…

A new recruit is joining us. Mandala, a young chap, also from Canada, will be joining us, giving some assistance and going for an experience of a life-time.  As mentioned before, “Walking is like breathing.  It is super and natural.  It conjures up simplicity, helps to clear the cob-webs in the mind, and brings you closer to the Divine.”

Now, with frost hitting us for a few consecutive mornings, our cherished organic and neglected apple trees we come across along the way are challenged.  The fruit has turned slightly mushed in some cases, closer to an apple-sauce texture.  Also, there is less craving for juices until the sun becomes present and there’s more of an interest for warming-type food.  I prefer sandwiches with fresh veggies and vegenaise over smoothies.

As it is for all days on the road, there is a need to push yourself.  As much as you love it, it requires endeavour.  The legs feel some strain.  Regardless, you have to ‘put pep in your step’ as Tre’von put it.  I don’t know if I can go so far as to say that this daily project is a labour of love for guru.  At the same time, I’m basically ‘lovin’ it’ despite the occasional impulse at the knee or stiffness in the thigh.  And I would also not go so far as to say that a yogic stretch can cure all. The body slowly gives way and the soul persists.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Monday, October 26th, 2015
Carrolltown, Pennsylvania

Nice Officer

Officer Smith ended up walking with Vivasvan and I for a few yards.  At that time, I mentioned to him how team work is required.  “In our tradition, with roots from India, people like me try to give guidance and direction.  We are pro-active.  In your role as a ksatriya, a member of the warrior class, you are re-active, assisting those who can't follow the directives.”

The officer, who was really nice, remarked, “A warrior – I’ve never heard it put that way.”

There was more response from the public, a residual effect of the pilgrimage story being covered in the ‘Indiana Gazette.’  One woman we met told us she was on her way to pick up her sons, 17 & 4, to go out harvesting hickory nuts.  Another woman stopped her car right on the road while the traffic was lulled.  With tears in her eyes she asked if I was the one walking.  I said, “Yes!”  In the passenger’s seat was her son who was suffering from an anxiety attack and so she was bringing him to a gospel place of prayer.  I shook hands with him and encouraged him towards upbeatness.

“The sun is shining.  Just look up.  There’s God.”

Naturally I prayed for him.

Our gracious host for the evening was a family from Gujarat who manage a ‘Quality Inn.’  For the evening stay, there was no problem.  For an evening meal, no problem.  Then I proceeded to say something from Chapter Nine of the Bhagavad-gita.

“Currently we are all duratma which means we are a bit crooked.  We must strive towards greatness – mahatma.”

May the Source be with you!

23 miles / 37 km

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Sunday, October 25th, 2015
Indiana, Pennsylvania

James Stewart Showing Us

There was a pleasantly long interview with Brittany of Renda radio today.  In the course of her 
questions, she came up with a classic one, “Of all your experiences in this walk, what stands out?”  And so, I had to think swiftly of what was dominant.  I thought in terms of today.  Since Indiana is the hometown of superstar actor James Stewart, with a sizeable museum dedicated to him and a local airport also in his name, what came to mind was what I read today. Here was a leading man for a number of decades, and yet, as a silver screen hero, he was also a hero off-screen.  He was married to one woman for his entire life-time and didn’t flirt with other glamour queens.  In other words he held a high calibre of morals and so I thought that that would be inspirational for people.

I went on to explain to Brittany that my walk is to promote a higher state of consciousness and if such moral values can be achieved by our deeds, whether past or present, then as a human race we can boast that perhaps we are advancing on some level.

The interview flowed smoothly.  So did today’s walk. The moderate temperature in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s as well as greetings from motorists and home-owners who happened to see me and Tre’von ambling along made it so.  At one point a couple of women pulled over and mistook me for being one of the Tibetan monks who are visiting town to demonstrate a mandala.  

“What’s that?  Other monks are in town?  Oh well, the more the merrier!”

In the evening, our crew drove to a group meeting in Pittsburgh for a summary presentation of the Bhagavad-gita.  The simple and brief explanation behind the wisdom of the Gita is to know the Divine and hence find out more about yourself.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Saturday, October 24th, 2015
Butler, Pennsylvania

One Mile

I always consider it a sign of good fortune to see a creature of unique features.  As our crew left on Limestone Rd. for Butler, 3 deer crossed the road.  But that is not unusual to have happen in this part of the world.  What was astonishing was, the one to lead the others was a total albino, meaning no pigment, a rather gorgeous white-furred beauty.  Wow!

More fortunate for today was, while in Butler, Don & Tony (2 current managers of the Cubs Hall, the former YMCA where our guru was staying in 1965) gave a group of close to 200 attendees for today’s event a guided tour of the place.  To show their generosity, Don and Tony donated the metal desk they figured our guru used in his room when he stayed at the Y.

The attendees came from Philly, Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Cleveland, Florida, Toronto, and of course Butler.  A queue of speakers briefly shared reflections after a chanting procession down Main St. in the rain.  The procession took us on foot to the former Agarwal residence (the Agarwal's sponsored our guru, Prabhupada, when he came to America) and then to Grand Hall for the speeches, more kirtan, and the food we call prasadam (blessed food).  Prabhupada used to walk almost a mile twice a day from his room at the Y to the Agarwal residence to cook for them, do his laundry, and meet people.  When he would do his laundry, he would use their sink or bath tub and spread the cloth outside on the grass to dry.

It really was a day to relax, take a break from walking, and meet friends.  Oh, and how everyone danced.  It was a joy to behold.

Our full appreciation goes to Jai Krsna and Vrindavan, two top-notch devotees from the New Vrindavan farm, who organized and financed the magnificent event. 

May the Source be with you!

