Tuesday 30 September 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

North York, Ontario
Back In
I am back in Canada, but still moving around. I was booked with Krishna Club at York University to speak on “A Day in the Life of a Monk.”  To reach the location on campus for sitting in the round, I decided to walk two thirds of the way there to Sheppard and Bathurst.
A young woman, Sonia, was waiting at the street corner near Holy Blossom Synagogue, when she saw me cross.  I heard her audible question over the traffic noise. “Are you a monk?”  I did a pedestrian u-turn and got to the spot of her standing point.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.”
We got to talking. I wish she could have attended the talk I was delivering.  All along my trek on Bathurst I could see there were responsive people, including Jewish private school students, and Catholic Filipino folks now off from work.
I was reminded of the multicultural world we live in, not much different from the town I was raised in.  We had people of varying backgrounds, a veritable potpourri of folks.  English, French, Belgian, Dutch, Czechs, Italians, etc.  Even a brown Trinidadian man came to move to town to teach mathematics at the high school.
Eventually I did get picked up by Yura and Aastha for the balance of the trip to York U.  Aastha does standup comedy.  On her request, she had asked for topics she might include in her act.
“Why not open the Bhagavad-gita and derive some ideas from there – topics such as karma , dharma, the three modes, yoga, liberation, and happiness to begin with?”  Happiness is a topic she’s already been toying with, hence the question, “What else?”
We met with students in the round and delineated on a day in the life to a degree.  I believe the young minds were transported.  But I think the kirtan at the end of the session allowed themselves to travel for a moment extra-terrestially.  
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Sunday, September 29th, 2014

Philadelphia, Pensylvania
Germantown and Beyond
Nikhil, a chap from Virginia, and I took to trekking along Germantown Avenue.  Architecturally, it has a European flavor with its homey-looking shops, cobblestone roads, tight lanes, and just charm.  Going east, it starts to take on a more gloomy, almost ghetto-like feel.
Being Sunday morning, you see the odd person at 7am on their way to work. A coffee shop employee, perhaps.  There is always a very devout mama who’s dressed in her Baptist best, hat a la mode and all.  A young teenaged black dude was darting down the street in a stark white shirt, tie, and spiffy suit.  As I was told last year on my visit here, this area became the first integrated neighbourhood in America.  Blacks, whites, southerners, northerners, new immigrants and earlier established folks all got along.  Spirituality may have had something to do with that.  Nikhil and I can see plenty of churches, even seminaries in the districts. The Lutherans have a gorgeous ground for their seminary students, just minutes from our ISKCON centre.
Several theology students did visit our temple and in fact, watched our play, “Little Big Ramayaan.” The audience – students and congregants – were so responsive. It seems that the signature line to this play is the final one.  When narration tells, “Relationships have always been complicated. Even on the divine Absolute realm.”   And of course what resonates with the audience also is Ravana’s line “You disgust me,” amplifying the general disdain that a worldly person has for the world.  Ravana is the nemesis of ego, something we can all relate to.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Franklin’s Lookalike Spoke

I had asked the fellow dressed like Benjamin Franklin what his favourite quote was.  It is my second visit to the Chariot Festival in Philly, and it being such an historical city, and one of their proud father of the nation, in fact, was Mr. Franklin, whom had an incredible brain.  So I asked him for some wisdom.  The local man in period costume answered my question, “I have many sayings, but my chosen favourite is about talent that is hidden and not put to use is like a sundial in darkness.”

“I like that.  I thank you,” I said.  And then he went to Rome through the booths at the festival which is one block from the steps that the famous icon, Rocky Balboa, ran up and down at the art museum.

I had a chance to hear and see talent from the main stage.  Yadunatha from New York is a standup comedian, who pokes fun at ourselves, the Krishna monks.  He always cracks me up.  Talk about hidden talent.  I don’t happen to know his stage name, but he’s a great entertainer.  Just after his act came a local dance troupe presenting Odissi dance items.  The dancers were good, it just went on too long, leaving the audience with no break.  Then came our group performing “Little Big Ramayan”.  Now, I cannot speak objectively on the performance, but from my side I believe they executed their parts quite well despite challenges such as the slippery floor causing Ravana to fall off the stage.  All the performers had the chance to display their abilities – talent that’s not exhibited unless someone comes along to present the opportunity and discovers something wonderful. 

Regarding walking I believe that in this day of sophisticated mobilization, walking is a hidden talent, we have it in us.  If one gives it a chance, one will see how it benefits us in so many ways.

May the Source be with you!

10 klickaroos.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Row The Boat

I made sure to trek a trail before the long 8 hour drive to Philly.  A group of 11 of us split between two rented vans made the pleasant journey through a  portion of upstate new York and Pennsylvania which is absolutely scenic.  The 11 of us were the invited drama troupe to the city’s Chariot Festival.  But one more person from California was to meet us in Philly to make the cast complete.  He was number 12.  I’m sorry to say that his cancelation at the last minute was disappointing.  He chose to be lazy.  He’s talented, this was a golden opportunity for him, he just didn’t make it to the airport in time.  Missed his flight and the ticket we paid for became dissolved.  He was just unable to get it together, although he had all the time.  This threw off our plans for a full cast.  Fortunately a capable actor/devotee was contacted and came to save the day.  My consideration is that everyone in life should endeavour to be that team player.  I am reminded of a phrase by Jean Paul Sartre, “Only the guy who is not rowing has time to rock the boat.”

Two elements checked what could have been an anger fit for me.  Number 1, the people I do have, 11 or so, are just a dream to be with.  They are cooperation personified.  Secondly, I was moved with some pity for the lost soul who lost our confidence, especially after not having apologized.  He must really be struggling in life.  He’s young, and it’s obvious he’s making some mistakes.  I will not give up on him should he choose to reach out for help.

