Saturday, 30 March 2013

Thursday, March 28th,2013

Meeting A Great Family

Durban, South Africa

The temple here in Durban attracts tourists. I happened to notice a family from Europe, Germany to be more specific, who came to browse around. It was a man, a woman and their twi grown daughters. We started talking.

He mentioned he had walked the Camino in Spain, a 600 kilometer stretch, some time back. That subject was something common ground.

I did not bother to ask what spiritual affiliation the family had if any. I was glad they took the time to check out Krishna. I did offer some basics of Vedic Culture and also mentioned my reason for being here from Canada. “I am here for the festival of Chariots, held at North Beach”. The festival is dubbed as “Cultural Many. Spiritually one”. And the city of Durban pays for the whole event. There will be various speakers, gospel singers, the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, and many spots for renowned kirtans singers participating in something called Kirtanuity.

I don’t know if that excited them enough about the beach front event held every day during the Easter weekend but they had come this far. German tourists can be found everywhere. I see them in Cuba. I see them in Canada they appear to be a very resourceful group and not to be terribly stereotype when I say this – they are a quiet group when they make their journeys exploring the whole world. To their credit they are usually “on time” for things and orderliness is a clear feather on their cap. I appreciate such qualities of being sattvic, in goodness.

A flu restricted my walking output. Embarrassed to say, I could only conjure up 3 KM.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Whole moon

Durban, South Africa

Today is the greatest day of the year. For starters, you look out into the dark (well, not so dark) and you see the whole moon. Purnima refers to moon. Gaura, the particular name of the moon today reflects on Sri Chaitanya, who became a wondering monk at age 25. Today is a fast day to honour his birth.

Two things that endear me. Apart from the promenades, is His inaugurating kirtan. Basically He has brought chanting to the world. Chanting became the stuff of our life.

Secondly He has so well incorporated into His life and the people under His influence, the philosophy unity in diversity. The principle of simultaneous “oneness and difference” is just a perfect formula to apply to life. Philosophically the principle becomes very accommodating and it steers away from “absolutism” and fanatism. What a relief!

What made my day doubly auspicious was meeting some godbrothers who also carry monk status. Although a family man, Bada Hari, well known for his kirtans, he is genuinely a soul of devotion. He and I shared the message of the class today as we spoke about Sri Chaitanya’s contributions.

I also met Indradyumna Swami, who started the South African Ratha Yatra festivals 25 years ago. To his good fortune he has brought the venue back to the beach where it was highly popular. The event will take on a new age flavour. Various spiritual groups will join hands.

Indradyumna Swami looked like he was in ecstasy being that here was hard labour and negotiations involved in restoring the sandy place for attracting all kinds of people.

Lastly, I also met Partha Sarathi Swami, who was an early pioneer for Krishna Consciousness in this country. He admitted to me that his health was failing. “You can be in a perfect place like Hawaii but if your health is not up to it, then you lose out (karmically)”.
If you got health, keep it. If you don’t, try to regain it. That failing, there is always a second chance. There is always a whole moon or a new moon.

4 KM

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Work! Rain!

Durban, South Africa

“Hard work!” is what our guru, Srila Prabhupada, wanted of us. At least he said “Work now, Samadhi later!” Samadhi means “meditating”. When he spoke to us about taking ashram or monastic life seriously he used the term “like military training”. He also said of those who reside in the monastery ashram “no lazies and no crazies”. The whole idea is to take a grave approach to spiritual life and to put out all efforts for pleasing the guru and for making spiritual advancement. At customs I mentioned to the officer that I am in Durban to contribute to the Festival of Chariots. I restore in my mind the fine details of what “contribute” means. Kirtan leading, drama direction and delivering classes are what’s expected of me.

When it came to our first day at drama practice, the crew did just what we reportedly opened with…hard work. Thank Krishna for the wet weather. This is conducive for the extra exertion. Whereas Mayapura was hot and boiling, Durban was wet and rainy. A nice change indeed.

Other than Maha Mantra as a continuity from Mayapura the rest of the crew is absolutely new. We start the production from scratch. The tekkies and three of the volunteer actors are known to me and so certain expectations are mutually established. This saves time. And there’s always one more thing that’s understood…you put it all out there. You give it all you got. You actually surrender.

I delegate choreography to a new take on the dance pieces. We don’t necessarily duplicate. I permit creativity and in this way the new crew feels a sense of ownership. This is important in bringing about a certain “originality” to the piece.

One more beautiful element to our gurus’ directive for leaders was to always present fresh challenges to those they work with. It’s always a great formula in stirring up attraction to the service and in making it attractive.
Hard work + creativity + bhakti = perfection.

5 KM

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Monday, March 25th, 2013

It's rare!

​​​​​​​Dubai, UAE

The monk Maha Mantra and I had an inkling that the journey to Durban, South Africa, would have its bumps, literally “bumps”, with the four hour cab ride to the Calcutta airport, then a three hour wait, followed by a six hour flight to Dubai, a ten hour wait there and then an eight hour flight to Durban. Trying to nap on a cold tiled floor in Dubai Airport is a kind of a “bump” yet heaven at the same time because you can recline.

The smooth cruise between the travel trials are things like reading Radha’s book, “Mission” on the topic of pioneering Krishna Conscientiousness in South Africa and meeting someone who is thoroughly curious.

I had just come out of the toilet cubicle when a young man was standing there in the queue. Surely he was surprised to see a saffron clad bloke coming out. I gave him a subtle nod. He reciprocated. We both went about our own ways. Minutes later he came by the waiting lounge for flight 775 Emirates when he introduced himself.

He looked like an artist, hair somewhat contemporarily disheveled. He introduced himself as from Pakistan and expressed a keen interest in Buddhism.

“How long have you been in this?” he asked with the biggest smile.

“For forty years exactly this month and even on this day”.

Perhaps this wowed the fellow whom I also had to correct on my actual adopted heritage.

“I’m actually a Krishna monk, it’s not actually Buddhist but we share the same language, books and some aspects of philosophy."

This fellow was so lit up. He also introduced Maha Mantra and I to his sister. The exchange was warm and made the day.

While enroute to Durban I made attempted sleep, read my book, and also treat myself to the showing of the recommended “Life of PI”. It is a clean feature film with reference to vegetarianism, Krishna, Vishnu, Ganesh and to God over and over again.

It is one piece that a monk can set his eye on and not be disturbed. It’s rare.

2 KM

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Last half day

Mayapura, West Bengal

Ivan from Moscow and Diana from California wanted to go on japa trek with me. How could I refuse?

