Friday, 27 June 2008

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008 - Atlanta, Georgia, USA

The early, early trek along Ponce de Leon near the ISKCON temple kept me in the presence of trees and bushes. By the time I reached the morning service at 4:30 a.m. and I came to the light of the temple’s interior, I realized I had been carrying with me a number of crawling guests. They decided to piggyback on my kurta (upper robe) and by providence use me as their transport agency. Without detailing my new found friends, I came to realize that each and everyone of us have come to this world to carry an awesome account of “stuff”. The most subtle of this “stuff” is Karma, of course.
Through our travels we attract or repel as much energy, positive or negative. The ultimate cause and effect occurring in the world with all such interactions is credited to the cause of all causes. How I came to be in Atlanta for now has mixed reasons behind it, but the Gita informs us of many causes behind action. Finally it is the cause of all causes, the Supersoul, that determines the outcome.
I had the good fortune to deliver the message of a verse from the Bhagavatam to the group of 40 or so youths I will be traveling with for the summer. This year’s summer tour production is billed as “Dharma” which features the tragic hero Karna.

5 km

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008 - Miami, Florida, USA

Florida has been seeing some stormy weather lately. It has not been hit by any serious tornado but it is being hit by a recession. One prominent astrologer here that I personally know told me that his number of clients has dropped. I asked him what are the primary issues that people have in their lives that compell them to seek help. His answer was, “Two things- love and money”.
So as far as love is concerned I see that the tantalizing feature of love is creating a lot of difficulty for people. It is a struggle to acquire and a struggle to maintain. With it, a person struggles and without it, the same. I see that people’s conjugal lives are very fickle, even in communities of a religious nature. Separation and divorce are all pervasive and impacts people negatively. Of course, sometimes forced co-existence in an incompatible situation is extremely hurtful. There is rarely a perfect scenario. The only permanent partnership that I have ever heard of is between the self and God-in-the-heart.
I was not able to use my legs today for even a stroll. I allotted time for foot treatment. Some care and attention by Dr. Murari Gupta is helping on my way to recovery. One thing to learn about planter’s wart is that to be a good patient, one has to be very, very persistent in treatment. Currently I am counting six warts on the right foot. Such is fate!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Monday, June 16th, 2008 - Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada

I had been interviewed at a television studio for a live-to-tape session on a program called "Search" to do with exploring faiths. Raif Mair, the host, fired off questions in reference to many gods for instance. Response: "God is omnipotent and therefore has the power to manifest many forms although essentially is one."

He also asked about our view on women and their role, about Arjuna, Krishna's warrior friend in the Bhagavad-gita, which I referred to as our Bible. He really wanted to know why a Caucasian person would take to this eastern philosophy and how one may get involved. I mentioned that for many people, spiritual life starts with what they see, hear or read. Of course, an all attractive feature of life in Krishna Consciousness is the chanting. Like many faiths, people come together to sing hymns or recite incantations. Overall, the interview went alright.

The late afternoon left me with crammed personal sessions with people. My remark on people today is that the Creator made humans so complex.

While walking earlier this morning on a trail and under the sky train, a skunk passed in front of me and I broke into a grin. I thought, "Somehow you are lucky. You have been made to be simple. When you evolve to become a human, complexities will overtake you."

7 km

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Sunday, June 15th, 2008 - Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Over the weekend I met a host of interesting folks. Sebastian is a Spanish man who discovered Krishna. He informed me that he was formerly a Catholic priest but wanted marriage so he left the order to explore other avenues. He came upon devotees and fell in love with chanting.

Another young chap is a close relative to our dear god-brother know well to many of us monks world-wide as 'The Jolly Swami'. Sridhar Swami was a Canadian born soul-searching fellow who became captivated by the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness. The unique thing about him was his great wealth of jokes and good humour. We were sorry to see him leave his body just five years ago in India. Sridhar's young cousin is now in the phase of his life searching for a deeper meaning and I saw in him what his Jolly Swami cousin must have been like four decades ago - young and full of wonder.

I saw a young woman of 23 for the first time since her being a toddler. Her mother had her living in our temple but left to feel out what the world had to offer. She came back full circle more recently with the daughter bright and intelligent.

