Sunday, 19 January 2020

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Trinidad and Beyond

Anticipating Places

The flight to Port of Spain was early, and  got me landed in plenty of time for some fun happenings within the range of devotional yoga.  I’m looking forward to the next ten days which will include a quick trip to Tobago.  We have been contemplating for years on doing a visit to this touristy island.  Also, on the list, is my second journey to Suriname where everyone speaks Dutch.

Google tells me that the first permanent settlement of Europeans in Suriname was established by a group of British planters and their slaves in 1651.  In 1667, Suriname was seized by a Dutch fleet, and that year it was ceded to the Netherlands in exchange for New Amsterdam, now New York City.

When I visited Suriname, about five years ago, I was astounded not just to find mostly Hindustani persons (East Indians), but that the Dutch language prevails.  It is expressed from their tongues, and that’s the language of my ancestry.  It makes me feel kind of at home.  While winter bleakness will dominate the Canadian homefront, I’ll be soaking in some sun and rain.  

Which reminds me, just before I left for this trip my friend, Gaura, and I chatted, and brought up the subject of my favourite pop artist, voice-wise.  It goes to James Taylor, and his song, “Fire and Rain” with such poignant lyrics as: “Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun/ Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around."

I anticipate a good time with walks, chants and various services.

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Toronto, Ontario

Keep the Sense of Gravity

I picked up a few sayings which very much resonated with me today.  

Sayings such as:
“You may not always be called upon to be successful, but you will always be called upon to be trustworthy.”  Mother Teresa.

Another very reflective one:
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale.

I take a special liking to this one:
“You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do.”  Henry Ford.

Corrado and I went for a brisk walk as it felt as if winter had finally set. In.  I talked to him about the importance of flexibility, and presented this one: “A tree that bends with the wind doesn’t break!” It was a version of what Confucius once said.  I can’t quite remember what Corrado and I were speaking about when mention of that one came about.  

As we trekked along Yonge Street,  the actual wind was quite strong when not near a building.  Certainly one has to be firm and grounded in goodness in order not to be blown way.  My scarf was rather up in the air, tossing about, but I kept my gravity.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Oakville, Ontario


This day was a day when I got spoiled.  Alexander, a massage therapist and healer, came to the ashram to do some treatment on us older monks.  I'm only sixty-seven, but another monk behind me, Dharma Prana, has reached his seventieth, and suffered a terrible stroke in '82.  However, I happened to be in the front of the line and received the first fine session.  

Alexander, amongst other things, was trying to read my mind.  "You have many thoughts," he said of me.  "There is much nostalgia and thoughts upon thoughts."

"Yes, that's right.  I carry many concerns about others, always, but I'm happy."  

He put me to sleep very quickly, and then I awoke and was whisked away for the second ‘getting spoiled for the day’.

Jay drove.  Corrado came long. They are both younger monks, and age twenty-nine.  We drove to Lakeshore in downtown Oakville to the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy where they sell Kyboot products, shoes made from advanced technology.  I was overdue for a pair of sandals and took full advantage of my doctor's gift toward these wonderful orthopaedic footwear products.  I tried on a pair of really good monk-like sandals, made my test run (walk) down the aisle of the pharmacy and fell in love.  

I felt like a teen with new duds on.  I felt like I was floating in the air.  Later on I took them for an eager stride, once back in the big city of Toronto, at the City Hall.  

I want to thank Richard Price, the salesman, and Jagannatha Misra, my doctor and the sandals’ donor.  He treated us to dinner that night.  We got spoiled.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Toronto, Ontario


I rather surprised myself, on this second consecutive day, with a nighttime walk.  Corrado has now moved into the ashram with us, and he and I set a spontaneous faster-than-usual pace.  Both times I returned from a spritely trek in the neighbourhood, feeling no joint issues, especially with my knees.

