Saturday, 25 March 2017

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Encourage / Recommend

Winter was on the rebound.  It came back, hard and cold, overnight.  But it’s temporary, like all things in this world.  The people of Ottawa seem transcendent to it all.  On Somerset Street, which is the location of a long running Govinda’s restaurant, managed by ISKCON’s Shankar, a native of Trinidad, the students of Ottawa U are bundled up as they walk on the way to their classes.

The location is very unique, a bungalow, comfortably situated in the mid-point of the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal.  Shankar and I were just reflecting on the idealness of the spot.  Always you find a trickle of persons on this street—24/7.  It can’t be better for location.

Because of the slope you tread on this street, you automatically warm up for the slight climb. I unfortunately did not make room in the day for such brisk walking.  I was occupied in people talk.  My visits are short.  Time is of the essence.  I’m making my visits to those who are on the front line of the mission.  It’s all about encouragement and, during certain moments, mentioning something that may stand as correction, or seeing and doing things in an alternative way.  They take the form of recommendations.

I flew to Mississauga for another gathering to do with fundraising for a glorious temple in India.  Handed to me was a 3D card sent to donors of the project.  It’s an image of the Divine as protector.  The reverse reads, “I bow down to Narasimha who is ferocious and heroic like Vishnu.  He is burning from every side.  He is terrific, auspicious and the death of death personified.”

May the Source be with you!

0 km
Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
Russell, Ontario


Signs of spring.  It may have been the last blast of real winter which came in a few days ago, leaving remnants of snow piles in this area, but clearly the thaw is on.  Rivulets of water flow as the result of a major melt.  Snow, ice and water are three stages of one element and that’s what you see.

In Barrhaven, a suburb of Ottawa, where our sanga program was to be held, I witnessed nature’s power of the water-flow running under those piles—piles ready to collapse.  Every day, nature seems to take on a new form of it’s own.

In Barrhaven, at the home of Surrender and family, I had a captive audience of adults.  It was in the morning that I had a less captive audience of pre-schoolers.  Basically, they are Krishna kids at school in Russell.  I should say for these young whipper-snappers, I had to work very hard to gain their attention while reading about Krishna and the cowherd boys, His boys.  It required animation and implementing songs.  The teachers gave me informal words of praise.  Had I not become a swami, perhaps my vocation would have been that of a school teacher.

Now, for walking, today I took to somewhat of a frisky pacing in the new community centre, the old Registration Building with its 2500 square feet of expanse.  Nice structure.  In 1915 a major fire ripped through this town and practically flattened everything except this building.  It’s solid, for sure, and it’s now being used for devotion.

May the Source be with you!

4 km
Monday, March 20th, 2017
Russell, Ontario

Pedestrian Horse

Daivata and I drove along Boundary Road and entered the precincts of Russell, a bedroom community to Ottawa, the nation’s capital.  By the way, Canada is 150 years old this year.  We passed by a fair-sized sign reading, “Russell Trails.”

Okay, this is a town that takes pride in walkways that take you through the backwoods’, so to speak.  Daivata and I were fixed on the objective—let’s explore.

And so we did.  Relieved of our vehicle, we checked it out, the snow laden trail of tranquility that is edged by family homes on one side and farmer’s fields on the other.  At a juncture of a gravel road, we ventured to the right on country dirt.  There came a woman with her twenty-five year old stallion.  He was being walked and I must say, I rarely meet pedestrian horses.

We gave him a good stroke of affection.  I was realizing how very important it is for man to reach out to animal.  History tells that they are inseparable in their service to each other.  I could elaborate, but later.

Service is a common theme for today.  It is Krishna Dulal who champions this.  Within one year he opened a pre-school here, a restaurant (only vegetarian preps and prasadam served) and purchased a community centre—the old Registry Building, now in function.  I was there to inaugurate the event with kirtan chanting and some words of appreciation to their community that’s taking bold steps.

We then feasted.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Saturday, March 18th, 2017
Montreal, Quebec

Train Ride

It was a really pleasant train ride.  I got caught up on sleep.  At the Cornwall stop, heading for Montreal, Joe Karwat came to sit next to me.  Bearded, polite (he referred to me as “sir” each time he would say something) and a good conversationalist, he mentioned he met Krishna monks on the street about ten years ago.

“They gave me a cookie.”

“How was it?”

“I haven’t eaten it yet.”

“Really?  All this time you’ve been keeping the cookie?” I asked.  At this point I knew he couldn’t be put in the Cookie Monster category.  Oh well.  He was nice.

Shortly after arriving at the central train station, myself and a group of members from the Krishna community made it to the underground subway station at Concordia for kirtan.  The kirtan was lively.  Thousands upon thousands of passersby—commuters—heard our sound, and many nodded in approval.

