Saturday 28 April 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

A Letter

Toronto, Ontario
Like last year the response from Notre Dame Secondary School was phenomenal. This time around I again received a wave of thank you messages. Here's one to read. It's from Kimberly, one of the students there:

Hello Bhaktimarga Swami,
I was at the presentation you gave at Notre Dame on Tuesday and I want to thank you for coming. Not only your presence but your great personality and outlook on life inspires me. Before you came, I did not understand the life of a monk and what they do. I thought they had little fun and were limited to doing many things. After you presentation I have learned that the life of a monk is not limited and does have fun aspects. You were able to put a smile on my face while dancing and enjoying the mantra. The next morning I found myself singing it. Thank you for taking your own time to enlighten us on Hare Krishna faith. When you asked, "who are you?" I thought so hard to answer the question. Even though I was not one of the people to answer aloud this stood out to me the most.

Understanding that we are our 'soul' or 'atman' connected with me. I want to be the best person I can be. You're presentation has reminded me to make sure I do everything I can to fufill my dreams and always help others. I hope your walk across Canada brings you happiness and I hope I will have the oppurtunity one day to do something as courageous as this.
Thank you for making my day.
Thanks Kimberly!
6 Km

Friday 27 April 2012

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Money Seekers
Brampton, Ontario

Today Lakshman, who has been conducting walks for six years in the sacred grounds of Vrindavan, India, delivered the morning talk about saint Madhavendra Puri. Madhavendra did extensive travel himself, as a tradition for pilgrims. In Lakshman's explanation we heard how Madhavendra had so many epiphanies in his life- dreams and miracles of deity communication which appeared to follow him. These interactions with Krishna as a deity sent him into ecstasies.

Those of us who sat in the temple room's corner to hear the narrations felt a yearning for this kind of experiential joy. Just by listening to the journeys of the lives of such elevated persons one establishes a type of sraddha, a supportive belief in the sublime. If only the world could indulge in hearing such pastimes in place of or in addition to the mundane news of constant repetition, it would definitely stir up sentiments of the spirit. It leads the listener to a greater depth in life.

To fast-forward I was sitting patiently later in the day a good 30 kilometres away waiting to be called at the dental clinic in Brampton, one client was making his exit when he glanced over to notice the robes. He was a curious Canadian who just perked up, came to my seat to introduce himself. We talked about a level much beyond teeth cleaning. At about 55 years of age he still manifested a boyish wonder- in this case about spiritual life. I hope and pray he will consider spiritual life an option.

My thoughts dwelt on the fact that there are millions like him that hold an intrigue for the spiritual component of life. There are many seekers.

9 Km

The students

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Students and the Park
Terra Cotta, Ontario
I asked Yogendra to drop me off at the entrance of Cedarbrae Park in order to get some trekking in. We had spent some hours today at Notre Dame Secondary School, then followed the teacher who invited us to her home for a terrific dinner. Judy is her name. She, her husband, Bob, and two daughters hosted us. What an absolutely fantastic family! I would say they are brahmins, by nature, satvic, or very much in the mode of goodness.
While taking to that trail in Cedarbrae I was meditating on the fine response from the students at Notre Dame. My presentation along with Yogendra and Laksman, who is visiting from Vrindavan, India, and who conducts pilgrimage walks in that area, was held in the school chapel. The questions asked by students were not highly philosophical yet they were deep. Their questions were centered around themselves. They surely pictured themselves being in the shoes of a monk, imagining what it is like to live as we do and also what it would mean to walk across the country.
The questions were, "How old were you when you became a monk?" "At what age can you live in the ashram?" "How many pairs of shoes does it take to walk across Canada?" What also came up was, "Do you guys fast?" The school here conducts a 28 hour fast annually when students have a sleepover at the temple, that's what motivated the question.
The students took well to chanting and when it came to the dancing, I just hand picked two black dudes from the group to set the tone for moving. They always have the best rhythm. 
"What a jolly good day it was," I thought while trudging through the water drenched trail, a result of run-off. Come to think of it, all days in Krishna Consciousness are truly like this.
7 Km