Anyways, once reaching the city of brotherly love, we worked with our extra (Jon by name) and he was a fabulous replacement. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
About Grandma Gatewood
I trekked some of the streets today in Toronto (what else is new?) but I felt my mind to be miles away on a lonely but what's become a popular trail.  After an article about a trail-blazing walker was forwarded to me I felt to be backtracking and backtracking with this person.
The person referred to is Emma Rowena Gatewood.  An excellent book was recently published delineating her story and how she saved the well-known trail in America's east coast - the Appalachian Trail.
In 1955 Emma, known to many as Grandma Gatewood, became the first woman to hike the entire 2,168 mile (3,489 km) trail.  She did so in sneakers and carried an army blanket, a raincoat, shower curtain, and a change of clothes.  She took to harvesting wild plants and also carried cheese, nuts, and dried fruit along with dried (well you know we Hare Krishnas don't eat meat).
Now I was only 3 when this remarkable person accomplished this amazing feat, with her feet.  She is regarded as a pioneer for ultra-light hiking.  Awesome also is that she hiked the Appalachian Trail once again in 1960 and again at age 75 three years later.
This give me hope that age (I'm almost 62) is not a restriction for achieving long distance pilgrimage.  Her journey reminds me of the incredible hikes of yogis in the Himalayas who carried nothing, sometimes not even clothes on their back.  It is also reminiscent of what I've read about the Pandava princes of the Mahabharat when they made their final foot trek through the mountains.
Totally inspiring! 
May the Source be with you!
4 KM

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The Grapes In Fall

I grabbed a grape while on the walk
Chewed in time to the stepping Croc
Felt the sun that reds the face
Walked along all o’er the place

Down Dupont, a road so plain
Stepped in stride and felt no pain
Moved those limbs in perfect swing
Like light flight on a feathered wing

I sang a song, a mantra low
Picked up speed and went not slow
I had my heart inside my shoes
There was no need to sing the blues

Chant and trek, trek and chant
I beat the mind which says, “I can’t”
I consumed a meal, mmm…  so good
Tummy’s fire liked the food

We monks ate with appetite
Eating veggies – a sense delight
“Enough’s enough,” we told the cook
Subuddhi had us on a hook

Then step by step I went on foot
The others cycled on the route
I spotted this grape, was so awesome
I imagine it was once a blossom

It hung from vine by a wall
A feature of the season we call “Fall”

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Thursday 25 September 2014

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

North York, Ontario

Watch Where You Sit

Everyone was very careful where to plop their buttocks.  Those Canada geese do a fairly good job at leaving their droppings on the campus grass. 

York University was the venue near what everyone calls, ‘The Fountain’.  Some students, some monks and I received full approval via the Krishna Club to help ourselves to the green grass for chanting, drumming and schmoozing.  One of our monks, Hayagriva, took his bag of bhakti books around trying to interest students in the sublime philosophical outlook of bhakti¸devotion.  There were takers.

There were also takers to our kirtan.  One young Ethiopian student sat with us, with care, on the grass, soaking in the sound.  Many other students very indifferently walked by and some even nonchalantly helped themselves to the grass, with prudence, to sit or lie down near us.  I believe that in their own way they were expressing interest in our sound. 

I particularly enjoyed when some students, two guys and a gal, came armed with djembes and one dundun.  This thumping lent itself to our musical efforts.  It’s always great to have back up to the sound of  Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Our drive home was crazy.  There was so much traffic and construction, all in preparation for next year’s PanAm games.  You have to watch the traffic like you do the geese dung.  Frankly, I would rather come face to face with organic bird mush over oncoming metal monsters in the form of cars. 

May the Source be with you!  Watch where you drive, sit, stand, walk, run and lie down.

6 KM

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Loss Versus Gain

Officially for a day or so now, it’s fall.  The temperature dip proves it.  Nevertheless, Karuna, Wade and I, took to the ravine.  Colours are starting to show like only autumn can do.  You’ve got red sumac, blue chicory, orange touch-me-nots, black choke cherries, purple asters, goldenrod, and all kinds of greens.

Our First Nations people for thousands of years enjoyed this colour festival within nature’s pharmacy – the forest.  Medicinal properties were known to them, and also, to some degree, the European settlers.  Are we as enlightened today?  No.  We must be honest and claim ignorance.  Furthermore then, are we forest wise?  Are we able to survive?  No. 

Our indigenous people were gurus when it came to knowing how to survive in natural surroundings.

Wade hastened to say, “But it’s almost too late.  Some Native elders may have the wisdom, but once they go…”  Fortunately some of that wisdom is recorded.  I guess you could say that such classic concern regarding lessons on life, which get lost, are a reality.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna gives mention of the science of the self being buried in time.  It was then necessary to reestablish this ancient science.  This was then taught by Krishna, Himself, to Arjuna, in order that humankind would benefit. 

Lost wisdom is the greatest loss.  Wisdom revived is the greatest triumph. 

On the topic of the ultimate science we may ask, “Do I have a good grip on my own identity?  Who am I after all?  What is my real purpose in being in this world?  Do I just live to die?”  Explore the answers and gain some freedom.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Sunday, September 21st, 2014


No Stickler

My doctor friend and student, Vikas Pandit (AKA Jagannatha Mishra and I) had trekked the night before along Lake Ontario.  To me, it’s a haunting place with some currents of obnoxious smells from the local Stelco plant.  The wind blew warmly and strongly against our bodies.  Trees danced, but to the exclusion of their legs.  Waves of water lapped against the sandy edge of the beach.  It was eerie in a nice kind of way, and the sensation encouraged a long awaited 6 hour straight sleep to follow – a rarity. 

