Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

What is Similar!
 Mayapura, West Bengal

While chanting of the maha mantra is beautifully present in the atmosphere even in the pre-dawn, the gnarly mosque also projects its early calling and penetrating the ether. The presence of Islam is definitely established in the area. Even in the time of Sri Chaitanya, five centuries back, there was a strong Muslim dominance. Islam ruled here then even in the midst of a strong Hindu population.

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, once explained that there had been a relatively peaceful co-existence for a long time between the two groups. Differences have surfaced with conflict from time to time. There is one history of aggression by invaders and no one can readily say that when Hinduism was of prime dominance even before Buddha that there was not intrigue.

Somehow co-existence should be the thrust regardless of varying approaches to God.

I received in my hand of copy of the author's book, "Islam and the Vedas". Rasamandala, the person who penned the book writes, "It may appear that the Koran and Vedic literature are conflicting in their precepts. Though the Koran and Vedic literature may seem different there are so many points of similarities that may not be easily detected. Differences arise not because of different scriptures; rather, they are caused by different levels of understanding. There is a need to realize that the goal is one; submission to the Supreme. God is One."

When I fly back to Canada I will relish reading this text to explore more the common denominator between distinct (or what appears to be extinct) traditions. It's a very healthy approach to life.
6 Km

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I Read a Document
Mayapura, West Bengal

As our drama troupe for this festival time readied ourselves for yet
another practice with tonight's performance of "Krishna the 8th Boy",
I read from a document that was addressing performing arts standards.
It's contents are much of what you would expect from the headquarters
of a spiritual culture. I'll share the major portion of this brief
which I think you'll find interesting and which, as it reads, "To help
provide quality entertainment that is purifying and uplifting..."

About Music. As a general rule the use of non-devotional music
(Western pop, Bollywood or other styles) is discouraged... If
non-devotional music is required for soundtracks then please make sure
the music is in context and used appropriately...

Dress code:
-No transparent cloth
-No open hair for women
-No tight cloth
-No low dhotis that show belly button
-No low skirts that show belly button

Mixing of Sexes:
-No physical contact on or off the stage between sexes
-Maintain chastity while interacting
-Maintain devotional mood

Philosophical Standards:
The themes, ideas and conclusions of any performance pieces should be
philosophically correct according to the teachings of ISKCON...

While comedy is a popular form of entertainment it is cautioned that
any such performances must be careful not to offend any Vaishnavas --
make light of that which is sacred -- degrade the mood into triviality
or the mundane in pursuance of laughing enjoyment

It is hoped that this list will not dampen the spirits of those who
are dedicated to the Vaishnava arts, and the service of the
Vaishnavas. It is only our hope that beautiful uplifting Vaishnava
artistic performance piece can be offered for the pleasure of Srila
Prabhupada.  (from Mayapur Performing Arts Standards Committee)

By the way, the performance of "Krishna, the 8th Boy" has evolved to a
new level.

6 Km

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Someone Wanted to Know

Mayapura, West Bengal

When the sun hides behind the horizon, or begins to, it becomes
welcoming to take a second walk. Down towards the Tarampura Road I go.

A fellow then tags along, introduces himself and is determined to ask
a ton of questions.

I anticipated a quiet walk, a private time, but this fellow wanted to
let out what he needed to. First of all, it was a little about his
life and a failed marriage; then he started to probe into my
methodology for the long cross-country walks I've done.

"I'm really curious to know how you do it. I'm a kind of a gypsy and
I'm thinking to duplicate your program." I did take him seriously
though and did not pass him off as eccentric. He donned the
traditional clothes of dhoti and kurta. But really I was just more
into the mood of a quiet walking experience after having dealt with
people all day.

He asked again, "how do you manage the walking day to day? Where do
you stay at night? etc..."

 I rather abruptly said, "Here is how I do it. I put my hand on my
beads and start chanting, then I walk moving my legs. Please follow."

So he took out his beads for chanting and did as I did. We walked past
the elephants, then onto the interlocked cobbles of the Tarampura
Road, then right on a dust tree-lined trail and another right through
a residential grhasta (family) enclave. We came to a stop.

We just chanted softly the whole time. And I said to the curious
fellow, "You asked how I do these marathon walks. I just showed you."
Instead of feeling that perhaps I ignored him, he expressed the
greatest appreciation. He confirmed, "When you do these walks it's
something to do with you and Krishna, ain't it?"

"Yes, it's something like that. I hope in the future you will be able
to duplicate it."

"I'm going to try" he said satisfied.

7 Km

Saturday, February 25th, 2012


Mayaypura, West Bengal
I received an e-mail from a Unitarian leader who was suggesting that a few of us should do some scrupling. I got back to him saying, "I agree with you. Scrupling is a good idea."

What on earth is "scrupling"?

Scrupling apparently is something that was common amongst the Quakers. It was their old practice, developed in the mid-19th century to focus thinking on the issue of slavery abolition in the U.S., an issue in which Quakers played a role.

So I was thinking that scrupling is like a discussion, a diliberation on something which involves a lot of listening. This is what brahmins are supposed to do -- to discuss topics of social and spiritual concern. We might call it ishtaghosti. North American natives may call it a pow wow.

Surely when I get back to the west the intent is to have a face-to-face with a Unitarian member to discuss issues on how we can better assist the world. Since their church is a mere five minutes walk from our centre on Avenue Road in Toronto, we have no excuse to avoid a chat.