I mean the encounter with people was all positive. While on a chanting session on the grass at Central Park, a Chinese fellow was drawn to ask questions. The best spot to be in the world is not necessarily the grass and fine sun above, but where you are asked to be a teacher even just for a few minutes.


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

There is something that is more gratifying than walking and meeting people and that is processional chanting. Being that I will have little opportunity this summer for conducting chanting sessions in outdoor public forums, for instance on the streets, I decided to organize a kirtan for the evening. While playing instruments, drums known as mrdungas and hand symbols known as kartals, it is required to pace yourself at a speed slower than a normal walk. Our feet carried our group to the upscale district of Yorkville. Leading our procession on foot is a black retriever by the name of Teddy. He is a handsome dog with a fabulous bushy tail but most noticeable was that he was dressed up in a slick t-shirt with the maha-mantra( Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare ), printed on it.

All the participants were encouraged to chant in response to my lead while moving on foot. Smiling is essential. We primarily were party animals and not the bar drinking folks. For a lot of people drinking is a social opportunity, but I see it more as a social insecurity. Our Guru Srila Prabhupada discouraged intoxicant use for so many reasons.

I can proudly say that I haven't touched a drink in all the years as a monk which is 35 years now. Chanting is a higher taste. That was confirmed once again.

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Fri. June 20/08 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Some remarks from people while walking…….(at Cedarvale Park),
A guy said respectfully, “Hey, I like the outfit!” “Thanks!”
A woman in black with green lipstick apparently on some substance said, “Go to the Druids and don’t eat anything…..” “I’ll think about it”, I reply.
A mother with a young son and daughter asked, “Are you the walking monk?” “Yes, I am” From there a healthy discussion took place about walking, people, and life.
Another man offered a positive, “Hare Krishna”.

(On Bloor st.)

A tall young man at an intersection asked, “ Are you Hare Krishna?”
“Tell me about it”.
And so I did covering the topic of transmigration. He remarked that he was ready to move up and not willing to continue being enamored by the wheel of Maya. …….
Another chap addressed me as Gandhi. “ What’s the scoop?”
So I mentioned that we are not these bodies , but spirits. He heard of Maya before.
“Isn’t maya evil, He asked?”
“Maya is illusion, a test for us to see how far we will stray from our real purpose.”
Two more “Gandhi” remarks were heard as I walked west on Bloor. There were also nods and folded palms from others saying, “Hare Krishna.” What really gave me a chuckle that broke my soft chanting was when one dude said, “I think that’s the love Guru.”


Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Tues. June 17/08 - Saranagati, British Columbia, Canada

When visiting the rural community of Krishna Conscious folks set in the mountains you cannot help but have nature staring you in the face. Recent rains have given the space a fresh “green”. Redirected water from higher elevated mountain sources have fueled the existing lakes and created more of them. Sadly though the contemptuous pine beetle continues to ravage the Pine trees and some fir. The otherwise green masters of this natural domain are turning to a dry brown. Since my last visit to the valley in December of 2007 I see a marked increase in deceased trees.
Residents have told me that July the area becomes more dry and the epidemic grasshoppers set in to feast on the ground vegetation. Remarkably these residents retain a kind of resilience and seem to transcend the powerful forces of grueling nature.
My walk through the valley brought me to the homes of Yamuna and Dina Tarine, early takers to Krishna Consciousness, then Nimai and Guru Carana Padma, a couple from Quebec, Yoginatha and Udaya Kirti an American and Russian couple as well as Partha and Uttama, a Canadian couple, stalwarts of the tradition. Each place is an experience of devotional hospitality.
The day ended at the summer home of Kalakanta, who breaks here from the Florida heat. Rasaraj and Kulushekar, a veteran of sorts from the days of ’68 in Montreal also attended a gathering of souls most of persons mentioned above in the evening. Basically we all discussed how we all could increase our service in devotion to humanity and how the rural setting of Saranagati is so conducive for its execution.

