Monday 30 September 2013

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Willis and the Gita

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I met Willis at German Town, he was just having a smoke outside the pub when we greeted each other.  First of all, because he was curious, I had to clarify which monastic order I belong to.

“What’s your belief system?” he asked.

“We follow the ancient teaching of Bhagavad Gita.”

“Hey, I read Bhagavad Gita,” which he pronounced perfectly.

“What do you think of it?”

“It’s got a lot of positive energy,” remarked Willis who I learned is a writer and a real estate agent.

Eventually our conversation lead to many spheres and especially the topic of male/female union.  He asked me what advice I could give of his urge and pursuit in this direction.  Frankly, I suggested to find the right partner and be committed to the one.  This way you both work on patience, tolerance and selflessness.  “We will all exit from this world at one point, and we want to leave this world being very clean inside,” I said.  To this he nodded in agreement.  It seems that Willis knows the people in the neighbourhood where two blocks away from our ISKCON centre, he succeeded in pulling a couple of guys over to let them in on the conversation.  We eventually parted on amicable terms.

Hours later I found myself in the office of Ravindra.  I had asked him for a critique on our dramatical rendition of the Bhagavad Gita called, “Gita: Concise”.  He was just cool with everything he had seen and had heard on the stage the previous day.  He did offer a brief suggestion for perhaps inserting a script, an emphasis on everyone’s natural role in this world as a servant.  Thanks, Ravindra, consider it done.

By the way, my performance towards walking was poor today, but a second take on the drama where my energy went, enthralled our Sunday crowd at the ISKCON Open House, including the university students that came.

3 KM

Saturday, September 28th, 2013


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

How is a person to walk without his shoes?  May he go barefoot?

There is one criticism that I have when visiting a Vedic centre, temple, or even a yoga studio.  While some of these destinations do not subscribe to the mayavad or ‘all is one’ philosophy, when it comes to precious shoes, you might experience a free for all culture.  It’s a little bit odd, but arrangements for the deities in a temple is totally together, or orderliness in a yoga session, but if you’re looking for a good first impression at the shoe shelf entrance area, then look elsewhere.

It was embarrassing for me when I discovered that Ravindra, the leader of the community, spent a good portion of his morning trying to track down my footwear.  He is my senior of nine years, he is my big bro, and to have him do this for me, well, it was a moment of humility that struck me.  I had left my pair of shoes at the entrance before retiring for the night.  By morning, prior to a proposed walk, they had vanished.  It ends up that they were borrowed.  Humourously, my crocs, a couple, if you will, had gone for separation.  One was found in the kitchen and another was found by some stairwell, a result of enthused chaos in preparation for the Chariot Fest today.

In any event, we were all “happy feet” again, and I became majorly involved in a chanting procession which began at noon at Ben Franklin Parkway to the art museum where according to one devotee is the famed place where Sylvester Stallone had himself go up and down those steps for training in the classic film, Rocky.

For the entertainment at the “Parade of Chariots” many Bharat Natyam dances took place. There’s a mesmerizing pull that these dance presentations offer, but after a while, I think, the audience wants something more comprehensible (the style of dance has vocalists using non-English formats).  Our troupe of monks from Canada came on the stage to demonstrate a different art form with a predominant male presence for “Gita: Concise”.  It went over really well.

As the day rolled on, my shoes stayed put at the base of my legs.  At one point I tucked them under a table situated near the mantra yoga tent where I also conducted a session.

You might lose your shoes, you might lose your soles, but you should never lose your soul.

8 KM

Sunday 29 September 2013

Friday, September 27th, 2013

At Philly

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It was near the commuter train that I entered a winding trail near these black walnut trees, a peaceful path it is.  I came upon a seniors couple on the whole hour there.  The rest of the time I was to myself.  It seems to be an unofficial trail which is the best kind.  For the most part, it’s a neat trail, a clear trail.  However, in certain sections, but rarely, you could find broken glass, a result of outdoor partying by youth most likely.

Ravindra had earlier on told me of these entangling trails.  While dark, we tread one on the course of our japa walk which didn’t end up being a mantra meditation walk at all.  He is full of talk with the rich history of the area of German town and Chestnut Hill.  He let me in on all that he wanted to say.  We also touched on some details of his half Christian half Jewish heritage.  I did feel like I achieved a lesson in history of a portion of this city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.