Jagannatha drove me to the ISKCON Brampton Centre this morning where kirtan, philosophy and food occupied mid day.  Then I was driven to Toronto for a second delivery of words.  This time, readings from “Anecdotes of a Modern Day Saint”.  I had chosen passages that would illustrate in what I’d call ‘mind blowers’.  For those amongst the community who have become familiar with some of our rigid practices regarding eating habits, such as no chocolate, no onion stricture, I read about the loopholes, or flexibilities, that our guru implemented.  He was obviously teaching the lesson that while it is good to exercise self-discipline, one must bear in mind that time, place, and circumstance have their utility.  From the book, here’s what one person, Kaushalya, recalls in this regard:

“A lady had prepared a huge and delicious vegetarian feast for us, but there were onions throughout the vegetables.  One of the men leaned over to Prabhuapda and whispered, ‘Prabhupada, there are onions in the vegetables,’ Prabhupada looked over at him angrily and said, ‘Quiet, eat, it doesn’t matter, just eat.’  He didn’t want to offend her.  Being an appreciative guest was more of a concern to him than the fact that there were onions in the vegetables.  He ate it and complimented her on her cooking.
“Another time we were served chocolate, and we all thought, ‘Oh, we’re not supposed to eat chocolate because it’s got caffeine in it.’  Prabhupada said, ‘Eat it.’  He was casual in some ways and strict in other ways.  I think his principle was he didn’t want to offend our hosts by being a stickler for the rules and regulations.  It was a great example.”
May the Source be with you!

3 KM

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Hamilton, Ontario

Happiness in Hamilton

I like the crowd at Shanti Yoga Studio on Main Street in Hamilton.  The hosts, Alex and Jay, are so accommodating.  The people that come to partake in our kirtan and talk are eager, receptive and responsive. 

I teamed up with the Gaura Shakti Bhajan Band, and with Keshava, who does so well with being emcee to our bhakti presentation.  Our experience is that it doesn’t take much to take this group from the lotus sitting position, to elevate up to standing and jumping for chants and dance. 

The mantras used:  “Om namo Bhaghavate vasudevaya”, a Ram mantra, and finally, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”.
Each successive sound got better, more inclusive (participation wise) and became indicative of surrender. 

We are looking at 60 people who have the heart and fervour of the Kelowna, BC response this last summer.

How was the food at the end?  Marvelous!  Our chef, Sachi, put out her best.  Her best love and creativity.  It was prasadam (blessed by God).  I also had the floor to present Tales From Trails, highlighting the practice of an ancient past – walking with purposeful intent.  I relayed to the group how a motorist stopped to offer a ride one day this summer.  I apologized, “I can’t take rides, I’m walking the nation.”

“Is this for personal growth?”  he asked.

And I said, “Absolutely, I’m being totally selfish.”

This in many ways was the message of the night, “Be selfish!  Get strong in order to help others.”  If the chanting doesn’t do it (get you in shape) then I don’t know what will.  Ultimately it’s an individual and collective effort. 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday 20 September 2014

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Prove Improve Disprove

Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, would always make the point to prove that you are human.  On the basis of behaviour and belief, it can be ascertained whether one has actually achieved this honoured status.  It has much to do with the ability to go beyond eating, sleeping, mating, defending, and the ability to discern the difference between right and wrong and between matter and spirit.  A human cannot claim superiority, more so it’s responsibility that makes the human. 

To prove the point, you should always improve.  We know that ‘to err is human’, we make mistakes, but we always endeavour to correct them, prove and improve. 

I went on foot on this fine day of sun and temperate degrees to the ‘Brickworks’.  An abandoned quarry which had provided mud for bricks had turned into a haven for people who enjoy urban greenness.  Every time I make my way here, my feet up to my head, reach a happier state.  I see that the grounds are improved each time. 

Recently a switchback path had been introduced which takes you to an elevation point where you can view the valley from above, and the rather stunning cityscape from the distance.  The pathway is lain with tiny stones and not asphalt, thank God.  I congratulate the workers on this and the city that supports them.  They are maintaining, proving, and improving, while disproving that neglect works. 

Few cyclists come to this little nook, few runners.  It’s primarily walkers who escape the city madness while being in the city in this location.  Here’s my challenge, I dare you, you are a human being, prove it!  WALK. 

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

In my stroll through a quiet residential area of homes and trees, both glorious in stature, I contemplated verses from the Bhagavad Gita which describes the Absolute in the manifestation of the witness of everything.  They are powerful statements. 


Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world. 
Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes, heads and faces, and He has ears everywhere.  In this way the Supersoul exists, pervading everything. 
The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses.  He is unattached, although He’s the maintainer of all living beings.  He transcends the modes of nature and at the same time He is the master of all the modes of material nature. 
The Supreme Truth exists outside and inside of all living beings, the moving and the non moving.  Because He is subtle, He is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know.  Although far, far away, He is also near to all.
Although the Supersoul appears to be divided among all beings, He is never divided, situated as one.  Although the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that he devours and develops all.
He is the source of light in all luminous objects.  He is beyond the darkness of matter and is unmanifested.  He is the object of knowledge, the goal of knowledge.  He is situated in everyone’s heart.
May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Friday 19 September 2014

