Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

Pelee / Toronto

Last Dip

I slipped in some walking at nighttime with Jaya Keshava. I’ve known him since ’81.  He’s always upbeat; a good companion for walking.

A cyclist zipped by. “Hare Krishna!” said he.  We reciprocated, of course.  When someone comes right out and says it, then it’s a real reinforcement.

Before I arrived in Toronto I stopped in to see my sister, Rose Ann, and brother-in-law, Jim.  Vintage books are what they sell in their shop in Chatham.  I browsed through their counter-culture material.  It’s a good stock.  Chatham is where I was born, and I was happy to see—when Gaurav and Khush drove me through the downtown—that a major yoga studio has a prominent presence on the main street.

Where I launched from, in today’s travels, was Pelee Island, and from there I took the opportunity to have a last dip in the lake with three out of the fifty members who had come for the retreat; any excuse was good for cooling down on these hot, steamy days.

After breakfast we managed to have an on-the-grass sit-down discussion on the Bhagavatam,from Canto 10. The focus was Krishna.  Who else would it be?

I feel as if the weekend was most fruitful.  You could put the retreat we just had in Pelee Island in a “Devotee Care” category.  The fun, the food and the fuel for facing maya, the illusion, was a great exercise.  Much needed.

May the Source be with you!
4 km


Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Pelee Island, Ontario

What to Say to a Thirty-Year-Old Son?

Tree frogs in the millions croaked all night, and in a more subdued tone, the crickets.  Our rented home was just fine, and on stilts, like the rest of the houses on the east side of the island.  This is so as to accommodate water snakes who cannot be inconvenienced when slithering from the creek to the lake.  This is very progressive of the residents.

More participants came from Ohio and Toronto; add-ons to our already happy group.  We all commenced with an AM sadhana,and our topic was mainly a discussion on Balarama, the divine brother of Krishna.  The event calls for a half-day fast and so the meal at noon was memorable.

Our more intellectual side was stimulated through talk, our stomach through food, and our physical self through the trek to Fish Point. There you have two sets of waves coming at you.

During discussion time, a question came up. “I have a son who’s thirty, and he represents many people of his age who cannot accept the existence of a God, or a religion.  [He says,] ‘Religions have messed up too many times.’  What do I say to my son?”

We suggested this answer. “I respect your belief, but if you can find it in your heart to be ethical by not eating animals that would be great.”

Our day ended with kirtanon the beach, with campfire, where vegan marshmallows were delightfully roasted.

May the Source be with you!
4 km


Friday, August 24th, 2018

Pelee Island, Ontario

To the Water

I was walking in Yorkville.  The day had turned.  It was dark, but not for the night people in Yorkville, those in the fancy bars and those on the street.  One man froze in his tracks when he saw me.

“I’ve been to Tibet,” he said. I must have reminded him of the place, where monks are around every corner, although Buddhist.

“I’m from Canada, a Hare Krishna, and my tradition hails from India.”

He noticed my japameditation beads in my right hand.

“Can I get those beads?  I know they’re very powerful.” He offered me a $500 donation to our monastery if he could have the beads.  Just then the car parked next to us set off its car alarm.  “See I told you they’re powerful.”  

However, I did not concede.  With smiles we parted.

I managed some sleep upon my return to the ashram, attended the first half of the temple morning program, and then went off for our annual Pelee Island retreat.  Cleveland, Detroit, Brampton, Toronto, and Windsor reps were there.  

A small group of us walked on the west sideroad.  We met Morris, a music teacher from Owen Sound.  He defied any notion we had of snooty islanders.  So hospitable.  We went to his home, and with a larger group of us came onto his dock to get acquainted.  He remembered reading some literature from our guru, Prabhupada.

Getting everyone in for a splash in Lake Erie took time.  You should have seen all these middle-aged men, reluctant to indulge in the water in the beginning, and unwilling to get out once wet.

May the Source be with you!
6 km


Sunday, 26 August 2018

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Toronto, Ontario

To Where Cabbages Were

The invitation was on for lunch at the home of two pujaris, priests, by the names of Rupa and Sanatana. They have this old Victorian home renovated into a gorgeous house in what’s called Cabbagetown.  I decided to walk there to greet fellow ashram monks. They drove.

In the course of my walk, a mere 3.9 kilometres, one man on a park bench spoke. “This is a religion?”

“An old tradition is what I follow, with roots from India. I’m a monk, a Hare Krishna monk. Here’s my card and a mantra for protection.”

“Thanks!”