​It was going to be the last day in Mayapur. I wanted to make the most of it. After a beautiful Arati ceremony in The Samadhi, we ventured off East on the Elephant Trail, to the Torampura Road and then West along the Jalangi River. It is a new trail for them, not me. The tree tapping season finished some days ago with the weather soaring in temperature. Today reached forty degrees Celsius.

My two companions remarked that they liked the focused walking. The rule was “no talking”. “Only walk and chant!”.

At 08:00 I scheduled a second initiation for Julan Yatra of Cuba. The host (Maha Srngha) for the event asked which chair I would care to sit on for this samskara (sacrament). “My dear Maha, which chair I am given doesn’t matter. It is really just a question of how many fans can be turned on to counteract the heat, if that is okay with you?”.

Julan and a small number of invitees along with our Canadian crew of monks filled up Maha Shringa’s living room. We chanted and then spoke from the First Canto from the book Bhagavatam, relaying the story of the five sleeping sons of Draupadi who were murdered in the night by bramha-bhandhu. A brahma-bhandu is a derogatory term to indicate someone who has fallen from grace from the status of brahmana, twice-born. The grueling story is an extreme case of what a Brahman (second initiate) does not do.

A true Brahman is a person who understands “Brahman” what is spirit. He or she, is broad-minded, is inclusive and disseminates knowledge of the self, being the ultimate teacher. Furthermore a brahmana demonstrates great behavior, setting great example by words and by deeds. He gives guidance and does counseling provided he or she is trained.

It is a great responsibility that Julan is taking on. Prior to leaving, a small send off party came to the room of Maha Mantra and myself (Daruka, our initial travel mate, has left for Vrindavan, India). The send off party was the combination of brahmacari monks and our drama troop. It was kirtan that was appropriate for this so that’s how we engaged ourselves. Then at least three other monks offered me a thanks for creating an environment where our artists feel safe. Of course, I was touched, very much so. We taxied our way to the Calcutta airport at 14:00 and bid farewell to the Dhama. The pilgrims place.

9 KM

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Last Day in Mayapur

Mayapur, West Bengal

Mahamantra has been sick, as sick as a dog. That would pose challenges for our productions as he plays major enough roles in each of our dramas. He did spring back into action at the last minute. Our troupe transcended all obstacles. When it was five minutes to showtime we suddenly realized that the fellow playing sage Narada was not in our dressing room, at the pandal where we were performing.

Oh My God!

We were all struck with a panic attack. But the show must go on. Quick decisions had to be made. The audience was waiting in anticipation.

"Call him (the actor) on the phone!" I shouted in the crowded dressing room.
"Maybe Maharaja will have to fill in as the understudy (referring to me)" suggested Chandrashekar.
"I'm serious. We haven't seen you act for years," he taunted again affectionately.

Fortunately our lost actor answered his calls and he raced to the pandal and all went fairly smooth.

The compliments came after production. "Do this in Hindi and I'll take you around Delhi with your show," proposed a prominent writer from Delhi after seeing the "Gita: Concise."

Other offers came for both days, 22nd and 23rd. The local TV station from Kolkata came and had me interviewed.

Most importantly the volunteer actors learned much about the story of Dhruva, the young man who had to deal with anger and the second story was about Arjuna who had to deal with indecision. These are two topical subjects that tend to confront any younger person in life.

While I enjoyed the walking and chanting in Mayapura in the early hours, I also concur with our little devotional drama family that enacting these stories of transcendence was a beautiful experience.

6 KM

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Happy For Daruka

Mayapura, West Bengal

The hero amongst our group from Canada was Daruka from the pilgrimage point of view. Daruka has been my trusty back-up driver on the previous walk across Canada. Now, here in Mayapura, I'm in the back seat, so to speak, and he's doing much of the walking. For the last one week he has courageously been taking to the trail with 7,000 other pilgrims roughing it up.

Today was the last day and all five camps converged at Mayapura. Everyone you meet from the walks returns a bit redder and ruddier, more sweaty, and maybe a few pounds are lost and they all come back with smiles.

Maha Mantra and I have been confined to the drama practice but Daruka took full advantage of using foot power where he normally can't when he's with me in Canada.

One thing about India is that whichever direction you take, some major event occurred somewhere- an event of a spiritual nature. India, with it's rich and evolved history and culture, has put so many places on it's map. Canada, being a relative 'new' place just doesn't have the same status of pilgrimage. Let me correct myself. Canada's indigenous people's did make much history for thousands of years. Much of this has become obscured.

For five centuries now and even prior to Mayapura and the Nadia district has left an impressive mark. Now with the international interest, this venue for spiritual intensity is very heightened.
I'm happy for Daruka that he was able to come to India to taste the element of what a vairagi, or yogi, goes through. It may not sound like an incredible distance but 10 to 15 kilometers in 37 degrees celsius weather under the sun makes it double or triple the stretch. Daruka hasn't been out of Canada very often, but now he's done what the Canada geese do- fly where it's warmer for the winter. Only he has taken more to the spiritual component than any flock of geese might.

I explained to Jaya Gaura from Guyana that in ancient times vacation meant 'pilgrimage.' That old notion is coming back. It's being experienced here in Mayapura.

8 KM

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Real Heart
Mayapura, West Bengal

The real heart of Bengal lies in Kirtan. It is not a rasagula, sweets in general or in fish, nor in a prescription to a brand of communism, as it has been governed for thirty years plus (and now with Congress rule). Really what I see in the heartbeat and blood pulsation is Chaitanya's recipe; that of melodic physical and vocal movement.

One of our Canadian brahmacari monks, Jeff, had arranged for a few of us Canucks to meet at the Pushpa Samadhi for chanting. This is not the location often considered as Central Station for kirtan. Rather, it takes on the flavor of a museum. At certain hours, pilgrims pour in. They make a point to circle around the shrine of our guru, then take the various staircases to three upper levels, view the diorama displays before making a descent. Rarely do you see the service of kirtan rendered.

We saw what local Bengalis really like is getting a piece of the action in kirtan. It didn't take much to excite the visitors during our one hour devotional gig in front of the murti of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

Of course, for some it took a small dose of subtle persuasion. I would grab an arm of a bystander and yank him into our chanting circle. (No one took offence). Once they were in, they tasted the special grace of Chaitanya, who, if anyone initiated the kirtan craze that now has taken the world by surprise. Yes, the new agers have caught on. The whole vibe of ecstatic kirtan in particular was born from the womb of Bengal, ln fact just down the road at Shrivas Angam, the first of joyous song began.