1 mile / 1.6 km

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Elderton, Pennsylvania

The Sun Drew Mist

As the sun drew mist into the air, Karuna, Tre’von, and I could hear regular gun shots in the not-so-far distance.  It’s deer-hunting season and one couple, while driving down en route to their hunting destination, came upon us.  The woman pulled out of the van requesting a photo.  I guess you could say, “A funny thing happened to me in the forest.  I met a monk.”

En route towards the college town of Indiana, Tre’von and I met a biker who deliberately went to the store after seeing us.  With a big heart, he picked up two well-intended sandwiches – cheese and ham – along with lemon water.  As vegetarians, we just couldn’t surrender to the meat but I believe in my heart and soul that the man gave with all his heart.  We accepted his package with its contents and carried them for some good distance before we had to renounce.  I will not forget the joy of the donor’s face when he offered his gift.  Will he be blessed?  God will see to it.

At a crossroads in the town of Elderton, I was moving on the green light when a stopped motorist yelled for attention.  I looked and he asked, “Do yah take donations?  I read the article about you.” I went up to the driver.  He gave a bill and asked, “This will help you with your travels?”

“Why, thank you!  Thank you, so much!”

The response from the public has been phenomenal.

Our evening was spent at the West Virginia farm community, New Vrindavan, where I spoke about ‘Tales from Trails’ and how I hold my guru, Srila Prabhupada, totally responsible for the mercy that comes our way.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015
Ford City, Pennsylvania

Credit Goes to the Media

The Leader Times and the Butler Eagle came through with good articles
about the walk celebrating and honouring 50 years since our guru,
Srila Prabhupada, came to the area.  During that time, he spoke at St.
Fidelis Monastery in nearby Herman.  Now it is a school for boys.  The
three of us walked by it before the sun peaked over the horizon.  Once
the sun revealed who the three people were, especially the
saffron-robed one, the honking and stopping of motorists began.
Home-owners and restauranteers came out to greet us because of the
attention brought on by the media.  A staff of a dozen or so people
from a popular Italian eating villa stood in line to offer
congratulations.  I was touched.  And of course, everyone wants to get
in on a photograph with a monk - that’s a rarity.

A family from Florida drove all the way up to join us for a three-day
experience on an American pilgrimage.  The only thing was that our one
mile venture at the end of my day’s trek turned out to be a happy but
dragged-out stretch due to the minute or two of ‘connecting’ that
people wanted.

Off the feet and into the vehicle, we zipped for an evening happening
at an art gallery in Pittsburgh.  In this former
hardware-city, we participated in a lively
kirtan and I talked from 5.18 of the Gita.  It was day number 2 for
evening chanting in Pittsburgh.  These were perfect endings to perfect

I recall one gentleman who, during the day, had taken his Great Dane
Rotweiller for a walk down a quiet trail, saw me, and stopped to talk.
Later, he was well-informed on what I was doing through the media.  He
mentioned that next to his home there once was a monastery.  It
appears the monastic order may be on the decline in America, being
that it was the second time for this kind of story in one day.

The man’s dog demanded attention so he received my petting under the
snout.  After the chat, the man admitted that we both had to part from
each other, so he turned to his dog and said, “Okay, the man has to go
to work now.”  When I heard that, it struck me that this is my job.
At the same time I realized I enjoy very much my work (pilgrimage).  I
would rather consider it play.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
Butler, Pennsylvania

What’s so Special About Butler?

My very competent support person, Vivasvan, navigated a route that
would avoid busy traffic.  A connected series of quiet gravel and
paved roads was the perfect lead into Butler, Pennsylvania – a true
milestone for this pilgrimage.

Karuna Sindhu joined Tre’von and I for a stretch.  Yes, our party is
growing happily.  It seems that some young men are attracted to the
program.  Another one joins us on Saturday.

Now, back to Butler and the significance this tiny city has for our
spiritual order (known in theological terms as the Gaudiya Vaishnava
tradition) which has roots in India.  The Vaishnava culture dates back
thousands of years.  One of the major teachers in this lineage from
the medieval period in India is Sri Chaitanya, himself, a well-known
walker, who promoted adoration for the Divine in the form of Krishna.
The most recent exponent of this form of spiritualism is, in lengthy
honorific terms, known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada – or
Prabhupada for short.

It was he, Prabhupada, who came to Butler in 1965 – 50 years ago.  He
took accommodation at the then YMCA, now the Boys’ Cubs Hall on McKean
St.  Prabhupada spoke at the Y as well as the Lions Club and St.
Fidelis Monastery in nearby Herman.  It was here in Butler, at the
mature age of 70, that he planted seeds of bhakti (a form of
devotional yoga) before he moved on to New York City where a following
finally took hold.

When I entered Butler today and made my way to the old YMCA, I met a
rep from the Butler County Eagle Paper and a local radio rep.  The
news was later announced that the Walking Monk had come to honour his
teacher, Prabhupada.  My emotions did arise.

I shall attempt to make a list of Prabhupada’s accomplishments after
my own humble deliberation:

1) Forerunner of kirtan culture, or introducing chanting to the West.

2) Introduced bhakti-yoga, an ancient devotional lifestyle to the West.

3) Wrote, presented, and published a scholarly line of Vedic
philosophical texts (including a translation of the Bhagavad-gita)
forming a veritable library on Eastern thought.  Established the
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to print these books.

4) Introduced a new line of vegetarian cooking.  Perhaps the first
teacher of Vedic cooking in the West.  Taught how to consecrate that
food as prasadam (where, in Judaism, such food is known as Kosher and
in Islam as Halal).

