Sunday, 27 September 2015

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Friday, September 25th, 2015
Hartford, Connecticut

Oh! Magic Day

My dear friend, Pyari Mohan, the friendly head honcho of the Iskcon Centre in Hartford took me down a secret passageway to the downtown. "Hardly anyone knows this route," he told me as if a best-kept secret. Even though he's 67, he reminds me of a young kid in some way. Finally, he led me to the downtown district and to Connecticut's Old State House where a group of the local Krishna members had assembled for a chanting kirtan session. We all participated together, including Bhakti Damodara Swami, an American monk.

Now, Pyari is a magician. Yes, he does magical tricks. At his home in East Hartford he has this beautiful white dove named Jatayu - a dove that he uses for his magic tricks. He's a pretty bird, he is.

What really got me thinking about how out-of-the-ordinary the day was (magical even), I had in my thoughts the young Rastafarian chap that I chatted with on Monday night at the festival in honour of Krishna's consort, Radha. Tri'van is his name. While we were chanting, he happened to walk by. He had felt that maybe he wasn't liked at the event but I believe he changed his outlook when we greeted him warmly on the street.

Now this Tri'van is a special soul. I invited him to join me on the continuation of my walk and being his day off he accepted my offer. We let time slip away like anything as we immersed in conversation. He had questions. So did I. I like to be informed about what's going on these days. We reciprocated with answers. I shared my Krishna Conscious viewpoint. When it came to asking about his birthday, I knew intuitively he was an October 5th boy, like myself, before he could say. When it actually came out of his mouth to confirm, it had me wonder about how magical a day could be. It all climaxed with a good swim in Woodridge Lake, a body of water with an aged wood smell. I was given such good company, by Krishna's grace, from Pyari to Tri'van to the ancient lake.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles/32 km

 

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Rockville, Connecticut

Apple Monk

On this trail a police officer pulled over and asked, "Going for a walk?"


Answer was "Yes! To Pennsylvania and I'm doing it for my teacher, my guru. Here's my card." So, I handed him a card which has the maha-mantra on one side with its translation, "Oh, awesome Creator, allow me to be of blissful service to You and the world."The officer expressed his thanks and moved on.


My walking partner for the morning session was Karuna Sindhu. He has got down the service attitude quite well. Our party was honoring a half-day fast, this being a day to remember the avatar, 'Vamana,' yet Karuna will go to knock on someone's door when we spot an apple tree and ask if we could help ourselves to a small number of the delicious fruits. Once granted, if the owner was home, Karuna would stock what he could in his pockets. At least for today we held back from eating until the clock struck 12 noon. Indeed, we are getting our share of apples everyday while investing in the chanting of the mantra during trekking.

Karuna was on a special diet for years which begins with a boiled apple in the morning. If I'm 'The Walking Monk' then he's 'The Apple Monk.'

Interaction with people is limited. In Staffordville we actually connected, but briefly, with pedestrians, otherwise you can say that most everyone is very car-bound. This is the destiny of the world it seems. People are cut-off from each other by way of the automobile. At least on two occasions today a motorist stopped asking for directions, which left us unaware of where to point. Anyways, it's great when there's human interaction.

One more interaction was with water. A good swim in Shenipsit Lake relieved leg tension. It was like heaven.

 
May the Source be with you!

25 miles/40 km

Friday, 25 September 2015

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
Stafford, Connecticut

We Keep Going

Walking continued with an anticipated 'better day' distance-wise. Our trek began in the centre of Oxford at the 'Dunkin' Doughnuts' and from there moved through the dark on windy roads until twilight. Then, after obscure visibility, the sun came strong, blinding motorists who were headed east.
 
Karuna and I were constantly switching to either side of the road in order to not give a scare to motorists. One consideration is absence of light or too much. Another is the sudden bends and twists the roads themselves make. We have barely a road's shoulder to walk on. There are instances where we step into wet grass and patches of poison ivy in order to avoid oncoming traffic.

All is well with attentiveness.

Tom Nappi, news director of HCAM-TV in Hopkinton, was great. Vivasvan, our support-person, drove us back to Hopkinton for a TV interview. The questions he posed surrounded the curiosity of why the walk, its dynamics, when did I begin such pilgrimages, and so on.

What was initially supposed to be a five minute interview went way beyond. Tom also asked about my involvement in community theatre and so I explained that in my 'time-off' (from walking) I travel the globe working with newcomer actors in morality drama based on Vedic themes.

As we were about to leave after the successful session, I noticed an old poster of 'Citizen Kane' on the studio's reception room wall. I remarked, "That is one of the best films of all time by Orson Wells." Everyone was in agreement of course. Vedic theme? It could easily be a story from the Bhagavatam, the likes of Ajamil, in a modern-day context.

In the interview I referred to the Beatles and George Harrison as experimenters of chanting. As we left we handed Tom a copy of 'Chant and Be Happy', a publication on the topic.

We went back on the road where we met some runners and a farmer, Barry Smith, who owns several hundred acres of land on both sides of the Massachusetts and Connecticut border. Nice guy! At 73, he looks robust and happily prides himself in a full head of curly hair. Like many buildings in the area, the homes date back to the 1700's.