If you go to a place like Europe, you’ll hear about Philadelphia for its cream cheese.  According to Ravindra’s wife, when Europeans speak of the renowned cheese, they only use the word Philadelphia as the spread you put over sandwiches, bagels and other foods.  No mention of cheese in the conversation.  Philadelphia is synonymous to cream cheese.  In fact, this is the common food product that I use in applying to tortillas to make wraps with veggies when I trek across Canada, it nourishes me.

The only other thing that makes me think of this city is Shyamalan, the director of the film The Sixth Sense, whom I met when before he became a noted master in film.

I had delivered a class at the Radha Krishna temple on Allens Road this morning.  It turned out as much of a discussion as it did a discourse or talk.  The verse from which I spoke mentioned the Kumaras who were lifelong monks.  That then lead to the topic of the marital status of people, in many cases people do stay single, but what makes life a fulfillment is through a spiritual channel where a relationship has a solid base only.

7 KM

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

A True Friend

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A true friend is someone who leads you on to a trail.

The small group of us from Canada had made the trip to Philly.  I met with Ravindra Svarup and his wife who told me of trails in the Mount Ary district.  Mount Ary is a place where there’s old growth trees.  It’s also the area of the first integrated neighbourhood in America where people of black and white origin found comfort in coexistence.  Though the trails are here, it wouldn’t be until tomorrow morning that I would do some exploration in the vegetation.

Back to Ravindra and wife, Saudamini – I admire them so much.  Here are a couple who have remained as such for decades.  You can say they survived the test of time as a couple.  At a time when the family unit faces challenges in this age of modernity there are some shining representatives of loyalty that exist.  We don’t talk about them because on the very personal note, they have not produced sensational news.

Ravindra in particular, has practically document research history of the Hare Krishna society likely more that anyone.  If not documented, he has that retaining brain of accounts in its development, challenges and triumphs of what seemed like an idealistic group from the 60’s.  He and I, and for some minutes, Saudamini, sat for quite a while looking at an interesting path of a culture that soon turns 50 in the year 2016.  To say that Krishna Consciousness is new would be fallacious.  It’s an old culture.  Krishna devotionalism has existed for thousands of years with roots in India.

It is my wish and deep desire to trek the US in 3 years from now and follow the trail of how the Krishna Culture spread from Boston, to New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles.  In fact, today marks the anniversary that our guru, the founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada anchored ship in America in September 1965.  The society became official in ’66 in New York.  I became a monk with the group in the spring of ’73 in Toronto, Canada.

No regrets from my side, especially when I have friendship from Ravindra and Saudamini.  By the way, Ravindra legal academic name is Dr. William Deadwyler III.  He is one of my favourite authors of theological essays.

For today – no walking, a long time was spent on wheels to get to Philly.  It’s a kind of a curse.

0 KM/0 miles

Thursday 26 September 2013

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

It Happened At Bloor

Toronto, Ontario

It was a small chanting party that enthused the public at the business and shopping area of Bay and Bloor.  We were a lively bunch.  We looked happy.  One of our monks from the ashram, Maha Mantra by name, is particularly good at playing the mridanga drum.  Pedestrians would light up when passing our jolly crew, although you could see the occasional nose in the air kind of response.

One particular fellow took us by surprise.  He was obviously drunk.  At the same time, he would not be in the category of being a total loser.  He was dressed very spiffily even.

“Sixty-nine!” he slurred, “It was Sixty-nine I first met you guys at Rochedale.”  Rochedale was an experimental cooperative high rise where you found intellectuals, hippies, beatniks and even Hare Krishnas who are living on one floor.  At that time there was rampant drug usage, sex orgies, people jumping out the windows while tripping.  Of course, the Krishna’s were exempt from those habits.  It was cheaper accommodation so they found it favourable for residing there.

In any event the elated chap kept talking, embracing, and handing us cash, even though we never asked for any.  It was hard to comprehend what he was saying at times, he just kept rattling on as we enjoyed his spontaneously warm reception.  He kind of made our day you could say by the way that he was so overly accepting of us.  At least we could decipher when he said, “Group hug, group hug,” to which we responded.  Indeed he was the strongest character we met of all the people there, and he left an impression.

Now, if someone asks why are we out here in the first place, singing and playing all this music, how to respond?  Are we a band of street musicians out here to entertain?

The answer to this type of question actually surfaced in our morning discussion when we explored what sacred space is. The sage, Narada Muni defined pilgrimage space in the book Bhagavatam as an area where spiritual activity is enacted.

