Saturday, 30 July 2011

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

In the South

To Los Angeles, USA

So you can’t walk on the US interstate highways. It’s illegal. And then such places as Texas, New-Mexico, and Arizona are rather over-heated with the sun baking overhead making even a stroll tough. I get my meager opportunity to stretch legs at truck stops when we fuel up.

The truck stops that are most prominent in the southern states are a chain store called “love’s”. At one privately owned gas station an outdoor sign read “We Have Pretty Waitresses.” That doesn’t really interest a monk very much. I imagine that it’s geared more towards cowboy culture. In any event the truck stop parking lot is the place to walk in circles just to put on some kilometres.

From Houston to Los Angeles the drive is a good 24 hours. With such a long haul you make the best of your time. Patience should shine. It reminds me of a Chinese Proverb, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”

We find that kirtan chanting and stimulating talks grabs the interest of our youth. Not too much, not too little. Above all, it’s important to befriend and encourage these young men in their teens who are entering into a crazy world.

The air conditioning isn’t quite up to standards but all of us appear to be reading, texting and in one case the boys got to viewing “The Karate Kid”. I know the old version included in it the Maha-mantra. How so does the new version? I don’t know! I hope it does.

3 Km

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

To Texas

Houston, Texas

Try sleeping in a moving bus with a bunch of teenagers. They’re a little ‘till late at night. But it’s okay. We’ve got a four-tier bunk bed system and the inhabitants are somewhat angelic. I’ll explain later.

Try taking a shower and other toilet preparatory work while the bus paces at 70 miles per hour; that’s over 110 km per hour. You’re rocking.

Try keeping some sanity sharing crammed quarters with twenty-five young whipper snappers. You’ll work on patience.

That’s what it’s like on the Krishna Culture Festival Tour. I was describing the boys bus, the one I’m on. The MCI Canadian-make bus, a 400 horsepower machine weighing 23 tons. It’s a beauty!

There’s another right behind us. It’s the girls bus. You’ve got seventeen young teen women in that conveyance. More leg room I guess.

After the one day stop at Atlanta we moved on by way of the southern trans US highway 10 through wet, drenched, swampy Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and then Texas -- a long haul to Houston. Oh, we keep the travel as Krishna Conscious as possible. Mahat Tattva, an outstanding monk from San Diego and I conducted a sadhana program for the boys including them in our discussion on “Is Sense Gratification Necessary?”

It was fourteen hours later of young body heat radiating. Finally we were released to enter air conditioned Gauranga Hall at Houston’s ISKCON Centre, there to prepare for our second performance of “The Three Lives of Bharat.” The show went on.

The audience loved it.

One thing that I forgot to mention about the bus policy. If a curse word is used you are charged a dollar. I haven’t heard of any such violation. In all honesty “Krishna” is the most common word within the walls of our bus. That’s pretty good for a bunch of young men. That’s why I call them angels.

0 Km

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Hard Work Gets Results

Atlanta, Georgia

The walk at the park system along Ponce de Lion Ave is really cool. It’s the humidity that drives one away from a trail, and that’s before the sun rises.

As far as temple/mission oriented services are concerned, I was asked to give the class from the book Bhagavatam. I tend to place a little piece of my historical self into the presentation, making it a little more personable as I interweave it into the Vedic philosophy. It was about my early childhood, my shyness, and how Krishna Consciousness helped me gain confidence. Today was also the premier performance of The Three Lives of Bharat, with a new cast composed of a pick of young people who will be part of our road show for the next month.

In the production I have also incorporated my early life’s experience, which is witnessing the sometimes intense arguments. On the farm we saw pigs wallowing in the mud and watched a cow give birth. I regard these experiences as precious, as something to have learned from, and something to apply to later on in life. For me, it’s the dramas.

The presentation held at the Atlanta temple was well received by a devotional audience. The story originating from Canto 5 of the Bhagavatam, traces the three consecutive lives of a great king. In the opening scene, we portray the soul’s journey going through different species. Fish, chimps, cows, etc.

In any event, everyone worked hard in the performance and in the five day rehearsals preceding it. The grainless feast to follow the performance was 'lekker', the South African word for delicious, as our co-director to the play would say. Laghu Hari is also an actor and the puppet maker for the show and he adds so much to the production. My gratitude knows no limits for his full on energy supply.

7 Km

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Dissolve Inferior Cravings

Atlanta, Georgia

Thirty one of us passengers, including the bus driver of the Krishna Youth Ministry, pulled up at the ISKCON Centre in the Druid Hills Centre of Atlanta. It was 1:45 am and we had been on the road since 8 pm, Sunday night. All were fast asleep to the exception of the driver, Dranaksha, and bus leader, Manu, now they retired. I woke up and felt it was time to walk, to chant some japa (mantra meditation). Nirguna, a spiritual student of Vancouver, awoke, and we both decided to head for mid-town Atlanta.

We met people asking for nickels and dimes, a security police noticed our robes, he became curious wanting to know about our monastery in Druid Hills. He indicated we were walking in a drugs zone, affiliated with the drug scene of course is violence. The cop, an amiable largely built fellow, he was an amiable one. I was sure he didn’t fear for our being coaxed into taking drugs, but rather, being possible victims of violence. We continued forward, never the less, with confidence.

If I could say boldly, drugs are a real culprit in society today. I won’t reserve to say also, that the root of the problem is the lack of spiritual purpose in life.