5) Forerunner of animal rights, ie. Cow and bull protection

6) Introduced to the West the ancient technique of seva puja,
honouring the Divine as a sacred image.

7) Forerunner of the science of reincarnation.  Spoke boldly of the
soul’s transmigration (sourced through his books).

8) Reinforced agrarian life, ‘Back-to-the-land’ living as an
ecologically-friendly alternative, ie. ‘Gita Nagari’ in Port Royal, PA
& ‘New Vrindavan’ in Wheeling, West Virginia.

9) Reinforced that God is a person, hence, he challenged atheism and Darwinism.

10) Promoted anti-racism through provocative, profound statements like
‘We are not these bodies, we are spirits.’  All-inclusive policies
towards men, women, and people of all races.

11) Spoke strongly against drug intake, alcohol intake, and gambling –
hence saving lives.

12) Established a world-wide mission called ISKCON, commonly known as
‘Hare Krishna.’

These and other contributions can be considered as benevolent for
improving and adjusting life-styles in the West.  We are grateful to
the founder of Iskcon, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Rural Valley, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania People

Bill was right on the road to greet me.  He shook my hand and I remarked that he’s got farmer’s hands, big and callous-like.  It was a compliment of course and he took it that way.  “Well, more like coal miners’ hands,” he said in good fun.  We talked and I could see he was a very God conscious man.  In fact, he asked for a blessing since he’s having kidney issues.  He removed his hat, I placed my right palm on his forehead and recited a Sanskrit mantra for protection.  He was grateful.

I also came upon two country folks at the side of their yard.  Two gentlemen.  They had been looking with an eager eye as to what I was all about.  Handshakes again.  “I’m Bhaktimarga Swami, Swami for short.  I’m a monk and I’m walking.  I started from Boston.”  Surprised, they were.  They offered iced tea.  We chatted.  One of the fellows said, “Only Catholics have monks, right?”

“Actually, there’s a whole history of monastic life within Hinduism and Buddhism, big time.”

I asked them if they were familiar with Hare Krishna and the response was no.  I asked if they had heard of Broadway’s production, ‘Hair’.


And so that was their reference point.

Further down the road I met some teenage Amish girls with dresses and bonnets.  They were gathering walnuts on the side of the road.  I could see they were shy.

“Hello, how are you?  What do you do with them?”

“We make pies with the walnuts and cakes.”

“God bless,” I said.

Not but ten minutes later on in my walk, there was a team of horses, two in number, that were yoked to a wagon standing stationary at the side of the road.  Right next to them, in a corn field, was an Amish farmer along with two women who were manually breaking off corn and tossing it into the wagon.  I asked if he could toss me one for a souvenir, so he did and suggested that they are good for corn bread.

“Thanks, God bless.”

In Pennsylvania country I see it’s much to do about family, food, work, and God.   That’s good.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Sunday, October 18th, 2015
Earnest, Pennsylvania

Kirtan Inside Outside

Bandhur atmatmanas tasya…

I referenced this quote from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad-Gita for a group of soon to be yoga teachers at Penn State College.  We are talking here about the mind and how it can be your best friend or worst enemy.  Another verse describes how the mind can either degrade or elevate the consciousness.  Therefore, the message is to harness the wild mind and to direct it to a progressive higher consciousness.  This chapter has all to do with meditational yoga.  I explained “In order to benefit from yoga in full, the Gita recommends an insertion of bhakti, devotion, into the practices.”

I was happy to see and hear everyone take to the process of kirtan, chanting, and lest we forget – dancing.

Vivasvan, Tre’von, and I then rushed to the farm community of Gita Nagari near Port Royal.  Arriving in the nick of time, 4 PM, for the Sunday Open House.  We were warmly greeted and taken to the temple building where the microphone was placed before me for leading another kirtan and then class.  I was keen to keep some continuity in my message.  I spoke on Chapter 6, again, entitled ‘Jnana Yoga’, wherein determination, patience, and disregard for mundane things which arise from mental speculation, were topics for discussion.

People at Gita Nagari are more familiar with kirtan than the first group.  Nevertheless, it was enjoyed at both sessions all the same.

Whether indoor or outdoor, kirtan, chanting, has its natural attraction.  When Tre’von and I took to trekking earlier on in the morning, we came near a barn with a cow sticking her head out curiously to see us.  We both broke into another song beginning with the name Govinda, a name for Krishna referring  to Him as the tender of the cows.  The cow came out of the barn to listen and then a herd followed and remained still as if they were yogis themselves, motionless and serene.

May the Source be with you!

12 miles / 19 km

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Saturday, October 17th, 2015
Westover, Pennsylvania

A Pull

“Maya, get back here!” shouted the owner of the pitbull.   This young female dog named Maya was definitely after me and her master was calling her back.  It was necessary for him to come right up to me in order to stave off Maya.  She was not listening too well to orders even when the lady of the house yelled "Get over here!" with her raspy voice.  I asked the owner if he knew what Maya meant.

“No I don’t,” he said in a confession-like tone.

“It’s a Sanskrit word meaning ‘illusion’.”

"Well, she’s illusion alright,” he retorted, now gaining some control over her barking and threatening.

It was a crazy road to be on. Vivasvan and I were scolded for being on what GPS identified as a walking trail by a teenage boy in fatigues and crossbow in hand who told us it was not.  The boy I managed to shake hands with and talk with but the oncoming overbearing dad was different.  The stern message was clear, that we were to turn around and get out of there NOW!!!

It was so evident that deer are the actual target these days during hunting season.  At the front of one household, a deer’s carcass was hung from a pole and an open bucket was set underneath.  In the early hour of the day, the first hour, as I was walking with my safety vest on, a vehicle swerved away from me and wheeled over onto deer road kill.  This sent the contents in the air.  An explosion of guts, you might say.