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
Walking Minds
Today my mind walked to New Brunswick, Vancouver, Montreal, Miami, Los Angeles, and Vrndavana India. It’s been all over the place on subtle speed.  It also raced to a past era, to antiquity – a Vedic period, and also projected itself 20 years ahead when I’ll be 82.
My legs, however, kept my feet on the ground.  I didn’t leave this city.  I ambled my way through the university area, where students do minimize the use of “car.”  Good for them.  You’ve got some of the most striking-looking buildings in the city at U of T.  The grounds appear great and green.  Yes, we’re not experiencing winter just yet.  The colours of the leaves are yet to bedazzle you.  The colours of human skin are like the autumn.  You have every part of the world representing on campus.  There are the vivacious people, the reserved and pensive ones.  There are also those who are zoned-out, looking as if to have origins from the moon.  It’s all so interesting!
There are things you observe in the course of a walk.  There’s never a dull moment in the observation of life in its full swing.  In my small analytical brain I try to filter it all as life is perceived through the wisdom of the Gita.  It describes three modes of nature – goodness, passion and ignorance (satva, rajas and tama).
In the city you have a mix of all modes packed in a condensed area.  Now when we look at this mix, we see everyone as an individual, distinctly different from each other.  That is from a mundane perspective.  From the spiritual standpoint, however, we are very much “whole” as living sparks of life, sparks who are walking through a crazy world of birth and death.
It’s not a bad idea to walk your way out of it.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario
There is Something Higher
Here’s what happens when you’re a monk and you’re dressed in regular civilian attire.  It was raining yesterday and I decided to relieve my robes of damage often done when trekking through a potential drencher.
Dimitri and I took to a walk on Yonge Street.  The purpose was to chant on our beads as much as it was offering company while walking back to his apartment after a visit to our ashram.
At the street light by Bloor a young fellow, obviously from small-town Ontario, with his two buddies, inquired about directions.  “Can you tell us where the strip club is?”  Although I knew a location due to it being on my regular walking route, I feigned ignorance.  “Listen, we’re monks!” I held up my meditation beads to point out our endeavour towards other-worldliness.  The fellow shrugged his shoulders and eagerly pranced ahead of us with his two buddies.
It got me thinking.  These guys are very young.  There are so many more wholesome things one could do.  Indeed, the Creator designed the female body to be beautiful and such holds true for the male form.  Why does this human body have to be approached in cheapness, with such short-term value?  The young men will see a showgirl performance, derive some stimulation and leave agitated and with an opinion that women are toys for boys.
There are higher proven ways to enjoy.  As the “Bhagavad-gita” explains, param drstva nivartante. “There is a higher taste” which makes all other endeavours inferior due to short-term aggrandizement.
Let pleasure lost! Go spiritual!
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Brampton, Ontario

Life is a Walk in Progress

I received a message from Louise whom I met back in June in Trail, B.C. I didn’t know she was a journalist when I was puzzled as to the physical continuation of the Trans Canada Trail when I came to a junction by the road.  I saw two female runners and I asked, “Where did the Trans Canada Trail go? It’s not so obvious.”  So I got good directions from her.  Later she followed up with a story that went to various media outlets.  It’s one of my favourites, courtesy of Louise McEwan (www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com). The article:

Life is a Walk in Progress

Trail, B.C. September 15, 2014/Troy Media – My conversation with Bhaktimarga Swami, held by phone shortly after he completed his fourth “Can Walk” across Canada, transcended religious doctrine, dogma and belief systems.

Swami, born in Ontario as John Peter Vis, adopted the Eastern monastic lifestyle of the Hare Krishna movement some 40 years ago.  In 1996, he undertook and completed his first pilgrimage across Canada, journeying from west to east.  Since that time, he has completed three more cross country treks, each time traveling in the opposite direction, and along different routes.

He conceived the idea to walk across Canada one day while walking in a ravine in Toronto, an activity he undertook initially to rehabilitate low back problems. “It was almost like a light bulb lit up,” he told me of the moment that led him to walk across the country.  As he put it, “As a monk might do it, (to)travel kind of lightly, and meet people along the way, spend enough time in a place, as long as it takes to milk a cow, as we say in our tradition,” before continuing his journey to his next destination.

In many religious traditions, the journey is a metaphor for the growth of the soul as it enters more profoundly into an encounter with the Divine.  Since Swami had crossed the country on foot multiple times, I asked him if walking is more than a metaphor for him.  Not surprisingly, it is.  “It’s a natural position of the spirit or soul to wander in this world and to walk it in wonder and appreciation. So (wandering) puts you in that spot where you need to be, that place of humility which is the basis of success in life.”

Swami explained that walking along busy highways with vehicles barreling past or trekking through remote and beautiful landscapes is a lesson in detachment.  “You learn to take it all in, the heat, the wind, the rain, the cold, the black flies, the mosquitoes, attention by the public, no attention, traffic – with all of that, you learn detachment.”  These external factors, along with the physical discomfort that comes from walking 30 to 45 kilometres per day, and the spiritual challenges of facing your own deficiencies, help a person learn disentanglement from this world.

We discussed the idea of detachment in light of today’s culture, with its emphasis on self and acquisition.  At the core of the self “there is passion to move about and pick up on all the little nuances the world has to offer.”  We shared the belief that our passions may become misdirected and we may find ourselves walking in a direction that leads us away from our deepest yearnings. 

Chanting the mantra is an essential part of Swami’s journey, helping him keep the spiritual in his midst. “God is present in sound,” said Swami.  “Hallowed be thy name. So, the name, the sound is sacred. We,” by which the Swami meant the Krishna and Christian religious traditions, “have the same understanding…The Absolute or the Divine is there with you in their sound.”

The word “mantra” comes from two Sanskrit words, “mana” which means the mind, and “tra” which means to free.  Chanting the mantra frees the mind “so that your mind is not on the acquisitions you’re trying to achieve.”  The mantra “pulls you out of that mode,” illuminating the beauty all around, and providing spiritual strength; “it keeps you a bit on your toes, otherwise the force of temptation could get to you.”

Our hour-long conversation ended with Swami providing an exegesis of the verb “to understand” that he picked up from a Catholic priest.  In order to understand, it is important to go under, to stand humbly and look up, then “you understand your real position.”

Walking “brings about a lot of revelation and epiphany about our smallness, our insignificance and about how much bigger the universal machinery is than our self.  Getting to the point of taking the humble stance is the end product of the long and arduous spiritual journey, which, I am sure Swami would agree, is always a walk in progress…

(Thank you, Louise!)

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Mix and Mingle

There are many things I loathe about city life.  Yet there are many things I love about urban stuff.  Within a downtown you can get about and acquire almost all of your cultural and physical needs.

