Friday 31 December 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Prostrate Yourself

Toronto, Ontario

During the course of the day I talk so little about walking. It's something you just do. In general people do more sitting and lying than they do moving the legs. It depends on your job I guess.

Today's segment of the Bhagavatam book from Canto Six discusses the principle of prostrations. Each morning in ashrams worldwide a portion of the bhakti-yoga process is to sit down and review a verse of which today's tells of Daksha who had lain flat before the Creator. Daksha is a progenitor, a pro-creationist for the world. In humility he gestured his prostrations, often times referred to as obeisance, with root word "obey".

The traditional pose of prostration is to have face down on the floor with arms stretched out in front of you and legs together flat. The formation is like a stick which in Sanskrit is called dandavat, to fall like a stick. The dictionary defines it as to bow or cast oneself down, as in submission or to lay or throw down flat as, on the ground.. Also to make helpless or defenseless.

With the latter definition we can appreciate that the mood is one of surrender and to leave yourself open to what is ordered. As Chaitanya expressed in words as feeling oneself lower than the blades of grass. It's a humbling pose.

There are countless examples of saints detailed in the Bhagavatam who expressed their dandavat in humility and Daksha is one. In Hindi they say the word "danyavad" which means "thank you", likely derived from dandavat as the gesture expresses appreciation. Some old German and Dutch words which express thanks like dankya may have their origins from the Indo language influence.

In any event offering one's very self in the full submissive mood of prostration is a good practice for those on the spiritual path. It is a regular bhakti-yoga pose and is enacted before one's Guru, a deity a superior, or just before a peer in recognition that God is in the heart of each of us.

3 KM

Thursday 30 December 2010

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

How Much Can We Take

Toronto, Ontario

We all have trouble with people as much as we share joy with them. There is a person who comes around to the temple ashram whom everyone is rather tolerant of. I would describe this person as having eccentricities and speaks in such a way as it goes over top of your heads, or sideways or something or other. He’s amiable for sure, and there’s an incredible gentleness to him. He has been a walking partner for me at spontaneous moments for short jaunts. In that regards he’s a friend. It’s just the platform from which he appears to come from. It just seems that he sometimes comes from another planetary system with all due respect.

I was just about to take my daily trek when the person asked if I had a minute to spare. That moment turned into a Brahma’s moment which in a vedic context lasts thoudands of years. Before speaking I asked if it could be a subject matter relevant to the 21st century, but in my assessment it was not. I left for my walk fairly abruptly.

While descending some stairs to leave I had to ask myself if I was justified in being intolerant by not hearing the person out. A supportive tap on my back came from my peer suggested, “don’t worry I can handle the situation, go for your walk!” My analysis brought me to this point, as long as minor disturbances is balanced by positive engagement then we will tolerate. As long as a person speaks favorably of the process of the spiritual path and others there is a heart-warming voice that says, “yes we will share space with you but I have limited time and time is precious.”

I would also add that one such person in the space of thirty could be accommodated but more than that I don’t believe so.

I wish our friend the best. Life for him is a struggle like anyone else. He needs encouragement but also needs reminding of how much people can bear. We just need to be polite about it.


Wednesday 29 December 2010

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Polygamy At It's Best

Toronto Ontario.

The air is drier here in Toronto. It's cooler. The sun shines through. The coastal city of Vancouver is the most moderate place in Canada, temperature wise, but it's the persistent rain in the winter that takes some getting used to.

Now I find myself back in T.O. It's nighttime and I have just returned from a satsang (devotional gathering) amongst our 20 younger adults in a penthouse apartment. We had some kirtan (chanting). What did I glance at from an ad recently? "Deck the halls and bring down the walls!" The chanting was something like that.

I decided to walk from the apartment when all was done, so I trekked along on University Avenue back to the temple/ashram and my room. There at my phone is a hard copy of a forwarded message sitting for my eyes to spot. For those of you who didn't get to read this interesting message, subject being nuns and Krishna, here it is: "There was a case of nuns in a court in Warsaw, Poland, against ISKCON (Hare Krishna Movement). Noticing that ISKCON was spreading its activities and gaining followers in Poland, a nun filed a case before a judicial magistrate praying that ISKCON should be banned, because it's followers were glorifying a character called Krishna...who was loose in morals, having married 16,100 wives?

When the case came up for hearing, the ISKCON lawyer requested the judge to ask the nun to repeat the oath she had taken when she was ordained as a nun.

The judge asked the nun to recite the oath loudly. She wouldn't. The lawyer asked the judge whether he could read it out for her. The judge agreed. The pledge was in effect that she is married to Jesus Christ.

The lawyer said, "Your honour, Lord Krishna is alleged to have married 16,100 wives... but here are more than a million nuns who assert that they are married to Jesus Christ. Between the two, Krishna and the nuns, who are the loose character?"

The judge dismissed the case

3 KM

Monday 27 December 2010

Pictures taken in Burnaby, Cloverdale and Victoria - B.C.

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

The Monk Forgotten

Burnaby, British Columbia

What happens to someone who leaves his monastic order and takes up civilian life again? Are all efforts of self-discipline gone in vain? This is like a question found in the Gita where the despaired Arjuna asks Krishna, "What happens to someone on the self-realization path who doesn't reach his zenith? Is his karma like that of a riven cloud, here today but dissolved tomorrow?"

I was probed by this question of the monk forgotten while walking a strenuous but brief walk. I had dropped in along with my male assistant, Nirguna, to see two god-sisters one of which was on the phone speaking to a very "needing" person overseas. The person was a man now well into his middle years who had been part of the mission but left for various reasons almost three decades ago. He had been "out of touch" with his spiritual peers for years and had settled back into his pre-monk lifestyle.

The phone was handed to me and instantaneously I felt like being a coach. I never met the caller before even though I had been in his turf (the UK) during his active years. He really did sound like a lost soul crying in the wilderness. I felt for him and at the same time wondered how Vancouver/Burnaby was the fortunate place to receive his call. He said, "I'm prehistoric so I don't do email." He implied that he wanted to talk to someone.

The question was posed, "What happens to those who fall off from the path?" And, like Krishna's answer in the Gita which is most redeeming and reassuring, it is answered like this, "Your efforts are never forgotten. Any steps taken on the righteous path protects you from the greatest difficulty. You are given another chance through rebirth in very conducive circumstances. You are definitely remembered and you continue to move in the directions you once started until you achieve success."

After the conversation with both god-sister, Padyavali and I, the caller felt much better. He seemed hopeful and he wanted to hear from us again. It is now our job to not forget him but to stay in touch. No one should ever feel forgotten.

