Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Monday, October 29th, 2012

High Hearing

Burnaby, British Columnia

My chanting of japa took place on the balcony of the Toronto temple. The building was formerly an old Methodist church, and because of a fledgling thriving community in the 40’s. A place of worship under the inspiration of Reverend Charles Templeton saw the need to construct a balcony where there wasn’t one. It was a lofty idea. The balcony actually accommodated more parishioners.

Destiny had it that I was to be situated in a more elevated state than the balcony. I ended up in the air – a flight to the west coast of British Columbia. I managed to do more japa 30,000 feet in the air. A nasty hurricane called Sandy was to hit the Atlantic coast and also to move inland into Southern Ontario. It looked like I was leaving nature’s wrath at the appropriate time.

The screen in front of me on this West Jet flight revealed that the physical world’s emotions can strike every which way. On Canada’s west coast, the Queen Charlotte Islands, an earthquake hit registering 7.7 on the Richter Scale. More aftershocks were forecast for today. The Earth’s impulses are strong and it appears there’s no real great escape from such onslaughts.

After landing and arriving finally, at the ISKCON Burnaby centre, I did the dutiful pilgrimage thing. Upon arrival you shower or bathe upon entering a sacred place. Before the deity shrine of Radha Madana Mohan, I offered my prostration and then sat down for a reading of the Gita, 13.26. The contents emphasize japa. And now to quote from the purport:

“As for the common man, if he is a good soul, then there is a chance for (spiritual) advancement. Spiritual advancement by hearing… Chaitanya gave great stress to hear… Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. “

7 KM

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

The Hoody Day

Brampton, Ontario

I had spent the evening, resting at the home of Rajneesh, Alka and their kids. It was a good sleep. By 4:15 AM I slipped out of the house on Meridian Rd. and chalked out a cyclic route for myself in the neighbourhood. Late October, being what it is, you find dried leaves moving about. One solo leaf seemed to follow and make his presence known by scrapping across the asphalt, the result of a light wind. Another leaf slid across my path.

About an hour and a half into my walk I saw a larger object moving, on the sidewalk, actually. I chose to stay by trekking on the quiet street itself while the only car making a presence during this period was the newspaper delivery man. Now, I know it's a time close to Halloween and I'm not trying to seriously not get spooked. The larger object was a short man with a hoody on. I could at least make out with a distance street light that he had some facial hair.

"Good morning! How are you? " I greeted. In a slight monotone the return was, " Good morning! ".
I moved forward and made a quick judgment, " A bipolar guy perhaps. " Then he spoke something interesting. It was an actual question.

"What's the secret to happiness? ".

I turned towards him and took him as a queue to walk towards him. After all he had stopped for an answer which was...

"To achieve happiness a person at least has to gain some understanding of who he is - what's his true identity. " Now close to him I could see a real force and I would also appreciate that here is someone coherent as we spoke more. It turned out that he had been walking for the last 5 hours. From what I could gather he was on a genuine spirit quest.

I continued, " People usually become relatively satisfied when they are engaged according to their psycho-physical nature. You do what you like to do."

"But I'm a student of business and I don't like it. I like to work with my hands - to be hands on, but my parents want me to do business..." Our dialogue went on and stayed on, like a light in the dark. He told me he was a student at York University and so I was conveniently able to tell him that there's a Krishna Club on campus every Monday night and that these cool young people go there at the Student Centre.

"I'll check it out. ".

My last words to him were " If you go there just tell them you met the Walking Monk. ".

"I will ", he said. He smiled. We shook hands and moved each on our own way.

7 KM

Friday, October 26th, 2012

A Tale of the Trail

Tirupati, India

Revati Raman is the shining manager of the ISKCON temple ashram in Tirupati. He has his roots here and he relayed to me an interesting story involving a walk in the trails to do with his mother.

She was 5 years old when she was walking a trail through the forested hills. She was not alone but with two other members of the family. A dog started to follow them. They tried to shew away the dog but he remained determined to stay with his new friends so they accepted him as part of the family entourage.

Revati's mum, at 5, needed to deal with nature's call as she stopped to the side in a private spot. The new friend, the dog, insisted on being with her. "The area is known to have wildlife including leopards, lions, and tigers. A lion lurked about and sighted some prey. He made his eager anticipated pounce on the dog who lost his life. Had the loyal dog (bless his soul) not been there then there may not have been a good full life for Revati's mother and certainly there would not be Revati.

The story is gripping because it involves both sensation and sacrifice.

I relay this tale of fate not to deter people from walking trails in the wilderness. After all death is more apparent in a so-called civilized urban setting, but I say this story just to share a piece of sensation, magic, and miracle that goes along with life. In the end we can only be thankful for the gift of life and the gift of believing.

5 KM

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Look After Each Other

Tirupati, India

A constant back and forth on the guest house balcony passes me by rooms of devotional peers. There is Badrinarayan from San Diego, Sivaram Swami from Hungary and Gopal Bhatta from LA who share this second floor and whom I had brief encounters with. Anyways it was a good stretch of walk with few distractions which are commonplace on the street-level with traffic, dogs and mud puddles.

Our morning session of meetings dwelt on the subject of various causes of fall down; why and what to do about it? 'Fall down' is an expression that refers to when someone on the spiritual path enters into vulnerability and sways eventually from the trail. In particular we were looking at spiritual leaders or people of seniority and what after-effects exist, what to speak of symptoms leading to a down fall. It was a healthy discussion and everyone in the room had a turn to speak.

We were reminded what our guru said in regards to our attitude towards the world of temptations. Srila Prabhupada, our guru, once said that the problem with us, meaning his students, is that we don't fear maya (the world of temptation).