I was informed that 2 of the young men on the bus had been persuaded to experiment with drugs, in other words, they have had some struggle with it. But, under a different kind of pressure, another kind of peer pressure however, such as the conducive arrangement found with the clean fun on the traveling bus, it could turn things around for the boys. There is hope in spiritual power, more so than in material energy, which is inferior.

People resort to drugs and so many other addictions due to a vacuum. When the vacuum can be filled with a deeper and more meaningful kind of purpose, inferior cravings dissolve.

10 Km

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Not Interested

Alachua, Florida

He was only three feet from me eating voraciously at grass, or what might be crawling on the grass. I will admit, it was the first time I’ve seen an armadillo. He didn’t hear my footsteps coming towards him, he was absorbed in what he was doing.

I even chanted fairly audibly, and still he persisted in his purpose. It wasn’t until I released a genuine cough that he acknowledged my presence, and from there, he scurried off into the distance.

Now, if anyone has ever encountered one of these fellows, with his armor like body, you could then relate to a turtle who has a similar dynamic. Apparently, the armadillo usually defends himself by turning into a stationary object like a rock, but my buddy’s protection involved ‘taking off’.

As we all know, the tortoise is described as a creature who stands still in danger, and in the Gita, it explains that he draws his limbs within his shell. That is his defense mechanism, and his way of self-preservation. How this becomes relevant to us is that sense pleasures encroach on our spiritual development. The way to protect yourself from temptations of all kinds is to clam up and chant Hare Krishna. You send a clear, deliberate message, ‘not interested, goodbye.’

This is easier said than done, but we do need to try in order to have preservation of peace.

Trying is something that Jonothan has been working on. Jonothan works with a major airline in the US, but has been pursuing the lofty skies of Krishna Consciousness. Today he succeeded in getting his diksa (initiation). His new Sanskrit name is Jagatvira Das, which means the servant of the one who controls the universe. Congratulations, Jagatvira! Keep saying to the cause of maya, illusion, ‘not interested’.

8 Km

Monday, 25 July 2011

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Down the Boulevard

Alachua, Florida

What do I see, hear and smell on the boulevard?

The narrow white sand road that I have been walking is actually called NW 112 Boulevard. Or at least it begins as a wide roadway promenade, but then shortly thereafter, it becomes a few metres/yards length. It becomes a quiet, narrow country lane. I'm glad it is like that. Who wants to invite thick traffic?

So, what is there to be seen along the Boulevard? Bulls, cows, homes and bails of hay, red birds and trees with clumps of Spanish moss. I hear crickets at night and at least two owls to add to the concert.

For smells, there are the local floral and fauna, most of which I'm not familiar with, being that it's tropical.

As daybreak occurs, I see humans. One of those early trekkers on the Boulevard, is Kripasindhu, an old friend. When I first became a monk, it was this very jovial and smiling person who encouraged me.

As a former American draft dodger, Kripasindhu made his way to Canada, back in the late sixties, and then met devotees of Krishna. He was always an upbeat type of person, and I remember how my being a rather new recruit, I hit a moment of doubt and questioning--not of the philosophy--but of my services. This very optimistic person said all the right things, and in the right way to give me a boost.

I owe this person so much. If it had not been for him coming in at the right moment, I'm not sure what providence would have had in store for me. Whenever I see him in my rare visit to this community, my heart pumps with feelings of gratitude for him.

Come to think of it, I cannot think of a more valuable role that a person can play in life than when encouragement is delivered by them. This realization tells me that I must step up on all such opportunities to provide encouragement for someone in need. I would like to suggest to not think narrow, but to think broad like the boulevard.

10 KM

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Whatever the Condition

Alachua, Florida

There is a great advantage behind being in the countryside. You can see stars dotting the sky at night. You can see Chandra (the moon), now resembling a quarter piece of lemon. There's the Polestar. It reminds me of the Puranic story to do with Dhruva, the young warrior boy whose inspiration took him to great levels.

In Florida, weather is hot and sticky. At mid-day any trekking is a sluggish stride, as preparation for a month long youth trip necessitates going from building to building. It is here, in this rural area, that you have a temple, a school, numerous devotee residences, and the home or headquarters of the Krishna movements' bi-monthly magazine, "Back to Godhead". Most buildings are tight-shut and are air-conditioned to death. It is with a certain kind of bravado that you dare move car-less from any one place to another.

Nevetheless it would be a condition that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, would take very kindly to. Born in India, these natural conditions of the land of Bharat (India) are conducive to people who hail from there. It's all rather relative. Whatever the weather, the truly evolved souls are absorbed in other concerns.

A sample: One soul, Bhaktivinode Thakur expressed his pre-occupation like this:

"Please tell me, when will that day be mine...when my offenses will end and the power of grace will infuse my heart with a taste for the pure mantra? Thinking myself lower than a blade of grass, bringing forbearance into my heart, respecting all, and freed of false pride...when will I taste the essence of the pure mantra?" (from Saranagati)

10 KM

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

By the Fence

Alachua, Florida

This community is called, New Raman Reti, named after the sandy soils where Krishna and Balaram used to play in India. My japa walking trail is approximately a mile long, so I trek up and down this route avoiding pavement all together. This country rode is covered with a natural white sand that once reflected by the moon’s luminescence, allows you to see what might be slithering across it. You know where you’re stepping even in the dark. It’s a great trail, uneven in areas, allowing the soles to stretch and flex a bit. Along the trail, bulls and cows tend to line up at the edge of a fence where local devotees love to feed them. If that kind of generous offer doesn’t come, then grass is in abundance. Egrets, small heron like birds, stay near these bovine friends. When the animal starts to pull and tear at the grass, bugs leap out who catch the surprise of their life as they are gulped up by those birds.

