Wednesday 31 July 2013

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

It just so happened

Toronto, Ontario

Apurva is set on the harvest of lambsquarters now each day that we trek along in the morning. It was not the deliberate reason for going out, but if by chance we stumble upon the plant then he gets excited.

Later this afternoon three of our young men from the youth van tour got enthusiastic to conduct a chanting party in the posh Yorkville and University area. I guess they were trying to harvest souls. (Remember Jesus' statement about becoming fishers of men?)

It just so happened that when the party of chanters reached St George Street there was a filming of the TV episode "Warehouse 13" going on. One of the crew members, perhaps the director, came forward and began to express disapproval of the sound. Then a tall security fellow came and was about to begin talking to the party to stop.

To the rescue came Rick Hobson (also known as Rsi, student of Prabhupada) who happened to be there, hearing the chanting and the agitated crew. Rsi and wife, Karen, live in an apartment on St George Street. It's their neighbourhood. Rsi came up to the crew including the security and stood there explaining that the chanting party had a right to be there and walk there like anyone else. This heightened the agitation somewhat.

The three boys ambled along playing their music and singing as they were allowed to move with the supervision of Rsi happily being there.

A final note: Please forgive, TV crew, the temporary noise made. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, "forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

10 KM

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Some Kilometres

Montreal, Quebec

I managed to cover some kilometres on the streets in Montreal's east end. I love Montreal. It's just that the east-end is what it is, for instance at some of the street corners a woman will stand there with tight clothes on, or with clothes almost on, and when you walk by, as Ivan and I did, they tend to give you a strange look. It's a look of disapproval. They just can't relate to the devotional attire, it seems.

Our temple is located in this part of town and that's what lands me in this neighbourhood when it comes to walking. St. Catherine's Street has recently received a face-lift, yet the character of the people stays the same. It is an interesting phenomena to find this Crumpy Joe syndrome in all major cities I trek through.

The weather can be great. The sun can be shining and at the same time somethings eating away inside humans. The sun doesn't shine inside. It appears that the mind can become so agitated with hankerings and lamentations that no peace can wedge its way in.

What are we to think and feel for others?

One time a personal assistant to our guru, Srila Prabhupada made a remark, "Sometimes I feel bad for others."
His response was, "Only sometimes?"

Regarding the disturbed mind, here's an informative passage from the book Bhagavatam, 'The brahmana said, "These people are not the cause of my happiness and distress. Neither are the demigods, my own body, the planets, my past work, or time. Rather, it is the mind alone that causes happiness and distress and perpetuates the rotation of material life. Failing to conquer this irrepressible enemy, the mind, whose urges are intolerable and who torments the heart, many people are completely bewildered and create useless quarrel with others. Thus they conclude that other people are either their friends, their enemies or parties indifferent to them."' (Bhag 11.23.48)

10 KM

Monday 29 July 2013

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

The Look At The Week


We received our first serious rain this week, but the downpour didn’t really come until our last member of the group completed the course on the zip lining activity at Gatineau Park in Quebec. This activity was also scheduled as our last outdoor event before putting a cap on our trip.

We popped into the Ottawa ISKCON Centre for a meal and then kirtan before the 2 hour drive to Montreal, this was our destination to present our youth fest. I asked Philippe to orchestrate a rehearsal, a drum demo and then a kirtan while I gave a talk to the congregation on the simplicity of bhakti, devotion. I was so proud of the group’s presentation, it almost brought me to tears.

Here are some of the evaluations by the participants of KCAT (Krishna Canadian Adventure Tour) after completing a week of travel and devotion:

Emily (20):

“Living together in a van is a way to get to know somebody quickly.”

Attreya (13):

“I love the zip line place, also all the kirtan we had.”

Radhika (14):

“I learned how to be more patient.”

Philippe (22):

“Relished the association and every single fun-filled day.”

Ganga (14):

“We learned so much, like for example how to be together as a group. I really want to do it again.”

Aravinda (15):

“This tour was personal, thank you Kapil, thank you Maharaja.”

Devala (19):

“It kept my mind engaged. I think it would be nice to contribute in some way to the management of the tour.”

Hiten (12):

“After having this awesome time, it will not be my last one.”

Rsab (18):

“This trip helped me increase my japa (chanting on meditation beads) and gave me an exciting week of doing outdoor activities which I greatly enjoyed.”

Kapil (27, driver and organizer):

“Being in a smaller van it was easier to pack and drive. I noticed that everyone enjoyed all the activities and were able to bond amongst each other.”

10 KM

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Kale Conquers

Colborne, Ontario

Kale – a miracle food full of nutrients and enzymes, took second position after Krishna today. Our KCAT group had the pleasure of visiting Adrian Quinn and family in Colborne. He is an entrepreneur who has capitalized on this green vegetable as a marketable and spiritualized edible. He built up a factory and went real organic on this hearty veg. He grows it right there on his land, harvests it, and takes the product to the dehydrator after dipping it in a sauce of cashew and sunflower seeds, then consecrates it and finally packages it before it hits the shelves in the health food stores. He now has a growing number of employees from the local area to see that all is executed. He also loves talking about this family business and how the endeavour is a step towards making the world a better place one kale chip at a time.

I felt that this stop on our trip would provide an educational dimension to our group’s collective experience. Adrian, also known as Arjuna, took a risk at this new venture, and the dream flowered into reality. Like any project, in order for success to play into it, there must be a dream and then there must be a team. Adrian is a firm believer in God’s mercy. For him, that is the final factor and also the original factor in achieving a result of substance.