At the meeting we explored possible solutions and the detection of symptoms to spiritual weakness. One sure sign of the weakness is when a person demonstrates a poor sadhana (regulated devotions). It was a grave session but left the participants with hope. One obvious gesture to implement is that spiritual practitioners need to be vigilant to look out for each other by building strong relationships.

With that being said three of us monks, Jayapataka Swami, Bhakti Chaitanya Swami and myself were comparing our seed-therapy feet with one another. How's that for looking after or atleast at each other?

8 KM

Monday, 29 October 2012

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

What'll I Do?

Abu Dhabi, UAE

It seemed like the longest day of my life, naturally with the time zone changes factored in. And the two flight delays from both Chennai in India and Abu Dhabi, left a perception of something never ending. A two hour delay meant I had time to kill at Abu Dhabi.

What does a Krishna monk do in spare time with no carry on to worry about.

The old song "What'll I do?" by Irving Berlin (I believe) came to mind. The melody is naturally beautiful with a kind of raga that implies a feeling of separation, like a love song. I applied it to the maha-mantra and it worked perfectly.

On my way to the privy (wash room) I noticed the sign "Prayer Room" and an adjoining "Ablutions" area. I thought to take advantage of the space in an anticipation that the airport provided a multi-faith facility. I went it. I was the only one there. Some paraphernalia was there, a shelf with various copies of the Quran, and three chairs against the wall. The walls were plain white and nothing more, but for an image of Mecca affixed at a 90 degree angle. Prayer mats were set on the floor before it. I did some japa (chanting on my beads) and breaking out occasionally with the tune of "What'll I Do?" At least two travellers (young men) came in for their prayers to Allah which compelled me back to a soft japa. It was a pleasure being there; a change from being in a waiting area and looking at weary waiting passengers.

On the earlier delayed flight at Chennai, I met Janasen, a nineteen year old Torontonian whose parents are from Sri Lanka. He stood out amongst the others with his mod-sculptured hair style that included some careful facial hair design. I guess this individual expression is a good thing. It just so happened that he had the same flight as me, embarking from Toronto and then back. He first approached me noticing the co-incidence (or destiny, or divine arrangement). From there we began a friendship. He promised to visit me at the ashram. I gave him my only "carry on" a soft bound Gita, as I thought he would take it seriously.

And so that's what I had done. We'll see what he will do. Take care Janasen.

Om Tat Sat!

0 KM

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Plastic Feet & Divine Eyes

Tirumala, India

Last evening a naturopathic doctor from Andra Pradesh, Uddhav, ministered a treatment on my left foot. It's known as 'seed therapy.' He first of all applied some acupressure to the middle toe which is connected to the knee joint, an area of physical contention for about six years now.

After the acupressure he applied some jms tape which had an interspersed row of pepper corns, fenugreek seeds, and rice kernels. A u-shaped application of these seeds was affixed from the large toe to the mid-metta-tarsal region and up to the inter-metta-tarsal joint. It left an appearance of an artistic bandaging which was to remain there for 24 hours. The seeds stimulate the inactive nerves in that region of the foot.

Well, what can I say? Uddhav did wonders with this therapeutic approach. It was lubricated at the knee, or so it felt. And another doctor, Balaram, who inspected my knee by pumping it at the joint said, "There's no more tak tak sound, meaning there is no more crepitus."

To hold all the seed in place it was suggested I wear plastic bags. So with this morning's outing up to Tirumala for darshan (viewing), I sported white plastic bags as shoes for six hours enroute and back and in the interim of the day's pilgrimage to the top of the hill. We went via vehicles. There were 30 of us monks and nuns who went for the 'purging' by seeing the image of Balaji. Some waiting at queues at certain times takes anywhere from two to twenty-four hours. Fortunately our group had pre-arranged a visit for a short one hour wait.

Security is such that foreign passport holders had to fill-out forms for their name, address and passport as well as identifying the religion they were born into and not ones acquired form of spirituality. I and my colleagues lightly resented the fact that we could not write 'vaishnava' in the blank.

In any event viewing Balaji was just ecstatic. I saw before me a most powerful deity. And of course, He has the power to see me. I'm sure He didn't judge me for the plastic-bagged feet.

It was a great day of pilgrimage, one I won't forget.

4 KM

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Team Player

Tirupati, India

What an honour it is to be asked to lead a chant before the deities and what a pleasure also to be asked to do the same at the commencement of our International Leaders Meeting.

"That was soulful!" remarked a colleague after the kirtan (chant) was over. I'm usually not so participatory at meeting sessions where the group goes over the number 5. To compensate for this lack of saying something somehow I'm often given the roll to 'take it away' with leading a chant.

As chairperson of our creative arts initiative called 'Vande' I find to have little inhibition to speak my mind, my thoughts and creativity. We are a team of 4. I was impressed by a hand-out on core concepts of great teams. I wanted to share some of those concepts and characteristics on team playing in sutra or power codes. Here they are:

1) None of us are as smart as all of us.

2) The only thing which will ultimately hold any organization together will be a shared conviction in its purpose and its methods.

3) Effective leaders adjust their style to provide what the group can't provide for itself.

4) Leaders MUST lead, yet you will never, never have an empowered, self-directed team unless the leader is willing to share control.

5) The vision is a picture of the ideal end result.

6) The purpose identifies the work of the team and why it is important.

7) Values are the enduring beliefs that guide the team's actions.

4 KM

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

From the Window

Tirupati, India

Pacing the room (201 in the guest house) at ISKCON was the practical walking approach today – a good hard pace that wouldn’t quite wear down the tiles on the floor with the AC blaring. That became my modus operandi in the environment I’m in.

I’m glad to be here. A spectacular view from our conference hall opens to the seven hills which are actually the formations of the multi-armed and headed Ananta Sesha. Here the great Vishnu in rock formation lies asleep.

