Sunday 27 April 2014

Durban, South Africa, April 2014

 Analyzing the danger notice
 At airport
 Dance session in Youth Lounge
 Durban Ratha Yatra Day procession
 Durban Ratha Yatra Night Procession
 Make up for Little Big Ramayan
On stage with the cast of Little big Ramayan

Mauritius, April 2014

 Chilling at the top of a waterfall
 Cup shaped Mushrooms
 Hiking in La Vallee de Ferney
 Hiking in La Vallee de Ferney
 Kirtan at La Vallee de Ferney
 Jambavan & I
 Morning walk in Mahebourg
 Morning walk in Mahebourg
 Morning walk in Mahebourg
 Outside Court house in Mahebourg
Outside Court house in Mahebourg
 Point where Prabhupada visted Lion Mountain in the back
 Point where Prabhupada visted Lion Mountain in the back
 Point where Prabhupada visted Lion Mountain in the back
 Prabhupada in Mauritius at Lion Mountain
 Prabhupada in Mauritius at Lion Mountain
 Reading memorial of war between British and French
 Sitting in boat at Mahebourg

 South Indian style temple
 South Indian style temple
 Storytelling mode
 Sugar Cane Farming
 Sunrise at Mahebourg
With Tamohara
 Tamohara dasa and Kala dasa
With Tamohara, Thayalan and Kala at Krantzkloof
 Valley view at Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
 Walking in Mahebourg waterfront
Walking the trails

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Miami, Florida

Give Gita A Chance

It’s not my most favourite time of the year to be in Florida, the weather gets balmy and hot.  I decided to stay in the Miami airport terminal, as I usually do, to take advantage of the AC in anticipation for a pickup or a ride.  That was the reason for missing my ride by Dr. Romue, AKA, Murari Gupta.  In other words, I should have been standing outside.  I took pleasure in a sit down reading from the book, “Chaitanya Bhagavat”, on the life of the renowned mantra master.  Time passed by.  I phoned the doctor, but no response.  Okay, taxi then.  Walking was out of the question for the chance of getting lost.  And also contending with the distance factor while hauling luggage. 

I arrived by taxi at the Coconut Grove ISKCON address.  Happily, I met a group of eager people I’d not seen for months.  There were new people in the mix, people who had since my last visit, discovered the wisdom of the “Bhagavad Gita”, and which resonated with them.  New faces, and joyful ones, enthusiastic to hear and see someone who might be an exemplar of the culture of the Gita.  Personally, I could not fit such shoes.  In any event, “I’ve given some friendship as best as I can,” I thought. 

We all gathered in my accommodated room and basked in the warmth of light heartedness, and not the sun.  I offered words of encouragement, “Life,” I said, “on the outside provides little fulfillment.  We are all looking but we are not receiving.  When you come to the point of stumbling upon Krishna’s divine word, then everything changes.”  The room full of people all admitted that it’s all there – in the Gita, like, “An empire spoke,” as Emerson said.  And as Thoreau had put it, “I bathe my intellect in the stupendous philosophy” of the Gita’s enlightenment.

Humbly, I could not say anything fresh and new, but to point to the text itself which can change the hearts of all.  Give the Gita a chance. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

With His Finger

In our ashram office, a small packet was lying there on the desk.  I was curious.  It had arrived by regular post, I guess.  I opened the package, got to the contents, and saw it to be a complimentary copy of a CD entitled, “Mighty Govinda”, by the artist of the same name.  It’s a dancey piece of music with a touch of reggae, hip hop and classical music.  It’s upbeat.  I think I could walk to this genre of music.  It made me happy, gave me pleasure.  That’s all anybody ever wants anyways, right?  We desire ananda (joy). 

Don’t we all know from experience that where there’s pleasure there also will be some pain.  I have been concerned about my right index finger giving some botheration for a straight month now.  Not quite sure what it is – some minor infection.  It was some coincidence that I read from a calendar of Prabhupada’s meditations, a daily excerpt from his realization.  While listening to the music, I had a hard look at the finger, when I happened to glance at the quote for today. 

“If there is little pain in the finger, I become so much disturbed because I’ve got intimate connection with this finger.  Similarly, we have got intimate connection with Krishna, and we are fallen.  Therefore, Krishna always also feels little pain, and therefore, He comes down.  Krishna is feeling pain, so you become Krishna Conscious, then Krishna will feel pleasure.” – Srila Prabhupada.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Thursday 24 April 2014

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Dubai, UAE

Clothes Vs. None

I’m not the only one in free flowing loose attire.  At the international airport at Dubai, you see plenty of Orthodox wear that isn’t necessarily square.  There’s the Islamic clothes, for men it’s head gear in white, with long gown to match.  Some men sport the lungi, a draped from the waist down comfortable cloth, and then a white chaddar wrapped around the upper torso, folded over on the left shoulder.  Some women wear the traditional black, some with the burqa over the entire head.

