Monday 31 August 2009

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Daniel Lost and Found

Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Radha Madhava, my stalwart associate for this trip, is telling people “Talatala”’ which means priest as we meet folks along the route. That’s in reference to my humble self. Fijians seem to have this natural reverence for the spiritual guide. Yes, just everywhere we stopped along Queens Road, whether Native or Indian, people carried this remarkable respect.

I revealed my mind to Radha Madhava how it is my strong affirmation that prasadam or Hare Krishna food and some entertainment, drumming and chanting would capture these hearts for their great experience. We came upon this villager that responded merely by our standing there. You just stand there and people come out of their house and come to greet. So imagine the response with the added features.

A young boy resounded “Talatala”’ which means priest, as we met Elike, 15, came forward and told us his elder brother was residing at our temple in Lautoka three years ago. So Radha Madhava sought him out and brought Daniel, 19, to the road to join us. For various reasons he left and being native, at times felt intimidated at the majority of Indian people. I reassured him.

“Why don’t you help us with the food and entertainment program we have in mind,” I asked. So he told people “Talatala”’ which means priest, as we met and stayed on.

“We will start with your village and organise something with the Suva Temple,” I suggested. It sounded so enticing to him.

In the evening I asked Daniel to play the mridanga drum right next to me as I chanted before a group of members at the Suva temple. My theme for talking was “working out of the box.” In other words, after constructing an attractive temple such as we are sitting in here to satisfy our community needs, what next steps can we take to advance a higher consciousness.

Lets consider our local indigenous people and give them an opportunity to explore the form of spirituality that embrace vegetarianism and a higher power that carries a most charming aspect – “Krishna”

31 Km

Monday, August 24th, 2009

One serpent many people

Navua, Fiji

There is something peculiar about the country side in Fiji. It was hard for me to put my finger on it in the beginning. Then it grabbed me so suddenly. Conspicuous by its absence was road kill.

Yes I had seen a cat that didn’t make it across the main road called Queens Road but for the sake of non domestic creature?

“There are no dangerous animals here” reassured Bhimsena a companion for the day along with Radha Madhava.

“How about squirrels or ground hogs, something simple like that” I asked.

He answered with a Fijian proud “No!” and smiled. Not even a snake you’ll find except for what the natives call degei. This is a serpent of extra ordinary kind. Situated in the Northern side of the island is a place called RakiRaki by Nakauvandra Hill and a lake and in it resides a Fijian version of the Loch Ness monster. The natives consider it a forbidden zone and also sacred. I do anticipate to get as close to the demon as possible while I am here.

Our Guru Srila Prabhupada referred to the creature as Kalia which is described in the BBT publication “Krsna the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

My day today was not with demons but the sweetest down-to-earth people. They are so happy to receive a “Bula!” welcome, a handshake, a hug or all three. “Down- to- earth” is how Peter Eddy, an Australian I met cycling on Queens Road describes the locals.

Peter is a chef, a spiritualist and a sucker for Fiji. He is building his second home here. We compared notes about our spiritual experiences. We both agree on the nauseous notion when many people say “I have the truth” when no one else does. That is certainly an extension of ego. Just because an individual has come upon a theology does not mean that what he has not discovered should be condemned.

Peter and I parted. I plunged into the Pacific basically to pacify my legs and rushed off to Suva and an evening gathering at the home of a congregant when Fiji TV came around with Edwin to do an interview.

40 Km

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Day one in Fiji

Suva, Fiji

I’ve got the Pacific close to me. I’ve got a great climate. I’ve got three congenial walking companions. The road winds a bit. Mountains are in the background. My health is super. What more do you want?
The local “hello” address is “Bula” with U sounding like the two o’s in “ooze”. When you say this to someone and give a wide sweep of the hand you’ll get a remarkable response back.

People in Fiji are out and about. Not everyone has a car which works to their advantage. People look healthy. There is this marvellous green wild vegetable called ota, totally organic which comes from the fern family and resembles the North American fiddle-head. It’s delicious and is harvested by the natives. Incidentally, many of the men wear skirts called Sulu which measures down to just below the knee looking something like a short longhi. I was told before the European came it was all grass skirts for the guys in the old times.

Geraldine from the Fiji Times came out with a photographer to do a short story of my Fijian cross country walk. I guess her visit makes it official. My theme here is “walking for oneness”. It may have some connotation of the social statement considering the recent coup, but really; My intention is a spiritual one. “Let’s walk! Let’s go on a pilgrimage! We are all one as spiritual beings”

I also got invited to the Suva temple programme. A rather large congregation came to participate. They didn’t know that I would give them a lesson in devotional dance steps. Quite frankly everyone seems to know how to walk but not everyone knows how to “break-a-leg” and dance.