I moved on, and on Parliament Street four men were on a bench. One of them stopped me with his question.  “Where can I get a set of clothes like that?”

“I’ll have to take you to India to get a batch.”

That drew a great amount of laughter from all four.  Two of them offered pranams—palms together—knowing the gesture.

“They are comfortable.  You’ll like them.  Are you sure I can’t take you there?”

“I’m not going to be able to.”

“You never know.”

I arrived at the house at the same time as the monks who drove. Walking is always superior.  You meet people.  You chant in peace.  You admire plants and buildings.  There’s much excitement in the air.

The meal was to die for.  Thanks Rupa and Sanatana!

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Montreal / Toronto

On Track

Damodar and I were feeling the same relief walking through Montreal’s east end near downtown.  There  was a break from the heat.  There was also some rain last night.  Oh and how we appreciated the work of some of the city planners.  An old railway line and industries were converted into these neat and affordable dwellings.  The tracks are now curved walkways.  So cool!

My train ride to Toronto was fine—time to go over Gita verses somewhat lost in memory, but easy enough to revive.   https://www.instagram.com/p/BmzoIEGln7G/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=q3l8cg731854

At Union Station I made the decision to walk to my host’s home for an Ekadashi(grain-less) meal. Adi Kurma and Amala have this charming home, and I reached there after trekking through foot traffic, which was thick. I believe Torontonians were also joyful, like the Montrealers, for the excellent weather.

I was blessed to pass through a section of the business district, the entertainment district, and the boogey-hip section of Kensington, past churches and cozy homes.  The meal was mighty fine with kale and broccoli.

At the same time, Adi, Amala and I reflected on a troubled world—with concern for the people in the multiple fires out west, concern for technology takeover world-wide, and dependency on so many drugs.  I cautioned my friend Durward on the phone today. “Get the gist of what the news is saying.  Don’t get too absorbed in the bad reporting!  You have your Krishna who’s always with us!”

May the Source be with you!
11 km

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Montreal, Quebec

Sweet Day

The many trees’ branches and leaves were rustling in a light wind.  Wow! It was so pleasant to feel. Everyone who was out there—like me, on a stroll just west of Pie IX Boulevard—was sensing a relief from an intense summer, which finally felt as if it were over.

I saw lots of young families taking advantage of a perfect, late afternoon in this very established francophone district.  It was nice.

I had come to Montreal from Ottawa to participate in a swing ceremony. Tradition has it in the Vaishnava community that five days are reserved for performing a sweet pastime of placing small deities of Radha Krishna on a julan(swing) and then pulling gently the swaying platform forward for a back-and-forth motion.  This happens during a mellow kirtan. All the attendees got involved as it offers pleasure to Her and Him.

What followed was also a good experience of the gathering of the old guard, so to speak, and the new guard of our managers in ISKCON Montreal. Yesterday I helped facilitate a restructuring of the management team in Ottawa.  Today it was here that we more formally recognized and empowered a more youthful group to assist in the mission.  Overall the procedures, in both locations, went very smooth.

I will not fail to mention that upon my arrival in Montreal I was driven to “Nandagram,” our new farm community, just outside of the city. We harvested some of the veggies, cooked and ate them.  The taking of that prasadam, in many ways, crowned the day.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Ottawa, Ontario

I Said, “Hello!”

I said, “Hello!”

“Hi!” she said.  “What are you?”

“A monk; a Hare Krishna monk.”

She introduced herself as Sally, and then asked, “So, what do you think of the world?”

“Confused! Always is.  History proves it.”

She persisted.  “Why is it that way?”

“There was a time when the powers that be would take advice from virtuous thinkers,” I said.  “But no  more.”

“It’s corruption, isn’t it, that’s making this world what it is?  It’s the corruption that runs our world,” said Sally.

“Ah! Greed has gripped us.  We can’t make the world better unless we clean ourselves.”

Sally agreed that there’s a dark side in all of us.  Sally was not quite ready for a book by our guru but receptive to take a mantracard and let us know that she’ll try our Govinda’s once it opens in the school season.  Sally was good.

Krishna Dulal and Vraja drove me to their home in Russell, for an evening sangawith kids in Krishna.  More than half were attentive.  It’s hard to anchor the minds of the little ones.

May the Source be with you!
0 km


Sunday, August 19th, 2018

St. Catherines, Ontario

Fifth Day on the Bruce

It was dark.  I got a head start on Avenue Road.  I met a couple—he, a chef, and she, just interested.  

“Are you a monk?” She spoke with curiosity.