 

May the Source be with you!

24 miles/38 km

 

 

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Oxford, Massachusetts

Number of Highs

There were a number of high points today such as stepping on millions of acorns fallen from the trees. It's a sign of prosperity, I guess. Surely you hear those squirrels uttering their satisfaction.

You've also got walnuts a bit larger in size. It's good for acupressure and reflexology on the feet. Karuna and I continued to find an abundance of wild grapes. We can't get enough of them as we coast along, on foot, through the typical New England terrain on shady up-and-down roads.

An accountant took notice of the pilgrimage.

I was walking on Central Turnpike when a semi-retired 'man of numbers,' Peter J. Reilly, pulled over.

"Can I give you a ride?" he asked. I then explained my mission and about our guru, Srila Prabhupada, coming to America 50 years ago. "Can my wife and I offer you lunch?" My response was quick, "Yes but we're vegetarian, no onions and garlic."

"No problem," he explained and also mentioned that his wife, Evy, follows a similar diet. So, it was a date. We ate. We spoke. We made friends.

From there we rushed to Rhode Island, to Brown's University in the city of Providence. A meditation group, headed by Jeremy, had us present meditation on sacred sound. It was more of an interactive and inclusive experience. Sound is powerful - everyone agrees - but sacred sound is beyond powerful. We chanted various mantras which are well established in the yoga tradition of bhakti.

A nice group of students! It appears that they are looking to reap the benefits of meditation just as much as they wish to excel in their studies.

I would like to refer to something Srila Prabhupada said in regards to achieving higher consciousness. "It all depends on attitude," he said.

 
May the Source be with you!

12 miles/ 19km

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Hopkinton, Massachusetts

A Full Day

Off to a great start. Three of us, Karuna, Pradyumna, and I, walk in the dark, westbound. At 5:25 AM we hit the pavement as our driver, Vivasvan, pulls ahead three miles to park and heads back on foot until we meet. He then continues to move forward with us until we reach the vehicle. That's our system until the passions of the morning come to their zenith.

By 9 AM we all needed some downtime. We chose a park in Hopkinton to lie down on the grass under one of its great trees. Before doing so, we noted a bronze statue of a man with a Hitchcockian physique holding a gun in his right hand above his head. Curious, we decided to read the plaque at its base and lo and behold we discovered that this is the starting point of the famous Boston Marathon Run initiated in 1905. Wow!

I napped, as did Pradyumna, and was poised to continue to trek, when I saw a man and woman setting up chairs by the park's gazebo. Seniors, some with the aid of walkers, moved towards those chairs. I asked one of the boys if we could somehow participate in what they were going to do and Jennifer, the woman, introduced herself to me and said I could help. Rachel, a yoga/dance/stretch instructor then led the group of seniors into easy stretches. When asked what I could offer, the folks were seated. I knew I couldn't ask them to do our usual 'Swami Step' to music so I came up with a sit-down version, the 'Swami Swerve', which requires arms in the air, swaying, and twisting at the waist. We all enjoyed moving to the recording of Willie Nelson's rendition of 'Blue Skies' and Steve Miller's Band doing 'I Could Fly Like An Eagle.' Our crew was also enjoying the stretches to address our stiff limbs. Great fun!

Then Jennifer invited us for lunch at the Golden Pond Assisted Living & Memory Care Facility. It was something we couldn't refuse. "No onions and garlic if you don't mind," I asked. She wanted to know why the restrictions but asked unchallengingly. Also she was curious about our meditation beads and the marking on our forehead. Kelsey, from the Bahamas, was the chef and provided us with a gourmet-standard meal catered to our diet. Emma served. They were both darlings.

Onward we went and discovered the most outstanding wild grapes. The greatest discovery of the day, however, was finding Ganesh at the base of a lake's edge. Our men were parked at Pratt Pond and were looking at a promising swimming spot when they spotted a clay-based colourful object submerged in fresh water - the adorable Ganesh. Voila! What a find!

Karuna pulled him out of the water and I pronounced that he join us for our walk as a passenger in our SUV. This deity is known to remove obstacles on the path of devotion. We seated him in the middle of the second row of seats and he appeared like a prince.

The last of this day's installments of joy was time spent at the Hartford centre for ISKCON. There we honored a day for Radha. As I mentioned to Rachel earlier, "We did a half-day fast in dedication to the Goddess." There it ended. I was united with godbrothers like Niranjan Swami, a fine example of a monk!
 

May the Source be with you!

37 km/23 miles

 

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Sunday, September 20th, 2015
Boston/Natick, Massachusetts

Champions Never Go to Sleep

From 72 Commonwealth in Boston at the ISKCON centre, Vivasvan and I set foot on the pathway of the Boulevard and headed west embarking on the first of many steps to cover about six states. On Facebook our pilgrimage project can be viewed under the heading, 'Walking For Our Teachers.' More broadly, this walk is significant in that we pay homage to the people who help us see and do what we could not before. More personally, we take to the road to recognize our own guru's work as he reached out and touched our hearts so that we can see the world by a different light.


