Friday, 7 December 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tues. Nov.20/07 Miami, Florida
It was a long overnight flight to Miami and so walking had it’s limitations due to catching up from the fatigue it imposes. I’m talking of a sleep after participating in the temple’s morning sadhana. Our benevolent doctor friend Hugo Romeu, aka, Murari Gupta treated myself and the few other resident monks to a motor boat ride off of the harbour at Coconut Grove. We were anxious to see the common manatees, sometimes referred to as large sea cows. The younger monks enjoyed a swim in the salty waters. No manatees to be seen. The doctor did warn that occasional sharks have been known to take bites out of people. Usually though sharks find human flesh foul and little is pursued after the first bite. He did mention that he treated shark bite patients. By this time the boys were out of the water and into the boat. It’s a dangerous world.
One of the top stories of the local paper featured an article, “Detroit, the Most dangerous City.” I recall it used to be Miami in terms of crime. In any event the whole planet is rather insane and dangerous.
The day ended in safe territory, the place where people sing and dance, the temple at 3220 Virginia street.
(Flying, boating, dancing).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sun. Nov.18/07 Buenos Aries, Aregentina
The real star of yesterday’s show at the Montevideo monument was a little urchin boy (about 6 years. old) clad in smudged sweat pants and no top, his face injured by a recent fall or fight. After spending hours mingling in the crowd he helped himself up to the top of the monument’s base and managed to squeeze his body between Bhakti Bhushana Swami and I. There he decided to remain to see what it’s like at the top. Despite hie frivolity he steadfastly kept his ground. Finally after the exuberant kirtan finished he gambled his way to the mic hoping to imitate Ajamaila with an amplified voice. The lengthy kirtan drew us into the night and the show was over but our friend tried to make a last sound. Before disassembling the sound equipment our sound man decided to give the unkept but quiet boy a chance. Our local Mother Superior, Maha Murti, schooled him in a crash course on the popular chant, “Hare Krishna.” He proudly and exclusively delivered the mantra-nothing else. It grabbed the attention of the few remaining stragglers who gave him a cheer and applause. I think it was the greatest moment of the boy’s life.
Today’s venture top the park fueled by local monk, Gunagrahi swami, entailed a three and a half hour chanting session. The park was flooded with craftsmen, musicians and buskers of all kinds. The tango couple were popular but I would see our performance, not far behind in bringing attention, was a show of a different kind.
Reflecting on the day of entertainment from dawn to dusk the robins enjoying spring in Argentina have everyone beat when they send off their melodies at the crack of dawn. When first seeing them on their first day of this trip to Buenos Aries I addressed them while they were perched on trees, “So this is where you guys go in the winter.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sat. Nov.17/07 Buenos Aries, Argentina
This morning I was driven to the park at Plaza Francia to look at our site for performing. I had been informed that this year no stage would be set up so Ii was curios how our production , “The Gita” was going to become a reality. A regal monument of Montevideo was to be our backdrop featuring lion and horse images and historic heroes in stone and bronze looking like Demigods and Apsaras. The base of the monument offered various levels from which to make presentations. That was also attractive as a feature and lent itself to a greater feeling of depth. All in all the set up was favorable.
The Ratha Yatra or Festival of Chariots, a component of the Festival of India rolled along several retail and residential streets with hundreds of participants, chanters, shaking the town. Ajamila, also from Toronto, and I took the lead of chanting during the procession. Both the procession and the play were pulled off very successfully. I was proud of the performers. They worked hard and they deserved the praise they received.
The day ended with explosive kirtan in front of the monument with Gunagrahi and Bhakti Bhushana Swamis, my dear friends, playing congos and kartals respectively.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thurs. Nov.15/07 Buenos Aries, Argentina
There are favorable breezes in Buenos Aries as I assume the name implies. Myself and several novice monks, young brahmacaris, took to walking with meditation beads in hand on the streets. Eighty street blocks was the distance covered over two hours of fairly attentive chanting. Sidewalks, curbs, and cobblestone streets are uneven so at least reflexology came to us as a natural benefit to the usual lazy feet of the current age. Even for myself accustomed to an average eight hours of trekking during marathons I am experiencing such lazy feet.
My voice and the balance of my entire body is active though. Devotees here insist on my leading the chanting sessions and with that comes innovational dance. The afternoon and evening hours see me directing a drama-“The Gita” in preparation for the weekend’s Festival of India. Fortunately the volunteers numbering twelve amateur but sincere actors shape the play that will hopefully satisfy the outdoor audience at the Plaza Francia. The challenges are plentiful. One volunteer was engaged at his regular job. I haven’t as yet secured an available narrator, an integral part of this thirty minute production. Everything is done in Spanish, so there’s a natural barrier for me. And lastly, one of the female actors at the trail end of our rehearsal was informed that her father was struck with a heart attack. She apologized for her having to bow out. With tears in her eyes and empathy from the cast members we were left with a pleasant hurdle to contribute to a new adventure. Tomorrow would be our last and third day for a crack at practice. We have so little time, the consolation is we have Manyana (tomorrow)!
10 kms.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wed. Nov.14/07 Buenos Aries, Argentina
By the solar calendar it would be calculated as thirty years since the departure of our beloved teacher, Srila Prabhupada. It is a day of serious contemplation. The most significant part of the hour and a half flight to Buenos Aries from Miami was reading some of our master’s correspondences to his students. It struck a humorous cord when in a letter of the 4th of March, 1973 to one disciple in regards to dressing deities or icons in the temple, and the dressing habits of people. “The more you can decorate the deities soberly and not fanatically, the more you become decorated with all honors. At the present moment, civilized man has forgotten how to decorate, therefore this mini-skirt …..Human being means to be decorated, not naked.” He also one time wrote that we live in a topless-bottomless world. He was expressing that he did not approve of revealing too much flesh. In support of the culture where covering yourself and looking good was in vogue a friend once said, “ I remember the times when people used to dress.”
It was interesting when I cleared at customs and was received warmly by the the local monks. One of them said to me, “ On your flight there is a famous porn star so a lot of people are out here waiting to greet her. When one person saw us (monks) waiting he joked with us…..Are you guys here to see the porn star as well?”
Of course, I had I had to chuckle but inside I wondered if anyone had any interest in the motherly types of women who don’t mind dressing, and dressing not to kill.
The reception at Centro Bhaktivedanta on Andonaequi in Buenos Aries was warm like at any latino grouping of people. The drums resounded and all chanted,” Hare Krishna” before they had me take the lead.
0 kms today and that’s the “plane“ truth.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tues. Nov.13/07 Miami Florida
On the flight to Miami the man sitting next to me took some interest in my lifestyle as a person in the renounced order. Although we both wore the same brown crocs our attire was markedly different. While he was clad in regular casual wear I donned my saffron cloth.
“can you pick your own color?” he asked. He commented that he liked the colour. I let him know his comment was appreciated and that this colour was reserved for the single celibate men of our order.
As I deplaned I also reminded myself that this life of self-control along with this specific colour of cloth is something you earn after years of comfortable restrain. I say comfortable because for me it has been thirty-four years of experiencing what Krishna explains in the Gita as the higher taste. Travel, whether it be on foot or on flight with the purpose of touching souls, is a great privilege.
The remainder of the day was spent at the Miami ISKCON Centre at Coconut Grove until it was time in the evening to depart for Buenos Aries. I was happy to see the massive smile of our local legal advocate who is also very much a devotee. Apparently a pending and grueling court case involving the temple terminated into a happy settlement.
Legal battles are ugly and in the current climate of social awares they ciontribute majorly to the stress factor.
Over the years I’ve observed the draining and devastating effects that disputes have brought on. Conflict and disagreement are unfortunate indeed but they are components of this mundane world. If we take shelter of our spirituality then it is possible to survive such a trying world.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 Winnipeg, Manitoba
I guess I reiterate the case of the robes and how they are so eye-catching. They excite or alert the people who notice them. About three years ago I visited Orlando, Florida and stayed with a monk colleague, Trivikrama Swami, an American who took to monastic life as a Hare Krishna devotee in the late 60's. I ventured off on my own, walking through downtown. As I was nearing the core of the city, I was approached by a young chap who pulled over in his vehicle. He was a photographer, Michael Brown, on assignment for National Geographic covering the side of Mickey Mouse's domain that you never see. Michael asked me if I would be interested in being photographed viewing some of the sites of the city, both good and bad. I agreed and so the following day we roamed around the city for hours in various neighbourhoods with Mike clicking away on his state-of-the-art camera. Between shots we naturally talked about our different lifestyles with mutual respect. The photos never did appear in the National Geographic, but my point is that robes, comprised of dhoti, kurta and chadar, caught this young proffesional's eye, leading to a friendship.
While taking my daily walk in Winnipeg, this time on Portage Avenue again, I met a woman who was thrilled to spot the robes.
"Are you Hare Krishna?" she inquired.
"Yes I am," I replied.
"I have a sister in the movement. Her name is Sanga. And I'm Tracy....."
The robes did it again.
This evening I did a talk and slide show at a venue on Maryland Street. "Pilgrim power" was highlighted. The attendance was skimpy to start off with but eventually the room filled up. My objective was to attempt to mentally take the audience on the road and try to see the world differently.
7 kms

