Friday, 30 January 2009

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

LBI, Guyana

One of the world’s longest floating bridges, set over the Demerara River, was out-of-bounds for pedestrians due to repairs on the walkway. Somehow, with a monk’s humble persuasion, passage was granted for Rupa and myself. It was 5:30AM. Rain was pouring. Drenched we were as we took that mile long rickety bridge. Waters below are known for the presence of electric eels, in the rivers incredible depth and speed. We felt on cloud nine because all traffic was stopped at the time we trekked the bridge. We had it all to ourselves. Now we hit land at Vreed-en-Hoop. Torrential rain persisted.

Noontime was spent at the busy market square. People know us as the “Haribols” which has become a common salutation. Shopkeepers and purchasers were eager to receive our hand bills promoting Padayatra. I found the butchers there with flesh pieces dangling to be exceptionally receptive. Some folks read the center page of Kaieteur News captioned “Walking Monk on Guyana Journey”. My objective here, of course, is to promote the spiritual culture of India – a culture that offers something for all. I am merely a humble servant and tiny component of the ancient mantra culture. If a little attention comes my way, it is then an opportunity to speak on behalf of the tradition.

The evening stage event was held at Ramkisson Lumber Yard. The business had been converted for one day into a spiritual oasis. A Trinidadian, Rajarsi, delivered an impactful message on Krishna Consciousness and Ajamila, a Bengali by birth, led a passionate chant. The last two evenings I engaged twelve young men in the drama, “The Gita” presented tonight. Good stuff boys! You looked good. The grand finale was chanting and drumming. Our venue had become a place of sweat, sweat, sweat.

No rum! No vodka! No meat, fish, or eggs would dare show their face at this festival. It’s just good, clean fun.

10 Km

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Mon Repos, Guyana

Guyana boasts making the best rums in the world packaged as El Dorado. A beverage like this couldn’t entice Rupa (my traveling partner again) and I even on the steamiest of days. When we trekked near the massive distillery a worker invited us past the security and into the lobby for a stretch-the-leg-and-take-it-easy-break. We were moved by their hospitality and the soft drinks that were cold and pleasing.

We also hear that Guyana has some of the best gold deposits in the world. It has its best and worst. So what’s worse? Rupa and I did encounter the meanest ants, perhaps the nastiest the globe has to offer. A few mere seconds of mistakenly standing on one of their hills hidden by foliage gave me the experience of a lifetime. Rupa also had an incredible “ouch” session as the pesky things crawled up his legs. Despite dealing with the unknown on ground level my feet begged for comfort so I submitted to a barefoot stretch while carefully watching each step.

As we made our way en-route towards the airport, Rupa and I made it a point to distribute flyers as we met folks in transit to work or school. It seems the whole country is “abuzz” on the Padayatra festival. The numbers increase each night as national television and various media outlets inform the public of the foot-and-song festival. I took the liberty to parade marshal the procession. Many participants are habituated to spontaneous performance but I’ll beg to differ on this approach and go for order, focus, and some regimentation. I believe our guru, Srila Prabhupada, favours a much more melodious and structured approach.

28 Km walking / 6 Km in procession

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Lusignan, Guyana

Just east of Georgetown is the town of Lusignaan where the second night of padayatra was staged. Many people along the processional route expressed that they recall similar events in the late eighties when the first Krishna pioneers of Guyana such as Bhutadi, Agrani, Paramatma, and others hosted this main event. What made tonight’s event major was the attendance of prominent local Hindu pundits as well as the country’s acting president, the Honourable Samuel Hind. I particularly liked one pandit’s definition of ego. Pandit Prakash saw it as an acronym to “Edging God Out”. Honourable Hind recognized the work of organizers for their effort to thrust the notion of peace in a world of social disturbance.

The second day of padayatra had increased in size and vibrancy. Response were good as was my early morning walk with Rupa eastbound on the main highway. We are talking about simple sweet folks here who are not burdened with many of the distractions of the developed world. People are so quick to wave a hand and make the address, “Ram Ram” or “Sita Ram” or “Haribol”. Black folks express these terms as do Hindus.

Spirituality is very doable in this country of limited population (700,000) and where soft-heartedness is prevalent. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they like seeing their swamis out and about. In any event, piety is a feature of this north shore South American land. They turn up for an event on a Tuesday night which promotes walking for spirituality sake. I’m pleased.