You could see it in the smiles and physical movements in our recruits. Oh, actually those of us of European strain, are the real recruits. I guess our rendering of kirtan simply reminds them what they should be doing.
The kirtan was great while it lasted. Hopefully we made a mark in some peoples lives.

7 KM

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Stellar Service
Mayapura, West Bengal

Kala Das, is enviably spending part of his year in Cambodia, at the famous Angkor Wat. He spotted me and asked me how I like the extra trails that are now found in Mayapura. I let him know that it gives me more options as the place develops. The rice paddy fields are shrinking in size. That's the downside. There's less green- less open space.

In the early day, before things get a chance to move, pujari priests are already bathed and dressed, picking at these small white petaled flowers. In fact, they look a bit like stars. I would personally consider their work to be stellar, like the service you might get at a Five Star Hotel. Everyday, routinely, I see these pujaris. I had inquired about the name of the flowers used in their ritual. I received some different conflicting names. Language barrier doesn't help. In any event, the seva, service, goes on. It is admirable seeing the whole-hearted effort going into the service of these men who actually only adore their delegated duty but also their warm reception at seeing me.
Who am I? Just one of the thousands of pilgrims. Today so happens to be the birthday of one of my heroes, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, whose life was claimed by cancer, or as to put it more devotional, who was reunited with Krishna. To honor this day, pilgrims converged on the community center. The place was packed and those who found no room remained outdoors and pressed either their eyes or ears to the windows in order to be included.
People spoke about this dynamic African-American monk, born in Cleveland. he was a Princeton graduate. I spoke. One quote of his that was expressed by one of the speakers, Chadrashekar, in how to see the psychology of the Gita- "When the secondary renders service to the primary."

To me, Bhakti Tirtha Swami was always a five star man.

6 KM

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The Merit Behind Malady

Mayapura, West Bengal

Fatigue attack! Fever! Lack of appetite! feeling weak! Something's going around. Two days ago rain came to Mayapura. It brought the temperature down to a comfortable level. Then it shot up again. This drastic fluctuation seems to be something the human body has no resilience towards.

My godbrother, Gopal Krishna Goswami, who I share the administrative duties with in Canada, has been under the weather. Other monastics as well. My theater troupe for the plays in Mayapura are intermittently hit by a fever and weakness.

How devotional interpreters explain such a phenomenon taking place in a sacred place is as they put it in simple terms- 'purification.' If that is what allergies, germs and viruses do to 'purify' then we can give them some merit.

When we fall ill, the bodily conception comes on the wane. What a relief it is to know that you are not the body. The pain you encounter has a humbling effect at the same time. I must solemnly declare (at least to myself) that I'm not Superman.

Eat less! Drink more! vitamin C! Golden Seal! Sleep more! Massage! You do what you can with the encagement. Meanwhile, he who dwells in the cage experiences a bitter drama. The tiny spark of life, the soul, has been shaken up by the experience. Brought down to his knees. In that regard, maladies have their place in the purification process as long as we do not depend too much on physical remedies. There has to be factored in a dependency on the Absolute from where our spark sprang.

When we are confined to our bed and we have little strength to leave that place, a whole world can open up to you. You can physically be restrained but your broad-mindedness can begin, At such moments, you feel helpless but your strength has an appealing to THE HELPFUL.

You just have to watch what you are appealing for.

2 KM

Monday, March 18th, 2013

One Monk

Mayapura, West Bengal

One monk form the U.K., Javananda Swami, saved the day. The arati ceremony at the Prabhupada Samadhi is a sweet experience for the pilgrims who take advantage. The swami has a foot injury, but he managed to hobble his way to the shrine. The biggest challenge at this venue is the acoustics.

People who attend, at least some, like to clap to the kirtan chanting. The end result is that the smacking of palms ends up sounding like you’re inside a big popcorn machine. It’s distracting.

The mrdanga drums and kartal cymbals, even if played in time, become an assault to the ears. It practically appears that hands are not needed. Voice yes. Almost anything else- NO!

Javananda Swami is a real lover of kirtan. He demonstrates what you do with your hands during the kirtan. You raise your arms high in the air, above the head, and make no noise, except sing. People followed his lead. While I sang, anticipating response, I was pleasantly surprised. People seemed to get it. It’s the maha-mantra that takes center stage. I indicated to the drummer that it wasn’t working. He admitted to that, put the mrdanga on the floor, and sang along with us. No resentment whatsoever when I indicated that we could do without.

It really made the day in as much as a good walk did twelve hours later as the sun started to descend. Everything can be near perfect if you put attention somewhere. What might come across as awkward is simply an opportunity towards improvement.

Krishna states in the Gita that for every action there is some fault. Our obligation to any action is to tackle it as best as we can. That’s called bhakti devotion.

9 KM

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Harder Within

Mayapura, West Bengal

The harder attacks come from within. Shades of lust, anger and greed creep into our very self. They deposit in the mind, senses and intelligence. Once in, they'll stay for a duration. It could be a lifetime. It is an onslaught to the highest degree.

Chapter 7.27 of the Gita expresses this point in regard to the lifetimes of contempt and insatiable desire that keeps us locked in the chain of birth and death.

I was making my way to the samadhi for the early morning arati ritual. I was not harassed by the harshness of self-centeredness in particular, but by a slew of dogs. They snarled and barked. They were not nice. One mutt sprang onto my left leg. Then another on the other side. They were not domesticated and yet they were totally wild as they tend to be around the village, but without a master or proprietor. I had tried to pet one hoping for a calming and less aggressive response but to no avail. I kept moving while the entourage kept me clearly in the center spot.

I had bypassed a Chokidhar (security guard) just two minutes earlier near the Vamsi Bhavan guest house. I could have screamed for help but that's not my nature. At least the pack of them let me inch forward. The area was rather remote. No one was around. It was 3:45am. I was quite helpless. I felt it. A chill went up my spine. I moved towards a lit area of the campus towards a gate. It looked closed. The barking persisted with the dogs leaping on my dhoti. I reached the gate. Fortunately, I flung it open enough for my body to squeeze in. Finally the canine creatures left me be. Thank you Krishna! I'll avoid that route in the future

I have always related to postmen who experience such encounters. It truly is a pilgrim's reality from time to time.
"Be happy , Swami!" I convince myself, "It could have been a pitbull or rotweiller team." In the end I received not a bite or a scrarch. It was moments of tension though that came and went.

The internal attack by the lust, anger and greed had to be a more vicious haunt, a recurring snarl. That's why the harder attacks come from within.