After two hours of this sweetness, I sat with the ISKCON council members who are revered as the elders, along with the next generation of twenty or so highly devotional and qualified younger folks, some who are still in school and some who are well established in the professional world.

Our topic was “Succession Planning.”  The natural theme I posed, being the facilitator, was, “Can you all work co-operatively to succeed the current group with your innovation, sincerity and devotion, and work within a time-line?”

It was an overwhelming positive response.  All were happy.  I have expectations for their ongoing positive plans.

May the Source be with you!

1 km
Friday, March 17th, 2017
Timmins, Ontario

Pastor Objecting

A local pastor responded to the CTV broadcast of my coming to town.  He seemed to have an issue with it.  Jenny, the yoga instructor who hosted me for the past three days, responded to his objection after he remarked that I represented the group from the ’70s that was driven out of town.

“No,” she texted back, stating there was nothing to fear and that he (me) is here to teach wholesomeness, wellness and a better quality of life.

Riken and I took his objection as a sign that we shook things up a bit in town.  The attendance and enthusiasm revealed people were excited about something different.  One person remarked that motivational material is plentiful but it’s rare to meet someone who follows and lives it.  At least three people told me they sang the maha mantra in their home (or the shower) this morning, after our kirtan session.

When Riken and I took our walk this afternoon, we reflected on the presentation of two days earlier.  Snow-mobiles whizzed by when we were bathed in the sweetness of thought, the sunshine and the bright snow’s presence.  Along with Jenny, we took the time to get close to the wilderness abounding.  We fed elk, a moose and even a bison, while onboard a wagon pulled by tractor-power.

In Timmins we got close to people, wildlife and nature.

May the Source be with you!

4 km

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
Timmins, Ontario

Broke the Ice

I feel like I broke the ice today.  Not literally.  I was actually skidding on the stuff and sinking into snow.  I bypassed some snowmobiles and met up with a guide, an older bearded guy with most likely his two grandkids, fairly deep in the woods.  That was awesome.

By ‘breaking the ice’ I mean I broke the back of my routine.  Avoiding the out-of-doors is where I’ve been going because any footwear wrapped around the gout foot is painful.  But that was not the case today.  Swelling has gone down and so a walk in the woods was doable.  Thank God.

With a bright sun above and bright snow over the ground, it became as an irresistible temptation.  There were trails for snowmobiles and trails for snowshoeing.  I took full advantage.  I even lost my sense of direction and got happily lost.


I now had the excuse to find someone and ask them to put me back on track.  It is a fringe benefit of walking—getting to do some talking and make an endorsement toward neighbourliness.

“Just go down the road and hang a left at the curve.  That’s Cedar Meadows,” said the fellow whom I approached in his driveway.

With five kilometres under my snow-driven feet, I was whisked off by Riken to the yoga studio for part two of a presentation.

I promised everyone that we would take up some yoga dancing tonight.  That, then, is more glorious work for the feet.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Friday, 17 March 2017

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
Timmins, Ontario

I Did Fly

I would have loved to have walked, but it would have taken three weeks to go from Toronto to Timmins.  Flying was practical.  Somehow, Toronto avoided a major snow storm that engulfed the north-east directions, including New York City.  Blackouts and shut downs occurred everywhere, except where I departed from, so it seemed.  The plane did need to be de-iced though.

Soaring in the sky over this northern region, seven hundred kilometres north of Toronto, I saw revealed below, beautiful patterns of wiggly rivers and creeks, and a hilly terrain smoothed-out and softened by a moderate snow-spread.  Boreal and deciduous trees stood erect, pointing to the sun.  No city boxes inhabited this zone until we were getting close to Timmins itself, a mining town.

I was greeted byDr. Riken Patel, a pediatrician.  He brought me to the chalet at Cedar Meadows.  I met Jenny, the owner and proprietor of the Bodhi Tree Hot Yoga studio.  She arranged for Natalie Van Rooy of CTV to come for an interview with The Walking Monk.  Promotions for tonight’s event “Tales from Trails” included Natalie’s six o’clock news.

As a result of the word getting out, Jenny’s studio did reach a full capacity of people, enthusiasts who didn’t mind taking to the lotus position, and sitting on the floor.  My stories from as far back as 1996, when I did my first marathon walk, were as fresh in my mind as yesterday.  All were listening and then all were engaged in kirtan, chanting.

Boy, it was fun!

May the Source be with you!

2 km
Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
Toronto, Ontario


“Whatever is dead must go!” was my morning mood.  A good soak of the feet in some good Epsom salts in water did a great job of separating the old from the new—skin.