20 Km

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Buxton, Guyana

It was in Buxton a year ago today that racial tension struck hard in this small bedroom community of Georgetown. The army was forced to step in to resolve a merciless shooting of children in their sleep. Things have relaxed somewhat since then. It was only appropriate that the Padayatra (festival on foot) was initiated today and under the theme of peace and unity. The response was generally favourable.

As a classy shaped cart was pulled by foot-festival-participants, people came out onto their balconies to view. It was not exactly like balconies of the aristocracy. Rather, many homes are built on stilts. The homes are the balconies. Some folks actually came to the roadside to receive some small token of sweets. It was not just humans that expressed excitement. Cows, horses, goats, and pigs picked up on the resonating sounds of drums, cymbals, and chants. In that sense humans and the fury domesticates share space quite closely in Guyana.

A portion of our route occupied one lane of the two-lane coastal highway. Exposure of the exotic cart was great as it enshrined the glowing images of Caitanya and Nitai, two revered visionaries of medieval India who demonstrated no differences as to one’s ancestral background. In other words, their message of goodwill, bhakti – the devotional path, was an open door pathway for all. In addition to the Padayatra program, Rupa from New York and I tackled 20 kilometres on foot headed east of Georgetown. It is the third country that I’m fixed to walk across after Canada and Ireland. My dream is to roam the globe.


Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Georgetown, Guyana

In metaphorical fashion, the book “Light of the Bhagavats”, by author Srila Prabhupada, likens lost souls to the thundering clouds. To quote, “The forgetful living entities, individually and collectively, make sounds like thundering clouds: “I am this”, “It is ours”, or “It is mine.”
In a similar way, the forceful Guyanese sea breeze whipped its way across the flat coast as if to say, “I’m here”, “I’m strong”, “I can move things”. All night the wind made his presence known through sound and touch. He crept through my window at the house of host Haresh and Dolly, just a two minute walk to the Atlantic sea wall constructed first by the British and Dutch in the mid 19th century.

Haresh, Radha Gopinath from Toronto, and Rupa from New York, accompanied me on a westbound trek by the sea wall from Haresh’s home to the Pegasus Hotel. We had taken in the breeze, the sun, and the humidity. As early as 6AM, people are already lined up to relax, or snack, or fish, or to do puja, a Hindu ritual with the use of coconut and flowers. Some men were sitting with bird cages containing their pet song bird. They readied themselves for a competition with each other, a routine Sunday morning practice, betting on whose pet would sing the longest.

My sponsor for the trip to Guyana is an accountant from Canada, Ram Lila, who came to whisk us away by vehicle for an abhishek, a liquid ritual for the sacred images of Caitanya and Nityananda, two stalwart foot travelers from the medieval times of India. I spoke on the significance of Padayatra, a celebration for pedestrians who sing, dance, and drum in rhythmic fashion, before an enthusiastic community who would participate in a village to village foot journey celebrating the joy of the soul for the coming walk.

A trip over the Demerara River by way of a crude bridge to Crane, a town with a second community, was looking forward to tomorrow’s padayatra. Our small crew savoured the local cuisine of dahl puri, split pea soup, and fresh locally matured fruit.
The inhabitants in the land of plenty water, Guyana, are of two major descents – those of the Africa and India. Both groups generally respond well to outdoor events to do with any beat in the heat. Personally, I can’t wait.


Monday, 26 January 2009

January 26, 2009

The devotees of ISKCON Guyana have restart Padayatra on Monday, January 26th, 2009. Padayatra was first launched in Guyana by His Holiness Agrani Swami in 1989 from the easternmost Village of Crabwood Creek, near the Suriname border, with a five mile walk daily followed by massive evening sankirtan and other Krishna consciousness presentations. That segment covered 200 kilometres along the main coastline where most of the population is concentrated. There was then a break for several years. In the mid nineties Padayatra again continued for another 50 kilometres on the West Coast of Demerara when World Padayatra Minister, His Holiness Lokanath Swami, graced the festival.

This third segment of Padayatra is scheduled for one week from January 26—February 01 and the walk will be for about 40 kilometres through the most populated villages leading to the Capital City of Georgetown. A new aluminum fabricated Padayatra cart and two huge tents were imported from Canada for the occasion, and the Deities of Nitai Gaurasundara were brought from Mayapur last month; all through the kind courtesy of Ram-lila das, a disciple of His Holiness Bhaktimarga Swami.