We trekked along Beacon St, bore left to reach Centre St. moving through various communities. When our GPS guided us to Highway 9 it looked a bit gloomy. Although there was a sidewalk, it was crooked and broken up because of under usage. "You mean we are going to walk along a fast highway for days?"

Fortunately, at Wellesley we spotted a parallel road and switched. This was more like it. A gentleman sitting at a park bench with newspaper in hand who was kind and expressed he's deep into Zen recommended the new road that would take us to our final steps - to the Town Hall of Natick.

Vivasvan stuck by me all along up to this point before Vicky came to pick us up. Interaction with people was mostly with a swift, "Hi!" but the most precious remark came from a young chap who was climbing into a car with his two companions after an all-nighter. Being the last to get in, he noticed the two of us, raised his arms and said, "Champions never go to sleep!" It was about 6:30 AM and my thought was that Arjuna, the famed warrior of the epic "Mahabharat", was addressed by Krishna as Gudakesh (conqueror of sleep). Well, we had our sleep alright. We started early with our trekking because I believe heroes always rise early.

A second but public and official kick-start to the walking happened after 3 PM today. From the stage at Boston Commons, a send-off kirtan party led myself and others to Commonwealth Pier where the whole Hare Krishna thing unofficially started 50 years ago.
 

May the Source be with you!

27 km/17 miles


 

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Saturday, September 19th, 2015
Boston, Massachusetts

It All Began in Boston

Pilgrims from the USA, Canada, Europe, and other destinations who were keen to be present for a unique historic event, converged at Commonwealth Pier where Srila Prabhupada landed at 5:30 AM on September 17th, 50 years ago.

We did not make a walking venture to commemorate his touching American soil for the first time but rather a three-hour cruise on the 900 person Provincetown II boat. The passengers, myself included, transcended (or tried to) the blistering sun beating on our heads as we immersed ourselves in reflecting on the significance of what would be to secular vision, a small brown monk from India landing in the USA in 1965 and what impact he had for those on board. Speakers went on further to say how perhaps he had impacted the world.

I was given the honour to lead the kirtan in what is called the 'Guru Vandanam' (Prayers to the Guru). This was followed by reflections from senior men and women, disciples of Srila Prabhupada. This was precious.

A second gathering of souls took place at historic Faneuil Hall with Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Graham M. Schweig. The guest speakers who spoke ranged from the political sector to the spiritual one. Now, this might all sound like a real formal experience but actually, it was flavoured by the presence of kirtan. Niranjan Swami sang. And it was Ambarish, the great grandson of Henry Ford, who spoke most endearingly about his ancestral past that captured my heart. What sticks out in my mind regarding what he said about his childhood was that at his Sunday school he demanded to know from his spiritual authorities who is God and how does He look? For this he was made to step out. Of his great grandfather, Henry Ford was known to have a Sufi saint come to his home. Plus to those whom he deemed receptive, he would present them with a pamphlet on reincarnation. Henry Ford was also a vegetarian.

 
May the Source be with you!

5 km




 

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Friday, September 18th, 2015
Toronto/Boston

Long Leap

Yes, it was a long leap from Toronto to Boston by van. It was even a greater challenge for my driver, Vivasvan, who took a four hour drive from Detroit before arriving in Toronto to pick us up. All in all, it was 15 hours in transport for him and a little less for Vicky and I leaving from Toronto.

I enjoyed the company of the two comrades and even more the purpose or intent of our venture. We were off to participate in the 50th anniversary of our guru’s arrival to America. Furthermore, I was about to embark on my first marathon walk in the States beginning on the 20th. It will be a send off from Boston.

There was much anticipation in the air in the capsule of Vivasvan’s van. We drove most of the way with the rooftop open and the side windows at half mast. We were feeling the air alright and it was positive.

My legs were antsy, wanting to be mobile. Maybe one day they’ll make cars with treadmills in them. With no walking put in today due to the drive and adrenaline rushing up and down with great prospects ahead, it added interesting dimensions to the urges of the legs.

Our dialogue covered many things such as upcoming media, the walking route we would take, and so on. But the discussions and tales on the contributions our guru made to the world and how he personally touched many lives to transformational levels, captivated us the most as we sailed down those highways to Boston.


May the Source be with you!

0 km

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Thursday, September 17th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

I Was Walking

I was walking south on Jarvis Street and came full stop at a street juncture. Also waiting for the lights to change was one other person, a young man, tall, bespectacled, and with a partial beard. I thought, “Let me open my mouth, let me try friendship.”

“The climate this evening is just perfect, isn’t it?”

“Agreed.”

“It doesn’t get better than these last few nights.” There’s a pause. “Are you from the city?” I asked.

“Most of my life I’ve lived here but frankly I moved about 30 times to different locations.”

“What? Were your parents with the Canadian Forces that they were assigned to different posts?”

“Not really,” said the young man, “my parents separated when I was young."

“How did you handle that? It must have been tough?”

“Yes, it was,” he admitted. “I eventually got over it. It took a lot of time.”

“Do you think you’ve learned from the experience? I mean to say, there comes a time when we reach the same juncture like what your parents went through, such as their likely disagreements which arose before they decided to part?”

“In time I learned to be very careful about everything,” he said and then he indicated with a smile that he had to take a right while I continued straight down Jarvis.