There are many concerns shared by groups of different denominations and it just sounds great when one of the spiritual leaders takes the initiative for brahmins to knock heads, so to speak. It is very commendible.

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had many dialogues with members and leaders of other faiths. So the green light is on to promote understanding.

 6 Km

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Lunch With Sadhus

Mayapura, West Bengal

Today, there were eighteen of us -- sanyasis or renounced men at lunch together. We were huddled together in the quarters of Bhakti Caru Swami of Bengali origin. Not enough could be said about the excellent prasadam and its presentation.

Equally good is the company. One of the main purposes for travel from so many corners of the world is so that we could come together and to walk down the red royal carpet of encouragement. There are marvelous things going on spiritually in many parts of the world and the major influence, in a Krishna Conscious context, is coming form the people in this room.

We sat on mats set out at the edge of the room with a low table in front of each of us. A banana leaf was placed on top of that. To one corner of the leaf was poured out a small pile of local salt, strips  of ginger and some cut lemon. A porous clay pot was placed just off the leaf at the side of the low table for drinking water.

Bhakti Caru led the prayer before honouring the prasadam beginning with "Sarira avidya jal..."   "Oh Lord, this material body is a lump of ignorance..." The prayer starts off on a negative note but then eventually thrusts hope and optimism.

What wasn't positive about this experience, the people, the edibles? Nothing really, although I found the panir, the organic curd chunks fried in mustard oil a little strong.

After the meal you just have to nap. Only my extra take-it-easy-today program which I scheduled to fight the cold became interrupted by multiple visits. The day ended with a very free-style dance to the Kirtan Mela (chanting festival) going on.

Overall, what could stop me from shouting out "Jai!" the big victory cry.

7 Km

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I Had Lunch

Mayapura, West Bengal

I had lunch at the school of Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami. As you enter his 19 acre property, you are immediately transported to another time. There are impressions there of old with the common local thatched roofs. The drain pipes that you see are rather classy. A yoli, a prehistoric creature cross-bred with lion, elephant and crocodile has water running though spilling out into a larger gutter.

Everything is quite natural here including the organic dahl, veggies and rice they grow right on sight. Under the shade of one of the huts sat an American monk to my left and to my right was an African monk. Kiddie Corner was a South American monk who told a joke about mosquitoes. Those guys are on our minds in the night even if you use nets. Here it goes

There was this mosquito family, Papa Mosquito, Mama Mosquito and Baby Mosquito. The baby was growing very healthy and strong. It came to a point in time where he was to go on his first flight. His parents supported him so well and were proud that he was to take on this great achievement. Baby Mosquito happily flew on his was and returned back safely. His parents inquired, "Well, what was your experience?"

"It was a great flight. Everywhere I went people were giving me so much applause!"

I relayed this re`latable joke to my room-mates Goura and Prem, who had returned from their  evening performance of "Krishna, the 8th Boy". They were feeling good about being the recipients of an appreciative audience. Applause they got and fortunately our room was a mosquito-free zone to add to the pleasantness we encountered.

7 Km

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The Danger to Spiritual Life
Mayapura, West Bengal

I went to the Chaitanya Bhavan to meet an Australian friend, Nrsimha Kavacha. Our occasion was for business of a different kind. We were initiating talks about spiritual fall downs and exploring the multiple reasons and possible solutions for preventing the dark hour that the soul my go through. The man in the renounced order can also be vulnerable prey to human nature and we have seen the sad results of inattention to spiritual regimen.

To greet me at the door was a friendly body-building priest by the name of Simha Gauranga. He can be described as a warrior with neck as thick as his head. Jokingly he said "Many people in this building are counselors. I'm a canceler. People here are involved in devotee care. For me it's devotee scare."

"Okay, there's a place for everyone in this world."

When Nrsimha welcomed me to sit for a discussion we did then proceed to discuss the topic of those symptoms and habits which could cause a scare and a cancellation for spiritual life.

Here's the initiation installment of thoughts:

1) Poor sadhana (not honouring the standard rules or attendance at group functions)

2) Imbalanced lifestyle -- not enough time for exercise -- too many hours at the computer -- over eating.

3) Too much adulation (over praise)

4) Isolationism -- not enough time with peers.

5) Too many disciples -- taking a load impossible to maintain.

 6) Over-worked -- stress -- multi-tasked to the max.

7) Money -- personal handling of funds and recipient of generous donors -- large inheritances.

8) Exposure to disciples of opposite sex.

9) Being mechanical -- following routine -- superficial imposition of oneself -- "not being yourself".

6 Km

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Be By Giants

Mayapura, West Bengal

Fine very tall brass deities, known as the Panca Tattva (features of Krishna in the age of Iron), were flanked to our left. Four swamis and I along with our chairperson this year's AGM Hrdai Chaitanya, where set to speak to the world-wide community of devotees. Each of us read a portion of the resolutions arrived for the year 2011. This put a devotional closure to our meetings.
After this a maha-mela (major festival) of the name of Krishna was inaugurated. The venue, the Panca Tattva Hall, was packed with devotional chanters, marking the start of a several day festival. Enthusiasm was peeking as the night chanting heightened in volume and pitch. It all seemed to be about reaching heights this evening.

My nasty cold kept me up for hours in broken sleep. I took to chanting japa by pacing the rooftop of our accommodational building, the Gada Bhavan. Like so many structures in the area the roof is a flat surface. Beyond this flat roof are the stars in the sky. And beyond that is so much more space and existences -- galaxies.

