Thursday 31 October 2013

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Nice Touch

Tel Aviv, Israel

My main host in Israel is a bright 25 year old Russian-born Bala Krishna. As we made the drive to Tel Aviv for a walk, a swim and Kirtan with others he showed me a hard copy of an interesting graph. It was an EEG, electroencephalogram, of two people, quite avid practitioners of bhakti yoga and how the brain waves showed a beautiful solid reading of an exceptionally controlled mind when they chanted gayatri mantras.

It was an experiment conducted as part of academic research showing unseen ability to control brain-wave patterns. The whole world is becoming intrigued with the practice if meditation and how it brings about a positive sense of focus in people's lives. If science gets behind this ancient technique for making life tolerable then it will be rendering a great service, don't you think?

Since my last visit to Israel two years ago when I actually completed walking the country I see the efforts to improve the quality of life at least by the beachfront, the Mediterranean shoreline. A bicycle path, with north and south lanes, has been introduced with a bike rental system as you see in world-class cities. But what else can provide an enhanced way of being?

The kirtan that was lead by one other Russian devotee on harmonium with speakers and an entourage had many people spontaneously dancing and putting their effort out to take a crack at mantra meditation. The people here have a sense of rhythm and this was clearly demonstrated by passersby, tourists and such, who didn't just end up passing by but who stayed for a stretch to join in the fun. A lot of happy faces erupted as folks entered this domain.

The two young guys in particular remained with our male circle of dancers as they kept a simple but creative step for a good long while. Our female-formed circle also attracted women who stumbled upon a very festive side of a Saturday Night Fever. The more delicately demonstrated impressive hand moves.

I'm not sure what a graph would look like if all kirtan participants, including dancers and onlookers, were hooked up to a brain-wave machine. Judging by the joy on the faces I think that alone to be a good gauge. From what I gather the city of Tel Aviv is gracious to allow for this outdoor kirtan to go on for many years. This party of mantra chanters puts a nice touch to the the social landscape of the Mediterranean Sea side.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, October 25th 2013

Getting to Know You
Tel Aviv, Israel
From the ashram in Aeriel on Hadekel Street, two of the monks residing here took me on a trail that looped around the edge of the town. It was 5:30 AM and Adan was being sung from a minaret of the local mosque. One of the monks chose to be in civilian attire for reasons that he didn't want to deal with authorities. The other one was bolder and stuck to devotional attire. I didn't think there was too much to worry about.
I was becoming familiar with the customary greeting in "Hebrew". Of course, there's Shalom. Also boker tov was the expression I got to know. We were not alone on the stroll. There were warm greeters. One man however, with a lips cap on his head just didn't take too well to our presence. I was trying to get "biker to my tongue, grappling for this new term to send off. I found a big smile had to suffice. A condescending glance that went from my head to toe was how he reciprocated.
I got to know the area a bit, including the university grounds. Cats frequent the streets. Bala Krishna, one of the monks, told me that the students feed these stray feline creatures, which explains the numbers. Jasmine, fig and olive shrub and trees are recognizable to me. It's a wonderful world.
Twelve hours later and we drove ourselves to near the central bus station in Tel Aviv. I'm just a stranger here but I find an absolute "no no" that our Krishna devotees are partaking in. There's nothing wrong with them chanting. In fact, I'm keen to be a part of it. It's the location and formation that got me concerned. As a rule of thumb I would never have a chanting party cause people to have to walk around and walk on the sidewalk and especially outside a busy department store. Sure enough, security came out because our group was just too much "in the face" of the place and so they reacted. Mind you the singing and drumming was supremely lively but we were in one spot for too long, too loud and creating worse than a bottle-neck situation. We had to move on. I hope to learn from our mistakes.
A ten minute walk and we were set for an evening sanga at a community hall. It was a predominant Russian community that came to hear about the Science of the Self, to sing, eat and enjoy each others' company. Bala Krishna translated my message and I was gratified to hear the audience was gratified. It's all the mercy of guru.
May the source be with you!
7 KM

Saturday 26 October 2013

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

The Run

Aeriel, Israel

At the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, time was tight for catching the flight to Tel Aviv from Mumbai.  My walk within the terminal to my designated gate almost broke into a sprint, just to make sure I wouldn’t be late.  Once reaching gate 502, it was relieving to know that our plane destined for Israel was a few minutes late.  Phew!

I got to thinking (meditating perhaps) that there are a few well known instances where Krishna was recorded to have run like crazy.  One example is when he was young and he ran away from the aggressive King, Jarasandha.  It might have appeared that Krishna whose self took on a role as aksatriya warrior had now portrayed himself as cowardly, but that wasn’t the case.  Circumstantially he received a letter from his bride to be, Rukmini, who was set in great danger, he ran to her rescue.

Another occasion where Krishna ran and in genuine fear, was when he was a mere toddler and his mother, Yashoda, came after him to catch him and chastise him for some apparent wrong doing.  To put it very plainly, Krishna had built up a reputation as a prankster.  In this case he deliberately broke a household butter pot.  Some people may offer their opinions that he could be excused because he was so young in his formative years.

Run, he did.   Got caught, he did, after a well worn out chase by his mom.  In the mood of parental love, Yashoda had committed to exercising correctional services upon her son, which involved a rope, a stick and a hard run.

This pastime involving Krishna and Yashoda had many endearing messages behind it.  When I arrived at the men’s/women’s ashram in Aeriel, an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, I was asked to remark about the running boy, Krishna.  I was equipped with a new book, “Damodara” by Bhakti Purusottama Swami.  It’s an excellent read, and as the author proudly put it when he happily delivered it to my hand the other day, “This is a compilation of the combined efforts of the acharyas who have commented on the matter.”  He was referring to Krishna’s running.  You might want to check out this book.

May the great Source be with you!