24 Km

Monday 24 August 2009

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Last Day in NZ

In the Air, Pacific Ocean

After a full morning sadhna, spiritual work-out, held at the rural temple and a brief breakfast visit to a congregants home in the city, Radha Madhava and I braced ourselves for flying to Nadi in Fiji.
At security, a towering uniformed chap greeted me with a “Are you in an elevated state?” his remark threw us into a boisterous laughter.

“Just wait! In a few minutes I’ll be way up there,” I said (laughter again!)
“You’re a…?”
“Hare Krishna Monk,” I replied.
“Oh, yes the Beetles really helped you guys”.
“Yes, and George especially,” I said.
“Yes, it was George, wasn’t it?” he commented. I moved on seeking my carry on bags, which had been put through the radar.

While waiting at Gate 8 and anticipating that “elevated state” a young teen from Toronto recognised me and came forward. “You came to my home. We did some singing.” Another middle-aged local New Zealander plopped himself into a chair across from us and asked, “You’re an HK?”
“Yes, I’m.”
“My sister’s with your mission in Sydney…”
“It’s the robes and their colour that does it all the time,” I thought.

Us, monks stand out and draw attention. Naturally, we like it because we love to converse with people.

1 Km

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Let’s See!

Auckland, New Zealand.

Aucklanders who are walkers really enjoy the trek on One Tree Hill. This is a fabulous conserved patch of greenery in the midst of the city. From the summit of the park called Cornwall you get the view of entire Auckland all around you. Radha Madhava and I took the swizzling path around the hill which has an abundance of grazing sheep and cattle on both sides of the hill's trail.

One fellow was ascending the hill running backwards. Radha Madhava pointed at his leg and remarked, “He is training for rugby.”

“Oh, of course, the Kiwi’s love their rugby,” I concurred.

At the peak of the hill you find a monument honouring the arrival of the Maori race almost 1100 years ago to the North Island of New Zealand.

Speaking about the arrivals, the Krishnas came to this wondrous land well I’m not exactly sure but certainly somewhere around the end of the sixties. Now forty years later the community blossoms. At 4 pm three dozen or more of us gathered in Queen’s St in front of the Metro Cinema to commence what someone called a “rockin” chanting session. Auckland’s downtown is just bursting with youths and they responded so well to the drums, the chanting and the happy folks in their robes.

The evening brought me to the farm at Riverhead where I conducted a “The Walking Monk Speaks” session. I was telling of tales of my Canadian excursion. Naturally people were asking when I’ll take on New Zealand.

“Hmmm! Let’s see what the gods have in store for us”.

10 Km

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

An Incredible Master

Auckland, New Zealand.

It was a soggy morning walking on Great South Road. Socks got soaked and holey. Radha Madhava and I took a break to visit The Loft. There we met the Loft’s gracious hosts, all women, who run this yoga centre. It attracts people of International background many of whom are students. Some of the yoga practitioners have taken to regular mantra meditation. From Monday to Thursday yoga lessons are given in the evening. Then, Friday, the women from The Loft, the local monks who had been travelling and some folks from the farm community converge on Queen St. for a massive kirtan, street chanting. On Saturday to Sunday for a retreat, the women go to the main temple farm and have their break from the city. What an attractive program!

Our evening was spent with the Singh family where devotees came this time to hear of the relationship between Krishna and Shiva, god of dissolution. It was a lively gathering. We got the visitors to use their legs to dance while chanting. At the settle down time one kind soul loaned me his copy of Sri Vyasa-puja, an annual publication to honour our guru, Srila Prabhupada. Inside is published a poem, a personal offering from myself to him. Here I will share it:

The Incredible Master

Nobody has it like some of us do,
A master of which you’ll find very few,
With sharpness of wit and words he could whip
At science and pundits who distort by the lip.

With grace of hand and adjusting of head,
Elegant of gesture with fingers on bread,
He tossed each morsel of the edible n’ blessed

To the lotus like mouth, and so with the rest.
A message like thunder, a definitive of light –
For us dullards it comes magnanimously bright.
The topic of service in the line of devotion
That moves along like smooth locomotion.

With a smile that beamed ocean wide,
Stretched out a distance from side to side,
He bore a reason to look way ahead
And never to hang low like a hopeless head.

His lesson pronounced a radical meekness,
Otherwise declare – admit to ultimate weakness.
Kindness, concern was his absolute trait,
His thrust was one to advance very straight.

In an unprecedented and very brief time
The earth shook at a political prime,
He racked up incredible marathon levels,
Giving a challenge to desires and devils.

In this world it’s rare to see anything lasting,
But his radiance shines even after his passing.
Memories are gathering, worthy to behold,
Never to be traded, nor to be sold.

A master so rare like a needle in hay,
A mahatma who stays in sound – what more to say?
Drink up his words, observe his action,
Do as he did, or even just a fraction.

Bhaktimarga Swami.