We are but tiny spirits, little fire-flies against the heavenly bodies that remain lit up above. If we can just remember our nature of smallness, of fragility, then we might have a chance at spiritual success. We must live in the truth and not the lie that I am so very significant.

I was seemingly up high but I was still so small and humble.

6 Km

Monday, February 20th, 2012

After the Show
Mayapura, West Bengal

An elderly eastern-European man approached me after our second showing of the drama "Krishna, the 8th Boy". With a rather wearied frame but sparkling eyes. He said something most encouraging. "I was with professional theatre all my life. What you just did is very professional."

"The mercy of guru, Prabhupada," I said as that's where credit does lie. A shy guy from rural Canada couldn't get this together. When I met those monks in late December of '72, they who were Prabhupada's students, my life changed forever.

On his way out the the venue, the samadhi auditorium, the well-known ascetic, Radhanatha Swami who congratulated the cast, then came to me. It was reciprocal hugs. He and I share time together with our peers hours at a time on chairs discussing issues. It's our AGM for 2012 and it can get serious and sometimes even bland. I mentioned to Radhanatha, " You know those meetings are a special service that we participate in, but if I was to pick and choose between the meetings of management and working with the youth on dramas it would be the latter." He laughed and knew where I was coming from.

There is everything joyful about the show. As the director I sit back on a stool in the technical booth and watch that venue fill up with monks and lay members, all sitting snugly together. There cannot be anything more satisfying than watching excitement build up and then reaching that crescendo with a final applause.

There is a form of ecstasy in all of this. Perhaps people are feeling the beginnings of a state of bhava (intense feelings). Because the subject is spiritual it cannot be related to the mundane.

By the end of this day it took a good three kilometres of walking to wind down.
6 Km

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Morning is Special

Mayapura, West Bengal

Morning is Special -- always, especially before the awakening of the world.  In Mayapura there is no exception to this rule. Humans are visibly few.  The chaukidhar (security guard) might also be asleep.

Walking along the periphery of guest houses another life becomes prominent.  A choir of jackals fill the ether.  Luckily pesky mosquitoes are not a reality as of yet.  The air is still a trite cool for the little buggers.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so prejudice towards such little entities, bothersome as they are.  They are naturally part of the food chain and should probably be given credit.

Speaking of food, its delicious coming from the kitchens of Mayapura.  Too many choices.  I confine my palate for noon-time meals only, which is a tasty kichari (rice and moong dhal beans mixed with a variety of veggies).  Papaya chunks is my only breakfast.

Health keeps up except for a bad cough.  Colds and throat issues are common here.  People say it's the dust that clogs the upper gates of the body.

In the evening the youth organized a spontaneously powerful presentation of devotion.  Kish, of the popular Mayapuris Bhajan Band, set up a talent show. He had selected artists like magicians, singers, acrobats, dancers.  They were good.  When some technical difficulties arose I was asked to come to the stage to fill up the space (or kill some time).  This is not the first time I've been called on for this service.  I started a kirtan or a choir if you will.

The morning and evening came together with sound. The day began with jackals and ended with angels.   This means that the evening can also be very special provided all attention is given to the Creator.  Yes?

7 Km

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Approving Monks

Mayapura, West Bengal

I was slotted to join the sannyasa candidate committee. What a treat! What a special service!

What this means is I'm a member of a team that approves new monks. It involves looking at candidates who may have been married and fulfilled their family vows but now wish to go for the final segment of their life as a celibate teacher who travels. When I say "may" it means there is another scenario which is something like this -- a bachelor devotee now wishes to make the balance of life a committed one to devotion.

Our group looks at the portfolio of each candidate with information including his photo, name, age, marital status, the sponsor, his particular service, where and for how long. We then have a personal interview with the individual. If there is at all some doubt about the candidates then people are brought in who know the candidate and then another interview is persued. A new candidate is put on a five waiting year. If no objections arise then in each passing year the candidate is jumped up until finally an initiation for this purpose takes place.

Since this program was inaugurated in '92 there has been a great rate of success. Out of the dozens of candidates that have gone through the system to evolve then as official "swamis" only one person was unable to maintain his "sannyasa" status. That's pretty good.

It is some of the first takers to the renounced order that encounter a higher rate not sustaining their vows. In the early days (60's and 70's) risks were taken. Men at a very early age in their life that entered the strict order were usually the ones to experience difficulty. In order to avoid life catastrophes such as this it was decided to implement a system to safeguard individuals.

Unfortunately, a daily strong walk is not a requirement for a candidate. After all if you become a monk you should be strong of body, mind and spirit; right?

6 Km

Saturday, February 17th, 2012

ILS Success

Mayapura, West Bengal

The ILS stands for ISKCON Leader's Sanga. Leaders from Africa, China, South America, Europe, Australia, North America all came for the sanga or association. When delivering their testimonies at the closing events, Mukhya From Florida, for instance, told the body of 400 people that the spiritual seminars were a highlight in her devotional life.

Some how the program that went on for a week resonated with attendees so well. It was informative, inspiring. It created a cohesion that was unparalleled. The motto of the strategic planning that is behind these sessions is "More Devotees, Happier Devotees." That's a smart goal -- to see the numbers of spiritually-driven people increase in the world. They may not all become monks but they will definitely be more spiritual.