I trekked through trails and roads today that were clearly in State Game Lands but like all the other hunters in the vicinity who wear luminescent orange, I’ve got myself fully covered with the colour.

Even though a vegetarian pacifistic monk may feel some discomfort in all of this, I will refrain from judging.  I feel the power of the mantra that I’ve been singing, the prana from the clean air, the prana from the crisp organic apples I would chance upon, and just the anticipation that I’m getting closer and closer to the city of Butler where our guru, Srila Prabhupada, first launched the bhakti movement in the west, I feel choked up at times and with tears in the eyes, a pull comes to the heart.

May the Source be with you!

22 miles / 35 km

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Friday, October 16th, 2015
Tyrone, Pennsylvania

Shooting Stars

Shooting stars we saw.   We viewed with awe.  Our walking route also called for a section through the forest.  The kicking of leaves, which created a hissing sound, and moving shadows conjured up from our flashlights spooked Tre’von in the darkness of the early morning.  We could still see the stars above but they were blinking because of the effect of passing through the trees.  Owls were making their sound.  These were great sensations. 
Paul had made a jovial deal with us the night before, “Come to Mass with me in the morning and I’ll take you to the newspaper place for a story.”  Paul, our B&B host, placed this loving condition on us which, to us, was irresistible.  We sealed the deal.  We like both of the venues and their people.  We sat in at the Christian service and then ventured off to the Herald, the local paper, for an interview.  This was followed by visiting a new-age shop which was newly opened.  We happened to be there just before the ribbon cutting ceremony.  There I met briefly with the local senator.  I told him of our guru’s benevolent work and how he came to the US fifty years ago from India and launched the Hare Krishna Movement. 
I asked him, “How are things?”
“Lots of problems,” he said with a smile.
“I can imagine,” was my response. 
From that downtime in Tyrone’s downtown, I proceeded onto the highway going up the mountain and entered into deer hunting country.  1600 acres are allotted for the hunt in this area.  At one point, a young fellow, plumber by profession, pulled over and graced us with a donation.  He liked what we were doing and then happily received from us our favourite mantra, the Hare Krishna mantra.  He wanted to invite us to his home but he remarked, “My wife would think I was crazy.”
May the Source be with you!
21 miles / 33 km

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Thursday, October 15th, 2015
Pennsylvania Furnace, Pennsylvania

On Top of the Hill

While walking down cool downtown State College, one café was playing the local radio station broadcasting through the speakers.  It just so happened that the chorus of My Sweet Lord was playing as I passed the café.  Yes indeed, the sound of George Harrison’s voice came through on the chorus of that beautiful musical piece at that moment.  What are the chances of that happening?  I took it as a good omen.  What else about State College?   It's where you find Pennsylvania’s largest university.  Two young female students working on a film project spontaneously had me in a queue for questions about pumpkin picking.  The camera started rolling:
“Have you ever picked pumpkins?” was the first question.
“As someone who grew up on a farm, I’ve harvested about everything, except for pumpkins.”
The interview started off light but it became more grave as we moved along and started to discuss about my purpose for walking.  The notion of pilgrimage was discussed.  The interview was done and personally I believe that the girls were charmed by having a guy answering questions in pumpkin-coloured attire.
Our evening in Tyrone, a town of 5,000 plus, was something to remember.  We took a chance to stay at a bed and breakfast called ‘Stoney Point’, a sort of old mansion on top of a hill.  We found out later on that this place was rated as the number one B&B in the state, number 3 in America, and number 14 in the world.  It’s no wonder because Paul, the host, is a real human with a big heart.  This place had charm.  The ambiance was great and it’s not what the three of us in our team are usually used to although we’ve been very lucky to stay at temples and people’s homes and on occasion, a motel.   
It was great to pull out our dolak drum and to chant in the living room with Paul and other tenants in the house.  It was as if the wood of the fireplace got lit up by the stroke of a chant.  The place became so cozy and warm.
May the Source be with you!
20 miles / 32 km

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
State College, Pennsylvania

Day Is Dung

I was raised on a farm, have visited India in her rural parts multiple times, and so I’m used to dung.  My morning walking partner, Tre’von, is a city boy and is not used to the horse caca on the road’s shoulder.  I told him, “Just get used to it.  Some of the stuff will get trapped in between the treads under your shoes.  You have to live with it so you might as well love it.”
We started our trek at 5:45 AM, an hour when the sun has not yet woken.  We are somewhat moving through heaps of the stuff due to the Amish horse-driven carts coming through on the sides of the road.   Because it’s dark, it’s hard to see when the heaps are coming forward.  We just have to accept it. 
The area is all about land and animals.  A team of mules was pulling a machine for corn harvest.  They are natural work animals.  Some Holsteins came to greet us until the electric fence opposed further forwardness from both sides.  White horses and beef cattle were also curious about us. 
But the creatures of the wild, the undomesticated ones, had a hard time with the road.  We’re talking about raccoons, possums, deer, skunks, and porcupines.  Even the fast fox has no chance against the more rapid formidable machines which we call trucks and cars. 
At one person’s driveway, two huge black pigs were milling around.  They were held in check by three Doberman pinchers.  The dogs appear to be the fence for the pigs, otherwise, those oinky creatures would be venturing into the traffic.  The dogs became a bit distracted from their work when I was walking by their property but then a stocky woman, I assume the owner, called the dogs off from going after me.  I guess she was their fence, thank God.  Cyclists drove by and there were also two motorists who stopped to offer a ride on different occasions.  In most cases, such persons are more curious than anything because most people have this notion that someone in robes is most likely on a mission, a walking mission, a pilgrimage of sorts.
May the Source be with you!
20 miles / 32 km

