Sunday, 17 June 2018

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Force and the Source

Have you ever looked out the window to see, before your very eyes, a storm, not brewing, but suddenly hammer its way through?  I did.  It was on this very day.  I would say there was no physical warning.  It just came, turbulently.

I was in the chair looking at the trees from our second storey. Suddenly those trees swayed in such a way that I didn’t know they could bend like that.

Of course, some didn’t bend.  Some older growth just snapped and crashed.  The winds with rain moved easterly, and it was severe for only about seven minutes.  The downpour of rain then shifted vertically.

The sirens resounded throughout the city.  I went for an aftermath walk.  Sure, enough damage was done.  Power lines were down in the Yorkville area.  Cars were crushed under massive tree branches.  Someone I spoke to on a stroll mentioned that the popular Eaton’s Shopping Centre downtown had major leakage coming from its high ceiling. With all this you can say it could have been worse.

“Nature is like the mind—turbulent,” I said to two guests in Govinda’s.  They concurred that they were seeing themselves in the condition of the weather.

During my nighttime stroll, I took the opportunity to sit in a cafĂ© chair by a parkette.  I was having a break from the return of the wind.  Indeed my dhoti experienced a good tossing in the air.  I had to tame it, holding it down at times.  I placed my japa beads on the table and was content to have them always near me.  After all, it is the Kali Yuga.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Brampton, Ontario


Three of us, Keshav, Vijay and I, went for some fund-raising in Brampton.  There is a need to receive kindness from donors for the up-and-coming Chariot Fest in Toronto.  The target for collection is $20,000 (Canadian).  People were reciprocating.  One dentist and one pundit from a Hindu temple gave generously.

We lunched at Keshava’s, and since Vijay, the driver, wished to nap before the return journey home, I decided to get a head start. Eastbound I went on Wanless Drive which eventually changes name to Conservation Drive.

While trekking under a hot sun, a man I couldn’t recognize passed by me in his car and made a U turn.  He honked his horn which drew my attention.

“I’ll drive you.  Come on in.” He offered his pranams.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said in certain terms. “Someone—Vijay—is napping at the Asian Food Centre.  He’ll pick me up.”

Sorry at missing the opportunity, the gentleman went about his way. A second driver pulled over and didn’t offer a ride but delivered a classic question that I often receive, “You don’t remember me?”

“Vaguely, I’m sorry.”

“I’m Balen.  I laid down a floor for you in your temple.”

“Yes, it’s coming back to me,” I said in a genuine moment of recollection.  “That was in the mid-eighties.”  I thanked him and let him know we are ready to lay down tiles again for a different floor. He moved on and I was thrown into nostalgia.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

Small Band of Monks

My physical body was in T.O., T-Dot, now called The Six—according to Drake—but really, I took a mental-flying carpet all over the nation; nay—the continent; nay—the globe.  By phone and e-mail, I moved about looking at how places can be helped, in a social sense.

There is a lot of pain in the world.  Higher, not lower, consciousness can alter that in an incremental way.  It’s amazing what a circle of monks can do.

I sat down with our small team of young monks in Canada—Prana, Marshall, Samuel and now also Karuna—planning out the month of June. For starters, the boys are planning to drive to Saskatoon, a length of some distance.  The mission is to stir up the town a little for three weeks, and reap a harvest of new students.  A nice Gujarati family, comprised of Kashyapa and Panchami, as well as son and daughter, had initiated a weekly program for awareness of the Divine.  This has been running for eight years.

Sadly, they are to leave, since work contracts have expired and finance isn’t looking that great in the province of Saskatchewan.  It is not booming at the moment.  The redeeming aspect of the place is its university; it’s pretty downtown with a big beautiful river, the Northern Saskatchewan, running through it, and there are lots of friendly people.

I was envying the group of monks who were embarking at noon today for the long journey through a scenic Central Canada route.  Too bad they’re not walking.  It’s a 3,000 kilometre trip and they’ll miss the hidden treasures of Lake Superior’s north shore.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia

Success Between Him and Her

I applaud any couple who can do the job of staying together. Although I am an unwavering renunciate, I am a blesser of families.  I remain a firm believer in true-hearted couple-ism as much as I hold onto my saffron dhoti(robe).

Vraja Kishor is a happy householder—though not without disagreement with wife, Nitai.  They just know, or are constantly learning to know the ropes behind living it out on the foundation of compromise.  Their five year old, Arjuna, is a major factor who glues the relationship together.