As a Hare Krishna monk, I don’t stand out as unique any more, unless I’m walking in the prairie country or the mountains which I’m quite excited about for the coming May.   Common place in these areas are coveralls and denims, and where you hardly see a lady’s dress, that seems to be something of the past. 

Back in the airport you see the signs for the passengers’ washrooms where you see the symbols of the human figurines, one with a dress and one with pants.  The male’s room shows the form with the pants, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to an airport like Dubai’s where the genders seem to cross borders when it comes to dress style. 

Look!  There’s another guy in robes, a solid dark brown material worn by a Southeast Asian who happens to be a Buddhist monk. 

Whatever the duds, it’s mostly needed to cover up embarrassing figures and conceal bad body odour from being stuck on a plane for hours.  Thank God for clothes, whether it be a dress or pants.  Thank God that Adam and Eve came up with something practical after realizing the naked truth.  Thank Providence that the naga babas (naked sages) of the Himalayas have their caves to wear as their clothes.  We might, however, learn something from their being beyond the bodily concept.  I am not this body, I have a body, and I will shed it like I do my clothes. 

I am spirit. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Something About Family
After four days of intense devotional output at this 26th annual Festival of Chariots in Durban, there was happy fatigue.  The attendance at the temple’s morning program was skimpy for that reason, and more.  Some of the visiting monks from Europe, the US and India, had already departed for other destinations.  You can say things are back to normal.  The party’s over.  Members of the spiritual family have gone to their respective areas of what they call home. 

The few of us lingering folks sat down for listening to a recording of our guru, Srila Prabhupada, speaking about the concept of family from the Vedic perspective.  Imagine stretching out to beyond extended family.  “It is not just a man with wife and children, it is generations,” Srila Prabhupada explained from a pravachan (talk) he delivered on October 5th, 1976, Vrindavan, India.  He went on to say that the family consideration was so important in Vedic culture.  If there was some misbehaviour on the part of a member of the family, it would leave a great scar on the dynasty. 

This is a major issue raised at the inception of the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the “Bhagavad Gita”.  Arjuna was concerned about improper action impacting the family.  From his standpoint, the proper action was no action, in the case of the Kurukshetra war.  From Krishna’s point of view, failure to perform meant cowardliness and irresponsibility.  Krishna’s constant reminder to Arjuna, being of a dignified clan, was saying that there was an obligation to act in their defense, making it honourable. 

While some Krishna followers I know have little or sometimes no tie with biological family, there is, however, a strong allegiance to their spiritual family.  Another case, family in the broad sense, needs protection from ill repute.  You want to try to avoid doing that which is embarrassing to yourself, and above all, your allegiances. 

May the Source be with you!

 3 KM

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Trail Break

I had been pining for an African trail to come my way, and so it came to pass that Tamohara dispelled the dream, and had in most practical terms, arranged for a drive by his dad, Thayalan, to take Kala, Jambavan and I to a gorgeous gorge at Krantz Kloof.  We arrived there at the hour of dawn when trees drop dew and the aromas of plants perk the nostrils.  The rubber tree was there to greet us, perfectly circular mushrooms of a rustic tone were also there.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, no big game crossed our paths.  In fact, the largest form of wildlife that we sighted came in the form of a microphone length (you can tell I’ve been on the stage lately) centipede of sorts.  It was perfectly coiled as it clung on to the side of a tree.  A creek appeared and disappeared, snaking its way to its own natural whim, and making its own descension to manifest as waterfalls. 

Being in this green zone was a great break from the asphalt at the festival site.  And, as always, when you trek the softened and uneven path under nature’s canopies, it is such a far cry from moving over the hardened, flat surfaces of city constructs.  I felt certain leg muscles stretch – muscles that become lazy from plying over the terrain of manmade evenness. 

‘Twas a treat. 

Back to a baking sun at the old Durban Drive-In Theatre grounds, and this day, at the Bhakti Cloud tent, we danced out the eight stanza “Chaitanya’s Verses”.  Verse three especially resonated with volunteers as I rapped out,

It is best to chant with humility
To be as humble as you can possibly be
It’s like a blade of grass you see
And be more tolerant than a tree…

From executing the dance I could appreciate the dynamics of flatness. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Katha Dance

African born Jambulani, affectionately known as Jabs, accepted a new name today through diksa initiation.  His new name is Jambavan.  In the ceremony held in the temple tent to local monks, Bhakti Chaitanya and Kadambha Kanana Swamis and I, initiated several candidates.  It simply means that the spiritual family is growing in South Africa.