It was without discrimination that Sri Chaitanya, the father of kirtan chanting, enthused people of his time (five centuries ago) to honour the path of bhakti (devotion). He was completely successful in accomplishing this even though his target audience was the subcontinent of India. His program would eventually reach global appeal.

My morning entailed a walk and then a three hour sit at an inaugural event for a new children's playground. At the Sri Mayapura International School a program was conducted by students displaying their talents through song, dance, drama and music. I was impressed with the fact that here also, there was representation from all over the world. Future leaders -- spiritual leaders, at least a percentage of the children will take a lead to promoting a more spiritually induced world.

That is promising and hopeful!

6 Km

Friday, February 16th, 2012

Day of Bliss

Mayapura, West Bengal

Today was a perfect day of bliss. And why that is so is because the hard work of assembling a major theatre production came to fruition. It was staged and it was loved.

It is a fact that walking ventures have not been at a passionate speed. A nasty cough has been running me physically down. The show, however, our production of "Krishna the 8th Boy" which had one week's preparation, was pulled off leaving an audience satisfied. That compensated for the lack of doing what I love - walking.

We had to do some cutting and pasting to the piece. One segment of the play just doesn't work. A particular melancholy mood in one scene seemed to drag on so a decision had to be made. I had to abort that segment, as difficult as it was. The critical eye must always be alive in order to remove undesirables.

The program flyer that was distributed to the audience which arrived from the printers minutes before the show was a slick masterpiece with title in front, "Krishna the 8th Boy". An image of Krishna's eyes and brow is set there. Inside is a picture of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, sitting on a rocking chair. It was a photo of my choice because it was in this image that you see him having enjoyed a drama about Krishna. It was staged in New York. It is a classic photo.

Also in the program was a synopsis of the story, scene by scene, with bio-sketches.

This was a production that really pleased people. I'm happy about the outcome. Therefore I said that it was a perfect day of bliss.

I want to thank all the cast and crew, especially Bhumi for being the evening's host.

5 Km

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

A River in Danger

Mayapura, West Bengal

The main nerve or hub of activity for the area is the Ganges River. Besides the sacredness of her holy waters, she offers a very practical service. Her liquids provide energy for agriculture. Rice paddy fields are common in the area. She is food for the rice which is food for the population.

Rivers are so much taken for granted though. Do we ever think of them as a life-line? The sastras (spiritual texts) remind us of their contribution. If you resort to the automobile or motorcycle for travel you so much cut yourself off from the environment around you. The Ganga, that powerful source of energy, can so easily be forgotten, even here in Mayapura. As was the case last year on my visit here I cursed those who drive their scooters in the dhama (holy place). I'm a big opponent. When someone zooms by I blurt out, "You should walk!" Again my intent is to offer the idea that we all need to get in tune, or in touch with the world around us.

With signs up in Mayapura, pilgrims here are made aware of another river, one that is in great danger of losing life. That river is the Yamuna. Signs read, "Save the Yamuna." This river with source from the Himalayas flows south east eventually appears to lose speed and content before it drains itself. By the time it reaches after Delhi, the Yamuna is so ravaged and polluted that pilgrims and residents of Vrindavan can't experience her full former glory what to speak of the practical irrigational services she commits to. It is not unheard of for rivers to dry up totally.

The signs encourage all to submit to a petition, a worth while and simple service anyone can do. I have little information at this point on who's behind this campaign but it seems to me that we need to establish such obligations in at least a small way. It's the right thing to do -- get informed and offer some help. Contact

5 Km

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

On Pride

Mayapura, West Bengal

I met a fellow on the main street of a place called Saskatoon when we talked on the subject of pride. I was on my third walk across Canada. This fellow saw me take a break during that 40 km day and wanted to talk.

"What do you think about pride?" He asked.
"In general, it's harmful but it depends on which type of pride we're talking about."
"In my opinion, it's all evil, every form of pride." He asserted.

I really couldn't agree with him. There was no middle-ground thought for him. I walked on.

At the ISKCON Leadership Sanga right here in Mayapura I felt a great pride and would argue with anyone about it being an evil pride. Spiritual Krishna Conscious leaders from all over the world, the second-in-line of command (I would say) had converged in Mayapura to discuss and learn how to be more effective at leading. A young couple from Toronto, Radha Mohan and Shyama Mohini put forth their presentation to the body of leaders, numbering 300-400 describing their monthly sankirtan festivals which is really an outreach program. They handled themselves so well.

I felt a sense of pride, but not arrogance, because they were our kids, so to speak. They are from Toronto, Canada, my home.

Their delivery was pakka, which means very good. I guess you could call it a kind of feeling a healthy achievement.

I had mentioned somewhere prior in this blog that our guru was first discovered by an American English teacher looking for a guru. When he saw him in New York's east side he described his demeanour as looking like an aristocrat implying that he carried a sense of pride. The pride was not a self-consuming one. The holy man he met was representing a tradition and culture that was nothing to be shameful about.

So, there is such a wholesome thing as pride as in "I was proud of my son, my daughter, etc. etc."

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The Day's Early Meet

Mayapur, West Bengal

By 5:30 I've already made the rounds, a circumambulation around the samadhi of our guru. It's a good walk, a safe one. By then I've attended a mangal arati worship and a vigorous dance and chant in the main temple room.

Then it's a daily ritual to see the two young ladies, Visnupriya and Laksmipriya. They are elephants. Monks have no business visiting the women folk of course. It's a short jaunt to get to their home amidst gum trees and where they are looked after by a trainer and his family who also live on site with the two giants. The family is not bothered by the fact that I arrive with a walking companion or two to see the elephants at their rising or breakfast. It seems they like to be rubbed on the nose. They are long strokes as you can imagine.