For those of us who processioned our way from our ashram to Bloor Street, we no doubt benefitted from the workout, and especially for Dharma, a monk in his 60’s who has some disability.  We feel that chanting in various public locations offers the space a transition of spirit.  It is meant to be an act of magnanimity that great kirtan yogis have made as a contribution to the world.

9 KM

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Finding Your Apple Tree

Brampton, Ontario

When I trek through the villages of the prairies just on this last ventures, I sought to meet people.  And, for the sake of replenishing energy, I also kept my eyes on the trees of the village in hope to at least spot an apple tree.  It’s that time of year that this hearty fruit comes up for harvest.  A lesson on detachment often came my way because trees for wind and snow shelter is common around at a person’s house.  But that’s the prairies, you’re lucky to find apples.

Now that I’ve arrived in a quite different environment, vegetationally and perhaps culturally also, farmer’s apple trees planted from the days of yore were in the plenty in the Heart Lake area of Brampton.  There were multiple varieties.  Rajnish, Alpa and I took to the edge of the lake for a stroll only to be richly rewarded with these fleshy and tasty packages of mercy.

Things looked up throughout the day.  I signed papers for a 2 year lease to a building, the new location of our Brampton community for future occupancy right in the downtown core.  This is a victory of course.

I also could not help to sense another stroke of optimism in the air when later on in the day I veered to the quite Rosedale neighbourhood on a second solo walk near downtown Toronto.  In front of me a young man was singing a song to himself as he was striding several metres ahead of me.  I first heard him as we ambled on a bridge overlooking the ravine.  I admit I was drawn to the song, but I couldn’t discern the genre of music.  Then I concluded that it was like a lullaby, it was that mystical time of day at dusk.  And as I picked up speed with the anticipation of hearing more clearly, it seemed that he did also.  He was dark, either black or east Indian, he kept going on at it until he made a turn.  By then the sun had almost vanished, so I lost him.  It’s rare to hear someone sing to themselves for a prolonged time.  It was like a discovery moment.  A discovery which excites like coming upon an abandoned apple tree at Heart Lake.

I had turned a corner myself, making my way back to the ashram.  I greeted a guy and said, “How are you?”  His tone was terrible, in fact he blurted out the word, “Terrible.”

“What’s wrong?”  I stopped and asked, “Such extremes,” I thought.  I jumped from Mr. Happy Go Lucky to Mr. Grumps.

Mr. Grumps was beefing about clearing someone’s yard of unwanted shrubs and how he didn’t get paid.  I tried to cheer him up, but it appeared that the chip on his shoulder was a heavy chunk.

I hope he finds his apple tree.

9 KM

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Until We Resume

Edmonton, Alberta

Yogendra, an active member of the Radha Govinda Cultural Centre, helped break the 0KMs/miles of yesterday.  It seems tragic when you don’t score in one day.  Realistically, the rest is necessary.

In the Rutherford region of Edmonton, a suburban trail did suffice.  It took us by surprise, but there it was, just as we were headed by vehicle to a known spot we stumbled upon a forested trail.  I’m grateful that urban planners include paths for people.  Our grand score was a whopping 3 KMs, sarcastic as it may sound.

Feet do make noise when they move. Creatures that reside on either side of the trail can hear steps and/or feel the vibes that we create.  In the course of this puny trek, I observed a haunting quiet.  It’s obvious we’ve entered the fall season and that means longer sleep for many living entities, and a deeper receding in to holes and crevices and the earth and the trees.  Mosquitos or bugs are now retired for a while, something I don’t necessarily lament over.  But, whatever the season, we humans manage to routinely blaze the same trail.  We are out and about.  I guess that you could say that we are the resilient bugs.

Sharada conducts a Krishna Sunday school in her own home.  Her husband, Srinivasan, is most supportive of the program.  Together they hosted a satsang, a spiritual gathering.  It was Daruka and I in this last night out together who shared with this group our reminiscences of our trekking adventures.  It was a sometimes crazy adventure that we had.  Kirtan calmly closed the session, as did a great veggie feast.  I rounded up the event with a reading from the book Bhagavatam, 1.11.26, it was a description of Bhagavan.

“His chest is the abode of the goddess of fortune.  His moonlight face is the drinking vessel for eyes which hanker after all that is beautiful.  His arms are the resting places for all the demigods, and His lotus feet are refuge of pure devotees who never talk or sing of anything not in relation to Him.”

