Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
Walking Monk Makes a Stop in the City
This article appeared in 'The Vindicator' on Saturday, May 14th, 2016. The title above is as it appeared and the text is by Bruce Watson of Youngstown.
Sitting underneath a tree by the main library near the corner of Wick and Rayen avenues, a man known simply as 'The Walking Monk' enjoyed a quiet Friday afternoon. Arriving for the first time in the city on his pilgrimage across the US. His only supplies: a cellphone he rarely uses, prayer beads, a watch, some business cards and the bright orange robes and sandals he wears while he traverses the land. Bhaktimarga Swami, 63, is a Hare Krishna monk who started his pilgrimage just three days ago when he began in Butler, PA. He plans to walk entirely on foot to San Francisco, walking 20 miles a day. He left no timetable for his arrival on the West Coast. The monk arrived in Youngstown on Thursday night and had the opinion that people are easier to talk to in the city, finding them vocal and approachable.
"I'm here to encourage people more toward introspective walking," he said. "Just to get out of the car, give it a break, experience more of the car-free, care-free lifestyles. Take a little down-time for yourself and make a prayer for it."
The walk is to celebrate Bhaktimarga's guru or teacher, Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a spiritual teacher and founder of the Hare Krishna Movement in 1965 in New York City as well as a new form of yoga called Bhakti Yoga.
According to religious facts.com, Hare Krishna is the popular name for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. It is based on Hinduism.
The Hare Krishnas worship the Hindu god Krishna as the one Supreme God. Their goal is "Krishna Consciousness" and their central practice is chanting the Hare Krishna mantra for which they are named.
Growing up Catholic in Ontario Canada, Bhaktimarga said he became interested in older civilizations and cultures and found his teacher through meeting monks in Toronto in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"When I was Christian, I used to wonder, 'What does it mean: Our Father which are in heaven, hallowed be thy name?" he said. "And when I became a Krishna monk I said 'Oh there's the name, Hare Krishna.'"
He's been a monk for more than 30 years, traveling and spreading the message of inner peace, spirituality and the teachings he learned from his guru.
As he makes his way across the country, Bhaktimarga says he survives on the kindness of strangers for food, shelter, and hospitality.
In the 20 years he has performed his pilgrimages, he said he's rarely met dangerous people but he recalls some close-encounters with bears.
The nomadic monk also is accompanied by his assistant, Gopala Keller, 32, a follower of Hare Krishna from West Virginia who travels ahead of Bhaktimarga to ensure he's appropriately accommodated and protected, making preparations for his arrival into towns and cities.
After Youngstown, the monk plans to go in the direction of Cleveland and further west afterward.
May the Source be with you!