This early greeting with the elephants comes natural to me. In fact I got a flash back. When a teenager at a 5:30 rising I would be greeted by an animal of magnitude. It was our family milk cow. Dad would wake me. I wouldn't see him, but hear him with a knock on my bedroom door. I would rise, dress, put on coveralls and leave for the pasture, there to trudge through the early morning dew laden on the alfalfa and grass. I would look for her, the Holstein cow through the mist, have her rise and dutifully she would rise to routinely make it to the barn.

I would tie her inside a stall, rope her hind legs, feel her warmth and her good smell and then milk her udder empty.

Being with the elephants brings me home here in Mayapura. It's a peaceful and pleasant experience amongst so many other pleasant experiences.

5 Km

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The Kutir

Maypur, West Bengal

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, began his mission in '65 registering it a
year later in New York City. New York did not become his headquarters.
Los Angeles became the address for his publishing house, the
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. This west coast U.S. city he declared as a
headquarters at least for the western world. Indeed L.A. Became the
forerunner for devotional endeavours for many years, but it was
Mayapur that Prabhupada identified as the international hub.

Odd as it seems, when he informed the world (or at least his students)
of this news there was only a grass hut on site. This grass hut was
his private kutir or dwelling. Eventually as time passed, one after
another, buildings popped up to house deities of Krishna, and to
accommodate residents and visitors.

This kutir is now a unique spot where all of the magic began. It is
the root of all activity here. In honour of our guru and given that
such historical and devotional significance lies here, a 24 hour
chanting goes on. When all else is in slumber on the grounds, this
place remains alive with sound that transforms.

Inside the kutir is set a permanent deity of our founder. There it
receives the product of which was meant to impact the world with the
great mantra of deliverance. At any point that I have walked by I hear
that special sound, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare
Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare."

6 Km

Friday, February 10th, 2012

In Anticipation

Mayapura, W. Bengal

It was an early rise for me. I poked around with curiosity on the mind
with a meandering purpose on the legs. What new pathways should I find
on the campus this year? My apparent whim eventually led me to the
samadhi of our guru, Srila Prabhupada. It was 4 am.

I had this impassioned desire to lead the chant at arati (worship)
time. There was 10 minutes to go. I was clearing my throat in
preparation for this oppurtunity. I had observed from the day before
there seems to be no set schedule so let me jump for the chance. The
acoustics are phenomenal for vocals alone.

Another swami entered into this large cavernous room with domed
ceiling at elevation. The size and shape invokes a beautiful
reverence. I was prepared to sing in this heavenly space, but what if
my monk friend also wants to take the lead?

The pujari priest blew the conch with an uproarious sound. Three blows
is the standard number before the ornate doors open to reveal a divine
brass deity of Srila Prabhupada. The swami and I and three dozen more
pilgrims offered our prostrations. We all stood up and I, in
anticipation of leading, said to my dear swami friend, "How about if I
sing this morning and you take tomorrow's time slot?" When I offered
my suggestion I outstretched my arms gesturing to him. It seems that
he didn't hear me but did register my body language. As far as he was
concerned I was queuing him to lead. So he did - lead. And I ate
humble pie, as the expression goes.

7 Km

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Pranams and Dandavats

Mayapura, West Bengal

I was surprised when peering out the vimana (sanskrit for aircraft) that
there was snow on the airfield and as was announced over the PA, a frigid
-10 celsius. Then when departing for Kolkata, a devotee who was also so
incidentally taking the same flight from Delhi said that his home
near Florence, Italy, dipped down to -20. That seems to throw
Canadian weather into an almost tropical category.

"We're getting an in-the-plus these days."

Teaming up with friend Virabaha from L.A. we drove a hard one to ISKCON`s
adquarters from Kolkata. Once arrived there I showered and reunited with
one of our dramatist devotees, Goura, from Pennsylvania. We trekked down a
familiar path, a narrow walking trail sandwiched between two fields.
Hanging a left at Tarampura Road and past two gorgeous growing elephants,
we came to the Jalangi River, to make a right along hundreds of tapped
date-ras trees. This trail is a "no-name, no frills" path. It's "raw"

Some locals with the most incredible agility climb these trees before
sunset and by morning their earthen pots are full of nature's nectar.

This sacred land is where Sri Chaitanya roamed five centuries before and
where multiple sadhus (saints) converged to engage in kirtan (big time
chanting). Lest we forget to mention Srila Prabhupada among them. When one
comes to this pilgrimage site it's most appropriate to stop at his kutir,
hut. This is the place where the entire compound sprang from forty years
ago at the site of ISKCON's spiritual head quarters. Here is the
opportunity to lie prostrate in the dust and do what's called dandavats,
falling like a stick. With folded palms, pranams, we offer respects to all
that`s spiritual here, and that means everything.

6 Km

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Whatever It Takes

Brussels, Belgium

The long haul in flight from Brussels to Delhi became more tolerable
because of the company I had. Sitting next to me was a follower of a
prominent north Indian saint. What we really conversed about was the topic
of crime.

My new friend is a barrister-at-law in Birmingham, the U.K. Tarlowchan, 39,
massive and with two sons, spoke rather openly about his profession
including the fact that he just finished a case where he defended a man
charged for a heavy terrorist act. As a criminal lawyer he gets his share
of "sad stories" involving the actions of the weak human.