9 Km

Thursday 20 August 2009

Wednesday, August 20th, 2009

Auckland, New Zealand

A Full Day

Its time to look at the maps again. Studying the layout of Auckland brought me to the conclusion that Radha Madhadava and I follow Mt Albert road. It was an early take - 3:40am. Two leaders start up singing beautifully. A large brewery company lives in New Zealand, put the bird. On its label and named it after the bird. I don’t believe that doing so adds glory to the feathered friend.

As it often goes in a new place there is a tendency to get lost. We came to a dead end and in the dark morning it left us a bit surrounded. Fortunately Chinese women riding a city bus gave us a free ride and put us back to a trail in the direction of the Auckland farm. This at Riverhead district in a newly constructed Temple very tastefully done and octagonal in shape.

After delivering a message from the book Bhagavatam we enjoyed breakfast with facilitator Kalasambase a New Zealander from birth. Then an impressive eighty students at the primary level was assembled to meet with this Canadian monk. They were great. I Love kids. I probably would have been a good dad but that was not my destiny. The senior students then put on a special matinee of there last theatrical –production.

A subsequent two of the days walk took me south bound on the great south road. It wasn’t a solo. Dwarkadish, a local engineer, became my companion through an industrial area. The diesel fumes from the traffic is a little more than what I'm use to.

Dwarkadish opened up his home to guests for an evening chant and reading about king Nrgha, a charitable monarch, who found himself in a precarious situation donating one cow to two different brahmins by mistake. One lesson to be learnt from the story is that you never want to get stucked in the middle of two angry brahmins their cursing can make life hell.

21 Km

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Auckland, New Zealand

A New Frontier

I left the heat of Canada to enter cold New Zealand. Winter here is coming to a closure. You still see people wearing gloves, winter coats and scarfs

Not only does a Southern Hemisphere dynamic throw me off but I more or less skipped a day. When flying went beyond L.A through the night on Sunday you suddenly leap into Tuesday. Monday seemed to the thrown away.

My sponsor for this trip is Radha Madhava, a devotee from Calgary. He’s travelling with me. I’m here to give some classes in Bhakti Yoga, lead some chanting session and last but not least did some walking. From Mission Bay, Radha Madhava and I took a brisk Walk along the waterfront, then went on Queen Street then to the Food for Life Restaurant. We gorged ourselves into the wonderful, Prasadam.

One person offered to tell about the Kiwi deception. New Zealand is the farmer for the growing and marketing of the fruit. In the minds of some people this green citric food is synonymous to New Zealand. According to the informant it’s actually a Chinese gooseberry. Someone thought to market it form here and one billion dollars later.

On the street there is noticeable large Polynesian population which includes people of the Maori nation. Post cards cut side convenience store highlight tribal men in their traditional attire with elaborate face markings. In general people are reserved and polite. They smile upon seeing a swami walking along on bustling Queen Street.

For me it’s a new frontier, one that I am sure I will like. I’m hosted by Radha Madhava’s in-laws, a Fijian family. A small home gathering called for hearing about Krishna. We then dealt into discussing about demons vanquished by Krishna and in particular Aghasura, a serpent of a gigantic kind.

How many of you people would like Krishna to come and annihilate the serpent within?
11 Km

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

That Is to His Credit!

The Beaches, Toronto

It was a spontaneous thing. At 5AM a thought came to mind. Why not take a drive to the Beaches on Lake Ontario where our master with loving disciples walked one morning in '75. There is a boardwalk there. You can catch a slight breeze perhaps and hear the subtle lapping sounds of water waves. It's quiet but above all it's a place of pilgrimage.

So those who wanted to - monks and lay persons - piled into a van. We arrived in plenty of time to catch a glimpse of red sun coming up over the water line. We hit the trail, the boardwalk, and commenced with chanting on beads.

Near the east - end of the boardwalk a homeless fellow pressed his weight on a soft drink attempting to reduce it's size. I suppose he was collecting for recycling. Near that location we decided to submerge to ankle level in the refreshing water. While swishing around my feet my mind flashed back to one of our monastic men who left the ashram to take up life in former style with bad habits.

He had lived in our Toronto ashram and emotionally move everyone with his golden and melodious voice while bellowing out the drown sounds of the harmonium. He left the ashram to go to Vancouver where he first joined and while these took to the streets and to substance abuse. He is homeless and is known by friends as the Krishna man. Several attempts have been to bring him back to sobriety of life in our monastery but to no avail.

His Mom from Toronto called me some time back asking of his whereabouts and his overall welfare. Unfortunately, I couldn't report such great news. Devotees in Vancouver say he is thin, disheveled looking and just not doing well. His mother became emotional. What to do?

I pray for him. His name is Gaura Krishna and I'm not sure if he is still with us on this planet.

There are lots of homeless people in North America. In a place like Los Angeles alone there are 90,000 people living on the streets not able to cope with life. Imagine how many people collectively there are on a global scale.