My conjecture is that these bovine cows are in their retired mode of life. They are slow and easy going , and love their leisure time under the shade.

This is not where I spend my hours – by the fence along the trail. At the edge of the fence line I maximize my time at the local A/C’d chartered school’s cafeteria for practices on our devotional road show called “Bharata”. The challenge for Laghu Hari, Godruma Goura, and myself, is that the kids are inexperienced at drama, although they are eager to learn. It means we work hard, but it’s all devotional service to Krishna and that’s what makes it all enjoyable for body, mind and spirit.

8 KM

Friday, 22 July 2011

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

To Even Warmer Breezes

South USA

It’s nice to be remembered.

The travelling road show, The Festival of India, is manned and operated by 15 young men under supervisor, an American devotee, Madhua, by name. On route and westbound towards the Prairies, the festival operation made a major stop at Serpent River, where they met an Ojibwa chief, who recalled seeing me walking on that same highway (Trans Canada) years ago.

Serpent River happens to be a First Nations reserve and the park where the festival boys stopped for a relaxer, was the site of a Native powwow. The boys were ready to jump into the cooling waters of this meandering river when they were halted by the chief and elders. “Wait until we’re finished our ritual” the chief commanded. When all was done, introductions began. The chief put two and two together and the friendly man revealed that he recalled talking to a peach robed monk, who was living off of the natural vegetation along the road. That was me.

I recall him as well. I just can’t recollect the jovial person’s name. There were too many syllables to his name. You know, upon hearing the exchange, it does tell me that people who saw that ghost, or phantom of a fellow (me) and that it was a decent exchange, confirms for me the validity of the mad monk marathon.

I was so glad to hear from my friend on the road and I offered my respects from afar to my eagle feathered friend. I considered him a warm friend during that pilgrimage.

And speaking of warm currents, three flights from Thunder Bay, and four airports brought me to the South, the Gainesville area and the Alachua community. The sun was shying away behind horizons when I was driven down to the Bhaktivedanta Institute house. Moving along the bumps of sand dirt, that felt like wheels over someone’s rib cage. “I will walk this trail in the morning”, I anticipated. It will be early. It will be a trail that I’ve tread before. And as for this day, a bashful swami admits – no kilometres on my radar today.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Smoke and Water

Thunder Bay, Ontario

I landed in this northern city with haze all around. There is a reported ninety (that’s 90) forest fires in bone dry northern Ontario. The sky is bleak. The famous rock formation called The Sleeping Giant set in Lake Superior’s North Shore is completely obscured. My mandate here is clear though. I was to attend the Thunder Bay version of the Festival of India. The stage show was lined up with acts, and it was complete. I was not to play any real part in it. With no troupe accompanying me I could not conduct a performance at Marine Park, nor was I needed to emcee. A rep from Magic Radio Station was present and behind the mic.

Also, Nirantara, a spiritual brother from Los Angeles was scheduled to be on set three times for the night. He did, and he sang his stuff, like his take on Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ at the Dock’, with lyrics, ‘sitting at the dock at Bombay, wastin’ time...’

He’s fun.

I was expected to walk around the grounds doing a monk’s schmooze, and to give some time at the book table for Bhagavad-gita sales. I met people who were curious about Indian food, Indian sounds, Indian smells, and Indian looks. A steady stream of the local demographical people came, many first nations also, into a sattvic (good) world of positive karma.

John Raferty, a local member of parliament, had lit the traditional Vedic dheeya flame to open the ceremony followed by classical dancers and singers. People did specifically come to drop by to purchase books, to swallow samosas, to release their kids on to jumping castles, and to get an earful of ‘My Sweet Lord’ (Krishna) with Narantara’s strumming on his guitar.

While the hundreds of participants were having a blast in this alcohol drug free environment, communities all around us in the boreal forest were being evacuated from their homes. The fires are relentless and are smoking up hectare after hectare. Such dualities. One thing that was not hazy but very clear was that the Krishna Cultural Festival of India flowed real well, like one of those cascade rivers you find up north, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Jani and wife, Sneha.

5 Km

Monday, 18 July 2011

Monday, July 18th, 2011


Toronto, Ontario

Devotees of Brampton and Orillia became initiated at Centre Island yestarday. I'm happy for them and thinking about their progressive steps as I walked the neighbourhood of Rosedale.

The names of the new initiates are Jaya Gopal, Chandrika, Vyasacharya, Puja, Narayani and Sukavak. Congratulations!

From the walk I sprang into the temple room to facilitate a class.

Our Monday mornings are reserved for our guru, Prabhupada. It struck me while the few attendees and I read from the book named after him, in Feb of '72 he was mentally planning a design for our headquarters in Mayapura which included buildings to accommodate residents and guests. His intent was to set up structures fashioned for the traditional four social orders of life referred to as varnashram. That was interesting. (You can find this in the Chapter "Let There Be A Temple.")

Late in the morning, JW Windland of Encounter World Religions Centre brought to the temple forty plus teachers and ministers from Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, California, and Nebraska. The gracious guests came to learn about the Krishna Conscious ways. They really soaked in the chanting and the dancing. We are talking about people who are mostly middle aged.