6 km

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Thurs. June 12th, 2008 - Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Nipuna is a young barber/hairdresser who resides near our Burnaby ashram. He along with friends Kevin, Jennifer and I took a walk up the mountain on Nelson to St. Michael's Centre, a hospice. He was telling me about his new calling or career to function as a red ambassador, a security squad that supports the police force. Assisting tourists for directions, reporting problems, and working with the homeless are some of the tasks featured in his new upcoming job. He was happy for a fresh start at something.

Our real purpose to St. Michael's was to see a god-sister whom I have never met before. Kaumudakhi was dying from cancer and as a matter of duty and love we trekked to her hospice and then her room to see a happy patient for having company. Her legs are in tremendous pain but she took the liberty to tell us about the early days of her simple but soul-fulfilling times in Brooklyn. She endeared those moments.

She also kept to a theme in her discussion and left us with a good recommendation to remain steadfast to the guru and his teachings and not philandering in so many directions. This was instruction to the people accompanying me. "Real commitment" was her strong point and that sat well with all of us.

My evening was spent with local youth in our community and rehearsing on the drama, "Vamana" to be presented on Saturday.

6 km

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Mon. June 9th, 2008 - Toronto, Ontario

There are an increasing number of people riding bikes with bags overhanging their sides. The contents are primarily collected empty liquor bottles and pop and beer cans. An oriental woman carried her hefty stock of recycling from home garbage bin to garbage bin to home garbage bin. A caucasian man did the same, only he was more sophisticated in his collecting. The route I chose for this morning's walk was a back lane road near our temple. There I saw the man dismount his bike, walk over to a high wooden fence at the rear of a Yonge St. business/residence, slid a pallet along the fence to be used as a ladder and climbed over the business/residence property to pull out more collectibles for recycling. This act looked routine. When walking you get to see these things up close.

I also observed a young man who left his bike to stand near a tree while he took to a form of tree worship. While the world is buzzing about ensnared in the rat race, some folks are carrying on in a seemingly different existence. I like to think that chanting mantras on my beads is such an existence millions of light years away.

Apart from the madness of the Monday morning revving of the world I see the piece of heaven in the stupendous gardens and landscapes of our neighborhood. There exists an incredible dualism in this world.


Monday, 9 June 2008

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Thursday, June 5, 2008 – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

America! America! What is happening to America? And here in Atlanta, a progressive city, lug in the software industry, headquarters of Coca-Cola, the seat of mega news network CNN, with plenty of trees to pretty it up shows another side. I remarked to Vedasar, our Krishna Conscious servant- leader at Druid Hills that I’m seeing lots of obesity due to under utilization of leg. I’m interested to see with gas prices soaring so high it may compel people to re-discover walking again.
On a late evening walk from our centre on Ponce de Leon Ave. I came upon few pedestrians with two thirds of them asking me for a quarter or more. Timothy Cummins, a homeless person decided to accompany me. He gave me a sense of security as the area was somewhat dubious. He constantly referred to me as churchman. It dawned on me that people drive cars perhaps because it’s safe. If this is one of the reasons for the obsession then I would say that this is a sad sign of the times.
Again, such a progressive nation and city! The airport here has 230,000 people going through it every year. All eyes and ears have been on an interesting political race for the democratic part with Obama as the victor. People are concerned about a failing economy and a new leader gives hope.
Spirituality is a darn good channel at this time.
9 Km

Sunday, June 2nd , 2008

Sunday, June 2nd , 2008 – Wiarton, Ontario, Canada

It was a spontaneous reunion with friends whom I shared time with in the early days of the ashram. Garuda, Gopan and Drupada were all senior to me in the early seventies when we gave up our wants to serve Krishna in the simplest of ways. It means early rising, the cold shower in those crammed quarters and the missionary functions of greeting the public on the street the incense sales and kitchen duties at the then temple.
It is natural to speak of the past and the passions for spreading a higher consciousness to the world. The world has changed since that time of greater innocence. The dysfunctional family has increased, so has crime, lawyers have become more wealthy at the expense of human frailty our world is more filthy and ego-centric. Yet on the plus side in many of the world’s sections, racism has decreased, vegetarianism creeping to the mainstream and the average person contemplates life as a monastic at least at some stage in their life.
Our time at the Bruce Cave Trails with there generations of Krishna folks was a relaxing stroll to discover trilliums, leeks (wild onions), fresh air and holding our interest the most was a tiny bat with an injured wing. He took well to our sweet cherry for food and to our mantras for his liberation.
4 Km