0 KM

Friday 25 October 2013

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

To Pune
Pune, India
Enroute to Mumbai is another city in the state of Maharashtra where devotion soars high in the midst of the passion of urbanization.  The place is Pune which had recently opened doors to a new temple located in its suburbs.  I was to see this as a stopover before proceeding to Mumbai.  There is this gorgeous temple of red stone and white marble.  I was warmly greeted by at least twenty monks engaged in kirtan chanting at the temple's entrance.  Inside a class was in session, conducted by Bhanu and Bhakti Chaitanya Swamis.  Then I was called up to speak a few minutes.
Unaware of the actual topic of today, I just decided to 'wing it' and ask an even larger group of monks to answer my question.  In this way we could be more interactive and keep the group alert.
My question was, "Why have you all decided to take up life in this temple/ashram?"  The answers flowed like water.  It was easy to hit thirty-five reasons for being a monk in this very sattvic place, in this mode of goodness atmosphere.  We could have gone on but it was time to terminate.  "Love, care, friendship, education, purification, peace," were some of the clinchers for these young men moving in.
From here I was driven to breakfast at a devotee's apartment (I hope I can fit some time into a trek somewhere in the day).  Ascending the steps to the apartment building a young man was standing there.  I saw the opportunity to leave him the flower garland given to me at the temple.  As a kind gesture I began to raise the beautiful crafted flower garland towards his head.  He immediately backed away as I could understand he was likely not a Hindu. He resisted like anything.
In the Marathi language my assistant started speaking to the fellow, whom I now offered a handshake instead. He then responded.  It turns out that the fellow was Muslim and was not willing to partake in a foreign gesture.  I appreciated that he did compromise though.  "Why must there be such colossal walls between the different approaches to the Absolute?" I thought.  When the Berlin Wall finally did come tumbling down it opened up a greater communication between East and West Germany. The problem with the invisible wall between faiths is that it appears more formidable than that apparent solid barricade that politically tears people apart, such as the great wall of China.
"Come together, right now!"  John Lennon.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Safari Destination

Mahabaleshwar, India
This place could easily turn into a safari destination point.  I put my feelers out there hoping to attract a crew to go hiking with.  Initially it was going to be Dominique, Dina Sharina, one of our outstanding female leaders from Germany, and myself to trek a longer route today and only in the wilderness.  By dispatch time, 9:00 am, a dozen willing and eager people came forward for the time together and time for mantra meditation on foot.  News got out that leeches found under leaves and on grass are in abundance.  It didn't seem to intimidate anyone - a sign of leadership, I'd say.
As I've said before to have a real adventure it takes getting lost to accomplish that.  Dominique, who's a well-intentioned guide, himself became a little bewildered when paths turned into overgrowth.  Being the person he is, he was as cool as a cucumber about it and consulted with some women in sarees who, out of habit and need, were in the forest collecting firewood with machetes in their hands.
A second time of losing grip on directions forced intuition (or supersoul) to help us gain our bearings.  We took to uneven ground over volcanic rock.  In some instances thorny branches grabbed the ends of our flowing devotional attire.  We crossed one of those creeks balancing ourselves on tottering rocks; not bad for a bunch of people mostly in their sixties.  Finally we connected with a road of pavement which led us to an extraordinary vista.  From there a coincidence (if you want to believe such) happened - our pick-up van showed up, terminating the trek, much to all of our troupers' dismay.  Just under two hours was not sufficient for the adventuresome.
There is no bonding like this that takes place when people in moderate number, move together through thickets and clearings on a wild trail.
We merged with our larger group, fellow devotees, when finally in the night over a veggie barbecue enterprise, we offered ghee lamps to the image of Damodara (baby Krishna) and listened to a dramatical reading from the script 'Gita: Concise' which I compiled paraphrasing Krishna's rich words.  This was the last of readings by Praghosa and I to our group of peers at Mahabaleshwar.  In front of the Heritage Building at the resort our challenge at reading was getting our scripts to behave considering the winds were high, tossing the pages of the script.
One of the many instructive lines was the script indeed contained a message about wind.  As I turned a page the word popped out.  In regards to the mind Krishna says, "Be like a flame in a windless place where it does not waver."
May the Source be with you!
7 KM

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Jungle and the Temple

There was a high concentration of saffron at our morning sadhana program.  This simply means that monastic fellows were in good attendance.  The venue was the conference room at Ram Sukh Resort.  We enjoyed singing in gratitude to guru, to Krishna, to His pleasure potency Radha - Female Divine.  And for meditation on the Earth green we praised Tulasi, the sacred herb mentioned over and over in ancient texts of bhakti (devotion).
To prove our amicable nature towards the earth's bounties coupled with a fever for seeing old and antiquated anythings, a few of us set foot to trek in the local wilderness.  We had in mind to explore.  Two groups went their own chalked out routes.  Lokanath Swami heading the first group and Dominique was our guide for the second group.  It was a two and a half hour exploration through the low jungles of the area.  We then ventured to a Siva Lingam Temple, a structure from another era; rewinding time 5000 years to when the warrior Bhima of the famous Pandavas erected this piece of wonder.
While Bhakti Bhringa Govinda and Radhanath Swamis were being treated for leech attacks, the balance of us zealously stepped into a moment of great honor in time.  At this temple courtyard a stone carving of Siva's bull Nandi spouts out from his mouth the pure water source of one of India's sacred rivers, The Krishna.  The river flows for hundreds of kilometers to the southern state of Kerala - awesome.  We stand to be corrected however, because just a few meters in elevation is another temple where apparently 5 rivers converge in the form of spring water, which come forth like little trickles before they transform into volumes of Bhumi's (earth) elixir.
Prahlad Rathi, our resort owner, so kindly ventured with us.  And although he may be classified as being in the big-shot category as a swanky businessman, on the contrary he is as humble and accommodating as they come.  It is not that saintly hood only comes in packages of saffron or in the dress of the royal order like the hero Bhima, but you can find it streaming from anywhere and everywhere like the many springs that rhythmically descend to the base of the Krishna Valley.  By the end of the day we fondly looked at the sun's bowing out in this magical valley.
May that great Source be with you!
10 KM

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Horn Not
Mahabaleshwar, India
From Juhu a bus load of us elders (I guess you could say) journeyed to the Shayadri Mountains, one of three major ranges in India.  We ventured to a secluded place at the summit of a hill station - The Ram Sukh Resort in Mahabaleshwar where we were to chill for three days.
Juhu was our place of business, discussion, and strategic planning.  This resort was to be a place to relax with a non-compulsory program.  It's a first.  Yet it is understood that sadhana or the minimum requirement of japa chanting was still standard.
After an interesting zig-zag ride with tight curbs on a windy trail our bus could go no further due to lack of ample maneuvering space.  Conveyance by car took us to the entrance of the resort, a full-vegetarian heaven-on-earth tourist trap.  The rear parking lot has a sign attached to it which reads "HORN NOT OKAY PLEASE."  Not all motorists read the message.  As I made my way with luggage to the Solitarie Building for accommodation, a person insisted on tooting.
We lunched with Bhanu Swami (a Japanese Canadian monk), Bhakti Purusottam Swami from Bengal, and Madhusevata (a guru from Italy).  Then it was American-born Kavichandra Swami and I who took to a mediocre-rough trail after lunch.  When Kavichandra was young he was like a Tarzan in spirit.  At the outskirts of his Minniapolis family house were woods galore and he trained himself to move with speed through the forest.
Our guide was Dominique Saunders from Madhya Pradesh and he let us know that we should expect wild buffalo, wild boar, deer, and monkeys along our trail of numerous Ayurveda herbs and trees.  We spotted monkeys who appeared to want privacy as we watched them springing from tree to tree.  Deer hoof-prints were on the foot path but no trace otherwise.  Wild boars made their mark with turned-over soil which happens to be richly red.  And as for the wild buffalo - yes, footprints were there.  One nonchalant foot placement by Kavichandra happened to not clear a fresh patty on the forest trail.  I'm sure Tarzan stepped in a lot of this stuff in his time.
Fascinating was the presence of volcanic rock in addition to a splendorous view of the Krishna Valley that is spring fed, fueling one of India's sacred rivers that goes by the same name - Krishna.  We happened to be near its source.
In December of 1976 our guru, Srila Prabhupada, came to Mahabaleshwar.  Unfortunately the journey to and fro created motion-sickness.
May the Source be with you!
4 KM

