Sunday, 23 April 2017

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Durban, South Africa

Appreciation for the Dramas

I’ve been here for a week, being very busy especially in shaping two dramas for stage presentation at the Chariot Fest.  The special treat for this morning was a walk near the ocean at Umhlanga, just north of Durban.  Tamohara arranged for a group of us to take this trail where you have ocean, jungle, swamp and city.  It’s been the most relaxed time since I came here.  Overall, great hospitality, food, weather—it’s fall here—and company.  I’ve managed to squeeze in a few minutes with sannyasi monks.

Here’s some feedback on the two dramas presented:

Regarding “The Gita”:
“The first time I saw your, ‘The Gita,’ I could understand what the message was.  Not before,”
“‘The Gita’ was so engaging for the audience and performers.”
“My mother, a Christian, was crying at the words and movement in ‘The Gita.’”

Regarding “Many Mothers Many Fathers”:
            “It is very deep.  I got goose-bumps with the queen scene.”
“The best thing you’ve done so far.”
Radha Sundari
“The script is brilliant.  You’ve inspired the youth with the dramas.  They started their own theatre group.  Now they’re taking interest in kirtan (chanting).”
“Jayananda, the little boy who became the dead son, is absolutely adorable.”
Senior woman
“There are so many strong emotions in the story.  I appreciated the wisdom that came through.  People need to hear this.  They attend so many funerals, but they don’t know what is really going on at death.”
“That guy playing the king really knows how to dance.”

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
Durban / Johannesburg / Mauritius

Moving / Improving

I got in a few rounds of chanting japa (on the beads) and in the round, circumambulating the temple in Durban, before embarking on a flight to Johannesburg and then on to Mauritius.  A sannyasi (monk) is always on the move.  He’s always stirring up dust, in certain ways, influencing people’s lives while actually kicking dust in the air with his walking.

The walking for the day stopped there.  Your jet-age monk has different modes of travel.  However, nothing can replace moving one foot forward and then the opposite one doing the same thing; one at a time.  It was pleasant being at the Johannesburg airport considering the size that it is.  To go from one place to another, you are forced to walk.

For today’s sojourn, I had as my companions Kala, Dinanath, Bishma and Balarama.  Two persons cancelled out on this trip; one received notice of a new job which began this morning, and the notice added “show up, or else—there’s a long queue of people behind you that seek your position.”

The second person who was due to travel with us lost his passport.  I always say, “There are two things you don’t wanna miss out on in this life—the passport and the purport.”

“Purport” refers to the elaborations made by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in his books.  Assimilation of these enlightened explanations will change your life.  Heaven knows we all need to improve ourselves.

Prove you can improve through the effort.

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
Belle Mare, Mauritius

Swimming, No Walking

The next best thing to walking is swimming, and one of the best beaches on the island of Mauritius is Belle Mare, which I frequent when I come here.  We justify such recreation after hours in flight and  automobiles.

Blocking out a two hour period was the time slotted for wet fun.  Eight of us guys went—all Krishna devotees.  We took the challenge to swim the distance to the coral reef, taking care to step where you see white sand; everything else that’s dark below could be a prickly urchin, or who knows what.  Varieties of fish surrounded us.  We were in scaly company.

Reaching the reef was a first for our group.  Of course, I'm just a visitor, but I guess it takes a North American’s bravado, or foolishness, to dare what some locals will not.

This was a kind of a milestone for us because of the distance.

Nick, from Russia, watched over our beachwear and belongings while we got wet.  On our return he said, “I counted eight of you who went in but only seven came out.”

“Who was missing?” we asked.

It was Bishma from South Africa.  He got out of the water fast for what they call in this part of the world, “a toilet break.”

“Who’s breaking a toilet?” the question was asked, and all in good fun.

The fun continued.  Seven hours were then given to the spiritual theatre practice I'm involved in so often.  It’s so rewarding.  People tell me all the time, “Thanks for engaging our youth.”

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Durban, South Africa

The Show Did Go On
Thanks to Kadamba Kanana Swami, Dutch-born monk extraordinaire of chanting and teaching.  He kindly handed me a book, hot off the press.  Golokera Prema Dhana (Sabda Press) is a collection of Vaishnava quotes.  If I could just share two of them.

The Cow of My Senses
The cow of my senses, who yearns to hear the narration of the Lord’s pastimes in Gokula, has become very unhappy by wandering in the desert of my voice.  I pray the merciful saintly devotees may lead that cow to the oasis of my ears and there feed her the nectar of Krishna’s pastimes.
Krsnadas Kaviraj

The Horse of the Mind
Beaten by hundreds of whips of material sufferings, the horse of my mind is running wildly on the dangerous road of the senses.  O Lord Madhava, please rein in that wild horse and tie it to the hitching post of Your lotus feet with the ropes of strong devotional service.