I believe you know what I’m talking about.  Old skin starts to peel off, and in some places, in an elastic-type of dynamic.  It is nice to reveal new skin and start afresh until it’s time for that covering to also go.  “A new lease on life,” is an expression that denotes a new start, much like being energized, repaired or rejuvenated.

I remember roaming the streets during my college days (brief as they were) on that quest, checking out different spiritual groups and churches.  I was truly looking for something new’.  I didn’t just want to follow a dry routine of life where I ‘wake up in the morning, slug down a cup of coffee and go to the office for eight hours’.  I was pining for something different.  Lo and behold I met these bald-headed creatures who were dressed in what appeared to be orange bedsheets, and they gave me a ‘new’ optional way of life.

In the 70s,  it was hard to find a vegetarian.  Well, these monks were purely into the non-violence.  I took a fancy to that mode of life and their way of mindfulness. “Let me try this out,” said my excited mind.  “Let me shed my moderate hippy-ism and see what the ancients from India used to do.”

I gave it a shot and I got sold on it.  Forty-four years later and I’m still at it.  I’m still shedding skin and feeling a newness every day.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Monday, March 13th, 2017
Toronto, Ontario

The Break

Students are content with their break from school.  I’ve answered the phone a few times from callers—parents—who were inquiring about the kid’s daycamp at the ashram where I live.

“Oh!  Yes, well, I’ll turn you over to someone who knows more about it than me.”  Eventually the caller would hear from either Geeta or Shyama Mohini, co-ordinators for a five-consecutive-day fun time, doing games, singing songs, eating together and stuff….  This is all done in a Krishna-centric environment, of course.

I popped my head in to peek at the younglings, anywhere from toddler to ten, in the temple room where most things were going on.  There was some noise.  That’s a sign of life.  It was safe sounding noise.

“Lots of energy,” Rukmini confirmed—a facilitator.

And I thought, “When properly channeled you get a great result.”  I also thought of the young children we read about in sastric texts and how they excelled because there was some good direction for them, the likes of Prahlad, Dhruva, Hanuman (who wasn’t totally human) and, naturally, Krishna and Rama.

I had to smile at the fun.  I believe I was a fairly happy kid.  I didn’t know Krishna at the time, but someone with a personality known as God, an overseeing well-wisher, protector.  Every child deserves that type of exposure and understanding.  Considering the crazy world in which we live, walls of security and fun are so essential.

I wish the best to them (all thirty of them) and all the children of the universe.

May the Source be with you!

2 km
Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Scarborough, Ontario

The Birth of Sankirtan

For the occasion, Gaura Purnima, the birth anniversary of Chaitanya, two venues were our destination points for our cultural presentation.  Come to think of it, we haven’t given a name to our piece, which was a narration, danced to in Odissi-style, and sung in Bengali with musical accompaniment.

Now none of us are Bengalis, but we did sing a song in that language—the language of our guru, Prabhupada—as well as the native tongue of the author of the song “Udilo Aruna.”  Bhaktivinode was a song-writer from Orissa who used the Bengali medium.

Here’s the song that I narrated in English for the Scarborough and Toronto crowds:

The Birth of Sankirtan

1.      When a tinge of red on the eastern horizon heralded the sunrise, the jewel of the brahmanas, Gaura, immediately awakened. Taking His followers with Him, He went all over the countryside, visiting the towns and villages of Nadia.

2.      The Khol drums resounded, “tathai tathai.”  The five cymbals chimed in time, and Gaura’s foot bells jingled as His golden form trembled slightly in ecstatic love for the Divine.

3.      Gaura called out to the townsfolk, “Perhaps we are wasting time—sleeping?  Then much time spent on decorating the body?  Try this vibration, with its sweet names, ‘Mukunda?  Madhava?  Yadhava!  Hari!’ engaging our full voices.”

4.      This human body, among all collective species, is a rare gift.  We must ask ourselves, “Just what are you doing?”  Have you given sufficient thought to this question?  If you do not see to the love of the darling of Yashoda, Krishna, it would be a great loss—a shame.

5.      Each time the sun rises and sets, a day passes and is lost.  Why then remain idle, and not honour the Lord of the heart?

6.      Understand this essential fact: life is temporary and full of all kinds of challenges.  So make it a priority by being under the protection of the sweet names and remain engaged in divine service.

7.      Desiring to bless all entities, the sweet name has descended to this world as a response to the need of ending the darkness of ignorance, as this sound shines like the sun in the sky of the heart.

8.      Drinking the pure nectar of the name satisfies the author of the song, Bhaktivinode.  There is nothing but the sacred name within all the 14 worlds.