6 KM

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Groups- 2
Mayapura, West Bengal
38 countries are represented here in Mayapura. That's a fair-sized amount of pilgrims.  
And speaking of pilgrims, I was informed that at least 7,000 foot travelers would set off today to visit local sacred sights.The event is divided into four camps: the English (International), Hindi, Bengali and Russian speaking groups. From the view of our veranda, there were multitudes of people milling about readying themselves on the ground level for a great adventure on some dusty foot trails.
I admit to feeling a bit guilty that I'm not on board with them. I've committed myself to the theater for the remainder of our stay here in Mayapura. I promised Pragosh, my devotee buddy from Ireland, who runs the festival entertainment, that I'll provide him two dramas for an international audience. a promise is a promise.
Frankly, each time I meet with our volunteer actors for a practice, the experience resembles a dusty trail. I come out of those rehearsals a little more fatigued than when I walked in, yet I feel a whole lot richer in spirit knowing we've come a few inches closer to where we want to be. The words conveyed, as well as movement are cleaner and crisper than before. We are closer to being able to resonate our message to an audience. I guess you could say that the soul is happier.
While the grounds of Mayapura have become absent of pilgrims from all over the world, they were replaced by weekend browsers from Kolkata and other nearby towns and villages. And not to give patriotism a place in this devotional setting, I did find it justified to call souls from the Maple Leaf nation to our very own Bhagavatam discussion. Tradition has it that sadhus (sages) devotionally claim a part of the world as their own for developing that space devotionally.
6 KM

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Mayapura, West Bengal

Today I connected with several groups of people- Russian actors, dancers and performers wanted to hear my method of performance- and there were more. An entourage of Chinese devotees converged at the community center to make their life commitment to bhakti. A sannyasi monk, Nrsimha Swami, awarded initiation to several. I was there to see one of our girls from Toronto, Rashi, accept initiation at the same gathering. Her new name is Radha Bhakti. She was happy for sure.
I also connected with 60 pilgrims from the Ujjain area. They wanted to meet, being guided by a sisya of mine, suta Goswami Dasa. This brahmacari monk is rather incredible. He does a circuit of villages and spiritually motivates people. The attendees, who came to hear about my encounters on pilgrimages in Canada, all hail from villages in Madhya Pradesh, a state in India.

I was given a half hour to lead chanting at the Kirtan Mela, the festival of the Maha Mantra. I teamed up with Ajamila, a Bengali partner I have teamed up with for two decades. Two excellent drummers, Vananvali and Gauranga, were there to inject a bit of love into our chanting endeavor. I found myself in the midst of hundreds of kirtan enthusiasts. They certainly didn't hold back on the main ingredient for spiritual success- eagerness.

Finally, I completed the course on 'Guru Training.' Our class of about twenty received our certificates.
So it was great to mingle with the various groups of different backgrounds. Here we apply the philosophy of 'unity through diversity."
The central part is Krishna.

5 KM

Friday, 15 March 2013

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Thought Walks
Mayapura, West Bengal

These days, walking entails a passionate pace up and down the third floor of the Gada Building's terrace corridor, then a continual circular power walk around the 'murti' (deity) of our Guru in the samadhi and finally a stroll at the perimeter of the Mayapura grounds where it's peaceful.

The pre-dawn time is just the best for a rare coolness of air. With a big atrtraction, the Kirtan Mela and the coming Parikrama (Pilgrimage), the crowds are increasing. The space is a flood of humans in the temple room and Panca Tattva extension. Someone even remarked, "There's lack of oxygen in here." I can appreciate that. Claustrophobia can set in. I do think about the open Canadian Prairie roads from time to time.

Six hours of my day is spent in a chair with a second round on being a student of the 'Guru Seminar.' These are great sessions on introspection. I have always liked the quote from Bhaktisiddhanta, "Look within, amend yourself rather than pry into others."
Also, in today's discussion, we touched on the topic of forgiveness which someone in our group referred to as a combined package of compassion and humility.

When we were asked to write something in our workbook on revealing one's mind in confidence, my thought was,"I have been closed-up but now I'm unlocking myself to some embarassment which is merely a humbling moment and when I hit that spot, I've reached a moment of truth."
These deliberations are like thought walks in the brain.

7 KM

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


Mayapura, West Bengal
As a service to my dear god-brother, Siddha Vidya, whose passing was two days ago, I co-ordinated a gathering memorial for this saint. About 25-30 people came, mostly Americans, to the Pushpa Samadhi. Monks like Danavir goswami, Kavichandra Swami, Prabhupada dasa, Vijay dasa and other brahmacaris and family, men and women, came to reflect on the devotional traits of Siddha.
To summarize statements made about Siddha, I'll attempt right now.
He came from a well-to-do Jewish family. He came from someplace in the mid-west. He was bright and did excellent in a bar exam when he was being considered for as a lawyer for a career. That, however, didn't fructify. He became part of the counter-culture and met Krishna devotees in Austin, Texas in '70 or '71. He eventually became a pillar of the Miami community and went on to be the most dedicated performer of sankirtan (deliverer of Krishna's name and wisdom) in that area, particularly Miami Beach and Coconut Grove.
I personally recall him being like this permanent fixture. Rain or shine he formidably attended the 4:30am service. He loved to listen to or deliver the Bhagavatam class. He had a keen sense of it's message and culture and imbibed in it wholeheartedly. He never criticized anyone and always saw the good in all. He was a stalwart example of commitment with a capital 'C". Chanting, study of the sacred texts, plus getting out there to meet the pleasure seekers was his lifeline. He was a real 'Prabhupada man.' People loved him at Coconut Grove.
He had these sleeveless vests that were made in India. A large pocket in front was a feature of the west and inside you would find books or leaflets highlighting the Gita's philosophy. That pocket was meant for the people that he was so much concerned about.
He was thin, had a medium to swarthy complexion and he always wore a genuine smile. He was easy to like. And like one brahmacari monk from Kansas told me, "Siddha Vidhya would often call me and at the end of the conversation would say, "I love ya' Madhu Kari." "
To sum up this summary, I can simply say, "Siddhi Vidya had a big heart. He's going home." Parkinson's and other related physical complications moved him on, but we know that Krishna has His hand in it.
7 KM

Mayapur, West Bengal

Neem tree under which Lord Chaitanya was born in 1486
Local climbs tree to collect sap
Early morning walk through the trails of Mayapur
Bhakta Jeff + Hayagriva walk through village
Daruka, Hayagriva and Bhakta Jeff chant in village temple with local kids
Sunrise in Mayapur
Sita, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman light up stage in Russian drama
Bhaktimarga Swami gives class to Russian devotees
The Gada Bhavan (guest house where we are staying)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