There’s more juice in this book.  Thank you K. K. Swami.

Both Kadamba and I gave initiation to two brothers.  Senathur is a film maker from Pretoria, and I gave him the name “Sri Ram.”  His younger photographer brother received diksha (initiation) from Kadamba who gave the name “Dhanudhara.”

The initiation ceremony—which actually involved a few more dynamics than I mentioned here—crowned my morning.  The evening crown was the premiere performance of “Many Mothers Many Fathers” highlighting the life of Emperor Chitraketu.  The story makes a strong endorsement for reincarnation.

May the Source be with you!

3 km

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Durban, South Africa

South Africa and Me

I started coming to South Africa approximately ten years after apartheid was dissolved.  Apartheid refers to the separation of the races when a white minority ruled.  I had not witnessed the changes the country went through when Nelson Mandela influenced them.  What I do know is there is much dissatisfaction by the public with the current rulers in South Africa.

This spirit of being disheartened regarding political policies is a global issue.  What can be said?  There is a wish that morality (dharma) could reign supreme if spirituality can’t.  I recall something our guru said, “If you can’t be a sadhu (holy man) at least be a gentleman.”

Changes?  In South Africa?  Well I can only say I’ve seen changes in Krishna devotee’s lives.  I started coming to South Africa to assist in the entertainment for the Chariot Festivals held during the Easter weekend.  With the help of the organizers, we have succeeded in making the drama the biggest drawing card.  The actors I’ve been working with, starting in 2000, are a bit older and I’m working with their offspring now.

Paramananda is an example of this.  He was one of my first actors who knew martial arts on an exceptional level.  He and wife Radha Sundari (whom I harnessed also for her ballet skills) now have five boys.  The oldest, Shukadev, is eighteen, and he often plays leading male roles.  Next in line is his younger brother, Sanatana, and then still younger Gambhira. They are both involved.  The kids of the original cast have “come of age” and I’m happy as this unfolds. 

That’s the change I see.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Durban, South Africa

Jesus / Jagannath

Every year, the Christian community holds a procession in the Chatsworth area where I’m accommodated.  Perhaps it also goes on elsewhere in the Durban district.  Being Good Friday, Jesus is  remembered during this Easter weekend in many places around the globe.

The procession I viewed was comprised of followers on foot and in groups, each one having one person dressed as Christ, and two others as representatives of the Roman Empire who would feign flogging him as he carried a crucifix.  There were cries of “Jesus” in a joyous tone.  Most people in the procession were clothed in casual wear—T-shirt and pants, both men, women and children.

I’m glad to see that a spiritual theme of sorts is at the heart of Easter.

For Vaishnavas, those dear to Vishnu, or Krishna, (and hopefully perceived as dear to people) are also celebrating someone.  His name also starts with a J.  The name is Jagannath, which means “Lord of the World.”  It is one of many names which refer to Krishna.  A large procession takes place near the beachfront in Durban every year.  Here, Krishna, His brother, and His sister are honoured in wooden image forms as they are situated on three large chariots pulled by ropes, as chanting happily pierces the air.  Basically, we are looking at a re-enactment of an ancient festival from Puri, India.  To my knowledge the procession has been an attraction for 2,000 years in that part of India—Orissa, although the original chariot ride by the threesome was much older.

Apparently Jesus visited Jagannath in Puri during his time.

May the Source be with you!

6 km

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Durban, South Africa

Intense Fun

One of our girls, during our drama practice, went through an epileptic attack.  It lasted briefly.  Fortunately one of the boys had a first aid background and knew what to do.  The group of us came to her side and chanted softly.  She was revived in a matter of minutes.  She was such a good sport, I mean to say, a good team-player.  She smiled when she saw us.

“Does this happen often to you?” I asked.

“No, it hasn’t for a while.  Funny thing is, I work at a hospital.”

There was a hyped-up scene from “The Gita” that we were enacting and that seemed to stir her up.  The scene portrays the personification of the mind chasing the soul, the victim.  This scene usually excites the audience so I can understand how it arouses the actors.

Actors do try to get into their parts.  It is much like becoming one with the role in which you play.

Since I arrived in Durban it has been non-stop with rehearsals, sadhana (which includes walking) and giving classes.  I manage some sleep but not much.

The intensity of it all is somewhat easy to bear because the results are rewarding.  I’m seeing my crew (mostly young folks) thrive on the practices.  They are learning the philosophy.  And very important is the sense of numbers or counting.  It’s four beats or four counts, even to some of the martial arts moves.  Fun discipline!

May the Source be with you!

5 km