It is my personal love to speak and mingle with these type of open-hearted people. They questions. They have experience and realizations.

Some remarks in the presentation that we may consider as highlights for them were:

"There's a piece of God in all of us, including animals and plants.", "God is a person.", "God has form.", "Human life is meant for controlling the senses."

10 Km

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Second Day at the Festival

Toronto Islands, Ontario

On the ferry going to the mainland, I met a young man from India who had just purchased a copy of the Bhagavad-gita. It was suggested to him to also consider the book “Krishna”. I imagine the salesperson from the festival’s book booth was encouraging a second reading material.

“Was I wrong to just take a Gita and not to read about Krishna’s life? Which book is more important to read first?” he asked innocently.

I recommended he read the book he acquired and once he gets his hands on a “Krishna” book, he could try a brief read of the Gita in the morning and a bedtime read of “Krishna” book at night and that it could be a daily practice.

He loved the advice on doing it in parallel lines.

Then I met an oriental fellow by the name of Yu who is a Yoga student. He has a copy of the “Gita” which has been in his home for some years. He has a struggle.

“How do you get beyond chapter one?”

“Just turn the page,” I suggested.

I understood that perhaps Yu had some psychological block about moving on. Perhaps the details of two lines of warriors stationed and pitted against each other was too much for him to bear. After all, chapter two expounds the very beginning of Vedic philosophy. It’s where you find depth in the Gita. There is no violence in it.

I have met other people who have some fear about the Gita’s message. This apprehension may be somewhat justified. After all, the truth hurts and the Gita sends out this naked truth. It appears that most of us are habituated to living in denial.

I urged Yu to step beyond that line of fear and accept the initial sting. From thereafter, he should be able to recognize an old friend or an old voice that speaks to all of us in the same way, the voice of sweetness, the voice of surrender.

7 Km

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Good Time

Toronto, Ontario

It has outgrown itself. The Festival of India following the chariot parade on Yonge St. had drawn such big crowds this year that the final venue, the Toronto Islands, is too small.

This happy problem is not to do with the capacity of the vehicle-free islands but more so with the limited ferry services going back and forth. Organizers say 25,000 flocked just for the festival.

Some friends I knew that were intending to come just could not make it over the harbour. The line-ups were too discouraging. And trying to return back to the mainland after the sun’s setting, people in queue remarkably held their patience in what would otherwise be mayhem. I guess it’s the green surroundings and the water’s serenity that cools passions.

Put the madness to the side and you will have seen nothing but a bright light of Jaganath (the prime deity) in the form of joy during the procession under a blistering sun, the ride over water and the calming of the green. Come to think of it, the event is really an elemental experience. From a Vedic perspective there is earth, water, fire, air and ether. All five come in full force for this two day phantasmagoria.

My day ended up the next morning. At 12:30 AM I took to a peach juice at the convenience store near the ashram before resting. As I walked in to purchase the refresher a young guy, about age 25, asked the classic question, “Are you a monk?”


“What does that involve?”

By this time his two buddies joined him at the counter to make their purchases. Before I could respond he said, “I guess you probably avoid looking at this kind of stuff…” as he pointed at the woman’s revealing magazine that he was about to pay for.

“It’s true. We avoid that stuff.” In short I explained to these thoroughly inquisitive fellows that we just have a good time burning off karma.

16 Km

Friday, July 15th, 2011

First Film

Toronto, Ontario

A young woman was asked, “Have you heard of Hare Krishna?”

“Yes! I think it’s a Jewish holiday.”

Another person was posed the same question, “Yes, I believe he’s a wonderful person, doing such good work.”

Other people gave similar answers but a surprising number knew that Hare Krishna is a spiritual movement, folks from the 60’s or 70’s, for instance, were more familiar then the decades that followed. A survey of the Montreal public was questioned about what they knew regarding the Krishna culture, a survey that our Halifax monks conducted.

Nitai Ram our head brahmacari (monk) in Canada empowered his young men to put together their first video. Yogendra and Matt, both Nova Scotians were the main engine behind “A Sankirtan Story”. A piece of film to show their viewers what sankirtan entails. It basically illustrates the outreach program that occupies much of their good and fun time on the streets meeting people.

They gave our community in Toronto a showing of “A Sankirtan Story” as an archival piece and as a way to attract others to the lifestyle of “simple living and high thinking”. Viewing the material was a highlight for me on this day in addition to a 12 hour kirtan (chanting) at the downtown temple and a procession, another form of sankirtan, at posh Yorkville and then Bloor St.

It’s merely an expression, but I “tip my hat off” to those brahmacaris who are working very hard to make a cultural shift in society by interacting with the public and encouraging people to consider the spiritual component.

May they live on!

12 Km

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Being Together

Toronto, Ontario

A group of us monks processioned our way to the Multi faith Centre at the University of Toronto for a unique convergence of groups. All groups are asked to bring their song and so we practically did that. Lyrics with translations were to be emailed ahead of time. This our group did. We forwarded the great mantra called the maha mantra which goes as follows:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,

Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama,

Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Our translation:

“O beautiful Creator, please allow us to joyfully engage in service to You.”

At 7 pm all groups mingled, brake ice and got to know each other. Then Matt, the facilitator introduced the Jewish group who sang “Hine Ma Tou”. And we all did so with them. We stood up and swayed with them arm in arm.

Next the Bahai group sang “Here Am I” with a harmony of soprano, baritone and alto. Each person there took their chairs to sing out with one of the three inclinations. We stood and sang in full participation.