The thing about Gaur Krishna is that he is known as the Krishna man for a reason. Apparently he speaks to people, the co- homeless, about his affinity for Krishna.

That is to his credit.

4 Km

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

A Good Sign!

Markham, Ontario

It's an established practice of mine to arrange for the driver of the evening to pick me up on route to the program for the night. Tonight’s' venue was in Markham at the home of a god brother, Subha Vilas. I am not the waiting kind of person so I recommend the driver to spot me down the road. So I headed northbound on Yonge St on the shady side of the street. The weather tends to be like an oven these days.

At the crossroads near Eglinton I'm visible enough to be seen by anyone. Who but spots me is another dear friend, god brother and former assistant to our guru, Srila Prabhupada. His name is Thakur Haridar and in '73 in London he shared some personal time with our spiritual master. Thakur is a Jewish Canadian born person who speaks most enthusiastically about his life as a monk back in the seventies. He occasionally visits our temple and has a chance to poke around. He made a remark about his findings.

"What an impressive bunch of young people you have!" referring to our very active in their twenties folks.

When I did get picked up 8km from my starting point the van was mainly occupied with young persons of that age bracket. When we arrived, to greet us in Markham was the family hosting us with three youngsters. In the background, the evening's stage arrangement and well organized outdoor seating beckoned forward more guests; the young, the old and in the middle. What a well rounded community it is in terms of age. It's a good sign.

13 Km

Sunday 16 August 2009

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Brampton, Ontario

Cameron and I took my annual post Janmastami walk. It was 2am when we set foot to put an early footing for chanting on the beads. By the time we looped a trail through retail strips and residential neighbourhoods, we were practically staggering from fatigue. After a meaningful rest I sprang up for a new days action. It was another birthday, the birth of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

For many this day tops even Lord Krishna’s day because the guru is perceived as the accessible medium of God. The guru pulls one out of the doldrums of mundane life through his message of freedom. For staunch followers everyday comes across as a day for guru reflection but this day is special.

As facilitators of the event, called Vyasa-puja, I had the good fortune to call on personal students of Prabhupada to read their prepared offerings of praise and thanks. It is an emotionally –charged time hearing heart felt words form those who had life transformations.

The sentiments continued in Brampton/Mississauga where devotees from that region converged to express the same gratitude to the founder of the Vedic Hare Krishna movement. At the end of the event I sat for feasting with an interesting couple, Bill and Marie. She was from Romania and expressed her earnestness to the philosophy that Prabhupada so carefully delivered to the western world back in ‘65’. It was Bill who struck me with a nostalgic flashback.

Here was the typical image of a dying Canadian. I didn’t catch him saying eh! At the end of his statements. Sporting a fifties duck tail hair style, being a bit reserved, polite speaking in few words, I thought you just don’t find these types like him anymore .

In any case we were moved that he showed up to honor a great soul, Srila Prabhupada.

10 Km

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

A Special Day

Toronto, Ontario

Today was a day for God. It was two years ago that I spent on a trail walking an abandoned railway line in Prince Edward Island on the East coast of Canada. A CBC radio DJ was out looking for me to do a story on the cross country trek. He finally caught up with me. When I finally had the opportunity to say something about God’s day or as it is put in traditional terms, Janmastami.

So he broadcast the message that Janmastami, the day of celebrating Krishna’s birthday was today and that people all over the world who are followers of Krishna and the Vedas (which is 1 billion strong) is today.

To honour the occasion I did some walking and have now regular faithful companions which I’m thoroughly happy about. But most of the program is a grounding one. It’s a full day fast when you don’t move so fast and so you get anchored in the temple to receive guests and keep up a lively program going for a stretch of seven hours.

By 9pm I had garnered my face in aging make-up readying myself for acting out the part of Bilvamangal, a blind elderly man, searching for Krishna in Vrindavana. It’s a touching story. And it’s my first time getting out of the directors chair for years.

What is motivating are the crowds. The very meaning of the word, “Krishna” is all attractive and His festival embodies that same quality of attraction.

And so the thousands came. They witnessed. They sang. They smelled and tasted. Spirits were up and when midnight struck which notes the time for Krishna’s birth people broke into a happy hysteria. That was God’s day.

10 Km

Saturday 15 August 2009

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Which Guru?

Toronto, Ontario

For our morning class in the temple we discussed the various types of gurus that exsist in the world. Take for example the many elements or objects in nature that we can learn from such as the loyalty we learn from the dog. From the vedic texts like the Gita and the Bhagavatam and adjoining texts we take the guidance from the lotus flower, the ocean, the turtle, a steady flame, the wind in the sky, the tree, the grass, the bee etc.

I asked the listeners to choose one of these natural gurus and try to take and emulate one of these gurus for the day. One of the individuals didn’t quite get the question and expressed that he would try to be like a monkey. I referred to the previous verse from the Bhagavatam wherein the word “monkey” does come up in reference to the addictive materialistic person who jumps around from tree to tree branch checking out each of his many girl friends. There was some laughter.