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

From Rot to Goodness
Toronto, Ontario

This morning was my return to central Canada after a nine day trip to the country's mid-west, the prairies. What I noticed in the four cities where I visited in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina was a substantial increase in attendance to devotional programs. This is a good sign that rivals tendencies in this spiritually slow age of Kali. The inclination is to gravitate to the more lowly options.
Kali is defined as "dark". Sometimes the age of Kali is referred to as the age of iron. It indicates that it is a time when inferior activity takes prime position.
On my flight on Air Canada I decided to educate myself on one of America's idolized Kali yuga (age) characters. Having completed my chanting of a prescribed sixteen rounds, I thought to learn from a documentary on what all the fuss was about in regards to an apparent hero. In the 1800's there were a number of American Robin Hoods, underdogs and rebels. There were characters like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Erp, Jesse James. There were others I'm sure that I'm not aware of. When I was young these names used to come up. I knew little about them.
I looked for an hour at the life of Jesse James. My comment, "What a Kali-yuga man!" Here was a real cold blooded murderer who somehow received the attention he wanted. Terrorism can make a person famous. He succeeded. I guess there is merit in studying the psyche of a criminal to understand them, how they got to be what they are and how their childhood was moulded and/or twisted. It just convinces me more and more how important good training, suitable engagement and how a lot of love can spare someone from falling into the crevices of Kali-yuga madness.
The most compelling stories (I'm sure you'll agree) have to deal with how a person went from being rotten to being a saint, or at least being good.
0 Km

Saturday, April 14th, 2012


Edmonton, Alberta

"Woe is me!"

I thought winter was behind us. So did Albertans, but no - snow came as a surprise. Spring had sprung, but 'surprise'. We got a blast of the white stuff and it came down (or sideways really) for hours.
Devotees of Krishna in Edmonton had planned an outdoor kirtan chanting session. The elements imposed another plan. It curbed my anticipated trek somewhere on a trail in the suburbs. It's good I managed about 3 kilometres back and forth on the balcony of the Toronto temple before embarking on the flight here. You take what you can get.
We did manage to have an indoor session with a group of bright kids, average 8 or 9 at the home of a south Indian couple, Srinivasan and Sarada. Hey, these kids lit up to a reading of a Krishna story. They didn't have Robin Williams entertain them but they had a swami who did his best to keep them excited. I think we broke ice with them. And parents who accompanied them sitting right there were pleased and smiled all the while.
"Feedback," I requested at the end.
The answer came from them, the parents. "They (the students) stayed alert and they learned something."
"Feedback," I demanded from the kids. One boy remarked that he liked the part where we read about the ocean of oil. "Of course," I responded, "you're from Alberta. You're swimming in it all the time."
Time allowed a visit to the temple. There we chanted at the arati ceremony. Few folks were there as weather really intimidated people for braving the roads. After the chant, attendees wanted to know about my recent trip to south Africa, so I filled them in on the good organization of the Ratha Yatra festival there and on the growth of a spiritual following in Durban.
Before bed, I had a small meal. "Is this prasadam (blessed food)?" I asked the hosts.

"Oh, yes, I offer my food to Krishna always," said Sarada.

3 Km

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

In A Kind of Space

Regina, Saskatchewan

It appears that many planets orbit around the Milky Way.  What I mean by that is on Regina's Victoria Avenue there exist this really popular ice cream joint called "The Milky Way".  The place which according to Jagannath has been in existence for over thirty years, is like a magnet attracting customers like crazy on any break-through sunny day.

I wasn't aware of the delectable shop but I passed by it twice today only to find out that the pedestrian population is one of the most concentrated in the whole city.

Two young part black chaps spotted me.  They came orbiting over to me.  Crossing six lanes in order to talk.  The one guy's name was Dave.  The more talkative one was Johnny Bro.  I offered my fanciest handshake possible.  I told them that I came in for a landing to the place of open skies, Saskatchewan, to speak about Mother Earth.  Being Earth Day, I was intent on doing just that.  Johnny Bro was particularly curious about my orange spacesuit.