Mayapura, West Bengal
When I was a pre-teen, I loved my peanut butter and jam sandwiches. It wasn't just the flavor of the creamy nuttiness or the sweetness, color and luster of the jam. It was the sensation of dipping the shiny knife into the peanut butter jar and then the smooth sliding of the substance on the slice of wonder bread that delivered optimistic joy even before the succulent first bite was achieved. It was the 'spread' that was an intrical part of sense pleasure.
Now, the word 'spread' is very commonplace in our circle of monks. This nomenclature is identified with the sharing of Krishna consciousness in it's multifarious forms.
Spread is also something you do with your bed sheet at night when you go to rest, although these nights you sleep with no bed covers of any sort. The natural dress code for the guys is a gamsha (lower body wrap), bare chest and you spread every limb out under the rapid propeller of ceiling fans.
then we hear of the 'spread' of virus. It's an outbreak of measles or chicken pox amongst youngster pilgrims. This is not a nice thing to happen in the dhama (sacred space).
Sharing or 'spreading' divine consciousness however is our real business. The five day Guru Seminar course I'm taking has much to do with the transmission of knowledge, assimilating and then spreading that information. When you do apply this spreading it definitely tastes better than a peanut butter sandwich.
My last message on the word 'spread' is to please implore you all to spread the news about Siddha Vidhya's departure. Yes, my dear friend, who's a student of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, passed away yesterday. He was a devotional pillar in our Miami community. Pray for his safe journey home, please!
8 KM

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Photos from Mayapur

Maha Mantra, Bhaktimarga Swami and Daruka wait for plane in TO to fly to India. (Feb. 22)
Coconut break on the way to Mayapur from Calcutta
Maha Mantra makes friends at the Goshala
Ganges River sunset
Daruka and his elephant friend
Bhaktimarga Swami and his Guyanese friends at Prabhupada's Samadhi
Mayapur monkeys
The cast and crew of 'Dhruva: Prince of Peace and Anger'.


Monday, March 11th, 2013

Sweet Pilgrims

Mayapura, West Bengal
Every year, as many Russian pilgrims arrive here with the utmost enthusiasm. They are humble, eager to hear and learn, eager to serve and to advance on the spiritual platform.
One of their reps by the name of Andrew had a rather good command of the English language and he asked me if I didn't mind to speak to a group of Russian pilgrims from the book, 'Bhagavatam." The venue was the Mayapura Academy. The large facility was crammed with attendees. People stood outside the door and window to catch an ear as the room reached full capacity. As said, "enthusiasm." "If the living entity is developed in Krishna Consciousness and is merciful to others, and if his spiritual knowledge of self-realization is perfect, he will immediately attain liberation from the bondage of material existence," were the words spoken by sage Narada to a king (Prachinabarhi).
Narada is usually tactful in his delivery of wisdom and knowing this king to be somewhat worldly, Narada in order to get a clear message across about the monarch's shortcomings, decided to present a palatable story to the ears, an allegory. The story was true parallel to the king's life.
The highlight to today's message was, "If you have the spiritual goods, if you have evolved spiritually to some degree, then your obligation is to share your achievement with others. There is no room for transcendental hoarding. Caring means sharing."
There are words for those who maintain such mediocre levels of consciousness, when all that is important is my own transformation. The Sanskrit word is 'kanishta,' which refers to being a neophyte follower, which you don't want to be. I addressed the crowd suggesting that the very word 'kanishta' sounds quite Russian. They agreed although my suggestion was not an implication that this is a Russian trait amongst these devotees. On the contrary, They are sweet, sweet pilgrims.
7 KM

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

A Fresh New Pilgrim
Mayapura, West Bengal
He was statuesque. He looked like a deity. I was making my rounds trekking the perimeter of Mayapura complex when I saw this young devotee wrapped in a white chaddar. His round face was adorned with a bold tilak mark. He looked sedate.
It was 3 AM and only he and I seemed to be up at this great hour. Standing by the side of the trail outside the Chaitanya Building, I was about to pass by him when I decided to reach out. I merely touched his right elbow, the elbow visible to me, as a greeting. He took it as a sign to keep moving.
We made no communication with each other than remaining firm on our individual japa chanting. We went for a good hour going "goom goom," a circumambulation, around our guru's samadhi. There was an understanding that we are doing the pilgrim's thing. We were being reverent towards the name of Krishna chanting on our beads while walking. This went on for a good hour until it was time to enter the samadhi for an arati. It was only after the ceremony was over that the two of us spoke. I broke the ice.
"What is your name?"
"Where are you from Manoj?"
"From Dehli. This is my first time here."
From that remark I could understand why he was, in a way, so glued to me, as a follower. He had no direction especially in the early and dark hour. I was honored to be part of his introduction to this sacred place without knowing. He then followed me to the main temple to see what that was all about. A ceremony for the sacred tulasi tree was about to begin. The microphone came to my lips. It was obvious what I was to do- to lead the singing. Manoj partook and really enjoyed it.
I continued walking from there. Manoj had merged into the crowd. I made my way to the garden area. Tomatoes, eggplant and squashes were making their way to fruition. I always feel great amongst growing vegetables.
I was astounded by something I read regarding agro-culture in Bhakti raghava Swami's new book, 'Towards a Global Varnashram Culture' wherein he quotes Benjamin Franklin.
"There seems to be three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did , in plundering their conquered neighbors This is robbery. The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third is by agriculture, the only honest way, where a man receives real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in His favor as a reward for his innocent life, and his virtuous industry."
10 KM

Monday, 11 March 2013

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Ice Cubes Wanted
Mayapura, West Bengal
It's hard to find an ice cube in Mayapura. Even if you secure one, it won't last long in this weather. Give it seconds for it to dissolve mystically before your very eyes.
I was lucky enough to locate a humble ice - cube tray in a nearby fridge on top of the Chakra Building where members of the Governing Body Commision converge for meetings. At break time one of our colleagues heard the 'kerplunk' as several of those crystal H2O squares hit the bottom of my steel cup. We are provided fresh juices of coconut, lemon, carrot and sugar cane. Let's say that this is provided for our brains as big decisions need to be made.
It was Malati who heard the cubes and asked, "Where did you find those?" Like me she probably also day-dreams of snow-capped mountains from time to time during our sessions of thought and speech as ceiling fans turn hot air about. Frankly the environment could be a bit improved since this critical think-tank is in operation.
"Malati, the juice people here, keep a modest quantity, ever since I inquired." The other day I had put in a suggestion to facilitators that perhaps they could provide a Nordic section in our meeting like facility that's sometimes provided for smokers in airports. Some well-aired, maybe even an air-conditioned dynamic would help. I don't know how.
What is produced of this year from the help of juice-induced members and tons of analysis and sincerity is a position paper on the uniqueness of our founder / teacher Srila Prabhupada. As part of his legacy many of us (I hate to say) "seniors" were to function as "gurus" (teachers) yet it had not become so clear in the minds of our public how he stands out as the pre-eminent "guru" and that anyone and everyone can have a personal relationship with him.
I believe that it is the collective integrity or the summation of incredible thoughtfulness that has brought us to this point of realization, apart from the ice-cubes, juice and reflective walks.
6 KM