I’m sure we could find some quality in the actions or behaviours of the monkey if we really dig. For some aspects of the wilderness it is easy enough to conjure up a quality in a thing. For others it is more difficult. The sacred texts do not identify the quality of a mosquito for instance and in search of my inner recesses I’ve not been able to find one lodge support for the pesky creature other than provide food for song birds or dragonflies.

In any event those who attended the class made a deliberate effort to amplify their choice guru for the day. The only thing missing was that I forgot to identify with one being the facilitator. I guess I’ll have to catch up with everyone else.

For tomorrow Krishna’s birthday I’ll try to exemplify the quality of the tree-tolerance. Yes! That’s the one. It will be all day fast so I will tolerate the urges of hunger. I’ll walk down the ravine which in mosquito infested and take on some tolerance.

5 Km

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

The Words of the Queen

Toronto, Ontario

When walking off my jet lag through Rosedale’s residential district with it’s shady trees I got to contemplating one of my favorite verses which I read to the devotional community in Vancouver. Here it is:

Tvayi me’ nanya-visaya matir mudhu-pate’ sakrt
Ratim udvahatad addha gangevaugham udanvati

The great Queen Kunti spoke her mind: “Oh Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly unto You, without being diverted to anyone else. – Srimad-Bhagavatham 1.8.42

Here is the opening to the purport:

Perfection of pure devotional service is attained when all attention is diverted toward the transcendental loving service of the Lord. To cut of the tie of all other affections does not mean complete negation of the finer elements, like affection for someone else. This is not possible. A living being, whoever he may be, must have this feeling of affection for others because this is a symptom of life. The symptoms of life, such, as desire, anger, hankerings, and feelings of attractions, cannot be annihilated. Only the objective has to be changed. Desire cannot be negated.

6 Km

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Grass and Joy!

Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia has been unseasonably hot. The grass is parched. Some say the province is encountering a drought.

Well it appears the desert dynamic is over. With the procession of Jagannatha, the Festival of Chariots, organized by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the rains came. A serious downpour of the wet stuff hadn't been seen in quite some time. People peeked out of their balconies to find out what music would be playing outside as the procession moved horizontally while rain moved vertically. Three colourful chariots hit Beach Avenue for a three kilometer run to destination Stanley Park.

Then the sun broke loose. So did grassroots kirtana (chanting), djembes, mrdangas, and people dancing. A crowd swelled around the performers who ended up being anyone or everyone...whoever was caught up in the exotic sound. The excitement peaked and then ended when I was asked to introduce the stage's drama. From then on, it was a sociable time meeting people, hearing about their future dreams, sweet exchanges, counselling, and offering thanks and congratulations.

Finally, as the height of the day moved toward evening, it was time to slip in for hearing a mini concert by a group of talented youth, as they played their reggae/rock with devotional themes.

At wind down time, I decided to walk off the pleasant convergence of people, and have time to myself and the names of deliverance. My feet carried me along English Bay, and the sea wall path, to Science World, Main Street, Kingsway Avenue, and then to home.

Just to check that I was doing well with directions, it's always interesting to get different instructions as to where the next turn would be. I had to ask as I don't know my way well enough.

Life is much like that. We look for directions and when a strong consensus occurs then you know you're on the right track.

It was a good day. The grass is greener.

17 Km

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Bellingham, Washington

Not much room or time for pushing legs today. I took a trip to Bellingham by car to see Nina who is 99 in a nursing home. The entire day saw rain which can pose a hurdle for walking. The car didn't mind being wet. Robert and friends and I drove to see his aging Mom. This was more important than to appear heroic by walking in the rain. I had warned Robert about my sleeping propensity when in a car - and the light snore that accompanies it. Playing passenger always drains me.

After an hour or so trip from Vancouver, we reached this rather liberal college town. At the seniors home, Nina had been waiting anticipating her son's visit. She didn't really expect to see a full-blown monk with him. She got real comfortable after a while.

Robert was eager to have her hear a mantra. It was the most charming thing to see a child-like innocence in her, especially when receiving a gift, a pair of hand cymbals to accompany our low-key chant.

Nina appeared frail but she's strong. With the chant that we had with her in a quiet section of the corridor, she appeared meek, but peaceful. Whatever incoherent thinking and talking that transpired was now relaxed. We continued the chant and could have gone on for so long but lunch was on and Nina needed nourishment. Well, she got it.

I predict she's got another five or ten years to go. Who knows? In the meantime, we all came out of the home richer in heart. And so did Nina. It was certainly worth the while missing a day on foot and just seeing Nina and learning from her even though her faculty powers are greatly diminished. I'll keep in mind the calm smile she wore and the funny straw hat she had donned.