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
Woodward, Pennsylvania

Back Again

So many people have written upbeat songs about being on the road again.  What comes to mind is my dear friend, cross-country walker Michael Oesch, who likes Willie Nelson’s rendition.  Well here I am, once again, at one of the places I like to be - the road, the trail.
After being picked up at the Pittsburgh Airport, where they were playing classical music over the speaker, which I liked, Vivasvan and Tre’von came to drive us to College State where we slept for the night.  We then drove to the spot where I left off from four days before at Buffalo Valley Trail, a parallel route to Highway 45.
The trek started with a drizzle, though rain never became a big issue.  At one point the sun blazed through before overcast sky hit us again.  Tre’von stayed loyal to my every step for 18 miles.  Then, I finished solo with an extra four miles under the feet.  It was at this point that a police officer came to see what was up.  It was another one of those things where someone called in, being suspicious of a guy in orange, the colour that prisoner’s wear in jumpsuits.  This simply became an opportunity for me to talk and make a friend with the officer.  He resembled strongly the features of fellow monk, Sridhar Swami. 
A real milestone for our team today was to hear Tre’von master his memory of mantras.  I had been teaching him while trekking the two mantras in honour of guru.  He took the bold step to ask to learn the mantra for Pancha Tattva.  This he learned, with a breeze.
I observed that he likes to rap and at times breaks into a dance step while we travel along.  Traffic is not anything that hinders his spontaneous mood and frankly, I don’t get embarrassed despite the conservative Amish countryside we find ourselves in.  At one point, he played from his phone James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’ which ended up being an ideal pacey piece of music for walking.  

May the Source be with you!

22 miles / 35 km

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Monday, October 12th, 2015
Mississauga, Ontario

Sorting Out The Trails

“Since the Supreme is the origin of all facets of life, including ourselves, where does hate come into the picture?” asked Raj as we stepped through the trees on a trail near his home.
Raj had been questioning this for years, wondering how hate or contempt could be a component of God’s personality.  As we were walking, he and I discussed how Krishna, in His pastimes, eliminated demonic forces.  Yet, it appears that hate or malice was not necessarily found in the character of Krishna during the time of His subduing such nasty forces.  Raj insisted, “He doesn’t show hate but where does this hate come from since whatever is within us can be traced back to the Source?”
While I was looking deeply within for the best way to respond to Raj’s wonder, we had to make choices as to which path to tread.  All trails were laden with autumn leaves but some were broad in width while some were less defined, obscured, and less travelled.  We chose to tackle them all.  We found other people from the same neighbourhood doing the same type of exploration.  Searching for answers through adventurous avenues might be a very good thing. 
Here is the gist of my contribution to Raj’s query.  The Absolute (God, the Divine, whatever is your preferred terminology) is definitely the root or the seed behind all things good and bad.  Yes, even when Krishna does some of His dissolution work, He invokes some anger but with a charm that moves the emotions.  It is executed in the spirit of detachment.  Now, why is our hate so strong and so vindictive at times?  In other words, why are we so extreme?  What comes to mind is something that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, and his guru explained.  It goes as such:
All things in the material world are perverted reflections of the spiritual world.  Here’s one example to illustrate our malicious intentions.  When a rod is placed in a pool of water, the image in the water is refracted or distorted.  Similarly, whatever we do in this world tends to get twisted and our attitude becomes extreme and this happens by choice.  Choice is another trait we have inherited from the Supreme.  Our obligation is to just get clean, to go for a purging.

May the Source be with you!

1.9 miles / 3 km

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Sunday, October 11th, 2015
Pigeon Lake, Alberta

Smooth Synergy

I feel myself to be very fortunate, being in the best company. Through culture and like-mindedness, I feel very cuddled in the huddle of community spirit. I believe that many many people, especially in the capitalistic world, lack the community experience and find themselves to be so very alone.

I know we have written of this before but once again, the moose (of which you will find a fair share of here in Alberta) are happy campers being alone. Humans, however, have that angle in life which calls for social intercourse. To humans I say, “Be human and not a moose on the loose.” Take the goose, for instance, here we find another creature (also common enough in these parts) that flock together.

The gathering of devotees of Krishna from Canada at this year’s Annual General Meeting in Pigeon Lake are an incredible, stimulating, and inspiring group of individuals. It appears to me that they have a heart to discuss and then implement actions that can add color to the world. No, I am not saying we’ll save the world no more than I’ll admit that we are better than everyone else. We are all in the same boat shifting within varying lifestyles the activities of eating to sleeping, to mating and defending.

What I would dare to say is that, as a monk in the Krishna order, we can offer a mild reminder about the spiritual component of life. I really like it how our guru, Prabhupada, put it when questioned by a reporter from the Butler Eagle News in Pennsylvania (and here we set no boundaries between the US and Canadian border),

“If Americans would give more attention to their spiritual life, they would be much happier.”

Well, our group of leaders who converged at the lodge at Pigeon Lake, chanted, talked, ate, and slept with spiritual motives in mind. It brought about a beautiful synergy I hope is the type of synergy that can more readily be shared amongst others.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles / 0 km


Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Saturday, October 10th, 2015
Pigeon Lake, Alberta

Mud Feet

Everyone needs a little downtime. I’m getting mine at Pigeon Lake. Yesterday, I had flown from Pittsburgh to Chicago, on to Edmonton, and then finally driven to a rustic looking resort where a European settlement began 175 years ago on Pigeon Lake. In this countryside retreat, called Rundle House, you can find bison bones on display which were found in the area along with a massive tooth left from a mastodon. Personally, my interest is strong in this. There is also a plaque on the wall with a quote on creativity which reads,

“The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.”