Further down the road and on my way to my speaking venue I met two tall braves (I guess you could say in native terms).  I assumed they were Cree.  They ended up being really curious about Krishna Consciousness and asked many questions relating to life, time and space.

Upon my return journey from a successful chanting, dancing and speaking program in Honour of Mother Earth, held at the ISKCON Center, a white couple near the Milky Way ‘sputniked’ across Victoria Ave. to talk.

"It's not often you see a monk around here."  I told about Earth's significant role in our lives.  They were happy to meet.  The Padma Purana, an ancient Vedic text, states that planet Earth is blessed to have Sri Krishna touching it when He spoke His great wisdom to Arjuna.

May we better protect the Earth, Mother Bhumi.

15 Km

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Perhaps You've Heard

White City, Saskatchewan

Perhaps you've heard the saying, "The mind should be like a parachute.  It works when you open it."  That may hold true when there is space and air.  There's also a time when you must withdraw it and pack it in.  You must know when to open and close it.

When it comes to spiritual life and learning of the science of the self, we should indeed be open to listen, provided it is a good source of information and the deliverer lives out his word.  Another way to say it is "to walk your talk".

Being out here in the prairies makes me feel that I am in the wild, in the open, very free.  The sky is forever.  The fields are spacious.  Even in the residential areas like White City, property owners rarely arrange for a fence, a hedge or a wall around their lot.
With the sun exposed today I was tempting visitors to my hosts' place to be out there and experience the wildness of out-of-doors.  These folks, a dozen or so, came with the intent to meet me, to hear (to have an open mind), to have some prasadam (blessed food).  Well, they received all of the above.  We talked philosophy - even cracked a few jokes.  But enough of being couped up inside.  These people came for an experience.  They are used to inside satsangs, gatherings.  The wind, sun and space were beckoning.  So all surrendered to that ultimate social outing. 

By evening, after company left at our hosts Jagannath, an accomplished palm reader, Cintamani, an active social worker, and daughter Kavita, also a social worker, I was treated along with a young Krishna follower, Jahnavi, to a showing of a British production, a DVD of "The Story of India" with moderator Michael Woods.  It's a marvelous production.  I was open to hear all that was being conveyed.  In general, I liked it.  My doubts arose when it proposed that travelers from Africa came to India to inhabit the place.  I'm skeptical over that one.  No proof!  Sorry, but my mind will remain open to alternative proposals.  This is another Aryan invasion theory.

The mind can open and close but I refuse to be too gullible. 

10 Km

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Saskatoon?  Doing Well!

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Have legs, will travel!  Have beads, will chant!

Along the ridge I went, chanting softly.  Right next to the Canadian Pacific Railway Line is this ridge which became my very own trail for the moment.  Carefully plodding ahead the terrain is great for the feet as it is happily uneven.  I even had to dodge some gopher holes as this is prairie dog country.

The overnight frost, showing its whiteness vanished within minutes to turn to a wet dew.

When Kasyapa and Panchami first arrived in Saskatoon from Toronto a mere 2 1/2 years ago, the reception to their regular homespun satsang (spiritual gathering) was a trite cool.  Now it is more than lukewarm.  Who's responding?  Well, some of the parents of the friends of their two kids Jaya, 12, and Radhika, 6.  Also, some of the local ladies who are recipients of Panchami's cooking lessons.  Some newly-dispatched-from Toronto immigrants from Gujarat, largely young men, have heard about the programs.  Fresh from Dubai is an already trained and enthusiastic couple.  And this evening Mac came, a Saskatchewan born fellow, an accountant and friend of a regular visitor, a doctor from South Africa.  Jackie, also from Saskatoon, comes along with her hubby, a Mauritian, Vishal and son, Krish.  I'm getting to know everyone.

From humble beginnings to this.  The thaw has begun.  In July our youth bus tour will perform kirtan, dance and drama for the first time. 

My evening talk at Kasyapa and Panchami's home, centered around the topic of transcendence and detachment from this world.  We had selected chapter 4, verse 20 to correspond with today's date.  And very fortunately the questions coming from the thirty of so guests were phenomenal. 