On the schedule and in demand was more of the Dance Master stuff at the Bhakti Cloud tent.  With the presentation of “Little Big Ramayan” the night before, the details of avatar, Ram, and His pastimes, are fresh in the mind.  So, the djembe drums triggered some creative juices which lead to my rapping out the story.  This compelled participants to dance it out.  If you didn’t drum the site, you ended up standing and clapping, if not dancing and repeating the rap. 

This approach attracts major attention as on goers outside the marquee stood in delight and awe.  Many of the dancers were relatively new to the story of Ram’s great heroism, of love, of devotion, loyalty and dharma.  This technique, dancing out the story, is a remarkable learning curve and great substitute for mundane dance. 

I’m hoping that this katha dance (story dancing) will really take off and become mainstream one day, because it is wholesome and takes the practitioner to a metaphysical level beyond this world of maya (illusion). 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday 20 April 2014

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

From Tent to Tent

I had paid a visit to the unsung heroes who are doing all the cooking outdoors for the hungry festival goers.  It’s impressive!  Just shy of the golden number 100, are these sizeable pots under fire that are burning and crackling away.  Beryani, a South African favourite, is on the boil for this second day at the Chariot Festival which is held at the old Durban drive in theatre.

Food is one of the major features of festivals.  Apart from the stage where our group brought down the house for the standing ovation performance of Little Big Ramayan, my like at the event is a tent called the Bhakti Cloud.  Here the youth organize presentations of various sorts.  On the program schedule, I’ve been dubbed as The Dance Master, so the expectation is for me to pull off a dance to the sound of half a dozen djembes. 

So much for being The Walking Monk.  Now there’s the expectation that I’m Fred Astaire.  Anyways, our half hour stint went well.  We got everyone up to dancing out and enacting the ten Avatars. 

Another highlight for me was an hour session given to talking at Tent A, about walking experiences.  I wasn’t sure that my Tails on Trails would carry an appeal, yet the tent filled up and interest in pilgrimage was generated.  My final word was actually a question, “How many of you anticipate to do more walking now that you hear how fun and freeing it is?”  The response was, “Lakker”, which in Afrikaans means, “Good”.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Round and Around and Round We Go

The smart path for walking on the Chatsworth temple grounds is essentially a concrete walkway running as a concentric formation around the building.  If you were to look from the bird’s eye view, you might see a spot on the rim of a wheel circling about over and over again.  That spot would be a group of chanters moving constantly for at least an hour or more. 

I am one of several in that group that makes the spot.  Unofficially we have become by chance a japa team.  Our group began as one.  One became two.  Two became three and so on. 

Jabs from Pretoria joined us.  He is a relative new comer to Krishna Consciousness and bhakti yoga.  There are several paths leading to the temple which cross our walking path.  Jabs happened to be walking on one of those paths, he spotted our group and I nodded that he should join our japa walking team.  So I suggested to Jabs, which is short for Jambavan, “If you join us you just concentrate on the mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare .  You’ll be happy to know that while chanting at this time, and you keep with our pace, you’ll be going at 5 kilometres an hour.”  I implied to him that with chanting and walking simultaneously you get double mercy.  Jabs was sold on the idea and he joined our group as it grew and grew.  Everyone on board seemed to enjoy the power of joint chanting and joint walking.  In addition to there being a moat around the temple with a constant flow of H2O that hugs the edifice, it creates a very pleasant atmosphere.  It just so happens that Nelson Mandela had stepped and walked on our circular path more than once, giving our trail an extra significance. 

Congratulations to Jabs and other members of our South African based drama troupe who pulled off a great rendition of Big Fish Little Fish on the first day of the great festival.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

On Anger

SB 1.7.34

I was asked to give the class from Bhagavatam, SB 1.7.34.  This I did after a brisk walk.  Here are points we came up with on this interesting subject.


1)      A product of passion
2)      It breeds bewilderment and blocks the brain
3)      It’s a beast that can be tamed
4)      An explosive that blows up in your face
5)      It’s what’s behind 4
6)      It means you’re not appreciating
7)      It could mean you didn’t get enough sleep
8)      A temper tantrum triggered by the tempter/temptress
9)      It becomes a great opportunity for picking up a drum and creating nice music (kirtan)
10)   Controlling it is a great victory
11)   It’s a big expenditure to check, and for clean up after damage is done
12)   When you keep a lid on it, it turns into a nice prep
13)   It does have its place (as in anger over abuse issues).  Know when to use it.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

Couldn’t Be Sweeter

The pathway has puddles.  The ground under the parking lot has waves.  The sky is wet and air is still.  Not exactly the best conditions.  I am moved to an amphitheatre where I can chant and walk simultaneously.  But, the narrow shelter above the amphitheatre does little to block out the drizzle.  Normally, I’d be trekking round and round the mandir (temple).  It’s safe staying on temple grounds.  You can’t risk meandering through the streets nearby.  Crime is really high.  In the past though, I ventured around.  You are at some advantage if you are male, and being a monk helps, I imagine.  It’s unfortunate that in the past people within the community have been murdered under circumstances.  The cause?  Myriad reasons. 