I trekked to our urban easy-to-get-to “Bhakti Lounge” to give a class on anarthas and what to do about “unwanted elements” that stand in the way of spiritual progress.  The discussion that followed after my delivery of some words on the topic “was relevant to us,” so one person commented.  After all, who is perfect?  We all have demons inside.

On my return walk back  to the ashram, an anxious runner, bespeckled and bandana’d whizzed by. “Bhaktimarga!” he shouted when he approached.  Only when he got physically close could I recognize this school teacher friend of mine.  “I’ll come and visit you sometime!” It’s only been about five years since I had seen Mitch.

Mitch’s quick encounter exposed me to an anartha (again, an unwanted element).  This time, it was guilt.  Mind you guilt is positive when it compels you to improve.  Yes, I feel guilty every year when I hear promotion of the annual and popular “Terry Fox Run” which I’m sure Mitch was headed towards. 

Why do I feel this guilt, is because I’m not participating.  Had I participated it would be my opportunity to mingle with folks outside my own community and at the same time not become worldly.  I did take part at the “Terry Fox Run” two Septembers ago in the town of Fort Frances when I had trekked through on the Cross Canada walk #4. I walked and did not run (you are allowed to do so).  And after that walk, Daruka, my support guy, and his parrot, Billy and I went for that luncheon at the church to mingle with co-trekkers and runners.  It was sweet!

Doing marathon walks or runs provides the option to go solo or multiples.  It’s a good idea to mix and mingle in the process and break out of your shell once in a while.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Maple, Ontario

Uptown to Sheppard

It’s 12 degrees Celsius, partly cloudy.  It was truly perfect for a trek.  I left for uptown Yonge Street which was north en route to Maple, Ontario.  The intent was to cut 10 KM off of a ride that would take me to this destination, a residence for a Saturday night satsang (gathering).

So I gained from these two hours of freedom walking on a street of shops and pedestrians, young, old, and everything in between.  One sandwich sign gave me a buzz.  It was outside a tearoom and it read, “Warming up is our special tea.” Gimmicky? Yes!

I passed St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton, Lawrence, York Mills, 401 Highway, and then finally, Sheppard Avenue, where Yadunandan, the host of tonight’s satsang picked me up.  Here’s a man who’s dedicated to sharing.  He and his wife, Hemavati, regularly make packets of offered food to go to the public.  They had invited families, friends, and neighbours to have an evening of devotion.  They told of a swami (me) coming to their home, that he would speak.

I did speak, by first reading from “Krishna”, a book by our guru, Srila Prabhupada.  I tried as best as possible to make my talk, after the short reading, newcomer-friendly.  These first-timers to Krishna Consciousness appeared to be sipping the tea, warming up to the message of the Personalitea of Godhead.

It was a quaint evening topped by excellent prasadam including a favourite of mine “Gauranga potatoes”.  I had achieved out of the day a great walk and a warm gathering of good people.  What more could you want?

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Shuffling Through Yorkville

For two good hours, we were out to greet the greeters of the movie stars.  To my knowledge, there are several key locations in the city where celebrities and their fans go during the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Yorkville region is one of them.  It’s a mere four blocks from our ashram, which is convenient. 

What’s great about the time frame for this event is that it coincides with ISKCON’s established “Holy Name Week”.  We thought the title “Holy Name” sounded too Catholic.  Nothing intended against the Catholic faith, but the term, we felt, doesn’t reflect our culture, so we settled for calling it “Maha Mantra Week”. 

Here we were chanting in some kind of moving order through the streets in the Yorkville area.  It was not a march, not even a walk, maybe a kind of shuffle.  The fellow in front of me in our two abreast shuffle, was playing the mrdanga drum, and while playing and moving forward, he was pivoting or bending at the waist in a manner I’ve seen pandas (priests) do in Puri, India, at the big Ratha Yatra festivals.  It was kind of a cool move.

In any event, about 20 of us or so were perking up the people with our music and our mantra.  People in their fine evening attire were lighting up at our presence.  It was the look of, “Hey, I haven’t seen you guys for a while; we’re happy to see you again.”  Some folks would break into a jig and girate to a beat of a drum.  I believe that some good, clean body moves can make you feel a lot better than having a swig or two of whisky. 

Our message is, “Come on and join in on the fun.  This mantra, ‘Hare Krishna’, and swaying to it, is very powerful.”

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Could Have Done More

On hindsight, I felt I could and should have done more.  I may have assessed things wrongly, but here’s my brief story.

As I was walking eastbound on Bloor Street near Castle Frank, I got close to the place where you overlook a street below.  The subway line also speeds by underneath.  I’m on a bridge and as I was trekking this section, a young oriental fellow who was leaning against the edge looking down at the traffic below, he was about of student age, looked particularly unhappy.  He was just staring, and it struck me, “Is he contemplating…  suicide?”  No!  There was this blank stare coming from him, it was very focused.  And as I passed by, I looked at him, hoping to catch his attention.  I cleared my throat and said, “Hello!  Hare!”  He turned his head toward me, but looked emotionless.  I felt a jolt of fear and concern simultaneously.  I realized that I was running late, time wise, for a lunch engagement, a rather important one.  I just kept walking.  I looked back to see that he was looking down again.  It was an eerie feeling seeing this. 

Was this cold look of his a mere urban syndrome, where you don’t bother reciprocating with people?  Or was he just depressed?  Was this soul really struggling and needing help?  Dumfounded me could have done more and reached out, and let the bok choy – baked potato lunch just wait a little longer. 

I felt guilty walking on and showing too minor a helping hand.  Good wishes was my only consolation for now, because I know sending good vibes goes a long way. 

Will I be given an opportunity to be tried again?  Probably so.  The world is full of troubled people, and less, though, of people who care.

May the Source be with you!

7 KM

Thursday 11 September 2014

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Walking In the Rain

It dripped and it dropped
I stepped and I stopped,

For the rain had come
In a hiss and a hum.