“Yes, and I live there,” I said, pointing to our building, our temple.  “Do come by.  We have a restaurant.”

The couple will visit us somewhere, someday.  At least, it’s my job to invite.

Now, as the daylight was beginning to be a reality, I ambled by on Avenue Road.  My ride arrived and off to the Bruce Trail we went, right next to the Shangri-La Campsite, to reconvene the walk.  The count was thirty.  Yes, thirty of us.  We were like a safari making our way, first along orchards, then into the trees.

Balls Falls was alive with actual water making a drop.  Awesome!   https://www.instagram.com/p/BmrqGbdAJUs/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1qwczbl4jexr1

Our safari continued going through the terrain of up-down.  Rocks on the trail were rather slippery due to a recent rainfall. Choke cherries and wild grapes were in abundance.

The group of thirty were wonderful, respectful and willing to learn.  With two eating breaks and a great swim at Port Dalhousie in Lake Ontario, and some reading about our guru, Prabhupada, our day’s aspirations were fulfilled.

We completed our safari at some obscure road with vineyards all around and our park / beach fun at the Port.

There is nothing like a safari sanga.

May the Source be with you!
12 km


Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Scarborough / Brampton

Didn’t Know

I didn’t know Aretha Franklin passed away.  I only heard about it today.  God bless her.  Her voice was inspirational.

Today was the 6thAnnual Chariot Fest for Scarborough.  Congratulations to the organizers!  Great magic show by Brent and Sarah.  They drew in the crowds.  One other item on the stage was Dhira Grahi.  I got up there with him to get the crowd moving their arms, legs, body and especially their mouth, for chanting.

From the Fest a kind Rasaraj drove me to Brampton for a ‘feast to behold’.  A group here launched a garden program in late May.  Several families committed to growing, from seed or sapling, vegetables.  Today was an opportunity for the group to come and show off their veggies in the form of dinner.  They brought their prepared food, sourced from their gardens at home. On the menu was raita, subjis, salads, chutneys (red and green), tomato soup, pickle and more.  Host, Murali Manohara, welcomed us to his garden of beans, eggplant, tomatoes, karela (bitter melon), squash and even marigolds.

The families had a good time reflecting on the difference it made in their home to regularly check on their babies—the veggies.  “Therapeutic,” describes Anandamayi in reference to her tending to what grew in her garden bed.

The flavours were out of this world, everyone agreed.  The preps were presented as food to the deities of Krishna, and then, in turn, we partook of, in the transformed, pure prasadam.  We are proud of the group who launched this program toward a greener society.

May the Source be with you!
3 km


Monday, 20 August 2018

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Vancouver, British Columbia

Very Fortunate

Haddai had dropped off Mahatma, his good wife, for work, and I went along for the ride. After she had left for a day of sales at the Body Shop, Haddai and I went for a few precious moments of walking through the city’s Central Park.  Magical moments.  There are tall trees to make you feel meek.

Other pedestrians strolled about—people of every ethnic group you could think of. The trails wind about.  The curves and bends make it sweet.

I received a call from Halifax.  “Maharaja, I heard you’re coming to Halifax soon,” was the query on the other end of the line.

“Yes. Next month we’re coming, I and the other brahmacharis (monks).  There is a growing interest or thirst for devotion, in the Maritimes.”  I implied that we will do our level best to quench that thirst.  From one coast, the Pacific where I am, to the other, the Atlantic where I am going, we will be on that mission which we are mandated to be on. Our intent is to add to the wellness of the world.

Haddai knew I had to leave for packing, and then be enroute for the airport.  Yes, it is all so much travel, but it’s an adventure every day.  I just feel so blessed to have this life, being the mercy of Guru and Krishna.

At the security check, I stand in the queue and look at the people.  They are souls living and breathing like I am, but I consider myself so very fortunate.

May the Source be with you!
2 km

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Saranagati, British Columbia

Seeing People in the Valley

The first visit of the day was at Daivata and Visvadika’s.  We had an enlivening discussion based on the story of the Bhagavatam.  A king had seven days to live and decide how to use those days in the most progressive way possible.  He sat and listened to his guru for that time and became very spiritually enriched.

Lunch was at the top of the mountain at Mark and Sunny’s—great food. We read about our guru, Prabhupada.

I walked on to the building they call the temple.  On the roof doing repairs was Kulashekar who is 81. That’s either brave, bold or foolish. It’s risky.