Monday 21 October 2013

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Saturday Night Sounds
Juhu Beach, India
What does Juhu Beach look like on Saturday night?  It's pretty much what you'd expect.  In the commerce and residential areas it is busy with crazy traffic and people milling about.  Passions are high.  Ambitions and anticipations are also.  What fun can I have?  Let's try a new restaurant.  Let's hope to spring upon a new relationship; let's build upon the old ones.
And the beach itself from the stretch of fish town (smell it - uhh!) to the end of a lamp-post section it's people catching some air off the Arabian Sea.  There's gatherings, Hindu rituals, and vendors flogging their nic-nac wares.
One thing that's intriguing for beach-comers on this Saturday night is a bunch of hot, sweaty young men in some kind of moving formation, holding placards and just making a lot of noise.  But wait their is the thud of drums - djembe and Bengali drums.  There's sounds of protest, so it seems.  Yes, in fact, protests against maya, the illusions all about.
That group, in friendly opposition, is us.  Well, I'm not young.  Let's make a disclaimer there, but the actual kirtan that we are taking on our feet over the surface of the sand is making me young.  I had at one moment winced at the thought of getting old.  You see, it's been a topic of discussion to some degree.  My excuse for being on the beach with the other devotees and not sitting in on the last sessions of meetings with my peers at mid-term AGM was to lead this chanting.  In one session the topic of resigning or retiring from managerial positions for a number of us took place.  Yes, succession planning is topical.
It's good that you can't say that for kirtan, chanting that you can never retire from.  It's about the only thing going on that is a fountain of youth.
Our gig on the beach drew in greater crowds.  It seems that people are drawn to hot, sweaty something-or-other going on and as excitement peaked with our drums and our lungs I saw the opportunity to physically pull potential dancers into our circle.  It worked.
Such was my second visit to the sands of Juhu for the day and such was my finale for walking before being treated by an excellent massage therapist, Rasik Shyam.  It lifted my spirits when he said I'm in good shape.  That's humbling to hear.  It's all by the mercy of guru and God.
May the Source be with you!
9 KM

Sunday 20 October 2013

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Just Seeing Old Friends
Juhu Beach, India
Just over four decades ago when American Krishna monks first set foot in Mumbai (then Bombay) it struck local people with curiosity and some with fear.  The sector of the public that was suspicious considered the Americans members of the CIA.  A popular Bollywood movie came out that lumped the Krishna devotees in with hippies.  People were singing a song from the film Dum Maro Dum which refers to smoking pot.  Devanand was the name of the director of the film and had agreed to meet some of our members to which time he apologized.
Eventually a gorgeous temple at Juhu was built and it became so popular.  This is where I'm staying.  On an average day thousands of pilgrims come to the temple.  Grandiose events such as Krishna's birthday take place.  Large scale marriages have this location as their venue.  Bollywood stars come for darshan - deity viewing.  Now, when you walk the beach, as I have been doing, in the same area, where establishing the temple took help from the public and lawyers after serious police harassment, we see a change in spirit.  To and from the beach early morning walkers greet me with a gracious, not even Namaste, but a "Hare Krishna!"
My colleagues (sannyasis and peers) and I were treated at the Bhaktivedanta Mission School, newly located a ten minute drive (my guess a 5 or 6 km walk) from the popular Juhu Temple.  Nine hundred students greeted us with mantras.  Well behaved and orderly, the students - mostly boys - demonstrated the spirit of enthusiasm just to see us older western guys.  When on our tour of this seven-story structure, we had been taken to the roof where you find a basket-ball court.  Of course, some of us were shooting balls testing our skills at the hoop - and scoring.
By evening I had dinner with a fairly well-known actress, Madhuri Bhatia, who appeared in feature films and daytime TV.  She had come to help us in Toronto when she resided there with our devotional dramas.  She brought a friend, also an actress, for a delicious meal at Govinda's.  I was accompanied by my assistant, Karuna Sindhu.  That made it two monks with two ladies, a little odd, but I see it all as family.
Occasionally one of my peers did walk through the restaurant noticing my company.  I just gave them a casual smile letting them know that I'm not doing anything non-conventional.  "Just seeing old friends.  That's all!"
May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Service In The Wet
Juhu Beach, India
It is unseasonably wet.  Rains have been coming to add onto the already humid atmosphere.  It makes it interesting.  This means that when taking your sand-bound steps either on the nearby beach or a flat-floor pacing in the ISKCON corridor floor #2 you perspire real easy.  After a shower it takes time for your brahmin's thread that's flung around the neck and across the torso to dry, much after you've donned a set of fresh and pressed clothing.
The service attitude here at the ISKCON Centre is phenomenal.  Your needs are met.  If you order a pomegranate juice it will be delivered, freshly-squeezed from local sources in a jiff.  But as a routine you don't order anything except for medicinal purposes, before the morning sadhana is over; the last portion of it being a class on a lesson from the book Bhagavatam.  Today's discourse came from Prahladananda Swami, who heads up the Sannyasa Ministry, the department that looks at eligible candidates for the renounced order.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" he recited over the mic in a sarcastic tone.  Prahladananda pokes fun at the ego.  Who will deny that the ego needs a few kicks everyday?
For kicks I later ask Prahladananda if he could reference the nursery rhyme.  He frankly admitted he couldn't remember.  After talking with our Latino peer, Jaga Jivan, he confirmed the source - Snow White.  You see, we're getting older being in our 60's.
A major chunk of the day was occupied in discussing art of the last five hundred years in the Vaishnav tradition.
Vasudev from France and I reviewed essays on the subject.  We observed that the pushtimarga movement inspired by pundit Vallabhacharya and son Vithal had influenced art in a profound way in the early 16th century.  Ornamental back drops and paintings to murtis, or deities gave a flavour of other-worldliness.  Scholars who have written on the subject of Vaishnav art may take note of the 'realism' that was amplified by followers of the founder of the Krishna Consciousness movement.
Vasudev, who's a film-maker, and I spent a solid three hours in our little 'art universe' until it was time to retire.  At the time I did so my brahmacari assistant, Karuna Sindhu, let in four massagers (if I said massage therapists it would have professional connotations).  Why four?  Four limbs, I guess.  They applied a pleasant Ayurveda oil which made me moist.  They managed to get themselves wet in the toil and the joy of service.
May the Source be with you!
6 KM