I applauded this couple for being so forthright in their determination to land this consciousness of Krishna in this rather remote city of Saskatoon, which is very much a kind of boom town.  From gloom to boom, you can't feel the gloom of a predicted doom for the year 2012 as Mayan calendars say.

10 Km

Sunday 22 April 2012

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Small is Big/Less is More

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Sometimes it's the small things that really excite. Taking to a trail means you have the opportunity to acknowledge what's around you. Today I came upon the Juniper bush. I asked Jay, my companion, to pick some of the seeds, which resemble wild blueberries. We brought them home, washed them, and added them as a delicious spice to acorn squash that Panchami prepared. We sourced any information on these seeds for adding them to our dish. They are qualified as being excellent for the urinary tract, stimulating the bladder and good for arthritis issues. This new discovery, small seeds, became a cause for great joy. Hence, small things can end up being a big deal.

At dinner time, Curtis and Rachael with their four year old daughter had a great lasagne meal with us. Prior to coming to the dinner table, Rachael, who has found comfort with Jesus in her life, inquired about the concepts of grace and salvation. With an open mind, she and Curtis listened to our take on it. I explained that like many concept adopted in the middle east, sometimes during Roman occupancy, some ideas arrived from the east. We had been talking about India's rich spiritual tradition and how the notion of guru, teacher, plays an important role. He is one who delivers the science of truth, being kind and gracious and agrees to absorb the sufferings of those who submit to him for guidance. Once accepting and assimilating that guidance, one is able to reach God's kingdom.

I found that the couple responded so well. Their attitude and willingness to listen was a fresh experience coming from Christian folks, at least for me. To be open to listen may be a small thing, but it can open the doors to large realities.

In the evening, a short drive to the local Hindu temple gave us the opportunity to speak to that community from 18.65 of the Gita regarding the conditions that lead to the kingdom of freedom. It was the simple philosophy of shrinking our materialism which I spoke of to a group of professionals. After the talk one woman remarked that she would commit herself to a more full devotional life and pay less attention to the distractions of the world. Less is more is what she learned.

15 Km

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Where it Shines

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I landed at the John Diefenbaker Airport in Saskatoon, the city that shines. Indeed, it does. The sun is strong as far as brightness is concerned. Temperature, well.... It was a one hour or less pleasant flight from Calgary. The fellow next to me smelled like a brewery. Somehow, though, he was also pleasant enough to talk to.

Every day that passes, it's all about people. Once arrived at my host's home, Kasyapa and Panchami's, I was taken to the house of a doctor team, a South African husband and wife, for lunch. We had these knockout wraps for a meal. Our conversation circled around the topic of veg vs. the non veg lifestyle. They admitted they were not there yet, in terms of prescribing to ahimsa, non violence. But, "getting there". I did what I could to express the benefits of not eating anything that has a face. After returning to my hosts I received an email from a Peter Kim who reads this blog. He informed me of his website "Check this out!" was his message, "and please share it!"

The message about leaving the animals alone spilled over into the evening. At the apartment of a young Gujrati fellow, we dwelt somewhat on the same topic. It was great because he invited his connections. Hence, we had 25 youthful new arrivals from Gurjurat who heard about the hazards of flesh eating. This does become an issue when new immigrants who have a veggie background and fall prey, if I might say, to contributing to the slaughter culture. In truth, the thrust of my talk to the group was more to encourage devotional life based on 18.66 from the Gita.

Here is what put additional light on the day. Walking with Kasyapa's family at the edge of Avant pond. A man around 60 walked his dog and asked, "Are you Buddhist?" When I told him I was a Hare Krishna devotee, he lit up and said, "I do chant that mantra regularly. I used to see you guys back in the day."

7 Km

Thursday 19 April 2012

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Let the Priest Out

Calgary, Alberta

Our American friends tease us Canadians when we say "out and about" like "oot and aboot".  And if we don't say it, we do it. 