His Holiness Bhaktimarga Swami and Ajamil Prabhu arrived over the weekend and several live appearances on television and press conferences were scheduled over the weekend, prior to the big event on Monday. There has been wide media publicity of the event and devotees are on television daily promoting the festival and sensitizing the public. Hundreds of local devotees will participate and a contingent of devotees from neighbouring Suriname and Trinidad will join. Everyone is excited and upbeat in anticipation of the festival and support from the local villagers and government officials is overwhelming—people are spontaneously coming forward to offer assistance and make contributions.

Guyana is the only English speaking country located on the north eastern shoulder of South America, having an area of 215,000 square kilometers and has a relatively small population of only three-quarters of a million. Located between latitudes 1 and 9 degrees, the country enjoys yearlong mild climate, with a mean temperature of 27.5 degrees Centigrade. Fifty-five percent of the population is Indians, 40 percent Africans and the remainder, mixed races. More than 90 percent of the topography is covered with tropical rain forest and the country is more agriculture based.

ISKCON is well received and very popular countrywide and has cordial relations with the government. There are three main Temples, one in each county, and a thriving preaching centre near the only University. The installed Deities here are: Sri Sri Radha Gokula Chandra located at New Kulinagram, Berbice, and Sri Sri Nitai Caitanya Chandra located at Gaura Nitai Ashirvaad Mandir on the West Coast of Demerara. For further information please e-mail Paramatma das:

Friday, 23 January 2009

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Toronto, Ontario

I have mentioned it before that a monk should be out and about. There are many reasons for this. Especially where there is foot traffic new friends are made and old acquaintances connect again. Coming around the corner at Spadina and Bloor headed for the gym was Jivan Mukta, a man who takes pride in his family, and former monk whom I used to share my devotions with. I hadn’t really seen him for some time and years had lapsed since he pulled up stakes to leave the city for the better small town life. Well, he’s back in the city with clan and ventures by the temple from time to time.

It was god to converse, although brief. After an amiable talk I pondered on how well arranged is the Vedic system. What I mean by that is when one is young and learning responsibility one obtains the benefit of happy restraint as a brahmacari, celibate monk. At the mature time one fixes himself or herself in married life with blessings from all. After journeying through the role as spouse and parent one may lean again towards the simple life of monk hood. I’m speaking about the maturing years. One may choose the happy restraint again and concentrate on simple devotion as before. This has been the tradition in India for years.

Had I not set foot on Bloor st. to chant on my beads I would have missed Jivan Mukta, a monk from the past and perhaps a monk for the future.

8 Km

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Toronto, Ontario.

While walking south on Avenue Rd. before the crack of dawn I shouldered “the face of freshness”. My dad used the term “fresh” whenever he would describe winter winds biting the face. It sometimes even stings. Tagged on to the word Fresh I can hear his voice lingering in my mind. “It’s good for you.” This phrase always stuck with me. In applying this toughness, so to speak , I have felt the benefits. The elements can be harsh but once there is psychological acceptance then the harshness becomes soft.

From a newspaper stand the caption’s message was clear. The new US president Barak Obama was quoted saying that there will be a new era of responsibility. With all the recent enthusiasm over the new leader I believe some of the public cheerleaders are hoping the new chief can solve all the problems. But this isn’t so. Sometimes a candidate for accepting a guru is motivated in a self-centered way thinking, “if I have a guru he/she will relieve me of all my problems, financial, relationship difficulties will dissolve.” This isn’t so. The guru or leader encourages responsibility supplying the inspiration to carry on despite the challenges of the world.

One of our monks in the ashram is encountering some depression. I and others have encouraged him to surf on the wave of hope, to go for those brisk walks, do some pranayam (breathing exercises), take cool showers and above all to let the mantras heal him. We cannot “do for him”, but advise. He must take some initiative and ride on the momentum we, his friends, can supply.

He responded well to the evening walk in the chill ,which I accompanied him on.

8 Km

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Houston, Texas.