To reach the famous Balaji (Vishnu) temple you ascend 4500 steps or more conveniently ride a bus to the top of the Tirumala Hills to the sight at a height of 2300 metres above sea level.
The massive window from our hall is effectively an inspirational opening to the spiritual world. I see it that way and I know that more so, my colleagues: monks, men, and family folks who have come as reps from around the world are feeling that our spot is inspirational.

During an evening shower a small incident took place – rather insignificant. As water trickled down onto the bodily frame, my bar of soap slipped from my hands and landed on the tiled shower floor. I bent down, grabbed the bar and moved up from that crouched position only to knock my head against the edge of the mid-level tap. The tap gauged at some layers of skin to reveal some blood. My drying towel got smeared red not knowing at the time of this slight but healable injury.

What was extraordinary about this is that almost immediately after notifying my assistant who chooses to be outside my door, six people came to my aid, including two doctors. It was determined that haldi (turmeric powder) should be applied directly to the wound. They did so. The powder gave a burning sensation. But that’s okay. I can be tough. After all I was raised on the farm.
Thanks helpers.

Also extraordinary is that my damaged head got to thinking. It was that window that revealed the world of Balaji and the day’s hours spent with our Vande team that fuelled thoughts of unbounded creativity. I spent the night, mostly awake dreaming up in my head a project that blew my own mind but which is doable.

Sorry, I can’t reveal these thoughts, but in time – yes! I take no credit for the brain explosives. Krishna is the creative principle.

5 KM

Monday, October 15th, 2012

North York, Ontario
The day classes were over and evening classes were beginning. Students at York University were scurrying here and there and some were lulled, passively lounged by the new furnishings, at the Students’ centre. We had shifted from parking lot to stairs, and ramps and building and doors and foyers and stairs again until finally we came to destination – Room 313. It was clear what the demographics at this campus were. Kids from all over the world, or at least their parents are from all over the world.
Sorry to say ‘kids’ but I’m sure as much as I look different to them due to the duds on my back, I’m an old guy to them. Come to think of it, now at age 60, I’ve spent two thirds of my life in monkism.
While going through the foyer, we meaning Rashi, the coordinator for Krishna club, then Hayagriva, one of our Nova Scotia monks, Virginia, a Congo born novice in our Toronto ashram, and I noticed posters affixed to everything. They were promoting tonight’s event and it was going to be a talk by The Walking Monk.
The posters proved fruitful. Some students came because the poster caught their eye. Before the talk, Rashi conveyed to me, “We usually don’t get a lot of people but they’re real quality whoever does come.”
She’s right. I met Alvin, who’s from China. He’s a committed chanter. There was Nicole, a sweetheart of a young woman from the Philippines. I also chatted briefly with a young man, a Caucasian whose Mum runs marathons. Rishi, well, it’s his birthday. I knew him since he was a kid playing the role Krishna in one of my productions. Jessica is a fireball of bhakti, devotion.
The students sat in a circle formation and listened to the story of a monk, life in the fast lane (spiritually) OR life in the slow lane (materially). No one yawned. Time zipped away as if there was none.
Thank you, Rashi, for the invite
4 KM

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Pilgrims in the South

Tirupati, India

​After mangal arati, the auspicious morning service-and-chant, a driver by the name of Deva took me for a splashy three hour ride to Tirupati. Before embarking on this monsoon experience I already had under-my-belt my committed sixteen revolutions on my strand of mantra beads. It’s a good feeling starting the day on a spiritual charge.

​It is a rather cumbersome drive for a 160 kilometres to Tirupati, the world’s most prosperous temple which honours Balaji, a manifestation of Vishnu. From Chennai to Tirupati pilgrims do walk honoring a special time within the period of caturmasya marking the rainy season. I see literally thousands of pilgrims with umbrella in hand and not bearing an agitated face whatsoever - regardless of the downpour. They are clothed in yellow, Balaji’s colour while the men tuck their yellow dhoti from the ankle up to above the knee in a pancha garb.

​The level of faith of these people is quite incredible, going all this distance, on a yearly basis and doing so for a rather brief darshan (viewing of the deity). It is common, even for a poor man, to donate a prized possession to please the deity and aspire for liberation from this world.

​Shortly after I arrived, my dear friend Pragosh from Ireland got my attention. We plan as usual, the devotional entertainment for the upcoming Gaura Purnima festival. I also met Radhanath Swami and we spoke about the origin of Balaji to this area. It all began with a kick-start; literally. A sage by the name of Brghu kicked the chest of Vishnu. While Vishnu was tolerant of this (he didn’t take it personally), his consort the Goddess of Fortune (Lakshmi) wasn’t.

I am fortunate to be in such a place of pilgrimage where not only Balaji is the salient personality here but the sacred comraderie is unbeatable.

8 KM

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Worth Seeing and Being

Chennai, India

I landed here at 4:30 am. A driver sent by the ISKCON Temple was punctual. I arrived there promptly and got shown my room. The last two days were rough as far as sleep goes; you catch an hour here or twenty minutes there. And as far as walking is concerned - not much of a chance as the monsoons set in and temple obligations occuring including delivering two classes.

The temple opened just recently in April and is labelled as the Centre for Spiritual Art and Culture. Icons of sizeable elephants adorn the centre's entrance. As a common element in temple iconography here they are positioned to provide the energy to keep space well defined.

The temple represents the visva-rupa, a universal form. From a bird's eyeview the feet are represented by the main gate and the head as the garbha grha that houses the deity which is also the soul of that form. In the principle temple hall granite floor patterns express six chakras or energy centres within the body of that cosmic form. Beginning at the base of the form you have the energy centre of the earth. Above it is a pattern representing water, then fire, then air, then ether. Finally there is the mind and a seventh energy depicts the atma or spiritual realization of the self.