Saturday, June 1st , 2008

Saturday, June 1st , 2008 – Baltimore, Maryland, USA

It is a baseball-charged city. The city’s stadium bleachers could be seen from Pratt Street where I walked. They seem quite full. The odd thing is that most people here, I’ve been told rout for the Boston Red Sox. Some people couldn’t care for a game and are just interested in a cigarette or a drink. “I ain’t got no money” said one dude to his friend.
Pratt St. turns into Frederic and it looks like it had better days.
“Hey what are you supposed to be?” asked a loiterer at a corner street.
“A monk!”
“What’s that?”
“Someone who leads a simple and disciplined life”
Out emerges from the corner store a buddy who overheard the conversation and said, “You mean karate!” “Not exactly, My life is more devotional”
“I never seen a monk before,” remarked the first guy to my response. “There’s a lot of funk to the life of a monk.”
There were a few more instances like this on my way back to Vivek’s after a somewhat successful Ratha Yatra (Festival fo Chariots) hosted by the local members of ISKCON. I had staged a drama, “the Jaganath Story” featuring the history of several images popular from Orissa. It was well received. It is one of the reasons for the hefty walk after the festival. I was so wired up, as they say. It was a way to wind down. Walking is an excellent vehicle for winding down the passions of the day.

11 Km.

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Friday, May 30th, 2008 – Baltimore, Maryland, USA

The bottom of my feet have been looking a bit like a war zone with ongoing treatments to address callouses and warts. The saviour to what appears a sorry sight is Vivek, my host in Baltimore. Being in the medical profession he has treated foot conditions for some time. With nitrogen application and careful carving the soles are starting to look like something again, thanks to him and the help of his other youthful friends who have taken their hands at dipping into the Epsom salt water which soak my feet at night.
Vivek was determined that even if after a short night, he wanted to be woken early to join me on a high-powered walk from Catonsville to downtown Baltimore. The day was great with early sunshine and the trekking route on Frederic St. (later Pratt St.) being all downhill. We walked through some skuzzy neighbourhoods which had seen better day.
There are ways in which to live, goodness, passion or ignorance. By the force of birth we land ourselves in one of these predominant modes, but each and everyone of us have chose whether to stay in one mode or to shift to another. Choice is a blessing and by our decision from choice we can slide from sadness to happiness.
Vivek was not used to such a stretch but was happy to have made thte choice to walk while chanting. We had reached the destination point at city square where the Festival of India was to be staged very close to Babe Ruth Museum.

11 Km

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Thursday, May 29th , 2008

Thursday, May 29th , 2008 – Catonsville, Maryland, USA

“You Hare Krishna?” said the black man in official blue collar uniform.
“You Chantin?”
”Yes I am”
“Will you chant for me?”
”Indeed I will”, as I moved on and so did he, each of us in good cheer. The town is Catonsville a Baltimore burb. Flags boast of the town as Maryland’s Music City. Two blocks away from the downtown core is the Hare Krishna center and there monks mostly from Nepal and Bengal are singing and conducting bhajans (devotional songs) on a daily basis. The building is a large house with historic building status. It is made of partial stone with the balance of loud coloured paint on wood. It looks a bit like a day care center.
I was asked to deliver a talk on the day’s verse from the Bhagavatam book, Canto Six on the topic of atonement for offenses committed. In essence the verse raised the point fo doing good things to absolve oneself of bad things done bit it often happens that bad acts are executed again out of habit. So how do you end the bad things? How to atone? How to shake off habits that lead to bad karma?
The example given is of the elephant who bathes and after enjoying the cleansing and cooling sensation of the water will then gather dust and / or roll in it making himself dirty again.
To answer the question in a synoptic way is when one immerses oneself in a higher purpose and relishes its higher taste then low-scale inclinations are less likely to transpire.