Thursday 17 October 2013

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Let's Get The Bhakti Down
Juhu Beach, India
It was at this beach that a man had been standing on his head when our guru, Srila Prabhupada, passed by him.  One of his students said to Srila Prabhupada, disclaiming the yogi saying, "This is not one of our men."  At that time the mood was that if you did anything that wasn't directly devotional you would be considered as being in maya (illusion).
Srila Prabhupada was silent for a few seconds and then remarked about the fellow doing the head-stand that this was good for health, implying that it was good for a practitioner of bhakti to do this type of thing.
Sometimes, those who are in devotion may carry a self-righteous attitude about what they do, regarding other practical things as secondary or less important.  My remark on that is we need to obtain a balance.
Here's an example of something interesting where the point of devotion was amiss for the sake of being practical.  Murali Krishna Swami is a huskily built green-eyed Boston bloke who used to excel in hockey before he became a monk.  He and I were sitting side-by-side at the edge of a carpet where we were enjoying doshas and chutney.  Two fellows proceeded to roll up the carpet in order to avoid spillage.  In the process M.K. Swami's dhoti (lower garment) got trapped in the carpet.  He finally yanked and freed his dhoti remarking to me, "Do they have to do this now?"  Once the carpet came my way my dhoti got trapped in also and the way things were looking I was going to be pulled in if I hung on.  If I was to remain indifferent I might become guilty of indecent exposure if I let the dhoti take its own course.  (Funny, but we just heard a recording on the message of renunciation).  In the meantime I tried to balance my plate of prasadam (food) when the plate tipped and the chutney spilled on my tugged-at dhoti.
I revealed the evidence to the carpet-rolling devotees who merely waggled their heads.  I thought maybe a tiny bit of thoughtfulness was absent.  So be it!
In any event I had a great day with team members of Vande (Vaishnava Arts for a New Devotional Era).  All was civilized in the end.
May the Source be with you!
5 KM

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I Tried
I tried to get some walking in Concourse E in Schipoel Airport, Amsterdam was the best place to do so - up and down, then maybe go for Concourse F as well.  It’s not totally practical with luggage to drag along.
At the end of E I was approaching a glass wall.  Perhaps at a left or right of it, I could explore another hall.  But “No.”  A security person came towards me.  Maybe I walked beyond a barrier I shouldn’t have?  It was a young woman, looking quite fair, looking rather Dutch.  In her uniform she came rather unofficial.  In fact she put her palms together and affixed “Namaste” as a salutation.  It turns out she’s taking yoga and aspires to become a teacher of the art.  We conversed about ego and its tendency to get in the way, of many things, just about everything.  I told her of my being a teacher of kirtan.
“Doing mantras?” she asked.
“Exactly!  If you open a yoga studio, I’ll be glad to come and give lessons on bhakti-yoga.”
I told her my name.  “Bhaktimarga” means path of devotion.  This was intriguing to her and that I have a reputation for doing pilgrimage.  She was floored when I told her I’m known as “The Walking Monk.”
“I don’t believe it.  I just read about you on the internet.”
“Ah, yes the internet, a blessing and a curse at the same time,” I thought.
We had to part and I had to leave to catch my flight to India.  Yes, India.  Before long I would get hit with a wave of heat and musty smells.  Traffic would be busy and roads very dusty.  But I love the people.  I love them.  I can’t wait to be, in a sense back home.
May the Source be with you!
2 KM

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Give Thanks!

It’s Canada’s Thanksgiving Day.  Families come together.  Like Christmas the holiday has come to be more secular than spiritual.  Original intent - almost vanished.
Being on flight from Canada to the USA to Amsterdam and finally to Mumbai (India) gives little time for celebration.  Thanks can be expressed any day and any time.  The attitude of gratitude lightens the spirit.  It leaves a damn good feeling.  Entitlement has the opposite effect.  Growing up Christian it was the thing to do.  You say “grace.”  You acknowledge.
When the meals come around on Delta Airlines I see few people carry the mood of thanks.  Of course, you can never know what’s going on in a person’s mind, but the general spirit is, “let’s eat!”  The original seed-giver to the food is taken for granted.  Nothing comes automatically.  It’s also with hard labour and incredible use of machinery that makes possible the substance for the stomach.  I hope sensitivity in this area will increase.
My parents tell of the Great Depression and great war (II) that they endured.  They saw people being killed.  Nazis would come into your home at night and help themselves to anything.  The boys and men would have to be hidden away so as not to be forcibly taken away.  In my father’s home an extremely narrow hallway behind a facade wall was the place of retiring for the night when the Nazis would come.  I also read a newspaper article where my father and uncle hid in a hay stack when they were being searched for.  We also heard of the hunger in that pressing time.  In the Netherlands, where my family is from, some people resorted to eating tulip bulbs (at least it’s vegetarian).  People were fearful of others and tightly bonded to others.  The war polarized.  Ironically the war can bring out the worst and the best in you, but you valued what commodities were there.  Relationships and interdependence took on a powerful meaning.  For a lot of people God and religion meant everything.  It was natural to be grateful.
What are we missing today?
May the Source be with you!
0 KM

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Last Day At Loon Lake
Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Walking today entailed pacing back and forth on the veranda of Arbutus Cabin.  As in the past few days, the air is still yet one's breath can be seen, barely though.  These stellar blue jays get up and around during the sunlight.  Feathers are black and blue and what appears like a mohawk hair cut graces the top of their head.  The eye can also catch the occasional woodpecker searching in his tree for bug snacks.  Other than these birds little sign of life pokes around on this horizon which is hard to discern due to the crammed-tree dynamic.  It's actually lovely though.
I don't know our altitude.  You couldn't call it the roof of the world but we are situated in a lofty enough post and away from anything man-made.  The natural atmosphere makes good for clearing cobwebs of the mind.  We're on day #3 for discussions, presentations, and retreat.  After breakfast of pancakes, bagels or wraps (your choice) we engage in an impactful chant.  It's great seeing a bunch of guys, some in their sixties, dance a jig.  Cheers to those for putting out such blissful energy.
Amongst the men and women present you have all this incredible talent.  The mission is in good hands although every last one of these leaders will admit that being under-staffed in a want for more volunteers is the reality.  The retreat we're having brings upon great moments of truth in the delivery of power-point presentations, some of which become interactive as in a workshop.  Our discussions include succession-planning, organizing kid camps, how to improve our festivals, and pastoral abuse or misconduct.
A lively break came when a family from our community in Vancouver presented the playing of Scottish bag-pipes at the outdoor amphitheatre.  The sound resembles the drone of a South Asian shenai horn.  That gave the birds something to go crazy over.
For the finale of the day I was given the green light to depart for an annual event, the Rama-Vijay where there has been a burning of the effigy of demon Ravana from the epical story the Ramayan.  Well, that didn't happen this year for some reason or another.  I was to speak to the crowd, in the event's place, to compensate.  Can you imagine?  In my delivery I cracked a few jokes.  I received so little response it became a humbling experience.  In that sense it wasn't all bad.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Monday 14 October 2013