I had rushed south-bound on Ella Blvd. to try to reach the morning service aarti at 4:30am. The weather for me is fine, cold for the southerners. Amongst the attendees at our Houston convention was Partha Sarathi, a member of the U.S. Forces in Iraq. Partha, who has a significant number of high action/high motion tales to tell of his experience on the warring fields, has a mere six days to complete his term in the service. Already he is chalking put his plans for the future which entails recruiting human beings for the spiritual path. On a few occasions he mentioned that I was his hero for doing all these marathon walks. I on the other hand, have the greatest respect for him for the encouraging role he has played in boosting the spirits of his fellow fighters during their very difficult times. From the accounts he has given he has turned a lot of soldiers around to becoming people of improved character and giving them something to believe in.

I was equally anxious to bid my farewell to him before he left Houston as I was to attend the 4:30 pm chanting session. We hugged and said our good-byes.

My departing flight from Houston to Charlotte on U.S. airways had me seated right next to a marine. Mike was his name. He was curious about my robes and all affiliated with that. He addressed me as “sir” continuously which is I guess is equivalent to addressing a swami as “Maharaja.

In any event Mike the marine was nice and got really intrigued with long distance walking. I always appreciate monks and soldiers. There is something taming in the training.

10 Km

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Houston, Texas

I felt quite guilty having been absent from the morning philosophical class. Based on the book Srimad Bhagavatam. I really do enjoy hearing and enjoy delivering a message from this sacred text. Friday morning had been my turn to speak. While I had been reporting about the young boys stage – fright I had been feeling the same fear for many years when offered the chance to speak before peers. No problem in front of a new audience or juniors but for years and years the subtle me inside has encountered major internal avalanches. Or at least tensions rise and things get all knotted up inside.

Somehow I passed the test, spoke from the day’s verse and what was on my mind, (perhaps heart as well) and received so ,many favourable comments afterwards from peers. Even at the age of mid-fifties you may have some hoops to jump. I suggest that you never stop trying to jump. Once you do, you’re dead.

For many of the youths in the drama, “The Witness”, many of them rather young, performing before audience was also “a big deal” . It was that chance to overcome natural fear which can feel like standing naked before the whole world. The effort of the combination of both Houston and Dallas budding artists was highly rewarding.

The story of , “the Witness” is about two walking pilgrims, one young, another old, who end up finding their own truth to self- fulfillment. It was a great pleasure writing the script based on a true story detailed in the Bengali text, “Caitanya Caritamrita” translated into English by our own guru, Srila Prabhupada.

8 Km

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Houston, Texas

I couldn’t contain myself. I just had to reveal my southern drawl over the mic.
“Y’all get ova hea!”
Tomohara had given me the mic and Asked that I open the meetings with a chant and so to rally the troops of divine leaders the group of forty or so assembled together to do what we much believe in-chanting. We chanted and we danced in a folkish style in three separate circles with space that the Gauranga Hall could accommodate.

After reaching a crescendo we sat down for a sobering session. A presentation regarding the book publishing house BBT and how it’s operation is being threatened. For many years it has been the largest book publisher of vedic philosophy in the world. Further details I will withhold however, I can say that the divine scare brought on quite the discomfort amongst us.

It has become somewhat a given that the walking monk, your humble servant, does not attend all sessions during convention times. I’m occupied some of the time with preparing the drama for a Sunday performance. Whenever assembling one of these plays there are always dramas within the dramas. In our practice with the youth we reached a critical point- our main lead role, Gopal, a diety (icon ) that was to unfreeze as a statue and become an animated dancing boy had to be reconsidered . Yes, it sometimes happens that at the eleventh hour stage fright could consume a player and hence the director (me) must search for an alternative.

The young boy, 9 was not able to come up to his own expectation. By 1 AM we had some alternative ideas but all we met was a bunch of tears from several young actors back stage. What to do? The show must go on!
“Let’s pressure our sincere intent. Sleep on it. Call on Krishna for an answer and an answer will come.”

4 Km

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Huston, Texas

I shared a house with a real gentleman, Tamhohara, who goes by some non-sanskrit name in the secular world. He was formerly a Dean in a Chicago university for several years and since then has turned to fulltime service in the Krishna Consciousness movement. I asked him how he found the transition to which he responded, “the university is superior in organization and there is unlimited facility”.

It has been a common joke amongst peers that if people are somewhat opposed to organized religion then they will like ours. For both Tomohara, the Krishna North American chairperson and myself hope that in the near future that will become a joke of the past.

To the 34th Street I went directly towards Ella Blvd. I came upon a crew of workers on a break sitting outside their workplace. The predominant Hispanic and black guys asked what I’m carrying. I crossed the street happily to answer their question.
“It’s a bag holding meditation beads for chanting, (pause) I guess you guys thought I had a Texas gun in here “ as I pulled out the beads.
“It did cross my mind “, said one fellow. The guys all broke out in a scream of laughter.