Thank you, Adrian, for taking us to the field and showing us your crop of wonder – Kale

4 KM

Sunday 28 July 2013

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Shaping, Achieving

Wiarton, Ontario

It has been quite some time since seeing Cypress Lake and the Grotto along the east coast line of the Bruce Peninsula. These are natural treasures to hike to and indulge in. They have become popular places for the folks from the city. The word is out that the coast line at the Bruce Trail is a true getaway.

We have come up with a name for our youth van tour and it is called KCAT, an acronym for the Krishna Canadian Adventure Tour. While the younger members like the shallow lake of Cypress with its warm water, and where they really can’t get enough of it, the entire group did however take full advantage of the deeper pristine invigorating waters at the Grotto. For me, the dip is like a reincarnation to a higher species. Still, I got a charge out of seeing species in the hundreds tackle the rugged terrain of jagged to smooth rounded rocks while circumventing the ancient cedars. I admit my browse at the Gita was intercepted by the cautious trekkers who got to take a break from boring city sidewalks.

Philippe was showing chords on his acoustic guitar as Priyam was listening and following on hi harmonium. As foot passersby were charmed by the music and adjoining lessons, they also got to hear the soft melodic maha mantra emanating from Philippe’s lips.

On one rock shelf someone accidentally had left their camera behind. It was interesting to view people’s curiosity at the sight of the lost item, and yet, draw no notion towards “finders keepers, losers weepers”. They walked right by knowing it belongs to someone. Our KCAT group members have become comfortably like a family. The sharing spirit contagiously is taking on a great shape. Even last evening our coordinators for the day, the Hannah family, staged a mantra rock concert. At that time, Philippe graciously slipped in with his mic’ed harmonium. Devala and Aravind also put their instruments, mrdanga drums to the live sound of the band Rajasi, and the fusion was phenomenal.

We are achieving what we set out to do, building up friendship and confidence amongst the youth in a Krishna Conscious environment. To spur on this spirit the group spontaneously executed their own creative rock sculptures of deities and balanced configurations. Creative it was.

14 KM

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

No Cars?

Sauble Beach, Ontario

One of our prized monks in Canada, Karuna Sindhu, spends half his year in India, and half in the land of maple trees. He was kind enough to send me an article which he thought would give with my way of thinking.

Meet the one city in America where cars have been banned since 1898
By: Stephen Messenger on July 18, 2013, 3:26 p.m.

Mackinac Island, where cars have been banned since 1898.

When early automobiles first arrived on the scene in the late 19th century,
few people could have imagined that they would one day take over the world. In fact, some towns found the noise and exhaust from these novelty
'horseless carriages' so off-putting that early cars were actually outlawed
in some places.

In time, of course, restrictions were lifted and the car soon became
ubiquitous across the country -- but there is still one place in the United
States that has yet to change its mind. Meet Mackinac Island, where cars
have been banned since 1898.

Located just offshore of mainland Michigan, in Lake Huron, Mackinac
Island and its namesake city have long been a favorite spot for a relaxing
getaway. So, when automobiles first began to arrive, loudly sputtering along
the island's once-quiet roadways, startling horses and spitting out smoke, it quickly became apparent to locals that this new invention was not for them.

One resident at the time was quoted as calling cars "mechanical monsters" --
clearly not a glowing review.

Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Naturally, in 1898, the Mackinac village council moved to outlaw the
automobile before the monsters had a chance to take over:

Resolved: That the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village of Mackinac." — Mackinac Island Village Council,
July 6, 1898

Such legislation might seem quaint and old-timey, but in Mackinac, it has
yet to be repealed. So what is life like in a place where one of the most
impactful inventions in history has been outlawed? Well, it's quite nice,

Although the small island is home to only around 500 people, in the summer, that number swells to 15,000 during tourism season; aside from a couple of emergency vehicles, there's nary a car to be seen. Transportation on Mackinac is limited to walking, horse-drawn carriages, and bicycling -- a pleasant departure from the car-centric society that exists beyond its

"The air is cleaner and injuries are fewer," writes Jeff Potter, who
published an article about Mackinac. "Island residents are healthier due to
the exercise. There’s a cherished egalitarianism: everyone gets around the same way. They also save a tremendous amount of money that would normally go to commuting by cars."

10 KM

Saturday 27 July 2013

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

The Other Side
Guelph, Ontario
Here’s an email message from a friend visiting India and he details his time of testing, a life and death encounter with nature, who can be sometimes harsh.
“June 16th, 2013 at 7 PM we were in our hotel visiting and ready to start a  14km Kedarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) when we head a roaring sound.  A broken ice glacier sent a 40 foot length of water gushing down into the Mandakhini River.  The force of the water split the dirt/stone mountain, wiping away 50 – 60 houses in one hour.  We saw the collapse of a four storey building.  All the building in Gauri Kund, started to shake, including our hotel.  It became unsafe to stay in the hotel.
We abandoned the hotel around 2:30 AM on June 17th in rain and darkness, heading into the mountain top to a safe place.  We were trapped in this cut off area for five nights and six days without food and with limited water.  We walked so much in the mountains and the jungle until we reached the Tibet border but could not escape.  We saw so many dead bodies all over.  It was a really sad and frightening time.  And finally my wife, Surinder, was rescued by a military chopper.  I was rescued by the army with rope and chain tied to my chest.  Army soldiers saved my life.  We came back to Canada safely on June 25th.
Laj Prasher”
I read this message to our mini bus youth group just to bring all of us to the reality platform.  Some of the youth are catching on to the walking program as we enjoy a trek on the Bruce Trail at Rattlesnake Point. Canoeing on the Speed River in the city of Guelph was also seen as an enjoyable experience.  All were having fun, yet I felt compelled to bring a moment of sobriety to the situation.  A reminder as to the other side of nature.
13 KM

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


Cambridge, Ontario

Sign reads, “Trespassers will be eaten”. That sounds menacing, if not dangerous, but may the truth be told here at the entrance of the African Lion Safari.