I also trekked to the home of Vicaru and his brother, Vallabha. I showed them a vintage ’73 photo on Instagram of Vicaru and I chanting on Toronto’s Yonge Street.  That’s a long time ago.

Vicaru has hung on his wall the last painting done by deceased wife, Tribhuvanesvari.  She was just an excellent artist.  I told Vicaru that I’m the guardian of her oils now hanging in the Toronto temple. Vicaru is special—very smooth.

The final visitation was at Partha and Uttama’s.  This couple is very involved in marriage counselling. They conduct courses as part of the Grhastha Vision Team.  To their credit, they have helped many couples.

I led kirtanin their home.  Several people came.  Another good discussion ensued, including the philosophy of the Gita, wherein Sri Krishna details the hierarchy of the self.  “The senses are higher than the body, the mind is higher than the senses. Next is the intelligence, then the self—the soul.”

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Venables Valley, British Columbia

From Vancouver to the Valley

I must give some recognition to a fine lady by the name of Nirmala, who is from Thailand, and now in Vancouver, who came forward to receive her brahminicalinitiation.  Her guru, Krsnadasa Swami passed away, and the task to offer her this second or brahminicalinitiation was left in my hands.  Congratulations to Nirmala for taking this step forward.

Speaking about taking steps forward, the act of walking in the province of BC may for the moment have to be enacted indoors.  The six-hundred-plus forest fires have created a dense smoke throughout, meaning the pollution is at a heavy level in the atmosphere and hazardous to the health.

Nitai Rama and I drove to the farm community of Saranagati where the density of smoke is very present as it is in Vancouver.  I have been coming to the valley for years and have never seen such a haze.  The other day my eyes became bloodshot from the exposure.  Nitai Rama expressed he had chest pains.  People are complaining of coughing and throat problems.  Walking indoors might be advisable.

When the sun did start moving downward toward the end of the day, I ventured on a four kilometre trek, through peaceful mountain terrain, with some residents.  I guess you could say we were addressing ‘cabin fever’.

In recent times, a cougar has been sighted.  There have also been coyotes, deer, the odd moose, rabbits, pack rats, marmots and bears.  I’m not sure if the intense smoke affects them.  What can be said?  It’s the material world, full of dualities.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

White Rock, British Columbia

Sweet Visits

Sweet visits were to homes of devotees in White Rock and Port Coquitlam.  Casual in spirit, we spoke about everything from the latest bear who came around the backyard to sniff, to Mr. Trump.  Lord Krishna got in there to a certain extent.  Perhaps service to Krishna arose as the central point of the talk because everything does revolve around acting for Him in our lives.

In that regard, Chapter 9 comes to mind from the Gita.  “Whatever one does should be an offering to the Supreme.”

The various meetings and homes, I sat in, were of people who have high levels of commitment to calmness and communication.  Abhidheya asked, “How was it in the States where you were walking last year?”

“Good people, good response, cultural issues, drugs, homelessness, a little bit of this and of that.”  Then I expressed to Bhavani, Arlen and Saci Priya that between the two countries, Canada and the U.S., people are quite similar.  “Canadians—a little quieter, though.”

I’m grateful to have been on that trek.  The message which got out was that a walking culture will cause a calming of things.  It’s a green statement.

I managed to get some steps in with Peter and Eileen by the Hop-Along Farm district.  There’s this beautiful, flat, black soil.  Our group of three walkers admired the fields and the fantastic blackberry vines that are so pervasive, but their yield is sweet to the taste.

May the Source be with you!
4 km




Monday, August 13th, 2018

Burnaby, British Columbia

Reflections

Five of us went down the trail.  One of us was Joyce, a cousin I hadn’t seen in forty-six years.  I was walking next to her on this trail leading to Burnaby Lake.  It was at a section where the trees were tall and shady.  Coming down the trail were five other people and one of them was a monk. It was as if we reflected each other. I’m sure I’m the first monk Joyce had ever spent time with.  When she saw the oncoming crew she was stunned, “Oh my God!  Did you arrange this?”

I confessed to the truth, “No, I had nothing to do with it.” This was truly uncanny.  My brother, sister-in-law, and Gerry, Joyce’s friend, were also surprised.  How could this be?

The two groups met—us and them.  I took an initiative, stood there and put palms together in what we call pranams.  The other group responded.  They stopped.  We spoke. The monk was from Tibet.  The brown person in the group was Sri Lankan. He was well-informed about Hare Krishna. It was a warm exchange.  We took pictures of us, the five and five.  The monk is younger than I, so it was not a perfect reflection.  It made our day.