Like everyone, she is a devotee of God and that certainly came through today. The sun (Nina) shone.

0 Km

Monday 10 August 2009

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Vancouver, British Columbia


Do you ever meet Doomsday people?

Well I do. In fact, I have close friends who were convinced of a computer crash at the height of the Y2K frenzy...the turn of the century/millenia...the year 2000. There was fear of no provisions, such as food or water. The myth of the time was that the world would fall apart. When in Australia, and New Zealand, the New Year's lights flashed on, the world seemed as if to sigh in relief. Life was to go on. Perhaps someone up there had been laughing at us while some people cashed in on the of the greatest hoaxes of our time.

It was today that I met the latest doomsday scenario. It's the year 2012. The Mayan calendar marks it as a time for change. The events leading to it...mostly natural disasters, will ultimately reach a crescendo.

Such was the firm belief of a young Israeli woman, in Canada, on a student visa, while I was trekking along English Bay, near the tents of the Festival of Chariots. She first asked me about the festival, on the 13th...Krishna's Birthday celebration, which she had heard about from a TV ad. Then she revealed her concerns about climate change, the Earth being a living organism, and how we have disrupted and abused our planet. Of course I couldn't disagree and I offered the suggestion that we earthlings become more conscious and that we get on with some spiritual program.

I wouldn't necessarily agree that 2012, will be the confirmed date for change, whether disaster or renaissance. I can appreciate that some people need time lines (or more appropriately, deadlines) in which to work under. It's pressure of a certain kind. It's also interesting to see how people respond to prophetic warnings.

In the seventies, there was talk amongst some of our monks about a future World War...number three. With excitement they approached our guru about what action to take, and he responded with the advice to spiritually prepare yourself. He alluded to the point that doomsday can come at any time so one must be prepared for that critical time.

History tells of disasters which have caused much damage. The Vedas do give some approximate figures as to when an apocalypse is expected, but there is a long time to wait. We are looking at thousands of years from now. It's of course no excuse for being complacent about our spiritual obligation.

6 Km

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Burnaby, British Columbia


Contribution! That word came to my mind, not in reference to finance, but more so to do with the skills and physical output that had been given to the world. I was just outside our Burnaby temple when, at least six of us alumni former monks came together at a sidewalk juncture. After a heartfelt exchange of words, I dwelt on the great services each of these Godbrothers contributed. One had succeeded in organic farming, another one in teaching, another one in running a tourist bus company, and yet another just by being a good dad and husband, what to speak of a host of other service contributions.

Each one of my buddies did not stay on as monastic persons like it was when I first met them, but they did their part to be the examples. It is unrealistic to consider that all persons will stay single for life, or in this case, as bachelors.

I do get asked the question frequently enough about the celibacy for life issue. It is so rare to find such a person. We do advocate good family planning.

But just to put the sex versus no sex topic to the side, my colleagues from the past, in their sixth decade of life, have lead decent lives which I really appreciate. Their position as role models in society is a tremendous offering, a great sacrifice, and a display of responsible living. I highly admire them for that. They have made their contribution. Bravo!

6 Km

Sunday 9 August 2009

Thursday, August 6th2009

That's the Spirit

Burnaby, British Columbia

When I come to stay at the Burnaby ashram I usually trek along Marine Drive to a trail under the Skytrain and back. Today I took to the farm land, a slight elevation down into the Fraser Valley. There I felt traces of nostalgia. It's a flat black plain with a rich growth of vegetables and fruits. It brings me back to my childhood, having grown up in rich southern Ontario soil.

A farmer came to the edge of his driveway to meet me, and walking partner for the day, Nipuna. The farmer gave a warm greeting and spoke.

"It's good to see you guys here. You should come more often, and more of you. It's all agricultural fields. This is your kind of place."

His words were like a divine confirmation. Maybe prophetic. It was as if God spoke, telling us that as monks, we should be in the countryside and behind the lifestyle of growing things.

We saw Chinese workers with broad sun hats weeding the fields, squatting the whole time, and plucking away at the unwanted plants.

I made a second trip to the area just to fulfill my commitment to a minimum daily amount of steps on foot; as well as my minimum amount of time chanting on meditation beads. It was eight hours after my morning venture. The workers were still there. This was impressive!

I never tire of seeing inspirational people while trekking; whether it be a road construction crew, guys repairing a bridge, farmers ploughing fields, or young men in military training walking over a steep gorge with a three rope bridge. When people work as a force in collaboration, it is a display of utter beauty,...the perfect concert.

Upon returning to the local temple and ashram, I saw the same dynamic happening there. In their amazing passion to run a smooth flowing Chariot Festival, devotees were moving as buzzing bees, working out all the preparations for the weekend's event. It's about harmony really.

It is what our guru, Srila Prabhupada, always called for. He called for the spirit of co-operation.