(End of song)

Additional narration:

People listened to Gaura, the Golden Avatar.  Why wouldn’t they?  He was beautifully imposing at a stature of seven feet tall, broad shouldered, with a chest of a lion, eyes captivating, hair a-flow, as He danced with a swing and a sway.

The villagers were taken by the sight and sound.  With their hearts now embraced, they were motivated to move themselves and to surrender their voices in a splendorous volume, their bodies in rhythmic back-and-forth motion.

Gaura journeyed from one village to the next, offering a new engagement, a new way of being.  He made His plea.  His sharing had been done and all in good fun.  A mission had taken hold, one that would be rather bold in its projection throughout the globe.

To those who participate in Sankirtan, a warmth, a fullness and a love are achieved.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Milton, Ontario

Get Ready for Gaura

My walking is strictly indoors right now, and that is very embarrassingly limited.  The gout can’t, at this point, handle the squeeze of the shoes.  I was driven by Nakula, the young son of Umesh, to his home.  Umesh was with me in Cuba.  We swam off the bay in Cienfuegos, where boldly he would grab palm-sized jellyfish and toss them out of his way.  Brave!

Umesh had deities installed in his home in Milton today—deities of Gaura and Nitai.  The entire world of Vaishnavas in the line of Gaura (the golden avatar) is gearing up for his birth anniversary tomorrow.  In lieu of this, we are also basically preparing for the celebrations tomorrow with a bhajan/dance presentation in His honour.

Gaura, also known as Chaitanya, was quite the chanter, and quite the walker.  He roamed throughout the countryside, going from village to village, encouraging the culture of song and dance.  His mission was unofficially inaugurated in the first decade of the 16th century in Bengal and then beyond.  It spread throughout the sub-continent of India.  Kirtan is the word affiliated with Chaitanya.

Not everyone is fully aware of kirtan just yet.  For instance, Greg, a good friend of mine, who arrived during our practice time for bhajan, recently met a girl with an OM tattoo on her arm.  He asked her if she knew what OM meant.

“Something to do with yoga?” she guessed.

“Yes, but you’re not familiar with kirtan?

“What’s that?”

It looks like Chaitanya’s influence still needs expanding; a little extra push from adherents like us perhaps?

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Toronto, Ontario

The View

In our ashram, in what are called Prabhupada’s quarters, I sat and admired the view of the outside.  The window facing south is a cathedral-arched frame exposing the sky.  Cloudy and hazy with sunshine trying to pierce through is how I see the space above.  On one level slightly below, spring-budding branches dance on the chest of Vayu, the master of the wind.  Victorian house rooftops are also within my vision.

A leisurely park, recently renovated, is just south of the homes, adding green space to the neighbourhood.  May (I pray) it stay that way.

“We don’t need any more highrises around here,” I mentioned to Gaurachandra of Hungary. He had come to join and bring that view of optimism, a view which leads the eyes to contemplate the lake five kilometres further south—one of the Great Lakes.

People living in the city forget about this massive body of water, a body of beauty.  We need to revere such bodies and not lust in greed over how much profit can be made from building and blocking a God-given waterfront view.

Developers—I sometimes brood over their exploits, unless, of course, they are allowing trees and foliage to do their thing.

In 2015, I walked across the city of Detroit on a one-day pilgrimage.  Some of the neighbourhoods had been devastated by neglect.  Some homes had been broken into years before.  Some had been burned down, leaving empty lots.  These dynamics have somehow allowed nature to take its course.  That’s glorious!

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Toronto, Ontario

What I Ask!

One mantra that I use when greeting someone in the ashram is actually a question. “Did you get a good rest?” implying “was it deep, was it full and more-or-less uninterrupted?”

I don’t go so far as to probe into their dreams. “Did you dream of Krishna? About guru?” That is very personal and let’s keep it that way—not that it’s wrong to ask.

The answers will be diverse, depending on who you ask and on which day, because it is never an definite yes or no.  It’s usually within the range of ‘anywhere in-between’.

As the day wears on, so do passions.  Speed and depth of involvement grow in intensity.  Do I then dare to ask, “How’s your day?” Those who immerse themselves in devotion have a soul-gratifying day, or should.  Physically, there will always be a challenge so that answer will have its range as well. In any event people feel good that you care.

This afternoon I did a trial-run walking in the park outside our ashram.  I couldn’t go too far with the gout-infected foot. I had to turn around after ten minutes and resume a gentler stroll inside the temple.

Woe is me! I’m anticipating this walk in May, beginning in Nebraska, with two good feet at the base of my legs. God, please help! The gout bulge is sizeable and any shoe placed around it puts on an uneasy squeeze.

“Patience!” reminds my doctor, Dr. Pandit.  “Just try to get a good rest.”

May the Source be with you!

2 km