We are an incredibly complicated species that must acknowledge the need to
set standards in order to maintain a relative peace. Once you step off that
track, that line of just actions, then you are punishable.

Tarlowchan had not heard of the recent "honour killings" in Canada in which
a man, his wife, and the eldest son, were found guilty of killing their
three teenage daughters for being "too loose" or "too western". He did
mention to me that this phenomena has been an issue in the name of religion
in his own native land, the U.K.

We talked about capital punishment, an accepted Vedic principle, for proven
murder cases, and how the recipient becomes relieved of karma when
executed. Also in the laws of Manu, one of the many books of Vedic wisdom,
it is said that for a serious crime, one should walk with no return. Walking

Tarlowchan could not boast of walking too much and it's not that I'm saying
that all who walk are criminals. He spoke about snorkeling though, on a
trip to Egypt. His appreciation for God and the world multiplied when he
saw the wondrous and diverse nature of life in the depths of the sea.

What I say is dive, snorkel, run, walk, fly, do whatever is takes to get
closer to the Divine.

0 Km

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Monday, February 6th, 2012

On Want

Toronto, Ontario

Our morning talk to out resident group of monks involved the nature of

Desire can be very consuming. Our want or our desire, ambition, is like
fire. Feed it something like wood and it will never be satisfied. It is
insatiable. It can destroy if we don't temper it.

Desire is a concomitant factor. It's in us. We come to this world with
it. Or rather it is that very thing that leads the jiva (the soul) to this
world. Without desire we basically have no life. It is so intrinsic to the

Unfortunately, desires are many - too many to gratify. If you are on a
mission to try to fulfill all wants you will end up very fatigued because
they spur on action. Chasing all demands or catering to all the senses in
contact with sense objects is practically impossible to achieve. Therefore
it's recommended to identify a limited number and become satisfied with
that. Future lives may offer opportunities for additional fulfillment. Most
of us don't have strong enough backs to carry the load of ALL OUR DESIRES.

The supreme way to address desire is to align your wishes with those of the
Absolute. The young prince Dhruva aspired for an opulent kingdom but in
time he went through a purging and hence he resisted the colossal wishes.
Material acquisition ultimately becomes rather bland.

So what is it that the supreme Absolute wishes or desires if we are to
align ourselves? Well, for one, He wishes freedom for us. He wants us to
turn our backs on self-slavery. It is our nature to pursue gratigying our
bodies and yet, at the end we catch ourselves in a trap. LIBERATE!

The unwise donkey may behold a carrot that is dangling in front of him. He
works hard for that carrot which is always beyond his reach.

Perhaps you can think of yourself as a jackass trying to do "mission
impossible". But it is totally legit to wish for basics in order to keep
body and soul together.  Anything mor might be considered "in excess".

Today I left for India. I'm going out of a sense of duty mixed with desire.
If you desire something strong enough you'll obtain it in this life, or the
next. Our patience will be tried.

8 Km

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

This Guy..
Markham, Ontario

This guy had a powerful set of lungs.  He was shouting at the top of his lungs. I admired him for his boldness. Unfortunately no one was paying any attention although there were quite a few folks milling around. As I zoomed along and then a little less so as I approached him I admit to being interested.

He was on a stand at the corner of Yonge and Dundas. A prospect for some acting role in the future perhaps.

I got within earshot of his actual words it became clear what was his purpose.

"It's not about Buddha. It's not about Mohammed, or Moses, or Lord Krishna or Vishnu. It's about Jesus." That's what he said. And as I passed by and increased speed for termination of interest, his voice appeared muddled. "He's on drugs," I concluded. The Jesus drug.

It takes all kinds of people to make up the world. Then I had to think of the people components that make up a spiritual community. For instance today was the birth anniversary of a very transcendentally eccentric personality, Sri Nityananda.

After two major functions held in his honour in both Markham and Toronto, some contemplation of Nityananda was inevitable especially when I passed by the extrovert.

Who is Nityananda? He just happened to be one of the forerunners of spreading the mantra culture in 15th century India. He was a major associate of Chaitanya, known as the Father of the Name. He was known for his daring feats which included wrestling with crocodiles, attempting to milk a bull and shouting in the mood of a young cowherd boy like those buddies of young Krishna in His rural setting.

One of the more notable pastimes involved his dealing with a particular tough audience. In his effort to attract people to chanting he successfully brough out the best in a pair of drunkards, Jagai and Madai, a stubborn couple of guys. They made a major life-transformational adjustment after gaining Nityananda's empathy.

When I thought about that it came to mind on my return trek on Yonge. The proselytizer was still there condemning the world that didn't subscribe to his sermon's message. Who knows? Someone out there on the street might take to the prescription and improve. I wonder how many times he said the name 'Krishna' in his spiel?

7 Km

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Some Partners
Markham, Ontario

Within 24 hours I met two walking partners of the past, both members of our community in Toronto. Each one expressed to me the same thing. It is due to 'bad knees' that a serious trek with me will not be possible in the future, at least in this life.

I was sad to hear that they declined my offer when reconvening a fourth cross country walk for this spring. I enjoyed Makhan's company in '96. He's from Gujarat and was an avid tennis player - before - that is. Adwaita from Mauritius liked the trek when he joined me at different locations, almost at a whim, to be by my side and including his wife, Sita and their two girls.

Both guys have had physical issues. We're looking at them being in their sixties.