Next we sat to the tune of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” with Prof. Narale a Hindi bhajan that he wrote. Finally Matt invited our ISKCON group to sing the maha-mantra. This three word combination of sacred names was executed with ease by all. All there sang, clapped, stood up to dance and to form a modest version of a Congo-line while chanting.

The Bahais sang one more up-beat gospel piece and that then finalized the program. It was great for establishing a potent camaraderie. Our group of monks were on fire to continue singing our song. We did so for a return journey back to the ashram.

7 Km

Friday, 15 July 2011

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

That’s (mundane) Life

Toronto, Ontario

I turned a corner at Roxborough and Yonge where just outside of a coffee shop, “Second Cup” two dogs were mating. The dog’s owner (or owners) must have been sipping away inside allowing nature to take its own course outside.

Further south a man glimpsed at my robes. He was about sixtyish, introduced himself, and told me he goes to Puskara, India, every year. I didn’t bother to ask whether it was for a spiritual venture or for beach fun and beach dope. I merely jumped to my conclusion; that his intent was less spiritual otherwise he would have prolonged the conversation. Oh well! He’s on his own track. Maybe, next he’ll plunge into the spiritual side of life. At least he was nice.

I ended up on Queen St. pass Old City Hall which architecturally puts New City Hall to shame. Pedestrian traffic is everywhere, uncongested, evenly-spread but moving. 25% of walkers are on I-pods. Maybe 5% are munching or seriously devouring. Two people have an argument. A street person is in slumber. Everyone has his or her own intent/purpose.

I guess I’m seeing it all -- eating, sleeping, mating and defending. In Sanskrit the terms are ahara (eating), nidra (sleeping), bhaya(defending), and maithuni(mating). All of this seen over the course of 75 minutes on a rectangular route on a Toronto grid from Yonge to Queen, to Spadina and Dupont back to the ashram. This is all a visualization of what I read about. It is like the pages of the books we read. The graphic and yet ordinary goings-on of secular living becomes manifest at every step you take. Whether dog or man, such is life as it goes on in the mundane sense.

7 Km

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Looking Fragile

Toronto, Ontario

Things are looking fragile in the world economic scene. The country of Italy is on the latest list of financial challenges in Europe. Ireland, Greece and Portugal are part of the unfortunate stack of debt contagion and now, one of the strangest economies of Euro land, to a great surprise, is the land of vineyards.

This recent surprise about domino woes is cause for much concern and anguish. Some thoughts and questions come to my mind. Is there a co-relation between the decline of spirituality to lack of funds? Does greed and karma play a role in this? Naturally, being some kind of spiritualist I may be incline to think so.

China is now a powerhouse with India taking a second place. This is a shift in power dynamics from west to east -- from America and Europe to the east. If money is power then as we can see, a remolding is taking place on the basis of the movement of “Lakshmi”. Lakshmi is the Sanskrit word to describe wealth. This primary goddess has a reputation for being flickering and changing locations.

This is the way of the world and its history so it seems. It gives cause to re-think certain values and certain ways of doing things. It’s an interesting time, now and always. Nothing is permanent.

And because I think like a spiritualist I’m inclined towards a pat answer or a solution to the problem. There’s a need to step up on tightening our belts, re-visit simple ways and say “Hello” to god again. History tells of those trends of what was just described.

As I contemplated on the matter on my evening stretch of legs I saw a billboard promoting “Pizza Pizza”, an Italian Canadian based business. The image is of a young couple indulging in a succulent slice of pizza. They look happy, of course. No doubt the message carries a kernel of deception. Happiness is permanent with the spirit and not necessarily with financial arrangements.

8 Km

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Pulling from a Branch

Toronto, Ontario

In India people brag about mango season or papaya season. But here, right here in North America and at this time of year, we can relish and take pride in such bountiful fruit bearing trees such as mulberries and a smaller bush, the saskatoon. I never realized until today how many you can find in the city.

Few people take advantage. After all, most of these juicy edibles are on someone's property, however, I interpret the overhanging branches that canopy the sidewalk as a gesture of kindness - charity for a monk perhaps. I don't hesitate to pluck a few berries at the expense of staining the palms. Yes, indeed, I will make a full stop from walking in order to energize myself. Of course, I'll make sure the proprietor is not sitting on the front porch, watching. Does anyone do that anymore?

I figure that here, God is giving, and I can't pass up the generous offer. There's another rationale that I put behind the picking. In my teens I spent my summer in orchards. It was an 8 hour a day ordeal of being on a ladder going after cherries, plums, peaches, pears and apples. My siblings and I were reaching new heights with our summer jobs. Those were great days. The transistor radio was set in the trunk of the tree where limbs branch out and we would tantalize our ears with Stevie Wonder singing "My Cherie Amour."

We would also benefit from the nutrients the fruits had to offer. So it was the reaching, the climbing, the stretching, the sunshine and the eating that was all just so good for us. To the cave-dwelling texting generation, I don't envy you one bit. You don't know what you're missing.

But there was one more important component to my cherry picking days that's very clear to me - somehow I had the firm belief in the presence of someone always watching me with great care.

Ahhh! That reminiscence is precious.

4 Km

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Take Care of Yourself

Quebec, Ontario

He was hungry. His nose was to the ground. He lives under a trailor, so we were told by the manager of the local confectionery. He is beautiful, noted our return party from Montreal. He roams the wooded area nearby, preying (not 'praying' with an 'a') in order to sustain himself. He seems to do that, look after himself.