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Warmer Than A Fireplace

Vancouver, British Columbia

There is something warmer than a fireplace which has a block of hardwood crackling in a dancing fire.  That warmth I’m referring to is a group of people who are tightly knit together in spirit.  This has little or nothing to do with people holding hands and hugging and feeling each other’s body heat. It is not warm temperature, rather warm temperament that we are looking at.  In fact, cool heads often times have attached to them warm hearts.

In the conference room of Loon Lake’s retreat centre our group of like minds glanced through mammoth windows to admire the body of water as placid as you could imagine.  Your spruce, pine and cedar trees are also to be adored, if not explored.  But not now!  Exploration can come later, at break time.  First, we chanted before a make shift shrine of Gaura Nitai deities and a picture of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.

I then read a passage from the book, “Blazing Sadhus”.  The contents of the passage saw a bit of the laughter warmth; more than was already there.

Brahmananda (an early student of his) was consulting a lawyer to help renew the Swami’s expired visa.  He explained to Swamiji that one way to solve the problem was to go to Canada, stay for some months, re-enter the USA and reapply.

“That is too much botheration,” Swamiji said.

Brahmananda then said, “Well, the only other way is to marry to an American citizen.”

Sitting with us was a pleasant mannish woman who, along with a lady friend, who had been attending classes regularly for weeks.

She said, “Well, I can marry you if it will help.”

“No, no.” Swamiji laughed.  “I am sannyasi, I cannot marry.  But thank you.  That is nice service attitude.”

This reading started and stoked up our sessions of discussion. We went for review of past business, discussed our publication sales and succession planning – principally.  It was apparent that some of our leaders are too exclusive with their members; that inclusiveness is lacking.  In other words, it’s important to demonstrate personalism at all times; to emphasize ‘togetherness’, the team spirit.  Connect well with your community.

I was obliged to attend “Enchant” at the Unity Yoga Studio off of Commercial Drive in Vancouver.  Here the attendees are warmly receiving  the maha mantra and then returning it.  We all got to dancing and I must admit the body heat was rising.

It’s the company you keep that makes all the difference in your life.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, October 11th, 2013

A Few Of Us

Loon Lake, British Columbia

A few of us leaders of Krishna Consciousness converged at Loon Lake located near Maple Ridge.  It’s the venue for our AGM - Annual General Meeting for Canada.  The place is pristine, near a mountain’s summit.  Lodges, cabins, are made from the local logs.  It’s totally rustic; a perfect setting for thought, review, inspiration and planning.  Actually the place is a research centre for UBC, University of British Columbia.

Anubhava from Montreal and I, while waiting for others to turn up, got adventurous and helped ourselves to the short journey across the lake by way of a rope ferry.  Then we explored a trail around the lake.  We were disappointed to find no loons in the water.  Wildlife seemed in slumber to the exception of a few chipmunks and bird.  Cedars and pines are tall and erect.  Anubhava and I were dwarfs as we trekked amidst ferns and other humble plants.  A maintenance person informed us that snow comes in such quantities that boards are leaned against cabin windows otherwise the snow bursts through, breaking glass.

No bugs makes it pleasant.  As always, the biggest pest is the mind.  This thought, of the mind’s dictation, was expressed by myself in the documentary, “The Longest Road” released 10 years ago by the National Film Board.  The film was a re-enactment of my first walk of ’96.  I was recorded saying that while doing the long sojourn you may end up feeling very fatigued yet no pest is more pronounced than the mind.  That’s why the chanting.  That’s why you keep the best company with good support.  That’s why you immerse yourself in the promising stories of “The Ramayan”, “The Mahabharat” and other Puranic tales of righteousness.

Also when in a terrific natural setting as Anubhava and I find ourselves in, it just makes for the best environment to believe in such Divine presence.  We just felt really blessed.

I should also not fail to mention one of the accelerators in spiritual life – the prasad in the form of a hot soup, and butter on bread with roasted sesame.  The sun went down.  The fireplace was lit. What more can  you want?

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

We Were in Many Places

Burnaby, British Columbia

Squirrels.  There’s hardly a time in the year when you won’t find them scurrying about.  And now, with the fall clearly in its full blown manifestation, they are preparing for the coming cold.  They are going nuts – gathering them.  But by the creek near our ashram in Burnaby there appears little sing of life unless you consider the greenest of algae to be that.  The occasional bubble surfacing indicates the sign of life below.  “Have heart,” I think.  I was probably submerged in that same murkiness sometime in the past, perhaps in the same creek, under the same algae.  I was in another form of life before and I could have easily been there causing bubbles.

I had walking companion Pancha by tree and shrub nurseries as we admired the diversity of them.  Here too, I can so perceptively see myself as a bush of sorts in the past.  There I could have been rendering service by dint of my natural aesthetics giving beauty to someone’s classy front lawn.

We also noticed a mushroom, golden in colour.  Likely I was that in a previous existence.  From a mushroom to a squirrel, I’ve been there, done that. Each successive life that we adorn the soul with according to the evolutionary system is slightly more evolved in sensitivity and sophistication than the previous life.

By the laws of karma we travel through a series of lives. Then as a human we reach reason and enter the realm of responsibility.  If we foul up after great opportunities in the human form we come to the ebbtide of our journey going in reverse through experiential lives.  Fortunately opportunities for gaining human existence will avail themselves.  Eventually we hope to end samsara, the cycle of birth and death and make a linear ascension to a place of the soul’s freedom, moksa.

When trekking and seeing various life forms it’s hard to avoid the connection we have with each others as we share the same habits of eating, sleeping, playing, defending and mating.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday 11 October 2013

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Cremo and Sam


Michael Cremo is the author along with Dr. Richard Thompson on writings that challenge the status quo including the self-admitted speculations of Darwin.  “Forbidden Archaeology” and “The Hidden History of the Human Race” are books inspired by our guru that are premised by conspiracy theory justified.  When you read these revealing texts, you’ll know what I mean.  Why do people blindly follow anything that’s presented to them?  Why the gullibility?  Challenge or at least question before acceptance, be thoughtful.