Vraja looks after me when I come to visit their community in ‘them there hills’ of West Virginia.  Happily, they celebrated their 10thanniversary today.  I and others, I’m sure, bless them that those ten years will be multiplied by five or six decades.  That would be something worthy of having an eggless, processed-sugar-free cake.

A particular ingredient behind the success of a marriage is the spiritually-centric nature of it.  Yes, the dharmaside of it teaches compromise and communication.  Anything can come to tempt you, to displace you, and when your guard is down, emotions are up and good rationale is ebbed low, then, you can register as a disaster.

Disaster!  There are just too many of them today.  We don’t need any more to add to the list.

Vraja took me to the Pittsburgh Airport where they only play good classical instrumental music, the type of vibration which keeps couples as one.

Back home in Toronto, I sit in a room with brahmacharis—monks—who respect married men and women.  They are content to be as they are, and if any of them choose to marry, we will encourage the loyalty between them and their spouse.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Monday, 11 June 2018

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia 

More Medicine

The concluding day for the Bhaktivedanta Medical Association Retreat included grainless meals to honour the bi-weekly Ekadashi.  (That was #1.)

2)   Improving japachanting
3)   Financial Planning for seniors (I led this discussion)
4)   Asanas/ postures and stretches
5)   Physical / mental foundation ofMahamantrayoga
6)   How to grow your own food
7)   Medical updates
8)   Spiritual Jeopardy
9)   Spiritual journaling
10)How well do you know your spouse (a workshop)
11)Breathing Exercises
12)Raising Conscious Children
13)(Finally) A Swan Boat Festival with Kirtan

In addition to the above, we also made a visit to the first old barn where the community began in ’68.  It is quite the vintage home.  Inside we sat, discussed and explored the contributions that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, gave to the world.  Here is what the group came up with:

Srila Prabhupada was the one…

1)   To introduce kirtan to the world
2)   Who mass-propagated Vedic philosophy
3)   Who fought war on drugs throughbhakti
4)   Who mass-propagated vegetarianism
5)   Who encouraged the back-to-land lifestyle
6)   Who mass-propagated reincarnation
7)   Who introduced to the West, ancient rites from the East
8)   To promote peace through mantratherapy.

May the Source be with you!

5 km

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia

With Doctors

Here were some of the activities that doctors and healers, who had converged in New Vrindavana, took part in.  I witnessed and partook of the education and fun, too.

1)   A full morning sadhanaof chanting, a lesson from the Bhagavatam,and a wholesome breakfast
2)   Pranayama / good breathing
3)   Surya Namaskar
4)   Cooking demo on an oil-free meal—quick enough and easy for doctors on the go
5)   Lunch from the demo—chili, quinoa, oat and banana cookies and asparagus
6)   Stroll to Palace of Gold and temple cleaning
7)   Kartalplaying lessons—by yours truly
8)   Family bonding games—charades
9)   Hearing from a youth’s perspective
10)Heart 2 Heart Panel discussion
12)Campfire kirtan,and, in the rain

Most activities were held in the Yoga Shala.

Many interesting subjects came out of the sessions.  Sad, but true, a high percentage of doctors in America suffer from doctor’s burn-out.  Suicide is high in the profession.

We did discuss some factors that could alter the figures, such as boosting spirituality, a better pacing of oneself in the profession, and making families strong through communication input.

Simple statements, but much work needs to be done, for medical students, as well.

May the Source be with you!

3 km

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Moundsville, West Virginia

Next to Me

Next to me on the Air Canada flight was Justin, a cradle/born Catholic, and a medical practitioner in the field of radiology in a hospital in Pittsburgh.  He struck me as being a nice caring guy—caring enough that I could have a conversation with him about life for almost the entirety of the plane ride, which was only an hour or so, but still.

Justin told me he has a friend from India and that he heard about karmafrom him.  Indeed he also learned of dharma,and, in my analysis, couldn’t put the two rhyming words together.

“If we pay attention to our dharma, we would produce a much better karma,” is what we both concluded from our conversation; that in performing duty (dharma) well and then inherent reactions (karma) will be of a greater ease.

Justin agreed with me that Krishna and Jesus walk in parallel, and are not opposed to each other, so to speak.  They are for elevating the consciousness.  They embrace and convey the same universal principles.