What certainly contributed to the uninterrupted speed was the no-ice factor.  We have been running on above-freezing temperatures, and I'm not complaining.  Mind you, I am a bit of a sucker for the white snow.  But I am like most people—I don't want to go over my quota of the stuff.  

In speaking on the phone today to two Calgarians, when they said they were going through a forty-below-zero spell, I felt the chill in my bones, only because I've been there before.  Why not try 50 below in Saskatoon?  It's really something.

But feel the warmth, or feel the freeze, Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-Gita that "it is all only by sense perception.”  Because we are not really this physical body with sensory organs hooked to it , it relieves us to know that we are beyond all of this.  We are transcendental.  Real life is with the spirit, and not with the flickering and mistrusting material energy. 

In two days, I'll be in Trinidad, and the weather will show a side of sticky heat.  Maybe so.  You never know.  It is unpredictable.  The uncertainty of it all makes life adventurous.  

May the Source be with you!
5 km

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Toronto, Ontario

People Are Problems

Back from the U.S.  Back to work.  Back to play.

My day began with the chant, a look at sastra, and then a breakfast.  Some leftovers do not intimidate me.  Warm them up, as Uttamananda did, and they can be tastier than the day before.  Then jet lag got the better of me.

I went for a much needed nap, and as I was about to doze off, images of the infamous New York City blackout entered my mind.  I had seen the documentary by the name "Black Out" on the plane last night.  Quite devastating! As are the destructive bush fires currently in Australia!  I slept.  

And awoke to the sound of calls.  I peered at the caller's name on my cell.  I ignored it.  I will address it later.  Eyelids went shut again.  Another call.  Better tend to it this time.

Calls are always interesting.  Often they are a follow-up to what needs to be done.  At times a call is addressing and listening to a soul needing attention.  Whether by cell, e-mail, or a knock on the door, or a cry through the ether, it happens.

Over the weekend in D.C., when a group of us came together for a leader's retreat, it came to my mind that in dealing with persons you must be ready for energy input/output.  I wrote in my notes at one session "people are problems," but that can lead to prema (love of the Absolute) when people are well directed.  And I'm not the one directing but encouraging people who come to me to take some direction from above.  

After a great evening with ashram residents, Corrado and I walked peacefully.  

May the Source be with you!
5 km


Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

Our Experience

Included in our morning sadhana, at Rockwood Manor, was a line-up of chairs, and seated upon them were the direct students of Srila Prabhupada, our Guru Maharaja.  There were six of us. We were given three questions to answer, from our personal perspective, and were obliged to deliver to the thirty or so listeners, our experiences.

Question One:  What encourages you to stay (in devotional life) and to keep going?
Question Two:  What fears do you encounter about the future, and also what hope do you have?
Question Three:  What particular verse from the sastra (scripture) inspires you the most?

The presentation by members was good.  

What else did you take away from this weekend's retreat?  I noted a few items from the notes affixed to the walls of our conference room—notes which were a result of our collected wisdom.

"The by-products of listening and reflecting are feeling understood and validated, empathy (feeling pain), being respected and cared for, [knowing] you are not wrong for having an emotion, [understanding] there was need to give advice and input, vulnerability (expressing our own shortcoming), shared understanding, and the most useful thing [was] completing the cycle. "

Also "The Four Principles":

1) Whoever comes are the right people
2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
3) When it starts is the right time
4) When it over it's over

The last item for me today was taking a lead at the Washington temple.  

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

Contributing Something

I had been asked by organizers of these ISKCON Leaders Meetings to begin the two sessions of each day with warm-up exercises, both vocal and physical.  It worked out marvellously for me, because I felt like I was contributing something.  What I offered was much like what I do for theatre arts workshops, or what we do for warm-up exercises before we get into the play practices that I conduct.  

This is not what I do in the higher echelons of our mission.  Our twice a year meetings for the Governing Body Commissioners, are much more serious in their approach.  Participants are mainly of the senior calibre, on the average.  I was just happy to be able to serve in this group so well, by usually initiating the meetings with kirtan, and often being asked to do a reading from an excerpt of sastra (scripture), just to set the right mood.  