Pilgrims come here to step on the patterns and collect the energy at those spots while it may be suggested they chant simultaneously.

The windows to the temple are highlighted by images of the deities that preside over the eight directions. Moreover the glorious structure has been well thought out as a destination place for sincere seekers of a universal truth. My godbrother, Bhanu Swami, a Japanese-descent monk from Canada and who resides at the premises, next to the gorgeous temple, was a major player in the incorporation of the imagery and mandala instalment.

This is a place worth seeing and worth spending time to deliver some bhakti, service, to the universe and its' source.

0 KM

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Gopinath Pondered

Abu Dhabi, UAE

When Mitch brought his students over from Silverthorne Secondary School yesterday he raised a very valid point. “My students are from across the board, coming from diverse backgrounds – Muslims, Christians, Hindus, some are even atheists.” Addressing me he said, “When you got them to dance and sing they all felt one.”

That remark warrants merit since in this age of Kali (an era of spiritual slowness) the method for harmonizing people is through kirtan. Kirtan is the unifying principle behind social interaction.

Thank you for that revelation Mitch.

My October 19th was pretty much cut in half time-wise. In flying Eastward, first to Abu Dhabi and then Chennai in South India you leap ahead in hours. While at the Abu Dhabi Airport I met Gopinath, a young hatha yoga instructor from India, now settled in Canada. He ran an idea by me. “What do you think about establishing a yoga museum – the history about the subject and all the facets including bhakti?”

“Get yourself established first as a teacher and then you may be a success in building a museum,” I suggested.

Gopinath revealed his heart on an opinion he held about bhakti yoga, or the path of devotion. He had reservations about being loyal to one deity such as Krishna within the bhakti movement. "You cut yourself off from the rest of the paths. It's too exclusive."

I explained that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, taught us to respect all paths and deities but to have a fixation to one. "It shows loyalty and chastity. Here's an example: a man may find all women attractive but to show he's responsible he'll submit to one. In fact you respect all the fair gender when you commit to one. Relationships with many women shows you have little respect for them."

Gopinath nodded his head indicating that that was something to think about.

It was great meeting you Gopinath.

0 KM

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Well Wishes
Etobicoke, Ontario
Nikil picked me up to take me to his home. I shared with him the recent events of talks I’ve been giving to different groups at York University, ISKCON Centre, Bhakti Lounge and Mitch’s class from a high school group. I used his home as a launching pad before embarking on a flight to India.
Nikil has been getting serious about spiritual life. He’s crazy about teachers or gurus, Madhavacharya and Ramanujacharya. Just reading about their lives and accomplishments really enthuses him. He was also thrilled about me coming to his place where his wife and daughter took a break in their routine life to indulge in hearing a sadhu (monk) for a few hours on the flight to Tirupati.
I can’t claim to be of the caliber of the aforementioned gurus and I never could propose to be anywhere near them in depth of realization. What I am obliged to do, and have the pleasure of doing, is to impart what little I know about life’s treasures, in other words, the spiritual ride of life. Then, I ask him in turn to impart the same information to others.
To quote from a verse that we studied this past Tuesday from Bhagavatam 7.6.24, Prahlad says:
“Dear young friends…show mercy to all living entities by enlightening them in devotional service. Become their well-wishers.”
10 KM

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Every Step Is A Dance
Toronto, Ontario
Here is a quote from a book, “The Answer” by Anzlin and Brown (they happen to be friends of mine). In it they deliver a palatable description of heaven “from the Upanishads of the East”. The description opens up with what walking means in heaven.
“Where every step is a dance and every word a song, where the flowers talk to the bees and the squirrels converse with the trees. All beings are fully cognizant and transformable, boundless and immeasurable, eternal, all part of the play, the never-ending magical play. There is always celebration, constant festivals and feasts going on and on, with tumultuous drums and beautifully played musical instruments accompanying the merriment and bliss. A land of pure, ecstatic love, fully luminous, where everything is eternally resonating in the highest harmony, where lovers of life reside. All the illustrious denizens are expert musicians, with the flute being everyone’s favourite companion. The land is made of vibrant, sparkling cintamani stones they provide all things at all times. Glorious pristine forests and celestial gardens exist in the name of happiness with flowers and fragrances that increase one’s joy with every whiff. The streets are paved in brilliant gold and no one ever grows old. Every residence is an ornate opulent palace made from precious gemstones and jewels, bedecked with magnificent diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls, everlasting, majestic, dazzling homes that are spectacular and sublime, on indestructible time. No sun is needed for light. A place that is self-illuminating and self-sustaining, full of desire trees and wish-fulfilling cows that yield everyone’s hearts desires. The true destination of the soul, the ultimate abode of the heart where death does not triumph. A place of inextinguishable life where love prevails and the Chief Piper reigns supreme, the master flautist who is the Chief Lover and cause of all causes, with flute playing that enchants the three worlds. In the Piper’s eye, all life is equal and divine, all are offspring, all are sons and daughters, and all get his unconditional unalloyed, undying love.”
10 KM

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

October 4th, 2012 pics

Chinatown - Toronto, Ontario

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Servant String

Toronto, Ontario

The sun shone in great glory on the street level. In some way it was the preferential place to be instead of the optional more shady ravine.

Guess what! I decided to touch both levels. Down below the trees in their rich chlorophyll colours of fall couldn’t be looking better.