That’s what’s nice about Cremo’s work, it stimulates independent thinking.  He travels the world with his message and shakes up a paradigm that needs shaking.  And he presents the facts with coolness and sobriety.

It’s unfortunate that I won’t be around for his talks.  I’m off to Vancouver today and he’ll be moving about in the Toronto/Hamilton area enlightening people, ‘shaking a few trees’.

Cremo, whom I know devotionally as Drutakarma, came out with me for that chill out trek that I take in the morning.  Conversation was light, we were just getting to know each other.  In exchange, we asked, ‘Where were you born?  Where did you grow up?  What’s your ethnicity?’ and so on.

And so long… On the plane I go.

By providence I was moved from a middle seat to the isle and the young fellow two seats from mine was also moved from the middle row to the window.  We hit it on.  As he put it, it was meant to be.  Sam Hing is a Toronto born guy of parents from Hong Kong.  He was raised Catholic, and during mass he served as an “Well, you can’t say it anymore, an altar boy, because of the gender thing,” he said in a whisper.  He is a strong spiritualist advocate and less so a backer or religion.

People do sometimes ask, “Is yours a religion?”  This was a similar assumption made by Raymond, an early seeker to the movement in New York, when he asked, “In your religion…”  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, cut him off sharply.

“This is not religion, this is knowledge.”

In any event, Sam is a great guy who seemed to understand my lifestyle as a traveller, a sannyasi,  a monk who likes to be out and about.  We conversed about a troubled world and the lack of RESPECT (Aretha) and what that word means.  ‘Re’ means ‘again’, ‘Spect’ means ‘look’.  When it comes to spirituality it means to look again, to look harder and deeper and finally see your real self.

Our plane landed.  Sam deplaned at Calgary, I flew on to Vancouver.  I got accommodations at New Gokula Dham off of Marine Drive.  Before sleep I read from a recent book by Achyutananda Das, “Blazing Sadhus”, with subtitle, “Or Never Trust A Holy Man Who Can’t Dance”.  Here’s an excerpt form that book that put me happily to sleep:

“Someone asked, ‘Don’t we all become one with God?’

Prabhupada answered, ‘Nothing is separate from God; that’s alright.  We are one in quality with God, but we do not ‘become’ God.’

The swami pretended to lick his hand and said, ‘It is like saying I am salty, so I am the ocean.  This version is inadequate and ineffective.  The potency is non different from the potent.  The energy is non different from the energetic.  The effective, immediate and ingredient causes cannot be less than the result.  Yes?’”

May the Source be with you!

4 KM

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Nicole’s Day

Toronto, Ontario

Today we had another birthday in the ashram, it was Nicole who took the honour on this fine day.  Born in the Philippines and in her early 20’s, she has captured the hearts of all the ashram dwellers with her fine devotional qualities.

We have a kind of family atmosphere in the ashram and when it is someone’s turn to be recognized it becomes moments of lightness and gratitude.  Manish is an outstanding artist who designed a gorgeous card for all of us to contribute our tribute to her.  Kanad is our main cook these days and he made a cake with an outstanding icing, at least that was the consensus.  And my input was, well, it was not an out of the way gift, but I encouraged her to come on that early trek with us as we chant our japa, mantra meditation, which is the ultimate medication.

Let’s face it, we are all imbalanced in some ways in this dark age of Kali.  Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, in his brilliant delivery of  7 purposes of the bhakti devotional technique expresses the need to check the imbalanced lives of today and the root cause of the problem is emphasis goes so much to ‘me’ and not ‘we’.

I was delighted that Nicole be part of our small troupe on the street.  As of late she has come to like the process of chanting while on the feet.  I do wish her the best on this day and in this life.  She carries a real sweet attitude that rubs off onto others.  It’s contagious.

While she spent a section of her day with family and friends, some of the boys and I made our way to Dundas Street and the Bhakti Lounge run by a devotional stalwart, Mangal Aarti by name.  There we had staged our latest drama production, Gita: Concise, to a small group.  This was an important venture for me because the lounge attracts among a diversity of people, the artistic types.  One chap completed his four year course at Ryerson U in theatre arts, and Melinda is an actor and dancer who very much liked the drama.  In fact, her comment at the end of the presentation was that she wants to read up on the Gita now that she saw the rich concepts that the philosophy contains.  The actors too had a great time at this humble venue wherein was included a tasty vegan meal of kofta, veggie rice and halava.  It was a good day at these two places of bhakti.

8 KM

Monday, October 7th, 2013

When Possible

Toronto, Ontario

When possible I like to run errands on foot.  I did so today.  On a side street off of Davenport, I was approaching one of those cement mixer trucks parked next to one of the 180 condo high rises going up in the city.  The truck was parked on the sidewalk that I was on.  I was just prepared to cross the street to the other sidewalk when the driver of the truck came out from behind the steering wheel, jumped onto the sidewalk and then came to see me.

“Excuse me,” said the man with the hard hat and other safety gear, “my name is Andy.”  He stretched out his hand for a handshake which I happily obliged.  “I was wondering if you could pray for me.”

“I sure will, Andy.  Are you going through stuff?” I asked.

“Yes, I am, so please pray for me.”

“I will do that.”

Andy returned back to his post, back to work.  I noticed some of his coworkers took a side glance at Andy and the man of the cloth momentarily.  Not sure what they were thinking, but it’s good they were thinking.

At Davenport I had to cross the four lane expanse.  Traffic was crawling along.  I hadn’t yet made it fully across, half way actually, when a motorist rolled down his window and said excitedly, “Hey!  I danced with you guys last Saturday!  I can’t believe it!”

“At Nuit Blanche, at Queen’s Park?” I asked while standing by his car’s side.

“Exactly!  You were singing.”

“Hope you had a good time?”

“Yeah man!  It was a blast!”  I finally got across to the sidewalk and was at peace within, thinking about how crossing a street can bring magic.  Of course the robes made a difference in terms of getting noticed and having some interaction.  People must get tired of seeing blue denim.  Sometimes I’m referred to as the moving traffic cone.  Once I was called an orange bear.  At least it was the clothes that attracted and initiated short but meaningful exchanges.

5 KM

Monday 7 October 2013

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Be Smart

Brampton, Ontario

Saturday night overlapped into Sunday morning if you were present at Nuit Blanche held at Queens Park in Toronto.  Nuit Blanche is an all night outdoor setting of eye popping sensation grabbing hands on art displays.

Our group of chanters found our chosen spot on the grass where we plopped ourselves on to carpets for our own version of art through sound.  Once we kick started with Dhira leading the chant, people out there started to get on fire so to speak.  It’s like the magic at New Years Eve.  People are in a party mood, a little tipsy from a substance, out to impress; above all, trying to reflect the nature of the soul seeking happiness.