The slope had a slip.
I thought, “Oh!  What a trip!

Don’t be uptight! 
Slide not, stay upright!”

Somehow I succeeded
Prayers were all I needed

On the slimy raw trail
With no rope and no rail.

Rain drove all away
But I was fixed to stay.

Before I took to trek
“Clouds,” but what the heck! 

I’ll just have some fun
Should I walk or should I run

I’m a monk on the move
Conviction I must prove.

May the Source be with you!

9 KM

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

I Turned a Corner 

As I turned a corner at Roxborough and Yonge, a middle-aged woman was standing there, waiting for, my guess was a cab.  You could tell she was curious as hell. 

In order not to appear like I had my hand in a sling (on my actual pouch for holding my meditation beads), I held my beads free in my hand.

“Are you praying?” she asked.

“Yes, it is actually for meditation.”

“Are you a priest?” 

“A monk.”

“I’ve never seen before, your clothes,” she persisted in inquisitiveness.  “I’m Catholic and from Portugal.  Are you from Canada?”

“Oh yes!  I’m a Krishna monk and I adapted to this ancient culture from India.”

“Do you get married?”

“In our tradition most priests do but I stayed single.”

She went on with her curiosity.

“Our priests don’t get married.  Sometimes they make a mistake,” she said as she swayed her head. 

I concurred and we both broke into a smile. 

“Yes, sometimes they make a mistake!”

I walked on, on that note, thinking that I do not believe I errored on my celibate life.  I had put a little walking in before speaking at a group on “The Glories of Sannyasa” which means the life of renunciation.  I asked the group to consider 18.2 from the Gita:

“The giving up of activities that are based on material desire is what great learned people call the renounced order of life (sannyasa). And giving up the results of all activities is what the wise call renunciation (tyaga).”

My message was, “At the maturing of your life when passions have been subsided to a good degree, consider renunciation.”

May the Source be with you!

5 KM

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Etobicoke, Ontario

Making My Way
I was making my way westward on Davenport, the ancient trail for the Huron native people.  It was once at the edge of waters called Iroquois. The water receded to where it is now.  It was a major thoroughfare connecting the current Humber and Don Rivers.  It’s now a narrow street.  I feel honoured to be on a trail that’s thousands of years old.
While trekking I met a series of guys who were, let’s say, expressing themselves individually.  The first one was angry.  While pushing his baby in a carriage, a person in a slick black Cadillac stopped right in front of him with cell phone in hand, oblivious to what she had done.  The father demanded while having to go around the vehicle, “Stop using your phone!”  He repeated it again and again as the driver of the car paid no attention.
Blocks later I came to a stoplight.  So did the driver next to me.  With his car window open he was singing at the top of his lungs.  I was trying to catch the song.  It sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck tune.  Anyways he sounded happy.
Some blocks later a guy on his bike going the other direction spotted me and broke into a string of mantras.  I was thinking we’re not doing too bad for a Monday late afternoon.
Finally I made a turn to Weston Rd., then Eglinton West until my prearranged driver came to pick me up 10 kilometres later.  He drove me to his home to initiate an annaprasana, a first grain ceremony for his five month old son.  Both dad and mom were thrilled.  So was I.  I got my walking in.  I witnessed happy men and one in a drama.  These things happened while walking so I could see all this and be entertained.
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Pelee Island, Ontario

Kidding Around

I enjoy being a kid at times.  Before the journey to Pelee Island, I ventured my way to the Humber River in pilgrimage style, that is, chanting mantras, but I got a little distracted.  A skunk hit my trail, I started to chase him.  He was a beaut with lots of white on him.  I’ve dealt with these guys for years.  By now I know how close I can get and be alert to watching the tail spring up in defense, which would mean a nasty spray.  My motive apart from being frivolous, is to have the creature hear a Sanskrit mantra, which is pure sound and can even subliminally effect him positively. 

Now, the trip to Pelee Island took us first to Kingsville, where a ferry awaits.  It’s on this ferry, after boarding, that we applied the same philosophy that I did for the skunk.  Only this time it was a group first.  Chanting melodiously we did for human ears.  I should not forget the trailing behind seagulls flying in the air as the cruiser, The Jiiman, was creating a wave behind it.  The sound of mantra must have also fell on their ears. 

The kirtan (chanting session) was arousing.  People came from every level of the cruiser to listen – staff and passengers.  They joined us in the singing and dancing. 

This is becoming an annual event, visiting Pelee, while being a kid.  Devotees of Krishna from both Detroit and Toronto come together to swim the water and toss a ball trying to keep it volleyed to the count of 108.  Considering the long, drawn out winter as of late, squeezing out today’s wholesome bonding type of fun is most treasured. 

By the way, the main portion of the Detroit contingent was a couple, Jambavan and Samvit, with their 8 offspring.  How can you not be like a kid with them around? 

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Scarborough, Ontario

Going to a Fair

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…”

Simon and Garfunkel. 

A god brother, Kala, drove me to Scarborough, and to a type of fair.  Actually, it was the 2nd annual Chariot Fest for that community.  It was not ‘parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme’, but more like, ‘curry, cumin, turmeric and lime’.  Actually the prasadam, (food) was very yummy.

Dr. Cho, who hails from South Korea, is a city councilor, he came to participate along with other dignitaries.  Naturally, they had good things to say in support of the event. 

I was also impressed with the number of Chinese folks standing by in delight as our Krishna community passed by in chanting formation.  Milliken Park was the venue – a great spot.  When I think about it, over the stretch of one day, I get to trek in several locations, this being one of them.  Yes, it’s good to get around. 

Our drama troupe did a great rendering of ‘Little Big Ramayan’ judging by the response.  In my position, I can engage some people in walking, some in theatre, some in administration, and some in driving me one place to another.  The diversity is sweet, variety is the spice of life.

May the Source be with you!