He's also furry and red and has this glamourous bushy tail at his behind. He's a fox and although foxes may tend toward shyness this guy could almost be our domestic friend.

Our traveling party stopped in the hamlet of Grafton for a refuel when we spotted him. His whole body, designed to be quiet, light on the feet and fast - left an impression as he scoured the parking lot moving this way and that. Looking for morsels or almost anything, animated or inanimate, was his mandate.

On the theme of looking out for yourself, I couldn't help reiterating this point to a dear friend from Montreal, a friend whom I was compelled to visit in the Old Vic Hospital. He received a heart attack at 3 AM, the result of too much exertion over the busy weekend.

Gokulananda, a fine French Canadian devotee, is in his early sixties. Almost four decades before he was like a mentor to me when I first became a monk in Toronto. I looked down at my bed-ridden friend and implored him to look after himself. It was not an uncommon mantra that I delivered to him, being in the circumstance that he was.

"Slow down! Watch what you eat! Avoid the cholesterol stuff! Look after yourself! Slow down! Please!"

We discussed that the body is its own guru. It tells what you can take and not take. Then, Gokul reminded me of the incident of our guru, Srila Prabhupada who suffered from his physical setback. The doctor told Prabhupada's disciples, "He prays too much."

It was not what they wanted to hear from the doctor. In fact, they thought the remark was rude, insensitive.

As Gokul was retelling the story, he spoke as if he was Prabhupada himself, "No," he corrected the devotees, "the doctor is right." From then on our guru went on his daily walks.

11 Km

Monday, 11 July 2011

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Beauty in the City Beast

Montreal, Quebec

"Tears came forcefully from the eyes of the Lord, as if from a syringe, and all the people surrounding Him became wet."
-From the text Chaitanya Caritamrta Madhya-Lila 13.105

The Lord being referred to in this quote is Chaitanya who cried out of emotion for Jagannath (Krishna) during the Ratha Yatra (Festival of Chariots). He had been dancing and chanting before the chariot of Jagannath in the midst of everyone devotional.

A re-enactment of dancing and singing to the beat of drums, kettle drums, and symbols happened today on St. Laurent in Montreal on a perfect weather day. Tears were held back perhaps for many of us novices in spiritual life; they may have been even contained, not invoked for reasons that we are not sensitized to the state experienced by Chaitanya.

Joy was felt though. I witnessed happy participants, myself being one of them. A good strong chanting persisted under a baking sun as the chariot (resembling a temple) rolled down the street. The stage events at Jean-Mance park were entertaining. Acts moved on and off with a smooth professional roll like the easy turning wheels of the chariot.

Delicious prasadam was served (Indian food without chillies, a rarity). And there were tons of happy faces reflecting Jagannath's own facial demeanour.

As usual after hours of mingling (and entertaining) I stubbornly avoided ride offers back to the ashram for rest. A new exploration route for me was Rachelle St. People are going back to biking in defiance of expensive auto arrangements. Good for them.

Even Jagannath's chariot, come to think of it, is a non-engine-operated conveyance. It is pulled by love when devotees grip the two taut ropes that move the chariot forward.

If we keep up the smooth handling of the festival for Him, Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, then with such a level of perfectional devotion, tears may eventually flow, like a waterfall, or syringe (as mentioned). It only requires a building of the intensity.

11 Km

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Upcoming events

Ratha Yatra and festival of India - Toronto

July 16th and 17th

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Bobby’s Getting Married

Toronto, Ontario

A couple of black dudes let me catch up to them along the side walk.

“So what do you believe in?” asked one of them.

“We believe in Krishna.”


“No!” Krishna! Krishna is our authority He is dark. In fact he’s black! One definition of Krishna is ‘black’.”

This remark did not phase the two guys but they listened further.

“We are in this world to learn and to correct wrongs. If we have more work to do with correction then we are given another birth -- we are born again and yet again until we get it right.”

“What is your stance on drinking, smoking and drugs?” asked the second dude.

“We have a large membership and there are varying degrees of commitment from these members. I’m a priest in the community so I avoid these habits in order to keep clean, safe, spare my guts, protect my brain cells, and to have a heart.

It was time to part. We wished each other well.

More well-wishing. Bobby’s getting married. I knew the kid since he was 5. That was 25 years ago. Everybody likes Bobby. He’s totally amiable. I went to a pre-amble event to his wedding. I was given the floor to speak. At that point I offered blessings and also some words.

“Thanks, Bobby, for being so level-headed, cool, calm and collected. I wish you well in your new life with your partner. Keep anchored! Keep Krishna!”

17 Km

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Mutual Benefit

Toronto, Ontario

Yesterday I took a stroll to a park, a pleasant green space off of Bathurst St. with three beautiful women. Those motorists who watched us cross the street may have wondered what kind of monk is that keeping company with les femmes?

“Let them wonder,” I thought, “these are my sisters and niece. Today I went out with the boys. At downtown Yonge and Bloor I beat the drum, literally, an art of a sankirtan session. A dear god brother, Krsna das, Laghu Hari, our visiting South African monk, and I were chanting. For some time Krsna das handed out flyers to promote the coming Ratha Yatra for July 16th and 17th while Laghu and I sat down on a public concrete slab, an actual seat. It was so designed that you could interpret that one half jutting out north and the other south, implies that the seat for two positions goes in each direction.