You know, people ask, “Is there really a God?” I’m someone to say quickly, “How could there not be when you have all this splendour surrounding you?” Okay, maybe you don’t want to buy into the Intelligent Design concept. Reason tells me that where there is intelligence there must be a person involved. Isn’t God a person? If the persistent mind continues to doubt then at least can all sceptic and believers alike at least agree that the sensation is a humbling one when set in the midst of natural wonder? Or even an urban setting; even a three storey manmade house is something that dwarfs us when we stand next to it. Perhaps tallness should invoke a sense of meekness. It does me. Giants tend to spur in me a reverence and put me in the ‘servant’ category.

I am das (a servant). I believe Bob Dylan wrote something like that, about having to serve someone or something.

I had sent an email today to a correspondent about everyone’s natural constitutional position. The plain message was, “We are all servants.” Vedic texts go so for as to say that we are the servant of the servant of the servant… implying that everyone is accountable to someone. It’s a string that we belong to – a string of servants.

In the evening I attended, conducted rather, a talk on pilgrimage for the Tuesday Sanga program at ISKCON Toronto. The message is about becoming a servant to the road, the travelers and the Creator.

10 KM

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Making Connections

Brampton, Ontario

Daruka, my support person for this year's trek through half of Canada, sent me a DVD featuring his photos of CanWalk 4 highlights. He did a fine job covering the journey with subtitles, "Towns and Villages", "It's About Meeting People", "Making Friends", "Damn the Car", and "Cycling". It was well received at ISKCON Brampton and Toronto. Naturally the presentation's aim was to promote pilgrimage.

Pilgrim I am; maybe a city pilgrim. After the Sunday feast in Toronto, I took to the streets with intent to chant on my beads and make the connections. The maha mantra rolled off the tongue while feet were in motion.

I met a fellow who is by profession a cook. It's not the first time I met him. We had a former discussion about life and about whether a divine power really existed or not. He went on and on in the conversation in what seemed like perpetual speculation. This time around he was attempting to do the same. Before he lay out his doubt I suggested, "Listen, when you cook up a great gourmet meal you don't intellectualize the product. You eat it and you appreciate it."

On Queen Street, further down on my walk I met another chap who has origins from Hungary but born in Canada. He met one of our monks, Shivarama Swami, on the phone on his way to Budapest. The encounter with the swami was rather impactful. This fellow recited for me the entire maha mantra. He said he read the book, "Chant And Be Happy" and had some profound spiritual experiences.

In the Gita, Sri Krishna speaks about the direct perception approach. As I continued the final leg of the evening's jaunt I grabbed ahold of those words, the vibration, and felt at least at peace if not protection.

10 KM

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

At Viki's

Brampton, Ontario

The basement room was L shaped. People sat cross-legged with their backs embracing the walls. A gap was left in the middle. I stepped in to take my post: a chair alongside my godbrother Subha Vilas who was seated. I was relatively early and immediately recognized the need to play director, in other words, how to adjust the placement of people in the space. You want to maximize the use of space in the best way possible. I asked early comers to move to the front of the L shaped space towards a makeshift shrine with Krishna deities adorning it. "Let's try some slide-yoga and move forward," I suggested.

It was Viki's first crack at hosting people at his home for kirtan chanting, a philosophical presentation and then an all-out delicious prasadam meal. This type of gathering, a satsang, is a common event for Saturday night in the Vaisnava community. No need to check out the pub or go to the movies. The culture is such that you socialize but you keep everything clean and wholesome. Everything is there at a satsang. The food is there for the tongue and belly. The kirtan is there for the ears and which may move the rest of the body. The philosophy and talks on morality is there for the brain. That about covers it all as far as stimulation is concerned - and a need for social intercourse.

It's also a perfect arrangement for a rainy evening when walking a stretch appears less attractive.

Viki's program went well. People remained attentive. I may have noticed one yawn from the crowd. What we experienced was a saturation of Krishna Consciousness. It was a safe haven for sure. During the drive back to the ashram, I contemplated on the good fortune of five of our monks who left Toronto for Vancouver for more of the same consciousness-raising activities.

5 KM

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Friday, October 12th, 2012

I Was Struck

Brampton, Ontario

I was struck by the calmness of the lake. Rudradev, his son Sahil, and I went clockwise around Professor's Lake, a modest size body of water that glistened under the afternoon sun.

I was also struck by the tranquility of Krishna's words which I read subsequent to the walk. From the Bhagavad-Gita 6.7 Professor Sri Krishna states :

"For one who has conquered the mind, the Supersoul is already reached, for he has attained tranquility. To such a man happiness and distress, heat and cold, honor and dishonor are all the same. "

The following is the purport (explanation) by Srila Prabhupada :
Actually, every living entity is intended to abide by the dictation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is seated in everyone's heart as Paramātmā. When the mind is misled by the external, illusory energy, one becomes entangled in material activities. Therefore, as soon as one's mind is controlled through one of the yoga systems, one should be considered to have already reached the destination. One has to abide by superior dictation. When one's mind is fixed on the superior nature, he has no alternative but to follow the dictation of the Supreme. The mind must admit some superior dictation and follow it. The effect of controlling the mind is that one automatically follows the dictation of the Paramātmā, or Supersoul. Because this transcendental position is at once achieved by one who is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the devotee of the Lord is unaffected by the dualities of material existence, namely distress and happiness, cold and heat, etc. This state is practical samādhi, or absorption in the Supreme.

8 KM

Thursday. October 11th, 201212

We Thank
Willowdale, Ontario

  '' We thank you God for sending us Bhaktimarg Swami and Gaura " was a portion of the prayer by Reverend Jim Beverley  at Tyndale University College and Seminary. I have known Jim since 1984 when he wanted to do a survey of our devotees. Those were the days when the U.of T. (University of Toronto) hosted Ted Patrick, an infamous deprogrammer, to the campus. A formal debate went on involving the question of credibility by the work of such persons who forcibly attempted to coerce people away from their beliefs. Physical, sexual and psychological tactics were used to, what shall I say, secularize people who were honouring the spirituality of their choice.