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Monday, November 5, 2007 Winnipeg, Manitoba
I was walking towards the home of my hosts for tonight's satsang, home program, when I met curious young man at the corner of Sherbrooke and Portage. As I stood there waiting for the light to change, I looked at the figure standing next to me.
"It's cold," said the oriental man.
"Yes, it has suddenly turned into winter here." After nature's dumping of hail-stones the snow flurries came.
"This is the first time I've ever seen snow," he remarked with a child's excitement in his eyes and in his voice.
"Get ready, there's more to come." I had wanted to say in an Al Jolson tone, "You ain't seen nothin' yet," but I didn't think he would understand the style or the word 'ain't.' "What country are you from?"
"Viet Nam," he replied with a smile.
We talked a little more but it was time to part and time to walk. Walking keeps you warm.
It's always the robes that initiate the friendships. Had I been wearing regular civilian clothes, the chance of meeting this fellow were slim. Another gentleman pulled over at McPhillips, got out of his car and offered a ride. That's rare in the city and in the dark. It was the robes.
Finally I reached the home of Varun and Prianka where chanting took prominence during the visit. The small gathering was pleased to pleased to recieve the sadhu (monk) as is customary for East Indian families.
7 kms

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Lake Shebandowan, Ontario

Sunday, November 4, 2007 Lake Shebandowan, Ontario
It was the first frost felt since spring. Two associates from our mission: one Vaisnav, a father of four and devoted
to wife, hails from Brampton and the other, Nitai Rama, a monk stationed in Halifax, trekked with me on this brisk
morning along a segment of Highway 11. The sun hadn't yet glanced over treetops and not even one motorist could
claim having witnessed us delayed trick-or-treaters trekking. Yes, we were in our favorite apparel, our robes. Our
purpose for being in this northern resort area where monks rarely tread, was to attend a spiritual retreat. It was
more than a three day relaxation and break from our respective urban regions which included more delegates.
Strategic planning for the coming year was our agenda. The venue here at Lake Shebandowan is a paradise with a
serene waterfront presence at each of the cabins: the moose manor, the wolf den, and eagle roost. So review and
stategize we did.
Nearby in the city of Thunder Bay, Dr. Jani had organized for us a presentation on kirtan, chanting, at the Resting
Frog Yoga Studio in the evening. Approximately forty people turned up for the group chanting session. And chant
they did with utmost enthusiasm.
I opened up the presentation appealing to the group to put aside the misconception that we are the body, rather
we are consciousness. In 2003 in my trek across Canada, Benjamin was my companion for forty-five days. As the
childhood friend of George Harrison's son, I asked him what he recalls about George having visited his home
frequently. The late George Harrison, a bhakti-yoga himself, told the young Benji once, "Just remember one thing-
you are not this body!"
5 kms

Toronto, Ontario

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 Toronto, Ontario
As I have some managerial responsibilities with our centres across Canada and now including Miami, Florida, it has
me grounded at desk and chair for a portion of the day. Telephone and computer assistance work becomes routine
work in addition to overlooking other administrative affairs.
This evening was a fine time at the Yoga Studio situated near Yonge and Bloor. Thirty enthusiastic spiritual seekers
come to hear about yoga walking and pilgrim power. We spoke about everything from bear wncounters to police
interaction, from foot pain to body exhilaration and from many road challenges to winning them over.
After the talk we all engaged in a fifteen minute session on japa chanting which was followed up by a fine
indulgence in some splendid food, all vegetarian and all blessed. It was meant to be a 2 hour session but everyone
was relishing each others company so much we went way overtime.
10 kms

Windsor, Wallaceburg, Ontario

Monday, October 29, 2007 Windsor, Wallaceburg, Ontario
Windsor is the Canadian counterpart to Detroit as a former stronghold of the automobile manufacturing. Inlike
Detroit it is neat, clean and relatively safe. A so-called productive casino, one of the countries most lucrative (as
I've been told) inserts a strange element to the city. Devadutta was raised here. His father still resides there. As I
have expressed before, I believe that while a monk leads a life of virtual detachment there should be no case for
disposing of humanism altogether. After all in the renouncing order one should feel enough self-confidence and
conviction in one's path spiritually that communion with kith and kin should be no threat. Devadutta's dad is most
supportive of his son's chosen spiritual path. Only if there is acute antagonism lodged against a spiritual seeker
should such association be rejected.
After the drive to Windsor and a warm visit to se his dad, Devadutta drove me to Wallaceburg. It is truly a
father/son day. I'm at the Health Unit or facility for hospital care for my dad who is 88 and dying from lung cancer.
Five siblings have come here to visit a father who is truly virtuous in many ways. As mentioned before my sense of
God-awareness was instilled in me by him so you could say he was my first guru. Just a brief visit for three hours is
not enough to express my thanks.
Devadutta mixed well with my biological family. At his best he is very sociable. I feel closer to him in some respects
being like a spiritual son to me and sharing the same living quarters in our Toronto ashram. He remarked that I have
a good family. In my mind I pondered that he has a good dad. He sure did load us down with juices and fruits for
the trip back home. We arrived at midnight and slept in a bit. It's no sin.
3 kms only

Detroit, Michigan

Sunday, October 28, 2007 Detroit, Michigan
Devadutta is a good soul and resides in the Toronto ashram. He has so many good qualities. He is appreciated by everyone except on certain moments. He is sometimes considered the moody monk. He is in good spirits today and has become my driver for a trip to the Motor City, Detroit.
The 401, Canada's busiest busiest highway, is pleasantly quiet on this fine morning while being smooth with only the occasional bump. The midway point from Toronto to Detroit on this thoroughfare is a place called London (population 200,000) Randy, who works at a printing press operation in London, is a practitioner of bhakti yoga and listens to bhajans, sanskrit songs, while at the job all day. He has hosted Devadutta and myself for a brunch of wraps. His walls are adorned with Beatle posters and other introspective-type musicians. Naturally we talked about the positive effects of spiritual music.
By mid-afternoon, Devadutta and I were at our destination, Detroit. I was asked to lead kirtan, the chanting session at the ISKCON Centre, the former home of auto baron Mr. Fisher. A scheduled group of students froma Michigan College came to observe and learn something about the oldest sustainable faith on planet earth, sanatan dharma, or Krishna Consciousness. I had the privilege of speaking on the subject of Vidura, a monk who roamed the subcontinent of India during the time of the Mahabharat. He left the Kaurava palace out of disgust. Personal insult was thrust against him by a selfish nephew, Duryodhana. This is all outlined in the epic, "Mahabharat," and it was my chance to extol the glories of a sadhu or holy man that I so much admire.
P.S. The Detroit community is warm and upbeat.
no kms on foot- lots on wheels

Toronto, Ontario

Saturday, October 27, 2007 Toronto, Ontario

It was an exciting day at the temple where I reside at 243 Avenue Road. One girl, who in her younger years, used

to visit the temple along with her parents, is now getting married. Her name is Geeta and the temple filled up with

family and friends. Two senior citizen buses pulled over in front of the building to make a visit. The place became

packed. In circumstances like this you give your best hospitality. Smiles and encouraging words become contagious.

People then leave feeling satisfied.

Even greater satisfaction stems from the menial tasks such as the clean-up after the party ended. Sweepin,

mopping and co-ordination of such with the volunteers extended the joy. From 4PM to 6PM our first rehearsal for

the upcoming play "Rolling the Dice' tok place. This time I am out of the director's chair and am taking up an acting

role as King Dhrtarastra who is a blind monarch who is overly ambitious and illustrates partiality to his own sons and

ignores the needs of his dependant nephews, the Pandavas. Stepping out of one's own comfort zone and leaping

into another body or personality through acting is the best out-of -body experience you could have.

From 6PM to 11PM was a satsang house program held in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. The hosts invited friends

over for mantra demonstration and then participation.

Aside from walking there are some extra curricular activities. The stretch that I did stroll was Yonge Street. With a

weekly insomnia attack I ventured the street while chanting on my beads. It was not the monk's hour but witches

hour. I set foot at midnight. At that time pedestrians are plenty.

Four young dudes were dressed as milk cartons. It was a milk promotion. All you could see was legs with large-size

boxwear to conceal everything else. Only a hole remained for the person in the costume to see where he was

walking. When a black dude walking practically next ot me saw Mr. 2%, Mr. Half and Half, Mr. Homogenized and Mr.

Soya Milk, he got a chuckle out of it. The last one, Mr. Soya Milk, he had become annoyed with and explained why.

"Soya milk-I hate the stuff. It's no good. Look at Buddha (referring to me). He doesn't like it."

"I'm not Buddha. I'm Hare Krishna." Still agitated but also curious he mistook me for saying, "Christian what?"

"Hare Krishna!"

"Oh! Hare Krishna!" The agitated dude switched moods and became as mellow as a gentle kitten. He smiled and

cozily placed his head at my chest and repeated the phrase once again, "Hare Krishna." It almost seemed like he

was ready to purr.

7 kms

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, October 21, 2007 Toronto, Ontario, Canada

My training for marathon walking took place in this city at Moore Park Ravine. Toronto is a city that is relatively flat

but it is graced with the natural seetings of ravines. When strolling in them you would find it hard to believe you are

located in an urban situation. It is truly one of the city's treasures and for many visitors the ravines remain a best

kept secret for some unknown reason.