It was the first time to get to know Venu Hari, the newly arrived priest/pujari from India.  The young family man, his wife and 7 year old son (both still in India), he's looking at life in a fresh new way.  Apart from having done some temple services, Calgary is a new frontier in the west.  He's rather busy with duties at the temple, and that's a good way to be.  I decided to let Venu get out of doors, chill out (in more ways than one) by inviting him to mountain snow-fed Bow River.  Along with him came Joseph, Effit, and Radha Madhava, our driver.  There's nothing like the exploration of a new path in the wild, where you let yourself be an adventurous child.  Venu was grateful for the experience. 

Priestly duties, meditational chanting, social interaction with the community, all the functions of a committed spiritualist are fine, but balance is also necessary.  What that meant for us was the observation of wild life and what wild life does.  The viewing of Krishna's magnificent natural energy, the breathing of the greatest air possible, and a gossip free relaxed group of people to be with.

When you are an administrative monk or priest, there are ample people issue to deal with.  There is need to get out and about.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, set the tone right, monastic life.  He will take the time to chant in a room relatively alone, he would go out and breath the morning air during a walk each morning.  He would give himself the time for at least semi-privacy, and then he would open himself to the world and its concerns.  He taught us balance. 

After the pleasant walk in the afternoon, I was invited to two evening functions, one following the other, to deliver the message of Krishna Consciousness by concentrating on some words of reference from chapter 12 of the Gita.  Devotional service is the essence of human life and offers the perfect balance. 

6 Km

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In the Tree

Calgary, Alberta

Gaura Chandra is a staunch Italian born devotee on the Calgary Green Way in the city's suburb, and for a special treat Gaura Chandra drove out to the Inglewoodbird sanctuary for more trekking.  There we meandered on the trail. As we approached the shoreline of the Bow River,a massive goose with her incredible wingspan came within inches of us.  As she flew to perch herself at the hollow of a nearby ancient tree.  This caught our curiosity.  You rarely see these mighty birds sit on a tree branch.  Another goose came to the edge of the river's bank near us in order to divert us.  He hissed and then slapped perfectly formed feathers.  We figured it out.  He was probably the daddy who came to his mate's defense, nesting in the tree. She sat determinedly in the joint and hollow of the tree protecting her eggs.  Such are bird dynamics.

But we are humans.  What is our method of defense?  To protect our soul, our actual self, we can resort to the Bhagavad-gita.  We have no beak, no claws, no wings, little agility, poor sight, poor sense of smell.  We do have wisdom to protect ourselves.

For today and yesterday, I delivered by God's grace, three lessons in the Gita to three large groups of people.  Any speck of content from the Gita provides for the listener or the reader shelter for the soul.  We discussed verse 2.17 wherein it is declared that that which pervades the body is indestructible.  We learned that the hands, legs and faces of God are everywhere in existence (13.14).  The third lesson taught us that we are of the superior energy meant to come under even greater superior energy, theSupreme entity (7.5).

All lessons are there in defense of the soul.

10 Km

Monday 16 April 2012

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Impressions in the White


For a chanting route I took to a short suburban sidewalk in Edmonton's south end. It was covered half inch in snow. I decided to make my mark at the early hour of 4:30 Am on Sunday. No one really had the chance to make tracks like I did, except for a hare, who left his mark partially on the sidewalk and partially not. There was something organic about his trail, where as I was rigid. Nevertheless, we both made our mark.
When I walked the length of Ireland from Belfast to Cork, one day, a dog decided to trail along next to me. I recall how the owner came anxiously in her vehicle looking for her pet some kilometres down the road. She was a little peeved with me for an assumed luring away the dog, that's beside the point. This canine creature, part labrador I'd say, was friendly towards me. He did something that I guess is common for dogs. Every few metres he would lift his leg and discharge fresh urine (not on me though) - his way of staking territory or making his mark. Everyone has their way of saying "I was here and I did such and such a thing, I made a contribution to this world."
Now, my rigid walk in the snow was a clear sign that I was here, and that I made a contribution by packing down snow and leaving an imprint. I have gone up and down this brief sidewalk pacing back and forth, and it looked like a crowd of people that came through. I though maybe someone will eventually hit the trail and wonder what hoard came through here in this quiet suburb. And after almost two hours of pressing into the snow, and leaving my mark, more snow fell from the sky. It was time to terminate walking and chanting. I realize that because of the new snow, that although I left my mark, it would all vanish in time. All footprints would be covered - all is temporary. I finally spotted the hare who made fresh tracks as I left.
My simple realization on this, although it is imperative that you make your mark in this world, it will eventually vanish. Who in the end will acknowledge it? It is only Krishna who sees what you've done.
10 Km (Krishna Marks)