Our conversation started with talking about the poor and not pure quality of food, and the less than good performance in life, which for many people is no performance—meaning sedentary.  We eventually evolved into talking about spirituality, so all was good, and it warmed me up for the retreat I’m attending at New Vrindavana, the countryside haven near Moundsville.  The event is called “Bhaktivedanta Medical Association Retreat.” I am honoured to be invited.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

The Downtrodden Man

The morning’s discussion with the resident men proved lively.  It entailed modes of transportation in the ancient Vedic context, particularly by horse and chariot.  We identified several famous charioteers.  There is Akrura, who came to Gokula to give Krishna and His brother a lift to nearby Mathura.  Krishna had a regular chariot driver when residing in Dwarka, Daruka was his name. And let’s not forget Krishna Himself in the position as a chariot driver to friend, Arjuna.  Also, what came to mind was the adoptee-father of warrior Karna, Atiratha was his name, and like the story of Moses, Karna was found as a baby while floating in a basket by way of a river.

Enough of reflecting on mobile chariots.  Karuna and I committed ourselves to a walk along Bloor Street. Yes, it is leg power that we use as an approach to getting around.  It is a three kilometre trek to Christie Pitts.  We made some observations along the way.  The Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church is holding a Blessing of the Bikes (another mode of transport).  And on June 10th, the church is conducting a Blessing of the Animals. That’s commendable!

We also took note of the sculpture in front of the iconic building at Rochdale.  The artist was Edward Apt.  The figure is of what looks like a downtrodden man, called “The Unknown Student”.  He looks absolutely depressed.  The Rochdale Building was a student-run operation.  It failed.  Some Krishna families lived on a floor of that structure in the ’70s.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Bracebridge, Ontario

From Wilson Falls

What is quite surprising to me is witnessing the enthusiastic devotion of a small group of people living in a little place far, far from a temple.  The eight men who trekked with me brought with them their japa meditation beads.  When this group of people goes for a walk, it is synonymous with chanting. This motivation amongst them occurs under the influence of two brothers, Jaya Gopal and Vyasacharya.

Today, we took to trekking a short distance along the Great Trail—formerly the Trans Canada Trail running at 24,000 km—which meanders along the Muskoka River.  Our brief walk began at Wilson Falls.

It is at locations like this where I can’t help myself but to point out wild vegetation, which I have some meagre knowledge of.  “Here is poison ivy, cedar, honeysuckle, horse tail, etc.”  This is all new to my co-walkers who have given little attention to such things. Frankly, most of us were concentrating on protecting ourselves from the eager mosquitoes.

We continued with our devotions with a discussion from The Mahabharat, and the section of a glimpse into the Kali-yuga—prophecies.  This was followed by a Mexican-style lunch.  On the theme of conflict and subsequent resolve, a group of the Tuesday Sangha and I looked at Chapter 18 of the Gita, after returning to Toronto.  We read together the entire chapter and then highlighted the entire Gita’s conclusion.  Please look at 18.65 to 66 for that.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Bracebridge, Ontario

It Started With Bracing the Bridge

We admired the Bracebridge Falls, then stepped over Silver Bridge, which arches over the falls, in order to get to the main street of the town.  The first shop to see is a storefront for “Veda Yoga.”  Then Vyasacharya, who runs the Quality Inn and led our walk, mentioned, “There’s four yoga studios in town.”

“Not bad for a population of 16,000,” I said.

We stepped on further at the quiet hour of 9:00 p.m., and a sole person, a middle-aged Caucasian male, after unloading something, offered his pranams.  “Namaste!” he said in greeting, and, “Where are you from?”

“Toronto, but really I travel a lot.  Did Canada on foot, four times.  Just completed the U.S. last year.”

“These are your followers?” he asked inquisitively.

“We are friends, followers of bhakti-yoga…”

I was thinking that all of us are actually under the father-ship of Prabhupada.

We moved on toward Wellington Street, but came upon a picture of Elvis with the poster caption:  Father’s Day is June 16th—Treat Dad like a King.  The poster was set in the wall of a shop, and it reminded us, our group of eight—all fathers except for myself and Kailash, a newly-wed—that dads do entertain.  We could not imitate Elvis, who would smoothly move his pelvis, but we could enlighten the generation after us with our words and actions.  Generally, this is what a parent does—guide, direct, point, bless, etc.  Show by example.  For instance, here we are winding down the day by walking.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

Queenston Heights, Ontario

The Start of the Bruce

Just a few metres from a monument marking the death of Sir Isaac Brock in the War of 1812, is the starting point of the southernmost entrance of the Bruce Trail.  At 7:00 a.m., I, with companions, Vaishnav, Jagannath Misra, Sukavak, Karuna, Narayani, and friend Kent, began this 900 kilometre trail and headed north.