Those were messy times.

In any event Jim I had come to know since '84 during the debate. Now. Jim was giving Gaura and I honour as guest speakers to his Christian theological class. He was gracious to arrange a veggie meal for us. He indulged too and that was prior to the class. Jokingly, he said to his students, in regards to the meal, '' I guess I can be pure for one day too. " confessing that there's less sin in such a diet.

Jim asked if I would briefly outline my life story and then tell of Krishna Consciousness, so I proceeded and then the questions began to come from the students. The questions flowed like water. One of them was, " How do you perceive Jesus? ".

"As guru, as a teacher of truth, the son of God, a special avatar who has descended to elevate souls. "

Students were attentive. Gaura assisted in answering.

I thank God for this opportunity and for Jim's friendship.

9 KM

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Push for an exit
Tottenham, Ontario

The world in it’s perpetual craziness can be quite overwhelming. The bickering and back biting political arena of the world poses disheartenment. Ears perk up to the sound of controversy. And even if there were no controversy it becomes engaging if not profitable to create some. Such are the symptoms of Kali Yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

You pick up on a paper or pick up on a little something from CNN and you are informed but not enlightened. Not a great program.

Fortunately in my lifestyle I seldom harken to the stuff they call “news”, but since I cannot get away from people. People means, “human nature”. People means, “duality”. People means, “trouble” . People means, “pleasure”(SIGH!!!!) What to do?

I found myself with Gaura by a trail at the Tecumseh Conservation. Gaura needed a nap in the car; I needed a walk. I set foot on a decent trail trying to find my way to following tiring signs of bare feet tagged onto trees and what not. There were crossroads and junctures of trails. I had to decide which one to take. I came upon cleared areas and then some that were not so but I forged away on the best of instinct looking for natural directions when the “bare feet” symbol failed. Dried tall weeds and thistles posed a problem but I was determined to go through apparent confusion with hopes that I would see my way through entanglement. Fortunately the swamp wasn’t too wet. Finally I came to my place of original entry. It was good.

Whenever I feel to be entrapped by human confusion I take to a trail, in addition, I take time to process in addressing issues. Eventually I find hope and an exit.

9 KM

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Walking Endorsement

Orillia, Ontario

Here’s a piece of literary enforcement to the walking culture. From a medical perspective and chemical body balance from Michelle Schoffro Cook has this to say:

“Walking helps elevate our breathing rate and oxygenate our blood. When we breathe more deeply we expel more carbon dioxide which decreases acidity in our body. Increased oxygen in our blood helps to feed a healthier cellular environment and contribute to a more alkaline state. Walking exersies our muscles in a way that ensures we have enough oxygen and fuel to function without damage. It will also get your lymph fluid moving and may help you work up a sweat…”

Hence, the physical benefits of the body’s mobilization are many. But I would like to add (in my own less eloquent way) that the value of human interaction in the process of walking cannot be underestimated. It also has its tie with good health.

I turned a corner along with fellow pedestrian, Praveen, at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto when at 5:45 AM a human queue of bus passengers to be stood rather lifeless with the doldrums of an early wake after a long weekend. I wondered what a hearty shout, “Good morning!” might do coming from a man of the cloth.

Sure enough, responses came (even no response is response). I actually received some joyful feedback from this ground level. If that exchange has anything to do with health returns, I would say, “Yes!” in a resounding way. Happy gestures put a brightness and lightness into the day and if I keep to turning the same corner when I’m in town and seeing the same similar faces I might even throw out a “Hare Krishna!” or two in the future.

On the note of happy sounds, Godbrother Gaura and I travelled to the city of Orillia to engage in a satsang to destination, the home of the Patels. Gaura is always good for happy greetings and happy, healthy chanting.

7 KM

Monday, October 8th, 2012


The Case About Kale Chips

Brighton, Ontario

Kale! Well, Mama used to wok it! She called it boere kol. It’s a Dutch favourite. According to many nutritionists, it’s a superman amongst veggies.

How appropriate that on Thanksgiving Day we had our exposure to this tasty green. Our national crew of Krishna devotees culminated our AGM with a visit to a totally organic farm nestled in the Northumberland Hills. Adrien and Draupadi are the foremen of the operation of not only these resilient green on their 50 acre plot but the Quinn family also have these veggies fuel a factory that churns out kale chips. They are solar dried raw food with presoaked cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, bell pepper lemon juice, coconut sap, nutritional yeast and Himalayan salt.

I know I sound like a commercial but these wonderful little edibles are sacredly saturated. They are Krishna koshered. To be more precise they are living food from green energy and are blessed with love. This is called prashadam.

The package reads “ULTIMATE KALE CHIPS: better than cheddar”.

It was great munching on them and still greater walking to the field of their yield along with other monks and lay members. We were also captivated by lotus flowers in the pond enroute to the kale field. No doubt they are a tougher species in coping with a cooler climate in Canada.

All in all it was a fantastic day spending time on a farm amid green wonders and goats, rams, donkey and cats as well as saints. In addition to these windy rustic roads were my trekking routes – Old Wooler Road and something called Lord Road to name two. On top of that the fall colours are enough to make the outdoors a totally appealing experience.

Wish you were all here to see the beauty and to get chipper for the chips.