There’s more.  From Burnaby Lake, my need to reconnect with family, since four-and-a-half decades, was fulfilled.  Aunt Annie is ninety, and we visited her apartment.  At the Naam restaurant, more cousins and I converged.  What a great bunch of cousins!

May the Source be with you!
3 km


Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Vancouver, British Columbia

Eating at the Park

A palm reader asked if I would extend my right arm for a volunteer reading.  It was a kind gesture on her part.  No charge.

“Your health is pretty good.  Your determination is strong… Late night pizza.  You might cut down.”

“‘Pizza’ was just an expression, but too much food sitting there in the tummy, some evenings, is a reality.  In any event, breakfast is not often on the agenda for me.  All these programs with prasadamare  obligations, but I must learn to kindly bow-out more than less, and use determination.

Regarding food, that comes natural when at a Chariot Fest like the one today at Stanley Park.  https://www.instagram.com/p/BmfKZkTAg9L/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=6oksbi3zk0f2Someone was good enough to secure two corn-on-the-cob, boiled with the husks on.  I surely indulged after all the presentations were done.  I gave one of those bhaktiaerobics lessons from the stage.  It was great to see the participation by the fest goers.  Even by brother, Paul, Joyce, his wife, and son, John, who came in the nick of time to take up the simple moves required over the djembeand mrdungadrums.  Mantras were an integral part of the dance steps. https://www.instagram.com/p/BmfLE7ZgiVb/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=l00sso2rme4t

Once done, Paul and I took to eating.  He had the veggie fried rice and halavah,and I took to corn—no pizza—which became a delicious end to the fest for us.  Plans are in place for a family reunion with cousins tomorrow.

May the Source be with you!
6 km

Please remember the Men’s Retreatfor October 5th-7thin New Vrndavana, West Virginia!

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

St. Mathieu du Parc, Quebec

Arrived in Vancouver

It was for me a few last minutes at the Vaishnava Sanga Retreat, so well orchestrated by Krishna Dulal of Russell, Ontario.  The event annually attracts devotees of bhaktiYoga from the surrounding areas.  Mind you, some speakers or presenters came from L.A., Hawaii, Europe and India.  A family from Connecticut and Calgary also arrived.  There is a growing interest in this annual event.

A last morning walk with trekking enthusiasts made it worth the day.  However, I must add that one of the most important elements to a program like this is to gain some company with your peers.  They are your brothers and sisters; that can’t be denied.  It becomes true, sharing experience.

I bid farewell to friends and bros.

The couple taking me to the Montreal Airport is from Mauritius. Krsna Katha and Hari Katha, along with son Vraj, have a fairly strong Creole accent.  KK mentioned to me, on the way to my flight, that one of the managers at the retreat site confessed that “beer” sometimes comes to the centre.

“That’s not so good,” I mentioned to KK.  “Wait a minute, did you say ‘beer’ or ‘bear?’”

“B-E-A-R,” spelled out KK.

“Okay, that’s better.  If a bear comes, there’s not much to worry about.  If beer comes, then so much more damage can be done.”

KK agreed.

I arrived at Vancouver ISKCON in the evening.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Ste. Mathieu du Parc, Quebec

Friday, What a Day!

A small group of us tread the narrow roads of the complex of The Art of Living.  It is a time when healing plants are out in bloom—the burdock, jewel weed, willow, cattails, milkweed, and goldenrod.  I see hemlock.  Watch out for that one and don’t mistake it for wild carrot. Hemlock is poison.  Wild carrot offers nutrition.

We also checked out Lac Gareau.  No motorized devices are allowed on this placid lake.  I had the greatest swim.  Walking and swimming.  What a combo! It’s the best with the best.

Overlooking the lake is the Meditation Hall.  Looks exotic with an oriental touch.  Inside I went, after the walk, to do a kid’s presentation for the 5-10 age bracket.  Fun! Engaging!

I rushed to the main building for Part 2 of the Kirtan Standards Seminar.  Here the adults received, or rather, created fun. I put out some dance steps, they followed.

I then visited Cid Hunter (Siddhanta) in Chalet #3 for a camera interview detailing my recollections of times and memories of Prabhupada, our guru.  Cid was pleased.

The final event for the day was a second sit-down with Sruta Kirti, the personal assistant to Prabhupada.  He was conveying to his seminar group some lessons he learned about guru with regard to humility, and also anger as a utility.  Usually, but rarely, it was used to correct someone.

This last seminar was precious at the Vaishnava Sangha 2018.

May the Source be with you!
3 km