We took advantage of this. Laghu faced the moving pedestrians. I faced the traffic with my mrdanga drum. It was interesting to see the response by motorists especially when having to stop for the traffic light.

It was a hot day so most people have their windows closed with the AC on. I would say half of the stationary vehicles stopped for the red light would at least slightly roll down their window to listen to the beat of the drum and the mantra being sung. Some people would look towards us and smile. Some would nod. Some would tap their fingers on the steering wheel.

And while they were getting a kick out of hearing us (and I seeing them) we were both reaping the benefit of appreciating the mantra. That was to our mutual benefit.

6 Km

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Some Saints

North Your, Ontario

Most celebrated in the Gaudiya tradition is a person by the name of Vakresvara Pandit, a contemporary of Chaitanya. Vakresvara may not have been professional at the art but skilled he was in devotion. He managed to stretch his dance of love for God for a lengthy 72 hours. Dancing is a big part of expression in our tradition. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, also acknowledged that the Sufi tradition, where dance is important, is highly devotional and poetical. Many spiritualists of diverse traditions honour the art of dancing in abandonment.

Last week we had honoured another saint, Bhaktivinode Thakura, known less for dance but more for song. He wrote scores of bhajans (devotional hymns) in honour of Krishna. His songs such as “Radha Madhava” and “Gaura Arati” are popular the world-over in devotional circles. He also was a great teacher of Vaishnav philosophy. He once spoke about the green bird entering the green tree, an apparently common sight in India. The point he made was when a green bird enters a green tree the bird does not merge in oneness. The bird retains his individuality. This example is given to illustrate that the soul does not lose his/her distinctiveness when entering the spirit world.

I was pleasantly reminded of this when seeing a red cardinal bird fly into a red rose bush, during AM walking. A second cardinal in flight came to land and join the first to conceal themselves in the flowers.

Today thoughts took my attention to my siblings and a niece in North York. I went to visit them out of love and obligation. They are also saints; not dancers, writers or teachers of philosophy. But I can proudly say that as far as duty and loyalty to family and community they score high in these areas. In that regard I consider them saints. I’m speaking of Connie, Pauline and Tarelyn. They are definitely my worth dropping in on from time to time. Perhaps one day I will see them become vegetarian.

In any event saints can be defined in many ways. There are different gradations of them and there are many of them.

6 KM

Bruce trail walk - TUESDAY, JULy 5th, 2011

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011


Terra Cotta, Ontario

I spent a glorious few hours with Bob, Judy, their daughters, Raj and Surabhi in the village of Terra Cotta. Red clay is prevalent in this nestled away sweet place with the Credit River running through it; the rusty earth tone explains the name of the hamlet.

Bob and Judy are school teachers and I put them in the category of Brahmin friends. Their approach to spirituality, Christianity, may be a slightly different approach than their guests, yet I hold it in high admiration that they are as accepting of us as they are of their own fellow worshippers. In fact over a scrumptious lunch and the trek on Bruce Trail they kept encouraging us to seriously consider purchasing the property next to their lovely home so that they could have mutual-thinking neighbours by their side.

What a fantastic couple and family!

I had a continual progressive day from the stand point of acceptance and harmonization. From Terra Cotta I visited three more households in the area, of people of our community. These were people who took time for bonding and gaining an increased understanding though simple dialogue. The end result in each case was, “Hey we are all family!”

As I wound up the day with final contemplations of the day’s stock I was humoured by my first contacts of early morning, a group of young men who identified themselves from the Sikh and Muslim tradition. They were very amiable with me as I walked Yorkville Ave in Toronto. They did smoke. They did probe.

“Are you Buddhist?”

“No!… Hare Krishna!”

“Oh yeah! How did you get into this?… And what is the co-relation between ganja and the Ganges?”

At this question I had to laugh knowing what was important to them. At least I was not dismissed by the group. When you consider that both the Ganges and ganja were dear to many of us who became monks in due course of time someone has to befriend such fellows and give them hope that there are such things more precious than smoking your life away in dreams.

10 Km

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Uptown Yonge

Toronto, Ontario

I walked uptown Yonge St. It’s clean, respectable; less raunchy than the downtown.

One security guard physically picked-up a beggar to move him on outside a bank. The beggar was reluctant. I didn’t wait for an assumed “scene”. I kept moving. Other than that element I liked the place. Why?

Well, here, small businesses seem to thrive. There isn’t that franchised/chain store feel to the place. There are still a lot of little fishes (businessmen) here and I hope a big fish doesn’t come to swallow them all. Residential side streets seem to like it that way. Here, a small family business has a chance. That is, if rents don’t kill you.

Further south I saw another homeless person, a woman that makes only two). She sat under a shaded mulberry tree. The berries had spattered all over the place and I could see that she was indifferent. Sitting there coyly she asked for change. It was a contrast to the proud middle class feel of her surroundings.

“Good morning!” Said two young guys outside a fancy paintball shop. “I mean, Good afternoon!” Corrected the one after looking at his watch.

I half-turned and returned with a smile saying, “Whatever!” implying whether this or that, let there be “good”.

And you know, it was lunch hour so when I started the trek on Yonge just after being picked up at the airport, the east side had shade. That’s where I blazed a fun trail. After one o’clock with the sun’s travel, the shade moved to the west side. I then crossed the road to move under building shadows.

Whether this side or that side, as long as you move, right? Whether rich or poor as long as we are human, we take to spiritual obligations, right? Yes, as long as we are human, we don’t neglect our dharma, our spiritual side. Right?