But life in South Africa is not always great.  It has it’s bubbly moments.  A monkey perched on a branch near my window was looking for opportunity.  I threw him an orange, boy did he get excited.  He left me his peels. 

Our rehearsals for the weekend entertainment have been exhilarating.  Cast members have got all this rhythm, they can dance and they can act.  A good chunk of the troupe are from the Zulu community.  Performance is up their alley. 

The chariot festival always brings out the best in people.  Bhakti practitioners come from other parts of South Africa to join in for a mixed reverence and fun.  Guests are arriving from other continents.  I’m one of them.  This is my 14th year.  I’m always given warm and great food – avocados and sandwiches especially.

The day couldn’t be sweeter really. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Stay in the Water

Durban, South Africa
This marks the 20th year since the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.  People of native origin fought long and hard to achieve their freedom as recent history tells.  Despite the policy and administrative adjustments, things are far from perfect. Now you have minorities complaining about favoritism.  Job opportunities are preferentially partial.  And it goes on and on.  

But lets not be naive. Nothing’s ever going to be a bowl of roses. We are living in the material world, so, let's not whine so much.  Let's not blame everyone else for our own discomforts. You put yourself in the spot where you are now.  Such is the nature of karma. So swallow it and get on with life.  Life isn’t always fair, okay?

Maybe you don't belong here in the first place? Is that fair? Is that a fair question?

Today we spent hours on preparing dramas for the upcoming weekend Festival of Chariots.  Walking took a back seat.  To address this “other worldly” issue I found it great in the script writing by local stand up comedian, K.C., we call him, when the Sangoma, a Zulu shaman, who directs the troubled under dogged victim out of his misery. The story plays up on the analogy that we are all fish out of water.

Little Fish is the actual name of the victim and he addresses the Sangoma, “I need help. I don't know what to do anymore.  I need someone to take my problems away.”  The Sangoma spews out sounds like only a wizard can do as he throws the bones and reads the message.  

“The bones don't lie.  You were in a good place, a really good place, a long time ago!  Hmm, hmmm, then you got greedy.  You left that place.  You left that lovely place, to come here! But my friend, you’re never going to be happy over here, this place is not for you.  You are never going to be happy here, unless you go back to your home.  This place is not for you... you are like a fish out of water.”

The message has merit.  It gives us something to aspire towards. 

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Durban, South Africa

To Tolerate

Kala, Tamohara and I were flying from Mauritius to South Africa.  While waiting at the airport in Johannesburg, the stopover before heading to Durban, I was reading some anecdotes from those who were with our guru.  A passage I read happened to be of an occurrence while our guru, Srila Prabhupada, had flown from Mauritius to Durban.  It was a small lesson on tolerance.

Pusta Krishna: We were flying from Mauritius to Durban on Quantus Airlines. I was seated beside Srila Prabhupada wearing my little British hat, shirt, coat and pants.  At that time there was a rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand teams, and there were a lot of rugby types on the plane. We had a seat in the non-smoking section, but people were smoking there and I was disturbed.  I was also concerned for Srila Prabhupada’s welfare.  So I asked the stewardess to please ask them to stop smoking in the non-smoking section.  She told the rugby type guys, who were drinking quite a bit as well, to stop smoking.  But they didn't stop. I was about to ask the stewardess, “Please ask them again,” when Prabhupada stopped me.  He said “What is the difference between us and them if we can’t tolerate these sort of things?  Don’t be an ordinary, common, foolish man.”

I thought the passage was instructive.  Why whine over everything?  While in the air on whatever jet, there are always little things that we persevere through. Anyway, “Sawubona!” which means, “Hello!” in Zulu.

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Monday 14 April 2014

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

La Vallee de Ferney, Mauritius

Sea, Mountains and Folks

Well, what a day!  It began with a few young men going for a power walk with me by the ocean shore, past Bleu Bay, then a loop back to Mahebourg, and then by car and bus down a rickety road in La Vallee de Ferney.  At one point we pulled out of the bus to experience this gorgeous conservation area of endemic, indigenous and exotic trees.  The names will strike a funny bone of curiosity.  Our guide pointed out some of the official names of trees – the cinnamon of course, but there were also the black and white ebony trees.  Never heard of a rat tree?  Neither have I.  Its leaves, when gathered and put in a draw after three days, start reeking like a decomposing rat.  There, a cyclone tree gives a resemblance of the swirling dynamic that mother nature sends around now and then.  Finally our group of 23 also viewed the nail tree from the strong hard wood variety, pieces of the trunk were crafted in the shape of nails and used for construction.