In the evening I became acquainted with our local youth to engage them in one of those quick production plays. We sat in a circle.
“We are going to put on a drama called, “The Witness.” It’s a great story of devotion and we will work some long hours tonight and Saturday. Are you guys troupers or party poopers?”
“Troupers!” they responded.
And we got serious.
8 Km

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Houston, Texas

After a decent rest I headed towards the local temple on 34th Street. Not fully sure of my direction I asked a couple of young black dudes, Where is Ella Blvd?”
“It’s down that way”, as one of them pointed. He sorted a rather large comb fixed in the side of his hair. He was curious and asked, “what’s that you got on?” I suppose he was referring to my robes and the earthen marking on my forehead.
“Well, Im a monk.”
“What’s that.”
“It’s a person who leads a rather simple life based on spirituality.” I answered.
“Simple Life!” he repeated as he carried on walking shaking his head in the manner of some disbelief.

Finally I did make it south bound on Ella Blvd (I imagine named aftert he renowned jazz singer) and to the temple which is under construction. A second building of substantial size was the venue for the meeting of devotional hearts. A small group of us executed the task of dealing with administrative business for our North American center. Experience tells that spontaneous religion devoid of order doesn’t quite fulfill the demands of a growing public disinterested in organized religion. Even the path of spirituality requires some organization. Many of us were radical hippies before we joined and had some aversion towards “structure”. Sooner or later we realized that if you want to get things done then self –discipline must be applied. Usually self –transformation is preceded by self-discipline.

4 Km

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Toronto, Buffalo, Charlotte, Houston

There is no way that anyone can humanly walk this distance from city to city in one day. It’s possible though via air travel. For a good ten hours or so, my legs hardly moved and yet they were in motion (along with my other body parts of course). It was actually a car drive from Toronto to the Buffalo airport, a dragged out, snail-paced traffic at the two cities in precarious winter road conditions, a thorough questioning session at the border with security, then the flight within America that filled out the day with godsisters, Subuddhi and Praharana, senior members of our temple in Toronto.

The modern age has opened up so many new possibilities for the contemporary pilgrim. In Houston, Krishna monks, nuns and family folks all of servant-leader status on the continent, came from far and wide to discuss how the spiritual quality of life can be inserted in to North American life pattern. Thanks to the bird that gave us the concept of flight and horse power that gave us the concept of speed over soil. And for the efficiency of internet, skype and so on, gratitude can be extended to the ancients that communicated with the Supreme Divine, who is so near yet so far simultaneously.

0 Km on foot, thousands by air.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

When night opens a fresh change is ignited. A new optimism is felt. Pedestrians walk speedily in this mood. Also if you want to keep warm you must walk with a hustle. Some young men have figured it out at College Park in the downtown. I heard from the distance a hockey puck crash against a wall with hockey sticks clattering about. These men on skates with their enthusiasm had overcome the January temperature. They were smart. While playing hockey they kill the chill.

Others kept warm inside a Starbucks coffee shop. At a senior’s home a large window revealed silver-haired folks taking well to their evening dinner keeping themselves warm and toasty. Another window to the food business with big yellow arches showed young voracious eaters chomping at Big Mac’s and sipping tumblers of cold fizzy drinks. A bad diet!

With these images flashing before me I felt the strength to have no such allurements for warmth or eating. Soft utterance of the maha mantra and a speedy pace on foot allows all the buzz to pass by me. And for company well that’s been reality for the whole course of the day, so I had my break before returning for bed.

The only thing is I couldn’t sleep. It’s that weekly insomnia attack again. Oh well! There’s plenty to do until the beautiful hour before the dawn’s cracking.

A friend e-mailed a message today, which read, “Handle your present with confidence and prepare for the future without fear”.