10 Km

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Christian Goodness

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

He mentioned it to me once before. “We are attacked by weapons of mass distraction.” Such were the words Father Kevin McGee who oversees three parishes in Saskatoon and who became our guest of honour at our Bhakti Show. Father and I were speaking after the event about “the nature of the beast” in today’s world while feasting over Prasadam (sanctified food). I consider him one of my Brahmin friends. He insists I call him Kevin.

I first met Kevin five years ago at a tourist information centre in North Battleford just after trekking a good 40 kilometres for the day. My support person, Garuda, and I were warmly treated by Kevin in his rectory in Saskatoon. We broke bread together and it felt like moments of sanctity as in the event of “The Last Supper”. I say that because after a hard push under the Prairie sun at the above mentioned distance that day it was, in fact, the last meal of the day.

He played “Good Samaritan” at a two-way score by accommodating Garuda and I for that night. We had been “roughing it” at camp-sites and then due to Kevin’s hospitality, we had it comfortable.

Back to our dialogue; we both agreed that self-centeredness was a disease and whether you feel attacked or not it’s YOU as the individual that makes the choice whether to be enslaved by it or not. I asked him what his biggest challenge is for the communities he oversees and here’s where we concurred again. “Most folk don’t try to go inward”. Distractions do persist.

Besides Father Kevin, a modest one hundred people came, a mixed group of local people, came who are teachers (Brahmins again) and some from the Hindu community. In fact our program took place in Saskatoon’s Hindu temple, which is nice that Kevin did come as our esteemed guest.

7 Km

Monday, 4 July 2011

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Kids again!

Regina, Saskatoon

I never saw so much enthusiasm. It was a total impromptu event (chanting) but right when we found an extra hour these two kids went to work full steam ahead distributing books in the park. The kids were Hrisikesh, 9, and his little sister Ragalikha, 5, The books (or pamphlets to be more accurate) were “The reservoir of Pleasure” by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the grassy and tree-canopied place was Victoria Park in down town Regina, Saskatchewan’s capital.

As soon as a person could take a stroll through the park the two young joyful kids would dart out, like a bullet, come up to the casual stroller and deliver the literary piece with the biggest smile you ever saw, of course.

As an observer I was delighted and so were my comrades from Winnipeg. We were watching the fun while chanting in a circle arrangement rested on the grass.

Oh! The mosquitoes were horrendous but that didn’t matter. Our mood was that people’s blood was being sucked by the consumer mode of existence and here was a jovial kid offering an alternative back at life via the publications. We were smiling. The recipients didn’t know at first what hit them before graciously receiving.

Those two little kids set the mood for a great evening at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium. There, our drama troupe, Swami Productions, presented “Nandulal”, “The Telemarketer”, and “Chaitanya’s Verses”, dramatically pieced to move the audience.

The program ended on the note of the same activity -- chanting. As Emcee I asked all to leave their chairs, some forward toward the stage, and loosen up, “Sway the feet. Sing the mantra. Ignore the mind. Clap the hands.”

We became kids -- enthusiastic kids.

9 Km

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Above Water

Watrous, Saskatchewan

It had become a somewhat of a recreation day. After all it’s a national holiday. Canada as we know it was born in 1867 on July 1st. You’ll usually find me near Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, chanting with a group of Krishna monks and laypersons.

This year kirtan for me was at little Manitou Lake, a body of water which has similar dynamics to the Dead Sea. Upon these healing mineral waters your body floats. One eager devotee swam the entire width of the lake, leaving the rest of us most anxious. The anguish fuelled the kirtan. Our prayers were answered as the devotee was detected from out-of-range (due to the size of the lake) to visibility and finally back to safe shore.

It was an above-water experience. This topic of staying afloat become a sustained theme. Three of us temple dwellers visiting Saskatoon for devotional performances conversed about how each of us was raised by our parents. In the case of each of us our parents are sustaining life-long partnerships. Mine are deceased but saw through a 40th wedding anniversary. God bless them!

We spoke admiringly of our loved ones and how they held us offspring as number one objects of duty and affection. They lived “sacrifice” to the book. Divorce was not a consideration for them. It was “old school” type of thinking. They --our parents-- kept us always above water. You know, there should never be a day without gratitude.

8 Km

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

I Took to the Highway

Edmonton, Alberta

I took to the Trans Canada highway for a stretch. It's a long road (the world's longest) that I have become familiar with. It appears to be an endless ribbon of pavement, two lanes, sometimes four lanes, and in some busy locations like Montreal it spans to much more than that.

On Calgary's east end where I trekked for a bit it is a hectic #2 to Montreal with six lanes and is referred to as 16th Avenue.

Near Barlow Trail my ride came to pick me up for the journey to Edmonton and beyond. A Fijian couple transported our little bhakti drama troupe to the radha Govinda Cultural Centre where we were greeted by two angelic-like Bengali monks. They fed us and yet we had more time to kill (the ego) before our next driver came to take us on the last leg of the day's journey to the city of Saskatoon. We sat down for a session of verse memorization (always a good exercise for those who need to learn lines). From the Bhagavad-gita you have this string of many verses to choose from. The Gita is like the highway, a ribbon with many points of interest. Out of the seven hundred verses we chose 10.30 from the chapter entitled "Opulence of the Absolute".

The message is deep, especially the phrase kalah kalayatam aham, "Of subduers I am time." Time tends to calm all things. Time puts all to rest.

6 KM