No author is credited here.

To fill the rooms of this building and some additional cabins are our members of Iskcon, the leaders actually. Here at this year’s annual gathering for Canada’s Thanksgiving, important strategies were discussed with messages along the lines of “what gets measured gets improved” and “the difference between a dream and a goal is a written statement”. Presentations were truly inspiring.

Now, Pigeon Lake is quite sizable and at one point in the day it was 20 degrees Celsius. I was tempted to go for a swim but by the time our meeting ended, that idea seemed less appealing. I did, indeed, stroll out to the water’s edge or what I thought was the water’s edge. The 20 foot wide beach was actually a depth of black muck. I sunk but not deep. I had seen enough old Tarzan movies in my youth to know what to do when stuck in quicksand. I leapt out fast, grabbed on to something and didn’t panic, knowing well that we’re not talking about some African soil here. Basically, I was happy to use my legs on this feet-easy day.

Frankly, it’s hard to sit at a chair for hours when your feet are accustomed to trekking 20 miles per day. My resolve is that it is short term. It is an austerity which is never a negative action on the part of a monk.

May the source be with you!

0.5 miles / 0.8 km

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Never Seen The Stars

“I’ve never seen the stars like this before,” remarked Tre’von.

“You must have spent your whole life in the city,” I guessed.

“That’s true”, he said and then he started to rap something along the lines of,

“Your ego says you’re such a big shot

When you see the stars you’re not even a shot

Not even a spot

Not even a dot…"

He was really liking the early excursion, making our way through small hamlets under the ever-changing sky. He was appreciating the brahma muhurta hour, the time before sun up . He told me Einstein called it ‘the genius spot’.

The sun had just come and Matt from ‘The Standard News’ came by with a recorder. It was question time. “The Daily Item” news also sent a rep who took notes.

“Why notepaper and a pen?” Vivasvan asked when he caught up to us with his van.

The reporter said, “If I record, I’ll have to listen to it all again. I just take notes.”

As the questions went on, Tre’von took the liberty to grab Vivasvan’s camera and then walk a few metres to the gathering of local farmers huddled around representatives of the controversial Monsanto. With camera in hand Tre’von posed challenging questions regarding the tampering of God’s seeds. Monsanto’s rep attempted to respond to radical Tre’von’s cutting queries.

I wasn’t there to hear the dialogue but my daily companion put his warrior self out to action and then relayed back to us the stirring points that were exchanged.

The final little rendezvous place along Buffalo Valley Trail Run was the termination spot for my walking today. We then rushed to Pittsburgh for my flight to Edmonton for the weekend. I will miss magical Pennsylvania.

May the Source be with you!

18 miles / 29 km


Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015
Danville, Pennsylvania


It wasn’t long into the swing of our trek today that media attention came our way. Tre’von and I were ambling along through the fog on bustling Highway 11 when Vivasvan informed us that WHLM radio wanted to have an interview at the station.

Okay. And so we went to Bloomsburg downtown. It was great to see some pedestrians downtown walking or rather, off in a dash to work. Seeing pedestrians is sometimes quite rare in these parts.

Following that interview, the ‘Press Enterprise’ newspaper with their rep, Mike, came to see us at the highway for more questions. I felt that Mike took our pilgrimage to be a very different kind of story. A photographer also came by, snapping shots to include the traffic in the background.

Yes, the traffic, that is part and parcel of the whole walking experience, the sharing of space with creatures much bigger than you – trucks and cars. Fortunately, a more subdued road lay open for us, a quiet one along Hemlock Creek all the way to Danville. Here, life seems almost perfect. Country homes are smartly maintained with trimmed grounds all around. The occasional farmer passes by in truck and sometimes someone in a car, maybe en route to the office. On this stretch of the trek, I met this down-home couple on the front porch of their house. The woman was actually sitting there with a display of her own grown veggies up for sale. For one dollar you could go away with three whopper tomatoes. When I approached her for the purchase, I could understand that her speech was impaired. She rapped on the living room window to get her hubby’s attention. Bearded and in coveralls, he came out to greet. The charm of this simple couple was almost too much. Here are quite the remote people making a modest living for themselves from their tiny rural dwelling.

The one other outstanding feature today was bumping into an older Indian gentleman clad in traditional white dhoti right here in conservative small city Pennsylvania. He couldn’t speak a word in English but what he did say a few times in absolute ecstasy was “Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna....”

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

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Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Berwick, Pennsylvania

By The Farms

It is easier to make the gradual climb up a slope of a hill than to descend. We humans just don’t have a good brake system built within us. Coming down just isn’t so easy. Other walkers and runners say the same thing.

Perhaps we can take this as an analogy on life. We might think that the way down is a breeze, that it’s the easiest mode of travel. Yet, it’s the challenges in life that give strength and tough skin, so to speak. Perhaps the balance of both makes sense. Different muscles get activated on both the ascending and declining ordeals. Let’s consider these physical blessings happening in these two ways. Enjoy those hills, as we are in Pennsylvania.

Tre’von and I found the hills to be splendid when daylight became present. It’s farmland now. There’s corn and soya fields and there’s animals. We even saw the first sign of Amish communities. Eventually, we made it to a small city, Burwick, and then on to Highway 11, a dreaded stretch of passionate motorists.

Amongst friends we made were two ladies from ‘The Standard Speaker’ newspaper who caught up with us at the local Mexican taqueria place. There the proprietor became an instant amigo with us in exchange for the veggie plate he gave us. We presented to him Iskcon’s official simple cookbook, ‘Higher Taste’. He was grateful.