12 Km

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

In the winter month the average person’s day begins with the night. At expansive Eglinton Ave. west traffic was quiet at 5 am. The moon is prominent. The sky is dark. The air is still. Massive snow plows, four abreast, push the frozen substance to the side going west, then east. Eglinton was my walking route. As they approached I had to dash for the pile-up in order to dodge them. Motorists appreciate the work they do. They make people’s lives more convenient. I was driven to the ISKCON community in Brampton where I delivered a message on “Change”. Upcoming U.S. President Barack Obama has been using the slogan about change as part of his successful political campaign and so it’s a topic not new to people. In referencing the Gita we find the word is used in the context of changing the body. One transmigrates from one body to another just as one changes his/her clothing. The Gita also speaks of the mind’s transitory nature. What was highlighted in the talk was the need to change within and to view the world from a different perspective than pervious. Let’s look more at what we can give rather than what we can take. Changing the world starts with yourself.

The latter portion of the afternoon engaged me in a small family reunion with siblings Connie, Jerry, Rose Ann and Pauline. We recalled the contributions of our deceased parents. Jerry brought his mandolin and played a marvelous rendition of “Here comes the Sun” followed by a beautiful strumming of, “Hare Krishna”. After all it’s New Years time and it’s good to start on a happy note.

11 Km

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

I was savoring some soothing moments contemplating the devotional program of the night before, held at the home of a friend just outside this neat and clean city. I facilitated Nine Devotional Methods to a group of seekers. Amongst them was my brother, Paul, a retired naval office, his wife, Joyce and eighteen year old son, John. For me their participation became a devotional landmark. Their willingness to participate was casual and voluntary. After thirty five years of taking to monasticism I found my kid-brother accepting this sharing process. He remarked after the session, “I know what you are. I just never knew what you do.” Somehow we came closer to each other.

Truly there never was a distance. My siblings and I were rather a tight-knit in our growing years. You could say it was a functional family. After a stroll on Gourman Rd and then in the neighborhood of the late Emily Carr, Canadian impressionist artist who often used as her subject the totem poles of the Haida Nation, a group of four of us sailed by ferry to the mainland. With Vancouver Island behind us we talked the balance of the day.

Before evening commitments evolved I managed a third walk off of Marine Drive where I came upon thorny blackberry vines in an undeveloped lot. Disentanglement was tough at this post-dusk period. Metaphorically these hurdles are like life. As I set myself loose of the prickly vines and struggled through dead and living branches it confirmed that we must always endeavor to get loose of what holds us back.

This lesson was a message I conveyed to a family from the Vancouver ISKCON community. Two months ago their son Sahil Sharma a young college student was last known to take his bus home from school. He never made it home and has been missing since then. The grieving parents are devastated. The mounties investigating the case have no lead.

So to tell the distraught family that karma is such that we get what we deserve is never comforting nor is it a complete explanation. My associate for the night Jaya Govinda and I offer the spark of hope. “Chant! Pray! As we will do. Pray for protection”.

6 Km

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada

Two cousins, Canadian males, had spent a full year in this spectacular valley of solitude since I last saw them. The actual name of the village near Ashcroft is Saranagati, within Venables Valley, and I could see that the good association these young men in their twenties have had here greatly benefited them. Most of all, I'm impressed with the transformation of the two.

Dillon, who hails from Kelowna, like a lot of young kids growing up through teen years, took his share of lack of self identity, depression moments. He told me he was the class clown at school and then went to introversion. He found solace in dance, the current trends of hip hop style, popping and krumping. He's good at it and has just begun offering lessons to the primary school in the valley. It's his passion and residents of the valley encourage him on this art form, channelling it in the service of the Divine.

Rob, who lives with his cousin in a rustic home in this bear country, is an absolute gentleman. He told of his big drinking binges prior, and how he is now gloriously clean from that influence. He's working a steady job and is also steady with a female friend looking forward to a life settled in a spiritually centered atmosphere. Rob was kind to drive a young devotee, Nitai Priya, and I to the valley from Vancouver.

Walks were short but peaceful being very much away from the humdrum madness of city life. If I could endorse it once again, atmosphere and company make all the difference in shaping a person's life.

6 Km

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

The climb up Royal Oak Avenue was not easy as I headed for the evening destination - a satsang at Caitanya and Manoharini's home. Royal Oak is a rather steep incline. Pare of the sidewalk has slatted concrete to gripe a pedestrian's feel in place.

I vowed not to bring up the topic again, but just a slight mention about the slidy white stuff: it made for a perfect episode of hard-working sweat going through ankle and calve-deep snow. A fall usually means a soft landing. It's all accidental of course and no kid's play intended. Once arrived I charaded our evening group through a chapter of Krishna Book. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Then time for questions. Out of a host of them, one youth expressed a dissatisfaction.