8 KM

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Rivers of People and Rivers of Water

In the course of a day I meet a good number of people, they show up at our temple ashram for a different number of reasons.  People come for darshan, viewing of the Krishna deity, some sample food at our Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant within the building, some people come to hear and learn from classes that we offer and from seminars on the bhakti sciences.  Others are volunteers who come to help with kitchen work, or cleaning, or maintenance work.  The numbers add up over a day’s stretch.

So I meet these great people, but I haven’t developed the skill to remember their names very well.  Today a walkers’ club came to eat at Govinda’s.  They are a seniors group and they come quite regularly.  One of the members has a daughter in Kelowna, BC, a place that was a stop over for me during this year’s Trans-Canada trek.  I met her daughter at that time, she is a staunch mother, wife, and devotee of Krishna.  As mentioned, I failed to remember the names, but I am taken by the small world in which we live – the world of knowing someone who knows someone who knows you, even if you’re a relative nobody from another part of the country. 

Of course, when you meet somebody who shares the same walking passion as you, you get excited.  It made my day to meet a person who has a love for pilgrimage.  I was also thrilled to hear from her that the Pan Am Games are coming to Toronto next year, and will encourage the building of a Pan Am trail, which is really a series of trails that will be recognized as a unique route beginning from the northern part of the Humber River, leading to Lake Ontario, and then going east along the waterfront, and then north on either the Don or the Rouge Rivers.  This is ecstatic news.

The winding down message which I slept on at the end of the day, after a gathering with our Brampton community where we indulged in the Gita’s words, was from 17.15.  Here, the verse talks about favourable speech:

Austerity of speech consists of speaking words which are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature. 

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Saturday 6 September 2014

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Flashes in the Night

At long last the summer has come as we usually know it – hot and somewhat humid.  Sunlight hours are not the most conducive for hiking up and down streets.  You wait until nighttime when it cools down or take to early morning strolls. 

The city is teeming with energy.  Very close to our ashram, movie lovers are filling the streets for TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival.  It’s a big one. 

It would be so nice, had there been the same passion for spirituality.  I believe the film industry and media in general, has done a fairly good job at downplaying the soul searching culture.  I say this sarcastically.  Exposing faulty habits by spiritual leaders has become a preoccupation.  There is some validity to this, however.  Our own guru would take the time to express what he felt about bogus people in the dress of religious garb and status.  People we sometimes refer to as ‘bhogi yogis’. 

At the same time, reporting should be balanced and highlight benefits of personal discipline and expression of humility.  We generally hear about the bad apples, but why not talk more about the good apples.  Yes, the balance of presentation is weak. 

We glamourize the night life of people in fancy dress, people we call ‘stars’.  They drive around in limos and take to parties.  They often enough detour fans with their sensuous lifestyles and rocky relationships.  They are not always the best role models.  It’s really a lot of tinsel flashing in the night.  What society needs is a boost of wholesome direction. 

May the Source be with you!

10 KM

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Montreal, Quebec
The Trash Task
It’s painful to see the waste all around.  You’ll walk up a street and see rejected furniture, for instance, a big sofa set, tables, chairs, beds, and mattresses.  Often they look to be in good condition.  Then you have lined-up on the street bags and bags of wrapping, compost, and all kinds of refuse.  It’s all neatly consolidated into shiny bags of plastic.
Then, there’s the scrap yard.  Have you ever walked through one?  I have!  It’s like a visit to hell.  Speaking of which, we can all feel the weight of guilt because it’s all one big SIN!  We all contribute to “the pile.” 
Our turnover of stuff is phenomenal.  We are very good at trashing, and that’s not only with stuff.  We do it to people.  We do it to our partner.  We do it to God!
Again we make it all look good.  Landfill makes great landscape with a bunch of smooth sod over it.  I’m sarcastic, of course.
Have you ever walked over a beach full of empty disregarded plastic bottles?  I have!  You couldn’t see the sand.  I was slipping on the bottles and struggled to keep my balance.  I felt bad at that point, not sorry for myself.  I felt bad being a human and contributing to the culture of junk.
Now, I might complain about the trash without.  I must also contend with the trash within.  Clean up time!  That’s a herculean task!
May the Source be with you!
10 KM

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

Original Goddess

My embarrassing low tally for walking kilometres today was not fueled by a seemingly discouraging encounter I had on Saint Catherine’s, but by being busy in devotional service.  Also stacked on top of that was the hot and humid nature of the out of doors.  I was a tad bit intimidated, I’d say, during the sunny hours.  Then came the festival to honour Krishna’s eternal consort, Radha.  The day is called Radhastami.  She was born on this day. 

The Early Morning Encounter
At approximately 4 AM, I trekked with japa beads in hand while going west on Saint Catherine’s, when a  prostitute on a street corner made a proposal.  Naturally, I declined and told her that I have my goddess, Radha, whom I’m off to worship.  The lady was persistent and continued to walk by my side until about 2 blocks when we came about a second lady of the street.  Just to get her off my back, I suggested the two women get to know each other and make friends.  The suggestion did not sit well with either.  I picked up speed and left the two to mumble whatever they were saying the French medium, which I couldn’t well understand.  I turned a corner and paced back to our Montreal ashram into a more civilized atmosphere.  Frankly, I had enough with goddesses for the day, except for the Supreme One, who was honoured in style, in Her murtii form in the morning, noon and night.  I had the pleasure to speak twice today on the subject on the supreme balance to Krishna, and to highlight the great compassion She (Radha) has for souls who are struggling in this world.

May the Source be with you!

2 KM

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

Good Place and People

About 30 of us pilgrims walked, almost waltzed, down Prince Arthur in the McGill University area.  We stopped in front of one residence, by Sumir’s arrangement.  He functions as the coordinator of our chanting party today.  I objected to singing and drumming in front of someone’s home at 11 AM on Labour Day. 