Perhaps the lightest part of the day for me was receiving a call from an acquaintance struggling with drugs but who now, after the 12-step process, is doing much better. I would say that at all costs one should stay away from harmful drugs as stimulatingly promising as they may be. Too many people’s lives are destroyed by such intake and that holds true for alcohol as well. To those items — stay away! Stay away!

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

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Saturday, 10 October 2015

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
Freeland, Pennsylvania

More of the Same Greatness

Our walking began where we finished the day before, at a beer store. There was pretty much a repeat of the previous day in the sense that the early hours brought some attention from motorists. This time some heavily accented New Yorkers pulled over to wish well my pilgrim message. Frankly, that’s what pilgrimage is meant to do – try to make a statement towards slowing down.

Our host for the three nights, Rupa Vilas, did even more than he’s already done, which included rising early enough to fix our small team with some breakfast. Then, he provided us with provisions galore. In addition, he gave himself. Nearing the end of my day’s quota for walking, he drove quite a distance to catch the last mile with me on foot as a walking companion.

The day reached 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Perfect. A walker’s paradise and as everything moderately cooled down, Vivasvan drove Tre’von and I to a monastic retreat for the night. It is known as an Ishan retreat. It’s a residence for nuns and priests. This group enjoys the chanting of Hare Krishna while they concentrate their life and focus on Jesus. There’s a willingness on their part to see beyond the walls of religious institution in order to reach the more profound state of God consciousness. Though Jesus remains for them the principal person of honor, Mary Magdalene, his wife, is revered as their female divinity.

This gracious group fed us after exchanging words and giving us a tour of a gorgeous facility used for worship. Devotional mingling and as mentioned, residential stay.

How kind they are.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km


Monday, October 5th, 2015

Monday, October 5th, 2015
Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania

A Lot of Care

Samantha cared. She, like so many rushers (people in rush hour), was going at the usual crazy speed down the 904 Highway at Mount Pocono when she managed to pull out of the wave of cars. Seeing the opportunity to do a horseshoe move (or in regular driver’s parlance, a u-turn) she turned and, facing the opposite direction, landed herself on the shoulder of the road. There, birthday boy Tre’von and I, who am also sharing the same anniversary, were walking. I actually turned 63 today.

Samantha rolled down the window as we got close. It was obvious she wanted to speak.

“Do you want a ride?” she asked.

“Thank you but we’re on our way to Butler, Pennsylvania, and then to New York City. This is a walk on behalf of our guru, the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement. 50 years ago, he came to America.”

“That’s great! No ride then? Can I offer a donation?”


So she did and with a smile on her face and a mantra card in her hand she wished us well and then drove off, caught in the madness of the car rage.

Shortly thereafter, the ‘Pocono Record’ newspaper responded to our message for our happy story. There was one call that came to us and then a second for an interview as well as a photographer who came for a photo shoot at Tobyhanna Lake. Hence, you have the makings of an article to come. As the day passed by, I saw birthday blessings showering on Tre’von. Rupa Vilas, our host, presented him with a watch. Vivasvan presented him with a card of personal good wishes and a CD of devotional chants. My contribution or birthday gift is continual lessons on pronouncing new mantras that I hope he will abide in for the rest of his life.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles / 33 km

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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Birchwood Lakes, Pennsylvania

The Moon’s Crest

The moon’s crest was above and, as twilight snuck in, a gorgeous world opened up to us on Snowhill Road. It was a realm of rain-cleared air, serenity, and colors of all kinds. The sky was a blue blue, not tainted by urban air in anyway. Trees, some tall and some small, graced each side of the pavement, blessing us with shade and shielding us from wind. And you can capture with your eyes, as I did, fleeting deer, squirrels, porcupines, and wild turkeys. There was also a migration of these intensely orange salamanders.

I was with Vivasvan, my support guy, when we noticed a tiny one an inch and a half in length making his way across the road. I wanted to come down to his humble level in an attempt to stroke him gently on his back. I poised myself for this but heard a car coming. I rose and saw it was actually a van hauling a residential vehicle. It came closer and I feared for the young crawling fellow’s life. We could do nothing. The wheels of the van missed him but the wheels of the trailer did not. I looked in horror at his head getting crushed…. Ohhhhh!

Harsh is nature. Fragile is the self. Relentless are the machines. Callous is man. Helpless is the individual.

Those were our emotions or reactions over the mini drama. However, we had to carry on walking. The day was warm in terms of what the coming hours offered but I was also a trite disappointed over the motorists' indifference. Not one person stopped to talk. Experience tells that that will change tomorrow. Let’s see.

We were thrilled to be hosted in the home of Rupa Vilas, AKA Richard Mason, who was a major mentor for me when I decided to go the way of the monk back in ’73 at the Toronto ashram. I’m indebted to him deeply.

May the Source be with you!

23 miles / 37 km

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015
Delaware State Park, Pennsylvania

Never Seen Such a Group

A constant rain fell upon us for a four hour hike within hilly Pennsylvania before the drive to today’s destination at Old Forge. The occasion was the opening of a yoga studio situated in an old renovated railway station. A cargo train still goes by on a daily basis. The station’s interior itself is smartly done up to accommodate the spiritually enhanced. Father Bill, who frequented Iskcon’s Laguna Beach center years ago, is teaching yoga in the premises along with other persons who conduct presentations on meditation, yoga, and prayer. Father Bill embraces Christian liberalism. He asked that I speak on a topic that would cover the concept of bhakti, devotion, and how it is a form of yoga that entails a relationship with God. He also asked that I express the nature of God as Radha and Krishna, the Divine Female and Male. I did as he asked, along with expressing the superior or essential element of yoga and that it is not just a physical exercise - ultimately it involves a profound love for the Supreme.