The colour and smell of autumn leaves is a treasure for sight and scent combined with the Indian summer airs that

bring out the best in the occasional pedestrian here. If you were to meet the same kind of passerby on Yonge

Street, the city's main thoroughfare on foot, you would swear that they were not the same person. Like a switch

that goes on and off, change the environment of someone and you change the person. It's like the difference

between night and day.

My guru, Srila Prabhupada, explained that the country is the mode of goodness, the city is the mode of passion and

the brothels are the mode of ignorance. It's a blessing to be able to escape from traffic aggravation in order to

release and relax in the ravine. One more thing that Prabhupada emphasized in relation to environment and the

modes of nature is that the temple atmosphere is beyond any mode of existence. It is one of transcendence.

Ultimately it is your own consciousness, or state of mind that determines the person. Physically you could be

strolling through a gorgeous nature trail but your mind could be in the gutter.

8 kms
Tuesday, Oct. 16/07
Paris, France
This is a one day stop-over in this very fashion- conscious city. Regular chanting sessions held at subway exit Ste. Eustache by local Krishna devotees means that we are seen routinely in our traditional robes, dhotis for the boys and sarees for the girls. Just to compare responses from Soweto to this bar/café culture was remarkably distinct. People were tolerant here. In most cases our little group appeared invisible to many even though to my ears the chanting was soft and sweet. Indifferent might be the appropriate word. At least in this section of town every day life seems rather imbalanced being devoid of spiritual expression.
As far as balancing acts are concerned, bartenders at the outside cafes really know how to balance their drinks on a tray with one hand and outstretched fingers. I guess some people consider the feat cultural.
Truly though, when we speak of culture we must be speaking of depth and dimension. How can life have dimension without the spiritual element?
Sunday Oct. 14/07
Soweto, South Africa
It was a two day event held yesterday and today and it’s called the festival of Chariots. Local people in the region of Mofollo Park had never seen anything like it- especially - the images in black is Jagannatha and accompanying forms are Baladeva and Subhadra. For them the sound was different, the beat of a different drum and that was enough to encourage many onlookers to jump into the fun of a procession moving party. One monk indicated that I had a knack for dancing like the black, “where do you get this from?’ “Some influence of past karma I guess”, was my response. A high point for me was reuniting with sannyasis (monks). To name them there was Kadamba Kanana Swami, the organizer of the event , Devamrita Swami, a black sannyasi who hails from New York and Kavichandra Swami, also from the U.S. who spends considerable time in the western coast of South Africa. Locally based is Bhakti Chaitanya Swami and like the others, he is a gentleman.
The length of walking today and yesterday was the length of the festival’s route, an approximate 5 or 6 kms. at the most.
Thursday, Oct. 11/07
Lenasia, South Africa
I never would have believed that there would be a chill more intense than in Canada.
This is Africa, the land of sun and heat. Central Canada had reached some roasting days and when I left it was hot, but here…it’s cold.
Rsi , my host in Lensia and I walked the length from Lenasia South to Lenasia Proper. We rapped about the environment around us and also took to chanting on our beads. We passed by an assortment of residential neighbourhoods including squatters’ camps (informal settlements). I don’t know to call it a situation of abject poverty since some dwellers own a fancy car but it certainly is another world.- a realm of crowdedness and unkempt conditions. Highway K43 is flanked by barrenness, a red rocky terrain that leads us to Nirvana Drive where the Iskcon Lenasia temple is located.
My assignment in this area of Johannesburg was to assemble in marathon-time two dramas for the weekend. The first practice was a team of black youth who utilized body language techniques and mime to re-enact the pastime of Krishna’s birth. These youths illustrate excellent body agility. Also their sense of rythum is something I’ve always marveled at. All players are from Soweto and their presentation will be something refreshing for the expected attendance of black folks.
The second drama practice centered on the symptoms of the era in which we live. Like “The Seven Deadly Sins” of Christian theology a Vedic version of personal vice portrays lust, anger, greed, madness, envy, and illusion, the agents of Kali, the master of corruption. The players here are from Durban and Soweto and I never tire of watching the organic reshaping and remodeling of a drama that has been tackled before. The lines for the character of Lust are interesting. “ I merely impel a man to enjoy himself. Then as he hopelessly struggles to satiate desires that are insatiable, I consume him.”
11 kms.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Cuba to Canada

Thurs. Oct.3/07
Cuba - Canada
I am leaving Havana and flying back to Toronto.
I will not miss the diesel fumes spewing out of exhaust pipes. And I will not miss dog dung on the streets. But I will miss Cuba on the whole. The fine features of the place are the absence of billboards and ads of sexploitation, avocadoes, the Spanish architecture of Cathedrals and old model cars. I find the real treasure of Cuba is the people. They are genuine, warm, and display mutual respect for one another. In my communication (as best as I could do considering the language barriers) the exchange was great during walks. The saffron robes were a delight for many people. I was not seen as a threat or even any kind of tendency as such. I am looking forward to future visits.

Santa Mala, Cuba

Wed. Oct. 3/07
Santa Mala
People on the spiritual path often times read signs indicating what the future may bring and seek direction as to what project to pursue. Since my arrival to Cuba I have on the off-time been scripting a play, “Vamana” who is the walking avatar. His story is told in the book Srimad Bhagavatam in the second canto Eighth chapter, author Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It’s fascinating.
There have been some quiet hours which allowed me to accomplish covering several pages of script. What brings me to the thought of “signs” is that by chance yesterday’s driver, Jiva’s brother-in –law is a theatre producer. Today in the home of a family in the rural district of Santa Mala the hosts were a couple, a filmmaker and she an actor of the stage.
This all just leaves me with something percolating in my head. A future stage production, perhaps! This is part of a portfolio aside from pilgrim walking. Theatre of the spirit has been my preoccupation for sometime and plenty of walking and chanting are times of inspiration that contribute to the making of a drama.
Most people, I believe, look for signs but not all trace them back to the source. I believe that’s important.


Tues. Oct. 2/07
Nature is always astonishing! This morning’s japa walk took Jiva and I to the Malecon once again. Though there is a slight breeze, sea waves crash against the sea wall and spill over with extended spray to hit two lanes of traffic.
Near the city of Matanzas nature there attracts tourists to the Bellamar cave. Jiva’s brother-in-law drove us there. A short history is that the Spanish proprietor of a piece of land had his Chinese hired hand, Mr. Wong, do some work and in the process his iron bar fell into a pit. The proprietor found enough courage to climb down and discover a wonder of crystal magic as he lit his torch. That was in 1861. As we climbed down our eyes captured a surreal appearance of pillars of lime and other deposits, stalactite and stalagmite. Some formations were hanging as if chandeliers a few meters long. Apertures leading to more darkness gave the distinct feel of another world. One large hole looked as if the sage, Vyasa, might be sitting silently inside. Three pools of spring water represent immortality; the pursuit of love, and the last is for those who dip in to take a sip and may be granted a divorce. Only the first pool may have some appeal for a monk who wishes to remain as one.
Matanzas is an old city of Spanish colonial charm. You go back in time. And like all of Cuba the old models of cars particularly from the 40’s renews nostalgia. How does a Hare Krishna monk fit into all of this? Well, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for people here or in Matanzas or Havana. The folk just have a built in piety. In the morning as I sat outside of the guest house clad in my swami garb waiting for Jiva, a woman in well overdone make up stopped at my spot, spoke something in Spanish and handed over a Cuban three pesos bill. “Gracias”, I replied