10 KM

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sunday, October 7th, 2012


Brighton, Ontario
What does a walking monk speak about with his fellow colleagues, both family and renunciants?
At our annual retreat, on this second day, our topics and presentations were as follows (times, topics, presenters)
8:30-9:15 - Welcome/Introductions/Reading and Messages - myself
9:15-10:45 - Bridging the Gap! Bhakti Lounge - Mangal Arti
10:45 - 11:00 - Break
11:00 - 11:20 - Brahmacarya (monk) Ecstasy - Nitai Rama
11:30 - 11:45 - Little Temple on the Prairie - Vrinda devi
11:45 - 12:45 - Hit the Streets! Book Distribution - Radha Mohan
12:45 - 1:45 - Lunch
1:45 - 2:25 - Temple Bliss: Why would I want to be anywhere else? - Indresh Batra
2:25 - 3:00 - En Chant (Vancouver) - Caitanya Hari
3:00 - 3:30 - Break
3:30 - 4:15 - Succession Planing: Enlivening and engaging our youth - Keshava Sharma
4:15 - 4:30 - Protecting our Children (Montreal) - Sumati
4:30 - 4:45 - The LIttle Temple that Could Be (Scarborough) - Bhakti Yoga
4:45 - 5:00 - Canadian Archives - Radha Krishna dasi
5:00 - 5:15 - Fertile Grounds: University Outreach - Rashi Singh
5:15 - 5:30 - Vaisnavi Sanga: Ladies Only! - Sukhayanti dasi
5:30 - 6:30 - The Next 100 Years: Vision for ISKCON Canada - ALL
6:30 - 7:00 - Evening Yoga (optional) - Deva Datta
7:30 - Dinner
The above is a lot of material to cover. The presentations were excellent. There were dreams, but mostly action - plan possibles. The Hundred Year Vision was dreamy which stretched for miles and miles but unfortunately time did not permit any miles under my feet!
0 KM

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

I Read A Passage
Brighton, Ontario
At the Lotus Heart Centre I read a passage to our group comprised of devotees from across Canada, “O best of the Brahmans, without saintly persons for whom I am the only destination, I do not desire to enjoy My transcendental bliss and My supreme opulences.” These are the words of God according to the book, Bhagavatam, 9.4.64.
To increase His own bliss he calls on the co-operation of followers and in doing so they also taste that satisfaction that every living being is looking towards.
A key word in the purport or explanation of the passage by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, is ‘co-operation.’ In our union we can accomplish wonderful things. I was hearing presentations by various members at our retreat and I personally was feeling a great inner joy at the talent and fine sentiment expressed. We are basically gathered here to enjoy a kind of bliss through each other’s company, through each other’s vision and through some challenges shared as well.
By the end of the day we sat for South Indian dishes, sambar and idlis, and then to the sound of bhajan music before retiring. I have my spot up the hill in a rustic wooden cabin but sleep wasn’t there to grab me until much later. The stars guided me through the trails at the hill’s zenith. The coyote’s howls nearby demonstrated their synchronized ways. The moon pierced through the cloud-covered sky. The opulences of the Supreme were shining through like anything. There was an authentic bliss.
6 KM

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Friday, October 5th, 2012


Toronto, Ontario

I learned a small lesson about accommodating people. A family came up from Florida to partake in devotional events for the weekend. They wanted to spend some time with me and suggested to go for a walk. Fine! I’m happy to do that as you all know.

We took to trekking a ravine, which means going downward before you go up. Now, if you know anything about the topography of Florida, we’re looking at a territory that is basically as flat as a pancake or a dosha.

Our visitors were enjoying the fast pace downward. Hardly was it steep to an experienced walker like myself. The query was whether they had to mountain-climb their way up or not.

“No, it’s a gradual walk up,” I reassured. I realized that even my pacing was somewhat overbearing for the family. No one was panting but clearly they were not used to the robust pace. I slowed down to accommodate my pedestrian companions. I shifted gears and brought it to a stroll. Smiles manifested. We came to common ground. It was good.

An interesting thing then happened on the way in the evening when exiting the city on wheels. I left at rush hour in the bus with our group of monks from Nova Scotia. The traffic was crawling and we had to submit to the crawl. We could have been rude and nosed our bus into lanes and perhaps speed our way along the road’s shoulder. That would have triggered some four letter words (not necessarily RAMA!)

I realized that in some way karma needs to be shared. Kindness, consideration and thoughtfulness must prevail in all circumstances. If certain actions make people smile or at least relax then the One who already smiles will likely stretch His mouth.

7 KM

Friday, 5 October 2012

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Full Verses Empty

Toronto Ontario

It was at the tail end of the day when I met Spencer, a law student at the reputable Osgoode Hall. He was curious when he saw me trekking, so he started talking.

"Who are you?" So I explained. He introduced himself.
"I went to Concordia College and I studied Buddhism and Hinduism. How do you deal with nothingness?" implying that our Krishna culture delves into voidism. Terms in Sanskrit such as nirvana and moksha are often times interpreted as referring to the soul's entering into nothingness when one reaches salvation. It is a common misconception about the soul's destiny when studying the eastern view on spirituality or philosophy. To reach or merge into a vacancy of sorts is just not the Vedic perspective or Vaishnava / Krishna perspective.

I said to Spencer that I'm dealing with fullness and not emptiness. In fact I've had a full and rather wholeness holistic day. Being that it's the Maha Mantra week I had encouraged a procession (with myself included) of chanters in China Town and the hip trendy Kensington Market. Then, being the eve of my birthday a full-on, over-the-top celebration was held at the ISKCON Ashram. The feast to follow filled our bellies.

Whether on this physical plane or in the liberated plane the soul can enjoy a fullness of the heart. And that is the bhakti approach; one of enrichment, fullness and many things to do. Practically everyday is like that.

9 KM

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

To Be Cool and Relevant

Toronto, Ontario

One female reporter from a small town that I recently stopped at on my trek across the country asked, "what would you suggest for keeping the traditional churches going? How to make sure they don't just close up? Here, they are drying up while the evangelical church is new and is flourishing?"