7 Km

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Call for Strength

Vancouver, British Columbia

Josh, my flying partner to Vancouver, is in some anxiety over his grandmother. Someone broke into her home in the middle of the night, tied her up and gagged her. What's worse, is that the culprit ran away with many of her valuables. This happened just yesterday in her Durban home in South Africa.

This type of occurrence is very commonplace in South Africa, which is a beautiful country with good souls. In recent years, it has become socially a tough place to live in. There are many horror stories there of people losing belongings due to theft and sometimes even losing lives. Josh lost his father five years ago. He was murdered in his own home.

He was a lovely man. I remember meeting him. He was deeply devotional. He was also a runner. Everyday he ran and participated in marathon runs. He was very much a community and family man. He very much reflected the South African spirit, the spirit of warmth.

When I was first introduced to South African folks years ago, I was told that they have honey coated hearts. People there are receptive to spirituality. They have a lot going for them, but they often find themselves living in a dark cloud of violence, disease and crime. You may be lead to wonder why these people have to go through this?

That question may be difficult to answer, but what we might gain from the observation of South Africa, is that there is no assured shanti or peace in this world. The challenges that come our way are an impetus to call for strength.

So call for strength Josh! Call for strength! Chant in the mood to call for strength!

5 Km

Thursday 6 August 2009

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The Comedian

Toronto, Ontario

Jack came back. It was his second day to the temple. He spoke about his childhood and his many years of growing up in Hollywood. He grew up knowing many entertainers. He acknowledged that the one person who is by far the greatest star is God, Himself. According to Jack, God is a humourist. He quoted Voltaire by saying that God is the greatest comedian who has an audience that doesn't laugh. Most people don't get His jokes.

I certainly wouldn't disagree that God creates, God destroys and maintains, but there is a richer side to this Prime Entity we call God; there's a playfulness in Him. Take the life of Krishna and observe the many areas where he displays his frivolity. That must be where we get our light heartedness from when we show it.

I took a meagre walk through Yorkville tonight as a way to get the legs going. It's been rather sedentary today, including an hour on the dentist's chair. Through this area (a mere stone's throw from the ashram) where chic boutiques and classy bars and cafes nab the tourists, it just came across to me that no recession stops folks, they appear seemingly happy here. But the Joke's on them. It's all rather superficial.

I hope Jack comes back. He can talk more about the greatest entertainer, but I'll converse a bout the main star - You Know Who I Mean. By the way, Jack is a bit of a comedian himself.

5 Km

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Walking Is Relaxing

Toronto, Ontario

Jack was sitting on a park bench when I passed by him. “Can I ask you a question?’ He said before I could get too far away. I turned around and said, “of course.”

Jack was facing east looking at the sky opening up for the day. “Now I just saw a twinkling star. That must be Venus. And then you walked by. Now I don’t take anything as co-incidence.”

From there we entered into more dialogue until I left on the note of inviting him to our ashram for breakfast at 8:30 am. He agreed to come. And so he did come.

Jack is a free-lance journalist who likes to explore new territory which explains his curiosity with higher consciousness. After he spent some time with two of our committed members he was convinced about non-violence. On the spot he made a vow to be a vegetarian from that point on.

Part two of my walking affairs for the day lead me through green forest trails with my associate from Australia, Cameron. As we embarked on what was going to be a 15 kilometer hike a woman on her front lawn just missed us by inches with her water hose. She was apologetic but joked, “I almost gave you a baptism’. We laughed. And so the balance of the day was relaxed.

To reiterate my point more clearly WALKING IS RELAXING.

Cameron and I put on extra distance to the tune of 22 km. En route was a well-established cemetery. It was expansive enough. We got lost. Cameron was concerned that we find an exit before sun down and with a little prayer we managed to get back onto our track and back to the ashram.

24 Km

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

A new Place

Scarborough, Ontario

Today was a day of great victory. A new centre for spirituality was born. On 3500 McNicol Avenue near Markham Rd. we held our first gathering securing an 1170 sq foot unit in this suburb of Toronto. It’s modest but it is a victory because in this dark age of self-centeredness a small band of people have put a dent into maya, the illusory world.

It will be a learning center for self-realization within the bhakti yoga standards as set by our guru, Srila Prabhupada. As guest of honor I had the opportunity to speak and so my topic had something to do with standards. Although the main core of the Scarborough founders had good intent the mantras chosen for chanting needed reviewing. Presedence had been set by our teacher. The focus must be on the great chant for deliverance. The Hare Krishna mantra on it’s own has enough body and frill that it doesn’t require much additional attempt at embellishment. All yogis accept this mantra as their favorite.

I think the group got the point. Many of them are of Sri Lankan decent . Coming to Canada in an effort to flee their warring nation. The more introspective folks took refuge of spiritual life under the pressure of need. The group here was full of smiles and they spiced up the event in pot-luck fashion. Everything was so tasty.