Kirtan (chanting) was the most important component of the presentation and ended up being an inclusive exercise. For everyone, that experience probably topped the joy of eating prasadam which was so kindly provided by devotees who prepared and delivered the outstanding feast from Iskcon Philadelphia.

I can say with full honesty that I have never seen a group of such gracious, smiling, and appreciative people in an American setting. I felt, along with team players Vivasvan and Tre’von, that we were not in a physical place or even at a train station. We were transported to another realm primarily because everyone approached and engaged in kirtan in a surrendered mood. It was a thrill to see a nun in full regalia, that is, in the traditional nun’s habit chanting and dancing in our circle.

May the Source be with you!

10 miles / 16 km


Monday, 5 October 2015

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Matamoras, Pennsylvania

A Cool Mayor

Monks in our order are allowed to vote but I would not, even if I would be an American citizen. If I WERE to vote, I would cast my vote on November 3rd for Judith L. Kennedy. She is the mayor of Newburgh in New York State and with her term coming to an end and the election campaign going on, she has the chance to be re-elected. The reason why I would have put a check to her name had I the opportunity, is because she stands for moral values. I spent an hour talking to her over dinner at Newburgh’s vegetarian restaurant, Nimai’s Bliss Kitchen. Judith and I dialogued over many topics concerning the way our society is. She let me know of a recent shooting of eight people in a college in Oregon. God, I didn’t know. I haven’t been following the news lately although I got interviewed by Mark of the Sentinel Newspaper today. With Judith, we spoke of rampant drug use, the world of Reaganomics, commercialism, and being in deep debt. We spoke of America and the world at large being like the Roman Empire, a civilization that fell into decline with the cause coming from within.

She was totally right on with her assessment and that there’s need for change. She came, along with others, to the restaurant not just for a meal but also to hear from The Walking Monk, so I delivered 'Tales From Trails', and to do something that can shake up a troubled world, so we did kirtan. We chanted and danced up a storm, including Judith. She’s totally cool. After a long day trudging through drizzle, tracking back for dinner, and after stepping into a new state, Pennsylvania, it was worth coming to the event.

I expressed to the group how our guru, Srila Prabhupada, came to the West 50 years ago with a message and part of that message was about redefining what we call ‘partying’. His definition, having a good time with kirtan and acknowledging the Source. Judith actually mentioned to me that she uses the word Source quite a lot. Anyways, I hope to see her stay in her mayoral seat for another term.

May the Source be with you!

Port Jervis, Milford, Matamoras

19 miles / 31 km



Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Montgomery, New York

Walk or Drive But Move

The temperature has dropped to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s still fine and the weather is not severely austere. Yesterday, rain and drizzle came periodically and whether accompanied by umbrella, plastic poncho or not, constant walking provides warmth. In looking at the bright side of things, the rain of yesterday and the coolness of today provides a transition of texture and colour to the vegetation and foliage all around. Hence, the awesomeness of autumn begins to show its usual splendor.

By 1:30 PM I had completed my targeted 20 miles. That was done to make room for a drive to Schenectedy, a historic city in New York State. There we conducted a sangha, a devotional gathering with the Guyanese community. Sabrina was our host. With children all the way to seniors in the group, the mild challenge is to keep everyone perked up and attentive. Any presentation should inspire. For me, before attempting such a task, an internal mindfulness of prayer, as brief as it may be certainly helps in the endeavour.

I spoke from 9.29 of the Bhagavad Gita and explored the fairness of God. We read through the purport of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, by the way of charades. That’s always a winning approach for the kids.

Kirtan (chanting) and blessed food known as prasad finished off a great evening before the long drive back to our rendezvous in Newburgh. When choosing whether to be a passenger in a van or walking on the road, I prefer the latter. However, it’s always good to be in that vehicle to maximize time in the company of my team players, Vivasvan and Tre’von. Incidentally, Tre’von is completing a good amount of mantra meditation on his beads. It’s day number two of accomplishing 16 revolutions on the beads.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 km

Friday, 2 October 2015

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Montgomery, New York

"Don’t Jump, It’s Not Worth It!"

Rain permeated through the sky and through the previous night. It persisted through the morning. Off I went to a later than usual start at which time the drops did let up. Only then did I step out of the van. When I did so, five fawns spun out from the forest next to me. But guess who also emerged at that time? It was Tre’von, who slept overnight with Vivasvan and I and is now an official member of our team. He emerged from the van and, like a real trooper, took to the whole 20 miles of walking for the day.

We had a thrill walking on the bridge that suspended over the Hudson River. It took us exactly a half hour to walk it. That made it four revolutions on our meditation beads. We stopped somewhere at the middle of the bridge just to enjoy the view of the vista. When a motorist saw us while driving, he yelled out, “Don’t jump, it’s not worth it!” It gave us a good laugh. A construction worker on the bridge also noticed us. He was a big burly guy and upon seeing us he stopped his work and offered us a pranam ( a traditional palms together Vedic greeting).

We were treated royally at the Nimai Bliss kitchen to a tasty vegetarian Gujarati meal. I was impressed with the food and with Jimmy, one of the patrons of the place. Who is Jimmy anyway? He’s a garage owner across the street from the restaurant. He calls himself the All-American Boy but has taken a fancy to Krishna Consciousness. It comes at a good period in his life. At age 75, he is just looking to a new track in life. He is reading the books of our guru, whom I am walking for.

Once again, my guru’s name is Srila Prabhupada and he came to America 50 years ago. He started an explosion in consciousness-raising. To me, a walk in his honor is very justified.

We walked Newburgh, Little Britain, Plain View, Rock Tavern and Montgomery.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles / 32 kilometres