We saw little wildlife but for the kestrel bird, a tiny hawk-like bird that almost went extinct.  Not but four decades ago only four existed.  They were native to Mauritius, but conservationists did their work and bread the few alive.  Now they are making a return.

To their merit, activist nature lovers fought to keep a proposed highway from penetrating through the fragile eco system.  What a delight it was to be here!  And as one Swiss devotee said, “We (meaning Krishna devotees) need to do more of these type of outings.”  I couldn’t agree more.  When you see those creeks and waterfalls you know that there is a kinder, softer world upstairs and this is a mere reflection of it.

The Dutch have been blamed for poaching the last of the dodo birds, but more recent research indicates that a famine the country experienced destroyed this huge feathered guy forever.  Anyways!  Whatever! We must endeavour to preserve all that is precious.

A dive in the blue ocean and picnic marked the middle of the afternoon.  Then the evening was topped with a turnout of 300 folks eager for kirtan, philosophy and a feast to not forget.

That’s why I say, “What a day!”

May the Source be with you!

14 KM

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Mahebourg, Mauritius

By the Sea 

In 1802 the French and English had a fierce naval battle at the bay here near Lion’s Mountain.  Kala, Tamohara and I ventured along the town’s sea wall catching the salt infused currents.  We stumbled upon an impressive arts and culture outdoor amphitheatre, a prospective place for a bhakti show in the future.  The occasional Banyan tree graced the coast line dwarfing us.  Young men at soccer filled a playing field.

Clouds above threatened a downpour.  We found shelter from a giant Banyan.  Then a more serious onslaught of rain compelled us to head for a roof by a rehab drug clinic.  Oh, yes, even here on this tiny Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, social ills challenge the human race.

Our trio continued our exploration of the town.  If we could, we would want to boast having touched each street, but time was pressing, calling for an engagement at the auditorium of the local Durga mandir.  Eventually the place filled up.  I realized that translation from English to Creole was necessary for my message to be understood, so a person by the name of Kaunteya did so.

And this message was that while we venture our way through myriad species of life, the soul’s obligation is to reach the human’s actual potential.  “I am not this body,” I stressed.  And we let everyone there go home with reciting and hopefully retaining these precious words in Sanskrit,  “Aham brahmasmi!  More definitively we are saying, "I AM SPIRIT".

May the source be with you!

4 KM

Friday 11 April 2014

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Dubai,  UAE
Moving with Time
Downtime! Much sitting in the aircraft. Emirates, world 
class airline has conditions or facilities conducive 
enough for japa meditation, reading and writing,  all that 
I relish doing.
There's time to talk to the passenger sitting next to 
you, however, sometimes you respect the fact that its also 
 their downtime, or rather up-time. The flight from 
Toronto to Dubai is at an unimaginable height, need I 
detail the figure? Its just very high and very cold, 
It flashes to mind that we could be victims of a 
mysterious disapperance, going of the radar screen, as in 
the case of the recent Malayasian airline that appered  to 
vanish in thin air. Always a good reason to chant divine 
mantra's with more intrepidity.
Time presses  on with window shutters closed  which makes 
it confusing to decifer the hour. But thats ok. In the air 
with such incredible speed (exact figures unknown to me) 
you really enter a timeless zone, keeping an eye on 
boarding time is significant but once  off from departure, 
it really doesn't matter much. In a way its off-time.
A lay-over in Dubai with a six hour span and a  hotel 
voucher in hand permitted horizontal space to actually 
sleep which is practically impossible in the plane. 
Arabian Park Hotel was the space that was destined. No 
need for its lounge, its drinks or non-veg food. I'm a 
monastic that can keep  cheap thrills at bay.
And also, until the new day, new dawn or dusk we do not 
tarry but move forward with ever changing time.
May the source be with you!
0 KM (except for moving in the airport)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Go It Together

I received a call from Michael who took to the Trans Canada Highway in 2001/2002 on foot with a backpack.  We made an agreement to go it out together on the road for a three week stint. 

Starting in mid May we plan to drive to Taber, Alberta, the spot from where I left off last summer.  We will stop a bit along the way, put on our shoes (I, with Crocs), while he will be equipped with camera, hopeful to capture the beauty of the road, the rhythm of walking, and all that visual vista stuff that people usually see as post cards.  The filming will be like a reenactment of the walk I did last summer, until we arrive at Taber, when business will be as usual to complete a fourth trek, bringing me to the edge of British Columbia.