Another group from the downtown base, our youth, are shopping for yet another centre to open with the aim to reach out to students. I wish their endevour well. I firmly believe that it is God’s intent to expand consciousness in all directions- to put more spice into life, whether it be parsely, sage, rosemary, thyme. Well here we have it, at Scarborough. It’s only fair.

4 KM

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Like A Grape
Toronto, Ontario

I sometimes feel like a grape that’s been part of a cluster who wants to drop from the group for a while. The evening function was an appreciation dinner arranged for organizers of this year’s festival of Chariots. It went well. The association of people was sweet, the food was great. After a hectic day and evening I needed to wind down and leave the company of people. The thank-you’s had gone out, I felt I did my job giving my time out of duty and love. So I left walking for a bit with a no- sour grapes attitude.

On Davenport road I planted myself under a tree to chant my evening mantras (gayatri) when David, 31, spotted me and pointed, “I know you!”. Out of respect for him I temporarily ceased chanting my mantras and tried to remember him. “I’m the Grinch”, he said.

“Of course, I remember you, you were dressed as the Grinch who stole Christmas at Yonge and Dundas a year and a half ago.”

David had dressed himself up as the Dr. Seus character and went to the busy intersection moving to the recorded music, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…..”. He gave up that character and now makes money as a golden cowboy. He also remarked how our local monk Yajna does phenomenal, selling books on spirituality – books that people didn’t necessarily anticipate to buy. “He’s good at what he does. The muslims try to give away free literature and the Christians try to give away free bibles but your guy sells 50 books a day on the street. Like WOW!”

“Yes, He’s good”, I said.

Before I could get back to my gayatri mantra I realized David really relished our long talk which included him expressing that he and his buddy friend had dreamed of walking the whole country some day.

“It take six months Dave. If you want any tips I’ll agree to be your road guru. Any advice and I’ll give guidance. Of course the best way to undertake such a task is to chant while walking. “

David appreciated the advice and finally agreed we should terminate the talk. I went back to my gayatri feeling like the sweetest grape ready to go back to the ashram to join the cluster.

6 KM

Monday 3 August 2009

Friday, July 31st, 2009

A Wish
Brampton, Ontario

After a lively evening of sat-sang (spiritual association) at the residence of a family by the name of Pandey, I asked my driver to drop me off at Lawrence Av. and Avenue Rd., so I could walk back to the ashram (monastery). It was 11pm. I needed to pick up some calamine lotion to address the rash that developed around my neck. I believe the itch is actually a heat rash and not a possible poison oak rash from my trip to North Carolina.

At one point along the route Avenue Rd. southbound becomes divided by a plot of land occupied by Upper Canada College, an all-boys private school and a very reputable educational institution. I decided to cut right through the middle of the property as a short cut. These early 19th century group of buildings do have their own charm. I managed to peer inside one of the corridors. The view invoked in me a stroke of envy.

I do wish that our ashram had the same appeal of neatness and quality of structured workmanship. Just to compare, it is a source of concern for me to look inside some of our ashram rooms and see the irregular furniture, that some rooms are not so tidy.

Furthermore some of the ashram dwellers don’t take the regimentation of temple life so seriously. The brahmacaris (monks) are saints but naturally some struggle is there to be more regulated. Not all enthusiasm is sustained on the same level.

My wish would be to have an immaculate well- laid out ashram with super serious students and an ashram with attractive rooms for guests who will come for retreats. I would like to see retreats that nuture all across the globe.

Upper Canada College inspired me. The only thing is that the science of the self is not part of the curriculum here and that is what makes our ashram superior.

10 KM

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Sacred Outing

Petroglyphs Park, Ontario

Petroglyphs refers to teaching rocks. It is the greatest concentration of ancient engravings set in marble stone in all of North America. Images of the turtle, thunderbird, serpent and more were carved in the crystalline rock hundreds of years ago by indigenous people who are telling stories.

To respect the spirit of the teaching rocks you are not allowed to take pictures or bring your dog into the forested sacred area. In the visitors centre I took note of a quote at one display:” To walk in beauty is to dream and dance in this road of the heart.”

Here’s another inspiring message from an elder:
What we are told as children is that people
when they walk on the land,
leave their breath wherever they go.
So whenever we walk
That particular spot on the earth
Never forgets us.
When we go back to these places we know
That the people who lived there
Are in some way still there,
And that we can partake
Of their breath and
Of their spirit.

I took some of the monk’s for a day’s outing to the teaching rocks to get out of the city, breed some clean air, swim in a pristine lake and touch this new but ancient realm of sacredness at the Petroglyphs.

In the evening we stopped at the home of a vaisnava family near Peterborogh. Our boys had a sportive time playing soccer. What followed was a great meal and a reading from “Krishna” Book (my contribution).

It was a day of minimal walking but, maximum bonding.

4 KM