I was content to have an easy chat with someone I didn’t know and about something quite personal. “Very careful” is what lingered and in my mind I quite concur with the policy. On further deliberation though, I felt that even with prudence, mistakes, mishaps, and misdemeanors come about. It then becomes necessary to have some anchor in life, something to ground you, or else, you become an emotional wreck.

My simple answer on this subject would be that we must cultivate our love for the Divine, and then we can weather any storm.

 
May the Source be with you!

5 km

 

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Boston! Get Ready!

Praveen is a little jealous (I guess that's the word) when I told him of our one day adventure along the Don River the previous day. Surely he'll take a day off to acquiesce to an adventure such as ours when the opportunity avails itself.

Today I had to submit to going back to a grid. Indeed, Praveen and I did 90 degree turns in order to reach back to our starting point. It was the best loop we could fathom. I made a second installment of the stroll in the evening after some packing and preparation for the trip to Boston on Friday. I wasn't sure if the Toronto International Film Festival was still underway. I don't keep up with such things. But it did cross my mind, "If I was to bump into one of those movie stars I might toss him/her a mantra card and hope they may catch on to something spiritual instead of themselves." Of course, you can't stereotype such artists. Some are genuine seekers of the truth and lead a fairly sattvic life, I'm sure.

Now back to the plan for Boston: it will take approximately forty-five days to make the journey from Boston to Butler, Pennsylvania, and then to New York City. The send-off to this venture will be at 4 PM Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, September 20th. The theme of the walk is "Honour Our Teachers." After all, they are the ones who open the door to the world for us and to other worlds as well. I hope to remind us all of the debt we owe those who give us knowledge, especially knowledge about ourselves and life's potential.

So, I'm packing now.

 
May the Source be with you!

7km

 

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Following the Salmon

Karuna, one of our resident monks, and I had planned this half-crazed but necessary warm-up trek for the upcoming marathon from Boston this Sunday. Beginning from the mouth of the Don River, Karuna and I embarked on a river adventure in the city.

We began as the sun moved up from hiding at 6:45am and followed the Don River which at first runs like a straight canal. Before long, somewhere close to the Danforth Bridge, the river becomes its own swervy self and eventually an official trail turns off the river. We took to a meandering cement path, where foot trails disappear and at places you walk on the GO train railroad track. Yes, it's slightly dangerous.

The adventure took us through poison ivy patches, thorny brush (indeed one branch tore into my sleeve), and ducked under a fallen old tree which scraped skin off the tip of my bald head. More pleasantly, we napped at a sandy beach along the river. Apple trees were in abundance - wild, organic, and a wide gamut of tastes. That became our only meal over the 7 1/2 hour trek but for a few intensely powerful wild grapes.

I was quite amazed by the awesome number of bicycle commuters on the southern end of the Don. Of course, you would not be surprised to find some element of the homeless. One fellow had his set-up under a solid bridge, at the end of one of those disappearing trails where it turns into mean forest. Yes, we had to surrender to walking some residential areas. The most intriguing aspect of our foot travel along the Don was seeing the salmon splash their way over rocks for their spawning. They go upstream, splatter, make their leap, and then squiggle their way through more water until they reach their next hurdle. It was totally fascinating.

One more item of the day that sticks out as endearing was the Portuguese road construction fellow who, upon seeing two salmon-coloured monks come along, allowed us preferential entrance onto a barricaded bridge when all other pedestrians were detoured. "Thanks fella! Hare Krishna!"


May the Source be with you!

30 km

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Monday, September 14th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Make Time to Walk

Now is not the time for me to make up excuses for lack of walking.  I flew from Houston in a 2 1/2 hour flight so I can't say that travelling chewed up all my time.  I just have to prioritize and make sure the legs, feet, torso, arms, and head get what they deserve.

How do I use precious time in one of my days? To answer that, I'll say that as an irregular pattern, when I stay grounded for a few days in one location, it can look something like this:

3:30 am     Rise & shower

3:45 am     Chant on japa beads

4:30 am     Chant to guru and Krishna

7:00 am     Greeting of the deity

7:30 am     Teach from Bhagavatam (or be a student)

8:30 am     Plan travel, catch up on e-mails

9:30 am     Catch up on lost rest

10:30 am   Shower & more office work, counselling in person or on the phone

12:00 noon Gayatri mantra and lunch

12:30 pm   More of the above plus cleaning, planning, working on drama scripts & productions, dealing with people, may include public kirtan

6:00 pm     Dinner

6:30 pm     Class or walk for as long as I can, write, read, and sometimes drama practice

11:00 pm   Rest

Now today, I caught Ravi who frequents our temple and I asked him to be my walking partner for next to an hour or so.  What I admire about him is that although his residence is 1 1/2 kilometres from our temple ashram he walks there all the time.  He does not drive and will not buy a car.  Transportation is by city transit or by walking.  He and I took to walking around the Annex area.  It made my day complete.

 
May the Source be with you!
 