For our break-time, after lunch, which was vegan, a group of us arranged for vehicles to be driven to the Great Falls by the Potomac River.  About fifteen of us loaded into those vehicles to make it to a nature's wonder.  My guess is that it took a one kilometre walk to get to the most compelling section of the river.  An old canal built two centuries back was under renovation.  Canals, also a fascination for me, are a display of man's engineering power.  So you have the power of water and the power of man to put you in awe.   

The meetings are interactive, stimulating and fun.  To put a fragmental bit of additional fun to our Saturday night, Pyari Mohan, executed an entertaining magic show, preceded by Kalakantha's laugh-at-yourself band, "Blind Uncle”.

May the Source be with you!
4 km

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

Going Smooth

The meals are light at Rockwood Manor, especially when you show up late like I did.  I had to catch a nap during this retreat workshop.  I'm exhausted from insomnia three nights in a row.  And when breakfast is not to my liking (there are uttapams) I'm more inclined to forgo.  I'm not complaining.  Just stating facts about the way of the world.  Nothing's perfect with these bodies. 

But, oh how I’m enjoying the meetings.  There are lots of young representatives from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as some old mules like me.  Topics are pertinent.  Relevancy is always something to embrace.  Thank you, God!  Thank you, Krishna!

I also can’t wait to get to the white water and waterfalls on the Potomac River nearby .  Kayakers apparently love the the fluid around here.  I’m scheduled for a walk tomorrow.  

During break times I get a chance to interview leaders. As a member of ISKCON’s Guru Service Committee,  I am taking notes from interviews I get from leaders, on the performance level of official gurus in our society of bhakti-yogis.  Assessment is always healthy. 

I'm grateful to Jennifer Thurman (Vishnu Priya) for coming from North Carolina to help secretarially.  She types out my handwritten blog entries before they go to the next level. I'm also grateful to Abhidheya in Vancouver, and the rest of my international communications team, who carry on from there.  I should never complain about the help I get. 

And one more checkpoint is to appreciate the soon arrival of Corrado when I get back home.  He will help me as an assistant, including looking after my legs and feet.  He will be a new monk at our ashram in Toronto, God willing. 

May the Source be with you!
0 km/mi

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

When You Walk with Trash...

From Canto 11 of the book, Bhagavatam, I spoke on the Chapter ‘Aila Gita’, which details the teachings and realizations coming to an affluent king, Pururava.  Oh, how in love he was with his lady, Urvasi, a heavenly beauty!  At one point in the relationship, deciding to terminate it all, Urvasi left him, and the separation for him was too much.  Time lapsed and he realized just how attached he was to this world and to his body, a mass of marrow, bones, sinew, blood, etc.  "This body," he reflected, "is like that of a worm."

Eventually, the king came to terms with reality, and felt that he had to get spiritual, and to accomplish that, he needed to get serious about the company he was keeping.  Sangha is what he required—spiritual people.  Most of us who are more experienced understand that one’s company determines one’s destiny.  We get shaped by the friends we keep.  Painful as it is, we may have to cut ties with those who constantly lower our consciousness.  

In this regard, I really like some famous quotes about the company we keep, some of which i shared with the morning class:

"Friendship is genuine when two friends can enjoy each others company without speaking a word to one another."
"When you walk with trash, you end up smelling the same."
"Make sure everybody in your "boat" is rowing and not drilling holes when you're not looking."
"Some people around us are energy vampires while others are energy boosters."

Sri Chaitanya, the monk, expressed that ‘spiritual life starts with saintly company’.