Mon. Oct 1/07
Edwardo is a young muscular black man who spotted me walking along Malecon Ave. He decided to join me. He was friendly, spoke some English and offered to be a self appointed guide to parts of the city. He asked for nothing and respected that I was “praying on the rosario”, (as he put it). He stayed with me a good while. I believe he just wanted some company and generally finds himself a bit lost. I met a woman at the Indian embassy who wanted to talk. Her complaint was on behalf of capitalism. Complaining goes on everywhere. There is no greater contagious disease. Whether in the first, second or third world, whining is all pervasive and it means usually that we don’t count blessings.
I would also rate gossip on par with complaints. Yes, two diseases that keep us firmly in illusion’s grip are rumour-mongoring and whining.
Evenings are spent chanting with people. I usually beat a rhythm to the mrdunga drum, lead the chant and have a good rest after the work out.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Sun. Sept.30/07
If there is any food that is in abundance in Cuba it’s the avocado. A new surprise to me is a fruit resembling the papaya in shape but tasting like the chicoo that you get in India. It’s called mamey and it’s definitely fit to be offered with the recitation of mantras before a deity or picture of Krishna just as the cooked food is offered. Jiva Goswami Das is my trusted companion to conduct this simple process while I’m here.
While I see no homeless folks an occasional dog does not have such luxury. A small stray dog decides to tag along with Jiva and me as we chant on our beads as we walk through the streets. Calypso/Caribbean music subsides all around at about the time we tread on our heels, 5am. People are curious about the robes. An elder gentleman even called them ,”Elegante!”
Another piece of information about Cuban culture that is very conducive to a monk’s lifestyle is the prohibition on pornography. Prostitution is also against the law. Another favorable note to the people here is that I see very little obesity here, nor did I see anyone scrawny. They look quite fit.
So far as taking care of my health goes it’s a standard 10kms a day walk or more. Unique today was foot care; Jiva today took an hour and a half to scrape away at what seemed like tons of dead foot skin. It was an accumulation of months of lifeless skin and it was time to dispose of it after that trailblazing marathon. Jiva took a pumice scraper and grazed away at regions I would not be able to see. He worked hard.
It would be nice if all the bad karma and bad habits could be eliminated at a single sitting like this.
10 kms.
Sat. Sept.29/07
Havana, Cuba
Customs security asked me how I know people in Cuba. “Friends from Canada,” I replied.
My room is in a guest house on San Lazaro and is spacious enough and air conditioned. Weather outside is hot and humid. The notice on the wall of the room reads the conditions of renting in Spanish, English and French. One of them is underlined. “It’s completely forbidden to visit the apartment of persons which are less than 18 yrs. old.” This is of course, one of the signs that the government exerts a control over; controlling promiscuity isn’t a bad thing.
Upon meeting the guest house master and seeing people in their everyday carefree style releases any tiny tension I might have about communist governance in Cuba. I find people pleasant and rather warm. I had even met Simon Cridland, the Canadian consulate at the Embassy. I wanted to let him know I’m here, that I walked Canada thrice and had my eyes on Cuba for the future. He was gracious.
The early morning walk along Malecon, the wide street edged by the south shore of the Gulf of Mexico, was a chance to meet folks. Jiva Goswami, a Cuban devotee, accompanied me. A large billboard in Spanish read with a close–up statue of Liberty, surprised….. remarking, “What? You have given freedom to terrorists?” Officers along the way return my nod or salute. The robes I’m in are a fresh sight for the locals.

I see no homeless people like those in India or even in North American cities. Food is somewhat hard to come by which is a contradiction in this fertile land. Christiana Bauhman, a retired German Canadian, was my flight partner enroute to Havana and she loves Cuba but concurred that Cuba is a land of contradictions.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Friday, Sept. 28/07
Toronto, Ont.
Hello everyone! I’m back but not on the long road. I’m still traveling and everyday on foot offers new stories to tell, realizations and so on.
Doug, who had been given the name Daruka over the summer as a gesture of appreciation in an initiation process, had driven us along with Billie to Toronto. Daruka moved on to his home, Winnipeg. I joked “there goes the pirate and the parrot”. I referred to him as a pirate not only because of his feathered friend whose usually perched on his shoulder but because he had covered many miles (not nautical miles) over the land. It’s been an adventure. Like the life of a pirate. There’s been no looting, robbing or murder. And no battles for him, save and except for battling the mind.
Since his departure I’ve done daily walks while chanting on beads. The routes have been streets near the temple where I live-Yonge, Bloor, Davenport, Spadina Streets. I also included ravines, as the more flavored paths. Ryan is a new monk in the ashram and I have shown him the great escape areas from the city. He was surprised to discover “the green scene”, tucked secretly away from the asphalt jungle.
A week ago I traveled by car with a sister, Connie and her daughter, my niece Taralyn, to see our ailing father. At 88, hospital-bound for now he struggles to eat. No appetite and cannot walk. Diagnosing at this point doesn’t reveal the actual cause for the weakness. We endeavor to make him as comfortable as possible. I thank him again for all he has done for me. My private chanting, japa these last few days is in dedication to him.
Even if one has taken to the renounced order of life it doesn’t mean you renounce your humanism.
After the drive to Chatham and back I prepared for the next trip. Flight 964 on Air Canada takes me to a country I have never been before—Cuba.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

The End of the Road- Cape Spear

Thurs., Sept. 13, 2007 St. John's, Newfoundland

Doug was informed that it was the tail end of a hurricane that we experienced the day before at Bona Vista. But today was the ideal weather for ending the marathon. The sun expressed it's golden glory.
The walk from Portugal Cove Road and Highway 1 was a windy, snakey route around Quidi Vidi Lake, east on Water Street and onto Blackhead Road to Cape Spear.
On Water Street a man with a shaven head doing renovations at a store-front, adressed me as either 'Dalai Lama,' 'Hare Lama,' or 'Dalai Rama.' I stopped. "I met one of you guys at Main and Hastings (a Vancouver slum region) some years ago. It was the opening of a bank that was to help the low-income people in the area with financing. The current Premier of British Columbia and the former leader, Mike Harcourt were there."
"Was it '96?" I asked.
"Yes, come to think of it."
"That was me during my first pilgrimage," I stated. We continued our conversation. It is a small world we agreed. After I left him I thought, "It is a small world with not enough monks." I was spotted because of the robes, which represent detachment, simplicity, compassion, wisdom and freedom. I feel that the world could use more monks to share the road to remind the people of a more spiritual obligation.
Paul Connolly, who sings in the Basilica choir and has a love for Jesus and Krishna alike, came to join me for the last leg of the trek. The vistas up to the last step and to Canada's oldest lighthouse (The Cape Spear) were spectacular.
Jan, another local Newfoundlander, also came to walk the last steps into a ravine where we would actually touch the cool Atlantic liquid splashing against well worn rocks. Bruce, from CBC-TV, was there to capture the final moments of the walk. St. John's newspaper the Telegram also came out to cover the story. CBC radio also talked about the walk as part of the early morning news.
Tourists were enthusiastic, on this fine day of clear weather, to visit the eastern-most point of North America, Cape Spear. Amongst them was a group of car enthusiasts from a car club in Ontario who drove their antique automobiles past us finalizing their long journey. One tourist group from Montreal in a shuttle bus stopped to offer congratulations on our trek which they had heard about. They also sang the song 'Happy Trails to You (Until We Meet Again).'
Paul, Jan, Doug, Billie and I conducted a mini-celebration with kirtan (chanting), the optimum course for any happy event. There is no better way to express gratitude for the energy, space, time and opportunity that has been made available for this venture.
My special thanks goes out to all the kind people who helped along the way; most of them were unknown to me but resonated some kind of feeling. Many people provided accomodations, food, funding and time.
A very special thanks goes to Nitai Rama, Garuda and Doug. There is obviously a big feeling of inadequate gratitude to guru, Srila Prabhupada and to the creator, Krishna. Thanks for the legs.
I will have to tally the distance of three cross-country walks but a ball-park figure would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 23,000 kilometers.
I ended this day at the residence of Dr. Vikram Jala in Clarenville, Newfoundland. My sister, Pauline called to convey to me that our father's health is failing and that he may not have long to live. So I called him at the hospital and thanked him over and again for all that he had done for me in giving all the good things- in principle, purpose, belief in the creator, the love of fresh air, early rising, keeping active and walking those trails.
23 kms
THE REPORT ON WALKING WILL CONTINUE...................................

Bona Vista, Newfoundland

The Dungeon, Bona Vista, Newfoundland

Wed., Sept. 12, 2007 Bona Vista, Newfoundland

Bona Vista is a major historical location in North America. At a northeastern tip of a peninsula off of Newfoundland, John Cabot and crew landed landed to discover what we now know as Canada. In 1497, while on the sea in the ship 'Matthew,' he spotted a rugged coastline. Doug and I poked around a bit, curious about a formation known as the 'Dungeon.' While fighting a harsh moment of drizzle and high winds, we captured with our eyes an aspect of the creator's domain. The winds were strong and an umbrella's efforts were all in vain.
At North Atlantic College, I had gone to visit a friend from the last pilgrimage in 2003. Pat Marshall is the college counselor. He introduced me to the staff and then we chatted about life, retirement and renunciation. As a Catholic he expressed a strong admiration for Francis of Assisi.
Dinner was at the Jala residence in Clarenville. The cooking was phenomenal like that of Subuddhi, the head of our ashram in Toronto. Dr. Jala booked a nice room for us in a motel in St. John's. This was an act of seva (or service) to the 'men of the cloth' as they often say here out east.
Incidentally, we do become charmed by linguistic sayings here as well as accents which are strongly Irish. Newfoundland is a very beautiful and unique place. It almost feels like we are in a different country.
The day ended after brief walking (due to nasty weather) at the home of an old acquaintance, a student of yoga. Rather influential people of the island, from the education and legal professions were the other guests there. After meal time, one of the guests had an attack which compelled the host to call 911. At the table, the guest went into a deep state of being, almost unconscious. We thought we lost him. Life is so fragile. At midnight we shut our eyelids, and took rest before the final day on the road to complete the pilgrimage this time around.
17 kms

Clarenville Memorial

Tues., Sept. 11, 2007 Clarenville, Newfoundland

Canada is big and it is difficult to walk the whole length due to the fact that it is separated by water in many parts. To get to Newfoundland, the final province of our chalked out route, it took four hours to reach the ferry terminal, six hours on the ferry, and then an eight hour drive to reach the eastern side of the island. Yes, the final touches to the third walk will be done by visiting various communities along the eastern coast beginning with Clarenville. Doug, Billie and I drove the length of this spectacularly wild and beautiful terrain. Impressive are the cliffs that bear a purple hue. Less impressive was the visual display of a moose head mounted on the back of a vehicle illustrating a hunter's gain.
I trekked a short distance on Highway 230A. I was determined to put in some time because the legs do get antsy being stationary in a vehicle for so long. I had also been inspired after meeting a 65 year old gentleman named Bob who owns a transmission shop in Halifax. Recently, he ran across Newfoundland in 23 days covering 900 kilometers. Not bad for a senior.
In Clarenville, Audrey from VOCM (CKVO) 590 AM radio, taped a phone interviewed about the walk's purpose. My main message was, whether walking or running, reflecting or praying, we just don't, as a society, do enough of any of them.
In the evening, Doug, Billie and I were accomodated by Dr. Vikram Jala and family at their home. They asked me to speak about the distinction between Karma yoga and jnana yoga, which I did.
7 kms

Mon., Sept. 10, 2007 Halifax, Nova Scotia

Little walking today as we made the long drive to the Sydney ferry for the six hour ride to Newfoundland.