5 km

 

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Sunday, September 13th, 2015
Houston, Texas

Contributions

Three speakers presented their views on the contribution made by the founder and teacher of the Hare Krishna Movement, 50 years since its seedling stage. From the perspective of one of our senior monks, Romapada Swami, the achievements our teacher, Srila Prabhupada, contributed to the world are:

1) Promoting the loving relation with a personal God

2) Establishing a leadership of brahmins to guide a spiritual community.

Then a woman from the medical profession, Rambhoru, coming from the angle of good health expressed:

3) A preventative formula for the physical and mental welfare of

the world.

To clarify this point she said that people benefit merely from following the formula of the four regulative principles: a) no meat eating, b) no drugs or liquor, c) no gambling, and d) no whimsical or casual sex. She also credited him for;

4) Creating an alternative family, a community, ‘something bigger

than yourself’.

She also briefly added that here is the person who spearheaded:

5) Indian food, particularly prasadam.

and introduced:

6) Indian clothes to the west.

And finally, a Syrian born Krishna monk, Bhakti Sundar Swami, expressed his appreciation for our teacher’s contributions for:

7) Introducing the culture of chanting.

Furthermore, the swami mentioned:

8) The promotion of non-violence or the protection of animals.

And as I recorded it:

9) Prabhupada’s insertion into the world at large - transcendental

literature. He compiled Vedic wisdom in such volumes as

never seen before. He became the most prolific proponent of

Vedic knowledge in his time.

You could feel that the presentation was well received by all and it enhanced the love and respect for our teacher, Srila Prabhupada. From there on, we all danced and chanted up a storm.

In my notes for the day I wrote from Rambhoru’s talk, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. The source is poet William Ross Wallace and it means what it says, “The one raising the child, influences the child.” In fact, I put a plug in over the microphone saying that we need to look at the next 50 years and put more attention to strong relations and family values.

 
May the Source be with you!

3 km

 

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

Saturday, September 12th, 2015
Houston, Texas

Days Short and Long

Days are shortening in our northern hemisphere. It can be seen when out in the streets or in the countryside. I’m in the suburbs and the sun peeks out before 7 AM. In the dark, during my walk, I catch the sound of squeaky voices - their source I do not know. Little frogs perhaps? The Rottweiler, who bears a collar, is making his rounds sniffing and searching. I couldn’t understand why he’s roaming about so freely, almost like a stray dog.

A possum was doing much the same, although no collar. This guy is really free. I couldn’t scare him, neither with my footsteps nor even with my towering size. No intimidation from his side whatsoever.

I’m the only one on the street, or sidewalk shall we say, but I can never feel alone. I have this mantra with me. I then enter the temple room. Dozens of pilgrims are chanting with the use of their meditational beads. It is a beautiful devotional mood.

Then, after a great presentation by Romapada Swami, Bhakti Sundara Swami, and Vaisesika, I dove into our drama practice with two more run-throughs before actors donned costumes and makeup. Then came the performance. I announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, ‘Gita: Concise’". The Gauranga Hall was full. The applause and its volume demonstrated eagerness. The show had begun. The lights went on. The character, Ganesh, sticks his elephantine head out of the curtain every which way. The curtain drew open. The magical message of the Gita was conveyed artfully over the next 25 minutes. The applause exploded.

It was all possible to assemble 'Gita: Concise' in 24 hours with the use of recorded voiceover. By the mercy of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, the show became a reality. The day was long.

 
May the Source be with you!

4 km

 

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Friday, September 11th, 2015
Houston, Texas

U R Greeted

You are greeted by locals and by guests with the use of typical Vaishnava jargon. “Hare Krishna!” is a commonly used salutation. “Haribol!” which literally means “Say the name, Hari (God)!” is also popular. “Krishne Matir Astu” is used by those more familiar with the contents of the Krishna conscious literature we read (“May Krishna be with you” is a good enough translation for that).

How about in English? Do Hare Krishnas ever use English words to say hello? Well, the word “Hello” or “Hi” is super rare in addressing each other.

Why not try, “How are you?” and you might get something in the form of an answer like, “Fine, now that I’m seeing you.” This is how I was greeted by Vaisesika, one of the honored guests at the event that will be held in Houston this weekend.

The site of the 50th anniversary of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, coming to the west is on 34th Street at Iskcon’s magnificent temple in Houston. People have come here mostly from the US’s Midwest from as far north as Chicago. Presentations have begun today commemorating the historical event of the presence of Hare Krishna on western soil 50 years ago. There will be kirtan, classes, fantastic food, a cultural program held at the the convention centre, and there will be a play – our play, the one I’m bringing to Houston – a play called ‘Gita: Concise’.

My crew is flying in from Florida, Montreal, and Toronto. Some younger generation volunteers will join in, young women from St. Louis and Chicago. As a celibate monk, we generally do not take the company of the opposite sex as habit but from a director’s point of view, the service must get done and everyone busies themselves in such a way that it becomes a team effort with a family feel. Parents have somehow placed trust in me. “For the stage”, I’ve come to resolve, "I can work with everyone".

We only had today to theatrically pull it all together. I asked the actors/dancers to review "Gita: Concise" from Facebook beforehand. This review offered some preparedness for tomorrow’s performance. Yes, we had only 24 hours to put together this epic piece of learning. It will take a miracle, at least some faith.