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Santa Marga

Burnaby, British Columbia

Would they give citizenship to Jesus? I was just about to leave the temple for a morning walk. I slid into my boots ready to deal with puddles when a young man came in with a stack of "Asian Journal" newspapers and plopped them down on a chair in the temple's foyer. I remarked, "Thank you. I'll read one." So I did and my eyes fell upon the article on citizenship. It was disturbing.

A full picture of brown, white and black folks sworn in as citizens along with delegates upstaged everything else. The caption read: "Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kennedy on Wednesday, reaffirmed Santa Clause as a Canadian Citizen."

My immediate thought was that here is a reinforcement of a myth, an endorsement. The guy in the red has once again ousted Jesus and now has been given the key to the country without even asking. So I query, "Would they give gratis citizenship to Jesus, the real person behind the Yuletide?" In the past I have voiced my sour humbuggish attitude towards the commercialism of December 25, lamenting about the waning of the true spirit that prevails. I also will spare words other than saying "Shame on whatever cola company who molded Mr Claus, reshaping St Nicolas." And one more, "Shame on them for contributing to the diabetic obesity of the day."

I believe sections of Europe have hit it’s target when on December 5th, the pious Nicolas is revered in the genuine spirit. They are proudly not victims of this diluted fest.

Given all of that, my evening was pleasantly occupied with a new production engaging the kids, a drama skit called "When Maya Strikes." I was also asked by management if I would play Santa Claus for the kids, a tradition in this community. I said, "No! Santa Marga could be a compromise. How about that? No costume. Just me."

One by one the children came up to me to receive a stocking of devotional goodies. I love kids. They represent hope for the future. May the children of the future become blessed with the vision to see through such facades and be able to face reality whether mundane or Divine!


Friday, December 24th, 2010

A Shining Figure

Burnaby, British Columbia

Today's highlight was undoubtedly a well deserved homage to an outstanding monk in our succession line, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, our guru's predecessor. Today was the anniversary of his passing. To honor this great soul who had the vision to give the entire non-Bharat world, (outside of India) the opportunity to be recipients of the Gita's message, an event was held at noon.

Bhaktisiddhanta was a life-long celibate, a teacher of the subtle science of the self, an astronomer, a writer, an innovator, and a visionary. He is described as a ray of Vishnu.

Born on February 6th, 1874, Bhaktisiddhanta led an active life as a mission man, He opened the Gaudia Math with sixty-four branches, mostly in Asia. It is an institution that educates the public in devotional service.

He said of his own mortal status "Our span of life is short. Our life will be crowned with success if the body wears out while constantly speaking Hari-katha (spiritual conversation)."

Also "Let our bodies, which are like those of aged oxen, be offered into the sankirtan-yajna (chanting culture). We do not aspire to be any kind of heroes of karma and dharma...In this world we are compelled to make decisions regarding objects that evoke our attraction and repulsion, both those that we want and those we do not."

In addition to his eloquently-put messages. I also want to mention that he inspired our guru, Srila Prabhupada, to set sail for the world that knew little about karma, dharma and devotion.

3 KM

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Flashback on the Ferry

Victoria, British Columbia

The day looked to be long. The air was moist. The ocean breeze gave a chill as we crossed on the ferry back to the mainland. A flashback hit me. It was on the ferry, the same route, in ' 72 when I read my first piece of literature considered Vedic. Yes, there they were; three tall baldies, aggressive as hell, standing at a street corner in downtown Victoria. Their devotional pressure tactics, however, worked on my buddy, Robert. He acquired the magazine, Back to Godhead for a quarter.

I however, got curious about the journal. Never would I have dreamed to be one of these monks at this stage in my life. I was enjoying my freedom. And it was summertime. How could a monastic program capture me at this time of year?

Lo and behold! The true enticement of the Krishna culture captivated me just six months later when five monks came to squeeze into my apartment in the nickel city of Sudbury. It was on this day if I recall -- December 23rd. It was at my invitation and just an overnight stay for them. Was it ever impactful! They were on a cross country journey in a blue bus. Little did I know then that I would catch the bug they carried; the gypsy itch or just cabin fever.

Some people are meant to move like a rolling stone. Others are like Stone Henge, firm and solid in one place. I gladly accept the curse of travel. Every day is a fresh new one because the location changes or at least every three days or so. Much of this freedom comes from the mendicant's lifestyle.

Yes, monk and path go together. There is no greater compatibility. I'm grateful.

3.5 KM

Friday 24 December 2010

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Forces United

Victoria, Vancouver Island

It seemed that various forces came together to form a truce. At least you can say the brahminical and ksatriya forces united. Let me explain.

At the home of a Guatemala family, (Guatemala has its share of civil war issues) my brother Paul came to see me. Paul is a retired naval officer. Also Sydney Hart, a dear friend of mine, who retired from the army, showed up for our gathering of peace makers. I shouldn't fail to mention my dear God-sister, Radhika, origins-Holland, who declares herself as a war baby. Born in 1941, (and looking well) she remembers the bombs of World War Two. Whether civilian or a member of the official forces, all delegates came together to chant mantras.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the brahminical force (priestly power). That would be represented by myself, being the swami in attendance, along with Jaya Govinda, a duly second-initiated brahmin from our Vancouver temple. We would be traditionally regarded as the pro-active spiritual teachers in a Vedic context. The other boys of regimentation mentioned above would be ksatriya; reactive martial protectors. How else to see this coming together of the forces? Well, soft and hardware dynamics perhaps.

In any event, forces united with a spiritual intent. I was proud of my brother who belched out the Maha-mantra "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare" over my drumming when it came to his turn to lead the chant. Never would they allow that while on duty on a naval ship.

Albert, a martial artist from the Philippines, was present. He delighted in this soft approach against the enemy. Others were there also who engaged in the strategic attack against the identified foe, Maya (the illusory world).

The fact of the matter is that we all have little demons within us. The Bhagavad-gita identifies the enemies as lust, anger, and greed. Most of us will admit that there has been some kind of infiltration of the little devils.

That is why forces of various kinds united. There was a genuine interest to strive for peace on earth and good will towards all. At least in our little corner of a modest apartment at the far reaches of the western hemisphere, we were feeling our peace. It was not an official gathering of sorts; just a collection of calm comrades. It would be nice to see more of this type of thing going on.

Seasons Greetings! Namaste!

2 KM

Thursday 23 December 2010

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Unite to Fight

Cloverdale, British Columbia

One guest at this evening's satsang (spiritual gathering) relayed that he recently went to visit a church, and in the lobby was a list of names of people from that congregation deputed to proselytize to various groups. This evangelical church had as its target audiences Moslems, Sikhs, Filipinos etc.

"This is rather bold of them," I thought. Why not aim at atheists for attempted conversion? It is an interesting phenomena that religious groups, at least some, have so little tolerance for each other. You would expect some sharing of universal principles, but that's not often the case. If there's one God, couldn't faith believers function under one umbrella? Wouldn't a change from atheism to theism or vice versa be a true conversion?

At this evening's function at the home of Robert and Banke, I led a discussion about revolutionaries of faith like Chaitanya and associate Nityananda. The latter's approach to conversion was without contempt or malice. Nityananda went home to home encouraging people to chant mantras. Driven by compassion, He moved about indiscriminately to homes whether they were Brahmans, the more humbly-born, or Moslems,

We also spoke of the compassion of admired saints such as Narada, whose technique was not to go door to door, but to just walk in, and our Prabhupada, who traveled to continents to attract searching souls; especially among the hippies situated in city parks.

I have often admired Mormons whose young men go on a two year mission traveling in twos, knocking on doors. There are the Jehovah's Witnesses, who go with some bravado door to door as well. And Krishna devotees, who especially take advantage of the Christmas season to be on the streets, make available such treasureable books.

The doctrines vary. Methods are similar. Motivations may differ.

It has been said by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, that if you are of a certain faith, then improve on your spiritual pursuit. "If you are a Christian, then be a better Christian; a Jew, then be a better Jew etc."

Here's a message to all spiritual groups. "Unite to fight materialism. Love each other!"

2 KM

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Let's Shine Again!

Burnaby, British Columbia

I met a fellow today who was quoting Deepak Chopra on the topic of happiness. Apparently Deepak had visited Cuba and noted that the people appeared happier than their American counterparts. Even though many ex-residents of this island defected for the shores of Florida, and even though people have less, they appeared to be more happy.

In the world of freedom and high commercial enterprise like that of USA, the average person doesn't always have that contented look on their face. And like Elvis sings about a blue blue blue Christmas, you're going to find a lot of unhappy chappies. Why? Have we got too carried away with rules, red tape, greed and self-centeredness? A Newfoundlander might say to that, "Me thinks so!"

In the so called developed world, we are not scoring high in the relationship department. One of my assistants, Vrindavan, mentioned to me that the average relationship lasts for eighteen months. That doesn't sound too solid to the needs of the human being. Frankly, we are inclined to want a lasting partnership. Traditional values seem to have little bearing on folks today. Unfortunately there's an abundance of Scrooges and Grinches lurking about on their own and lacking love. We seem to have lost a grip on real pleasure.

If I may quote from the book that is so much selling like hotcakes this month, "The Science of Self Realization": "As far as the individual soul is concerned, it is originally a part and parcel of this pleasure potency, of the reservoir of pleasure Himself. However, due to contact with material nature, the soul has forgotten its actual position and has become trapped in the evolutionary process of transmigration from one body to another."

We don't need to keep returning to the world of unhappiness. Let's reawaken the naturalness within. Let pleasure shine again.

3 KM

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Passing on the Torches

Toronto, Ontario

With a several day visit from a lively-spirited person, Vaisesika, I see how he has an effect of boosting morales. His emphasis is on chanting, hearing, reading, building good relationships, eating great prasadam in good company. Equally important is his sharing of this beautiful lifestyle with others. He is contagious with this grassroots Krishna Consciousness.

For myself, it means taking a backseat, being less in the limelight and watching the magic take place. My visit to the Brampton Center allowed me to do the same thing. Now that I have a confirmed hernia challenge with my particular machinery, leading a chant becomes a strain on that body part. I had to refuse to lead and allow the privilege to someone else; again a backseat.

And for delivering a class on the Bhagavad-gita at the event, someone other than myself was slotted to do so. I enjoyed listening. It also gave me freedom to poke around a little and see what else was going on. I saw the Sunday school in full operation. Nice kids! Great teachers!

After a rousing evening program in the Toronto temple, when I sat myself on the back burner once again. Vaisesika asked, "How are you doing?" referring to the physical condition I'm going through.

"Well I'm seeing through a different perspective." I remarked. I suggested that if you play the role as a leader particularly as what's called a Governing Body Commissioner for our spiritual society, our beloved guru, Srila Prabhupada, asked those in the post to not always be in the forefront. He encouraged empowerment. Us big shots don't always need to monopolize the microphone.

When I saw a young, adorable boy of about seven sit on the vyasasan (the exalted chair for speakers), deliver a ten minute message on a preplanned arrangement in front of a huge audience, it was a clear confirmation. There must be succession arrangements for the younger blood to flow. That's being smart and progressive. We need, and the world needs, more of this type of sharing of responsibility and passing on of the torches.


Tuesday 21 December 2010

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

A Visit to Life

Toronto, Ontario

It is not always easy to enter a home where loved ones have been gripped by the harsh truth of impending death ready to take one of its revered family members. The doctor has said there is only a few days left to live- only a month. For someone like me who takes on a pastoral service (which goes with the territory of being a spiritual leader) or for someone who works in a hospital dealing regularly with people at the brink of passing, death is a regular feature. For some people it is standard fare. You might even think that a type of callousness can take shape.

Today I came to visit such a household whose senior member was detected with a brain tumor. The family accepted courageously the fate that came upon their mother. They showed me a good face. I was impressed with the bonding amongst the group but even more so with the spiritual shelter they had succumbed to. They were making application of the precepts taught to them.

The advantage this family had was that from birth, or by tradition the foundation was a spiritual one. The spiritual channel is always a good formula for life because it helps an individual weather the weather.

"Death is for sure." That was emphatically expressed by Vasudev, the famed father of Krishna, when speaking to Kamsa, the slayer of his sons. Now, how do we deal with this most certain of all sureties? This question we need to be prepared to answer by our actions.

When I entered the home the pervading spirit was positive even though my purpose in coming was death. The family was heroically accepting the inevitable and it showed well especially when they took to the chanting that I facilitated by the grace of Krishna. And she, with the cancer, took to it so well- with bravado.

It was a revelation once again that the use of the chanting process is the most effective means for dealing with the most difficult task.

5 KM

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Reflections of the Day

Toronto, Ontario

It will be day #3 where I put a zero next to my registering of km's at the end of each day's blog. KM is short for kilometres also referred to as 'Krishna marks' (at least in my mind). I place the 0 next to the KM with some feeling of guilt for not having walked, and now for the third consecutive day in a row.

I'll conveniently put the blame on my doctor for the lack of execution. "You're feeling pain," he said, "and in the lower abdomen, so it's best to walk very little until I see you."

So, like a good boy, or at least a good patient, I've been tolerating the minor option, pacing from one end of the room to the other. I guess it counts to some degree. Prowling the floor back and forth is not the same as a trek along a Newfoundland river, catching optimum fresh breeze while meditating on one of the veins of the virat roop (universal form of the Creator). Pacing indoors like this does remind me of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, doing just that at the time of his japa meditation. Personally, I did not see him do this as my time with him was very limited but the video footage is there. There you can see him pace calmly going back and forth in a room.

As I finished submitting this entry of the blog, I heard a rap on the ashram door's window. I went to respond to the need for the knockers to come in. There was Keshava, one of our junior-to-me members (at 29 I can't call him a youth anymore). As usual he was smiling there at the door and also after entering. He and a group of the other juniors -to-me returned form an evening of kirtan (chanting) where new people were introduced to the dynamism of Vedic culture.

And my evening, well, I traveled (not on foot) but by wheels to one of the burbs to see a young couple to discuss the marriage arrangements for the ceremony to come.

My reflections on these things:

1. all is done in God's service
2. young adults involved are the mercy of the guru
3. walking or no walking - service can always be done
4. it's sublime to think of the guru
5. from a practical point of view, zero doesn't exist

0 KM

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Outside the Window

Conception Bay, Newfoundland

How the morning looked:

Outside our window curved colours came,
Outside our window gulls played a game.
Outside our window sprays swirled about.
And outside our window waves moved in and out.

Inside our window we marveled at the arch.
Inside our window we pined to reach and touch.
Inside our window the bay appeared anointed.
And inside our window we suddenly were disappointed.

From the veranda we looked with some dismay.
From the veranda Ram's bow became all grey.
From the veranda the waves now set the time.
And from the veranda the sight was once sublime.

From the top window it seemed about the same.
From the top window the gulls cast no blame.
From the top window time and tide wait for none.
And from the top window I saw nature in its fleeting fun.

- Bhaktimarga Swami

The above poem was written for the neighbours at Conception Bay, Neil and Cathy, while I stayed at Ricken Patel's home on the bay. I'm grateful for the friendship of all three of them.

0 KM

Monday 20 December 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The Gita And What It Does

St. John's, Newfoundland

On the eve of the Gita Jayanti, the time which strikes the anniversary of the Bhagavad Gita being spoken, Rikin had lined up a talk for me at the local Hindu Temple - a talk entitled "Kirtan Within the Gita." It was not an astounding turn out yet it's the quality that counts. Professor Patricia Dold attended and participated sharing one of her favourite verses, 9.26 reads, "If one offers to Me with love and devotion a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." Nitin chose "whenever there is severe trouble in the world, I descend." (4.7) Jaya Kesava expressed one of his favourites, "Out of many who endeavours only one my know Me in Truth." (7.3) I offered one of my choice verses " O greatest of archers, be but an instrument in the fight."

The thrust of the talk though was to establish the reference of kirtan (giving praise) in the Gita. The word kirtan appears in Chapter 9 wherein it is said "great souls are always "satatam" engaged in kirtan." (9.14). From a broad perspective the entire seven hundred verse Gita is a kirtan in itself - a glorification

We singled out important chapters to consider such as chapters 9, 10, 11 all to do with the glory of His manifestations. We also singled out the key verses 10.8-11 which offer some rationale behind the glorification. The final chapter, a summary for the most part, underscores service in humility, love and bhakti and the great return that comes to us for doing so-- achieving moksha (freedom).

This gathering of thoughtful people brought to light the richness of the Gita's message. But the one thing that stuck out in my head for the day came from the previous evening at the Lotus Centre. A young woman came to me at the end of our Nine devotions seminar and said of the Gita and Kirtan, "You came to my high school in 2003 during the time of your cross Canada walk. It was a very low period in my life and you said some things (based on the Gita) that gave so much encouragement and hope. I really wanted to thank you for that. It got me through." That was very gratifying to hear.

Perhaps readers would like yo present their favourite verse of empowerment from the Gita. Let me know which one resonates for you.

0 KM

Thursday 16 December 2010

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

They Hike US, We hike Them

St John's, Newfoundland

Jaya Kesava, our monk from Liberia agreed with me that the waves going constantly in sound all day long within earshot of our host's home is a very pleasing audio reality. When we stepped outside the condo and inched our way right next to the stony shoreline the receding wave dragged its water over the well worn stone to create a sound like that of an applause. Jaya concurred, "yeah it does sound like people clapping."

Since coming to Newfoundland the reception for myself and Jaya Kesava, who preceded me, has been rather positive. And if it wasn't the sound of hands clapping, it would be people with rapt attention listening to our message. We both had several opportunities to speak to grade 12 students of Gonzaga Secondary School. The buzz word around the school was " there're monks in the school." The teachers who welcomed us, Neil and Kathy, who happened to be neighbours of our host, Rikin, had given us the invite.

One former student Approached Kathy: "Miss, why didn't we have monks when I took the course last year?" One autistic pupil, a boy heard Jaya Kesava speak, ran down the hallway practically knocking people over and not explaining his behavior. He came back a few minutes later with his palms full of coins from his locker.

"Where's the monk?" He asked the teacher

"He's gone!" was the reply

" I brought my coins for the monk," he said lamenting.

Students especially liked our talks and the chanting.

The Lotus Center downtown filled up this evening. The fee was $25 per head for a mini seminar on "The Bhakti Method - 9 Devotions. No power pointing was used; we facilitated and involved people in interaction. Participants here were the best ever. I experienced the taste of Newfie warmth. My heart sends its applause to them. They were great and grateful for the transformational experience undertaken.

It used to be that to be accepted as a Newfoundlander, you had to bite into a live fish. This method has been modified to giving a kiss to a fish from the freezer. Both of us monks were welcomed without the traditional formality called "screeching." It looks like we got a lenient initiation through our presentations.

So, for the friendliest North Americans around I salute them - the Newfies. (Just to comfirm; when 911 occurred many US planes landed in Newfoundland. Residents opened their arms to the flood of unexpected guests by accommodating people into their homes. People were stunned by the warmth and hospitality of Newfoundlanders.)


Wednesday 15 December 2010

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Quote Quotes

Conception Bay, Newfoundland

Outside of the Bhagavad-gita some of your best quotes are found on people's refrigerators. At the home of our host, Dr. Rikin Patel, a young pediatrician, is a quotable magnet on his cool food box which reads:

“Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

To handle yourself, use your head;
To handle others, use your heart.

Anger is only one letter short of danger.
If someone betrays you once, it is his fault;
If he betrays you twice, it is your fault.

Great minds discuss ideas,
Average minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.

He who loses money, loses much;
He who loses a friend, loses much more;
He who loses faith, loses all.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature,
But beautiful old people are works of art.

Learn from the mistakes of others.
You can't live long enough to make them all yourself...

There is no beginning or end.
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is mystery.
Today is a gift.

That's why they call it the 'present' “(Unknown)

No doubt these are words of inspiration but I find a greater charge comes from just reciting a Sanskrit verse as was done at the evening Lotus Center on Prescott St. To commence my talk on pilgrimage pastimes I recited a verse from the gita, 2:13 about the soul's journey from body to body.

Dehino' smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara praptir
dhiras tatra na muhyati

The soul travels in this life from boyhood to youth to old age, and then at death transfers to a new body. From this, tolerance is understood by the wise.”

Accompanying me on the coastal walk was Jaya Kesava, an outgoing monk from Liberia. Always an inspiration!


Tuesday 14 December 2010

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

The Ice and the Sun

Halifax, Nova Scotia

They lay overlapped in cuts like pizza slices all along its edge. They had no topping; thin, snow frosted and ever so fragile pieces of ice lining the East River. By 8:30 Saturday evening I had to excuse myself from the evening's events, being fatigued from a flu. At midnight I was up for a 10 kilometer loop starting from the river. That soothing ice embracing the river bank was a gap of a contrast to the thumping gut music pulsating from the downtown of New Glasgow, across the East River. Like two cultures juxtaposed, nature was soft, cool and sleeping in silence and the other hot, sweaty confused passions of humans.

It was a new day, officially anyway, although dark as I paced along the 10k loop. The rare human encounter was some youth who successfully hid their joints, but not the aroma, upon seeing me.

"How's it going, guys?" I asked

" Oh, pretty good!" ( with a giggle)

The loop was walked and two hours later it was time to retire until the sun came to vanish the frosty slices of ice.

Two neighboring couples came to the home of my host, Dr. Jal. The preparation for an ambitious brunch kept just about everyone occupied until it was time to eat, talk, and then drive to Halifax's yoga center, the Sunday meeting spot for the devotees, yogis, and just about anyone who wanted to experience the beat of a different drum. Today was indeed different.

Struggling with controlling the small fire from altering and setting off the sprinkler system, Manu, the priest set himself up for day two of a rites of passage. This was the first indoor fire ceremony for diksha in Nova Scotia.

Diksha refers to accepting a guru as guide, and the candidate was Stefina, our sixty-five year young lady from Holland. I say "young" because she does have this innocence of a young Alice in Wonderland. She looked vibrant.

Her first mentor, Jaya Kesava, a monk from Liberia, relayed to me that when she met him on the street in Halifax, she dismissed his mission by saying " this bhakti culture is of the heart, I'm of the head." A practicing Buddhist, Stefina made her proclamation but she did come to see the monks for Sunday feast. From then on she kept visiting, and now after two years she is in a new spot. She's born again, in a sense.

Her new name is Savitri Dasi. She will always stand in the sun. Savitri is the name of the sun god's consort.


Monday 13 December 2010

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Pratley and Tulsi
Halifax, New Glascow

Philip Louis Pratley was the actual first person I met today. The only thing is he passed away in 1958; that's over fifty years. I met him in a strange way. I'll explain. I walked over the bridge he designed going over the Halifax Harbour over to Dartmouth. There at the edge of the bridge on this ever so quiet morning was his eminent figure in bronze, and perhaps mixed metal. A plaque detailed his credits including being the genius behind not only this bridge existence but several bridges that connected major highways across the nation.

I had passed by perhaps three pedestrians on the bridge which took me a good fifteen minutes but none of them seemed so alive as Mr. Pratley. He stood there looking at me. Somehow I felt his presence and in fact, I took a moment of silence in gratitude for his contribution.
"Thanks for letting me walk on your bridge, Pratley" I thought a while crossing over to the opposite side for a return journey.
"Go to the other side", yelled out a voice
"Was that you Pratley"? I wondered and was that message meant for me? The voice came from the bridge toll man. He repeated himself, "The other side. This side is for cyclists". He was nice enough about it. "Ah, I'm sorry, I'm a visitor, I didn't know", I said claiming my innocence. I thought that the divisions were Pratley's intention so I had to respect that. In truth, Pratley became a bit real for a few moments in my life. In a similar way the deity of Krishna can be very real to his devotee. The only thing is Krishna can take you much deeper than Pratley's status can. It's all a matter of devotion.

Afternoon plans for Manu's family and I and a 65 year young lady from Holland, Stefina were to drive to New Glascow. There at the home of Dr.Vikram Jala, we were to participate in a Vidya Rambha, a rite of passage on education for daughter Tulsi Priya, 3 1/2. Manu dasa, the priest informed us that the chalk board and the chunky piece of chalk would become consecrated. They would be sacred tools in initiating Tulsi in her first learning lessons. In a sense they would become alive although they were inanimate objects.

To the visitors who were of Cristian and Hindu origin, delight came to their faces to see Tulsi attempt her first letters of the alphabet. This ancient rite of passage, samskar, was something new for the residents of New Glascow. Who knows, perhaps Tulsi will succeed in her education to become an architectural designer or engineer of big bridges? Most important is that she become devotional.


Sunday 12 December 2010

Friday, December 10th, 2010

We are all some kind of Hindu.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

By the mercy of Krsna I covered 7 kilometers on foot before embarking on an Air Canada flight to Halifax. To greet me at the airport was a young family who moved here from Montreal. Manu dasa, Satarupa dasi and their 4 year old son Nikunja Bihari established themselves here for Manu's masters degree in the fine art jewelry department at NSCAD University. We stopped at a pharmacy to pick up a few items for the evening gathering of chanters.

I am not a shopper so I chose to not stay in the line-up for purchasing. Two women behind Manu noticed he and I had been talking.

"Excuse me, but could you explain the orange (referring to the robes)?" Asked one of the ladies.
"Well he is a monk" replied Manu.
"Is it like Hindu?"
"It is the origins of Hindu, we are devotees of Krsna." Manu continued.
"I thought so. I took a religion course. That is how I know."

God bless those religion courses taken by the public. Although peripheral by nature these educational classes have done more good to inform people of alternative approaches to the Absolute. Fifty years ago you might believe that Christianity was the only thing going on in North America. In reality Christian doctrine only arrived from France in the early 17th century with the zealousness of the Jesuits. Before that all of the Americas were more Hindu than anything else. There was a firm belief in the elemental powers that were often personified. The world was for everyone to share. Rivers were the veins of God. Trees were the hairs on his body. God as a spirit and God as a form, known as Manitou.

You study the African continent with its culture, Australia, early Europe, just about everywhere, universal concepts were shared across the board. Practically the whole world thought "Hindu" without saying the word.

At the home of Manu and Satarupa a small gathering came to honour "kirtan" chanting which is an offering of sound to the Supreme and all that is within, the Gods, Goddesses, elements, time and nature.

7 KM

Saturday 11 December 2010

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I Took A Stroll

Toronto, Ontario

I took a stroll. A slight flu restricted my speed, so in all honesty I couldn’t call it a walk. My stroll was on Yonge St., a place where they go all out decorating the street for Christmas. I must admit it was odd to see a plastic snowman on someone’s yard next to a palm tree in Miami where I had just returned from. In Canada, it’s more like the real thing. I guess Santa’s closer to home here. Once the Russians and Canadians settled the dispute over who the North Pole belongs to, Santa, who supposedly resides there can claim his citizenship.

That brings me to a related topic about myth figures. Starting this week, public buses in this city will carry large signage, which will read in bold “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” The subtitles read, “Allah. Big Foot. UFOs. Homeopathy. Zeus. Psychics. Christ.”

‘The Centre for Inquiry’ is campaigning to question the authenticity of everything from God to Easter bunnies. This group that brought Canadians the ‘There’s probably no God’ ad campaign are at it again. Personally I have no qualms about beings skeptical or to questioning. I do have to shake my head when the group puts the Creator and the boogieman on the same mythological page. The group is attempting to probe your intelligence and to yield to scientific evidence for proof.

My logic, call it scientific thinking or not, is that there is a creation and there are creatures and therefore there must be a mastermind called a Creator. And if you want my opinion on scientific achievements then I will venture to say that technology has helped the human race towards conveniences. But if we were to weigh the scales between the pros and cons of science I believe it has been more to our detriment. What has caused the spoils of our environment? Would it be science behind our greed? Has scientific evidence disproved God and actually proved Darwin’s evolution? No.

I got myself kind of worked up thinking about these things. My pacing started to pick up which eventually broke away from a stroll. I was walking again.

7 KM

Friday 10 December 2010

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Warm Treatment

Miami, Florida

Climate Change!

A year or two ago when Miami was hit by a cold blast the chief of the fire department set on his home a heating system which was underused. The system was defective and it started a fire which forced him to call the fire department. So tells the flight agent at the Westjet counter.

On the plea of having walking companions this morning I convinced a group that the trek would keep us warm (some of us are bundled up with winter coats and hoodies while attending sadhana in the ashram temple walls). The persuasion worked. The walk gave warmth. Even though we tread our way along the ocean's bay heading north from Peacock Park, the air was still and the sun rose to greet our left sides on the return journey. At Kennedy Park our feet hit a sidewalk entirely constructed of cork. My guess is that it was a good 3 kilometers with its myriad loops. What a great bounce that was. It is particularly designed for runners and walkers.

My trip to Miami came to a finish. I always enjoy my visits here. Perhaps it is the warmth of the dominant Hispanic blood that brews here and makes it so pleasurable. This is not to discredit any other places I visited on this trip in Pennsylvania or elsewhere in Florida. There is a delicious flavour to all locations.

Of course, people always seem to treat their swamis well and I am one hundred percent sure that not everyone who comes through our doors gets the same level of hospitality. There is sentiment in India that it someone comes to your home it means Bhagavan has come.

Bhagavan is another name for God.

Last note: Yesterday we spoke about George Harrison. Today marks the day of the passing away 30 years ago of John Lennon. Imagine! Time!

7 KM

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Hey George!

Miami, Florida

At the Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, we sang his song:

My Sweet Lord
Mmm My Lord
Mmm My Lord
I really want to see you
I really want to be with you
I really want to see you Lord,
But it takes so long my Lord

My Sweet Lord
Mmm My Lord

I really want to know you
I really want to go with you
I really want to show you Lord that I won't take long
My Lord

My Sweet Lord
My, my Lord
Over a dozen of us monks and lay members made our way to sing George Harrison's song, "My Sweet Lord" where Mark, a big fan of his hung this huge banner "Strawberry Fields" at the Arts and Mind School. George passed away in 2001, November 29th and for several days, as a memorial ceremony, Mark invited the Krishnas to chant.

The school has its windows adorned with pictures of George over the years and the popular nighttime area resounded with the song preceded by many, many mantras of Hare Krishna.

Why does George continue to be a hero for Krishna devotees?

Through his music a whole generation of people explored the Krishna theology and for many fans of that era, their lives were changed FOREVER. Strawberry fields!

8 KM

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Pull out the Anchor

Miami, Florida

Sunday Bhagavad-Gita Class Orlando 12/05/10

Floridians feel like its' the end of the world. Temperatures are dipping to the near freezing point. At least three people asked me “Hey Maharaj, did you bring that cold weather from Canada with you?

“I don’t remember packing it in my luggage “I replied. What a dual world we live in! It’s hot; it’s cold, up, down.

Dario, a Bosnian devotee, took to walking with me to the marine at Coconut Grove. Perhaps it had to do with it being Monday morning but yacht owners carried a rather grumpy persona. The weekend likely presented more sanguinity.

In Sanskrit you have this term “chappala sukha” referring to the flickering happiness of this world. The material energy does a very excellent job at throwing a merry go round of pointed ponies going up and down. To all this duality what comes as a response for some folks is moodiness.

I once heard a motivational speaker say “if you are moody it is symptomatic of self-centeredness”. I analyzed this remark for some minutes. When I put faces of acquaintances that are considered to have “moody” disposition that remark very much resonated with me. We are looking at people who don’t take too well to changes or dualities. They generally want you to know, “I’m miserable. I need some attention and for that ‘I’ll rear up my ugly hood and become a real irritation. It’s contagious you know. Here it is whether you like it or not.”

Perhaps this type of shock culture sounds familiar. The above description of drama queens and kings is so far removed from the transcendence that spiritualists try to achieve. The fact is that every one has a good chance to reach the enviable position of transcendence. But first we must learn to adjust outside.

Just like the fellows at the marine who use the sails. Winds and currents change constantiy. They know it more than anyone. The challenge is not the wind as Arjuna so aptly confesses to Krishna. It is the mind that rides through gusts of happiness and sadness that needs to be anchored. We must be firm against dualities.


Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Are You Civilized?

Orlando, Florida.

Someone might call themselves a human being but it doesn’t mean that they are civilized. With students from UF in Gainesville I read a passage from the Bhagavatam (1.9.26).

“One cannot be called a civilized person without acquiring the preliminary qualities:

1. not to be angry
2. not to lie
3. to equally distribute wealth
4. to forgive
5. to beget children only by one’s legitimate wife
6. to be pure in mind and hygiene in body
7. not to be inimical toward anyone
8. to be simple
9. to support servants or subordinates

These principles as outlined by King Bhisma offer the backbone to a civilized community. The discussion that followed the reading was really wholesome and allowed those university students to look outside of the fishbowl.

The balance of my day was primarily in attendance on a presentation at the ISKCON Orlando Centre. Everyone Knows Orlando. It holds a civilization shaped around a happy mouse. That’s rather incredible. At least Mickey has always been perceived as a moral mouse for the most part. My dear monk friend, Trivikrama Swami, who’s pushing for 69 years to have been on this planet, confirmed the popularity of Disney World. “There are more hotel accommodations in Orlando than any other place on earth” he said.

Anyways my presentation in the late afternoon was about self-discipline and that it was a human being’s obligation. Refering the book, Bhagavad Gita 2.67 which states that anyone of our senses can lead us astray as a swift wind could move a boat over water in an uncontrollable way.

Bhisma’s list is an anchor for people. He draws a line between what is civil and what is not. It’s a good criterion.


Sunday 5 December 2010

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Sweet and Sticky

Lacrosse, Florida

A sugar cane stick is something that is sweet wherever you bite. So is literature sweet when virtuous or meant for the soul.

Saturday mornings in the community, Alachua, is the time to read and comment on the relishable pastimes of Sri Chaitanya, father of the holy name. I read and remarked on the relationship between two outstanding saints, Nityananda and Advaita. It was very personal and sweet.

To roll on the theme of “anti-sour” I was whisked away with the Gainesville group to a Sugar Festival after the class. Someone had told me that entertainer Madonna had a tour called “Sweet and Sticky”. Frankly, for a monk, her concerts hold no interest for me and honestly I would opine that there is nothing sweet but only bitter about that type of showgirlship. The Sugar Festival is something very different.

A local couple, Radha Gopinath and Tapasvini, run an organic farm and their sugar cane harvest is on. I was an invitee; I noticed the volunteers for cane chopping were down to the last plants. The last three stalks were left when I was handed a machete. It was a flashback from my tobacco chopping days. (No, I never got into smoking.) Anyways, down they came. “Timber!”

The sweetness, however, came from the tasting. The cane stalks were juiced, then boiled to a molasses texture. Once exposed to the dry, sunny air, it turned into a type of toffee. These various stages of operation offered something for the tongue that was absolutely delicious.

Soup with garden greens and home baked biscuits was also the reward for coming. Some of that cane syrup was spread over the biscuit. What do they say? “Mama Mia!” It all went down so well.

The sweetest and stickiest aspect of the day, however, was not the substances that trailed down to the stomach. It was the sanga. Sanga refers to the food down-to-earth and up-in-heaven company. Saintly association!


Friday, December 3rd, 2010


Gainesville, Florida

Before the world arose I was alone, or seemingly so. 3:30 AM is a pin drop silence time for this university town. At least in the area where I walked for my own purposeful end- chant some mantras, lose pounds and karma- I passed by not one single soul. The odd car whizzed by on University Ave. That was before darshan (viewing of the Krishna Deity). A second trek, led by dear Godbrother Kalakantha, took us into campus grounds. This was a mix of mantras and tour-guiding. He showed me the outdoor sculpture piece known as “French Fries”, then a second one called “Potato”. More than anything I see a greater allegiance here to football than to spuds. Signs for cheering the Gators football team are everywhere.

After the walk I was introduced to John's parents, Rod and Pat from Miami, and then to Vicki's parents, Hank and Pat, of West Palm Beach. John and Vicki were to be initiated into the mission of Krishna Consciousness. It is somewhat of a rarity to have full parental participation at such a ceremony. I was moved by their presence. When Caturatma finished the priestly duty with the fire ceremony, parents were touched and expressed appreciation. John accepted an additional name of Jahnudvipa, a sacred place in India. Vicki accepted the name Vaikuntha Lila, in reference to the spiritual world.

Steps such as receiving initiation are steps toward going back home, back to the spiritual realm, the place from which we all hail from.

In the evening, the Gainesville Krishna House filled up with students. We relayed stories of walking on the road as was done the previous night. My anticipation with all of this is to promote pilgrimage. I hope it's working.


Friday 3 December 2010

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

It All Began At the Campus

Gainesville, Florida

The fellow sitting next to me on U.S. Airways had to compliment us (meaning Hare Krishna monks). When he heard that Gainesville was my final destination for the day, he said, “In the early nineties you guys fed me every day while at university. The meals were great; the price was right - $1 per meal.” He mentioned to me that he is on his 150th flight for this year. I joked with him if he's targeting 200 flights for 2010. I asked him about the novel he was reading.

“Is the book 'Vicious Circle' about the wheel of birth and death?”

“It's my escapist reading. It's actually all about exorcism,” he said. He also alluded to needing to be in a world outside of his own. It was priceless what he had said. The real truth about living in this mundane world came right out his mouth. Trying to escape or exploring another world apart from our own are natural inclination. That's why fantasy is so popular. That's why people attempt to alter their state of consciousness. That's why some people in a more virtuous fashion seek spirituality.

I'm not sure that my flying friend has taken a path for spiritual growth but I would say that his spiritual journey began because of the fact that he ate meals of wonderful food we call Krishna prasadam. This is food surcharged with spiritual energy.

The Krishna Lunch program has been running for years (over 3 decades) at the University of Florida campus permitting a Friends of Lord Krishna culture to evolve.

For the Late afternoon Jagannatha Puri Dham, whose marriage I attended in Denver earlier this year, took me to trek around the campus. He brought me to the place where the monks of the early Krishna days - monks like Visnujana and Garga Mun i- had begun the mission here in North Florida. He also pointed out the grassy area where our guru, Srila Prabhupada, gave a talk to young students, seekers of the truth.

“To this day people remember Srila Prabhupada. They come to us to tell us,” said Jagannatha.
My final message is an appeal to readers for prayers in honour of a dear Godsister, Yamuna who is not doing very well with her health.


Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Obligation to Sustain

Port Royal, Pennsylvania

The excessive rains of the entire night and morning kept me somewhat handicapped from walking to the local temple for morning sadhana (devotional mantra workshop). While Europe is being clobbered with snow, Pennsylvania is getting water. The Juniata River which borders a portion of the Gita Nagari farm rose to an overwhelming level, burying the bases of trees. Once the rains let up. I could explore a new country road.

This is a predominant agricultural land with the Amish community at the helm. Gita Nagari has the potential to be that model community that our guru, Srila Prabhupada had desired. Some members had just returned from a CSA meeting. CSA stands for Community (or Co-operative) Sustainable Agriculture. The meeting left members rather impressed with the various co-operative implementations going on to prepare for a better world based on people, land, and animals.

At the present pace of consumerism leaving environmental challenges it becomes encouraging to know that there are groups marching progressively forward with the rain towards sustainability. It is common knowledge that the current way of existence cannot be sustained; and that measures must be taken to befriend the environment. I wish like anything that the devotee community of Gita Nagari succeed in this regard.

My last presentation at the farm temple (as it has been a pleasurable consecutive classes I've delivered) was leading an enlivening kirtan (chanting session). One attendee said it was “highly creative”. We sang. We danced. We came together to remind ourselves of obligations to our Creator and Sustainer, Krishna.

“This kirtan,” I announced, “is dedicated to two people- Satsvarupa Goswami, guru and excellent writer of devotional sciences and secondly, Dadhi Harta, our dear Godbrother from Canada, tender of cows at the Saranagati farm in B.C. And who passed away from cancer.”


Thursday 2 December 2010

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A Trail Proposal

Port Royal, Pennsylvania

I have been trying to talk up a subtle storm to several members of the community, about establishing an exciting japa trail for in and around the property. In this approximate 350 acre plot of land you have a river, a creek, hills, flatlands, forests and fields. You have the Appalachian Mountain backdrop. There’s also an historic covered bridge and quiet winding roads graced with charming country homes that would be inclusive of a well planned trail.

Stave Priya, the young farmhand and I walked a portion of what could be a real attraction for pilgrims from the city. You could hold walking workshops and invite locals to come see nature from another perspective. The trail would be ideal for helping to reduce pounds of unwanted flesh. Stava had not yet been through the covered bridge so here was an opportunity. I suggested to plant a field of coniferous trees to add some diversity to the plant residents at the farm as long as ecology freaks don’t mind.

The trail can be designed for health and overall welfare especially used for the japa meditation aspect. One of the biggest attractions of the trail would be a visit to the temple, let’s not forget the barn and the cows.

The countryside here is stunning. “So, why not?” I asked myself. I asked Stava. A well maintained japa walking trail – forever! Little does he know that I’ve tried to stir up a trail hype in West Virginia community and the BC Saranagati. Why not dot the map with trails?


Monday, November 29th, 2010


Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Kids stay home from school today even though Thanksgiving is behind us. Hunting season has begun in Pennsylvania. The Amish get little involved in the cultural activity, so I’ve been told. The Krishnas abstain altogether.
Sounds of shot -guns can be heard from all directions so it is advisable to avoid a forest walk. I had made it a point to stick to the roads this morning for my daily trek.

The major chunk of today took me away from pastures and trees altogether. The peaceful plane was downtown. In the heart of university town, Carlisle, is an old movie house converted into a theatre. One small theatre company which we have unofficially labeled as “Swami Productions” held a 12 hour stint on stage for the filming of our comedy “Lonely People”. The subject is to do with the topic loneliness as a form of depression.

Time sped by so quickly. All my three actors bore some kind of illness, fever and what not, but like troopers, patience & tolerance prevailed. We all come prepared psychologically for the long haul. You will find that sufficient preparedness will always lay out certain expectations. It brings about realistic acceptance.
Let’s say a group of us were to go on a safari expedition totally unprepared through the meanest of Amazon jungle where you find deadly biting bugs, thick and prickly bushes, streams of man-eating piranhas, prowling jaguars, poisonous creatures and pythons, swamps and the most intense heat and humidity. How long would you last? But with a well informed scenario you have a better chance to deal with a tough situation.

In spiritual circles there are often discussions about preparedness for life and death. These topics of “getting ready” are found in the books we call Sastras, spiritual texts.

On that note I would like to announce the parting of a dear soul and friend, Godbrother Dadhi Harta from Saranagati British Columbia. He passed away from a heart attack over the weekend. He was a very, very gentle soul. We are going to miss him.


Wednesday 1 December 2010

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Like That of a Dog

Port Royal,Pennsylvania

In the stillness of the countryside, sounds of the wild are so well defined. There's the hoot of the owl, the drill of the woodpecker, and more wild than wilderness is the hum of a generator. A skunk's influence appears to be in the Gita Nagari community year round. I remember him from last time. You can always envy such permanent residents.

Gopa welcomed me with a bark. He can be described as a Pennsylvania mutt who lost a leg during hunting season. He's as permanent as you can get for the life of a dog, pushing a decade and a half. He's friendly and loves a little affection. I won't forget hearing our Guru, Srila Prabhupada, say that love is demonstrated in everyone and by all living entities and specifically he spoke of the mother dog who has so much affection for her pups.

In the late afternoon, community members made their way to the temple for Kirtan and class. I was slotted to speak from the Gita. I asked friend, Tamal, what verse to select for a topic. "How about 9.11? It's powerful." He proffered 9:30 in reference to how to view a comrade endeavouring on the spiritual path, but who slips and meets a dark hour.

Everyone can relate to such a situation where maya (illusion) takes a stab at us. Our reaction or response to such weakness when it visits a friend is one of compassion. And when we become the victim we anticipate it when someone comes to our aid and understanding. You want to be able to reciprocate like that of a dog - to show some love. Who does not show signs of weakness? No one is exempt.


Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Some Awesome Achievements

Port Royal,Pennsylvania

I was trekking a country trail amongst the hardwoods. Trees were screeching above being tossed by forceful nighttime winds. Squeaky joints? Perhaps sounds of branches flexing? A type of chanting, I surmised. Depressions or pot-holes in the back road of the Gita Nagari community held water with the thinnest layer of ice on top. Careful to avoid any foot soakers, I engaged flash light in the left hand while the right bore japa (meditational) beads as I fingered them. It was 3:20 AM and a set of head-lights came my way. Closer and closer came the driver, ever so slowly. I anticipated it would be someone I knew. It was! Stava Priya (formerly Steve) of Baltimore is someone I had seen go through healthy transformations. He had stopped his car, come out and offered the traditional Pranams (hands joined) before reciprocating a hug. He was a brahmacari (monk) three years ago when I first met him. He moved from that position to become a "happy householder" as he puts it.

Why is he up so early? Is he a madman like me? Well Stava rises at 2AM to stoke fires to heat up buildings in the community including the local temple. Stava loves his work which involves milking four cows. Since arriving to Pennsylvania with his LA wife and newborn baby, his helpful nature has paid off to see improvements within the community.

His boss, Dhruva,is a workaholic and shares with Stava a passion for doing things country style, even in the direction of self-sufficiency. The farm is now certified as organic. The fall's crop yield gave 39 different veggies and herbs. A new fence is put up. The signage indicating how you make your way to various modest attractions has a fresh new look. A new tile floor adorns the cafeteria and public wash-rooms are now safe (no longer is there fear that floor boards around the toilet will cave in to the level below) .

Incremental improvements there are but like all communities there is the element of human nature to consider. Things are not perfect. It's not heaven. Wherever there are people there is inevitable disagreements. This is normal. It's always a work in progress. May the night-time winds attempt to blow away such blockages! And with a Krishna-centric spirit there is always hope.