Sunday 15 April 2012

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Fear Not

Toronto, ON

"We can pick you up and bring you to the Bhakti Lounge program," expressed Aarti generously.
"Thanks but no thanks, I'll walk," I said insisting on doing it the sadhu-way (the way of the monk). I indicated to Aarti that I will not need to get a ride to a venue only 2 kilometres away.

Surely it's Friday the 13th but let's have no fear. I'm not a superstitious believer.
At the venue Aarti's apartment on Carlton was an enthusiastic group of young spirited seekers chanting away when I arrived. I was asked by Aarti to speak on the topic of "fear".

One of the attendees offered to say that he heard an acronym for fear is false evaluation appearing real.

The group and I referenced the Bhagavad-gita. We looked at two primary verses.
2.40 and 18.66.

They read as follows:
"In this spiritual endeavour there is not loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear."(2.40)

"Abandon all varieties of duties and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." (18.66)

We, as a group, identified in our discussion some common "fears". At the top of the list was the fear of death. Death is for sure but we are unsure of death. We are uneasy with it and that especially holds true when we identify the body as the self.


Thursday, April 12th, 2012

To Drink or Not to Drink

Toronto, Ontario

“At college the guys are encouraging me to drink with them,” said Durjoy.
Don’t give in to them. Stand your ground. There’s many reasons to avoid drinking. It’s expensive. Liquor and beer stink. It rots your guts over time. You have something better. Such is what I explained to this young student, Durjoy.
“They’re my friends,” he said. Then I said, “Be firm, and maybe they’ll give it up when they see you are happy and healthy. If they insist on this form of partying, I’m sure you can find friends who don’t drink.”
Durjoy complies with me. He indicated that all of this type of socializing is stupid.
“And you are smart, so you don’t give in.”
Durjoy and I had walked the entire length of the ravine along the Evergreen Brickworks, and along Mount Pleasant Cemetery when Durjoy brought up the topic. He is a short and rather thin fellow, but strong with principles. You can’t let size deceive you. Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, was small in size. His voice and message was loud and strong. He was larger than life and he was principled.
"Do not compromise on your principles once they are established,” is what I indicated to Durjoy, "there is strength in principle. You may even be praised for upholding them. Principles are your protection and protection is what we could all use a lot more of. It is also pleasing to Krishna when we show discipline."
12 Km

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Looking Forward
Amsterdam/South Africa
At customs in the Amsterdam Airport, the jolly officer looked at my passport name and then at me and said, " 'Vis', that's a Dutch name," referring to my legal name.
"Yes, it is."
"And you're wearing an orange shade. That's the colour of our team."
"You've got it right again," I said.
Our line had moved on. Before I realized the officer was one of the few people I spoke with during the day. There I was in a busy airport but a place that wasn't terribly encouraging for conversation. Of course not, for most people, the senses are preoccupied in other things. Many airports are designed to give the feel of a shopping mall where one's senses can run wild.
Once on the plane back to Canada I had the great opportunity to help the elderly gentleman next to me by opening his salted almonds bag for him. He just didn't have the strength. Then when actual meal time came, he required help to tear open the plastic bag of a cheese chunk. That was about it for conversations - "Here, let me help you with that."
I realized that more words are exchanged in a quiet ravine when you come upon a pedestrian. So much for a socially active world. In fact, at the airport or any public place it's astounding how many i-pods, phones and other gadgets occupy us. There's material there for a science fiction film.