"Faith", our guru said, "is trust in something sublime".

 

May the Source be with you!

0 km

 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Thursday, September 10th, 2015



Thursday, September 10th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

In My Private Reading

In my private reading today some powerful points of information appeared so much compressed in one particular purport from the Gita, 3.42. I feel compelled to share this information.

"The senses are different outlets for the activities of lust. Lust is reserved within the body, but it is given vent through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. These outlets are not in use when there is superior consciousness, or Krishna consciousness. In Krishna consciousness the soul makes direct connection with the Supreme; therefore the hierarchy of bodily functions, as described here, ultimately ends in the Supreme Soul. Bodily action means the functions of the senses, and stopping the senses means stopping all bodily actions. But since the mind is active, then even though the body may be silent and at rest, the mind will act - as it does during dreaming. Above the mind is the determination of the intelligence and above the intelligence is the soul proper. If, therefore the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely the intelligence, mind, and senses, will be automatically engaged. In the Katha Upanishad there is a similar passage, in which it is said that the objects of sense gratification are superior to the senses, and mind is superior to the sense objects. If, therefore, the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance that the senses will become engaged in other ways."

The above is a beautiful explanation of the technicalities of the self.

One last remark is to mention the passing of a dear friend and monk, Sankirtan from Europe. He was taken by cancer but led a glorious devotional life. On this last birth anniversary of Krishna, September 5th 2015 - he left his body. Please pray.


May the Source be with you! 

5 km


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Brighton, Ontario

A Moment in the Country
 
Nanda, Rajasuya, and I made the auto journey to where the big apple structure, off of highway 401 east, suggests you take at least a quick glance at its size and redness. From here we headed north on Road 25 to make our way to yet another family who have relocated to this area of rural loneliness. That makes three families now. There's rolling hills, a mix of fields and forest, and country homes.

The country home of Jai Chaitanya, Rasa and four children is a rustic century house. A nearby barn foundation will be reactivated. The old-post wood structure will be reincarnated soon. Jai plans to have a new one set atop the old stone foundation before winter sets in. The arrangement is to accommodate the animals they own, from bovine to sheep & goats.

It's real country life for this family and we just got a taste of it. Rasa's mother, Yasomati, who is world-renowned for co-ordinating kirtan is also present here and shows her quiet side, which is what rural life does to you. It tames you.

We made our way on foot along the property of sixty-five acres - of fresh air, dusty loam soil, and trees of different sorts. Brunch was great, all home-cooked. But time ran out. Our interest and the token encouragement coming from the three of us city slickers hardly made a dent into any spirit of apprehension for country life on their part. They are committed to stay.

We bulleted our way back to the city where everyone's back to the grind. Yes, school and work are in gear for everyone. The best I can get, that is, the most countryish I can be in the big city is to walk the streets. Running errands permitted me to go through the hustle-bustle and this made me feel like a country boy.


May the Source be with you!

7 km

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Impressions of...

Here are some impressions from the visit of our South African couple, Tamohar and Merumala.

Tamohara: "After spending a week at the temple in Toronto, I can say I feel spiritually alive. The hospitality at the temple is something out of this world. I would recommend a trip to ISKCON Toronto to anyone who wishes to learn about bhakti. Walking with HH Bhaktimarga Swami daily was an experience I will never forget. I can describe the feeling at this temple as a second home."

Merumala: "It's been a whirlwind experience since we landed on Canadian soil! We have been enveloped in much kindness from both the local and devotee community. I have also been able to emerge from my shell and have been able to act in one of HH Bhaktimarga Swami's world famous plays which was an honour. I also have a new-found appreciation for fitness, seeing that the community here loves to walk, especially Maharaj, who has taken us on many adventurous trails including a 10 km walk through one of the local forests. I would encourage all spiritual seekers to visit ISKCON Toronto for a wonderful time of learning and thrills!"

My impressions of Merumala and Tamohar: "They did not complain once, enjoyed a week of spiritual growth, and got to see the city through the eyes of a monk. They are like a mild god and goddess and like many people from South Africa, they have honey-coated hearts."


 
May the Source be with you!

0 km

 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Monday, September 7th, 2015
North York, Ontario

Pre-School Opening

A woman on her way, turning a corner to enter Govinda's dining room, noticed me sitting in the office. She was quite animated.

"Oh, remember me? You shaved off my son's hair twenty-five years ago at his mandan. She was referring to the standard rite of passage in the ancient Vedic tradition. I have shaved plenty of adult and baby heads and her child was one of them.

I asked her, "Did his hair grow back?"

Facetiously she replied, "Did it ever! Now it's all over his face!"

"Yes, he grew up." I said.

She laughed. "His head of hair has been quite long and he sports a stylish beard," she said. "I tell him to cut his hair but he doesn't listen. I have to hand it to him though, when he goes for a new job then he goes to the barber."

"Have him come to the temple. We'll take him as it is. Maybe he'll become a monk and your worries about excessive hair will dissipate."

The lively lady offered her pranams and went on to eat.

Two of my sisters, Connie and Pauline, came to visit. We walked to a park that Connie and I rested at when we were moderate hippies and country bumpkins coming to experience the big city. That was in the summer of '72. Yes, we had hair in keeping with the style of the day.