6 Km

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Monday, May 26th, 2008 – Toronto, Ontario

On Bloor St. in front of an outdoor bar an elderly Czek Republic settled in Canada in ’69 admitted he was a dentist having a few drinks. He stood up as he saw me, stretched out his hand to shake mine and said “ I know you stand for peace and I really appreciate that…” He didn’t seem to want to let me go. His wife sitting across from his small table empathized. Eventually his kind words and gestures came to a close.
Moments later on Spadina St. a young man let his tow female companions walk on ahead of him. He stopped to talk. “Are you religious?” he asked.
“Trying to be”
“Do you believe in God?” “Most certainly!” I responded.
He outstretched his arms and I read that well. A hug followed and he went on his way.
The mid afternoon game me and a peer monk, Purnachandra Swami, a New York born student of Srila Prabhupada, a chance to get time walking in a ravine. There the two of us met the less frequent pedestrian. We would chat about the things important to us such as what is going on in the place where we each reside. Purnachandra is mostly active in Russia teaching there and offering seminars in the field of bhakti, devotion and the subject of building healthy relationships.
Whether in devotional circles such as our communities or in the secular workd establishing meaningful relationships is critical in making life successful. It is next to impossible to function without basic human support.
I feel very good to have this in my life.

13 Km

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sat. May 24/08 - Malton, Ontario

This morning I initiated a 24 hour chanting session at the Bharat Sevashram Centre. It was the 16th annual event which brings together many devotees, the majority of who are Bengalis. It is remarkable how enthusiastic they respond. This program was fist brainstormed by Raj Sarangi, a native of Orissa, India. He was always an optimistic man and recently built a temple for Jagannatha the Lord of the Universe, in his home town of Nagespura, Orissa.

This evening brought me to a baby shower. Such an event is traditionally an exclusive girl's event but the tradition has been broken by host Praharna Mataji who was instrumental in bringing in the boys for this normally gender specific program. Monks were also allowed which is where I fit in.

The evening included charades which was targeted toward the pastimes of Krishna. Recently I looked at a small book with photos on " Nuns Having Fun" and perhaps in the future a sequel could be dedicated to monks.

God has pleasure and I suppose those of us who try to represent Him in some way can also have a whale of a time!

5 km.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thurs. May 22, 2008 - Ottawa, Ontario

I paced while chanting "Hare Krishna" on my beads early this morning along the Rideau Canal. A significant ripple was moving the still water of the canal. I walked closer to the cause of the ripple and it was a mallard duck, so small in the space of that water yet so powerful was his wave. It is remarkable what one entity can do to influence the atmosphere around him. I see Srila Prabhupada like that, he was a person of short stature about 5'3" and yet he moved so many people toward a greater way.

Significant for me, was an amazing statement made by him in his Gita's commentary. In chapter three verse 24 and purport he says "if the living entities are misguided indirectly the responsibility goes to the Lord." Therefore he descends from time to time to help correct a situation needing help. 1- The creator chooses to be very involved. 2- He takes responsibility.

9 km.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wed. May 21/08 - Montreal, Quebec

It was my fourth day in this dynamic city. I was feeling that my time here was productive, not necessarily on foot as the weather was generally bad, wet and somewhat windy. By God's grace I managed to accomplish something substantial. Whenever I spot a messy area (in this case the temple room) I' am inclined to make a remark to those I thought would do something about it. The person in charge here is a real servant-leader type. His name is Anubhava Prabhu and he gave a nod of approval for me to remove unnecessary objects and to tidy an otherwise neglected area. Within a matter of minutes orderliness came into being and although there was some resistance for change by a couple of residential monks consensus built up that "less is more". As for myself, it is difficult to concentrate on spiritually-focused activities like chanting when a place in untidy.

I roamed around a place on the east end of Montreal near the temple a street named " Promenade Ontario". Recently the city has sunk funds into the area to give it a facelift but if the people of the vicinity don't clean up their ways being a reputed high percentage welfare district then nothing will change.

An example given by Srila Prabhupada is, "a man may be given a cure for sexually-transmitted disease but if he is not careful about his playboy habits he can contract the disease again".

10 KM.