The dancing began under the moonlight which was over the clouds that were threatening to burst.  The fun went on.  The crowds eventually thinned out and our group moved on, except for me, who decided to walk it back to the ashram, mainly to bring 15 year old Aravind, one of our drummers, to his hotel.  The rains came.  Once again, I’m grateful to have had the Irish trekking experience, a water experience.  It made me resilient to downpours.  My arrival time at the ashram was 4 AM, the time to normally get up for sadhana, spiritual work out.  I went to sleep.

It was a long birthday.

Up I got and in time for a ride to Brampton and a talk to the community there from a verse out of the Gita, 3.20:

“Just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.”

I find that supremely interesting.  What Krishna appears to be saying is that merely by doing your dharma, duty, you inspire others.  It’s all quite subtle, simply doing as we’re obliged sets the right tone for others.

I gave a second talk in Toronto and spoke about the varying energies or emissions of the Divine.   People like to hear about the internal energies and how they are full of life.  The external energies, although giving a buzz initially, always end in a sad scenario.  So take your pick on the choice of influence and hopefully you will be smart.

5 KM

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Birthday/Death Day

Kent Bridge, Ontario

I turned 61.  This date happens to fall on the 200th death anniversary of Chief Tecumseh, a member of the Shawnee First Nation.  He was shot in the chest at the battle of the Thames in 1813.  For me, he was a kind of hero.  He lead a confederacy which opposed the US during Tecumseh’s war and the war of 1812.  As a kid I knew little about him, even though I trekked his trail a century and a half after his time here.

In the early morning I had walked the Rosedale neighbourhood in Toronto before a trip down the 401 Highway and towards the Thamesville area where there would be a spectacular reenactment of the Battle of the Thames.  Going westward I, as a passenger to a family from Florida, got a surprise, when we and all the traffic in that direction were lead to a major detour.  What was the problem, construction?  A colossal accident?  We may never know.

We hooked up with a devotee friend from Detroit once the detour was over and drove to the scene of Tecumseh’s last stand (Tecumseh had victory at Fort Detroit and now took his men along the Canadian version of the Thames).  In period costume were American militia who were in opposition to British soldiers and their allies, Tecumseh and men.  The numbers were in the hundreds, not exactly of a Maha Bharat magnitude.  Fire arms went off, the British retreated leaving the indigenous warriors somewhat vulnerable.  The enactors were great.  Tecumseh then fell.  Some Native women sang a song in mourning.  The show was completed within minutes, just as the actual battle had endured.

My sister, also a history buff and Tecumseh fan, was thrilled as was I.  We went to her home for a nice vegetarian dinner which I consecrated being in the role of the priest.  Other relatives came.  The north Indian food (prasadam) was delicious.

Then the topic came up about an accident of Highway 401.  One of the guests, Bernadette, mentioned about Robert McGuigan who died when a semitrailer crushed his body outside his vehicle.  I know Robert from the summer of ’72, months before I became a monk.  Robert, my brother Jerry and I were in BC having hitchhiked the country.  We were downtown when three towering figures (monks to be more particular) shaven headed and in robes, approached us.  Robert purchased from these monks, Hare Krishnas, the most recent issues of Back To Godhead publication for a mere quarter.  I felt the monks were imposing.  I ran quickly trying to evade them.  It was Robert who soft heartedly took the magazine, which I then later asked to read on the ferry to the mainland.  I was curious and impressed by its contents.

That same kind soul, Robert, just today, like a courageous Tecumseh, fell.  He pulled out of a van of five people after seeing a semi trailer crashed in the ditch.  He put warning flares out on the road so that oncoming traffic would slow down and halt.  It was dark.  While in the process, another semitrailer came at a speed and hit Robert.

The tragedy and necessary investigation and clean up caused the authorities to detour the traffic.

Although the dinner was fine, the topic of Tecumseh and Robert both came up.  For Robert, whom some of us knew personally, and for me, the one who handed me reading material that would change my life, we felt somewhat uncomfortable.  Now this group, our family and friends, are not regular church going types, but it seemed to resonate to them when I said we should pray for his soul.  Thanks, Robert, sorry it happened on my birthday.

10 KM

Friday, October 4th, 2013

I Would Just Like…
Toronto, Ontario

I would just like to repeat what I read from the Bhagavad Gita As It Is in regards to the mind, verse 6.34:

The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Kṛishṇa, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.


The mind is so strong and obstinate that it sometimes overcomes the intelligence, although the mind is supposed to be subservient to the intelligence. For a man in the practical world who has to fight so many opposing elements, it is certainly very difficult to control the mind. Artificially, one may establish a mental equilibrium toward both friend and enemy, but ultimately no worldly man can do so, for this is more difficult than controlling the raging wind. In the Vedic literature (Kaṭha Upaniṣad 1.3.3–4) it is said:

‘The individual is the passenger in the car of the material body, and intelligence is the driver. Mind is the driving instrument, and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyer or sufferer in the association of the mind and senses. So it is understood by great thinkers.’  Intelligence is supposed to direct the mind, but the mind is so strong and obstinate that it often overcomes even one’s own intelligence, as an acute infection may surpass the efficacy of medicine. Such a strong mind is supposed to be controlled by the practice of yoga, but such practice is never practical for a worldly person like Arjuna. And what can we say of modern man? The simile used here is appropriate: one cannot capture the blowing wind. And it is even more difficult to capture the turbulent mind. The easiest way to control the mind, as suggested by Sri Chaitanya, is chanting “Hare Kṛiṣhṇa,” the great mantra for deliverance, in all humility. The method prescribed is: one must engage one’s mind fully in Kṛṣṇa. Only then will there remain no other engagements to agitate the mind.”

Verse spoken by Sri Krishna, explanation and purport given by Srila Prabhupada.

5 KM

Friday 4 October 2013

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Castle and Apples

Toronto, Ontario

I took 5 people with me today to show them a trail unknown to them.  It was a brief trek to Casa Loma.

Our ashram where I live is in a unique location. It’s one kilometre from Queens Park, half a kilometre from Yonge Street, parks are all around.  The museum, a world class, is also just one kilometre away.  Ravines are within a two kilometre distance.  The country’s largest university’s limits are within a short walk.  And then there’s Sir Henry Pellat’s home, Casa Loma, which means in Spanish, Hill House.  It has 98 rooms and over 30 toilets.  There’s an oven large enough to cook an ox, they say.  The house was built for his wife, Lady Mary Pellat.

Sir Henry Pellat was not noted for his walking, but his running.  In 1879 he won the men’s 1500 metre or mile run at the US national championship.