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Pope and Potatoes

Mayapura, West Bengal

A truck pulled up with a huge load of sacks of potatoes. It was obvious what day it was today. It was announced that today was Vijay Ekadasi. On every fort-night a fast is honored when abstaining from grains. Usually on this day ground crops like spuds are stepped up for the bail or the fry (hate to say).
It was unlike the day before when peer Madhu Sevita, from Italy, observed the stock of grain-induced meal, pasta actually, that was on my plate. Madhu came up to me and asked, “Maharaj, I’m glad to see you have built up such a great appetite for pasta. You know they’re looking for a new pope.

When I saw your enthusiasm for the Italian fare, I thought maybe you would be a fit candidate for the post of the pontiff.”

“It’s kind of you to think of me for the job description, but no thanks!”

Actually, I had been in a good digestive streak for days. The fire of digestion is up . (In the Gita, Krishna states that He is that digestion.) No doubt the daily walking and daily dance at the ritual of Tulasi puja helps. Balance for any day, for the physical and spiritual is what’s called for.

I like to recall 6.17 from Gita, “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” This is one of those outstanding verses that addresses the equipoised life we shall adopt.

My day was full with exhausting meetings and the topic of whether women can or should be official gurus. (I’m a supporter of the cause). To balance the nature of the sedentary activity that was tempered by participation. Our troupe brought down the house, “broke a leg” and packed the place full. The drama ‘Dhruva: Prince of Anger and Peace,’ was a hit.

7 KM

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Such Mercy!  
Mayapura, West Bengal
I did a solo as far as walking is concerned. No danger! No one here promotes smoking, sex, good physique, drinking or anything of the sort. You don't get those kind of billboards here in Mayapura, neither in the compound or directly outside. It's all just innocent village and farm life out here. You feel protected.
While pacing along I had been thinking of some lines from the play 'Dhruva' that we've been working so hard at. There's lines that you might consider to be signature lines like Narada Muni's "Is there some trouble in the palace?" Of course, in any royal quarters won't there be some disturbance?
And then we hear the saintly Suniti, mother of Dhruva, say "If someone gives you pain they will receive pain." And then the companion statement to that is, "If someone gives you joy, you will receive joy and they will as well." These are messages about karma.
In this contemplation I began to think about my own good fortune being so blessed with devotional life. Surely I didn't earn it. It has to be grace that put me here in this circumstance. For what could I possibly have done to be spending a month in this sweet, sweet place called Mayapura, a place of spiritual power, smooth and soft.
This is the home of Gaura, the golden avatar, Krishna incarnate. Here he was born. Here He established the dharma for the age - kirtan. He was centuries ahead of the now popular practice of mantra music. It all began here five centuries ago. And I'm here at the center of it all. Such Mercy!
8 KM

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013


Mayapura, West Bengal

Jaya Gaura accompanied me on the trail today. He is a brahmacari from Guyana. Jokingly I asked, “Are we the only ones today or are there any other Guyansters to join us?”

With a smile he said, “No Maharaj, all the Guyansters are sick with colds and flus.” So we marched on down the dusty Tarampura Road, then along the Jalangi River Trail and then the Bhaktisiddhanta Road. Temples are being built along the main road.

We observed one construction worker. Quite amazing! It’s another world here. Things are done on a humble scale. So there he was with rag folded on his head, a board on top of that and then one by one, tier upon tier of two bricks abreast. He was stacked up to six layers and had done so without a complaint, walking his load to the building site a few meters away. For a few rupees he’ll be at it all day. Honest living. And that can inspire me almost as much as a sadhu (holy man) chanting on his beads without a heart. HONESTY is big and it is mentioned in the Gita as a trait of an evolved human.

In a break-out session, I sat with peers to discuss the pro and re-active responses to spiritual leaders who hit dark hours. That was an exercise that stretches the brain.

But in review of the day I’ll rewind back to the morning. I had been asked to lead the kirtan chanting in the main temple room beginning with the song in praise of the guru, “Samsara davanala….” regarding the mercy of the guru and how his/her kindness can affect a change in the wheel of life cycles.

Before I got behind the mic I thought, “March 6th was my day to lead. What else? Yes I have a sibling a year and a half younger than me and it’s her birthday.” This chant is in honor of you, Connie, as a dedication. May the good vibes come your way!

7 KM

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Not Alone

Mayapura, West Bengal

In Mayapura, no one takes a shower alone. The space is shared. If it isn’t an army of ants crawling the walls and floor, it’s a tiktik. It’s one of those small salamander-type creepy-crawly’s who is actually your friend. He will gladly help in reducing the mosquito population.

Like an ant he can hit any surface. He’s about 3 centimeters in length though and he’s mostly a silent creature except for an occasional sound that’s hard to describe. When the shower water starts running, this guy is unlikely to get sunk or get flooded by water that goes straight down the drain, as the army of ants will do.

Yes, in Mayapura you always have company. What ever trail you take, entities will be there. Most trails around here are unpaved. Enjoy the soft sands while you can. Relish in the pleasure that spirits, atmas, are all about. They have every right to be there in their search for food, sleep, defence and mating. They are “work in progress” on the evolutionary sojourn with lessons to learn and advancement to make.

Creatures are pervasive and we humans cannot claim a special entitlement in this world even though we may be closer to the finish line than others. Who’s to say where you fit in, in the race to moksha, freedom? We are really set in the same game- to end a vicious cycle. If we are smart enough, we will take all opportunities for this homeward trek.