Anyways, I'm so much looking forward to reconvening the trans-Canada walk, a fourth in progress, when I'll walk the provincial trail. Whoever I meet along the way will be a quality exchange, I'm sure, even if it be the ghost of Ann (of Green Gables).
Looking Forward! Looking Forward!

0 Km - in the air.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I Placed A Garland

Durban, South Africa

I placed a garland of carnations around the neck of 2 year old Varshani. Unique about this act is that she was not alive. She and her parents and relatives left this world, in a flash, unexpectedly. My two godbrothers Indrayumna and Bhakti Chaitanya Swamis had taken to garlanding the others who lie still. There were five coffins that were brought in onto the temple grounds at Chatsworth for the viewing of the five family members who passed away because of drunken driving by an oncoming self-centred motorist, who also didn't survive the crash last Friday night.

Swarupa Damodara, the temple president of the community took the microphone to address well-wishers and family. Respectfully he welcomed all and then cautioned all to not touch the delicate bodies which were so badly damaged. So many supporters were in attendance.

I would say that once again the bhajans, the chanting of Krishna's name, by a group of brahmachari monks kept the moments of calmness up. Over and above the natural emotions projected the beautiful sound offered a sobriety of feelings. The mood was light. Dignity prevailed. Will we learn from this?

Yes, that life is fragile, that at any moment anything can happen, that drinking liquor is rather selfish and that modes of travel should be re-considered.

I have to hand it to the people of South Africa thought because they seem resilient in a certain kind of way. They seem to know death. They are not surprised by the slamming that goes with life. How many stories have I heard of slayings by the most unexpected people.

On the other hand, in the midst of unsafe conditions a glow comes from these peoples hearts. It was my last day in South Africa and I had a sit-down with one of the young volunteers of our plays. His name is Fortune. It's my guess he is a Zulu. This fellow shone as he spoke. He is a psychology student. Life holds an interest for him. He sees some despair in his community but he feels good about his newly found consciousness of Krishna. He practically came to the door of our Chatsworth temple the other day and got conscripted by providence to join our drama project. He admitted to me that he learned so much from the experience. Knowing nothing of the pastimes of Ram, of dharma and divine relationships, it appeared a whole new world opened for him.

Goodbye to South Africa, once again. It's the place where I walk in circles every morning in a movement of feet around the temple of Radha Radha Nath.

9 Km

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Easter Monday in Service

Durban, South Africa

It's Easter Monday. I believe that's somewhat significant that this large Vedic festival "The Festival of Chariots" is hosted on a major Christian holiday. Naturally it is more out of convenience that this date is selected.

Here is what is also significant: Evangelists are converting many Hindus to the Christian side in South Africa. The festival hosted by ISKCON is a successful effort to attract and support people of Hindu origin and hold them in their position of piety and transcendence. In a discussion with Dutch born monk, Kadamba Kanana Swami, he expressed that the venue at present, located minutes of walking from one of South Africa's "white elephant" stadiums, is the ideal place for locals, the blacks, the coloureds and the whites.

The Youth Lounge was once again, for all, and this last (part 3) of Dance Master was just the place for feeling good. Basically we took the two stories of this weekend's dramas and danced to their narrations. That just about crowned the program for me. I had also been slotted for the Star Television's interviews. And also I executed a 40 minute charading to a group of children in the Blue Mountain they did well at guessing the words to the story of Jagannath. To add I was the guest speaker at Tent A, delivering a talk on "How to Please God". A host of questions followed.

A certain journey of one chariot through some residential streets marked the real end of a busy day which began with rain and ended with it. The usual circumambulation on the temple trail was magical with droplets of the stuff dropping into the temple's moat. The perfect circles so evenly spaced apart. Indeed, it was the perfect disbursement of sky water; just another one of those 'hand of God' moments that stirred an appreciation for Him.

8 Km

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

A Grand Event

Durban, South Africa

The festival in Durban is a rather large undertaking. I hear different figures in terms of attendance. You are looking at anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 people. This is a strange range. In any case, it's big. Tents which house displays, items for sale including food and speaking venues are sizeable and span over the large lot two blocks from the ocean beach front. The lay out arrangement makes for good walking stretches. For me it means a trek from major tent to the drama rehearsal space to the Youth tent and so on.