Halifax Harbour in the Morning

1st Program at Nitai and Dwija's Place

Friday, 14 September 2007

Sun., Sept. 9, 2007

It was a stroll while chanting on beads that took six of us to the Halifax Harbour. We had all donned dhotis (robes) and kurtas (long
shirts) and carried our meditational beads, fingering each bead while reciting the maha-mantra. We took time to do some sight-seeing
on foot. After all, the perfection of sight-seeing is pilgrimage.
Part of the day's walk involved a trip to the Maritime Museum featuring artifacts from the Titanic disaster as well as an exhibit 'Pirates:
Facts and Myths.' I was surprised to learn that there were women pirates on the Atlantic and that 'walking the plank' was not
historically evidenced.
Later in the morning, we were invited to the Hindu temple on Oxford Street to do a talk and some chanting.The founding fathers of
the community gave high praise of Prabhupada.
Our long day, however, was not over until the conclusion of the first event hosted by the two monks, Dwija and Nitai, at their house.
a comfortable and cozy gathering of 20 plus people sat to hear about the adventures of Canadian pilgrimage. We culminated the
presentation with mantra meditation and refreshments which were enthusiastically partaken of by all. there was little walking but more
7 kms

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Peggy's Cove Saturday night

Peggy's Cove Kirtan

Sunday morning at Halifax Harbourfront

Sat., Sept. 8, 2007 Halifax/Dartmouth, NS

"Whatever is the time of awakening for the introspective sage is the time of sleep for the conditioned soul." This is the statement from the Bhagavad Gita. Early rising is natural and is the best time for internalizing.
I'm out the door at 4:15 AM and onto Agricola Street to find some late night party-goers standing about. They diverted me to the McDonald Bridge. So that was my route- over the Halifax harbour onto highway 332 southbound through Dartmouth. The weather went from clear to dense fog. Occasionally a dark blur would emerge, come closer and reveal a person. I communicated something to them unless they would speak to me first.
If you ask for directions out here a woman on the east coast might say, "It's this way, dear," or "I don't know darlin'."
At the airport in the afternoon, Doug, Dwija, Nitai and I went to fetch Murari, a doctor from Miami, Ram Lila, an accountant from Toronto, and Ajamil, a singer from Toronto. We went from the airport straight to Peggy's Cove, a favorite tourist destination for those who want to cut out a slice of quiet in their lives. An old light-house, huge boulder rocks, a sleepy rustic fishing village, and the mighty Atlantic is what draws people here.
We all sat on one huge rock and with dolak and mrdanga drums, harmonium, hand, and tambourine we sang devotional songs (bhajans). People were attracted and came closer to us as the sun sank into the infinite water.
25 kms

McDonald Bridge in Halifax

Nitai and Dwija in Halifax

Fri., Sept. 7, 2007 Sackville, Nova Scotia

Two monks have opened up a center for mantra meditation sessions here in the city of Halifax. Nitai and Dwija are their names and I've known both of them practically since they joined. I remember Dwija coming to our Toronto ashram in 1982. His name was Dave at the time and he was a young and intelligent fellow. Now, of course, he's older (50) and even wiser. Nitai hails from St. John, New Brunswick and joined the ashram in Vancouver. At that time he was Steve. Both of these sincere young men studied and served in their respective ashrams and took the next step towards spiritual progress by being initiated. Both have contributed many good years of their lives to spreading a higher consciousness. Their phone number is 902-880-6678 and they have a website at
Nitai and Dwija have teamed up to the process of sweet surrender for this project in Halifax. They are both musical and philosophical, as well as being excellent cooks.
I was honoured to have these two bright stars walk with me for the final five kilometers into Halifax on Bedford Road.
In the evening I laid down to rest feeling very satisfied with the company given to me today.
I slept in gratitude.
33 kms

Friday, 7 September 2007

St. Stephen, New Brunswick Aug. 28, 2007

Bhaktimarga Swami, a Hare Krishna monk, is walking across Canada to promote walking and a “simpler lifestyle.” His journey brought him through St. Stephen on Monday.
By NEVILLE CRABBE ST. STEPHEN - Travellers held captive in St. Stephen border traffic on Monday witnessed an eyecatching site - Bhaktimarga Swami, a Hare Krishna monk in a fading orange robe, who was passing through town on a cross-Canada walk. Some men of the cloth would be uncomfortable with the attention, but for the Chatham, Ont., native it is old-hat this being his third 7,800-kilometre, cross-Canada walk. Beginning in 1993, Swami set off from Vancouver Island for Cape Spear, Nfld. Ten years later he finished the circle by walking the opposite direction. His 2007 installment, like the first, started in the West. Similar to others who have undertaken voyages of this type, of course Terry Fox comes to mind, Swami has a stated cause, albeit unconventional. His motive is not to raise funds, though he gladly accepts donations, instead he says, “it’s like a friendraiser.” He aims to promote walking and a simpler lifestyle than most Canadians know. In an interview on Monday, Swami explained the benefits of what he calls “reflective walking.” “I’d like to think that I’m doing this for Canada, to encourage people to walk more and give their car a break. Really, I’m promoting a care free, car free kind of culture,” he said. In an age where rising temperatures threaten the planet, people assume that Swami has an environmental agenda, but he said that’s not the case. He says that by caring about one’s body and spirit, a concern for the environment comes naturally. “When you go walking you sort a lot of things out for yourself in your mind,” he said. And by doing so he hopes to inspire people and be inspired by the people he meets. As a teacher and practitioner of bhakti yoga, the self-styled “walking monk” espouses the benefits of his lifestyle. “It’s better for me than anything,” he says. Swami reasons that legs make up approximately half the human body and deserve the same level of stimulation that we often reserve for our minds and stomach. One might say that this monk indeed walks the walk. On his voyages, Swami said he’s experienced plenty of good heartedness from fellow Canadians. People who listen to the soft-spoken man will invite him into their homes and give him food and drink. Many passersby have pulled over and offered rides, all of which he declined. Swami says that these sympathetic people often just want to talk, and for him that validates his purpose. “Kindness,” says the 54-year old, “is a religion in itself.” When asked what sort of footwear he trusts to take him cross-country, Swami bends purposefully forward and lifts his robe shin high to reveal a pair of olive coloured rubber Crocs. Inside he has an insert for arch support that looks as though it has melded into the clog. He has tried running shoes and sneakers but says they are constricting and that whatever affects your feet will affect many other organs in your body. Where to next? On Monday Swami planned on travelling from St. Stephen to Saint John to catch the ferry to Digby, N.S. From there he’ll walk through Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. Walking across the Maritime provinces, the monk is encouraged by his prospects. “The more East you go, the sweeter it gets in terms of people’s hospitality.”
Chuck Brown, Editor St. Croix Courier/Courier Weekend

Falmouth, Nova Scotia

Thurs., Sept. 6, 2007 Lakelands, Nova Scotia

I began today's footsteps in Falmouth, Nova Scotia. The location is quite unique. We are in the actual place midway between the
equator and the North Pole. The town just east over the bridge, Windsor, claims to be the birthplace of the ever popular sport called
hockey. The boys of King's College (Canada's first college, established in 1788) adapted the field game Hurley to the ice in the early
1800's, calling the sport Ice Hurley. Over the next few decades the name was changed to Ice Hockey, which was played with a
wooden puck. Soldiers at Fort Edward later brought the game to Halifax and Dartmouth. Hockey was introduced to Montreal in 1875.
Another significant feature of Windsor is that it boasts growing the largest pumpkins in the world. Every October, the top of the huge
pumpkins are cut off. Then the pumpkins are gutted and used as boats in which people race across the local lake.
I met Joey, a talkative cheerful type. I also met Fred, the gas station attendant who was very friendly. I ran into some friends I know
who are followers of "The Art of Living." The person I spent the most time with today was a biker who chatted with me twice.
Between the two of us it became quite philosophical. Upon his departure he said, "Men do truly all die but not all men do truly live."
Nadine from the Hants Journal newspaper interviewed me, also.
Highway 1 is a pleasant long and winding road which is quiet and relaxing. I feel very blessed to be walking it's course. Yesterday I completed the Prince Edward Island stretch. Now I'm finishing Nova Scotia then on to Newfoundland for the final leg of
the journey.
30 kms