Mukunda Goswami, one of my favourite monks, and one of our guru's first American students, told me personally, "When I hit 60 many things started falling apart (in reference to his body)." When he told me that I had hoped that his statement wasn't prophetic nor that it applies to all at that age.

This year I'm going to turn 60. A big part of me says I'm still at sweet sixteen. Another part argues it. In reality, I'm neither one of these figures, nor am I this body. I'ts a relief to know that I'm not this aging model. I'm not sure when your machinery is considered 'vintage'. What a consolation it is knowing the soul is permanent and that I am the soul!

In any event the personality behind my former partners are irreplaceable and that's sad but new human flavours will happily make their way in when they will share some of their valuable life experiences with me. That's precious!

6 Km

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Get On With the Show
Toronto, Ontario

It would not be a speculation to say that many of us are just too mental these days. You know what I'm talking about - the airy fairy, uncertain, indecisive, yes-no-maybe genre, the mish-mosh spineless approach to things. We are talking about the fickle mind.

In the Gita the mind in its takeover on a human being (a clear conquest) is described as an adversary.  There the mind is called 'cancala' or flickering. An image that hits home to illustrate its nature is like that of a flame on a candle that wavers by the wind. It's here. It's there. It's everywhere.

I took my evening walk on Yonge. Happily I met, by accident, three different acquaintances. I decided to stop in at the Blue God tattoo shop where there are more acquaintances. I expressed to one of the personnel there that I was in the middle of my religiously followed daily trek.

His remark (and I relay this amiably) was, "I was thinking about walking more. It will reduce some of this," at which he placed his hands over his rather robust abdomen. "I recently had pneumonia and so I lost eight lbs."

Laughingly I said, "Well, that's a great prescription for everyone - get pneumonia!

"You know, sometimes you just have to make a firm decision about something and JUST DO IT."

He then replied, "Usually I have to visualize myself doing something and take some time to dwell on that. It might take weeks."

I thought, OMG, forget about processing. JUST DO IT. When you know something is beneficial, JUST DO IT!

For many issues dwelling on anticipated things is just plain old procrastination. It's harmful.

Anyways, he took it very well. We parted on real good terms. Whether it's walking, or whether it's anything that's being kind to yourself and others, simply plan it out. How much time to put in? At what speed? Where? And so on and then GET ON WITH THE SHOW!

8 Km

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Durjoy and Abe

Toronto, Ontario

I walked a young student from India in the direction of his rented apartment. It was a pleasant promenade east on Danforth over the Don River Valley. It is Durjoy's first time away from home as a student in a foreign country. He's a sincere young man who really does take to spiritual life well. He made a remark like, "I do chant on my beads every day. Do you recommend I do a mangal arati (morning ritual) every day before I leave for college?"

We walked through the 'Little Greece' section of Toronto. He says he likes the city. "It's so multicultural. Is it safe?"

"Fairly safe," I said. "Walking is always the safest way to go."

I trekked the one hour back that it took to get Durjoy to the Pape subway station (there's a Greek spelling for Pape on the road sign). Upon my return, I read an article about Abraham Lincoln, America's most popular president, and how he walked. His law partner remarked, "When he walked he moved cautiously but firmly; his arms and giant hands swung down by his side. He walked with an even tread, the inner side of feet being parallel. He put the whole foot flat down on the ground at once, not rising from the toe and with no spring to his walk."

Lincoln walked through the streets of Richmond, Virginia, shortly before the civil war ended in this southern state, which was life-threatening. He was a hated man there, as he was opposed to the south's stance on slavery. He symbolically walked through the town reflecting his own spirit.

And one more historically notable detail is that after he met Mary Todd in his younger years, it was on one of those personal or private walks that he paced back and forth to make a decision on whether to marry her or not. He finally resolved to have himself tie the know while walking the streets of Springfield, Illinois.

My conclusions regarding this great man's walking:

1) walking tells a lot about a person's demeanour
2) walking illustrates courage and bravery
3) walking is a safe way to travel
4) some of the most important decisions you make in life arise while walking

10 Km

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A Repetitious Tragedy
Toronto, Ontario

Before the automobile the earth belonged to pedestrians. The planet was a relatively safe haven for humans to travel. Well, that is no more.

The twentieth century changed all of that. Imagine what it was prior! Regrettably we can not reverse the tide. We have become addicted, spoiled rotten by these Frankensteins we call automobiles.

It was with much shock and grief to hear the news of three competent and virtuous souls that lost their lives while in an automobile that collided with a semi-trailer near Jacksonville, Florida. I had known all three of them.

It was but less than a week ago that I had Yadupati, one of the victims, sitting right next to me in a popular park in Gainesville. I was leading the chant at the weekly organic farmer's market. Half of our group was sitting on the grass. Yadupati was playing the mrdunga drum very expertly and enjoying it.  Next to him was Tim. Tim was dancing. He was full of life, absorbed in the euphoria of sound. That probably was his last kirtan chanting in public.

Lastly, Nitai, a resident of New Vrindavan, West Virginia, and who was an artistic graphic whiz also got caught under the much larger machine, the semi-trailer. Remembering him with a perpetual glow in his face and being generous with me, having done gratis some graphic work, it's painful to see the end of such a promising life. Nitai's wife, Mandali, I had also come to know, as a fashion designer who gave me tips on a costume for a drama production.

Life for these three above mentioned men has been terminated too early - in a flash at the mercy of ugly machines we have produced for ourselves.