Today, we hit a milestone. A small team of devotees opened up a branch of a Montessori pre-school called 'Vedic Roots.' It was the good lady herself, Dr. Maria Montessori, who expressed this about the particular approach of schooling that she started, "Montessori is an education for independence, preparing not just for school but for life." I wish she was personally with us to say it.

It was the orientation for teachers, parents, and some students. Personally I view the project as something ground-breaking. My comment is, "Real education runs in the parallel lines of wisdom, both devotional and practical, coming together to provide the child ultimate happiness."

 
May the Source be with you!

6 km

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Sunday, September 6th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

In Our Hand

Another beautiful day marks our calendar. It is called Vyasa-Puja, the day for remembering our guru, Srila Prabhupada, on his birthday. I will present to you now my poem which I offered to him.

In Our Hand

I keep in my kurta pocket

A worry that you’ll be forgotten

That results of hard work done

Will be tossed like air on soft cotton
 

I have a thought that

The cutting edge you brought

Will be twisted

In all that you’ve taught

 
I have a concern that

As the clock keeps ticking

And time passes quickly

Kali increases his devious tricking

 
I have a humble opinion

That danger lurks ahead

Unless we stick to our guns,

Anchor sadhana and kirtan be spread

 
In my other pocket a feeling

That your mercy will linger

Success will be proceeding

Where ‘ere you point the finger

 
I can say for certain

That fifty years have passed

Recognition will come

Your legacy bound to last

 
I have these mixed feelings

Regarding failure or success

Only time will tell –

Make, break, or be a mess

 
Yours was the first step

Ours is the second

The third, and fourth –

The deck is in our hand

 

May the Source be with you!

7 km

 

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

Saturday, September 5th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Waking and Walking

Waking for the early arati on Krishna’s birthday was a challenge physically because our rehearsal had finished at 1:15 AM. However, the spirit was high and knowing the attendance would also be high made the chore of rising easier.

Right after the glorious chant at 4:30 AM lead by my doctor, Dr. Pundit (AKA Jagannatha Mishra), a large group sat down to hear my reading from the Gita, chapter 4. But, before I read, I opened with a comment.

“It is said that Krishna was born on this day but actually He was not. In fact, He was not born.”

Explanations on this apparent contradiction have been explained by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, along the lines that Krishna is known as aja, not born under normal circumstances. You might say it was an immaculate conception. He came to this world not under the force of karma but simply by His wish to do so, on the strength of His own desire.

A good number of people in the group had also become aware of the statement made by US congress woman, Tulsi Gabbard. Her message of good will from her constituency in Hawaii credits Srila Prabhupada for bringing awareness of Krishna to the west. She quoted the Gita on two occasions in her speech, 8.66 and 4.35, regarding surrender to the Supreme and also the importance of feeling that we are all part of Krishna who is our true friend.

Our building, the temple and ashram, became a squeezed-in situation. Pilgrims from all 'round came to witness the beauty of Krishna’s deity. Our drama, “Krishna Is”, was a big hit. When the clock struck 12 at midnight, the doors to the shrine opened for a viewing of a regally decorated set of murtis (deities) while exuberant chanting went on. Everyone then broke their fast of full abstinence from food for the day.

As usual on Janmastami, Krishna’s apparent birth, I took my trek down the ravine to do my chanting on beads. The South African couple joined me. I reassured them there’s no crocodiles in the swamp where we’d be walking and no lions by the grassy meadows. We all survived on this walk of tamed urban Canadian wilderness. It is Krishna’s mercy.

 

May the Source be with you!

12 km

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Friday, September 4th, 2015


Friday, September 4th, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

The Day Before

On this fine morning when pink and blue blends occupy the sky, we took the boardwalk at the Beaches. The awesome element about any beach is that there is no encumbrance to thought, contemplation, or any form of dreaminess. The open air and boundless sky seem to generate the spirit of optimism and hope.

Praveen was kind to drive us to this busy, athletic-prone place. So many people take advantage of the good breezes that glide over the surface of the lake and make a pleasant greeting to the face. Runners, yogis, cyclists, kayakers, and walkers do the right thing, looking after themselves, in order to perhaps have better performance throughout the day.

Of course, it is only proper to look after the machinery given to us and I would say of myself, I don’t fancy sitting in the corner of the ashram where things tend to be so enclosed. Of course, I’ll say that now because it’s early September. For me, the sky is Krishna, or vice versa. At least we can say that the creation has a connection to the Creator. There is the sun and the sunshine that can be taken as an analogy. There is practically no difference between the two elements.

The sun did come up slowly then, by the way, over Lake Ontario as we walked to see his glowing pride. He was a red hot power ball. Our two South African guests were enthused to see such intensity of colour

All the calmness we placed ourselves in was really a preparation period for tomorrow’s birthday honouring Krishna. And, in an effort to please Him for tomorrow, a group of volunteers worked very hard with me on forming the drama ‘Krishna Is’ hours later, at a time when similar sky colours please the eyes . Our former temple president, Visvakarma, popped in for a surprise visit. Our cast was happy to meet him. We gave him an applause for being one of the main people responsible for securing the building in which we can perform and serve Krishna. I think it excited him to see all the decorations and activities going on in preparation for what to us is like Christmas. Thank you Krishna, for coming here to Earth.