I can't confess to have the real answer but I did vouch to say, "In our temple we are turning management over to the younger generation. They are bright, bring in fresh ideas and make it relevant." We discussed how the world is moving at an incredibly rapid rate and it appears the elder sector can't maintain the level of attraction needed while the principles and values do require their honourable input.

"So you're suggesting to give it over to the young people?" she reiterated.

"To survive you might have to try something," I said. I contemplated how the Catholics made major adjustments through Vatican II in order to be more relevant. I'm not sure that it worked. I was raised Catholic.

I had taken a forty minute walk to and from the Bhakti Lounge at the corner of Church & Dundas Streets. The room was full of young people totally keen to have a spiritual experience through chanting and a prasadam meal to follow. I pondered on what attracted them to the place and why they had a good experience as I took my steps after the program.

My simple list of reasoning goes like this:

1) The host, Mangal Arati, is personable and very welcoming.
2) The loft is cozy, not too large and has a warm feeling
3) The host is fairly young which often times attracts the young.
4) The vegan meal (prasadam) was good, healthy, and tasty
5) The topic (about chanting) and the execution of the chanting was interesting and fun.
6) The atmosphere offered a sense of family or community feeling.
7) The presentation was outwardly exotic and inwardly authentic.

9 KM

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Intensify Week

Mississauga, Ontario

It has been declared “Maha Mantra Week” at the temple in Toronto in conjunction with the globally designated Holy Name Week. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been geared up for the task of putting the mantra, Hare Krishna, under the spotlight. This translates in the form of expressing the power of chanting at morning class in the ashram in addition to increasing the personal amount of chanting. I had the honour to speak from a verse of the book Bhagavatam wherein we find one of the masters of mantra meditation educating his followers on the positive effects of chanting.

Yamaraja is a teacher of chanting. He was way ahead of his time, chronologically, even to that of Chaitanya who in medieval India established this method of meditation as the dominant approach to reaching the Divine. Narada is another sage who is a remarkable exemplar of chanting.

I recall in my travels with the summer 2011 youth bus tour viewing the spectacular waterfalls in Washington State named after the “Hindu” sage Narada Muni. I had descended the mountain at the falls location via the main road in the company of a monk from San Diego. We were both marveling at this gorgeous piece of lush nature. It felt clean being in that setting. Facing the cascading waters appeared like a great wash, a great purifier. Narada Falls was actually the termination point of our walk.

The effect that chanting has on our consciousness is like that cleansing waterfall or like bing in the personal presence of sage Narada. You can’t find waterfalls everywhere but the mantra is always at your disposal.

Hare Krishna!

9 KM


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Monday, October 1st, 2012


Toronto, Ontario

I took an evening stretch of the legs, a vigorous stroll through the downtown. I met Mayur, a gem of a devotee, who was out there at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. It was 9:30 pm and he was there with a purpose. Totally self-motivated, he decided to be there on the street with books in hand. No one asked him to be there. He has a compulsion to show off his wares which to him are of great benefit to all.

I had spoken to Mayur three days before. He told of how he had done the same thing months ago - stood on the street to present his goods. But few were biting the bait.

Then he met a fellow who ran a club where they do kareoke. The fellow gave an invite to Mayur to sing some mantras at the club. Mayur was excited but he wanted to present something relevant, something the crowd could relate to. So he went to his computer and downloaded 'My Sweet Lord' by George Harrison. Mayur is pretty fresh out of India and he is not so accustomed to 'Western' songs. He listened to the lyrics and the melody and got it down as best as could be. His song was 'on' for that night.

Mayur was introduced to the stage. He sang that song with all his heart. It was a crowd pleaser. Mayur's own spirit was lifted because on that day he had a stroke of bad luck. Few people took interest in the treasure he had to offer but now his enthusiasm was regained. Naturally his conviction was being tested.

The books he carried then and now (tonight) were the same publication. He held in his hand the Bhagavad-gita As It Is by commentator A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Mayur is nuts about this book. When he saw me he bore an ecstatic smile that appeared to stretch from street-curb to street-curb. The book impacted his life so positively he just wants everyone to get in on it. Mayur has the right idea. The book is all about serving and sharing.

It's a sure way to go.

7 KM

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Rolling Down Yonge

North York, Ontario

After a pleasant get-together with three of my siblings (sisters) and their kids - well, not kids anymore - I took to the trek back to homebase. The route was Yonge St, a long road that subtly caterpillars up and down until it junctures at Queen's Quay.

As I ambled along I pondered the progression of the aging process among family members. The gathering was actually a mini-birthday party for the coming 60 years on this planet. I'm the oldest but all other siblings, six in all, are right behind me by one or one and a half years of separation. There's a clear manifestation of a slow slag of skin and fine crow's feet about the eyes. Salt and pepper hair is concealed by brunette dye except for me. I shave it all off. Everyone's still smiling though. Perhaps a glimpse in the mirror, which reveals a natural changing body exhibit, strikes that smile. No need to lament. We are not these bodies after all. We are spirits.

My almost 2 hours walk also became a reality check on this changing concept. Viewing colours is a clear mark for change. Isn't it interesting that our hair doesn't turn red, yellow or orange at the autumn of our life?

When I reached the temple - also my quarters - I took the liberty to introduce to our crowd three of our visiting brahmacharis (monks) from Nova Scotia. I mentioned that two are not here because they recently got married. And so the world of change persists. One day you're a celibate monk; the next day you're a married man and then on - to produce, while youth slips away.

Here's a verse from the Gita, 2.14:

"As the embodied soul continually passes in this life from childhood, to youth, to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at the time of death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change."

8 Km