I’m really looking forward to it because in addition to having the usual company of support person, Daruka, and his blue front Amazon parrot, there will also be Michael, a most amiable person.  Up for the challenge will be those occasional cool prairie breezes, and then the intermittent warming Chinook winds coming from the Rockies.  There will be the upward downward trends of pacing once hitting those lovely mountains.  I will not be surprised to hear the jazz of the road, that is, the last clumps of snow, sliding off the arms of the coniferous trees, and the feet making the beat gritting the gravel on the highway shoulder.  It will also be the time of invigoration, rebirth, of so much life springing into action. 

Michael knows the road I’ve tread, he’s done it before – the Crow’s Nest Pass.  And, of course, we’ll be seeing smart crows in flight, and I’ll be dreaming of smooth sailing swans during naps which will take place by the side of the road that will offer a peace like nothing else.  Hare Krishna! 

Thanks for calling, Michael, it’s a deal.  We’ve nailed down the date, May 17th

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Thursday 10 April 2014

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario

Who’s The Artist?

In the midst of this morning’s meanderings I stumbled upon Tom Thompson’s Art Gallery.  Who is Tom Thompson?  A noted Canadian impressionist landscape artist he was.  His body was found mysteriously in the wilderness while on a canoeing trip. A result of foul play?  It’s not really known.  He’s loved and remembered for defining the natural esthetics of the north.  I admit, it’s nice work indeed. 

I’ve been an art lover for years, including the art of nature. The artist behind the elemental combinations of the out of doors should not be denied.  “Who’s behind the placement of patterns of life?” we might ask.  “Does it have to be a person?”  If we settle for intelligent design, as some people use the term, then we admit to personal implication.  Where there’s intelligence there is a brain.  Brain refers to a person.  Where there’s design, we should come to terms with a designer. 

Being that it is Ramnaumi today, a small group of us at the quiet place of Owen Sound, reflected on the classic Vedic personalities known as Ram, Sita and Lakshman, who spent a long and interesting 14 years in the jungles.  A good part of that phase was the travel by foot from the north of India to the south at Rameshvaram.  Shastra, ancient texts like “The Ramayan”, tells of how the three wanderers enjoyed the features, smells, sights and sounds of the wilderness.  Their apparent exile or banishment was actually a blessing. 

Our trip back to the big city, Toronto, allowed our eyes to see a transition.  Behind us was not only the green spirit of the docks at Georgian Bay, but also rolling hills, farms and forests, all now to be replaced by highways, high rises and high expectations of tantalizing pursuits.  Frankly, there’s nothing more boredomsome than peering at square warehouses and the monotonous looking apartment buildings of a modern day city.  You have to ask, “Who’s the author of such pathetic creations?”  Not the Great Spirit, that’s for sure. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Owen Sound, Ontario

Just Before Ram

It was the eve before Ramnaumi, the birthday of Sri Ram, that I arrived at this small city of natural beauty all around.  Along with Rajneesh and family, we ventured to this Georgian Bay area to meet acquaintances, one of whom shared foot travel with me.

Garuda, is now 66, and was with me in British Columbia on walk number 3 when we encountered a grizzly bear and got close to being breakfast. That’s a story unto itself, and one I don’t personally mind reliving.  Anything that impels one to slide into a prayerful mood, isn’t necessarily a bad experience, however adventurous. 

There’s only a 5 year difference between Garuda and I (I’m the younger one).  He’s always been an active man, but is feeling the aches and pains of aging as of late.  Always enthusiastic for chanting, we found he and his clan, with two younger generations, were absorbed in doing just that.  His three sons are rock musicians.  In reality, for them, kirtan is where it’s at.  Another area where we share a passion is in trekking sections of the country’s oldest foot path, the Bruce Trail, which runs along Owen Sound’s escarpment. 

Our union with Garuda’s clan at the home of hosts Rajesh and Alka, was a warm up for the coming day’s Ramnaumi.  We did so through kirtan chanting, feasting, of course, and reading of memories of our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  We especially were hearing of his morning strolls by the Pacific.  He would go at a pace that was hard to keep up.  In this regard, he was always ahead of the game in comparison to his students, in practically every category of activity that you could imagine. 

It is a Vedic colloquial term to follow in the dust of a holy person’s lotus footsteps. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Towards Personalism

A college student came to see me for agreed upon meeting at venue, the streets.  It became a question and answer session on foot on this most sattvic day.  The sky was clear and bright, air was fresh, there was hardly a breeze. 

I can say for myself, I felt the same forecast within.  I think my friend from Whitby, Ontario, the college student, was of a similar state.  I could tell by the questions and the way he was receiving and digesting my responses.  He was curious about the long walks I’ve done.  To that, I explained that light and long travel aid in the process of detachment. 