Thanks, Daruka, for a fine journey with you and Billy.  Until we resume in the spring – Hare Krishna.

3 KM

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Let’s See

Edmonton, Alberta

Well, I’ve been there before – at the cut-off point.  Cold turkey is a term when you abruptly axe yourself from an addiction, if that’s possible.

The addiction referred to is walking.  This leg of the walk, the 4th, saw me through the southern part of Manitoba and then southern Saskatchewan and then well into southern Alberta.  You can easily get psychologically affected.  A doctor said withdrawal symptoms could arise when you marathon and then suddenly come to a halt.  Let’s see what happens.

Daruka and I headed north for two speaking engagements in Edmonton.  As we moved along on Highway 2 towards our destination, I had a hard look at the feet while in the passenger’s seat.  We’re looking at healthy, relaxed calves, but at feet, have had some challenges.  Cracks on the heels, dead warts skin at the toes’ ends, and some slight inflammation on the tiny toes are all symptomatic of some hard walking.  What true warrior wouldn’t have some scars. Fortunately the knee joints aren’t the least bit agitated.

The other day Daruka and I met Tyrell, a chap from Saint Albert near Edmonton.  His grandparents apparently walked the country coast to coast.  They are missionaries.  I would love to make a connection with them, share some of the road experiences, let’s see.

As we plied along at a good clip in Daruka’s Grand Prix, I had another look at a map of Alberta and then peered outside the window to view the towns we passed by in correspondence to the map.  I could see that this Highway 2 which runs north/south has an ample quantity of towns and villages, places that are off the beaten path.  My heart did not exactly palpitate, but a cloud of dreams did suddenly pop into my presence.  “What if?” I thought, “Just what if I tread the path of north/south, even if east/west roads don’t juncture here?”  The thought did excite. Generally the direction taken to accomplish the goal of walking the entire country is latitudinally, at least for Canada, but that means that you miss umpteen, if not hundreds of places that are on the longitudinal grid.

In the future strategizing of trekking the whole stretch of Canada, what about trying to cover every town and village?  Let’s see.

Dream away, Swami.

0 KM
 BMS addresses Eastend, SK seniors
 BMS addresses Eastend, SK seniors
  Shaunavon, SK Library kirtan
 Interview with Penny at Shaunavon, SK radio station
 Weyburn, SK radio station interview
Relaxing near Estevan, SK Dam at end of day
 Viceroy, SK grain elevator
 Bison in Southwest Manitoba
 Visiting Lynn and friends in Pangman, SK
 Brenda and Victoria from Eastend walk with us past Saskatchewan/ Alberta border
 Walking past one of the many grain fields of Saskatchewan
I think this hay bale would look better over there
 Namaste with paramedics on the highway
  Behold the mighty grain
  Daruka and Billie beside replica of Plesiosaur found near Ponteix, SK
 a break by a hay bale
 Bhaktimarga Swami, Daruka and Billie + hay bale
 Hari Nama with Calgary devotees
  Eastend locals offer fresh produce
 Bow Island, Alberta interview
Morning dove at sunrise
Gathering at Brenda's Yoga Studio in Eastend, SK
  Southeast Manitoba forest
  Chocolate Peak, Eastend, SK
 Enjoying milkshake with DQ owner's son Nahal and Ravi in Medicine Hat, Alberta
BMS, Daruka and Billie with Consul, SK mayor Linda Brown

 BMS, Daruka and Billie at Saskatchewan/ Manitoba border

  BMS at Saskatchewan/ Manitoba border
 Leaving Manitoba

 Hare Davidson
 Monk train
 Laughing it up with Gainesborough, SK locals
Ron's house in Robsart, SK
 Craig and Layla from Maple Creek Newspaper

BMS, Daruka and Billie with principal of Assiniboia, SK school
  BMS and principal of LaFleche school

  With reporter and police officer in Taber, Alberta on last day of this leg of the walk.

  Falcon in flight

 Heritage village in southwest Saskatchewan
 Rushing River, Ontario

  A motorist pulls over to chat
 Oil rigs which are scattered throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan

 Grain sunrise
 Feeding a bear in Emo, Ontario

  Estevan, SK newspaper photographer
 Showing a reporter japa beads at 'The Soul Hideout in Estevan, SK

  Walking down  a lonely street; Sasha's 'Satya Yoga Studio' in Swift Current, SK
  In the bank vault of Sasha's yoga studio in Maple Creek, SK...."Aaaauuuuummmmm."