Our group made the morning outing in anticipation to meet just a fraction of what the Vedas conclude as the world’s 8,400,000 species of life. The “safari” is a drive through (with windows closed of course). First you view free roaming animals such as llamas, then lions, then monkeys who tend to take a free ride on your vehicle’s hood. There’s more, elephants take their bath in front of a crowd, that’s something we humans would have no tolerance towards.

We spent the afternoon walking on a stretch of the Bruce Trail, the country’s oldest foot path, and refreshed ourselves at Sherwin Falls. A good physical experience.

Dear to the hearts of everyone is the kirtan sessions that we have before we set out, and what we end up with as we wind down before eyelids shut at night at the home of our hosts Aindra and Prema Gaurangi for some of that chanting and a reading on the life of Krishna. That was really special as we took it to an engaging interactive level.

For me, personally, a deep contemplation on the morning’s lesson lingered inside of me. The fourth canto of the series Bhagavatam spoke about enemies during warfare and how at the end of the day there would be a mutual friendly come together before resuming ultimate combat to the death the next morning. This burying-the-hatchet at nightfall was always an extraordinary concept for me, such is what we also read about in the Kurukshetra war. This program appears somewhat a balanced approach as far as war craft is concerned. It’s interesting, very interesting.

10 KM

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The Not Yet Named Summer Tour

Hamilton, Ontario

Our short little bhakti road show in the prairies had been completed and we had flown back to Toronto on the previous day. Now, a second tour began, but this time it’s the replacement of the annual youth bus tour that I’ve been on for the last several summers. Kapil, a young bank employee from Alberta came to be chauffer and coordinator to a 12 seater van for a fun tour through Ontario and Quebec. We filled the seats with what I consider to be future leaders for our spiritual mission. I’ll be there for a week as well as Kapil whom we refer to affectionately as Captain Kapil or Cap Kap for short.

My time with Cap Kap and passengers is an investment for the future. Let these young folks have a good experience, fun and discipline mixed together in a spiritual environment. We have two boys from Florida, three girls from Montreal and four boys from Ontario. This is an opportunity for a younger set to get to know a monk more, and me them.

We took to a speed boat along with Korean tourists in the Niagara River through class 5 waves. We took to viewing the falls in full admiration of them. We finally finished with a rich meal at the home of Giri Jadhava, a dear friend who was my captain for travelling on the sankirtan mission in the early 70s. We all cooled down in a swimming pool and he and I reminisced about our days on the road including an amiable encounter with the legendary Vishnujan Swami, a pioneer amongst Krishna monks when we stopped in Baltimore, that was sweet.

Our crew is musical and so we have already begun to take full advantage of their gifted natures by encouraging kirtan, a panacea for the age.

Let there be mantra power that endures throughout the generations.

5 KM

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Light in the Night

Calgary, Alberta

Sleep was not going to be an easy task last evening. It became a blessing in disguise. I pulled myself off the mattress and ambled my way outside at the east end of Calgary when I opened my eyes to a marvelous display of the northern lights – explosions of light energy flashing about against the sky’s backdrop. It’s nature’s exhibitions like this that puts one in awe, and perhaps even reverence towards the Maker or Creator.

I had trekked along on a bike trail that looped when I spotted this wonder by nature. The trail ended up at a retail strip area where I came upon a nightclub which pulsated some rave music. Through a window I could see young folks gyrating to the gutsy thump of the music as the lights flashed with diverse colours meant to heighten the ecstasy of it all.

Little did the dancers know that something much more exciting was happening from above. When I actually passed by the main door of the club, a crowd was ‘hanging out’ on the street level mildly intoxicated. They could also not see the wondrous display from heaven. For them the center of life was encircled around the nightclub. At night time street lights naturally blur or obscure what is in the sky, and that includes the northern lights which I understand is a play of the sun’s rays within an electromagnetic field in the ether.

Hey, the club dancers were really missing something and I guess in a way I felt for them. What seemed to be more important to them is finding themselves within some conjugal relationship. Okay, so be it. Meanwhile, my connection with nature’s light show and its source became more than a beautiful momentary reality, it’s something to be appreciated.

10 KM

Monday 22 July 2013

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Last Day On The Blitz

Calgary, Alberta

I went to bed by 10:30 PM the previous night. Before sleeping I offered a prayer to Krishna, “Please wake me up at 2 AM,” and that’s what happened.

I fit in a measly 3 km before we took to highways 7 and then 9 en route to Calgary. Our blitz through the prairies with our road show is on fire. We are moving. By 4 AM, we had, as planned, set the keys in the ignition for an 8 hour drive to Calgary’s Festival of Chariots. We made it just in the nick of time. The route was 8th Ave. This year’s procession was featured with a flat bed arrangement upon which sat our kirtan chanting group. This device worked wonders. It allowed our chanting group to conserve its energy instead of trying to play an instrument, sing and walk all at the same time, trying to keep at a steady clip.

Bhakti yogis love chanting. They’ll do it in a crowd or even when it’s relatively quiet like the downtown of Calgary today which has very little presence of pedestrians, at least on a weekend. All went well.

We put a tail end spin to the evening with more chanting at the house deck of host Radha Madhava. We also took some minutes with a talking stick method (a pink pen) to reveal our minds about the prairie blitz amongst our performers. One person, Philippe, expressed his realization that the culture our guru created is one that whoever we meet, that was devotional, open up their doors so graciously so that we could rest and eat. He mentioned that we were made to feel totally at home.

I think it’s a significant point. For many people their house is their home and it’s not really a home for others unless they invite you. As long as you see yourself as the steward to your place of residence then naturally you’ve captured the hospitality mood.