May the Source be with you!
3 km

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

Potomac, Maryland

From Plane to DNA

I sat in seat 16 F, on an Air Canada flight—en route to Washington’s Dulles Airport—which was slightly delayed, and outside my window was the right wing of the plane.  It was ever so inviting to walk that wing had the window been open.  The aircraft stood there so long, and I felt rather crammed in the seat with no motion happening.  A deterrent to walking the wing was the fact that it was just de-iced.  Imagine the slippery nature of that dynamic; It might be the only meaningful stepping for today.  It was at this point that chanting became important.  I would be in a meeting for hours.  

Looking at my bead bag stuffed in the pouch in front of me, the beads within were beckoning to be used.  Out they came with my right hand fingering through each bead as my mouth softly uttered the names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (softly because I have to respect the passenger next to me.) How I admire that wine-coloured bead-bag before me.  It was a gift from South Africa.

The plane landed and an amiable person, by the name of Janardana, arrived for my pick up, his accent—Dutch—so familiar to me as it was the community I grew up in when a child.  Come to think of it I left some saliva in a tube just yesterday destined for, to determine by my DNA what is the full ancestral background that my body is made up of.  Results are forthcoming.   

My parents are from the Netherlands, but is there more to the origins of my body of which I am not aware?

May the Source be with you!
0 km

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020


Best Breakfast

It was at Tyendinaga, in Mohawk Territory—where in the summer of 2012, I napped in between the rows of soy beans,  and swam in a creek for a break, and where the fish bit Daruka's chest—that Jaya and I had a great breakfast this morning.  Yes, indeed, Jay and I stopped at "the Twins’ farm" (as we call it) and took food for fuel.

Graham and Dhyanachandra are identical twins, who used to live in Toronto, and do janitorial services at the Krishna centre.  Dhyanachandra is spending the winter in Panama, while his brother, Graham, now newly married, lives with his Malaysian wife and, get this, her twin sister.

The one-and-a-half sets of twins proved to be good hosts.  I blessed the food with mantras and we all partook.  From a local farmer’s plum jam that we spread over the waffles, we experienced only delight.  From Dhyanachandra's own bee hive, we mixed honey into the oatmeal.  And out of curiosity, I spooned on one waffle some more of Dhyanachandra’s harvest.  Boldly, I added his special tomato sauce all over that waffle.  Organic with local herbs cooked into it, the sauce was phenomenal.  Then Dhyana dripped onto Jay's waffle some Eagle Brand to which I remarked, "You're going to get behind the wheel after taking that?"

Jay and I were looked after.  At least for myself, I was fuelled enough to get some walking in.  David and Daniel joined me to the Christie Pitts and then back. 

I am grateful to anyone who grows, harvests and serves.  And to those who spare some time to walk off the calories.

May the Source be with you.
6 km

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Montreal, Quebec

One of the Monks...

One of the monks visiting at the Montreal ashram did not wake up at the usual time.  I went to him reminding him of the hour.

"It's 6:30 a.m."

"I was thinking to rest a little more," he said.  

Not argumentatively, but with a slight firmness, I expressed, "Well, that's eight and a half hours.  That's not enough, really?"  This chap is actually a good person but just once in a while…. 

The excuse was: "I woke up in the middle of the night so my sleep got disturbed."  

My response was: "I had a dream that disturbed my sleep.  I was swimming and a tiger cub saw me, came toward me in the water and his mother then came,  attacked me and killed me.  It was so real, but I got up anyway to attend the morning sadhana.”

Yes, it was a guilt trip I laid on him but I consider it training.  I rapped my knuckles on a nearby desk and said, "So, let's go,” meaning let’s get to the shower.  The job was done.  He washed away the ignorance and came to the balance of our morning sadhana smiling with a refreshed attitude!  I was glad we understood each other.  

Later in the afternoon, whichever men and women were around, all climbed into two vehicles for a quick trip to the Metro subway, where a reserved spot was set for our kirtan chanting. There were some lovely people there (pedestrians) who relished the sound.

In the evening, I ran another one of those "9 Devotions Workshops."  It was splendid! 

May the Source be with you!
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