 

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

For Granted

The couple from South Africa were quite amazed by the no boundaries neighbourhood yards. There are little or no fences, walls, or gates to demark one’s territory or there’s no barbed wire or the likes or foreboding broken glass to keep intruders out. This enthrals them. We take this very much for granted in our free world here in most of North America.

Now don’t get me wrong. South Africa’s a great country. I go there every year, yet segregation of sorts persists there.

Another thing that has excited Tamohara and Merumala, the couple, is the fact that the guru of our world community, Iskcon, had not only visited the very building that they are staying in but he, Srila Prabhupada, was also the negotiator involved in the purchase of this building. He also spent some time in our temple and ashram for a three to four day stay back in ’76. In fact, he slept in the room where I now sleep. I take it so much for granted. He planted his, as we say, lotus feet on the floor of the quarters where I reside and rested his body and conducted conversations in the very space that I pace, sit in and lie in. Oh, wretched me, how is it that I cannot appreciate this enough?

After our walk, with the keen observances made by Tamohara and Merumala about home and properties and the way we live here in North America, we had a sit down in our guru’s quarters. They were clicking away with their camera at all they considered novel. For instance, the table off of which he ate and the bed that he slept on are both still here and are intact.

Finally, one thing that really struck the two happened at the tail end of our walk when we came to a street light, which over there in South Africa is called a ‘robot’ (pronounced with a strong rolling ‘R’). A bus driver stopped at that juncture, he opened the door of the bus and wished us a ‘good one’. He then took the intercom phone in his vehicle and sang a bhajan. The couple was astounded, “Is everybody in Canada this friendly?” Anyways, did the bus driver impress us? Yes, he did. Was he feeling good? Yes, he was. I wish I had his enthusiasm.

 
May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015


Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

Humid

Dense moisture hung in the air. It decided to spill heavily in the form of rain and just when one of our visiting monks was departing. Navayogendra Swami hails from Northern India and makes his pilgrimage here, jet-setting (no criticism implied here). Yes, he had put Toronto on his itinerary before leaving for Vancouver.

The downpour came, but for five minutes or less, and as the swami was leaving a young couple from South Africa arrived – Tamohara and fiancĂ©, Merumala. They are trying out ashram living for a week in a place new to them – Canada. They’ve also come to see me and this is one of the reasons for grounding myself for the week.

Welcome to Canada!

Humidity persisted, even into the night, and there was no way I was going to sleep easy. It meant a trek down any old wayward street. I decided on the ancient trail, Davenport. Here, indigenous folks did tread but it hardly looks like the days of yore. It is now a so-called ‘developed’ area. From there I moved onto Yonge Street which is also very built up.

I was my usual self, calm, robed, and with japa meditation beads in hand (the right one) going southbound. Groups of people passed by me, mostly youthful ones. One group of lads ‘from the burbs’ I thought, walked by me but one with a baseball cap stopped in front reminding me of Krishna merely by his stance. No, he did not take the iconic three-fold bending form that Krishna is known for, rather, he stood before me in pranam format, that is, hands folded together. It was Shrey, the son of my secretary, a pious young teenager, who like many of his friends with a Krishna background, gives me a reminder of the Supreme.

Thanks for that, Shrey.

Immediately I thought, "Do you know where your children are?" thinking about the parents. But Shrey is quite old enough. He mentioned he just came from the game. The city’s baseball team, the Blue Jays, are having a great season so there’s a bit of a hype in the air. Anyways, it was a pleasant surprise and that little incident was worth the experience on this humid night.

 

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015


Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Toronto, Ontario

The Learning Theme of the Day
 
We had looked at 'The Gita' this morning from the perspective of seeing the nature of nature. In Chapter Two we were reminded of the ups and downs of life. You learn tolerance from it.

At noon I heard a bit of shouting coming from the temple's foyer. It was two women in a disagreement. "By golly," I thought, "this shouldn't happen in a temple." Yet it does from time to time. A little lack of tolerance perhaps. If I allow for a cool-down period and if I'm given the strength and courage, I dare shoot for making peace between the two as early as tomorrow.

In the evening Nick and I hit a trail with lots of ups and downs. I took the lead as we moved through the ways of the ravine. The intention was to bear the slight inconvenience of the upward and downward mobility. Tolerance, we were imposing it on ourselves.

Both Nick and I had learned of three excellent plum trees. They are rather tucked away from the view of most hikers. The trees had their branches drooping with fruit. Two in particular yielded so many of those juicy and fleshy balls that due to their maturity most of the harvest had fallen to the ground. It was a minor discouraging factor but one nonetheless. Most fruit pickers prefer to pluck whatever is there on the tree as opposed to gathering them from the ground. Ants tend to devour the grounded ones.

Anyways, it's a small lesson in tolerance. It's required to grab them in time. Timing is precise. Three days before they were perfect for the picking.

Our guru used to say, "Strike while the iron is hot!"

 

May the Source be with you!

6 km