The trail is awesome, with its Carolina-like forest in the southerly portion, ancient rocks next to the Niagara River, and green vegetation of all sorts.  One of the highlights of this trail is the diverse eco-systems.  You turn a corner, and you observe a sudden patch of daisies all around, and at another bend, trees of majestic stature.  The surface of the trail ranges from packed deciduous clay, to mud, sand, and then gravel.

It was surprising to me to notice more people.  However, at one point, in our mere 12.5 kilometre trek for the day, after venturing through some steep areas of almost climb, we met Dracon.  Dracon sported a sunhat and an attached head net to address everyone’s favorite entity, the mosquito.

Dracon is originally from China, worked as a server in a Chinese restaurant in Canada, and told the restaurant owners that he was quitting in order to spend the month of June hiking the Bruce Trail.

We asked him why he was hiking, and camping the whole trek.

“To get a peace of mind,” he said solemnly.

Our group reached Woodend Conservation and left it to return at a time of our convenience in the future.  It was from there, hours later after our start, that we returned to do other devotional activities.

May the Source be with you!
12.5 km

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Mississauga, Ontario

Walk for Alzheimer’s

I’ve been on a Terry Fox Run for cancer, but this was the first time I’d trekked for Alzheimer’s.  I was fortunate to get plugged into the run/walk for the cause of the serious disease through friends and devotees of the west end of Toronto, with the group being spear-headed by Rajasuya.

Although it has been said that turmeric and ginger, two major ingredients in our diet, are combatants of Alzheimer’s, and some other physical challenges, we are primarily looking at those folks who are going through awful pain caused by the side-effects from some of these kinds of illnesses.  Almost everyone knows or has known people afflicted with Alzheimer’s.  For those individuals and to fund research to develop cures, we walked with about 500 others in Mississauga, in Peel County, along Lake Ontario, on a scenic snake of a trail.

Gaura Keshava, my friend from the UK, was, by the way, ‘scenic’ for co-walkers on this five kilometre walk.  He came in a white dhoti, a thick grey-and-white stitched chauddar (shawl), and for footwear, it was your traditional wooden karama shoes, hand-carved from hardwood in India.  Boy, did they get attention.  There’s a peg—or what I call a door knob—affixed to each shoe to fit between the big toe and the single inline.

It was quite exotic for everyone else in their name-brand sneakers.

The walk went well, and thanks to Juhi Arora, our group was able to register and participate.  Music was played at the registration booth to hype everyone up, and it was rather uplifting to hear James Brown belting out, “I Feel Good,” over the loud speaker.

For the hour or so of walking, there was little time for japa chanting.  Of course, you are obliged to talk and walk simultaneously.

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

We Like Where We Are

“Please join us,” I indicated with hand gestures to the cricket enthusiast on his way to the athletic field.  It wasn’t the first time he or his buddies refused our offer to sit down and sing with us.  There’s a group of them, obsessed with their game, and they routinely go about their business as we do ours, sitting there on the grass.

The light refusal is always with a smile.

The other day, Ajamil, who was singing to his harmonium accompaniment, also tried to encourage. “Hey, before the game, just five minutes, chant with us!”  Now Ajamil is very animated in most everything he does, and still his coaxing didn’t work, because everyone has his/her priorities.

Today, also, it became a priority for Karuna and I to go for that walk—my second for the day—to “knock off” our prescribed sixteen rounds on our meditation beads.

The route?  Well I let him have his choice.

“Green space or people and concrete?” I asked.  

“It doesn’t matter.  As long as I’m given time,” he said.

Alright then. And so we ventured down Yonge Street, right onto Bloor, and then through Yorkville’s Jazz Fest. It had started to darken with night approaching, and you could see everyone anticipating a wild night.

As we moved through the night crowds where everyone dressed well—or almost dressed—I blurted out to Karuna, “I’m so grateful I did not get entrapped in this lifestyle.  I like where I am.”

Karuna totally agreed with me.  We individually set goals and priorities for ourselves.

May the Source be with you!
6 km