At the Hariharan's residence

Wed., Sept. 5, 2007 Charlottetown, PEI

The temperature has dropped substantially. I left Doug at our host's place sleeping as the events of the previous night kept
celebrants of Krishna's birth up til 1:30 AM.
I walked in the brisk morning air to the downtown, passing by the government building where Confederation was signed for Canada to
bcomee an independent nation.
In front of a radio station, rock music was filtering out of speakers. I recognized the music, "Sweet Dreams" by Annie Lennox and the
Eurythmics. I recalled meeting her in the early eighties. While in town for a concert she came to visit our ISKCON center. I had cooked
samosas for her and members of her band. She was a lovely person and not just an entertainer.
The broadcasters on the other side of the glass at the radio station gave hearty waves as I reciprocated. A meter man collected
coins from parking meters and asked as I walked , "Hey aren't you the guy walking?" We exchanged more but the chill this morning
pushed everyone on to their business as it did in this case.
Global warming, well I don't know! It is nippy for September. However one man I met on the trail two days ago told me his son is a
mountie in the North West Territories. His son informed him that grizzlies have moved into a traditional polar bear zone. This is indeed
a symptom of global 'warming.'
Today is the birth anniversary of our guru, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. At noon a small group of devotees
gathered to participate in remembrances of him on this auspicious day. I would be like a dry well if not for him coming into my life. Our
small event occurred at the Hariharan residence before Doug, Billie and I headed back to Nova Scotia.
All respects go to guru.
12 kms

A beach in Prince Edward Island

A PEI Llama farm

Tues., Sept. 4, 2007 Charlottetown, PEI

Today is Janmasthami, the birth of Lord Krishna. Those folks who were tuned into CBC radio in PEI had heard in the morning news that Hindu's were looking forward to today's celebrations. Listeners also heard about the walk. Doug heard the broadcast while I trekked the Confederation Trail also known as the Trans Canada Trail segment on the island.
It was a full day fast from eating in observance of Janmasthami, even though I walked 42 kilometers. Wild apple trees and berries were ignored in order in order to honour the tradition. I didn't ignore people on the trail though. Two men from the department that maintains the trail received my compliments. Even if persons are paid for public services, I see no harm in showing appreciation. The two men had come to remove cut tree branches and when they bumped into me, they were a bit surprised with the robes and also surprised with the compliments.
The trail from the village of Elliot to Charlottetown is lined with shrubs, trees and valleys. It's beautiful. Looking up, I viewed the sky which was an attractive blue. Krishna is usually identified with this colour.
Brian McGinnis from Charlottetown paper The Guardian came for a photograph.
The evening was spent in the residence of the Hariharans where we celebrated the occasion with chanting, discussion, a ceremony for bathing a deity of Krishna and breaking the fast at midnight.
42 kms

Billie and Anne of Green Gables

Mon., Sept. 3, 2007 Emerald, Prince Edward Island

The wind was ever present today. At times it even howled hauntingly. I started from Summerside. While still dark, I met an officer. He was curious and indicated that people on the island may not understand my purpose. I asked him, "How is crime these days?"
"It's up," he responded.
"That's 75% of the problem," he said
"That's what my message is about. If spirituality and God consciousness was to be even a small part of everyone's life it could temper the bad habits."
I did meet many people on the Confederation Trail (an old railway line converted to a walking/ bike path) who did appreciate power walking. Of course, this is what they were doing. In general, Prince Edward Island is pretty, very agricultural (45% rural folks) and conservative. There are world class beaches here. The soil is red. The terrain is rolling hills. It's called the land of Anne. Canada's most famous novel, 'Anne of Green Gables' originates from here. Stompin' Tom Connors, a famous singer songwriter grew up on this island of 100,000 people
Kerry Campbell of CBC Radio came to the trail for an interview. Questions were related to the walk. Doug and I mentioned that tomorrow is Janmastami, Krishna's birthday. Kerry asked about that and then requested that I chant a mantra. So I did, I chanted "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."
Our accomodations are with a family of South Indians. Professor Hariharan is a teacher at the University. His wife works with the Government. We are very grateful to them, they are wonderful people.
39 kms

Monday, 3 September 2007

Confederation Bridge

Sun., Sept. 2, 2007 Windsor, Nova Scotia

It's actually hard to meet pedestrians. There just aren't any- or very little. This is North America, a car-bound culture. Distances re far apart. I did bump into a young couple though in a town on highway 1. We conversed for a good while as we were trekking. Many people are outside their homes taking in perfect temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius. A chap who works in a deli really showed interest.
Whlle on the road with Doug for a stretch, we witnessed the remains of an animal speculating as to what it was. We pondeed so much the theory proposed by Darwin. For someone who himself speculated on evolution, it is suprising that masses of people in the world have latched onto such speculation. The arguments made by Prabhupada as well as by author Michael Cremo on Darwin are challenging and quite convincing to the point of rejecting such a notion.
THe evolution that monks in the Krishna tradition accept is the soul's movement from less conscious to more conscious. Evolution through learning by change of body is the concept we adhere to.
For a four hour drive, Doug, Billie and I left Nova Scotia for Prince Edward Island over the 13 km long Confederation Bridge. All is well.
33. kms

Bonfire at night

Sat. Sept. 1, 2007 Kentville, Nova Scotia

It was 4:30 AM and in the distance but coming closer was the sound of fire-crackers. It was coming from behind and there was a car with three young intoxicated dudes in it. They were driving on a flat tire as they drove by. An hour and a half later, they came around again,pattering on the rim. "When are you going to fix your tire?" I asked. They stopped. "You got a spare tire?" one of them asked. "Yeah, right here," I replied as my fingers pointed to my abdomen. They laughed. From there I broke the ice and made friends with the boys on beer.
In Kentville, I met a gentleman driving a hearse for a funeral home. He told me he had a friend who left for Toronto to be a monk but lost touch with him. We spoke about austerity within monasteries. I told him of our ashram and its simple but fun life. We agreed it was good to prepare for death.
On the bike trail I met quality people. From here I could see the guts of the community- the backyards of people (not bad) and the fields and orchards of rasberries, blueberries, beans and onions. There were wild blackberries and more. It was a break from the highway.
I walked along Hwy. 1 and in a rural area I heard a man whistling. I couldn't see him but only hear him. I stopped to see if I knew the tune. And I did, "Oh when the saints go marching in/ Oh when the saints go marching in/ How I want to be in that number!/ When the saints go marching in." As I walked on I could now see him, a happy middle-aged man loading something into the car in his driveway. He saw me, stopped whistling, responded to my handwave and then reciprocated with a hand gesture and continued whistling. The song wasn't meant for me. I'm no saint anyway but it is agood marching song.
I cooked a feast for Doug, Michel Palmer, our host, and his friend Brian. With mantras the food was sanctified. In the evening, Michel started a big bonfire. Our day ended with crackling wood in dancing flames. Hare Krishna.
40 kms

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Old Church and cemetary in Nova Scotia

Fri., Aug. 31, 2007 Paradise, Nova Scotia

"God answers knee-mail," reads the sign in front of an Evangeline church. We are in Paradise, a town in Nova Scotia, set close to the
north shore of the Anapolis District off of the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tide in the world. At low tide, the Bay reveals a
great area of ocean floor which within minutes covers in depth all that you saw.
It would be nice if love of God could fill up fast like the tide but it takes time.
I met Darrel. "For a livin' I go scallop fishing." I saw a young man driving a tractor on his way to the field. He gave the most ecstatic
wave of the hand. A woman heard about the walking mission while I was in Middleton. She packed a lunch of rye bread, humus,
cheese and fruit in a lunch cooler pack and gave it to me. A young man from the west coast stopped to offer money. There were lots
of positive signs all around. You see lots of activity in the front yards.
People were preparing for the Labour Day long weekend. It's getting busy and so is the traffic.
Some Jamacian men stop their work at a fruit stand to talk. Another young man, Jeff, took interest.
Then it rained. The Bhagavad Gita 9.19 states, "O Arjuna, I give heat, and I withhold and send rain." Rain is God's doing. From time to
time, Doug plays Mahalia Jackson's 'Didn't it Rain,' a very upbeat, soulful song. It's great.
39 kms

Clementsport postal workers

Port Royal est.1605

Thurs., Aug. 30, 2007 Bridgetown, Nova Scotia

"Welcome to our community!" said Juanita who was trying to catch up to me at Young's Cove. We walked together for a bit. She gave
some insight on how she sees things socially. "Families are confused." She was rather upbeat otherwise.
There is a thing I noticed that is peculiar. Ballfields, tennis courts, and benches are so underused by kids. "What are they doing?" I
asked two ladies, Tanya and Nancy, who work at the Clementsport Post Office. One of them mimed pressing a video game controller.
At one point in the morning I felt a fatigue from walking at Cornwallis. I noticed the quiet tennis court and slept for a few moments
lying right on the asphalt. No one came to play so there was no botheration for me.
Doug and I went to the oldest village in Canada. In 1605, Port Royal was born and settled by the French. Anapolis Royale was also a
charmer of a town. The Nova Scotians themselves are a charm- down to earth and very friendly.
Caroline, from the Anapolis Spectator newspaper had some great questions for me. Overal people were warm and wishing luck on the
BEWARE! Not all trails can be trusted. At 3:30 AM I trekked the DAR railroad trail from Digby but the path turned into a pond.
So.....know the path you take. Tonight's host is Michel Palmer of the Victoriavale/ Middleton area. He is finishing the roof before a
storm sets in.
50 kms