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Falling Things
Mayapura, West Bengal
It is not coconuts that fall from their heights that you have to worry about. It's actually the fruit of the Kadamba tree that causes a threat as it descends to the pilgrim's trail. It may splat or at least bruise. It's the size of golf balls, has a rusty color and is softer than a coconut. I personally came close to getting bombed a few times when mild winds were there. It's nice to know that pedestrian trails in Mayapura have some trees for shade; could be better though. The town of Mayapura is in progress in it's development and we'll hope in time a greening will be the overwhelming reality.
Mayapura is rich in Ganges delta earth. It's rich fertility with abundance in edible growth. It's also devotionally very rich- chanting in every direction. This place of pilgrimage also draws much talent from around the world.
Our VANDE Creative Arts team drew artists from different areas of interest. In our break-out session, two tradesmen in the field of deity-making were in attendance. We were delighted to also have film-makers, website designers, fashion designers, artists and dramatists.
We actually spent some time on projects to realistically materialize for the Gaura Purnima Festival. One project we all liked was to host a "Historic Vaishnava Attire" show. It would take on a very "chaste" form of a fashion show. It would be educational and make a statement about defining our society or spiritual order in a certain dress code.
Other features of the Gaura Purnima Festival, contributions by our VANDE team, include a short film festival, dramas, film workshop and an art exhibit. My thirst for next year's retreat is very up and I hope that such features for the festival will attract more pilgrims who will come for various reasons with the ultimate intent to internalize their higher consciousness.
6 KM

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Dogs Snarl
Mayapura, West Bengal
Dogs snarl at each other at about any time of day. Their lifestyle is such that in their stray existence lots of play and lots of fight constitute their 24 hours. There seems to be a drama within their adventures.
A few years ago these wild canine creatures were abundant in Mayapura yet more lately numbers of motorbikes have replaced them as nouveau menaces. The consolation to such apparent aggravations is the many cuckoo birds, doves, jackals and inanimate entities. There are mango trees, eucalyptus trees, tall ashok palm, date and banana trees. Pilgrims are sweet. They carry looks of either wonder or smiles. To them kirtan, deities and well-maintained gardens are a delight but so are we, international pilgrims, a curiosity to them. You've got people here that are white, brown and black, from every continent.
A big plus for today was meeting Bhaktisiddhanta, an American artist and sculptor who had been serving as a priest in Vrndavan, Krishna's childhood playground, and living in the sacred town for thirty-five years. He had come to our creative arts session, VANDE. He told a little about himself. He had friendship affiliation with trailblazing artists such as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.
Bhaktisiddhanta is 74 and he is a storehouse of information in Vedic arts.
The mandate given to various committees including our VANDE arts team was to prepare key result areas for next year's festival. The work executed by all committees was to embrace the theme of urgency. We are not getting any younger and the second generation of Krishna devotees deserves to be handed a legacy of spiritual vibrancy.
7 KM

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

You Walk Into The Room
Mayapura, West Bengal
You walk into the room and you are struck with rich turquoise and soft mustard tones. It can be a trite deceiving. Except for the marble floor under your feet, what's above you as a ceiling and surrounding you as walls is a mere construction site. The ambient colors mentioned above is actual plain cloth stretched to a flush flatness, wrapped around edges to form pillars and punctuated by ornamental light fixtures on the ceiling.
This is our room for assembling. Sannyasis and gurus from around the world converge here to discuss what's important such as in a spiritual society who or what are your lines of authority. If there is a plural to that how do you approach and balance the various authorities in your everyday life. What resonates from the pondering this subject is the word "co-operation."
If we look to the Latin root of the word "co-operate' we would find something like "co" means two while the rest means to be open. Hence you have a word that is best described as forces coming together being open with each other. It is a kind of synergy and harmonization. It's a word our guru, Srila Prabhupada, used to emphasize a need.
There is also the concept of "unity in diversity" another term embraced by our master. There are a host of monks in a room and we're all different in natures but united as one culture.
Here's something that demonstrates differences, though. It's common for me to go into a room (and I'm usually on time for a session) and I'll proceed to open a window for air. Five minutes later someone comes and closes it not knowing I had just taken care of my need. However, the other swami who adjusted it has another need to protect himself from the cold. Somehow or other we are in the same room- united.
8 KM

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Big Ones
Mayapura,West Bengal
Hrimati is the name of a godsister of mine who was kind enough to act as a guide as I and several brahnacari monks ambled our way through the elephant reserve. Hrimati is credited for bringing the two elephant cows from Assam to the present location after the demise of Gulab Kali, the beloved mammal who had a long standing record for service.
We learned much from Hrimati, whose son Abhay managed his way on an ascent to the back of the elephant. In that regard, Abhay, whom I've known for years, is like Tarzan. What did we learn bout elephants?
Well there is this device called a kulsee made of jute which the trainer sets his foot in while riding on the elephants back. When he presses a certain way against the body of the elephant in one direction through the kulsee, the animal moves left and when the trainer presses for the right, the response goes accordingly. The foot also gestures to brake in order for the elephant to stop.
Elephants are very sensitive. They can remember a person by smelling their feet through the trunk.
The two female elephants were feeding when we approached them. One grabbed Daruka's flower garland and helped herself to the flowers for breakfast.
Males are tall and powerful. We couldn't help thinking of the great Vedic elephant heroes. We read about in the Vedas, such as Ganesh and Gajendra. Males have their mating season when they tend to be very aggressive. Hrimati was saying that in captivity the males tend to be impotent. If either of the two females were to receive semination it would likely mean they would have to be sent to a district where a herd lives in the wild.
There was information given, more than I'm able to delineate but what we did hear was enough to convince me that such a sophisticated creature is the product of a sophisticated Creator. My appreciation behind that work magnified to a much greater degree.
8 KM

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Sell It!
Mayapur, West Bengal
"Sell it immediately!" were the emphatic words. It was said about four decades ago where Mayapur community was at the embryonic stage, just beginning. "Sell it!" was the service message of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in relatIon to the motor scooter that was being driven by one of his disciples, Bhavananda. It was quite clear coming from the top that Mayapura was to reflect the flavour of a pedestrian-friendly pilgrimage site. Bicycles were tolerated.
I was walking with a group of brahmacari monks this morning when I met Bhavananda. A resident on a scooter skyrocketed by, which compelled me to ask the early pioneer of Mayapur if he would share his take on this high speed phenomenon which is to some extent, to some areas, free from the nauseous machines. It just so happened that we were not in the restricted area.
So Bhavananda was frank. He mentioned that he was bombing down the edge of the field on the property when Prabhupada asked him what he was doing. His rational behind using the machine was unacceptable to the guru who was disturbed. At that time he said very firmly to sell the machine. It was done and Bhavananda took to walking from there on.
It appears that it might be important to re-visit the case of Bhavananda as a short term biker and apply it to those original wishes of our master.
I was actually content to hear the story about the vision of a peaceful, safe and eco-friendly environment in Mayapura. It is important to preserve the pilgrim peace in order for visitors from all over the world to experience the serenity of the times of Chaitanya. At present, pilgrims do converge here from all over the world and they deserve to be relieved of the lifestyles hectic assault of machinery where they all hail from. May Krishna help me to restore the spirit of a real retreat
8 Km

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Dealing With the Mix

Mayapura, West Bengal

I sipped on a combination of guava and grapes, totally organic, at the corner fruit stand. I treated two of my youthful troupe members and myself to the concocted creation.