“I know this is the building that Prabhupada (our guru) stayed for the summer in ’68, but I have some apprehension about us being in someone’s face.  Maybe people are still sleeping, it’s a holiday.”

Sumir assured me that it’s okay.  The front door to the handsome looking home opened, there, appeared a smiling woman.  She waved us in, so a small contingent of three entered and stepped in.  There we met the family that was expecting us.  Sumir explained to me, “It’s always on Labour Day that we do this.”

We met Matt, the lady’s husband, a cello player and teacher at McGill.  They are the home owners.  He’s also good friends with John McLaughlin of the Maha Vishnu Orchestra.  He asked us which year was it that our guru met John Lennon and company.  It was from the downstairs quarters that our guru lived here, and then spent time training six of his students in harmonium, mrdanga (drum), karatalas,  and voice, before dispatching them to England when they met the Beatles. 

“It was in around ’69,” I suggested to Matt. 

In any event, it was great to be in that spot.  The couple mentioned that they’ve been to the other three duplicates of their home which are all in an attached row, but, to quote them, “But no place has the same good vibes as this home.”  It was implied that a very special person had been living here. 

So after our visit, we continued the walk with kirtan on the grounds of McGill.  The security, lead by three people, approached our man in the front and inquired.  I guess the grounds do not permit assemblies of different kinds.  When they saw how harmless we were, and that we were ‘just passing through’, they let us off the hook.  They were taken by the good vibes.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Montreal, Quebec

For Montreal
Before I left for a quick flight to Montreal, I discovered some guy sprawled out on the outdoor stair landing of our ashram. No doubt the fellow had passed out or was fast asleep or something, a result of some intoxication.

"You won't be able to stay here," I said as he was blocking the way.

Instantaneously he woke up, looked up to notice me and said, "Oh! Buddha!" I had remarked something to Dakshin, a monk visiting from Miami, and who had been standing nearby. The fellow managed to hoist himself to midway and said, "Oh! Another Buddha!"

"Yes, well, the two Buddhas are trying to say that you have to move on. Do you mind?"

He complied and left, hopefully to seek nirvana.

The purpose to my visit to Montreal was to do a talk during a festival in honor of our guru, Srila Prabhupada. I spoke about my personal time with him in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto. About half of the anecdotes had to do with my walking with him and his entourage. 

Then I learned from the coordinator of the event that in '68, when our guru made his first visit to Montreal to deal with U.S. visa issues, he had walked a good seven to eight kilometres from the Notre Dame Basilica to the ecumenical centre for visiting all religions: "Le Centre Montchanais." This was in June, July and August.

Also, he once mentioned he loved majestic flowing rivers which compelled him to walk along the Riviere St. Laurent, up to Mont Royal Park.

Guess who's going to check out those locations on foot? Yes, to me they are pilgrimage places.

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Dundas, Ontario

There is One Thing
There is one thing I would like to declare, unofficially; that those Johnny-on-the-spot outdoor toilets are perfect self-realization cubicles. 

I personally stepped into one of those purely to make a change into my swimming trunks for water exploration. In the cubicle next to me a woman entered saying, "Gross!", horrified at the contents. That's why I say, "A step into one of those units and you've got reality staring you in the face." It's the lump-sum of human bodily constituency. It's eye opening while the nostrils and mouth stay tightly shut. 

The place of activity for the day was Spencer's Gorge, near Dundas, Ontario, which became a real hot spot for family and community fun. I spent the morning, and part afternoon, with our Brampton community; bonding, tracking, learning, chanting and having a picnic. It was a bhakti blast. The water experience took some bravado.

Every person that came to this outdoor haven circumvented barriers to reach the base of Spencer's Gorge/Webster's Falls. Vrajadham from Hamilton was our guide. He took us to what seem like Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth". The notable place of ecstasy was right under the falls, a strong penetrating continuous shower. Going behind the constant pour was another "looking behind-the-scenes" experience. It was unobnoxious compared to the toilets.

The anatomy of this day was ending in Richmond Hill at the home of a god-brother, Subha Vilas. There, I delivered a theatrical reading of the Gita along with another spiritual bro, Krishna Das. Yes, it was well received, as was Kalyapani's song of Krishna done to an Irish tune. It was totally sweet!

May the Source be with you!

6 KM

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

Don't You Know, We're Eternal?

I pulled out of the closet, my '96 blue backpack with the logo "Cross Canada Walk" sewn on, before I embarked on a Bloor Street trek for two hours. This small pack provides enough space for overnight provisions - a tooth brush, clean set of robes and swimming trunks. My destination was anywhere on Bloor St. until my host from Milton, Aindra by name, would see me from his car and then scoop me up for a ride to his home.

I like Bloor St. It's not raunchy like sections of Yonge. Bloor is multi-culturally vibrant. It has a more quaint "downtown" feel. As I was recently reminded from a mundane prospective, Petula Clark's song, "When you are alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown." The transitional community phases from Bloor and Spadina range from Anglos, to Koreans, to Portuguese, to Polish. There are Caribbean shops too - "Mom and Pop shops" - along the way. You are not in a crazy concrete jungle when you're on Bloor. 

Perhaps, the most memorable encounter of today was not on Bloor but earlier in the day when I joined Godbrothers, Dharma and Krishna Das, both who, like myself, are in our 60's. Dharma has suffered from a stroke back in the early 80's. He moves slow and limped during our mini-procession. As we went down Yorkville Ave. with our kirtan, a group of guys were sitting at a patio outside a bar. 

One white-haired man drinking his liquor and bearing a resemblance to Michael Douglas, shook his head in disgust when he saw us. Now, practically everyone who saw and heard us on the street was either indifferent or favourable in their response. This fellow seemed to discard us, "Aren't you, guys, too old for this?" Inside me, I took offense. Externally, I smiled and said, "Don't you know we are eternal? Have a nice day!" He kind of went blank. 

May the Source be with you!

12 KM