Mainecoon in Digby, Nova Scotia

Wed., Aug. 29, 2007 Saint John, NB

On my mind was a person whom I had corresponded with on the internet. He is a single young American soldier who was recently shot
in Iraq. He is also a Hare Krishna and goes by the name Partha Sarathi. I had decided to dedicate today's walk to his quick recovery.
While walking through the suburbs of Saint John, we stopped by the home of Ralph and Betty. They are parents of a Hare Krishna
monk in Canada. Recently Ralph had undergone a heart transplant and we talked about what that felt like for him. Their son Nitai Ram
is currently in Halifax with another devotee establishing a Hare Krishna center in Halifax.
There was an incredible flood of media attention. Global TV with Jennifer Singh, Diane of CTV, Diane Henry of the Wave radio station
and Tom Young for a live telephone interview on the News Radio station. As well, Ashley's story from the previous day was published
in the Telegraph Journal newspaper. The public did respond.
The images of New Brunswick are very clear here- ships, porcupines, Christmas trees, and fiddle heads (although not in season right
now), and Irving gas stations. It was our last day in the province. Saint John has splendid architecture that even a wandering
mendicant like myself, trying not to be attached to anything, can appreciate. I do appreciate the good work of others. And as stated
in the Gita by Krishna that "I am the ability in everyone" that makes me feel justified in the architecture admiration.
A ferry ride to Digby lands us in Nova Scotia. At the campsite, Doug and I are floored by the owners' Mainecoon, a cross between a
Persian cat and a Racoon.
15 kms

LePreau Falls

Tues., Aug. 28, 2007 Prince of Wales, NB

Today was auspicious. It wa the birth anniversary of one of the great pigrims of history. Balaram, the divine brother of Krishna, was
born to Vasudeva and Rohini while his father was imprisoned under the unsrupulous dictator Kamsa. While the fraticidal war of
Kuruksetra ensued, Balaram decided not to inolve himself in the dispute and travel from sacred gound to sacred groud. This was an
inspiration for me today which meant a half-day fast.
Doug and I fast in any event almost each day. We eat well while on the road but less than when at our homes. We like it that way.I met a host of people- all positive. Lapeau Falls (at break time) was impessive. I walked quiet roads, then a nauseous Highway #1.
The sun blazed and I was stuck there forever it seemed. I missed Doug's parked vehicle concealed under a shady tree. Motorists
came so I got boosted. Reps from the Saint John newspaper the Telegraph Journal came. Ashley interviewed me while Peter snapped a
few photos.
After cell phone duties and snacks at the oceanside, Doug and I left for the Kennedy family house in Saint John. They were our hosts
for the evening and have been acquainted with Krishna Consciousness for some years. They enjoy drumming and chanting. Our kirtan
(chanting) at night caught the attention of a young couple, Isaac and Mellisa, who were passing by the house, so they decided to
knock on the door and join us.
35 kms

Friday, 31 August 2007

Kenora, Ontario newspaper 5.14.07

Kenora Daily Miner and News, May 14, 2007
For the third time, Bhaktimarga Swami is heading across Canada byfoot. As a monk with the Hare Krishna, he is on a pilgrimage toconnect with nature, people and the country. He prays and meditates ashe walks through harsh climate and weather changes. He estimatescompleting his journey to the East Coast by September. He urges peopleto look at the simple things in life and take time to slow down. Hewas through Kenora Thursday and Friday.

Prescott-Russell news story 8.17.07

Marie Cicchini CASSELMAN
Jon Peter Vis, a.k.a. the walking monk, passed through Russell, Embrun and Casselman August 7 in his third pilgrimage across Canada to promote spiritual solutions to the material problems of life. The newspaper caught up with the 54-year-old born in Chatham, Ontario, in the middle of a sunny summer afternoon. He was sitting on the shaded lawn of the former agricultural museum in Casselman and had already socialized with the retired owner, Jean Dumontier. Wearing a peach-coloured robe, traditional Hare Krishna garb, the hairless monk had walked down Bank Street through Metcalfe, Russell and Embrun, accompanied by Doug Kretchmer, a video production business owner who joined the trek at the Ontario border on May 10 with his pet bird, a female parrot named Billie. The 7800 km walk that will take him to Cape Spear, Newfoundland by the end of September is not a fundraiser, he says. At 20 years of age, as a fine arts student in need of a spiritual outlet, Vis adopted a monastic lifestyle in the Hare Krishna movement in the order of the Swamis, as well as the name of Bhaktimarga (which means path of devotion). Vis started teaching yoga and mantra meditation based on a popular Hindu text. He manages to take an active role in theatrical productions, scripting, casting and directing morality theatre. He has a spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, famous for his work The Bhagavad Gita as it is. Heading east, the walking monk is trekking the second half of the country this summer. Kretchmer is there to drive and secure accommodation as needed. This third pilgrimage is broken up in two this time because the walking monk has commitments with youth groups. In 1996, he crossed the country from coast to coast, and completed the circle in 2003, walking from Cape Spear back to Vancouver Island. Swami was featured in The Longest Road, a National Film Board documentary detailing the history of the people who shaped the Trans- Canada Highway. On a typical day, starting at 4:00 a.m., the walking monk travels 40km on average, chanting a Maha mantra with chanting beads, a strand of 108 round beads in a bead bag, ending the meditation well into nightfall. This time, people understand the purpose behind it. The vibrations are better. They are curious and stop to chat. Some of them will open up their home and offer hospitality, said the amiable monk. The pilgrimage gives him a chance to connect with people, he says. Walking, meditating, and communicating with other travelers allows him to eradicate a modern-day culprit which he calls race- ism. Some of us tend to brush each other off so very easily at the slightest provocation, he says, blaming what appears to be a vacuum of virtues in society. So the pilgrimage is fortifying him. It's a matter of personal growth, which he believes can be achieved by working on his inner strength. The moments of strain in the walk and the unpredictable weather humble him and build up his tolerance, while connecting with other travelers along the way softens him a little. The message I am conveying is an encouragement to integrate long walks and meditation into your lifestyle, he says for those who are not already treading a path of spiritualism. One can also participate in the walking culture through donations to the 108 club at

Renfrew Weekender newspaper 8.10.07 part 1

Mercury Staff
A 54-year-old Hare Krishna monk who is walking across Canada for the third time ambled through Renfrew Saturday.
Bhaktimarga Swami, who was born John Peter Vis in Chatham, Ontario, was impressed by the beauty of the Upper Ottawa Valley. It’s the first time he has visited the Renfrew area, as he makes a habit of varying his cross-Canada routes.
As he cooled off his feet in the Bonnechere River at the Horton boat launch, Swami explained that he takes his long walks for three reasons: he has a passion for nature, it’s a "good workout," and it acts as a pilgrimage.
The 7,800-km cross-Canada walk aids in his personal spiritual growth and helps him face physical challenges, he said.
"It gives you a lot of reflective time to explore who you really are," he said. "There is a lot of solitude time."
See MONK, Page 15

Renfrew newspaper article part 2

August 10, 2007 - The Renfrew Weekender - Page 15
Monk finds growing tolerance in third cross-Canada walk
Continued from Page 13
During his walk, Swami performs a form of mantra meditation.
"It really focuses the mind," he said. Even when the weather is less than accommodating and the body is aching, "it helps keep you in a happy frame of mind," he added.
Through its moments of strain, the walk aids in personal growth and the unpredictable weather helps with tolerance, he said.
Walking across the country makes one appreciate the country and its natural beauty, he said.
Swami particularly enjoys being so close to wildlife, although he’s had a couple of close calls with some large animals.
He said the walk has also increased his appreciation of people across Canada. He’s noticed that people are becoming more tolerant.
They are more accepting now of him then they were in his first crossing in 1996, he noted. "I think people are opening up … the world is opening up to new ideas.
"People are pretty good … many stop to talk, curious about what I’m doing," he said. "I find most of them very friendly … and that softens me up too."
Vis was raised a strict Catholic, but changed his beliefs and name almost 35 years ago when he adopted the monastic life.
He, like many in the 1960s and ‘70s, was influenced by Eastern philosophies publicized by music groups such as the Beatles.
"I became attracted to this lifestyle and enrolled as a monk in the Hare Krishna movement back in 1973 when it was hip to be radical, daring and different," he says. "I admit that being a monk is not everyone’s calling, but it is mine."
As a celibate monk, Swami has evolved as an instructor of bhakri-yoga and mantra meditation, basing his teachings on the Hindu text Shagavad-Gita.
While comfortable with his vocation, Swami isn’t set on having others see things his way and encourages people to celebrate their diverse approaches.
However, he urges people to seek out paths that enrich their lives.
"I believe that collectively working on our inner strengths is one of the ways to heal a society that beckons for improvement," he says. "Let’s face it, we have an abundance of social issues on the table, and there are a lot of lonely people out there."
He believes that society’s problems stem from lack of commitment and a "vacuum of virtues."
"So I have come to believe that there are spiritual solutions to material problems," he says.
Swami says his cross-country tours are a way of gaining personal inspiration from Canada and its people.
In 1996 he went the way of a pilgrim and crossed this country from west to east on foot.
While travelling through eastern Ontario, he stayed close to the Great Lakes.
In 2003, he completed the circle by walking from Cape Spear, Newfoundland back to Vancouver Island.
At that time, he travelled along Highway 7 through Perth and Carleton Place.
He shared his unique experience and fond memories of his 16,000-km trek in The Longest Road, a National Film Board documentary detailing the history of the people who shaped — or were shaped by — the Trans Canada Highway, the world’s longest continuous maintained road.
He likes diverting from the major highways. After a stop in Renfrew, he headed out Bruce Street to make the trek to Arnprior along River Road.
He has divided his third cross-country trek into two parts. Last summer, he walked from Victoria to the Ontario border.
This summer he is completing the walk, with his trek to end at Cape Spear.
He said he recommends the marathon walk to people who have time on their hands and want to get in touch with their inner selves.
However, a walker should be in good shape before they start, he cautioned.
He sticks to a strict vegetarian diet and is accompanied by a support vehicle, driven by Doug Kretchmer of Quidamvideo Productions.
In the eastern Ontario segment of his walk, he was accompanied by Yamuna Jivana, a Hare Krishna devotee from Cuba.
For more information about the walk or to make a contribution, check out the official walk website at
The Walking Monk, Bhaktimarga Swami, looks down the Bonnechere to the Ottawa River from the Horton boat launch Saturday. He found walking along the historic river inspiring.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Teens at Oak Bay