In any event, there was Casa Loma.  Our walking/chanting group took a moment to look at this masterpiece of a castle as we dreamt away.  “What a gorgeous Vedic temple this would make,” as we gawked at the largest private residence in the country.

Onward we went to new streets of charm where you find those old red brick 19th century homes.  As we walked past the York tennis court, the edge of the property bore a golden delicious apple tree.  I shook a branch, the apples fell, we picked.  As a routine I chant a quick mantra as a way to offer such organic fruit to Krishna.  We ate with relish.

A security man from inside the building caught us on screen.  It was still early and dark.  He saw us, some in robes, he rushed out to the scene.  Suddenly, he halted and said, “Oh, it’s you, yeah go ahead, take them all,” he said in the tone of absolute kindness.  Relieved he was that we were neither pranksters nor thieves, and rewarded we were having a real gift of sweet fleshiness in our palms and then our mouths.  Thievery is not our game, but I’ll admit that we are greedy to hone in on all the treasures of the morning, the greatest of them all being the chanting on our lips and the company of bhakti yogis.

10 KM

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Here Then And Now

Toronto, Ontario

Yesterday I trekked amidst trees.  Today I took to pavement with concrete buildings on both sides.

I can’t say that scenario number two, or today’s scene was anything less interesting.  Pedestrians are playing out their lives in their own natural way, conversing a bit, flaunting, or just moving from one place from another in their own individual way.

I time machined my way back to a hundred plus years and imagined the situation then.  People would be milling around, clothes would be dark and folks would be less risqué in their style of fashion.  Both men and women wore hats, there would be a sharing of space with horses.  There would likely be a courtesy, but not necessarily a warmth of exchange with that Victorian air about it.  There was optimism and talk about business and the family.  You might find people speaking of the Bore War, and Canada’s participation in it in Africa.  The pace of life would be slowed down compared to what it is now.  In the business district a stride would be more of a strut where as in the residential area it would be more of a stroll.

In 1905 there was a great fire.  It had razed many buildings demolishing many of them.  But people resilient as they are or were shot everything up again.

All this imagery I superimposed onto the current background of the existing urban setting of Toronto.  I couldn’t imagine a monk in saffron walking at that time – the turn of the century.  There wasn’t the kind of freedom then as there is now.

I had actually been walking with a member of the Krishna community when the flashback hit.  I had been urging him to settle down and formally tie the knot with his common-law wife.  The idea is to make commitments in life that encourage sacrifice.  The idea is to build a team of two, maybe three or four or more (as in children).  The idea is that love should be more firmed up and less whimsical.  The idea is that the relationship should have a spiritual base.

Funny thing is here I’m fast forwarding now using my walking partner as the subject.  I believe he appreciated my suggestions.  After pressing the rewind button and then the fast forward one I decided to press play.  Here we are, let’s live in the moment, get real, follow dharma (duty), and adhere to the wishes of guru and Krishna and make progress.

8 KM

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

When I Walk…

Toronto, Ontario

When I walk a trail such as the one near Brick Works I naturally feel good.  Part of it, my feeling, has a shadow.  There is admittedly some guilt (I’ll explain), and part of it, some resentment (also to be explained).

Firstly, and happily, I’m taken by the diversity of vegetation and the incredible fall colours that throws you into a child’s wonderland.  That is 90% of the composition of my feeling.  Another 5% leaves me feeling ignorant as I hardly can identify a Norway maple to be distinct from other maples.  “Woe is me,” I thought.  I don’t know the names of my friends.  The flip side of this ignorance is that here is an opportunity to learn.  The 5% of my emotions strike the chord of a resentment.  Why wasn’t I educated on the subject matter on these ever existing companions?  Was learning algebra more important than getting acquainted with these guys that offer beauty, fragrance, oxygen, food, fuel, warmth?  Time could have been better spent I think.

I guess I will tread the path of the seniors, delight in birding and plants and feeling the elements like never before.  I have for some time dabbled in the exploration of these marvelous creatures.  When I was young I never thought I’d get there, to that age I meant.  It leads me to believe that the biggest illusion in life is that when you’re young you’ll retain youthfulness forever.  Youthful energy and youthful mindset can be so foolhardy.

Perhaps the invincibility syndrome of youthfulness is what went on in the tiny mind of this 3 inch baby snake as he slithered across the path today.  A barefoot woman stood by the little guy and warned me of his vulnerable presence.  I stopped, looked at him, but momentarily as it felt like the woman wanted and needed her solo experience with him.  I thought to honour her wish and I carried on with the trail and  continuing to be caught in awe and wonder at what was all around me.

I should note that I was not the only one enwrapped in the autumnal loveliness.  There were dozens and dozens of people each moving on their own stride in cooperation with nature.

Before the night’s rest, I read a passage from our guru, Srila Prabhupada as he defined the word, ‘cooperation’.  In simple logic and terms he said in a talk in Seattle in 1968, “When you do something in cooperation with the Lord, that is called bhakti, devotion.”

10 KM

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Driving At Night…

Toronto, Ontario

Driving at night is not the best situation.  Your vision is obscured.  It’s a risky way to go, yet sometimes you have no choice.

Our group of 5 took to interstate highways through Pennsylvania and New York states before reaching Ontario.  It was an all-nighter, it was impossible in a van to sleep as a passenger.  Pulling over the highway and having a break was like a glimpse of moksha, or as Buddhists call it, nirvana (a term that came from Hindus).  Basically you’re looking at having some relief from all the sitting.  Oh how I hanker to be on that road again, walking at my leisure.

A final relief came from the subtle agony of being motionless when at arrival time we finally reached or got home, and also much later on when Philippe and I made our way walking up Yonge Street.  Our destination was to Blu God tattoo shop.

During the nocturnal drive I had been thinking about the upcoming weekend in Toronto and how about a big outdoor art expression night called “Nuit Blanche” was to take place.  Two years ago we spontaneously went on Yonge Street for a chanting session.  We pulled large brass deities of Radha Krishna out of the tattoo shop at the courtesy of owner, Jamuna Jivan, and lovingly, respectfully, placed them on a blanket before setting them right on the street.  We then performed a ritual of love called arati with those deities, followed by chanting.  It was a crowd pleaser and a heart teaser.

Why not duplicate the process again?

It’s all a matter of laying out your creativity, being a little innovative and trying to instill in others a kindling of devotion, something that’s deep inside of everyone.

The one thing about walking (and I’ll also give some credit to driving a long distance) is there is some time for brain storms.  It’s a beautiful dream time while on journey, of course you have to watch where you’re going.

Padam padam yad vipadam na tesam is one of my favourite phrases, which means, “Every step (or in the case of a vehicle, every turn of the wheel) you take could spell danger.”

4 KM