6 KM

Sunday 21 July 2013

Friday, July 19th, 2013

On Broadway?

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I took to walking the scenic route near the university grounds in Regina around Lake Wascana before the ride to Saskatoon to Regina. Quite pleasant.

What is even more pleasant is spending the time with our travelling team, what a great bunch of guys. Here we are, an actual travelling road show, going from city to city doing our gigs. Each member is self driven. The mood is “We are part of a mission. We like that our guru, Srila Prabhupada, is pleased with our efforts.” Time is tight. Distances of travel are lengthy. Each new venue has its own glory and challenges. We do foul up sometimes. A mrdanga drum got lost in the previous place, oops! The person playing Krishna’s role has no pants to wear, they also got left behind. These are minor screw ups, believe it or not, they will be rectified. Upon hitting such surprises we are a group that becomes concerned and then innovates a change and solution. Our technical sound guy at Broadway Theatre is Jack, a lovely fellow, an old hippie with beard and all (that’s Broadway in Saskatoon by the way).

It’s day number 2 with my emcee duty. I’m rather liking it. It was a proud moment for me to introduce Chief of Police for Saskatoon, Clive Weighill, to the stage for a message. That took care of our ksatriya (warrior) guest. Then I called on Father David from the Holy Family Church to represent the local brahmin sector, a loveable person he is.

I hope they don’t mind me saying this but, by the ending of the show at kirtan time, officer Weighill along with his wife danced up something wonderful along with the rest of the audience. Father David also took in the dance moves in the narrow space between the stage and the seating. Jack also swirled around on his feet joining the crowd. The event could not have been much better participatory wise. I thank the Great Power under the prairie sky for the occasion of a topmost celebration.

7 KM

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Do More Of That

Regina, Saskatchewan

A young student from Toronto, Darshan, a young monk, Maha Mantra, and I headed north on Albert Street after a night rest and a flight that took us westbound. As we walked, we were spotted by several people and one of which pulled over her car intrigued by the novelty of devotee attire.

This one woman in particular, perhaps in her late 60s came out of her car and approached us, “I just wanted to ask, are you Hare Krishnas?”

“Yes, we are,” I replied. She just lit up and came back with:

“I remember seeing you in the 60s, you were into love and peace.”

“Well, we still are,” I said delighted by her thought. She then added a last statement, a suggestion.

“You know, you should walk more so that people can see you.”

“I’m really trying to do that ma’am, every day.” As I said this she made her way to her car and as she was going in that direction she no longer appeared like a 60 year old + person, but was a teen in her reminiscence. My two walking companions were rather stunned by the response of the public just because we were out there in Vaishnava attire.

Later this evening the same two companions would not be recognized by those motorists that saw us. Maha Mantra would be found in a tight, full bodied morphed burgundy suit, and Darshan would be covered in a rich blue hue body paint portraying Krishna; both on stage at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum for a Gita: Concise performance. In the lobby after the rendition was done, I had several people remark about my direction on the play, “You should do more of this,” and I came back with a, “Yes, most definitely we will.”

I want to thank Regina’s mayor for attending the program.

10 KM

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Seeing The Dark and Light

Thunder Bay Ontario

Thunder Bay is an amalgamation of two once very prosperous cities Fort Arthur and Fort William. It was a prominent pulp and paper center and also a major port which funneled harvested grains being shipped east from their source, the expansive prairies.

Like all things in this world there is change and one geologist in this area told me of abundant gold deposits in the area just waiting to reminded, “It becomes an environmental issue in addition to the current price of gold,” he said. I guess that’s the reason for the delay.

I trekked along Simpson Street, an artery which early morning commuters take. Judging by the amount of closed stores, you can see that this section of town had seen better days. This is a drug dealing quarter I’ve come to know. These kinds of conditions stir up an uneasiness inside of me. It’s painful to know that people are in pain, struggling in a dark world. I wish that sometimes we could spin the clock back in time when morality was up, when the family was stronger, and a community was there to hold a person together.

A light rain showered on the area of Simpson Street, almost as if to cleanse what needed to be cleansed. That rain coupled with my meagre effort at chanting as soft as the rain, left me hopeful.

After the trek I sat under a cedar tree to read the latest Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Blessings came my way when a bird perched above unintentionally I’m sure, released a generous amount of dropping to hit the head, shoulder and thigh. It was an interesting way to punctuate the day.

7 KM

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

No Obstacle Course

Thunder Bay, Ontario

People love Ganesh, the elephant-headed god. He’s adorable, a little chubby, accessible, exotic and full of good luck. Luke was selling Ganesh in his figurine form off the table at a stall. The Krishna Culture Festival of India in its 4th year running is going down the trail of continued success. I had walked Cumberland Avenue from Victoria Avenue, the location of our new meditation room/Indian Store, Sanskriti, to destination Marina Park to attend the fest.

My only real obligation, an agreement made with organizer Prem Kishor was to start the event with lighting a dhiya, a cotton ghee wick before milling around in the crowd. The flame represents the presence of God. Dignitaries from the city councils and other various VIPs also lit their wicks and then spoke. When the mic passed over to me, I mentioned that this program is staged to lift the body, mind and spirit.

The emcee was Jordan as was the case last year. Since that time he has become a lawyer. He showed up in smart looking kurta and jeans. Last year it was a kurta and shorts. As we sat down for a minute or two, the jeans at the knee revealed a hole. He joked after this discovery that the hole makes it all the more chic, and that if he were to have a pair of pants with paint splashes on it, it would be commercially a piece of top dollar clothing.

People came to check out the food, samosas even outdid Ganesh in sales. Books were also picked up, Chant and Be Happy, a pocket sized BBT book has the Beatles on the cover, along with our guru Srila Prabhupada. That was selling along with Gitas and cookbooks.

The volunteers, numbering at least 50, are newly arrived Indian students who were doing just about everything to cater to a Canadian crowd of ancestry from Finland, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, England, Quebec, and First Nations. I spent a good hour with a couple who fore-parents hailed from the swamp and muskeg up North. They were intrigued with the dance and music on the stage – traditional story telling about the pastimes of Krishna. The park provides a natural beautiful background of the Earth’s largest body of water, Lake Superior, and there we find the Sleeping Giant, a massive rock formation, which is according to legend, a retiring native chief, there to rest for a while. To one couple I met, typical fair haired Thunder Bay residents, who know something about deities from India, I remarked, “You’ve got your very own reclining Vishnu here."

There was no beer served, no meat, and I don’t think anyone was missing what to some of us are taboos. All had a good time, all 5,000+, not bad for a city of 100,000 people. There seemed to be no obstacles. It is said that Ganesh removes hurdles on the path of devotion. That seemed to apply at the festival today.

8 KM

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Apurva and Me

Toronto, Ontario

Our cook Apurva just loves moving his feet after the morning arati. He’ll do it alone as he often times has to, but when I’m around it will be a routine question from him, “Are we going?” I don’t decline very often unless I’ve already tackled the sidewalk and put in some kilometres before the arati. So this morning we left for a jaunt in the Annex area.

Apurva came to me with a different question now, “Can you cook?” Meaning the noon cooking, a rather substantial amount which includes doing some preps for Govinda’s, our vegetarian dining facility open to the public. He knows I have a passion for culinary activities, and with all the aftermath of a 2 day intensive festival just behind us, he had become a bit short staffed.

Cruel as I was, I actually passed on this one, even though he came to me as a desperado. I committed the sin and felt the weight of guilt with initial apprehension. I should have sprung up in enthusiastic anticipation. It was short notice, I was caught off guard, and it met with a stunning mode. I really don’t like to let someone down, especially him, but I had to be honest about my availability. Fortunately we both got off the hook so to speak, when in the moment of ‘what to do’ a person volunteered. Apurva had a sigh of relief.

I like cooking almost as much as I like eating, in fact, I was flattered when at my last kitchen endeavour I put together a veg and spice concoction
and Apurva began tailgating me for the recipe. I say that with affection. The prep was tasty by the way, a squash and cauliflower combination.

In conclusion to this simple narrative I simply want to say that I really appreciate all that my god brother Apurva does, everything from his walking to cooking to being a stalwart at morning arati, meditation, studying , to orchestrating kitchen work and finally to being a good friend and always wanting to keep in the company of those who reflect an inkling of what is spiritual.

Thanks, Apurva, for being who you are.

12 KM

Monday 15 July 2013

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Expand the Vision

Toronto, Ontario

One of my ashram chums, I guess you could say, Harakumar, conveyed that the series of islands where our Festival of India is held was a space for healing for the Huron Tribe (Nation) long ago. I can see that. With all that the organizers do to erect a weekend sacredness I’m willing to say that it is imperative to maintain the integrity and initial intent of the place. You have this karma free food, you have mantras, teaching circles, yoga, activities for engaging the kids, there is “wellness” all around you.

One attractive feature on Centre Island, the actual location of the Festival of India is a Sunday morning yagya (sacrifice). Two of our awesome monks, Hayagriva and Maha Mantra, received their 2nd initiations before the sacred fire that represents the tongue of Vishnu. They became awarded with brahmin duties. Before they received their sacred threads, I spoke from the view of chapter 8 from Bhagavad Gita. I want them to become brahmins who would embrace a very inclusive perception of what is Divine. In other words, I emphasize the point that as a brahmin priest, you do not see God only in a temple as verse 22 indicates, “Although He is present in His own abode, He is all pervading and everything is situated within Him.” Quoting our guru, Srila Prabhupada, he had this to say, “By His spiritual and material energies, He is present everywhere, both in the material and the spiritual universes.”

If we attempt to limit our vision on the Absolute and place Him in a box, then we check our spiritual progress. We want to expand our vision, if anything.

14 KM

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Drumming It Up

Toronto, Ontario

When it’s humid and hot out the mrdanga drums don’t always play so well, especially the large side of the drum. It could end up being very slack. The djembe are, however, more hail and hardy, so I asked one of our resident monks to fetch my own, just in case the Bengali mrdanga drums are not up to snuff and are too few and far between.

My concern for music was to provide for the Festival of Chariots, this is kirtan, totally outdoors. And sound did bounce off the high rise walls quite successfully as the temple domed chariots rolled down Yonge Street. My voice was microphoned, drums played in perfect time. I couldn’t resist using an old tune from the 70’s sung by an African American, Dinanath.

In their royal ride, the deities of Krishna, his brother Balarama, and sister, Subadra, as usual, made a strong presence, each lavishly adorned on their respective chariot. Unique about this day is the walking that all the comers are obliged to take on Yonge Street as they yank simultaneously on thick ropes attached to one chariot.

Once reaching Queen’s Quay, the waterfront street, the procession culminates to merge with Festival of India held on Centre Island which is just a piece of heaven. Wish you were all here.

13 KM

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Good Sweet

Toronto, Ontario

The Saskatoon berries in the neighbourhood have begun to dry up but the mulberries are just in full swing as far as ripeness is concerned. Apurva has discovered this most amazing organic dish that grows on trees of which there are many in a 1 km radius of our temple ashram. I was also surprised by the find of the plentiful number of them.

In this same early day trek I also lead Apurva to a patch of lamb’s quarters, a really delicious wild leafy green vegetable. It took little effort to harvest these guys to be used in a preparation, most likely, something called kitchory, as an offering to Krishna.

The whole day was laden with sweetness even after the discovery walk at 10 AM, a 12 hour kirtan chanting session commenced with mantra expert Dravida inaugurating it. It was total mercy that I was scheduled to begin the event. Throughout the coming hours many honey combed voices sounded out the name Krishna. Leading singers came from all over the place, including the US, Africa and Europe. The kirtan is an actual warm up for the next day, the annual Ratha Yatra. This time it’s the 41st in Toronto. It seems to grow in numbers each year, let’s see what happens tomorrow.

When I was a kid, I remember watching Jackie Gleason on TV and using his signature line, “How sweet it is” as the kirtan came to a close at 10 PM with a full house of arms in a surrendered pose. For those who were there, it was indeed, sweet – sweet like thick maple syrup.

9 KM

Saturday 13 July 2013

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Comparing Notes

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Bhakti Chaitanya Swami and I trekked along the Great Gorge. He liked it, it’s quite impressive. We even took to the aero car, a moving suspension unit that ski lifts you over a whirlpool of water. Who says that a monk can’t be a tourist and have some fun?

In all frankness we are far from being hermits. Our time together provided the opportunity to gain each other’s association. The exposure to the public is also good. Bhakti Chaitanya and I are both world travelers, although we travel in different directions and end up in different places. Generally we are always with people, formally, for meetings, and less so at festivals. Downtime is necessary, he just came from Siberia.

We compared notes. He said ticks are a big problem over there in Siberia. Many people die contracting fever from them. Also, Russian mosquitoes are huge and aggressive he said. He never heard of our vicious black flies that we have in Canada. The main principle is that there are many little vampires about in both lands in the raw of Siberia and Canada.

What about comparing the people? It seems that wherever there has been a communist regime, people are left with a curious mind, whereas capitalistic folks have become over stimulated. I leave it to you, the readers, to figure out who is who in this regards.

6 KM

Friday 12 July 2013

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Make It Light

Toronto, Ontario

A day becomes light when a friend is in your company. That's how I felt in the presence of god brother Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, a New Zealand native who had come to visit us for the first time in Canada. He delivered a brilliant class based on the Bhagavatam concerning the book itself which is virtuous although from a literary point of view it may not be perfect.

The deeper you go in penetration of philosophy, the lighter appears a day's drudgery because you have entered the larger picture. And after that a fruit and smoothie breakfast was followed by grave topics of concern. When shared, grave topics appear to relieve some weight and pressure on the heart.

We also had a planned drive through of all the places that our mission made history in Toronto and including the pilgrimage sites where our guru, Srila Prabhupada, did tread. On Beverly Street a Victorian period home was the first location of Krishna Love Feasts in the city. That was in '69/'70. On 187 Gerrard Street, we pointed out to our monk guest, Bhakti Chaitanya the second location for Krishna Conscious activity - a rented house in the heart of Cabbage Town, a slightly more dodgy section of town.

We then ventured by car along Lakeshore Blvd to reach the Beaches area and the boardwalk where in '75 Prabhupada was taken for a sunrise walk. Bhakti Chaitanya was determined to touch with feet the path once trodden. It's always great getting out of a car and doing what's natural. The feeling in the heart becomes feather light when you know that a path is worn out for you. Starting a trail is hard work, treading a seasoned one becomes easy.

Bhakti Chaitanya along with driver, Savyasachin, parted and I went about my day in preparation of the busiest weekend of the year for the Ratha Yatra fest. The final hour before sundown I spent in the ravine catching up on chanting my prescribed number of beads on the strand of meditation which makes the day brighter, even in darkness.

6 KM

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Millions of Ways

Mississauga, Ontario

My theme for the marathon walk in southern Manitoba has been dubbed as "a friend-raiser, not a fundraiser." Yet, today, for the sake of fueling, the coming Festival of Chariots financially, I took to raising cash, coin, card, or in kind to address the budget. My dear friends Rupa Manohar and Vishva drove us to the suburbs visiting annual donors.

At some obscure mall in the outskirts of Toronto's downtown, we popped in to a "Sara Lee" dress shop. We had a great chat with the owners in their back store room flanked by gorgeous evening gowns that were hanging all around us. For assistance it was mission accomplished. We then moved to a dental office to the head of the clinic who is a yearly contributor. Despite his extreme absorption with his profession he had enough time to drop everything for a few minutes (even his patients) to greet us and to leave us a generous donation. From here we shifted to a car dealership whom had never entertained a monk in his establishment before. Again, kindness was demonstrated.

Thank you all.

In the evening I slotted time for an hour long kirtan at Bhakti Lounge. This brought me to the downtown when I did not ask for donations but rather, time. Attendees were invited to the weekend spiritual festival. Being students, most of them are not in a strong position 'to give', but indeed they can contribute in some other way by serving the exotic free feast, keeping the grounds at the festival site clean, loading and unloading things. And if none of the above fits in, then at least a person's presence tells a whole lot about getting down to the spirit.

There are millions of ways to serve and millions of ways to surrender.

9 KM

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Monday, July 8th, 2013

What We Did

Toronto, Ontario

By the time I got freedom to make any kind of a jaunt on foot, torrential rains descended on the city. Thunder, lightening, "stay inside, keep safe," went the little voice from within.

Another rain came my way today - it was a rain of mercy. It came in the form of 40 souls, a group exploring different faiths. Our ashram was on their list for today. I became the fortunate host. By the kindness of my guru, Srila Prabhupada, who has passed away, but is still living in a divine way, I lead the group in a small ritual, a chant and a gesture of flower petals thrust to his foot imprint. I then presented a viewing of our Radha Krishna deities. Then questions came about the divine vigraha (forms of Krishna). We then zeroed in on chanting along with an explanation, "Oh beautiful Creator, please allow the joy of serving You to take place."

Uttamanada, my brahmachari (monk) assistant, delivered a drumming demo on the mrdanga, and Anthony displayed his know how on the karatals (hand cymbals). We pulled it all together to let everyone sing in rhythm with the instruments. Then dinner came and our girls served it so well. It was Absolute food, prasadam, cooked by our boys. Mind, body and soul were gratified.

When the water deluge came down it was there to humble us all. It was just another great installment from the Supreme.

7 KM

Monday 8 July 2013

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Parents at the Park

Montreal, Quebec

It happened that on this 2nd day at Jeanne Mence Park that I met interested parents. It was also day 2 for our dramatical performance of Gita: Concise which was so rewarding, but it was parents that occupied my mind's attention at the end of the day. If I was to use the word concerned parents of new recruits, I might be misleading. We're not talking about anxious parents involving their child joining a cult.

In two cases a mom and dad who reared their child, now an adult, in Catholicism, were not so concerned about the young woman's apparent conversion. They were "cool" about her chosen lifestyle in Krishna Consciousness. More than anything they were satisfied about her happiness and they warmly and forwardly expressed that to me. With the 2nd family that approached me, the dad had nothing but praise to give to Gita: Concise after seeing it and he was happy that his son has been engaging his musical talents in the service of Krishna as of late. With his son being in his early 20s he did voice a wish for him to put his guitar down sometimes and plan some anchoring or rooting in his life. That's a valid wish. It's great that parents care. The father wanted to share some of his plans with me for a family business. I was honoured to be let in on it.

The third set of parents who raised their daughter in the Krishna Vaishnava tradition, simply wanted to be assured of their daughter's safety and protection while on a planned one week spiritual youth retreat conducted later this month. I'm one of the facilitators. That's a natural sentiment coming from them. Nowadays I am in a position where I'm older than the parents. It makes me feel a little older but not necessarily wiser. However, I do share the same sentiment towards young folks getting settled and protected.

My heart goes out to the generations.

7 KM

Saturday, July 6th, 2013


Montreal, Quebec

As I understand it, Montreal has the largest jazz festival in the world. I walked through it accidentally stumbling upon it on my trekking return from our Festival of Chariots. There are two different worlds here. The jazz festival is mega and at present we are mini.

I'm not knocking jazz as a genre of music, but if I could put a mild judgement on it I would put it in the rajas category from the Vedic context. I believe many fans would put it in the happy category of music. Rajas means passion by the way.

Now I left the site at Jeanne Mence Park where the more holy event, The Chariot Festival culminated after an exuberant procession down Saint Laurent Street. Rock music was playing, I was touched by a song dedicated to the walking monk, performed by the band Rajasi. I haven't as of yet captured the name of the piece. Rajasi's style represents everything 60ish 70ish through the decades, but their message goes towards elevation. It's what people need, if I could speak frankly. It's what we, the human race don't get enough of.

One of the entertainers, Mahajan, sang "I don't need a love in... " You know, one of George's songs whose chorus is "chanting the names of the Lord and you'll be free."

I had walked from a world of hope at the park then to the world of music, fluff and not a whole lot of stuff on Saint Catherine to the world of sleep, only to wake up to the world of purity at the sound of chanting in the temple. These were real pleasant transitions.

11 KM

Sunday 7 July 2013

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Live on the road


​I seem to live on the road. Today it was via a coachline called Greyhound en route to Montreal with a stopover in Ottawa. I like the front seat so even with transfer I managed to be up front and to get on with bus drivers on both legs on the trip.

​Each driver was passionate about his work. They were both cut from the same piece of cloth; determined to get passengers to their destination in a safe and respectful environment.

​“ Respect? “ as Aretha Franklin would sing it. Well there was one passenger who just didn't get it. That passenger, with cell phone in hand, had a volume of voice that clearly indicated she felt she was the only person on the planet. There were at least three of us, including the driver, who had an eye-rolling session, annoyed by the woman's self-centeredness. It was not just the loudness but the length of the conversation that got under our skin.

Enough was enough and the bus driver grabbed for the hand-held PA system, “ Attention ladies and gentlemen... “He went on with his message about RESPECT and so we were finally relieved until two hours later when session 2 began.

​Some people just don't get it. Some folks have a passion for driving (as expressed before) but to the point of driving you crazy. Anyways, a mutual amiable communication became established with the coach driver and I over the ladies ignorance in addition for our passion for travel, and my version of it – pilgrimage. When not in conversation I would read, or chant softly with my beads as an aid or look out the window savouring the day when I can once again trek Highway 7 and be that pilgrim. How I relished that time, ten years ago, even the adventure and chivalry of defending myself of nasty deer flies. In the end, all was rewarding, all was gratifying.

Disembarking the bus and thanking the second driver of the day I left for the last moments on foot to reach, contemplating and appreciating the responsible work of the person who drives. Come to think of it, it's Krishna who amongst other duties, takes the reigns of the horse and demonstrates an expertise behind the wheel, so to speak.

5 KM

Thursday, July 4th, 2013


Toronto, Ontario

​The Warped Tour is a music circuit of “ transy dancy ” type that moves around North America. There are the faithful fans of the tour that follow wherever the bands play. It's a culture and a chunk of that culture are the Hare Krishnas. How so? Madhukari is the name of a Krishna monk who comes up from the States not to hear the concert but to distribute books on higher consciousness. He, with four other brahmacharis travel the circuit and came to town for an overnight stay at the concert before moving on to Buffalo. Followers of the Grateful Dead circuit were known as the Dead Hoods but you would never call these boys the Warped Heads because they are absolutely straight in their aim and mission.

​I was sitting down at an appreciation dinner for the former council members of our temple operations when Madhu walked in. He and his team are also praiseworthy for their austere lifestyle, travelling about with no real fixed address, no girlfriends, no restaurants, no meat, fish or eggs, no drugs or drinks. Sound blend?

​Not a chance! These guys are dead serious and they are loving life. They have picked up on the essence of monkism. Shining examples of renunciation. They resort to being celibate as much as they understood what it means to “ celebrate “.

10 KM

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Wheels, People and Numbers

Toronto, Ontario

I thought the figure was quite low and revealing. I took a walk and passed by the major police station for Metro Toronto on College St. The death toll for Metro Toronto involving motorists/pedestrians was 13 for the year 2012. It would not be a boasting number but it has already reached the figure of 13 for this year. Unfortunate because we’re only halfway through the year.

Fatalities involving vehicles and pedestrians is everyone’s pet peeve and I’m sure that in the days of horse and buggy collisions and death scenarios were also a reality in the good ‘ol days. In any event the numbers tell that we have relative safety. We all die by some means. The mortality rate is 100%.

Personally I’m looking forward to the summer events of Ratha Yatra and to being an eager participant in the Montreal version this weekend. Foot travellers, chariots and on wheels will be interspersed on streets this season. The chariots do not operate on motor power but by a rope that is sometimes strenuously and sometimes less so pulled by pedestrians of devotion.
Author Adi Sankaracharya writes in the famed song, “Jagannastakam”:

“When Sri Jagannatha (Lord of the Universe) moves along the road on His Rathayatra car at every step large assemblies of brahmanas loudly chant prayers and sing songs for His pleasure.”

The event is basically enchanting -- full of charm and so little harm.

[For info. on the Toronto Festival of Chariots, contact, or 1-888-535-FEST]

11 KM

Monday, July 1st, 2013

July 1st

Ottawa, Ontario

July the 1st marks the birthday of Canada. It’s an opportunity for people to get together for a good time over smoothies or beer. And at the Nation’s capital at Parliament Hill much activity goes on attracting the secular and spiritual population.

Every year near the War Memorial we, “the Krishna’s”, set up a stage with speakers, microphones and awnings to accommodate our chanting sessions. I participate on a yearly basis. I make a point of it to come and to lead the chanting.

I believe it to be the liveliest event of the year for those of us who are delivering. What are we delivering? Answer: Mantra. How was it received? Phenomenally well. Very well! The public just lit up when they saw our party of chanters snake and smoke our way through the crowds.

Wherever there’s an opportunity, we will be there to sing the song and for you, the public, to dive in there with us and shake a leg. The slogan “all is one”, as the folks who prescribe to the philosophy known as “mayavad” would say, or as Dr. Bronner’s soap container would read on its label, with kirtan it is most appropriate.

Chanting unites. Happy Birthday Canada!

10 KM

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

“Best Use”

Ottawa, Ontario

It appeared like an endless bus ride, but it did end, like everything else.
I was also at the end of the line, practically the last passenger on the Greyhound destined for Ottawa. That meant little to no choice for seats; I ended up right next to the washroom. It didn’t smell so good being there.
“Make the best use of a bad bargain,” our guru Srila Prabhupada, used to say. This adage of wisdom can apply to most circumstances including the part that I have this body which is temporary and poses problems. Still this machinery, with its defects, can be a most useful tool in accomplishing my goals which should take me beyond the effort to just survive.

I looked at the bright side of things regarding the seating arrangement I had to settle for. I had the best seat for stretching my legs being at the end of the aisle. It even topped that over the leg room that the bus driver had. I should be a happy chappy.
For the use of time, I believe it was well spent going through final pages of the book “Radha-Damodhar Vilas”, which details the lives of two American monks, Vishnujana Swami and Jayananda Prabhu. It delineates the pioneering of Krishna Consciousness in North America during the late 60’s to the early 70’s. It’s a good read as far as outlining the spirit of the time through the testimonies of so many who lived through it all.

Those were enthusiastic, creative and do-the-needful times. We were “just kids”, you could say, but we were serious about our spiritual side. For some of us that mood endured.

3 KM

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

“We Are Jewish”

Toronto, Ontario

After doing a marathon and suddenly coming to a halt, or even a break (as in my case), it is easy to go through some withdrawal symptoms. I have been habituated to a 30 plus km daily jaunt. With a flight from Regina to Toronto eating up time and then an engagement with an “Evening of Bhakti” I then end up at the same juncture many times before. With no real physical activity today I am left destitute.

It’s quite simple to understand. I just can’t fall asleep even though it’s past midnight. What to do?

I’ve learned from the past to just get up and start walking. So I picked up my reclining self and went down the Yonge St. trail.

Two fellows approach me at the stoplight at Yonge & Bloor. “Are you Hare Krishna?”

“Yes I am!”

“Can you give us some truth, something to think about? We are Jewish, by the way.”

The light changed. We started walking. And I said, “Yes, essentially we are not these bodies. We are the spirit within the body. Establish who you really are first. You are not a machine (this body). You are the engine inside the machine.”

“That’s good,” said the one guy.

“We come from a Jewish background.”

“Jews and India get along. I go there every year,” I explained. “I have lots of friends who are Jews.”

“Yeah, well, we’re hated all over the world but not in India.”

“India has always been accommodating, especially the Hindu mindset. Tolerance, patience is taught.”

We then parted our ways as they took a different route. They know “our place”, our ashram on Avenue.
“Please come and visit us when you can.”

After a trek up and down what was a noisy street I returned back to the ashram and slept like a baby.”

8 KM