“Is that like nirvana?” he asked.  I was relieved to know that the phrase wasn’t just a name to him for a hot rock band, but that it means something quite different. 

Nirvana is a word found in the Bhagavad Gita, and it’s a term very much clutched onto by the Buddhists.”  I explained that we are referring to a state of mind beyond the mundane, beyond the hankering and lamentation of this world.  Although nirvana may not be complete so far as total spiritual fulfillment is concerned, within popular Hinduism the equivalent to nirvana would be moksha.  For Krishna conscious pursuers, the state of completion anticipated is union with the Divine in personal service.  It is a highly personalistic approach to life. 

The student and I agreed to meet again and to have more parlance while walking. 

Equally enjoyable to walking and talking through the quiet residential Rosedale neighbourhood, was the evening kirtan which followed right after a successful run of the drama, “Little Big Ramayan”.  The incredibly hyped kirtan with pulsing drum beats and high strung voices took a strong personal involvement, and many people were there participating.  And it was my arm that reached out to bystanders of the kirtan, pulling the eager and shy ones into the dancing circle. 

One teenager that I pulled in stood there very flushed red, shrugged his shoulders up and down, as if declaring, “I don’t know how to dance!”

“Relax,” I said, “you’ve already got unique style.”

May the Source be with you!

6  KM

Sunday 6 April 2014

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Three of Us

All of us crave Sunshine, as long as there’s not too much of it.  It was a pleasure to walk towards its disc which was making a slow descension into the western sky.  The west side of the street going north/south was unfavourable for walking because I wanted the sun’s embrace.  I switched directions to College Street.  I ended up face to face with him.  There were no more imposing buildings.  It was nice, but like anything in this world, you take sookh and dookh (happiness and distress), sad and asad (good and bad).  Basically, you receive a duality.

Along with that generous glow of the sun, came the wind.  Unexpectedly, to me, as forceful as he was.  He also got blocked by buildings eventually, just as the sun did.  Now, I had two guys coming at my face.  It was interesting to see them partnered.  I had their company.  There are three of us now until I turned another corner going north on Croft Street.  Once again, I was in the shadows of the buildings.  I was seemingly alone, but not.  Paramatma (Supersoul) is always in the heart. 

Croft Street is more like a back lane with mostly garages on both sides of the asphalt.  There is pleasant graffiti, and some not so, meaning unsophisticated.  People have left their mark. 

On Bloor Street, I meet my companions again, the sun and the wind.  The sun had moved by now, humbled by time, or just being on time.  Perhaps defining time.  Not exactly, it is said in the Bhagavatam, out of fear of Him, the sun shines.  Who then, in actuality is defining the time factor. 

Finally, I made it home, the temple ashram, where you enter a timeless zone, where all is spiritual, and where there is relative peace.  I say relative because there are humans in the space, and they are not perfect. 

I’m reminded of the joke about the human ego, “Nobody’s perfect, I’m just a nobody.”

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Fun Pun

I did not go outside the walls of the ashram building today.  It doesn’t mean I was confined, as in prison.  I was joyfully locked in with service – and service of a different kind.  I’m speaking about theatre.  The dramas!  The directing! The performance!  I put several hours into our practice of the drama, Little Big Ramayan.  Doing “plays” is a marvelous creative outlet.  And it’s approved (rather, receives blessings) by the previous acharyas or teachers in the line of devotion.  In fact, our guru, Srila Prabhupada, loved dramas that have a spiritual message.  He went so far as to say that the play is better than the book.  He loved the theatre and even acted when as a student in his college years, he played the role of Adwaita, a close associate of Sri Chaitanya, father of kirtan in the modern age.  Our guru also liked Charlie Chaplin.  He would not go out of his way to the cinema, mind you, he wouldn’t have anything to do with extreme mundane entertainment.  Once, on the plane, he had a few chuckles watching the guy with the funny stick, hat and moustache

Now, speaking of fun, what about pun?  Someone sent me from a facebook source, a list of puns called, “Punography”.

Here’s are some real dillies:

I tried to catch some, I mist

A guy I know is addicted to brake fluid.  He said he can stop any time.

How does Moses make his tea?  Hebrews it.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, then it dawned on me.

The girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I never met herbivore.

I’m reading a book about antigravity.  I can’t put it down.

I didn’t like my beard at first, then it grew on me.

How do you make holy water?  Boil the hell out of it.

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble. 

What does a clock do when it’s still hungry?  It goes back four seconds.

I wonder why the baseball was getting bigger, then it hit me.

May the Source be with you!

0 KM

Saturday 5 April 2014

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario


Some of today’s lessons that came out of our Bhagavatam session this morning were gems.  In sutra form, here’s what we came up with from 8.5.26 and its purport:

Sense perception is not complete to understand.