"I do not go to our local temple because I find little community spirit. So why don't we change things?"

In a nutshell, I responded by saying that I believed that morale could be raised but that as a mature youth he had so much to offer.

"The young ones look up to you, being gifted musically, being intelligent, strong and competent. your actions impress them. While the community is there to give we must ask ourselves, 'what can I give?'"

Basically I was encouraging him to get involved, to be active. Space will be provided. He is welcome. If we go anywhere with an attitude to give, then we will receive.

5 Km

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

I will not speak of snow any longer. The weather here on the west coast insists on not freezing but only near-freezing. The end result is a world of slush, a wet mud and snow substance. Routine has it that I must trek through whatever the ground offers. Only rarely do I get discouraged. A brave entourage accompanied me this morning.

When you think about what our feet traverse over in one lifetime, we contact many substances. Today it's slush. Other days it's ice, snow or mud, sand, gravel, pavement, grass, rocks, etc. I remember being raised on the farm and how Jerry, my brother, and I slid on those rubber boots and would spend hours pitching manure onto the manure spreader while stepping in the soggy stuff all day. These are all very diverse forms of ground that support us.

In the evening I was asked to speak about ground. To be more specific I was asked to speak to our Burnaby congregational gathering about the land of Kuruksetra. Chapter One, Verse One of the Bhagavad-gita identifies the sacredness of this vast tract of land south of the Himalayan Foothills. It was there that major spiritual functions took place, a major combat that created a blood-drenched land. More significant is that here was the ground upon which Krishna Himself spoke delineating on the subject of inner healing.

For me, speaking about philosophical and moral truths makes me a happy chappy. I'm right at home there enjoying it as much as a slush walk.

5 Km

Burnaby, British Columbia, January 2009, 13 images

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Hurling snow balls in the air occupied a portion of the day at snow laden BC and particularly at Deer Lake. When you are having a leisure time with a young family which includes three boys, then even as a monk, you are obliged to give them some stimulation. Balaram is the ten year old - the eldest, and is my combatant at snow fighting. The battle can be justified. It's clean fun and a perfect workout. Neither he nor I suffered injuries in the process.

This white-covered haven was our venue for a walk along the lake. A heron allowed us to get almost close enough to give a handshake. A hawk's behaviour differed. Perched on a dead coniferous tree, he decided to go for a flight when our camera seemed to invade his privacy. A crow was not evasive or ready for a close encounter. He was fidgety, flying here and there. And conspicuous by their absence, coyotes of the area were burrowed by earth and layered by snow which just kept softly piling upon the already over abundant dreamy substance.

The boys, sons of nature-lovers Caitanya and Manoharini, were delighted by all of this and have been taught to respect from near or far, these creatures of the wild and the Master Intelligence behind them all.

The on going descending snow did not deter me from a home visit. Friend and funky drum-playing Kripanidhi, was host to an evening of chanting. Time was reserved for me to read of our guru's activities on this day exactly thirty-three years ago. Listeners were transported to Nellore, Andra Pradesh, in India, 1976. Like the crow, we were here and there, but Karuna Mayi's gluten fake-turkey put our contented bellies all at home base.

10 Km

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

For many people across the globe it is "inner"-ventory time, a check list of what's personally in stock, good and bad. New Year's resolutions are expressed openly or reserved as private commitments. We review and renew vows that are hopefully doable. It is a very personal thing.

My own personal vows have been in the making for some months now. Like some brew that had been steeping - herbs, leaves, spices and essence, certain wishes have been on the simmer cooking up, anticipating the conversion into something practical. First, you desire, then plan, then put into action.

The success of trekking Ireland this last summer gave me the inspiration to test other nations' soils on foot. I have Guyana in mind as well as Fiji and maybe New Zealand, as sponsors have come forward to have me in those countries for teaching. Time will allow for the walks while I'm there.

Signs of encouragement are out there to insert the message of bhakti, devotion. For instance after an exuberant drumming and chanting session on New Year's Eve held at Old City Hall following the count down to usher in 2009 to the explosion of fireworks, a tall native fellow came up to me to express, "You guys did really good getting everyone to sing and dance." Earlier in the day, a CBC television interviewer came by the temple to ask what particular way will followers of Krishna celebrate.

"What is the goal of life?" he asked additionally.

The encouragement is on. So resolutions may be flying. We just have to make them land.

4 Km