Today I took to the Youth Lounge and part two of The Dance Master, which highlighted physical movement and mantra. This is a volunteer free time to express oneself in the most joyful. I really appreciate the innovation of one person in particular, Krishna Chandra. Being himself creative, a comedic perosn of incredible wit and who takes a lead in the BYS (Be Your Self) youth outreach in educational campuses in the Durban area.

Here various interfaith groups were permitted to share the space to express their themes of world change and 'we have to do something different'. This approach of open mindedness and out of the box thinking opened doors for youths to befriend and take to a Krishna partnering.

Tonight also was our finale of the drama "The Ramayan" which wowed the audience of two thousand plus. The Ramayan is for everyone and has packed into it everything - a love story, intrigue, heroism, comraderie elements, war, conflict and above all a strong message about service to others and The Supreme. Thanks especially to the character of Hanuman.

7 Km

Sunday 8 April 2012

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Through the Grim and the Glad
Durban, South Africa
Last night’s drama, “the Witness” I decided we dedicate to
the deceased family that died in a car crash on their way
home from the Ratha Yatra festival. Garuda, Divyarupa,
Parameswara, Chandra Sarovara and 2 year old Varsana were
honored by an utterance of the Hare Krishna mantra. In
deliberation of this senseless tragedy which involved a
speeding road warrior coming in from behind this group of
people, I had to ask myself “Since the invention of the
automobile how many folks lost their lives globally from
such accidents? What are the stats?” I think it would be
quite alarming to hear the figures.
Have you ever heard of pedestrians dying of collision?
I guess the most impressive feature of the festival today
is the youth tent. It is AC’d and is designed on the
interior for dance. I was introduced as the Dance Master.
To the beating of djembes executed “live” by five
drummers. I was given one half hour of sweat driven dance
steps to conduct. The place just rocked with feet, hands,
heads, everything in between, and mantras stirring a
As the lively ordeal came to termination, my dear god-
brother and monk, jayadwaita Swami , came through the
crowd and towards me. He was about to prepare himself for
a talk when he came straight towards me and asked a
question facetiously, “Are you Black?”
“Well Maharaja, I feel like I am inside. It’s what makes
me dance,” I said.
Now to tie together my earlier report about grim death and
lively singing and dancing, the message is that through
sad or happy circumstances always chant and remember that
divinity must prevail.
6 Km

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Are we Safe?

Durban, South Africa

Someone asked the question to today’s visiting speaker,
Jayadwaita Swami, “is it appropriate for Vaishnavas
(devotees) to keep a dog?”

The American monk responded, “In South Africa, yes.” The
monk continued to clarify after a boisterous laughter that
for security it may be necessary.

It had been a long glorious day of Ratha Yatra, three
chariots riding along the beach front of Durban, and ”Tha
Ramayana” play which was staged. All had gone well and by
the end 10PM I needed my time away “from the crowds”. I
had to think twice about a final walking installment for
the day, safety-wise, along Suncoast Boulevard. Once it’s
dark dubious characters come out. I did that trek, much
needed, and put a brief prayer out to Krishna for
protection. This mention about safety is not an
exaggeration. Every year when I attend the event here
someone from my drama crew encounters a mishap. One year
my marshal arts actor arrived late for a rehearsal because
when he went out the door to get in his car the tires were
removed. One boy playing the role of a demon just didn’t
come to practice because on his way he got mugged. This
year a young man helping us with choreography had to
cancel out because when his mother went to the bank for a
withdrawal she was followed and robed.

Related to safety: on the return home from the festival a
very devoted family collided with another car which
instantly killed both parties. This is tragic. We live in
a dangerous world.

One historical point noted about today’s event was
expressed by a dignitary that came to speak. “It was 1912
that India made an alliance in South Africa”. When I asked
one local gentle man what year Gandhi came to South Africa
he said it was 1912, one hundred years ago.

10 Km