Naturally my prayers go to them and their families and friends. This is an often repeated occurence - lives victimized in a car crash. It's sad and we all wish avoidable. Fortunately whatever devotions were sparked in their lives has the power to persist on into their next, so the Gita informs us.

Let's be cautious when driving. Avoid the automobile if you can. Live a clean life. Avoid intoxicants. Chant and prosper.

7 Km

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Careful Stepping

Toronto, Ontario

Some people have heard about the back packing fellow in America who ventured alone, fell into an abyss and got his arm trapped between a rock and a cliff.  He was stuck for about three days and had to eventually cut off his arm in order to free himself.  His biggest mistake was to daredevil alone.

I felt a little like that going solo today.  With the snow's melting and mud all about, the angles that I approached in the ravine left me in an exciting slide-and-leap for grasping the next tree.  Most other trekkers were smart enough to let the ravine be, but I went for excitement, an adventurous spirit that translates into dependency on Him (Krishna).  Those trees were my saviours as they were spread apart in a calculated perfect distance.  They were my brakes.

My prayer was, "Oh Krishna, please help me get to my next anchor, the next tree, before I make a fall."  It was a deliberate predicament I put myself into.  While maneuvering in this way, I forced myself to use whatever God given intelligence was there in the search for the firm step like a mountain climber would.  I imposed upon myself a careful footing that would permit the tiny steps of surrender.  It was an exercise in balance.  Fortunately I came out of the ravine fall-free.  Once I made my way out of the ravine I realized there's more chance of danger when dodging traffic in trying to cross the street. 

It is an understatement to say that the world is a dangerous place, full of accidents, deaths, diseases, aging and so on.

One of our elderly members, Ms. Rampiriari Bhakri, passed away on Sunday.  The viewing at the funeral home was this evening and about four hundred people from the Punjabi community came to pay respects.  Their response to the chanting offered a soothing effect.

Condolences to family and friends.

13 Km

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Going Back

Over Atlantic Air

Bhakta Bolo stood tall at the entrance of the Georgetown Airport.  As the only active young black member in the Guyanese community (that I could see), he seemed to stand out from the rest of the send-off party.  It was farewell hugs for all.

At security a woman asked me to open my luggage.  She got a real charge over seeing my five finger Vibram shoes packed inside.  It was a novelty for her.  Seeing a monk was not new to her though.  On a less formal note she asked how long I’ve been monking it up.

“Since ‘73”.

That remark raised her eyebrows a second time. 

The day went on.  Only long corridors at the Miami Airport gave some solace to the soles.  Thanks to the thrill of Florida election talks, blaring out of the CNN monitor.  The political race may sound exciting for some but how many times must the same message be repeated over and over again.  I do give it credit for chasing me out of the waiting gate to explore those sterile looking corridors.  It became my major walk for the day.

The last flight to home was sweet.  I met a young woman, Mila, an actress, who also considers herself a destination walker – that is walking with a purposeful intent.  Maybe you could call her walk a goal stroll.

And next to her was Dimitri from Russia who happens to be a traveler as well.  His mode for moving is ‘in the air’.  In fact he’s a pilot and flies 747’s.  He shared with Mila and I on his i-Pad, sensational NASA shots of outer space, planets and galaxies.  And finally he took us to pictures of his family as a proud father and husband would.  At least he seemed to have his priorities right.  I say that because CNN revealed the results of a survey done in America.  It appears a significant amount of people would sacrifice going to the wedding of a friend or the funeral of some acquaintance for going to the Superbowl game.

Such priorities are ‘off’ let alone putting the spiritual component in life at the forefront.

In any event ‘good luck’ in your careers Mila and Dimitri and put God in as the horse before the cart.

? km

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Millions of Drops

Georgetown,  Guyana

I did not yet see the Guyanese sun on this trip, but that’s okay, the sun shines with those pursuing spiritual life.

At the Nimai Pandit training center, the Sunday gathering of determined souls who braved the torrential rain were brightly lit in the shower of the holy name.  Under the shelter of a strong tin roof was their leader Prabhupada Deva, also a local bhakti instructor.  With his usual smile he expressed to me that he has an ongoing crew dumping buckets of water from the site.  Otherwise we would all be sitting in water.  Being under sea level has its challenges for a place like Guyana.  When the Dutch came here they implemented what they’ve been known for - building dykes and seawalls. 

I spoke to an attentive crowd on the topic of the real meaning of Mahatma according to the Gita, as rain kept slapping against the roof surface.

Prabhupada Deva teamed up with me at the Crane ISKCON Center where he conducted a fire ceremony to assist the formal initiation of three men, Radha Nathabhar, Dhronacharya and Jaya Gaura, are the new names given to the initiates, a fantastic trio.  I emphasized in my talk that accompanied the ceremony that the world is in need of genuine spiritual leadership.

“Prepare yourselves for this through the study of our books.  Try to impress the world with your good behavior as well as the message you will repeat from the line of  information handed down by the sages.  Echo the truth and distinguish it from the false promises of mundane pleasure.”

What followed was an explosive kirtan chanting session.  After spending hours on this day with people delivering three classes and just as many or more chanting sessions, I felt an urge to have a short time to myself as people were rushing in for the Sunday Feast, served on lotus pads.  Down the road my feet carried me as I sported an umbrella overhead in the wake of millions of descending raindrops and the sound of millions of frogs as the days closure came into fruition.

3 Km