Mon., Aug. 27, 2007St. George, New Brunswick

JoAnne Carney told Doug and I about local history. Samuel deChamplain and Sieur DeMont set sail in 1604, commisioned by the King of France, Henry IV, to develop the New World. They came to the Bay of Fundy and proceeded to the St. Croix River and selected an island. The harsh winter its toll. Out of 80 men, less than half survived. They didn't trust the natives and could not leave the island as the river around them froze for the winter. Life was harsh.
Now four hundred years later, communities have developed. As I walked on Oak Haven Road near St. Stephen, I met some young kids on their bikes.They stopped to ask what I was up to. I told them I'm a monk walking from St. Stephen to, to St. Andrew, to St. George to......"I am going to all the saints," I exlplained. I explained the difference between saints and satan since they asked. One girl asked if I knew Terry Fox so I responded to her that he had passed away about 25 years ago and that he's now in a new body. She was curious about that as well.
Some young teens at Oak Bay, where we took a swim and veggie wrap break, where also inquisitive. They happily recieved books by Srila Prabhupada.
Tom McLaughlin, of classic rock station WQDY in Calais, Maine, took a fancy to our walking story. He came through the border at St. Stephen to interview Doug and I. So a US media outlet came to hear our story to be broadcast tomorrow.
Another novel feature of today was meeting Neville Crabbe of the St. Croix Courier newspaper. It was his first day working at the paper and his first assignment was to interview the monk. He did a splendid job and I wish him well in his career.
37 kms

Rob and JoAnne of Tall Ship Adventures

Sun., Aug. 26, 2007 St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Doug accomplished a marathon himself today on driving. It was a good eight hour drive through most of the night after a very long day. We drove through periodic torrential rains that got us over the state of Maine from southern Quebec to southern New Brunswick. Then after a short rest, it took us another four hours of driving to reach St. Andrews to visit with friends.
Tall Ship Adventures is a whale-watching co-operative run by an old acquaintance, Rob Carney and his wife JoAnne. On a fifty ton ship along with tourists, Doug, Billie and I set sail to view the same weighted mammals called fin-back whales. These creatures, being the second largest animal on the planet (after Blue Whales) are a good 70 feet or more in length. They live quite a long time. Rob mentioned that a recent whale that was caught had a harpoon's tip, dating to the late 1800's, stuck to it's body. We caught sight of these magnificent creatures as they came to the surface for air. We also saw seals sunning on the rocks as well as playful porpoises jumping out of the water. There were also Bald Eagles flying in the sky around us.
The Vedic books of India talk of an avatar, Matsya, God's manifestation in the form of a fish, which was also gigantic in size. Like the story of Noah's Ark, a flood deluge was on the verge of destroying all of life but Matsya came to protect ancient Vedic codes (in hard copy) and saved them from water damage.
Whale-watching was enjoyable for everyone. The passengers aboard took great interest in Billie and our walking mission. At night we took rest on the Jolly Breeze ship docked in the Bay of Fundy.
10 kms

Near the Quebec border

Sat., Aug. 25, 2007 Border of Maine & Quebec

Wild apple trees are reaping tasty fruits. They are often situated at the edge of the highway and on the end of farmer's properties. Guess who's sampling these 'pommes' (apples)?
The walk is very much up and down or in other words, hilly terrain. Some of the Quebec farmers are left in wonder as they see robes of a unique kind flapping in the air. Most of the area is populated with francophones. A large Catholic church can be found in each small community like Ste. Matthias de Bonneterre.
Conley is an anglophone farmer who told Doug and I of the problems he encounters when going through the U.S. border. Most have increased security concerns since Sept. 11, 2001. So you have authorities at the U.S. border being cautious (overly perhaps). Fear is an interesting thing. Maybe we should fear temptations (or maya) more.
The few broken sentences, or my attempts at French, prove successful in my communicating with people. People in this area, like almost everywhere appreciate the notion of pilgrimage. In Lennoxville the night before, the owner of the health storetreatedour small temporary party of four with the food we took from the shelf. We were ready to pay at the till and she said, "It's on the house." There is a lot of kindness on the road. This travelling is addictive. Quebec is completed.
45 kms

With the owner of the Capelton Mine

Friday, August 24, 2007 Lennoxville, Quebec

There's water. There's earth. Together thy create mud. Mud is what the feet have to trudge through sometimes. Today was one of those days. When it didn't rain, the humidity was very high. Sweating was insatiable.
A man in his early sixties pulled over. He introduced himself as Jacques and asked if Simon and I wanted to go back to 1863, the time of the American Civil War. Jacques operates the old Capelton Mine which is open for the tourists. In the war, copper was used for ammunition and so the mine, closed in 1907, is now reopened for the public.
The words 'Free of Charge' were enticing and 8 degree Celsius in the mine sounded even more interesting. Some facts: 14 year old boys started 12 hour shifts; the average life span of a miner was 35 years old; a miner would earn $1.10 per hour (that was good money in those days). Donkeys, used as beasts of burden, in the cool, dark and dusty mines, usually died inide the mine. Rats were the alarm system. They were left inside and kept fed. If they would make a dash for the mine opening it meant they felt a shake in the rock and a collapse was coming. The mines were not regarded as a place for women, so superstition had it that if a woman entered entered a mine, a major tragedy would happen. When tired, a miner would take a cat-nap on a plank about one foot wide.
This was all intriguing to me and inspirational as to the energy of labour put in. You could not be lazy or crazy in the mine in those days. The mine was rustic and historic. Well worth seeing this kind of thing.
I'm out here to learn about people as much as I like to teach about spirituality.
On highway 108, a reporter named Perry Beaton, from the Sherbrooke Record (an English newspaper), came to take photos.
Guillaime and Caroline were our gracious hosts for the night in Sherbrooke.
38 kms

Friday, 24 August 2007

Walking down a bike path

Walking down a bike path

Thursday, August 23, 2007 Eastman, Quebec
Raccoons, skunks and porcupines take a major beating these days. I see lots of these little crearures dead on the highway every day. Their aggressors are automobiles of course. Quebec is a spacious territory. The Appalachian Mountains are now in our midst. The vistas are great. Bike trails are plentiful. I would walk down a trail with trees on either side, eat some trail mix and once the munching was completed, I would chant the Maha-mantra. What more could you ask?
At break time we went to Lac Libby, off of highway 112 close to Eastman, where I took a swim and ate some wraps.I also took a few moments to read a series of letters by Srila Prabhupada (my guru). This compilation was from 1972. One theme that comes across is the appeal by him to disciples to pay attention to details and always conduct excellent behaviour. One should never embarass one's teacher and bring ill repute. His warning was clear. It is something to hold dear.
Vedavyasa and Simon from Montreal joined us again today. The support is superb.
47 kms

Thursday, 23 August 2007

At Sylvain and May's house with Simon

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 Granby, Quebec
Doug tells me a funny story."I contacted a local TV station this morning. As my french is very limited (bonjour & merci), I had difficulty
communicating with the first two people I spoke with. I told the third person I talked to that I was travelling
with a monk who was walking across Canada. She said she would get back to me. After a short while I recieved an
enthusiastic call asking when they could cover the story and by the way...."is it a monkey or a gorilla your
travelling with?""Excuse me?" I said."A monkey or a gorilla?""No, no--a monk...a holy person," I reiterated, at which point we both cracked up realizing there was a language
Simon came out with Vedavyasa to join me on highway 112 at Granby. Eric Patenaude from L'Express came to the park
where we were picnicing to do an interview.
Our day was capped off with a home visit to Sylvain Oulette, who had stopped and talked to us on the highway the
previous day. He was familiar with us and our philosophy and had been to some of our festivals over the years. We
met his Chinese wife, May, and their one year old daughter, Satya. They asked us to conduct some chanting and we
happily did so.
45 kms