There might have been a trace of ego to this mix when I suggested to the fruit merchant, “Why not call it- ‘Walking Monk Special’.” But really I only put it out there as a suggestion because I’m passionate about promoting a walking culture. There’s not a day that goes by that I don't mention to someone somewhere about the benefits of working the machinery in the form of walking.

By the way, this ‘home brew’, if you will, is absolutely divine in taste. Try the mix. It’s 50/50 .
It was interesting when, in our break-out sessions, that a group of us, primarily sannyasi monks, were asked to explore the topic of “the problem with the mix.” This is in reference to the imposed multi-tasking that our spiritual leaders sometimes experience. There are at least two hats worn. The two hats center around the expectation of assuming the roles as a sadhu, the person who is pure and visionary, and secondly as a hands-on manager type. The problem is that many people can’t be both. Mind you, some people are clearly a mix of the two.

Our group was asked to address the dilemma and to try to come up with recommendations to avoid the ‘burn-out’ tendency of over-extending yourself. It was a consensus feeling that individuals should be encouraged to perform more according to their guna (nature) and karma (behavior). As found in 18.43 and 18.44 of the Gita, one should be gravitating to the natural proclivity and be thus happily engaged in service to the Absolute and to humanity.

8 Km

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Dripping Sap and More

Mayapura, West Bengal

The date trees are dripping this sap. A spider spun his web and is doing a bounce on this net. For more Cirque du Soliel, monkeys scammer about and in great leaps move to shake the trees. Such acrobats!

I had taken a small group of Brahmacari monks down my usual trail here in Mayapura and let them go down my path of wonder. Along the Jalangi River, Coriander flowers release their scent. Aromatic they are. The mere smell arouses the desires to walk more robustly. Soft dirt is felt under the feet. It’s all good.- very good- and very spiritual. This is the land of Chaitanya.

And then after we completed the fine walk (and topped it off with a full cup of that date juice), I was called on to lead the kirtan for the guru, Srila Prabhupada. What an honour that was- chanting the lead in the midst of forty to fifty sannyasi monks from around the world. There were other Krishna leaders who were also part of the assembly with the kick-start of a major retreat, the first of it’s kind- we spent a few hours together in brainstorm and celebration.

Finally the day culminated in taking time with youth working on voice projection, dance, stage- blocking, martial arts moves- all in an effort to pull together a production to be staged in only a matter of days. What put closure to the day was moments of ecstasy as our little troupe came to terms with the joyful night. Philip picked up his guitar, started reggae then jazz, all to the sound of the holy name while Roman b-boxed through it all. Rasalila was coming across like Ella Fitzgerald and a young Punjabi, Pariksit, made his vocal contribution as well.

Here is all this talent just exploding in a bopping trot back through the campus and to the Gada Building, my place of rest.

Magic it was.

8 KM

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Daruka Was Wondering

Mayapura, West Bengal

Daruka was wondering what the heck the howling was. At 1AM I awoke after a great rest and from our room 505 in the Gada Building hearing the howling and yelping could be a startling sensation.
“They’re jackals. They are in the hundreds. It’s normal but being a full moon they’re especially loud,” I told him.

I paced the hall outside our room chanting the maha-mantra and when the chorus had been arrested, an owl’s hoot dominated the sky. Unlike Canada where much wildlife is in slumber, in India, whether day or night, something is in flight or in slither or in a soft trot.

I had come to Mayapura for AGM purpose and for what is also close to my heart, preparing stage productions. I had pre-arranged, via e-mail, for commitments from those inclined towards acting. Some confirmed they were on board. The balance of the actors needed was purely based on desire. Well, people come, more than enough without any public announcement or even a mention.
I took the spirit that I will desire and let be what will be.

I meditated on how one must be submissive to Krishna and then things started happening. I also pondered the saying, “Man proposes, God disposes!”

I also thought of a segue to that could be, “Man opposes! God exposes!

I certainly made it a point to try to align my wishes with the wishes of the divine. This way I’m not proposing anything outrageous nor am I trying to work against the grain of God. Just co-operate.
As part of the strategy to work in divine compliance, I encouraged the walk with my two Canadian pilgrims, Maha Mantra and Daruka to walk to the Yoga-pith; the place where God contacts the earth. With a tireless stroll to Yoga-pith, we did have the good fortune to go to the most sacred spot by the neem to remind us of the tree under which the historical event and place of Chaitanya’s birth.
And what is He significant for? Answer: Walking and encouraging all those in every town and village to chant the maha-mantra .

11 KM

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

This Is Home

Kolkata, India

A level of relief came upon us when Daruka, Maha Mantra and I spent a layover at dubai. The squished nature of being crammed in an aircraft seat makes you want to explode when reaching an open space like their expansive airport with particularly long corridors. We were birds in a cage. Now we could spread our wings, until…

Another four hours in flight to Kolkata by way of the metal bird. For any pilgrim journey, austerity becomes a component. We landed before 8AM and caught with our nostrils the musty scent of the flat Bengal terrain. I haggled with cab drivers for an unsatisfactory rate to a four hour drive to Mayapur. What to do? Our scheduled cab didn’t show up. I was at the mercy of mercenary cabbies. We drove off, I being embittered. Eventually, my own heart melted though, the two thin men took shifts behind the wheel encouraged us, the passengers, to do kirtan. This appears to be at the heart itself of Bangla culture- song and dance in honor of the Goddess Kali, if not Krishna.

On the dashboard was a dusty small framed picture of the Goddess. Our drivers were caught in the sentiments of Gauranga, Krishna as the Golden One. They were raised with the songs we were familiar with, and then came the words from their voices, “Bhaja Gauranga! Kaha Gauranga!”... “Sing the praises of Chaitanya…”

After an arduous bumpy ride on an fight-for road-spaceordeal, we arrived at the Dham (sacred place)- at last. Aftrer two days of travel, we were worn, tired and dirty, but we feel we’re at home. It’s the first time in India for Daruka and Maha Mantra. It’s my 25th or more. I know so little Bengali, other than some songs, but we all feel that this is home.

4 KM