You may see, but you may not be able to understand.

Seeing Him is not as important as appreciating Him.

Prayers are heard and the needful action is taken.

Desire less and deserve more.

Engage yourself or encage yourself.

Another major gem of the day was spending time with our recent most visiting monk, Devamrita Swami, over an excellent meal prepared by Mangal Aarti.  I had trekked to the apartment where he was staying.  My return to the ashram, however, was by cab, and that encounter was another gem. 

The cab driver was curious, “Do you go to India?” he asked.

“Yes, once or twice a year.”

“Which part?” 

“The eastern side, mostly, Bengal.”

“Do you know any Bengali?” asked the taxi driver who told me he’s from neighbouring Bangladesh.

“I know some songs, do you want to hear one?”

“Yes.”  So I sang, in its entirety, ‘Gaya Gaura’ to the cab driver.  He was testing me. “Can you tell me what it means?”

“Yes, do utter or sing the honey like names of the Supreme regardless of status or mood, and benefit.”

The driver was really happy.  He sparkled. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday 3 April 2014

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Dharma Protects

My destination point isn’t usually a tattoo parlour, but it was today.  Down the street I went.  I turned degrees, opened the door, walked to the receptionist who said, “He’s in today, just go to the second floor.”  Up the stairs I ascended and into one of the cubicles.  There he was – the chief. 
Owner and operator is Cuban born, Jovany (AKA Jamuna Jivan), who was my cook in 2007 during a walk through northern Ontario.  He’s become adept at the artistry of tattooing, and he’s in the middle of crafting.  And no, I’m not there to get a tattoo.  Monks in our order use temporary tattoos with something called tilak, an earth based substance which washes off at each shower.  And if not that, the sweat will erase it.

Jovany was working on a young man’s bicepted left arm.  The design looks great, if I must say so.  The owner of the arm, which is pivoted under a pillow with work in progress, is Faris, who hails from the middle east.  Jovany stopped his work when he saw me and presented his obeisance right there in front of me, while he uttered, “This is my guru.”

The two of us got to talking while Jovany kept working on Feris’s arm with gorgeous armour like design.  Jovany was talking about life and its bumpy surprises.  I indicated that if dharma is executed, then there is always protectionFeris then got into the conversation, “So, what’s dharma?”

“To follow the duty which is natural to you.  When a person is dutiful then it’s beautiful, righteous.”  I elaborated, of course.  Feris mentioned that he’s originally from Dubai, to which I responded, “Oh, I’ve been there.  I walked a good stretch one morning in that city, but I was restricted from wearing my robes and had to settle for civies (civilian clothes).”

Our conversation went on with me doing most of the talking, and while watching the penning of ink into Feris’s skin.  With one glance I noticed a poster of Ghandi on the wall with a caption that read, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  This hinted at karma, but our talk stuck to dharma, which ultimately leads to good, inherent reactions of karma. 

Feris, the client, was listening intently.  So was the chief, Jovany.  I’m not sure that most tattoo parlours get into deep discussions.  At least, the other cubicles seemed a bit mundane in spirit when I passed by them during my exit from the shop. 

It was a walk and a talk well worth being part of.  I think I’ll browse around more in the tattoo making department in the future. 

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Be A Fool

I passed through 61 April Fools in this one life.  At the Tuesday Sanga, the evening’s presenter, Praharana, spoke on how we are all more or less fools for being in this world of suffering.  She, however, explained that joy could be had by taking to the spiritual component.  Her message spoken at the ashram was well received.

It was only after the time of her presentation that I went on my daily walk.  Vrindavan, one of our dedicated devotees in our community here, drove me at my request, to his home.  From there I would walk back to the ashram, a mere 6 KM distance.  I recall when I first tackled the longer stretches for training.  A couple of my colleagues at that time thought I was slightly foolish to go on a 22 KM trek (a first), and to do it on a winter afternoon when a snow storm suddenly hit.  I had lost directions while trying to reach my destination point, the home of a friend.  Eventually I was found through the aid of a call by payphone.  No panic, it was fun being a fool.  Anyways, it was all done for the training perspective. 

This fine afternoon I had a second visit from Michael over for lunch.  One year, Michael had trekked the nation from Newfoundland and then to British Columbia.  He’s experienced.  We discussed a number of things, even the possibility of doing some walking together this summer.  In our talk, he concurred that no one really understands the practice of marathon trekking, what positive effect it has, until you just go out and do it yourself.  In fact, anyone who has taken up the challenge of lengthy pilgrimages will wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone do this?”  As Michael confirmed about his noble walk, “Those were the best days of my life.” 

My remark would be, “If you can’t be foolhardy, then you’re just a bland bro.”

Be adventurous, be a fool. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM