Wednesday 21 March 2012

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Show Your Face

Toronto, Ontario

I'm an advocate of moving the legs and that is not just limited to walking. I applaud cyclists all the same. Why?

Well, for ONE, I appreciate the favour they are doing for themselves. The exercise is good.. And TWO, I can see them. I can, as a walker, capture the demeanour on their face. "The face is the index of the mind," our guru, Srila Prabhupada used to say.

With motorists you just can't see them and especially when windows are rolled up and with tinted windows it's worse. It's like a secret agency. What are you trying to hide? It's like people who wear shades. Even when not sunny some sport their sunglasses. What mystique are you trying to create for yourself? Be open. Get out from behind - the shades, the machines. Experience life, man!

I had the good benefit to trek west on Danforth and then later on east on Bloor. They are the same street with a name change at a particular juncture. Two seperate cyclists started chanting Hare Krishna upon seeing me as they whizzed by. Nods and other greetings come from pedestrians but mostly the response was one of indifference. It's city life. It's hard to acknowledge every bloke on the block, for sure.

My basic conclusion for this day's run (or I mean to say 'walk') is that motorists outnumber pedestrians, and that most humanoids prefer to be in a box, even when there's a choice.

We were not born in a box and many of us will not go in a box after the final breath. Many of us will choose fire to exit with. So, what's with the box?

14 Km

Monday, March 19th, 2012

New Trail For Me

Cambridge, Ontario

Just outside Blair Village, at the edge of Cambridge (Canada) a huge banner hung high proudly reading that we had entered the largest green space in Urban Canada. Yogendra, my driver, and I were tempted to check out this area along the Grand River. We began our trek at a new developed Eco Centre, actually two century old stone home being renovated by a few guys.

We trekked a great trail amongst blackberry, beech, oak, maple and cedar. We were working up a sweat (and tempted to swim). Imagine 23 degree Celsius in mid March. Normally we could even hit a snow storm at this time. The planet is going crazy with weather conditions rather topsy turvied.

Here I attempted to cough up the lingering dust from my India trip stuck somewhere in the lungs. I tried! Here too I took to some isometric neck exercises to address a diagnosed cervical spondylitus, I believe a result from odd neck positions from being in planes. Truly, I sometimes feel like the flying monk, being in the air so frequently.

We were really enjoying the best air, the best sun and the clean snow melt coming from the north in the form of the river. All this, spiced with our mantras, made it perfect.

Our morning was an abbreviated morning sadhana with Gaura and Susan in London, Ontario, and our evening engagement was at the temple in Toronto with my night time sadhana with some verse memorization on the Gita 7:22 beginning with yo yo yam yam. Of course, I tackled a good chunk of administrative ditues. It was as our guru, Srila Prabhupada, who wanted his students to balance book study with chanting, varying services , and not to neglect health.

14 Km

Monday 19 March 2012

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Get Your Feet Wet

London, Ontario
"I really miss this," remarked my dear friend, Gaura, now a resident in this (what they call) the Forest City. We had laid down a madras on the grass of Victoria Park to chant and deliver our message of kirtan when Gaura expressed that he hadn't had the chance to do this since he moved here six months ago when he partnered up with Susan, a devotee of Krishna, and whose husband perished from cancer.
When a mission-driven type person like Gaura enters into a new city where there is no centre and pioneers it, it can be an adventurous pursuit. But, if for an extended period he feels like the endeavour is 'solo', or under-staffed, it may get a little discouraging. Fortunately Susan is supportive and Gaura himself is a dynamo who has no inhibitions about approaching and talking to people.
I always admired this about him. As we sat in the lotus position chanting there with him switching back and forth from guitar to harmonium, he would greet and start talking to those gravitating to our chanting group. I also saw how he entered and led us into a suburban eco-park in a most bold way after sun fall. It was our time to wind down and get that exercise in. There was mud and it was dark.
That's the spirit, Gaura! Get your feet wet. Courageously, get in there (London, Canada) and help raise the consciousness.
7 Km

Sunday 18 March 2012

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The First Ratha Ratra of the Year

Miami, Florida

What you put in determines very much who is your output. This morning Dharma, the local priest here, stoked up a mean havan or fire sacrifice. Twigs were few that fuelled the fire at this ceremony. Local branches from the temple ground bushes contributed to intense smoke, as did the tulasi wood. Fans were switched on and every window in this large cavernous soon was opened.

Participants were on the verge of tears. I could hear coughing. I contributed to that. This is the downside.

On the bright side, two women were given diksha. One was Clorissa, a Cuban-born nurse, whose name is now Kuntidevi. The second woman, Rupa Manjari, received her second or Brahminical initiation. To Kuntidevi I said, “You are now a member of our Krishna family”. To Rupa Manjari I said, “You will now intensify your devotion, become a teacher and always be truthful.”

The two made vows and mantras were given. They are two very good people and I cannot relate the bad smoke as an ill omen. They say it in some of the Caribbean, “All is good!” Our morning was concluded with a haze of grace.

When noon struck the Ratha Yatra, festival of Chariots, began at 3220 Virginia St., the location of the temple. Although one chariot did suffice, a pleasant turnout of mostly Miami congregants came out to greet the sun, and Sri Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, which is Krishna in wooden form.

The promenade or procession was a slow (but commendable of a speed) in Coconut Grove. You could say that there was a smoky kirtan-taking place on the street culminating at Peacock Park. There is a history to this piece of green. In the early seventies Frisbee-throwing and dancing happy hippies filled that park. People were sitting on the grass (and smoking some I’m sure). They were greeted by Hare Krishna monks who came along with their drums and chants. End result was that sincere friendship manifested. Some good vibes were invested and the outcome was that some of the curious and confused joined the monk ranks. The input and output were one.

3 Km

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Let’s Not Forget
Miami, Florida

It can easily be neglected, forgotten or ignored. We could even deliberately bury it, dissolve it and turn a blind eye pretending it wasn’t. At best we might acknowledge it but give it second to best place in terms of priority.

But for a Hare Krishna monk chanting those very words “Hare Krishna” in a public place is his lifeline, backbone or spine. Yesterday I had been determined to enthuse myself about the importance of getting out of a comfy chair and office, hit the street with a few comrade renunciates (with drums and cymbals) and do what we are known and loved for.

In Toronto’s Yonge St. a woman’s eyes went as wide as the universe when she saw and heard our group of six. “Where have you guys been? Haven’t seen you since the seventies!” remarked the appreciative woman.

In Miami’s Coconut Grove today a group of thirty of us stormed the Coco Walk folks sitting at the cafes and bars and sipping on stuff. They, the recipients, loved the added entertainment we provided.

Chanting or engaging in sankirtan is the grassroots of the Hare Krishna movement. And when we surrender to this prime activity we are demonstrating or relying on our own integrity. Even though the evening venture lacked a balanced sound, (as in too few drums) the practice of sankirtan, a collective effort of sound emanation was there.

We, the participants, enjoyed it and so did the evening starving-for-some-action folks enjoyed it. This engagement is to be prioritized. It is an obligation and an incredible privilege. Spiritual life isn’t the same without it.

9 Km

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Desire and Reciprocation

Toronto, Ontario

I don't know sometimes about the power of God and the power of desire and how they come together. Here's my experience. I make no claim to be on a mystical platform but I can testify that someone is listening to some wishes.
 In the summer of 2007 I did walk through the city of Saskatoon, situated in the middle  of the vast prairies. I pondered deeply on how it would be nice to have a gathering place for Krishna Consciousness in this city. Months later I received the news that a very sincere couple from Toronto, who were successful at conducting sangas (spiritual gatherings) in their home, were being transferred to Saskatoon. They are settled now in that city with their young son and daughter and utilize their facility for sanga functions.

Two summers ago during a contemplative sit-down at Spadina and Bloor, I wished for a place where university students could come and learn about the science of self-realization. I had mentally circled out the place on a second floor at that juncture. Lo and behold Krishna (the supreme mystic) secured that spot through the efforts of a dynamic young lady, Mangal Arti, the Bhakti Lounge facilitator.
After two years the lease expired and Mangal has been struggling since that expiry to find an ideal place. Finally she endeavoured and found -a spot so unique. No deal or deed has been signed yet, but it's close.

I desired to venture there on foot when all was quiet, 3 AM, to see the place.

I had not elucidated on the story of a house recently in Nova Scotia for training monks but it does involve prayer, wishing, and some precision scouting.

In practically all such cases wishing and walking were components to claiming locations. Miracles you might call them but then God can do anything.

Hey, what about this? Let's wish and pray very strongly at every corner of town. If this formula has a good batting average then why not apply it in as many places as possible. The thing to remember is, "I am not the controller!"

9 Km

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

What Brahms Said
Toronto, Ontario
I received an email from Vrnda Dasi, our fine facilitator in our ISKCON Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I'll share her letter:
"Haribol, Maharaja! Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I just came across this tidbit today, and of course it reminded me of you. Thank you for visiting us. Hope your health is continuing to improve. Your humble servant, Vrnda dd.

Florence May: 'How can I most quickly improve?'
Johannes Brahms: 'You must walk constantly in the forest.'

A little background: Florence May (1845 - 1923) was a talented English pianist who had travelled to study piano technique under Clara Schumann but who ended up as a pupil of Brahms himself. She later wrote a two-volume biography of Brahms.

Brahms was a supremely accomplished pianist (when he went on tour he never bothered to take any music), composer and conductor given to perfectionism, grumpiness, verbal asperity, charity, fine cigars and... long walks in the Vienna woods. She asked him how she could play the piano better, and he told her to head for the forest.

Her fingers had done all they could. After that, only the forest could help."

10 Km

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Tuesday, March 13rh, 2012

A Single Goose
Winnipeg, Manitoba

A single goose, heard and not seen, flew above me as I sat on a park bench to chant some gayatri mantras. Once done I continued my walk-in-progress along the Assiniboine River. The air was more crisp today. Joggers passing by made that 'crunch crunch' sound over the hardened snow. Those sounds will change to 'splash splash' once the sun peeks over the prairie horizon. The road's surface sparkled with the fresh frost under municipal lights. Snow banks are reduced to the heights of ant hills. All is good!
I wish that hearts would melt and that we all start the flow, the journey back home, to Godhead.
It was a grand day for confessions. Sincere hearts wanted to release a pressure that was hurting. Revealing one's mind in confidence is a way to begin the healing. I appreciated the openness from the confessor. I don't mind being in on the pain, if it lightens the burden for someone.
There is struggle everywhere in the world, usually stemming from a wrestling with the senses, dwelling over objects and then submitting to these urges. At least we should put up a good fight. Even if we lose, we did fight and that is heroic in itself.
Here's what really made the day special. Among visitors today was a south Indian neurologist, Dr. Daksinamurty, who moved to Canada in 1964. With an occasional business related trip to New York with his brother one fine day they were walking on 26 Second Avenue when they heard from a store front, 'ching, ching, ching'. They looked over and saw a swami with a bunch of American youths blissing-out on chanting. They went in. That was the time of the dawning of the Hare Krishnas. The doctor and his brother were charmed each time they went.
8 Km

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Water, Fire, a Post                                                                          

Winnipeg, Manitoba

At 3AM, ponds had formed. Snow and ice accompanied the thaw. The street and not sidewalks were safe as I ambled my way through Winnipeg’s ‘granola belt’ along Westminster Ave. I dodged the rare car. All but newspaper delivery boys and bakers are asleep.

At the corner of Canora St. I saw sparks flying from the hydro post. It was postered to death. I saw transparent tape flapping in the wind and its adjoining poster just ready to release themselves from their anchor, the post. As I inched my way close to the odd pole, it was clear that my eyes didn’t deceive. Someone had likely stuck a cigarette behind a poster which had been sparked. It was a prank.

I called 911. They put me onto the fire department. With efficiency like nothing else within 3 ½ minutes two fire trucks arrived. But in the meantime two police officers on patrol honoured the stop sign at Westminster and Canora. I alerted them. One of the officers pulled out his extinguisher and released his chemical smoke; the flames and sparks were now dissolved.

The two departments, fire and police, were happy to have met an early dawn monk.

The late morning time slot brought Daruka and I to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. The local priest facilitated a small meeting of parishioners, one of whom had invited us two to the discussion. We had great exchanges. The priest lived as a Trappist monk for a time.

In the downtown residence of Winnipeg, ponds had expanded into lakes by 6PM. Traffic made inaccessible for pedestrians. Here was a sure way to get feet wet. And at 108 Chestnut St., ISKCON’s home, our evening was wrapped up with songs from Bhaktivinode, the most celestial of songwriters. He beckons for Krishna to send him in the body of a lonely worm so long as he is in the home of a Vaishnava where he is guaranteed future spirituality.

10 Km

Monday 12 March 2012

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Winnipeg Bound
Winnipeg, Manitoba

My early trekking was on Clearbrook Circle, in a suburb of Toronto. It was dark out, weather was mild. I was curious to know, is it really a circle in the street? I ventured on that route, and sure enough I went round and around and around.

En route to Winnipeg on a two hour flight I had army dudes all around me as co-passengers. They were mentally poised for a hockey tournament with competitors from Manitoba. I was poised for a Gaura Purnima festival at the ISKCON Centre at 108 Chestnut Street, Winnipeg. By that I mean leading the chanting and delivering a talk.

It was obvious what would be the subject, the topic. It was none other than addressing the life and contribution of Sri Chaitanya. To an attentive group I had rolled out details on Chaitanya's life, and ending with speaking about this glorious monk's final 18 years on the planet. Five centuries ago, He inaugurated the method of kirtan, public chanting, in the last precious years in Puri, Orissa, He was very lost to another world. By His behaviour and state of mind He demonstrated that He was not of this world, and by blazing this trail He was trying to say that we, all of us wandering souls, belong to an existence beyond what we can see and touch.

He was encouraging transcendence, that ultimately we do and think beyond this mundane world. He gave us hope that there is a domain of true freedom where the soul makes a touchdown and scores to a status of liberation.

Before He passed away (and that happened mystically) He left us with lots of hope. He died before dying, so to speak, meaning that we prepare ourselves for the final moment of departure from this world. He placed His energy and love in thoughts of Krishna. He chanted as much as could be, and illustrated that this is what's to be done in order to mentally and spiritually poise yourself for the great world to come.

8 Km

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

On Scarborough Air

Scarborough, Ontario

This morning, much after a brisk-down-Yonge St. walk, I was broadcast on a Tamil radio station, TTR. With translation in the Tamil language, I was introduced by three south Indian hosts. We opened up the 45 minute dialogue with verse 12.2 from the Bhagavad Gita. Here Krishna speaks about the more favourable approach to Spirituality- the approach of bhakti (devotion) and personalism, as opposed to the more nirveseshya, non-personal appeal. Energy contemplation over the divine form is the preference for some.

Even though the verse was quoted with its companion purport, the main moderator got right into questions not necessarily pertaining to the verse, yet they were relevant to his audience. “What would you say about the charge of idol worship?” “Why, when we have everything in this twentieth century, do we need faith?” “Isn’t it a waste of time?” “Tell me about mantras?”

They were fair questions. In brief points which I was more elaborate with ‘on-air’ here are the answers.

On idol worship- “When an image reflects the actual divine person, then it is not false. In Mecca there is the Kabba. The Jews have their flames. Buddhists have his form. Materialists have poster boys (Arnold Shwartz whatever) or poster girls (Lady GaGa). And then there’s the worship of the car and the millions of techno-gadgets. To steer away from the object glancing, image honoring or deity worship is superficial. Just try it. Meditate on Krishna’s euphoric smile and you will smile…Our main thrust is chanting and that is the real emphasis over form worship.”

On having everything- “Yes we have everything but happiness. Why is depression at an all time high when we have everything? First find out who you really are and then happiness and peace of mind have a chance.”

About mantras- “God manifests in sound. A mantra is the connection between you and God. It is spiritual sound that liberates. When you hear street talk or any verbal diarrhea then it pollutes and degrades. When you hear sounds of transcendence it is freeing.”

7 Km

Saturday 10 March 2012

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Under the Moon
Toronto, Ontario
I can't say I'm disciplined for having taken to bed so early the last two nights. Jet lag forces it. The beauty of it is you get to rise early, to meet the good wakening air at 2AM and do that mantra meditation while walking the combined grid-and-curve streets of Rosedale.
This all happens under the moon - a full one, timed to lie there in sync with the appearance of the golden avatar.

The golden avatar is Sri Chaitanya, a second coming of Krishna. Krishna appeared at the end of a measured epoch called Dwapara. Then the age of Kali began, an approximate five millenia ago. Sri Chaitanya is Krishna returned. His birth, 526 years back, was noted to be like the moon in the sense of a cool emission over the feverishly crazy world of today.
Sri Chaitanya is also described as having a moon's complexion, bright and beautiful.
I looked up at that great disc. It is a watchful eye over the planet. It seems to acknowledge us while we generally ignore it. He follows you no matter how far you walk away. In my own perception the moon appears sad at times even though he's in his fullness. It sometimes looks as if he'll shed a tear. I'm sure he's looking down saddened at our behaviour.
Artists usually depict Chaitanya's face as round like the moon is now. He's never gaunt-looking. Artists also often capture a tearful Chaitanya who's feeling a separation from Krishna.
As I walked those quiet streets under the moon I passed by the odd solo pedestrian. I wonder if the moon was in their thoughts?

Friday 9 March 2012

Thursday, March 8th, 2012


Toronto, Ontario

On this most auspicious day, Gaura Purnima, the moon of the golden One, we celebrate the birth anniversary of Sri Chaitanya, sometimes referred to as the avatar of the age. I was asked to speak on the translation of the song written by Sarvahauma Bhattachary. It is entitled 'Sachisutastakam', and the song was led by one of the temple administrators, Radha Mohan. Here is the translation to Sachisutastakam which describes the qualities of Sri Chaitanya.

1) His complexion is the hue of fresh cream tinged with kunkun. He is the ever fresh Cupid who shoots arrows of newly blossoming flowers. He bears newer and newer moods of emotional ecstasies. He is fond of performing novel dances. He makes ever new jokes that cause much laughter. His brilliant luster is like freshly cast gold. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

2) He is endowed with ever-fresh love of Godhead. His radiant luster is like the colour of fresh butter. His fresh attire is arranged in ever new fashions. He relishes ever new mellows of love for Krishna. He shines in nine fold new ways while executing the nine fold processes of devotion. He is permeated with a most auspicious loving nature. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

3) He is absorbed in devotion to Sri Hari. He maintains the chanting of the names of Hari. While chanting He counts the holy names on the fingers of His hands. He is addicted to the name of Hari. He always has tears of love welling in His eyes. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

4) He is always removing the suffering of material existence for mankind. He is the goal for persons who are dedicated to their supreme interest. He inspires men to become like honeybees (eager for the honey of Krishna prema). He removes the burning fever of the material world. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

5) He motivates pure devotion unto Himself. He is most attractive to His beloved servitors. By His dramatic dancing He exhibits the characteristics of the King of paramours. He causes the minds of beautiful young village women to dance. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

6) He plays karatals as His throat emits sweet melodious sounds and the vibrant notes of the vina are softly played. He thus inspires the devotees to perform dramatic dancing that is infused with aspects of His own devotional service. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

7) He is accompanied by the Sankirtan movement, which is the religious practice for the age of Kali. He is the son of Nanda Maharaja come again. He is the extraordinarily brilliant ornament of the earth. His preaching mood is suitably adapted to the cycle of birth and death. His consciousness is fixed in meditation on His own form of Krishna. He is always accompanied by His transcendental abode. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

8) His eyes, the soles of His feet and His clothing are reddish like the colour that heralds the rising sun. As He utters His own names, His voice falters. He awakens a sweet flavour to life throughout the universe. I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Sachi.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Getting Back

Toronto, Ontario

I did have a number of co-passengers who were curious while on flight from Brussels to Toronto. "Did you go to India on a retreat?" asked a nice Canadian woman.

"I went to India to give part of a retreat," I said, referring to the workshops that were facilitated and staging a drama.

"Are you a preacher?" asked a young South East Asian woman. "I just came from Vrndavan at the Krpala centre. I danced as a gopi in a Krishna pastime while there," she continued.

Another man wanted to know if I was Bhaktimarga Swami.

"Yes, I am."

"I'm Ram Varma. I knew you in the seventies." We got to speaking. Wow! How great!

A young porter at the airport was interested in my business. I told him my baggage was oversized and fragile so he got my business, but he also got a piece of my monastic lifestyle. He was inquisitive. As a Canadian born Polish young chap, he had this fascination, perhaps stemming from his Catholic upbringing. Modern day Catholics are less resisting, I've found. Gone are the tyrannical days of holier than thou attitude, at least in a North American context.

Michael was the fellow's name and he was indeed helpful, kind and courteous.

All you need after being on such a long trip is some pleasant remarks and gestures. And certainly with co-passengers there must be mutual attention given where possible, no matter how tired you are. To be pleasant is the mark of a gentleman and so certainly it must be the mark of a spiritualist.

0 Km

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

The Drive and Thoughts

Kolkata, West Bengal

The drive from Mayapura to the Kolkata Airport ended up being a very contemplative one. One month of activities zipped by so fast yet some reminiscences were captured. The many appreciations on last night's performance of "The 8th Boy" came my way; remarks like:

"it's the best thing I've ever seen"


"it was genius"

came my way.

My walking wasn't what I wanted it to be. They were a daily collection of jaunts from this engagement to that engagement and not the usual longer treks. So I couldn't savour that. But a lot of interest was drawn when I wore those five-finger shoes. I had a good number of swamis inquire about my vibram footwear which are next to looking like black bare feet.

On that topic of barefoot bliss it fascinated me, once having arrived at the airport and peering through the Jet lite flight magazine, an article on fitness. Author Kriti Saraswat raised some awesome points on barefoot culture.

"The reason our body can make various movements like running, jumping, walking, etc. without falling over is due to a phenomena called 'proprioception' which is the body's awareness of its own motion and position... Wearing thick, shock absorbing soles reduces this sensory feedback, in turn lowering the quality of our movement."

She's actually right. Modern footwear makes your feet lazy. Like so many things today, naturalness is not the status quo.

It's too bad I have to surrender to sitting in the air for the next so many hours. It's actually an austerity.

4 Km

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Jackals Moved Along

Mayapur, West Bengal

Jackals moved along in their smooth trot across the field. Birds were busy perching those palm trees trying to catch a drop of morning sap for energy.

While walking with two godbrothers we heard the most odd cry from this one particular tall tree. We were left to speculate as to whether it was one of those gregarious monkeys you see around here. Being highly camouflaged or tucked away, it was hard to find the source. We finally concluded that in this land of wonder, Mayapura, that it could just as well have been the sound of a sick crow.

A fairly thick mist did set in the morning atmosphere but as usual, Surya, the sun god, burns through all the moisture, contributing to the dusty nature of the place.

Another odd thing - my three and a half week of cold, aggravated by weather fluctuation and dust in the air, appears to be terminating. The cough is almost nil and phlegm is holding in. I don't want to speak too fast until the darn thing (cold) is over. I have this particular crazy superstition that if you conclude something before its time of maturation, you might be setting yourself up for a surprise.

I should not prematurely conclude anything. I'm not the controller or decision maker in the big and subtle scheme of things. I'm not God. I'm a tiny part and parcel of the Supreme. That I feel safe in saying.

6 Km

Sunday, March 4th, 2012


Mayapura, West Bengal

Announcements can be dangerous, so I've found. Samba, an Australian married priest, announces events over the PA for the day. In the midst of a ton of things to report he said to the multitudes, "An ice-and-ground-breaking experience, visit the 9 Devotions Workshop this afternoon!" That announcement to all the returning pilgrims in the area excited a flood of a turn out.

Normally, as facilitator, I'm happy with a figure of 25 but our tiny room burst with attendance. I also discovered, after the workshop, that a crew of dozens were misinformed about the location of our classroom and hence, they went to another end of the campus. This is indeed one of those situations that you call a 'nice problem'.

For some reason the male population in attendance was very strong. I don't' know exactly what that indicates. One woman who entered the room just prior to the start of our presentation asked me, "Is this only for prabhus?"  meaning 'men', when she peered in.

"No, it's for anyone wanting to go through a crash course on the nine devotional processes.

Each session that I facilitate brings on interesting results. Each group is unique and participants at 'feedback' time express their preference on which of the nine techniques resonates the most for them. Overall, it was transformational.

My other highlight for the day was being requested to give the morning Bhagavatam class to a group of a thousand Russians and its delivery. What was interesting in the talk was the paradox of this philosophical point. Sastra (scripture) leads us to believe that if you have much determination or conviction with your devotion it means that in the previous life you had begun the rigors of austerity, study, worship and so on. Another view on those who take to the process of bhakti (devotion) in the age, is that we have no qualifications. Only on the principle of mercy or grace do we get landed in this devotional lifestyle.

"This can be a bit of a puzzle," I admitted in my talk. Prerequisite versus mercy from God. Which one is it? Or is it a bit of both?

Shall we explore this and touch on this tomorrow?

8 Km

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Most Important

Mayapur, West Bengal

The most important thing for those of us who have made vows before the guru is to fulfill our prescribed number of chants on our beads. The minimum standard is sixteen times on a strand of beads per day. A strand of beads or mala carries on hundred and eight beads. The commitment or obligation is 108 mantras times 16 on a daily basis.

The earlier in the day this can be accomplished, the better.

The chanting sets a foundation - a tone for the day.

Generally my chanting is completed by 6 AM. This frees me up for the on the average every other day drama practices at 7 AM with the youth. Today, we hit a marathon level. With three recorders and three cameras, we filmed our little gem, "Krishna the 8th Boy." After an eight hour marathon taken for its preparation and shoot in the sunken samadhi auditorium, I got to see the light of day.

It was actual ecstasy to see the project filmed. Now post production or editing will take its time.

Our troupe of actors and the 'techies' exhibited true patience. The time taken to be filmed only allowed for preparedness of the evening program when we staged 'the 8th Boy' at the pandal (tent) program. All went well. The stars shone. As the production has it, 'the 8th Boy' culminates with a scene of the rasa dance, Krishna's dalliance with his liberated souls.

Our young American actor conveys this so well in the role as Krishna. As expressed in the words of a female director of plays who happens to bear the same name as myself - Bhaktimarga - "Godruma Goura pulls it off so well. It's not an easy thing to portray. It can be cheesy but here he does it justice."

6 Km

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Feelings Are High!

Mayapura, West Bengal

It was the first time I tried the "Nine Devotions Workshop" in India. It went over well. Merely by word of mouth did the workshop attract twenty people, a perfect figure for the interaction.  We did go slightly overtime. I got the sense that no one wanted to leave. We were enjoying each other's company in exploring nine processes of devotion.

Some of the comments were:

"I like the newcomer friendly approach."

 "What we went through has global appeal."

"I liked your terminologies. They don't scare anyone."

"It was experiential."
Another person implied that we sometimes get caught up in the rigours of religion. We can be very dogmatic, mechanical, and forget how important it is to express feelings and to be human.

And today being the anniversary of the passing away of an American monk (referred to as the Black Lotus), Bhakti Tirtha Swami, was an epitomized caring and feeling human being. People assembled to honour this great renounciant who stirred the finer sentiments of people up until his last breath when he passed away in 2004 from cancer.

By sundown there was the daily kirtan chanting party that was set up for action outside the Samadhi of our guru, Srila Prabhupada. Even a hard-hearted soul like me became emotionally moved when asked to lead the kirtan which was accompanied by a flat rickshaw which was graced with the sacred images of Chaitanya and associate, Nityananda, the 16th century's forerunners of the popular practice of kirtan, upon it. Local pilgrims got quite excited when viewing what's coined as 'the dancing white elephants.'

My 'feeling' for walking came at the end of the day when trying to address my lingering cold and tensed up back. Health hasn't been great since being in this holy dham (sacred place), but in general, the spirit has been high with devotional sentiments. It's hard to avoid that in such a sacred space.

10 Km

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


Mayapura, West Bengal

Maha-sringha is a Polish-born devotee of Krishna who really makes the difference. Since the inception over four decades, the project at Mayapura has received a luke-warm to cool to violent reception from locals. It has been a struggle to get established in this land of Chaitanya, the master of mantra meditation. Locals love Maha-sringha.

You can imagine, you have all these foreigners coming to settle and build in the area. Many of the residents are Muslims and not Vaishnavas. Most of the area has been communist supporters as the state of Bengal has been under that regime. And you have these beautiful brown people, 100%, then suddenly these whites come into town. Of course, there was some fascination there.

Why is Maha-sringha making a difference when villagers may have felt an imposition by us? Well, he mingles with them. He feeds them (a delicious local favourite - kichari - rice, dahl, veggies and spices). He speaks their language. And finally he brings kirtan  to the villagers. In closing the gap he organizes chanting processions which pulls everything out of the woodwork.

This we saw this very night. Myself and a couple of dozen foreigners/pilgrims along with Maha-sringha's presence and direction engaged in kirtan. The sound was pulling the people out of their humble homes to come with stretched out smiles and observe and engage in what their ancestors have done for centuries. This group chanting is in the blood of the people. They fully relate to it.

And now with the participants from abroad (hey, even a few of us Canadians were included) this chanting is becoming a universal reality. It's Maha-sringha who has taken the initiative since he moved to India years ago to make friends with the people. That means more to them than a large place of worship going up.

As I said before, "They love him." This is what bhakti  is about. It's about loving relations.

7 Km

Thursday 1 March 2012

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

February 29th

 Mayapura, West Bengal

Feb. 29 might be a day that appears odd on the calendar. It might connote irregularities of all kinds.

Well, it did thunder in the sky today, strange for this season. Take it as a bad omen or not, I saw a 3 foot green with yellow marked snake slither into a residence through a perfect hole at the bottom of their main door. I waited to caution any occupants in case we're dealing with venom, but no one was inside which was evidenced by the out lock fastened to the door.

Anything else inauspicious? Oh yes! Motorbikes in motion, but that's always an ill omen for me.

To counteract what appears as abnormal, one chants Krishna's name, you keep to your devotional regimen and in my case it includes a walk, a relative safe mode of transportation. My monk assistant here, Suta Goswami, told me of a road block, the result of an accident on Bhaktisidanta Swami Marg (road). A trucker crashed into two young boys who were cycling. Now that's very unfortunate! Apparently the trucker left the scene for fear of his life.

If a motorist is found guilty of a death fatality he/she customarily flees. No court situation is there to protect you. As abrupt as you can imagine, villagers arrive with sticks at the scene of the accident, taking the law into their own hands and then discharge an "instant karma" response. It's mob dynamic in full blown form.

To offer myself an enhanced safety for the day, I met with fellow Vande members, the creative arts group, in order to smooth over some relevant agenda topics. And much to my satisfaction I lunched with Havi (I forget his stage name). He's Venezuela's Bob Dylan -- in any event a big name in South America. He inparted to me his latest music project, a masterpiece of material.

Once again, I have to count another day where Krishna simply looked after me. Trouble, threats and challenges are all around. We just need to resort to the best shelter possible.

Chant those names!

 7 Km